Sunday, December 4, 2016

Longing For His Presence

One of my favorite songs over the past couple of years comes from the folks at Bethel Church in Redding, California. It’s titled “I Will Exalt,” and makes the focus of the Presence of the Holy Spirit as the most important reality in our lives. “Your Presence is all I need, it’s all I want, it’s all I seek, for without it there’s no meaning.”

Amid all the noise and clatter of our current day – elections with political rhetoric, holidays with unspeakable clamor, distractions of every kind agitating for attention – I can detect this one quiet, unobtrusive yet persistent voice whispering deep in my soul – “Draw near to Me, stay close to Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

That phrase was actually spoken to my wife, Marie, some years ago during a 2 AM encounter with the Lord while we were on a ministry assignment in Germany. She awoke with a start, shaking me awake in the moment, and informed me that she was with Jesus, in a vision, in the parking lot of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. The powerful Presence of God filled that bedroom, and I was overwhelmed, weeping and sobbing as Marie verbalized what she was experiencing. She and Jesus walked together arm in arm, and He spoke that phrase to her heart – “Stay close to Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

Now, as we approach 2017 in a major personal transition, having turned over the leadership of the House of Prayer Northwest in Federal Way to a younger man, I find my heart returning to that invitation more and more. “Draw near to Me – stay close to Me. I am putting My desires in your heart, and as you draw near, I will actualize My plans in your life.”

As I muse on this, I’m drawn to Psalm 24 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, … who has not lifted up his soul to what is false.”

There’s the key – lifting up our souls to false things. That’s what all the noise is about – trying to draw our attention and affection away from the one necessary reality – the Presence of the Lord. I’m recalling my own heart to the reality of the one thing, the secret place of the Most High, to seek Him, to know Him, to draw near, to put away distractions, to make the One Thing the first thing, to establish the worship center of my own heart, and then to see His Presence expand and fill our home and our community.

I’m taking time these days to come away, to seek Him, to listen, to realign and lift up my soul to what is true and truly necessary – His Presence.

Gary Wiens

Friday, November 25, 2016

Reflections on Thanksgiving the Day After

It’s my observation, after a typical American Thanksgiving Day of watching football on TV, getting with family, and enjoying a great meal together with those we love and enjoy, that I tend to miss the real point, the bottom line reality of a thankful heart.

I think it’s because I tend to focus – somewhat superficially – on things that I’m thankful for, things like the provision of my needs, a warm and dry place to sleep, a great wife who really takes good care of me, and so on. And while it is good and right to be thankful for these things, the real focus of a thankful heart remains obscured behind all the stuff.

The Scripture tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will concerning us. Notice, it doesn’t say that the circumstances are God’s will for us, but that thankfulness in those circumstances is the thing that is on God’s heart.

This verse presses me into a deeper reality than trying to think of something to be thankful for when I’m at the holiday table and it’s my turn to say something, or of trying to change my attitude about a difficult situation because “this too is God’s will.” Sometimes God, as a good Father, allows situations and circumstances that are not His perfect will, and His Word calls us to be thankful, not FOR the circumstances, but IN the circumstances.

How does that work? Well, it calls me to focus my attention on something higher than what is going on around me. It calls me to fix my gaze on His sovereign plan, His goodness, and His promise that He is actively working all things for my good, because I love Him and am called according to His purposes (that’s in Romans 8:28, by the way).

In other words, I’m instructed to be thankful to Him, no matter what is going on, because He is good, He is in control, and the posture of thankfulness in the midst of difficulty is what defeats the temptation to mistrust God and look somewhere else for fulfillment and relief.

Time and time again, especially in the Book of Psalms, the writers of Scripture voice their questions and even complaints about their circumstances, often with surprisingly frank and honest language. But then they begin to recount the history of the goodness of God, His sovereign leadership, and the ways that His purposes have been realized in their history, and they end up praising Him and growing in trust and confidence that He will work it out for their good.

I want to be like that – honest with God about how I see circumstances and feel about them, but then filled with gratitude for who He is, and the certainty that He will have His way, and that it will be good beyond my wildest dreams.

Be blessed and thankful in the goodness of God.

Gary Wiens

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Wrestling with God about Serious Things

This morning I received an email from a friend regarding the life-and-death situation of one of her friends, who is battling a terminal disease. I felt impressed to share these thoughts with her, and also with you. Blessings on you as you read:

There are several dimensions to answering your question about G’s situation. First, all the contemplatives through history whose writings have survived talk about Jesus Himself being the great reward, the most desirable one, and that the ultimate outcome of seeking Him is to be with Him and to know Him. They emphasize the need to relinquish all other desires to the one desire of the presence of Jesus, leaving all the options in His hand, and determining to love Him and worship Him no matter what the short-term outcome looks like. When Mary (my wife) was nearing the end of her journey in 2004, a friend of our daughter sent her a note quoting from Psalm 45, that the King was inviting her to leave her father’s home, because He desired her presence. It gave her the faith to release herself, her children, and me into the Lord’s hands, knowing that fullness for her was in His literal presence after physical death.

Second, the closer we come to Him and release our desires to Him, the more clearly we understand His desires and plans, and can come into agreement with them. This was Jesus’ own process in the Garden, where He presented His desires to the Father, but then relinquished them to the Father’s greater plan. We are certainly free to ask for healing, and even declare it when we hear His Word to us, but that reality is also held in tension with the fact that the fullness of His promises of healing will come after He returns. We ask, we believe, we trust in His outcome.

Third (and this is very powerful), while we wait and suffer, we can draw near in trust and worship. This is the embrace of the “north wind” of SOS 4:16, letting the fragrance of worship flow out under the pressure of difficult circumstances. It is the highest form of worship and trust, again modeled by Jesus on the cross when He commended His Spirit into the hands of the Father. Paul tells us (Colossians 1:24) that when we come to this place of trust and understanding, God actually counts it as participation in the sufferings of Jesus, and uses it to influence and transform the lives of people around us, even those we might not know. Amazing!

Finally, Marie and I are reading a book by Robert Henderson titled “Operating in the Courts of Heaven.” It’s very powerful and insightful in the matter of how we pray, and how we can eliminate spiritual factors that hinder prayers. Often these spiritual factors give the enemy the right to accuse and hinder prayer, and so the Holy Spirit desires to help us eliminate the enemy’s influence through forgiveness, repentance, and trust. I would recommend it to you.

I hope these things are helpful to someone who may read this posting. Pass it on!

Gary Wiens

Saturday, October 22, 2016

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

This past week I had the privilege of meeting a new group of folks in Gig Harbor, Washington, where I live. It was a group of pastors and leaders in the faith community here, and I must say, it was a delightful time of sharing humor, deep feelings (I was surprised at this!), and camaraderie in the work of pastoral care ministry in our town.

One of the topics that came up, spurred by a sentence-starter presented by the leader of the meeting this week, was the issue of personal weakness, and how we as leaders face weakness in ourselves and others as we serve. Since it was my first time in attendance, I was interested to see how this group of six men and three women would interact around this matter.

I was surprised and impacted at the depth of transparency and trust that was demonstrated by the group. No quick, superficial answers were given; rather, there was honest communication as we spoke about facing our own places of weakness in the course of professional and personal living.

As the conversation went on, I found myself reflecting on the fact that only weak people have testimonies of God's power and deliverance. God values weakness in His people, for those who know they are weak turn to Him for strength and help in their situations. Strong people don't need to pray, don't need faith, don't need help - strong people strive to prove themselves to themselves, to one another, and to God. Unfortunately, this "strength" is often nothing more than thinly disguised pride, and that stance receives no help from God at all.

Weakness (Jesus calls it 'poverty of spirit' in Matthew 5) is precious to God, because when we are weak, we turn to Him as the resource, the One who has the solution for our situation. And here's where it gets interesting: God loves to put us in situations where our weakness is brought to the surface, so that we have the opportunity to trust, so that He can show Himself strong on our behalf.

I saw a statement on another blog I read that says this: "If your vision doesn't scare you, it's not big enough!" I think that's true, because God is not looking for what we can do for Him; He's looking for people who will surrender in weakness so that He can do what He wants to do in partnership with them.

What does God want to do in and through you today, this week, this year? Are you afraid you can't pull it off? If your answer is 'yes,' that's good! Now you are postured to receive a miracle!

2 Chronicles 16:9 says this: "The eyes of God look to and fro through the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him." In other words, He's looking for those who know they are weak, but who trust Him anyway. Then He gets involved, and we end up with victory and a powerful testimony.

My prayer for myself and for you this week is this: May the Holy Spirit lead us into scary things, that we might better know how much we need Him, and that we might better know how eager He is to show up for us.

Gary Wiens

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Biblical Plumb Line For National Leadership

As a nation, we in America are standing on the precipice of what may be one of the most important national elections in our history. Like many of you who read this, I have been less than thrilled by the political stances of the two main candidates, let alone the obvious character flaws that are presented in the media, regardless of how accurately those representations reflect the truth. The option seems to be to vote for the candidate who will have the least negative impact on the American culture, depending on how one sees the issues of the day.

As I muse on these things, I am drawn to the Biblical standard for leadership that is presented in the ancient prophecy of Isaiah, where in Chapter 11, verses 1-9, he articulates the character of the ultimate Leader, and the impact that his leadership will have on the lives of the people and culture under his leadership. As I share these things, I’m well aware that the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will come when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom on the earth. However, I believe we can still call our national leaders to this standard, as this is government as God designed it and intends for it to be expressed.

Isaiah 11:2 tells us that this Leader will be filled with the full dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit – wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. We may think that it is unrealistic to call our political leaders to such a reality, but we as citizens of God’s Kingdom must never back off the standards that God sets. Only a man filled with the Spirit of God will ever be able to govern in such a way that peace and blessing will come to all the citizens.

Verses 3-4 give us insight as to the standards of judgment exercised by this anointed Leader. His policies and judgments are aligned with righteousness and equity, especially for the poor and the weak! He is not concerned with political expediency or political correctness. In other words, he is focused on bringing all things into alignment with God’s design, understanding that being conformed to God’s design is the only way to real freedom, fulfillment and joy.

These verses also let us know that the speech of this Leader is filled with power for the establishment of goodness and right – the wicked and their ways will be removed from power and ultimately destroyed!

While destruction of the wicked seems extreme to our contemporary minds, we are assured in the following verse that this Leader will be clothed in righteousness and faithfulness, so his power will be compassionate and gracious even when dealing with wickedness in the culture.

In verses 6-9, Isaiah tells us that the fruit of this Leader’s influence will be peace and quietness at every level of society, because the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The fruit of this kind of leadership will be peace among those who have formerly been enemies. Certainly this is a desperate hope for a nation such as ours in this time!

Again, I realize that this will be fulfilled completely only when Jesus returns, but this passage serves as a standard, a measuring stick by which we as believers can assess the presence and influence of God upon our present leaders as we wait for the Kingdom that is surely coming.