Tag Archives: jeanne guyon

Talking to Jesus on the Back Porch

Have you ever struggled with prayer? You may not be quiet as analytical as I have been with prayer, but maybe you have at some point wrestled with the purpose and the practice of it—even doubted its power to make any difference at all.

Let’s be honest. Prayer is a mysterious thing. But even those of us who are willing to embrace mystery often stumble over deterministic theology (everything is already settled), well-meaning sermons on prayer that only brought the ceiling closer to you, and marque slogans like “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes you.” It’s enough to make you want to become a Buddhist.

About 6 or 7 years ago I entered into a new understanding of my identity in Christ. I had recently come out of vocational ministry and was burdened down with a work-centered faith. In many ways I suppose it was like hitting the reset button on all the things I thought I knew about Jesus, the church, my identity, and prayer. I needed it. Ever felt like that before?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus, Matthew 11:28

If you want to experience the Lord afresh in intimate fellowship with the Father by way Jesus, then I think it’s necessary to see prayer as a way of resting in the Spirit. It’s amazing how often you can do this throughout the day if you’re intentional about it. Prayer requires intentionality.

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” Jesus, Matthew 6:6

While we’re told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), it would be wise to listen to Jesus talk about prayer as a personal retreat. The intimate times with the Lord enable us to pray continually from a renewed identity with sensitivity toward the Spirit.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Ever find yourself saying, “Was that you, Lord?” Maybe you’ve wondered, “Was that my thoughts, or was God speaking?” I’m willing to bet that you’ve been there before. We’ve all been there.

A few years ago I decided to make an intentional effort to move out of the “roaming” mode of prayer—that place where I’m skeptical about hearing from the Lord—like a bad connection. I became convinced that God speaks to us through our thoughts into our spirit.

When I finally let go of this paranoia and unhelpful skepticism, knowing that I certainly wasn’t having a conversation with myself, I then began to experience intimate moments with the Lord, and much more frequently.

I simply trusted that the Lord was listening, and that he always desires to speak to me. He is closer than a brother (Prov 18:24).

Meeting Jesus Around a Campfire

If I have a place to “go away” by myself and “shut the door” (so to speak), it’s my back porch. Over my fence looms a forest of pine trees. I enjoy creation around me as I sit next to my cast iron chimenea (Mexican-styled fire pit) at dusk. A cup of hot tea or coffee aids in relaxation.

I enter into a place of solitude within my soul, opening myself up to the Lord, as I stare into the fire and close my eyes… waiting… expecting.

I imagine the Lord there with me, I see him just as I might see the face of a loved one. The real difference is that I’m not simply visualizing or remembering. I’m creatively imagining for the sake of conversing with a real person. I’m not talking about delusions of grandeur here.

Since I haven’t seen Jesus with my own eyes, not yet anyway, I borrow the face of Christ played by Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ (2004). That may seem strange at first, but it’s perfectly safe and effective.

The first time I did this I imagined myself on a beach at dusk. I saw the Lord’s face through the fire as if he’s sitting across from me. Within myself I said, “Lord.” He looked at me and began speaking with, “My son, I love you.” Those are usually the first words I hear him speak to me in prayer.

While my mind often races and seeks to be interrupted by intruding thoughts or slip into “roaming” mode, I resist the distraction and focus on the Lord—remaining in the moment as long as I can.

If I will stay open to the Lord and allow my imagination to move freely with the Spirit, I have found that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a rush of words from Christ, who is the embodiment of the Father.

Jesus Wants to Get Personal

“Though most believers are comfortable speaking of a ‘personal relationship with Jesus,’ few concepts are so greatly celebrated and little experienced.” Wayne Jacobson

I feel that I’ve only begun to experience Jesus in a fresh way. I’m what you would call an aspiring Christian mystic. What I hope to inspire with this post is a courage to try a method of prayer that treats the Lord as a real person, and a dialogue between two beings. Don’t pray like the hypocrites.

What’s keeping you from a fulfilling prayer life? Where’s your back porch? Does your prayer life suffer because of bad theology? What about your ability to creatively imagine the Lord being present in your life?

Give it a try. Take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and see the Lord there before you in the power of a disciplined imagination.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

For more on prayer, see the following books:


Jesus Manifesto

Moving Forward in Exploration of Christ

A Book Review of “Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ” by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

I can hear it now, “Do we really need another book about Jesus?” Apparently so, considering that as we entered the twenty-first century only 4 books out of the top 100 were about Jesus (Christian Book Association).

In Jesus Manifesto, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola combine their voices to trumpet a resounding reminder that we never “graduate beyond Christ” in the Christian faith. And Christ isn’t found only in the center of things, but along the “corners and on the edges” as well.

Sweet and Viola believe we have created a “narcissistic” and a “best-seller” Christianity which is “self-centeredness wrapped up as ‘spirituality,’ which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything” (p. 100).

There is indeed much to be disheartened with in Christianity today. Yet, there is a growing number of evangelicals that are discovering that pop-culture Christianity is leaving them high and dry. “Whether they realize it or not,” says Sweet and Viola, “people are looking for a fresh alternative—a third way” (p. xiii).

As I look across the present post-modern landscape of Christianity, I see several camps of believers pushing their way through the crowd to stand on the rooftop of evangelicalism with their megaphone in hand (i.e. books, magazines, blogs, etc.) proclaiming the “real” gospel.

There are several current groups and “movements” that are all trying to highlight the neglected sides of historic Christianity. We have the reformed “defenders of orthodoxy,” the emerging brand, the missional-minded, and the organic house church folk, just to name a few.

I do believe that most of the people in these groups truly love the Lord and his church, but many of them are in danger of becoming preoccupied with some thing else other than Christ.

Sweet and Viola believe there are three features present in every spiritual awakening in the Christian church: (1) a rediscovery of the “living Word,” or the Scriptures and its authority; (2) a rediscovery of the living Christ and His supremacy; and (3) a rediscovery of the living Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts and power to manifest Christ in the context of that culture.  (p. xvii)

We’re living in some hot times economically, politically, and socially. Christians are engaging in an exchange of ideas (not without some name-calling and finger-pointing). It’s evident that even those who have been the most outspoken for the “supremacy of Christ” and right “doctrine” have succumbed to rhetorically burning people at the stake in the name of Jesus.

Where is Christ in word and deed? Sweet and Viola write, “Whatever you are occupied with comes out of your mouth. It’s what you talk about most of the time” (p.19). And we should not just be hearers of Jesus only, but doers of Him.

Is “mission” our center?  Is it community? Some say it’s preaching and others… ministry. If we say that Christ is central and supreme, what does that mean concerning justice? What does His universe look like when we are first seeking Christ and His Kingdom?

When Christ is not central and supreme in our lives, everything about life shifts out of orbit and moves out of kilter. So for Christians, our first task is to know Jesus. And out of that knowing, we will come to love Him, adore Him, proclaim Him, and manifest Him. (p. 2)

That’s why this book has been written. It addresses the present challenges we face as many “things” compete for the centrality and supremacy of the person Jesus Christ. We are called to be “living epistles” or “Jesus Manifestos” in our world. It’s about being true to Christianity.

So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person. (p. xvi)

Finally, Jesus Manifesto has been purposely written in an “ancient devotional tone” of writing. In the spirit of Watchman Nee, Jeanne Guyon, Andrew Murray, and T. Austin-Sparks, this book is a fresh call to the post-modern church: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2).

And let us move forward in exploration of Christ Jesus our Lord.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”   Paul, Colossians 2:6,7

Can we, as the Christian church, agree upon the person of Christ? “Receiving Christ also means receiving all who belong to Him” (p. 147).

Will you sign the Jesus Manifesto?

Others who have signed

“One more sign of a Christianity that is beginning to look like Jesus again. Our great challenge over the past few decades has not been one of right believing but of right living. Viola and Sweet create a harmony here that invites you to give the world a Christianity worth believing in … after all they will know we are Christians, not by our bumper stickers and t-shirts — but by our love.” 
Shane Claiborne—author, activist, and recovering sinner    http://www.simpleway.org

“From beginning to end, authentic Christianity is all about Jesus and, ultimately, nothing but Jesus. No one has proclaimed this more clearly and persuasively than Viola and Sweet. Jesus Manifesto is an important and powerful prophetic call for the Martha-like Church to get back to doing “the one thing that is needful.” 
Gregory A. Boyd—Senior Pastor, Woodland Hills Church, Maplewood, MN; Author, Present Perfect, The Myth of a Christian Nation, and The Jesus Legend.

“This is a really exhilarating reintroduction to a Jesus who seems sometimes to have become a stranger to the Church; a passionate and joyful celebration of God with us, which cuts right through churchy quarrelling and brings us back to wonder, love and praise – and the urgent desire to make Him known to all.”  Rowan Williams—Archbishop of Canterbury

“I look for books that call us to love Jesus and make His name more widely known. In Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola ask us to step away out of the “Youniverse” (their word) of narcissistic religion and away from the pop-culture Jesus who is just a nice man. Throughout the book, they exalt Jesus as the divine Savior and ask the church to do the same. I believe this book will spark a renewed love for Christ by pointing us to the deep mystery of His person. You will be motivated to love and serve more deeply as your life is focused on Jesus the Messiah.”
 Ed Stetzer—President of LifeWay Research http://www.edstetzer.com

Read more endorsements at:  www.thejesusmanifesto.org

Buy Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy & Sovereignty of Jesus Christ (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2010) on discount today (6/1/10) at: www.amazon.com

And please take a few seconds to give this review a helpful vote at amazon.  Thanks!

Len Sweet & Frank Viola

Leonard Sweet occupies the Chair of Evangelism at Drew University in New Jersey and contributes weekly to sermons.com and a podcast, “Napkin Scribbles.” He has authored numerous articles, sermons, and forty books.   www.LeonardSweet.com

Frank Viola is a best-selling author, international conference speaker, and a personal friend. His books include Finding Organic Church, Reimagining Church, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, and the best-selling From Eternity to Here.   www.FrankViola.com


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