Wednesday, February 25, 2015
This is an excerpt from an email that was sent to the church family in the summer of 2008.
I’m hearing a word regarding deferred hopes. I’m hearing a word regarding sickness in the heart. Proverbs 13:12 reads: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
The word hope means expectation based upon a promise or dream. The word deferred means postponed or delayed; suspended or withheld for or until a certain time or event.
So my heart can be sick because my expectations and dreams have been postponed or delayed. My heart can be sick because my expectations and dreams have been suspended or withheld until a certain time or a certain event.
Even though this can make my heart sick, I see a choice in this scripture. The choice is seen in the second part of this verse. It says a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. If you interpret this scripture from a human perspective it means, when I don’t get what I want, I’m sick. If I get what I want, I’m happy.
That’s a very immature way to live our lives.
Carol and I have been learning a very valuable lesson in discerning the difference between our expectations and dreams versus the longing fulfilled. The choice is this. Do we want the longing fulfilled or do we want our expectations met?
I can hear someone asking, “Aren’t the longings and the hopes the same thing?” Our response would now be. Not necessarily. Our longings can be hopes and expectations, but not all of our hopes and expectations can be our longings.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a longing as a strong persistent yearning or desire, especially one that cannot be fulfilled.
Please allow me to say that there are times when our expectations and dreams can come true, but the longing has still not been met. However, if the longing is fulfilled, even if the expectations and dreams are postponed and delayed, we are still growing and producing fruit from the tree of life. The Bible declares that the longing fulfilled is a tree of life. There is growth. The leaves are green and healthy. The fruit is coming forth.
We believe the longings in our soul go deeper than our hopes and dreams. In fact we will go so far as to say, you won’t find fulfillment in the accomplishment of the dreams apart from the fulfillment of the longing.
So what is the longing?
Psalm 63: 1-3 says, ”O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.
Psalm 84:2 reads My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Psalm 143: 5-7 says, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah. Answer me speedily, O LORD; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
We find it interesting that the American Heritage Dictionary defines a longing as a strong persistent yearning or desire, especially one that cannot be fulfilled. Isn’t that amazing to discover? A longing is a desire that cannot be fulfilled. There is only one who can fulfill the longing.
Psalm 107: 8-9 says, “Oh that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of me. For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”
God alone can fulfill the longing soul. When the longing in our soul is fulfilled, I believe there is such life, that the delayed dreams and postponed expectations are not able to stop the tree of life. That’s why we are still standing strong in faith regarding God’s purpose for This church family and His plans, even in your family situation.
Yes, the hopes we have had for This church family have been delayed. The dreams have been postponed. Some expectations have been utterly destroyed. But what keeps the infection of despair and unbelief from sickening our hearts is that we turn to God to fulfill the longing in our soul. The longing is not for a big ministry. The longing is not to be famous. The longing is not for a fat paycheck, a new house, or living the life of luxury and leisure. Our true longing is for the presence of the Lord. That’s why we encourage you to keep meeting with us each week. GOD is in our midst. He infuses us again and again with His word and His presence.
Even for us as your pastors, our longing is not to minister to people. Our longing is to minister to GOD. That may sound strange, but that is the Kingdom of God pattern established by Jesus.
Mark 3:13-15 says, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles —that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”
The first calling was not to go and preach. Jesus called them to be with Him. Then it says…that He might send them out to preach…
I believe God allows some of us to have a sick heart so that we can get in touch with the true longing. He delays the dreams. He postpones the hopes. He lets our hearts grow sick until we can get to the place where we want the longing to be fulfilled and discover the tree of life. Then, with the tree of life abounding within us, He can release some of those hopes and dreams because our fulfillment won’t be in those things coming to pass. In fact we’ll discover God’s hopes and dreams and, more than anything else, we’ll want to see those come to pass in our lives.
IN CLOSING: We know of a number of people who are in between jobs right now. We know each of you personally even though you live all across the country. The massive job losses have a Divine purpose behind them as well. We feel led to say to you today, that some of you, while you’re in your search for a new job, may need to consider the possibility of moving out of from the city or state where you currently live. It’s time for you to step into God’s dream for your life.
Someone has been praying to the Lord of the Harvest to thrust forth laborers into the vineyard. (But) you are God’s answer to that prayer. Your new job is in another city, in another state. There’s a new Body of believers that need you or there’s a new market place ministry that awaits God’s presence through you. The sickness in your heart is because you’re holding on to a hope and a dream that is not what God has in mind. It’s time to move on to your next assignment.
God allowed the total destruction of our dreams and expectations when we moved here. It was because He wanted us in the marketplace and not locked up in a church facility. Ever since we’ve been where God wanted us, we have had provision. For someone that we’re writing to today, your provision is in another state or even in another country. It’s time to move. You can choose to live with a sick heart, or you can experience the tree of life because the true longing in your soul has been fulfilled.
For those of us who are stepping out into this new level of walking with the Lord, we are experiencing the fulfillment of the tree of life.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Excerpt from Fruitful Living in Summer
I just had a long talk with my sons last week. They're facing college and they have no money and they have big dreams. Now they're wondering how they are supposed to believe God for thousands of dollars each year when they have less than a hundred dollars in their bank accounts. So I took them through the journey of their parent’s life.
I tried not to overwhelm them, but I had to give them the truth, as well. I gave them the harsh realities of life and the “risk” that you take when you follow God. I used that word risk only from the stand point that you just don't know what awaits you when you follow God. There will be great victories and pleasant surprises. But there will also be disappointments and times of discouragement. The one thing you always have is the Word of God. If He said it, then you obey it. The outcome is not your responsibility. We live with the assurance that God will do what He said He would do. We just don't know how it will be done. So we learn to trust Him when things don't happen the way we thought they would or should happen.
When Jesus sent out His disciples with the message of the Kingdom of God, He gave them very careful instructions on what to do if the message is received AND what to do if the message is rejected. He knew that He had to prepare them for both responses because when we obey God, we enter a realm where people's choices can directly affect our lives.
That's the part about following Jesus that bothers us the most. We don't want to be that vulnerable. We don’t mind it, so much, to have our own decisions affect us, but to have the decision of somebody else affecting us, is another matter. That’s something I don’t like at all. Yet when we follow the Lord’s commands, sometimes it places us into the position where we are hanging in the balance, waiting for someone to decide, yes or no.
The Lord showed me an example. When He placed Adam in the garden, He gave him instructions and He gave him a choice. Then, He presented objects of that choice, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil versus all the other trees from which he could obtain fruit. God placed a choice in the garden. (In Adams face).
God uses us the same way. He will place us in someone’s life as the object of a choice. Unlike that tree that Adam was told not to touch, GOD places us as one of the trees from which a person IS allowed to partake of the fruit and experience new life.
So there we stand in someone's garden as the alternative choice. They can choose their own way, or they partake of the fruit that God is producing through our lives.
If they choose their own way, and reject us and our fruit, it does not mean we did something wrong. It doesn't mean you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The person or people have made a choice. We just don't like being in that position.
Many of us, in this church family, are in a time of transition. God is moving us from one neighborhood to another, from one job to another, from one set of relationships to another, from one level of responsibility to another. Part of the reason for your transition is because God wants to plant you in another garden. God is about to give someone else a choice.
Where you have been planted the past few years, some people did partake of the fruit of your life. Some tasted it and decided they didn't want to change. Some rejected it altogether. Now there's another garden in which you must be planted. Somebody else needs to have a Godly choice placed in their life. (In Their face).
You don't know how they will respond, but that is not your responsibility. God just wants a willing vessel that will GO where He says GO. He wants a vessel that will BE who God needs them to BE.
Why would God send us across the country or across the world to present someone a choice? ...Because He loves them!
What if they reject the choice? Did we waste our time, energy and money by making ourselves available to be used by God this way? No, because we are not our own! We have been bought with a price. We do it because we love Him. And don't you dare think that God won't honor your faith and your obedience.
Like the woman with the alabaster box, break open your life and pour out everything onto Jesus. You will never regret it! That’s what we have been called to do. This community and this generation has had a fruitful tree set before it for four years. Only a few have partaken of it, so far. We were really discouraged about that for a long time, but God used our special anniversary guests to bring much healing and understanding about that.
Now we can see things a little clearer. We are just a tree, set in a garden to provide a choice for those who need to turn away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus told His disciples to MOVE ON, if the message is rejected. In other words, don’t stop, don't sulk, and don't get depressed about it. You just keep moving. Keep doing what God has told you to do. There's somebody else who will receive.
So embrace the change. Just like the people who will be presented with a choice through your life, you must make the choice to obey God, too. Don’t back away in self-preservation and fear. Move forward in the will of God.
I tend to be an adventurous person anyway. I’ll try new things and move into new territory. Yes, there’s a pioneering spirit within me. But that still doesn’t make the choice to be used by God in this manner, any easier.
None of us knows how things will turn out in the long run. All we know is that God has led us and we trust Him to come through for us, so that even if what we have to offer is rejected, we can still rest in knowing that we obeyed the voice of the Lord. We made the right choice, the right decision, and the right response. We have made the fruitful choice.
Overcomers, Under orders,
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Excerpt from Extreme LIFE Makeover - January 13, 2010
Are you listening to the Lord’s voice? Can you hear the Lord calling you into a deeper level of intimacy?
We took the time to rehearse an exhortation that the Lord gave us two years ago, almost to the day. I had spent a weekend of fasting and prayer and I sent out an email following that weekend. In that exhortation, The Lord instructed me to tell our church family that He was going to cause us to make up the deficit (in our warfare) and then to surpass the enemy’s plot to defeat us. Part of that exhortation went like this:
“For three years, we’ve been playing from behind and falling further into a deficit. But, I found out something in my weekend in the Lord’s presence. God just wants the victory to be that much more spectacular.
Nothing is sweeter in athletics than the come-from-behind victory. And we’re not going to win by one point on the last second of the game, either. God’s going to cause the comeback to blow the enemy away. It’ll be so big that you will call the fruit of your victories Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh means -For God has made me forget all my toil. Ephraim means -For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
So here we are, just a couple of weeks into the New Year, and we are living the promise of God. Every victory that we have been reporting recently is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to us.
Sunday, before we shared this reminder, we sang a little song the Lord gave us many years ago titled Hear His Call (mp3). Parts of the lyrics are:
In the stillness of the night, Listen to His voice, Hear His call
In the break of morning light, Listen to His voice, Hear His call
For it is beauty from the ashes, that His will brings into my life
Listen to His voice, Hear His call, Hear His call.
I cannot explain why I began to weep while singing this song this past Sunday morning. I cannot explain why I feel the Lord’s presence as I type these words today, and find myself fighting back the tears. I just know that God made a promise from Isaiah 61:1-3 that is for you today.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…
I don’t live my life according to feelings and I don’t move by intuition or spooky voices. The tears don’t make it real, but that special knowing that comes upon me in times like this, is what gives me the boldness to keep declaring this Word to you in spite of what your circumstances are dictating right now.
We have lived by the Word of the Lord. We have lived by what is written and we have lived by what has been revealed as the Word is applied to our lives. Most of you, who receive this weekly email, know about our journey the past five years. God has allowed us to experience what people have been going through here, all of their lives. Yet, He has required that we show them how to get out of the prisons and to climb out of the pit. We have been climbing out and we are showing them how to climb out.
No matter what is happening in your life, don’t stop climbing. You climb out by staying in tune with the voice of the Lord. You praise Him even while you’re hurting. You worship Him even when you don’t have answers. You keep giving your time, talents, treasure and trust, into the Kingdom and keep serving with the family of believers you are connected to. You just stay faithful to the Lord. Now we are watching God lead us out of the wilderness and into the land of promise.
I said all of this just to emphasize that these are not the words of a preacher trying to get people to respond in their emotions. These are not the words of a pastor trying to recruit people to join his church. These are not the words of a minister seeking to be popular and fashionable.
All we know is that God told us to pack up our family and move to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He told us to come and demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God before people who would be accustomed to covenant breaking, religious tyrants, and corruption.
We know we're not the only ones that He sent, but we trying to be faithful in fulfilling our part in His master plan for this community. He sent us here to tell you that even though you may never have experienced the level of breakthrough that we are declaring, that it doesn’t mean that you will never experience it.
Isaiah 61: 4-5 is declaring that the Lord’s anointing is coming into your life: That they (YOU) may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. And they (YOU) shall rebuild the old ruins; they (YOU) shall raise up the former desolation, and they (YOU) shall repair the ruined cities, the desolation of many generations.
This is the beginning of your extreme makeover. God is tearing down the old structure of doubt and skepticism that has held you back. The devastating effects of discouragement, due to the disappointments of the past, are being demolished! Fear is being torn out of your foundation by the Love of God! We declare this over your life, right now, in the name of Jesus Christ!
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
All over our nation and right here in Harrisburg, we are watching church attendance drop as people either walk away from church membership or leave one assembly to connect with another one across town. However, many of the places to which they shift, are experiencing a decline in attendance as well.
For ten years, we have held steady, hovering between ten and twelve people per week, month in and month out, year in and year out; as many different people have come and gone over time.
Just like the Lord told us, we have been more like a hospital or a medical clinic, where people, injured in their life’s journey, have stopped in just long enough for recovery and restoration. Afterwards, most of them have moved on to larger settings, where other needs can be met beyond what we have to offer.
For several years, we were discouraged by this assignment and role in this community, but now we have learned to accept it simply because it’s the assignment and role that God has given us.
At the same time, God has given us a core group who have committed themselves to helping us fulfill the calling that God has given us in this community.
There was a time when we were very disappointed because it seemed we would never establish the minimum capacity of people that we needed to carry this work. Now we realize, God took us through the Gideon process, at least internally, and today we are willing to roll with a remnant. Gideon started out with a vast number, but after God’s weeding-out process, he was reduced to less than 1 percent of his initial army. God showed Gideon that HE didn’t need a large number of people to complete the task. He just needed a remnant.
We believe that this process is spreading throughout our country. God is weeding out churches and ministries, reducing their numbers, reassigning many of His people into different assemblies. HE is setting up pockets of His true army so we will be in strategic positions as He launches forth a tsunami-like revival, sweeping across this nation.
That’s why we are still HERE and that’s why we’re still meeting each week. God told us to stop TALKING about the coming revival and the ripening harvest and to start BEHAVING like it's already here. That's why we changed the entire design and setting of the Urban Life assembly space. That's why, last Sunday, WE WENT FOR IT! We changed our meeting space to make it a lot more accommodating for ministering in a safe and intimate environment. It's an atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit can literally overwhelm us in the love and power of God.
So, from now on, feel free to invite family, friends, coworkers or neighbors to the Table of the Lord. A wonderful banquet awaits them. We believe God will meet people in a special way. They can come to the Family Center on any given Sunday. We don’t have an agenda from week to week. We’re just going to ROLL WITH THE REMNANT.