Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't Whine! Rejoice!

Acts 5:39-42

39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

It has been an interesting year for me. So much has taken place in my life and in my ministry, too much to list. There have been many up’s and downs, but I can see the hand of God in it all. I think that one of the most profound things that I have gleaned is learning to accept life on God’s terms. I know that may seem like an odd statement, but allow me to explain.

Every day I start off by asking God to show me His will and to give me the strength to walk in it. I have prayed that same prayer every day for several years, but it’s just been recently that I have learned to pray it with sincerity. Most of the time I was fine with walking in God’s will, if “God’s will” was comfortable and everything went the way I thought that it should. If everything was “roses and daffodils” I was good, but allow a little suffering to come my way and it was “woe is me” time.

The minute that the slightest little hiccup in “my” plans occurred, I was on my knees singing, “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.” Great song, don’t get me wrong – I love that song and I love the inspiration that it brings when we are under attack from the enemy. It’s just that I have discovered that sometimes we make it too easy for the devil to steal from us. Sometimes we forget to lock the door, sometimes we leave the gate unguarded, and he just walks right in and rips the joy right out of our hands.

A few years back my home was broken into while I was at work, my neighbor called me and told me that my front door was wide open. I left work immediately and when I arrived at the house I discovered that the door had been kicked in, the door jamb was splintered and my home was wide open. The weird thing is that nothing was stolen. The police speculated that the thieves had been interrupted and scared off by something.

The Word of God says that the devil is a thief and that he comes only to steal kill and to destroy. It also says that he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I wonder this morning how often the devil is interrupted and scared off in the process of trying to steal from us? How often is he put to flight when he tries to devour us? How often are his plans thwarted in our lives by prayer? How often does the presence of the Holy Ghost in us send him packing with his tail between his legs? The answer, if we’re honest, is most likely – not often enough. Too many times he has his way, he comes in and takes what he wants because we haven’t taken the time to secure God’s presence, we haven’t surrendered to His will so that His power may rest on us.

As I read the above passage recently one verse struck me “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

They rejoiced because they had been found worthy to suffer for Jesus. Tears filled my eyes when God convicted me over this verse, because I whine at the slightest little inconvenience in my daily routine.  They had been thrown in jail for preaching and so they rejoiced, and we go on the internet and rant for 10 minutes because Starbucks didn’t put a Christmas theme on their coffee cups. They were beaten and they rejoiced that they were worthy to be beaten, and we get vile because the greeter at Wal-Mart said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They suffered real persecution and they rejoiced, and we lose our witness because someone cuts us off in traffic on the way to church. Shame on us!

The thief has come to steal, and we’re letting him. Why? Because even though we lie and tell ourselves that we want His will, we don’t, most of the time if we’re honest with ourselves we just want our way. We don’t pray enough, we don’t go to church enough, we don’t spend enough time in the altar sacrificing our will and asking for His. We don’t spend enough time dying, so that He can live!

I have discovered that the only way I can ever find the strength to walk in His will is when I admit that I am weak so that the “power of Christ may rest upon me.” The only thing that can interrupt the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy is presence of an Almighty God.

Jesus also said that he came that we might have life, and that it would be a life that was abundant. He didn’t say perfect, He didn’t say it would be on my terms, but He said that it would be abundant. Abundant doesn’t mean that I have everything I want, it means that he will supply all my needs. Abundant doesn’t mean that I will never face the storm, it means I face it with the One who calms the storm. Abundant means that if I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, that I can dance in the fire, sleep like a baby in a den of lions, that I can face the giant unafraid, and that I can rejoice if He finds me worthy to suffer for His Name!

This Christmas someone got a hold of my checking account information and they took most of my money, but I didn’t freak out. A few years ago, I would have. What’s the difference in my life now? Why could I have joy and peace at Christmas this year amid being robbed. Because I have taken the time to shore up my spiritual house. My prayer life is good, my relationship with God is good, and even though the thief tried to steal my joy, he was stopped at the door by the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Good Are Bones Without Breath?

Ezekiel 37:1-14 
"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LordThus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LordSo I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. 12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord."
Ezekiel was a very unpopular prophet when he first started his ministry.  He had been prophesying to the children of Israel for years that the sins of Israel were going to cause the fall of Jerusalem.  It was a message that didn’t tickle their ears, so they chose not to heed the warnings that He gave them.  Even though many of his contemporaries, who were proven to be false prophets, proclaimed positive, feel good messages Ezekiel continued to proclaim the truth of God and eventually it came to pass. 
At the time of Ezekiel's prophecy here we find Israel captive, Jerusalem in rubble, we see God giving Ezekiel a new message, a message of hope in a valley of dry bones.  The man of God is surrounded by death, hopelessness, and despair. As far as his eye can see there is only brokenness emptiness, despair, and death. The valley that he is standing in, is the "valley of the shadow of death."
In this valley ministries have died, faith has died, marriages have died, dreams have died, and hope has died.  The smell of the corpses is in the air, there is not one drop of blood or moisture anywhere because the altar has been torn down.  There is nothing, not even a hint that their situation could change, just a pile of dry bones. Recovery appears to be impossible.
The God we serve loves impossible situations?  Why?  Because when the impossible becomes a reality, He gets all the glory! I want to tell somebody today who is facing an impossible situation:  God can turn it around!  It doesn't matter how impossible it looks, you just need to look at that mountain or look at the valley of dry bones and start speaking, “thus saith the Lord.”
The key to everything is in v. 9, it is the wind.  The wind represents the Spirit of God being placed back into their hopeless situation and v. 14 God says He will put his spirit back into their dead bodies and they will live again.  Without the operation and activity of the Holy Spirit’s power instead of a mighty army, all that would have been there was a valley full of dead bodies with no power and no life.
The bones were connected and muscles, ligaments, sinews and skin were restored to them, but there was still no life in them.  There was no power in them until the wind began to blow.  When the wind began to blow everything changed.  When the wind began to blow power and life came.  As the breath of God filled them the valley of dead corpses became a mighty army of God.
The breath of God, the wind in Ezekiel’s vision, is the same wind that flooded the place where Jesus’ followers were gathered on the day of Pentecost, the same breath that filled the bodies of 120 men and women with the supernatural life of God.
One of the most important lessons we learn from Ezekiel 37 is that as far as God is concerned, if you leave the Holy Spirit out of the equation you have nothing.  Without the activity and operation of the Holy Spirits power instead of a mighty army of warriors ready for battle all we would have seen was a valley full of dead bodies.
We can put it together, we can dress the way that God expects, we can put on great Sunday School lessons, we can sing the right worship songs, we can preach all the feel good sermons you can imagine, but if we don't have the life giving anointing that comes from the presence and the power of the Holy Ghost we have nothing. 
Without the Holy Spirit's power, it doesn’t matter how many people are sitting in the pews of our church, it doesn’t matter how big our offerings are, or how big of a following we have, our church is dead, it's worthless, it's powerless, and it's impotent.  Without the Holy Spirit's power and presence and operation all of our activity is dead and all death can birth is more death.  Dead preaching kills, dead teaching kills, and dead singing kills.  Only the Anointing of the Holy Spirit can produce life.
Just as the body without blood is dead, the church is dead without the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Dead means void of the person, presence, and power of the Holy Spirit. Death is incapable of producing life.  It is powerless to lift, powerless to heal, and powerless to deliver anyone from the chains of sin.
We see here in Ezekiel’s vision that one of the first things that has to happen is a divine connection.  We must find our divine connections, God’s children don't fit everywhere with everybody.  One of the biggest hindrances to gaining the power and anointing that God wants for us is wrong connections.  Flesh connections, connections and relationships that are birthed by fleshly lusts, wants, and desires.  You will never have the full potential of God’s power in your life until you have broken your flesh connections.
Flesh connections war against the will and the Spirit of God.  Abraham had a great promise and destiny, but it could not come to pass until he cut off his flesh connection with lot.  Flesh connections will always war for first place in your life, they will always war against the Spirit.
Divine connections will always feed into your anointing and your destiny.  They will always strengthen your faith in God.
Now in the valley the bones are connected to their right bones and then muscles and flesh and skin come upon them, but they are still dead.  Why?  Because the word alone is not enough.  Yes the word will put meat on your bones, yes the word of God will fatten you up.  But without the anointing the bones are still dead.  The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  It doesn't matter how much Hebrew and Greek you have studied or how many verses of the Bible you have memorized, what matters most is that you have the Holy Spirit. 
The bones were placed in order, all the components were there, on the surface everything appeared good, but they were still dead.  The Holy Spirit is the life source and the life force of the church.  The Holy Ghost is not an optional accessory like power seats or power windows, or heated mirrors.
The Holy Spirit is a necessity, in fact the Holy Spirit is a command.
Acts 1:4-5
“4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with[b] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
We need to understand that we have a very real adversary who is bent on destroying us.  The one who gives you power over the devil is the Holy Spirit.  The name of Jesus gives us authority to exercise that power.  Every believer has the right to the use of the name of Jesus to exercise the power of the Holy Spirit, but if you do not have the Holy Ghost you don't have power.  You're like a security guard with a badge but no gun.
The church that rejects the Holy Spirit and all His manifestations and operations will experience death.  Their building may be beautiful, their message may sound good, they may have a large congregation, and the services may be impressive, but without the Holy Spirit it is dead.
The Church can survive without a lot of things: we can live without stained glass windows, we can live without padded pews, we can live without great talent, and we can even survive without central heating and air conditioning, but we cannot live without the breath of life.  We cannot live without the power of the Holy Ghost!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jesus Has Deleted My Past

Philippians 3:13-15New King James Version (NKJV)

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

As human beings it is physically impossible, barring a miracle or a traumatic head injury, to “forget” the past.  So what is the Apostle Paul talking about?  How do we “forget” what is behind us.  How do we get beyond our past?
What is the past?  I looked it up.  In this case it is a noun.  One of the definitions I found said, "the past is an earlier period of a person’s life that is thought to be of a shameful nature."

This definition seems to fit what Paul is referring to here to here.  Not every part of our pasts are shameful, but it’s only the shameful parts that hinder us and need to be forgotten.  It’s the events in our lives where we’ve failed God that seem to be the hardest to get over.  They keep us from worshiping the Lord freely, they hinder our relationships with others.  The past can be a crippling force if we allow it to.
Another definition I found said, “The past is the period of time prior to speaking.”  

The past is the period of time prior to the words that are coming out of your mouth right now.  That is powerful!  Your past can only hinder you from God's purpose, keep you from receiving His anointing, or diminish the power of the Holy Spirit working through you, if the words that are currently coming out of your mouth allow it to. 
If you keep focusing on what "you" have done(your past), instead of focusing on what God can do(your future), you’ll continue to be a prisoner of your failures. Instead of living in a land of milk and honey, you’ll be stuck wandering, circling the same old mountain year after year, until you wither up and perish in the desert.  If you want to possess the promises of God, you need to speak the only thing that has the power to erase your past – The Name of Jesus!
Stop receiving the lies of your enemy!  Stop dwelling on your failure! 
In Colossians The Apostle Paul writes, “13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
God has taken everything that was against you and nailed it to the cross and then made a public spectacle of you enemy the devil.  I can picture the Lord coming up behind Satan with a bloody nail pierced hand grabbing him by the back of the neck, and taking the keys of hell from him, and then dragging him back and forth in front of his subjects so they could see their ruler had been conquered.

God has made us alive in Christ.  We are no longer defeated, we are no longer slaves of sin, we no longer live under a death sentence, our past can longer hold us down, we no longer have to accept the lies of the enemy. In the name of Jesus is the power to do what is physically impossible to do.  It is the name of Jesus that brings about the miracle that allows us to "forget" what is behind us.

In my past I was a drunk, today I am born again! In my past I was a drug addict, today I have been baptized in the Name of Jesus! In the past I was a fornicator, today I am filled with the Holy Ghost! In the past I was lost, today I am found! My life was once rudderless, it had no meaning, no purpose, and no hope, and I was a slave to my flesh; today I am a child of God, I am heaven bound, my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I am anointed by the power of the Holy Ghost, I have purpose and a destiny, Jesus has deleted my past and given me hope. In the past I feared the devil, today in the Name of Jesus, the devil fears me!
Since your past is the period up to the point of speaking – Speak the name of Jesus, forget what is behind you and live, abundantly!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

One Step Away

Joshua 3:13

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall step in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

The children of Israel are standing on the edge of promise.  It had been 40 years since their parents had stood at this same place, with the same promise, and with the same choice: believe and receive, or doubt and die empty handed. Their elders had come to the brink of a breakthrough, but experienced a breakdown because they refused to believe in the power of God. Because of doubt that led to disobedience, they forfeited their destiny.

One of the greatest tragedies in life is discovering your destiny, your God ordained purpose, and then forfeit it because you refuse to believe the promise of God, allow doubt to destroy your faith, and miss out God’s purpose for your life because you refuse to obey His voice.

I’m not writing this morning to those who are still seeking to find God’s purpose, but to those who know they have a destiny over their lives. God told me to speak to some people this morning who know there is a reason and a purpose for their existence, some people who want everything God has planned for their lives, people who refuse to let go, and who haven’t given in, or given up. He told me to holler at those who have their mind made up, and whatever it costs, you’re going to get what God has promised you! He told me to tell you: It’s Time to Step In!

Every promise comes with a price. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Jesus told the disciples to go and wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Ghost, and then they would receive the power to become His witnesses. First obedience, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were with one accord in one place.,” then the promise, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – Acts 2:1-4

There is no power to fulfill God’s plan without obedience first! Without obedience, we cannot receive the power of the Holy Ghost. Without the power of the Holy Ghost there is no victory, and there can be no deliverance from your wilderness.

To fulfill God’s purpose, there will be a mountain you’ll have to go around. There’s no deliverance without a fire. There was no crown without the cross, and there was no resurrection without the crucifixion. There can be no victory without a fight and no testimony without a test. There is something you’ll have to go through.

Before Joseph went to the Palace he went to the Pit and then he went to the Prison. Before the three Hebrew boys were promoted they went through the fiery furnace. And between the children of Israel and their promise there was a river called Jordan. Jordan means, descender or the one that takes you down, that’s what Jordan intends to do, to take you down, kill your dreams, and drown your faith. There is a Jordan for every one of us; an obstacle that stands between us and our promise. And the only way we can get through it, is by faith in Jesus Christ.

You can’t float over on feelings, you can’t swim over on past experiences, and you can’t build a bridge with second hand knowledge. Religion won’t get you through it. Mama and Daddy can’t get you through it, the Preacher can’t get you through it. The only thing that can conquer Jordan is a living faith in a living God, and His name is Jesus!

As Israel stood at the edge of a raging river, at flood stage, Joshua gave the Priest a strange order. He said start walking, step into the water, start moving in the direction of your promise!

You can’t go by what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re feeling, or what other people are saying. You can’t receive the promise if you’re listening to what your mind is telling you, or the economy is saying; you must move because God says move! You can’t wait until you can see a break in the waves, you can’t wait until it makes sense, you can’t wait till it feels right, or until you see the waters open in front of you. When God says move, It’s Time to Step In!

Maybe the first time, God did it the easy way for you, but now you’ve got some time in with God, and now he is requiring more faith. It’s Time to Step In! God says it time to take the training wheels off, it’s time to get rid of the pacifier, and it’s time to get rid of the crutches! It’s time to step from sight to faith, it’s time to step from I hope so to I know so, it’s time to step from the milk to the meat, and this time you must get your feet wet – It’s Time to Step In!

I know it sounds crazy, I know it don’t make sense, the Jordan is at flood stage, and I know people are saying it won’t work, but I’m stepping in. I know that the circumstances are against me and the odds are against me, but it really doesn’t matter if God is for me, who can be against me?

You see, I’ve Got a Word and a Word is all I need! God said, “Move!” So, I’m going to move! When you’ve got a Word from God you can kill a giant with a stone, you can sleep like a baby in a den of lions, you can walk through a fiery furnace, you can praise God from a prison cell, and you can have your meal barrel full and your cruse of oil full in the middle of famine. All it takes is a Word!

Peter Had a Word: Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught. They had worked hard all night long and hadn’t caught a thing. Not a crappy, not a red breast, not even a minnow. But now they had a Word from the master, change what you’re doing, and do what I’m telling you.
How long are you going to keep doing what doesn’t work? How long are “you” going to keep trying to make something happen where you are at, before you turn it over to God and move? It’s Time to Step In!

Peter Says: Nevertheless, at Thy Word we will let down the net. And when Peter obeyed the word of the Lord he went into overflow. One word from God changed Peter’s circumstances and his very life. Why? Because when Jesus said move, Peter moved. It’s Time to Step In!

Peter went from nothing, to too much in one step. He went from emptiness to overflow, from broke, busted and disgusted, to blessed, happy and full in one step. Though weeping may endure for the night, joy cometh in the morning! It’s Time to Step In!

Let me prophesy to somebody who has the faith to reach out and grab it: Somebody is One step away from your miracle, one step away from your breakthrough. One step away from blessing. You’ve put in your time of struggle, and crying and praying and confessing, and waiting and watching. The Lord told me to tell you this morning: You’re one step away from what you’ve been believing for – It’s Time to Step In.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Though He Slay Me

Job 13:15
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

The Book of Job is one of the oldest manuscripts in the Bible. In fact, experts agree, its writing predates the book of Exodus. Job tells the story about a man, who’s name bares the title of this book. It is the story about how Job had all the blessings in life a man could want, then lost everything, and in the end recovered everything that he had lost and then some. It is a great example for us of how to turn our setbacks into comebacks.

During Job’s setback, he had three friends who were trying to convince him how he must have committed some sin, or God wouldn’t have punished him by taking away everything that he had. One of Job’s friends, Zophar, urges him to repent because he thinks Job is a hypocrite. In Job11:11, Zophar tells Job that God knows deceitful men and that He also sees wickedness. It is clear to anyone who reads the story of Job, that his friends were way off base, Job was innocent. The tragedy, test, trial, or whatever label you want to place on it, was just a storm that God had allowed to touch Job’s life.

There are a lot of people who want to compare themselves to Job, but truth be told, they aren’t going through anything close to what Job endured. In the normal course of our lives we will all experience setbacks, storms that will shake us up, but most of us will never be tested to the degree that Job was. Bad things happen to good people, that is simply a fact of life, but we must realize what Job knew and had determined: no matter what I go through, I’m gone trust God! Before the storm even approaches, we must have a “made-up mind.” Job placed an unwavering trust in God during the most difficult setback of his life. He said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” – Job 13:15 KJV

Despite what the learned liberals in our government think, we must learn to cling to God; even when it seems like He is far off and there is no comfort or hope to be found. In the times when it seems as if there is no sun on our horizon, His light shines in our darkness. “God, who first ordered ‘light to shine in darkness’, has flooded our hearts with his light.” – 2 Corinthians 4:6 J.B. Phillips

Without a doubt, stressful situations place demands on us; not just physically, but mentally as well. Psychologists refer to these situations as “stressors”. When you’re “stressed out” you tend to feel lousy, and extended exposure to “stressors” can have long-term negative consequences. But it’s important to understand that stress is in many ways an adaptive reaction.

When you’re in a threatening situation, or when someone is placing demands on you, it’s important that your body become “activated” so you can respond to the threat in the best appropriate way. Stress is supposed to initiate a fight or flight response in you, it’s supposed to bring out the best in you. What Job was going through was preparing him to be able to go on the defensive and bring him out of his setback.

Too many people become exhausted and do not put up an effective resistance to the enemy’s attack because they are not prepared to fight. When faced with the stress of temptation we are to flee, our reaction should be flight, but when we are faced with the stress of an attack – we are supposed to fight! You’re not supposed to run away from what God is allowing you to go through. You’re supposed to be like Job and say, “Though He slay me yet will I trust him”

I think that the most significant experience that we gain from our setbacks are the lessons that we learn from them. So that being said, what are some of lessons that we can gain from our setbacks? One of the most important things that I have gleaned from my setbacks: I possess the ability to recover. Even when I get knocked down, if I get back up, my setback cannot destroy me or rob me of God’s purpose for my life. The enemy may get in my face and temporarily impair my ability to see God’s plan, but if I fix my eyes on Jesus, the hindrance is quickly removed.

“Surrounded then as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith.” – Hebrews 12:1,2 J.B. Phillips

Second, my setbacks have taught me that I have persistence: the ability to hold firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles that are place in my way. I have learned that regardless of the circumstances that I am in, nothing can hinder God’s purpose for my life. The devil has no say, the doubters have no say, “if God be for me, who can be against me.”

“I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” – Philippians 4:12,13 The MSG

Finally, my setbacks have taught me that something is about to break. I ‘m not talking about a breakdown, or a breakup, but I am talking about a breakthrough! My setbacks have showed me to get ready to move, because when I have faith, when I have unwavering trust regardless of the circumstances that surround me: God is about to make a way, when there seems to be no way!

Job proclaimed that regardless what God would allow to happen to him, he would never lose faith. Job had suffered tremendous loss at God’s permissive will for the enemy to take anything and everything, except his life. Job lost the three things which are considered signs of a man’s well-being: He lost his wealth, he lost his children, and he lost his good health.

I find is somewhat absurd that we believe it was the will of God for Jesus to suffer and die on a cross, for the Aposlte Paul to suffer all he did, to be imprisoned, beaten, and eventually beheaded, all of the other Apostles to become martyrs except John who was boiled in oil and exiled; we accept all of this as God's will, but expect our lives to be perfect. Sorry brothers and sisters, it don't work that way. The Word clearly tells us that all who seek to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer.

I have learned something from everything that I have gone through: regardless of my setback, I’ve got to keep trusting God! No matter what the enemy tries to take, Lord, I’m going to trust you! No matter what I suffer right now, it‘s only temporary, I’m keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus! No matter what the doctor’s diagnosis is, I believe that you’re my healer, though you slay me, I will trust in you!

Statements like that that strikes dread into the heart of the enemy. Isaiah 54:17 say’s “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.”

No matter what stuff the enemy tries to form or fashion against you; it won’t advance, it won’t succeed or make progress if you trust in the name of Jesus!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Peace, Peace, Wonderful Peace

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The biblical concept of peace is not the absence of trouble. Biblical peace is something that is not related to circumstances or situations. As believers, we may be experiencing problems and still experience the peace that Jesus promised.

The Apostle Paul proclaimed that he had learned the secret of being content, regardless of his circumstance: “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. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

He demonstrated that peace in the jail at Philippi, he sang and remained confident that God was being gracious to him. He told the Philippian jailer about God’s goodness and the jailer and his family were saved.

How can we experience the kind of peace that cannot be affected by trouble, danger, or sorrow? I find it somewhat ironic that one of the best descriptions of peace in scripture, John 14:27, was given by Jesus the night before He died on the Cross. Jesus knew what was coming next, He knew what He was about to face, yet He took the time to comfort His disciples with a message of peace.

The New Testament speaks of two kinds of peace: objective peace and subjective peace. Objective peace is about our relationship to God. Subjective peace is about our experiences in life.

When we come to Jesus, we enter a relationship with God, we enter a covenant of peace with God. This peace is objective it has nothing to do with how we feel or think. It is an accomplished peace: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

When we place our trust in Christ, we are redeemed, we are declared righteous by faith. Our sins are forgiven and we have peace with God. That was God’s wonderful purpose in salvation.

Colossians 1:19-20a says, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;”

Because Christ died for our sins, we are reconciled with God, we have peace with God because of what Jesus has done. This is the heart of the message of the gospel.

But Jesus is not talking about objective peace in John 14:27. Jesus was saying that he was leaving us with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And comforting us with the knowledge that the peace He gave could not be taken from us by our circumstances. The peace Jesus speaks of here is a subjective, experiential peace. It’s tranquility of the soul, it’s settled, it’s positive, it’s a peace that affects the circumstances of life, but is not affected by the circumstances of life. It is a supernatural stream of peace. It’s permanent peace, it’s positive peace, it’s peace that will calm the heart in every situation, in every circumstance, and in every storm of life.

The peace of God is not based on circumstances. The Apostle Paul described it as a peace that surpasses comprehension. It is an immoveable peace that exists in all the problems and troubles we go through. This is divine peace, supernatural peace; it cannot be figured out on a human level.
In Philippians 4:7 the Apostle Paul uses the word “guard.” He says, “let the peace of God guard your heart.” The word translated “guard” is a word that is used in a military sense, it means to stand at a post and guard against the aggression of an enemy. When the peace of God is on guard, the Christian is within an impregnable fortress. The name of the fortress is Jesus, and the guard is peace.

The peace of God stands guard and keeps worry from corroding our hearts, and the whispers of the devil from tearing up our minds. This is the kind of peace we have, a peace that forgives our past, a peace that fortifies our present, and a peace will flourish us with a guaranteed promise for our future.
Jesus is the One who gives peace. The Supernatural peace of Jesus is His gift to us. The same deep peace that stilled His heart amid mockers, haters, murderers, traitors, and amid incomprehensible persecution, Jesus was calm and unfaltering; He was a rock.

When Jesus appeared before Pilate, He was so calm, so serene, so controlled, so at peace, that Pilate became greatly disturbed. He was furious that Jesus was standing before him fearless; Pilate said, “Why don’t you talk to me? Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” (John 19:10).

In perfect peace Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11).

That’s the kind of peace the Holy Spirit gives to us. Undistracted, fearlessness, and unwavering trust. Our source of peace is Jesus. He provides us with the same serenity in danger, the same calm in trouble, and the same freedom from anxiety.

Jesus says, “the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”
His peace is not like the peace the world offers. Jesus has given us real peace through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost in our lives. It has been made available to all who repent and are baptized in Jesus’ name. It is here, it is ours, it is free, it is a gift, but we must take hold of it.

The peace Jesus offers, the gift, must be received and applied in our lives. When we receive the promise of the Holy Ghost, we will have calm, untroubled hearts, regardless of the circumstances. I leave you with the words of an old hymn that says it far better than I ever could:

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:

Ah soul, are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;

Oh, accept this sweet peace so sublime!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Two Voices, Two Choices

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, in fact almost impossible 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. But as I meditated on God’s Word, as I have prayed, and have had so many praying for me, the voice of God 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 the lack of the supernatural anointing. 

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’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. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gratitude, The Key To Recovery

Luke 17:11-19
11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

In my opinion, ingratitude is far too common in our society. God does so much for us and our indebtedness to Him is enormous, yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what He has done. In fact, most professing Christians don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We take all the blessings we have for granted then cry out to God if they aren’t exactly what we expect them to be.

In this passage of scripture, we read a story of ten men who were healed from leprosy. The word “Leprosy” means to be stricken, smitten, or to receive a blow. The Jews believed that leprosy was God striking or punishing the afflicted person. Leprosy is an awful disease. It begins with specks on the eyelids and the palms, gradually spreading over the whole body, bleaching the hair white, crusting affected parts with white scales causing terrible sores and swelling. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the entire body, piece by piece. In the later stages of leprosy, the diseased person’s limbs can literally, fall off.

Leprosy was a fatal disease and it affected the sufferer far beyond the physical realm. Luke says here they stood afar off. The disease of leprosy was a painful disease, but the physical pain was not the only area suffered by those inflicted. Lepers were separated from the rest of society. They were shut out from their family and friends. They were forbidden to worship or fellowship in the synagogue or temple. They were the outcasts of their society.

Notice that Jesus on his way to Jerusalem entered a certain village and there met the lepers. The religious crowd had no room for these leprous men. The law shut them out. The law set forth the conduct of lepers. The law said when you pass one, pass on the other side and cry out Unclean! Unclean!

As Jesus entered the city, from a distance, He heard their voices crying out to Him, “Have mercy on us!

They had been afflicted physically, relationally ostracized, they were mentally “unclean,” and they were emotionally wrecked as loneliness had most likely gripped their hearts. This group of men, in my opinion, were spiritually bankrupt.

As a person who has recovered from alcoholism and addiction, I can relate to their circumstances. I know what it feels like to be cut off from society, to be shut out from your family and friends, to be written off by the religious, and to be cut off from fellowship with God. In that regard addiction is much like leprosy, although I believe that addiction is more of a spiritual affliction than a physical one.

I chose this passage of scripture because of the relation that I see between how the leper suffered and how the addicts in our society still suffer today. But more than just the similarities between how they suffer, I chose it because I believe it holds the key to true recovery for those who suffer in addiction.

When they cried out to Jesus, he healed them all. Then He told them to go and show themselves to the priest so that they could be declared clean. This was a requirement of the Law of Moses. They all went to the priest as Jesus directed. Every one of them was declared ritually clean by the priest. All ten of these men were healed, but only one returned to Jesus to give thanks for what he had received; only one was grateful, and only one was made “whole.”

The other nine would have been declared ceremonially clean again and would have returned to the lives that they had left behind. They would have found that some of their family and friends were there waiting for them, but some had most likely moved on. They most likely would have found that some of the religious people accepted them back with open arms, but others kept them at arm’s length, or rejected them outright. And eventually they would discover that even though they were healed, they were not whole – they were still broken inside from the leprosy and all that it had cost them.

In the time that I have been involved with the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous I have seen many people come into the rooms and receive the gift of sobriety. I have also seen many of those same people go back out and drink again. Why? I am sure that there are many excuses that could be used to explain it, but the simplest way that I can describe it from my perspective is: they stopped drinking, but they were never made “whole.”

They stop drinking and then go back and try to re-enter society as if nothing happened, but they are still broken. The things that made them sick are still there. The effects from the life they have lived still haunt them. They try and go about their lives forgetting about the God that rescued them and gave them the gift of sobriety.

Being made “whole” is more than just an initial healing, it is restoration. We are whole only when we are restored to a right relationship with Jesus. And the key to total restoration, a restored relationship to Jesus, is gratitude. All nine of the men were healed, but only one returned to give thanks. And only the one that returned to give thanks was declared “whole” by the Lord. Gratitude is the key to total recovery.

I have learned that I must thank my Lord, Jesus is His name, every day for the gift that I have received. Every morning I ask him for another day free from drugs and alcohol and the strength to do His will, and every night I thank Him for another day that I didn’t drink. Every day I thank Him that He has removed the desire from my life. Every day, I show gratitude to Jesus because I am truly grateful for all that He has done and is doing. Every day, one day at a time, He is making me whole.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Holy or Harlot? A Church Can't Be Both

Over the years I have come to understand that one of my greatest responsibilities is to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to me and to faithfully, and correctly, interpret that message and then to declare it with boldness regardless of whether it tickles the ear or is popular.

I know that there are many messages that I could share, but I must speak what I hear the Holy Spirit saying and I believe that there is an urgency to this message He has given me today.  Today the urgency of the Holy Spirit’s word to me is, Jesus is coming.

I remember when I was growing up, we rarely left a service without hearing, “Jesus is coming.”
We lived with a sense of Urgency of the hour, we were constantly reminded that these are the last days. I literally lived with a fear of missing the rapture, it was that real to me.  There were many times during my rebellion, when my heart was not right with God, I would find myself fearing that I may be left behind, and it was a fearful prospect.

But today something has happened and it seems like the church has fallen into a slumber, many have begun snuggling up to the world, many are falling in love with money and pleasures, and out of love with Jesus.  It seems that most people's lives have become more and more concerned about being happy and less and less concerned about being holy.  They have become more and more concerned about being comfortable and less and less concerned about being consecrated.  Their focus has become more and more on this kingdom and less and less on His.

Just like the Virgins they’ve fallen asleep waiting on the bridegroom.  It is an undeniable fact that the church has been asleep, it has long been referred to as the “Sleeping Giant,” because Satan knows what the church is capable of when it is awake, but when it's asleep the church is laughing stock, and a source of criticism and humiliation.

Why is this point so important?  Because a church that is asleep is powerless, it is without influence in the world, and it becomes tolerant and accepting of everything.

One of the greatest indications of a church that is asleep, is that they have no sense of the urgency concerning Jesus’ return.  All throughout the scriptures we are instructed to keep the soon coming of our Lord in our thoughts and in our hearts, and to live every day in the urgency that He could return at any moment.

There are some things in the scriptures that are conditional and relational and whether they occur depends on our attitudes and our actions. But this is one thing that God has determined will occur, He didn’t ask for our participation or input, He doesn’t care if we agree or like it, and it has been settled forever: Jesus is coming!

The disciples lived with urgency because Jesus said:
- Work while it is day for the night cometh when no man can work. 
- Behold I come Quickly 
- Go into all the world and preach the gospel…
- These signs will follow those who believe…

This urgency filled them with expectancy and it fueled them to preach and reach as many people as they could. This sense of urgency also kept them diligent, alert, and holy.

When the church gets sleepy, the church gets sloppy.  It begins to look like the world, talk like the world and act like the world and sadly in many cases you can't tell the difference between the two.  That is what we are seeing today, a church that has fallen asleep with its head in the lap of the world.
Like Samson the church has been in love with a prostitute, the hedonistic spirit of this age that says, “If it feels right, it must be right.”

I'm talking about apostate churches, a backslidden churches, the churches that accept and ordain homosexuals and lesbians, churches that teach that there is no such thing as hell and your heaven is here on earth, the churches that accept the hedonistic teaching that you are your own god so you decide your own destiny, the churches that teach there's no such thing as the rapture, and there's no such thing as a judgement day.  This is the Apostate church, it is the backslidden church, and it is the harlot church!

·        - They still have Sunday services
·        - They still carry a bible
·        - They still sing religious Songs
·        - They still talk about God
·        - They still lift their hands and go through the motions
·        - They may even speak in tongues, but Jesus said, “Their hearts are far from me and they are just Vain   Babblers.”

I know this message is not politically correct, but it is Biblically correct!

But thank God there is another church, a remnant seed, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!  She is the bride of Christ and she believes the words of Jesus.  The church of Jesus still:

·       -  Believes in holiness, sanctification, consecration, and separation from the world.
·        - Welcomes the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin
·        - Preaches that without holiness no man shall see the Lord
·        - Understands that there is a Heaven and there is a hell and that there is an eternal judgement and that   those who reject the mercy of Jesus will be eternally lost
·       -  Knows that sin Separates us from God
·        - Sees that sin is darkness and darkness and light cannot dwell together
·        - Are very aware that the coming of the Lord is imminent and only those who are covered by his      blood and robed in His righteousness will go with Him when He comes.

Noah lived every day with the sense of urgency.  He worked, he prayed, he preached, and he pleaded with the urgency and intensity of one who believed that this could be the day the flood is coming, and that judgement is coming.

We are living in just such an hour!  God’s judgement is at the door, while multitudes of people who are sitting in the churches have fallen asleep.

Matthew 25:5-6
“5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’’

That cry is going out today, the Holy Spirit is sounding the wake-up call!  The trumpet of His love and mercy is being sounded from every righteous pulpit of every true man of God.  All over the land and around the world the cry can be heard, “The day of the Lord is at hand!”

Even the media, scientists, and many people who are not believers have a sense that something big is about to happen.  They may not know what they are doing, but they are echoing the prophets as they are forecasting drought, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis, financial collapse, martial law, nuclear war and government take overs.

But I have a message to the true church, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the called-out ones, those who are sanctified and washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness: “Lift up your heads, your redemption draweth nigh!”

What is going to be the greatest grief and tragedy that has ever hit this planet is also going to be the church’s finest hour.

Matthew 24:36-44
“36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

To those who are ready, we welcome his return, we've been expecting Him, but to those who are not ready He is coming like a thief in the night.

Are you ready today? Are you covered by his blood, is your name in the lambs book of life?

Acts 2:38

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