Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Facebook Lady & Zacchaeus

When you're doing your best to stay alert for a hope-filled message or encouraging sign, you sometimes take a step in a direction you're less inclined to do normally.  I sought prayerful counsel from a stranger on Facebook. 

The page on which I asked for prayer and any encouragement from a prophetic sense has never seemed to be squirrelly or spiritually adrift.  I've sought prayer from there before (wrote about this page before, A Dream of School).  It was affirming and hopeful then.  I asked for prayer and any spiritual insights yesterday.  A dear woman wrote back.

Be confident.  You'll see the Lord's goodness.  It is God who gives us the Victory.  Make vows to the Lord and fulfill them.  It is better to not promise at all than to promise and break it.  Holy Spirit, guide Jeff with your counsel.  I pray in Jesus' name. Amen. 

I was encouraged, but a little unsettled.  Had I made any vows to the Lord I've left unfulfilled or abandoned?  I pray not.  It's funny we're led to things we hear from others first that may be construed as critical rather than claiming the encouraging words first.  Maybe I was looking for an excuse to discredit this Christian woman, and, thereby lower my expectations of her spiritual insight.  Regardless, I'll see God's goodness, but be careful of the vows I make.  Hmmm.

This morning, I read Zacchaeus' story in Luke 19 from the Daily Office scriptures in the Book of Common Prayer.  There are elements in this story that are interesting.  Jesus remained itinerant.  He went to Jericho and found Zacchaeus.  Zac didn't go looking for Jesus but wanted to see him when he came to town.  Zac climbed a tree to see him.  Jesus called Zacchaeus by name and invited himself to Zac's house.  The crowd grumbled (who cares?).  Zacchaeus said he'd give half of his possessions away and four times of what he defrauded back to his pigeons.

As is my custom, I reflect on scripture I read daily by writing my insights in my journal. While I wrote, it dawned on me there were ironies between my Facebook lady's insights and this story.   Zacchaeus encountered grace in Jesus' acceptance of him. That was the goodness of God.  He then responded to what only God can do for him by making public vows of recompense to those he harmed.  The goodness of God was followed by vows made by the one given victory.

We don't know for certain Zac did what he promised, but Jesus said salvation came to that house.  Kimberly declared over me I should be confident I'll see the Lord's goodness.  She then wrote, "Make vows to the Lord and fulfill them." I'm told to be confident I'll see the Lord's goodness, and, it appears vows will follow.

Its impossible to convey to you the hope I experienced when I realized the parallels between Luke 19 I read this morning and the prophetic declaration, in the name of Jesus, given to me the night before.  The gospel lesson was on schedule to be read today, but my actions in asking a stranger to pray for me on Facebook was not anticipated.  God the Father expressed reassurance to me when I needed it.  Alleluia!

Great God, I am confident I'll see your goodness and victory.  I'll make vows and follow your counsel.  Its cool when a word is given and a scripture follows to illustrate.  I claim in faith, Holy Spirit, your counsel regarding your victory and subsequent vows made.  I will fulfill them.  Lord, our past does not define us. 

Great God, I love and trust you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thank You for Meeting With Us

I haven't shared much about my family of origin. I was and remain the youngest of three offspring born to my parents in Baltimore, MD. The one essential family occurrence every week was our attendance in Christian worship. The wheres and hows are unimportant, right now. Elementary to my life was attending worship.

Denominationally, we were United Methodist. If another tribe occupied that same building, I think we'd be affiliated with them. Maybe, maybe not. Such decisions were made by my parents, and, again, the whys and wherefores are irrelevant. Sunday mornings, we walked the one block approximately and crossed a major thoroughfare in Baltimore County, and we arrived to learn about and worship God.

Scores of families and individuals had and continue to exercise such practices on the designated day of worship. Where they worship and with whom was decided after consideration and prayer, or by tradition, or by convenience. Regardless, many Christians still worship God weekly and communally. This same practice has shaped me perhaps more than any other in my life. Its made me who I am. I'm thankful for the life I have.

My last post was a reflection on intercession and believing what is prayed is received. I'll close this post with another prayer of thanksgiving, believing in the power and love of God manifested in recent experiences of worship all over the land.

I want to share two additional thoughts. First, I've been inspired to write the last two posts, I believe, to prompt the readers to express heartfelt praise to God for what is happening among all and through all Christians. There is something happening in the Spirit that is drawing believers together. This, I believe, is essential for what the Lord has started in this part of the world that is tantamount to a spiritual revival. A significant revival will not occur in fullness without unity among sisters and brothers. Giving thanks for what God is doing to draw believers together to pray in agreement for his grace, mercy, power and love is a wonderful, faith-filled affirmation. Be grateful for what the Lord is doing in and through all of us.

Secondly, I believe the Lord wants partners in what his will is to be in this world. That partnership will be realized only when there is trust between the two parties. In Hebrews 11, it says that it's impossible to please God without faith. I also believe God wants to trust us. When we've been faithful to treasure and practice how he's called all of us to live, more of what he is will come out of us to impact a world we love as God does. That's partnership.

Worship is the heartbeat of this partnership, this love affair. When we gather in the name of Christ and worship him like no one else, he comes among us. As he comes, his essence is on display. Our souls and spirits and bodies cannot remain the same as they were prior to joining in worship. His resurrected glory makes our songs and prayers and words and blessings to one another mirror images of what he would do among us. The glorious, mysterious and merciful matter to it all is he is doing it among all of us. For this, we give abundant praise and worship! Alleluia to our God!

Great God, for what's taken place in times and places of worship and gatherings recently, we're thankful. Many have gathered where colors and images signify changes to seasons. Many others gather regularly where the setting hasn't changed but is always appreciated because the worship space is
considered holy ground. It is here we and our ancestors before us have encountered the God of our salvation. In familiar territory, we've met our God, and he has blessed us richly.

We praise you for what took place in the last week when worshipers joined to sing and listen and pray and bless one another. We sang familiar and unfamiliar songs and hymns that brought glory to the name of our God. Angels and heavenly beings joined us in lifting praise. The environments were suddenly changed because the earth in that space heard the sons and daughters of God worshiping. Creation knew we stepped into our destiny, even for just an hour, of joining heaven and earth together by revealing the Lord of Lords afresh in song and declaration. Earth and sky reflected heaven as we sang and spoke of his glory! Alleluia!

Holy Spirit, you stirred hearts and minds and bodies to be aware of how they live now, and what life could be in days and seasons ahead. Your children underwent transformations when we uttered the name of Jesus. He healed us, perhaps spontaneously or with the dawning of a new season of correction in cells and muscles or thoughts and concepts. We were changed, or we witnessed change and conversion. What only you could do happened when we gathered to worship you, our God. We are thankful for miracles.

Daddy God, I praise you for repentance and faith and tears and laughter expressed in your Presence as the family of different nations and races and languages sought your face, and all that occurred thereafter. Alleluia!

Our world changes every time we come together and speak your name in praise. The gathered ones are sculptured into a new form that reveals the heart's desire of their Father. Great God, you want to reveal your will to your children, and through your Holy Spirit, you display yourself again to us as a source of grace and mercy. We seek you and fall into your embrace every time we worship you; however, we don't have to wait our turn to feel your hug. You engulf us with grace when we enter into the time and place of rejoicing with friends and strangers in worship. There is no other time like this, and no other Father like you.

With all we are, and all we hope to be, we lift your name on high! Great is the Lord God Almighty!

Great God, Daddy God, I love you!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thank You for the Miracles

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
- Mark 1: 24, KJV 

 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. - Mark 11: 24, NIV

That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything.
- from Mark 11 in The Message

As I increase in age, I grow familiar with who I am truly, and where I'm drawn to settle and unfold my tent, bivouac where I'm most comfortable.  For some, that sounds like I'm seeking a place of comfort above all things, but in reality, I've grown comfortable with seeking and finding the places where I thrive.  

There are the essential tasks and responsibilities of life that are unavoidable. In addition and not to be neglected, there are abilities and gifts and passions that should be embraced.  For me, one of my passions is intercessory prayer. I've misunderstood the embracing of spiritual passions for years.  I've thought such pursuit was neglectful of responsibilities as an adult Christian. Consequently, I lived a frustrated Christian life for years. If you're honest with yourself, you've probably grown comfortable with your own frustration. One of the sad realities for me was I provided spiritual leadership in congregations while accepting my own spiritual frustrations, living out of responsibilities and not passion for how I'm gifted and inspired.

Where I thrive is predicated on what the Lord has told me to do.  In effect, what God has told me to do has become my passion and focus. Its real easy for me to retreat to places in my thinking and believing where I want to please people more than God.  Its even easier for me to curl up under the covers of low self-esteem, guilt, shame and regret.  Religion holds the door for me as I back up into these positions. Again, I thrive when I do what God has told me to do.  One thing for me to do is to write and record what God is doing, and, thereby give inspiration for worship (Hey, nobody said it would be good - He just said, "Write." Posted 2/25/14). Another is to pray.

Years ago when I was an adolescent and first encountered God, there was a verse that opened my spiritual heart to where I knew God cared about humanity, and where I could participate in God's will being fulfilled in the earth.  It was Mark 11: 24.  Its bold, and, almost unbelievable, but I believed it.  My ease in believing it back then was because, in the Spirit, I was gifted in interceding. Praying this way made spiritual sense to me. I say this now because I know where I thrive in the Spirit, and what place I occupy in the Body of Christ.  Its taken me years to accept this place, and to accept my passions as legitimate Christian expressions, and not laziness or foolishness.

When I pray as intercession I try not to beg.  I spend most of the time praising the Father for who I know him to be.  I then segment my time into three portions.  I'll pray for particular people and circumstances, asking for the grace and mercy of God to manifest in order to bless, heal and prosper.  These prayers are lifted in keeping with what scriptures address these issues specifically, or in general. Sometimes, in the Spirit, this requires me to speak to mountains or circumstances and command them to shift or change.  Most of all, this is done in love for people and our heavenly Father.

In humility, I know I'm not the only one praying for anyone or anything.  I believe the Spirit is ever raising up the Body to intercede for anything and everything.  As I pray, I believe I receive it, AND I believe I'm in agreement with someone in earth or heaven regarding that petition.  With that in mind, I trust the power of the prayer of agreement (Matthew 18: 19).  I'm not ashamed to say when I pray, I believe I receive, and on some level or degree in heaven or earth, God's will is fulfilled.  We're then one step closer to the glory of God covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.

The second portion of time is spent praying in the Spirit.  The Spirit knows best how and what to pray regarding anything.  This being true, I pray in English because our Father is looking for women and men to partner with him to bring his will to earth.  Praying in faith is critical to this.  I also believe when I can't express accurately or competently as I should, I can pray audibly or not in a prayer language that expresses exactly what the petition ought to be.  I then praise God for such a gift.

Thirdly, I listen.  Lord, speak to me.  I want to hear what you need to tell me and what I need to hear.  In any relationship, its good to let the other person share their heart with you.  No relationship thrives in unrelenting monologues from the sender to a receiver.  True communication doesn't exist in such a relationship. I'm still learning this. 

When I pray, I believe. For me, maybe not for everyone, but for me, Mark 11: 24 is the keystone for my passion to intercede for the world God so loves and to participate immediately wherever I am in bringing heaven to earth.  

The rest of this post is a prayer of thanksgiving after time spent recently in intercession. The outcome of this bit of explanation regarding a passion of mine and a prayer of thanksgiving is up to God.  I believe there's a purpose in it.  He's worthy of my trust and my praise.  Alleluia.

Great God, I praise and thank you for all the miracles that have been manifested in bodies, spirits, souls, circumstances and relationships.  You are worthy of praise!  Miracles have manifested, things only you can do have occurred. Physical conditions have changed.  Illnesses and diseases have been arrested.  Spirits have been born anew by confessing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ either for the first time or afresh after a season withdrawn from you.  Minds and hearts have been set free from oppression and ill-thinking because you've revealed yourself as a God of love and peace and joy, and no level of darkness was able to counteract your visitation in word or power. Whether in spontaneous fashion or through a process that's begun, miracles have revealed the goodness of God.  Alleluia. People are not the same.  How cool is that?

Great God, I praise you for the prayers of agreement that have brought heaven to earth in the state of Alabama in the last 24-48 hours.  I've come into agreement with your children who've cried out to you for relief and salvation and peace.  They've needed others to join with them in their condition, not to merely lament, but to state the obvious and to seek comfort that only comes from you.  I joined with them through prayer and faith.  Great God, things have changed.  Heaven came to earth.  Lives and circumstances became ground zero for your love and mercy.  Alleluia! 

These divine manifestations have come to earth particularly in the state of Alabama.  You offered me this state two years ("You can have it if you want it."), and I took it.  Great God, outpourings and visitations and unmistakeable signs of divine power and love have come through prayers of agreement in Alabama in the last few days.  I love the life you've given me!  You are worthy of great praise!

Things have shifted and changed to reveal your grace and mercy for the world you so love.  

Daddy God, I'm thankful you've given me this state.  I'm humbled to be incorporated in this mighty effort of yours, Holy Spirit, raising up intercessors. Alleluia!

In agreement and believing when we pray things change and heaven touches earth, your earth you so love is experiencing how good you are and how much you love your children.

Great God, I love you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Dream of School

I've heard it said God speaks to us in our dreams because God can't get our attention when we're awake. 

It appears our dream lives have changed.  I shared on my previous post of a dream that restored hope in me.  I'm not sure I could have received all that dream conveyed in my daylight hours.  April dreamed a few nights ago a trio of dreams.  Nocturnal portraits of a robotic enemy that was more cartoon than menace, a depiction of what we endeavored to do by our own ministerial training, and an unveiling of supernatural force by God through us.  These adventures could only have been displayed while sleep permitted April to see what dreams can only show.   

While I prepared to go to bed a few nights ago, someone posted on a Facebook page that provides space to request prayers and any prophetic insight.  A stranger wrote to me, "Your circumstances and your past do not define you and what the devil has dealt you and taken from you the Lord will use to build you and help people through you."  The next morning I read from Joel 2, "In response to his people the Lord said, 'I am sending you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations (vs. 19).'"  This verse which struck me in my daily reading the next morning echoed what the post spoke - grace grounded satisfaction and the end of attacks on self-esteem. 

In between the post and scripture reading, I dreamed, of course.  What I remember begins with me being a student at a supernatural school of ministry at Bethel in Redding, CA.  The feeling I carried in this dream was like being in college.  I was an underclassman, and there was no changing that.  I didn't expect or receive the respect seniors received or expected.  The school was a very serious place to be.  You were expected to put in the work and not give in or give up.   

The dominant scene I lived out in the dream was in a classroom listening to a lecture/sermon.  The curious thing was I didn't sit in the auditorium.  I sat in a small classroom beside a guy.  We shared a table.  We listened to the lecture through a speaker in the room.  I could see through our door into the auditorium across the hall.  As we listened, I reached around my neighbor to my briefcase on the other side of him to retrieve a pen.  I then retrieved a thin New Testament.  I had my journal already on the table.  I rose from the table, went through the door and stood in the doorway of the auditorium.  The lecture continued, and I stood there incredulous.  Of the students I could see seated facing the dais, many of them were not taking notes or following along.   

There was a guy sitting as though he were relaxing in an easy chair.  He had an electric hand tool with an orange power cord.  It rested in his lap and was on the verge of slipping out of his possession and landing on the floor.  I was bothered by what appeared to be a nonchalant attitude regarding where they were and what they were doing.  I gathered all my tools around me, sitting in an overflow room which symbolized for me being set aside, ignored, and unimportant.  The guy with a power tool symbolized someone who had immediate access to the power of God, but he was disinterested.  I'm considered an unimportant underclassman, and some there didn't care where they were. 

Candi told me on Facebook what has been taken from me or dealt to me will be used by the Lord to build me up and help people through me.  Amen.  I claim it, in Jesus' name.   

There are those who take for granted what's been given to them and the environment in which they reside. In this season, I am not among them.  We've been set aside for a time, but that time may be closing.  There may be those endued with power from on high, but it may slip from their grip regardless of their environment because they've grown apathetic and neglectful.  I'm in possession of what I need and it will all be used.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Dream of December

We've set our clocks back.  Upon waking, there's daylight slipping through our eyelids and bedroom windows.  The chairs at our dinner tables are occupied for our evening meals together as dusk slips into evening across our country.  Winter is around the corner with its festive holidays we mostly look forward to.  Apart from our creative timekeeping to gain or lose daylight, we're loosing grip of another year.  I say with confidence as 2014 is about to disappear, God is at work.                         

I dreamed one night this weekend.  It was in color.  It was long.  The first of it remains unclear.  What I remember begins with me having some level of responsibility which didn't make me comfortable.  I know the people I was responsible for had to leave.  All of us were scheduled to do so.  Before we were to leave I knew I was supposed to move a table (symbolic of like-minded people meeting together).  The building we were in reminded me of a department store.  There were parallel staircases in the center of the building.  On one landing in one staircase we moved the heavy, brown church table across to another landing on the opposite staircase on a corresponding floor.  

The next scene had me in  another part of the store looking into a glass display case.  A friend of mine from a church I pastored recently was beside me.  Before we moved to where we are now we lived in his former house on Sand Mountain.  I was laughing with him, telling him a confusing story about getting a printer ink cartridge at another time.  There was confusion in getting the exact cartridge I needed because of the item number.  I told him the number on the cartridge I needed was 101.  In the case, there were small white boxes of cartridges with the number 121 either printed or handwritten on them.  I said cartridge 121 will work.  Its sufficient. 

I then turned around and saw a former colleague in ministry.  As my colleague, he was bald.  In the dream, he had wet hair.  He wore a green windbreaker.  I said, "Hey."  He glanced at me momentarily.  I figured he was there to see my friend.   

was then in the next scene sitting in a convertible carriage with my colleague.  The carriage was parked on my elementary school playground.  A carriage in a dream is symbolic of the past.  I told my colleague I watched recently a DVD of a Christmas worship service where he sang and I preached from a pulpit.  We both wore preaching robes and red stoles.  I told him it was two years ago.  He remembered that service. 

We were then in the back seat of a car driven by a stranger and a woman sat beside him.  We pulled beside a large, brick church I presumed to be a Methodist church.  My colleague got out.  I did the same from my side.  The man and woman sitting in the front said, "Goodbye, Jeff."  I told them bye.  Their car was then not on the curb, but in a parking space in front of a cinder block wall.  I walked over to a another parked car nearby I knew was mine with the intent of getting in the driver's side.  I then awoke with my heart pounding. 

So much of this describes my ministerial past.  The table having to be passed out of my hands and responsibility into another position and place references my need to leave my authoritative place in the church.  I was scheduled to do so.  The strangers saying goodbye to me and my word farewell to them was my true departure from the church.  Their car parked beside the church denoted the church was their only destination.  My car parked (a vehicle in a dream means ministry) and my intention to get in and drive away reflected my destiny to be in ministry apart from the UMC. 

The link of the past with the present, to me, is the item numbers and reference to two years.  The first number was 101.  I saw the end of an espionage movie recently where a birthdate given in conversation was not the accurate date of one of the characters.  It was actually a code that gave another character a street address.  In my dream, I believe 101 was really a reference to October 1.  Rosh Hashanah was at the end of September.  We affirmed the beginning of a new Jewish year in church at that time.  Through prophetic words in my brother-in-law's prayer meetings at the end of the summer we all believed October would be significant.  In the Jewish calendar, it is important with it being the new year.  101 was the item number for the right ink cartridge.  121 will be sufficient.  121 could be December 1 (12/1).  

This dream could be telling us (that is, God in the dream could be telling us) this date or December itself will be sufficient/significant to us.  The day before, November 30, will be the first day of Advent, the beginning of a new worship year for those who follow a Christian liturgical calendar.  In fact, this calendar has influenced April and me in ministry more than the Jewish calendar.  As an aside, I went back in my journal to September 30, the day before October 1, to see if anything was there.  I wrote about a dream I had early that morning of Anna and me decorating a Christmas tree in my father's kitchen in his home in Baltimore.  Is this a link with December 1/Advent and the DVD of the Christmas worship service?  Months ago April and I dreamed separately of having a pair of Christmas trees in our own dreams. 

The two year reference is interesting.  This coming December will commemorate the two year anniversary  of my last Christmas as a minister in the United Methodist Church.  Why is Christmas referenced in these dreams?  Regarding two years, several days before we left our friend's house in Albertville, April stood looking out our back door and sensed she heard, "Two days."  Though we hoped we'd experience our destiny  fulfilled in two days, I sensed it might mean two years. Days in prophetic meaning in the bible sometimes means years.  Incidentally, we're still waiting. 

This dream gives hope to April and me.  I believe all the more we're on the verge of something significant.  With that said, and as I've said previously, I will use this medium as a record and means of conveying what God is doing in and through me for the reading of anyone who cares.   

Most importantly, the events and encounters displaying God's goodness recorded here will inspire praise and worship in the days and years to come.  I know this is my job, and it will be to his glory and to your benefit and the well being of generations to come.  Alleluia!