The Lord is preparing me for yet another ministry journey. As you may be aware I’m heading to Uganda for three months of ministry and in the last few weeks before each trip my soul and spirit is brought quiet and deeper into the presence of the Lord.
First off my soul is ministered to. Gladness increases, joy abounds, simple things I am gifted; these last couple of weeks it is the smell and feel of autumn in the air, and the pleasure of experiencing autumn in a small way, even though I’ll miss the real thing when I am gone. Personal conversations between myself and God are given wings with action and taking care of things on the home front; every thing I need to accomplish before I leave is falling into place.
And as God ministers and brings extravagant gifts to my soul, my spirit is wooed into greater constraint and sacrifice.
I’m always asked and led to fast something for some 4-6 weeks prior to each ministry trip. Each time it is different, but each time I know what it is to be and each time it is something dear to me, something that speaks to and expresses a part of my identity. Giving this up (whatever it may be) brings me back to nakedness in the Lord; I am stripped of self and prepared by God and for God to work through me. And each time this, almost more than anything, alerts me to the work the Lord himself is preparing for. I am reminded that this is not my gig.
I’ve been steadily working for some eight weeks to communicate, by turn, with each of the pastors and leaders that I’ll be alongside throughout the time. It takes time to arrange and confirm one set of dates with one pastor (and that pastor with his or her pastors) before doing the same with the next, and the next, and so on. But this is coming along well and is another sign of the Lord’s good favour over this trip.
In a number of recent conversations with folks here at home, I’ve picked up on a common assumption that these ministry trips are fraught with peril and things going wrong, of danger and stress. This always strikes me as an interesting assumption as it is so completely not been the reality, just the opposite in fact. Each ministry trip has been over-the-top bathed in the presence and peace of the Lord; there has been virtually not one speck of fear or worry or concern on any of my previous trips. And I am now feeling this same movement of God bringing me in under His open heaven; the peace and joy is pressing heavily upon me as this trip draws near.
I am convinced that as we walk these journeys with the exact timing of the Lord, as we put our ego’s down at the cross, as we open every single room of our hearts to Him, we are kept, profoundly kept and covered in Him. This has been my experience anyway; the peace of the Lord saturates me, I can barely describe it. One of my prayer clients reminded me this week that those who are doing the work of the Lord are rewarded by joy – ah, of course! This explains it.
Years back, about mid-way through my healing journey, my eyes were opened to the darkness around us. And for a time this was all I could see or understand. Everywhere I looked I saw what was off and wrong, and as I progressed in spiritual authority there was much battle in the spirit realm over my life. I took this as signs of my freedom and healing, in some odd way – I shake my head at this today. Today, I look back and can identify that phase of my journey as the ‘mid-way’ place, just enough healing to be awake to all that is bad and wrong in the world but not enough healing to see the immense light of the Lord in the midst of everything.
Today as I listen in on conversations in the christian community about spiritual warfare and ministry I am concerned when I hear christians speaking about this mid-way place as though it is the fullness of the Lord’s grace in their life. Of course, we cannot know what we have not yet known, and so I write this post today, in part, to give a glimpse of the incredible ease and joy that the Lord desires to bring us to in his work.
May we not stop our inner journeys at this half-way point of seeing the darkness and relishing in some odd prideful way to the battles we experience. At some point in time we are to move beyond the battles, primarily because the battle is already won; technically speaking, there is no battle. It’s a done deal. So why are we living as though there is? The only continuing battle is the one in our own hearts and minds. Once we, id, self, ego, has been worked through with the Lord we will find no battle left.
Which brings us to this, we might wonder, what is ministry but for a battle? I’ve found that the most powerful weapons are that of peace and agreement in the Lord. Instead of dissing the world with condemnation (remember, condemnation is the enemies game, not God’s) we become a conduit of peace.
I can feel the letdown of this statement. It doesn’t sound like much to bring peace. It doesn’t seem very powerful. We would rather come with swords flashing and fire in our eyes. But the ways of the Kingdom of God are not like this. In fact, the Kingdom of God is the exact opposite and peace is a mighty foe. Chaos and evil cannot remain standing in the presence of the peace of our Lord. Declare God’s peace over a place and strongholds are dismantled and lives are never the same.
But peace requires gentleness, its own kind of trust, it demands kindness, and lives graciousness, none of which are easy or natural to us. It is why we are prepared for years and years before the Lord releases us into ministry that takes back enemy territory. We must walk in the way of our Lord if we expect to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
So much more could be said, but I’ll leave it at this for today, just a few of the things I’m aware of yet again this last little while.