Getting Real Part 2

Continuing from last post

Graph #1 represents our normal human life experience. Above the line are experiences which are pleasant, fulfilling and satisfying. What we like to call “blessings”. There are several high points we love to think about. Thinking about them brings a sense of happiness and self-acceptance. Below the line are experiences that are the opposite. Thinking about them brings a sense of pain, loss, frustration and shame. We hate to think about these and tend to avoid these memories whenever we can. There are usually one or two that are so painful we will do anything to forget about them. This would be L-1. We spend energy trying to dismiss them. In our circles we tend to attribute the stuff above the line to God and the stuff below the line to the Devil. That categorization makes it easier to dismiss the negative experiences from our consideration.

See Graphs on video https://youtu.be/PMl8CNiLAHM

Graph #2 represents how we craft our self-image. I call it the “photoshopped me”. We compose our self-image by collecting all our best memories and most successful moments and putting them on display. We tell ourselves that this is who I am. We also project this image to all those around us, after all, we want to be loved and valued so we project the best image we can – competent, lovable, likeable, smart, funny, attractive, etc. – whatever sells. What we are doing is taking a photo of ourselves and then “photoshopping” all of the scars and flaws out of the photo. We then cut out the new-improved photo of me, glue it to a popsicle stick and hold it in front of our faces. This is the person I wish I were and so this is the person I project to everyone around me. We then describe our photoshopped images relating to one another as “fellowship”.

Graph # 3 represents the missing parts from our self-image. We never include the lows because they represent failure, pain, loss, and shame. As well, they are the work of the Devil and so should never be included in our Christian image. To include these things would only be giving credit to the Devil. And why talk about unpleasant experiences anyway, just ignore those memories and dwell on being a “new creature”. After all, I should never be defined by my failures and losses – that would be a lack of faith.

 

Right away we can see the flaw in our photoshopped me – there are no flaws. Because there are no flaws, the image we are projecting is not true. If it is not true, the relationships we have as a result of that image are also not true. They must, logically, be shallow. Because they are shallow they are not satisfying. Because they are not satisfying we experience our faith as incomplete and not satisfying. Church seems to be missing something. There must be more, but what is it that is missing? How do I get this deep experience that the Bible talks about? What is wrong with this picture – literally?

 

Insert Graph #4 in POWERPOINT HERE

 

Graph #4 represents what is wrong with my picture of myself and what is wrong with my understanding of myself. Usually we all have a few very low lows that we will do almost anything to avoid thinking about. The really bad ones are intentionally buried very deep. The problem though is that they are not neutral or inactive. The worst ones wait for another low experience to connect themselves to. The result is that this present low experience now seems much worse than it really is. It feels much like L-1. And this goes on and on with every low experience until we have an undercurrent of depression, doubt, sadness, numbness and sinking self-worth. Also, relationships become harder and harder to maintain because our false, entirely positive self-image, is becoming harder and harder to maintain because it is becoming harder and harder to believe in. We have now woken up to living a lie. Or maybe we never wake up, we just keep on trying to believe that we are better than we are. We are “thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought”.

 

The solution is obvious; God knows all about our dark times. No matter how bad they were He always had a plan to “redeem” them – to bring good out of the Devils work. The amazing truth is that if we will face our dark times honestly, we will experience God’s hand of blessing through them. If we will be honest with Him about facing them, we will find His love at work through them. We can then incorporate them into our self-image and begin to experience relationships based on truth. We will experience the joy of having nothing to hide. Nothing to hide means having nothing to lose. This is genuine freedom in our friendship with God and others. It was for freedom that you were set free, so start enjoying getting real.

 

Getting Real

Today we would use the words “transparency”, “vulnerability” and “honesty” to describe deep friendship. Transparency, vulnerability, and honesty are the foundations of any true Christian friendship. Loving relationships require honesty.

Here’s a thought:  you cannot love someone you do not know!  We have a word for the feeling that happens after you think you have gotten to know someone only to find out they were faking their thoughts and feelings and reactions to you. The word is “disillusioned!”   It is both a feeling and a fact. The fact is that you were deceived, you were given an illusion of who that person was, and you found out it was false. The feeling is one of being abused, tricked and violated.

Nothing destroys a relationship faster than dishonesty. You can put up with a lot but when you no longer believe the person, the relationship is over. Even when you are hearing what you want to hear, “I am sorry” or “I love you”, if you don’t believe their words it is worse than not hearing them at all.  Think about it; in the world of relationships a pleasant lie is more destructive than an unpleasant truth.

Dishonestly is not merely dangerous to a relationship, it is its opposite.

A good application question to ask ourselves at this point is; what stands in the way of deep honest friendships? Here is one answer from the book of Romans which we just finished studying:

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3

Most of the time when we read this verse we take it as a warning against pride, and it is. To think of ourselves more highly than we should is usually an indication of pride. BUT NOT ALWAYS. Sometimes we engage in self-deception when we think of ourselves. We often do this out of a desire to be loved and lovable. Paul counsels us to think of ourselves with “sober judgment”. What this term means is that we should use reason to arrive at a very realistic understanding of ourselves – a true and balanced understanding. Is this the way we usually see ourselves? I think not. Let me illustrate how we usually arrive at our self-understanding.

Check back in a few days for the rest of the sermon

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.

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/

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

 

Twilight Trek

Have you wanted to see God use you in supernatural ministry? Have you wanted to see the power of God displayed in our current culture? Have you wanted to see the kind of working of the Holy Spirit that the church in the book of Acts experienced? Then you’ll need to take a journey into the “Twilight”, in other words, be willing to step out into the unknown and trust God to meet you there. In this video we look at the biblical account of how 4 men saw the power of God change their lives and the lives of a whole city by taking a walk in the “Twilight”.

 

Oracle

Have you ever wanted to see God speak through you to someone in need of a touch from God. Have you wondered how the early church was used by God to speak to their world. Do you long to see God release his prophetic gifts in your life. If so, then this video will encourage and inspire you to step out in the prophetic gifts.

In this video we investigate the world of the New Testament and see how God used the early believers to “speak for God” in a pagan world that so desired to hear from the “gods” that they would seek out strange oracles to hear from the “divine”. Let this video challenge you to be a voice (oracle) for God in the 21st century.