Thursday, July 28, 2011

Been a While

Tonight I attended the last night of the church's revival where I was pastor for 3 years until this past June. It was awesome. I was surrounded by loving church members. I was also invited by the new pastor to come anytime.

There is a love, a Christian love, that permeates everything. That love is in this church! I felt my spiritual batteries recharged and loved every minute of it. I truly hope to be able to make it back frequently to this loving church.

I pray that there is a loving, Holy Spirit filled, atmosphere where you worship. It is like the MasterCard commercials....Priceless!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

There's a Place

Often I wonder if it is only those in the monastic/contemplative bent who can find that special place..."the place"...where they meet God. Of late I've been finding myself in what I believe to be "that place" and being utterly overwhelmed by God's presence.

Sister Theresa of Avila found that place. Other saints through the centuries have found that place. It is a living, breathing place where God takes control of one's body, mind and spirit. And being willing to enter into that place is a very personal decision. Many good Christians view contemplative or quiet time with God to be a waste of time. They contend it's more like transcendental meditation or some New Age pursuit at the expense of studying The Word. I don't fall in that camp.

My first experience where the Holy Spirit totally overwhelmed me was around 1989 when I was praying to let Jesus totally into my life. I had been suffering from a painfully enlarged liver with no medical solution to be found. In that instance it just "happened". A result of that experience was that the liver pain was gone...and it remains gone to this very day. It was decades later before I found myself in "that place" once again. Four years ago when praying with two other men I again experienced being overwhelmed by The Spirit. The result of that experience led me to enter into pastoral ministry. God seems to do extraordinary things in my life after these experiences.

Fast forward to the present. In the past 3 months I've been deliberately setting aside time to sink into deep prayer; praying until the words run dry. My motivation is not to seek an experience, rather, to seek God's heart for healing in the lives of others. I follow the pattern of A.C.T.S. in my prayer:
  • Adoration for God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This adoration is so powerful that if you can imagine a medieval peasant being brought before a king to be honored...the trembling sense of unworthiness...the awe that a nobody like you can be in such great presence.
  • Confession to God for all my shortcomings. Bring to mind every bad deed, thought, action or inaction that separates one from walking in His will. Complete and total confession that I am a sinner, saved by grace.
  • Thankfulness for having the saving knowledge that I am a forgiven child of God. Thankful for each and every blessing...down to having clean water to drink and bathe in; having vision and hearing; food to eat; people who love me; every little thing that reveals God's grace being showered over my life.
  • Supplication for those who are suffering. Telling God how my heart aches for those in my world who are fighting difficult battles with whatever their particular demons may be. It's important to note that the supplications ARE NOT for myself. If we have surrendered ourselves to God's will then praying for ourselves is denying that surrender.
When entering into prayer in this manor - motivated by a hurting heart for another - God gives me the reassurance that my prayer is heard. It is in the final part, the supplication, where words run dry because I am not able to adequately express the depth of my pain for the person being prayed for. When the words run dry I find myself speaking in tongues. When I finally manage to stop listening to my words because they sound so strange, that language flows freely from my lips...being the exit from the wellspring of my spirit. Then the words stop. My mouth no longer works. My knees can no longer hold me up. Every muscle is beyond control. Sometimes it stems from a totally overwhelming peace yet at other times a totally overwhelming pressure. Jacob wrestling with God and getting a hip knocked out of joint comes to mind.

There are no appointed times or places for these intense prayer sessions. Again, I'm not seeking some experience, rather, surrendering to a calling to intercede for another. When my spirit gets "stuck" on someone and I can't get their hurt out of my head and heart...then its time to find a time and place to drop to my knees and pray this way Wherever that physical place may be, it becomes "the place" where God stops me from what I'm all about in order to let me know what He's all about.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unanticipated Feedback

As I prepare to step down from pastoral ministry our District Superintendent visited with our Pastor Parish Relations Committee this evening to discuss the future. I was at the meeting for the first part and he asked the committee what they thought about the time I was appointed to them. In other words, "how has Brother Marty done"? Their answers were humbling to say the least. No bad grades, just good ones. I thought that surely someone would have articulated the shortcomings I see in my ministry there but no, nothing bad.

I share this because of what was said when the DS asked about what positive things I brought to the congregation. All agreed that it was the healing services we conducted with relative regularity. I had NO IDEA that these services were perceived as powerful or meaningful. It was just me doing what I thought God was leading me to do. But it was more than that.

Unbeknown-st to me these services had a strong impact on those within the congregation. I thought it was them just giving into the wants of their pastor, but it was more meaningful than that. These services touched the people of the church in a way I hadn't imagined. One woman who was under the care of an orthopedic surgeon for "hand therapy" testified that the healing service did more for her hands than all the medical procedures. Another testified that a broken neck didn't require a "halo" because of healing prayer. Another said that a good year was added to his terminal sister's life because of prayer. I had no idea! No idea!

I pray that God uses me for His glory in whatever lay ministry I may go into. I'm just so utterly humbled to be on the sidelines when the report cards come in. I never ask nor ever will ask if prayer helped. I'll just hear the testimonies when and where God so wills that I hear.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Do Denominations Matter...Really?

Serious question...if you even care about these things. I've wondered about God's calling to me and I've come to the conclusion that it isn't being a pastor. Rather, it's being a non-denominational conduit for connecting with God's healing mercies. His healing doesn't have anything to do with Catholic, Methodist, Baptist or even the unchurched. It has to do with the love of Christ for every living, breathing human being. In the healing people come to testify about how God enters their lives. That's what it is all about.

Is it possible for us to embrace God's mercies regardless of our denominational relationship with Him? Hmmm...tough question. But I contend that God reveals Himself in every situation where His healing is experienced. If the testimony of the one healed brings someone to know Christ...regardless of denomination/persuasion...then the mission is fulfilled. Isn't God so much greater than what we give Him credit for?

Our an awesome God...who reigns from heaven above...with wisdom, power and love...our God is an awesome God. (Thanks to the late Rich Mullins).

Just my thoughts on Christian Healing. Where are you in God's plan? Are we above denominations and the sort and more importantly about God's plan for ALL? I wonder if we can embrace the healing mercies of Our Lord outside of our denominational affiliations. I just wonder.

Brother Marty

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Power of The Name of Jesus

Sometimes it seems that people don't give credence to the name of Jesus. It is a powerful name. All too often we fail to call upon the name of Jesus in life's situations. Shame. There's power in the name, power in the blood, and power in calling upon His name for whatever life throws at us. There's power in the name of Jesus. Can we all call upon Him in whatever situations we're in? Can we call upon His name for healing? Can we call upon His name for a map to navigate us through this thing called life? I call upon His name for healing, forgiveness, and fortitude. Call upon the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Thoughts on Leaving the Ministry

It’s peculiar how I was a lay speaker and how I routinely (at least annually) turned down opportunities to pastor a church. Mind you, in rural areas it is very common for a lay speaker to take a pastoral role because there are insufficient elders (official pastors) to take care of the small churches. While I routinely said “No” to the offer to pastor a church we got a new district superintendent. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, I took on a church…then another church. And now I look at the prospect of perhaps taking on another church. I’m done. Finished. Put to pasture.

I took on the pastoral task as a favor to the district in which I serve. Done it and have many T-shirts to show for it. But as of this summer at the annual conference, there will be a new pastor appointed to my church. I’m through “pretending” to be a minister when I’m merely a certified lay speaker. I’m announcing my resignation at our District Committed On Ministry meeting January 8th. It is with some regret yet some empowerment that I make my position known. Me, a regular parishioner, stepped up and answered the calling from the “boss” over the district to do him a favor. Two and a half years later, I feel I’ve answered that request and am calling it quits.

My calling is NOT into the pastoral ministry. My calling is to pray for people to be healed and receive Christ into their hearts. The weekly demand of coming up with a sermon and conducting services of worship IS NOT what I’m called to do. I’ve come to grips with this and am acting in accordance with this reality check.

So, “Brother Marty, pastor at Midway UMC” will no longer be my title. I will have no title and be empowered by that. I’ll just be that member of a congregation who has a gift and is willing to share that gift with anyone who comes forward to accept the power of Christ’s love into their lives. Nothing “official” from a pulpit…just me.

So, I thank those who may read this for their surrender of their lives to be set aside for the furtherment of the faith. I’m not set aside. I’m a bi…make that Tri-vocational Certified Speaker who stepped up when the call was made who has now determined that it is time to step down and become one who looks to the likes of You for empowerment and encouragement. I’m so terribly humbled to know the many pastors I’ve met in this short time I’ve been lifted up to be called a member of clergy. I’m not. Just a lay speaker who took a turn at being a pastor.

In the love of Christ….

Marty (NOT brother Marty)