Maintain a Thankful Heart

Philippians 4:4-7(NKJV) 4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season. I believe this is more than a coincidence of timing. The Christmas season is a stressful time for many people. At best, it is exceedingly busy. If we choose to take seriously the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday, it will change the whole complexion of the season. Start by truly giving thanks to God for what he has done and what he promises to do. Keep that attitude in your heart through the New Year and see what a difference it will make.

Yesterday we warned against the cancer of being unthankful. When we focus more on disappointment and what we do not have than on the many things God has done in our lives we are giving in to an unthankful heart. Romans 1 tells us that this can lead to confusion, darkness of mind and mood and ultimately a wrong idea of who God is and what he is doing in our lives.

We must combat being unthankful by offering up the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to God. Even when we do not feel the emotion of thanksgiving, we must recognize that God is for us and not against us. We must choose to thank him in spite of our feelings or circumstances. When we do that, our emotions will change and the power of God will go into effect to change the circumstances.

Today I want to look at a section of scripture we touched on earlier in the week. In Philippians 4, Paul gives us some keys to maintaining thankfulness even in the face of trials and disappointments. In the sixth verse, we read that we should make our requests know to God with thanksgiving. This ties prayer and the promises of God to the idea of giving thanks. It is what we must do while we wait for the manifestation of the promise upon which we base our prayer.

I believe we can tie a number of the verses in this chapter to the same thought. In verse 4, Paul gives us the first step to developing and maintaining a thankful heart. He tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” This thought is so important that Paul repeats it by saying, “again I say rejoice.” If we are going to maintain a thankful heart, we must be willing to rejoice in the Lord. What does it mean to rejoice?

To rejoice means to celebrate or show joy. When Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord, he is telling us to celebrate in the Lord. We all know what a celebration is. I am a sports fan. When a team wins a championship, there is a celebration. The people rejoice in the victory. The typical celebration in a locker room is to shake bottles of champagne and pop the corks spraying the champagne on everyone in the room. This is not a mild display. It is exuberant and extreme. When there is real rejoicing, everyone knows.

Thankfulness and rejoicing go hand in hand. There is no way that we can be unthankful and rejoice in the Lord at the same time. We generally associate rejoicing with a spontaneous reaction to an event. We rejoice at a championship, a marriage or a birth. However, just as thanksgiving is something a Christian does to produce an effect, so is rejoicing. When Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord, he is not saying that we should wait for something good to happen. He is telling us to rejoice in the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord is the “something good” we are to rejoice about.

Paul tells us that this is something we should do “always.” Paul is not just suggesting that we rejoice. This verse is an exhortation bordering on a command. This implies that we must choose to rejoice in the Lord. We cannot wait for feelings of rejoicing to erupt. We must rejoice, or celebrate, whether we feel it or not. As we have already said, rejoicing is so important that Paul repeats the command a second time.

The implication is that we should actively celebrate our relationship with the Lord on a continual basis. I know that we cannot run around shouting all the time. However, I believe we must have this rejoicing in our hearts at all times. This is necessary if we are going to maintain thankfulness. I also believe that we will not have rejoicing in our hearts if we never practice rejoicing outwardly.

I do not agree with the current sentiment in many circles that would say we should have only moderate behavior in our church services. The thinking is that we do not want to offend anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. When I started my third church 25 years ago, this thinking was just coming into vogue. As I prayed about what Living Word Christian Center’s character would be, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “I don’t want you to make this church acceptable to the young or the old. I don’t want you to make it acceptable to the rich or the poor. I want you to make it acceptable to me.”

I have allowed this to guide me as we built the church. The word of God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” In our church, we spend time at every service obeying this command. We sing. We shout. We dance before the Lord. We celebrate his goodness and we thank him for his blessing. Some people do not like this kind of behavior in church. That is not my problem. Jesus likes it and that is all I care about. I find that if our people are comfortable with rejoicing, eventually the visitors warm up to it. If they do not, there are plenty of churches for them to go to. As for us, we will rejoice in the Lord!

For those who participate in this rejoicing, thankfulness rises the more we rejoice. How can you be unthankful if you are shouting about the goodness of God? How can you be unthankful when you dance around the sanctuary, celebrating his blessings in your life? You cannot. I find it interesting that no one seems to think spraying a room full of people with champagne is strange, but to shout, sing and dance in church because we are rejoicing in the Lord is strange.

I realize that rejoicing can mean different things to different people and at different times. I also know that God gives us some guidelines for rejoicing in the psalms. It is there we find shouting, clapping, loud cymbals and dancing. I believe that this pattern is pleasing to the Lord and therefore appropriate for church. I believe that the time we spend rejoicing in our church is exactly what David commanded himself to do in the psalms.

Psalms 103:1-2(NKJV) 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:

David is speaking to his own soul. His soul did not want to rejoice. His soul was discouraged and disappointed. However, David knew the secret of rejoicing. He knew that a rejoicing heart is a thankful heart. It was David who danced before the Lord with all his might. David would not allow his emotions to rule him. He took hold of his emotions and commanded them to rejoice in the Lord.

However you choose to do it, I exhort you with the apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” Rejoice this thanksgiving. Continue to rejoice through the holiday season. Do not rejoice in the gifts or the giving. Do not rejoice in the fun or the food. Rejoice in the Lord. Let the celebration continue through the year. Rejoice by faith because God is good no matter what may be happening our how we feel. Rejoice on purpose and in the midst of trial and disappointment. You will find that being unthankful will not stand up to the rejoicing heart. You will be thankful and your thankfulness will bring good things to you and yours.

The Results of Being Unthankful

Romans 1:20-23(NKJV) 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Yesterday we looked at the power of thankfulness. In the natural, thankfulness produces a positive outlook on life. It helps us remember what is good in life and takes our focus off what may be lacking. For a Christian it is even more important. Thankfulness when connected to the promises of God becomes a force that produces good things and not just a response to good things that may happen.

I also want to remind you that this week we begin the Christmas season in the USA with the holiday we call Thanksgiving. I believe we can use this timing to make the Christmas season something other than commercialism and pressure. If we will begin with giving thanks for the blessings of God through the year, and continue by thanking God for what he is going to do according to his promises, we can have a wonderful holiday experience. Of course, central to our theme of giving thanks throughout the Christmas season is being thankful for the birth of the incarnate son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

Today I want to take a few moments and look at the other side of the thankfulness coin. Today’s scripture is a scathing condemnation of those who do not believe in God. It begins with the accusation that no one has any excuse. Paul points out that God’s existence is evident throughout nature. I know that this argument would be vigorously challenged in today’s world. There are those who insist that modern science leaves no room for a belief in God. I respectfully disagree.

Science tells us that life cannot spring from nothing. However, if you follow secular thinking to its logical conclusion, life must have come from nothing. There was a “big bang” and somehow this formed the universe. (Of course, we know that this “big bang” was the voice of the creator God saying, “Let there be light.”) Over the course of eons of time proteins which came from somewhere and came together in just the right proportions to form the beginning of life as we know it. No explanation is given for where these proteins came from.

We are then told to believe that this chance encounter of proteins formed a chain reaction that finally became the complex, self aware creature we call man. Science has never been able to duplicate even the most basic part of this process. They can bring the elements together, but unless life is already present in the mixture, there will be no life produced. There is some ingredient, some catalyst missing. We are told to ignore that and just believe in the almighty wisdom of science. Moreover, they would say we are foolish to have faith in an invisible, intelligent God that gave the spark called life.

We do not yet fully understand many things about the relation between science and the bible. Some questions do arise, but just as often as the facts of science seem to dispute the biblical accounts, they also tend to support them. I suspect that when we get to heaven it will all make sense. In the mean time, I choose to have faith in the creator God and not almighty science.

I realize that I have digressed a bit, but it is important that we understand Paul’s perspective if we are going to understand fully what he is trying to say. Look at these verses in the New Living Translation.

Romans 1:21-23(NLT) 21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

Paul tells us that the people he is talking about have had their minds darkened and confused. He says they have stopped worshiping the glorious God and have begun worshiping idols made to look like what they themselves could not create. They come up with foolish ideas about what God is like. To me this sounds familiar. In our day we do not worship statues and call them God, but we worship our own intellectual power even though we still cannot create life.

What is at the heart of all this? What causes people to ignore what is right in front of their eyes? Could Christians find themselves in some form of this darkness even though they do believe in God? Yes, they can. The reason people come to this place is twofold. They refuse to worship God as God and they are unthankful.

We can understand the first part of this. Even when the evidence is irrefutable, people in their pride refuse to acknowledge God as God. Man has wanted to be greater than God since the fall in Eden. That is the nature of Satan. However, what of us who do believe? We acknowledge God as God. We even worship him as God. Nevertheless, when we are not thankful, we allow this process access to our thinking. We may not become all that Paul describes here, but we will see its influence in our lives.

For a Christian being unthankful is an unacceptable, cancerous lifestyle. Just as cancer eats away at a healthy body, being unthankful will eat away at our faith and spiritual life. It will weaken us until we have no hope. Being unthankful will lead us to give up before we see the promise manifest in our lives. It is a dangerous thing and we must not indulge it.

Look at the elements that Paul points to in these verses. He speaks of darkness in the mind and confusion. An unthankful Christian is a confused Christian. The more the devil causes us to focus on what God has not done, on our disappointments and on the things that we wish were different in life, the more confused we become. We do not see that God has helped us before and we cannot see how God will help us now. When we are unthankful, we begin to believe things about God that are not true.

When we choose to cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness, we will constantly be reminded of all the ways God has met our needs in the past. God often told Israel to erect alters that would remind them of God’s deliverance. Every time they passed one of these alters, it said to them, “God did it then and he can do it now!” As we thank God for his hand in the past, we will also begin to thank him for what he will do in the future. Thankfulness is contagious. It will reinforce our faith in the promises of God.

Do not allow yourself become unthankful. It will lead you to places that you do not want to go. Instead, choose to be thankful in all things. You may say, “If I choose to give thanks when I do not feel thankful, I am a hypocrite.” That is natural wisdom and not true. Look at this verse.

Hebrews 13:15(NKJV) 15Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

If you do not feel thankful right now, choose to offer the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of your lips giving thanks to God. Do it by faith in this promise. When you choose to offer this wonderful sacrifice, you will eventually feel the power of thankfulness rising in your heart and faith in the promises of God will bring about wonderful changes in your life.

With Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6(NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

We are about to begin the 2012 holiday season here in the United States. This is either the “most wonderful time of the year”, as one of our popular holiday songs says, or a most difficult time of the year. Although holiday and family traditions make for warm feelings and joy, there are also more suicides during the holidays than at another other time of year.

There is tremendous pressure to buy things that we cannot afford and do things that we do not have the time for. There are parties and get-togethers in abundance. We have to decorate, bake, make candy, wrap presents and myriad other things that can cause this season to overwhelm even the most “Christmassy” of us. What can we do as Christians to make the holidays joyous and blessed instead of tedious and pressure packed? I believe this section of scripture can help us.

Let me point out something that I find very interesting. In our country, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. The most famous historical Thanksgiving celebration was that of the pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 1630’s however, setting aside a day to give thanks to God for his blessing and provision was a practice throughout the colonies. In 1863 during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November and that continues until today.

Thanksgiving Thursday marks the official beginning of the holiday season. I know that it is simply a coincidence of timing that the holidays officially begin with Thanksgiving, but I cannot help but think the Lord had something to do with it. I believe we can change our whole outlook on the holidays if we will really take to heart the idea of giving thanks. This is especially true if we call ourselves Christians.

This year we have been looking at a number of things related to the idea that God wants us to possess our land of promises, drive out the enemies that keep us from those promises and occupy that land until Jesus comes. I choose as one focus this thought from 2 Peter chapter 1.

2 Peter 1:2-4(NKJV) 2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises that enable us to partake of his divine nature. That divine nature is expressed in what we call his characteristics. God is all powerful, unchanging, all knowing and everywhere present. We must add to those characteristics things like absolutely loving, righteous and holy. If we take hold of the promises provided in the word of God, we can partake of these characteristics and their power in our lives. The key is understanding that the bible is a book of promises not theology or doctrine.

A promise is a personal word given to an individual by another individual. The promises in the bible were given to all who will read and believe them. We must realize that God the Father in his infinite wisdom and ability, somehow makes them personal statements to every person who chooses to receive them. The promise that God will meet my needs from Philippians 4:19 is not some general statement in an ancient book. It is my Father promising me that he will take care of me. It is a personal promise. It is neither doctrine nor theology. When I see it that way, faith rises in my heart because I know that my Father will not lie. He will not fail me because he has whatever power is needed to provide for my needs. I know he will do what he said and he will do it in a way that will bring the greatest blessing to my life. That may mean he will not do it the way I think he should, but I know he will do it. I have his personal promise.

In our study, we have looked at a number of things we must do in relation to the promise. When we believe the promise, we gain access to the power of the promise. When we speak in line with the promise, we activate them in our lives. This means speaking “to the mountain” we may be facing as well as speaking them to God in prayer. When we act on the promise, we release its power in our lives. (Mark 11:22-24) However, there is one more thing we must do in order to see the promise fulfilled. We must make our requests known to God with thanksgiving.

Mark 11:24 tells us that when we pray we must believe we receive what we ask for. In the world, we tend to think along the lines of “I will believe it when I see it.” When we are dealing with the world this is often a wise approach. When we are dealing with God, we must adjust our thinking. God cannot lie. When we approach the promises of God, we cannot do so based on “I will believe it when I see it.” We must approach he promises of God based on “When I believe it I will eventually see it.”

When I pray, I believe that God hears the request and since I base my prayer on his promise to me, I believe it is mine already. At some point, I will see the promise manifested in my life. The problem is that there is always an amount of time between when I pray and when I see the manifestation in the natural. It may be a few seconds or it may be years. What do I do while I am waiting? Philippians 4:6 tells us. We make our request with thanksgiving. We continue to thank God for the answer until we see it in the natural. Giving thanks to God for the answer is a key component in receiving it.

How does all this tie in with the holiday season? I believe we need to understand thanksgiving, the action not the holiday, in a new light. We see it as a response. Something good happens and we give thanks. It certainly is that. However, it is more than that for a Christian. If we understand thanksgiving properly, we see that it is not just a response to good things but also part of what causes good things to come to us.

There is no doubt that a thankful person is more enjoyable to be around than an unthankful person is. In the natural, thankfulness will give you a better disposition and a more positive outlook on life. This is something that makes developing thankfulness worthwhile. In the spirit, thankfulness does much more.

First, when we thank God for what he has done it reminds us of who God is and what he can do in our lives. Our hearts will be filled with joy and confidence when we remember how much God has really done for us. When we begin to thank God for what he will do according to the promise we prayed, our thanksgiving produces a draw in the spirit that will bring those good things to us. The more we thank God for his promise, the more real it becomes to us. There is less and less the devil can do to discourage us because we are conscious of God’s willingness to do what he said he would do. Doubt and unbelief cannot stand in the face of active thanksgiving.

I want to encourage you to make this holiday season a season that begins with the Thanksgiving holiday and continues to be a time of thanksgiving through the new year. Thank God for what he has done in your life this year. Thank him for family and friends. Thank him for all you have instead of thinking about what you do not have. Add to this equation thanking God for what he promises to do in your life. Make some requests to him this season and pledge to continue to thank him for the answer until you see it in the natural. If you will do that, I know you will see an increase in your faith and in your joy. You might even find that the Christmas season really is the most wonderful, blessed and thankful time of the year.

Greetings From The Dominican Republic

I am traveling again this week.  We will be ministering to a group of pastors and leaders in the Dominican Republic.  Pray for us that God will help us bring something to these precious brethren that will be a help and benefit to them.

I will try to get some things posted, but often time does not permit.  In case I do not, let me wish everyone in the United States a happy Thanksgiving holiday.  Let this be a day of thanking God for the wonderful blessings he has given us this year. 

For many in our nation, it has been a difficult year.  However, if you are a Christian, you have a great deal to thank God for.  He is there to walk with you through every difficulty.  He said he would never leave nor forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Let us thank God for his presence in our families, in our lives and in everything we do. 

May God bless you richly this week. 

The Weapons of our Warfare

2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV) 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds

This week I have been sharing some things that I felt the Lord spoke to me prophetically concerning where we are right now and what God is doing. God impressed on me how important it is that we come together in prayer. Prayer is always necessary, but there are times when God is moving in such a way that makes prayer an even more urgent matter. When we come together in response to a specific direction from the Lord, we are joining with multitudes of other believers who are praying along the same lines. This is one of those times.

God also impressed upon me that we are at the beginning of an awakening in the church. It may not seem like much yet, but I believe something that many of us in church leadership have been sensing is beginning. One of our themes for this year has been waiting. The believers in the upper room waited for about 10 days between Jesus’ ascension and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did not know how long they had to wait and they did not know what they were waiting for. That is exactly where many of us have been.

As I was sharing this with a group in Puerto Rico, I said to them, “If they had not waited the whole ten days nothing would have happened. However, when the day of Pentecost was ‘fully come” God did move.” I believe we are on the 10th day of waiting. God is moving. We need to release our faith in what God is doing right now.

Yesterday I pointed out that our battle is not with flesh and blood. Our fight is with beings we cannot see. There really is another world that is greater than this world. That world created the world we can see. We need to remind ourselves that the realm of the spirit is not something that is mythological. It is something that is real. We receive our power from that place. Connection to the realm of the spirit is the only thing that will give us the edge over the enemy. It is the only way we can have victory that matters.

As I closed yesterday, I quoted today’s scripture. I want to continue along those lines for a few minutes today. As I said yesterday, I believe the devil has laid a trap for the church. It has seemed for a while that focusing on the spirit has not been working. Many have turned to technology, entertaining preaching and music, professionally administered programs and organization to draw people into the church. I am not against any of those things. However, when we begin to depend on them to grow the church we are missing something.

The problem is that these things have worked. Churches that work to make sure they do not do anything to put people off are growing. Those that emphasize the flow of the spirit, challenging teaching and deeper praise and worship have not been growing. That is the trap. We begin to justify this move away from what we used to do with the idea that this is a different day and we need new methods to reach people.

That is also true to a point. The question we must ask is what are we reaching them with. What are we building? Are we building strong believers who can take their place in the harvest? Are we building people who have a hunger for the things of God? On the other hand, are we building church members who will add to the numbers on our membership rolls? I want the former and I will not accept the latter.

There is nothing wrong with any of the things I have mentioned. I like technology. I am a musician and love good music. I believe we should meet the needs of people and we must have efficient programs to do that. Good organization is important. However, I believe none of these things can substitute for a real encounter with God. That must remain our focus. No matter what age we live in the great commission remains the same.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Our job is to make disciples not followers or church members. We do that by leading them into a salvation experience with Jesus. We follow salvation with baptism. In many places baptism is the real dividing line for those who are saved. In India for instance, you may get thousands to raise their hand to accept Jesus and only a few to the river for baptism. That is because water baptism says to the world, “I am a Christian. I have forsaken other gods.” It is then that you may lose your job or family. We do not have the same cultural experience but if it is taught correctly, water baptism will have the same impact for us.

Next Jesus says that we should teach them what he taught us. Jesus did not teach us to fit in with the world. He did not teach us to be like everyone else and just try to live a good life. He taught us to be in the world but not of the world. He taught us a higher standard of righteousness and morality than the Pharisees not a lower one. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. That is what we are supposed to be like and that is what we must teach to make disciples.

Methods may change. We should use what is available to us. The message must not change. It must remain the message that Jesus taught. It must remain the message Paul gave us in his letters. We must stand for righteousness and holiness. We are still to be salt and light to the world. Anything less is not biblical Christianity even if it produces growth in our church.

God has given us mighty weapons but these weapons are not carnal. Their source is not this world. We may use the tools of this world to supplement but we win the war with the weapons of the spirit. I fear that the trap of growth through a compromised message and lifestyle is robbing us of the weapons we need to win. We lean on the natural and get a type of success. Do not be deceived. We will need those weapons eventually and if we do not know how to use them, we will fall. That is the story of much of denominational Christianity.

I heard a man preach once that David killed Goliath with his own sword. The implication is that we should use the devils weapons against him. While there is some truth there, David killed Goliath with an anointed rock. He cut the giants head off with his own sword but if he was not already dead, David could not have taken the enemies sword. In fact, if the rock had not done its job, Goliath would have killed David.

Take up the real weapons of our warfare. Return to an emphasis on the things of the spirit. Do not give in to the allure of success at the expense of discipleship. I would rather have 100 disciples than 1000 church members. One thousand church members may make me feel important. One hundred disciples can change the world.

Jesus ministered to multitudes. They were healed. They had evil spirits cast out of them. They received supernatural food at the feeding of the 5000 and the feeding of the 4000. They heard teaching that they proclaimed was different from anything they had ever heard. They followed him wherever he went. Yet after the resurrection, only 500 hundred were invited to the upper room and of that number, only 120 came. It was that 120 that opened a door for the move of the spirit that changed the whole world.

Pick up the weapons of the world of the spirit. It is more real than the world we can see. If it is not, we are all wasting our time. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Let your worship flow from your spiritual relationship with the Lord. Preach the real Gospel. Teach people to walk in discipleship. None of these things is old fashioned. None of them go out of style. This is our time. Awake and see what God will do.

The Reality of the World of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NKJV) 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

This week we have departed a little from what I have been talking about for most of this year. The original purpose for this blog was to provide reinforcement to our local church concerning the Sunday morning message. It has grown beyond that original purpose and I am thankful that many from all over the US and the world seem to be blessed by what I am posting. That said, what I write hear is still driven by what the Lord speaks to me for our church.

This week God led me in a prophetic direction. That is not uncommon for me when I travel but I usually get to what I have prepared. This week I really did not. I bring this up because I believe that, as I was preaching, the Lord was speaking some things to me as well about where we are in God’s timetable and what we need to do to stay on it.

The last two days I laid something of a foundation by talking about the power of the prayers God’s people pray. We need to know that as we pray under the direction of the Spirit of God, we are connected to a huge number of people who are also connected and hearing the same things we are. I also talked about the great awakening that I believe is happening right now in the church. Awakening takes time and we need to cooperate with the Lord as it happens.

This leads me to what I want to say today. If our prayers are powerful and if there is to be a great awakening, we must remember one important fact. It is a fact we all know, but one that I think has become a little dull in our thinking. We live in two worlds. This is not theory or theology. It is a reality that we must place at the heart of all we do and teach.

In today’s scripture, Paul makes this truth very clear. He says we are engaged in a “wrestling match” with beings that we cannot see with physical eyes. Yet Paul seems to believe that winning this battle is of vital importance to the success of the church. Paul even takes this thought farther by saying our battle is not with flesh and blood enemies. Our battle is not fought against people, systems or economies. We do not fight against worldly governments or our difficult neighbors and coworkers. We fight against beings we cannot see.

I know that every bible believing Christian knows this. I know that the part of the church that calls itself Spirit filled believes this to be true. I also think that our grasp of this is not what it used to be. I was born again in 1968. I was filled with the Holy Spirit in 1971. This was the middle of the “Charismatic Renewal.” During this great wave of God’s glory people from every denomination were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. We had no knowledge of Pentecostalism. All we knew was that something real had happened to us and that whatever it was, was of God and supernatural.

Our identity became an understanding that the world God lived in was real. Our religious life was no longer religion at all. We knew beyond any doubt that the world we could see was only part of the picture. We knew that there were angels and demons that occupied this world with us. Even more important, we knew that God’s world had created the world we could see. We live in a physical world but our identity was the world of the Spirit. This was not a “sweet by and by” mentality that pointed to the future heaven. This was a present tense reality that we lived in every day. We knew that the key to success in this world was our connection to that world.

It has been some 45 years since the Charismatic Renewal. Charismatic churches have become some of the largest in the world. We have some of the best teaching in the history of the church. Our praise and worship is dynamic and full of the best music you will hear in the world today. We are no longer a fringe part of the Christian world. We have become acceptable. We have become socially and politically a force in the nation and in the world. In the process, I think we are losing our soul.

The more accepted we got it seemed that we lost more and more of what God called us to be. The term “seeker friendly” came into being. This is an approach among Charismatic and some Pentecostals to become more acceptable to the world. The logic was that our “crazy ways” like praying in tongues, falling under the power of God and dancing in praise and worship were too extreme for people. They said if we tone all that down more people will come and they will not be so likely to be turned off.

This thinking extended to what we taught in our churches. God has revealed some wonderful things to us. He has shown us through the Word of God that we do not have to be poor to be spiritual. I believe the bible teaches hat God wants to bring us success in every area of our lives. However, that does not change the fact that the bible teaches right living and sets standards of behavior that God requires if we are going to walk with him.

Praise and worship also subtly changed. I remember in the early days of our experience with the Lord that we would see the power of God fall with an acoustic guitar or two. We progressed and added some elements like piano, keyboards and drums, but we really did not care how good we played. We just wanted to touch heaven. Today, we have great recorded praise and worship. Many of our best musicians are worship leaders. Our praise and worship bands have become more and more professional. We see more Christian artists “crossing over” into mainstream music because of the quality of what they do.

There is nothing wrong with that in itself. However, it is symptomatic of something that I believe has become a trap from the devil. With our gains in acceptance by the main stream of Christianity and even greater acceptance by the world we have changed our emphasis. We draw people by the quality of our organizations, the services we provide and the “entertainment” value of our praise and worship and to some extent our preaching and teaching. Gradually we have lost the edge of understanding that Paul taught throughout his letters and is typified by today’s scripture.

We live in two worlds and our battle is not one that is centered in this world. Our battle is a spiritual battle. Our best and most powerful weapons are spiritual weapons. As we become more proficient with the natural weapons like marketing, providing services that meet “felt needs” and providing wonderful entertainment, I believe we have begun to lean on them. In the last number of years we have found that no matter how large our churches have become, we are losing the battle in our culture.

Let me quote Paul once more.

2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV) 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,

God gave us powerful spiritual weapons but we seem to think they are “old fashioned.” I believe we will never win the battle of our day until we get back to the identity of the Spirit. We must restore our dependence on the “other world” if we want to build the Kingdom of God. I believe we are beginning to awaken to that truth now.

More tomorrow.

A Great Awakening

Romans 11:7 (KJV) 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

Yesterday I spent some time talking about the impact our prayers have on our nations, our regions and our churches. 2 Chronicles 7 tells us that the responsibility for the healing of our land, and I believe that includes our region and church, is on us not on the world. If we pray and do the other things outlined in this scripture, God will move and heal our land.

What brought this to the forefront in my thinking this week are things I am seeing and feeling in our country and our church. It has been a difficult few years for many of us. Our nation has been through a great deal. Most of the pastors I talk to have been under some kind of pressure. Some have said to me recently that this past year has been the worst of their ministry lives.

Although I would not say that is the case for our church, we have had our challenges. Finances are always an issue. God has provided for us miraculously. We thank God for that. We have nearly finished a major building project with no borrowed money at all. Our church has sent me to 5 nations over the past 12 months to help the church in those places. We have sown into other ministries and all of our bills are up to date.

Still, finances are a constant pressure. I told a senior friend of mine recently that I am thankful for what God has done but I would not mind two days of Manna every now and then instead of having to believe every day for enough to do all that we must do!

Although finances are the most pressing issue, I do not believe that finances are the most important thing we have faced. Far more worrisome to me is the condition described in today’s scripture. It just seems to me that we, and most of the pastors I speak to, are lacking an edge that many of us used to have. It is as though we have gotten so used to the status quo that we are in a state of slumber. The most important thing I sensed in our recent prayer times is a beginning of the reversal of this condition.

My wife saw something recently about the early days of the United States. During the years before the revolutionary war, there was something called the “Great Awakening” that took place in North America. Some f our younger founding fathers grew up listening to the preaching of people such as George Whitefield. This created a foundation in them that became part of the fabric of our nation. This term “great awakening” caught my attention.

We are so geared to instant things in our society that I think we have applied that thinking to the move of God as well. However, what we need today is another “Great Awakening.” We have been in a time of “slumber” in the church. We have been lulled to sleep by good churches, good teaching and good music. All of these things are positives but they can also become negatives. We feel that things are going well. As the saying goes, “If it aint broke don’t fix it.” The problem is that it is broken.

I believe we have settled for the good things we have instead of pressing in for all that God wants for and from us. We think the “good” things we see are enough to win the war we face, but they are not. This is the greatest time of spiritual warfare in the history of the church and we cannot win it with nice buildings, good teaching or “quality music.”

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto was congratulated by his staff for the great victory he had won. His response is said to have been, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” These words turned out to be very true. I believe that the same thing is happening today.

These past few years have been difficult in many ways but I also believe they have been necessary. I believe that I sense the same thing in the church that Yamamoto described at the beginning of World War 2. I believe the giant that is the Church of Jesus Christ is beginning to awaken. I feel her shaking off the spirit of slumber and rising to a new day of victory.

Here is where we need to face our tendency to think everything must happen quickly. An awakening is not something that happens immediately. All of us had an “awakening” this morning. I know there are probably some of you that bounded out of bed ready for the day. That is not the case for most of us. Most of us awaken slowly.

We may stretch. We may have to rub the sleep out of our eyes. We give a yawn or two as alertness begins to wipe away the effects of a night’s sleep. We sometimes have to remember what day it is. There have been times when I have been traveling that I will wake up and wonder where I am. I have to look around before I remember that I am not home.

I am a breakfast person. I cannot start my day until I have a good breakfast and a cup of coffee. Then I have at least one more cup of coffee. Only then can I begin the tasks of that day. My wife is just the opposite. She does not want much to eat first thing in the morning. She wants to wake up a bit first, have a cup of coffee and then eat. Whatever our routine may be “awakening” takes some time.

My point for today is to encourage you in two ways. First, I want to say that for the first time in a long time I am feeling an awakening in the spirit. Many churches are beginning to see that the good things we have are not enough. We need more. We need more of God’s presence. We need more of God’s power. We need more commitment and dedication to the cause of Christ. I believe we are seeing the beginnings of something that most of the leaders I have relationship with have known is coming for years.

We are in the beginning of another “Great Awakening.” Awakenings take time. I think many of us have been looking for an explosion that would change everything in a moment. That is certainly possible for God, but I believe I have come to understand that this is not one of those times. We are waking up. We need to understand the signs and believe them. They may be small. They may be just a yawn here and a stretch there, but I believe they are unmistakable if we look for them. Just as we eventually get out of bed and start our day, the church will eventually awaken fully and take her place.

The second way I want to encourage you is to remember that we must cooperate with this awakening by releasing our faith in what God is doing. Awakenings require that we do something. We have to get out of bed. We have to get our bodies moving. We must do the same in the spirit.

God is waking up his church. We have been through times of trial and times of complacency. The morning is coming to the church and we need to get ourselves up. I believe the enemy of the church, the devil, has done just what God intended him to do. He has pressed us to the point where he has awakened us and we are beginning to fill with the resolve necessary to win the battle for our day.

Get up. Morning is here. The battle is beginning but do not be afraid. Yamamoto understood that it would be impossible for Japan to win a war against the industrial and military might that lay dormant in The United States. It is just as impossible for the devil to win a war against the tremendous potential of the body of Christ. This is our day. Let us get to it. There is much to be done!