Friday, August 31, 2007

"Resting" in The Spirit

The term "resting in the spirit" or "slain in the spirit" has come up recently in conversation and one person in particular has expressed a desire to have this happen to him. What I'm talking about is the experience of dropping to the floor, unable to move or speak, as a result of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. As one who ministers healing prayer I've seen people overcome by the presence of the Holy Spirit such that they trembled beyond control. They've become radiant being in the presence of the flow of God's wonderful Holy Spirit. But, they didn't seek that experience when coming for healing; it just happened.

The person who spoke to me about wanting to be overcome by the Holy Spirit is a God-serving person; an associate pastor, worker in the mission fields, and a genuinely good soul. He has seen it happen to others and is now expressing a desire to have it happen to him. His expressed desire to be overcome by the Holy Spirit is why I'm writing (thinking) about it now. If it is his desire to simply experience it for the sake of thrill seeking, I tend to shun away from wanting to help him. If, however, he seeks a deep conviction for his sins and desires to know and serve God at a deeper level, then I should be eager to pray with him for God's presence to overwhelm him. I wrestle with discernment in this situation.

I don't ascribe to the overtly charismatic worship, preaching and prayer that fosters "experiential" thrills. I'm called to pray for healing. I preach about healing our relationships with God and each other. I pray that God mercifully restores health and wellness to those who seek His comfort. I believe that if it is within the context of wanting healing that this friend seeks to experience a resting in the spirit, God will lead me to pray with him. If led, I will follow.

As a footnote, some may say that there is no biblical support for being slain in the spirit. In John 18:6 when the Roman soldiers realized that they were in the very presence of God, they fell back. Today, after Christ's resurrection, the Holy Spirit's presence has that same effect.

Monday, August 27, 2007's all about Love

In recent healing services, I've been moved to contemplate upon the courage of those who come. I've also been moved to understand that it is all about the love of those laying hands upon those who come for healing. It is, indeed, all about love.

We sometimes forget that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that the world may be delivered from sin. It is in embracing that love, in a healing worship, that God manifests Himself. In that moment, God heals. Period.

A healing service that is based upon any particular individual's gift is erroneous. Rather, if it is based upon the love of Our Lord, through anyone there, then God's love is present and radiant. It's all about love.

Love. What a notion. Love for another, in the name of Jesus Christ, is all that one needs. Miracles happen, in the name of Jesus Christ. Period.

Them Thar Prophetic Guest Speakers

I watch the videos...I listen to the sermons...I study them all. There is the Elijah list, the prophetic movement, the word-faith movements, and the prosperity preachers. All a bunch of self-serving profiteers capitalizing upon the lost. I read of charismatic preachers brought up in the family trade. I read of those who've discovered the road to riches in the name of Jesus. How pathetic.

I pray that I learn that there is someone out there in the prophetic movement who isn't attracted more to capital enrichment than sharing the word of God. I fear that my prayers may go unanswered. I'm so drawn by the message they speak, while simultaneously being abhorred by the money they make. Let me illustrate.

A "prophetic" preacher is scheduled to come to our local community. On his website he states that a hosting church needs to be aware of the financial requirements to bring his prophetic message to their church. They must take care of all financial issues, such as airfare, hotel, food and other expenses, plus an "honorarium", plus be willing to have a love offering at all services. Add it up. Whatever the "honorarium" may be, there is the issue of the love offerings. Many ask for a love offering early in the service, then another when healing is offered, and another when they leave. But wait...if that "prophet" speaks at more than one event, the love offerings can really add up. If the "honorarium" is $1000, and the love offerings add to that...on a 3 day "conference" the evangelist can make 3 to 5 or more thousand dollars! More in urban environments. Beware!

When inviting some traveling evangelist to come share the word of God for you, in this time and age, beware. In all too many cases, it is a family craft handed down through the generations, as a means of making a good living. It isn't always about Christ...all too often about them making a good living.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Praying for a Cousin

Never thought I'd be moved to pray for someone at a family BBQ....but it happened. This last Saturday we were attending a family BBQ and I was overcome with the notion to pray for someone there. A second cousin...(at least, I understand that to be the relationship via my wife's relation) was in need of prayer. I didn't know it but she was pronounced with a terminal disorder, and I was compelled to pray with her. We prayed.

She was overwhelmed with the notion that someone would care enough to pray for her. I prayed for her. And she was overwhelmed by the spirit of Our Lord at that that prayer.
God rested mercifully upon her soul.

I don't know if any healing came from that experience, but I know that God spoke to me, to her, and to the prayer partner there...and it spoke powerfully. May God work mercifully in her situation. I just don't know what healing came from it.

I share this as I'm just a servant. I speak and pray where God tells me. I hope to be more open to this calling as I'm brought to it...but more importantly, to lift it up for all to come and receive His healing mercies. May God's mercy prevail!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bask in God's Love at Every Opportunity

My pastor said, "We need to have a healing service". A week later she said, again, "We need to have a healing service". Why I didn't embrace that invitation the first time I don't know. This past Thursday we had the service. I put the notice on our church sign on Monday and Thursday evening we had 6 people come, along with their spouses and other supporters. God brought us 2 with cancer, one with fibromyalgia and depression, one with heart problems and diverticulitis, one with demonic possession, and one who just wanted to be covered with love and compassion. The presence of the Holy Spirit was experienced.

What made this service so awesome is that we made it a formal service with holy communion. The presence of Christ at that time, through the confession, pardon, and the experience of dining with Him via the sacrament of holy communion was humbling and invigorating at the same time. I felt like God had set the stage to use our prayer team in a deeper, more loving way than in the past. And He did.

Each person prayed for had a joy and peace come over them that they expressed with thanks and gratitude to Our Father. How healing comes to each is unique. One felt an overwhelming of the Holy Spirit while being prayed for, another jerked with a sudden indwelling, another went limp and cried tears of joy, while the others simply smiled and felt peace for the first time in a long time. How awesome is the God we serve!

Friday I got a call from my pastor sharing how one of the attendees came to see her to testify how well he was feeling. I know nothing of the others as they aren't part of our community and haven't had any feedback as of yet. I do know this: Each of us experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in a deep, personal, yet corporate way. It was as if the church building itself was aglow and everyone inside was filled with joy and peace following the prayer time.

Prior to the service God put it in my heart to meditate on the courage that it takes for someone to come ask for healing prayer. I was moved to tears by it. My only prayer was that we would all come to understand that God's love is more than we can comprehend. It is more than we could ever give. All we have to do is be open to it, accept it, and trust in it. Experiencing that love washes away the things that ail us. We experienced that love Thursday evening.

Having to be asked twice embarrasses me. Why would anyone not want to jump at the opportunity to bask in God's love whenever the invitation is given? I'll not have to be asked twice again.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Prayers Do Get Answered - It Rained!

I came across a sermon illustration a year or so back about how to pray and what to expect when you pray. It goes something like this:

In the old west a community was in the midst of a severe drought. Everyone was desperate for rain. At church Sunday morning the parson told the congregation that if they sincerely prayed and truly believed, God would bring rain. He told them to go home, pray all week, believe with all their hearts, and surely the rains will come. Sunday morning as the people were coming to church, the parson was furious. He said "there'll be no church today, for there are no believers. You didn't do what I told you to do!" The people said, "Yes, Parson, we did as you said; we prayed all week and believed it would rain." The parson said, "You did not...where's your umbrella?"

Like the people in the illustration, we're in a severe drought in parts of Alabama and Georgia. Hydrologists are calling it a 100-year in it is the worst drought in a hundred years. Crops are failing, municipal water use is restricted, deep wells are going dry, it's bad.

At times like this, in our rural area, we are aware of those people who desperately need their crops to make it to harvest. For many it will make the difference between having food for the year or not. The only rain that comes is in the form of what they call "isolated popcorn showers", that is, in some areas a brief period of rain may come (typically late afternoon). With this as the backdrop, let me share our compassionate, sincere, prayer from this past Sunday:

"Dear Lord, you know the desperation of those who need your nurturing rains; you know that families need their gardens to provide for them for the year ahead. Have mercy on them. We pray that you bring the elements of your creation together for those who need it most, the families who need it most, and we trust that you will deliver. Thank you, Lord."

That was Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon, with no rain showing anywhere on the radar, a "popcorn" shower cropped up over our town. It rained! Monday, with no rain showing up for over a hundred miles on the radar...a "popcorn" shower developed and rested over our town for two hours. Tuesday, with no rain anywhere near, again it rained - over an inch - over our town.
A church member stopped by my office Monday and said: "God answers our prayers!" Monday night another member of our church commented on how special the Sunday prayer felt, and how they believed God would answer our prayer. Tuesday afternoon I was at the auto parts store and a local hay farmer came in and said, "I don't know where this rain's come from but it's just in the nick of time".

In that Sunday service, we weren't praying for relief from water restrictions; our lawns or We prayed that God would be merciful for those who needed His mercy the most. We didn't pray for ourselves, we prayed for others.

Intercessory prayer, even when it comes to petitioning for rain, is pleasing in the eye of Our Lord. May we all be inspired to pray for others with no thought for ourselves.

God answers our prayers when we believe He will. I believe.

Revivals - Do They Lack Something?

In the deep South in rural churches "revival" seems like a term lost in antiquity. I've been attending revivals throughout the summer and have made some observations:

Most attendees come to revivals to support their church.

Most revivals are not much more than something to do on otherwise routine evenings.

Most revivals are not much more than regular church, but with special music and guest preachers.

Not much reviving comes from revivals.

Are these offbeat perspectives of revival? I think revivals fall short of reviving any spirits; fall short of bringing someone to Christ; fall short of anything more than "church at night". Sad least for me.

I have a revival sermon inside me, one that is waiting for a forum. I believe that revival without a genuine change in one's walk with Christ is nothing more than "church at night". What of you and your church?

Mind you, I'm in a very rural area where only the churched come to revivals. No outreach to the unchurched. But I believe that is because the message doesn't reach beyond believers. What about the unbelievers who seek something to make sense of the world? They are the targets of revivals and the ones who should be coming and experiencing Christ's love for the first time in their lives.

I have a revival sermon inside me. I'll hone it, and perfect it, so that it is ready for when the call comes. Do any preachers or pastors have a revival sermon that they're anxious to share? Just wondering...after evenings of "church at night"...I'm just wondering.

I believe that revival for practicing Christians comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit. That's an awkward and uncomfortable notion for most...but the only true path to being revived in the Spirit. So, if the attendees at your revival are just the "already churched"...what message do you bring to them?

Just wondering.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gets "Smelly" When Asking for Money

I could and would buy into the ministries of those who offer the gift of healing if they only didn't ask for donations, love offerings, MONEY, in exchange for the loving mercies of Christ's healing power. Starts to kinda...stink...when money gets involved.

I've encountered some who have the genuine gift, but it somewhat spoils when they offer personal prayer...for a price. Kind of seems as if they are preying upon those willing to do anything for a fleeting grasp of hope. Am I the only one who sees these tactics as manipulative and capitalistic, first, and seeking to do kingdom work second? Just my perspective.

I've often thought about quitting the "working for a living" routine in exchange for doing The Lord's work and trusting that He will provide. As it relates to the healing ministry, I don't think I'm there yet. Maybe someday, but not yet. Something about mortgages, gas for the car, and all those other worldly expenses that make me just say NO to hanging a "healing" shingle. At this point in my life I'm afraid I'd be tempted to ask for money. Ain't going there!

When the time is The Lord's time...I'll go there. He isn't moving me there yet. When it happens, I'll gladly sacrifice security for prosperity in love and healing...till then, I'm at His beck and call without me asking for financial security.

This may seem an offbeat perspective for a servant seemingly anointed with a gift from God, but I have to trust that God will lead me to where I need to be in His kingdom, in His time and for His purpose. Who knows...tomorrow I may sell my business and give it all to God. Till that happens, I'll work by day, heal by night, and be open to the call to rethink my perspective.

I'd suggest that God challenges me daily to ask..."is today the day?". I'd further suggest that His honing my spirit in this way makes me further committed, day by day, to be drawn closer to His ministry for me. Frankly, doing the business thing while being overwhelmed by a fast or day of prayer is, indeed, making me more and more ready to accept a full time calling. I look forward to the day when I'm totally committed to being His tool. Again, till then, I'm like a marine in boot camp. Getting ready to face the enemy with full armor, but not out of boot camp...yet.