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Mark’s shares his experience

Rocky-Mountains“I was an evangelical intellectual. My Christian formation after making Jesus my Lord at the age of 28 was through the influence of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, an intellectual lot in the best sense of the word. I had no interest in, or understanding of, the Holy Spirit, beyond that He was the spooky part of the Trinity.

The local IV leadership had recognized a nascent teaching gift in me and had taken a chance on a very rough diamond – very rough. Today I doubt I would take a chance on me as I was then. They had already used me to teach kids at summer camps and now they were ready to loose me upon college students. They must have been very hard up for a speaker.

The retreat took place at a very beautiful place in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. The weekend went well, without surprises, until Sunday morning. After breakfast, I returned to my room to prepare myself to teach. I was quietly giving thanks to the Lord and asking Him to speak through me when I was overcome by His goodness. That is the only way I can describe it. I felt His love so powerfully that I just had to weep. This was at 9:00 am.

It felt so good I just went with it. I cried for 30 minutes then I thought, “Church starts in 30 minutes, I need to stop this now and pull myself together.” I began to “control myself”, but then I had this thought, “Wait a minute. This is God doing this to me. Do I have the right to stop this?” In tears, I wrestled with this question for a few minutes and then decided, “Lord, I don’t know what you are doing but I am certain it is You so go ahead as long as You want.” So, on I wept.

At 9:45 am I checked my watch and went through the same issue; do I “control myself” and shut this down or do I let it go? I again chose to let it go and on it went. At 9:55 am my friend opened my door to tell me it was time for church. He saw the mess I was in and I saw genuine shock on his face. He said, “What’s going on, church starts in 5 minutes and you have to speak, what’s wrong? Are you going to be able to speak?”

To be completely honest, I was not sure I could get up and teach. I pulled myself together and said to God, “I don’t know what You want from me. I know I am supposed to teach, but I also know this is real and this is You. I am going to go down and try to teach, but whatever You want to do, I will do. If You want me to get up in front of those kids and cry I will do that.”

I survived the worship without breaking down. I was barely holding it together when I got up to speak. The message began without incident. About a third of the way through the message, I hit the part about how much God loves us, and I began to speak about His all-powerful, overwhelming love. I started to cry, but I kept teaching as best I could through the tears. Soon several of the kids started to cry. Soon the whole room was crying. It was not what I had any intention of causing. It just happened. We cried for about half an hour and then it stopped. No one moved. We just sat in silence. I had never experienced anything like that. I had no words to describe it, but I knew it was God.

That afternoon I returned to the city and my band was scheduled to play a concert for a Christian charity. After the show, a girl I did not recognize came up to me and said, “I was there when it happened!” I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about.” She said, “This morning at the retreat, when you spoke, I was there when it happened, and it was the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced! What was it?” I said, “I don’t know, but it was God.” She said, “I know.”

I have never forgotten the way she described that experience as “it.” Neither of us had the words to describe what we experienced, but we both knew it was God. It was not until years later that I understood that it was the Holy Spirit that we were “in.”

God is emotional, and God is powerful. God expects us to be emotional in our response to His emotions and He expects us to move in His power.

That experience was the beginning of what many call the “anointing” of the spiritual gift of teaching. Tears are now a part of my life. Although it doesn’t happen every time I speak, it happens more often than Mark the ex-lawyer and intellectual would like. Fortunately, Mark the Christian lets it happen and never tries to stop it. I think that is because he fears that if he had “gotten control of himself” that Sunday morning at the retreat, that experience would likely not have happened, and he and they would have missed what for him was a life-changing encounter with God.”

God is emotional, and God is powerful. God expects us to be emotional in our response to His emotions and He expects us to move in His power. It is fine for us to be “out of control” as long as we allow Him to be the one who is in control. Do you really want to get to Heaven to find out that you missed so much of God’s power in your life because you were so worried about how you would appear if you got “carried away?”

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What does it mean to be “in the Holy Spirit?”

Some time ago Mark got stuck on the harmless little phrase “in the Spirit” as it appears in the lives of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. They seemed to throw the term around without ever defining it. To them it seemed self-explanatory. So, he decided to look up all the places where the term is found and do a word-study on the word “in.” We know, it sounds pointless, studying the word “in”, but what he found surprised him and gave us an understanding of the Holy Spirit that brought clarity both to our own experiences and to our understanding of scripture. Let’s take a closer look.

The phrase, “in the Holy Spirit” appears several times in the New Testament. Here are most of those verses that refer to someone being or doing something in the Holy Spirit:

1] Luke 10:21: Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”

2] Jude 1:20: “… pray in the Holy Spirit.”

3] Rev. 1:10: “On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit and I heard behind me a loud voice …” 

4] Rom. 14:17: “… the Kingdom of God is about peace righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

5] John 4:23: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In each of these passages something is happening; rejoicing, prayer, a vision, the experience of peace, the experience of knowing our righteousness and finally worship. Something is happening through people and to people and it is somehow “in” the Holy Spirit.

The key to what “in the Holy Spirit” means lies in the word “in.”  In each verse we’ve listed, the same Greek word for “in “is used. Here is how this word may be translated; “in, on, at, near, by, before, among, with, within, and into.”

Here are the three definitions that best describe an activity or experience happening “in” the Holy Spirit;

  1. a marker of a state or condition e.g. “in torment”,
  2. a marker of close personal association, e.g. “one with”, “in union with” “joined closely to”
  3. a marker of the means by which one event makes another event possible, e.g. “by means of” or “through.”

If we put all these definitions together we get this definition of the phrase “in the Holy Spirit”: “a state or condition of close personal association or union or joining with the Holy Spirit by which another state or condition, event or activity, is made possible.”

By way of example, what is made possible in John 4:23-24 is worship. What this means is that worship “in the Holy Spirit” is a condition or state which happens to us through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can make happen. It comes about by union with or joining closely to the Holy Spirit. It is a different state or condition from that which we were in before we entered into “worship in the Holy Spirit.”

The same thing is happening to Jesus when He was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit. It means that something happened to him through the Holy Spirit which was different from what He was experiencing before the Holy Spirit brought the joy. Similarly, praying in the Holy Spirit is a different state from what may be prayed apart from the Holy Spirit.

When we are “in the Spirit” we are moved from one state of being to another which result in a union with Him which is not theoretical but experiential.

In all these events, there is an increase in the “personal closeness or association” with the Holy Spirit. There is an increase in intimacy and an increase in communication between us and Him. And finally, He [by His power] makes something happen which could not happen without His intervention [with spiritual power].

We really are carried away in the godly sense of the word. We are moved from one state of being to another which result in a union with Him, which is not theoretical, but experiential. And finally, some activity or experience is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit which could not have been possible without His power. In every case such an experience leaves us with a greater understanding of the nature of God, not because we read it or heard it in a sermon, but because we experienced it/Him.

Check back for the next blog post for Mark’s first such experience of his spiritual gift of teaching.

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Bob’s Story

downloadIn the fall of 1964, after graduating high school the previous spring, I headed off to college in the San Francisco bay area. I soon found myself deeply immersed in the budding counter-culture that was emerging in that region. It wasn’t long before I was experimenting with drugs and the “hippie” lifestyle. This soon led to an increasing inquisitiveness about spiritual alternatives.  “Trips” on LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs caused me to encounter spiritual dimensions that I had never experienced before. I had attended various churches as I was growing up. But for the most part, I had remained unmoved by the typical “church-ianity” I came across.

One day in late December of 1966 I had an experience on LSD that shook my idealistic world. The supernatural suddenly became a very scary place. I stumbled upon what appeared to be the evil side of this drug-induced domain. You could say that I felt like I had a face to face with the demonic. One thing for sure, I came to believe that this realm was real, however, when I held up my “experience” in this dimension against what I’d found in church, the church came up sorely lacking.

Christians had been witnessing to me, but it all seemed like just words; kind and interesting words, but still, just words. By the fall of 1967, after an odyssey that had led me from Big Sur to the desert town of Joshua Tree California, I found myself back in my home town of Chico in a state of apathy. It felt like after all my “searching”, I’d come up empty. It was then that I was invited to attend a meeting in a home near the college campus. I was told that there was a 19-year-old preacher speaking that night. This in itself appeared as a complete anomaly to me. Most of the preachers I’d seen or heard had been old men that were for the most part completely irrelevant to me. I was fascinated and attended the meeting with more than the usual level of curiosity. This night my life was about to change forever.

I knew immediately that there was a God of power and knowledge that knew all about me, right down to the internal struggles that I was hiding from the world around me.

When I sat down with the other 25 college-age kids that night I was first stuck by the wonderful singing that filled the small apartment. Then something truly unusual happened. They all began to sing in another language. Later I was to learn that this was known as “singing in the Spirit”. Not knowing this language, I joined in, singing some made up chant of my own in English.  I was immediately overwhelmed by a tremendous peace. This didn’t last long. No sooner had I arrived at this new state of mind than I began to sense real nervous stress, almost, as if every nerve in my body was on fire. I sensed something very strange and new to me, something wanted me out of that room! The sense of discomfort was intense, and it took all my will power to remain seated. I was determined not to let on to those around me what I was going through. In the past, I’d practiced various forms of meditation. So, I fell back into the mode of peaceful contemplation, appearing to all around me to be in a state of “bliss.” I was confident that my real condition was going unnoticed.

Check out Chapter 3 to finish the story. If you haven’t purchased the book, fill out a comment below and we will send you the rest of Bob’s story.

Bob is also a published author of more books. Be sure to leave a comment and Bob will contact you directly with the list of his other books.

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Share your story with us

Many of you who follow this blog have your own blog sites. Mark and Bob have filled a book with their stories of walking with a Supernatural God.

Now we want to hear from you.

Here is Mark’s story again from Chapter 2: Reluctantly Supernatural

Reluctantly supernatural. That about sums me up.

Have you ever been in a church meeting where things get sort of out of control? I don’t mean the usual out of control which involves a 25-minute introduction to taking the offering or a 40-minute altar call. I mean the kind of meeting where weird stuff is happening and someone is telling you “We’re having a visitation of the Holy Spirit!!” You look around at the people falling to the floor, laughing uncontrollably, crying without shame, groaning and convulsing and you wonder,

“How much of this is real?”

That’s me doing the wondering. I suppose that would be OK if I was just a spectator, but often I am the one running the meeting. I am the one responsible for all this. I just can’t help wondering, “How much of this is real?” I know much of it is, because I’ve been the guy experiencing one or all of those strange things at one time or another, but I also know human nature.

Here is a sad truth; people will do almost anything to belong.

An older pastor friend of mine was telling me about a meeting at his church in which almost everyone he prayed for “fell under the power of the Holy Spirit.” I was impressed until he said, “Most of them were “courtesy falls.’” I asked him what he meant by that and he said, “You know, the person just wants to please you, so they do what they think you want them to do.” All very well intentioned, but it makes it almost impossible for me to avoid the question, “how much of this is real?”

I came by this skepticism honestly. I was raised by a lawyer. Usually that would ensure the high-water mark of skepticism, but it gets worse. My father was a child during the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit that came out of Azusa Street at the turn of the last century. He was a boy as the movement was cresting. He was in some of those truly power-filled meetings in which the weird and wonderful were common place.

Sadly, he was also in the meetings after the wave had broken on the beach and started to retreat. He watched as “courtesy falls” became the norm and people acted out a human version of what was once Holy Spirit empowered activity. He listened to one too many prophecies that never came to pass and his fine mind began to reject these meetings as little more than nostalgia.

This was the environment in which I was raised – with a skepticism about anything supernatural. All this is to say, I was raised with a religion without power. I had a built-in aversion to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Not knowing why, I bought the party line that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased when the Canon of Scripture was closed. And that theology made perfect sense to me because I certainly wasn’t seeing any of these gifts in our church and, so they must have passed away. After all, if they are not happening among a great group of Christians like us, where else would they occur? What a wonderful recipe for ignorance.

For more, read Chapter 2.

Be sure to send us your thoughts and questions.

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Does God really use mental images?

images (2)Mental images may come as still images or as “movies” [a scene being enacted in our mind’s eye]. The scene may be purely imaginary or it may be something that we have actually seen [a memory]. Here is one example of the “movie” variety.

In Mark’s words:

“I was scheduled to do a conference in a city a few hours north of ours. I was brushing my teeth in the morning and talking to God about the conference to start that night. I said, “I don’t want to just teach like I usually do, I want to do something different and more “Holy Spirit.”” Immediately this thought came to me:

Take a paper and pen and find a place to sit during the worship where you can look at the people. Scan the group and I will give you words for certain people. When you get up to speak, start by giving the words I have given you.

I have to admit I was excited and intimidated at the same time. That night I sat at the front, to the side, where I could watch the people. Sure, enough my gaze would pause at certain people and a thought about them would come with a message. That night I gave several which were accurate.

The next morning, I did the same thing. As I was scanning the people my gaze stopped on a young girl of about 9 or 10 years old. As I was looking at her I saw a film clip in my mind of a black and white movie taken at a Katherine Kuhlman conference. It was a short clip of her in one of her diaphanous gowns seemingly floating across the stage calling out healings in the audience. I knew it was a real film clip that I had seen sometime in the past. I said,

God, why are You showing me this?” The thought came very clearly, “I am giving this girl the same gift that I gave to Katherine Kuhlman. She will hear my voice clearly even from her youth and she will have the gift of physical healing.

I told the Lord, “There is no way I am telling her parents that she is the next Katherine Kuhlman! That is irresponsible and dangerous!” I decided to de-emphasize the word as much as integrity would allow.

When I got up to speak I pointed to the young girl and said, “I have a word for you.” She ran up to the stage, jumped up, ran over to me, put her arms around me, and clung to me. I was completely taken by surprise by her enthusiastic response. I told her, while addressing her parents, that she is gifted in hearing God’s voice very easily. Also, that she has the gift of physical healing which will show itself more and more as she grows older. I told them not to treat her as special or different, but just to trust God that in His time He will bring her gifts to their full potential. To be honest, I didn’t want to give the word at all. It seemed very irresponsible, but I decided to obey God and take the risk.

After the morning session ended a man came up to me and said, “That girl who came up to you is my daughter and there is something that you should know. When we were driving here this morning she was in the back seat with her brother and she told him,

That guy who spoke last night is going to give me a message from God this morning.

He continued saying, “I don’t understand any of this. We don’t go to church. We only came here because our neighbor invited us. What am I supposed to do?” I told him to start attending this church and ask as many questions as he needs to in order to come to know God for himself and for his family. Later that afternoon, I saw him receiving prayer from our team as he was being overcome by the Holy Spirit. Oh well, just another changed life.

This story illustrates the truth of the importance of the timing of a prophetic word. The word that Mark was going to give to this young girl and her [then] non-Christian family was beyond their understanding. The only thing that gave the word credibility was the fact that on the way to the meeting she heard God tell her Mark was going to give her a message from Him that morning. The timing of what she heard and what Mark then said was just too co-incidental to easily dismiss.

The application of prophetic mental images may have nothing to do with the presenting problem we think we are supposed to pray for.

Leave a comment, question or share an experience you have had in the box below.

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Can God talk to me in mental images?

How do we hear the voice of God? Or perhaps better put, how does God communicate with us in an immediate and personal way? God is capable of communicating to us through all of our senses, but most of the time He communicates to us through our minds and our emotions. He places thoughts and images in our minds, which do not originate with us, likewise, with our emotions.

Ironically, we have heard people say that God cannot plant a thought in someone’s mind. We say ironically because these are the same people that tell us that Satan tempts them regularly. What is temptation, but a thought that arises in our mind, which comes from the enemy? God has promised us the “mind of Christ” through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Surely God is capable of dropping His thoughts into our minds. So how do they come?

In Mark’s words: “When I first experienced the gift of prophecy it was mostly through mental images. By mental images I am referring to images seen through your mind’s eye when your eyes are closed. We all know what it is to have someone tell us to “picture” something. This is what I am talking about except that the mental image is placed within our mind by the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that when we are waiting to hear from God with our eyes closed we do not try to “conjure up” an image. We do not need to prime the pump. In fact, trying hard to see something will usually impede the process. If God is going to place an image in our mind, He does not need our help to do so. Quiet trust is the best posture whenever we listen to God. Here are a few of my favorite examples.

I was teaching on hearing the “voice” of God. The subject for the evening was “mental images.” After teaching on how they come, we went into a time of waiting on God to give mental images to us. Everyone was reminded that risk is essential to growth and so everyone should share whatever they “saw” even if it made no sense to them. The goal was to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how to pray for one another. Then we waited…
After a few minutes, someone shared an unusual image. It was of a very nice large desk with a huge leather bag tied with a chord around the top and having the $ sign on the side of the bag. The way he described it was like the money bags you see in cartoon shows. The bag was just sitting on the desk. I asked the group if this image meant anything to anyone in the room. A man at the back of the room, who was a world class effluence engineer with a very large engineering firm, spoke out. He said that on Tuesday his firm was going to a meeting with their bank to ask to borrow a very large sum of money. He said that if they did not get it, many of their engineers would be out of work. I asked the person who got the money bag image to link up in prayer with the engineer and off they went to pray.
The next person to share was a woman named Lucy. With some measure of embarrassment, she said she saw a cat sitting. I asked if this image meant anything to anyone in the room and no surprise, no one claimed it. A minute later a woman named Joy, who was sitting two rows behind Lucy said, with great reluctance, that she saw a large bear standing upright on its hind legs. She said she wasn’t going to share it, but since Lucy mentioned the cat, she would risk mentioning the bear. Again, no one claimed it.
The evening went on with more images being claimed by more people until only a few remained seated in their chairs [the rest had gone off to other parts of the room to pray]. Remaining seated were; the cat lady, the bear lady and between them a new lady I had never seen before. I asked her if she had come to our meeting wanting prayer and she said yes.
I asked the cat and the bear ladies if they would pray with our visitor. They said yes and off they went. About 40 minutes later Joy came back and said, “You will never guess what happened, it was amazing!” She said, “The lady we prayed for is Russian and her last name in Russian is “bear” and the nickname her parents gave her is “Cat!””
Imagine being this lady who hears about a church that prays powerful prayers for people. You come to the meeting not knowing whether or not God knows your name. You come hoping to encounter God. You are surrounded by strangers. God gives your name to two total strangers who end up praying powerful prayers for you! Do you suppose she was encouraged? Do you think she will ever forget that night?”

This story illustrates a very important point having to do with mental images and prophetic words in general. Often the message that comes to us may seem nonsensical or even irrational; after all, seeing a bear or a cat is not much of a message from God.

The temptation with such a cryptic word is either not to give it or to try to add some sort of meaning or interpretation to it, e.g. “God says you are like a little kitten resting in His lap” or “With God’s help you are as strong as a bear!”

We have great admiration for both Joy and Lucy because they risked looking foolish by simply giving exactly what they saw without attempting to interpret it.

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Examining How We Hear God’s Voice

aaLast post we shared a video about How to Hear the Voice of God. There are so many ways He speaks to us that it is important to share our stories with one another.

We want to take a moment to analyze how the dream and fortune cookie worked together to bring about life-changing faith.

There was nothing obviously supernatural about the dream itself. It could have been nothing more than Mark’s subconscious wishing that he had more influence. This would be a fair interpretation given his disillusionment with his ministry.
Even though he took the dream as from God and believed that God had spoken to him regarding its meaning, he was little more than encouraged. This is a sad admission because he readily admits that hearing God’s thoughts of encouragement in his mind should have been enough to get him back in the saddle, but it was not. It was just a measure of encouragement.

Had the dream not occurred and he not “heard” God’s thoughts in his mind, the fortune cookie experience would have been insignificant. He would have thought, “That is a nice thought, I wish it were true.” What made the fortune cookie experience so powerful for him was the juxtaposition of it following the dream and the fact that the two messages were word for word. Neither the dream nor the fortune cookie encounter was a supernatural event in itself, but taken together they were conclusively supernatural to him and in their effect.
What we believe happened was that two events, sharing a common message, could not be dismissed as mere co-incidence. The timing of the dream and the fortune cookie defies coincidence. Something beyond natural chance was occurring – something “super” natural was happening. This brush with the supernatural presence of God in Mark’s life produced a supernatural gift of faith that he still draws from two years later.
Because faith comes by hearing God’s words [and because prophecy is a supernatural gift], prophecy gives us what we need, beyond our natural abilities, to believe in God’s goodness to us. If we are correct in our belief that from time to time all of us need supernatural help to believe in God’s promises to us, then prophecy is truly for everyone.

We would love to hear your comments and questions either on this website or
https://www.facebook.com/reluctantlysupernatural/

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How Does God Speak to Us?

This is the first part in a practical guide to hearing from God.

One of the ways we hear God’s voice is through His immediate word to us, which is also revelation because it is a work of the Holy Spirit. It has the same effect of revealing His truth to our minds and our lives, but it comes directly rather than through Scripture. It is always consistent with what Scripture teaches us, but it is not dependent upon Scripture for its delivery. When the message comes through another person, we call this the gift of prophecy. How we recognize His voice to us, for ourselves and for others is the subject for another time. For now, we need to understand the power of prophecy and its importance to our lives.

When a true prophetic word is spoken, it is a word of Christ that is coming through an authorized representative. It has the authority and power of God delivered with it! It has the power to engender faith in the hearer, which faith brings the power to fulfill the prophetic word. One prophetic word can produce the kind of faith that perseveres no matter what the enemy throws at you. Here is an interesting example:

A number of years ago the denomination Mark was a part of did a survey of all their church plants – both those that succeeded and those that failed. They tested for a variety of factors believed to be important to a successful church plant.

These included adequate startup funding, level of theological education of the pastor, training for the startup leadership team, demographic studies of the proposed region, etc. One of the questions asked was; “Did you hear God tell you to do this church plant?”
As it turns out, approximately 90% of those who succeeded “heard” God tell them to do the plant. Conversely, approximately 90% of those who failed said they did not “hear” God tell them to do the plant. All of the other factors were inconclusive.

Hearing God imparts faith and prophecy speaks for God. Here is another example of 8 words from God changing the course of a person’s life. The life changed was Mark’s.

Mark describes:

God used a dream and an unusual means (a fortune cookie) to renew my life by giving me a gift of faith that does not need continual positive feedback in order to carry on. The real change is that now I am believing for much more!

In the interests of maintaining peace with our anticipated critics let us say this about fortune cookies: We do not believe fortune cookies are a valid means of discerning God’s will for our lives. The fact that God used a fortune cookie to confirm His previous message must not be taken as some sort of divine endorsement of seeking direction from such means.

Check back on the next blog post for more discussion

 

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What do I need to know when I am waiting?

waiting wellAs we discussed in the last blog post, there is something more important to God than our breakthroughs and that is our character development. The breakthroughs He values most are character breakthroughs and He is willing to allow us to wait for our breakthroughs if it is the only way to grow our character.

The upsetting fact is that He will intentionally prolong our wait until we have learned what He intended for us to learn.

David was persevering while running for his life from King Saul when he refused to take his destiny into his own hands to obtain his breakthrough by killing Saul when he had a “perfect opportunity”.

The Apostle Paul was persevering when he ran a tent making business during the day and spent the evenings serving an obscure backwater church for over 10 years before the Holy Spirit sent him out to change Christianity forever. Here is a man who has the equivalent of several earned PHD’s; who has the ability and calling to write the theology that will form the foundation of Christianity for all time; teaching a church of nobodies in a town of nobodies far from the center of the action in Jerusalem [where every brain cell in his head tells him he “should” be].

HUMILITY

1 Peter 5:5-6 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”.

There are two kinds of humbling in the Bible, the humbling God brings against us and the kind we can choose for ourselves. If you want to make the wait for your breakthrough as short as possible choose to embrace humility.

David chose humility when he loyally served Saul, a man who was his lesser in every way. Joseph chose humility when he set his God-given dream of greatness aside to serve the prison warden with all of his abilities for more than 10 years. Paul chose humility when he submitted to the counsel of Jerusalem on matters of theology when he knew more than all of them combined. And what is most important to remember about humility – it isn’t humility if it is done with an angry and rebellious spirit. Here is a wise plan of action: whenever you are faced with an opportunity to choose humility, take it!

THANKSGIVING

Phil 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Nothing could be clearer than this command to rejoice in the Lord always. We are excellent at bringing our requests for a breakthrough to God, but often it is with the wrong heart. The fact is, God responds very poorly to an ungrateful heart.

Complaining will actually postpone your breakthrough.

This is what happened to Israel at the border to the promised land. And the opposite is true; Jonah complained about God’s commission for him and found himself in the belly of a whale, but after singing a song of thanksgiving to the Lord he was spit out on the beach.

Paul finds himself chained to a prison wall and after singing praises and thanksgiving to God the chains fall off and the door falls off its hinges. David wrote many Psalms of lament while he was running for his life, but they end with thanks and praise to God no matter what his present circumstances.

A friend of mine from San Francisco was in New Orleans during Marti Gras doing street preaching when an angry man came out of the crowd and put a 38 to his head and said he was going to kill him. I asked my friend what he did. He said he looked the man in the eyes and said, “thank you Jesus, I get to go to heaven tonight!” The man just lowered his gun and walked away.

Thanksgiving doesn’t just shorten your suffering it changes your suffering because it changes you. Thanksgiving changes the spiritual climate around you.

The most relevant question we can ask ourselves when we are waiting for our “breakthrough” is,

“What is my Father God trying to teach me through this time of waiting?”

 

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Are you waiting well?

waiting wellHave you ever been offended against God?

Come on, let’s be honest for a moment. Have you ever felt disappointed with God? I have.

Disappointment with God is possible because of a misunderstanding of what we like to call “breakthroughs”.

We love our breakthroughs. We are all waiting for our “breakthrough”.

We have received a promise or prophetic word from God [or so we perceive] and it has not happened yet. Because our lives are bounded by time and space we feel the injustice of this; God has promised us something and He has not delivered.

The problem is; we believe that since God has promised something there must be nothing more important to Him than delivering it.

And have you ever noticed that the breakthroughs we seek are always of a certain kind – a husband or wife, better job, bigger house, a promotion or raise, physical healing, freedom from worry or low self-image.  All things that would make our life more pleasant and bearable.  And what could be better than that?

But here is the problem; God is waiting for a breakthrough for you as well, but for Him it’s a different breakthrough and to Him it’s much more important.

We can’t imagine anything more important than our breakthrough because our breakthrough is usually a very good thing, especially in the area of ministry. Imagine God has promised you a powerful healing ministry. You can almost imagine God’s joy over watching you heal people.

You can picture God and Jesus in Heaven talking and all of a sudden God says, “wait a minute, stop and look at this! Bill is about to raise that neighbor’s baby from the dead, oh I love it when he does this. Bill is amazing!!  What a healer Bill is!!”  Then the Holy Spirit who has been quietly listening says, “Wait a minute; that was ME doing that!!” We forget that God is not impressed with our ministry because it really isn’t our ministry.

The fact is, there is something more important to God than our breakthroughs and that is our character development.

The breakthroughs He values most are character breakthroughs and He is willing to allow us to wait for our breakthroughs if it is the only way to grow our character.

The upsetting fact is that He will intentionally prolong our wait until we have learned what He intended for us to learn.  David was chased by Saul for 14 years after he was promised the Kingship over Israel. Joseph was in slavery and/or prison for 17 years before his God-given dreams came true. Paul lived in obscurity for 11-13 years before his life calling began. The children of Israel were forced to wait 40 years in the desert because they failed the test of character at the border to the promised land. All of these delays were IN GOD’S WILL! He had a plan in the middle of all of them. What we have to understand is that He has a PLAN for you in the middle of your wait. The plan always has to do with your character and it usually has to do with one or more of three things: 1] perseverance, 2] humility & 3] thankfulness.

PERSEVERENCE

Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we  also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope”.

The Biblical definition of perseverance is always to do with steadfastness. It is to hold to what you know to do and not quit. It means much more than just continuing to believe for the breakthrough.

It has to do with how you live and act before the breakthrough.  Joseph was persevering when he decided to be the best slave he could be in the house of Potifar, and the best prisoner while in the dungeon, and the best interpreter of dreams when a fellow prisoner was in distress.

Tune in next blog post for more stories of Biblical characters and the most important question we need to ask.