What I’m Reading: “I Never Became Straight. Perhaps That Was Never God’s Goal.”

Continuing my “What I’m Reading” series, here’s something that gripped my heart this week. Right on the heels of my blog on the beauty of Jesus posted last week, I read this article by Rachel Gilson that seemes to take my points and make them raw and relevant in a very difficult situation. In this article, entitled “I Never Became Straight. Perhaps That Was Never God’s Goal.”, Rachel shares very openly about her journey into lesbian relationships and her discovery of Jesus.

What I love about Rachel’s story is the way that falling in love with Jesus was what led her to choose to follow what the Bible has to say about sexuality. It only took a straightforward reading of the Bible for her to understand that God says homosexuality is wrong, but it was a much harder wrestle to understand why. Why should love be wrong, no matter who it’s between? How could the God who is love say no to that?

Even without having the answers, Rachel was falling in love with Jesus. And because of simple love for Him, she chose obedience before understanding.

“In the end, it came down to trust. I knew Jesus was worthy of trust, because he had made a greater sacrifice. He had left the bliss, the comfort, the joy of loving and being perfectly loved, to live a sorrowful life on earth. He took the pain and shame of a criminal’s death and suffered the Father’s rejection, all so I could be welcomed. Who could be more deserving of trust?

“The obedience of faith only works when it’s rooted in a person, not a rule. Imposed on its own, a rule invites us to sit in judgment, weighing its reasonableness. But a rule flowing from relationship smoothes the way for faithful obedience…

“We can’t say no to something good unless we’re saying yes to something even better.”

This is what the beauty of Jesus does. Becoming captivated by the beauty of Jesus allows us to trust and obey Him, even when we can’t understand why. Our faith is placed in a person, not a philosophy. We see His heart, His intrinsic goodness, humility, and love, and we cannot help but conclude that He is worthy of any sacrifice.

I believe that relationship with Jesus – real, vibrant, adoring, trusting relationship with Jesus – is the only hope for transformation in the LGBTQ+ community. “Because God said so” means nothing to someone who doesn’t know, love, and trust God. Externally imposed rules without relationship will only bring despair.

But the beauty of Jesus changes everything.

People like Rachel are my heroes – people who have chosen Jesus in the face of so many reasons not to. People who have chosen to take up their cross and follow Him, because of love.

“We can’t say no to something good unless we’re saying yes to something even better.”

Many of us will never be in Rachel’s exact situation, but we will certainly be called to do things that our flesh rebels at. The same questions that Rachel wrestled with will come for us.

Is God good?

Is He trustworthy?

Is He worth it?

If we are anchored in the beauty of Jesus, we will be empowered to say YES.

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Revive Texas Is Underway!

We’re now officially on day 11 of Revive Texas since we launched witth an evening rally on Sunday, April 16. Monday through Saturday, people from 340+ churches, plus lots of Time to Revive’s own staff and missionaries, have been going out in teams of four to share the gospel across DFW.

The strategy is simple: LOVE, LISTEN, DISCERN, RESPOND. We approach someone, start a friendly conversation, and ask, “How can I pray for you today?” We pray for them briefly and respectfully, and then ask if we can give them a gift as a reminder of our meeting. We give them a wristband with five colours on it, each with a different verse reference. We then ask if we can share with them what the colours mean, and we pull out a Bible with matching coloured tabs. Verse by verse, we walk them through the foundational truths of the gospel, allowing plenty of time for them to express their reactions. We then ask if anything is holding them back from giving authority of their life completely over to Christ – and many decide to surrender right then and there! Within 24 hours, we get them connected to a disciple-maker who can commit to lead them through a Bible study and walk with them on their journey.

Check out THIS VIDEO on how we walk someone through the Gospel!

I never thought something so simple (and maybe kinda cheesy) chould be so effective. God is teaching me all over again the power of the simple gospel, and how it’s not about my wise and persuasive words, but about His power. (1 Cor 2:4). We’ve been plowing the ground in prayer for years, the church is coming together in humility and unity, and the harvest is RIPE.

So far, I’ve gone out with teams on three outreach sessions. I haven’t seen anyone saved yet, but I’ve gotten to pray with and bless a lot of people, many of them believers in need of a touch from God. I have shared the gospel a couple times, though, and I’m looking forward to the day soon when I see the fruit of salvation in front of my own eyes!

This week, we also have 26 IHOPU students here on a ministry trip. It’s been so much fun to see old friends and make new friends! They have been such a strength to us, both in the prayer room and on outreach. God is giving them amazing testimonies to take back to Kansas City!

One of the testimonies from the IHOPU team! The girl in the middle just got SAVED!

Some of my favourite testimonies so far:

  • A team was in a grocery store with a Bible in their back pocket. A Pakistani Muslim man approached them and asked, “Is that a Bible? Can you explain it to me?” He is now signed up to be discipled!
  • A team shared the gospel with a high school football team of 130 people. 110 of them said YES to Christ!
  • A prision inmate received a newsletter about Revive Texas. He decided to do his own “Revive Texas” inside the prison, and 50 other inmates committed to join him. They share the gospel out of their own Bibles in the prison rec yard every day!
  • A team shared the gospel with customers at a Sonic, and 10 of them got saved!

Credit: Revive Texas

In the first week alone, Revive Texas sent out 755 teams comprised of 2,990 individuals resulting in 310 people who want follow up and 134 souls added to the Kingdom. Additionally, teams that were invited to special assignments such as jails, juvenile detention centers, schools, and businesses saw 415 more people come to know the Lord! We even have a mobile baptismal truck that teams have been using to baptise people immediately after they get saved!

Crazy things are happening. There are SO many stories to share, I can’t possibly fit them all. I encourage you to take some to watch some videos on ReviveTX.org and the ReviveTX Facebook page. There’s nothing in the world like watching someone light up when they believe the Truth for the first time.

Bringing Kids Into God’s Story

My big summer adventure of teaching at the Christian school at the church I grew up in is at a close. Friday was the last day of my seven weeks staffing summer day camp. I taught 1st-3rd grade Bible Monday and Friday mornings, and in the afternoon was a group leader for 1st grade for the first half of the summer and 3rd grade for the second half. On Wednesdays we did all-day field trips to places like the beach, Knott’s Berry Farm (it’s an amusement park much more than an actual farm), and the Natural History Museum in LA.

When I was asked to take this teaching position just a few weeks before camp began, I was pretty nervous about it. I’ve never worked with kids this young before. I learned a lot about God using me in my weakness. Even when I prepared my lessons at 11:00pm the night before and felt I had just my little loaves and fishes to bring, every time God multiplied it into something that actually kept the kids’ attention and touched their hearts.

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I got to design my own bulletin board!

My favourite part of the summer was teaching my kids the Bible. The camp was going through the Cave Quest VBS curriculum, and so I talked about how Jesus gives us hope, courage, direction, love, and power. I was given one page of thematic material and a memory verse for each week (crafts/games not included), which I had to stretch into two lessons. I had a lot of fun coming up with crafts, games, and dances to make the themes and verses memorable, and along the way I got to get my preach on and see kids’ faces light up as Truth hit their hearts! During “hope” week, I got very excited talking about how our ultimate hope is that Jesus will one day come back and “His feet will stand” on the earth, (Zechariah 14:4) and He will make all the wrong things right. Some of my kids had never heard that before. Hearing one of my 3rd graders pray “Thank You that Your feet will stand on the earth” absolutely melted my heart.

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Week 2 – Jesus gives us courage! I made a boat out of chairs, the Sea of Galilee out of sheets, and drew a storm on the whiteboard to act out the story of Peter and Jesus walking on water. The kids really seemed to get the concept of how Jesus gives us courage when we keep our eyes on Him.

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Week 3 – Jesus gives us direction! I had a lot of fun teaching them about how compasses work and how we need to align the symbols with the needle, just like we need to align our lives with God’s Word.

For our “love” lesson in week 4, we talked about how Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins. I showed them the crucifixion and resurrection scenes from the kids’ version of the JESUS film, and made a cardboard cross for the front of the room. I planned to tack pieces of paper with sins written on them to the cross, but in what must have been a Holy Spirit idea I first tacked them to my own shirt, then transferred them to the cross. Weeks later, the kids were still talking about how I used tacks to put the sins on myself “just like the nails on the cross!” Haha, not quite, but at least it made an impact.

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Week 7 – Royal Celebration. We made wordless gospel books to tell the story of our adoption into God’s royal family.

Our summer concluded with a “Royal Celebration” inspired by the Narnian crowning of the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We invited the kids to surrender the lives to Jesus, and then we offered them the chance to be crowned and baptised. That was a special week indeed! With children’s ministry, it’s kind of hard to say how many souls actually came into the kingdom during camp, but I believe the experience made an impact on them, even if the full force of it doesn’t hit them for a while.

Jesus is after the hearts of these kids. They’re not too young to experience the love of the Father and the wonder of His plan. One girl told me, “I didn’t know about God before I came here.” Another boy was so fascinated by my Bible that he begged me to let him keep it. Some of my biggest challenge kids were also my most affectionate, because they began to believe they were loved even during discipline. These kids are hungry for something real. As a camp staff, we had the opportunity to love them and plant what seeds we could, and watch God move in tiny little hearts.

Testimony Thursday: Healing at Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

On earth At Victoria Gardens as it is in heaven.

Today isn’t Thursday, I know. But this story happened last Thursday, July 30, at Victoria Gardens outdoor mall, at the parking structure just east of the library.

I’d like to tell this story with as much detail as possible because when I used to hear stories like this, it sounded so mysterious. It took me a while to figure out that it’s not about me being awesome, it’s about GOD being awesome, and me just taking simple steps to live out what I know is true. This is not a perfect model of how to witness. There are a few things I could have done differently, and I was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I just acted like myself and took the opportunity in front of me. The results aren’t up to me.

Last Thursday, I was coming down the stairs of the parking structure on my way to meet someone, when I heard some kind of accident below me, like someone had just sprained an ankle. I peered over to see one teenage boy helping another up off the ground. By the time I made it to the ground, they were limping away together.

“Hey! Are you guys okay?” I called after them.

They turned around. “Yeah, yeah, we’re fine, thanks,” they said.

“Could I ask you guys something really quick?” I asked.

“Sure,” they said, and came back towards me.

“What happened?” I asked.

“My ankle got twisted,” one guy said.

“Oh wow, I’m sorry,” I said. “Hey, um, I’m a Christian, and I believe in Jesus, and I believe that Jesus heals people… so, would you mind if I prayed for it really quickly?”

“Sure, yeah, of course,” he said eagerly. I asked his name – he was Aaron and his friend was Brian – and I knelt down and he gave me permission to touch his ankle lightly.

I don’t remember what exactly I prayed. On the one hand, I wanted to keep it simple and brief, and on the other hand, I wanted to provide a little bit of a theological foundation for what I was doing. I prayed for about thirty seconds, thanked Jesus for His love and praised Him for who He is, and asked Him to touch Aaron’s ankle and bring total healing.

I asked Aaron how the pain was, and he said it was a lot better! I asked if I could pray again, and the second time I got a bit more bold. I declared that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me and God has given me authority, and I commanded the ankle to be healed in Jesus’ name.

This time, Aaron said it felt a LOT better, and he was standing and walking without a problem, grinning ear to ear.

“So, do you believe in Jesus? What’s your background with God?” I asked.

“I’m actually a Mormon,” Aaron said. “I haven’t been active in the church for a while, but yeah, I believe in Jesus.”

“Awesome! I actually have a lot of Mormon friends, and one thing they’ve told me is that they read the Book of Mormon a lot, but sometimes not the Bible as much. Is that true for you?”

“No, we definitely read the Bible as much as the Book of Mormon. It’s another testament of Jesus Christ…” He briefly explained to me a couple of the tenets of Mormon theology, and I nodded along, but I really didn’t want to get into a historical discussion of Joseph Smith, etc. I knew I had only a few minutes with these boys, and I wanted to focus the conversation on the heart of the matter.

“We could have a whole discussion about all kinds of things here, but as I understand it the biggest difference is that Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God, but not fully God Himself, is that right?” I asked.

Aaron agreed that was correct and elaborated a little bit, but it felt to me like he was lacking conviction a bit. I didn’t want to let the opportunity go without at least briefly letting them hear the gospel.

“Well, without getting into a whole big thing here or getting all preachy at you, I do just want to tell you that the Jesus who just healed your ankle actually is fully God Himself, and He really wants to have a close personal, intimate relationship with you, and that can only happen when you fully believe and trust in who He really is and fully trust in His grace. It’s not about grace plus ‘all you can do;’ it’s by grace through faith, not works, so that no one can boast. That’s Ephesians 2:8-9. And I’d just encourage you to really seek out who Jesus is in the Bible, and see what God’s saying to you.”

Aaron said okay, and we all said “have a good day,” and went on our ways. He wasn’t limping at all anymore.

I don’t know if Aaron’s been thinking about our meeting since then. I don’t know what God’s up to in his life, or Brian’s. I do know that his ankle probably wouldn’t have gotten healed and he probably wouldn’t have heard the Gospel that day if I hadn’t stopped to talk to him, even though my heart was pounding.

I hope this story can be an encouragement that letting God use you to touch strangers with the power and truth of the Gospel doesn’t have to be mysterious or complicated. It’s not about how awesome we are, but how awesome God is.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I Corinthians 2:1-5

Pasadena Ministry Trip part 7: Onething Regional

The finale to the saga of my IHOPU ministry trip to Pasadena, April 10-20.

The climax of our trip was putting on a Onething regional conference with PIHOP. What is a Onething regional conference? It’s basically a mini version of the big year-end conference that IHOPKC puts on in Kansas City every year. The purpose of these conferences is to call this generation to passionate love for Jesus. This year, some 300 IHOPU students, joined by key speakers and worship leaders from IHOPKC, headed out in teams to seven cities across the country to partner with local ministries to put on seven simultaneous regional conferences.

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Laura Hackett Park leading us in worship.

Dave Sliker leading a ministry time.

Dave Sliker leading a ministry time – yes, that’s Lou Engle standing front and centre of the crowd, on the floor in the corner of the stage.

The conference was held Friday and Saturday, April 17-18. As students, we were assigned to various service teams to help run the event. I served several shifts as an usher as well as a shift on a prophecy team. I loved ushering. To me, ushering is being the “doorkeeper in the house of my God” that Psalm 84:10 speaks of. I get to help keep the room organised and free of distractions so that guests can encounter God–and I also get to be roaming prayer support! Often while I’m ushering, God will put a specific person on my heart, and I will stare at the back of their head and pray that God would do the work in their heart that needs to be done. Sometimes as I’m praying I’ll watch teens go from squirrely to locked in to weeping under the touch of God.

While serving on a prophecy team, I prophesied over a few dozen people who came in turn to sit on chairs in front of me and my two teammates. We would greet them, explain that we prophesy in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 14:3 “edification and exhortation and comfort,” then spend a few moments in prayer asking God what He would have to say. When we’re ready, we speak into a recording device if the person has one, sharing the words or pictures or verses that God has given us to encourage them. It’s intense and scary the first few times, but the fact is that God loves to speak to and encourage His bride. He knows each of us so individually, and He loves to blow our minds with specific words made just for us. We all had many accurate and encouraging words that God used to build up the people in front of us. Some I saw again months later, and they told me they still had my voice on their phones and those words were still a source of encouragement!

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Serving on a prophecy team- yes, my “listening to God” face looks super intense!

Our speakers included Cheryl Allen, the director of PIHOP, and Dave Sliker, one of the senior leaders at IHOPKC and one of my favourite IHOPU teachers. They both spoke about God’s heart for California and the call to pursue Him wholeheartedly. Several of my teammates were invited to share personal testimonies of how God has transformed their lives, and God moved powerfully during every session.

One of the most profound occurrences of the conference came Saturday evening. Seb, our student leader, had been feeling a burden to pray for the pure and simple gospel to be preached from the platform, since most of the messages had been directed toward believers. I remember feeling the same thing. On Saturday evening, Dave Sliker spontaneously invited Seb up to pray for the message. Seb came up to pray, but in the middle of his prayer he stopped and began preaching the gospel, calling for the prodigals who had wandered away from God to return home to the Father. You could have heard a pin drop. No one had that moment planned, but God’s heart was yearning for His children, and His voice broke through as Seb spoke. After Seb said, “Amen,” Dave Sliker said, “I want us to respond to that call right now. If you feel like that was for you, go to the back right now and meet Seb — Seb, go to the back — and he’s going to pray for you.”

Several people came to the back of the room for salvation as Dave went forward with preaching his message. Seb later described it as “less of an altar call and more of an ‘awkward call,'” but he prayed with them and, as he had with the guy who got saved and baptised earlier that week, started figuring out a way to make a baptism happen. Mott Auditorium where we were meeting has no baptismal or pool of any kind, but with a bit of frantic creativity they got hose and some sort of trough set up and at the end of the night over THIRTY PEOPLE received baptism!

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Seb praying/preaching, while another teammate stands ready to share a dream God gave her.

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Spontaneous baptisms after the conference!

That was the climax of our trip. I feel like I saw the Gospel in action that week. We came back with so many testimonies of outrageous salvations– and let me tell you, that’s not necessarily normal, even for an IHOPU ministry trip. What was different? I don’t know, but we certainly had a large handful of fiery bold evangelists on our team who constantly provoked the rest of us to step out and share the gospel. Our team developed a habit of seizing every opportunity to invite Jesus to break in and set captives free.

Also, we had a very strong team of intercessors praying for us in the prayer room back home in Kansas City. All of the seven teams reported later that they felt unusually covered in prayer, and that prayer covering seemed to produce a unique grace for ministry. We were so grateful for those who chose to stay and pray for us as we went out. Missions does not happen without prayer. We need the goers and the senders– and the senders must do more than open their pocketbooks, but open their mouths in intercession that “the Lord of the harvest [would] send out laborers into His harvest” and that “the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” (Luke 10:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:1)

We left for our drive home to Kansas City late Saturday night after the conference ended. It was a hard drive through the night, but in the morning we arrived at the Grand Canyon and got to bask in the glory of creation while singing worship together. It was such a holy, beautiful, and intimate way to wrap up our week-long ministry adventure together as a family.

Family worship at the Grand Canyon.

Family worship at the Grand Canyon.

I could not love these people more.

I could not love these people more.

Pasadena Ministry Trip part 6: Santa Monica Beach Day

The continuing saga of my IHOPU ministry trip to Pasadena, April 10-20.

I promised there was more of the story to tell… we’re almost done!

On Thursday my team took a “fun day” at the beach in Santa Monica. First, we swarmed an In-N-Out and chowed down on one of California’s greatest treasures: double-doubles, animal style fries, and milkshakes.

We crammed around tables outside by the drive through.

We crammed around tables outside by the drive through.

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Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

The rest of the day was spent frolicking in the sand and surf, soaking up the heat of the California sun… I’m not normally a true beach lover, but with the right group of people, the shoreline is to me a little slice of heaven.

Picnic dinner under the palms.

Picnic dinner under the palms.

Santa Monica Pier will always be special to me.

Santa Monica pier

I LOVE THIS TEAM with every fiber of my soul.

I LOVE THIS TEAM with every fiber of my soul.

My sister even drove out from Riverside to see me and hang out with my people for a while. It was absolutely delightful to see her, and we enjoyed much sisterly frolicking and girl-talking in the shallow waves. Later that evening, my cousin Carly and her boyfriend Mason came to see me as well, and I spent the last couple of hours exploring the shops and catching up with them.

Left to right: Elise, me, and Carly.

Left to right: Elise, me, and Carly.

Three silly faces and one mildly bemused Mason face.

Three silly faces and one mildly bemused Mason face.

Nothing like a beach sunset. God bless California.

Nothing like a beach sunset. God bless California.

While I was cruising around with Carly and Mason, a few others on my team had the incredible opportunity to baptise two people in the Pacific ocean! On the first night we were in Pasadena, the brother of one of my teammates came to visit her at the missions base. Our student leader Seb had a prophetic word for him, and hearing God’s voice speak so clearly and personally to him rocked him to the point that they ended up having a lengthy conversation about Jesus. He had known God but his life had kind of become a mess, and that night he clearly heard the Father’s invitation to come home. He surrendered his heart to Jesus, and asked what was next. “You need to be baptised!” Seb boldly explained. “Meet us Thursday at the beach and we’ll baptise you.”

So a few days later, he was baptised in the Pacific ocean. That would be incredible enough, but while they were doing that a random guy on the beach asked what they were doing and asked to be baptised also! Two for the price of one, haha!! 😉

My teammate Kenny captured the moment on video:

 

Just to cap off our beautiful day, my van decided to make a quick detour past Azusa Street in LA on our way back to PIHOP. Azusa Street was the site of a dramatic move of God in 1906 that continued until around 1915 and is credited with the birth of the pentacostal movement. It was incredibly precious to us to be able to stand on the site where God’s presence visited the earth in such a dramatic and tangible way and pray for another outpouring in our own generation.

Do it again, Lord.

Do it again, Lord.

Pasadena Ministry Trip part 5: Prayer Room and Pasadena City College

The continuing saga of my IHOPU ministry trip to Pasadena, April 10-20.

Two months later and there’s still so much more of the story to tell!

Wednesday was primarily a prayer room day for us. We started our day with the entire morning in the prayer room at PIHOP, then in the afternoon some of us chose to stay and some chose to go evangelise at Pasadena City College. PCC is the 10th largest community college in the United States. We connected with a Christian campus ministry and split into groups to go talk to students.

Often when I evangelise I waste so much time playing the “I don’t know, what are you feeling?” game. It’s like I think I need direct direction or permission from the Holy Spirit before I can talk to someone about Jesus. However, a while ago I finally decided to get over that and just… talk to people. It’s as simple as that. Just start a conversation, be friendly and casual, don’t be afraid to ask if you can pray, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead it.

Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College

My partner and I first talked to a couple of girls waiting for a friend to get out of class. One girl told me that her aunt had died suddenly only a month ago. It was her mom’s only sister. I told her that I could relate, because my aunt, my mom’s only sister, died suddenly a few years ago. I was able to pray with her for peace in her family.

When their friend showed up, we explained we were just visiting the campus, and one of the girls suggested we check out the new art building. Since we had no better direction to follow, plus the fact that I wanted to refill my water bottle (it was HOT!), we decided to take her advice. We wandered through the art building admiring the displays but not engaging with any conversations, but as we came out the other side we saw a girl sitting by herself studying in a courtyard. After discussing whether or not we should interrupt her, we decided to just go for it. We didn’t feel like she was being supernaturally highlighted in a dramatic way, but we both wanted to talk to her, so we decided to just see what would happen.

I asked if we could sit with her, and she was wary at first, then opened up when I explained that we were visiting the campus and just checking things out and talking to students. We chatted for a few minutes about the various programs and opportunities on campus, then my partner asked her what she was reading. Turns out it was a book called Lamb by Christopher Moore, an irreverent satire about Jesus’ childhood. For all its biblical liberties and crass humour, it was provoking some real questions in her. I was able to use that as an on-ramp share with her what the Bible says about the significance of Jesus’ life. I had preached the humility of Christ out of Philippians 2 just a few weeks ago in a class, and so that was the version of the story that came out of me. I talked about God’s desire for and reach for humanity, even though He is so high above the heavens that He has to humble Himself to even look at the created universe (Psalm 113:6), and Jesus’ lowering Himself from that exalted glory to become the lowest of the low, and therefore being worthy of the highest exaltation. I admit, I got a bit overexcited and long-winded, but my partner did a great job of following up by asking questions. The girl admitted she had never heard the gospel shared that way before. She wasn’t comfortable with allowing us to pray for her, but I know God is after her heart and won’t stop pursuing her.

Finally, we met a girl who was already a believer, and was very excited to talk with us about what God was doing on the campus and in the city. We prayed for her, and then she asked to pray for us! She said it was such a huge blessing to run into us. God sure does love to bless His kids!

That night we gathered in the PIHOP prayer room to have an epic prayer rumble for California with their community. When these people do intercession, they don’t mess around. Luckily, IHOPU students can pray as hard as anyone any day of the week.

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My buddy Joash is a hardcore intercessor with a spirit of prophecy.

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“God, we cry out for revival in California!”

That night felt very significant for me. The reason you don’t see me in line with the others in the above picture is that I was on the floor sobbing. It’s not often that I cry in intercession, but that night, it hit me hard. When I finally managed to catch my breath well enough to stand up mostly straight and get out several words in a row, I did grab the mic and managed to shout/sob/squeak out a prayer for Christian college campuses in California– APU, Biola, CBU, Pepperdine, Life Pacific, SDCC, Point Loma, etc.

I spent an hour pacing in the prayer room alone after that prayer meeting. “God, what the crap just happened?” I asked over and over. “What does this mean? Are You calling me to California?” God was mostly silent, but it felt like silence with a cheeky little grin. “Spoilers,” I could almost hear Him saying. I didn’t get any of the details I wanted, but I did come face to face with the fact that I do, in fact, have a larger-than-anticipated burden for my home state.

Hmm.

I wonder what that could mean?

Dancers Who Dance Upon Injustice

tumblr_l8xw33KDko1qdx47so1_500I’ve always wondered about the line “dancers who dance upon injustice” in the song “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” by Delirious?. As a dancer for most of my life, I’ve often asked, what does it mean to dance upon injustice? I understand dancing to express something, but how can dance actually trample something down?

A few days ago at IHOPU, we held a 24 hour “prayer burn.” Live student worship teams rotated around the clock for a full day of continuous worship and intercession for the church in the middle east. During the second set of the burn, at 6:00 pm on Thursday, I was in the room doing homework when my friend Deni asked me to pray. I agreed and she put my name on the board to be third in line to lead intercession on the mic. I closed my textbook and opened my Bible to find a verse to pray. I was going to pray the good ol’ Ephesians 3:16 “might in the inner man,” but before it was my turn someone started playing the old favourite “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?”

I was already in the back of the room pacing with my Bible trying to get God’s heart for the church in the middle east, but for some reason I didn’t feel I was quite there yet. Then as the song progressed, something in the room started stirring. People started jumping. Eventually I set down my Bible, took off my boots and cardigan, and let loose in the back corner of the room.

About fifteen minutes later, while we were still dancing to the same song, I heard God speaking to me.

“This is what I want for My church in the middle east. Pray for joy out of Romans 15.”

Romans 15 is one of my favourite passages to pray for unity, but as I flipped to the page, I wondered, is Romans 15 even about joy? I couldn’t remember.

Found it.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:5-6, 13 ESV)

When it was my turn to pray, I got on the mic, read this passage, then began asking God to give the church in the middle east a supernatural unity for His glory, and the joy and peace that comes from the hope of the gospel. Echoing the words of the song, I prayed, “Let their streets resound with singing, and let there be dancers who dance upon injustice, who prophetically proclaim victory over injustice!”

dance

That’s it.

Dance is more than self-expression. It’s also prophecy. When I dance in intercession, I am prophetically proclaiming what God wants to do in a region or situation. Sometimes my movements express something pouring out or springing forth. Sometimes nothing specific is discernible, but when coupled with a heart of prayer, dance prophetically proclaims our victory in Christ (both in the already and not yet) over every form of injustice and every scheme of the evil one.

That’s what I want to see in the middle east. In the midst of oppression, persecution, and injustice, I want the dancers to arise who will declare the hope, joy, and peace found in the confidence of our victory in Christ.

Maybe you need victory in a certain situation in your life. Maybe you feel crushed by injustice. In fact, any form of oppression, be it emotional, spiritual, circumstantial, etc, is injustice, because you were not made to be kept down.

You want a breakthrough? Dance. Proclaim your victory in faith. Seize joy. Celebrate your hope with confidence in who Christ is.

Dance upon injustice.

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Testimony Thursday: Heaven Breaks In at the Edge of Hell

Two years ago, I went with an evangelism team to the Edge of Hell haunted house held downtown in Kansas City every year. This year, I went again. Let’s just get one thing straight: I’m not a natural evangelist. While I certainly love talking about truth, I have about a million and one fears related to approaching strangers and talking to them about Jesus. I was surprisingly calm all day, however, and looking forward to seeing what God would do.

Lines of people in front of Edge of Hell in downtown Kansas City

Before we set out, the director of IHOPKC’s evangelism department gave us a quick briefing on how to approach people with the gospel. One thing he said was, “If they’re breathing, you can talk to them about Jesus!” He introduced us to a short “spiritual survey” that we could use to talk to people about spiritual matters. He also gave us a cd called “23 Minutes in Hell” about the testimony of a man who went to hell in a vision. (Note: I do not believe that the doctrine of hell should usually be the lead point in a presentation of the gospel, but since this was a Halloween haunted house event and people were looking to be “scared” anyway, it became a thrilling draw for people.)

Once the bus arrived at the location, my partner Grace and I decided to start off by praying. We surrendered the evening to God and asked Him to lead us and prepare the way before us. I specifically asked God to make it easy for us to talk to people, because at that point I was feeling really directionless and nervous.

We saw two girls, probably in their late teens, hovering near the end of the line. I decided that seemed about as easy as it was going to get, so I walked over to them and said, “Hi! Are you guys in line? Is this your first time?” After chatting with them for a minute and introducing ourselves, I launched right in with something like, “We’re just out here talking to people about spiritual things… I mean, ‘Edge of Hell,’ that’s kind of spiritual, right? So, do you believe in hell?” The older girl, Mia, was really willing to engage with us, and she told us that she expected to go to heaven because she tried to live “godly according to the Bible,” but couldn’t really define what a Christian was, so I took the chance to lay out the gospel for her. I don’t really remember what I said… something about sin and Jesus and grace covering us, and one moment’s decision being the start of a lifelong journey… it definitely could have been far more complete and organised, but Mia was definitely listening. Eventually she told us that she knew she needed to make a decision for Jesus, but just wasn’t ready yet. Grace and I both encouraged her and I gave her the cd, and we walked on. I’ve thought of Mia every day since then; I know God is pursuing her and bringing her to her day of decision.

The next person we met (after wandering around for a while playing the “I don’t know, what are you feeling?” game) was a woman named Brandi. She was sitting by herself on the steps behind a building. Grace approached her and asked how she was doing. She answered, “Good, I’m just waiting for my kids– but my back is killing me!” Oh hello, we can probably do something about that. Grace and I both prayed briefly for healing. In less than a minute, Brandi said her back felt much better, but it would probably start hurting if she stood up. Grace encouraged her to try, so Brandi stood, walked back and forth a few steps, and couldn’t stop smiling– her back was COMPLETELY healed!! We both got prophetic words for her and were able to share God’s heart with her, and she was definitely tearing up by the time we left. She said that she prays every night and sends her kids to church but doesn’t go with them, but is now thinking about doing so. God is definitely drawing Brandi toward Himself!

We talked to several other people who were still polite though much less receptive, and I know that even if they didn’t allow up to fully share the gospel with them, just our reaching out and speaking to them about God could have made a difference. Our job isn’t to know how our actions will affect the other person completely. Our job is merely to be faithful stewards of the message with which we have been entrusted and to walk in love every step of the way.

When our group was finally all back together and ready to debrief, we counted up the encounters we’d had. Our group had shared the gospel with over 150 people, 5 people had given their lives to Christ, and many more had been healed!

While I’m still not a natural evangelist, I do truly love sharing the truth of what God has made available to mankind with people who so desperately need it. I have touched Jesus’ heart, and I know how desperately He wants these people for His own. It’s still plenty uncomfortable, but I want to join Him in His mission of reconciling the world to Himself.

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…” John 17:24

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

What is the Gospel?

(One of my IHOPU classes, Basic Christian Beliefs, is giving the assignment of blogging on certain questions from the lessons every week. This week, I’m choosing the question “What is the Gospel?”)

Gospel. Euangelion. Good news. Christianity’s favourite word.

So what is this good news?

We could give the bullet point version in the four spiritual laws. We could tell the story of eternity, what I like to call the History of the Universe Abridged. But beneath all of that, I think the gospel is very focussed.  All of the swirls of the message and the history and the “if-then” propositions slow down and come to rest in one very particular place.

Paul gave a concise summary of the New Testament gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” But the concept of God’s “good news” is so much older than that. This phrase has appeared throughout the Bible, particularly in a few notable places in Isaiah. And when I think about the fullness of what the gospel is, those are the places I go.

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
~Isaiah 40:9

What is the good news? GOD. He Himself, and all of who He is, is the good news. When we proclaim the gospel, what we’re really doing is crying out, “LOOK AT GOD! He is beautiful, He is worthy, He is love, He is grace, He is HOLY!” The full gospel is the declaration of His character. What gospel did Isaiah mean? What gospel did Jesus preach before His death?

John Piper has said that missions exists because worship doesn’t. I believe that when we share the good news, we are inviting people into that circle of the seraphim before the throne, crying out holy, holy, holy. This is the point. HE is the point.

And then we get to go straight up to that throne, curl up on YHWH’s lap, and call Him Papa.

I hope your heart skipped a beat reading those words. Because this is the most sacred, beautiful truth of all. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He has made a way.

And here the cross takes centre stage. In Jesus, in His incarnation and death, was the fullness of God openly displayed. God, stripped naked, beaten ragged, hanging on a tree with arms wide open. Humility. Justice. Victory. Love. Could there be a more beautiful picture of who He is?

So this, my friends, is the gospel.

There is a story, and it’s all about God, and you are invited into it.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
~Isaiah 52:7

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