Saturday, July 14, 2018

There is No Alternative to Holiness

I was reading the story of Noah again this week, and like never before it struck me that, like Noah, we live in the midst of a perverse generation.  A generation that calls evil good and good evil.  A generation that fines a Christian baker $135,000 in Oregon for refusing to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding, and then glorifies musicians for canceling concerts in venues where the states have decided that men should use “Men’s” restrooms and women should use “women’s” restrooms.  It’s like I woke up one day and found myself in an alternate universe.

The truth is however; this hasn’t come upon us suddenly, we’ve just been passively allowing it to happen.  And if the Church continues to allow "cultural norms" to infiltrate our lives, it is my opinion that it won't be long before our women look like Ellen DeGeneres and our men look like Bruce Jenner.

Proverbs 30:11-13

11 There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother.
12 There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
13 There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.

But really for a student of the God’s Word, none of this should come as a shock:

II Timothy 3:1-5

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

God has called us to be separate, different, and distinct from the world!

Romans 12:1, 2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Philippians 2:15

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;”

Peter wrote that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, God chose Noah to build the ark for that reason, and when the flood came, Noah and his family rose above the destructive waters and were saved.  Noah built the ark, but God chose the material (gopher wood) that Noah used and God gave Noah the instructions (pitch it from within and without) on how to build it.

God has likewise given us the material to build a life that will allow us to rise above the destructive forces of evil that are destroying our world today.  He has given us His Word.  It is up to us to build upon what He has given us.  To pitch our lives with His Word from within and from without.  To pitch means to seal.

There are some things we need to seal in: character, integrity, dignity, holiness, compassion, and forgiveness.  These things must be an inside job.  And there are some things that we need to seal out: Fear, doubt, anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness, things that stir up the carnal man, and the works of the flesh.  We’re in the world but not of the world.  We need God’s word to seal us, to pitch us from within and without so that we rise above the destructive waters in the ark of His protection.  I don’t care how good a swimmer you are; you can’t swim across an ocean of sewage without getting some of the waste in your mouth.

Genesis 7:18 - “And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth;”

There is no doubt about it, the waters of sin, and ungodliness, and perversion are increasing greatly upon the earth, but listen to the last part of that verse: “and the ark went upon the face of the waters.”

That means the ark rode over the top of the waters of destruction.  It is still true today that those who live righteously, and holy, and separated lives unto God, are going to rise to the top.  The darker it gets the brighter our light shines, the higher the waters of sin rise, the higher we will rise.  Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world.

Like Noah, we must be willing to be thought foolish for the sake of the gospel.  It must have seemed foolish for Noah to be building an ark when it had never even rained upon the earth.  They made fun of him, but he kept on building.  He didn’t compromise, he didn’t deviate from God’s plan, and he didn’t let his culture and their criticism interfere with his commitment to God’s plan, because Noah knew the rain was coming.

We must look a lot like Noah prophesying to the world of a coming judgement, that Jesus is coming back, that only those who have been washed in the blood of the lamb, and who have turned their back on sin can enter into heaven.  But, like Noah, our message must be pure, our message must be powerful, and our message must be plain.

I Corinthians 14:8 - “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

Our message must be consistent!  Like Noah, we must be disciplined, motivated, and encouraged by the Word of God.  We must be holy, "for without holiness no man shall see God." - Hebrews 12:14. Holiness is not just an internal state of change; it's a lifestyle that says, "I belong to God."  We must become the pure and spotless bride of Jesus.  We must allow His Word and the Holy Ghost to pitch us from within and without.  We are building for future generations.  We must be willing to work without immediate reward.  We must finish the race!

What a tragedy it would have been for Noah to build on this ark for 85- 90 years then quit, and say it isn’t worth it, or I don’t believe its coming.  It wouldn’t have mattered how great his start was, because finishing is all that really counts.

Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus:
2 Timothy 4:7-8(KJV)
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Matthew 24:13 - “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

There is no reward for those who do not finish, salvation is not promised to those who do not endure. There are too many who teach the non-sense that you can live a life separate from holiness and then enter the Kingdom of God, no you cannot! Scripture is clear, without holiness no man shall see God. If this thought of living how you want to, do what you feel like, having no spiritual discipline in your life is true, then why would the Apostle Paul make it clear, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” I Corinthians 9:27

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Just a Shout Away From Transformation

Mark 10:46-52 (KJV)

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

This passage of scripture begins by telling us that Jesus Came to Jericho, and then immediately it transitions to Him leaving the city with His disciples. What a marvelous truth is revealed here for those that pay attention to detail; what a wonderful way for the lord to illustrate to us the importance of preparing ourselves for His coming. Just like Jesus di in this passage, He will come quickly He says in the book of Revelations, and if we are not prepared for it we will forfeit the opportunity to be touched by His presence and we’ll receive nothing.

Only one man in this story was desperate enough to reveal his true condition, He was willing to let down the walls that kept him from God’s blessing and admit his true emptiness.  He was beyond caring what anyone thought of him, what they might whisper behind his back, and he was prepared to endure their persecution for admitting that he had a need.

It say,” And when he heard that it was Jesus.” He was blind and couldn’t see, but he could hear! Praise God!  The Lord always gives provides us a path to His presence, He always makes a way in the wilderness for us to find Him. Jesu always gives us something to work with. He was blind and could not see, but he could hear He couldn’t see, but he still had a voice, and so he worked with what God gave him.

Bartimaeus had come to the point of desperation and he was willing to admit he was powerless. His condition had cultivated within him a spirit of desperation.  His shouts for mercy were cries of desperation for deliverance.

Meanwhile all the “good” followers of Jesus told him to shut up, after all he was a beggar and they were the true followers. But he was desperate, nothing was going to stand in his way, and so he shouted even louder. It was his shouts for mercy that stopped Jesus in his tracks.

 “And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.”

His garment was a symbol of his past, of the lifestyle that he had lived in this garment, the life of a blind beggar. It represented his restrictions, his limitations and the impossibilities of the infirmed life that he had been stuck in and it was symbolic of the mentality that had held him captive and led to his desperately determined actions.  This robe said, “I am blind therefore I am helpless, I am unable to do anything for myself, to provide anything for myself, I am a beggar, my life and my existence are determined by the generosity of those who can see.”

I wonder, how many are spiritually blind to the things of God and are spiritual beggars in God’s Kingdom.  How many in the Church know nothing of the spirit of revelation, and truth made alive within their spirits through the Holy Ghost.  Too many of God’s people choose to live like beggars and settle for receiving everything second hand.  They are blind by choice.  Why?  Because when their eyes are opened, God calls on them to change! There is an obligation for those that say they love God to obey His Word.

Bartimaeus knew that to receive his sight would end his right to beg. He would now have to work and provide for himself, and he publicly made that decision. Jesus called him beyond his condition and convinced him of a fuller life. His faith gave him spiritual sight and he began to see himself whole.  He threw off the bondage of his past and he rose and came to Jesus.  He chose to be changed, he made a determination to be different, and he made a declaration of his desire to be healed.  He was leaving the position that defined him as Hopeless, he was leaving the condition that defined him as a beggar, and he was stepping into the unknown.

Every phase of growth in our spiritual lives requires us to step into the unknown, like Capt. Kirk, we have to go where we’ve never not gone before, to leave the comfort zone for the opportunity to receive a greater blessing.

As the children of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan into their inheritance, they were told to leave a space between them and the ark so they could see which way to go because they had never passed that way before. So many are missing what God wants for them because they are not willing to trust Him, if they cannot see or make sense of what He is asking, they refuse to follow.

Because they are not willing to throw off the robes of their past, Jesus said you can’t put new wine into old wineskins, we have to be willing to let go of the old to receive the new.  As Elijah’s mantle fell to the ground Elisha took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.  What was he doing? He was removing the old to make room for the new.

If you are trapped in a life of spiritual blindness, you must be willing to admit that you live in spiritual poverty, and you must be willing to fulfill your obligation to God to repent of your sin before He begins the process of true change in your life.

So many are trapped in spiritual blindness because they are not willing to surrender to God.

True healing can only take place when we are desperate enough to shout to the Lord, loud enough to stop Him in His tracks, admit our desperate need for His touch, and then once we are at His feet we throw off the past and allow the presence of the Holy Ghost to bring real change and to remove the scales from our eyes.  Do you want Jesus to stand still where you are?  Are you willing to do what it takes to get him to stop in His tracks?

Then your healing is just a shout away from you!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Shepherd's Blog: My Faith is Fireproof!

Shepherd's Blog: My Faith is Fireproof!: Dan 3:2-30 This morning, as I was praying, the Lord directed my attention to this passage of scripture in the book of Daniel.  It didn...

My Faith is Fireproof!

Dan 3:2-30

This morning, as I was praying, the Lord directed my attention to this passage of scripture in the book of Daniel.  It didn’t take much convincing for me to turn and read it, since it has always been one of my favorite stories from the OT. 

I have been going through a trial with my health. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have been struggling to understand it, and honestly I’m feeling a bit defeated.  As I read this passage I felt the Lord speaking to me through the Holy Spirit, “Hold on child, something good is coming out of this.  It may seem like you’re in the fire right now, but what you ought to be doing is praising me that you made it to the fire.”

He reminded me that there are others who never even made it to the fire, many have simply died at the door of the furnace.  In this story three of the king’s mightiest warriors died at the door.  

The Holy Spirit showed me that it is a miracle that I made it this far. By all rights I should have never come this far.  I should have died of a drug overdose.  There have been times that I had more than enough drugs and alcohol in my body to kill me, but God pulled me through it and brought me to the fire.

By all rights I should have been in prison for some of the things that I’ve done.  There are people who are there right now that are less guilty than me, but God led me to the fire.

I should have died that night on that road in Meridian Mississippi when I hit head on with a minivan on my motorcycle at 40 mph.  The police officers said no one should have survived that collision.   It’s a miracle that I made it this far. I shouldn’t be here, but God delivered me and brought me to this fire.  The Lord has been merciful to me time and time again. 

God showed me today, and I want to share with someone who may be going through some similar struggles and feeling defeated, that you ought to be praising Him that you made it to the fire because some have died at the door.

These three mighty warriors that died throwing the Hebrews into the furnace may represent the three most popular kids in school, the three most likely to succeed, the three greatest athletes, or the three smartest in their class.  Of all the people around you, by all exterior appearances they should have made it, but they died at the door.

On the other hand no one ever expected you to make it. Family and ‘friends’ had written you off as hopeless.  I was a disgraced pastor who even after standing in pulpits and preaching to others, decided to become familiar with the taste of my own vomit (Proverbs 26:11). I chose to pursue a season of sin, and it nearly, killed me. But here I am, alive and serving God again and filled with the Holy Ghost! I shouldn’t be complaining, I should be praising Him that I made it to the fire and didn’t die at the door!

I nearly lost my wife and family, but God had his hand on me and I made it to the fire!  I wasn’t serving him but he was keeping his hand on me. He sent his angels to deliver me.  I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t the strongest one, I wasn’t the smartest one, I wasn’t the most popular one, I wasn’t the one expected to make it, but I made it, and there’s no other explanation but God.

The fact that you are going through these current struggles shouldn’t concern you, if God brought you to the fire, He is going to bring you through the fire.  He didn’t bring you this far to leave you now.  The fact that you are in the furnace now is proof that you are coming out. Your miracle started at the door, if God wasn’t going to bring you out, you would have died at the door.  You would have never made it to the fire.  Tell the devil right now, “In the mighty name of Jesus, I’m coming out!

I know God gave me this word to share with you and some of you are going through the struggles of your life right now, you are going through the fire, you’re feeling the heat, the fire is real, and you’re pain is real, but God is bigger than your fire.

I know some of you are going through the greatest fire of your life.  It could be a financial fire, may be you’re struggling with sickness, maybe your marriage is in trouble, or perhaps you’re struggling with addiction.  God can bring you out!

I know right now that sounds like insanity, because there is no visible, tangible, physical evidence of anything good in this fire.  But I declare to you by the authority of God’s Word, and in the name of Jesus, something good is going to come out of this!   You are going to make it, and you are not going to burn up in the fire!

You’re not going to come out crawling on your hands and your knees. Listen to me!  Satan is a liar! When you come out of this fire you’re coming out blessed, you’re coming out healed, and you’re coming out delivered by the powerful hand of God! I declare it the might name of Jesus! I plead the blood of Jesus over you right now!

The king chose his three best men, they were his “special forces.”  The strongest most powerful weapons he had at his disposal so as to guarantee God’s servants would perish in the fire. These three men of God had challenged his authority and he was going to show them who they were dealing with.

Right now it may feel to you as though you’re struggle is on a different level, it may feel like the enemy is stronger than ever before and you feel like you can’t hold on much longer, but Satan wouldn’t be bringing out his best if you weren’t a threat to him. The fact that he is bringing out his “special forces” to attack you and me, tells me that we must be a threat to him, and that we’re getting close to our destiny! We are closer than ever to walking in our purpose, and we’re getting ready to step into a greater anointing than we’ve ever had in our life, and so the enemy of our souls is trying to intimidate and back us down!

The thing that brings Satan the greatest grief is to see the children of God walking and living in their liberty, expressing themselves in joy and peace, and worshiping and praising God without constraint, without fear or reservation.  So he sends things our way to back us up, to quiet our praise, to get us all tangled up in fear, anxiety and worry, because he knows the power in our praise.

I know we’re supposed to be people of faith I don’t want to be negative, but how many would just be honest enough to tell the truth and say, “I been knocked to the mat a time or two?”  Come on and just admit it, since you started your walk with Christ you have fallen down a time or maybe two. The fact is sometimes Satan hits us with a sucker punch, and it knocks the wind out of us, then we find ourselves lying on the ground asking, “What happened?”

These three Hebrew men found themselves lying on the ground bound in the midst of the fire. I’m so glad the story doesn’t end there, because it says that wicked king looked into the furnace and he was astonished.  What he expected to see was three men lying on the ground turning into crispy critters, but instead he saw them up on their feet, they were freed from what bound them and they were walking around in the fire praising God and the king saw a fourth man who it says, “looked like the Son of God.”  They were not alone, and neither are we. We must remember, Jesus goes with us into the fire!

Recently Satan may have thought he had me, he may have thought because he hurt me and made me cry it was over.  My enemy saw me go into the fire, and took pleasure in it and thought I’d never make it, that I’d be burnt up in the fire.  He may have believed that alcohol and drugs would kill me, but let me tell you something devil, I’m still here!  I am a born again, Holy Ghost filled, tongue talking, devil stomping child of the Most High God and the fires of this world can’t touch me!

Yeah I may have taken a stroll through hell, but I’m still here!  Satan hit me hard, and I went down, it hurt me and I cried for a while, but I’m still here!  And I have a news flash for the devil - I’m up again, I’m on my feet again, and I been set free from my chains.  I got my joy back, I got my peace back, I got my dance back, and I got my praise back.

During this current fire, I’ve been working on my praise, I’ve been working on my shout, I’ve been working on my dance, and I’m getting ready to praise like I’ve never praised before! I’m ready to shout and dance like I’ve never danced before. Because now I know, that the God I serve keeps me from evil and from the traps that the devil sets for me. I have found that my faith is fireproof! Now I understand that my God can walk right into the middle of my fiery trial, right into the middle of the hell I’m going through, and he can lift me up and he can liberate me in the middle of my pain!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Window Seat Disaster

Acts 20:7-12 (KJV)

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

When I am writing these messages, I try to be as positive as I can be and to speak a word that will encourage people in their faith and lift them up and help them to place themselves in a position so they can receive all the promises of God.  Sometimes in order to receive the blessings God wants for us, we have to be corrected so that we can make some adjustments.

I have a strong feeling that this word may be critical for someone.  I don’t know who you are, but what you do with this word is going to either open a door to blessing, or it’s going to open a door of opportunity for your enemy to prosper instead.

My goal in writing this is that anyone who reads it and finds that they have been sitting in the window, sleeping, will awake and move off the window sill before they fall.

In a spiritual sense there are many in the church today, like this young man, that are sitting in this most dangerous place.

We could assume any number of reasons that he finds himself in this place
* The place was crowded and there was no place to sit
* It was hot and stuffy and he wanted some fresh air

But I tend to believe that he had begun to become disinterested in what was taking place inside, the preacher was long-winded and so he had lost his desire for the things of God, the Word of God was no longer exciting to him and he had stopped being entertained and so he drifted farther and farther away from the presence of the Spirit and Word.

The window is the Place where you can be inside and still see what’s going on outside.  In this context then the window represents that condition of drawing back.

Hebrews 10:39

“But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

Today in our churches there is a very obvious “draw back” spirit.  It is the spirit that wants all the blessings of God, healing, miracles, prosperity, but without making a commitment.  If it’s the blessing line they’re first to the front, but if it’s the commitment line, the dedication line, or the consecration line, for some strange reason their bladder goes to acting up, or they have to step out and make a phone call.

This is the spiritual condition that I want to call the “Window Seat”

From the window seat it appears that you have a spectacular view.  The People who are in the window seat can see all the problems in the church.  They can hear every sour note, see how everything should be done, they know right away what kind of praise we should have, they know when the preacher preaches a dud, and they can see all the weaknesses and faults of others.

You still have a great view of all the things that you left outside from the “Window Seat.”  The things that the Lord brought you out of come back into view.  You know what I’m talking about, habits that you had shut the door on, the things that were killing you, hurting your marriage, sins that were causing division in your family and turning your children from God, all of a sudden they become visible again, and from the window seat they don’t appear to be as bad as you remember.  The window seat is a very dangerous place to be, and there are so many that are deceived into believing that they can look at those things and it won’t affect them.  They believe they can stare at it as long as they don’t touch it.
I’m strong I won’t fall out of the window.  It doesn’t kill you to look, right?

It all starts with a flirtatious thought, “Man wouldn’t a cold beer taste really good right now?  Wouldn’t it be fun to smoke just one more joint, or maybe watch one of those dirty movies, just one more time?  Of course I would never do that they think to themselves, I’m just window shopping, just taking a peek, just having a moment of imagination.

Another word that we equate with the word window is “opportunity” and we are told in scripture not to give opportunity to the devil.

Eutychus never intended to fall out of the window.

Hebrews 2:3

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him;”

Why did Eutychus fall to his death?
He neglected his passion for the things of God
He was more out than he was in

At midnight he fell from his window seat: all through the scripture midnight is a very critical time:
It was midnight when the death angel passed through Egypt and smote the first born
It was midnight when the cry was made that woke the sleeping virgins
It was midnight when Paul and Silas turned the corner and turned their pain into praise.

“Midnight” is where your situation can go either way, “Midnight” speaks of decision time.

The “window seat” is very uncomfortable at first.  When we first begin to turn our thoughts back on the things of the world we feel shame, we think, “How could I even be thinking about those things.” 

But the more you allow yourself to think about it the more comfortable, it becomes, then without any warning you’re falling.  You’re falling back into that lust, back into those old associations, falling back into your old ways of talking, back into desires that you thought were dead, back into those flirtatious ways, falling back into the habits that the Lord delivered you from.

I am speaking to those who have known the goodness of the Lord, but for one reason or another you have found yourself in the window seat and now you’re more out than you are in.  Please come back inside, get out of the window before you fall and find yourself dead on the street.  There may not be a Paul to bring you back in.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Listen to The Voice of Victory!

II Kings 6:1-7
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.
2 Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.
3 And one said, be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.
4 So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.
5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
6 And the man of God said, where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
7 Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.

This is a very simple story that contains an incredible miracle. The basic gist of it is that there were some young men who determined to build a new house because the old one was too small. They set out with each of the young men getting an assignment of having to gather up a beam so that a house could be built. It was not long into the enterprise before a borrowed axe head ends up in the bed of the river.

The axe is flying and the blade is biting deep into the tree. The tree trembles and then it falls to the ground. He passes on to the next tree and starts to take it down, but amid his work the axe head comes off and sinks to the bottom of the river.

The young man begins to panic: How is the building to be finished? How is the rest of the wood going to be gathered? What are we going to do? How was he going to explain the lost axle head?
One sudden stroke, during the young man’s efforts to succeed, and everything collapses. Everything comes to a grinding halt and a crisis appears.

There are such crisis events that will take place in the life of every believer and every church. No one is immune from it. If you trace the lives of the greatest of God’s saints and the greatest churches, somewhere, there will be a record of a lost axe head.

It happens in various ways to churches. It happens when leaders backslide, when Truth is not carefully taught, when the people get into quarrels and unity is destroyed, when complacency begins to strangle the anointing of God, or when sin enters and is allowed to continue without correction.

There are many ways the axle head can become lost in a church, and the same holds true for individuals. If we are willing to admit it, all of us at some point in our lives have come to the place where we lost the axe head.

It can happen when we allow responsibilities overwhelmed us, when sickness prevails in our body, when we allow offenses to take over our best intentions, when we begin to watching others instead of God, or when we get weary in well-doing.

But regardless of the reason, the axe head becomes lost and it shuts down our vision, impedes our spiritual dreams, stifles our prayer life, and chokes out our faith. It literally shuts down every bit of the productive fruit that has been growing in our lives. I have been there more than once in my life.
When you have lost your axe head, you are much more susceptible to listening to the voice of the enemy. Discouragement gives him an open road into your soul. It is in the middle of weeping over the axe head that despairing voices seem the loudest: “We are never going to get this thing done. There is too much work and not enough resources. What we needed most has been lost.”

In an atmosphere like that it is hard for our faith to prevail. It is an atmosphere like this that will test your thinking. The fact is that the highest challenge to our thinking is our feelings. How a man feels about his situation, his set of circumstances, and his lot in life will determine what happens in the end.

John Maxwell wrote, “If you are willing to change your thinking, you can change your feelings. If you change your feelings, you can change your actions. Changing your actions can change your life.”

I have been sick lately and I won’t lie, it’s brought thoughts of discouragement into my mind. The lies of the enemy have been assaulting my faith. The voice of the devil has sought to vanquish my soul. It's a trick that has worked for him in the past, but that was then, and this is now. You see years ago sickness caused me to slip, and I turned my back on Jesus for a season. That was before I had the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

But now, as I meditated on God’s Word, as I have prayed, and have had so many praying for me, the voice of God that lives in me shouts louder: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world…no weapon formed against you shall prosper…He who begun a good work in you is able to complete… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

I am determined to have revival in my life! I am determined to retrieve the axe head and continue the restoration that God has only just begun in my life. I will not let the devil have his way! I will not shrink back! He cannot defeat me, because he cannot defeat the God that lives inside me! I will, “Call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies!”

God’s carpenters sometimes show more strength than skill. We can put a lot of confidence in our flesh or in the human wisdom of the heart and leave no room for God to work in the middle of the dilemma. Regardless of how much strength we have or how many skills we possess, they can never compensate for a lack of supernatural anointing. I have learned after falling and turning my back on Jesus in the past, there is no substitute for the Holy Ghost - the Christian life simply cannot be sustained without Him!

There are no substitutes for the lost axe head. There are no substitutes for a church or an individual life that is on fire for Jesus! There are no substitutes for answered prayer! There’s no substitutes for receiving the Holy Ghost! There’s no substitutes for liberty in worship! There are no substitutes for the standards of holiness God has commanded of us! There’s no substitutes for having a passion for the Word! There’s no substitutes for personal revival!

We don’t usually lose our greatest assets deliberately. The thing most valuable to these young men at this point in their project was the axe. They were on their way to do something noble and important, but in the process, they lost what they needed most.

The majority of those that lose their axe heads do not do it purposely or with evil intent, it happened while they were doing the best they could with the situation that presented itself to them. They were thrown a pitch and they had to swing at it. Life is like this all the time, you don’t get the choice of pitches thrown to you, you can only react to what has taken place. For most of us, we don’t just decide to thrown in the towel, it is through the course of living, the crosses we wrestle, and the burdens that weigh us down that our joy is stolen from us. 

It is at these times that there are two competing voices, both calling for surrender, but offering two very distinct choices: surrendering to the voice of the enemy offers defeat, surrendering to the voice of God offers victory.

I am Certain that there are places in our lives that we should never return, but that axe head at the bottom of the river can only be recovered where it was lost. If you have lost something, go back to where you lost it and pick it back up again! God still has more work for you to do.

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!”