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! 

Essential in the Kingdom

The dictionary defines the word essential as absolutely necessary; extremely important.  During this current pandemic the government has found it necessary to decide which businesses it deems essential and which ones are not. Businesses have had to make the same call with their employees. Many of these decisions have been met with controversy and caused great pain. We have discovered it is very hard to come to a consensus in such an important matter.

Recently, during a time of prayer and meditation, I began to think about Kingdom essentials.  I thought about today’s church and wondered how God saw it. I thought about many things that happen every day under the cover of religion and asked myself, “does God view these things to be important?” I thought about many of our church traditions (ministries) and began to consider if they still served a useful purpose and would the Father call them vital to His plan.  

Quite frankly, this exercise was somewhat uncomfortable. I have spent my life serving God through His church. Because of my deep love for the church, I sometimes become very defensive and find it hard to be critical. But on this particular day, I felt the need to look deep and let the Lord speak to me.

Over the years it has been easy for many churches to be judgmental toward the world and even other churches, but the inward look was one they chose not to take. They have continued to stir in the ashes of a former revival and found solace in what God did there in a bygone day. As attendance decreases and community impact becomes almost non-existent, they continue to claim the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Something isn’t right. 

It seems to me the time has come for the spotlight to turn toward us. What does God see when He looks at us? What should our focus be? What ensures we make the essential list? It’s really not that complicated but it is important. Maybe we could start by answering the following questions:

  1. Is Jesus being lifted up? The church has always been prone to identify with personalities.  Even in the New Testament we read of groups in the church at Corinth who attached themselves to Apollos while others identified with Paul. The same occurs today.  Some follow a preacher while others link themselves to a church/denomination. Whereas there is no problem having a favorite preacher or committing to a church, our first allegiance must be to Jesus. Intentional effort must be made by church leaders to ensure people are being pointed to Jesus. Any effort to elevate man over Jesus is nothing short of idolatry.
  1. Is fruit being produced? It is the Father’s plan for His church to bear fruit. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) Stagnant, stale, cold, lifeless…these can never be words associated with His church. Something must be happening – life must be happening! People must be growing and engaged in ministry.  God is not concerned as we are with size or prominence; He is looking for fruit – fruit that remains to His glory. 
  1. Is God blessing? Here is a simple rule of thumb for ministry – God blesses what He ordains. This does not mean there will not be trials and difficult seasons but, even in those times, you will see His hand and know He is with you. It’s not your church; it’s His. It’s not your ministry; it’s His. He will ensure His work accomplishes what it is intended to do.

    The challenge for us to make sure we are involved in ministry He has, indeed, ordered.  Instead of praying for God to bless your plan; ask God what plan He wants to bless.  When we come to Him with a blank sheet of paper and allow Him to lead in our planning, He will take us to places of genuine victory and blessing.  He will bless what He ordains.
  1. Would anyone notice if you went away? This is such an ugly thought but one that should be considered. Ministry must be more than programs and profit; it must be about people. Kingdom efforts are vertically connected to God and horizontally connected to people.  

    Too often churches operate in a spiritually theoretical world and struggle with the practical. We know our goal is save souls and prepare people for eternity not fully realizing the way to accomplish this must pass through a person’s reality. We want to get the Gospel into the hearts of people – we know that is their greatest need. But this will have a hard time happening if we don’t understand in order to get into someone’s heart we must first get into their world. It is this willingness to go where the people are that endears one to a ministry and to our Lord.

Over the past several months I’ve heard the word shift used a lot when discussing future ministry in the church. What I think I understood when this was mentioned was change was coming – that there would be different and new ways of doing ministry. But I am really thinking now it is much more than this. Deep in my heart I believe the time has come for the essential to step up and the non-essential to step aside. We have arrived at a crucial moment in time.

These are days when the heavens and the earth are being shaken. We may not want to think about it, but ministry is being affected by this shaking. Because of this, I reluctantly write I believe the coming days will see a significant number of local churches/ministries close. This saddens me greatly, but some simply will not survive the challenges of these times.

But it is with great excitement I write these times will see the greatest expansion of the Kingdom in the history of the world! The Holy Spirit is being poured out on those ministries who are opening themselves to Him. Those who are willing to dig deep into the wells of His Word will draw the water of His Spirit that will produce life in abundance! This is the day of miraculous multiplication! I really believe this!

The difference between those who do not survive and those who flourish is focusing on the elements God considers essential. Remember, God is not interested in protecting your posterity or promoting your personality, He is building His Kingdom! When we choose to fully partner with Him in this process, we overcome any and every obstacle in the way – we can’t lose!

I want to make the cut. I want to be essential to my Father. My prayer is you will join me in doing whatever we have to do for this to happen. 

Stop, Look, and Listen

Many years ago, as a result of a much-publicized safety campaign, a slogan was chosen to place at railroad crossings to alert oncoming traffic of an approaching railroad track.  The slogan was simple and to the point, but the message was crystal clear.  Drivers were told to Stop, Look and Listen.  No doubt many lives were saved because of this posted message.

As I write this article, the world is experiencing a massive pandemic unlike anything we have seen in my lifetime.  Each day numbers rise of those infected by Covid-19 and no one seems to know when it will end.  Scientific researchers are working feverishly to find a cure and our dedicated medical professionals are working around-the-clock to save as many lives as possible.  I, like so many others, am praying for divine intervention.  We know God is able to move and give us an “only God could have done it” ending to this crisis.

But as I pray, I keep sensing there is something God is wanting to do before it all goes away. (I’m not saying God has caused this crisis, but He is certainly working through it.)  I’m sure I don’t know the full extent of it, but I believe He is working through this trial of fire with the intent of bringing us out as pure gold.  He is speaking and revelation is coming to those who are listening.  The foundation of every realm of our society is being shaken but I am confident the result will be the discovery of things that cannot be shaken.  This is a challenging time, no doubt, but it could be a pivotal point in history if we will allow the plan of God to have its full effect.  

As I sit in my home during this time of quarantine, my mind is being drawn back to a childhood memory of that railroad crossing sign. Those three words of warning are being illuminated in my spirit and I sense God is speaking to me.  It just could be that simple sign from a long time ago could be direction for our present situation.  

STOP!  A few weeks ago, our world totally changed.  It’s like we went to bed one night and woke up the next morning in a totally different time.  The way we were used to doing business couldn’t be done anymore. We’ve been forced to find new ways to do just about everything – work, education, church…  It’s unbelievable!

I am especially encouraged, however, by the way the church has rallied to ensure the work and message of Jesus Christ continues to be communicated.  As a matter of fact, more people are receiving the message today than at any other time in history!  The church has, indeed, left the building and is being deployed across the globe.

But here is my concern – we must not use this time to simply find new ways to do what we have always done.  The familiar may need to be our short-term response but we cannot settle there.   This is the season to expand our borders and go where we’ve dreamed about going but could never quite reach. This will not happen while we are speeding down the much-traveled highway of the expected.  It will only come to those who are willing to slow down and take some time to get into His presence.

If we will stop long enough, we will find the Holy Spirit is wanting to do a fresh, new thing in His church.  The new wine of the Spirit is being made available to those desiring it.  We must not let the “busyness” of continuation keep us from receiving this blessing.

LOOK!  Several years ago, I drove a van full of fellow ministers to a conference.  One of my friends who was an avid outdoorsman sat in the middle seat directly behind me and leaned forward to talk throughout the entire trip.  Our discussions were non-stop about a variety of subjects.  As we would be waxing warm on some topic, my friend would quickly insert, “Look, there is a hawk on that highline wire!”  I would look and, sure enough, I would see that beautiful bird.  We would continue our conversation when suddenly my friend would say, “Look, there is a deer out in that field.”  I would look and, sure enough, I would see the deer.  This kind of interruption happened many times as we traveled and talked that day.

As much time as I spent driving every week, I rarely saw God’s beautiful creation the way I did that day travelling with my friend.  He seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to spotting wildlife.  Then it hit me – my friend loved and spent a lot of time in the outdoors. He had trained his eyes to see what I usually missed.  Regardless of what was going on, part of him was tuned in to spot what he truly enjoyed.  Then the life-lesson came – you usually see what you are looking for! 

I have tried to apply this lesson throughout my life as I’ve approached various situations.  I believe it is especially applicable to where we find ourselves in the church right now.  We need spiritual eyes that are open to see what the Holy Spirit is wanting to show us.

We have got to look past the clutter that usually dominates our attention.  We’ve got to see the ripened harvest that we have not yet touched.  We’ve got to see the laborers God has called but we have not yet noticed.  We have got to see the opportunities that heretofore we have not even considered.  We have got to see what the carnal mind misses and only the spiritually attuned and sensitive eyes can behold.

LISTEN!  A lot of different voices are speaking today.  The media, politicians and experts in all shapes and sizes are giving us their opinion and influencing our thinking.  The noise is deafening and, quite frankly, alarming.  Whereas we should not be ignorant of events and we need good information to make sound decisions, I’m afraid much of what we are hearing is more fear-driven than it is faith-driven.  Not all voices deserve our attention.

In the process of sifting through the many voices in my ear right now, I seem to be hearing a still small voice asking a question that deserves an answer, “What is the Spirit saying to the church?”  I have no doubt He is speaking and what He is saying needs to be heard.  I don’t want to assume I know what it is.  My assumption is probably clouded by my heritage and experience.  I don’t want to miss this divine revelation because I think I already know.  I owe it to myself and those I serve to listen to the One who is all-knowing and has a plan already devised for my victory.

In the mid 80’s I lived in a city with a General Motors Assembly plant.  It was announced one day a decision had been made to discontinue production of the vehicle being built at that particular plant.  A new vehicle model would begin production in a few months but in the meantime the plant would be closed.  It was being closed for RETOOLING.  The tools and processes needed to build the old car would not work for the new one.  It would take a little while to make the necessary changes, but once they were made, the plant would reopen to maximum capacity and a new exciting model of vehicle would begin production.

Could it be…could it be this is what the church is experiencing right now?  Could it be the message that has been preached all my life about a last day revival and a massive ingathering of the harvest is about to happen?  Could it be the tools and processes that have brought us to this place will not be the same ones needed in this new season?  Could it be God is giving us an opportunity to evaluate and fix; evaluate and shore-up or evaluate and change?  Could it be this is our time to reset?  Could it be…could it be?

I think I can say with a true sense of certainty, when this pandemic ends (and it will) our world will look a lot different than it did before this whole thing started.  This prediction is not intended to be gloomy and negative.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never been more excited about my future and ministry than I am right now!  I have lived for this moment – I get to be part of a great spiritual outpouring!  I don’t want to miss it.  I have chosen to use this time to prepare my heart and allow God to work in me.  My heart cries out, “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.”

I challenge you to get ready for something truly spectacular in your life and ministry!  Refuse to let fear have a place in your heart.  Remember to whom you belong and know He has called you to the Kingdom for such a time as this.  Don’t get comfortable though…don’t settle.  God wants to do something fresh in you.  He wants to take you where you’ve never been.  It’s time for those God-dreams to come true. It is your time!  This will all become clear if you are willing to Stop, Look and Listen. 

Rising to the Challenge

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!