But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. (Galatians 6:8 NLT)
Never underestimate the difference your life can make if it is available to be used by God. Even the act of opening your home to His work could change multitudes of lives and have an eternal impact far exceeding your imagination.
This past Saturday I went to the funeral of a dear saint named Lenore Hagen who passed away at age 85. I had known her and her husband Walter for many years when they were active members in the 1970s and 1980s of the Way of the Cross Church, where I spent my early Christian years and served as a pastor.
In our start-up phase of Bridgewood Community Church in 1994, to my surprise, the Hagens joined us and served as a great encouragement. I can still remember what a great sport Walt was in volunteering to be part of a drama team skit at one of our first services. Although they were with us for a brief time we kept in touch over the years and when Walt died seven years ago, Lenore asked me to officiate at his funeral.
They were both very simple, unassuming people; the kind of people who could have posed for Grant Wood’s American Gothic. But both of them had a deep abiding faith in God’s Word and a zeal to make themselves available to serve God.
One of the things they did for many, many years was host a weekly Christian gathering in their home. They were always eager to encourage people through prayer and Bible study and quick to invite others to participate.
At the funeral, as the pastor was reviewing Lenore’s legacy of service for the Lord, the impact of her life suddenly overwhelmed me. I realized that God had used her and Walt in a much greater way in my own life and the life of Bridgewood Community Church than I had ever imagined. It dawned on me that they had been a key link in the chain of God-ordained events that led my salvation and call into the ministry.
Here is how it happened. In 1964, the Hagen’s were hosting a weekly Friday night prayer meeting in their basement. On December 18, 1964, a young Lutheran pastor by the name of Don Pfotenhauer and his wife were invited by a neighbor to that meeting. That night in the Hagen’s basement, the spiritually hungry Pfotenhauers were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Don’s encounter with Jesus radically changed the entire trajectory of his life and ministry. Making him one of the early pioneers of the Charismatic renewal it catapulted him into national prominence. As a result it opened many doors for him to be an influence in leading many people and pastors into a deeper relationship with God.
One of those people impacted by Don’s ministry was a man named Bill Backus. As a former seminary classmate of Don’s, Bill had served as a pastor for several years but became disillusioned with ministry and dropped out. In 1971 when Don finally reconnected with him he found that Bill had become a psychologist.
Don shared his experience with Bill and ended up praying with him to rededicate his life to Christ and also led him into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That encounter radically changed Bill’s life and his psychology practice. It led him into a nationally recognized ministry as well. In addition to establishing a Christian Counseling Center Dr. Bill Backus also began to write books with the view to helping as many people as possible come to wholeness in Christ. His “Telling Yourself the Truth” books greatly impacted believers worldwide.
One of the first things Dr. Backus did after his own spiritual transformation was to begin sharing Christ with his patients. He also was led by the Lord start a home bible study. One of his patients and part of the early core group of his Bible study was my sister Rosie. As her life was changed, she invited my wife and me to the Bible Study. It was there on October 25, 1971 that Dr. Backus prayed with both of us to accept Jesus into our lives and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, at that point our lives were also radically changed. And the rest is His story.
Now recall with me that this chain of events spawning ministries, churches and books with world-wide impact all trace back to a prayer meeting in a basement hosted by a humble unassuming couple named Walter and Lenore Hagen. From Walt and Lenore to the Pfotenhauers, to Bill Backus through my sister to my wife and I to Bridgewood Community Church and beyond – it’s like an ever increasing wave of God’s blessing. Few alive today know about the Hagen’s and what started in their basement, but all of heaven does. And that is what counts. Never underestimate your impact for God. It just might have a spiritual ripple effect that sends waves of people into eternity.
Lenore – thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed!
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