Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dealing With Stress Jesus' Way

So how would Jesus have us deal with stress since the word doesn't even occur in the Bible? I believe that Matthew 11:28-30 is a very helpful Scripture for handling 21st century stress. It reads:

  1. "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden (= stressed out), and I will give you rest." The first step is always to slow down, taking time for prayer and talking to Him, for apart from Him we can do nothing.

  2. "Take my yoke upon you ... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Okay, so He is talking about an exchange here. We can't totally check out of all our responsibilities, but we are invited to surrender our heavy yoke and take on His. In other words, prayerfully think about the things that stress you out and consider whether it was really the Lord who has put them on you. Chances are, some things are out of whack, since He promised that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If they aren't, find out where you've been taking on something you shouldn't have.

  3. "... and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." Now this is very interesting; what does this have to do with the easy yoke? I believe that for one it shows the character of this yoke by showing the character of the Master: He is gentle and humble in heart. As I was looking at my stressful situation, I discovered that I had been anything but gentle with myself (and others). Gentleness is one of the fruit of the Spirit, of which love is the supreme one. How well have you loved yourself lately? I'm not talking about selfishness, but being as kind and loving to yourself as your heavenly Father is to you.

  4. The other sticky point is humility of heart. Funny Jesus should mention that among all of His attributes. He is not overbearing - am I, to myself or others? Hmmm! The opposite of humility is pride. How much has my PRIDE contributed to the stressful situation? Like wanting to be thought of as this wonder worker? Being too proud to ask for help and wanting to do a perfect job instead of an adequate job or even possibly failing? Relying on myself instead of surrendering and asking the Lord to take over? Lack of faith that God is in control and therefore believing that I need to take over?

  5. If we have a long, deep heart-to heart talk with the Lord and allow Him to show us the changes we need to make by surrendering our heavy yokes and taking on His light burden, He has twice promised that we will find rest for our souls.

Prescription: Take as often as needed until you've found the promised rest.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Communion with the Holy Spirit.

This blog entry is about a teaching that is changing my life. It is about hearing the voice of the Lord speaking to me personally, and on a consistent basis. Now I'm aware that some of you don't even believe that this is possible. Bear with me, and ask the Lord to show you the truth. He will, if you sincerely seek Him.

The teaching I'm referring to is about communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14). I heard it first from Mike Bickle, though others talk about it as well. It is really simple. God the Holy Spirit dwells inside you; learn to talk to Him on a regular basis, and He will start talking back to you. That's when the excitement starts - God Himself talking to you by His Holy Spirit.

Mike suggested taking time in prayer
  1. Thanking the Holy Spirit, telling Him (with pauses, slowly) that you love Him. Or talk to Jesus that way - you don't have to sort out which part of the trinity you're addressing.
  2. Revelation - "show me more".
  3. Use me - "here I am"
  4. Strengthen me - in my speech, my inner man, self-discipline, my relationships, etc.
  5. Teach me. This is my personal favorite. He is my Teacher in everything on how to manage money, to help in working, etc.

These can be remembered under the acronym T-R-U-S-T. (For Mike's complete teaching notes, go to IHOP under Free Resources and find the teaching with that acronym in the title. You can also buy the audio - it's well worth it!)

So I've been starting to implement this. It probably helps that I'm listening to the webstream of the IHOP awakening every chance I get, but I've become so sensitive to the presence of the Holy Spirit in me that it is becoming normal for me to turn to Him many times daily to see what He's saying (because He's reminding me, and I asked Him to). I'm beginning to see that this is what Christian life is supposed to be like - a life lived in the power and initiative of the Holy Spirit. So much of my previous life has been dead religious works because I, and not the Lord, have initated them, and at the Judgment Seat they will burn up like so much wood, hay, and stubble. I want to live the rest of my days here on earth in the power and in dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit is only possible if we talk to Him - yet like so many Christians I never talked to Him. Indeed, I had believed the lie that I wasn't supposed to talk to Him because He's somehow this shadowy, self-effacing servant who doesn't speak up. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is God, the glorious third Person of the Trinity, in no way inferior to the Father or the Son. And He lives right inside the born-again believer, as close as our heart beat.

But, being the gentleman He is, He waits for us to initiate a friendship, and that's why most of us miss it. When you start talking to Him, He'll start talking back to you. He is eager to talk to you; He has so many things to say! So why don't you start right now and ask for His help in putting this teaching into practice?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Awakening at IHOP - Testimony Part 1

The past three weeks or so I've been tuning into the awakening webstream at almost daily. It's been a life-changing experience, to say the least.
If there is one movement that I consider solidly based on the Word of God (while giving the Holy Spirit full freedom to move), it's the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. I've been sitting under their teaching for years, and have even translated some texts of theirs into German.
How can I summarize all the Lord has been doing? People have been healed, delivered, set free from all sorts of addictions, saved, etc. There are many testimonies, and prayers for specific things the Lord wants to do. To date more than 120 people have been water-baptized, some of them spontaneously. Through the webstream you can tune in live, or else go to the archives, which are equally powerful. It seems that each day the anointing gets a little bit stronger.

Perhaps you, like me, don't experience much at first. Don't give up, press in. Strike the ground not just once or twice, but again and again, until you receive. Talk to the Lord about your frustrations if you have trouble receiving. He will show you what's been holding up the blessing and give you your heart's desire.

For years and years I longed to feel the love of God in my heart, but I had come to believe the lies of the enemy that this was not to be for me. It finally dawned on me that God never is satisfied with head knowledge (of His love or anything else) but wants us to experience Him in our hearts. Therefore the problem was one of my not being able to receive. I had put up barriers out of self-protection against hurt that I was trapped in; I had shut myself into a prison from which I couldn't escape. But Jesus could, and did, set me free when I repented and asked Him to set me free. Then, during a time of Holy Spirit ministry, I felt the love of God burning in my heart, and I heard Him say that He is pleased with me - something I never heard from my earthly father.

Even now, 36 hours later, I continue to feel His love on and in my heart. There are other things that I believe Him to do; this breakthrough was just the beginning. I will continue to contend for more and more and more and more ...

All Glory be to God and to the Lamb that was slain!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bringing good out of evil

Our God is able to bring good even out of great tragedies. As I mentioned in my other blog, last week the pastor of our small church resigned because of extramarital infidelity. A greater shock is hardly imaginable, especially for those who have been with the church much longer than I.

The thought that dismayed me the most was having to start searching for another church all over again (since the church is too small to be viable long term). Yet the Lord, within a few days, not only showed me the church He wants me to go to but also seems to have answered a prayer of mine that I've been praying literally for years.

The new church is Harvest Outreach Ministries in Mills River, which is about the same size as my previous church in Iowa, with room to grow (yeah!). Part of the church is a fledging House of Prayer patterned after IHOP in Kansas City - something I've wanted to be part of for years. All of a sudden I am practically falling over it! Of all the 150 churches in the county, not to mention all the churches in surrounding counties, the Lord seamlessly led me to the one place which has the prayer ministry I desired for so long. Now I'm praying about how to transition and keep cultivating the friendships I've built in the small church.

God is good!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dealing with forgiveness

Last night I had a sleepless night.
Just a few hours before our beloved pastor had resigned because of unspecified moral failures. From the context I gathered he has broken his marriage covenant, though the church and godly pastors are committed to working with them towards full healing and restoration.
Many emotions came up in me: anger, feelings of betrayal, worry about the future of the small church, feelings of abandonment. Being new in town, I don't know many people yet, and I've grown close especially to the women of the church in a short time. What will happen to these friendships now? Will I have to look for one of those mega churches?
In the midst of my sleeplessness I heard the Lord speak to me very clearly. "I have fully forgiven him," He said, reminding me of 1 John 1:9. "Furthermore, I have completely forgotten the sin and will not bring it up (at the Judgment Seat)." All of a sudden all my anger was gone, and it was very easy for me to forgive him - for who am I to withhold forgiveness when the Lord Himself has forgiven him? Furthermore, I marvelled how serious the Lord is about 1 John 1:9 even in the face of serious sins, despite our flippantly quoting this verse all the time without realizing its impact. This morning I was able to write an encouraging e-mail to the pastor, expressing my forgiveness and my encounter with the Lord.
Of course, the future is up in the air. I've been through more breakups of churches than I care to count. More than ever I'm learning that there is only one solid Rock: Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Resurrected and Reigning One. The church will always fail us because it is made up of fallible humans. Nevertheless, we dare not give up on one another because Jesus has commanded us to love one another, and it is only a matter of time until we need grace of others. Therefore I will follow the Lord one day at a time however He may lead next. (Prayers are very much appreciated, however!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Paul's unceasing prayer for the Colossians

Have you ever wondered WHAT we are to pray when we pray without ceasing? Here's one jewel I found in the middle of a sleepless night. It is Col. 1:9. Personalized it reads, "Lord, I ask that I may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The first part of the verse clarifies that Paul was asking this continually for the Colossians.

This verse struck me particularly because prior to that I had just read 2 Chron. 7, 12 - 22, where God appeared to Solomon in the night after the dedication of the temple and said to him, in effect, "If you keep My statues and ordinances, I will bless you, but if you turn away and serve other gods, I will uproot you from the land and destroy the temple." In the Old Testament, God's will was very clear - keep His statues and ordinances, and you will live. Break His law, and there is punishment.

In the New Testament, however, there seems to be a shift. To be sure, the moral law and the Ten Commandments never change, but as for knowing the rest of the will of God, matters are not so clear-cut for the Christian. We are living in a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior now, and it is in the context of that close relationship that God wants to fill us with the knowledge of His will. What He wills for me He doesn't necessarily will for you, and vice versa. Furthermore, He wants to give us "all spiritual wisdom and understanding." In the OT God simply told His people what to do, but not why. In the NT He wants to give us insight into what He is doing because we are His friends, His kids, and not mere servants. Jesus alluded to the same idea in John 15:15, when He elevated the status of the disciples from servants to friends.

To the luke-warm, carnal or immature Christian the will of God can be a mysterious, baffling matter. Sometimes - often? - it seems He is hiding the revelation of His will to us or makes it hard to find it. That turns the prayer of Colossians 1:9 into such a gem. Since it's scriptural, we know God will answer, and since Paul prayed it again and again for the Colossians, we can pray it over and over for ourselves and for others.

If the idea of being filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding isn't thrilling enough to your heart, consider the results of being filled in this way:
  1. You will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (the world will notice a difference!)
  2. You will please Your Father in all respects (He'll be tickled pink with you!)
  3. You will bear fruit in every good work (without trying hard!)
  4. You will increase in the knowledge of God (more intimacy - that alone is worth the effort of praying this prayer!)
  5. Your will be strengthened with all power so that you will become steadfast and patient (don't we all need it?)
  6. You will joyously give thanks to the Father (instead of grumbling and complaining).
So I've started to pray this prayer daily, even at odd moments. Sometimes just verse 9, sometimes adding a phrase from the list of benefits, such as: 'Father, fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that I may bear fruit in every good work.' I then fully expect that He will show me which good works to pursue and which ones to let go.

If you'd like me to pray this prayer with and for you on a regular basis for a while, let me know. I'm interested in seeing how it makes a difference in your life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Focusing Your Spiritual Life

Have you ever wondered why we aren't growing more spiritually, even though we are exposed to great sermons in more ways than any other generation in history? There is not only the sermon in church on Sunday, but numerous opportunities to hear famous preachers on TV or through the Internet. Christian books abound, and many people have the opportunity to attend one or several Christian conferences a year. Spiritual food is everywhere, but we seem to be unchanged and even starving in spite of the spiritual buffet.

It's not that we aren't trying. Most of us want to implement the truths we hear. The problem is that they come at us too rapidly and in too great numbers. Who can learn to love their spouse in their love language, start a disciplined Bible study program, spend more time in prayer, implement the three points of Sunday's sermon, apply what they've read in the latest Christian books they've read in their spare time - all in the span of a single week while they are taking care of a hundred other details in the rat race called life? Little wonder that the Bible truths we hear seem to have so little impact on us. They simply become one more thing on the to-do list of our busy lives.

Little did I realize, when I surrendered my devotional life to the Lord, that He would want to break that cycle. For years I've been trying to grow in many different directions, but He wants me to focus on one thing at a time. For me, right now, it is learning to abide in Him - thinking like Him, having His passions, seeing with His eyes. And I will stay focussed on this until He shows me the next step.

What does it mean in a practical way? In a way, it simplifies life, for I can tune out what doesn't fit with what the Lord is doing right now. I don't have to listen to all these sermons - but I do have to learn to commune with Him. His goal is nothing less than teaching me to abide in Him continually. Everything else will flow of it eventually.

What is the Lord emphasizing in your life? How might He want you to focus on that?