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!

Follow the Instructions

As I write this article the rain is pouring down outside my window.  I can see and hear it, but I am perfectly dry and safe inside my residence.  The elements outside are not pleasant right now but I am safely sheltered from the storm in my nice warm home.

This reminds me of another storm that raged many years ago for the Children of Israel.  For 400 years they were slaves in Egypt.  The last many years of their enslavement was marked by cruel treatment administered by Pharaoh the king.  The Israelites cried for mercy but it seemed there would be none.  But in fact, God had heard their prayers and a plan for their exodus was in place.

Moses, the leader of the people, was directed by God to appear before Pharaoh and demand they be set free.  The king’s heart was hardened and in spite of great plagues sent by God upon the land, he refused to let Israel go.  But the most severe of all plagues is about to be unleashed – the death of the firstborn in every family.

God instructed Moses to call for preparation on the part of the Children of Israel for this last plague.  They would be exempted from the impending devastation only if they carefully followed the instructions.  A great storm is about to ravage Egypt but a means of escape will be provided the people of God.

The instructions called for a lamb to be killed and its blood applied to the door posts and over each door of every home of the Children of Israel.  As the death angel moves across the country on this stormy night, he will pass over every residence where the blood is applied.  They were also instructed to cook and eat the lamb; they were to be fully dressed with their staff in hand and they were to request valuable gifts from the Egyptians.

These instructions seemed strange to the people I’m sure, but they followed them completely.  The night of the last plague comes and a great cry arises from all over Egypt.  Death prevailed throughout the country but all was well in Goshen where the Children of Israel lived.  Pharaoh has had enough – he orders the people of God to quickly leave his country.  Freedom and victory come to the Israelites!

Our world is presently in the midst of a great storm.  Most of us have never lived through anything like this pandemic before.  There is much panic and fear throughout our society.  No one knows when this thing will end and what the world will look like when its over.  But deep in my spirit I hear the voice of God saying, “I’ve got a plan.  Just follow my instructions.”

All my life I’ve been hearing about a great revival coming to America.  We’ve seen times of stirring we thought might lead to this awakening but our hearts long to see more.  Could it be this crisis is the event that will propel the Church to the promised outpouring of the Spirit, and could it be the events happening all around the world will lead masses of people to call on the Lord?  I honestly feel and fervently pray the answer to these questions is yes!  But there’s a catch…we must follow the instructions.

The blood must be applied.  God is not looking for slick professionals who know more than anyone else; He’s looking for the blood.  He is not looking for programs and methods guaranteed to bring astounding results; He’s looking for the blood.  He’s not looking for large bank accounts, plush sanctuaries or the latest greatest anything; He is looking for people who have no greater claim than they once were lost but now they’re found, and the blood of Jesus covers their sins.  We are saved by the blood; kept by the blood and made overcomers by the blood of the Lamb!

Jesus must be at the center of all we do.  The Children of Israel were told the lamb must be completely eaten; nothing was to be wasted.  I believe He is saying to us today, “Jesus must receive our full attention and allegiance.  Nothing or no one can be more important.”  That night in Egypt, nothing mattered more than the lamb.  The same must be true today.

Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a time of much ego-centered and personality-driven ministry.  Men have become the face of ministry and many in the church identify more with that man than they do with our Lord. It must be clearly understood, however, revival will come through Jesus, not through celebrated men.  Now is the time to declare, “I must decrease that He might increase.”

We must be fully dressed and ready to move quickly.  Some will miss this coming revival because they have not made preparation.  Some are asleep while others are living in the past.  Some are listening to the wrong voices and have become encumbered with devices that attach them more to the world than the Spirit.  Some are leaning on the arm of the flesh convinced their way is the right way.  All of this must stop right now!

We will only be prepared when we immerse ourselves in the Word, worship and prayer.  When our hearts are fully tuned to the Holy Spirit we will receive our marching orders and ministry assignments.  We will be anointed and empowered beyond our wildest imagination.  The weak will become strong.  The church will become THE CHURCH.  Revival will sweep across the land.

We should expect great increase.  This revival will not be for our gratification; it is coming for His Kingdom to be increased.  As the Gospel goes forth and Jesus is lifted up, He will be drawing men, women, boys and girls to Him.  The harvest is coming in!  (And I say this by the Spirit, “get ready; the harvest is coming!”)

I truly believe at the same time of this ingathering of souls, God is going to bless His people and make them a testimony to the world.  Those who delight themselves in Him will receive the desires of their heart.  It is the Father’s pleasure to give the Kingdom to His children.  His children will have everything they need to do what He has called them to do.

I’m watching the storm clouds roll over us and, I must admit, at times I feel afraid.  But it is in these moments of fear I am gently reminded I am safe in the arms of Jesus.  He is with me and He has a plan.  His plan will not bring harm to me but it places me right in the middle of what He wants to do in this world in these last days.  He has brought me to the Kingdom for this time.  He has purposely chosen me to participate in a great revealing of His power and glory.  I’m honored to be His son and servant.  I’m determined to stick close, listen good and follow His instructions.  

But the Church Prayed

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost set in motion a tidal wave of evangelism and miraculous manifestation of the power of God throughout the world.  Believers were filled with boldness and proclaimed the message of Jesus with signs following.  The infant Church was off to a blazing start. This magnificent beginning did not happen, however, without intense opposition.  Persecution of the followers of Jesus became the order of the day.

An example of this persecution is found in Acts 12.  King Herod killed James and because this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter.  Peter was placed in prison with the plan to present him to the angry and threatened populous after Passover.  It seems there is an all-out attack against the leadership of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ did not have any political clout.  They were, by no means, the majority.  Their ability to maneuver through these attacks in the legal system or even public opinion did not exist.  They did, however, have a source of power that the world could not counteract.  Verse 5 of Acts 12 tells us the church prayed.

This constant prayer offered to God by the Church brought divine intervention.  Peter was miraculously delivered from prison!  This would be only one of many times help would come through prayer.

Throughout history the people of God have encountered great challenges but when they prayed God moved on their behalf.

In the Old Testament

Israel was surrounded and attacked by enemy nations…but they prayed and God delivered them.

God’s people came under the authority of wicked kings and governments who brought idols and all kinds of perversion to the forefront…but they prayed and God intervened.

They faced times of famine and pestilence…but they prayed and God provided and protected.

They failed God and turned away from Him…but they prayed and repented and God restored them.

They followed God’s direction and built a tabernacle in which He would dwell…and as they prayed fire fell from Heaven and the presence of God went with them.

In the New Testament

The Church faced immense persecution…but they prayed and God sustained them.

They faced times of great need…but they prayed and God miraculously provided.

They faced times of controversy and question…but they prayed and God gave wisdom and direction.

They faced times of sickness – even death…but they prayed and God healed and restored life.

They had times of intense hunger for God…and they prayed and God sent revival. (Once even praying until the place shook where they were!)

There are many examples in our lifetime of great challenge and attack on various fronts, but we are still here because we prayed.  Prayer has been, both, a defensive and offensive weapon that has never failed to produce victory.  Praying people have always overcome.

Today, we find ourselves in uncharted water.  Our battles are more intense and our enemy seems more sophisticated.  Some have lost hope and assumed our best days are behind us.  Like those captured by the Babylonians in Psalm 137, they are convinced the song of the Lord will never be sung again.  It’s over.

But, I see an army rising up that refuses to take the defeatist approach.  They recognize this may be a season of great trial but it is also a season to be the people of God.  Just as other generations have faced tests, this is their test and its only a test!  They will not depend on their abilities or strengths.  They will not be moved by what others are doing.  They will find victory where it has always been found.  They will pray.

Every believer can be part of this praying army.  No circumstance or situation will be a match for these who are committed to prayer.  Like those before us, our story will be marked by an enemy assault but it will also tell of powerful conquest…because the church prayed.