Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Praying in Perilous Times

In a couple of days, Believers from all over the nation will gather in Philadelphia for two days of prayer for America. Even though many will view this as a political event, this has nothing to do with politics. Our nation is in serious trouble. The vileness of sin and the hatred against Christians have reached unprecedented levels in our nation. We have nowhere else to turn.

In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”  - 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 (NKJV)

These are the words of Jesus: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  - Matthew 24:4-14 (NKJV)

I wish I could put into words, the urgency that we feel right now. All I know is that we can sense that something horrible is on the horizon and the Spirit of God is calling us to pray NOW. The urgency is beyond words. 

We’re dropping our schedule and changing our plans. Starting this Sunday, it’s all about prayer at Urban Life Church. The so-called church growth experts have spoken. Many of us have tried to implement their proven ideas and strategies, but nothing has changed. Church attendance continues to plummet in our nation, while the entertainment industry continues to grow. People are looking for comfort and security. People are looking for wealth and relief.

Even within the four walls of many churches, the congregants are looking for the same things. The only difference is that they are turning to God to try to get Him to give them what they want. But God is not to be mocked in this hour. It’s time to seek God’s FACE and stop seeking His hand, simply asking Him to do stuff and give us stuff to make our lives comfortable. It’s time to chase Him, abandoning all else for His will alone.

We’re not going to start a teaching series about prayer. We’re going to PRAY. For those who have never been in this kind of situation before, I'm just goin gto encourage them to follow our lead. We’ll have to show them what to do. We’ll teach them as we’re doing it.

I woke up one morning last week singing the old hymn, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” If there was ever a time to walk in the reality of that song, this is that time. I feel like I did just before 9/11/01. Back then, I didn’t know what to do with it. Over ten years later, I know what to do this time.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can you see the signs of the time?

Last week we saw a disturbing news posting. It stated that the President of the United States refused to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel. We’re not sure if everyone understands the significance of this and I don’t have the time or space to get into all of that in this blog, but please know that it would signal the final blow for America if America turns its back on Israel. It is profoundly true that an enemy of Israel would become an enemy of God. No amount of singing, "God Bless America" would change the outcome. It would not matter who wins the coming election. Judgment would be swift and decisive.

Can you see the signs of the time? More than ever, there is no peace in our sleep. Every night we're awakened to pray. In just the last few months we have seen a massive drought sweep across America's farmlands. New volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are breaking out across the globe. A river in China turned red. Two tornadoes hit New York City on the same day. Another hurricane hit New Orleans on the exact same date as Hurricane Katrina. Nature itself is announcing judgment on the world.

Meanwhile, our nation continues to push for abortion on demand, gay marriage, and now a new movement has risen to the surface and that is the push for open marriage (multiple partners within a union). Waiting in the wings are those who want the right to express their sexual orientation to legally engage in physical relations with children. There is even a push to legalize incest. Also, there are staggering numbers of young girls who are trapped as slaves in human trafficking, right here in America. At the same time, we continue to see random shootings and bizarre acts of violence. Homes and schools are now included as some of the most dangerous places for children.

Then the most alarming reality is that over three years ago the Department of Homeland Security released a report to all local law enforcement agencies, stating that conservative groups (people who oppose abortion or gay marriage) are now considered to be domestic terrorist. The hatred against Christian Believers is at an all-time high in America. We could go on and on, but we’re not trying to depress you or scare you. However, we are trying to stir you into action. And that action is to join us in PRAYER.

2 Chronicles 7: 13-15 reads, “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.”

Immediately following the National Prayer Gathering that will take place in Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday, September 28-29, the Lord has put it on our hearts to meet every Sunday afterwards for worship and prayer starting Sunday, September 30th. We’re cancelling all of our plans and schedules. We’re just going to meet for prayer every Sunday until further notice. Just like we did three years ago, we’re going to start leading prayer sessions with our church family and with all who will join with us across the nation.

This prayer is not about politics. We’re not praying for Obama or Romney to win the White House. We’re not praying against liberals, conservatives, Republicans or Democrats. Our prayer is far more desperate than that. We’re responding to God as a church family. We’re seeking God’s face and turning from our wicked ways.

We just feel that we’re at a place in Urban Life Church, where personal issues and our national problems are beyond Chris and Carol Green’s sermons. Individual situations might be beyond personal consultation and counseling sessions with us, as pastors. Many circumstances are beyond motivational speeches and fund raisers. We can see the signs of our times. It’s time to PRAY!

We are bold and honest enough to tell our church family that what ever they are going through, their pastors cannot help them in the way they really need it. However, we can certainly lead them to the throne of Grace. We don’t intend to sound cruel or insensitive, but the prayer sessions are going to be far more effective than a personal conversation with us. Now is the time for each one of us to seek God, like never before. The times are so desperate now, that pastors cannot help their people get through it. But we know the ONE who can!
So that’s why we are calling upon all of us to humble ourselves, forgive one another; release people and seek God. Let’s go for it! LET'S COME TOGETHER AND PRAY!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Journey Continues...

We’ve been reflecting back over our journey and it is amazing how God has brought us to this position in the Body of Christ. Every week, we meet in a very unique facility where we are able to share a couple of hours worshipping the Lord, enjoying one another’s fellowship, and engaging the Word of God.

The Lord put in on our hearts to record these special moments and release video clips over the internet so that we could stay connected with our church family throughout the week. We had no idea that people, who find themselves “in between churches”, would discover these video clips.

Little did we know that people from all over the world would begin to access the videos and begin to daily explore our website. Our website analytics report reads like a United Nations roll call.

For some reason, God is making this ministry extremely effective on the internet. For seven years we have agonized over the low physical attendance, while marveling at the incredible internet influence.

What an amazing journey. Now we look forward to someday being able to take it to the next level by going live with our Sunday gathering. That’s going to be very exciting.

In the meantime, we continue on this journey. We promised our church family from the beginning, that this would be an adventure that we would take on together.

The past few months, we’ve been slowly walking through our Fruitful Lifestyle Development series. This series has caused us to traverse through some highly controversial issues. As soon as we took on the task of teaching about the Assurance and Security of our Salvation, we knew we were moving into some lonely waters in this community.

Since then, we’ve taught key principles to encourage the dream that God has encoded within every human being. Then we started going through the Lifestyle of Victorious Believers which includes having a word-filled life, a spirit-filled life, and a lifestyle of prayer, praise and worship.

When you look back over those weeks of teaching, you can see that the Lord has been guiding us in a wonderful path of understanding His ways.

Along with those teaching sessions, we took a couple of months to engage in the Lifetree Conversation Café. Those special Sunday sessions featured video clips of real people and their real stories. This provided us the opportunity to really get to know one another through personal conversation and dialogue. Since then, we have shifted the conversations to Wednesday evenings where we continue to learn more about one another and the ways of God. The Lifetree Conversations will conclude in September, but they have been a wonderful addition to our ministry.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Moving Forward

After spending almost a week in St. Louis, Missouri with our family and friends, we returned for a much needed time of fellowship, food and fun with the Urban Life family. We send a huge THANK YOU to Sylvester and Wanida Whitlock, who hosted our Family and Friends Day in their home last Sunday.

They displayed a tremendous gift of hospitality by preparing all of the food for this special church activity. They even had a portable pool and some toys ready for all of the children. It is a great blessing to have people who step forward in their gifting like they have done. We praise God for them.

The gathering also gave us the opportunity to show a video from our home church’s 25th anniversary celebration. Finally, we were able to give you guys a brief glimpse of where we come from and what we have always desired to establish in Harrisburg.

Now as we move forward and the season changes from summer to autumn, we are preparing the ministry for change as well. Our Midweek Gathering is coming to an end for this year. We’ll host the Lifetree Conversations throughout the month of September and conclude them on Wednesday, October 3rd. After that date, we won’t host any more Midweek Gatherings throughout the remainder of the fall and winter months.

In the meantime, we are preparing for some awesome teaching and discussions in our Sunday Gatherings. We will conclude our teaching on Financial Contributions in the local church by talking about the Principles, Practice and Purpose of Tithes and offerings. After three weeks of discussing the historical perspective and controversies surrounding money tithes, we can finally get into the Benefits of Tithes and Offerings.

Many people thought we were denouncing the money tithe, even though we repeatedly said we were not. We simply needed to lay out the documented history and the doctrinal conflicts about tithing money so that you would know that we are not using coercion and compulsion when we teach about the tithing principle and its benefits.

After that teaching, we will jump into a timely discussion titled “Church Hurts” so that we can walk everyone through another level of healing in their hearts and in their families.