Author Archives: asphaleia

Apprenticeship

By Marv

Note: I’m part of something called the “Apprenticeship” in the ministry school of the Dallas House of Prayer. These are a few comments about the experience:

A friend of mine asks me how “healing school” is going. He means the Apprenticeship, and I guess that is as good a designation as any, because the goal is to follow in my older Brother’s footsteps, which are described like this:

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)

I think though that my friend is puzzled by the whole school aspect. For a lot of people “gifts of the Spirit” seem like something that ought just to work automatically if you got ʼem, and not something you can just take a class in if you don’t.

The idea of a learning curve in supernatural, Spirit-empowered ministry seems counter-intuitive.

So how does this work? What is it we are doing with the schooling? It’s spiritual, right? So are we somehow training our spirits? Maybe. I really don’t have a good answer to that right now. So then, is it about the mind? That’s the kind of learning we are familiar with, training the mind. I’ve had a boatload of that, by the way. Do I need some more?

Before we give in to something that is a bit of a reflex in “Spirit-filled” circled, let me come to the defense of the often-denigrated mind. “My brain,” says Woody Allen, “that’s my second-favorite organ.” Well, not entirely sure what he had in mind, but if we’re big fans of the spirit, which is made to interact with the Holy Spirit, I want to commend the mind to a close second. It’s very important especially if full function in the spirit is what we aspire to.

The mind serves as a kind of switch, directing our focus, our point of concentration. The apostle Paul tells us:

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

I figure I could teach a PhD course on setting the mind on the flesh, if anyone actually needed a lesson. Setting the mind on the Spirit, however, that’s something I could stand to beef up more than a little. And so I want to suggest that this is one thing we’re about in the curriculum of the Internship and the Apprenticeship. “Renewing the mind,” Bill Johnson says, is “when the impossible begins to look logical.”

Maybe then it’s really an unlearning curve.

A few things I’ve been unlearning:

  • A settled and confident expectation that “it” won’t work (a) this time, (b) for me. Whatever I may be telling myself in the front of my mind—based on the amazing statements of the Word of God, that the promises of God are “Yes” and”Amen,” what I seem to know in my knower is “No.” I know that I know that it’s “No.”

I am in the process of unlearning this.

  • Normal Christianity looks much like regular folk, only we have an extra compartment for Bible, Church, and God stuff. Day-to-day life is much the same for me as for the next door neighbor with whom I share a common culture. Tweak it: I don’t cuss. I think some things about history that he doesn’t. I have ideas about the far-off future that he doesn’t. But on the rudiments of how the world works, we’re just not that different.

I’ve been on this unlearning curve a good while now. What I’ve been discovering in the Apprenticeship is that I may not be as far along it as all that. But we’re moving on.

  • God tolerates me. We do use the word “love,” but I give Him credit for better taste than that. I’m quite pleased He’s let me in the door. I’m convinced He isn’t going to kick me out. He’s quite magnanimous, after all. If I sit in the corner and be quiet, maybe He’ll toss me a bone from time to time.

He’s unteaching me this putrid notion, insulting to Him as it is. As yet I have grasped a mere scintilla of His measureless love. But give me time, the infinite takes a little longer.

  • To be is to do. Time’s a wasting. We’re burning daylight.

I have known in a conceptual way that spending time with the Lord is important. This has a way of becoming just another “do this” however. I’m unlearning “relationship” as a kind of code term for holding a correct theological position or having come into a particular judicial standing or exhibiting behavior that is more or less moral, on my better days. What part of “Real, Living, Present Person” do I not understand? Whole bunches of parts, sorry to say. I fall easily into my mental ruts.

But I’m unlearning.

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The Sacred Theater of the Cevennes

A Secret Huguenot Assembly Captured

By Marv

Note: After nearly a century of peace, persecution of the Huguenots, the French Protestants, flared up again under Louis XIV, when he declared Protestantism illegal in 1685. Those who did not convert nor managed to flee faced death, imprisonment or condemnation to the galleys. One major pocket of resistance was the mountainous Cevennes region in the south. There believers continued to meet in secret “Assemblies,” sometimes in caves, literally “underground.”

As the authorities continued to hunt them down, open war resulted in this area between 1702 and 1704. These particular Huguenots became known as the “Camisards,”  and many testimonies have survived of signs and wonders among them. Many prophesied, even very young children. Often they were warned by the Spirit of impending danger from enemy forces, and were saved from death or capture.

From several of those who eventually escaped to England, a collection of testimonies of these marvels appears in a book titled Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes (The Sacred Theater of the Cevennes). Here is an excerpt of one such testimony by a man named Jean Cavalier, recorded January 1707 (translation mine).

There was beginning to be a lot of talk around about the “Prophets” of our region, stories you’d hear. So when some friends invited me to one of these prayer “Assemblies,” though I was just a kid of 15 or 16 and  not exactly given to devotion,  I jumped on the chance, thinking that I might see there some of those “Inspired” ones who said such strange things. But no sooner had I entered the barn where everyone was, that I noticed a boy lying on his back going through curious agitations.  This started to freak me out and really put me off. But then he  started to speak, and he said among other things that there were some persons there in the gathering who had come merely out of curiosity, and in a mocking spirit, and that if they did not repent, God would point them out and they’d be  put to shame. He added some other things like this, so clearly painting a picture of me, that he could not have represented my state of mind better if he had access to the very depths of my heart. And this shook me up no small bit. In my limited mindset I figured these folks for some kind of fortune tellers, as some people said. But anyway, this little “soothsayer” has spoken of persons–plural–and so I imagined that I was not the only one in there who found it all weird. So I hoped I’d escape notice, being only one of many, and I wished at that moment I was thirty miles away from there. I was repenting–of my decision to come–and I determined to make for the door and get out of there as fast as I could. Not only was I upset and frightened at this little boy’s calling out my very thoughts, but I was scared that he would call me by name or something even worse. I had never in my life found my self in such a predicament.

But it got worse. With my only thought and desire to get out of there, I saw another very young boy–directly in my path–between me and the door–fall to the floor in even more violent agitations than his comrade, so to speak, and cry out loud that there was a person of ill will trying to leave, and that they should post people at the door to stop him lest he go and denounce the Assembly. Then this new “soothsayer” began to say out loud with the most perfect precision the things I had been saying to myself as the other one had begun speaking. Not only this, but he even called out my first and last names, and came and grabbed my arm, at which point he added several things to get me to humble myself before God, to repent, and to give Him glory etc. My inner trepidation turned to outright terror and I froze. I was cornered, because this last boy had spoken of one single person,–obviously me! As for the door–forget that. My God! I said to myself, who are these people? And who told these little boys everything that was in my heart? What am I going to do if they come at me? What will happen to me? What will my parents say? I was in a fix, for sure. And yet, I added, these people talk about God. Had they been Witches, they wouldn’t be saying all the good things they were. They wouldn’t be praying such fine prayers. They wouldn’t be singing Psalms and the two children wouldn’t have exhorted me to repent. These thoughts calmed my mind a bit and led me to pray to God.

Then, something particular happened, which I must tell here. The second “soothsayer”–or rather Prophet–or I don’t know what–continued to speak. As he rattled off endless things against the morals of this perverse century, against the  idolatry of the Papists, against all sorts of superstitions, etc. All of a sudden he stopped his discourse and speaking in a different tone, said that there were several believers wandering in the fields and forest nearby looking for the Assembly, and that to bring them in, someone had to go out and sing a Psalm. I’d had a mind to volunteer to go and sing with them, the perfect excuse to get me out the door, but I didn’t dare, out of fear for the “soothsayers” at the door. A group went out and began to sing. As for me, I continued to pray to God as best I could. I thought it would be a good sign if the singing actually did bring in more people as the little Prophet had predicted. We’ll see, I said, if what he said comes true or maybe it was all just coincidence–the things he’d said about me. As I stood there by myself, lo and behold, the people came back in with a bunch of others brought in by the Psalm-singing. That really got to me, and set my mind whirling, for at least a quarter of an hour, on such matters as a kid my age never had in his whole life.

My opinion of the people began to change, as I reflected on things I had always heard, that it was only God who searches hearts and minds, that it could not be Satan who declared war on sin or glorified the name of God as they were doing at this Assembly. These thoughts really calmed me down, and even gave me joy.

Then a third young boy fell down like the others. After some agitations, he got up, full of the Spirit, and said something like this: “I assure you, my child, you are safe here in this this Assembly. Never fear; I am with you. And I want now to put my Word in your mouth, so that you may console my people.” This moved me even more, and fortified my heart, seeing that they were no longer talking about me the way they were before. Whereas before I had only prayed in fear and trembling, gasping for breath, now I began to ask fervently that He would be pleased to let me know His will, so that He would fill me with horror for those things, if ever they came not from Him, and on the other hand, if they were Gifts of His Grace that he would imprint them on my heart.

The young preacher prayed a wonderful prayer, to which I was extremely attentive, feeling propelled with a great zeal. He said next that the text of Scripture which was to be the subject of the message the Spirit was putting in his mouth was was Isaiah 55:1-2: ““Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” etc.

He spoke for two entire hours with an amazing ease, saying things so moving and wonderful that everyone was in tears, including me. … And the two hours passed like two minutes. But what child has the ability to speak like that? Everyone assured me the little boy did not know how to read. But even if he could, surely he would not have the capacity in himself to compose such a message much less to deliver it or to have the boldness for public speaking–and in [standard] French no less. …

As for me, as he preached, as the young inspired boy spoke various things which particularly touched me and which I took closely to heart, I experienced an unspeakable contentment. I was thrilled when he said that the least and the simplest were of great worth in God’s sight. That it was those who were the most destitute that He wanted to enrich, since Jesus Christ Himself came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. But one has to feel the misery, has to know the spiritual poverty and then to hunger and thirst, so as to be admitted to the banquet, to receive the wine and the mild, to be quenched in the river of His delights. My soul was overcome. I was outside of myself. It seemed to me that all these great things were for me alone. I was no longer wavering; my doubts vanished; I felt in myself that hunger and thirst for God’s graces. Yet in the sense of my deep unworthiness, my eyes became fountains of tears.

Report from the Street

By Marv

” The meat is in the street,” John Wimber used to say.

His aphorism goes back to Jesus’ words in John 4:32 and 34

 “I have food to eat that you do not know about.  My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

Jesus had just prophesied open the heart of a fallen, theologically-confused woman and brought salvation to a village. Though He was tired and thirsty (vv. 6-7) and doubtless also hungry, seeing God glorified in the goodness mediated through His own words and actions was more deeply satisfying than the choicest meat and drink.

I recall being cautioned, in Seminary, against Wimber’s contention that the kind of empowered ministry Jesus engaged in here was just the kind of thing we as disciples should do, following in His footsteps. This, despite His explicit instructions immediately afterward to see the “harvest” as He did as well as His reminder that they are commissioned to be “reapers.” The works He did in the Father’s name, everyone who believes in Him will… may… should… do in His name (John 14:12). Let’s get it and let’s do it.

I have a sweet story from some who are learning to “do the stuff” or rather who are going out and doing it. A team of students from a training program at a Dallas church step out each week to lift up their eyes to the Spirit’s leading and do the works in His power which have been prepared for them. Here’s what happened two weeks ago today.

In the morning team leader “C” found himself driving to the church out of his usual route, for some reason. Passing a coffeehouse he had seen but not visited, he sensed his attention being drawn to it and figured this might the spot the Spirit was sending his team to that day.

So there they went, and when C stepped in and saw a familiar face, he knew one of the reasons they were there. The man was a minister–an evangelist–and C had known him slightly, as a customer in a different coffeehouse where C had once been an employee. So C and another team member, “M” (both men, as it happens) sat down and began to chat with him.

Meanwhile, students “F” and “S” (women, as it happens) took a look around, looking and listening for what the Spirit might be saying to them. An adjoining room where patrons sat sipping Java had artwork displayed along the walls. One odd painting caught F’s eye, because it had a small inscription in French, her native language. It read “Pour le corps,” that is “For the body.” Across the top of it a row of human figures stood holding their hands on their bellies. Below them a vicious-looking blob with bared fangs turned menacingly toward a pair of vaguely tear-shaped objects. Weird picture.

“Looks like a liver to me,” F told S, about the lopsided teardrops, and they decided to go for it. The painting hung on the wall over a lady, like a sign, and after introducing themselves to her, they casually asked her if perhaps she had had issues with her liver.

In fact she had, for not a week earlier she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. She declined their offer to pray for her healing, however, first since she was a Muslim and second because she had confidence in the treatment she had been prescribed. She was interested in talking to the ladies however. As it happens the lady was Turkish, while F is French and S Lebanese. And they talked about Jesus, who the lady, being Moslem, said did not die on the cross. Our two ladies explained not only how He did, but why. In short, they preached her the gospel.

Though she declined prayer for healing, she was happy to let them give her a blessing as she was leaving. So bless her they did, with a request for Jesus to reveal Himself to her–even in her dreams, as is reportedly not uncommon among Muslims. Saying goodbye, she kissed them on the cheek, one cultural feature all three had in common. Would she be healed? Would she come to faith in Jesus? This we likely will now know. But did she hear God’s word and sense His love from God’s people? Without question.

Meanwhile C and M were still talking with the coffee-loving minister, and by this time speaking words of encouragement over him, for he was sorely in need of encouragement it seems. F and S joined them, as their lady had left, and a mental image of a little girl flashed through F’s mind. She thought “daughter.” At the same time a cloud-like shape in the mottled floor pattern seemed to jump out at her, reminding her of a “thought balloon” you see in the comics. Had the man been thinking about his daughter?

A second before she could ask, M “stole her thunder.” “Do you have a daughter?” he asked the man. In fact he did, though he had lost contact with her for years. She was grown and living in New York. But she had been on his mind, a great deal, as he was hoping and praying to be able to restore their relationship, which had long since become estranged. So they prayed for this, of course.

Now as for what happened as they were finishing up, you have to understand that this was July in Texas and it was a typical sultry Dallas day, under a clear sky, the hot, humid air lay motionless on us all day. I can testify to that.

C’s prayer for the man had been, among other likely phrases, that God’s Spirit would blow afresh over his ministry–which refreshment he needed. They had stepped out the front door, accompanying him toward his car, when a sudden gust of wind came along, nearly knocking the table umbrellas over, and picking up fallen leaves and pedals from the bushes and swirling them in a vortex.

The man and our team stared in amazement. The event was so striking, several patrons inside the shop ran out to see what was happening. The moment then stepped off the curb, however, the wind stopped.

One man who had stepped out was impressed. “Would you mind praying for me too?” he asked. And so they did.

What do we make of this kind of thing? Acts quality? Not quite, but frankly, I think it’s getting there. Not momentous, not earth-shattering. No thousands were saved. Perhaps not one person was saved through this outing. But people were loved in Jesus name. People heard the good news. People were encouraged. People were prayed for and blessed. And for those with eyes to see, God showed Himself alive and well.

Is it easy enough to toss off every one of these details as imagination, coincidence, simple natural occurrence. Absolutely. And please do so if that is what you wish.

But I think it is a little, sweet example of how the Holy Spirit testifies to Jesus through His people and brings glory to the Father. And it is useful for illustrating a few of the ways the Lord speaks to us, as Jesus promised He would, and leads us into the works prepared beforehand that we should walk in.

It’s a remarkable report, or I guess I wouldn’t be writing about it. But really, if we believe our Lord, this is simply normal Christian life.

 

Bill Johnson on Hearing God

By Marv

I came across something while listening to a Bill Johnson message, from Bethel Church, titled Extreme Living (part 2), recorded in 2007, and it so encouraged me, so specifically touched me in areas that I’ve been thinking and praying about, that I thought I’d share them with you. Actually, just about anything Bill Johnson is a supercharge of faith-building vitamins. But I especially appreciated these few paragraphs about how the Spirit speaks to us and we listen.

You can tell when someone’s been hearing from God. I mean hearing; I don’t mean reading. I mean hearing. Because they’re alive. I mean really alive.

I’ve got bread to eat, and I’ve got seed to sow. That’s my whole life: eating and sowing, sowing and eating. And I love eating. And I love sowing. And that mark of prosperity of soul is the sign that we’ve heard from God.

This whole countenance thing, that is sucked up in depression. Y’know. You just… Jesus had more joy than all his companions. Everyone around Him, He exceeded them all. And now that you have the same Spirit of Christ living in you… I have the same Spirit of Christ living in me. It’s the same prosperity of soul. My heart is linked to heaven. There’s an endless supply of life, of word.

He just talks. All I’ve got to do is sit down this afternoon and just listen. And it doesn’t have to be word for word. It’s the Spirit Himself who comes upon me. And if I come with, with… See, my job is to recognize when He speaks. His job is to talk. Sometimes it’s off the pages of Scripture. Sometimes it’s somebody else talking. Sometimes it’s the words of a song. Sometimes it’s the language of the Spirit–unusual coincidences. I have stuff happening constantly that is so encouraging to me that would be absolutely stupid to anybody else.

Empowered: 1 Corinthians 12-14

Here is an excellent sermon series covering 1 Corinthians 12-14 from Grace Church, Frisco, Texas.

 

 

  • Part 1 (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)
  • Part 2 (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)
  • Part 3 (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)
  • Part 4 (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
  • Part 5 (1 Corinthians 12)
  • Part 6 (1 Corinthians 13)
  • Part 7 (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
  • Part 8 (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
  • Part 9 (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)
  • Part 10 (1 Corinthians 13:13; 14:1-4)
  • Part 11 (1 Corinthians 14:6-25)
  • Part 12 (1 Corinthians 14:26-40; Acts 2:16-18)