Friday, June 29, 2007

S.J. Hill | The Heart of a Spiritual Father

In response to my last posting titled, Where Are They, I've received a TON of wonderful feedback that has been insightful, constructive, and encouraging. In the next few days I want to post a few of these emails so that everybody can enjoy the wisdom of others who have much to contribute to this dialogue. One email I received was from a person whose name sounded vaguely familar, Stephen J. Hill. He had written in response to my posting and included a recent newsletter that he had sent out to his subscribers. It is a great read from one is truly is walking out the calling as a spiritual father to many! Please take the time to read it. After reading through it, I made the connection. Interestingly a few years ago, a friend of mine attended the F.I.R.E School of Ministry. He took a class under S.J. Hill and he gave me his book called Enjoying God. I wish I could say that I've read it, but I have not. Now I have ample motivation to read it!
Here is the newsletter by S.J. Hill:

Stephen J. Hill
June 20, 2007

Hi Everybody,

I pray you're doing well and that you're continuing to grow in the knowledge and grace of our incredible Bridegroom King, Jesus Christ. I wanted to write you to share something with you that's very close to my heart. In 1989, I was given a prophetic word based upon Malachi 4:6: "And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." Even before this prophecy was spoken over me, I had a real love for young people and always enjoyed being around them. But after the prophetic word was given to me, something was ignited in my heart that I can't put into words. All I know is that when I walked onto the campus of the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry in 1999, I instinctively knew that all my years of ministry were preparatory for what I would experience in the coming years. Surrounded by approximately 1200 young adults, I began to feel Father's heart for this generation like never before. My heart broke over the emotional issues (father issues) that many of the students continually had to deal with. Having come from broken homes and dysfunctional families, it was hard for them to perceive God as their loving Father.

It was at this point that I realized I was going to have to do more than just teach these young adults about God's love for them in a classroom environment. I knew I was also being called to model the Father's heart to this generation. I began spending quality time with a number of the young men from the school, and Pam started hanging out with several of the girls. We even opened up the home in which we were living to the students and began discipling them on a regular basis. We ate together, laughed and cried together, and shared in each other's lives. Those days were some of the most fulfilling I've ever experienced. To this day, I still hear from many of them even though they're scattered all over the world. Some of them are missionaries, some are working in the marketplace, and some of them are involved in various aspects of ministry here in the States. Pam and I have become a "father" and "mother" to them, and I can't begin to tell you of the joy I feel knowing that we have "sons" and "daughters" living in many different places in the world. What a privilege it is to help "father" this generation. I know of no greater legacy to leave than sons and daughters who passionately love God!!!

Right now, I travel some, as well as teach part-time at the F.I.R.E School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina. But I continue to "father" young men on a regular basis. I eat with them, pray with them, walk them through their issues, and help prepare them in practical ways for future ministry. I spend hours on the phone talking to missionaries around the world, loving on them and being there for them. I make it a point to continually let them know that I'm proud of them. There's nothing else that I'd rather do!! We leaders, especially, need to go from being CEO's of religious organizations to becoming "fathers" of this younger generation. We've got to quit producing orphans and start producing sons and daughters. But this is going to require that we first become sons. We have to live as sons before we can become fathers. We have to find our core identity as Abba's boys and not find our identity in ministry. It's about being so secure in our Father's love that we won't try to hold onto a position or live just to defend our "religious turf."

True leadership is about reproducing sons and daughters who will one day take our places. I want to lovingly challenge all of you to become more personally involved with the young adults of this generation. The Church as a whole has all kinds of programs and activities for young children and teenagers, but often very little is available for young adults. Yet, these are our next leaders. The face of the Church is only going to change as we bear the image of our heavenly Father and start becoming personally involved in the lives of the young people around us. We've had great teaching over the years, but very few spiritual fathers and mothers.

To those of you who are older, I want to encourage you to start inviting some young people over to your homes. You have years of experience under your belts, and this younger generation needs you. They need practical instruction on such things as balancing a checkbook, personal hygiene, as well as your help with life's important issues. Feed them, love them, be there for them, and listen to them. This is not the time to retire and think about the good old days. Your best years are ahead of you.

To all of you businessmen, I want to encourage you, as well, to start taking some young people under your wings and help prepare them for the marketplace. You have years of training and experience, and we need Christian young men and women in the workplace. Give yourselves to them, and they'll love you for life.

I know some of you would feel more comfortable if you could follow some kind of a training manual. But, please, don't be intimidated. This younger generation wants your love and affection. If you're willing to be transparent enough to open your hearts to them, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. Young adults all over the world are looking for fathers and mothers who will genuinely care for them.

Pam and I really want you to embrace what's in our hearts for this generation. I want to start traveling more to the various mission's bases we (F.I.R.E.) have around the world to help father the missionaries. Please pray for us and help us any way you can. Together, we can see a fatherless generation healed in the love of our heavenly Father -- a Father who delights in us and can never get enough of us.

We love you!!

S. J. (Steve) and Pam

P. O. Box 910
Harrisburg, NC 28075

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where Are They?

If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed;
If you are thinking ten years ahead plant a tree;
If you are thinking a hundred years ahead, reach your generation.

Brandon Richards, a new friend from Texas who is a phenomenal web designer (he works for Benny Hinn’s ministry as the web designer); wrote the following on his blog in response to my posting entitled, Limping Together to Change the World:

“I have to admit Brian hits a sensitive spot with me with his post. I’ve often wondered and for quite some time now, I’ve looked for someone, to use his word, to ‘limp’ with, and realized that I haven’t met anyone nor seen anyone…Where are they? [spiritual fathers] I keep hearing about them… and yet...I find myself still looking around and not seeing anyone I find that I’m being drawn closer to by God.” (emphasis added)

What I hear in Brandon’s heart—which I believe represents the heart of the emerging generation—is clearly the cry of Elisha’s heart when his mentor Elijah was taken away in the chariot of fire: “My father! My father!” (2 Kings 2:12) The verse continues, “And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.”

I hear the same sound of Elisha’s heartfelt love for his mentor and teacher, Elijah, coming forth from those within this generation. Although Elisha lost his spiritual father, numerous young adults today are still waiting for a seasoned believer to be a spiritual father or mother to them. There are many who have never experienced the companion of a mature, seasoned mentor to walk with them amidst the difficult times.

Can you identify with the heart cry of Elisha? Is there a longing deep within for the affections of the older generation? Have you ever wondered, “Where are they?”—as you cried out to the Lord for a father or mother in the Lord?

It seems that this deep, God-initiated yearning for the tutelage of the previous generation is coming forth in this hour in the hearts of the emerging generation. Just as Elisha cried out, “My father! My father!" when Elijah was taken away—so too, is God increasing the fervency of the cry for the mantle of the spiritual fathers: The culmination of their anointing, wisdom, counsel, knowledge and revelation.

Where Are They?

In 1982 several streams within the Charismatic movement converged to form an apostolic network, Network of Christian Ministries (NCM). Although its inception was glorious, it failed to perpetuate its influence beyond the seminal stage. Dr. Emauele Cannistraci—one of the founders of NCM—identified the primary cause: The failure of the fathers of the emerging network to heed to cry of the spiritual sons for fathering. David Cannistraci, author of The Gift of Apostles, highlights this heartrending story that transpired during the 4th annual gathering in Anaheim, California:

During one fragile moment in that conference, several spiritual sons lifted up a collective appeal for the spiritual fathers to assume their roles as mentors to the younger generation of world changers. The sons were calling for a movement of the fathers. It was an awesome occasion, according to Dr. Cannistraci. Tragically, the cry was never fully answered. ‘The missing ingredient was fathers coming together with their giftings and reservoirs of knowledge, networking to pass on the legacy to the younger generation. Networking can be far more powerful if the fathers are available to the sons’ says Dr. Cannistraci. ‘Without that ingredient, a network will be short-lived.’” (emphasis added)

The sons and daughters are crying out in this hour for what the Lord has deposited in the older generation; the mantles of the Elijahs of today; the fathers and mothers. If you are of the older generation, are you willing to respond to this call as a spiritual father or mother in the Lord?

Regardless if it is a church, network, or movement, spiritual parents are absolutely essential. It is time for the spiritual fathers and mothers to embrace their calling in order to enable the younger generation to fulfill their destiny in Christ. Weigh carefully the words written by Frank Damazio, author of The Vanguard Leader, and a father to many: “Without spiritual fathers, the church cannot achieve its ultimate destiny.”

Spiritual fathering is an element of discipleship that cannot be replaced by programs or artificial substitutes that fails to bring an impartation of life from the older to the younger. The older and mature saints must carefully examine their life in order to assure longevity even beyond their lives upon the earth. Once they’ve been given their last breathe, their influence should proceed for generations to come.

This is evident in the lives of the biblical Patriarchs. Yahweh chose to reveal himself in the generations following the Patriarchal fathers as the “God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob”. This clearly demonstrates that He is a trans-generational God that desires to see the younger generation build upon what the previous generation accomplished. We must see eternity so that we may build generational legacies through the application of daily spiritual fathering.

Where are they?This question begs the following summon: Are you willing to respond to the cry for spiritual fathers and mothers?

Today I am calling forth the older generation to take your God-ordained role as spiritual fathers and mothers in the lives of the emerging generation. As a part of the “Roe vs. Wade” generation, I personally ask for your forgiveness for the arrogance of our youth. Please forgive us for denying you access to our lives during our youth when we went about our own way. Forgive us for spurning your outstretched hand when possibly you did try to reach out to us. And, most of all, forgive us for not honoring you as our parents. We specifically repent for dishonoring both our natural and spiritual parents. We chose this day to honor our natural parents and our spiritual fathers and mothers.

I declare this day that no longer will we say, “Where are they?”—rather, we will say “Here they are!" Come forth fathers and mothers! Come forth in Jesus' name to the rightful place of honor that we bestow upon you this day. You will no longer be ostracized, but we choose to receive your wisdom, your insights, your compassion, your tears, your warmth, your sacrificial giving—and, your shortcomings. We choose to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8) so that we may learn to honor you as our spiritual fathers and mothers. We desperately need what God has deposited in you. Without your tutelage we cannot walk in the fullness of our destiny.

"Father break our hearts over the arrogance that we have demonstrated. Forgive us for even thinking somehow that we are the “Greatest Generation” ever without paying the price of sacrifice that previous generations paid. Have mercy on us. Help us to see as You see. Through your mercy, enable us to be a "living sacrfice, holy and pleasing to you" (Romans 12:1) as a generation. Let us not miss the moment to pick up the mantles of the older generation. Teach us to obey, to serve, to pursue as Elisha did.

Thank you Father that we will be able to say in the days ahead, 'Here they are!'"

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Arsenal

I have a friend—Brad Herman—who is the owner of The Arsenal bookstore based in Colorado Springs. The Arsenal was originally founded by Peter Wagner to serve the needs of his growing ministries and at some point Brad bought it from Dr. Wagner. I met Brad in 2004 at a conference where he was selling books. Our hearts connected due to the two similarities: a vibrant love for Jesus and an intense fondness for books! He is probably one of the most read (Christian genre) and articulate person that I know, which is saying a lot due to my vast experience of meeting a wide array of believers—Christ For the Nations Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Regent University—among other places.

I received an email recently called The Supply Line, which gives an overview of key authors and resources that Brad highly recommends. This month they are highlighting a book that I strongly recommend: Church at Community by Ed Delph. The Arsenal writes concerning this book:

Finally, we want to mention an excellent resource for taking the next step of transformation in your region. Dr Ed Delph has put together a wonderful book titled Church at Community which takes aim at the fact that the church has mostly relegated itself to irrelevance in most cities. He shows that churches and individual believers must move from being church-centric to being community-centric. He also lays out four spheres of influence (1 Education, 2 Government, 3 Media/Entertainment, 4 Business) that the church needs to begin to work with as well as to bring transformation to in order to see God's purposes manifested in our day.

This book is a tome of information and thinking on transforming cultures. It is well over 300 pages, but Dr Delph does a good job of making the concepts easy to grasp. We highly recommend this for those who want to go beyond just praying for their cities, but onto having true Kingdom influence

This book has an edge to it that helps to break down our own assumptions concerning what Church should look like. I utilized this book during my Masters program at Regent University as I was developing my Cause2Impact paradigm to equip disciple-catalysts to influence their God-given sphere for kingdom Impact. The subtitle of the book also sheds light on the content of the book: Strategic Core Values that Engage Faith in Culture.

I’m not “promoting” The Arsenal and this particular book for any financial motivations. In other words, I’m not getting any percentage of the sales that comes from this website or my referrals. This isn’t an Amazon setup! Rather, my motivation is three-fold: (1) I believe in the calling that is upon Brad’s life to pioneer a kingdom business and I want to see him succeed (2) What Brad has to offer through The Arsenal can be a great source of blessings to others, including those in my sphere (3) And, I believe in the message of the book itself. Prayerfully consider ordering a copy for your pastor and/or church leaders.

Normally the book retails for $16.99, but they have a June special for $11.04. Go to their website or call them at 888-563-5150 to order this book. This is an opportunity to bless a business that is actively trying to advance and support kingdom initiatives. Whenever possible, I try to order my books through The Arsenal because I believe in the man and the divine calling behind the business.

In closing I want to highlight a principle here that might be of great value to your life. There are times when the Lord will use us as a bridge to connect two different people within our sphere who do not know each other. Prayerfully scan your social networks to determine if the Lord would have you introduce two people that are possibly called to walk together in friendship, business, ministry, etc.

No, I’m not advocating that you play matchmaker for singles!

However, word of caution regarding business connections—ensure that your friend’s services are of utmost excellence and quality. If the service rendered on behalf of your recommendation is of mediocre quality, this can become a liability to your friendship with both parties. Recommend ONLY those who do work of excellence even if they are friends very dear to your heart. We’ve had friends recommend questionable people to us in various work settings. They were a part of a “network” where they agree to recommend each other.

I guard my friendships very carefully—yet, I am also very liberal when I sense that there is definitely a potential connection. In fact, as I was writing this paragraph I learned that Brian and Joby Cunningham—true friends who are a precious couple in our TNT home group—were heading towards Car Max to look at some cars. I have a guy that I am walking alongside in discipleship/accountability who works there and is a very honest and trustworthy friend. I knew he would have their interests at heart. So I immediately called the couple to tell them to request this guy and I connected with him on his cell phone to tell him to look for them. See how this scenario worked: (1) First there was a need (a car) (2) Second there was a match (trustworthy used car salesman) for that need in terms of service that could be done with integrity and excellence.

Obviously this was an example of a potential business connection.

Do you have any stories of these types of “divine connections” in bringing two parties together that resulted in mutual blessings? Or do you have an unfortunate story of seeing a connection to the detriment of all involved? I would love to hear your stories.

Friday, June 22, 2007

THE SONS of THUNDER | James Ryle

The following insight occurred to me in August 1990 as a result of three dreams. In the first dream I saw a flatbed trailer with a curtain behind it. This trailer was parked at a fairground, as if a concert was about to happen. There were two guitars on the mobile stage. The color of these guitars was the most vivid, electric blue that one could imagine. What impressed me most was that the guitars were not painted, but stained. It had obviously taken time to make them blue. The curtain was the same color as the guitars. Two men walked from behind the curtain with sheet music in their hands. They were very excited, and could hardly wait to play this music. One said to the other, "Wait till they hear this. It’s going to be just like when the Beatles played their music!" In the dream I also became excited. I turned to see the crowd that was gathering at the stage and the scene changed before my eyes. The audience became a vast body of water, like a lake, and as the musicians played the new song I saw fishing lines cast out into the water. The dream ended. My waking thoughts were that God is about to release a new kind of song in the streets. It will bring a revelation of the truth and it will usher people into His presence. The anointing of the Lord will be with musicians who have spent time in God's presence "behind the curtain" receiving a deep love for the lost. The lyrics of their songs will be as "fishing lines" cast into the hearts of men and women needing Christ.

In the second dream, I was on the stage in a large church. There was an equipment room on the right side of the stage. It had microphones, cables, amplifiers and other kinds of things that collect in closets. In one corner of the room I saw a power amplifier covered with dust. The cord was wrapped about it, and it had not been used for a long time. When I looked closer I saw written on the front, "The Beatles Power Amp." I knew in that moment that this box was the source of their sound and their power. I knew that anyone could plug into this box and, in effect, have what the Beatles had - an incredible ability to mobilize masses of people to a single thing. As I stood there holding the Beatles power amplifier, I asked aloud this question, "What is this doing here in the Church's equipment room?" Suddenly I was out of the equipment room and standing behind the pulpit at this church, still holding the amp. The enormous church, throughout the main floor and all about the balcony, was packed with people from every nation. A very beautiful woman, radiant with a glow of glory, stood in the middle of the church and began singing a song from the Lord. A light shone upon her and her voice filled the auditorium. All she sang was: "In the name of Jesus Christ the Lord we say unto you, be saved." She sang it over and over. She would turn to her right and sing, then turn to her left and sing; then she would turn behind her and before her and sing the same thing. As I watched her sing, it was like a wind blowing on a wheat field. The people began to swoon in the presence of God and then collapse in their seats—converted to Christ! God's power was moving through the music. The dream ended.

My thoughts upon waking were clear. There is going to be a new sound and distinctive anointing from the Lord upon music that will turn the heads and capture the hearts of men and women for Jesus. The reason the Beatles power Amp was in the Church's equipment room is because God meant for it to be a part of the church's equipment in reaching the lost for Christ. Music does not belong to the world, but to the Church. Music does not belong to the Devil, but to Christ. Satan has indeed stolen the hearts of musicians and their gift of music to use for his own evil purposes. The Church in many cases has unwittingly surrendered this to the devil without any fight at all. Music was given to worship the Lord but Satan has turned it for self-worship, which is the reason people tend to worship musicians. But true worship and true music belong to Jesus Christ. They are given to His church to serve Him with. I truly believe the anointing the Lord will release on music is going to sweep the world in a manner like the Beatles did when they first performed. But instead of drawing attention to themselves (like the Beatles did), the anointed musicians of the Lord will draw attention to Christ alone and give Him all the glory.

In the third dream I was again in the large church where I had seen the amplifier. This time the church was empty except for one man. He was up on stage playing a keyboard and singing to the Lord. It was a beautiful song, and he was crying because of the tender exchange taking place between he and Jesus. He was writing the song right there, spontaneously making it up as he went. I was greatly moved by this song and the man's pure worship. I had a camera with me and decided to take a picture of this to remember it. I took two Polaroid pictures that came out immediately. When I looked at these pictures I was stunned because both of them were glowing with a golden light. I looked up and then I could see it on the man. The entire platform around him was also glowing like gold. I knew that this was the anointing of God. I showed the man, but it startled him...He looked at the pictures for a second, putting his hands in his pockets he shrugged his shoulders and kicked the ground shyly. "Gosh, I didn't know you were here, I'm so embarrassed" was all he could say. "You don't have to apologize for the anointing" I replied. The dream changed. I still had the two photographs of the anointed worshipper in one hand, and in the other I held a parchment. I looked at the scroll and saw it was a letter written by an unknown soldier in the Salvation Army. It said, "The Lord will release into the streets an army of worshipping warriors known as the Sons of Thunder. They will bring forth a witness of worship and praise for the Lord Jesus Christ that will bring many people to God."

The dream changed once more. I was floating over a wide and long highway that headed in one direction. All lanes were completely grid-locked, jam packed with motorcycle gang members, revving their engines and stirring up dust. It was a graphic picture of lost humanity. Then I saw a group of bikers moving in single file along the service road. They were headed for a field in the distance where there was a monolithic stone. This stone, I knew in the dream, represented the power of Christ and would empower those who touched it to go back to the highway and turn masses of lost people back to God. I looked closer at these motorcyclists as the sped toward the Stone, and saw on their jackets the words "Sons of Thunder."

As the Sons of Thunder approached the Stone to touch it, a barricade of law officers stood arm to arm in riot gear, opposing the motorcyclists - assuming they were intent on defacing the Stone. At that moment, I took the parchment in my hand and folded it like a paper airplane. I then placed the photographs inside it and tossed it sail over the heads of the officers. I knew that if the pictures and the promise were to touch the Stone, then the power would be released upon the Sons of Thunder. When the paper was one foot away from the monument, just before actually touching the Stone, my dream ended. I believe this portrays the role of intercessory prayer in helping the Church get past the barricades of legalism, and open the gifts of God for reaching the lost with the message of Christ. The Sons of Thunder, represented by motorcyclists on the service road, illustrate the servant heart of ministry. They also show the agility and decisiveness necessary in reaching the lost. The fact that they were in single file shows, in my opinion, the unity we must maintain as Christians in order for our message about Christ to have credibility...

Now, I extend to you a prayer that God will capture your heart and bring you into full devotion to Christ Jesus. That your passion for music will be equaled by your love for the lost. I pray that you will receive an anointing from God to minister with artistic creativity that is so compelling in its quality, and in its message - that thousands of unbelievers who are lost in darkness will see the light and turn to Jesus to be cleansed and born again!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Limping Together to Change the World

Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Who are you standing with? Are you a Barnabas waiting for that Saul? Or are you a Timothy waiting for your Paul? Different seasons require that we stand with different people; yet, there are times when we wear multiple hats at once. We are a Barnabas to an emerging leader while as a Timothy still receiving oversight by a well seasoned father in the Lord. My point is this: Are you connected with the RIGHT people? Whom has the Lord called you to build with? Whom are you walking with?

I wrote the following excerpt to a father in the Lord this past weekend for Father’s Day; a man who is dear to my heart:

Humility is absolutely essential for significance in building the kingdom of God. Honestly, I don’t trust people who don’t walk with a limp. Those who limp are the ones that I want to build with. I teach frequently on the path of humility because we need to be reminded of it in our day and age of self-exaltation, instant gratification, and ego-casting.”

We should discern if a person walks with a limp, which is a mark of a man or woman having wrestled with God and lost.

A prophetic intercessor friend from Canada – Cathy Coulson – is earnestly praying for the emerging generation, wrote this to me several weeks ago:

God seems to be speaking to me about this generation (tweenties) as being the “Jacob Generation”…For some reason it seems to me God has a special love in his heart for this generation.”

To me, a “Jacob Generation” speaks of a generation that walks with a limp, a sign of one who has wrestled with God in the secret place, and lost. Yet, in losing we are given a new name – a new identity.

Genesis 32:22-30 (NIV)

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.
28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

This divine confrontation of sorts involves the “Me Generation” coming face-to-face with the reality of its condition – both personally and as a generation – before the face of the Almighty. This, I believe, will produce a deep brokenness in the hearts of this generation. Yet, it will emerge with an identity that has been forged by the Spirit of the Living God, and not through the mass media and demonic influences.

"Father, bring us to this place of brokenness before You. Let us see as You see. Have mercy on us for the deception that we allow to persist in our hearts. Help us to seek Your face above ALL else. Help us to love You like never before. Grant us the ability to see You as You really are. Break our hearts. Allow us to become a generation that walks with a limp; free from haughtiness; vain conceit; selfish ambitions; greed and lust; jealousy; the pursuit of self-comfort; and anything else that would hinder us from walking in Your fullness. Connect us in the days to come with others who are also pursuing the narrow path. Yoke us together with those whose hearts burn for the things deep within Your heart. Together, as we limp, may we change the world as we serve Your purposes for this generation."

Let me rephrase my earlier question: With whom are you called to limp with?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

July 27, 2004: Prison to Praise

On July 27, 2004 I finished a book after a few days of reading: Prison to Praise. Upon putting it down, I determined that it would be wise for me to put into practice what I had just contemplated upon. (although I didn't agree with EVERYTHING written in the book) It was time to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only! Hence, I embarked upon the goal of applying the principle I had gleaned from this book: Praise God for the good, the bad, and the ugly! (my paraphrase!) Often we have difficulty cultivating a thankful heart even in the midst of backbreaking trials.

Sometimes we can even forget to praise God for the good things in life if we allow hardness to affect our hearts. We must not become calloused to the goodness of God: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) Be intentional about praising God for the good things in your life, even if they aren't immediately obvious. At that time we had recently moved to a new city in order to be a part of Grace Church. Thankfully we were able to connect with an amazing small group and with several significant friendships that have continued to this day. There was much to be thankful for.

Do we honestly believe the promise of Romans 8:28? – And w know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. God is able to work out ALL things, which includes the bad, for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. I had the previous month before reading Prison to Praise, lost my driving license due to a degenerative eye condition. I could never drive again unless my eyes were supernaturally restored. This abrupt change was quite a sudden shock, which seemed to highlight all else that I felt was unraveling in my life at that time. I was working as a legislative assistant for an organization on Capitol Hill that fought for conservative values – yet, my heart longed to be preaching the Word and pursuing intense discipleship with young adults. I had taken the advice of our pastor to step out of any ministry in order to allow the Lord to do a deeper work in my own heart. To say the least, I felt immensely discouraged and far from God.

Yet, this was the hardest to swallow. My own ugliness. My own sin that I had intentionally committed. And how could I even thank the Lord for the ugly stuff, I mean the sin that I had commited? Well, I started thanking the Lord for His forgiveness for the sin that I had previously committed against Him. I thanked Him for restoring my relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son. I even thanked Him for allowing me to go through some of the darkest hours of my life when I had rebelled against Him and for His mercy. I thanked Him for His love for me despite the ugliness that had pervaded my heart. At that time in my life, all that I could discern was the pain that somehow I had forfeited God’s calling. I can recall even writing in my journal about the pain of Esau who forfeited his birthright for a bowl of stew. It was to me the pain of nothingness that seemed more real to me in that state than the reality of my Father’s abiding Presence.

In the ugliness of sin is potentially found the beauty of brokenness – for this, He is worthy of our utmost praise! The Cross swallows our ugliness! I could continue to sin by dwelling on myself, or I could chose to focus upon the One who was worthy of my praise in spite of my ugliness. It isn’t about me, it is all about Him!

Back to the book that I was reading on that hot afternoon.

I decided to lock myself in the bedroom with no possible distractions so that I could simply focus on Jesus and cultivate a heart of praise concerning all the stuff that was going on in my own prison. At first I found it rather awkward and difficult to thank the Lord for things that, well, seemed to be causes of such heartaches in my own life. Yet, I persevered and found the stream of grace to focus my affections upon Him. After three hours I was able to genuinely thank Him even for the difficult, painful things in my life. Although I didn’t “feel” different, I could discern in my spirit that something had shifted.

It was obvious that from that day forth, many new things being to bear fruit in my life, which was once a barren wasteland.

This seemingly small, insignificant, obscure change in my life generated a life-altering pathway for me in the years to come. The “Prison to Praise” breakthrough is a shift that was preceded by the willingness to praise God even for what I perceive to be negative circumstances in my life. What is happening in your life right now? What seemingly negative situations can you praise God for in your own life? How can you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving even in the midst of hard times? What are some of the insights that you have learned concerning praising God in the midst of the good, the bad, and the ugly that you could share with us?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Phil Sawyer: People Get Ready...Jesus is Coming!

I want to share this prophetic word that a young man from my church put on his facebook site. It really resonated with my heart. His name is Phil Sawyer and he is about 18ish and comes from a rock solid family who are devoted unto the Lord Jesus. Truly a precious family and this young man has an exceptional call upon his life.

June 3, 2007

"OK, so here's what I'm feeling from the Lord right now:

Righteousness, Redemption, and Revival are coming to our nation!!! I believe it!! I feel the groanings and shakings of it in the Spirit.

And I believe that the Fall is going to be a time where shakings and, ultimately, BREAKTHROUGH happens on a scale we can't even comprehend right now...I honestly think that we just don't have any scale to measure what God is wanting to pour out! That being said, I think this summer is a CRUCIAL transitional season...a season of preparation. I feel an increase in the activity of the the lives of individuals and over entire regions...and I believe that something bigger than what we see is happening...God is divinely setting things up! I feel an urging in the Spirit to surrender ourselves totally to His mercy and power. There is a greater measure of grace that's coming!! In fact, in many ways, it's already here. And it's here to LIBERATE the CHILDREN OF GOD!!!!

There is a nation-wide REPENTANCE going on right now. I earnestly feel that it's something that the entire church in America NEEDS to be in. This is really not a good time to have a normal summer. This is really a good time to cry out to God like never ever before!

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:13-14

Let's forget what lies behind. I just especially keep thinking of past experiences...specifically those in which people sought God radically and were disappointed, so have since settled into a "well-balanced" Christian life. Man. I just really feel that it is time now to "[forget] what is behind and [strain] toward what is ahead." And the beautiful thing about it is, is there is no hype or striving involved!! God has just really reminded me that it's OK to feel nothing. It's not like were trying to jump on the "radical Christian bandwagon" where everyone has to be on Jesus high. It's actually OK not to feel that...but it's NOT OK to let that keep us from seeking the Lord!! He's so good, and He is coming to liberate us, and fill us with His Spirit and His power, and make us burning shining lamps that shine with the fire that's in His eyes!!!!! SO FORGET WHAT'S BEHIND AND LET'S RUN!"

Wow! Amen!