Monday, April 16, 2018

Straight Outta Context

As far back as I can remember, “Superheroes” have been extremely popular. In 2015, “Superhero comic books produced roughly 500 million dollars in the U.S. alone, and movies featuring all sorts of “Superheroes” generated 2.5 billion dollars in 2017. Visit your local mall and go into the children’s department at any store and you’ll find superheroes on everything from t-shirts, underwear, socks and shoes, to lunch boxes and backpacks.

Children all over the country pretend to be superheroes while they play. They wear Halloween costumes year around, or simply tie their blankets around their neck and run around their yard, pretending to be Superman, or some other character. When I was younger, much younger, a boy in my neighborhood broke his arm and received several stitches while jumping off the garage trying to fly because he thought he was Batman. He had a blanket tied around his shoulders, jumped, and ended up landing on the driveway, head first.

I think so many of us like superheroes because we enjoy the idea that we may be exceptional in some way. We like the thought that we might have some secret strength or ability that allows us to do something spectacular, something that no one else can do. There’s nothing wrong with imagining or believing that we are special, or that we can accomplish greatness, the danger lies, when we begin to believe that we are self-sufficient, when the truth is that we must never rely only on our own strength to do anything.

The Apostle Paul had come to understand this truth and wrote about it in his letter to the church in Philippi in a verse that many people use incorrectly and out of context. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” The fact that Christ is the one who gives us all strength is not in question here, what many people have trouble with is the first part. “I can do all things.”

Philippians 4:13 is probably one of the most misunderstood and/or misinterpreted verses in the New Testament. To understand the true meaning of what the Apostle Paul was conveying in verse 13, it must be examined within the context of the surrounding verses, and the cultural context of that time.  So, let’s examine the context of Philippians chapter 4.

First, we will examine the cultural context. The book of Philippians is an ‘epistle,’ or ‘letter’ written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi, a city in eastern Macedonia. Letters written during the first century were organized in a much different way than the letters, or emails, that we write now. Most letters written today are generally formatted: recipient, message, author. The body of the message could include all kinds of information, all mixed together. For example:

Greetings Pastor,

Please tell your church I said thanks for helping me last week. I heard the brothers and sisters
there were having a specific problem in your body, though. Here is my advice...

Your Brother in Christ.

Chaplain Clayton Hall

A letter from Paul’s era, was organized in a much different format. The traditional format then would have been: Author, recipient, then message – and the message would have been divided in two parts. Part one would have been the main purpose for writing the letter, and the second part would have been personal thoughts of the author unrelated to the primary purpose of the letter. For example:

Chaplain Clayton Hall, Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and President of Reconciled Motorcycle Ministry.

To ‘The Church by The Side of The Road,’ in Podunk, MS.

This is what the Word of God says regarding the spiritual crisis you are facing in your body, and this is my advice to the brothers and sisters of your congregation...

Also, please tell the brothers I said thanks for helping me fix my roof last weekend, and the sisters for providing all with a delicious lunch.

The reason that it is important for us to understand the difference is because Philippians 4:13 is in the last chapter of the book. That means that the entire chapter is devoted to personal thoughts and greetings from Paul to the members of the church that are unrelated to the primary purpose of the letter.

Continuing our examination, next we will look at the textual context surrounding verse 13. Let’s look at verses 10 – 14:

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

Here, Paul is thanking the Philippians for their concern over his wellbeing. He acknowledges that they have always wanted to help, but in past times, have been unable to. Then the Apostle switches topics, slightly, and starts speaking in a way that may sound odd to some reading this letter. After acknowledging their help, he says that he was never really in need, because he had learned the secret of being content in all of life’s circumstances. The Apostle Paul had, as the Christian Standard Bible paraphrases it, “learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.”

At this point, Paul leaves the reader wondering, what is this secret? How can I learn to be content no matter how much or how little I have?

Finally, Paul lays the truth on the reader, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Jesus is Paul’s secret to contentment. But then Paul continues, “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.”

Wait a second, Brother Paul, didn’t you just say that things weren’t really that bad? Didn’t you just tell us you were content? Yes, he did, and he was content, really, because he has the indwelling power of Christ, the Holy Ghost, in his life. But then he says that they have done well to share with him in his “affliction.” How can he be content, if he’s suffering affliction? The definition of “contentment” even means, “a state of happiness and satisfaction”. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word affliction, it doesn’t produce thoughts of happiness and satisfaction in my mind. So, how can he be content?

Paul is emphasizing that things are not always sunshine and blue skies. Bad days happen, the Word says the Father, ‘sends rain on the just and the unjust.’ Difficult seasons come upon all of us. But even when these things happen, we can still find contentment. James even goes so far as to call it joy in his letter: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers’ temptations;” (James 1:2). Count it all joy when troubles of any kind come our way? Seriously?

Yes, seriously! This doesn’t make sense to the world, in fact from a purely human perspective, it seems impossible. And that is why we can’t do it ourselves. We need the strength of Christ, the power of the Holy Ghost, living inside us to think and live, like Paul thought and lived. Paul is saying here that no matter what happens, Christ will grant you the strength you need to get through it. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost, when we call on the name of Jesus it changes everything! Living faith in Jesus redirects the focus of our thoughts. Instead of concentrating on the negative circumstances that so often surround us, His presence in our lives through the power of the Holy Ghost assures us that God’s got it under control.

Once again context here produces full understanding of verse 13: Paul writes a few verses prior to verse 13:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again, I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

We know this final verse -- it’s another one that’s commonly quoted. When you read it along with Philippians 4:13, though, the whole chapter begins to fit together.

How can we be content regardless of our circumstances? How can we do all things? Because we have prepared our lives for the presence of the Holy Ghost, that’s how! We are prepared for his presence because we have praised him, not just once but again and again, and all the time and in every circumstance, we practice His presence through praise.

We are prepared for His presence when we practice holiness by seeking to live moderate and modest lives. The world is watching to see if God is real to us. We must live lives that proclaim His presence is real to us, and that we can live victoriously in all things, even when evil is all around us, our lives must, as a witness for Christ, demonstrate to the world that His presence is within us.

We are prepared for His presence when we refuse to accept the lies the devil wants us to believe. ‘you’re not worthy, you’re not going to make it through this, you’re all alone, or look at the mess your God has left you with.” When we get knocked down, we pray ourselves back up, we encourage ourselves in the Lord as David did, and through fasting and prayer we take back what the enemy has stolen from us. By prayer, we say I am unable, but through Christ, I can do all things! Prayer stokes the fires of God’s presence in our lives, and His Word says the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous are powerful and effective! Prayer says I can’t, but my Jesus can!

Praise, holy living, and prayer invite the presence of God into our lives, daily. And that presence produces a peace that surpasses all the understanding of man and guards our hearts and minds so that we can focus on the promises and blessings of God, even when external circumstances say, ‘I am never going to make it through this.’ The presence of the Holy Ghost says, “I can do all things!”

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Transformation Touch

Mk 5:25-34
"Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.

Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.  And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?'
But His disciples said to Him, You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’
And He looked around to see her who had done this thing.  But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  And He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.'"
John 5:5-6
"Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?'”

Like the two individuals in these passage I know that there is someone reading this that has an “issue" you are dealing with today.  An issue is the act or an instance of flowing to pass or flow out, as in our text this woman had a physical condition that created an issue of blood.  She was continuously passing blood, she had an unnatural flow of blood.  The blood is life, so this woman was dying, her life was flowing out of her.
When we speak of an issue we are speaking about a situation or condition that is draining your life, it is not a simple concern or a small problem, it is draining you of life sustaining power .  It may be draining you physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but it is killing you. It may be an issue with money, it may be your health, it may be an issue in your mind and your emotions, or it may be an issue in your spirit.  Whatever your issue is, one thing is certain, something is out of order. Something in your life is unnatural and it is killing you, physically or spiritually, but it has bred hopelessness into your life.
Your issue may be physical like that of the two in our scriptures, but it could just as easily be a spiritual issue.  It may be lust, an addiction, jealousy, anger, unforgiveness, pride or rebellion.  It doesn’t matter what label you put on it, whatever your issue is, Jesus can heal you and to set you free.
Someone reading this needs a healing, somebody needs deliverance, somebody needs a miracle, and someone needs the Holy Ghost.  It doesn't matter what the need is, what the problem is or what the issue is, the miracle worker is a touch away, reach out right now where you are, call on Him and He’ll come into the room and you can Touch His garment!  Your miracle, your healing, your deliverance, your restoration, your breakthrough, and your baptism in the Holy Ghost is a touch away, right now!
The same Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee and open blind eyes, made the dumb to speak and the deaf to hear, who healed this woman with the issue of blood and who healed this man of at the pool of Bethesda after 38 years dealing with the same issue, is with you right now!  Jesus is alive!
Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life, because I live you can live too! 
Jesus said: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.
The reason that God sent His Son was to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8)
Isaiah 53:5: He was wounded for our transgressions bruised for our iniquities the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with His stripes we are healed.
Matthew 8:16-17: Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.
Galatians 3:13-14: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us, for it is written cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree, That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Jesus was made sin with our sin and sick with our sickness and our diseases. It doesn't matter to God what your issue is, God is in the business of annihilating issues!  God is no respecter of persons. That means your position or your situation doesn't matter to God.  Rich or poor, high or low we are all the same in God's sight. God is a God of miracles!
Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever.
Miracles are not a thing of the past, they are here today and they are real!
Jesus says according to your faith, not according to your money, not according to your position, not according to your religion, not according to your knowledge, not according to your tradition, but according to your faith!   Praise God I feel the Holy Ghost right now!  Faith is the only currency that heaven recognizes!  The only cost to access the power of God is faith!
Satan's kingdom is also a spiritual reality that is invisible but very active and very real.  Sickness, disease poverty, bondage, oppression, strife, envy, murder, abuse, lust, and perversion. These are all the products and the fruit of Satan's kingdom.
The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost and wherever the kingdom of God comes in, Satan’s kingdom is overthrown, his power is broken, chains are destroyed, and the sick are healed.
When the woman came to Jesus she had no money, she had no position, her reputation was that she was unclean, she was a woman with an issue. Her hands were empty, but her heart was full of faith: “If I can but touch the hem of His garment I know I'll be healed.”
That day she stretched out the hand of faith and she touched the God of miracles. She had heard of Jesus, she came to where Jesus was, and she pressed her way through the crowd, just to get a touch.
Like this woman, if you want your issue resolved, if you want your miracle, you have to be willing to press your way to Jesus.  You have to press past your fear, past your doubt, past your religion, past your failures and disappointments, past the “what ifs” and by faith get you a touch of the Man who walks on water!  Oh praise God He is waiting for us to press through and touch Him!
It's not enough just to be where Jesus is, you have to reach out and you have to touch him. You have to want to be well, you have to want to be free, and you have to want to be delivered. You have to touch him with your faith and put a hand on him.
I may go to Golden Corral and be surrounded by wonderful food, it looks great and smells great but it doesn't profit me until I put it on my plate, stick my fork in it, and put it in my mouth and swallow it.
The presence of the Lord is available to you right now, His power and His anointing are within your reach, but it won't help you unless you stretch out a hand of faith and touch Him.
Whatever your issue is, Jesus is the answer!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

He Giveth Power To The Faint

Isaiah 40:29-31
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 but those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
There are times when it can seem like the enemy is getting the best of us.  Sometimes it can be a serious struggle to maintain your faith and trust in God, especially when it seems like everything is going against us.  You know what I’m talking about, those times when we find ourselves in the middle of one of the toughest battles of our life.  But it is in these times that we need the Lord more than ever.  It is in these times that our faith and trust in God is really put to the test.  These are the times when the proverbial rubber meets the road in our walk of faith.
It is easy to live for God and trust in Him when everything is going well, but what about when it seems like the weight of the whole world is on our shoulders. Unfortunately it is during such times that a lot of believers abandon ship, they bail out on God, when the storms get rough.
If your life is in the middle of turmoil, if the waves are about to swamp the boat, then look up and put your trust in God for that is often the moment that God is putting your faith to the test.  That is the moment when your faith is built and your relationship with God will show its true depth.
I heard a story years ago about a Florida army training camp during World War II.  The daily training for the recruits included a run through an obstacle course.  The last obstacle on the course was a small pond of where they had to use a rope and swing across the water.  Under the blazing southern sun the water looked so inviting that the men soon developed a habit of only making it only halfway across the obstacle.  So an enterprising lieutenant made the pond the new home for a large alligator. From that day on, the recruits left the ground 15 feet from the water’s edge and fell sprawling in the dust on the other side.
Likewise, our behavior as believers must be shaped at times by the "encouragement" of unfavorable circumstances. Without God’s loving correction and faithful discipline we would never develop spiritual strength and endurance. If the Lord didn’t permit difficult circumstances to come into our lives, we would eventually develop feelings of self-sufficiency and become overconfident.
We must not forget that God has promised us that we would never be tempted above what we are able to bear, but with every temptation, every trial, every test, every trouble, He will make a way for us to escape and win the victory. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God never promised that we wouldn’t have hard times. He never promised that we would sail through life without troubles. What He did promise is that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He promised that He would supply our every need. He promised in Psalms 55:22, "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."
In the passage above, Israel had become discouraged so God had to remind them of just Who He Is. God is still in control and those who would place their trust in Him would be renewed in their strength.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when my strength fails. I know that many of you suffer through these times too.  I know this because the most common prayer request I receive from others is for strength to stand for the Lord. There is nothing wrong with praying for strength. In fact, that’s the best thing you can do. But, if you really want to have more strength, God has already laid down the pattern for you to get stronger in Isaiah 40:29-31.
To most people it an seem like the trials they are facing are so personal and that no one else can relate or understand, but multitudes of people have faced, and are facing the same situations that you are going through. Your circumstances are no surprise to God. Your troubles don’t move God. He knew what was coming and He already has an answer for every one of them, but we will only see victory if we do it God’s way.
There is no limit to God’s ability to meet you need. There is no limit to His deliverance and provision for whatever you need. God never gets tired, never grows weary, and is always listening for the prayers of His children.
What will we do with the trials that face us?  Will we turn to our own devices and make decisions that will cause us to have less time for God, for the church, or even for our families?  Will we forget the Word of God and become depressed because we don’t have the faith to trust God’s Word.
Romans 8:28
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Will we break the promises that we made in our times of victory?  Will we forget the commitments we made to Christ when all was well?  Will we forget the times in the past that God has brought us through some rough seas? Will we forget the blessings, the healings, the miracles and every good thing that God has done?  What will we do, and how will be behave now that things are not perfect anymore?
It is time to stop our pity party, quit acting as if it is the end of the world, and lift up our eyes to the mountains and see that our help is on the way, and that God is far above our troubles no matter how bad things seem at the moment, He will not allow us to fail if we will keep our trust and faith in Him.
So now that the test is on, the question is not one of survival, but whether you will pass or fail?  If you pass, your faith will grow stronger. If you fail, you will abandon the ways of righteousness, turn your back on God and put everything in your life at risk.
I have to admit, I have had it go both ways in my life.  Several years ago I went through one of the darkest times of my life because I didn’t trust God in my trial.  I was pastoring and I got very ill.  I was in and out of the hospital.  Over a period of a year I spent 7 months in the hospital.  I really wasn’t sure if I would live or die.  I became physically dependent on the pain medicine.  When I tried to stop taking it I became very ill.  I asked the presbytery of my denomination for help, their response was to take my church, and except for the letter I received in the mail a few months later, I never seen or heard from these men again. 
My response should have been to run into the arms of Jesus, instead I kicked him out of my life and invited the devil to come in and have a seat.  I abandoned the ways of righteousness, turned my back on God and nearly lost everything.  As I returned to old habits from before I knew the Lord of drinking and drugging.  My failure put everything in my life at risk.
God in His grace placed good people in my life that have helped me to recover and return to the path of righteousness and I have repented and once again have a deep personal relationship with Jesus.  I found the father running to meet me with open arms when I returned from my prodigal ways.  He was there waiting all that time for me to come to my senses.
Recently I faced a very similar trial.  I became sick, I had been losing weight for months and had gone from a size 40 waist down to a 36, and then the pain started.  I went to the doctors and after several weeks of testing my worst fear was realized, they told me that I had renal cancer. 
I wish I could say that I handled the news like a man, but I would be lying.  I was scared.  I didn’t tell my wife or kids because I wasn’t sure how to tell them.  But I told my pastor and enlisted him to pray for me.  I had the whole church praying for me too, even though they didn’t know what the doctors had finally told me.  I asked for prayer from my FB friends, also without sharing the details.  And I began to pray like I have never prayed before.
I never for a moment considered turning my back on God this time or blaming Him for my circumstances.  I didn’t allow myself to experience the pity and self-absorbed feelings that the enemy would have liked me to sink back into.  I prayed and I waited for the Lord to answer and my faith got stronger and my relationship with Jesus grew deeper as I became totally dependent upon Him.  And then the miracle happened, God healed me.
The lesson I learned wasn’t that if we trust Him that everything is going to go our way.  There are too many stories of people who are not healed for me to convince you of that lie.  But I learned that the three Hebrews that told king Nebuchadnezzar, “Our God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow to your image,” understood that even if God does not remove us from our immediate circumstances He is with us and we can rejoice because He is still God and He is greater than our troubles.
“…there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”
I wish I could say that I understand why God allows some things to happen. I wish I could but I can’t. His ways are far above my ability to understand. I can only put my trust in Him with faith and know that somehow God will take care of everything.
God will give you the power to overcome. He will take your weaknesses, your failures, your doubts and fears, and He will turn them into miracles of deliverance. In fact, God often does not move until we have given it over to Him completely because He will not share the glory of your deliverance with you. It is all of Him or none of Him. God is our source of strength. God is our source of provision. God is our source of power. God is our source for everything we need! We can’t do anything within ourselves.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
We may pride ourselves in our ability to take care of ourselves. We in America, have such a pride in our freedom and independence that we hate having to admit that we need help from anyone, including God.
But this scriptures tell us that no matter how strong or independent we may be, we cannot do it alone. God often has to bring us to the place where we have to stop trying, turn to Him and say, “God, that’s all I can do, now it’s up to you.” God is waiting for those words but they often aren’t said until we have exhausted our own ideas with no results.
The longer I live, the more I realize that everything is in God’s hands. When I was younger I was more inclined to solve everything with my own ability. Now, after many years of trials, tests and troubles, I am just beginning to get a real glimpse of what living by faith really means.
Faith says that everything will work out when it seems that everything is crumbling around me. Faith says that my bills will be paid when I can’t see how they will in the natural sense.  Faith says that God will take care of me and that I must force myself to stop being overly concerned with the future.  Faith says that I know, that I know, that I know, that somehow God will work it all out and that when He does I will be blessed for having faced all that is happening right now.
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
This is a scripture that has been preached on so many times that I cannot count them. We quote it, we read it, we preach it, but do we really believe it?
Waiting upon the Lord requires true faith.  Waiting upon the Lord requires going through the fire sometimes and still trusting God to bring us through. Waiting upon the Lord requires that we believe in the impossible, look for the unseen answers, hope in the times of hopelessness and know, without knowing why or how, that God will take care of us.
The reason so many Christians fail the fiery tests of their faith is that too many are bankrupt spiritually.  When the trials come, there is no faith and trust in God built up in their spiritual account to draw strength from.  They have not spent time preparing and “saving up” our blessings for the “rainy day” of trials to come.  They haven’t spent time studying, they haven’t spent time praying, they not have fasted at all, and they have gone about their daily lives as though there would never come a time of trouble.
God won’t let you stay on the mountaintop for long because it’s in the valley that your faith and strength will grow.  There is a song that I love to hear that says this:
The God on the mountain, is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
The God of the Good times, is still God in the Bad times
The God of the day, is still God in the night.
That’s the God that we serve!

Isaiah 40:29-31

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Help Me want you Jesus, More Than Anything!

It seems that people are not naturally grateful.  Why do we struggle with gratitude?  One of the reasons is the pace of our life.  We get so busy with life that we forget to set aside time to be grateful.  We’re so wrapped up in everyday life that we never stop long enough see how blessed we are.
Another reason for a lack of gratitude is that we’re too consumer oriented, we approach life as if it’s a big shopping trip in which the name of the game is acquiring more.  We get so focused on acquiring the material possessions that we desire that we for get to be grateful for the basic things that God has blessed us with like hot water, a warm bed at night or health insurance. The primary reason that we’re so busy and given to consumerism is that we take everything for granted and we forget to show gratitude to God for all that he has given us. 
Ever notice that ungrateful people are always stressed out?  The reason they’re so stressed out is that they’re ungrateful.  People who are ungrateful believe that they’ve done it all themselves. If you believe you’ve done it all yourself in the past then you probably believe that it’s all up to you in the future.  You don’t need people. You don’t need God. You just carry the load yourself, the result is a stressed-out life.
Deut. 8:10 – “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.”
Ungrateful people seem to have no joy.   Ungrateful people are never satisfied and they’re always stressed out, the result is going to be a lack of joy.
Prov. 10:28 – “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”
Heb. 12:28 – “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
How do you develop a life of gratitude and “so worship God acceptably, when the economy isn’t good, when things aren’t going your way, when our nation is at war, when the world seems like it’s going crazy?
The Bible gives us three keys to developing a life of gratitude.  First, recognize that everything is a gift from God. The first building block when developing a life of gratitude is to remember who gave us what we have in the first place.  We’re very good at getting, but we seem to quickly forget who gave us everything we have.  Have you ever gone to McDonalds with your kids or grandkids?  You let them order the meal they want. You pay for it. Then when you sit down at a table and reach out and take one of their fries, what do they say? They say, “Hey! Those are my fries!”  You made it possible for your kids or grandkids to be able to have them in the first place?  But those fries are now “they’re fries!” Likewise, we have a tendency to forget that everything we have isn’t really ours – it’s really God’s.
Along with recognizing that everything that we have is a gift of God, we should also, recall what God has done.  We sing: Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One, I actually think that’s a profitable thing to do.  What is it that you’re grateful for? One thing that you notice when you read the Bible is how many times thankful people recall all that God has done for them
Ps. 103:2 – “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”
Ps. 103:3, 10-12 – “3Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” “10-12 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
 Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give you what you deserve?  Instead aren’t you glad that God gives you what you need?  If you don’t understand God’s grace; if your heart doesn’t explode with gratitude when you contemplate His grace, then you don’t have a clue of the shape you were in before you met Christ.  I can sum it up in one word: HOPELESS, You had no meaning, no purpose in your life. Instead it was filled with guilt, fear, bitterness, worry, and regrets. You had nothing you could do to get rid of those things. You had no hope for the future. You were headed for hell instead of heaven. You could never have been good enough to earn your salvation. But God came alone in His wonderful love and said, “I’m going to show you grace.”
Finally, resolve to give thanks in every circumstance.  Many of us are waiting for ideal circumstances before we’re thankful.  I have to admit, sometimes I’m waiting for things to get better to be thankful or for God to demonstrate something miraculous.  What are you waiting on?  For your health to improve?  For your relationships to get better?  For your bills to be paid?  For the time that you can sit back in your E-Z chair and say, “Life is good. I’m finally thankful”?  But that’s not what the Bible teaches!
1 Thess. 5:16-18 – “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

On the way to work, I heard a song playing on the radio. The song was, "More Than Anything," by Natalie Grant. And as I listened intently to the words, this song began to blow my mind, I had heard the song before, but never really listened closely to the words. When I realized what she was singing, and being aware of her current circumstances, I began to weep. you see friends this artist is suffering from cancer, yet she sings:

"I know if you wanted to you could wave your hand
Spare me this heartache and change your plan
And I know any second you could take my pain away
But even if you don't I pray

Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Help me want you Jesus more than anything"
I felt ashamed that I complain about getting older and hurting more. I been sick lately and I complain about missing church. I been upset with God because he hasn't healed me. God forgive my ungrateful spirit, and heal my mind. help me want you more than anything, regardless of my circumstances, let my mouth be filled with praise. Lord help me want you more than anything.
So give thanks in all things, and remember, that without Him we are nothing!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

It's Time to Get Unwrapped!

It seems that most of this week God has been bringing this message back to me over and again. I have thought about it and prayed about it and I am convinced that the Lord would have me to tell you what He has been telling me.

John 11 – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

All through this chapter there is a richness of material from which I could draw this morning. Every Word in this Book carries such a powerful message. Every word is alive and glorious and seems to literally jump off the printed page, go through your eyes, through your mind, and right down into your very heart and soul. The more you read it, the more you want to read it. The more you read it and hear it and meditate upon it, the more it comes alive to you. This Bible is not just a book – It’s a living word. It’s not just ink on paper for there is a living power, inspired by eternal God and penned under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. I pray today that God’s Word will perform His work in your heart as you read.

Today I want to direct your focus to the last verse in the eleventh chapter of John’s gospel, verse 44, “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, loose him, and let him go.”

Lazarus’ story has been the inspiration for innumerable sermons, and I know that you have heard it time and again. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. His family had no doubt entertained, provided lodging and had extended their hospitality many times to our Lord. I know that Jesus loved them, and I know that their love for Jesus was just as real.

But in chapter 11 of the Apostle John’s gospel we are stricken with the fact that no matter how much Jesus loves this family, and how much they loved Him, there came a time when tragedy struck, and the power of death seemed to prevail.

The story of Lazarus’ death reminds me of the story of another man’s death as well and that’s the death of Adam. I know that Lazarus’ death was a physical death and Adam’s death was a spiritual death but don’t ever forget that it was Adam’s spiritual death that brought about Lazarus’ physical death.

God created man that he loved in His own image and breathed the breath of life into him and man became a living, eternal soul, but Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, brought death to his eternal soul and by proxy to every man, woman and child that would ever be born into this world. Just as God’s love, mercy, grace and goodness did not keep Adam from tasting death, neither did it stop Lazarus from dying. If death were the final step in this grand scheme of life, then we would all be left with a feeling of absolute hopelessness.

For those who refuse to serve the Lord, who will not allow Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, and won’t fall before Him in repentance, accepting Jesus’ blood that he shed upon the cross for their sin and recognize that Jesus died for them – DEATH IS YOUR FINAL STEP. You will die in your sin, and then you will experience something far worse than physical death. You will experience what the Bible calls, “the second death!"

That second death, eternal death, ever in a state of dying but never really dying at all – forever and ever while you suffer in the Lake of Fire and brimstone. I can think of nothing more horrible than to experience the moment of dying over and over and over, forever, but never finishing the pain and suffering.

But death doesn’t have to be the final step for any of us. If we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and live for Him, then death will only be a steppingstone into a glorious eternal life. Just as He did for Lazarus, Jesus will call you by name and you will come forth from the grave, alive forevermore by the resurrection power of God!

All of us were like Lazarus at one time in our lives! Oh, we weren’t dead physically, at least not yet. But we were all spiritually dead, with one foot in the grave and the other on a slippery step, just one quick slip and it will mean death forever as I have already described. No, we might not have experienced physical death like Lazarus, but we all were dead in trespasses and sin. We were all dead spiritually.

Mary said that Lazarus had been dead for four days and that he was surely beginning to smell terrible. How many of you had a smelly, sticking, nasty attitude when you were spiritually dead? Did you curse the very God who created you? Did you hurt the people in your life that you thought you loved most of all? Did you love the deeds of darkness and shun the things of God like a plague? Did you have stinking thinking and a heart full of sin? WELL, DON’T THINK THAT YOU DIDN’T BECAUSE WE WERE ALL GUILTY OF SIN!

The Bible says that there is none righteous, not even one! We were all dead in sin and we were all corrupted by unrighteousness and bound for hell just as fast as we could get there. It’s only by the grace and mercy of God that we aren’t all there right now!

The good news is that Jesus is still calling people to “come forth” just like He did for Lazarus! If you haven’t heard Jesus call you name, get ready because He is going to call you this morning. If you are still stuck in the grave clothes of your sin, He is calling you right now, but it is up to you to come out when He calls you!

Now let’s look at what happened to Lazarus after he came forth from the grave for a moment. This is where God wanted me to take you this morning. This is where each of us, who have been born again, are living right now. We are living in the new life, after the resurrection.

Don’t forget that when Lazarus came forth, he was already resurrected, he already had a new life, and he was already delivered by the Word and power of God. Death had no hold on him now, but he still had a problem – and it’s the same problem that all of us have too – he was still bound in grave clothes!

There was only one who was resurrected who came forth from the grave and left the grave clothes behind. IT WAS JESUS! But that wasn’t the case with Lazarus and it isn’t for you and me either, mainly because we have a hard time releasing ourselves from the grave clothes. Lazarus was bound hand and feet and could barely move, but he was alive. He could take very small steps and follow the light that came through the napkin that covered his face, but at least he could see some light and he “walked in the light” as he could see it.

Are you beginning to get the picture of what God is trying to say to us this morning? After you have been resurrected to eternal life in Christ, after you have been called by name and you have come forth by the power of God, and after you have had the light of the gospel come alive in your heart – there is still more work to be done! Lazarus couldn’t get his grave clothes off without some outside help! Jesus commanded his family and friends to unwrap him and set him free.

Does that tell you something? It tells me that you can’t be set free sitting at home alone! It tells me that we need each other, iron sharpening iron, brother helping brother, and sister helping sister, under the direction and anointing of the Holy Ghost! That’s why the 5-fold ministry is in the church! That’s why God has ordained that we come together, and don’t forsake coming together, as a Body of Christ, to help one another get unwrapped from our grave clothes.

Can you see it? Do you understand? We are here to help one another get unwrapped, untangled, to remove the things that keep us from seeing clearly, to help us walk better, talk better, and experience real freedom in Christ. Nothing has been clearer to me this week, a week in which work has overwhelmed me and excluded me from fellowship – I need you, and you need me!

I don’t have any power to forgive sins! You don’t have the power to resurrect me from the dead! We don’t have the power to give each other new life, but we all have the power, under the anointing and leading of the Holy Ghost, to unwrap one another from those things that bind us. Jesus does the resurrecting, Jesus does the delivering, and Jesus does the setting free, but we must help each other unwrap the grave clothes!

What do I mean by “unwrap”? It’s simply this – all of us have things in our past, and things in our lives that are holding us back, limiting us in our ability to move and work for the Lord, and limiting us in having a vision for the work that God has called us to do.

We are walking in the light as we see it, but there’s more than what we see! God wants us to have a greater vision! We are walking under the power of the Holy Ghost, but there’s always a greater walk, where we can make bigger strides in serving the Lord. We are working for the Kingdom of God with our hands, but God wants you to have a greater work! A work that requires more freedom for your hands and your arms as you put them to work for His calling upon your life.

All of us need some unwrapping. The grave clothes of our past, when we were dead in sin, are still hanging onto us, binding us up, keeping us from having real freedom in Christ, limiting our walk with the Lord, limiting our vision of Calvary, and limiting our vision for the work ahead.

Some of you are wrapped in grave clothes of unforgiveness to someone else for the way they hurt you or treated you in past. It’s time for you to get unwrapped.

Some of you are wrapped tightly because your heart has been wounded, your spirit has been broken, and your heart is broken from the hurt and pain of past experiences. It’s time for you to get unwrapped.

Some of you have grave clothes of an injured faith because you just can’t seem to get an answer to your prayers and you wonder if God is listening. Oh, precious child, God is listening, Jesus is calling, and it’s time for you to get unwrapped.

Some of you are wrapped up in the grave clothes of your past, the devil keeps reminding you of your failures, and you keep listening. It's time for you to get unwrapped!

I am praying this morning that you walk in a greater awareness of God’s love, and that you begin to experience more freedom this morning. I am praying for your grave clothes to fall off so that you can walk in the light and the power of the Holy Ghost!

If you haven’t been set free from the grave of sin and death, Jesus is calling you by name today to "come forth" in repentance and give your life to Him. Don’t ignore his calling.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Day of God's Power

Psalm 110:3
“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”

Matthew 28:18
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

God is a God of power, might, dominion, He is omnipotent, and there is nothing that He cannot do. He can bring rivers of water out of a rock, divide the red sea with the breath of His nostrils, He can cause the sun and moon to stand still, and He can calm the raging storm with a word.  God can heal cancer, He can deliver the drug addict and the alcoholic, and He can restore broken marriages. The Word makes it clear: All things are possible to them that believe.

I think I could stop here, most who are reading this are in agreement with me that our God is a God of Power and of Might. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power…”
This makes a distinction that Although God is all powerful there is what is recognized as a day of His power. A day of His power - a specific time of visitation, revelation, and manifestation of his power through the anointing of the Holy Ghost.

We sing about it this day of power, we preach about it, we talk about it, and shout about it, and yet so many people remain slothful, cold and indifferent in their worship, and in their walk. But when there is a visitation of the presence of God, with revelation and manifestation of his power, when the ‘day of His power is upon us, it produces a willingness of heart.

The day of Gods power changes everything. The revelation and manifestation of the power of God causes the heart to do willingly what it had done grudgingly. When the power of God shows up people pray willingly, sing willingly, give willingly, attend church, read the bible willingly. A hundred years of programs could not accomplish what one day of Gods power will do. What we need in 2018 in our churches, more than anything, is a day of Gods power! Without the power of God calling ourselves Apostolic and Pentecostal is false advertising!

Power is not power until it makes a difference! There are all kinds of power: solar, nuclear, atomic, hydro, steam, or electrical. Power is the ability to change things, and to make a difference. We can tell the world we have power, talk about the Holy Ghost and even speak in tongues, but if it hasn’t changed our lives and made a difference between us and the world it’s just talk.

We recognize the power of God in His Word because it always made a difference, it always changed the situation. God looked into the darkness and said let there be light, and Jesus looked at death and said let there be life! Jesus looked at the storm, and said Peace be still and the wind and waters ceased to rage. He looked at the leper and said be clean, and instantly he was made clean; He spat into the dirt made a little mud ball rubbed it into a blind man’s eyes and said go wash in the pool, and a man who had never seen the flowers or looked into his mamma’s face came back with perfect sight.

That was a day of Gods power! A time of visitation, of revelation and manifestation of the power and anointing of God!

When God visited the 120 in an upper room in Jerusalem and filled them with the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost, that was the day of Gods power! When God visited a humble shack, on a street named Azusa in Los Angeles, Ca., and filled his people with the Holy Ghost and started a great revival, that was a day of Gods Power!

The Good news is, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. And I am prophesying to you right now, and the church better be ready, because the day of God’s power is upon us again! It’s time for another day of Gods power!

What is it going to take to see another day of Gods power? We’ve got to fast, we’ve got to pray, we’ve got to pray as if life depended upon it! Because, it does! Life hangs in the balance for those who are lost, and it is up to the church, the Apostolic Pentecostal church to worship like we believe, to pray like we believe, to live like we believe that the day of God’s power is here! We need a hunger for God’s power!

Isaiah had a hunger for a day of his power, it began with a desire just to know that God was watching over him.

Isaiah 63:15
“Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? Are they restrained?”

But his hunger kept growing until he could no longer be satisfied just to know that God was watching him.

Isaiah 64: 1-2
“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, 2 As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!”

I don’t know about you friends, but I am hungry for a day of Gods power. Like David my soul is thirsty and my flesh longs to see the power and the glory of God in the sanctuary. We need a hunger for God’s presence.

Along with a hunger for His presence, we need a hunger for holiness. If we are ever going to see a day of Gods power in the church and in our lives, we are going to have to sanctify ourselves. I know it sounds old fashioned, but it’s the old paths that lead us to the power.

Joshua 3:5
“And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”

Hebrews 12:14
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”

Matthew 5:8
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Psalm 101:2
“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”

I am concerned today because I see something happening across the land, I see so many people who are becoming drunk on the pleasures of this life. Christians who are filled up with junk, allowing things in their homes and lives that are grieving the Holy Spirit, and then wondering why we don’t experience the power of God.

Luke 21:34
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”

The devil has deceived many of Gods people into believing that if something is funny then it’s not wrong. Sin is sin, filth is filth, and perversion is perversion, and it doesn’t matter what setting it is in. We will never experience the day of God’s power without holiness.

In a day of Gods power the supernatural becomes natural, Hard things become easy, The Holy Spirit flows freely, sinners are convicted of their sin, and the Saints of God live Holy lives.