Friday, February 20, 2009

Seeing The Truth

As a nice change from my previous blog posting regarding lies of the church, I thought it might be more optimistic (let alone more positive in general) to highlight the things that I've learned here.

These are ideas/concepts that, while in no particular order, have been extremely impactful during my time here. These have changed the way that I view both God and myself.

Feel free to disagree, and also feel free to test it - we are told here that whenever we recieve a word or a prophecy or anything of that nature, to test it against The Word. The Bible is the only infallible accordance of God - so if the word rings true in your own heart as well as the hearts of those around you, and the teachings are Biblical, then it is truth.

How that truth impacts your life, I leave to you.

(I figured that I would use bullet points for this blog entry whynot. Hooray for having page-formatting skills! Thanks, college!)
  • When it comes to spiritual warfare, God and the devil are not equal in power. In fact, they are not even close in power.

-This was an atom bomb in my head when I first heard this - I had always figured that the enemy's army was mighty, but The Lord's army was also mighty. Mightier, actually. Not by much, but mighty all the same. What a horrible lie. (Oops - I'm back into lies again. All well - I'm just sort of going with the flow here). I realized that the enemy has only as much power as we give him - and far too often people (myself included) will gasp and tremble at the possibilities of what he could do to us. We focus on the 'power' of the enemy, and not the power of Jesus Christ. Worried about the economy? God does not have financial problems. Keep your eyes on Him and not on CNN, and your heart will be at rest. He guards the lives of His faithful.

  • Condemnation vs. Conviction

The enemy condemns - Our Father convicts.

Conviction: "What you did was wrong" - Specific - desire for change

Condemnation: "YOU are wrong" - Generalized - directed at self, not action

Here is a second (and perhaps even more mind-blowing definition):

Conviction: "You are a son/daughter of The King. You are too awesome to be acting this way. Why deny yourself your inheritance?"

Condemnation: Action = Identity - "I lied. I am a liar." "I stole. I am a thief." "I sinned - I am a sinner."

In regards to this last definition of condemnation, one of my speakers here told us that the saying "I am a sinner saved by grace" is the biggest LIE in Christianity.

He believes that we WERE sinners - we are now saints. We drowned our old selves (those that were slaves to sin) when we were baptised. We were given a new spirit, and new flesh. Now, sin is no longer in our nature. We can sin, sure. But we must choose it. We cannot sin accidentally.

He said "If we believe ourselves to be sinners, we will sin by faith."

...does your brain hurt yet?

  • We should not be comfort vampires to Makka Buns using a vacuum cleaner

OK Wow. This one takes some explanation.

One of our speakers (and my personal favorite actually) is named Steve Ahern, and he is from Australia. He told us that in Australia, they have an absolutely amazing dessert called a Makka Bun. He described it as 'the person who eats it ascends out of their mortal body, and their soul travels to the greater realms of Heaven'. Sounds pretty delicious.

Anyway, he told us that everyone encounters a Makka Bun every once in a while. These, he says, are the absolutely beautiful men and women that everyone just wants to be around. (Here in YWAM, there are Makka Buns everywhere, by the way. Just FYI for those who wanted to know.) He then spoke about how people sometimes gravitate towards hanging out with these Makka Buns to feel better about themselves. In fact, many people talk and flirt with these Makka Buns with absolutely no intention of actually starting a relationship with them. They draw comfort from hanging out with beautiful people.

He told us how he used to (metaphorically) take his vacuum cleaner, and stick it in the bellybutton of a Makka Bun (stay with me) when his comfort level was very low. He would look at her and smile and act very slightly flirtatious, when all he wanted from her was comfort. It was all take and no give.

(This one made me wince because I thought of how I would do that exact thing every once in a while - feel free to wince. It's OK - no one can see you. Well, no one who would judge you anyway.)

...if your brain doesn't hurt by this point, you have a very strong constitution.

  • You can talk to God. Not in a vague, metaphysical sense - Not in a lucid, New Age sense - You can have a conversation with God. In real time. As in talking, and listening for His answer.

Mindblowing, huh? Before I went to this DTS, I would always ask God for help, in a very generalized sense. "God, please let me do well on this test." "God, please let my brother be alright." "God, please let me win the lottery."

I was talking AT Him, not TO Him.

And all I did was ask. Try praying to God for more than 5 minutes without asking Him for something. It is insanely hard for me to do. He loves to bless us with things, but it is pretty rediculous when you stop and think about it.

Ok. Onto 'How To Hear The Voice of God"

How to begin, then?

First, find a background noise of some kind - maybe its birds chirping outside, maybe its the sound of your furnace as you sit inside, maybe its a fan you have on - anything.

Now, close your eyes. Listen for this noise.

...take 2 minutes and do it. Really. It's fun, I promise. Relax, and take 2 minutes to do it.

... can blame me if your boss walks by and sees you with your eyes closed. But please, try it.


...really. Do it.



How did you know it was the fan/furnace/birds/etc?

Because you could recognize it. It is the same thing with hearing God's voice. It is as easy as listening to the birds.

Now the most difficult thing about hearing God's voice is distinguishing it from your own voice in your head.

I learned that God largely speaks to us through our personalities, so if you are very visual, He may give you a picture instead of words.

For me personally, I have heard God's voice here, but it is not an audible voice. God, I've realized, doesn't like to boast or show-off.

Now I am fairly closeminded to things like this (I'm getting better) but to be honest, I would LOVE it if The Archangel Gabriel would appear in a swirling tempest of clouds and flame above my head, and descend in a pillar of light that is so bright that it burns a symbol of The Cross into the ground. If Gabriel could then appear out of the blinding light and walk towards me, each footstep cracking the ground and shaking the very foundations of the earth until finally he lays a gauntleted hand on my shoulder, and with a voice that speaks volumes to my tortured and thirsty soul, say in a booming cadence "Daniel - Our Mighty Father In Heaven Wishes You To Depart For Northern California At The Conclusion Of This DTS Wherein You Will Begin The Next Step Of Your Spiritual Journey" and then suddenly disappear in an eruption of rumbling and holy fire, leaving only the image of the holy Cross seared into the pavement under my feet, that would be great.

I would probably get the message if that happened.

Unfortunately, God doesn't work that way. (I, by the way, have a very active imagination. Obviously.)

Back to what I was saying - for me, God speaks in thoughts and ideas, that quite honestly, would be super easy to confuse for my own. I keep waiting to hear an actualy voice speak in my head, but God doesn't speak to me that way. He may for you - He speaks differently to everyone.

An awesome example of God speaking to me through thoughts/ideas was during the first few weeks of school. One morning, we all wrote everything that we felt was keeping us from God on a piece of paper - everything that we wanted to repent for, basically. With my filled page (and I do mean FILLED) we were to take it and burn it before The Cross so that our sins would die.

I walked up front, laid my paper in the flames, and watched intently as the pages crumpled and burned away. I turned to go back to my seat, and on the way back, I saw Debbie, an older woman who was standing alone with her head down. I had a flicker - an instantaneous idea to give her a hug, so I did. I thought of something, and decided to do it, spur of the moment. Basic, right?

As I put my arms around her and gave her a little hug, she let out a big sob and wrapped her arms around me tightly, burying her face in my chest. She was crying so hard that she was shaking. After a few minutes time, she pulled her head back and began to whisper to me through her tears. She told me how her son who was roughly my age had abandoned her, and she felt so alone in her life. She told me about how she had hurt her boy by not supporting him, and she was desperate to see him again.

She also told me that she had been praying with all her heart that she might hold her son again - that she was crying out to God for compassion and affection. When I hugged her, she told me I felt like her son, and she just broke down. She began thanking God through whispered tears, and she said "God really does love me."

...All this happened because I got an 'idea".

Needless to say, I have begun to follow these 'ideas' as best I can (and within reason, obviously). Especially in the area of tithing, I have begun to pay close attention. Even last night, actually, I had a small sort of idea to give all the money in my wallet to help students who are struggling to pay for their DTS, and I did. Sure it was only $4.00, but I thought that God can do better things with $4.00 than I can.

See, I could have sat in my chair when I had the idea, and I could have argued. I could have ..."stated the fact that I needed cash in order to do my laundry and without cash I would need to withdraw money from the ATM and the ATM has a fee that I would have to pay and having cash on hand is always useful and $4.00 isn't all that much and I really need this cash in order to have an easier time here"...I could have doubted - "Was that really God? Or was that the enemy? What if it was just my own idea? If it is my own idea, then does that mean I should follow through with it? Or would that be just self-serving? Is it still self-serving if I am donating something? Does God want me to be broke? Why would God want me to have to take money out of the ATM and pay the fee so that I can do laundry? Why would He ask me to give if He knows that I need this cash to do my laundry?"

...the opportunity would be lost by that point.

I am beginning to trust. Trust that it was God and just do it.

(Besides, would the enemy really want me donating money to a church?)

Wow I think too much.


Here is a way to talk to God. Ash Him these questions, and don't worry if you don't hear anything. Don't become frustrated - did you ride your bike perfectly the very first time you tried? Talking to God is a skill, and like everything else, it takes practice.

Try asking Him these questions:

"Jesus, what do You think about me?"

"What do You and I have in common?"

"What game would You like to play with me, and why?"

...bringing a pad of paper always helps, I've found. God speaks to me in massive amounts of words. As I said, He knows my personality.

Most importantly, if you do hear something, TEST IT.

Donna Jordan, our teacher, told us that many people have come to her saying that God told them that cheating on their spouse was permissable. Some have even said that God told them that they could divorce.

Here's how to test the word/picture/whatever it may be that you recieve:

1.Does it go according to God's Word? - Check The Bible - research it and see if it rings true from The Word.

2.Does it glorify Jesus and bring you closer to God? - If the message was condemning, how does that bring you closer to God?

3.Does it witness to your spirit? - Does it resonate with you? Does it speak to something in your heart?

4.Does it witness to the spirit of others? - Same as #3 but with outside imput - does it speak to othes as truth?

Here are some last tips: Most likely, God will speak in first person - "I adore you, I love you" etc. For me, God also stops talking quite suddenly when I argue in my head. I just write it down, then look at it later.

Finally and perhaps most importantly? Relax.

God wants to talk to you multitudes more than you want to listen to Him.

God desires you multitudes more than you desire Him.

Also, have fun.

You are talking to your Abba - He who delights in everything you are, and can't wait to speak of His love for you.

Crawl up into His lap, and listen.

...If your brain doesn't hurt are a stronger person than I.

Until next time - there's more to come!

I Love you guys


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Unknown

I apologize for the long delay between these blog postings - I have been quite busy finding myself in God, and I've realized that in comparison my life has sort of fell to the wayside. In a strange sort of sense, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Also, I feel that I should add that every single person and their mother should attend a DTS. (I'm looking at you, Mom and Dad).

Moreso than anything else, it has felt as if my spiritual walk before YWAM was a languid sort of pace, with the destination a vague ending with very unsubstantial outcomes. Here in YWAM however, my walk with God seems entirely accelerated - to an extend that I am still attempting to grasp.

In essence, YWAM has been the shock to my heart that I've always wanted. God has gone from a neat idea and pursuit to my reason for living.

The things I've learned here are absolutely amazing - so much so that I think I will need a month or so of sitting on a chair staring at nothing, just processing all of it - letting it sink in.

Walking into the unknown is always a dangerous proposition, but it is only through such hardship that we are shaped into who God wants us to be.

Before I came to YWAM, I knew things.

I knew that I was a particular sort of Christian - one that never raised his hands while worshiping, Never spoke in tongues, and NEVER experienced being 'slain in The Spirit'.

I knew that those people were very strange and almost psychotic - and that a certain level of insanity was required to participate in such activities.

I knew that my particular flavor of Faith was a quiter sort - one that was not loud and in-your-face, but a quiet sort of dignity that - quite honestly - afforded me isolation.

It fit my needs perfectly.

God, in His wonderful Glory, showed me that I didn't know who I was.

"If you aint who you is, than you is who you aint." - Quoted from Brennan Manning

Now I feel as if I have to prepare some of you for what you are about to read - I warn you that a emotion and/or feeling will emerge that will shroud you - immerse you in itself. I know what that feeling is - it is your skepticism, rearing its ugly head.

I was the most skeptical person imaginable. Not only did I scoff at the ideas of spiritual warfare and/or dwellings in The Spirit, but I laughed at the idea that God loved me. I knew that He didn't love me - but then again, I didn't know much.

So I challenge you to keep an open mind. Walking into the unknown is never easy. Stare fear in the face until it blinks first.

(I've decided to put my thoughts in italics so that you might get a sense of how my mind operated.)


I was slain in The Spirit. Not once, but twice. Two seperate occasions with different results, but the same realization - that The Holy Spirit is real and He is strong indeed.

Now, I am the kind of person that has to take information and roll it around in my head - deconstructing it piece by piece, examining each facet to the minutest of detail, and then deciding to confirm to act upon my understanding. That's just the way God made me.

I'm just explaining this because I desperately tried to recall what happened and what I felt when The Spirit overcame me. Also, being a man who is largely lead by my mind, I feel the need to explain things in a very rational way, despite the fact that what happened wasn't rational at all.

God is not rational, because He doesn't operate within the confines of our human understanding.

Ok. Here we go.

Roughly two weeks ago, I was attending a lecture with a guest speaker who - we were told - specialized in The Holy Spirit and having people being swept up in Him. He told us that in a normal week, he sees roughly thirty people on the floor, either sobbing, laughing uncontrollably, or in a state of absolutely serenity and peace. But everyone is on the floor. All the time.

(At the time, I felt that for some reason, I was a part of some grand scheme - some great false lie, that it was almost cultish and animal-like to experience such things. I figured that there was no rationality to any of this - and that small voice of doubt and fear surfaced and began to whisper to me. What if none of this was true? What if the entire world was living a lie?)

He asked us to close our eyes and pray for The Holy Spirit to enter in and move through us. I did so, and clasped my hands together at my waist, my palms turned upwards. I began to pray for The Holy Spirit to come, despite the fact that I honestly didn't believe that it would do anything.

(I thought that the whole 'being knocked out by God' happened to insane people and people who liked to show off in front of others. 'Look at me - look at how awesomely spiritual I am - I'm on the floor!' ...Showoff.)

After a few minutes of keeping my eyes closed and repeating a mantra-sort of prayer, I began to feel something - like my heart was swelling with warmth. More so than anything else, my heart felt - full. Like it had been empty before and was now filled for the first time ever. It felt wonderful. My breathing became somewhat restricted, honestly because I felt that my heart was too full for me to take in a full breath.

('This doesn't make any sense' I thought. 'I'm just giving in to a hive-mind method of thinking - everyone here believes that something is happening and I too have become swept up in the emotion of these people and so altered my emotions to align with theirs - this isn't happening, my mind is causing this to happen. I'm doing this to myself - this is false!')

The feelings continued, and my heart was beginning to beat faster and faster. I had been standing for so long that my knees and my calves hurt, so I knelt down and kept my eyes closed. I was praying harder now, ignoring my mind's cries for rationality. My heart felt so full that rationality was suddenly quite unimportant. Through my intense praying, I was dimly aware that my hands were shaking - quivering slightly while I held them out. It was not from fatigue or a physical thing or anything of the sort - I just shook, and I can't explain why.

The speaker said "It is easy to speak in tongues - just speak what you want to speak until you run out of things to say, then just let your mouth move and speak out whatever you say. It doesn't have to make sense - in fact, it won't."

I was praying "Come Lord Jesus, enter in Holy Spirit, Come Lord Jesus, enter Holy Spirit...Jesus....yes Lord....

And then?

Something came out of my mouth. It didn't make any sense but my lips were moving and I was speaking something and it was gibberish. It didn't make any sense. (Sensing a theme here?)

I thought in my mind (This is rediculous. I'm not making any sense. What is that? Arabic? It sounds like a mix between ten or twelve languages. I'm just taking a breath and expelling sound from my mouth while moving my tongue and lips. Is that speaking in tongues, or just stupidity? THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!)

Yes it did not make any sense. But for some strange reason, I didn't care. My mind did, but my heart didn't.

It was then that I heard raucous laughter - like someone had heard the funniest joke that has ever been told - gut-wrenching, shaking, tears in the eyes, rolling on the floor laughter. The kind that makes you sore after it happens.

Our speaker said "If anyone would like to join these two women, come up front and I will help you to experience the Joy of The Lord."

I opened my eyes to see two girls from my class crying laughing on the floor, hugging each other and holding their stomachs from the laughter. I stood, and walked right in front of our speaker. He fixed his eyes on me.

(This isn't going to work.)

I closed my eyes, and he talked of anointing me with The Spirit, and he touched my forehead gently, then he touched my closed eyelids. All the while he was gently saying a prayer of anointing and grace, asking The Holy Spirit to enter me. I began to sway slightly, and I felt myself lean back into someone who caught me. I felt several hands grab me and lay me gently onto the ground, with hands guiding my head softly to the floor. There I lay.

(I knew it. Nothing. It didn't work. Nothing happened. My vaunted intellect won out again. I....)

....It was then that I lost it.

It hit me and I began to laugh. And laugh hard.

I wasn't laughing at anything in particular, but I was laughing because every part of myself wanted to - I was experiencing such joy that every sense or emotion turned to laughter - joyous laughter.

All the while, my mind was desperately grasping at air, struggling to rationalize. I became vaguely aware of the fact that I probably looked like an idiot, laughing and crying on the floor in front of 70 people that I hardly knew, but I didn't care.

For the first time in my life, my heart's cry was louder than that of my head.

My stomach began to hurt because of how much I was laughing, and I grasped my sides in an attempt to slow the pangs. But I kept laughing.

I realize that my experience was entirely irrational - that no such experiences coincide with logic or reason, but it happened to me. I can testify to that.

I, Daniel Cross, highest amongst the skeptics and doubters, master of unbelief and deconstruction, prince of vaunted intellect and logical thinking - was smacked in the face with an entirely unexplainable experience. In fact, this description is just about the best way I can figure to translate what happened to me.

Illogical? Absolutely.

Awesome? Extremely.

I laughed extremely hard for roughly 15 minutes straight, and then I stopped. The feeling left me, but my mood had shifted dramatically. I stood, and began to sway.

(Side note - I have never been drunk in my life, but this feeling was incredibly similar to what I had heard of it.)

I felt lightheaded, and rather hard to focus on specific things. I was still wracked with the occasional fit of laughing, and I had to steady myself as I walked.

"He is drunk in The Spirit!" someone said with laughter in their voice. I grinned and slowly sat myself in a chair to recollect my thoughts.

(Bizarre, I thought. That made no sense! What just happened to me? Did I physically manifest what my physical body longed for? Did I just transcend the physical plane and achieve a sort of nirvana within myself to cause this to happen? Or....?

A shiver went up my spine.

(...what if this is actually true? What if God loves me so much that He couldn't wait to give me such a gift? What if these are not lies?)

My mind boggled, and reeled, and did all sorts of other verbs that I can't remember right now. Needless to say, my mind was officially and in every capacity - blown.

I finally found a way to turn my brain off - it was God.

Go God.

The second instance of being 'Slain in The Spirit' occured just two nights ago in the pavillion of this campus. roughly a dozen people had gathered around Lucas, one of our classmates who was haunted by manifestations of anger - sudden outbursts of anger that he couldn't describe or explain. We gathered around him, and laid our hands on him. We began to pray, some speaking out, some praying silently, some speaking in tongues. (Which by that time was no longer a strange thing to witness for me.)

After about ten minutes of praying for Lucas, he convulsed, and fell backwards into another classmate's arms. We gathered him up and laid him on the ground, where he lay silently and peacefully. When he regained himself, he told us that he felt a spirit or something being torn from his chest, and his anger was gone. He felt wonderful, and the spirit had been removed. (Even now when I talk to him, he tells me that he does not have outbursts anymore. He has been healed.)

After he sat up from the floor, he pointed to me. "Now, it's your turn, Dan," he said.

The group gathered around me, and laid their hands on me. I bowed my head and closed my eyes, holding my hands upward in front of me. They began to pray.

In the deep places of the darkness behind my eyes, I prayed and asked God to enter, for Him to shake me. I asked Him to break me and my thoughts of Him.

After a few minutes of praying, I began to feel a strange thing - my arms began to tingle ever so slightly. A warm prickly sort of feeling was spreading through my arms - moving from my shoulders and down to my wrists. It was then that my arms began to get numb - like it was difficult to move them. The same feeling spread to my head, where my cheeks were touched by the same warm tingling, as was the top of my head.

I was aware that my legs hurt from standing for so long, but I was so immersed in The Spirit that my mind didn't hold as much sway as it usually did. (Thank God.)

As the tingling began to spread down to my torso, I felt my legs give out. I leaned forward into Ben's chest, where he and others helped me to the floor, as I did a few weeks before.

The reaction this time was entirely different - my entire body was tingling and warm, and strangely enough - my hands curled up and I could not move them to save my life. I lay there on the floor with these waves of warm tingling sensations washing over me, and I just experienced it.

I realize now that my mind was blank. Absolutely blank. That never happens to me. NEVER.
I always have a hundred thousand thoughts richocheting around in my skull at all times - even when I try to sleep. My mind never relaxes. Never.

Here, God proved me wrong again. I had been seeking serenity within myself, by myself. No wonder it never worked.

After a while, my hands relaxed and the tingling sensation left me. I lay on the floor, infinitely more relaxed than I have ever been in my entire life. Concrete had never felt so comfortable.

As I lay on the floor, Ben came and sat next to me. He began to softly sing to me, singing of God's love for me, and thanking Jesus for His gift. He laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed for it, and then laid his hand on my forehead and profoundly thanked God for me.

When I arose several minutes later, I embodied languidity. (If that isn't a word, I just invented it.) I felt wholeheartedly relaxed, and evn my speech was slow and deliberate. All of my actions were drawn out, and I could not keep a smile off of my face.

Basically, I felt stoned - stoned with The Spirit, if such a thing exists.

So - I've never been drunk or stoned, but I have been in The Holy Spirit. No side effects, just life-changing revelation.

I walked very slowly back to my room (lazily flopping my arms at my sides and laughing at how rediculous I must have looked. Again though, I didn't care.) I took my contacts out and sat on my bed. I thanked God for His wonderful nature, and I fell back and slept.

I still can't describe exactly what happened, but I know that it was The Holy Spirit moving through me in a strong way.

Feel free to comment and/or ask questions regarding my experiences. Again, I was the biggest skeptic with things of this nature before I actually experienced them. Throw your questions at me and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading my longest blog yet. I love all you guys like crazy and I can't wait to share all that I've learned here.

Until next time.