Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Holiday Challenge



It’s that time again! It’s the holiday season! Starting tomorrow we celebrate THANKSGIVING, and then the most festive time of the year (Christmas). The holidays draw many people to their families and it's the same for us.

After Thanksgiving, it will be time to prepare for Christmas, family, fellowship, food and.... controversy. Did you know that many people feel that Christmas should not be celebrated?

When you learn about some of its history you can understand why. Here are just a few reasons why it is not celebrated in many sectors of American society. You might have family or friends who feel this way:

1.) Christmas is just a capitalistic marketing ploy to manipulate the masses to spend money.
2.) There is no Christian church validation that Jesus was really born on December 25th.
3.) December 25th is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured and murdered.
4.) Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.
5.) Most Christmas customs evolved from pagan rituals and practices and, therefore, should never be observed.

We agree that these are all very strong arguments for not participating in the festivities of the holiday. Many preachers across America will accurately and systematically destroy any reason a Christian Believer could possibly be connected to this season of the year.

However, as you know, we have built a reputation on controversy since moving to Harrisburg and we’re about to add more fuel to that fire.

Many Christians and religious people have taken the position that it is wrong to embrace things that were perverted and sinful in their origins. They feel we should never attempt to use these things for God. However, that's exactly what God did for us. Even though we were born in sin and shaped in iniquity, Christ died for us while we were still sinners. For anyone who receives Him, He gives them the right to become children of God. He changes us and sets us apart for His purpose. He didn't allow our sinful origins to keep us away from His divine purpose.

Now as His children, we have the opportunity to take advantage of a season that has very negative origins and highly commercialized, money-making schemes. This is one of the special times in which our families can be exposed to the reality of Jesus Christ and the true reason why He came to earth.

We believe that we must do much more than just debate about all the reasons why we should not celebrate Christmas. Most people simply REACT to the negative aspects of Christmas. We believe that we need to provide Believers some Godly ways to RESPOND to this season.

Beginning this week and up until Christmas, we want to give you Five Godly Responses to December 25th.

This week we’re presenting response #1: Become All Things to All Men.

In 1 Corinthians 9:18-23, Paul writes, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you."

We see the Christmas season as the perfect opportunity to connect with many different kinds of people. This scripture does not mean that we become hypocrites and pretenders in order to indulge in secular practices. This is talking about connecting with people ON THEIR LEVEL of understanding. This is about identifying with them, the same way Christ identified with all of mankind.

Don't shun people because of what they believe or practice during this season. Don't isolate yourself from the office party or the family gathering because they may have decorations or rituals that are against your beliefs. Become all things to all men, so that you might by all means save some.

Enjoy the holiday, enjoy your family!

---Chris and Carol Green

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Real Enemies



Way back in 1994, I wrote a song called ‘What If’ and our youth ministry’s rap/evangelistic group took the tune and added a rap within the chorus. In that rap, a brilliant young artist asked the question, “Who’s the real enemy?” She challenged many of the negative issues in the urban community, but she kept taking her listeners back to the question: Who’s the real enemy?

Now, 21 years later, we find ourselves still asking the same question. We’re in a city that’s 800 miles from where we started, but God is moving in a powerful way as HE leads us in the fight for our families. This week we want to answer that question and identify a few of the enemies of our families.

Nehemiah 4:7-8 reads: Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.

Let’s take a closer look at these guys.

Sanballat was a Moabite. The Moabites were descendants of Lot, who had a child by one of his daughters and the child that was born was named Moab; Thus began the Moabite people. The Moabites worshipped Chemosh (ke-mosh). This god was honored with cruel and perverse practices like child sacrifices (burning babies alive) and heterosexual, homosexual and bi-sexual orgies.  

Sanballat represents the acceptance of heterosexual perversion and homosexuality.
He represents the willingness to sacrifice our children for wealth and personal success.
He represents those family secrets like molestation, incest, rape and abortion. These are major evil spiritual forces that are opposing your efforts to rebuild your family.

Tobia was an Ammonite. They were descendants of Lot also. Ben-Ammi was the child born to Lot after by his younger daughter. The resulting people group, the Ammonites, opposed the Israelites when they attempted to pass through their land in the Exodus. They had a history of making unreasonable demands in order to allow passage or when attacking others around them. They were bullies.

Tobia and the Ammonites represent those people and influences that seek to hinder your family from achieving goals and fulfilling purpose. They are constantly harassing and bullying anyone who is trying to do the right thing or live a Godly life. This is especially true when we observe this type of spiritual opposition to your efforts to rebuild your family.

The Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham from his wife's handmaiden, Hagar. Jews are descendants of Abraham's son Isaac from his wife Sarah. Therefore, Arabs and Jews both came from Abraham. Most Arabs, believe that it was Ishmael who has the birthright as Abraham’s first born. Jews and Christians hold to the understanding that Isaac has the birthright because he was the promised seed that came through Abraham’s wife.

In the context of this exhortation today, the Arabs represent the spiritual forces that contest your birthrights. They contest and fight against your rights to raise your children, your rights to protect your family, your rights to freedom of expression, and your rights to freedom of religious practice.

The last group we’ll talk about is the Ashdodites. They were Philistines and their name referred to the city in which they resided. The city’s name means, “I will spoil" The spoiler is that person who knows they can't defeat you, but they will do everything they can to cause as much hurt, harm and damage as they can anyway.

In sports, there are teams who have lost so many games that they no longer qualify for the playoffs or any championship bid. They take on the role as spoiler: to knock out other teams and put them in the same position.

Ashdodites represent the people who allow this evil spirit to work through them. They live in defeat. They aren’t going anywhere and aren’t going to do anything with their lives, yet they become envious and do all they can to prevent others from accomplishing their goals and dreams. That's the attitude and motivation of satan and demonic powers. They blew their chance with God, and now they work to spoil your life and your family. They know how things will end when all is said and done. However, they want to drag down as many people as they can.

As you can see, these are some formidable forces that are opposing us as we seek to fight for our families. Just remember that the human individuals or groups who are conspiring against you are not your real enemies. They are merely tools being used by satan and demonic powers. They have been so influenced by these evil spirits that they are convinced that they are right and you are wrong.

Now can you see how you and your family are being attacked? These are the spiritual forces that are at work against us. Please understand that the moment you decided to rebuild, restore and renew your family, these attacks were launched against you to create confusion and discouragement. But here is our response. Nehemiah 4:9 says - Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

We're not going to launch political protests and campaigns. We are not advocating bashing anyone who is gay. We’re not approving the bombing of abortion clinics or the shooting of abortionist. We are not going to organize protests at city hall, the state capitol or at school district buildings. We're just going to set a prayer-watch against the enemy, day and night. Will you join with us this prayer campaign?

God didn’t tell us to come to Harrisburg and try to win, rally or revive the entire city. God sent us to Harrisburg and told us to bring FAMILIES together. That doesn’t mean all families will physically come to Urban Life. It just means God has given us a mandate to call the members of families to come together. God sent us to Harrisburg to share our lives and the Word with YOU. Our calling is not to necessarily reach ALL of Harrisburg. Our calling is to reach YOU. And then we are to equip you to reach your family. We’re just trying to do all that we can to help you and your household. We’re all in this battle together. 

That’s why we encourage you to keep pressing through all the opposition and continue to take advantage of our Sunday Life Coaching sessions. They are small gatherings, but they have proven to make a big impact on our hearts and homes.

Let’s keep pressing forward.

---Chris and Carol Green

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Setting a Watch, Day and Night



We just returned from another out-of-state ministry assignment which included a life celebration of a dear sister in the Lord who passed away earlier this month; and speaking in our home church on Sunday morning. We continued our Fight for the Family prayer campaign as we released the word on Restoring the Gates and Walls of our Hearts and Homes. It was the first time we were able to release this vital prayer strategy in our home church. 

Once again, we were able to give a Body of Believers the charge to Set a Prayer Watch against the demonic forces that are attacking our families. Back in 1995, we wrote a song to speak to teenagers about the social and moral challenges they would have to face. The closing chorus went like this:

WILL WE CONFORM TO THE SYSTEM?
AND BE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE
BE A ZOMBIE INDIVIDUAL
LIKE THE ONES WHO NEVER REALLY CARED

WILL I CHOOSE THE RIGHT TO END A LIFE?
EXCHANGE MY SEXUALITY
LET SOMEONE ELSE DECIDE MY PATH
LET SATAN JUST RUN OVER ME?

….I DON'T THINK SO!

We realize many people will focus on only certain lyrics of this song. Activist groups will call us homophobic, fear mongering pastors. The liberal media will go forth with the popular political tactic of editing our videos and presenting quick 12-second sound-bytes taken totally out of the context of a 45 minute message.

We know the game and we are very familiar with this tactic. We don't care about their sound-byte, reputation-smearing tactics. There are just too many families in crisis in our city. There are too many hurting people for us to care about that anymore.

Through the years, we have been challenged to minister to people who were gay, straight, had gotten an abortion, who paid for an abortion, discovered they were HIV positive, or had some other STD (sexually transmitted disease). Some had children outside of marriage and many were broken, abused, addicted or unstable. We have never had a stone to throw at anyone.

By this we refer to the Biblical account of the woman who was caught in an adulterous affair. The religious leaders demanded her death by stoning. Jesus Christ, however, challenged them by saying, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."

Let's be clear about what is happening today. When we speak about the many issues addressed in that song, we’re not casting stones. You see, casting a stone was not merely throwing out a protest or a disagreement with a choice or a lifestyle. Casting a stone was done to execute people; to kill people. That's what it really means to cast a stone. It means to attempt to execute somebody because of their sin.

Today, we officially declare to the popular media and to those who believe everything that they produce, that disagreeing with someone, challenging someone, or protesting against someone is not the same thing as casting stones to execute someone.

When we challenge the viewpoints to which we disagree, and more importantly, that disagree with the Bible, we are not attempting to execute anyone. We’re not trying to kill anyone. We have the right to disagree. We have the right to voice our disagreement. We have the right to base our disagreement on the Bible.

Please understand that the same Bible that addresses these issues also dictates our responses to people. We are supposed to be like the Father in heaven who loves everyone and provides sunshine and rain to everyone. We have loved, embraced, served and coached hurting people, even though we disagreed with their liefstyle choices.

So why bring up these issues at all? We bring them up because these controversial issues have wreaked havoc within our family relationships. Even though many of our opponents in society tell us to mind our own business and quit trying to force religion on them, here is our push-back statement:

"We’re not fighting to force our beliefs on them. We’re fighting because THEY have forced THEIR beliefs upon US and our children. And THEIR beliefs have affected the very foundation of OUR households."

Nehemiah wrote: Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. (Nehemiah 4: 7-9)

We’re going to show you who your enemies have been.  Sanballat, Tobia, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites represent very strong spiritual forces who are our true enemies.

Your true enemies are not the people that we see fighting against family values. They are not the people that we see fighting for gay marriage. They are not the people we see fighting for the right to kill babies by building more abortion clinics in poor, minority communities. They are not even the people that we see stripping us of our rights as citizens. No, our enemies are old, ancient demonic forces that have risen again to oppose the will and purpose of God.

We’re calling upon the Urban Life family to take up your positions. We’re setting a watch against the enemy day and night.

Two years ago, we introduced the following prayer at the end of a gathering. Please take this prayer. Make copies and keep it with you. Look at it. Read it. Pray these words over your family every time you think about them. Join us in setting up this prayer watch for our families:

Recognizing that my fight is not against flesh and blood, political parties, activist groups or social movements, I stand here in the gap for my family.

With the spiritual weapons of prayer, praise, worship and the Word of God, I declare that I am not afraid of these spiritual enemies.

I remember the Lord, Great and Awesome, as I fight for my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, my spouse and my household.

According to the promise in Isaiah 54:17,” No weapon that is formed against us will prosper; And every tongue that accuses us in judgment, we will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And our vindication is from the Lord.”

So Father God, I receive Your grace, favor, protection and wisdom.  And I thank You for giving Your angels charge over me and my family, to keep us in all of our ways.

Amen

---Chris and Carol Green

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Repairing the Inspection Gate



This week we will talk about the tenth and final gate of our prayer walk around our hearts and homes. We will briefly discuss the Inspection Gate. The Hebrew word for the inspection gate means "the appointed place." 

Hebrews 9:27 reads, "It is appointed for man but once to die, and after that the judgment" -- the inspection!"

Restoring the inspection gate means restoring the understanding that one day we will all stand before God. This gate is a reminder that we must give an account of our journey in life. Many hearts and homes do not have this gate, so they tend to live shaped by iniquity (lawlessness) with a secular mindset (which is to have no regard for future consequences).

However, for the true disciples of Christ, who have established this gate, scripture encourages them by assuring them that the INSPECTION GATE, THE APPOINTED PLACE is where, according to First Corinthians 3, "....everyone shall receive commendation“ from God. 

For true disciples, the inspection gate gives them a sense of hope and expectation for receiving rewards and the acknowledgment of their faithful service.  1 Corinthians 3:8, 3:14 reads, "8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward."

Did you know that the Bible mentions three different judgments? There is a judgment of unbelievers, a judgment of Believers, and a judgment of the nations. For now, we want to focus on the judgment of Believers.

Romans 14:10-12 reads, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…so then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” 

2nd Corinthians 5:10 reads, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Let’s take a closer look at what the Judgment Seat of Christ experience will actually BE like.

1 Corinthians 3: 11-15 (NIV) reads:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss, BUT YET WILL BE SAVED —even though only as one escaping through the flames.  

However, for many of our friends and family, this isn't the judgment they will face. They will stand before God to be judged as unbelievers. This will be a horrible moment. That's why Carol and I are so intentional when it comes to personal and corporate evangelism efforts.

We realize that when it comes to sharing their faith, many Believers are very timid. That's why we are thankful for ministries like the Billy Graham Association, who provide various tools that make it very easy to 'break the ice' and share our faith.

In fact, this weekend we are helping you participate in their release of another My Hope film.
We are encouraging each of you to make plans to download and watch the film. Once you see it, you will know why it is so important that you share it with someone else. We will also distribute DVDs to you guys over the next few weeks. We urge you to participate in this effort, especially during the upcoming holiday seasons. (See icon below)

As a family, we're showing one of the My Hope films as part of our son's video game party with his old college buddies on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Our family has always been very enthusiastic about personal evangelism. We understand that when we stand before Jesus, HE will deal with each of us on the issue of soul winning and discipleship. We don't want to have to tell the Lord that we did nothing to increase His Kingdom influence in the lives of others.

SO HERE IS OUR SUMMARY OF THE INSPECTION GATE:  Restoring the inspection gate means restoring the understanding that one day we will all give an account to God for our lives, including our lives after we got saved. We will answer to God about everything, including soul winning. SO LIVE LIKE YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH GOD!

We’ve taken a journey from the sheep gate to the inspection gate and we’ve tried to present their symbolic meanings, their prophetic significance and their practical application. This completes our journey around the walls so that we can see the gates that must be restored in our hearts and homes. 

---Chris and Carol Green