Tag: Restoration

American Idols

American Idols (3)

The following is part one of a new eBook which will be published on 8/15/14. American Idols, the Final Call?

 

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  (Acts 2:17)

Dreams can be SO real. At least this one was. I remember running through a town in the middle of the night; a sleepy little town of about two thousand (which included dogs and cats). I recognized the town as one we had lived in some twelve years earlier.

I shouted, “Tear down your idols, tear down your idols!” I was like a mad man. Like a man rushing into a burning apartment building with only one thought; rescue the residents from the tormenting flames.

“Tear down your idols, tear down your idols!”

People were yelling at me as I ran, wondering why I was acting so bizarre, so intense. I shouted, “First Samuel three twelve”, and kept running.

“Tear down your idols, tear down your idols! First Samuel three twelve!”

And then I awoke.

Here’s the passage I was referring to:

In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.(1 Samuel 3:12)

The complete paragraph, from the Message Bible, reads:

God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully. I’m getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention. The time has come for me to bring down on Eli’s family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them. This is my sentence on the family of Eli: The evil of Eli’s family can never be wiped out by sacrifice or offering.” (1 Samuel 3:11-14 MSG)

I had not been thinking about idols, Samuel, Eli, or anything else from that “neck of the woods”. But the dream sure got my attention.

A number of people in the Bible were given dreams which God used to speak to his people, and to nations. Joel prophesied, and Peter quoted:

And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)

“…your old men shall dream dreams…” At sixty, I guess I fall into that category.

Here are a few examples of God-given dreams.

Daniel interpreted two of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. Jacob’s son, Joseph, was referred to as “the dreamer” by his older brothers. Jacob himself was known to receive a message from God from a dream.

God used dreams to warn  people: Abimelech, Laban, Esau, an unnamed baker, and of course, Egypt’s Pharaoh.

King Solomon had a visitation from God, as God appeared to him in a dream. Mary’s husband, Joseph, was warned in a dream, as well as were the Magi. Pilate’s wife tried to persuade her husband to release Jesus; saying she had “suffered many things in a dream because” of him.

Dreams. Specifically, God-given dreams.

I believe my dream is a warning for America; but not just a warning for Hollywood or Wall Street. It’s also a warning to the Church. Much of the American Church seems preoccupied with the ways of the world. A growing, one-sided love affair has the Church courting the world’s acceptance. Seeker-friendly services are used to promote church growth; while society does all it can to exterminate Christianity as if it were the Black Plague.

Time will reveal whether I’m right or wrong, but it’s really not too hard to see. Just look around. The United States of America is in a condition of decline and decay. It is not the great nation it once was. It is no longer the “city set on a hill”.

Wars and rumors of war, the national debt, liberalism, conservatism, religious cults and sects, promiscuity, selfishness, and the like. What a mess. Issues such as “gay” marriage, abortion, the legalization of marijuana, and illegal aliens have polarized this nation like never before.

Where is the greatness of America these days?

Revival Characteristics (Final)

Great_Awakening

Every spiritual awakening, revival, or whatever you’d like to call it, has certain visible characteristics. This is the third and final post in the series, “Revival Characteristics”.

Fences are repaired.

The boundaries of truth.

Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28 NKJV

Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers set up by previous generations. (Proverbs 22:28 NLT)

I’ve noticed the idea of absolute truth is hard for some (most of us) to handle. Some use it as a way to control others. They hold “truth” over other lives like a club of sorts. They even blame God for the way they act, saying they’re just “defending truth”.

Others propound the idea that truth must be redefined for each generation. But as Proverbs talks about not moving the “ancient boundaries”, to change the meaning and substance of truth every twenty to thirty years is like moving someone’s property line every so often. Someone is going to be cheated.

Each generation struggles with the process of handing off the baton of truth. Because truth can be very uncomfortable and demand much change, it is easier to compromise a little to make it more acceptable and less divisive.

But someone gets cheated! Someone loses each time the fence is moved. I believe each generation has become “cheated” in a greater way than the previous one. As the world continues to spin, almost out of control, the church is allowing more and more “property lines” to be violated.

This is the hour to stand for truth. The Holy Spirit wants to show us where the old “fence posts” of truth really are. To give us revelation from the Word so we can regain the ground lost through compromise. Future generations are right now in our care, desperately needing to know the difference between truth and error.

Searching the Scriptures and the God of the Scriptures is like rebuilding a fence. The Lord will show us “the property lines” like He did for Abraham, Moses, and Joshua, when we seek him with all our heart.

The Lord recently gave me this word:

“This revival, this awakening will not come from above as much as it will be a peeling away of the old calloused ways. As in Noah’s day, when the heavens were opened, first the deep was broken. More water poured forth from the depth than from above.

“I have deposited more than is required. For generations I have poured forth, deposited revelation upon revelation; power and glory incrementally.

“I’m not requiring my church to learn new things, as some may teach. If my people will simply learn my ways, and follow the path I have set before them, the grace to win the lost and raise the dead will certainly accompany their steps.

“So now it’s time to rebuild the altars, reclaim the wells, and mend the fences. Prepare for glory.”

Rebuilding, reclaiming, and mending is not something to be taken lightly. The enemy, the “Seven Spirits” of the land, do not simply step aside to allow the Kingdom of God to dominate. The devil will do everything possible to keep you and I preoccupied, too busy, indifferent, or whatever; just as long as we don’t attempt to lay claim to the promises and power of God.

But we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

Revival Characteristics (Part Two)

Great_Awakening

Every spiritual awakening, revival, or whatever you’d like to call it, has certain visible characteristics. This is the second message of a three part series.

Wells are reclaimed

Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”

Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them. Genesis 26:15-18 NKJV

The wells represent the source of life, refreshment, and power our forefathers had with God. Wells were dug out of need and, like the altars which were built, as a memorial of what God had done or said. They would symbolize the promises of God and make reference to one of the covenant names of God.

Then he went up from there to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well. Genesis 26:23-25 NKJV

The Hebrew definition for the word translated “well” is to dig, and also, to declare or explain. Reclaiming the wells, digging through the years of traditions and doctrines of man until the water of life is found, is each generation’s responsibility. In doing so, we declare plainly and openly that the gospel preached by our forefathers is the same gospel we preach today.

The God who was more than enough for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is more than enough for us. The Lord who was the healer, sanctifier, provider, shepherd, and the ever-present God then is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So, by faith, we dig past the dirt the devil and his crowd have used to keep mankind from the life-giving water in the well, until it begins to bubble up within us and flow out of us. As Isaac called the wells by the same name his father had given them, so do we. Our fathers knew the power of God, called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They knew God as a deliverer and miracle worker. We say the same thing, declaring it plainly and openly.

And the same God who delivered the demoniacs, healed the blind men, and raised Lazarus from the dead, is at work today. Confirming his word with accompanying signs and wonders.

Take Aim

20130903-232054.jpgSomeone once said, “I’ll aim at the moon, but will settle for a telephone pole.” Don’t you kind of wonder what they were aiming at?

Sure, I get it. Things don’t always turn out as planned. Like the old Stones song says, “you can’t always get what you want.”

So, does that mean we don’t need to set some standards for ourselves? Set some goals, take aim, try for something better; would all that be a waste of time and energy?

What about our spiritual life? Did God intend it to be a haphazard kind of life? Like a pinball, bouncing from bumper to bumper, getting a few bonus points from time to time, hoping God has good flipper reflexes when we’re about to go out. Is that all God created us for?

No!

He created us on purpose, with a purpose; so He intends for us to live our lives on purpose. Taking aim at life, and all it entails.

Now, before you start getting all frustrated or defensive because you haven’t discovered your “purpose” yet, allow me to have your undivided attention. There isn’t a one of us who has everything figured out. No one, but God, sees the end from the beginning. None of us are really good at focusing on things we cannot see. Right?

But if we would take a moment or two, look at the Word of God, we will discover some things to use as targets; some things we can aim for.

For instance:

“…aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” (2 Corinthians 8:21 ESV)

What is honorable? Something that helps raise others to a higher level. Aim at lifting others higher, not at tearing them down. When we get ready to do or say something, lets ask ourselves, “Will this statement or action help me hit the mark?” Reminds me of something Paul told the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9 ESV)

Home or away. Home = Heaven, Away = Earth. Or, whether we’re someplace where people know us, or someplace where we’re a total stranger, our focus, our target, is to please God.

“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV)

The things we tell others to do, or expect others to do, should be focused on love from a pure heart. A pure heart is a heart yielded to Jesus and His way of doing things. That’s our aim.

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)

Aim for restoration; aim for rebuilding, rejuvenating, reestablishing the broken and fallen so they can finish well. Remember, everyone has times when they fail to hit the mark; they shoot at the moon and knock out a streetlight. So take aim for their restoration.

Also, take aim for God’s complete restoration to be completed in us. “He Who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.”

Take aim. Don’t be frustrated if you miss the mark at times. Just reload, take aim, and keep firing.

Our Helper is close by…

Can Innocence Be Restored?

20130522-072542.jpgDo you ever wonder what it would be like to start over in life? Not necessarily from the very beginning; I mean, who really wants to revisit potty training, the first day of kindergarten, and other traumatic experiences. And I DO NOT want to eat cottage cheese ever again!

By “start over”, I’m referring to the time in our life before our innocence was lost. Before we learned how to lie, cheat and steal. Before we knew what emotional pain was like. A time when we believed everyone loved us for who we were, not what we could do for them. When our minds weren’t flooded with thoughts of lust and violence. Before we realized some siblings could be loved more than others.

Wouldn’t it be great to start over with a clean heart?

I look back over my life and think of the different “firsts”; such as, the first time I was afraid, the first time I stole something, and the first time I was introduced to the female body. My first cigarette, my first bottle of bourbon, my first kiss, my first toke, my first hit of acid, the first time I skipped school, the first time I was kicked out of school, and the first time I ran away from home.

I remember the first time I was beaten by an adult. I remember why I was beaten. It wasn’t because of my innocence, either. I remember my first time in jail; and no, it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. I can still recall my first time in a psychiatric ward. That sure didn’t help restore innocence; quite the contrary.

I look at the picture of myself, when I was about 3 years old, and it makes me sad to think of all the corrupt things I experienced during just the first 16 years of my life. Like everyone, I began my life innocently but, little by little, became selfish and filthy on the inside. And though I was the sweetest, most innocent looking kid on the block, my heart was evil, intent on having its way no matter the cost.

Too bad.

I made wrong choices, and it cost me my innocence. Others made wrong choices which affected my innocence. A cute (and smart) kid, once innocent, now guilty.

So sad.

I discovered something, though. I wasn’t the only one who’d lost his innocence. I wasn’t the first, or the last. I didn’t write the book on wrong decisions, though I had my own chapter in the book.

No, the first one to make a bad choice and lose his innocence was Adam. What he gained in knowledge couldn’t compare with what he lost, when he gave away his innocence by obeying the serpent. And down through the years the cycle of life keeps repeating itself: innocent at birth, corrupt at death. Regardless of each individual’s nationality, upbringing, or social status; no one stays squeaky clean! No one stays innocent.

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”(Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

So, allow me to ask the question again. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to start over in life? Would you like to be innocent once again?

Is it possible? Yes! Innocence can be restored. As mentioned earlier, Adam was the first person to give up his innocence, which affected us all. But there was another Who came, Jesus (also referred to as the Last Adam). This Last Adam restored innocence to all mankind. What the First Adam lost, the Last Adam won!

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV)

“…For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:16 – 5:19 ESV)

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV)

“Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV)

Innocence has been restored to each and every person! It’s what God did for us, through His Son, Jesus. Though each of us were guilty of rebellion toward God and the worship of self, God passed judgment upon His Son instead of us. Jesus took our guilt so we could have His innocence.

“that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21 ESV)

I’m not saying we don’t remember those times of selfishness and filth; it’s just that God looks at us through what His Son has done, and finds us “not guilty”; “innocent”! The Lord deems everyone not guilty who call upon the Lord in faith. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 ESV)

Yes, innocence can be restored! You can start over with a brand new life in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:5-7 ESV)

You know, I’ll never again look like that cute little 3 year old in the picture. But my heart is rejoicing in the newness of life I have in Jesus.

And I am enjoying my innocence, because of God’s love.

Four Anchors

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Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.
Acts 27:27-29 NKJV

Paul’s journey to Rome, with its storms, treachery, shipwreck, and rescue, would make a great movie! But just in case that doesn’t happen for a while, there is something in this story I must tell you about.

The ship and all 276 people aboard had just endured almost 2 weeks of stormy weather. It had been so bad, many had feared for their life. Now things were going fairly smooth, other than they had no idea where they were.The sailors were extremely cautious at this point. Traveling at night, they relied largely on their experience and gut feeling to alert them of possible danger. About midnight, the crew sensed they were drawing close to land. To know for sure, they took soundings (using a line with a lead weight on the end, they measured the depth of the water) a couple of times. They discovered land was fast approaching and the ship was in danger of colliding with the shore. So, to avoid the collision and disaster, they lowered four anchors and waited for the sun to come up.

Everyone has gone through, is going through, or WILL go through, storms. Each person runs the risk of becoming shipwrecked, or even worse, destroyed, as a result. But as the story illustrates, God shows us a safe way to travel, to keep from destroying ourselves and others, even through the toughest times. And though a lot of storms are not our fault, just knowing where to place the blame doesn’t help the situation.

Have you ever been overtaken by a storm? No warning, not a clue anything was brewing. It happens all the time. It was happening on Paul’s ship. The soldiers weren’t aware of danger, the prisoners (outside of Paul) didn’t really care – they were probably as good as dead, anyway. But someone on Paul’s ship with life experience recognized the possibility of impending danger; and the experience became the wisdom necessary to avoid certain disaster. Even in the dark, where it was impossible to see, the experienced ones knew what to do until they could see the issue for what it was. And in each of our lives there’s someone with the experience and wisdom to help us know how close danger is and what to do until revelation comes.

The sailors (experience and wisdom) said, “Drop four anchors and we’ll wait for the sunlight.” Light, daylight, sunshine, all speak of revelation knowledge. God, opening the eyes of their understanding, allowing them to see things from His perspective and with His wisdom.

“Drop four anchors…” Four anchors to hold them in place, to keep them from drifting, from wandering; giving them stability until the next step for action could be discerned.

In our life’s journey, these four anchors are extremely important. They help us stay in place and not drift when we can’t see what’s around us. Something that gives us stability and helps keep us from drifting. These four anchors are:

1) Hear the truth – “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1 NLT

Don’t trade the weighty anchor of truth for something that is only fluff. The anchor of truth can smash our foot if we drop it there, but it will also keep us from being blown about by every wind of doctrine.

2) Hope – “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19 NKJV

The hope of God’s promises is an anchor for our soul – our mind, our will, and our emotions. As our soul is anchored, we have greater confidence to go boldly to the Throne of Grace. Encouragement.

3) Helpful Friends –” Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. ” “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” Proverbs 27:6,17; Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 NKJV

Friends – people who love us enough to tell us the truth AND walk with us during dark moments. People who will help us with our resolve and be there through the restoration process.

4) Holy Spirit – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:7-15 NKJV

The Holy Spirit KNOWS what’s going on and WHY it’s happening. He will guide us INTO ALL TRUTH. He will guide us OUT OF ERROR. This anchor will keep us from turning around.

Life’s a crazy, dangerous journey at times. We all need people speaking into our lives who have the experience, wisdom, and love to help alert us to possible danger. We must listen to them, and not push them aside when we don’t like what they say.

If you’ve been running through life without these four anchors, I encourage you to stop now and secure the anchors you’ll need. Because you WILL need them.
Keep the anchors within reach, for when the slightest “drift” is detected, it’s time to act.

An Open Letter To Worship Teams (part 2)

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“Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand.” So Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me to my allotted territory, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I will likewise go with you to your allotted territory.” And Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up, and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand; and they killed ten thousand men at Bezek. “Judges 1:1-4 NKJV

In the above passage of scripture, Judah was told to lead the battle against the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Most people understand the name, “Judah”, means “praise”. That’s one reason the idea of “praise” marching against the enemy is taught. But some people read this passage and believe God always sends His worship team into battle first. God has done such things a few times, but “few” doesn’t equal always.

The words Canaanite and Perizzite have meaning as well. Canaanite is “to humiliate” or “vanquish”. Perizzite means “open” or “unwalled”. In other words, “praise” was to go up against a formidable foe that had the reputation of humiliating and vanquishing all of their enemies. And if that wasn’t enough, the other half of the enemy combatants were so powerful they needed no walls of protection for their cities. They could defend their territory without anything but their ability to fight.

Worship can be, and is at times, used by the Lord to rout an enemy from a situation, a people group, a city, etc. An example can be seen in 2 Chronicles 20, in the story of King Jehoshaphat.

But for worship and praise to have Heaven’s Anointing upon it, it must have God’s Word, God’s direction, behind it.

If you are part of a worship team, you are in a critical, front line ministry. Notice I said worship team. I’m not talking about a group of singers and musicians who perform for their congregation during the “worship” part of a church service. I’m referring to a group of singers and musicians who, along with their leader, actually have their heart fixed on worshipping God, whether there’s music or not, whether the song is fast or slow. They worship God. And others follow their lead, right into Heaven’s Throne Room.

As I said, leading worship and ministering on a worship team is front line ministry. Worship, coupled with intercession (the two go hand in hand), has the ability to connect Heaven and Earth. God moves through the conduit of worship and touches those in need, those who are bound by afflictions or addictions, and brings deliverance. But one of the things a worship team must understand is, the Lord doesn’t necessarily use a packaged or planned worship set like we’d believe; for there’s nothing magical, or spiritual, about an arrangement of songs.

I keep track of worship “sets” I use. I do that for three reasons. One, in case someone would ask about a certain song used on a particular day or service. Two, to file a report with CCLI regarding song usage. And three, for my own reference in planning future worship times. These “sets” have been blessed by God, at times, to “bring Heaven down”. People have received from the Lord marvelously as our worship team sang and played the worship set.

However what worked before doesn’t guarantee future victories. Repeating a worship set doesn’t mean the automatic rerun of a previous “gully washer.”

Judah had an idea. I believe it was an idea we as worshippers need to adapt. Judah (praise) said to brother Simeon, “will you please help me?” Simeon means “hearing”. The picture behind the word isn’t just the physical act of hearing. It means “to hear with the intent of obeying”.

So “praise” said to “hearing, with the intent of obeying”, “please help me defeat these enemies who have the ability and the reputation of defeating all who rise against them.” “Hearing” agreed, and TOGETHER they cleared their land of the enemy.

When we as worship team members and leaders stand in front of a congregation, singing songs should be one of the last things we’re concerned with. Singing praises alone doesn’t automatically open windows for victory. We must keep our heart and mind sensitive to God’s voice, and to the leader’s heart (and the pastor’s).

When we unite praise and obedience to God’s voice we will see God’s Kingdom come and His will done in our world.

When I “plan” the songs for worship, I try and sense the Lord’s desire for the gathering. I’ll pick the songs, the keys, arrange the order, and submit the finished set to the pastor or sound personnel. But the songs aren’t set in stone. We may do some, all, or none of them.

What we will do, with the Spirit’s help, is join Judah and Simeon together – praising, listening, and obeying God.

THAT is when the enemy is routed and people are set free. THAT is when Heaven touches Earth. THAT is when Jesus is glorified!

It’s great to prepare worship sets. It’s great to practice vocal parts, instrumentals, tags, etc. It’s important to rehearse and “perform” the best we can.

But when it’s time to worship, don’t forget to listen to the Chief Musician’s heart. He just may have something other than singing planned.

There may be a Canaanite or Perrizite to drive out.

Houdini and Lazarus

Harry Houdini (March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926), was a magician, escape artist, and daredevil who captivated much of the Western world with his exploits in the first quarter of the twentieth century. He amazed and excited crowds with his death defying escapes. He wore shackles and handcuffs and ordered his assistants to lock him in trunks or submerge him underwater. Houdini became world famous by traveling across America and the world thrilling his fans. In performing his escapes and feats of physical and psychological endurance, Houdini pushed his mind and his body to extremes, proving himself to be an athlete as well as a magician. He was able to control the mind-body dynamic to extraordinary lengths. He also believed in the reality of the after-life and thus of a spiritual dimension to human existence. He achieved such fame for his exploits that the name “Houdini” remains synonymous with the art of escapism.”- From New World Encyclopedia

The video of Houdini escaping from a straitjacket is how some people fancy themselves. They believe they have the ability to take care of all their needs, hang-ups, habits, secret sins, etc. Help? Who needs help? If they need to escape an addiction or get rid of a dangerous life-style, they’re convinced they can handle anything. No chain can hold them or locked trunk hide them. Their secret ability to escape is known by all, and to rely upon anyone for help would be unthinkable.

Also, sometimes we look at others and think, because God “miraculously” changed their life they don’t need our help. Sure, they seem to have a little trouble walking, but they’ll get it right. They’ll escape in time to catch their breath. They SURELY don’t need MY help.

However, we really aren’t like Houdini. We’re more like Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha. Think about the story of Lazarus’ resurrection as recorded in John, chapter 11:

Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, died while Jesus was in another town. Jesus received word His friend was sick, waited to go visit the family, and by the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead 4 days. Martha said it well, “Lord, he stinks!”

Jesus had told His disciples His plan was to “wake Lazarus from sleep”, or, raise him from the dead. When He arrived and asked to see where His friend was buried, the people showed Jesus a tomb with a large stone covering the entrance.

Jesus said, “Remove the stone!” So people gathered around the stone and pushed it out of the way. He then called Lazarus’ name, commanding him to leave the tomb. Lazarus soon appeared at the tomb’s entrance, covered head to toe in grave clothes.

“Hallelujah! Lazarus is raised! Look what Jesus has done!” Can’t you just hear the crowd shouting?

Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “I don’t need anyone else’s help. I have God! He’s all I need. I don’t need counsel, or assistance, accountability, or anything else. God and I have this covered. I trust in Him Who raised me from the dead and gave me new life. Just, please, leave me alone.” As a pastor, I heard it far too many times. I understand “without Jesus we can do nothing”, but there’s another side to that truth as well. Jesus is the One who gives us life! But those in the Body are needed BY GOD to:

1) Roll away the stone
2) Remove the grave clothes

Of course, our role isn’t very glamorous. Move a stone, remove grave clothes from a stinky man, feed someone. I mean, how important is that kind of stuff? We were created for bigger and better things! God’s calling upon our life is to preach to the nations; surely someone else can do those menial tasks!

But what good would it be to raise someone from the dead if, afterward, they couldn’t eat, walk, or communicate with those around them?

In fact, in other instances where Jesus raised someone from the dead, those around Jesus were given instructions; their help was needed. “Give the girl some food”, was one instance. Apparently she needed food, but was too weak to feed herself.

The raising of Lazarus is an example of Kingdom teamwork. The Lord does what only He can do and man does what only he can do.

Lazarus’ life became dependent upon the willingness of others for help. Likewise, our life is not our own. Yes, God’s miracle working power has raised us up, making us a new creation in Christ. We have been born again by faith in the finished work of Jesus! But other people, people like you and I, must be active in this process.

For every time the Lord raises someone up from being spiritually dead, He has a word for those in relationship with the one newly alive. That word is, “Loose him and let him go (or be free).” He also says, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” God and man working together for the restoration of a human being! Workers together!

Removing the grave clothes could be as simple as cutting the wrappings from the person’s hand, feet, and face. Wrappings could represent old thought patterns around their heads, old destructive habits their hands were involved in, and things that would affect their walk with God; things that could cause them to stumble.

It really can be a stinky, messy, job. Grave clothes usually smell like the grave; like death. AND, grave clothes aren’t removed from a distance. It’s an up-close-and-personal process.

One more little thought. Think of the process involved when a mother has a brand new baby. Is the baby born because God stands outside the womb and says, “Baby, come forth?” Well, maybe. But there sure is a lot of work after the baby appears! A lot of MESSY work.

So have your scissors, wash cloths, and patience ready. The Lord is calling you and I to help the Lazarus’ in our midst.

You see, we weren’t made to be like Houdini. HE could get himself free from the grave clothes…

WE need help.

“Drop Kick Me Jesus…”

“Drop kick me Jesus…” A cute little song by Bobby Bare.

God NEVER intended for His people to barely make it through this life and into the next, without a testimony of His power and victory evident in their life. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”(Romans 8:29-30 NKJV)

The word “predestined” can toss you around if you’re not careful. It does not mean God has already decided who will and who won’t be saved. God’s not willing any perish or go to an eternal hell. Rather He IS willing, and made it possible, for ALL men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. So ANYONE and EVERYONE can become a new creation in Christ and spend now and forever abiding in His Presence.

“…He also predestined…” in the above passage could be paraphrased in this manner: “God knows who will come to Him through His Son, Jesus. And all who come to Him are destined to be changed into His likeness, His image. It’s an established plan. God won’t settle for any less.”

God desired to have a family, created in His image, after His likeness. Adam started out well, but ended falling way short. But Jesus, the Second Adam, brought mankind back to the place where fellowship with God is possible. Possible, through faith in Jesus. And our “destiny”, in Jesus, is to be changed into His exact likeness, His image; acting like Him in all ways, thought, word, and deed. As the Son is, so shall we be (see John 17 and Hebrews 1:1-3). “Pre” means “before” so think of it this way: God planned our destiny in Jesus before it was possible. He “prepaid” for our eternal hope and future.

I believe it’s time for us to see ourselves the way God sees us in Christ. Time for us to understand “this life” on earth is only separated from our “next life” by our earthly body. What God has, or hasn’t, accomplished in us while on earth will continue. “He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” 

So, enjoy the cute song. Especially if you like country music. But look into God’s Word and discover what He has already accomplished for you in Christ. And don’t be satisfied with barely making it through life. 

You are not a football. 

Reverse the Cycle

Cycle

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord .

Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:9-21 NLT)

Evil. Harmful. Wrong. Damaging. Injurious. Pernicious.

Life can be a vicious cycle, and can have a person running from issue to issue, crisis to crisis. I have known people, perhaps you have also, who aren’t “happy” unless they are fussing with someone, or not speaking with another; they seem to enjoy playing the victim. They carry on like they’ve been rejected by the last person on earth. Either someone has done them wrong, taken advantage of them, or they’ve been ignored completely. They show affection to loved ones but get mad when that affection isn’t reciprocated. They don’t know how to listen to someone’s pain or praise report; instead they feel the need to “one up them”. You know the ones. Your pain never is as bad as they’ve had. Blessings you’ve received never quite measure up to theirs. They can’t just say “thank you” for something you’ve done for them. No, they always have to pay you back, “get even”. They see themselves as real helpers, givers, lovers; but never recognize “giving” and “loving” with attached “strings” isn’t giving or loving at all. It’s “trading”; and with trading everything has to be even. Which means, someone may end up feeling cheated.

This kind of behavior isn’t cute, and it’s not just a nuisance. It is destructive to individuals, families, churches and the Kingdom of God. It is evil!

Evil. Harmful. Wrong. Damaging. Injurious. Pernicious.

We have a responsibility, a command, to NOT be overcome by evil, or evil ways. Instead, we are told to overcome evil with GOOD.

Okay, so what’s good? Where do we find the good to overcome evil?

Well, God is good, and His mercy endures forever! He has an abundance of good for whoever asks Him. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above”, and, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…”, James wrote. Wisdom to handle any temptation, any desire for revenge, any urge to curse and retaliate. So the first part in overcoming evil with good is ask God for help and wisdom. Help and wisdom is good. I’ll put it another way.

We must RECOGNIZE the temptation to jump back into the vicious cycle.

The next part can be as easy as it is difficult. What I mean is, it may be hard to get started but can become easy the more you do it.

REVERSE the cycle, is the second part. Doing the opposite of what you feel like doing! For instance, someone slighted you, offended you, treated you dirty. Instead of cursing them, bless them in the Name of Jesus. Instead of showing them hatred, show them love. Go out of your way to give into their life, with no strings attached, and no record-keeping of wrongs. REVERSE the cycle of evil reaction and evil manipulation. REVERSE the urge to get even. REVERSE the desire to control others. REVERSE the cycle and live free!

God never instructed us to love sin or hate good. We should ALWAYS hate what He hates and love what He loves. Let love be without hypocrisy. Work hard and serve God with enthusiasm. Be patient when trouble comes, and keep on praying. Be ready to help anyone with a need, and practice good hospitality. All that is fairly easy to do, until someone does us wrong!

That’s when it’s important for us to RECOGNIZE and REVERSE!

Persecuted? Don’t try to get even. Get God involved by asking God to bless them.

REVERSE the cycle!

Has an “enemy” stolen from you, slandered you, embarrassed you? Invite them to dinner!

REVERSE the cycle!

This is exactly what Jesus did, and it’s exactly what we need to do!

RECOGNIZE the temptation and REVERSE the cycle.

“Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Christ.” 1 John 5

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