Yes, I Am Excited!
November 3, 2014
Many of you know that for some time I have been writing a new book titled: “Before You Get Here.” It’s about all that baggage that God wants us to deal with before we get to heaven. All the editing has been completed and we just received the final cover a couple of days ago so we are almost ready to go to press. I am hoping this book will be out before the end of the year.
The other thing that has been happening that you don’t know about is a complete overhaul and redesign of our website. Jimmy, the designer, has been diligently working on this for some weeks now and it is coming together beautifully. It’s simple, readable, easy to navigate and showcases the heart of this ministry. We are hoping to launch by the first of November so that by the time you receive this newsletter we may be online with a completely new look. In the whirlwind cyber world that we live in it’s important to be able to look fresh and current with a site that quickly catches people’s attention as they surf the web. I believe we at Wholeness Ministries have a lot to offer people, so check it out!
WE GET TO CHOOSE!
The other night Jane and I were attending a mid-week service at Bakersfield New Life Center. Jim Ranger (the oldest son of James & Lydia), was speaking that evening from Psalm 89. In this psalm he talked about God’s creation and how all that God created belongs to Him. But then he said something that really caught my attention. We get to choose! We get to choose whether we want to belong to God or not! Think about that. Out of everything He created we are the only ones that have a choice whether we want to belong to God or not! That’s stunning.
WHY DO YOU LOOK SO SERIOUS, LIGHTEN UP!
In the nineteenth century, the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche reproached a group of Christians. “You make me sick!” When their spokesman asked why, Nietzsche replied, “Because you redeemed don’t look like you’re redeemed!”
That’s a curious response isn’t it? And yet, must we not stop and examine how the unbelieving view us as we live out our life of faith? Countless times I have been around believers whose countenance is such that though they may be happy and joyful inside, they haven’t notified their face because they look as if they have been sucking on lemons.
I have heard people say, “If that’s what being a Christian is like I don’t want to be one!”
Perhaps part of the problem lies in our understanding of who we are and what we possess. Consider this, “Are you spiritually rich or spiritually poor?” Brennan Manning makes the statement that if we consider ourselves spiritually rich we begin to make demands on God for things that we think we deserve, often leading to anger and frustration. If we presume that life owes us the best and nothing but the best, then reality rarely lives up to our expectations. What logically follows is that we take for granted everything that comes our way and bear ourselves with the swagger of the executive who knows what is up and has all under control.
To be spiritually poor is to realize that everything is a gift. Salvation, mercy, grace, provision, protection, all that comes from the hand of God is a gift. That He would love us is, in itself, irrational and unreasonable. The spiritually poor experience genuine gratitude and appreciate the slightest gift. The rich in spirit devote considerable time to thinking about what they don’t have; the poor get right down to enjoying and celebrating what they do have.
As we stand before God with open hands, not clinging to anything, our life becomes a life of humble, joyful thanksgiving. When we begin to let go of our self-sufficiency and realize what it means to be the Beloved and that He is more than sufficient, we disappear into what Thomas Merton calls, “the tremendous poverty that is the adoration of God.”
I suspect that then the redeemed will look like they’re redeemed.
Wholeness Ministries supports two missionary families in Eastern Europe. One of these couples is Eduard and Ibi Rudolf who live in Cluj, Romania. Eduard and his wife Ibi work with orphans, gypsies and children in the various villages around Romania. They have four children of their own. In addition to the outreach to the gypsies in many villages, they have established a significant work at the orphanage in Cluj and a children’s ministry in over 10 villages that reaches hundreds of children each week. Not only are they bringing them the Good News but also they are giving them hope and love and providing in tangible ways exactly what Jesus would do if he were there among them. Keep Eduard and his family in your prayers.
Thank you for your prayers and support of Wholeness Ministries. Without your help we could not do the things we are able to do. Keep us in your prayers as we try to faithfully listen to the Father and do what we believe He is calling us to do.
God bless, Mike
Thought For Today: I created you to be you. If you are not going to be you, who is going to be you?
Wholeness Ministries 20 Years
August 24, 2014
It’s hard for me to believe that as of July 2014 we will have been at this for twenty years. I guess it’s because we have been having so much fun that the time flew by. To think all of this started with my attending a healing conference in 1984. I was on staff at First Baptist Church in Bakersfield, CA. My boss and Senior Pastor Dr. John Lavender insisted that we go to a healing conference conducted by John Wimber in Anaheim, CA. Due to my early exposure to the healing ministry I did not want to go, but because I dearly loved and respected Dr. John I agreed to go with him. If you knew John Lavender he could be a bit insistent.
What I observed at that healing conference and the encounter with God that I had, left me a changed man. I came back to First Baptist Church and began forming prayer teams to pray for the sick on a regular basis. Over the next ten years I went to every training event, and healing conference that John Wimber conducted. I read every book I could get my hands on that had to do with healing. This led to writing our first training manual, Learning To Do What Jesus Did.
From 1984 until early 1994 the ministry at First Baptist Church was running along fairly smoothly. In 1994 while up in Kern Canyon sitting by the Kern River God clearly said to me, “Michael, I want you to resign your position at the church and take this ministry out on it’s own. You can no longer do here what I called you to do.” That was a defining moment for me because I did not know how God was going to provide for our family. At that time I had a wife and three young children at home and from where I was sitting this was scary. A few of my friends even thought I was crazy.
However, I had enough faith in God that I was willing to jump out and give this a try. I went back home, talked this over with my wife and after much prayer handed in my resignation at the church. We then officially formed Wholeness Ministries Inc. and the rest is history. It has been an amazing journey and I expect it to continue for many years to come.
A man that God brought into my life early in this journey was Francis MacNutt. When we first met he took me under his wing and not only became my mentor but Francis and his wife Judith have become dear friends. Francis opened doors for me into the Catholic Church by taking me for thirty days on my first ministry trip with him to England and Belfast, Northern Ireland. That was a learning experience! Our friendship has continued over these many years and I treasure our times together. I remember thinking how God has taken this boy raised a Southern Baptist, then in his early thirties placed him in an American Baptist Church under a man who was a tremendous teacher, visionary, spiritual father and personal friend, Dr. John Lavender. He exposed him to the teachings of what I considered a radical charismatic, John Wimber, and then placed him with a former Catholic Priest to mentor and father him. This has been part of my personal journey during the last forty years!
Belfast, Northern Ireland
While in Belfast, Northern Ireland I met David Jardine who was at that time an Anglican Priest connected with the order of St. Francis operating out of St. Ann’s Cathedral. He now has established Divine Healing Ministries with headquarters in Belfast. David is a gifted teacher and a man of peace and reconciliation. In addition to the healing ministry his passion and heart is to bring together the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Northern Ireland. We became fast friends over the years. I have been invited back several times to minister alongside David and conduct training workshops and healing conferences in both Catholic and Protestant churches, with people from both denominations attending.
This was significant because when I first went to Belfast in the early 90’s it was a dangerous place to be due to the anger and hatred among various groups. Over the years I’ve seen significant change as reconciliation and peace has come to Northern Ireland. Now I would feel comfortable taking my family there. Over the years I’ve seen many miraculous healings and know that David, partnered with God, is doing a great work there. The Irish are a gracious and fun people to be around and it has been my good fortune to have been exposed to them and I look forward to future trips back to Northern Ireland.
The next significant point in this journey was in 1997 when I first went to Budapest, Hungary at the invitation of Bishop Robert Wise. While I was there I met Adam Balogh who was my interpreter and transportation. That gave me an opportunity to spend time getting acquainted with him and time to listen to him share his love for the Lord and his heart for ministry. Before I went to Hungary I was receiving prayer from our intercessors. During the time of prayer one of them shared with me this word regarding my trip to Budapest, “The Lord has shown me that while in Budapest you will meet a young man who will be the key to the doorway to what I am going to do in Eastern Europe.” So the whole time I was in Budapest I am asking the Lord to show me this young man.
On the last night just before I left Budapest, Adam and I had an extended opportunity to talk and pray together. While we were praying I asked the Lord, “Is this the man?” and He said, “Yes!” I shared this prophetic word with Adam and he had this stunned and surprised look on his face. After a moment he said, “Five years ago when I became a Christian a man spoke a prophetic word to me that was exactly what you just said, which was, “You will be the key to the doorway to what I am going to do in Eastern Europe.” Through Wholeness Ministries we have been helping to support Adam since 1997.
Adam is now married to Orsi and they have four beautiful daughters. I have been back to Budapest four times and over all these years we have been supporting them I have watched this prophetic word work out. Adam has traveled all over Eastern Europe evangelizing, training and equipping people in evangelism and how to pray for the sick using our material Learning To Do What Jesus Did, which is translated into Hungarian.
Adam exposed us to others involved in ministries that had very little exposure here in the United States but were having a significant impact on people’s lives in Eastern Europe. In 2006 through Adam we met Eduard and Ibi Rudolf who live in Cluj, Romania. Eduard and his wife Ibi work with orphans, gypsies and children in the various villages around Romania. They have four children of their own. In addition to the outreach to the gypsies in many villages, they have established a significant work at the orphanage in Cluj and a children’s ministry in over 10 villages that reaches hundreds of children each week.
Not only are they bringing them the Good News but they are giving them hope and love and providing in tangible ways exactly what Jesus would do if he were there among them. After visiting Romania and seeing their work we felt that we also needed to help provide support for Eduard & Ibi and their work in Romania.
Father Ed Fronske works among the Apache and Navajo Indians on a reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona. Until 2007 I had never been among the Native Americans on one of their reservations. Fr. Ed invited me over to conduct a 3-day training and ministry work among the Navajo and Apache tribes. This man has been at St. Francis Catholic Church for over 26 years ministering among these people he so dearly loves. As I taught, it was exciting to watch the Holy Spirit move among them and bring them to a place of not only openness to Him but also an eagerness to take what they were being taught back to their homes and use it among themselves. Fr. Ed has an ability to meld together the traditions and teaching of the Church with the Native American culture. He has been able to speak the Good News in a language they understand, honor their traditions and be an example of Jesus that exemplifies love and humility.
Pastor Jae One Kim of One in Christ Healing Ministries has a heart for the Korean people and is the man responsible for my invitation to Korea. Pastor Kim is the man who translated our book, Learning To Do What Jesus Did into Korean. He is an excellent translator and great man to work with. We have become good friends and I look forward to other trips to Korea ministering together with him. Besides English, Hungarian and Korean the training manual is also available in Spanish.
I have done a great deal of traveling but nothing prepared me for India! The culture shock hit me when I walked out the door of the airport in Chennai, got into the car and rode into the city for the very first time. Chennai is a city of 7 million people. The sheer numbers of people I saw on my way in from the airport was mind-boggling. The traffic, the noise, the smells, the poverty, immediately had all of my senses on overload. Bill Chaney traveled with me to India and for both of us it was overwhelming. Not only the sheer numbers of people and the poverty, but also the miracles that we saw God do.
As you can see from this report God has opened many doors for us in various denominations, ministry streams and other countries outside the United States. This is just a glimpse of what we have been doing for the last twenty years. In addition to what is reported here there have been trips to Qatar, Kuwait, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Serbia. Plus we have been to numerous churches around the United States.
Looking back on these last twenty years God has been faithful in providing for all the needs of our family. Not once have we wanted for anything that we needed. Admittedly, I didn’t know how God was going to provide, but He always did. In addition, along the way He surprised us with gifts that went far beyond our needs. Much like a loving father would do for his children.
I would not trade this last twenty years for anything. It has been an exciting journey and I cannot express how grateful that He chose me to walk this journey with Him. Indeed I want to give God all the glory and I look forward to many more years in this exciting journey. Thank you for your continued support. Without you we could not have done all this.
Perhaps You Have Been Cheated
July 24, 2014
Do you know Jesus as a person or a painting? Is he a perfectly carved, crafted statue with a beatific smile on his face or does he have flesh and blood that sweats, smells bad and bleeds when he cuts himself. Does your Jesus stub his toe; accidentally hit his thumb with his hammer and yell, “oh darn” or___________! Does he get tired and impatient with people always wanting something from him or is he always perfectly composed, gentle, kind, gracious, and happy to see them?
You may wonder why I am asking these questions. Because I believe we have been cheated. Many of us have a Jesus that is not really human, who lived his life in another world and is totally untouchable, unapproachable or out of touch with the reality we have to live with.
When you ask someone what Jesus is like you normally will hear the words loving and compassionate. Or they will talk about his humility and faith. But what about his playfulness, his wit, irreverence, exasperation and impatience? What about that which defines his humanity; his personality?
We are told in Scripture (John 8:29) that we will be conformed to the likeness of his Son. If that is going to happen here and I don’t have a realistic picture of Jesus, of how he really was as a flesh and blood man, than for me that scripture is unrealistic and unattainable.
A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness. To be mistaken about him is the saddest mistake of all.
In his book “Beautiful Outlaw,” John Eldridge writes,
“If you do not know Jesus as a person, know his remarkable personality—playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny—you have been cheated.
If you do not experience Jesus intimately, daily, in these very ways, if you do not know the comfort of his actual presence, do not hear his voice speaking to you personally—you have been robbed.
If you do not know the power of his indwelling life in you, shaping your personality, healing your brokenness, enabling you to live as he did—you have been plundered.”
Cheated, robbed, plundered! Those are pretty strong words. As I read them and thought about my own personal feelings about Jesus, and how I saw him I realized that for much of my life I did not know him as a man with flesh and blood but as someone so holy, pure, and righteous that for me to even think of being in his presence was crazy. Because I do sweat and smell and bleed. I do say more than “oh darn” when I accidentally hit my thumb with a hammer. I do get tired and impatient with people and want to be left alone.
To try and be like Jesus for any length of time was so far out of my reach that it was for me unattainable. Sure, I could be like Jesus Sunday morning when at church or when around my “religious friends.” But what about when my teenager has just smarted off to me, or that driver in front of me is poking along talking on their cell phone?
But then all of that began to change. I did begin to know him intimately, hear his voice, and see him as a friend. I did see the side of him that is playful, irreverent, funny, impatient with all that is religious. I began to see his humanness and understood that through the power of his indwelling presence he was healing my brokenness and shaping my personality so I could live as he lived.
I don’t have to try and be perfect, sinless and always-in control. In fact, it’s not even possible. But I can be better and over time conformed and transformed so that people hopefully see more of Jesus and less of me. But most importantly I began to see Jesus as a human dealing with many of the same feelings and issues I’ve had. And I can fully know that he understands those contradictions in my life and yet in spite of them, loves me.
So the question is: what is your Jesus like? Have you been cheated, robbed, plundered? If so, you can change that by replacing that unreal Jesus with the one who has flesh and blood and is much like we are. Spend some time with him, get to know him as a friend. Get honest with him and you will discover he will be the best friend you ever had. He has a great personality and is fun to be with.
Sin, That’s The Only Thing I Know How To Do!
May 24, 2014
I was reading Brother Lawrence the other day and came across a statement he made regarding sin. When asked about sin he said, “That’s the only thing I know how to do!” As I read on it became clear that he was recognizing and accepting that sin was in his basic nature. We don’t have to be taught how to sin. From birth on we are being taught something. How to walk or read, hold our spoon, and drink from a cup. Basic skills we need to get along in this world. But nobody has to teach us how to sin. We know that from birth. We get angry, rebellious, and envious or display any number of behaviors that are sinful. We do this without any help from anybody. Yet, we have a difficult time accepting that we are by nature sinful creatures. We deny, hide, run from or make excuses for our sinful behavior. Finding it difficult to accept our humanness we put on masks that we wear before people and before God. We think that if He really knew us He would reject us. This inability to accept our basic nature keeps us from God. That is the tragedy. We think that because of our sinful nature, God will reject us.
Andrew Murray in his book Absolute Surrender wrote, “Why is a lamb always gentle? Because that is its nature. Does it cost the lamb any trouble to be gentle? No. Why not? Does a lamb study to be gentle? No. Why does that come so easy? It is its nature. And a wolf – why does it cost a wolf no trouble to be cruel? Because that is its nature. It doesn’t have to summon up its courage, the cruel nature is there.” You can be cruel to a lamb and it will remain gentle. Or, you can be gentle to a wolf and it will still be cruel. If God’s second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” don’t you think He understood we were sinful creatures and that we would always be sinful creatures? Do you think that knowledge keeps Him from loving us? Often, we cannot accept our own sinful nature and thus we find it difficult to love ourselves. If we cannot accept ourselves we cannot accept others. Even more tragic is that we cannot accept love from God. If I can understand and accept that it is in my nature to sin, then I begin to do those things that help deal with the sin. Instead of the sin keeping me from God, it drives me to God.
I have discovered that accepting my humanness and knowing that I am going to sin, make mistakes and fail, helps me to quickly deal with my sin and humbly go before my Father where I know there is acceptance and forgiveness. We did not need anyone to teach us how to sin, but we do need God to teach us how to love and accept ourselves. Let’s determine to not let our basic nature keep us from God but drive is to God.
It’s Easy To Fake Christianity!
April 24, 2014
“Our experience of Christianity must go beyond just being another interpretation of the Bible; it must expand until our faith in Jesus and our love for Him becomes a lightning rod for His Presence.” Francis Frangipane
A lightening rod attracts. It says throughout the Word that we will do the works that Jesus did. If we examine what Jesus did we clearly see that He walked in holiness and power. He spoke and people were transformed from death into life; he prayed and people were healed. People were attracted to Him. They saw what he did and they listened to what He said. The Truth that He spoke changed those who heard it. He didn’t have to fake anything; He was what He spoke, the Truth. His faith was extraordinary, His life was anything but normal. He did not have to make excuses for God, pretend He was something He was not, or pump up His faith. He was as real as it gets. He did not fake anything.
We however, can easily fake Christianity. Francis Farngipane wrote, “If we have been indoctrinated to believe that the Kingdom of God, and Christianity itself, does not really have to work, or if the absence of holiness and power fails to trouble us, something is seriously wrong with our concept of truth.”
If you are not drawn to holiness, if you do not see power manifest, if your prayers are not answered then it would seem logical to ask why things are not working for you. Perhaps it’s something as simple as being “normal.” Sadly, many Christians have no higher goal, no greater aspiration, than to become normal. Their desires are limited to measuring up to others. We like familiarity, we like routine, and we don’t like to step out of the boat and walk on the water because it’s scary and we might drown. Peter didn’t hesitate to step out of the boat, but once he realized where he was, he became afraid and wanted to get back in the boat because it was familiar, it was safe in the boat. There is nothing wrong with the familiar but the familiar is often too comfortable and by nature we like comfortable. Staying comfortable with those things that are normal and familiar keep us from experiencing that which is extraordinary.
So, rather than move into a place of faith, expectancy and obedience, a place where we are drawn closer, week by week to knowing and loving Jesus Christ we stop obeying and we start faking. Think about this; “If Christ is within us, we should be living holy, powerful lives. No excuses!” Christianity is not just accepting some doctrine, but is living daily in the reality of Christ’s presence in our homes, schools and jobs. Lets purpose to press in until we “…lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12) When we settle for anything less than the fullness of Christ in our lives we begin to fake Christianity.