Monday, July 30, 2007

Simple Church--One Stream of Several

I thought that I would actually write about simple church this week! Actually, I am writing about simple church as part of a larger picture that I know many of you also see and which I wrote about in my very first post back in February.

What triggered my return to musing about simple church? Several things. First, I recently read a book that addresses with wonderful clarity and creativity issues such as intimacy with God, what the real church looks like, etc. The book is called The Shack, and Eugene Peterson suggests that this book may become the Pilgrim's Progress of our generation. And although I have a few reservations about some of the theology (on page 136 the author has God saying that cancer is "good" for some people--something I don't buy for a moment but understand why he says it in the context), I do recommend that you read it and wrestle with it (it will definitely stretch you!). You can order pre-release copies at the author's website www.theshackbook. com.
The second thing that triggered my musings is that I started a simple church (designed ultimately to train and release several simple church leaders). As we have started to grow together as a group and have started hearing one another's stories, it has become obvious that God has brought us together around more than just meeting in a home or doing church in a simpler, more participatory format. Again, the same themes that I have been discerning for quite some time are arising again: intimacy, simplicity, supernatural ministry, ministry in the marketplace, a fresh wave of emphasis upon inner healing and deliverance, etc. Hmmm, I think God might be saying something right now...!
The third thing that triggered my musing was a picture that the Lord gave to me during my time with Him this morning. I saw a river delta with many streams flowing out of one large river that was coming out of some mountains far away. The delta ended in a dead lake, like the Dead Sea. People were moving out from the dead lake upstream on the various streams to green areas where the water was good and there was life, not death. Many of them stopped along the way and camped not too far along the streams, far from the source which was much higher up. It seemed that many of the people camped once the conditions improved enough for them to survive. This did not seem to be what was intended for them, though, and some people pressed on farther and higher to where the water was purer and "wilder" and the air cleaner, where everything got better and better. As I looked at main river, I could see that as far as my vision extended upstream whatever I saw became "more and better." I also saw that some who camped along one of the streams actually built tall, white edifices. I am thinking that perhaps they have built these edifices to heal the people who are on the journey before they continue on upstream. But I fear that some of them have built these edifices because they did not see what was farther up -- they could not see that their stream was only one part of a much larger picture.

Now here's my interpretation of what I saw. I think that this picture represents what God is doing in the church, and simple church, the return to intimacy, the restoration of the supernatural, the restoration of marketplace ministry, etc. each represent only parts of what God is up to right now. And although some people may indeed be called to camp along the way in order to heal folks on the journey to farther in and higher up, God's desire is for most to continue on upstream where the smaller streams merge into His larger purposes. I also believe there are also some of us, hopefully many of us, who are called to keep on climbing higher without stopping and from that perspective to encourage and admonish others to continue on the journey and not settle for just one small stream when a River is flowing farther along. Just a thought!

Before I saw the picture this morning, the Lord said to me, "I am challenging all of my children to ask me to close the gap between my Word and your experience. Let the tension between Word and experience call you to faith, to ruthless inquiry. Remember, child, that I told you more than once that everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and that includes your theology and paradigms. But don't ever be afraid, beloved son, because you will know in ‘your knower’ that it is I! The best is yet far ahead of you, but you are right on track." So what do you think? Is there more than one stream? Are we all supposed to be careful not to settle along the lower places? I wonder...

Stay lost in His love,

Tom, the least of Abba's children

p.s. Let me know what you think of The Shack!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Removing Some Common Obstacles to Healing

I promised last week to write up some of the lessons we learned as we prayed for people for healing in Brazil. Please note that I write as a novice in all this; there is much that is still a mystery to me (and mystery will always be a part of our walk with God, of course). But there were five things that seemed to pop up a lot as we prayed for people which once addressed allowed God's healing touch to flow into people's lives. I want to share these briefly in the event that they may prove useful to you. I will list the five obstacles and then turn them around into positive things we can encourage people with as we pray for them.

The five hindrances we saw were 1) unforgiveness; 2) hidden, unconfessed sin; 3) idolatry (trust in something other than God or unrenounced allegiance to other entities); 4) curses put upon the person by someone else or even themselves; 5) unbelief (failing to recognize God's goodness). Now let's turn these into positive steps for receiving healing. I will put these in the second person because I am quite certain that some of them may apply to you :-)

First, forgive everyone you can think of--anyone who has ever hurt you. The Bible is quite clear that failure to forgive others hinders the flow of God's forgiveness to us (see, for example, Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-35, Mark 11:25 and others) and surely this means that other things from God will be hindered as well. But many people have been hurt deeply and repeatedly by others and find it difficult to forgive. What do we say to people, for example, who were repeatedly abused physically and/or sexually as children? What I have discovered is that for severely hurt people, explaining that forgiveness is a process that can start now but will continue for as long as necessary helps them to see their first decision to forgive as just a first small step in a journey that God will faithfully take them on. Another huge help that I used often in Brazil was simply to pray for the person, asking God to heal their broken heart enough for them to start the forgiveness process. Time and again when I did this with someone, the Holy Spirit would come upon them, they would start weeping profusely and then reach a point of release where they were indeed able to forgive. This should not surprise us, of course, since Jesus will indeed always supply what we need to obey Him, so if He tells us to forgive others, He will enable us to forgive others.
Also in the area of forgiveness, be sure to include forgiveness for self. Anyone who hasn't forgiven him/herself for something can't possibly feel worthy of receiving any blessing from the Lord.
Try this, folks! It works. I cannot recount how many folks received physical healing or deep inner healing and deliverance after forgiving those in their lives who had hurt them.

Second, bring out into the light any unconfessed sin. Again, scripture speaks of this with clarity; see James 5:14-16. I have pondered this much--why do we need to confess our sins in order to be healed? Aren't we forgiven already? Yes, of course Jesus died for all of our sins, and they are all covered by His sacrifice (even the ones you haven't committed yet!). But when we fail to bring our sins out into the light they have a way of eating away at our faith for healing. Hidden stuff seems to cause a general sense of unworthiness to hang over people. And my experience with most folks is that, at least in the North American church, we don't really confess our sins at all--not even to God (as mentioned in 1 John 1:9). Thus we have this hidden backlog of guilt and shame that needs to be brought out into the light.
Again, try this! Especially in the area of inner healing and deliverance, and even for physical healing, we found that many people were healed once things were brought out into the light through confession.

Third, renounce any allegiances to "other gods." In Brazil this often meant having people renounce past involvement in various forms of witchcraft or the occult either personally or by a family member. Even in the US renouncing occult involvement is becoming increasingly necessary (I am sure you know this!). And beyond that, Paul even defines greed as idolatry (Ephesians 5:5), so I encourage folks to renounce anything that they have put their confidence in besides God (hmm, what am I really trusting in????). In this area especially, I encourage you to ask God for discernment when praying for people. Many times people don't know that great grandpa was a Freemason or that grandma used to dabble in the occult, etc., but the Holy Spirit knows and will reveal these facts as we listen to Him!
Again, untold numbers of times, healing came only when people renounced ties and allegiances with the occult, with witchcraft, etc.

Fourth, break any curses that others or even you yourself have placed upon you. In Brazil, many times we had to trust the Holy Spirit to reveal curses put upon someone by a relative, an enemy, etc. It is no different anywhere else. Even in the US, although witchcraft type curses may not be as common, I have discovered that many people were cursed repeatedly by words spoken over them (for example: "You are always sick!" "You are so worthless!" "You won't ever amount to anything!" etc.). Curses, regardless of their origin or type, do hinder the flow of God's healing (inner and physical), but they are easily dealt with. I wrote about one example of this in my longer Brazil report. My partner and I were getting nowhere in praying with a lady until she remembered that her husband's mother was a witch. Once she revealed that, we broke any curses off of her in Jesus' name, and she was very powerfully touched by God.

Finally, ask God to reveal His goodness to you! Most unbelief boils down to us not trusting in the love, kindness and goodness of God. And since someone's faith, at least, is required for God to release His gifts, it's important for us to eliminate unbelief by asking for a increasing revelation of the wonderfully blessing character of God. To the extent that a person is convinced that God truly is loving and totally good, to that extent that person will trust God for healing. If there's any doubt that God wants to bless, wants to heal, wants to reveal His goodness, then healing is usually hindered. Note, too, that this unbelief may not be on the part of the person receiving prayer. If the one praying is not totally convinced of God's goodness and God is requiring faith from the one praying (which He does!) then how will healing happen? Now here's the good news: God won't require more faith from you than you currently have, whether you are the one praying or the one being prayed for. And I have discovered that we can literally pray as I have suggested: "God reveal more of your goodness; Holy Spirit pour your love into his/her heart!" God always seems eager to answer that kind of prayer, and as He does, faith for healing rises to meet God's goodness and healing occurs.

Obviously, I could write much more about this (which in fact, I am doing), but my prayer is that this will be a good start for you in seeing some common hindrances to healing being removed from your life and from the lives of those you pray for. Let us hear from you, please, as to your experiences once you put these into practice--I know we will hear many good reports!

Until next time, stay lost in His love,

Tom, Abba's least child

Monday, July 2, 2007

Reflections From My Brazil Trip

Thank you to any who read this blog and who prayed for me during my trip to Brazil. Below is the first part of my reflections from the trip. You can download a 4 page version of my reflections from my web site, or email me for a longer version.

Tom’s Up Front Note
: These notes are personal reflections and are not in any way intended to promote me or what happened in and through me. I am deeply humbled that God should have touched anyone through me, and I recognize that I am a mere toddler in the supernatural realm. Others on the team saw far more happen than I did, and I truly rejoice with them. But I wanted and needed to make a personal reflection. And some folks requested a copy of this simply because of their interest in the things of God. Soli Deo gloria! (Latin for “To God alone be the glory”).

Trip Overview: A total of 80 team members, including Gary and Kathi and their support staff went to Brazil to train pastors and leaders in healing the sick, deliverance and inner healing and to leave an impartation for accessing the supernatural realm more fully, etc. We served the people of Brazil in two locations: Joinville (sponsored by a Foursquare Church) and Londrina (sponsored by Casa de Davi). We also visited a couple of orphanages in Joinville and received impartation and teaching in Londrina from Mike Shea and the others who are part of Casa de Davi (an incredible prophetic ministry in Londrina that focuses on preparing the Bride of Christ and emphasizes 24/7 worship, etc.).

Sessions each day included training/ministry sessions for pastors and leaders in the morning and more general teaching and healing sessions in the evenings. We concluded our time in each city with impartation services where we laid hands on people for impartation, starting with the pastors..

General Personal Reflections

The level of worship and the level of God’s power were something I have never, ever experienced! I learned more about healing, deliverance and inner healing in these two weeks than I had in the previous 10 years—it was like an ultimately accelerated course. All of us also received several personal impartations—I spent almost all of my time on the floor worshiping, repenting, receiving, etc.

God did some amazingly deep healing work in my own life even as He flowed through me to minister to Brazilian people and to some of the team members. One huge breakthrough for me personally was a revelation of God’s love for me that was more complete than any I have ever previously experienced. The combination of others loving on me and praying for me (especially some young ladies from Dallas and Dave Duggan’s prayer one afternoon) plus deep encounters with God while in worship and while alone, brought some kind of breakthrough that I am still processing. Another surprising thing that happened to me was that I was asked to be one of four speakers in Londrina, speaking to four different churches on four successive nights. God had told me that I would be speaking in Brazil, but I didn’t believe Him until Gary came up and asked me to speak. I am humbled and awed by God’s favor and trust that something of God’s goodness flowed through me.

Personal Lessons Learned

  • I am more convinced than ever that everything flows out of ever increasing intimacy with Papa God!
  • I am in anguish for the US church after experiencing what I did in the sponsoring church in Joinville. Rare indeed is the US church that enjoys the level of freedom and power that I saw in Joinville.
  • I continue to be challenged by God to minister only from the place of His compassion. I am appalled at how easily distracted I am while ministering to people so that I lose sight of God’s compassion. I am convinced that if we can minister from a place of rest deep within the Father’s heart, flowing in His compassion, we will see our faith rise to unprecedented levels that see the full release of God’s Kingdom power.
  • I will never be the same because of the repentance Mike Shea brought us to and because of the impartations I received from Gary and Kathi, from Davi Silva and from the Casa de Davi team and from other members of our ministry team.
  • I marvel at the many Kingdom connections that came on this trip for so many of us: Mike , a college professor (department head) was one; my roommate, Drew, was another, etc. I know beyond any doubt that this trip was the specific one I was supposed to be part of—something many others would also say.

Corporate Lessons Learned

  • The reality of the spiritual world was brought into bold relief during this trip. Western Christians are generally terribly na├»ve about how real the invisible world is and how it is the primary source of influence on our lives. This truth was brought home in a myriad of ways: the obvious spiritual conflict that was occurring all the time; the need for deliverance and breaking witchcraft before healing could occur, the teachings by Mike Shea; the presence of angels and the abundance of supernatural visions, words, revelation, etc. Wow!
  • The connection between the emotional, the spiritual and the physical became undeniably clear. I cannot recall praying for anyone who was physically healed who did not need to forgive someone or renounce something or have something broken off of them. Everyone seemed to need at least one of these, if not all of them, before being able to receive healing (physical or inner).
  • Mike Shea’s teachings on praying for the transformation of a city, on the Lord’s prayer, on the worship of the four living creatures need to be heard by everyone! Too much here to recount, but I plan to make his messages available to everyone (he gave us permission to do so).
  • The connection between unbridled worship—led by true worshipers—and the spiritual breakthrough that follows was forever cemented in my heart.
  • The need for everyone to continue to experience in deeper ways the Father’s love was also powerfully brought home to me. Related to this is our own need to minister only from love and compassion. I can’t count the number of people who asked me to pray for them to have the same kind of love and compassion that they saw in me, and I am just a tiny beginner in this!
  • Faith is a matter of the heart, not the head, and faith is something we must grow into. I know in my head that God wanted to heal people in wheelchairs, the blind, the little 5 year old paralyzed girl that I prayed for, but the level of faith in my heart wasn’t there yet. But growing confidence in the goodness of God, coupled with what healing we do experience, causes faith to move from head to heart. “More, Lord, more—for your honor and for the blessing of your people!”
  • Listening to the Holy Spirit is the most important part of praying for folks, whether for physical healing, inner healing or deliverance. I find that I am often too quick to start talking or asking questions of the person rather than tuning in to what the Spirit is saying. “Change me, O Lord!”
  • Every miracle is a wonderful kiss of love from a loving Father and a lesson to be learned from (as Pastor Bill Johnson often reminds us!).

I will write next time about what I learned about some hindrances to healing that we saw as we prayed for people. For now, I am off to a week of vacation!

Stay lost in God's love.

Tom, Abba's least child.