Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Broken, but Not Destroyed

During our Hidden Treasures Live interview with the Sullivans, Pastor Denise gave us a prophetic word that we were made not to be broken. Specifically she said, “You lost some people and you lost some things, but you were made not to be broken.”

Then Bishop Sullivan expounded on that by explaining the difference between the breaking that God brings to strengthen and build us, and the breaking that the enemy brings to try to destroy us.

I look back over the past five years and remember so many days and nights of deep anguish. It was especially difficult to lose our home in foreclosure. That breaking hurt very deeply because it was the second time this has happened to us. As far as I was concerned, this was totally my fault and it happened because I tried to do too much, too soon. That failure was connected to so many bad decisions, that it even seemed our coming to Harrisburg was a huge mistake.

Since then, I’ve had to be forthright and honest about what happened because I didn’t want my wife or my sons to be confused about the situation. I didn’t want them to blame God or turn against Him. That’s what happens when leaders don’t tell the truth about a situation. It leaves people suspicious of God. If I had held to the position that I prayed and God just didn’t answer my prayer, that would have been dishonest, and a great lack of integrity. I knew the truth and I had to confess the truth.

What I didn’t realize was that the decision to tell the truth, walk away from the house, and start all over again, was part of the breaking process. It broke pride. It broke religion. It broke ungodly expectations. It broke an ungodly vision. It broke up the fallow ground in my heart so that I could receive the promises of God today.

I don’t know who will read these blogs in the future; perhaps my grand children.

I just want them to know, that God is never to blame for the stuff that goes so desperately wrong in our lives. We make decisions based upon secret and sometimes, unknown motivations that are buried deep in our hearts. He lets us make those decisions, and then we live with the consequences of those decisions. That’s when we start praying and asking God to bail us out of the bad decision.

I have found that God won’t do anything until we’re honest about how we got to into that situation. After we are honest about it, He will either bail us out, or He will give us grace to go through it. Only He has the wisdom to know which way He should deliver us. Our position, if we have truly confessed and repented, is to trust whatever way He decides to handle our situation.

When we can trust Him like that, then we have been broken to the point where He can now give us out to a hurting world.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Today I feel like the football coach who has told his team that they are going to win the championship. Then after encouraging everyone, I had to tell them what it's going to take to accomplish that goal.

I saw a lot of sober expressions Saturday night.

I believe God. I believe in my players. Now it's time for us to see what we're really made of. I choose to believe that we will come forth as the champions the Lord has declared that we are to be.

...On Being A Birthing Coach

This morning I found myself thinking back on the days when my wife gave birth to our sons. The memories are still strong of the pressure packed minutes of coaching her through the birth pains.

The Lord reminded me how I had to be stern and gentle at the same time. I still recall the mind altering moment when I realized that I had to do this because her life was on the line. The baby was coming and I had to help her get through this. I could not cuddle her. I could not sugar-coat the moment or ignore the realities. I had to help her get through this pain.

This was especially true when the twins were born. We had no insurance, but it was not time to worry about how we were going to pay for this. We had very little income, but it was not time to worry about how we were going to pay our rent and utilities. We lived in a dangerous neighborhood, but it was not time to talk about that. A family lived in the apartment above us, and the mother would leave her little children at home alone all day, almost everyday. We feared that one day they would start a fire, and that our family would be in danger, but it was not time to deal with that.

Once labor pains begin, and the process of child birth has initiated, the only thing that matters is getting that baby born safely, and for the mother to come through it without losing her life as well.

I don’t know how to explain it, but that’s what I feel in this season for Urban Life Church and Fruitful Life Network. The labor pains have begun and I can’t focus on our bills, deadlines and problems. Something special is being birthed in the Spirit and I have to coach us through it.

Now I see it so clearly, that this is one of the reasons so many things have been aborted, miscarried or still born in this community. When it’s time for a Body of Believers to give birth, the pastors have to stand up and be stern and forthright. But the pregnant Body gets hurt and offended because the leaders seem to be insensitive to what they’re going through. But the reality is that just like when a woman is in child birth, she can’t focus on the problems in her life while she’s trying to give birth. She has to focus on the child that is coming. She can’t focus on her bills, the no good absent boy friend, her selfish siblings, her other children, her interfering mother in law, her nosey co-workers, or her irritating neighbors. All that matter is the birth of this child.

Now I know why so many ministries have never come forth. Many believers want to be cuddled through child birth, stroked through child birth, danced through child birth, or carried through child birth. But every mother can tell you, that there is only one way to get through child birth. There is a life and death determination that she has to make within herself.
After our children were born, I reached a whole new level of respect for my wife. Did I mention that she gave birth to the twins with no anesthia at all? By the time we got to the hospital, she was fully dilated and it was time to push. She didn’t have time to get ready for it. There was no time for me to get her ready for this like I did last time. There was no pep talk, and no gentle hugs and kisses to assure her that she was going to make it.

Suddenly, we were in the delivery room and she had to find it within herself to just do it.

She had to deliver, not once, but twice. Imagine having to push out one baby, and instead of being able to finely relax and take a pain killer, you have to do it all over again.

That’s why she’s such a warrior to this day. Carol doesn’t have much tolerance for people feeling sorry for themselves or being sad and down about what they have to go through. I didn’t say she has no understanding or compassion. She just doesn’t let them settle there. She doesn’t even let me settle there.

I felt so badly about what I had to preach Saturday night that I just went home and went straight to bed. I was quiet all day yesterday and blogged a little bit of my thoughts.

Today it was little clearer. I’m the birthing coach again. I have to do this. I have to be there to help my sons, our church, our staff, and our web viewers to face this aspect of the way God does things.

It’s like this: We ask the Lord for answers, but God always supplies a seed. He impregnates us with the answer. The only way the answer comes into the earth, is by birthing it into our reality.

We recently received a Prophetic Word that we are in our ninth month of pregnancy, and that child birth will begin any day now.

Well we sense the labor pains right now. All other situations in our lives are secondary now. This is the priority. It’s time to begin the process of labor and birth.

One thing we know about the Lord is that after you give birth to the vision, He begins to provide for that vision. After His vision is birth into the earth, He supplies everything that we need. He provides for us, so that we can fulfill our part in the vision.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Even If He Doesn’t

The past few months I’ve been dealing with the aspects of the ministry that involve tremendous sacrifice and demands. As we get closer to fulfillment of prophetic promises, I find myself questioning if whether I can stand up to what is coming.

I’ve watched leader after leader fall to the onslaughts of the enemy. Some battles have resulted in the loss of their marriages, their children and even death of those who are working closely with them.

My family has suffered so much over the years and as I rehearse the word of the Lord regarding the thousands and thousands of people who will be won to the Lord through this ministry that has been given to us, I guess it’s my pessimistic side that comes to the forefront and begins to wonder, what will be the price that has to be paid for thousands of souls.

I recall how the three Hebrew young men refused to bow to the Emperor of the world when he vowed to throw them into a furnace and burn them alive. They told him that they would not bow to him because God was well able to deliver them. However they made the one statement that is the hardest to declare. They said, “Even if God doesn’t deliver us, we will not bow.”

I have heard this message and I have preached this message. I’ve even taken this kind of stand. The reality is that there have been times when God did not deliver me when I took that stand. I was thrown into the furnace and I was burned alive. At least that’s how I saw it for a long time. Then I began to realize that the only thing that was burned was my flesh. Every carnal and infectious desire that was not of God was burned alive.

Through the years we’ve lost two homes, many relationships, and several dreams.
I don’t question God in those losses. I know that everything that we lost was merely things that would prove to hinder us in the future.

I guess it’s just hard to preach this reality to people who are already hurting and going through a lot of pain in this harsh economic and social upheaval in America today.

From our own small staff to the people who are tuning in to our web cast, I find myself struggling to declare this reality.

After 20-30 years of prosperity preaching, how do you begin to preach the gospel, which involves total sacrifice and a whole surrender of everything to God? No one wants to hear that kind of word. Everyone is in a desperate pursuit to have their needs met, not a desperate pursuit of God. The past five years have shown me that I was no different. I thought I wanted this new level until the new level meant letting go our home, our ministry and our dreams.

Now we have a new ministry, we’re living in a place we really don’t care for that much, and we don’t have very many dreams left.

I realize this is the place the Lord brought all of our “heroes of the faith”. We celebrate their accomplishment, but they will tell you, this is not what they wanted for their lives and their families.

Last night I talked from my heart and I could tell that it was a stunning and devastating word. I wanted to talk about the thousand and thousands of souls that will be won to Jesus, but I couldn’t get past the price that must be paid. I found myself struggling with the words that came to Jeremiah when the people did not want to hear the prophecies. They wanted him to only speak the good stuff, but not the “change your life and follow God at all cost” messages.

After last night, I don’t know if we’ll have any more webcast viewers. Many times, I have cleared out a group with this message. We wiped out our first youth group with this kind of preaching. We wiped out our first congregation with this kind of message. I wonder if I’ve just wiped out our current viewers and staff with this kind of message. But I know it’s a part of the walk with God that we cannot ignore.

We all have to come face to face with considering how we will respond to God, Even if He doesn’t deliver us…. the way we thought He would or should.

Changes and Confirmations

A couple of weeks ago, we were honored and humbled to join with believers from across this state in a gathering of prayer and worship called PA Awake. We were profoundly and deeply impacted. Our entire family came away from the day in tears, rejoicing with a renewed sense of connection with this community.

Three months after we started Urban Life Church (formerly Fruitful Life Worship Center), a special word and prayer was spoken over us at Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, PA on June 22, 2005 (mp3). The word was this:

“I know you’re not after a big ministry; you’re after a grass-roots thing. But because your heart’s been right the Lord’s going to put a ministry into your hands like you’ve never seen before. It’s going to be a... I don’t want to say one of these mega things… but God’s going to put a ministry into your hands and it’s going to be some kind of a huge thing here in Harrisburg. I don’t understand it all, but I just know your hearts are right. God’s going to put a ministry into your hands that’s going to be explosive here in the Harrisburg area.

Father, I just pray the blessing of the Lord over this couple and their sons. Father, I ask that you would use them in such a powerful way, you’ll use them is such a powerful way that thousands will come to know Jesus….Thousands, Father… thousands and thousands and thousands will come to know Jesus through this ministry…. in Jesus name.”

“Thank You Lord. Bless them, bless them, bless them with everything they need to fulfill the destiny of God in Harrisburg. Thank you, Lord.”

We have kept these two profound prayers in our hearts, pondering over them like Mary, when she heard the word spoken about Jesus. That night, we were so blessed that God would use this congregation to pray over us. We had only recently met them and they were embracing us. It was amazing and we love them. They are a precious family.

However, over the next four years, as I would replay the audio clip of those prayers, I would secretly ask the Lord, “What kind of ministry can you place in our hands at this stage of our lives?” For a season, I was living under the weight of disappointment.

We've done a lot of things in Harrisburg, but we have never made any effort to try to force those words and prayers to come to pass. There was nothing we could do except wait.

Over the past three years, our ministry has been going through a metamorphosis, like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. We have been inside of a cocoon, as the Lord has changed us. The results of those changes have been translated into amending the church name from Fruitful Life Worship Center, to Urban Life Church. We picked up the Fruitful Life Network of Ministries, which we had laid aside in 2005.

The Lord has been fine tuning us and opening the eyes of our hearts to see the people of South Central Pennsylvania through His Word from Isaiah 61. Through much prayer and fasting we began to understand what God was actually saying to us.

During the PA Awake prayer gathering, some folks from a church called Life Center, politely asked if they could pray for Carol and me, and our sons. As they prayed, they began to speak prophetic confirmations over us. Just like what happened at Christ Community Church, these precious people, who did not know us at all, began to speak about the same things that had been prayed over us at Christ Community Church.

There was no way that they could have known the things they proclaimed. They even confirmed that God was giving us a new ministry and doing a whole new thing. What they could not possibly have known was that God has been uncovering the new ministry that is in our hands.

A few weeks ago, the Lord dropped this little thought into my heart. It was the same simple question He asked Moses in Exodus 4:2, “What is that in your hand?” Of course I wanted to know what the Spirit of God meant by that. For days, this question kept coming to me. “What is that in your hand?”

On many occasions, while describing our mission and vision, I would tell our little church family, “We’re just going to keep doing what we do: God has given us books and songs, we use Internet and websites, and we do video and multimedia. We will webcast lessons for young adults in life's transitions. We will produce more webcast to help couples in their marriages. We will webcast to couples who are already living together and afraid to get married. We will webcast to young men to help them get their lives together. We’re just doing what we do and God is, somehow, using it to touch this generation. God is helping us to reach people who don't or can't come to church right now.”

Sometimes I would read testimonials from people who are receiving the ministry webcast, video clips, emails, website, and Facebook inserts. We would rejoice together and vow to continue doing what we do.

One day, as I was driving to work, the two statements came together in my heart: ‘We’re just doing what we do’ and ‘What is that in your hands?’
Suddenly the prayer from June 22, 2005 (mp3) at Christ Community Church came rushing up in my heart. God was doing it. He said He would place a ministry in our hands.

Our ‘doing what we do’ was the ministry that He had placed in our hands.

Looking back at the season when we were going though our growing pains and trials in the wilderness, one of the visions the Lord would often drop into my heart was the launching of an Internet television channel in which there would be 24/7 worship and teaching, to reach the unchurched urban communities of South Central Pennsylvania.

Now, I realize that at those times, the Lord was pointing to what was in my hand, and just like He did with Moses, the Lord commanded me to lay down the staff (the Fruitful Life Network) on the ground. But just like it happened with Moses, it turned into a snake and I ran from it. However, Moses was commanded to grab the snake by the tail and when he did, it turned back into a staff. It became a tool that God would use.

Like Moses, I ran from the snake and was afraid to pick up that snake (ministry through multimedia) because I didn't want to be bitten by it. What I mean is that I didn't want to appear to be self promoting. I didn't want to look like we were trying to be another Trinity Broadcasting Network. I didn't want to be accused of trying to be another Daystar. I didn't want the last remaining members of Urban Life Church to think their pastor had lost his mind.