Awakening in the United States is on the Way

Anticipate.  The dictionary gives multiple definitions of this word, some of which are: to regard as probable; to be aware of (what will happen) and take action in order to be prepared; and look forward to.  This word has played into my life many times in many ways.

I remember as a child anticipating special events like Christmas, birthdays and that last day of school before summer break. I remember anticipating my 16th birthday knowing the first order of the day would be a trip to the DMV to get my driver’s license. I remember the anticipation I felt those few days before November 25, 1981 when I knew my life would change forever (for the better!) as Donna would become my wife and we would be a family.  I remember anticipating the birth of our daughter, Kristina, and the many joys she would bring to our world.  It seems so many of the big important events of my life have been preceded by a season of waiting with expectation – anticipation.

There was never any doubt these things would happen but that did not change the fact I had to wait and, in many cases, make preparation.  My patience was sometimes tested but when the time was right, it happened. 

This lesson must not be lost in the realm of the Spirit.  As believers, we learn to pray and wait.  During our time of waiting we grow and receive revelation.  Our prayers are not futile religious exercises – they are bathed in faith and rooted in God’s Word. As this process is taking place, we look forward to the response of our Father – we anticipate His answer. 

For a long time, many of us have been praying for an awakening in our nation.  We have watched the moral decay and the downward spiral of our society.  We have seen the overt effort to remove God from the public square.  We have seen the desensitization of the populace and their willingness to accept sin as normal.  We have witnessed all of this yet believed at some point the wind of revival would blow again. At times it has not looked promising – it has even seemed impossible – but we have kept on praying…and anticipating.

I know some will say I am foolish for writing this.  Others will think I am giving in to wishful thinking.  Disbelief has always existed and certainly abounds in many today, but…my spirit is rising within me in anticipation for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our nation and around the globe.  I believe God has heard (and is hearing) the cries of His children and His promise to pour out of His Spirit in the last days is about to happen!  My heart is burning within me with anticipation!

Throughout its history the United States of America has played a major role in what God has done in this world.  It was not mere coincidence that a small group of people sailed across the Atlantic Ocean toward the New World in 1620 seeking religious freedom.  These pilgrims had no idea what their landing at Plymouth Rock would begin.  A nation would be born that would be a lighthouse for freedom to the entire world and assume the lead in taking the Gospel to the four corners of the globe.  Anyone who tries can see, despite egregious sin and error on the part of many, God has greatly used this country.

I do not believe God is finished with us yet!  I know we have failed Him.  I know great injustices and much evil is present.  I get it – God is in the business of building His Kingdom and not the systems of men.  I know God is not an American.  But…there remains a strong presence of His Body in the nation and until we are taken away He will be working.

The call goes out, today, for the Church to assume its position and prepare for what is coming.  We must be a unified Body – not a white church/black church; not a conservative church/progressive church; not a traditional church/modern church.  We must be His Church – washed in His blood, filled with His Spirit and committed to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”  We cannot let any distraction keep us from His charge.  The Church in this country must come together and lead the way in an awakening that will shake the very foundation of this world.

How can this happen?  Well…it is really not that difficult.  We make it complicated by our opinions and endless analyses.  We feel the need to create strategies and programs.  Under the guise of finding consensus, we study until we stall and nothing gets done.  It is probably time to simplify and return to some basics.  Here are my thoughts…

1.  PRAY.  We know how to do this.  We may have to return to an old-fashioned concept of tarrying, but we know how to do this.  We know how to pray until we pray through.  We know how to pray until we get into a spirit of prayer.  We do not need a manual or a workshop – we just need to pray.  Let’s not complicate things – let’s pray.

Revival will come to America when we pray.  This revival will spread throughout the world when we pray.  “…For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)

As we commit to prayer, the Holy Spirit will begin to speak to us.  He will lead us into truth and give us direction.  He will convict us of sin and reveal iniquity within us.  If we respond as we should, this will move us to the next important step.

2.  PREPARE.  This is where personal responsibility comes into play. We accept as sure as some things can only be done by God; some things God expects from us.  Our attention to the Holy Spirit’s directives aligns us with His will and allow us to participate in the divine plans He has for our country and world.

The last days will be marked by a fresh wind of the Spirit.  Structure and systems that cannot accommodate this will need to be changed.  This will not be change for change sake; it will simply be an adjustment of our sails in order to be moved by the Holy Spirit.  The praying Christian who has prayed through self, tradition and the world will understand this and willingly do it.  The carnal Christian who chooses to give lip-service to preparation will miss it.  The choice is really that simple.

I am convinced from the Word of God, a large part of our preparation must be repentance.  “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17)

Repentance has been a popular subject in recent years as prominent leaders have led us in repenting for the sins of our nation.  While I believe this is good and necessary, I caution the believer lest you feel this alleviates the need for personal repentance.  I am repulsed by abortion, human trafficking, social injustice and so many other sins in our nation and I know God is as well.  But…we will be in a much stronger position with God when we first deal with our own sin.  Pride, prejudice, cheating, lying, sowing discord, secret sin we think is hidden…on and on the list goes – these sins cannot be glossed over.  Personal repentance must take place and will be a huge element in our preparation process.  When we come clean before God and turn from our sin, He will hear our prayers and heal our land.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

3.  ANTICIPATE.  When we pray and prepare – get ready!  Our Father who loves us more than we can possibly understand is so ready to respond to us with his absolute best.  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  (Matthew 7:11)

It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.  We understand His response will come in His time.  We wait…but we wait with expectation.  We anticipate any day now the answer will come.

God is a man of His word.  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) He will do what He said He would do.  It is time to stand up straight, square our shoulders and look resiliently toward the heavens.  Our answer is on the way!

Now I need to say something that must be heard – our enemy, the devil, will not give up easily.  He has a chokehold on many areas of our country and he will not let go without a fight.  Even recently as we have begun to see the possibility of some positive breakthroughs to some longstanding problems, he has reared his ugly head and gotten in the way.  Riots in the streets, deep division in government and a deadly virus that disrupted every area of our society are just some examples of his intrusion.  Expect more to come.

The devil will fight but we will win!  We will win if we pray, prepare and anticipate.  There is no question about it.  Hold on to this and fight back from a standpoint of victory.  “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

I am not ashamed to tell anyone I love my country.  I still get a lump in my throat when I stand at a ballgame with my hand over my heart and hear the national anthem.  I still believe God brought us into existence for divine purpose.  I still believe He wants to use us in this world.  I still believe revival is near.  I have not lost hope.  I still believe.

It may not come like we thought it would.  God may use people we would not expect Him to use.  All of that is all right with me.  I will leave the details to God and fully trust His plan.  I am just hungry for revival that stretches from coast to coast and spreads to every nation of the world.  You may say it cannot happen.  I say just watch!  I am anticipating!

I am Human but I am His!

As a God-called preacher of the Gospel I always walk through my storms unfazed and every time I come out of a fiery time of testing you cannot even smell smoke on my clothes…wouldn’t it be great if this were true?  The truth is all of us, regardless of our standing and relationship with God, find ourselves from time to time in places that seem overwhelming.  We can put on our best face but deep down inside we are anxious and concerns about our survival cannot be denied.  Here is the deal – no matter how long you have been a Christian you are still human.  Tough times are part of life.

The disciples learned this fact to be true one night while sailing across the Sea of Galilee with Jesus.  Their assignment was to transport the Lord to the other side of the sea while He rested after a busy day of ministry.  They are experienced and well-equipped for the task so what could go wrong – and besides all this, Jesus is onboard the ship with them.

Sometime during the night a great storm arose.  The wind is strong and the waves are high.  The boat is violently reeling back and forth and is taking on water.  The disciples are doing the best they can to keep the ship together, but it appears in spite of their best efforts the ship is being destroyed and they will most certainly go down with it.  You have got to know they did not see this coming!

Finally, after what may have been hours fighting this storm, one of the disciples asked the question, “where is Jesus?”  He certainly was not helping them in this crisis.  They were doing all they could to keep the ship from coming apart, but Jesus was totally uninvolved.  As they began to look around – sure enough – they found Jesus where He had been all along – in the back of the ship fast asleep. 

One of the men cried out in desperation, “Lord, get up and help us!  We are dying!  Don’t you care?”  Jesus got up and in a calm resolute manner looked at the situation and said, “peace, be still.”  Immediately the wind stopped and the sea settled down.

I love this story because of all the practical truth it contains.  You would think the primary take-away from this lesson would be – the great faith of the disciples moved Jesus to respond with a miracle.  This, however, is in no way the case.  As a matter of fact, the disciples seem to be operating in fear not faith.  They did not cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, we know you are all-powerful.  Help us in this situation.”  Their actual cry was, “Lord, help us.  We are about to die!”  They have heard His sermons, seen His miracles and love Him enough to leave all they have to follow Him – yet in this storm they are afraid.

If that storm caused the humanity of the disciples to be displayed, I probably should not be so hard on myself when events in my life cause mine to show.  I love Jesus and am fully committed to serving Him, yet sometime…sometimes I am afraid…sometimes I am overwhelmed…sometimes there just does not seem to be a way out.  I have watched Him move for me countless times, but this storm just feels different. 

Times like these cause me to relate to the man in Mark 9 who came to Jesus with a great need.  Jesus said to the man, “if you can believe, all things are possible.”  With tears streaming down his face, the man replied to Jesus, “Lord, I believe.  Help now my unbelief.”  I think the man was saying, “Jesus, I know you have all power – in no way do I doubt your ability.  I’m just wondering if you’re going to help me.”  He knew Jesus could, but he wasn’t sure Jesus would.

It is very important to note in both of the stories I have referenced in this article – the disciples in the storm and the man with a great need – Jesus intervened and gave a miracle.  He did this, not because of great faith, but because of His great love for His children.  This Father and son/daughter relationship trumps everything else!  Jesus really does love us!

This truth became very clear to me many years ago when my daughter, Kristina, was moving into her first apartment while a student at Lee University.  Donna and I were helping her get the apartment set up when I decided I should take her to the grocery store.  I wanted to make sure, before we left to go home, she had everything she needed.

Kris and I – along with her ridiculously small list of grocery items needed – headed to the supermarket.  As I pushed the cart down the store aisle, we passed many things I knew she liked but were not on her list.  I would point these items out to her and ask if she wanted them.  Each time she would reply, “Daddy, I don’t really need that right now.”  I would say, “but I know you like it.  You always eat this when you come home.  Let’s just get a little.”  This scenario repeated itself over and over.  I was having the best time shopping with my little girl and getting her all the things I knew she enjoyed.

It was not until we got to the checkout line that reality hit me!  As I watched the number getting larger and larger on the cash register, I realized Kris probably did not need all of those things right now…but it was too late.  I pulled out the American Express and paid for all the fun I had just had!

Now you can believe this or not, but right then and there – in the grocery store checkout line – the Holy Spirit spoke to me.  He said to me, “You’ve had a good time today giving your little girl things you know she likes.  If you then being earthly know how to give good things to your child, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Kingdom to them who ask Him!”   He let me know He delighted in blessing me even more than I delighted in blessing my daughter!

You and I find ourselves, today, in some pretty difficult times.  A virus is raging throughout the world bringing fear, disruption and destruction with it.  Our political landscape has become acrimonious and bitter.  Forces are at work to divide our nation along racial, philosophical and economic lines.  Our enemy, the devil, is surely at work.

Many are facing intense personal battles.  Sickness, loneliness, fear…on and on the list goes.  These are not figments of our imagination – these problems are real and they hurt really bad.  To make matters worse, when we come to these times in our life there is that accusatory voice in our mind telling us, “this wouldn’t be happening to you if God really loved you.  You aren’t worthy of His love.”  We have all been there – some reading this are there right now.

I am so happy to have this opportunity to share some good news with you!  Regardless of what you are feeling and how bad you are hurting, Jesus loves you and will not forsake you because of your situation.  As a matter of fact, He wants to draw nearer and prove to you He is your answer.  He will not run from you – He is running to you!  You are His child – He is your Father!  You may not feel like a person of mighty faith and power – that is ok.  Just come to him as you are – He will not turn you away.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me.  For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 MEV)

The devil tells me I am just a human without rights and without hope.  I tell the devil he is a liar – I am a human but my Father is the King!  I am human but I am His!

The Spotlight Keeps Coming Back to Me

How much more can we take?  I am ashamed to admit this is a question I have asked several times over the past few weeks.  The prolonged crises happening in our nation seem to have no end.  They are striking so close to home and leaving an imprint that will remain forever.  I am tired and long for the days I remember not that long ago.  I just want things to be normal again.

When our world turned upside down earlier this year I felt – and even said – this, too, shall pass.  I genuinely believed our issues would be dealt with, and after awhile, we would carry on – hopefully better and stronger.  My optimistic self believed we were strong enough to address wrongs and big enough to defeat enemies.  We have been challenged before – we will overcome as we always have.  But I am sitting here today wondering when it will ever end.

I am praying.  I am praying for the President, Congress and Courts.  I am praying for groups that have risen in our county who hate our way of life and seek to destroy us from within.  I am praying for medical personnel and researchers who are dealing with the pandemic.  I am praying for media who stoke my fears.  I am praying for those who are truly hurting and are victims of all that is taking place.  But I need to be honest…the more I pray the more I feel the spotlight shining back on me and my church.  I just do not feel He is finished speaking to and working on us. 

I love the church.  I still believe it is the Body of Christ on this earth.  It is the Bride of Christ that will soon be caught up together to meet Him in the air.  It is built on the rock and all the powers of hell will never prevail against it.  The true church of Jesus Christ is, indeed, alive and well.  But…I am wondering if there is more I need to do to align with His church.  I am wondering if during my stewardship I have strayed from His original intent.  I am wondering if this season is an opportunity for me to adjust my sails and get it right.  I am wondering…

Over the past many years I have witnessed what I call the Americanization of the church.  In many cases the Apostolic voice is missing and we operate by what we think and feel.  We demand a vote on everything so our voices can be heard.  We talk more about our rights than we do His will and Word. Self-promotion and posturing have replaced prayer and a seat at the table has become more important than time in His presence.  We have become program driven instead of Spirit led.   We view the church no differently than any other organization in the world.  We have moved so far from the New Testament church we were birthed to be.  Could this be part of our problem?

I do not speak for anyone else, but I believe we have drifted.  We are busy with good works but we remain anxious and anemic.  We do love Jesus but we are easily distracted by the angry waves around us.  We continue to preach the Word but our belief is sadly mixed with unbelief.  The passion we began the race with has slowly lost much of its fervor.  The movement is becoming an institution. 

In Luke 24 there is a story of two men who one time had great hope that change was coming to their world but because of the death of Jesus this hope was lost.  They are walking home from Jerusalem when unbeknownst to them, Jesus appears and walks with them.  As they discuss the events of recent days, Jesus engages with them in conversation but they still do not recognize Him.

These men finally arrive at their home and because of the late hour invite Jesus to spend the night with them.  As they begin to eat supper together, Jesus blessed the food.  The scripture tells us it was at this time their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.  Jesus immediately vanished from their sight.

Many of us can relate to the overwhelming disappointment the two disciples felt in the beginning of the Luke 24 story.  We began 2020 with declarations of revival and awakening but before much of the year is gone we are unable to meet in our church facilities because of a pandemic and cities throughout the nation are burning.  Unemployment and business closures have skyrocketed.  We have witnessed despicable acts of hatred and injustice in our streets.  We are watching politicians in Washington sacrifice our country because of their feelings toward their opposing political party and leaders.  On and on it goes.

But, just as we relate to the disappointment of the disciples let us not forget Jesus is still walking with us!  Somehow, I must push through my circumstances and connect with my resurrected Lord.  I want what happened in this story to happen to me.

* His Word Burned Within Them.  After Jesus departed from them, the two men recall their time with him on the road.  They said in Luke 24:32, “…Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the way and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 

I want holy heartburn again!  Like the Prophet Jeremiah, when I feel like quitting and I think my work does not matter, I want His Word in me like fire in my bones.  Nothing can take the place of His Word.  I need the strength, instruction and power of the Word in my life.  I must give priority to His Word in all I do.  I must have it!

* They Invited Jesus Into Their Home.  Home is where you are who you really are.  There is no pretense at home.  Into this most intimate place, these men invited Jesus. 

If I am going to be who He has called me to be, I must take Jesus home with me.  He must be welcome in my private places.  He must be part of my discussions and plans.  The effectiveness of my public ministry will be determined by my private moments with the Lord.  The days of making backroom plans without His direction and expecting God to be good with it are over.  Jesus must be welcome at all times in all places.

* They Had to Share the Good News.  When it was revealed to the disciples it was Jesus who had been with them, they quickly returned to Jerusalem to give the news to all their friends.  They could not keep this information to themselves.  They had to share it!

I cannot become paralyzed by fear, intimidation or anything else.  The Gospel must be preached – in the church; on the internet; through every avenue of media.  It must be shared in the neighborhood; in the workplace; on the street corner.  My friends and family must hear it.  People I have never met have got to be told.  In a world looking for good news – I have got some!  I have got to tell it!

In these chaotic times, I know there is an answer for the church.  But I hope someone hears this – we cannot proceed with business as usual.  Systems that have worked for us in the past will not pull us through these challenges.   Marketing and slick presentations will result in frustration.  If we listen closely, I believe we will hear God say, “You’ve tried your way, now it is time to try mine.” 

What is God’s way?  His way is for the priests to weep between the porch and the altar.  His way is for the call to go forth for a solemn assembly.  His way is for judgment to begin at the house of the Lord and His people repent.  His way is for our idols to be destroyed and He be Lord of our lives once again.  His way is for us to seek Him and His Kingdom first – then those other things we need will be given to us.

I believe there is a cure for Covid-19 and an answer for every other issue troubling us today.  I believe the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we have been expecting is still coming.  I am still anticipating a mighty awakening in this nation and a sweeping revival across the globe.  In reality, everything happening causes me to believe these things even more – the devil as a roaring lion is pulling out every stop to prevent it but he cannot do it!  I believe!

But I remind you – we must do things His way.

“When I shut up the heaven and there is no rain, or when I command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence on My people, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers of this place.”  (II Chronicles 7:13-15)    

Revival… Will We Know It When We See It?

I grew up in a small town in southeastern Oklahoma in a vastly different time from today.  Instead of computer games, we played real games.  My adventures were limited only to my imagination.  Everyday I was outside with my friends and oh the fun we could have with the simplest of things! 

One of the most exciting games we would play was racing our bicycles down Red Hill.  Red Hill was this very steep mountain a few blocks from my home.  It rivaled Pikes Peak in its height.  The kids in my neighborhood would push our bikes up that gigantuous incline and race each other to the bottom.  The key was to never touch the brake – that was real adventure!  As a ten-year-old boy, I literally took my life in my hands with that daredevil feat.  It is a wonder I survived.

A few years ago – after telling this story to my family many times – I took them to see Red Hill.  I really do not know what happened.  That huge mountain was gone replaced by a small hill.  The place of so many of my boyhood near-death experiences was not what I remembered at all.  I have got to tell you my stories of grand conquest over an enormous challenge lost its luster.  Reality was not what I recalled at all.

I have noticed many times in life we paint pictures in our minds of how certain things were or should be only to be disappointed when we discover reality.  Sometimes this can be amusing as my example.  Other times we can miss the joy of the real by holding onto the imagined.  It is healthy to dream but it is important to be able to process those dreams through reality.  I want to be a man of big dreams, but I do not want to be a man who lives in fantasy.

Today in the church there is much talk about revival.  I am one of those who believe we are on the brink of a spiritual outpouring.  I sense a stirring in my spirit that is unlike anything I have ever felt before.  I, like many others, believe God is about to do something truly spectacular in the earth.  The question is – will we know it when we see it?

Having spent all my life in Pentecost I have read about and witnessed many moves of God.  I have seen many people set free and delivered from the shackles of sin.  I have seen many people healed of all manner of sickness and disease.  I have seen God answer prayer by making a way where there did not seem to be one.  I have seen God move in His power and demonstrate His great glory.  These experiences have shaped me and made me the man I am today.

But I have been wondering – is what I have seen what God wants to do again?  Is what is coming simply an updated version of what we have already had?  Could it be possible what God has planned will look quite different than our past experiences?  Could my expectation based on my experience cause me to miss what God has planned?   Could I really miss the revival God is sending because I am looking for something else?  Will I recognize this revival when I see it?

I am seriously considering these questions in my own life.  Recently in prayer I believe the Lord brought to my mind five characteristics of the revival He is sending.  I will not take the time to elaborate on each of these in this blog – that may come later.  Here is what I believe a last-day revival is going to look like:

– It will not be a public relations opportunity for a church or an evangelist but a total shift to Jesus.

– It will not just produce converts but disciples.

– It will not just be a spiritual outpouring but radical transformation.

– It will not produce programmed benevolence but a lifestyle of servanthood.

– It will not be an event but a revolution.

This looks like far more than I have experienced in my ministry.  This seems to go much deeper than a Jericho march and an extended altar call on Sunday night.  These things will not automatically occur in a prayer line.  I like Jericho marches, extended altar calls and prayer lines – these have been genuine elements of past moves of God and we do not have to lose them but world changing revival is more than this.  I do not want my memory of what was to keep me from the reality of what is.

I am concerned many churches – especially classical Pentecostals like myself – could miss what God is doing while waiting for something else.  We know what God has done but to stretch and go further requires risk we are unwilling to take.  But deep inside I sense the Holy Spirit is saying, “relax and follow me.”  This next revival may not look like yesterday’s, but it will be what we need to cover the globe with the Gospel and usher in the return of Jesus.  This revival may look different, but it will make us more like Him.

Our world has plunged into utter chaos.  Things are so broken neither a Democrat nor a Republican can fix them.  The downward spiral has become so drastic conversation cannot stop it.  Vaccines, stimulus checks or legislative action will not bring about the change for which the masses are calling.  I have come to the conclusion revival is the only thing that is going to help – not the revival I remember; not the revival in which I have become comfortable but a revival that shakes us to our core and transforms us fully to the Church for which He shed His blood.

You may ask, “how can this happen in my church?”  This answer is simple.  Any church – large or small; city or rural; young or old – that is willing to pray until it happens and not settle for anything less will see this revival.  The moves of God of the past will pale in comparison to the far-reaching transformational revival that is on the way.  You can be part of it!

Revival is coming!  The question that must be answered is – will you know it when you see it?  I am determined to be prepared and spiritually sensitive to what God is doing.  I will not miss this last-day revival. 

More Than A Message

Jesus is coming again.  This is a message I’ve heard all my life.  I’ve heard sermons, sung songs and read books on the subject.  Serving many years as an evangelist, there was probably not a revival I preached that I did not address this in some way.  I really do believe it – not because of all I’ve just mentioned but because Jesus, himself, said it. .”And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)

With the current distress and upheaval in the world, the subject of the second coming of Jesus is getting a little more widespread attention than it has had in recent years.  I’m seeing a lot of social media posts and memes pointing to what some feel is the beginning of the end times.  This is usually the case when bad things happen – people, especially religious people, begin to talk about the end of the world.  I’m not being critical, just pointing out facts as I see them.

Sometimes I wonder if we really believe He is coming soon.  Is this just a fallback subject when things happen we can’t explain?  Is this just “church speak” when we are afraid and the ugliness of sin is rising to the top?  I wonder if we really believed Jesus was coming again if our business as usual would change.  I wonder…

This morning in prayer, my attention was drawn to a passage of scripture found in Ephesians.  Talking about the Church, Paul wrote “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:26-27)

Paul described the Church for which Jesus would be coming back.  He said His bride would be a glorious church without spot, wrinkle or blemish and that she would be holy. 

His church will be without spot.  I think He is saying she will be without sin.  This thought moves me to a place of genuine repentance.  I don’t want any sin in my life to separate me from the Lord.  The pleasures of sin exist for a season but the price we pay for them is far too great.  I pray for the washing and cleansing work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I want all of my sin covered by the blood of Jesus.

His church will be without wrinkle.  Sitting too long cause wrinkles in garments.  Fatigue and worry cause wrinkles in complexions.  Could my inactivity cause me to be wrinkled?  Could my armchair quarterbacking while my brothers and sisters are in the heat of the battle cause me to be wrinkled?  Could my weariness and worry actually be lack of trust in God and be causing me to be wrinkled?  These are questions that deserve an answer.  If we really believe Jesus is coming soon we might want to look at this.

His church will be without blemish. This is interesting.  Unless Paul is just being repetitious, he is making a distinction between spots and blemishes.  I looked for the dictionary definition of blemish.  It says a blemish is “a small mark or flaw which spoils the appearance of something; a moral defect or fault.”  I believe this deserves a deeper look.

I wonder if long-held unholy attitudes could be considered blemishes?  I wonder if deeply ingrained  feelings toward other people – maybe other races – could be blemishes?  I wonder if preaching against some sin while ignoring other sin could be a blemish? I wonder if a determination to have my way instead of submitting to His will could be a blemish?   I wonder if we would prefer not to think about this at all?  I wonder…

His church will be holy.  I think this has to mean His church will look like Him: act like Him; think like Him: totally reflect Him in all it does.  It can’t be driven by personal agendas – it must be His agenda.  It can’t belong to a man – the righteousness of all men is as filthy rags in the sight of God.  It isn’t working to keep people out – it is feverishly working to bring all people in because it is not His will that any should perish.  When the world sees His church it sees Him.

The church described in Ephesians 5 is the church for which He is coming.  He will not be grading on the curve and He is not looking for the best three out of four.  He expects us to be without spot, wrinkle, blemish and to be holy.  These are our guideposts and instructions as we prepare for this blessed event.  We must heed them without exception.

One more time I want to go on record as saying I believe Jesus is coming again.  The message I was taught as a child and the one I have believed and preached throughout my ministry is more true today than it has ever been.  The signs are all around us.  Read the Bible and watch the news – it is really pretty clear.  But somehow, this Biblical truth has got to be more than a catchphrase – it has got to effect my living.  I can’t be scriptural in speech and unscriptural in practice.  This message calls for action.

What should my personal response be to the message of the second coming of Jesus?

It should cause me to guard my heart. I will not live a life of condemnation but I must live one of deep conviction.  I can’t allow anything to enter my life that will offend my Lord and separate me from Him.  I am responsible for myself, therefore, I will be a vigilant watchman over my heart.

It should cause me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  I refuse to become hardened and stubborn toward the Holy Spirit.  I want to be soft and pliable – always willing to be corrected by Him.   I don’t want to become a spiritual elitist – I want to walk humbly before my God.  I don’t want to demand my rights – I want to take up my cross and follow Him.  If I’m going to live in the Spirit, I want to walk in the Spirit.  As He leads, I will follow.

It should cause me to pursue intimate communion and communication with the Father.  I want to be with Him.  I need to hear from Him.  I don’t know the way – the challenges are too great for me – I’m helpless on my on – I really need the Lord.  Communicating and communing with Him is more than an event, it must be my lifestyle.

It should cause me to be passionate about the harvest.  I can’t sit back and watch the world go to hell in a handbasket.  I can’t just shake my head as the world burns around me.  I can’t be critical when a sinner sins for had it not been for the grace of God I would be there with him.  I must engage in the harvest.  I can’t win everyone; I can’t fix everything but I can do something.  There is a ripened harvest with my name on it – I must go get it.

I don’t’ know how much time before Jesus comes again.  There have been a lot of date setters throughout history and they have all been wrong.  The early church expected Him in their lifetime.  My parents expected Him in theirs. I’m looking for Him in mine.  The fact is no one except the Father knows when it will happen.  I am just certain of this one thing – He is coming.  This message must be proclaimed but it must also be lived.  I want to be ready and I want to reflect it in my daily walk.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Normally at this time of the year families are gathered at local ballfields cheering for their sons and daughters as they participate in America’s greatest pastime – baseball.  From the little bitty guys who can barely swing the bat to the more proficient older kids who dream about one day playing in the major leagues, everyone is enjoying participating in this wonderful sport.  Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 crisis, this part of Americana is not happening this summer or, at least, has been delayed.

If we could go watch our children play baseball tonight there are some things we would definitely see and hear.  I am confident we would hear a coach in the dugout calling for a player in the outfield to stand up and put his glove on – those outfielders have a way of becoming disengaged so far away from the action.  I have no doubt some child who has just hit the ball would need to be told to run to first base – it’s so easy to forget what comes next after you’ve focused so hard on making contact with the ball.  I am absolutely certain, in every game at every level of competition, you would hear the coach say to the player, “keep your eye on the ball.” 

Keep your eye on the ball…  This simple instruction is key to anyone playing the game.  Regardless of competency or experience, success in baseball demands the player not lose sight of the ball.  Injuries happen when you take your eye off the ball.  The opponent gets an advantage when you take your eye off the ball.  You just are not going to win if you take your eye off the ball. Keep your eye on the ball…

As 2020 was beginning, I like many others prayed for God to move among us in a fresh way and bring revival to our nation.  I like many others declared this would be a year of spiritual outpouring and a great ingathering of the harvest.  There seemed to be a consensus among church leaders and believers from all walks of life this would be time of awakening for our country.  I believed it strong.

Then it happened…a virus began to spread across the world infecting thousands.  Our country went on lockdown as the death toll from the virus continued to mount.  Schools and businesses were forced to close causing unemployment to reach levels near those of the Great Depression.  Churches were not even allowed to meet in their sanctuaries forcing them to create new methods to share the Gospel and do ministry.  This was certainly not what anyone expected.

Then it continued…a despicable event occurred in Minneapolis as a police officer took the life of an African American man who was already restrained lying on the pavement in handcuffs.  We all saw the video and could not believe our eyes.  This event brought to the forefront again the vile spirit of racism that continues to exist in our nation.  Many people responded with peaceful protests while others took to the streets with anger and violence resulting in additional deaths and destruction.  This was certainly not what anyone expected.

Today I sit in my office at the six month point on the calendar and wonder what in the world will happen next.  I continue to see the effects of Covid-19, both in the health of many friends and the economic stress in our communities.  I grieve at the racial tension that remains high across the United States and my heart hurts because this issue just will not die.  The weight of both of these matters is heavy.  How much more can we take?  The hope of awakening and revival seems so far out of reach.

As I was praying for our country and the many people dealing directly with these two huge attacks of the enemy, the illustration I began this blog with came to mind.  In my spirit I believe I heard the Lord say, “keep your eye on the ball.”  Somehow I believe I am being reminded situations and events cannot stop God’s plans.  Through all the melee of the first half of 2020 my reaction must be that of I Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

While we recognize the reality of the corona virus and pray for its end and while we admit and repent of the continued existence of the sin of racism in our country and seek the reconciliation of all races, we must not take our eye off the ball.  The answer to these issues and all others we face is Jesus.  We must reach up to Him before we reach out to others.  It is the fresh wind of His Holy Spirit that will bring us the victory.  A genuine revival in the hearts of men and women will bring the change we need.

At this very moment – with people sick, unemployed and protesting in our streets – I still believe the rain of revival is on the way.  Looking outside, I see a small cloud about the size of a man’s hand and I keep getting a scent of rain.  Some may think I am foolish but I’m preparing for a downpour.  It is coming!

Here is what I’m going to do –

I am going to live in a state of continual repentance – meaning I’m going to constantly be asking the Holy Spirit to keep guard over my heart.  If there is any sin there – maybe way back in the dark recesses that I have ignored – I want Him to reveal it to me and forgive me of it.  I do not want to harbor anything in my heart that offends my Lord.  I do not want any attitude or behavior in my life that is unbecoming to a child of God.  I want clean hands and a pure heart.

I am going to make prayer a lifestyle.  As I stay in communication and communion with my Father, He will direct my steps, orchestrate my life and use me for His glory.  This will keep me in a place I can hear His voice and know His will.  This will allow me to be part of the solution to the world’s problems.

I am going to keep preaching truth with confidence knowing as I plant and water, God will give the increase.  I can do this even with my limited abilities because “the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) 

If I will live cleanly, pray passionately and preach faithfully there are not enough powers in hell that can stop this God-ordained revival from coming! 

You have got to know, our enemy the devil, knows as we do revival is on the way.  He knows he cannot stop God but he thinks he can distract us.  If he can only get us to look at the angry waves we just might miss seeing Jesus walking to us on the water.  We cannot let this happen!  We won’t ignore the major issues facing us – we will address those as the Spirit leads – but, we will not let anything keep us from the one thing this world needs more than anything else – a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit.  We must not take our eyes off the ball. 

Making 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 Promise is for You

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”  (John 14:12)

I am a firm believer in the infallible Word of God.  It is a settled issue with me – if the Bible says it, I believe it.  With this being said, there are some passages that cause me to wonder how they can possibly be true in my situation.  The above noted scripture is one of those.  I believe it, but with my weaknesses and inabilities, how it can aptly apply to me?  My response to this scripture is probably not too unlike that of the disciples…

Jesus will be leaving soon.  He has spent almost three years with 12 chosen men.  These men have been front and center in all that Jesus did.  It is going to be quite a change for them when He is gone.  Jesus knows this and intentionally spends much time preparing them for life after He is no longer walking by their side.  He shares with them a plan that will cause them to thrive and not simply survive.

As Jesus and His disciples are talking about their future, He lets them know His expectation is the ministry He has begun will continue through them.  He goes so far as to say to them the works He did they would do, and their works would even surpass what they had seen Him accomplish.  What a bold statement this was!

I have no doubt the disciples listened intently at every word coming from the lips of their Master.  They did not interrupt Him and probably nodded in agreement – even if passively.  But when He was finished, if would not surprise me if they spoke privately to each other about what they heard Him say.  “Did He say what I think He said?”  “Do you think He really meant what He said, or could His words mean something else?”  “How can our work ever compare to His?”

These men of whom we sometimes make heroes were only common flesh and blood.  It had to be an overwhelming thought to them that they would be entrusted with the responsibility of continuing the ministry of the Lord.  Then add to this feeling those words – and greater works than these he will do – well, this was just almost too much to believe.  But… they knew Jesus and they trusted Jesus and they were willing to obey Jesus.  These three simple facts/convictions would be the foundation they would stand on from that day forward. 

The next few weeks would be nothing short of a whirlwind for these disciples.  They watched Jesus be arrested and endure a mockery of a trial.  They heard the death sentence pronounced and witnessed Jesus being brutally crucified.  They saw Him die and be buried in a borrowed tomb.  Three days later they received news the stone covering the entrance of the tomb had been rolled back and the body of the Lord was gone. They soon discovered for themselves the body of Jesus had not been stolen but He had risen from the dead as He promised He would – He was alive!  They dined with the risen Jesus and went in and out of His company for 40 days.  They eventually walked with Him outside the city and watched as He was taken up in the clouds to return to His Father.  What a journey it had been!

Before Jesus left them, He gave some final instructions.  Before they began their ministry assignments, they were to return to Jerusalem and assemble in an upper room.  The instructions were to go to the upper room and wait.  They really do not know what they are waiting for – all Jesus had said was, “wait for the promise of the Father.”  That was not a lot of information to go on but…they knew Jesus and they trusted Jesus and they were willing to obey Jesus. They leave the mountain from which Jesus ascended and head for the upper room in Jerusalem.

When the disciples and other followers of Jesus arrived in the upper room – nothing happened.  They took care of some business and selected a successor for Judas.  And they waited.  What are they waiting for?  How will they know when “it” happens/arrives?  How long will it be?  No has answers to these questions but…they know Jesus and they trust Jesus and they are willing to obey Jesus.

Then it happened!  Acts 2:1-4 records it like this, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them the utterance.”

These 120 men and women will never be the same again.  They are filled with boldness and the fire of the Spirit.    They take the message of Jesus everywhere.  They lead multitudes of people to the Lord.  Mighty miracles become the expected order of the day.  It is said they turned their world upside down for Him!   These common everyday men and women become world changers and it was all made possible by three simple little facts…they knew Jesus and they trusted Jesus and they were willing to obey Jesus. 

I love this story of Pentecost and the birth of the New Testament church.  The book of Acts is filled with accounts of the Holy Spirit and the dramatic impact He makes.  Reading these accounts as history is absolutely fascinating but reading them as the beginning of the story is even more thrilling!  What started in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost was not an isolated incident; it continues today!

Peter confirmed our participation in the promise of the Father when he preached his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  His words in Acts 2:39 allow the 21st century believer to take heart and know the same presence and power of the Holy Spirit experienced by the 1st century Christians is available to us right now.  “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  (Acts 2:39)

This reality has been experienced by many, including myself, and everyday is being discovered by others all over the world.  The Holy Spirit is, indeed, being poured out across the globe and hungry believers of Jesus are being baptized in this mighty river in massive numbers.  He is touching people from all nations and religious backgrounds.  He does not want anyone to miss this blessing.

In these unsettling times, it is good to know this wonderful experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit is available.  Just like the people in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, one does not have to understand it or have all the facts in hand.  You just have to know Jesus, trust Jesus and be willing to obey Jesus.  It is not hard or anything to fear.  It is simply receiving a promised gift from God.

Do you know Jesus?  Do you trust the totally trustworthy Jesus?  Are you willing – with absolute abandon – to obey Jesus?  If you are able to answer yes to these three questions, you are welcome to walk right into the river of the Holy Spirit and be totally immersed in His presence and power.  It can happen in the sanctuary on Sunday or wherever you are right now.  Just stop whatever you are doing and let the Father know you are ready to receive His gift of the Holy Spirit baptism.  It is His desire to give this blessed gift to you.  The promise is for you.

Some Things Are Just Sacred

Good night.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let the bedbugs bite.  This little rhyme dates back to the 1700’s during colonial times.  It is commonly believed when it was first used it was more than a simple rhyme but had meaning to the people of that day.  Obviously, today it is something repeated to our children in fun.    What began centuries ago as instruction is now a lighthearted saying with no significance at all.

Throughout the history of our nation there have been many things believed to be important but now we look back and wonder what in the world were they thinking.  Things like segregation and refusing voting rights to women were part of the fabric of this country for generations but we now view these as scars and blemishes on our history.  These were once the law of the land but now the mere thought of them is repulsive to us.

Church history is not exempt from these head scratchers.  We have preached and practiced many things that seemed sacred at the time but, today, we know they were man’s ideas and not God’s.  These situations make me extremely grateful for the grace of God and our ability to learn and grow.   We should always be anchored to the Word of God but always willing to walk in its light as it shines on our path.

Just as sure as there are elements of our past that were given prominence in the church when they should not have been,  I believe there are areas, today, that should be given high priority but because of many different reasons aren’t getting it.  Some things time and culture should not change.  These are the areas that have brought us to our current existence and will need to be present if our influence continues.

This, by no means, is intended to be an exhaustive list.  These are just the elements I hear God speaking to me about. I consider these to be “can’t live without” and “protect at all costs” components of the 21-century church.

Ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Much can be achieved through creativity and strategy, but a serious mistake is made when we assume these can take the place of the Holy Spirit.  As a matter of fact, it should be made perfectly clear the church can only function as Christ’s Body on this earth when it leans heavy on the Spirit.  The church is a spiritual body; therefore, it must never try to accomplish in the flesh what was begun in the Sprit.

Unfortunately, many modern believers are weak and many churches are being overwhelmed because carnality has become the order of the day.  My definition for carnality is spiritual business being done in the flesh.  Decisions are being made based on what feels good and fits our narrative.  This always leads to frustration and defeat.  The only remedy is an admission of total need for the Holy Spirit’s work in all we do. 

The Holy Spirt is moving right now in the hearts of His children – prompting and nudging us toward His will.  We must listen and respond.

The Holy Spirit is moving right now in the life of His church – orchestrating and positioning us toward our greatest harvest.  We must be sensitive and submit.

I am firmly convinced the present circumstances of our world – even though meant by the enemy for our harm – are serving as a catalyst to propel us to a season of increase and Kingdom expansion.  No generation has had an opportunity like this to impact the entire globe.  The Holy Spirit of the book of Acts is stirring the ashes of our hearts reviving a flame that many thought was long gone.  Something unprecedented is on the brink of happening.

We cannot let the time get by us!  We cannot miss this opportunity!  Our prayer must be, “O, God, we need you as never before.  Fill us with your Holy Spirit and anoint us to be your people in this world.”  Rest assured; this is a prayer He will answer. 

The Preached Word.  Preaching is God’s idea.  I Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.”  It is not just religious ritual; it is a chief tool of God to communicate His message.  Preaching is important. 

Styles vary.  Some preachers are more polished and articulate than others.  But at the end of the day, it is not the style or the ability of the preacher that matters most; it is the anointed Word of God that comes from a chosen servant of the Lord.

We, preachers, must humbly recognize the awesome responsibility that accompanies the job. When we step behind the pulpit we are representing God and speaking for Him.  We must not bring reproach on Him through half-hearted sermon preparation and validating our pet peeves with “thus saith the Lord.” We must approach our task with a sense of reverence and awe for the God who has called us.  We carry a heavy weight.

I must confess in my own ministry, there have been times when other responsibilities took most of my attention.  These situations have moved sermon preparation to the back burner causing my preaching to suffer.  This has never been an intentional decision for me, but it has happened more times than I want to admit.  Lately, I have felt deep conviction in this area.  I have been reminded my call from God was to preach.  These other things – some very important – have resulted from my vocational activities or other life involvements. I know I cannot stop life from happening, but I must be intentional in protecting my call.   

As a preacher of the Gospel I must:

  • Hear from God if I am going to speak for God.
  • Be thoroughly prepared to deliver a Word from God.
  • Recognize His Word is powerful; I am just the messenger.
  • Never allow my methods to hinder His message.
  • Be grateful to God for counting me worthy, placing me in ministry.

This world needs preachers set on fire by the Holy Spirit.  These must be men and women of God who are not simply looking for a position but are overwhelmed with passion for the work of God.  They are willing to pay the price – make the sacrifice – do whatever it takes – to take the Gospel to the world.  The are consumed by the call.  I want to be counted in that number. 

Corporate Worship.  Something divine takes place when the people of God come together in worship.  We were made for community and this is never more obvious than when we sit together in His presence.  It is almost like a foretaste of Heaven when the church worships as one.

Our enemy, the devil, knows the importance of corporate worship.  He has witnessed many times the fresh anointing and fierce faith that comes to believers in this holy setting. This is why he attacks this time so ferociously.  He knows if he can distract and divert our attention to anything else, he can prevent us from experiencing a lifechanging encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Today, corporate worship in many churches is not living up to its potential.  The problem is two-fold:  leaders who want to showcase their talent and worshippers who refuse to participate.  Both of these issues are detrimental to the health of a church and damaging to the plan God has for individuals attending that service. The subject is controversial but too important to ignore.

Worship leaders must understand this fundamental premise – their job is to lead worship.  This implies 1.) they are a worshipper and 2.) their goal is to bring others into the same experience.  They are not entertainers.  They are not concert producers.  They set the table and help to create an environment where hungry seekers can experience the presence of God up close and personal.  They are not the only one responsible for this experience, but they are the leader.

The individual in the pew has a key role to play in this time of worship.  He/she is not a consumer.  He/she is not a critic.  The attitude must be that of the Psalmist who said, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise…” (Psalm 100:4)  There is no need to wait until the music reaches the right speed or the song being sung is one of the favorites.  The awareness of a great God who is worthy of our highest praise should be enough to take the person from spectator to participant.  

When the actions and attitude of the leader on the stage and the person in the pew unite to truly worship a mighty God, beautiful things happen.  This common goal overrides style preferences and brings Heaven and earth together in the room.  Selfish hearts will never know this, but pure worshippers will come to church expecting it.

At the beginning of April, I had an unusual dream.  I dreamed after the corona virus quarantine ended, churches were allowed to reestablish worship times in their sanctuaries.  Churches all over the country were filled with worshippers happy to be back together.  That Sunday morning, the people seemed to sing with a fresh passion.  Throughout the United States – in many different denominations – people worshiped with new fervor.  As the people poured out their worship and praise to God, something spectacular happened – the Holy Spirit, like on the Day of Pentecost, was poured out and multitudes of believers were baptized in the Spirit.  This spiritual outpouring ignited a mighty revival of miracles, sinners being converted, and the Gospel being spread in unprecedented fashion all over the world.  

I woke up from this dream with a sense of excitement I had not felt in a long time.  It seemed clear to me God was up to something – even during this unsettling season – and His plan was about to come into focus.  I also felt the need to check my heart as it related to my worship.  I did not want to allow my preferences, attitude or demeanor to keep me from being part of what God was doing in this world.  I did not want this revival to happen without me!

The challenges facing the church, today, are immense.  Everyday there seems to be a new hurdle to overcome and a new set of concerns leadership must address.  There is no joy for me in saying this, but we might as well get ready – it is not going to get easier. Great victory will always demand a high price. Fruitful ministry will always have its detractors.  This is why priorities must be established and a solid foundation built.  It is just a fact, in an age of change, some things cannot change. 

Simply put, some things are just sacred. 

You Are Stronger Than You Think

As the current Covid-19 crisis was just getting started and before the stay at home orders were issued, I found myself one afternoon in a half-empty Target department store.  It was actually a somewhat eerie experience.  The shelves were already being emptied of many essential items.  People were moving through the store quickly to secure what they needed.  There was no conversation.  Everyone seemed to be extremely focused and anxious to get their items and move on.

On this afternoon, even in the silence, I could sense the concern in my fellow shoppers.  Panic was being communicated without words.  It was easy to tell we were in a place we had never been and that was not a place in which anyone wanted to be.  I must admit, in that moment, genuine fear moved into my spirit.

I immediately recognized what was happening to me and began to come against this fear.  I began to declare the Word of the Lord and pray for God’s protection and peace.  This is an exercise I have repeated a few times since that day and, each time, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit move in close to remind me He had my family and me in the hollow of His hand.  This reassurance has been just what the doctor ordered to sustain me in this season.

Times like these remind us how blessed we are to know Jesus and have Him living in our hearts.  We go through the storms and experience their wrath but something we cannot fully explain quiets us and gives unexplainable peace.  I believe this something is the joy of the Lord.

Unfortunately, many believers seem to be succumbing to their storms.  They have not forsaken the Lord, but their lives are far from what we read in the Word they can be.  Anxiety and fear are facts for them.  Hope is distant and faith is constantly under attack.  Not meaning to oversimplify this complicated situation but, if this describes you, I need to ask this question, “have you checked your joy level?”  It just might be the answer to this real problem is a fresh encounter with the joy of the Lord.

King David, who was described as a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God.  When Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin, David was broken and genuinely repented.  Although he repented, David continued to struggle with the guilt of his action.  This whole situation led him to pray a beautiful prayer recorded in Psalm 51.  In part of that prayer he cried out to God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Psalm 51:12).  It seems David was aware a missing element in his life at that moment was the joy of the Lord.  He knew this was something that had to be reobtained.

This divine gift is available to every believer.  It is the Father’s desire it exist in abundance in everyone of His children.  It cannot be attained in the world or from any of the world’s pleasures, but it can always be found by taking the following three simple steps:

Look for God.  This one is easy!  God can always be found in the same place – the praise of His people.  (Psalm 22:3) If you want to find God, begin to praise Him.  Praise Him when you are hurting.  Praise Him when you are lonely.  Praise Him when you are tempted.  Praise Him in the valley.  Praise Him on the mountain.  Praise Him when you feel like it and praise Him when you don’t.  Even when it requires great sacrifice on your part, give God your praise and discover His presence right then and there.  There is just not a chance this will happen – it is a guarantee!  God lives in your praise!

Live in His presence.  When I praise the Lord, even in my hard times, I become keenly aware of His presence.  He moves in close to me and envelopes me in His love.  The effect of this experience cannot be articulated or understood by human reasoning but is extremely powerful to those who encounter it.

The key for me is to learn to practice His presence.  What I mean is I need to reach the place where coming into His presence is not an occasional action but a true component of my existence.  This happens when I make praise an element of my daily life.  

There are so many benefits to this “praise/presence” lifestyle but one of the biggest is found in Psalm 16:11 “…In Your presence is fullness of joy…”  When I get into the presence of God, I find joy!  And do you notice the Psalmist does not say we receive a touch of joy or there is circumstantial joy?  He says we find fullness of joy!  A whole bunch of joy – more than you will ever need – will always be given to those who learn to live in the presence of the Lord!

Let the gift work in you.  God’s gifts are never simply feel-good experiences.  He always has a purpose for what He does.  This is certainly the case with joy.  His purpose is found in Nehemiah 8:10 – “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  You are made strong when His joy is working in your life.

You do not have to be weak.  You do not have to be defeated by the blows life sends your way.  You may or may not be able to control the circumstances you face but you have been equipped to be an overcomer.  You are a winner.  God knows it.  The devil even knows it.  The only one who need convincing is you.  You can have strength in your toughest battle – it will always, in every situation, be found in the joy of the Lord.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see our world is in turmoil.  These chaotic times are bringing stress and anxiety to people everywhere.  The only remedy I know is found in our Lord and in the joy He provides.  Somehow, I believe He desires to showcase this joy in these troubled times by its reflection in your life.  As those around you watch as you walk through your storm – and even through tears and pain – you exhibit joy that only comes from Him, He gets great glory and you find unspeakable victory.  This is the witness that cannot be duplicated in the world and the testimony that brings sinners to repentance.

There is great strength for you today.  You will find it in the joy of the Lord.  Praise Him.  Live everyday in His presence.  Let His plan for joy in your life be manifested.  Pandemics or any other tool in the enemy’s tool belt will not be a match for you.  You are more than a conqueror.  You were made for these times.  You and Jesus have got this!