Seeking the Father Heart of God

In recent years, I’ve been invited to share 5 Father’s Day messages with 5 different local churches in Wisconsin and New York!

I think God may be trying to tell me something…

This message, a conversation with Jim Corbett of the Family Rescue Campaign, is one of my favorites. There is nothing that can heal and transform our hearts like encountering the heart of our Heavenly Father!

I pray you’re inspired to seek God’s heart. As you do, may you discover who He is in a fresh and transformative way!

There is nothing that can heal and transform our hearts like encountering the heart of our Heavenly Father!

Prayer as a Way of Life: Pray & Pray With…

It was a sweet blessing to host this Groups Connection Coaching Huddle with Darnell Robinson of the Milwaukee House of Prayer.

This conversation about the power of prayer strikes me as so relevant to this moment in history! Especially at times like these, it’s essential that we develop a prayerfully dependent way of life and learn to be led by Holy Spirit.

Especially at times like these, it’s essential that we develop a prayerfully dependent way of life and learn to be led by Holy Spirit.

I was struck by Darnell and Donna’s teachable, humble hearts and their obedience to Jesus, even when it cost them…

What stands out most to you? How are you developing rhythms of personal and corporate prayer in this unique season?

Photo by Binti Malu on Pexels.com

A fresh outpouring

It’s Pentecost Sunday, and now more than ever, we need a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit to bring peace to our cities, comfort to our hearts, and healing to our land.

Together, let’s pray…

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14
I shared this message on getting to know the wonderful Person of the Holy Spirit on Feb. 23, 2020.

Now more than ever, we need a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit to bring peace to our cities, comfort to our hearts, and healing to our land.

I pray you will encounter His love, peace, and power today as you hear these words…

dove nestled on palm branches
Photo by M Sidharda on Pexels.com

Healing & Wholeness in the Scriptures

Isaiah 53, especially verses 4-6, is the foundation of my understanding of healing. 

Isaiah prophetically describes the torture and crucifixion Jesus would go through for our forgiveness and healing.  This passage speaks about emotional restoration (v. 4, for our griefs and sorrows), spiritual restoration (v. 5, for our transgressions and iniquities), and physical restoration (v. 5, for our healing); ultimately, His purpose in all this restoration is to draw lost sheep back to Himself (v. 6).

Some claim that Isaiah 53 is only speaking about spiritual healing.  However, in Matthew 8:14-17, Jesus physically heals Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick in bed with a fever.  He also casts out demons and heals all those who are ill.  Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, states these physical healings and deliverances were to fulfill what was prophesied in Isaiah 53 (Matt. 8:17).

In 1 Peter 2:21-25, Peter summarizes the teachings of Isaiah 53 for New Testament believers. 1 Peter 2:22 seems to reference Isaiah 53:9, and 1 Peter 2:25 parallels Isaiah 53:6.  Peter, under the Spirit’s inspiration, explains that Jesus’ work on the cross heals us from sin and all its effects in our lives (1 Pet. 2:24).  When we return to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls there is true wholeness available for every area of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual).

The “I AM” statements of the LORD reveal to us aspects of His nature and His character, who He is and what we can trust Him to do.  In Exodus 15:26, He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”  This promise was given to the nation of Israel.  However, we learn the principle that the LORD is Healer for His people.  He says that part of His nature and character is to heal from physical disease.  As believers in Jesus, we see from His ministry and the teachings of the New Testament that our Messiah, who is God in the flesh, is still “the LORD who heals” us.

We know from Isaiah 53 that healing is available to all and from Exodus 15 that it’s part of the LORD’s character to heal us.  But do we know that He wants to heal everyone always?

1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 explain that God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, not wanting any to perish but to come to repentance.  But what is salvation?  According to Isaiah 53, the salvation that Jesus paid for on the cross is needed because of our turning away from the LORD, our breaking of His Law, our sin.  Salvation is from sin and all its effects in this broken world.   Salvation is restoration to wholeness: spiritual, emotional, and physical.

And yet, many of us can point to an experience of on-going brokenness in our lives or to a seemingly unanswered prayer.  This may be part of the tension we feel in this world between the “already” and the “not yet” aspects of Christ’s kingdom, which is here and coming (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:21, John 18:36).

In Romans 8:18-25, the Holy Spirit says through Paul that all creation groans to be set free from the effects of sin on this world (v. 22).  One day, Jesus will restore all creation when He sets up His Kingdom on earth with His throne in Jerusalem (Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 21:1-5).  Until that day, followers of Jesus are commanded to preach His good news and teach others to obey everything that He taught (Matthew 28:19-20).

He also commanded a group of seventy believers, sent out two by two in Luke 10, to heal the sick and cast out demons in His Name (vv. 1-12, 19-20).  These commands were given to not just the twelve first apostles but to the seventy who represented all the followers of Jesus.  According to Romans 8:19, the whole creation waits for the children of God to be revealed, to rise up, and to share the good news of Jesus and minister restoration (spiritual, emotional, and physical), which has been made available by our crucified and risen Savior to all who will believe. 

Let’s live and pray boldly according to His promises and leave the results in the hands of our mighty and gracious God.

As I Go…

Sept. 29Oct. 7, I participated in the American Revival Heritage Tour led by the Sentinel Group, a ministry focused on equipping believers to pray for transforming revival in our communities.  

This experience–a prayer journey immersed in church history–was life changing.

Among many takeaways, I was impressed with a sense of responsibility to steward what’s been entrusted to us by those who’ve gone on before.  With the Spirit’s help, I committed to obey Jesus by applying what He taught me. Over the next weeks, I’d also like to share with you some of what we discovered.  I’d be honored if you would take this journey with me…

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 2.02.32 PM

The morning I left for the Milwaukee airport (9/29), I woke up with a phrase in my mind and a song in my heart.

The prophetic song was the classic by Don Moen, “Thank You, Lord.”

I come before You today
And there’s just one thing that I want to say
Thank You, Lord, thank You, Lord
For all You’ve given to me
For all the blessings that I cannot see
Thank You, Lord, thank You, Lord…

The phrase was “As I Go…”

Although I’ve already returned, that phrase birthed this post, compiled from audio recordings as I drove (I’ll omit the Google Maps directions).

As I go… I go as a student of church history, asking questions to learn from heroes of the faith.  

I take a problem-centered approach to historical theology, which acknowledges we each come to the table with specific questions and issues we’re looking to answer.  In this case, our communities are desperate for revival and God’s transforming nearness.

I seek to respect characters from history as “voices with whom we enter into theological conversation,” Colin Gunton’s phrase.  This space at the table allows us to chat on common ground and dialogue about differences.

As I go… I go as a systematician.  Say what?  

I employ the systematic sense of a scientist, asking questions and hearing whatever answers may come.  I seek to do this removed from bias, to learn with a humble and open heart from the data that stories of the past offer us.  We all get off the plane with biases from our upbringing, our spiritual experiences, and what we’ve heard in the past.

My goal is to be aware of my own history but not allow it to discolor the new stories I’ll hear.  Behind our tour guides, we’ll hear voices, who like Abel, through their faith still speak (Heb. 11:4).  This is the great cloud of witnesses, gone on ahead, and I couldn’t be more excited to learn from their perspectives (Heb. 12:1).

As I go… I go as a person of prayer.  

I so love being in relationship with Jesus!  Since prayer is the primary avenue He has graced us with for connecting with Him, I love prayer too!  Prayer is also the most powerful way His people change the world.

A friend prayed with me over the phone the day before my trip: “LORD, give him eyes to see the things that only You can help him see!”  What expectancy a faith-filled prayer like that stirs in my heart!  It sets my spirit ready to be watchful (1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Pet. 5:8).  I’m on the edge of my seat excited for all He will reveal.

As I go… I go as a friend of Jesus.  

This means I’m a disciple who obeys my Master and shares what He teaches me with others.  Jesus said we show our love for Him by obeying Him (Jn. 14:15).  In His final commission, Jesus calls us to teach others “to obey” all the commands He’s given us (Mt. 28:17-20).  We pass on what He shares with us, inflow-outflow personal conversations.

This means… I go as a disciple-making disciple, seeking to equip, encourage, and impart to others even as I receive life myself.  It’s never a stagnant swamp that ends with me but always a living channel, an ever-flowing river.

As I go… He’s with me (Mt. 28:20).  

And we go with others.  I’m not alone.  Though I haven’t yet met them, I go with brothers and sisters from various streams in the Body of Christ with similar hearts for revival and prayer, for learning from our Lord Jesus and the voices of the past.  I’m sure we’ll become fast friends.

May all the streams flow as one river…
~to wash away our brokenness
~to heal our land (2 Chr. 7:14)

Revive us again, LORD, for the glory of Your Name!  We ask for awakening, transforming revival, and reformation in the wonderful Name of Jesus.

I’d love to hear from you!

What have you been praying for your community lately?

The dangers of becoming a "professional" Christian

Yesterday was my sabbath, the day I chose this week to rest from everything that feels like work and to refocus on the LORD.  Because I have the privilege of serving full-time with our church, I work on Sundays.  Though it’s usually a blessed day, it’s far from a rest day.  So this week, I chose Saturday to sabbath.

As I drove to the grocery store on my chosen day of rest, I saw two young men on the sidewalk, dancing as they walked to the beat booming from a cell phone that one held (their version of a “boom box on your shoulder,” I suppose).

I heard a whisper, “Tell them about the destiny I have for their lives. Call out the treasure I’ve deposited in them. Invite them to use the gifts I’ve given them for Me.”

I smiled and waved as I drove by.  I did this so quickly, I didn’t see if they even noticed.

“Hmm… not exactly what I had in mind,” Holy Spirit whispered.  I drove on.

Down a busy road, I saw a minivan parked in an industrial lot with kids peeking out the open doors.

Two adults stood outside with a sign: “Help us get home. God bless”

The whisper: “Stop. Hear about their need. Bring a taste of My Kingdom.”

Wonderings of a calloused heart: “Scammers who go from city to city? A family truly in need? I’ll stop to find out, if they’re still there when I get back from grocery shopping. After all, it’s my sabbath.”

I never found out, as they were gone by the time I drove home.  I even excused myself, thinking: I would’ve stopped if I’d had a friend with me.  I sensed a sadness in my heart but shook it off to continue on with my sabbath observance.

Today, as I drove from the church building to the beach for our student event, I passed a worn-down house with a woman standing outside in the sun wearing a thick hoody and jeans.  The temp was in the high 80s.  Her face looked, in a word: “hopeless.”  I didn’t have a full word of encouragement to deliver to her, but I was prompted to stop and had one word: “HOPE.”

Was that her name?  Was that what she needed to hear?

I slowed down as I drove by.  While I stalled like a child delaying bedtime, she began walking toward a side door and entered the house.  I deliberated turning around to knock and share some “hope.”  I didn’t.

At our beach event, the sister who shared an anointed message spoke on stepping out in faith and listening to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to work through us to speak to and touch others.  Ouch… “I’m listening, LORD.”

I returned to that house after the beach.  When I knocked, I learned firsthand the importance of timely, immediate obedience.

A man gruffly asked, “What do you want?”

“This might seem out of the ordinary, but I felt God…”

“Not interested.”

I didn’t get to see the lady who needed hope.

Holy Spirit, draw her nearer to Jesus and bring other Christ followers into her life who will share Your hope!

Jesus worked miracles on the sabbath, and it triggered the religious crowd (Matthew 12:9-14).  He didn’t stop to touch everyone or fix every problem.  But He did stop every time His Father asked Him to (John 5:19).  No matter what day it was.

Followers of Jesus do need regular rest (Mark 2:27-28).  But, we take no break from obeying Abba, from following the promptings of His Spirit.

Following Jesus is not my “job.”  I refuse to become a “professional” Christian.  If you minister to others for your livelihood, you might be tempted to think of your service as your source and yourself as a professional.

I am not a “professional” Christian, however.  It is not my day job to follow Jesus.  It is not even my duty.  It is my honor and privilege.  He died for me.  I live for Him.

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.”

I willingly choose, in response to His love, to live for Him.

I need to repent.

I am not a 9-to-5, punch-in/punch-out “Christian.”  I live on mission.

I am not part of the religious crowd.  I live in relationship with Holy Spirit.

I am not a duty and obligation, “have to” kind of guy.  I get to serve the most wonderful Master!  Living for His glory is my joy!

I’ve learned recently from a friend that repentance is much more than feeling sorrow over my sin or even just asking for forgiveness.

In Acts 26:18, Paul retells the mission that Jesus gave him:
“…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Paul says he obeyed this calling by preaching “that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (v. 20).

All the facets of verse 18 fulfilled in preaching repentance!

Peter shared that repentance brings times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).

I’ve discovered: repentance is turning from sin to face Abba, declaring, “This old pattern is not who I am. I embrace You! I believe what You say about me is true!”

We are called to live lives of repentance.  We are ambassadors of His Kingdom, ministers of reconciliation, those who run with the good news of His love!

Lord Jesus, tenderize my heart.  You died and rose again, so we can live in relationship with You, be filled with Your Spirit, and demonstrate the reality of Your resurrection.  You rose from the dead and so nothing is impossible for You!

I am a student, a learner, an obedient follower, walking in the footsteps of my Master, led by His Spirit.  I rest: daily and weekly.  I can’t fix everything.  I’m not the savior or messiah.  But I do know Him.  And I follow Him.  What He says goes.  As a disciple of Jesus, I will obey Him without question or hesitation.  I love Him, and I trust His heart that much.

I am not a “professional” Christian.  I am following Jesus.  How about you?

 

Hearing God

I’m so grateful that Jesus connected me with godly mentors early in my spiritual walk who encouraged me to love God’s Word and prioritize listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

I learned then to practice 360 degree listening, which I still do today!  From the beginning to the end of the day, I posture my heart to listen to everything Jesus wants to say through the common themes of His Word, His whisper, conversations with others, and the circumstances of our lives that together create a complete circle wherein we can hear and be led by His Spirit.

We learn to recognize His voice by spending time in the Bible.  We’ll only hear Him if we’re willing to quiet our hearts and listen.  We test everything we hear according to His written Word.  Here are a few questions I like to use for listening prayer.  You might spend a few minutes asking the LORD one or more of these questions each day and writing or drawing what you hear, see, or feel as He leads and guides you nearer to His heart and deeper into His will:

a. What is something amazing about You I need to know?
b. What lies am I believing? What is Your truth about this?
c. What’s holding me back from being everything You created me to be?
d. Who do I need to forgive?
e. Who do I need to love? How?
f. Is there anything You shared with me today that would be a blessing to someone else?
g. Would You like me to share any of this with others? Who?

During a time in my life when I was facing discouragement, the LORD encouraged me through a conversation with a mentor.  He told me, “God is always speaking, so ask Him what He’s saying and listen.”

Consider taking a 30-minute, mini vacation today and listening to what He has on His heart to share with you.  Let’s cultivate hearts that love His Presence and delight to hear His voice!

Here’s a message I was blessed to share on hearing God’s voice from the life story of our brother Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

Declaration of Readiness to Receive the Word

In Acts 17:11, Dr. Luke records the account of the noble Bereans who were so willing to learn and grow.  They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Apostle Paul said was true.  I picture this eagerness as on-the-edge-of-your-seat readiness, with your spirit fully active and alert to receive everything Holy Spirit wants to say to you as you hear the Word.

Below is a declaration of readiness to receive the Word with eagerness.  I mined the gold of this declaration from the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 13:9-18, 35.  Apply this treasure by declaring it for yourself whenever you are preparing your heart to hear God’s Word, both before your own daily Bible study and in corporate gatherings.

In the Name of Jesus, I declare…

I have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to His Church.

I receive from Jesus the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven.

As I hear, I hear and understand.

As I see, I see and perceive.

My heart is soft.

My ears and eyes are open.

I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, and understand with my heart.

I turn to Jesus, and I am healed.

Blessed are my eyes for they see.

Blessed are my ears for they hear.

Blessed is my heart for I understand.

Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what I see and to hear what I hear.

I will listen then to what the Word means.

Holy Spirit, I ask You to seal this declaration of truth and cause it to become fully true in my life as I receive Your Word with eagerness.  In Jesus’ Name – Amen!

Healing & Wholeness in the Scriptures

Isaiah 53, especially verses 4-6, is the foundation of my understanding of healing. 

Isaiah prophetically describes the torture and crucifixion Jesus would go through for our forgiveness and healing.  This passage speaks about emotional restoration (v. 4, for our griefs and sorrows), spiritual restoration (v. 5, for our transgressions and iniquities), and physical restoration (v. 5, for our healing); ultimately, His purpose in all this restoration is to draw lost sheep back to Himself (v. 6).

Some claim that Isaiah 53 is only speaking about spiritual healing.  However, in Matthew 8:14-17, Jesus physically heals Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick in bed with a fever.  He also casts out demons and heals all those who are ill.  Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, states these physical healings and deliverances were to fulfill what was prophesied in Isaiah 53 (Matt. 8:17).

In 1 Peter 2:21-25, Peter summarizes the teachings of Isaiah 53 for New Testament believers. 1 Peter 2:22 seems to reference Isaiah 53:9, and 1 Peter 2:25 parallels Isaiah 53:6.  Peter, under the Spirit’s inspiration, explains that Jesus’ work on the cross heals us from sin and all its effects in our lives (1 Pet. 2:24).  When we return to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls there is true wholeness available for every area of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual).

The “I AM” statements of the LORD reveal to us aspects of His nature and His character, who He is and what we can trust Him to do.  In Exodus 15:26, He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”  This promise was given to the nation of Israel.  However, we learn the principle that the LORD is Healer for His people.  He says that part of His nature and character is to heal from physical disease.  As believers in Jesus, we see from His ministry and the teachings of the New Testament that our Messiah, who is God in the flesh, is still “the LORD who heals” us.

We know from Isaiah 53 that healing is available to all and from Exodus 15 that it’s part of the LORD’s character to heal us.  But do we know that He wants to heal everyone always?

1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 explain that God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, not wanting any to perish but to come to repentance.  But what is salvation?  According to Isaiah 53, the salvation that Jesus paid for on the cross is needed because of our turning away from the LORD, our breaking of His Law, our sin.  Salvation is from sin and all its effects in this broken world.  Salvation is restoration to wholeness: spiritual, emotional, and physical.

And yet, many of us can point to an experience of on-going brokenness in our lives or to a seemingly unanswered prayer.  This may be part of the tension we feel in this world between the “already” and the “not yet” aspects of Christ’s kingdom, which is here and coming (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:21, John 18:36).

In Romans 8:18-25, the Holy Spirit says through Paul that all creation groans to be set free from the effects of sin on this world (v. 22).  One day, Jesus will restore all creation when He sets up His Kingdom on earth with His throne in Jerusalem (Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 21:1-5).  Until that day, followers of Jesus are commanded to preach His good news and teach others to obey everything that He taught (Matthew 28:19-20).

He also commanded a group of seventy-two believers in Luke 10 to heal the sick and cast out demons in His Name (vv. 1-12, 19-20).  These commands were given to not just the twelve first apostles but to the seventy-two who represented all the followers of Jesus.  According to Romans 8:19, the whole creation waits for the children of God to be revealed, to rise up, and to share the good news of Jesus and minister restoration (spiritual, emotional, and physical), which has been made available by our crucified and risen Savior to all who will believe. 

Let’s live and pray according to His promises and leave the results in the hands of our mighty and gracious God.

Overcoming fear

We experience fear so often that many learn to live with it and tolerate it, as if fear is immovable.

 
Fear is no excuse for disobeying our Lord’s clear commission to make disciples. If we have faith in Jesus the size of a mustard seed, we can overcome the mountain of fear (Matthew 17:20). 


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Romans 14:23 explains, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” When we’re plagued by fear, we must confess our sin to the Lord Jesus and receive His unconditional love anew. His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). If we are willing to humbly ask, Jesus is willing to increase our faith and help our unbelief (Mark 9:24). 


All the power we need is available to us as we rely on the Holy Spirit and surrender to Him. He empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8). We can remind ourselves of God’s promises to be with us, to empower us, and to draw near to us.
 
When we confess fear and surrender our feelings to the Lord Jesus, we can step out in faith and bold love to witness.
 

Is it really that simple?  What roadblocks have you experienced as you seek to step out of your comfort zone with faith and bold love?