Thursday, December 22, 2016

His Word - Shut Up In My Bones

Romania Trip Blog Post #3 - Reflections from Cluj

By Bunni Pounds

"But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not."  Jeremiah 20:9

When I was nine, my dad was a pastor of a Seventh-Day Adventist church and we had a evangelist-teacher come through town for a couple weeks to do a "Revelation Seminar". SDA's love to teach people about the book of Revelation and end time prophecy and then direct them to Jesus through that door.

As a young girl, I was enthralled with the meetings every night. I listened intently, took notes, and at the end of the meetings went up for the altar call to "join the church". My dad soon walked me through the precepts of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and I was baptized. I don't remember much being said about Jesus, his sacrifice, or repentance in this process but I knew this- I wanted to teach the Bible like that man who came to the church. I wanted to lead people to truth and be able to explain the Bible to anyone who would listen.

When I was in 5th grade, I remember sitting out in the woods waiting to hear from God at camp. When we lived in the Nashville area, I remember building a sanctuary out in the woods where I could meet with God.

It wasn't till I was in 8th grade at a Christian concert where I believe I really came to faith in Jesus with the full revelation that I was a sinner and needed a Savior. The power of the cross and the gospel was so real to me that it continued to linger in my heart where I shared it with all my friends. I knew I was a new person and set free by the power of the gospel to walk with God.

At age 13, I researched every scripture in the Bible about the Holy Spirit, prophecy, and praying in tongues to figure out what I believed on the subject on my own apart from my parents who disagreed with each other on church, theology, and the power of the Spirit.

At age 14, after I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I wrote a seven point paper to the SDA church about why I could no longer be an Adventist. It was seven pages full of scripture and if I pulled it out of the box right now, I would still agree with my own research.

When I look back on my young life, I know that God was calling me to teach and preach the Word of God. I knew it as one of my greatest desires.

No one had to convince my father that I was called by God. He knew it from the moment when I sat through two weeks of the Revelation Seminar without moving at the age of nine and understand the concepts. He wasn't surprised that after being accepted at North Texas University as a theatre major that over the course of one summer I dropped everything and ended up at Christ for the Nations Bible Institute to study practical theology. He wasn't surprised when I ended up on the mission field in Guatemala for a season. He knew I was called to preach and teach the Word of God.

My dad was upset for years when I chose to get into politics because he thought I was running away from my call.

My dad like many people saw me without a gender label on me. He saw me with the eyes of Jesus knowing I was gifted and anointed to teach and preach the scriptures. For years....I didn't see it or pursue it even though it was always in my heart.

I am not going to go into the "coming out" story but let me just say this.....I am thankful for a father, a husband, spiritual fathers like Danny Norris and Mike Lambert, and brothers like Cornel Bistrian and Ronald Wolthuis who have allowed me to be who God has called me to be.

"But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not."

God has called us at Reality Community to release people and train them up so I don't get to teach each week. We all talk turns and allow others to minister. I say that to say that it is a marathon for me to preach and teach 4-6 times in a row or like on this trip 10 times in 10 days to four different audiences. It stretches me and I am thankful.

Six months ago, I knew I had a word for the Bible school in Cluj to really take ownership of their call to be a center of worship and prayer for the nation of Romania but that within that call to realize that evangelism and church planting go hand in hand with it. As John Piper says "missions exists because worship does not"

Realizing the impact of Steve Hawthorne's message "the Story of His Glory" that has gone deep in my heart for over 20 years, I threw myself into his Perspectives course over the summer and went about to make the Story of God my own message and also hear from God and develop other messages for the Cluj Bible School that would build upon each other and give the students the big vision of God and the theology to step out in faith to do big things in ministry or business.

God was faithful to give me messages for the Gypsy church and the women's conference in Arad but I was really commissioned on this trip to bring the word of God to the Bible school in Cluj. I knew that was my mandate and God met us in such powerful ways.

I thought I was going to start that week with Matthew 28 and the Great Commission, but soon I knew why I couldn't go there first. God wanted to build a foundation in our hearts with the big Story of God, the story of the Moravians, and for us to see the connection between passion for Jesus and apostolic passion to build communities of faith.

When I finally got to the story of the resurrection in Matthew 28 on the last night and how Jesus appeared to the women who were seeking Him and commissioned them to be the first bearers of the gospel, the "good news", my heart was exploding.

When I finally started sharing about the words of Jesus that "all authority had been given to HIM" so therefore He commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples- my life in politics and ministry made sense again.

I was called to preach the gospel. I was called to make disciples.

The moment when I finally took ownership of the fullness to my call was on the stage in Cluj four years ago when my dear brother Ronald Wolthuis who planted the church among the gypsies in Reghin prophesied over me and said "Do you not know that I have called you as a prophet to the nations? Do you not know? But you keep saying that you just a woman. Stop it!"

In that moment the floodgates broke in my heart as that nine year old girl, that fourteen year old "theologian", the nineteen year old Bible school student and the twenty year old missionary all heard the voice of the Lord again and I knew I would never have to hear it again to make me believe it.

I knew that I was called to preach the gospel in America and the nations of the world.

So when I got to the end of the Great Commission that Thursday night on this trip and I asked the students to come up who knew they were called to preach the gospel and to obey the Great Commission- my heart exploded with joy as half of the altar was filled with the beautiful Romanian female Bible School students who realized that they were called for a purpose.

I asked the young men at the altar if they would pray blessings and release their sisters to be the important other half of the Kingdom of God. As they reached out their arms and prayed with such fervency- revelation exploded in the hearts of these young women and walls were broken down.

I just laid my hands on them and spoke the call of God over their lives like Ronald and my father had done for me.

One young woman was still laying on the back seats of the auditorium two hours later after I had gotten done ministering to everyone who wanted personal ministry. I just walked over to her and laid my hand on her head and said softly "I agree with whatever God has called you to be." When I did that she started wailing and crying and I knew I was not the only one who was getting free, this young woman was going to impact nations.

I want to say thank you to the men in my life who have released me to be me and teach and preach the gospel. It is one of the greatest honors of my life and like women who stood at the tomb and saw Jesus, I know the resurrected Lord has commanded me to tell His story and see people set free by the power of His resurrection.

"But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not."

I am thankful for His word that burns like a fire in my heart. God has been so faithful to me to see that it is released.

Jesus is so beautiful and so worthy to be talked about!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bread Cast Upon the Waters

Romania Trip Blog Post #2 - Reflections from Cluj

By Bunni Pounds

Ecclesiastes 11:1
- "Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days."

As Christians, many times we underestimate the power of doing something consistently over a long period of time. Many times, it doesn't feel to us that we are accomplishing anything. We ask ourselves - "Is this really of value? Is my little bit really impacting?"

This could be the time we spend volunteering, the prayers of intercession that we pray for our family, friends, or our church, or the seeds of finances that we sow into the Kingdom of God.

When I walked into the Bible School in Cluj-Napoca, Romania a few weeks ago - I walked into my Romanian home.

Why? Because for the first time, I realized in a huge way that I have an inheritance in this Romanian bible school and our church, Reality Community, has a huge inheritance in Romania.
This was my third trip to Romania in the last four years and the year I didn't go, our church sent my husband, Tim, and our spiritual father, Mike Lambert. So for the past four years, we have been annually sowing into our Bible school in Cluj by physically being there and investing in students and we have monthly for over five years "cast our bread upon the waters" by giving a substantial amount into keeping this incredible work going and prospering.

Many months when I write the checks to missions, I wish we were doing so much more, but then I look at our final totals for the year and gasp. Wow - we are making such an impact! Our small little body of believers is impacting the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ and it is one of the accomplishments that I rejoice over most at the end of the year.

Let me tell you two stories that meant a lot to me on this trip.

Four years ago when I came to Romania, I "adopted" several young men here at the Bible School in Cluj. I still remember that trip like it was yesterday. I was so burdened when I walked into the school that the girls were exuberant worshippers but yet the young men seemed cold and dead. Being the mother of boys (then 13 and 15), I was naturally drawn to them and started praying for them to come into the fullness of what God had for them. Helen (my spiritual mom who was on the trip with me) and I both started pursuing the hearts of the young men for the kingdom of God.

The story of Josef

The first young man I really connected with four years ago was Josef. He didn't speak much English but we tried to communicate as much as we could. I even spoke to him for a long time with a translator. If I believe correctly, he had just gotten off a drugs within a year or so and had gone through Teen Challenge. He was so sweet and humble and I instantly thought he was a gentle and kind man. He was young, very young with a simple faith what wanted to learn and grow. At some point in the week, I think near the end, I prophesied and prayed over him that he would help others be set free from drugs. I told him to get ready to be a leader and that God would use him mightily.
Josef four years ago as a Bible School student
Josef was so humble and hungry for God that he asked to come to the women's conference that we were having at the school that weekend. He told me if he would be allowed to come, he would take photos for me and help us get some video on my camera. I have been so thankful for years and years for all of the incredible pictures that Josef captured that day.

The first night in Cluj this trip, Josef showed up at the first service. He didn't come alone, he came with four young men who he was discipling at Teen Challenge. He looked like a mature man of God with wisdom and light in his eyes. I saw him when I was preaching and was drawn to his deep eyes full of satisfaction in his life.

When I finally got over to him to hug him, he grabbed me tightly and said, "Do you remember when you prophesied over me that I would be leading other young men out of addiction? That is exactly what I am doing. I am so thankful for your words and your love. Can you pray and minister to my guys I brought tonight?"

I had no words. He had brought four young men that he was mentoring and leading out of addictions at Teen Challenge as a leader there. Thankful doesn't seem strong enough.  I was beyond blessed at the faithfulness of God to speak and then do His work in this young life. As I prayed over him the last night I saw him, I wept at the faithfulness of God in his life and spoke over him that he was one of the most humble men I have ever met.

The beginning story of Emanuel (Eci)

Emanuel (Eci) four years ago on bottom and current at the top

Eci and his brother Efraim this trip

Four years ago, Helen and I had the honor of praying over all of the worship leaders and team members one afternoon. It was an incredible day and during that afternoon - God spoke many profound life-changing things into people's lives. One young man I prayed over, Eci (Emanuel), I knew had a profound call on his life. I prayed that he would be a man of influence - either in ministry or business and that God would give him great resources and money to impact the Kingdom of God in Romania. (By the way, I didn't remember this after four years, but he played me the prayer that he had saved on his computer.)

One night after Helen and I had gotten done eating at the Bistro next door to the Bible school, I saw Eci eating and I wandered over to him, sat down, and started an hour conversation with this young man. I don't really remember what we talked about other than his studies at the University and his heart to seek God, but I remember thinking when I left him that I was sitting next to someone who was GREAT in the Kingdom of God. I put it this way during this trip, "I get to sit and talk to great elected officials and people who are changing our state and our nation and I knew when I was sitting next to this young man that I was sitting next to someone just as important."

God has really used Eci over the last few years. He played bass and ministered in many nations with the top Romanian worship leader there. He has made a great impact on several ministries where he has worked among the Gypsies. He has become a leader in the eyes of many people there whether he sees himself in that way or not.

Roxy and me four years ago
During praise and worship the first night in Cluj, I saw him. We hadn't seen each other in four years, but we were still connected. Eci had miraculously met our son Israel Pounds on a train from Arad to Cluj about six months before and he had told Israel - "your mom changed my life". I don't know about that, but I do know that God spoke to me really clear about Eci years ago that I was investing in a man who would bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God.

I couldn't stop crying during worship after he told me that he and his new bride were coming to Dallas as students here at Christ for the Nations. I had heard the news the night before and couldn't sleep because I was so excited to be able to be a part of these young people's lives in my own home town.

"Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days."

Emanuel and Roxana Biro now
Our family is giving the seed of our son's life into the nation of Romania as Israel leaves soon with a one way ticket and God is giving us a Romanian son and daughter to love and invest in here in Dallas.

We can't underestimate the seeds that we sow and the bread that we cast. The joy of giving our time and our resources comes back to us. It is the true joy of living and without it we are empty.

This Christmas season, let's remember that it is not the bread that we eat but the bread that we sow into other people's lives that fills our hearts with eternal joy.

When I walked into the Bible School in Cluj - I was home because my bread is invested in those waters. In that place, I realized again that everything that we do from the Kingdom of God - small or large matters. Don't underestimate the value of your bread cast upon the waters.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The God who Causes Our Eyes to Burn

Romania Trip Blog Post #1 - Reflections from Reghin

Written by Bunni Pounds 

What kind of God causes people to take vacation time to go love on people on the other side of the ocean - people who don't have anything to give us in return other than their hugs and smiles?

What kind of God propels a man and woman to leave everything to minister to Gypsies who steal the metal planks out of the building they build for them or steal their car?

What kind of God empowers a young man from Holland who had a great career as a bio-engineer to pick up and give up everything to minister to the poorest of the poor children in a village and train up others to do the same thing?  

Are these special people who are a little crazy or do they have a special God?

I believe the Bible teaches that we have such a passionate God who cares so deeply about revealing Himself to the people of every nation that He causes His people to do radical things out of that love. Jesus' eyes are burning with passion for the people of the earth. He is searching to and fro looking for those whose hearts are turned toward Him, and when He finds them, He captures their hearts and then pours His love into those willing vessels.

It is wild that people can start carrying Jesus and their eyes start burning with the love of Jesus to others. Needy and broken people look into the eyes of Christians and something suddenly happens- they see the eyes of Jesus.

Again on this trip to Romania, I have seen the eyes of Jesus.

I have seen Jesus in the bio-engineer who raises his beautiful children and serves with His lovely wife among the gypsies - giving up their lives for the gospel together.

I have seen the eyes of Jesus in my beautiful friends who have taken off work and given up their vacations to hug, pray, and minister to the Romanian people.

I have seen the eyes of Jesus in the joy of a young Romanian man who was broken-hearted in pain but God has restored his joy and his dance.

I have seen Jesus in the eyes of the friend who dropped off $1,200 in cash the night before we left on this trip to give us money to bless people.

Someone said to me on the Sunday of the trip after I preached my message on John 17, "I am so thankful for how you see people and you look into their eyes with compassion and love."

That statement really impacted me because it is something I have cried out to God for. I have desired so deeply to supernaturally love people and to see them as the treasure chests of God.

 A few years ago in Washington DC, I had an Orthodox Jewish rabbi say to me at an event that I was speaking at, "I came in to listen to you with much fear and distrust- but I believe you now. I see love in your eyes." 

In that moment, I started to weep. Why?

Because I knew it was a miracle.

I knew that I couldn't generate that love on my own. I knew that if he saw love in my eyes that Jesus was really working through me and those were His burning eyes of love shining through me.

This is a special God that we serve.  

He is a God who fills our eyes with His fire of love and that love changes people forever.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Love Deeply

Written by Bunni Pounds

Within the Body of Christ - we have two choices - will we love deeply like Jesus or back away in fear?

In these last days when people are more broken, more insecure, more in need of acceptance and compassion than ever, will we be the ones who run away from relationships or bring them near?

God has been speaking to us as the Body a lot about being sons and daughters in the last few years - but the question being asked now is - how will those sons and daughters respond to each other within the family of God? Will we love each other deeply?

This is the question I was asked last night by God as I sat in a chair being sung over at a worship service - Are you still willing to love? Are you willing to continue to love deeply like the spiritual mother that you are?

I was sitting at the Christ for the Nations Institute auditorium last night remembering the dreams that I had for my life twenty-two years ago when I graduated from that Bible school.

In 1994 - I wanted to be used by God, I want to go to the nations, I wanted to be a giver, I wanted to be a radical worshipper, and I wanted to make an impact on people's lives.

As I sat there last night in 2016 - I realized that I am deeply fulfilled - I am being used within our church, my business, my community, and my family. I get the privilege to go to the nations and will be going more in the years to come. Our family is in a great place almost debt free completely - even our house - and we love to give. I still love to sit at the piano and sing to thirty people or sing in front of hundreds my love songs and worship songs to Jesus. Even in the midst of my hectic work and career, Jesus has been faithful to continue to draw me back to him week after week, month after month, and year after year. He keeps me focused. Tim and I are making an impact - though there are days where we wonder where the fruit is.

Last night I was reminded that if we are faithful to the seed that God puts in us - that it will bear fruit.

My "problem" this year is that all my "fruit" is leaving me. I am having a hard time with it to be honest! When you love people deeply - like your son (who runs off to Romania - after I took him there), your spiritual parents (who left for Israel), your best friends (in Jerusalem, South Dakota, and other places), your worship partner and dear friend - and God calls them to another location - it is difficult. I am struggling! Let me be honest.

Yesterday, I cried and cried feeling quite selfish at moments and heartbroken in other moments.

But then He spoke - the voice of the Lord broke through the noise of the pain and spoke this to me.

Are you willing to LOVE?
Are you willing to continue to love deeply?
Are you willing to still be a spiritual mother?
Will you sign up again to shepherd and love unconditionally?

To love deeply hurts.
It can be lonely sometimes.
When you sow your life into others - it is eternal.
Are you willing to sow into eternity?
When you sow your love, your tears, your prayers into others - it is worth it!

When you love deeply - the love that you have given away becomes crowns at My feet.
When you walk the narrow road that FEW are willing to walk, you will be fulfilled and are giving Me so much glory.

It is easier for people to not love.
It is easier to remain distant - to not be transparent with people.
It is easier to not fully give them your heart, but when you do are stealing from them what I have given You.
I have given you My deep love to be given away.
Will you steal My love from them?
I am a giving God and I have made you a giving person.
I gave my ALL. Remember My sacrifices.
I left my father and mother - I left the people that I loved. I laid down My life.
Do you want to really be like Me and walk like Me?

Continue to LOVE deeply.
Continue to give ALL.
Give your love away freely.
It is how I love.
I love deeply.
I need you to love like I love. 
Don't stop.  - JESUS

Enough said.

What choice do I have but to LOVE deeply?

It is who I am. I am in Him. God is LOVE.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Woe to Me If I do not Preach the Gospel - Romania #2

By Bunni Pounds

"Yes, woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For it I do this willingly, I have a reward......" (1 Corinthians 9)

As we arrived back to the United States from a life changing trip to Romania, I have been meditating on the beauty of Jesus and how the simplicity of His story transforms people's lives. 

To be able to preach this incredible good news around the world is the greatest privilege on earth. I might work in politics, event planning, and fundraising but at the core of my being - I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus and I am so thankful that God allows me to walk out my calling to love people, teach and preach the Word of God, and to pray and give into the harvest fields. 

On Thursday night after four days of loving on students, seeing our team lead worship, teach, encourage, and exhort - I was able to teach through the message I have lived in the last three years out of John 17 - the High Priestly prayer of Jesus. For about an hour, I went through it in sections as I poured out Jesus' longing and passion for us and my own desire to "be where He is". 

The eyes in the room were alive with revelation as God opened our eyes again to His desire for us. We gazed at Him with the eyes of our hearts and His glory filled the room. It was thick - so thick. No one needed a human vessel to touch them because Jesus was touching us. He was beautiful.

One of the older students told me afterwards that as I knelt on the floor and we waited on God that He saw a vision of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all gathered together and they had this giant scroll of history in front of them and they unrolled it in front of us and we saw for the first time the WHY behind the suffering and pain on this earth. We saw Jesus walking beside people with tears running down His face as He walked us through our own stories and our own pains and the way He walked us through it all. 

During the service right after this student saw this vision (though I didn't know about it at the time), I started singing prophetically on the microphone about the beautiful face of Jesus and the healing of our hearts from pain. I then spoke that God was opening our eyes to see the pain of history, even our own personal histories through His eyes of love. We sat there humbly before Him in a presence that I can't even describe. It was one of the highlights of my trip because I knew Jesus was awakening people's hearts and that many had never seen Him quite like this before. I pray that night yields much fruit when it comes to intimacy with Jesus in the hearts of everyone in that room.

About 3 weeks before we left for Romania, I found out that Ronald Wolthuis was inviting us to come to spend a few days in Reghen with his ministry to the Gypsies and that he wanted me to preach Sunday morning at his gypsy church.  I was so humbled by the invitation but it caused me to press in even more to Jesus for His love for people. 

When Ronald visited our house a few years ago in the US, he told me and Tim stories of guest speakers who had preached at his church and how the gypsies could sense that the person preaching didn't really love them. When that happened, they would get on their phones or even worse pick up and leave. The fear of not being genuine and not fully loving these people was in my thoughts every day and I sought God and asked Him to give me a word just for these beautiful people. 

I have always struggled to truly understand the deep pain in people's hearts when it comes to abuse, fatherlessness, or horrible injustices.  I have never experienced any of that - having a wonderful father, a family who protected me, and a country who has given me great freedom and opportunity -  but when I started examining my own life I realized at some level (much smaller in comparison to them) I had felt rejection from leaders, I had walked through betrayal, and  I had been looked over for a job or a promotion. In the natural, I couldn't possibly understand the rejections that the gypsy people experienced even by their own governments and families but Jesus knew their pains. 

The beautiful story of the cruxification kept coming up in my heart and mind and I kept meditating on all the pain that Jesus experienced - rejection by His community leaders, betrayal by one of His best friends for money,  and the shame and humiliation of being stripped naked and hung on a cross. 

Jesus knew their pains. He understood their heart cries.

As we toured the mud gypsy homes on Saturday, saw the little children running around with no shoes and no supervision, and saw the mounds of trash built up because the government wouldn't  provide them any trash receptacles, I felt the compassion of Jesus and I kept hearing Him say in my ears- I understand this pain - I have enough compassion for the both of us. 

When I looked around in the auditorium of the beautiful Gypsy people, I saw Jesus' face loving them, telling them that He understood their pain, and that one day He would wipe away every tear from their eyes;  but in the mean time He wuld walk with them and love them in the midst of their circumstances. 

So that is what I preached and tried to communicate......and their eyes were glued to mine as from the stage I laid out Jesus' love in detail. It was one of the greatest privileges of my life. 

I gave the call at the end of the message that if this was the first time they were seeing into His beautiful face and seeing His love for them and that if they wanted to follow Him for the rest of your life, I asked them to stand up. 

One young man in the front stood up boldly, visibly impacted by the love of God. It was an honor to lead him to Jesus that day and tell him that God knew all the bad things that he had done but he was being cleansed in that moment by the greatest cleansing agent in the world - the blood of Jesus. 

When I think about what makes my heart sing and gives me the greatest sense of purpose in my life - I go back to my original calling when I was 18 years old - to preach and teach the Word of God. 

At age 41, I am finally at the place where I don't care where I go, who I know, or what I am doing as long as I am able to be myself and share the Word. This is what makes my eyes sparkle and my heart sing. 

Whether I am sharing with a Member of Congress or a young Gypsy man in Romania - woe to me if I am not able to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this is my true fulfillment in life and my greatest reward. 

Everything we do is birthed out of what we see as our callings in life. As I go into 2016 - even as I am starting a new company, raising up leaders, and helping people in the political world - my heart is in one direction - to disciple the nations, to be salt and light, and in every opportunity that is given to me - to preach the beautiful gospel of Jesus from the hallways of the Capitol, the streets of Austin, or the gypsy villages of Romania.  

What is your calling? What makes your heart sing? What motivates you to get up in the morning? Is it a God inspired idea? 

Then don't be afraid to step out and live it out in 2016. Preach the gospel through your life.