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.” 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.” 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. 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. 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! 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?
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! 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.  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!
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.
 Sermon at IHOPKC OneThing 2013 by Banning Liebscher