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?