Friday, February 5, 2016

A RECAP OF ENGLAND

Greetings! So it has been about a month now since I was sitting on the plane bound for the United Kingdom. As I reflected on this thought, I realized that many of you have not heard the stories of all that I saw God do while out there. For this reason I felt that for my entry today I should share. While I understand that to some this may be nothing more than boring chatter, I trust that for others it will be a moment of encouragement as you also begin to feel faith rising in you.

The journey in many ways does not start on January 7, 2016, but rather months before in June, 2015. It was here that I felt myself putting faith into action as I told my contact I would come to his city. I had no idea how it would all happen, how the money would come about, or even what God would have me to share. I only knew I was to go. As the months turned into weeks and days, God gave me ideas for fundraising and quickly brought in beyond that amount needed. But God also began to plant in me His words that I would share with the people. He began to give me an urge to speak boldly in faith, even though I was no one special, and to usher in to this church God's wave of urgency.

The plan was to speak in the church's Bible School on the topic of Spiritual Leadership, but also to share in two evening services and a Sunday service as God was leading. Quite honestly, my first sermon was written in the Dublin airport as I waited on my transfer. But from the moment the pen touched the paper, I felt God stirring my faith with an expectancy. God was about to do something big. He didn't really need me, but was allowing me to be the tool that He would minister through. As the evening service began, God moved on the people and brought an awakening to spirits. (More details on this message can be found in the prior blog).

The next day began with teaching in the Bible School, and ended with a late night at McDonalds. But the events that transpired in between still have me in awe of who God is. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, my local pastor asked me to pray over all the men in the church, laying hands on and staying till I felt a release. I had felt God's power then. But as I shared once more in the evening service now, I felt God's power once again. With a simple message concerning taking God at His word, believing the book of Acts to be true, and testing if in fact God was the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), I invited people to the front for prayer.

As God's tool once more, I felt His Spirit again like I did as that young child. I laid hands on people and God's words came through me. Prophecy was coming forth, people I barely touched were falling out, and healings were being done. When the presence began to subside I was in tears, thankful to have been a tool of God. There was no doubt that God was doing something for these people, but the fact that God was doing something in me was just as important.

The final service was had on that Sunday morning, where again God showed up. It wasn't in the form of healings and such, but in the form of rallying the troops. The message God had put on my heart was Joshua 3:5, to be consecrated. Before the army of God under Joshua's command was able to cross into the Promise Land and take possession of what was theirs, God needed them sanctified. It is no different today. God is moving this year, and He is moving us into what He has for us. But if we are not consecrated, we will not enter. In this grand chapel where His Spirit was moving, God was consecrating His people, and I was a tool used by Him to spur His people.

I came back from England a different man. I came back able to hear His voice in a new way, to move out in a boldness that wasn't fully developed prior, and hungry for what He has. A few days back, as we were having our family Bible time, my wife felt I was to pray over all the kids. It was as if the Spirit was standing next to me. I was seeing visions, hearing words of warning and prophecy, and breaking the grips that the devil wanted on our kids. This time, though, while still allowing myself to be the tool, I knew that God could and was doing it. I knew His power.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven in Acts 1, He spoke about how the Spirit would come upon the disciples in power, enabling them to be His witnesses. Not before this trip have I ever felt this degree of His Spirit and power. But who I am that I should experience it and not you. So it is to you that I want to offer this encouragement - that you too shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you too shall be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Do not discredit yourself, for God has plans to use you in a big way.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

AWAKE!

"Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God."
Revelation 3:2

In the first few days of 2016 I had an opportunity to travel to Wolverhampton, England, where I was asked to teach in a Bible School and preach in evening services for a pastor friend of mine. As I prepared my messages, I specifically heard God telling me that it was time to call the people to AWAKE! God took me to Revelation 3:1-6, where the letter written by John to the church of Sardis is found. As I read this passage again, with eyes as if reading for the first time, I began to see clearly what God was saying to the church I would be sharing with, but also to church as a whole.

It is recorded that in the history of the city of Sardis, the city had been captured twice before while sleeping, both in 549BC and 219BC. Was it coincidence that now, years later, they were being called out for sleeping again? Truth be told, the church at Sardis was going through the motions. From the beginning of John's writing we read that the church had a reputation for being alive, but in reality was dead. The church had at one time had a fire, but now they were on cruise control and simply leaving an image that they were still following hard after God. The truth was that they had allowed too much of the world to come in and now they were living off of the reputation of the good old days. If we were to be honest, how many of us does that define today. How many of us were at one time sold out for God, but along the way began inviting sin in? To the outsiders we may still appear to be godly, but to God we are seen as dead.

To this church, and to people who fall into the same definition today, the answer was given...WAKE UP! I love how in the New International Version there is an exclamation mark. This isn’t a nice suggestion, it is a urgency. WAKE UP! Stop being dead. Stop living off the 'used to be' reputation of the past. WAKE UP! Give what is being said here real attention. God is telling people that He sees what no one else sees. He sees that the church is skating by. He sees the inside areas and they are death. WAKE UP! To this urgent plea God then adds to strengthen what remains and is about to die. It is time to restructure your life before it is too late. It is time to refill what has been lacking. It is time to retake action and be that positive reputation again that you used to be. Shake off the dust that has sat on you and remember what God has given you. Come out from the cloudy fog that rested on you and now begin to obey God's Word, and repent from the allowance of things you have let come into your life. If you chose not to, you will be robbed from. So that this does not happen, God is saying to re-engage in the intimacy you once had with Him.

When are we going to stop hitting the snooze button on our alarm clocks? I am guilty of this. I know my alarm will go off at 5:00am every weekday. I set it at that time so that I can allow myself time for devotions in the morning before the rest of the house is up and moving. But there have been many days when 5:00am comes sooner than I want it to. As a result, I hit the snooze button. then I hit it again, then again, then again. Before I know it, I have hit snooze so many times that now I am late to get in the shower, let alone spend time in devotions. But with every press of the snooze physically I am pushing the snooze spiritually. God is calling me to WAKE UP, and I am choosing to remain under the covers.

One of the greatest pictures God gave me in illustrating this point was that of a defibrillator. Having being trained in using one, I know that you must clear the people away from the action before allowing the machine to charge the patient. But how many of us could use a good dose of Godly defibrillating? Just like the church of Sardis, we are on the verge of death in the path that we are going. Just like the church, we have a reputation of godly living, but we are on the verge of death because of our sins.

If you, like me, are serious about coming back to life, then make this your prayer: God, I pray, place the paddles of Your defibrillator on my heart and AWAKEN me. Bring me back from the death of my sin. God I cry out to You and ask that You would forgive me of my sin. God I make the choice to obey You. I chose to remember what I have received and heard from You. AWAKEN ME God, before it is too late.

Friday, November 13, 2015

THE MENIAL INTERN

“Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.”
Exodus 24:13

In the summer of 1997, with almost all my classes out of the way, I set out to complete the mandatory 150 hours of church service required for my Bachelor’s Degree program. There were specific tasks that were needed, such as preaching on a Sunday, working with the church’s financial office in balancing a monthly budget, and both preparing and leading a worship service. But the rest of the hours were a collection of church related items. I found these hours being filled with such items as folding bulletins, serving at a soup kitchen, and working with the youth group. In truth, I pretty much lived at the church during the whole summer of 1997.
When I arrived back to the university, I turned in my signed papers from different leaders of the church. I also handed over a collection of sermon tapes and videos from the times I had been able to preach or teach in the church. The whole lot of items was reviewed by the Theology Department heads and a final grade was given. With my ‘A’ in hand, I thought I had served my time and was ready to become a pastor. Notice, I thought I was. God thought different.
Following graduation I was given an opportunity to serve as an intern in Kalispell, Montana. The terms were simple. In exchange for room and board and $200 a month, I would in essence become the youth pastor’s shadow. This sounded like a good deal to me straight out of college, so I loaded up my car and drove up the day after graduation. On arriving, I found about 20 youth, all at different stages in their spiritual walk, yet all still in need of wanting more.
Ready to serve and assist, I was given my first ‘youth intern task’ – watch them skateboard. Really? I am a babysitter? The church I worked for had their own half pipe open to the community. However, it was only open at certain times, and because of insurance reasons, only under adult supervision. So it became my routine to serve two hours three days a week as the supervision. You have no idea how many days I prayed for rain. I had come to Montana ready to preach, ready to pour out my years of college education to the next generation, and here I was serving as a chaperon.
My chance to preach finally did come a few weeks later in the mid-week youth service. I rehashed an old message from my sermon-prep class that had gotten me an ‘A’, but was now getting me nothing but blank stares. When the night was done, the youth pastor pulled me aside and said, “You have no relationship with them. To them you are just another adult telling them what to do. Fix the relationship by getting on their level.” Heeding these wise words changed everything.
Now I didn’t become a skateboard advocate, but I did spend more time with them. I began to attend their special events, began to drive them around town, and began to listen. I began to serve the youth pastor also, becoming a real intern, and seeing myself as not an answer to everyone’s prayers, but as a servant. With each new serving opportunity, God began to open a new door. Over the course of the summer I moved from the new kid on the block to a trusted friend. I would even venture to say that it was this internship that helped to sharpen some of the leadership abilities I have today. But notice, it all started with me getting past my personal pride and learning to serve.
The Bible tells us in Exodus 24:13 that Joshua was Moses’ aide. “Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.” This word ‘aide’ is the Hebrew word SHARATH, meaning literally to attend as a menial. Joshua then in reality was Moses’ menial intern. The word also is used in scripture as contributor, servant, or one who waits on. Before Joshua ever became the leader we know him as in history, he was first a servant, doing menial tasks for Moses. Maybe HE-BREWed Moses’ coffee (get it, he-brew, Hebrew), or fetched Moses’ staff when it was forgotten in the tent. Perhaps Joshua served in other menial ways we do not know of. But either way, Joshua started out as Moses’ intern. In time, God raised Joshua up through the ranks, though, and into management.
Perhaps you want to be a leader. I know I do. If this is true, then how are we going about moving into leadership? Are we just born with the ability and should therefore be placed into this titled position, or should we allow God to promote us as we work the menial tasks of our internship? Even though we see in Joshua that he was Moses’ aide, perhaps our biggest clue in how to move into leadership comes from Jesus Himself, as He came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Are we willing to be a menial intern and serve others? That is where true leadership begins.

Friday, October 23, 2015

IT WILL STUNT YOUR GROWTH

"That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers."
Psalm 1:3

Growing up as a child I heard many things spoken by adults that over time I have learned are not true. Fact is, though, I have told them on my own children. You know the myths I am talking about. "Gray hair is a result of too much stress." This is actually not true. According to research done, stress can cause hair loss, but the graying is simply a sign of aging and can begin as early as 30 years old for some. Does that mean that every bald person has stress, though? No, but it makes one scratch his head in wonder. Or how about "Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis", "If you keep crossing your eyes they'll get stuck", and "If you pick up a toad you'll get warts on your hands". The fact is these are just not true. (I apologize if you still believe them).

My personal favorite, however, is that "Drinking coffee will stunt your growth". I remember as a child being at church and hearing both my dad and the older people in the church telling me this as I would work to sneak a cup of joe in hopes that no one was looking. Many times it did not work to my advantage. But there is no true research to support this. Truth be told, at one time people believed that caffine was the reason for osteoporosis, which receded bone mass and height. And if that was true, then why did parents deny children coffee but offer them soda? I'll let you 'stir' that one around for a minute.

While coffee may not stunt our growth, there is one thing that comes to mind which has that power. That thing would be sin. Now obviously the growth I am refering to is not a physical height per se, but our spiritual growth. In looking at the younger days of the prophet Samuel in I Samuel 2:26, we see that he was dedicated to the LORD's service and lived with Eli. In time he began to grow in stature (his physical frame) as well as in favor (pleasure) with the LORD and men. He was found with favor specifically before God because he put aside sin and chased after the righteous ways of God. Was he perfect? By no means. But he saw the benefit in saying no to sin and yes to God's commands.

Psalm 119:1 reads, "Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD." In walking according to His law, we are growing and reap the benefit of blessing. Psalm 1 confirms this in saying that the one who does not walk in the ways of the wicked is like a tree planted by streams of water. What does water do for a tree? It helps in the growing process. But on the flip side, walking in the ways of sin will only have us finding that our spiritual growth is stunted, for as Psalm 1 goes on to say, those who are not like the tree planted by the stream, those who are not growing, are like chaff which the wind blows.

Now I am not here to condemn you in what I say, for it was just this morning on my way to work that God challenged me with this same thought. I want to see the effects of growth in my life, but in order for growth to happen I need to remove the obstacles that are stunting my growth. I need to remove the sins as God is showing me. And it isn't that I need to get rid of only a little sin in order to grow, but rather I need to get rid of all sin in order to grow. As long as I leave an open door for sin, sin will continue to romance me from God.

It is time we realize the perhaps hidden truth of this myth. While coffee will not stunt our growth, physically or spiritually, sin most definately will stunt our growth in the spiritual. But I don't want to be stunted. I am pretty sure you do not want to be either. What must we do? In the spiritual we must stop drinking our coffee. We must stop drinking in sin and suffering its effects, and allow ourselves to be like the tree planted by the streams, planted and growing firmly with our roots fully in God and His ways.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

THE CURE FOR THE CURSE

"So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Becuase you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.'"
Genesis 3:14

A few weeks back when I was in worship at church, we sang a song that grabbed my attention. The title is Seas of Crimson, and the lyrics read:

"For every curse, You're the cure / For every sickness, You're the Healer
For every storm, You're the calm / For all that's lost, Oh what a Savior"

Now I cannot state whether the writter of the song, or even the worship leader leading me, had this in mind when it was sung, but when I joined in to worship singing these words, God spoke to me.

If you look at the word CURSE and the word CURE, you find that all the letters are the same and in perfect order. The exception, however, is the letter S. If you take the S out of the word curSe, you end up with cure. And then I felt God speaking that the S in curSe was representative of the snake, the enemy himself.

Look with me at Genesis 2 and you find that God makes the beautiful Eve for the manly Adam. They are given the freedoms of the garden with no knowledge of sin. The only rule laid before them was to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But move ahead just a chapter and we find in Genesis 3 the snake, crafty in his ways, twisting the words that God spoke just enough to intice. With Adam at her side, Eve ate the fruit and shared it with Adam. The cure, life in the Garden of Eden and afternoon walks with God, was suddenly taken away because the curSe slithered in.

How many other times can we look at see curses popping up in our lives? It seems we are bombarded with the curse of poor self-esteem, anger, or lack of finances. But what about the curse of infirmity? Or how about the curse of bad luck. Or dare I say, how about generational curses as a whole. In all these areas and so many more, the snake has slithered his way into the lives of people simply to bring their demise. Yet what should our response be?

According to the song, for every curse Jesus is the cure. To me, that simply means that to break the curSe I need to get the S out. I need to get the snake out! I need to not allow the enemy to come in and shift my stance on God's Word. If Eve had done what Jesus did in Matthew 4 and used God's truth against the serpent instead of allowing her mind to be twisted, then the curse would be been broken before it started. While this piece of Biblical history cannot be changed for Eve, it can be changed for us. Because Jesus Christ broken the power of the enemy's curse, we can walk in freedom.

I urge you, take the S, the snake, out of your life and allow God to provide His cure. Get the snake out! Remove his ability to enter your life so that the curse will stop, and the cure will begin.