30 August 2016

Ask Largely

(Psalm 2:8)  It was the year of 1978, and I was a young evangelist preaching for Rev. L.L. Collins at the Highway of Holiness church in Hamilton, Ohio.  I had just finished preaching and praying with the people when I knelt to pray and was enveloped by a spirit of intercession from the Holy Spirit.  I began weeping and pouring my heart out with tears crying over and over again, “Give me nations for Christ.”  In my natural mind I was thinking, “How in the world could this ever be possible?”  But I knew this was an experience from God.

That was the beginning of a wonderful journey of faith which in 1979 took my family and me to Hamilton as pastors of Hamilton Christian Center.  Because of the missionary program of that great church, we met missionaries from around the world. Hamilton Christian Center literally opened the door for me to travel the world as I have done countless times.  That time in prayer is still very real to me even though it happened thirty-eight years ago.  God birthed in me a holy passion to impact our world for Christ.

Too much of our prayer is spent on trivia.  I understand that God cares about the smallest details of our lives and He delights to give us little special gifts showing how much He cares for us.  Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  The problem isn’t that we BEGIN by praying too small; our problem is we FINISH by praying too small.  We should learn to become instruments of righteousness and allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through us for impossible dreams.  We should become a vessel the Holy Spirit can use to fulfill His purposes in the earth.

The reason my thoughts have returned to this moment of prayer is that last month God gave my family and I the opportunity to impact a nation for Christ.  We have begun the translation process of the Foundation Truth book into the three main languages of South Sudan through a partnership with Pastor Don Sims and the City of Hope Church in Manchester, Kentucky and Henry Winn, a church planter in Uganda.  With God’s help we are going to impact the new Christians of that nation by discipling them through these three new translations of Foundation Truth.  Through our church planting partners we are touching a nation for Christ. 

It has taken almost forty years but God has opened a tremendous door of opportunity for us to make a difference in our world.  “Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  (Hebrew 6:12)  Believe God for impossible dreams and if the dream is according to His will and purpose, God will bring it to pass.  There is nothing too hard for God to do! 

26 April 2016

When Heaven Kisses Earth

I have just returned from a significant trip to a distant place and witnessed first-hand a wonderful supernatural manifestation among a group of refugees.  It has changed me.  My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord, and my life will never be the same.  I have not sensed such a powerful presence of Jesus in a church conference in a long time. Here are some of the things I learned.

First, this group of people was not seeking God.  They were not seeking revival. God found them in the midst of dire circumstances, and when they turned to God because of their desperate situation, it brought them severe persecution.  Because of their new found faith in Christ, (the majority of them have been Christians ten years or less,) they lost everything: family, possessions, and positions.  These young people (most of them were in their twenties) were driven out of their country with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their new faith in God.  In losing it all, they have found everything in Christ.

Second, their pure passion and love for Christ is contagious.  It’s been a long time since I have seen such pure worship from the heart.  They do not have many of the props we use in our western churches to enhance our worship experience; they have no special lights and electronic effects.  Even though their musical instruments were basic, but the worship was incredible, and they never wanted to stop.  They worshiped like slaves who have been set free.  They have found a new love in Jesus which is everything to them.  Most of them have spent some time in prison because of their faith, but instead of dampening their enthusiasm, it only seems to have purified it.  They love to worship!

Third, their love for the Word of God was overwhelming.  They sat in rapt attention hanging on every word of the message.  As the first Christians in their families, they were hearing things they’d never learned and simply couldn’t get enough. They never wanted me to stop speaking.  When given the opportunity, they would bombard me with questions.  It was one question after another, and they were good questions.  Because they were so young, (I had the only white hair in the room.) they seemed to feel that I knew the answer to everything and this might be their last opportunity to ask me.  How refreshing!  It’s easy to teach hungry people.

Fourth, their response to the Word of God was awesome.  (I apologize for using such big adjectives. It seems like I’m exaggerating, but the truth is there are no words to describe what I experienced.  It was a God moment, heaven had kissed earth and we got caught in between!)  When I would finish teaching and give them an opportunity to pray; pray they did.  They were not loud and boisterous; in fact, the majority of them prayed quietly, but tearfully.  I saw a lot of tears.  The thing which struck me the deepest was the way each one seemed to take the Word of God so seriously for themselves.  They took what they’d heard to heart and asked God to make it a part of their lives.

Fifth, because they have escaped from a nation which violently opposes Christianity, they believe they have religious freedom in the country where they reside as refugees.  It was comical to witness the difference between the refugees and the native Christians. The native believers of this country live under constant pressure from a non-Christian government. But, because of the negative experiences they’d experienced in their home country, these refugees think what they have is freedom.  This makes them very bold in their witness to others.  They aren’t hiding; rather they’re sharing Jesus with anyone who would listen.

This revival which is taking place right now among these refugees should teach us a lot of lessons.  Their pastor is a young woman who uses a bicycle for transportation but hundreds of people are looking to her for spiritual guidance.  They meet in a simple fourth story apartment building with only a stairway access.  Each week they’re packing hundreds of people into three small simple rooms which needed major renovation to restore them from years of use. What a far cry from the modern buildings we call churches and the celebrity status of so many ministers in our western world.  We have a lot to learn from these new Christians.

It’s a shame that so many people have to lose everything natural to gain everything spiritual, but that’s human nature.  When things are going well, we forget that every good thing comes from God, and instead of our blessings causing us to seek God, they tend to lull us to sleep spiritually.  We forget every good and perfect gift comes down from above, and think we deserve our blessings because we are such good and smart people.  May God forgive us.  God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and so many people in professing to become wise have become fools.  I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have just received to experience a powerful move of God among a simple people.  

19 January 2016

The Sparkling Cup: The Dangers of Social Drinking

“Do not look on the wine… when it sparkles in the cup.”  (Proverbs 23:31)

I have been asked by several people, “Is social drinking a sin?”  This is the wrong question.  When we ask the wrong question, we draw the wrong conclusions.  A much better question to ask is, “What does it profit?  Would social drinking make me a better person or help me influence others for God.  If not, then why am I doing it?"  The apostle Paul lived by the principle of making himself “a servant to all, that I may win the more.”  He lived to influence others for Christ.  Here are some of the reasons why social drinking is dangerous.

1. The problem of the addictive nature of alcoholic beverages. 
Most Christians agree it is wrong to get drunk, but what many refuse to admit is drunkenness is caused one drink at a time.  Alcohol is addictive and to certain people it is highly addictive.  We have all seen firsthand the affect of alcoholism on friends and loved ones.  I had a close friend that from the time he drank his first can of beer he couldn’t stop drinking.  The alcohol in one beer triggered something in him that caused him to drink until he passed out.  There was something in his system that made it impossible for him to handle alcohol and though he was a part of a good family, he became an alcoholic at a young age.  It would be wrong for me to put a stumbling block in his way by tempting him to do something he can’t handle.  “Let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”  (Romans 14:13)  “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”  (Romans 14:21)

2. The problem of the Biblical cultural language.  
One of the arguments which continually arises in this discussion is why Jesus turned water into wine?  Culture is a language all of its own.  Jesus lived in another culture located halfway around the world two thousand years ago.  Drinking wine was a part of the Jewish culture for several reasons.  One was pure drinking water was not always available, so they discovered a way to sustain themselves by drinking wine.  Wine was also used for medical purposes.  Paul said to Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.”  (I Timothy 5:23)  Paul was referring to Timothy’s digestive problems and told him he should use a little wine for medical reasons.  “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.”  (Proverbs 31:6)  This Scripture clearly states alcoholic drinks should be used as medicine to alleviate pain.   Today medical science has discovered much better ways of helping those who are suffering, so there is no longer any reason for us to drink alcoholic beverages as medicine.

3. The problem of enjoying the drink. 
People drink wine because they like it.  What is it that causes people to pay a much higher price for an alcoholic beverage when they could drink a non-alcoholic beverage for a much lower price?  They enjoyed its taste and effect.  That is the main reason people drink wine today.  They are willing to take the risks and pay for some thing that gives them a buzz.  It makes them feel good.  It helps them overcome insecurities and have a good time.  But that is the danger.  We come to rely on something other than the Holy Spirit to help us with our weaknesses.  Wine becomes a substitute for the joy of the Holy Spirit.  Joy is listed as a “fruit of the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:22)  If we are experiencing the joy of the Holy Spirit in our lives, why do we need alcoholic beverages to make us feel good?

4. The problem of making bad decisions.
It is well said, “We make our decisions and then our decisions make us.”  We have the power of choice to make a decision, but we do not have the power to choose the consequence of that decision.  The consequences of the decision are included in the choice.  This is why we should try to make as many wise decisions as possible.  This principle applies to social drinking.  I might be able to control myself in drinking and not get drunk, but that is no guarantee that my children can do the same.  My decision may cost me great pain in the future.  Why should I risk the danger of something I don’t need?  As the apostle Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”  (I Corinthians 9:27)

What does it profit?