Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Three Crucial Ways to Pray

There are three kinds of prayer. Seeking Prayer, Speaking Prayer and Soaking Prayer. 

Seeking Prayers get us started. We Seek the leading and discernment of the Spirit  first thing. 

Second, after hearing the directions from the Spirit, we know what to Speak to the Lord about. 

Finally, some issues demand ongoing, intense, Soaking Prayers. 

Seeking Prayers emphasize the importance of listening carefully to the Holy Spirit as well as the person in need. We have one ear focused on the Spirit and the other on the Seeker. This gives us an idea of how to best speak. 

Rosalind Rinker called this process“Dialogue Prayer”. She was the very first person I ever read who talked about the three ways to pray.  She was a Baptist Missionary and saw the need to hear God direct her very early on in her placement overseas. 

As we dialogue with the Lord and the Seeker the best ways to Speak to the Lord becomes clearer. As St. Paul reminded us in Romans 8:26, 27.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. 

We are really ignorant about how to pray. To assume that I know what to pray for is a direct contradiction of scripture. But, thankfully we have a Counselor who prays for us in accordance with the will of God. This awesome Counselor has wisdom, love and understanding. 

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 GRS)

To assume knowledge of the outcomes of prayer can lead arrogance and pride. Even Jesus was unaware of God’s perfect will in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Into thy hands I commit my spirit for it is not my will but thy will.

 And He taught us to pray:  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Seeking Prayers also listen to the person in need. We cannot know the root needs of a Seeker unless we let them speak honestly. However, we admit we do not hear well for listening behind the words is necessary. “Be slow to speak and quick to hear,” St. James says. Relax and allow the Lord to guide and the Seeker to open his heart. 

Faith activities need to maximize every one of the factors. Any suggestion about prayer, Holy Communion, scripture reading, etc must be done in love with the GREW skills of Genuine concern, Respect for the patient, Empathy and clear understanding of her interests and concerns and Warm non verbals taking center stage. Any time the helper’s behavior contradicts GREW damages the patient’s health. See my book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty  

Ministers and Churches in Crisis

There is a new organization located here in Cincinnati that is focused on supporting Ministers and churches. Their goal is to help them grow and prosper in every way.

You can learn all about it here at The Center for Church Leadership story.

We at Sweeten Life Systems have been blessed to work with The Center to plan and implement a series of equipping events and webinars. If you or your Minister wants to learn how to overcome some of the main barriers to thriving, you can consider getting in touch with the Center to explore  how it can benefit you.

You can support Sweeten Life and get our materials, books, and videos here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Great Communion Hymn

God and Man at Table are sat Down, by Travis Cottrell 

O, welcome, all ye noble saints of old
As now before your very eyes unfold
The wonders all so long ago foretold.
God and man at table are sat down.
Worship in the presence of the Lord
With joyful songs and hearts in one accord.
And let our Host at table be adored.
God and man at table are sat down.
Elders, martyrs, all are falling down;
Prophets, patriarchs are gath’ring round.
What angels longed to see now man has found:
God and man at table are sat down.
Beggars, lame, and harlots also here;
Repentant publicans are drawing near.
Wayward sons come home without a fear.
God and man at table are sat down.
Who is this who spreads the vic’try feast?
Who is this who makes our warring cease?
Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of Peace.
God and man at table are sat down.
When at last this earth shall pass away,
When Jesus and his Bride are one to stay,
The feast of love is just begun that day.
God and man at table are sat down
Here He gives Himself to us as bread.
Here as wine we drink the blood He shed.
Born to die, we eat and live instead.
God and man at table are sat down.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Families Face Serious Stresses with Sickness

I grew up in a family that had to face enormous stresses and strains because of accidents, illnesses, and trauma. As a result I have enormous compassion toward similar families today. I am sure I would not have become a Counselor and Minister if my childhood had not been so strongly impacted by serious mental, emotional, and physical problems.

These families are all around us here in Ohio as well as around the USA and the world. Research from the Department of health indicates that some 20% or 1/5 of all families with children struggle with serious health concerns. When we add adults and seniors to the mix the percentages go up accordingly.

Here are some ways health issues impact a family.

1. When one member suffers with health issues we all suffer. Every disease/disability impacts every family member.

2. Many of the families are isolated from normal, supportive relationships.

3. Few, if any, receive visits, concerns, and prayer from their church and its Ministers.

4. They suffer from severe stresses, exhaustion, and anxiety.

5. Other family members are often neglected, left out, and overwhelmed.

6. They need and want fellowship, friendship, and basic support but rarely get it.

Our new Ministry, Family EQ, is designed to support these families. Go to the web page here. The link may attempt to send you to familyeq.org but stick with familyeq.us Remember!!! It is US!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Song Miriam sang after God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptian army as the faced the barrier of the Red Sea. God laid a trap for the Pharaoh. He opened the waters and allowed Moses and the people cross. Then, just as the chariots arrived in the gap, God caused the seas to collapsed on them. They drowned as a result.

It is an entirely appropriate song for Easter.

                I Will Sing Unto the Lord
                 Exodus 15

                        I will sing unto the Lord
For he has triumphed gloriously
The horse and the rider thrown into the sea
The Lord, my God, my strength, my song
Has now become my victory
The Lord is God and I will praise him
My Father is God and I will exalt him
I will exalt him

When we had a house church near the UC campus, our group loved to sing it and rejoice. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jesus Was Angry! Why

When Jesus, the sisters of Lazarus, and his entourage approached the tomb of Lazarus, his dead friend, he was "Deeply moved!" 

What does that mean? 

He was mad. He was angry. He was upset. He was overwhelmed and furious.

At who or what?

Death! The grief reaction of Jesus was not just to the loss of His friend. He had lost many people possibly even Joseph, His earthly father. But this was different.

Jesus was showing His opposition to death. Jesus was often called "The Great Physician". He was famous for healing the sick, cleaning the lepers, and removing spirits. This resurrection of Lazarus was one of many times Jesus showed His power over the evil of the world. But it is different.

In my view, Jesus is showing His future resurrection by this resurrection. As Jesus approached the tomb He Snorted like a war horse! He was at war with death.

A war horse had to be well trained to go into war and attack the enemy. Horses naturally react with fear to noise, mobs, and fighting men. But not a war horse and not Jesus. He became like a war horse, unafraid of the battle and He charged to deal death a blow.

And He shouted "Lazarus! Come out of there."

And Lazarus came forth, all bound up with the grave clothes and the signs of death.

Go to Sweeten Life to learn more about healing and change. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jesus Had Deep Feelings

The story of Lazarus is a fascinating one. He was a close friend of Jesus as were Mary and Martha his sisters. They lived in Bethany which is only two miles from Jerusalem and it appears that Jesus and His crew often stopped by for tea and crumpets.

The unforgettable story of the resurrection of Lazarus is told in John 11.  

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” ...

But, strangely, Jesus delayed His visit to Bethany until after Lazarus had died and was buried. When Jesus did show up Mary said, "Lord, had you been here our brother would not have died."

Jesus and she then interacted about death and resurrection. 

 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, 
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

They proceeded to the home where Martha met them and both sisters and friends were weeping.When Jesus saw this He felt deeply! What emotions do you suppose Jesus was feeling? 
Grief, sympathy, compassion? Yes, maybe. But a deeper look at the original languages reveals that Jesus was angry. Yes Mad, even Furious! 

Why do you suppose He was so upset? What caused such an unusual reaction? Stay tuned for "The rest of the story tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Sacrifice or His?

As you may know from my past history, I am loathe to teach and preach about the importance of my sacrifice and my works for Christ because it tends to reduce the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. As a result, I spoke recently about how the 12 Apostles and the 70 Disciples kept failing to do what Jesus said, yet, the Rabbi used their flops to keep teaching and correcting them.

But I must have really failed to communicate that key point very well. I suppose the point I was trying to make applies to me as well as the original followers of Jesus.

After my message, several people came up to chat about their insights and questions. I really enjoy the Q&A because it shows me where I hit the target and where I missed it.

One mature Christian lady approached me with a story about recently hearing a similar story from her Minister. His conclusion was that Easter shows us how much we need to sacrifice because Jesus sacrificed for us.

I immediately thought, "I must have missed the mark in that talk because I was trying to say the opposite. Easter is all about the fact that, as the old song says:

"Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow."

Jesus faced death twice at this time and He alone defeated it twice. How can we read those stories about the authority of Jesus, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and still insist that WE have anything to do with defeating, death, disease, and demonic evil?

For those of you who think you must do something to complete the war against evil, please read John 11 - 21 again and see who is King and who is not.

If you want to know how to strive harder to help Jesus out, do not read my materials.

If you want to understand how Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, go to Sweeten Life web page. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Speaking Palm Sunday

I get to speak Sunday morning at Vineyard Northwest in Colerain on Round top Road. Come and visit. From what I hear the service will be full of Holy Spirit surprises and blessings.

I will buy a free cup of coffee for anyone that has heard my particular take on Jesus and Lazarus! I think it will blow you away and allow you to see how Jesus relates to us in a very different manner.

It was just one of the great surprises and challenges Jesus faced as he prepared to leave this earth.

Visiting the Sick

The acrostic FAITH will guide a brief interview with a patient whom you know as a co worker or distant neighbor but not as a practicing  Christian that is open to the work of the Spirit. You would like to pray for him or her but want to be sensitive to them and not come across as too pushy. 

In your conversation, you can cover the following topics not as direct questions but more as open ended discussions. 

F: Faith A faith in God, a higher power. Listen for  description. Prayer patterns. service attendance,  faith? Doubts?

A: Asking for an intervention. Open to prayer for healing, health or assistance in your struggle with this illness? How do you do that? Are you comfortable with someone praying with your illness?

I: Interacting with a community of faith? Do you attend services, a small group or a have a mentor? How often? Is it helpful? 

T: Trust in God’s love? Are problems the result of punishment or guilt? Feel good during illness?

H: How do you want people to relate to your faith and spiritual practices? Chaplain? Prayers? Materials? Alert your pastor or spiritual adviser?
 Spiritual Interventions for Chaplains and Pastors

Carefully approach the issue of suggesting a spiritual intervention. Make sure you are:

  1. Loving with Genuine concern for the person; Respect the person; Empathy for the situation by listening carefully; Warmth with sensitive seating, touch and smiles. Do not stay too long.
  2. Respect a patient’s worldview, beliefs, values, preferences and practices. Some may not think it is appropriate for anyone other than a priest or pastor to pray for them.
  3. A peaceful presence reduces anxiety.
  4. Deal with issues with sufficient time to integrate your ideas into their recovery. Do not open up an issue unless there is enough time to bring it to a close.
  5. Mobilize the patient’s support system. Do not ask the Seeker to engage in behavior that is contrary to his family and church.
  6. Offers hope for the future. Increasing faith and hope develops good aftercare.
  7. Avoid guilt and shame. No condemnation or pressure. 
  8. Be consistent with the patient’s motivational level. Ask for permission to pray, offer scripture or make any other intervention.
  9. Mobilize positive belief and faith. Encourage Seekers to believe that change is possible.
  10. Is sensitive to the rules of the hospital or home.
All our written and digital materials attempt to promote these values. You can get them here.