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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sustainability

Sustainability... I was thinking today about sustainability. What if we, the church, had kept all the ground in the world that we had once claimed for the Kingdom of God? Great Britain, for example, was once well evangelized but now has become what is called a ‘post Christian’ society. It needs to be evangelized again, but now has become somewhat resistant to the gospel. What if we had held the ground we had gained?  The answer is the whole world would likely have been evangelized by now.

What if we had sustained the great moves of God through the years past? Revivals have broken out numerous times through the history of the church but only lasted for a relatively short period of time, usually they only covered a specific region, and then they fizzled out. A few of those revivals were so powerful that whole nations were changed! Now though, here we are in the 21st century. We are in a time when the church in much of the world seems to have lost its fire for God. This is especially true of the American Church. We are lukewarm and with the exception of the occasional flame in one place or the other, it seems the church is growing colder and colder. What if the church could have sustained those great moves of God from the past?  Again, the answer is that our assignment would likely be accomplished by now.

Some would say that only God can sustain a move of God.  I understand that sentiment, but I disagree based on my observations of the Word of God. I personally believe that every move of God in this Earth comes solely because of a great hunger in God’s children which causes them to pursue Him.  In turn, our pursuit brings His nearness.  I believe God is ALWAYS willing to pour out His Spirit upon us.  Look at these scriptures to see His willingness… If WE seek Him with our whole heart we will find Him (See Jer. 29:13). “Draw near to me, and I’ll draw near to you” (James 4:8).  Acts 2:17 even tells us “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh…”  If God is willing to pour His Spirit on us if we seek Him, then He clearly must also be willing that we see a sustained move of His Spirit.  He didn’t call us to win this world for Him, to only lose ground once again to Satan.

Here is an observation that parallels with this type thinking. Pay close attention: “IF it was God’s job to sustain His movement in the Earth, it would be sustained. If it was God’s job to hold the ground that has been taken for the Kingdom of God, it would be held.”  God never fails at anything. I clearly see it as our job to create an atmosphere of sustainability. Here are a few another scriptures to support my view that WE are responsible for the sustaining of God’s work.  Matthew 5:13a tells us,  “You are the salt of the earth…”. (Salt preserves.)  Hebrews 10:13 (NASB) says that Jesus was seated at the right hand of God and He is “waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.” The KJV tells us He’s “expecting till His enemies be made His footstool”.  Also, we’re told in the parable of the Minas (Luke 19:13) that a Nobleman (Jesus) gave to his servants and told them to “occupy” until I come.  The word ‘occupy’ is a military term which speaks of holding the land!

It’s our job, church, to seek God and thus birth the move that He desires to bring to our city and our world.  It’s also our job to prepare for that move, so that we might sustain it.  So how do we sustain a move of God? It takes prayer, fasting, study of the word, spiritual warfare, evangelism, worship and the list goes on… but I can condense the description of what it will take to one word.  Sustainability in the Kingdom of God requires “discipleship”.  We can have a revival that shakes our region, but if people aren’t discipled to carry on the work properly, it will be short lived. 

Let me ask you two questions. “Are you willing to do your part to welcome and sustain a move of God?” “Will you be discipled, and then help to disciple others so that we might pass the torch to the next generation of Christian and see sustainability in the Kingdom?”  Count the cost, but if so please get to work! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Missing Link in Modern Christianity...

I have been in a time of extreme pursuit, for clarity of God’s plan for our church, Abundant Life Tabernacle, Mansfield, Ohio. I have prayed, searched the Word and looked deep within my heart to see what God was saying and what I was missing, or even resisting. I feel like I have heard some things.  Some of them are hard to accept and some are pleasant.  I am about to share many of these things during the next few Sundays (from the time of this writing), but you may or may not have heard the crux of them by the time of this printing so I want to share a few things here.  What I am sharing today deals with Discipleship.

One of the missing elements of the modern church, Christianity’s missing link if you will, is a real focus on discipleship.  It's been lost as a focus it seems, for more than 100 years. Remnants remained until about 40 to 50 years ago, but those have mostly been lost now as well.  Sure, we do some discipleship naturally because of relationships that form within the Body, and that’s great!  Discipleship should happen naturally. But in large, it seems to me that it has been missing from the majority of the Body of Christ for a very long time. 

Biblical Discipleship has been so ignored in the modern Church that few even know what it is now.  I recently saw a study that was done by the Barna Group and published by the Navigators.  In the study, a host of things were explored but the question was also asked, “What is discipleship?” The researchers found that it was unclear, to much of the church, what a good definition of Discipleship is.  Many disagreed upon the particulars, as we Christians so often do.  It was found that most in the church didn’t particularly like the term either, preferring “Becoming Christ-like” or “Spiritual Growth” to the term “Discipleship.”  And that’s okay, these are valuable terms, and the Bible doesn’t particularly use the term “Disipleship”. Still these terms fall somewhat short of the biblical idea of a disciple. Furthermore, the ‘principle of Discipleship’ is clearly biblical whether the exact term is found or not.  Jesus called followers to himself and then told them that if they were not willing to forsake everything, they were unfit to be disciples. Certainly, He’s still looking for people who will put Him above all else! So, what is discipleship?

I’ve done my own inquiry into the subject and I’ve found that ‘it seems’ that Abundant Life has a little better understanding on the subject than most, but then again the Barna Study said that pastors often think that (lol).  Our experience in understanding Discipleship, in general, has been that most people have understood it from the perspective of a weekly Bible Class, or a short term class on Christianity; the art of being Christian, if you will.  Another very good thing, yet it falls short. Some will say that discipleship relates to progress in their own spiritual growth.  Progress in spiritual growth is always a wonderful thing for a Christian, but it’s about half of what is Biblical Discipleship. Many people feel that discipleship is the same as evangelism; preaching and winning the lost to Christ.  It can certainly be argued that it falls within the same category, but I don’t think they are the same.  Discipleship is for already-believers of the Good News, while evangelism is to reach not-yet-believers with the Good News.

So what is discipleship? The study I’ve mentioned has said that from the results, “it’s unclear”.  However, I think Jesus made it very clear. He exampled it boldly with His life and then He told His followers to go make other disciples (Matt. 28:19a), “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”(Matthew 28:20a).  Jesus took twelve believers into a relationship with Him. He spent time with them.  He ate with them.  They did life together!  He lived His life pointing consistently toward the Father.  He corrected them, when they were wrong.  He applauded them when they did well.  He held them accountable and He taught them everything He could possibly teach them in the time they had together.  He doubtless felt sorrow when Peter denied Him and I’m sure felt sadness when Judas betrayed Him, but He didn’t reject the remaining disciples.  He kept on loving.  He kept on pouring into them and He believed that they would accomplish even greater things than He had accomplished in ministry (John 14:11-13).  Jesus lived it, He taught it, and that’s what discipleship looks like.


So, discipleship is not just about my OWN spiritual growth or just about ME becoming Christ-like. It’s ALSO about helping others do the same.  There is a ‘revival’ of discipleship beginning to happen in the world. I am excited to see it!  I believe that God is taking His church back to basics in many areas and again I’m glad to see it!  There is also a new movement of discipleship about to happen here at ALT, and I’m thrilled.  I am fully in favor of the disappearance of the 'missing link in modern Christianity', or I could say I'm excited for the return of biblical discipleship.  Why am I so excited?  Discipleship properly links members of the Body to one another, it links our past to our future, and it's a return of biblical doctrine to the modern church.  I think we are going there!  (Stay tuned…)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Seasons are changing! Harvest is coming!

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” –John 4:35 (KJV)

We’re probably all relatively familiar with this scripture.  Jesus had just ministered to the woman at the well and she had just left her water pot, and had gone running to tell others about Him.  His disciples were perplexed. First, they didn’t think He should be talking to a Samaritan.  Secondly, they were sure He shouldn’t be talking to a woman, and certainly not this one with such a reputation.  And thirdly, they thought that He should be hungry, but He had made a statement that they didn’t understand about having “meat to eat” that they didn’t know about.

Jesus is often very perplexing, even today.  He doesn’t see things as we sometimes do, through the eyes of doubt, fear, unforgiveness, prejudice, racism, sexism, carnality, or any of these other human discriminating traits that we so often struggle with.  He has the ability to see things from the Father’s perspective.  Of course He does!  He is God after all, even though He was in human flesh.  Yet, His way of seeing things is very hard to comprehend from our perspective.

When Jesus spoke this sentence above to His disciples.  I suppose it must have been in late winter or early spring of the year in His region, nearly planting time.  I say this because He specifically mentions four months until harvest season.  He told His disciples not to say there was “yet four months… then cometh harvest.”  

Related imageThe disciples were ‘stuck’, seeing things through human eyes.  While Jesus saw things from the divine perspective.  Men cannot make the harvest come at planting season.  It’s even somewhat hard to even imagine it.  For us in Northern Ohio, it would be like expecting a crop of corn or beans to mature in May.  It is not going to happen in the natural.

Jesus, however, knew some things that the disciples didn’t.  He knew that God’s timetable isn’t like our own.  He knew that ‘spiritual seasons’, can change instantly! You can be in mid-winter, and one breath of God can change the season to harvest!  He, also knew that seeds which had been sown by others before, were ready to spring forth. They were only waiting for a catalyst to bring forth the harvest, He was that catalyst!


Let me urge you all, stop looking through eyes that are dimmed by carnal prejudices and limited earthly expectations.  Begin to see things as God sees them!  Listen to what He is saying.  Even if it perplexes you because it isn’t what you imagined, trust HIM! Jesus is the catalyst! Seasons are changing! Harvest is coming!  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Stand Up Christian!!

In just a few days America will elect a new president.  We’ve heard all the rhetoric.  We’ve watched the mudslinging.  We’ve identified many lies and we have seen great flaws in both major party candidates.  We’ve heard apologies, and we’ve seen cover-ups.  We’ve considered options, and by now most of us have made our final decision on our part in this election.  Hopefully, as Christians we’ve weighed each option with prayer, as it relates to God’s values revealed in His word and not just by our hopes, aspirations, prejudices or party affiliations.  It’s sad that we have no better option, yet we have to make a choice and we still need to let our voices be heard.

As US citizens we have the great honor of participating in the election of our leaders.  We live in a Republic, a system of government which allows the people to elect representatives to exercise power for them. We choose, as a nation, persons who best represent our ideology of what moving onward looks like.  We choose a president according to the majority’s values.  That president in turn chooses Supreme Court Justices according to his or her values, who will then each serve for perhaps a whole generation.  We watch, we listen, we learn and then make our decisions as best possible, based on what we perceive is the best course for our country.  Every American citizen has that right and it’s a heavy responsibility, but again it’s a great honor.

Is it an obligation for a Christian to vote though? No, it isn’t an obligation but it’s your right as well as anyone’s. Please understand though that the Christian MUST NOT be silent right now.  I urge you to vote.  Too much is at stake.  If you are quiet, you allow people with lower values to choose our national direction. Our nation needs your voice, your wisdom, your godly values, perhaps more now than ever before in its history.  We are salt and light in our society!  Sure, the ungodly desire that we be quiet, that we keep our voices contained within the four walls of the churches.  Just as the disciples were instructed in Acts 5 not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus, so we are challenged to keep separate ‘church and state’.  Just as the disciples of that day rose up and spoke boldly anyway, so must we!

The truth is, that for the Christian there is no separation of anything from our relationship with Christ, including politics or policy.  He is at the center of all we are… He defines who we are!  We cannot separate our Christian faith from our vote, that would be hypocritical.  Neither do they which cry out for us to be silent, separate their ‘religion’ of secular humanism from their voice! 

So we must stand up in defiance of the ungodliness that tries to take our nation toward the wrong ideologies!  Stand up church!  Stand against the spirit of division in this nation, standing up for our brothers or sisters in Christ whoever they are!  Rise up as people of God!  As Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”  Stand AGAINST the ungodliness of abortion!  Stand FOR the sanctity of marriage as God ordained it!  Stand AGANIST the stripping of our rights as Christians to free speech and the freedom of religion which we have inherited from our forefathers.  Stand for our right to preaching THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD unrestrained. Stand for God’s values!  Stand for truth!  Reject the pressure of the world to cave, and keep quiet!  Stand now, or else we’ll soon be standing illegally to preach truth.

The law might hinder me as a pastor from giving you a candidate’s name to vote for, I don’t desire to do that anyway, but it cannot keep me from pointing to the Word of God as our ultimate voter’s guide.  Stand up and be counted Child of God!  Be the salt and light you are called to be!  Vote!  Vote for those who have promised to uphold the principles of God.  Vote according to the Word of God! Let your voice be heard in the Earth and in our nation.  

P.s.  Is there something more important than my vote as an American Christian at this time in history? As important as your vote is in this election, yes!  I believe the prayer of God’s people is even more important.  Again, don’t be silent here either!  Let your voice not only be heard in the Earth, but also in heaven and before the throne of God.  Now is no time to be cowardly and quiet… Ask God for great things and put actions to your faith!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Priorities
Jerry R. Laudermilk
We all struggle with keeping our priorities in line. And we all get them out of alignment from time to time. That’s why we need to check often to see where our priorities really are.

I watched a short video once of a mother duck trying to get all of her ducklings up a set of stairs. She had a course set, and no doubt a destination in mind, but this obstacle had become a real issue for the ducklings. You know how baby ducks follow their mother, usually all in a row, but in this video she was having a terrible time keeping them all in alignment because of these steps which seemed almost insurmountable.

In this video, there were probably 12 ducklings and three to four steps.  She had no problem navigating the steps of course, but the tiny ducklings had a terrible difficulty in following her. Most of the time, she stood patiently at the top of the stairs waiting for them to each make the climb. Yet while she waited for the last ones to navigate the obstacle, a few of the stronger ducklings became impatient and would try to go ahead even though they had no idea where they were going. So Momma would go a certain distance from the steps as if to gather the wayward impatient ones, then return to wait for the ones still struggling. The ducklings that were first up the stairs, though growing impatient, would always return with her and to wait.  Once all of the ducklings were safely at the top of the steps she continued on her journey, as the ducklings realigned themselves in to a neat little line.

There are obstacles in our lives like those steps, and a line of priorities which we often struggle to maintain. Some obstacles seem insurmountable, others are only a slight difficulty. Yet though we might navigate them okay, the obstacles we encounter have a tendency to mess up our priorities. The ‘stronger’ things will often try to take the lead, even though they may not necessarily be the most important at the time, and we must corral them back into place.  Other things might seem ‘weaker’ and cause a delay in our plans or lives, and we have to slow or even stop and regroup... because they are important to us.   

The thing is, when we take care to not allow the pressing things to distract us from the most needed things, our priorities have a way of realigning themselves properly. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Seek first the kingdom of God, even if things like finding time on your knees seem to delay you. Reign-in those things that seem so pressing but don’t really even have a clue to the course already set in your life. Priorities will try to get out of alignment if you don’t pay careful attention, but with intentional care you will get your ducks in a row.


(I looked, and you can find that video on YouTube by searching, “Ducklings vs. Stairs” or by going to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHy6bBKu0j4)


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Your Vote Really Matters Christian, But Pray First!

We’re still several months away from the national election here in the US, yet things are getting very heated on the political arena.  As I write this, the Democratic National Convention is well under way in Philadelphia, and the Republican National Convention just finished last week in Cleveland. By the time you read this, who knows what craziness will have happened in what so many people are calling a political “circus.”

There are a few things I’d like to go on record as having said now, that way no one has any questions of where I stand.  I don’t believe either political party has the answers.  I think they both offer very few answers actually. I don’t agree with either candidate fully.  I actually fully disagree with both candidates on a number of things.  I don’t like certain things that have been said, even by the candidate that I intend to vote for.  (Yes, I do have a personal choice for the presidency… and as a pastor I cannot endorse a candidate, but as an individual I can tell you who I am voting for if you ask.)  I believe both parties have adopted slogans that are somewhat deceptive.  No one can ‘make America great again’ but God, and the nation will certainly NOT be ‘stronger together’ going in an ungodly direction. Until we first realize that we are ‘one nation under God’, and submit ourselves to His Lordship, we are in great trouble.

However, I also want to state that I’m not looking for a savior.  I already have one.  I don’t expect either candidate to save me, or save America.  I am just looking for the candidate that best represents my Christian values.  I don’t expect either of them to have a perfect biblical platform.  Men and women are flawed.  If Jesus were on the ballot, I’d vote for Him.  But He’s not.  His is a Heavenly Kingdom, yet I feel that I must do my part to stop the moral decay of society and my vote will be based in that.    

As far as the current political issues, that are ‘specifically affecting Christians’, I would say the following issues that are most important to me in this election include:
The Sanctity Of Human Life (Including but not limited to the unborn.)  You might not realize it, but we are winning ground in the area of the value of human life, but that can lapse overnight with the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who do not fear God.  Considering the ages of current justices serving, the next president will possibly appoint as many as six!  They serve for life.  This may be our most important issue to consider!  
Freedom of Religion/Freedom of Speech (Which believe it or not, are ‘very seriously at stake’ because the current LGBT agenda is stripping away the rights of Christians as it gains momentum – both agendas cannot fully have their liberties when they are so diametrically opposed.)  While I do not hate homosexuals, transgenders, or others, I believe the agenda they are promoting will finally strip Christianity of its voice in America if left unchecked.  We may soon not be allowed to speak against sin, or the need for a savior because our views seem offensive to this group.  So, maybe this issue is most important.

Other issues that may not be directly connected to my faith in Christ, but are still very important to me are:  Immigration/Refugees (We are a sovereign nation, we need borders along with strict rules on refugees who might intentionally seek bring danger into our country.)  Health Care (I, not my government, should choose what doctor I can see.)  Finally, Gun Control/Gun Rights, (According to the US Constitution it’s my right to own a gun to protect my family.  I don’t want to lose this freedom.  I love my family enough to protect them with my own life.  If this is stipped from us, the old adage is true that “Only criminals will have guns.”  But perhaps that means many Christians would become the criminals, because I’m uncertain we’d all give them up.  

A few other issues very important to me are: Racism (I hate HATE!!), funding of Planned Parenthood, Same-Sex Marriage, Electoral Issues (Showing ID to vote)…  The list goes on.


Consider your choice very carefully.  A vote for the wrong person - the wrong agenda, or even not casting your vote for a person who can make a difference on these important issues… might relegate the America we all love, into the pages of history.  Please pray for our nation (2 Chron. 7:14).  Also pray for wisdom before you choose a candidate.  And if you are a Christian (Own up to your obligation!) vote for a candidate that is the strongest on Biblical Principals and that also has a chance at winning. Don’t look to these people as saviors, but certainly look at them as a means to an end.  Don’t waste your vote.  We need to get this right.  We are likely at the point that we will have no second chance in America.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Powerful and Precious



The promises of God are powerful and precious.
They speak generally, to ALL of us at once.
They speak directly to each of us.
They have deep personal meaning.
They give us hope of eternal life!
They reassure us in doubt, worry, and frustration.
They comfort us in times of trouble.
The remind us of God's feelings toward us; His love, His compassion, His tender mercies.
They empower us to win in spiritual battle!
They correct us when we are off track.
They help us to become better than we are without them.
They thrill us with the awe of God's greatness.
They remind us of our frailty and our need for Him.
They make us anxious for home.
They give us hope to face each day, no matter what may come our way.
They sustain us in drought.
The revive us when faint, like fresh cool water.
They tell us His will for our lives, our health, our future.
They reassure us of life abundantly in Christ.
They tell us good news, in a world of that desperately needs good news!
They give us something to reach for.
They give us joy for our journey.
They give substance to our faith.
The promises of God are powerful and precious.