Last month we sent you an email about looking for a window of opportunity in the midst of perilous times. Two weeks ago, we sent an email about seeking the Lord because we believe intense persecution is coming against churches and Christian leaders. I also warned that we will no longer see these events taking place only in foreign countries. My exact quote was, “We can see a lot of trouble on the horizon for America, Pennsylvania and Harrisburg. The trouble will no longer be in the news, in some country far away. It will be knocking down your door or a neighbor’s door."
This past weekend, a local pastor, and dear brother and friend of this ministry, was arrested for something that should have been handled by a simple citation in the mail. At worst it should have been a citation hand-delivered by a sheriff.
Instead, to make an example of him; to publically humiliate him; to make a political and public display of him, this pastor was ARRESTED. This pastor happens to have been very involved in fighting against many racist and controversial political and public policies in Harrisburg. Therefore, to make a point and instill fear in Christians and leaders all over our city, a photographer just so happened to be present so that his arrest could be posted on the front page of the main local newspaper. That, my friends, is called a SETUP! If it wasn’t a setup, then why was a photographer there? How did the local newspaper come to know and why did they send a photographer to be at his home at just that moment?
I truly believe that this is just the beginning. After reading the news article, I looked at the comments from the public that were posted beneath the news article and most of them were filled with hatred against pastors, churches and Christians. When I saw this, then I realized that the whole point of the arrest was to stir up the emotions of the community and begin to fan the flames of hatred against God and His people.
Again I say, “It’s time to pray and get ready for the trials and tribulations that are to come.” Very soon, the only way you and I will be able to hear a sermon or any other type of Biblical message will be via internet-based churches. Eventually, this will go away, too. I’ve been sharing these things with you guys for several years now and you are watching it unfold right here in Harrisburg.
I can only continue to encourage you to get your house and home in order. Let’s continue to gather on Sundays for teaching, fellowship and prayer. This simple weekly commitment is going to fortify and prepare us for the new version of America that is being revealed every single day. There really is no such thing as freedom of speech anymore. There really is no such thing as freedom of religion anymore. There is no separation between church and state. The government is now dictating to the church how things are to be done.
This past weekend was a very clear warning to every pastor in Harrisburg, who is seeking to change this city; that they will be arrested for any misdemeanor or mistake that can be found against them; even if it is not a criminal offense. This pastor's error was not a criminal matter at all. Yet, he was arrested like a common criminal. So we have now been forewarned that for pastors and churches, there will be no due process. While drug dealers and slum lords continue to rule our city, a pastor will be the one who goes to jail for failure to meet certain city codes and ordinances.
More and more I see why God has led us to this facility and our current setting where the emphasis is on solid Biblical instruction and learning, instead of all the usual ministry hype and musical entertainment.
Eventually our friend and brother will be vindicated and his name will be cleared, but that’s not what this past weekend was about. This was about "the powers that be" sending a message. This was about drawing the line in the sand. I’m not sure if the church leaders of this city understand that. I believe it’s a signal that it’s time for us to pray and prepare. And that’s what we’re going to do at Urban Life.
This upcoming Sunday is the first Sunday of the month. As you know, we gather for corporate prayer and communion on the first Sunday of each month. This Sunday, we’re going to pray for the city of Harrisburg and for all of our families who must live and work here.
We are still buzzing about last Sunday’s conversation. Carol and I talked quite a bit the next day about Sunday’s two hour discussion. We realized that another part of our assignment in Harrisburg is to provide the keys that will bring clear vision for our church family. As each one of us obtains more keys to clear vision, we will be enabled to fulfill God purpose for us to rebuild, restore and renew our hearts and homes.
We are especially thankful that we can have this kind of discussion in our church. The topic was very controversial and it stirred up questions that many of us still have hidden deep in our hearts.
Those questions are exactly why we felt the need to have a monthly Q & A Sunday gathering. That’s also the reason why we have provided a special link to submit your questions.
We want you to be assured and secured in your relationship with God. We want you to not live in fear of losing your connection with God. We want you to understand the difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We want you to understand the difference between the gift of tongues and praying in tongues or praying in the Spirit. We want you to understand the definitions and differences between praise and worship, so that you can receive and appreciate various styles in church services.
Did you know that we have taught on all of these topics? Most of your questions can be answered in the teaching series that are available on our website.
For instance you can find: Assured and Secured in Your Relationship with God at http://www.urbanlife-church.org/Assured-Secured This teaching series explains how a person truly gets saved and what salvation really is, according to the Bible. It’s very important to know the Bible’s definition of salvation and not just your old church doctrine’s definition of salvation.
These teaching series are available for your personal study; so you can gain clarity and understanding in these Biblical foundations. You will be amazed as to how so many things in your life will come into focus as you get solid answers to those nagging questions that were never answered about this Christian life. Your vision will become even clearer and your steps will become surer.
We also urge you to make every effort to continue to meet with us on Sunday mornings or at least connect with our new Urban Life Daily Postings that are designed to build your faith.
Our adventure continues this Sunday as we take another step in revealing the mystery and ministry of Christ. We hope to see you there.
***This week's webcast talks about the priority of family over the ministry. It replays the testimony of a pastor's wife who lost her husband through his desire to grow a huge ministry at the expense of his growing family.
I just can’t explain it, but I’m constantly overwhelmed by a strong urgency to pray. One evening, last week, I was just going about our nightly routine to prepare for the next day when I just had to get down on my knees on the side of the bed.
My sleep is filled with prayer and dreams about our nation and world. I don’t mean to come off as some type of prophet of doom and gloom. I honestly don’t know what we’re about to go through. I just know that I have a very strong call to pray.
Absolutely bizarre things are happening in our communities now. Overt racism has risen back to 1960’s - 70’s levels. Gun violence is out of control. Police brutality is horrendous. Meanwhile, hatred is intensifying and growing stronger, everyday, against anyone who claims to be a Christian or a follower of Jesus Christ.
Personally, not necessarily prophetically, I see a day in which we will see terror attacks against churches and various ministries and our government and police forces will do nothing to stop it because they will be in secret approval.
All I know is that God is directing me and Carol to lead you in a very specific strategy of prayer, teaching, and fellowship. Somehow, this simple little strategy will be enough to fortify and prepare our families for the future.
I sincerely believe God is setting the stage for something that will be so profound and powerful that we will all know that HE alone gets the glory. We just need to be willing to be stagehands that He can depend upon to do our part.
We say it all the time at Urban Life: We don’t need to be in the spotlight. God did not call us to be famous. He called us to be faithful. There is never any question about the faithfulness of God towards us. The question is: Will we be faithful to God?
If the day comes, in our lifetime, that we have to decide between faithfulness to God versus imprisonment or death, Carol and I have already decided that we will never turn our back on God.
I urge you to make every effort to spend personal time with God daily. Read from a daily devotional book or a daily Bible verse. Take the time to pray. I mean really pray. I also encourage you to meet with us on Sunday mornings or at least connect with our new Urban Life Daily Postings that are designed to build your faith.
I always hated the times when I was completely unprepared for a serious trial that came into my life. Trials seem to always come when I had not been attending church very much. I had not been reading my Bible very much. And I certainly had not been praying very much.
When the trials came, I would scramble to get back into fellowship with God and the church community; struggling to build my faith in the midst of a crisis. Trial moments are not the best times to try to build your faith. Trials will test whatever level of faith you already have.
At some point, we all have to stop living like that. We have to get prepared BEFORE the crisis moments. The Proverbs state that a wise man sees trouble coming and starts getting ready for it. We can see a lot of trouble on the horizon for America, Pennsylvania and Harrisburg. The trouble will no longer be in the news, in some country far away. It will be knocking down your door or a neighbor’s door. There will be gunfire in your children’s school. There will be disaster in your family tree.
I’m not speaking negative confessions. This is a prophetic warning. It’s the kind of warning that Jeremiah gave Israel, but hardly anyone believed him because others were prophesying about prosperity.
We will no longer be able to get away with the immature patterns of the past; back when we quoted a few scriptures and screamed out a prayer and God bailed us out. I believe the bailout prayers are coming to an end. Now is the time to seek the Lord, while He may be found.
Our journey continues in this New Year and now we're about to launch into another vital step through the open door that has been set before us. This year, we're going to learn more about the Lord by following His life. From the announcement of His birth, to His ascension into the sky, we are going to discover the mystery and ministry of Christ. As you know, the second and fourth Sundays of each month, have been dedicated to teaching. These two Sundays have been set aside to teach the Urban Life family to do the work of the ministry. We are going to learn the art of stealth in carrying out the mission and purpose of God in our lives. There is no better way to learn how to do this than to look to the author and finisher of our faith. We can hardly wait to get together with you this Sunday and take our journey through the life of Christ. Our only request is that you come to this week's gathering with an open heart and mind. We want you to bring a notebook and prepare to take notes as we teach and tell the story of Jesus. This won't be done in the traditional method of teaching. Just know that you will hear God speaking to you. And when you hear Him, you will want to capture what He's saying to you and write it down. Then, throughout the week, you can follow up on the spontaneous words with personal study. As the Spirit of God was dealing with us about what to do in 2014, He specifically spoke to us through His word: And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. John 12:32 (NKJV) Jesus spoke those words to signify how He was going to die. However, the principle of that thought applies today as we lift Him up in the 21st century. It's not that He is going to be crucified again, but that we will gain a greater understanding of the significance of His birth, life, death and resurrection. Other than sermons and random references, have you ever taken a careful and methodical walk through the life of Jesus Christ? Well, that's what we're going to do. And we trust that as we take this journey, twice a month, we will all gain a new revelation of our savior and Lord. This type of teaching may seem like it has nothing to do with your current problems in your marriage, family, job, or physical body, but just stop and think about it. Those people, back in the ancient days when Christ walked the Earth, simply HEARD about Jesus and what they HEARD caused them to go to Him. We believe the same thing applies to us today. What you need is faith! And how does faith come? The Bible says it comes by HEARING the Word of God. Come and hear! Come and take the journey with us. What have you got to lose? Sleeping an extra hour or two on a Sunday morning won't solve the problem. We have learned that if you make the effort to GO and GET a Word from God, that you will never, ever be disappointed.