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G.P.S. — God’s Prophecy System

Amazing things happened over the last three days! “I can’t believe what they’ve said! For someone to come back from the dead… That’s impossible!” ….Or is it?!

The two men were discussing the events of Jesus’ death and apparent resurrection while walking between Jerusalem and Emmaus. Suddenly, the two men met Jesus, who revealed through scripture, that He was the Messiah – the one who came to save us from our own sins.    We read this encounter in Luke 24:27,  Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (NLT)

Later that evening, when Jesus met the group of His disciples gathered together, He also told them something similar:  “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day” (Lk 24:44-46 NLT).

These scriptures that Jesus shared with them – and which point toward Jesus – are called prophecies.  A prophecy is not a message from a human being.  We’re not supposed focus on the person who’s speaking it.  Prophecy is a word from God of things that are to come in the future. Prophecies in the bible are spoken through a prophet.  Oftentimes these prophecies came to the prophet through a vision, a revelation or when the prophet was taken by God into a trance.

The bible is full of prophecy.  There are books in the Bible that we call “the prophets” because they record what God has said to through His prophets over 4000 years. 

Dr. Mark Hitchcock, biblical prophecy expert and bible professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, explains that the more than ¼ of the bible is prophecy.  He’s also calculated that the bible is made up of over 1000 prophecies and 500 of them have been fulfilled with 100% accuracy.   (You can find his study here.) Today, more than ever, we need to know what the Bible says about Jesus, now, and looking forward toward His prophesied return.

Sure, one prophecy might point toward Jesus.  But what about 5?  Or 10?  Or what are the odds that 450 prophecies about Jesus’ birth, life, and ministry would all point toward one person, Jesus?  What are the odds?

In his Investigating Faith newsletter, Lee Strobel tells about a math professor, Peter Stoner, who gave his math students this assignment… For this illustration, assume that there were only 8 prophecies fulfilled by one person.  What are the odds of that?  According to Stoner, the students calculated that the odds against one person fulfilling all eight prophecies are astronomical — one person in ten to the 21st power (1021).

To illustrate that number, Professor Stoner gave them this example: “First, cover the state of Texas with silver dollars 2 feet high. Second, mark just one of those dollars and randomly mix it in with the others. Then, ask a person to walk across Texas, bend down, and select the marked dollar.”  Here’s the catch – the person has to choose the marked dollar –blindfolded.

The odds of someone finding that dollar coin are similar to anyone in history fulfilling 8 prophecies.  I think you can see what the odds would be.  But based on history and what we know about the man we call Jesus, we know that one man, this Jesus of Nazareth, has fulfilled more than 450 of these prophecies.  These sheer mathematical calculations point us to Jesus as the only one who could be the Messiah. 

What if someone tried to fulfill a prophecy on his own?   What if He said, I’m going to do “this or that” so I can say that I can be the one to fulfill a prophecy.  It’s virtually impossible to organize and fulfill many of the Messianic prophecies.  We have to consider that fulfilling some of the prophecies that point to Jesus simply couldn’t be planned.  For instance, I couldn’t say, “I think I’m going to be born in Bethlehem.”  And, “I think I’m going to find a virgin to carry me when while I develop in the womb.”  Jesus couldn’t have planned that He was going to be of the lineage of King David, or that Kings would bring him gifts as was prophesied in Psalm 72.

And, really, how do we know that these prophecies weren’t made up – concocted by a bunch of crazies?  These biblical prophecies were spoken over 4000 years by many different people.  This proves that there couldn’t be any collusion or conspiracy between the writers.  They are simply and unquestionably the voice of God to his prophets, shared with us. God has intricately created a road map for us, and it leads us to Jesus!

As a follower of Jesus, when you’re unsure about something or confused about making a decision in life, go to the bible for the answer.  So, if prophecy is a question in your mind, if you’re thinking, “How can these all point to Jesus?”, listen to what the Bible says about it.

Peter, the same man who walked on the water with Jesus, and who was the rock on whom Jesus built his Church said this about prophecy:

From 2 Peter 1:19-21 (TPT) — And so we have been given the prophetic word—the written message of the prophets, made more reliable and fully validated by the confirming voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration. 

Peter is telling us that he saw an amazing sight on the Mountain.  Moses and Elijah appeared as Jesus was transfigured and His face shown a brilliant light while His clothes became dazzling white.  And then with a booming voice from heaven, God said “This is my dearly loved Son, the constant focus of my delight. Listen to him!” Imagine what that would have been like!  It was this moment that catapulted Peter into understanding the truth of prophecy.  He says that it verified the prophecies to him.

Peter continues: And you will continue to do well if you stay focused on it. For this prophetic message is like a piercing light shining in a gloomy place until the dawning of a new day, when the Morning Star rises in your hearts.

Notice the importance that Peter puts on this prophecy.  Do you want to do well?  You must stay focused on the prophecies that point toward Jesus.

And finally, Peter removes the mystery of prophecy: “You must understand this at the outset: Interpretation of scriptural prophecy requires the Holy Spirit, for it does not originate from someone’s own imagination.   No true prophecy comes from human initiative but is inspired by the moving of the Holy Spirit upon those who spoke the message that came from God.

In our quest to know God’s Holy Spirit, it’s important to recognize that the Holy Spirit is essential to understanding scripture, and since prophecy makes up more than 25% of scripture, the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary for understanding prophecy or any other part of scripture.  Ask God for guidance as you read and listen to His Word.  The Holy Spirit will be that voice who reveals the true meaning for you, because one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to point us toward Jesus.

So, let’s return to where this blog started…. Right after the resurrection, Jesus revealed to the men on the Emmaus road the prophecies about Himself.  And now, we’re here, just days after our celebrating His resurrection. How do you view Jesus, that one who fulfilled hundreds of prophecies?

I encourage you to jump in and examine the prophecies of God’s word. They’re like a G.P.S. – God’s Prophecy System – the directional device that positions us to look directly at Jesus.  Prophecies are a message from God to you, that Jesus is truly who He says He is – the Son of God and the Messiah that we’ve all been waiting for. Mark my words.

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The Sound of Silence

This Sunday is known as Palm Sunday because as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people waved palm branches.  Why palm branches? Because they were something that was available and symbolic in their community and culture.  Let me ask you this…. What would you wave today?  If Jesus arrived in your town, coming down the street toward your house, and you only had a moment to run inside and gather one thing to wave as He passed by, what would it be?

In Luke’s account, the people threw their cloaks over the colt and on the road in front of Jesus. Luke doesn’t mention that people waved branches, but Luke and two other gospel accounts do mention that they threw their cloaks on the road.  The important part is not what they used, but that they shouted and cheered Jesus’ arrival, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38)!

And as they cheered, the religious leaders standing nearby scolded Jesus.  “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they said.  In other words, they were offended by the cheers of the people.  And in response, Jesus said,  “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:39-40)

In this great account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we find a very important lesson for today: If we were those cheering for Jesus, waving whatever it is you have in your hand, how many of us would be quiet if we’re told to be silent?  If you were told to keep quiet, would you? 

Over the past decades, we’ve been told to be silent.  What I see happening in the world today is fueled by the unseen.  Make no mistake, this is a spiritual battle.  There is a spiritual war going on between good and evil.  Between light and dark. If you listen to any of the prophetic voices in this season, you’ll probably hear that those with the gift of spiritual discernment are sensing three spirits involved with this illness. There is a spirit of fear.  We’re all familiar with fear.  We’ve all felt it at times over the past few weeks.  There’s also a spirit of death.  God’s word tells us in John 10:10 that Satan’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. 

And then there’s a spirit of suffocation at work.   Think about the way that this virus affects people.  It attacks the victims’ lungs.  But the spirit of suffocation is attacking more than our physical breathing.  This spirit is trying to suffocate the church by keeping us apart.  It’s trying to keep us from cheering HosannaBlessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! 

Satan’s MO – his modus operandi ­– is to keep the church from proclaiming that Jesus is King.  This same spirit of suffocation was in play that first Palm Sunday when the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ followers for cheering him on.  In short, they wanted Jesus’ disciples silenced.  Just like Satan wants us silenced today. What I’m asking today is, “Are you comfortable with being silenced?”  If we don’t share Jesus with those we encounter, we’re saying that this silencing is ok.  That bland, lack-luster faith tells the world that Jesus really isn’t important to us.

I’m asking you today to look deep inside yourself.   While you’re waving your palm branches to get Jesus’ attention, what are you doing to share Him with the world?  If you’re a Christian, you’ve already gotten Jesus’ attention.  His eyes are already locked with yours.  It’s our job to get others to shift their attention from the idols of the world and to see that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. 

Friends, we’ve in the process of being suffocated — silenced.  Church, we’re being called to cry out.  We’re called to be those stones that Jesus tells about when He says – “If they keep quiet, these stones will cry out!”

In Ps. 62:6 Jesus is called our Rock“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”  A Christian is a “little anointed one.”  So, if Jesus is the Rock, what are little rocks?  Stones.  Jesus says, THESE STONES WILL CRY OUT! Friends, be a stone — Cry out!  Tell the world what Jesus has done for you.  If you don’t, the world will continue in its darkness.  We have to be willing to cry out or we’ll be left beside the road with those who are lost.

I had a seminary professor, Dr. Randy Clark, who said that the problem with the church is that we invite the Holy Spirit into our worship but when he arrives, we ask him to sit in the back row and be quiet. We have to be willing to invite Him in and not expect Him to stay quiet. 

Here’s my point.  We’re comfortable with what I like to call pew-Christianity.  We sit in church and then go home.  We have to be willing to change.  The church wants to grow but we have to be willing to embrace Jesus.  This is a radical change from what the church has been doing for the past century.  We have to be willing to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit. 

We can’t put new wine in old wineskins.  If we want newnew people, new excitement, new faith, new everything, we have to be willing to change.  We are the wineskins.  We have to be willing to be transformed.  We have to be willing to look toward Jesus and become like Him — to be transformed into new wineskins.

This is the beginning of Holy Week.  This entire week is on a path of deeper and deeper darkness.  We experience the pomp and circumstance of Palm Sunday; see Jesus overturn the tables in the temple and have his last supper with his disciples; betrayed by one of his followers; tried in a Roman court, his flesh ripped to shreds; beaten beyond recognition; crucified on a cross; and then we find that He died and was buried in a tomb that didn’t even belong to Him. Can you see the continuum of light to dark all this week?  When we remain silenced, we are saying that we’re comfortable with the rest of the world remaining in that darkness.

Picture the darkest room you’ve ever been in.  So dark you can’t see the hand in front of your face.  But off in the distance you see a pinpoint of light.  That, my friend, is the light of Jesus.  As you walk toward it, your wineskin becomes more like Him.  You become brighter and brighter.  Until you’re completely bathed in that bright light of Jesus.  Our life has to become like that.  We have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change us.  And then when the Spirit changes us, we learn to carry the Spirit of God – the New Wine in all the Spirit’s fullness and to let the Spirit overflow our lives and every action of our lives. 

We’re currently spending 2020 learning about the person, power, and presence of the Holy Spirit. This is it, folks; we’re putting a face to all that we’ve been learning about the gifts and how we are changed in His presence.  If you’re serious about being radically changed, you need this new wineskin. 

A great teacher and pastor, Dan Mohler, puts it like something this:  if you squeeze an orange, you don’t expect to get motor oil out of it.  If you squeeze an apple, you don’t expect to get gasoline out if it.  If you squeeze an orange, you expect orange juice.  And if you squeeze an apple, you’d expect apple juice.  Here’s what I’m trying to say — In this time of pressure – this spiritual warfare of the coronavirus, when you squeeze a Christian, you’d expect the New Wine – the Holy Spirit – to come out.  What do people see from you when you’re under pressure?  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  Or are you silent when it comes to sharing Jesus?

The people who cheered “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucifiy him!” on Good Friday.   They didn’t change.  There was no love posted on their FB timeline! God will change our wineskins if we let him. But when our wineskin isn’t changed, we burst.

Are you a stone? Have you allowed God to change your wineskin so that you can truly and full of love for Jesus cry out, Hosanna to the King of kings?  Or are you willing to be silent.  Friends, let’s be a stone. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can shout Hosanna as Jesus passes by and when we do, when we are willing to put our own reputations and pride behind us, the world will see the light that is called Jesus. Mark my words.

Jesus: “Do I Have to Repeat Myself?!”

As I was studying the Resurrection story in Matthew 28 this week, one line kept jumping out at me.  I’ve read this passage countless times, but this time, four simple, yet powerful words jumped out at me. — just as He said

Friends, today we celebrate the Resurrection!  The raising of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, from the dead.  “Impossible!” some might say.  But it happened. 

Jesus promised that this day would come. He has risen victoriously — Just as He said. Three years before his death, just as he said, Jesus told the Jewish leaders it would happen.  But like many of us, they didn’t believe it.  In the book of John, chapter 2, verses 18-22 they press Jesus for a miraculous sign to prove who He was.  Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They laughed at him.  They were probably thinking, “You fool.  It took 46 years to build this temple.  Who do you think you are, saying that you’ll rebuild it in three days?” 

When we read Jesus’ words, it’s important to really read them.  Don’t just gloss over them. Jesus didn’t say, “I’ll rebuild it in three days”.  He said, “I’ll raise it in three days.  Jesus was talking about His body.  They would destroy His body.  And through the power of the Holy Spirit, He would rise in three days. 

He has risen victoriously — Just as He said.

The resurrection of Jesus is the hinge pin that we hang our faith on.  Since Jesus said it would happen, we can take it to the bank. Jesus’s resurrection is the sign that proves Jesus is who He says He is.  The leaders again ask Jesus for a sign.  In Matthew 12, Jesus puts it pretty bluntly.  And still they didn’t recognize who He is…  Mt 12:39-40

Jesus replied, “Only evil people who are unfaithful to God would demand a sign. There will be no sign given to you except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just like Jonah was in the belly of the huge sea creature for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

What does it take for the world to see that He is who He says He is? How about that “He has risen victoriously — Just as He said.”

Jesus’s claims were common knowledge.  The disciples and the religious leaders knew what he said.  Yet they still didn’t believe…  From the passage in Matthew 27:63, they said,

We remember that this imposter claimed that he would rise from the dead after three days.

They heard him say it.  His words were known to many people.  But they still didn’t believe.  Now we know “He has risen victoriously — Just as He said.” Many people today still have trouble believing.

This is Just like Jesus, and because He loves us so much, he decided to prove it to us.

In the Easter passage in the gospel of Matthew, we heard the angel at the empty tomb tell the women these words –

“There’s no reason to be afraid. I know you’re here looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here—he has risen victoriously, just as he said! Come inside the tomb and see the place where our Lord was lying. Then run, and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead! I give you his message: ‘I am going ahead of you in Galilee and you will see me there.'” They rushed quickly to tell his disciples, and their hearts were deep in wonder and filled with great joy. Along the way, Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them and said, “Rejoice!” They were so overwhelmed by seeing him that they bowed down and grasped his feet in adoring worship. (MT 28: 5-9 TPT)

As if he words He told them – just as He said – weren’t enough.  As if the empty tomb wasn’t enough.  He wanted to prove to them that it was just as He said!  And so that they could see Him with their own eyes, he met them on their way to tell the others – and when their eyes met, they fell to their knees and worshiped him.

Notice what they were doing…. They were on their way to tell others.  They met the risen Lord on their way to share what had happened. Those of you who are reading this and who know Jesus but have been longing for a fresh touch from him – a deeper relationship with Him —  look closely at the words you just read – the women were on their way to tell the others — when they met Jesus – face to face.

 I feel like God is telling us today – If you really want to experience the risen Jesus – you have to tell someone about him.  Share what you know, and He will make himself more real to you than you ever experienced before – but you have to be willing to go and tell.  Church, we’re called to be part of this end time revival.

Jesus is our only source of freedom from pain and fear of this life.  He also told us THAT.  Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the Way, I am the Truth,  and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father  except through union with me.  To know me is to know my Father, too. (TPT)

The condition of the world right now is only the beginning of challenges and persecution.  Just as He said, these days would come.  We read about these days in the bible.  Jesus is the only solution. 

A good friend of mine sent me a text this week.  He was watching Cornerstone TV, a Christian network in our local area of Pennsylvania, and heard a doctor make this statement, and considering the coronavirus pandemic we’re immersed in, I want to share this great hope with you:  Sin is the only virus known to man with a 100% death rate absent the cure. And then my friend added these words – Furthermore, the cure – Jesus – is the only one to never have had the virus of sin.  Thank you, Jesus!

Some of you reading this today haven’t yet met the risen Jesus.  He is alive!  And He is the cure!  Maybe you don’t know him because nobody ever really told you.  The women were on their way to tell the others when they met Him alive again!  So, please read this, my invitation to you.  Friends, the resurrection is real.  It’s documented.  And He has risen victoriously, just as He said. This isn’t craziness.  This isn’t a story, or a fable, simply about a wise man.  This is real.  He is who all of us need, because we’re all filled with sin.  But – hear me…. In this season of changing…  One thing remains unchanged – God loves you, no matter what you’ve done.  And no matter how wild it seems, this love is God in the man we call Jesus.  He is the only way that any of us will have hope.

Take a moment – right now – and recognize who He is.  Turn away from the sin in your life, and give Him your life.  You will be changed forever, and He will give you eternal life.  Mark my words.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Something’s up lately. We’ve probably all heard the flurry of health concerns swirling the airwaves over the past week, but is it all physical-health related? Or is our spiritual well-being being pummeled? God is doing a lot of shaking. It’s not to punish us, but to wake us. Haggai prophesied that this would happen.

Here’s the back story: in 538 BC, King Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and its temple. Four years later, in 534 BC, the foundation for the Temple was laid, but opposition from neighboring people caused the re-building to grind to a halt. Discouraged, the people began to focus on rebuilding their homes instead. 14 years later, in 520 BC, God sent prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage His people to finish building the Temple. Many people of the time, those who remembered the original temple which was destroyed, were disappointed by the second temple’s splendor.  They saw the new temple as a let-down from what they once remembered. God promised them that He would always be present with them and the new Temple would be greater than Solomon’s temple. Let’s take a look:

Haggai 2:6-9 New International Version (NIV)

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place, I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

How does this fit today’s scene of COVID-19 and the current-day place in which we’ve found ourselves? I believe God’s bringing a change in the air. There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. When a nation follows God, his hand rests on it. He protects His people who follow His ways. However, when a nation turns its back on God, he lifts his hand and allows the prince of the power of the air – Satan – to have his way. I believe this COVID-19 is just part of the shaking that God promised in Haggai. 

This passage is also referenced in Hebrews 12:26

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Picture, if you will, a sieve full of sand and stone.  Give it a good shake. Come on, keep shaking…. What’s left over in the sieve? That which cannot be shaken remains. As we experience this current-day shaking, we find truth in God’s Word. When He shakes the atmosphere around us, the things that are of this world fade. The things that we idolize are reset and God takes the forefront again.

Think about it…. Let’s just take two things in our culture — money and sports. Both have squeezed God out of our lives. They’ve become idols to many. To prove my point, have you looked at the Dow Jones, or the Nasdaq, or anybody who owns real estate on Wall Street? I think there’s a shaking going on there… What about our sports diet? On March 19th, ESPN posted that the NBA season was suspended, the NCAA cancelled all remaining spring and winter championships, MLB has cancelled spring training and delayed opening day tournaments, while the NHL has suspended play and the Masters has been postponed. (You can see the entire post here.) But as these idols are diminishing right before our eyes, God’s Kingdom remains strong. In short, God’s Kingdom cannot be shaken. We’re in the process of a reset, my friends.

As God shakes the nations – that which is not of God will be shaken away.  Only God and His Kingdom will remain.  In the shaking we are strengthened. You might ask, how then, can I see this shaking as hopeful? Here’s where I find hope in all of this: God says through Haggai, “I will shake all nations… and what is desired by all nations will come.” Does that phrase sound familiar? “Come, desire of nations come” is from the Christmas Carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, written in 1739 by none other than Charles Wesley of the Methodist flavor (and changed by George Whitefield later on). In other words, when God shakes the nations, we can expect Jesus. What I believe this scripture is saying is that the hope we find in Jesus – Jesus, the hope of the world – is soon coming

What is “soon?”  Only God knows the timing.  But I believe that this shaking of the nations is a wake-up call.  It’s God’s way of saying “I love you.  And I want you to turn back to me.”

Remember how I started my post?  The people were busy getting their own homes in order instead of the Temple. Their homes became their idol. The thing that stood between them and God. God reminded them that they needed to get the Temple in order. What is God’s temple today? Or should I say who is God’s temple today? We are.  Anyone who follows Jesus. We are His temple (1 Cor 3:16). Through the shaking of the nations – through this coronavirus, I feel like God is saying to His people, “Wake up.  Get your temple in order so that I find splendor in you.”

Friends, if we’re not ready when He returns, we’ll go through a lot of suffering and, frankly, someday it’ll be too late to accept Him as our Savior and Lord. Where would you be if Jesus returns tonight? Or in the next 30 seconds before you finish reading this post? The hope that I see, is that Jesus is our hope.  He is what the world can’t offer us.  He gives us everlasting peace.  The world’s peace is short-lived.    It falls as fast as the world’s stock exchanges. But while those who don’t know Jesus are facing eternal death, He gives us eternal life.

You might be going through a lot of suffering right now.  You might be wondering how we’ll ever get through this.  How you’re going to pay your bills, feed your family, and keep going. And many people who don’t know Jesus might be wondering how Christians can be so calm in this craziness. It’s because Jesus is our hope. Are you struggling to find hope?  He is the only real hope. If you’re pushed to the brink, now’s the time to let Jesus take over your life. He’ll change you in a moment.  He’ll take your pain and your fear. All you have to do is surrender.

Church – this can be your finest hour. This is an unprecedented time in the history of the world.  Church, this is the time where we can step up and BE THE CHURCH. This is the time that we can share the hope that we find only in Jesus.

There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. And it’s God’s way of saying, “Come Back to your true love. You’ll find true hope in Jesus.” Mark my words.

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope! (Romans 15:13, TPT) AMEN.

What Are You Lookin’ At?

Sometimes we have moments where the events of the day – those things that take over our airwaves and monopolize our thoughts – just need to be addressed.  The coronavirus – COVID19 – is one of those things. 

When I was a kid, my siblings and I would get in trouble for what seemed to us like the most ridiculous things.  We should have known better, but we did something – you can fill in the blank because we did everything– and we were found out.  Mom or dad would call us together and put us through what felt like the Spanish Inquisition.  For a reason unknown to me, my brother would sometimes glare at me and say “What are you lookin’ at?”  as if to say, “I caught you looking at me and I don’t like it!  The more you look at me, the more they’ll think I did it!” 

One time, I decided to do some “adjusting” to mom’s sewing machine.   For those of you who don’t use sewing machines, the bobbin is a spool of thread under the presser foot that supplies one thread to the sewing machine.  Don’t ask me how I know this…. One day, I wanted to be helpful and change the bobbin – why?  I have no clue.  But I was determined that this would be helpful, so I got Dad’s small screwdrivers from his workbench and took all of the screws out of the sewing machine.  (By the way, nobody told me that the bobbin could be released by a little lever in the front of the bobbin case.)  So there I was with a handful of screws and still didn’t have the bobbin out.  I decided that I’d better put it all back together and nobody would know the difference.  Wrong.  Just like always, I had a few screws left over. Not knowing where they went, I just threw them away.

About 3 days later, my mom decided to use the sewing machine. Much to her dismay, she found that it didn’t work properly. As she investigated the problem, she noticed that some pieces were in the wrong place, and some were missing. In order to get to the bottom of this dilemma, my parents lined up all 4 of us kids in the living room, in yet another Spanish Inquisition. There we stood, from the oldest to the youngest, tallest to shortest. Unfortunately, I was the youngest and the shortest, so I was at the end of the line.  As mom held up the screwdriver that I forgot to put away, she said, “Who tore apart my sewing machine!?”

Do you remember those old-fashioned Venetian blinds – you know the kind with the vertical strips instead of the horizontal slats found in most popular blinds of today? Just like those old-fashioned Venetian blinds, my 3 other siblings flipped sideways down the line at me simultaneously… As if to say, “We know who did it!” All of a sudden, I heard my brother’s words come out of my mouth, “What are you lookin’ at!” Needless to say, I didn’t have to admit that I was the one who took sewing machine apart!  To this day I still have a few loose screws.

You know, so many times, we use a glance – a look – to change the direction of the group’s attention. If I pointed to the back door of our church, you might look back to see what I was pointing at. If one of the kids ran across the front of the church, we would look to see where he or she was going. Oftentimes where we gaze gets the attention.  We give attention to the place we’re looking at the moment.  Oftentimes, what we’re looking at isn’t the important thing. 

Today, I hear God reminding us that our gaze, where we’re looking, gets our attention. And sometimes, that attention takes our eyes off of God. All we need to do is turn on CNN, or Fox News, or pick up the newspaper to know more information about the coronavirus. Sure, it’s important to know information. The virus is a real thing. But when the enemy wants to take our focus off of God, he creates hysteria. We spend more time listening to the news about illness. We spend more time reading about how quickly it is spreading around the globe; and we spend more time learning how to avoid getting sick, than we do reading the Word of God. The spirit of fear that the enemy has planted in our environment has taken our gaze off the Father.  As we are worrying about washing hands, finding another bottle of hand sanitizer, or wondering why toilet paper seems to be disappearing mysteriously from the shelves of our local stores, our focus remains on the situation and not on the Savior.

The apostle Paul reminds us that the things we see are short-lived, but the hope we find in Jesus is eternal.   In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, he tell us that  “We view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison,  because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal.  When we focus our attention on what we see right in front of us – those things that are taking our attention off the spiritual and godly things of the world – we get derailed. 

The difficulties in life are real. This virus is real, obviously.  But we must remember that these difficulties are not the end result. When we have hope – the hope we find only in Jesus – the difficulties of life don’t overtake us. The stress, the worry, and the fear that the devil wants us to feel, becomes secondary, and will disappear when we put our sights on our Creator. Paul tells us that when we view these slight, short-lived troubles in relation to eternity, it helps strengthen our faith in our walk with Jesus.

James reminds us this (James 1:2-4):   My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!  For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things.  And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.

God certainly doesn’t cause us to be sick or cause the virus. But He does take every opportunity to help us grow in our faith — to grow in our trust of Him, and in our ability to lean on Him in the good and the bad.  This virus, or any other problem in our life, is no exception. God uses everything to bring him glory.

James goes on in 1:12 to remind us that If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!”

This virus has many different effects on many different people. It’s nothing to be taken lightly. Handwashing, that new term “social distancing” that we’ve been hearing all about, and plain ordinary common sense are critical right now. One thing that isn’t necessary, is fear. The spirit of fear can and should be dealt with. As carriers of God’s glory, as temples of the Holy Spirit, we have the right and the authority to cast out the spirit of fear in the name of Jesus. And even in the illness, even in the atmosphere of caution, even in the time of uncertainty, we don’t have to have fear.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Philippians 4:4–9, Paul reminds us this:

Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near.

Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life,  then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.  So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.  Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.

Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Is this time in history a season of life? Of course, it is. Even in this time, God’s word reminds us to be cheerful. With joyous celebration. We’re to be joyful, because we are united with Jesus, the anointed one. Paul reminds us not to be pulled in different directions (double-mindedness) or worry about a thing. It was as if he knew exactly what we would be feeling at this moment. Paul might not have known, but God knows. We are reminded not to worry about a thing. Instead of worrying we are told to be saturated in prayer throughout each day offering our requests to God with thanksgiving. We’re reminded to tell God every detail of our life. And that peace – that wonderful peace that we find only through Christ Jesus – will overflow our lives.

God is telling us to keep our thoughts fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. Is the coronavirus any of those? It might be real, but it’s not honorable, or admirable, or beautiful, or respectful.  Nor is it pure, holy, merciful, or kind. No! God tells us to keep our thoughts fixed on Him, and nowhere else. And when we do, the God of peace, Paul says, will be with us in all things.  Not a few things, not just the things that we take to Him in prayer, God’s word says that God will be with us in ALL THINGS when we keep our thoughts fixed on Him.

In this topsy-turvy time, and from now and through eternity, I encourage you to keep your eyes on God. If I were to ask you that question, “What are you lookin’ at?” you want to be able to say, “I am looking at Jesus. He is my hope. In him I placed my trust. And because of his gift to me, and because I have given Him my life, I have no fear.”

Don’t let the enemy steal your hope. Don’t let fear creep into your lives. It is the devil’s hope that we stop worshipping together. In the hysteria, he wants to dissolve the church.  He wants us to pull apart and get out of the habit of worshipping together. I promise you that even in the swirling atmosphere of uncertainty, we will continue to worship. Since the Governor has now recommended that we not assemble, we will still have worship on our live stream at Connect Church. You will have the opportunity to log on during that time, or any time, so that we can continue worshiping as the body of Christ. Just go to Youtube.com and search for Connect Church Blairsville to find our channel.

What are you lookin’ at?

Keep your eyes set on the prize.  James 4:8 tells what we need to hear today — Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Wash your hands — that’s good advice for the current situation! All joking aside, James is reminding us that doubt – double mindedness – is a sin.  When we aren’t reading His word, praying, and worshipping together, we begin to doubt. When we doubt that God protects us, we are saying, “I hear you but I don’t know if I believe it completely.”  James tells us to keep our eyes on God – not on the things that are happening around us.  When we keep our eyes on God, it allows us to come near to him. And when we come near Him, he comes near to us. When we are in his presence, we are purified; we are washed clean; and in the presence of God, fear cannot stand. Mark my words.

He is who I’m lookin’ at.   What about you?

That’s a wrap…

We’ve just exited a season of gift giving. Christmas gifts, goodwill, and Magi gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Many of those gifts are for a season, and some are simply kept just long enough for the returns line at Walmart. But what gifts have you gotten that can be used every single day for the rest of your life? Have you considered unwrapping those Spiritual gifts you received as soon as you invited Jesus into your life?

Today, these gifts are oftentimes overlooked. Some don’t even realize that they have received gifts. It’s like the gift was delivered to the front porch but nobody got the mail. God’s Spirit has delivered an exciting combination of gifts for His children, and it’s now our time to unwrap these gifts and begin to try them on.

Like the sweater you received that fits “just right,” or that pair of jeans that fits you “like a glove,” your Spiritual gifts are perfectly suited for you.

Over the next two months we’re going to unwrap Spiritual gifts to see how yours can be used to for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7)

Whether they’re ministry gifts (Ephesians 4: 11-13), manifestation gifts (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11), or motivational gifts (Romans 12: 3-8), God has been generous in your gifting. Stay tuned for our discussion, and get ready to step out in faith to use them. He will amaze you with His grace and presence. Mark my words.

Baptisms… How many are there?

When we think of baptism, our mind oftentimes goes to the familiar… sprinkling with or immersing in water. But did you know that the New Testament mentions eight different baptisms? Really. Eight.

  1.  The baptism of repentance or the baptism of John (Mt 3:11) John the Baptizer encouraged his followers to repent and be baptized to prepare themselves for the coming Messiah, Jesus. Repentance is turning your life around and coming back to God.
  2. The baptism of fire (Mt 3:10-12, Rev 20:15) Jesus, the one appointed by the Father to judge will baptize us in the fire of judgement.
  3. The baptism of suffering (Mt 20:22-23) The baptism of suffering is what Jesus had to endure for our sins.
  4. The baptism into the cloud of Glory (1 Cor 10:2) The children of Israel followed the Glory Cloud from sun up to sun down. We should also model their example to follow God’s Holy Spirit throughout our walk.
  5. The baptism of Moses (1 Cor 10:2) The Israelites committed to following Moses. When we are baptized, we are committing to following Jesus.
  6. The baptism into the sea (1 Cor 10:2) Just as the children of Israel showed an act of commitment to Yahweh, and crossed the Red Sea to be delivered from the bondage of slavery, we, too, are called to cross from the bondage of sin to the freedom that waits for us in our relationship with Jesus. The baptism of the sea is a picture of God’s redemption.
  7. Water or believer’s baptism (1 Peter 3:21, Acts 22:16, Col 2:12) Water baptism is our outward sign of God’s inward and Spiritual action where we use a common element, water, to represent our being buried and raised with Christ, allowing God to seal us with His Spirit and adopt us into His family.

But perhaps the most important baptism, next to our being sealed with God’s Spirit, (and I’m not trying to devalue our water baptism of regeneration), is the final one:

8. Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2, 1 Cor 12:13, Acts 19:1-7) This is a second (and subsequent) experience(s) we can receive where we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The father of Methodist, John Wesley called this subsequent event the “Second Blessing.” This baptism proves that there is always more to God! The baptism of the Holy Spirit empowers us for mission. It also brings about a change in heart, stirs up spiritual gifts, and creates in us an undying love for Jesus.

God wants to share His Spirit with you. Won’t you allow Him to fill you with the “more” of the Holy Spirit? Ask and you shall receive (Matthew 7:7-8). God promises it. Mark my words.

Where’s Your Comfort Zone?

Faith. Never leave home without it! Too often our faith in God’s provisions falters because we don’t really know who we are in the Kingdom. The first thing we must do is ask ourselves, “Do I believe that Jesus is who He says He is?” If the answer is yes, then you’re carrying His Spirit because the Spirit of the Living God lives in people who follow Jesus. That’s critical to understand so that we begin to embrace who we are in the Kingdom. As carriers of His Glory, we’re also heirs of the Kingdom. As adopted Children of God, you have a legal right to use His name to rob Hell and take numbers!

But how can we have a stronger faith? It’s all about your comfort. We’ll never experience God’s miracles from the easy chair. We have to step out of our comfort zone to really see God move. What’s the reason, you ask, that we have to step out of our bubble of comfort? When we’re comfortable, we rely on our own strength. But when God calls us to step out of the boat, to go beyond what’s comfortable for us, that which is beyond our own strength, we have to lean on God’s power.

It’s then — when we trust in God’s strength and provisions — that we see the miracles of God manifest. True faith in God begins at the end of your comfort zone. God is looking for men and women who are willing to step out. Out of our financial comfort, out of our physical comfort, out of our emotional or reputational comfort. Out of the realm of our own strength and into the realm of God’s promises.

When we step out, God’s power comes rushing in. Supernatural things — those things that are beyond reason and the laws of nature occur. Miracles, healing, and financial blessings abound. You see, it’s oftentimes said that faith is spelled R-I-S-K. What are you willing to risk for God? When you step out of that comfort zone and watch God fulfill the promises He’s already made, your faith skyrockets.

So to build your faith, you have to be willing to become uncomfortable. Pray boldly for that person God’s been putting before you. Give when He says, “Open your wallet.” Do that thing that pushes you beyond your own strength and watch God’s blessings flow.

Your faith will be stretched to new levels, and God’s glory will shine. Mark my words.

Bad or busy?

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. So crazy, it’s been difficult to find time to post. But the work of ministry is so fulfilling, seeing God’s Spirit intersect with His creation. When Heaven invades earth, amazing things happen. People are saved from the schemes of the enemy. But when we’re so busy, it’s hard to notice when God blesses us.

My wife and I have a good friend who reminds us that “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” So many of us want to walk as followers of Jesus and want to know what it’s like to be set apart as God called us to be. Peter reminds us that we are to be holy in all of our conduct. Be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). But there are times that the chaos of the world pushes in to distract us from who we are called to be. We are so busy that we forget what it means to be holy. It seems that those who try to honor God find themselves busy — because Satan is having difficulty making us bad.

So when you find that the day has wasted away and you have little to show for it; when you’ve realized that your time in God’s Word has been pushed out because there just isn’t enough time in the day; when you notice that your prayer time has become little more than a quick “God help me through this…,” know this: You’re not alone. God is still there waiting for you to slow down and listen for Him.

God is always talking to us. Through our dreams, His written Word (logos), and in the revelation He speaks to you as you study the Bible and pray (rhema), God wants to bring you into a deeper relationship with Him. The bad and the busy come into submission when God is in the driver’s seat. Put God’s Word first in your day and watch how God supernaturally takes care of the rest. Mark my words.

Speak Life

Today I had the opportunity to travel to a spiritual retreat with an old friend. I haven’t been able to see him for a few months, but the time we had en route to the retreat center seemed like we had never missed any time together at all. The conversation was filled with laughs and stories, as if we had just talked yesterday.

As we shared the joys and struggles of families and ministries, every time he opened his mouth, positive, encouraging words came out. Even we we talked about the condition of the world today, the division between belief camps, progressive and conservative approaches, and other things that Satan has mucked up, my friend always had something to say that brought life to the atmosphere.

As I sit here, digesting the events of the day, it reminds me of the power of our words. We should never forget that our words can change the atmosphere when we speak them over a situation. We shouldn’t forget, because Satan surely doesn’t forget. He’s always trying to get us to say something negative about a person or organization, or bring down the reputation of another one.

Our words are life. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us, ” Your words are so powerful
that they will kill or give life….” (TPT) And Jesus tells us that, “you can be sure of this: when the day of judgment comes, everyone will be held accountable for every careless word he has spoken” (Mt 12:36 TPT).

Let this be a reminder to all of us: Our words can give life or kill. And we will all be held accountable for our words. Let’s agree together today that our words must give life and that we speak only the Word of God into the atmosphere around us. Through our words as followers of Jesus, others will begin to see the life that Jesus offers each of us — life abundant and eternal. After all, God’s words create. In Genesis, the creation account is full of “and God said” statements of life. Let our words be life-creating and not life-ending. Just changing your words into those which give God glory will change your outlook on this life, and they just might bring life to one who needs to know our God who created life. Mark my words.