Part 4: Linked with God’s Timing

timingHave you ever been in a service and someone sitting next to you was clapping off beat? That can drive you crazy. Have you ever mixed up a date or time when you were supposed to be somewhere? Being out of timing can really mess things up at times. We’ve probably all heard the phrase, ‘God’s never early, He’s never late, He’s always right on time’. We don’t really need to worry if God is in the right time, it’s us that needs to make sure we are in His timing.

God set timing in Genesis 1:5 and 14 NKJV “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (14) Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons and for days and years;””

There are two calendar systems today; the sun calendar that has a 365 day year and the moon calendar that has a 360 day year. The Bible calendar is a lunar calendar. Each new month in the Bible calendar begins at the new moon. The Feast Calendar begins in the spring with Passover and the yearly Calendar begins in the fall at Tabernacles. Each of these beginning points signal new life. Now I’m not saying we have to do away with the Gregorian calendar, just as you can operate on a fiscal calendar and a yearly calendar, we can go by the Biblical months and seasons while still living on the worlds calendar.

The purpose of this teaching and the three posts following it, is to help us become more in line with Gods time and His way of thinking. This series has never been about becoming Jewish but understanding we have been grafted in and that the root of this tree is Jewish. The Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles are not Jewish Feasts, they are the Feasts of the Lord. Purim, which will be celebrated next month, Esther says, all your generations and those aligned with you shall celebrate this feast at this time each year. As one grafted in, I am aligned with the Jewish people.

The thing we must receive is that with each new month Father is offering us an invitation to come into His plan and assignments for that month. The tribe of Issachar is the tribe that understands the times and the Torah, this was key as Israel moved forward and it is key for us today. The three feasts are part of Gods timing. Leviticus twenty-three outlines the feasts; The Sabbath, Passover and Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of  Weeks (Pentecost), Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles. These feasts and notice Sabbath is included all allow us access to God in a special way. This is not a legalistic thing and yes we have access to God 24/7/365 because of Yeshua, that does not change the special invitation extended three times each year to come into a special presence of God and receive from Him.

Paul told the Corinthians that because our Passover Lamb, Yeshua was sacrificed we celebrate the Feast. You do not have to celebrate, this is not a salvation issue but we get to participate in the celebration as we have been grafted in. The next four weeks we will get into these in depth and explaining the meaning and how Jesus is present in each one, this week we just want to recognize the calendar and timing of God.

Each of the twelve months of Gods calendar is associated with one of the Tribes of Israel. When I began to study this, things that went on each month began to make sense because it lined up with what God does in that month. God never changed, He never switched calendars we did. Jesus didn’t institute Christmas and Easter, Constantine did. I am not saying don’t celebrate those holidays but understand the death and resurrection of Jesus is present in Passover and Firstfruits and the birth of Jesus is symbolized in Hanukkah.

While there is blessing from God in many areas He did set up special blessings associated with the feasts.  Nehemiah 12:44 NKJV “And at the same time some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes…” this is also a picture of Gods timing, we see three types of giving, there is thirty, sixty and hundred fold. To receive hundred fold return we must have all types of giving and giving is more than money, I have given books, paintings, and bought meals as firstfruits and offerings. Just as the Children of Israel were to obey in giving we need to listen closely to the voice of the Lord in how we are directed in our giving. Proverbs 3:9 tells us to honor the Lord with the firstfruits of increase, this is different from tithe and brings about a different blessing, it’s all about the timing!

We are all familiar with Malachi three, “prove me that I will not open the windows of heaven and poor out blessing”, if we want to walk in a different level of blessing we need to get in Gods timing. Hosea 4:6 says my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Jesus said, you shall know the truth and that truth shall make you free. Truth does not free us, the truth we know, the truth, we understand makes us free. The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver, this series is not to bring about legalism but to expose us to the joy of walking in our roots. We are talking about Gods timing in feasts, feasts are celebrations, they are parties. God throws three major parties a year, each week He provides us with a day of rest, let’s take Him up on these wonderful invitations – when we do this, let’s watch how much deeper our relationship goes, let’s see how much our joy increases and let’s watch the blessing flow unhindered in our lives!

Part 3: Renewing the Mind

hebrew-mindRomans 12:1 NIV “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” But how do we do this? Look at verse two in the Amplified Bible; “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”

In the last few weeks we have been talking about the roots of our faith and the importance of being connected to the root. Looking back at Romans eleven we remember that the root of the tree is Biblical Judaism, the natural branches are Jews who believe in Messiah and the grafted in branches are Gentiles that come to faith. We have been grafted in to a Jewish root through the Jewish Messiah, Philippians 2:5 says we have the mind of Christ, a Hebraic way of thinking and not a Greek way of thinking, this is our topic for this week. We have talked about Constantine and how he bribed the church with stopping persecution if they allowed him to make changes but look at Scripture itself, Pharaoh said just worship here, don’t leave Egypt. Pharaoh provided a stipulation that would have kept them in bondage and would have eventually taken away worship again.

During the time of Jesus the Greek and Roman way of life was beginning to heavily influence the Jewish people. Antiochus endeavored to spread Greek culture everywhere; he did this by robbing the temple, suspending Jewish worship and forbidding Jewish ceremonies. Gymnasiums were erected and many priests neglected duties to play in the games. Look at these words from A History of the Jewish People in the times of Jesus Christ by Emil Schurer:

“Antiochus directed his energies immediately to a war of extermination against the Jewish religion. Throughout the whole land the Jewish religion was to be rooted out, and worship of the Greek gods instituted. The observance of all Jewish rites, especially of the Sabbath and circumcision, was forbidden on the pain of death; the Jewish mode of worship was abolished. In all the cities of Judea sacrifices were to be offered to heathen deities. Officers were sent into all the districts, charged with the duty of seeing that the commands of the king were strictly obeyed. Wherever anyone showed reluctance, obedience was enforced with violence. Once a month a rigorous search was instituted: if a copy of the book of the law were found in the possession of anyone, or if anyone had his child circumcised he was put to death. In Jerusalem on the 15th of Chislev of the seleucid year 145, that is, in December B.C. 168, at the great altar of burnt-offering a pagan altar was built, and on 25th Chislev, for the first time, a sacrifice was offered upon it (1 Macc i. 54, 59; this is “the abomination that maketh desolate of which the book of Daniel speaks). This sacrifice according to the second book of Maccabees, was rendered to the Olympic Zeus, to whom the temple of Jerusalem has been dedicated. The Jews were also compelled to keep the Dionysiac festival, crowned with ivy, marching in procession as devotees of Bacchus”.

 Three years later at the same time we have the revolt and victory of the Maccabees which leads to the institution of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) that Jesus celebrated in John chapter ten. The purpose of all of this was to introduce and make normal the pagan practices of the Greek and Roman culture among the Jews. Fast forward to after the time of Jesus to that of Constantine and we see how and why the Church stepped away from her roots. The aforementioned quote is hard to read but it is the truth of that time and shows us why Constantine was able to do what he did.

Let’s look again at Romans 12:2 AMP “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and new attitude,…”

2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature all together); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the new and fresh has come!” Jeremiah 31:33 tells us that the new is the Torah being written on our hearts.

In light of the history we have discussed and the Scriptures we have read we can see that from the very beginning the enemy has desired to change the understanding and mindset of the Church. Amos prophesied that the tabernacle of David would be restored in the tabernacle there is no wall separating Jew and Gentile. Jesus came and took down the middle wall of partition and for centuries the enemy has built it back up and kept it in tact.

Jesus said the first commandment is to love God and the second to love our neighbors. The only way we can fulfill these commands is to know the Word and to teach it to our children. Our minds are not renewed by reading the Bible but by doing what it says. Over time in history everything that had been laid out by God was taken out of the Church. We quit celebrating the Feasts of the Lord, we quit honoring the Sabbath, our worship has become something it never was, we have by and large lost the biblical expression of dance. As we saw historically the desire to spread Greek and Roman culture in falling in line we have lost biblical expressions and holy days.

We need to renew our minds and recover the Hebraic way of thinking, The Scriptures lay out home life in a way that is lost in the Greek mindset. In Jesus day, the religious life was centered in the home not the Synagogue. The Mezuzah adorned the entrance of every home, the first thing you saw was the Word of God on the doorposts. In Deuteronomy 6:1-9 parents were instructed to teach the Word to their children to talk about it when they woke up, went to bed and when they ate. The Greek/Roman culture under Constantine made the newly built churches the center of religious life and banned meeting in the home.

As our minds are renewed in the Word we must recover a Hebraic view of God, standing in amazement of who God is. The Greek way of thinking launched the Church into theological debate which lead to the dark ages and the creation of countless denominations. Instead of trying to comprehend God’s vastness through our mere human intellect like Greek thinking has taught us, let’s once again embrace the majesty and mystery of God. Let’s put aside old church councils that outlawed the roots of the Church and once again embrace the root that we are connected to. The Jewish people also have an amazing reverence for the Scriptures. Something that is definitely lost in the theological books of Christianity. You can have a three volume theology that totals over 1,000 pages and only have twenty pages devoted to the Bible itself. The Synagogue was a school, everyone was taught and learned the Scripture. Each year the Jews celebrate Simhat Torah (Rejoice with the Torah) in this celebration the people of the congregation take the scrolls and dance around the sanctuary with them to joyful music. At age six Jewish children start daily study of the Torah in classes and by the time of bar mitzvah, most observant Jews are expected to have the Torah memorized and have a pretty good understanding of it.

Think about how far we the Church have come away from such respect of the Bible. Let’s say that we were to teach our children in this way and by time our sons and daughters turned thirteen we expected them to have memorized the four Gospels and Acts. Let’s say at age six we started daily taking them to another few hours of school before or after school to study the Bible. This is hard to imagine isn’t it? I can tell you that after reading on what a Jewish boy must accomplish before he can be bar mitzvahed I clearly don’t have the knowledge of the Word I should and that I want to have.

It is these types of things we, the Church, have lost in separating ourselves from our roots. I encourage all of us to take The Word of God more seriously than we do. We shouldn’t be letting our pastors study the Bible for us. A love for God should also mean a love for His Word. This week let’s continue the process of receiving what is being presented in this series. Father I ask that our hearts and minds would be open to seeing and reading the Word with a Hebraic understanding, as Scripture says we are new creations, help us go from a Greek and Western world mindset to a Hebraic understanding. Help us to read the Bible through the eyes of a Jewish Jesus. I ask that as we continue to go through this series you would break off old ways of thinking and renew us to our roots in the name of our Messiah, Yeshua we pray.

In the coming weeks we will look specifically at the Hebrew months and the Feasts of the Lord and how they relate to us as believers in Jesus. These posts will go in depth on how we think in a Jewish understanding, operating on God’s calendar and walking in and receiving the blessing from celebrating the Feasts that are found in the Torah, the five books of Moses.

I hope this series is being a blessing to you and along with this I will be posting on the Hebrew months as we enter them as well as doing other posts on the different feasts as we come to them. If you have a question or comment please leave it in the comments section. If I don’t have an answer I will tell you that I don’t know and hopefully I’ll be able to point you in the right direction. As we go through this series I encourage you to do some reading and studying of your own using the recommendations on the bookshelf page and using the resources available in the links.      

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A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ by Emil Schurer, Translated by John Macpherson; First Division, Volume I. pgs. 206-208.

Part 2: Seeing the Bible as One

bibleLast week we talked about the Jewishness of the New Testament, this week we are continuing the teaching on the Bible and talking about viewing it as one complete book and not two separate teachings with two different God’s. Many Christians see the Bible as God changing between Old and New Testament; going from anger to grace, from hate to love. Malachi 3:6, Jeremiah 4:28, Hebrews 7:21, 1 Samuel 15:29 and Psalm 89:35 are just a few Scriptures that speak of how God does not change.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 CJB “But you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, recalling the people from whom you learned it; (15) and recalling too how from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which can give you the wisdom that leads to deliverance through trusting in Yeshua the Messiah. (16) All scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; (17) thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.”

 I want to highlight a few things from these verses; we must be convinced of what we have learned, we are to recall those whom we have learned from, wisdom leads to deliverance through trust in Jesus and Scripture is valuable for multiple reasons and equips us to do good.

The truth does not set us free, the truth that we know and apply sets us free. When we look at the Bible we must remember that the Old Testament says of the New Testament in Jeremiah 31:27-40 that the New Covenant is the Old written on our hearts. In our Bibles there is a since page separating Malachi from Matthew, it’s a page that says New Testament. Our perception would be better served if we tore that page out. There may have been no prophetic utterances in-between the time but God was still on the move. It was during the inter-testament period that the celebration of Hanukkah was instituted, which Jesus celebrated in John chapter ten.

Jesus came to fulfill the sacrificial law and he carried forward the teaching of the Torah in His Sermon on the Mount. It is crucial to our understanding of Scripture to see it as one book that has one teaching and not two separate systems of following God. As we go throughout the rest of this series we will see the keys and values in the feasts of the Lord, walking in the understanding and timing of the Hebrew months, the blessing of the Sabbath rest, and the importance of the One New Man.

In order to progress forward we must renew our minds concerning God’s Word and as we began to see though they eyes of a Jewish Jesus last week, this week we must understand we are talking about Biblical Judaism, not following man made ordinances, that is the very thing Jesus had against some of the leaders of His day, that they taught man made rules as the law of God.

All things written in the TANAKH (The Torah, the writings, and the prophets) was given for our understanding and instruction. four hundred and eighty four passages from the Old Testament are repeated multiple times in the New Testament, this shows us the connectedness of the Testaments.

We are transformed by the renewing of our minds and many of us as believers in Jesus need to have our minds renewed in seeing the Bible as one book and not two separate accounts of the nature of God.

As Jeremiah prophesied, let us allow God to write His Word on our hearts, let’s apply it to our lives and let it renew our minds. As Jesus taught and instructed from the Old Testament, let us receive it in our hearts and lives.

I pray that as we continue to progress through this series our hearts will be open to seeing the beauty of the roots of the faith, that we would have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit has for us – the understanding and realization of the beauty and roots and the oneness of faith, the truth of knowing we are grafted in to the wonderful roots of Abraham.

Part 1: The Jewishness of the New Testament

jewish-jesusLast week I introduced a series on the Jewish roots of our faith, we will continue that series this week by talking about the Jewishness of the New Testament. The New Testament is founded on the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus). Jesus was not a Roman, He was a Jew, dressed like a Jew, taught and reiterated the teaching of the Torah to His followers. The only “sermon” Jesus ever gave was what we call the sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus reiterated the Ten Commandments.

To establish the Jewishness of the New Testament we must first find out the purpose of God for this new covenant. We find that purpose in Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – (32) “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them says the Lord. (33) but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.””

Law in this passage is the Torah which means teaching. As we looked at last week, we must distinguish between the teaching of God and the law of God found in the sacrificial system. Jesus came and fulfilled the sacrificial system but taught that the teaching of God is beautiful and should be followed. We can find legalism in both Judaism and Christianity. Any form of legalism and religion out of force and not love is gross to us and gross to God. Biblical Judaism, the Judaism that Jesus taught is beautiful and is for us. It is important to note that Jesus and His disciples were all Jewish, His audience was Jewish. We don’t even see Gentiles having an active role in the Church till Acts chapter  ten. Next week will look at seeing the Bible as one but for now we will establish the Jewishness of the new covenant.

Again going back to the sermon on the Mount, Jesus took each of the Ten Commandments and made them about the heart attitude and not action alone, this is what Jeremiah was speaking of when he said the Torah would be written on the hearts and in the minds of God’s people.

The New Testament must be a Jewish book based on Jesus being a Jewish rabbi, the books being written by Jews and Luke if he was not born into Judaism was a convert. Many scholars have said that Jesus only read a Greek Bible and spoke Greek so He really didn’t embrace Judaism, this is false, whether He read a Greek translation of the Bible or not does not negate the fact He was a Jewish rabbi and taught the Torah.

It is also important to note that as we read the New Testament we remember that Jesus and the disciples never broke an instruction of the Torah. When religious leaders got mad at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath or for the disciples plucking grain, or for eating with sinners, the only thing that happened was that Jesus violated a personal interpretation not the actual Torah.

Mark 2:27-28 NKJV “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (28) Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” It is interesting to note how many miracles were done on the Sabbath, I believe this is because Jesus wanted to show how much He cares as well as draw a connection point to God’s command of rest which came from love and the healing of the body.

When new wine and old wineskins are talked about in Scripture Jesus is making Judaism not about ritual but relationship. At the time of Jesus everyone was still relying on Priests to make sacrifices, Jesus was saying there is coming a time when it will no longer be about sacrificial ritual but open relationship with God.

Look at this prophecy in Amos 9:11-12 NKJV “On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which had fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up the ruins, and will rebuild it in the days of old; (12) That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the LORD who does this thing.” This is what Jesus did through the death and resurrection, He restored the tabernacle of David. In the tabernacle there was no middle wall separating Jew and Gentile. Jesus, the Jewish rabbi came to restore the unity of nations and bring back free access to God. This is why the veil in the temple was torn in half, this is why Paul said because Jesus our Passover lamb was sacrificed we celebrate the feast in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.

Paul was accused of forsaking the Torah and they both said he had not offended in one area; Acts 25:8 NKJV “while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended at anything at all.”   

No Jew forsook the Torah when they followed Messiah and Gentiles who were converted attended Synagogue and celebrated the feasts. This is not about legalism but receiving the beauty and blessing of Biblical Judaism in our lives, receiving the very things Jesus taught. For years all the early Church had was the Old Testament, it was their Bible. Even our New Testament contains 484 passages from the Old Testament cited a total of 695 times. Think of that. We wouldn’t even be able to have a New Testament without the first covenant and as Galatians says, we have been grafted in to the seed of Abraham, Romans tells us the root supports us we do not support the root.

The New Testament is thoroughly a Jewish book and next week we will look at how the Old and New Testaments are connected not separated. As we read the New testament let’s see the beauty of God’s teachings through its words. Let’s remember Jesus made it about the heart, let’s remember that is what the New Covenant is, not a doing away with the Torah, but the writing of it being placed upon our hearts and in our minds.

Introduction: Reclaiming What Was Lost & Stolen

eggThe tenth chapter of John tells us that the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy. One of the biggest ways the enemy has done that is rebuilding the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile.  Ephesians 2:14-16 NKJV “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, (15) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is the law of  commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (16) and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

Jesus did not come to start a new religion, He came to point the way back to God and create open access to Him. Jesus came to end the sacrificial system and uphold the teaching of the Torah. This is why when He gave what is known as the sermon on the Mountain He affirmed the Ten Commandments and brought it into the heart attitude, He didn’t do away with them.

Today, I am starting a series on the Jewish Roots of our faith. There is too much to get into to cover in one post, so if you have questions keep tracking with the series as we will cover different topics and go more in depth as we go on.

We know Jesus was Jewish and He came to fulfill the law but that doesn’t necessarily mean He came to do away with what we call the Old Testament. Both Old and New Testaments in the original language make distinction in teaching, law, and legalism. Our modern translations translate all three words as law. With this understanding we see as we approach Scripture Jesus came to do away with the sacrificial system, being a once and for all sacrifice. We will get more into this when we talk about Passover in a few weeks and He sent Holy Spirit to empower us to carry out the teachings of Scripture, we will get more into this when we talk about Pentecost.

What I want us to see this week is how the Church went from being one with Jewish people to being against them. Even after the Ascension of Jesus, for many years the Church stayed connected to its roots, the feasts were celebrated, even by Gentile converts, believers went from house to house and to Synagogue. In the midst of this, the early believers suffered major persecution for following the teachings Rabbi Yeshuah (Jesus).

Fast forward to A.D. 312 during the reign of Constantine. Constantine was a power hungry ruler and he could not gain control over these Jesus followers so Christian history has it that in the midst of battle Constantine saw a cross come from the sky, gave his life to Jesus and won the battle. There is a historical problem; the monument to that victory does not contain a cross. Constantine made a deal with the believers, I’ll make the persecution stop if you allow me to make some changes to the way ya’ll do things. This was the beginning of the end of the power in the Church.

The ridding of the Jewishness of the Church began with the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. If you have heard of the Nicene Creed, chances are you haven’t heard of the Council that proceeded it.  There were other Councils as well; Antioch, France, Toledo and others. These Councils outlawed celebrating the feasts of the Lord and called them Jewish feasts, instituted Easter to replace Passover and banned honoring the Sabbath. Anyone caught violating these Councils would be punished by death. Constantine kept his position as a Priest in Paganism and ruled the Church, he converted many Pagan temples to churches, thus the design of our churches today. He outlawed home meetings and changed worship style. Thus the Church early believers knew was no more. As time went on the divide got worse. When Martin Luther restore the understanding of justification by faith he also saw one new man in Romans and zealously tried converting Jews, when it did not work he became angry and filled with hate towards the Jews, and the divide between Christians and Jews continued to worsen.

There is too much history to go in depth on a single blog post, if you would like to read further I recommend Dr. Michael Browns book, Our Hands Are Stained With Blood. Paul said in Romans 11:18 that we don’t support the root, the root supports us. We have been grafted in to Israel. Galatians three tells us that those who believe are blessed with believing Abraham, Abraham the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus comes from the Tribe of Judah and is the lion of the tribe of Judah.

This series is not about legalism, Jesus was against a legalistic understanding of the teaching of Scripture. Jesus never offended one part of Torah, yet, some teachers of that day got mad at Him for healing on the Sabbath, it wasn’t a violation. As in that day, so it is in ours that people have taken the joyousness of the Torah and the Prophets and made them all legalism and have wrongly said they do not apply. Many say we are not under law but grace, this is a false understanding, we are not under legalism but Jesus carried forward the teaching of the Old Testament.

The phrases Old and New Testaments aren’t accurate, it is more accurate to say First and Renewed Covenant. Jeremiah wrote that a day was coming when the Torah would be written on the hearts, that’s what Jesus spoke of in Matthew five through seven.

As David said restore unto me the joy of salvation, that is the aim of this series; to restore the joy in reading and studying the entire bible, to understand and restore the joy of feasts and Shabbat, to understand and align with the blessing that comes in participating in God’s calendar of Firstfruits as well as laying the foundation to understand the Hebrew weapons of spiritual warfare.

In wrapping up this introduction, I bring us back to John 10:10 CJB “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure.”  The lie that the enemy has presented to the Church is that Sabbath rest is a burden, celebrating feasts is legalism. Think about it, how can God throwing a party be legalistic. There is no difference in legalism of Jesus’ day and that of ours. We need to shun all forms of legalism including the lie that the Torah which means teaching of God is legalistic.

My prayer for us is that as we go through this series a joyous fire is ignited in us to return to the roots of our faith and that we see these things for how God meant them and not what the enemy has turned them into. I pray that you will have eyes to see the joy as I began to see it in 2014, I pray you don’t have the blocks I did when this was first introduced to me in 2012. I encourage you to read Romans nine through eleven to help set a foundation for where we will be going in these next weeks. You can also check out the bookshelf that has a section of material on Jewish Roots. I pray this series will be a blessing to you, cause hunger to rise in you and that you would have a desire to start your own journey in this area. If you have questions as we go along, ask in the comments, let’s learn on this journey together.    

Believing for More in 2017!

dtProverbs 4:20-27 NKJV “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet , And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”

I posted back in October that 5777/2017 would be a year of awakening and miracles. In order for us to see that personally and in our churches we must be in the word. I am normally not a proponent of reading through the Bible in a year, I think most people can become to rushed and miss most of what they are reading but in 2017 I feel like I need to read through the Bible so I have decided to read through it chronologically.

Proverbs 4:20-21 in The Message says, “Dear friends, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!” We must fully give ourselves to the word in 2017; reading, listening, thinking and speaking it. The Pastor of the church I am a part of has declared 2017 a year of the word and anyone in our services can tell his excitement has been building for 2017! But whether you attend Harvest Christian Center or not, 2017 can be a year you fully immerse yourself in the word!

Proverbs goes on to say in The Message, “Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul they’re bursting with health.” 2017 is the 70th anniversary of the start of the healing revivals of the late 40’s into the mid 60’s. I believe this 70th anniversary year will see a revival of that movement to those who give themselves to the word on healing and live in the manner in which those revivalists lived. As Paul said follow the faith of those, so we should follow the faith of them that walked in healings and miracles.

Believe for BIG things in 2017! Believe for your greatest dreams to come to pass! As Proverbs four ends with talking about our words and being on the right path, purpose in your heart to speak faith and speak nothing contrary to the Word. Purpose in your heart even now, before January first that 2017 will be a year of the Word, it will be a year of victory and a year of more of God’s goodness than you have ever experienced before!

The Word In Our Words

mouthsProverbs 18:21 NIV “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit”.

Matthew 8:8 NIV “…But just say the word and my servant will be healed”.

Our words are powerful. Our words are so important James devotes the entire third chapter to the power of the tongue. The books of Psalms and Proverbs alone have twenty five plus verses dealing with the words we speak.

God created the world and everything in it except man with words. Jesus calmed the storm by speaking to it. Proverbs 6:2 NIV tells us “you have been trapped by what you have said, ensnared by the words of your mouth”.

The word ensnared is Strong’s #4334 meaning to be captured, seized, trapped, or taken prisoner. It’s clear to see that the words we speak are serious business.

Matthew 12:36-37 in the Wuest Expanded New Testament says, “Moreover, I am saying to you, Every word which men shall speak which has no legitimate work, which is inoperative and thus morally useless and unprofitable, they shall give an account of at the day of judgment, for by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned“.

The gravity of our words is astounding. When we speak death over our finances, I can’t afford that, I always have more month at the end of my money. When we speak death over our health; I get the flu every year, yeah such and such is going around and I always get what goes around. Instead of saying you always get what goes around, say, yeah that’s going right around me and I’m not catching it. When you start to develop symptoms speak the word. If your child is struggling with grades speak life into them don’t speak the bad grades they get. Pray they will retain what they study, tell them they can learn the subject they are struggling in.

Matthew 12:34-37 MSG “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

The words we speak are directly related to what we allow ourselves to think about. The saying goes garbage in, garbage out. If we allow ourselves to think negatively, if we feed on TV shows that aren’t uplifting, that are full of negative talk we will begin to speak those things.

Just like we choose what we watch we can and we must choose to speak words that line up with The Word. None of us became negative overnight. We didn’t learn to speak ill of our bodies overnight, and we won’t change our speech in a day. We must purpose to speak the word and we can only speak the word if we are in the word. If we aren’t reading our Bibles, reading good Christian books and not just the novels how are we going to get in the habit of speaking the word?  If you only hear one or two sermons a week how are you feeding your spirit man? Find some good Bible teaching to listen to on the way to work. DVR some broadcasts to come home and watch and not just four hours of all our favorite weeknight dramas.

Take the last two months of the year and make a quality decision, for the next 61 days I’m going to read a chapter a day, I’m going to listen to teaching as I drive to work, I’m going to DVR or watch online faith filled teaching. Do small things that help change your thinking, when your thinking begins to change your mouth will follow.

If we will do this consistently till the end of the year I can say I believe each of our attitudes and lives will be dramatically different and we will go into 2017 completely different people and next year will be a full year of nothing but speaking the word and seeing it produce results.

The bookshelf has resources to help change the way you think in different areas and help change the way you talk.

Finding Your Stream

streamThe body of Christ is large and diverse, as it should be. There are many different parts of the body, what I and others call streams and it is important to find which stream you are called to. It’s easy to see streams as denominations and that can be part of it but there is also the prophetic stream, word of faith, holiness, charismatic and many more.

The truth is there is overlap in many of these streams which I believe is purposed by God because there is much to Him and no one group has a corner on who He is.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20 NKJV “ For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.”

Now it goes on to say one part cannot say to the other part I don’t need you. This is where I have missed it in my own life. Over the years I have tried to be many different parts, I’ve tried to be in more than one stream. I grew up Pentecostal, found word of faith, charismatic reformed theology, back to word of faith, holiness, charismatic-Jewish roots and now I have finally found my place in the Church of God and in the word of faith stream.

While we all need each other I do believe we each have a place where we fit and when we try to be fully in more than one stream we cause confusion to our own function in the body.

My early Christian walk was founded in the teachings of Rod Parsley, Kenneth Copeland and Jerry Savelle. As I came across other streams I jumped in and swam around always finding my way back to word of faith. The word of faith stream is where my flow comes from. I’m not writing this to convince anyone that this is their place. I want each person to find where their gifts and callings best function, regardless of what stream that happens to be.

I agree with the prophetic and there is prophecy in the word of faith, yet, I am not called to the prophetic movement. My life message is healing and I fit specifically in the healing flow of the word of faith stream.

I wish I could put into words the freedom and fullness and honestly how settled I have become over the last two weeks in embracing my home.

Each of us have our place and when we find that place and quit jumping from stream to stream we can begin to fully walk in our calling and receive everything that God has for us.

I am grateful for everything I’ve learned on my journey but if I can help one person not take the same amount of time I did and find their place sooner that would make me very happy.

If you’re reading this and you have found yourself wondering throughout the Church trying to find your place, I encourage you to take some time and get still and quiet before God and ask what your call is and which place is yours. When you find it immerse yourself in it and walk in truth.

When it comes to recognizing your stream the only advice I could give is what message makes your heart come alive, what speakers truly stir your heart? That is the stream you are called to.

I learned much from other speakers, books and conferences but those never felt like home to me. I always felt more at home listening and reading Gloria Copeland, Jerry Savelle, Keith Moore and Bill Winston. When I asked the Lord a couple of weeks ago where I fit the answer was healing is your life message, Kenneth  Copeland and Oral Roberts are your mentors in that area and this lead me to the realization that the word of faith had been my home all along.

None of these other movements are wrong, neither are the speakers or books, it just wasn’t my place.

Exodus 23:20-25 AMP is a very interesting portion of scripture. “Behold, I am going to send an Angel before you to keep and guard you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Be on your guard before Him, listen to and obey His voice; do not be rebellious toward Him or provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgression, since My Name (authority) is in Him. 22 But if you will indeed listen to and truly obey His voice and do everything that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 When My Angel goes before you and brings you to [the land of] the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Canaanite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, I will reject them and completely destroy them. 24 You shall not bow down to worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do [anything] in accordance with their practices. You shall completely overthrow them and break down their [sacred] pillars and images [of pagan worship]. 25 You shall serve [only] the Lord your God, and He shall bless your bread and water. I will also remove sickness from among you.”

Yes, this passage is about Israel and it applies for us as well. The Lord will make sure each of us gets to the place He has prepared for us and as long as we obey instruction we will get there and nothing will be able to stop us. When we follow the instruction we will be blessed and sickness will be removed from our midst.

The enemy would like nothing better than to make sure we don’t find our place so that we cant walk in God’s plan for our life. I believe the reason why I have gone to so many other parts of the body is because the enemy wanted to lead me away from God’s plan and he knew the only way he could do that is by showing me other streams. When I embraced my place a couple weeks ago the enemy came against me in ways of intimidation he never has before but as believers we have victory over every attack!

I know now that I have fully accepted my place the plan of God can fully begin to take place in my life.

Could it be the reason many believers are not prospering is simply because we are not in the stream we are called to be in?

Find your place and receive everything God has for you. Find your place and watch the hindrances against you begin to fall so that you may fulfill your destiny.

5777/2017: Letting the Word Shift us into Awakening & Healing

5777 – Ayin Zayin: The Sword of the Lord

bibleandswordOn the Hebrew Calendar we are in a decade of seeing and revelation and a specific year of the sword of the Lord. Zayin is represented by the picture of a sword and has a numerical value of seven. When you put two sevens together that means shifting or movement.

While many are focusing and rightly so, about the movement of governments and particularly the elections in the United States we must also remember the sword is also a picture of the Word of God. I will allow others to focus on the governmental aspects of the year because the Lord is speaking to me concerning the shift, awakening and renewal coming to the Church.

While I was focused on the elections beginning in 2015 the Lord reminded me my call is not to focus on the political realm but the Church and seeing heaven come to earth.

The Hebrew year starts on Rosh Hashanah (October 3-4, 2016). As this year is marked by double sevens (5777) we need to pay close attention to how the Lord is leading us to shift and in what areas we need to move forward in. This being the year of the sword of the Lord we must remember that part of our armor, the Word of God. It is important to be in the Word, that is where our direction comes from.

Psalm 119:105 NKJV “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.

Joshua 1:7-8 NLT “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do”.

2017: The 70th Anniversary of the Start of the Healing Revival

Cover of The Voice of Healing Magazine - edited by Gordon Lindsay

Cover of The Voice of Healing Magazine – edited by Gordon Lindsay

While the Hebrew calendar is primary God also uses the one our year is based on and in Hebrew there is no word for coincidence. So it is not a coincidence that in the seventieth decade on God’s calendar we are celebrating the seventieth year anniversary of the start of the healing revival.

William Branham and Oral Roberts were the first on the scene in 1947 with healing crusades under big tents by 1950 you had other well known evangelists flowing in healings, miracles, signs and wonders; A. A. Allen, Jack Coe, Gordon Lindsey, Kathryn Kuhlman and others.

The signs and wonders movement ended in America the same year Roe V. Wade became law. As the Church has become serious about repentance in this area and not just made it political but has acknowledged the sin and repented on behalf of the nation through ministries like The Call, I believe this young generation of thirty and younger have opened ourselves us to walking in the flow of the healing revival again.

For any of us who will pursue the heart of God in 2017 and contend once more for The Voice of Healing we will see it in this 70th Anniversary year. I believe where they stopped is where we will pick it back up. While some of these ministries did not end well, we need to learn from their mistakes yet still pick up the torch they left.

Healing Race Relations in America

handsThe growing racial divide in this country will not be solved by our politicians but by pastors, churches and individual believers. There is no black church, white church, Hispanic church or any other kind of church. There is one Church, the Church Jesus is the cornerstone of.

In 2017 the Church needs to rise up. It doesn’t matter who becomes president or which party controls what, for too long Christians on both sides have been co-opted into believing the parties can fix these problems. The only thing that will fix race relations in America is the love of God and it must begin in the Church and flow out from us.

I am praying and believing that in 2017 America will see a supernatural healing of racial divisions, and that communities will come together and that the hash tags will end. Every life matters regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. Jesus died for everyone. That fact alone is the only thing that will bring healing to this nation and to the world.

Final Thoughts

I do not know what will happen politically or economically in 2017, in the end it does not need to concern us to the point that we forget we are Kingdom representatives on this earth and regardless of what goes on; good, bad or indifferent we have a mandate to make disciples of nations, bring heaven to earth, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and cast out devils.

That is the mission of the Church – That is where our focus needs to be. We need to be awakened to our commission, return to the word and bring healing to our land.

Living Your Passion

Blog notes on LaptopEach of us have something in life we are passionate about, something we can talk about 24/7. That is the thing God has called us to. While it may not be our full time job, that thing is most likely our Kingdom purpose. If you’re a sports fanatic, use that passion to coach or assist in a youth league. In that environment you can be a father figure to a kid who doesn’t have one and make a lasting impact on his/her life.  

Being a follower of Jesus and being a part of a local fellowship is not about us packing out our building but changing the lives of those in our community be getting involved or starting a food bank, helping out the schools without pushing our church. If we serve well those in the community will take notice.

Whatever your passion is, I want to challenge each one of us to ask God how we can use that passion for a Kingdom purpose. Too many times we over involve ourselves, become over committed, and do so much we really don’t accomplish anything. Each of us needs to find that ONE THING we are most passionate about and pursue it. There may be a couple of other areas you are passionate about as well but I believe you will find that everything else stems from that ONE THING.

Take some time today, this week, this month and ask God to help you discover your passion and show you how to live it for Kingdom purpose.

When you find that passion, get some books that will help equip you to live it out, start an outreach in your church or get involved with a community organization. When we live out our passion, we change our community and our world, one person at a time.

The Person of the Word

bibleOne of the most amazing Bible passages to me is John 1:1-5, 14. The Wuest Expanded Translation really puts things into a new perspective. “In the beginning the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the Father. And the Word as to his existence was absolute deity. This Word was in the beginning in fellowship with God the Father. All things through His intermediate agency came to being, and without  Him there came into being not even one thing which was come into existence. In Him life was existing. And this aforementioned life was the light of men. And the light in the darkness was constantly shining. And the darkness did not overwhelm it.”

Before we read verse fourteen, let’s look at Genesis 1:2, 3-5, 14-19 NKJV “…and darkness was on the face of the deep…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

Before there was ever sun, moon and stars there was light and the light was the pre-incarnate Jesus.

John 1:14 (Wuest) “And the Word, entering a new mode of existence, became flesh, and lived in a tent [His physical body] among us. And we gazed with attentive and careful regard and spiritual perception at His glory, a glory such as that of a uniquely-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

This just makes my brain go crazy, the bigness of our savior Jesus is amazing. Too many times when I pick up my Bible I treat it like a book and not the living person that the book is. When I sit down with my Bible I am actually sitting down with Jesus himself.

It is too easy to just mentally agree with the verses in John, we must do more than that. We must receive the reality of the person-hood of the Bible into our lives.

Many times we can pick up our Bible read and not receive anything from the reading. I believe that happens because much of the time we pick up a book and don’t enter a conversation with the person.

Scripture says Jesus was tempted in every manner we are yet did not sin, that tells me there is victory in the Word to defeat every temptation. Just reading Romans six helps us to develop a mindset of victory.

When he have difficulty getting in the Word we need to go to prayer and ask that the Person of the Word would come alive to us.

If we want to develop the love of the Word Psalms 119 talks about we must approach the Word as the Person of Jesus our savior, redeemer, healer, and teacher.

General Assembly 2016 #GOCOG

church of GodThe Church of God General Assembly kicks off next Tuesday and concludes on Friday. The Assembly meets every two years to discuss vision, progress, structure, and appoint leadership. This may sound boring but it’s not. It’s actually encouraging and necessary.

For those who aren’t part of the Church of God you’ll probably quit reading and wait for the next post. I get that, but if you’re looking for a church I highly recommend finding a Church of God in your area here.

The movement has a rich heritage and legacy in the Holy Spirit. Founded in 1886 by a Baptist minister named Richard Spurling who in 1884 began a journey through Scripture and Church history to find the roots of holiness and power lacking in the church of his day. In the early days of the church the doctrines and experiences of Sanctification, Spirit Baptism, and healing were rediscovered. The Church of God has been re-digging foundational wells ever since. Establishing churches, sending missionaries, and building schools are all part of the mission to make disciples and equip people to do the works of Jesus. If you would like to learn more about the history and teaching of the church you can visit the website or order Like A Mighty Army (the history of the church) and Church of God Distinctives. If you’ve heard of Perry Stone, Jentezen Franklin, or Judy Jacobs that will help give you an idea of what we’re like.

The thing I love about this particular member of the body is its foundation in Holy Spirit, its openness to God doing and moving in new ways and its passion to bring generations together. Paul said we are one body with many members. The body is Jesus, the arms, legs, fingers and toes are the Church of God, Baptists, Methodists and all other groups. We each need to find the tribe we connect with and some may glean from many, I know I do. I’m part of the Church of God but I have learned from books written by Baptists, Wesleyans, and more.

Getting back to General Assembly, looking at the schedule I believe this is a very important meeting considering what is going on in our world today. Tony Evans will be speaking on Urban Evangelism, Larry Stockstill is speaking on spiritual fathering, Ed Stetzer on Great Commission and culture, and more.

This is Dr. William’s last Assembly as General Overseer so there will be appointments of new leadership positions and I pray that those voting hear and are lead by Holy Spirit in decision making not only on leadership but resolutions as well.

I am excited that our theme for the next two years is GO. Some may wonder why a one word theme. I believe GO sums up what we are called to well. GO share love, GO heal the sick, GO provide comfort, GO change the world.

These next two years are full of great promise all over the world. I know it’s easy to look at the circumstances all over the world but we are told don’t look at the temporal, look at the eternal because the temporal is always subject to change. I believe we are a great change agent all over the globe, through our churches, schools, missionaries, home for children, and every believer wherever we may be. We are the change agent for our neighborhoods, our workplaces, cities, regions and nations.

I am praying not only for good business sessions and services, I am praying for a move of Holy Spirit at General Assembly that will propel us to GO be the change our world needs.

I won’t be in Nashville, but I’ll be watching, and you can too here.

Our future is bright! Praying for the new leaders that will be elected and for the Church as a whole as we continue advancing the Kingdom of God through the Church of God!

Healing America’s Divide

all lives matterMy heart breaks for this nation which seems to become more and more divided by the day. This has been a horrific week in America and all I can say is God, we need you. This is not about black versus white, this is not cop versus citizen, all lives matter.

The facts in the cases regarding two black men being shot are not fully known and an investigation is under way, yet that did not stop thugs from gunning down officers in Dallas last night. I honestly don’t know what to say. We need love and respect for each other in our nation again. We are so polarized with left and right we are tearing each other apart. I fear we are headed for another civil war.

I have a suggestion for us; if you are on the Christian right, read some books by those on the left. If you are on the Christian left read books by those on the right. We need to enlarge our circles. It’s no secret I’m a conservative but the truth is there will be liberals in Heaven. There are those on the left who love Jesus they just apply the teaching of loving your neighbor differently than I do.

There used to be a day in America where the left and right had the same principles but different methods, big government and smaller government. Nowadays it seems the chasm between the two is so big no one can get across.

Can we just agree that not every cop is bad, not every black is a suspect, and not every white is a racist?

Is there any common ground between us anymore? If we are in Christ the answer is yes. Can I tell you the answer for our nation is not Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or a third party. The answer for our nation is for the Church to be the Church.

The left and the right need to get back to the place of civility and understanding one another. We must call out all leaders who try to divide us by race, politics, or social class. It is crucial for us to listen to one another, not for the ability to argue but for the purpose of understanding.

I don’t believe that by listening to each other we will be converting each others politics but I do believe we will be able to find common ground. I don’t think any sensible person would want a cop who has done wrong to go free or for a black man who has done wrong to go free. I support any civilians right to stand trial and I also support the same for a cop who used his gun because he saw no alternative, in both cases, the law and courts should provide justice not vigilantes.

The Church in America right now needs to come together and get on our knees for our nation, for the upcoming election and for racial healing. In the upper room the disciples were in unity and the Holy Spirit came. In order for healing to come to our nation the Church must come together.

The ball is in our court. As much as I disagree with the left, I picked up some books today written by leaders of the Christian left, I will read, I will learn, my goal is to find common ground, I will pray for the healing of our nation and the unity of the Church.

Reflecting on #UnveilYC2016

YC16Last week I was privileged to serve as a dorm leader at the Texas Church of God youth camp. We’ve been back for a few days, I’ve caught up on my sleep and now I am going to share some things from camp as well as how to keep the camp fire burning.

First and Foremost I want to say thank you to Bishop Caleb and Hannah Crooms, Pastors Eric and Michelle Horton, all the camp staff, rec team, cafeteria team, worship team, the other dorm leaders, our speaker, Pastor Brent Christensen and all who helped make camp a success. You people are awesome.

The theme for camp was Unveil, God unveiling Himself to us and us unveiling ourselves to others. 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

There is a lot in that verse and it was unpacked for three nights. Thursday night was, (I think) the most powerful night of camp. Holy Spirit just began moving during praise and worship and many things were mentioned and youth received breakthrough, healing, chains coming off, bondage’s broken and so much more.

Thursday night in the dorm I was leading as we began our devotional time Holy Spirit just walked in in a very unusual way so we just sat with Him and followed directions as He gave them. A couple guys fell asleep as this was going on (what better way to go to sleep), others sat and watched, and a couple made comments and asked questions. The head dorm leader came in at lights out and asked us how the devotion went, I smiled and said it’s still going. It was truly a powerful night.

I would love to tell the stories but they are not mine to tell. I can say that seeing students be touched by God is a powerful thing and I was emotional all week watching this.

As many things that there are to reflect on; amazing worship and altar services, great word and Bible studies, fun during the day and of course what goes on in the dorm room stays in the dorm room. None of this matters if we don’t keep it going.

It is so easy to get close to God in a camp environment, it’s when you go home to various situations that you have to purposefully put in the effort to have more of God and His Word unveiled to you.   

We all know we need to read our Bible and pray, there is no magic formula to develop a passion for that. Many still have the fire from camp burning so here are my suggestions to keep growing. In the morning read a verse from Psalms and a verse from Ephesians and think on those verses during the day. At night before you go to bed read the verses again and ask Holy Spirit to reveal truth even as you sleep.

Prayer is simply talking to God. We talk to our friends throughout the day we need to do the same thing with God. We need to talk to Holy Spirit. The Bible says He is our teacher. In order to learn and know where we are going we need to talk to the one who has the directions.

Something we tend to forget during the week is worship. We know we’re going to worship on Sunday but if we worship during the week we will develop a closer relationship with God. If you’re not used to worshiping during the week it can be strange at first. Start off with a song each day and worship. The more you worship the more it will become a part of you. You will eventually make sure you have that time during your day, even if its laying in bed with your earphones in before you go to sleep. Worship is not clapping or raising your hands. Worship is an attitude of the heart, physical motion is just one expression. if you’re not familiar with worship songs or bands look up Jesus Culture and Hillsong United on YouTube.

I know the three things I mentioned are talked about all the time but they are essential to growing in our relationship with God.

My prayer for all those who go to camp this summer regardless of which one is that you will encounter God in a new way. I pray in Jesus name that what you get at camp you take home. That you are filled with a desire to read your Bible, pray, and worship. I come against discouragement in Jesus name and declare that each of us will continue to grow even when it gets hard. In Jesus name, Amen.

I want to say one more thing. If you went to the altar for something and feel like you didn’t get it, don’t be discouraged. many times we can’t see what God is up to. If you asked to receive Holy Spirit but didn’t receive tongues, don’t be discouraged. Holy Spirit is more than a prayer language and that will come when you need it.

At the end of the day, take the experience you had at camp and keep it going.

Teen Camp by the numbers:

Students: 336

Saved: 37

Restored: 240

Healed: 115

Baptized in the Holy Spirit: 81

Called into ministry: 83

Baptized in water: 64

 

Developing and Sustaining Joy

ESVPsalm 119:11 ESV “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart”.

Psalm 119:9-10 MSG “How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.”

If we are to find our joy In God we must make reading and studying the Bible a priority in our lives. The Bible is basically history, wisdom, and letters written from God to us. In order to know Him we need to be familiar with what He’s written to us.

The book of Psalms alone is full of such joy, not just in good times but it helps us learn to develop joy in negative situations. Philippians is a book all about joy and Paul wrote it from prison.

Real and lasting joy is not based in circumstance but relationship with God. The fifth chapter of Desiring God is all about how Scripture is the kindling of Joy. The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119 is all about Scripture itself.

God never promised us a life of ease, but He has promised us blessing. Yet even in the midst of blessings we can face things. How was Paul writing about joy in prison? He found His joy in relationship not circumstance.

James 1:2-4 AMP ” Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.”

Reading the Scripture chapter in Desiring God has reminded me again of the importance of time in the word. The Bible is not simply a tool to receive health or finances, life is life and the ups and downs happen to all of us and without being anchored in the Word of God, without knowing God is God we will never be able to sustain our joy even in the midst of hard times, just look at the life of Job.

Many times we wonder why our prayers aren’t answered, we make sure we use a verse. Maybe instead of using a verse or two in our prayers at times and in certain situations we should just pray the Word without our spin on it, without our desired outcome attached to it.

When we pray and sing the Word our attitude changes, our atmosphere changes. It’s the Word of God that changes us.

If you feel distant in your relationship with God, read through some of the Psalms, we see every emotion one could have, yet regardless of what was going on David always relied on God.

We can be like David, Job, and Paul. No matter what we are going through we can develop and sustain our joy through time in God’s Word.

“Normal Christian life is a repeated process of restoration and renewal. Our joy is not static. It fluctuates with real life. It is vulnerable to satan’s attacks”. “But the Holy Spirit has given us a sword called the Word of God for the defense of our joy”.  – John Piper, Desiring God

*click here for Bible study resources

Honoring the Past to Propel the Future

Photo courtesy of the Church of God Archives and Dixon Pentecostal Research Center

Photo courtesy of the Church of God Archives and Dixon Pentecostal Research Center

Last week I went to our state camp meeting but this post is not about that. Friday night when I got home the Lord began speaking to me (because apparently, sleep is not important). He said in order to move forward there must be honor for the past.

A few weeks ago I posted about one of my former Pastor’s who passed away. I wanted to honor him and how he impacted my life.

Dictionary.com defines honor as “high respect, public esteem, and the privilege of being associated with or receiving a favor from a respected group or organization”.

At times there can be tension between the past and present. There are some who want to hold on to the glory days and some who want to throw out anything associated with the past. Both positions are wrong and cause great harm to progress in the Church.

When we honor men and women who have led in the past, when we honor moves of God that puts us in position to stand on the shoulders of past outpourings. On the flip side, if we stay back in the 1950’s healing revival or the awesome period of any given denomination it will stunt all forward progress.

I believe we honor our past by knowing our history, learning both from victories and mistakes, and following the example of their faith. Paul said follow me as I follow Christ. Many leaders of the past kept journals or have biographies written about them. When we read these books I believe we can learn from how they walked.

We don’t honor the past by being a carbon copy, we honor those before us by applying what they taught in our day and moving forward in their vision.

Being part of the Church of God, the best way for me to help grow the movement is to be part of my local church, pray over events in my state and for our General Assembly. Each day I pray for my Pastors, state and national leaders. But if I really want to see the Church grow I need to understand where we came from, I need to know our history. Each generation builds on the previous, we don’t start over. We can’t build and move forward if we aren’t acquainted with our past.

It’s easy for the young generation to get frustrated with the older generation when things don’t seem to be moving forward. It’s easy for the older generation to be frustrated with the young people coming in because they feel like we want to change everything. The truth is both generations need each other. I can get frustarted at times but then Holy Spirit reminds me, those before me built the Church of God from nothing and that is a huge accomplishment. Men and women before me have seen mighty moves of God because they were willing to pay the price of ridicule and much more.

Let’s do our generation and the next generation a favor, get to know our past, honor the men and women before us. Honor what they have set in place. Us young guys need to get under good pastors and learn from them, seasoned pastors need to take young leaders and mentor them. This is how things continue to grow.

 

Getting acquainted with the past:

2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity by Eddie L. Hyatt

Theological Roots of Pentecostalism by Donald W. Dayton

Like A Mighty Army (History of the Church of God) by Charles W. Conn

 

Moving forward in the present:

Issues in Contemporary Pentecostalism (various contributors)

Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

Thoughts on Our Nation’s Culture

communityI’ve been thinking, praying, and reading different posts about what happened in Orlando. I’ve watched another gun control debate erupt. I’ve watched leaders ignore the Islamist extremist aspect of what happened, and I’ve seen so called Christians take this opportunity to say God did this because He doesn’t like gays.

First of all as a Christian I want to say that I am standing with the gay community. No one should be murdered for their sexual orientation. My prayers are with the family that lost loved ones and those injured for a speedy recovery.

In today’s society everyone responds to something immediately as it happens because the quicker you get it out there the quicker and more times you can get liked and shared.

I want to address more than the attack, I want to address our culture and nation as a whole. Many are angry at government and each other. Many of the reasons to be angry with leaders is justified, but I have to say as a whole I think we are losing our humanity, we are losing respect for fellow human beings. I will proudly stand with the gay community’s right to live the lifestyle they choose without fear of being beaten or murdered. I don’t have to agree with their lifestyle to support their safety.

Somewhere along the way many of us have bought into the lie that in order to be civil to one another we must agree, what page is that on?

We can look at the two major political parties and both of them are in turmoil and both of them are eating their own. I believe in large part this is due to lack of human decency in society and specifically a lack of love.

As followers of Jesus we are called to love everyone, regardless of if we agree with them or not.

John 13:34-35 ESV “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Mark 12:30-31 ESV “ And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

We need love for our fellow citizens back in our country again. We need mutual respect for those we disagree with again. Earlier this week the letter written by President George H. W. Bush to President Bill Clinton was released. It was a warm and respectful letter. The men had just fought on the campaign trail and Clinton won. These were the last words of that letter, “you are our President now  and I wish you and your family all the best”.

It’s time for us to love again. We may disagree with peoples politics, choices, religious beliefs or whatever, but we are called to love.

The hope for our nation is not President Trump or President Clinton, the hope of our nation is found in love and mutual respect for each other. The hope of our nation is found in God.

As heated as things are in this nation on every level, the election cycle is just magnifying what has been simmering for years, we need to take time to step back and love.

Love is the answer to restore our nation. Before things can be fixed politically, economically, or anything else, we must love each other.

It’s GO Day

Go dayToday, is GO Day – global outreach day. Today is a day we are encouraged to tell our story of what God has done for us to at least one person.

Do you remember the guy that Jesus cast the legions of demons out of? Jesus told him to go tell his story, the next time Jesus was in that region everyone had heard the story and many became Jesus followers.

So maybe your story isn’t that dramatic, maybe it is. It doesn’t matter how dynamic or seemingly boring our Jesus stories are, what matters is each one of us can relate to someone.

It’s easy to make sharing your faith into a formula. But instead of sharing our faith, let’s share a story, everyone can relate to a story, everyone can relate to feeling the love of God.

Today can be a new start for us, to share our story with one person, and who knows, maybe our story can mean a new start – a relationship with Jesus for someone else.

If you’ve never shared your story before you can visit itsgoday.com for tips on how to share your story. Even if the person you share with doesn’t respond in that moment you have planted a seed. Let them know about your church, if it’s a neighbor let this be the start of a friendship. Invite them over for a cookout start living Jesus in front of them and watch God’s love change their life.

I know I have some favorite Bible stories that really mean something to me. Our life may be the only Bible story someone hears. Jesus said go into all the world and share the good news. Our world starts with our neighborhood before it ever becomes world missions. Let’s save our neighborhoods one neighbor at a time.

 

MY STORY

I was raised in church and knew Jesus from an early age but for a long time it was all about performing for God and making sure I was better than the person next to me. There came a point when God told me He didn’t want me to keep a list of do’s and dont’s but He just wanted me to love myself and my neighbor. That’s what God wants for each of us. It’s not about keeping rules or one uping the next guy it’s about knowing God loves us, loving God and others. Jesus came so that we could know God’s love and live loving who He made us to be. Would you like to receive God’s love today?

Say, God I receive your love. Jesus I believe you love me and gave your life for me. I ask you to forgive my sin and be my savior.

Invite the person to church, friend them on Facebook, connect with them in some way. One paragraph is all your story takes and one sentence can begin a new chapter in their life. There is no magic formula and no set prayer someone has to pray. Just share your story and God’s love and see what God will do.

Moving Forward, Through Deliverance

deliveranceDeliverance as defined in the Webster’s 1828 dictionary means; release from captivity, slavery, oppression, or any restraint. To rescue from danger or evil. It also means to bring forth children and the act of giving or transferring from one to another.

John 8:31-36 NIV “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

The Church leaders of Jesus’ day were always getting mad about something he was teaching or doing and for the most part that is still true today. This is why in order for the body to move forward we must be delivered from old mindsets and old ways of doing things.

John 8:37-47 NIV “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Those of us who follow Jesus need to check ourselves on a regular basis to make sure we are following the example of how disciples followed Jesus and not the example of how the Church leaders rejected everything He was doing.

In order to move forward, the first thing we must do is continually develop in God’s way of thinking and doing. Jesus told the story of the old wineskin bursting because of new wine. God is doing a new thing, yet many of us are trying to move in the same way our parents and grandparents moved. While we honor what God did in the past we must recognize God is always moving us forward and He’s doing that in new ways.

Secondly, we must get on God’s calendar and in His timing. We have talked about this before and we will review here. Constantine took from the Church it’s Jewish roots and from that we entered the dark ages of the power of God being absent from the Church.

Jesus told the religious leaders they had a form of godliness but denied the power. We, even in the Pentecostal and charismatic have denied parts of God’s power. To restore that power we must be restored to the Jewish roots of our faith. (See Romans 11).

We must be willing to submit to God’s process. We have to be willing to let go of our traditions, doctrines, our old wineskins in order to move forward.

James says, submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee. Too many of us try resisting the devil without being submitted to God. There is an order in which we must follow in order to move forward.

Right now submit to God. Ask Holy Spirit to show you what places you are out of step with God’s plan and God’s time. Repent of those areas, cast out the enemy and ask Holy Spirit to cleanse you and renew your mind.

Get into the Word and renew your mind and allow Holy Spirit to dismantle any old wineskin you have functioned in.

We move forward on step at a time. Take a step, then take another.

The Kingdom of God

Jesus todayHow should we picture the Kingdom of God? Or by what story shall we present it?

Interesting question isn’t it? It’s one Jesus asked His disciples.

I think an answer to that is eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Yes, I know today we have certain things in place that help us stay on the path of our walk. At times I wonder though, if our path keeps us from the very people we are to reach.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “guard your witness’? It’s a phrase to admonish us not to be seen near a liquor store, never offer to hold someone’s beer, don’t offer anyone a light.

If I were to be talking to someone at Starbucks about Jesus and they said they were getting hungry and asked me to go eat at the Drunken Donkey, should I say no because it “ruins my witness”? Or would it actually ruin my witness to say no to someone I was sharing the love of Jesus with?

The Pharisees took the teaching of the Torah and added a bunch of stuff to it. It was all the “bunch of stuff” Jesus and His disciples were always accused of breaking. “Why don’t you follow the tradition of the elders?” This is my paraphrase here, “Because tradition isn’t Torah”.

I’m all about living a holy life because Scripture tells me to but as I read Mark’s gospel the other day I began to see that Jesus did things way different than we do today. For one thing there is the eating with sinners thing. We can be so concerned with ruining our witness that we actually have no witness.

Jesus was moved with compassion and healed people. Often times we are moved to judgment to condemn people. Jesus walked in love and those of us who are Jesus followers should walk the same way.

Every time Jesus preached he followed up His message with a time of healing people and casting out demons. When was the last time we saw that in a church service?

It’s time that as Jesus followers we become more focused on His Kingdom and not our denomination. We need unity not infighting. I read so many articles about the church in America being in decline could it be because we are not Kingdom focused? Could it be because we’ve given up a gospel of power for a gospel of intellectual doctrine?

As Followers of Jesus I challenge each of us to spend regular time reading the gospels. I think it will change the way we do and see church.