Saturday, December 31, 2011

With 2012 On the Verge


Recently, when I’ve spoken and written about fear, I’ve gotten the most responses.  The topic of fear strikes a chord in many people.  It certainly strikes me between the eyes.  I’ve come to hate and not affirm it as an unavoidable necessity of life by which I justify fight or flight.

With 2012 on the verge, it’s not a resolution I make.  It’s a declaration I proclaim.  I will not allow fear to be a motivating factor in my decisions and actions.  I say this in faith based on what I’ve heard recently from prophets who are sharing what they believe God is saying to the church as 2011 fades.

Arleen Westerhof has said this:

As we get ready to move into 2012 it's already clear that it's going to be an important year for the Church. God, through His Holy Spirit, is saying: "SHIFT! The new is here. The season of the outpouring of My Spirit has begun. The prophets have been prophesying this for many years, and, ready or not, it's here.”

The past five to seven years have been a very uncomfortable time for many churches and individual Believers. The ground under our feet has shifted, and we have struggled to discern the new thing that God is doing. In 2012 the fog is going to clear. . .

Relational allegiances, some of them long-standing, will shift as people move out of places with an inward-looking orientation to places with a Kingdom emphasis. This will be a deliverance for many. There will be an acceleration in relationships cutting across network and denominational lines as more and more people choose to resolve their conflicts and misunderstandings for the sake of the Kingdom. . .

Fear of change, however, will paralyze many. Having tasted, they will make the opposite shift, preferring the wilderness to the new and often unknown challenges of moving into and taking the land. We cannot, however, afford to choose this option. The revival we've waited for has started and going back into the wilderness will only result in it passing us by – yet again. . .

2012 will mark the beginning of the Church's finest hour. While the world sinks into panic as the economic crisis worsens globally and great societal unrest is unleashed, the Church . . . will shine and finally be able to walk in the Kingdom authority and power that God has always intended.


Arleen Westerhof

Netherlands Prophetic Council

I want to take my part in the shift, the outpouring in the face of fear and doubt.  Join with me in prayer & faith and comment to let me know of your trust in God so that we can join together in praise for what God is about to do in the lives of many.  Alleluia!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Content With Contentment?


godliness with contentment is great gain
-- 1 Timothy 6: 6

I sometimes feel that all I do is not enough.  I’m well aware that this is a lousy mindset for anyone in ministry, but this discontentment is real.

I recall my wife sharing with me at a very dark time the verse above.  Her point was lost on me, but I couldn’t forget “contentment is great gain.”  I struggled with contentment.  How do I acquire it if all I did was not enough as a pastor and as a Christian?

When I would lead a congregation in The Great Thanksgiving portion of the Holy Communion sacrament I would swallow hard when I’d say the following:
 
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here and your gifts of bread and wine.  Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by His blood.
-- The Great Thanksgiving, Service of Word and Table, United Methodist Hymnal

The idea of being for the world a part of the body of Christ redeemed by His blood bothered me because I never really felt I did enough to justify my place in the body of Christ. 

In recent years, I’ve had significant experiences of God in my life.  Through God’s grace, I’ve been encouraged to boldly go after the love and power of God in the Holy Spirit.  I’ve always believed that I could experience God this way.  In the last few years, I’ve actually experienced His power and love in my live in ways I’ll share in future posts. 

When I look at 1 Timothy 6 now days I see godliness as a true reality for a Christian.  Godliness grows in faith.  Faith is the currency of heaven.  Godliness with contentment (Gk - autarkeiaa perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed”) in great gain.  Right standing with God coupled with the reality of a relationship with God where no aid is needed is true gain and fills me with great hope.  Alleluia!

I am content with contentment, not by doing enough or by living with guilt as a motivating factor for doing more “Christ-like” stuff.  By virtue of my experiences and encounters with God who is always good, I now declare such goodness boldly and share His godliness with others passionately. 

Great God, pour out your Holy Spirit on your children this day so that we will be the body of Christ redeemed by His blood and share your goodness in all things and all times.  We praise you and love you.  Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Is Possible


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . .
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
--John 1: 14, 18

The infant born in a manger in Bethlehem grows to be a man in Galilee.  We’re told he was carpenter just like his father.  We also hear that he wasn’t all that handsome.  So many of us can relate. 

What makes the incarnation so significant in human history is that Jesus shows us in lifestyle what it would look like for one human being to be totally sold out to the will and spirit of God.  Jesus proves to us that it is possible. 

The child craves to be in his Father’s house.  He grows and heads to the riverside to be baptized and filled with Holy Spirit.  Then he goes and gathers friends in order to teach them what a totally sold out human being ought to say and do.  He confronts the religious and knows that ultimately he’ll have to be the human labeled as a sinner but is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  Our savior.  It all began in Bethlehem.

He shows us how to be full of God and tools of redemption for all.  Alleluia!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ahead of God


These two verses speak to me these days . . .

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. – Deuteronomy 8: 3

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15: 5

Recently, I took part in some decisions that needed to be made.  Due to current circumstances and related conditions, things had to change and this resulted in the eliminating of ministry responsibilities and activities at our church.  These verses have come to mind in light of those decisions along with a related truth my wife has declared that makes perfect sense.

We do not live on what we consume or on what we manufacture for ourselves.  We live on what proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.  Is such revelation from the Lord a dormant document from which we glean?  I’ve heard it said, “Is it good to live on principle or presence (of God)?”  Principle is good to live on when God’s presence is not abounding to provide direction and inspiration.

I believe these days we’re living and dying on the interpretation of principle alone.  That’s fine, but Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead so we can live in the manifest presence of God.  We can always pull items out of a dormant document for justification for what we want or don’t want.  The Bible is living and gives life because it reveals God to us, but when the holy presence of the Spirit is not what we are familiar with and consequently not what we cling to for life, our interpretation of scripture is up to us.  We’re then left to make decisions on what seems right at the moment.  Is faith found in that to be a determining factor in how we should act?  Probably not.  Again, Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

April’s insight has not left me since she said it.  “We cannot put ministry ahead of God.”  I have lived in the church for decades, and what she said is always true.  We always put ministry ahead of God because we do not know what it means to pursue God and find direction from Him alone for our lives. 

I cannot speak for anyone else in this blog.  I can only speak for me, and for me, I’m tired of seeing a lot of nothing among believers in the church.  I’m tired of settling for nothing.  This nothing is the result of not being connected to the vine and being apart from Jesus.  Being connected to Jesus is when we think about and praise and worship and trust Him above all things, even my own experiences and knowledge. 

What would we look like if we pursued God above all things and desires?  What would we look like if our passions were all heaven directed and any earthly passion always took a back seat? 

If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Return


Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
-- Mark 10: 28-31

I honestly believe we are hesitant to trust in what we are promised.  The hesitancy has a lot to do with how uncomfortable we are to claim that God is interested in our whole wellbeing while God still calls us to surrender all.

We are quick to say that we believe in an angry heavenly father that ain’t gonna put up with a lot of junk from the children.  I’m tired of God being indirectly described as scornful, impatient and ready to correct.  Jesus says, in effect here, those who have decided to follow and cast everything else aside as less valuable should expect a return on a life investment. 

Uh oh, did I say investment?  Is it all about me? 

Please, it’s all about Jesus.  Uh oh, did I say it’s about Jesus?  Maybe it’s about the poor and lost and disenfranchised?  It IS about them because God so loved the world God sends His son.  I am not a Christian because of the lost.  I am a Christian because I was among the lost and I was found.  Now, I am called to serve and bless, and I was baptized with the Holy Spirit to move forward with grace and power. 

What is given and surrendered freely in a relationship with the risen Christ is done out of love and trust.  What is given will produce fruit because apart from Him we can do nothing.  Alleluia!  That means, with Him, all things are possible.  And, that means, our heavenly Father who is good all the time will grant a return on our investment with a return 100 times of that which was given. 

Fear not, and believe the good news.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Please People or God?


Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
-- Romans 8: 7-9 (NASB)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
-- Hebrews 11: 6 (NIV)

I shared recently through this blog that one of the tools to battle depression is the worship of God and that I know this through my own experiences.  I was watching some videos on You Tube today and it’s interesting that I’ve been reminded of another tool or weapon to battle depression. 

For me, again, I say for me, when I’m in the funk of depression and low self-esteem usually stemming from fatigue in spirit or body, one of the tools that has proven to work for me to lift me up is hearing folks preach and declare the power of faith in God.  I have my favorite preachers to listen to or to go find and eat at their table. 

I grew up in a household where my parents had their favorite radio preachers.  I know my more sophisticated brothers and sisters reject such, but I know God uses that medium to declare the gospel, and it changed my life.  If you don’t like that, don’t hold it against me, and I won’t hold my bigotry against such “sophistication” against you.  Amen.

Hearing preaching and teaching on the power of faith and resulting testimonies when people act in faith has lifted me up time and time again and thank God for it.  So, I say that trusting in the goodness of God for all is proven tool and weapon to lift my soul & spirit up when little else can.  Alleluia!

The other thing that comes to mind regarding faith in God is that not everyone, particularly in the church or those scared by the church, accepts.  People are uncomfortable with others who believe strongly in the goodness & power of God.  Right now, because I’m in the midst of a battle and struggle and I know what happens to me when I hear faith declared when my faith is failing, I believe in what Paul and author of Hebrews say regarding such and God is my savior and healer.  I want to please God.

…without faith it is impossible to please God – Hebrews 11: 6

…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8: 8

I’ve learned as a pastor that there are benefits to pleasing people in the church.  I’ve also come to the realization that often in this paradigm I don’t please God.  Pleasing people in the church has to do with caring for those who want care and attention.  That does not guarantee or prove that such folks are pleasing God already.  Is there proof that they believe?  Is there fruit?  Usually not. 

For me, I want to please God.  Not to earn favor from heaven but because I want more of God because he is my savior and healer.  What will please my heavenly Daddy?  When His child denies the value of the sinful nature and believes in the gracious, merciful goodness of God in all circumstances.

Praise God!  Join with me in trusting God and worshipping Him and kicking the crap to the curb that doesn’t do anything but accentuates death and sin.  I will please Daddy because He’s always good.

…he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  – Hebrews 11: 6




Friday, December 9, 2011

Depression, Springsteen & Bethel Live


I always appreciated a woman who was a member of a church my wife pastored.  She would say when she had a bad day she would always come home and listen to some Bruce Springsteen songs.  Once she heard how bad things were in those songs, her day didn’t seem as bad.

While I was driving home from Huntsville one afternoon, I listened to the three Springsteen songs I currently have on my ipod.  I had in mind that lady from April’s church as I listened to Bruce and revisited my ol’ haunts of depression and low self-esteem.  The darkness I experienced wasn’t brought on by The E-Street Band.  The emotional valley I was driving through was simply provided an appropriate soundtrack. 

This emotional and spiritual condition is not rare for me this time of year.  I cannot determine if the depression, though grounded in low self-esteem, is linked to harmful experiences and memories related to this season.  I’ve thought and thought again if Christmas brings this on within me or if it’s related to a change of season or the end of daylight savings time or a vitamin deficiency.  What guts these theories is that I experience this condition other times during the year, as well.

As I drove home that day I sang certain verses and choruses with gusto.

Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin' in the street
Tonight, tonight the strip's just right
I wanna blow 'em all out of their seats
Calling out around the world, we're going racin' in the street
-- “Racing In the Street,” Bruce Springsteen

I remember in years past having no expression or voice for my feelings of frustration in my heart except for . . . song lyrics.  Some guys they just give up living and start dying little by little, piece by piece.”

I’ve learned some things over the years in battling the depression.  There is great power and peace I find in worshipping God.  After I listened to Bruce and sang the old lyrics and expressed the old feelings, I switched my ipod to my Bethel Live worship album and sang along with Jenn Johnson on I Found a Love.

When I call on Your name You answer.
 When I fall You are there by my side.
 You delivered me out of darkness.
 Now I stand in the hope of new life.

By grace I'm free.
 You've rescued me. 
All I am is Yours. 
I've found a love greater than life itself. 
I've found a hope stronger and nothing compares. 
I once was lost now I'm alive in You.
-- “I Found a Love”  www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjIyDBdj508

That car trip was a trip to my past amidst keeping company with an old, bitter companion – depression.  I’m on a new trip right now.  It’s a trip to find out the source of this recurring darkness.  While I visit some partners in prayer and counseling, I know one of my key tools in this work will be worship and declaring things found in lyrics like “By grace I’m free.  You’ve rescued me.  All I am is Yours.”

I thank God for giving me expression through The Boss when I couldn’t say all I wanted to, and I thank God for showing me the life found in surrendered worship.  I believe it will all be all right.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Forms of Power


I’ve stepped out in recent days and created a new You Tube channel.   I’d be the first to say that it appears to be a reflection of my ego before its characterized as anything else.  Most immediately, I’m willing to affirm that this channel is more of a reflection of my playful desire to tinker with an avenue to the internet than anything else (www.youtube.com/user/jlpt2?feature=mhee).

A recent upload of a slideshow and audio from a message I preached this year got my juices flowing all over again.  I say in the clip that I have grown tired of a powerless church, that the new birth in Christ has secured the believer in relationship with the Holy Spirit and that that should encourage us to live our lives passionately to do the same as Christ did when he was on the earth.  A powerless church is an oxymoron, but most congregations live in denial of their true identity in Christ.

This power in the Spirit may not be as peculiar or unnatural as some may think, but it is passion and faith driven. 

This past Sunday, April, Anna and I visited a church in Atlanta we’ve wanted to attend for a while.  I was on vacation so the circumstances allowed us to attend.  At the close of the worship service, we were invited to receive prayer.  Anna went to be prayed for by one of the members of one of the prayer teams.  She didn’t tell us afterward what she asked for in prayer, but she did say that the guy who prayed for her head it on the head. 

Our daughter was with her youth group last night.  She contributed in leadership during worship.  She experienced the presence of God in the service.  At the close of the service, she prayed for one of her friends who had been experiencing stomach pain.  After the prayers, her friend said the pain she’d felt for days was gone.  Was this a sign of power through passion for a friend, perhaps in light of recent impartation prayer in Atlanta?  Sure, why not?

Today, April and I were shopping in Walmart.  As we collected groceries, I saw a woman in a wheelchair.  We continued shopping, but I knew I was supposed to pray for her (I’m getting use to doing this).  At one moment when we crossed paths, I stepped in front of her, introduced myself, asked if I could pray for her right there.  She agreed.  I prayed for her wellbeing, healing, rich blessings and peace.  Afterward, she told me she appreciated it because she’d heard about a death of a family member this morning, and that she’s been upset all day.  Was this a sign of power through passion for a stranger to whom God had directed me?  Sure, why not?

The power born in the believer by a loving Father is not a myth or a lie or an ungrounded promise that disappoints more than it brings comfort and blessing.  The power of the Holy Spirit is founded in love for others and through the voice of the Lord directing His church to reveal His love for all and to all.  Sometimes miracles, sometimes just love shared.  Were these signs of power?  Sure, why not?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Delegated Authority in the Gadsden Mall


In the gospel of Luke, there are two folks who are shown the infant Jesus when Joseph and Mary brought him there.  Simeon had the Holy Spirit (he must have been a prophet under Old Testament parameters) and was told he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26).  Anna worshipped the Lord and prayed day and night in the temple.  She was shown the infant and she went about and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38)

I believe the timing of the coming of Jesus was predicated on the intercessions of Anna, Simeon and others.  I say this because of what we find in Exodus. 
The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians. . .”  – Exodus 3: 7-8

The Lord acts because of the cries of His people.  God can do whatever He pleases but He chooses to act through us in partnership.  God wants to partner with us to bring about great salvation and deliverance with many on this mountain at this time.

I want us to partner in faith for the good of many on this mountain at this time.  What a wonderful Christmas it will be for many!  Alleluia

One afternoon recently, my wife, our youngest teenage daughter and me visited the Gadsden Mall.  I eventually made it to F.Y.E.  I heard a woman telling another woman behind the register that she was heading for major bladder surgery next week.   I found myself pacing through the store waiting for my opportunity to speak to this woman and to pray for her.  Amidst my uncertainty about approaching her at all, I sensed deep within the following, “Don’t worry.  You’ll have another opportunity.”  I believed at the time that this was from the Lord because of the peace that came upon me in light of this impression.

I found April and Anna in the café in Books-A-Million.  I told them what just happened, and I described the lady in F.Y.E.  Anna told me in a whisper she was sitting right behind us.  I then told them that this is the opportunity. 

April and Anna went to the car.  I went to the woman who sat with her friend Mary.  My woman’s name was Betty.  I introduced myself and told her I overheard her in F.Y.E. and asked her if I could pray for her right there in the café.  I then told her about what I believed to be the Lord telling me that I would have another opportunity.  She said the two of them were women of faith and that I was obviously sent by God.  She had a series of physical ailments.  I put my hand on her shoulder and praised God for His care and love for Betty.  I prayed for healing and declared health and wholeness all over her, in Jesus’ name.

She told me that she was supposed to be dead in ’98.  I declared over her the fulfillment of her destiny in Christ.  Alleluia.

I said good-bye to them.  As I was walking through BAM heading for the door, I remembered how our Father is looking for His children to take their place as His delegated authority and partners to bring forth His Kingdom just like Moses and Simeon and Anna did.  I believe it happened again in the Gadsden Mall.

Again, what a wonderful Christmas it will be for many!  Praise God!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What I Owe You


(This is my church’s newsletter article for our October edition)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
-- 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8

In October, our church will focus on the power and responsibility of stewardship.  I went back to previous articles I’ve written to fill this space on the theme of stewardship, and I found an interesting definition of stewardship.   Stewardship is about the embracing of a relationship and investing in that relationship in order for the best to come forth.   

This passage from 2 Corinthians has everything to do with acting out of generosity. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  Stewardship is in operation when you’re deciding in your heart to give cheerfully because you’re investing in a relationship you’ve decided to take part in in order for the best to come forth. 

What’s interesting is what Paul declares before and after.  If you give generously, you’ll reap generously.  Then, in light of cheerfully giving, God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  All grace will abound to us out of cheerful giving and every good work will abound.  There will be an abundance of good work because grace is an empowering force in and through generous believers.  Wow!

In ministry, I give out of what I’ve been given.  I give because I owe you something.  I’ve been given all grace in abundance through what I’ve been given and what I cheerfully give.  I owe you encounters with God through the grace given to me.  I don’t do it reluctantly or under compulsion.  I want you to taste of what I’ve received, what has been imparted to me, what has been cheerfully given to me.  It’s all come to me through relationships, some long lasting and others spontaneously and short-lived. 

I want you to receive the goodness of God every time we come together.  To me, this is a key to my good stewardship.  This is my cheerful giving, and the wonderful thing is that I’ll receive more in order to give you more later.  I hope this is a good example for you to follow as a stewardship of what good you’ve received.  Give what has blessed you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Night Football

The summer nights of lingering heat and humidity appear to be over for this year.  What we have, now, are pleasant Friday evenings as we watch high school football.

Friday evening, we watched our high school football team and enormous marching band perform their particular skills wonderfully.  April and I arrived at Etowah High School.  We smuggled our coffee cups past the ticket takers at the gate and sat down anticipating a pleasant night watching our daughter in the color guard and her high school's football team put their undefeated record on the line against the Etowah Blue Devils.

April and I had a couple conversations recently about what we believe God has begun to do around and through us.  We have grown grossly optimistic about where God is leading us and many around us to display His glory and love.  Alleluia!

In the midst of our spiritual joy, even as our team fell behind, April turns to me as we sat in the stands and said, "I feel and sense the angels all over this stadium.  Their surrounding us in this place."  She said this with tears in her eyes and a glow over her face.  As the game progressed, Albertville went ahead, and everything seemed to be as it should be.  Their opponents then took possession on the end of the field where April and I sat.  As the young men competed and our wonderful band played fervently in support of our Albertville Aggies, I looked down at the Blue Devils breaking their huddle, and I felt this great sense of compassion for them and their community.  It was a wave of love and sincere concern for all these folks assembled to cheer on the Etowah squad.  The wave caught me and my emotions were stirred to the point of me whispering the name of Jesus.

On the next down, the wave returned, that wave of compassion for these that I knew and still know that God so loves.  While tears welled up in my eyes, I turned to April, but I couldn't make eye contact with her.  What transpired on the field was a winning touchdown drive for the Blue Devils, but the ultimate score and subsequent mild sense of disappointment was so minor compared to the grace-filled encounters that April and I both had at this game.

After the game ended with a valiant attempt by the Aggies to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, I shared with her what I experienced as I looked on the Etowah team minutes before.  Her mouth feel open and said she was moved to pray for that team at that same time to receive blessings from the Lord.  We both laughed as she said that we shouldn't tell anyone that we might be responsible for the Aggies' defeat, but that we're apparently growing more in sync in the Spirit.

God is at work in us and in many others growing more compassion for those that God so loves.  The uniforms, race or class do not matter to God.  He merely loves, but He's not keeping it there or to Himself.  He's awakening his beloved to feel what He feels.  How cool is that?

Daddy, we love you.  Continue to speak to us as you choose.  When you do, our faith grows as we grow closer to you and to all you love.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

3:40 a.m.


My eyes popped open at 3:40 a.m.  When this has happened in the past, I got up to go to the bathroom.  This time, I sensed that I ought to pray in the Spirit and then to move to the living room to pray out loud and to praise His name.  Prayer was an obvious activity in the wee small hours of the morning. 

I had an early appointment that morning.  I believed that the abrupt rising out of bed came about because of anxiety related to that.  I still have no idea why my eyes popped open when they did.  Regardless, prayer and praise was the thing to do.

We have some uncertainty in our lives, so when I say I prayed, I interceded for us – prayed for the love and power of God to be manifested in our lives and circumstances.   I praised our Father openly and prayed again in the Spirit.  I went on to declare scripture passages that addressed our circumstances.  The declarations were made in faith and praise.  Before long, I was remained of a verse from the Psalms I heard in my sleep a few years ago, but I still remember:

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
-- Psalm 37: 4

This memory returning in the wee small hours of the morning while the mysterious anxiety was physically manifested with an uneasy stomach inside me is wonderful.  Truly, I am full of wonder when this verse is returned to me to convey truth that discloses the Father’s heart for me as if he were saying to me, “My son, go on and enjoy me.  Enjoy my will and heart and, most of all, my presence, and I will give you all that you desire!” 

Why did I awaken so early?  Why did I not fall back to sleep?  Are there other questions?  I know there are affirmations.  Our God is worthy of praise regardless of the hour.  Prayer and praise are worthy activities whenever my eyes pop open, and I will enjoy his presence, and my Daddy will give me all I desire.  Alleluia!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Invite, Welcome, Expect


It may not take a lot of vision or energy to throw a door open to familiar faces and similar histories.  It does, however, take some intentional fortitude and an aggressive perspective to get off your island and introduce yourself to neighbors you just don’t know and invite them to what they may not expect.

We climbed onboard our church bus Saturday afternoon with a simple brochure to pass out and inform our neighbors of our Saturday night worship service that includes a meal.  The worship experience known as Safe Harbor came from a calling given to a couple of our men who visit our local jail on Mondays to share the gospel.  They wanted to provide a worship experience in the church for these folks when they’re released in which they can be comfortable.  Though Safe Harbor has not seen a lot of these dear ones, we have seen a lot of folks who have lived hard lives, and they have found a place where they are always invited, always welcome with growing expectations of God’s love and power.

We went to two apartment complexes and a trailer park in Albertville to pass out the brochures and personally invite whomever we met.  On the face of the leaflet, we printed, You Are Invited, You Are Welcome, You Are Expected.  This expresses what we believe.  All are invited.  All are welcome.  All are expected.

This is not a private club.  When everyone is invited and expected to come, not all the faces will be familiar and the stories will not be similar, but the doors are open and the grace is abundant. 

Everyone that went carried with them an obvious desire to invite people to Safe Harbor at Hewett UMC.  The passion was outwardly expressed was smiles and joy.  This is when the church knows what it’s all about – invite’em so they encounter the God who is always good.  I was proud to be with them!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Name


I feel the need to explain the name of my blog.

When I was on leave of absence from pastoral ministry back in the turn of the century, I had several employers.  One of these was a hotel in Tuscaloosa.  During my leave I went from not reading the Bible at all to taking a New Testament & Psalms version of scripture and sticking it in my back pocket wherever I went.  While getting ready for work, I’d look up the daily lections from the Book of Common Prayer and dog-ear those pages in my Message translation I’d stuff in my pocket.  Since I only carried the New Testament & Psalms, those were the passages I read on my breaks or at lunch.

Knowing I was nearing the end of my leave because the fire for God was burning again deep within, when I read the passages, I knew God was doing a work in me.  One day, while at work, I read from Psalm 102.  The verses that caught me and summoned up great emotion from within were verses 18-22:
Write this down for the next generation
so people not yet born will praise God:
"God looked out from his high holy place;
from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed,
he opened the doors of their death cells."
Write it so the story can be told in Zion,
so God's praise will be sung in Jerusalem's streets
And wherever people gather together
along with their rulers to worship him.

When I read this passage, I was overcome right there behind the front desk at the Travelodge.  The Lord spoke to me from His heart what the gospel truly is - God looked out from his high holy place; from heaven he surveyed the earth.  He listened to the groans of the doomed, he opened the doors of their death cells.  I was the recipient of mercy (not receiving what I deserve) and grace (receiving what I don’t deserve) in those days.  My heavenly Daddy had heard MY cries and groans in my doomed condition and HE opened the door of my death cell. 

I knew the gospel when I read it and heard it.  This is why this blog is entitled, Psalm 102 In the Message.  I want to reflect on all the ways our Daddy is hearing the cries of the doomed and opening their death cells, and then my place is to write it so the story can be told in Zion, so God's praise will be sung in Jerusalem's streets and wherever people gather together along with their rulers to worship him.  Join with me in recording testimonies of how, when & where God is setting people free in Albertville, Marshall County, this state, this country, this world and in declaring praises when we worship Him.  Alleluia!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Day

It's not a surprise to see a slim crowd at church on a Labor Day Sunday.  It was a shame but not a surprise.  Even with empty seats, we still know things are happening in the Spirit at church.  We're in a new day, and the new day is our day.

I shared in the message, Our Day, when we moved to Northport and I wrote my first article for the St. Mark UMC newsletter, I entitled it, Nice & Easy.  I believed the best way to move forward in a new set of circumstances was to proceed nice & easy (it does it every time).  Consequently, my last article as the associate minister moving on to a leave of absence from pastoral ministry, also, emphasized the need to move into a new set of foreign circumstances with the mantra, nice & easy does it every time.  That description of two transition periods not that far apart are NOT descriptive of our current reality.

The current reality is now shaped by many displays of the Kingdom in the lives of many people at and around Hewett Memorial UMC.  Yesterday, it was necessary to reference these two verses of scripture that were given to me by the Holy Spirit in our first Tuesday night prayer service in August.

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  -- Luke 18: 7
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.  -- Matthew 5: 6

I preached two weeks ago using these verses as touch stones to declare to the congregation that we've entered into a Day of Filling.  I reiterated the import of these verses/this spiritual disclosure, again, yesterday while adding another verse that is in the form of an intercessory prayer:

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them know; in wrath remember mercy.
-- Habakkuk 3: 2

The heart of these messages is to declare that those who are hungering and thirsting and crying out for divine justice in these days will by filled and satisfied by the glorious grace of God.  For those for whom we are passionately crying for before the throne of mercy, our prayers are heard, and we've entered days of miraculous intervention, conversions, turn abouts, reconciliations and healings.  Alleluia!

This is truly exciting, and, for many of us in mainline tribes, unprecedented.  Again, Alleluia to the Lamb!

What will this mean?  Sunday, I shared from a journal entry I made a year ago:  There are angels in this church when no one is here.  They are preparing the environment for more and for what is about to come.  Alleluia.  The treasure and the gatherers of the treasure.  They are under assignment to gather the lost & sick & broken and to bring the treasure to Hewett so that it (the treasure of people) will be recognized & claimed by Daddy as His.  That is what they've longed for.  Alleluia.  The gathering has begun.  Alleluia.  The treasure will be appraised and valued.  It will not be lost but counted & taken up as the prize of war.  The war has turned.  The enemy could not keep it up.  It is time for liberation and a new reign of the God of the great Kingdom.  The lost are without number, but they will be brought in.  There will be room, and there will be much given in return.  Alleluia.  -- 10/5/10

The passive assertion of Sinatra from years ago will not meet the needs or the wants of the Holy Spirit in these days on Sand Mountain, Alabama.  Habakkuk's prayer for there to be the renewal of God's glorious deeds of power and love in our day is to be prayed again - not nicely and easily, but aggressively and with passion.  The hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of God to be displayed in love & power will be those who witness the treasure being gathered and valued as the King's passion, lives saved, delivered, healed and reconciled.  

What a wonderful time to be alive!  Alleluia!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Days of Filling

April is hearing significant things from heaven now days.  I look forward to her sharing with me.  When I know April has been praying or studying or worshipping the Lord, I look forward to coming home or talking with her on the phone.  We had a recent conversation where I said, “I’m not hearing the Lord like you are these days, and that’s ok.  I simply look forward to hearing what the Lord is sharing.”  She told me in response, “The Lord has been speaking with you, as well.  Don’t you remember what happened on Tuesday night?”

Last Tuesday, I prayed earlier in the day prior to our prayer service that evening for the Lord to speak to me.  So often, when I know the Lord has shared with me, I know its not an original thought from me, and it’s not an audible word.  It’s an impression or, perhaps, a picture.  When I prayed that afternoon, nothing came immediately, and that was ok.  That evening in the sanctuary as April directed a prayer focus, I prayed for the church.  In prayer, I felt the impression – Luke 1-8-7 & I saw Matthew 5:6 written in pencil on a legal pad.  I took my Bible and looked up the two verses. 

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day & night?  Will he keep putting them off?  - Luke 18: 7
Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Matthew 5: 6

It is my belief that the Lord is speaking from heaven through a prophet to your hearts that we have entered into a time as a church when we who cry out day & night for the goodness of God will be filled, filled with a new manifestation of righteousness – right-standing with God – for us, for our loved ones, for our community. 

Fullness can only be accurately measured or understood when we know what it will take to overflow outside a vessel.  In our culture, we still don’t like waist, so the idea of waist disturbs us.  I grew up in a house where if you have enough, you tell the person filling your glass, “When.”  I’m tired of Christian congregations telling God, “When” when it comes to filling His church, His chosen ones with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3: 19).

Psalm 23: 5 reads, My cup overflows.  This is my vision for Hewett in these days, an overflow of spiritual gifts, an overflow of God’s presence, an overflow of open hearts seeking more of God.  I understand this to be viewed as a charismatic renewal in this church.  This does not bother me in the least because I believe we’ve heard from heaven – Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.

We who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness & crying out for divine justice day and night from God will be filled & blessed of the Lord.  What a wonderful time to be alive & to be in a church where we will see the divine on display feeding & filling those who are seeking sustenance from their heavenly Father!  Alleluia!

This is now in your hands and in your hearts to believe, to trust, to begin or to continue to cry out for heaven to come to earth for your sake or the sake of those you love.  Believe in what God has in store for all of us!

Jeff