Tuesday, June 30th, Rhonda and I will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. It is almost impossible to comprehend that number. Those of you other old-timers know that feeling. What an amazing journey it has been. Little did either of us know, or understand at the ripe old age of 19, what was before us. There were difficult days, financial hardship, but great laughter and joy as we persevered through every season of our married lives. Now, in this season of what some would call the twilight years, I see it as highlight years. We are excited to see what new ventures await us as we continue to declare not our will, God, but Your will be accomplished in our lives. We are both content as this time, as our position of Pastors solidifies in a deeper understanding of this important role in society. We will pour our lives into the church to see it flourish and become the beacon of hope that is needed for these unusual days we live in.
We also sense, and can see that not too many years down the road, we will be asked to do more and more in the mission fields of the world. We embrace this assignment with arms wide open, suitcases in hand shouting;
"Here we are Lord,
These 42 years, walking side by side with that dark-haired, dark-eyed girl that I was brought to by God, has been beyond my wildest expectations. I could not have scripted such a life. First, all glory goes to God, who put us together in such a divine way. Second, to my in-laws, Leon and Lynda Vernon, who saw something in me that allowed them to give their precious daughter to me in married. Third, to my Rhonda, the dreamer, the love of my life, my friend. Thank you for 42 years of marriage. Now, let's get on down the road. Nations are waiting!
Here's to 42 and beyond!
The message to the Laodicean church has this verse that really caught my attention. In the Passion translation of Revelation 3:19 says;
All those I dearly love
Now that is food for thought! Especially in light of the world having to ask up! It has been preached more than once that God never wastes a good crisis. I have a deep conviction that this holds true for this current crisis. The church, that Jesus established needs some instruction. The mask of religiosity needs to come off. It will take a very spirit-empowered church going forward to be able to overcome the threats that will come our way.
But, praise God we already have this wonderful purpose declared by Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 16:18-19. In short, Jesus declared that upon His anointing from His father, God, this bedrock foundation will prevail against the purpose of hell! Then He goes on to say 'I am going to give you keys that unlock heavens Kingdom realm to bind and release as Heaven directs.'
So the purpose of the church was established before there ever was a problem. No problem, crisis, or dilemma has ever nor will ever restrict, negate, or over throw the plans, purposes, and the destiny of the church. God spoke to Abram and gave him insight into the direction of his offspring. They would go into bondage for over 400 years. BUT, God said I will make them a great nation and they will come out strong and mighty! And it happened as God said.
I see the veil that has obscured the vision of the church being lifted and a new clarity coming to those with ears to hear what the Spirit is saying...
The purpose was established before the problem.
This past weekend Rhonda and I were blessed to be in Alto Texas with our wonderful friends, Pastor Ron and Kay Rose. They Pastor the River Church in Alto, Texas with church plants in Wells, Tx and soon to open in Jackonsonville, Tx. God arranged for us to meet in 2003 and it has been a wonderful friendship ever since.
The town of Alto has a population of app. 1200 people. It is small town America on display for sure. As is with many small rural communities, especially those in economically challenged situations, the effects of hopelessness, drugs, divorce and a powerless church has brought great devastation to a generation of young men and women.
Pastor Ron and Kay took this situation as a wake-up call. The Church either becomes the church or the darkness over their town will prevail. The jails cells of their county became their fields of harvest. Those in the deep demonic clutches of addictions were the preferred targets for future leadership positions. They, and at the time, a small core of members with the same passion and vision set in motion a God inspired mission to go after this segment of society that most had written off. What we witnessed yesterday at The River in Alto Texas was stunning for lack of better words!! The sights and sounds of the redeemed was something I had not seen in a town and church this size anywhere in America.
The morning service began with a prayer time and approx 80 plus people were in their seats anxiously waiting to start the service. Then it began, testimonies of healing, of relationships being restored, of minds clear after years of addictions, of the intense love they felt at this church, love they had never had in the world. Tears flowed down our faces as we watched in awe of what God was doing in this small town America church, surrounded by years of religious institutions, disunity and selfish ambitions. We saw and heard the sights and sounds of the redeemed and it was glorious, uplifting and so, so refreshing. The main service was a continuation of the outpouring. Men, yes, many young adult men at the altar singing, dancing and rejoicing in the freedom they now had through Jesus Christ. Then maybe the most amazing part of the day was the Sunday evening prayer service. Yes, America, Sunday evening. The time most churches have jettisoned off their schedule as unimportant, because most of people have said it is unimportant. Not at The River! A circle of 125 chairs were in place and at least 100 people were in their seats anxiously waiting time to start the service.
Then the testimonies began again, then declarations over lost family members, worship, and prayer for one another, encouraging words, shouts of victory. Oh what a beautiful sight to see. What a glorious sound the hear. They know that their Redeemer Lives because He has touched their lives in such a transformative way that no one can deny the fact.
Reading the story of Mary breaking the jar of alabaster and pouring it over the head of Jesus, it was an act of "extreme devotion" as the Passion translation reads. What we witnessed yesterday was acts of extreme devotion as men and women brought their alabaster jars, which was their redeemed lives and poured it out in worship, love for one another and deep, deep gratitude for someone seeing value in them.
Marys act of devotion upset the religious minded but Jesus was moved by this event and even declared her act would be noted all over the world.
Could this act of devotion, in this small, off the radar town in East Texas ignite a movement that could salvage the mission and mandate for the church today? My eyes have seen and my ears have heard the Redeemed say SO!!!
Reading the events that followed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, I was drawn to an event that had far greater effects for the future other than Pentecost. Yes, Pentecost was historic, epic, marvelous, breathtaking (and any other adjective you may add). Then we realize this fullness of time moment was ordained and directed by God himself. It was going to happen, had to happen at the precise time that it did to fulfill prophecy.
In Acts 4 we see an event unfold that not only validated Pentecost, it made the promise spoken about in Acts 2:39 a reality.
"The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
In Acts 4 Peter and John raised a commotion by healing the crippled man at the Gate Beautiful. All sectors of culture were increased by this act. The religious, the business man, the government all demanded something be done to shut this uprising down. Peter and John were arrested and brought before a council of "concerned" elites of society. The verdict; never speak of this Jesus and His resurrection again.
The disciples response; we can't help ourselves, we have been with Jesus, before His death and after. What our eyes have seen and our ears have heard, we have to tell this story.
Then it happened, what I consider the key to why we are here today. Instead of folding up, shutting down, closing the doors, the disciples prayed this game changing prayer:
Acts 4:29-31 So now, Lord, listen to their threats to harm us. Empower us, as your servants, to speak the word of God freely and courageously. 30 Stretch out your hand of power through us to heal, and to move in signs and wonders by the name of your holy Son, Jesus!”[a]
I found this quote from Thomas Carlyle this week, "Conviction is worthless unless it's converted into conduct."
The fires of Pentecost could have been extinguished had not the disciples asked for a touch from God. Now the template for us was in place. When faced with insurmountable situations, fear, anti-christ agendas, un-godly rules that goes against our beliefs, we do not have to turn into cowards.
I have seen this work in my life. Faced with the reality of the death of my Pastor & father-in-law Leon Vernon, in this dark night of my soul, I asked for the Lord's help. That night on a plane 35,000 feet over Arizona, the Lord poured into me unrestrained boldness! Add to that experience the signs and wonders Rhonda and I have seen in 20 years of missions work, well it is no wonder that "it is impossible for us to stop speaking about all the things we've seen and heard". Acts 4:20.
My prayer for the American church is we are all filled with Unrestrained Boldness!
I have been captivated by this quote from A.W Tozer; 'God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm'. That seems like an outdated and improper statement when you consider what we se and hear on a daily basis. It is without a doubt, very disturbing to see this outbreak of violence in our cities, to see the death of an innocent man, to view evil on a daily basis. You may ask how can God be enthusiastic about this? I asked this same question as I pondered this statement and it just exploded in my spirit. It hit me, at every moment pn Earth a new day dawns! In the unending rotation of this planet we call home, a new day awakens with hope and expectation. Now, the pessimist would counter with the fact that night is the same manner. True, but where are your thoughts? Paul writes in Phillippians 4:8,
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
He instructs to keep your thoughts "continually fixed" on the authentic and real, what is honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always.
I think these are great instructions for the day we live in, which brings us to another truth of scripture.
1 Thessalonians 5:5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.
In Genesis we see the order of what we call a day, begins with the night. Genesis 1:5 "so the evening and morning were the first day". The completion of the cycle we call day begins in the dark but finishes in the light! At the breaking of every dawn God sees himself in the human race, Genesis 1:27.
Yes, sin has stained us, but thanks be to God that in His unending mercies made a way for us to walk in the newness of day. Jesus came as the way-maker! Then to show even more how much God yearns for us, the gift of the Holy Spirit fell upon these earthen vessels! It is my sense that this would-wide shaking has dislodged a complacent, self centered church that will now respond to the groaning of all creation that waits for the manifestation of God (Romans 8:19).
May we feel a fresh new Pentecost, complete with a holy zeal that will raise our enthusiasm and expectation to meet God's enthusiasm and expectation, and see our cities, regions, nations, and the remote parts of the world turned to day!
Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the Sun (shemesh; Hebrew-daylight) of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.