God is passionate about drawing near to people and saving them from their dysfunctions and distortions. He is passionate about bringing great healing to people’s hearts and lives and victorious deliverance to them from darkness and demonic oppression. His love truly is furious because He cannot stand to see His creation (us) not living as He created us. You see, the devil has a plan for your life (keeping people bound in addictions is one of his plans among others), we have a plan for our own lives (which may seem good, but is limited) and then God has a plan for your life (which is perfect and full of hope and blessing). I don’t know about you but I’ve already spent part of my life living the devil’s plan for my life and in many ways have continued to struggle in letting go of my own plans for my life because I have tasted what God’s plan is for my life and let me tell you it is more than I could have ever dreamed of. I get to spend each and everyday with the Creator of the Universe. I get to know and experience His passionate love for me all the time. I also get to live out God’s amazing destiny for my life which can be challenging at times because it pushes me to live by faith, but at the end of the day there truly is no other way I desire to live. Being caught up into God’s furious love has forever changed me and now carries me into living out my eternity destiny here on earth. Do you know the furious love of God?
I’m not sure why I’m so drawn into this song. There’s just something that resonates so powerfully within me when I hear the lyrics: “Your life brought more than freedom, Your love brought time just what I needed to see I needed You.” I love that God is so incredibly patient with us and that He gives us time to come to Him as He reveals more of Himself to us. My heart warms as I read how Jesus describes God, not a harsh taskmaster, but as a loving Father.
Transformation can be messy and I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that I’m not on some deadline when it comes to being transformed by God and that He extends grace and time to me as He transforms me through His Word and Spirit. Sure, there are times that I wished the process of transformation was quicker and easier, but this is different than having to conform to some timetable. The desire to be transformed faster is completely different than if we had to actually meet some transformational deadlines.
Imagine if God placed due dates on us, like, by Tuesday I’d like if you stopped being short tempered with people and by June next year I’d like you to stop judging people completely. Now, I’m hoping you see the absurdity of this and hear my heart. I’m not saying having a plan is a bad thing. Plans can at times help frame and put things in perspective, but too often our plans and timetables can put an undue burden on us especially if our plans get in the way of us hearing and responding to God’s presence in our lives.
Transformation must be seen as more of an organic process than some to-do list or clinical step-by-step process. To put it simply, transformation must be seen from a relational perspective, God moves and we respond, which is definitely easier said than done. But, I am more and more convinced that laying down our will means also surrendering the plans and desires of our hearts to God. It’s not that we don’t have plans or desires, but we surrender them to God, so that He can align them with His plans and desires for our lives.
This is such an amazing song and a great reminder that everything that God makes is beautiful. In the very beginning when God created all the universe, He “looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31a NLT). But, even more God is able to take a fallen creation ravaged by sin and recreate it into something beautiful. Aren’t these the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV). If there ever was Good News to those struggling with addictions, this is it. In Jesus, a person is transformed from a wayward addict, estranged from family and loved ones into a beloved child of God who is dearly loved and accepted into the family of God. Such is amazing grace! That God would take objects of wrath and transform us into His beloved sons and daughters. Yes, Lord you do make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us. You make me new. You are making me new…
Over this past week, I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah (I spent last month in Isaiah) and what the Holy Spirit has been showing me while I’ve been reading is this: “God’s love is always guided by His truth and His truth is always fueled by His love which constitutes God’s ways.” Now, I know that this is a bit simplistic (I mean there’s also grace, mercy, justice, goodness, etc. all of which are also of God and important), but sometimes I feel like we complicate things. For me, when things happen in my life that I don’t understand, it helps to remind myself that God is love and that He is truth (I would also add that He is good). And though I may not understand why this or that is happening in my life or in the lives of the people around me or the things happening in the world I can trust that God knows what He is doing. Being at peace means I start from a position of trust in God’s ways and that His ways are comprised of His truth and His love.
Systematically, I believe that all truth is God’s truth, but that there is a hierarchy to truth. Meaning, there is general revelation which consists of creation which points to a Creator (Romans 1:18-20), basic principles of the world (Romans 12:1; Colossians 2:20; Galatians 4:3) and the knowledge of morality (Romans 2:14, 15) all of which God set into place when He created the universe (Genesis 1, 2). And then there is special revelation which consists of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 2:20, 21) and Jesus (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Naturally, special revelation must always supersede general revelation. Nonetheless, truth will always be truth and hence must come from God who is truth because God cannot lie. “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18a NLT; also cf. Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19).
Now if this isn’t enough we must also remember that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9) which collectively hopefully characterizes God as completely transcendent, all-powerful and down right overwhelmingly Divine which should inspire what the Bible talks about as the fear of the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:14; 17:10; 19:7, 9; Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; 34:11; 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 29; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26, 27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 23:17; Isaiah: 11:2, 3; 33:6; Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 5:11). Sometimes, (and I include myself here) I feel like the majesty of God and His transcendentness has gotten lost in the midst of friendship with God. Now, hear me on this, I love being friends with God in fact I cherish our friendship. But, there are times where I can get too comfortable and casual with God where I forget that He is also the Creator of the universe, who is omniscient (knows all things), omnipresent (is able to be in all places at the same time) and omnipotent (all-powerful and all-ruling).
It’s not that the children of God (those found in Jesus) should be fearful of God in the sense that we should run and hide from Him, but that while we fully embrace being friends of God we should also stand in awe of His majesty and bow in reverence to His divinity. I know that this may seem complicated or overwhelming at times, but we can take heart because Jesus fully embodies all of this which is why He is able to say: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me“ (John 14:6 ESV). We must always remember that the only reason that we are friends with God is through Jesus. Without Jesus, we would still be enemies of God because it is only through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross that we have peace with God (Romans 5:1-11). Those found in Jesus need not fear punishment (1 John 4:16-19), we only need to concern ourselves with being disciplined (Hebrews 12:4-11). Biblically speaking there is a difference between punishment and discipline.
Add to all of this that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and what we get is the reality that God’s love, truth and ways are deeply and infinitely unified with one another. I don’t believe we can separate them, nor should we ever try or think of them separately but as always working in relation to one another. The love of God always being guided by His truth and His truth always being fueled by His love which constitutes God’s ways because the ways of God must always been seen as being comprised of His truth and His love. I mean, isn’t this what we find in Jesus?
So, over the past couple weeks I have been on the street making myself available both to God and the community for prayer. All of this begin back in the beginning of April at the Furious Love Event in which God gave me a vision of me standing in Wicker Park (in Chicago) with a sign in front of me and a street performer permit clipped to my shirt (just like in the picture). And since then I’ve been gathering all of the supplies needed to bring this vision into reality. It took me about a month, but on May 2nd, 2011 I was ready to get out on the street. If you’re interested in following my day to day reflections and highlights go here.
In sum, it has been quite an adventure! I am learning so much about God, myself and people. Everyday is a new day of grace, mercy and love. God shows up everyday I’m out. Thanks to the many prayers of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, God has been lavishing His favor and grace on me and has been helping me build bridges with people one relationship at a time and has opened opportunities for me to prayer both with and for people. On any given day, I have the privileged to pray with anywhere from 1 to 10 people while some days no one has come for prayer. But, even on those days I’ve still had the opportunity to pray that God would release the revelation of Christ in people’s hearts and that He would bring revival to the area.
Also, the Holy Spirit has been reminding me of a word He spoke to years back which was the revelation that there are many, many people who are walking past me that have never had their name or image brought before the throne of God’s grace. So, as often as I can I’ve been silently interceding for people walking by as the LORD leads me. I feel like this is a good word for all of us, that we all need to be silently interceding for the people we see throughout our day, the cashier at the grocery store, the person in line in front of us at Starbucks, that person sitting on the train next to us, the kids playing in the park, the waiter at the restaurant, etc. Imagine, you could be the very first person to pray for these people, the first person to bring their image before the throne of God.
Prayer is so important to us. We know that it is the very lifeblood of our faith and lives. And this is the heart behind the Mobile Prayer Station: it is to make prayer available to the lost children of God by going into their midst. But, it’s not about preaching at them, trying to convert them or even forcing prayer upon them. It’s about serving the community by offering them the service of prayer. It’s about creating common ground between us and allowing them the freedom to come and choose to engage and be prayed for. It’s about meeting people where they are at and making space for God to come and touch their lives. The greater vision of this ministry is that other believers would make themselves available both to God and the community and begin setting up Mobile Prayer Stations in their own cities and neighborhoods. There are so many wounded people out in the world who are in desperate need of prayer and the sad reality is that many of them are too intimidated, hurt or angry to even think about coming to a church for prayer. But, just as Jesus sent out the 72 disciples (Luke 10:1-9) so we too can go out and offer to people and communities our most treasured and powerful gift: prayer.
Do you remember the childhood saying of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” I remember chanting this when I was young, in order to mask the hurt I felt inside when the other kids picked on me for being different. No matter how much I said it, the words still hurt because words have power to build up or to tear down. Ephesians 4:29 says “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (NLT). In working with people who struggle with addiction, from my experience trauma is one of the leading causes of addiction. Physical, mental, verbal and sexual abuses are all contributing factors that can lead people down the road of addiction in search of relief, self-punishment or misguided vengeance to name a few motivations.
For people who struggle with sexual addiction, rejection is a major catalyst that perpetuates the abnormal behavior. Objectifying people for our own sexual gratification is abnormal. God didn’t create us to use and abuse one another, but to love one another (1 John 3:11). Regardless of the many pro-porn arguments, pornography is demeaning, period. In helping these people work towards freedom the Lord has revealed to me that in many if not all instances, verbal traumas are some of the first attachment points that certain strongholds (rejection, self-pity, self-hatred, shame) began to take root which helped catalyze the road towards sexual addiction. Add on to this, other traumas like physical, mental or sexual abuse and the range of addictions increases (alcohol, drugs, food, anger, etc.).
The book of James talks about the tongue being untamable by human means (James 3:2,8) and how blessings and curses come out of the same mouth (James 3:9). I don’t know about you, but I experience the truth of these verses everyday, be it in my own struggle to control what I say or don’t say or when I’m on the receiving end of some not so self-controlled words from others. But, when I do feel offended, unjustly criticized or even judged, I am grateful for Holy Spirit who restrains me from reacting and reminds me of God’s love and grace. When I first came to faith and read through the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23a), I was always perplexed by self-control. But, the longer I walk with Jesus the more grateful I’ve become of this particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit.
God’s heart towards His creation is one of love, redemption and restoration. The Father’s desire is to see us saved, redeemed and made whole. This was the precise reason Jesus came down out of Heaven to die on a cross for sin. It is in Jesus that people are set free from the bondage of sin, are delivered from being demonized, healed of sickness and disease and where our brokenness is restored. This is where the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit in gifting people prophetically has great influence and power in joining with God in His mission of redemption and restoration. All believers have the privilege to speak truth and life into others. But, this must be done in love (Ephesians 4:15). The prophetic gift must be exercised in love, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV).
Recently, I’ve been reading a book by Kris Vallotton, Developing a Supernatural Lifestyle, and came across this statement: “Never underestimate the redemptive power of God’s supernatural ministry. So many people are starving to know who they really are. You have the ability to alter the history of people who are lost in darkness and broken beyond repair.” This is a true statement. But, we must always remember that our own tongue fights against us and that unless we become more and more dependent on Holy Spirit in taming our tongue we will do more prophetic harm than good. Holy Spirit gifting does not equal maturity; it is through the fruit of the Holy Spirit that brings about maturity. Furthermore, though we should earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy we must remember that we must pursue love first (1 Corinthians 14:1).
So this is my prayer: that the Lord would continue to cultivate in us a greater capacity to love, that He would impress upon each of us the great need to be fully defined by the Father’s love and the need to always pursue love first and foremost. Help us Lord to allow ourselves to be fully loved by the Father and from out of that place of belovedness love others. For, as Your Word says “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In Your Name Jesus we pray, Amen.
“Ordinary people have the power to change other people’s lives. This power to meaningfully change lives doesn’t depend on advice, though counsel and rebuke play a part; nor on insight, though self-awareness that disrupts complacency and points toward new understanding is important. No, this power to change lives comes from connecting, on bringing two people into an experience of shared life” (25). Hence, one of the many reasons why in the very beginning, God said that it was “not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Now, a “Gospel community is built upon the shared lives of believers who have given their lives to Jesus Christ and now live for Him. What stands at the center of a New Covenant community are forgiven people who have caught a glimpse of Christ, and in whom the Spirit now uses that glimpse to create goodness within them, a goodness that defines who we are” (11). No longer does our sinfulness define us, because Jesus has taken our sinfulness upon Himself at the Cross and in return has imputed (accredited) to us His righteousness. This is the Gospel.
Simply put, we have traded our sinfulness for Jesus’ righteousness and in the process have been fully forgiven. “When God forgives us for violating His design, He pours His life into us; and that restores our capacity to connect, first with Him, then with others. He makes us alive with the actual life of Christ, so that the impulses that energized Jesus’ life on earth are actually in us. This is what being alive in Christ means” (29). It is no longer we who live, but Jesus who lives in and through us (Galatians 2:20). “When believers can offer one another a taste of the delight of Christ that lives within them, they begin to impact one another in a profound way and they start to change for the better because they touch one another with the transforming power of the love of God. When believers make meaningful soul connections with one another their love grows and deepens because we were designed to connect, first with God and then with each other” (45).
In my book, both greater relational capacity (1 John 1:7) and love (1 John 2:10) are sure markers of life. I know I say this a lot, but love is a relational concept. In order for love to be fully realized there needs to be a relationship in place. God created us out of love, for love and to love, which from my perspective means He created us for relationship. “Connecting is life. Loneliness is the ultimate horror. In connecting with God, we gain life. In connecting with others, we nourish and experience that life as we freely share it. Believers have the capacity to enjoy the wonder of a relationship built on grace that no angel has ever personally experienced because fallen angels are not forgiven and unfallen angels don’t need to be” (45). It’s within this eternally redeemed community that believers experience the love and joy that comes from a loving Savior who calls them beloved. As the old saying goes, “to love is to live.” But, I would add to love one another is to truly live.
So this is my prayer: that the Lord would increase our ability to love, that He would grow and mature us in understanding the Father’s love and that He would place in us a courage and boldness to love in any and every situation and with everyone. Help us Lord to fully embrace the reality that we are Your beloved in whom You delight and are well-pleased with. In Jesus, Amen.
*excerpts from Larry Crabb, Connecting (1997)
The more I experience life with God, the more I am caught up into His love. Life and love go hand-in-hand. I don’t believe you can truly know God without experiencing both because God is both. God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is life (Genesis 1, 2; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 139:13-16; John 1:4; 8:58; 14:6; Thessalonians 1:9). It is within love that life gets released. When Jesus came down from Heaven to Earth, He said He came to give us life abundant (John 10:10b). I believe there is much confusion in what most believers understand as being a child of God and what it means to be in Christ. For those in Christ there is no more punishment from God, only discipline (Hebrews 12:10, 11). Because Jesus took upon Himself the full wrath of God for sin (Romans 3: 23-25; 1 John 2:2), citizens of the Kingdom of God no longer have to fear judgment or punishment.
“All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first” (1 John 4:15-19 NLT). What this says to me is that the more we know and experience God’s perfect love in Jesus, the more we will understand that we no longer have to fear judgment or punishment from God because through Jesus we can approach the Father with confidence (also cf. Hebrews 4:14-16). Even more, it is God’s love that fuels our love (v.19). Love and life go hand-in-hand, “all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (v.16), what an amazing truth.
But, one of the more effective schemes of the devil is to trick people into believing that God’s heart towards us is to do us wrong and that He cannot be trusted. Isn’t that what happened in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and what the devil tried to do during Jesus’ testing in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)? If the devil can skew our perspective on the goodness of God than in many ways he has succeeded in driving a wedge between us and God because he has stolen our confidence in approaching God for love and care. The Scripture verse that continually helps me to reorient myself in understanding God’s heart towards me in contrast to the devil’s schemes is John 10:10 “The thief [devil] comes to steal, kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (ESV). We must never forget that God’s desire is that we should live! His heart towards us is to bring more and more life (and love) into our lives.
So this is my prayer: that the Father would pour out His grace upon our lives and that He would heal our minds by replacing any distorted views we have of Him with the truth of what His Word and Spirit testify to Who He Is. That through the living presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us He would release more of His love and life, so that it literally overflows into every area of our lives and into every relationship. In Jesus Name, Amen.
by Gerald T. Ching
As the days creep on in their persistence
I walk along a lonely stretch of earth, gazing.
In the distance, Your lone figure breaks the horizon,
the vaporous heat exhales itself from the ground
blurring and shimmering.
Heavy, persistent, burdensome thoughts
weigh upon my fevered mind. With the sun high in the sky,
I make my way towards You. Sweat flows freely
from the pores of my skin, tiny snowflakes of salt form
as I slowly dehydrate in the heat.
Crackling lips longing for moisture
burn with the passing of the hour, Your figure
still an oasis within my eyes. Throwing
each apathetic foot forward in a mechanical shuffle,
I am bound to this mission until my death.
Shriveling like a prune, I become
like sand with the passing of the hour.
My fate flashes before me
as I fall with the setting sun into deep slumber.
Within this peacefulness,
I find a wellspring of hope.
Tears well as the seal is broken
to this resource of unending strength.
Filled, refreshed, and rested
I rise with the dawn. As the day’s heat
starts its relentless onslaught, red fills my vision
as I slowly open my eyes.
Focusing within these fleeting first seconds
Your Holy Spirit encompasses all – reassuringly steadfast.
With the last bit of my own strength seeping away, I fall
into Your arms. Within Your arms I curl
like a newborn longing for security.
Questions rise to my lips
but go unspoken – Your Voice
resounds in my mind, answering all.
For in my weakness
Your strength carried me to You.
This long journey back home ends
with a blinding lightning show
as tiny rain droplets fall from a clouding sky,
refreshingly washing away
the memories of a painful life apart.
Together at last, the mission complete,
You envelop me completely,
giving me sweet refuge.
Walking out the freedom that Jesus extends to His followers is easier said than done. The sad reality of our fallen condition is that we would rather live the way we are familiar and comfortable with, even if it means living in bondage, rather than embrace the new and unfamiliar way that Jesus has for us. I mean, the scary part of being a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) is the deep longing to be transformed, but not knowing what that looks like and the difficulty in being able to recognize the new way when God brings it into our lives. But, I do believe that the more we learn to embrace this new way, the more our hearts will trust in God’s ways where the rocky road of sanctification will become more comfortable to us than the smooth road of convenience. At the heart of this is trust: learning to trust in the goodness and grace of God.
Rather than rattle off verse after Scripture verse that talks about the goodness and grace of God (I do recommend doing a word search of both words) I think a better question to ask is, “What kind of thorns and scars do you have in and on your heart?” You see, it is these thorns and scars (our woundedness) that keeps us from living free because our woundedness keeps both God and people at arm’s length. It’s our woundedness that distorts the way we see the world, people, ourselves and God. But, the Good News is that God is lovingly faithful and patient and His perfect love has a way of healing our hearts. The more we soak in His love the more our hearts are tenderized both towards Him and people. What I love about God’s unconditional love is that His love is active, meaning, His love moves Him to pursue us. Isn’t that the words of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
When I came to faith roughly 10 years ago, I remember feeling so inadequate in my ability to both give and receive love. I also remember being moved by Holy Spirit to begin asking Jesus to show me what it means to love and be loved. I literally prayed this prayer for at least three years, if not longer. Today, I’m feeling the same tugging at my heart to begin again praying this prayer. It’s humbling, the deeper I delve into the Father’s heart, the more aware I become of the shallowness of my own love, both for God and others. From my perspective, living free means the ability to love free. But, our woundedness is stingy with love and likes to horde love which hinders us from loving freely. Now a verse that has been a great comfort to me is “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NIV). What this says to me is that I don’t have to generate love on my own, rather all I need to do is lean into the Father’s perfect unconditional love and His love will begin to fuel and fire my own love which will also set me free to love.
When I look at Jesus’ life while He walked the earth, I see a man who loved passionately, faithfully, authentically, virtuously and completely free. Jesus knew what it meant to love and live in freedom. Nothing held Jesus back from living and loving free because He fully understood our Father’s love for Him. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that He was God’s beloved Son. It is the same for us, knowing that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters changes everything because the more fully we embrace this reality, the more readily we will “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). I know personally, the more I am around the throne of grace, the more I understand who God is to me and who I am to God. He is my beloved Father and I am His beloved child in whom He adores and delights. When we experience the depths of the Father’s love, His love heals, saves, redeems, restores and sustains us. Remember nothing can separate us from the love God has for us in Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).
Living free means loving free. Being a new creation in Christ means becoming more and more like Him each and everyday which means learning to love more passionately, faithfully, authentically, virtuously and completely free. Jesus promises us that if If we seek the freedom to live and love free, we will find it (Matthew 7:7,8). I don’t know about you, but that sounds like Good News to me. This is my prayer: “Jesus, show us what it means to love and be loved. Show us how to live and love freely. Teach us to love like You. Heal the wounds of our hearts that hinders us from living and loving free. Whatever it takes Jesus because You are worth it. We love You our Savior King! Amen.”