Visions

cosmos (2)

I dreamed but I was not sleeping — an event in which I can identify with Paul: ‘whether in the body or out of the body I do not know’. My dream began in the garden, but very quickly Jesus led me beside an ocean. Giant waves pounded the sandy shore, rhythmic, deafening. Cold spray blew against my face. Foam laced my eyelashes. I tasted salt.

He said, “The ocean represents great power. It spawns tempests and tsunamis and is vast and deep. But I can put all the oceans of the world into a drinking glass and hold it in My hand.”

Then we journeyed to the outer edges of the cosmos. Stars spun across the expanse, burning orbs pulsing with heat, great throbbing engines of immeasurable intense energy. A mighty power thrummed and shook my entire being. I clung to His presence, intimidated and afraid I might be swallowed up and lost in that chaotic abyss; seeing myself as smaller than a speck of dust, invisible except for being anchored in Him.

He said, “My Father breathes out stars. Birthed in the belly of His Presence, they are merely a product of His exhalation.”

I have met Him in this garden many times. Battered by the world’s impersonal brutality, His gentle acceptance calmed and strengthened me; torn and bleeding from callous words and human spite, His smile erased the pain and healed my wounds. I have walked through these paths holding His hand, gentled by His love, renewed by His voice speaking encouragement and promise. I have knelt, knees in the cool fragrant grass, cheek against His warm bare foot, gratitude filling me up and making me whole.

Today He reminded me the sweet Lamb is only one side of a great and mighty King. Although it is His kindness that draws me to repentance, I must never mistake His peaceful nature for weakness. He makes Himself accessible so that I never hesitate to approach Him, but I must not measure Him by His willingness to be small for my sake.

To do so diminishes Him  in my mind. I am guilty of this. When my vision of Him becomes limited I am in danger of overestimating myself and underestimating Him; of taking Him for granted and making of Him an alternate santa or a benevolent sugar daddy. The beginning of wisdom is to know Him in the fullness of His multi-faceted character, to acknowledge His greatness and allow that image of Him to inspire such a holy reverence that I never forget His throne, surrounded by emerald rainbows, emanating thunder and lightning, where He is very high and very lifted up.

I am invited to fellowship with the wonderful Lamb of God. I am compelled by my fearful respect to worship the Great Lion of Judah. To know the Lion without the Lamb forces me to keep my distance – so aware of my puny stature that I cannot even look at His face. To know the Lamb without the Lion fosters an over familiarity where I may begin to consider myself an equal.

Lord, I ask You to give me a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You. I ask that the eyes of my heart be enlightened so that I can know what is the hope of Your calling, what are the riches of the glory of Your inheritance in all Your children, and what is the surpassing greatness of Your power toward us who believe…Allow me to know You in the power of Your resurrection, and in the fellowship of Your suffering…grant me the ability to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that I may be filled up to all the fullness of God. That I might live a life worthy of the One who gave all for me.

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Suffering

In his New Testament letters, Paul teaches that we are to know Jesus Christ in two distinct ways:

  1. In the power of His resurrection (my personal favorite of the two)
  2. In the fellowship of His suffering

I have spent many years trying to have the first without the second. My conclusion, admittedly based on my limited personal experience, is that it’s not possible. Neither can be separated from the other. There is no fast track express lane to the power. We must walk the long slow path into suffering to obtain the glorious pinnacle of power.

As a result of this observation I have been meditating the meaning of such suffering. How did Jesus suffer as a man (the part of His life to which we are being conformed)? I do not count what He suffered as Savior because none of us is called to that particular sacrifice which, once accomplished, is forever finished.

I find that Jesus suffered in two distinct ways:

First, Jesus grieved for those who were perishing. “O Jerusalem…How I would have gathered your children together as a mother fowl gathers her brood under her wings, but you refused!” (Mt. 23:37).

Because of His great love, pain accompanied Him who knew men’s hearts; who saw the great call of a magnificent destiny upon each individual, yet witnessed that individual’s deafness to God’s voice; who saw mankind, the crown jewel of Father’s creation, living in filth and pain and despair…imprisoned in the dark yet designed to be light.

What a great burden that must have been for Him!

Dare we see our fellow man in such a way? If we open our spiritual eyes so that we recognize the promise as well as how far short we fall from it, could we bear it? Can we walk in fellowship with that kind of suffering?

Second, Jesus yearned for Heaven. Paul describes this sort of suffering: “I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Phil. 1:23-24)

Paul’s great yearning for Heaven resulted from visions where he explored the vast reaches of glory and experienced the unity of God’s presence. He spent so little time there but never lost his home-sickness for that place more real to him than the world. Yet his assignment was earth and so, because of the Christ-love in him, he withstood the tug of war between desire and duty that he called a “conflict” (Phil. 2:30).

If Paul suffered so mightily after his limited heavenly experiences, I’m trying to imagine what Jesus must have endured as He walked the earth. I’m attempting to imagine Jesus’ suffering, who had known heaven from a Kingly vantage point. He did not consider being equal with God something to be retained but turned loose of all His heavenly power and prestige to put on the fleshly mantle of a mere man, constrained by the physical laws of nature and time.

What was it like for Him, walking on earth with His mind full of Heaven? And yet He set aside His own desires for the higher call of serving humanity. Is there any greater demonstration of love?

Am I willing to suffer in such a way because of that kind of love? Can I become so aware of my status as a citizen of Heaven that earth loses its grip on me? Will I pour my own self out as a drink offering to God by answering the challenge to regard other people’s needs as more important than my own?

These are the sufferings of Jesus, to which we also are called. We are to be conformed to Him and in that conformity we find both suffering and power; extreme grief and profound joy; daily death and a life such as we have never known…a life that beckons from the depths of our spirit with promises most of us dare not acknowledge…a life infused with the very atmosphere of Heaven. We must lose the lesser life to gain the greater life.

Why is it necessary to have both the suffering and the power? Because suffering without power only repulses. Power without Christly suffering only destroys.

Christ calls us to a completeness that can only be found in Him, a wholeness comprised of two parts: suffering and power. We must embrace both if we are to fulfill our destiny and accomplish our purpose.

 

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Salvation is Like a Smart Phone

smart phone

I was reading an account of one of those 19th century Methodist circuit riders – those tough, gritty, determined, persistent, traveling evangelists who took the Gospel to the American frontier. They slept in hollow logs and barns, and every once in a while someone’s guest room; they endured flash floods, blizzards, drought, starvation, horrendous heat, and unfriendly Indians. They were often run out of town by the local Pharisees because when they preached signs and wonders showed up and unsavory people got saved and wanted to come to church.

Where is that breed of Christian today?

When they led someone to the Lord they did something that was known as “praying through”. Knees to hard floor (no carpet or a/c), they assaulted heaven until the new convert had thoroughly repented and got victory over old habits, bondages, and torments. They prayed the sin, and the want-to-sin, right out of them. Those salvations were famous, or infamous depending on your perspective, for changing lives. Drunkards went down on their knees and stood up, often hours later, clean and sober. With that kind of praying nobody needed decades in a twelve step program. Adulterers and wife beaters went down, reformed men stood up.

Whatever happened to salvations marked by addictions broken, trash mouths made clean, sour dispositions turned sweet, violent men transformed to gentleness, broken bodies healed?

As I pondered these questions I recognized that something vital has been lost. “Come on down and say a quick prayer, folks, and everything will be all right” doesn’t seem to be cutting it. “Just raise your hand, no one looking around, just raise that hand and God will see you” hasn’t done much to cure drug abuse, adultery, fornication, gossip, judgmentalism, and bitterness in our churches.

Following this line of thought I came to the obvious conclusion: a great number of people in the western church have no idea about salvation. When they consider it at all, they equate Christian conversion with a mumbled prayer, a pat on the back, and if they are lucky a free paperback bible.

I wondered how to explain the deepest mystery of the universe, the only sure solution to every painful issue, the transformation from death and darkness to life and light, the result of the greatest sacrifice ever willingly and joyfully endured. How do you explain the only thing that really truly matters to a generation raised on microwave pocket pitas and the Kardashians?

And then I knew the answer. Salvation is like a smart phone.

Salvation is (sort of) like getting the newest, biggest, smartest phone on the market. Just like that phone before you pay for a plan, prior to accepting Jesus your line is dead. There is no communication going on, no life to be found…just empty dead space out there. You are isolated, cut off from life and the abundance of good things and the wisdom that comes from having access to the truth. The phone might be good for taking a few pictures, just like your life is good for some basic activities, but nothing big or deep or very exciting is happening.

Then a payment is made and that phone comes alive. The connection is completed, the line is no longer silent. This changes everything! For you to receive salvation, a payment must be made as well. It’s more than anyone, even Bill Gates, can afford. It’s a payment in blood. Not everyone can get a fully functional smart phone free…but you can have life, forever, at no cost because Jesus paid your fee.

Salvation is like a smart phone in other ways. Assume you are holding the most recently released super duper genius phone. For a short while you are pleased just to be able to call and text. But soon you want more. So you learn how to do some other stuff. You take pictures, make videos. You use the clock, the calculator, the compass. You program it for appointments, surf the Internet, download your music, read your email.

It’s good for so many things, and enhances your life so dramatically, you can’t help but just be thankful. It seems as if it offers you everything you always wanted. For a period of time you walk around full of gratitude, content with your product.

Then everything becomes mundane. You get used to a level of comfort and connection you never could have imagined just a short time earlier. You begin to wonder if this is all there is. Won’t this phone do anything else?

Just about the time you get comfortable with your device,  and think you understand all the bells and whistles, and you are settling in with it like an old familiar friend…you discover the App Store!

You realize you can get apps, hundreds of thousands of options and capabilities at your fingertips…things you never imagined would be at your disposal if only you are willing to learn how to use them. Some are more costly than others…the cost reflecting the rarity and level of complexity. You understand that it will take a lifetime…no, more than a lifetime, to discover and learn what this vast, immeasurable, endless list of options will mean to you and for you. Your ability to do things, to know stuff, to touch and impact people’s lives, is multiplied a million-fold.

Salvation is like that. Only it lasts forever, not just until the battery goes bad.

 

(Note: For all the literalists out there…I understand that salvation is so much more than a communication device that it’s almost heresy to mention them in the same breath. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting analogy I wanted to explore.)

(photo courtesy of gfktechtalk.com)

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Destiny Now

coffee klatch

Today I stopped at a little coffee shop on the mountain top between my little town and the next little town. The lattes are sublime, the view incredible, and they hand-craft a mean Chinese food lunch on Wednesdays. I took along a book but needn’t have bothered because it’s a rural community and half the people who walked through stopped to chat.

One acquaintance sat with me while awaiting her to-go order. As is typical between two Christian women, the conversation turned quickly to God things. She has been going through some dramatic life changes and she related the way the Lord had been reminding her that life must be lived in the “now moment”. Past is gone, future is yet to be, and God is found right here, right now. The “now moment” is a sweet grace gift waiting to be unwrapped. A good thing for all of us to remember.

Then she said something that would have been familiar to anybody who has had more than one churchy conversation. “My friend has such a call on her life, everyone knows it, but satan has done just about everything to keep her from it.”

Even as my head began to nod in agreement my spirit stirred with disquiet. Suddenly something sounded way off key. I rolled the words around in my mind and tried to listen to what I felt the Holy Spirit was attempting to convey.

If we are living only in the moment…if we can only know God in the now, not in the past or the future… then we can only serve Him in the now. Henry Blackaby explained this in his classic study, “Experiencing God”, where he taught us to look for what God is doing right now in our midst and then join in.

I talked the thoughts through with her as they tumbled out of my spirit. Of course, everyone is called and has a God-ordained destiny. But our call is not, cannot be, in the future, because it is only now that we can hear Him, obey Him, walk with Him. Intimacy with our Lord can only occur now. If we are thinking about or planning intimacy, we are not experiencing intimacy.

If we investigate, which usually means get still and listen, what He is currently doing, and then join that activity, it will take us into a connected series of future “nows” which is our destiny unraveling as we walk it; in the same way that we step from one stone to another to cross the creek.  Or, to use another analogy, we can stand beside a road and imagine what beckons beyond the next bend all day long and get nowhere. But as we step onto the road and begin to travel it disappears behind us and unwinds before us until we experience that place we tried to imagine.

The only way to actually believe that satan can hinder me from reaching my God-ordained destiny is to believe that destiny is always in the future, and then to give the enemy a place of power between myself and it! This place of vain imagination, where beliefs are lifted higher than God’s truth, can only bear  the fruit of frustration, stagnation, and hopelessness.

But if I understand that God is with me now then the only way to occupy my destiny is to accept and involve myself in this particular moment of it. When I do this I will realize that nothing and no one can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and His love is my destiny! When my destiny is now, and I am actively and willingly and knowingly occupying that moment of my destiny, then nothing and no one can get between me and it! Such a revelation topples satan from a place he wishes I would put him, in his attempt to hinder me from being what I already am (at least from God’s perspective).

Am I making any sense at all?!

Each of us is searching for meaning and hoping for greatness. Both meaning and greatness are found as we submit to Christ and allow Him to pour Himself into and then out through our life. If we cannot begin to live in the now moment we will wake up one day and find this life is over and our destiny is still locked in all those past moments we never unwrapped.

(photo courtesy of heavensreef.blogspot.com)

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Questions…

 

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Over the many years of prayer, counseling, and discipling I have noticed we humans exhibit a common tendency, I might even say a unique tendency, to question. As a comparison: I cannot imagine that the elephant, upon arriving at the watering hole after traipsing many drought blasted miles only to find the place all dried up, sits down and says, “Now why didn’t they put out the sign way back at the intersection so I could have gone a different direction?” Or even, “Who drank all my water?” Or worse, “Now let me see, what did I do last week to incur God’s wrath?”

But we humans…we question ourselves, our situations, our decisions, our circumstances, our relationships. And we question God.

We are very good at disguising our deity quizzing with noble words and spiritual phrases. We have become so deft at this stealth exercise that we are often the last one to recognize our own motives.

We are confident that we would never utter the phrase: “Surely God did not really mean…”

My experience is that, excluding a small handful of mature Believers I am privileged to know, at the outset of any set back or hardship even committed Christians immediately begin to question God and to suspect His motives. I believe this is a throwback knee-jerk response left over from old, un-regenerated thought patterns. I’m also convinced that, at least in the west, it is a cultural norm. We just must have answers and, when we don’t have them, we must hold someone responsible.

Wanting answers is not the problem. The Creator evidently made us this way. The subject of my opining is the fact that we want answers right this minute. I am commenting on our propensity to behave as if God owes us an explanation.

I understand and commiserate. Although God is working on me, and I have personally witnessed many breakthroughs that have changed my heart and the way things feel inside me, I still want quick answers. I like things tied up in tidy bows. I like a period at the end of every sentence. My mind leans toward order, and mysteries are not orderly.

The problem is that the faith walk is full of mystery. It’s not a faith walk if it is not.

God is love. We know this not just because He said it but because He is so intent on proving it to us every moment of every day. But He is also mysterious. The secret things belong to Him. He will reveal things to whom He will reveal them and hide things from those He decides to hide them. His ways are not our ways.

I have noticed that when I am least seeking it His voice cuts through the noise and the busy-ness, loud and clear, to discuss something I had not even contemplated.  At other times, when I am desperately seeking enlightenment (aka answers), He is mum. This is not orderly. It feels random and unpredictable and, I admit it, I often want God to be a little more, well, human.

When God is being Himself in this particular way I have two choices. I can decide that He really did not mean it when He said if I will knock and keep on knocking, it will be opened. If I will ask, and keep on asking, it will be answered. If I seek, and keep on seeking, I will find it. Without faith, that will be my assumption and I will give up, walk away, decide God is angry or petulant or petty or just plain mean…or that He doesn’t even exist. And I’ll never get my answer.

My other choice is to take Him at faith value; assume that He means exactly what He says and start knocking day and night until Someone answers, recognizing that all the questions are finally resolved on the journey itself, not sitting in my easy chair wanting resolution dumped in my lap.

Asking questions is human. To have the answers is divine. It’s only as we traverse the distance between the two that our eyes are opened, our ears unstopped, our hearts broadened, and our understanding deepened. God knows this. It’s probably why He so often waits to see if we want to know the truth or just want an excuse.

I am resolved to ask. But if God doesn’t answer right away then I realize, rather than being quiet just to cause exasperation, He is drawing me into a new realm of relationship and revelation. His vagueness is a bread crumb dropped on the path of true understanding. I trust Him so I follow where He leads, even when He leads through silence.

 

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Quoting Frangipane, Again

Because I purchase the cheapest tickets possible when I travel overseas, my trips involve a lot of airport layovers and plane changes. I could get there faster and less exhausted if I would spring for better tickets…but usually I’m spending money given by generous supporters and I feel an obligation to get the most I can for the dollar.

As a result of all those hours, not just on planes but waiting in airports, I read a lot when I travel. This last Philippine trip was no exception. On the journey home I spent one entire day in the overcrowded, under construction, un-air conditioned Manila airport that offered neither food nor drink of any kind. Hordes of international travelers stood in lines for hours guarding piles of luggage. The chair to person ratio was probably one chair for every 500 people. I do not believe I’m exaggerating.

I am convinced it was the Lord’s doing that positioned me right in front of the one chair that happened to be vacated during the first hour I was there. Once occupying the greatly sought-after commodity, I couldn’t leave. I had to guard the luggage pile and the coveted seat. It’s a good thing there was no water available or I might not have had a choice.

Anyway, that day I read The Shelter of the Most High, by Francis Frangipane. It was a God ordained meeting, me and that book, and I was thankful for the uninterrupted hours that made it possible for me to read it cover to cover in one sitting. It answered some of the questions I’d been asking myself and God in the last few months. For me, there was revelation involved.

Here are a few quotes:

“Indeed our journey is divinely designed to be too great for us. The Lord has no plan where we succeed without Him. Life is so constructed to drive us to God…If we become more consumed with our task than we are with our love for God, our lives will eventually become brittle and desolate.” p.9

“But zeal unaccompanied by wisdom eventually becomes its own god.” p.10

“Our primary purpose in life must be to abide in Christ. Otherwise we can become so consumed with the deteriorating condition of the world that we fail to see the deteriorating condition of our own soul.” p.11

“Yesterday’s anointing will not suffice for today’s battles…We should not be surprised if God calls us to pass through our own Horeb.

“How will we recognize this place? Horeb is the voice of personal desolation; it is the desperate compelling of our heart to possess more of God. We must now listen carefully to the voice of God. For it is at Horeb that He brings us deeper into Himself. It is here, under the canopy of His compassion, that we discover the purpose of our brokenness: our desolation is, in fact, a time of preparation.” p.12

“Horeb’s message is this: the Lord does not turn away from our desolation; He comes to redeem it.” p.18

“Thus, if our devotion to our task exceeds our devotion to Him, there will be times when He personally hinders our success.” p.27

“When we lose hope, we simultaneously lose faith, for faith is the substance of the thing hoped for. Without hope or faith, our lives are desolate and without perspective.

“Much of Elijah’s discouragement came from the false expectations he had placed on himself. It is human nature to imagine the outcome of our labors. We so easily and prematurely project ourselves into a place of fulfillment. Yet, whatever our task, we must obey God and leave the results of our efforts in His hands…For us, self-pity can also become a spiritual cave. It can trap us in a dark hole of loneliness and pain. In this place of isolation we fail to hear the encouragement of God. All we really hear is the echo of our own voice magnifying and distorting our problems.” p.28

“Thus we must learn to recognize the nearness of the Lord when there are no “earthquakes” or “storms” to capture our attention…We must learn to detect, without great signs, the still, small voice of God.” pp.30-31

“The more we possess a true knowledge of the Almighty, the more accessible His provisions for us become.” p.37

“The truth is, Jesus Christ is relentlessly given to our perfection. He knows that wherever we settle spiritually will be far short of His provision. He also knows that the more we are transformed into His image, the less vulnerable we are to the evils of this world. Thus He compels us toward difficulties, for they compel us toward God, and God compels us toward change. And it is the transformed heart that finds the shelter of the Most High.” p.63

 

(Quotes taken from The Shelter of the Most High, by Francis Frangipane. Charisma House, Lake Mary, Florida)

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Home Again

 

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I’ve just returned from three weeks in the Philippines and I’m shaking off jet lag and culture shock like a dog climbing out of the pond. I’m suddenly delighted with the tiniest things: sheets that caress, rather than scratch, my cheek (ok…sheets and all other linens in general, rough or smooth); water, actually inside a house, cascading from a faucet at the mere turn of a lever; refrigeration in any form; toilet paper hanging on a wall holder rather than wadded up in my waist pack…

Every American should be required, every few years, to visit a third world country. Gratitude is a valuable and rarely sighted commodity in this most magnificently blessed of all countries.

Where I’ve just been, people who own one change of clothes, live in a bamboo and thatch shack raised off the jungle floor by a few feet, and do not have enough food in their house to feed their family for the next meal, regularly invited us into their single room and offered to share whatever they had. Amid laughter and kindness they exhibited joy. They were so happy someone cared enough to stop by and visit, much less offer to pray and share the Word of God.

Last year I spent most of the entire month-long sojourn holding training courses in churches and Bible Training Centers. We did a few crusades, and we visited jails and the prison, but our activities were still focused amid “church” groups.

This year our plan was very different. We spent half a day in each location training local pastors and leaders about outreach, establishing the validity of the mandate to “go and…” Our focus was to go out into the highways and byways and pray for people so God could introduce Himself to them. Because our primary goal was prayer, I spent some time teaching the five-step healing prayer format to every group.

For two weeks we and our indigenous teams went from village to village with the goal of talking to and/or praying for every person living there. We targeted remote locations that were still close enough to one of our church plants so that a local pastor could stay in touch with those who wanted or needed additional help.

Someone asked me about the biggest miracle I saw while there. I love it when tumors dissolve, cataracts disappear, and major diseases heal. But for me, this trip, what astounded me most was God’s consistent and dependable faithfulness; the way He showed up, over and over again. There was not a single time that we prayed for someone with a fever, raging or low-grade, that his or her body didn’t cool within 30 seconds.

Fever not just leaving but the body cooling several degrees in mere seconds!! THAT is a miracle! It’s not naturally possible. After a few days I got excited every time we found someone with fever, which was often. I knew they were about to encounter the living God! What an incredible privilege…watching the dullness in their eyes fade and the life spark return in a matter of mere moments…feeling their skin cool beneath my hand as I prayed.

That will give you some boldness!

In the training courses, attended by as few as 15 and as many as 50, I always demonstrated after I taught. I asked for anyone currently in pain, any kind of pain, to come up for prayer. It’s a five step method. But I never, and I am completely serious, got past step three. Never, not once, whether I prayed or a student prayed, did God fail to remove the pain. We prayed for headache, backache, hurt knees, swollen feet, stomach ache, hip pain, and chest pain. God removed the pain every time. It sounds like I’m exaggerating but that’s what happened. The absolute confidence we developed as our God, who changes not, removed every pain and cooled every fever is something I cannot communicate. It was if He was proving to us that as we went out in obedience to His mandate He would accompany us. After such experiences in class every single person, old or young, was eager to get out there and pray for somebody, anybody.

At the end of the day our teams regrouped and the stories were incredible. For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of this trip was that most of the healings, deliverances, and salvations were accomplished by students and pastors who had never previously prayed for anyone outside their church; many had never before prayed for anyone to be healed. They were ecstatic! God answered their prayers! Watching their enthusiasm brought me to tears over and over again. Not only did the people for whom they prayed experience God, but they had a God encounter and they would never be the same.

I keep hearing that we are in a time of harvest and I have to agree. Others over the decades and centuries have poured their lives into various continents and people groups, often without seeing the results of their labors. We are harvesting the fruit of their work without any sacrifice of our own. We live in an awesome time. Our call is to go and make disciples, teaching them to do and obey everything Jesus taught. Let’s not waste this opportunity to make a difference for the Kingdom.

Whether it’s next door or around the world, let us go and do and expect God to perform His word in many magnificent and mighty ways.

(photo courtesy of stockami.com)

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Quoting Frangipane

 

prayer

(all following quotes from Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, Arrow Publications. 2014. The conclusions are my own.)

“For you to succeed in warfare, your self-preservation instincts must be submitted to the Lord Jesus, for Christ alone is your true advocate. We cannot engage in spiritual battle without embracing this knowledge.” p. 18.

“Victory begins with the name of Jesus on your lips, but it will not be consummated until the nature of Jesus is in your heart.” Ibid.

“We need to recognize that the immediate source of many of our problems and oppressions is not demonic but fleshly in nature. We must contend with the fact that one aspect of our lives, our flesh nature, will always be targeted by the devil. These fleshly areas supply Satan with a ready avenue of access to undermine our prayers and neutralize our walk with God.” p.22

“It is quite difficult to break the power of religious self-deception, for the very nature of faith is to give no room for doubt. Once a person is deceived, he does not recognize that he is deceived, because he has been deceived! For all that we think we know, we must know this as well: we can be wrong. If we refuse to accept this truth, how will we ever be corrected from our errors?” p. 30

“It is important to recognize that when we speak of strongholds we are not talking about random thoughts or occasional sins. Rather, the strongholds that affect us most are those which are so hidden in our thinking patterns that we do not recognize them nor identify them as evil…In other words, when our thought-life is in agreement with unbelief, fear or habitual sin, the enemy has rest.” p. 36

“The same Lord who conquered the devil and liberated your heart in salvation is working still to renew your  mind. While it is true that He is our promised land, it is also true that we are His promised land! The giants within our hearts, though they have withstood and humbled us, shall not withstand Him! He is the eternal Lord of Hosts, the Holy One who knows no defeat! p.40

“Another means through which strongholds are structured into our souls is through our experiences and the often erroneous conclusions we draw from them. Our firsthand knowledge, for better or worse, becomes the substructure of what we define as reality. Yet, our experiences, while perfectly valid, are not necessarily conclusive. Unless they actually have become a fulfillment of God’s Word, we must consider our experiences incomplete. We must not allow what we have experienced to diminish our trust in God.” p.46

(Personal comment: The above truth was something I held before me like a beacon after my husband died from cancer. My ministry had become centralized around healing prayer, freedom ministry, and preaching that the word of God is “Yes” and “Amen”. When my very best friend and life companion was not healed, I had to make a decision: allow my experience to determine my beliefs or stake my faith on the eternal and unchanging word of God. This is a decision we all must make at one time or another. God is faithful, but we live in a fallen world and we will never be able to understand why some things happen and some things don’t. The secret things belong to the Lord. But I have come to the place of agreeing with one of my favorite teachers: Although not everyone I pray for gets healed, at least at that time, I know that no one will get healed if I don’t pray. Laurie)

(photo courtesy of christianfreedom.org)

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Flagrant Faith

There is a lot of talk these days about miracles, signs, and wonders. We have gotten used to hearing about awesome healings and mass salvations in third world countries. Whenever I read or hear major evangelists recounting such things I have said either within myself or to a friend, “Oh, I want to see that…just once in my life, I want to see it for myself!”

Recently I attended a conference where ministers testified about major healings within the United States, the sorts of supernatural acts they had previously only experienced in other countries. This should give us more than hope, more than encouragement…it should ignite a fire within us to be part of a church whose faith invites such intervention from God at every opportunity.

I suspect that when God’s people put Him in a box of limited expectations, then we will experience limited responses. Not that He cannot or does not want to do great and awesome miracles everywhere…even in the United States. Even in Arkansas. Even, if you can imagine, in little towns like mine!

Psalm 103:3 says, “(Praise the Lord…) who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”

1 Peter 2:24 reminds us that “By His wounds you have been healed.”

Such promises can be found throughout the Bible. Can we believe them? Does He mention somewhere that He does such work on some continents and not others? Does He restrict His promises to certain people groups?

It takes a boldness, a shamelessness, a courageous disregard for convention to put all my trust in Him for something so big. It’s a common misunderstanding for humans to assign our own intimidations to God. Truth is, what seems big to me is not a big thing for God. He is a very big God. Illness is no big deal to the One who spoke the entire universe into being.

I’m finding in myself a new willingness to believe He wants to do something awesome, something controversial, something downright volatile, right here in my own sphere of influence. I’m beginning to imagine that, if I act as if He will do what He says He will do (meaning step outside my comfort zone and pray)…He might just do it! I’m finding myself meditating on those promises as if He spoke them just for my ear, my life, my need. Could that be possible?

I’m beginning to realize that if I climb out on a limb, irreverent for gravity or other people’s opinions or the way it’s always been done, depending solely on His word, casting all my cares and fear upon Him…I’m beginning to believe that is the exact place He wants me to be so He can be God to me. I think this must mean that I finally understand it’s really all about Him, and nothing about me. Perhaps that has been the only distinction between my activities here and those of people in third world countries who have no place to put their eggs except in God’s basket. They know God is their only hope. I just think about it.

God grant me the courage to put all my eggs in Your basket, to lean not upon my own understanding, to create an atmosphere of flagrant faith by giving You an opportunity to act every time I encounter a huge need. Let me continue to look to Your word, and not to my own past experiences, as a place to hang my confidence. God give me the vision to see every hardship, every disease, in proper proportion to Your bigness.

“We will no longer make up excuses for powerlessness because powerlessness is inexcusable. Our mandate is simple: raise up a generation that can openly display the raw power of God. We are on a quest for the King and His Kingdom.” Bill Johnson, pastor, Bethel Church at Redding, CA

 

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Flashbacks from the Philippines: Prison Ministry

jail

(reprinted from 2013 journal) Day 4 Today is Prison Ministry. Unlike America, where we go into the prison and do church services in a comfortable setting, prison ministry here is hot sweaty work. The team set up instruments and sound system beneath a tin roof located outside the tall fence surrounding the prison. Inmates sit on benches inside the perimeter. About 50-60 men occupied the benches when we arrived.

I preached. I walked up and down in the dusty heat, baring my mother’s heart as I shared from my own life what a woman feels when her son (husband, father, brother) goes to prison. I taught about two worlds: the seen and unseen; two kingdoms, dark and light; two kinds of people, those dead in the darkness and those alive in Jesus. As I taught and Linda interpreted, faces began to appear in the 3 story cell block building behind the open yard. More joined those on the benches. I suspect it was the unusual spectacle of a white woman more than anything else.

I took it all the way to the altar call and then, turning aside from the close, I handed off to Mike. Many raised their hands to accept Jesus. I watched, fascinated, as a young man in a red shirt on the third floor balcony raised his hand. I pointed to him and nodded and he nodded back. I wanted him to know he had been seen. A cell mate came out and forced his arm down. After a brief scuffle, red shirt raised his hand again. Another came out to help hold the arm down. He persisted, so one of them picked him up and carried him inside the cell. After a few moments he emerged, both arms raised. Seconds later both the others came to stand beside him, their arms raised as well to receive their Savior!

I can see why people get addicted to foreign missions. Nothing stands between these people and their need.  No propaganda, no ridiculous mantras about “doing it my way”, no promises of help from people who send other people’s money to fix social ills only a change of heart can effect.

I know it can’t always be this easy. I understand Mike and Linda have poured 16 years into this land, preparing a foundation, standing strong and persevering, steadfast in their commitment. God honors such things.

I have just begun to realize how hardened people are in the U.S. They have heard the gospel over and over and they are inoculated to the very thing that will alleviate their suffering and fulfill the longing in their hearts for something more. And they are also turned away from the gospel by the hypocrisy and disdain, the pride and judgmentalism, of so-called Christians in the West.

Here, Jesus’ message of love and mercy is not diluted by the condemnation and arrogance of purely intellectual Christians. The raw need is not obscured by programs that simply band-aid the problem but cannot bring true healing. Do I believe in programs that feed, clothe, medicate, and train people? Oh yes! But I despise the idea of turning people into charity junkies, always dependent on the next temporary fix when God wants to show them how to be so much more than they currently are, teaching them to believe their lives can change, their hearts can change, and their circumstances can change because the God of all hope blesses those who belong to Him.

Ten of the new converts wanted to be baptized. The prison officials pulled up a big blue barrel, filled it bucket by bucket from a nearby well, and then let them out the gate one by one to be buried and resurrected in Christ. Hallelujah! After I joined Mike doing the Baptisms, I handed out Bibles in their language, courtesy of the children from my little church.

(names have been changed)

(photo courtesy of forums.watchuseek.com)

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