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USA adventure (II): Where He guides, He provides

I'm continuing to write about my trip to the United States of America. This will be a post like never before seen on my blog. It's a compilation of sermon notes and my experiences. Let's see to it... I arrived in Los Angeles and my dear cousin picked me up with her family. After just a day with them, I continued my way to Kansas City, MO. As I was traveling, I've been thinking about not knowing anyone in Kansas City and about how I would interact with unknown people. I was very excited at the same moment, because I was going to a conference I have been watching for years and I was growing spiritually a lot from. As the conference began, I was amazed and I still couldn't fathom that I was sitting there. The conference' name was the One Thing Conference. I will continue with what I've come home with from attending this conference.

The first speaker at the conference was Corey Russell, who was the first ihopkc leader who visited my country back in 2014. He spoke about Shepherds after God's Own Heart, saying how God's eyes look at us and how He wants to raise up shepherds/ laborers. I'll share a few bullet points with you:
  • We should break through religion and start soaring into the wide blue, which is the knowledge of God. 
  • We shouldn't just live on revelations of years ago, but break through the clouds and meet with Him again and again. 
  • Something told to the mind will reach the mind, but the message from the heart will always reach hearts.
  • When God tells you something new, buy that "field" and plow it, until you own it. 
  • God will bring seasons into our lives where we will be shaken and won't trust in people or things. He brings those into our lives to restore us and make us sure that He speaks the truth, when He says: "I am with you through it all!" 
Something powerful has pierced my heart that very first session and I instantly knew it was from God, while Corey Russell delivered the message. I remember it very clearly resounding in my mind, even now. I won't share it though, because it's between me and Him.

The same day Mike Bickle, another main leader of ihopkc, spoke about Being Transformed by Delighting in God's Beauty:
  • One of King David’s lifelong goals was to intentionally search out God’s beauty.
  • Delighting in the beauty of Jesus is essential to walking in victory.
  • His beauty is seen:
    1. In sights, sounds, fragrances: colors, brilliance, music, melodies, harmonies, fragrances
    2. In knowledge: we are moved by advances in science, medicine, technology, architecture, etc.
    3. In noble character: life stories of courage, generosity, compassion—bios, novels, movies, etc.
    4. In human abilities: singers, musicians, athletes, writers, artists, composers, producers
    5. In society: when justice prevails and reconciliation occurs between races, nations, etc.
  • Our delight of His beauty grows by meditating on, blessing (praising), and declaring (sharing) it.
  • “Beauty is the battlefield where God and Satan contend…for the hearts of men.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
During this sermon, it was so hard for me to focus, not because it was boring, but because of the time change. I was feeling its effects. My eyes were so heavy and I kept struggling with my body, which was used to another time zone. Afterwards I went with some girls to the place I slept and I met many beautiful young ladies, the majority of them being Afro-American. I enjoyed being there with them. Btw. I need to mention that the first cultural thing that struck me most was seeing many Afro-American people, which I see rarely here at home.

The next day Christina Reynolds, one of the worship leaders, gave me such good news: she gave me the privilege to sit in the front rows during all the sessions except the evening sessions. At first, as I arrived she told me that I'll be sitting there only for the first morning session, as I shared on a previous post. I was so happy to know that I will be experiencing everything from the front. I gave God all the glory, praised Him with all my heart and soaked in every message that was given. The first time I sat in the front row, exactly in the center I thought I was dreaming, because Misty Edwards was the speaker of that morning. You have to know that she's one of my favorite worship leaders and I knew I was in a place God wanted me to be. Misty's message was the most powerful and it impacted me mostly, although I heard her speak about some of the things she spoke and it wasn't anything new she said. Simply the truth and God's presence flowing toward me was breath-taking and I stood in awe of how God can move my heart. I was looking back on 2016 year's happenings and I was praising God for everything. I honored Him for leading me into hardships, hopelessness, loneliness, loss, rejection, weakness, shame, etc. I started realizing that His leadership is awesome! I thanked Him with all my heart and with every expressed word I could, because it made history in my life, it came close to that of being saved, as I mentioned in another post of mine. Here are some of the things she shared:
  • Who do you say Jesus is? That's what matters.
  • How do you get someone to hurry up, who is in eternity? God's not in a hurry. We're in time, but He isn't. He is patient.
  • God didn't want robots, He wanted a relationship based on a free will, which is the most beautiful and most terrifying thing.
  • He is such a great leader. You should stand in awe of how He leads.
  • God looks into your depths and it doesn't matter what people's opinions are about you.
  • The life of holiness is the freest life--> beholding the beauty of God.
  • Maybe you think God's vision for you is too hard and that He can't lead you well. But just take a look at Jesus: He was born in a manger, hidden. He did good, but was crucified by those whom He loved and came for. He didn't find His identity in earthly things. He didn't find His delight in human things.
  • We have the living God inside of us. Is that not enough? He's with you... It's you and Him alone. He is the ultimate pleasure. Nothing can separate you from Him. He listens to you, pays attention and writes all your words into a book down. You're never overlooked. 
  • Refuse to quit and keep searching, digging, looking, loving, sacrificing, etc. Is it enough for you that God loves you and wants you? Or do you feel the need to add something?
After this session some girls came up to me who sat next to me in the front and introduced themselves as being worship leaders in a church not far away from Kansas City. They were so kind and we started talking. I shared some of the things God did for me before the trip and how much God works in each of our lives. We went out to grab some lunch together and they insisted paying for mine, although I refused their offer. They said they really want to bless me. Afterwards we came back to the main auditorium and Misty Edwards was leading worship. David Sliker's message followed about Beholding the Face of Jesus:
  • Find what God is doing in Your surrounding and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it. Who is He? What is He doing? What is He saying? How can you join Him? Enter into the middle of what He is doing. Flow with His Spirit.
  • God is looking for friends who understand what happens around them, those who dream what He dreams and those who lay hold of God's greater dream.
  • Whatever you imagine your destiny is, I promise you the Lord is writing a bigger story for you.
  • We are becoming that what we behold.
  • In failure or gain, it's essential to know who you're looking at.
  • God is always helping you to stick to Him and He is working in you closely. 
Afterwards Dana Candler, one of my favorite authors spoke about Growing in Unshakeable Love for Jesus:
  • Knowing someone takes time and that's how it is with our relationship with takes time.
  • God wants to look at you and tell you that you're His friend. He has us on a journey where He changes us to look like Him, speak like Him, act like Him, etc. 
  • Look at His path, how He leads and follow Him. To travel on this path is costly, but we always gain Him in return. 
  • Those who burn and shine will know God. He never withdraws the eyes from His people.
  • It's a matter of having enough oil in the lamp. Turn even pressure into oil that will burn for Him, because He wants to turn every little thing into conversation with Him. 
  • He turns pressure into fellowship, turns joy into fellowship, turns sadness into fellowship, etc. 
At the end of her sermon, we went to grab dinner together again. Allen Hood followed with a message in the evening session about The Fiery Seal of Divine Love and again I was pretty tired (sadly). He spoke so good, but I couldn't focus as I wanted to. I wasn't sitting in the front for the evening session, so I had to search for a seat. Many seats were being reserved for people, but I found easily a good seat, because I was alone:
  • If you had to choose... would you choose a large influence or a large heart...God wants our hearts?
  • Be occupied with the task but be preoccupied with a love relationship! Is He your daydream... are you connected to Him? David was preoccupied with God while he was occupied with the task of being a king.
  • We have enough people being balanced, give it all! Don't let anyone steal your extravagant devotion.
  • Before you get caught in the performance trap, remember this: when you had nothing to offer Him, He loved you. When you were not impressive, He called you. All you have He gave you. Remember/ Repent and do the first work, which is love.
After the sermon, I met a guy, who was also alone at the conference and struggled finding people to hang out with. I had small talk with him and I found that he was in search for acceptance and searched for his identity. On the third day of the conference, I was late to the first session because I decided to go with the ihop shuttle to try it out. Someone gave me a ride from where we slept to ihopU, but after waiting for a while and seeing how many were waiting for the shuttle, I decided to take Uber. I got there after worship, which made me so sad, because Jon Thurlow led worship that morning and I totally missed it. Anyway, I was happy to be on time for Todd White. He shared his testimony and spoke about knowing who we are:
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
  • Repentance is a lifestyle, not a one-time thing.
  • Self-control is being so focused on God's voice that all other voices lose their influence.
  • Nobody can take away from you, what they never gave you in the first place. You are accepted in the Beloved! If church people or others hurt you, they don’t know their identity, and if you get hurt you don’t know your identity. 
  • To destroy the works of the devil every day is the mission statement of Christians.
  • If you put someone who is on fire IN the fire, nothing changes. They come out brighter. Hotter. Sharper.
  • The gospel wasn't made for your brain. It was made for your heart. Your heart can take you places your brain can't even squeeze through. Faith comes before understanding, not the other way around.
  • Grace is not a license to sin, it's the empowerment to live godly!
  • The posture of the heart to love people won't be changed if they don't love you back, because you don't receive your love from people, but from God.

After this, I met with the friends I made the other day and went again to grab lunch with them. The guy I met the other day sent me a message that he invites all those people who are alone at the conference to meet the next day in the foyer to grab some food together. I told him that I had other plans for that time, because I really wanted to be in the prayer room. So, I went together with my friends to the worship track which was about Prophetic Music. Here I realized how human, we all are. I had an image in front of me about how God looks at me exactly how He looks at Misty Edwards: with love, acceptance, honor, joy, etc. I'm not saying I'm as good as Misty, but God showed me there and then how much differently He measures everything. I had a clear image of it all. Afterwards I was searching for the prayer room for a while and after finding it, I had a great time alone with God. After coming out of the prayer room, I asked the guy how he's meeting with those who came alone to the conference was. He replied that nobody showed up. He asked me if I have a seat and if I would want to sit next to him again, but I didn't reply. By the time I went to the evening session, I couldn't find a seat, because all were taken, there were seats only in the very, very back. The "house" was packed. It was the session where Bill Johnson had to speak. So, I was still searching for a seat when the worship began. I didn't know what to do, so I remembered the guy and asked him where he was and went there. He was in a reserved area, so God took care for me to be on a good spot. I understood afterwards that meeting this guy at the conference was a divine appointment. In front of me, there was a free space for people who wanted to worship in that area expressing it through dance, prayer, etc. and I was so blessed by being there and seeing them love God differently than the most of the people. The worship, lead by Jonathan and Melissa Helser, was awesome. Bill Johnson spoke about the Commissioning a Signs and Wonders Generation:
  • You carry the reality of God inside of you. 
  • If you live in reaction to the devil, you're bound to him, but instead live in response to the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit is not a lake but a river inside flowing out that changes the geography around us.
  • Live unimpressed with the devil and his plan 
  • People all over the world reduce ministry to what they're good at instead of what they're called to
  • In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness. (Hosea 3:5b) 
  • It's time to forget your title or lack of title. It's time to give an authentic representation of who Jesus is. The presence of the Spirit of God upon your life qualifies you.
  • God commands us to do what's impossible so that we can only succeed with Him, that's the whole point. The real problem is that we think the rest of the Christian life is possible. 
  • You can't become stronger in character until you obey.
At the end, I still wanted to try out the ihop shuttles, so I had to wait in line for them to arrive and spoke with a few people. I was happy to witness how people sang on the streets and how they confessed their sins in the shuttle. It was inspiring. As I arrived to the Ihop University, I had to figure out how to get to the facility I was sleeping at, which was only three miles away. As I was thinking, a man asked me if he could help me with anything. I explained that I had to go to the CEC and he instantly offered help. He told me that a woman was on her way there and she could give me a ride. I was thankful and relieved. The next day was a great day, as well. It was the last day of the year and I was happy to end it like that. Stuart Greaves spoke in the morning about Faithful Witness:
  • When God establishes night watches in the earth, He is establishing a witness of His beauty.
  • The embracing of the gospel will make you look stupid... we are born again by revelation not arguments. The temptation to be smart can become a threat to the gospel. We don't want to be smart. Leave that to the phones. We want to be wise. 
  • We are God's hands and feet, washed clean by His blood and water by the love of Jesus.
  • The book of Revelation is one of the books we must embrace to grow in the revelation of the beauty of Jesus.
  • May this be our New Year's resolution: I'm determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. 
  • The nature of urgency doesn’t mean we now become frantic. Rather it means we become focused.
After the morning session, I haven't seen the girls I met at the beginning of the conference, so I thought I'll go and grab some lunch alone, but my plans were destroyed (hehe, just kidding). As I was walking out of the auditorium, an Afro-American woman stopped me and asked me how I'm doing. I was amazed at how easy it was for her to interact with me. When she told me her name, I was amused by the sheer fact that her name was Rosie. We talked and talked till she asked me to join her for lunch. We grabbed something and came back to the conference hall (it was too windy outside) where we simply sat down in a corner on the floor... a niche, which lead to other rooms. She told me that she went to the FCF church and when I told her that I intend to go there for the Sunday morning service, she told me she would be delighted to give me a ride. I was stunned by how God brought things together for me. We enjoyed our meals and conversations, when suddenly an usher came and told everyone that we weren't allowed to eat there. Rosie spoke with her and told her that many ate like this the last days during the conference. She asked her to allow us to eat there, because we wouldn't do any mess. That's how the usher accepted and even sent others who ate on the floor in the hall to us. As others joined us we talked with them and a young couple shared that there were coming from Chicago. The black guy shared some things of his past, how he was raised by his grandmother, because his dad was in prison and his mom would drink a lot and not be able to raise them, her kids. Her grandmother took him and his siblings to church and raised them as good as she could. Nevertheless, because they were living in a black neighborhood, where gangs, crime, drugs and many other infractions were normal, everybody said about them: "Those children won't get far in life. Poor fellows!" It was a lie of the enemy, which started to catch roots in his heart and he ended up selling drugs and living a depraved life. One day his grandmother stopped him, looked him in the eye and full of emotion without condemnation told him: "I know what you're doing. Please stop and turn around till there's still time, because if you continue like this you'll end there where your father is." That shook him and he gave his heart back to God and started learning for his degree, then went to college and started his own business. Now he was at the conference and was a witness that something good came out of him in the end. As he was sharing all of this, I was deeply moved by God and I saw how wonderfully He is working in the lives of people, even if they are in a bad neighborhood with infractions all around them. I saw that His leadership is perfect and works in people's hearts in an amazing way. Rosie asked him where his mother was now and he said that she converted to islam. So, we started praying for her and as we prayed God's Spirit touched my heart and I could feel His love for the lost people... His heart for this guy's mother. I was overwhelmed by what I was experiencing and I wept as I prayed for her, hardly able to speak. I won't ever forget that place, people and encounter.

We went to attend worship and then join the breakout session, which was again for Prophetic Singers. At the end they said they are free to speak with people, so I thought I'll go and greet a few of the worship leaders. When I got there, I witnessed how Jon Thurlow was so kind to each person who got to speak with him. He was so humble and really cared about those around him. He was the last worship leader there, because he took time to listen with interest to each one of the attendees. I took out my cell phone and showed him a picture we took back in 2014 when he was in Romania and asked him out of fun if he remembers where that was. Moreover, he instantly knew and was asking me questions about how it has been going. I think this is called humility, being a normal person and engaging others as if he would be like them. I loved that. Every worship leader I saw there was very friendly and open to others, but I highlighted Jon, because he was the one who was really showing interest to people, although maybe it was really fun for him...maybe. While waiting in the line to chat with Jon, I heard someone behind me speaking German, so I thought I'd greet him till I'm anyway waiting in the line. I went to him and told him that I heard him speak German and asked him if he's a German. He affirmed and we spoke a little bit in German. It was good to speak with him until he asked me where I'm coming from. When I told him I was from Romania, it was as if his face changed and he even started treating me so much differently, that I don't even remember how our conversation ended, because I wanted to flee from him. It was soooo weird, honestly. I have to admit that I thought Americans would react as he did when I was on my flight to the States and I was thinking about how to tell people where I'm from. In my thoughts I decided I'll tell them I'm from Transylvania if they'd ask, which was the mere truth, but that wasn't a country, but a region in my country. Anyway, that was my plan, but as I arrived in America people weren't as excited about Transylvania as they were about Romania. I was literally shocked and was happy about it. Finally I didn't have to be ashamed I was coming from Eastern Europe. I know my country doesn't have a good reputation and I also know that it's their fault, but that doesn't mean that all its people are the same. We can't put everyone in the same basket. That's when I realized how differently people judge regarding the place you come from, sadly to say even Christians. I heard John Piper once say "the bloodline of Jesus is thicker, deeper, stronger than the bloodline of race, ethnicity and family!" True!

Afterwards I wanted to go one more time to the prayer room, before entering the New Year and I had such a wonderful time there. I heard people say that the best part at a conference is the prayer room and I couldn't quite understand how that could be, but now I understand why. The time spent there marked my life and God spoke to me about my future. After such a sweet time, I went to the last session of the conference. The speaker was Mike Bickle who spoke on Why Understanding the Biblical View of the End Times Is Important. Sadly, I lost most of the sermon, because I went to the book store to buy the books I planned to buy in KC, since somebody has told me that last year they had sales at the end of the conference. I had to go during the sermon because I saw on the schedule that they wanted to close the store before midnight. Anyway, the most important thing is that I bought almost everything I wanted. With full hands, I wrote to my friends and asked them where they're at and they told me they are in the front and I can join them because there are still free seats. I was sooo happy because I could be in the front on an evening session and for the New Year's Eve worship. It was amazing! I had a blast, I have to be totally honest. I felt so good! I felt as if I meant to be there exactly on the spot I was standing on. I even had some leaders and their families in front of me and I witnessed their "version" of entering into the New Year. Rosie promised to take me home in the night after the worship and after we entered praising God the New Year 2017. However, as I was writing her she didn't give a sign, so I had to call a Uber. A guy picked me up and we drove to the CEC facility center. On the way there, we talked and we had such a good conversation. I felt God leading me towards telling him my testimony and how Jesus changed my life completely. So, I did that and opened up before him. He was amazed and opened up as well. He told me how he left church and didn't believe in God anymore. I prayed for him and I really hope God touched his heart with His love. It was very late in the night when I arrived at the center and went to bed. In the morning I woke up to prepare to go to church when Rosie told me that she didn't have any battery left in her phone the other day (the night), that's why she couldn't contact me. I knew that God had a higher plan and wanted me to speak to that guy in the car. He loves Him too much!

I wouldn't have thought that this post would be so long, but I'm happy I wrote these things down, because many people who aren't living in my town asked me about my experiences and I didn't find time to write everything down to let them know. The sentence God gave me for this trip was proven true: Where God guides, He provides.