Spiritual Warfare

I hear some refer to spiritual warfare as spiritual conflict, but I am not sure what to think after some of the experiences I have in a world of spirit worship. “Conflict might be too understated for the reality of what the demonic realm wants to claim. We are now in rebellion against the rebellion,” Ed Stetzer.

One can be buoyed by prayers, intentional prayers for protection.

Recently, I heard a story of some of our council members and their families gathering to pray. As they prayed, one of them saw a vision of their pastor dressed in armor, the spiritual armor of God. Quickly as I heard the story retold, my mind ran to a certain group of special humans who gave a great quote in their movie, Avengers. “Let’s Suit up!” Makes you think, huh…

Well, back to the story. Their pastor was in full armor, but one of the flaming arrows of Satan was about to strike his breastplate. The arrow made it past his shield of faith, which is designed to snuff these darts of fire out. Here it comes in their vision, about to strike their pastor. They rallied their fervor and prayed for him as the head of the church. They even got the picture from Nehemiah to stand as the wall of protection around the church.
When I asked them about when this prayer took place, they told me how it was a few days earlier. Then what seemed like a nice story of people in the church praying for their pastor suddenly upped the ante. They received a clear vision from God during the time that I was super sick a couple of weeks ago. I was wiped out, but we’ll save the nasty details from this forum.

Sometimes, we overlook the spiritual realm in our prayers. Sometimes, we forget that God wants to speak to us through our prayer time, and we just come with our list, outline or structure to prayer. The spiritual realm is not left to the angels and demons, but God uses us to play a part in the fight. A fight that carries eternal stakes.

Have you seen God speak to you in such a vivid way before, how?

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Emmanuel- God With Us

This week, a good acquaintance of mine asked this question at a post-Christmas dinner. How do you need God to be Emmanuel in the New Year?

In 2012, I see Emmanuel, God with us, being a driving prayer of mine in Thailand. We want the Thai people to see God as real and accessible. We example Jesus to them in our life, but we want them to have an encounter with God. As I think toward 2012, I cannot help but be captured by the prayer I made when we took over Our Home Chapel, the Foursquare Church in Bangkok, Thailand.

When we stepped in, we found the church in a difficult situation with a lot of moving parts. I began praying with a fervor like never before knowing that there was no way for me to succeed unless Jesus met us in this place and time. I know strategy has its place, but I purposed to clear my mind of ideas or tactics.  I began to ask for nothing but Jesus. I made the Fernando Ortega song, “Give Me Jesus” my theme song as it helped me guide my prayer time. I had no grand ideas of success, but merely wanted us as a church to get back to the basics and cling to Jesus in the midst of everything, including a flood that displaced many including us.

As we look toward 2012, I cherish the sense of how a new year allows us to turn the page on the old. We can open to a new chapter, blank and ready to be written in by the author of our life and all creation. The new beginning brings hope and anticipation for a new future God has for us.

Even in a nation where less than one percent of the Thai people know God, we are hopeful for the good things God will do in and through this church.

We want to see Jesus be Emmanuel with us in drawing this church together to be family. A family centered on Jesus that grows in the way of God together.

We need Jesus to be with us, present in this time to make us renewed and reborn into the church he has designed us to be. We want him present with us in power.

We hope to see miracles of changed lives, healings, and wonders in this city that draws people to know God. We hope to see many more people this year see that God is real.

Finally, we need to see God real in our life regarding the ministry to children in the nearby slum communities. We want to see long term, sustainable help to give these children a hope and a future.

How do you need God to be Emmanuel with you this New Year?

Spiritual Battles Lurking Around Every Corner

We were just starting our weekly prayer walk. Then, a preteen boy walked past us with his cart and scurried toward the bushes on the side of the Sidewalk. He went to grab a rock and ready himself for a confrontation.

We began to leave the shopping center and walk the blocks between the center and our condo as we bathed our community in prayer and opened our spiritual ears to heaven to hear what God is saying over this community. The past two weeks, I have felt the verse in Isaiah 43:18-21 as a call for us to pray. As we start a new community of faith in this area of Bangkok, God is saying forget the past, and don’t remember the things of old; for I am going to do a new thing.

As soon as we turned the corner onto the sidewalk, a 12-year-old boy came behind us pushing his cart of goods to sell. With an edge in his voice he said the equivalent of get the F’ out of my way in Thai. The Thai guy I was with and I were in the front of our group, but my friend that was behind me told him that I couldn’t see hoping to defuse the situation. I hadn’t heard what he said, and only felt the tension in his voice and spirit. Not fully tuned into the brewing conflict, I stopped in front of the footbridge before we crossed the street. I thought we should pray that space before we started our prayer walk.

However, my friend Chris noticed the boy grab a rock with a look like he was ready to rumble. I took his advice and we crossed the bridge. Our prayer walk turned out effective as again we received visions from the Lord of what he wants to do in the community as well as what we want to ask him to do. One of the women with us saw a vision of a giant wall with just a few small people breaking a hole through the wall.

In Thailand, bringing the kingdom of God into this place is like breaking through a giant wall. We are always encouraged when we have pictures of what God can do with people given to follow him with everything.

Another picture came from me as we walked past the power lines. I wanted to see God surge through the city with his power and spirit infiltrating all parts of Bangkok in the same way the electrical power goes throughout the city. We laid our hands on one of the power line poles asking God to be present in power and flow through us as we walk the streets of Bangkok. We look forward to finding opportunities to pray for others in our community and see God answer their requests with miracles.

When we finished, I thought back on the boy and his uncommon desire to come to blows with us. Thai people are generally so gentle and avoid violence. My wife simply asked me what were we doing. That’s right; we were praying and asking God to come. Immediately, I remembered our first prayer walk and the vision of the spirits preparing to fight to keep their territory. Obviously, they are aware that God is coming, and the kingdom of heaven is about to unsettle their comfort zone. The boy acted out of the ordinary for a Thai boy, but completely in the norm for a spiritual world not ready to relinquish its control on this city.

 

If one prayer is good, is more better?

Prayer tends to be a mysterious part of our Christian life. Recently, one of my sister’s posts for a prayer request elicited a comment asking if prayers are like money. He asked, “If one prayer is good, do more prayers help you buy a miracle? What’s the need to multiple prayers? Shouldn’t one prayer suffice, or are prayers like money where the more you have the better miracle you get granted?”

Perhaps this question taps into an unknown concern we have in seeing answered prayers.

Let’s start by setting the parameters that our God cannot be compared with a genie. He is not sitting in heaven granting wishes to his favored people. We cannot simply rub a lamp and work up a formula to get the things we want. However, God does say that we can taste and see that he is good (Psalms 34:8) and he will grant us the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4). God cares about his creation, and like a father he wants to see the best in us.

But this grand narrative of God’s love over his people gets interrupted by the great antagonist of human history. When Satan entered this world, and when we followed his deception and broke relationship with our creator, everything changed. The matter of God answering the prayers of his people has more complexities than we can easily touch on in this post.

We cannot boil prayer down to a formula of believe it and receive it, or do anything with prayer to twist God’s arm. Somehow, when we pray our heart meets God’s heart in the middle. Much of prayer is to gain the heart of God or to line our desires up with God’s desires. Prayer draws us closer to God and through the broken moments in our life, we draw God closer to us. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). When we offer our prayers to God he first responds by sending peace into our life.

What happens, however, when the story of our life needs to be rewritten or edited? How do we deal with pain and suffering or see a miracle? Do we need to pray with more than one person? Part of praying together helps us unify our hearts together, yet there is more to it than that…

God does answer prayers but my story highlights the ongoing mystery of unanswered prayer. The countless times in which people have prayed over me in a multitude of contexts still to wait on the fulfillment of God’s healing touch. 14 years ago, I lost my sight, but still I believe in prayer to change our situation and heal my eyes. Too many times, I have prayed for others to see a miracle.

Jesus’ brother wrote this in James 5: “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

James prescribes prayer to be sprinkled within in all aspects of our life from the spaces of rejoicing to the points of sorrow. However, when we are sick, we call the elders. The elders represent the authority of the church, which is the body of Christ. They anoint the sick person with oil, which represents the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we pray together with faith we affect heaven to listen.

Somehow, we tap into God’s timing and will for our lives through prayer and our faith unlocks the barrier between his desire to act and our openness to receive a miracle. In our rational, intellectual mind, we want to know how this works. In the end, it is a mystery. I know one day God will heal me, and it never hurts to have more people praying and knocking on heaven’s door.

How you have wrestled through the question of corporate prayer?

God Answers Prayers

One of the challenges or goals I gave the students at the start of the Acts class centered on the theme of the book, the kingdom of God. We are inviting God’s rule and reign into our world with his power and authority.

The goal of the church rests in continuing what Jesus began to do and teach, Acts 1:1.

At the beginning of each class, I ask students if they want to share an experience they had in praying for someone or being prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for someone in the last week. One of the bolder students spoke up in the second class.

She is a leader in the church and has a gift for evangelism with some of the college students that come through the church. One of the new believers that this leader has been discipling came down with a cold, so the leader decided to pray for her. As she told the story in class, she was shaking inside and quite nervous. She went for it anyway. She then called the girl the next day to see if she was feeling better. Her friend was healed.

I was thrilled for this story to start our second class learning about the power of God and his kingdom principles through the book of Acts. How can we ever be bold enough to pray for someone with a big problem, if we cannot pray something minor? This student is catching the heart and presence of God and will grow in her faith each time she exercises faith in God to move with signs and wonders.

I see the prayer in Acts 4:29-30 relevant for her and the class. We all need to connect with the prayer the disciples made early on in their leadership of the church. Paraphrasing, “God move with signs and wonders through the power of the name of Jesus and give us boldness to proclaim your story.”

Seeing With My Heart

Yesterday, on my way into training sessions with our sending agency, Foursquare Missions, in LA, a random man stopped me on the street. I didn’t know who he was or why I was stopped. I knew I had a few minutes before the morning workshop started, so I took a moment to talk with him. He asked if he could pray for me to be healed from blindness. I get asked this question a lot in a variety of settings. Each time I always say yes, because I never know where the healing will come from. He prayed for me with good hope and faith that God would heal, or so I thought. My wife told me later that he had a jacket on for the Dream Center, which identified him as a Christian.

I walked away thinking how cool it was that a stranger, not knowing who I was, stopped me to pray. He had no idea that I was a Christian, much less that we serve in Thailand with Foursquare Missions. He didn’t know we were walking to the Foursquare building. We were on our way to the conference room to work with John and Sonja Decker on “Doing what Jesus Did”. Later that morning, we talked just about that issue of praying for the sick. It is fun knowing people are out there living the gospel and believing God to do what he did in the Bible.

This morning, the man stopped us again. This time we were running late and I knew that if we stopped, we would be late for our meetings. I decided that stopping for people and waiting on God is more important than being on time for our meetings.

The man really wanted to see God move in the miraculous. I did too, so I let him pray again. He had us pray three or four times. He really wanted it to happen at that moment. I told him that God is faithful and will heal me in his timing. His response blew me away. He said that after he left the day before, he realized that he doubted I would be healed. He prayed and asked God what he did wrong. God told him that I don’t see with my eyes, but I see with my heart.

This resonated with me. I am forced to look at people differently since I can’t see their faces. I do look at their hearts. I appreciate God’s affirmation from a stranger on the street.