Serious Thoughts About Joy

The Joy of the Lord is a powerful phenomenon. It is spiritual dynamite! Our joy is one thing. The joy of the Lord is wholly other.  It is supernatural.

Our joy brings momentary pleasure.  Jesus’ joy brings long-lasting change and eternal fruit.  Based on happy thoughts and things being in order in our lives, our joy is fickle.  Jesus joy comes to us regardless of our being in the midst of pain or trial.  It turns trial into gold.

Jesus’ joy comes when we are deeply in His presence.  “In Your presence is fullness of joy”.

I have had several watershed experiences in my life with the joy of Jesus.  The latest occurred at the end of a home group meeting when I was being prayed over by a brother in the Lord.  The heavy, intoxicating presence of Jesus became too intense to stand up under, so I fell down.  Laying on the carpet, I was very still and floating in the peace of God.  I had no thoughts, my mind was at rest.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a chuckle rose up from deep in my belly.  I wasn’t thinking of anything funny.  I just started to chuckle. The chuckle moved to a deep laughter.  Finally, Jesus’s joy became so powerful that I was howling in laughter, eyes watering with tears.  It seemed that each wave of laughter brought an even deeper cleansing to my inner man.  It was like going through a deliverance of sorts.

Without warning, as suddenly as it came on, the laughter ended.  I lay still in a state of even deeper peace and well being than before.

I got up from the floor cleansed and happy.  However, the fruit of that experience became manifest in the coming weeks.  Of  major benefit to me was a freedom from the fear of man that has kept me from writing and sharing what the Holy Spirit has given me.  Because of this last encounter with the joy of the Lord, I have been enabled to much more effortlessly communicate.  This website is actually a result of that encounter with the joy of the Lord Jesus.

So, joy is serious business.  Paul stresses to his readers in Philippians 3:1 that joy is one of the safeguards of their spiritual lives.  Joy helps to keep our relationship with Jesus tight despite the tribulations and temptations of everyday living.  Joy is a firewall to the enemy’s darts of discouragement and doubt.

With what frequency should we participate in this joy?  Paul answers that question as well in Philippians 4:4.  “Rejoice in the Lord always” is our goal.  Is this always attainable?  No, sometimes it is very difficult.  Life seems to more often engender tears of discouragement than expressions of joy.  The key is not in trying to make ourselves joyful.

The solution lies in spending time in the manifest presence of the Lord.  The first few minutes of time in His presence wash off the discouragement and doubt that cling to us.  If we can persevere to remain in His tangible presence longer, the deep peace we sense may shift to an inner happiness which may in turn manifest into a deep-cleansing full expression of joy.  Let the Spirit of Jesus perform this expression.  Don’t work it up.  Remember that it is the Lord’s joy given to us as a gift and not our own to manufacture.  It is an “in the Lord” type of joy – a natural byproduct of being in His presence.

There is a very important concept of the “fullness of joy”.  1 John 1:4 references joy being “full”.  Jesus speaks of joy being “full”in Jn 16:24.  Psalm 16:11 mentions that “fullness  of joy”  is found in the presence of the Lord.  There are levels to the joy of God. Sometimes a smile or a chuckle is all we need. When life’s dirt and boulders clog the artesian well of our spirit, we may need an encounter with a full, overwhelming dose of a literal baptism of joy that “roto-roots our entire spiritual plumbing!  Ask Jesus for an encounter with this full level of His joy.  You will find that when you least expect it, He will surprise you with it.  To borrow from C S Lewis, you will be “surprised by joy”!

My wife Debbie was in the midst of deep worship.  The worship leader called for a time of silence.  While my eyes were closed, I heard a “thud”.  That, I assumed, was the sound of Debbie falling to the carpet under the weight of the heavy presence of the Lord that had filled the sanctuary.  Then, I heard a giggle.  Following that my wife proceeded to progress to full-on laughter.  All of this was occurring while we were all supposed to be silent.  As Debbie laughed, the worship leader walked off the stage.  The outcome of what could have been a very embarrassing situation for Debbie was that she got up off of the floor healed of several severe medical conditions and on the advice of her doctor, was able to go off of several medications as a result.

Joy is serious business!

This Jesus-joy is vitally important for a wide variety of reasons.  Here are a few more “serious thoughts on joy” – the Joy of the Lord!

The joy of the Lord delivers one from many things, including the fear of man.  While laughing in His presence, there is a total disregard for who is watching and who might care about what you are doing.  In my case, this attitude changed my life with powerful lingering fruit.

The joy of the Lord strengthens our inner man and even our physical bodies.

The joy of the Lord manifests in various intensities from a quiet inner bliss all the way to gut-busting laughter.

The soul must have a reason to be joyful.  The spirit need no reason – “Joy Happens”.

Jesus rejoiced GREATLY in spirit.  This tells me several things.  Jesus got a mega dose of joy upon this occasion.  There is a joy of the soul and also a joy of the spirit. If Jesus could do it, then it’s OK.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” Neh 8:10  Anyone need to be stronger?  I sure do!

Joy can be made to be an obligation when in Christian fellowship, masking true feelings underneath.  It then becomes hypocritical, people-pleasing, and fake.  Worse, the underlying issues don’t get addressed so true joy can manifest. This “legislated joy” is to be avoided and resisted.  Holy Spirit joy is irresistible. 

“In Your Presence is FULLNESS of joy”.  Ps 16:11 That says it all!

“Joy comes in the morning”.  Ps 30:5  Hang on joy is coming.  In the bright sunrise of His healing and deliverance, joy will follow. Don’t fake it or manufacture it. Don’t let people force you into it prematurely.  When it hits you, it will be God, it will be spontaneous, and it will be good.

“Restore to me the joy of my salvation”  Ps 51:12  Sometimes the joy that is our inherent right as one who is saved needs to be restored.  We have a God Who heals the inner pain…and restores joy!!!

“Therefore with joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation” Is 12:3  Joy is one of those things that bubble up out of our belly.  It springs up when the artesian well of the Holy Spirit in our deepest inner man is finally unclogged by the sovereign hand of God.

“The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord”  Is 29:19  Just like we can go from glory to glory, we can go from Joy to Joy!!  Lord, let our joy increase!

“Joy upon their heads”  Is 35:10  Joy springs up from inside but is an atmosphere around and upon us as well.

“Oil of joy”  Is 61:3   Joy is an oil.  It gets on you.  

“Joy is withered away” Joel 1:12  Life happens.  Stuff happens.  Garbage happens.  All of this can wither our joy like a plant would wither.  Joy is still alive, but barely.  Thank God that He can water us, fertilize us, and enlighten us until the joy springs up green and beautiful again.

“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents” Luke 15:10  Notice it doesn’t say “angels”.  It says in their presence. By the process of elimination, that would be “God”.  I wonder if when a sinner repents, the Father starts laughing in ecstatic joy?!

“Joy may be full”  John 16:24   There is partial joy.  There is full joy.  I’ll take the full joy, thank you!

“Joy in the Holy Ghost”  Rom 14:17  There are many kinds and origins of joy.  The joy that hits you in the intense manifest presence of the Holy Spirit is the best!

“But are helpers of your joy”  2 Cor 1:24  We do get joy with “a little help from our friends”. My friend who prayed over me in the story above was a wonderful helper to my joy.

“The fruit of the Spirit is…joy” Gal 5:22  The Spirit loves to produce joy in us.  He also loves to heal us and free us so that the joy can truly manifest.

“Joy unspeakable”  I Peter 1:8   It gets that way sometimes.  It’s so amazing that you can’t describe it.  

What do you think about joy – supernatural Jesus joy?  I would love to hear your thoughts and your stories of experiences with the supernatural joy of the Lord.

Blessings,

Dan Murrill     March 31,  2015

FISTFIGHTS AND FRUIT

Despite our best intentions and planning, our first outreach in Hall Manor could well have been called “Bloody Sunday”. We came with high expectations that all heaven would come down, but instead, the opposite occurred.

By now, we should have known. So often, the first outreach in a new location involves a lot of breaking through. Tremendous warfare resists the establishment of a beachhead for the gospel in any neighborhood and Hall Manor wasn’t your typical neighborhood (see last week’s blog).

It all began in Hall Manor as a bible study in one of the residents’ homes. Clara, in whose place we met, had recently given her heart to Jesus. She opened up her apartment first to the Bible study and then offered it to Debbie and I as a base for outreach to the kids and teens in the neighborhood.

Several friends from our church joined us for our premier outreach. They all had worshipper’s hearts and a passion to see the kingdom come to the youth of urban America. They and we were all prayed up and ready for anything – so we thought.

Spreading out our huge tarp in the middle of the grassy courtyard outside of Clara’s house, we set up and began our outreach. We played active games with the kids, led them in singing praise and worship songs, then told them a story with the gospel message. Instead of ending as we hoped with a glorious altar call, two of the kids got into a fistfight right in the middle of our outreach! One of the boys named Ransom gave a neighbor boy, Jonathan, a bloody nose in a knock-down-drag-out fight.

To make matters worse, the moms of each of the boys entered the fray, getting into a fistfight with each other.

It was a great start…not!

Next week, in our team’s intercessory prayer time, we prayed specifically that the spirits of violence would be bound for that day’s outreach.

They were!

We had a wonderful meeting with the kids. Many responded to the invitation to accept Jesus.

It is our practice to not just invite children to receive Jesus in a “prayer of salvation”. We feel it is paramount that we lay hands on them, as was done in the book of Acts, that they might each receive the filling of the Holy Spirit.

With an anointed worship CD playing in the background, we invite the Holy Spirit to come in power. Then, we leaders move amongst the children and gently lay our hands on each of them, asking for the Holy Spirit to fill them.

We don’t rush this process. After years of praying over kids, we can tell when a child is serious about receiving and is actively doing so. The children who are open and are obviously drawing into themselves the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit, receive longer “applications” of hands on prayer ministry. As Jesus sensed virtue flowing out of Him (Mark 5:40), so we similarly have learned to sense the power of God surging into a child or teen and penetrating deep into their inner person.

The way that we explain it to the kids who have just accepted Jesus is that He is now in their hearts much like a little match flame. We then share that as we lay hands on them, we are going to pray that the little flame becomes a big bonfire or furnace of the Holy Spirit within them, filling and consuming their entire being. We instruct them to remain in a receiving posture after our hands are removed in order to permit the fire of God to spread completely through them.

Even though we are out in the open air with a multitude of potential distractions, when the Holy Spirit lands on that tarp, it is like the kids are arrested. No one wants to move or go anywhere. Almost to a child, each is feeling the tangible weight of the Kabod of God upon them and His warm love within them.

After a period of extended prayer ministry for the filling of the Holy Spirit (we call it “soaking in His presence”), we give the children an opportunity to share the pictures or visions that the Holy Spirit has shown them. We encourage them to also relay what He has spoken to their hearts while in the state of being overwhelmed by Him. Each time that we do this, virtually every child describes encounters, many of them profound, that came as a result of being given new spiritual eyes and ears as part of their new birth package.

Case in point was a little six year old who, when asked what happened to her, told us that she had a vision where she saw the angels carrying Jesus into her heart in a chariot! We adults had never thought of the act of receiving Jesus in that light before. Dwelling upon her vision, it makes sense. Why not? Why wouldn’t Jesus ride triumphantly into someone’s heart on a chariot for the purpose of conquering it with His love?

Another poignant story was that of a little girl named Tootie. She was being particularly disruptive during the Bible talk one day. Sitting in a small lawn chair that she had set up for herself in the middle of the tarp, she was distracting the others by talking and playing with toys that she had brought with her. After repeated warnings, we finally had to confiscate her chair and toys until after the outreach. When ministry time came around, instead of copping an attitude about her discipline, Tootie submitted herself to hands-on prayer. She went out in the Spirit. When she came to, she relayed to us a vision that she had where Jesus made her His queen. Tootie had a pattern of being disruptive and disobedient over the previous weeks that we had known her. However, after this visionary encounter with Jesus, she became a different girl. She was now compliant and respectful.

Returning to the story of Ransom and Jonathan, we saw the soaking times have a profound effect on them as well. They became soft and gentle toward each other and the other kids. Their fighting days were over. They both became very spiritually sensitive. Jonathan became a drummer for our worship times on the tarp. Last we heard, he is still playing drums for worship in his church. Ransom, became one of our visionaries, a child with a keen sense of the prophetic, possessing eyes for the unseen world. Both were two of our most regular attendees, being with us for most of the two years that we were in Hall Manor.

For the kids, “soaking” became a much anticipated element of our outreaches. As we would set up for the meetings, we would hear them ask as they clamored around us, “Are we going to do that soaking thing again today?”

One day, as all of the kids were laying out on the tarp under the power of God, Ransom pointed up to the sky and asked us to look. He told us that he saw a heart-shaped cloud. As we looked up, sure enough, there it was – a big fluffy white cloud in the shape of a heart floating in the sky above us. It was as if God was saying that He was so in love with us all and in love with what we were doing in His presence.

Truly the manifested love of God was visibly and tangibly melting the hearts of these former little ruffians of Hall Manor, transforming them into gentle disciples of His kingdom.

Next – “Visions Beyond the Veil in the Hood”

PORTAL INTO THE ZONE OF REST

Our tendency as modern day Christians is to be active to a harmful level. We don’t know when to quit with our busyness…or how to. The deep-seated reasons for our hyperactive lifestyle are manifold depending on our bent, personality, or lot in life. Sometimes, Someone has to literally make us to lie down and rest.

In Psalm 23, David spoke of Yahweh as a loving Shepherd. One of the roles of the Shepherd was to lead the sheep to soft, fresh grass to eat and lie down in. In fact, David states that the Divine Shepherd actually MADE him lie down.

Jesus is insistent that we rest. We hear His cry,  “All who are weary and burdened, come to Me! I will give you rest”.

The kind of rest that Jesus provides and that Psalm 23 speaks of is not a category of rest known to this world. We can lie down to sleep at night and still wake up heavy and drained. We can take a vacation and bring our troubles with us. Jesus’ rest is a spiritual one. It is a place in His tangible presence where weights and concerns are lifted off. Spiritual power and recharging occur in this place. It is a timeless realm where even ten minutes of exposure can leave one feeling like they have had a whole night of peaceful sleep.

The references to grass, water, and even God Himself in the original language of Psalm 23 are otherworldly and “trippy”, almost psychedelic. Yahweh is the God Who is real. He is the God Who has personally and experientially made Himself known in David’s life. He saw, felt, and heard Him. He was so close to David that it seemed as if He actually pitched His tent next to him. More than that, it was also as if Yahweh transformed Himself into a God-tent and pitched Himself around David, creating a place of intimacy and fellowship. Yahweh is a Person and a Place. He morphs Himself into a tangible place of refuge, rest, and rejuvenation. He surrounds like a protective and impenetrable Bubble, keeping the cares of life out for a few minutes so that David can catch his breath. This is Yahweh – the God Who is that close and real.

Of course, we know from the NT that Jesus declared Himself to be Yahweh, the great “I AM”. He is the God Who is here, experienced in real time, leading us to rest, actually embodying rest.  In one of His “I AM” statements in the book of John, Jesus declares Himself to be the door or portal for His sheep.  Entering through Him, His flock can find the pasture they crave (John 10:9).

The grass that Yahweh or Jesus causes His sheep to lie down in is bright green, freshly sprouted grass, full of chlorophyll. It is not the old, nasty dried out scratchy kind that one wouldn’t want to stretch out in. Interestingly, the same word for “pasture” in Psalm 23:2 also means “dwelling place”.

Jesus told His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places”. The grassy, lush pasture was one of those locations or dwelling places to enjoy that comprise the Father’s house. Jesus is currently creating additional rooms and dwelling places for us. He is a Builder by trade and loves to construct things. Because of his intimate walk with God, David was being permitted to enjoy one of these rooms or dwelling places of the Father’s house known as “The Pasture”.

Some look at the Shepherd Psalm as a product of David’s watching sheep all day when He did his stint as a shepherd while a young man. Actually, Psalm 23 is a visionary experience. David was in an ecstasy of the Holy Spirit and was taken to the place where He saw and experienced these things. He returned to normal consciousness from his vision of this dwelling place of the green pasture and wrote a song to commemorate and celebrate it. His Psalm is a doorway or portal for us to also discover the place of rest that he was privileged to visit.

The scene changes in verse two where Yahweh or Jesus “leads him to resting place waters”. These are not “still waters” as the KJV says. They are the “waters belonging to the resting place”. The word “beside” is actually better rendered “to” or “on”. Jesus doesn’t just lead His sheep along the river bank as it were. What the text is actually saying is that Jesus leads the way to and into a watery place of rest. He doesn’t lead us beside it. He leads us into it. The waters of rest actually are, in themselves, the destination.

These waters are special. They have the ability to effervesce stress from our lives and impart rest to us as we drink them and as they overflow over and around us. This is strikingly reminiscent of Jesus’ invitation to the Samaritan woman to receive His Living Water in John 4. “Living water” is water that has the inherent ability to impart life. Jesus is that Living Water!

Isaiah also had a similar vision of Yahweh leading His sheep on the water. Isaiah 49:10 depicts Yahweh guiding His flock to and upon (not “by” as the KJV says) a place where there are fountains, springs, and artesian wells of water. The water is gurgling, bubbling, fresh and alive!

In this place where David spiritually falls backward and lands softly in a cushiony bed of soft lush new grass…where His Shepherd leads him into a realm of relaxing water that effervesces away stress like a hot tub with bath salts in it…it is in this very place of the Spirit that there is a sense that all of our needs will be met and that we will lack nothing (see verse 1). Cares of this life are vanquished while in this zone of relaxation. Verse one is a direct result of the experience of verse two. Jesus has relaxed away and washed away worry, fatigue, and stress! We are left with a sense that everything is going to be alright.

The One Who walks upon water in the New Testament, causing the angry and stressful sea to become still and restful is the One Who leads us to and upon this magnificent peace-imparting waterscape of Psalm 23 and Isaiah 49.

Jesus probably had Ps 23 in mind when He called out in Matthew 11:28 for all humanity to continually come to Him for rest. There is a coming out of ourselves and a movement toward Him spiritually before this rest can be found. This rest resides in a zone, a place. Jesus is a place…a place of rest. Yes, He is a Person and He is God. However, He is also the Life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45). He wants to surround us with His Spirit and create a localized enclosure of protection inside of which we can rest and come alive. This enclosure is not just a place of neutral absence from the cares of life. It is actually resort-like. It is akin to what David saw in His Psalm 23 vision. There are restful waters that are alive, bringing life to the drinker. Artesian wells and fountains spring up across this water-scape. There is a lush, soft green cushion to relax in and “float away”.

There are counterfeits of the Psalm 23 experience that are found in the New Age, meditation, Yoga, and eastern religions. They may seem to offer a temporary relief from stress but in the end add their own stress of demonization. The drug culture and the abusive consumption of alcohol provide a counterfeit relief as well. Counterfeits only betray the existence of the real. The real is found in the real Jesus. He is Yahweh. He is the God who is here with us right now and can be felt in this stress-reducing way.

The writer of Hebrews knew this place. It is a place where works and activity for God cease. Moses and the Law could not lead God’s people to this place of rest. Only Jesus can take the weary soul there when it chooses to come to Him.

In conclusion, there is a rest that remains for the people of God. Rest is found in the Resting Place. Jesus our Yahweh is that Resting Place. We must approach Jesus to encounter this rest.

Coming to Jesus and standing before Him, the first thing that He does is to cause us to swoon and be overcome by His intoxicating presence. We zone out. We fall into the cushiony rest of God. We stretch out in the green pasture. We float on the bubbling relaxing water that rests and refreshes us. This is how He “causes us to lie down”. Now the process of stress-detoxification and spiritual refreshment can begin.

If we haven’t experienced this place of rest, we can cry out to Jesus and ask for it. It will come. If we seek it, we will find it, for it is Him, as our personal Place of Rest that we are finding.

Dan Murrill      March 25, 2015

DO IT AFRAID

Loud rap music boomed from open windows of SUV’s as gangsters milled on the corners. It was another “happening” afternoon in the notorious Hall Manor housing project. The only problem was that no one from our team could join us for outreach today…Debbie and I were alone.

Fear gripped us as we stepped outside to unload the outreach gear from the van. Memories of warnings that well-meaning people had given us about working in this neighborhood swirled in our heads. Stories of murders, assaults, robberies, and rapes seemed to stare us in the face, leering at us.

Deciding that things were too dangerous for just the two of us, we were about to close the doors and reenter the van, when they came. Kids that we had befriended in our last couple of outreaches recognized us and swarmed around our van. They audaciously and without permission pulled the gear out of the open doors and hauled it over to the courtyard area where we had been meeting. There was no “getting out of Dodge” now!

And that’s when it happened…

Debbie looked up and saw them. She saw the angels.

Towering higher than Hall Manor’s two story units were two massive angels.  Keeping watch like sentries, they stood on either side of the entrance to the courtyard. It was so surreal that Debbie had to do a double take. Yet there they were. Big as life. They were there for our protection and for the benefit of the kids that God wanted to reach.

The fear was still there, but now so were the angels.

Adrenaline rushed as we set up for the outreach. The kids helped us stake down the huge tarp that everyone sat on, safe from the broken glass that was everywhere. A willing resident let us plug our power cord inside their housing unit so that we could operate our little sound system. Guitar, large song sheets, props for the gospel message, and game equipment were now all laid out and ready.

Mysteriously, by this time, the SUV’s, loud music, and roving drug dealers had suddenly vanished. The neighborhood was quiet.

As usual, once everything is set up, we are looking for the most important element of our outreach to be in place – the manifest presence of God. We could have all of the props and plans in the world in place, but without God showing up, outreach would be a dud.

Today, there was no question. God was already here. He had sent His angels ahead of us.

We played, we laughed, we worshipped, we shared the gospel. Heaven came down even more thickly and gloriously during the invitation and ministry time.

There on the tarp, in plain view of human as well as demonic eyes, kids received Jesus and then were laid out under the power of God, having visions and encounters with Him. It was like God had put up a giant invisible canopy of protection over us and what His Spirit was doing in that little courtyard.

It was a wonderful meeting. Now it was time to pack up and go. The kids helped us collect our gear and stow it in the van.

As we climbed into our vehicle and waved goodbye to the kids…they returned. The SUV’s suddenly appeared out of no where, blaring their music full of swearing and hate. The window of protection was suddenly gone, the invisible bubble of safety burst, and the demonic elements of life in Hall Manor came rushing back in to fill the void. Heaven had set up its spiritual barricades and now that the action was over they had taken them down.

We took off and headed for home with happy hearts. God had cared enough about what we were doing to send His angels and keep us from turning back. Otherwise, we would have listened to our frightened hearts and possibly never returned to Hall Manor. The scores of kids who were going to find Jesus would not have done so. The supernatural occurrences that we got to witness over the ensuing months and years would not have happened.

We learned an important lesson that day. Obedience to the Holy Spirit doesn’t always mean that everything will be smooth sailing. Sometimes, you just have to “do it afraid”.

Next – “Fistfights and Fruit”

HOW TO ENTER THE SECRET PLACE OF THE MOST HIGH

Martin Luther said it well – “a mighty Fortress is our God”. In those lyrics, he was saying that God is a Place. The Almighty wants to be a place of protection for us. Quite possibly, Luther had Psalm 91 in mind when he penned these lines.

From His first mention in scripture, the Holy Spirit is depicted to have a passion to cover things. The first thing that scripture portrays Him covering is the earth during creation. (See last blog).

Above all other things, the Holy Spirit loves to cover people. He cherishes those made in the image of God and longs to cover them for various reasons. His covering can be for the purpose of protection. It can also be for providing an enriched atmosphere for bringing one into restoration, healing, or maturity. The Holy Spirit may also want to place His covering over us simply to enhance spiritual intimacy with us, creating a zone where it is just us and Him.

In Psalm 91, the Hebrew for “secret place” is multifaceted and rich with meaning.

Firstly, “secret place” is a covering. As believers, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. He is also with us. In addition to this, aware of the dangerous entities that seek to destroy us, the Holy Spirit is serious about wanting to cover us in a protective manner.

Yes, God can manifest to us as a covering. This God-covering can be felt and tangible. The “shekinah glory” in the Bible speaks both of brightness but also of weight. There is a sensation of weight to the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can feel Him upon us like a heavy blanket. Sometimes the deeper and more intimate His presence, the deeper the sensation of weight. This concept is mirrored in the New Testament where we are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”.

“Secret place” also carries with it the idea of shelter. He wants to shelter us from the elements like a strong roof would shelter from the heat of day or the pounding rain. The Holy Spirit wants to be our tangible shield against the harmful spiritual elements that seek to pummel us in the course of our daily lives.

The “secret place” also means exactly that – it is a secret place known only to us and God. It is a place of intimate communion. One of God’s purposes in corporate worship is to bring us into this place of intimacy where it’s just Him and us. The wings of the Holy Spirit provide the private atmosphere where we can be alone with the God we love.

The “secret place” is also a hideout from the enemy of our souls. There is a degree of invisibility when we are inside His manifest presence. Think of it as a cloak of invisibility. This aspect of the presence of God makes it harder for the enemy to find us in order to tempt or harass us with his tormenting thoughts.

How do we enter this secret place of the Most High? John chapter 6 and 15 show us the way.

John 15 is all about abiding IN Jesus. He tells us to remain in Him so we don’t become a dried out, unfruitful branch. “Abiding in Him” means remaining attached to Him like a branch does to a grapevine. However, there is also a sense of oneness and inclusion, from the skin of the grapevine extending up onto and over us branches making us one with the vine. Therefore the word “in” refers to being attached to and being inside of Jesus.

John 6:56 says that when we eat and drink, Jesus’ body and blood, we abide in Him. This applies directly to John 15. When we consume Jesus’s presence during worship or soaking, He brings us back into this abiding-inside-of-Jesus relationship. This concept of abiding in and inside of Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 91.

The Holy Spirit does not want us to simply visit this place of covering that He forms around us. He wants us to live there. The Hebrew for “dwell” means to “remain, stay, sit down, and abide”. This is a foreshadowing reference to John 15. It could very possibly be that Jesus had Psalm 91 in mind when He delivered His discourse on “abiding in the vine”.

Today, let’s drop what we’re doing, if we can, and take a few minutes to pull aside to eat and drink of Jesus’ presence so that the covering of the Most High can manifest around us. It is the hearts desire of our protective Father and our passionate Bridegroom that we remain in this place of protection and intimacy.

HOW GOD’S “BROODING” TRANSFORMS US

“The earth was formless and void”. The King James rendering unfortunately obscures the devastation described by the Hebrew words in Genesis 1:2. The earth, at this point, was literally laid waste, chaotic, empty, and confused…a wilderness. You may have gone through seasons where you might have described your life in similar terms. You may be going through that season now.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit was there to save the day and perform creation out of chaos. How did He do it? Again, the Hebrew says that He lovingly hovered over the surface of the earth. He was, with cherishing love, brooding over the earth as a hen would over her eggs. The words in the original language used for the Spirit’s activity are very descriptive.  The Spirit of God was actually vibrating and trembling, fluttering as He covered the planet. His heart was affected. He was deeply moved by the condition of the earth.

The result of this divine activity of the Spirit’s brooding along with the spoken creative word of the Father was that the world experienced six days of gorgeous creation that we get to enjoy even today. The Holy Spirit took nothingness and confusion and brooded over it until it became “good”.

Fast forward thousands of years. Jesus is looking over Jerusalem, pining over it. He cries “how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings”. The image invoked is that of Genesis 1:2 with some Psalm 91 thrown in for good measure.

Our lives may have been devastated. We may feel there is only emptiness left. All may seem hopelessly confusing.

God wants to come to us like He did in Genesis. The Spirit of Jesus wants to visit us. He wants to brood over our own personal wasteland until it becomes a thriving garden.

How does He do it?

Genesis 1:2 is a first mention of the Holy Spirit.  A “first mention” is often significant in scripture. Here, the very nature and character of the Holy Spirit is divulged. The very manner that He operates is disclosed. He loves, but that love is a tangible brooding that turns darkness and devastation into a bright new day and colorful creation.

Let Him come. Ask Him to come. His very name in the New Testament means “the One called alongside to help”. Call on Him now. Say something like “Come Holy Spirit and cover me. Brood over me. Protect me under Your feathery wings. Turn the darkness, confusion, and emptiness of my life into a brand new day”.

What follows next is so important…

Our next response at this point runs contrary to our whole Christian experience. Instead of besieging heaven with our prayers or reading extensive portions of scripture, we must just be still. In a position of utter helplessness we lay before God motionless, even prayerless, and let Him come and do the work.

We are not comfortable with inactivity. It runs against our modern Christian grain. While He is brooding over us, we must ignore the impulse to do something for Him. We must let it be a one way street – just letting Him minister to us.  We can minister to Him at some other time.  Our efforts to do something at this moment will oppose and divert the flow of His presence.

We must be patient, waiting expectantly. Before too long the tangible manifest presence of the Holy Spirit will cover us like a blanket. Some people actually feel Him vibrating over them. This is His experiential, felt love. The same power that initiated and accomplished creation is now hovering over and brooding upon us.

Resisting the temptation to be in a hurry, we remain in that posture of quiet receiving. After the sensation of His presence comes upon us, we stay under it as long as possible. This is not wasted time. The longer we are under His anointing, the more creative and restorative work is being done.

Sometimes playing some very anointed music softly helps with this process.

In some Christian circles, this activity is called “soaking”.  While the Holy Spirit lives in us as believers, He also has a manifestation where He comes to us externally to be upon us to anoint us for ministry, or in this case, for transformation.

Let’s let Jesus come by His brooding Spirit and make all things new for us. Not just once, but until it becomes a daily rhythm of our lives.

CHRISTMAS CHAOS

Six weeks had passed since the Halloween outreach in Hoveter Homes, a dangerous low income housing project. At each kids club meeting since then, we had been seeing children and teens accepting Jesus. Some weeks one or two children or teens would respond to the gospel invitation, other weeks eight to ten would come to the Lord. Each week, we had been teaching the children how to worship, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and have a personal quiet time with their newfound Heavenly Father.

Christmas was near and the Lord directed us to have a Christmas party to bless the neighborhood kids. We would have some games, tell the Christmas story, give an invitation, and make sure that each child received a present.

We planned for 30 kids.   70 showed up!

Our host, Andrea’s, little apartment was crammed wall to wall with a sea of children and teens. There were so many children but only a few of us adult workers. Chaos could have and should have ensued but Jesus was present and had an agenda. He made sure that things ran smoothly because His intention was to reach the hearts of the precious young people attending. By the time the invitation was over, seventeen more children had responded to receive Jesus. What a wonderful Christmas present that was to all of us!

Speaking of Christmas presents, we ran out of them. We wrote down the names and addresses of the kids who missed out and left to buy more presents. Returning, we delivered the presents to each child in their homes. This enabled us to meet some of the parents and see the smiles on their faces, too!

Before we left to buy presents, an 18 year old came up to us and asked that he be included in the next round of presents as well. Our hearts broke as he told us that he had never once received a Christmas present his entire life!

We worked several more months in Hoveter Homes before handing the ministry over to Andrea, seeing Jesus continue to draw many more of these wide-open young people to Himself.

At our first all-teen outreach, twenty neighborhood youth showed up for pizza, games, and the gospel. Seven of them publicly accepted Jesus as their Savior. Some powerfully felt the fire of the Holy Spirit for the first time in their lives as we prayed over them during the ministry time.

For our final kids club meeting, 45 kids attended. It was a spiritual rush to watch Jesus transition the kids from the very active to the intimate. Their little voices rose to deafening levels as they sang praise songs like “Mercy is Falling”. Hands were raised and eyes closed as they sang and swayed to “Let the River Flow”. The air was electric with the presence of God as eight more children came to Jesus during the gospel invitation. I choked up as I watched kids responding to the touch of the Holy Spirit during ministry time. One child in particular, a brand new spiritual baby in Jesus, just minutes old, had their eyes closed and hands outstretched, instinctively and hungrily reaching out for more of God’s presence.

This season in Hoveter Homes was God-ordained and God-orchestrated. He led us to Andrea who was our “person of peace”, the human key that Jesus used to unlock the neighborhood. He drew the kids and teens to Himself. He told us what to do and how to do it. We felt so privileged just to be there and watch Him move.

Leaving Hoveter Homes, we soon found ourselves immersed in another inner city outreach in the notorious and nearby Hall Manor housing project. The stakes were raised, but the supernatural manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit was raised right along with it.

Next – “Do It Afraid”

HEAVEN INVADES THE DEVIL’S NIGHT

I was lost in worship and Jesus started talking to me…about Halloween.

About a month prior, my wife, Debbie, and I were introduced to Andrea at a community center in Harrisburg, our new home. We had moved to the Harrisburg area from Annapolis in order to be close to church and to our adult children who were now attending ministry school.

Andrea had been sharing her tremendous burden for the residents of the inner city neighborhood where she lived – Hoveter Homes. She expressed her frustration in seeking to reach her neighbors but having no one to partner with her in outreach. Seeing her passion for souls, we offered to visit her and join in prayer for salvation to come to her housing area.

Over the next two weeks, we visited Andrea twice. First, we prayed in her home. Next, she led us on a prayer walk around the entire perimeter of her neighborhood. While walking, we prayed, claiming Hoveter Homes for Jesus.

It was now October 31st and we were attending a conference at our church. During a time of deep worship at the conference, the Holy Spirit showed me that we were to be the answer to our own prayers for Andrea and Hoveter Homes. As I listened and watched, the Lord showed me a plan for the first outreach in that neighborhood. We were to go and do this that very night. Talk about short notice!

Jesus instructed that we were to go to Andrea’s house and offer “spiritual readings” to her neighbors. Admittedly, “spiritual readings” sounds like something New Age. However, incidences of accurate prophetic words given by the Spirit of God are peppered throughout the New Testament. Acts 2:17 declares that sons and daughters will prophesy. Agabus’ accurate prophetic words are documented in Acts 11:28 and 21:10. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:25, actually illustrates how the Holy Spirit can use the gift of prophesy to divulge the secrets of the unsaved while attending church services. “As the secrets of their hearts are laid bare, they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming ‘God is really among you!'”

Jesus was letting me know that He was going to use prophetic words, not in a church setting, but outside the four sacred walls in a dangerous, low income neighborhood on the darkest day of the year.

At nightfall, we arrived at Andrea’s place. We turned out the lights and lit candles. Worship music was playing softly in the background.

Teens and children lined up outside the door, waiting for their turn to hear their “personal reading”. Two would be let in at a time. Debbie and a young man who volunteered to help us would minister in the living room. Our fourteen year old daughter, Sarah, accompanied by Andrea would take the kitchen. After seating their young person, they would pray over them and prophetically share the secrets of their hearts.

As a result of this bold version of power evangelism, nine out of ten of our young visitors accepted Jesus. One did not because they were already born again. Sarah actually led five of the nine to Jesus herself! “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” was fulfilled for us that night!

Meanwhile, outside Andrea’s door, the kids in the long line were getting restless. They wanted their turn, too! We decided to let everyone come inside and have an impromptu, unplanned party.

After some games, I told a story that illustrated and presented the gospel. When the invitation was given, twenty more young people came to Jesus. After dividing the boys and girls into two separate rooms, we prayed over them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As demon spirits were involved outside celebrating Halloween, inside Andrea’s unit, the heavy thick presence of the Holy Spirit reigned! Kids and teens sensed the fiery presence of the Lord and had their spiritually newborn eyes opened to see visions and pictures from heaven (Acts 2:17). Some did not want to leave the wonderful heavenly atmosphere, eagerly lingering to soak up the tangible love of God in the place.

It was the “devil’s night” but God came and brought heaven down to a group of young people in a Harrisburg inner city neighborhood. A church was born in a night!

Over the coming weeks and months, many more would find Jesus and go deeper in their relationship with Him as we continued working with Andrea.

Next – “Christmas Chaos”