Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Azman ... Radical Response

My friend Azman, from Belfast Vineyard Church, coined the phrase radical response. It's a good phrase that encourages us to press outward.

Excerpt from Go.Sow.


Develop a life committed to radical response.
    As you go, serve, share,
and pray, you will continue to grow. If you decide to begin to share God’s love—untrained—you will soon find yourself—trained. Every step we take to encourage someone enables us to grow in our ability to share our lives with others more freely and effectively.
    Make plans.
    Be determined to talk to and serve your neighbors.     

    Practically love the people you work with.
    When you receive a God prompt, radically respond, and obey and do what you think Jesus would have you to do.
    There will always be reasons why you and I choose not to respond. Our feelings aren’t up. We are tired. It is cold. It’s raining. It’s snowing. It’s too hot. It’s inconvenient. We are insecure. We feel awkward. My kids are too noisy. However, as we make a choice to act on what we value and believe, our no-go, not sharing today, attitude will melt away.
    As I walk through life there are times when I don’t want to be bothered; when I want to hide and keep to myself.
    I’ve discovered it’s in those very moments God often shows up. My weak moments are often the times of His greatest breakthrough; the moments of greatest healing, or the time the greatest touch of saving grace is released. One thing is sure, as I chose to respond, I always learn something from the experience which further equips me for my next encounter.



Miss Dayton
    I wanted to head home from a service after praying and encouraging people. I was tired, and felt somewhat drained.
    While I was heading toward the exit I walked past a young lady receiving prayer. I did notice the people praying for her. In an instant, I knew she wasn’t receiving what she was looking for. The people praying were praying, but I instinctively knew they were not connecting her to the heart of the Father. I did know she was hungry for something more.
    I stopped, turned around, and joined the people praying. I placed my hand gently on her back. I then began to declare and release the Father’s love. She started to weep and gently shake. After a few moments I asked her, “Do you worship in your home?” She said, “Yes, I often sing from my heart and worship.” I gently stated, “I’ve seen you walking in your home and worshiping. The Father wants you to know He loves your worship, and He finds your expression of worship very precious.” She wept. Several other words of encouragement followed. A few moments later I thanked her for allowing me to pray and headed home.


    Months passed. I went to a planning meeting for Hope Over Heroin. At the end of the meeting I gathered my notes and began to walk toward the door. A young lady stopped me and said, “Hey I want to thank you. You changed my life.” 


    I was stunned. I asked, “Really? When did that happen? How did I change your life? I’m not sure I know you. How do I know you?”


    She mentioned when she was a new believer, she didn’t know anything about words of knowledge, or the gifts of the Spirit. She was very desperate to know the Father’s love.
    One Sunday she was receiving prayer at one of our meetings and I walked up and began to encourage her. She told me when I placed my hand on her back she was suddenly overwhelmed with the love of the Father and she began to weep and experience waves of His love. 


    She also mentioned she knew I didn’t know anything about her, yet I had mentioned several things about her life and her relationship with Jesus. As a result she did experience the Father’s love. She then knew the Father loved her and had a plan for her life. 


    Here is the kicker. She was the girl I was walking past. She later won Miss Dayton, and was now praying, and encouraging others. She was flowing in the gifts of the Spirit. She was also using her position as Miss Dayton to further the Good News of the Kingdom.
    I was totally blown away. I thought to myself, “You just never know what a simple obedient response to the Holy Spirit will do to change a persons life. Even when you don’t feel like it.”
    This weekend she came to one of our services and thanked me again and gave me permission to share her story.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Go. Sow. Excerpt. Help the Backward Missionaries.

     

 This years royalties go to the Backward Missionaries. Purchase your copy on CreateSpace.com or on Amazon.com and help them serve in Costa Rica.

Book excerpt.

     It is possible to live out of the overflow. Personal time with Jesus, private worship and prayer, and waiting in His presence are often the key investments we make as we keep our love for Jesus alive. As we position our selves to lean toward Him, He in turn, invests in us. As we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. His promises are true.

     It’s a time investment that I am choosing to make toward Him. As a by product of this time I'm often refreshed as I experience His grace and His love as He leans toward me. I'm then able to pass on what I have received.

    Over time I’ve noticed a change in my heart, and I’ve noticed that I have an increased awareness of His presence in my day. I’m not fully where I want to be but I am pursuing.


    I’ve also noticed an amazing by product of my time leaning in, my steps are often so ordered that I bump into just the right person, at the right time and when I pray for a person they are amazingly touched and impacted by God’s Spirit. 


    I don’t press in for these things to happen. They just happen. I think it is similar to going to the gym. I go to the gym because I like to work out. As a result of going to the gym over a period of time I gain strength, I have better health and I am less stressed. It’s a by product of positioning myself.

    
   One lady, after a simple spoken command, was healed of seventeen kidney stones. She had one kidney and she had a ninety percent chance of dying if operated on. Three days after we prayed for her she went back to the hospital. They discovered the stones were no longer there. All seventeen had vanished! She didn't have a UTI, or any other issues. She was totally healed! I was amazed! It was one of our first major miracles.

   My advice is to find a personal well where you can refill your fountain, a place where the Holy Spirit is moving.
    

    You may want to take some time off to go a location where a well is flowing. There are hot spots all over the world where the Spirit is moving. Why not take a field trip? Go, worship, receive prayer and learn from others who are pursuing more.

     In order for you to receive, seek to return to your first love. Position yourself to go there, to your well, to your place, wherever your place my be—with a hunger and thirst for more. Spend time in worship; rest in His Presence. Lean into the Holy Spirit. Make room for Him. It’s what is most important.
 

     One day during a personal time of worship. I heard this question, “Steve, if this was the only thing you did, would it be enough?” I knew this question was asking more than its face value. I paused and said,”I don’t know. I’m so driven. I want it to be enough. Help me enter this rest. Help me to allow You, Jesus to be more than enough.”

Sunday, January 03, 2016

LeRoy An Amazing Christmas Store Connection.

Christmas store fun.




We had a blast in our free store this season. Families came and shopped for their kids. Smiles and tears were common as we served and cared for people. Our team out did themselves serving, with great love. Our prophetic artists really connected with the people who stopped by their tables. 

People wept, laughed, hugged and were amazed by the love and goodness of a Father who knew them well.



LeRoy:
I saw a man pushing a walker and using a cane. I began a conversation with LeRoy and he told me his story. 

He was injured in one of the Gulf Wars. Seems they were on a recon mission and were driving down a road. They saw a plastic bag ahead so they stopped, and shot the bag. Nothing happened, so they drove past the area. 

At some point down the road they realized they were going in the wrong direction so had to turn around. As they drove back past the bag... KA BOOM! an IED blew up.

LeRoy was injured, his pelvic area, his legs, his back were damaged and he received concussion damage to his head and internal organs. 

LeRoy told me he knew why he was alive. He told me just before this mission he wrote PS 91 on a piece of paper and carried it under his shield, his front body armor. 

It was an amazing story. LeRoy was a joyful man. I had the honor of praying for him and seeing the Holy Spirit touch his life. We hugged. 

He then went into our store to pick up presents for his kids.



 
This is the entrance to our store. 

Later, LeRoy went to our prophetic art team area. He sat down, some small talk ensued, and the artist began to draw. Note: She had no idea about our earlier connection and conversation. 

As she waited upon the Holy Spirit she began to draw. She was impressed to draw... you guessed it...  a shield and then wrote PS 91 as she spoke encouragement into his life. 

He was totally stunned, amazed, and greatly encouraged. As he got up to leave, he folded the drawing, and placed it under his coat near his heart. Boom! That's the love and goodness of God in action! Awesome!

This is just one story of many. Almost 200 families were helped this year with free presents for their kids.

James Capital Alliance, Inc were our sponsors for yet another year. They believe in helping the less served of our community. I give them a special thanks.

http://www.jamescapital.com/
 .





Friday, December 18, 2015

Emmanuel God with us


Emmanuel God is with us.  What an amazing truth! 

A few years ago I was very angry. I jumped into my car. I sat shouting out at the top of the voice.

 I felt betrayed,  belittled, and dishonored. 

I was in a season where pride, my ego, my heart was often wounded, and I wasn't handling it well.

In the midst of my raging emotions, I heard a whisper, "Go into the big room and worship."

I pulled into the parking lot, got out of my car and slowly walked into the big room. The big room is my resting place, the place I position myself to just be. A place where I pour my heart out in worship. A place where I sit in silence. A place of refuge where I have learned to enter rest.

 I sat down for a moment and quietly reflected. How did I get here? Why did I allow myself to be in this position? I realized I was here in this season because I allowed myself to be here. No one else was responsible. I was responsible. It was painful. I knew I had to shift my heart, my mindset and lean forward.

I often read Philippians chapter 2. As I sat in the dim light, I began to think about my situation. I thought about the humility of Jesus. He uttered no threat. When reviled, He humbled Himself; entrusted Himself to the Father's care. 

Sitting alone in the dim light I saw, I more than saw the amazing humility of Jesus. Not that He went to the cross, but that He, as God, humbled Himself to let go of His God rights and become a man clothed in human flesh.

 I saw Him before creation, rejoicing before His Father. At creation I saw Him rejoicing, dancing, flinging stars, setting universes into motion. I saw, this Jesus, God, became man...Emmanuel. I was undone, humbled. 

My rant, my raging emotions, my wounds, my pride faded into insignificance

I picked up my guitar just began to play. A song of worship flowed out of my heart.

Amazing, so amazing, is your humility.
Amazing, so amazing, is your love for me
Amazing, so amazing, is your humility
You gave it all for me.
Amazing, so amazing, is your humility
Amazing, so amazing, is your love for me
You gave it all, for every eye to see.
Your humility Jesus amazes me.

Amazing, Amazing,  is your love for me.
Amazing,  Amazing, is your humility.

I was again undone. Humbled. My emotions had shifted. I worshiped

I walked out of the room forever changed. Yes, my ego, my pride still rises up. My feelings still bounce when I'm humbled, yet, I'm different. I now remember my encounter with the Humble One. Remembering brings me back to a heart of worship.

Christmas is all about God become flesh, Emmanuel  God is with us. 

Such humility amazes me.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thoughts in the night. The process of change.

Thoughts in the night.


I met with a wonderful group of leaders recently. They are in process. They have been looking at their strengths and weaknesses. They are asking questions. They are also writing, dreaming, re-adjusting beginning to see what could be. They are in transition. In our meeting I mentioned I saw a couple of pictures of where they were in the process: I saw a person who had pulled a bow string back in preparation ready to let an arrow fly.

Another picture: They were like a wave pulling away from shore, building up, gathering energy, getting ready to move forward and release the energy back upon the shore. 

The action of pulling back, zooming out, is a good  and valuable season. They had been meeting together and had written four great thoughts concerning their transition into their new future and destiny.
  Transition and change tips:

Focusing upon who you are becoming... leads people. 
Focusing and reacting to who you are not... drives people.

Focusing on who you are, who you are created to be is so important. Hitting to your strength is often how personal and corporate growth is achieved. Every person, every group is different. We are all unique and gifted. We have strengths and weaknesses. We all have talents and abilities that we must steward. If you are a leading leader you have gifts found in people to steward. (That is another post for another day.)

We all have a unique identity as sons and daughters. Our identity is discovered, developed and deepened in our secret place. We are who our Father tells us we are. We reflect who were are by our words, actions, and attitudes. We are in process.

Change, transition is important. However, strong change and courage to change should flow out of the foundational principle of knowing who you are, whose you are, and who you are called to be. This is true as an individual and as a church.

This thought, "Being secure in who you are and whose you are", is so important, especially during the process of change, or transition within the context of community.  


Questions to ponder and discuss: 

Who are we? 
What is our strength?
What are we attempting to accomplish? 
Is where we are going, and who we are becoming flow out of who we are?
What is our history, from the perspective of what have we accomplished positively?
What was our initial vision for our city? Is it still relevant? 
How does our community define us? 
Are we still who our community defines us to be? If so, why so? If not, why not?
As leaders have we successfully shifted the language of vision and mission from I, my... to we together
Why are we changing? 
Why are we shifting? 
How are we going to begin change, shift? 
When do we launch the shift?
What's our process?

Other questions
Does change flow from our confidence of being who we are together(relationship)?
Do our people know their focused purpose? 
Are people secure in their personal identity as an individual, and as a group together?
If you are the main leader do people trust you?

If some of the above questions are not answered the foundation for change is shaky at best, and the road to change will be a difficult one. 

If the questions are not clearly answered and processed over time, (over time is the central thought) on different relational levels (staff, key leaders, key people and your community of faith) there could be trouble ahead.

Dialogue(
conversation between two or more people) is Needed 
This is who we are. This is why we are changing. This is what we are changing. This is how we are going to enter into change. This is when we are beginning to implement change.  

These thoughts help the process, especially answering the big Why? question.

I met a pastor from Ireland. People told me he made a major decision when he first arrived. He knew they(his little flock) needed to focus the first five years on becoming who they were, and who they were called to be, then and only then launch new initiatives. He knew and understood the value and the process of change and the importance having something relationally authentic to give away. Now years later they are blessing their city and their world in a big way. They are currently revisiting identity, being brave and having courage to press forward. He took his time and laid a really good foundation.

One great leader said something I'll never forget, "Never, ever, bring people out of a current vision and mission, unless you have clear understanding of where you want to go and have a process to nurture people into a new season of vision, mission and change."

Write the vision, make it plain so that the reader may read, embrace the vision, and run with it. Habakkuk 2:2 My paraphrase

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish NASB. 

Where there is no clear, prophetic vision, people run in circles, become discouraged, lose heart and become aimless. My paraphrase.

Wise leaders make a plan, and make a plan to make where they are heading, plain. Bowen

Making the vision plain is part of the process. Before the change is launched, wise leaders make a plan, and make a plan to make it plain.

Why does moving into something new take time? Answer: people are involved.
 
Some people are fast processors... they hear, understand and are ready to shift.

Some people are visual learners... they need to see the big picture, or paint the picture in their imagination of what the change looks like and why.  

Other people are internal processors... they need time hear, to think, reflect, ponder and understand. 

Some people are verbal processors... they need time to talk and be listened to.

Some people just hate change.

The process takes time. Rule of thumb: The greater the change, the longer the process. Our decisions to change, and more importantly, how we enact change does determine our destiny


Thoughts in the night are wonderful to ponder. Hopefully you pay attention to your thoughts in the night. They may be important sign posts for your life.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Entering Rest. You desire to discover new frontiers... It is time to travel."

Trip Stories: 1
You desire to discover new frontiers... It is time to travel."

What an amazing trip to the UK. I was on a recon mission, scouting out the land, reconnecting with people. and meeting new friends.

The Thursday before heading out I was in the Big Room positioning myself to worship, read, and receive. Toward the end of the time. I had an impression to look at my travel documents. I grabbed my ipad, found my AA ticket and looked it over. To my surprise my ticket was booked in my short name not my long name. My passport is in my long name. I thought, "O NO!." My emotion, dread. My thought, "You are so stupid."

 I called AA and asked if the names being different on ticket and passport mattered? Yes it mattered. I could not enter into the UK without my ticket name matching my passport name. I was told the travel agency had to unlock my ticket... they could not. 

Later, I called the travel agency they didn't know what to do. I called AA back. I was told to come to the airport with my passport. 

I went to the airport with passport. The lady at the desk attempted to change my name on the ticket but was locked out. I was told the travel agency would have to change the ticket. I called the agency and was put on hold for 2 hours. Finally I hung up. No one called back. I'm thinking this is gonna be an expensive trip at least $2000 dollars, plus my other paid ticket.

Friday t-minus 3 days. I called the agency through out the day. Finally I spoke to a guy named John. John explained the process and that I'd have to wait until Monday and to send a picture of my passport. "Someone would call Monday because this is the weekend and the people who can fix the issue from support have gone home for the weekend." I calmly reminded John that I was leaving Monday.

During the whole time of this crisis I was seeking to enter into rest and to flow from rest, more than flow from anxiety or stress. It was a battle.  A friend of mine came over on Friday evening and encouraged me. He simply said, "Father is in control." 

Pattie went out and bought a meal at the China Cottage. We were finished eating and she placed a fortune cookie next to me. I opened the note: "You desire to discover new frontiers... It's time to travel." Wow! 


The odds of this happening are like a 1 with a billion 0's. 

The process:
 Machine printed slip. Machine puts slip in cookie. Cookie is loaded into boxes of 350. The right box full of cookies is delivered to Ohio. Boxes are ordered by China Cottage. China Cottage receives boxes of cookies. Person reaches into storage area begins to use a box of cookies and places cookies into a bowl.  

We order food. Pattie waits for exactly the right amount of time then drives to China Cottage. Pattie goes to the desk to pick up the order. The Lady reaches into cookie bowl and places two cookies into our order bag. We eat our dinner. Pattie goes into the kitchen and gets the cookies and brings them into room and places the right cookie with the right slip next to me. I open cookie and get the message. Believe me I got the message. At this point I knew I was traveling.


Monday 
I phone at 5am and connect with John. He says someone will phone by 11am I remind John I have to be at the airport by 1pm. So I hang up the phone and think, "How can I position myself to enter rest?"

I decided to head to my usual place of rest in the big room. When I arrived I didn't grab my guitar and sing. I knew I needed to spend time waiting, listening to music, being quiet and resting. 

At the end of my time I opened my ipad and attempted to log on as Steve but could not. I then attempted to log on as Stephen. Boomya! There was my full long name at the top of the booking. I shouted!

I scrolled down and to my surprise my name on my ticket was still wrong Stephenstrickler Bowen. By this time emotions were in control; faith was in my heart and my thoughts were ordered. I was convinced, I knew with no doubt, I was going on the trip no matter what was written on the ticket. So headed to the airport. 

I parked the car, grabbed my bag and got on the shuttle. As we were leaving the parking lot I received a phone call. The man said, "We fixed your ticket. All you have to do is to return my email I am sending to you.

I told the man, "Thanks so much. However, my ticket is still wrong. My name is Stephen first name,  Strickler middle name, and Bowen last name.

He replies, "Hold on I'll be right back." 

I put my phone on speaker and traveled to drop off point and went to the waiting area next to the check in desk at AA. 

Time passed then he came back on the phone and stated, "All fixed just send email confirming." So I sent an email confirming the fix.

He replied, "You are good to go." I thanked the man went to the desk and checked in. 

Misplaced and Anointed Passport

I misplaced my Passport traveling from Scotland, to Ireland during check in. When I realized what I had done, I deliberately took a step back, gathered my emotions and declared, "Jesus I enter into Your rest right now." My Passport was quickly found, and we headed to Ireland. 

Later during the trip in Ireland my passport was on a side table I knocked an incense oil container over. The oil went onto my passport. I cleaned the outside of the passport and put it into my bag. When I arrived at the airport my passport page with name and address was soaked, smeared with oil. 

Again, I practiced leaning into His rest. The supervisor came talked to me, asked for other identification, then put a special stamp on my passport. I was cleared to travel. I had to explain the fragrance the rest of the trip. Let's just say the fragrance preceded me everywhere I went. (I know this was a prophetic happening)

Enter Rest 

Entering rest is a biblical concept Pattie and I have been practicing since she received this word during her daily quiet time. We are learning and we are leaning into His rest. Learning to live from a place of rest is a practice.
 
For we who have believed enter that rest. Hebrew 4:3 NASB

For the one who has entered His rest... His rest

has himself rested from his works...our works

as God did from His. Heb 4:10 NASB

 Sometimes there is a striving to enter in. Emotions, and thoughts go up and down. At some point trust and faith must kick in. I am learning I must push into rest. Sometimes I have to position my heart, steady my emotions, control my thoughts and speak to my environment. It is part of the practice, and part of the process.