God Is Calling – Will You Answer?

Throughout history, pastors and other religious leaders have been at the forefront of significant societal change. Whether it was speaking out against injustice or speaking up for freedom, these men and women bravely placed themselves in peril to bring attention to issues that demanded action.  They believed the cause was greater than their comfort and the price was one they were willing to pay.

The Church and those who lead within the church have always had far greater influence in what happens or does not happen in the world than many recognize.  We see legislative bodies, politicians and those crowned by society as movers and shakers as the ones to credit or blame for life altering decisions.  Whereas these play a role on the big stage called life, they do not own the rights to the production.  God is ultimately in control and His plan has always been to work through His Church and anointed leaders.

I have no doubt my own life and worldview have been shaped by my experiences within the church and my association with its leaders.  I still remember Sunday School teachers and lessons taught to me as a child.  I recall sacred moments I spent with God around an altar of prayer as I responded to an invitation given by my pastor.  I am often reminded of truth preached and taught to me by Godly servants of the Lord that continues to this day to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

As a young preacher trying to find my place and fulfill my calling, I will be forever grateful for mentors who invested time and energy in my life.  These leaders spoke into my life, gave me opportunity for involvement and stood by me through my many mistakes.  They were willing to correct me in love yet give me space to be who God was calling me to be.  I have no doubt my blessings in ministry have come from God, but He delivered them to me through some incredibly special people.

God is still calling men and women to do His work in the earth.  He will call some to stand before kings…He will call some to rally the masses…He will call some to eternally impact one…but answering the call and being totally obedient to it will be the single most important decision one will make after conversion.

You would be hard pressed, today, to find a greater need than that of holy, set apart men and women answering the call of God to be His voice, hands and heart to the world.  These conveyors of truth are more than religious figures; they are instruments of the Lord to accomplish the mission He started when He came to this earth as a babe in a manger more than two thousand years ago. The task given to these chosen vessels is from the Lord and its fulfillment is necessary for the will of God to be done in the world.

“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15 NKJV)

What an honor it is to be chosen by the Lord to do His work!  But, over the years, I have watched how everyone does not respond to the call the same way.  From my viewpoint there are three levels of ministry commitment:

Heard the Call.  This person testifies to the call, perhaps is credentialed by an organization, and is content to occasionally share the Gospel.  Without sounding too harsh – they simply include ministry in the many other involvements of their life.  Ministry is not their priority.

Fulfilled by the Call.  This person identifies with the ministry. They are good at it.  The ministry is their world – even their career.  Advancement in rank and position is of utmost importance.  They cannot imagine doing anything else. 

Driven by the Call.  This person may or may not be credentialed.  They may or may not receive a paycheck to do it.  They may or may not receive the recognition they deserve.  But…they are passionate about the work of the Lord – they are never satisfied and are constantly looking for ways to do more – they are hungry for revival and burdened for the lost.  Hearing the Father one day say “well-done” is more important than accolades, positions, or titles.  Pleasing God is all that matters.

I have to say the person who simply has heard the call is going to make minimal impact at best.  The person who is fulfilled by the call will be tempted to operate carnally (doing spiritual business in the flesh) and will find much of his/her work will not stand the test of time.  The person who is driven by the call will be anointed, productive and profitable in the Kingdom.

It is this driven by the call minister of the Gospel God is using today.  This one is developed in the prayer closet, refined in the fires of trial, and empowered by walking in the Spirit.  Their spiritual eyes are open to needs around them and they refuse to look away.  They will not be satisfied until all have heard and the mission has been completed.

I genuinely believe the windows of Heaven are open today – both to hear our prayers and respond with answers.  The Holy Spirit is anointing His servants to accomplish exploits and the fulfillment of His plan.  But…I keep hearing Him say to me, “the open window is for a season.” I believe He is saying if I do not respond, He will move on to someone else.  He is determined to complete His work – with or without me.

With or without me…what a sobering thought.  My Pentecostal heritage will not be enough.  My rank in ministry will not be enough.  My expertise and giftings will not be enough.  All that matters is my active commitment to the call of God. 

All around us the needs are many and the harvest is ripe.   Never has there been greater opportunity to make impact than today – real life changing difference.  The search is on and the call is going forth for vessels to be used in this end-time harvest.  World changers are needed.  You are eligible.  “Here I am, send me” is all you have to say.  When you do it, your world will never be the same.









 

 

When God Is Silent

Growing up in a very traditional Pentecostal church, one of my favorite parts of our worship service was testimony time. This was the time when anyone and everyone was given the opportunity to speak and share with the congregation what God had done for them.  Some would stand out of peer pressure or obligation and repeat memorized lines – I was usually one of those.  Some saw this as an opportunity to preach a little and seemed to enjoy the momentary spotlight.  But the ones that truly moved me were those who reported accounts of recently answered prayer.  These testimonies of God’s intervention lifted everyone’s faith and brought great encouragement.

So many songs we sang in my church were about God always hearing and answering prayer. The sermons I heard and the lessons I was taught told me God was involved in my life and He orchestrated all my affairs. I remember hearing people talk about God leading them and speaking to them.  I came to believe in a very personal God who was active in my life.

These foundational truths taught to me as a child remain a bedrock in my life today.  I have many personal examples of God moving and His voice directing me through some rough and rocky terrain.  But, as Paul Harvey would say, I need to relay the rest of the story – it hasn’t always happened for me just like the songs and sermons seemed to say.  There have been times in my life I have cried out to God but… He was silent.

Sometimes God is silent – wow!  How in the world can this be true?  We know He is the loving Father who watches over us and is concerned about everything that concerns us.  We know His presence is constant and nothing can separate us from His love.  We know He feels our pain and is moved by our afflictions.  But sometimes when we pray, He is silent.

This is a hard fact for many in the modern church to grasp – especially the modern American church.  We have heard over and over we can have whatever we confess. A picture of God has been painted that resembles a mythical genie in a bottle more that the eternal Father who sits high and lifted up on His throne. Many have come to accept a false order that seems to think God serves us instead of us serving Him.  No wonder we are frustrated and confused when answers to prayer do not come.

This would probably be a good time for all of us to stop for a moment and reconsider roles – He is the creator; we are the created.  We should probably also consider perspective – we see with very limited vision; He sees the big picture.  We should probably not forget time and space – we think in terms of now; He operates with eternity in mind.  Quite simply – He is God; we are not. He is perfect in all His ways – even when He does not speak to our requests.

So what should our response be to those times when He is silent?

1. Cling to what we know.  Some things are true no matter what.  Circumstances cannot change them and time only makes them more real.  These are facts that will not change – God is good; God loves us, and God is with us.  In the most difficult of situations, grabbing hold of what we know and refusing to let go will be the basis of our sustained victory.  There is nothing the devil can do to overcome us if we doggedly cling to what we know.

2.  Practice His presence.  The people with whom you are most comfortable are those with whom you can spend the most time without talking.  You are close enough to them you can actually enjoy simply being in their company.  There will never be many of these people in your life but when you have one, they are special indeed.

A true mark of spiritual maturity is learning to enjoy the Lord – not just being happy for what He does for us but savoring every moment in His presence.  Joy and peace abound when we begin to hunger more for Him than we do His blessings. Being fulfilled by His presence should be the goal of every child of God.

3.  Expect the benefits of waiting.  Most people do not like to wait.  Our culture is one that moves fast and wants what it wants now. A friend of mine told me one time he looked for the express lane at the car wash!  Patience is not a valued virtue today.

But, here is a fact worth remembering – God is not moved by culture.  He places tremendous value on waiting. As a matter of fact, He does His best work in us between the asking and receiving.  It is in that in between time he molds and perfects us.  Business really picks up in our life when we start looking for the benefits of waiting on the Lord.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

4.  Know He has a plan.  God is many wonderful things in my life but the one thing in which I may be the most grateful is the fact He is my Father.  He really loves me as His child and as a good Father, He wants what is best for me.  He has a plan for my life and everything He does for me has that plan clearly in mind – even when I do not see it or understand it.  I am comforted by this knowledge.  I know I can trust His plan.

So, sometimes God is silent.  That doesn’t mean He did not hear.  It certainly doesn’t mean He doesn’t care.  The truth is He always hears and He cares more than we can comprehend.  Those sermons and songs I heard as a child about Him always answering prayer were not an exaggeration at all – He does always answer.  He just answers when it is time, in the way that is best and in a manner for His glory. 

My friend, do not be discouraged by God’s silence.  Let this experience work for your good.  It is going to make you better.  It is going to make you stronger.  His silence is a sure sign He is at work on your behalf.  The silence of the Lamb of God will soon be replaced by the roar of the Lion of Judah.  Get ready!  He may be silent today but He will not be silent forever.

Repost: Rising to the Challenge

By necessity every level of leadership in any organization, including the church, must give diligent attention to methods and management.  Systems are developed to allow these to be delivered and appropriated in every situation.  These systems are there to provide order and create a path that moves the organization along in a prescribed manner.  We call it administration.  It’s a good idea and even one ordained in Scripture.

Successful organizations will always be supported by pillars of absolutes.  These are non-negotiable tenets.  They are set in stone.  Everyone in the organization knows what they are and has a firm commitment to them.  These absolutes establish the very reason for the life of the organization.

Along with the absolutes will be other moving parts allowing the organization to adjust to situations and events.  These moving parts are the systems mentioned in the first paragraph of this article.  They can be adjusted and modified to accommodate the present need.  They are not set in stone.  They should always be seen as tools.

When you understand an organization must be grounded by absolutes supported by systems, you can say that organization must be steadfast yet flexible.  It must be firmly established on a solid foundation while agile enough to adapt to the changing climate it is called to address.  It must be entrenched in its purpose but not in its methods.

These facts cannot be ignored by the church of the 21st century.  We have to be careful to remain true to the foundational absolutes upon which we have been built.  We must also continually hone the delivery systems necessary to keep us effective in these constantly changing times.

What are the absolutes for the church?  Some may put together a long list but I believe they could all be combined into two areas – the Word of God and what I like to call the love mandate.

The Word of God.  When time is no more, the Word of God will still be.  It is God-breathed and infallible.  It has stood the test of time and remains as relevant today as when it was written.  It is the litmus test for all questions and disputes.  Nothing man says or does can supersede it.  Church doctrine and practice must begin and end with the Word.  It is THE absolute for the church.

The Love Mandate.  The purpose and mission of everything the church is and does must be driven by one thing – love.  Our time with God in prayer and worship is inspired by love.  Our service is motivated by what motived Him – love.  The words of our Lord, Himself, capture the importance and priority of love:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:30-31)

These foundational principles cannot be considered optional or elective.  They are not affected by culture or opinion.  They are always absolute for every church everywhere.

The great challenge for the contemporary church is ensuring its systems are adequate to deliver the message and keep it in a position for mass effectiveness. The assumption our methods of operation do not need adjustment is the assumption that was made by many formerly successful, yet now non-existent, businesses and churches.  We must not die because of system failure.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • Absolutes are sacred; systems are not.
  • Absolutes are why we exist; systems are tools to accomplish the mission.
  • Healthy organizations will continually adjust/tweak/change systems.
  • There is great danger when we choose to worship at the altar of our systems.

The present challenges facing the church are no match for our message.  As a matter of fact, our message is the answer to these challenges!  Now, as never before, the world needs to hear what we have been preaching for years – there is hope and help in Jesus!  He will bring us through this storm victoriously!

The present challenges, however, are testing our systems.  Our delivery methods are under attack.  If we ignore this and assume that once the storm subsides we will return to business as usual, we could find ourselves in a very bad place.  But if we are willing to be placed on God’s potter’s wheel and submit to a time of remolding and retooling, we can be positioned for greatness.  Instead of this being the beginning of the end, it can be the beginning of our best days!

The following questions need to be asked by any church desiring to have a place and be strong in these times:

  • What has God called your church to be and do?
  • Do your present methods/structure place you in a position to accomplish this?
  • If not, what needs to happen for you to align with His plan?

The tasks may feel daunting but God will help us.  I am encouraged by something that happened to Nehemiah when he found himself in need of the Lord’s help.  Nehemiah 7:5 (MEV) says, “So my God put an idea in my mind…”  I believe if we will pray and listen, God will speak.  He will instruct and lead us to fresh and innovative methods that will glorify Him and increase our harvest. 

I am not blind to the obstacles we face – they are real and must not be ignored.  At the same time, I am confidently mindful of the promise of Jesus that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church.  I’m not giving up; I will rise to the challenge by adjusting my sail and move in the direction the wind of the Spirit is blowing. I’m thankful for my past but it pales in comparison to where He is leading me.  I really believe this is our time and the best is yet to come! 

The Blessing of Barrenness

Many old western movies have begun with that scene of a deserted town with the wind blowing a tumbleweed down what one time had been a bustling street.  Or there is the scene of a dusty field with the remnants of a crop still there but now its mostly dry parched soil with no sign of life to be found.  Of course, we have all seen the one of the sun beaming down in the desert when the camera slowing moves to reveal the bones of the cowboy that did not survive.  The one thing each of these movie scenes have in common is barrenness.

Barren is a truly harsh word.  It actually means bleak and lifeless.  Other words sometimes used to describe it are unproductive; infertile; unfruitful; desert; desolate; waste; impoverished…nothing good found in this list!  I even decided to ask Google what a barren life is – the answer was “you achieve no success in it.”  It seems to me this is one thing everyone should by all means avoid!

But despite information provided by search engines or images depicted in movies, seasons of barrenness are not always bad.  In fact, there are countless examples of bleak times being the turning point to some of life’s greatest victories.

* Moses is forced to flee from his royal life in Egypt to tend his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert.  It sure looks like he fell fast and hard, but in Exodus 3, he has an encounter with God through a burning bush that, not only changed his life, but changed a nation.

*  Hannah lived a life of sorrow and humiliation because, according to I Samuel 1:5, “the Lord had shut up her womb.”  Her adversary constantly ridiculed Hannah because of this condition.  But God had a plan – at just the right time she became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  At a moment in history when the nation had become spiritually bankrupt and leaderless, God used Hannah’s son, Samuel, to be a mighty prophet in Israel.

* Paul had been one of the most ardent fighters against the Cross but, after his conversion, used all he had to fight for the Christ of Calvary.  This strong commitment to Jesus led him to be hated by the Jews and imprisoned.  His living conditions were many times harsh and, no doubt, he felt forsaken.  But instead of using this desolate time as an opportunity for self-pity, Paul wrote what are referred to as his prison epistles – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. 

*  John was banished to the Isle of Patmos “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:9) I would imagine those responsible for sending him to this deserted place felt they were getting rid of him but little did they know they were positioning him for a divine encounter with Jesus!  It was during this time of isolation the last book of the New Testament was written.

I must admit my personal desire is to stay as far removed from barrenness as possible.  One of my greatest joys is to look back at the end of a day and see productivity and gain.  I want to think my life counts and my work matters.  The thought of an unproductive life causes indescribable sorrow and disappointment.  But…I have to say sometimes seasons of barrenness come.  From time to time, I find myself in the desert – nothing is working – alone even in a crowd – confused with no direction – wondering if my best days are behind me.  Perhaps that is too transparent, but it is the truth.  It has happened to me, and probably if you are honest, it has happened to you.

But, if we genuinely believe God is at work in our lives always for our good, then we must know there are blessings even in barrenness!  Your prison cell or deserted island can become your place of miraculous provision and revelation. His plan for your life does not stop during the barren season; this season could even be part of the plan.

You may ask, what possible blessing can there be in barrenness?  I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I know from experience there are at least three things that happen when I find myself in the desert.

God Speaks.  The four examples from the Bible I mentioned earlier in the blog have something in common – they all found themselves in a barren place.  Read their stories, however, and you will discover they had something else in common – God spoke to them in their barrenness.

I am convinced the hardest time to hear from God is when we are moving forward with momentum.  Our tendency is to give ourselves to the moment and ride the wave – what we are doing is working so we relax and enjoy it.  God has something to say to us even in these moments but, many times, our spiritual antennae is not operating at full frequency.  But in the valley…in that hard lonely place…we become desperate causing our heart to cry out to God.

God – as the good Father He is – will reveal himself when we cry out to Him in our desperation.  He says things we need to hear.  He gives revelation we could not receive any other time.  He teaches truth that will literally change our life.  He does His best work in us when the distractions of success and busyness of life have subsided.  He has our attention, and He takes advantage of it.

I Have a Great Opportunity to Fully Align with His Plan.  It is so easy to get out of alignment.  This happens with my vehicle occasionally and can cause real damage if it is not corrected.  The problem is it occurs so slightly over time – I can miss it if I am not paying attention. 

In ministry – in life – it is easy to get out of alignment with God’s plan.  We commit to systems.  We listen to the advice of others.  We follow trends.  Often in our effort to do good we try to do things we are not called to do and be things we are not called to be.  Even in sincerity and purity we can become misaligned if we are not careful. 

In my season of barrenness, God speaks, and if I am smart, I listen.  He will show me what needs to come off and what needs to be put on.  He will reaffirm His call on my life and give opportunity for fresh commitment to it.  He will use this experience to shape and prepare me for my next assignment.  This dormant time in my life is not wasted – it is my chance to fully align with His plan.
Others Are Affected.  God’s plan for me in my barren season is not to simply make me feel better but to change me!  His desire is never shortsighted but always far reaching.  His intention is to take me to a higher level and use me in ways I have never even imagined.  His blessing on my life is to make my life a blessing to others.  What happens to me will affect someone else.

The people who saw me exiled to Patmos will hear my revelation.  Those who mourned my imprisonment will benefit from my accomplishments there.  Those who ridiculed my barrenness will have to acknowledge my blessing.  Those who wondered where I have gone will witness my return.  These are things my earlier examples could have said, I will have my own testimony when this trying time comes to an end! My story will affect others and God will get the glory!

As I am writing this blog, I am sensing there will be those reading it who are experiencing a season of barrenness.  You do not understand why things have happened as they have – it really makes no sense.  Perhaps your ministry…or your marriage…or your career…or something else important to you has taken a turn you did not anticipate.  If you could explain it and figure out the why, it would be so much easier to handle…but you cannot.  You are on an island…it is lonely and deserted…the reality of barrenness is staring you in the face.

You can throw in the towel and quit…a lot of others have done this.  You can become bitter and play the part of a victim…that is a common response today.  You can feel sorry for yourself and drown in a pool of self-pity…some would even say you are justified to do this.  You can do any of these things knowing you will not be the first to take whatever route you choose to take.

I am hoping, however, you will have a different reaction to your situation.  Even in your pain and confusion, I am hoping you will start looking for the heart and hand of the Father.  I boldly declare to you; God still has a plan for your life…He is not finished with you…He will make you fruitful and productive again! 

Bishop Tim Hill wrote a song several years ago that speaks directly to those needing the message of this blog.  With his permission I share the chorus of It Will Rain Again –

But it will rain again,
The fruit will fill the vine.
The stalk will bend with wheat;
The grapes burst forth with wine.
So go into the field,
Your work is not in vain.
God promised harvest and I know it will rain.

Get up, my friend.  It is about to rain again on your dry parched heart.  Even with everything going on your life you are about to discover there is a blessing in your barrenness.

Repost: Make Healing Front and Center

The ministry of Jesus was multi-faceted to say the least.  He touched every area of society and truly made an impact everywhere he went.  But it seems whatever the occasion, He was always healing the sick.  Healing sick people was a priority of our Lord.  “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” (Matthew 9:35)

Healing has been one of the most misused and misunderstood doctrines of the Bible for as long as I remember.  From the total deniers who say healing is not available today to the “I am healed and can never be sick” crowd, so many have missed the mark and led people to false doctrine.  It seems this is a classic example of what the devil likes to do to keep us from liberating truth.

I grew up in an environment where the subject of healing was commonplace.  I have often said it seemed every Sunday night in the church I attended – at some point in every service – healing would be mentioned.  We prayed for the sick.  We sent anointed prayer cloths to the sick folks who could not be in the service.  The message of healing was front and center in everything we did.  

Unfortunately, we have arrived at a time when healing has been deemphasized by many.  While some churches still preach and practice praying for the sick; others never bring up the subject.  A large segment of the population who attend church every week have no idea about the 39 stripes brutally placed on the back of our Lord before His crucifixion allowing us to claim I Peter 2:24, “…by whose stripes you were healed.”  This is information that does not need to be ignored – it needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

In my spirit I hear the Lord saying now is the time to take the message of divine healing from the back of the paper and return it to the front page.  I believe as the church begins to make its way out of our present time of reset, a mighty move of the Spirit is in our near future.  It just keeps coming to me over and over, this season of revival will be a time of multiplied miracles.  I fully expect the power of God to be manifested among us in ways unprecedented in our lifetime.  I really believe this!

But as we enter this fresh season of New Testament power, I believe there are two things that must be clearly understood and taught:  1.)  God heals for His glory and 2.) Our God is absolutely sovereign.  

God heals for His glory.  God is not interested in making us famous – whereas our testimony is important, He will not allow our star to be brighter than His.  This may sound harsh, but his emphasis is not even on making the sick well.  Everything He does is for His Kingdom and He wants all the glory.  Our attitude must be that of John the Baptist – we must decrease so that He might increase.  (John 3:30) We will see a huge upsurge in healing when the attention leaves the one praying and the one being prayed for and goes completely to God. 

Our God is absolutely sovereign.  This means God has the absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).  While we pray about what is happening now, God  answers with eternity in mind.  He works with the big picture – not just what we see and feel in the present.  Praying in faith is not just believing we will have our prayer answered, it is putting the issue totally in the hands of God for Him to do what is best for us and the Kingdom.  This is not a tool to help us save face for when we pray for healing and it does not come; it is putting our complete trust in a good God.  Like Job, we are able to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 3:15)

When we accept these two basic tenets of faith, we can go boldly to the throne of God and pray for healing.  We can trust the hand and heart of God knowing He loves us and has a good plan for us.  We can believe this even when the outward evidence does not speak of physical healing for sometimes God’s plan is a glorified body and not a healed physical body.  It is at this time, we stand firmly on   II Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…”

The healing for which I just referred was purchased for us on the cross.  Jesus died so eternal life could be experienced by those who believe on Him.  This life lived in the eternal realm is beautiful with no sickness or suffering of any kind.  People who die in the faith absolutely lay down a body that may have been ravaged by disease and take on one that will never feel another pain.  This is the ultimate healing of which all believers will be rewarded one day.

But, please hear me, death is not the only means to healing.  When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for eternal life which entitles us to live with Him forever in a glorified body.  If there was nothing more, it seems to me the scourging (whipping) He took before He got to the cross was not necessary.  But it was necessary!  For at the whipping post – with leather straps embedded with bone and lead lashed across his back – He bought divine healing for us!  Thirty-nine hateful and excruciating stripes were placed on His back so that we would be healed.

Healing must be particularly important to our Lord if He was willing to endure such intense and agonizing pain to pay for it.  Since He went through immense torture for healing to be available to His children, He must want me to have it. I can only conclude; it is my right as a child of God to pray for healing and believe Him to do it.  I can know Him as the Savior of my soul and the healer of my body.

Most people in my circle will agree healing is scriptural and obtainable but simply believing in it is not enough.  We must capture again the once prevalent passion for the full Gospel which includes divine healing.  We cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated by the devil or marginalized by our society.  We cannot allow the excesses of charlatans and the misuses of spiritual gifts to keep us from receiving this much needed blessing our Lord suffered to provide for us.  We must allow the healing rivers of the Holy Spirit to again flow through us.  I am convinced this is the will of God.

As stated earlier in this blog, I deeply believe supernatural revival is on the way.  This revival will be marked by multitudes of people from all over the globe coming into the Kingdom.  Many of these will be drawn to the Lord by verified testimonies of divine healing.  Just as in the New Testament, God will use the display of His power to get the attention of people.  There is just no good reason this mighty move of the Spirit should miss your church!

So, what do we do?  Pray for the sick.  Preach and teach divine healing.  Believe for miracles.  Stand squarely on the Word of God – nothing more, nothing less – and watch the Father do for you what He promised.  And…through it all, give Him all the glory!

“Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise Him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”  (James 5:14-15)

Healing has been provided for you in the atoning blood of the Lord, Jesus.  This beautiful gift is part of your spiritual inheritance.  Receive it today.  Be healed in Jesus name.

PERSONAL NOTE:  As these words were being written, I have been praying for the reader.  I have asked God to allow His healing power to flow through these simple thoughts and touch many who need a healing in their body.  I expect it to happen!  If you are one of those let me hear from you.  If you need prayer, I will be happy to do that as well if you will let me know.  There is a healing stream flowing through the church today – I want it to touch you.

The Call to Swim Upstream

One of the most fascinating occurrences in nature of which I have read is the migration of salmon.  This fish is born in freshwater rivers, spends most of its life in saltwater but returns to the river of its birth for spawning.  The challenge of this process is, in order to reach its destination, it must swim upstream; it must swim against the river’s current.

This is no easy feat for the salmon.  There are many obstacles such as rapids and debris in the path.  There are predators such as bear and sport fishermen intent on catching them.  The journey, itself, may be a few hundred miles in length.  All these challenges fight against the process, yet the determined salmon assume this task every fall.

I have been thinking a lot about swimming upstream; moving against the tide.  I have come to the conclusion this is not just behavior for the salmon, but it must become the lifestyle of the believer.  I understand the Christian walk has always been in opposition to the world, but today’s climate takes it to a brand-new level.  The words of Paul to the Romans have never been more important – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

The environment in which we find ourselves has become so corrupt and perverted.  The prophet, Isaiah, said there would come a time when men would “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20 NKJV).  Paul told Timothy in the latter times “some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” 
(I Timothy 4:1-2 NKJV).  These two prophetic statements have become reality in our present culture.  We do, indeed, live in perilous and evil days.

The challenge for the church is how will we respond to these times.  It is an absolute fact everything we do must be rooted in love.  It is also true we must not be afraid to adjust and modernize our methods in order to experience our maximum effectiveness.  But…while we intentionally reach out to the world in love and use every means available to us to communicate the message, we must not fail to speak truth.  It is only when people know the truth that they will be set free.  (John 8:32)

The old adage “it is easier said than done” certainly comes into play here.  It is not easy – in fact, it is quite difficult – to stand against the crowd and boldly declare what the Holy Scriptures say.  It will never be popular to take a position against sin and the intimidation from the secular culture will be strong against those who do.  Media, entertainment, and perceived public opinion have drawn a line in the sand on the side of anti-Biblical lifestyles and behavior accusing those who oppose these narrow minded, bigoted and hatemongers. The challenge is real. 

To further complicate matters, many church leaders and members have chosen popularity and self-preservation over standing for Biblical truth.  To avoid offending anyone, an attitude of “go along to get along” has become the unspoken strategy.  Condoning error and sin is not the plan but avoiding the subject is.  Neutrality has become the position of choice. 

But…even with an awareness of the lay of the land, I seem to be hearing the Lord say, “I’m looking for some people to swim upstream!”  The call is going out for men and women to live holy lives in an unholy world and proclaim liberating truth to those bound by the lies of the devil.  The call is not to mean people or self-righteous people but to broken people – people with tear dimmed eyes – people moved by compassion.  The call is for people who realize this life is temporary, but eternity is forever.  Our Lord is calling…

This subject is stirring in my spirit.  I have been dreaming about it at night and meditating upon it during the day.  I believe God is calling me – not to the Familiar.2 – but to something fresh and more productive than I have ever experienced. This “new thing” God is wanting to do is going to require I leave my comfort zone and surrender to the call to swim upstream.  Some who have been with me may not go with me on this new journey.  Some things I have used in the past may need to be left behind this time.  Some things that have been important may not be now.  Whatever sacrifice or change is required, I must be willing to assume them. 

A couple of nights ago I woke up from a dream with the following outline clearly in my spirit.  I quickly wrote it down because I felt it was instruction for my journey upstream.  I believe this is what the Lord said to me:

1.  Stay Encouraged.  Events and situations around me may naturally cause discouragement.  It is during these times I must take personal responsibility for my attitude and outlook.  I Samuel 30:6 says David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.  David’s approach to his situation must be mine as well.

It has never been more important for me to stay in the Word and constantly practice walking in the Spirit.  His Word and presence will be my source of courage.  No one can keep me from this but me!  It is my responsibility to stay encouraged.

2.  Travel Light.  Sometimes I carry things that only serve to weigh me down.  Some things to which I have become attached serve no useful purpose in my mission – they take my time and energy but do not really help me on my journey.  It is probably time for some housecleaning and decluttering.

This is surely what the writer to the Hebrews was conveying when he said, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) I do not want to carry anything that hinders my progress.

3.  Do Not Be Afraid.  Fear is torment.  Fear is paralyzing. Fear is the exact opposite of faith.  Fear has a strong grip.

The devil is throwing the kitchen sink at us, today, as it relates to fear.  We are afraid of a virus.  We are afraid of rising crime rates.  We are afraid of an economy going the wrong direction.  We are afraid for our children’s future.  We are afraid for our own future.  The list goes on and on. 

The disciples learned the answer to the fear issue when they accompanied Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration.  The events of that occasion caused them to fall down in fear.  At that moment “Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (Matthew 17:7-8 NKJV).  They discovered when they looked to Jesus, they saw nothing to be afraid of.  I do not want to forget this simple lesson.

4.  Get Ready for Adventure. I think its interesting the word adventure was in my dream.  An adventure is an exciting experience or undertaking that is typically bold and sometimes risky. I am convinced this is exactly where God is calling us – to a place of bold moves that may appear risky to our flesh and friends but totally aligned with God’s will for our lives.

We have been praying – we need to keep praying.  We have been strategizing – there is nothing wrong with having a plan.  We have been dreaming – most things begin with a dream.  But, at some point, we have to leave the shore and step into the water. A stand has to be taken.  A side has to be chosen.

Some will not understand, and others will adamantly oppose, but if the Word says it – we will preach it and if the Holy Spirit directs – we will obey. We will hold to our convictions and seek to please the Lord in all we do. We are not seeking affirmation or promotion – we just want to be participants in what God has planned for these last days…even if it means swimming upstream!

It’s Going to Take Some Time

I remember when the internet first came to the Higgins home.  We were all so excited to think the world would be available at our fingertips.  We would be able to get information and learn about anything that interested us.  We could not wait for this new opportunity to explore and grow.  This happened for us in the mid 90’s.

I still remember sitting down at the computer – after Donna or Kris showed me how to turn it on – and hearing that awful sound as connection was being made.  And, oh, that spinning circle – that thing drove me crazy!  It seemed to take forever before anything could be done, and I have to tell you, I lost interest pretty quickly!  It did not take me long until I realized everything I needed to know was in a book somewhere – I would leave this innovative technology to others.

I must admit I have come around to a greater appreciation of the internet these days but I still get frustrated when I hit a glitch or the speed is not up to par.  I do not like to wait.  If I want it, I would like to have it now.  Patience may be a virtue but there is still quite a bit of room for growth in this area of my life!  I get the feeling almost every day I am not alone in this!

Unfortunately, this desire for quick and convenient has reached into most areas of our personal world.    The most important things to most of us are the clock and the next thing on our schedule.  It is getting harder and harder to enjoy the journey because our focus is too often only on the destination.  Our rush and insistence on the instant are causing us to miss so much.

I would like to think this problem has not invaded the church and affected us spiritually, but it has.  Old fashioned ideas of tarrying and waiting on the Lord are rarely discussed.  Process is a bad word.  Discipleship is a word used but not understood.   We know the things of God are important but they have a lot of competition in our lives.  Prayer, worship, and the Word – all important – but they must fit into our schedule.  This is the sad commentary of our day.

Something must change!  We all know this is true, however, we spend more time pontificating about the problem than we do trying to change it.  It is as though we have accepted the current situation as the new norm and simply say, “it is what it is.”  But, if I understand properly, one role of the church is to confront culture not comply with it.  We are to be different, set the bar high and demonstrate to the world a better way.  Blending is not our goal but reflecting Jesus and leading people to Him is.

While I am not trying to create a Pollyanna world, I think revisiting some things in our past may be helpful.  Not everything from yesterday needs to be discarded.  By searching through the archives of the past we may discover some direction that will lead us to a healthier and happier place.  Pulling up some memories and drawing from some experiences may be just what is needed for these times.

When I think about my formative years as a believer, one thing stands out that I am convinced made a huge difference in my development – the altar.  The altar was more than a piece of furniture in our church; it was the place where people connected with God.  If you could find those altars that were in the Norman OK, Classen Boulevard Church of God in the late 70’s, I’m sure you could find some tear stains left there by a searching college student who just wanted to find God’s will for his life.  It was here I poured out my heart to God and had encounters with Him that continue to impact my life today.  Those experiences changed me, shaped me, and set me on a path to my destiny.

In our church, we always had times of personal ministry where people would come forward to be anointed with oil and prayed for.  But we seemed to understand the difference between personal ministry where people came seeking a blessing and altar time where we humbled ourselves before God and experienced genuine intimacy with Him.  The blessings were needed but our time with the Father around the altar was life changing.

It was at the altar where I learned the importance of tarrying before the Lord.  The word tarry means to linger in expectation or to wait.  You cannot rush tarrying.  You cannot predict how long you will need to tarry.  Tarrying requires a willingness to wait until…until you pray through – until the burden is lifted – until you are certain the answer is on the way.  Tarrying is going to take some time.

It was while we tarried before the Lord that revelation came; development and growth took place and genuine spiritual depth was gained.  It was while we tarried our flesh was crucified and a true life in the Spirit became possible.  It was while we tarried conviction came to the house and people were drawn to the Lord.  It required great discipline, but the results were absolutely worth it.

I realize changing times effect the way ministry is done today.  Whereas we have learned to do some things better and great progress has been made on many fronts, there is still the realization a revival in our church and an awakening in our world is needed.  We do thank God for our blessings and celebrate our many victories…but deep in our hearts we know more is needed.  We cannot deny the fact many churches are in decline and many pastors are frustrated.  We certainly cannot deny the fact our world is in trouble and shows no sign of improving. 

The great challenge will be to cast off expectations that have been placed upon us and look steadfastly to the Lord for direction.  Our decisions cannot be driven by numbers.  A weekend revival will not be enough.  A new sermon series may produce some fruit, but it will probably not bring in the harvest. Do not be shocked when business as usual generates only the usual business.  There has to be more!

More…that is what we need.  More…that is God’s plan.   More…it can happen where you live and serve.  It can, but…it calls for a God encounter.  This will always happen at the altar when you wait…when you tarry.  You want it suddenly but suddenly is usually preceded by waiting.  This may not be what you want to hear but the old adage, “good things come to those who wait” is true!  God has a good plan for your life and ministry but – get ready – it is going to take some time. 

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

God Is Speaking – Are You Listening?

I have always been a big fan of radio – especially AM radio.  I remember in my younger days enjoying running the dial late at night to see all the far away stations I could pick up.  Depending on the weather conditions, the dial would be filled with “in and out” “staticky” stations from all over the country and even one from south of the border.  I admit it didn’t take much to amuse me as a child and this activity would do it every time.

Radio waves are very interesting to me.  Just think – right now, bouncing off the walls of the room where you are reading this, are radio waves from all over the place.  You don’t hear them because you don’t have a receiver.  If you will get a good receiver and tune it to the proper frequency, you’ll be amazed at what you will hear.  The sounds are present, but an activated receiver tuned to the right frequency is required to hear them.

There is some definite spiritual truth in the aforementioned example.  I have no doubt God is speaking to His Church today.  The question is – are we in a position to hear Him?  He is speaking – He has been speaking for a long time – but unless we are a tuned in receiver, we will not hear Him.

I must admit there are times I am not tuned in.  It is sometimes a challenge to move past the many distractions of our day to listen intently to the Holy Spirit.  We want to hear Him – we know we need to hear Him – but so many things are vying for our attention.  Speaking for myself, an intentional decision must be made to get in the closet (whatever this is for you) and get down to business with the Lord.  He is never far away.  I just need to focus…and listen.

I had one of those times earlier this week.  I knew perfunctory prayer and devotions would not be enough.  I needed a Word from God and nothing else was going to satisfy.  I did what I have done many times throughout the years – I took my Bible and notepad to my quiet place and prepared for an encounter with the Lord.  After a little while, it happened.  The Holy Spirit began to speak, and I heard.
 
Among several things I believe the Lord spoke to me on this particular day were the following instructions to the church as it relates to positioning ourselves for what He wants to do among us in these important times.

There is no doubt in my mind God is moving across the world, today, with a fresh wind of His Spirit.  This is not an isolated move of God; this is a global move of God.  His promise to pour out of His Spirit on all flesh is truly being fulfilled and will only become more prevalent in the coming days.  These are exciting times, indeed, to be part of His Church!

But the sad reality is – many will miss what God is doing.  Because of a myriad of reasons – religious spirits; tradition; lack of vision; secret sin; unbelief to name a few – some will watch as the revival touches and transforms others but they, themselves, will not be affected.  What a tragedy this is!

This does not have to be your story!  You – your church – your ministry – can move from the bleachers onto the playing field.  You can be right in the middle of all God is doing.  You do not have to be a spectator; you can be actively involved and here is how:

WAKE UP!  The day of the sleepy passive Christian is over.  While we were sleeping, the enemy crept in and took our nation, many families and, sadly, many churches.  We slept and he stole.  We were very comfortable while we slept – we even enjoyed beautiful dreams.  But while we were sleeping and dreaming, destruction was occurring all around us.  It is time to wake up!

A big part of being awake is being aware.  So many have adopted the philosophy of ignorance is bliss.  As long as we do not know about it, we are not responsible.  This attitude is an affront to everything the Body of Christ stands for.  We are not a people who runs and hides from the crisis; we are the ones who have been called to storm the gates of hell and demand the enemy to let go!  We pray for the Holy Spirit to sharpen our vision to see the needs around us and we boldly go where He leads us.  We are awake and vigilant!

The cry of the Lord through the prophet Joel is a call to the church today, “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war!  Wake up the mighty men, Let all the men of war draw near, Let them come up.”  (Joel 3:9 NKJV)

This is the time for all hands-on deck.  Sound the alarm!  Wake up!

MAKE UP!  It pains me to say this, but some will miss what God is doing because of division, hard feelings and verbal assassinations within the church family.  Jealousy of other ministries and personal/political agendas that hurt people have become far too common within the Body.  It seems an end-time strategy of the devil is to divide and cause us to turn on each other.  In too many places he is having overwhelming success.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 133:1 – “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  This unity does not mean sameness or conformity.  It means we are all in the same boat together, rowing in the same direction and working for the same cause.  We are together even though we are not all alike.  We can celebrate each other and recognize each member has an important place and responsibility in the Kingdom.  We are not threatened by each other; we support each other and welcome to the table every brother and sister in the Lord.

This unity must become a treasured and protected element in our church.  Infighting and distrust will cripple us.  Someone must be big enough to say, “I am sorry.”  Someone must be strong enough to say, “I do not want to hear it.”  Someone must be spiritual enough to say, “I forgive you.”  It is only when we are willing to come together in a genuine spirit of unity that we will see God’s best manifested among us.

Now here is a word to the wise – in the real-world offenses will arise.  You are going to get hurt at some point – it will happen.  These are times not to sow disparaging seed but to show grace, extend mercy and reflect Jesus.  You can speak against systems, decisions and actions but attacking a brother or sister personally is actually an attack against the Father.  Believe it or not, but the Father loves the offender just as much as He loves the offended.  You can be sure God in His own way will take care of an erring child.  Leave that to Him.

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  (Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV)

SHOW UP!  Great victories are available for the believer, today, but you must be present to win!  Sitting in the corner and watching the world go by – and complaining about it – is not the position to which we have been called.  It may feel safer to shelter in place, but the prize goes to the one who leaves the bunker and enters the arena.  We have to show up!

There has never been a time when it has been more important for the church to make its presence known than today.  We need involvement in every area of life.  We don’t just need preachers in the pulpit – we need Spirit-filled believers in the seat of government.  We don’t just need worshippers in the sanctuary – we need strong believers in Hollywood, on Broadway and in Nashville.  We don’t just need teachers in Bible college and seminary – we need committed followers of Jesus on every school campus.  We don’t just need Christians in church on Sunday – we need disciples of our Lord to infiltrate every area of society.  We need to leave the fort and move into battle!

“You are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV)

SPEAK UP!  Bullies love to intimidate, and the devil is a big bully!  He is working to intimidate the church into silence.  If we speak up, we will offend.  If we speak up, we will run people off.  (And here’s a big one.)  If we speak up, we will lose our tax-exempt status.  I think you will agree, we hear these things all the time.

I have never liked bullies.  I have learned the only way to overcome them is to stand up to them.  When they know you know their bark is worse than their bite any advantage they had over you disappears.  It is not that difficult to beat a bully!

Our church cannot afford to be intimidated by the devil any longer.  The world is dying without hope because in too many cases we have been afraid to tell them the truth.  This will change when we decide to stop listening to culture and begin to use our voices to proclaim the full Gospel of our Lord.  Firebrands in the pulpit and firebrands in the pew – men and women passionate about truth that sets people free!  We can longer watch in silence.  It is time to speak up!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed…”  (Romans 1:16, 17 NKJV)

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  (I Peter 3:16 NKJV)

I truly feel the church has come to a crossroad.  We have the choice of holding on and depending on our tried and true systems to sustain us or we can lift our sails to the wind of the Spirit and allow Him to move us to a place of transformation and revival.  I’ve got to tell you I do not believe business as usual is a smart decision.  I just believe we have been brought into the Kingdom for a time like this and God has big plans for His people.  It is probably time to turn off some noise and tune in to the Spirit.  He will reveal His will and plans to us if we will take time to listen.

Well…that was my encounter with the Lord a few days ago.  He is stirring my spirit and calling me upward.  I feel it and I hear it.  I am confident I am not the only one to whom He is talking.  As a matter of fact, I believe those heavenly radio waves are bouncing off your walls right now!  Please don’t miss what God is saying to you.  He has a Word just for you.  Be a receiver and tune it to hear it.

God is speaking.  Make sure you are listening.

WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

I thought it was a pretty simple order – a cappuccino and two regular coffees.  This is the order I made at Dunkin Donuts on a recent visit to Boston.  Donna said the cappuccino was perfect; Kristina and I were not as pleased with our coffees.  For some reason, the young man with whom I placed the order made a mistake and requested cream and sugar be added to our coffee – this was not all right.  We wanted black coffee – you know, regular coffee.

Very kindly I made my way back to the counter to exchange the coffee I did not want for what I had ordered.  I explained to the young man I had ordered regular coffee but had been given coffee with cream and sugar.  His quick response to me was, “You aren’t from here, are you?”  I immediately thought we were about to have a conversation about my accent (which happens at least once a day when I am in this part of the country!) but actually I was about to be taught a lesson on ordering coffee in Boston.  It seems regular coffee there means cream and sugar is added.  Who knew?

Obviously, this was not an issue to argue over, so I accepted the mistake was made by me.  I must admit, however, I was fairly certain the guy at Dunkin was telling this southern boy a big story to cover his error.  As soon as we got back in the car I googled “ordering coffee in Boston” and guess what – he was telling me the truth!  Lesson learned!

In this instance, no one was really wrong.  I placed my order just like I had done hundreds of times back home.  The man at Dunkin Donuts prepared my order just like he had done hundreds of times in his store.  What I meant and what he heard were two different things entirely.  The problem was simply one of communication.

As one who has spent much of the last 43 years speaking in public, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to communicate.  As a preacher, I am very aware delivering a sermon is one thing but communicating a message is another.  I have not succeeded by completing my sermon – my success is reached when those listening to me truly get it.  Proper response to my sermon will only be achieved when there is a clear understanding of what I am saying.

Whether you are a preacher, teacher or parent talking to your children – whether you are the foreman on your job, candidate running for office or coach of your church softball team – whatever you are and to whomever you are speaking, good communication will be key to your success. The speaker and the listener must be on the same page.  Failing to do so leads to consequences no one wants.

In order to become a good communicator I believe there are four essentials to which a speaker must commit.  This is not a pick three out of four, it is all or nothing.  Here are what I feel are the four non-negotiables in communication.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

The mistake I made in Boston happened because I assumed my audience there was just like my audience in Cleveland, Tennessee.  This assumption on my part led to some really bad coffee!  If I had known my audience from the outset, I would have known the word to use was black not regular.

Knowing to whom you are talking allows you to speak the language of the room and avoid those mistakes that sabotage what you are trying to accomplish.  Will they understand your joke?  Will they understand your euphemisms and slang?  Will your method of communicating enhance or distract from your message? A little pre-thought can make all the difference in the world in your outcome. 

RESPECT YOUR AUDIENCE

No one enjoys being talked down to.  So much more can be accomplished in a communicative setting when both parties have mutual respect.  The responsibility for ensuring this mutual respect is solely in the hands of the speaker. 

The two elements for conveying this respect will always be approach and attitude.  I must show respect from the very beginning and maintain respect throughout the entire discourse.  A speaker who fails to display these traits will be limited in effectiveness.  Depending on the audience – some may receive a little while most will totally turn the speaker off and not hear a word.  When this is understood and the goal is good communication, respect for the audience is accepted as imperative.

LISTEN TO YOUR AUDIENCE

I have come to the conclusion some speakers really enjoy hearing themselves talk!  They drone on and on without any consideration of how what they are saying is being received.  In many of these instances the listener gave up long before the speaker did resulting in very little being accomplished.  If the goal was saying a lot – mission accomplished!  If the goal was communication – total fail!

This issue can be avoided by giving some time to listening to the audience.  The last thing a speaker wants to do is answer questions no one is asking.  Gaging the level of interest and determining the ability to understand can only be learned by listening.  Communication is, indeed, a two-way street.  Good communicators understand speaking is only half of the process – listening is extremely important.

LEAVE SOMETHING WITH THE AUDIENCE

Have you ever sat through a presentation and, when it was over, wonder what in the world was that all about?  All you knew was that was an hour of your life you would never get back!  There were a lot of words that came out of the speaker’s mouth but nothing to take home.  This is not good communication.

When a speaker knows, respects and listens to their audience it should not be too difficult to find enough content that can be deposited into the heart of the listener.  It is here when the speaker moves beyond the ear and enters the heart that communication takes place that has a lasting impact.  This is the crowning achievement of the speaker – knowing that information was imparted and will be remembered.

As I am writing this blog, I cannot help but remember that famous line in the classic movie, Cool Hand Luke.  When Captain is having a hard time getting rebellious Luke to follow instructions he says, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”  Luke discovered in very explicit ways the horrendous consequences that come from poor communication.

I do not expect our audiences to be placed in solitary confinement because of our failure to communicate but it is very disappointing when the message we feel is important enough to share is not received by those to whom we are speaking.  It would seem to me if the message matters we should want to do our absolute best to ensure it is heard – not just heard with ears but with heart.

Even though we have advanced technology to assist us, there has never been a time in history when true communication is as difficult to achieve as it is today.  Distractions, limited attention spans, entrenched ideologies…the list is quite long of the challenges in conveying a message.  This is all the more reason we must be intentional in our preparation to speak and sensitive to the many factors taking place while we are speaking – we cannot take anything for granted. 

I am determined to be a better communicator. I believe in my message; therefore, I am committed to making sure it is packaged in a way that it will be heard and remembered.  I want to say what I mean and help my audience completely understand.

I do not ever want a regular cup of coffee again!

It’s Harvest Time!

There is nothing more important to a farmer than harvest.  It is the culmination of all his efforts.  He has withstood the freezing temperatures early in the season, the excess rains in the spring and the scorching sun of the summer.  He has overcome the insects, weeds and wild animals that preyed on his crops.  Now, waiting in the field is the fruit of his labor.  The harvest is ready!

Everything has been leading up to this time.  Many people would have given up.  Many would have considered the challenges and never gone to the trouble to even plant.  But the experienced farmer had the hope of harvest.  It was this hope of harvest that kept him going.  Now he is rewarded.

There are very few events in nature that have greater spiritual application than that of the harvest.  For many years we in ministry have been sowing seed.  We have had many obstacles to work through – it has not always been easy.  Some gave up but many kept plowing the fields and planting the seed.  We have sown and watered believing one day God would give the increase.  The hope of harvest has not let us quit.  And now…it is harvest time!

As we approach this most critical time, there are three truths that must not be forgotten:  harvest is urgent; not all harvest is ripe; and the neglected harvest will be lost.

Harvest Time Is Urgent!  Nothing can stand between the farmer and the harvest.  There may be other things that need to be done but they will have to wait – it is harvest time.  Next week may be a more convenient time but that is too bad – it is harvest time.  The farmer may wake up with a headache and sore throat, but he will just have to work through it – it is harvest time.  Every excuse – regardless of their legitimacy – will have to be ignored.  The harvest demands full attention.  It will not wait for anything.

Growing up in the southwestern part of the United States, I have visited many little sleepy towns during wheat harvest.  I have watched those towns that normally roll up the sidewalks at 6:00 come alive when it is harvest time.  Every motel is full and RVs are parked everywhere they can be.  People from all over the country have been hired and brought in to help bring in the wheat.  Late into the night you can hear the combines humming in the fields.  Business really picks up during harvest season!

The reason for the sense of urgency is well documented.  Harvest time is also storm season.  Everyone in the region knows to keep an eye on the sky.  They know weather conditions can change very quickly.  A severe storm can wipe out in just a few minutes everything the farmer has worked months to accomplish.  This realization calls for an “all hands-on deck – we’ve got to get it done” attitude.  Veteran farmers are serious about the harvest.

This is exactly the truth Jesus was trying to communicate to His disciples concerning the spiritual harvest in John 4:35 when He said, “Do you not say, There are still four months and then comes the harvest?  Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look to the fields, for they are already white for harvest.”  You can hear the urgency in His words – the harvest is ready.  He even says it is past ready.  Jesus is saying there is no time to wait – it is harvest time!

Before a full appreciation for the harvest can be experienced by today’s church a genuine sense of urgency must take over.  For many years we have been teaching evangelism and developing strategies to win our cities for Jesus.  At some point we must leave the pew and the classroom and move to the streets, neighborhoods and marketplace.  While we say there is four months before the harvest; Jesus is saying the fields are already white for harvest.  We cannot keep seeing the harvest as an event to come; it must become an assignment to complete.

Not All Harvest Is Ripe.  As I am writing this blog, I am very aware throughout my community many people are actively involved in planting vegetable gardens.  In a few weeks, these gardens will begin to produce a wonderful array of vegetables that will grace dinner tables, be shared with friends and neighbors (of which I hope I will be a part!) and stock freezers to be enjoyed later in the year.  This really is my favorite time of the year!

A simple truth every gardener knows is – everything in the garden does not ripen at the same time.  A tomato plant, today, may have multiple green tomatoes on it but only one that is red.  The gardener will harvest the red one and come back tomorrow to see if others are ready to be picked.  Harvest is a developmental process – you wait for it to be ready.

This principle must not be lost as we consider the spiritual harvest.  Not everyone is ready at the same time.  The key is not to lose the ripened harvest while waiting on a desired harvest to become ripened.

Many times there are those dear to us we so desperately want to see saved.  We witness to them.  We pray for them.  We do everything within our power to win them to the Lord, but they do not respond.  What should we do when this happens – keep witnessing; keep praying; keep doing everything within your power to win them to the Lord but… do not miss others around you who are ready while you work on someone who is not.  Don’t give up on anybody…but don’t overlook that one God has put in your path who is ready right now to accept the Lord.

The prayer of the soulwinner must be, “Lord, make me sensitive to the ripened harvest.  Lead me to those who are hungry to know you.  Don’t let me overlook any soul you place in my path.”

Now, please hear me – this act of responding to the ripened harvest does not mean you are giving up on your unsaved loved ones.  I believe this is an instance where God’s laws of “give and it shall be given to you” and “you reap what you sow” can come in.  While you are allowing the Holy Spirit to use you to bring to faith someone you may not even know or have relationship with, He will be moving on the heart of your loved one.  They may not be ready today but hold on!  The harvest in your home will come in!

The Neglected Harvest Will Be Lost.  I learned this lesson many years ago at my one and only attempt to have a small garden.  I broke up a little area of ground behind our house and planted a few tomato and pepper plants.  I did my best to take care of them until it came time for our family vacation.  We were away for just over a week.  When we returned the weeds in the garden were green, but my plants were not.  The little bit of fruit on the vines had withered and was worthless.  My little garden had died because of my neglect.

It is a simple fact – there is a shelf life for the harvest.  As I have already mentioned, it will not wait for us and it will not last forever.  There is a short time span for reaping.  If you miss this time, the crop in the field is lost forever.

This truth must resonate in the spirit of every believer.  We may have the best of intentions and our evangelism strategy has been well thought out.  As soon as this or that is done and a few other things work out, we are going to launch into the harvest.  But just remember, while we are waiting, souls are dying.  The neglected harvest is lost.

I remember hearing a song in church when I was a little boy titled Harvest Time.  It was written in 1949 by a lady named Wanda Smith.  The chorus reads,

          Harvest time, harvest time,
          The grain is falling, the Savior’s calling;
          Oh, do not wait!  It’s growing late,
          Behold, the fields are white, it’s harvest time.

We sang that song like we meant it and if it was true then, it certainly must be true now.  There is a ripened harvest all around us.  I do not want to lose my harvest because of my neglect.

I began this article by saying nothing is more important to the farmer than the harvest.  I want to end it by saying nothing is more important to Jesus than the harvest.  Jesus came to this earth “to seek and to save that which was lost.”  His death on the cross was not about changing history; it was about changing eternity – changing eternity for everyone ever born.  Nothing means more to our Lord than souls.

Brothers and sisters, we have been talking about this day for a long time.  We have been planning, praying and working.  The hope of harvest has been motivation for us. Some gave up, but we did not.  Some will not see it, but we do.  Some may miss it, but we will not.  This is our time – this is our moment.  God has brought us to the Kingdom for such a time as this.  We will not fail. 

It is harvest time!