The Promise of God’s Strength

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Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

It seems inevitable at times in this wicked cruel world we live in that we often find ourselves in need of strength. Life has a way of wearing you out!

exhausted

As we toil through the mundane stress of working jobs, paying bills, raising kids, etc… we find ourselves at the end of the day totally spent! Sometimes I feel like my bank account…drained of all my funds, and not making enough deposits to cover the difference!

Realistically, in my personal opinion, it is near impossible to survive in this world alone. How people make it without the Lord is a mystery to me. Maybe that’s why addictions such as drugs and alcohol, sexual immorality and the escapism mentality are at all time highs! Our world no longer understands how to deal with difficult situations. Instead of handling the root of the issue, more often than not we are trying to pluck the root off hoping nobody will notice! The unfortunate thing is, fruit grows back. Once the realization that the circumstance is beyond our control is met, then we turn to our escapism… drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, pornography, gangs, I dare even say video games! (I know that one seems a bit of a stretch, but if your idea of “winding down” after a tough day is plugging in that PlayStation… isn’t that escapism?)

Look at Abram’s life, he was chosen of the Lord; he was blessed and highly favored; he had a destiny that was spelled out in the stars and sands. Abram, in our eyes, had it easy; I wish God would spell out my future that way. Yet Abram had to do something we all struggle with… wait! And in Genesis chapter 12 the Bible says that there came a famine in the land. In other words, life caught up to Abram. What do I do now? Where do I turn? I don’t think I can handle this situation! So Abram did what many of us are guilty of doing, he ran to Egypt! I know, there are some of you who have never made a mistake; have always done the right thing under pressure. Congratulations! Your in a very small minority. This is human nature, we look for a solution, BEFORE we turn it over to the Lord. Because there is something innate about man, that makes him think he knows whats best for himself! (That’s scriptural… “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes…”Proverbs 21:2)

So what solution do we have for the struggles of life then? How are we to overcome the wear and tear of trials and circumstances? Isaiah told us in chapter 40, we must learn to wait on the Lord. Well…there’s that word again…! I know what your thinking, “Waiting is what got me in this condition in the first place!” Before we apply this principle, first we must understand it’s meaning. To wait doesn’t refer to being idle, or simply being patient. It speaks of waiting in the same sense as a waiter would wait on tables. It means to serve, even when things aren’t going your way. Isaiah is speaking of a principle of consistency. After all the Apostle Paul informed us in Galatians 6:9, “…let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” It’s not the splash of faith that persuades God’s hand to move in your life, it’s your consistency. And through the consistency of your lifestyle, God will renew your strength!

Now that we understand what it means to wait on the Lord, let’s look at the rest of the text and get a better understanding of the power of this scripture! Isaiah said there is a promise to those who wait. They SHALL mount up with wings as Eagles; they SHALL run and not get weary; they SHALL walk and faint not. At first glance this sequence seems a bit backwards, and if it were literal it would be. Nobody learns to fly before they run or walk! But this isn’t speaking of a physical promise, but a spiritual one. Spiritually, we will experience all three of these dimensions once we learn consistency.

  • They shall mount up with wings as eagles…

This dimension is referring to spiritual elevation. The first spiritual dimension you will experience is the dimension of elevation. Through your consistency and faithfulness, God will elevate you. Suddenly you’ll understand things you didn’t understand; here you’ll be more effective than you’ve ever been; your ministry will be more anointed. It’s the elevation of faith. Let me give you an example… David was faithful to God even as a shepherd. He was willing to put his own life in jeopardy to protect the sheep he was entrusted to oversee. When God saw that David took his ministry serious in the field, God sent Samuel the prophet to Jesse’s house and Samuel elevated David to King! Had David slacked in the field his future might have turned out different, but David served the Lord even when he didn’t receive accolades. You might be feeling like a loser because you’re still in the shepherds field; but you need to understand there is an elevation that comes to those who are consistent in the small things!

  • They shall run, and not be weary

This dimension is referring to spiritual acceleration. This is the second spiritual dimension you will discover through “waiting” on the Lord. Suddenly without warning things will begin to accelerate rapidly in your life. You’ll go places you’d never thought you’d go, you’ll be doing things you never thought you’d do. Seemingly out of no-where things turn for the better, and God begins to pour out His blessings on your life! Job experienced this phenomenon, he stayed faithful even when he had been stripped of everything he loved and held dear. He refused to curse God and die, because his understanding of God wouldn’t allow him to so! When his trial came to an end, suddenly Job wasn’t without anymore! Things began to accelerate quickly as God not only restored Job everything he lost, he gave him twice as much in return! There are some people who have simply been trying to hold on through the storms of life, be encouraged; your faith is about to bring you to a dimension of acceleration!

  • They shall walk, and not faint

This last dimension is dealing with spiritual determination. This is the final dimension of faith. Here is the ultimate goal of the church, to reach a level of determination that knows no other direction but forward! It is here where a church discovers how to pray until something happens; how to fast until something breaks. It’s here where no is no longer an option! Revival isn’t a possibility; revival is the will of God! Healing isn’t a possibility; healing has already been purchased! And like the parable of the widow and the unjust king, you can count on it; tomorrow and the same time, I’ll be here praying and fasting! Because my faith has placed me in a dimension of determination; I can’t accept no as an answer!

I believe every Christian needs to allow this principle to challenge you and to change you! Allow your faithfulness and your consistency elevate you, accelerate your destiny, and lead you to a determination that will revolutionize the “church” as we know it!

ISaiah 40

The Challenge

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When we least expect it, life sends us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait.

-Paulo Coehlo

When I was young I had a plan.

1.) Grow up… check! (Don’t ask Jennifer Smith)

2.) Get married… check!

3.) Live happily ever after… so far so good!

Unfortunately none of my guidance counselors ever warned me of the in between periods!

challenges warning

Who knew life would be full of so many challenges? I sure didn’t! I expected to grow up gracefully; but I have he scars to prove otherwise! I thought I’d meet the perfect woman and she’d be head over heels in love with me! And I met the perfect woman, the trouble was convincing her she was head over heels! I knew it, but she was stubborn! 🙂 All joking aside, life has presented it’s far share of challenges. With every challenge I have been presented with an opportunity to grow and learn. And much of what I am today stems from the challenges I’ve experienced.

With that being said, there is a challenge that has claimed many casualties along the way. A challenge that is designed to not only discourage you, but destroy you! I’m talking about the challenge of your destiny.

In 2 Kings we read a remarkable story of a young man chosen by divine direction to be the successor of one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. Elisha was just a simple young man, a young man of great family values. He was a hard worker, as evidenced by his chore the day of his calling. What I find interesting is that God didn’t send Elijah to the School of the Prophets to find a successor. He didn’t search for the most prolific scroll reader, or the most dynamic prayer warrior! The young man God chose was a farmer on a plow. At first glance it’s easy to suggest that maybe Elijah missed the voice of God, after all he IS human! But upon closer examination we discover there’s more to the story. God wasn’t looking for just a religious man, the world at this time demanded more than that! He was looking for a man who was accustomed to having his hand to the plow, who would know what it was like to plow through tough environments, who would never go home leaving a task unfinished! God needed a man who was diligent!

As Elisha adjusted to his new life, remember he left everything behind, he begins to study the life of his mentor. He studied his prayer life, he watched his actions. He walked like Elijah walked, talked like Elijah talked; Elisha was consumed to be just like Elijah! What a great example to follow! If Elisha could be half of what Elijah was that is a success! But something happened in the spirit of Elisha during the 6 year span in which he followed the man of God. Suddenly young Elisha was no longer satisfied being just like Elijah. Elisha’s dreams began to enlarge! Call it arrogance or pride, but within the spirit of Elisha a longing for something bigger gripped his anointed mind! He became consumed with thoughts of greater anointing, greater miracles, greater signs and wonders! Finally Elijah has reached the end of his purpose, and as he senses the time drawing near asks Elisha what it is that he really wants. Years worth of dreams and visions spewed out of his mouth as he cried, “I want a double portion!”

I can almost envision the face of Elijah cringe as those words reverberated through his mind! “You have asked a hard thing.” Often times I think we focus so much attention to the fact that all Elisha had to do was see Elijah taken away from this world and he would inherit the mantle. But those words from this seasoned prophet struck a chord in my spirit recently. What did Elijah really mean by that? Is anything to hard for the Lord? Absolutely not! God is sovereign! He does as he pleases, when e pleases. If God wanted to send a 1,000 soul revival to your church this weekend he could do it! Elijah wasn’t saying this would be hard for God, he was saying this would be hard for Elisha. Elijah knew the position Elisha was in now, he full comprehended the price that had to be paid for that kind of anointing! You don’t just wake up one day with a double portion! Elijah knew there had to be a change in the spirit of Elisha, and the change could only come through the challenge!

In Mark chapter 6 we find the familiar account of Jesus walking on water. In this scene we can see an uncanny parallel to the challenge of destiny.Jesus commands his disciples to get tot he other side. He gave them direction, vision and purpose! These three ingredients are the catalysts to fulfill the call of God. What I find interesting is that Jesus withdraws himself from them before the challenge comes. Understand on the other side was Genesserat. It would be here where Jesus would perform one of his greatest feats during His earthly ministry. The Bible says that the people of Genesserat scoured the country side finding every sick, diseased, or lame person they could find. And scripture teaches that every one of them who came by and touched Him were healed! Satan knew what was awaiting these 12 disciples on the other side, so in order to prevent them from experiencing this he sends a challenge. Notice the Bible says that the wind was contrary, in other words, their circumstances were now in direct opposition to the will of God in their lives!

How many of us have answered the call of God, only to find ourselves wrestling with circumstances that are contrary to that call! This challenge is designed to send you back home with your tail between your legs! But as I read Mark 6 I discovered that although Jesus had withdrawn His presence from them, he never took His eyes off of them! I know there are times when it feels like you can’t find God! When it seems as if He has completely removed Himself from your circumstances. But do not allow that feeling to convince you that God has abandoned you! Trust in Him, he’s got His eyes on you and he’s watching to see how you respond to the challenge! Understand, it was their response to the storm that convinced Jesus to come to them walking on the water! It wasn’t as if Jesus had seen enough, it wasn’t like this was planned to happen at a specific time; Jesus was waiting on their response!

Mark 6:48 “…He saw them rowing and towing, for the wind was contrary unto them…”

The challenge was pushing them back, the challenge was telling them to give up and go home, the challenge was trying to distract them from their destiny! But in the middle of that storm 12 ordinary men found a drive inside of themselves and began pushing back at their challenge! The severity of that storm altered their direction, it caused them to question their purpose, but these 12 disciples never allowed the storm to rob them of their vision of their destiny! When they made up their minds to reach their destination regardless of the circumstances in their way, Jesus responded with His presence! They actually willed the presence of God into their circumstances through their actions in the storm!

Perhaps the Apostle Paul described this mentality when he told the church at Philippi, “I press!” I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I press! I don’t know what next week has in store, but I press! I can’t control the winds, the storm or the waves; but this one thing I do! I press towards the mark!

Something about that kind of mentality got Jesus’ attention! As Jesus approaches the boat, he calms their fears with these words. “Be of good cheer, It is I; be not afraid.” Suddenly it was as if blinders were removed from their eyes! Suddenly the very men who didn’t even consider the miracles of the loaves and fishes because they were consumed with their challenge had an understanding that would change everything! Now they realized, Jesus may not have created this storm, but He does control it! All this time Jesus was watching over us, all this time He was here! I just couldn’t see Him behind the lightning and the waves, because my focus was on the challenge!

Elijah understood the challenge that awaited that kind of passion and hunger for ministry. This generation is stirring with a hunger for greater things! But our adversary walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We must be vigilant and sober in these last days! Let us not get so consumed with the challenge that we lose focus of the one who controls it! As Goliath screams at us from his mountain of intimidation, let us always be mindful of this one thing…. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world! Sometimes it takes the challenge to change us, that’s why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7, that it was through the challenge that was IN his side that revealed what was ON his side!

The Greatest Force on Earth

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1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains…

And though I bestow my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned…

But without love; I’m as useless as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, I’m nothing…

We live in a culture that thrives on action. This fast paced, get it while you can, fast food mentality has developed the kind of culture that depends on what it gets to survive. Relationships, friendships, families and even careers and hobbies are all measured by the same question… “What’s in it for me?”

Recently I have examined my life, my interests, my purpose; a soul search, so to speak, triggered by a question I heard in a group setting. What is you’re vision? What is your mission? Those questions lingered in my heart as the words echoed over and over in my mind. What is my vision? Until recently I thought I had that all figured out. I preached it, I taught it and even believed it! But now in the depths of my soul questions are surfacing that I thought I had already settled. You see as a Christian in general, I have fallen prey to the mentality of our culture. You know, the one where we come to church only interested in what we get. Yeah I know, no one else has ever experienced that, but I have…

As a minister I spend much of my time preaching and teaching the value of Biblical principles. As an apostolic minister I have a tenacious drive to keep things apostolic! I don’t just preach it, I don’t just live it, I absolutely love it! I feel like the Apostle Paul when he proudly told Timothy, “I know in whom I have believed and I am persuaded…” (2 Timothy 1:12) I don’t believe in playing church! I take every service serious, and every message I preach I preach with the mindset that this may be my last sermon they ever hear!

I read 1 Corinthians recently, and this book is intriguing from many angles. Paul is laying down the law, for lack of a better phrase, to a church who has fallen into a trap of religious traditionalism. As I read this book, I realized the danger of relying on my apostolic pedigree for results! Chapter 13 opened my eyes, chapter 14? Yeah, that one opened my heart. There is a theme in which Paul is focusing on, and apostolic identity isn’t it. Don’t get me wrong, Paul gave us the “apostolic identity”. But here Paul is writing to a church already in apostolic fellowship! And when I read of the mentality that had gripped their minds, I became increasingly aware of the dangerous place many of our churches are dwelling. It’s easy for us to write them off as a mythical example of poor leadership. But in reality the spirit of that church and the spirit of the American apostolic church are strikingly similar!

When we look at what the Apostle Paul addresses in chapters 13 and 14, we can see the parallel. Paul isn’t addressing sin as we label it, but it is sin nonetheless! Paul is addressing a selfish, self driven, self consumed church, whose only vested interest was what they could get out of it! The tongue issue of chapter 14 isn’t about tongues at all really. It’s about the mindset of these carnal people, who were more concerned with edifying themselves than they were about edifying the entire church. Paul never admonished them to stop being apostolic, he simply attempted to shift their focus from me to us!

The beauty of 1 Corinthians 13 is found in the first verse of chapter 14, “Follow after love…”. With it nothing else matters. Without it nothing else matters. The very essence of love is so anti-American. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily offended, it is not easily angered and love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres! Simply, love never fails! Our culture has manipulated the church to think and live only for ourselves, it has taught us that we can pentecostalize our way through life and be successful. Scripture on the other hand disagrees. Tongue talking is not the solution to the mess of our world. Prophesy, understanding and knowledge will not slow down the radical advancement of satanic agendas. Faith to see incredible miracles won’t convince them of truth. Giving of money and goods to needy people hasn’t put me in the driver’s seat of evangelism, it profiteth me nothing!  Truth is, of all the major forces of our world; faith, hope, and love… the greatest of these is love.

Without love, our earth is a tomb.

-Robert Browning

Without love being the center of our drive, our churches and the world surrounding them will become mausoleums; a museum of death. The scriptures teach that those who receive not the LOVE of the truth are in danger of finding their minds gripped with strong delusions (2 Thessalonians 2:10). This verse reveals to us the basis of salvation. Salvation can not be obtained by works of human design, it has to be discovered through your love of the truth. This is where God took me the moments following that heart wrenching, soul searching quest for purpose…

Ephesians chapter 4 reveals to us the role and purpose of ministry. After the Apostle Paul addresses the role of ministry, he addresses its purpose. Then in verse 15 gives us the foundational piece to it all. “But speaking the truth in love…” I’m cautious of throwing around the apostolic cliche’ “God spoke to me”, but something almost exploded in my mind as suddenly I realized…

Could it be they never received the love of the truth, because they’ve never heard the truth preached in love?

Without warning I had stumbled upon the destiny of my mission! Apostolic routine can never replicate the influence of love! Apostolic Pentecostalism can never replace the necessity of love! I do not believe we need to change our message, our standards or our convictions. But maybe we could examine our methods and implement the principle of love into our churches! I pray our pulpits would be full of men, preaching the truth in love. That our saints would fill the pew, speaking the truth in love! That apostolics would walk our streets, fill our schools and inhabit the workplace with the love of God flowing from our spirits.

Jesus gave us the blueprint to authenticity when he said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Let us not make the mistake of Samson, and assume our “hair” (Pentecostalism) is enough. If we want to impact our world with this Gospel message, and if we want our churches to experience revival, we must become a church and a people of love!

The “Tolerant” Society

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judgmental

Christians are so judgmental!

Christians are so close-minded!

Christians are so annoying with their self-righteousness!

What amazes me with all of this negative criticism we get for being Christian, is many of us are falsely labeled simply for believing in God. This whole philosophy of “don’t judge me, your not perfect” is getting old! I mean really, has society digressed to the point where every one just argues like my 2 year old and 4 year old?

Your a pop-head! No, YOU’RE a pop head! – True story

Watching people in today’s culture throwing insults at each other often leaves me scratching my head wondering, “What’s a pop head?” What I often find in dealing with people, including other Christians, is this preconceived, premeditated response simply based on false stereotypes. I’m Pentecostal, United Pentecostal to be exact, and I’m proud of that. However, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been misrepresented by someone else’s misunderstanding. “You’re Pentecostal? Isn’t that a cult?” Just because I’m UPC doesn’t mean I’m an alien from another planet! I mean give me a break, for the few months you knew me as just Josh I was cool, now I have 3 eyes and antennas growing out of my head! Where did all of this come from? I don’t approach people who don’t attend church and say, “Oh, you’re not a Christian? Doesn’t that mean you’re going to Hell?” That would be ridiculous, yet while we attempt to live our lives pleasing to the Lord, we are the ones labeled intolerant as society continues to get a pass. Am I the only one seeing that? 

I will admit, a lot of the stereotyping of Christians is our own fault. After all, I have met some not so pleasant people who claimed to be Christians, but allowing the actions of a small minority determine your prejudice is just wrong!

This is where our country is in a mess…

In our own feeble attempts to justify our actions we have created an escape from moral consciousness. It’s called toleration!

Tolerance-Bumper-Sticker-(7103)

So what is a tolerant? A tolerant can be described, according to the online dictionary as – a person who is inclined to tolerate the beliefs, practices, or traits of others. In line with the definition, toleration seems like a great attribute. I would label myself as a tolerant, but nothing about toleration says I have to accept it or agree with it! Our society has taken toleration to a completely different level. Now they mean for us to not only accept their beliefs, but they want us to conform to them!

Let’s get the picture… God was too offensive to be in public settings, He should stay in Church and in our homes. So the “tolerant” people removed our RIGHT to freedom of religion! Now they are shoving their agendas down our throats and expecting us to agree. And yet we’re the ones labeled “intolerant”? So now  teaching MY kids in MY home about God’s principle of marriage is corrupting them and teaching them to be like me, “intolerant”. Yet in PUBLIC schools they can teach MY kids that homosexuality is normal? In MY home teaching that Jesus is God is considered “close-minded” yet in PUBLIC schools they can teach the principles of Islam? And I’m the one who’s “intolerant”? Our society has created a culture in which we can no longer have an opinion. And any opinion we have that is contrary to this new “tolerant” philosophy is considered wrong.

I don’t believe in this societies concept of toleration. I don’t believe I should change what I know about God and His word to fit your lifestyle! I shouldn’t be forced to teach my kids that either! My kids deserve to know what the Bible says, my kids deserve to know what God thinks. My kids deserve to grow up learning about mercy, grace and truth!

Culture may change…But God never changes!

Methods may change….But God never changes!

Ideologies and Philosophies may change….But God never changes!

Governments and politics change….But God never changes!

Malachi 3:6, “I am The Lord, I change not…”
Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever”

You can choose to conform to this idea of toleration, but as for me and my house…WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!! –Joshua 24:15

That doesn’t mean we won’t love you, include you and respect you. It simply means I won’t condone your lifestyle! Instead of accepting your sins I choose to believe…

grace is bigger than sin