Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Warmest greetings to you from my heart and every member of our MPC ministry team. It's been inspiring this week to read your testimonies of the wonders God has worked as you've persevered with Him. The opening words of the epistle of James have echoed in my mind as you've shared about the joy you've found through stabilitas.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, NIV)
We're not lacking in trials - facing the pain that emerges with the healing of memories, enduring in work and relationships that involve suffering, answering the call to speak the truth in love where it seems unwelcome. I thank God for enabling us to cheer one another on in joy and confidence as we press ahead to completion.
I've written more this week about the importance of perseverance and pray that you'll be encouraged and empowered. We're also sharing another piece from Leanne's archives, as the call she made for intercessors 30 years ago is very much our need today. Our MPC team will be gathering (virtually, thanks to teleconference technology) for our monthly prayer meeting this week, and we will be praying for you. We need your prayers for us as well, that we would work with the steadfastness and obedience Leanne observed in Nehemiah. It is truly a fine gift and privilege to share this journey with you!
Yours in Christ,
Register now for one of three MPC schools to be held in 2015:
Registration for the Wheaton MPCS,to be held July 5-10, closes in one week!
Registration extended for the Portland MPCS which will be held September 13-18.Standard registration rates will be in effect through July 23, and late registration rates will be charged July 24 - August 23.
Registration underway for the Ticino MPCS, to be presented in English with Italian translation, October 18-23.
Call for Intercessors
By Leanne Payne
from her newsletter archives, November 1985
Since our last newsletter, several Christian leaders have come to us with a word they received from the Lord in regard to our need to ask for intercessors. One was awakened in the middle of the night to intercede for us, and was given visions of the battle we are in, especially in regard to ministering to persons with sexual neuroses. Another had a specific prophetic word that he spoke over the PCM team, a word to the effect that from this time on those persons called to intercede for this ministry will play an increasingly vital and even critical part in the work God has for us to do. Part of that word admonished us to:
Pray that an army of intercessors be raised up, and they will go before you, springing the snares and traps of the enemy.
In our last newsletter, we exhorted you to pray for the Gift of Battle
. You may want to go back and reread that part and follow through, if you haven't already, with the recommended reading and study, for we live in a time when, although the light of our God has grown brighter, the darkness has greatly thickened. C. S. Lewis observes this phenomena when, in his novel That Hideous Strength
, he puts this observation in the mouth of Dr. Dimble as he converses with his wife:
"Have you ever noticed that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point? . . . Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder. . . ."
Mother Dimble replies that all this reminds her
"more of the bit in the Bible about the winnowing fan. Separating the wheat and the chaff. Or like Browning's line: 'Life's business being just the terrible choice.'"
Surely the battle between good and evil is stepped up in this our day, and we are all
involved in it, making the "terrible choice" whether prepared or not. I have an idea that our choices are often affected by whether or not we have asked for and received the Gift of Battle, and by whether or not we've put on the full armor of God.
One of the big temptations is to leave the positive work of the Kingdom and go down to battle on the Enemy's own turf, one charged with his negatives, his accusations and lies. If he cannot distract us any other way, he would love to take up all our time trying to answer his charges. If you haven't read Nehemiah's story recently (chapters 1-6), you may want to, and, if involved in the work of the Lord at all, you'll likely need to. Nehemiah's enemies never stopped trying to interrupt his work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but he refused to leave the work and go down. His enemies sent this message:
"Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono." But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
After that his enemies began to slander him with all manner of malice and deceit. But God was with him, and the walls were rebuilt. Nehemiah was obedient to God, he was wise as to the enemies' tactics, and he ended up doing the "impossible" task.
We too are not to wrongfully strive with forces He has already defeated and whose time is limited, but we are to rejoice in His triumphal train. "But thanks be to God, who continually leads us about, captives in Christ's triumphal procession, and everywhere uses us to reveal and spread abroad the fragrance of the knowledge of Himself! We are indeed the incense offered by Christ to God, both for those who are on the way to salvation, and for those who are on the way to perdition. . . ." (2 Cor. 2:14).
Here is the triumphal picture, as Fr. Banks received it, in listening prayer. He had been meditating on 1 Corinthians 9:25: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
MASTER: The saints were great lovers. Love is creative energy. Their love for Me was drawn inward and upward until they became free to serve the Highest. These holy ones, these athletes (1 Cor. 9:25) of the Spirit, had their battles of course, but they triumphed not so much by any frantic striving with the forces of evil as by concentrating rather on the Sun of Righteousness. They absorbed the rays of My perennial light and heat, and so they literally transcended their lower selves and entered into oneness with the Divine.
From Banks, The Master and the Disciple
Nehemiah's enemies were those from outside the covenant, the people of God. All too often our main onslaughts come from within the Church itself. And when this is the case, we have to be so very careful. Christ's teaching on the wheat and the tares is apropos here. [See Matthew 13:36-43.] There are those today ignorantly and recklessly pulling up the wheat with the tares. Some who are doing this reckless pulling up of the wheat with the tares are themselves sowers of the bad seed: they are sowing fear and hatred (among other things) of the imagination, being ignorant of the true, and they are sowing fear and hatred of fellow Christians. They are slandering great servants of the Lord whose work and fruit of that work speaks for itself and needs no defense. They are also sowing the seeds of poor scholarship, poor theology, and poor psychology. This is, as those who have attended PCM Schools will realize, a predictable part of the "flight
from the feminine" [see also Crisis in Masculinity
]; the flight from the intuitive ways of knowing, and of hearing from God: all so important to the preaching, teaching, healing ministry of the Church.
Our Lord taught, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Barclay, in his commentary on Matthew 5:9, speaks to this word. First of all, it is in the loving, active facing of issues that we make peace; we can't evade issues and think we are peacemakers:
There is many a person who thinks that he is loving peace, when in fact he is piling up trouble for the future, because he refuses to face the situation and to take the action which the situation demands.
This making of peace requires our getting the mind of Christ, His love and wisdom replacing our incomplete knowledge and ignorance.
The Jewish Rabbis held that the highest task which a man can perform is to establish right relationships between man and man. That, says Barclay, is what Jesus means. There are, however, people who are always storm-centres of trouble and bitterness and strife. Wherever they are, they are either involved in quarrels themselves or the cause of quarrels of others. They are trouble-makers. . . . The man who divides men is doing the devil's work; the man who unites men is doing God's work. So then this beatitude might read:
O THE BLISS OF THOSE WHO PRODUCE RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MAN AND MAN, FOR THEY ARE DOING A GODLIKE WORK!
Lord, preserve us from fighting Your battle in our own strength. May we never pull up the precious wheat with the tares. May we triumph, not by frantic striving with the forces of evil, but by keeping our eyes securely fastened on You.
An intercessory prayer suggestion for those who have attended PCM conferences: Oswald Chambers reminds us: "The way fruit remains is by prayer." You have name lists of those persons who attended with you [perhaps this is a practice we should restart for MPC schools today!]. Pray that (1) the fruit of their healing remain and grow in them, (2) that they be sent forth as laborers into the Lord's harvest.
There will be those of you specifically called to intercede for this ministry. Please let us know if you are one of these and keep us informed of how you are led to pray, and of anything else the Lord lays on your heart to share with us.
Reprinted with permission, copyright ©1999-2013 by Pastoral Care Ministries, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
On Perseverance: to Become an Everlasting Splendor
I recently scanned the New York Times list of best-selling advice books and noticed a strong theme: results now. It's in our nature to want quick rewards for our efforts and swift gratification of our desires. Top-selling books offer a lifestyle makeover for health and weight loss in just 30 days, and de-cluttering that will magically transform your home in an instant. We are creatures who feel soothed and excited by the prospect of getting what we want right away. Perhaps you've seen a baby escalate from a mellow cry expressing her desire to be held or fed into a disintegrated wail if mother's response comes too slowly. This demand for immediate gratification and intolerance of waiting suits an infant who is rightly at the beginning of character development. But those who have heard the call to maturity in Christ must lift their eyes to a more thrilling horizon than "I want it now." We are called to become the men and women we truly are, those "everlasting splendors" who will live forever with our God, and we are called to help one another along in this becoming we call discipleship (Lewis, The Weight of Glory, p. 9).
A publisher might have a hard time selling many copies of a book with bright call-outs on the cover that promise: Slow results! Imperceptible gains! You'll see change years later! Yet wisdom points to the special worth of things that take time to grow, and surely our natural admiration of long-term endeavors is a gift from God: "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). While the world panders to our impatient impulses, the greatness of Christ's call stirs our hearts. The very fact that our Father asks something of us that will put meaning into every moment of a lifetime breathes on an ember deep within the soul. In Something Beautiful for God, Malcolm Muggeridge notes that so many were drawn to join Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity exactly because everything was asked of them. He laments how churches are turning to follow the world's marketing techniques, "directed toward softening the austerity of the service of Christ and reducing its hazards with a view of attracting people into it" (p. 52). True Christian leaders, taking their example from Christ Himself, inspire us to commitments that operate on the scale of eternity. Leanne's book Listening Prayer is one such inspiration, showing how to begin a daily practice of dialog with God that will only accumulate over weeks, months, years and decades into profound transformation of character and power in ministry.
Those of us recovering from addictions learn the value of committing to slow results. Patrick Carnes is a gifted researcher who has pioneered treatments that foster real healing from life-destroying sexual addictions. In his book, Recovery Start Kit he explains the commitment required for healing and the timeframe in which we can expect results: "The process takes ultimately three to five years before cravings cease to be a day-to-day problem." From the perspective of our flesh, this is an unappealing sales pitch: three to five years of strenuous daily submission to a program of recovery and a long wait for noticeable results. But through eyes illuminated by God's grace, we begin to look at time and commitment differently. What astonishingly good news: a person enslaved to impulses that threaten to destroy everything he or she holds dear can have hope of lasting recovery. What is five years to spare one's life, to save one's marriage, to deliver one's children from the generational damage of addiction? The consequences of addiction often bless us with a desperation that pushes us into such long-term commitment and delivers us from false hope in quick fixes. Surely every man and woman who seeks the kingdom of God needs this commitment to persevere.
For followers of Christ there is no higher calling than to submit ourselves to a process of transformation that has eternity as its horizon. In Christ-centered healing ministries such as MPC we certainly do see God accomplish deep healing in an instant. He is able to touch the earliest memories and most crippling wounds with His miraculous grace, and to cleanse the darkest stains with His redeeming blood. We want and need Him to do so, we rejoice in these miracles, and it is right for us to eagerly desire relief from our suffering. But Christian maturity also calls us to patiently wait on Him, to settle ourselves into a stability of purpose. Our eyes are lifted to God and His eternal will. This gives us strength to wait for complete fulfillment, tolerating the tension of the now-and-not-yet of wholeness in Him. While our flesh insists that we need relief, comfort, and satisfaction now, stabilitas is a virtue that commits us to that which is unshakeable and sure: forever-life with our God. What a tragedy when we abandon the pursuit of benefits we could possess forever because of temptations and discomforts that will fade and wither like the grass of summer. The meek choices that cultivate stabilitas are made moment by moment. Praise God for His grace that inspires us to stay with those daily practices that may seem weak and poor to the eyes of man. For surely our submission to slow results and imperceptible gains is accruing rewards that are joyful and glorious beyond imagination. In the meanwhile, know that we at MPC are cheering you on as you choose again today to show up for your personal prayer time, small group, recovery meeting, daily mass, and humble acts of love and service. The day is coming when we will laugh together in delight at the fullness of transformation God has completed in us!
What does God use to lift your eyes to the horizon of eternity? I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Kanok and Africa at freedigitalphotos.net