What is Our Identity?

God’s supernatural power flows through our connection and closeness with Him. This sermon was recorded in Guadalajara, Mexico where we saw many lives touched by God’s love and power.

Man started out as children of God in the Garden of Eden [the garden of pleasure]. Through stepping away from God as Lord and Father man became a slave to his own independence – we became slaves to our own self focus. The rest of the bible is really little more than the story of how God acts to return to us our true identity as His sons and daughters. God’s intent is that we go directly from slaves [to self focus and sin] to sons and daughter. Unfortunately, for most of us this return is a three step process. We start as slaves to our self focus and sin which becomes our second nature, so much so that we have no power, in ourselves, to get back to our true identity.

 

Read the transcript for Mark’s message here.

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.

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.

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.

Can we say no to God’s love?

love and freedomIn order to love, we must be free to choose not to love. If we are forced to love then our love is not love at all, it is just robotic or forced. Love requires freedom.

For this reason, we were all created with the ability to say “no” to God’s love. Unfortunately saying no to God’s love means opting out of His plans for our lives. When we do this, bad things happen. We call these bad consequences “sins”. The literal meaning for “sin” is “missing the mark”.

In other words, when we opt out of God’s plan for our lives we miss the mark of His perfect will for us. This means that we experience something other than His perfect protection and blessing – we experience suffering.

In human history sin was like a snowball. It started small but over time it compounded its size and effect until the whole of creation was affected by it. Even nature was damaged. One of the most painful diseases we can experience is cancer. Cancer is rebellion at the molecular level against God’s design for our bodies – cells multiplying at a rate far beyond that which He designed for them.

Our failure to steward the natural world has resulted in the pollution of our water, soil, air and food. These pollutants are the cause of much of the suffering our world is currently experiencing. None of this was by God’s design. It was and is, a consequence of our ungodly choices.

Some of you might be thinking, “well if he really loved us He would step in and fix the consequences of our bad choices.” But think about it; if every time you did something wrong, God stepped in and immediately altered the consequence, would your action be “free”? Actions over which there are no logical consequences are meaningless.

When we remove the ability to complete a wrong action the the actor is no longer free.

What all this means is that for there to be love, we must be free to say “no” to God’s love. Love requires choosers not clones. Suffering is the consequence of freedom and freedom is the necessary pre-condition for love. Love is the paramount value in God’s world and in our lives. For the sake of love God will allow suffering. For the sake of love, we will even choose suffering. Soldiers do it in every war simply for the love of country. Love is the highest state of experience we humans are capable of. Love is what gives our lives purpose and meaning. Without it we are just clever animals.

So where does this leave us regarding the conundrum of the all-powerful and all loving God who allows suffering? The palmist Asaph gives us the answer in Psalm 73 where he is overcome by the success of evil men all around him and the suffering evil brings.

Vs 2-5 “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.”

Vs 16-18 “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.”

Finally, he comes to one of the most profound truths in the Bible and the place of true peace:

Vs.25 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth”

Asaph is saying that the answer to our deepest questions and doubts is often not a propositional truth, but a presence. In the presence of God, the question is no longer of concern. If we can find Him in our suffering then we have found the comfort we need, and He can always be found in our suffering. Our God is wonderful because for the sake of love He allows suffering, but He will always enter into it with us. He is the God who can be found in our suffering. He feels what we feel, and He shares our pain. What an amazing God!

Truths about Truth – follow up post

Our post modern western culture has abandoned any concept of absolute truth. What this means is that the “rules” of evangelism are changing. To use a sports analogy, we are playing full contact football and our culture is playing soccer. We are simply not playing the same game. We are trying to sell truth to a culture that no longer values it, because it does not believe truth exists. What our friends, neighbors and co-workers value is practical, e.g. whatever helps them through the difficulties of life. The game has truly changed [pun intended].

Not only has the game changed but two very destructive lies have been injected into the game.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate”. Rick Warren

The question becomes, “how do we introduce people to our faith in the new game?” Do we need a new approach? Or maybe a return to a very old approach? How about doing it the way Jesus did it? Jesus came into a religious world that was committed to the truth much like ours is. They were sure they had the truth down pat. Jesus came along with a very radical message. He didn’t say, “I have a new truth for you”. He said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

He didn’t come claiming to simply speak truth, He claimed to be the truth!

Jesus did not come to refine the Jewish religion, He came to replace it with Himself!

He is our faith! He didn’t come to call people to a system of belief, He came to call people to Himself.

Here is how their new faith came to the first Christians, Jesus said,

“Come follow me”.

There was no statement of faith or proclamation of truth – just an invitation to follow HIM.

“Simon Peter, I want to use your boat to sit in while I talk to these people”.

“Hey Simon, go out into deeper water and lower your nets”. “Master, we’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, it’s a waste of time but since it’s you who is asking, OK”. “OH MY GOD! LOOK AT ALL THE FISH WE’RE CATCHING!!!”  As they followed him they came to know the truth, because they were coming to know Him!

Can we trust in the idea that if we introduce people to Jesus by loving them the way He does, they will come to know Him and as they grow in their relationship with Him, they will be led into the truth they need to know to share in His life?

Can we trust Him to reveal truth?

What about dealing with sin? Don’t we have an obligation to confront people with their sin? Sure, but which comes first, love or correction? Which came first for Jesus? And who does confrontation better, us or the Holy Spirit?

I am thinking that maybe it is OK that the world no longer believes in moral truth. Maybe it means that we will have to live our message rather than just speak it.

Does this mean we have nothing to say about what the Bible calls sin? No. But what it does mean is that love for the sinner should always be a greater motivation for our words than our love for the truth.

Here is the test; am I confronting sin because I hate sin or because I hate what sin is doing to this person?