Exceed Your Expectations

My little, white, poodle-mix dog, Blitz, has been trained to sleep in a crate. But every evening, as I prepare for my night of slumber, he jumps up on my bed. I know he is hoping to avoid his nighttime fate by persuading me with some quality companion time. He will often crawl under the covers to just lie at my feet. He won’t move, even if I get up to change clothes, put things away, or simply mill around the room. But, the second he hears the water running, as I prepare to brush my teeth, he hops off the bed and goes into his crate. My wife brushes her teeth before me, yet he doesn’t move when she does. He has learned that my teeth being brushed is the last activity before the lights go out in the Ferguson household. So, when he hears that water running, he resigns himself to the inevitable – he heads to his crate. It is his routine; it is how he has been trained. It is what he expects.

My question to you today is, “What are you expecting?” As a Christian, I hope you view your walk with the Lord as much more than a routine. I hope your expectations for life are high. My reason for this hope for you: God always exceeds your expectations!

In Acts 3:1-11, the lame man who asked Peter and John for some money was expecting to receive something. Peter looked at him and said, “Look on us.” Little did that man know what was about to happen. He was expecting a coin; he received a miracle in his feet. He went walking and leaping and praising God. His expectations were low – God exceeded his expectations.

In Luke 5:1-11, Peter allowed Jesus to borrow his boat. After Jesus finished teaching from the boat He told Peter to launch out into the sea and let down his nets for an abundant haul of fish. Peter did so reluctantly because he and his crew had been fishing through the night and hadn’t caught anything. But out of his respect for Jesus, he launched out and let down one net – because he didn’t really know what to expect. He was amazed and somewhat ashamed, however, when he had to call his friends over to help him because he took in more fish than his boat alone could hold. Peter’s expectations were low – God exceeded his expectations.

In Genesis 17:1, God is called “El Shaddai.” The simple meaning of this name is “The God who is more abundantly.

In John 10:10, Jesus didn’t say that He came to give us life – He said that He came to give us life more abundantly.

In Ephesians 3:20, we are told that God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we could ask or think. It doesn’t just say exceeding, it doesn’t just say abundantly, and it doesn’t just say above. It says, exceeding, abundantly above. When researched, you find the full meaning of these words together is … superabundantly, above and beyond, and some on top of that! That is how God wants to work in every area of our lives: more than more than enough, above and beyond, and then, some more on top of that.

Today you might be satisfied with where you are, but God is not. He has not only you in mind, but He is thinking about your children and other people as well. Psalm 115:14 says, “The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children.” God doesn’t measure increase by the quantity of things possessed. He measures increase in growth. So, no matter how much you increase (grow), there is always room for more increase (growth).

God wants you to continually increase – superabundantly, above and beyond, and some on top of that. God increasing you and helping you get to where you are going is His idea. You don’ have to beg Him or convince Him to do it. It is His desire – it is His nature – it is who He is – the God of more than enough!

Endless Genealogies

Matthew 24:3-8

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

When the disciples asked Jesus about His coming and the end of the world, one of the events Jesus said would be included in the “beginning of sorrows” was “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Any student of history understands that nations have been at war or various degrees of unrest for millennia before Jesus walked on this earth – it is not a new phenomenon. But when we take the time to closely examine what Jesus said, we see that He was not merely referring to established countries being at war. The Greek word translated as “nation” is “ethnos” – from which our English word ethnic is derived. Jesus was saying that before He returns, ethnic group will rise against ethnic group. We are seeing this right now in our own backyard. Of course, as I stated earlier, this type of strife has been happening for centuries, even in our own country. People have been separating themselves from others based upon various characteristics and differences, and fighting over those distinctions, since men started forming groups or clans. Some of these differences are not physical. The second uprising up that Jesus mentioned was “kingdom against kingdom.” A kingdom is a domain or the area governed by a ruler. With this in mind, a very simple definition of a kingdom is a certain way of living and doing things; for each kingdom has its own culture. Some of the current strife in America can be contributed to the contention between cultures – the various ways of doing things.

God, however, brings people with differences into unity. Paul, the apostle, admonished us to work at keeping this peace among ourselves by exercising the love of God toward each other. (Ephesians 4:1-3) But when people don’t follow the Lord, differences are magnified. Because people have forsaken the Lord, these types of uprisings will increase as we come closer to the return of Jesus. Yet, as Christians, we need to remind ourselves not to lose our focus during these times. It is easy to get drawn into fleshly arguments, debates, and activities. We all have our own opinions and experiences. However, when we allow ourselves to be drawn into never-ending debates that get us nowhere, we are sidetracked from the Word of God. Such debates lack any power of God. This is why our attention needs to stay focused on the Lord, because He is the only One who can change people’s hearts – not just their minds.

1 Timothy 1:4 (The Passion Translation)

Nor pay any attention to cultural myths, traditions, or the endless study of genealogies. Those digressions only breed controversies and debates. They are devoid of power that builds up and strengthens the church in the faith of God.

As Christians, our identity, the basis for whom we are and everything we do, needs to be found in Christ. Our foundation cannot be in our race, nationality, or ethnic group. Our identification cannot be in natural, fleshly things – our own kingdom or culture cannot be our dividing line. We must be determined that our identity is found in who we are in Christ – for in this we are all the same. If we want to see real change in the hearts of people, we must be Christ-minded, and pass these truths to our children.

“Great ideals and principles do not live from generation to generation just because they are right, nor even because they have been carefully legislated. Ideals and principles continue from generation to generation only when they are built into the hearts of children as they grow up.” – George S. Benson

I am extremely grateful for this country and the freedom we have enjoyed. But some of our worldly institutions have been filling the minds of our younger generations with anti-Christ thoughts and propaganda. We are seeing the results of a generation that has not retained God in their thoughts. They are choosing to identity with their “nation” or “kingdom” instead of having a Godly foundation. As we continue to preach the Word and display the power of God, many of these young people will be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, sadly, many will reject the truth and continue the upheaval and uprisings. Do whatever you are led to do in order to protect you and your family, just make sure it is the Word of God that is in your mouth. Let us not revert back to debating and quarreling now – when we need a revival and the power of God more than ever.

Titus‬‬3:8-11(TheMessage)‬

It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this. I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone. Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print in the law code. That gets you nowhere. Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off.

Live on Purpose

“There are two great days in a person’s life — the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

William Barclay

There is a segment of society whose population is exploding all around us. This group of people seems to be growing exponentially. Who are they? They are people without a purpose. They live among us.

Some suffer in silence.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Henry David Thoreau

Some are oblivious to the reality that they truly have no purpose in this world.

“It is because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has never been able to find its way.”

Oscar Wilde

Some give up on their dreams and live a burdensome, unfulfilling life – they survive instead of thrive.

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”

Albert Schweitzer

Some see no purpose for themselves so they simply do what other people are doing.

“We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

Omar Nelson Bradley

Then there are many who search for a “cause” to support and pursue.

“There is no purpose in living where there is nothing to do.”

Winston Churchill

Believing in something, whether it is just or unjust, will give people a sense of value and meaning – a reason, a purpose. At least temporarily, even if but for a fleeting moment, a cause allows people to focus. It points their lives in a certain direction – it gives them a path to follow. Without purpose, without vision, the Bible says that people wander aimlessly – uncontrolled and unfocused.

Proverbs 29:18 (Bible in Basic English)
Where there is no vision, the people are uncontrolled …

Having a purpose for life is a necessity. A major problem, however, is that people choose to follow vain or hollow purposes. I like how The Message phrases Proverbs 29:18 – “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves.” People do not have to stumble through this life with no purpose or misguided purposes. The last part of Proverbs 29:18 indicates that those who follow God’s teachings and attend to what He reveals are most blessed. You see, to truly be content, our identity must be in Christ. Nothing else will satisfy the longing in our heart. We may find temporary reprieve in certain “causes,” but never fulfillment. We need to find our meaning in Christ and realize our value to God. Then we can find and pursue His plan and purpose for our lives. The only place to find true contentment and lasting fulfillment is in following God’s purpose for your life; for God created people for a purpose and wants each person to live with purpose.

Ephesians 5:15 (Amplified Bible)
Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people)

I like the depth of meaning that the Amplified Bible provides us in this verse: “live purposefully.” The implication is that living purposefully is a part of walking watchfully, and that not living purposefully is unwise and witless (unintelligent).

God does everything with a purpose.

Ephesians 1:11

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

Jesus had a purpose.

1 John 3:8

… For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

The Lord’s involvement in your life has a purpose.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I find it interesting that Paul told Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.” (2 Timothy 3:10) Paul had a purpose and he lists it as something that Timothy knew about him. Too many Christians seem to have no purpose; they live haphazardly. They simply meander through this life, not seeming to realize that a life lived with a purpose is a life filled with meaning. Do others know your purpose? Do you know your purpose?

God has given us sixty-six books that are filled with the knowledge of Him, His plans, and His purposes. We can find within the Bible some purposes for living and working with Him. These are the first things that give meaning to our lives. Here are just a few examples:

1. He gave us a commission to share the Gospel message

Mark 16:15 (New Living Translation)

And then he told them, “God into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

2. He instructed us to be students of His Word

2 Timothy 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that  needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

3. He even said the giving or our offerings should be on purpose.

2 Corinthians 9:7

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

If you will start purposefully living the things God has already told you, then He can reveal other purposes to you that involve your individual life. But, if you are not doing the first things, the things He has already said in His Word, why would He waste His time telling you anything else? Quit wandering aimlessly – make up your mind to get on the path that actually takes you where you need to go.

“You can’t improve a wrong path by trying to walk better or faster or smarter. Get on a right path.”

Dr. Henry Cloud

Don’t Be A Victim

“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.” – John Jay, First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

If you step back to get an overview of the events that have transpired in our country over the last few months you will see the damaging results of people not reading the Bible and ordering their lives by it. The seeds of ungodliness produce some bad fruit. These seeds were planted by all races, classes, and genders of people – but they weren’t planted yesterday. They have been growing around us for decades. Now they have budded and the fruit is being harvested. The effects of anger, bitterness and strife are staring us right in the face.

James 1:20 (Weymouth Translation)

For a man’s anger does not lead to action which God regards as righteous.

James 3:16 (Amplified Bible)

For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.

Hebrews 12:14, 15 (The Message)

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.

A very destructive consequence of these behaviors is the attitude of victimization. Adam got this ball rolling for all mankind when he blamed both God and Eve for his predicament.

Genesis 3:12

And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

Thus, the practice of blaming others was born. People look for someone else to blame for their circumstances, for how they feel, even for their own actions – he/she/the devil made me do it! God definitely gets His share of the blame: “I can’t help it, God made me this way.” Of course, some things are simply blamed on circumstances that were definitely out of our control: who our parents are, who are siblings are, where we were born, when we were born, our genetic make-up, and on and on. Then there is “the system.” Blame is placed on how it is rigged against people and it cannot be fought. All of these attitudes are evidence of victimhood. Such thoughts lead, not to faith, but to more complaining. The outcome is usually either, 1) an attempt to fight against the wrong in your own natural strength, which will drain your energy with few, if any, lasting results, or 2) the multiplication of life-stifling thoughts of just giving up.

There are definitely injustices and wrongs in this world – and some people have suffered far more than others. I cannot suppose how anyone should feel about any particular situation – even if I have experienced something similar. No one’s true feelings should be marginalized, yet everyone must learn how to properly process and deal with their feelings. The worst path to take, no matter the issue, no matter how you have been wronged, is to make yourself a victim. The problem with playing the victim is you give up control of your own life. Even if someone else truly caused you pain or an injustice, the more you dwell on that injustice the more you give control of your life to that person – and the less time you work on changing and improving your life.

No matter where you are, how you got there, who tried to keep you down or hold you back, until you decide to quit blaming outside forces for your circumstances you will never experience true freedom. So if placing the blame on others is out of bounds, what can you do? It may be hard, and it will definitely be enlightening, but you must examine yourself – you must ask yourself some difficult questions:

Did I do anything to create my dilemma?
Are my attitudes keeping me angry and bitter?
Have my words or actions harmed anyone?
Do I need to take the initiative and ask someone’s forgiveness?
What can I really change: my words, my attitudes, my actions?
What is beyond my power to change? I can engage other people, but I can’t change other people; I can learn from the past, but I can’t re-live the past.

The life of faith is a life of personal responsibility. If you will cooperate with God and His Word to change you, then you will be able to change the circumstances that are staring back at you. This is the life of an overcomer in Christ.

“Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.” – Maya Angelou

1 Corinthians 10:10

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

The following paragraph was written by my friend, Pastor Virgil Stokes. I think this sums it up:

“Life is not ‘fair.’ My hand is determined by who designed the deck, by where I sat at the table, and by pure chance. I have little or no control over any of these things. I can control how I play the hand. Cursing the dealer only tells my opponents the weak nature of my hand.”

The Crisis in America

Proverbs 22:4 (New Living Translation)

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus panic that morphed into lock-downs, economic survival, and debates about freedom of religion, I have maintained that the issues we are facing are not merely natural circumstances. The situations we are confronting go beyond merely Republican vs Democrat, America vs China, or conservative vs liberal feuds. The underlying foundation of all of this upheaval is a spiritual battle: the spirit of anti-Christ attempting to push against the spirit of Christ. Now, the recent protests and unlawful rioting and destruction of private property that have resulted from the actions of a former police officer have magnified and amplified the root of the problem. Our greatest problem in America is not race, or class, or gender. Our greatest problem is that our society as a whole has lost the fear of God.


“The root cause of our current issues in America is much bigger than the evils of police brutality; we have allowed a widespread progressive culture to take hold that has abandoned the fear of God.”
 – Jack Brewer

We live in what I believe is the greatest secular nation that has ever existed. I have been on missions’ trips to countries in Central America, South America, and Africa. My wife has also done missions work in the Philippines. So many of the people in these countries labeled as “Third World” countries suffer ills which most Americans have never seen, let alone experienced. A recent study by Just Facts concluded that if the “poor” in the United States were a nation, then it would be one of the richest in the world. Yet, with all of the status, power, and wealth that we have amassed in this country, we have a festering problem. Our founding fathers recognized that the freedom for which they fought and the republic they gave us could not survive if we forsook Godly principles.

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” – George Washington

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – George Washington


“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people … it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 
– John Quincy Adams

America is not without its problems. I understand there is injustice in America. I believe that the cronyism and greed of a few have negatively affected all races, classes and genders in America – some obviously more than others. Yet, we have this hatred and bitterness that is bubbling under the surface of our society that is looking for any outlet to explode. How have we become a society with a “hair- trigger” for hate and destruction? Without any doubt in my heart or mind, I believe it is because as a society we no longer desire to acknowledge God. The actions of many of our leaders not only lack mention of God, they seem to willing oppose Him and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“They continuously fight to remove the presence of God from our public schools, never asking for more spirituality … They never mention spiritual reconciliation, instead focusing on dividing people based on identity.” – Jack Brewer

The injustices in our country are not imagined. The fear, the bitterness, and the hatred are real – on both sides of almost every issue. But notice the difference in the current demonstrations when compared to Dr. King’s struggle for civil rights just over fifty years ago. How far we have come, or should I say, how far we have fallen!

“In recent days we have seen youngsters posing in front of a burning building or inflamed police vehicle for a selfie. We’ve watched precious historic churches being vandalized and set on fire. These violent acts let you know that we have embraced a culture that has completely lost its fear of God. Terrorizing the same communities you claim to be standing up for is pure evil. This is much different from when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched for civil rights with his Bible.” – Jack Brewer (emphasis mine)

I believe the current state of our society is one by-product of many Christians no longer placing God first in their lives. We cannot carry devotion to God as additional baggage in our lives and assume everything will simply work out for the best. We must wake up spiritually, pray, and do the things God instructs us to do. We must return to our first love and make Him and His kingdom our first priority.

Revelation 2:4, 5 (New Living Translation)

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first …

Expect Great Things

As we quickly approach the middle of the year, we face the tendency to let go of the vision and goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year. If you find yourself in this place, the root of your predicament could have a variety of possible causes: for example, 1) your perception is that the finish line is simply too far away (it’s taking too long); 2) I have better things to do (the reality of life got in the way); or 3) the price was just too much to pay (it got difficult). Yet, you set these goals because you had a desire to change or accomplish something in your life. So, why would you want to quit?

You must come to the realization that while God is helping you to grow, the devil is doing everything he can in his attempt to keep you from growing. His dilemma, however, is that he can’t stop you. His only strategy is to entice you to quit. He does this through delay and distraction. I want to encourage you today to refocus – go back and think about what you wanted to accomplish and the reasons you are thinking about giving up on those things (or possibly have already quit).

I am doing the same thing in relation to our church. We had some desires to fulfill and goals to accomplish this year. The foremost desire we have set before us is to preach and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with demonstration of the Spirit and power – so that people’s faith will not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4, 5) The panic that settled within our society over the past few months was a plan of the devil to delay and distract the people of God as they work to fulfill His plans on this earth. It may have thrown an obstacle in our path, it may have been a hindrance, but it has not and it will not stop us from fulfilling the will of God for Lighthouse Christian Center. We cannot be defeated because we refuse to quit!

As one minister noted, a majority of Americans believe our country is going downhill. Yet church attendance as a percent of population has held steady since 1990, and probably since 1940. America added 50,000 new churches in the last 20 years of the 20th century to total 350,000. The number of born-again Christians has grown steadily to 46% of adults today. Given the state of moral and spiritual decay, how is that possible? The answer is simple: today, Christianity is prevalent, but not powerful. The solution: we need a spiritual revival. We need power from heaven, a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Christianity is to be its own witness through its power to deliver all from sin and heal all who need deliverance from disease. Mark 2:1-12 relates to us the story of the paralytic man who was healed after being let down through the roof into the presence of Jesus. In this story, we see that Jesus was reasonable – He was willing to discuss the issue with them. Then, He demonstrated His authority by healing the man right before their eyes. When Jesus said “that you may know” (verse 10), He was saying, “so that you will understand and be convinced.”

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 1, that Jesus is the Head and we are the Body of Christ. Jesus is still doing the same works that He did when He walked on this earth. The only difference is that now, as the Head, he directs the Body as we do the same works He did. (John 14:12) Jesus never intended for Christianity to be believed and received on any man’s statement. He provided that our statements attesting to Jesus should be accompanied by an exhibition of power that would convince the world. (Mark 16:15-20) Where faith is, there will be the evidence of God’s mighty power to save and heal people. This directive and empowerment is for all who believe, not just a select few.

“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” – William Carey

Joel 2:21

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things.”

Electricity has always existed – it was discovered, not invented. Yet, the world lived in darkness for thousands of years. Man discovered electricity and then learned to harness the power that was always there; we learned the laws that governed it and learned how to properly handle it and apply it to meet our needs. In the same way, the voltage from heaven (the lightening of God as one minister called it) has always been there. As we learn the laws that govern it and how to properly handle it we can apply it to meet our needs and the needs of others. We are divine energy conductors – the power flows through us into the lives of others.

One of our desires is to free people’s thinking from their narrow interpretations of Jesus. The world longs to see Jesus as He truly is: Jesus, the Powerful; Jesus, the Magnificent; Jesus, the Compassionate; Jesus, the Healer; Jesus, the Restorer; Jesus, the King! Let’s determine to work with Him, and allow Him to work through us, in order to give Him the opportunity to demonstrate Himself to mankind and bless them without limitations.

I encourage you to look up the scriptures I referenced in this letter. Read them, say them out loud to yourself, and meditate upon them. Let them take root in your heart so you will begin to realize that God doesn’t just want to do these things – He wants to do them through you!

 

Engaging Culture Part 2

Last week, I highlighted some specific scriptures showing that God’s plan for engaging our culture with the Gospel includes demonstrations of His power, which confirm His Word. Now I want us to examine another aspect of engaging our culture: our attitude toward the people we are attempting to reach with the message of the Gospel.

I previously presented this definition of the word engage: to attract or involve someone’s interest. Yet, that is not the only definition. Another meaning is “to enter into combat with.” I want us to understand that in our efforts to engage our culture with the Gospel, we need to always be mindful of the first definition while avoiding the second. Our fight is not with people. (I am not talking about condoning sin, enabling foolishness, or protecting oneself from harm. Those are all messages for another day. I am speaking of the spiritual battles we fight in fulfilling God’s mission and rescuing people from the snares of the devil.)


Ephesians 6:12 (New Living Translation)

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

When you think about engaging people immersed in our current culture, I want you to consider the following points which were sent to me by a good friend, Pastor Virgil Stokes.

  1. We must strive to engage the culture we live in without becoming a part of it. This means trying to understand the almost completely unbiblical mind of the world around us while maintaining a transcendent life as citizens of another world ourselves. It is the essence of “in the world, but not of the world,” and being “all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” It is difficult to win someone whom you disdain.
  2. Many of the people in media and academia, to put it mildly, don’t like us very much. Some even seem to loathe us. This attitude toward us creates their assumption that we hate them – and this assumption is disseminated among our population. Their minimal exposure to Bible Christianity has given them this impression. We are here to demonstrate the love of God to them and to inform them about who we are because of who He is. This means we need to talk with people without speaking in Christian code – we need to speak in terms they can grasp.
  3. The culture and its human representatives are not our enemy. The enemy is the enemy. People are both the tools of the enemy and the prize in our battle with him. Love the people, stick the Sword of the Spirit in the enemy, and recognize the purpose for which we have been left here on earth: to complete the ministry of reconciliation and destroy the works of the devil.


John 17:14-18 (The Message)

I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn’t join the world’s ways, Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world But that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world. Make them holy — consecrated — with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.

“As Christianity flourishes and grows around the world, we in the United States find ourselves in an almost entirely pagan environment. Whose fault is that?” – Pastor Virgil Stokes


James 5:7
 tells us that God sees people as precious fruit. Whenever we stop seeing people as precious, we stop seeing them as valuable. When we fail to see the value in people, we no longer care what happens to them. In order to properly engage our culture with the Gospel, we must see the people for whom Jesus died as precious and valuable. Once we do this, then we can apply the final definition of engage: to move into position, so as to come into operation. We need to believe God for open doors of opportunity, then step through those doors so we can move into position to allow the Gospel to become operational in the lives of these precious and valuable people.

Engaging Culture

There has been much discussion over the years about how Christians are to engage their culture. There are a lot of buzzwords floating around Christian circles today that attempt to focus our attention on reaching people absorbed in our current culture. Words such as “relevant” and “relational” are used to make this point. These words, however, are also descriptive of a certain mind-set that seems to focus on a distinct way of making the Gospel appealing to sinners.

Engaging means to attract or involve someone’s interest or attention. So to fulfill the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-18) given to us by Jesus, we must involve an unsaved person’s interest or attention with the Gospel. The question then becomes, “how should this appeal be made?”

First, we must realize that God never intended for us to preach the Word without the power of God in operation and demonstration. Jesus never intended for miracles, signs and wonders to diminish in any capacity upon His ascension back into heaven. In fact, Jesus indicates that there should be an increase of this activity upon Him leaving the earth and sending the Holy Spirit to us.

John 14:12

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater (more) works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

The Apostle Paul also had an understanding that the power of God worked in direct relation to the Word of God. Consider the following scriptures:

1 Thessalonians 1:5

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 4:20

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

Even though Paul had this understanding, there was one time in his missionary journeys that he abandoned his belief. In Acts 17, we see Paul has traveled to Athens. While he was waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him, he looked around the city and saw that it was wholly given to idolatry. The Athenians even had a statue dedicated to the “unknown god.” Paul was stirred in his spirit and began disputing (arguing and reasoning) with the Jews in the synagogue and with others daily in the marketplace. (Acts 17:17) He eventually was invited to discuss his new “philosophy” with the greatest “thinkers” in Athens. (Acts 17:18-21) Paul proceeded to give a very eloquent speech. The problem, however, is this was the only time in which he did not also incorporate the power of God. Paul did not have much success in Athens; we do not have record of him starting a church there. Yet, I have witnessed this sermon being held up as the standard of the proper way to be relevant and engage our culture with the Gospel. However, I believe Paul saw it differently. I don’t believe he saw his time in Athens as a success because of what he said about his preaching in the next city after leaving Athens.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Paul realized that arguing and reasoning the Gospel with people was not very successful. I believe that on his way to Corinth, Paul had a great talk with God and determined to go into Corinth preaching Jesus, not enticing words of man’s wisdom. Notice that in this passage of scripture that his preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” The result: Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half and established a successful church there.

Mark 16:20

And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen

“The only way to meet the modern demon-stration of the powers of darkness is by a demonstration of the power of God.” – Vance Havner

Without the power of God, the Truth can become lost amid all of the false voices in the world. Jesus gave us His word that when we preach the Word He will confirm (establish, prove reliable) His word with signs following. Where do you and I begin? The first step toward making a change is changing how we look at the situation – our mind-set must change. We must have a reset of our thought patterns so we begin to look at these things the way God sees them. So, start by meditating on the scriptures I have listed above; think about them every chance you get and speak them out. This is not the endgame, but it is where we need to start.

Romans 12:2 (The Message)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 

It Is Time To Wake Up

Romans 13:11

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Over the course of the run this virus panic has had in America, I have mostly sat back and observed without saying much about what has transpired. I have listened as experts on both sides of the issue have given their reasons why they believe they are right and the other side’s reasons are inaccurate. I have listened as people have admonished me to just believe the science, then I listened as those same people seem to ignore the science that contradicts their science. As a Christian, however, I have primarily listened to what the Church is saying and watched how the Church is acting. As a minister of the Lord, it hasn’t all been pretty to observe.

First, the devil loves to see the Church get into strife. He can simply sit back and watch us devour one another. We shouldn’t be name-calling simply because we disagree – and we shouldn’t be using the Bible to try and wound each other. Making decisions during difficult times is not an exact science. Sincere people do their best to follow the leading of the Lord. It is easy to criticize – and easy to find company to help the endeavor. It takes spiritually-minded people to swim against the current and pray for those with whom they disagree. I believe Christians should stop for a minute and consider some of our recent actions toward each other. Whether we agree or not with a specific decision, let’s try to remember that we are all on the same team. We should keep our disagreements “in-house” and not give the world extra ammunition to try and stifle the message of the Gospel.

I also feel we should evaluate our reaction to the virus that knocked on our door. Aside from arguing about rights and laws, the main problem I observed in the Church was how ill prepared we were for the fear that was thrown at our feet. I heard and read more about sanitizer, masks, hand-washing and social distancing than I heard the Word of God. Every kid in America should now have no problem knowing the length of two yard sticks! This is not a condemnation, but I hope it is a wake-up call. This will not be the last time we face turmoil in America. In fact, precedents have been set in how our leaders deal with these types of issues. This panic is nearly behind us. The question now becomes, “What are we going to do in order to spiritually prepare ourselves for the next panic that is thrust upon us?” I can’t answer for you, but I know that this situation has caused my wife and me to do some self-evaluation. We have increased our time with the Lord and in the Word. I will do everything I can to prepare myself and those whom God has entrusted to my spiritual care. The Church needs to stand up and say, “No more fear – not on our watch!” Take a few minutes to really ponder these verses from Psalm 91. Then, take it a step further and speak them … every day. Allow them to feel at home in your heart – until they become second nature to you.

Psalm 91:2-3, 6-7 (New Living Translation)

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue (me) from every trap and protect (me) from deadly disease. (I) do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at (my) side, though ten thousand are dying around (me), these evils will not touch (me).

Supernatural Evangelism

It seems that there is so much emphasis today on relating to people. While I believe in developing strong relationships, this endeavor is a process. Trusting relationships are not built overnight. I firmly believe that the revival so many of us long to experience will be the result of gaining access into the lives of people with whom we do not have relationships – this will be done the same way Jesus did it: through compassion and the gifts of the Spirit. In other words, we should not forget relationships, but our focus should be on the supernatural and the power of God. Operating in the supernatural is a product of following the Lord’s leading. Following the Lord’s leading is a product of knowing Him – and this truly comes only one way: a CLOSET REVIVAL!

Matthew 6:6
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

We will not see a revival among us until we start having some personal “closet revivals.” We need to develop and deepen our life of prayer and our fellowship with the Lord.

“My friends, if we are going to do a great work for God, we must spend much time in prayer; we have got to be closeted with God.” – D.L. Moody

Gypsy Smith was once asked how to start revival. He answered: “Go home, lock yourself in your room, and kneel down in the middle of the floor. Draw a chalk mark all around yourself and ask God to start a revival inside that chalk mark. When he has answered your prayer, the revival will be on.”

John Wesley was asked how he got crowds: “I set myself on fire, and the people come to see me burn.” 

You need to develop your own fellowship with the Lord. People can pray with you; others can support you and help sustain you in times of trouble. No one, however, can do your personal praying for you.

As we develop our relationship with the Lord, we will learn to listen to Him. As we learn to understand His promptings and leadings, we need to start doing something with what the Lord gives us. Supernatural evangelism involves listening to the Lord and following His leading when ministering salvation and healing to people. At some point, the “closet revival” should translate into ministering to people who need the Lord. Prayer and obedience work together: the foundation is prayer, afterward we build upon it.

“But the people who know their God will be strong and take action.” – Daniel 11:32 (God’s Word)

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late – and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.” – A.Z. Tozer

Consider the story of Martha and Mary as recorded in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus and his ministry team are visiting the house of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus is in the house! But, Martha is distracted from spending time with Jesus because she is too busy preparing food for everyone. She becomes upset with her sister because while she is worried about feeding everyone, Mary is sitting with Jesus, listening to Him. She apparently reached her boiling point because she complained to Jesus about Mary not helping her. In His reply to her, Jesus tells us what is truly important: The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it — it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:41, 42 (The Message) Spending time with Jesus is the essential thing – it is the main course! It is not that Martha’s work was unimportant. It is that what Mary was doing must come first. Without prayer, our work becomes burdensome.

“The way to get revival is to begin at the Master’s feet: you must go there with Mary, and afterwards you may work with Martha.” – Charles H Spurgeon

If we are too busy to pray, then, well … we are just too busy. The results of a lackluster or non-existent prayer life will be few. We can’t blame God for such a predicament. We must face the reality of the situation. There are many things in this life that are beyond our control. As free people, how we choose to spend our time is one of life’s choices over which we have complete control. Maybe we need to turn something off. Maybe we need to learn to say no. Whatever the case may be, we need to stop complaining, and start praying; stop trying to live through our own strength, and draw the strength to live from our Lord; stop putting work before prayer, and sit at Jesus’ feet first. If you don’t know where to begin, start by praying Ephesians 1:16-20 over yourself – and make it personal: insert “me” and “my” for “you” and “your.” Pray in other tongues. Go to the corporate prayer services at your church and hang around people who know how to pray so you can learn from them. Don’t make excuses – just start where you are and grow from there. It is your choice. Not only will that choice affect you personally, but there are other people who need you to make the wise choice. They are waiting for you to introduce them to the power of God.

“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services, but few conversions; much machinery, but few results.” – R.A. Torrey