Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Power to Change

I have experienced or witnesses many things in ministry that have had an impact on my faith: healings, prophetic words, and awesome worship. In fact, I can honestly say that I have witnessed all nine of the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Ghost listed by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 12. But for me, by far, the most exciting thing about ministry is when the life of someone is truly and forever changed. When God saves a lost soul, when they repent of their sin, are baptized in the name of Jesus, and filled with the Holy Ghost! I have recently witnessed this take place in the life of someone very close to me, and I’m telling you, I am still walking on clouds this morning as I write this. I serve a God of transformation!

However, I am also concerned this morning. Lately, in the church, it seems that we have adopted some terminology of the world that implies that people don’t really change. Phrases like, “Oh he’s a controller.” Or, “She’s a pleaser,” and one of the most common, “They are co-dependent,” and let’s not forget, “We’re a dysfunctional family.”

I am not saying that these are not legitimate conditions, they do exist, I’m saying that we have been treating them like impenetrable walls that the gospel has no power over. We have been using them as excuses to tolerate situations that need to change.

Romans 1:16
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth;”
It is the power! What kind of power?

2 Peter 1:3
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:”
Divine power for everything we need for life and godliness!

Luke 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,”
Jesus said he was anointed to preach and that preaching would have an effect – lives caught in hopeless situations would be changed. The gospel is the power of God to make changes! You hold that power and so do I, so then why are so many in the church living unchanged lives?

First, they do not recognize the need to change. The watering down of the Word, weak preaching, the lack of standards of holiness in many churches has lead people into the captivity of a deceived mind. They have been led captive through philosophies based on human tradition rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8).

Romans 12:1-2
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
I am not okay, you’re not okay! We need to be transformed! We need to daily die to our flesh, so that we can be alive in Christ -we need transformation! Being transformed takes time, a lifetime in fact. We need to be constantly growing through relationship with God advancing on our knees, here a little, there a little; line upon line. I am talking about honest relationship here, not rhyming off dead repetition.

This is not about becoming more and more worthy, as though by our efforts we win God’s favor. It is not about becoming more and more righteous, or about comparing ourselves to others. It is about getting as close to Jesus as I can and having that closeness rub off on me.

I have learned a few things in this life, and recently I have come to understand that change is inevitable, but growth is optional. Are you one of those people who refuse to see the need for change? Are you critical of every new idea? Are you negative about everything, about how the world, or the church or the leadership is going? Do you see yourself as a victim? You need to wake up to the need for change because God has empowered you to do it!

The second reason people don’t change is simply because they don’t want to. Once you see the need to change, then you need to want to change. I mean REALLY want it! Why? The simple reason is that it is way easier not to change. You are the way you are because it’s the easiest way for you to be. The fallen nature of man resists positive change of any kind. If you don’t believe me just try suggesting a change in the order of service at your next church service, but be prepared to run for cover!

Have you ever prayed half-heartedly for something? Half-hearted prayers do not result in change.

James 5:16
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
What is an effective prayer? A prayer that is in line with God’s will, a prayer that is offered in faith.

I want you to notice the fervent part. It speaks of urgency doesn’t it? It speaks of desire, of really wanting this thing done.

Hebrews 11:6
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The diligent seekers are rewarded. Have you not noticed that when you get serious with God things happen? Think about the things you really prayed through, the things you woke up in the night to pray about, the things you fasted about; these are the things that get done.

How do you get to that place of really wanting change? I think you must spend time on it, thinking, meditating, write it down. Envision how your life will be different once you’ve changed, think about the future if you don’t do it.

Once you have recognized the need to change, and you have decided that you really want to change, then you take the step to really change:

Acts 2:38
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

And once you have allowed the Holy Ghost to begin your transformation, once faith has taken root in your life, you must fight the fight of faith to keep it. “Keeping the change” has a whole new meaning in this instance! Friends listen to me! Here, is the sad truth, if you take a break, if you lie to yourself and say just a little won’t matter, you will go right back to your vomit.

This is the fight of faith! You have an enemy who does not want God to be glorified by the changes in you. He does not rest; he will continue to yell lies at you.

2 Corinthians 10:5
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
I know that God can change you, because He changed me, and I have seen Him change so many others. There are no chains that He cannot break! There are no addictions that He cannot deliver you from! There is no sin that He will not forgive. God loves you, and He’s waiting for you to surrender to the power that saves.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

If We Only Believe

John 2:1-11
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, they have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six water pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Joel 2:23
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.”

Haggai 2:9
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”

We serve a progressive God, everything about Him is progressive, He is always moving forward, always building, and always outdoing Himself.  He never changes, but He never ceases to amaze us with His awesome power.

Jesus had a ministry full of miracles from the beginning to the very end.  Jesus’ ministry began with a miracle that most would call insignificant, He turned water into wine, certainly this was no life or death situation, but His earthly ministry quickly progressed into opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk, casting out devils, feeding the multitudes, and raising the dead.

Jesus, “who being in very nature God,” was completely unfamiliar with the word impossible.

Matthew 19:26
“But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Mark 9:23
“Jesus said unto him, if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Most of the time when we look at difficult circumstances and conditions of the world around us we tend to see impossible conditions: darkness, confusion, hopelessness, perversion, and corruption. We naturally tend to consider these situations impossible.  I remember a conversation I had with my pastor a few years back, during which he shared with me that he had been invited to speak at the local high school for the anniversary of 9/11 on the topic, “Hope for America.”  I am ashamed to confess that my reply was very cynical. I asked him, “There is no hope for America, is there?” 

He quickly replied, “Only God brother, only God.”

I look at the news and see how now we have begun putting Christians in jail for refusing to violate their faith and I see a nation that in my mind has gone beyond the reach of truth.  I see the impossible, but Jesus looks at what we consider the impossible, and He sees a perfect opportunity for a miracle.  He sees the perfect backdrop for a display of His glory.  What appears to me, in my natural mind, to be a breakdown in the fabric of our society, may just be a setup for a Holy Ghost breakthrough!

No wine at the wedding: the reputation of the groom was at stake. The people were expecting a party that would last for days, and they wanted more wine, but there was no more wine in their cups or in the kitchen.  Here we see a need, a desire, and a potentially embarrassing situation.  Then Jesus takes the case.

Then there was the case of Jairus the ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter was at the point of death: Jesus heads for Jairus home to heal her, but a messenger interrupts them on the way there with the message, “Trouble the master no longer, thy daughter is dead.”

Now the stage is set:  Guilt is the first response, “why didn’t I come sooner, why did I let my pride stand in the way, I should have listened to my wife.” 

Now grief sets upon him, “My daughter is dead, only 12 yrs. Old.” 

Followed by anger, “We might have made it if that woman hadn’t stopped Jesus, now she’s healed and my daughters dead.”

And then finally hopelessness, “He was my last hope.  I heard how he turned the water into wine, and healed the nobleman’s son and delivered the demoniac, but my daughter is not sick, nor demonized she is dead and now there is nothing that can be done.”

Then the words of Jesus penetrate his thoughts, “Fear not only believe.”

The house is filled with mourning, weeping and wailing, death is hanging in the air, and all that the man sees is darkness, hopelessness, grief, sorrow, and pain.  But Jesus sees the perfect opportunity for a manifestation of the God’s glory…”Little girl I say unto thee arise!”

What a mighty God!

Through the Apostle's gospel accounts we have seen Him turn water into wine, feed the multitudes, heal the lame, restore sight to the blind, walk on water, cast out devils and raise the dead.  Surely we have seen Him at His best, surely we have seen the greatest manifestation of His power and glory, right?

No!  Our God is far greater than that!  Let me tell you something He told me in prayer today, “You ain’t seen nothing yet man of God, the best is on the way!”

One day when Jesus was doing ministry with His disciples the news came to Jesus telling Him that, “He whom thou lovest is sick.”

So Jesus and His disciples headed to Bethany.  Upon their arrival Lazarus had already been dead for several days, not seconds, not minutes, not hours, but days.  The stone has been rolled in front of the tomb.  The stone speaks of finality. The stone says, "Call the fat lady and tell her to start singing because it’s over.' the Stone tells us the situation is beyond our reach, the sickness is incurable, the chains of addiction are unbreakable, the marriage is beyond repair, and the rebellion of our children is irreversible.

His sisters told Jesus that if He would have come earlier, He could have healed Lazarus, we believe you could have kept him from dying, but now it’s over.

Isn’t it amazing how we so often put limits on God?

He can do this but not that, He has the power to stop something from happening, but He can’t turn it around.  Nonsense!  My Friends listen to me this morning! Brothers and sisters that’s where we so often miss the point! The entire Bible from the front cover to the back is a book about turnarounds.

In our carnal minds we say, “You’re too late Jesus.”

But Jesus says, “Take away the stone!  Lazarus come forth!  Loose him and let him go!”

When we watch the news today we are seeing a society that is out of control.  America is no longer a Christian nation.  Every single day we hear of how God is being rejected and removed from our schools, our holidays, and in some cases even the church.  

Christmas has become a time for parades, and celebrations, but Christ is left out. 

Easter is a time for egg hunts, and rabbits, and dinners, and parties, but the power of the resurrection and the miracle of eternal life are left out.

We are seeing the spirit of perversion, worldliness, and corruption, not just sneaking into our churches, not hiding in our pews, but filling our pulpits and preaching their perverted self-serving gospel that is leading people into greed and lust.

Jeremiah spoke of a similar time in Israel’s history:

Jeremiah 5:31
“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love [to have it] so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?”

Another scripture that clearly defines the spirit of this generation:

Isaiah 5:20
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

If we allow ourselves to, we can look around and see what’s happening in the world, we can assess how terrible it is, we can get depressed, go into hiding, and say it’s hopeless.  Or we can look in the Word of God and see that our best days are ahead of us, we haven’t seen anything yet, God is just getting wound up.

The devil may think he’s winning, he’s thought that before… 

When he had all the children killed by Pharaoh to try to keep God’s promise from being fulfilled, but God put His promise in Pharaohs house, and let the Paharaoh raise him!

When the children of Israel were trapped at the red sea entangled in the wilderness, the Egyptian army behind them, but God turned the red sea into a highway!

Yes the devil is working hard, and yes we see the evil and the wickedness and the perversion, but don’t turn off the switch of faith - God is up to something big!

We must recognize the truth that was spoken at the wedding in Cana, "You sir have saved the best for last!"

Let the devil paint the darkest, saddest, the most perverse and corrupt picture of hopelessness and despair, and sin that he has ever painted, and then if we 'only believe,' we can sit back and watch Jesus turn it into a backdrop for the greatest display of His glory this world has ever seen!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Created For Power

Acts 1:8

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Contrary to popular belief God is not a distant God, He has made His presence known to man throughout history. Before the fall he actually walked in the garden and conversed with Adam face to face, in the book of Exodus to Moses in a burning bush, He manifested himself as a pillar of fire and a cloud, and He was in the flames with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Acts 2:17-19

17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:” 

And now He has chosen to use us to manifest his power to the world.  You were created for the power of God.  We have been born of the Holy Spirit, we are filled with the Spirit, led by the spirit, taught by the spirit, kept by the spirit and empowered by the spirit.

There are only two powers in the earth, the Power of God and the Power of Satan.  There is nothing in between.  We are in a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, love and hate.  The Word makes it very clear that a person cannot serve two masters.  You are either in God’s Kingdom or you are in Satan’s Kingdom, there is no middle ground.  You cannot claim you live in Gods kingdom and derive your pleasure and your enjoyment from Satan’s. (I Corinthians 10:21; I John 1:6; Ephesians 5:11)

As a child of God you have a divine call on your life: Matthew 5:14, “you are the salt of the earth.”

Salt has healing properties, it preserves, it seasons, and it creates a thirst.  The manifestation of Christ’s Holy Spirit in you causes your life to be a channel of healing and comfort, a seasoning and preserving influence, and it makes your life exciting and joyous.

“You are the Light of the world.” His Holy Spirit causes your life to be a beacon in the night. Your life, your words, your attitude, become a light to those who are in darkness. Now is not the time for indifference. Now is not the time to stand by and watch as the enemy of God destroys lives.

I heard a story once of a man who was found at the beach throwing star fish back into the ocean, the tide had washed them up onto the beach, and they were dying.  Some teenagers came by and saw what he was trying to accomplish and they shouted, “You’re wasting your time, you’ll never make a difference, there are too many here to save!”

As the man lifted another star fish and threw him back into the ocean he said with a smile, “it made a difference to that one.”

Satan’s best friend is the lukewarm Christian, they’re a false representation of Jesus, and they drive people away from Christ rather than draw them to him.

There is nothing that Satan fears more than to see God’s people on fire for Him.

There is nothing Satan desires more than to see the energy of God’s children perverted in the pursuit of natural earthly, carnal and selfish desires, or wasted wrapped up in an attitude of indifference.

God wants to set your life on fire, He wants to fill you with His power, He wants to release you in fields that are ripe for harvest, to give you power to be a witness, to set free those in bondage to addictions, and to lay your hands on the sick and see them healed.

You were created for power

There is only one answer for the brokenness of this world, it cannot be found in anything other than the Power of God

We were created to live in the atmosphere of the supernatural Power of God.  As a fish living on land would be unnatural and abnormal, and it is unnatural and abnormal to be called a Christian and have no power in our lives, and no taste or desire for the presence of God.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Them That Believe

Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the believers sixth sense. It is the believer’s ability to see what cannot be seen with the natural eye, to hear what cannot be heard with the natural ear, and to taste what cannot be tasted with the natural taste. Faith, a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Ghost, is the supernatural sense that is birthed in the human heart when Gods word is heard, received, believed, and acted on.

It enabled Elijah to hear, the sound of “an abundance of rain,” when not one drop had fallen from the sky in over three years. Faith sustained a widow woman through the famine, her meal barrel wasted not, and the cruse of oil did not fail until the Lord sent rain according to the word of the Lord by Elijah. By faith a widow woman went from nothing but a small pot of oil, to an abundance that satisfied her creditors, fed her family, and blessed her community.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after they were compassed about seven days.

Notice the action words connected with faith in those sentences: Moses moved, the walls of Jericho were compassed, or walked around for seven days. Faith is not a generic mental assent to the truthfulness of the word of God. Anyone can say: I believe in the strength and the ability of that bridge to support the weight of my car and myself, but it’s not faith on your part until you are driving across yourself.

Mark 16:15-18: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

If we believe that God’s Word is true, why do we not see more of the power of God manifested in our lives? I believe the answer is in understanding what Jesus meant when he said, “Believe.”

Are we really believers? I look around today and I get a sense that we’re raising a generation of mental assenters. Christians that are not true believers, they do not have true Bible believing faith, they agree in their mind that the word is true, but they take no action to show that they truly believe. The Apostle James said, “Faith without works is dead.”

Jesus was teaching His disciple here in Mark 16, that faith turns into people of action. ‘Believers,” are more than simply those that agree with the Word, they act upon what they hear, and receive, and become doers.

The Apostle James tells in James 2:19, that devils believe and tremble, but they don’t do any righteous works of faith. The plague that has infected the church world is that of calling the agreement of the mind a vital and living faith, calling it believing, but it is not believing without corresponding actions. That weak mental assent makes one no better than a devil.

According to the scripture faith has corresponding works, and without works it is dead. That means that a believer is a doer. For example, to agree that tithing is a biblical principle, that transcends both old and new covenants, does not make you a believer, it just makes you an assenter, and you can assent and not be a doer. But the minute you act on what you agree with, you have become a biblical believer.

The same with Prayer, to agree to the great need of prayer in your life does not make you a praying person. 

To merely agree to Jesus words, does not give you power over demons, but a relationship with Jesus through prayer and the baptism of the Holy Ghost makes you a threat to hell! 

To agree to liberty of the Spirit to worship the Lord by praising, clapping the hands, shouting, dancing, does not make you a liberated worshiper, unless you begin to enter in and truly worship the One True God. 

To agree to Jesus words concerning self-denial and taking up the cross brings us no closer to resurrection power, unless you die to yourself and begin to live for Him!

Believers are Doers. And Doers are Seers. In other words, we will see the manifestation of God’s power in the doing, not the agreeing. The reason so many haven’t seen more of the power and the glory of God in their lives, is because they have mistakenly accepted a mental assent, an agreement of the mind for Bible believing.

Many people will say they believe the Bible, but if they are not living according to its principles, they don’t believe they just agree. When we Believe we will do, and when we do or become doers of what we are agreeing with we will see the power of God .
At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus says to Take away the stone

John 11:40

“Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”

What was between the believing and the seeing? The doing, removing the stone.

We can talk about prayer, sing about prayer, write songs about prayer, preach about prayer, teach about prayer, but we will not experience the benefits and the power of prayer until we pray. The same with fasting: We can preach and teach about the need for fasting, and how Jesus and his disciples fasted, and the great benefits of fasting according to the bible, but until we actually push the plate away, and deny ourselves, there will be no release of power.

The will be no signs: no one will be healed, no one will be set free from addictions, no families will be restored, no chains will be broken, and no one will be filled with the Holy Ghost – no one will be saved until the church demonstrates true belief. None of the things Jesus said will follow them that believe, will follow us, until we believe!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Dead Man Walking

Luke 2:6-11
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Many years ago, there was a book (the book was adapted into a Hollywood movie in 1996), "Dead man Walking."  The book title comes from the phrase that is exclaimed as the inmates in the state of Louisiana are marched from the death row cell block to the death chamber. I must be forthright and honest, I support capital punishment, in fact I don’t think we use it nearly enough.  But I also must admit that when I read about this practice, I developed a sense of abhorrence at the seemingly callousness of this practice, which is probably what the liberal anti-capital punishment author, Catholic nun Helen, Prejean, intended.

The cry as they walked from death row to the death chamber was, “Dead man walking.” How final, how seemingly irrevocable, and regardless of your view on capital punishment, most people cannot help but be left with a sense of uneasiness at the execution of a fellow human being.  "Dead man walking," a forecast of doom, the ultimate declaration of guilt, and an appropriate moniker to a deserving inmate on death row.

But how would you feel if you visited the birthing center at your local hospital, and amidst the cries of the newborn and the excited celebration of their families could be heard the cry resonating from the ward, "Dead man walking?"  And yet on that night in Bethlehem, as myriads of angels burst into ecstatic praise heralding the birth of a special Baby in that hastily arranged, and rustic labor ward, an alternative to that celestial composition entitled "Glory to God in the Highest" could very well have been "Dead Man Walking." 

For on that night in the little town of Bethlehem, while shepherds did what shepherds do and wise men studied the stars and kings assessed their political futures and priests sought to defend the faith by upholding the status quo and adhering to tradition, a baby was born to die.

The very announcement of His birth was also a proclamation of His impending execution.  Jesus was not born to live a charmed life, but He was born to face execution. It was not to receive the adulation of adoring crowds that Christ came into the world that night in Bethlehem, but it was to be slain for the sin of man. The King of kings did not come to ride in regal grandeur, but to be led like a lamb for slaughter.

The son of God was not afforded the mercy of lethal injection, the electric chair, or the hangman’s noose. No, nothing as merciful as that. But instead the one that came to bring light into the world was destroyed upon an object of abject torture. On a hill far away, on an old rugged cross, on an instrument of torture devised in the cauldron of hell by Satan himself and ultimately applied by human agents. Some of those human agents had raised their voices a few days prior to His death in shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David." They now joined the very forces of evil in human form standing in the courts of Pilate chanting "Crucify Him, crucify Him."

Born to die -- in agonizing tones of bewildered prediction the prophets had scratched out on tablets of clay, on papyrus sheets, and scrolls of parchment the sometimes-cryptic clues as to the destiny of the Son of God:

Genesis 3:15

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel."

Isaiah 53:1-7

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The heavenly celebration of joy that appeared in that little town of Bethlehem did not initially allude to the ultimate purpose for His coming to this earth.

The writer Ellen White records for us:

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. "With His stripes we are healed."

This year, as the world focuses on the glamour and glitter, the glory and grandeur of the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, let us recognize that His birth, death and resurrection had been determined from before the beginning of time as the ultimate solution to the problem of sin in our lives.  May we recognize this Christmas that the ultimate Gifts were provided by the Supreme Giver:  the gift of forgiveness for our sin, the gift of freedom from our guilt, the gift of unconditional acceptance, the gift of the assurance of salvation, and the gift of eternal life.

For on that night in the little town of Bethlehem, while shepherds did what shepherds do and wise men studied the stars and kings assessed their political futures and priests sought to defend the faith by upholding the status quo and adhering to tradition, a baby was born to die for you and for me.

Jesus was born to die, but he conquered death, and arose in triumph! This Christmas I want the whole world to know that God has made that baby from the manger, who grew up to be a man, was crucified for our sin, who rose from death and is alive forevermore, and whose name is Jesus, both Lord and Savior. The blood that was shed on that cruel cross breaks the power of sin. At the name of Jesus, the chains of addiction are broken, cancer is healed, marriages are restored, and the prodigal is led home. I urge you friends, if you have not yet, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

I pray to God that as we celebrate His birth this year that we will not reject His death on the cross for us, that we embrace the power of His resurrection, that we all gladly receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the very power of God living in us, and flowing through us to reach others in Jesus’ name!

And friends, we must remain watchful, because as shepherds are still doing what shepherds do, as wise men are studying financial and economic indicators, politicians are still assessing their political futures, and many in the church seek to defend the faith by upholding the status quo and adhering to tradition: Jesus is coming again! No longer as a baby, or a suffering servant, but this time as a conquering King. And I echo the words of the John the Revelator – Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Midnight Hour

It has been really cold this past week here in southern Mississippi, we even got some snow a week ago. It actually feels like winter, like Christmas time. This morning I was reading the passage in Luke about Jesus’ birth and I was reminded that on a hillside outside the little town of Bethlehem there were shepherds, gathered around a campfire, yearning to drive away the cold. It was as the song proclaims, “a midnight clear.” Midnight was just a symbol of the condition, the darkness, that engulfed all of mankind on that night.

A religious spirit, and a supernatural darkness covered the land. It was a darkness that could not be driven away by a campfire. It was Israel’s midnight hour – the darkest hour it had ever known, and the atmosphere was ripe for the coming of a Messiah to bring light into the world once again.  While the rest the world slept in darkness that night, there was something wonderful that happened on that hillside where those shepherds lay.

Suddenly the angels appeared with their voices ringing to announce to the world that the Light had come because a Savoir had been born in Bethlehem.  The darkness of the midnight hour was broken by the glorious light of Heaven.  Sin was about to be conquered forever because God had robed himself in flesh, and a baby named Jesus was lying in a manger!

This wasn’t the first time that God had brought deliverance in the midnight hour.  God called Moses and anointed him as the Deliverer of Israel and sent him to speak to Pharaoh as God’s voice saying, “Let My People Go”! Six times Moses went before Pharaoh but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he wouldn’t admit that Israel’s God was the only true God. But God was not giving up – the battle of wills was already won. God brought one more plague upon Egypt to convince Pharaoh that He was greater than Pharaoh was.

Exodus 11:4-6

"And Moses said, thus saith the LORD, about midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it anymore."

Here again we see the Lord doing a miracle at the midnight hour to bring about deliverance. I don’t know why God chooses the midnight hour, but it seems that He often does so.  Perhaps it’s the midnight hour because God must allow man sink to the very depths of despair before man will turn to Him. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that God will not share His glory with any man and when man is locked into the hopelessness of the midnight hour, that’s when God knows that no man can say God didn’t bring about a miracle.  Whatever the reason, God chose to bring about the final plague upon Egypt at the midnight hour.

Another time when we see something happening in the midnight hour is found in Psalms 119:62, "At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments."

King David knew what it was to be locked in the midnight hour of sin and despair. He knew was it was to feel the pain of sin and the agony of defeat at the hands of the devil. But he also knew how to pray in the midnight hour.

It’s often those prayers, those times when we cry out to God, when we have come to the end of our rope, that really touch the heart of God. All of us have prayed, at times, when we were just going through the motions, but when you really get down to business – when your grandchild is sick, and medicine won’t help; when death is knocking at the door, the doctors have said there is nothing that they can do, when all hope of deliverance is gone unless God performs a miracle – that’s when we really pray, and that’s when God really begins to move.

James 5:16, "… The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Those midnight cries, those wee hours of the morning prayers, when the Holy Spirit is bringing you on your knees before God and you really feel the heaviness of the burden, are the prayers that seem to get the quickest answers.

Paul and Silas had done nothing deserving of the place where they found themselves on this dark night. They were chained to the wall in the depths of a prison under Roman guard just because they had cast the devil out of a young girl.

You won’t always find yourself in the depths of darkness at the midnight hour because of some dark sin in your life. Sometimes it’s just a trap that the devil lays for you and that God allows you to go through for His name’s sake.

I am certain that Paul and Silas wondered why it was happening to them, but they didn’t blame God, get mad and quit the ministry, or curse the guards. They didn’t complain over their cold bread and water, if they even had that. They didn’t murmur because the air-conditioning was just right, or the heater wasn’t right, or the lights were too dim. They just started praising God in the darkness and waited for the will of God to be done.

Acts 16:25-26

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed."

Psalms 22:3, "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel."

When the praises go up, the Holy Spirit comes down

 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

Paul and Silas already had liberty in their hearts, but now they were going to experience the liberty that God gives in a very tangible way.

Another time when we see God working in the midnight hour is found in the Parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew chapter 25.

Matthew 25:1-13

"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."

Midnight - a time when we least expect anything to happen; a time when most of the world is asleep or trying to rest to forget the things of the day that has past, and not to worry over the things of tomorrow.   It’s the midnight hour, not just 12 o’clock by the clock, but midnight because of the powers of darkness that seem to engulf the whole world.  As our world is ever growing darker and falling deeper into the darkness of sin, I can’t help but believe that we are approaching the midnight hour for mankind. 

As Christians we understand that Jesus, the Messiah and Deliverer, has already come. He was born in that manger over 2000 years ago, He died and rose again, and is alive forevermore. Though the world grows darker, we see the light. We can hear the angel choirs singing in the realm of the Spirit and we understand what they mean whey they sing, “Glory to God in the Highest and peace, good will to all men.”

We hear the Lord saying, “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” We see the “Star of Bethlehem” as a light in our hearts for Jesus is that star, the Bright and the Morning Star, that has risen in us to give us the light of the gospel.

But I found myself weeping this morning, my heart breaking this Christmas, for those who are still trapped in the darkness of sin, and bound by chains that could so easily be broken by Jesus. We are approaching the midnight hour. Soon we will hear the trumpet sound, and the midnight cry will go forth, and where will they be when it sounds?

It won’t be only those who have never known Jesus who will remain in this world during its darkest hour.  There will be ‘church people’ who will remain who had the religious spirit of the Pharisees, but who really didn’t know Jesus at all.  

There will be those who once were on fire for God, but they have allowed the darkness to kill the fire and destroy the light in their souls, and if they do not repent, they will be trapped in that darkness forever.

There will be those who have ceased to pray, ceased to serve God, and ceased to read His Word who will suddenly, and without warning, find that they can no longer pray, serve or read, because Satan will complete the blinding process in their heart and mind.   There will be those who were once delivered by the power of God as the light of the gospel shone in them, but now they are locked down again, forever chained to the blackness of sin and despair.

There is a midnight cry coming. We are approaching the midnight hour! Right now, there are children all across the land who are being told about a fat, red-suited elf, riding a sleigh pulled by 8 miniature flying reindeer. They are told to go to sleep before midnight, so he can pass by their house. They are being told that he will give them what they desire.

But I wonder how many of those same children are being told that Jesus is also coming soon, in the midnight hour. I wonder if they are being taught that Jesus is riding on the clouds of Glory, or seated upon the Throne of God, or that He is carried about by the Seraphim of Glory?

We are approaching the midnight hour! Who are you looking for – an elf in a sleigh – or Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? Don’t let the devil lull you to sleep now. The hour is growing late; the midnight hour is approaching; don’t let the fire die, don’t let the anointing die, don’t be caught unaware, or unprepared. Friends, I hope you all will be found watching and waiting, when Jesus comes in the midnight hour!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The devil Spelled it Wrong!

I Kings 19 (Read if you're not familiar with this story )

If you were to go back and read in I kings 17 you would find out that it reveals an important fact about Elijah, he was one of the inhabitants of Gilead.

I Kings 17:1
“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”

The point that I am trying to make is that Elijah was one of the people, in other words he was one of us, he was in the same mess as everyone else, he was surrounded by the same problems and the same sinful circumstances.  Elijah was in the world, but he wasn’t a part of it.  The importance of this fact should not escape us, because Israel’s spiritual condition was at an all-time low.  From generation to generation each of Israel’s kings had taken the nation “progressively” deeper into sin and farther away from God.  Sound familiar? 

The Bible says that Ahab, the son of Omri, did evil in the sight of the Lord above and more to provoke the anger of God than all of the other Kings of Israel that were before him.  And now, here stands Elijah, alone against this flood of ungodliness and perversion.

Have you ever felt like you’re all alone?  Has it ever seemed to you like you’re the only one trying to do right or the only one who is standing for righteousness?  You know what I mean, the only one on your job, the only one in your family, the only one in your school, in your town, or maybe even in your church.  Many of God's people have felt this way, even Elijah the prophet.

Friends the Lord gave me a word for you today: IT ONLY TAKES ONE! It only took One David to get rid of Goliath, one Moses to three million people out of Egypt, and one Ezekiel to turn an entire valley of dry bones into a mighty army! I want to tell you today, the Holy Spirit is urging me to tell you, IT ONLY TAKES ONE! Stop letting the devil lie to you! You can make the difference on your job, in your family, in your school, in your town, in your church, and in your world! Don't let the depression become your obsession! Hold onto the promise, "these signs shall follow them that believe!"

The devil wants you to believe that one person can never make a difference and he goes to great lengths to try and convince us, but the devil is a liar.  I remember what one of my professors in seminary told us, “Always remember: no matter how dark it gets one light changes everything.  The only way that darkness can overtake the light and win the battle for righteousness in each generation, is if that generation refuses to let their light shine.”

When it came to knowing and demonstrating the power of God, Elijah was no push over prophet.  He knew the power of God, through his ministry the dead were raised, the widow of Zarephath went into supernatural provision and was sustained through the famine.  He had a poverty crushing, death destroying anointing.  He was bold as a lion and mean as a bear, Elijah was a man’s man.  He stood alone against wicked king Ahab, and his wicked wife Jezebel, and an entire religious system that had turned against God.

I know a lot of people that can stand as long as they got someone to lean on, as long as people are backing them up, patting them on their back, and encouraging them.  But if you are ever going to do any real kingdom work, you might as well know: sometimes you have to stand alone!

It’s always nice to have friends that are willing to stand with us.  I’m not gonna lie to you, pats on the back feel pretty good most of the time.  I am always grateful when others bless and encourage me, but I have come to understand a very important principle through God’s Word - At some point you have to be able to stand on your own two feet.

You have to be able to praise when nobody else is praising, dance when nobody else is dancing, pray when nobody else is praying, and preach the Word when seems like everyone else is snuggling up to the world.  Last week's sermon from my pastor came in the nick of time to encourage me when I was in a dark place, it brought me hope. But I have also learned that sometime you have to preach yourself happy! 

When David and his men returned from war to find their homes destroyed and their families gone, David's men were so upset that they sought to kill him. He was being blamed for doing what God had anointed him to do. When David looked around and couldn’t get anyone to pat him on the back or speak an encouraging word to him, he encouraged himself in the Lord.

Elijah was a man who knew how to stand, but in our text we find the prophet hiding in a cave.  The cave is a place of isolation: most of the time when there is a strong attack against you the devil will try to Isolate you, cause you to withdraw from others.  The Cave is a place of Depression: one of the greatest signs of being in a cave is the spirit of depression. Isaiah calls it, “the Spirit of heaviness.”  The Cave is a place of Fear: fear is the opposite of faith, faith always mobilizes, but fear always paralyzes.  And the Cave is a place of death: the cave is where dreams, vision, anointing, and callings go to die.

Unfortunately, it seems, the cave is a spiritual reality.  At some point almost every single one of us, in our walk of faith, will experience the cave.  The cave is a spiritual condition: you can be rich and be in a cave, you can be surrounded by people and be in a cave, you can be anointed and be in a cave, you can be a pastor and be in a cave, and you can be a prophet and still wind up in the cave.  You can cast out devils on Sunday and be in the cave on Monday!  No one is exempt from the cave!

Most of you know what I’m talking about, you know what it feels like to be in a cave, to feel isolated and alone.  You know what it feels like to run as hard and fast as you can and feel like you haven’t moved.  You have to really strain your eyes to see anything good ahead of you.  Some of you are fighting feelings of discouragement because you haven’t seen the manifestation of your promise yet.  You’ve been faithful to God, but it seems like nothing is happening.  The devil has you questioning your calling and your anointing.

The great prophet, a mighty man of God, found himself in a cave.

1 Kings 19:9-10
“And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Notice Elijah’s Language, “I have been.”  Not I am, not I will be, but “I have been.”  Elijah was essentially saying: I’m done, I’m through, I’m finished, and I came here to die.  The cave is the place where dreams die, it is the place where visions expire, it is the place where passion and enthusiasm and desire surrender to apathy, indifference, and hopelessness.  It’s the place where fear reigns and doubt robs the heart of any expectation of better things.  Elijah Found himself in a cave, afraid of Jezebel, running for his life, wallowing in self-pity, mad at God, and mad at God’s people.  He was Ready to give up, throw in the towel.  But then something happened, the Lord passed by.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am glad in my life that the Lord passed by.  I was in a cave, a tomb of my own making.  I had given up on God, given up on righteousness, given up on my calling, but then the Lord passed by.  I was doing my own thing.  I didn’t care about anything or anybody, but then the Lord passed by.  I was doing the church thing, fooling myself and everyone around me, but then the Lord passed by.  I was lying in a hospital bed with the doctors shaking their heads, but then the Lord passed by.

One word from God turned Elijah’s cave, his tomb, into a womb.  One word from God and the old prophet came out with a new anointing, a new vision, and a new fire!

I am glad that my tomb became a womb and that God didn’t allow me to die in the cave.  And I want to tell you today that it doesn’t matter how long you have been in the cave, how far down into that cave you have traveled, Jesus is about to pass by.  Today is your opportunity to turn your tomb into a womb.

God told me to tell someone: you’re on the verge of a new revelation of the glory and power of God, of a new level of anointing, and you’re getting ready to see the greatest manifestation of the power of God you’ve ever seen.  The devil has tried to push you into a cave and roll the stone over the door and call it your tomb.  I want to make a small correction and turn the T into a W.

I am telling you today under the anointing of the Holy Ghost, the devil told you this is it for you, this situation, this struggle, this battle that you're going through is you end, it is your tomb. God told me to tell you, the devil spelled it wrong, this is not your tomb, it's your womb. The Lord is about to pass by, Jesus is about to pass by your cave, your cave is not your grave! Get up from this place and ask God for a fresh and holy anointing, then get out of this cave and destroy the works of the devil in the mighty name of Jesus!