As I sit in my office contemplating the last year, I am overwhelmed by a profound sense of thanksgiving. At this time a year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from open heart surgery.
As many of you may (or may not) know, a year ago things were very different in my life. After more than a week of exhibiting some very serious symptoms, my family, staff, and friends began voicing their concerns. My son, Ronnie Jr., had been out of the country preaching, and while he was away, had a heavy burden for me. He and his host pastor prayed and interceded for my life, and upon returning home, tried to convince me to go see my doctor. Reluctantly, I did so, and was diagnosed with “severe sleep apnea”. However, that diagnosis did not quell the stirring of the Spirit for those concerned about me.
On that Friday, I was taken to the emergency room, but everything was deemed “normal”, and they sent me home. Now, anyone who knows anything about Spiritual Warfare has heard of “generational curses” or “generational demons”. I believe that generational demons can play a strong role in our lives if we fail to recognize their patterns and method of working. Looking back on my case, this is very obvious… my own father was sent to the emergency room twice the week he died. Both times he was sent home, being told he was okay. A couple of days later, he was gone – at the age of 69.
After being released from the ER, Ronnie and I had a couple of discussions. He was still concerned, but I tried to assuage his fears. I had speaking appointments, a church to shepherd, and much to do. Going in for medical tests – being poked and prodded by doctors and nurses – just did not fit into my schedule. In frustration, Ronnie contacted a dear friend of mine by the name of Ron. He asked Ron to talk to me, and try to convince me to go have some tests done.
On Sunday, April 15, Ron spoke to me, and convinced me to change my plans. I was actually scheduled to leave the next day for Louisiana to speak in the very area where my ministry began. After hearing the concerns of my best friend, my son, and others, I decided to cancel my trip, and go for the tests. On Tuesday, Ron picked me up and took me to the hospital for a stress test…
I failed miserably.
As the providence of God would have it, when I failed the stress test, my cardiologist just happened to be there. Two nurses in the room who “just happened to be Christians” immediately laid hands on me and began to pray. The doctor immediately took preventive measures, admitted me, and sent me for an arteriogram. It was at this point they discovered that I had extensive blockages – what doctors term “the Widow Maker”. Among others, I had a 4cm blockage (100%) in my main artery.
Now, what makes my trip to Louisiana significant is that I was going to the very place (the 9th Ward) where my ministry began… a place and time of poverty, struggle, and depression for my family. I firmly believe that the enemy was taking me back there to kill me, for had I not had those tests, the doctors believe I would have been dead within hours.
I was put into intensive care, and they proceeded with surgery the next morning. I came through the bypass surgery and was put into recovery. It was during my time in recovery that I had a sensation that I was choking, and I heard the voice of the devil tell me, “I’m going to kill you!” But before fear even had a chance to take hold, I heard the voice of an angel say, “You’re a liar!” It was then that I saw a golden blanket descend on me. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that this blanket was my prayer cover. I went back to sleep, and woke up to the beautiful face of my wife telling me everything was ok, and that I had made it through.
They moved me back to the intensive care unit, where I noticed one nurse in particular who seemed to be there a lot, almost like a guardian angel. She was working a double shift, and I came to learn that her father had come to a saving knowledge of Jesus toward the end of his life through the ministry of Ron Phillips from Abba’s House. This kind nurse said that the Lord told her to take care of me, and even though hooked up to wires and tubes, I had the opportunity to pray with her.
Over the next few days, God gave me the opportunity to rediscover the joy of the simple things in life – things like getting to sit up in a chair, walk down the hallway, or carry on a conversation with a friend. There is so much in life we take for granted.
My experience was a wake-up call. While I have made a living and lifetime out of feeding my mind and spirit on the things of God, I failed to take very good care of the “earthly temple” that God entrusted to my care. However, I have learned that living a “life more abundantly” is all inclusive… body, mind, and spirit.
It’s now April, 2013, and I feel very thankful to be alive. I am thankful for the life God has given me, and for the second chance at being the best husband, father, grandfather, friend, and pastor that I can be. I am thankful for morning cups of coffee, looking at the sunrise, and making the most of the life God has blessed me with.
God has slowed me down a little, but not in a bad way. He has just made me more observant, has taught me to listen more to others, and care about what affects them. He has taught me to look for the lonely and hurting, and to take the time to hear what they are saying, not just be an advice-giver.
I am looking forward to many more years serving the King, listening to His voice, and sharing His Good News with anyone with an ear to hear.