Sometimes the Lord will send us a very nice surprise that encourages us to keep moving forward in His purpose. Last Saturday, as we tried to anticipate a very low attendance for our Sunday gathering, we were invited to lunch.
We found ourselves meeting with pastors from the Cleveland Ohio area, who ministered to us and strengthened our very souls. Words of confirmation were given to us that brought instant healing from the blows we have taken over the years here in Harrisburg. There were words of knowledge that they could not have possibly known; that confirmed a calling on our lives that no one has ever known except our overseer. There were words of wisdom that solidified our hearts so that we could understand our time and know what we should do (like the sons of Issachar).
We just love how the Lord will send His word at the most unexpected times and from the most unexpected people. Before that meeting, we were a bit down because most of our church family was going to be either working or out of town. At the most, we guessed that we’d probably have about four people in attendance unless a few visitors were going to surprise us. But God had a different surprise waiting for us.
All we had to do was accept an invitation, which led to a proclamation that gave us liberation in the midst of our situation. Now we can live in anticipation of a new level of emancipation.
We share this with you today because we know that when the Lord speaks to the apostolic leadership of a church family, the resulting anointing flows to the Body of Believers that they serve.
Today, you might be a bit down because you are anticipating some level of disappointment. However, we are extending an invitation for you to connect with your church family this Sunday, so that we can worship and pray together. Don’t allow your present disappointment to cause you to miss your divine appointment.
Throughout the remainder of this week, set aside time with God. Play your favorite worship CD or DVD and just begin to pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Let Him speak into your heart and your situation. Then make plans to accept this invitation to dine at His table with your brother and brothers.
Many Believers, today, have very strange habits and patterns. At least they are foreign to us. It is foreign to us that when life and relationships get worse and worse that Believers stop attending church, even if it is a ministry where they know they can get prayer and a Word for their situation. Perhaps they are expecting some type of INSTANT change and don’t want to work through the process to reach healing and victory. We’re not sure.
However we know that for every situation, God sends His Word. And if we receive the Word, and submit to that Word, the Word will change US, even if the situation doesn’t change. Perhaps that’s the reason many Believers stop attending church when crisis hits their life. Maybe they don’t want God to change THEM. They may want God to only change their situation.
We’ve been walking with the Lord for a very long time now and we can declare this with full assurance: God does not change the situations first. No matter what it is: marriage, family, finances, or employer. He doesn’t start by changing our spouse, He changes us. He doesn’t change your bitter and evil family member, He changes us. He doesn’t give us more money. He changes our attitude and understanding about money. He doesn't change our supervisor, He changes us.
So this Midweek Connection is an invitation to your liberation. This Sunday’s corporate prayer and Holy Communion are not going to be about freedom FROM your situation, but it’s going to be about freedom IN your situation.
We just wanted to remind you that you are in the midst of personal and corporate revival and resurrection. Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of the Lord in a very unusual way. We celebrated it by rehearsing some of the prophetic words that have been imparted to us, this ministry and to each and every one of you.
Wasn't it amazing to rehearse and relive those powerful moments where the Lord sent very specific words of encouragement, instruction and strategy for this church family? As far back as May of 2004, the Lord sent His Word about YOU. Wasn't it amazing to see and hear how the Lord already had YOU in mind, way back then? Even before we came together as an official body of Believers, HE had disclosed HIS purpose for this ministry.
In 2011, God spoke through Bishop Raphael Green, that all you have to do is just share your personal testimony of what God has been doing in your life and then invite your friends or family to come and see the church family that God has connected you to. It doesn't get any simpler than that.
In 2012, God spoke through Pastor Frank King about the way HE is going to use US in Harrisburg. He prophetically revealed that Harrisburg is becoming an emerging city in this nation. The word even came forth that God was going to relocate people to this region. We are watching that prophecy being fulfilled right now.
So why did we talk about the prophetic call on this church family during a resurrection service? Well, it was because, the resurrection that is necessary for us in this season, is the resurrection of faith and hope. It's time to believe God again.
Many of you are on the same journey through life as Joseph. The Lord revealed powerful things about His dream and purpose for your life, but through the crushing blows of family betrayal, you found yourself a long way from home and a long way from the dream, just like Joseph. Since then, life has only gotten worse. Like Joseph, you find yourself in a prison and it looks like the dream and purpose is dead.
For some of you, that prison is fear, bitterness, lies or demonic strongholds. The dreamer is in a prison of disappointments, discouragement and doubt. The dreamer is hidden away and no one even knows where you are except the ONE who gave you life and breath.
When you read the Bible, the people who were used by God in the most powerful ways were just like us. Noah had a problem with drinking. Jacob was a cheater. Moses had a speech impediment. His brother Aaron, had no backbone. David had a lust problem. By the way, he was also a murderer. Peter was a hot tempered guy who could cuss you out in a second. Paul was so religious that he killed to protect his beliefs.
So what has slain the dream of God within you? Was it child abuse or rape? Is it divorce or abandonment? Is it your struggle with pornography or your bad temper? Is it a silent battle with depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder or some compulsive behavior? Are you a closet alcoholic? Are you fighting a drug addiction? Maybe it's an eating disorder? Is there some dark family secret that you are afraid will come out? These are the kind of things that have kept you dead and buried. It's kept all of Harrisburg bound by condemnation, accusation and offense.
But now the Word of the Lord has come to YOU! No matter what it is, the time has come for you to come out of that grave and experience the LIFE of GOD flowing through every part of your being.
You see, GOD has a wonderful purpose for you and our church family. He has taken several years to prepare and assemble us. He has told us to not compare ourselves to any others. He told us to prepare our hearts for what HE desires to do in this generation.
And that's what we have committed ourselves to do. All of what we are doing in Urban Life is to honor and obey the Word of the Lord that has come. Don't you dare spend another day in that grave! In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and LIVE!
Today, we invite you to come along with us and take the journey across the wilderness to reach the land of promise!
***This week's Throwback Thursday video clip is an excerpt from November of 2012, in which Chris Green shares his vision that the people of Urban Life would someday be able to open up and engage in real, honest and frank dialogue to build solid relationships.
***This week's study is from Acts 2: 40-43, "And with many other words he (Peter) testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles."
***This Sunday is known to most people as Easter Sunday. In the Christian world it is known as Resurrection Sunday. How should we respond to these conflicting celebrations? We decided to post a couple of questions from GotQuestions.org, along with their answers.
Question: "What is the origin of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs?"
Answer: The word "Easter" comes from a pagan figure called Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. A festival called Eastre was held during the spring equinox by these people to honor her. The goddess Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit, which was also known as a symbol of fertility.
The legend of the Easter Bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from southwestern Germany. The German tradition of the Easter Bunny migrated to America in the 1800s, likely accompanying German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania. Over the past 200 years, the Easter Bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter.
In legend, the Easter Bunny, also called the Easter Hare and the Spring Bunny, brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy, and sometimes toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter, in much the same way as Santa Claus is said to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning, giving rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt.
Question: Should Christian parents allow their children to participate in traditional activities that refer to the Easter Bunny?
Answer: This is a question both parents and church leaders struggle with. There is nothing essentially evil about the Easter Bunny, unless it is used to promote the goddess of spring or fertility rites. What is important is our focus. If our focus is on Christ and not the Easter Bunny, our children will understand that, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is merely a symbol. As with Christmas, Easter should be a time to reflect upon and celebrate the incarnation, the resurrection and the risen Christ.
Question: "What is Easter Sunday?"
Answer: There is a lot of confusion regarding what Easter Sunday is all about. For some, Easter Sunday is about the Easter Bunny, colorfully decorated Easter eggs, and Easter egg hunts. Most people understand that Easter Sunday has something to do with the resurrection of Jesus, but are confused as to how the resurrection is related to the Easter eggs and the Easter bunny.
Biblically speaking, there is absolutely no connection between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the common modern traditions related to Easter Sunday. Essentially, what occurred is that in order to make Christianity more attractive to non-Christians, the ancient Roman Catholic Church mixed the celebration of Jesus' resurrection with celebrations that involved spring fertility rituals. These spring fertility rituals are the source of the egg and bunny traditions.
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; 19). Jesus' resurrection is most worthy of being celebrated (see 1 Corinthians 15). While it is appropriate for Jesus' resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday, the day on which Jesus' resurrection is celebrated should not be referred to as Easter. Easter has nothing to do with Jesus' resurrection on a Sunday.
As a result, many Christians feel strongly that the day on which we celebrate Jesus' resurrection should not be referred to as "Easter Sunday." Rather, something like "Resurrection Sunday" would be far more appropriate and biblical.
By all means, celebrate Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday. Christ's resurrection is something that should be celebrated every day, not just once a year.
At the same time, if we choose to celebrate Easter Sunday, we should not allow the fun and games to distract our attention from what the day should truly be all about—the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
***This week's study is from Acts 2: 40-43, "And with many other words he (Peter) testified and
exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then
those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about
three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and
in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs
were done through the apostles."
***We live in a world where it’s all about speed. People are always looking for the fastest way to travel or the fastest way to complete a task. They look for the fastest way to make money or the fastest way to get rid of something or someone they no longer want in our lives. In fact, they disconnect from people very quickly at almost the first sign of disagreement or conflict. They try to find the fastest way to gain a college degree or the fastest way to get a promotion on their jobs.
In our world, we try to gain knowledge and wisdom through quick sound bites, Facebook postings, twitter statements, 60 second commercials, or 30 minute TV programs. If our interest is not captured within two minutes, we push a button, click a mouse, or tap a screen to move on to the next interesting thing. If it takes too long for someone to explain something, we quickly delete them and move on.
Interestingly enough, we carry this same thinking into the church. We seek the fastest way to gain a position in a ministry or the fastest way to grow a big church. We look for the fastest way to get through trials and troubles and demand that pastors and biblical instructors hurry up and get to the point. After all, we don’t feel that we really need all of that biblical background and historical context.
We want them to just rush to the parts where the Bible text or the pastor’s sermon is exciting. We want our Bible teachers to hurry up and get to the 5 things we need to know to become a millionaire. Let’s get to the 10 things we need to know to marry the right person. Let’s get to the 7 habits of highly successful people.
One thing we have learned, as students and teachers of God’s word, is that if we truly want to know fulfillment in life, then we must obtain Godly knowledge and wisdom. But if we want the knowledge and wisdom of God, it’s going to take time. God is in no hurry at all. He will let us run around for months and years until we wear out and finally come to Him and sit down.
The past 40 years of modern Christian teaching has done a lot to promote a pattern of skipping key principles and steps to gain personal breakthrough in our lives. Countless well-known and well-meaning ministers have pushed the mindset of quick fixes and fast turn-around blessings in gaining victory in this life. They present a testimony of someone who gave $100 on Sunday and gained $10,000 by Thursday. This daily, weekly, monthly and annual barrage of skewed teaching has left a whole generation of Believers abandoning the true principles of the Bible and seeking God purely for personal benefits through Christian get-rich-quick schemes.
However, God will always raise up leaders to put things back in balance. That’s what we seek to provide for the Urban Life family; BALANCE. There is no fast track to maturity and victory. It takes 36-40 weeks for an unborn baby to become mature enough for a healthy birth. It takes several years for that baby to grow and become an adult. There is no way to speed up that process.
Even though we live in a fast-paced generation, it still takes 60 seconds to make a minute, 60 minutes to make an hour, 24 hours to make a day, 7 days to make a week, and 52 weeks to make a year. There is no shortcut. This journey with the Lord is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to learn God’s pace in a fast world.
That means we can't explain these great mysteries of God in brief postings or tweets. We have to take the time to walk our church family through the Holy Scriptures; trying to accurately explain what we are reading. It is extremely important for us to take the time to explore some of the historical and cultural backgrounds in biblical teaching so that the Holy Spirit can impart greater understanding and meaning to the listeners.
Even in our internet church outreach, the reason we post the short video clips is to stir the appetites of our viewers to desire more teaching. After a while, everyone should come to the place where they realize, they cannot live a consistent victorious Christian life on a diet of quick snippets of Bible teaching and emotionally charged sermons that provide no substance.
As this Year of the Open Door continues, we encourage you to come through the open tent entrance and begin to engage the Word of God and the God of the Word at a deeper level. Your personal growth won’t be instantaneous and your understanding may not be fast, but it will be steady and strong.
Isaiah 28:10, 12 says---- 10 For it is [His prophets repeating over and over]: precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, rule upon rule; here a little, there a little. 12 To these [complaining Jews the Lord] had said, This is the true rest [the way to true comfort and happiness] that you shall give to the weary, and, This is the [true] refreshing—yet they would not listen [to His teaching].
In other words, if we want to see Godly results, we have to receive God's Word, God's way, at God's pace. We look forward to digging into the Word this Sunday as we continue our teaching on the life and ministry of Christ. We're very excited and we hope to see you!
*** It never ceases to amaze us as we watch God bring people together to fulfill His purpose and promises for a community. Long before ministries like Urban Life came on the scene, the Lord was already responding to people who were crying out to HIM for deliverance and healing in their families. This ministry is simply one of His responses. Even now, as we observe our nation getting more and more corrupt, there are countless souls yearning for the love and peace that we have found in Christ Jesus.
Right now, we are in a season in which the Lord is beckoning us out of our personal limitations and boundaries. At the same time, He is calling us into a new level of intimacy with Him. In this Year of the Open Door, God is calling us closer to Him so that we can turn our eyes away from the empty enticements and intimidation of this world. We can't thrive if we long for the same things the world longs for. We can't overcome if we are fearful about the future.
So we believe that's the reason the Lord is leading us in such a strategic way. We must admit that we, too, are moving out of our comfort zone. We had grown accustomed to certain styles and methods in church over the last 30 years. But now the Lord is directing us to do things that almost feels like sacrilege according to our church background and experience.
Whoever heard of a ministry in which the pastor sits on a stool and simply talks while using a PowerPoint presentation? Whoever heard of a ministry where the people sing along with video worship clips? Whoever heard of a ministry where its Sunday gatherings are not on a predictable weekly regiment and program? Whoever heard of a ministry that sets up an internet church in order to accommodate the work schedules of its members? Whoever heard of a ministry that gives its families a Sunday off, so they can be together or just to have a day of rest? Whoever heard of ministry that dedicates the first Sunday of each month for nothing but worship, prayer and spontaneous exhortation? Whoever heard of a ministry that has no long term plan other than just to remain open for God to do whatever HE wants to do with it? Whoever heard of such a thing?
Yes, this is the kind of church that you are attending and the kind of church family we have been called to lead. We will do things that will break traditions. We will say things that will challenge your understanding of the Word of God. We will stretch you until you no longer attend church only to receive a blessing, but you will be excited about how God is going to use you to bless others each and every day. This new approach to ministry is not the result of another church marketing strategy or the newest fad to grow a big ministry. We're not trying to build a great ministry. We're trying to build people and families who will do great things for God.
You will receive emotional, mental, physical and spiritual healing as you grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. You will do things that you never knew you could do. You will speak with authority that you never knew was within you. You will see God change your attitude and transform your thinking. You will watch God provide for you and protect your family. Even in the midst of life's disappointments, you will know the peace that goes beyond your understanding. You will know joy that extends beyond your present circumstances.
We can hardly wait to get together again this Sunday just so we can see, hear and experience more of God's presence, power and purpose for our families and our future.