According to the cultural professors we are living in the Information Age. I can not dispute that fact! Any story, graph, or statistic is just a call to Siri or Google away. It still seems strange to talk to a phone asking for advice, but that is where we are today. What we now see with facts is that they are being hijacked by personal agendas and political persuasion. The tongue in check joke used to be "I read it in a checkout tabloid". We all knew those stories had no facts, just sensational stories to make a buck. Today, the tabloid printed on paper has succumbed to the internet and social media. What has not changed in the fact so much is based on sensationalism, personal agenda, and of course political persuasion. How we long for the simple days where Joe Friday, detective on the old TV show 'Dragnet' would ask "Just the facts!"
How we would love to have just the facts concerning all cultural issues we face today. With all the personal agendas ruling our media, that is doubtful. This is the world we live in. But there is hope! Thanks be to God that we as believers have our facts come from another realm, the Kingdom of God realm. As we read the bible we see God's people faced with all manner of earthly facts. Hostile people groups, giants, fear, oceans, mountains, sickness, demonic possession, the list goes on and on. Those were facts, not to be ignored or kept in a closet of shame, fear or guilt. The Apostle Paul faced many of these facts. He admitted it, yet one fact that allowed him and will allow us to overcome is what Paul states in 2 Timothy 4:17. Paul states people have left him, in this realm he was abandoned yet he writes,
For in spite of this, my Lord Himself stood with me, empowering me to complete my ministry of preaching to all the non-Jewish nations so they could all hear the message and be delivered from the mouth of the lion (satan)
Let all us remember this fact; in spite of all that is going on in our nation, and in this world, the Lord of Hosts stands with us. So many Christians are like the servant of Elisha. He wakes up one morning, looks outside, and the enemy has surrounded the city. This was a fact, he saw them with his natural eyes. Full of fear, he runs to Elisha asking what to do. Elisha's calm response: 'do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Elisha prayed for the servants eyes to be opened and the Lord opened his eyes to a whole new realm! God's Kingdom in all it's splendor and glory with horses and chariots of fire all around!
Fact: In spite of it all, the Lord is for us! The Psalmist declares: I will never fear what men can do to me. For you stand beside me as my hero. This is a fact!
As we hurtle to the November 3rd election, our country still is mired in a deepening hole. The debate to add 1 trillion or up to 3 trillion dollars to our national debt hardly gets a second glance as "bigger" issues have captured our attention. Sports of all varieties seem to be on the shifting sands of the next "hero" to test positive for covid. The big issue whether to mask or not to mask has many captured in this battle. Deciding which lives matter has another group on edge. The assault upon our history and whose story gets stricken from our books has another group riled up. Perilous times seem to describe these days well.
The church, the Ekklesia, the call out ones, sit positioned in the midst of all this. These events have challenged every church leader in this country. No one has been immune from the effects of these events. It has been a wake up call, without a doubt.
In the book of Isaiah chapter 51, an interesting dialogue takes place between God, God's people, and the prophet. In summary, God reminds the people where they came from spiritually speaking. Two senior citizens, who in the natural had no chance of producing a child, did just that. Verse 2 says "but I blessed them greatly so that one became many." What God has blessed, it will always reproduce and multiply. God then promises a process of restoration with great joy and righteousness. This sounds wonderful to the people so they respond with this shout, verse 9, "Wake up God, do your mighty words again!" A typical response to people wanting an easy way out, 'you fix this God!'. God responds by saying 'I have placed my word in your mouth and hidden you in the palm of my hand', so basically 'YOU wake up!'
Yes, God has staked our bed, it's time to get up! No more hitting the snooze button, it is time to wake up! Rise up! The heart of this conversation is in Isaiah 52:5-6.
Praise the Lord for this promise! That we will become aware, once again, of the power of His name!
America celebrated her 244th birthday this past weekend. The word from the firework stands across the land stated it was a record year. The closing of many large displays pushed the shows to more backyards than ever before. The 4th of July should be celebrated, it is important that all Americans take time this weekend to recognize the birthdate of the greatest nation in history. It was founded by the leaders with deep faith and trust in God that this nation would bring hope to all the world. It has, and as believers pray, we trust it will continue to be a beacon of hope forever more!
There can be no doubt that we are at a decisive moment in this country. The strategic re-writing of history has led to a generation with very little knowledge of our founding leaders. With that vacuum of knowledge in place, the anti-christ spirit has rushed in with deception, lies, and confusion to cause this anti-American rhetoric we see on a daily basis.
I remember 1976, my senior year in high school. It was America's 200th birthday and what a glorious celebration it was. Stories and quotes from history were prevalent as ALL Americans celebrated the fact they were so blessed to be an American. Patriotism was at an all time high! In those days it was hard to think that in a generation, the very existence of this great nation would be in question. Does our past have flaws and injustices? Yes, without a doubt. But history helps us to go into a future with hope and expectation that we, as the human race, can and will do better. I have a great hope that the seeds of faith in God, sown for many generations in this land will produce a generation that will take a stand and push back the darkness across the land.
It can be said no better than this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville from the early 1800's.
"I sought for the greatness and genius America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers- and it was not there... In her fertile fields and her boundless forests and it was not there... In her democratic congress and her matchless constitution- and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."
The greatness of America has and always will be in relationship to the truths of God's word. May the Word of God become the sound from homes across this land once again. May bibles be dusted off and uncovered out of the debris of doubt and unbelief and opened to the Truth within it's cover. May the pulpit of America flame again with preachers of righteousness and truth. This will keep America good, and if America is good, she will always be great!
America, may we always bless God! Happy 244 & praying for many more!
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.
As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast I am fascinated and overjoyed by the reports from around the world as I read about the environment and how it is responding to this worldwide lockdown. The reports that are most endearing to me are from Nepal. Take a look at the picture below.
This photo was taken May 8th and shows the Kathmandu Valley where approximately 2 million people live. During the 20 years I have travelled to this country the pollution in this valley has steadily increased to the point the beautiful snow-capped Himalaya's were seldom seen. Now, can you see what I see in this photo? Blue skies, snow-capped mountains and the valley with it's eclectic mix of old and new buildings as far as the eyes can see. Stories from North India verify this phenomenon. In villages they are seeing only what they have been told by the elders; 'beautiful mountains are there, but you just cannot see them'. Now with clean, clear skies their eyes see what they have only ever heard with their ears.
The Ridley's sea turtle's recent India egg-laying season was the longest in years. The deserted beaches brought an estimated 400,000 plus turtles onto the beaches to lay an estimated 60 million eggs. These events have transpired in just a little over 2 months. Many other stories of renewal and restoration are pouring in from all over the world. One biblical phrase used for times like this is out of 1 Corinthians 15:46 that says first the natural then the spiritual.
What a fascinating thought to think of a spiritual renewal and restoration. Can you see this possibility before us? With this one condition that is needed we can see, in a short time, a spiritual clearing of the atmosphere over our lives, our churches, and our nation. That condition? Peter revealed it to the crowd gathered under the roof of Solomon's porch. His fiery sermon after Pentecost has this condition - "you must repent and turn back to God".
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
This brings a removal of the dark, pollution filled clouds of sin and a cooling breeze that soothes the soul.
As we approach Pentecost Sunday (May 31), what has shrouded your vision and spiritual fruitfulness? Can you see that what has taken place in the natural, God wants to do in the spiritual? The God of all power and might is still making all things new. Can you see this new day dawning, if, we do it His way?
Yesterday was our church's first gathering since Covid-19 took over the world. Amazing how a microscopic germ has transformed our planet, makes you wonder what a mustard seed of faith could do if released by Christ followers who would trust and obey? This was God's message to the children of Israel in the book of Judges, chapter 6. The enemy had forced the Israelites to hide in caves and the higher places away from the fertile fields where food was grown. In their shelter-in-place situation they cried out to God.
As always God responded by sending a prophet with a message. That message was not about a future event where everything will be fixed and the enemy wiped out. No, the word from God was about times past; do you remember when? Then God reminded them of a few of His mighty exploits. As kingdom minded people we are prone to be in such a forward moving stage that when we seem to hit a road block we tend to forget those "Times Worth Remembering."
God allows these momentary pauses so we can get a 180 degree view of not only what is ahead but also to always remember that if He has delivered you once, He can do it again! God has preserved His people over and over and over again. God's people, who trust and obey His word, have and always will overcome odds that are humanly impossible to comprehend. The Bible is full of odd defying exploits, men and women who took that mustard seed of faith and shaped history.
It seems in this story of Judges their biggest transgression was they fell into the trap of fear. God said, do not fear, and they fled to the hills in fear. The demonic spirit of fear is being unleashed upon the world in waves. Fear empties warehouses of toilet paper, distorts reason and common sense. Now the next fear factor is our nations meat supply. We are running low on meat!
Hmm let's see, the writer of Hebrews has something to say concerning meat. Lack of meat of the Word has caused you to be dull and sluggish. This has caused your spiritual senses to not perceive heavenly matters. (Hebrews 5). Our spiritual diet has caused a weakness in our ability to perceive and understand the ways of the Kingdom. Then in Hebrews 6 it says 'now is the time to progress! Move forward into this new dimension of faith'. We all have in our arsenal those "Times Worth Remembering" to push us forward!