Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why is it important?

Okay, I confess...I am using a post from the House2House blog for their upcoming conference this weekend. I am co-facilitating a workshop on "relational Christianity" with Neil Gamble, Frank Viola and W. Paul Young (The Shack). Should be an amazing time! And since I doubt that my "viewing audience" has seen the other blog, I am posting here what I wrote there :-)

So why is it so important to get this “relational Christianity” thingy right? (Do you think the phrase “Relational Christianity” is redundant? Is there an “non-relational” version! Sorry, couldn’t resist!). So why is it so important to live first and most in intimacy with God, then in healthy community with one another which both lead to effective mission? Some of my thoughts are below.

Regarding intimacy with God. This is from my journal not too long ago.

I am now fully convinced that it was Jesus’ awareness of His Father’s love that enabled Him to live the trusting, completely dependent life that He did. And a life of trusting dependence is absolutely essential to becoming like Jesus. No one becomes like Jesus by trying to apply His teachings or follow His example.
Rather we become like Jesus by allowing Jesus to live His life in and through us. Our part is not to try harder, but to trust more and more deeply, and to surrender more completely to His loving guidance and power. Paul sums up both how to live loved and how to have Jesus live His life in us in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Notice how Paul personalizes Jesus’ love and sacrifice for him: “who loved me…” His deep personal experience of God’s love for him is what enabled him to live “the crucified life” – a life by which Jesus lived out His life in Paul.

Regarding healthy community. Consider that Jesus stated that the one thing that marks us as His people and above all other things validates the message of the Kingdom is healthy relationships! See John 13:34-35 and John 17:20-23.

Regarding mission that flows from intimacy and healthy community: Wow, I could write a lot here (indeed I have written a long paper about this one!). In a nutshell, Jesus was the most “missional” person ever to live, but He stated over and over that He did nothing on His own initiative. John 5:19 NASV says: "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'" And Jesus ministered from within a community (as did the Apostle Paul). Do we think we can improve on how Jesus did things? And do we really think our mission will have authenticity and power if we embark on it on our own initiative? Yet how many believers do you know who can honestly say, “I do nothing on my own initiative”? I rest my case... :-)

May grace embrace you, love overwhelm you.

Tom, the least of Abba's children

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Deep Wounds, Deep Healing

Charles Kraft wrote a book with the title I have listed for my blog this time. The title describes in a phrase my experience with Ellel Ministries in Western Canada July 20 through August 3.

Peter Horrobin, the founder of Ellel Ministries (which started in England many years ago) writes the following in Healing Through Deliverance, Book 2.

It is easy to understand with the hindsight of many ministries how wise some sectors of the early Church were to insist that people went through deliverance ministry after conversion and before baptism and Church membership. In some parts of the world, this is still common practice.
They knew that unless the converts were delivered of both the demonic powers that had controlled their own pagan lives and those that had come down the generation lines, they would end up with a demonized Church that would quickly assume an attitude of compromise with the world and would decline into patterns of spiritual death and religious routine. I believe there would be a far stronger Body of believers if this were normal practice throughout the Church today.
Unless the leaders of the Church embrace an active and ongoing deliverance ministry, I believe that every move of the Spirit of God will, in time, be quenched from within through demonic pressure. It is small wonder, therefore, that Satan so opposes and seeks to discredit the deliverance ministry, for if the Church is being obedient in preaching the Gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons, the Body of Christ will be a force that cannot be stopped from within or without.(pp. 94-95)
In recent years I have ministered to many elderly Christians, some of them with well known and established ministries. In the confidence of the counseling room, they have shared their inner problems, and some have been brokenhearted over the way they have had continuous struggles with temptations, often of a sexual nature, that they have been powerless to fight off. In many cases, such people have never understood that they are not just fighting temptation from without, or their own fallen flesh nature, but are struggling with demons within that have never been recognized. It is impossible to fight an enemy whose identity is never recognized.
How Satan must rejoice when Christians are taught that they cannot be demonized. No other teaching gives such rights to the enemy to walk all over the saints of God unrecognized and unchallenged. What a relief it is for people to realize that the thoughts and temptations they have battled with for years have an origin that can be dealt with through deliverance. (pp. 99-100)

My experiences during the two weeks of training bear out what Peter writes. Because the western church especially has been woefully ignorant about the need for deep healing and deliverance, many folks--even leaders--have lived with unnecessary battles raging on in their minds. I was one of those leaders. There were generational issues and things from my childhood and things from my "wilder days" that were buried deeply within me. They didn't affect me much, and as Charles Kraft says, any "critters" in there were quite miserable because of the intimate walk with God I have been pursuing, but nonetheless they were there. Looking back at my life up to this time in Canada, I have become painfully aware of how "captive" I was in terms of caring about what others thought of me, or in terms of being intimidated by strong personalities, of ministering many times out of my need rather than God's direction, etc. But the freedom I am now experiencing is so great that I would gladly pay the price many times over. And it was a price, believe me. I have never been so broken, so humbled, so dependent on others, etc. But somehow I also knew that it was safe to be that way, and humbling myself to whatever point was necessary was easier because of that safety. I am deeply grateful to God for the integrity and kindness of the Ellel leaders and staff!

Was the experience perfect? Of course not--nothing human will be perfect. I would have preferred an adult learning approach to the training (10 hours of lecture is a lot to endure in one day!), and I came away with more questions than answers in some areas. I also noticed a tendency in me to be fearful for a time after the training because of the intensity of what was happening and because of the focus on what the enemy is up to, etc. But I have by the grace of God shaken off the fear and am returning to the childlike joy that Father calls all of us to.

Where from here? I don't know for sure, but I am more convinced than ever that we all need to be able to set captives free and make that an integral part of making disciples. Papa God will show me/us more as needed.

Grace and joy to you,

Tom, the least of Abba's children