\Have More Fresh Testimonies

 If you attend the Gathering each Sunday, you’ve noticed that I always begin by asking for testimonies of what you’ve seen Jesus do in the last week.  Then, depending on the testimonies I do or don’t hear, then and only then do I bring a teaching that shows why we all can expect similar encounters with Jesus, or how to reach for more.

It’s amazing how much of what we do in church keeps Jesus at an arm’s length.  We preach about Him and want everyone to sit and listen, but do we take time to linger in His presence and ask Him to speak to us?

We sing worship songs, carefully sticking to the words projected on the screen.  But do we make room for people to sing from the heart to God?

We bring in special speakers who move in the gifts of the Spirit, but the congregation sits in their seats while the guest speakers get in the flow of the Holy Spirit and move with God.

What provision do we make for people to have more firsthand encounters with Jesus.

I’d like to invite you to a simple discipline that will set you up to have more personal encounters with Jesus.  This ia the essence of the abundant life He promises us.  If eternal life is knowing Him and knowing the Father, the abundant life is surely a lifestyle of getting to know Him better and better.  It isn’t just knowing about Him; it’s knowing Him.

The discipline is described in my 31-day devotional, “Learn To Hear From God”. http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-God-day-30

I do the discipline myself, because I’m hungry to know God better.  So here it is:

1)                     Soak in God’s presence 2-3 times a week.  This is a time of listening prayer.  It can happen when we soak together at the Gathering, or it can happen at home.  Wishing to hear fresh instruction from God, I often use the three principles found at http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-god-day-3.  These are three ways to position yourself before God so you’ll be ready to hear Him when He decides to speak:  (1) quiet your heart, (2) focus on Jesus, and (3) watch for a spontaneous flow of words.  The point of this exercise is to position ourselves to hear from God firsthand.

Edify, exhort, or comfort five people each week.  If we do this right, it becomes a fulfillment of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats.  But it also positions us to need to get in the flow of the Holy Spirit so we can serve and bless others,  This is another way to experience Jesus firsthand, and to get to know Him better.

I do this discipline myself, and I’m inviting you to join me.  Maybe you attend the Gathering, and maybe you live far away and can’t visit us every Sunday.  But even if you belong to another church, you can join us in this simple discipline on your own time.

As you soak, ask God to show you who your five people are, and where to find them.  He may lead you to show more appreciation to your immediate family, or to people you see at school or at work every day.  He may direct you to take a friend to lunch after church.  But the goal in it all – firsthand encounters with Jesus that will cause you to know Him better.

Or, if you’re hungry for it, He’ll lead you to strangers and show you how to connect with them.  I’ve been having the time of my life – too much to try to tell here.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2012, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSm

Respond If God Nudges You

When God is training us, He often will nudge us non-verbally, calling our attention to something He wants to lead us into.  It usually happens as a gut-level knowing what we need to do.  Here are a few I listed about two hours ago.  Then I set myself to respond to them as quickly as I could.  Here they are –

  • Write this blog.  It will be part of a letter I need to write.
  • Write a prophetic word I promised to relay to a cashier in a restaurant.  I need to respect God enough to take it seriously that He gave me a word to pass on to an employee at a restaurant.  As there was not a good time to give the word, I asked for her email address so I could send it.  I need to follow through.
  • Use Titus 3 as an outline for a few moments of prayer.  Pay attention to the interplay between faith and works, remembering that I (and everyone I shall meet in the next few weeks) have been saved not jut from sin and death, but also for kingdom purposes and eternal life, which is to know the Father and the Son. 
  • Answer a lengthy email from a waitress for whom God gave a word.  I’ll guard her privacy here, but clearly God is drawing her with cords of love.  If she has sent me her questions, I need to do my best to serve her with the best answers I can give.

What Does It Mean If God Nudges You?

Start with scripture.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”  (Romans 8:16-17)

 

Though some may be called to extraordinary suffering – maybe imprisonment or even martyrdom for their faith, the nudges I’m sensing call for very minor suffering:  I’m tired and I want to go to bed.  But if God is nudging, I want to finish these four items before I go to bed.  It’s a very small sacrifice, but as we respond even in  small things, God then releases more of His glory into our lives.

Many of us are entering a season of inheriting a new anointing.  Do we want more of Him?  Let’s tell Him so by giving more of us.

And one way to do so is to respond to His non-verbal nudges.  Often they are wake-up calls that warn us not to get side-tracked.  Sometimes they help us focus.  Out of a hundred or a thousand things that tug at us in a day, it’s very helpful when God nudges us and we see where to pour our attention and energy.

Remember this when God nudges you:  He isn’t a hard-taskmaster.  He’s a friend.  He’s gentle, looking to bring out the best in you.

So don’t despise the day of small things, when God calls you to make minor sacrifices to embrace His purposes for your life.  Look for new anointing, new glory, and more of His resurrection life as you embrace His cross in these small daily matters.

Over time, these small choices add up to Christlike character.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2012, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Surplus Grace

At yesterday’s Gathering, I was led to share about an open heaven experience I had a few months ago.   I’ve been having these experiences throughout more than forty years of following Jesus.  I’ve never thought it unusual to meet God this way; in my earliest days as a Christian, I assumed the heavens open for all of us when we follow Jesus into the waters of baptism.

I have always assumed that my own open heaven experiences are typical of what can and does happen to other believers..

These encounters don’t necessarily give me new information about heaven.  Usually, the Holy Spirit seems to use them to write the most basic of truths on my heart, truths any of us can glean by reading the Bible.

And so it was with the vision I saw a few weeks ago.  I was walking around in heaven and saw what looked like piles of dirt by the side of the street.  “What’s that doing here?” I wondered.  Then someone explained.  It was surplus grace, and it was in the way.  God was looking for ways to dump it into the earth, but He was looking for the righr people to pour it out upon.

It would take me a few days to realize that what looked at first like dirt piles were in fact piles of spices that might be used in anointing oils.

In any case, this was surplus grace.  but where and on whom could God pour it out?

It’s been  a few weeks since I saw it, so I don’t recall how the understanding came, but I’ll never forget what it was.  He’s looking for people who can and will pray the first and last lines of the Lord’s prayer with passion.

Start here:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.”  Get passionate about this line, so much so that its flavor permeates the rest of the prayer.

But end the prayer here; I’ll paraphrase, adding a few words of my own, as I’m sure we all should as we use these words of Jesus as a template to expand as our own prayer.  “For your is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, amen.”

To amplify the last words, “Lord, it’s Your kingdom, not mine.  It’s Your power, not my gift mix or anointing, it’s Your glory.

Often I throw this line into my prayers:  “Let none of these prayers I’m praying now be answered to gratify my ego.”  But the real issue isn’t that we need to add another formality to a prayer that we often treat like a formality.  The real issue is passion.  Does anybody out there pray the first and the last lines of the Lord’s prayer with passion?  Are any of us moved to tears as we cry out for His name to be held in reverence?  And how many of us surrender our lives passionately to His kingdom, His power, and His glory?

These are the people on whom God will feel free to dump surplus grace.  Perhaps by the time it gets to you or me, He may have already made it into a new anointing, an oil we’ve never experienced before, a new operation of the same Holy Spirit we’ve grown to love.

But all I know is that Jesus has paid with His blood for more grace than the church on earth has ever used.  And for now, there is surplus grace in heaven.  God is looking for those on whom He can pour it out.  You and I can be among those who receive.

This isn’t rocket science.  It’s very simple stuff, so simple, it’s easy to overlook.  I’m submitting it to you so you can include yourself by faith, if you sense God calling you to do so.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2012, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSm

A Culture Of Gentle Repentance

Sometimes, when God wants to teach us, a theme starts cropping up wherever we Go.  We aren’t looking for it, but it seems to be looking for us.  So it has been for me lately.  Many of my friends, who like to center on the unconditional love of God, are suddenly wrestling with the role repentance should play in our coming to Jesus for the frree gift of eternal life.  How free is it?  Many of us are struggling to see how repentance and grace fit together.

 

Meanwhile, I’ve just started writing another book:  ITwelve Things The Blood Of Jesus Has Done For You.   So far, I’ve written only the rough draft of the introduction, but I’ve found that words like “repent” or “believe” can get lost in a worldview that predominated at a point in history.

Somehow, today’s church seems to have a hard time believing that repentance may be a gracious gift from a loving God.  Instead, many of us seem to see repentance as a last-ditch desperate measure some of us my need as we try to negotiate with God the Father, who seems to be an exceptionally thorough and zealous prosecutor who is looking for every possible reason to scuttle us into hell.

Yes, Jesus has paid a huge price to enable us to escape our well-earned death sentence, but believing the gospel seems too easy.  Surely God demands our repentance.  At the very least, He would expect us o be sorry for our sins, especially since it was our sins that nailed Him to the cross.

And with the stories we’ve all heard of revival, many of us have fixated on the angry evangelist who preaches for a God who is angry with transgressors.  How dare we tell them the good news of Jesus until we’ve first told them the bad news that they’ve broken God’s law and are on the way to hel

Perhaps our model for the fire-breathing evangelist is John the Baptist.  He commanded people to repent, lest they drop into hell.  But then Jesus came with “good news,” that the kingdom of heaven had drawn near.  Then He called people to repent and believe the good news.

What is repentance?  The Greek word used here also means a change of mind – a change in how we see ourselves, how we see God, and how we see one another.  This inner change will necessarily cause us to change our actions.

The repentance John demanded was repentance that might avert a threat.  The repentance Jesus preached seems to be an invitation to embrace an overwhelmingly positive transformation.

Do you think I’m overstating it?  For John’s style, read Matthew 3:1-12.  Then, for Jesus’ style, read Matthew 4: 12-25.  But as Jesus called His first disciples, He called them with the language of transformation:  “Follow Me, and I will make you. Into fishers of men.”

Their repentance therefore would work itself out as they simply followed Him, sand Jesus would transform them.

So whom do we feel called to follow?  If we’re John’s disciples, we need to warn people to repent before they drop into hell.  But if we feel called to follow Jesus, we will find ourselves inviting people into a transformational repentance that will empower us to learn to live as Jesus lived, at the intersection of heaven and earth.

Paul would write later about this transformation in Romans 12:2.  “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The whole new covenant is a covenant of transformation.  Wheneever we repent, we get to make choices that speed this transformation along.  And as we follow Jesus closely, He will make us into a heavenly people, into something we could not become merely by our own efforts.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Faith That Creates

Faith is much more than believing in a God we can’t see, and whose existence we can’t prove.  Faith is getting to know this invisible God and sharing a history with Him that makes a Godly or heavenly impact on this visible world.

I gleaned this idea from one of Miguel de Unamuno’s essays on Faith.  He noted that the Bible often says a man and a woman married, then they knew each other, and soon they had offspring.

 

I was sharing this thought with Pastor Mike over lunch a few days ago and he said he wished he had a written version, so I’m writing it down now.

It’s been an obvious theme to think about today, on Christmas, 2011.  But now that the sun has set on Christmas and the day is over, our next holiday will be New Year’s Day, about a week from now.  I was sitting in the car and waiting for JoAnn while she shopped, and I wondered, “”Is is really a new year?  Or is it just a new date on the calendar?”

Suddenly I recalled a challenge God gave ma years ago.

You’re never going to do what you’ve never done before until you do what you’ve never done before.”

 

In the last year, I’ve been finding many new ways to get to know God by going out into daily life and looking for ways to make memories with God.  Sometimes I’ve prophesied over people in the marketplace, just as I’ve done in church for years.  Of course, I’ve adjusted my style to suit whatever environment I’m in, just as I’ve done in the variety of churches where I’ve ministered.

 

It’s gotten easier and easier, and I shouldn’t be astonished t God’s faithfulness, but again and again I am because it resurfaces in surprising ways.

As we step into 2012 next week, I’ll be looking for new ways to get to know God.  I look forward to giving myself to Him in new ways, and making adventurous memories with Him.

Who knows what tangible impact God can make through any of us as we know Him?

 

So faith is much more than just believing in a God we can’t see.  Faith gets to know this invisible Creator, and when we do, He creates or begets something that makes a tangible impact on this visible world.  Accept nothing less.

 

 

 Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

 

The Glory Realm In 2012?

I got a newsletter by email today and want to share it because it’s timely.  But it’s also eternal, touching as it does on a too-often overlooked aspect of the simple gospel.

Jesus went to the cross and rose from the dead not just to get us into heaven after we die, but also to get heaven into us while we live in this world.  And one aspect of heaven is God’s glory.

I was in a prophetic worship conference a few years ago.  Lamar  Boschman, a spiritual pioneer who had long called the church to arise in prophetic worship, was the featured speaker.  I had been asked to play and sing as he closed his message.

Suddenly a prophetic song began to flow, and the words shook me so terribly that I was crying my eyes out as I sang.  Here is the essence of the word that challenged me.

About two thousand years ago, God had opened the heavens..  in Revelation 4, John heard the call to come up, and he saw an open door.

The door has been open for two thousand years, and God was disappointed that so few had noticed or even shown any interest in the open door.

Did anybody care?

Many of us felt too unspiritual to go anywhere near the door.  Others thought it was impractical, and we would be better advised to spend our energies elsewhere.

As for me, I began to sense that God was holding me responsible to go to the door whenever I worship.  Enter in, or if nothing else, at the very least, peek inside and look around.

I always reach into the heavens when we worship.  Sometimes I connect and sometimes I don’t, but I dare not insult the God of glory by failing to reach for Him.

As I have reached towards God, the God of grace has reached for me.  I have had many encounters with Him, and often I have been amazed that God would allow someone as brutish as I am to experience Him so richly.

I can’t escape the conviction that these things are happening to me not because I am unusually spiritual – I’m not.  Instead, I am simply a sample of what the glorified Christ can do with an ordinary man.

 

More than once, I’ve stood by Jacob’s ladder and felt a breeze come down from heaven and change the anointing level in a meeting.  I’ve climbed the spiral staircase several times, walking through the layer of mist, even though I couldn’t see the stairs and there was no handrail to hang onto.  It was scary at first as I felt my way with my feet, step by step.  But then I learned that if I worship as I go, the way gets easier.

Who am I to experience such things?  Just an ordinary believer, who died when Christ died and rose from dfeath with Him when He arose.  Why else was I baptized in water, but to bury the dead man and to let the new man come up in resurrection life.

If Christ lives in us, how can we live an earthbound existence and not experience glorious things?

This is why I’m sharing the link to the Gills’ Newsletter.  Papa Gill and Mom Joyce have been dear friends to JoAnn and me for years and we have experienced the glory of God with them at many of their Mountaintop encounters over the years.

Something in a man dies when he sees the glory of God.  But something else comes alive in the glory.  We need this.  The church needs men and women who will let things die that need to die, and let things come alive that need to come alive.  These processes happen only when we encounter His glory.

 

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

 

 

Paraphrased Beatitudes

II Corinthians 4;7, says, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us.”

As earthen vessels, we often feel small, ineffective, and unable to do anything of value in the kingdom of God.  But if we respond to God’s promptings, the Treasure is prepared to do through us far more than we could ask or think.

Normally, I play live music as we open each Gathering with a time of soaking.  But this week, Igot to do something I rarly get to do.  Instead of playing live music as we soaked in God’s presence together, I used recordings. I had to; a minor accident earlier in the week had sent me to the emergency room for ten stitches in my right hand, and they advise me not to play keyboard or guitar for another week or two, to give the wound time to heal.  As an earthen vessel, I was chagrined at my weakness.

But the Treasure had plans.It was an opportunity to do what I wrote about in the 31 day devotional, “Learn To Hear From God.” http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-god-day-3

I quieted my heart as I lay back in a reclining chair, and then I prayed silently, “Lord Jesus, where are You right now?”  To my surprise, I sensed Him standing in front of me, ready to teach.  A flow of words came, and He was paraphrasing the beatitudes for me.  I jotted down as much as I could, but it came so fast that dictation was impossible.  So I have to put the thoughts in my own words.

To keep things brief, I’ll list a few of the beatitudes, and the thoughts that came to me.  They may encourage you to step out in faith as you see opportunities to minister Jesus’ life and love to others.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  These are those who step out trustfully when they think they have nothing, and they shall see the flow of the Holy Spirit.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled .  These are those who feel unrighteous, and can’t settle for smug Christianity.  Instead,they  stir themselves to seek Him.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  These are those who can’t bear to live without God’s manifest presence in their own lives or in the world around them, for the Holy Spirit will comfort them.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Not just for themselves, but for others, or even for a whole generation.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Those who have been so beaten up by life that they find it hard  to hope, even these will yet arise to possess the promises of God in the earth.

Too much was coming to me too fast as we soaked, and I could jot down only a few key phrases.  But with each beatitude, I noticed that it began with our feeling useless to God, and unfit for God’s higher purposes.  But the presence of Immanuel, God With Us, means His presence is prepared to overflow far beyond our expectations.   The recurring theme was a longing for His manifest presence, and that He would overflow.

I began to realize that Jesus was telling me what it feels like to move in the power of God.  We may not feel powerful at all.  At the moments when God is doing things that are beyond us, we may feeling weak and foolish.  Our doubts about ourselves don’t limit God, because our confidence is in Him, not in our earthen vessels.  So if God nudges you to step out in faith and you don’t feel up to it, go ahead.  Trust Christ in you, the Treasure, to do the real work, while your earthen vessel feels poor in spirit.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

oHealing TESTIMONIES SO FAR

This week I begin the Thanksgiving-Christmas Healing Race.  It begins with thanksgiving.  Here is a list of healings that have happened lately in my own life, at The Gathering.  So I’m thanking God for His works among us.

  • Terry’s arm.  It was JoAnn who suggested prayer.  But she laughingly said, “It isn’t that I had any faith that anything would happen.  I just felt we should pray.  It’s a good example of what Jesus called a mustard seed of faith.  It looked small to JoAnn, but not too small to act upon.
  • My tendonitis.  Was this one a miracle?  Or did I just “  walk it out,” as one man interpreted the story.There’s no way to know.  But it was an answer to prayer, and nothing is left of the problem.  No pain, no swelling, no need to favor one foot over the other.
  • Digestive Problem HealedIt had begun with a bad taco, but God answered prayer.  Then, over lunch the next day in another Mexican restaurant, we celebrated healing.

If God has already done these three things in our little group, what more will He do if we keep reaching for His healing grace?  None of us can claim to have great healing gifts, but the greatest Healer in history has pledged to be with us if we gather in His name.  We are grateful that He keeps showing up.

I wouldn’t have had Randy’s testimony if I hadn’t asked him how he felt after prayer. Randy said his stomach was “better,” but how much better?  The zero-to-ten scale helped us find out.

Why am I collecting these testimonies?  And why am I thanking God for them?  Partly because they are evidence that Christ the Healer is with us.  And three of our regulars are facing major medical problems.   But as we rejoice in the healing grace God has given already, He will set us up to receive even more for the neediest people among us.

I won’t write them all here, but I was convicted to list healings that happened when JoAnn and I used to travel in ministry together.  It was God’s healing presence in the worship ministry of the church.  His healing presence made it easy.

In a family gathering tonight, we stuffed ourselves with turkey and all that goes with it and plopped down on sofas in front of the TV.  Soon we were playing with apps in an iPad.

When my sister-in-law mentioned a healing need, I couldn’t seem to access the healing presence of God.

But it looks easy to record a few minutes of worship on my iPad.  I could use songs that include healing scriptures – Psalm 103, or Isaiah 53.  Then I’d have the recordings available whenever I had my iPad – at Starbucks, at the beach, at the grocery store, etc.

And because I would be the singer, playing my guitar, it would be personal if I shared it with people.  And I could trust God for an anointing that would pave the way for ministry.  Just as I’ve often done in the church.

But I’ll keep this article short so I can get on with my homework;  another list of healings, the ones that happened when JoAnn and I used to travel.  Further, I need to clear unwanted files off my iPad so I’ll have lots of storage space for tomorrow’s recordings.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Healing Testimony

I didn’t get to hear how it happened, but a man at our church shared that he injured an arm as he tried to catch someone who was falling.  He couldn’t move the arm without pain, in spite of pain pills.  And he was planning to go to the emergency room after the meeting, to see what further treatment would be needed.

We always end our worship services with Communion and a meal.  At the meal, he told what had happened to his arm.  Soon, people gathered around him to pray.

As the prayer ended, someone said, “How’s your arm?”  He moved it this way and that and said, “It feels better.”  I could see in his face that it wasn’t perfect yet, but he kept moving the arm.  A few moments later, he picked up his pen, which he’d left on the table.  “I couldn’t do that earlier,” he said cheerfully.  “It really does feel better.”

That was what he told us a few minutes after prayer.  But then he shared again in church on Sunday when I asked for testimonies.  “As I was driving home, I decided to skip the visit to the emergency room.  Then when I went to bed, I wondered if I could sleep through the night without a pain pill.”  By morning, he realized that even without a pill, he felt no pain.  “I haven’t had any more problems with my arm all week,” he told us.  “I’ve lived a full week, and haven’t had to curtail anything I needed to do.  My arm is healed!”

This happened when three or four of us prayed at the dinner table.  But I’m sharing this story because God will do things like with any group that gathers in the name of Jesus and looks to Him for guidance.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

AtTheNextGathering,SunNov20

As I was soaking this morning, I sensed that God wants us to do an assignment when we meet again.  I expect heaven’s activity to go home with us when the meeting ends.  More about that at The Gathering, so I won’t write a lot about it here.  If it were about information, I’d write about it.  But it’s about activation, so we need to do it.  Then when the action starts, I’ll share the testimonies.

 

Lately, God has been giving me nudges I wasn’t sure what to do with.  I couldn’t see how to act on them.  If this is happening to me, probably it’s also happening to you.

It’s been words of knowledge.  Some relate to healing, and I’d call them out if I were in a healing meeting.  But as I live a normal daily life, how do they connect?  Should I save them up for the next Gathering and release them only when we have meetings?

Maybe.  That’s the way we’ve seen things done in church.  But Jesus found ways to release them outside the meeting.  He’ll show us how if we let Him apprentice us.

So the assignment is simple.  It’s found on day 5 of the 31-day devotional, “Learn To Hear From God”, at  http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-god-day-5.    Make a list of words or convictions you’ve received from God, words you haven’t acted on yet.  And at the next Gathering, I believe God will set us up to start acting on these words.

So as we soak, we’ll take time to make a list.  Then we’ll see what God will do.

Incidentally, I’ve needed to make a list like this often.  It’s a way of making sure I don’t let God’s words and nudges slip through the cracks of a busy life and get lost in the shuffle.  But Jesus said:

He that has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father , and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.”  [John 14:21-If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”  [John 14:21-23]

 

So at the next Gathering, we’ll gather up leftover words from Jesus, like the baskets of crumbs after Jesus fed the 5000 – any words we neglected because we didn’t know what to do with them.  It’s an act of love, an act of worship, and an investment in His manifest presence.  At the very least, it’ll be our way of telling the Father and he Son, please come, and make Yourself at home in me.  Come, relax, and know that You are always welcome here.”

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com