Love & Humility

“If an experience fails to engender humility, charity, mortification, holy simplicity, and silence, etc., of what value is it?…In this faith God supernaturally and secretly teaches the soul and, in a way unknown to it, raises it up in virtues and gifts…When together with the words and concepts the soul is loving God and simultaneously experiencing this love with humility and reverence, there is indication that the Holy Spirit is at work within it.” -St. John of the Cross

As I was driving today, these were my thoughts…

I have experienced deep pain, I have felt the sting of betrayal, the dagger of rejection; I have felt the offense of close friends, I have been torn by the gossip of others. I have seen the hypocrisy of leadership and not pointed my finger; I have stood in the face of being falsely accused.

I have been wrong. I am often wrong. I have hurt people close to me. I have spoken pointed words knowing exactly where they will hurt the most.

And in all of this, in every situation, in all human and spiritual relationships, I have seen that only two things are worth experiencing them all: love and humility. If I can come out of these situations, whether I am the injurer or the offender, with love and humility, it’s worth it.

I’m not trying to rewrite a letter from Paul, though skimming them last night is probably why this is on my mind. It’s sounds so simple: respond well, taking the low road and love through the hard things. Yet so many of us choose the easy way of offense, selfishness, and pride, so we stay in our immature state.

I know many people who are twice my age and still take the easy path. I want to set my face towards the low, unattractive door. I want to come out of every situation with a little more love and a little more humility.

My First Blues Concert

I will never be asked to play music for the mayor of Roseville. It just wouldn’t happen. I’m sure he wouldn’t like spontaneous prophetic music even if he did want a concert of local musicians playing for him.

But let’s create a hypothetical scenario: I’ve been asked to play awesome blues on my cello for the mayor of Roseville (Lord willing I will be able to play awesome blues someday. For now I will be content with my hypothetical scenario.). You bet your hiney that I would practice night and day for that concert.

Without drawing out my imaginary blues concert for the mayor of Roseville, I’ll get to my point: when do we musicians who play 4-5 times a week for God practice to become excellent? How do we challenge ourselves so we can become the best? I mean, isn’t that what we should be, since we play for the most important person/audience/God?

And yet, in our carnal man-pleasing spirit, we see more value in being excellent for man rather than God. The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus is our great High Priest. I want to be one who plays with excellence, always improving, so that I can be worthy of that great High Priest. It’s not about a performance mentality, it’s about getting a new theology of grace. Do I come before God’s throne because of grace? Absolutely. Does an understanding of grace mean that God doesn’t want me to grow? No. He accepts me as I am — immature and selfish — but I don’t want to stay there.

So America Chose Obama

What will be our response? Will we despair and say that God doesn’t answer prayer, or that x group of people didn’t pray enough? Will we be offended and shake our fist at God, claiming He didn’t come through for us?

I was impressed with IHOP-KC’s response within minutes of Obama’s victory. They interrupted the last half of their Worship with the Word set to inform everyone of his win…and immediately called a rapid fire to pray for him. Person after person told the Lord, “Thank you.” There was no hesitance in this response, and I know from living at IHOP that they weren’t prepped to say that either. No, those people have some knowledge of God, and their first response was to acknowledge that even if they didn’t know why He would want this man in power, they were going to trust Him.

Why does God want Obama in power? Maybe it’s reaping consequences or His righteous judgment — however you like to label it. But I don’t think so. I don’t know much, and even though I grew up in a political family with two parents who graduated with Poly Sci majors and I used to breathe talk radio, I have let my politics slide (on purpose) for the past 3 years.

I think God’s giving us two things: an invitation and a sign. The invitation is for Christians to realize that they need to be praying. I want to scream Jeremiah at them:

“O my soul! My soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.” Jeremiah 4:19

The second is to realize that God is orchestrating world events for Jesus’ second coming. It’s really going to happen, and soon. That’s going to seem far fetched to most of you, but I’ve been studying the end-times for almost 3 years and I can tell you this much: Matthew 24:3-9 is not far away.

Série de Prière: Intercession (Part 2)

“In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills. Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view.” – Richard Foster

Practical Steps

In my limited experience, I have learned that listening is the most important part of this kind of prayer. We must not assume we know God’s will on a matter (unless clearly defined in Scripture) because then we can twist our prayer to suit our own motives or misconceptions. Rather, before I even begin to intercede, I ask the Holy Spirit several questions about the person/situation. I ask for certain scriptures to pray, what God thinks of them/the situation, what my position is to be, etc. Then I can intercede with authority because I know I am in alignment with God’s heart.

Beyond receiving direction from the Lord on how to pray, there’s really no formula for intercession. It can be practiced as a two-word prayer, internally as you’re going about monotonous tasks, or very focused in a prayer room. It can last two seconds or several hours. The goal is not the quantity of time or amount of words — as I said before, many words encourage distractions — but instead praying in alignment with God’s will. It is when we pray God’s will that we see our prayers answered. Please know that just because you have direction from the Lord on how to pray, it does not mean He will answer right away. In my post on Luke 11, I went into depth on the importance of persistence in prayer.

Something I learned at IHOP is how important it is to pray positive prayers. All of the apostles’ prayers in the Bible are positive, praying for what would be in the churches instead of focusing on their weaknesses. (While on the subject, apostolic prayers are great tools for intercession. A list of them can be downloaded here.) It is vital to keep our focus on God in our prayers. In Luke 11, the man that needed bread didn’t pray against the lack, he went to his friend with the bread.

A couple weeks ago, a young married couple asked me to pray for them. I didn’t know what they needed prayer for, but I spent about 3 hours asking questions and interceding for them before I went to their house. After I spent only 15 minutes praying for them, I could see fresh hope in their eyes. The Lord had spoken to me and used me to encourage them — and I was just as encouraged to know that I hear from God!

Recommended Reading

Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar

Crafted Prayer by Graham Cooke is a 95 pages of wisdom on focused, effective prayers

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Intercession (Part 1)

I’ve left the most complex subject for last. I’m timid about defining intercession for three reasons: a) people I respect disagree with my definition, b) hundreds of thousands of intercessors have gone before me and must know much more than I, and c) because there is so much to be said. But the rule is that I speak from my own experience, so here is my humble definition.

What is it?

The simplest definition is this: intercession is praying for others. (The dictionary definition of intercession is “the action of intervening on the behalf of another.”) I like to tag on to that definition that it is taking a position between God and man — partnering with God’s heart for anything outside of yourself and asking Him to bring His purposes to pass.

I can’t move on from “what is it?” without addressing why I think the intercessors are the most burnt-out part of the Church. We must have a foundation of who God is and who we are before Him before we begin to seriously intercede. If we do not, we begin to strive and look to man for validation of what we are doing. I wrote about my experience of finding my identity before God in prayer in my series on enjoyable prayer (which can be found here, here, and here).

“Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7

God has things He will or won’t do based upon our intercession (Jer. 5:1). We see several times in the Bible that God changes His mind as a direct result of someone praying. My favorite example is Moses:

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen [Israel] and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!”
Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.’
Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Why should the Egyptians speak and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”
So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” Exodus 32:9-14

God has given us an unprecedented dignity in our prayers: even to the point of changing His mind.

In my next post, I’ll cover some practical ways to intercede, as well as some encouragement of the fruit of intercession that I have seen in my own life.

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Communion

“God [is] Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

What is it?

I’m not here to talk about the Eucharist, though that’s a good form of communion too. The word “communion” simply means sharing something in intimate fellowship/friendship. The kind of communion I am talking about is the internal relationship we have with the Holy Spirit.

Why do it? Well firstly, it is repeated over and over that Jesus communed with the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 10:21, John 1:33, etc.). I also find it interesting how much Jesus stressed abiding with the Spirit right before He went to the cross (read John 14-16).

In my own life, I find that the more I focus on communing with the Spirit on a moment-by-moment basis, the less I sin: I make better decisions because I follow His leading and I am generally more joyful as I remember God is walking with me throughout all my circumstances.

I have posted this quote before, but I believe it sums up communing with the Holy Spirit better than I ever could:

“There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to the divine breathings.” – Thomas Kelly

Practical Steps

Jesus said the Father would give the Holy Spirit to His children if we ask (Luke 11:13). I don’t have bullet-points for this type of prayer, just suggestions.

Try to develop an awareness of the Spirit within you all the time. You may have been consumed with the natural all day and then all of the sudden remember about Him — that’s great! Talk to Him internally when that happens. If you’re stressed out, thank Him for who He is (e.g. “Thank you Holy Spirit for your peace”).

As I’ve progressed in this, I find that I can have a normal conversation with someone and be consciously adoring the Lord and as I have to make small decisions, I ask Him what I should do. Sometimes He gives me specific direction, other times I know that that it is my choice.

Recommended Reading

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is a small but insightful book on communing with the Lord throughout the day

Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen is an easy read on unceasing prayer, among other subjects

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Meditation

What is it?

While Eastern meditation attempts to empty the mind, this kind of meditation is an attempt to consume it with God. Biblical meditation is setting yourself before the Lord to receive revelation from His Word. The purpose is to receive more of the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5 says how to get the knowledge of God and this is the first step: receiving God’s words and treasuring His commands.

There is nothing quite like taking an hour to meditate on a short phrase (like “Our Father in Heaven”), asking the Holy Spirit to teach you about it, and receiving your own revelation on it (and then feeling silly that you didn’t see that before!)

Practical Steps

Everyone who practices meditation does it a little differently. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Pick a verse you want to meditate on (or a portion of Scripture you want to take a few weeks to go through).
  2. Worship for a bit.
  3. Begin to meditate on the first phrase of the first verse (e.g. if the phrase is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” try just meditating on “In the beginning”).
  4. Repeat the phrase over and over.
  5. Thank the Holy Spirit for the truth of the verse (e.g. “Thank you that You were in the beginning”).
  6. Ask questions – lots of questions. Write down any answers you get.
  7. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more to you

Meditate for 20 minutes before you move on to the next part of the verse. Once you get the hang of it, try going for 2 hours on one phrase. It may seem impossible at first, but it’s amazing how long you can stay on one phrase when the Holy Spirit is speaking!

I’ve made my meditation page available for download here.

Recommended Reading

Revelation through Meditation by Kirk Bennett is a great method for meditation (listen to the teaching too)

Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Madame Guyon is a book written in simple language to make meditation approachable for everyone

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Persistent Prayer

I want to continue the thought I started in my God of Secrets post about Luke 11. I don’t know how most people interpret the parable of the friend at midnight, but for me, it is one of the most significant passages in the Bible about prayer.

“And [Jesus] said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Luke 11:5-8

Now we have to backtrack a little. In verse 1, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Then we see the part we all know so well, the Lord’s prayer. But Jesus doesn’t take a breath between verses 4 and 5…He is still answering their question. (Please understand that the following is my interpretation/revelation on the chapter and is completely original.)

First of all you (the green guy) have a friend (the orange guy) who traveled from afar to visit you. You want to be hospitable and pour into him (i.e. give him food). So you think, “Hey! I have another friend who OWNS the bakery! He can give me bread for this friend!”

See, the friend didn’t ask anything of you (they represent whatever/whomever you are praying for), but you wanted to give what you knew you did not have (true humility – I am nothing outside of Christ). But, you know a guy (Jesus) who has what you need – and more.

So you go to your friend and knock on his door, even though it’s midnight. “Hey man, I’ve got this friend who needs food, can you give me some? ‘Cause I don’t have any.” And then your friend answers, “Don’t bother me, man! I can’t give you anything right now.”

When you pray, God always answers (“he will answer”). But what if His answer surprises you? See, you knew to go to Him, you knew He had what you needed, but even though you are His friend (you have some relationship with Him), He’s asking for something more from you:

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”   John 10:9,14

Jesus is asking you to come to a new level: yes, you are His friend, but when you don’t understand why He won’t give to you, will you take that as an invitation to ask again? It’s not favoritism for those who persist more: it’s the nature of God’s kingdom. It’s the same reason why Jesus spoke in parables – so that only the hungry would seek out what they meant. Jesus is the door and He wants you to persist, to keep knocking to find what you are looking for. See, once you’re in the door, you have access to fellowship with Him, to the knowledge of God.

It is because of your persistence that Jesus will give to you: and that’s always more than you asked Him for initially. Now, knowing the context, the following verse should make a lot of sense:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you: seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”   Luke 11:9

Note: I hope you don’t feel demeaned by my childish illustrations. I wanted to make this rather confusing parable as clear as possible. And feel free to give me kudos for my amazing drawing skills too – especially my camel. (Yeah, I’m joking.)

Somebody’s in Love with Me

When I first went to IHOP, I thought prayer was boring. When I did pray, I would draw out my little prayer list so that it took a half hour and then go on with my day. I can’t pinpoint the exact time, but when I began to hear the people around me talk about God everything changed; they began to tell me that God’s plan didn’t start at the cross.

As I looked at the Word closer, I had to ask myself the question, “Why did Jesus go to the cross for me?” It seemed a simple question with a cookie-cutter answer, but was it? Why would God come down from heaven, leave all of His glory and take on a little Jewish man’s body forever? (And Isaiah said Jesus wasn’t even good looking!) What was it in the heart of the Godhead that took such drastic measures to save a few creatures He formed from dirt?

In the American church, we tend to throw around the term, “we are the Bride of Christ;” I had heard that term a thousand times but I never stopped to think about it before. I think that somewhere back before Genesis, the Godhead wanted companionship: not because He lacked something, but simply because He wanted to share His pleasure, joy, love – with someone else. I can almost see Jesus going to His Father and saying, “Father, We have so much to give, is it good for God to be alone? Father, I desire a companion, someone whom I can love and who will love me voluntarily in return.”

I can’t prove this exact scenario, but once I begin thinking of myself as the Bride of Christ, I saw something amazing woven throughout Scripture: Jesus came and gave me the dignity to be His partner; He didn’t need me, He only wanted me! And He says that He will actually change His mind if I pray! (Examples: Ex. 32:7-14, Zeph. 2:3, Jer. 29:12) Without going really into depth regarding Jewish traditions, I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the traditional bride price: He said we were worth the blood of the Son of God.

I’ve only scraped the surface of this whole “viewing myself as a bride” thing, but the reason why I connect it to prayer is this: prayer isn’t boring to me when I see that God created me because He wanted to, because He enjoys me and that He loves me so much that my prayers actually change His plans.

To Pray and Not Lose Heart

There is one thing that I desire the Lord to say about me on Judgment Day (well, there’s a lot of things, but this is the one that trumps all the others): that I was faithful to Him.

I have known many people who walked with the Lord for a time and then decided to walk in the world. Every once in a while, when I hear about one of these stories, I wonder if I will one day be the person who is the subject of that conversation. Maybe it’s a wrong fear, maybe it’s the Lord, I don’t know. What I do know is that right now I am 100% certain there is a God, that He has chosen me, and that I am an eternal being. It frightens me that even with this certainty, I am not above turning on Him.

Because of these things, I often pray, “Lord, let me be faithful to You.” Many of the apostolic prayers (prayers that the apostles prayed in the New Testament) mention things like perseverance, endurance, strength for the journey…I don’t think faithfulness is a new struggle. I could see myself getting so offended by something the Lord does that bitterness could turn my heart from Him (read my testimony to hear about my experience with this in the past).

In addition to simply asking the Lord that I would be one of the faithful ones, I pray this prayer along with Paul:

“This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9-11