October 13, 2015  

He also said,
"This is what the kingdom of God is like.
A man scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, 
though he does not know how.
All by itself the soil produces grain - 
first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.
As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it,
because the harvest has come."
(Mark 4:26-29, NIV)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). I write this letter as abundant Seattle rains lend a lovely gloss to the trees with their leaves of yellow and red.  This autumn season has brought exciting times of ministry for our MPC team.  We were blessed beyond measure at the Portland MPC school and the American Association of Christian Counselors conference in Nashville.  And now we turn with joyful anticipation to the Ticino, Switzerland school that is almost upon us!  These are pioneering works, reaching into new territory, and we praise God for His loving purposes and faithfulness in accomplishing them.  We give thanks for all those who God has enabled to attend these schools, and for your continual prayers for the ministry.  We are much in need of your prayers as we sow the seeds of His word of truth everywhere He calls us. 
It was after the Portland school that the Lord drew my imagination to the small but mighty parable of the growing seed from the gospel of Mark 4:26-29.  We find here great assurance that the most powerful and beautiful changes in our souls begin in a place we cannot see and in a way we do not know.  I went to my Pulpit Commentary to find friends who might speak to me about this wonderful little passage and was not disappointed:

"In the silent soul the Divine seed works in secret,
lives, strives, moves, grows." - Rev. J. R. Thomson
Our becoming is "in God's hand and the womb of time." -- Rev. A. F. Muir

Many at the Portland school left with a strong knowing that the Lord had indeed planted new seeds within them. Isn't it wonderful that we can thank Him that these seeds are growing while we go about our simple business of waking and sleeping? Our hearts were created to receive God's truth, and thanks to the wonder-working power of Christ's blood, God's own life is taking root within us - alleluia!

Those of us prone to introspection will dig around the seed to see if the roots are taking hold, and we must ask the Lord to catch our attention when we succumb to this destructive temptation. A much better activity is to find reasons to thank God and praise Him by turning our eyes to His wonders all around us. The voice of unbelief proclaims that growth is not occurring if leaves and grain don't appear immediately. Jesus gave us this parable in part to call out the foolishness of that impatient demand and to affirm the wisdom of His brothers and sisters who trustingly wait for what is growing safe and strong under the soil. God's Spirit is not daunted by the naysayers who mock a patch of bare soil today any more than He was when He entered Christ's tomb in resurrection power. Be encouraged my friends, for that same Spirit is at work in you! Rejoice over the growing seed by placing your hand on your heart and speaking the most wonderful reality to your soul, "Another lives in me!"

In this newsletter you will find a beautiful word of encouragement on the topic of desire from Barbara Byers - may God bless your receiving of this message and breathe life into your heart's deepest desires. We are also sharing a powerful passage from Leanne's newsletter archives on the Holy Name, and in this piece Leanne again accomplished what she was so gifted to do - stirring our desire and moving us to action as we hear and obey our Father's voice. Finally, I wanted to share with you some dates of MPC schools that are being planned for 2016. You may want to mark your calendar and begin praying now about joining us and encouraging your loved ones to come and receive the seeds of faith, hope, and love that God will plant at these schools:

Hamilton, New Zealand, January 17-22, 2016;
Houston, Texas, February 21-26, 2016;
Wheaton, Illinois, July 10-15, 2016;
Jeju, Korea, August 14-19, 2016.

Yours in Christ,

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by Barbara Byers

"May He grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans." Ps. 20:4 (ESV) 

Desire is a well of energy within us, the great capacity to dream, hope, yearn and aspire to that for which we long. Leanne Payne, drawing from both C. S. Lewis and Fr. John Gaynor Banks, writes of desire as a "radiant thing," the "mighty force" that is "part of the atomic energy of the soul." If desire is indeed beautiful, radiant, and explosively powerful why then do we not live alert and fully alive to our deep hearts' desires? Are we perhaps afraid to desire so deeply because the possibility of disappointment and failure loom greater than bright expectation? In that fear, do we anticipate nonfulfillment more than fulfillment, and thus live against true hope and desire?

C. S. Lewis, grappling with this in The Weight of Glory wrote: "Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of reward promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea, we are far too easily pleased." We choose to stay in the slums, playing in the mud puddles instead of bringing our longings, indeed our whole capacity for desire, trembling before the Lord. We haven't truly taken in the profound generosity of our God. It is His good pleasure to grant us the desires of our hearts! We may be like Tolstoy's character in A Confession--if a fairy were to come and offer to fulfill our desires, we should not even know what to ask, or how to hope and ask greatly.

Yet God, who intricately designed our souls for His glory, gifted us with the capacity for deep desire. This divine attribute, this creative vitality, seeks expression through our choices. Indeed, the person we are becoming is directed by desire. Our true becoming depends on it! A. W. Tozer framed it thus: "Every Christian will become at last what his desires have made him. ... The great saints have all had thirsting hearts." The psalmist echoed this thirst in Psalm 42:1 (NIV): "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God." As Christ Himself becomes our first and greatest desire, then our desire for all things can become defined, ordered into its proper place, well-directed and whole.

Sometimes our desires arise from deceit or illusion, and thus trap or entice us amiss. When that happens, we may find ourselves in a place of exploiting or manipulating others in order to fulfill those desires. At this place God's refining fires are a needed mercy. We see this embodied in Scripture when God journeyed with men and women through years of maturing until their desires could be fulfilled. How great our need for maturity is as we contend with the power of desire. Because we have a tendency toward impatience or giving up too easily, we may repress, hide or even kill real desire and give our hearts to the false, to the idolatrous. Even more common, I think, people seek fulfillment in the false and idolatrous because they don't understand that only God can fulfill that real desire. One of the most chilling verses in Scripture is the indictment against Israel in Psalm 106:15 (CJB): "He gave them what they wanted but sent meagerness into their soul." There is a demanding, carnal part of us that does not desire purely and our souls suffer leanness because of it. It is the Spirit's work of sanctification that cleanses and purifies this carnality, differentiating between demand and desire. It is the Spirit who helps us to desire good things, to desire them in good ways, and to wait on the Lord. It is critical to our maturity to die to the false, self-demanding and allow Him to burn away false, carnal desires. Some desires then simply blow away as ash, but some come out purer, more tempered, but also larger and stronger. This too is His mercy.

What happens when we need to find or even to recapture our desires? We may have repressed desires out of self-protective fear or from shame. Fearing our desires will never be fulfilled, that an ache will remain, we may avoid laying out before the Lord our deepest desires. We may even fear that our desires are not in line with God's will. Often instead of contending with the real content of our hearts in His presence, we cover our desires, retreating into a self-imposed safe, silent zone. But safety cannot be found by retreating into the false self that only subverts the emergence of true desire. Our quest must be to boldly name our desires, trusting He will hold them safely. In The Broken Image Leanne Payne assured: "We can safely desire even those things we've been so fearful to acknowledge before, because they are wholly offered to Him. ... He will remove the chaff from the wheat, He will transmute the desire when and where necessary, He will elevate it to higher planes when our perception of His will for us is too low."

What happens if we substitute our own solutions, demanding that our desires be fulfilled in the way and time we expect? In Genesis16 we see this happen when Sarah, who had been waiting many years for a son, interposed her own idea and convinced Abraham to have a child, Ishmael, through her maid. God had promised a son but she would not wait. God had promised a son and indeed Isaac was born in Sarah's and Abraham's old age. God was faithful "at the appointed time" (Gen. 21:2), but the consequences of her demand remain today as the people of Israel and those of the Arab nations are at enmity.

In His presence, we must repent of self-willed, self-timed demands. We offer Him our disappointment of waiting; we offer Him our grieving and our double-mindedness over thwarted or quenched desires; we offer Him our mistaken counterfeits and shaky attempts at self-fulfillment, and we open all the hidden places of our hearts to His light. Then repentant, we return to hope and invite Him to bring up and restore buried desires. Job expressed this well: "My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow. ...My days have passed, my plans are shattered. Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near" (Job 17:7, 11-12 NIV). As light is near we sense anew the Holy Spirit's creative indwelling presence "brimming with endless possibility" and willing to restore all within us, including deep desires (Guardini, The Lord).

When the well of energy of desire has diminished, it is by prayer that the flow of living water radiantly comes again to fill the well, awaken creative dreams, and infuse us with forward impetus to pursue those desires aright. In the true self, when we are quiet before Him in listening prayer, He draws up the deep desires of our hearts, those we may have quenched or set aside prematurely. As we acknowledge these desires, offering them to God so that our wills become His, we can then listen to His word of healing and direction that sustains us until the time of fulfillment. Faith, united with enduring patience, remains the key to pleasing God and receiving our promised desires (Heb. 6:12).

In faith we trust deeply that we can wait for that good thing we are asking because He is a good God, full of grace and lovingkindness toward us. He will be faithful to every "staggering" promise. We turn again to that place of abiding in His presence, offering our desires in joy, inviting His purification, uniting with Christ who is greater than all our desires and has the power to open His hand and fulfill every good desire (Ps. 145:16). With the psalmist we also cry: "All my longings lie open before You" (38:9 NIV). Thus we are enabled to pray with surrender: "Keep alive within us, Oh Christ, your most precious gift to us which is our burning, longing, wordless yearning for you" (Gerald May). Alleluia!

Photo courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net
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To invoke the Name of Jesus, or to breathe it in prayer (as in the Jesus Prayer that comes to us from the Orthodox tradition) is a special and wondrous way of practicing the Presence. That is because:
The Name is the symbol and bearer of the Person of Christ.  Otherwise the invocation of the Name would be mere verbal idolatry. 'The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.' The presence of Jesus is the real content and the substance of the Holy Name.  The Name both signifies Jesus' presence and brings its reality. [On the Invocation of the Name of Jesus by a Monk of the Eastern Church.  Published by The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 52, Ladbroke Grove, London, W. 11, p. 9].
The full prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," but it is best shortened to simply breathing the Holy Name.
Before beginning to pronounce the Name of Jesus, establish peace and recollection within yourself and ask for the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost. 'No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost'.  The Name of Jesus cannot really enter a heart that is not being filled by the cleansing breath and the flame of the Spirit.  The Spirit Himself will breathe and light in us the Name of the Son   [Ibid., p. 2].
It is no small joy to leave off breathing the Holy Name, only to hear the Spirit audibly speak it within.
This prayer, it seems to me, this holding of the Holy Name, is one of the most special ways of practicing the Presence. All this was quite forcibly brought to my mind as a way of not only preparing but safeguarding Christians in the event of persecution for their faith. I had been reading Revelation, chapters 13 and 14, and was horrified at the fate of the lost who are destined to wear the name of the Beast on their foreheads:
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.  He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world....
He [the second beast) was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.  He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name [Rev 13: 5 - 17, italics mine].
After such a terrifying word and image comes this beautiful one. It is for those whose names are written in the book of life, those in whom "No lie was found in their mouths":

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had His Name and His Father's Name on their foreheads  [Rev 14:1].
Lord, may your Name be deeply inscribed on our foreheads even now.
And may Your Name be as a Holy Fire within us, one that not only purifies us, but spills over onto all around us.
May Your Name be so glorified in us that we can speak your truth with great authority and effect, even in the face of slander and persecution.  In Jesus' Name, we pray.   Amen.

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