Faith for Miracles

It is quite faith building and encouraging to know and understand that there is no heavenly timer on miracles. There is no day that miracles just ceased in the earth because the miraculous power of God is a reflection of His very nature and heart and not just a tool for proving divinity. There is no “day” of miracles, but there is a God of miracles, and He is very much alive and active in the earth today.

Galatians 3:3-5 teaches us that we receive the Spirit and see miracles among us because of faith. Romans 5:2 says plainly that we access the favor of God through faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares that anyone coming to the Lord must believe that He is (that He exists) and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. Further, it is clear from Mark 6:5 and Matthew 13:58 that the presence of or lack of faith is ultimately the determining factor whether the miraculous power of God is released in our midst or not.

In dealing with the spirit of familiarity, contempt, and offense in his hometown, Jesus did not say that he was lacking supernatural power to get the job done. He did not say that the day of miracles was over or that it simply was not God’s will to do miracles. He did say that the thing stopping up the flow of miraculous power was their lack of faith. Because of this plain Biblical truth, we need to learn to stir up our precious and holy faith if we want to see more of God’s power at work among us. Again, this is not about proposing some formula for miracles, but providing a faith-filled and expectant atmosphere where miracles are more likely to happen. Our job is to charge the air with faith and dispel any doubt, fear, and unbelief from the environment. From the story of the paralytic brought to Jesus for spiritual restoration and physical healing in Mark, I want to share about the kind of faith that receives a miracle.

First, the faith that receives a miracle is a UNIFIED faith. The men who carried the paralytic had to be in one mind and one heart to get the job done. To be unified means to become a single unit. The paralytic together with each of these individuals had to be in agreement about what they were doing and why. Psalm 133 powerfully points out the impact of unity among the people of God. When we are in unity the anointing of God (God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do), fruitfulness, the blessing, and life are the results. So, get into agreement with other believers!

Second, the faith that receives a miracle is a TENACIOUS faith. These men faced many obstacles along the way including the journey to get to the house where Jesus was ministering. When they arrived there was no way to get into the house so, undaunted, the men went up to the roof carrying the paralytic, ripped open the roof and lowered the man into the presence of Jesus. A tenacious faith is a persistent, stubborn and obstinate faith that absolutely refuses to be denied and that no set back or challenge can quench. There will always be obstacles to receiving but we must continue busting through every barrier until we reach destination miracle. So, do not give up no matter what you face!

Finally, the faith that receives a miracle is a VISIBLE faith. James 2:18 indicates that faith should be so real and obvious that it is something shown through corresponding actions. To be visible means that it can be seen, that it is perceptible to the eye, apparent, obvious, and conspicuous. When faith is fully released it is observable. That’s why the Bible says in Mark 2 that Jesus literally saw their faith. This is nothing unique to this story. The Bible is filled with examples where the faith of individuals spilled over into visible action. Blind Bartimaeus, filled with faith, threw is cloak aside, went to Jesus, and his sight was restored (Mark 10:50). The man with the withered hand stretched out his hand and was healed (Luke 6:10). The lepers went to show themselves to the priests and were healed along the way (Luke 17:14). The woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole (Mark 5:27-18). So, step out boldly and act on your faith!

Remember that our God is great and He does miracles. Remember also that He responds to the confidence, trust, and faith we place in Him. Make up your mind today to walk in a unified, tenacious, and visible faith and expect the Lord to move in your situation. For our God performs miracles and displays His power among the peoples (Psalm 77:14).

Sacred Assembly

“Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem! Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Gather all the people–the elders, the children, and even the babies…” (Joel 2:15-16, NLT).

There has never been a time in our history when it has been more important for parents to intentionally impart the values of the Christian faith to their children and to do so in overt, deliberate, creative, and consistent ways. It is critical that modern Christian parents do not succumb to the lowest common denominator approach to influencing their kids for Christ by adopting an “it doesn’t take all that” mindset to instilling the values, priorities, and beliefs of genuine New Testament Christianity. In reality, we are in a season where it requires more diligence, dedication, and intentionality than ever before if we want our children to passionately carry the banner of the Christ’s love, power, and standard to the next generation. If we do not step up our efforts we will be in danger of losing our kids to the world and the generations to come to the cause of Christ in general.

Unfortunately, many formerly solid and conscientious Christian parents have turned on the sloth switch when it comes to raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Expecting them to pick up the Christian world view and values by osmosis or something they do not take the time to read the Word to their kids or pray for them or even make sure they are in public worship services (even though many stood somewhere before a church congregation promising the Lord and the body that they would do so). The fallout will come later as their children begin the process of individuation and decide that this “Christianity stuff” is not for them. Many of these parents will act all “shock and awe” that their kids do not want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ or associate with the Church (or worse yet, dive headlong into the world), but what they don’t realize is that the destination was set years before when they failed to emphasize, privately and publicly, the principles of the Christian faith. Rather than being surprised by the choices of their children, parents who fail to take proactive steps now to influence and preserve their children for Christ, should expect their children to withdraw from the Church and the things of God.

We need today what the prophet Joel called for hundreds of years ago – a sacred assembly of the people of God of all ages – from the newborn to the elderly in a consecrated, committed, and consistent gathering to worship God and receive a fresh impartation of truth and values. This cannot be accomplished in an isolated meeting, but it is the consequence and accumulation of spiritual life imparted over the long haul, line upon line and precept upon precept. Instead of using the birth and busy-ness of raising our children as excuses for being absent from the house of God, we should make them the very reason we are present and faithful to bring them to church for public worship and age appropriate spiritual training.

I remember my parents telling me the story of how they went to see our family pastor after having some struggles with my sister who had departed the faith and the church for a season as a young adult. His counsel to them was wise, timely, and very biblical. We all know the Scripture that promises that if we will train up our children in the way they should go, when they are older they will not depart from those values and principles (Proverbs 22:6). Our pastor encouraged my parents with the assurance that since they had been diligent to bring her up in the church and the things of God, she would be back and with a passion to serve God. He was right. She did, and now she is touching countless lives with her life.

The problem is we cannot claim the promise of such a Scripture if we do not honor the condition of the Scripture. We don’t have to know everything or have everything figured out in life and faith, but we do need to do what we know to do as parents such as bringing our children faithfully and habitually to church. Parents, you cannot claim this Scripture for your children if you are violating the very premise of it. I can assure you that in the long run and in comparison to eternity, nothing you are using as an excuse to keep yourself and your children from attending church is worth potentially losing your kids to the world. Make up your mind today that you are going to be deliberate and intentional when it comes to impacting and influencing your kids for Christ. Don’t let another service go by without taking the role of the godly parent and making sure your family is in the house of God.

The God of Miracles

“You are the God who performs miracles, you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:14, NIV).

Growing up with a healthy dose of popular theology from television, my concept of miracles was that they just erratically showed up from place to place for the lucky or if individuals could just beg long enough and hard enough, God just might feel sorry for them and come through for them big time in the clutch. True to that interpretation, many today think that miracles just seem to happen for no apparent reason or that they are for the few, special people who are mysteriously awarded some of God’s power and favor in their lives.

But the Word of God reveals a totally different concept and theology of miracles. Our great God who works miracles (Psalm 86:10) is actually internally motivated and predisposed to show up and perform miracles because miracles are manifestations of His goodness and mercy. Miracles, the divine breaking into the earth by God to display His will, Word, covenant, and love on behalf of His people (including the suspension of natural laws and overt authority over all the earth’s forces), are actually the result of a powerful mixture of elements that when present provide an atmosphere conducive for the releasing of supernatural power. Although this should never be misconstrued to imply that there is some formula for obtaining a miracle, these elements do provide an atmosphere or surrounding or pervading mood, environment, influence, spirit, or climate where miracles are much more likely.

The atmosphere that is the breeding ground for miracles is the atmosphere of faith. I can almost hear Smith Wigglesworth, as he was reported to have said in a church meeting, “Stop charging the air with unbelief.” Smith was terribly grieved to hear the avalanche of doubt, fear, and unbelief coming from the preacher’s lips during a sermon. He then took over the meeting, preached faith, charged the air with faith, and seeded a powerful atmosphere spawning a great move of God in that service. The Scripture clearly teaches this principle stating that, “And he (Jesus) did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58, NIV). This is a powerful principle that we must come to terms with if we want to see God’s miraculous power flowing in our day.

It is telling that Jesus did not say that there was no power available for miracles that day. He did not say that doing miracles that day was not his will. He did not lack love or compassion for those that may have needed to receive a miracle that day. He did not confirm the ivory tower theologian who insists that miracles have passed away. No, Jesus made it plain that the reason for the drought of miracles was (and is today) the lack of faith among the people. To put it plainly, there is no “day” of miracles, but a God of miracles and He is very much alive and active in the earth today wherever He finds a prevailing atmosphere of faith within which to manifest His power, glory, and goodness.

One of my absolute favorite passages of Scripture (I know I say that a lot) is Mark 2:1-12 and the story of the house meeting where the four friends carried a paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing and restoration. There are so many powerful truths that can be drawn from this text, but I want to focus on the elements in this story that helped to produce this amazing atmosphere for miracles. I encourage you to meditate on the concepts and endeavor to put them into practice in your life, your family, your work place, and your church.

1.  Miracles break out where Jesus is tangibly present (so let’s praise and worship Him until he shows up).

2.  Miracles break out where the Word is honored (so let’s take the Word at face value and believe it).

3.  Miracles break out where salvation is emphasized (so let’s trumpet the message of forgiveness and grace).

4.  Miracles break out where there is strong opposition (so let’s bind the voice that would hinder miracles).

5.  Miracles break out where the Spirit has liberty (so let’s be extra sensitive to the urgings of the Holy Spirit).

6.  Miracles break out where faith is demonstrated (so let’s activate our faith with corresponding actions).

7.  Miracles break out where expectancy is high (so let’s expect God to show up and show out).

Leaving Podunkville

Podunkville is a mindset of mediocrity indicated by a lack of excellence in life, work, or ministry. Although I am not speaking of a literal town (“podunk” means any small and insignificant inaccessible town or village – and there are towns literally called Podunk like Podunk, Vermont), it is nonetheless where many people – God’s people – live and dwell when it comes to their personal standards and thinking. It’s obviously fine to live in a small town many might deem to be insignificant or hard to reach, but we don’t have to let an attitude of Podunkville live in us.

I’ve always been amazed that some Christians can perform at extremely high levels of competence and excellence in the secular world or in private endeavors, but have the attitude that the Church does not warrant or deserve such diligence. I could not disagree more (in fact it is one of my pet peeves to be sure). The Church and the Lord who purchased her with his blood, deserves the highest levels of performance an individual can give. As Spurgeon used to write at the bottom of his sermons when finishing early Sunday mornings, “Jesus deserves my very best.”

The concept that, “it’s good enough for the Church,” couldn’t be further from the truth and nothing could be more inconsistent with the standard of the “all in” mindset that Jesus demonstrated on the cross over two-thousand years ago. He held nothing back from us and we should hold nothing back from him. In reality, our efforts in the world or private life should be straining to rise to the level of our efforts in the Church (and not the other way around).

Let me encourage you today to pack up your attitude, thought life, and standards and move out of Podunkville forever. Keep in mind that eternal souls are on the line and nothing should motivate us more to do the most excellent job we can for the Lord, His ministry, and His kingdom. Let the Word of God inspire you to give the Lord your very best: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17, NIV). How about it? Like Jesus, let’s also go “all in” for the glory of God in these last days.

Build Me a Sanctuary

“And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).

God wanted his people to build Him a Sanctuary where He could dwell amongst His people.  God wanted to commune with His creation!  In order for God to dwell in His sanctuary the priests had to purify and cleanse the sanctuary.  There can be no sin; no, nothing unclean can live in the same place God lives.

This was a complicated act that had to be fulfilled by the Ancient Jews in order to have the presence of God dwelling amongst them. These rules and laws were impossible for us to continue to fulfill and God knew they would not last the test of time. He had to act in order to save His beloved creation. God knew we would fail in every way so He sent His Son. His word says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Understand this; God sent Himself in His Son. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Why? God knew that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

We are no longer required to build a Temple made with wooden beams, or marble blocks, animal skins, and silver or gold but with flesh and bone.  We are His Temple!  We have become His abode where He dwells amongst us.  Is that possible?  Yes, it is. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). What then do you say to God when we are told that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

We look back to Exodus 25 and we see what God was doing.  He was preparing for us a way that He could dwell with us as His sanctuary.  This is the command He gave us and it is what lies behind the commandment “build Me a sanctuary.” These words teach us our relationship to God and what He expects of each of us.  What made this commandment so unique was God knew we would become His Temple, His “kings and priests” (Revelation 5:10).

In order for us to abide in him and him in us we must keep His temple, His sanctuaries clean from all sin.  God and sin cannot dwell together.  This is our daily challenge as we take up or own crosses in order to keep our temples clean so the Lord may dwell within His temple which is you.

My Question to you is this…Are you His Holy Temple, His king and His priest?  Or, are you just making it through life from Sunday to Sunday?  His Temple was a place He dwelt all day and all night.  Are you acting like a “king and priest” or are you acting just like the world?  What makes you different than those around you?  Can Christians and non-Christians notice something different about you and how much time you spend with the Lord?  Or, do you just blend into the crowd and become another unknown face?

When you dwell with the Lord He dwells with you.  IF you commune with Him, you become a partner and a friend and you experience His personality and His Nature.   In the end how much do you want to Tabernacle with the Lord in His Sanctuary or in His Temple? “It is written,” he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.’ ” (Luke 19:46) What does your house, abode, dwelling, Tabernacle, Sanctuary or Temple look like? Are you making your Temple “a house of Prayer” and a “Holy Mountain” or are you selling your goods in a market of thieves?

Today’s blog entry was written by Wayne Olin, one of our Hope Harbor faithful serving the United States Army in Korea.

The Best of Years

Ministry and prophetic voices all over the land are declaring that 2011 will be both the best and worst of years. Malachi 3:18 explains that there will be a distinction between the righteous and the wicked: “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those that serve God and those who do not.” What’s exciting for those that have ears to hear and eyes to see is that this is not the promise of a distinction or a manifestation to come some day in the sweet by and by, but the promise that the distinction will be clear, evident, and obvious this year. The good news is that this is an individual choice and decision. We determine whether 2011 will be the best of years of the worst of years for ourselves and for our families.

The word “distinction” means that there will be something plain and evident in the lives of faithful believers that will distinguish, separate, mark off as different, or identity them as distinct from those that choose to move away from the things of God in this season. Part of that distinction will manifest as God’s provision, empowerment, and assistance in every aspect of the believer’s life so that literally every thing is made “all right.” In the midst of all the fear, torment, and uncertainly right now, its’ exciting, encouraging, and faith-building to hear the prophetic voice echoing the Word of God that boldly promises, “…I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

The unique aspect about this prophecy for 2011 is that it indicates that the year will be extreme on both the best and worst ends of the continuum. 2011 will be extraordinary and extremely good for those that honor God and just the opposite for those that choose to dishonor Him. This means either an extremely fruitful, successful, and blessed year or an extremely barren, unsuccessful, and cursed year. Biblically, this concept is nothing new. By the Lord’s direction, Moses told the people of God in Deuteronomy 30:19, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

I want to encourage you to focus on three powerful principles in 2011 or three ways that you will be choosing to have the best of years. The key is to absolutely INSIST on keeping these principles because the believers that insist on doing so (not might or if I get around to it), but insist on doing so will have the best possible year. Those that INSIST on ignoring these concepts or principles will find that 2011 will be the worst possible year.

First, no matter what you see, hear, or feel, INSIST on staying in faith this year. The key to staying in faith is keeping the Word of God going in your eyes, ears, and heart, and keeping that same Word coming out of your mouth in abundance. Remember that we cannot keep the contents of our hearts from coming out for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We will all see and hear things this year that will try to pull us off of the Word of God and into distraction, doubt, fear, or unbelief. Make up your mind that you are going to stay focused on the Word of God regardless of what you see and hear going on all around you.

Second, INSIST on keeping the commandment to love no matter how you feel or how you perceive you are being treated. One of the devil’s choice weapons is to get God’s people, mad, upset, and offended with something or someone. The moment we come out of love this year we will disqualify ourselves from the best of years and slip into the worst of years. This means that the devil is going to work extra hard to get you put out, bitter, and offended. Make up your mind to stay in love and to forgive quickly and completely from the heart. I don’t care what has happened. I don’t care what has been said to you or about you. Nothing is worth you losing the blessing this year. Nothing is worth you losing the distinction that is promised to the covenant child of God this year! If you’ve been going down the road of bitterness, hard feelings, and offense, come to your senses now, stop, and turn around while the year is still young.

Finally, no matter what happens, INSIST on keeping and honoring the Word of God in every situation of life. To “honor” means to “give the greatest weight to” in life. It means that there is no voice more influential in your life than the Lord and His Word and this influence is proven by quick and lasting obedience to the principles of the Word of God. If there is a command to keep, a behavior to stop, or a correction to make you do so with bells on. 2011 is especially not the year to be ignorant of the Word, to hesitate when He tells you to act, or to continue obstinately down a direction or path when He has clearly redirected you. This is a year to know the Word and do the Word faithfully and consistently.

Study Center

The Scriptures admonish us to study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Rightly dividing the Word of God and wisely applying God’s timeless and powerful truths to our lives requires more than a few minutes in church on a Sunday morning. Becoming skilled with the sword of the Word of God requires daily, diligent study.

The study center page on my blog is dedicated to providing you with resources from messages recently shared at all Hope Harbor Church sites throughout the area. The actual outlines with Biblical references are posted for your download free of charge. I encourage you to download the files and make the outlines a resource for your personal devotions and study time. You can also go to the media tab at to listen to messages as you follow along with the outlines. Add your own notes and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He directs, corrects, guides, or encourages you in specific areas of your life.

Be looking for the outlines from the entire Dirty Dozen series to be posted this week on the study center page. Blessings to you as you study to show yourself approved.

Refuse to Settle

Some people have the mistaken idea that faith is simply a life of pretend or pretense, but as Jerry Savelle used to say, “Faith does not pretend…faith attacks.” Faith is not tapping your slippers, closing your eyes, and pretending you are not facing a major challenge, setback, or disappointment. Faith does not deny the existence of financial failure, a physical sickness, or a troubled marriage. Faith acknowledges the existence of the issue but then proceeds to attack it with the Word of God and deny that obstinate situation permission to remain. The problem is that the enemy is very good at convincing us to accept limits, boundaries, and fences as unchangeable reality. Everything inside of us as believers should cry out, “don’t fence me in!”

We need to understand that the enemy would love for all of us to live far below God’s best, but I want to encourage you to not settle for less than what God’s Word says you have can have spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Matthew 11:12 teaches us that the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Many assume this refers to an assault by the world or Satan on the kingdom of God. In reality it refers to the aggressive faith-filled stance of the believer to press in to the kingdom of God and everything it offers the believer.

One of the primary reasons Christians fail to live an extraordinary life in God – one that is beyond the usual, extraordinary, noteworthy, remarkable, uncommon, rare, phenomenal, and special – is that they are all too willing to settle. Any voice that compels you to settle for less is of the devil. In today’s blog I want to leave you with some keys that will empower you to resist the devil and and embolden you to refuse to settle for less than God’s best in your life:

First, James 4:7 teaches us what to do with the devil and his suggestions: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” One of the devil’s most effective tricks on the body of Christ is to get us in a position of what I call “non-resistance” to his wiles, schemes, lies, and agenda. If we resist rather than yield, he will have no choice but to flee from us every time.

Second, remember that your past does not equal your future. Let go of past mistakes so that you can reach for what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). It’s hard to press forward for your future when you eyes are glued on the road behind you.

Third, open your heart and life for others to correct you when necessary because open rebuke is better than secret love. A word from a friend that really cares about us in due season can often mean the difference between success and failure. It takes a bold believer to speak into our lives and it takes a humble but sharp believer to listen to and receive that counsel.

Fourth, whatever you do, stay out of the pity party because when you are in pity you are not in faith. When you step in to pity, you step into a pit – a demonic trap of the enemy to hold you back. If we TRULY believe that God’s blessing is on our lives and operating to empower us to succeed and prosper, we would never fall into the trap of the pity party.

Fifth, find out what God’s Word says about your situation. Memorize it, study it, and confess that Word often. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Revelation of God and His Word, on the other hand, bring us to a place of victory and success.

Sixth, accept the call, like Abraham, to be a blessing to others every day. It’s great to confess that the blessing is on you, but we all need to take the revelation of the blessing to the next level and make up our minds to not just possess the blessing, but to be a blessing – to be the kind of believer that empowers others to prosper and succeed.

Seventh, dream the biggest dream of your life. God’s Word says, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams” (Ephesians 3:20, MES). The lack of dreams and small dreaming is what ultimately holds the believer back (not the will or the willingness of our Lord). If you can grasp the dream, comprehend the dream, conceive the dream in your heart, you can see that dream come to pass. Dreams by their very nature take us beyond where we have been before – they are natural boundary breakers and fence crashers.

Finally, trust in the favor of God – that the favor of God is on your life in abundance. The favor of God is kind regard, friendly disposition, support, defense, vindication, promotion, justification, benevolence, acts of grace and good will, advantage, partiality, preferential treatment, and convenience afforded for our success. Favor is when people say, “no,” and circumstances say, “no,” but God says, “yes” (Jerry Savelle). Any believer can tap into the favor of God through faith (Romans 5:2). Favor is vital in hard times because it takes the boundaries and limitations off of our lives and enables us to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

Plugged In

My spiritual antenna is always way up because I am always looking to learn, to grow, and to seize upon an illustration from everyday life that will inspire and challenge us as believers. Often, these concepts just explode in my spirit unbeknownst to the individuals that often times casually share their experiences or insight. I am a life-long learner, and I just love it when I can learn something valuable and apply it in my life and also share it with others (end up in a sermon series, lol).

This morning in our staff prayer meeting one our team members shared that her washer just stopped working. The machine would not fill with water and she mused what the issue might be. Going to the Lord about the problem, she asked for wisdom about what to do to fix and resolve the situation rather than just writing the machine off. She felt in her heart that she needed to check the plug on the washer and when she did she found that the plug was partially unplugged.

Now think about that for a moment. The plug was most of the way in the socket, but because it was not fully plugged in, the power needed to run the washer was not able to get to the appliance. It’s pretty easy to assume that the constant vibrations from the machine (not unlike the spiritual turbulence we face daily) began to dislodge the plug from the wall socket. What a clear and powerful picture of our lives too often as Christians. If we are not fully plugged into the things of God it can have the same consequence as being completely unplugged. If we want His power, energy, inspiration, and wisdom flowing into our lives and giving us the enablement to get the job done, we simply must press all the way in and stay plugged in every single day of our lives.

As you celebrate the end of a calendar year and anticipate the hope of a fresh start in 2011, make sure you inspect your spiritual plug to see that it is fully engaged. Perhaps you were a little short on spiritual force and power this past year and you have some scars and disappointments to prove it. This next year does not have to be a repeat of last year. Make the adjustments and once plugged in properly through prayer, Bible study, worship, witnessing, service, don’t let anything sidetrack, distract, or seduce you away from the source of true power.

Christmas Eve 2010

I want to invite you to attend one of the most special and meaningful services of the year at Hope Harbor Church – our Christmas Eve service. The festive worship service will begin at 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve at all Hope Harbor sites (with the exception of Paducah – click here for directions) and will feature the Christmas hymns and carols you’ve come to know and love, the reading of the Christmas story, a timely and powerful message, communion (all Christian faiths are welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper with us), and carol singing by candlelight.

It would be our honor and joy to have you and your family join us in Murray, Cadiz, Paris, or Hopkinsville for this hope-building and faith-filled Christmas Eve celebration. Remember during this Christmas season that wise men still seek Him and finding Him (being found by Him) is the greatest joy and treasure in life. I hope to see you here!

You are blessed to be a blessing,

Pastor Art

Supernatural Arrest

One of our members at Hope Harbor Church told me about an incident that occurred at the retail store where she works. It seems that a couple, who had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, came to the store to spend the cash and gift cards presented to them in honor of their committed marriage. Apparently, having set her purse down briefly with all the cash and cards in it, someone decided to ruin their special time together by running off with her bag. What was meant to be a chance for this loving husband to bless his wife with some nice things turned into a shocking and heartbreaking nightmare.

The couple was obviously distraught. The elderly bride was sure her husband would have a heart attack over the stress and disappointment of the situation. The police were called, and true to protocol, advised that the credit card companies be contacted immediately to protect the couple from further losses. Leading the charge to not give up but trust God to restore the purse, the fast thinking and quick to believe employee challenged everyone to search for the bag and pray for the bag to be found, contents and all.

After searching for some time without finding the stolen purse, and to the astonishment of everyone, the police officer returned to his vehicle to find that the purse had been placed on top of his cruiser! It seems that the Holy Spirit, in response to the prayer and believing of God’s people, dealt severely with the perpetrator and “arrested” the thief Himself before he or she could take a dime or even get out of the parking lot.

The story reminds me of Saul’s encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus where he was headed to persecute, harass, and arrest Christians. But it was Saul, who would become the Apostle Paul, that was arrested that day by the power and grace of God. Thank God for His mercy that confronts, convicts, challenges, and changes the human heart. As Saul was transformed so many years ago, so our thief was supernaturally visited and arrested and just had to return the handbag to its rightful owner (or at least give it to the cops).

I want to encourage you if you have had something taken in your life to not give up but go to the Lord and believe God for full and complete restoration. Few people, even believers, would stop to ask the Lord to intervene and truly expect Him to do so in a similar situation. The Bible teaches that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Why not go to Him today and ask the Lord to work to restore what is broken or destroyed and return what has been taken? Don’t let your failure to ask be the reason you never see restoration in your life. He is no respecter of persons – but He does respect faith!

Faith on iTunes

I’m excited to announce that the radio Hope Harbor Show and our brand new Hope Harbor podcast called “The HHC Hopecast” are now available free through the iTunes Store. Within two days you will be able to find the podcasts in the iTunes Store by searching under “Hopecast” or “Hope Harbor Show.” Until then please use the links below to find the podcasts on iTunes. You can subscribe to the Hopecast and the first episode will begin to download. Subsequent programs will be downloaded automatically to your iTunes. Now you can download these hope-building programs directly to your computer, phone, or iPod.

Our goal is to make use of every available voice to spread the gospel and the iTunes platform makes the uncompromising Word of God all that more accessible to hungry believers. Let me encourage you to fill your eyes, ears, and hearts with the Word of God like never before. There’s something on you…it’s the blessing

THE HHC HOPECAST (inspiration and encouragement from God’s Word)

HOPE HARBOR SHOW (iTunes version of the radio Hope Harbor Show)

HOPE HARBOR CHURCH (the teaching ministry of Pastor Art Heinz)
iTunes link coming soon…

Where’s Waldo?

Pearl Harbor Day is a day to remember the vicious attack on our country at the naval base in Hawaii December 7, 1941. Our Pacific fleet was destroyed or severely crippled by the surprise attack of the enemy and is arguably the most bloody attack by a foreign power on our soil (with the exception of 911) in our history. We pause today to reflect on the events and to give thanks for the stunned, but quick-thinking servicemen and women who responded immediately and courageously to treat the wounded and rescue those in the water or trapped by the ruins.

When I think about our all volunteer military, I can’t help but notice they are ready in a flash to engage the enemies of the United States wherever they may be. Our forces are quickly deployable and so well-trained and equipped that they are mission ready when the call comes from the President for action. There are times when soldiers go AWOL from their positions of responsibility, but historically the overwhelming majority are always present, on time, and ready to move into position.

Aboard a warship in the United States Navy, the call to “general quarters” is a call for every sailor to prepare for battle. Off-duty, on-duty, and sleeping crew members report to their battle stations and prepare for attack and defensive operations. Each individual has been trained to quickly suit up and get into position. In fact the fate of the vessel and the very lives of the crew depend upon their fluid, professional, unified, and efficient action.

In stark contrast to our amazing military, the modern American Church has no understanding of what it means to take up battle stations and engage the enemy. In fact, Christians by the thousands (regardless of denomination, organization, label, or tag) are simply AWOL from their God-called positions in the body of Christ. Some do not know what they should be doing. Some have not been trained to do their job. Many more have been graced with the knowledge of their call, equipping for that call, but they have not responded to the call of the Holy Spirit to general quarters. The indifference to committed, faithful, and fruitful service in the Church handicaps efforts to reach the lost and directly results in lives lost for eternity, not just the physical life taken on a natural battlefield. To be plain, people are in danger of going to hell because many Christians are not at their battle stations to engage the enemy and rescue the perishing.

The situation reminds me of the old “Where’s Waldo?” books and posters where you try to pick him out of very colorful and busy illustrations. In the sea of dozens and dozens of people doing a variety of strange, unique, or amusing things in a certain location, the job of the reader was to identify Waldo with his striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses, and distinguish him from the “red herrings” placed there by the artist to throw the reader off.

The question can be asked of believers in the United States today – in the sea of people are we easily distinguishable or do we just blend in with a compromised world view, standards, priorities, and ethics? In the sea of people do we stand out because we are actively engaged in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ or do we resemble the background or objects in the illustrations, immobile, inanimate, and lifeless? We can and should ask ourselves, where’s Waldo? – where’s the serious, committed, faithful, rooted, grounded, fruit-bearing, always there Christian?

I want to challenge you to heed the call to “general quarters” and man your battle stations for we are truly at war in this world spiritually. This is not a time for us to be absent, unengaged, listless, lifeless, indifferent, or apathetic. We need to have such conviction of presence that the whole world knows we are here, that we are on the job, that we are at our stations. We do not need our commander and chief asking the angels, “where’s Waldo?”

How can you tell if you are more Waldo than spiritual commando? Waldos, unlike the commandos, are those in the body of Christ hiding from church services, prayer meetings and personal devotions, Bible study, giving and tithing, service, and evangelism and outreach. Commandos act while the Waldos sit in the pew or comfortable padded church chair watching the commandos do everything. Waldo’s have more important things to do like shopping, eating, traveling, watching sports, or just everyday life. Some Waldos search high and low for an excuse to be absent, uninvolved, and detached. Waldo’s, instead of letting children be a strong motive to get to church, use them as an excuse to be absent. Waldos, after engaging the church to believe with them for employment, once employed use that same job as an excuse for not worshipping with the family of God. Waldos are famous for their disappearing act from local churches – all local churches. Despite exiting from even pagan places of employment with the requisite notice for consideration, believers today will simply disappear from their church family with no word or reason. Waldos somewhere developed a warped sense of individualistic centrality believing that the focus of the church should be about serving them rather than being challenged, trained, and encouraged to serve others. Finally, Waldos tend to make commitments but then find every reason in the book why they cannot be faithful to those commitments. From missions pledges to ministry service, the church often has to scramble to take up the slack Waldo creates by being away from his battle station.

It’s time to stop being a Waldo and start being a commando for the cause of Christ. How blessed we are that Jesus was not “missing in action” that day so long ago. Thank God our Christian forefathers were not AWOL when it came time to stand up for religious freedom. The heart of a nation and millions of souls are on the line and we must respond. It’s time to come out of the background, trade in your striped shirt for the armor of God, and man your battle station. Instead of the church wondering where you are – where’s Waldo?, I hope you will say today, “Here am I, send me.”

A Chance and Hope for Change

Hope Harbor Church just completed the final performance of The Gospel According Scrooge. The three night outreach and ministry resulted in nearly 100 decisions for Jesus Christ. I am praising God for the investment of time, energy, and love from the cast, crew, and leadership team, and for His very strong and obvious anointing and blessing on the outreach. This team of volunteers spent literally hundreds of hours in preparation, rehearsals, set building, and promotion. I know that the Lord is pleased and the angels in heaven are rejoicing in the presence of the Father for the souls that have been added to the Kingdom. When all is said and done and we are standing in eternity with the one that bought us all with His blood, the only thing that will matter is what we have done to reach the unreached and tell the untold. We will, of course, take nothing else with us into glory. Thank you all for your part in bringing the hope of a fresh start to many hearts the past three nights.

I also praise God for the successful launch of our new live internet streaming platform that allowed us to broadcast the production live over the web. The internet broadcast was viewed this evening alone by over 300 people including viewers outside of the United States. Technology truly is amazing and the ability to leverage it to spread the gospel locally, nationally, and globally is the greatest possible use of it. With this tool we will begin to broadcast, with excellence, all regular services and share the life-changing, uncompromising Word of God with all that happen to make their way to our site.

I want to say a special “thank you” to Production Director, John Barrett, Choreography Director, Sue Barrett, Drama Director Becky Lile, the cast, the crew, and the hospitality team for their efforts in making Scrooge the most powerful and effective evangelistic Christmas production we have ever had. Jacob Marley, the fictional business partner in Dickens’ classic short story, comes to Scrooge offering a chance and hope for change. Tonight, many people accepted God’s offer for change and a fresh start. Our prayers are with the many who have accepted Christ or rededicated their lives to him. Jeremiah 29:11 promises that the Lord has a bright future for all of them, and for all of us.

As you head toward the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let me exhort you to mindful of the hurt that hides behind many smiles today. Take this message of a changed life through Jesus wherever you go and be extra aggressive to tell people during this season the reason for the hope that is within you. Let us also be mindful that all of us can be a bit “Scrooge-like” in our attitude and demeanor rather than walking in love, kindness, and patience. Decide each day to let the joy of the Lord warm your heart and let the love of God guide your words, actions, thoughts, and attitudes.

The Bad Report

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV).

As long as we live on this earth there are times we’re just going to receive a bad report. Jesus made it plain to his disciples that no one was immune from trouble. But just as certain as trouble would find the believer, the delivering and overcoming power in Jesus Christ would be made available so that we can have trouble without trouble having us. Regardless of whether it’s a family crisis, challenging problem, life-threatening disease, or a lost job, we can decide how we are going to respond. Ultimately, the goal of the enemy through the bad report is to try to maneuver us from our place of faith. The arrival of trouble should be like a flashing yellow light warning us of the devil’s intentions and motivating us to reflect before we react to the bad report.

The onset of a bad report does not make us the freak or the black sheep of the body of Christ. True, sometimes bad reports come because we are unwise. As Forest Gump always said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Most of the time trouble is just the consequence of simply being alive and totally normal. Trouble is common to everyone and its presence in our lives does not make us terrible people. We should also realize that trouble comes because we threaten the enemy with our lives or because we have made the quality decision to live for God in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Remember the words of Paul to his spiritual son Timothy: “Yea, and all those that will live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

The question is not whether bad reports are going to come – they will. The question is how will we choose to respond to them. You see, if we want to be distressed we should look within. Becoming introspective during a challenging time will produce no lasting results and will only increase our anxiety. I learned in college years ago that if I was feeling down or upset to go out and find someone who needs ministry and bless their life. By taking the focus off of ourselves we often alleviate the distress. If we want to be defeated we should look back. Pining over the past with regrets and “what ifs” will cause our certain defeat in the present. If we want to be distracted we should look around. This world offers a new distraction, it seems, every new day. There’s plenty to distract us already with the trouble. We don’t need to go looking around for more to distract us from the things of God. If we want to be dismayed we should look ahead. While there is certainly a place in our lives for looking forward in vision, we have to make sure we are not so focused on the future that we slip into anxiety or worry about what will or will not happen or become dismayed because the future is sometimes slower to manifest than we would like. Finally, if we want to be delivered – to truly be set free – we should look up. Freedom comes in fixing our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and on His Word. When we spend time in the Word of God we are spending time looking to Jesus.

The story of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5 gives us a great example of what to do when the bad report comes our way. First, ignore completely the negative report. Jesus arrived on the scene to a negative word and a great commotion of grief, doubt, and unbelief. He was not moved by the report and if we want to see victory in our lives we can’t be moved by the negative reports in life either. Second, arrest the fear trying to rise up in your heart. It’s natural to feel the fear building in us but we have to make a conscious decision to stop the fear and do what Jesus said – just believe. Third, we need to continue to believe in the one who is with us. Yes, there’s bad news but Jesus is still with us reminding us that he never leaves us nor forsakes us. Fourth, separate yourself from all doubt and unbelief. Jesus would not allow the unbelieving crowd and apparently some wavering disciples to enter into where the child was. Jesus, together with Jairus and a few others, separated themselves from that unbelieving atmosphere. Finally, look for the word of the Lord in the situation. In the midst of the fear, grief, despair, and doubt – in the midst of all the commotion it is sometimes hard to listen for the words of life ready to fall from the lips of Jesus. Nevertheless, we must listen beyond the noise for the words of power and dominion that Jesus has for our situation. One word from God can change our lives forever. The word spoken that day raised Jairus’ daughter from death. The word spoken to us today can bring life and encouragement to our hearts as well.



The Spirit of Confusion

I don’t think I can remember a time when the enemy has moved more powerfully to bring confusion in the minds of believers. Believers today are confused about their relationship with God. They are confused about their place in the body of Christ. They are confused about their world view. They are confused about their priorities. They are even confused about their sexuality. I see believers accepting compromise, lies, and contradictory lifestyles almost with the same reckless abandon as people in the world who claim no revelation of the Word or relationship with God. Since God is not the author of confusion, we can know for certain that the presence of confusion in our lives is evidence of the enemy’s operation against our minds.

It’s as if the enemy has literally lured a large segment of the Church to sleep through spiritual lightness and a strong bent towards personal fulfillment and happiness. Our greatest fulfillment as believers comes as we discern and act on God’s Word and will for our lives. The pursuit of our personal passions, interests, and goals at the expense of the Kingdom of God always results in a feigned fulfillment, hollow because it lacks the substance of the peace that can only come from doing things God’s way.

To be confused is to be perplexed or bewildered. It is to make unclear or indistinct or to fail to distinguish between. The more confused believers become the more indistinct from the world they become. If we maintain the same values and priorities of the world we will find it impossible to (1) distinguish ourselves from the world, and (2) influence the world for Christ. Malachi 3:18 declares, “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” It’s high time we awoke from the confusion least we find ourselves on the wrong side of that distinction as individuals, families, churches, and even as a nation.

Today I want to share a few thoughts about how to come out of that confusion and back in to a place of peace and victory…

First, spend some time specifically in the presence of God and ask the Holy Spirit to expose any area of confusion or compromise in your life. Be ready. Prayers like that are always answered and often the answer goes way beyond what we are prepared to hear. Repent of any wrong motive, agenda, priority, behavior, or thinking. Trust the Lord to put you on a path of personal revival and restoration.

Second, find that Bible, dust it off, open it up, read it, think about what it says, and then make up your mind to do whatever it says. The simple truth is that the more time we spend in the Word the less confusion manifests in our lives. Confusion increases in the mind of believers who systematically fail to put the Word of God in their eyes, ears, and hearts. Confusion is evidence that the believer has been neglecting the Word in their lives.

Third, evaluate who you have been hanging around in your life. One man of God recently stated that we are the sum total of the five people we hang around the most. Think about that. If you are running with people who reject the standards and values of the Word of God it’s just a matter of time before you begin to do the same. Iron sharpens iron and bad company corrupts good character. This means if we hang around spiritual dumb dumbs (or dumb downs) we will begin to think, act, and talk just like them rather than living as the overcoming, powerful, and victorious believers God wants us to be.

Fourth, it’s a little known secret that the healthy and faithful participation in a local body of believers is a powerful antidote to confusion. As you gather together with other believers in praise, worship, prayer, and Bible study, a faulty world view, wrong priorities, and fleshly pursuits begin to melt away. For many, the first step into confusion is to step away from the local church. The reality is that faithful church goers are far less likely to be bamboozled by the enemy than those that habitually absent themselves from the house of God (and no, you are not the exception and if you think you are then you are already confused).

Finally, if you want to avoid confusion, open yourself up to the direct accountability of another strong believer. Give him or her permission to tell you like it is (including the right to kick you in the pants occasionally as needed). There is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors and we all need to grant someone the right to get right up in our face and tell us boldly if we are going down the wrong path in life. One of the reasons there are so many confused believers today is that so few of us allow others to get close enough to challenge our thinking with the Word of God.

Remember the admonition of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:8 – “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” We need to understand that it’s easier to defeat and devour someone if they are first drugged, stunned, or debilitated first. The enemy uses confusion as a means of stunning the believer so that he can move in for the kill. It’s time for believers everywhere to recognize any confusion in their lives and act quickly to wake up and shake it off before the enemy builds in them a stronghold of unscriptural thinking and ungodly living.

Vote the Blessing

I find it interesting in a nation whose founders were composed of a group with diverse backgrounds, occupations, and interests that the media and entertainment elite would attempt to vilify and ridicule candidates all over the nation who do not share their educational pedigree or political ideology. If a candidate meets the local, state or federal requirements for office, he or she should be applauded for being willing to step into the fray to make a difference. I mean really now, how have these well-seasoned and often Ivy League educated lifetime politicians handled our interests? Ironically head knowledge when it comes to public policy rarely translates into common sense or wisdom. Enough said.

As you head to the polls for midterm elections in a couple of weeks I want to challenge you to be “blessing minded” rather than “party minded.” Too many Christian Americans are tied culturally or politically to a robotic loyalty to a particular initial behind a candidate’s name rather than the quality of their character. This year I want to encourage every believer to look for candidates at all levels of government that walk in the blessing or empowerment of God. God’s blessing, a function of an individual’s standing in God, gives one the power to succeed, increase, excel, bear much fruit, and have longevity. Our nation needs God’s super added to our natural and we need men and women with an understanding of what it means to possess the blessing, walk in the blessing, and be a blessing.

With the blessing of God our representatives can turn this nation back to a place where God is honored in the corridors of power. With the blessing our elected officials can begin to receive insights, ideas, and concepts for solving our nation’s economic woes. With the blessing our public servants can perform at a level of understanding, expertise, efficiency, and excellence that is impossible otherwise no matter how well-educated or experienced a candidate may be. Overcoming the complex and challenging issues of our time requires a great amount of humility and a revelation that nothing is too hard for the Lord (as long as the Lord’s counsel on our problems is consulted and honored).

So, as you head to the voting booth this November, remember that it does not matter if the candidates are Independent, Republican, or Democrat. What matters is whether they have the blessing of God on their lives for public service. Listen carefully to their words and observe the fruit of their lives. You won’t be able to discern whether someone has the blessing on their life by listening to the talking heads on cable television (regardless of their political predisposition). We cannot afford to let ideologues of all kinds to demonize or marginalize ordinary citizens who raise families, run businesses, and honor God, and who feel the call to serve their countrymen in this critical hour.

This is a great year for throwing out the professional politicians and electing housewives, farmers, doctors, preachers, teachers, and laborers who will go to the state capitals and to Washington D.C. and do what is right rather than what will produce the most pork or score the most political points. Vote the blessing this year and watch the blessing begin to produce wisdom, solutions, and prosperity once again in this nation.

Silence the Hag

During a recent prayer meeting, one of our staff members told of a dream she had where this old, hideous, hag of a woman repeatedly appeared to harass, accuse, put down, discourage and nag her. I asked her, “do you know who the hag is?.” She replied, “yes, it’s me.” In the dream, the image of the hag revealed its true nature as the individual who had formed a habit of negative thinking and speaking. She had become her own worst enemy and the Lord was trying to encourage her to replace that negativity with the Word of God.

A brief review of the Word of God reveals a God that does the impossible. The Bible boldly declares that nothing is too hard for the Lord. As Christians we are told that all things are possible to those that believe. The Lord has no limits and the force that breaks through all barriers and limits is the force of faith. We, not God, are guilty of erecting fences around our lives and creating boundaries, containment, and limitations. We limit God in our lives with our negative thinking and our negative Words. We must remember that our lives will always go in the direction of our most dominant meditation and confession.

For many of us, it’s well past time to silence and remove this negative and destructive influence from our lives and make the switch becoming possibility thinkers and Word talkers. It’s tough when it seems like everything is against us to stay positive and resist the urge to just “tell it like it is.” But we must remember that Jesus never told us to talk about the mountain – he commanded us to speak to the mountain. Talking about the mountain makes God look smaller and the problem bigger. Talking about the promise and Word makes God look bigger and the problem look insignificant.

So, how can we learn to “silence the hag?” For some of us, the first step is to reduce the number of words we speak daily because we have a habit of negativity and that is not going to disappear over night. I like what one leader in our church said regarding a fast she believed God was calling her to begin – fasting negative words and thoughts. Can you imagine the impact of literally making a quality decision to fast and refuse to think negative thoughts or speak negative words? The impact on our lives would be almost immediate. If we don’t think we can fast negative thoughts and words, we might need to invest in a roll of duct tape.

The second step is to realize that we cannot fight a thought with another thought. We will always lose that battle and prolong our frustration and defeat. No, we defeat a thought by opening up our mouths and speaking the Word. As human beings made in His image, the Lord wired us in such a way that the mouth is the seat of our authority. When we speak Bible words when we are under pressure mentally, the mind will pause to see what the mouth is saying. Over time as we apply this principle, we will begin to see our thoughts as well as our Words change for the better. People might just start to enjoy having us around more often.

The final step is to absolutely fill our hearts with the Word of God. Matthew 12:34 reminds us that our mouths speak as a consequence of the overflowing of the heart and we determine what we put into our hearts by what we take in our eyes and ears, and by what we say. What goes into the heart through the eyes, ears, and mouth ultimately spills out in the form of words that indicate what we truly believe. Change the content of our hearts and we will change the content, nature, and quality of our words.

Let me encourage you today to realize that it is your responsibility to police your own thought life and compare what you are thinking to the Word of God. When you see your heart and mouth going down the wrong road, immediately jerk the slack out of your life by choosing to think the thoughts of God and speak the Word of God. It won’t be long before you forever silence that hag in your own life.

Trash Day

Trash day comes early Friday morning at our house. We know the trash truck is going to come by in the morning, scoop up our city issued container with its claw, dump the contents into the truck bin, and drive on to the next house down the road. Each Thursday evening before we head off to sleep we empty every trash can in the house, fill the container, and then move the trash buggy to the curb for pick up the next morning. There have been times that we have forgotten about the trash. Hearing the truck in the distance, we scramble to collect everything and get the trash to the curb before we miss the truck. No one wants to deal with garbage hanging around another week until the truck returns.

I stumbled onto an interesting portion of Scripture recently while reading through the first chapter of the gospel of Mark that deals with a different kind of trash – the spiritual variety. The account refers to the ministry of Jesus Christ in Galilee as he proceeded from synagogue to synagogue to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom of God. It seems that in every synagogue he came to he had to serve as the spiritual trash man getting rid of the garbage that had accumulated through years of spiritual neglect in the synagogue system.

In Mark 1:23 the Bible mentions that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue and in the course of the meeting a demon possessed man began to manifest – not in the street – not in the market place – but in the synagogue itself. Later in v. 39 in a summary statement regarding the ministry of Jesus the Bible states that he “traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” Apparently, the gathering place for the people of God had become so contaminated that the standing orders for Jesus at each location were to preach the gospel and drive out demons. When Jesus showed up, it was trash day and wherever he went he took out the trash.

It’s amazing to think that demon possession was this common AMONG the worshippers IN the synagogue system. With such a spiritual vacuum, however, it is understandable that the enemy would capitalize on the situation and move in with his influence. Fortunately in the local church we don’t have that big of a gaping hole because of the sanctified many that have experienced the new birth. But what we may lack in actual possessions (and yes I have had to personally deal with this as well in the Church), we more than make up for with other kinds of spiritual trash lurking in our hearts and homes. Just like Jesus, we need to be diligent to speak the Word over our lives and our homes and drive out anything that is impure, unholy, or unprofitable. Just like Jesus, let’s remember to regularly take out the spiritual trash in our own lives.

2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV – “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Heavenly Perspective

Life often seems ridiculously complex and many times beyond our understanding. We get so busy with our lives down here on the ground and become consumed with the tyranny of the urgent, the grind of the day’s business, the treadmill of extracurricular activities, and even the ongoing responsibilities of ministry, we forget the big picture of a big God who reigns over the universe. From down here life can seem random and out of control.

But from above the calm of the Heavenly Father calls to remind us all that in the end, the Word of God still stands, the sun is still shining, and the clouds that pass overhead today will continue to do so long after this life is through. It kind of throws in sharp contrast the importance we place on the problems we face in our everyday lives on earth. As we take a glimpse upward we are immediately struck with the awesomeness of our God and the eternal plans He has for the world and for us individually. We are stressing over matters that are little more to Him than a brief fog on a cool fall day quickly burned away and never to be remembered again.

Let me encourage you take the time to just stop and look up on a partly cloudy day and take in His majesty, glory, and creativity. A short glance upward can bring a heavenly perspective that makes your journey here an adventure and a joy rather than a drudgery. Listen to the voice of God’s creation and remind yourself of who you are in Christ and where you are headed – that you are part of something huge, magnificent, and endless.

Psalm 19:1-2, NIV – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

Watch What You Put In Your Mouth

The Arizona Diamondbacks baseball club recently celebrated the contribution of one of its greatest ball players, Luiz Gonzales (better known as “Gonzo”), by retiring his number August 7th. Gonzo literally stole the World Series’ ring right off the Yankee’s fingers when he hit a dinky single against Mariano Rivera to drive home the winning run in game seven of the 2001 World Series (the franchise’s only championship). Gonzales, a fan favorite for his performance on the field and his community involvement off the field, is the only player to have had his number retired by the relatively young Arizona club.

The rest of the joyous evening was played out four hours away in Show Low, Arizona where my Dad was watching the jersey retirement ceremony on television while eating some chicken noodle soup and oyster crackers. Wanting to take in every moment of this historic D-Backs event, Dad was glued to the television until his hearing aid stopped working. He took the device out of his ear and placed it on the television tray and continued to eat his dinner while watching the festivities until he accidentally scooped the hearing aid up with some oyster crackers and, “crunch.” Just like that he had bitten his $1500 hearing aid into pieces.

That was arguably the most expensive cracker in the history of mankind. After my Mom stopped laughing at him she mused that maybe even God was feeling sorry for him over the whole eating your auditory device thing. I told her no – this is so funny that even the Lord was laughing about it. (It’s almost as funny as the time my Mom, under medication for some health issues, took the dog out to go potty only to realize that she took the leash without the dog, or the time she sprayed scrubbing bubbles on her hair instead of hairspray). I might have understood if the hearing aid device was your typical flesh color, but this one was blue! Now that’s baseball fan devotion!

The humorous story reminds us how important it is to watch what we put in our mouths naturally and spiritually. We are what we eat and it’s what we put before our eyes and allow into our ears that shapes the condition of our lives spiritually. If we are walking around in fear and doubt, it’s because we have been feeding on those things that produce doubt and fear. If we are walking around in faith and victory, it’s because we have been feasting on the Word and presence of God.

Make up your mind today to think about what you are watching, reading, listening to, and hanging around. Remember iron sharpens iron and bad company corrupts good character…and hearing aids have no nutritional value and cost too much to eat…

Mocha Poo (another lesson from a six pound poodle)

While enjoying our family dinner the other night I noticed that Peepoo had performed her K9 disappearing act once again. This usually means she has found something sweet, chewy, or chocolatey in the trash or conveniently left on someone’s bed or even night stand. Sure enough, Peepoo had dug through our bedroom trash and discovered an empty Starbucks cup with a few precious drops of “bottom of the cup” mocha chocolate and coffee.

I don’t think I’ve ever known a dog that had a keener sense of smell for chocolate or greater passion for scrounging up even a small taste of it. When it comes to chocolate, she really has a revelation of what it means to seek. What if we as believers sought the Lord the way the little fur ball seeks out the sweet stuff? What if our spiritual senses were so trained to pick up even the slightest indication of the Lord’s presence that beckons us to pursue Him?

The Bible declares boldly that we will find the Lord if we seek for Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:12-13). Amos, speaking prophetically for the Lord, said, “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4). This Scripture means that we are to seek and require the Lord as one requires food. Unlike the temporary buzz derived from varied pleasures, possessions, and legal stimulants like the cafe mocha (don’t say anything but I know a staff member at Hope Harbor Church that plans travel routes based on Starbucks locations), the Lord imparts eternal and ongoing life as we seek Him and connect with Him in vital living union and contact.

The key to perpetual and uninterrupted intimacy with God, spiritual growth, blessing, and well-being is seeking God fervently and consistently. To “seek” means to visit frequently, to inquire of, to quest for, search often for, learn from, resort to (what you always turn to), and hunger after (God will always fill us in direct proportion to our hunger). No one seeking God is ever turned away empty-handed. Isaiah 55:6 tells us to, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” When King Uzziah sought the Lord he was successful, but when he turned away in self-sufficiency, self-promotion, and human pride he lost everything (2 Chronicles 26).

I want to encourage you to make the Lord your number one vital need in your life from this day on. Vital means “pertaining to life” and includes such needs as oxygen, water, or food. Because Jesus is our life and literally the source of our life, we should seek the Lord more diligently than we would for any natural vital need. Take your cue from a six pound poodle who tirelessly pursues the source of even the slightest hint of chocolate in the air and go after the fragrance of the Lord’s presence like never before.

Be the One

My Aunt Ginger was recently given some terrible news. After sensing something was not right for some time, doctors discovered a lemon sized tumor in her brain. The prognosis is that, according to what they know about the nature of the cancer, she has a 1% chance of survival. Her only option in the natural is to undergo chemotherapy and radiation because the tumor is inoperable. What struck me after returning from a visit with her at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri (one of the best in the nation), is that for the percentage chance of survival to be correct, someone had to survive. We usually immediately begin to see ourselves in the group with the worst chance – we are part of the 50% that will not get there or the 99% that will not make it. But there must be one to go with the ninety-nine that do not recover. Well, since someone has to be the one, I’ve decided that Ginger should be the one. One might say that this is not realistic but I would counter by saying that unless we stand up and fight for our loved ones we are going to lose for sure. Our only chance for victory is to fight. Like a prize fighter in the boxing ring we can’t win unless we get in the ring and stay in the ring punching as well as taking punches. The champion’s belt ultimately belongs to the one that perseveres. No one ever wins by throwing in the white towel or climbing out of the ring!

Our family learned that the Word of the Lord is more sure than the word of even a world-class hospital filled with world-class physicians. John 12:38 says, “Lord, who hath believed our report and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Back in the early 1980’s my Dad was told that he was afflicted with a rare, incurable disease that up to this time had killed each and every victim diagnosed with it. Ignoring the zero percentage prognosis, people all over the country began to pray for his supernatural healing because there was little man could do for him in the natural. Over thirty years have come and gone and he is still very much alive. Yes, he had tremendous healthcare, a supportive family, and a strong can do attitude, but the praise and glory belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ who made my Dad the one that changed the statistics on this dreaded disease forever.

The Bible is filled with stories about the “one” that received when it seemed like no one else was getting a breakthrough. Jesus taught of leaving the ninety-nine sheep to pursue the “one.” Psalm 91:7 tells us that 11,000 comrades in arms can fall all around us while we stand. One thankful leper was made completely whole when, unlike the other nine, he returned to give Jesus thanks. One sick woman touched Jesus and was made whole. One woman was provided for in the midst of a famine in Elijah’s day. One leprous Syrian general received healing from leprosy in Elisha’s day. One criminal on the cross next to Jesus repented while the other criminal on the cross (and the crowd below) blasted him with insults. The Lord’s care, attention, and compassion for the “one” is well-documented in Scripture. Jesus cares about even one – so why not be the one?

I want to encourage you to be the one by spending time in the healing Scriptures. As you do your faith to fight will grow. It’s not easy to maintain the spirit of faith for healing when you are the one being punched, but the key is to keep the healing Words of Jesus going in your eyes, ears, and coming out of your mouth in abundance (See: Psalm 103:1-3; Exodus 15:26; Acts 10:38; Matthew 4:23; and Luke 5:13). I want you to be the one who confesses always, “I am the one.” Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death. In the same breath we can call ourselves the ninety-nine percent or the one percent that receives the miracle. Say it loud and say it repeatedly – “I am the one.” I want you to be the one who receives the prayer of faith. Mark 16:18 reminds us that, “they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” James 5 exhorts the believer to call for the elders of the church to anoint the sick with oil and pray the prayer of faith with the expectation that, “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” Finally, I want you to be the one that thanks God now for the healing. We are told to give thanks in (not for) everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Philippians 4:6 says, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Thankful people stand out from the crowd of ungrateful people in the world today and grant the Lord even greater access into their lives to make them the one. May you, too, be the one!

Return to the Word

“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV). “Do not let the book of the Law depart from you mouth; meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8, NIV).

Our world is filled with voices that all try desperately to catch and arrest our attention. Most of these voices are destructive influences that push us away from the Lord’s values, standards, priorities, ways, and mission. Day by day, we are subtlety sucked in to a mindset and lifestyle that is inconsistent with God’s Word and a mindset that produces boundaries and limitations while promising freedom and liberty. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seem right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” This is not the day, the season, or the time to be doing what “seems” right. This is a day to know and do what is right.

The true voice of freedom, liberty, and life is the voice of the Word of God. John 8:32 declares, “Then you will know the truth, and truth will set you free.” We can always tell what is dominating our thought lives by whether those influences are producing possibilities, clarity regarding the path and plan of God for our lives, and freedom from man made and developed limitations. The world and its twin brother known as religion, restricts, limits, binds, and holds us back. The heart of the believer cries, “don’t fence me in!” The world and its system of religion that rejects the revelation of the Word of God as the highest reality and authority in the universe, claims liberty but by its very nature can offer nothing but boundaries. It is the Word that ultimately opens the gate and knocks down the fences in our lives.

This is a day to return to the Word of freedom like never before. Regardless of our situation and circumstances, there needs to be a renewed and rekindled passion for the Word – reading, studying, memorizing, confessing, and obeying the precepts of God. If our bodies are hurting we should return to the Word. If we are scared or confused we should return to the Word. If we are discouraged or depressed we should return to the Word. If we have been wounded or hurt emotionally we should return to the Word. If we are up or down we should return to the Word. There is no voice or influence in the universe that can anchor the soul like God’s Word no matter what we are going through.

It’s time to become a Joshua 1 believer – the one that stays focused on the Word of God day and night. The degree to which we stay on the Word is the degree to which we will walk in victory and liberty. Joshua was told that his success in life would be directly dependent upon what he does with the Word of God. John 8 reminds us that only believers that “continue” in the Word will actually tap into its power for freedom. One by one believers today are being peeled away from the house of God, the presence of God, and Word of God rather than continuing in God’s Word. Return to the Word of life today and rediscover the stability, joy, liberty, and power of being a Word person in the midst of a myriad of confusing voices and influences. Let the Word of God do for you what it did so powerfully for Joshua.

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!

The Spirit of Cursing

Many people today in the body of Christ have come to the realization through revelation of the Word of God that the Lord cares about every area of our lives. Consistent with John’s desire that we prosper and be in health even as our soul prospers (3 John 2), faith has begun to rise up in the hearts of believers to take the limits off of God and what He can do in our lives. Truly He desires to empower his people spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally, and financially. The key, according to John, is that we first prosper spiritually.

The message of the abundant life in Christ is exciting and hope building, but as in every benefit that God desires to give to His people, there are conditions that must be honored. The prosperous soul requires that we yield to the Lord body, soul, and spirit. It also requires that rogue parts of our lives come under His dominion and Lordship. One of the most significant limiting factors in the life of the believer is the failure to submit the mouth over to the Lord.

It’s so easy to curse or just let words fly from our mouths without realizing that we are called to be a blessing. To curse means to say something bad about. To bless means to say something good about. The Psalmist noted the habitual destructive misuse of the mouth is actually an indication that the individual is walking in a “spirit of cursing” declaring that “He loved to pronounce a curse – may it come on him; he found not pleasure in blessing – may it be far from him. He wore cursing like a garment” (Psalm 109:17-18). The spirit of cursing, rather than the spirit of faith, joy, and love, begins to be the dominate spirit or deportment about this individual. The problem of course is the one predisposed to cursing others finds that the same curse seeps into his or her own life – “it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.” We truly do reap what we sow and if we don’t want to reap the curse in any manifestation we must careful to use our tongues to bless others rather than curse them. If we curse we will be cursed. If we bless we will be blessed.

The enemy’s goal is that our hearts become wounded as a result of being cursed. The psalmist said, “my heart is wounded within me” (Psalm 109:22). There are many ways to curse someone (not cuss at them) such as negativity, criticism, lies, slander, deception, or gossip, but the purpose is the same – to worm its way into the consciousness and the heart of the believer to compromise their spiritual health.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of evil communication, don’t allow that to get into your spirit. Take seriously the counsel of the Psalmist when you are under attack and focus immediately on two spiritual disciplines to counter and prevent the curse from taking root in your heart. First, take the situation immediately to the Lord in prayer: “In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer” (Psalm 109:4). In prayer the Holy Spirit will work to keep your heart tender and forgiving. Second, return immediately to the Word of God so that you can maintain an inner image of what the Word says about you rather than one produced by the destructive communication. Psalm 119:69 declares, “Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep you precepts with all my heart.” You can’t help what people do or say but you can determine your own reaction and that reaction should include a speedy return to the Word of God.

The good news is that no one can curse you when God has blessed you unless you allow that to enter into your heart. Get into the habit of casting destructive words down to the ground and commanding them to die and bear no fruit in your life. Take authority of words meant for your hurt, wounding, and destruction. Meditate on the powerful words of promise and hope from Psalm 109:28 that remind us all that the blessing of Abraham has been restored to us and cannot be compromised just because of a negative, critical, or biting comment: “They may curse, but you will bless…”

Mission to the Crescent Moon

“But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.” – President John F. Kennedy, Rice Stadium Mission to the Moon Speech, September 12, 1962.

There is much I would not have had in common with President Kennedy had I lived during his presidency. His values and priorities differed from mine in many ways. But one thing I treasure from his time in the White House was his clear and exciting vision for space and space exploration. Kennedy tapped into and managed to execute some fundamentals of vision casting that the current administration should discover. For example, the vision must be huge (beyond anything we have ever attempted), compelling (able to capture the imagination of the masses and foster enthusiasm), focused (limited in its scope), time-based (a deadline for the goal must be set), and functional (matching the vision to a particular resource that can functionally accomplish the vision). Further, any great leader must possess the ability to see the vision, communicate the vision, allocate resources in the direction of the vision, and then persevere until the vision becomes reality. But it all starts with a bold vision and one that complements an entity, group, or agency rather than contradicting it.

This past year we saw the gutting of the greatest space exploration agency in the history of the world. Gone are the days of visionary leadership reflected in Kennedy’s historic speech on our national adventure to reach the moon. My own niece, after pursuing a graduate education for the express reason of serving within NASA and becoming decorated for her efforts together with her team, lost her job in the fray. Would we realistically shoot for Mars or set any other grand vision for NASA and our great nation or would some other purpose be established for our space agency that has been the envy of the world for fifty years?

Well, the answer is in. This past week the NASA director in the Obama administration revealed to news organizations that his chief goal for NASA, as directed by Obama, is to reach out to the Muslim world to encourage them for their contribution in math and sciences. Huh?!? I’m really starting to feel like Alice in Wonderland here trying to figure out how this agency would be pushed so far out of its charter to become the personal ambassador for Islam under this administration. Could you imagine if a sitting president made the NASA director’s top goal to reach out to the Jews or strengthen ties to the Vatican? President Kennedy cast a vision for a mission to the moon while our sitting President pushes a mission to the crescent moon.

I don’t like the socialistic bent of this administration, the out of control spending, the propensity to apologize on behalf of our nation for every ill ever known to man, or the shady back door deal making and intimidation that would make G. Gordon Liddy blush. But I (at the risk of going Glenn Beck for just a moment) simply cannot stand by and watch the ridiculous redirection of our nation’s agencies and resources to further an Islamic agenda when they should be activated for the accomplishing of a function that is consistent with the agencies’ stated purpose and resources and consistent with our long-term interests as a nation. We must pray for the eyes of our leaders throughout the nation to open to the reality that we are in a spiritual war that manifests itself as a cultural, political, or military war. This revelation will go a long way to slow our national descent down the slippery slope of false expectation and appeasement.

Cow Bells and Stingrays

If Busch Stadium, home of the St. Cardinals, is “baseball heaven” (and the faithful certainly believe that) then the indoor Tropicana Field, home of the surging Tampa Bay Rays and built in the shape of half of an orange, could be called baseball he**…never mind. Tampa Bay has come from near dissolution as a baseball franchise to contending with the Yankees and smacking the Red Sox all season long. Now as they head into the second half of the season they are poised to take their division or most certainly the wild card spot and a place in post season play. The point is that despite the great season they still lack a suitable stadium and overall cohesive marketing strategy.

In fact, to attend a Rays game (as Tim and I like to do when in the area) is to be bewildered by the competing and contradictory series of sounds and images that have become Ray baseball. For example, the expansion team was originally called the “Devil Rays” but after years of losing and a management shake up, the term, “devil” was dropped from the name (I could have helped them with that one). The facility, the uniforms, and the team were all given a facelift. Today the image of an exploding star with rays of light shooting everywhere seems to be the new image of the club. This apparent attempt to transition the team away from marine life is contradicted by the small pool of stingrays visible just to the right of center field. Further, throughout the game it is common for the crowd to suddenly break into a chorus of cow bells to support the pitcher as he tries to throw the third strike, or to support the hitter in a clutch situation, or to show appreciation for a good play, at bat, run scored, or home run.

So, let me bring it home for you. The Rays play in a stadium designed in the shape of a fruit and wear a star on the front of their uniforms while stingrays swim in the outfield and the fans play cow bells all night. Confused? It’s a good thing the Rays have some amazing pitchers, fielders, and hitters this year to counteract the effect of the ballpark atmosphere. In fact, the natives of the coast are just happy to be winning period.

It seems to me that the Church is a lot like the Rays ball club. Despite all the books, blogs, magazines, and media shows that constantly tell us all how bad the Church is and how everything we do is wrong, the Church worldwide continues to grow. People are born again, bodies are healed, families are restored, and hope is renewed. It’s amazing when you think about it. Our facilities may not be all that, our marketing may make 5th Avenue cringe, and we too may have some seemingly contradictory sounds and images, but yet we keep winning because we have God’s super added to our natural. We have been given grace clothes as a uniform. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we have the best players in the world.

Like the Rays, I think the Church should work on unifying and standardizing its message to be more effective. We too have our “cow bells” to contend with. While we strive for excellence, though, let’s pause to thank the Lord for what He is doing in us and through us. Let’s pause to make a list about what the Church is doing right while we address what can be improved.

Covenant of Ink

“Where there is no revelation [of the Word of God], the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law…If people can’t see what God is doing they stumble all over themselves. But when they attend to what He reveals they are most blessed” (Proverbs 29:18, NIV, MES).

There was a time in the this great nation when the integrity and centrality of the Word of God was not questioned, debated, or vilified, but gladly and openly recognized, accepted, and celebrated. Our country’s revolutionary and constitutional documents were so heavily influenced by the Scriptures that one can actually find portions of sermons lifted verbatim and inserted into the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, one does not need to be a lawyer to notice right away that the moral law of our land has been directly influenced by the ancient moral code of the Bible. Unfortunately the enduring covenant words of the Most High God set in motion through the blood of Jesus Christ are being systematically replaced with an ever-changing covenant of ink that is marginal in its authority and easily and frequently manipulated

Today, vast numbers of Americans have no understanding of the history of the formation of these documents and how central the Word of God was to their development and adoption. Today, it is common to see a great ambivalence and even disrespect for the Bible. For sure, the high degree of authority the masses once gave to the Scriptures is missing in today’s post Christian America. With this decline in respect for the Word, we have seen a distinct decline in the manifestation of the blessing. As Proverbs 29:18 indicates, the more attention and honor we give to the Word, the more blessed (empowered to succeed and prosper) we will be.

There are four basic levels of respect that people in this nation give to the Word of God. I want to discuss each level to demonstrate where we have come from and where we need to return to if we want to see the blessing of the Lord on this great land again. The key is for all of us to come to the place where the Word has the highest degree of authority and respect. The more we recognize and honor the integrity of the Word of God the more victorious our lives will be. Conversely, when people reject, limit, or marginalize the authority of the Word of God in their lives they set themselves up for confusion and ultimately defeat.

First, many people today see the Word of God as “relative” these days. By relative I mean the authority they give to the Word is dependent upon external conditions, input, or opinions outside of the Word of God. In other words, there are no absolutes. These individuals may see a small portion of the values and morality of the Bible as relative to their lives but for the most part they reject the authority of Scripture opting instead to be the sole basis of right and wrong themselves.

Second, there are people who see the Bible as “somewhat authoritative.” They would agree that many aspects of the value system described are binding and important like the biblical prohibition on murder or stealing and the mandate to love one’s neighbor, etc. On the other hand, these folks have certain special areas of life they see as off-limits to biblical authority. They buy into some false reassignment or interpretation of Scripture to justify thinking or behavior that contradicts the Word.

The third level is made up of people who have historically viewed the Bible as “inerrant.” This means that they believe the Scriptures in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek autographs or manuscripts are completely without error. The sad truth today is that even Christians are backing away from this high view of Scripture to adopt a less authoritative view of the Word. In fact, one major evangelical group with a long track record of believing in the inerrancy of Scripture has only two Bible colleges left out of dozens that still boldly push inerrancy. The problem is that when we open this door we give license to individuals with terminal degrees deciding what parts of the Bible are accurate and which parts should be set aside. Imagine that, a man or woman thinking they have more intelligence than the author of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, simply because they have some letters behind their names.

The highest view of Scripture, however, is the understanding that all Scripture, regardless of testament or type of literature is “covenant language” and as such is sacred, binding, and irrevocable. This view of Scripture embraces inerrancy, accepts the commands, and makes a faith-based demand on the promises and the terms of the covenant that God, by his own volition, will, and sovereignty entered into with man. The Lord said in Psalm 89:34 says, “I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.” When we view the Bible as covenant language we have a strong conviction about the nature and character of God to honor His Word and great confidence that if we keep our part of the covenant we will tap into the covenant promises of God.

It doesn’t take you long to see the high place we have fallen from as a people – from seeing Scripture as covenant language to viewing the Scripture as nothing more than a moral suggestion – from a covenant of blood to a covenant of ink. For those of you that want to honor God and to see God’s best in your lives, make every effort to return to the high view of Scripture and develop a dogged determination to obey the principles of the Word of God and hold on passionately and diligently to the amazing covenant promises in the Word. Make up your mind today to make the Word of God first place and final authority in your life. This means the Word is the first place you go to for counsel and the final authority and influence once you know what God’s Word declares about a matter.

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.”

Mouse in the House

The Word teaches that the Lord has an expected future and hope for all of His people. It is common for some believers to hold onto a religious mindset when it comes to the plans of God for his children thinking that such a destiny is only for a few select believers. But without a doubt the Lord has prepared a path for all of us. Ephesians 2:10 (AMP) states, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those things which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” All believers have a specific plan and path for their lives and on that path we find our call, our vocation, our marriage partners, our blessing. God has already strategically placed everything we need to accomplish His will on that path and if we just keep going we will run right into His power, supply, and goodness.

Of course if we choose not to take God’s path we can never live the “good life” that the Lord has planned for us. He will never force us to take the path prepared for us in advance. Even if we take that path there are weights, hindrances, and things that can slow us down from walking in God’s best and fulfilling our destiny. The Bible says, “… let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, AMP). It’s clear that weights as well as sins will keep us from our destiny. We know that sin is anything that contradicts God’s standard revealed in His Word for our lives. Most of us know if we are tolerating some sin or compromise in our lives. We need to understand that the sin we tolerate will overtake us and ultimately compromise God’s best for our lives. Weights are not necessarily sins but they are behaviors, attitudes, and practices that are non-profitable. They are slowing us down, keeping us back, and in fact can cause us to slip behind or even take a wrong turn. Weights, just like sins. have the ability to stop us from reaching our full potential in God.

Many individuals in the Bible compromised their future because they refused to make the needed course corrections or adjustments. Adam and Eve gave up paradise for a piece of fruit. Cain gave up the life of his brother and his own wellbeing and peace over an offering. Ham lost the blessing of his father because he could not keep his mouth shut. Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of soup. Saul gave up his Kingdom over a few choice sheep. Samson gave up his future for sex. Gehazi gave up the prophetic anointing for some clothes and money. Judas traded his eternity for a few pieces of silver. Nothing was so great and valuable that it was worth the loss of God’s best in the lives of these individuals.

I taught a class in our Bible college not too long ago helping students to put together practical Bible messages. One student in her message told the humorous story of a mouse in her house. Her words perfectly illustrate the tension between what we need to do and our reluctance to do it:

“On two separate occasions I made a half hearted attempt to kill a mouse in my house. I was hoping he would just go away. I had to remind myself that they are destructive, filthy rodents that multiply quickly and carry diseases. I couldn’t continue to ignore it. The mouse appeared again another day wounded from my previous blow. We first prayed for God to heal it then debated whether to throw it in the fire or the field. Weeks later the Lord spoke to me about this incident. He said we make half hearted attempts to rid ourselves of things that are displeasing to Him. He said sin, like a rodent, is filthy and destructive and if left unchecked, multiplies and carries diseases such as apathy, and hardness of heart.” – Colin Royal

Take an inventory of your life today. Are you tolerating sinful or hindering words, thoughts, or practices in your life? If so, you have become your own worst enemy. The Lord desires to use and promote every believer but we are not promotable when we are clanging and hobbling slowly down the path of God trying to carry all sorts of baggage. It will be very difficult for us to arrive at our destination with all that extra weight. What are you willing to give up God’s best and destiny for in your life? What is more important to you than God’s blessing, favor, and perfect will? I encourage you to cut off every sin and every weight, get on your path, and complete your course. In the end, it will not be the devil, the Church, the pastor, the teacher, our parents, our spouses, our kids, our employers, religion, or the world that will keep us from tapping into God’s best for our lives – it will be our refusal to cut off the things that are hindering us. There’s absolutely nothing in your life that you are holding on to right now that’s worth losing the blessing in your life. So find the mouse and get it out of your house.

God’s Thoughts on Sex – Part Two

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders…” (1 Corinthians 6:9, NIV). “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4, NIV).

Our culture has been on a downward slope of moral and sexual compromise for over forty years. The removal of the Bible and prayer from public schools together with the sexual revolution has resulted in a potent combination of influences that have forever changed the moral landscape of our nation. The over sexualization of our culture has led to the wholesale acceptance of several types of sexual compromise. From the former President of the United States, to U.S. Senators, Congressmen, businessmen, school teachers, and ministry leaders, the new sexual morality of anything goes has produced destruction in countless lives. Because of the rampant devastation I will be intentionally plain in my blogs about God’s Thoughts on Sex because Christians should be getting their moral training from the Word of God and the Church and not from the world. It seems Christians will gladly welcome every vile thing from the world but bristle when Christian leaders speak boldly and plainly about the topic.

There are many forms of sexual compromise and deviance (which suggests obviously that there is a standard defining what is deviant – and there is – the Word of God) but I want to briefly discuss four that have permeated our society. First, pornography, the sexual stimulation through media, print, and the imagination, has become a multi-billion dollar industry and is at the root of the destruction of lives and marriages (in and out of the Church) all over the nation. Job said he had made a covenant with his eye not to look at a girl in lust (Job 31:1). Jesus equated illicit sexual fantasy with the actual physical action of adultery. Pornography perverts healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors, victimizing those involved in its production, and enslaves and ultimately destroys those snared by its allure.

Second, promiscuity, sexual stimulation before marriage, has to be clearly defined because young people especially think that if there is no actual penetration than they have not been promiscuous. The reality is that any sexual stimulation before marriage is promiscuous behavior including intercourse, oral sex, humping, fondling, and petting (See 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; 10:8; Ephesians 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3). Exacerbating the problem is the fact that there is little to no shame associated with promiscuity and virtually no accountability. On the contrary, the virgin or morally pure man or woman is made to look like a freak in today’s media for holding to the “ridiculous and unrealistic” notion that abstinence can really work.

As most cultures throughout time and around the world, adultery, the sexual stimulation by or with someone in a marriage covenant, is still viewed by many as out of bounds even though the majority of men and women in America, it is said, either have or will commit adultery in their lifetime. We need to revisit the Scriptural admonition once again that warns us that to engage in this behavior is violent in its destruction to marriages and homes and results in a shame that will never be wiped away (Proverbs 5:1-5, 11-18; 6:27-33; 7:21-27). Because sex is a covenant act that confirms the sacred oath between two married heterosexuals, adultery is the highest and most egregious form of betrayal in a marriage relationship. A man once told me who had over twenty affairs on his wife that his problem was an inordinately high testosterone level. The issue with adultery is not blood testosterone levels but character level born out of a conviction that human sexuality is sacred and covenantal, not animalistic.

Finally, homosexuality, the sexual stimulation with someone of the same sex, is clearly denounced in Scripture and no amount of creative Bible interpretation can change that truth. From the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:4-9), to the clear list of unapproved sexual behaviors in Leviticus 18, to the warning in Romans 1:26-27, homosexuality is a perversion of God’s standard for human sexuality which is good, heterosexual, marital, purposeful, holistic, temporary, and covenantal. It is important to remember that Jesus never set aside the moral and sexual code in his teachings. In fact, he tightened the screws when he said that sexual sin starts in the mind and the heart rather than in the body.

The sexual libertarians and allies have produced a fairly sophisticated strategy and process (with evil spiritual inspiration for sure) for influencing the culture to accept sexual sin and perversion in response to the voice of biblical morality. The first step is rationalization – that is the ones practicing the sin begin to make excuses and demand tolerance for their life choices. The second step is desensitization where the culture plays down, jokes about, and portrays the sin in a favorable light in media, etc. The third step is indoctrination or the deliberate attempt to win the hearts and minds of the next generation through misinformation. This is being accomplished today through the courts, the schools, and through liberal theologians who are altering biblical interpretation to fit the cultural demand for indoctrination. The final step is vilification or the systematic attempt to marginalize the standard (the Bible) and those that proclaim the standard (Bible believers) calling good evil and evil good. It’s usually at this point that the world, the activists, and the liberal church begin to chime in with protests labeling the believer with traditional moral and sexual values as narrow minded, bigoted, out of touch with reality, ignorant of their creative Bible redaction, judgmental or homophobic. But the ire of the spirit of this world does not and cannot change the integrity and authority of the Word of God that makes plain the true and holy nature of human sexuality.

In my third installment of God’s Thoughts on Sex I will be outlining a simple strategy for building a firewall to protect yourself and your family from the sexual onslaught in this nation. For now, make up your mind that you will take a stand for traditional moral values and that no amount of vilification by this world will force you to back down. We need the body of Christ to raise its voice like never before. We should not allow the world to fill the vacuum of knowledge for our children and people, but we should be intentionally and bluntly speaking the truth in love and boldly teaching God’s thoughts on human sexuality.


“But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great distress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear] (2 Timothy 3:1, AMP). “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed…There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation” (2 Timothy 3:14, MES).

It’s no secret that challenging times are upon us socially, politically, economically, and spiritually. During seasons like these it’s tempting to try to discover some new secret for getting through tough times. But the Apostle Paul warned his spiritual son Timothy that the key to overcoming the distress that would come in the last days is what he had already received from the Lord. He told him to continue in the things that he had learned. That was good advice then and it’s good advice now.

Jesus shared this powerful and life changing truth with some unsuspecting Jews (John 8). As a result of his preaching and teaching, the Bible says that “many put their faith in him” (v. 30). But Jesus made it clear very quickly that believing was not enough to experience the freedom that is available in the Lord. He taught them that they needed to go beyond belief to actually holding to or continuing in his teachings. This would be the key to being a disciple and the disciple is the one given revelation of the Word and that revelation is the key to our freedom. “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (v. 32). They quite naturally bristled at the assertion that descendants of Abraham were ever in bondage to anyone (even though one could probably hear the Roman occupation forces not too far away). Jesus told them that sin made them slaves but, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 36). Jesus was and is offering the opportunity for those that believe, continue in the Word, walk as a disciple, receive revelation and act on it to be just as free as he is free!

The key, therefore, to not being fazed in this tumultuous day is to continue in the things we have learned. 2 Timothy 3:1 from the Message says, “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed.” Just like the world, many believers will be unnecessarily fazed meaning “to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted,” not because the times are impossible to bear, but because they allow the circumstances and challenges to push them off the valuable Word they have learned, known, and walked in before the storm came. 2 Timothy 3:1 from the Amplified says that the times are “hard to deal with and hard to bear” but not impossible to deal with or bear.

In the midst of the hard times we can choose to be fazed or we can choose to continue in the things we have learned and that which has brought us this far. Jerry Savelle, one of the most balanced and clearest communicators of the lifestyle of faith I know, shared several principles for continuing unfazed in the midst of tough times. I hope they encourage your heart today.

  1. Stay focused on what God says. During challenging times its easy to start paying more attention to the problem and the many voices of compromise. The difference between success and failure at a time like this is what you pay attention to the most. This is a time to zero in on the Word of God like never before.
  2. Stay in faith. We need to continue actively applying our faith to the situation. Often and sometimes with little notice, we tend to back off from an active and aggressive stand on the Word as it pertains to our situation. We become passive believers and kind of just sit back to see what happens. Keep your faith fresh and your believing active by expecting God’s promise to manifest today.
  3. Stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is willing to guide us even in the small details of our lives if we will listen. During tough times it becomes even more important that we are not pushed around by our emotions are pushed off the Word of God because of fear, disappointment, or frustration, but directed by the calming voice of the Spirit of God.
  4. Stay aggressive in your sowing. We need to remember that the blessing is on the tither and the key to our harvest in our life is our giving. One of the first things to go when we are under the gun emotionally or financially is our giving, but we need to remember that when we stop giving we cut ourselves off from God’s supernatural power (Malachi 3) at a time when we need that power the most.
  5. Stay consistent in your confession. There’s just something in all of us that compels us to just want to tell others how bad  things are going. We need to keep our mouths on the Word of God especially in adversity. We do well for a while and then another wave of setbacks or hardship comes our way and we stop talking the Word and start speaking the problem. Consistency is the key to victory in every spiritual battle. Make up your mind that you are going to speak the Word over your situation no matter what you feel, see, or hear.

God’s Thoughts on Sex – Part One

Isaiah 55 makes plain the tendency of people to adopt and maintain thoughts on every subject that are contradictory to God’s thoughts. Our job is to allow the Lord to identify those erroneous thoughts by His Spirit and the Word of God and then cast them down or reject them (2 Corinthians 10:5). The Scripture teaches us that we are what we think so if we think wrong thoughts we will live wrong lives. Ungodly thoughts or thoughts that contradict God’s thoughts in any key area of life will certainly limit us and hold us back, and in some cases, utterly destroy us.

One of those areas is clearly the area of human sexuality. The minds of believers, just like the world, have been polluted by the over sexualization of our culture. The thoughts of the enemy and the world have invaded the Church so that one can scarcely differentiate the attitudes of the world on sex from the attitudes of those that claim to be born again Christians. For example, 65% of Americans excuse sex outside of marriage, 33% believe premarital sex among teens is acceptable, and only 49% think homosexuality is wrong. In the Church, a whopping 28% think pornography is alright and 35%, that’s over 1 out every 3 Christians, think sex outside of marriage is acceptable. You have to wonder what kind of “born again” they got and what kind of Bible they are reading (if they are reading one at all).

Ephesians 5:1 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” The life of the believer must not contain even a smidgen of sexual compromise but be the bulwark against the encroaching tide of sexual lawlessness in the land. So much is riding on our ability to turn the tide around. Every major culture in the history of the world has lost its power and position due ultimately to sexual immorality. The prevalence, acceptance, and defense of sexual immorality is evidence of the decline and influence of that culture like our Western society today. Literally every aspect of our culture has become sexualized and if history is true, that does not bode well for the West. The Church must stand up and be wiling to take the heat for choosing to believe and espouse a traditional and biblical sexual morality.

The biblical morality on human sexuality is plain and forthright: First, human sexuality is good so make sure you have a healthy attitude about sex (Genesis 2:5). Second, human sexuality is heterosexual so understand that sex is exclusively between men and women (Ephesians 5:31). Third, human sexuality is marital so get married if you want to have sex (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible boldly stays that the marriage bed is undefiled but sexual immorality will be judged. Fourth, human sexuality is purposeful. Like everything else God created, sex was created with purpose as well so understand sex is for (1) companionship, (2) procreation, and (2) pleasure with no apology because God made it so (Malachi 2:15). Fifth, human sexuality is holistic so realize that sex binds and links human beings physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually (1 Corinthians 6:16-17). Sixth, human sexuality is temporary – that’s right, I didn’t stutter. Jesus taught that in heaven we are neither married nor given in marriage but we are like angels (but not angels), that is we are asexual in our glorified bodies so don’t throw away your eternal life for just sex (Matthew 22:29-30). And seventh, human sexuality is covenantal so know that sex is something that seals the covenant of marriage. Married sex is the only sex endorsed by God. Sex is a covenant act that reminds the married person of the covenant and strengthens the covenant (Malachi 2:14-17).

Obviously by taking a stand in support of traditional values regarding human sexuality we open ourselves up to the scorn, ridicule, and persecution of a world that chooses to ignore and marginalize God’s thoughts on sexuality. But choosing God’s agenda has never been popular with a world at odds with God’s standards down through history. Perhaps we have been caught napping expecting that our nation would return to the days of Ozzie and Harriet if we just closed our eyes and wished it to happen. Those days have passed and our job now is to stand up and speak up because if the enemy manages to silence the Church and the pulpit he has effectively shut down the last line of defense to this nation plunging into a sea of total moral degradation.

Follow along in future blogs as I discuss areas of sexual compromise in the United States, the process of how our culture was influenced to embrace and accept sexual sin, and how to build a firewall to protect yourself and your family from sexual compromise. It is time for the body of Christ to push back on this societal plague with the truth of God’s Word.

Instrument Flying

All pilots understand the difference between visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR). Any licensed pilot can fly when conditions are consistent with good visibility but only IFR certified pilots can fly without visibility by looking at the instrument panel (or the heads up display of a few fortunate airlines and military aircraft) to monitor vital information like the pitch, altitude, and air speed of the aircraft. VRF certified pilots are not even allowed to fly through cloud cover but the pilot qualified for instrument flying is cleared to fly in all sorts of weather conditions, but only if that pilot is qualified in that specific aircraft for low visibility flying or to fly by instruments.

This was precisely the case when the thirty year veteran captain of Flybe flight 1431 turned his plane around and headed back to Cardiff International Airport after announcing to his befuddled passengers that he was not qualified to land the plane in the fog by instruments in Paris. His employer stood behind the pilot’s decision saying, “He has relatively recently transferred his type-rating from a Bombardier Q300 to a Bombardier Q400. He has not yet completed the requisite low-visibility training to complete a landing in conditions such as the dense fog experienced in Paris Charles de Gaulle. The captain therefore quite correctly turned the aircraft around and returned to Cardiff, a decision which the company stands by 100 per cent.” While inconvenient for the passengers, the pilot saved himself certain prosecution and possibly the lives of the passengers by honoring the rules.

Sometimes life is the same way. It’s easy when we can see everything and fly by sight. But quite often, we do not have our bearings because fog or stormy weather has moved in to obscure our perception and our vision. It seems those clouds roll in at the worst possible time just like flight 1431. The Scripture also speaks of a skill to fly by instruments rather than visual observation. In fact, we are told that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The lifestyle of faith is the prescribed way to fly or live out our lives. Like pilots pursuing instrument flying certification, the believer too enters training to develop the ability to discern by faith what is not discernible to the natural senses.

Let me encourage you to pick up your flight manual, the Bible, today and spend some valuable time learning how to interpret your situation through the eyes of faith. The Word of God is our “heads up display” providing all the vital information we need to navigate us safely to the destiny the Lord has for our lives. Just like the Flybe pilot, the foggy, cloudy, stormy condition is not the time to find out you don’t have the rating (or faith) you need to get the job done.

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.

Spiritual Justice

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7-8, NIV).

Micah 6:8 plainly expresses the will of God for His people. We are all called to further the cause of justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God. Humility is not debasing oneself in the name of religion but to fully submit to the dictates, principles, commands, and yes, even the promises of God. To reject the Word is pride. To submit to the Word is true humility. The person who loves mercy is a person who longs to see the distress in the lives of people alleviated rather than rejoicing for the obvious consequences of the choices they have made. Mercy, the Bible says, triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). But what about this concept of justice? Is the Lord talking about criminal justice, economic justice, or social justice? Actually the Lord is talking about a justice that supersedes all other concepts of justice – spiritual justice.

You see, Jesus went to the cross for our redemption and paid the price for our sin and rebellion. Justice was served through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is unjust for a person to stay bound in sin when they have embraced Jesus Christ. It is unjust for us to stay sick, depressed, oppressed, condemned, broke, in bondage, or filled with shame because blood has been shed. In other words, it is a violation of God’s sense of spiritual justice to put up with anything that Jesus died to redeem us from as God’s people. To do justly, as Micah expressed it, is to do everything we can to inform and help people tap into the marvelous consequences of God’s justice wrought through the blood of Jesus. We all should be righteously indignant when the enemy tries to rob us or the people of God from that justice.

We see a wonderful example of this in the life of King David (2 Samuel 9) when he reached out to be a blessing to Mephibosheth, the son of his covenant friend Jonathan. David quizzed his servant Ziba to find out if there was someone from the household of Saul still around so that he could show covenant kindness to them (intentional and overt assistance and favor bestowed because of covenant). Ziba found Mephibosheth who had been dropped and crippled early in life and was now living in the land of Lo Debar, a dry, barren, lifeless, dismal desolate place of shame, despair, and no pasture (contrast that with Psalm 23 where the shepherd provides green pastures). Lo Debar is a place of broken dreams, lives, and bodies where many people figuratively live to this day. It’s interesting to see how David enforced the blessing for this man that everyone seemed to forget about (but not God).

First, Ziba was instructed to fetch or violently remove this man from Lo Debar in the name of covenant and bring him to David. He was to literally retrieve Mephibosheth from physical devastation and bondage. In David’s mind no covenant child of God should be living in Lo Debar. He should be living in God’s Kingdom. This principle speaks of the practical, physical restoration that comes from God’s blessing. It’s amazing how the Lord can literally pluck an individual out of a corrupt and destructive environment and set them back on the path of life.

Second, Ziba was instructed to restore everything that had been lost by his family. All of Saul’s possessions, his lands, goods, and properties, were to be restored to Mephibosheth, and his lands were to be farmed as well to produce crops and sustenance for the son of his friend Jonathan. The blessing also works in our lives in this way to bring material restoration. The devil, the world, and religion do not like it much but the Lord truly empowers His people materially because of covenant. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “…for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant.”

Finally, Ziba was told to bring this Mephibosheth to David’s table so that he would always dine with the King. This speaks of God’s spiritual restoration in our lives. This man who had lost everything in life including his father, grandfather, lands, wealth, possessions, respect, and health, had been rescued from Lo Debar and now brought to the table reserved for royalty. He now looked like royalty, smelled like royalty, spoke like royalty and sat at the table of the King himself who treated him as a son. That’s our God. No one transforms lives like our God.

Maybe you can relate to Mephibosheth today. When David received him, Mephibosheth, filled with shame, asked David, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me? (2 Samuel 9:8). Ironically, his name meant, “he scatters shame,” or “destroying shame,” or “exterminator of shame.” In thinking about what the Lord had done for him, despite the setbacks and hardship, it’s obvious that he lived up to his name in the end. All shame was stripped from his life through the justice and mercy of God. It was spiritually just for David to show kindness to Mephibosheth, enforce the blessing in his life, and remove his shame. By the same token it is just for you to be shown covenant kindness as well. Blood has been shed so that you too could have all shame exterminated from your life.

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?

Some Kind of a Law Man

Several years ago my then seven year old son Tim and I went out to Arizona for fall break to visit my parents. The highlight of the trip was a train ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. Before boarding one of the last steam engine trains in operation in the country, the production company put on a short western skit depicting an outlaw threat to the train and its passengers. During the show, one of the “outlaws” caught a glimpse of Tim’s prominently displayed marshall’s badge, gun, holster, and cowboy hat. As we boarded the train we were warned that there might be an attempt to “rob” the train and law men were the first to “get it.”

Sure, enough, about midway to the Canyon horses and riders approached and the train came abruptly to a halt. The outlaws boarded the train and made their way back to where we were sitting. One of them made his way down the aisle pulling his coat back to expose his side arm. Tim, eyes as big as saucers, slowly pulled off his badge, gun, and holster, and placed them in his hat and said, “Here Dad, you hold on to these for me.” Trying hard to not laugh, the outlaw approached Tim and said, “You some kind of a law man?”

Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s requirement for justice. Blood was shed for our redemption and now we have forgiveness and right standing with God through Jesus. Because the price was paid, we are redeemed from the curse of the law and the blessing originally mandated by God for His people has been restored. This means that the law of the Kingdom of God is that God’s people be forgiven, restored, healed, delivered, and provided for. It is a violation of God’s law and justice for a believer to continue to live below the standards of the blessing. Therefore, it is unjust for God’s people to continue to put up with the antics, lies, and destruction of that outlaw known as Satan.

As believers, we have been deputized to enforce the blessing in our lives, in our families, in our churches, and in the world in general. Just like Tim’s encounter with the train robber, the enemy moves to intimidate and suppress anyone armed and anyone with authority to stop his killing, stealing, and destroying. In the heat of the moment sometimes we can forget who we are and what we have been empowered to do. Our job is to stand in that authority and release the blessing through the anointing of the Holy Spirit as the disciples did before us (Matthew 10; Luke 10). Just like the train robber, the enemy is more bark than bite. In fact he is a defeated foe that likes to play dress up to scare God’s people into submission and defeat.

Let me encourage you to stand in the authority the Lord has given to you as a believer. Get in the habit of blessing others everywhere you go because you can be sure that what they usually get daily is cursed. When the enemy comes up to you and wants to know if you are some kind of law man, don’t hide your badge and gun but stand up boldly and make an arrest in Jesus’ name. The Scripture tells us that whatever we bind (forbid) on earth will be bound (forbid) in heaven (Matthew 18). We have veto power over the work of the enemy so let him know it’s time to pack up his saddle and go back where he belongs.

Burnout Prevention

I recently came across this backhanded and satirical approach to preventing burnout in your life and ministry by Christian leader Scott Crouchenour (say that name five names real fast). His article is called, “How to Burnout in 5 Easy Steps.” I will share some interactive thoughts underneath the following article:

Staying strong is overrated. All this talk about avoiding the wall? Hooey. You were born to burnout. You were meant for serving weak. Want a quick way to burnout in ministry leadership? Here are 5 easy steps:

Seek Unforgiveness. Someone hurt you lately? Cool. Here’s what you do: Hold a grudge. That’s right. Don’t give in to the temptation to be the weaker one. Keep steady. Better yet, give them the silent treatment. Yeah! It will teach them a lesson and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Pursue Passionlessness. Ask yourself this question: “What ministry fuels my passion?” Got your answer? Good. Now do something (anything) that is the opposite of your answer. Do the thing that is a total drag for you. Give it your all. Seek the boredom. Revel in the difficulty. It will annoy those around you and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Engage In Prayerlessness. Got prayer concerns? Want to touch the heart of God? Want to seek and sense His will for your life? Forget it. You’re looking to burnout, right? Good. Then cut ALL prayer from your routine. Don’t pray in the morning. Don’t pray when you’re stressed or sad. And don’t pray when things are going well. Think of the time you’ll save.  It will grieve the Holy Spirit and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Be An Impostor. Are you introverted by nature? Be extroverted. Are you methodical? Be spontaneous. Are you a people person? Then be a recluse. You have to understand that being yourself is simply going to keep you from burning out. So don’t be yourself. Better yet, try to be just like someone else. It will irritate your loved ones and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Over-identify. In your work with others, you will feel their pain. This is good. Dwell on it. Identify it so deeply that you begin to feel responsible for it. This will give you ownership of their pain, as though you were the cause. You will sink in the quicksand of their misery. You won’t be able to help them because you’ll be so depressed yourself. This will help others become co-dependent and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

So you see, if you are interested in burning out, it’s quite simple really. Just follow these 5 easy steps and we’ll see you in rehab!

In response to this thought provoking article, let me encourage you to (1) Be quick to forgive. Remember that holding on to bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die; (2) Focus on what you are passionate about. While it is true that we all have to do things that do not thrill us, for the most part you should be focusing on those areas that energize you and are life-giving; (3) It’s time to seek the face of God like never before. Burnout is accelerated when there is no living contact because time in God’s presence is the number one vital need for the believer. How long can we live without oxygen? We won’t live long without God’s breath in our lives as well; (4) Reject any influence to be anything you are not. Throughout history, God has used all types of personalities to do great exploits in His name. Focus on walking in love, compassion, integrity, and authenticity. As one theologian has said, “preaching is truth through personality.” Work on the weaknesses of your personality but allow the Lord to use the unique person that you have become; and (5) Remember that you are not the savior and you are not to take responsibility or ownership for the poor choices of people or the pain they experience in life. We are called to bind up the wounds and help heal hurting hearts but we cannot if we become codependent in the relationship or the enabler.

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.

Act Like a Wigglesworth

If you’re reading this post today you might be wondering, “What’s a Wigglesworth?” Smith Wigglesworth was a 20th century revivalist from Britain – an individual the Lord used in extraordinary ways including personal soul-winning, countless healings, and documented resurrections from the dead. What’s interesting about Wigglesworth, illiterate until his wife Polly taught him to read using the Bible, is that he was a master plumber who loved the Lord, but his wife was the preacher in the family ministering through the flourishing Salvation Army movement. It is reported that he could barely get through two to three minutes in a sermon before he would break down in tears and ask someone else to complete the message.

But all that changed when Smith received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Polly challenged Wigglesworth on his new doctrine and experience saying that she too was filled with the Spirit but without tongues. “I have been preaching for 20 years,” she asserted, “and you have sat beside me on the platform. But on Sunday you will preach yourself, and I’ll see what there is in it.” She thought given his track record with public speaking that this was the perfect test of his claim. The late Gary McGee (former professor of church history at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) described Polly’s reaction to Smith’s transformation: “The next Sunday he entered the pulpit and, prompted by the Spirit, preached from Isaiah 61:1-3: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings….’ The bold and fluent preaching that came forth startled his wife as she sat in the back of the mission. Speaking in a voice loud enough that everyone around her heard, Polly sputtered, ‘That’s not my Smith, Lord; that’s not my Smith!’ “

The prophet Samuel explained to a young Saul that an amazing transformation would happen to him. He told Saul that he would be changed into a different person when the Spirit came upon him (1 Samuel 10:6). Like Saul and Wigglesworth, the Lord desires to first transform us by the Holy Spirit and then use us as a vessel and tool for transforming the lives of others by our Spirit empowered witness and the signs that follow such a bold, faith-filled witness for Jesus Christ. What an amazing testimony that day: “Lord, that’s not my Smith.” God desires that every believer would also stun their wives, husbands, relatives, children, friends, and coworkers with a similar transformation.

Even though Smith did not write any books (the books about him and his ministry were recorded and compiled by others) and we do not have the benefit of his powerful messages in bulk on tape, he did leave a legacy of how to walk in a similar anointing before the Lord. He was asked once the secret of the power that operated and flowed in and through his life. He shared three vital principles or keys and I want to share them with you today in this blog because I believe that if we will do what he did, we can see similar results. Wigglesworth also believed this to be true. So, here’s how you act like a Wigglesworth:

First, in addition to being born again, Smith taught and modeled that the believer needs to be literally saturated and immersed in the Word of God. In fact, he would not allow the newspaper in his house opting instead to spend his time in the good news. It was the exception for Wigglesworth to go very long without either reading, quoting, preaching, or thinking about the Word of God. His nose was always stuck in the Bible. Today with so many believers, the exception is to get into the Word. The norm is to fill the time with anything other than reading and studying the Word of God. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If we want to become faith giants like Wigglesworth we must act like him and become fanatical about our Word intake.

Second, Wigglesworth was transformed by the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the corresponding ability to speak in tongues. Wigglesworth was an advocate of spending vast amounts of time praying in the Spirit. He often equated “praying without ceasing” with the use of his heavenly language. Some Spirit-filled believers never learned the value of prolonged and protracted tongues speech thinking that this ability was simply a physical marker for the baptism in the Holy Spirit to be used occasionally if moved to do so. Wigglesworth understood that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, praying in the Spirit (Jude 20). He knew from experience that the more he prayed in tongues the more sensitive he became to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the more fluid he was in preaching, and the more results he saw as a result of his ministry. If we want to act like a Wigglesworth we need to begin to speak in tongues more than ever before. Let’s desire to be like the Apostle Paul who declared that he spoke in tongues more than anyone. No wonder Paul and Wigglesworth has so many similarities in their respective ministries.

Third, Wigglesworth taught that the believer that desires to flow mightily in the things of the Spirit must pay careful attention to personal holiness. He believed that the continued separation from the world and separation unto God positioned the believer to be a vessel unto honor that the Lord could use. The holy man or woman could be trusted with the precious anointing of the Holy Spirit. Paul told Timothy, contrary to some religious and traditional teaching, that the individual believers, not God, determined whether they would be wood pots, clay pots, silver pots, or gold pots. The choice to be used in a powerful way – to be a vessel unto honor – is the decision of he believer and not the Lord. Paul wrote, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). We too can be used like a Wigglesworth if we will act like a Wigglesworth and make personal holiness and the diligent maintaining of a sensitive conscience the highest priority in our lives.

I want to encourage you to spend more time in the Word, to actually use your prayer language all the time, and pay attention to the things you allow in your lives. The Lord knows we need more Smith Wigglesworths in the world today. Any volunteers?

Smart Moms

Motherhood is one of God’s greatest gifts to the world. In fact, motherhood is a revelation of certain aspects of God’s divine nature. This means that distinct characteristics of His nature are specifically endowed into the hearts of women to bless their children with the character and goodness of a gracious and loving heavenly Father. This does not mean that the Lord of Glory is female or that He is both male and female. That erroneous teaching is the result of extreme liberalism and the literal butchering of some (so-called) modern translations of the Bible. The feminization of God is the result of the encroachment of pagan religious concepts in the mainstream of today’s post-Chistian culture (and beyond the scope of this specific article).

Nonetheless, we see God in any mother that is normal, adjusted, and functional in five key areas. First, we see God’s unconditional love in motherhood. This is the “no strings attached” agape love of God that will spur a mother to love her child no matter who they are or what they have done. Second, we notice God’s unending nurture in mothers. The care and compassion of a godly mother is unparalleled in any other earthly relationship. Third, we observe God’s untiring intercession in motherhood. Moms are always standing in the gap for their children in prayer and in practical every day ways. Fourth, mothers, like the Lord, offer undeterred protection. One would be better off tangling with an angry grizzly bear than to mess with mom. I remember one crisp Friday night at a football game in Illinois. A group of punks surrounded my brother during the game after one of them ran up and jump kicked him from behind. Unfortunately for him (and the mob), my 5 foot 3 inch mom was standing nearby and saw the whole thing. The next thing I remember was this kid dangling in the air by the collar and a plain clothes police officer trying to protect the kid and mob from my mom! Finally, with the hardest job in the world hands down, we see in the mother God’s unselfish service. The Scripture says that God never slumbers and most moms seem to work around the clock tending to the needs to everyone but herself. There ought to be a Mother’s Day every month.

According to Titus 2:3-5, all women have a mothering role to play in that they are to teach the younger women to live godly, productive, and pure lives before God. Many women will have their own children to mother but given today’s moral and ethical decline, there has never been a time when we need women to reach out and be smart moms (engaged, godly, functional, excellent) to their kids and those that have no one to nurture them. Perhaps the greatest description of the “smart mom” is found in Proverbs 31. The smart mom is a person of noble character and great value (which means guys you can’t really afford her), completely trusted by her husband, hardworking, a giver, proactive, an asset to her husband, thrifty, confident, wise, a good manager of the household, blessed by her family, obedient to God, and greatly consequently rewarded. This description may seem odd to a culture that has been bent on redefining the precious and powerful role of the mother, but today we praise God for women who care more about the opinion of God than what the world thinks of them.

In looking at the Scriptures we can find examples or many smart moms and some that were not so smart. I want to share some principles from their lives for being a smart mom.

  • Smart moms influence dads to obey the word and not violate it (Eve, Genesis 3:6).
  • Smart moms believe the promise of God instead of laughing at it (Sarah, Genesis 18:12).
  • Smart moms turn their backs on wickedness rather than pining for it (Lot’s Wife, Genesis 19:26).
  • Smart moms keep their hearts free from bitterness (Job’s Wife – “curse God and die,” Job 2:9).
  • Smart moms dedicate their kids to God (Hannah – 1 Samuel 1:11).
  • Smart moms make room for God in the home (Shunammite Woman, 2 Kings 4:10, 36).
  • Smart moms know how and when to shut other men down (Bathsheeba, 2 Samuel 11:2-5).
  • Smart moms come down on God’s side (Rahab, Joshua 2:14).
  • Smart moms do not care what others think about them (Sinful Woman, Luke 7:36-43)
  • Smart moms know how to hear from God in tough times (Widow at Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:9, 13-16).
  • Smart moms dream dreams for their kids (Mary, Luke 2:51).
  • Smart moms balance service with personal devotion (Luke 10:38-42).

Make sure you show honor and appreciation for your mother and all the mothers. We would all be lost in this dark world without God’s love shining through their hearts to all of us. Moms, thank you for all you, thank you for being smart, pure, compassionate, and godly, and thank you for giving us a true glimpse of the heart of the Father.

The Enforcer

Genesis 1:28 reveals the original heart and mind of God towards his people. His will is and always has been that His people would be blessed. In fact, the very first words ever spoken to a human being were words of blessing. “To bless” means to say something good about or to empower someone to succeed. “To curse” means to say something bad about or empower to fail.

Because of sin, the blessing was replaced by the curse. But through the work of Jesus on the cross, the blessing was restored: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 3:13-14). Despite the reality of the restoration, there are three limiting factors preventing us from walking in the fullness of the blessings: First, some people do not know that God desires to bless them and as Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Second, some folks do not believe that God wants to personally bless their lives and so they receive according to their faith. Third, many that know about the blessing and believe that God wants to bless them think that all they have to do is sing Kum bay ja and everything is just going to happen automatically in their lives. They forget that they have an enemy who is still very much active and uses his devices (as previously discussed: distraction, discouragement, deception, disowning, destruction, and discrediting) to squash the dream and stop the blessing.

The truth is as believers we must enforce with our faith and spiritual authority the blessing that Jesus died to restore. To enforce means to keep in force or compel obedience by force or compulsion. For example, even though Jesus forgives and gives us the gift of righteousness, the enemy works overtime to convince us that we are nothing more than black-hearted sinners and weak worms of the dust instead of the righteousness of God. We have to stand in the truth, believe, and confess that we are the righteousness of Christ until the sin consciousness is replaced by a righteousness mentality. If we are not willing to stand up and fight the fight of faith regarding the promises and benefits of God (including the blessing which is the root from which the fruit of manifestations come from), we simply will live far below the level God intended for us to live.

Consider some powerful covenant men of God in the Old Testament who learned that although they were blessed of God, they had to enforce the blessing when the enemy tried to steal from them. Abraham went after the marauding enemy that took Lot and his possessions and recovered everything and then some. He didn’t sit down in the dust and say, “well that’s the way the ball bounces.” Isaac, with the full force of the blessing, just dug new wells when the enemy kept confiscating (and stupidly filling the wells during a famine) the wells of his fathers. Because of the blessing Isaac could discover a bountiful flow of water in the middle of a dry season but he had to stand up to tap into the manifestation of the blessing. David too refused to take what the enemy was dishing out and after asking God what to do, pursued the Amalekites after they sacked Ziklag and ran off with his people and goods. He could have sat down in depression and resigned himself to his lot. After all, the men were so mad that they talked of stoning him. But David encouragement himself in the Lord and enforced the blessing in his life.

I want to give you some principles today for enforcing the blessing in your life. You are just as blessed as Abraham, Isaac, and David.

First, enforce the blessing with boldness. The Lord tells us to enter that new and living way when we are in need. We are told to come boldly to that throne of grace to receive mercy (alleviation of distress) in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Without that boldness we will just shrink in intimidation over what the enemy is doing and fail to address our case through prayer and intercession

Second, enforce the blessing with faith. The victory that overcome the world is our faith (1 John 5:4). We need to maintain the spirit of faith and believe that we are receiving the promises and recovering what is stolen from us as well. We must stand in faith and believe that we will see the manifestation of the blessing in every area of our lives because faith is the key to receiving anything from God.

Third, enforce the blessing with power. The Bible says that the kingdom of God suffers violence and that the violent take it by force. This means that the those that tap into the kingdom are vigorously pressing forward or that the kingdom is violently advancing and no obstacle to its advancement will be tolerated or successful (Matthew 11:12).

Fourth, enforce the blessing with action because we know that faith without works is dead. Like our fathers in the faith, we too must rise up and act if we want to walk in the fullness of the blessing (James 1:26). The real evidence that we believe God is that we are moved to action in the direction of our faith. Many believers fail to receive God’s best because they fail to act.

Fifth, enforce the blessing with words. We know that the seat of our authority is the mouth (Proverbs 18:21). Jesus taught us plainly (Matthew 18) that we have the ability of binding and loosing and that whatever we bind on earth (forbid) would be bound (forbid) in heaven and whatever we permitted or allowed on earth would be permitted or allowed in heaven. What amazing authority God has given the believer! How do we operate in this binding and loosing power? We do this with the words of our mouth. From now on when you see the enemy trying to suppress the blessing in your life rise up and deny or veto that operation and at the same time begin to declare that you allow and permit by faith the blessing to fully manifest in your life.

Think of it this way. Our government at every level empowers peace officers to enforce the laws of the land. If an officer observes a crime in progress but chooses not to restrain the activity or the criminal we cannot lay blame to the mayor, the governor, or the President. We need to make sure our police enforce the laws or get men and women who will. It’s the same way in the kingdom of God. The Lord has deputized his body with authority over the enemy (Matthew 10; Luke 10) and we need to stand up in that authority to restrain what is unscriptural and permit and encourage what lines up with the Word of God. Remember you are not only blessed – you are empowered (anointed) to enforce that blessing.

The Seed Thief

Like everything else the Lord does in the earth, He uses a seed to accomplish great things in us and through us. The seed contains and possesses not only the nature of what is to be grown but the full potential of its future. When the Lord made humans He endowed them with some very special gifts that I like to call “Genesis Gifts” or gifts that the Lord has given to mankind at the very beginning indicating not only God’s favor but his divine will for man. We have, from the very beginning, been given God’s image, life, dominion, and seed which allows us to determine and impact our future by the seed that we sow, for everything in life (not just plants and animals) reproduces after its own kind.

Believers are also given hope or life dreams as a seed. That seed comes in the form of God’s thoughts or His Word deposited in the ground of our hearts (Mark 4) that when retained despite trouble and persecution (which according to Mark 4 comes as a direct result of the deposit of that seed in the heart) will produce a harvest. The insight of Mark helps us to understand that the very seed of the dream is also the bullseye or target that the enemy uses to come against that same dream. Ironically the more Word we receive the more of a target we become. That seems counterintuitive and counterproductive on the surface but we must remember that although challenges come because of the Word, it is that very Word that births the dream and brings the dream to reality if we do not faint. As Galatians 6:9 declares, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The enemy is a master at stealing the dream seed from the hearts of believers and provoking them to quit under pressure. The bigger and more aggressive the dream the greater the level of pressure. The Lord only knows what human contribution and impact has been lost forever simply because those given great dreams could not seem to stand up under the enemy’s constant schemes to influence believers to shrink back and throw down their faith (Hebrews 10:35-30). The writer of Hebrews admonishes, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Satan is after our confidence in our ability to hear from God and act on His Word and uses several devices to accomplish his agenda.

First, the enemy uses the scheme of distraction to divert us from focusing on the dream and on to challenges, circumstances, opinions of others, and a litany of emergencies and urgent situations. It is impossible to walk in and fulfill a God-given dream without focus and the enemy knows that all he has to do is keep dust perpetually kicked up around us and we will soon become sidetracked and forget all about God’s mandate for our lives. Like Martha, we sometimes get so distracted by the good that we fail to pursue God’s best (Luke 10:40). The key to maintaining focus is revealed by Mary’s behavior in this same Scripture. When we focus on our relationship with Jesus we are more likely to stay focused on the mission.

Second, the enemy, through the scheme of pressure, setbacks, and opposition, frequently shuts the believer down with discouragement. It is telling that the Lord spent so much time directly encouraging Joshua at the beginning of his ministry and leadership: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers” (Joshua 1:6). Discouragement is the loss of courage, and faith is in fact spiritual courage. When discouragement moves in, the motivation and drive to continue fighting and believing God disappears.

Third, the enemy is the master of deception. As the Father of lies (John 8:44), Satan is a master at the scheme of deception. From the conning of Adam and Eve in the garden to the seduction of Judas at the close of Jesus’ ministry, the enemy knows exactly how to distort our perception with half-truths and down right lies. The antidote, of course, for his deception is the truth or the Word of God. People who spend quality time in the Word are much better equipped to recognize and reject the schemer’s attempt to pull us away from the dream of God through deception.

Fourth, the enemy understands all too well how important is is for human beings to feel like they belong. Rejection, or the scheme of disowning, is one of the most powerful tools in his arsenal to neutralize a believer’s impact in this world for Jesus Christ. By invading the sacred area of human relationships and inspiring various parties to reject one another, Satan effectively demoralizes us and pushes us into a fog of introspection and self-questioning trying to determine what prompted the rejection. The lack of understanding just adds to the feelings of pain. Jesus was familiar with rejection and since he bore rejection on the cross (Isaiah 53:3) together with the sin, sickness, and shame, let’s be quick to reject this device designed to immobilize us in a day when the Lord needs us up and running. What matters most is the fact that God loves and accepts us and if people reject us, they just don’t know what they’re missing.

Fifth, we know from John 10:10 that the devil is a destroyer. In fact the Scripture says that he comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Through the scheme of destruction, the enemy attempts to take advantage of every situation to bring devastation into our lives in the the hope that we will falsely accuse God, doubt His Word, and reject His plan for our lives. This tool is made even more effective by the fact that many of God’s servants unknowingly preach that God, rather than the enemy, is behind the stealing, killing, and destroying. What a racket Satan has going. Wreak havoc in the earth and in the lives of people and then lay the blame at God’s feet. This is a criminal’s dream come true. But once the antics of the enemy are exposed and the believer understands that the Lord is good and does good (Psalm 31:19; Acts 10:38), the enemy’s days of destruction in our lives are numbered.

Finally, if the enemy fails to take us out through distraction, discouragement, deception, disowning, or destruction, he will do everything he can to discredit us with an all out attack on our credibility. The scheme of discrediting is designed to cause people to lose confidence in us as believers and when this happens any influence for good and for God is compromised. The true shame of this scheme is that people who desperately need to receive from the discredited believer can no longer do so. Discerning believers will of course see through this but unfortunately people in the world and carnal Christians wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and tweaked them on the nose. The ultimate goal of the enemy is to get the slandered Christian to become disheartened and reluctant to stand up in the future for God’s Word and His plan of redemption effectively silencing another voice of truth.

I want to encourage you to be alert in these last days for the schemer and his ways. Understand that you are not paranoid and you are not dreaming. You really do have an enemy and he would like nothing more than to undermine your confidence in God and in His Word to the point where your dream seed is dug up, your destiny is aborted, and your impact is compromised. When you recognize his activity in your life or the lives of others, immediately move to expose his operation and declare the Word of God over the situation. Remember that the ultimate remedy for the schemes of the enemy is the truth.

Kiss the Frog

“Then the LORD said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh once again and tell him, This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, then listen carefully to this: I will send vast hordes of frogs across your entire land from one border to the other. The Nile River will swarm with them. They will come up out of the river and into your houses, even into your bedrooms and onto your beds! Every home in Egypt will be filled with them. They will fill even your ovens and your kneading bowls. You and your people will be overwhelmed by frogs!” (Exodus 8:1-4, NLT).

It’s always amazed me that even with the clear revelation of God’s will to Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, to let God’s people go, he just continued to defy the Lord despite grave consequences to his nation, his people, and even his own household. One aspect of God’s judgment on Egypt for the oppression of Israel and Pharaoh’s hard heart illustrates the folly of disobeying the Most High God – the time the frogs (lots and lots of them) came to live with Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

The Lord told Moses to command Pharaoh to release the people of God so that they could worship Him. If he refused Aaron was to stretch out his hand with his staff over the streams, canals, and ponds and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Sure enough, the frogs showed up in the palace, bedrooms, houses, on the people, in the ovens, and in the kneading troughs (the vessel where the mixed and leavened bread was left to swell or ferment – they had a little extra protein in their bread) of the Egyptian people. Just imagine all those slimy, squishy, bug-eyed critters getting into everything – and they were the invited guests of the Pharaoh (God only knows what we invite into our lives through our own obstinate attitude).

Despite the fact that the Egyptian magicians “seemingly” duplicated the whole frog routine, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses and Aaron to take the frogs away from the people with a promise to let them go make sacrifices to the Lord if they did. The stunning development in this story is the fact that Moses gave Pharaoh the option of when the frogs would leave. Amazingly Pharaoh simply said, “tomorrow.” What? You like sleeping with frogs, watching them do the backstroke in your bathtubs, and finding them in your cabinets? Ok, Moses said. “It will be as YOU SAY so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” The frogs will leave and will remain only in the Nile.

Of course after the frogs departed, Pharaoh hardened his heart again and reneged on his promise (as usual). But what is simply unbelievable is that anyone under any circumstances would allow the fruit of disobedience and rebellion to hang around another second (let alone another night). When the beady eyes on the pillow next to you remind you of your refusal to listen to God the time to act is now rather than saying smugly, “oh, tomorrow.” This is strange logic to put it mildly. It’s like saying we want deliverance and freedom, but maybe tomorrow or maybe next week. No, the time to put away the consequences and devastation of disobedience is now.

For many Christians today, the same principles apply. Not only are many not following God’s will for their lives choosing instead to pursue ease, money, worldly pleasures, etc., they don’t even bother asking the Lord for his counsel on the major life-changing decisions we all have from time to time. It appears on one hand that the decisions are fine, but under the surface you find frogs in the bed, frogs in the stove, frogs in the refrigerator, frogs in toilet, frogs everywhere! The invading frog is a symbol of the results of self-directed living and a failure to conform to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Some folks are so used to sleeping with the frogs they seem to move in slow motion back into obedience to God. Their motto could be, “just one more night with frogs.” As with Egypt, we tend to downplay the possible effects of our rebellion and eventually we too are overwhelmed by the frogs (consequences).

At some point we need to wake up to the reality that the best way to live is to live in the center of God’s will. When we do, just like Pharoah, we’re going to have to face the problems we initiated while we camped out in the outback of disobedience (seedtime and harvest). As the frogs died they were piled into heaps “and the land reeked of them.” Our lives may put off a stench (the smell of rebellion) as well as we are getting things back in order with the Lord, but with that repentance and obedience we will eventually see peace, victory, freedom, provision, and no frogs!

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “I tell you now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Unlike clueless Pharaoh, don’t choose to wait another day to get right with God. Keep in mind that you are the deciding factor determining when the frogs (bondage, affliction, addiction, consequences) will leave your life. The frogs will leave when you say (just like Pharaoh). I want to encourage you to say the words and be free. It’s time to kiss the frog…goodbye.

The Dream Killer

“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:1-9, NIV).

I believe the Lord has a purpose and plan for every person. Jeremiah 29:11 (some of the most powerful words in the Bible) says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future). The first key for tapping into that divine flow and guidance is to experience the new birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “you must be born again” (John 3:7). We know from Ephesians 2:10 that we are created from the foundation of the world unto good works that expand the Kingdom of God in the earth. It is, however, impossible to discern and walk in God’s will until we become alive spiritually. We simply do not have the spiritual hardware to hear God’s voice and follow His direction.

Once we are saved, the Lord begins to move us in the direction of the best life possible for us. We now have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, and we have the added ability to receive a dream or vision from God into our hearts. That dream now becomes an internal guidance system taking us in easy stages down a path that will bring about the fulfillment of God’s will and dream for our lives. The dream says, “I can make a difference.” The dream declares, “I can become everything God has created me to be.” The dream boldly proclaims, “I will impact lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The dream is ultimately what connects believers to God’s future and hope for their lives.

The problem is that we do not live in a spiritual vacuum or bubble insulated from the operation of the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). It would be nice if we had that kind of utopian existence where everyone was pulling for us and there was no opposition to the dream in our hearts. But that would be fantasy, not faith. The reality is that the enemy will do everything he can, use anyone he can, and employ any and every tactic he can to stop us all from living lives of spiritual significance in the earth. One of his most effective and consistent weapons is the weapon of fear. The same dream of God that inspires us to action and directs our course is also a bullseye for the enemy and his devices. But we are not ignorant of his schemes and possessing that knowledge we do not have to allow him to compromise the dream of God in our hearts (2 Corinthians 2:11).

A brief review of great leaders of the Bible reveals that every one of them had to deal with the fear issue. Moses was certainly intimidated to stand before Pharaoh and demand the release of the people of God. The Lord countered that spirit of fear by reminding Moses in Exodus 33 that He would personally go with Moses. Joshua must have certainly felt all alone and afraid as he realized that his leader, mentor and friend Moses was now with the Lord. Immediately in Joshua 1 the Lord spoke to remind Joshua to be courageous and to stay out of fear. God told him that He would be with him like He was with Moses. The Lord also gave Joshua the antidote to fear – meditating on and speaking the Word without ceasing. In doing this he would literally make his own way successful or prosperous. Jeremiah, when called by God as a prophet, hesitated reminding the Lord that he was only a child. The Lord promised that He would watch over His Word to perform it and challenged Jeremiah to not be afraid of the people but stand up and proclaim what he is told to say. In the New Testament Paul admonished Timothy to not be afraid to stand up and witness. He was told directly that he has not been given the spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

The people of God today are exposed to the same kind of fear mongering by the enemy. Every believer that receives a dream from God and wants to do something great for God will be challenged by fear. Some are afraid of a lack of resources. Some are afraid of the opinions of people. Others are afraid that they will be rejected if they take a stand for the Lord in these challenging days. Still others are afraid of failure. I have found that the enemy will always use some kind of manifestation of fear to try to stop the dream in the heart of the believer. Fear, being a form of perverted faith, will bend our lives away from God’s best, compromise the dream, and imprison us in a jail of uncertainly, confusion, and inactivity. Our only other option is to stay in faith by focusing on the dream and staying in Word like Joshua was commanded. Whatever we give our attention to the most will determine whether we walk in faith or fear. Faith will cause the dream to come to pass. Fear will cause the dream to die. Why? Because fear causes us to question the dream and fail to act in the direction of the dream. Unless we add action to our dream (faith in picture form), we will never see the fulfillment of it.

I want to encourage you to treasure the dream in your heart and protect it. Guard your heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4) and when you notice even the slightest tinge of fear trying to move in regarding your dream open up your mouth and say, “I reject this fear in Jesus name and choose to maintain the spirit of faith regarding the dream of God for my life.” The moment you open your mouth your mind and emotions will stop to listen to what your mouth is saying. Don’t allow even a smidgen of fear to reside in your heart because like mold in a dark, damp place, fear tends to grow and expand. Be diligent to feed on the Word of God because faith grows as the Word is received into the human heart. Focus also on the development of your love walk because perfect love (mature, developed) casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). The prevalence of fear in our lives, even regarding our dream, is an indication that we are not walking in love as we should. The season where the dream is cultivated until it becomes reality is a prime time for the enemy to try to introduce fear into your life through some situation, setback, or even some person. We need to make sure at this time that we are living free of unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, envy, or hatred. Quite frankly, what someone did to you or said about you is not worth losing the dream, destiny, or blessing.

The Ministry of the Spirit

“Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11, NIV).

The Church and the world today need the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit more than any other time in history. The problems and issues we face as a nation and world far exceed our collective ability to solve them. That’s why it’s ironic that individuals with great theological fervor have concluded that the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Spirit have passed away or are irrelevant today. When it comes to the important revelations like the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit, we have a choice. We can listen to the modern voice that claims that these things have ceased or we can give the voice of the Word of God and the Apostle Paul more weight and authority in our lives. I decided a long time ago that I was going to go with the Word of God and make it “first place and final authority” in my life” on all matters of life including issues like spiritual gifts.

The gifts of the Spirit, or “charismata,” are simply gifts of grace given to believers by the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s will in the earth and for the edifying and building up of the Church. The gifts are practical expressions of God’s anointing –  that burden-removing, yoke-destroying power of God (Isaiah 10:27, KJV) or “God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.” Every time the Lord operates in the life of a believer through the gifts of the Spirit it is supernatural and miraculous and something to praise God for and receive rather than fearing and resisting. Imagine someone wanting to hand you the keys to a brand new car and you saying to them, “no thank you.” Well, a vehicle more moving and powerful is being offered to us when God bestows His gifts on us. Let’s make sure we receive them with great joy and appreciation.

Paul taught that the believers should thirst, desire, and earnestly seek for the operation of the gifts in our lives (1 Corinthians 14:1). He boldly stated in 1 Corinthians 12 that he did not want the people of God “ignorant” of the gifts. This does not mean he thought they were stupid. Ignorant means lacking fundamental knowledge about something. Paul’s intention and desire for the body of Christ was that we would all have a personal, intimate, working knowledge of the gifts in our own lives. It’s not enough to be able to list the gifts of the Spirit or even hear teaching about them. The goal is that each individual in the Church would begin to believe for, seek after, and expect to be used in the gifts by the Holy Spirit.

In the coming weeks I will be sharing vital revelation about the nine manifestational gifts of the Spirit in an effort to encourage you to step across the line and allow the Holy Spirit to use you to minister to this hopeless generation. The gifts are a powerful display of God’s love for this world and are to be in operation outside as well as inside the Church. My prayer is that the Lord will spark a desire in your heart to go after everything available to you as a New Testament, Spirit-filled believer in Jesus Christ. For now, I want to share some foundational concepts with you regarding the gifts of the Spirit before we spend more time talking about them individually.

First, we must remember that the Word of God is supreme. The Holy Spirit, as God, is never going to contradict the Word of God, which is the highest form of reality in the universe. John 1 equates Jesus with the Word and God’s agent for creation. Psalm 138:2 teaches us that God exalts the Word even above His name. This is a pretty radical concept when you stop to think about it but it is what the Word teaches. God’s name is literally a place for His presence and that presence always brings with it the glory, goodness, and the manifestation of the Spirit in power and the gifts of the Spirit. It is clear that the highest authority is not the utterance, manifestation, sign, wonder, or dream, but the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will never detract or take focus or attention away from the Word. He always glorifies Jesus (the Word). He guides us in to all truth (John 16:13) and the Holy Spirit confirms the Word with signs following (Mark 16).

It is important to understand that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-11) is what many call the “gateway” to being used in the gifts of the Spirit. Spirit baptism, separate and subsequent to salvation, is literally the immersion of the believer in the person, essence, and power of the Holy Spirit evidenced by a supernatural ability to speak in a language that is not learned through normal education (the devotional use of tongues or one’s prayer language (Acts 2, 10, 19) and from Scripture not the manifestational gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 – the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues will be discussed in the near future). The gifts (all of them) are for today (Acts 2:29). They are received by faith and that by grace (1 Corinthians 12:11; Hebrews 11:1,6) and they properly function in love – that is the power associated with the gift to impact people is only released when the gifts are executed in love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3). Finally, if we want to operate in the gifts we must “eagerly desire” the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 13:1; 14:1). The Holy Spirit will not force anything on a believer but “he gives them to each one just as he determines.” It’s clear from Scripture that His determination is affected by the desire and expectation of the believer.

What kind of impact can we expect from the gifts of the Spirit operating in and through our lives? First, the gifts glorify God. Anything that points to and honors God in this ungodly generation is positive and beneficial. Second, the gifts also remind of the reality of God. Whenever the Holy Spirit breaks into our lives it’s like writing in the sky that says, “God is real. God loves you. God cares about your life.” Third, the gifts are also a sign to unbelievers challenging their notion about the existence and authority of God. Fourth, the gifts cause extraordinary things to be done by ordinary people just like you and me. Just like the power that came on Samson or the wisdom that came on Solomon, the Holy Spirit, when He manifests in your life, amazing, supernatural, and life-changing things will begin to happen. Finally, the gifts contribute to the maturity and strengthening of the Church. In fact, Paul boldly taught that the gifts are part of God’s strategy to develop the Church and are consequently absolutely necessary (1 Corinthians 14:27).

I want to encourage you to eagerly desire to be used in the gifts of the Spirit. As you read and study together with me over the next several months, begin to believe and expect that God wants to flow through you to touch, impact, and influence lives for Him. It is understandable for you to have questions about these matters (especially if you grew up in a religious heritage that did not expound or explain these concepts or if you had no Christian upbringing at all). I want to encourage you to share your question in the comments sections of the blogs dealing with spiritual gifts. I will be glad to respond to your questions in kind as I receive them or respond in an upcoming blog.

Remember, there’s something on you…it’s the blessing…it’s the anointing…it’s God’s ability on your ability giving you the ability to do what you could not do until He put His ability on your ability (whew)!

Deception Protection

“Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another he gives the gift of special knowledge. The Spirit gives special faith to another, and to someone else he gives the power to heal the sick. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and to another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to know whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking” (1 Corinthians 12:7-10, NLT).

We are living in dark and dangerous times. The moral, ethical, and biblical foundation of this nation is no longer just under assault. Arguably the foundation is being systematically replaced through a concerted ideological effort of media, education, and government, and with the complacency and the wink of a silent, anemic, and powerless Church. This is prime deception time in the world and the body of Christ. The closer we get to the end the more demonic and deceptive activity we will see to the point of even “deceiving the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

One of the major weaknesses in the modern Church today is the lack of discernment and the limited manifestation of the “gift of discerning of spirits” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. It is important to understand the difference between general discernment and the gift of discerning of spirits but vital that we see both in operation in the body of Christ all over this nation. Think of these two forms of discernment as “deception protection” helping the believer to expose and eradicate the error and deception of the flesh and the evil one that tries to creep into our lives.

Discernment is a product of the deposit of the Word of God into the heart of the believer. Discernment is the ability to determine the rightness or wrongness of something or to put it another way, whether it is good or evil. Hebrews 5 teaches us that the more we train ourselves in “this teaching of righteousness” (justification by faith in Jesus and that through grace and the impartation of His righteousness), the better we will be equipped to discern between good and evil. The important concept here is that anyone can be very discerning if they will take the time to seek God and spend time in the Word. Faith comes by hearing the Word but discernment comes the same way. The more we give ourselves to the Word of God, the greater our discernment will be. We will not be bamboozled to believe error and as “the ear tests words like the tongue tastes food” (Job 12:11) and something just doesn’t taste right – we will spit it out immediately. We will also be prepared to receive the rich revelation and understanding the Father is pouring out on the people of God in this day.

Just as important to the right function of the Church is the gift of the Spirit known as “discerning of spirits.” While general discernment between good and evil is the byproduct of the Word of God, discerning of spirits is the bestowal of a grace or gift directly by the Holy Spirit on the believer for the benefit and edification of the body in a very specific and powerful way. What way is that? The gift of discerning of spirits supernaturally enables the believer to discern or determine by the Holy Spirit the origin or the “spirit” behind an utterance, manifestation, sign, wonder, or dream. There are many believers that live with the misguided mindset that if they hear it, see it, feel it, experience it, or dream it than it is for sure from God (in fact this is evidence of extreme spiritual immaturity and is the ruin of many, many believers). Their experiences have become more authoritative to them than the Word (and at this point you can’t convince them otherwise). There are three possible sources of these manifestations: (1) the Holy Spirit; (2) the human spirit; and (3) the demonic spirit and through the discerning of spirits we just know instantly that something is of God, of the flesh, or of the devil. If we can’t (or won’t) discern the origins of a manifestation we are destined for deception, defeat, and destruction.

The Bible makes it clear that we “are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). To be fair, the Church is under attack in this nation like never before so the voices (sources of utterances, manifestations, signs, wonders, and dreams) are more numerous, diabolical, and active than ever. Nonetheless, we have been given everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3) which means we have the equipment to discern and apply the understanding when the manifestation is coming from God and we are just as equipped to discern and reject the influence of the manifestation when it is coming from the flesh or from the enemy.

If we want to operate effectively and wisely in these last days and we desire to expose and defeat the enemy when he comes in like a flood, we need to consistently do two things: First, don’t wait for the manifestation to decide that you could use more time in the Word. Start today reading, studying, thinking about, meditating on, memorizing, and confessing the Word like never before. I have been very impressed to see just how discerning God’s people are when they are sitting under Word actively listening and receiving and diving into the Word on their own time. I have learned as a spiritual leader to trust that the serious believers will know good from evil because of the consistent entrance of the Word into their hearts. Second, boldly ask the Lord to grant you the gift of discerning of spirits. The Scripture says, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). The Bible also says that we have not because we ask not” (James 4:2). Ask and expect the Holy Spirit to give you the supernatural ability to know for certain the source of an utterance, manifestation, sign, wonder, or dream. As you develop your general discernment through the Word and begin to operate in the gift of discerning of spirits you will expose every attempt of the enemy to deceive you while positioning yourself to discern and receive great revelation and understanding from God that will change your life forever.

“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will go on deceiving others, and they themselves will be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do” (2 Timothy 3:12-17, NLT).

Church Witch

“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft” (Deuteronomy 18:10, NIV). “I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells” (Micah 5:12, NIV). “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23, NIV).

Last year, my sister Tammy Priest from Tribe of Judah Motorcycle Ministries and Renee Branson, missions director for Lakewood Church, came to Hope Harbor to minister during our women’s conference. They both shared with me the impression they had that a witch had joined them for the meetings. Tammy was very specific saying that she did not mean that the individual was simply manipulative (desiring to thrust her will on others) but the real deal – an actual practicing witch – showing up no doubt to disrupt the meetings or the church itself. From what I understand, this individual was boldly given the opportunity to repent and get right with God but chose not to respond to the mercy of God.

It really shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to the believer that witches would venture into Bible believing Holy Ghost churches because the church witch is demonically (although often they don’t even realize it) inspired to infiltrate and disrupt the church vision, mission, and leadership structure. They often hang around ministries that manifest the glory of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit waiting to seize upon any spirit operating in someone delivered during a service or meeting. In fact, they are often sent into the ministry with the goal of either controlling the ministry and if that does not work they will settle for holding it back or destroying it. It’s never been more important for the people of God to be discerning and be quick to identify this spirit and move to protect themselves, their church, and their church leadership from this marauding spirit.

As I have listened to godly pastors and spiritual leaders around the country, there are certain marks or characteristics of the church witch that are consistent from church to church, town to town, state to state, and nation to nation. These are not offered so you will be afraid or so that you can embark on a modern day “witch hunt” but so that you can avoid the trap yourself and pull away from anyone engaging in these behaviors. Witchcraft is an abomination in the eyes of God and the Word equates witchcraft with the sin of rebellion (tracing all the way back to Lucifer’s rebellion). There is almost always a measure of rebellion and sedition in the behavior of the church witch or by those that are taken in by the influence. Often, the strongest indicator of the influence of the church witch is more general than specific – it just seems like something is off or that a wall is being hit in the ministry. So how can you identify the church witch? Well, as you can imagine, they don’t look anything like they are depicted in Hollywood and bear no resemblance to the Halloween costume you see at the department store. Actually, the church witch will seem quite functional, relational, and, well, normal. But, you can judge this sneaky demonic influence by its fruit and by its method of operation.

1.  They use the huddle and whisper (chit chat) mode flowing just outside of the authority structures of the church to accomplish their objectives.

2.  They engage in Absolom like activities drawing the hearts away from the vision of the house and ordained leadership.

3.  They tend to be super spiritual claiming often to see, perceive, or dream things that others are missing (and esteem these over the authority of the Word) and because of poor discernment some church folks confuse the Holy Spirit for this familiar spirit. More effort is spent in divining the experience than in receiving revelation from the Word.

4.  They tend to be hyper emotional often crying at the drop of a hat (and they’ll even drop the hat) so they can open up an avenue to be heard and garner sympathy or support.

5.  They prey upon the young in the Lord, the disgruntled, the confused, the biblically illiterate, and those easily influenced.

6.  They will often use redemptive language and piety in an attempt to convince others that their motives are pure and that they are acting for the good of the ministry.

7.  They often make baseless accusations against strong Christians in an attempt to neutralize the influence of anyone they deem a threat.

8.  They are effective in pitting unsuspecting Christians against one another so that they can divide and conquer (often urging them to keep their “sharing” private and confidential – light, just like for the mythical vampire, is their nemesis).

9.  They are very skilled at the art of subtle negativity and birthing a critical spirit in anyone that gives ear to them.

I want to encourage you in these end times we live in to stay strong in the Lord. You can avoid the influence and domination by the spirit of witchcraft (often called inspirational or magical influence) by keeping yourself immersed in the Word of God. Refuse to submit to the intimidation of this spirit and guard your heart for fear. Fear of the opinions of others is a major weapon of the church witch used deliberately to marginalize or control you. Pray in the Holy Spirit like you have never prayed before. Listen to how people talk in the church. Do they talk more about ecstatic experiences, visions, and dreams than they talk about the Word? Often these folks will begin to make their experiences more authoritative to them than the Word which is exalted above God’s very name (Psalm 138:2). Use your God-given binding and loosing authority (spiritual veto power) in and out of the church – veto their manipulation and chicanery. Boldly declare that this will not be allowed in your heart, in your home, in your church, in your workplace, on your street, or in your nation. Finally, whenever you witness or discern this activity turn on the light, lift the rocks, and make a bee line to your local church leadership.

Put Your Gloves On

Some believers have the idea that the teachers of the lifestyle of faith (prescribed four times in Scripture – Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) are pushing some kind of “easy believism” whereby our own personal genie in a bottle rises up to make our every whim come true. They often use derogatory terms to describe the very biblical connection between the faith in the heart and the confession of our mouth (Romans 10:9-10; Proverbs 29:18) like “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it.” True, there are abuses and excesses with every revelation in the Word of God but that does not change the fundamental truth of the principle. In demonizing a very biblical truth, the self-appointed watch dogs of the Church (who usually have never really listened to the comprehensive teaching of the principles of faith) have succeeded only in preventing some much needed understanding from getting to those that need to understand faith the most.

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that faith is not a magic wand or silver bullet for catering to the flesh. Faith is actually described in Scripture as a fight by the Apostle Paul. In fact we derive our word “agony” from the Greek word agonizomai which is the basis for the translation of the phrase, “the fight of faith.” Paul told Timothy that he had “fought the good fight,” and challenged him to do the same. The lifestyle of faith is described best as the platform for spiritual conflict surrounding the ministry of the gospel and the receiving of the promises of God. In other words, we do not live in some kind of spiritual vacuum where everything we see in Scripture just comes automatically to us without a fight or a struggle.

I liken the lifestyle of faith to a boxing match. Faith is what allows us to enter into the ring (we are not even in the ring until we are in faith). We aren’t guaranteed the victory just because we step into the ring to fight. We are promised that with our faith we can persevere until the victory is produced, for “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4). Some folks forfeit important life matches because they never enter into the ring of faith. Others get weary and do not stay in the ring long so they lose. Others climb into the ring and take punch after punch but forget to keep their shield of faith up and punch back with the sword of the Spirit (the confessed Word of God). Still others get “cut” like a boxer and bleeding decide to throw in the proverbial white towel.

I want to encourage you to put your faith gloves on, climb into the ring, persevere, keep your guard up, punch back with the words of your mouth, and refuse to throw in the towel. It’s impossible to defeat a faith-filled believer who just refuses to quit. I am coming along side of you in today’s blog like the boxing trainer in your corner with a faith checklist of fundamentals to help you go the distance and win the match.

1.  Stand your ground realizing that Satan is the source of your opposition. We know that we do not war against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers in high places. Remember that after you have done everything to stand, continue to stand (Ephesians 6).

2.  Be sure you have some Scripture that covers your situation. If you can’t specifically point to the Word on something you say you are believing God for, you’ re not really in faith. Find the place where it is written about your situation and make those Scriptures the basis of your believing.

3.  Make sure you are not living in (practicing) sin because sin attacks your confidence. One man of God said, “sin makes cowards of men.” You can’t be walking around in doubt, condemnation, and insecurity when someone in the ring is literally trying to take your head off. If you are in sin you are not in faith.

4.  Be sure no doubt or unbelief is permitted in your life and heart. Doubt works to lower your guard and allow the enemy in to discourage you from standing and believing God. Beware and watch out for the “second thought” or the word that comes from the enemy (through human voices often) telling you that you’re going to lose, you can’t make it, you’re going down for the count. Once you have the Word on the subject be ruthless when a second thought comes to rob you of your faith.

5.  Keep a strong desire for the thing you are asking for because the more attention you give that desire, the greater that desire will be. In a ten round heavyweight boxing match, endurance and staying power become central to any victory. You will increase your ability to stay in the fight if that desire stays strong within your heart.

6.  Ask God in faith without wavering rather than being, as James says, a man of two minds going back and forth on the issue (James 1), One moment he believes God and the next minute he throws down his faith. In a faith battle you’ll get both your minds knocked into the next county if you don’t get into agreement with yourself about what you believe. James is clear that we will not receive anything from the Lord if we are double-minded.

7.  Count it done and resist any symptom, circumstance, or situation that contradicts God’s Word and what you are believing. One meaning of the concept of “binding and loosing” in Matthew 18 is “to veto.” This means we refuse to permit, allow, let, or suffer something to happen. It should encourage you to know that the Lord himself issued and granted this authority to his disciples. Get your veto stamp out whenever the enemy tries to pull a fast one on you by trying to convince you that the Word will not work in your situation. Veto that sin, sickness, lack, depression, discouragement, hopelessness and believe the Word to come to pass in your life.

8.  Give glory to God even before the manifestation of the victory. If you want to really freak the devil out, start thanking and praising God right in the middle of the faith ring long before you’ve thrown the knockout punch. You’ll throw him off his groove because by design he is after your words, your praise, and your thanksgiving to God. Anyone can praise God when the opponent is lying on the mat out cold in defeat. The truth is we speed our victory when we praise the Lord before we see the victory.

9.  Act as though you have already received what you believed. Receiving the promise would no doubt change your attitude, your demeanor, your outlook, your behavior, and joy would be bubbling up constantly. That’s what happens when you truly believe the Word. Confuse the enemy (and the watchdogs) by living and acting now like you have already received the promise of God.

We can count on the Word to bring us the victory but like Paul we have to scrap and fight the good fight of faith. This is not the time to hang up your gloves. Climb into the ring, listen to your trainer, keep your guard up, refuse to quit, and punch away until your enemy is out cold at your feet (which is exactly where Jesus wants him to be).

The Red Mark

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13, NIV).

A preacher was checking out of a hotel room not too long ago and he was curious about the red mark on the forehead of the man at the front desk. Perhaps as a Christian with no knowledge of Hindu customs you’ve wondered the same thing. The man at the front desk was polite and very willing to explain to the inquisitive Christian what the mark represented and why he wore it. When I heard the story I couldn’t help but see some transferable concepts for Christians (even though we clearly have nothing in common with the pluralistic religious tradition of Hinduism).

The mark, known as the tilak, is a unique feature associated with Hinduism, and is said to invoke a feeling of sacredness by the wearer and by those that come into contact with the devotee. The exact nature of the mark identifies the god worshipped by the wearer. With a prayer for piety and righteous deeds, the tilak is applied between the eyebrows (considered to be the third eye) the place most Hindus believe is the entry and exit point of the soul. So, given the incompatibility of New Testament Christianity and Hinduism, what can we possibly learn from this man’s explanation of the red mark?

First, the red mark is applied in honor of the Hindu god the man served. The purpose of the mark is to identify and promote his god and remind him of his commitment throughout the day as he perhaps catches his reflection in a mirror. You and I have also been marked, not with the customary sandalwood paste, ashes, clay, or other substances used to apply the tilak, but with the blood of Jesus Christ. We would do well to remember that we are marked people and redeemed with the highest price possible. How much more should we boldly display the banner of Christ’s love and mercy and be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

Second, the man washed thoroughly before he applied the mark because he could not honor his god unless he was first clean. As Christians we tend to be very attached to our religious markings as well like crosses, big black Bibles, and bumper stickers professing our faith, but if we are not living clean in a dirty world what’s the point? Let’s remember to walk sober and clean before the Lord daily and be quick to repent when we blow it. Our symbols will mean a whole lot more to us (and to the world) if we live lives consistent with our “marks.” As James said, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

Third, the man with the red mark on his forehead could be challenged boldly by a person of the same faith if the man was doing something wrong or inconsistent with his stated beliefs or values. That red dot is permission to hold the wearer accountable. The importance of this principle cannot be overstated. Like other religious systems, Christianity is lived out in community and community requires accountability. As believers in Jesus Christ we must give other believers and leaders the right and permission to challenge and correct us when we begin to stray from the commands of God. Often, individuals that claim they want to be mentored get really upset when someone actually takes them up on their offer. If we desire to grow and become effective, fruitful servants of Jesus Christ, we must receive and respond to godly correction for “he who heeds correction shows prudence” (Proverbs 15:5).

Remember you are marked by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Live your life openly, boldly, and honorably for the Lord and remember who and what you are as you go throughout your day. Ask the Lord to give you a very tender heart and conscience so that you will stay clean body, soul, and spirit. Finally, invite someone into your life to say, when necessary, the tough and hard things you need to hear. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

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.

Religious Cons

“He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered” (Psalm 105:37, NIV). “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it” (Proverbs 10:22, NIV).

After twenty years as a senior pastor I think I’ve seen just about everything under the sun when it comes to the behavior of people (Christian and otherwise). Not much surprises me these days – not the loose living, the life-changing decisions that are made without so much as even consulting God or spiritual leadership, not the trashing of sacred covenant in Christian marriage, not even the elaborate length individuals will go through to con the Lord or His Church to get some kind of support or help “in their time of need.”

Don’t get me wrong. As a ministry we have compassionately provided assistance for many genuine needs through the years. It’s a blessing to make a real difference in the lives of hurting people and the sacred and holy giving of the people of God makes that possible. We will always do whatever we can to encourage others and support them in practical ways. Through the years we have kept food on the table for families, helped them get to an out-of-town hospital to be with loved ones, kept power on when electric bills were past due, prevented young families from being evicted, helped the ill purchase medication, filled propane tanks in the middle of a harsh winter. We even helped a little to reduce the final funeral costs for a widow in need. I love sowing and I love seeing how God’s people collectively can make such a difference in so many lives. Praise God.

But as a pastor it is also my responsibility to make sure that the resources of the ministry stay out of the hands of the “religious cons” of the world (although whatever we do in Jesus’ name is a blessing regardless of their motives). I have witnessed every kind of lame excuse and con game but three styles of cons are most memorable (and disturbing). Consider the outcome when Simon the Sorcerer tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit (see Acts chapter eight) or when Ananias and Sapphira, wanting the accolades given to Barnabas, conspired to appear to make a substantial offering but in reality kept back a portion of the funds (Acts five). It seems from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is seriously down on religious con games.

The first con revolves around a manufactured problem con like “my spouse is dying and we need help” or some other fake crisis. We actually had a couple come to the church (any several other churches we understand – cons tend to be a mobile lot) requesting assistance declaring that the wife was so sick she was literally urinating parts of her bladder (that’s code for we are Meth addicts and get really creative when we are coming down from a high and need the next fix).

The second type of con is the spiritual con: “I want to submit to your leadership to be mentored by you.” This always begins with an apparent hunger for the things of God, faithfulness to the ministry, and attempts to get close to senior staff or pastors. Of course after you substantially help the family to the point of preventing utilities from being shut off or preventing eviction the enthusiasm for mentoring (and church attendance) just disappears along with the family.

The third type of con is the “speak for the church” con where the con tells a vendor, employer, landlord, or utility company that such and such church has promised to take care of this. Unbelievable you say? Actually, it happens quite often. Recently, unbeknownst to me or anyone else I can find, the church “promised” to pay back rent to a frustrated landlord on behalf of a needy tenant (it’s amazing what we promise when we are asleep). The landlord wasn’t buying the story and contacted us for confirmation. Of course we provided documentation for the landlord proving the religious con.

As I said, we are always going to be sowers – sowers into communities, churches, ministries, missionaries, church members (whose needs come first), and legitimately hurting families in the communities we serve. It’s a privilege to be “his hand extended.” The sad thing for the con is that if they would get into the Word (for real) and search out the fine print of their covenant with God they would discover that they have a God that longs to meet their needs and prosper them. Instead of taking or conning the Lord and His Church they should be tapping into his deep provision by learning to believe, give, and speak the blessing over their lives.

I want to encourage you that you don’t have to resort to games or cons to get your needs met. He promises to supply all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Spend your time coming to church to sit under the Word, reading the Word, confessing the promises, and listening for the wisdom of God. One word from God can change your life (and your financial life) forever. The problem is that one con can change your life forever as well – just ask Simon, Ananias, and Sapphira.

The Un-Sin

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22). “Even the women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).

Confusion about sexual morality (and normality) in this nation is at an all time high (and that includes self-professed believers). Because of the social and political correctness environment in this nation right now, droves of people are accepting behaviors that are clearly out-of-bounds biblically. The pressure and influence is so strong that many believers who may have struggled with certain sins are now being influenced to embrace a lifestyle that totally contradicts the Word of God. Many more believers are exacerbating the situation through the development of an “oh, well, to each his own” attitude having been worn down by the constant drumbeat of the activist agenda trying to shame anyone holding to traditional biblical values and morality.

At the outset I want to be clear. Christians do not and should not hate anyone on the basis of a lifestyle choice, behavior, practice, sin, or stronghold (our mandate is to love the person without endorsing the sin). The genuine Christian is, however, committed to the integrity and authority of the Word of God and should not be expected to turn a blind eye to the teachings of Scripture on human sexuality just to keep from looking like they are intolerant or bigoted. The homosexual and the homosexual activist should remember that opposition to homosexuality by Christians is based in biblical morality and not hatred for any person or group.

Recently, an award-winning Christian recording artist announced that she was in fact a lesbian. She equated the ban on homosexuality in the Old Testament with restrictions on eating shellfish or wearing fabrics from mixed materials. To set the record straight, Paul himself denounced this behavior so the homosexual activists can stop pretending that the practice called an abomination in the Old Testament is somehow ignored in the New Testament. I would also point out that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for eating shellfish or mixing their wool with their polyester but because of the specific practice of homosexuality which resulted from selfishly rejecting God (Genesis 18:20-21; 19:5).

The truth is we are all born into sin and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Sunday School 101). This means in real life that we are all capable of doing just about anything in violation of God’s law and because of the fall, life experiences, and influences we each may have specific types of behaviors that we are particularly tempted to allow or pursue. Some people can’t seem to keep their hands off of the property of others and theft is a constant temptation while others find it hard to tell the truth even in the absence of a reason to deceive. Some people may struggle with alcohol or drugs. Some people may deal with a violent temper constantly on the verge of a wrong choice and a violent act. Some people feel hopeless and often tempted to end their own lives. There are people who have struggled with pornography. Others are tempted to engage in pre-marital or extramarital relationships. Some have struggled with homosexual feelings throughout their lives.

The point is that the temptation or the feelings toward a certain class of sin or behavior does not constitute the sin. The action or the behavior constitutes the sin (I also agree that not doing certain things is equally sinful). When a person says they were “born” this way or that way they are correct. We are all born sinners and wanting to sin. The liar, the thief, the adulterer, and the drug addict are all born with the possibility of yielding to those feelings but they can also find redemption in Jesus and the power as Titus reveals to say “no” to ungodliness. To say a homosexual was born that way and therefore incapable of living any other way is the same thing as saying that the person tempted to rob a convenience store was born that way and will inevitably rob the store. The truth is we are born sinners but through the impartation of the righteousness of God in Christ and the resulting transformation that takes place we are not destined or doomed to a lifestyle of moral compromise and sin of any kind including homosexual behavior.

This entire “coming out” phenomenon of people in the world as well as people in the church is actually a decision on the part of the individuals to accept the feelings and temptation and then yield to them. The phenomenon is also a blatant demand by political activists, educators, and liberal theologians that the world (and the Church) accept homosexuality as a perfectly normal and acceptable lifestyle. Saying people do not choose to engage in homosexual behavior but they are driven to it is tantamount to making homosexuality a special class of sin or the “un-sin” that denies personal responsibility for one’s life choices and actions. The growing and repeated chorus coming from governments, academia, the entertainment business, the liberal church, and now the courts that denies homosexuality is a sin and demands special protection will never trump, alter, or change what God has said about homosexuality.  We should remember that after Jesus refused to condemn the woman taken in adultery, he nonetheless commanded her to “go and sin no more.”  We too can demonstrate compassion for the sinner without ignoring the plain teachings and commands of Scripture – stop the sin.

So what should we do as believers? First, we should without condemnation help people to understand that in a fallen world feelings and desires that violate God’s word will come, but we have the power and authority to reject those feelings and temptations and live the way God prescribes. Second, we must also speak the truth in love but speak the truth about the sin nonetheless, just as we would do if we were dealing with the liar, the thief, the murderer, or the adulterer. Third, our attitude toward the homosexual should be no different from the person who struggles with any other sin. If we can muster grace for the drug addict let’s have the same respect and love for the homosexual or any other type of sinner. Fourth, we must never succumb to the pressure of the growing chorus of voices telling us that the morality of the Bible is wrong, outdated, or misinterpreted. The Bible is clear and the only decision at this point is whether we are going to stand on the side of truth or be shamed into silence and allow our foundation to be decayed by the changing culture around us.

Spiritual Streakers

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked” (2 Corinthians 5:2-3, NIV).

If we could look back in time into the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve’s fall in Genesis 3 we would have witnessed a relatively strange sight. Because Adam and Eve were created to be perfect and at this time knew no sin, we would see what looked like two balls of light walking through and tending to the Garden. When the Lord showed up to meet with his people we would then witness a third, more intense ball of light joining them. Because of their purity and the intensity of the light or the glory of God, it never dawned on them (and they could care less) that they were naked (they were naked and unashamed). In other words, their actual clothing was the glory of God which protected them as well as clothed them. It wasn’t until the light went out (the glory departed) because of their disobedience that they realized they were naked and sought cover in the bushes (people do the same thing today when they are exposed). That day they shed their supernatural raiment and became spiritual streakers. God then made temporary skin coverings for them that would eventually be replaced by the sin obliterating power of the cross and the restoration of the glory.

Many do not realize just how far we as humans fell that day in Genesis and the magnitude of what was compromised and lost but we do get a glimpse of the value of our former state by the amazing sacrifice of Jesus Christ to restore life and the glory of God to his people. Because of the blood of Jesus, the light and power of God’s glory is once again available to us (if we repent and receive him as Lord and Savior). This restoration of the glory has its full manifestation in the resurrection (or translation at the rapture) of the believer when the glorified body is provided but we have increasing access to that glory now: “And we, who will unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, and being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

The transfiguration of Jesus in Mark 9 reveals some very powerful principles for accelerating the manifestation of his glory in our lives (putting our glory clothes back on). Six days before being transfigured, Jesus mentioned that some standing with him would not taste death before they had seen the kingdom of God come in power (Mark 9:1). The Lord still desires for his people to move from one degree of glory to another. I want to share four keys that will position you to advance in the glory of God (get your clothes back on you streaker):

First, just like the disciples you have to go up the mountain or go up to a higher level. No doubt when you do this some will not and cannot make the trip with you. To go up (as John Maxwell often says) you have to give something up. We can’t lug our pride, bitterness, impurity, or wrong motives up the mountain with us. If we want to position ourselves for a greater degree of the glory we have to take some junk out of our trunk. This might even include some compromising or ungodly relationships. I’ve learned to ask myself through the years if a certain attitude, relationship, or practice is worth the glory? It’s very powerful and centering to say to ourselves, “that’s just not worth the glory.”

Second, the transfiguration of Jesus took place when he was alone with this inner core of disciples. The price for higher levels of the manifested presence or glory of God in our lives is intimacy with the Father. We simply must begin to invest the quality and quantity of time in our relationship to know Him as we are known. I heard a man of God say once that every failure in the believer’s life can be traced back to the failure to pray. Let’s not allow coldness or spiritual apathy to rob us of going to the next level in the things of God.

Third, we need to catch a glimpse of what the glory will do. No doubt Jesus was transfigured to show the disciples the true nature of Jesus Christ – that he was the pure and holy spotless Son of God who comes to take away the sin of the world. It would have been a rare privilege to see Jesus for who he really was. It is vital though to understand here that Jesus was not just showing them who he was, he was trying to show them who and what they were to become in him. This is an amazing and staggering thought. We know from Scripture as he is so shall we be. The transfiguration is like a very sophisticated mirror revealing not only the nature of God but reminding us that as believers we are to reflect that glory and become transformed by it.

Finally, we need to make sure we listen to Jesus. During the transfiguration Jesus was flanked by Moses and Elijah representing the law and the prophets, but the voice of the Father boomed out to remind the witnesses that Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets and the great need today is to listen to him rather than to all the competing voices out in the world. The key to walking in the fulness of our spiritual covering, the glory of God, we must hear him and act on what we have heard. As we have learned by going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, disobedience compromises the glory. We know from the example of Jesus and the lessons learned during his transfiguration that obedience is an open door to the glory in our lives.

Stack the Bench

Albert Pujols

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…” (Luke 12:35, NIV).

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the St. Louis Cardinals opening home game with Tim and Kelli (she’s the greatest baseball fan in the world…wink, wink). It is often said when it comes to baseball openers that nobody does it like the Cardinals, a team with more World Series Championships (ten) than any other team in the National League and second only to the Yankees overall. The festive atmosphere featured the return of hall of fame ball players and championship team members from past Cardinal rosters including the legendary Stan Musial, the coaching staff, current team members, and the game starting lineup all entering the stadium standing in a fleet of pickup trucks (no chariots available I guess). The standing room only crowd enjoyed the baseball food fair, opening day giveaways, prancing majestic Clydesdales, a demonstration by a trained American Bald Eagle, and a fly over by two A-10 aircraft during the National Anthem. The family friendly atmosphere drew thousands of kids to the park with their parents. Two twin boys sitting in front of us held up a sign that read, “We’re Ten today – Go Cards!” They did their best to catch the attention of television cameras (they might have for all I know). It was a one of a kind day for a one of a kind baseball organization.

But the real draw to the park is of course the team and the game. The Cardinals have already taken a commanding lead in the National League Central Division and were poised to stomp (and did stomp) the last place Houston Astros (the only team in baseball without a win yet this year). The Cardinal pitching staff including Cy Young contenders Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright is strong. The batting lineup features six regular players any of which can ruin a pitchers day and wipe away any lead the opposing team might have at the time. One swing of the bat by arguably the greatest player of all time (and a great role model) Albert Pujols and the Cards will score usually several runs (like his three run shot during the game). Opposing teams will sometimes opt to pitch around Pujols or walk him intentionally. The problem with that decision is that the pitcher now has to face Matt Holliday, one of the greatest hitters in the game. If that were not enough of a threat, you can usually count on catcher Yadier Molina to hit and at times knock one over the fence. Scrappy young Cardinal outfielder Colby Rasmus will find a way to get on base and score some runs (not to mention make some amazing plays in centerfield). Leadoff man and second baseman Skip Schumaker (converted from the outfield) can rip a double or triple when you most need him to do so. Outfielder Ryan Ludwick is always a threat when he picks up the bat. If the team stays healthy (especially the pitching staff), the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals are going to be the team to beat.

What’s interesting to me from a spiritual standpoint (I hear you saying to yourself, “you mean you can actually draw something spiritual from baseball?” – yes I can) is the depth of the Cardinal bench. If a hitter is having a bad day someone else will come in and take up the slack. Where most teams may only have a clutch hitter or two in the lineup, the Cards have a half-dozen guys that can crank out a game turning or game winning hit. The church needs to deepen the bench when it comes to our ministry service for the Lord. Everyone needs to be in shape, trained, dressed for service, and prepared to step in and make the play or hit the ball. Too often, the entire weight of the ministry is upon a few staff members, lay leaders, or committed volunteers. The deeper the ministry service bench is, the more likely we will score some runs for the Kingdom.

In retrospect, if the Cards lose a game or even throw away the season it’s no big deal really (did I really just say that?), but if the church fails to produce eternal souls are on the line. The ability of the believer to walk in victory is on the line. The fulfillment of our destiny and purpose as believers is on the line. Pleasing our Lord and Savior who certainly put on the jersey, showed up to the game, and knocked it out of the park for our benefit is on the line. Let’s all get in shape, dress for the game, be ready, stay anointed, and snap to it when he calls our number for service. It’s time for everyone in the body of Christ to get in the game.

Expect the Glory

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11, NIV).

As Bible believers we understand that our God is omnipresent (everywhere present). But there are times in the Bible and in our lives when the glory of God or manifested presence of God is concentrated and focused in such a way that we can tangibly identify or discern the glory and also observe that real positive results are produced as a result of that glory. The Word “manifested” means that God’s presence is readily and clearly perceived or made obvious (we can’t possibly miss point).

Moses understood that it was the glory or manifest presence of God that would distinguish him and the people of God from the rest of world. When Moses asked the Lord to show him His glory the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you” (Exodus 33:18-19). The glory can be understood to be the “heaviness” of God. This means that the Lord is heavy with everything good. In other words, the glory is literally manifested goodness (a revelation of his nature, will, and power). Psalm 31:19 indicates that God has goodness stored up for those that fear Him. The Psalmist boldly exclaims in Psalm 86:17, “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame.” Clearly the glory of God is not just a religious phrase or concept but a tangible, practical revealing of God’s presence and power in real life situations.

It is important for us to remember in challenging times that historically and biblically the glory has been behind God’s amazing operation in this world. Creation was accomplished by the glory. The Red Sea was parted by the glory. The enemies of God were routed by the glory. The miracles of God were the result of the glory. Jesus was resurrected by the glory. That same glory is working among us today to save, transform, heal, and deliver. He never changes and the glory has not diminished in its power. What was available then is available to us now.

I want to encourage you to read and reflect on the story of the woman from Syrian Phoenicia whose daughter was bound by demonic power (Mark 7:24-30). Despite being a Gentile she revealed in her interaction with Jesus some very powerful principles for tapping into the glory, goodness, and power of God. If someone outside the covenants and promises of God at that time (Ephesians 2:11) can tap into the glory of God through faith in Jesus, how much more can we who have experienced the new birth expect and receive the glory.

How to tap into the glory of God…

  1. Realize the glory is directly tied to Jesus’ presence (v. 24). Because the glory is the manifested presence of God and Jesus is the fullness of the godhead bodily, the glory is revealed now in proximity to Jesus.
  2. Notice that the glory catches the world’s attention (v. 25). The most hardened sinner and the biggest antagonist still needs the power of God. The world ignores religion, rules of men, potluck dinners, and church singings, but they are seriously attracted by the glory of God (1 Corinthians 4:20).
  3. Know that begging does not release the glory (v. 26). Begging and pleading is not believing. Faith, not the need, no matter how great, is the basis for the releasing of the glory.
  4. Remember that the glory belongs to the believer (v. 27). The manifested presence of God (heavy with everything good) is a covenant privilege reserved for the people of God. Healing, deliverance, and provision are all the “children’s bread” (meaning “for the kids”).
  5. Express faith to access the covenant glory of God (v. 28). We go from outside of the family to inside the family of God with (1) a decision of the will, and (2) the faith-filled declaration of the mouth (Romans 10:9-10). Remember that Rahab by choice aligned herself with the invading force of God and is now identified in the earthly lineage of Jesus Christ for all eternity (Hebrews 11:31).
  6. Expect results when the glory is tapped (vv. 29-30). When we take that step of faith (and faith pleases the Lord) we should expect that the glory will show up bringing life-changing results. Contrary to some who have equated the glory of God to strange church services and “stupid human tricks” (courtesy of David Letterman) done in God’s name, the real indication that the glory of God has manifested is that we are closer to God, and we are changed in some significant way.

Pay Per Poo

I think one of the most difficult businesses to run even in a good economy would be an airline. There are just too many variables that affect the profitability and stability of the company. The overhead costs for equipment and maintenance for the fleet must be unbelievable (in fact international delivery carriers like UPS and FedEx have already liquidated fleets opting to place our precious packages in the cargo bays of commercial jetliners instead). The insurance payments would have to be sky high. Labor issues, as have plagued the airlines for years, would be very challenging to manage. The threat of terrorism, especially in light of 911 and the folding of Pan Am after a terrorist bomb took down one of its planes over Scotland, is always a factor as long as nuts are putting bomb materials in their underwear. The biggest variable is often the cost of aviation fuel. The speculation on the markets and the residual swinging of jet fuel prices would make the average CEO want to pull his or her hair out. As a whole, I have great respect for those individuals who have the skill and experience to handle such a daunting task.

In recent years airlines have sought all manner of ways to reduce costs and increase profits. On board meals have been replaced with nuts and if you’re truly blessed, crackers. Customers are charged for a pair of cheap earphones for flights featuring in flight entertainment. Airlines now charge for every minor upgrade or change to tickets even though in most cases the changes are lateral and produce no cost to the airline. They charge a fee for bags over a certain weight. Some charge for each checked bag period (except Southwest Airlines who has a field day with their marketing announcing on our airline, “Bags fly free”). Despite my overall appreciation for airline executives, I think they might need to rethink the direction of their efforts to reduce costs during this challenging time.

The latest idea being floated from the tired minds of a few airline managers is to charge customers to use the bathroom facilities in flight. I think it’s possible that someone tapped into the tiny liquor bottles served on flights when they came up with this one. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Southwest Airlines will not only reject this idiotic idea, they will roll out a new series of commercials to lampoon airlines that implement it. I can see their advertising banner now, “Poo Flies Free.” They might even suggest that customers use their “PooPal” account to purchase the tickets.

What can we learn from this idea? When leaders (secular or spiritual) become tired, burned out, discouraged, or come under great pressure, often dumb ideas are the result. Decisions then become reactionary rather than carefully thought through to discern any unintended but negative consequences (like if a customer stops flying on your airline you won’t have to worry about charging them to use the toilet). Let’s learn to pause, pray, reflect, wait on the Lord, and receive God’s wisdom in due season for our challenging situation. As the Psalmist said, “Be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). I have observed many “pay per poo” ideas through the years in ministry (including some of my own) and I can tell you that they are usually the result of rushing under pressure to fix something only to cause more problems in the long run. Spiritual leaders (and airline executives alike) need to be quick to identify and flush those reactionary ideas and look to the Lord for that “God idea.”

Sticks and Stones

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21, NIV).

No doubt you have probably heard someone in authority tell you after someone said something mean to you, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” It turns out that this represents some of the dumbest and misguided counsel we could ever receive (or give). It is flawed from a Scriptural standpoint and, as it turns out, is also negated by scientific study.

According to a recent study by German psychologists at Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, subjects were asked to read pain-related words while imagining situations that corresponded to each word and while scanning their brains using MRI technology. They were asked to repeat the procedure while being distracted by a brain-teaser. What did they find (yes they had brains)? The scientists discovered that the pain matrix in the brain (where the brain stores memories of past painful experiences) was activated by pain words in both instances, distracted or not. The study’s author, Maria Richter, noted that, “In both cases, we could observe a clear activation of the pain matrix in the brain by pain-associated words.”

We understand from the Word of God that words are powerful – they can impart life or death. Once again we see science backing up the integrity of the Word of God. Words are like vehicles or containers bringing things that hurt or things that heal into our hearts. The fact is, words, not just sticks and stones, can do major long-lasting emotional damage to people. True, words do not cause bone fractures or contusions like sticks and stones can, but they do cause soul fractures that can often take much more time to heal than our bones. Let’s all think about that the next time we open our mouths. Let’s consider the wise words of Solomon: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24, NIV).

Goodbye Curse

“God blessed them and said to them. ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’ ” (Genesis 1:28, NIV). “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3, NIV).

From the beginning in Genesis it has always been God’s desire to bless his people profusely. In fact, the very first words the newly created man ever heard were the blessing (Genesis 1:26-28). The Lord could have said anything at this point to get across his will for man, but he plainly desired that his people would be blessed – that is they would be empowered to succeed, to excel, to increase, to be very fruitful, to have longevity, and walk in dominion on his behalf in the earth. If it was ever God’s will to bless his people, it’s God’s will today because he does not change. The implication is that this blessing would be used to spread the garden of Eden throughout the earth. But because of sin, the curse, not the blessing, would fill the earth prompting the Lord (Genesis 3:15) to unleash his prophetic word about the plan to restore the blessing that was compromised by sin and disobedience. Without the coming covenant with Abraham and the eventual disclosure of Jesus, his descendent who would go to the cross for our sin and bring back what sin had taken from us, we would be totally lost and without hope for all eternity.

We often think of the benefits of the cross to human beings like the fact that God’s justice was fulfilled by what Jesus did, or the reality that we are now forgiven of our sins and have access to the Father and to heaven. But the Scripture itself points to the foundational reason Jesus went to the cross: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:14). Justice has been served and we have been forgiven but the cross points to the reality that because sin (that which compromised the blessing – sin is anything that blocks, hinders, or stops the blessing) has been obliterated for those that repent and express faith in Jesus, the curse (the empowerment to fail) has been removed and the blessing has been restored.

It’s time for the born again believers to say “goodbye” to the curse and embrace once again God’s original desire for us – the blessing. Let us be quick to resist any remnant of that curse that is trying to linger in our lives and press in by faith to see the fullness of the blessing manifest in every area of our lives. That empowerment is standard equipment for us to get the job done in these last days. This is why we can say with great confidence and boldness, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). As we pause to reflect on the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, let’s remember that the far-reaching and destructive power of sin has been neutralized and celebrate that the eternity shaking power and influence of the blessing has been restored. Develop a new habit in your life – declaring the blessing: “I’m blessed, I can’t be cursed. I’ve been redeemed from the curse.”


Hot Tub Theology

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT).

A few years ago we were given a hot tub and it has truly been a blessing after many a challenging day in ministry. For the most part, maintaining water clarity and balance has been pretty easy. I recently switched from a non-chlorine, non-bromine based system to a bromine based chemical system because the water clarity is better. I learned a valuable lesson in the world of hot tub maintenance when a chalky film began to settle on the tub after a minor battle trying to regain the pH balance in the water. The film didn’t seem like a big deal at the time so I figured I would just come back a few days later and eventually wipe the film off without having to get too consumed with the issue (like having to drain the water and start all over again).

When I finally got around to addressing what I thought was a chalky, pasty residue, I discovered that normal wiping, scrubbing, and extra pressure would not remove the film. In fact nothing would remove what had become like a layer of stone deposited on seventy-five percent of the surface of the tub. As the tub drained revealing the enormity of the problem, I immediately regretted letting the thing go as long as I did. Nothing I tried would remove the film. Those magic erasers, I discovered, are not all that magic when it comes to removing scaly calcium mineral deposits on the sides of a hot tub. I learned by going online that white vinegar heated and then sprayed on the surface will cause the deposits to bubble up. After about ten minutes on the surface, that vinegar did in moments what could not be done previously. All I had to do was wipe and then rinse the area thoroughly. My tub surface was once again shiny and good as new.

My hot tub challenge reminds me of two very powerful spiritual principles when it comes to putting off dealing with things in our lives the Lord wants to remove: First, it never pays to delay judging that area of sin or compromise in our lives. It may not seem like a big deal today, but if we keep putting off our repentance we might just discover that thing is harder to get rid of than we thought. It is always better to embrace the mercies of God daily (Lamentations 3:21-23) than try to gain victory over something that has become entrenched and habitual in our lives. Many things appear to be “no big deal” until it becomes obvious that it would have been much better to remove it immediately rather than give it time to harden our hearts. Second, when it comes to the stubborn sins and strongholds in our lives, we need to break out the most powerful sin solvent in the universe – the blood of Jesus. The cosmetic and quick fixes the world offers (like the magic erasers) or the “putting our elbow into it” (the futile efforts to deal with things in our own strength) cannot bring the deliverance and peace we are looking for. Only the blood of Jesus can obliterate the crusty and hard residue of sin that attaches to our hearts over time. Only the blood of Jesus can burn off the sin and leave us clean, shiny, and ready to once again be filled with refreshing water and prepared for use.

I want to encourage you to pray the Psalm 139 prayer – Lord search me. You will never regret becoming a “quick to repent” believer (one who changes the mind with a corresponding change of behavior – that is to stop the offending behavior) in this day where rationalizing attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors (even in the body of Christ) has become an epidemic. Guard your heart and life daily and when you compromise or sin against God don’t put off making it right. You will find that it is better and easier to deal with your failures immediately rather than stacking the sin until your heart becomes a hard shell of indifference and apathy.

Church Groupies

“Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19, NIV).

It’s always amazed me that within a short period of time many of the same group of people who exclaimed, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” were soon shouting, “Crucify Him!” Aligning oneself publicly with Jesus seems like a good idea while it is politically and religiously correct to do so (and when there is no personal expectations placed on us). Today, as it was then, when it’s time to act, or the political and religious winds begin to blow in a different direction, or the pressure and persecution of being an unashamed follower of Jesus begins to manifest, too many seem to change the tune of their song.

Believers, just like Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4, are called to be disciples (self-disciplined learners and followers of Jesus Christ). Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we are to be like the master in values, character, priorities, ministry, devotion, and dedication (but obviously not the master). There is a world of difference between a curious observer of Jesus during his ministry or one of the throng excited about this new message and direction in the land and the true disciple. There is a world of difference between the nominal American church member and attendee and the true disciple (and many today can’t even find their way to church once a month). True disciples understand they are now dead and that their lives are now hidden in Christ. Many of us start out living as though we were dead (so that Jesus can live through us to do God’s will) but then we quickly resurrect the flesh when we don’t want to do something.

Without a true and working Bible concept of discipleship in our land, we have begun to produce more fickle followers than disciples. The word “fickle” means likely to change due to a lack of resolution, commitment, and instability. The fickle person is not constant or loyal in commitment or affection. The origins of this word indicate that it refers to treachery or deception. Perhaps the greatest treachery of all is the self-deception that many fickle followers of Jesus have today – the deception that they are really disciples.

Many Christians today are more like religious or church groupies that hang around the church and watch others perform until there is something more interesting to do. Groupies (like at a rock concert) gather, party, have fun, and get high. They like the excitement of something happening. They watch the show. They may even cheer, but at the end of the day the groupie really adds no value to the production. They don’t set things up (or tear them down).  They don’t advertise the concert. They don’t rehearse. They don’t usher rock fans into their seats. They don’t serve at the product tables. They don’t play in the band or run the lights and sound. Groupies just hang out to watch the show and try to score a back stage pass and an audience with the performers.

I guess I thought serving Jesus meant leaving that groupie lifestyle behind forever. Is it possible that something is greatly lacking in the spiritual formation of many believers in this country? Given the sacrifice of Jesus and the standard for true discipleship, let’s ask the Lord to show us if any of that old groupie mentality remains in our hearts and minds. There has never been a time in the history of the Church that we need believers to stop acting like church groupies and start acting like roadies for Jesus. Besides, have you ever noticed that when the tour bus pulls out the roadies are on board but the groupies are left behind?

Dusty Bibles

“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165, NIV).

The Bible promises great peace to the lover of the Word of God. The Psalmist exclaimed, “Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97). When we appreciate, spend time in, and apply the Word to our lives it releases God’s ability to keep us from stumbling, falling, or getting off track (and what a true blessing that is in the day we live). The “peace” refers to wholeness, soundness or “nothing missing and nothing broken.” This means that the Word is not only a force for helping us stand, it is also God’s power to bring restoration in to our lives. Romans 1:16, one of my favorite verses, says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation (soundness, wholeness) to them that believe…” Think about that for a minute. The Bible that so many people ignore, the Bible that has months of dust on it or has been sitting in the back of our car since last Sunday’s church service, is the key to the release of the power of God in our lives. While we cry out for deliverance, understanding, and power to live a victorious life, our Bible sits quietly on the nightstand unopened and neglected.

Howard Hendricks, the co-author of Living by the Book, said that shortly after he became a Christian, someone wrote in the flyleaf of his Bible the words, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Hendricks stated, “Dusty Bibles always lead to dirty lives” (p. 13). Obviously there is no way to live in peace with God and ourselves if we are constantly being defeated by the influence of the world and the constant struggle to live clean in a dirty world. It’s also important to remember that when we cut ourselves off from the daily entrance of the Word of God into our eyes, ears, and subsequently our hearts, we cut ourselves off from a very, very powerful sanctifying force (a godly influence that conforms us to God’s character rather than being squeezed into the world’s mold). Jesus said it like this, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Let me encourage you today to dust off that Bible and begin again. Don’t be afraid to study, really study that Bible. Read it. Turn the pages. Mark passages that speak to your heart. Write in the margins. Your Bible should not look pristine on the outside or the inside if you have been saved any length of time. You can tell a lot about the spiritual condition of a believer by looking at the condition of his or her personal Bible (and I’m not talking about the guy who leaves his Bible on top of his car as he speeds away from church or the Bible stained with coffee or the Bible left in the sun to bake for months). I’m talking about a Bible that looks worn because it has seen countless hours of binding bursting study and reflection.

I want to give you a few principles for becoming that Word person that deep in your heart you want to become. Take some time today to look up the Scriptures and apply them to your life:

  1. Fill your heart with the Word of God (Hebrews 5:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:15; Romans 10:17; Mark 4:24; Proverbs 4:20-22).
  2. Store the Word through memorization (Proverbs 2:1; 7:3; Psalm 119:11; Matthew 12:35).
  3. Meditate the Word (Psalm 1:1-3; Hebrews 4:12; Proverbs 119:14-15).
  4. Speak the Word (Joshua 1:6-8; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Proverbs 18:21).
  5. Do what the Word says (James 1:22-25; Deuteronomy 30:11-20; Luke 6:46-49).
  6. Stand on the Word (1 Peter 1:25; Ephesians 6:13, 17; 2 Chronicles 20:20).


“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance” (Psalm 33:12, NIV)

Today marks the historic signing of the landmark healthcare bill touted by some as the salvation of the nation and regarded by others as the final decent in to Armageddon. I don’t like the bill (and I’ll tell you why later), but I don’t think that any one piece of legislation is as good or bad as the voices in our land are portraying it. What concerns me more is the fear permeating every aspect of this process by everyone, every party, every media voice, and many of our citizens. We can take action, forge legislation, and make changes without throwing out common sense and faith and succumbing to fear. The fear surrounding this debate has given the enemy an opportunity to deceive, divide, and denigrate our people and our nation and this is why this healthcare initiative deserves the title, Mediscare, because it is proposed and opposed out of fear and fear always de-evolves into rancor, irrationality, and personal attacks by and upon all sides of the debate.

Right up front I will plainly state that I do not like the legislation for a litany of reasons. First, I don’t appreciate the manner in which the legislation was drafted (despite Obama’s promise repeatedly to create and draft this sweeping legislation with everyone’s input and televised – not the token roadshow broadcast recently). Second, this concept has been tried in earnest in Massachusetts and failed miserably (that effort proposed by a Republican) and in part in Tennessee with the same results. Third, our European friends that have already wandered down this path with one voice have warned us not to follow them. Fourth, the American people overwhelmingly have said (important in a democratic society) that they do not want this approach but that they want the government to start all over working together to forge substantive change in a bipartisan way. Fifth, when you have to basically bribe senators and congressmen in smoky back rooms out of the public eye and scrutiny to secure their vote it does not instill confidence in the product or the process. Sixth, this bill relegates control of over one-sixth of our economy to a federal bureaucracy that has proven its amazing management skills with such government entities as the post office, Amtrak, the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (need I say more). Seventh, as every nation that has adopted this direction in healthcare can tell you, healthcare quality and availability go down and the costs skyrocket. Eighth, our nation simply cannot afford a one trillion makeover when we already owe fourteen trillion in debt. The U.S. government apparently cannot seem to understand what every working family knows. If you can’t make the payments on your fifteen hundred square foot house, you don’t fix the problem by buying a ten thousand square foot house. If you can’t make the payment and insurance premiums on your clunker you don’t go out and buy a BMW. Ninth (wow), to mandate that individuals must purchase the privately sold product of healthcare insurance or face an IRS imposed, controlled, and collected fine (they call it a tax) is blatantly unconstitutional (and they know but don’t seem to care). Finally, I can’t stomach the expanded funding of abortion on demand with my tax dollars (you should know that no executive order trumps legislation). The right to life is the right that supersedes all other rights and should be protected at all costs and it is unconscionable to expect that pro-life believers should have to not only accept abortion, but fund it.

Despite these reservations, there is something troubling me more than the bill itself – the fear that has invaded every aspect of this debate and process. The debate should center around the merits (or lack thereof) of the legislation and not party affiliation, political philosophy or race. It grieves me and I know it hurts the heart of God for someone to oppose something on the basis of affiliation, philosophy or race. It is just as grievous to support something for the same reasons alone. But fear is like that. I mean when fear shows up sanity and critical thinking disappear and people default to what makes them feel secure (even if it is morally repugnant and biblically in error). It is racist to oppose legislation on the basis of the race, creed, or color of those that either initiate the proposal or benefit by the proposal but it is equally racist to say that because of a person’s race their views or proposals should not be criticized as if to say that because of their race their ideas will not survive scrutiny (that significantly devalues that individual).

I don’t lend my voice to politics or political parties (although I will vote and express my views on issues in light of the Word). My voice and allegiance are at the disposal of the Lord Jesus Christ and with that in mind I want to exhort people of faith from all parties, philosophies, and races (the Bible truly only teaches one race – the human race, but for understanding only do I use this term) to get back into faith concerning this initiative and any other initiative proposed by our government. Fear opens the door to all sorts of evil and believers have no business hooking back up to the enemy just because they have strong opinions on a civil matter. Our hope is the Lord, his Word, and his Kingdom. If we win or lose the argument or succeed or fail to pass the legislation we want, let’s remember that we are citizens of heaven first and we should never compromise our royal decorum as kings and priests together with him to feel, speak, and act like the world regardless of the importance of the issue. No debate is worth losing our witness and way as believers and no issue is worth losing the blessing on our lives, families, and churches.

So, have and express your opinion (I’ve expressed mine and I will vote in November accordingly because I too am a citizen of this nation), but if you have slipped into fear over this as evidenced by the venom in your heart or mouth for any party, philosophy, or background, knock it off, repent, and be the Christian you need to be in this messed up and confused world we live in. The fact is no political party truly represents the interests of the Kingdom of God so we are left with the task of evaluating political efforts and decisions in the light of the Word and not their platforms, websites, or press releases. Join me in believing God for legislation that is the product of faith rather than born out of fear or opposed out of fear because, “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23, NIV).

The Anointing of Acceleration

“When evening came on, His disciples went down to the Lake. There they got on board a boat, and pushed off to cross the Lake to Capernaum. By this time it had become dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. The Lake also was getting rough, because a strong wind was blowing. When, however, they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water and coming near the boat. They were terrified; but He called to them. ‘It is I,’ He said, ‘do not be afraid.’ Then they were willing to take Him on board; and in a moment the boat reached the shore at the point to which they were going” (John 6:16-21, Weymouth).

Sometimes our lives seem just like the disciples in their Sea of Galilee experience. We have a dream, a vision, or an objective but we don’t feel like we are making much progress. Darkness has set in and the path seems unclear and confusing. God seems distant even though we know that the Scripture says he never leaves us. Like the boat on the lake, strong winds of spiritual turbulence are blowing kicking up opposition and hindrances. Circumstances like rough waves one after the other are marshaled against us. Yet, what do we do? Like the disciples who traveled four miles to the middle of the lake, we have gone to far to turn back now. Just like the disciples, the spirit of fear is trying to move in to make the kill by telling us that God’s Word will not work for us, or that we are not going to get to our destination, or that the dream is dead.

The Scripture shows us that we can experience an altogether different outcome if we will apply some simple truths in the midst of our challenge. First, acknowledge him. Jesus said, “It is I,” to remind us that he has not abandoned us. Second, stop the fear. We have not been given the spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He boldly challenges us to trust him and come back to faith. Finally take him in. The Scripture teaches that the disciples agreed to let him in the boat. We need to agree to let him in the middle of our situation as well.

What happens next in this story is nothing short of amazing. John 6:21 says that “in a moment the boat reached the shore at the point to which they were going.” For years I’ve read that story to mean that they just sort of continued with Jesus in the boat rowing four more miles to the other side of the lake. But that’s not what the Scripture says. The Bible says (and backed by every major translation) that “in a moment” they made it to the other side. The NIV, KJV, and the NLT all say they made it “immediately” (the NLT placing an exclamation point for emphasis). The NCV declares they got there “at once.” The Message paraphrase says, “So they took him on board. In no time they reached land-the exact spot they were headed to.”

The Lord released what I have come to know as an “anointing of acceleration” in this situation to let us know that time is subject to him but he is not subject to time. I heard this phrase in my spirit many years ago when the Lord spoke to me about pouring out an anointing on my life that would bring acceleration or the speeding up of things that seemed to drag on or were slow to manifest. During the Pensacola revival back in 1995 the man of God hosting the meetings prophesied to me these words: “your life has been like a rubber band stretching out and then snapping back into place, but now it will be like a catapult covering a lot of ground very quickly.” To accelerate means to cause faster progress, development, advancement, or hastening. It means to change the velocity or rate of motion. It also means to reduce the time normally required for a certain activity.

Maybe you can relate to the feeling of pushing forward and then getting nowhere (just like the disciples), but I want you to know that the anointed one has a special ability to accelerate your life, your dreams, and your ministry just like he brought that boat the distance of four miles in a moment. Be encouraged that the anointing of acceleration is real and we will all see its full force and effect either by way of rapture or resurrection (“in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”), but we don’t have to wait until then to experience a taste of it. Jesus employed this anointing for the purposes of accomplishing his will in the earth. It’s important to remember what this supernatural anointing can accomplish in your life. First, it will speed up your progress. Second, it will bring you to the exact place the Lord wants you to be (better than the best GPS system for accuracy). Finally, the anointing of acceleration will definitely make up for all that time lost in that “middle of the lake experience” where the darkness, sense of abandonment, opposition, circumstances, and fear tried to hold you back.

Take the Shot

Murray State University students and alumni in Murray and around the country continue to celebrate the stunning defeat of Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Division I Tournament yesterday. Murray’s consistent and controlled game gave them a small lead after the first half. Vanderbilt rushed back in the second half and had a one point lead with 4.2 seconds left in the game. With only one second left on the clock, Danero Thomas made a 15-foot shot to take the game 66 to 65. According to Murray State’s coach, Billy Kennedy, Thomas was the third or fourth option. Kennedy commented, “It was a miracle play…It was just something I drew up, something that we’d never done before.”

I love the fact that MSU, the 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Champions, is once again playing in the tournament and took out a top seed to advance to the next round. I haven’t seen this much excitement over a MSU men’s basketball team since their stunning defeat of Jim Valvano’s NC State team back in the late 1980’s. I’ll never forget the look on Valvano’s face when he congratulated MSU’s coach after the game (who are you people anyway). But what makes this victory such an inspiration is the tenacity of the team, though visibly tired and spent, and the fact that the unlikely player saved the day. Stories like this should encourage all of us that we can make a difference too.

The Bible states that, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27, NIV). It doesn’t matter what we were or what we had done before the call to the “big dance” of service unto the Lord. It doesn’t matter that we were not voted most likely to succeed in high school or that we were undistinguished among other athletes (or even picked last for the team). The one God calls he also equips. The Lord anoints his people to accomplish his will and purposes in the earth. That anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do. “He puts his ability on our ability giving us the ability to do what we could not do before he put his ability on our ability” (thanks Creflo). He adds his super to our natural for supernatural or miraculous results (just like Danero’s 15-footer). So, when the Lord passes you the ball, and even though you are tired and more than a little intimidated, take the shot because there’s something on you. This could very well be God’s “for such a time as this” moment in your life.

Congratulations Danero, Coach Kennedy, and the entire Murray State University Racer team!

The Blueprint

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV). “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

Hope is one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary. Unfortunately, many people define and speak of hope as not much more than wishful thinking. In fact when they say, “I hope that…” they usually mean they wish, and this concept of wishing is very, very different from Bible hope and more often than not does not translate into results.

Bible hope, on the other hand, is eager expectation in our hearts from an inner image on the inside of us built into us through the intake of the Word of God. It has also been defined as “white hot expectation” or like a bird with its neck outstretched looking, longing for something. You see, with Bible hope we are not just “a hoping and a praying,” but fully expecting that the inner image or hope on the inside of us will manifest according to Hebrews 11:1 which states, “Now faith is the being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith causes what we see on the inside to manifest on the outside. Therefore, we must have a breakthrough of hope on the inside of our hearts before we will ever see the actual breakthrough in our lives.

The key to seeing our hope manifest rather than being deferred (which makes the heart sick, Proverbs 13:2), is to push out the unscriptural inner image that has been developed in us over time from input that contradicts the Word of God. The more time we spend in the Word in our particular need area, the larger the inner image of what God promised becomes. This is how true Bible hope is developed.

Hope is like the blueprint for something that you would like to create or become. Contractors begin with a blueprint of what the house or building is to look like when the construction is finished. If we begin the project with just a vague mental picture of what we want we are setting ourselves up for confusion, delays, poor quality, and disappointment. The more accurate and clear the plans, the more efficient the process of receiving will be.  On the other hand, we can have the best set of blueprints and never get around to swinging the hammer (even with the Bible hope, faith without works is dead). We need hope (the inner image) and faith (how we get flesh on the design) to get the job done.

Start today putting the Word of God into your heart in abundance and drive out that old negative, limiting, and unscriptural image that is blocking God’s best in your life. The more you put the Word in your heart the clearer your blueprint with be. That hope will then serve as an anchor for your soul (our mind, will, and emotions) when it looks like things are not going to work out or when you are tempted to just throw yourself down on the floor and have a tantrum. That Bible hope on the inside will bring calm and resolve to your heart so that your emotions do not push you off your stand of faith. Before long the hope working in conjunction with your faith (and corresponding action) will begin to produce on the outside what you have been seeing on the inside.

Faith Is Not Enough

“…he who endures until the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22, KJV). “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:14, NIV).

Any sound teaching about faith must also include the reality that faith is not enough. What?!? I didn’t stutter. In fact, often when believers feel like their faith has failed in something they were believing God for it wasn’t their faith at all. The culprit was a lack of patience or perseverance. The person who endures to the end, perseveres, practices endurance, won’t quit or give up, who goes all the way shall be saved or tap into God’s various dimensions of soundness.

Patience is word-based confidence that God will come through if we do not faint or give up. It is steadfastness under provocation to quit or give up. Patience means to be consistently constant while we rest in faith for the “end of our faith” (the realization of what we are believing). If we are not excited, expectant, and at rest in our hearts, we have not added patience to our faith and most likely we will fail to see the manifestation.

Galatians 6:9 exhorts us to “not be weary in well doing, for we shall reap if we faint not.” If we are truly in faith we will be tempted to get weary. Weariness in the fight of faith does not make you a freak or a second class faith person. Due season is always later than our flesh wants it to be. Faith will get results if we don’t quit and the key to not quitting is developing the force of patience to support our faith. Most people do well for a while believing God but then they get tired, weary, frustrated, confused and then they quit. We need to realize that if we believe strongly for a few months and then quit we will get the same results as if we did not believe God at all. When our patience runs out, our faith runs out.

Receiving from God requires believing God and his Word but it also requires that we add patience to our faith. The Scripture teaches that we receive the promises through faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12). The force of patience is standard equipment that is required for the believer to receive by faith. Patience is an anointing or force of the born again spirit that brings that stability to our faith during a period of faith-filled waiting. The passenger jet is equipped with a horizontal tail stabilizer that keeps the plane flying straight and prevents the plane from pitching up or down (that’s the job of the elevator found on the back of the stabilizer assembly). Patience can be described as a force of the spirit that stabilizes our faith while we are waiting for the manifestation. Without our stabilizer we’ll never get to our ultimate destination.

The Scripture warns us not to throw down our confidence but to persevere  so that we can receive the promise (Hebrews 10:35-39). The key to not shrinking back on our faith is patience. Many times the believer will allow the passing of time beyond some artificial faith deadline (that God did not give you) to discourage them from continuing to press in and believe God. When the hour of our expectation passes we need to remember that the Word did not suddenly change. Heaven and earth will pass away but his Word will not pass away (Matthew 24:35). In fact, the key to maintaining  our faith during challenging and tough times is to fix our eyes on Jesus (and Jesus and the Word are one), the author and finisher of our faith, and not on the clock, the challenges, the problems, or the circumstances (Hebrews 12:1-3). As we focus our attention on the Word like a laser beam we become oblivious to the passing of time and more conscious of the reality of God and his promises to our hearts. Remember that there is a cloud of witnesses pulling for you and they have already proven that if we will add patience to our faith we will receive the promises.

Every Way

“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV).

Our missions celebration last evening was a remarkable success. Our leadership team did an amazing job organizing our emphasis on missions and our theme of Every Way. The food, fellowship, missions themed decorations, the kid’s presentation, our celebration video, and our faith promise challenge by Paul Brannon and his wife Betty were all simply outstanding. Additionally, with the Lord’s blessing, our faith promise total for the year was a record (and that in the middle of a recession – thank God the recession does not belong to the body of Christ). Missions awareness was increased throughout the ministry, we celebrated what God is doing through the various missionary efforts we support, and the Lord increased substantially our capacity to fund external and internal missions operations. Praise the Lord! I invite everyone that could not be with us last evening to follow up on this tremendous opportunity to support world missions, U.S. missions, and HHC church planting efforts.

We live in an exciting day with amazing technology to literally get the gospel out on every available voice. I’ve always believed if Jesus was ministering today bodily he would take advantage of every available means to spread the gospel and make disciples including the internet, smart phones, radio, television, etc. Like Paul, it is in our hearts to reach everyone we can through every way, method, and means at our disposal. Individuals and families that make faith promises for missions become pivotal partners so that the local church can reach out in every way.

Once again, thanks for your partnership in the ministries and missions efforts of Hope Harbor Church. As the year goes by the significance of your involvement will become more and more apparent and many thousands will hear the gospel because of your giving.

There’s something on you…it’s the blessing.

Little Red Basketballs

“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:72, NIV). “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

It’s often been said that character is who you are when nobody else is around. For our purposes we will define character as the moral or ethical quality of an individual. It should go without saying that as we grow in Christ, so too should we see a definitive developing of Christlike character in our lives. Unfortunately, the development of character is not always the priority that it should be in the life of the believer and eventually, the lack of integrity, not the devil, and not the will of God is at the root of our personal failure and defeat.

When I was in graduate school preparing for the ministry I had the privilege of working for Juleen Turnage, National Director of Communications for the Assemblies of God International Headquarters in Springfield, Missouri (known then as the Office of Information). My job consisted of answering information requests from our publications like the Pentecostal Evangel and giving tours several times a day of the ministry and production facilities of the headquarters complex.

Juleen was at the helm during the many national ministry scandals of the late 1980’s and I will never forget something she said to me during that time. She commented that in our denomination we have three graduated levels of credentials: the certified minister, the licensed minister, and the ordained minister. From her perspective, the serious screening of the ministry candidate should take place at the first level when the minister is young, developing, and pliable, rather than at the ordination level when the ministry is developed and the consequences for the individual and followers is greater. Having been through the process I can certify that the greater scrutiny is given to the ordination candidate, but I’ve privately agreed with her assessment (the result of knowing thousands of ministers through the years).

We all have those character defining moments in life and hopefully we respond correctly and biblically because a wrong turn at a pivotal point in our lives can compromise our destiny and purpose in God. We can learn how to teach, preach, play an instrument or some other skill for ministry or secular purposes, but character is not a skill to be learned but the sum of the personal development of values and the consistent alignment on those values through the years.

An early defining moment for me came in junior high school. I was nominated for the outstanding male graduate that year for academic excellence and extracurricular leadership and accomplishment. An honor bestowed by the student body and approved by the administration, winning that award was a distinct possibility. The problem was that earlier in the year I had agreed to sell some little red basketballs with our school name on them as a fundraiser for the Boy’s Honor Society. Well, the months went by and being the world’s worst salesman, I hadn’t sold a thing. My share of little red basketballs was still sitting in a brown bag in my locker when the charge came from the faculty advisor to sell them or cough up the money. I blew him off until one day I received a visit from the principal on the playground who, without directly referring to the student award, made it plain to me that if I did not do the right thing with the basketballs, “I had an awful lot to lose.” He repeated himself for emphasis. Somehow he just couldn’t drill through the wood that day.

It wasn’t until graduation day and I had to watch my good friend receive my award that it occurred on me that as a member of the Boy’s Honor Society I should have acted with more honor and character in the situation. The principal tried to help me navigate this early character issue but stopped short of letting the cat out of the bag. If he told me outright I might have acted out of convenience and not out of a sense of honor. He was right but it was an extremely painful way to learn a lesson about integrity, especially for an eighth grader. If I saw him today I would thank him for caring more about the big picture and valuing the prize of character over a school trophy.

Let me encourage you to deal with the “little red basketball” issues in your life. As we grow in Christ the bar is set ever higher and the Lord expects us to walk in honor, integrity, and demonstrate consistently a Christlike character. Your issue may be anger, honesty, personal strongholds or addictions, financial compromise, sexual misconduct, an interpersonal conflict, or as simple as a promise or commitment you’ve failed to keep. As Moses discovered, the time to deal with your issue is not after you strike the rock and dishonor God in the eyes of the people. As Moses missed out on the joy of stepping into the promised land personally (instead of seeing it from afar), we too stand to miss out on God’s promotion and inheritance if we do not do the right thing and deal now with the those stupid little red basketballs in all of our lives.

A Horse Named TV Yankee

Without question the horse is one of God’s most majestic creations. In fact, for centuries the horse has been associated with royalty, power, and influence. It’s not hard to understand the multi-cultural affection for the horse if you’ve ever watched this amazing animal trot down the track in a race. It’s no wonder that the Scripture depicts our Lord and Savior returning triumphantly on horseback. While I obviously do not endorse gambling or wagering on the horses, I have to admit that as a baby Christian I learned a powerful lesson from doing so.

For years as a youngster growing up in Southern Illinois I wouldn’t miss the festivities of the annual DuQuoin State Fair and especially the Standardbred trotting classic, the Hambletonian stakes, held at this venue until 1980. When the stakes moved to the Meadowlands, the State of Illinois promoted a new cup known as the World Trotting Derby in DuQuoin. Facing budget cuts, the future of the World Trotting Derby is now in question.

Nonetheless, I had the privilege of watching hundreds of amazing animals through the years and the blessing of receiving a personal revelation through one horse in particular, Hanover Farms’ TV Yankee. TV Yankee (see a file picture here) set a world record in Europe and had all the promise to win the 1983 World Trotting Derby. I was so convinced that this horse would win it all that I put my enormous $2 bet down on TV Yankee to win. Now in the World Trotting Derby a horse had to win two races to take the stakes so I wasn’t too concerned when TV Yankee placed dismally in the middle of the field during his first race. Undaunted, I bet again on TV Yankee to win in his second race. Unfortunately he finished almost dead last. Dismayed but with great faith in this four-legged wonder I headed back to the betting booth to give TV Yankee another try believing that although he was racing in a third race with two winners vying to secure the championship with their second win, he would somehow, some way pull this thing out. By now I had drug my Dad into my fervor and, um, racing ignorance. I placed my third $2 bet and he placed his $20 bet. A few moments later it was post time. I hadn’t even returned to the track when I looked up on the board to see that TV Yankee had scratched (and you don’t get your money back when they scratch after post time).

I’ll never forget what happened next. Within a span of a couple of minutes I heard from my earthly Father and my Heavenly Father. My Dad just shook his head and said playfully, “you big dummy.” My Heavenly Father said something to my heart at that moment that I will never forget and something that has had a great impact on my life. As soon as I saw that TV Yankee had scratched He said, “you have more faith in that horse than you do me.” Ouch. I realized at that very moment I had placed my trust in a horse based on a racing program for the World Trotting Derby but somehow was doubting God ‘s ability and power expressed in our “program for life,” the Bible.

I want to encourage you today to learn to trust the Lord, that is to put your full weight and confidence in his character and in his Word. It’s funny as I remember TV Yankee and my confidence in him that at the same time I was doubting God’s ability to lead my life and provide as I began to discern the first indications that he was calling me into the ministry. How is it that I could have more trust in a horse from the East coast I knew nothing about than the God who created me and saved me? Well, anyway, thanks to TV Yankee and an afternoon at the track, I’ve learned to bet on the Lord Jesus Christ in every area of my life and I want you to know that you can count on him too.

The Jezebel (or Jezebilly) Spirit

“Nevertheless, I have something against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20, NIV).

The name, “Jezebel” meaning “virgin or whore of Ba`al” is certainly telling of her (or his) agenda. Jezebel in Scripture was the Sidonian wife of Ahab. She was an aggressive and avid promoter of Ba`al worship which involved imitative magic, the performance of rituals, and “sacred prostitution” all designed to give Ba`al vitality and power. She was extremely antagonistic and opposed to the true prophets of the Lord (like Elijah) persecuting and even murdering them and anyone else if it would further her agenda (1 Kings 21).

Though the woman Jezebel was eventually killed by Jehu (2 Kings 9), the demonic Jezebel spirit remains in the earth to this day moving and operating against the purity of the gospel and those that are faithful servants of the Lord. Even though the spirit is called “the Jezebel spirit,” men, as well as women, can function under its influence to hinder and sidetrack the Church of Jesus Christ in these last days. In fact, we are seeing an unprecedented flurry of Jezebel (and Jezebilly) activity against the Church today. Most certainly the enemy knows his days are numbered and he is doing everything he can to take believers and particularly leaders down. Jesus himself alerted the Church in Revelation 2 of Jezebel’s ability to lead the people of God into sexual immorality and idolatry.

The key to overcoming the influence of the Jezebel spirit in our lives is to understand the characteristics of the spirit so that we can (1) guard our own hearts against those tendencies, and (2) be aware when someone operating in the Jezebel or Jezebilly spirit is moving to take us down. Remember that the spirit, even though associated with female beauty, prowess, and allure, will use a man as well as a woman to work its destructive agenda. Consider the following characteristics of the Jezebel spirit:

  • Masquerades as a Servant of God – it should be no surprise to us that if Satan can masquerade as an Angel of Light then a person subject to this spirit can pretend to be a believer and even flow unhindered and undiscovered in the Church especially if vision is missing, love is absent, and the Holy Spirit is sequestered. This ability to function undetected behind the scenes is one of the greatest weapons for the Jezebel spirit.
  • Manipulative – manipulation in Scripture is equated with the sin of witchcraft and Jezebel is a master of manipulation, that is to force one’s will on another through deception, coercion, or intimidation. Often the Jezebel spirit will use emotion such as sulking or anger to force an individual’s compliance
  • Promiscuous – according to Bible history and the prophetic statements of Jesus, the Jezebel spirit entices the servant of God into sexual immorality of all kinds including premarital relations, same-sex relations, extramarital relations, pornography and all manner of sexual perversion. When you see a believer or church leader succumb to sexual immorality you can bet Jezebel (male or female) was behind it.
  • Seductive – the Jezebel spirit is extremely seductive (and not just in sexual matters). Seduction refers to the luring away of the believer from right duty, conviction, and conduct. It is a gradual and deliberate process designed to take control of one’s life working first in the mind to cloud and twist the thinking before taking over the heart. It is important to note that only previously faithful people can be seduced (a reality and warning we should all heed). The person operating in this spirit will show up during critical challenges and hard times offering the proverbial shoulder to cry on and emotional support. Endowed with charm, they know just the right things to say and they prey on the hurt, alienated, the distressed, the burned out, the discouraged, and the hopeless.
  • Controlling – another meaning of “Jezebel” refers to the controlling nature of the spirit. The goal of this sprit is to dominate, subjugate, and control the individual. If this is not possible, the Jezebel spirit will do everything in its power to destroy what it cannot control (you might recall Jezebel’s angry tirade and threat against Elijah after the defeat of the prophets of Ba`al on Mount Carmel). The spirit’s speciality is taking down the committed believer and particularly spiritual leadership because this is the only way for that spirit to defeat true, anointed spiritual leadership in the Church.

So what can you do to protect yourself, your family, your church, and your church leadership from the accelerated influence and agenda of the Jezebel or Jezebilly spirit? Romans 12:21 from the NASB says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Consider the following three keys for Jezebel-proofing your life:

First, walk in the light because ungodliness will lead to our seduction. We need to make a concerted effort to stay away from dark things and abstain from even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 1:22, KJV). If we live lives of purity and holiness and stay out of the darkness it will be very hard for the spirit of Jezebel, which thrives in darkness, to seduce us. Take heed the wisdom and counsel of Isaiah, “Now, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light which the Lord gives us” (Isaiah 2:5, GN).

Second, walk in love because unforgiveness will lead to our seduction. Ephesians 4:32, declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as sin Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).We need to forgive quickly when we are hurt or disappointed because the more time we spend holding a grudge, the more opportunity the spirit of Jezebel has to work on our minds and hearts. Every believer needs to remember that offense is a doorway to our seduction and the Jezebel is effective in helping us to manufacture offense, keep us focused on the offense, and then push to act on the offense.

Finally, walk in living contact because unfaithfulness will lead to our seduction. Our daily focus should be to spend time in God’s presence. The believer that is closer today than he or she has ever been to the Lord is less likely to be seduced and controlled by the Jezebel spirit. We are busy people and Satan will use our busyness to ensnare us. We need to realize that nothing is more important than spending time in living, vital union with the Lord. This means that we make the Lord our number one need above everything else in life. He needs to be more important to us than oxygen, food, water, money, relationships – everything. Micah 6:8 reminds us what the Lord requires: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Let me encourage you to be alert and sober and on the look out for the spirit of Jezebel trying to find a way into your life, your home, your marriage. The Jezebel spirit is annihilating marriages, compromising ministries, embittering children, and destroying dreams. Make up your mind that just like Elijah, you will stand against the Jezebel or Jezebilly spirit by walking in the light, walking in love, and walking in living contact with your God.

Faith Like a Pigeon

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31-34, NIV).

A friend of mine and this ministry approached me Sunday to say that he wanted to partner with the television outreach of the church. The following day he said he had an interesting vision in his mind that he wanted to share with me. He saw people sitting on a park bench tossing bread crumbs to the pigeons below. At first he thought he was nuts, but given the way his mind works (his words), he asked the Lord what this was all about. The Lord showed him that the people on the park bench are believers tossing financial seed with little thought and direction on the ground while the pigeons, representing ministers and ministries, try frantically to compete for and collect the meager offerings on the ground. His encouraging word for me was that we would not be like those manic little pigeons trying to carve out their portion but that we would be abundantly supplied for in this ministry journey and endeavor.

These are tough times for people in general, but God is not surprised and his Word is not invalid or less powerful or true just because the world and its system of trying to meet its needs without God has fallen on hard times. On the contrary, the wisdom of walking with God at a time like this is becoming more and more apparent. The believer has a source that the world knows nothing about. We tap into that source through our relationship with Jesus Christ, through the sowing of our own financial seed, and through faith in God and his Word to supply for his people. Paul said to the loving and giving church at Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

The life of faith is characterized by rest rather than by scrambling frantically for God’s answer or provision in our lives. If we are filled with anxiety, fretting, and worry over the situation or challenges we face we are not in faith. Remember the lesson Jesus taught. He provides for every bird every day and they do not sow or reap and have no means of storage (Luke 12:24). Somehow they just know there will be supply enough when it is needed and that by the direct hand of a loving Heavenly Father. The way we enter into the rest of God and receive during challenging times is to believe (Hebrews 4:3) rather than pecking around with the faith of a pigeon.

The Shame Game – Part 2

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16, NIV). “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38, NIV).

In my previous post dealing with The Shame Game I began to discuss the skill of the enemy to use shame as a weapon against the believer. Generally he uses this weapon in two areas: (1) in shaming the believer for past mistakes and sins; and (2) in shaming the believer for daring to believe that they can be, do, and have what the Bible says they can be, do, and have. Today, I want to talk about the shaming of the believer off the Word and the promises of God.

We have all been exposed to the politically correct (PC) movement in this nation that threatens free expression and free speech. As believers, we are confronted with something that has been around much longer than the PC movement – the religiously correct (RC) movement which dates all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Our job as believers is to reject the PC and the RC movements and embrace the value of being biblically correct (BC).

Have you noticed that if a person happens to be on the wrong side of the PC standard or flavor of the month, organizations, schools, universities, workplaces, and the media will all chime in concert to try to shame the individual for being on the wrong side of what they view to be politically correct. The same thing is happening to Word believers all over the nation because they dare to stand on the Word and stand in contrast to the religiously correct position on a variety of doctrines and beliefs. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the RC position, denominations, publishers, broadcasters, self-appointed theological watchdogs, bloggers, and yes, once again, the media will all chime in with their shame and disapproval. “You mean to tell me (with wrinkled nose) you believe it’s God’s will to bless your life spiritually and materially? For shame…” Yes, I do. It’s God’s will to bless us so that we can be a blessing (Genesis 12:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11). The real shame is letting the enemy lie about God and rob the body of Christ blind of power and substance!

Because of the shame game, many believers are folding their faith tent and going back into the company of the powerless (a form of godliness but denying the power of God) because they need to be accepted more than they desire to hold to the integrity of the Word. It’s not religiously correct to believe in supernatural healing, the casting out of devils, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit like tongues, and biblical prosperity for world evangelization (in fact just say the Word, “prosperity,” and some will go into a religious conniption fit and flurry of convulsive proof texting and vilifying of those they feel are in error).

The result is that, through the shame, the hungry believer that desires to be biblically correct and tap into every command, correction, exhortation, and promise of the Word of God can be manipulated into conforming to the pressure of the religiously correct and let go of the awesome promises of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Religion (one definition is “return to bondage”) comes by hearing and hearing the religiously correct doctrines of men which the Scriptures declare, make the Word of none effect (Matthew 15:6).

We are told in Mark 8:38 that we must not be ashamed of Jesus or his words because our future and destiny rides on honoring him and his word. It is vital to remember that Jesus and his Word are one. You cannot be ashamed of the amazing promises of God because some “expert” has said that has passed away or God doesn’t do that anymore without being also ashamed of Jesus. Paul left us a very powerful principle in Romans 1:16. He boldly declared that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it literally is the power of God unto salvation (soundness in every area of life) to those that believe. The power resident in the Word (it has the power to bring itself to pass) is not released unless the individual believes and acts on that Word. It is clear from this Scripture that the portion of our redemption we’re ashamed of (because of the opinions of people) is the portion of our soundness we will never walk in or enjoy.

Let me encourage you to adopt the powerful attitude of Peter when Jesus asked the disciples if they too were going to leave him after he preached the room clearing sermon about his blood and body. Peter simply replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let the exhortation of Paul embolden you to stand on the Word and refuse to be shamed off of it no matter how much pressure comes your way: “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Romans 3:3-4, NIV).

The Shame Game – Part 1

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV). “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5, NIV). “Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs” (Isaiah 61:7, NIV).

Shame is one of the most powerful and influential emotions in the life of the believer. Shame is a painful feeling from consciousness of something we have done that is dishonorable, improper, or disgraceful. When we violate God’s law we should feel guilty and ashamed up until the point that we confess that sin and repent of it (although many today in the Church, like the world, seem to have no sense of shame whatsoever regarding their behavior and life choices).

The enemy is a master with the weapon of shame in the believer’s life. He works hard to accuse us over our past sins and mistakes to keep us focused on the failures of the past rather than the potential of the future. He also works hard (especially in our time) to try to shame (with the help of the religiously correct police) the believer for having the audacity to believe that they can be, do, and have what the Bible says they can be, do, and have. Both applications of shame by the enemy are powerful and both need to be excised from our lives. Today I want to talk about the enemy’s attempt to continue to shame us over our past sins and mistakes.

When we continue to feel ashamed, guilty, and condemned long after we have confessed and repented of the sin it is a sign that the enemy is playing the shame game with us. During those times we need to remind ourselves about the powerful gift of righteousness given to us at the new birth. Righteousness is the God-given ability to stand in the presence of a holy God without a sense of condemnation, inferiority, guilt, or SHAME. Righteousness and shame will always be in conflict with other. When you sense that shame trying to come on you again, reject it and remind yourself by speaking it out loud, “I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.”

Shame is extremely detrimental to the believer. Consider the following consequences of a “shame” consciousness:

  • Shame undermines our confidence in God and His Word (shame is not faith)
  • Shame shuts down our confession of faith and our boldness (we become intimidated)
  • Shame tries to control the agenda in our lives through (manipulative and overbearing)
  • Shame robs us or our joy, peace, and enthusiasm in life (dominates our thinking)
  • Shame makes it very difficult for us to receive from God (we feel condemned and unworthy)
  • Shame hinders us from stepping out into our destiny (we feel disqualified)

I want to encourage you to resist and reject the enemy’s attempt to play the shame game with you. When those old familiar condemning thoughts come your way, remind yourself that shame is under the curse and Jesus went to the cross to redeem you from every aspect of the curse including shame. Keep your eyes on Jesus and your face will reflect the glory of God and not shame. Claim the promise of Isaiah 61:7 and trade that shame for your inheritance and the double portion.

You’re Fired!

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’ ” (John 2:5, NIV). “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40, NIV).

Living the victorious, significant, overcoming, and blessed life in God is not that hard to understand or attain. We hinder ourselves and complicate matters, though, when we fail to allow Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. Most of us know how to say “Lord” (just like the illustration of Jesus in Luke 6:46), but actually, intentionally, and consistently letting him be the Lord of our lives is a different thing altogether. When you think about it, we made terrible Lords over our lives before Jesus and we don’t do any better after we accept him. If Jesus is not Lord then he’s really not our savior, and if he’s not our savior then we can’t lay claim to the blessing.

The bottom line is that we want to have a savior (aka, fire insurance), but we aren’t too big on having someone calling the shots in our lives. “Jesus is Lord” means that he is the CEO, the director, and the master and our job is to listen to the directives and carry them out quickly, willingly, and graciously. Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land” (NIV). This powerful nugget of truth teaches us that if we want to walk in the fullness of the blessing we must be obedient (obviously) but we must also be willing in our hearts (that is we obey with willing hearts before God rather than begrudgingly. Begrudging obedience is compliance and compliance does not reflect a willing heart.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, clearly understood the authority of Jesus and passed on her revelation to the servants who tended to the wedding at Cana. She told them to do whatever Jesus says. This, in a nutshell, is some of the greatest counsel you will ever hear concerning the Christian faith. If we get this lesson down, we will truly make a mark in this world that cannot be erased. What a contrast that is from Martha’s attitude who took ignorance of Lordship to an entirely new level when she actually commanded the Lord to tell her sister to help her! It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to figure out that Martha had inverted the Lordship factor. Jesus is the one that should be commanding us and not the other way around.

We live in a critical time. We have much to accomplish for the Kingdom of God and precious little time to do it. I believe we will see a dramatic increase in commands from the Lord to our hearts to correct thinking, behavior, attitudes, and even direction in life. I want to exhort you to be quick and accurate in your obedience and that you obey from a heart that is gracious and willing. It’s time to look in the mirror and fire yourself as the Lord over your life and truly make Jesus the Lord (not in a religious, knee-jerk manner, but in a manner consistent with a quality decision of dedication – a decision from which there is no further discussion and from which there is no retreat). Listen carefully and you’ll hear his voice telling you to witness to a certain person, or to forgive someone, or to serve in a certain ministry, or to give a certain amount of money, or to even go apologize to someone you have hurt or offended. Do whatever he tells you.

Too Many Words

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19, NIV).

It’s interesting to realize that there are over 85 references to the tongue, lips, and mouth in the Book of Proverbs. It seems that the inspired writings of Solomon and others are zeroing in on a major stumbling block in the lives of God’s people. The message of the whole could very well be summed up in the idea that the more we talk, the more we are prone to get into trouble (Proverbs 10:19). Obviously, a talking fast would be of great benefit to us all.

The time to consider your words is before you speak, not after you have allowed them to fly in a fit of frustration, anger, or intrigue. We all know the thud of regret when we realize that something less than Christlike speech has come out of our mouths in content or tone. It is better to put down your bow and arrow than to release the arrow into the air and only then give thought as to its target and impact. Like arrows spent, our words, once released, cannot be recalled so we must be more mindful of their use.

James taught that the path to mature Christian living is the domination and control of the tongue. A man who has learned to bridle the tongue (the hardest thing in the world to do) can find success in every area of Christian living (James 3). He also taught that man could not tame the tongue through natural power. This means we must employ our God-given arsenal in curbing this “restless evil.”

Consider these powerful tools for controlling the tongue:

Speak the Word

It is impossible to speak the Word of God and things that are ungodly, inappropriate, non-edifying, or just plain unprofitable at the same time. The Scripture teaches the key to constantly speaking the Word is the filling of the heart with the Word of God (Matthew 12:33) for “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (or as I like to say, if you open your mouth your heart will fall out). Deliberately and consciously speaking the exhortations, promises, and commands of Scripture throughout the day will serve as a bridle curbing the propensity to use the mouth destructively.

Speak Praises to God

Praise is not the hidden adoration of God in the heart. Praise is vocal adoration – that is we declare in our native tongue the glory and majesty of God. James pointed out that it is unnatural to bless the Lord while we curse men made in his image. By concentrating on praising God on purpose, we position ourselves to let the high praises of God be in our mouths and a two-edged sword in our hands (Psalm 149:6). As we sow seeds of praise we develop the habit of blessing rather than cursing.

Pray in the Spirit

The Spirit-filled believer is blessed with an extremely potent weapon – the ability to speak in a heavenly language or tongues. Nothing causes religious dander to rise faster than just the mere mention of tongues but that is because of Satan’s total hatred of the spiritual practice. He attacks with venom those disciplines and weapons that are most damaging to him. When the believer speaks in tongues he or she is praying the perfect will of God without the limitations of the filter of the mind tainting the prayer with doubt, fear, or unbelief. It’s an amazing thing to realize that every syllable uttered in tongues comes to pass. No wonder the enemy of our souls loves to marginalize those that practice the gift as crazy while he tries to convince Bible believers that the practice has passed away. Go ahead and pray every day in the Spirit and you will effectively control the tongue, edify yourself, and drive the Devil nuts!

Since duct tape, zippers, crazy glue, are not really practical deterrents to destructive speech, let’s decide every day to employ the spiritual tools at our disposal like speaking the Word, praising God, and praying in the Spirit. You will sleep much better at night knowing that today you did not launch any stray and unaccounted for arrows with your mouth.

Operation Maltese

Recently my Mom’s dog BeBe died after a long bout with various health issues. Like all her pets through the years, she was quite close to this little snow-white Maltese who could literally sense when her minivan was approaching their street and would wait expectantly at the door for her arrival (tail wagging and tongue hanging out). Animals like Bebe, as every pet lover knows, understands, and appreciates, literally become a part of the family and it’s a very sad day when their short lives end.

Well, there would be no more BeBe welcoming committee and no following her around from room to room each day. Mom was heartbroken and her kids wanted to do something to encourage her. A plan was hatched (I called “Operation Maltese”) to locate a Maltese puppy and transport the little blessing out to her in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.

I’m sharing this with you as a reminder of how our big God (He is El Elyon, the Most High God) cares about and provides for even the small things in the lives of His people. Maltese puppies in certain parts of the country can cost an arm and a leg. Through the Lord’s direction, we located a puppy for a very fair price and the puppy was trained, vet cleared for travel, up to date on his shots, and located just south of the Nashville Airport. I’m neither spooky or kooky but I do recognize the providence of God when I see it.

Operation Maltese was in full force as I met the breeder, took possession of “the package,” and headed to the airport and through security (where every female TSA agent wanted a puppy just like Puppy Heinz (as I called him at this point). We were on our way after a short delay in the terminal. Four hours later Mom had the new puppy in her arms (with a brand new name, Shiloh – don’t ask). The look on her face…indescribable and priceless (sorry MasterCard).

I don’t know what is breaking your heart today but I do know a God who is an expert in putting all the pieces together to minister to you and encourage you. He has an “operation” of his love and kindness and a million ways to meet you at the point of your need if you will approach Him with faith and trust. God’s intervention in our lives in the seemingly small areas of life is a reflection of His nature (He just can’t help it) He favors his people and he knows how to provide what we need just when we need it.

The Happiness Myth – Part 3

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32, NIV).

I’ve often been amazed just how fast a seemingly insignificant issue in a marriage can become extremely volatile, especially when the couple violates biblical principles like the wisdom found in Ephesians 4. One night of anger turns into two, then three, then 30, then 300 and with each click of the light switch the relationship is becoming more and more damaged and the tiny pin prick the Devil had been trying to access that marriage through is is now a gaping hole and this marriage has now become his playground.

Our Scripture reveals that it is possible to be upset and angry about an issue without yielding to or accelerating the situation to the level of sin (but most of us know what’s it like to be angry and sin and we’re rather good at it). What does make the issue sin is when the couple does not process the situation and fails to collaborate together for a godly, peaceful solution. Instead, they decide to let the anger seethe and simmer without resolution day after day and night after night. This destructive process I call “heart stacking” has the amazing power to turn something minor into something that can threaten the very fabric of the marriage. As time goes by, the issue becomes more and more difficult to resolve and often the marriage partners stop remembering what the original issue was in the first place. How sad to let an issue that we cannot even remember destroy the intimacy and quality of the marriage.

You might think that I am overstating the damage of unresolved issues and anger in marriage but that would be to forget the aggressive and deceptive activity of the enemy in the midst of ongoing strife in the marriage. Remember that the Devil’s most powerful weapon is the power of suggestion. When we fail to biblically address and put down issues in marriage we open our hearts and minds to unscriptural thinking and meditation. Once that seed is planted by the enemy all he needs is another night, another week, another month and he can make that seed grow into an intractable situation.The Word indicates that we literally give the enemy a foothold in our marriage when we do not heed the admonition to “not let the sun go down on our anger.” A “foothold” is a secure position or a firm basis for further progress, activity, advancement, or development. No married couple sees the ultimate damage that can be caused by giving the Devil the right to advance strife in our lives through unresolved anger but he is a legalist and if you open that door, he will take that license.

The correct response to anger and strife in marriage is found in Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:31-32. If anyone deserves to be given the grace of God it should be our covenant partner. I’ve been amazed and perplexed at times to watch men or women show great mercy to family members coworkers, even strangers, but have no mercy, grace, or patience for the person they married. Focus on doing a daily dump of all anger and feelings of resentment you might have toward your husband or wife. We are told to “get rid” of all manifestations of anger and choose to be kind and compassionate towards one another. Surely “one another” applies to our spouses. We are challenged to forgive as God forgave us in Christ. Let’s avoid the trap of treating our spouses with such familiarity that we deny them the basic kindness and compassion commanded by the Apostle.

Becoming (BC) Biblically Correct

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3, NIV).

It is clear from John 1 that Jesus and the Word are one. All things that are created or will be created are ultimately created by the Word. It’s a good principle for us to remember in life. If we are going to start or begin anything, begin with the Word of God. The degree to which we do this depends upon our personal view of the authority of the Word of God in our lives. The Bible says in Psalm 138:2, AMP, “for You have exalted above all else Your name and Your word and You have magnified Your word above Your name.” Think about that. God has exalted the revelation of the Word even above the revelation of his name. That tells us that the greatest authority and influence in our lives needs to be the Word of God. There is a great pressure to compromise on the Word in the name of being RC (religiously correct) or PC (politically correct), but the clarion call of the Spirit of God today is to make sure that we are BC (biblically correct).

When we understand the sheer power resident in the Word of God we will not be ashamed of it or allow someone or some influence to talk us out of it. Paul said, “I am confident that the good news will release God’s dynamic energy, which makes all persons whole” (Romans 1:16, Johnson). He is admonishing us here (as evident by other translations such as the NIV) to not be ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation or soundness in every area of life.

Consider some simple truths about the Bible: (1) the Bible is nothing to be ashamed of (Mark 8:38); (2) the Bible is good news (Luke 4:18-19); (3) the Bible is the soundness bringer in our lives (Romans 10:9-10); (4) the Bible is the power of God (Hebrews 4:12); (5) the Bible is activated by believing (Hebrews 4:2); and (6) the Bible will work for ANYONE (Mark 11:20-22).

Check back for some very powerful teaching on the authority of the Word in coming posts and remember that your personal view of the Word determines what you can receive from the Word of God.

Raising Up Roadkill

Leadership development has been an interest and passion of mine for some time. I’ve always felt that the Lord has placed in me the ability to see the potential in his people to accomplish great things for his purpose and for his name. Nothing thrills me more than to personally see the Lord identity, develop, raise up, and then use a new leader in the Kingdom of God.

I can also say that in the past I have been very aggressive and at times presumptuous with my potential leaders. I have always assumed that with a little tweaking anyone can become a great leader. In the teaching series, The Eagle Life, I compare and contrast the majestic eagle, the turkey, and the roadkill (like you may have seen on the side of the road recently). The goal is to teach believers to soar victoriously in their service for the Lord. The turkey, which can run and fly for short bursts, is a vast improvement over roadkill but is still in development for eagle status. The “roadkill” defined as “the body of an animal killed on a road by a motor vehicle” or for our purposes, “one that has failed or been defeated and is no longer worthy of consideration,” has so much more to overcome to reach their God-given potential. Ever the optimist I genuinely believe that the Lord can take a case of roadkill and raise them up for fruitful and effective service for the Lord.

My presumption stems from my many attempts to raise roadkill up from the side of the road of life and breath life into them through the Word of God, spiritual life from the church community, and personal investment through mentoring and coaching to become effective and productive leaders. More often than not, the roadkill does not work out. A friend of mine says that’s because I start out with roadkill. Although he admires my spunk he recently made the observation that many of his own leadership development projects were successful because he started out with eagle eggs (cheater).

Through the years, I have noticed some common traits that indicate whether a budding leader (eagle egg, turkey, or roadkill) will in fact be successful in the leadership development process. Today when I consider raising up a leader I look for all four of the following factors:

The Potential Factor

Potential refers to someone or something that is considered a worthwhile possibility. Potential means that there are discernible skill sets and abilities that could be effectively developed over time or transferred from life experiences. While some leaders have a hard time seeing the potential in others, I have become so proficient that it feels like a special gift placed in my life. Despite a person’s best intentions, certain types of ministry and leadership are not for everyone (just like some of us should not pick up the guitar). Discovering raw potential that indicates future competency in an individual is the first step in the leadership development process. We do more harm than good when we try to push individuals to lead when they do not have the potential or ability to do so. We are, in fact, setting them up for failure and ourselves up for frustration.

The Character Factor

It is often said that character is what you are in the dark or when no one else is looking. Character is that internal moral compass consisting of values that guide our decisions and our actions. If after claiming to be a Christian an individual has repeated character issues such as dishonesty, strife, compromise, immorality, quitting, etc. it is clear that this individual will not make the cut for Kingdom leadership. Character is directly associated with our spiritual formation and as such cannot be just learned like a skill or task. Character is the sum total of who are and what we have developed into after many years of walking with the Lord. No amount of potential can make up for a lack of character in the life of the leader. No one cares about your business skills if you are secretly ripping your constituents off. No one cares about your political prowess if you step out on your wife. No one cares how well you swing the golf club if you have no self-control. No one cares how well you preach a sermon if your daily life contradicts the message.

The Teachability Factor

Teachability refers to the willingness and openness of an individual to receive correction and even rebuke from time to time as they are being groomed and developed for leadership. It doesn’t take long to find out if a person is teachable. If an individual is quick to take offense and emotionally withdraws during their developmental process it’s a good sign that they are not ready to lead others. In the story of the Centurion’s sick servant, Jesus marvels at the understanding the Roman soldier had about authority. When Jesus said he would come and heal the servant the Centurion countered, “just say the word and my servant will be healed.” He explained that he was a man under authority and consequently had the authority to tell one to go or come. He understood what many budding leaders do not get – you cannot walk in authority if you cannot cooperate with authority in your own life. In other words, the authority we have is derived from a higher authority. The inability to be corrected or to pout when corrected disqualifies an individual from promotion in the Kingdom of God. Leadership development requires strong mentoring and coaching and at times those coaches will come down pretty hard simply because of the potential they see in the individual. I found this out while swimming for an ex-marine nicknamed “Bones” by the swim team. I never understood why he seemingly “picked on me” when we had so many slackers in the pool goofing off while I was working hard. One day he finally told me why. He said that all the slackers did not have the potential that I had and with greater potential comes greater accountability and a higher standard. In the end, no matter how much potential or character and individual has, if they can’t be corrected, they will never make it in leadership.

The Interpersonal Skills Factor

Interpersonal skills refer to the ability to relate to people as a leader and the ability to get along with folks in general. For many years I did not have this on my list of key requirements for future leaders. I have since discovered that even with potential, character, and teachability, if we can’t (or won’t) get along with people we’ll never make it in Christian leadership (or any leadership environment for that matter). I have witnessed many leadership washouts through the years because of various dysfunctions that go hand in hand with poor interpersonal skills such as the inability or refusal to listen, the tendency to react inappropriately to situations, the adoption of a paranoid or victim mentality, the propensity for speaking out of turn, the tendency to hold grudges, etc. Certainly there are folks that are just plain hard to get along with, but as John Maxwell has described in his The Law of Conflict Factor, if Bill and Sue have a problem, and Bill and Bob have a problem, and Bill and Jane have a problem, and Bill and Sam have a problem, then Bill is quite likely the problem. Because Christian leadership and ministry involves people obviously we must be able to get along with people if we are to be successful.

Maintenance Mode

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58, KJV).

Which of the following best describes where you are as a believer these days? (1) I am living with a high sense of momentum, or (2) I have fallen into “maintenance mode.”

In the world of software development programmers use the term maintenance mode to refer to that time which a program is considered to be complete and further development is unnecessary.   There have been times I’ve found myself at this point, not because I consider myself complete, but because I’ve lost my energy, passion or vision.  While maintenance mode is a good thing for a computer program, it’s a dangerous thing for a leader or an organization.

When a believer hits maintenance mode he suffers from boredom, feels unchallenged, let’s opportunities pass him by, settles for good enough, speaks less frequently about the vision, no longer carries a passionate energy and worst of all he stops looking for God sized things to happen. If you stay there to long it has a negative impact on your organization.  Here are five common dangers when a believer gets stuck in maintenance mode

  • It breeds a spirit of complacency among other believers
  • It causes the organization to miss prime opportunities
  • It kills creativity and innovation
  • It causes others to settle for mediocrity
  • It reduces fresh movements from the hand of God
  • It brings growth to a halt

Questions to help you understand how you got where you are:

Is it a spiritual issue?

You may be stuck because you’re simply not hearing anything new from God.  He led you to the place you are currently serving and when you first arrived you had vision, momentum and inspiration.  What do you need to do to get a fresh word from God again?

Is it a physical issue?

If you’re tired, stressed and unable to sleep then your maintenance mode problem may be from a lack of eating right and exercise.  It’s difficult to build organizational momentum when you don’t have the physical energy to move things forward.  A lifestyle change rather than a diet is the best solution.

Is it a mental issue?

I was talking with a friend recently who told me, “I’ve gotten lazy mentally, I’m no longer on the cutting edge, I’m not reading, watching others, or learning.”  Mental laziness can lead to a lack of creativity and innovation.  Practice exposing your mind to something stimulating every week to keep your thinking sharp.

Is it an emotional issue?

Sometimes as believers we run so hard and fast that we get emotionally drained and it’s all we can do to maintain our baseline responsibilities.   Practice the weekly discipline of taking a day off.  This time of rest and recovery will keep you emotionally filled and fuel your creative energies.

Is it a relational issue?

There are times we allow others to drag us into maintenance mode.  Make sure you have people around you that challenge you, stretch your thinking and dream about future possibilities with you.  And on the flip side make sure you’re not spending too much time with people that drain you.

Adapted from a post by Mac Lake, Seacoast Church, 2010

The Force of Righteousness

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17, NIV). “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21, NIV). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

One of the most life-changing revelations for the believer is to discover that God through Jesus has taken our sin and given to us the gift of righteousness. You will often hear people quote the Scriptures that declare that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and there is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). But these Scriptures actually refer to righteousness that is before and without Christ. They refer to our fleshly attempts to earn our own righteousness, not receive his, and therein lies the difference. When Jesus told the people their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (who by the way were purported to be the most moral people of their day) he was speaking of a righteousness that can only come from God and cannot be earned by human effort (Matthew 5:20).

Righteousness can be defined as the God-given ability to stand in the presence of a holy God without a sense of guilt, shame, inferiority, or condemnation. We understand from Scripture that there is no way that this can happen in and of ourselves. That means that the only way to tap into the righteousness of God is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It also means that on the day you received Christ you were “made righteous” not based on your past, present or future behavior, but based on the right standing you have been given through Jesus Christ.

More often than not, people confuse righteousness and holiness. Righteousness is a gift and force of the born again spirit that pushes us toward right thinking, speaking, and acting, but holiness refers to the result of that force on our lives. Holiness is separation from sin and separation unto God for his purposes. We are not righteous because we live holy (for that would be a gospel of works), we have the capacity to live holy because the force of sin has been neutralized by the blood of Jesus and we have been given the gift of righteousness. This means that when we sin as Christians, we do so by choice, and not because we had to or because the Devil made us. No, the dominant force in the believer’s life is now righteousness and not sin. This is a great gift but it comes with great personal responsibility and a great need for personal revelation.

The more you understand righteousness the more your thinking and conduct will change. Rejoice and be glad because a great exchange has been made (your sin for his righteousness). You don’t become righteous when you get to heaven one day. You have already been made righteous through the grace, love, and mercy of God. Follow along in the coming weeks to discover just how powerful the righteousness of God is in the life of the believer. Learn to stop saying, “I’m just a black-hearted sinner” and start saying boldly, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” and don’t stutter, make excuses, or apologize for the gift of God.

The Happiness Myth – Part 2

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:3-8, NIV).

One of the marks of a “Pharisaic” culture in the Church is the prevalence and acceptance of life choices and moral decline that spring forth from a hard heart. When the heart of the believer becomes hard towards the Lord, towards the Word of God, and towards the things of God in general he or she is capable of taking paths that totally and completely contradict the principles of the Word of God. In my earlier post on The Happiness Myth I mentioned the fact that most divorces in the body of Christ are due to the individual pursuit of happiness by one or both partners  (God just wants me happy) rather than abuse, adultery, or abandonment. The amazing thing is that many of the same people will spin the situation by trying to convince themselves that they are closer to God and his peace than every before. This is a ruse because you are not getting closer to God when you are moving further away from the revelation of his Word.

It’s critical to remember that the dissolution of something God has established, ordained, and blessed is a very serious matter. The pastor or minister may do the premarital counseling and even perform the ceremony, but it is the Lord God himself that makes them one with the declaration of his own mouth. Think of that – unseen by the pastor, the family, the wedding party, and the couple, the Most High God is engaged with the wedding ceremony and lifts up his voice to declare that the two are now one. Just like the born again experience, something invisible but yet just as powerful and miraculous takes place at this time.  If the husband or wife chooses to dissolve that relationship (outside of biblical revelation of cause) God’s powerful Word becomes trumped by their word. Whenever you find yourself on the opposite end of the Word of God you are on the wrong end of things and you demonstrate the hardness of heart Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19.

In coming posts I will be sharing some powerful principles to weather the current storm and attack on marriages throughout the body of Christ. Yes, it’s true that the Devil is behind the attack (but he is not the one signing the papers). Let’s begin with the concept of covenant and then I’ll deal with the others in a future blog.

Covenant Standard

Despite a surge in revelation knowledge and understanding of the Word in the body of Christ, it seems that the elevator is not going all the way to top on this teaching about covenant. Marriage is a covenant and not a civil agreement or a contract (waiting to be pilfered through loopholes). In fact, covenant means “to cut so that blood flows” in the establishment of an accord between two parties. It is sacred, irrevocable and represents the union of the party’s assets, liabilities, friends, enemies, victories, and challenges. The time to decide if you will keep a covenant when times get hard is before you enter into the covenant. Once established, the covenant is not to be violated least the offending party be destroyed. Everyone I’ve ever counseled has been all smiles and nods when we came to this important part of the teaching. In the back of my mind I’m thinking, “yea, they nod and smile now but let’s see if they nod and smile when times are tough because covenant is for the times when you want to quit not when marriage is new, exciting, and wonderful.”

I’m reminded of a story in the Book of Joshua where the Gibeonite people, fearing destruction by Israel’s conquering army under the leadership of Joshua, conspired to deceive Joshua into forming a covenant treaty with them (despite the fact that the Lord had already made it plain that they were to forge no such treaty). The Bible says that the leaders, thinking that the Gibeonites had come from far away, sampled their goods but did not inquire of the Lord. After forging a covenant agreeing to allow them to live and serve Israel, Joshua and the other leaders discovered the truth. Soon the neighbors of the Gibeonites attacked the Gibeonites fearing their new alliance with Israel. Ironically but predictably, the Gibeonites called upon their new covenant partners for aid (you might recall that this is the occasion in the Bible when the sun is kept shining in the sky for a full day during Joshua’s battle in support of the Gibeonites – Joshua 10:13). What I want you to think about today is the length that God went to in this story to help Joshua honor a covenant that he shouldn’t have entered in the first place. That’s right, Joshua had to enter a military battle and God had to perform a miracle just so the people of Israel could keep a covenant they never should have entered. That’s how much the Lord values and honors covenant.

The application to marriage is simple. If you enter into the covenant of marriage you need to have the same commitment as Joshua (and the Lord) had towards the Gibeonites – if you enter into that covenant. You should also keep in mind that just as the Lord made supernatural power available so that the man of God could keep his covenant, God is willing to make that same power available so that you can honor your covenant as well. With the divorce rate in the Church rivaling (and according to some studies surpassing) the rate in society in general, one would expect that the believer, of all people, would be open to allowing the hand of the Lord into the broken marriage to bring healing. Only a hard heart could explain either lack of faith or the lack of desire for God to unleash his power into a troubled Christian marriage.

Cyber Smack – Part 3

pas·sive-ag·gres·sive (pās’ĭv-ə-grěs’ĭv)
adj.  being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive way (as through procrastination, stubbornness, and unwillingness to communicate)

You’ve probably encountered passive-aggressive communication in some area of your life. Deep down, the individual is upset but chooses to express that sentiment in less than clear and direct methods of communication. Passive-aggressive communication is often masked by congeniality on the surface while someone is being targeted or “sniped” at in a way that only the targeted individual would perceive (and anyone else with spiritual discernment). This can be accomplished face to face, in a small group meeting, in a family, on the job, or through modern technology such as email, Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. In fact, modern technology lends itself particularly well for this type of communication because it adds a wall of inaccessibility and sometimes anonymity.

If you are not normally paranoid but you get the distinct impression that someone is trying to get their contempt across to you (even though they are not speaking directly to you) you are probably dealing with a passive-aggressive communicator (no, you are not nuts…people really do function this way and you should praise God you don’t live with a person like this…unless you do). In reality, it’s a form of “cyber smack” and it is inconsistent with the good speech standard we read about in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome communication talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV). I have a simple paraphrase of this verse I coined early on in my ministry” “Build up or shut up.”

Seriously, though, passive-aggressive communication reflects poorly on us as believers and it is equally unprofitable. Consider today several reasons why you should avoid communicating this way:

Passive-Aggressive Communication is Ineffective

If the point is to express oneself or deal with an issue, passive-aggressive communication is a waste of time. Sometimes, the intended audience is so pure-hearted that they would never imagine someone would be coming at them in this manner. This kind of communication never brings resolution and restoration but it often just pours more fuel on the fire for the individual that knows full well that they are the target.

Passive-Aggressive Communication is Incomplete

Another problem with passive-aggressive communication is that it is almost always incomplete. Rarely does an individual in the habit of employing this type of communication have or express all the facts. The goal of the phone call, letter, “sharing”, email, or post is to score a point without looking bad in the process rather than being transparent, honest, and truthful.

Passive-Aggressive Communication is Immature

The biggest problem with passive-aggressive communication is that it is patently immature and the individual that communicates this way is plainly viewed that way by the recipient of the snipe and those that observe the communication. In fact, it reminds me of those exciting years in school known as junior high or middle school (depending on where you went to school). Children this age become masters of the thinly veiled slam and indirect put down. The problem is that most of us left junior high many years ago. We need to make sure that junior high has left us.

Focus on speaking the truth in love and doing so in a direct manner with no agenda of gathering sympathizers, winning supporters, or looking good in the process. People will respect and receive an “open rebuke” more than a dysfunctional, passive-aggressive cyber smack.

Don’t Give Up On Your Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish : but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

A life vision is one of the most precious gifts we can be given. Vision can be defined as a clear picture of what you see yourself doing of being for the Lord. We are blessed with a vision for our lives, for our families, for our businesses, and for our ministries. But for most of us, the vision usually does not come to pass EXACTLY they way we originally saw it and the temptation is to quit the vision in disappointment or frustration.

I want to encourage you that your vision may cycle through many revisions and changes but that the guidance and direction the Lord is providing you through that vision is valid and valuable. If fact, one of the ways you can tell if you have a heavenly vision is opposition and challenges to that vision. Don’t be so quick to conclude because of the difficulty that you missed God or that the vision is wrong.

I have great respect for the ministry of Seacoast Church in the Charleston, S.C. area. Mac Lake, the leadership development pastor for this pioneering multi-site ministry recently posted some great insight regarding vision on his blog. I hope this encourages you greatly:

The Six Stages of A Vision

Now that we’re three weeks into the new year, vision architects are busy assembling the pieces they need to build their God-given dream.  Plans are unfolding, resources being gathered, teams mobilized and undoubtedly somewhere in the near future roadblocks will be hit.  That’s why it’s important for the leader to understand the stages of a vision. When you understand the different phases of vision then you’re able to respond with wisdom and maturity when you encounter challenges. A vision typically goes through six stages.

Imagination Stage

This is the fun stage where you get to think outside the box and dream about possibilities.  Typically you’re focused on solving a problem that is close to your heart and praying through ways God wants to use you to make a difference.

Preparation Stage

This is the hard work of putting together the timelines, budget, priorities and goals of the vision.   Vision is seeing tomorrow’s possibilities today, but it’s not enough just to see it, you have to design a blueprint in order to minimize frustrations along the way.

Execution Stage

This is where the vision train gets to leave the station.  Teams are deployed and people move into action to make things happen.  Day by day you get to see the framework of the vision being put together.

Frustration Stage

Rarely does a vision come together as planned.  Teams will miss deadlines, circumstances will change, resources become scarce and people will criticize or complain.  Every vision will face a challenge and this will prove the commitment of the leader and the team to the vision.

Rejuvenation Stage

If handled the right way the frustration stage causes the leader and team to think deeper and push forward with innovative ideas, fresh perspective and new determination.

Celebration Stage

When the team crosses the finish line and the vision becomes reality it’s time for celebration.  Don’t forget to recognize and reward all those who contributed to making it all possible.  And mostly pause to thank God for using you to accomplish His will.

Mac Lake, Seacoast Church, 2010

God Just Wants Me Happy (the happiness myth)

“Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith” (Malachi 2:15-16, NIV).

All over the world we are hearing reports of solid believers and Christian leaders filing for divorce or entering into illicit relationships outside of their marriage covenant. We expect this kind of life choice from individuals that have not been saved and who have not had the benefit of Christian training and revelation from the Word of God. It’s quite surprising and disappointing to realize that covenant means little more to believers these days than the to those that do not profess Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I think a person who abuses his or her spouse should be charged with a felony and go to jail (and not be defended by the Church).  I think that the Lord is able to restore a marriage wrecked by adultery (but I understand a dissolution when serial adultery is involved or when the offending party refuses to repent or does not desire restoration). I also know that some times spouses are literally abandoned by their partners and the Apostle Paul made it clear that a believer is not bound in this situation (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Like me, you have probably observed that most of these marriages are not being dissolved because of abuse, adultery, or abandonment, but because one or both partners is “not happy.” The pursuit of individual happiness has begun to eclipse their obedience to the Word of God after all, they muse, “God wants me to be happy.” No friend, God wants you to honor your word, honor his Word, and honor the nature of the marriage covenant. This “happiness myth” is just one (although a powerful one) of the many delusions sweeping through the Church in these last days. Perhaps we’ve forgotten to “take up our cross daily” or the testimony of Paul, “I died daily – I mean that.”

Happiness that is based on our emotions and that violates the Word is fleeting (it will leave as fast as it came even though “sin is pleasurable for a season”). The Bible offers a deep-seated joy that manifests in happiness but is rooted in our relationship with God and our commitment to his standards and Word. A brief study of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 reveals that “blessedness” or “happiness” stems from pursing things like meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace rather that seeking happiness for happiness’ sake.

It is a good time for the body of Christ to remember that God hates divorce and that he equates this “breaking of faith” with violence (Malachi 2:10-17). It is critical that we remember that according to Jesus, the root of divorce is a hard heart (Matthew 19:1-12). At least one of the marriage partners has hardened the heart and that is the core reason for the demise of the relationship. Every other conceivable reason (other than those mentioned above) stems from the hardening of the heart (in other words they have lost spiritual sensitivity).

If you have been through the demise of a marriage I want to remind you that divorce is not the unpardonable sin nor is it a perpetual sin. That said, the only way to succeed in the future is to repent, and reject the thinking, behavior, and choices that led you down that path to begin with. The Lord is well able and willing to redeem you and make something awesome and beautiful with your life if you will place the hurt, the pain, and the failure in his hands and make up your mind to live your life God’s way rather than the relativistic manner of this post-Christian society. There’s nothing you can do about the eggs that have already been scrambled, but there is plenty you can to stop any more eggs from being scrambled in your life.

I want to exhort you to reject the politically correct mindset that says that the supreme goal for any person including the believer is happiness. Remember that covenant trumps a hard heart and feelings of frustration or unhappiness. In a future blog I will be sharing some simple principles to empower you to stand for marriage in this time of great confusion and compromise and help you to have that Bible-based, healthy, and covenant-keeping marriage that you’ve always wanted.

Psalm 23 (not just for funerals)

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousnessfor his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:1-6, NIV).

I’m sure like me you’ve been to many funerals where the beautiful and encouraging verses of Psalm 23 were prominently printed on the back of a funeral announcement. In fact, the Psalm is so equated with death and funerals that most believers do not stop to think about the fact that the Psalm does not refer to death until the very last line, “…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6).

Psalm 23 is filled with wonderful promises for the living. Spend a little time reading and meditating on these verses and you’ll become convinced beyond any doubt that God is good and that he is a very present help regardless of what you are facing or going through. I want to encourage to take this Psalm back from the dead and apply it to your life today. I’ve listed the amazing and precious promises for you below. God truly is good…all the time.

v. 1a – “The Lord is my shepherd” (care)

v. 1b – “I shall not be in want” (provision)

v. 2a – “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (abundance)

v. 2b – “he leads be besides quiet waters” (peace)

v. 3a – “he restores my soul” (restoration)

v. 3b – “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (direction)

v. 4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death (walk through don’t buy a condo), I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (protection)

v. 5a – “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies (no enemies in heaven)” (victory)

v. 5b – “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (anointing)

v. 6a – “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (manifested goodness and love)

v. 6b – “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (eternal life)

It’s good to be one of his little sheep…

Faith for Favor

“This is what the Lord says: In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, Come out, and those in darkness, Be free!” (Isaiah 49:8-9, NIV).

Favor can be defined as excessive kindness and gifts in our lives that we did not earn and we did not deserve. That’s exactly how God treats his children. Grace by its very nature is undeserved and unearned favor. And favor is the tangible release of God’s ability, influence, and provision in our lives in a variety of ways such as supernatural increase and promotion, restoration of stolen things, honor in the midst of adversaries, increases assets, great victories in the midst of great challenges, recognition when you’re least likely to get it, prominence and preferential treatment, petitions granted even by ungodly civil authority, policies reversed to your advantage, battles won that you did not even fight.

Luke 4:19 from the Amplified declares that we are in the acceptable year of the Lord “the day when salvation and free favors of God profusely abound.” Think about that. We are not in the day of vengeance (although this world is speeding quickly toward that day) but in the day of favor. When you understand this you begin to see that this is not “God is mad at you time” but it’s “God favors you time!”

I want to share with you a few simple principles for tapping into or walking in the favor of God:

  1. Acknowledge the favor is real. If you look around you will see many signs of the favor of God on your life right now. It honors God when you stop, recognize, and thank him for his goodness. It can be as amazing as the birth of your child or as simple as a decent parking place at Wal-Mart on a cold, rainy day. Learn to say when God does something in your life, “That was the favor of God!” Remember there’s something on you and it’s the favor and blessing of God.
  2. Believe for the favor. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we spend time in the promises of God regarding the favor of God our faith and confidence for that favor will grow. Romans 5:2 makes it clear that we access the favor of God with faith so know that you are favored of God and start expecting the favor to show up in all areas of life (Psalm 69:13; Psalm 84:11; Psalm 90:17; Psalm 102:13; Psalm 106:4-5; 1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 1:25; 2 Corinthians 1:11; for starters).
  3. Confess the favor. I’ve noticed that the people who confess they are favored of God see a lot of God’s favor manifest in their lives. Conversely, people who go around bad mouthing their lives see less favor manifesting in their lives. We know that confession brings possession in general (that’s how we originally got saved – Romans 10:9-10) but I want to encourage you to deliberately confess the favor of God over your life throughout the day. Boldly declare that you are blessed and highly favored of God and as 2 Corinthians 6:2 indicates, NOW is the time of God’s favor.
  4. Don’t be ashamed of the favor. There is a real attempt of the enemy these days to try to make the believer feel ashamed of the blessing and the favor of God. I remember a leather coat I purchased for Kelli. It was a beautiful hand-tooled full length coat that I had saved for and purchased to bless her. As a young minister’s wife she was very concerned with what people would think or say. Consequently, I returned the coat. Does she still feel the same way? Try her! When the Lord blessed her with her Mazda Tribute she purchased with cash I remember the look on her face (all smiles), her petting the steering wheel (I kid you not), and the words that came out of her mouth (thank you Father). Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe.” Don’t go around drawing attention to yourself but don’t be ashamed of the favor of God in your life either. The part of your salvation or redemption you are ashamed of is the part that you cannot receive.

There truly is something on you and it’s the blessing and the favor of God!

Exit Stage Right (how to skip the drama in your life)

“Why do you let your emotions take over, lashing out and spitting fire?” (Job 15:12, MES). ”A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones” (Matthew 13:21, MES). ”A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them” (Proverbs 29:11, GW).

Human beings are very interesting and complex beings. We are spirit beings made in the image of God and we possess a soul (the mind, will, and emotions) and live in a body (our earth suit while on this planet). The Lord made us to be emotional beings but He never intended for those emotions to dominate, control, and direct the paths of his people. We are to express emotions without those emotions pushing us around in life.

Many believers, though born again, live very emotional lives and lives driven by how they feel from moment to moment or from situation to situation. From the Word of God we can see that we are to be anchored and guided through our relationship with Jesus Christ and his Word. Allowing ourselves to be controlled by our emotions rather than the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is what I mean by “drama.”

At the end of the day, living our lives at the mercy of drama is a waste of potential and our lives. Drama is unproductive (produces no results), it reveals unbelief, it postpones our answer and breakthrough, it drains our energy, it wastes our time, it taints our decisions, and it influences others adversely. When the twelve spies returned after spying out the land of Canaan, drama, not faith was most evident and spread like wildfire through the camp of the people of God. Despite the exhortation and faith of Joshua and Caleb, the people gave themselves over to drama and missed God’s best. When drama is operating in our lives (like the ten spies), we find fear, excuses, unbelief, bad reports, weeping, grumbling, questioning God, negativity, backsliding, rebellion, and anger.

If you see these tendencies in your own life it’s time to recognize the influence of drama in your life and the probability that you are living a very emotion-based lifestyle. Allow the Lord to minister to you the reality of His Word in every situation of life and listen closely for his still small voice. Go ahead and “feel” things but don’t allow those feelings to push you off the path of God for your life or to continue in that cycle of poor decisions. Every part of the human being was created with a purpose and for good but we must not allow the purposes of these different dimensions to get confused. The hands, for example are for touching, holding, working but not for walking. Similarly, the emotions are not designed for leading but for human expression, empathy, and connecting with a hurting world all around us. It’s the job of the human spirit enlightened by the Holy Spirit to discern the will of God and yield to it accordingly.

I want to encourage you to read the story of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5 and consider the following principles for skipping the drama in your life:

  1. Ignore what you see and hear (vv. 35-36). In every challenge in life we have the opportunity to focus on the circumstances or choose to focus on what God has said. Jesus after hearing the death report ignored what they said and told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 36).Unfortunately, this is where we are undone most of the time. The force of what we perceive in the natural becomes more real to us than the reality of the Word of God.
  2. Curb the emotion (vv. 37-40). It’s one thing to experience emotions. It’s another thing altogether to be moved by them. It’s hard to stand in faith with all the commotion, the wailing, and the crying, but faith will immediately move to separate the emotion from the Word. When Jesus was informed of the death of his friend Lazarus in John 11 we know he empathized and even wept. The difference is that he did not let the emotions control him: “Jesus seeing her weeping aloud, and the Jews in like manner weeping – Jesus curbing the strong emotion of his spirit…” (John 11:33, Weymouth).
  3. Declare the Word (vv. 41-42). If we practice drama in our lives we will keep in on the ready and become very good at it. We become skilled in what we practice. If we practice our faith we will begin to produce results. Instead of focusing on the emotional intensity of the situation, Jesus boldly said, “I say to you, get up!” (v. 41). Faith responds with the spoken Word of God and not drama. We must learn to conform our emotions and the drama in life to Christ rather than conforming the Lord to our drama: “We use our powerful God tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure and life shaped by Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, MES).

Flourishing Faith

“We ought to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one has for each other is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3, NIV).

The King James Version of the above verse says, “your faith grows exceedingly” and the New Living Translation renders that same verse, “your faith is flourishing.” Despite the fact every believer is given the metron or “measure of faith” at the new birth, many believers have never learned to grow their faith where it is exceeding or flourishing. A flourishing faith is one that is growing vigorously, thriving, and prosperous. We are to take the measure of faith given to us (Romans 12:3) and make it grow just like a muscle. If we don’t use our faith it will atrophy because faith unused diminishes

The Scripture indicates six distinct levels of faith. Our elevation to higher levels of faith produces greater stability and maturity, and enlarges our capacity to receive from God. But understand up front that it is the use of the faith we have that impacts our immediate situation (Luke 17:5-6). Learn to walk diligently in the level of faith you are currently at while positioning yourself to continue flourishing in and growing your faith. I want to encourage you to evaluate where your faith walk is today and take positive action to grow your faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17):

  1. No (or dead) Faith – completely lacking in trust (Matthew 13:58). This can be described as faithless, unbelieving, or lacking trust and obedience to God’s Word.
  2. Weak Faith – feeble, diseased, and impotent (Romans 4:19). The person with weak faith is focusing on the problem rather than the promise and operating from the senses rather than the Word.
  3. Little Faith – undeveloped, lacking in confidence (Matthew 14:30-31). At this level, the measure of faith has been somewhat developed but is easily distracted by the circumstances.
  4. Strong Faith – increased in strength and power (Colossians 2:5). Strong faith does not stagger at the promise of God but holds fast to the promise until the manifestation.
  5. Great Faith – immeasurable in size and capacity (Matthew 8:5-13). The believer with great faith believes the Word of God in every application and area of life and expresses this faith with the words of his mouth.
  6. Perfect Faith – complete and mature in execution (James 2:22). Perfect  faith is a mature and complete faith that is evidenced by the fact that the believer ACTS on the their faith because faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

One final note about the levels of faith…it is possible to walk at a higher level of faith in one area of life and have other areas of life where your faith lags behind. Make up your mind to spend time in the Word to develop those areas where you are lacking but do not come under condemnation because you are still a work in progress. Your walk of faith is none of the Devil’s business.

*Thank you Happy Caldwell for teaching me these powerful truths several years ago.

Cyber Smack – Part 2

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, NLT).

When you read the third chapter of the Book of James the importance of the tongue becomes obvious. The mouth ultimately controls the direction of the entire life. Ben Priest put it this way: “You will rise or fall to the level of the confession of your mouth and there are no exceptions.” Like a rudder on a ship, your mouth determines the course of your life (not the mouths of others). Your life today is the sum total of the words you have been speaking. If you are tired of running around in circles or repeatedly taking paths that prove to be mistakes you need to change your words.

“Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from  your lips” (Proverbs 4:24, NIV). Keep in mind that perverse speech is more than just cussing or telling dirty jokes. Fundamentally, perverse speech is any speech that does not line up with the Word of God. I want to share some principles with you today that will help you put away ALL perversity from your speech. A pure, godly mouth is the first step to living in the fullness of the blessing in your life:

  1. Make your mouth a matter of prayer (Psalm 19:14). Ask the Lord what speech areas you need to work on.
  2. Become more aware of your speech (Ephesians 4:29). Listen and evaluate the things you are saying.
  3. Change the content of your heart (Matthew 12:33). What you put in your heart will come out of your mouth.
  4. Pick your friends very carefully (1 Corinthians 15:33). We talk just like the people we hang around.
  5. Understand the power of words (Proverbs 18:20-21). With each word we bring either life or death into our lives.
  6. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Make sure your communication lines up with 1 Corinthians 13.

With my mouth, I declare you highly favored of God and blessed!

Cyber Smack

“Do not let any unwholesome communication talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption: (Ephesians 4:29-30, NIV).

Arguably, one of the most prominent topics in Scripture is the use (or misuse) of the mouth. It’s a critical subject because as James indicates, like the rudder on a ship, our tongues control the direction of our lives (James 3). We simply cannot afford to ignore the admonition to speak constructive, Word-based, and Christ honoring words that edify and build up ourselves and others.

The standard for our communication is that we would not let ANY unwholesome or unedifying words come out of our mouths. The charge to the believer is to concentrate on forms of communication that build up and meet the needs of the hearers rather than yielding to destructive forms of communication. Search your heart today for the following:

  1. Lying (intentional distortion of the truth)
  2. Flattery (use of one’s words for manipulation)
  3. Cursing (to wish ill of people with one’s words)
  4. Slander (to intentionally spread a mistruth to harm)
  5. Gossip (to talk about someone in a negative light in their absence even if what you are saying is true)
  6. Cussing (the use of inflammatory replacement words for the purpose of expressing anger, frustration, or offense – includes the use of slang terms)
  7. Coarse Jesting (inappropriate joking or telling of stories)
  8. Contradiction (speaking contrary to the Word of God)
  9. Profanity (characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things; irreligious)
  10. Ungodly Counsel (imparting unscriptural counsel to other believers)
  11. Cyber Smack (the use of modern technology to tear down others such as email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc)

Note that destructive communication “grieves” or hurts the Holy Spirit. What believer desires to knowingly and deliberately hurt or grieve the Holy Spirit? But that is exactly what we do when we tear down others with our words regardless of the mode of transmission. It is naive and unrealistic to think that we can grieve the Holy Spirit and maintain the spiritual perception we need to live and walk in victory. By grieving the Holy Spirit through our ungodly communication we separate ourselves from his wisdom, power, and direction at a time when we desperately need Him. We would do well to remember that the rule of Scripture also applies to the new communication technologies.

Where’s Baby Jesus?

I recently heard that one of our new church families had a Christmas party and unbelievably someone went around and swiped the baby Jesus figurines from their nativity displays. While the world obviously has more pressing concerns and problems than a few missing pieces of porcelain, this event does point out the larger general cultural trend of removing Christ from Christmas. From rabid commercialization to Christian apathy to hyper political correctness, the star of Christmas is slowly fading to the background of this increasingly secular and pluralistic society.

The problem with the trend is that the answer to our country’s woes is directly tied to the prominence of Jesus Christ in our nation and individual lives. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” is a promise that cannot be claimed when that Lord is now rejected. We prove we’ve removed Jesus from the throne of our land and hearts when we prosecute people for dog fighting (and I am certainly a dog lover and despise this deplorable crime) and fight for the right to terminate human life (and even make the taxpayer pay for it). Someone recently told me about the horror of forced abortion in China for population control. I remarked that what’s worse is doing this by choice in the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I encourage you to keep the Lord Jesus Christ at the front and center of everything you are and everything you do this Christmas season and throughout the coming year. Christians in this great land need to rediscover their moral compass, their courage, and their voice once again. Speak up and stand up and let’s put Jesus back in his rightful place for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of our future as a nation.

There’s something on you this Christmas…it’s the blessing!

China Cry

Once again proving that the Maoist regime is bent on suppressing the freedom of religion the Chinese constitution guarantees, party thugs descended on one of the fastest growing churches in Asia without regard for law, life, property, or religious liberty. It is time for our nation to wake from its slumber and pray for the persecuted Church around the world and particularly this day for the Church in China. With the exception of a few “show” churches heavily monitored and controlled by the State, the Body of Christ is thoroughly persecuted and oppressed by the communist regime. It is also time for our government to stop its Chinese borrowing spree and start pushing China in earnest to respect human rights. I encourage you to contact your representatives and demand that our administration get out of bed with this tyrannical government long enough to see what is happening to its people and our brothers and sisters. Source:,2933,579979,00.html

Supernatural Protection

When our son Tim was only three years old, Kelli began helping him to memorize Psalm 91. Thirteen years later he can still quote this amazing Psalm of protection. Now that he is sixteen and a licensed driver, I am doubly grateful that these seeds have been sown into his spirit (especially with all the “yayhoos” on the road these days).

In the past week I have personally heard of six automobile accidents involving members of Hope Harbor Church. I’ve never been a “demon behind every bush” kind of believer but I can also sense a strategy and pattern of activity on the part of the enemy to come against the people of God. I am actively believing God for your protection as you travel about during the Christmas season. I am also believing for the blessing to work in the lives of those that have been in accidents that in each case they would increase despite the situation.

I want to encourage you to spend some time this week reading, studying, memorizing, and quoting daily this powerful declaration of protection. The way we activate the promise in our lives is to (1) abide in the secret place of the Most High – that is maintain that intimate, close relationship with the Lord; and (2) declare that the Lord is your refuge because confession brings possession. As you read the corresponding promises of protection and deliverance your faith and confidence in God’s keeping power will grow. I’m including the entire Psalm from the New Living Translation for your convenience. I welcome your testimonies of God’s protection in the comments section of this post.

1Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare of the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from the fatal plague. 4 He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor fear the dangers of the day, 6 nor dread the plague that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. 7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. 8 But you will see it with your eyes; you will see how the wicked are punished. 9 If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, 10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your dwelling. 11 For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. 12 They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone. 13 You will trample down lions and poisonous snakes; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! 14 The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. 16 I will satisfy them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Descrooging Your Life

I love the Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol, because of its redemptive message. So many people are carrying hurts and disappointments in life that literally turn them into a Scrooge in their own right. Through the talented pen of Dickens, Scrooge is guided through Christmases past, present, and future, to help him come to terms with his fears, rejection, and sense of abandonment and discover a transformation, a sudden new found hope, and a kindness of spirit.

Through the use of modern technology and state-of-the-art animation, Disney has produced a life-giving masterpiece from Dickens’ story. I want to invite everyone to attend our brand new Christmas sermon series based on the movie, Descrooging Your Life, this December 6th, 13th, and 20th. Join us as we discover how to learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future and find our own transformation through the truth of God’s Word. If God can do it for Ebenezer Scrooge he can do it for you too!

The new sermon series will be shared at all four Hope Harbor Church locations. Visit for church locations, directions, and service times. I’m really looking forward to sharing this powerful sermon series with you and God bless us every one.

Feast for the Spirit

Tim, Dad, and the Turkey

Thanksgiving time is a great time for reflection in general. One can’t help but notice all the time, effort, and money that goes into preparing and presenting the annual Thanksgiving Day feast. It’s also amazing the sheer joy people seem to get anticipating the joining of friends and family to spend time together and enjoy an awesome meal. Not even the masses of people or long check-out lines at the discount shopping center can dampen the enthusiasm because…we will soon chow down.

I wonder what would happen in all of our lives if we gave the same time and attention to a daily feast for our spirits. 1 Peter 2:2-3 declares, “You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness” (NLT). What if we prepared a feast for the spirit man daily like we do for Thanksgiving? What if we spread out the Bibles, the notebook, the devotional, the teaching CDs or DVDs and ate until our spirits were filled to overflowing…everyday?

As physical strength comes from the digestion of food in the body, so spiritual strength comes from the breaking down of the Word by the Holy Spirit in our spirits. This is how true life comes – the God kind of life mentioned in John 10:10, AMP – “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” We can tell we are feasting well spiritually when we are experiencing the overflowing life of God. If not…we just need to eat some more.

The Power of Giving Thanks

I heard a comedian last year talking about the fact that no matter how great life is in the modern world and no matter how many technological breakthroughs we have, people today are never grateful. I was cracking up as I listened to him describe the fact that people sit on a plane complaining about the two-hour trip when the same journey by rail would take days or they gripe about the very slight delay in powering up a cell phone (he was careful to point out that the signal is traveling to space and back). His presentation is a reminder to all of us that the prevailing ingratitude in the world is not the result of adverse circumstances or insufficiency, but a reflection of the condition of the human heart.

The famine of gratitude in our nation and in our times is actually a direct fulfillment of the prophetic word given to Timothy by the Apostle Paul who wrote, “BUT UNDERSTAND this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane (2 Timothy 3:1-2, AMP).

The grateful person is appreciative or thankful for the benefits received from God, for everything we have starting with our forgiveness and restoration is the result of the favor of God. The level of gratitude in our lives indicates our measure of spiritual health. That being the case, some believers should be on life support.

Ungrateful people are complainers or whiners. There’s always something wrong to gripe about. They tend to be lustful and lascivious (and old KJV word that means that these people just can’t seem to find the brakes of restraint). They are typically never satisfied, unable to keep promises (covenant breakers), critical, unfair, adorned with a chip on the shoulder, unmotivated, overstimulated, and selfish. In fact, the root of ingratitude is selfishness.

As you reflect on the goodness of God this Thanksgiving season, consider four reasons we need to cultivate gratitude in our lives. First, gratitude is God’s will. Remember Paul’s command to be joyful always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). Second, gratitude leads to contentment. Prov. 30:15-16 speaks of the leeches that have a very simple vocabulary. They cry out, “give me, give me.” The leeches in the world are takers and not sowers, but gratitude helps us to be contented and thankful while we wait for our sowing to bear the fruit of increase in our lives. Third, gratitude makes prayer effective. Phil. 4:6 teaches us that we need to add thanksgiving to our petition if we want the peace of God while we are waiting for the answer to prayer to be manifested. Finally, gratitude brings full restoration. We should never forget the lesson of the leper that received healing, but unlike his nine friends, returned to Jesus to give him thanks and praise. The others were healed, but this man received soundness and wholeness in every area of his life. Gratitude is the difference between being touched and being totally transformed.