A NEW LOOK AT THE GIFT OF TONGUES…

II CHRONICLES 5:13-14: “…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Have you ever wanted to see the Presence of God? As Solomon dedicated the Temple, as the priests placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, as the trumpeters and singers were as one praising and thanking the Lord, the manifest presence of God was physically seen by all. It was the cloud of God’s glory filling the Temple.

This history of Israel is replete with physical manifestations of God’s presence. As the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, the presence of God was seen as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. When Moses would meet with the Lord in the tent of meeting, the cloud of God’s presence would overshadow the tent, and all Israel would stand at the door of their tents from a distance looking on. When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to meet with God, they witnessed thundering, the sound of a trumpet, and a thick cloud.

Why doesn’t the Lord show Himself like this today?

There are testimonies by some of these types of encounters. Yet, the vast majority have not seen a physical sign of the manifest presence of God. In all my years of pastoring I have felt the presence of God, but I have never seen a cloud or pillar of fire. I have never heard the sounding of thundering or a mighty trumpet. And I have often wondered why. Why doesn’t the Lord manifest Himself on a regular basis today? And as I pondered this thought today I realized – He has!

There is something wonderful in the opening account of the dedication of the Temple that is easily missed. It is the following words,

  • “…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one…”

Not only were the trumpeters and singers as one, the entire nation of Israel stood before Solomon and the Temple as one. There was a united heart that was directed in worship to the Lord. And then I remembered another account in the Bible when these same conditions existed.

  • “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts‬ ‭2:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Note, they were gathered together to worship the Lord, they were all with one accord in one place, and they witnessed the manifest presence of God. There were some manifestations of God’s presence that were unique to this encounter, and some that continued. We do not read again in the Book of Acts that there was the sound of a rushing mighty wind, or that tongues of fire appeared upon the heads of those who believed. However, we do see a pattern of an outward manifestation that continued and was recognized as the sign of God’s presence.

It was the gift of praying in the spirit, the gift of speaking in tongues.

Over and over again in the book of Acts we see that when the Apostles laid their hands upon believers to receive the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues.

  • “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? ”. ‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:44-47‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As Peter preached to the house of Cornelius, God manifested His presence in the lives of these Gentile converts. They believed the message of Christ, and even before Peter could ask them to repent and be baptized, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. What was Peter’s response?

  • “Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? ”. ‭

Peter recognized the manifest presence of God through the physical manifestation of speaking in tongues. Why is this so important? It show a dramatic shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant the children of Israel could only view the presence of God from a distance. Even though these manifestations were dramatic and earthshaking, they had little effect upon the heart of the individual and the nation. The awe soon wore away, and their hearts were unchanged.

However, in the New Covenant, believers in Jesus Christ are not called to stand at the door of their tent and watch as one person experiences the manifest presence of God. Rather, each believer is in-dwelt with the manifest presence of God. Each believer is part of the Temple of God that is made with living stones. And each stone is invited to enter into the manifest presence of God. This is not simply a theological viewpoint, it is a dynamic experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. And the wonderful confirmation of this event is the gift of praying in the Holy Spirit, or praying in tongues.

As a Pentecostal believer, I am so glad that I can daily be reminded of the manifest presence of God as I have the joy and privilege of praying in the spirit (praying in tongues). This gift is not for exhibition or abuse. It is an intimate reminder of the indwelling presence of the precious Holy Spirit in my life. It is the call to partner with the Lord in prayer as an intercessor before the throne of God. It is a call to enter into worship with words that cannot be uttered with my understanding, but can be released to heaven in my heavenly language.

There are so many Scriptures in the New Testament that deal with this truth. This outward sign of God’s manifest presence did not cease when the canon of Scripture was completed or when the apostles died. In fact, the same Peter who witnessed the Lord pour out His manifest presence upon the Gentiles proclaimed,

  • “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts‬ ‭2:38-39‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The good news is that God is still calling people. As long as God is calling, He is also saving and filling people with His manifest presence. As a young Lutheran student, who believed in the gifts of the Spirit, but did not participate in them, I discovered the manifest presence in a small prayer room. As I knelt crying out to God for a friend who was gravely ill, I found I had no words to express. When I groaned before Him, the manifest presence of God fell upon me, and I began praying in a language I had never learned. My life was markedly different from that day forward.

Like the children of Israel, experiencing the manifest presence of God does not make one perfect. Yet, I now realize why the enemy does not want me to pray in the spirit. I now realize why he constantly tries to get believers to argue and fight over this gift. It is because the enemy of our souls does not want us to be daily reminded of the manifest presence in our lives. As we are reminded, we are drawn closer to God. And as we are drawn closer to God, the enemy will have to flee!

  • Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James‬ ‭4:7-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Praying in the Spirit builds up our faith! It draws us closer to the love of God through the Holy Spirit. It keeps us focused on the Kingdom of God rather than the things of this life.

  • “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude‬ ‭1:20-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

If you have never experienced this wonderful gift, all you have to do is ask. If a young Lutheran student can encounter the manifest presence of God in a small prayer chapel – you can too!

Lord, may I give You praise today, with my understanding, and with my spirit! May I abide in the manifest presence of God!

  • “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:26-27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” I Corinthians‬ ‭14:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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THE PITFALL OF PRIDE…

1 CHRONICLES 21:1-7: “Then satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count Israel. So David told Joab and the leaders of the people, “Go, count Israel from Beersheba to Dan. Then bring me a report so I may know their number.” But Joab said, “May ADONAI multiply His people 100 times over! But my master the king, are they not all my master’s servants? Why does my master require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and finally came back to Jerusalem. Joab gave the number of the census of the people to David: in all Israel there were 1,100,000 sword-wielding men; Judah had 470,000 sword-wielding men. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s word was detestable to Joab. But God was displeased with this thing and He struck Israel.”

OBSERVATION: Am I guarding my heart from the pitfall of pride? Am I aware that this is one of the principle weapons the enemy uses to attack my life when I am experiencing victories from the Lord? The book of Proverbs is very clear,

  • “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit with the afflicted than to share the spoil with the proud.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:18-19‬ ‭TLV‬‬

How could David, a man after God’s own heart, fall prey to such an obvious attack of the enemy? And why was God’s punishment on Israel so severe? At first glance it simply appears that David was requesting a census, something that Israel had done before, under the direction of the Lord. However, the Lord had not directed David to do this, and it was not motivated out of obedience to the Lord. David’s census was motivated out of pride.

The previous chapter in 1 Chronicles listed the victories that David and Israel had accomplished over the Ammonites and the Philistines. It even listed their victory over the descendants of Goliath. It was in this setting of victory that Satan attacked David. And it was in this setting of victory that David succumbed to the pitfall of pride.

How easy it is for us to begin to think that we have something to do with the victories in our life. All I really need to do is listen to the words coming out of my mouth to see if I am close to this pitfall. When the pronoun “I” is used more than “He”, then I am moving ever closer to the pitfall of pride. David was reveling in his victories. He began to think that his military prowess and the size of his army was the reason for these victories. David stood at the intersection of pride and humility, and at this juncture David chose pride.

Pride can blind us to so many things. David’s momentary lapse of pride caused him to ignore the warnings of his general Joab who had fought side by side with him in so many battles. God uses those closest to us to help us see our blind spots. When we find ourselves refusing to listen to those speaking into our life, we are at the edge of the pitfall of pride. David also was blinded to his own motivation. Pride is insidious. It convinces us that our motives are pure, while deep down we know that we are entering into forbidden territory.

Israel was created to be the people of God. The Lord was to be their true King, and His Word was to be their true sword. It was this devotion to the true and living God, and His Word, that differentiated Israel from all other nations on the face of the earth. David’s actions threatened the very core of this uniqueness. If David, the man after God’s own heart, began to follow the ways of the nations around Him, what would happen to the entire nation of Israel? God’s punishment upon Israel was severe because so much was at stake!

The enemy could not stop the powerful hand of the Lord that brought these victories in David’s life. The only way the enemy could defeat David was if David defeated himself. This is also true for all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus has won the victory. There is nothing that the enemy of our souls can do that can thwart the victory that Jesus has already won on the cross. The only way he can win over our lives is if he incites us to trust in our own power, rather than the power of God. And he does this by inciting us to the pitfall of pride.

There is a victory over pride! It is not found in our actions, it is found in our position. Pride incites us to action, humility calls us to position. The position of humility is surrender. It is found on our knees as we acknowledge our pride and as we place ourselves once again in the mighty hands of God. God will always resist the proud, but He will always pour out His manifold grace upon those who position themselves in humility!

  • “But He gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of ADONAI, and He shall lift you up.” ‭‭Jacob (James)‬ ‭4:6-10‬ ‭TLV‬‬

This is what the Lord did for David and Israel, and this is what He will do for each one of us as we humble ourselves under HIs mighty hand! When we are positioned in humility, when we recognize that everything we are, have, and do, is a gift of God’s grace – the enemy will flee! Our victory is not in the battle, our victory is in the Cross! It is in the Cross of Christ that we find our rest and our victory. He alone is our victory, and He alone will lift us up.

Lord, cleanse my heart this morning from all pride. Forgive me for the times when I have taken credit for the works of Your grace. Today, I choose to humble myself under Your mighty hand. Today I choose to draw heart to You! Be my victory!

In Jesus Name!

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LORD OF THE BREAKTHROUGH!

1 CHRONICLES 14:8-17: “When the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up in search of David, but David heard of it and went out before them. Now the Philistines had come and raided the Valley of Rephaim. So David inquired of God, asking, “Should I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them over into my hand?” Then ADONAI said to him, “Go up! I will give them over into your hand.” So they came up to Baal-perazim, where David defeated them. David said, “God burst out against my enemies by my hand, like waters burst out!” Therefore they called the name of that place Baal-perazim. They abandoned their gods there, so David ordered and they were burned with fire. But the Philistines again raided the valley. So David again inquired of God, and God said to him, “Do not go up after them, but circle around behind them and come against them in front of the baca trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the baca trees, then go out to battle. For God has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” David did just as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army from Gibeon to Gezer. So the fame of David spread throughout every land, and ADONAI brought the fear of him upon all nations.” TLV

OBSERVATION: Do you need a breakthrough in your life? Do you feel like your are in a battle and you are losing the fight? Then you need to discover the secret of David’s success and how he encountered – “The Lord of the Breakthrough!”

David had just been acknowledged as King of Israel by all of Israel. When the Philistines heard of this they felt threatened and assembled their armies to attack David and the army of Israel. David had faced the Philistines before. He had conquered their great champion Goliath single handed. He had gone to battle and returned victoriously time after time. It would have been easy for David to simply fall back on his past experiences and victories. Yet, David did not do this. What did David do? David sought the Lord in prayer!

When David inquired of the Lord, the Lord gave him direction. The victory was his, for the Lord went before him. When they faced the Philistines they overcame them. David was so moved by the victory that the Lord provided him that he named the place of battle “Baal-perazim”, which interpreted means “Lord of the breakthrough.” Yet, it also could mean – “Lord who overcame the idols of the Philistines.” For the very next verses read,

  • “Therefore they called the name of that place Baal-perazim. They abandoned their gods there, so David ordered and they were burned with fire.”

The false idols that the Philistines worshipped were no match for the living God. And David, knowing the history of his people, was not going to allow any temptation to fall into the hands of Israel. David ordered all of the idols to be burned with fire. In every victory that the Lord gives us there is an element of the miraculous and the acts of ordinary obedience. When the Lord breaks through in our lives, we must follow this provision of grace with the adequate response. We must employ his grace in obedience to His Word. No breakthrough is complete without this final step.

David was called a man after God’s own heart. Why was this? The evidence is shown in the very next portion of this Scriptural account. The Philistines regrouped and once again came to attack David and Israel. The enemy of our souls continually regroups to attack our walk of faith and obedience. It does not take long to learn that one cannot rest on the laurels of victory without preparing for the next battle! When David was aware of this attack, so close to his breakthrough victory, he could have simply charged out with confidence that he would be victorious again! Yet, David did not do this. David once again committed himself to prayer and inquired of the Lord.

This was the key to David’s success. He knew that it was the Lord who brought his breakthroughs in life. It was the Lord who fought his battles. Someone has wisely said – “Prayer is striking the winning blow, service is simply gathering up the results of prayer.” This was true for David and Israel. The Lord gave David a completely different strategy for this battle and said,

  • “…God said to him, “Do not go up after them, but circle around behind them and come against them in front of the baca trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the baca trees, then go out to battle. For God has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.”

There are two important things to note. First, the conventional wisdom from the previous battle would not have brought the needed breakthrough in this battle. The Lord sees our past, our present, and our future. Only the Lord knows the pathway for our lives that will bring the breakthrough that we need. Second, the Lord was going before David to bring the victory. If David rushed ahead of God’s timing, David would have encountered defeat. Yet, if David obeyed the Lord, he simply would be entering into the breakthrough that the Lord had already provided.

As I ponder these truths, I am facing new unchartered territories in my life. My wife and I are completing 15 years of pastoral ministry in a church that we dearly love, and entering into a new unchartered ministry that is completely new and unknown. We have to sell our home, move to a new area where we once again do not know anyone, and trust the Lord to bring each and every breakthrough along the way. Naturally, in my mind, I had a script on how I would have wanted the breakthroughs to come. Yet, as I write this, I am faced with the reality that the script must be placed on the altar, and like David, I must humble myself before the Lord and pray! Only as I receive God’s clear direction will we receive God’s breakthrough in our lives!

Lord, I humble myself before you and lay down all of my plans, scripts, and presuppositions. I recognize that I don’t even know the next step to take at this very moment. Lord, we need a breakthrough. Let us hear Your voice, and hearing, let us be quick to obey. Like David, lead us into our breakthrough.

Be the Lord of the breakthrough we pray!

In Jesus Name!

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DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY GOOD NEWS?

REVELATION 19:6-9: “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Does anyone have any Good News? It seems that the news cycle is filled with nothing but bad news. And not only is the news bad, but then it is followed up with additional hours of rehashing and analyzing this bad news. A steady diet of this will make anyone cynical and depressed.

Usher in and election cycle. Each election cycle is filled with promises of good news and prosperity. No matter who the candidate, no matter what party, the promises are the same. The pathway to these promises may be diametrically opposed, but the candidate assures us that they alone hold the promise to a golden and bright future. Once the election is over we are faced with the harsh reality that the news remains the same – bad news.

Have I just given up? Have I too become cynical? I tend to consider myself an optimistic realist. I am optimistic because my hope is not in a political party, a candidate, or a policy. My hope is in Christ alone. I am a realist in that I have read the end of the story. Mankind never achieves the utopia they so desire on their own. There is only one way that one can achieve the utopia that all men and women desire. It is through faith in Jesus Christ.

I love the 19th chapter of Revelation. It both declares our eternal hope, and the blessings of ultimate destiny!

  • “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

It is easy to become discouraged in the world we live in. However, we must remember the Lord, our Lord, reigns! He reigns over the concerns and issues of my individual life. He also reigns over the affairs of men. It may not look like it as we stand in the midst of the forest. However, if we could see human history the way God sees it, we would see everything moving toward the ultimate culmination of victory in Jesus Christ!

There is a great victory part awaiting His saints. It is called the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the celebration of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and His bride, the Church. It is a victory party. It is both the culmination of our hope and our destiny. The power of sin and death will have been forever broken. And, the promise of Jesus Christ’s eternal reign will be realized as He alone brings peace to this broken world.

As we await this blessed hope, how should we live? Should we make white robes and climb up the mountain to await His return? Absolutely not! We have a job to do while we wait for this blessed day. This job is to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to the world! It is to bring the promise of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life to those who are lost in the brokenness of guilt, sin, and shame. It is to tell them of the wonderful banquet that is prepared for all those who have placed their faith in the Lord God Omnipotent!

And as we proclaim this good news, we are also to be peacemakers. We are not to stand idly by and watch the world go to hell in a hand basket, because we know that we are going to heaven. Rather, we are to be engaged in both praying for and exemplifying His Kingdom, on earth, as it is in heaven. We are to continue to work for His Kingdom principles in everything we do, both in our personal lives, and in our governments. We are to be a light of God’s goodness and the coming Kingdom in this present age.

In every truth of Scripture there is a divine tension. We are both sinners and saints, seated in heavenly places and firmly planted on thIs earth. And, we are called to live like we can establish His Kingdom on this earth, when we know that it will only truly be established upon His return. This is one of the hardest divine tensions to keep, but it must be kept as we await His return. Jesus said,

  • “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:44-46‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, help me be this servant!

  • “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

In Jesus Name!

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GENERATIONS – OR – A FAMILY? (Passing the baton in ministry)

JOEL 3:1: “So it will be afterward, I will pour out My Ruach on all flesh: your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” TLV

OBSERVATION: Are there seasons in the ministry of the Spirit in my life? Is the future only for the young, or does the Lord use men and women of all ages in His divine purposes? These are questions that I am pondering as I read this wonderful promise from the book of Joel.

This promise is quoted by Peter in his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost. He refers back to the prophecy of Joel and proclaims that was took place in the Upper Room was the fulfillment of this prophecy. The Lord, risen and now sitting at the right hand of the Father, had poured out His Spirit upon all flesh. He had done this without discrimination. The Holy Spirit had come upon men and women, young and old.

Previously, as I have read this verse, I have thought of the general fulfillment of this promise – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I have never really given much thought to the specifics of this promise. Yet, this morning I am drawn to the distinction of the young and the old. Is there a purpose to this distinction, or is it merely arbitrary. I think there is a purpose to it, and this purpose speaks an important message to the church today.

There seems to be a general panic in the church today regarding the passing of the baton from the older generation to the younger generation. Statistics are quoted that would make anyone fearful. The average age of the pastors in our churches is climbing, and there does not seem to be a rank of young leaders that are ready to fill the gap when these older leaders are ready to pass the baton. As a result of this challenge, there seems to be an over emphasis on raising up the next generation, which appears to be leading to a neglect of the present generation.

If this Scripture speaks anything to this crisis, it is that God never forgets either. All men and women are given the privilege of being filled with the Holy Spirit. All men and women, young and old, have been given the ability to prophecy, to speak for God in this present generation. There is neither male nor female with regard to this privilege. We are all one in Christ. And the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through both the young and the old. There is no preference in HIs ministry through us. However, there is a distinction in how He moves in us.

The young are said to see visions, the old are said to dream dreams. It is the natural progression of life that the younger generation rises up to take the place of the older. The Lord of the Harvest makes no exception in the life of the church. This will take place naturally as we trust the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The young will see visions. They will receive the marching orders from God for the next generation. Yet, the old are not sidelined in the process. The Spirit continues to speak to them in dreams. They are the voice of balance, wisdom, and encouragement in this process of this change.

In our culture we tend to throw out the old in place of the new. I experienced this personally with one of my favorite retail stores. For years I bought my clothes at one retailer. Then there was a CEO change, and a change of marketing strategy. They decided they needed to focus on a younger market. As they did, instead of adding selections for both, they discontinued all the brands that appealed to one generation in order to cater to the next. They also did away with promotional activity, which was preferred by the older market. This change was a marketing disaster. The company began to lose money quarter after quarter, until adjustments were made.

Why didn’t this work for this national retailer? The same reason it doesn’t work in the church. They forget one group of people in favor of the other. In Eastern cultures the elderly are revered. In Western cultures they are seen as discardable. Yet, in God’s culture, men and women, young and old, are called to live in harmony and work side by side in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit. We are not the generation of God, we are the Family of God! A true family is made up of children, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. It is the wisdom and stability of the elder that enables the growth and success of the younger. This is something our churches cannot forget.

Jesus said, “…Therefore every Torah scholar discipled for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure both new things and old.” (Matthew‬ ‭13:52‬ ‭TLV‬‬). If Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh, without distinction of gender or age, then the call and ministry of the church is not for the young or the old, it is for both! It is a call to be the Family of God where each generation passes on the baton to the next, and where each person continues in fruitful and meaningful ministry until the day he or she enters into glory.

Lord, help us honor the Spirit’s ministry in each and every person in the Family of God. May we not focus on one group to the exclusion of another. May we be like the wise master of a household who brings out of his treasure both new things and old. Pour out Your Spirit upon all flesh! Let our sons and daughters prophecy. Let our young see visions. And let our old dream dreams.

In Jesus Name!

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WILL MY VOTE COUNT?

HOSEA 8:7: “For they sow wind, and reap a whirlwind. There is no mature grain— the sprout yields no meal. Should it produce anything, strangers would swallow it up.” TLV

OBSERVATION: Will my vote really count? When one looks at the current political backdrop of our nation they are either filled with anger or apathy. As we face a national midterm election of great import, many will simply stay at home and not vote. Why? They think their vote really will not count. What will be, will be. Yet, this attitude fails to take into account the principal of sowing and reaping.

A single vote is like a seed that is planted in anticipation of a harvest. If this seed is good, it will contribute to the overall harvest. If this seed is bad, it will contribute to the harvest’s demise. If the good seed is left in the bag, and only the bad seed is sown, the harvest will be one of weeds and thorns. The good seed must be sown! Your vote is a seed. Don’t leave it in the bag!

So what is the good seed and what is the bad seed? People will differ on the answer to this question. Many sincere people believe that their seed is good, and the other is evil. Political parties are split on these views. So to answer this question we must leave political parties out of the equation. We must appeal to a higher standard to define what is the good seed.

  • “He presented to them another parable, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while the men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. Now when the stalk sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. So the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’” Matthew‬ ‭13:24-27‬ ‭TLV‬‬

The good seed is identified with the Lord, the bad seed is identified with the enemy of our souls. As both seeds were planted, what differentiated them from each other? They both grew up and looked the same. Yet, one was different from the other. The difference was that one produced grain, the other simply produced more weeds. One supported life, the other simply strangled the life that was already there.

It is the principle of life that is the overriding principle in whether the seed is good or bad. Jesus proclaimed in John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly!” The Declaration of Independence was written by men who honored the principles of God’s Word and life. In its preamble it proclaims,

  • “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …”

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are the principles that determine whether our vote is a good seed, or a bad seed. If our vote is cast for people and principles that diminish life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is a bad seed, both politically and Biblically. If our vote is cast for candidates who best support these principles, then it is a good seed. It is a seed that will continue to promote liberty, equality, and freedom.

Liberty, equality, and freedom are not making everyone the same. It is not taking from one person to give to another. It is creating both an environment of freedom and generosity where everyone is lifted up, and where giving and charitable endeavors are rewarded. The government within itself will always lead to more limitations to this freedom. It can become a protector of these freedoms, or it can be the entity that gives them the final death blow. It all depends on the seed that is planted.

As you prayerfully consider your actions this November, please do not allow it to be an inaction. Please prayerfully and Biblically rise up and cast your vote. If you vote for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (which includes religious freedom), then your vote will be a good seed that will stand against the whirlwind. Your single vote is a seed. It is needed in the overall harvest of our nation. Men and women have died so that you have the privilege of casting this vote.

This November – PRAY, VOTE, PRAY!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Hosea | Leave a comment

AM I READY FOR OPPOSITION?

EZRA 4:1-2: “When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple for ADONAI the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the leading patriarchs and said to them, “Let us build with you, for like you we seek your God and have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who brought us here.” TLV

‭‭OBSERVATION: Am I ready for opposition? Am I walking in wisdom and discernment with regards to the enemy’s tactics? Paul writes,

  • “Now anyone you forgive, I also forgive. For indeed, what I have forgiven (if I have forgiven anything), I did it for you in the presence of Messiah, so that we might not be outwitted by satan—for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭2:10-11‬ ‭TLV‬‬

Ezra chapter 4 gives us some insight into how the enemy tries to outwit us. If we endeavor to do something of import for the Kingdom of God, rest assured, we will face his opposition. Paul made it very clear when he wrote to young Timothy – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭TLV‬‬

The first thing the enemy tries to do is to infiltrate our plans with people who pretend to be supportive, but who in reality will simply try to oppose what we are doing. I have found this to be true over and over again in the ministry. If someone’s encouragement and support seems to good to be true, it usually is. This is not a call to be distrusting of people, or to look for the worst in everyone. It is simply a call to be discerning. Usually in their story you will discover some great inconsistencies. These are a warning to move cautiously. It is better to have a few faithful supporters then a host of supporters who really have a hidden agenda.

Ezra and the leaders of Jerusalem did not fall for this trick. So what did the enemy do? He went to plan “B” – discouragement!

  • “Then the people of the land began discouraging the people of Judah and making them afraid to build. They bribed advisors in order to thwart their plans all the days of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” Ezra‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭TLV‬‬

Discouragement is such a powerful tool of the enemy. He knows it aims right at the heart of what we are doing. It steals one’s passion, energy, and perseverance. It is aimed at getting us to lose heart and simply give up the work. When these attacks come, God’s grace and His promises are greater than the enemy’s accusations. We need to rise up in faith and hold on to the promises of God! If we refuse to give into discouragement we will be victorious!

  • “So let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good toward all—especially those who belong to the household of faith.” Galatians‬ ‭6:9-10‬ ‭TLV‬‬

Yet, the enemy is not done. If he cannot infiltrate our work with the wrong people, if he cannot discourage us and cause us to quite, then he will try to block our work through external means. The enemies of Ezra and the children of Israel wrote an accusing letter and sent it to the king. When the king read it, he called for the work of the Temple to be brought to a halt, until he could research the allegations. The allegations were about the past sins and insurrections of the Jewish people. And the reason they were so powerful – is because they were true!

Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He delights in trying to use our past to stop our present. He will continually bring up our old sins and failures to try and keep us from pursuing our calling from God. How do we overcome these accusations? We do it with two powerful weapons!

  • “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Anointed One, for the accuser of our brothers and sisters—the one who accuses them before our God day and night—has been thrown out. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even in the face of death.” The Revelation‬ ‭12:10-11‬ ‭TLV‬‬

The blood of Jesus Christ has redeemed us and cleansed us from all the failures of our past! It was the blood on the doorposts of Israel’s homes that delivered them in Egypt. It is the blood of Jesus Christ, poured out on the cross of Calvary, that delivers us from the power, penalty, and shame of sin! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

What is our testimony? It is simply – Jesus is Lord! He is Lord over our lives. He is Lord over our calling! He is Lord over all the affairs and concerns of our life. He is the one who opens doors that no one can shut, and shuts doors that no one can open. The enemy, the accuser, the infiltrator, the discourager, is powerless in the presence of the risen and glorified Christ! Jesus Christ is Lord!

  • “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may lift you up at the appropriate time. Cast all your worries on Him, for He cares for you. Stay alert! Watch out! Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, searching for someone to devour. Stand up against him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being laid upon your brothers and sisters throughout the world. After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace—who has called you into His eternal glory in Messiah—will Himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. All power to Him forever! Amen.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-11‬ ‭TLV‬‬

The Temple, under Ezra and Zerubbabel’s leadership, was rebuilt! The Lord led them through all of the opposition of their enemies. I need to be reminded that the Lord will do the same for me as I trust in Him. As I endeavor to follow the Lord, there will be opposition. It will come from both within and without. Yet, God’s promises are sure. If I trust in Him, if I humble myself under His mighty hand, He will always lead me to victory. This victory may look different than I had originally pictured it, but it will be a victory none the less. And it will not only be a victory that I can celebrate, it will be a victory that will transform my heart into the image of Jesus Christ.

Lord, help me discern the difference between doors that you close and the attacks of the enemy to keep me from following your calling in my life. As I learn to wait upon You, as I abide in Your Word, and listen to the still small voice of Your Spirit, help me to persevere into the pathway of victory that You will lay before me. Give me grace to resist the enemy and to overcome him through the blood of the Lamb, and the word of my testimony.

Today I proclaim – Jesus is Lord! Jesus is my Lord!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Ezra | Leave a comment