An internet pastor

Interesting to hear that in leading a church and churches of thousands and hundreds of thousands Pastor Dr David Yonggi Cho does not personally visit people but does all pastoral work and praying for sick etc over the internet. Also interesting that due to car parking issues many young families listen to service from home.

He prays for 3 hours a day on his knees (it used to be 5 but its too painful now) but is always in the attitude of prayer.

“You need technique for prayer” to keep going. Like soldiers need training to fight. We need training to pray.

For example “the tabernacle prayer”:

“Now we are the tabernacle. Our spirit is the holy of Holies. We do not need to go anywhere to pray. We are the tabernacle. In my imagination I come to the courtyard. I come to the brazen alter and I see Jesus. I say thank you Jesus that through thy blood my sins have been forgiven and I can enjoy such glory in you. Then I look up to the cross and say thank you Jesus that I have been healed by your sacrifice. Sickness is illegal because you have already paid for it by your stripes. Claim the healing before you get sick! Then I say “I am a blessed person, Jesus took my curse on himself 2000 years ago. I will never live on the thorny patch. My home is blessed. My work is blessed. ..I am a source of blessing to others…I will not live in poverty consciousness. I get rid of all the curse in my life. You are even redeemed from poverty. Do not reprimand me that I am preaching the prosperity gospel. I am bound to preach about prosperity gospel because Jesus released me from the curse and poverty.” 

There is a fine line here. Personally I am not sure that Jesus promises that we will not be materially poor or completely free from illness. However, I agree that our expectation should be for provision and health. God’s kingdom breaks out when people’s physical needs are met and when they get well. God loves us and will provide for us and we should ask for and expect good things from him.

There are several things going on at once that lead to this tension. We are in a fallen world but God’s kingdom is breaking out and God is showcasing power in weakness. He will give to us things that we can taste and touch and see to show his generosity, but he also wants us to trust him and take hold of even greater, non-material riches by faith. The way these things work out in different people’s lives at different times are, well, different.

God can give to some in such a way that they experience the bankruptcy of great wealth to satisfy their soul and therefore reach out for him. God can withhold from another in such a way that they press further into his presence and provision (When I read this last sentence back I wasn’t sure about it. Didn’t sound right. I would rather say God can work through Satan’s harmful actions to bless us and draw us to closer to him). Satan can give to one to keep him from seeking God and he can take from another to make them curse God or simply to get at and deface people in God’s image. All this and more, and any combination of factors could be taking place.  It’s best not to get hung up in the details but just trust in God’s goodness and seek him no matter what.

If we have material needs God will provide. More than that God will richly provide. That is my expectation. If  we have anything, we should thank God for it. If we need anything we should ask God for it expecting him to provide. If we lack and we do not immediately get what we ask for we should persevere in prayer.

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Praying six impossible things before breakfast

Why not pray six impossible things before breakfast? Jesus says “ with God all things are possible” (Mat 19:26) and we are commanded by him to ask in his name with the expectation of receiving: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)

Jesus did loads of seemingly impossible things. He healed seriously ill people with a word or a touch.  He commanded a storm  to stop, knew peoples thoughts and rose bodily from the dead. When Peter was amazed that a fig tree withering when Jesus cursed it, he was told about how he could move mountains! Then Jesus says:

whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (ESV) (Mark 11:24)

Joshua told the sun to stop and God stopped it (Joshua 10:12-13). Now I can think of all kinds of reasons why that could not happen. I’m pretty sure the universe should fall apart or at the very least something cataclysmic should happen to the surface of the earth. But neither happened as God held the sun stationary in the sky for a whole day. I do not know how that happened. But it did happen. It seems impossible but for God it is not impossible. Therefore, the fact that something seems impossible, or that I do not see any way in which God could do it, is no reason not to ask him for it.

James says we don’t have because we don’t ask (James 4:2-3 ) which provokes me to  do a lot of asking. However, there are some things that need to be taken into account. James talks about our motives being right, ie not selfish (James 4:2-3).  Jesus says our prayers will be answered if we abide in him (John 15:7, 16). Both Jesus and James say that we need to ask with faith, believing we will get what we ask for (James 1:5-8, Mat 17:20, Mark 11:24).  However, we have misunderstood all these things if we think they limit our asking. Our eyes should not be focused on our motives or how much we are abiding or the level of our faith but on God who can do the impossible.

A few days ago I suddenly had the phrase “6 impossible things before breakfast” drop into my head. It’s from Alice in Wonderland when the White Queen is shocked that Alice can’t believe impossible things:

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice in Wonderland.

If I am struggling to believe impossible things then I thought at least I can ask for them. If I don’t ask, then I won’t get but if I ask then I have a reason for expecting them to happen because I have asked God for whom nothing is impossible. Thinking about it now it seems obvious that faith can come in the act of asking as well as before the asking. After all, James and Jesus say we should ask and then expect rather than expect and then ask. Lack of faith can stop us asking but since asking can increase our faith why not ask?

So that is what I have been doing. I have been asking God for six impossible things before I eat the first meal of the day. I have forgotten a few times but I am getting more into the habit. It’s very liberating. Rather than think “what have I got faith for asking” I think “what is impossible for man?”.

I should mention a couple of other things here though. We ask in Jesus name which means “with his authority and in line with who he is and what he wants to do” and faith comes from God’s word which tells us about those things. Jesus also only did what he saw the Father doing and we are to keep in step with the Spirit in the same way. How do these things effect what we pray for? Do they put limits on them?

Having climbed over the fence of impossibility (or perceived difficulty), are we blocked in our asking by another one wall of God’s secret will. Does not knowing exactly what God has decided to do limit our asking? Would Jesus want to do X in situation Y? Can I see the Father doing Z? Is the Spirit leading me to pray and do such and such a thing? Is there a scripture that gives me a cast iron guarantee of answered prayer in a particular situation? Surely the certainty with which we can answer these questions has some effect on what we ask for and what we expect to happen. Here is how I scale these issues:

First, Jesus calls us friends because he lets us into his plans. We know roughly what it looks like for his kingdom to be extended so we can get on with it. We can apply general truths to specific situations. We can infer from the fact that Jesus healed people that he still wants to heal people and ask him to heal a particular person. That would seem to be a much more fruitful approach than waiting for him to give you the green light for asking something through an audible voice or vision etc. Jesus taught his disciples to pray “your kingdom Come” which is about as general a prayer as you could hope to pray. Now, I know each line in the Lord’s prayer is probably a summary but it seems to me we are left to fill in the details and pray for anything that looks like the extension of God’s kingdom. If what you ask for sits well in a that category then what’s the harm in asking?

Second, we should maximise the promises in the bible rather than looking for the absolute minimum God could possibly have meant by a particular verse or passage of scripture. God is more generous, more gracious, more loving and more powerful than I could ever hope to know. If he says “ask and it will be given to you” then why not take that at face value and ask? I do not want to be like the bad steward who said “Master, I knew you to be a hard man” (Mat 25:24). Who wants to underestimate the goodness and kindness of God? I bet its quite hard to overestimate his grace.

Thirdly, what do I have to lose by asking? Will God dash my hopes? Will he laugh at my stupidity or frown at my audacity?  Is he waiting for me to pray just the right thing before he does anything? No prayer, based on a simple trust in the goodness of God, is ever ignored. My loving heavenly Father delights to hear my voice and responds to faith however small or misinformed. No one who trusts in the Lord is ever put to shame. That does not mean I will always get what I ask for. If I ask for something that falls outside of God’s good and perfect plans then he can always redirect me. Maybe by asking I’ll even learn a thing or two about God’s will.

Nothing is “too hard”for God (Jer 32:17, 27). Not only does faith raise as we read God’s word and trust it to mean as much as it could possibly mean, but it rises as we ask God to do the impossible. William Wilberforce, the man who lead the successful campaign against slavery in the 1800’s  said

“We are too young to realize that certain things are impossible… So we will do them anyway.”

Jesus said we need to be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven, so if you want to feel young again why not jettison cynicism and join me in asking for six impossible things before breakfast?

 

PS. Here are some great scriptures to give you confidence for the big asks:

Nothing will be impossible with God. (ESV) Luke 1:37

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. (ESV) Mat 17:20

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (ESV) Mat 19:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (ESV) Mark 10:27

 

What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (ESV) Luke 18:27

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (ESV) John 14:14

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV) Phil 4:13

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (ESV) John 15:7

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (ESV) John 15:16

You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV) James 4:2-3

At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

  “Sun, stand still at Gibeon,

    and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”

  And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

    until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. (ESV) Joshua 10:12-13

‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. (ESV)  Jer 32:17

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (ESV) Jer 32:27

What God is not

Our small group met last night for the first time after a long summer break. It was great to see everyone again and catch up a bit. We thanked God for all the answers to prayer from last term but we knew there were many more things that we were looking to him to do.

Before the meeting I felt God put the following verse from the Bible in my mind. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” Luke 18:1. As I briefly skimmed through the whole passage before people arrived it was as if the whole thing suddenly came alive to me. Not that it was saying anything particularly new to me, but that the truth in this passage seemed to me at that time particularly wonderful and encouraging. Like the first sip of a favourite drink or the moment you step into a warm bath. I love it when God’s word affects me like that. Sometimes you have to work hard at it and mine the truth out but at others it seems to run out to meet me.

The story that Jesus tells is about a widow who was subject to some kind of terrible injustice. She goes to the judge and asks for help. The first thing that particularly caught my attention, as I read it, was when Jesus says “listen to what the unjust judge says.” Luke 18:6. That’s a command, so I did. Looking back on the text the judge says “even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” Luke 18:4.

So, this judge doesn’t fear God or care about men. Jesus introduces the stroy with this fact in verse 2. Then the judge actually says it himself in verse 4. Then Jesus asks us to listen to it again in verse 6. Its obviously really important! It tells me that this judge was a law unto himself. By rejecting God he had effectively set himself up as God. He wasn’t even a humanist caring about other people. He just lived for himself and what he wanted and was confident that he would get away with it. His reason for giving the widow justice was an entirely selfish one; to give himself a bit of peace and quiet. Yet he did give her justice in the end.

Now, Jesus is drawing a contrast here between the judge and God. He is saying they are, complete opposites. So what does that tell me about God? First, it tells me that God is passionate for his righteousness and justice. These are things that he cares about deeply. They come from, and in fact are, his very nature. He the just judge. He is righteous. He is jealous for justice and will give it. Second, it tells me that God cares about people. He loves them so much that he would give even that which is most dear to him for them. The bible says that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son.

I’ve just watched some of “the Miracle Maker” with my children and was impacted again by Jesus’ baptism where his father says “this is my son, my beloved son…my beloved son!”. And yet this was the son who he was going to give up to a tortuous death for our sins, the unrighteousness and the injustices committed by you and me. This is love. And even as I am writing this I realise that it is this beloved son who is asking me to meditate on the words of the unjust judge so that I might understand just a little bit more how good God is and how much he loves me.

God will not keep putting people off who cry out to him for justice, for his kingdom to come, for  his will to be done. He will respond, and quickly! It’s an amazing contrast that Jesus is drawing. I was thinking this afternoon that it was like contrasting a stone with a bird. The stone is hard and heavy and totally lacking in wings yet if you throw it hard enough it will fly for some distance. How much more will a bird fly as you release it out of your hands? That’s the scale of contrast Jesus is drawing. The difference between a stone and a bird. If a selfish, evil man can be made to give justice how much more a loving, self sacrificing, righteous God.

How I need to hear this right now and how kind of Jesus to highlight it for me. As I look at situations around the world and closer to home it might be understandable to deduce that God was like the unjust judge. “Why doesn’t he work in that situation? Why does it seem he is so slow to respond to this prayer or that request?” Answers given in the past can be quickly forgotten when faced with the massive challenge of the present. The people I have prayed for that are still ill. The injustice that continues around the world in the form of the child slave trade.

That’s why I find the closing few words in verse 8 of this passage so poignant. “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on Earth?”. Will he find people that persist in prayer through challenging circumstances, who believe God’s word over their current  circumstances, who have in their hearts a conviction that God won’t delay, but that he will respond, and quickly! It takes faith to let that truth drive my emotions, my thoughts and my actions.

I am so glad to be with a small group of friends who call on God together. We decided that we wanted to keep on pressing into Him for things this term, believing him for more wonderful answers and in fact I heard tonight that he has already responded to one of our prayers in the affirmative. Thank you Lord. That was quick!

Brighton leadership conference

Had a great time at the Brighton Leadership Conference last week. I really enjoyed the combination of great teaching, a sunny beach and an air conditioned hotel. Made loads of notes on my phone. It’s taking me ages to clean them up though so I’ll just post one for now. You can get much better ones from http://adrianwarnock.com/.  It was a real shock to hear that PJ has cancer but so inspiring to hear his roar of faith in the face. He couldn’t be there but Terry read out some of his texts. Just read this blog which captures it so well. http://blog.philmoorebooks.com/day/2010/07/09.

Virgo’s preaching on Ephesians 6 was so powerful. I must admit that when he said he was preaching on that I thought back to a time when the preacher had got some children up and made balloon swords and helmets etc for them to wear. I’d heard preaches on this and wondered if it would hold my attention. It did, plus it powerfully affected my heart. At least it seemed like it did. The proof, as they say, will be in the prayer pudding. Anyway, here are my notes:
Terry :  Prayer.
Ephesians 6
  • Moses raised his hands and the rod of God while Joshua began to fight. There was a direct relationship between prayer on the mountain and victory in the valley.
  • Samuel said I won’t sin by seacsing (I can’t work out how to spell that world, is means stopping!) to pray for you.
  • “Elijah the chariots of Israel”. His praying was the chariots of Israel.
  • Men ought always to pray and not give up.
  • It’s an umbrella? word.
  • Constant and diverse prayer. On all occasions with all kinds of prayer.
  • Our regular praying on our own.
  • Prayer is the privilege of sons, the proof of sonship.
  • Murry McShain, “what a man is on his knees, that he is and nothing more
  • “Much prayer is not done because we don’t plan to pray.” D A Carson.
  • Give your best to prayer.
  • Nehemiah prays : “help!” he said “I said to God and then I said to the king.”
  • All night prayer.
  • I’m going to go for this. Go after God for this. Fasting is coming to God with great intention.
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • “If we find a way of praying that’s not really praying we will not actually pray.” (or something like that!) Michael Eaton.
  • Don’t just walk and yak (chat). Wrestle
  • Praying as a church. Acts 4 24.
  • Shall we be a force to be reckoned with?
  • With two or three.
  • Get into another persons prayer.
  • Prayer with husband and wife teams.
  • We pray not to be accepted but to accomplish something.
  • Empowered prayers.
  • None of us know how to pray but the spirit helps us.
  • The puritans said “Prayer yourself in to prayer.”
  • Paul says we pray with all the energy that God works in us.
  • Arthur Wallis said if the baptism of the spirit has not changed our prayer life then it’s not baptism in the holy Spirit.
  • The blood gives me right of access. The spirit bekons me in. Gives me experience of welcome.
  • If it is your will can be a lazy cop out. It can be relevant but also a cop out for fervent prayer.
  • Praying with the spirit equals tongues.
  • (Look into what Gordon Fee says about praying in tongues).
  • Focused prayer.
  • Partnership. Koinonia. Peter and his brother owned the fishing business together.
I may put some more notes up at some stage if I can make sense of them.

Where am I?

The angels climb Jacob's Ladder on the west front of Bath Abbey.

I have found myself over the last few days wondering “where am I?” I was on my way to church a week or so ago when suddenly I had the realisation that I was in two places at once. Not only was I on my bike, peddling along on the outer ring road, but I was seated with Christ in heavenly places. I was on earth and in heaven at the same time. I know Jesus is the fulfilment of Jacob’s ladder but if my thought was correct I too was a sort of conduit between heaven and earth. Christians are the conducting material by which heaven’s power is released on earth to extend God’s kingdom. My prayers are heard in heaven because they are voiced in heaven. My earthly actions have heavenly effect. I am like one of those worker ants that pull two leaves together, joining two separated spaces and making them one. One day heaven will overlap earth and the two will exist together.

This Sunday (the Sunday after the one I mentioned above, I am never sure how “this” and “last” and “next” work)  as I peddled to church again I found myself having another apparent revelation. I had been pondering the amazing truth that my sins had all been removed from me and placed on Jesus. How was it possible that they could be taken off me and placed on Him? The picture that came into my mind was of two transparent OHP sheets (remember those?) being placed on top of each other. One with a picture of me on it was picked up and placed over another with a picture of Jesus on it.

The penny that dropped was that it was not so much my sin that moved, but me and that the method of transference was to do with unity. I had been placed on, or rather in, Christ and in that mysterious but real unity my sins had been seen as belonging to Jesus. Sin cannot be transferred without an intimate unity. The nearest example I can think of is the shame a whole family feels due to the conduct of one of its members. The intimacy and unity of the family means that the sin of one has a tangible effect on the others. It is not beyond comprehension that the head of the family might find himself apologising for the behaviour of one of his own. It’s only a faint ripple of the mysterious dynamic that took place on Calvary but I think it’s detectable. The main thing I took out of the experience was that the removing of my sin was inseparable from my unity with Christ. I can’t have one without the other. This unity with Christ means that he is here with me now.

Where am I? I am in my study but I am also in heavenly places and the most accurate description for my location is “in Christ”. I am united with him in his death and resurrection, and active with him in his heavenly and earthly ministry. He is with me here in my study and I am with him here in heaven.

Bill Johnson conference (part 2)

Here is the next batch of points I wrote down from the Bill Johnson conference (as I said before I’m still processing them but here they are in raw form):

· If several people don’t get healed of something like MS I think “God just summoned me” to see breakthrough in this.
· Nothing happens in the kingdom until first there is a declaration
· most Christians repent (ie change their minds) enough to get saved but not enough to see the kingdom come in any great measure
· Jesus said my words are spirit and truth, gods word releases the power of the spirit to bring the kingdom in.
· The hidden Power of heaven is in the hands. Peter took the man’s hands and he was healed.
· Do not lower Scripture to experience rather raise experience to Scripture
· we do not have the right to say it was God’s will to take a child home to him when it dies prematurely. Not everything that happens is God’s will.
· In the process of learning we face disappointment but we cannot change the standard Jesus set. Everyone was healed.
· We have no right to get into gilt and shame when we don’t see people healed. That will only sets us back.
· We need to cry out to God in the secret place and then take risks in a public place.
· In releasing Gods power words are important (ie be healed), touch is important (ie laying on of hands), acts of faith are important (try walking on that leg now) and so are prophetic acts (throw an axe handle in after the axe head to make the axe head float – ie there is no direct link between the action and result).
· There is a difference between principles and presence. We must never put people at risk because of the principle that we might decide to step out in such a way when we are confident of the presence.
· Faith does not need to be proven. It just is.
· Thankfulness is the atmosphere of faith.
· Colossians 3 says fix your mind on things above. You seem world is more substantial than the visible world. Faith needs to be anchored in the eternal unseen realm.
· We pray for the sick so that Jesus gets what he paid for
· celebrating another person’s victory is what qualifies us for our own
· the church in England is afraid of blessing “what will people think if good things happen to me?” We feel the need to excuse or explain ourselves when God blesses us in some way what God wants to mark us with his blessing
· to do all you have in your hearts to do for God you will need to prosper. If not your heart is not big enough.
· To not seek the blessing of the Lord is one of the most selfish acts of the church.
· It would be very difficult not to run to God if we really knew how good he is.
· Romans eight describes the most powerful prayer meeting in the Bible. The holy spirit, Jesus, and creation are groaning and crying out.
· Hell is plan B. Plan A is gods kindness that leads to repentance. We shouldn’t scare people with hell, but motivate them by God’s kindness.
· Some people criticise the church when it is enjoying God’s blessing by saying ” you are just one big bless me club” to which bills reply is ” and the problem with that is?”
· Psalm 67 -> bless us, so that everyone knows how good you are and get saved – even the land will be miraculously productive.
· John 1 : I pray that you will prosper and be in good health.
· All the men and women whom God has used powerfully to heal the sick believe that ” all sickness comes from the devil”. The destroyer, the devourer. John G Lake. Aimee Semple McPherson. etc

A lot of very provoking statements here, especially the point about blessing made from Psalm 67. As my heart is broken over child trafficking around the world, I can expect God to bless me massively to bring the kingdom in there big time.