An Open Heaven

This post isn’t as much an insight as a personal reflection.  Just back from another whirlwind tour of Israel, I am only now beginning to have cohesive thoughts and memories of my time there.  This trip differed in many ways from my first one, not the least of which was being there with TBN and Joseph Prince, meaning we had three powerful meetings in addition to the tour.

One of the meetings was held on the steps outside the south wall of the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday night.  It is one of many areas that have been excavated far enough to find some of the original stones and steps from Jesus’ time.  These steps were there when Jesus was coming and going through the south gate, and they might have been the very places He stood (or sat) to teach.  That is where we sat (all 1800 of us!) to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (Just an aside – stone steps are hard, even though Jesus stood on them!)

One of the songs talked about an open heaven, and I was lost for a time to a place those words took me.  Somehow, it was more than just being outside with clear skies overhead.  It was more like the heavens were open to us who had gathered there that evening.  Here I was, so blessed and loved by my Abba, Daddy that He let me be part of a wide sampling of His living, breathing body of Christ, right there in His chosen land of Israel, and in the physical place where my freedom began – Jerusalem – worshipping Him!

As if that weren’t enough, He reminded me of the first time I experienced the open heaven.  It was in January 2006, with 350,000 Indians (and a few Americans) in Hyderabad, India, as we worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ together at a Joyce Meyer Ministries conference.  Just as in Jerusalem, so in India it was more than just being outside.  Here, it was with India.  In Israel, it was with the whole world!  But there was more He wanted me to grasp.

Still in that open heaven atmosphere, I found my heart yearning for the day I could be in China with a large gathering of Chinese believers, worshipping Jesus Christ under an open heaven in a place the government has tried so hard to squelch Christianity.  My natural mind says, “No way!”  But my spirit man says, “With God all things are possible!”  Even as I type these thoughts, excitement bubbles in my spirit as I consider what Daddy will do in His church in China.  I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but that doesn’t mean it’s only a maybe.

Amazing, this journey I took in only a few moments on the steps where Jesus walked.  I can’t help but wonder what journeys others took in those same few moments, and what other nations were pointed out.  What an adventure to walk in Christ – under an open heaven!

 

Change of Seasons

fall leaves

The weather is cooler, leaves are changing colors, we’ve had to turn on the heater, the days are shorter, and we’re wearing warmer clothes.  Yes, it’s a change of season and I’m excited about it.  At the same time, it seems I’m in a season of change in life, and I want to be as enthusiastic about it as I am about the change in weather.

I have led various small prayer groups over the years, with differing purposes, and usually different people in each of the groups.  We get to know each other by the Spirit, and sometimes the Lord draws us together into fellowship, as well.  For more than five years, now, three of us have been connected in this way, even going to China together last spring.  I love these two ladies dearly and trust them with my life – both spiritually and naturally.  We are forever connected by the Holy Spirit.

We’ve all been aware for some time that a season of change for our prayer group was approaching; we just didn’t know the exact timing.  The Lord began to prepare us a few months ago for the coming change by calling us to seek Him as to whether we were still to be a part of the group.  Even though all of us recommitted fully, we knew the time was short for things to remain as they were.  A few months later, the season of change is upon us, and the other two women have moved on into the next season of the Lord for them.

I am truly excited for what the Lord will do in this next season of their lives.  He’s been training and preparing them during our five years together for other people who need to know Him as they do.  If they didn’t move on now, in God’s perfect timing, they would stagnate, and miss ministering to and with others the Lord has put in place.  They have chosen to follow His lead away from the comfortable and secure place of the familiar, into the unknown – because it’s their season of change.

Though I have loved our weekly prayer times and the regular fellowship that came from it, I am not sad.  With much anticipation, I look forward to those people the Lord will bring in to replace these women of prayer.  Despite the much He has already accomplished in and through us, there is still much to do in prayer for His body in preparation for Christ’s return.  He’s not finished with this group, but is pruning it for greater fruitfulness in all of us, as well as grafting in new branches with whom we will wrestle against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realms on behalf of the body of Christ!

It’s a new season – duration unknown.  I must continue to fix my trust and hope in the Lord, not in what I do or with whom I do it.  I am here for His purposes in every season of life, including seasons of change.  In His plan and purpose, I will forever love and treasure the people connected with me in each season.  I will pour into them and allow them to pour into me as we grow in God together serving Him.  When the season of change comes, I will release them and trust God as we begin all over again.

A season of change in God – how exciting!

Psalm 31:14-15 But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”  My times are in Your hands . . .

fall leaves2

Leadership – Jesus’ Way

The team has returned safely and soundly from our journey to China.  From the start, I want to make clear that this was a good trip with a great team from here and great people with whom we were connected once we arrived in Hong Kong.  I have no regrets about having gone, or about taking a team with me.  Please keep this in mind as you read of God’s latest work in me in this post.  While there are many great experiences I could share from 2 ½ weeks of trip, I prefer to share a lesson that only came clear to me once I returned home.  I hope it will help some of you avoid the same pitfall as you walk in new places of leadership, whether at home or abroad.

From the time I began preparing for this trip, all the way through to the return home, I have felt that this was a much harder trip than the one I took last year.  I sensed the press of darkness against me in much greater measure than last year, but I had a greater part to play, so that wasn’t a total surprise; nevertheless, I just couldn’t understand the dis-ease inside.  In my mind, I knew it really was a good trip, but the overriding description for me was “hard.”  One way the Lord helped me begin to unravel this was by reminding me that Paul’s journeys were hard – beyond anything I experienced, for sure – but accomplished much for God, so they weren’t considered bad journeys, by any means.  That helped, but I knew there was more.

A week after my return home, the Holy Spirit made clear to me the very simple truth that I had missed from the beginning: As leader of the team, the trip was not about me.  Last year’s trip was so personally fulfilling that I wasn’t ready to return to America, even after 2 ½ weeks away.  It was during the process of leaving Hong Kong in ’08 the Lord made clear I would be back and would bring teams with me.  I was eager to follow through on this mandate from the Lord, but was surprised (even disappointed) that it wasn’t so exciting to me this time.  It’s not that it was boring, by any means, or that I didn’t have many opportunities to minister – more than last year, actually.  No, the disappointment I felt was strictly on a fleshly level (Ugh!).  The trip just wasn’t about me, but was about leading the team (by serving) and working with the others already in that land so that this specific mission could be a success.  It’s called dying to and denying self!

Luke 9:23 (NIV)  “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Matthew 20:28 (Amplified)  “Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].”

A leader isn’t in it for himself, but for the people he leads, regardless of the arena in which he leads.  My struggle came because I didn’t grasp the depth of this simple truth, so my flesh fought from beginning to end for personal gratification and enjoyment.  My whole purpose for being there, according to God’s plan, was simply to serve the others so they could corporately and individually fulfill God’s plan for them in China.  A very interesting note, now that I understand this, is that I don’t know that I would have done anything differently.  It’s just that my attitude would have been so different that I would have seen differently during both the preparations and the journey itself.

Now that I do see this, and now that the jet lag has finished its course, I am free to consider the next trip the Lord would call me to lead – without dread.  Remember, the Lord told me I would bring “teams” – plural.  This trip may have been the first, but it definitely wasn’t the only one in which I’ll lead a team to the nations.  Any future trips, however, will have so much less of my flesh in the mix, because I choose to follow Christ in serving those I lead – both in action and attitude.  By His Spirit, I will be made aware of my flesh trying to rise up and demand gratification, and I will deny its entrance!  My fulfillment will come from knowing that I have had the same attitude as Christ as I lived out the will of my Father.  That’s leadership in the pattern of Christ.

 Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)  “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”