This morning I read Acts 7, which tells the story of Stephen, the first church martyr, being killed. In this chapter, he speaks of Moses’ history: his call by God along with the ups and downs of his leadership to the children of Israel. Then, he says to the Pharisees and Sadducees “…you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears!” and goes on talking about them resisting the Holy Spirit as their fathers once did (Acts 7:51). Acts 7:54 mentions how Stephen’s words, “…cut them to the heart.”
I would love to say that I am much more like Stephen, however as I read this chapter, I can easily relate to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Just think of someone publicly calling you “stiff-necked”, then going on accusing your family line for having persecuted the prophets and killed the one that told of the coming Just One (Jesus), wouldn’t you feel a bit upset? I’m not saying that I’d be ready to stone people. I’m just saying that in the midst of being offended, I don’t know that I would be capable of seeing my sin. Instead, I would be more prone to justify it. As we read the text, it is clear to us that these men were 100% wrong in regards to their sin and heart posture, however, according to the law, their actions were justified. Something lawful isn’t necessarily right (1 Cor. 10:23) – forsaking this reality leads you into a most deceptive lifestyle in this religion called Christianity. As a Christian, you constantly have to check your heart. This is, to me, the hardest thing in the midst of being offended: seeing my wrong and not rising up as a Pharisee.
John 8 ‘s story of the woman caught in adultery also puts me in a place where I can sympathize with the way the Pharisees respond. I say this because they were, again, absolutely right according to the writings of the law in picking up stones to deliver a justified punishment. Think about it, the law never required for one without fault to be elected as a just punisher, so what was so wrong about their response? Jesus takes them straight to the heart issue asking for the one without sin to throw the first stone. I love this part of the story because you can see the Holy Spirit working on the scene. From the oldest to the youngest, you can hear the sound of guilty rocks touching ground. This story is both powerful and tragic. Let me explain. The people convicted by Jesus’ question had the opportunity to move forward onto repentance following the messiah, but instead, each man on this scene leaves unchanged refusing to part with pride.
So, how do we resolve the issue of both resisting the offense, while embracing the conviction?
There was a point in my life where I questioned all-things-theology. I was so consumed by doctrinal issues to the point where it was clouding and competing with my affections for the Lord and his people. My theological struggles were validated by our exhortation in studying to show ourselves approved, however this urge to find a flawless doctrine became so strong that it was producing a division around me. One night, the situation resulted in a heated argument that would compel a few of my closest friends into a serious confrontation. As I sat down to listen to what they had to say I began feeling the Lord softening my heart. Aware of this conviction, the hardest thing in that moment was allowing myself to see and turn from the sin that was being pointed out. In that moment, I realized the importance of Christian community for the walking out of a lifestyle both pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.
We resolve the issue of both resisting the offense and embracing the conviction by becoming like Jesus. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to grace us into yielding in obedience when conviction comes. We also need the body of Christ to help challenge us into the fullness of God.
May we be able to comprehend WITH ALL SAINTS what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19).
This week, at A Church Without Walls, I saw the Lord move. It began that morning in prayer when the Lord spoke to me about the failure produced when we look to ourselves to solve our own situations. As we were preparing to go out, I felt Him lead me to the Book of James. It spoke of overcoming trails and resisting temptations. As I was reading it, my eyes were opened to the revelation that often time, we try to resist the actual trial instead of enduring it. We also can find ourselves in a place where we try to endure the temptation when we are meant to resist it. I love in James when he says “Blessed is the man that remains steadfast.” In other words, James is telling us: The man that does not quit is blessed! We can easily underestimate the power of remaining steadfast and not giving up in the midst of hard trials.
I, personally have been kept under the testing of remaining steadfast in believing his promises for my life. For example, the Lord has provided me with a job that meets all of our growing family’s needs, however it has often placed me in a battle of overcoming stress and fear. Overcoming stress, because the job I have is at a managerial level, and involves many hours of problem solving. Also overcoming fear, because I’ve always wanted to give my life to laboring for his kingdom. Although his promises often come to remembrance in times where discouragement is at it’s height, I can often be in a place where I’m wrestling with the fear of my life being reduced to a consuming work that keeps me from laboring for the kingdom in the measure that I desire to. In regards to endurance and resistance, James does not mention a blessing for the one that has a great prayer life or the one who fights off the enemy- although these are good things. No, he instead mentions a blessing for the man that endures. There is a blessing for the man that can look beyond his trail looking to Jesus trusting that He will turn things around for good. There’s been many times where I’ve wanted to quit my job because of the challenge it brings to my purpose, patience, anger, fear, trust… But I have a high priest who is able to sympathize with my weakness and the grace he pours keeps me in the race. It keeps me in a place where I overcome and not quit. His grace enables me to endure the trial and resist the temptation of giving up in what he is requiring of me.
After prayer came the time for our outreach to the homeless and I was stirred in sharing what revelation I found in the book of James. The Holy Spirit showed up, and there came the weight of his presence. A man right when we finished sharing, came to me with tears in his eyes and said I want to be free. Moved with compassion I smiled and we prayed and the sadness was turned to joy. There was a knowing that the blood speaks a better word than any unpleasant situation. Yes, we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. After we were done talking with this man, another person came to us saying he wanted freedom from his addition to smoking. I asked him to give me the cigarette he was smoking, he did, and we proceeded in prayer. It has been a powerful month on the streets! God is opening men’s heart in believing that He is a good and faithful Father. We can trust that he will lead and guide our lives as we give him our struggles and situations. There is, for his children, a set time appointed where he will bring deliverance and bless our perseverance in trusting that good things are ahead.
Saturdays always start out the same for our family. By 8am, our living room is usually full of people praying for revival in Norfolk, V.A., and those people make up our Church Without Walls team. While we’re together, we usually discuss preparations for the day’s outreach. This time, because it was raining, part of our goal and prayer was to make sure we knew how, when and where we’d serve and preach. As we prayed, there was a stirring among us for God to hold the rain so that the word could go forth.
The afternoon approached and the forecast predicted an eighty percent chance of rain. However, by the time my family and I left our home to head to the outreach location, the rain had stopped. GOD HELD THE RAIN! At the outreach, we served pizza for dinner and shared a word centered on this topic: What do you believe? We talked about how this question can shape our lives and impact what we know about God. When we don’t know what we believe, we allow what people say about us to dictate who we are and what we think of ourselves. This takes God out of the position of being The Potter, and allows what man thinks about us to mold us and shape us instead of God. But when we know what God says about us, it doesn’t matter what people say because God and His word define us.
Terri and I tag-teamed sharing the word on What do you believe? She shared a powerful spoken word, then I followed up by speaking on the power of Jesus in believing Him and knowing what he says about you. We ended the night with prayer; everyone holding hands and praying for Jesus to be reveled in our hearts and minds. After prayer, we used that time to build community: playing basketball, teaming up to pray individually, etc. It was a good night.
As we all left to go home, the rain began to come down.
Last night as I was doing our weekly outreach to the homeless with “A Church With Out Walls”, a couple came up to me after the ministry time and asked prayer for healing. Right away, myself and another person started praying for the man’s knee. When we finished praying I asked him to test the pain in his knee by moving it in a way that he hadn’t been able to before. When he moved, he said joyfully, ”all the pain is completely gone”! The lady accompanying him witnessed this healing standing amazed at what had just happened. She then asked me to pray for her head because she had been experiencing constant migraines. So, we prayed and instantly her head pain was gone! Not only that, but her neck got healed of severe pain as well!
The power of the word being preached, along with prayer – changes everything!
We have consistently held a Saturday morning prayer meeting at my house, before outreach, praying that the Lord would change hearts and that He would do the miraculous. The one thing God has really been challenging our group with is to raise our expectations. We so often get much too comfortable where we are. In that place we can lose awareness that God of heaven who created everything has given us His authority and the Holy Spirit within us to walk in supernatural power. Paul said to the Thessalonians, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and the Holy Spirit…” He also spoke to the church of Corinth, saying, “My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
There is a “knowing in the going”.
As we go do the works of Jesus and testify, we see the demonstration of the power of God. It can be healing, salvation, freedom, revelation and so much more. We have seen men and women become completely free through the power of the Gospel. We are the body of Christ and when we are walking with the Holy Spirit we will see signs and wonders following us, who believe. “These signs will follow them that believe…” (Mark 16:17). Let’s walk in the boldness of the spirit and watch God move in the market place, our homes, the gym, and everywhere we are. The Lord has stirred my heart every time I’ve listened to the words of this song by Brian and Katie Torwalt, “When You Walk Into The Room”:
When you walk into the room
Darkness starts to tremble
At the light that you bring
And when you walk into the room
Every heart starts burning
And nothing matters more
Than just to sit here at your feet
And worship you
When you walk into the room
Sickness starts to vanish
Every hopeless situation ceases to exist
And when you walk into the room,
The dead begin to rise
‘Cause there is resurrection life
In all You do
God in us is the hope of Glory! We are the hands and feet that carry his presence! When we walk into a room and there’s sickness, Christ Jesus in us has the power to heal; depression has to flea! As we begin to walk in these simple truths, I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do through us as the body of Christ.
Great Great blog please read
As I lay my son down to sleep at night, many times I only have one prayer. It’s not for him to be a good boy or to grow up and be successful, or have a good job. It’s not even for him to be a preacher, although I want all of those things. My prayer often times is simply, “Lord, all I want is for him to just know you. I don’t care what he does as long as he knows you.” As I was putting him down one night, while saying this prayer over him, I was overwhelmed with the thought of the Father saying the same thing about me. Often times I feel, if I am not doing ministry then I’m not really doing what the Lord has for me. In those times I realize that even in the most mundane moments of work, eating or drinking, I can be living in the fullness of what the Lord has. I am a vision-caster. I feel the Lord has given me a big vision for his Kingdom. Many times as I pursue the vision, I find myself forgetting about the vision giver. The vision in my heart must always foundationally be to know him, the one true God, and to seek Him above any amount of success that this life can bring.
One man I greatly respect was asked, how does it feel to see your dream flourish (the question was asked regarding his ministry)? He responded, “This is not my dream. My dream is that my heart will grow more in love with the Father. My ministry is simply my assignment.” This is a common truth that we know but many times push to the side for other things. We must see us as son and daughters of the Living God, and with that perspective, it changes everything.
Being a father has changed my relationship with God by pushing me to know Him as a Father – like the times when my son and I are playing; feeling the joy of being a father and him being my son. My son and I play a game with pillows on my wife and I’s bed. He gets in-between them by pushing himself backwards. Then, I will cover him up to where he cant see, then I go and hide. He pops out of the pillows with a big smile and says, “Papa?!” Then, I call out his name… This goes back and forth until he finds me. When he does, he laughs uncontrollably, and then we do it all over again. I realize that in those moments, the Father often times just wants to enjoy his kids and our laughs.
The night I laid my son down, I went to my bed and asked God, “Make me more of a Son.” I heard the Lord say right away, “I can’t. I can never make my son more my son, and he can never be any less of my son.” Right after that, I heard the lord say, “As my son – anything you ask in my name I will do.”
We are sons and daughters of the Living God.
A few weeks ago, my lovely wife and I got away to the mountains; with the purpose to hear the Lord for direction in our next season. As I was sitting, reflecting and looking out of the window, my eyes grazed the horizon of the mountains above our cabin; a beautiful site! I quickly noted that there were no leaves on the tress, the ground was brown and spots covered the snow. That sight felt much like the season we are in, while knowing spring is around the corner waiting to burst with life, color and warmth.
There is always a season in waiting on the Lord.
When the season feels long there is an overwhelming temptation to do one of two things: make things happen, or sit and do nothing. The first (make things happen), is sometimes what the Lord tells us to do, but in the season of waiting on the Lord, when we see things that can easily be accomplished, we should make a conscience decision to wait on the Lord’s direction. It is possible to do the right thing at the wrong time. The second (sit and do nothing), is just as difficult because nothing seems to be happening around you. Momentum is dead. So, you start doing other things to fill your time. This pattern can go on for years until you wonder what happened to the Lord pulling you out or taking you somewhere. Much like the man who was at the pool who was sick for 30+ years waiting for someone. (NEED SCRIPTURE reference here and a little more elaboration).
I think waiting on the Lord is much like Ice fishing. In this sport, you can easily find yourself sitting on the ice and often times, alone. You wait and wait and wait until you see something moving before you move to take action. If you do nothing, well… You catch no fish. If your time is occupied instead of watching, you’ll miss the fish.
In the waiting where nothing seems to be moving, we have to wait with expectation knowing God can move at any moment. Even in a terrible job situation, know that God is bigger. Even in sickness or in moments where the waiting of unmet expectations may leave you heartsick, God is able. For example, I have a great friend who works at a job he really doesn’t like. He, like myself, many times have said to the Lord, “I want to just run with you.” He even began asking the The Lord to move him out of his job… After many of those fervent prayers in his season of waiting, God opened his mind with revelation and graced him with many divine connections – including millionaires who want to partner with him in what the Lord has called him to. Later, my friend called me just to say “we only see the smallest part of the picture.”
If I only ever saw just that one picture of the place I am in now, you would think it is dead – but I know that only in a few months this place will be green, beautiful and full of life.
Just like the genealogy of Christ, no one saw Christ in Ruth and Boaz; yet, God was stirring up the Coming of His Son. If we dare to set back and look beyond our scope of what we can see, we can glimpse into the stirring of the coming of the Son. He is the Author and Finisher – not us.
Waiting is trusting. Be full of faith today.
I have been in a combination of two seasons: the trial and the waiting. Before I left bible school, my wife and I were given a prophetic word that has marked us and given us great peace in the midst of storms. The word was “like a weapon going though the forging; we would go though the fire, the anvil, and the cooling – the fire, the anvil, the cooling; and this would be the process so the The Lord could wield us like a weapon in his hand.” Since then, I have seen this word ring true in our lives every day knowing The Lord is forging our hearts to look like His.
The truth is, it has not been easy.
I’ve wanted to run to the place of complaining many times, while masking it with spiritual terms and trying to gain sympathy; instead of glorying in tribulation like Paul. I hoped complaining would bring me peace but it just fueled anger and bitterness toward others. James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The Lord has been placing vision in my heart to hold vast to it when things seem to be impossible. Yet sometimes I think, “Jesus! Seriously? There has to be a better way.” Then, I look back at the fruit that was yielded when in the place of suffering and realized I came out leaning on Jesus. Romans 5:3 rings true: “… but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
I liken tribulation to the birthing process. The baby grows, there is a force kicking and expanding. Yet, constrained in the same place where the force is pushing, the baby continues to grow. Birthing happens while pushing through pain and tears, and although the baby and mother are bruised during the labor process, something greater is happening.
The Lord is using the seasons of tribulation to bring forth something great, so rejoice; He has not left you alone.