Overcoming Persecution

Smyrna in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) was considered to be “the flower of Asia” for its strategic planning, culture, education, science, and medicine.  It was also a place of great persecution for the believer.  Jesus warned the church at Smyrna they would experience persecution, arrest, and even death for the sake of Christ at the hands of people who claimed to be the people of God, but were in reality a “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:8-11).

The persecutors accused the Christians of cannibalism (ignorance of the Lord’s Supper), sexual perversion (mistaking the Christian fellowship meal for an orgy), political rebellion (because they would not declare Caesar as Lord and would not petition Rome for permits to meet), atheism (due to the absence of pagan idols in their homes), and destroying Jewish homes (as they converted to Christianity). The persecution of the believer always involves some type of spurious and injurious accusation, for that is the nature of the devil, the accuser of the brethren. We should not think that we are immune to persecution because anyone desiring to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

To persecute means to pursue, follow after, aggressively seek after as a hunter searches to apprehend, capture, or kill an animal.  To be persecuted is to be viciously and relentlessly hunted because of the gospel.  Although there are a variety of types of persecution, including spiritual (oppression), life (martyrdom), financial (denying employment, advancement or benefit), mental (condemnation or accusation), emotional (fear, anxiety, and despair), relational (rejection and marginalization), and physical (affliction and infirmity) the purpose of the persecution is the same – to press the believers to compromise, to denounce their faith, and to give up.

The keys to overcoming any kind of persecution are revealed also in the Book of Revelation.  Jesus said, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11, KJV).  The first key is to know and understand the covenant that is the basis of your salvation.  The Christian is blood bought and blood washed, and ultimately and eternally safeguarded by the resurrected Jesus.  The sacred and irrevocable covenant means that no matter how bad the persecution or pressure, the Lord will eventually turn things around.

Second, we must continue to speak faith-filled words of our personal testimony and the truths of God’s word no matter how difficult things are in life.  By sticking to the word, we are harnessing the power of life and death that is in the tongue of the believer (Proverbs 18:21), and not in the persecution of the evil one. By sticking to the word, we demonstrate that the most prominent influence in our heart is the truth, rather than the persecution we are facing, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

Finally, we must live as though we were dead, meaning dead to self, dead to self-interests, and dead to our propensity to want to direct our own lives while claiming that Jesus is Lord.  We may or may not face a literal life threat that so many of our brothers and sisters face daily around the world for their faith in Jesus, but we will be tempted to live our lives forgetting the sacrifice of Jesus and the example of service at the expense of self.  Given the condition of the world and the spiritual trajectory of our own nation, it’s never been more important for believers to overcome the persecution, live out their natural lives, and live them out for the purpose and glory of God.

The Ananias Anointing

The Scripture indicates that in the middle of his High Priest sanctioned rampage against the early Church, Saul of Tarsus had a supernatural encounter with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9).  Falling down from the overwhelming force of God’s glory, Saul exclaimed, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul, now blind and infirmed, was taken into the city of Damascus to receive care.

The Lord then came to a man named Ananias in a vision and commanded him to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him that he might be healed and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Despite the threats Saul had made and his notorious track record of persecuting, arresting, and even affirming the execution of Christians, Ananias, whose name means “to be gracious and to show favor,” honored the call of God and went to Saul because the Lord had great plans for Saul of Tarsus. Jesus called him his chosen instrument to preach to the gentiles and to their kings.

The Ananias type of believer, or the Ananias anointing, is desperately needed in the day we live.  Like Ananias with Saul, they help to restore to God what was previously lost, allow God to use them to bring healing to those that are afflicted, help God’s people get filled with the Holy Spirit, and help raise people up for God’s service and glory. We need more individuals in the body of Christ who, like Ananias, will be dispensers of God’s grace and favor, refusing to pay attention to the anti-supernaturalist and cessationist who deny the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit.

How can you become an Ananias in this critical hour in Church history? First, you must yourself be born again and filled with the Spirit. You cannot impart what you do not possess. Second, you must be tuned in to the realm of the spirit so that you can pick up on the signals of the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Notice Ananias was told to go specifically to the house of Judas in Damascus on Straight Street where he would find a praying Saul who had a vision Ananias would come to him. Third, you must be fearless in the face of the ominous threat and intimidation so prevalent in the world today against Christians.  It’s not that Ananias didn’t feel afraid. He simply refused to be ruled by that emotion. Fourth, you must be obedient and simply go.  It’s amazing how often Jesus uses that simple command.  Finally, you must be deliberate to carry out the details of your assignment, including the who, the what, and the where.

When Ananias placed his hands on Saul he was filled with the Holy Spirit, healed of his blindness, received water baptism, and began to eat and regain his strength. The Lord is in need of bold believers just like Ananias to share the resurrected Jesus with the lost, confused, religious, bound up, and hurting of our world.  He has sovereignly chosen to use people to lead people to salvation, Spirit baptism, deliverance, and healing.  Ask the Lord Jesus to send you, and don’t be surprised when he says, “Go!”

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

It’s the Sin Stupid

Phil Robertson I remember the presidential campaign of 1992 and how the Clinton election team pushed itself to remember their fundamental and playful campaign message, “it’s the economy stupid.” When other issues would rise to divert Clinton from that message, staffers would forcefully remind the campaign staff that the election would hinge on the existing economic malaise at the time and the hope a fix through Clinton’s policies.

At the risk of beating a dead horse (or dead duck show in this case), I can’t help draw a comparison to the current situation with Phil Robertson recently pushed off the A&E hit reality television show Duck Dynasty.  Now I don’t really care about ducks, duck calls, beards or A&E for that matter.  What I do care about is the boldness of this man to take the platform the Lord gave him to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and clearly communicate the teachings of the Word of God.  Time after time I’ve witnessed God promote believers to a national platform only to see them compromise once they reached that pinnacle.  Phil and his family should be commended not criticized for their stand and for honoring the Lord for the gift of their platform.

The liberal media and activists groups want Americans to believe that Robertson’s language in a GQ interview was crude, vile, inappropriate, insensitive, and even hate speech.  What believers need to remember at a time like this is whenever a believer quotes the Bible on morality and sexuality it is not hate speech but the Word of God. What if GQ had interviewed the Apostle Paul?  Enough said.  The real issue here is that the powerful demonic spirit behind human sexual perversion goes ballistic (especially when it ends up printed in black and white) whenever it is called out and exposed for what it is – SIN.  Just like the irrational response of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day when the men threatened to rape angelic beings (Genesis 19:5) or Herod’s violent treatment of John the Baptist for calling out his sexual immorality (Matthew 14:3-4), that spirit bristles today whenever the behavior is correctly labeled as sin.  One can attempt to quote and address these Scriptures with a gentle spirit, loving heart, a twinkle in the eye, and a smile on the face but the reaction of equating homosexuality with sin with always be met with the same ferocious response.

Notice Robertson paraphrased Scripture about drunkenness but no one called him a drunkaphobe.  He addressed idolatry but was not labeled an idolatorphobe. He mentioned the greedy but no one called him a greedyphobe.  He called out swindlers but no one said he was a swindlerphobe.  He spoke of slanderers but no one cared to call him a slandererphobe.  But when he mentions what the Bible says about homosexuality he is called a hater and a homophobe. In other words, it’s fine to label other areas of immorality as sin but one must simply not equate homosexuality with sin.  Make no mistake about it.  The modern persecution leveled at Robertson and others who dare to speak up is about identifying rightly sexual behavior that is sin. “It’s the sin stupid” and we would be wise to remember that everyone who will live a godly life in Christ Jesus and care enough to share that godliness will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  

We should also remember that no one need remain in the clutches of sin – any kind of sin – for God has provided the remedy for all manner of sin, the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. The catch is that our personal redemption hinges on confessing our sin (saying the same thing God says about it) and not redefining or dismissing our sin.  It is unscriptural and naive to believe that we, as the modern church, can lead people to Jesus without addressing the sin issue.  After all, Jesus’ first message to the world was, ‘Repent (change your mind and corresponding behavior), for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17).  Repentance gives us access to the supernatural power that will set us free from the sins that we confess.  Consequently, there is no substitute for the place of repentance in our redemption, salvation, and deliverance.

The Force Is With You

The Lord came to Joshua and told him that his close friend, confidant, and mentor, Moses, was now dead. It would now be Joshua’s job to lead the people of God to take possession of the inheritance promised to his forefathers. The task alone was enough to intimidate the most faith-filled leader, but given Joshua’s personal loss of his spiritual leader, the task would seem impossible. Unlike the appearance of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars movies to encourage, guide, and instruct Luke along his path to Jedi warrior, there would be no reappearing of Moses to help steady his hand.

Instead of Moses, God himself would be showing up to counsel, guide, and direct Joshua in all the affairs and responsibilities now being placed on his shoulders. The power of the Most High God would personally and directly be available to Joshua and the people of God to get the job done. The real force would truly be with him. The Lord came onto the scene during this transition and on the eve of Joshua’s ground invasion to strengthen and encourage his servant so that there would not be a repeat of the fear and destruction that accompanied the first attempt to spy out the land for occupation. The obstacles would still be there. The giants would be larger and more numerous than the last time. But this time, the force of faith would be stronger than the influence of fear and Joshua, with God’s blessing, was positioned and destined to lead the people of God to success and victory!

It’s interesting that the Lord repeated the phrase, “be strong and courageous,” four times in Joshua’s hearing to restore and undergird his courage before the beginning of this campaign. Each time the Lord spoke the phrase, He revealed a different reason why Joshua should be strong and courageous no matter what he comes up against on the other side of the Jordan. These principles are just as applicable to us today as they were thousands of years ago. Apply them to your heart today and may God’s force and power be with you – His ability to strengthen and encourage you no matter what your assignment or challenge in life:

First, we need to understand that God’s promise makes us strong and courageous. The Lord said, “Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors” (Joshua 1:6, NLT). A promise is a declaration that something will be done; an express assurance on which we can base our expectation. It’s one thing for a man to make a promise – it’s an entirely different thing for God himself to declare an oath and promises to His people. The key to remaining strong and courageous during a challenging season in life is to focus exclusively on that promise instead of the circumstances or difficulty awaiting us.

Second, we need to know that God’s precepts make us strong and courageous. Joshua was told, “Be strong and courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed” (Joshua 1:7-8, NLT). Our victory is tied to what we do with the Word of God and not the difficulty of the situation. We need to be Word people more than ever reading, studying, thinking about, speaking, and consistently doing the Word. Too often we have been led to believe that our success is outside of our control and influence, but the Lord makes it plain that if we stay on the Word we will make our own way prosperous and successful. In the midst of your challenging situation, make up your mind to not say anything but the Word of God. Like Joshua, don’t let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth – don’t ever, ever stop speaking and doing the Word.

Third, practicing the presence of God makes us strong and courageous. The Lord commanded Joshua, “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NLT). The Lord was personally promising to abide and dwell with Joshua and the people of God. He would never leave them or forsake them. But think about the New Testament believer. We just don’t have the Lord among us, we have Him living inside of us through the new birth. God’s manifest presence always emboldens and always gives courage. We need to increase our “God inside of us” consciousness and remind ourselves in the midst of the battle that He is right there with us all the way leading, guiding, and yes, fighting on our behalf. Do not put anything above God’s presence in your life and never trust anyone or anything more than Him.

Finally, we all need to be reminded that God’s people are there to make us strong and courageous. True, some people in the body of Christ are specialists in stealing our courage, but there are believers all around us like the men in Joshua’s day that are telling us, “may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses…So be strong and courageous!” (Joshua 1:16-18, NLT). The bold, dedicated support and commitment of God’s people gives us great encouragement. This is why the Scripture tells us not to stop gathering together for worship and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). Whenever we come together there are people that need encouragement and people who are in a place spiritually where they can provide it. Down the road the roles may be reversed. The bottom line is that we need one another to accomplish the huge task of getting in the end time harvest. We should not even attempt to go it alone without the love, support, and encouragement of each other.

So, be strong and courageous today because the Lord has given you His promises, precepts, presence, and people to spur you on to victory in everything He has assigned you to accomplish. Get in the habit today of rehearsing the promises, spending time in the Word, practicing God’s presence, and living in life-giving community with the people of God. As you do, you will go out and do great exploits in your time and season just as Joshua went out and accomplished great things in his day. The force and power of the Most High God is truly with you!

Faith Flirts

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle

Whenever people hear the message of faith for the first time their hearts are usually encouraged and excited about the possibilities obtainable through God’s Word. As we listen to the uncompromised Word of God going forth we catch a glimpse of how life could be if we would begin to use the force of faith like a tool rather than as just a generic term to describe religion in general. The Scriptures teach that “all things are possible to him that believes” (Mark 9:23). Faith is the divine connection between where we are in life and where we could be. Faith is how we access the favor of God (Romans 5:2), the prescribed way for believers to live (Romans 1:17), and how we ultimately please God (Hebrews 11:6).

But when the reality of the lifestyle of faith sets in – that it takes more than faith to get the job done – that it requires time, love, patience, and doesn’t usually produce immediately or over night, people often lose their enthusiasm. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). It is the key to the victorious life in God. I often liken the lifestyle of faith to a boxing ring. Well trained in faith we step into the ring to do battle. Paul called it fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). If we won’t get into the ring, or fight, or stay in the ring, we can never obtain the victory. Many people begin with good intentions but when they see the reality of faith they immediately try to climb out of the ring and back away from the message or the word of faith.

People who begin but do not hang in there on their walk of faith are what I call “faith flirts” – they flirt with the notion and concept of being a faith person but they do not persevere in their faith and are not invested over the long haul. If we can leave the lifestyle of faith then it was never a personal revelation to us. To “flirt” means to play triflingly and superficially without serious intentions as with a toy. It means to talk sweet nonsense, to touch a thing in passing, or to deal lightly, casually, or flippantly with a thing. The faith flirt plays with faith but never really decides to actually live consistently and enduringly by faith.

The faith flirts are relatively easy to spot. First, they are normally unstable and unsettled. Because they are not really walking in faith they do not possess the corresponding peace and rest that always accompanies the faith person. Second, they value spiritual experience over the Word. In fact, when a faith flirt hears about someone seeing Jesus, they invariable want to know what he looks like. The genuine faith person wants to know what he said. Experience, for the faith flirt, becomes more binding and authoritative than the written Word of God. Third, faith flirts are easily defeated and quick to give up. Where the faith person has formed a habit of fighting and winning, the faith flirt has developed the habit of tucking tail and running. Fourth they don’t ever seem to get results because they never persevere long enough to see the manifestation or the end of their faith. Finally, they are consistently ruled by their emotions. The faith person has a soul that is anchored in the truth of the Word of God, the highest reality in the universe. The faith flirt is anchored to the emotions and when the emotions change, they change. They live terribly inconsistent and flaky lives because they have no foundation of faith and can never have a foundation until they give more credibility to the Word than to their feelings.

I want to encourage you today to evaluate your walk and look for evidences of the faith flirt. If you are unstable, experience based, quick to quit, lacking results, or emotion ruled, acknowledge that, repent of it, and make up your mind to stop flirting with faith but take the faith plunge once and for all. You can quickly move from faith flirt to faithful by establishing your foundation in the Word of God. Instead of playing with the Word and faith, get serious about getting the Word in your eyes, in your ears, and down into your heart. The more diligent you are the stronger you will become.

In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Roosevelt was looking for a way to respond decisively to the cowardly action of the Japanese Imperial Navy. A bold, unprecedented plan was presented to send sixteen medium range Army B-25 bombers off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bomb Tokyo and four other cities. Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the handpicked squadron headed out to sea and prepared to strike at the very heart of Japan. Before embarking on this dangerous mission, Doolittle told his airmen, “victory belongs to those that believe in it the most…that believe in it the longest… and we’re going to believe.” Doolittle’s Raiders successfully bombed Japan before running out of fuel and losing the bombers one by one trying to reach the mainline of China.

These brave army pilots knew the challenges, the risks, and the importance of the mission. They volunteered and accepted their role and likely fate. After leaving that flight deck early because a Japanese fishing boat spotted the American flotilla, they knew there was no going back and most likely not enough fuel to get to China after the bombing run. Faith people are the same way. They head out into the spirit realm with no plans for failure and no plans for turning back, and they execute until they achieve the objective. That is the essence and difference between the faith flirt and the faith person. Make a quality decision today, one from which there is no turning back, to live your life on the Word and to stay on that Word with a bulldog determination that says, “I cannot be defeated and I will not quit.”

The Good Soldier

During my first pastorate in Hopkinsville, Kentucky I was privileged to serve some of the finest men and women of the greatest military in the history of the world. Many of the Airborne and Special Forces units were just returning to Fort Campbell following their successful deployments during the first Gulf War. I always enjoyed ministering to the military and appreciated their level of commitment whenever they would join the church. If they said they were with you, they meant it. I understood then, as I understand now, the right to the freedom of speech and religion that I enjoy as a spiritual leader is not the product of some document but the result of blood shed by our brave men and women in uniform who defend our rights and liberties. Just like faith without works is dead, so too, words written in a sacred state charter are meaningless without the will to fight for them.

Perhaps the greatest example of courage and commitment by the men and women of our fighting forces came during the challenging days of World War II. I recently discovered an amazing fact about my family. My great-grandfather on my father’s side, John Urban, originally came to this country from Dubvra, Czechoslovakia and settled in the small midwestern town of Livingston, IL to raise a family. Raised under a socialist system he used to poke fun at the “progress” in our country saying, “you now cook outside and go to the bathroom inside…I don’t think that’s progress.” But, when it came to duty and allegiance to his new homeland, John did his civic duty and registered for the draft – at 64 years of age! It’s interesting to me in a day when people claim to be too young or too old to make a difference, this immigrant was willing to wear the uniform if it meant getting the job done in Europe.

The Apostle Paul admonished his spiritual son Timothy to, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:3). The picture of the soldier is one of total commitment. They are told when to rise, when to go to bed, what to wear, where to serve, what job to do, etc. The great need in the body of Christ today is to take Paul’s words literally and seriously and begin to serve the Lord with an even greater level of commitment. When we experience the new birth we become conscripts in the Lord’s army and we are no longer our own but Christ’s. He now must increase while we decrease. The only way to stem the dark tide sweeping spiritually across our land (more diabolical than the original Nazi threat) is for believers to take seriously their place and assignment in the body of Christ and perform their duties admirably, skillfully, and faithfully.

I mean think about the price that was paid by the amazing Big Red One Division during World War II. From the invasion of North Africa to the storming of Omaha Beach on D-Day to the push into Germany across the Rhine River, the First Infantry Division went on to heroically hold on during the Battle of the Bulge and eventually occupied the Remagen bridgehead. By the end of the war the Division had suffered 21,023 casualties and 43,743 men had served its ranks. The Big Red One had won a total of 20,752 medals and awards, including 16 Congressional Medals of Honor. At some point one would think that this brave unit had done enough, but they kept giving and giving until the final victory. The modern Church needs to receive a big dose of the courage and commitment like this legendary military division.

I met a World War II veteran in rural Christian County years ago while ministering to his family. He didn’t like to talk much about what he had been through but he eventually shared his military experiences with me. Over time Pee Wee became ill. I realized my love and appreciation for our military and his service specifically was possibly a door to begin to share with him about someone else that shed his blood for all of us – Jesus Christ. In the context of sacrifice for the greater good of others he not only understood but accepted Jesus Christ while lying in a hospital bed battling a brain tumor. I didn’t have the customary “decision card” and literature one might have received in a church setting so I wrote his name, the date, and the statement of his faith in Jesus on a napkin I found on his hospital food tray and handed it to Pee Wee. I was told after his death that he slept each night with that napkin under his pillow.

It seems so insignificant to say thank you to individuals who gave so much for our nation, but I want to encourage you to personally express your gratitude to those that have served and to the families of those that have fallen in battle at some season in our nation’s history. I also want to challenge you to live up to Paul’s standard to become a soldier in God’s Kingdom, ready to fight, execute, and go wherever the commander orders. We cannot thank our military enough for both their service and their standard of commitment and excellence in the performance of their duties.

How Big Is Your Want To?

“I can do everything through Christ (the anointed one and his anointing) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT). “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23, NIV).

The Bible is very plain when it comes to stating the potential of the believer for victory and to accomplish great things in life. The Apostle Paul boldly stated that all things or everything can be accomplished through the anointing made available to the believer through the grace of the anointed one, Jesus Christ. The message of Jesus in Mark 9 is emphatic – everything is within the realm of possibility for the one who truly believes. The word “possible” means that something is capable of happening, existing, or being true. The Greek indicates the concept of being strong, mighty, powerful, and able to do. This means that we can do it in Jesus’ name.

But possibility in life is tempered by a very significant variable, the variable of desire. Wrong desires lead us off the path of God and hinder the possibilities in our lives (James 1:13-14). Right desires lead us down the path of God and empower us to stay focused long enough to see the possibility become a reality. The Scriptures teaches us, “…what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye have them and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24, KJV). Desire is an intense longing or craving for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment. The word “desire” in Mark 11:24 is accurately translated to mean to pray with earnest desire, craving, and longing rather than the dead fish mumbling prayer so often heard in Christian circles. The fact is that as believers we fail to receive God’s best not because it is not God’s will or because some things are not possible, but because we lack the sustained, intense biblical desire to obtain the promise or the breakthrough.

I heard a story once about a man who was the town drunk. Each night he would leave his loving wife at home and head to the local tavern to get drunk. Each night at closing time he would walk home taking a short cut through the cemetery. One night as he was cutting through the graveyard, he fell headlong into an open grave recently dug for a funeral the next day. When he came to his senses he hollered, screamed, and cried for help into the darkness but there was no one around to help. He clawed, scratched, and climbed up the dirt walls of the grave only to slip back down over and over again. Exhausted from the experience sat down in the corner of the grave and resigned himself to the fact that he was not going to get out of his predicament, at least not until the next day. Then from the dark recesses of the grave he heard an eery voice cry out, “you’ll never get out of here.” Well…he did. Suddenly his failure was replaced by an amazing desire or “want to” and he got out of the pit.

The question today is how big is our want to? How badly do we want off drugs, or to make a difference, or to reach our potential, or to get that job, or to live right, or to be healed, or to lose weight (moving right along), or to finish that degree, or to have a great marriage, or get out of debt, or to change our life? If we want to make a change we can make a change but we must learn to develop a serious want to. The level of our desire or want to ultimately determines our outcome in life. If we have no desire we will see no results. A low desire will produce a few results. A medium desire will yield some results. A great or high level of desire will produce many results. It’s all a matter of our want to.

In today’s blog I want to encourage you to live with a big want to in your life. The Scripture says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, NIV). This means that the Lord will deposit right desires in your life as well as bring those desires to pass. Here are five principles for living with a big want to:

  1. Immerse yourself in the Word (Proverbs 3:15). The more time you spend in the Word of God the more your desire will grow and the more you will think you can do it. As human beings we begin to attract the things we give our attention to in life. The more time you spend in the Word the more you will desire and attract the things of God into your life.
  2. Hang around successful people (Proverbs 27:17, ESV). I remember hearing about a millionaire entrepreneur and writer asking another successful businessman how he managed to earn billions. The individual simply told the man, “you hang around with millionaires but I started to hang around billionaires.” The truth is we become like the people we hang around the most.
  3. Quit the habit of quitting (James 5:10, MES). I love the way the Message renders this verse. It says, “They [the prophets] put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God.” The habit of quitting indicates a very small want to so if you’re going to quit something this week, quit the habit of quitting.
  4. Put God’s desires and will first (Psalm 40:18, NIV). It’s amazing how big your want to grows when you have the confidence that you are pursuing the perfect will of God for your life. Faith begins where the will of God is known and great desire always follows the heart that is confident of the Lord’s will and direction.
  5. Ignore the voice of negativity (Numbers 13:32, CSB). There will always be people hanging around that delight in discouraging dreamers from pursuing the desires of their hearts. It is vital that you learn to tune out the naysayer and focus instead on the promise of God and voices that are edifying and encouraging. It’s amazing how just one negative comment can cancel out a boat load of encouragement. Learn to identify when the enemy is trying to use negativity to squash your desire and reject it.

To become a Green Beret in the United States Army Special Forces a soldier must stand out as exemplary and then be selected to attend the brutal two week (now three week) assessment school. At the end of the process the sleep-deprived soldiers are required to complete a twenty mile march in the middle of the night carrying their weapons and their sixty-five pound packs strapped to their backs. Completing the trek is no guarantee of acceptance into the training phase of the program but most certainly disqualifies any solder failing to complete it. Soldiers who have gone on to be selected, trained, and bestowed the coveted status and head gear say it all comes down to desire. I wonder what would happen if we wanted what God wants for us with that level of desire?

So…how big is your want to?

Let Em Hear You Roar

On a recent trip to St. Louis my family and I spent some time in one of my favorite places in the whole world – the St. Louis Zoo (and no I was not visiting my relatives). We did visit a special area of the zoo developed and installed by a relative known as Big Cat Country. This unique habitat was built to showcase some of the most exotic big cat species in the world such as the African Lion, Amur Leopard, Amur Tiger, Cheetah, Jaguar, Puma, and Snow Leopard. It’s a rare treat to be in Big Cat Country when one of these amazing animals decides to roar. Most of the time they just pace back and forth or find a place to escape the sun’s rays. The reality is that the captivity of these cats has, for the most part, taken away their roar.

Satan works the same way against the hearts and souls of believers. If he can’t keep us out of heaven, he wants us to be as defeated as possible while here on earth. In essence he wants to silence the believer’s roar of boldness. Boldness is to be courageous and daring, not hesitating in the face of actual or possible danger or challenge. Through trouble, persecution, and fear mongering, the devil tries to silence the bold voice of the believer and reduce our roar to a benign meow. But bold believers, confident in spirit and demeanor, use their faith to “clamp down the teeth of God’s Word on the seat of the enemy’s pants and hangs on until Satan quits” (to quote Marilyn Hickey).  Speaking about the boldness of the believer, Reinhard Bonnke said, “Christians are not the hunted, but the hunters, not the attacked, but the attackers. We are God’s storm troopers sent to release the hostages of hell.”

Today I want to share some principles for maintaining your roar as a believer:

First, we must renew our minds to the reality of righteousness. Jesus took our sin and gave us the gift of righteousness. The more we understand this revelation and allow it to penetrate our thinking and consequently our spirit and demeanor, the more bold we will become. Proverbs 28:1 says, “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” There is always a connection between our application of righteousness and our level of boldness. John Osteen, who taught powerfully on the subject of righteousness said, “As long as there is a sense of inferiority, there can be no sense of authority.”

Second, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we think about Peter and the struggles he had in his spiritual formation and development into an amazing leader in the early church, we can’t help but notice the amazing boldness and transformation that took place in his life after he received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The same Peter that had previously denied Jesus with cussing was now standing publicly proclaiming Jesus to everyone that would listen. This same empowerment of the Spirit of God is available to every believer and it will change us just like it changed Peter.

Finally, the more time you spend with Jesus in prayer, fellowship, and the Word, the bolder you will be as a believer. The Bible reveals that there is a connection between our knowledge of God, our level of boldness, and our fruitfulness: “…but the people who know their God shall prove themselves strong and shall stand firm and do exploits [for God]” (Daniel 11:32, AMP). The Pharisees were amazed by the courage and boldness of two unschooled and ordinary men, Peter and John. They were astonished “and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The knowledge of God’s character, thoughts, and will makes the believer amazingly bold and confident. F.F. Bosworth said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known.” The more revelation of God and His will we have, the bolder we will become.

So, when you sense the enemy trying to shut you up, lift up your voice in a roar and declare the Word of the Lord. Be like Blind Bartimaeus who, when told to hold his peace, cried out all the more (Mark 10). Unlike the caged big cats of the St. Louis zoo, you were born free so maintain your freedom in Christ and roar at the enemy any time he even attempts to take you captive or silence your voice of faith.

Stand Up

“For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:12-16, NIV).

I was privileged to hear an amazing message by Dr. Beth Grant tonight at the Kentucky District Council being held near the Cincinnati airport. Most believers have no idea the unbelievable atrocities women and girls face around world through human trafficking. Grant explained that in Bombay, India alone around 100,000 women and children are trapped in a vicious cycle of bondage and degradation. Becoming aware of the problem nearly fourteen years ago, missionaries David and Beth Grant are doing everything they can to rescue and restore these individuals by providing them an escape from the brothels, by introducing them to Jesus Christ, by providing them a safe place to go, and by ongoing ministry. I want to share her message with you. I believe it will challenge and stir you to stand up.

The essence of her message is that the world is awash in evil and darkness, truth and justice are hard to find, and as Isaiah says, “and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.” The Scripture indicates that the Lord was “appalled” that there was no one to intervene or stand up so he stood up himself to work salvation with his own arm. The call tonight is for the people of God to also be appalled by the condition in this world and be subsequently motivated to stand up to address the issue with the message of freedom and redemption in Jesus Christ. Dr. Grant’s pointed question to the congregation was simply this: God is standing up. Are we? My blog today is based on four powerful principles she shared for standing up in this dark hour.

First, stand up with presence. We must go where the people are in bondage because people in bondage are so demonized that the last place they will go is to church. The story of the incarnation is clearly a demonstration of God being present to help hurting, crying, sighing, dying humanity (to quote John Osteen). Man could not go to him so he came to man. From the brothels of India to the hurt of the middle class home in America we too need to be present, engaged, and among the hurting.

Second, stand up in truth because it is the truth that sets people free. There is no substitute for truth. We can’t talk people into freedom with our good intentions and good ideas. We can’t just wish them free. We must give them the truth. Recall the words of Jesus: “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is amazing to realize that when Jesus makes someone free through his truth he makes that person free like he is free. As the mind is renewed to the truth the life begins to go in the direction of God’s thoughts rather than the old patterns of defeat, bondage, and despair.

Third, stand up in transparency. The challenge is for the believer to be open and honest revealing to the hurting where hope can be found (and how we ourselves found it). To that extent, our personal stories of deliverance and freedom shared in humility with those in bondage are a powerful tool for healing. We must not be apologetic for boldly presenting Jesus Christ as the key and the source of our hope and deliverance. A bold, authentic, and transparent witness for Jesus Christ and the difference he made in our lives has the ability to arrest the attention of the hurting and deposit into their hearts the seeds of hope for freedom.

Finally, stand up with supernatural authority. Satan knows the voice of authority and he knows if we do not have it. We need to remember that we do not speak for ourselves, we speak for God. The enemy is not impressed with our affluence, our assets, or our education. All that matters is can we as believers touch God on behalf of those in bondage. Let us not hide out in the church for we demonstrate just how “Spirit-filled” we are by what we do outside of the church rather than inside of it. Let us become the voice of supernatural authority in a world too often under the heel of the enemy.

The great need of the hour is for the body of Christ to stand up unapologetically against the darkness, against the wickedness, against the spiritual power in the heavenly realms that is destroying and enslaving human lives in the physical realm. I encourage you to look for the chains of the enemy wherever you happen to be in the world because you don’t have to be in Bombay to find bondage. Stand up with presence, truth, transparency, and spiritual authority and watch the Lord set the captives free in your mission field.

The Fearless Spirit

iStock_000009086492Small-1We’ve been sharing the good news at Hope Harbor Church for several weeks now that God has not given us, his people, a spirit of fear. Certainly the circumstances all around us could tempt us to yield to the fear but in doing so we know that fear hooks us up to the enemy like faith hooks us up to God. When we get attached to the enemy we can expect destruction and devastation to follow. When we get attached to God through faith we can expect the favor of God and this is a great time for an outpouring of favor in all of our lives.

Fear is a perverted form of faith. It is having confidence that harm, adversity, and defeat is coming your way. Job declared that what he feared greatly had come upon him. Fear, like faith, is the product of our inputs in life. Faith comes by hearing but so does fear. If we give our attention to all the issues and problems in life then fear will be result. If we give our focus and attention to the incorruptible seed of the Word of God then faith will be the result. It’s time to neglect and starve that fear and feed our faith like never before.

Be confident that even though times change, bank accounts ebb and flow, people come and go, and we experience ups and downs, the Word, which is eternal, never changes and is not at all threatened by the harshest of circumstances. Fundamentally, the Word does not stop being true because we are going through something that contradicts the Word. The Word is the highest form of truth in the universe and the power in the Word to bring itself to pass in your life is released as you believe the Word and act on it.

Make up your mind today that you are going to walk fearlessly through these times. Decide now and forever that the Word reigns in your life no matter what you see, hear, or feel. Say like Smith Wigglesworth, “I’m not moved by what I see. I’m not moved by what I hear. I’m not moved by what I feel. I’m moved by the Word of God.”

Thank A Vet

Iwo JimaLivingston, Illinois is typical of the thousands of small towns that dot the Midwest. When your neighbor says he’s going to the store he means just that – he’s going to the store because there probably isn’t more than one. My Dad grew up in this old coal mining town northeast of St. Louis, Missouri where the favorite pastimes were baseball and baseball. His uncle John (Jocko) Urban was a great ball player. He was known to be able to plant his foot up against the center field fence and throw the ball perfectly to the catcher without a bounce. His son Johnny was a prospect for the Minnesota Twins organization. 

During World War II, Livingston gave up its share of young men to the war effort and some, like Jocko, made it back alive after multiple battles and firefights. Jocko liked his beer and on one occasion while frequenting the tavern a young deputy decided Jocko had had enough to drink and approached a well-juiced WWII Vet to tell him so. In a flash this battle hardened American warrior had disarmed the officer, placed the gun to his temple and said something like, “Son, I’ve already killed dozens of men in battle. One more is not going to mean that much to me.” One can only imagine what Jocko had been through and what led to his strong reaction in the bar that day. Needless to say, the deputy stood down and Jocko went on drinking and today he is one of the oldest living WWII Vets alive in that area.

Our cities and towns are filled with men like Jocko who went to the front lines to defend our freedom, our interests, our values, and our way of life. We can only imagine the hardships and atrocities they had to endure and even if they physically survived the war, they still returned with mental and emotional scars that haunt them until they join their brothers in arms in death. This Memorial Day, find a Vet and give him or her a hug, handshake, or “thank you” for what he or she has done for this nation. And Jocko, thanks for serving your country with honor and distinction.