Category Archives: American Church

-It is Time to Leave Nazareth

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith. –Mark 6: 5-6

I am really tired of living in Nazareth where only a few folks are healed, as wonderful as that is.

I have friends who have gone on mission trips to India, Africa, and South America, and have come back with incredible testimonies of how God healed everyone they prayed for. Opening blind eyes, healing the deaf, and seeing all kinds of miracles including folks who could not even stand on their own two feet running laps. Some have even seen the dead raised. Then when they come back home to America it is just like it was before- they see a few folks healed once in a while and are glad for it.

At the beginning of the year it was impressed upon me that faith and belief were  THE issues that the American and Western church needed to deal with this year. First of all the scripture that came to me on New Years Eve was Mark 9:24-

I believe; help my unbelief.

I have been praying that one everyday since.

Then reading on in Mark, I came across the passage in 11:22-24 where Jesus talks about having a strong enough faith and belief to move a mountain. I never really considered literally or physically moving mountains as something I might want to do. Maybe figuratively.

However, once when I was on a long hike with my family years ago and realized when we got to the top of one mountain peak that the lake we were going to was on the other side of another mountain. I would have like to have moved a mountain if I could. Then on another vacation I went fishing with a friend on the east side of the Sierra Mountains near Yosemite. We hiked down a mountain side to a pristine lake and had a wonderful day catching fish. Then we literally thought we were going to die going back up that mountain with 10 big fish and all of our equipment including an ice chest and chairs. Moving a mountain would have come in handy that day. However, it never occurred to me to pray it away and I still do not believe that it would have been justified under those circumstances. When would one actually need to move a mountain into the sea? Something I  have always wondered. I guess when God tells you to.

Nevertheless, while reading this passage in Mark, I received a strong word to read it in the Greek. I was in my comfy chair but the Lord knows me well and it came in a way that I could not ignore. It was the first three words of Jesus that changed it all and gave me a different perspective. Maybe I  have heard someone preach on verse 22 in the past but it was rhema for me that day and ever since:

Ekete pistin Theou  (a transliteration-my site will not print out the actual Greek) 

All of the English translations (12) that I have in my library have it as- “Have faith in God.” So that is obviously the best translation.  But there is a couple of things in the Greek which give it a fuller meaning. First of all, ‘ekete’ calls for continuing action- not just ‘have’ but continue to have. ‘Faith’ (pistin) is the subject but God (Theou) is not only the object of it but is the possessor (genitive or possessive in the Greek). It is God’s faith.

So how do you get the kind of faith that can move mountains? My conclusion is that we can only get it from God- we have to ask him for it and we have to completely believe that God’s wants us to do it in the first place and has given us the power to  accomplish the task.

We have faith but Holy Spirit help our faith.

If we want to leave behind the environment of Nazareth where we only see a few wonderful healings then we need to see an exponential increase in our faith and belief. We have to seek it and ask for it.

It is time for the American and Western church to live in a Kingdom environment where signs and wonders, and the miracles and healings of Jesus are demonstrated in our midst. They need to be commonplace and not just fortuitous exceptions but a part of the norm. Then church will become relevant once more and offer a viable and attractive alternative world view in the midst of an unbelieving secular culture.               *Top

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-We Believe; Help Our Unbelief!

This week while reading in Mark I came across the story of the boy with an unclean spirit that the disciples could not cast out while Jesus was in the mountains praying (Mark 9:14-29). What really leaped out at me was the response of the Father after Jesus says- “All things are possible for one who believes”:

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

It was like trumpets were sounding and God was obviously trying to get my attention. Then the thought clearly came to me that this should be one of the key scriptures that I remember and repeat during my prayers this coming year.

I do believe everything in the bible and I have experienced and participated in numerous healings and miracles in my life but they are still the exceptions rather than the rule. When I pray for someone and they receive healing I am still surprised. Thankful but pleasantly surprised. Sort of like the folks praying for Peter to be released from prison and then when he actually knocked on the door they were shocked.

I also believe that I am not alone; that this is where the American church is right now at the close of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. We believe in the miracles of the Bible and all of the healings that Jesus performed. Most of us believe that God can still do those things today but we call them ‘supernatural’ and view them as exceptions in the ‘normal’ life of the American Christian and the church. There are even some of our brothers and sisters who believe that God stopped doing that stuff once the Bible was completed.

That’s why I believe that we should be praying this year for the entire America church (every faithful part of it) and pray for a new awakening, a new sovereign work of God, a new reformation of the church, and revival:

“We believe; help our unbelief!” 

I do believe that it is already here and coming to a church near you. We just need help to dial up our faith and receive. 

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-Core Values for Culture Changing Revival?

                         (Mercy Warehouse: Vineyard Community Church- Laguna Niguel)

Kris Vallotton,of Bethel Church in Redding CA, in a Charisma article lists 2 core values that are necessary for a culture changing revival:

1. Extreme Giving

2. Trust and Honoring Leadership

<Read the whole article>

Response: I can imagine that not all of you will be all that positive to what Kris Vallotton has to say.  Some will probably protest that it sounds too much like ‘religion’ rather than grace.

This I can affirm for sure- the Lord has called the church in the past to take care of the poor, the orphans, and widows; still calls us to do so, and will in the future right up until the end. Unfortunately the church in America has surrendered most of that task in the last 50 years or so to the government. Now the federal government and some state and local authorities are even trying to stop or restrict what the church is still trying to do through onerous regulations and forced obedience to the new LGBT sexual orthodoxy.

Nevertheless, I can confirm by experience that churches involved in ministry to the poor are being blessed on many different levels. Plus they actually become part of the community and part of the answer to the problems faced in that community. I have even seen a revival environment that has brought hundreds of miraculous healings and conversions to Christ all housed in a building where the poor are being fed and clothed (See the video above).

Extreme giving can also help in taking the gospel to the far corners of the world by supporting missions, ministers, and organizations involved in the ongoing world harvest.

But what about leaders? The enemy continues to divide America churches through leadership divisions, jealousy, and direct attacks by a Jezebel spirit. Also note that past revivals have been stalled and stopped over attacks against the leaders by the enemy. We really do need to support our leaders any way we can, particularly through prayer.

I would add 2 more core values that are essential for culture transforming revival:

1. Extreme Trust in God

2. Thankfulness for Everything

We are living in times when our nation desperately needs a new awakening that brings change to our culture. So many of us have placed our hopes in the political process to make some of the changes we long for in our country. The 2016 election season seems to have dampened that expectation for most evangelical Christians. I see so many grasping for reasons to vote for one candidate or another. We should all vote but our real hopes should be elsewhere- in God.

So many of our leaders have betrayed us. Just last year the highest court of our land declared in no uncertain terms that the Bible and Word of God is wrong and actually discriminatory. How does our nation come back from that without a culture changing revival? Continue to pray for Revival.               *Top

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-Revival Implications: The Kingdom and The Church

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We continually pray for the Kingdom to come and yet many of us ignore the implications. Jesus did not come to build a mega church or start another religious system nor will he be coming again to establish a new one on the earth. The Kingdom of God is already established.

During his life on earth he was constantly bucking up against and challenging the religious organizations, leaders, and the latest theologies of his day. I believe that one of the major characteristics and goals of the current and coming world revival is the shaking and realignment of the church and leaders toward actually reflecting the Kingdom rather than religious traditions of the past and the current popular thinking of the day.

Many of us who are looking for revival and a new awakening are trying to relive the glory of past revivals wanting God to do the same thing to us all over again. Those are actually lessons that the church should have already gotten and incorporated in our DNA along the way and should have prepared us for the coming Kingdom on earth.

There is nothing wrong with drinking from the wells of past revivals and we should incorporate and take serious every past move of God. But they are suppose to be like an oasis that supports us and helps us on our current journey. We are called to move on. When we stay at those wells and glory in the past we may end up limiting what God can do in our midst today. Some have actually camped out at one well and have established churches and religious systems and theologies that reflect that particular move of God and refuse to move on and question anything different.

The Reformation was a major move of God that brought major changes to the church. A major emphasis of that move was on the logos Word of God, the Bible and true theology. There are many churches and denominations today that have refused to move on from that major well.  When it comes to Azusa Street, there are many Pentecostals camped out at that oasis questioning the water everywhere else. One of the major problems of the Charismatic movement is a tendency among many to seek out only the rhema and the newest ever more radical ‘spiritual’ thing while ignoring what God did when he inspired Luther and Calvin and others to seek and nail down the foundational teachings of the Bible.

We continue to pray- “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

What if we really got what we prayed for? What would happen? Any move of God that brought the Kingdom into the midst of our churches today would bring radical changes. The church is called the ‘Body of Christ’ and is called to do what he did. Now that would be radical and that is what we are facing in the move ahead. It will not be about building mega churches or organizations or making new religious systems or establishing theocratic political powers. It will be all about bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God to all of the world before the coming of the Lord.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  -Matthew 24:14 (ESV)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,…Isaiah 61:1-2 (ESV)

Here’s a link to a great article that got me thinking about this issue in Ministry Today:  “16 Contrasts Between Kingdom Age and Religious Systems

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-Re: ‘Gracelines’ -Examples of The Kingdom Breaking Through

GRACELINES

Today during worship ( at Antioch Fellowship, Sedalia Mo) the Spirit was moving and the Kingdom was breaking through in a remarkable way with many participating both in Word and deed.

One brother, who called out a word of knowledge for healing backs and prayed for those who came forth, admitted that he had been discouraged with healing since he had not been healed and somewhat jealous when others were but had a clear word from the Lord that he should pray for others with the same problem and did in power. Praise God.

The Spirit reminded me of what we had experienced at my former long time church in California. We learned the hard way that preconceived notions and ‘theologies’ about healing usually got in the way and produced less healing since they in fact limited the ways and conditions under which God could move in our midst. The result was discouragement and less faith in healing among believers. After all, if you go through all of the prescribed actions and declarations and yet do not get healed you begin to wonder ‘what is wrong with me’ and you ask ‘why Lord were those others healed instead.’

I believe that one of the keys to having more healing in our churches is to foster a genuine atmosphere of thankfulness for every blessing the Lord does give us no matter how small and keep on keeping on. When others are blessed and healed, believers need to celebrate and see this as a sign and a demonstration that the door may now be open for them to receive their own healing and blessings. Testimonies play a vital part in this process by raising faith and expectation. First of all, healing is not a ‘zero-sum game.’ Our God is infinite in power and love for all the children in his family.

It reminds me of something we put into practice concerning healing at Vineyard Laguna Niguel in California several years ago after which healing among our people increased exponentially. First of all, a regular time was set apart for words of knowledge and healing during every service. Then testimonies of healing and miraculous blessings were also featured. Soon we discovered that certain illnesses were being healed time and again in our church. It was like a ‘beach head’ had been established against certain maladies. We started calling these- ‘Gracelines’ since a whole line of folks had been healed of the same thing. The following is an article that I wrote 2 years ago about what we experienced at the time and came to call ‘Gracelines’:

Last year was an extraordinary year at Vineyard Community Church Laguna Niguel and 2013 seems to be even more so. ‘More’ is the key word. The church is experiencing the Kingdom breaking through in a number of different ways especially in healings and miracles.

One thing that we have decided to do in the last several years is to continue to pray for healing until proven otherwise –death proving the otherwise. Some of our congregation have finally received remarkable healings after years of prayer with no results. This has encouraged us to keep on keeping on.

Along the way we are also learning to rejoice and celebrate even minor victories when God brings any kind of relief or partial healing. Some Christians seem to find partial healings to be somewhat controversial nevertheless we are dedicated to always celebrate what ever God gives us. Yet we also continue to pray for even greater blessings.

The most important change for us came when we began to notice that healings or miracles in one area seemed to open to door and dial up the faith for others to receive similar blessings. We started calling these ‘Gracelines’ since a whole line of similar healings, miracles, and testimonies have followed.

For 5 years or more our church had become a ‘migraine free’ zone where a large number of people in our congregation who used to suffer from severe reoccurring migraine headaches had received substantial healing. Doesn’t sound like much unless you are plagued and occasionally disabled by that malady.

Then this last year one of the key leaders in our healing rooms ministry received a remarkable healing of his eyesight in one eye which had severely degenerated. Then later he and others had prayed for a lady who was legally blind and her sight impossibly began to increase over a week or so until she could actually read again. More remarkable healings in eyesight have followed and continues to this day. In my own case, I had one eye with distorted vision. When I looked upon a straight line or board with my one eye it would look crooked to me with a jagged line in the center but after prayer one day in church that went away. Still need glasses but at my age I am truly thankful for the blessing of better eyesight.

Then another brother who had continual pain in his shoulder for 5 years was healed and it has opened to door to many others with shoulder trouble and severe pain to be healed. The testimonies are still coming in on that one. Then there was another with knee problems with similar results and breakthroughs.

Another Graceline opened when a pastor’s wife testified that she had lost a necklace that was really dear to her and prayed for its return for several days. Then one morning it just appeared around her neck. I know that is a strange one for many and I have no theological explanation for it  (nor do I want too) but it has opened a door for others to pray for lost things with amazing results. Many have received dreams or visions of the location of what they had lost after prayer.

On one occasion I could not find my keys after looking everywhere I could think of for 30 minutes or so. Finally time was up and I really needed to get going to work. Usually at that point in the equation I would have been fuming and yelling at my dear wife and blaming her for moving them but then I remembered a couple of the Graceline testimonies and turned to prayer instead and immediately had a picture of myself working in the garage the evening before and found my keys right where I left them on the work table. All this may sound trivial to some but believe me my wife is even more thankful for this blessing than I am.

Then there was a couple early last year who are worship leaders/musicians who testified that they had prayed for money to pay their rent and while driving down I5 Freeway money rained down on their windshield and when they pulled over and picked it up they found that it was just enough to pay the rent with $10 left over which they gave to a homeless person the next day. Then after that another lady testified that when she went to buy a car, the vehicle she really needed was several thousand more than she knew she really had but the Lord told her to buy it anyway and when she handed over the cash she had in an envelope it somehow had multiplied and was exactly enough to complete the sale. This not only opened a door but a deluge has followed with new testimonies nearly every week.

We have started to call these- ‘mail box miracles’ since so many of the testimonies that followed have revolved around folks receiving needed prayed for unexpected money in the mail. In these dire economic times, many in our church are living from week to week trusting in God like never before to bring what is needed to support their families. One week I was a couple hundred dollars short of the expense money I needed for an out of town business trip. I had prayed for help in that area but still was completely surprised when I received a $200 check in the mail from a Christian contractor I had used for referring him to a neighbor across the street for a job. Amazing.

We have a lot of business owners in our congregation and these have been particularly tough times for small businesses but God has been faithful through it all. I will save that for another post. But another door which has been particularly significant is the ‘job’ Graceline. So many of our folks had lost jobs in this economy or lost business that we started to actually take time on Sunday morning to pray for those who needed new jobs or business with remarkable results. While the jobless rate in our county is still above 10% nearly everyone in our congregation is now working and paying their bills.

Bottom line- this is not revival but it is better than we have ever seen before and I have already posted about the even more remarkable things happening in our outreach ministries. But there is nothing happening here that isn’t happening or can’t happen elsewhere. It is just now happening more often. It is a matter of our faith and expectations being dialed up and increased exponentially in certain areas in response to the testimonies and experiences of other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our understanding of ‘Gracelines’ is that when you take the time to acknowledge and rejoice in what God is doing he seems to open up the door to The Kingdom breaking through even more in the same areas. We have also found that including testimonies in our regular Sunday services has encouraged our people to live by faith and include God in their everyday living. Blessings have followed, miracles and healings have increased, Gracelines have continued, and our faith, expectations, and thankfulness have gone to another level.              *Top

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