Category Archives: Word for the Church

-Acts 2/ Joel 2: Looking ‘Forward’

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It is a new day and a new Biblical year and we are still looking forward to revival. But sometimes there is stuff that must come first or may come along with it that we would rather avoid. But the word ‘Revival’ only brings to our minds the ‘good stuff’ and all of the ‘not so good’ that came along with former moves of God is usually forgotten or disregarded. 

500 years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther tacked 95 theses to a door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther wanted to bring revival and reform to the church but schism came instead and a few years later he was excommunicated and then the wars followed for several hundred years. But the church was reformed and change came to all of the church regardless. One wonders if he would have proceeded differently if he had known all the stuff that was going to follow.

One thing for sure, the Reformation was a Move of God. More than anything else the most important result was access to the Bible and real knowledge of the written Word of God- the Logos. Before 1517 The Word was only available to the Priests, Monks, and scholars and very little of it was allowed to ever trickle on down to the regular folks. Not only that but ‘worship’ services were in Latin which only the educated could understand.

Coming out of the Reformation, services started being conducted in the vernacular and an exposition and teaching of the Scriptures became an important part of worship. Later the Bible was translated into the languages of the people and with the invention of the printing press it became available for regular folks. The church was changed by the Logos of God.

Most of us in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches look back on Azusa Street in 1906 as the beginning of another Move of God that changed the church. This time it was the Rhema Word of God that was restored along with all of the Spiritual gifts. A good historical case can be made that the ‘gifts’ never really departed entirely from the church but few regular folks in the church had the opportunity to experience them.

Now we are at a new crossroad where a significant part of the church is questioning whether the Bible is still even relevant and whether certain plain teachings in the Word should be disregarded or ignored. Ironically it is the old ‘Reformation’ mainline churches that are in the midst of rejecting their own foundations which were rooted in ’solo scriptura.’

The point is, major change and a new move of God including some kind of new ‘reformation’ is ahead for the church and we can expect that the revival we are hoping for may be far different than our romanticized expectations. Fact is, the church is always ‘looking forward’ to the past revivals and is never fully prepared to receive the new one.

To demonstrate what I am talking about let’s take a look at Acts. Before all of the good stuff in Acts 2 we find in chapter 1 that all the church devoted themselves to prayer. Since Pentecost came 50 days after the Passover they could have been praying solid for at least a month or so. Not only that, but for only this one time in history the entire church and everyone in it was actually prepared to receive a move from God.

Now for the scary part that may be relevant for us now or in the very least for the church some time in the future. We all like the ‘good stuff’ in Peter’s quote of Joel 2:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,and your young men shall see visions,and your old men shall dream dreams;

18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. …

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Here’s the part of Acts 2 / Joel 2 we would rather ignore. The verses between 18 and 21 (19 & 20):

19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

In light of all of the major disasters lately, these verses might be far more relevant to a coming revival than we want to admit. Also, a falling away and major persecution might well come along with it.

It is time for the church to pray. It is always time for us to pray but especially now.               *Top

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-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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-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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-SBC President Calls on Churches to Pray for Another Great Awakening

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is pleading, encouraging, and calling the 46,000 churches in his denomination and beyond to “extraordinary prayer” for revival and another Great Awakening. Here’s the message from his blog:

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<Read the whole message>

He has also made available his complete message in an 16 page e-book which can be downloaded for free:

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Response: Charismatic and Pentecostal pastors and denominational leaders should jump on this immediately and stand as one and add their support to Dr. Floyd and the SBC in prayer and intercession for our nation.

Most of us have been praying for this for quite some time. We should stand together right now, ignore sectarian boundaries, and lift our voices in unity. We have long held that revival and a new Awakening is needed now in America as never before.

The nation is currently going through radical cultural changes that could make it very difficult for conservative Bible believing Christians in the future. Political power and pressure will never bring the nation back to its Biblical foundations. Our only real hope is that the Holy Spirit will sweep once more across our great nation and bring revival and another Great awakening. Now is the time.           *Top

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