Ecstasy

I have mentioned during some broadcasts during the pandemic (and before) that I have at times Screen Shot 2020-07-17 at 6.36.07 PMexperienced a strange sensation that is difficult to explain. John Wesley described a spiritual encounter he had once when his heart was "strangely warmed." That would begin to describe what I am writing about. This sense is an overwhelming peace and confidence that I am doing what God wants me to do, where He wants me to do it, in a way that pleases Himand His pleasure overflows into my being. It may be similar to what Eric Lyddell, the Olympic runner said in the movie, Chariots of Fire, "But God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

I have been reflecting on this experience more and more, mostly because it happens to me more and more. It made me think of stories I read about certain saints who were known as mystics because they had strange, mysterious encounters with the Lord that were labeled "ecstasy." The picture with this post is one of St. Theresa who was famous for her ecstatic encounters with the Lord. Of course, the artist's version of her experience is replete with angels and a beatific look on St. Theresa's face. I am not convinced that the ecstasy I am referring to is that supernatural or bizarre.

I found a description online of this ecstatic experience I am trying to describe: 

Total involvement with an object of interest is not an ordinary experience because of being aware of other objects, thus ecstasy is an example of an altered state of consciousness characterized by diminished awareness of other objects or the total lack of the awareness of surroundings and everything around the object.
 
I can't say my consciousness is altered, but it is definitely enhanced to the extent that I lose track of time and could lose myself in what I am doing for any amount of hours. Why am I telling you this?
 
I tell you this because I have come to the conclusion that this is actually to be a normal incident for anyone involved in purposeful activity. Since purpose is motivated by joy, then joy can so flood our beings that we, like Jesus, say we have "food to eat that others know not of." And what's more, isn't this extreme joy or ecstatic experience what many seek through things other than God, things like sex, drugs, work, leisure, or other "things"? Is it so unusual since God created us to have intense emotional expressions and events? And could this ecstasy actually be a foretaste of eternity where we will "enjoy" God's presence forever?
 
I don't know the answers to those questions, but I will tell you this: I am not about to renounce or avoid or rationalize my random joyful tsunamis, for they are about as close to pure worship as I have ever had. If nothing else, they serve as fuel for my work, which has taken on new meaning during this world crisis. I invite you to pursue your own purpose to the extent that you too can be aware of God's approval as you express it, perhaps in overwhelming portions. And if you don't know or aren't sure about what I have just written, then just pray for me that I won't drown in a sea of my own ecstatic, purposeful work. 

Online Purpose Classes

ANNOUNCING ONLINE FOUR-WEEK PURPOSE CLASSES

TAUGHT BY DR. JOHN STANKO

  1. Held on Saturday mornings from 10 to 11:30 and Wednesday nights from 7 to 8:30, Eastern New IMG_6102 York time. Classes start Saturday, July 25, and Wednesday, July 29, and will go for four weeks. (Picture to the right is from a classroom purpose session. Online classes will have similar content.) I have now added a Sunday class starting July 26 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. New York time (add 5 hours for Nigeria, 6 hours for Zimbabwe, 7 hours for Kenya).
  2. You must be able to access each of the four classes via Zoom.
  3. You will have assigned readings from my book Unlocking the Power of Your Purpose along with videos to watch.
  4. The class will consist of discussing the material and giving you a chance to develop your purpose statement with my help and that of the class.
  5. The tuition is $125 for the course. Send me an email at johnstanko@gmail.com telling me you want to enroll and which session you would like (Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday) and I will invoice you via PayPal. You can pay in installments if you wish. We can work out payment other than PayPal as you require.
  6. A limited number of scholarships are available. Email me with your request along with your background, where you live, and why you are enrolling at this time. Scholarships will be awarded no later than July 20 and depend on funds donated for this reason.
  7. Tuition also covers the two books we will use in class, which I will send you when you have registered.
  8. In the meantime, download the free PurposeQuest International mobile app and get started watching the class videos.

TIME TO BE ABOUT YOUR PURPOSE SO YOU CAN SAY, 'PUT ME IN, COACH!'


Facebook Revival

Last Friday, I began posting statements and sayings on Facebook I have used in my purpose coaching and teaching over the years. Immediately, I sensed something was up. The response was quick and RevivalPicenthusiastic, so I posted another and then another, and before I was finished, I had posted roughly 100 sayings that are still receiving feedback, likes, shares, and questions. I thought I would share some of the way forward now that this online revival of sorts has finished while the effects are felt for some time to come.

  1. The most popular post of all my quotes was this one: "Stop waiting for your church to recognize you; recognize yourself and then do what God wants you to do." Let me explain. I have found that many people are expecting their church to recognize their gifts and then find a way for those gifts to be expressed. This does happen but it's rare. There is only one pulpit and 52 Sundays every year to give a public platform to the gifts. What's more, often people's gifts are not consistent with a modern worship structure. One man I knew one time had a purpose to minister to the military. Most churches don't know what to do with that, so I advised him to start his own outreach ministry to the military, which he did.

Rather than being angry at the church or going to another church, I advise you to pray and be creative to find ministry expressions that don't depend on your church's programs or leadership preferences. If you have a ministry to child, buy a rocking chair, take it with you, and go rock children in a hospital ward. I just counseled a woman who was gifted musically to schedule three concerts over the holiday season. She did and I think one of them was at a family gathering. Her assignment for January is to write a song, then record it on YouTube. My point is that you cannot and should not allow your purpose, creativity, or gift to languish if others don't see it for what it is or what it can be.

2. The second most popular post was "By the authority vested in me, I give you permission to be a person of purpose in 2019. You may kiss your purpose." This is obviously a tongue-in-cheek adaptation from the standard wedding vows at a Christian wedding. I have found that I often have to give people permission to be who they are. Everyone wants to be normal but in reality, no one is "normal." Our purpose makes us abnormal, but we often hide who we are so we can act more like what we have been taught normal is. You don't need anyone's permission to be you, but when you are hiding who you are in fear, it sometimes helps for someone like me to say, "Go ahead, sing, dance, write, teach, build and do it the way you want it done. It's okay and it's God's will."

3. The third most popular was "Be you - everyone else is already taken." This brings us back to the normal issue. When we see someone else serving the Lord, we can think that we should be more like that person. We admire their gifts and want them, even covet them. I urge you to be who God made you to be, and there has never been anyone like you in the world. Stop trying or pretending to be someone else. If you like pizza for breakfast, eat it (not particularly healthy, but you get my point). If you like the color purple, then decorate in purple (mine is orange, but men don't wear orange, but I started to wear orange). I may emulate what I admire in someone else, but I am going to assimilate that into my personality and gifts. I want to be me and God wants that too.

4. The fourth post was "I no longer put my faith in my ability to hear the Lord; I put my faith in God's ability to speak to me." My experience has shown me that we have been taught not to "miss the Lord," so we agonize over the guidance process and wait for endless confirmations before we may then venture out. God is with us, not against us. He is not trying to trick us. I can honestly say I have never heard that the Lord wanted me to write any of my 40 books (perhaps that is reflected in the sales!). I had an idea and I trusted that I had the mind of Christ on the matter and proceeded. Now if you have written 41 books, I will listen to your advice of how to hear from the Lord, but if you have thought about writing for ten years, had three prophets confirm you were supposed to do it, and still haven't written anything, I won't be accepting your advice on how to hear and follow through any time soon. God is a great communicator and James was clear: If we ask for wisdom and don't doubt, we will receive it. We tell people to go for it, but be careful. That grooves fear into their mind, so they wait and tarry and delay.

There is a lot more I could write, but I have probably already written or talked about it someplace. Check out my website, my Vimeo video channel, my Monday Memo blog, my personal blog, my Twitter account (@johnstanko) or my LinkedIn page and you will find a ton of stuff that relates to what I wrote about on Facebook this past weekend. As you approach 2019, I encourage you not to set your goal to go to the moon if you haven't been out of your home town, for you are just setting yourself up for failure. Don't set a goal to write a 900 page novel if you can't be consistent with your journal. Build your faith muscles in 2019 by going a bit farther than you have gone before. Share your testimony on Facebook when you do and then set a goal to go a little farther.

If I can help you, let me know, but in the meantime, have a blessed, purposeful and Happy New Year! May this be the year of purpose for you.


A Spirit of Fear

If you are like me, you know 2 Timothy 1:7 by heart: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). I use this verse often when I coach people to find purpose or to be creative, and I have felt free to use this truth in many other areas of life and ministry, including my own. Therefore I was surprised this week when I looked at this verse in the context where it is found, and discovered that I should not be as free to use this verse as I have been, for it seems to be  specific and focused in one and not all areas of life.

In the verse before seven, Paul wrote these words: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God FanIntoFlamePicwhich is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV). Paul was urging Timothy to recognize the gift he had and instructed him to fan the gift into flames. When our homes had a fireplace, I would often have to employ this tactic. If I could get a small flame going, I would gently blow on it, giving it more oxygen so that it would spread. That is what Paul was telling Timothy to do: Take the smallest spark of his gift and do what he had to do to make it burn hotter and brighter.

So the context for not having a spirit of fear is not applied to all areas of life, but to the expression of our purpose and gifts. Paul would not tell us not to be afraid where our gift is concerned unless it was a common tendency for it to happen. We shrink back in fear when we have a chance to express who we are instead of taking every opportunity to do so and to learn how to do it more effectively.

Where are you afraid to express your gift? In fact, do you know what your gift is? Have others laid hands on you to confirm or release the gift? What can you do to fan it into flames, giving it the oxygen it needs to flourish and prosper. I have been on a search and destroy mission the last few years of my life to find and eradicate fear, and it's been a large task. I suspect this will continue for the rest of my life.

What are you doing to confront and neutralize the fear where your gift is concerned? I encourage you to read these verses and the others in 2 Timothy 1 and do what Paul was advising Timothy to do, which was to stop hiding behind his fears but to step out into the light of self-expression, which is the only way to honor God for making you who He made you to be.


"Here Am I, Send Me!"

I have been reflecting on Isaiah 6 the last few weeks and thought I would share my conclusions with you as they pertain to God's role and our role in fulfilling our purpose and being creative. First, let's look at Isaiah 6:1-8:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of PicIsaiah6unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (emphasis added).

What can we learn from this commissioning or calling?

  1. Isaiah's story began when he saw the Lord. He not only beheld Him, he heard the sounds that surrounded the Lord and felt the reverberations of the noise the angels created.
  2. When Isaiah experienced the Lord, he had what was probably an unexpected reaction. Isaiah saw his own uncleanness and inadequacy. He declared "woe is me" and "I am ruined." In other words, Isaiah faced his insufficiency to stand in God's presence or serve His purpose.
  3. Immediately, an angel swung into action, bringing a live coal from a nearby altar and touching Isaiah's mouth. An altar is where sacrifices were made, and this heavenly altar was a place where God Himself cleansed His servants.
  4. After the angel ministered to Isaiah, the Lord asked two questions: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Let's examine Isaiah's response.

FRIENDS OF GOD

Immediately, Isaiah volunteered for the job opening that God announced. Notice, that while God spoke in the singular, He also spoke in the first person plural, indicating that He had discussed with other members of the Godhead the need to send someone to His or their people!

Isaiah did not wait for confirmation, pray about his decision, share it with anyone to get their opinion, or need to know the specifics before he said, "I'll go!" It seems that he was free to go or not go, but God immediately accepted his offer and spelled out what he would say, how the people would respond, and how long he would serve.

This scenario leads me to believe that we have more say in what we will do for the Lord than we sometimes think we do. Often people say, rightly so, that "I will do whatever God wants me to do." That is noble and  consistent with our role as servants of the Lord. Yet, we are also friends of the Lord, as Jesus indicated in John 15:14-15: "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." As friends, there may be something in your heart that you want to do. Is it time that, like Isaiah, you say, "Here I am, Lord, send me" or "use me" or as I tell my college classes, "Put me in, Coach!"

Second Chronicles 16:9 states, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." God is looking for people who are willing to do His will, not those who have to be coerced and commanded to do it. As the Lord searches the earth today, I want to be among those He notices whose hearts are His. Will you join me as together we put aside our role as servant for just a moment and be friends of God in the tradition of Isaiah?


Life Matter - Jesus' Priority

"For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity" - Psalm 122:9.

Jesus gave His life not only to save souls, but also to place those souls in a Church that He is building. The Apostle Paul realized this truth, and gave his adult life to found, structure, and nurture churches throughout the Roman Empire, not considering his work a success until he saw a church with elders where he had preached. A few of Paul's letters were to individuals like Timothy and Titus, but the majority of his letters were filled with instructions for the church that were to be read in their assemblies. If Jesus and Paul gave His life to establish the Church, it was obviously His top priority, and you would do well to make it your top priority as well. Jesus told Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19). Are you doing what you can to assist Christ in building His church? Do you give to your church? Do you contribute your spiritual gifts to help edify and build up your church? Do you know and love the people there? What more can you do?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125


Life Matter - For the Lord

"Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him" - Psalm 4:3.

God has called you to a life of service during which you will direct your purpose and use your gifts to help other people in many ways. Yet no matter how often or how much you serve others, God must remain the focus of your service. What you do, you do for Him, so that when people are ungrateful, unresponsive, or unapproachable, you will not become disillusioned or discouraged. This principle was reinforced throughout the Old Testament in the symbol of the burnt offering, which was not consumed by the priest, but was to be burned completely (without the blood and fat) as an offering only to the Lord: "You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord" (Leviticus 1:13). Do your feelings get hurt when people don't recognize or appreciate you? Are you doing what you do ultimately for the Lord? Do you mind being a burnt offering, consumed in the fire of God's service and presence, as a sacrifice to Him in your service to others?

Today's reading - Psalms 1-5


Life Matter - Dangers of Idolatry

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them - Psalm 135:15-18.

One of the many problems with idolatry is that it dehumanizes the worshiper. According to today's passage, those who worship idols become like those idols. They cannot speak, see, or hear spiritual things apart from those that the idol imparts to them. Idols can be either external or internal, physical or mental, animate or inanimate. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and advised them how to deal with idolatry: "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you'" (2 Corinthians 6:15-17). Check your heart to see if anything or anyone has taken a place in your life that is hindering your walk with the Lord and your ability to comprehend your true spirituality in Christ.

Today's reading - Psalms 131-135


Life Matter - Simple Things

"Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord" - Psalm 117:1-2.

 

These two verses are the only verses in the entire psalm, making it the shortest psalm of all 150. It is not particularly profound, neither does it reveal some truth that cannot be found anywhere else. Yet, it has a place in the inspired words of God, indicating God's approval and priority. How often have you not said or done something because it seemed so obvious or simple? You kept your words or idea to yourself because you did not want to come off as simple, shallow, or even stupid. Today's psalm gives you a model to follow that no matter how something seems to you, it may have value to other people and to God! What's more, these verses summarize a simple yet appropriate behavior that is acceptable in every and any season—and that is to praise of the Lord your God because of His great love. Have you been too quiet because you have been judging either your unspoken words or undone acts of kindness or service? How can you become less critical or judgmental of your own righteous impulses, no matter how simple they may be? Can you praise the Lord today for who He is and His great love, even if you are in a difficult place?

 

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120


Life Matter: Dealing with Godless Fools

"The fool says in his heart,
    'There is no God.'
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good" - Psalm 14:1.

A correct understanding of and relationship with God are required for any and all righteousness. Without that, God identifies the godless as fools and their ability to do good is minimized. Therefore, the best way to turn around evil and wickedness is to convert the evil-doer into a God-believer. That should make global evangelism the top priority for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. You can pursue evangelism by going and doing, or by supporting those who are gifted and willing to go and do, including a local church that preaches the gospel and makes evangelism and then discipleship a priority. Remember, no one is beyond God's reach, and the Apostle Paul is a good example of that: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:13-14). Are you committed to the work of evangelism? How so? How can you increase your role in reducing the number of godless fools in the world?

Today's reading - Psalms 11-15