Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Bible and it's parallel to our lives

The call of God on a man or woman's life is amazing. I always tell people that ministry, or the call to ministry is a God thing. It can't always be understood or figured out, it's just a God thing.

When I read the Bible and examine the lives of great men and women, I find so many similarities to my own life, however, I am not in the least bit saying I live up to their standards, or even come close to the dedication and commitment they had to the Lord when they walked this planet. But, I do see so many life experiences that they went through that I find myself going through along this journey. For instance, Elijah, when he stood against 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) on Mt. Carmel challenging the people of Israel to remove the idol worship of foreign God's and choose the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their only God. I see in Elijah a dedication and an extreme commitment to bring truth to the people, so much so, that he is willing to stand before the whole congregation and speak things that many do not want to hear. We live in this type of generation today, many people don't want to hear that God is a jealous God, and that He will not compete with idols in our lives. He will be first in our lives and will never play second fiddle to another, because He is God, and to accept anything less would be to reject His own commandment to the nation of Israel, "Thou shalt have no other God's before me". (Exo. 20:3)

After the intense confrontation between Elijah and these prophets, Elijah runs (1 Kings 19:4) into the wilderness asking God to take his life (where did all the boldness go?) after hearing word that Jezebel, who represents an evil spirit that controls weak spirited people, makes threats on his life which causes fear and confusion to arise. No doubt Elijah had right intentions when confronting the prophets. He wanted to see the people of God serve and worship the true God of Israel. His love for the nation gave him the boldness to speak out in tough times. However, right after the greatest victory and demonstration by the hand of God, Elijah finds himself running for his life in fear and doubt.

It is most important for ministers and people called of God to rightly divide the word of God, separating soul (mind, will, emotions) and spirit (the hub of man that God speaks to). This is done by spending time in prayer and the Word. God's Word is "quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword..." Heb 4:12. Elijah was a man of God and still dealt with fear and confusion. Attacks will come to the mind. Ministry can be a very lonely place, it was for many of the prophets of God, up to the last O.T. prophet John the Baptist, one called of God to prepare the way of the Lord. His fiery messages didn't impress the religious of the day, but to the lost and hurting, they where a refreshing wind of hope that something better is on the way. I want to be like John, speaking a message that something better is on the way. Jesus Christ is coming soon and we in ministry have a mandate to speak the truth and prepare the people no matter how lonely of a place it may seem to be. We must remember what we preach "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" Heb 13:5, that apply's to God's messengers as well.

Stay the course, keep up the fight, Jesus is coming for His Bride!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Did I go or was I sent?

This question has haunted me at times since I began ministering in 1986. It seems as though true success has evaded my grasps in most every area of my life, as a Pastor, Evangelist, and Accountant with my own business, husband, father and child of God. Nothing has ever come easy for me, or my family. It seems there has always been a challenge to succeed, or at least what most consider success. After a while one begins to question whether he/she is in the will of God or not. We live in an era of church ministry that is bombarded with success preaching, dominion theology, ask and it shall be done faith, and God wants His people to be successful sermons. How does the small church Pastor compete with the mega churches of today? Statistics as I understand them point out that 95% of most churches are under 100 in attendance. In recent years, there has been an exodus from the ministry by scores of preachers that have given up, whether because of finances, church splits, personal sin, or whatever, there are fewer and fewer ministers that are sticking with it, refusing to bail out, refusing to crater to hard times or challenges to their ministry.

At times, I listen to and read articles from a website that I really like called Today as I was researching and studying I came across an article that really ministered to me, and to be quite honest it gave me a rebuke that I needed. I’ve included a portion: “What do you focus more on – where is the greatest desire of your heart? Do you seek more after revival or after Christ and Him being formed in you? Do you seek more after signs and wonders or after Christ and Him being formed in you? Do you seek more after ministry and results or after Christ and Him being formed in you? Are you content to never see revival, signs and wonders and give up your ministry counting all these things as dung to become more Christ like? Christ and Christ being formed in us must be our supreme focus and the desire of our heart and only then will these other things flow naturally from our lives and only then can we truly be used of God by the Spirit.”

Oh how I pray to crucify this wicked flesh of mine. That part of me that craves attention, craves worldly success, and even craves to be known as one that “did it right in Jesus”. That kind of thinking is a false humility and craving of the flesh. I pray to be hidden in Christ, to be conformed to his image, which is His greatest desire for our lives. I repent of trying to bring results so others can see what we are doing for the Kingdom. I pray to know Jesus as Lord and King. Lord if I went, and was not sent, forgive me. Lead me into your perfect will and deliver me from the deception of my flesh. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Can God fearing Pastors really survive this generation and continue preaching an uncompromised message of repentance filtered through grace? What if the results don’t come in? What happens if people refuse to listen? Do these things mean we’re not in the will of God? Maybe we did “just go”, and were not sent. What about Noah, a preacher of righteousness who warned the people of his day of a coming Judgment and only his family was saved? And Moses, after he was called from the burning bush, struggled in the desert for 40 years until he was empty of himself and his own ability to deliver the nation of Israel. If Jesus Christ himself were living and walking among us today, how many would follow him? If history repeats itself, as it does so often, it wouldn’t be that many. In His greatest hour only a few remained faithful and continued to walk with Him.

In conclusion, as a minister of the Gospel, one sent by the Lord, I’ve learned that I must leave the results up to God and preach or prophesy in love what the Lord has given me, nothing more and nothing less. “Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Monday, May 5, 2008

We invest in others...Do we invest in ourselves?

This past weekend my wife and I, along with six other couples from our church had the privilege of attending "A weekend to remember" hosted by the ministry of Family Life. This is our second year in a row to attend this conference and we hope to continue attending each year until we see Christ.

One thing we as minister's do very well is invest time and energy into the lives of other families, and one thing we do very poorly is invest time and energy into our own, specifically our marriage. It's one thing to spend time with your children, and quite another to invest in or spend time with your spouse. One thing I have realized as a minister is; I'm more effective for others when my marriage is healthy and flourishing in Christ. My wife and I have had a great marriage for some 27 years now. It hasn't been without struggle, but has been a good marriage. However, three years ago I began to become the man of God that my wife really needed. Preaching, teaching, singing, and leading others to the Lord doesn't qualify me as a man of God. I believe what does is when I become the priest of my home, which demands time spent with my wife. Being a shepherd over her, as well as my kids. Considering her needs and always remembering she needs me as much or more as everyone else does, and that she is honored as my first priority of ministry.

Take time today to bless your spouse. Give your marriage to the Lord and allow Him to build your home. Let Christ and His principles become the foundation of what your home is about. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." Ps. 121:1

The desire for effective preaching

Preaching is one of the mysteries that I have yet to figure out. How does one that is imperfect deliver the gospel without flaw or blemish that it might be understood by the listener, who is imperfect themselves, that they may gain the privilege of entering into an eternity with God?

I understand the fact of scripture that it is the Holy Spirit that leads us or mankind to all truth. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” - John 16:13. The amazing thing is that God chooses to use ordinary people like you and I as funnels or vehicles of His word to a lost and hurting world. Many times when I leave the pulpit after a Sunday morning service, I begin to analyze the message and beat myself with questions “Why did you say such and such, or why didn’t you do or say this or that” as if I was the one that God was counting on to deliver a perfect message so all would come to the full knowledge of Christ that very day.

I realize more and more as I grow in Christ that it is God that exposes the truth to mankind. It is the condition of a man’s heart that causes him to reject or accept the truth of God’s word when it is delivered. It is not my responsibility to change a heart; that is the Lords doing. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do the” - Ezekiel 36:26, 27.

A great description of this concern is addressed by the late Oswald Chambers in his devotional writings “Never sympathize with a soul who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to find out the reason why it is difficult, but so to present the truth of God that the Spirit of God will show what is wrong. The great sterling test in preaching is that it brings everyone to judgment. The Spirit of God locates each one to himself. If Jesus ever gave us a command He could not enable us to fulfill, He would be a liar; and if we make our inability a barrier to obedience, it means we are telling God there is something He has not taken into account. Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God. Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.”[1]

It could not be spoken more clearly. Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God by the preacher and the receiver of the Word. Preachers must depend solely and completely on the Holy Spirit to guide one to Christ through the preaching of the word. It is this awesome thought that brings into focus the blessing of grace, for grace is the power of God that enables one to follow the Lord and do as He says. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” - John 1:12.

It remains my eternal desire as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ that I remain faithful to the calling in which I have been called, and that is to proclaim the good news that is found in the pages of scripture. I realize that the message is a spiritual one and cannot be accomplished without the help of the Holy Spirit; therefore, it is my duty and desire, and should be of every minister of the gospel; to spend time in the presence of a Holy God who enables us to hear and see clearly His message for His people today.

[1]Chambers, Oswald: My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935, S. May 5

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The man that prayed me through!

Today I got word that one of my former Pastors that helped me in the early beginnings of my salvation experience, passed away. His name was Joe Barnes and he pastored First Assembly of God church in Huntsville, Texas for many years. I was attending Sam Houston State University in 1979 when I met the Lord Jesus Christ. During that time of my college life, I began attending Chi Alpha which was a student run ministry on campus. My friend (Tim Kroon) and I went because we were hungry for God. Previous to our experiences with Christ, we hard tried the things of the world and all that comes with it and we knew there was something better.

I remember a time he and I went out to a cemetery where a year prior to this, we would go because we heard their where Satanic sacrifices or rituals going on and we wanted to crash the party, not knowing really what we where going to encounter. We never really saw the party nor the sacrifices, but at least got to say we went to explore. So we're going out to the cemetery now to seek God. We knew it was definitely a quiet place, so we parked my truck, got into the back and began to pray, until we began to hear noises and became very distracted. Finally as we where praying we saw a line of car lights coming from deep inside the cemetery and we'd had enough. We jumped into the truck, sped off like crazy men. Maybe there was something going on in that place, but now with our life changed we didn't want any part of it. So we made our way back to First Assembly in Huntsville, it was late at night so we drove to the back of the church thinking we could find a quiet, but safe place to pray without distractions, but that wouldn't work either. Seemed like every time the wind blew and the trees waved their branches, we got side tracked and couldn't concentrate on the reason for why we were there. You see, we were praying to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We had heard about it, saw others receive it, saw the results of lives changed by it, and now we wanted it for ourselves. Our motto was "if God's got it and wants us to have it, we wanted it". Needless to say, nothing supernatural happen that night to either one of us.

Several weeks later, a brother in the Lord, a student leader in our Chi Alpha group was teaching about the Holy Spirit. There was about (seemed like 60 people) crammed into a double wide mobile home that was on the back side of the church, sitting and learning more about the things of God concerning the Holy Spirit. I made a decision that night. I was not leaving that building until I had received the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as mentioned in Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and other areas of the bible. After the meeting the leaders asked if there was any that wanted to pray and tarry for the baptism, and immediately my hand went up. There were about 6 of us, so they took us inside the church, and it just so happened that Pastor Barnes was there that evening taking care of some routine church duties, so he came in to pray with us. He talked to us briefly about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and I remember kneeling down at that old altar and praying, trying my best to figure out what was happening or what was to happen. It seemed like hours, but really just a few minutes. Brother Barnes was on one side of the altar and I was on the other. He began to speak in a heavenly language that I could not understand nor tried to, and just minutes later God consumed my life with His presence and filled me with the Holy Spirit and gave me a prayer language of my own. What a day of rejoicing that was. God's gift freely given to any believer willing to accept it by faith and allow its operation in their life. I am indebted to three men that have had an impact on my life. Pastor James McKeehan of Lindale Assembly of God-Houston, Texas, Pastor Joe Barnes of First Assembly of God-Huntsville, Texas, and Pastor Lloyd Maddoux of First Assembly of God-Conroe, Texas. Pastor McKeehan and Pastor Barnes are both now with the Lord. They were men of God that I admired greatly. If I can do for someone just a small portion of what these men have done for me, I will have accomplished much for the Kingdom of God. Brother Barnes, thank you for being the man "that prayed me through".

Friday, April 4, 2008

others cannot!

Back in the 80's when I knew that God had called me into service for Him, I ran across this paper (author unknown) that impacted my life so much, the message I have saved and held onto for over 20 years now and have tried at best to live what I felt was a call to a consecrated life with Christ. I knew the Lord had His hand upon me, but being young in the Lord at the time I didn't know really what that meant, nor did I know where the Lord was leading me. Today, I'm still not completely sure, but I do know He has continued pressing this message into my life.
"Others cannot"
If God has called you to be really like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put on you such demands of obedience, that He will not allow you to follow other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may brag on themselves, on their work, on their success, on their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, he will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries. But it's likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something better than gold, and this is a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

The Lord will let others be honored, and put forward, and keep you hid away in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He will let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him, and get the credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing: and then to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work you have done, and this will make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign God, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and He will not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you, but if you absolutely sell yourself to be his love slave, he will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God, that you are in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven." (End of quote).

While eating dinner last evening with my wife of 27 years I mentioned to her that so many times in this season of my life I am overwhelmed with God and His presence in me. He is so real, almost tangible at times. The bible says in Hebrews 12:29 "For our God is a consuming fire". I feel at times consumed by His love, His mercy, and His grace. It is in these times when I know that He speaks to those who will take the time to listen. The one lost component of prayer, the listening side. We've been good at speaking, praying, giving our request, proclaiming, taking dominion, casting out this and that, but are we listening? God desires a people of fellowship. Many people today in the church cry out for fellowship, something their lacking in their lives that only others can fulfill. What about the Lord? What about fellowship with God? We were created for His good pleasure, may we never lose sight of that fact.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Where do you start?

This has been a dream of mine for many years to write about my experience in ministry or just my journey with Christ, knowing Him more intimate, knowing what He wants for my life. Wow, I really don't know where or how to begin, so I'll just start with where I am currently along this journey and weave into this tread past experiences, miracles of God in my life, good times and definitely a lot of hard times.

Currently I Pastor a small, but growing & vibrant church in The Woodlands, Texas called The River. We run about 125 people overall and we're a little over 4 1/2 years old. This church was started out of our home during a very stressful time in mine and my wife's life. Our daughter had just married her high school sweetheart, which was awesome, but our son was beginning a downhill spiral in his walk with God and his overall choices he was making in high school. During that season the Lord was placing a desire in my heart to begin a church in The Woodlands with a vision to become a large, spirit-filled place of worship where the presence of God was sought after, and where people could grow in their hunger and relationship with Christ. I had been a part of this community (The Woodlands) for some time now, and had visited several churches to get a feel for the spiritual atmosphere around us, when the Lord said to begin a work for Him. I went to my Pastor that I had worked under since 1991 and he was willing to release us and committed to helping us financially and prayerfully for the first year while we began our work.

During that time, I can't honestly say my wife was totally on board with starting. We both were under a lot of stress with our son, and our focus was really directed on how to help him. We battled guilt, confusion, anger, and all of the other emotions that come into play when God has called you to do something for Him that's always bigger than yourself, but you feel so inadequate or unworthy because one of your own is suffering with choices they've made. So, what do you do? Scripture says when you've done all to stand, keep standing! Don't quit, don't give in to the war around you, but fight your way back with one purpose in mind, and that's not even to really get you child back, it's's to give glory to God with our lives and allow our selves to become a living sacrifice for the Lord.

I can't explain to you all what I really feel about the Lord, or even how deep of a yearning I have to know Him better. Proofing and re-reading the previous paragraphs stir up feelings I had several years ago, even back when I know He placed His "Call" on my life in the early 80's. Feelings of complete surrender to the will of God. Feelings that cause self examination stirring questions about life, purpose, and meaning. Maybe we've all asked the question: Why am I here? We're here to have fellowship with God. We're here to give glory to Him at all times. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that this life is not about us, it's about the Lord. He purchased us with the blood of His son Jesus Christ. He paid a price for us that no one can match. What he's asked of those who follow Him is a life lived for Him. Many people feel there's no real obligation to serve God or live for Him consistently. They even feel once they've made a commitment to the Lord, that God knows their weaknesses and their inability to live for Him, therefore justifying or excusing themselves from consistent devotion or prayer because of the weakness of their carnal nature. However, something we fail to remember or remind ourself is when someone gives their life to Christ, the Holy Spirit of promise comes to take residence in that life. The Spirit of God becomes our guide, our teacher, and our comforter. The bible says in John 16:13 the Holy Spirit comes to "guide you into all the truth". John 14:6 says Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life", so the Holy Spirit living in us leads us in Christ. I believe He leads us in every aspect of Christ. We become the Lords treasured vessels that He lives in. What an honor and what a blessing. We live in days that demand a deeper surrender to God's will. Everyone battles the sins of the flesh (mind, will, emotions), but God will always make a way of escape to those who seek Him. I leave you with a quote from a family member. "God reveals the secrets to those who seek Him". Be a seeker of God!