Thursday, August 24, 2017

Father forgive them

Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

Have you ever found it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you? Hurt is a real thing and we all experience it in one measure or another. How exactly can you forgive someone who has done the unthinkable? Surely some things are just unforgivable right?

I have been journeying through the process of forgiveness for a number of years now. It all became real for me two years ago as I went through a painful break up with my girlfriend. I moved to America to start a new chapter in life with nervous excitement but eagerness to launch into the unknown and get to know Adriane better. Things had been moving pretty fast in our relationship and I couldn't believe how blessed I was in finding someone who made me feel so appreciated and loved.

Four days after arriving in Redding California it all came to a crashing end! We sat next to her neighbours pool and as she began to share her feelings, I knew where the conversation was going. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and honestly I can't even remember what was said in that meeting, remembering only that we both wanted to stay in contact. Unfortunately we never did and although I tried, I rarely heard from Adriane again.

Throughout this time I was attending a ministry school in California. I was extremely depressed and yet through being present at this school, I was able to connect with God in deeper ways than I ever had before. I had noticed the roots of bitterness grow deep within me as time passed without hearing from Adriane and it was much easier to hate her than forgive her. Thankfully throughout most the year I didn't harbour any feelings of hatred towards her and did genuinely want the best for her or so I thought. God spoke directly into my situation through some of my assigned reading. I read the Supernatural power of forgiveness by Jason Vallotton. On reading how he learned to forgive after going through a far worse situation than mine, I decided it was time to end the pity party and move on with my life. Unfortunately my feelings of hurt were slow to get the memo and it has been a much longer process than I expected. I was shocked by his story and didn't understand how he could forgive in what seemed like an unforgivable situation.

Outwardly I had forgiven Adriane and even acted in ways to see her succeed. I knew that un-forgiveness would only destroy me and so I was very keen to do everything possible to bless her. Yet inwardly my thoughts were filled with resentment and self pity. I wondered how she could treat me so badly? I thought she was cold and nasty in how she dealt with the break up. One of the last things she said to me was that she struggled not to hate me. I actually revealed in the fact that she had said this because I knew the hatred she felt would ultimately destroy her and not me. Does this sound like forgiveness to you? Outwardly I was telling people how great she was and that I didn't harbour resentment towards her but inwardly my heart was darkened towards her. I was lying to myself through the whole first year. Proverbs 26:24 says "Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbours deceit in his heart".

The problem is I didn't know how to truly forgive her.

This morning I read the account of Jesus death. The bloodied and beaten, nailed and naked Saviour of the world hanging on a cross. He was without sin, coming to rescue humanity from the clutches of hell and what did we do? We crucified him. Such injustice. I guess I had always seen Jesus' sacrifice as a physical sacrifice and never recognised the emotional anguish of the cross. Isaiah says he was despised and rejected a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. He was completely misunderstood. He came to bring life and the people who he came to deliver, killed him. The emotional suffering he felt must have been tremendous and yet he said Father forgive them. What a powerful prayer!

I thought forgiving Adriane would result in a process of reconciliation. Unfortunately we never had reconciliation which left me wondering where to go from there and how I could continually chose forgiveness. My forgiveness hinged on a positive outcome. Jesus came to bring the ministry of reconciliation and yet I couldn't find a formula for reconciling my broken relationship.

Yesterday as I pondered through this I realised that Jesus came with a message of reconciliation and yet people still had a choice. They could still reject him and turn away and many did. Not everyone was reconciled through the cross and through Jesus prayer of forgiveness. It was available to all but not everyone chose it. Reconciliation is the message we bring but not always the end result of forgiveness.

There may come a day when I reconcile with the people I have fractured relationships with but I need to remember too that that day may also never come. Jesus forgave freely regardless of the outcome and I need to continue to do likewise. Today once again I chose the path of forgiveness and bless those who Christ died to reconcile to himself.

The process of Breakthrough

"Your breakthrough is coming"... "This is the year of breakthrough"... "You have a breakers anointing".. Whoa that's so cool!! At least it sounds cool but I haven't the slightest idea what that really means. It all sounds wonderful and I have said yes and amen to each and every one of these prayers, prophesies and encouragements in my last 2 years attending ministry school in Bethel church. Through many disappointments and discouragements in my time here, I held on to that promise that breakthrough was coming. The bigger the disappointment and heartache, the bigger the breakthrough that I would receive. This has been my philosophy and way to remain hopeful through difficulty. However I was beginning to get disillusioned. It was all promises with little or no fulfilment. I was reaching for the mountaintop when I was still hanging out in the valley.

It hasn't been all terrible. I have had moments that I can point to and say, that was a great day or I really shone in that moment. It just has often felt like a slow slog and not a significant breakthrough. I recently began to question why it always seemed like a battle for me and never an easy victory.

I came to realise that I needed a mindset shift. I stopped wondering how God would launch me to the mountaintop experience of breakthrough and started to seek him out in the valley. I discovered that it's often in our most broken and vulnerable place that we receive our breakthrough. I was looking for a moment in time that would make everything great. Make me feel like I was winning and thriving in life and yet God wanted to meet me in the valley. My definition of breakthrough being a 'one moment in time event' was keeping me locked in a perpetual state of disappointment and I needed to change.

So what am I saying? I started to see my story of breakthrough as a process and journey. God can bring transformation in a moment. Look at Saul' radical transformation but often change is a process. I stumbled upon a scripture in Deuteronomy that God highlighted to me this week. Deuteronomy 7:22 says 'The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.'

Wow!! Their enemies were driven out before them little by little. It wasn't a huge moment in time of deliverance or breakthrough but a process. The second part of the verse explains why that was so. Eliminating them all at once would have resulted in the wild animals multiplying against them.

What a perspective shift! It is Gods kindness towards me that he has released breakthrough in small pieces. He knows my heart more than I do. I wanted to be air dropped onto the mountaintop but he wanted to walk by my side out of the valley as we journey together to the top. He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). He meets us in our pain and walks us out to freedom. This has become my story of redemption. It's beautiful, full of Gods kindness and nearness. It may not have happened in the way I expected but as I embraced Gods goodness in my pain, he surprised me with his glory and transformed me. Giving God my pain and watching him create in me something beautiful has been my greatest success story. Now that is breakthrough!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Reception

List! 'Tis the morning hours in Glory.
A shadow through the mists doth now appear-
A troop of angels sweeping down in greeting.
A "Welcome Home" rings out with joyous cheer!

A traveler from the earth is now arriving;
A mighty welcome's ringing in the skies!
The trumpets of a host are now resounding
A welcome to the life that never dies.

Who is the victor whom the angels welcome?
What mighty deeds of valour have been done?
What is the meaning of these shouts of triumph?
Why welcome this soul as a mighty one?

She's but a woman, frail and slight and tender,
No special mark of dignity she bears:
Only the Christ light from her face doth glisten:
Only the white robe of a saint she wears.

She's but a soul redeemed through the blood of Jesus.
Hers but a life of sacrifice and care;
Yet with her welcome all the heaven's ringing,
And on her brow a victor's crown she bears.

How come she thus from sin's benighting thraldom,
The grace and purity of heaven to obtain?
Only through Him Who gave His life in ransom,
Cleansing the soul from every spot and stain.

See! As you gaze upon her face so radiant,
'Tis but the beauty of her Lord you see;
Only the image of His life resplendent;
Only the mirror of His life is she.

See with what signs of joy they bear her onward;
How that the heavens ring with glad acclaim!
What is the shout they raise while soaring upward?
"Welcome! Thrice welcome, thou, in Jesus' Name!"

Rest in the mansion by thy Lord prepared thee,
Out of the loving deed which thou hast done,
Furnished through thoughts and acts which have portrayed Me,
Unto a lost world as their Christ alone.

Hear how thy heavenly harp is ringing!
Touched are its strings with hands by thee unseen.
Note that the music of thine own creating
Heaven's melodies in hearts where sin has been.

See how the atmosphere with love is laden,
And that with brightness all the landscape gleams!
Know 'tis the gladness and the joy of heaven
Shed now by rescued souls in radiant beams.

Oh, that here on earth we may learn the lesson
That Christ enthroned on our hearts while here,
Fits and prepares the soul for heaven,
Making us like Him both there and here.

Doing the simple and homely duties
Just as our Christ on earth has done,
Seeking alone that the Christ's own beauties
In every heart should be caused to bloom.

Showing all men that the blood of Jesus
Cleanses our hearts from all sin below,
And that the life of the Christ within us
Transforms the soul till as pure as snow.

When we thus come to the dark cold river,
No night, no darkness, no death is there,
Only great joy that at last the Giver
Grants us anew of His life to share.

Given to John G Lake
in Tongues and Interpretation
while in Africa

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

John G Lake

In reading the life and sermons of John Lake I am struck by many uplifting and faith edifying ideas and stories but there is one characteristic of the man that stands above every other miraculous story and experience encountered. In Lake I see a beautiful representation of Jesus Christ. Lake clearly had his doubters and critics and was most definitely a radical thinker who stirred controversy in the church both in his time and indeed right up until today but then so also did Jesus and remains also to this day a divisive character. Not afraid to express his views and tackle some of the more challenging, hotly debated and often divisive topics in theology Lake voices opinions on dominion theology, Paul’ thorn in the flesh, soul absolution and most recognisably healing. Indeed his whole life was shaped by his healing ministry and his standing point was that it’s always Gods will to heal and that any doubt or questioning of this understanding shows a lack of faith in who God is and shows weakness in the life of a believer. He even goes as far as to suggest that the believer who does not fully believe in supernatural healing as a normal response to sickness is under the influence of the devil. He is very strong in his criticism of Cessationism and will be remembered as a revivalist who challenged their way of thinking and promoted the belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are as important today as they were for the first century church.

Lake was an admirer of John Wesley and the Methodist movement. Wesley’ call to be “ready to pray, ready to preach, and ready to die” was the calling Lake also viewed as the ultimate Spirit of Christianity. Anything other was in his words, a foreign spirit and a sissified substitute (pg 105). Battling against some common beliefs that God gave sickness and disease to some to build character or so they could glorify God in their tribulation, it was the 10th chapter of Acts that opened Lake’ eyes to who really brings sickness. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were Oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (pg 240). A further scripture reference from Luke’ gospel in chapter 12 said that a woman whom Satan hath bound reassured Lake that sickness was not from God or his will for anyone but from the devil. He argues that Jesus’ model prayer the Our father does not include an ‘if’ to thy will be done. It is always Gods will to heal and Jesus never refused to heal any who were sick or oppressed.

In his 17th chapter Lake outlines his argument for Divine Healing in a letter of reply to Dr. Elwood Bulgin and it is one of the most remarkable and compelling arguments I’ve ever read. In it he launches a stinging attack on medical science stating of Bulgin “you come to the dying, kick their hope from under them, and let them fall to the ground, and leave them to die without bringing them the true healing power in the blood and Spirit of Jesus” (pg 160). Known for his strong man theology Lake was utterly convinced that the church had believed and heralded the devils lie, that miracles were no longer for today thus robbing mankind of their rightful inheritance through the blood of Jesus (pg 241). Throughout his book he not only backs up his theology with scriptural arguments but also with countless records of healing stories from his ministry of Gods miraculous power at work. I was enthralled as I turned the pages to read of all these accounts but one in particular captivated my attention. In one of their meetings the Spirit of God fell so powerfully on the congregation as they lay prostrate they each began to pray and confess their waywardness to God. As Lake placed his hand on a mans chest he fell under the conviction of God and motioned for his wife. In her arms he confessed that he had been living in adultery and they wept and prayed together. The next day he called Lake to say that he had in fact had a diagnosis of cancer of the chest and the very area that Lake had laid his hand was where he needed healing. He removed his shirt to show that he had a visible mark for years of cancer on his chest which overnight had withered and turned a brown colour as if burned by the fire of God. It totally disappeared a few days later. What a remarkable tale of God’ healing and restoring power. In yet another story Lake describes the condition of a 6 year old boy, born with a closed head. As he grew the distortion of his head took the shape of the hull of an upside down yacht and he became paralysed. Then as a 12 year old and under Divine healing the bones in his head softened, his head was reduced to normal size, the paralysis disappeared, and he became like any regular child. Incredible! These are just two examples of many from the pages of his book which back up his preaching on healing.
When all is said and done and every angle of theology scrutinised Lake gives a warning to stay hungry for the word of God. Losing ones appetite for the Book and choosing rather to talk with people or read books about the bible than the actual bible is a sure sign that one has backslidden (pg 390). A really good reminder to those of us who value theology and study.

One final challenge I felt from Lake’ teaching was on prayer. He describes some prayers as an offence to God. Sometimes God is requiring action from his people and we turn it back on God with our prayers asking him to intervene in the situation and have his will. While these prayers might be well intentioned, Lake describes them as weak and offensive. He says “It is a humility that is always hiding behind the Lord, and is excusing its own lack of faith by throwing the responsibility over on the Lord” (pg 415). Reading his words I began to search myself to see if I was guilty of praying such prayers.

Amongst all his stories of healing and his numerous arguments to support his belief system, I was encouraged to read that Lake valued above all else getting to know the author of the book and the one who brings the healing. Lake has challenged my thinking with his compelling arguments. He has captivated my imagination with his stories of Divine healing and I’m left to draw a similar conclusion to Rev. A.C. Grier in Truth Magazine, “John Graham Lake has a ministry more like Jesus Christ than any man I know.”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

There's something about Mary

Yesterday I visited my 87 year old Granny to say my goodbyes before leaving for America. Something happened during our chit chat that really resonated with me although I wasn't fully sure why. I had been sharing a little about my school in America and how I will be learning and deepening my relationship with God when the phone rang. My Aunt Mary left the room to answer it leaving just Granny and I to continue the conversation. As I continued to talk I noticed her lean back in her chair, and with arms folded, she raised her head to one side. At that moment I became aware of how long I had been talking and that she had something to contribute to the conversation, so I quickly shut myself up. "Paul, you remind me of Mary" was her observation. I looked out at the Kitchen assuming she was talking about my Aunt but as she continued I realised it wasn't her she was referring to.

"She just sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha busied herself in the Kitchen" she explained. I smiled as I enjoyed the delicious irony of my Aunt Mary (not Martha) busying herself in the kitchen as Granny drew this comparison. Granny went on to explain how she was so proud that I am pursuing this course and taking time out to prioritise my relationship with God above all other pursuits in life.

This morning as I reflected on our conversation I flicked over to Luke' gospel to read the account of Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary and it was water to my soul. I realised how encouraged I was that Granny drew a comparison between myself and Mary because all I could see in myself was Martha. I'm taking it as my Granny' prophetic voice!

Being so worried about my financial lack recently I was challenged by the words of Jesus to Martha. "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled by many things". That was me for sure! Allowing anxiety of bills and tuition expenses to get in the way of what Jesus wanted to give me. Jesus continues to say that only one thing is needful and that Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

I realised from my reading this morning that society and even the church, too often gets busy with the things of this world. Most my conversations about leaving full time employment to pursue a journey of rest and focus on God, is met with rigorous questioning and profound confusion. It does not really sit well with people in my inner circle. It's seen as a lazy option and draws a reaction not unlike the reaction of Martha in the story and yet Jesus says Mary' choice was the good portion and it wouldn't be taken from her. Sometimes in life suspending employment to attend to matters of the soul is the greatest choice.

It's interesting for me to think about Martha in this story. We often paint her in a bad light because of Jesus' correction but she too was a follower of Jesus and he loved her deeply. Sometimes in our affection for Jesus we get busy with work and while that is sometimes what he is requiring of us, more often than not he is calling us to sit at his feet. We must be careful that we don't become like the double minded man in James 1:8. Unlike Mary, who received as much as Jesus was willing to give, the double minded man is in danger of not receiving anything from him. In this passage the writer of Hebrews is specifically talking about doubts but the principle can equally be applied to the story of Martha. She is a follower of Jesus and yet in her devotion she becomes so busy and distracted that she is seen as double minded and ultimately is in danger of missing out on what Jesus has to give.

I have decided that in order to not have my portion taken away from me I am going to cast aside anxiety and as the wise business man Stephen Covey once said "keep the main thing the main thing". Embracing what my Granny see's in me, I choose to be like Mary and sit and draw life from the feet of a King.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gambling on Gods goodness

When I was in College I had a friend, lets call him Tom who was what people in our inner circle called a smart gambler. Horses was his game although other sports didn't deter him from the occasional flutter. He would calculate odds and spend months on end studying the form of a particular horse before ever placing a bet. Of course when he eventually did it was a particularly sizeable bet. At least to us College students it was and at times he could have up to 500 or 600 euros riding on one race! While most of us saw this as a ridiculous risk to take, to him it was smart and calculated. Most of us would have lost that amount of money on multiple bets in the length of time it took him to finish studying one horse. He saw our approach as a ridiculous risk to take. Tom became quite popular in college for his dedication and commitment to betting and it was Tom that people approached when looking for racing tips. It turns out his approach was seen as the lesser risk and people valued and respected his opinions for it.

I found myself caught up in this world of gambling in college. I was captivated by Tom and would spend hours sitting and learning from him in a bookies often at the expense of my structural design lectures or my early morning class on land surveying. I wasn't really that interested in horses or in making money through gambling so what was it that drew me? The lure of money was never a strong motivator for me. So what was it then? Honestly I believe it was a number of things. I loved to win. I loved the excitement of gambling. I loved the highs and the lows. Perhaps though on a deeper level, I loved the sense of accomplishment I got from choosing a winner. I loved the attention and congratulations I received after picking a winner. In those times I felt smart like I had tapped into a cleverness that gave me an edge over other gamblers. I loved the time spent with friends checking the form books, planning our race cards and deliberating over and accumulating odds together. I felt like I was part of something. We were the underdog band of brothers taking on the greedy bookmakers and eventually going to take that one elusive windfall.

Yet looking back now we lost a lot of money and our decisions were not always clever. I recently went back to a card room to play a poker tournament. In those earlier college years I spent many nights grinding at the tables but it had been years since I darkened the door of a casino. Two friends asked me to go with them and I thought to myself it might be fun. For one night only, Ill relive the glory days. I didn't play with as much money as I would have back in my former years of betting but I didn't find the glory days either. There was still an excitement within me chasing the win but the people in that room seemed desperate and hopeless, searching for something that could not be found in that perfect roulette spin or in flopping aces over kings. It was a far cry from what I remembered in my college days and yet it probably wasn't that different.

Today I was sitting in my living room watching the sun rise while spending time with God and reading my bible. I have found myself stressed and anxious over how I will find money to support myself this year as I no longer have a job. Interestingly it was in this moment that I felt God remind me of my gambling days. I began to ask deeper questions of myself. Questions like why do I enjoy gambling? What is it that pulls me in? I already mentioned that it's never been about the money.

I want to be careful not to offend people as I do realise so many people and families have been ripped apart and lost everything through gambling addiction but I felt God speak to those questions by saying he placed that gamblers spirit in me. What?? Surely not! That can't be the voice of God!

Well wait, let me tell you the statement I heard and then attempt to qualify it. As I sat there worrying about whether the money would come in for my school year and if I would be able to pursue everything that was in my heart to do, I heard a voice in my spirit say, Paul I want you to gamble on my goodness. Gamble on your goodness? What does that actually mean? I began to question how I see my heavenly Father. Do I actually believe that he's a good Dad? As I turned the pages of my bible he started to speak to me again. Will I not provide for you as I did for Abraham? For Moses? For Joshua? For countless others?

The definition of the word 'Gamble' is 'a risky action undertaken with the hope of success'. As I meditated on this I reminded myself that the Christian life is not for the faint hearted. Somehow we have allowed the world to influence the church by celebrating safety, security and stability and yet Christ calls us out of our comfort bubbles to embrace risk and the unknown. The dictionary definition places the risk in a hope of success. This hope is of course a faint hope of things getting better in the future. This is where the conventional gambler differs from the Christian life. We don't place our hope on a future success but on a past one. Christ risked everything to come for fallen man. What a gamble! The stakes are always high with Jesus. He said that whoever clings on to their life will lose it but whoever gives up their life for him will find their life. (Matt 10:39). To the rich young ruler he said to gain treasure in heaven he needed to sell everything (Luke 18:22). It's all are nothing with Jesus. It's high stakes and guess what? We are wired to seek after and go all in on these high stakes. It's time to be courageous and I'm not talking about the courage of my friend Tom who bet 600 euros on a horse but to have courage far greater. Lay down our lives as Jesus did and step into the unknown for the sake of the gospel. 2000 years ago Christ won the victory and we benefit from that windfall for all eternity.

One of my favourite movies Rounders sees young Mike Mcdermott played by Matt Damonn chase a dream to make it rich through playing poker. To him it's about learning a craft. Poker is a skill game and not really about luck. Of course in taking this view there often can follow crushing defeats and it can never truly be a sure bet. However gambling on Gods goodness is always a sure bet. The movie finishes with a great quote as Mike takes a taxi to Vegas to play the world series and it made me realise that there is not much difference between both his attitude and mine. My questions as to whether I will have enough money to survive the year and in stepping into the unknown I am taking a similar gamble to Mike McDermott. He is chasing a million dollars and betting on the strength of his cards and I am chasing real life experiences with God and choosing to bet on his goodness. Mike says.... 'first prize at the world series is a million dollars. Does it have my name on it? I don't know but I'm going to find out.

I might not know exactly how I plan on paying my rent or my missions expenses but I know God is a good Father and my provider. I don't have it all worked out but I'm going to take the gamble. Like Mike McDermott, I'm going to go and find out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

David gave his life to the Lord when we met him in the starbucks line. He was so overwhelmed by the Fathers love as we prophesied about his destiny.

This woman had very bad pain in her stomach and as we prayed together, all her pain left. Her and her husband then told me about their recently adopted daughter who has down syndrome and so we joined together to pray for her and released healing over her body. They were really encouraged by what God was doing.