“Called to Lead, Called to Change” Conferences Begin!
Lutheran Renewal hosted a group of pastors and spouses November 28-30 at Mount Olivet Retreat Center for the pilot of our new leadership training series of retreats and conferences. Our time together consisted of a mix of worship, talks, time to discuss and process in small groups, one-on-one consulting with speakers, prayer ministry, and recreation. Major areas of the talks were on 1) personal health and relationship with Jesus, 2) leadership skills, relationships, and new paradigms, and 3) what makes for vital, healthy churches. A primary goal for the pilot was to get evaluations from the pastors and spouses to help us design our leadership events to be as positive, effective, and enjoyable as possible. We are very excited about this new area of ministry and yearn to see the Lord minister to many leaders through these events throughout the coming year!
Where Is His Anointing Leading Us?
By Dan Siemens
I vividly remember one of my first encounters with God’s powerful presence. It was early 1994. A few hundred people were streaming up to the front of the auditorium to receive prayer, specifically for healing of wounded hearts, and deliverance from things that held them captive. We did not know that we were about to witness the Holy Spirit, himself, minister in a way we would never forget.
As people were lining up shoulder to shoulder to receive prayer, the Spirit sovereignly began to fall. The anointing that powerfully filled the room suddenly overwhelmed people. Many of them immediately began to sink to the floor in such rapid fashion that we found ourselves diving left and right, trying to catch some of them. As they lay on the carpet, heavenly pandemonium reigned. Without human assistance, people were being spontaneously delivered from their bondages with loud cries. Hearts were being healed from the traumas of the past, and people were being filled with the Spirit and joy unspeakable. This went on into the early hours of the morning. People said it was ‘God’s anointing’ that filled the room that night. It was truly an amazing sight.
From that moment on, I was hooked on prayer ministry. Although I didn’t exactly know what ‘the anointing’ was, I had seen its effects, and I strongly desired to know everything I could on the subject.
Now in the last few years, many of you have also come to experience, either personally or in ministry, some measure of the anointing which readily flows during times of renewal and refreshing. Because of this, it is good to come to some understanding about what the anointing is and how it works in our lives. But more importantly, we must also ask, where is his anointing leading us?
What is the “Anointing”?
Although there is some crossover in the way that Christians use the term, the anointing is most commonly referred to as the power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, it is something functional, in that it empowers us as believers to do the works of the Kingdom in a supernatural way.
I have noticed that as people begin to experience this empowering, it is common for them to ask, in prayer, “for more” of the anointing. They have tasted God’s power and deeply desire for it to flow more effectively through them as they minister. Although this is certainly a valid prayer request, we must understand, of course, that the person of the Holy Spirit is not merely a ‘power, a ‘force’ or a ‘thing’ to be apprehended.
In Acts 8:18, Simon, the former magician turned believer, was impressed with what he saw when the apostles laid their hands on people who consequently received the Spirit. Misinterpreting the person of the Spirit as a mere power or force to simply be acquired, Simon offered money to the apostles to obtain it. Needless to say, that this request didn’t go over very well with Peter who said Simon would have no part with this ministry because his heart was not right.
When we ask for more of God’s anointing, we are really asking to be filled and changed in such a way so that we will experience more of the Person- who is the Holy Spirit. The anointing, then, can be another way to refer to the Holy Spirit himself. For example, I John 2:20 says, “the anointing, (referring to the Spirit), you received from Him, (Jesus), remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you.”
So when the person of the Holy Spirit is expressed in power through us during ministry, things happen. This is one way that describes how we walk in ‘the anointing’.
The Anointing on Jesus
If we look at Jesus as our pattern and prototype for ministry, we can learn how the Spirit’s empowering presence, that is, his anointing, actually works. Jesus was the ‘Christ’, which literally means “the anointed one”. Scripture says that He was given the Spirit without limit (John 3:34). The miracles and works he did were accomplished by the anointing of the Spirit working through him. Christ was truly God’s anointed one, and the works that he did in the name of His Father were proof of this anointing.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus specifically described the function, or signs of the anointing that would be seen in his ministry as he came to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 61. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to…..preach good news, proclaim freedom to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to release the oppressed.”. Jesus was anointed to do something. Acts 10:38 tells us that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” In other words, the presence of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry was evidenced in the works Jesus performed on his Father’s behalf, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The Anointing in Us
How does the anointing of the Spirit that was in Jesus work in us? One way to understand this is found in R.T. Kendall’s excellent book, The Anointing. He explains that we all have a natural giftedness from God. Although the gift is always there, it doesn’t always function easily. We have all had the experience of attempting to pray for others, witness, preach, or function in any other gift without God’s anointing. We found it to be a lot of our own effort with little spiritual effect. On the other hand, the anointing of that same gift makes it function with ease. In Kendall’s words, “The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit is able to do extraordinary things, but to them it seems quite natural. It is easy. That is, when it (the anointing) is working.”
For example, if we are using the gift of preaching, E.M. Bounds describes the anointing as “that indefinable, indescribable, something which makes the Word of God ‘quick and powerful…Anointing gives the words of the speaker point, sharpness, and power…” (Power Through Prayer).
Pitfalls When Under the Anointing
It is exactly because of this ‘anointing-grace’ we experience during ministry, that we must also be aware of some unique pitfalls that accompany it. For example, when ministering in the anointing, we must recognize that although God may be accomplishing Spirit-empowered deeds through us, it doesn’t, in any way, eliminate our human frailty. In fact, often times following an extended time of ministry, we may get a spiritual ‘backlash’. As the anointing lifts, we experience the stark bankruptcy of our own souls. We must be aware that this kind of weakness is normal following ministry, and is intended to drive us further into Christ, the only true Anointed One. Otherwise, these overwhelming feelings of weakness can make us vulnerable to spiritual attack or even depression. This is possibly what happened to Elijah following his power-encounter with the prophets of Baal ( I Kings 18 & 19).
Anointing & Character
Jim Goll, in an article entitled, Hazards of Ministering Under the Anointing, points out that not only does “the fleshly desires of the old nature seem to ‘stay on hold’ while one ministers under the anointing,” but he also warns that under the anointing it is very easy to “fall prey to imagining we’re stronger, better, holier or smarter than others.” A strong anointing for ministry, therefore, doesn’t necessarily reflect the character or spiritual maturity of a person. Read about Samson in the book of Judges to see the disastrous results of a strong-anointing but weak- character scenario. If we truly want more of God’s empowering, then we also need to submit to God’s hand of character- building in our lives, so that we will be better able to handle the anointing God desires to impart to us.
Where is God’s Anointing Leading Us?
Once we have experienced something of the anointing of the Spirit, the question I raised earlier must be addressed. Where is his anointing leading us?
Have you noticed that there appears to be an increasing hunger in the Body of Christ today, not only to experience Christ’s anointing, but to go on to something much deeper. It is a yearning to come yet closer to the Lord himself; that in some measure we might experience the glory of his presence. Up to now, we have rightly cried out in our ever-deepening God-hunger, “There must be more!” But now, is it not also a time to beseech the Lord in the same manner that Moses did? For although he experienced the mighty anointing of the Spirit in his life, and was the instrument of some of the greatest miracles this world has ever seen, something was missing. In his great need to seek an ever-deepening intimacy with His Lord, he still had the audacity to pursue him and ask, “Now, Lord, show me your glory” (Exodus 33.18).
Into His Glory
I must confess that until recently I didn’t even like the word glory, much less understand its real meaning. I had only heard it used in a flippant, somewhat sloppy manner as a kind of religious catch-all phrase describing a variety of things. But God wants us to recover the true meaning of this precious word. Why? Because it is a word that will help us understand, with greater clarity, the awesome nature of his person.
How we do define God’s glory? The divine attributes of God, such as love, justice, grace, wisdom, all-knowing etc., are what we know from Scripture, to be true of God. These attributes are not a part of God. It is how God is. For example, when God loves, he is being himself. The glory of the Lord, therefore, is the continuing display of his divine attributes, expressed in the reality of his active presence.
We can see this plainly as God answered Moses’ request to see his glory by hiding him in the cleft of the rock. He covered him with his hand and passed by proclaiming his name- “The Lord, the Lord compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34.6.) As this happened, we must understand that God was not only giving Moses a description of what he was like, but incredibly, he was expressing the reality of his character, his divine attributes, which were on active display for Moses to experience at that very moment. That is, Moses experienced, albeit, in measured fashion, the glory of God in his active, revealed presence.
The Hebrew word for glory is “kabod”, which also means “weight”. Jack Hayford says that ‘when the glory of the Lord is in a place, something forceful, weighty, mighty is present in the spiritual realm. People can recognize it.” (Glory on Your House.) In eternity, we will experience the perpetual revelation of all that God is as we dwell forever with him in his glory. And we will never tire of the unfathomable dimensions of it.
Why do we need a greater revelation of God’s glory? Because his manifested glory provides us with the broadest exposure to the balancing character qualities of God’s nature. It is a dangerous thing, for example, to embrace only one aspect of God’s character, such as his love, at the expense of another, such as his holiness. Anything less becomes an idol of our own making.
John Bevere, in his excellent book, The Fear of the Lord, points out how this imbalance effects our spiritual life. “When the doctrine of the love of God is not balanced with an understanding of the fear of the Lord, error is the result. This lack of balance infiltrates our reasoning until we feel at complete liberty to disobey God whenever it is inconvenient or not to our advantage.”
This means that when we come to experience God as a loving Father, we must understand that our God is also a consuming fire who must be worshipped from the heart with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28). We will not come to know the true biblical meaning of the fear of the Lord, until we receive a fresh revelation of the holiness of his Presence. A.W. Tozer wrote that we have become lulled into accepting a reduced, watered-down version of the Godhead. In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, he wrote that “The glory of God has not been revealed to this generation of men. The God of contemporary Christianity is only slightly superior to the gods of Greece and Rome.”
The God Chasers, written by Tommy Tenny has some excellent thoughts on the kind of transition that must transpire as we move from walking in God’s wonderful anointing to experiencing the awesome glory of his presence. He writes,
When the anointing of God rests on human flesh, it makes everything flow better. (But) something dies within us every time we are confronted by His glory. The purpose of the anointing is to help us make the transition from flesh into glory. One reason we like to linger in the anointing is that it makes the flesh feel good. (On the other hand), when the glory of God comes, we become like the prophet Isaiah. Our flesh is so weakened by His presence that it is unnecessary to do anything other than behold Him in His glory. Simultaneously, people who are convinced of his holiness are convicted of their unholiness and their need to repent and live holy before him. They are aware of His worthiness to receive praise and worship, and they are seized by a driving desire to dive deeper and lead others into His presence.
I have confessed to the Lord that my understanding of many of these important Scriptural truths is shallow, religious-head-knowledge at best. But by the finished work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, I am protected just as Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock. I can boldly cry out to God for a fresh revelation of his glory in order that I might behold the beauty of his holiness. This will produce in me an awesome reverence for his person, a deeper repentance in my soul, and sacrificial obedience to his voice. Will you cry out with me in this hour, “Lord, please, show us the glory of Your Presence!”
Dan, Denise, his two children, two cats, one dog, one bird, and one rat all live in Coon Rapids, MN. Dan is on the staff full-time with Lutheran Renewal.
Alpha at Hosanna!
By Dave Housholder
My family and I were on vacation in London in the spring of 1998, and being good, church-going Lutherans, we looked for a place to worship on the Sunday we were there.
Someone had once mentioned “Holy Trinity Brompton” which is a little brick neighborhood church up the street from Harrod’s department store. Having sampled European “state church religion” in the past, I was not expecting much steam in the boiler. Was I ever in for a surprise!
Not a real spiritually sensitive guy (I’m just a Bible teacher), even I could pick up a feeling of the Holy Spirit’s presence even though we were still a couple of blocks away.
We entered into what was like a splash of light– lush green plants, TV Monitors, and praise music with some serious traction. The place was packed; way packed. What was going on here!?
A Church of England congregation in revival? The Holy Spirit showing up in the midst of creaky, dusty, European Christianity? That’s exactly what was happening.
I talked with Sandy, the senior pastor, right after the service, and he explained to me that they were the church that started Alpha, which is nothing more, and nothing less, than an intentional, Holy Spirit-centered way of reaching people who don’t go to church.
I came home with a half-suitcase full of materials, convinced that we needed to try this at my home church, Hosanna! of Lakeville, MN.
We trained a team and got started. We prayed for 40-60 people to show up; we got 150 last Fall. This Fall there were 339 registered for the course, and we had an all-day Holy Spirit retreat on a Saturday. Dozens and dozens of people got filled with the Spirit and received all kinds of spiritual gifts.
To say that this has had an impact on the congregation is quite an understatement. Two of the women on the Sunday morning worship team this week, leading the congregation in praising God, were not even Christians at this time last year!
Do whatever you can to start an Alpha course at your church this year. Don’t miss this wonderful wave of God’s power.
Dave, his wife, Wendy, and son, Lars, live in Lakeville, MN. Dave is the teaching pastor of Hosanna! Lutheran Church, one of the fastest growing churches in the ELCA.
Project Timothy in North Dakota
By Pastor Mike Dahle
My participation in the “Timothy Project” was my first real experience of hands-on renewal ministry. I have been a Lutheran minister for 8 years and have always taught and believed that God works in people’s lives, but never had I seen anything quite like this! We ministered to a church on the weekend, so the first of our five meetings was held on Friday night. I told everyone I was just going to sit back and watch until the time of ministry came. When prayer started, I had to get up there and pray with the people. There was an overwhelming thirst for God’s presence. It was such a blessing to see the Holy Spirit at work in me and through me, watching whole lives being changed before my eyes.
As the weekend progressed, I felt the Spirit calling me to dive in and offer prayer, anointing, and words of encouragement – including a brief testimony of my experiences that weekend. One woman came to the Lord for the first time. Others came with astounding life problems and went away with power and new hope in the Spirit.
I feel so profoundly changed by this experience. My first love, my thirst for God’s power and presence, has increased a hundred-fold. I believe that pastors willing to step out as Timothys will undoubtedly find themselves, also, changed in spirit and ministering with power.
(Mike accompanied Paul Anderson on a weekend mission to Bismarck, ND. He lives with his wife, Kathy, and children, Kiren and Sean in Crookston, MN where he pastors Trinity Lutheran Church, ELCA.)
Questions and Answers
By Dr. Joe Johnson
Q. “When God moves, can there be too much emotional response? What about emotionalism?”
A. Jesus commanded us to love God, not just with our head, but also with our heart. There is such a thing as emotionalism where emotions take precedence over the solid foundations of the Bible. The danger for most of us in our relationship with God is not emotionalism, but lack of emotion-a lack of feeling. Jack Hayford shared in a “Leadership” interview, “No one ever talks about the excesses of reserve, of fear, of suspicion, and pride. Much reserve, so called ‘biblical balance,’ really isn’t biblical balance but a horrible imbalance toward an intellectualized spirituality.” Dallas Willard commented in the same interview, “I often say to those concerned about going off the deep end, ‘ Have you considered what happens to those who go off the shallow end?’ Church after church has gone off the shallow end. They’re frightened of the spiritual depths. George Whitefield came under such stress and conviction that he let his appearance go. His employers released him, and for seven weeks he spent much of his time lying on the ground, groaning, sweating, and shaking.” (Note: George Whitefield was a Methodist evangelist in the 1700’s who conducted large open-air meetings that met with great response especially in South Wales and Scotland. Along with Jonathan Edwards, his preaching in New England in the 1740’s contributed to what is now called the Great Awakening.)
Jesus freely expressed his emotions. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). In our church sanctuary we have tissue boxes in all of the pews. They symbolize permissions for worshippers to express emotions. We are saying, “This is a safe place to feel and express what you feel. You need not be ashamed of your feelings.”
Elizabeth greeted Mary with a loud cry of joy (Luke 1:42). The apostle Paul invites us to cry out to God, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). The Greek word for cry, “krazomen”, means “a loud cry expressing deep emotion.” The Aramaic word, “abba” is an expression of childlike intimacy and affection. We experience this intimacy when we express childlike words for our grandparents like “boppa”, “abuelita”, and “papaw”. Jesus prayed to the Father as “Abba” and he invites us to experience the same intimacy.
We can express our groanings imperfectly (Rom. 8:28). We experience the intimacy of the Father’s unconditional love because we do not have to be or say anything perfectly in order to be loved. We are free to be honest with our feelings. When a three-month-old baby died in our congregation, I talked to God with groanings. W are encouraged to crawl into the Father’s lap and receive His love and comfort. We may weep freely and openly.
Tears connect me with God’s grace-His empowering presence. “What we sow in tears we reap with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5). Spurgeon called tears, “liquid prayer”. Tears accompany many different emotions: compassion, fear, brokenness, joy, travail, sadness, repentance. It is possible to indulge in tears and to cultivate self-pity. But if we suppress our tears, we lose touch with our feelings. Praying our tears and other emotions releases them into the Father’s hands. Emotions are tricky. Prayer keeps them honest.
Dr. Joe Johnson is senior minister at Grace Church, AALC, in Show Low, AZ. the vision of Grace is to be a safe place to discover and fulfill our destiny in Jesus Christ. Joe has also served on the Lutheran Renewal Board since 1989.