Saturday, April 21, 2018

RUN UP TO THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER - "BE WILLING LIKE SHEFFEY"

Our soul waiteth for the Lord: He is our help and our shield.  For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee. (Psalm 33:20-22)
My role model for Prayer is the incredible but unheralded circuit rider, Robert Sheffey. Most Christians will have never heard of Sheffey or thousands of lives he transformed with the help of the Holy Spirit back in the latter part of the 19th century.  Even seminary graduates have no idea who Robert Sheffey is, for one simple reason – he was an incredible man of prayer, and most pastors and Christians do not pray as much as they should.  Brother Sheffey was not just the greatest prayer warrior in America, but added to his colorful character was the fact that he was also a man of Godly action.

In brief, Robert Sayers Sheffey was born in Virginia on July 4, 1820, and orphaned until Christ set him free at a fiery revival in 1838. The passionate 18-year-old only wanted to serve the Lord and applied for a license to preach at the Methodist Conference in rural Virginia. He was turned down, due to his lack of formal training. While he eventually was granted that license 17 years later, those years, (from age 18-35) molded the man, into the great Legend of the Appalachian Circuit Riding Preacher/Prayer Warrior he became.

Until he died at the grand old age of 82, Brother Sheffey, as he was called, would ride anywhere in rural western Virginia (and West Virginia). He and his faithful horses would go through snow, heat, rain and treacherous woods to help someone in need. Along the way, he would stop and communicate with his "Sweet Lord Jesus" by throwing his ever-present sheepskin mini-blanket (or prayer rug) on the ground and spend hours in prayer. If it was said of the great Protestant Reformer John Knox, by Bloody Mary, Queen of Scots that she "feared the prayers of John Knox, more than all the armies of Europe"; it was said of Robert Sheffey that every moonshine maker with a still in those mountains feared his prayers, as well! Sheffey once told one of those illegal alcohol makers that he wished a tree would fall on his still. There was not a tree in sight around this man's house. One night, during a fierce thunderstorm, the Lord picked up a tree from hundreds of feet away and dropped it right on top of the still, destroying it.

While these are humorous accounts of his life, Robert Sheffey was best known for his intercession at the great Wabash Camp Meeting. These camp meetings were somewhat similar to tent revivals, in the sense that they had large ongoing, open-air preaching meetings, under the huge sheds. This would be the major summer event for most families in the regions, who would pack up the kids in the wagon with enough food and furniture for a week's outing in the countryside. The preaching from the countryside and frontier Circuit Rider preachers would bring the Fear of the Lord, repentance, and salvation to countless thousands. 


Robert Sheffey was known as a preacher and man of prayer and was at all of these camp meetings in its heyday. However, when he was invited to preach, he would instead turn down the opportunity. He would then take his King James Bible and lambskin prayer rug which was now about 40 years old and head up the mountain next to the Wabash Camp, to pray. Sometimes, he would be gone up there half the day....or longer. Most times, when he was done, he would come of this Mountain of Prayer, with a glow all over the place and head straight for those in attendance, to minister, pray with, cry with them and more. He would comfort them, go with them to the altar or kneel right there with them. Sometimes Brother Sheffey would stay all night if he had to, in order to reason lovingly with the penitent soul that the Gospel is the only way to conversion to the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is estimated that because of his intercession and ways of evangelism, countless thousands came to be genuinely saved by the Blood of the Lamb. 


Robert Sayers Sheffey was the Circuit Rider of Prayer and shunned the limelight when his name would have afforded him anything he wanted. He was not rich in earthly goods, but his love for people, their physical needs and their souls stored up a divine fortune in heaven. For us, who have Sheffey as our role model, it takes a Micah 6:8 spirit and a self-deprecating self of humor to work for and love our "Sweet Lord Jesus" more than ourselves. To study the life of this great man, flawed as we humans all are, is to come away with the knowledge of the Grace, Love, and Power to transform of the Lord.

Sheffey's favorite statement was "I will take it to the Lord in prayer". Today, over 100 years after he went on to be with the Lord, the fields and roads to these fields are still as untamed, wild and unforgiving as they were 140 or so years ago. But the basic truths remain:
-  Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
-  Love God, and His Son Jesus Christ with EVERYTHING you have
-  Be willing to pray at a moment's notice for anyone in pain, distress, in an ambulance speeding towards the hospital, for a friend or family member
-  When you say you are going to pray, don't think about it - DO IT...and do it immediately
-  You do not need a prayer closet or "war room" to hide in and pray. Unlike other religions, Christians have the Spirit of God in us, and we can be walking down the street praying. Driving long distances with the radio off is the perfect time to be with the Lord, in what we call "windshield prayer"
-  Develop friendships with brothers and sisters who pray and stay in touch regularly, through texts, Facebook or phone. Ask them how you can pray for them because next week, without fail, you are going to need THEM to pray for you. Nourish and cherish those friendships for a lifetime. Prayer warrior friends are the most loving and faithful because we know where our Strength, Life, Breath, Love, Peace, Joy and identity are found. They are found in Christ.

Now, let us "take this to the Lord in prayer", for He is our "Sweet Lord Jesus". Amen

Thursday, April 19, 2018

RUN UP TO THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER - BE HUMBLE IN PRAYER

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”(Luke 18:9-14)

Jesus was the best teacher on Prayer, both by His example and His first hand illustrations. Right off the bat, we know one significant characteristic of the Messiah from the Apostle Paul, which the early Christians would be grounded in. Consider these two things about Christ:
1. Philippians 2:5-8 "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross".
2.  Hebrews 5:8 "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered".

Look at the words, above, in BOLD RED. Jesus was the Essence of Humility. He was the Humble Savior Who lived the way He wants all His disciples to live - then and now.  He is the fulfillment of all Scripture, which proclaims everywhere that God resists the proud but gives Grace to the Humble. He even fulfilled Micah 6:8 and walked HUMBLY before His God -Who was/is His Father.

Knowing how Jesus, the Son of God was and is, the God of Heaven will only respond to prayers offered and requested with a humble heart. There is no room in the Heavenly Realm for pride and selfishness. The great author and pastor of the 19th Century, E.M. Bounds wrote the following about humility in prayer, which will provide emphasis and explanation to this most important attribute :
      Humility is born by looking at God, and His holiness, and then looking at self and man's unholiness. Humility loves obscurity and silence, dreads applause, esteems the virtues of others, excuses their faults with mildness, easily pardons injuries, fears contempt less and less, and sees baseness and falsehood in pride.
      Humility holds in its keeping the very life of prayer. Neither pride nor vanity can pray. Humility, though, is much more than the absence of vanity and pride. It is a positive quality, a substantial force, which energizes prayer. There is no power in prayer to ascend without it. Humility springs from a lowly estimate of ourselves and of our deservings. (EM Bounds)

What about you and I? How do we approach the Lord? We have been thought a formula to prayer over the years. This is the ACTS formula (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). This is perfect for our discipline in prayer. However, it must never become so automatic that it is routine liturgy.

We must remember that we cannot fool God, so there is a need to approach Him the very first thing in the morning with Thanksgiving, that we are even alive...and can wake up, get off the bed and get going.  This very fact should activate instant humility in us that we can ready ourselves to first, read the Scriptures, and then pray, before leaving home. This assumes we have ordered time to do this. Windshield Prayer time is fantastic and many of us have done decades of this, but there is nothing like early morning fellowship with God.


It is a very worthwhile thing to reread the words of EM Bounds above (in italics), to grasp why we must truly remain humble and submitted and committed to Christ. May this be embedded in our spirit, not only today, but every day from now on. We don't have to sit in the dust and pour hot ashes and coal dust over our heads, while dressed in onion sacks. But we do have to come to the Lord with a lowly heart. We can and SHOULD always live this way!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

RUN UP TO THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER - BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 
For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

Several years ago, I remember asking Pastor M.B. if he would join the National Day of Prayer Service I have led, for over a decade, as one of the six prayer leaders. I had run into him at Sam’s Club and basically just stood there waiting for a reply. He told me he had to pray about it, which was okay. So, I kept standing there for another minute, or so. Finally, I said “you done praying yet?!” He just laughed and said “sure”. He still has a story about that incident and what happened after he finished praying. A gentleman I had invited, who is from another religion, was so impressed by Pastor M.B. that he made a financial donation right there, after the service.


This is not the same thing as the account Jesus gave of the persistent woman from Luke 18, in the passage above. However, the principle remains the same. Jesus told of  the poor aggrieved woman who was seeking any form of relief from a judge, who not only hated the Lord, but in her culture, also treated women like second class citizens. Yet, she looked past the lack of any positive response and kept asking.

This is the very essence of persistent prayer. This is what the Lord is teaching us. Many Christians, most in fact, say they will pray about a situation.

Many times the answer is a long silence. Should we give up? Too many of us do. Unlike the unjust atheist judge in the story Jesus told, our Father Who art in Heaven loves, cares for and only wants the best for us. Even the most diligent believer faces these trying moments where our faith is tested and our integrity as Christ followers revealed.

Even John the Baptist, when he was depressed in Herod’s prison, while knowing his natural cousin Jesus was God, sent his messenger to ask Jesus if He was truly who He said He was. Some doubting is okay. Walking away from God because He is not an ATM Spiritual cash machine is not okay. Big faith, big prayer. Little faith, little prayer. 

Colossians 4:2 (Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgivingtells us to be:
1. Persistent In Prayer
2. Stay focused and pray with intent
3. Cling to the Father and never let go. He is the  Only source of our very breath.
4. While asking daily for a variation of the same prayer request, please be grateful to God. Remember to give thanks to the Lord. It is ungodly to take His blessings and never be full of humility and gratitude.
5. While persisting or never giving up in prayer remember the Bible teaches about it. Psalm 88:13 says “Oh Lord I cry out to you! I will keep pleading day by day.”

God hears our prayers. He knows our hearts and if we are rightfully His. For encouragement today, as we press on and pray without ceasing, regardless, let us rest on the words of 1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him”.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

LUKE 3:16 - "EVANGELISM 101 BY JOHN THE BAPTIST"

John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16)
Any believer in the one True God will know that He is not only His best Evangelist but also the very First One. He says in Exodus 9:16 “But for this purpose, I have raised you up. I show you My Power, so that My Name may be proclaimed in all the earth”. Jesus, the Son of God Himself, was clear in Mark 16:15 when He says “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel”.

The great Scottish missionary Robert Moffat (1795-1883) said these immortal words, which inspired his son-in-law David Livingston “In the vast plains to the north, I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been”.  These words had a profound impact on Dr. Livingston, who blazed a trail for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in darkest Africa.

These men – Moffat and Livingston – operated with the same urgency as Yochanan the Immerser (or John the Baptist), the final Old Testament prophet. The first half of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3, contains a detailed and dedicated account of the greatest evangelist in the Bible, after the Lord Jesus. The methodology of this passionate man of God is a thing to behold, thereby becoming a blueprint for us to know the basics of evangelizing.

MISSION STATEMENT:
Luke 3:3 gives us John the Baptist’s mission statement “…and he came into all the district around Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

DIRECTIVE:
God Himself had prophesied through Isaiah that He was sending John to pave the way for the soon coming Messiah – John’s actual earthly cousin (in verse 4). Here is what the Lord called John, who is called “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”. His assignment came directly from heaven, which he declared with powerful proclamations. These are his orders from our Heavenly Father. God the Father gave these orders 700 years before, in Isaiah 40:3-5:
-  Make ready the Way of the Lord
-  Make His paths straight
-  Humble the proud and exhort the humble (every ravine will be filled every mountain and hill will be brought low)
-  Reveal the crooked and depravity of mankind that they may face up to their sins
-  Explain the rough roads and narrow gates will lead to smoother, greener pastures
-  Do all of this (repentance, faith, and baptism) that “all flesh will see the salvation of God”

METHODOLOGY:
John used varying degrees of heat to apply the board of divine education of their spiritual condition, to the seats of their knowledge.  He was quick to call out those who claimed to represent God because of their position in the temples and synagogues of the Land

NARRATIVE:
John understood his role and mission here during his brief time on earth. He was almost the exact age of Jesus but full of the Spirit of God. His extremely humble lifestyle (clothed in rugged natural clothes), with a menu of locusts and honey, was indeed reflective of simple Savor Himself – the Lord Jesus! John’s lifestyle and integrity gave him immediate credibility when God unleashed his fiery ministry in the desert!

Consider this – the desert was quite some miles on foot, or donkey – from Jerusalem and its surrounding towns like Bethany and even Bethlehem. When this Duck Dynasty looking man, with the beard and “desert -styled” hair started preaching, many recognized that he was a significant prophet of God! The reason is that there had not been a prophet of the Holy One of Israel for over 400 years since God shut the windows of Heaven with the closure of Malachi’s ministry. Malachi was the final prophetic book of the Old Testament.

John completely sold out to his mission. He was fearless and let the Truth fly, as God revealed it to Him. 

He let fly with what some may term the “Doctrines of Grace”, but with power, conviction and a knife straight to the heart of sin! Listen to some of the words he chose carefully:
 -  You brood of vipers (religious hypocrites and fake “believers”). (Why do you wish) to flee the coming Wrath of God (the coming Judgment of all people)
 -  Produce fruit in keeping with Repentance (stay humble, seek forgiveness from God)
 -  Don’t believe because you are children of Abraham, you are saved (God has NO grandchildren)
 -  The ax is at the root of (your) tree and one that doesn’t produce will become firewood! (This is the gist of Luke 3:7).

Note that in his modus operandi of in-your-face evangelism, he was very explicit about the sinful nature and total depravity of man. This really got their attention because they stayed and listened to him. First of all, they had to be more than interested in just who this eccentric prophet was. They walked miles through the desert to the various deep pools of water, where John was baptizing after the converts made declarations of Faith. (John kept moving to different rivers depending on where he could find good amounts of water).

Cut to the quick, some of the new converts, once getting on the same page as John, now sought to sincerely seek how to live and bear “fruit”. This is called Sanctification. This fruit of repentance of which the Baptist spoke is no different from what the Apostle Paul taught in Galatians 5:22-23. Paul had spent three years in the Arabian desert being taught directly by Jesus Christ after his dramatic conversion on the Road to Damascus.  Therefore,  he knew, with precision, what the fruits of the Spirit were. 

The fruit of a forgiven and converted person are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  These are no different from what John the Baptist taught, as a voice, crying out to the lost in the Judean Desert. Basically, he was saying….and it is still true….that “they shall know you by your fruit”. In all of the above-mentioned, John the Baptist became the first New Testament Evangelist, in addition to the final Old Testament prophet! All of this occurred in his early 30’s.

APPLIED:
Luke 3:16 fulfills the zenith of the John the Baptist’s main prophesy, and where the fullness of Jesus the Lord’s mission of earth comes completely into view:
- The One Who comes (and is now, here) is most Powerful
- This Powerful Supreme Being is overall, and even I, John the Prophet, am not even fit to be in the same room as Him or even tied His shoes. This Person is a King of which no word or action is comparable
- The King Who is coming is not here to baptize people with natural water. This is a topical testimonial of This is the job of mortal men. This King’s baptism is the Holy Spirit and "fire" (as Luke 3:16 indicates).

Knowing this, we have, who are called by His Name, have two choices. We can work for the King or sit back in the back row of the church of life, and do nothing. We can inspire our children, friends, family and the gas station clerk to be better and find peace, joy, and be healed with Jesus, or we can do nothing. We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us, but if we do not recognize and grow in this strength and power, we are just barely going to squeak into heaven.

If your neighbor's house were on fire, you would warn him/her and call the Fire Department. Christians know instinctively there is pending doom. The Holy Spirit and the Fire of God are in sync with our spirit to place that fact of eternity in our hearts. We will be held to account by the Father if, when presented with an opportunity to help someone in distress find God, we pull a Jonah and bolt in the other direction. The difference between modern western Christians and Jonah is this - Jonah actually stayed around Nineveh (now called Mosul) after we read of him and his book cuts off in Jonah 4. He taught about Yahweh, lived in the area, died and was buried in Nineveh. We know this because when the Islamic State took over Mosul a few years ago, one of the first things they went after to destroy, was the tomb of - guess who - the Jewish prophet Jonah. Jonah complained, but he did the right thing. Today, church people complain...and the majority do nothing.

Let this not be said of us. In the same beautiful journal, of which we spoke in Matthew 3:16, we recommend the following:
 - Go to Galatians 5:22-23.
 - Write down one fruit of the Spirit per day. Then, take the first one - love - and do some soul-searching.
 - With the first Fruit of the Spirit, Love, write down what your love for God means, in Jesus Christ. Be honest, and also write down where you think you need to do more work in loving God. 
 - Write down where you are at with your love for your family, and other people. How is your love for the lost and hurting? Write it down. Are you cold and need to show some TLC (tender loving care) in that area? Write that down....and so on. 
 - This first fruit (love) is probably the most important because how you view Love affects all the other fruits.  If you and I love God and the Bible and Jesus and honor the Holy Ghost, we will be so much at peace that the joy will overflow and people will see it on our faces, all the time. Because of that peace, we are patient with others, because we LOVE (agape) them...and so on.
 - Do the same exercise with EVERY single fruit of the Spirit in your journal. For instance, if you are troubled over something, journal it, with the question "why am I not at peace?" Then go to the concordance at the back of your good Study Bible or most any bible, and research the word "peace". Or simply, "google" the words "peace in my soul..." or something similar. Then find the associated bible verses and instead of just writing down the verse number, journal the ENTIRE verse....or verses...and then watch God begin to transform your cares into a state of rest in His Promises and care.

This is a major assignment and all flows from the Gift of our Salvation, from the One Whom John the Baptist said, will fill us with the Holy Spirit and fire. This One's Name is - Jesus, the Messiah. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

MARK 3:16 - "PETER - FISHERMAN, DISCIPLE, NEW TESTAMENT WRITER"

“And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter”. (Mark 3:16)
Peter is the best known of all the disciples, of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense, we admire the dynamic personality that he was, because, in a sense, there is a lot of Peter in us.

Born in the small fishing village (about 100 people) next to the Galilee sea, Peter is as bold, brash and salt of the earth as you can get. His hometown – Bethsaida – means “house of fish”. Peter and his brother, Andrew, may not have been as educated in the Torah (the first five books of our regular Bible) as the priests, scribes, and Pharisees, but they were just like every Jewish man. They knew the Law of God. This would be their foundation as Disciples of the One Who gave the Law to Moses.

Among many other noteworthy things done by Peter, his bold character speaks loudly through his statements and actions:
  • “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (to the question by Jesus as to ‘who do men say I am’). Peter is the first to make the clearest statement of the Messiah. Jesus said this was a divinely-inspired statement (Matthew 16:16-17)
  • Peter jumped out of the boat in the rough stormy waters of the Galilee and started walking on it when He saw Jesus walking in the water towards the boat. When Peter took his eyes of  Jesus, he began to sink (Matthew 14:28-29)
  • Peter boasted to the Lord that he would never forsake him “even if everyone else did (Matthew 26:33). Yet Peter denied he even knew Jesus, with cussing and swearing, to strangers, not once but thrice.
  • The impetuous Peter took his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the Temple guard after they came to arrest Jesus (John 18-10-11). This led Jesus to teach a truth that His followers will not live by the sword.

Peter, as hot-headed and shoot-from-the-lip, as he was, also did some wonderful things. After the Resurrection, he ran to the open, empty tomb and was the first man there.  After Jesus appeared on the banks of the sea and was seen cooking fish and bread for them, Peter did not wait for the boat to come ashore. He jumped into the water and swam to the Savior. It was here that Jesus officially forgave Peter and appointed him the foundation on which the Church will be built.

  • It was Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit after Jesus went back Home, and sent the Counselor, who preached the first evangelistic sermon of the Christian Church. Three thousand were saved (Acts 2:14-41).
  • It was Peter who healed a lame beggar. He was arrested and brought before the 
  • Jewish High Court and told to stop preaching Jesus. He kept on. The man who denied, lied and cried ignorance about and of Jesus, was now shouting His Name out, loud and clear (Acts 4).
  • Peter was there when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8).
  • Peter was there when God sent him to witness to the Roman soldier Cornelius In these two actions, he was a living example of exhibiting the Foundations of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fact that it included EVERYBODY (Acts 10)!
  • Peter stood up for non-Jewish Christians and told them they did not have to follow Jewish Religious Law in order to become followers of Christ, thereby, literally expanding the church to all tribes and tongues (Acts 15:7-11).
  • Peter dictated the Gospel of Mark, to Mark, who wrote down the first-hand eye-witness account of Jesus by the Great Disciple. It was the first book of the New Testament ever written (around 45 AD) and used as Scripture by the Apostle Paul in his travels. 
  • Peter wrote the two amazing Epistles of 1 and 2 Peter, which clearly gave us the Keys to Godly living. In 2 Peter 3:  Peter revealed for the first time, that the writings, letters, and exhortations of the Apostle Paul, are Scriptures.

316 APPLIED:
Today, we are very much like Peter. We are quick to speak. We make promises we sometimes are unable to keep, as we oversell and under-deliver. This is a serious one because sometimes our families get short-changed as we run around trying to put out fires everywhere. So now it is time for soul-searching.
  • If we find ourselves full of pride by thinking “how could Peter do …..(fill in the blank offense against God),  then let’s pull out that same Prayer Journal I recommended in the application steps of Matthew 3:16, and start documenting our prideful thoughts.
  •  Let us then, approach the Lord in the spirit of humility and seek His forgiveness from these shortcomings. Denying we fall short, while thinking with a false secret of superiority over another human being, is a transgression against God. It is best if ever never let things get this far, for our own good. 
  • As a sign of our growing maturity, as a Christian and just a basic human being, let us be very careful about rash decision making, then projecting the Name of God unto it. 
  • Sometimes in life, we must make a snap decision about a matter. In such a case, pray hard first and discern any potential fallout from this decision. Then, think biblically as to evaluating any consequences. Wherever possible, consider the end from the beginning, just like our Heavenly Father would. He sees all sides of the question and its consequences.  After all of this, then make the decision trusting God, in complete dependence on Him.
  • Be willing to go the extra mile, to show someone of a different background, race or status as us, the love and salvation of God, in Jesus Christ. Peter showed us how to build the church: reach out to all, from all nations and neighborhoods.
  • Be willing to give it all. Peter, like all of the Apostles/Disciples of Christ, gave his life for the cause of Christ when the time came. Only John, who wrote the Books which bear his name (John, Revelation etc.)lived to be a ripe old 95 years of age.  Peter, according to legend, was crucified upside down, because he did not think it worthy to be executed like His Savior and mine - the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask yourself this question - are there things I will consider giving up for Jesus Christ? If so, what could those things be? Pray for this question to resonate, within.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

MATTHEW 3:16 "COME, HOLY SPIRIT" (includes PERSONAL GROWTH STEPS)

"After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him." (Matthew 3:16)
Right off the bat, in the very first 3:16 verse of the New Testament, the great Apostle Matthew (formerly Levi the tax collector), shows a powerful truth to the first Jewish Christian believers. It is something unheard of, except maybe in the ancient pages of the scrolls of Moses and the Prophets.

The scene itself is something directly out of a Divine Central Casting. God and God alone, is the only Creative Director of what is set to occur, as it reverberates through all history. The itinerant preaching cousin of the Messiah was fulfilling his God-ordained role of loudly proclaiming the need for repentance. He was baptizing those who repented and sought the forgiveness of the Lord. While standing in the Jordan River, up comes his cousin – Jesus.

By now, John the Baptist knew precisely who Jesus was, apart from being his cousin. John’s father, Zechariah the priest, prophesied in praise of Him, right before he spoke of his own son – John in his astonishing prayer/prophesy! Zechariah had just gotten back his voice after losing it, due to doubt about his aging wife being able told by God she was going to have a baby (John). God temporarily ordered him to lose his ability to speak, since he, a man of the cloth, doubted a true Angel of God. John knew the Messiah came from the same family as him, and he also knew His Divine Destiny. Jesus confirmed this later on (click).

John then uttered the immortal words “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the World”. He then baptizes Jesus. The moment Jesus’s head come out of the water the Holy Spirit of God, Who IS God, descended through the open heavenly skies right upon the Messiah. This signaled the beginning of an amazing three years of ministry of the Christ. It was the three years which have forever changed the world.

316 APPLIED:

While the world changed, in the general sense, because of the visible descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, this one significant event held the promise for any and everyone who would believe, thereafter,  in the Son of God and His Gospel.

The verse says “….and lighting upon Him”. In context, this means that the full power, influence, and authority of Heaven come upon Jesus and became one with His Spirit. He was (and always will be) fully God and fully man.  This means everything for all humanity. For Eternity past, the dearly departed souls who resided in what Jesus called “Abraham’s Bosom” or Paradise, had their Faith in God rewarded. The Messiah had come.

For the present, as in now, this would be the first of only two times which the Holy Spirit will be visible to the physical eye.  The Spirit of God, Who raised Christ from the dead, descended as tongues of fire on the disciples as they prayed and spoke in foreign languages so that all assembled in Jerusalem could understand what the Disciples were preaching.  That is is the accurate description of the “many tongues” they spoke.  The “tongues of fire” were only visible to the Elect of Christ in that room who saw the unique phenomenon, so that Christ’s Words from Acts 1 would be fulfilled.

Since there, the Holy Spirit immediately indwells and seals the truly saved. He is invisible to both the world and the Christian in whom He dwells. The fruits of the Spirit (peace, love, joy....) depends on the quality of faith and obedience of the Christian and should be evident over the course of a lifetime. There is a tremendous responsibility and debt which those whom Christ has saved and rescued owe Him. We owe Jesus not just everything but need to conduct ourselves accordingly.

Knowing the History of the Holy Spirit on this earth, from the descent at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by John, and knowing His appearance as Tongues of Fire on Pentecost, what evidence of His appearance is there in YOUR life (and mine)? For your own good, and mine, let us proceed with the following practical steps towards our own sanctification.

PERSONAL GROWTH STEPS:

  • Begin a private journal. They can be purchased anywhere for less than $10 (Walmart, Walgreens...or any bookstore)
  • Write down each of the following fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
  • Then, take each and do a personal inventory, logging where improvements can be made or work actually begun on the “fruits” where they are non-existent in your life.
  • Be serious about maintaining this journal and log in several times per week, as you worship the Lord daily through prayer and bible study.
  • In one month, you will begin to notice a change in your desire to read your bible daily and pray. In six months of steady dedication, even if it is only two sentences. Transformation begins. Then look back over one full year - the fruits of the Spirit will begin to show all around you and I....if we just allow the Holy Spirit to do His Word....and "light upon us".

Sunday, April 1, 2018

REVIEW: GOD'S NOT DEAD 3 - HIS LOVE CONQUERS ALL

In an age where an increasing number of young people under 30 are now starting to walk away from the One True Faith, it is fitting that those of us with a large megaphone, speak up with solutions. This is precisely, one of the major takeaways from the brand new movie (released March 30, 2018) - GOD'S NOT DEAD 3 - A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. 

In a sense, one of the major solutions reminds us that the old must become new again. That particular solution is Love and a great message coming out of this new movie by David AR White and his Pure Flix production company. We live in times of extreme hatred, bullying, permanent division and upside down morals. GND 3 attempts to address some of this division, in light of everything else, with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and some strong human emotions from both sides of the conflict, in the movie.

At the end of GND 2, released in 2016, the scene was set for this sequel at the end of the credits. David White, as Pastor Dave, was taken away in cuffs because he refused to submit his sermons for review by an oppressive city hall. At the time, this issue was heavy in the air with the overreach of the former Houston Texas Mayor, in real life, who had subpoenaed the sermons of five Houston preachers in 2014, over the pastors teaching directly from God's Word. This unconstitutional act backfired nationally, as it should.

However, GND 3 - heads off in a completely direction. The arrest of Pastor Dave brought up another issue, which while related to the freedom of religion and to preach the Bible, tested the limits of the so-called "separation of Church and State". Religious liberty is still a potent issue with atheists attempting to remove chaplains from NCAA football teams in recent years, in the Bible belt of all places. Here in this movie, the increasingly liberal and narrow thinking of an anti-God society led to the accidental burning down of a historic church on the "Hadleigh" college campus.

The secular staff, of this once Christian school, used that tragic occasion, which resulted in the death of a visiting African pastor, to kick the burnt out church (St. James) off campus for good. This, obviously, did not sit well, with Pastor Dave and his congregation or friends.  He decides to travel to Chicago in his Prius to seek legal help from his brother, Pearce, who is a social justice advocate. Pearce is not a believer even though both he and David grew up in the same home with dad as the pastor of St. James. Pearce is played by John Corbett, who just a year ago, had the lead role as the real-life Pastor Michael Spurlock, who became renowned for rescuing a Tennessee church, which he was assigned to close down. Corbett is one of the well-known star-studded cast of God's Not Dead 3. 

The amazing thing, from the casting point of view, was how all cast members appeared in sync with both the screenplay and the execution of their roles. Christian movies with controversial themes are difficult enough for an authentic Christian to bring off the role with believability. David White did this perfectly here. I have seen his movies from the early evangelical short films of over 20 years ago, up to now. This role was his best ever, as all the nice happy church days of God's Not Dead 1 and 2, disappeared with the reality of late 21st Century American attitudes towards church and God.


This movie is full of drama with a well-written screenplay, which was obviously keyed in on current real-life events, and how it affects both the Church and young people. One particular scene involves the coed lead Samantha Boscarino (Keaton) telling Pastor Dave off about the reason millennials are not interested in Faith (Christianity) anymore. While Keaton character has a point, this did not happen in a vacuum. The "NONES" - the increasing number of people who do not believe in God etc. - got that way because of school indoctrination, parents who did not raise them with the Bible and THEN a church which is still playing games, instead of reaching souls and making disciples of their members. 

All of us in strong ministries which focus on discipleship, prayer, and families should go see this movie.  It will also remind us in ministry, especially the pastors and church leaders among us, that the Church of Jesus Christ is NOT theirs to do as they/we please. It is God's and He will do as He pleases. It is also a good one to take an unsaved friend to, because those who doubt or walk away, need to come around to the Truth that is an old-fashioned concept like Love, is still answer. However, more importantly, this Love has only one Name - and His Name is Jesus! His Love is victorious over all.

MOVIE WEBSITE HERE
PURE FLIX WEBSITE HERE

Saturday, March 31, 2018

RESURRECTION POWER -EASTER VERSES THAT CELEBRATE JESUS

Martina McBride had a big hit years ago called "INDEPENDENCE DAY" and the kicker line was "Let Freedom Ring". Nothing says that better than Galatians 5:1 where the LORD says "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery".

All of this Freedom and Independence and standing firm etc. are only possible because of one thing - The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the abode of the physically dead. He was NOT spiritually dead. He is God. The Resurrection, on the Third Day from His willing death on the Cross to remove the sting of death from us, is what makes it possible for us to live with Hope and Joy on this side of Eternity.

Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday, is more significant than even Christmas because this is the one which immediately affects our own personal destination. Easter Sunday is celebrated almost the same in homes across the Western World, with minor cultural food or music differences. However the message remains the same - Jesus is alive, just as He said He will be!! There is never any doubt. God speaks, we listen.

As we have been doing over this past days, we present the Word of God in pure straight form, without comment, to show how the Bible not only speaks for itself but predicts with precision...even thousands of years in advance. With that in mind, here are some verses for us to be grateful, at this time when Jesus guaranteed our waking up into Heaven when we pass from this world to the next! Thank You, Lord, for Your blessings on me!


VERSES ON THE RESURRECTION - "EASTER IN THE BIBLE"
OLD TESTAMENT:
JOB 19
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last, He will take His stand on the earth. “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh, I shall see God (verses 25-26).

ISAIAH 26
Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (verse 18).

DANIEL 12
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (verse 2)

NEW TESTAMENT: 

LUKE 24
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (verses 1-5)

JOHN 20
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (verses 25-26)

ACTS 1
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God (verse 3).

ACTS 4
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  And with great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales (verses 32-34).

1 CORINTHIANS 15
After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles (verses 6-7).

There are many other verses, to which we should devote ourselves in Bible study, but suffice it to know that Jesus was not just seen by His disciples and the women who followed and ministered to His food and clothing needs, but 500 people in Jerusalem saw His physical body. Later, on Scripture tells us that even some of the Pharisees believed in Him. These were the same men who voted to executed Him!

The Apostle Paul, the great persecutor, and hater of the early Christian church had the most dramatic conversion to Christ. It is because of this stunning event in early church history when he was called Saul of Tarsus, that we have half of the entire New Testament.

The Resurrection changes EVERYTHING. Because Christ rose from the grave, and the Angel blew the stone away, then sat on it, as if to say "get a load of this", we are all set to be at the great "getting up morning in the sky". Glory to His Name! However, this can only happen if we are born-again and converted from the spirit of death and destruction to the instant we are suddenly indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God - the very same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead. It was for THIS Freedom, Jesus Christ set us free. Amen.
ROMANS 10:
if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation (verses 9-10).

Friday, March 30, 2018

GOOD FRIDAY: PSALM 22 (PROPHESIED)...MATTHEW 27 (FULFILLED)

The Cross is the most popular jewelry item in the world. In the west, even secular people use them, for some reason or another.  Even bad biker gangs have insignia in the form of a cross celebrating- God knows what. To those living in the Roman Empire, 2000 years ago, the Cross was NO ‘fasthion statement”. It was a brutal instrument of torture, mayhem, and death which the Romans inflicted on their enemies, far and wide.

The most famous Person to be executed on the Cross was, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Were it not for Him, no one would know what crucifixion was, outside of a history class. Also, no one would know that it was the Sin of ALL mankind there – Jewish and Roman (or Gentile) which precipitated the Sacrifice of the God’s Son as the Propitiation (Satisfactory) payment for our sins

Almost 1000 years before Christ (BC) was nailed to the Cross by evil men on Good Friday, the very same words He would utter on there were prophesied and written down by King David, the poet/prophet/king of Israel.  It was not just the immortal statements uttered by Christ which came from Psalm 22,  but what actually took place from the point of view of God Who became a man – the Lord Jesus! It is a vantage point which believers, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God Who moved the pen of David to write this, will immediately recognize. Jesus is literally describing what He physically experiences in this psalm, in graphic detail! it should make us cringe. It was our vile sin which caused this to occur.

Therefore, the vivid, heartbreaking, painful and incredibly horrific events are now presented, as remembrance – without comment – from prophetic Messianic Psalm 22 (written around 940 BC) in BLUE along with the actual fulfillment of these prophesies, from Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in RED (of events from 33 AD).


PSALM 22:
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? - verse 1a

MATTHEW 27
About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME? - verse 46

PSALM 22:
6 But I am a worm and not a man,  a reproach of men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me sneer at me;  they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
8 “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him because He delights in him.”

MATTHEW 27:
41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

JESUS DESCRIBES WHAT IT FEELS LIKE FROM THE CROSS HERE:
PSALM 22:
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.***
17 I can count all my bones. they look, they stare at me; 
18 They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

MATTHEW 27:
35 When they had crucified him,*** they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

MARK 15
24  And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

LUKE 24:
34  Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Jesus then completed the Work which the Father had given Him to do: It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30b)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

HOLY WEEK: - THURSDAY ....."PROPHESY REVEALED, REALITY UNVEILED"

The Ultimate Sacrificial Death on the Cross, of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, was both predicted in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament, sometimes almost word for word!  About 740 years before Jesus gave His Life as a ransom for many, that all the world could be saved, the Prophet Isaiah wrote and prophesied in one of the greatest Chapters of the entire bible – Isaiah 53.

Jesus was the propitiation – the acceptable to God the Father sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, for all time.  Jesus, the Perfect Lamb of God, came meek and humble, yet knew what He taught and the reason for it. While He spoke a few words in front of His corrupt religious accusers and Pilate, He said not a word to the heathen King Herod.  As for Herod, Jesus will have a lot to say to Him on Judgment Day.

Here, we present the Word of God, from selected verses from Isaiah 53 (blue),Matthew Chapter 27 (red),Matthew 28 and 1 Corinthians 15:3, without comment:

ISAIAH 53:
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.

Matthew 27:
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer.  13 Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.



ISAIAH 53:
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living. For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:3
"Christ died for our sins".



ISAIAH 53:.
10 But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspringHe will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

Matthew 28:
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risenjust as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”