Prayer and Evangelism – Keys to Expanding the Kingdom

11935448-old-keys-on-a-wooden-table-close-up-stock-photoI wrote this article several weeks ago for Take the City, an outreach ministry I have had the privilege of being a part of from its inception. It was birthed, in part,  from the house of prayer, and continues to grow through its commitment to prayer and evangelism.

Reinhard Bonnke, the well known German-born evangelist once said, “…evangelism without prayer is like an explosive without a detonator, and prayer without evangelism is like a detonator without an explosive. We need both.” Indeed, this goes along with what Jesus taught His disciples.

The ninth chapter of Matthew was likely a typical day in the life of Jesus. He healed a paralyzed man, confronted some religious leaders, raised a young girl from the dead, healed a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and two blind men, and delivered a demonized man who was mute. Matthew said in verse 35, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Then in verses 36-38, he records, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.’”

Jesus could only help so many people, being that He was just one person during His earthly life. The works He did revealed to His disciples the Father’s heart. They, too, saw the needy crowds and probably felt overwhelmed by it all. At just the precise moment, He let them in on a secret that would make it possible for more to be ministered to. I can almost imagine what they were thinking – “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” Seriously, though, it is clear from this story that prayer and evangelism must go together. He then sent them out, making them the answer to that prayer. (see Matt. 10)

When we spend time in prayer, especially extended times of prayer, we will feel what the Father feels for those who do not know Him, and His longing to have them as His own. We will encounter those who are lost, weary, wounded, broken, and outcast, and we will feel His compassion towards them. You cannot spend time in extended prayer and not feel compelled to reach out to these ones. Jesus felt it in the above passage, and if He lives in us, we will too. Prayer, therefore, fuels missions. It is the catalyst that will cause us to leave our prayer closets in search of the lost sheep.

As we reach out to these needy ones, it will quickly become apparent that apart from His help and power, we can do nothing. We can easily become overwhelmed when faced with multitudes of seemingly insurmountable problems. It can take a toll on us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually if we do not have consistent times of prayer to be refilled. If Jesus took time away from the crowds to be with His Father, how much more should we? Dealing with people in desperate situations like drug abuse, prostitution, poverty, sickness, and demonic bondage is heartbreaking. Times like these will drive us to our knees in prayer.

Attempting to evangelize the lost without the compassion of Jesus is simply a religious exercise. For too long, the Church has emphasized evangelism, but lacked teaching on the necessity of intimacy with God. The second Great Commandment – “Love your neighbor as yourself,” has been placed before the first one, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Putting them in the proper order joins prayer and evangelism. Prayer produces intimacy, which produces love for God and compassion. Love for God engenders love for people and empowers us to go out, be His witnesses, and make more disciples. The more we pray, the more we will want to reach out, and the more we reach out, the more we will pray for God’s power and provision in sending more laborers. We cannot afford to separate the two if we truly want to expand His kingdom.

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The Root of Our Issues

eaf686b0b3662bef021b18454c375595If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know I’ve been involved in every form of healing ministry there is, physical, emotional, and spiritual, for about twenty-three years now. I’ve heard more stories than I can remember, stories that greatly disturbed me, saddened me, and some that angered me. It is difficult, if not impossible, to listen to people’s pain and not be impacted by it in some way.

I feel that I’ve seen it all and heard it all, and that nothing really shocks me anymore. I have learned much about human behavior and why we do the things we do. Along the way it has become apparent that we all share a common “root” that is often the culprit behind dysfunctional patterns. In some way and to some degree, we have all experienced abandonment and rejection, and it affects us similarly, yet we respond according to our unique personality. The more I minister to hurting people, the more I believe this is the root of all, or at least the majority, of our issues.

Abandonment and rejection cause us to feel alone and unwanted. We feel as though we are always excluded or left out. This belief contributes to feelings of insecurity, fear, shame, anger, and control, to name a few. It often leads to a victim and poverty mentality and orphan spirit. In order to find acceptance, we may turn to performance, perfectionism, and people pleasing. Others will react the opposite, becoming rebellious, withdrawn, and angry. Both reactions are forms of control.

This destructive duo will often draw people into addictions to numb their pain. Those addictions can take many forms, such as substances (drug, alcohol, food), sexual (pornography, promiscuity, fantasies), accomplishments (workaholism, drivenness, selfish ambition), performance (affirmation, praise, recognition), idolatry (materialism, appearance, pride), and these are just a few. Even good things like ministry, fitness, success, education, etc., can become addictions and, therefore, idols. Any activity we participate in can be taken to an extreme when our motive is to gain acceptance and affirmation.

Some have experienced abandonment and rejection far worse than others. It can happen to children whose parents divorce, or when one parent dies young. Sometimes it may not be physical, but emotional. Emotional abandonment can happen when one or both parents are emotionally detached and unavailable for their children, usually because they are so bound up in their own pain. Abuse is also a form of rejection and abandonment. These two traumas will lead to all kinds of fears, and a lack of identity, which produces insecurity. Insecurity produces jealousy, envy, competition, pride, anger, and many other issues.

Other problems that result from abandonment and rejection are shame, fear, and control. When the people who are supposed to love and care for you the most abandon or reject you, it gives place to the lie, “What is wrong with me?” “Something must be wrong with me, or my parents wouldn’t have ________,” (divorced, died, beat me, left me, etc.) Shame tells us we are hopelessly flawed, defective, and shameful. These lies lead to fear, fear of being discovered, exposed, rejected, abandoned, abused, etc. And fear motivates us to control. Control takes on many different forms, such as, anger, withdrawing and isolating, rebellion, rage, passivity, domination, manipulation, and intimidation, among others.

It is important to have at least a basic understanding of these things, not only for our own well-being, but so we can learn how to better relate to others in a healthy way. Abandonment, rejection, and all their ensuing issues will affect every relationship we have, at least until we receive some healing and possibly deliverance. Patterns of broken relationships are a sure sign that we are believing lies that may stem from these issues. Seeking godly counsel and inner healing and deliverance ministry can certainly help you get free and prevent further damage. Jesus paid the price for our healing – spirit, soul, and body – and we bring Him glory when we gain the freedom He willingly and lovingly paid for!

How Desperate are You for Change?

fish escape conceptI’ve been involved in healing ministry for the past 20 plus years. It’s been mainly spiritual and emotional, but also supernatural physical healing as well. I’ve learned a lot about healing and about people over those years. In regards to people, I’ve come to realize that we are all very stubborn and resistant to change. I say we, as I’m including myself, as well. We are resistant to change because change requires work, and we also tend to be mostly lazy.

I saw this time and again with people who said they wanted to be free from traumas and various bondages they were in. Yet they were often unwilling to let go of the sin, the lies they believed, or the grievances they had that gave place to the bondages. The effort required to renew their minds seemed overwhelming, so rather than pushing through, they chose to give up. In truth, we usually want a quick fix to get us out of our pain. It is also true that we make time for the things that are important to us. Those who did get healed and free were desperate enough to do whatever it took to get there.

Over the past few months, the Lord has been greatly impressing upon my heart the area of health and nutrition. I see it as an extension of the healing ministry I’ve been a part of; another facet of the diamond, so to speak. Scripture says our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and it is true! Science and the medical industry are continually learning new things about the incredible ways our bodies work and what they are capable of. In this early stage of my new journey, I am more in awe every day of God’s magnificent design, seen in the human body.

I am also learning that so much of our quality of life is determined by our diet. Stress and anxiety also play a big role in affecting our health. I see and hear so many people talk of how tired they are, or how sick they’ve been. They go on about this medicine they’re taking and the side effects they’re dealing with, how much weight they need to lose, chronic pain they’ve had, and a host of other issues. It’s sad to say the least. But the good news is, it doesn’t always have to be that way. We can help turn our health around by making better choices in how we eat, sleep, and exercise. learning new ways to alleviate as much stress and anxiety from our lives will also help.

Which brings us back to what I said at the beginning – we humans are mostly resistant to change because we are lazy and don’t want to do the work required. So we go on in our dysfunction, be it spiritual, emotional, or physical, and take on a victim identity. The really sad part is that we choose that because it is familiar and comfortable, even if it is slowly killing us! It is easier to blame everything and everyone, than to take responsibility for our health and our lives, and do something different.

I want to say that I know not everyone or every situation falls into this category. There are always exceptions to the rule. There are times when every possible option is explored and still there are no answers. I am in no way meaning to discount anyone’s suffering. We do live in a fallen world, and therefore, bad, unexplainable things, sometime happen to good people, people who are desperate for healing. No one but God has all the answers. I am speaking to, and hoping to challenge, those of us who can do something about our situation. We can change our diet, how we handle stress, how much we exercise, etc., if we really want to.

I don’t know your situation or where you stand, but for me, I am ready to make some changes. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am desperate enough to do whatever it takes – how about you?

Recognize and Get Free From Unrealistic Expectations

Have you ever expected something from someone that they didn’t live up to? I’m sure reality-check-ahead-sign-unrealistic-stealing-dreams-blog-e1407820920643-400x400every person that has ever lived or ever will, has. I suppose it is just part of our human nature. We expect things from the people around us all the time, mostly without realizing it. We expect our friends and family to be there when we need them. We expect our spouse or significant other to always love us. We expect our children to adopt our values. We expect others to be grateful when we help them. These are just a few examples.

It’s not necessarily wrong to expect certain things from others. But when we expect more than they are capable of giving or doing, our expectations are unrealistic. When we have unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up to be hurt and disappointed. Years ago when I was very wounded, I actually expected my husband to be able to read my mind…no joke. I had some pretty serious issues. Each time he failed to do so, which was pretty much all the time, my heart was more deeply wounded. As I later learned, no one is capable of reading my mind, other than God. It wasn’t my husband’s fault or intention to hurt me, it was my own naivete or stupidity that was at fault. It was a lie I was believing from the enemy.

I have seen many others fall into this same trap. Maybe you have, too. So how do we avoid making this same mistake? First, ask the Lord to show you any unrealstic expectations you may have towards anyone. One possible sign is continual conflict in relationships, or a pattern of broken relationships. Another is continual feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, or betrayal. Be honest with yourself when you are hurt by someone. Ask yourself what you were expecting from that person. If your expectation seemed reasonable, then try talking through the issue or get counseling from a third person if needed. If you were expecting more than was humanly possible, take responsibility for your mistake, apologize, and seek forgiveness.

Sometimes it may help to put yourself in the other person’s place. How would you feel if they were expecting from you, what you were expecting from them? Ask the Lord to show you the lies you may be believing. Renouce and break agreement with them, and receive His truth. Avoid blame shifting; it never resolves anything but only adds to the problem and the hurt. Look to the Lord to fulfill the needs only He can meet. Some needs aren’t meant to be fulfilled by people. God designed us to be dependent upon Him first and foremost. What we receive from others is then just icing on the cake. Expecting others to be your all, to make you happy, complete, satisfied or fulfilled will only lead to hurt, anger, and disappointment. It isn’t that others may not want to be that, but that they cannot. They aren’t made to, and neither are you made to be someone’s all in all.

Take responsibility for your unrealstic expectations and do whatever is necessary to change them. This will set you free to love and enjoy your relationships without the weight of those expectations being placed upon them. Changing your beliefs will also help prevent unnecessary hurt and disappointment. Remember that even those with the best intentions will let you down at times, all of us do. We are all in need of God’s infinite grace and mercy!

 

Are You a Prisoner of the Performance Trap?

Charlene S Hughes

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, it’s never enough? That even when youHamster Wheel Runner do your very best, it still isn’t good enough? These thoughts lead to feelings of discouragement, frustration, even despair. Sound familiar at all? I would guess most if not all of us would say “Yes!” One of the most common struggles we face as human beings centers around issues of performance. This is one example of what I wrote about in an earlier post, Are Toxic Beliefs Derailing Your Destiny?

Usually these thoughts come from words we heard from parents and other adults during our childhood. Or maybe it was just the look you got when you brought home a bad grade, or didn’t make the team, or didn’t do as well as your sibling. Even well meaning parents can unwittingly convey negative messages. This usually also involves withholding love, affection, or…

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Breaking the Pattern of Codependency

Broken people produce broken relationships. You don’t have to look far to see them. codependentMost of us have, no doubt, been a part of one – or several. One of the most destructive patterns is called codependency, or enabling. This type of relationship is very common, even among believers. The term codependent is defined as, “of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way.” Codependency is “a state of mutual dependence between two people, especially when one partner relies emotionally on supporting and caring for the other partner.” 

Codependent people suffer from a lack of identity; therefore, they take on the identity of caregiver to the other person. Often, the other person is looking for someone to “fix” them, because they are unwilling to take responsibility for their own behavior. They usually have some type of addictive behavior, like drugs, alcohol, sex, etc., that they feel powerless to overcome. These unhealthy actions feed off of each other. The enabler needs to be affirmed and validated, and they seemingly find this by taking care of the helpless one. This pattern produces two victims – the first eventually resents the constant demands and control of the other, the second is allowed and enabled to continue in their dysfunction with no confrontation or requirement to take responsibility.

If this sounds familiar, the good news is that we can find freedom from these unhealthy patterns of relating. The enabler needs to understand that their affirmation, validation, and identity only come from God. The need to feel significant is one of our basic human needs, so He wants to give it to us; we just have to ask. Song of Solomon is a wonderful example of how He affirms us over and over until we become secure in His love and our identity as His beloved.

The person who struggles with addiction needs to know that Jesus paid the price for their freedom. Scripture says that, “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) People cannot save, heal or deliver, only God can. These ones must repent for seeking deliverance from someone other than the Lord and turn to Him. They must be willing to take responsibility for their behavior and no longer blame others.

God wants us all to fully depend upon Him for He is our Father and longs to relate to us as one. He alone is faithful and true and will always act in our best interest. People with even the best intentions will let us down. Others can help us along the way, but they cannot be our source for that which only God can give us. He will save, heal, and deliver when we call upon His name!

The Deception of Denial

denialIt has been said that the first step to healing is to acknowledge one’s need of it. Living in denial is a deceptive trap that keeps us in bondage. An example of this is seen in Mark 2:15-17: While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The tax collectors and sinners recognized their need of a Savior, and followed Him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law, on the other hand, showed contempt of His association with those considered the outcasts of society. Their self-righteousness blinded them to their own need, thus, cutting themselves off from His salvation and mercy.

When we live in denial, we create our own false reality that is rooted in pride. This can be seen in those who believe that everyone else is the problem; they couldn’t possibly be to blame. When others disagree with our views, we automatically believe that they are wrong, we certainly couldn’t be! Denial is also categorized by refusal to acknowledge painful memories, thoughts or feelings. Doing so, of course, cannot make them go away. Facing the truth about ourselves and/or our hurtful situations is very hard, but it’s the only way to get healing and freedom. 

Jeanne McElvaney wrote, “There is a moment in our healing journey when our denial crumbles; we realize our experience and it’s continued effects on us won’t “just go away”. That’s our breakthrough moment. It’s the sun coming out to warm the seeds of hope so they can grow our personal garden of empowerment.” 

Jesus said that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. May God give us all the grace we need to face the truth, acknowledge our need of healing, and receive the freedom He has already paid for and longs for us to have.