Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We're On Prayer Watch

In talking to many people around the country, it seems we are all experiencing an incredible phenomenon. We are all being awakened somewhere within the 3:00am to 5:00am hours of the morning, every single night. We know that this is not a coincidence.

So we are encouraging our church family to join with us in prayer.

Anyone can also access several prayer video clips at

As we get closer to the national election, we can sense that something very evil is rising and we are being called to pray.

At the end of next month, there will be a National Call to Prayer in Philadelphia. You may recall that back in 2009 several pastors in this community started an annual PA Awake prayer call.

Now that prayer call has been picked up by several national church leaders who have also come to recognize the significance of Pennsylvania’s role in the founding of the United States of America.

Back in 2006, my job afforded me the opportunity to actually see, hold and photograph the original text books that were used to write the constitution and build the curriculum for most of the first colleges and universities in this country. These were the books that Franklin, Jefferson and many others poured over as they were trying to write the Constitution. I couldn’t believe the history I was holding.

I shared these photos with Bishop Raphael Green.  I can’t describe how awed and humbled I was to be chosen for an assignment that would place me in this position. Even though all eyes are always on Philadelphia because of The Liberty Bell Center and the National Archives Museum in Washington D.C. where you can see the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, the books from which these documents were forged are housed right here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

We are so closely connected to what's really going on that we believe that a daily prayer call is already upon us. God is waking us up every morning to pray. So let's roll with that calling.

We’re going to ask everyone to pray for us as we continue to deliver this message of freedom and deliverance in our worship. We realize our ministry style may not work in most of the United States, but for this community, with all of its deep seeded abuse, God has given us a Word and a strategy.

Most people, outside of Pennsylvania, will never really understand that the incident at Penn State, regarding the child abuse by one of the assistant football coaches, is merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s more like the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

Abuse is so commonplace in homes, schools, businesses and churches that all of these institutions are a joke to most people here. The rural communities are rampant with abuse.

Since we’ve been here, God has stripped us of all the strategies and plans that we brought from St. Louis. The way to reach the people of this community is so completely different that it appears (to those on the outside) that we are preaching heresy to reach them.

But we are simply doing what Jesus did. He released a woman caught in adultery. He went to the house of a tax collector who was cheating people. He let a woman perform a sensual act of washing his feet with her hair. He hung out with the rowdy folks. Nearly everything he did was considered close to heresy.

Now here in the 21st century, He leads us to tell the people who attend our weekly gatherings, we’re not going to force them to attend church or give money. We’re going to let God heal them. We’re just going to let God speak to them.

To people outside of this community, this looks like we’re compromising the Word of God. But when you’re dealing with severely abused and damaged people, we must minister to them in exactly the way God gives it to us.

This message and this method was not our plan. Our church family knows that there’s no way we could have known to teach and minister in this way.

Many of them have told us that the methods and messages that God gives us, always happen to be exactly what they needed and in the ONLY WAY they could have received it or heard it at that time in their life. God used THIS method and message to get past their hurt, so that they could see GOD. Every single person that has joined our church has come to us with stories of abuse in their homes, in their schools, on their jobs, and most tragically, in their churches.

We’ve heard horror stories of sexual abuse by pastors and emotional abuse by parents. It seems, by the time a person finds Urban Life, they are just about done with the church.

Yet, in most cases, they are still seeking God. For this, we are thankful.

So, here’s a short three minute clip to carry you into next Sunday.

Leaving it to the Holy Spirit to Speak:  

We are overcomers, watching and praying!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Free to Worship

The last couple of weeks have been the most controversial of all. We have been talking about Disconnecting Church Contributions from Corruption, Compulsion and Curses. This teaching has been very hard for us to present because it has the potential to alienate us from so many people who have known us for many, many years.

Already, several people, in America, have dropped off our email and Daily Lifeline lists. But that's the price we must pay for touching the "sacred cows" in a person's belief system. We truly understand because we wrestled with this for several months.

We only wish that more people would simply respond like the Bereans in Acts 17, who would search the scriptures for themselves to see if the things they were being told were true. Unfortunately we know that most will simply dismiss it and drop us.

Like them, I have always thought that giving 10% of my income was the bare minimum that was required of me. I have believed it and taught it. But when we moved to Harrisburg and began studying about tithes personally, I made some astounding discoveries. The first one was that God requires 100%, not just 10%. I also discovered that the tithe was a voluntary offering before the law. It was required under the law, and it is expected, though still voluntary, under grace today.

I was then faced with a choice. I could bury what I discovered and continue to teach the same thing I always taught or I could take the risk of losing all by proclaiming what I had discovered. For the first time I understood how the apostles must have felt by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. How many relationships, friendships, and connections did it cost them to associate themselves with The Way instead of staying with Judaism?

I learned that in Genesis 28, God promised Jacob, through a dream, that HE would give him the land that he was sleeping on, and that he would multiply his descendants. When Jacob woke up from the encounter, he made a vow that he would give God 10% of the land’s increase. He said, “…and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” He was speaking of the land because that's what God had just promised to give to him.

Well, Jacob was never able to fulfill that vow before he died. There was no priest or priesthood for him to give any increase to. However, God still held up His promise and gave Jacob's descendants that Land of Promise. GOD then required Jacob’s descendants to honor their forefather’s vow by establishing in His law that they give 10% of the increase from that promised land.

Let me repeat: God established a law that Jacob’s descendants must tithe from the land in order to hold them to the vow that Jacob had made. That’s why I have been declaring that the tithe is a voluntary offering. It was a voluntary vow that Jacob made and God established it as a law in order to hold Jacob’s descendants to the vow.

From what I observed, tithing was never meant to be a practice passed on to all of mankind, for all time. God was simply holding Jacob’s descendants accountable to a voluntary vow made by their forefather Jacob.

Please hear me closely. I didn’t start this research to refute tithing. I started the research to reinforce my beliefs, but instead I was faced with this startling reality. I had been teaching in ignorance and error regarding mandatory tithing.

So today, we encourage the people of God to be generous. Actually, in the New Covenant, we owe God 100%, not just a tithe. The goal now is to do whatever HE says, whenever HE says, because our entire life, including ALL of our wealth and possessions, belong to HIM.

Just for the record: Two years ago, when we started teaching voluntary tithing at Urban Life, the giving increased and the tithing increased. Our church family became free to worship God with the fruit of their labor without compulsion or fear of curses.

I think back to when I was growing up and how I was always exploring things in minute detail. That’s why I did so well in Biology and Chemistry in high school. Little did I know that the Lord would show me little details in the scriptures that we often overlook in order to hold on to our doctrinal positions.

All I can say is that we didn’t ask to come into this knowledge and revelation. We’re not striving to be controversial, special or cutting edge. We just want to be faithful to God and to His people. The same holds true with this teaching.

We welcome any correction that would come, if we are way off with this, but the mounting evidence has shown that all of the offerings of worship, including money, were meant to be voluntary expressions from our hearts, not commanded or connected to a curse.

Every Bible scholar will tell you that at the cross, ALL of the mandatory sacrifices and the money offerings associated with them, were wiped away. All that remained were the voluntary offerings of personal dedication, devotion, thanksgiving and fellowship. However, these offering are still expected to be presented to God.

We do all that we do, simply because we love GOD.

He who the son sets free, is free indeed!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Simply Because We Love Him

We’ve been teaching and preaching about issues that have been controversial in the church for hundreds of years: ranging from the assurance of our salvation, to the motivation of our giving. These things have been in our hearts and in our private conversation for many years, but we have held them inside for fear of the loss of relationships with dear and precious people in Harrisburg and around this country.

But the season has arrived in which we must speak forth what we truly believe, and utter those things that will show where we really stand on some very key issues in our walk with the Lord.

By taking this stance, we are not saying that we are right and everyone else is wrong. As we have taught you, many of these issues have been debated for hundreds of years by the most brilliant historians and theologians of all time. Our little perspective is not going to tip the scales on these matters in any way. However, we still must be fair to our church family and true to God and ourselves to declare where we stand.

In our eight years of living in Harrisburg (seven as senior pastors), we have come across a steady stream of abused and misused Christian Believers. Many have attended churches and sat under ministers who assaulted them weekly with gross misinterpretation of scripture, along with their personal preferences and pet peeves.

By the time many of these people visited Urban Life, they were so beaten down and broken, that our simple acts of love and kindness were viewed as just another ploy to take advantage of them.

Some people had created pastoral expectations in their minds that were so high that it was impossible for anyone to meet them. So they left us as soon as we failed to meet their unrealistic expectations.

We went through many changes trying to adjust to these dynamics. One of those dynamics was our failure to clearly teach all of what we truly believed and understood the scriptures to mean.

Over the past three years, we were finally able to establish a steady diet of sound teaching and a consistent flow of the Word of God for individual and family healing. Week after week, we have striven to teach and instruct the people of God, providing the guidance and counsel of His heart.

We’re pretty sure that some of our members have wondered why we haven’t hammered them over the head about church attendance by yelling, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves!”

Others may have wondered why we haven’t passed the offering plate and screamed, “Will a man rob God?” to motivate them to tithe.  The reason is simple. We are trying to lead them into a loving relationship with God.

My wife wrote a song over 12 years ago called Guided In Life By Your Eye. This songs comes from Psalm 32:8 which reads: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. This Psalm describes a relationship with God that is so intimate that a mere look or facial expression can communicate His heart.

So many churches and ministries in America have been built by fear and intimidation that many of today’s pastors cannot imagine standing before a congregation and telling them, “I ask you to assemble together this week for fellowship and the Word simply because we love God.” He doesn't have to offer special activities and events.

Or can you imagine a pastor telling a congregation, “I ask you to financially support this church, not because you have to; not because you’re afraid God will curse you, but simply because you love Him.”

Most ministers would expect that building to be empty every week and eventually close down because no one attended or gave money any more since they weren’t being forced or enticed to do it.

We are persuaded of better things about the Urban Life family. We might be totally out-of-our-minds crazy in this matter, but we refuse to build a congregation that has to be forced, manipulated, intimidated and dominated into submission to God. We’re not like that in our marriage relationship with one another or in our parenting with our sons, so we will not try to be that way towards the people of God.

What we are trying to say to the Urban Life family is, “Let’s worship, serve, assemble and give, simply because we love Him.”

Urban Life Church is becoming a place where we no longer need a crisis to MAKE us pray. We are becoming a place where it doesn’t take a personal financial dilemma to FORCE us to give. We are becoming a place where a worship leader doesn’t have to TELL us what to do. We are becoming a place where a personal benefit is not attached to our pursuit of God and His presence.

Let’s be practical for a minute. I want my wife to WANT to love me and WANT to be with me, not just because we recited the wedding vows, so now she has to. I want my sons to come to me, not only when there’s a problem, but sometimes simply because they WANT to talk to their dad.

These past three years of healing messages and healing encounters, like John and Kerry Shuey’s Breaking Free Weekend, were all designed to bring us to the place where we are healed and free to BE who God created us to BE. This level of relationship shows WHO Urban Life Church has become; people who are guided by the eye of God.

Over the next few weeks, our teaching is going to become very radical. It will be rooted and grounded in the Word of God. However, it will be radical because we are going to identify what we have been told and taught, that did not come from the Word of God. Many things came from the traditions of men and the principles of the world.

But no matter how radical it seems, and no matter how much it will challenge us, we just want it to be clear: Everything that we are teaching and everything that we living, is to lead our church family to a place where everything we say and everything we do is simply because we love God.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where God has us right now

Man, I'm really loving this! I love this group of people that attend Urban Life. I'm watching people pursue God, even though they have many difficulties and challenges in their lives. They aren't always able to attend our gatherings on Sundays or Wednesdays, but they continue to fight to stay connected.

One of the heartaches of a pastor is that you wish you could do more to help people. All you can do, and I don't mean to minimize the value, is pray for them and be an example for them. I know it's not a coincidence that that's exactly what Peter told the church elders to do.

Back in those days, as it is for us today, there was no such thing as a fulltime pastor. Everyone worked in their various occupations and lifestyles, yet they found the time to meet together for fellowship, prayer and teaching.

It's really funny how we find ourselves, more than 2000 years after the launching of the Church (as it was recorded in the book of Acts), doing the exact same thing. The more I study and reflect back on the simplicity of the early church, the more I realize that human beings have attached tons and tons of religious practices and duties to what was supposed to be a simple, yet powerful way of life.

My heart aches for the thousands of people who have been spiritually, mentally, emotionally and financially abused here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Even as Penn State is dealing with the consequnces of allowing one man to abuse children, so will the church, in this area, come to its day of reckoning for allowing the abuse of God's children.

Ever since we started, all we have encoutered, without exception, has been church people who are totally drained and scarred by the abuse they have suffered in many churches here. I'm not saying every church and every pastor is guilty. In fact we have come across several Church leaders who have been wonderful to us and this community.

Somehow, the people who have found their way to Urban Life, were never part of those ministries. Yet, they have found their way to us and we are just making ourselves available to minister to them. So yes, I'm loving this. I'm loving this position God has us in right now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Making Progress

We know that God is up to something because the opposition has increased. We’re on this journey together with our church family as we learn more about the lifestyle of victorious Believers.

Since we started this teaching, the spiritual warfare has intensified. We’re having a lot more restless and sleepless nights, but we always combat this kind of warfare with intercessory prayer. These guys have been pressing through the obstacles that have come up against them.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,” Romans 1: 8-9a

Sometimes in this walk with God, we come to seasons where it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. It feels like we’re not moving forward, backward, up or down. It just seems like we’re in limbo. Rest assured that when it seems like you’re stuck, God is moving in ways that we cannot see.

I can recall times when we were moving or arranging furniture. We’d bring in a load of boxes and someone would move ahead of us to open doors and clear the passage in front of us. Sometimes that person would say, “Stop for a second, while I move this other junk out of the way.”

Even though, for a few seconds, we’re standing still, the overall picture is that we are still making progress. Perhaps you’re standing still and in a holding pattern right now. Even in a holding pattern, you’re not wasting time or losing ground. You’re just waiting while God moves a few things out of your path.

So we will continue to take one day at a time. Wait on the Lord. Stay connected in prayer.

We are overcomers, making progress.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


One of the tough aspects of leading a 21st century ministry is trying to maintain the balance between the people who attend that come from other churches, and those who attend who don't come from hardly any church background at all.

Through the years, Carol and I have always been more comfortable with those who do not come from church backgrounds. From the very beginning of our ministry, those are the kind of people who have been able to readily receive from our ministry style.

For four or five years most of the visitors from church backgrounds tended to wait for us to say something new that they've never heard, or do something familiar that they are accustomed to doing. In spite of this challenge, we tend to stick to foundational teaching, which is all new to unchurched people and sometimes boring to those who have been around the church world.

We also tend to teach new songs, show videos, engage people in conversation and pray with authority, all of which can be uncomfortable for both sides of the table. This new century of church visitors and attenders is very challenging. With difficult work schedules for the attendees and the distractions of various forms of media and entertainment pulling them away from the Word of God, many times it feels like we aren't making any progress at all.

Then we'll suddenly experience some miraculous moment of breakthrough in someone's life, and we are again sparked and encouraged to keep doing what we do.

Jesus said, "I do those things I see my Father doing and I say only those things I hear my Father saying."

We have been striving to do the same.