Working in my flower gardens is one of my favorite delights. I love to watch them change from mere soil into beds filled with beautiful flowers. I believe that the Lord is the Master Gardener. He delights in transforming dry, dead, dismal gardens into works of art.
The Lord frequently speaks to me through prophetic pictures and many years ago He showed me that I was like a lifeless, desolate garden. His picture was not pretty.
In the Lord’s picture I opened a garden gate expecting to find a beautiful garden, but instead what He showed me was a brown, dried up, dead enclosed garden that did not have even one sprig of green. I was not instantly encouraged by the Lord’s picture!
Jesus used every day events to help his followers understand more about the kingdom of God and I believe that He still weaves our daily activities into teachable lessons for us.
Since I broke my elbow in February, I have been going to physical therapy (PT). This has been my first experience with PT and I have been thinking about it a lot.
The reasons someone needs to have PT are varied. Usually it is one step in recovery from an accident or disease because the body has been injured or harmed and is not working up to its full potential.
The therapist uses many methods to help the body return to maximum flexibility and efficiency. But it takes time.
There are no quick and instantaneous exercises that will miraculous restore your health; however, with much patience and diligence your body does become whole again.
So it is with our walk with the Lord. There are many times when we are emotionally hurt and spiritually broken. Sometimes it feels like we have been mutilated and destroyed. Other times our pain or confusion is less severe, but we are still broken and need repair.
Tonight, Marianne and I will have a romantic dinner at the country inn where I asked her to marry me.
Our friends often kid us, because we take time to celebrate key events in our life together. Our first date, our engagement, our wedding, and other anniversaries are important to us.
We don’t go on anniversary dates to create intimacy and passion between us, but to express the amazing, ever-deepening intimacy and passion that continues to grow between us – from the first time my heart unexpectedly fluttered at the sight of her, to the profound thrill I still feel when I see her.
There is a love between us that I seldom see in others. It, and our marriage, are testaments to the power of God to redeem lives.
The other morning a young man stopped by the house.
He had been struggling with emotional pain and bondage, and said he hadn’t come earlier because he didn’t want to be a burden.
I shocked him by responding that he and his problems were a burden – that there were other things I could be doing that morning. But, I explained with a huge grin, it was my joy to be burdened by him.
He paused and thought about it, then nodded as he realized I was being totally transparent and real with him. Thus started an amazing time of talking, sharing and ministry.
Today is our wedding anniversary.
Our marriage is a testimony to the greatest gift two people can give each other: The ability to love, and be loved.
Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.
The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.
To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.
Marianne and I have the greatest privilege in the world. God allows us to introduce Him to those who have reached the end of themselves, and then allows us to walk with them towards healing and wholeness.
We have the privilege of then seeing those who some consider the discards of society grow in the Lord to become mighty men and women in His Kingdom.
But the highest privilege of all is this: To call them friends.
This is the story of so many when we first met. Listen, and may the Lord move your heart to compassion.
In our fellowships, we literally embrace those struggling with sexual identity, as well as other life controlling issues. We affirm our common humanity in the Lord, while showing grace in our common journey towards healing and wholeness in Christ.
Read this blog by Sam Allberry, on How Can the Gospel be Good News for Gays, for a vitally missing perspective.
Hyper grace teachers deny the need for confession and forgiveness in the life of a believer. What they fail to understand, though, is that confession and forgiveness for a believer are NOT about obtaining justification, but about obtaining wholeness.
Words have the power to not only define, but to create reality – for good or for bad. Too often, we forget the power of words: not only ours, but of God Himself.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that God spoke the universe into existence, chose to reveal Himself through His spoken Word of scripture, or came to dwell among us as the Word made flesh.
I also don’t think it is a coincidence that God still speaks to us today, or that He has empowered us to speak authoritatively on His behalf.
So much of our “theology” (and we all have “theology”!) is forged these days by hurts.
The Bible has been used as a club to beat us into conformity, so we reject its plenary authority.
Our need for mercy has been abused, so we latch onto a concept of grace that excludes the Lord’s occasional rebuke and discipline.
We have suffered from authoritarian leadership or a controlling church, so we become autonomous and discount the need for healthy, accountable community.
We realize that some pet doctrines were wrong, so we seek a purely existential Jesus and cringe at objective truth.
In doing so, we are reacting to hurts, wrongs and mistakes – rather than embracing life.
This is a fifty-five minute teaching I shared with about thirty men, based on hundreds of pastoral counseling sessions where God showed up and brought freedom and healing from deep hurts – including abuse, abandonment and so much more.
My blog is a feeble attempt to upload a lifetime of service to the King of Kings. I believe this audio teaching, however, captures better than anything I’ve written some of the most significant things I’ve learned as I’ve walked with folks to those ugly places of bondage and hurt in their lives. When we get there, and they exposed their hurts and lies to the Lord, He brings His loving, healing truth.
In this talk, I also share some of my own very personal story about my own places of hurt, which I had to expose to Lord so He could then bring wholeness to me.
You may think you know me from my writings, but this captures my heart in ways that a written blog never can.
If this resonates with you, I also recommend my related blog, God Shows Up.
The more I minister to folks, the more I realize how simple it is.
And the more I realize how hard it is to get to simple.
Often, longstanding hurts, disappointments and emotional wounds are like old, familiar friends. We let them become so engrained into our sense of identity that they begin to define us.
When that happens, we often aren’t willing to transparently expose and turn them them over to Jesus, but tightly hold onto them like a child clinging to a security blanket.
Instead of finding transformation and wholeness, we become our past.
If this is a struggle for you or someone you know, let me suggest an old blog I wrote years ago called God Shows Up. It’s a good starting point on the road to healing.
I’ve advised Presidents and heads of state,
And ministered forgiveness
To murderers and inmates,
In Your name.
I’ve been rich,
But know poverty.
I’ve plowed the earth
And wiped sweaty dirt from my face,
Yet poked holes in clouds.
I’ve seen the world,
Stood firm against oppression,
And dodged its secret police,
While dancing with gypsies.
I’ve changed laws
And the course of nations,
While counting the homeless
Among my closest friends.
I’ve led the march of thousands,
And brought stadiums to their feet,
Yet walked with death and a cane.
I fought the mob and won,
And silently saved my daughters
From their threats,
Yet been broken and used up.
I’ve known the joy of hopeless battles won,
And the brotherhood of warriors brave,
Yet cried alone before their graves.
I’ve spoken truth to power,
Hugged the brokenhearted,
And helped set the captive set free.
For all these things, Lord, I am grateful;
It’s been a life well lived.
But most of all,
I thank You that love did not pass me by:
For the joy of Marianne’s embrace
And the wonders of her grace,
I am content.
Since early this year, I’ve been working on a huge sex abuse case involving a large, local Assembly of God church.
The human carnage and shattered lives have been great.
I take on these kinds of cases not only because I believe in justice, but because I also believe in redemption. Often, I have the privilege of seeing God’s grace shine through as healing comes and the survivors begin to find the strength to reclaim their lives – and their stolen voices.
As I interview and get to know various survivors and their families, I’m often asked if the pain will ever stop. I tell them how I have seen God bring beauty from ashes time and again, both in others and in my own life.
It is hard, but once we pass through the fire and begin to see what God does with the ashes of our lives, we experience gratitude for who we start to become.
I will be teaching a semester-long Christian counseling class beginning next Tuesday, September 6th, through early December. We will be meeting every Tuesday evening at my home just south of Manassas, Virginia, from 7:00 to 9:15 pm.
The course is being offered through Emmanuel Christian Institute, in conjunction with Fulcrum Ministries, for a very modest $200 (this fee goes to ECI for much appreciated administrative support, not me!).
Much to my dismay, God keeps bringing people to my door who have been abused by a pastor or other trusted church leader.
Over the last year, I’ve taken on three cases against abusive pastors. Two involve significant embezzlement and fraud by pastors in different churches. A third involves extensive sexual abuse and misconduct by around half a dozen men on the pastoral and ministerial staff at Christ Chapel Assembly of God in Woodbridge, Virginia.
My greatest joy is walking with guys as they learn to stop being knuckleheads and become men; to minister to hurt and wounded women as they find not just healing, but health and wholeness; to let others come forth into life and gifting as they exceed me in the Kingdom. For all of this, Lord, I am grateful and humbled.
My spiritual DNA — the way God put me together — makes me instinctively encourage others to give away what God has given them. Sharing God’s blessings is a key component to spiritual growth, I’ve found.
I often teach and minister in a faith-based dorm at the local jail. Rather than me “leading” this Friday, however, I took a seat among them and let the men bless each other by sharing what God is showing them and doing in their lives.
Some rose to sing songs they wrote to the Lord, some read and commented on short passages of scripture that had become alive to them, while others gave testimony to how God is now healing and making them whole men.
One brother read a poem he wrote about dealing with the issues of his heart and finding healing through confession, repentance and forgiveness. I’ve seen tremendous peace and maturity emerge over the last couple of months as he’s been totally transparent with the Lord — even though it’s sometimes hard and painful to expose those secret and hidden places to Him.
The more pastoral counseling I do, the more I realize how often people deal with life’s traumas, hurts and disappointments by suppressing either their mind, their heart, or their spirit – and thus some vital aspect of who God created them to be.
For example, instead of being healthy, integrated people, they numb out or otherwise retreat exclusively into the realm of their minds – i.e., their analytical logic and reason – to the exclusion of their heart and their spirit.
They are alive, but hardly living – as they deny themselves the catharsis of honest emotions and the wonder of new-found belief.
For others, their heart is the oppressor as they subjugate their mind and spirit to their feelings and sensibilities.
Some even allow their spirit to squelch their minds and hearts by super-spiritualizing everything, and treating reason and emotions as irredeemably corrupt.
I now realize that God created our mind, heart and spirit to be equally vital aspects of the whole, complete individuals He wants us to be.
Recorded before a group of men in the local jail, this 55 minute audio teaching explains how we find peace and freedom when we allow God, through authentic Biblical confession, repentance and forgiveness, to change what we think, believe and perceive. That, in turn, allows us to know the righteousness, peace and joy that comes from finding and doing His will — which is what the Kingdom of God is all about.
This teaching arises from hundreds of intense pastoral counseling sessions through Fulcrum Ministries. In those sessions, I’ve seen how God uses Biblically authentic confession, repentance and forgiveness to bring quick resolution and lasting freedom from the lies, hurts and deceptions we carry from life’s circumstances — including routine disappointments to extreme situations like sexual abuse, occult ritual practices, childhood abandonment and many other life-crippling situations.
Here’s a news brief I came across that really stood out.
In it, the CEO for Continental Airlines admits that his company in the past was racist and refused to hire black pilots. Past racism, in and of itself, is hardly surprising. What is surprising, however, is the candor of Continental’s public confession and the public amends it made to set things right.
It is rare to see anyone anymore who is willing to publicly admit to public sins, mistakes and improprieties — especially among our leaders. In this case, I was very impressed by what Continental and its CEO did, and hope this can be an inspiration for us all.
Of the seven spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12, the last – but, I believe, the greatest yet least appreciated and most abused – is mercy.
As I watch and sense what God is doing with an emerging new spiritual generation, I see that their dominant characteristic is mercy. I also have begun to realize that God wants to use “mercies” (those with the primary spiritual gift of mercy) as catalysts to unleash additional gifts in others. That, in turn, will bring this rising generation to new pastures where God wants to dwell among us.
This doesn’t mean everyone in this new spiritual generation has mercy as their dominant individual spiritual gift. But as a whole, they nonetheless seem to collectively exhibit the main motivations of mercy – which are a deep, personal craving for the presence of God and for genuine intimacy with others.
As a result, this rising generation has little interest or patience with the moral and cultural wars of my generation, or with our prevailing hypocrisy as we tried to fix everyone else but failed to exhibit God’s presence in our own lives. Nor can they understand the focus on programs and institutions – with a resulting lack of authentic community – among older Christians.