Prayer Study Week 5 – Evidence of Sanctification

Before getting into the different types of evidence we can expect through the process of sanctification, it is necessary to first draw a clearer distinction between: 1 – the object of sanctification, and 2 – the evidence of sanctification.

In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus provides a powerful metaphor to help us understand these two concepts, saying, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The image drawn here by Jesus revolves around two central subjects: a tree and its fruit. In verse 45, He explains that the fruit in the metaphor represents the things we “bring out”, or those things that we allow the world around us to see. This includes our physical appearance, our circle of friends, our actions, and our words.

The tree in this metaphor represents our heart. Our heart is the source of the “fruit” that is produced in our lives. It is the essence of who we are. The substance of our actions, words, and behaviors is naturally and entirely determined by the substance of our heart.

Often in our approach to sanctification, our focus lies entirely on the “fruit” of our lives. A debilitating addiction, a painful relationship, uncontrolled fits of rage – it is at this “surface” level that we desire these areas of brokenness to be healed through the process of sanctification.

But this is not an accurate perspective of sanctification. When we focus solely on the transformation of the fruit of our lives, we become tempted to fall into the traps of legalism and our own wisdom and will to achieve what we are looking for.

In Deuteronomy 30:6, we have the prophecy of Moses, when he said to the Israelites, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

When we submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, He doesn’t transform the fruit of our lives. He transforms the tree. Through sanctification, the old, broken essence of who we were is crucified with Christ, and we are resurrected in the body of Christ Jesus into new life. We become a new creation, with a renewed heart.

The transformation we see in the fruit of our lives is simply a bi-product, a natural consequence of the true transformation – or the sanctification – of our heart.

The Heart

What does this look like, this transformation of our heart through sanctification?

1 – Identity

Let’s look again at the baptism of Jesus Christ in Matthew 3, at the moment He received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:16-17 says, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”

In that moment, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus heard the voice of His Heavenly Father speak the truth about His Son. Upon hearing these words from His Father, Jesus Christ received one of the most vital components of His life of faith and obedience: He received His identity.

Now let’s go back to the story of the temptation of Jesus Christ in Matthew 4, immediately following His baptism. Notice the words the enemy uses Matthew 4:3 and 6, we he endeavors to tempt Jesus Christ. In both cases, he begins his attack by saying, “If you are the Son of God…”

Note here the specific target of the enemy’s attack. He is attacking Jesus’ identity.

Much of the brokenness and darkness in our lives stems out from lies and deceptions that we carry regarding our identity. The condition of our false, broken identity effectively distorts our perception of who we are, how valuable we are, how much we are loved, how worthy we are to know love.

Through our submission to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the lies we believe about our own identity begins to break. Sanctification comes as we are able to hear the voice of our Heavenly Father speaking to us the truth who we really are. Holiness – freedom – comes when we are finally able to hear Him say to us, “You are My child, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”

2 – Renewal of our Mind

In Romans 12:2-3, Paul writes “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The process of the renewal of our mind leads to a change in both our thinking and in our perception of the world around us. Our conceptions and assumptions of ourselves and of God and of the people around us are no longer based on the lies and fears and darkness that fill the earth, and which have always reigned in our lives.

Through sanctification, our perception of things changes, becomes founded on the truth of God’s Word. We begin to see the reality of things, in the way God sees them. Our thoughts start to spring up naturally from the truth of Who God is, and what His unfailing Word says. The scriptures are no longer just nice words on a page to question or to strive for in our own strength, but they become the reality by which we naturally walk out our lives. As the prophet says in Jeremiah 31:33, the Lord puts His law in our minds, and writes it on our hearts.

3 – Revelation of the Glory of God

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

One of the greatest sources of deception and prison for mankind revolves around this question – to whom belongs the glory? Through the darkness of pride we are condemned to give all of our energy and time and hearts to the fruitless quest of the glory of man. Even in the Church, we struggle with the deception that praise and glory belong to man, and often find ourselves battling through human wisdom and politics in order to put ourselves and our voices up above those around us.

In Psalm 115:1, the psalmist writes, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Ephesians 3:21 says, “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Why do the scriptures insist that God receive all glory? Why did Jesus consistently pray for the Father alone to be glorified?

Because the only way for anyone to be saved from the death and deception of this world is to see and to know their Father God, by the blood of Jesus Christ. People do not need to see you and me. We can save no one. When we seek to have the glory – the attention and praise of man – brought onto ourselves, we make it more difficult for others to see the one, true Lord and Savior.

It is also important to recognize that man is not designed to carry the weight of the glory that belongs to God alone. When we ourselves become lifted up by the praise and adoration of man, or when we attempt to put other men onto pedestals reserved only for God, we put ourselves and others in danger of steep, painful falls into the temptations of pride, addiction, and idolatry.

The depth of the darkness in us and around us threatens to extinguish our hope, and our joy, and our life. Through sanctification, our eyes are opened, and we begin to see revelation of the truth of God’s glory all around us. We begin to see the overwhelming evidence of the reality of Who He is, and of what He has done.

Following are some of the things He desires to reveal to us about Himself:

1. He is near to us.

Psalm 46:1-7:

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

He lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

2. He is sovereign.

Psalm 103:15-19:

The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all.

 

3. He is good.

Psalm 103:8-12:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will He harbor his anger forever;

He does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is His love for those who fear Him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 136:1: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

The Fruit

In Galatians 5:19-25, Paul writes, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 

When we read through this familiar passage, it is important to resist the temptation to see these words as simply a list of rules, which we must work to achieve in our own wisdom and will. We see that Paul is identifying these attributes not as the “object” of sanctification, but as the “fruit” of sanctification.

The first list here, what Paul calls the “acts of the sinful nature”, are those behaviors and tendencies which are a natural bi-product of a heart that has not been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, has not been reconciled to the love of the Father. Paul describes these fruits as “obvious”, easily recognized as acts rooted in darkness and fear that reign in our lives.

Deep in our spirit, we are aware that these types of actions – sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, and rage – lead to our death. And yet, we find that we are condemned to continue to walk in them. As a result of the broken condition of our hearts, these types of behaviors draw us in, feeling almost natural, even as they choke all hope and life from our spirits.

In Psalm 51:10 we read the plea for sanctification: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

When we submit our lives to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, and become free to enter into the very presence of our Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit begins His work of creating within us a new heart.

It is important to recognize that initially, as our heart begins to be transformed through sanctification, the old “fruits” of our lives may not stop immediately. But a clear indication of sanctification is that when these old fruits of sexual impurity, jealousy, rage and selfishness do show up, they begin to feel unnatural, even uncomfortable to us.

For example, if our heart is full of resentment and jealousy, we may be naturally prone to outbursts of rage. We may recognize that after each outburst, we are left feeling ashamed, isolated, and exhausted. But we feel bound, unable to control the resentment as it naturally arises in response to events and circumstances around us. So, despite our exhaustion and isolation, we continue to act out in these fits of rage. In fact, in our most vulnerable moments, these outbursts feel natural, even gratifying.

As we submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, the authority and source of the rage and jealousy within our heart naturally begin to break. Through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the nature of our hardened, resentful and jealous heart is transformed.

Initially, we may find that the outbursts of rage still come in situations that leave us feeling vulnerable. But through the process of sanctification, these fits no longer bring the same sense of gratification they once did.

Over time, we begin to hear the Holy Spirit warning us in our weak moments, when temptations come for us to fall into old habits. In those circumstances in which we were once prone to submit to the old rage, our renewed heart becomes repulsed by it. Instead of being overcome by the resentment and jealousy, we begin to turn into our Savior, and to the truth of His Word for us.

As the authority of old lies begins to be replaced with the truth of God’s Word for us in our hearts, we begin to experience freedom. The fruits of the Spirit, which Paul describes, slowly begin to spring up naturally in the places where the old fruit use to exist. A life of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness begins to overflow from within our renewed hearts, becoming a natural, even subconscious part of everything we say and do.

Other specific evidence of sanctification in our life:

1 – Repentant Heart

Psalm 32:3-5 says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And You forgave the guilt of my sin.”

In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul draws a distinction between conviction that comes from God, and condemnation, which comes from the world, writing, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Before sanctification, we are bound to live under condemnation, or “worldly sorrow”, which is a natural result of the “old fruit” in our lives. Through sanctification, however, we begin to experience conviction, described by Paul as “Godly sorrow”, which comes from the Holy Spirit.

Conviction is not like condemnation. Condemnation grows up from deception and fear, and leads to paralysis and death. Conviction of the Holy Spirit, however, springs up out of the love and mercy of our Father, and leads to new life.

Conviction is necessary in order to make us aware of the temptations and sin through which we are being robbed of true life, which Jesus Christ bought for us on the cross. The Holy Spirit lovingly, but firmly brings these areas of deception and weakness into the light, in order that we may come to the cross, confess our sin, receive forgiveness, and walk out the freedom we have been given in Jesus Christ.

2 – Forgiveness for those who have sinned against us.

In Matthew 6:12, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

Further, Romans 3:10-12 reminds us that we are all guilty, as Paul writes, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'”

Forgiveness is not a natural fruit of the sinful nature. When someone sins against us, in our own strength and wisdom we become naturally distrustful. We attempt to protect ourselves, building up walls of fear and anger around ourselves. Bitterness and rage often find their roots in our unforgiveness, as do isolation and resentment.

Through sanctification, the places of resentment and bitterness that we hold towards our enemies begin to be transformed into wells of empathy and compassion. The feelings we harbor of anger and vengeance towards others are broken, and we begin to see the depth of the pain and fear, which they themselves carry in their own hearts. Our fantasies of revenge are replaced with hope and prayer for our enemies, that they will come to know the love of their Father, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As our own hearts are transformed, we begin to naturally walk in the peace and joy that come when we are able to let go of the fear and bitterness in our hearts, and to forgive. We discover true freedom when we allow the walls of protection we have built around us to be torn down, and learn to rest in the assurance that God alone is our Protector. He alone is our Defender.

3 – Unity in the Body

In John 17:21-23, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “Father, just as You are in Me and I am in Your. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one— I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In the environment of much of the Church today, it is difficult to even imagine what real unity looks like. The Body has been so plagued with conflict and division that these words of Jesus Christ seem almost impossible. We have become so consumed with making our case, proving ourselves to be right, proving others to be wrong, that we have long since taken our eyes off of Him who is the Head of the Body, Who is Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

There are few things more effective towards the building up of love and unity in the Body of Christ than when we pray together. When we submit to the blood of Jesus Christ, and enter into the presence of our Holy Father God in prayer, our hearts are sanctified together. The walls and divisions, which we have built up between ourselves, begin to crumble. We begin to see joy and hope in our different perspectives. We begin to celebrate and encourage each other in our various gifts and passions, especially those that differ from our own.

When we commit to pray regularly together, we no longer see only the places of disagreement and offense among our community, but our eyes are opened to the truth that we are all children of God, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. In that place where we are sanctified together in the presence of our Heavenly Father, we lay down our defenses and our weapons, and begin to walk as brothers and sisters, in the peace of Jesus Christ.

Week 5 Meditation

This week, along with your regular quiet times, try to find one morning or afternoon on which you can set aside 2-3 hours to spend with the Lord in prayer. As before, try to find a place where you can get away in these hours from your regular work and distractions, to a place where you can have some privacy and solitude.

As you are preparing to get away, consider packing a bible, a journal, and some water. As you are packing, ask the Father to show you what else He’d like you to bring during your time away with Him.

As before, begin this time by just sitting or walking silently, and asking the Father to help you clear your thoughts of all of the worries and distractions of your day. Or you may want to start by reading through some scriptures, and asking the Holy Spirit to open up the Word for you.

Scripture meditation:

– Psalm 23 – As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your own spiritual walk in these words.

– Matthew 5 – In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, ask God to deepen your understanding of the process of sanctification of the heart, through the examples Jesus gives here.

Some questions to ask the Father in this time:

– What are some of the “fruits” – thoughts, words, behaviors, addictions – in your life, which you are working to change in your own strength?

– Ask the Holy Spirit to come and show you the places of darkness and brokenness in your heart, in which these painful fruits find their roots.

– Ask the Holy Spirit to bring you courage to allow Him to crucify those old places – the “old” nature – even with uncertainty on what your new identity, your new life in Christ Jesus, will look like. (For further reading on this topic, see Neil Anderson’s book, Living Free in Christ (1993, Regal Books), giving particular attention to the subsection entitled, “Who I am in Christ”.)

*This week, it may be good to reach out again to the same person with whom you met and prayed last week. Spend some time with him or her talking and praying through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.

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Prayer Study Week 4 – Sanctification

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17

What is Sanctification?

The word “sanctify” shares its roots with other, more commonly used words such as “sanctuary” and “saint”. All of these words originally were derived from the Latin “sanctus”, which means “holy” or “consecrated”. Sanctification is simply the process of being made holy.

What is holiness?

There is a commonly-held misconception that “holiness” means learning to obey a long list of rules and laws. But this image doesn’t represent at all the true essence of the process of sanctification, or what it means to be “holy”.

For a moment let’s consider the impact of the sin that reigns in our lives before sanctification.

In Romans 5:12, Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…”

In Hebrews 12:1, we read, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Even in the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, as God warned Adam and Eve about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:17, He said to them “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The truth is that the sin and deception under which we live our lives without Jesus Christ is killing us. It is entangling us so that we are completely debilitated, unable to walk in the truth of our purpose and passion in this life. While many of us are able to maintain an outward appearance of health and wholeness, the reality of our spiritual condition is little more than a partially rotting corpse lying motionless on the ground, its heart barely holding a rhythm, its lungs filled with the putrid, toxic air of addiction and lust and murder and greed. Without the blood of Jesus Christ, we are, in the words of Paul in Romans 4:19, “as good as dead”. 

Holiness is not simply learning to follow an impossible list of rules and regulations, but it is our submission to the only One Who can possibly save us from the death of sin and darkness that reigns in our lives. Holiness comes as the authorities of death and deception are broken by the blood of Jesus Christ, and as we are cleansed by the washing of the Holy Spirit. Holiness means that we no longer walk under the oppression of the lies and deceptions we have always believed, but instead we learn to walk freely in the truth of who we really are – sons and daughters of God, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

In John 8:36, Jesus Christ said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Holiness is freedom. Sanctification is the process by which we are set free.

Where do we start?

In Hebrews 10:19-22 we read, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Look again at verse 19: “…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…” This is where we begin.

Everything begins with the blood of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 10:9-11, Paul describes the experience of our salvation, writing, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”

At the point in our lives when we begin to believe in our hearts and are able to honestly confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, then we are saved. More specifically, our salvation means that our broken, carnal nature is washed and covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are reconciled with our Heavenly Father.

Remember that without the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ, we can not enter into the presence of God. It is through the experience of salvation – our submission to the covering of the blood of Jesus in our lives – that we become legally free to enter into the “Most Holy Place”, into the very presence of God our Father.

But, we must be careful not to maintain the perspective that our salvation is the end goal – the end of the journey. In fact, in many ways, our salvation experience is precisely the beginning.

As we begin to enter into the presence of God, underneath the blood of Jesus Christ, our old, broken, carnal nature starts to feel uncomfortable, even threatened. Our old nature – our old ways of thinking, our old habits – begins to struggle to maintain the authority it has always held in our lives.

In Romans 7:15-25, Paul personally describes this battle, writing:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who does it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The Way to Victory

What is the ultimate goal of the process of sanctification? What does victory look like?

We see a clue of this in John 12:24-26, when Jesus Christ describes sanctification through the metaphor of a seed, saying, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” But where was Jesus going? To where does He require His disciples follow Him?

Jesus Christ tells us that in order to be called His follower, we must follow Him first to the cross. Our only hope for sanctification, for walking out a life of freedom and truth in Jesus Christ, is by our allowing our old, broken selves to be crucified with Him on the cross.

In Romans 8:12-13, Paul describes this further, writing, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Again in Galatians 2:19-20, he describes the victory in his own life: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote:

Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue— if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine— that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.

(From An Updated Edition, 1992, June 23 meditation, Oswald Chambers Publications, Ltd.)

The only way to know resurrection into new life in Christ is through the death of our selfish, sinful nature on the cross. This is the way to sanctification. This is the way to freedom.

Week 4 Meditation

This week set aside 30-40 minutes a day, on 4 different days, for time in prayer with God.

This week the focus of the prayer time will be sanctification, and the process of dying to your old nature. In this week, it may be good to reach out to someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature, and who will be willing to meet with you to talk and pray through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.

As in the previous weeks, begin each time of prayer with silence, and ask the Holy Spirit to help silence all other distracting thoughts so that you will be able to turn your attention onto Him.

Scripture meditations:

Day 1 – Go back and read again through Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-25.

Day 2 – Psalm 139

Day 3 – 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Day 4 – Hebrews 10:35-39

Each day ask the Holy Spirit to begin to show you the following things:

– The dark places where you are battling in your own life. Specifically, ask Him to reveal those places of sin or deception in which you have lost hope, where you have become convinced that true freedom is impossible. Jot down the things that He brings up in your spirit.

– Revelation of His Word about each of these places of battle (specific scriptures which can minister to you as you begin to seek healing in this area).

– Ask Him to give you courage, and to teach you how to submit to the washing of the blood of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in these places of sin, so that the authority they hold in your life will be broken.

– Ask Him to reveal to you the truth about who you really are, and to begin to write that truth in your heart as the old ways of thinking and living are crucified with Christ.

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Prayer Study Week 3 – What is Healing?

What is “Healing”?

“Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.” Psalm 30:2-3

“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.” (From THE PROBLEM OF PAIN by CS Lewis © copyright CS Lewis Pte Ltd 1940, 40.)

Why do we come to God for healing? What are we desiring or expecting from Him?

Sometimes, we come to the Father seeking healing from a physical illness. At other times, we might come to Him desiring wholeness in an area of emotional or spiritual pain. In different seasons of our lives, we may come to God seeking His restoration in a broken relationship, or His healing from a sin or addiction, or His deliverance in place of darkness in our lives from which we can’t break free.

Whatever our reason for approaching the Father in search of healing, very often we come to Him only once we have reached a place of desperation. As long as we are able to cope with or manage our pain through other mechanisms or comforts, too often we settle for just “getting by” in our daily lives. In these cases, over time hopelessness about real healing sets in, and we resign ourselves instead to simply maintaining an outward appearance of wholeness.

Beneath our polished exterior, however, our innermost selves continue to be plagued with doubt, isolation, shame, and brokenness. Ultimately, we become most fearful of exposure – afraid that the depth of the darkness inside of us will be revealed to the people around us. In the end, we are most often left feeling defensive, isolated, and exhausted.

It is only when the effects of the brokenness and darkness in our lives become unbearable for us to handle in our own strength, or when these things begin to seep out on the surface, disrupting our regular routines, relationships, and reputations, that we become desperate enough to seek out our Father. And when we come, we find Him waiting for us. He receives us there, at that place of desperation from the pain and isolation resulting from the darkness in our lives.

The Teachings of Jesus Christ on Healing

When we begin to look at the teachings of Jesus Christ on healing and wholeness, we see quickly that our own approach and perspectives on this topic are often quite different from His. We begin with one of His earliest known teachings, from Matthew 5:3-10:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When we come to the Lord seeking healing, at first glance these words are not the types of things most of us expect to hear Him say. In fact, the images we have in these opening lines of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount seem contradictory to the idea many of us hold about what it means to have new life and healing in Him.

For example, when we come to the Father, we often expect Him to broaden our self-confidence – to deepen our assurance in our own strength, our own beauty, and our own wisdom. But Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are “poor in spirit”, to those who have abandoned all confidence in themselves, to those who boast only in their own weakness.

We come to our Father expecting resolutions to the difficulties in our lives, to be brought out of our times of grief and trial. But Jesus teaches us that the blessed are those who mourn, and that the earth will be inherited by the meek.

We come to the Father for protection and safety from the pain of the battle raging in our lives. But Jesus Christ tells us that the blessed are those who are persecuted for their righteousness before the Lord.

If we are being perfectly honest, a sincere consideration of this passage from Jesus Christ will cause many of us wonder if His promises of blessing and healing are actually things we want in our lives at all. “Poor in spirit”, “meek”, “merciful”, “mourning”, “persecuted” – these words and phrases do not depict our commonly held model of a person who is strong and victorious. Instead, they invoke images of someone who is vulnerable and dependent.

We don’t feel comfortable with the words of Jesus Christ in these verses, because the person He is describing sounds almost precisely like the person within us, which we are all working so desperately to keep hidden.

And this is exactly where our Father desires to be most. God’s purpose is ultimately to get to the innermost part of who we are, at the core of that place from which we are drawn to Him, and drawn to know true salvation and wholeness in Him. As the psalmist describes, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)

Recognizing the Depth of our Brokenness

In Romans 3:9-11, Paul writes, “We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.'”

1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

What is the reason for our Father’s desire that we allow Him into the very deepest places of our spirit? What is at the heart of His purpose to bring healing and wholeness not only on the surface areas in our life, but even to the very core of who we are?

At the innermost part of ourselves, in that place which we desire most desperately to keep hidden, resides a gnawing, unrelenting awareness of the truth. And the truth is, we deserve the pain and rejection we experience everyday in our lives. We deserve the disappointment and alienation of the people around us. We deserve to be completely separated from God our Father, and to live in condemnation of eternal darkness and death for the deep pain we have brought through our sin against ourselves and against the people who love us.

We do not deserve to know love. We certainly do not deserve to know the perfect love of our Father God.

In our healing, the Holy Spirit desires for us to reveal entirely to Him the truth we hold in our core on the depth of the darkness of our darkest thoughts, the grip of the fear that paralyzes us, and the hopelessness of the isolation and accusations that condemn us. It is precisely at that place of utter hopelessness that He desires to pour in the salvation and restoration that can only come through revelation of Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Because of the cross, we are no longer condemned to suffer the penalty of eternal separation from the love of our Heavenly Father. In Romans 3:25, Paul explains that in our place, God presented His Son, Jesus Christ, as the sacrifice of atonement for our sin. The justice of hell, of complete separation from the love of God, which we deserve, God poured out instead onto His Son.

Everything that was poured onto Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross – the rejection and isolation from His Father, the complete separation from His Father’s love – all of this He did not deserve.

But we do. And at the darkest place in the core of who we are, we know it.

This is where God wants to do His deep work, at the core of our brokenness. At this place in our spirit where there is no doubt that we are nothing without a Savior, nothing without Jesus Christ. Where the severity of the price that Jesus Christ paid for us on the cross can no longer be ignored or trivialized. Where we can begin to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of our Father in Heaven, through which He sent His only Son to bear our punishment, to pay the cost we owe, but which we could never pay ourselves.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Kingdom of God

Another image to help us better comprehend the healing work that God does in our lives can be found in the words of Jesus Christ, when He was teaching the disciples to pray in Matthew 6. In verses 9-10, Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Your kingdom come…” The very first petition we see in the example of our Lord’s prayer is for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is from this perspective that we begin to fully understand the healing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Jesus Christ spoke often of the Kingdom of God, frequently describing it to the disciples using metaphors and parables. In Mark 9:1, He declared that the Kingdom of God has come with power. In Luke 17:20-21, He explained that the coming of the Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, but rather God’s Kingdom is among us, within us. In Matthew 6:33, He taught His followers to seek God’s Kingdom before all else.

In our broken world, it may be impossible to fully grasp the reality of the Kingdom of God. However, simply put, we can generally understand it to be wherever God reigns. God’s Kingdom can be found in the blooming flowers of the forest, in the first cries of a newborn baby, in the comforting embrace of a grieving widow and her daughter, even in the darkest alley where two hungry strangers share a sandwich. The Kingdom of God is among us, and can be found anywhere as we submit to the reign of our Father. We just have to be looking for it.

In Matthew 10:7-8, when Jesus was sending out the disciples to minister to the Israelites, He said, “As you go, preach this message, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received. Freely give.”

Throughout His instruction and example on ministry, Jesus Christ never drew distinctions between “prayer ministry” and “evangelism ministry”. Rather, He taught all aspects of ministry – including prayer, teaching, preaching, and service – as integral parts of the fulfillment of the greater calling of His disciples – the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

God our Father lovingly receives us when we come to Him seeking miracles of healing or deliverance in our lives. But as our prayer life is deepened, and we experience greater intimacy with Him, we begin to see that these miraculous works of healing are not the ultimate end themselves, but are simply the evidence and natural consequence of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in our life.

As our submission to the Father’s will grows through prayer, naturally the old authorities of darkness and deception in our lives are uprooted and broken. As we begin to submit our lives to the authority of Jesus Christ, and to allow the Holy Spirit to come in and write the unfailing Word of God on our hearts, then His kingdom is established in our lives, and healing and wholeness naturally come.

Week 3 Meditation

This week, along with you regular quiet times, find one morning or afternoon on which you can set aside 2-3 hours to spend with the Lord in prayer. Try to find a place where you can get away in these hours from your regular work and distractions, a place where you can have some privacy and solitude.

As you are preparing to get away, consider packing a bible, a journal, and some water. As you are packing, ask the Father to show you what else He’d like you to bring during your time away with Him.

As you enter into this time with the Lord, it may be good to begin by just sitting or walking, breathing, and asking the Father to help you clear your thoughts of all of the worries and distractions of your day.

The focus this week will be healing. The scripture for meditation will be Psalm 25. After some time of silence and prayer, begin reading slowly through this Psalm, stopping at the places that speak to you and point to where you are right now. Do not feel pressure to read all of the way through at one time, but take your time with each verse. You may want to right down the verses and thoughts that pop out at you while you read.

Some questions to ask the Father during this time:

– Are there places in my life in which I want healing, but am hesitating to come to You? Why am I hesitating? Doubt? Anger? Fear?

– What are some of the places in my life where You want to come in, which I have closed off in my own walls of protection?

(In this extended time of prayer, do not feel pressure to be actually “speaking” to God the entire time, or to be “hearing” anything specific from Him. The primary goal of this time is to simply be aware of His presence with you there, and to begin to perceive how He feels about your taking this time to get away with Him.)

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Prayer Study Week 2 – Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit – Deepening of our Faith

John 3:5-8: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh. But the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'”

The Example of Christ

Matthew 3:13-17: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’”

This story of the baptism of Jesus can be difficult for us to understand. Why did the Son of God need to be baptized with water? Why did He need to receive this anointing of the Holy Spirit? Even John the Baptist struggled to understand these things, arguing that it was him who should be baptized by Jesus.

But through this account, we begin to get an understanding of the humility of Jesus Christ, and of His conviction that all glory and wisdom was found only in His Heavenly Father. Before Jesus began any public ministry, He first willingly, humbly submitted to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on His life, in a very public experience at His baptism.

It is important also to note that immediately following the glorious experience of His baptism, we see in Matthew 4 that the very next place to which the Holy Spirit led Jesus Christ was into the desert, into a time of trial and temptation. Before leading Him into any kind of public ministry, the Holy Spirit saw it necessary for Jesus to face His own temptations as a man, and to firmly establish His identity as the Son of God.

As we read in Matthew 4:11, Jesus Christ walked out of the desert in freedom and victory. His obedience and submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these early days of His public life resulted in clear evidence of two things:

1 – His complete faith in and submission to the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

2 – The unfailing power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the enemy. (Discussed further in section entitled “Spiritual Warfare”.)

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must begin where He began on that day in the Jordan river – in humility and submission, waiting prayerfully for the indwelling, the refining, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Nothing we do in His name should precede this.

Why do we need the Holy Spirit?

In Luke 22:31-34, we have the story of an account between Simon Peter and Jesus, which took place during the Last Supper, just a few hours before Jesus was arrested.

As Jesus was talking with the disciples, at one point He turned and addressed Simon Peter directly, saying, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (vs. 31-32).

“And when you have turned back…” Jesus was telling Simon Peter not only that a test of his faith was coming, but that it was a test Simon would fail.

Simon Peter clearly did not understand, or even believe this prophecy from Jesus. He responded by defending himself, claiming a faith by which he was ready to go to prison, even to death with Jesus.

But Jesus persisted, lovingly but honestly revealing the truth of Simon Peter’s heart, saying “Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you (even) know Me.”

As we read in Luke 22:54-62, this is precisely what happened:

“Then seizing (Jesus), they led Him away and took Him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with Him.’

But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know Him,’ he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Why did this have to happen? Why would the Lord allow Peter to go through this test of his faith – a test God knew he would fail?

We remember that in John 16:7, Jesus was very clear with the disciples that the Holy Spirit would not come to them until after Jesus had returned to Heaven. He said to them, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” 

So we know that at the time of this account with Jesus, Simon Peter had not yet received the Holy Spirit in his life, or what John the Baptist described in Matthew 3:11 as a baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire”. Until that day, Simon’s strength and confidence had only ever been in himself. 

When Simon Peter initially responded defensively to Jesus, he claimed an authority and faith that was based on his own feelings of admiration and loyalty towards Jesus Christ. He was confident in the allegiance he felt towards Jesus, and he sincerely believed that the desire he had to follow the Lord in his own will would be enough.

The fall God allowed in Peter’s life during those hours before the crucifixion was out of His mercy and love for Peter. Simon Peter needed to be humbled. He needed to learn the difference between the empty faith he found in his own strength, and true faith that could only come as he humbled himself, and learned to wait upon the Holy Spirit to come into his life, and to empower and equip him to follow Jesus Christ.

Through this experience of Peter, the reasons for our submission to the Holy Spirit in our prayer lives become evident:

– In our own wisdom and strength, it is impossible for us to save ourselves. As participants in the Christian community, we may work very hard to create an appearance of wholeness and freedom. But without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the sin and deception will continue to maintain its authority over our thoughts and our will.

– In our own wisdom and strength, it is impossible to walk out the steps required to follow Jesus Christ. Without humbly submitting to Him, and waiting for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can not see the fulfillment of the will of God in our lives. On our own, we may manage to do “good” works, but we will miss the mark of the transforming Word of the Father and His kingdom every time.

Faith

“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

In Ephesians 2:8, Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” In everything we do, we must remember that we are saved – reconciled to God our Father – by God’s grace, through our faith in Him.

Faith means believing the things we read about God in His scriptures. But sincere faith is more than belief alone. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as confidence in what we hope for, an assurance in that which we do not see.

Faith in God can be compared to the faith we have that the sun will rise each morning. Our assurance in the rising sun is more than a belief we profess, but it is a certainty by which we live out our days. The ways we schedule our hours of work and rest, the timing by which we plant our gardens each Spring, the perspective by which we measure the length of our lives – these things are all based in our confidence that the sun will rise each morning.

This is the faith James was describing in James 2:14-26, when he wrote, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?… As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

The kind of faith to which we are called is more than just a particular belief we profess. God’s desire for us is that our confidence in Him be certain, such that our actions, our words, our thoughts, and our perspectives naturally, even unconsciously spring from our assurance that He is all that He says He is.

Remember the promises we find Isaiah 40:27-31:

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

In our walk with Jesus Christ, we will face many trials that will force us to consider whether we truly believe these promises. Ultimately, the question we must answer will not be: How many churches did you build? or How many orphans did you feed? According to James, all of our works are simply evidence to the answer to the one, true question:

In everything you did, no matter the trial or darkness you faced, did you put your faith in Me alone?

Sometimes this question will be hard for us to answer. In these times, we take comfort and guidance in the example we find in Mark 9, of the father of the demon-possessed boy. As his son was convulsing uncontrollably on the ground, the man said to Jesus Christ in verse 22, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus answered him, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes.”

The father answered Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Evidence of Growing Faith:

1 – Private Prayer Life – As we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and experience new freedom and healing, naturally our own faith will deepen. Our own personal transformation through our submission to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the most convincing evidence of the unfailing power of the Holy Spirit to defeat darkness, and to bring new life and freedom.

2 – Intercessory Prayer Life – Another result of the deepening of our faith will be the opening of our eyes to see more clearly the beauty of the image of the Father in other people. But, as our blinders are removed in this way, we will also be able to see more clearly the depth of the suffering and darkness in the lives of people around us.

3 – Exposure of Areas of Weakness – The process of allowing the Holy Spirit to strengthen and deepen our faith will include exposure of areas of weakness – places where we struggle to trust Him. These times may be quite difficult for us, even resulting in a “crisis” of our faith as our doubts and questions are allowed to surface. In these times especially, we must resist the temptation to turn away from God, and instead take our questions to Him, press into His presence in prayer, and meditate on the promises we have in His Word.

Practical Steps towards receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Walking out Matthew 16:24)*:

1 – Affirmation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and my personal Savior and Lord – Who died for my sins, and Who rose again, defeating death, once and for all. (2 Timothy 1:9-10) (Romans 10:6-9)

2 – Conviction – Prayer for the Holy Spirit to come into my life, and to bring me deeper revelation of my own depravity and bondage to sin, and revelation of the truth of His power and authority to free me from these things. (Romans 3:20 and 7:13-25)

3 – Repentance in the name of Jesus Christ – Prayer for the Lord to create in me a heart of repentance, along with confession of all of the bondage He reveals in my life. (Luke 3:8, Colossians 1:13-14)

4 – Invitation for the Holy Spirit to come into my life, to speak the truth of God’s Word in the places of darkness and broken identity, and to deepen my faith in the revelation of who He is. (John 8:12, Galatians 2:20, Psalm 23:4-5)

*This is not meant to be a one-time “check list” of requirements to receive baptism of the Holy Spirit. These are all steps which will be repeated regularly throughout the life of a believer, as the Holy Spirit leads us into deeper intimacy with and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Week 2 Meditation

Again this week, set aside a total of 1.5-2 hours, 30-40 minutes a day on 3 different days, for prayer. Begin each session this week by going through the Practical Steps listed above towards receiving a deeper indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Each day read one or two scripture verses listed within the steps for contemplation.

In this week, it may be good to keep a journal as the Holy Spirit begins to bring things up in your spirit. Write down any areas He reveals as places of doubt or deception in your life. Also write down revelations of His Word, which you sense Him speaking into that place. As you are going through the Practical Steps, following are some questions on specific areas that you may consider asking the Holy Spirit to show you.

– What am I trusting to save me that is not You, Father?

– What am I trusting to fulfill Your call in my life, that is not of You? (i.e. money, buildings, houses, my spouse, my children, my education, my reputation, the approval of man)

– In what areas of my life is the Holy Spirit convicting me, and calling me to trust in Him, and to surrender to Him more completely?

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More than Enough Prayer Study – Week 1

As we announced a few months ago, over the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to complete and publish an 8-week study on prayer, called More Than Enough. I thought it might be good to share that study through our blog over the course of the next several weeks, for anyone who might be interested in working through it over the summer break. 

Also, if you would like to have this study together in its entirety, and as a way to help support the work we are doing in Europe, it is also available for sale electronically through itunes, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Thank you for your love and support! Peace today.

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(Copyright © 2016 by Miki Chastain

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission from the publisher, except where noted in the text and in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Editors: Frank Decker, Ruth Burgner and Charlie Chastain)

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How this study came to be…

From within my earliest memories, I can recall watching my grandmother pray. I think as a result of her example, prayer never seemed strange or awkward for me. I have always felt drawn towards a life of prayer. But, it was not until I was pregnant with our first child, in 2006, that I first began to recognize some of the deepest areas of brokenness and fear in my own life, and to feel the pull of the Lord into new depths of prayer and intimacy with Him.

In 2009, I moved with my husband and our daughter from our home in the U.S. to begin our lives as missionaries overseas. It was about a year after that move when God’s purpose for my calling to prayer begin to take some shape. It came pretty simply, through my offer to pray with a local pastor who was hurting and desperate to hear from her Heavenly Father.

Since that experience, I have had the privilege of praying with many brothers and sisters from various nations around the world. I have enjoyed new opportunities and challenges to commit more of myself, my time, and my energy toward seeking authentic communion and relationship with my Heavenly Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Fall of 2015, through God’s grace and the love and support of several brothers and sisters, I was given an opportunity to open a “prayer room” in the little European city my family and I called home. Shortly after its official “opening,” I invited a handful of leaders and teachers from the local church to come together for one morning. I wanted their prayers and discernment about the prayer ministry into which I sensed God was leading me.

One of the points of direction that surfaced in that meeting was that I needed to articulate and write out the vision of “intimacy with God,” which I felt was at the core of His purpose for the ministry. This project is the result that endeavor.

In the bit of traveling I have been able to do, it has been my experience that most – if not all – people deeply desire to know true, authentic intimacy with their Maker. The thoughts I offer in these pages do not present a “quick and easy” way to “experience” or “feel” God. I believe many have grown weary of seeking out shallow, emotional experiences, which are essentially centered around “self.” More than simply an emotional experience, true intimacy with God transforms us. It frees us. It deepens our faith and leads us into the eternal truth, the Word Himself, Jesus Christ.

So I offer no “quick fixes” or “methods” for hearing from God or deepening one’s prayer life. Instead, I have endeavored to simply build this project around teachings found in the Scriptures, to the best of my understanding, and with only a few exceptions. 

No teaching produced by man can eclipse the immeasurable value of time spent waiting upon the Lord God Himself, and meditating on His Holy Word. This project is designed to be considered slowly, and to be paired with extensive prayer and meditation on the scriptures presented. Try to fulfill the suggested prayer activities for each week. Ask God to give you discernment as you read, and to reveal Himself and His own Word to you in your times of prayer and meditation.

With love in Him,

Miki

Before You Begin…

As you begin this study, following are a few suggestions for preparation:

1 – Consider keeping a journal throughout this study, in which you can jot down any thoughts, images, or scriptures that come up during your reading or prayer times, which you feel may be from the Lord.

2 – Each week concludes with a “Weekly Meditation”, which consists of a prayer exercise, scriptures for meditation, and questions to consider in prayer during the week. Weekly Meditations 3, 5, 6, and 8 involve getting away from regular work and responsibilities for an extended period, and may require prior scheduling. 

3 – It may be good for you to share some of your experience during this study with someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature. Consider either finding a prayer partner who will be willing to meet and pray with you regularly throughout this study, or forming a small group committed to going through the study together.

Week 1 – What is prayer?

Prayer is communion with our Holy Father, the Source of our life, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Every aspect of the life of a believer is dependent upon the depth and sincerity of his or her prayer life.

1. Imitation of Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:6: “This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”

The prayer life of Jesus Christ was the perfect example of the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus was in communion with God in every moment. Whether He was teaching, healing, or away praying in a solitary place, Jesus never turned His attention away from His Father.

In John 12:49-50, Jesus says, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father Who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”

In everything He did, Jesus acted only according to the guidance of His Father, spoke only what He heard the Father tell Him to speak. And this is the model of the prayer life we are to strive for – an unbroken communion with God throughout our day, every day. True prayer results in an intimacy and trust in our Father so that we do nothing, say nothing, which we do not first confirm through the gentle whisper of His Holy Spirit to our own spirit. 

2. Learning the voice of our Father.

In John 10:1-5, we have the words of Jesus Christ:

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

As we enter into prayer, we begin to recognize the voice of God, and we learn to trust His voice alone. This is crucial for anyone who desires to walk out his or her life according to the purpose and desire of the Father. Additionally, as we learn to recognize and follow only the voice of God, we find that the authority of all other words of deception and darkness weakens, and eventually is removed from our lives all together.

3. Knowing God and knowing His will for our lives and for the places we serve.

In John 17:3, we find the prayer of Jesus Christ: “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”

In Jeremiah 9:24, we see the word of God through His prophet: “But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight…”

Jeremiah 31:34: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

Many of us can barely conceive a true image of the concept of “knowing” or “being known” by someone else. Our world is filled with deceptions about what it means to be “acceptable” or “valuable” as a human being. The false images of “perfection”, “success”, and “relevance” with which we are bombarded effectively convince each of us that we are not worthy to be known.

None of us measure up to the corrupted, ever-changing standards of the world. Consequently, we spend much of our lives working to cover up our deficiencies. At the deepest part of us, many of us are terrified that if our true nature were ever revealed, the people in our lives would see that we are unworthy of their love, and they would leave us.

We build walls around ourselves, which are intended to shield off any exposure of our shortcomings, and to protect us from the pain of the disappointment and rejection of our peers. These walls we put up effectively separate us from each other. Our efforts to protect and defend ourselves generally result in deep feelings of isolation, rejection, and fear.

In John 17:20-26, Jesus prays that all believers would be one, saying, “Father, just as You are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us.” He continues in verse 26, saying, “I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them, and that I Myself may be in them.”

The image Jesus lays out in His prayer – of our being one in God – is intensely intimate. This type of “knowing” requires that we keep nothing hidden, hold nothing back from Him, or from one another. This depth of intimacy and vulnerableness is uncomfortable, even frightening for many of us.

But we have been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and so are designed to live in perfect intimacy with Him, and with one another. However, the process of walking through our fear of intimacy, seeing our walls come down, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with God is not something we can accomplish in our own strength or effort.

God never intended for us to rely solely on teachers to bring us revelation on Who He is, or the truth of His will for our lives. His desire is to reveal Himself to each of His children personally. It is through prayer that we begin to see fulfillment of this desire of the Father in our lives. As we spend more of our time indwelling the throne room of the Father in prayer, we truly begin to know Him, to know His love, and to know His perfect will for our lives. Through time in prayer, the verses we read about God in the scriptures become more than just words we have memorized. By communing with our Father, we begin to see for ourselves that He truly is who He says He is. He is just. He is good. He is holy. He is love.

As we get to know God personally, we begin to trust Him to do His work of healing in our lives, and to set us free from our self-made prisons. By knowing God, we receive the faith and strength from Him to walk in the freedom of truly being known by Him.

4. Participation in the coming of God’s kingdom and revelation of His glory on earth.

In Matthew 6:10, we have the example of Jesus Christ when He prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayer is not simply understanding the perfect will of God, but it is our active participation in His plan and purposes. Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ is an act of faith, and our most powerful and effective means of seeing the will of our Father fulfilled:

– For our own sanctification (walking out a life in the freedom that we have in Christ).

– For the salvation and healing of others in our lives.

– For the establishment of His Church, and revelation of His glory throughout the earth.

Recall the powerful promise we find in 1 John 3:21-23, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”

This is the difference that believers offer when serving others. Prayer changes things. James 5:13-16 tells us that the prayer of a believer is powerful and effective. Prayer has much more authority than our human efforts and wisdom towards seeing the fulfillment of God’s purposes in this world. We must never endeavor to do anything that has not been first constructed on the foundation of faithful, sacrificial prayer in the name of Christ Jesus:

a. Humanitarian service – Take a moment to re-visit the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21. We can see that by deepening our prayer lives, we become more effective at providing humanitarian needs – including food, shelter, or clothing – to others in need. In this way, we allow our humanitarian service for others to spring up from our own submission to the Father, as we learn to rely on Him as the provision in our own lives. Through prayer, we see miraculous provision occur for the needs of others. We find we are equipped to provide for a person’s basic needs much more effectively than we are without prayer.

b. Healing – In John 4:13-14, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Through our own committed prayer lives, we become better equipped to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people we serve. This supernatural authority becomes evident as we learn to discern and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit in all moments of our day. Through constant intimacy with the Father while we are teaching, or sharing a meal, or serving and ministering to the poor, we begin to see miracles of salvation, deliverance, and healing occur in the lives of people all around us.

We see an example of this in Acts 3:1-6, when Peter addresses the lame man begging outside of the temple: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”

Through deepened prayer lives, we may see miracles occur as we are led to lay hands on the sick, as instructed by James 5:14. At other times we will witness the glory of God revealed through miracles in the lives and communities for which we intercede privately. These types of intercessory prayers may be lifted up while we are alone with God in our prayer closets, or even silently to Him in our spirit in the midst of our serving and fellowshipping with others who are hurting. Miraculous works naturally spring up from a life of submission and intimacy with the Father through prayer.

c. Building up of the Church –  “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7. Throughout it’s history, the Church has witnessed many outpourings of the Holy Spirit, which have led to great revivals. Consistently, these revivals have at their beginnings a renewed commitment to prayer within the Christian community.

In Acts 2:1, we read that at the time of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the people of the church were all together in one place. This commitment of gathering and waiting on God together as the body of Christ is vital towards seeing a great movement of the Holy Spirit within our churches.

Many in the Church today desire to see a great revival in their community, with great revelations of the glory of the Father, so that men and women will be drawn to Him and His love, repent of their sins, and receive the forgiveness which we all have in Jesus Christ. We must follow the example that has been given us consistently since the early Church. Our greatest role towards seeing a revival in the Church, a strengthening in the faith of the believers, and a sending out of workers filled and empowered with the fire of the Holy Spirit is that we humble ourselves, come before the throne of God, and recommit ourselves to prayer.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10

Practicalities – How to Begin?

1. The Blood of Jesus Christ

Romans 5:8-9 and 11: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!… Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation.”

1 John 1:8-10 tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.”

God our Father is holy, and we are not. Each of us is guilty of sinning against people who love us with our words and actions of bitterness or rejection.

Because of the stain in our own lives of the sin we have committed against others and God, none of us is free to enter into the presence of our Holy Father. Covered in our own carnal nature, we can never experience real communion with God.

However, when we submit to Jesus Christ with a heart of repentance, confess Him as our only Savior and Lord, and allow Him to wash us with His blood, then the filth of our carnality is covered over. When we are covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, we receive the right to enter into God’s presence. We receive reconciliation with God. We are free to enter into the holy throne room of our Heavenly Father, and to commune with Him. This is the essence of prayer.

2. Private Prayer

The instructions Jesus gave the disciples on prayer were very simple:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6

Why is this so difficult for us to do today?

We are given many examples of Jesus getting away to be alone with His Father, including:

– Luke 5:16 – “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

– Matthew 14:23 – “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.”

– Luke 6:12 – “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”

– Mark 1:35 – “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”

Private prayer is necessary for learning to let the Holy Spirit teach us and to transform us through:

a. Discernment – It is good for us to read in our bibles, or to hear others tell us about God’s love. However, in our private times of prayer, we turn our focus onto God’s own voice, and we wait for Him to speak to us Himself, through the voice of His Holy Spirit. When we are able to discern the voice of God speaking His own unfailing Word into our lives, it brings us new life, and it transforms us.

b. God’s Word – Jeremiah 31:33: “’This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.’”

Private prayer is also important in our study of the bible, as we invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Word of God. In this way, the scriptures come alive and begin to change our hearts. As we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His Word to us in the verses, we find they are no longer simply words on a page to be memorized, but they become like bread to us – nourishing our souls and bringing us new life.

3. Intercessory Prayer

Throughout our journey as followers of Jesus Christ, we naturally experience a deepening compassion and calling regarding the struggles and suffering we witness in the lives of people around us. Through intercession, we bring these struggles, which others are experiencing, before the Lord in prayer on their behalf.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “There is no way from one person to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behavior, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship” (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1960, 88).

Practical steps for intercessory prayer over other people, places, and situations:

a. Listening. Romans 8:26-27 tell us that the Holy Spirit Himself is interceding for us according to the will of God. So, when we begin praying for others, we must first learn to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and to wait for His guidance on how to pray for the person or situation, which we are lifting to Him.

b. Speaking. Once we have discerned the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the way we should pray, we then speak out that truth over the person or situation, in the name of Jesus Christ. When we pray out God’s Word over a person’s life, it is very powerful:

Romans 1:16-17 – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from the first to the last..”

Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 55:11 – “so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

God’s Word saves us, as it cancels the effects of countless words of darkness and deception in any situation or life. Intercessory prayer includes lifting up the needs of others to our Heavenly Father, seeking His Word for that person or situation, and then speaking out that Word, in the name of Jesus Christ.

4. Submission

An unhindered prayer life is one in which we submit our lives and wills to following Jesus Christ alone:

a. Denial of self – In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Christ says that those who desire to follow Him must deny themselves. This is the posture we must take in prayer. When we come into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, we must be willing for our hearts (this includes our passions, our perspectives, our opinions, our personalities – every aspect of who we believe ourselves to be) to be broken and poured out at His feet. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20)

b. Commitment – Often we do not believe that we will be able to discern God’s voice, or we may feel that hours spent waiting on His voice is wasted time. But we must keep trying! All truth is found in God (John 14:6), and He wants to share it with us through the voice of His Holy Spirit. We must be steadfast, not giving up, but continually returning our focus to Him. (Job 33:14)

c. Faith – Prayer requires faith. In order to be saved, we must believe (John 3:16). This means we believe that God’s Word is unfailing, and we trust that He desires to share His Word with His children. Prayer is the process of letting go of our own understanding, assumptions, and agendas, and turning all of ourselves to God. In times when our trust in God and His Word is weak, then in prayer we ask the Father to increase our faith, by His grace. (Mark 9:24) We will go into the topic of faith further in our reading next week.

Week 1 Meditation

This week, set aside 1.5-2 hours for prayer, breaking your schedule into 30-40 minutes of prayer a day, for 3 days.

Begin each time of prayer with a few minutes of silence, asking God to clear your mind of any distractions and worries that are keeping you from hearing His voice. Then, read through one of the following verses, focusing on a different verse each day. Read through the passage a few times. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His Word to you through the scripture. Write down anything about the passage that “sticks out” in your spirit, or any parts of it which you’ve never noticed there before.

Scripture Meditation:

Day 1 – Matthew 14:12-13 (The death of John the Baptist) – “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

Day 2 – Matthew 21:12-16 – “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ He said to them, ‘”My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.” The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do You hear what these children are saying?’ they asked Him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise.”‘

Day 3 – 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 – “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.”

In each session, after you have meditated on the passage, ask the Father to reveal to you truth about the following questions:

– How did Jesus Christ view prayer? Why was it such a high priority in His life?

– If I consider my daily and weekly routine, how high of a priority am I giving to prayer? What are some of the things in my life that are taking a higher priority?

– What are some of the areas of doubt in my spirit, which keep me from approaching God in prayer?

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Happy Easter! The Chastains April 2017 Newsletter

Warm greetings to you this Easter!  He is risen.

This has been a busy start to 2017.

After returning from Greece, we spent some time in the U.S. in late January and early February.  Miki attended an intensive class at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky as part of her degree requirements, and we attended missions conferences in Norcross, GA and Tuscaloosa, AL.  It was an encouraging time to be there.  We wish we could have seen more of you.

In late March, Charlie was in the UK, where he attended a gathering dedicated to helping refugees and aid workers combat the stress and traumas associated with the refugee crisis.  It was a good reminder that while providing basic needs has to be the priority, we cannot neglect the mental health of ourselves and those whom we serve.  The information really helped Charlie to understand some of the challenges he was having emotionally as part of this vital work.  One of the more troubling facts he learned was that in 2016 alone, aid worker turnover peaked at nearly 80% in Greece.  The challenges are really that heavy – and we have seen them first hand.

We spent time as a family in Southern Europe during December and early January, where we worked in support of relieving the refugee crisis there.  As with our earlier work along the “Balkan route”, we had the opportunity to witness first-hand the very difficult and dangerous circumstances in which refugees are currently living in Presevo, Serbia, in Thessaloniki and Lesvos, Greece, and in Northern Italy.  In each of these locations, we worked primarily to prepare and distribute hot meals and tea, as well as to give out blankets, tents, sleeping bags, stoves and other supplies to refugees living in local camps and on the streets.

During the week of New Year’s, many of the camps were covered in snow, and temperatures dropped down into the teens.  Several thousand people, including women and children, were still sleeping in tents in overcrowded camps, or in sleeping bags in abandoned, window-less buildings in the city centers.

 

In the first few weeks of the 2017, there were several reports of death from hypothermia as a result of these conditions.

 
We worked alongside several organizations and individuals serving refugees in the area, of which most were from Europe.  The current view of both refugees and volunteers whom we have come to know is one of confusion, even disbelief.  It seems no one can understand how the conditions in these camps can still be so inadequate, more than 2 years after the significant influx of these refugees into Europe began (although refugees have been coming into places like Turkey and Sicily for much longer).

 

In several camps and squats, little iron stoves made out of old wheels have been built and provided by individual volunteers and small charities.  We met another handful of volunteers who are building wooden platforms on which the refugee tents can be set up in order to help keep them out of the mud and snow.  One particular camp near Thessaloniki has gone so long waiting for promised electricity by the Greek government that finally a few volunteers started welding and delivering 12-foot electrical posts themselves, which are specially fitted with necessary input and output requirements, so the residents of the camp can begin to have heated water and mobile phone charging.

 

The funds for these desperately needed items is coming primarily from individual donations – including from some of you.  Just like us, we witnessed volunteers taking breaks from cooking meals, sorting aid and building stoves in order to make calls to potential donors throughout the day.  Many of the volunteers themselves sleep in their vehicles, or in small flats and shacks with no running water or heat.  Most we have met are receiving no salary, but see themselves as privileged simply because they have European or U.S. passports.  They are legally allowed to live and work here, unlike the very people they feel compelled to serve.  But as the statistics above show, there is a tremendous price to pay for serving.

 

So they volunteer 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week, for weeks at a time, in order to provide a bit of relief to the thousands of people who have come into Europe fleeing violence, war, persecution, or famine, while those people sit in squats and tents, and wait and wait and wait.

 

We can not say enough about the people we have met, both among the refugees and volunteers.  Their love and service is flawed, and sacrificial, and passionate.  They desire and hope for more – for better.  They ache every day – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Essentially, they are just like you and me.

 

So, this month we write to ask you to once again consider coming and helping in this relief effort. Consider spending even a few days working alongside one of the many charities, getting to know some of the refugees and their children, as well as the volunteers who are giving every day.  They need people to come pick up the slack.  Could that be you?

This is one of those situations where nothing short of human compassion and connection will do. 

 

People are hurting in ways we personally have never witnessed. There is no “quick fix” here. Solutions will only come family by family, person by person, with long, concentrated, sacrificial effort.  Please prayerfully consider coming and taking a look for yourself.  Or, consider financially helping to send someone if you are not able to come yourself.

 
Looking Forward/Prayer requests

 

Miki has just published her first book!  Over the past 18 months, Miki put together an 8-week prayer study, entitled “More than Enough”. It is now available as an Ebook for purchase on iBooks and Amazon.  The catalyst for the book came from Miki’s work in prayer ministry in Europe.  Much of the material has come from her teachings at prayer gatherings and conferences over the years.  Please check it out.  If your Sunday School classes or small groups would like to use the guide in a more group setting, contact us directly and we can give you a bulk discount!  Here’s the links:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/more-than-enough/id1212576796?mt=11

https://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Enough-Miki-Chastain-ebook/dp/B06XQGS5N9/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490694517&sr=8-1&keywords=more+than+enough+miki+chastain

 

Charlie is currently finishing up a record on which he collaborated with gifted musician, pastor, and dear friend, Gustavo Faleiro, while they were together in Paris some months ago.  The 5 song album covers topics of romance, refugees, orphans, faith, and more.  We’ll let you know when the album comes out, but in the meantime, here’s a link to the first single, “Chatelet”.

https://soundcloud.com/user-392488683/chatlet-single

 

Charlie also recently finished another collaborative record with the United Methodist Church of Russia.  This was the second album in the series called “Music Lab”, where Russian worship leaders from up to ELEVEN time zones gather to learn about writing and recording worship music to hopefully add to the Christian music canon of the UMC in Eurasia.  To see a glimpse into this process, check out these videos – just make sure to turn on the English translations in the video settings!  (The translations won’t be perfect, but you should be able to get the basic ideas)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1UDLReLDPM

You can hear the whole album here:

https://soundcloud.com/user-916232922/sets/vyshe-solntsa

 

As our work continues to expand through Europe, we definitely covet your continued prayers and support as we learn more.  Charlie will depart Monday for Greece once again.  He’ll be checking out new opportunities to connect aid and support to refugees in need throughout the various camps in the country.  Look for his video updates on Facebook.

In May, Miki will attend a conference in Athens, Greece focused on at-risk children as a result of the refugee crisis. Given our experience working with orphans and street children, the situation for unaccompanied minors traveling as refugees is a cause near and dear to our hearts.  Please be praying that new connections will be made, and that we will find opportunities to help in the future.

 

Finally, it is difficult to describe how deeply grateful we feel each and every day for the support and love that is poured out into our family by so many of you. There is no doubt that our lives and work here would be impossible without every single person whom God has used to provide for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We pray that you all will know the peace and truth of the love of our Father through Jesus Christ in 2017, and that you will know how much you all mean to all of us.

 

In Him Who is Savior and Lord forever,

Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

 


 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

TMS Global
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://www.tms-global.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”
To give to our special projects account (refugees, prayer work), use the “Give to a Partner or Project” and fill in “Chastain Special Projects”

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The Chastains October 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Estonia.  Since our last newsletter, I (Charlie) have visited the Calais Jungle refugee camp in northern France again and Miki has just returned from the Greek island of Lesbos. 

The scale of the refugee crisis in Europe has obviously focused our efforts in the last year, so we thought it would be good to dedicate this update completely to that aspect of our work.  While in France, I made one short video which you can view here:  

Feel free to browse around and watch the other videos from France and Greece located there as well.  

Now, I’ll hand over the rest of the newsletter to Miki and her update from Greece.  

It has taken a few days for me to put together a brief update on my time in Lesbos, Greece.  As you can imagine, it is not easy to describe.  I have now learned that the only way to really understand any of it is by actually going there and seeing the situation first-hand.
    
Practically, the work is pretty basic – assisting in preparing and distributing lunch and dinner to 2 different refugee camps on the island, one with 1,000 residents, the other with around 3,500 residents.  This means a lot of repetition – from cutting peppers, potatoes and onions for 7 hours a day, to preparing 1,000 food boxes and bags assembly-line style, twice a day, every day.  There is also the process of distributing the meals to the refugees – either by serving people individually as they come through a line, or by distributing boxed meals tent by tent.  And of course, a lot of post-distribution time is spent scrubbing and mopping to prepare to do it all again the next day.  
    
The hardest part of the work to describe is the weight of urgency that covers each day with the knowledge that the majority of the residents – particularly in the smaller camp – are children under the age 12.  Until our group is able to get their meals prepared, packaged, and delivered, the people there will not eat.  If we find we did not order or prepare enough food, or if the oven glitches out mid-morning, or we are short on volunteers, or any number of other issues that may make the distribution late, the parents, grandparents and children will not eat until we work out our issues and get to them.

In the Camp
    
Due to their resiliency, even those children with unhealed wounds and burns still visible on their bodies from their recent journeys are filled with joy to see us arrive in the food truck, and usually want to play or help us distribute the meals around the camp.  One can almost forget the tragedy they have all come through – until in mid-play, a 5-year old boy jumps into your arms, wraps his arms around your neck, lays his head on your shoulder, closes his eyes, and for a few brief moments grows very still and quiet.  

In those few seconds, you can feel his little body relax and breathe deeply in the support of your arms (which are already shaking from your own exhaustion).  Despite your weariness, you think you could hold him for hours.  “Oh, right,” you think to yourself, “You’ve been through hell to get here. And you’re hungry.  Ok, let’s get this food over to your tent, where your mom or dad is certainly waiting.”

After a moment, you put the boy down, and give him one more hug.  Then you go over to the truck, grab as many boxes of food as you can manage to carry, and the distribution process begins. 
    
The residents in these camps are considered “extremely vulnerable” to risks of trafficking and abuse.  So it is our job twice a day to get in, get the meals distributed, and then get out as quickly as possible, in order to maintain general security and calm within the camp.  Generally, the people are happy and grateful to see you and to receive the food you are bringing.  However, there are days when the overall mood in the camp is low – maybe due to some deportations that have taken place that day, or because of the rain that is keeping them and their children inside their tents all day.  On those days, when issues of hopelessness and discouragement are most rampant, the people may seek to exert some sort of control over their situations, and may complain to the volunteers about the food, or about the team arriving late.  Some days go more smoothly than others.

Volunteers

Almost everyone involved in preparing and distributing the meals is working on a volunteer basis:

1.  There are those who, like myself, have independent sources of income and are able to pay for their own transportation, housing, and food in order to volunteer for a short period – generally 2-3 weeks.  The funds we pay for our housing and food goes directly towards the cost of buying the food needed for the refugees.

2.  There are other “long-term” volunteers who commit 4-6 months in Lesbos.  These individuals generally do not have another source of income, and so they work in Lesbos in exchange for housing and meals.  They do not receive any additional income for their work, and typically go several weeks without a day off (due to the urgency of the work, and the continual shortage of volunteer help). 

3.  The third group of volunteers is made up of refugees who are residing in the camps, and who have developed a relationship with the workers.  These volunteers are almost always young men who are either serving all day in the camp, or who are brought each morning to the food prep center around 8:30am, spend the day preparing and distributing meals, and then are taken back to the camp after the work is completed – usually around 9:00pm. 

Working each day side-by-side with these refugees, who may come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, or any number of other locations, can of course present certain tensions.  But, if you are able to come in with a willingness to serve and to learn, these relationships can be among the most rewarding, humbling, and enlightening parts of the experience in Lesbos.

Unexpected Issues
    
With this work, there have been a few unexpected issues that I don’t remember experiencing with other types of work we have done – at least not in the same intensity.  For example, there is the physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue that I continue to experience, even after being home a few days now.  I am distracted frequently as my thoughts keep “going back” to the people and the images I experienced in Lesbos, and I am constantly picturing in my mind what the volunteers and refugees must be doing right now as I prepare meals for my children in my kitchen, or as I sit in my warm, comfortable chair writing out these thoughts.
    
I have been dreaming throughout every night about the people there, and about their circumstances.  And I am frequently and unexpectedly overwhelmed with waves of emotion, which seem to be triggered by the simplest things – i.e.:  tying my son’s shoe, washing breakfast dishes, or listening to my daughter describe her costume for an upcoming halloween party. 

Honestly, I believe there are times when both Charlie and myself almost wish we’d never learned the things we have learned.  It seems clear that things would be easier and simpler for us now if we had never traveled into these camps in Serbia, Greece and France. 
    
But we have been in those camps. We have seen and learned things that we can’t unsee and we can’t unlearn.  And in the end, we can each of us only answer for our own actions. 

We still do not fully understand what precisely we are to do with all of this we have seen and learned through this incredible and extremely difficult, complicated situation.  We know that feelings about these circumstances and these people are strong – and that there are many who simply do not feel we should be involved at all.  We also realize that this is not just a case of misunderstanding.  The reality is that people in these circumstances are hurting, and are grieving, and at times are very angry about what they and their families have experienced. 

So we appreciate your unfailing support and prayers as we continue to navigate our way through this season.  We know we are bound to make mistakes and missteps, and we appreciate your grace and patience as we are praying and waiting on the guidance for each step from Him Who never fails, Who never missteps, and Whose grace never ends.  He is still our Lord. 

Charlie is planning his next trip down to Greece in November, to help lead a large group who will be serving in Lesbos from our ministry partners in Düsseldorf, Germany.  We appreciate your keeping this trip in your prayers in these next few weeks.

Love and peace today,
Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

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