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29 December 2008

Four P's of Perpetual Growth

It's been a while since I posted here and although I've been remiss it seems that many still arrive here to view the Oneness v. trinitarian Debates, or C.P. Kilgore's Wheel of Prophecy, or one of the other blogs on here. I hope you've all been blessed and will continue to visit. I also trust you are all well and find yourself right in the middle of the biggest thing God has ever done in, and through, you. I believe that 2009 will be a great year for the Church and am looking forward it. That being said...

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, T.A. Main (keep an eye on him - - his name will be in lights some day), asked me the following question: "What do you think are the three steps to revival?" He had an interesting list and shared it with me.

At the time I was in a rush and didn't have time to adequately respond to him. It was later in the day that I remembered something the Lord showed me over a year ago concerning sustained growth in our local churches.

Since this is traditionally the time of year when we prepare for the coming New Year I thought I'd post those thoughts for you all today.

I think that there are four key steps to effective and prolonged growth (what some might call "revival") in the local Church and its surrounding communities.

The psalmist wrote, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:6). In this verse we find the Four P's of Perpetual Growth:

1. Prayer

Prayer sets the stage for the miraculous. Prayer is inextricably tied to spiritual growth, whether it is in the individual's life or in the Church. People who pray consistently and persistently with passion will see results from their time with the Lord. Prayer takes discipline and consecration (not to be confused with concentration) but it is the conduit through which Heaven is reached. When we pray we not only speak to God, but He speaks to us. Prayer sets the stage for the miraculous.

2. Praise

Praise sets the atmosphere for the miraculous. Those who have learned to praise God in everything eventually attain a level of spiritual maturity found only in praise. There are various methods of praise but only one way to praise. We must praise God with our whole heart. A whole heart is one that's affections are not divided. True praise is authentic and sold out to Christ alone.

3. Preaching

Preaching is the anointed message of the miraculous Gospel of Jesus Christ. Truly anointed preaching presents Jesus in such a way that people ask the same question asked so long ago on the day of Pentecost and they receive that same anointed answer: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:37-38).

4. Personal Evangelism

Personal evangelism is passion for the miraculous. Personal evangelism is that element of inner passion and expectation that propels people to go and tell others about Jesus and what He's doing today. It is spiritually mature and excellent practice to be a witness of the oneness of God. It is not something that only new converts should be doing. The longer one is in the Church the more they should be going forth to bring in a harvest of souls.

There is more that I could write about for each of these, but the main point is that as we end this old year and look to the new one, let's strive to be praying, praising, preaching, and personally evangelizing our communities. If we follow these steps, I'm convinced (and 29 years of living for God has given me some understanding) that we will experience sustained perpetual growth in our personal lives, our churches, and our communities this coming year – perpetually!

07 June 2008

Take Me Back

I was reminded of the old (1975) Andre Crouch song "Take Me Back" the other night during the altar service at Landmark Apostolic Bible Church in Rockport, IN.

Nobody sang the song at that time; it just came to my remembrance. So often in my life it's been these older songs that I grew up hearing and singing, which resonate deep in my spirit. Here are the words that still speak to me:

Take Me Back
-Andre Crouch

Take me back,
Take me back, dear Lord,
To the place,
Where I first received You.
Take me back,
Take me back, dear Lord,
Where I first believed.

I feel that I'm so far from You Lord,
But still I hear You calling me.
Those simple things,
That I once knew,
The memories are drawing me.

I must confess, Lord, I've been blessed,
But yet, my soul’s not satisfied.
Renew my faith,
Restore my joy,
Then dry my weeping eyes.

I tried so hard
To make it all alone
I need Your help
Just to make it home.

Today, and every day, we need to renew our relationship with God. He is looking for an authenticity from us based on a continuing renewal of the fervor we first had at our initial conversion. The simplicity of our faith and our humility combined with the simplicity of the Gospel resulted in an authentic conversion.

The words “renew my faith, renew my joy, then dry my weeping eyes” is a call get back to the place where we first gave our will to God.

What is it about us that having come to Jesus empty-handed and totally dependent upon him we now, after being “in the Church” for some time, think we can somehow do it all on our own?

I think that there are many people, especially in their 20s and 30s, that received an initial conversion experience at a young age (6-10), but did not really get converted until later, when they were more mature. This may be why we have trouble in our young adults at times. They got the Holy Ghost at a young age, but the Holy Ghost did not get them until they were older.

It is amazing to me to witness the blessing of God on us and yet we are not satisfied in our relationship with Him because of our own self-sufficiency, pride, and vain living. It is a crutch – a trap of the enemy and the flesh to alienate us from intimacy with Jesus Christ, not a “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of intimacy that we are constantly barraged with in this self-absorbed culture we live in, but a closeness that comes from a genuine relationship with our Savior – a relationship that is deepened every day in the good and the bad that life throws at us.

C. S. Lewis addressed the purpose of tribulation in his book The Problem of Pain in this way:

My own experience is something like this. I am progressing along the path of life in an ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity to-day, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down.

At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God's grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys: I am even anxious, God forgive me, to banish from my mind the only thing that supported me under the threat because it is now associated with the misery of those few days. Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear. God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me.

Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over - I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.

Our problem is that we become desensitized to those “Take Me Back” moments and even brush them aside when God calls us to some personal time with Him. Jesus wants us to give ourselves to Him and surrender our will to His will. One way we can do that is to take the time to go back to those simpler times when all we had was our faith in Him and all we wanted was His presence in our lives guiding, keeping, and sustaining us.

20 March 2008

The Gift

It's been a few months since I wrote anything, but I was researching something today for a Bible lesson I'm teaching tonight at Landmark Bible Church in Rockport, IN. While searching for one thing I unearthed an old email to an Internet acquaintance I met a few years back. Here's a response to that fellow minister in the Gospel, which I've edited for this blog. God bless you all as you receive the free gift.

“A gift, to be a gift, has to be accepted. Otherwise it lies like a burden between people.”
–Robert Fisher, The Knight In Rusty Armor

I think that we are too casual in explaining the present of the Holy Ghost. Since it is in fact the Spirit of Christ in us, it is no wonder that He would be grieved by those who would not want Him in them. I think of those in the nominal church world who have the same access to the Holy Ghost as all of us in this age of grace and Holy Ghost outpouring, but who merely put it on a shelf and never unwrap it. The gift then lies unwrapped, unaccepted, and a burden.

My first date occurred at a banquet on February 14th, when I was twelve years old. I gave the young lady a present that night, which she accepted. However, later that evening, as she was preparing to go home, I misunderstood something she said. She wanted to go get her present, but I thought that she was saying something else. Consequently, she thought that I was refusing to let her keep the gift. To this day I think she still has little time for me and that event is a burden between two individuals.

LOL!! What a catastrophe!?!?

God is not like that. He not only gives a gift, but He never takes it back and He always knows exactly what we communicate - even when we don't know how or what to say.

My grandfather began his journey towards God in the late 1940s. He had such an experience in repentance that he received the joy that the Samaritans had in Acts 8, but he had not received the Holy Ghost. His wife then met some Pentecostals and received the Holy Spirit. Grandpa would get upset with her at night because she spoke in tongues before going to bed at night and insisted that he needed more than what he had. It lay as a burden between them. Finally, Grandpa prayed to God and said that he knew he had all that God had for him, but to make his wife happy, would God let him speak in tongues. Instantly, the presence of God that he'd felt since his repentance left him. This was when he knew that God had more for him - it lay as a burden between him and God. He then cried out in repentance for His pride and God filled him with the Holy Ghost speaking in tongues.

Salvation is a gift that unless received in totality will be forfeit no matter who we are. Paul wrote about receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, which is only accessible through Jesus Christ, who is our portion and free gift through grace. (Ro. 5:21). Refusal of this gift, in this particular text, results in the refusal of eternal life.

Paul also wrote of the gift he was given charge of by the churches of Macedonia, who gave it to bless the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 8). I imagine that if this gift had been refused that there would have been ought among these two groups.

Unrequited love is often mentioned in literature and even God Himself is mentioned by some as a jilted lover covering His eyes in grief as His Jewish bride rejects Him and He then turns to the Gentiles for succor. I only know that He wept at their obtuseness and they became a people who had eyes but did not see. This rejection of Jesus still lies as a burden between God and the nation of Israel as a whole, but, praise God, Israel did not stumble to fall. I believe that the burden will be lifted when they look on Him whom they pierced and acknowledge Him as Messiah.

We call it the gift of the Holy Ghost and it is, by one man’s estimation, being received by 35,000 people a day throughout the world. Why wouldn’t people want to receive this phenomenon that Christ has paid for with His blood and made available to all people?