Healing Depression

DR. JOE JOHNSON, pastorjoejohnson@gmail.com

What is depression?

Healing the Wounded Spirit, John & Paula Sandford.  Depression is a condition in which our personal spirit has died to its capacity to sustain the person fully, either emotionally or physically.  Despondency is not the same as depression.  We all have highs and lows.  Normal people know that tomorrow they will feel better.  The key factor is that they still possess hope.  A depressed person cannot help himself.  He must be resurrected b y the prayers of others.  Overcoming depression is not a matter of will power.  Recovery is not a matter of thinking more positively, making a series of positive confessions.  Depressed people are not only without hope. They know that tomorrow will not be better.

Loving Yourself, Walter Trobisch  At the root of every depression is the feeling of having lost something.  The deepest root of depression is the feeling that I have lost myself.  There are different kinds of losses:  Loss of job completed, battle won, adrenaline after preaching Sunday morning, confidence, health, self_respect, youth, job, or retirement. 
Depression is not a sign of weakness.  Strong people fall into it.  The German word for depression is schwermut, which comes from two German words, schwer, the word for heavy, and mut, the word for courage.  The word schwermut means the courage to be heavy_hearted, the courage to live with what is heavy or difficult. Shallow, superficial people seldom have depressions.  It requires a certain inner depth of mind to be in depression.  Artists and musicians tend to be more susceptible to depressions perhaps because this courage to be heavy is a prerequisite for fruitfulness. 

The Lost Virtue of Happiness:  Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life J.P. Moreland & Klaus Issler Chapter Seven:  Defeating Two Hardships of Life:  Anxiety and Depression pp. 160-161, “The Physical Aspects of Anxiety and Depression.”

Exercise enchains the release of endorphins in the brain which help to elevate our mood and sense of well being…weight training or some form of exercise  that tears down, restores and strengthens muscles helps regulate the level of serotonin in the brain, something critical for eliminating anxiety and depression. 

QUESTIONS WHICH MAY HELP A PERSON RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF DEPRESSION

Ask two or three, not all of these questions.

1.  Do you wonder sometimes if you will ever be happy again?

2.  Do you sometimes feel like you are not your real self?

3.  Does it seem at times that part of you has died?  What losses have you experienced?

4.  Do you wonder sometimes if your life counts for anything? Does my life have purpose or meaning?

5.  Do you sometimes feel like your spirit is saying, “I quit”? Do you lack physical energy to do little things?

6.   Do you speak a lot of “shoulds” to yourself?  Feel shame for not being what you believe you should be?

7.  Do you hesitate to ask help for others or from God because you’ve been disappointed too many times and don’t want to be disappointed again?

8.  Do you have difficulty sleeping or sleep more than usual? Loss or increase of appetite?

9.  Is every little decision a major burden?  Do you find that you can’t make yourself do the simplest household chores or tasks on the job, which you used to do easily?

10.  When did the depression begin and what was happening in your life at the time?

ENCOURAGE AND AFRIRM THE USE OF MEDICINE AS ONE OF THE MEANS THE LORD USES TO MINISTER HEALING FOR DEPRESSION

There still is a stigma in the church for emotional and mental disorders.  There are two kinds of pain we experience.  Physical pain and mental or emotional pain.   It is acceptable to have physical pain and shameful to have emotional or mental pain.  There is a heavy stigma in the Christian community against the use of medication for chemical imbalance disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder.   God provides physical healing for chemical imbalance mood disorders through medication.  He also can heal directly through prayer for physical healing.  I am thankful for both ways of healing.   Dr Grant Mullen writes in his book, Why Do I Feel So Down When My Faith Should Lift Me Up? that when we have depletion in our brain chemistry it results in blurred thinking and negative thoughts that we are unable to control.  Our mind is racing with these thoughts, which result in worries, anxieties and fears.   In medicine they are called anxiety disorders.  In an anxiety mood disorder a person cannot shut off the fearful thoughts and they just keep racing through the mind like an audiotape that can’t be stopped.  Like depression, these are inherited conditions, which usually respond well to antidepressants.  These medications correct the chemical imbalance and return thought control to normal.    He goes on to explain that blurred thinking, which goes with emotional pain, can be compared to blurred vision.  We do not have any problem with people wearing glasses.  We don’t say, “Shame on you for wearing glasses.  Forget about that problem, if you are a Christian and have faith you won’t need to wear glasses. Is there someone in your life you need to forgive so you can be healed of a blurred vision?  That’s all in the past, your vision problem, now that you are a Christian.” Dr. Mullen says it is helpful to think of chemical imbalances in the same way as needing glasses, except in this case the glasses need to be swallowed to restore proper brain chemistry.   To ignore or refuse treatment for this condition is just like refusing to wear our glasses and voluntarily living with the consequences of poor vision.

Ministry of healing prayer  Before praying say something like,“I can help you.  I know a person who was depressed and learned some things that helped her.  I have faith that this prayer will help. I will believe for you.   You do not have to believe.  A depressed person knows that if anything is up to him, it won’t work. Say anything that will help lift any pressure they are feeling to perform or do it right.

Prayer  (with help from Agnes Sanford).  Jesus, bring to life the part of (name) which has been lost or stopped living.  Light the candle in her spirit that has been snuffed out.  Bring to life the real person.  Jesus be with (name) when she started withdrawing from life because of all the pain.  Minister Your love and acceptance to (name). I know Lord that (name) may not feel anything at present.  We are not doing this on the basis of feelings, but on the basis of my faith and I know it will work.    Sooner or later, maybe today, maybe next weeK, but certainly in the near future, this person will begin to feel better, like suddenly seeing a blade of grass popping up through the snow.  I’m going to hold you in my heart.  I will keep on praying until you are totally free and out of depression. I know it will work, Lord and I thank and praise you for it.

Follow up suggestions:

 Ask, “What is one thing you do when you feel most like your real self?”  Encourage the person to do one thing like take a bath, or walk, or do something that helps them feel like their real self.  Take the initiative to make another appointment for prayer.  I want to see you again. 

Ask, “What are some things you look forward to doing in your life? each day? this coming week?”   Help the person identify little things they look forward to in their lives, e.g. watching a favorite program on TV, movies, dancing, Starbucks.

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Especially for Pastors

November – 2013

Increasing and Abounding in Love
by Dr. Joe Johnson

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”

What is your life message? What are you pursuing in life? If you created a bumper sticker for your life message, what would it be? One person wrote, “Fishing is my life.” When you signed up on Facebook, what did you say was your religious view? My daughter Anne wrote, “Loving my neighbor (yes that neighbor).” I wrote, “Loving Jesus and the person in front of me.” (I first heard this spoken by Heidi Baker). Jesus commanded us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as we love ourselves….to love one another as he loved us (Mark 12:30-31, John 13:34). Paul encourages us to pursue love and clothe ourselves with compassion and love. He prays that we may have our roots and foundation in love so we may have power to understand how wide and long, how high and deep is Christ’s love, and that we may come to know his love, although it can never be fully known (1 Corinthians 14:1, Colossians 3:12, 14, Ephesians 3:17-18).

Dallas Willard taught me that transformation happens best when we use the VIM model. VIM is an acronym for Vision, Intention and Means. If we lose our way in following Jesus, pastoring, or in any area of our life, we may need to revisit our vision. I use the VIM method to increase and abound in love.

VISION: Increasing and Abounding in Love

I am created in God’s image to be a lover. Misty Edwards sings the vision, “God is a lover looking for a lover.” God is love, and it is possible for me to love like God loves. This is because the kingdom of the heavens is here, within reach, available. I focus on becoming the kind of person on the inside who loves like Jesus loves. We change from the inside out! Jesus’ character includes the fruit of the Holy Spirit-love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Jesus’ love has captured my heart. Jesus loves me-every part of me. He loves me in my weakness. I love the One who loves me. I would like my legacy to be, “Joe really loved Jesus.” The Apostle John described himself as, “I am the one Jesus loves.” Sometimes I enjoy skipping as a way to celebrate this affirmation. I am learning to skip again with my three-year-old granddaughter, Camille Hoang, at Disneyland.

The order of the kingdom is clear: we are first loved by God, and then we extend that love to others. The order is important because the love we extend to our neighbor is the same love we receive from God. We love because God loves us first. This is not just an historical event that happened once but happens every day, every moment of my life. Soren Kierkegaard’s prayer teaches this truth:

You have loved us first, oh God! Alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing. You have loved us first many times and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You-You are the first-You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me. You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are the first and thus forever. And yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once.

If I pray to God, “I love you!” I need to add one word to this prayer, “I love you, too!” The Apostle John spoke Jesus’ message to the church of Ephesus: “Return to your “first love” which you have forsaken” (Revelation 2:4). I believe that “first love” is not my love for God but God’s love for me. In worship I give back to God the love he has already given to me. I pray this vision, “Holy Spirit, pour the love of God into my way of being in the world so I am overwhelmed with this amazing love of God” (Romans 5:5).

INTENTION: I Choose to Receive and Give Love

I have decided that I am going to learn how to love as Jesus would love if he were in my place. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all kinds of people (Matthew 28:18-20). The Greek word, mathetes, means learner. An apprentice is a person who hangs out with Jesus so he can be like him and do what he does. I have decided to be the kind of person that easily receives and gives love. Receiving love is a way of loving. We do not slide into becoming a disciple-our choice is of central importance. I do not slide into becoming a person who loves like Jesus-I decide to do this. I have decided to examine what motivates my behavior in order to see if it is done in love. Paul encourages me to do this in 1 Corinthians 13 where he writes that if I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not love, I am noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. In other words, I’m a gong show-that’s all it is. If I have the gift of prophesy, understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions and surrender my body to the flames as a martyr, but have not love, I profit nothing.

MEANS are practices and training exercises through which God transforms our heart (will, spirit), mind (thoughts and feelings), body (strength, habits), social relationships and soul to enable us to increase and abound in love. Whatever means the Holy Spirit stirs in our hearts are the best ones for us. Here are a few of the “means” that I have chosen this past year.

Study the meaning of love.

One form of love is compassion. Compassion is experiencing a heart of tenderness and mercy for someone. The Hebrew word for compassion is racham. “Can a woman forget her nursing child and not have compassion (racham) on the son of her womb?” (Isaiah 49:15). When Jesus saw the huge crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). The Greek verb translated here as “compassion” means literally, “his guts were moved” (splagchnizomai). We would say that his heart was profoundly moved. When Jesus sees you and me, his heart is profoundly moved. We receive his heart of compassion for the sheep who are without a shepherd-the lost, the lonely, the least, the little ones. Compassion is the word used to describe the running father’s love in the parable of the prodigal son: “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion” (Luke 15:20). The love of God includes mother (feminine) love as well as father (masculine) love. In Jesus Christ there is all strength and all tenderness.

Another Hebrew word to describe God’s love is ahab, which means delight in being with us, to like, to take pleasure in, to have affection for (Hosea 3:1, 11:1). God delights in us. He finds pleasure in us. He enjoys us. “But you will be called Hephzibah….for the Lord will take delight in you” (Isaiah 62:4). We are God’s favorite. We are pleasing in the Father’s eyes. For the Lord takes pleasure in his people (Psalm 18:19).

Hesed is the Hebrew word for God’s covenant love (Hosea 2:19; 6:6). Sometimes the word is translated as unfailing love or mercy. It is love that is enduring, not just a momentary decision. It is generous, in excess, outrageous, unrestrained, going beyond what can be expected. Hesed is God’s unconditional, merciful love which has no one else in mind. Hesed occurs 250 times in the Old Testament; it is the equivalent of the New Testament Greek word, charis (Ephesians 1:6).

The most familiar biblical word for love that we all know is agape. Agape is willing good for the person we love. I memorized the best description of this love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient (suffers long) and kind; it is not jealous, does not envy, does not boast; love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way (having the last word) ,it is not irritable (easily angered) or resentful (keep a record of wrongs). Love does not rejoice in the wrong but rejoices in the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails, never gives up, love never runs out on me.” The love described in this passage is not about me, it is about God’s agape love. The central point is that love is at the core of our life together. It is God’s love-his perfect and unfailing love-that is being described. We could insert the word “God” for the word love. “God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast. God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.”

I continue to study God’s love. Sometimes when the Yankees lose I confess the sin of schadenfruede, which is a German word which means “rejoicing in the suffering of others.” Love is not jealous, which is the fear that I am going to miss out. There is an acronym for this fear that many are experiencing: FOMO, “fear of missing out.” Or I may fear I am not going to get what I deserve. Envy is anger at others for the attention or success they have that I want. I may be envious of the attention or love someone is giving to others instead of me.

Study and learn how to love our neighbor.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” My neighbor is the one in front of me or sitting beside me. My neighbor is not the whole world-God loves the whole world. There are specific ways to minister healing love for different kinds of needs. For those who are going through overwhelming suffering we may be led by Holy Spirit to imitate Job’s friends. They sat in silence for seven days showing deep respect and honor for Job and his suffering. We love by not giving snappy explanations for suffering. We live with mystery and no answers to our “Why?” God tells Job, who wants an explanation for all of his troubles, “You wouldn’t understand.” Jesus teaches that everyone suffers, goes through tribulation. Anne Lamott writes in her book on prayer, Help,Thank You,Wow, “Life is like chutes and ladders.” Remember when you played “Candyland” as a child? We are climbing ladders, getting closer to the end and winning the game. Then we land on a “chute” space and slide backwards, sometimes all the way back to the beginning. We are forced to start again from where we landed.

Experience receiving and giving love in community.

We first learn love in the community of our families. This does not happen for everyone. I am thankful that followers of Jesus have a loving community, especially small groups, in which to learn love. We practice loving through laying hands on a person. Fifteen of Jesus’ healings included touch. I enjoy teaching on hugs by giving names to identify several different ways of hugging. You might have a favorite to add to this list: hand shake, buddy hug (arms around each other at above the belt), burp (patting backs), back rub (rubbing backs), cheek to cheek, full embrace (bear hug), holding a person, knuckle (bump), group, pew hug (leaning over a pew like an A-frame). I recommend the YouTube Video called, “Free Hugs-Italy” accompanied by the sound track, “Hallelujah.” Whenever I use this video to teach on loving through hugs, I invite everyone to identify the different kinds of hugs as they watch. When someone is suffering the pain of loss, I often hold them a little longer when I hug them. That is when the tears start to flow. I often say, “I love you!” but not much more.

Worship.

Worship is focusing on the vision of the greatness, goodness and love of God. One morning recently I spontaneously started singing, “Jesus Thou art all compassion, pure abounded love Thou art” from the hymn, “Love Divine.” God’s loving, manifested presence touched my body, which responded with tears as I was singing this worship song to Jesus (not just about Jesus). My favorite worship song is, “One Thing Remains:” “Higher than the mountains that I face, Stronger than the power of the grave, Constant through the trial and the change, one thing remains. Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” I enjoy lifting my arms as high as possible during worship. The Hebrew words for praise and worship in the Psalms include using our bodies. I break passivity and I open my heart to receive and express love to God. Sometimes worshiping Jesus and praying includes the physical expression of tears like Jesus had: “While he was on earth Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears to God. … God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting obedience through what he suffered, just as we do (Hebrews 5:7-8, MSG). Sometimes I believe I have the gift of tears. Spurgeon called praying with tears “liquid prayer.” Jesus learned obedience. I will often say, “I am learning with Jesus” to trust that our dear Father is always near. This frees me from focusing on my performance in loving.

Practice humility.

“Humility is being occupied with God instead of being occupied with self.” Andrew Murray

Humility is a grace connection. Here are a few ways to practice humility from Jeremy Taylor’s “19 Rules on Humility.”

Humility is not about criticizing myself, but about being realistic about myself.
Exposing others’ weaknesses is not caring.
I don’t need to congratulate myself when I do things better than others.
I can be thankful for my weaknesses, faults and imperfections because they help me see that we are all human.
I can be content when others do well even if I don’t. I personally say this to be free of envy.

Eliminate hurry in my life.

It is impossible to love in a hurry. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is the one thing hurried people do not have. I practice not being in a hurry whenever I drive in the slow lane.

Use humor.

Laughter releases the joy and freedom to be real, which is really good for receiving and giving love. I enjoy including jokes whenever I teach because it helps disarm legalism-focusing on my goodness in order to qualify myself to receive God’s love. The Carmelite nun, Teresa of Avila, embraced an earthy spirituality that was free of pious pretense. A story is told that she was sitting in a privy with a prayer book in one hand and a cinnamon roll in the other. The devil appeared to her and was scandalized at her irreverence so he sanctimoniously reprimanded her. Teresa responded, “The sweet roll is for me, the prayers are for God, and the rest is for you.”
Here are a couple of jokes to make your day:

*For all my Country Music friends: “My toe is broken. My car is broken down. A lifetime of country music has prepared me for this.”

*For everyone who is waiting to hear another story about my Norwegian friends, Ole and Lena told their friend, Sven, that they had been married for 30 years. Sven asked Ole if he had done anything to celebrate with Lena, and Ole said that sounded like a good idea, so he took Lena to Norway. Five years later Sven suggested that Ole find another way to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Ole said that sounded like a good idea, so he went back to Norway, picked up Lena and brought her home.

Embrace my purpose or destiny in life-be a lover of God and love the one in front of me.

Agnes Sanford uses the phrase “sealed orders” to describe God’s destiny, plans and purpose for our life. These are not orders like you would receive as a soldier-it is our way of being in the world, loving and being loved. The Apostle Paul teaches that God has wonderful plans for our life and good works that he has prepared for us to walk in even before we were born: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10, NLT). I invite you to use your imagination as a way to be with Jesus and listen to what he wants you to know about your way of receiving and giving love. Joan of Arc was reprimanded for saying she was hearing God’s voice. Her accusers told her this was not God speaking, it was just her imagination. She responded, “That is the way God speaks to me, through my imagination.” Use your imagination to be with Jesus in heaven before you were born, and listen to him tell you his wonderful plans for your life. What is the song he is singing over you? What is your response to what Jesus is saying? Enjoy being with Jesus and hearing his dreams for you.
This is my prayer for you: “May the Master pour on you God’s love so it fills your life and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you” (1Thessalonians 3:12, The Message). I pray that when others bump into you and me, God’s love splashes on them.

Joe Johnson is the founder and director of Heart of the Father Ministries located in Laguna Woods, California. Joe travels internationally teaching on healing, spiritual formation, freedom, and the Father’s love… To contact Joe: pastorjoejohnson@gmail.com

© 2013 by Lutheran Renewal
This article may be freely distributed but not altered.

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Increasing and Abounding in Love

Increasing and Abounding in Love,
Dr Joe Johnson, Heart of the Father Ministry, 657 Avenida Sevilla Unit C, Laguna Woods, CA 92637, pastorjoejohnson@gmail.com

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” (1 Thess 3:12).

What is your life message? What are you pursuing in life? If you created a bumper sticker for your life message what would it be? One person wrote, “Fishing is my life”. When you signed up on Facebook what did you say was your religious view? My daughter Anne wrote, “Loving my neighbor (yes that neighbor).” I wrote, “Loving Jesus and the person in front of me.” (I first heard this spoken by Heidi Baker). Jesus commanded us love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as we love ourselves….to love one another as He loved us (Mark 12:30-31, John 13;34). Paul encourages us to pursue love. and clothe ourselves with compassion and love. He prays that we may have our roots and foundation in love so we may have power to understand how wide and long, how high and deep is Christ’s love, yes may you come to know his love although it can never be fully known (Cor. 14:1 Colossians 3:12, 14, Ephesians 3:17-18).

Dallas Willard taught me that transformation happens best when we use the VIM model. VIM is an acronym for Vision, Intention and Means. If we lose our way in following Jesus, pastoring or in any area of our life, we may need to revisit our vision. I use the VIM method to increase and abound in love.

VISION: Increasing and Abounding in Love

I am created in God’s image to be a lover. Misty Edwards sings the vision, “God is a lover looking for a lover.” God is love and it is possible for me to love like God loves. This is because the kingdom of the heavens is here, within reach,available. I focus on becoming the kind of person on the inside who loves like Jesus loves. We change from the inside out! Jesus’ character includes the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Jesus’ love has captured my heart. Jesus oves me every part of me. He loves me in my weakness. I love the One who loves me. I would like my legacy to be, “Joe really loved Jesus.” Apostle John described himself “I am the one Jesus loves”. Sometimes I enjoy skipping as a way of celebrating this affirmation. I am learning to skip again with my three year old granddaughter, Camille Hoang at Disneyland.

The order of the kingdom is clear: we are first loved by God, then we extend that love to others. The order is important because the love we extend to our neighbor is the same love we receive from God. We love because God loves us first. This is not just an historical event that happened once but happens every day, every moment of my life. Soren Kierkegaard’s prayer teaches this truth,

You have loved us first o God! Alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing. You have loved us first many times and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You—You are the first—You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me. You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You. You are the first and thus forever, and yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once.

If I pray to God, “I love you!” I need to add one word to this prayer, “I love you too!” The Apostle John spoke Jesus’ message to the church of Ephesus, “Return to your “first love” which you have forsaken”(Revelation 2:4). I believe that “first love” is not my love for God but God’s love for me. In worship I give back to God the love He has already given to me. I pray this vision, “Holy Spirit pour the love of God into my way of being in the world so I am overwhelmed with this amazing love of God.”(Romans 5;5).

INTENTION; I choose to receive and give love.
I decided I am going to learn how love as Jesus would love if He were in my place. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all kinds of people (Matthew 28:18-20). The Greek word, mathetes, means learner. An apprentice is a person who hangs out with Jesus so I can be like Him and do what He does. I have decided to be the kind of person that easily receives and gives love. Receiving love is a way of loving. We do not slide into becoming a disciple. Our choice is of central importance. I do not slide into becoming a person who loves like Jesus. I decide to do this. I decided to examine what motivates my behavior to see if it is done in love. Paul encourages me to do this in 1 Corinthians 13 where he writes that if I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not love I am noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, I am a gong show, that is all it is. If I have the gift of prophesy, understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I have faith to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions and surrender my body to the flames as a martyr, but have not love, I profit nothing.
MEANS are practices and training exercises through which God transforms our heart (will, spirit), mind (thoughts and feelings), body (strength, habits), social relationships and soul to enable us to increase and abound in love. Whatever Holy Spirit is stirring in our hearts are the best ones for us. Here are a few of the “means” that I have chosen this past year.

Study the meaning of love.

One form of love is compassion. Compassion is experiencing a heart of tenderness and mercy for someone. The Hebrew word for compassion is racham. “Can a woman forget her nursing child and not have compassion (racham) on the son of her womb,”(Isaiah 49:15). When Jesus saw the huge crowd he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.(Mark 6:34). The Greek verb translated here as “compassion” means, literally, “his guts were moved” (splagchnizomai). We would say that his heart was profoundly moved. When Jesus sees you and me his heart is profoundly moved. We receive his heart of compassion for the sheep who are without a shepherd– the lost, the lonely, the least,the little ones. Compassion is the word used to describe the running father’s love in the parable of the prodigal son, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion” (Luke 15:20). The love of God includes mother (feminine) love as well as father (masculine) love. In Jesus Christ there is all strength and all tenderness.

Another Hebrew word to describe God’s love is ahab,,which means delight in being with us, to like, to take pleasure in, have affection for (Hosea 3:1, 11:1). God delights in us. He finds pleasure in us. He enjoys us. “But you will be called Hephzibah….for the Lord will take delight in you” (Isaiah 62:4). We are God’s favorite. We are pleasing in the Father’s eyes. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people (Psalm 18:19).

Hesed is the Hebrew word for God’s covenant love (Hosea 2;19; 6:6). Sometimes the word is translated as unfailing love or mercy. It is love that is enduring, not just a momentary decision. It is generous, in excess, outrageous, unrestrained, going beyond what can be expected. Hesed is God’s unconditional, merciful love, which has no one else in mind. Hesed occurs 250 times in the Old Testament; it is the equivalent of the New Testament Greek, charis (Eph. 1:6).

The most familiar biblical word for love we all know is agape. Agape is willing good for the person we love. I memorized the best description of this love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient (suffers long) and kind; it is not jealous, does not envy, does not boast; love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way (having the last word) ,it is not irritable (easily angered) or resentful (keep a record of wrongs). Love does not rejoice in the wrong but rejoices in the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails, never gives up, love never runs out on me. The love described in this passage is not about me, it is about God’s agape love. The central point is that love is at the core of our life together. It is God’s love — perfect and unfailing love — that is being described. We could insert God for the word love. “God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast. God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

I continue to study God’s love. Sometimes when the Yankees lose I confess the sin of “schadenfruede” which is a German word which means “rejoicing in the suffering of others”. Love is not jealous. which is the fear I am going to miss out. There is an acronym for this fear which many are experiencing,FOMO,“fear of missing out”. Or I may fear I am not going to get what I deserve. Envy is anger at others for the attention or success they have that I want. I may be envious of the attention or love someone is giving to others instead of me.

Study and learn how to love our neighbor.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” My neighbor is the one in front of me or sitting beside me. Our neighbor is not the whole world. God loves the whole world. There are specific ways to minister healing love for different kinds of needs. For those who are going through overwhelming suffering we may be led by Holy Spirit to imitate Job’s friends. They sat in silence for seven days showing deep respect and honor for Job and his suffering. We love by not giving snappy explanations for suffering. We live with mystery and no answers to our “Why?” God tells Job who wants an explanation for all his troubles, “You wouldn’t understand.” Jesus teaches that everyone suffers, goes through tribulation. Anne Lamott writes in her book on prayer, ‘Help,Thank You,Wow, “Life is like chutes and ladders.” Remember when you played Candyland? We are climbing ladders getting closer to the end and winning the game and we land on a “chute” space and slide backwards and start again from where we landed, sometimes all the way back to the beginning.

3. Experience receiving and giving love in community.

We first learn love in community of our families. This does not happen for everyone. I am thankful that followers of Jesus have a loving community, especially small groups, to learn love. We practice loving through laying hands on a person. Fifteen of Jesus’ healings include touch. I enjoy teaching on hugs, giving names to identify different ways of hugging. You might have a favorite to add to this list: hand shake, buddy hug (arms around each other at above the belt), burp (patting backs), back rub (rubbing backs), cheek to cheek, full embrace (bear hug), holding a person, knuckle(bump), group, pew hug (leaning over a pew like an A-frame). I recommend the YouTube Video, “Free Hugs-Italy” with the sound track,”Hallelujah”. Whenever I am use this video to teach on loving through hugs I invite everyone to identify the different kinds of hugs as they watch it. When someone is suffering the pain of loss I often hold them a little longer when I hug them. That is when the tears start to flow. I often say, “I love you!” but not much more.

4. Worship:

Worship is focusing on the vision of the greatness, goodness, and love of God. One morning recently I spontaneously started singing “Jesus Thou art all compassion, pure abounded love Thou art” from the hymn Love Divine. God’s loving manifest presence touched my body which responded with tears as I was singing this worship song to Jesus (not about Jesus), My favorite worship song is “One Thing Remains”. “Higher than the mountains that I face. Stronger than the power of the grave. Constant through the trial and the change one thing remains. Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” I enjoy lifting my arms as high as possible during worship. The words in Hebrew in the Psalm for praise and worship include using our bodies. I break passivity and I open my heart to receive and express love to God. Sometimes worshiping Jesus and praying includes the physical expression of tears like Jesus did. “While he was on earth Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears to God. … God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting obedience through what he suffered, just as we do (Hebrews 5:7-8, MSG). Sometimes I believe I have the gift of tears. Spurgeon called praying with tears, liquid prayer. Jesus learned obedience. I will often say, “I am learning with Jesus” to trust our dear Father always near. This frees me from focusing on my performance in loving.

Practice humility, “Humility is being occupied with God instead of being occupied with self.”Andrew Murray

Humility is a grace connection. Here are a few ways practice humility from Jeremy Taylor’s “19 Rules on Humility”
Humility is not about criticizing myself, but about being realistic about myself.
Exposing others’ weaknesses is not caring.
I don’t need to congratulate myself when I do things better than others.
I can be thankful for my weaknesses, faults and imperfections because they help me see that we are all human.
I can be content when others do well, even if I don’t. I personally say this to be free of envy.

6. Eliminate hurry in my life. It is impossible to love in a hurry. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is the one thing hurried people do not have. I practice not being in a hurry whenever I drive in the slow lane.

Humor
Laughter releases joy and freedom to be real which is really good for receiving and giving love. I enjoy including jokes whenever I teach because it helps disarm legalism–focusing on my goodness to qualify me to receive God’s love. The Carmelite nun,Teresa of Avila, embraced an earthy spirituality free of pious pretense. A story is told that she is sitting in a privy with a prayer book in one hand and a cinnamon roll in the other. The devil appears to her, scandalized at her irreverence. He sanctimoniously reprimands her. She responds, “The sweet roll is for me, the prayers are for God, and the rest is for you.”
A couple of jokes to make your day:
….for all my Country Music friends, “My toe is broken. My car is broken down. A lifetime of country music has prepared me for this.”
…for everyone who is waiting to hear another story about my Norwegian friends. Ole and Lena told their friend Sven they had been married 30 years. Sven asked Ole if he had done anything to celebrate with Lena and Ole said that sounds like a good idea so he took Lena to Norway. Five years later Sven suggested Ole find another way to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Ole said that sounds like a good idea so he went back to Norway and picked up Lena and brought her home.

8. Embrace my purpose or destiny in life to be a lover of God and love the one in front of me.

Agnes Sanford uses the phrase, sealed orders to describe God’s destiny, plans and purpose for our life. These are not orders like you would receive as a soldier. It is our way of being in the world, loving and being loved. The Apostle Paul teaches that God has wonderful plans for our life, good works he has prepared before we were born for us to walk in “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10, NLT).  I invite you to use your imagination to be with Jesus and listen to what He wants you to know about  your way of receiving and giving love.  Joan of Arc was reprimanded for saying she  was hearing God’s voice.  Her accusers told her this was not God speaking, it was just her imagination.  She responded, “That is the way God speaks to me, through my imagination.”   Use your imagination to be with Jesus  in heaven before you were born and listen to Jesus tell you his wonderful plans for your life.  What is the song He is singing over you? What is your response to what Jesus? Enjoy being with Jesus and hearing his dreams for you.

I pray this for you, “May the Master pour on you God’s love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you” (1Thess 3:12, The Message). I pray that when others bump into you and me God’s love splashes on them.

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Repetition Compulsion

“As the Jews were called by Moses to escape from the country of Egypt, to follow him in the dark night, to cross the Red Sea, so also is each individual brought into the wilderness, where a new period begins. He is free, but not yet enjoying the glory of the promised land, because he has taken with him, out of the land of Egypt, the soul of a slave, the habits of a slave, the temptations of a slave; and the education of a free man takes infinitely more time than the discovery of his enslavement. The spirit of slavery remains very close, and its standards are still there and very potent: a slave has somewhere to rest his head, a slave is assured of food, a slave has a social standing, however low, he is secure because his master is responsible for him. So to be a slave, however painful, humiliating and distressing the situation, is also a form of security, while to become a free person is a state of utter insecurity; we take our destiny into our own hands and it is only when our freedom is rooted in God that we become secure in a new way, and a very different one.” (Bloom, Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer). One form of “slavery” is “repetition compulsion” which is an unconscious defense mechanism Freud defined as “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.” We unconsciously are compelled to repeat what happened to us in our childhood, expecting others to treat us in the same way we were treated growing up. We may do this to validate that it was real or because we expect it. Jesus taught this in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not judge you will bring upon yourself whatever judgements you make”. In my life I have placed myself in situations where someone close to me will abandon me like my father did.

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Reflecting on my 70th Birthday

I received 70  comments and 139 Likes on the Facebook post. on May 24, 2013 so thought I would include it in my blog. 
Seventy years ago May 24 my mother gave birth to a son at the age of 42. She prayed for me in the womb sensing that God had a call on my life. I was the first of 8 children to be born in a hospital–in Alberta Lea, Minnesota. Mom had a girl’s name she had chosen for me, “Priscilla Margarite”. My Dad picked a name while driving to the hospital, Joseph James. My mother lived to be 101 years old. Her best years were the last 30. Mom and Dad brought me to Salem Lutheran Curch, Lake Mills, Iowa to be baptized into the reality and presence of Jesus, Holy Spirit and Father when I was six weeks old, July 4, 1943. In 1962 I received the baptism of Holy Spirit which overwhlemed me with God’s manifest love, power, and presence. Dad was a very successful Watkins salesman. with an 8th grade education. He moved the family to Canton, South Dakota when I was 3 so all 8 children could attend Augustana Academy, a Lutheran High School and he became the business manager. I attended a Lutheran High School, Concorda College, Lutheran Bible School, Lutheran Seminary and was intern pastor for 2 years in Oslo, Norway(Lutheran Holy Land). When I met John Wimber studying for the Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Seminary I embraced my identiy as a disciple of Jesus living in the kingdom of the heavens. My dissertation was, “Making Disciples who do Jesus’ Ministry”. This photo of Mom was taken at her 100th birthday party. She really loved Jesus and pastors. A week before she died she told me, “Joey, be sure to take one day off a week and don’t think once about the church.” During the last fifteen years of her life I would call her every Wednesday and she would pray over me in tongues and then give the interpretation as a prophecy. I believe the next 30+ years will be the best years of my life.
Photo: Seventy years ago May 24 my mother gave birth to a son at the age of 42.  She prayed for me in the womb sensing that God had a call on my life.  I was the first of 8 children to be born in a hospital--in Alberta Lea, Minnesota. Mom had a girl's name she had chosen for me, "Priscilla Margarite".  My Dad picked a name while driving to the hospital, Joseph James.  My mother lived to be 101 years old. Her best years were the last 30.   Mom and Dad brought me to Salem Lutheran Curch, Lake Mills, Iowa to be baptized into the reality and presence of Jesus, Holy Spirit and Father when I was six weeks old, July 4, 1943.  In 1962 I received the baptism of Holy Spirit which overwhlemed me with God's manifest love, power, and presence. Dad was a very successful Watkins salesman. with an 8th grade education. He moved the family to Canton, South Dakota when I was 3 so all 8 children could attend Augustana Academy, a Lutheran High School and he became the business manager.  I attended a Lutheran High School, Concorda College, Lutheran Bible School, Lutheran Seminary and was intern pastor for 2 years in Oslo, Norway(Lutheran Holy Land).  When I met John Wimber studying for the Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Seminary I embraced my identiy as a disciple of Jesus living in the kingdom of the heavens.   My dissertation was, "Making Disciples who do Jesus' Ministry".  This photo of Mom was taken at her 100th birthday party. She really loved Jesus and pastors.  A week before she died she told me, "Joey, be sure to take one day off a week and don't think once about the church."  During the last fifteen years of her life I would call her every Wednesday and she would pray over me in tongues and then give the interpretation as a prophecy.   I believe the next 30+ years will be the best years of my life.
13970

 

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Sealed Orders and Sacred Wound

Sealed Orders and Sacred Wound

 Agnes Sanford uses the phrase, sealed orders to describe God’s destiny, plans and purpose for our lives.. These are not orders like you would receive as a soldier. It is our way of being in the world,, our way of being loving and being loved. The Apostle Paul  teaches that God has wonderful plans for our life, good works he has prepared before we were born for us to walk in (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10).  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT). 

 I invite you to use your imagination to be with Jesus and listen to what He wants you to know about  your  sealed orders.  Joan of Arc was reprimanded for saying she  was hearing God’s voice.  They told her it was not God speaking, it was just her imagination.  She responded, “That is the way God speaks to me, through my imagination.”   Use your imagination to be with Jesus  in heaven before you were born and listen to Jesus tell you his wonderful plans for your life.  What is the song He is singing over your life?   What is your response to what Jesus is saying or singing over you? My guess is you may be excited, happy, or saying,”Wow!   I imagine that Jesus asks you a question, “In order for you to fulfill my dreams for you (sealed orders) you will go through suffering or testing. Is that okay with you?”  What do you answer? 

 When we ask Jesus to  heal our pain He redeems the suffering so that it become a sacred wound.   All of us are wounded or experience suffering.  Richard Rohr defines suffering as “whenever you are not in control.”  When I suffer the wound, I go through the pain with Jesus and receive healing it becomes a sacred wound. My gifts of being a loving pastor come out of my sacred wound of losing my father who died when I was seven.   

 

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Lord of Macroni

Wonderful story of Abu Jaz,” a key leader in a movement that describes itself as the People of the Gospel. This group represents several thousand Muslims in eastern Africa who have converted to faith in Christ during the past decade, but who have remained in their Muslim communities. Abu Jaz started following Isa al Masih (“Jesus the Messiah”) as the Savior 18 years ago.
“One night the only food my wife and I had was a small portion of macaroni. My wife prepared it very nicely. Then one of her friends knocked on the door. I told myself, The macaroni is not sufficient for even the two of us, so how will it be enough for three of us? But because we have no other custom, we opened the door, and she came in to eat with us. While we were eating, the macaroni started to multiply; it became full in the bowl. I suspected that something was wrong with my eyes, so I started rubbing them. I thought maybe my wife hid some macaroni under the small table, so I checked, but there was nothing. My wife and I looked at each other, but because the guest was there we said nothing. Afterward I lay down on the bed, and as I slept, Isa came to me and asked me, “Do you know who multiplied the macaroni?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I am Isa al Masih. If you follow me, not only the macaroni but your life will be multiplied.” He didn’t tell me that he was God; he didn’t tell me that he died on behalf of me; he didn’t say, “I am the Son of God.” He didn’t talk to me about any complicated theological issues. He only told me that if I followed him, he would multiply my life. At that time, I was very happy if he only multiplied the macaroni like he did that day. I didn’t understand what he meant when he said that my life would be multiplied. Now I understand what that means. But at that time, I accepted him simply as the “lord of macaroni.” (Christianity Today, Jan-Feb, 2013)

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