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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Learning to Dance with the Trinity

Learning to Dance with the Trinity
by Joe Johnson

For as long as I can remember I have loved Jesus. I remember as a five year old doing “devotions” along a creek in Canton, South Dakota thinking, “If Jesus was on the other side I would walk on the water to be with Him.”

I have wanted to follow Jesus for as long as I can remember. I attended church every Sunday, and then chapel daily as a high school student at Augustana Academy. I attended daily chapel as a college student at Concordia, LBI (Lutheran Bible Institute), and Luther Seminary. The Gospel I heard proclaimed could be summarized briefly as, “Jesus suffered for my sins so I don’t have to suffer for my sins and could go to heaven fully forgiven.”

In 1983 I decided to pursue a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Seminary so I could study healing with John Wimber. Along with the Gospel of forgiveness, we learned that Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom, which He demonstrated in signs and wonders. Jesus taught the meaning of the kingdom of the heavens to His students and gave them authority and power to do what He did. John Wimber modeled this and equipped us to do it. The theme of my dissertation was, “Making Disciples Who Do Jesus’ Ministry.”

In 2009 I attended the Fuller “Spirituality and Ministry” Doctor of Ministry course taught by Dallas Willard* for two weeks at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. I stepped into the Holy Spirit stream of spiritual formation. I decided to learn with Jesus how to live my life as He would lead it if He were me. How blessed I am to be enjoying this ride in the Kingdom of the heavens. This is not the heaven we enjoy when we die—it has to do with reigning now today, whenever we participate in what God is doing with us and others.

The V.I.M. (and vigor) model helps me live in the kingdom of the heavens with Jesus. V.I.M. is an acronym for “vision, intention and means.”

Vision: The kingdom of the heavens is available now, enabling us to be 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.

So here’s what I want you to do with God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out (Romans 12:1 The Message).

Intention: I decide to become an apprentice or student of the Master Teacher. 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.

Means: God desires to transform us. We cannot transform ourselves, but we can change on the inside through soul training exercises or disciplines of the Holy Spirit. We practice holy habits like solitude, silence, prayer, submission, worship, celebration, fellowship, giving, sleep (eight hours), margins, memorization of Scripture, fasting, sacrifice, frugality, and study. We do this in community, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Without Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5), and this is absolutely true. However, it is also true that if we do nothing, it will assuredly be without Jesus. Grace is not opposed to effort—it is opposed to “earning.” Grace is not just for guilt but for life. Grace is more than unmerited favor—it is God acting in my life to do what I cannot accomplish on my own.

“We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We experience an interactive, transforming friendship with each member of the Trinity. “Our fellowship is with the Father… he is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord… And we know he lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us” (1 John 1:3b, 1 Corinthians 1:9b, 1 John 3:24b NLT).

I grew up believing that dancing and going to movies in theaters were among the worst sins. When I was a student at Concordia College (not LCMS), we were not allowed to dance. Square Dancing was acceptable, but we still called it “Square Gaming.” We didn’t use the “d” word. We joked that premarital sex was specifically forbidden because it might lead to dancing.

It does seem a bit surprising to me that I am now learning to dance with the Trinity. There is even a Greek word for it, perichoresis, which actually means mutual indwelling. Each person of the Trinity brags about the other two as the best dancers and lovers. I am happy to dance with Jesus, the lover of my soul, and the Holy Spirit, joy giver and perhaps the best dancer, and with Abba Father, who can’t keep His eyes off me and is especially fond of me. Each one finds me wherever I am and asks me if I want to dance. Each one is my best friend.

Another biblical word for dancing is “rejoice.” It means doing a pirouette. My best dance is jumping up and down, like a kid. I practiced skipping recently but my body said, “You have to be kidding.” I think I will stay with dancing with the Trinity.

When we dance, we embrace each person of the Trinity. We receive Jesus by saying, “Yes, Lord” and deciding to be His apprentice in order to be like Him. The resurrected Jesus speaks to His students and to us, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Receiving (lambano in Greek) means to take with both hands. “Take hold of eternal living to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). We are not passive. Luke writes, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

We receive Abba Father’s love by receiving our inheritance as adopted sons and daughtersIn the parable of the running father we read, “The father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger.” Once the boy put it on, it signified that his position as a son had been restored. The ring is a symbol of the priceless gift of adoption or sonship. It is a reminder that  we are not just forgiven (the robe), but we are family (the ring) and we are free (the shoes). We pray, “I receive the ring, Father!” and thereby receive our inheritance and affirm our identity as His beloved sons or daughters.

St. Ignatius teaches in the Examen a spiritual exercise that is my favorite. I list 10 blessings for which I am grateful—recent encounters with God’s love, thin places (God’s manifest presence), people who are champions/mentors for me, etc. I also include simple things like Starbucks coffee, birds singing and laughter. St. Ignatius invites me to also list 10 things for which I am not grateful—this helps me surrender them to God. Often we end up being grateful for God’s mercy and grace in the midst of the “storm” or suffering.

Submission is a spiritual discipline that enables us to abandon outcomes to Abba Father like Jesus did. Listening is one of the most basic ways we submit to each other. As I clear away what’s going on in my mind and follow what others are saying, I “die” to my own desires and “live” to theirs. Experiment practicing situational silence in small increments:

  • Not interrupting.
  • Not having the last word—not one-upping them or defending myself.
  • Silencing my mind—not thinking about my reply.
  • Not giving my opinion unless it is requested.

I pray this prayer often: “Abba Father, thank you for adopting me as your son. Jesus, thank you for revealing to me a daddy’s love and for teaching me how to live in the kingdom. Holy Spirit, thank you for enabling me to place my confidence in Jesus and to cry, “Abba, Father” loudly and with deep emotion (krazomen). Holy Spirit, you are my strengthener, helper, counselor, comforter, sustainer and best friend!”

Experiment with praying one-word prayers: “Father,” “Jesus,” “Holy Spirit.” Wait a few minutes after naming each person of the Trinity and expect to experience God’s manifest presence and love.

*In Dallas Willard’s class he gave us permission to use anything he has written or spoken without footnoting. Those who are familiar with his teaching will hear Dallas’ voice in this article.

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


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Challenging Words Accompanied with Love

I am enjoying preparing for a sermon I am preaching at NHLC in Roseville, MN, Nov. 10-11. My assigned text for the series, “Words with Friends.” is Mark 10:17-22. Different sermon themes are words of honesty, confession, encouragement, and challenge(my assignment). The story of Jesus’ love encounter with the rich young ruler includes one of my favorite Bible verses “Jesus looked at him with love (agape”). This is how I want to interact with people, to look them in the eye intently with love. Jesus words may include a challenge to help us connect to our hearts. He wants the young man to realize that he is trusting in his riches to save him or for his identity. When Jesus looks at us he is never mad at us. He may be angry at abuse we have experienced (e.g. cleansing the temple). Jesus always abandoned outcomes to Father so he is free to release the young man and let him go without getting him to change. He does not push to get his way. I am thankful for friends who challenge me with words accompanied with love.

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Returning to First Love, God’s Love for US

“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 should 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.” Soren Kirkegaard, Danish theologian. In Revelation we are challenged to return to our first love which we have stopped experiencing. I believe that first love is not my love for God but God’s love for me.

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Healing in our dreams

Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14. I believe it is possible not to sin. We do not slide into holiness or being a disciple. We need a VISION of life in the kingdom of the heavens, INTEND (DECIDE) to learn how to live in the kingdom, and practice soul training exercises (MEANS–VIM). We sin to cover our shame. To be free from sin.  Ialso need Jesus’ healing of all the stuff in my unconscious mind and healing for my broken soul. The conscious mind is the size of a pea, the unconscious is the size of a watermelon. Dreams provide a storehouse of information held in the unconscious. Before I go to sleep I ask Jesus to speak to me in my dreams and help me to remember them. “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel, in the night also my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7). Everyone dreams. The more we pay attention to our dreams the easier it is to remember them. I keep my eyes closed when I wake up which helps me stay with the dream and write the dream in my journal. Judy often helps me understand the meaning of the dream. It is important to recall the events in my life the day before. God has created us to be unceasing creative spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in this wonderful universe. Enjoy the ride!
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During our Grace HB Prayer Gathering I invited everyone to share a “sphere of faith” where they experience God’s grace (power) and confidence in Jesus expecting our prayers to be answered. One sphere of faith for me is praying for someone to receive Jesus’ love and healing in a painful memory.  One person named her family as her sphere of faith.  She memorized a prayer from Richard Foster’s book “Prayer-Finding the Heart’s True Home” which she prays every day, “By the authority of almighty God I surround _______ with the light of Christ, I cover _______ with the blood of Christ, and I seal ________ with the cross of Christ. All dark and evil spirits must now leave. No influence is allowed to come near to _________but that it is first filtered through the light of Jesus Christ in whose name I pray. Amen.” What is your sphere of faith?

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Welcome Home!

When I was pastoring in the AZ White Mountains we placed a large sign above the outside doors going into the sanctuary, “Welcome Home!”  Visitors often shared that these words connected their hearts to God’s loving presence and  their bodies responded with tears.   The first words I enjoying speaking to begin Sunday worship are “Welcome home!”  In Jesus’ parable the father sees his his son a long distance away returning from the far country.  When he sees his son his heart is filled with compassion.  He runs to him,  throws his arms around him and kisses him.     My heart longs to be wanted and experience belonging and the  warm affection of someone glad to see me and be with me.      Home is where we belong and experience intimacy with Jesus, Holy Spirit and Abba Father.  We need others to speak these words  from God, “Welcome home my beloved!”

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Healing Depression

Mark 2, Then some men came, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them….. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven…..get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked.” When I pray with someone suffering from depression I often say to them, “I will believe for you.” Depression is a loss of hope and confidence that my life counts, feeling like a part of me has stopped living, has died. I may ask, “When did the depression begin and what was happening in your life?” I may say I” can help you” and lift off them any pressure to perform or qualify to be healed. Each part of us needs to be restored and healed, heart (spirit and will), mind (thoughts and feelings), body, social relationships. We may need to forgive ourselves (helps to heal shame–something is wrong with me and anger towards ourselves). I am thankful for people in my life who carry me to Jesus through intercession and believe for me when I am weak in faith.

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Soul Training with Papa Joe

Yesterday Judy and I took our two year old granddaughter Camille Hoang to a playground. She tripped and bumped her side on the bench we were sitting on. Judy picked her up and held when she cried softly and look quite sad. After a few minutes she got down from Judy’s lap and walked about 10 feet and lied in the grass holding her teddy bear close. Camille has learned one way of returning to joy by calming her heart and comforting herself. We waited about five minutes until she was ready to play again. I too am learning how to return to joy when I get angry, afraid, sad, disgusted, ashamed or hopeless. Joy is a pervasive sense of well being. Joy is what I experience when someone is glad to be with me and wants to be together with me.

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What is Spiritual Formation? by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard “Spiritual formation is the process of transforming the person into Christlikeness through transforming the essential parts of the person:
the mind, heart, spirit, body and soul…Spiritual transformation is not about ‘behavior modification.’ It is about changing the sources [the “roots”] of behavior…and the behavior will take care of itself…When they are right, the whole person simply steps into the way of Christ, and lives there with joy and strength. It is not a struggle —one of the lies that goes out about the spiritual life is that it is hard. No, no, it’s not hard — it’s the easy way. What’s hard is the other way.” From the videos on the Dallas Willard Center website, click on the Knowing Christ Conference 2013. You can see and hear Dallas in person and receive the impartation of Jesus doing in his life what he teaches in this quote.

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