Monday, September 28, 2009

The Laughing Box

I sat in rapt attention as the speaker finished up her message on inner healing and the need for us to have Jesus heal the wounds of our heart. Once again I was met with a challenge that I had faced many times. The Holy Spirit had pointed out to me during the message my need for healing in a specific area of my heart. I have learned over the years to quickly obey His voice in these matters because He is extremely persistent, I have found, and I might as well get the business over with instead of putting it off.

But, this time was different. As I attempted to press into His presence a wave of hopelessness overwhelmed me making it difficult to sense His nearness.

The offense had been repeated many times and so the wound in my heart was painful and deep. I had given Him my pain before in this matter, but somehow it always managed to find its way back into my heart. It seemed that the more I was offended the more difficult I found it to forgive the next time it happened, creating in my heart a web of unforgiveness. In spite of this, my heart was willing to forgive, but my hopelessness revealed that somehow my perception needed to change.

I cried out to God and through my tears said, “Please Father, show me how to set my heart. I don’t know how to do this. Show me what I need to do. I give it to You.”

As I waited in His presence with upturned face, I heard Him say these words to me, “We need to put that in the “Laughing Box”.

Then it was as if we were in a room in heaven, and He said, “We have a place for you to put those things that are too difficult for you. We call it ‘the Laughing Box’. He opened up a large trunk-like box and as He opened up the lid He began to laugh and His laugh caught me off guard at first. Then the longer He laughed, I began to laugh as well, and pretty soon we were both laughing. There was something different about His infectious laugh, and I knew intuitively that it was a laugh of healing and it was a laugh of hope. The longer I laughed, the more my perception began to change and the more I could see things from His viewpoint. Pretty soon the lies of hopelessness and defeat that the enemy had been speaking to me seemed utterly ridiculous….in fact, they were hilarious!

After our laughter began to calm, and we had wiped away our happy tears, the Father closed the lid to the “Laughing Box”. He encouraged me to place the difficulties and ‘impossible’ situations in my life in the box and He turned to me and shared that He and the angels often go to the “Laughing Box” and lift the lid just to laugh at the lies of the enemy. They laugh, not at our pain, but at the enemy’s frantic and futile attempts to separate us from His love. They laugh because they know that we have His grace as our inheritance and that He has already seated us in heavenly places with Him, and if He be for us, who can be against us? They laugh because they know that once we began to see things from His perspective and His reality, our present difficulties will not seem so difficult.

I have a feeling that I’ll be making more trips to the Laughing Box in the future and I don’t mind. After all, I’ll be in good company.

But God in heaven merely laughs! He is amused by all their puny plans.” Psalm 2:4 (The Living Bible)

Monday, September 14, 2009

I was an "Are Not"

There are seasons in our lives when we seem to trudge along in monotony and then there are moments when God breaks through and speaks to us and we are never the same. Such a day happened for me in 1995. I was in turmoil inside struggling to find my identity. I had just come through a season where God had allowed areas that were "false identities" for me to be taken away. It was such a painful process because I could not understand what the Father was doing. You see, the things He took away were good things, but He knew that they weren't the best. I was getting my need for approval met through the things that I did, and He loved me too much to let me continue on that path that led to frustration and heartache.

I attended the Toronto outpouring in that same year and God began to touch me and shake off the old and lavishly refresh me with His Spirit. I was undone and could not seem to get enough of His presence. This was all so new to me and a whole new world had opened up to me as I learned what it was to experience His manifest presence.

Following our trip to Toronto, many of us would gather at our church during lunch time just to pray, worship, and continue to seek Him. One day during an unusually intense time of experiencing His presence, a woman whom I had never seen before or since, walked up to me and prophesied over me, "The Father is going to began to speak to you and the words He gives you will be like meat that you will be able to chew on for a long time."

After hearing those words I knew that something had been deposited in me. It was just two weeks later that I heard Him speak clearly to me in a way that I had not heard Him before. I was at home, cleaning my house, and I heard Him say, "You are an 'are not'."

I can not explain it, and I still don't understand it, but those words so staggered me that I had to look for a place to sit down. Please understand, I was not use to hearing God speak to me. I had been a believer for a long time, and spent time with God and followed Him the best I knew how, but I had not come into a place where I could confidently say that I knew how to hear Him. And even though the words "are not" should not have meant much to me....they did. You see, an "are not" is exactly what I felt like. If I were looking in a mirror, I would have said, "You are not smart, you are not talented, you are not strong, you are not pretty,etc"....and the list would go on and on.

You see, God knew exactly how I saw myself and He spoke right into the most vulnerable part of my heart. He then took me to I Cor. 1:27-29, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him."

Right then and there I knew for the first time in my life that He had created me exactly the way that He wanted me to be and it was for His purpose. I knew that I was chosen and that He loved the fact that I was an "are not"! He loves using those who are "are nots" because He is glorified through our weakness.

God is so amazing in that He can take two little words and breathe life on them and change a person on the inside.

While I was still basking in the sweetness of these words, just two weeks later I awoke one morning hearing Him speak clearly to me again. This time He said, "You are my workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which I prepared in advance for you to do." Eph. 2:10.

Again, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled that He was speaking these words to me. You see, a father imparts identity to his children and mine had not done that for me. I was so grateful for my Daddy God who was choosing to reveal His heart for me so that I could know my true identity.

Two weeks after that again He spoke to me from Psalm 1 and said that "I would be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season, my leaf would not wither, and everything I would do would prosper."(Ps. 1:3)

The Father's words over us are priceless and are to be treasured, meditated over, and prayed through until they become our true identity. I have learned since this time that the Father loves choosing "are nots", those who believe that they have nothing to give, and speaking words of life and destiny to them in such a way that their world is turned upside down. He does this "so that no one may boast before Him". In other words, it is so obvious that it is a work of His doing, that we would be foolish to try and take the credit for what He has obviously done.

One of my greatest joys now is to hear the Father speak identity over others, especially those who see themselves as "are nots",and prophesy and partner with Him in imparting that to them. I can not easily forget what He did for me and it is His heart that all His children walk in the full measure of His love, approval and destiny for their lives.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Positioned for Increase

As believers, our walk with God is to be always moving forward. If we ever develop the mentality that decides that we have "arrived" or that we are satisfied with where we are spiritually, then we have already begun to backslide. This does not mean that we can not be content with the season that we are in, it just means that we have not decided to camp there for long.

God has placed within His Kingdom certain laws and one of those is the law of increase. Our understanding of what it means to move forward, advance, or experience increase in the Kingdom is crucial to our being able to fully walk in our destiny.

In the parable of the talents found in Matt. 25:14-30, some principles for increase can be clearly seen. The servants who were faithful to steward well their master's money were given greater areas of responsibility and invited to come and share their master's happiness. The servant who dug a hole and buried what he had been given was harshly rebuked and punished by the master.

I believe that the servant who hid his one talent had a false view of his master that influenced the decisions he made. He saw him as hard, unfair, and unjust. Therefore, he held on to the little that he had been given and refused to do anything that would multiply his master's wealth.

This same scenario has been repeated over and over since the fall of man. One of Satan's chief goals, if not THE chief goal, is to distort the Father's character to us His children. When the bait has been taken, and we buy into the lie that the Father is not altogether good, our heart becomes darkened and we can no longer see clearly to make wise decisions. The fate of this predicament is that we are no longer positioned for increase, but what we once held in our hands or lives as a precious gift, seeps through our fingers like sand. The irony of this state is that the heart often rails at God for His presumed unjust treatment.

Thankfully, God has a way of intervening even into the hardest of hearts with His grace and mercy. I have seen Him, little by little, soften wounded and broken hearts until the individual is willing to risk trusting in His goodness. Like the two servants mentioned in the parable, they invest the talents that the Master has given them, and wait in faith for a good return.

Not only does God multiply what we have invested on His behalf, He then brings increase to our areas of responsibility as a result of our trust in His goodness, stewardship of His gifts, and obedience to His voice.

But best of all, we are invited to come and share in His happiness. There is great, great joy in discovering what gifts you have been given by the Father, using and investing them on His behalf, and then receiving the increase for the Kingdom.

We need to develop the mindset that growing is stewarding. In those areas where we need the most growth, we should intentionally be using what little we have. If you need friends, try investing some friendship. If you want to grow in the prophetic, began stepping out to use the one word you may have been given. If you want to be a business owner, serve faithfully in the business where you are working, as if it were your own.

God honors faithfulness because He is altogether faithful. As our hearts learn to trust in His goodness and faithfulness towards us, we gladly invest on His behalf those things that He has placed in our hands. Our great joy and reward is to see these gifts multiply again and again and again for the glory of His Name.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joseph's Promotion

Joseph is hands down my favorite Old Testament character. Hollywood epic movies have nothing on this thrilling and heartrending tale of rags to riches found in the pages of Genesis. If you just want to read a great story, the story of Joseph's life takes the bends and turns necessary to keep you perched on the edge of your seat. But, before you run off to grab some popcorn, stick around, because I wouldn't want you to miss the revelation hidden in Joseph's story that has given me hope in my days of darkness and desperation.

The story of Joseph is my favorite because it so wonderfully illustrates two intertwining themes; life in a fallen world, and the sovereignty of God. It seems that these two themes are the thing that man has grappled with since Adam and Eve ate their first bite of forbidden fruit.

We undoubtedly live in a fallen world and that in itself is a sobering and depressing fact. But in the story of Joseph a thread surfaces that would indicate, even to the casual reader, that God's hand was at work in Joseph's life, right in the midst of this fallenness.

God intervened, yes, even interrupted Joseph's life with a vision and then for all practical purposes, He appears to have removed Himself from the stage of Joseph's play. We watch drop-jawed as Joseph is thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and just when we thought things couldn't get worse, thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. However, as the story unfolds it becomes more and more evident that not only was God present, His sovereignty hovers over the life of Joseph protecting him, guiding him, and even rescuing him when it seemed that all hope was lost.

Were the things that happened to Joseph just random circumstances in a chaotic world, or were they carefully orchestrated events that used a pawn named Satan to carry out a master plan that would chisel away at a man's character and heart to produce a leader that God could trust? I believe the latter is true. Friends, this is God's sovereignty at it's finest.

I love the way that Oswald Chambers describes God's process of development in us; "God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way." But, Joseph did not give way. In fact, it is evident as the story progresses that God's favor is upon his life even in the darkest of dungeons. God's favor on a life indicates that God is pleased with the heart of the individual. The obedience that is part of their life so often means that humility has overcome pride and love and forgiveness have been chosen over selfishness and bitterness.

We began the story of Joseph with a prideful young man who didn't mind at all being the tattletale on his brothers(Gn. 37:2), or unwisely telling them that they would one day bow down to him. By the time Joseph emerges from the dungeon he is not willing to even take credit for the dream interpretation that he would give to Pharaoh(Gn. 41:16).

Joseph finally received his promotion because the work that God so patiently accomplished in his heart was complete. Evidence of his guileless heart can be heard in his response to his brothers when terrified, they realize that he is indeed their brother that they had sold into slavery. Joseph humbly says, "But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance."

My favorite line from the script of Joseph's play is found in Gn. 50:20,"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Joseph's heart was healed from the trauma of the past because he came to a place of embracing God's sovereignty, goodness, and purposes in his life in spite of the evil that had come against him. And this, too, is a key for healing and overcoming the pain in our own hearts.

As the curtain closes on this epic play and I pause to reflect on all that I have seen and heard, I am struck with the fact that my response to God's processes and purposes in my life effect not only me, but all those around me. I pray that I will be like Joseph and choose the way of humility and gratefulness when hardships come, and who knows what my God might do.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Riding the Next Wave of God

Just as I was falling asleep last night I saw a picture of a man on a surf board triumphantly riding in on a gigantic wave as it rushed to reach the shore. I knew that God was wanting to say something to me and then remembered that we have been hearing for years of the coming “wave” of God’s glory that will sweep the earth. In the midst of this realization two questions emerged in my thoughts, “Will I be ready when He comes?” and “Will I be able to ride the wave?”

In response to the questions of my heart, I felt I heard the Lord say, “position is everything”. Just as the skilled surfer knows exactly when to enter the wave and how to stay atop the wave, God is preparing His people to have the capacity to be able to “ride the wave” of His Glory when He comes. Much of this preparation process involves the “position” of the heart. God takes us through a baptism of fire that comes powerfully to burn out everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. This process can be humbling and quite painful at times, but the results will yield the purest of gold. God is doing surgery on our hearts to prepare us to have the capacity to receive and experience all that He wants to do in and through us. This is the time to repent of stubbornness and pride and yield humbly to the surgeon’s skillful hands.

The second thing I heard the Lord say was, “Don’t look back”. A wise surfer can not afford for one second to turn his head and look behind. All of his energy and concentration is needed for what lies ahead. Just as Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”, I felt an urgency in my Spirit that it is absolutely imperative that we be healed of the wounds, hurts and failures of the past. Those things would be like heavy weights that slow us down and even cause us to sink. Our wounds affect how we see ourselves and how we see God. We are able to “forget what is behind” as we walk in forgiveness and learn to let His healing come in to replace the lies we have believed with His truth.

There may be some who turn to look at the successes and methods of the past and this can be just as disastrous as it takes their eyes off the coming wave. Every ounce of our being needs to be focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He is coming to do a new thing, and it will be those who remain focused on Him, who are alert and sensitive to His voice and leading, who are able to go with the flow of His Spirit in the days that lie ahead. He alone will infuse us with what it takes to ride the wave.

I believe many will be swept along to some extent in this coming wave of God's glory. Those who have cultivated a heart that is yielded to the King, and beats with a passion for His Kingdom, will ride the wave and do great exploits in the name of the King. Their eyes will be focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their Faith, and their hearts will be fully His.