Let’s Have a Different Conversation – What a Single Person Has to Say About Marriage

Image This blog was originally written for a College level audience.

Hello there.  Please pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea (or coffee – every student’s favourite beverage), and allow Me to completely distract you from your studies for just one minute.  You see, you and I haven’t talked much recently.  Actually, it’s been a few weeks.  Even months.  Ever since that tragedy hit.  Ever since the pain exploded you have disappeared into a quiet nothingness.  My child, I long for your embrace.  Though you try to push Me aside. rather than being a spurned lover, I will gently romance you.  I relentlessly pursue your soul even when you have turned aside.  I am filled with a consuming passion for you.
 
LADIES: You have grown up in a world which comodifies your bodies and says that your worth is tied up in your image.  Your sexuality.  And I am so sorry.  I want My sons to be princes and to romance Me in order to pursue you.  My desire is for you and your (future) husband to weave a three corded string so deeply into both your hearts that it becomes inseparable.  Your husband will lead you deeper into the truths of My Word.  He will challenge and discipline your children so they can grow.

 No matter what anyone has told you about your body, regardless whether someone has violated your most intimate feelings, I am filled with a burning love for you.  I think you are beautiful! I think everything about you is gorgeous.  You are a lily among brambles.  You might be taller or shorter, thinner or thicker than the other women, but you are made completely in My image.  Your husband will find great satisfaction in you.  You have an unmatched quiet spirit and inner peace emanating from the very core of your being.  I’m so proud of who you’ve become. 

 
Let your desire be completely for your husband.  Romance him in a way that shows him how much you love and cherish him.  Long for his embrace even when he is absent from you.  Refresh him with your delight in seeing him arrive back home.  Take interest in his hobbies and in his career.  Allow him reign over your home second only to Me.  Respect your husband and his place in the home, and work with him so that his responsibility over the family will be a blessing and a joy rather than an obligation.
Don’t waste your life looking at the scale or the mirror.  Take care of your body, yes, but let Me be your scale.  Le Me tell you how much your kindness, generosity, and dignity weigh.  Let Me be your mirror and tell you how beautiful you are tonight when I see you smile and your eyes light up.  Let’s have a different conversation, one not based on fanciful lust, but on pure truth in My delight in you.
 
GENTLEMEN: You’ve grown up in a culture that says you have to be macho.  That you have to get the girl to be worth something, and that says it’s okay to feast your eyes and engage your heart into something that isn’t your wife.  And I am sorry.  I desire you to be My princes and to fight courageously for purity in a world saturated by lust.  It won’t be easy, but you will be My soldiers heading into a battle that rages all around you.  Even the internet becomes a war zone. 

Regardless of what anyone has told you manhood is or if you have defiled your eyes or heart, let Me speak the truth to you.  Let me tell you what being a man looks like.  Whatever you have done, you are forgiven.  The culture says it’s okay to gratify the flash, but it’s not okay.  Think of Jacob and Rachel.  He waited 14 long years for her while working under the crafty Laban, but it all felt like a single breath because he was consumed with such passionate love for her.  Gentlemen, that’s what true love looks like!  You will be willing to wait until your perfect bride comes along.  You will be willing to sacrifice your deepest desires in reckless abandon upon the altar of sacrificial love for her.  Woo her like the enchanter lover.  Respect her deepest longings and desires and love her with an all-consuming love.  Love her more than you love yourself and put her interests first.  Draw her deeper into Me, make submitting to you a joy and a blessing rather than an obligation. 

 

You were taught that your worth is tied up in driving the latest sports car, in having the hottest woman, and in being the strongest in the gym, but let’s have a different conversation.  Let Me be the center of your life, and let your woman be second only after Me.  Cherish and love her.  Be her mirror and tell her how beautiful she is.  Be her scale weighing only her finest of qualities and characteristics.

Yes, it’s been a while since we last talked, but I’m glad we’ve had this conversation.  Open your books up again, don’t forget that I’m always present and you can always hear my voice.  Now memorize page 107.  You have a Hebrew midterm coming up!

Why Pray For Your Enemies?

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Why pray for your enemies?  Why choose to love those who use you only for evil gain?  I think the Bible is clear that we are to respond in loving kindness and grace when others do evil to us and against us, but of course, that is always easier said than done.  Yet, in the next section, I’d like to share with you some of what God has been teaching me on this topic as I spend time with Him in meditation and prayer.

I think the point of praying for our enemies is to release the negative energy and to replace it with positive power.  Blessing our enemies helps us remember that despite what they did they are still loved by the Heavenly Creator and that they still have worth as human beings. Committing them in prayer helps to take our minds off being the victim, and instead to focus on their brokenness.  Then we are filled with compassion.  The difficulty is that we might never see the outcome of our prayers.  Unlike the faithful mother who has been praying for her son’s salvation for years and finally sees him come to the altar, we might not see a shift in our enemy’s heart.  That’s the point in which we commit it entirely to God’s Hands, giving it over completely to Him.  At some level we have to trust that God will relentlessly pursue them just as He did to us.  At some level we need assurance that God is God and that justice will rule its course.

It may take years for our enemy to seek forgiveness from us or they might never make a move to reconcile.  What’s important, then, is that we simply respect their journey.  They might not be at the same place that we are, but that doesn’t mean that God is finished with them.  We must respect God’s timing, knowing that He will break their heart in the right time and in the right way.  It’s God’s place to punish, judge, or avenge.  Our place is simply and profoundly to love our enemy unconditionally, to pray for their healing, and to release our bitterness fully to Christ.  When we offer our anger on the altar of forgiveness we are admitting our lack of mutual understanding between us and the offender and instead placing our hands in His knowing that God will make a way out of chaos and confusion.

The ultimate revenge lies in our ability to let God be God.  It is about trusting Christ to use what was meant as evil and harmful to bless and edify.  When our enemy’s scheme fails to work, we know that the God of justice and truth has succeeded.  We must be willing to yield ourselves as His tool, His scape goat to accomplish this.  Jesus was a scape goat.  He knows what it means to be battered, abused, and assaulted.  He maintained His composure for the sake of His love for us.  He incredibly wielded Himself.  If we follow in His footsteps and accept the opportunity to intercede joyfully we will have immense riches.   Our enemy will lose and God will triumph victoriously.  So we must stop dwelling on what we have lost and instead focus on what we have gained, for what we have gained – the sheer privilege of obedience to Christ, is of infinitely more worth than what we have lost!

Questions to Ponder: 1) Am I able to thank God even if He never tells me why this tragedy happened?

2) The question is not “is it worth it?” but “is He worthy?”  Is He worthy for me to undergo even the most terrible things for the sake of His Name and for the restoration of humanity?

3) Am I willing to allow God the opportunity to transform my heartache into something gloriously magnificent?

The first two questions come from listening to Helen Rosevear’s testimony.  Rosevear was a missionary to the DRC and underwent many graphically brutal things but still was able to find forgiveness in her heart for her enemies thus displaying a profoundly humbling testimony.  I encourage you to watch her YouTube clip as it has taught me so much about the art of forgiveness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4QdQ0lpRyI

A Summary Explanation of My Key Learnings at IHOP (A Fancy Way of Saying: Disjointed Ramblings Which Didn’t Fit Into Any of my Other Blog Posts) (The Last of the Mennocostal IHOPKC Onething 2013 Series)

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So, it’s been about 2 weeks since I arrived back from my short sojourn to the American Midwest where I travelled with a group of about 50 other young adults who I had never met before to a Charismatic Conference at International House of Prayer.  We left as strangers and arrived back on Canadian soil as friends and fellow co-labourers who will continue to pray for one another and to continue to share insights amongst our group so as to encourage each other to keep seeking the Lord’s face.  As you are likely well aware, it is very easy to maintain a rigorous Spiritual life and to practice the disciplines of prayer and intercession when you are amongst a group of likeminded believers and in an environment which fosters corporate and private expressions of worship.  However, once you are back in the daily grind of life, back at your job, school, or with family, it because much harder to sustain the lifestyle you have recently begun to cultivate.  As you work with coworkers who may have differing religious and spiritual opinions it may become harder to continue to find ways of distilling your key learnings and processing your thoughts.  I sincerely hope that every participant of OneThing who finds themselves in this situation now will be able to cultivate a Valley Spirituality – one in which their roots are so deep that it is impossible for them to be separated from Christ regardless of what circumstances they may find themselves in now. 

As the title suggests, this piece is going to be somewhat disjointed… the reason for that is because there are so many lessons I learned at IHOP and so it is my hope that in the next few paragraphs I will be able to piece together a patchwork quilt for you all.

PERSONAL TESTIMONY FROM IHOPKC ONETHING 2013

The following is a short essay which I wrote for my group about a week and a half after coming back from IHOPKC.  I hope that if you have been following along and reading the other Mennocostal blogs and you are starting to become interested yourself in attending an IHOPKC conference that this may be an encouragement to you.  If you have any doubts about whether you should go or if you know someone else who is going and have heard somewhat negative opinions about IHOP, I hope that this piece of writing will offer you a new and fresh perspective.  Above all, keep discerning the Lord’s voice to see what His will is for you and if it is His will for you to attend in 2014 know that many great blessings will await you there.

I went to IHOP because I was curious.  To be honest, I probably didn’t even have that great of a motivation for going.  I was sceptical at best and cynical at worst about the charismatic movement having been brought up in a very conservative background which does not exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  My experience confined to only a few instances of me speaking in tongues, I had many doubts about prophetic inspiration and definitely did not believe there was any Scriptural proof about being slain in the Spirit.  Looking back, I’m so glad that I didn’t let my lack of knowledge in these areas hinder me from attending the conference.  God showed me so much about His love and care through this experience and it was truly refreshing to meet so many young adults who have a passionate fire for Christ in their own lives and have dedicated themselves to serving Him.  At IHOP I learned that the Holy Spirit accomplishes as much through us as we allow Him to.  It’s through spending dedicated prayer time with Him and being willing to make that sacrifice that we continue to grow into Christian maturity and to develop character and perseverance.  IHOP really helped me to recognize how I had been passively going through the motions of my faith and urged me to “wake up” to experience real love and real grace.  One thing that was incredible about this experience is how the Holy Spirit continuously showed me new and fresh insights from the Scripture.  I’ve studied theology for 4 years in Bible college and seminary, but every time during the conference when I felt God had maximized His learnings to me, He showed me something new.  Since IHOP I have been way more interested in keeping up a daily prayer life and in reading my Bible.  I was really challenged by one of the speakers that if we spend only 15 minutes in the Word daily we can finish the whole Bible in one year.  I realize that I spend way more time than that on Facebook everyday looking at posts which really don’t matter and instead I need to dedicate that time for Words from God which bring life, hope, and healing.  Finally, IHOP developed in me a desire to be an intercessory missionary.  Before this conference I had never really thought much about this ministry, but the conference confirmed in me that prayer is the greatest of all ministries because it is in prayer that Christ shows us His will and encourages us.  So now I have dedicated 2 days a week to intentionally pray for a long period of time during the night hours for the darkness surrounding our cities and our world.  I’m so grateful that I went to this conference and that it was only one tool among many which the Holy Spirit used to work in me and hopefully through me as long as I remain willing to abide by His voice.

SOME THOUGHTS WHICH I AM STILL LEARNING TO DISTILL

At the IHOP conference I began to see for the first time in a long while how God’s love completely flows over and covers my brokenness.  Surveying my life over the past several years, I have recognized instances where I was truly on fire for Christ, but I have also begun to see periods of time when I was spiritually dry and only half-heartedly going through the motions.  This type of half-hearted lifestyle is no longer good enough for me!  Misty Edwards, one of the worship leaders and preachers at IHOPKC has a great song with this incredibly surprising lyric, “YOU WON’T RELENT UNTIL YOU HAVE IT ALL.  My heart is Yours.”[1]  When two people who once made a vow before God and a fellowship of other believers to remain faithful and pure to each other for life and sealed the covenant with a kiss now find themselves only giving half-heartedly to their marriage they often find that they do no longer have the desire to keep fighting for the other and so often it leads them into divorce.  Their love for one another has dried up and because they aren’t willing to give their best to their partner anymore, their partner becomes dissatisfied and may begin to look for love in other ways or to busy themselves with other activities.  BUT when two people remain completely faithful to one another and give each other their all, it’s a beautiful thing.  They stay together because of love, not simply because of obligation.  One image of God which He has faithfully revealed to me many times over the past year is that He is both the Relentless Pursuer AND the Gentle Romancer, BUT in order for the love to stay strong between us and not grow stagnant I need to accept His advances and love Him back.  It needs to be a mutual courtship with love that continues to grow and flow without growing cold. 

Another lyric that Misty Edwards has in one of her songs is, “You’re the first among many in the Kingdom of love.”[2]  When I hear or sing this lyric it reminds me of the many other loves in my life.  I love my family, I love my friends, I love my work, and I LOVE orange juice :D.  Having a desire to love more deeply or to invest more affectionately into the life of a friend or significant other is a very appropriate and God given feeling, but even then our love for Christ must rise above that.  We must be so willing to put Him first in our life that we are willing to sacrifice romantic or even familial love for the sake of receiving REAL love from the Father.[3]  Please note, that if you truly LOVE the father it means you will also LOVE your family and your friends in a much deeper way – one that you can only begin to fathom now, however, Christ must still reign supreme even over a best friend or spouse.

This conference showed me that if you’re not in it all the way, you aren’t in it at all.  You can’t just become “spiritual” by going to church, going to seminary, or even serving in any kind of ministry.  If that’s your sense of spirituality, then I hate to say this, but it’s little more than false piety.  You can’t expect to grow without abandoning yourself in worship, regularly reading the Word, or pouring out intercession and prayers.  If you’re satisfied where you are in your faith walk right now and you aren’t doing these things then you are in a place of false comfort.  We need to completely surrender to Him and ask Him to use us to accomplish His will in our lives.  Don’t let Mountain Top experiences become a passing shadow.  A Spiritual high that you forget about a week from now.  Ask the Lord to give you patience so that you can grow roots.[4]  Develop endurance so that you can have fruit which will last.  Trust even when it’s hard. 

LEAVING THE CONFERENCE

At OneThing God completely broke me and I  surrendered everything to Christ and from that day on I have continued to do so.  I invite you to do the same.  You don’t need to attend a huge conference to offer your whole self to Him and to proclaim that you won’t remain unchanged even if you lose friends.  Your REAL friends will always accept you for who you are and when you change because of Him they will love you more for it!

 

When you give everything to Christ, God will transform you so completely that His fingerprints will be evident over all aspects of your life.  You will become a shining light for Him so that when people hang out with you they are no longer hanging out and talking to Deborah, but to Christ![5]  God has broken any bonds which previously surrounded you – whether of oppression, lust, or addictions, and now there is no going back!  You will see the Holy Spirit manifest in your life in incredible ways – why would you give them up to go back to a former standard of living?[6]

If you ask Christ, He will grow your love for Him in the same way that Jacob’s love for Rachel grew to be so deep that even after working for 14 years for the dishonest and crafty Laban it still only felt like a single day (a single breath) to him because he was so consumed with a passionate love for her.  He loved her so much that he was willing to wait for her.  Gentlemen, that’s the truest example of real love.  The Holy Spirit will not stop filling your soul, but instead He will be daily exemplified in every crevice of your being.  You will be a lily among brambles![7]  You will be able to rejoice in Christ’s Shadow even when you can’t see Him fully or even if He seems far away. [8] He’s never far away!  He’s right there!

Take up Christ’s offer to come with Him to the quiet place and allow Him to minister to you.  If you do, you will achieve true greatness!

CONCLUSION

Throughout my week at IHOP, God really minister to my soul in the exact way that I needed it to happen.  It completely wrecked me, messed me up, and broke me, but in all the ways that brought glory to Christ.  I can no longer deny Christ’s love for me.  It’s not an easy road to traverse.  There are definitely still days when I become tempted or have my doubts.  There are days coming in the near future when I will forget these lessons and will want to sleep instead of pray or will doubt Christ’s love when I see the brokenness of nations.   That’s why even though I had these incredibly spiritual encounters which border on the supernatural I still need Godly friends and wise mentors who continue to pray fervently for me, continue to intercede on my behalf, and continue to encourage me when I begin to feel weak.  They are the type of people who come alongside me in my struggle and remind me that going back to a worldly lifestyle is NOT OKAY!  They tell me, “You gotta remember what Christ promised you when you were praying to Him and crying out!”

I truly hope that this blog series has been encouraging to you.  I hope that if you are a young adult and have the means to do so that you will consider attending the next OneThing conference in December 2014.  If you do decide to go, I pray that the Holy Spirit will become so real and present to you in the same way that He made Himself known to me.

 

 

What is True Forgiveness?

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Forgiveness has been a topic that I God has really been showing me about over the past year and a half or so.  I have already discussed many aspects of forgiveness in previous blogs about what the Bible teaches us about relationships and forgiveness.  Going to International House of Prayer did not necessarily bring any new insights to me on this topic, however, it did confirm several musings that have already been stirring in my heart for quite some time.  Through spending extended time with God in prayer Christ reminded me of His ultimate forgiveness not only to me personally but also to the world.  He also reminded me of my duty to forgive others and to extend His love and peace regardless of the circumstances I may find myself in.  I would like to highlight in this blog a few of the things that I have been musing about since my time at IHOP.

Maybe you struggle with forgiveness… many Christians do.  Maybe someone has hurt you deeply and you have tried to forgive but simply don’t know if you really have forgiven.  It’s so easy for pastors to tell us to “forgive”, but it’s something entirely different to actually really know how to put it into practice.  Saying the words “I forgive you” are relatively meaningless unless it’s also accompanied by a shift in the attitudes of your heart and the way that you will now choose to interact with the person.  Forgiveness does not necessarily mean restored trust or restored friendship. It also may not mean reconciliation for reconciliation is one step after forgiveness has already taken root in your heart.  It’s the product of forgiveness… not the same thing.  And reconciliation often involves two people which means that if the other person is not willing it may not be able to be achieved.  Here are some questions that I often find myself pondering about which you may also be asking as you skim this blog:

* What does it mean for God to forgive me?  To forgive the world?

* What does it mean for me to forgive others?

* What does it mean for me to forgive myself? (often forgiving yourself is more difficult than forgiving others… we tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else is, we tend to be our own worst enemies)

* How do I know when I have truly forgiven someone?

* What does forgiveness look like? (How do I put it into practice?)

* Why do we forgive? (What does the Bible say about forgiveness)

WHAT FORGIVENESS LOOKS LIKE: Christians tend to be afraid of anger and often when someone is angry we tend to avoid them and not take their complaints seriously.  There’s something about anger which is frightening.  However, anger is a normal human emotion!  The Bible NEVER tells us NOT to feel angry, however, it deeply cautions us about what we do with that emotion.  With how we choose to respond to it.  Paul writes, “Be angry, but do not sin.”[1]  We read, “don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry.”  Don’t let anger consume your entire person, but yes, by all means – BE ANGRY!!  You see, anger is not always a bad thing.  Throughout history, righteous anger has propelled many individuals to channel their energies into creatively coming up with solutions which bring about restoration and hope.  Some examples of this righteous anger include women being able to vote, slavery being ended, and a fight for stopping the sex trade.  Had people not been angry about these injustices, our world would have continued down a slippery path of sinful living.  Even God Himself was angry when He looked over the entire world and saw that everyone was sinning and men were going their own way.  It resulted in a catastrophic flood… but also in a new beginning for humanity and a restoration of hope.[2] 

The difficulty is that it’s so easy to lose that vision of righteous anger in a blaze of anger.  The emotion of anger is perhaps one of the most intense emotions that humans feel.  It can be even more intense than sadness or depression… perhaps that is why it is one of the very first stages of Grief.[3]  Anger has caused many people to lose the creative energy which anger produces and instead has led them to harm others.[4]  That’s why I recommend that rather than focussing on your anger you begin to focus on your grief.[5]  In my second year at Tyndale we had a very well known speaker, Hans Peter Royer, come to us and share about the topic of forgiveness.  What he said still stays very close to my heart 2.5 years later, “YOU CAN ONLY BE ANGRY SO LONG AS YOU ARE GRIEVED.”  Grief is not a passive depression which immobilizes us, it’s a passionate display of our heart being intertwined with God’s.  As His heart is grieved so is ours.

HOW DO I TRULY FORGIVE? Maybe it’s your best friend who just snatched that handsome crush away from you, maybe it’s a relative who always gossips about you, maybe it’s a co-worker who hasn’t been treating you fairly… how do you forgive in these situations?

You forgive because Christ first forgave you.[6]  You forgive because you see the person’s brokenness and in that you see your own brokenness.  It’s this strange dichotomy between mercy and justice that the Bible calls us to and which is hard to grasp.  Yes, justice must take place.  That means that if someone hurts you there are rightfully consequences.  You don’t need to feel bad if someone who harmed you is punished in some way.  However, as Obadiah says, you don’t rejoice in the day of your enemy’s downfall.[7]  That means that when he or she is punished you don’t point fingers, laugh about it, or tell all your friends about how they deserved it.  You can truly feel compassion even for the person who has hurt you because to you it doesn’t feel good for them to have to undergo the punishment.  We’re also called to mercy.  This means that even though you DON’T accept their actions that you begin to pray for them.[8]  You cry out to God so that they will be able to receive Him into their hearts and come to know Him fuller.  It’s hard, especially when the person who harmed you claims to be a Christian, but as you pray to God you will begin to feel differently about them and the situation.  Your heart will break as you recognize that their actions flowed out of their own sense of loss or their own confusion and pain.  You can also pray for their families and for anyone else who may have been affected.  This is a great way for you to take your mind off of your own troubles and focus on someone else.

It may help to begin by praying the Lord’s Prayer.  This is a prayer that has held great significance for me over the past year and a half especially during my time at L’Arche where we pray it daily.  In that prayer it says, “forgive us our trespasses just as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”[9]  This prayer reminds us that we ARE able to forgive even when it’s really hard because we remember our own sins and all the pain we have caused to other people.  You have no idea of the effects your sins have had on another.  What if someone were to say, “how can I forgive Deborah?  She violated me?”… How would I feel?  I who had the idea of sheer hurt as far away from me as possible?  But the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t end with forgiveness.  It teaches us to not be led into temptation.  When someone harms you there are so many temptations – the temptation to be bitter, to be envious or jealous of others who haven’t been through the same situation, to want revenge, or to play the victim pretending like it’s either 100% our responsibility for what happened or 0% our responsibility.[10]  In the end of the day, as one of my best friend’s Dad says, “even if you think the other person is 90% responsible for the situation, you are still 10% responsible and you are 100% responsible for your 10%”. 

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT FORGIVENESS: The Bible has several key teachings on forgiveness.  In the end of the day, though, you don’t forgive for the sake of the other person, you forgive for YOURSELF.  You forgive because you recognize that the longer you hold that pain in your heart, the longer it will consume you.  As one of my professors at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary taught us, “we build ourselves cages and then blame the other for their construction.”[11]

The Bible also tells us that if we forgive others of their sins then God will forgive us, but if we choose to harbour hate and bitterness in our hearts, then God will not forgive us![12]  That’s pretty harsh language, but it does bring a certain reality out – the reality that we can’t expect someone to give us something which we are not willing to give to another.  How can we be so judgmental as to think that one’s sin is better or worse than ours?[13]  Not only that, but the Bible says that we are to forgive constantly.[14]  We are to forgive without number and without remembrance of any other pain the person has caused in the past. We need to take each apology as a new and fresh one.  This DOES NOT imply that we put ourselves into abusive situations and it doesn’t mean we don’t leave abusive friendships or relationships.  But what it DOES imply is that for the sake of ourselves we don’t keep heaping sin upon sin, but we choose forgiveness, love, and mercy instead.

Think about what Jesus taught concerning how we should treat our enemies.  There’s been much research done on this but here is the mindset I cling to: if someone takes your coat, you give him your cloak as well.  You make him see the nakedness of his deeds.  Think about it – who is the one ashamed if you are naked?  Him or you?  More often than not it is the one who sees us naked who begins to blush and feel awkward – it’s not us.  We are okay.  It’s our body.[15]

If someone slaps you on the cheek, you let him slap the other one.  This is not about being a doormat.  Generally when someone slaps you they do it with the back of their hand, not the front.  Well, make them have a real confrontation with you!  Make them own up to their action.

If someone makes you walk a mile, make them walk two miles with you.[16]  In Biblical times Roman soldiers could stop any civilian at any time and force them to carry their bags.  However, there was a limit to the abuse.  They were only allowed to force the person to walk one mile, if they made the person walk more than one mile they would be in trouble with their superiors.  So basically, what Scripture tells us is that we should show so much kindness to our enemies that it ends up getting them in trouble!

We read in the Scripture that when we speak well of an enemy we are heaping burning coal upon their heads![17]  What a metaphor.  How many of you would want someone you immensely dislike to say really nice things about you and be sincere about them?  That would be kind of awkward wouldn’t it?  Well, make it awkward for your enemy!

Finally, know that their deeds WILL be exposed.[18]  You might not see it right away… or even ever, but the more I read the Bible the more I see how in the end of the day everything gets sorted out.  The Psalms talk about how people pervert justice[19] and Lamentations raises this question: DO THEY THINK GOD DID NOT SEE IT?[20]  Know that in the end of the day it isn’t you who the offender is accountable to, it’s God.  And really, be grateful it’s God and not you… because I guarantee that on judgement day God who is holy and without sin will do a better job of weighing the case than we would.[21]

WHY FORGIVE? We are taught in Scriptures that if someone says with their mouth that they love God, but inwardly they are full of bitter poison (also known as hatred) towards their brother or sister then they are lying and not truly walking with God.[22]  They aren’t inwardly living what they are outwardly proclaiming.  They are hypocrites!  Only in half-way, not fully.  That’s not cool!  No, instead what you’ve got to do is leave whatever you’re planning to offer to God – your ministry, your praise, your worship, right there. Forgive your brother.  Reconcile with your sister.  Abolish the poison of bitterness. Then and only THEN are you fit to offer your whole self and your whole offering to Christ.[23]

So that’s why we forgive.  We forgive so that our lives and our offerings can be acceptable in Christ’s sight.  If we are living for Christ, we want to give Him all that we’ve got, but He only accepts the best – that which is spotless and pure.[24]

We forgive because it is our Christian duty to forgive, and not only that, but because it is an honour, a privilege, to forgive.  It helps us become more Christ like.  It exemplifies His character to the world.  It is the ultimate testimony of love.  When our non-Christian peers see us forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us, they will wonder what it is that we have which they do not and I guarantee that they will WANT it.

HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE TRULY FORGIVEN? As my roomate once said, “we forgive to the extent that it is possible to forgive and sometimes we just give it to God because we have forgiven to the extent that we can and don’t know how to forgive any further.”

Forgiveness is tough and it won’t come overnight.  It’s a process.  Often we need that process, that period of anger, before we can truly forgive.  Forgiveness is like the spring thaw after a long winter.  It’s a gradual process.  Each day we will begin to feel better and better about the situation.  If we’re walking with Christ our attitudes may change.  We likely will never be THANKFUL for the hurt inflicted upon us, but we may begin to see that there was a purpose to it or that there is some way we can minister to others because of it.  We may even begin to see how our lives have become so much more spiritually mature as a result and be grateful for the positive effects it has had in our lives.  Although we won’t be THANKFUL, we may even begin to see it as a PRIVILEGE sent by God to undergo for the sake of other people.  It helps us to become more Christ-like when we forgive, remembering that just like Christ took on all of our sin and death, so too, we have become the scape goat for others.[25]  We may never truly know the impact we have had on others or the amount of people who were spared because we took the brunt for them.[26]

When you are able to think of the situation and your anger (however justified) is replaced with grief THEN you have truly forgiven.  Grief because of the fact that sin taints a beautiful earth, that violence ravishes our environment, that we are imperfect beings.  Grief that until Christ comes, they are broken and we are broken.  Imperfect.

As Henri Nouwen once wrote, “We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and remember what happens.”  This is the attitude that we are talking about.  Two people can have the exact same thing happen to them, but one chooses to grow from the experience and move on, and the other stays stuck in their grief and anger.  Completely paralyzed.[27]  In the end of the day, the offender doesn’t see the outcome of what they have done, so it’s up to you and only you to choose to walk away from it victoriously!

I think the ultimate revenge is being able to see that what someone meant to harm you, God has used to bless and edify.[28]  It’s the ultimate vengeance to say in your heart that the person’s plan didn’t work.  That they meant to paralyze you, but that you are walking in glory.  When you adopt this mindset it just gives you a whole new understanding that vengeance is God’s and that our sense of justice and revenge totally pales in comparison!

CONCLUSION: Forgiving ourselves, others, or even God is difficult.  Keep reminding yourself of the ultimate love of Christ which covers a multitude of sins and be sure that He is walking with you through the long and often painful process.[29] “He makes beautiful things out of the dust.  He makes beautiful things out of us.”[30]


[5] Genesis 34:7 gives an example of how grief comes before anger (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2034:7&version=NASB)

[11] God’s Shalom and the Church’s Witness class with David B. Miller

[15] From a sermon I heard as a highschooler by Sergeant Drummer (Matthew Bailey-Dick)

[20] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2094:7&version=NASB (I borrowed a Bible from Tyndale once unfortunately I don’t remember the version but it Reads Lam. 3:34 this way: “But the leaders of the people trampled prisoners underfoot.  They deprived the people of their God-given rights in defiance of the Most High.  They perverted justice in the courts.  Do THEY THINK THE LORD DIDN’T SEE IT?)

[26] This notion came from a L’Arche Assistant’s Bible Study where someone shared how people with disabilities suffer for the rest of us because when they are born with an immense disability they have pure thoughts and minds

[27] Henri Nouwen “Spiritual Choices” – Daily Devotional for January 6, 2014

Revitalizing Relationships – World Fellowship Sunday Sermon

Image Here’s my sermon from last year’s World Fellowship Sunday.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, the seas, the sky, and the plants and God saw that it was good.  However, God got lonely and wanted some company so He also created animals.  Yet, animals alone could not provide the real connection and love that He desired, so He created a man named Adam.  Adam and God talked with each other daily, but Adam was in need of a different kind of a relationship.  God saw that it was not good for a person to be alone, so He gave Adam a wife.  Adam and his wife, Eve, lived in the garden and spent time with each other and with God. 

Friendship was the first gift that God gave to humankind and He continues to desire us to share our lives in community with others particularly through being a part of a body of believers known as the church.  The church is not simply a building made of brick, but rather a living and breathing organism that shares in the joys and sorrows of daily life and that seeks to help others.  The Bible tells us that God desires us to use the different gifts we are given as expressions of love for Him and our friendship with one another in various ways.  He desires us to use our abilities to love one another and to lift them up and help them achieve their goals rather than just our own. 

Christian singer, Rebecca St. James once said that God could have made us robots to do His will, but He wanted a real love not a forced one.  He wanted us to believe and love Him and then show this to others through the way that we reach out to them during both good and difficult times. 

Relationships are so vital to the church that once a year we celebrate World Fellowship Sunday.  On World Fellowship Sunday we are reminded that we are not just part of a local expression of faith, but also part of the global church.  Today we rejoice with those who have claimed Anabaptist identity for themselves both because of being born Mennonite and also because of choosing the faith for themselves because of wanting to emulate a certain lifestyle.

They are drawn into the care and compassion that the church not only provides but also expects of its members.  They are drawn into a community with service and peacemaking at its heart.  Today as we celebrate with Mennonites from the Global South, East, West, and North we are reminded that we are only one body among many.  We are reminded that ethnicity, cultural barriers, and norms, do not divide but enhance us, and that we have something to add to the global church just as they have something to add to us. 

This year’s theme for World Fellowship Sunday is justice and the witness of the church today.  Every one of us here is a person who has social and relational needs, who desires friends to learn from, people to contribute to, and people they can confide in.  Relationships are amazing things that God has blessed us with and that really add to our lives, however, there are also times when relationships can be hurtful because of careless words, thoughtless actions, and sometimes even a sense of entitlement and wanting to be right. 

Many of us have been hurt or have hurt a friend at one time or another.  Sometimes this may have been accidental, other times it may have been the result of a falling out, or the result of prolonged cracks just below the surface that we or the other person cannot take any longer. 

It breaks God’s heart when relationships do not end up the way He intended them to be.  It hurts Him to see the effects of broken relationships – fights, divorce, violence, abuse, and war.  That’s why God calls us, as Christians, to not just think about the relationship between justice and mercy, but to really live it out. 

This summer, God really challenged me to show mercy rather than justice.  I admit that I am obsessed with justice and often want people to apologize and take responsibility for how they have hurt me.  But God really changed me to follow Jesus’s example on the cross of praying for their forgiveness rather than trying to prove Himself, and of the words in the Sermon on the Mount to seek after reconciliation with those we have hurt before offering our gifts to Him.  

Through these lessons, I learned that I needed to make things right with those I have wronged in my own life.  Yes, there is a time to pursue justice particularly when it comes to systemic oppression – things like slavery, poverty, abuse, or the sex trade, but more often than not, when it comes to personal relationships our first and foremost response must be one of mercy rather than one of retribution.  We need to seek to restore, rather than to tear down in hopes that someone will apologize to us.  Unforgiveness constructs a cage for us that imprisons us until the day that the person apologizes and if they never do we can remain in that cage for life.  Trying too hard to achieve justice can take its toll on us and make us into bitter people unable to trust others.

In response to what God had been teaching me, I wrote letters to those who have hurt me.  Even if I no longer had contact with the person I still wrote it and offered it as a prayer to God.  Even though I may still think that the other person was at fault, I took responsibility for my lack of understanding towards their position and asked forgiveness for not reacting in a Christlike manner because of my anger.  I offered my forgiveness for what they had done, and stated my hope that one day we could work towards rebuilding the foundation that we had lost.  I signed off every letter saying that if was my hope that even if the relationship was never restored we could both walk away in Shalom from the experience. 

Being able to truly forgive really helped me to get to the place where I could be a happier person and not let it affect my relationship with any of my friends by bringing the pain into those friendships. 

For me this was a great progression, but I am not saying that everyone should entrust themselves to hurtful relationships again.  Although we might seek after reconciliation, there will be times when it is virtually impossible because whereas forgiveness only requires the will of one person, reconciliation involves two people who are both working towards reunification.  Nevertheless, we do need to make that effort towards trying to restore peace in relationships and in our own hearts before we are able to continue to contribute to God and to the church. 

Oftentimes when people hurt us we are only reminded of the pain that they have caused.  We hold up pictures of them, frames of the different experiences that we have had with them so that we end up only seeing those experiences rather than seeing the person for who they really are.  Sometimes we even hold these picture frames up to people that we don’t even know because of prejudices that we hold against them based on their gender, culture, religion, skin tone, or some other aspect of who they are. 

World Fellowship Sunday is a time for us to look at the impact of our actions on a personal, national, and global level.  It is a time for us to look at how our country has historically mistreated those who did not fit into societal or church norms and to think about how we can take responsibility and work towards making beneficial changes to our society. 

It is also a time for us to recognize those our society marginalizes today.  It is a time for us to reflect not only upon those that we see in the news, but those that we walk alongside daily in our neighbourhoods and grocery stores.  As Nelson Mandela said, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”

Many of us have just made New Year’s resolutions.  Our society suggests that good resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, and taking up a new hobby, and while these are all fine goals, they really do not affect the lives of anyone other than ourselves.  This World Fellowship Sunday let’s think about ways that we can be a part of the global church and then make it happen.  It could be as simple as learning to make cultural dishes outside of our own, becoming a globally conscious consumer, or becoming friends with a marginalized person.  Jean Vanier, founder of an international movement of people with intellectual disabilities called L’Arche once said, “If you become a friend of somebody who is excluded you are doing a work of unity. You are bringing people together.”  Let’s try our best to extend our hands and our hearts locally and globally as we seek to continue growing as the Body of Christ and as the worldwide Anabaptist church.  Amen.   

Some of the Best Known Writings on Peace

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Below are my personal paraphrases on some of the best known verses of the Bible written on peace:

 Matthew 5:21-25: In the past, you were taught, “Don’t murder; anyone who does will have to answer to the judge in court.”  But now, I’m going to say something that will totally shake you up: whoever is angry with another person will be brought before the jury.  Whoever calls another person a “worthless fool” will be asked to testify, and whoever goes beyond that will have their soul endangered.  So, if at any point in time you want to do something for God first consider if you have sin weighing down on your heart.  If you are so angry with another person that it would cause you to sin, make it right with them before coming back and giving your service to God.  God loves pure offerings, not ones steeped in hate or blood.  If you know someone has something against you, settle the argument before it gets serious.  It is better to solve the problem privately, than have everyone in the public world know about the issue.  If the public world knows about your anger, they will make you pay until there is nothing left to pay.  (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=%20Matthew%205:21-25&version=ESVUK)

Matthew 5:38-42: Throughout your entire life you have been taught to show revenge.  People have always said, “An eye for an eye, tooth for tooth.  Bruise for bruise, punch for punch”.  However, that’s not the way to do it.   I want you to know that revenge never solved anything.  If someone backhands you, make them have a real confrontation with you.  Ask them why they just did that, maybe they have a reason.  If they do, you can politely and professionally work it out together.  And if someone takes your shirt, offer to give them your coat.  They will be so shocked that they won’t know what to do.  When they are shocked then you have the perfect opportunity to witness to them.  If someone forces you to walk a mile with a heavy load on your back, offer to carry it for them a second mile.  As you are walking, get to know the abuser better.  The second mile is a wonderful opportunity to ask them what’s on their mind when they’re abusing others.  Maybe they have a reason.  If they do, you can be a good support to them and encourage them to seek God.  And anytime someone asks you for something, or wants your help be sure to give it to them.  Never withhold anything from them just because of their age, gender, or ethnicity, for it is through acts of service that we show God’s love. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205:38-42&version=ESVUK)

Matthew 5:43-48: Throughout your entire life you have heard people say, “Love your friends, and despise your enemies”.  Today I want to challenge that idea.  I’m telling you to love those who do wrong to you – love them like you would a brother or a friend.  Keep those who single you out in your prayers constantly.  If you do right to everyone, then God will always think well of you, for that is the duty of His sons and daughters.  God doesn’t show partiality to anyone, He doesn’t pick favourites.  The sun rises and sets on both the good and the bad, the rain falls on both those who do right and those who do wrong.  In the same way, all of His children are expected to show His love to everyone.  Why should you expect something special just for doing the standard thing?  Even nonbelievers do that!  And if you show special kindness only to your friends, what have you done that is really worth mentioning?  Even sinners do that!  Instead, God calls us to perfection; He wants us to be above earthly standards just like He is above the rest of society. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205:43-48&version=ESVUK)

Re-Claiming the Art of Biblical Fasting

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Introduction: Fasting.  The topic that Christians love to talk about but hate actually putting into practice.  Fasting is an art.  It’s a Spiritual discipline.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  And it takes endurance.  Lots of endurance.  It isn’t easy, but it is character forming and brings you into a deeper understanding of Christ’s love for you and for the world.  In the following paragraphs, I’d like to help you discover the art of fasting.  Fasting is something that I have done in different forms at different times.  I’ve done fasts from food, from social media, and from talking (also called silent retreats).  I’m still not terribly good at it.  It still takes so much effort for me to stick with the program and for me to not allow my physical and emotional cravings to get the better of me when I’m trying to focus on Christ.  That’s why it’s an art.  It’s something that you don’t develop overnight.  But if you make the effort to seek God and to read His Word through this discipline I guarantee He will provide you with immeasurable richness of blessings!  It’s hard work, but in the end of the day, it’s totally worth it!

Why Fast? When I was growing up, my church never really stressed or taught the discipline of fasting, but the Bible never told us to stop doing it!  It’s just another way of receiving blessings and showing submission and obedience to Christ’s will.

As Corey Russell, one of the International House of Prayer KC Leaders who did a sermon at the IHOPKC One Thing 2013 conference mentioned in his talk, “fasting food will starve the other loves.  It will make you vulnerable to the truth.”[1]

Think of Jesus.  Shortly after the most Spiritually monumental time in His life, He went into the desert to fast and pray and to seek the Will of God for His life.[2]  As He was praying He became very vulnerable.  Satan tempted Him with all of the goods that this world offers.  His first temptation was in the form of physical food.[3]  My goal here is not to get into a theological discussion about all of Christ’s temptations and what they all meant, but as you can imagine the immediate gratification that fresh bread would give must have been very hard to ignore.  That’s because fasting is HARD!  If you have ever fasted you know that for the first several hours it’s so hard to get the idea of eating out of your head.  Christ later became vulnerable to even greater temptations – the temptations of the heart and the flesh to seek status and wealth.[4]  Yet because Christ was fasting, He was given supernatural strength to shun all of these desires and put them as second place in His life.  He starved out the other potential loves, and that gave way to immeasurable truth.  A truth which enabled Him to seek the ways of God.  A maturity to handle delayed gratification rather than indulgence.  It is through His fasting that He used great wisdom to give a rebuttal to Satan which included the very words from the Scriptures!

There are also many other reasons that Scripture gives us for why we should fast.  I will highlight a few of them below:

– It produces DISCIPLINE which is a necessary part of not only the Christian life, but even life in general.  We all need discipline to complete things which are difficult or which seem impossible rather than giving up.  Furthermore, discipline produces character and perseverance.[5]  Discipline produces endurance.[6] 

– Fasting opens our hearts and our minds to seek the Will of God[7]

– Fasting gives us an opportunity to confess and repent of deeply embedded sins which we have committed and to refocus our lives so as not to live in that same way again[8]

– Fasting gives us a rich and vibrant personal prayer time[9]

– Fasting gives us a chance to intercede on behalf of others and to cry out for their Salvation.[10] 

– Fasting helps to strength ministries.  One of the best examples I can give of this is how during my time as a pregnancy center intern, our staff used to fast Monday during lunch and we would use that time to pray for our clients and for our ministry.[11]

– Fasting helps you to identity problem areas in your spiritual and personal life.[12]

– Fasting allows you the opportunity to intercede for the national or for the global world.[13]

– Fasting allows you the opportunity to deepen your own prayer life and spirituality.[14]

– Fasting puts you in the position of receiving blessings.[15]

– Fasting can be an observance (or in obedience to) a religious festival already declared by God.  For example, during the Jewish Passover, we are told not to eat leavened bread.[16]  Although this is not a complete fast, it is abstaining from one item (thus, a form of fasting).  Additionally, many Christians choose to fast or to only eat Fish on Good Friday and there are also Catholics who will abstain from meat on all Fridays.

– Fasting allows you the opportunity to declare victory and release over oppressive forces of darkness[17]

– Fasting is another way of reclaiming the Sabbath (an important observance which we often pass over in North American culture).  Fasting from social media on Sundays can be a great way of being countercultural and reclaiming that time for Christ.

– Fasting allows you the opportunity to break bad habits in your own life (example: drugs, excessive drinking, gambling, pornography, etc).  Think about the Christian season of Lent.  I heard once in one of my undergrad Bible classes that from a psychological viewpoint, it takes 40 days to break a habit.  That’s why during Lent, many people give something up and choose to take it a step further by replacing that void with something good.  Any obstacle which does not honour Christ or which we devout more time to than to God can become an obstacle in our lives.  Fasting from those pleasures and gratifications opens us up to first of all realize the problem or the item which has the potential of being troublesome, and secondly, to be able to break the habit.

Why Reclaim? The very first reason that we should reclaim fasting is exactly because it IS Biblical!  Fasting also gives us the opportunity to remember our Lord’s passion and all that He suffered.  Just like He denied Himself, so it is also our privilege as Christians to deny ourselves.    Fasting can also make us more aware of the needs of others around the globe and the reality that millions go to bed without food every day.  That’s why fasts such as the 30 Hour Famine are so popular within churches or fasts from talking which draw attention to the unfortunate and unpleasant realities of the sex trade and those who are silenced because of oppression due to racism, gender inequality (sexism), or because of a disability. 

Reclaiming fasting also is one of the very best ways to learn humility.[18]  In a culture which often views individualism as a bonus, we need to learn how to be servants and humble.  It’s hard to learn how to be humble.  We can’t just talk about it, but we actually have to put it into practice!  Fasting is one way among others to learn that skill.

Fasting also is counter-cultural.  How many people do you know (who aren’t Christians) who actually fast unless their doctor tells them they need to because of a medical examination?  I don’t know any!  Fasting is one way to make you be set apart from the world and to live for Christ!  Not only that, but as mentioned before, it helps you to know when other things (such as gluttony) are beginning to take an unhealthy place in your life.  When they are becoming idols, or when you are using them as a coping mechanism when you are stressed out, bored, or depressed.

Finally, fasting is HEALTHY for you!  It may not be enjoyable to go without food, but I have read ample health books and spoken to doctors who recommend periodically fasting as a way to release the toxins in your body, to realign your juices, and to release any unnecessary chemicals.  That’s not to say that you need to fast ALL the time… but it’s recommended at least a few times a year because of its health benefits.  People who fast, even if only once or twice a year, often have less of a chance of getting disease.  I’m not a health professional, so don’t quote me on all of this.  If you’re interested in the health benefits, you’ll have to Google it or talk to your doctor about it yourself!  Keep in mind, also, that fasting does not necessarily mean completely abstaining from food.  There are other types of fasting such as raw food diets and vegetarianism/veganism.  If done wisely and with much research, often people on these diets can live a healthier life than those who eat meat.[19] 

What to Do When You Fast: The Bible does give us some direction as to how to fast, which is perfect for anyone just starting out who does not have much experience in this area.

First of all, determine the reason why you are fasting.  Fasting can be personal, corporate, national, or familial (natural or spiritual family).  Maybe you are fasting to hear God’s voice regarding a move or career change.  Maybe you are fasting because you really want to see your brother come to know Christ.  Maybe you are fasting because you have just gone through a tragedy and you want to hear God’s voice in it.  There’s also the possibility that like King David, you are fasting because you want God to change His mind on something that would bring grievous consequences to your life.[20]

Once you have determined the reason for your fast, also determine what type of fast you will have.  As I have mentioned, fasting does not need to be from food, but it could be from a variety of different things.  If you do choose a food fast you may want to start small if you’ve never fasted  before.  Perhaps over one meal once a week.  For example over lunch on Mondays.  You can also determine the length of time you want to fast – a complete day, every Monday for a month, one meal a week for a year?  It all depends on the purpose you are trying to achieve.

After these initial steps, it’s time to begin to actually fast.  Most of the time, the purpose of a fast is to PRAY or to give extra (additional) time to prayer.  It’s not simply doing without, but it’s using the time that you would have spent eating or on Facebook or whatever to seek God’s will and direction or to bring about some type of positive change.  If you simply go without and don’t replace it with something good, fasting will not have its complete effect on your life.

Secondly, don’t tell everyone that you or fasting or make it obvious to gain attention from others.[21]  Fasting is meant to be between you and God.  You may want to tell your closest friend, spouse, or pastor just in order that you have someone to hold you accountable (especially if you are contemplating a longer term fast).  It’s okay to tell one or two other people so that they can help you when you start to feel weak, because you will.  But you definitely DON’T need to go posting it on Facebook or making any big announcements about it.

Lastly, fasting is an ART.  That means it takes time and lots of effort to develop.  So don’t get discouraged if at the beginning you fail or find it very difficult.  It’s meant to be difficult, but usually things which are hard are very rewarding in the end of the day.  If you find yourself slacking, just surround yourself with an accountability partner, remind yourself again of the motivation for your fast in the first place, and pick yourself up.  Don’t give up!  You won’t develop the skill in one day or just because you have fasted once before.

Additional Precautions: Before beginning a fast, there are some things which will be beneficial to keep in mind.

I highly recommend that you consult a doctor if you are considering a food fast and have any health concerns or if you are unsure whether it would be beneficial or harmful to you.  Especially if you have issues related to diabetes, high/low blood pressure, or are on any type of medication this is definitely something you will want to consult them about before you actually do it.  Don’t take the risk, even if it’s only fasting over one meal.  Nothing is worse than having a fast interrupted because you have blacked out (and we aren’t talking about being slain in the Spirit here!).  The same precaution goes for if you are considering fasting through taking up a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle but you have health concerns such as Anemia.  Also, I would recommend consulting your doctor if you want a food fast but in the past have had other issues related to food (such as anorexia or bulimia).  Make sure to take care of your physical health at all times!

If health circumstances (such as illness, age, pregnancy, etc) prevent you from full fasting I would highly recommend considering another type of fast such as from social media.  It’s not the TYPE of fast that matters, but the reason behind the fast.  The motivations of your heart.[22]

While fasting from food, make sure that you still receive ample levels of fluid, especially water.  If you are diabetic or have other health concerns, you may also want to consider fruit juices, vitamin water, or Gatorades.  Consult your doctor about what types of fluids would be best for you if you have any concerns.  Don’t feel guilty about drinking liquids while fasting!  It isn’t cheating, it’s taking care of the Temple![23]

Another thing that has helped others when fasting from food is to chew gum.  The liquid released from the gum helps coat your throat and takes your mind off of some of the hunger pains because you are stimulating the action of eating through chewing.  Again, this is NOT cheating!  Don’t become legalistic about the fast otherwise there’s no purpose to fasting.

Conclusion: Whether you want to fast from food, social media, or talking, fasting is a great way to refocus your priorities, your energies, and your passions.  It’s a great way to seek God and to find rest and renewal in Him.  It’s also a great way to find healing from emotional and psychological (or Spiritual) pains which may be harming you.  I hope that what you have read here is beneficial for you as you start your journey of fasting and I trust that God will provide blessings to you as you make the journey


[1] December 31st  Sermon by Corey Russell at IHOPKC One Thing 2013 Conference

[20]  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Samuel%2012&version=ESVUK  See Also: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezra%208:23&version=ESVUK

Reclaiming the Multicultural Reality of Heaven (Mennocostal: IHOPKC, Onething2013 Series)

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Racists must hate heaven.  The reason I use such a strong statement to begin this discussion is simply because heaven is the most multi-cultural place that we can ever imagine.  The Bible tells us that people from all different tribes, tongues, and walks of life will be there.[1]  People who were “good little church girls” and people who were mass criminals will be together all because of one single purpose – in the end of the day they came to truly know Christ and Christ forgives a multitude of sin.[2]  One cannot be a racist and still enjoy all that heaven has to offer them because there is no class distinction, no racial segregation, and no division between the genders.[3]  Heaven is not the place for racists. 

During my time at International House of Prayer, I was able to see just a glimpse of what Heaven would be like.  Obviously the whole experience, as profoundly life altering as it was is only a small taste of what the real heaven will be like, but it really emphasized to me in a way that I have never thought about before how truly diverse and majestically colourful our eternal reality will be.

One of the most touching encounters of praise that I had during this conference was to walk through a sea of worshipers.  I was worshiping at the very front and began to walk back to my seat during the last song.  As I walked I saw thousands of Christians – some old, some young, some new believers, some who have walked with Christ for years.  Church leaders and genuine seekers.  Some weeping, some on their knees, several singing.  As I walked, I heard tongues, saw complete strangers prophesying over one another, even saw a few lying prostrate.  I was greatly encouraged!  How great to know that this is just a small sample of the millions of genuine prayers that go up to Christ daily.  How wonderful to know that this is what heaven will be like all day every day.[4]  It reminds me that we are not alone, indeed we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses![5]

If you think worshiping with over 30,000 people is incredible, think of heaven!  Millions of people from all generations and all races worshiping together.  How cool is that?  Kansas City was amazing, but in the end of the day, God sent 30,000 people forth to all corners of the earth.  Here they received encouragement, fellowship, and equipment for works of service.  But it doesn’t stop here.  Not by a long shot.  After leaving Kansas City, we are more ready now to be available to the inspiration and creativity of the Holy Spirit and to serve Him in homes, in communities, and as National and International leaders.  As pastors, teachers, evangelists, and prophetic voices.[6]

God became so close and so personal to us during the conference.  He awakened, refreshed, and revived us.  How incomparable to know that this is but a small glimpse, a tiny sliver, of who He is.  As long as we have this flesh, this earthly body, we see dimly.[7]  Through a glass which distorts His image (but not His love to us).  But one day when we are with Him and receive our heavenly bodies, we will know Him fully, completely.  Nothing will distort our impression of Him.  We will know everything about His love and care.  We will know Him fully in the same way that He knows us!

While we live on this earth we go through birth pains.[8]  We groan and we long to be delivered into the heavenly reality of what lies ahead.  We may be comfortable on this earth, but if we truly seek Christ then like the Quakers we will embrace the fact that we are “just a traveling through”. Yet, until we reach heavenly perfection, we also must embrace all the lessons that come our way as we traverse this path called life.  As the Apostle Paul brilliantly states, “more than anything else, however, we want to PLEASE Him.  Whether that be in our home here or there.”[9]  Pleasing Christ in each aspect of our lives – in our marriages, our families, our professions, is what we are called to do.  And that calling, that mission will not change once we pass on to the next world.  Instead, that calling to PLEASE Christ and to give Him our whole self always continues to glow and burn deeper and brighter.  The more we are walking with Christ, the more that longing is present.

No, my friends.  Heaven is no place for racists, but heaven is definitely the place for the child of God who seeks to please Him.  Heaven is the place for all saints who long to bow before Christ is worship, offering their whole selves to Him daily as they yearn to belong to that heavenly reality.


Delivering a Prophetic Vision (Mennocostal IHOPKC Onething2013 Series)

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“And it shall come to pass afterwards,
    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29 – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joel%202:28-29&version=ESVUK)

Have you ever met someone who was so in-tune with the Word of God and could hear God’s voice so clearly that they spoke tremendous truths into your life and brought immense encouragement into a situation that you never even addressed with them personally?  If so, it is very likely that you have met someone with the prophetic gift!

Now before you start getting carried away and thinking that all of this is just some type of Charismatic hoopla, let me stop you for a minute and explain the gift of prophesy.

Before going to IHOPKC, I personally had a lot of doubts about prophesy.  I didn’t grow up in a church which believed in the prophetic gifts, and I had never received a prophesy myself which made any degree of sense. At least I didn’t think I had.  But that’s because I had the wrong idea of what prophesy was!  Like many people, I believed that prophesy was some type of fortune telling akin to the lady with the crystal ball and tarot cards.  I believed prophets to largely be people who were making things up for the sake of gaining attention.  However, at IHOP I acquired a different understanding of what prophesy is.  Sometimes a prophet might be able to speak a word into your life concerning some future event which is to take place, however, more often than not it is about confirming stirrings which others have already started to feel, encouraging individuals about where they’re at in their walk with God while making them crave more, and boldly declaring the Scriptures through rightly dividing the Word of Truth.[1]  People who exercise the prophetic gifts often have a keen sense of observation, a deep level of empathetic compassion which enables them to literally feel the needs and hurts of others, and an ability to pray through the Spirit in an intercessory way which the average young Christian cannot.  Prophets also must have enormous Spiritual maturity as it is a gift which has great potential to be abused.  It is for this reason that when someone prophesies over you it becomes very important to be on your guard and to use discernment before accepting a Word from the Lord for there are many false prophets in our generation.[2]  It is also important to test all the Spirits to see if the Spirit behind the Word is coming from God or a person’s wrongful desires.[3]  You will know that the Word comes from God if it brings you encouragement or admonition into an area of your life that you have been seeking out God’s will for and if it comes as reinforcement or reassurance to questions already brought before the Lord.  On the other hand, if the Word seems to go contrary to other doctrinal teachings and contradicts Scripture itself, you can be sure that there is some reason to raise a level of concern about the Prophetic Utterance.[4]  Finally, if the Word is truly from God, it should also be consistent.  Therefore, the teaching of Prophesy is to ask at least one or two other prophets to see if they receive the same direction from God concerning your life.[5]  If all the prophets reveal the same message than you can be sure that the prophets truly had the gift of God.  On the other hand, if a prophet mentions something unsettling to you or which does not seem to fit and you approach other prophets who do not have the same Word for you and the Words seem to be entire disconnected, it may be possible that you have come into contact with at least one false prophet!   That’s not to say that God will never disturb you through a Prophetic Word.  Just like the Prophet Nathan, sometimes God calls us to prophesy difficult realities over others on topics we would much rather avoid or which are somewhat unpleasant.[6]  Yet, even when God brings our sin to light, a true Prophet should be able to also deliver some level of hope to the situation.

The most common form of prophesy is likely in the form of Prophetic Utterances of Scripture.  If you listen to the majority of people who truly have the gift of prophesy, you will notice that somewhere between 80-95% of what they are saying is either Scripture word for word or messages which are hidden within the Scriptures.  They aren’t just pulling words out of the air, rather they are saying specific verses which are able to speak truth into your circumstance.  Prophetic Utterances of Scripture are verses which are spoken at the right time and in the right way.  Just like the book of Proverbs tells us, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”[7]  This is yet another way to test if a person is truly prophetic or not.  If you have doubts, you can think back to what they told you and try to match it up with the actual Word of God.  A true prophet cannot contradict what God Himself says!  Oftentimes, when people prophesy they may be able to give it to you in writing or via a recording.  This makes it even easier to look back at their prophesy to not only see if it came true, but also to see if it is following the Word of God.[8]

Sometimes people have this mistaken understanding that prophesy will reveal something life altering to them.  However, this is often not the case.  For the most part, prophesy simply confirms stirrings that have already been in your heart for quite some time or things that you have been praying about (or have been on your mind) for a while.  These thoughts or images that have been pressing on your soul for the last little while may not be anything grand, they may not be a new calling or a new life direction, but nevertheless, hearing a prophet declare truth over the situation you are struggling with can still bring much encouragement.  Oftentimes, these confirmations can be revealed to a prophet during prayer.  Be wary of a prophet who prophesies without first opening in a word of prayer.  Often the Holy Spirit must be tapped into and invited into our midst so that we can truly discern the Word of God.  Without asking the Spirit to come we are simply taking words at random and hoping that they will somehow apply to the situation.

Also, do not doubt your own personal experiences and what Christ is teaching you.  Often a prophetic word which God has given directly to you concerning your own life can be used as a prophesy to others.  Sometimes I have been in a group of people and been able to sense a certain struggle and other times I have simply shared in general terms what Christ had been laying on my heart or teaching me only to hear murmurs from others that that was also a word to them.  Sometimes people were truly encouraged because it felt to them like God was giving a direct Word to them, even though in reality I was just sharing what Christ was teaching me that day.  That’s how prophesy happens sometimes.  It can happen organically.

The very first times I received a prophetic word, I had so many doubts that I often went in with this type of attitude that the prophet should be able to reveal everything about me even though they had never met me before.  I thought that prophesy was exactly like having a tarot card reading.  However, I soon learned that God does not reveal everything about your situation to someone even if they have the strongest gift of prophesy that you will ever encounter.  Personally, I believe this is one way that God protects us.  Sometimes, like in King David’s case, the exact sin is laid before the Prophet.[9]  However, more often than not, our personal sins simply stay between God and us.  There is no reason for a prophet to know all that is going on in our minds and our hearts.  In many instances God only gives as much knowledge to a prophet as is beneficial to the relationship and will bring healing and wholeness to us.  It is for this reason that I’ve had many people minister to me prophetically in ways that were so specific they could not be generic without the person ever saying specifically what I was struggling with.  They may not have known the circumstance, but God revealed enough to them about it that they could deliver a prophetic word which let me know that it was directly from God and that God had given them a specific insight and filled them with compassion because of it. 

I think part of the reason that IHOP has become such a controversial movement is simply because they DO place so much emphasis on the prophetic gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I do not agree with every teaching that IHOP espouses on prophesy, however, I think that perhaps the fact that it is controversial means that maybe, just maybe, they are doing the work of Christ who taught us that “if they hate you, keep in mind that they hated Me first.”[10]  Jesus used strong language here.  He didn’t say, “if they don’t get along with you”, “if they aren’t buddy-buddy with you,” or “if they don’t really like you.” NO.  He said, if they HATE you.  If they persecute you.[11]  If they say all kinds of evil things against you.[12]  Our culture, even our churches, have become so politically correct.  So cautious about offense.  There’s nothing politically correct about the Gospels!  The fact that IHOP is offensive to some shows that to a degree they have gone back to the Biblical roots of Christ!

Perhaps gifts of the Holy Spirit are as foreign to you as living cross-culturally.  Perhaps you don’t know where you stand.  But maybe that’s the point.  Maybe the point is to begin to question and to begin to search out the Scriptures fervently and ask God and trusted mentors in prayer what it’s all about.  Maybe the point is that it will never fully make sense to us until we reach glorious perfection – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  If I understood it would take away the glorious mystery.  But I can still trust and wait regardless.

Actually, it’s crazy looking back at my experience with prophesy and prophetic utterances.  Now that I have a deeper and clearer understanding of what prophesy means I realize that I have often experienced it, sometimes even by people who don’t even believe in the prophetic gifts!   I have experienced words of prophesy as interpretations of tongues, as encouragement from peers at Tyndale who spoke into a circumstance without even knowing it fully, and through the occasional dream or vision which God gifted me with and left me with a burning to passionately intercede for someone in need of prayer.  Yet, until recently, I didn’t even know that those instances were examples of prophesy!  It’s so cool when I think of the fact that I, who once was sceptical, have been so filled with the Holy Spirit both during and after the IHOP conference that I have almost completely forgotten what it’s like to not believe in the charismatic gifts.  I almost catch myself asking the former Deborah, “how could you not see it?  It was happening right before your eyes the entire time!”  But that’s the beauty of grace and faith.  That’s the beauty of realizing that I never knew what it was called so I could not claim it as a lovely blessing sent right from the lap of God.

Not everyone has the gift of giving prophesy, but all of us who are Christians have the ability to strengthen our capacity to hear the Voice of the Bridegroom and through being attentive to that Voice to offer encouragement and support to others.[13]  Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s some further info about prophesy if you’re interested: http://www.kingwatch.co.nz/Prophetic_Ministry/testing_prophets.htm

 


Expecting Big Things From God (Mennocostal: IHOPKC Onething 2013 Series)

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The New Year just rolled in a week ago and already I am finding it hard to keep the resolutions that I have made.  It’s not like I made any goals which were beyond grasp.  Rather, I thought back to all that I had learned during my week at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and from the sermons, worship, and personal prayer times gathered three items which I felt God impressing on my heart.  These items were: to do the night watch twice a week, to fast from all forms of social media once a week, and to read the Bible 15 minutes every day.  Yet, even though my heart remains willing, my flesh stays weak.  It is hard for me to have the same vibrancy in worship even though only a week ago I was on fire for Christ.  It is hard to not be surrounded by that same culture of prayer but to continue to be steadfast and secure in the Word.

Yet, as I was worshiping and reading the Scripture last night during my night watch, I realized that we can spend so much time making New Year’s Resolutions, and there is nothing wrong with that!  It honours God when we try to maintain our physical bodies in a way that edifies Him.[1]  He rejoices when we conquer temptations which once controlled us.  He loves it when we dedicate time to figuring out more of who He is.  He even loves it when we are willing to spend more time being better financial stewards.  But in the end of the day, it’s really not so much about our goals, it’s about what God’s dream for our life in 2014 is.  What His dream in our marriages and families is and what His dream in our church is.  It’s less about our will and desires and more about His mission for our lives.  When we offer up our lives and our churches as a prayerful offering to Him we are letting Him know of our desire to have Him build the house/ministry so that we don’t have to keep labouring in vain![2]      

Making 2014 a Year Covered in Prayer: Every great ministry begins and ends with prayer.  Every great ministry is surrounded by a group of people who support it through prayer and who offer encouragement to the intercessory missionaries who surround it.  It is through prayer that we are able to discern God’s will and direction for our personal lives and for our churches.  It is also through prayer that God gives us the grace to accept failure and to know when a certain ministry is to be completed.

How powerful it would be, how much change we would see – even mountains moving if EACH believer, each church, each community of faith, each ministry, gave even a dedicated small fraction of each day to Christ.  Even if they didn’t feel like it.  The prayers of the struggling and the cries of the doubting are often the most precious and meaningful to Christ.[3]  How great would it be even if we only started with one hour, even just 15 minutes a day.  We would see God accomplish great things.  We will see our attitudes change.  We would see the hearts of the nations be moved and stirred.[4]

It can become easy to be discouraged with the concept of prayer if you always think about prayer as being a prolonged time with Christ.  I want to say to you: God loves and needs BOTH the short and the long prayers.  He needs the breath prayers, because as one of my best friends says, “they make prayer as real as breathing”.  He also needs intercessors who will pray the night watch dedicating an entire working shift to the work of the Kingdom.

In the end of the day, it’s definitely more about the quality of time rather than the quantity.  One can sit with Christ for 3 hours accomplishing nothing and having no real and intimate expression of worship.  Likewise, in half an hour, someone can have gloriously divine fellowship with the Creator.  Yet, there is still something to be said of the immense effort and dedication of spending a significant block of time with Christ.  It calls for a challenging of former priorities and a shifting of what is truly important.  If you want to gain maturity in Christ, it will only happen through spending time with Him.  The more we get to know Him, the more we fall in love with Him.  The more our lives begin to reflect more of who He is in and through us.

The Bible tells us that if we have faith we will be able to see even mountains move.[5]  There can be a temptation to take this verse literally.  To literally believe that God will move physical objects.  I don’t doubt the power of Christ and the fact that He could devote His energy to that if He wished to.  Perhaps that truly is the case in some countries.  HOWEVER, in the North American context I have come to interpret this in a different light.  God promises that with faith, we can move mountains – insurmountable barriers and obstacles that others face.  Areas of our lives that we’ve tried to change and addictions we’ve tried to break, but can’t.  Moving those areas of oppression and bondage of habitual sin and unholy desires out of the way by the instruction of the Holy Spirit and through the power of the Love of Christ so that they (and we) can catch just a glimpse of Christ’s incredible mercy towards us!

THE LORD ACCOMPLISHED GREAT THINGS AT IHOP

Corporate Worship

One thing about IHOP that I just could never get out of my mind was the fact that over 30,000 young adults were joined together in one building all worshiping and praising the same Lord.  People often wonder where the young adults in the church are.  They believe that the institutional church is dying out.  Yet, when you see the size of a small city gathered together you are able to become encouraged!  You know that faith still abounds.  You know that God is not finished with this generation yet!

The Prophet Isaiah writes that in the last days, nations will STREAM to the house of the Lord, and yet we resist this.[6]  We are afraid to see it happening.  We hold it out at an arm’s length.  Sometimes when thousands are worshiping we label it as brainwashing.  Even a cult.  Why?  Didn’t Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Wesley and others witness thousands of salvations in a single week?  Did not the Holy Spirit use the ministry of John the Baptist and of the early church Apostles in the book of Acts to fill thousands with the Spirit?  Every day the Lord added to their number![7]  Why should that change?  Why are we afraid to enter that dance?  Why do we doubt the supernatural love of Christ that wants to see all people and all nations come to Him?  The love of the One who said that He is willing that none should perish, but wants everyone to experience an indwelling of His eternal Spirit?[8]

The young adults of this generation grew up in a “me-centered” culture which says that they are number one.  From a young age they are taught to get to the top at any cost.  They are taught that it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world.  Yet, here at IHOP, I saw 100 nations and over 30,000 young adults[9] willing to give up their vacations and school breaks to go to a church conference.  In an individualistic, entitled world, this is pure craziness!  Many people think the church is dying, but there are still thousands of faithful young men and women heading God’s call for real relationship on their life.  30,000+ people worshiping in Kansas City, MO.  The American Midwest.  What if movements of this magnitude sprung up everywhere?  If thousands of young adults and teenagers who love Jesus gathered weekly, even daily, to worship and pray all over the world?  What a movement would start!  How incredible the Holy Spirit’s outpouring would be on our generation!

A Personal God Even in the Midst of a Great Crowd

One thing I just could never get over during my time at IHOP was the sheer magnitude of the effect that this prayer movement has had on this global generation.  It’s super intense to think about how God greatly impacted these 30,000+ people.  We were all together to worship the same God, and yet God, because He is creative said 30,000 different things to us.  He inspired us in 30,000 different ways.  He gave us thousands of different callings.  But it’s all for the same God, for the same purpose, and for the same mission – the mission of bringing His reign to this earth!  30,000 different experiences and 30,000 separate spiritual encounters.  It’s just incredible how the Holy Spirit works.  How’s He can call so many people to the same mission in so many different contexts, cities, and nations, at the same time.  After experiencing such a thing there is no possible way I could continue to doubt Christ’s love for the church and His heart for this world! 

It is incredible beyond comprehension to think that Jesus knows every single person who attended this conference by Name![10]  He loves each one with an everlasting love.  He never gets tired of loving because He IS love.[11]  Not only does He know everyone’s name, but He knows everything about them.   He knows all of their ups and downs.  Their weaknesses and victories.  And He LOVES them even despite what they have gone through in their lives.  Even despite their vilest sins.  He has given each one a unique personality and unique abilities – no one can take their place.  He has placed each one on this earth at this time to impact this generation.[12]  In my lowly humanity I can’t even comprehend knowing 1,000 people or even 500 people to half of the extent that God knows each one of His children.  I can’t even imagine loving 100 people to half of the extent that God loves the one stray sinner who is lost in their world of grief.[13] 

On December 31st, 2013, all 30,000 of us ushered in the New Year and that was truly an incredible experience to be a part of.  So many people celebrate New Year’s in ways that don’t honour Christ.  Their celebrations include partying, drinking to heavy excess leading to drunken mobs, and strippers.  There are people who are flippantly make resolutions with no resolve to keep them, having change as the farthest idea from their mind.  Some entered the New Year feeling incredibly lost and confused.  Even hopeless.  Left out and abandoned.  2013 did not bring many good things to them – only high medical bills, loss of employment, or the death of a close relative or friend.  But here, at IHOP, over 30,000 young adults gathered in one place ushering in the New Year with an outpouring of tongues and cries of the Spirit.  Here 30,000 people sat and stood ministering to the Nations in incredible ways while the world moved on unrelentingly gratifying the flesh.  What a ministry!  Just like a Song of Song says, we are called out to be lilies among brambles![14]  And that’s exactly what we did that day as we sang and proclaimed the love of Christ over the Nation and over the world!

A Personal Understanding of Greatness in the Spirit

If IHOP taught me one thing, it’s that as long as you are open to the Holy Spirit He will heal, restore, and manifest Himself in miraculous ways.  The Holy Spirit manifests Himself to the extent that we allow Him to.  He accomplishes as much through us as we permit Him to.  If we don’t see evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it’s because we don’t expect greatness from Him.  We don’t have because we haven’t asked![15]*  Had we but simply have asked, we would see even greater things than these in our generation![16]  The Word tells us that God knows how to give good gifts to His children.[17]  These good gifts include intense manifestations of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, and blessings beyond comprehension.[18]

As Misty Edwards shared in one of her sermons, “lukewarmness is the greatest danger of our age.  It’s a subtle indifference in our churches even though we still use the language of Christ – it’s the exact opposite of the person of God.  We cannot survive lukewarm.”[19]  Misty encouraged us that with Christ we either go in the whole way or not at all.   Lukewarmness leads us to a certain numbness.  As Misty boldly proclaimed, “you cannot survive lukewarm!”

Although Misty had so many great applications to her message, I found the historical significance to be the most interesting.  As a student of Theology this kind of stuff just grabs my attention so quickly and I eat it up.  As Misty stated in no uncertain terms, this writing was to the church of Laodicea.  They were a church who had a great reputation for being on fire for the love of Christ.  So this message was not being written to the lost, the sinners, the pagans – it was being written to a core group of believers who had just experienced the revival of the early church![20]  Even though people all around them saw them as being zealous for Christ, God saw them as little more than rotten out corpses.  He used harsh language – He said they made Him SICK!  Have you ever thought of that before?  Being indifferent to the love of Christ and His reconciling mission to the world “makes God ill”.[21]  Watching the poor go to bed hungry and not caring makes God come down with flu-like symptoms (which is just a polite way of me saying… it makes God throw-up). [Hey, St. Paul used this kind of language himself often in the Scriptures].

Our nation has confused ideas about what real man-hood is.  They think that being a man is about being powerful, being mighty, and being able to have control.  They also have confused ideas about what true woman-hood is.  They think a woman’s identity is solely tied up in her beauty, her looks, and how much of a feminist she can become.  Do you want to know what true man-hood is?  It’s being able to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and keeping yourself pure in a world that tries to lure you in to sexual sin and temptation![22]  Do you want to know what being a true woman is?  It’s being able to have a quiet spirit![23]  It’s being able to have a good name and have inner beauty![24] 

You cannot be lukewarm and be a true man or a true woman after Christ!  If you want to be a man [woman] after God’s own heart, then you have to KNOW God fully.[25]  Just like He knows you fully.[26]

Our world often teaches us that we need to BEWARE OF EMOTIONALISM.  Yet, our emotions are so precious to God.  When we experience emotions we are alive.  Pouring out our hearts and crying out to the Father may be as far from my ESTJ personality as Kansas City is from Toronto, but still if I want to grow in my faith and mature in the way I view God, I can’t push it to the side.  Instead I must embrace it.

Our culture is obsessed with short-term success – but that glory and fame easily fades to God.  Banning Liebscher (member of Jesus Culture) preached a sermon to us about how LONGEVITY MATTERS TO GOD.[27]  He told us that when God first calls us it’s easy to get passionate.  Fired up.  But then it’s easy to forget about the love we first embraced the call with.  That’s lame man!  It’s like the immature boyfriend who gives you a ring then takes it back the very next day.  It’s like the person who looks in the mirror, fixes his hair, and fiddles with his tie then goes out and forgets what he looks like.[28]  He forgets if his eyes are blue or brown.  If his hair is black or blonde. God is calling us to more than that!  He’s the Lover who wants us to remain faithful to Him and His calling no matter how hard it gets.  No matter how steep the path is.  It’s easy to start.  It’s easy to catch the vision.  What’s hard is persevering.  What’s hard is “burning longterm”.[29] 

Let’s be honest.  No one cases how many Facebook friends you have.  How many blogs I’ve written.  In the end of the day, God’s not going to be like, “whoa!  You wrote a lot of books” or “you recorded a lot of albums!”  That isn’t success!  Success is hearing the phrase “well done, good and faithful servant.”[30]  Success is knowing your heart is so intertwined with God’s that it’s inseparable.  If you accomplish great things for God, which you will, if you reach the nations, which you will, if you acquire any measure of earthly success, which you will – it’s only because of Christ!  He uses you to the extent that you are willing to let Him use you!  It’s not about people remembering you – it’s about pointing people to remember Christ!

Success is an attitude of the heart.  It’s not about small or large scale projects.  Showing love to your family and closest friends is just as important to your success as a missionary as showing love to the world.  That’s why when we start ministering we need to begin by praying for revival within our own families, within our own marriages, within our own dating experiences, BEFORE we can even THINK about praying for revival in our nation and in our world! 

There was one day when I was in the prayer room at IHOP and God came to me and very clearly told me “read the Song of Solomon.”  I was like, “that’s random, God.  Are you sure?”  God’s like, “yeah”.  Then as soon as I start reading, the worship team begins singing the Song of Songs![31]  As soon as that happened I was just sitting back and thinking “whoa! This is a Word from the Lord!”  Then as I read the words to this ancient love song every verse comes alive, speaks to me, makes me lovesick for Him!

Do you want true success?  True success is when that happens not just once but more often than not.  When you and God become so tight that when people speak to you, you hear Christ in them.  When experiences happen to you, you see the finger of God in them.  When you read Scripture you feel like it’s personally edifying and speaking a word into your soul.  A word of encouragement you needed to hear which you can no longer ignore.  When that starts to happen, you know that you have become a successful person.  Even if people a world over still don’t know your name and even if your bank account hasn’t grown exponentially.  You are still a successful person in God’s eyes and in the end of the day that’s all that really matters.

A Final Word

Finally, I leave you with a final word of encouragement that I received from one of the teaching outlines in our conference handout book by IHOPKC leader, Stuart Greaves.  His teaching simply states, “there is coming the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29)[32] that will result in a unified and glorious end-time church (Ephesians 5:27)[33], the preaching of the Gospel with power to all of the nations (Matthew 24:14)[34], the greatest release of signs and wonders (John 14:21)[35], and the salvation of Israel (Isaiah 62:7[36]; Romans 11:26[37]).”[38]

If what you just read in Greaves’s quote makes you want to see this change come about in our world and in our nation all you got to do is simply trust God that it will happen.  When you love Christ and when you pour your whole heart and ministry into Him THEN you will see the King of Glory high and lifted up![39]


[3] From “Better than a Hallelujah” By: Amy Grant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm5kx3xqmg0

[9] These numbers do not even begin to include those tuning in to the conference via God T.V. and online webstreaming (bringing the numbers up by several more thousand)

[15] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James%204:2-3&version=ESVUK (* If you think God isn’t doing great things in your life is it because He isn’t doing great things or because you aren’t ALLOWING or believing that He will do great things?)

[19] Sermon by Misty Edward at the OneThing IHOPKC Conference

[21] Illustration used in Misty Edward’s OneThing sermon

[27] Sermon by Banning Liebscher at IHOPKC Onething 2013 conference

[29] A phrase Banning used in his sermon

[31] One cool thing about IHOPKC is that they literally SING the words of Scripture.  They have the passage on the screen and accompany it line by line, word by word, to musical scores.

[38] “Standing in the Watches of the Night” outline to Stuart Greave’s sermon at IHOPKC OneThing 2013 conference, found on page 73 of the “2013 Teaching Notes” Handout Book

[39] From the song: Hosanna by Hillsong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgJYNlDhY-4