Big, surprising answer to prayer.

God has led me to an amazing discovery in the past week, about my throbbing gut, that is blowing my mind: it’s emotionally rooted, due to a lack of self-love.  That’s right, self-love.   Whenever I don’t love myself unconditionally as Jesus loves me, my gut throbs.  As I confess my sin of performance-based conditional self-love, trying to prove myself to myself and others, my throbbing gut subsides, because then I am accepting myself, enjoying myself, cherishing myself, just as I am, warts and all, just as Jesus loves, accepts, enjoys, cherishes me, warts and all.   Amazing.

How did I miss this before?  I guess, because self-love seeeems so selfish, and self-centered.  But what’s interesting, is that it’s just the opposite: self-hatred is at the root of idolatry, not self-love.  When I love myself, I have nothing to prove, am not insecure, don’t neeeed to perform.

But then when my gut begins to throb again, I know that I’ve stopped loving myself well, that my love for me has turned conditional, based on my performance, and I need to confess my sin of self-hatred/independence/shepherdness/idolatry, so I can return to the inner peace and joy that flow from the Spirit and have nothing to do with my circumstances.   Priceless.  While I’ve hated my throbbing gut historically, I now love my throbbing gut, that tells me when I’ve slipped back into independent/shepherdlike behavior.   I have a ShepherdDave meter!  When I listen to it.

And there’s more.  Think about it.  It’s impossible to love others as Jesus loves, when I’m not loving myself as Jesus loves.   And.  Self-love = humility: not defensive, not needing to prove self, not competitive, not intense, not agendified.   And.  When I forget that whatever I’m facing is not my problem, not my job, my gut starts throbbing again, reminding me that it’s Jesus’ problem, and Jesus’ job.  Amazing.

–DumbSheepDave, experiencing more peace like a river, and great sleep, because folks have been praying (please keep praying and please pray now)

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I’d rate my circumstances a two,

on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being tops.  Okay, maybe a one.  In the past, I have rated my circumstances a 3 or 3.5 in my monthly report to GospelFriendships boardmembers, and to the folks at WHM on my monthly report as supportcoach to new missionaries.   So, why the downgrade?  Not due to finances: God’s been moving folks to give extra at year-end, and finances are looking up.

For a long time now, I think I’ve been living in denial of how harrrd my circumstances are.  I tend to suck it up and keep going, making the best of things.   What’s so hard about my circumstances?

I have chronic sensitivities to many foods (garlic, onion, pepper, to name a few), mold, wireless signals, auto exhaust, and most chemicals.  And we live off of a busy intersection.  These sensitivities affect my digestive tract, which produces insomnia, and/or leaves me feeling lousy.  I’ve lived with this for 45 years, and been to every kind of medical specialist and alternative practitioner in many locales, tried multitudes of various therapies, drugs, supplements, sleep-clinics.  Nada.

My sleep/energy the past two years is the best it’s been over the past forty years, but I go to extreme measures each day just to get eight hours of sleep at night, and even then, my sleep is interrupted three times on a good night, and I’m up for several hours on a bad night, going through the following day sleep-deprived, feeling awful, wanting to die and be with Jesus.  My extremely restricted diet of certain organic-only foods, combined with exercise, sauna, keeping our windows closed all year, multiple air cleaners, anti-wireless strategies, not eating out, and a bunch of other strategies, have contributed to this improved sleep.   But my gut never ever stops throbbing.  Most humans would be depressed at the thought of having to modify their lifestyle in such drastic ways, and feel entitled to extreme-hardship pay.   It’s just what I have to do to get half-decent sleep, feel decently, so I’ve not usually dwelled on the hardships, tended to look at more positive things.   This denial has resulted in my unwittingly giving believers and pre-believers around me a false impression of normalcy, when in fact, my life is extremely challenging, complicated, and at times downright depressing.  Poor Janet has had to live with all this most of her married life.  Our oldest daughter strongly suspects that I’m mildly bipolar, and after reading up on the diagnosis, it makes sense to me.

I can tell you this.  It’s really hard to believe/trust/rest in Jesus, when you feel awful.  The times I feel good, are incredibly awesome, and life seems incredibly easy, with my mind razor sharp, reflexes quick, and with oodles of energy.   When I feel awful, I’m learning to thank Jesus for my feeling miserable, telling Him, “Whatever it takes to get me more dependent on You, that’s what I want, Lord, because that’s when I’m the happiest.  Thank You for these perfect circumstances, custom designed for me, exactly what I need, to be retrained in a better way to live.”  I’m convinced that my suffering, combined with the prayers of GospelFriendships Pray-ers for my faith life, have resulted in an amazing difference in my life, a remarkable Jesus-dependency at times, that I’ve long-dreamed of having.  I’m still a toddler in Jesus-dependency, but praise God I’m not where I usedtabe, and life is good, because of Him, and the Pray-ers who’ve prayed for more Jesus-dependency in my life.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.  If Jesus can provide this for me, He can do it for anyone.   I am not special.   He is special, and able to change anyone, even someone as stiff-necked, thick-headed, and spiritually-learned-disabled as I.

–WeakDave, having the best years of his life, and thankful for friends who have prayed for him

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Answered prayer for one of my heroes.

When this pastor began asking folks outside his church to pray for Jesus to change him, and the church he had months earlier begun to pastor, and to open doors to friendships with pre-believers, he had no pre-believing friends, the church was going downhill and unresponsive to his preaching, and he battled daily discouragement, freely admitting that Jesus wasn’t enough for him.   Today, the church is beginning to turn around, and he now has a number of pre-believing friends outside the church, including this couple mentioned below in his weekly prayer update from Saturday.
–WeakDave, trying to get believers to hang out with pre-believers, and pastors to recruit prayer for themselves

Praying friends,

This is a quick call to prayer.  This morning I am meeting with the young unbelieving (for the moment) couple who are coming for pre-marital counseling.  Pray for the Spirit to come powerfully in our time together.  Pray that the openness that they have displayed so far will grow.  Pray that I would be sensitive to know when to push and when to simply step back and wait.  Pray that through this process that this couple would embrace Jesus, and that this would start a faith movement throughout their families.  You might also pray for me that I would believe that the Spirit could/would do such a thing.  I’m not very believing in that regard.

Also, I am playing golf with the prospective bride’s father Monday morning, just the two of us.  He basically thinks he is good enough for God’s acceptance, and I’ll have to admit he is a pretty good guy in most ways.  Yet, it is all up to him.  He is master of his own world.  Pray for good conversations.  Pray for boldness on my part to testify to what Jesus is doing in me, and pray that what Jesus is doing in me will naturally come out without me having to force it.  So, pray for the Spirit’s work in me, and also pray that the Spirit would open his heart to something much greater than what he can achieve on his own.

Thanks for your prayers.  I love knowing that when I go into battle for men’s/women’s hearts, I don’t go alone.

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Y director has a Gospel buddy.

Excerpts from the former-pastor-now-Y-director’s recent prayer update.  He loves his Y job, hanging out with so many pre-believers.

“The convert from last year I wrote about has become a sorta tag-team Gospel buddy with me.  He befriends people and starts the conversations toward God things, then directs them to me to answer harder questions about life, relationships, and theology.  Here’s part of his conversion story:”

‘As I grew into my thirties, I attempted to fill an empty void in my life with self-glorification, greed and vanity.  At one point I thought I was God.  I was making a lot of money, I had ever material possession I could ever want or need, and was living a self-absorbed-but-self-destructive lifestyle.   I was becoming like my dad, who has been filled with anger and rage for as long as I can remember.   I did not want to be him and knew I desperately needed help.

‘In early 2010 after realizing that I was failing miserably in every aspect of my life, having nowhere else to turn, I prayed to God for guidance and help.   He delivered that to me in the form of a spiritual mentor and someone I now have the distinct privilege to call a friend.   I walked into this person’s office at our local YMCA in March 2010, loaded with questions about Christianity.  Over the months that followed I gradually learned who Jesus is and in the summer of 2010, accepted Him as my Savior, and my life is so much better.  I’m no longer alone in this world!  I don’t have to bear the burdens of life on my shoulders alone.  My wife has since joined me on this journey, and we are now raising our children ages seven and five, in a Jesus-centered home.’

The Y director also added, “I started another outreach class at our Y.  It is called ‘The Silver Screen & Pearly Gates.’ I’m showing movie clips and trying to draw out discussions regarding religious themes in the movies.   I happen to think there are a number of movies that scream for the real Gospel.  I’m following a course of thought that Lewis and Tolkein shared when they purposed to create myths to stir people’s hearts toward the ‘true myth.’ I think Hollywood does that without being conscious of it.”

–ShepherdDave, thanking Jesus for the many who pray for him to return to being DumbSheepDave, and who pray for the ministry of GospelFriendships (please pray now)

To read past email updates, or free subscribe: gospelfriendships.icontact.com or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

Pastor recruiting prayer for his own heart.

The paragraph below was written in September by one of the pastors I mentor, doing a great job of recruiting prayer, weekly, from outside his congregation, for revival in his own heart, and in the dwindling, revival-resistant congregation he began pastoring 18 months ago, with little progress to report.  And below that, an October report.

–WeakDave, recruiting prayer for himself and those he influences, that Jesus might be making such a difference in our lives right now, that believers and pre-believers around us are wowed and want Jesus to do the same in them

Early September:

“I’ve been reading through Nehemiah and one thing has struck me very clearly.  Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and he prayed because the assignment he had was impossible.  He was a very talented guy and he had abundant resources.  Yet, he was about the task of building more than simply a wall.  He was attempting to bring spiritual renewal to a people who had not learned their lessons from their previous captivity.  He was also opposed by enemies of God’s people.  His task was WAY beyond him.  So, he prayed, and then he worked hard.  He prayed while he worked.  He prayed after.  I am a man of gifts and resources.  They may not be much, but they are enough for me to trust in all too quickly.  I am assigned a task that is impossible.  I am involved in leading a church into renewal and into bringing the Kingdom of God to a dark, desolate world.  It will require MUCH work.  In light of this, why do I not pray more?  I know it sounds spiritually mature for me to ask people to pray that I would pray more.  I need more than that.  I need you to pray for repentance.  I think I am more capable than I am.  I think I am smarter than I am.  I think I am good enough with people, much more than I actually am.  I am enough in myself.  Give me a little ministry success and a little encouragement from church folks, and those ideas sink even deeper into my heart.  That is scary.  In reality, I am the deluded fool.”

Early October:

“I am thankful today for what my Father has been doing lately, and I know your prayers have contributed to this.  Let me fill you in.  Our church is no longer on the brink of bankruptcy.  Last year at this time we are wondering if we would have to sell our property.  That is no longer in the conversation.  We finished the year in the black (income vs. expenses), and we were closer to budget than we have been in YEARS!  Our attendance is trending upward.  People are not leaving any more like they were for the first 1 ½ years I was here.  There is a positive atmosphere in the church that was not here when we got here.  People’s lives are being changed by the Spirit.  One of my deacons is giving a testimony during worship this Sunday of the Spirit’s work in his life.  I don’t think this is what you would call a ‘Holy Ghost Revival’…yet.  I think the Spirit is at work, and I am very encouraged.”

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I’m not addicted to computer games,

but I am addicted to ministry, relationships, investments, health management, and toys (cars/motorcycles).   A missionary friend wrote in his prayer letter about a new addiction to a computer game.  “I found myself thinking about the game continuously — when I first woke up, in quiet moments throughout my day, and when I went to sleep at night.  The game was filling the empty spaces between activities, dominating my thought life.”

AHA, I do the very same thing, with thoughts about ministry, relationships, investments, health management, and toys.  Looking to these areas, instead of Jesus, to provide me with LIFE: this gives me something to look forward to, gives me reasons for living.  Satan could not be more pleased, that I place good things like these, on a par with Jesus, or worse, above Jesus at times, gauged by the intensity with which I ponder, research, explore in my areas of idolatry.   Not bad things; all good things; but competing with Jesus for my affections.

Only shepherds have idolatry problems.  Sheep are too stupid for such things, and are happy enough just to be cared for by their shepherd, and experience a joy and peace that ought to make stressed-out shepherds envious.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer to embrace being DumbSheepDave, enjoying his ShepherdJesus more than he enjoys feeling good about himself through other strategies, so the pre-believers around him will be wowed and want his ShepherdJesus for themselves

To read past email updates from WeakDave, or free subscribe: gospelfriendships.icontact.com or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

High-caste Hindus now following Jesus,

and paying a high cost.  Sareeta and Sunitha followed Sai Baba, a person that is worshipped as a god.  One of their sisters had a powerful mystical experience with the Hindu gods.  Her family and community started to look at their sister as a god herself.

Sareeta moved to London and everything went wrong.  She found herself all alone in the hospital.  She was dying but the doctors could not determine why.  A worker in the hospital shared that Jesus could heal her and he prayed for her.  She survived.  The Lord now had her attention.  God brought a series of Jesus-followers into her life and soon she gave up Sai Baba and became a follower of Jesus.

When she visited her family in India she told them about this Jesus who saved her life.  Her sister Sunitha became a believer too.  Both of them received abuse for their belief.  All Indian Christians are low caste.   They were giving up their high-caste somebodiness to be considered low-caste nobodies.   They endured shaming and abuse heaped on them by family and others.

Sunitha moved to London too.  Mounika, the daughter of their sister who is respected as a god, also wanted to learn about Jesus.  When her parents discovered this they shouted at her and her dad beat her.  She wanted to learn more about Jesus so she moved to London to live with her two aunts.

Today, all of them attend church and several Bible studies, including two run by missionaries I know who have created Indian-friendly Jesus-communities in several parts of London, full of both new believers and seekers.  Sometimes these three former high-caste Hindus call, Pat, a missionary for whom I pray, and invite her over to teach them some more.  Pat says they are voracious studiers of God’s Word.

–WeakDave, trying to get us believers to see ourselves as the ones most needy of further change by Jesus, so we hang out with pre-believers in fruitful ways (please pray now)

To read past email updates from WeakDave, or free subscribe: gospelfriendships.icontact.com or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

Loving pre-believers is fruitful.

Excerpt pasted below, from the prayer letter of a missionary couple I’ve been praying for, who spend lots of time building intimate friendships with pre-believers in an edgy section of London.

–WeakDave, trying to encourage believers to spend time with pre-believers

To read past email updates from WeakDave, or free subscribe: gospelfriendships.icontact.com or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

 

“Someone knocked on Oli’s door.  It was a guy our team had met on the streets several weeks before. He had prayed with Constance and Oli, and for the first time in his life had acknowledged that Jesus was Lord and the only way to come to the Father.  That day he was drunk.  Last night he was completely sober.  He had a crumpled flyer for the Jesus study in his hand, and a question for Oli burning in his mind.  He has been sober since Constance prayed for him, and he has felt alive and eager to tell people about Jesus – and he wanted to know: `What has happened to me?!’  Oli explained that when we put our trust in Jesus as Lord, he comes and lives in us – what he was experiencing was the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in his life!  He now wants to become part of the church and be baptized.  How awesome is that?!  Rejoice with us and with the angels that one of God’s lost children has been found – and also pray for Oli and all of us in Lysan as we welcome this guy and grow together as disciples of Jesus.”