“He is a real Person with arm hair” – IHOPU Graduation Speech

It’s rare that I post things on my blog that I did not write, but this is a highly remarkable exception. IHOPU celebrated its 2018 graduation on May 19. On that day, Mike Bickle, the founder and senior leader of IHOPKC, was supposed to give a speech. Instead, he gave his time to graduating senior Halie Benson, whom he had heard give this speech at the Baccalaureate the night before.

To all of this I can only say YES AND AMEN. This is what I also discovered through my four years at IHOPU, and what I am continually discovering day after day in our prayer room in Dallas.

This vision isn’t just for IHOPU students or full-time missionaries. This invitation is for EVERYONE who is hungry to know Jesus and desires to make Him their “one thing” (Psalm 27:4).

The prayer room isn’t about me making myself feel good. It’s about me encountering the Person of Jesus and becoming His friend.

Halie Benson IHOPU Baccalaureate/Graduation Speech

Full Transcript | May 18-19, 2018

This is to IHOPU students and OTI [One Thing Internship] as well, and to anyone who has a hungry heart.

We do not sit in that Global Prayer Room to subtly fuel our agenda for impact, deliverance of the heart, or even the improvement of life, although those things do happen. I do not come to His cross with my worst faults and perverted sins to confess so I feel clean. I do not sing the Word to make my heart feel. I do not choose to give thanks because it produces in me a happy heart. I do not study the Word because it will prepare me for when the storm of the end of the age hits. I do not study the Lord’s return so that I won’t fall to deception. We do not give ourselves to intercession to make a prayer meeting meaningful. We do not engage in the Great Commission by counting the cost and forsaking a self-centered gospel.

I have found: He is not my mascot. He is not my “buddy”. He is not an idea. He is not the means to my end. He is far different than I painted Him to be in the beginning.

We, IHOPU and One Thing– we have found HIM in the place of prayer. We talk to Him in the place of prayer.

We sit in the Global Prayer Room to look at and listen to Jesus . . . a real Person with arm hair. He breathes, He laughs, He sings, and He cries. His voice has tone. His hands have real scars that bring back memories. He smells I’m sure, but what like—I can’t wait to find out. We hear His Story and find ourselves invited.

We come to the Global Prayer Room to agree with the only Good Guy in the Story. We come to the crucified Christ with our worst faults and perverted sins to see Him more clearly and our hands stained with blood. We sing His Word to make His holy heart happy when ours are satisfied in His. We choose to give thanks because we are victims of His grace. We study His Word to see Him rightly and to discover what God is like. We give ourselves to His end-time purposes because we can’t actually wait to meet Him. We engage in the Great Commission because He desires them in patience, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

That Man on that throne is listening. He is watching. His heart is burning and it makes me tremble. He is the ever-living Godhead. A Person who has been alive and well for two thousand years watching and searching for hearts to incline towards His. The fullness of deity dwells in His bodily form and this makes the Father so happy. In IHOPU I have caught a glimpse of His Story from Genesis to Revelation. And sometimes, in the place of prayer, when I get real close, I feel His heart ache.

Oh, that I would be found His dearest friend. His secret keeper. His witness. His sister. His servant. His volunteer. The One who was with the Father and declared light to come and creation to sing–I talk to Him.

Yes, it is You, oh Lord. I have found You to be my Lover, and not my Master. You are FASCINATING, and You are BEAUTIFUL.

And this is the verse that I want to claim in my life, and I know IHOPU students as well and OTI students as well.

[Psalm 27:4]
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.

Amen.

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What I’m Praying: Dancing Justice

Continuing my What I’m Praying series, here’s something that’s been on my heart for a few years now, and came to a head again last Friday. It’s something I talk about with increasing frequency on my social media, but rarely if ever on Fragrance Arise, mostly because my thoughts and feelings are still so raw, and it’s difficult to get them into a form that fits the mission of this blog. Also, I think, there’s fear of being perceived as “stirring the pot”, as I’ve been accused of trying to do–i.e. stir up trouble and division that hurts more than it helps.

I’m talking about justice issues. Specifically, right now, racial justice issues.

This past week, Stephon Clark was shot 20 times by police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento. He was unarmed. He was scared. There is currently an ongoing investigation and several outstanding questions as to how the police handled the encounter. They were looking for someone breaking windows in the neighbourhood, and even assuming Stephon was that guy, he did not deserve to die. And yes, he was black.

I don’t have all the answers, but that should never have gone down the way it did. There was no reason for him to end up dead.

This post is mostly not about Stephon Clark. As grieved as I was over the injustice of his death, a more close-to-home grief arose when I witnessed the reactions of some of my white brothers and sisters in Christ. We were quick to defend the police and slow to mourn the loss of life. We were quick to deny racism had any role, systemic or specific, and we were slow to listen to the stories of the black people who had the courage to jump into those conversations and share their experiences and perspectives. We were all too okay with what had happened. And I’ve witnessed echoes of this same conversation so. many. times.

I can already hear the cries of “not all white people/Christians/police/etc!” so yes, I’ll say it here. NOT ALL.

But too many.

And too many turning a blind eye.

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

My heart aches for us as white believers, who are part of the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth, to slow down, shut up and listen, and recognise that our world is broken, centuries of brokenness have built up to create the world as it is today, and some of our brothers and sisters walk through this world differently than we do.

We need to let go and listen.

Just.

Listen.

I’m still listening. I’m still very much in the early stages of this journey. A few years ago, I realised I had grown up in a bubble, and racism to me was mostly a thing in the history books. When I heard of black people being shot by police, and my black friends crying injustice and tragedy, I silently thought that they were overreacting, because the police are always the good guys who always deserve the benefit of the doubt.

If only.

On Friday, I found myself once again in a conversation where all of these emotions and reactions came to a head, hurtful things were said, there was way more ranting and accusing than listening, and humility and compassion seemed a million miles away.

It broke my heart.

That afternoon I was folding laundry in my room when I broke down crying. I had so much frustration and grief that I didn’t know what to do with it.

Grief for Stephon Clark and the far too many who came before him.

Grief for my friends and family, the church, who seemed to have forgotten how to listen in love.

Grief for the relationships that have been strained, brother against brother and sister against sister, because of these issues.

Grief for America and the world, where I know there will never be true shalom until Jesus comes back.

Grief for myself, my own turmoil, my poor angry heart that had lost sight of peace and joy.

“Jesus, help me,” I cried. “I don’t even know what to do with my heart right now.”

In a moment of clarity and wisdom that I wish I had more often, I knew I needed to worship. I knew I needed to declare again that God does see and hear every injustice, and His heart breaks for it, and He will not be silent forever. I needed to rise above the mess and declare the fierce love and justice of King Jesus. I put on a youtube playlist that I created specifically for processing these kinds of emotions (many of the songs were suggestions from friends trying to work through the same things).

And then I danced. I danced every emotion I was having. I danced frustration, anger, fear…and I danced faith, confidence, and hope. I danced through that playlist until I could hardly breathe. Alone in my bedroom, I declared the bleeding love of God, the fire in His eyes, and His fierce promise to establish swift, perfect justice forever. As I danced, my body became a prophecy and a prayer and a weapon.

Jesus sees. He hears. He will not forget. He will make all the wrong things right. He will restore, and He will repay.

And in the meanwhile… what if we could just listen for a while? What if we could actually listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters of colour who have LIVED this reality for generations? Sometimes those stories come out with anger, true, but what if we could put aside our defensiveness for a while and actually try to hear their hearts? And then just say “Thank you for sharing your story” without listing off our reactions and objections? And what if we did that a hundred times before we opened our mouths to share our opinions?

This is the cry of my heart. This is what I believe christlike love looks like.

And if you’re like me, caught in the storm of emotion, feeling tangled and pulled and watching the world implode into chaos around you… slow down, breathe deep, and remember what is true. Proclaim it. Pray it, sing it, shout it, dance it. He will not forget justice.

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:14-18

~~~

Enjoy my Justice Worship playlist on Youtube.

What I’m Reading: Growing as a Prophetic Singer

I’m a prophetic singer in the house of prayer, but it kind of happened by accident. I’ve had very little musical training, and when I first went to IHOPU it was not with the intention of being trained as a singer or worship leader. I had a few opportunities to sing on student teams (with other non-music students), and I had several excellent coaches who gave me some great encouragement and pointers, but it wasn’t until I became part of a smaller house of prayer in Texas and found myself leading worship with my meager skills 10+ hours a week that I started to take myself more seriously as a singer and worship leader. I still feel very green as a singer, and I need all the help and encouragement I can get!

Anna Blanc is one of the singers/worship leaders at IHOPKC I most respect and admire for her faithfulness and humility in singing in the prayer room for years and for her earnestness and Bible-centredness in pressing into God through her worship. Plus, she’s dang talented. Her song “Isaiah 42” (“You are the Lord, that is Your name/Your glory You will not give to another to be praised”) is one of my favourite anthems to declare the supremacy of Jesus in the context of His return.

We have Anna’s book, Growing as a Prophetic Singer, in our little library at The Prayer Room. I picked it up this week, thinking I probably would really benefit from learning from Anna.

Boy, was I right.

Anna’s book addresses the varied dimensions of anointing, excellence, and endurance that affect a prophetic singer. All three are vitally important. A person can be highly skilled without having that anointing from God that makes them a truly powerful prophetic singer, and a person can also be super anointed without pursuing excellence and the increase of skill at whatever level they may be. We don’t have to choose one or the other. God gives anointing, often in response to diligent seeking, and He also values excellence as an extravagant offering. And on top of these two components, it also takes endurance to persevere through the emotional roller coaster that is singing on worship teams for years–through promotion, demotion, and just plain mundaneness.

Here are a few of the key themes I was strengthened by in this book:

  • Stewardship over our gifting and calling involves growing in both anointing and excellence. As I said above, we need God to fill us with His Spirit, and we also need to continue growing in musical excellence.
  • God is glorified in our obedience and worship, even when we are weak. For the beginning singer (or the proficient singer on an off day!), God is still so delighted by our sacrifice of praise.
  • Singing to God alone in the secret place is so precious to Him. He LOVES hearing our songs when no one else is around! Those hidden times are often more powerful and transformative than worship experiences before a huge audience.
  • Both promotion and demotion bring unique challenges. When we’re promoted, we can easily become prideful. When we’re demoted, we can easily become offended (which also stems from pride). God strategically takes us through both to purify us.
  • Singing the Word anointed by the Spirit is POWERFUL. God moves so powerfully when we declare His truth in song. There’s really nothing like it.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who desires to touch the heart of God through singing, especially in a team context, and especially especially through prophetic worship in a house of prayer. (Really, a lot of it applies to anyone in ministry in general.)

It’s on our library shelf at The Prayer Room, so feel free to read it here at the base if you’re local, or you can pick it up on Amazon or IHOPKC.

BONUS — Anna has a number of videos on youtube sharing her heart as well as practical tips to grow as a singer, which can be found on this playlist linked here.

May the Lamb That Was Slain Receive the Reward of His Suffering

The background image is an 1888 etching of the Moravian mission ship Harmony.

On August 27, 1727, a prayer meeting started in Herrnhut, Germany, that lasted for over 100 years and went on the change the world.

Its story begins when Protestant refugees from the Catholic country of Moravia came to Germany and settled on the land of Count Zinzendorf. The community was soon attacked by division and disagreement, and the 27-year-old Zinzendorf cried out to God for reconciliation and revival. God spoke to him Leviticus 6:13: “Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.”

Days later, on August 13, 1727, a wave of repentance and revival swept through the community. The Holy Spirit was dramatically poured out with signs and wonders and supernatural love for each other, for the Scriptures, and most supremely for Jesus. His glory became their urgent desire. The community adopted a radical new model for community life, which included a perpetual corporate prayer assembly in the spirit of Leviticus 6:13. They all committed to hourly “prayer watches” by which they arranged the community to cover the entire 24 hours in a day.

The Moravian emblem, based on Revelation 5:5-6, 14:4

The impact of this 100-year prayer meeting reached far beyond the small settlement of Herrnhut. The radical love for Jesus and fire of the Spirit that was rooted in them during those 24/7 prayer meetings gave birth to one of the most prolific missionary movements of history and became an inspiration and challenge to the modern missions movement that would soon be born.

In 1732, five years after the initial outpouring of the Spirit, two Moravian tradesmen, 36-year-old David Nitschmann and 26-year-old Johann Leonhard Dober, became the first missionaries to leave Herrnhut. They heard of the plight of African slaves on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean, and how there was a spiritual hunger but they had no one to share the gospel with them. They determined to go by any means necessary, even when they were told they would have to sell themselves into slavery in order to minister among the slaves. (As it turns out, when they offered themselves as slaves in Copenhagen, they were laughed at because no one would buy white men as slaves, so they travelled to St. Thomas by working their trades.)

According to the story that has stirred missionary zeal the world over for the past near-300 years, as they stood on the ship departing from the wharf, looking for what they believed to be the last time of the faces of their loved ones, they raised their fists and cried, “MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING.”

That cry, that burning desire for Jesus to have the full inheritance of everything He died for, has captivated me for a decade.

~~~

So what is the “reward of His suffering”? What does He deserve for His sacrifice on the cross?

He deserves the nations to the ends of the earth as His inheritance.

“You are my Son…Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:7-8

He deserves the saints as His glorious inheritance.

“that you may know…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” Ephesians 1:18

He deserves to be preeminent (in first place) in everything.

“…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Colossians 1:18

He deserves exaltation and the homage of every person.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” Philippians 2:8-11

He deserves power, authority, glory, and worship.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12

He deserves ultimate exaltation and glory. He deserves every person everywhere singing highest praises from hearts in love. He deserves to fully rule and reign over every single aspect of life.

The truth is, there is NO LIMIT to how much He deserves. Isaiah 9:7 says that His kingdom will continue to increase forever and ever.

~~~

So what does that mean for us?

In light of the biblical testimony of the great worth of the Lamb, in light of the historical testimony of the saints and martyrs who laid down everything for Him, is there any limit to how much He deserves in our lives?

Is there any passion too extreme?

Is there any offering too extravagant?

Is there any commitment too radical?

Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians at Herrnhut, like King David and thousands of others throughout history, determined that 24/7 prayer and worship was not too much to respond to His glory.

Nitschmann and Dober determined that selling themselves into slavery was not too high a price to pay so that the Lamb would have His reward in the slaves of St. Thomas.

May we be driven by their example. May their cry be the great echoing anthem of the Church across the earth as we strive to lay down everything to see His glory have its full due:

MAY THE LAMB
THAT WAS SLAIN
RECEIVE THE REWARD
OF HIS SUFFERING.

 

The video below (or LINK HERE) was made by a friend of mine, who is now a missionary helping plant prayer and worship around the world. It’s one of my favourite videos on the internet and has refused to leave me alone ever since I first saw it.

 

2017 Highlight Video

Happy 2018, friends! It’s been quite the busy holiday season… and when I got home from California and Kansas City, I was immediately hit with preparations for The Prayer Room’s School of Supernatural Ministry! Now that it has officially launched on January 20, I can catch my breath and catch up on some blog posts.

The first thing I want to share with you is my highlight video from 2017! When I went home for Christmas, I hosted an open house for some of my friends and partners, and I shared with them this video. I’m delighted to be able to finally share it with you!

What I’m Praying: Refreshing

Continuing my What I’m Praying series…

The past few weeks, TPR has been focussed on praying for a time of deep refreshing to come to our community. This has been our rapid fire topic at the end of every set. To be honest, it’s been an exhausting year. Many people feel a bit dry and dull and just soul-weary. We need a good strong “time of refreshing” (Acts 3:20) from the Lord to revive our hearts. Living dry is no fun.

It’s true that most of life is lived in the mundane. Most of the time, we’re neither on the mountaintop nor in the depths of despair; rather, we’re sort of on the plateau of daily walking out life with God, trying to stay obedient and faithful no matter how we’re feeling.

But we don’t want to just be okay with not encountering God.

We’re asking God for a season of refreshing, that as individuals and as a community we would receive an increased touch of the Holy Spirit.

This past week, I believe we’ve started to see glimpses of that. On Saturday night, Brad was called last minute to attend a meeting, so instead of him continuing our teaching series, our weekly Encounter service became a prayer meeting with extended worship for exactly this topic of refreshing. We asked God to move in signs and wonders and to refresh us with an increased manifestation of His presence. The corporate nature of that prayer meeting, with all of us in the room joined with fervor and unity, and the worship team’s excellent prophetic leadership, definitely brought refreshing to our hearts. With the leanness of our 18/7 schedule right now, we’re not able to have those experiences together very often.

Also, on Sunday night a prayer group from a local Messianic congregation visited the prayer room. Almost 30 ladies joined us for an hour or so, and God really moved among them. Our worship leader felt a strong prophetic nudge to spontaneously lead a ministry time from the prayer mic (don’t worry, the usher took his seat so the stage wasn’t empty) and give a call for anyone who felt called to missions. The room was deeply touched and many responded. That kind of move of the Spirit is the kind of thing we’re praying to see more of.

Please join us in praying that God would refresh us with a fresh wave of His Spirit!

God, thank You for Your presence here – please increase our experience of Your presence. Open the heavens and send another wave of Your Spirit to refresh, awaken, and revive us. We’re crying out for fresh fire. Meet us in our hunger as You’ve promised.

What I’m Praying: Global Bridegroom Fast

I’ve never blogged on fasting before, because I’ve wanted to be careful about the way I’m honoring Matthew 5:16-18. But this is important, and it is something that’s currently happening in our community, so if it can be an encouragement to anyone, here you go.

When I was at IHOPKC, I was introduced to something called the Global Bridegroom Fast. The Global Bridegroom Fast is a monthly three-day fast, the first Monday through Wednesday of every month, that the house of prayer sets aside as a community to pursue Jesus through fasting. I remember there being a real sense of unity and spiritual hunger as we intentionally refocussed on what this is all about.

We call it a “bridegroom” fast because of what Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist when they asked why He and his disciples weren’t fasting:

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15)

Jesus tied fasting to longing for His presence and for His return. In this type of fast, we’re primarily asking God to renew and stir up love for Jesus in our hearts and to refocus our hearts on longing for His return, what Titus 2:13 calls our “blessed hope”.

At The Prayer Room, we also value a lifestyle of fasting, since it was one of the primary aspects of godly life that Jesus identified in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:16-18) as well as being a key component of seeking God’s mercy on a people (eg Joel 2:12). For years, we’ve devoted ourselves to weekly fasting, and many of us made Thursday our staff fasting day. Recently, however, we’ve felt God leading us to switch it up and join in with IHOPKC, and in fact hundreds of other houses of prayer and communities around the world, in the monthly Global Bridegroom Fast. So from now on, rather that encouraging our community to participate in a weekly fasting day, we’re encouraging everyone to join in this monthly Global Bridegroom Fast!

Personally, I hate fasting. I can preach a good sermon on why it’s important, and I really do believe it, but in my flesh I can make a thousand excuses to deny myself as little as possible. (“Maybe I just won’t eat meat…between the hours of 12pm and 4pm…”) Having the whole community going hard together, and knowing that it’s only once a month, has so far been very helpful to me. And even though my flesh hates it, every single time I fast, God gives me grace to go without food longer than my metabolism could ordinarily bear.

I find that the hunger pains of fasting serve as a constant reminder to refocus on God. Every time I feel a pinch and fantasize about a big sandwich or plate of pasta, it’s an opportunity to say NO to my flesh and YES to God. It doesn’t earn anything from God, but it positions me to encounter Him because I am forcing myself to be serious about reaching for Him. It trains my flesh in the art of self-denial, which is a necessary discipline in every aspect of Christian life. And somehow, in the economy of the Kingdom, God really does respond to fasting. I can’t fully explain how or why, but He does.

For myself, I have a few rules about fasting:

  1. I must set the parameters of the fast at least the day before. If I try to decide when I wake up how I’m going to fast, my flesh will be way louder than my spirit.
  2. I’m not allowed to alter the parameters in the middle of a fast unless I’m actually close to passing out or throwing up and I feel God giving me permission. Even then, a small snack is enough.
  3. The other exception is if fasting would disrupt an important social event, like the time my mom wanted to celebrate a family birthday on my fasting day and saying no would have been hurtful. Also, when I used to choose my weekly fasting day, I would make sure to schedule it on a day I didn’t expect eating to be a social event (ie, weekly small group).
  4. I do try not to make a big deal of it and carry on my life as usual, but especially since we’re in a community where fasting is normal, talking about it isn’t exactly taboo.
  5. Most importantly, I have to actually spend focussed time in prayer that day.

It’s important to remember that fasting is NOT meant to be a vehicle for condemnation and guilt. Fasting is spiritual violence, and it’s hard, and we all fail from time to time. BUT we find that we’re able to stay steadier the more months and years we make this a lifestyle! When we fail, we immediately sign back up and keep going. Just like one sexual mistake isn’t permission to consider your purity ruined and dive headfirst into more sexual sin, eating during a fast doesn’t mean that you’re a horrible person and trying to fast is a waste. Just sign back up and keep going!

Also, it’s helpful to know that although a lifestyle of fasting WILL lead you into more encounter with God than never fasting, there is no timeline or measuring stick for what that looks like. Many people don’t experience anything extraordinary during a fast, but they will right after. Often it’s hard to discern any fruit even after months. My advice is not to evaluate the fruit of fasting for at least a year. Some people say five or ten years. Make it a lifestyle, and eventually, in small ways or big ways, God WILL respond in greater measure than He would have otherwise.

Fasting gets our flesh involved in our spiritual longing for God. It positions us to receive more from Him by clearing out some of the cobwebs in our hearts. By becoming more in tune with our longing for God, we catch a glimpse into His longing for us! Jesus has been waiting 2000 years, or really since the Garden, to come be fully, finally united with us. It’s His great consuming desire. If He carries that ache, then I want to carry it too, and fasting helps me do that.

I invite you to join us in this monthly Global Bridegroom Fast! If you think this sounds like a good idea, set a reminder on your phone right now. You could instead (or also!) choose a weekly personal fasting day. (IHOPKC staff fasts on Tuesdays in addition to the monthly three-day fast.)

As you embark on the adventure of fasting, know that even though your flesh will hate you for it, Jesus is so delighted! He is smiling on us as we choose to seek Him. And He doesn’t stop smiling when we mess up… He LOVES when we keep stumbling toward Him, though we fall a thousand times. So let’s keep stumbling forward in confidence in His love, believing that He is the prize worth any cost.

LIVE Worship Video from The Prayer Room – “Beautiful”

The past few months, there’s been a trend of worship leaders at The Prayer Room making a Facebook Live video as they play. I was super nervous at first, but I finally did a few myself. (If you’re my Facebook friend, feel free to look them up!) One day we hope to be able to stream all our prayer room hours on our website, but in the meantime, Facebook Live is a really fun way to share a glimpse into the atmosphere of prayer and worship we’re cultivating.

I’d like to share a video with you, but I need to tell you a little bit about it first.

This video has a special place in my heart because the song I’m playing, “Beautiful” by Sam Lane, was introduced to me by Ted Dekker. He used the chorus of it in his book Green, the fourth book released in the Circle Series. In this scene, the spiritual community called The Circle is ceremonially reenacting our “Great Wedding” with Elyon — God.

Six maidens in white faced Thomas and Chelise on their knees and sang the Great Wedding’s song. Their sweet, yearning voices filled the valley as they cried the refrain in melodic unison, faces bright with an eager desperation.

You are beautiful… so Beautiful… Beautiful… Beautiful…

…And in many ways they were all perfectly beautiful as Elyon was beautiful. Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.

-Green, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson 2009

Shortly before Green was released in 2009, I attended a Ted Dekker fan event near Nashville at which Ted went all out to bring us into the world of his stories. He gave us an exclusive cd which included the original recording of the song (you can find it on youtube) as well as a message from himself describing his heart for Green and this song. In Ted’s own words:

“I have to say that this song has always exemplified the heart of the Circle Series, of God’s creation calling out to Him, ‘You are beautiful,’ but also God, Elyon, saying to his creation ‘You are beautiful’–the Lover and the Beloved crying to each other, singing to each other, ‘You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.’ When I first heard this song many years ago, you know, it brought me to tears. It was an incredible touching experience, where I thought, ‘This is what it’s really all about.’ In the end, everything distills down to this moment, this song, a song like this. And I knew I had to write about it…

“Really, at the heart of this whole series is this song, ‘You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.’… think of the people on the edge of the lake singing this song to Elyon over and over and over again… It’s all about this yearning that we have to be reunited once again–on the lake, on the shores of the lake, in the bowels of the lake, deep in the lake–to go back and be with God, with Elyon (in this story), in the same way we once were. It’s an irresistible calling to us. My hope and prayer is that this song would work its way into your spirit.”

-Ted Dekker, The Gathering 2009 cd

This is what it’s all about. This is actually my third time this week blogging about the beauty of Jesus, and I didn’t even plan it that way. The purpose of all existence is anchored in the beauty of Jesus. He is so deserving of all of our obsession and adoration, and this is our truest and deepest life’s calling–to sing this song to Him and to hear Him singing back to us. To love and to be loved.

In this recording, in between choruses of the song, I also started singing spontaneously some scriptural phrases from Song of Solomon and other passages about His beauty to us and our beauty to Him. Below you can listen to the song on Youtube (it’s unlisted, so you won’t find it if you try searching Youtube itself), and below that you can read the verses that I was singing from. (The song “Beautiful” in the video is only about the first 11 minutes, and the rest of the video segues into “Jesus, You’re Beautiful” by Jon Thurlow.)

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

 

“Let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
Song of Solomon 2:14

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.”
Song of Solomon 1:15, also 4:1

“Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me.”
Song of Solomon 6:5

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you… You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”
Song of Solomon 4:7, 9

 

You are fairer than the sons of men”
Psalm 45:2 NKJV

My beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousand.”
Song of Solomon 5:10 NKJV

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious,”
Isaiah 4:2

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 29:2, also 69:9 NKJV

“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you;”
1 Samuel 2:2

“…so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.”
Exodus 8:10

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;”
Psalm 27:1

“even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
Psalm 39:12

Why the Beauty of Jesus is My Life Message

A few years ago, someone asked me what my “life message” is. I don’t remember what my answer was at the time, but having taken some time to think about it, I think I know. My life message is the beauty of Jesus.

As I put it on my teaching resources page:

I want people to see the supremacy of the beauty of Jesus in a way that makes their hearts come alive with love for Him and catches them up into the Story of what He’s doing in our generation.

First, here’s what I mean by the beauty of Jesus. The Bible repeatedly refers to this idea, and here are a taste of my favourite references:

“One thing I have desired of the LORD…to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…” (Psalm 27:4)

“You are fairer than the sons of men…” (Psalm 45:2)

“My beloved is white [radiant, ESV] and ruddy, chief among ten thousand…” (Song of Songs 5:10)

“Your eyes will see the king in his beauty…” (Isaiah 33:17)

The beauty of Jesus is mostly the beauty–the excellence–of His personality. I used to think of Jesus’ beauty as only the visual aspects of light and glory described in passages such as Revelation 4 and 5. While those are certainly a part of Jesus’ beauty, the full truth is so much deeper than that. Jesus is beautiful because of who He is. Every single facet of His character is gloriously beautiful. His love, joy, playfulness, fierceness, humility, honesty, cleverness, justice, dedication, wisdom, faithfulness, and a thousand other traits are what make Him stunning. As mere humans, we can never be all of these things as fully as we wish we could be, and no person in our lives could fulfill all of these needs for us, but Jesus possesses all of these characteristics to their fullest possible extreme, all at once!

I’m going to say that the beauty of Jesus draws us into four things: 1) Worship, 2) Relationship, 3) Discipleship, and 4) Partnership.

1. Worship

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

Jesus’ beauty is directly tied to His holiness, which is His complete OTHERness. Part of what this means is that His every characteristic is higher and more pure and perfect than its earthly equivalent.

Jesus is beautiful in every single facet of his character, in His love and mercy as well as His wrath and justice. Think about that. Every justice system on earth is guaranteed to screw up. Human justice will always be imperfect, no matter how hard we try to refine the system, because no man can really see into the heart of another. But Jesus’ justice is completely perfect. Every single time.

That moves me to awe. Everything He is and does is absolute perfection, and not just harsh, to-the-standard perfection, like a starched white cleanroom. No, this is vibrant, colourful perfection, like an overwhelming symphony of music and movement and colour in wild extravagance and perfect harmony. There is a fullness and a richness to His personality that is completely unique and stunning.

How can I not give myself over in awe and worship before such a God?

2. Relationship

My favourite quote about the beauty of Jesus is from the book Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge:

We all know brilliant minds who could do with a touch of humility, humble folk who ought to stand up for themselves, driven types who need to lighten up, jokesters who should grow up, and gracious souls who really ought to get good and mad once in a while…

But imagine if you found it all in on person—superb before a jury, terrific taste in movies, ready at the drop of a hat for a riot of a vacation, and also able to handle your deepest, darkest secrets. Wouldn’t you want that person to be your friend?!…

He is not glistening white marble. He is the playfulness of creation, scandal and utter goodness, the generosity of the ocean and the ferocity of a thunderstorm; he is cunning as a snake and gentle as a whisper; the gladness of sunshine and the humility of a thirty-mile walk by foot on a dirt road. Reclining at a meal, laughing with friends, and then going to the cross.

This is what we mean when we say Jesus is beautiful. (Beautiful Outlaw, page 136-137)

Isn’t that a Person you want to know?

This is someone I would never get tired of spending time with. This is someone I would never get bored of discovering more about. He is fun, and fascinating, and brilliant. He’s infinitely gentle and wise and also knows how to kick my butt when I need it.

And He wants to know me. He deeply, achingly desires relationship with me. Knowing who He is, knowing how perfect and amazing His love is, how could I not fall in love in return?

3. Discipleship

“What a beautiful example You are to me, Jesus”
Caleb Andrews, “Beautiful Example” [click for youtube]

The more I see of the beauty of Jesus’ character, the more I want to be like Him. Just being told to do things doesn’t change my heart. Moralism isn’t enough. My heart changes when I become captivated by the beauty of those charactersistics in Him.

Growing up, I always knew that being humble was a good thing, but my attempts to “be more humble” were almost completely without vision until I caught sight of the remarkable humility of Jesus… how He came so low to take the form of a servant and become obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:6-11), and even when He comes back as a warrior He’s coming to fight for truth, meekness, and righteousness (Psalm 45:4).

There’s a principle in Scripture often stated as “what we behold is what we become,” taken from 1 John 3:2, which says “when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see him as He is.” That’s true of our physical bodies on the day of His return, and it’s also true to a lesser degree of our hearts now. The more clearly we see Jesus, the more we are empowered to become like Him–and in fact, the more we want to become like Him.

4. Partnership

Part of being friends with Jesus is caring about what He cares about and doing what we see Him doing. We want Him to have the dreams of His heart come to pass, and we want to be part of making those things happen, because of love. Falling in love with Jesus drives everything else I do in my life. Intercession, discipleship, evangelism, social justice–they’re all about Him. I want Him to have what He so deeply desires, because I know that He is beautiful and worthy, and because I know the things He wants are beautiful and worthy. His desires are perfectly pure and holy. The more clearly I see His sense of justice and fall in love with that quality in Him, the more I want to see justice done in the earth–because I have connected with the beauty of true justice in the heart of Jesus.

 

There is truly no one like Jesus. He really is “fairer than the sons of men” and “chief among ten thousand.” He is worthy of all of our worship and all of our trust and all of our lives lived completely for His glory– because the extravagant beauty of His character actually deserves such an extravagant response.

3 Truths That Keep Me Coming Back to the Prayer Room

…And None of Them Are Actually About Me.

I’m five years into this prayer room lifestyle now. And to be honest, every day is not sunshine and rainbows and oceans of glory. Motivation is sorely lacking sometimes. So when I’m not feeling it, here are the core truths that keep me coming back. (You’ll notice that none of them are really about me. That’s because the house of prayer is primarily something GOD established for GOD, and any blessing I get is just a bonus.)

1. Jesus is worthy.

No matter how I feel, Jesus is still the name above every other name and the angels are still singing “Holy, holy, holy… Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” (Revelation 4:8, 5:12). I actually believe that the greatest injustice in the earth is that Jesus does not get the worship that He is due from every heart worldwide. I can’t change that singlehandedly overnight, but I can do my best to make sure He gets everything He deserves from my life.

2. Jesus wants to talk to me more than I want to talk to Him.

I am so dull of heart sometimes. Like, a lot of times. My flesh can so easily convince me on that I’m okay without having a real conversation with God that day. That’s probably the biggest lie my flesh tells me: “You’re fine. It’s okay. It doesn’t matter.” And so I zone out in the prayer room, or choose to endlessly scroll through Facebook at home. But the truth is that Jesus wants to talk to me way more than I want to talk to Him. Some days the only thing that can get me out of bed to go to the prayer room is the fact that Jesus says “Let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice.” (Song of Solomon 2:14) He really wants to talk with me, and He misses that connection time when I’m not there. I may feel like I’m fine if I miss out for a day, but how dare I deprive Jesus of something He so earnestly desires.

3. This is part of a big, big story.

The house of prayer — corporate, sustained gatherings specifically focussed on worship and intercession, especially 24/7 — has been on God’s heart for a long, long time, to the point that the first thing He did in establishing a nation for himself was to establish the house of prayer (the tabernacle of Moses). David took this idea even further in his tabernacle model, and God promised to reestablish David’s tabernacle in the final generation. (Amos 9:11) The Church will be a praying, singing, lovesick Bride that functions as a house of prayer and partners with God to push back the darkness, bring forth revival, and usher in the return of Jesus. My getting out of bed to go to the prayer room is literally part of God’s strategy to prepare the earth for the second coming. It doesn’t get much more epic than that.

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