The Land of the Living

“I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13

 

I have found myself thinking about Heaven lately. As I was reading this Psalm, this verse caught my attention. Everyone wants to be in a better place whether in this life or the next. Most everyone somehow believes they will be in Heaven or reunited with their loved ones after death. Perhaps you have lost someone dear to you, or perhaps you are nearing the end of your life as well. Perhaps you have gone through much suffering and wonder when everything will turn around. You are not alone.

 

The Crisis of Belief

One of the most needed things in our world is hope. I remember during Obama’s presidential campaign, he ran his presidency on this thought: hope. But can a human really provide this?

David writes in the psalms that he would have despaired unless he had believed.

The root of hopelessness is a crisis of belief. We as humans all need someone or something bigger than ourselves to believe in. Some find this cause in politics, philanthropy, their families or in religion. Where do you find hope?

David teaches us that his belief has sustained him during the most perilous times. Times of darkness, danger, betrayal, where death was a breath away. He found his hope in the living God. The knowledge that God was with him and that there was a land that awaited him became his lighthouse in the storm. He declares that the Lord is his light and his salvation. How many people are in despair because they have no belief? The devil’s greatest weapon is lies. He speaks to us to cause us to doubt our purpose, that we are loved, and that there is a God in Heaven who cares more for us than we could imagine.

Friends, this is our blessed hope, that we do not have to have a crisis of belief. We can hold fast to the truth that there is a God who is good and powerful. His mercy never fails us. His eye is always upon us. His kindness is limitless and to those who trust in him, he has reserved a land where we will live forever.

Next time you are facing a crisis, examine your beliefs. Are they coming from the truth… or from the father of lies?

 

The God of the Living

We understand who God is through his Word.

Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and Sadducees about the afterlife. “But concerning the dead that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses in the burning bush passage that God spoke to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” (Mark 12:26-7)

All mankind will experience the afterlife. The dead shall be raised; some to eternal reward and others to eternal punishment.

Let’s consider another example.

The English word for enthusiasm comes from the root word meaning “God breathed or filled with God.” The most truly alive people I’ve ever met have God’s Spirit living in them. Jesus says that he has come to give us life and life to the fullest. God is eternal. His kingdom, his being was from before time and will never end. He is the one who gives and sustains all life.

If you want to truly live, you must be in relationship with the God of the living. I have never met a depressed, suicidal, hopeless person who was truly filled with God’s Spirit. You can be religious and depressed… but not filled with the God of the living and depressed. It’s impossible. You see when sin entered the world, what was the result? Death. Sin is our separation from the living God through willful rebellion. This death is all around us, in our minds, our physical bodies, and our world. But praise be to God that through his Son, we can confess like David, “I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”

 

Better than You Imagined

One of the most underappreciated and misunderstood places is Heaven. What images come to mind when you think of Heaven? Clouds? Harps? Halos? Babies floating around in diapers with mini-wings?

Whatever Hollywood view you have of Heaven… it’s wrong. One of the saddest lies I’ve heard is that Heaven will be boring. No fishing. No video games. No sex. No good music. No parties. Just an endless choir. Friends, this is completely wrong. Who do you think created the Earth? If God made fishing, sex, the sunset, the Milky Way, caviar, music, laughter, and snow capped mountains, do you really believe that his eternal dwelling place will be boring?

Apostle Paul reminds us that, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)

We get glimpses of what Heaven will be like in Scripture. It is described as a place where there is no more sorrow, death or darkness. It is a place where righteous men and women from the beginning of time will walk with God and each other in unbroken fellowship forever. It is described as a place without sin where the glory and love of God permeate everything. In Heaven color, sound, taste and every sense imaginable are heightened. It is a place so beautiful that the streets are paved with gold. No more terrorists, taxes, broken promises, separation from family, fear, shame or death. Only endless love, peace, contentment, joy and life. God will wipe away every tear and make all things new.

Will there be food in Heaven? Will there be creativity? Will there be laughter? Will there be family and fellowship? Will there be music beyond description? Will there be creatures we never dreamed of? Will it be fun, exciting, and adventurous?

More than you and I could ever dream!

Most of all, can you imagine looking into the eyes of Jesus? The one who created the universe and whose eyes burn like fire? Can you imagine what he will say to you on that day? The one who created and knows the deepest regions of the human heart?

Whatever joy, pleasure, romance, excitement and adventure you can imagine or have experienced here on Earth is only a shadow of things to come. I can’t wait to get there and walk with Jesus… and meet my family members who have served the Lord and passed on… and to talk with Peter, David, Esther and others.


Saints, we have a blessed hope. Let us say like King David that we believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. It’s our intimacy with God and our knowledge of his goodness which will sustain us through the darkest night.

Heaven is not reserved for “good people” or people who believe in the afterlife or religion. It is reserved only for the children of God. We must be born again through Jesus Christ into the family of God. As we declare him to be Lord and Savior, he will take our pain, fear, failure and sin away! He is able to cleanse you by his blood shed on the cross. You do not have to live another day fearing death or what the future holds. You will now be able to say, “I would have lost heart unless I had believed.”

If you have never given your life to Jesus Christ, do it today.

I look forward to seeing you one day… in the land of the living.

Good News from Eugene

Before I begin to tell you about this picture and the family whose lives were changed, I need to give the backstory to what brought me to Eugene, Oregon this hot weekend in July.

I am a member of the Luis Palau evangelistic network called the Next Generation Alliance. This is a group created to support, mentor, and further develop the next generation of evangelists. I had made a trip up to Oregon earlier this year to visit the Palau HQ near Portland and prior to this, there happened to be an outreach at the University of Oregon that I joined. Greatly encouraged after the outreach and my visit to the HQ, I wanted to participate in any major outreaches that were upcoming. The original plan this July was for me to be in Taiwan… but as that fell through, I was free to come to Eugene after all. But getting to the glory was not as easy as one might expect…

 

Hostess from Hell & Superman Dives

I arrived in Eugene after a beautiful but loooong 9 hour drive through the Oregon back road freeways as I was coming from Tahoe. I had booked an Air BnB in a “homey” and cheap place in the outskirts of Eugene. Easy peasy right?

An old blue house on a darkened corner awaited as an elderly woman greeted me about 9:30pm Wed night. The first thing I noticed was that my nostrils were being attacked by the smell of cat as soon as I came in the door. She then proceeded to tell me the door code to unlock the front door. Beep, beep, beep… eeeennnnnnntttt.. Beep, beep, beep…. EEEENNNTTT! Hmm… that’s funny. This code should be working… (and obviously wasn’t) But being that it was late and I was exhausted… I told her I was just going to go to bed and I’m sure she’d get the code working for the door. (I presumed) After I got into the room which was a cool 95 degrees Fahrenheit with only a ceiling fan… I was looking for the trash can to dump a few items that had accumulated during my 9 hour trek… alas there didn’t seem to be one. I was then informed by my hostess that “she only composts.” Sigh….

The next morning after having made my own trash receptacle out of a grocery bag, I asked to dump this in the bin and instead of obliging she looks at me eyes bulging and says, “Why do you have so much trash? No really, THAT is so much trash!” I decided I wasn’t going to argue with an eco-maniac and told her to forget it. I’d dump it at Safeway. I did not come back to the house that day until 11pm as I really didn’t want to talk to her anymore and just wanted to sleep in my oven and then go about my business the next day. (Oh, and the bathroom was from the 50s and when you turn on the shower fan… it sounded like a jet engine after about 5 seconds of sputters…) This is what I get for choosing the affordable route.

So there I was at 11pm Thursday night… and to my horror… the incorrect door code she had given me the day before was… STILL INCORRECT! After two or three tries… the lock effectively shut down, and I had to spend the night in my car. Bright eyed and bushy tailed is not how I would describe my next morning. After an hour on the phone with Air BnB and still no resolution (and still in my clothes from the previous day), I decided to go for a swim. I had nothing better to do.

A barista from the local Starbucks told me I had to try out a place called Wildwood Falls. It was a scenic thirty minute drive from Eugene. Once there, the rolling falls are surrounded by a near perfect semi-circle of cliff rocks and everyone was jumping into the crystal blue waters below. Great! So I joined right in. After about two hours, I decided that feet first wasn’t exciting enough. I finally mustered up the courage to do a superman dive off of a cliff about 20-30 feet in the air. It seemed like a good idea until I hit the water and something wasn’t right with my left arm. I knew this because a) it wasn’t working anymore and b) there were jolts of electric pain shooting through it. As I managed to one arm swim back to shore, I was wondering how I was going to get my sandals which I had left on the top of the cliffs and whether my shoulder was dislocated or sprained or what. (Turns out I actually broke my arm, which I didn’t know until later.)

After asking one of the locals to retrieve my sandals for me and then having to climb up the side of the hill one handedly using the rope that helps you up, I shuffled back to my car somewhat dazed and confused. At least I got a nice tan. But seriously… what was going on? I am an injured man hundreds of miles away from home, locked out of my air bnb and can’t even get a change of clothes or shower… and I’m supposed to be at a conference in a few hours and then help with an all day outreach the next day! “DEVIL!! You are not stopping me!!”

Well… the Lord heard my prayers as I drove back on that scenic route. “God, I can’t deal with any more right now. I need your grace. I need you to come through here.” I spent the first night at the conference in the same clothes I’d been wearing for almost 48 hours and then by a miracle, I got a response from the hostess who finally told me the right code to the door (after accusing me of lying to Air BnB because she claimed I really knew the code all along.) Late that night after the conference, I made a black ops mission into the den of cats to retrieve my luggage, left the room key on the table and said, “Hasta la vista, baby!”

 

CityFest, Eugene

I woke up the next morning in my local Motel 6, in pain but slightly relieved to have the previous escapade behind me. Should I check myself into the emergency room? Should I just power through this and worry about my shoulder later? I decided on option two. I had come all this way to participate in the outreach and while there was breath in these lungs, I was getting there. Everything took longer with one arm and certain movements triggered the electricity so I had to be very slow and methodical getting ready and getting to the morning session of the conference. The speakers, the prayers, the fellowship all profoundly blessed me. I could see God’s goodness despite what had happened the past couple of days. About 3pm it was go time and we all headed over to PK Park, the local baseball stadium, in Eugene. My role and that of many other volunteers was to counsel new believers and gather their information so that we could make sure to get them into a local church.

The Festival is a massive undertaking. Over 100 churches had been mobilized in the region with about 2 years of planning going into this. The first part of the day they had childrens’ games and a gospel presentation for the kids. People responded. I got to pray with two little guys named Alex and Edgar… and then prayed with another elderly woman who responded too during the kids gospel presentation. Goes to show there is no Jr. Holy Ghost!

Later in the day, there was a presentation by a stunt group. Skateboarders and bikers doing crazy tricks on ramps culminating with motorcyclists doing the same. It is here that we come back to the picture above. After all the tricks and stunts, a young man begins sharing his story. All he ever wanted to do was be a professional biker. He achieved that dream but realized it was not what made life worth living. He described how he always had a praying grandma and she would always tell him about Jesus. (He called her Billy Grandma) It wasn’t until he finally surrendered to Jesus that he knew his true purpose in life and that he had eternal peace inside. He knew where he was going to spend eternity. “This same forgiveness.. this same eternal life.. is available for you. Today is your day to say yes to Jesus. Will you do it?” Hands began going up all over the audience. As I looked to my right, a man was in humble contemplation and then put his hand in the air. His name was Randy.

I counseled him and prayed with him. He had been away from the church for many years, backslidden and lost. He wanted a fresh start and today was that day. I encouraged him, gave him the Luis Palau follow up packet including the gospel of John and prayed for him. His wife came over and thanked me with tears in her eyes. “God has you here for a purpose. You have no idea what this means. I have been praying for him for five years!” I realized in that moment what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “I consider that our light and momentary trials are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Randy, Patricia, and their little son Colton will have a new future because of this day. It was all worth it. Matter of fact, if Randy was the only person I came up to Eugene for… it was worth it!

Believe it or not, the night still wasn’t over. They then brought out the third wave. This included artists such as Tedashi and Rend Collective. Andrew Palau came out around 7pm and shared a heart felt and compelling gospel presentation. Again, the hands went up. I prayed with another couple who wanted to give their lives to Christ. And exhausted but so joyful… I left the Festival after a few TobyMac songs at the end of the event that night.

 

The Breaker Anointing

As amazing as CityFest was, something bigger is afoot. Hearing the stories from some of the pastors that this has been in process for over two years made me realize that God was at work in this community. The goal was not to have an event but to transform a region. There is a group in the Eugene area called OneHope that has successfully mobilized city wide unity and consistent prayer amongst almost a hundred churches and their leaders. This has been ongoing now for a number of years. Can you say spiritual plow?

You see God wants to release the breaker anointing. Eugene is known as a liberal / progressive area that is largely unchurched. But this is exactly why this anointing is needed. With our God, nothing is impossible. It is this anointing that breaks every yoke.

After CityFest the next couple of days, I got to touch base with some team members. There was a massive follow up effort underway. They received over 500 decision cards for Christ! I did some phone banking that Monday at the war room to follow up with the new believers. The people I spoke with were profoundly thankful for the event. Nothing like this had been done in Eugene before. “When would the next one be?” seemed to be the consensus. Tom Mueller one of the Palau directors for CityFest and I were talking. He told me however that they didn’t have any plans to do another CityFest in Eugene anytime soon. In my spirit, that disappointed me. But I realized that it didn’t have to be the Palau network doing it. The Body of Christ needed to come together in that region to continue to hold mass evangelistic events in their city. I felt like it needed to happen every year into perpetuity. I sent a prophetic word to Steve Buss, the director of OneHope, telling him that God is saying, “Eugene is going to be a prophetic prototype of sustained revival.” What began with pastors gathering to pray would culminate in a region coming to know the Lord. The CityFest outreach was an important catalyst in that story but not the end.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6

Greater things are yet to come!

Empty Vessels

A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.’ So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.’ Then he said, ‘Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors – empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.’ So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another vessel.’ So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.’” – 2 Kings 4:1-7

 

The Brink of Despair

One of my favorite movies growing up was The Princess Bride. It has everything: beautiful women, sword fights, giants, torture chambers, miraculous escapes, witty discourse, weird characters, true love… even a battle with a giant rat! At one point in the movie, Wesley is captured by Prince Humperdink and thrown into the pit of despair only to awaken to a white albino reminding him not to even think about trying to escape. “The chains are far too think. Have no hope of being rescued either. The only way in is secret. Only the prince, count and I know how to get in and out,” he smirks.

 

If you have ever felt like this, you are not alone. Whether your struggle is financial, emotional, relational, or physical, the story is not over yet.

 

In our text we see that this poor widow comes to the prophet in a desperate situation. Interestingly, her husband was also a prophet. We do not know exactly what happened to cause this debt. Perhaps there was some disaster like a fire that devoured their livelihood. Perhaps people were not giving into his ministry as they should. Or his sons could not find work. This is part of the story that we do not know. But what we do know is that this man feared the Lord. He was holy. He dedicated his life to the service of God, and yet at the end of his life, he died penniless and left behind a widow and two sons. Does this sound unjust to you?

 

This woman was on the brink of despair. Her two precious sons, the apple of her eye, were about to be sold into slavery. She was going to die bereaved of her husband and sons while slowly withering away from hunger like a severed branch.

 

Can you just hear the devil right now? “Is this what you get for serving God? He has failed you! Curse God and die!” Hmmm… reminds me of another story in Scripture.

 

How many people when they face these circumstances would respond like this? How many saints get offended at God when they go through trials!

 

There are always two responses to the trials: trust God or blame God.

 

Many people are at a critical crossroads. Faith is the ink that will pen the final chapter.

 

 

Bring Your Nothing

When you are invited to a wedding or a birthday party, it is customary to bring a gift. As a matter of fact, it is considered rude not to bring something. Even in the Old Testament, the Lord commands Israel not to come before him empty handed. David the king and prophet says, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.”

 

And yet, what do you have that you could possibly give the King of the Universe? He is the one who spoke and the worlds were created. All that we are and have are from him and belong to him. In him we live and move and have our being.

 

This is well illustrated by the band Shane and Shane in their song, “Bring Your Nothing.”

 

Here is the widow. She has no hope but God and she comes to the prophet. If she had rich friends, don’t you think she would have called upon them? If she had a Plan B, don’t you think she would have executed it? Despair is the point when every natural resource and idea have been exhausted. This is where she was… at the mercy of either God or the creditors.

 

When Elisha asks her what she has, she says, “Your maidservant has nothing… but a jar of oil.”

 

She surrenders and brings her nothing to God. When we come humbly before the Lord and acknowledge that we really have nothing, he reminds us that there is some small thing that he has entrusted to us however insignificant it may seem. The world would not see it as much. Perhaps we feel it isn’t even worth mentioning.

 

God wants to take your nothing and make it something.

 

A story that comes to mind is the journey of CityImpact ministries in San Francisco. It began with a man seeing a need in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. This is one of the worst most drug infested and violent areas of the city. He had a heart to do something to bring the love of God. So he and his wife just started by making a few dozen lunch bags and then going around and handing them out to people. Then they prayed and talked with broken people as the Holy Spirit gave them audience. Fast forward over a decade later and they are now one of the most well known ministries in San Francisco with a huge staff, impacting not only the Tenderloin but churches around the world who send missions teams there to participate in what God is doing.

 

What is your jar of oil?

 

 

Empty Vessels

The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church to remind them that, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” – 2 Cor. 4:7

 

One of the biggest ingredients for God working a miracle is an empty vessel.

 

Jesus the Son of the living God came as an empty vessel to this world. In Philippians we learn that Christ “emptied himself” of all his divine privilege and nature in order to become a human and do the will of the Father. He became a servant.

 

The prophet says to the widow to go and gather empty vessels… from everywhere, from everyone, as many as you can find!

 

Isn’t it interesting that the sons who were supposed to be sold into slavery became gatherers of empty vessels? They got to participate in the miracle of God. The devil has a plan for your life. It is to sell you into slavery. It is to bring you into the house of bondage and despair. It is to rob you of your future. It is to keep you isolated, sick and fearful… to destroy your very soul.

 

But praise God saints… he has another plan!!

 

Imagine the scene. The sons frantically rushing to the neighbors, banging on doors, gathering and bringing them back to the house. Then going out again and gathering some more. Tall vessels, short vessels, red vessels, yellow vessels, vessels that used to hold sugar, flour, wine, parchments. Bring them all!!

 

Aren’t you glad that God is no respecter of persons? It doesn’t matter how beautiful, how big or small your vessel is. The only qualification is that it comes empty.

 

How many vessels got filled? Do you ever stop to think about this? Was it twenty? Fifty? A hundred? …

 

As many vessels as were brought were the ones that were filled! Question… are you skimping on the vessels? Could it be that God wants to do something far greater, far more marvelous in your family, church, city and life than you could have dreamed?!

 

The oil will stop as soon as there are no more empty vessels.

 

Saints, this story is one of the most profound pictures of the life of overflow for every believer. The devil wants you penniless, offended and fearful. Robbed of every good thing. God says, bring me your nothing. Come empty and watch me fill you to overflow.

 

The blessing not only paid off the debt but propelled this family into a life of abundance.

 

Are you in a place of despair? Do you feel like all you have is your nothing? Are you hungry to be filled with the fullness of God and see a movement in your church and city?

 

I have good news. God loves to take empty vessels and fill them up.

So bring them in… as many as you can find.

The Unity of the Spirit

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

~ Ephesians 4:3

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” ~ John 17:23

Last May 3rd, the national Day of Prayer commenced. What was the theme? Unity. Shortly before this, I had been introduced to a group of house churches in the Bay Area. Their leader had spent some time writing a book called ONE. The Lord then gave me a prophetic download after the day of prayer. Let me first give some context. I have often wondered when we will truly see the unity of the church that we see in the book of Acts. Where I have spent many years ministering in Berkeley, there is such a thick atmosphere of offense over the city that it even permeates the church. Protest after protest happen on campus. Churches seem divided… or at minimum, wary of each other. Seeing genuine love and servant hood between ministries is rare as are united events for the proclamation of the gospel.

Here is what the Lord showed me. The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus for “straining out a gnat” while “swallowing a camel.” This religious spirit is quick to fault find, be offended, look for minor doctrinal/cultural differences in order to criticize and divide… all the while “swallowing the camel” by missing the major things and leaving them undone. This is the work of the enemy and is one of the major reasons the church is so divided.

How about we begin with what we agree on? Can we agree that the Bible is God’s infallible Word? Can we agree that the world is going to Hell without Jesus? Can we agree that we were baptized into one faith with one Lord? Can we agree that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again and is the only way of salvation for those who repent and believe in him? Can we agree that we all need the Holy Spirit to fill and empower us?

In my time at Berkeley, I have had to work with some difficult people. If I only loved or co-labored with people whom I agreed with on absolutely everything, then I’d be a solo minister. Sadly, how many ministries or groups operate with this toxic mentality? If we begin with the foundational truths of our faith and love one other, we can work through our differences as we seek to see Jesus lifted up and his gospel proclaimed. Where there are disagreements, let us speak the truth in love and try to understand one another while remaining submitted to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps one will see it your way… or you will see it theirs. But this cannot even begin to happen if everyone is in their separate corners. At the end of the day we are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. A relevant question to ask yourself is: am I making every effort or no effort? Some may argue that in the last days there will be many false teachers and deception so we need to be careful. I agree. But ask yourself whether most of the division is over heresy or apostacy… or straining out gnats and an unwillingness to love and make the effort.

The goal of the church is to become the mature, holy and undivided bride of Christ who proclaims his gospel to the ends of the world so that the end may come. Therefore, let us give one another the benefit of the doubt, lose the critical spirit, not look at other ministries as enemies or inferior, ask how we can serve one another in humility and love, seek to understand where someone else is coming from before making quick judgments, and speak the truth in love.

Have coffee with a pastor from another church. Invite someone from another group to your house for a meal. Go serve on another church’s ministry team every so often. Let us stay focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaiming it to the world all the while making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. As I was reading John 17 recently, I was getting absolutely wrecked by how much Jesus prays for his people to be one… “that the world may believe that you sent me!”

The Power of Unity

In Genesis 11:1-9, we see that mankind had unified through a common language and purpose to the point that they decided to build a tower to heaven. God himself comes down to observe this and states:

And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” ‘

~ Genesis 11:6

The Lord himself says that because the people has become one and has the same speech that nothing they propose will be withheld from them. Their purpose was self serving and still the Lord said this! Then God scattered these people through confusing their speech and thus the languages of the world were born. The unity was broken and everyone went their own way.

There is power in agreement and unity.

Solomon writes, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Eccl. 4:12

Jesus also teaches this in various places.

Again I say] to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matt. 18:19-20

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Matt. 12:25

Consider the United Nations or any coalition. They seek to use unity to gain the upper hand in their cause. Remember that time you got into an argument with someone and because you wanted to win, you tried to get another person on your side? What were you instinctively doing?

 

The Person of Unity

Unity is not an event, a conference, a program, or a political system. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. Communism as a worldview thought that a governmental power could create a more equal, fair society for those “oppressed” by the upper class by forcibly taking away private property, inheritances and putting all of the power into the hands of the state. Somehow this will eliminate “class struggles.” Ironically, not only has that not worked throughout history, but it only creates another form of oppression where the communist party elites have all the power over the “working class” who are all equally broke. The reason I bring up this example is some have erroneously argued that the Bible teaches a Communist perspective. In the book of Acts we see that many sold their possessions and gave to those in need. These are beautiful acts of love and sacrifice, but this is not the same as Communism. Political systems seek to impose their laws from the outside in through the use of force and coercion. The problem? The selfishness of man contained in the sin nature cannot be dealt with through a political system. Also, if the government forcibly takes everyone’s possessions, then it is no longer in the power of the individual to give an offering freely. Thus their free will is eradicated. The extravagant generosity seen in the book of Acts is only possible because God’s kingdom transforms us from the inside out!

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” ~ Acts 2:44-5

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” ~ Acts 4:32-3

Have you ever seen people doing this for strangers? Could you imagine selling your house that you have worked your whole life to buy and giving away the money so that those who were in need, would no longer lack? This is only possible when you begin to see those in the church as your brothers and sisters. That you are a part of a body.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:13

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:25-6

This unity came after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unity is not the source; it is the by product of a life surrendered and filled with the Holy Spirit. You and I will never have true unity through human striving. Man in all his efforts over the millennia through governments, programs, and philosophies and has failed to produce more than a shadow of true unity. There is only one person with the mighty power to destroy our selfishness and pour love into our hearts like we see in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit.

The Price of Unity

The devil’s greatest fear is that the church will become united once again as in the book of Acts.

He has endeavored to do everything in his power to break down this unity, create contention, division, suspicions, and insert his lies into the minds of the saints. His mission is to steal, kill and destroy. If he can’t keep you from salvation entirely, he wants you defeated and disjointed.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” ~ 2 Cor. 5:18

Unity is not without a high price. The cross was the price Jesus paid so that you and I might be reconciled to God… and to one another. We now have the responsibility to carry this out.

These are the three major barriers to unity: the spirit of offense, pride and the lies of the devil.

If we want true unity, we must pay the price by ridding ourselves of the following!

The spirit of offense – unforgiveness, holding on to the past, interpreting all information from a particular source in a negative way, avoiding people whom we have had disagreements or negative encounters with, demanding our rights, being quick to argue, unwillingness to apologize or be reconciled. One of the reigning principalities over Berkeley is the spirit of offense… why do you think there’s a protest every other week?!

Solution: refuse to come into agreement with the spirit of offense no matter what someone did to you. Do what you can to forgive, be reconciled and let it go. God is the righteous judge. He will repay.

Pride – that critical spirit that is more interested in fault finding than edifying, unwillingness to listen to or receive from other ministries, unteachable, being more concerned with ourselves than others… our way, our ministries, our status, our ideas, arguing over who is in charge, who gets the stage, who is in control of a meeting etc… this is all demonic, prideful and keeps the body divided. Being unable to rejoice at the successes of others, unholy competition between churches or ministries, or thinking that one is always right and others are wrong are all manifestations of pride.

Solution: Become nothing… just as Christ humbled himself and took the form of a bond servant. God will exalt you in due time. Try to see that God is also working through others and that our value is not determined by our titles, our control, or our ideas being used all the time. Seek to serve others.

Lies – the devil is the father of lies. He gains control in our lives when we believe his lies. He wants the church to believe his lies so that we are divided.

 

LIE #1 “It’s not that important for us to be united.”

Truth: John 17:21

LIE #2 “We can’t work with others whom we disagree with.”

Truth: 2 Cor. 5:18, Romans 12:2, Phil. 2:1-4

LIE #3 “As long as everyone is doing their own ministries separately and glorifying God, that is okay.”

Truth: John 17:21, 1 Cor. 1:10-13

LIE #4 “I only have responsibility for the people in my home church.”

Truth: Luke 10:20-37, Matt. 25:31-46

LIE #5 “I can say I love all the Christians in my city but do nothing to actually demonstrate that love.”

Truth: James 2:26, 1 John 3:16-18

LIE #6 “If we embrace other ministries and true unity, we might lose people to other churches.”

Truth: There is no other church!! There is only one true church and you are a steward of God’s people!!! Therefore, unless someone is being lost from the faith altogether, then you don’t have any justification for an “us versus them” mentality!

—–

Remember, true unity is a work of the Holy Spirit. Our focus should be on surrendering to him, ridding ourselves of sin, and walking according to the Word of the Lord.

that we may all be one… that the world may believe that God sent Jesus Christ!

Three Pillars of Prayer

A pillar is defined as a chief supporting element of architectural design. Without it, the building will collapse. Pillars are strong enough to stand on their own but a house (natural or spiritual) cannot stand without its pillars. Let me share with you three essential pillars of prayer.

 

The Pillar of Spiritual Warfare – Eph. 6:12

Although many Christians don’t bother to think about this often, the true battle is in the unseen realm. There is so much in the Word of God concerning angels, demons, prayer and the after life. To use a famous philospher’s quote: “The devil’s greatest trick was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”

In warfare, it is essential to be able to see the enemy. Radar, sonar, sophisticated satellite systems have been developed to be able to track and identify enemy targets. In medicine, we understand that there are micro organisms … invisible to the naked eye which cause disease. Thus being able to identify and “see” what is really going on is of the utmost importance.

As Paul writes in Ephesians, we are fighting a cosmic war in the heavenly realms against demonic forces. Flesh and blood are not the real enemy, Satan is. Thus we must be vigilant in prayer and in the weapons of righteousness. Although spirits manifest through people, humans are not your enemy. It is the ideology and demonic forces influencing and controlling people that we wrestle against.

Let’s see how the devil tries to resist the purposes of God through spiritual warfare.

The prophet Daniel was a holy man. He was a captive in Babylon due to Israel’s disobedience and subsequent judgment by the Lord. Through prophetic revelation, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that the time of the captivity was over. However, they were still captive. What’s going on? Daniel begins to pray to the Lord for an answer… but none comes. Then he begins to fast and pray and “set his face towards Heaven.” After 21 days, the angel Gabriel appears to him and says,

Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” Daniel 10:12-13

This is a profound story on spiritual warfare. Daniel was holy, he was praying… and yet nothing was happening. Many Christians experience frustration at God. Why hasn’t he saved my Mom? Why are my finances such a mess and I’m tithing? Why isn’t there a breakthrough on my college campus?

In the New Testament in Mark’s gospel, the disciples encounter a dilemma. Jesus was gone on the mountain and they were trying to heal a boy that was deaf and mute, but they couldn’t do it. The sickness wasn’t responding to their prayer and command. Jesus finally shows up and casts out the demon. Interestingly, the text tells us that the scribes were disputing with the disciples. Can you imagine what they might have been saying? “Perhaps it’s not God’s will to heal this boy. It’s not his time.” or “This sickness cannot be cured, he was born this way.” or “These people are not holy and that is why this sickness has come upon their child.” Whatever it was they were saying, I am sure they were trying to convince the disciples that their attempt to heal this boy wasn’t working and wouldn’t work. The disciples didn’t have an answer until Jesus shows up. Can you picture yourself there? What would you be thinking? Would you be confused… discouraged… doubtful?

Jesus gives us the answer to this puzzle: “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29

It is imperative for Christians to see that there is resistance to the kingdom of God. This resistance comes from Satan. The trouble is most people don’t know when the breakthrough will come and they give up… or worse, they don’t realize that it’s the demonic forces of Hell which are resisting God’s will and they erroneously conclude: “Well… it’s not happening… guess God doesn’t want it to.”

 

The Pillars of Strength & Wisdom 1 Sam. 30:6, 8

Imagine your worst day ever. I mean… your car breaks down, you are late to work, you find out your dog just died, you get dumped and the bus drives by at just the wrong time splattering mud and grease all over your nicest clothes! Well…. trust me when I say you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire, and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. 1 Samuel 30:1-4, 6

Here is the modern day equivalent. You come home from work. Your house is burned down and not only yours… the whole neighborhood. And your wife and children are gone… and the whole neighborhoods’. And suddenly all of your friends look at you with murder in their eyes and pick up weapons!

That is an ULTRA BAD DAY!

How many people would have started blaming God at this point? But what does David do?

He strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

You can either blame God or pray to God… but not both.

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?’ And he answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.’” 1 Samuel 30:8

The place of despair turns into the place of victory because David understood that through prayer he could tap into the strength and divine wisdom of God. Notice that David does not act on his own initiative. His immediate response is to fall on his knees before the Lord until he receives confirmation of victory.

 

Another example of divine strength is Jesus agonizing in prayer in the garden to the point that his sweat became blood. In Luke’s gospel we see that an angel from heaven was sent to empower Jesus because of the severity of the hour and the battle he faced. I believe that if it were not for this divine strengthening, Jesus would not have been able to wrestle through in prayer until he had achieved total victory.

Jesus was not confused as to his purpose. He knew that he was meant for the cross. He says before the garden, “What shall I say, Save me from this hour? No, it was for this very hour that I came! Father glorify thy name!” The issue was not knowing what was right but doing what was right. Therefore, Jesus wrestled in agony to find the strength to carry out the will of God. All internal resistance had to go. Self had to be crucified before the body could be.

 

Not My Will But Thy Will Be Done

If you and I are going to live the victorious life that God has for us we must apply the three pillars of prayer. We will face spiritual warfare; we will need God’s strength; we will need his wisdom. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done is a prayer and a calling for us as Christians. The reason we must pray is there is resistance to the kingdom of God inside and outside us.

Whatever you are facing, the Bible says that Christ is both the “wisdom of God and the power of God!” Come to him in your hour of need and you will be able to overcome every fiery dart of the enemy.

Three Lessons from Billy

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us cast off every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”   ~ Hebrews 12:1

Last month in February of 2018, we saw the passing of one of the spiritual giants of our time. Billy Graham was hailed by saint and sinner alike as a genuine evangelist, pastor, and humble servant of God. His life was so untainted by scandal that even the secular media had nothing bad to say about him. As the Word of God says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

Though Billy would have been the first to turn the spotlight off of himself and on to Jesus, the Bible says to give honor to those who minister the Word of God. His integrity, humility, and unwavering determination have made him a star shining in the night. Billy is now a part of the great cloud of witnesses in heaven.

What made Billy so remarkable? Let me share three lessons I have taken away from his life.


He Kept It Simple

Billy Graham preached a simple gospel. He did not waver into over-intellectualizing, changing, or doubting the Scriptures that has sadly become common in many so called seminaries today. There was a point however where doubt and discouragement almost overcame him. Listen to this compelling excerpt written by his grandson about Billy’s struggle:

 

As such, now seemed like the right time to share the story of the evangelist named Billy Graham, a discouraged young man searching for answers and direction in his life, unsure of God’s plan for him.

At the mid-point of the 20th century, he had already been an evangelist with Youth For Christ and had preached across Europe in the aftermath of World War II. He had held his first “Billy Graham Crusades” in places like Charlotte, N.C, and Grand Rapids, Mich. He was also the president of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn., the youngest college president in the country.

Not everything had gone as planned, however. His crusade in Altoona, Pa., had been – in his own words – “a flop.” It was spiritually difficult and he felt things had gone poorly, and it left him questioning whether or not evangelism should be his focus.

At the same time, a very good friend and contemporary of my grandfather’s, a man named Charles Templeton, had begun challenging my granddaddy’s way of thinking. Mr. Templeton, who had preached with Youth For Christ as well, had gone on to study at Princeton, where he began to believe that the Bible was flawed and that academia – not Jesus – was the answer to life’s problems. He tried to convince my grandfather that his way of thinking was outdated and the Bible couldn’t be trusted.

My grandfather had more questions than answers.

Should he leave the school and follow the calling of an evangelist, even though Altoona had gone so poorly?

 

Did he even believe the Bible from which he was preaching, or should he follow Templeton in questioning its validity?

 

It was at this time that my discouraged grandfather reluctantly accepted the invitation of Henrietta Mears to visit and speak at a Christian retreat center called Forest Home.

You see, while he was at Forest Home, he spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, and he kept seeing the same phrase pop up. “Thus sayeth the Lord… Thus sayeth the Lord…” While my grandfather had always accepted in his head the authority of the Scripture, this became the turning point as he realized in his heart that God’s Word is divinely inspired, eternal and powerful!

One night at Forest Home, he walked out into the woods and set his Bible on a stump – more an altar than a pulpit – and he cried out: “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising.”

And then, my grandfather fell to his knees and the Holy Spirit moved in him as he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!”

My granddaddy wrote in his autobiography that as he stood up his eyes stung with tears, but he felt the power and presence of God in a way he hadn’t in months. “A major bridge had been crossed,” he said.

The resulting change did not go unnoticed. The next day my granddaddy spoke at Forest Home, and 400 people made a commitment to Christ. Henrietta Mears remarked that he “preached with authority” that she hadn’t seen before from him.


This prayer at the tree stump was the tipping point where faith overcame doubt and all arguments against the power and authority of the Word of God. You see, the devil has been trying to get man to doubt the Word of God since the Garden of Eden. If the devil succeeds, all faith is lost and he gains control.

Billy determined to accept Scripture as God breathed and to keep his gospel message simple. As the apostle Paul put it, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” I Cor. 2:2


He Embraced Accountability

The second lesson from Billy’s remarkable life was his commitment to integrity and accountability. So many ministers have fallen into scandal. So much of the work of the gospel has been stained or discredited by moral failure in a number of predictable areas commonly referred to as the three G’s: gold, girls, and glory.

 

Early on in Billy’s ministry along with some covenant brothers, they determined to do everything possible to avoid scandal and uphold the highest standards of integrity.


 

In 1948, Billy Graham began a series of evangelistic meetings in Modesto, California, along with his ministry team, comprised of Cliff Barrows, George Beverly (“Bev”) Shea and Grady Wilson. Through a series of conversations about ministry life and its challenges, the group met together in Modesto and resolved to uphold the highest standard of Biblical morality and integrity. Their resolutions became known as the “Modesto Manifesto.”

 

One afternoon during the Modesto meetings, I called the team together to discuss the problem. Then I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of that evangelists and evangelism encountered.

When they returned, the lists were remarkably similar, and in a short amount of time, we made a series of resolutions or commitment among ourselves that would guide us in our future evangelistic work. In reality, it was more of an informal understanding among ourselves—a shared commitment to do all we could do to uphold the Bible’s standard of absolute integrity and purity for evangelists.

The first point on our combined list was money. Nearly all evangelists at that time—including us—were supported by love offerings taken at the meetings. The temptation to wring as much money as possible out of an audience, often with strong emotional appeals, was too great for some evangelists. In addition, there was little or no accountability for finances. It was a system that was easy to abuse—and led to the charge that evangelists were in it only for the money.

I had been drawing a salary from YFC (Youth for Christ) and turning all offerings from YFC meetings over to YFC committees, but my new independent efforts in citywide campaigns required separate finances. In Modesto we determined to do all we could to avoid financial abuses and to downplay the offering and depend as much as possible on money raised by the local committee in advance.

The second item on the list was the danger of sexual immorality. We all knew of evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. We determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young pastor Timothy would be ours as well: “Flee … youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 1:22, KJV).

Our third concern was the tendency of many evangelists to carry on their work apart from the local church, even to criticize local pastors and churches openly and scathingly. We were convinced, however, that this was not only counterproductive but also wrong from the Bible’s standpoint. We determined to cooperate with all who would cooperate with us in the public proclamation of the Gospel, and to avoid an antichurch or anticlergy attitude.

The fourth and final issue was publicity. The tendency among some evangelists was to exaggerate their successes or to claim higher attendance numbers than they really had. This likewise discredited evangelism and brought the whole enterprise under suspicion. It often made the press so suspicious of evangelists that they refused to take notice of their work. In Modesto we committed ourselves to integrity in our publicity and our reporting.


It is one thing to talk about integrity and accountability but it is another to embrace and live it out for the long haul. This was the single greatest key that kept Billy going for the long haul. It kept his ministry free from tarnish by even the most scrutinizing eyes in the secular media.


 

He Stayed the Course

If doubt or debauchery doesn’t take out a minister, one of the last lines of attack is distraction. We see this in the life of Samson sadly. Furthermore, the parable of the sower talks of the seed that grew up among thorns. The thorns are the distractions of life that seem so important and alluring, but they ultimately destroy the plant and it produces no real fruit. Sometimes these distractions are obvious but at other times they are not. It is the unobvious distractions that are the most deadly. Consider the missionary who gets involved in the wrong relationship. The romantic interest may even claim to be a Christian, but they do not really have the same heart. It is a distraction. It will takes the missionary away from the purpose God has. Perhaps it’s a business opportunity, a new job, more education, a relationship, or simply putting something off. Distractions abound, and they don’t have to be sins! The acceptable is the enemy of the best.

 

In Billy’s life in particular, I see two noteworthy distractions. The first was mentioned earlier. He went through a time of great doubting mostly because of the critical, doubtful spirit that most of academia promotes. It was operating through his so called friend who didn’t realize that he was being used by the devil to sow seeds of doubt against the Word of God. At the same time, Billy was president of a Bible college in Minnesota. Should he continue this and pursue more education? Isn’t God’s will to train up more pastors? The world has no shortage of need when it comes to quality leaders. This struggle of purpose would have taken Billy’s life in a dramatically different direction. But he prayed through; he refocused on who God had called him to be, and he stayed the course. The tree stump prayer session not only overcame his doubts but clarified his future.

 

The next distraction was the call to personal power, influence and legacy. Billy was known as “America’s Pastor.” He met with every president since Harry Truman. He counseled them, was invited to the White House, was friends with many of the presidents. According to the story, Billy had a particularly close relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson. One day, Johnson and Billy were having a swim and LBJ says, “Billy, you ought to be president of the United States. If you do run, I’d like to be your campaign manager. .”

 

Imagine what went through Billy’s mind. You could be president! You are known and loved in America! Think of the impact you could have on this nation… for God!

 

As tempting as this offer may have been, in the bowels of his spirit, he already knew the answer. Billy Graham was called to be an evangelist, not a politician. No matter how much America needed a godly president, that was not his calling. How may the story have been different if he had gone after this? Would he have succeeded or failed? What would have become of the countless millions that needed to be reached if he had succumbed to this alternate destiny?

 

Only heaven knows. But Billy made the right choice. He stayed the course.


Billy Graham was no more talented than you and I are. But one thing he did, he chose to live by the principles of the Word of God to such an extent that nothing knocked him out of the race. He finished it. Billy, thank you for leaving an example like many of the great figures in the Word of God. I’ll see you up there soon enough.


Bibliography:

The Tree Stump Prayer: When Billy Graham Overcame Doubt

by Will Graham written July 9, 2014

https://billygraham.org/story/the-tree-stump-prayer-where-billy-graham-overcame-doubt/

Accessed March 16, 2018

 

The Modesto Manifesto: A Declaration of Biblical Integrity

by Billy Graham written October 24, 2016

https://billygraham.org/story/51705/

Accessed March 16, 2018

 

Trivia: What Political Office was Billy Graham Encouraged to Run for?

By BGEA written February 2, 2018

https://billygraham.org/story/trivia-what-political-office-was-billy-graham-encouraged-to-run-for/

accessed March 19, 2018

Oregon Trip

This past month I had the privilege of making an epic road trip through Oregon. I brought a friend with me named Seth. My reasons for going were to visit the Luis Palau Headquarters in Portland, visit my old friend Virgil, and get to see some gorgeous countryside! Additionally, I was able to time it during an outreach that was taking place at the University of Oregon in Eugene. My adventure included a few surprises!

My biggest take aways were the new and old relationships as well as feeling God’s heart for the people of this state.

 

FIRST STOP | UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, EUGENE


We rolled into Eugene early in the morning and started off the day by attending a leaders’ breakfast where we heard from Francis Chan and the Palau brothers. There was an outreach planned that evening at the University. In the pictures below you will see me with Andrew Palau on the left in the picture and Kevin on the right. These are the sons of Luis and it was an honor to meet and talk with them. During the day, my friend Seth and I went around the campus evangelizing students and inviting them to the event that night called COME AND SEE: Stories of Hope. When the doors opened there was a line of students waiting and they packed out the auditorium!! Over 600 students came out to hear the gospel! Francis Chan and Andrew Palau preached and Phil Wickham led worship. At the end, they counted 39 students who filled out a decision card to give their lives to Christ that night!!! The last picture is of me, Seth, and Jacob a student (wearing the Punisher shirt). We had shared the gospel with Jacob that day and he wound up coming to the event and recommitting his life to Christ. Praise the Lord! (click thumbnails to enlarge)



Second Stop | My Friend Virgil


My friend Virgil and I have known each other for over 10 years. He is a Bay Area native but moved up near Portland for work a few years ago. It was awesome to reunite. Below see me relaxing on his couch… then I visited his gym where he teaches boxing and martial arts. Shawn, the owner of the gym, was complaining of a recent knee injury. So I prayed for his knee (He wasn’t a Christian and seemed a bit awkward about it.) Virgil just texted me that the owner experienced an “exponential increase” in his knee’s recovery after that.. and that now I’m famous at the gym. Glory to God! One of the other days, we visited a nearby coffee shop called INSOMNIA.

Love you Virgil!



Pittock Mansion


We went on an epic hike through intermittent rain to a hill where Pittock Mansion, a hundred year old monument, overlooks the city of Portland. Oregon has some breath taking scenery. Pictured below: Seth and me along the hike, mossy storybook forest, and a great city shot of me looking at Portland.



Last Stop | Portland


Towards the end of the journey we spent the last day in Portland. Our first stop was to the Luis Palau world headquarters. (Located in Beaverton just outside Portland.)  Tom Mueller, below next to me in the first picture, gave us the full tour and talked about all the exciting work that they are doing in holding Festivals around the world and equipping churches and other evangelists. After that we moseyed along Portland’s waterfront, visited some coffee shops, and checked out the Deschutes brewery. That night after saying goodbye to Virgil, we stayed with a new friend Kirk Petersen and his family (last picture). Kirk is one of the regional directors for the Alpha course ministry. We had met in Eugene during the outreach and they were kind enough to welcome us right in!



And just for fun…

We stopped at In-N-Out and Bethel Church on our way back!!

Called to Inherit a Blessing

Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”  ( 1 Peter 3:9 )

 

Among some of the most difficult parts of Scripture are those that call us suffer by laying aside our natural, God given desire for justice. When we are wronged, we want to see retaliation and judgment. The foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice after all (Psalm 89:14). So how are we to reconcile all of this? What does God call us to?

 

Called to Blessing

Living in the twenty first century, we are all called by many things: media and social networks, telemarketers, the expectations of friends and family, and our own emotions and desires. But there is a call that comes from God to walk in his righteousness in order that we may enter into his blessing.

 

Now the Lord had said unto Abram,

‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)

 

Why did Abram leave his family and his comfort zone?

 

He was called to inherit a blessing.

 

God promised to prosper him and to fight for him. The Lord would execute vengeance and justice on his enemies thus freeing Abraham to walk in peace. This blessing was not promised to come easily, but God promised that Abraham will walk in divine favor and his life would impact the entire earth. The same promise is available to us.

 

But what exactly is a blessing?

 

Is it merely financial well being? No.. but it includes that.

Is it merely peace of mind? No.. but it includes that.

Is it merely good health? No.. but it includes that.

Is it just meaningful impact on other generations? No.. but it includes that.

Is it merely safety from one’s enemies? No.. but it includes that.

Is it merely wisdom and knowledge? No… but it includes that.

 

The best understanding of a blessing is divine favor that causes fruitfulness in all areas of one’s life. This blessing cannot be destroyed by outside circumstances nor is it determined by them. Blessing causes wisdom, health, children, financial well being, victory over adversity, peace of mind, legacy for generations, a state of perpetual victory, and life everlasting.

 

We see this in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Joseph in the book of Genesis. Time will not permit me to tell of all the details of each in this message. But they believed God, fought armies, received wealth, received children miraculously, were kept from harm, were spoken to by God and tested to see if they would truly obey Him.

 

Have you ever met someone who liked to lose? Who liked to work hard only to have everything fall apart? Have you met someone who likes being sick? Going through divorce? Not being able to have children? Having their business fail or their bank account empty?  Everyone wants to be successful, prosperous …blessed. But are they willing to obey God? This is the differentiator.

 

Obtaining a blessing does not come without trials. But what is the alternative to following God’s plan?

 

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

The band Cage The Elephant sings it like this:

You know there ain’t no rest for the wicked. Money don’t grow on trees. Got bills to pay; got mouths to feed. Ain’t nothin’ in this world for free. You know I can’t hold back; I can’t slow down. Although you know I wish I could. There ain’t no rest for the wicked… till we close our eyes for good…”


The Word of God says,

“There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” Isaiah 57:21

He who sins is a slave to sin. But if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:34 & 36

 

One of the greatest of God’s blessings involves rest. A state of peace and harmony with life and others. Have you noticed that this seems to evade the wicked?

 

Think of the greedy person obsessed with wealth. Martha Stewart was one such person who though she had millions, reverted to dishonesty and lies in order to avoid a loss of less than $50,000. She was convicted of securities fraud and obstruction of justice and spent jail time because of it.

 

Next, think of the killer and fugitive from the law.

Ted Bundy is an infamous case. He was a convicted serial killer and rapist. Before his execution he interviewed with James Dobson. He described his descent into darkness. It all began with pornography. Then soft porn was not enough. It had to be hard porn. Then that wasn’t enough. Ted Bundy had to begin acting out these fantasies. After his first rape and murder, he was horrified with himself. For months he couldn’t believe what he had done. But eventually, the demons got the better of him. He committed his second case, then his third. It got easier each time. He lived in a constant state of torment and paranoia… until he was finally caught by the law. He was a captive of wickedness. (Side note: it is reported that before his execution, he repented of his sins in jail and became a Christian.)

 

The life of wickedness is the exact opposite of the life God has for us. The wicked will not inherit the blessing or the kingdom of God. So choosing the life of righteousness is for our benefit… but not only ours.

 

The Halo Effect

Although I like video games, I’m not talking about first person shooters or media addiction. The halo effect is an atmosphere of blessing that impacts others and the environment because you are walking in God’s blessing yourself. Someone else’s life will be changed by your decision to inherit a blessing.

 

Where does this idea of the halo come from?

For those who have seen the old movie All Dogs Go to Heaven, you are familiar with the Hollywood version of a halo. It is a floating golden ring above one’s head that supposedly everyone in heaven wears. Is this really it? I don’t think so.

 

The Spirit of God is without measure and cannot be contained by space. When the Holy Spirit comes upon a person, they are forever changed. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit’s presence has an impact on the environment. Remember the story when Moses spent 40 days on the mountain top with God? He came back shining like the sun! Also, remember when the apostle Peter walked down the street in the book of Acts? It was said that sick people lined up along the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and they would be healed!!!

 

A few times when I have been watching a preacher on stage, I have seen a white glow around him. Literally like light coming out of his body, surrounding him, hovering behind him… like a massive Photoshop Glow Effect in real time. Am I hallucinating? Are the lights too bright in the auditorium? NO! This is the halo effect. It is the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit upon someone’s life that radiates out of them, affecting the entire atmosphere! Occasionally, this is visibly perceived by the human eye / eye of the spirit. This is what people saw upon Jesus and the early disciples.

 

If you re-examine the artwork of Jesus and the disciples from old times, sometimes there are beams coming from behind people’s heads, other times it is a circle of light around the head, and various other depictions. My theory is this glow coming from God’s presence became popularized in some drawings into what we now think of as a “halo” … the floating gold ring above the head. Funny right?

 

Now that we understand that God’s blessing creates a radiant atmosphere of power in our lives, let’s look at some of its effects.

 

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.” (Genesis 39:1-4)

Everyone tried to touch [Jesus] because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.” (Luke 6:19)

And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.” (Acts 5:14-15)

 

Was it really Peter’s shadow that did the healing of those laying on the side of the road? Of course not, it was the Spirit of God upon him causing people nearby him to be blessed and set free from their infirmities!

 

Think also of Solomon. He was granted wisdom unlike any other so that not only he but all of Israel prospered. And this to such an extent that all the great kings and queens of the day were in awe.

 

This halo effect is simply the overflow and atmospheric impact that God’s presence brings. This is why Jesus says to us… we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

 

Conclusion

God’s desire for humanity is not to destroy but that we would inherit his blessings. The blessed life is a life full of God’s presence. The key to this is to receive the Spirit of God and obey his voice, which results in personal and corporate breakthrough.

 

At the beginning I asked how we reconcile the call to repay good for evil. It was reconciled at the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are given the power not to repay evil for evil, harm for harm but rather entrust ourselves to God’s divine justice and timing. He will repay the wicked. In the meantime, we who have received mercy get to practice giving it.

 

God calls us to give others what they don’t deserve so that we might inherit what we don’t deserve!

 

You and I are called to inherit a blessing.


2017 Year End Report

Dear friends, family, saints:

 

This has been a roller coaster year. I have had some tremendous victories and a number of painful defeats. But through it all God is faithful. I pray you are all well and enjoying the end of the year with your loved ones.

 

Heartbreak, Healing, Hope:

 

This year I have had a number of relational setbacks. For anyone who is a parent or mentor, you know the pain and disappointment when someone you have invested into either goes astray or gets offended thus severing the relationship. This happened to me this year with a spiritual son whom I had mentored for over two years. Additionally, my brother whom I have been close with my whole life has married a woman and while I am happy he got married, our relationship isn’t the same and he is now much more distant and unavailable. I even had a romantic heartbreak this year too! All that to say, this has been a year for me to process all these things in prayer and through the godly counsel of others as I seek to heal from all of this.

 

After returning in June from Africa, I clearly sensed the need for an extended time of rest. I decided to press into a sabbatical year and focus on being refueled, mentored, and to simply rest. I haven’t taken a step back in nine years and I felt the weariness in my soul. Amen that God is a God of rest! Practically, I have gone on some retreats, pulled back from any one on one discipleship of others, and been very guarded with ministry commitments. My focus has been to seek the Lord, get rest, get healed, process and go deeper in my walk with God. This has infused me with an unshakable hope that the best is still ahead. God is in control and he is working all things together for good to those who love him and who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Often, until we rest and reflect, we don’t realize how far we have come, what still needs work, and what wisdom we can learn from both our successes and failures. I will continue this sabbatical season until the summer of 2018.

 

Kenya / Uganda:

After waiting for over ten years, I finally made it to Africa! I had wanted to go back in the mid 2000s and then again in 2013 but neither trip materialized. God is good and faithful. Working with Bishop Imoite Papa of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, we put on three evangelistic crusades in Nairobi and the surrounding regions. The Kenyans received us warmly and their passion in worship was contagious. During the course of the three week campaign, we documented just under one hundred new salvations. We also saw numerous miraculous healings including: a man on crutches get up and walk after being in a severe accident, a blind eye restored, numerous bodily pains and emotional and psychological traumas healed. They have invited me back in 2018. In addition to Kenya, I was able to spend a week in Uganda while in Africa. Leaders, pastors and the host of Spirit FM radio all became new friends during my time there. I can’t wait to see what God will do when I return again!

 

UC Berkeley:

This past year I have spent another two semesters on the UC Berkeley campus. We have seen a number of growth areas that are worthy of celebration. First, what began as a once a week endeavor has multiplied to two days per week. Another young student by the name of Joseph has taken it upon himself to add Friday prayer, worship, and evangelism to the roster. So now we are on campus on Tuesdays and Fridays each week. Additionally we have seen a number of new people join the ranks including people from out of the Bay Area. One group of women commute all the way from Manteca to join us for prayer, worship and evangelism each week. They are powerful intercessors and have enhanced the group tremendously. We also continue to see greater levels of favor in working with local churches and other ministries on campus. We have students joining us from Living Water Church, NAOS house of prayer, Gracepoint, the Ark and occasionally Campus Crusade. It has always been our vision to have an interfellowship movement around the three Ps: prayer, praise, and preaching. Next semester will make five years that I have been laboring on campus. Follow at: http://openairmov.com

 

Looking Ahead to 2018:

The Lord spoke to me in 2013 when I launched Overflow Ministries about having ten nations. What this means is making a sizable, quantifiable, long term impact in these nations. Over the past four years, I have had the privilege to build significant relationships in Nicaragua, Kenya and Uganda. Moreover, I have been receiving invitations to Pakistan and India on a regular basis. My good friend Evangelist Andrew Mutana from Kenya has also invited me to come with him to Indonesia this coming summer. Pray for the guidance and resources to go to the nations this coming year as well as the further development of the ten nation vision.

 

In addition to the international work I am engaged in, I have a heart for the USA and college campuses of California. As many of you are aware, I have been preaching and discipling students on the UC Berkeley campus for four years now. This coming year, I am going to be passing the baton of leadership at the UC Berkeley campus over to the other students who have been raised up in ministry. I will stay as a spiritual father and mentor to see that the work continues but will turn my attention to other campuses such as San Jose State, San Francisco State, and the University of Southern California. God has been opening up relationships in Los Angeles with pastors and ministries. I feel clearly led of God to begin investing much more heavily into Los Angeles this coming year. Finally, I will continue expanding relationships with churches throughout the Bay Area and other parts of the country.

 

May the Lord bless you and your family as you continue in the faith. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and generosity.

 

In His Service,

 

Zac Linton

Overflow Ministries

Passing the Baton

 

 

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure is at hand…

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…

~ 2 Timothy 4:6 & 3:14

 

During one of the most painful seasons of my life in 2013, the Lord spoke to me in a vision. He confirmed what I had already been sensing and heard from other mentors. The time to go preach the gospel at UC Berkeley was here. For almost five years now, I have done just that. During the inception of my ministry there, a missionary team came from Bethel to partner with me. There was a time of prophecy at the end and one of the members said this:

 

I see you as a baton runner. You are in a four by four race and you are the third runner. If you do not complete the corner run, you are not going to win the race. You are very important. You are going to have a team come and serve you.” ~ Prophecy from 2014 ~

 

As I have considered this word and its authenticity over the years, I am convinced this was of God.

 

I originally thought I was coming to UC Berkeley to see a full blown revival. I saw this in the spirit: hundreds of students packing out Sproul Plaza to hear the gospel and the Holy Spirit falling upon them bringing healing, miracles and the conviction of sin unto salvation. In my time at Berkeley, I have not seen this vision come to pass. Over the past four years, I have held three evangelistic crusades on campus over multiple days where we preached the gospel and worshiped in front of the whole campus via the PA system. We have been there faithfully every week, rain or shine as a witness for Jesus. I have been persecuted in and out of the church, have had demon possessed people come up to me and curse at, threaten me, or manifest by calling themselves “Lucifer.” I have endured betrayal, criticism, financial hardship, rejection, cosmic apathy on the campus, communist hate groups, and the ever present spiritual warfare that exists in that city.

 

Though on the outside I could be disappointed that I haven’t seen hundreds of salvations over the past four years, God is doing something bigger. The race is not finished yet. Despite the difficult journey, I have seen a hand full of students get so on fire for God, it has changed them forever. The spiritual atmosphere of the campus seems to be shifting. Other Christians are feeling less afraid and peace exists where there was strife and confusion. There is more unity among different churches and groups than we have seen before. People are joining us from all over now.

 

As I have meditated on the Scriptures, I see a pattern. Moses led Israel up to the Promised Land but Joshua brought them in. Elijah prophesied and saw the destruction of the prophets of Baal, but Elisha took his mantle to continue the work in Israel. Jesus came and preached the gospel of the kingdom, and then sent his disciples to go and finish the work he had begun. The apostle Paul raised up Timothy and then charged him to continue to fulfill the calling that God had given him.

 

Paul writes, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

(1 Cor. 3:6-7)

 

 

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

 

I remember taking a political science class at UC Berkeley many years ago and the subject of collaboration came up. Political science deals with the study of government. And why do we need government? Because existence and human progress requires group participation. My professor said, “Some endeavors can only be accomplished by a group.” You many be able to make your bed, even build a house yourself, but try making an aircraft carrier, making a major motion picture… or discipling the world!

 

In the first two books of the Bible we see the story of Abraham and his lineage then going on to Moses and the journey out of Egypt. Look at how God reveals himself to Moses,

 

Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:6)

 

The Almighty is the God of all generations. The covenant was made with Abraham but it was carried down through the generations. God told Abraham his seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. How is that for a big vision statement?! Yet, when he died, how many children did Abraham have? One Isaac and a few others. Isaac was the one who was given the baton from his father. Then Jacob took it. And it continued to be passed.

 

Why do you think God chooses to reveal himself to us like this? I believe there are many reasons. One is for us to understand that his kingdom perpetuates throughout all generations. Another is that each person who participates in their generation is remembered before him.

 

 

To Hold or to Pass?

 

On occasion, I like to play Texas Hold ‘Em. In the game, you have a choice every hand, hold or fold. One time I even played at a casino and won a hundred bucks! (And you all wondered how I get funded.) An old friend of mine liked to say… “Gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.”

 

This applies to more than cards. In a relay race, there are typically four runners. The transition of the baton is a crucial part of the race. Imagine if one runner said to himself, “I think I’m doing pretty well. I don’t need to pass this baton on… I can finish this by myself.” Not only would he inevitably fail due to the stamina of four versus one… but he would be disqualified. He didn’t compete according to the rules.

 

The passing of the baton is risky. Everything can be lost in a moment.

 

You have to trust the next runner. You have to be running in alignment with the same goal. You must let go of what was yours and pass it to another. It represents growth and change.

 

I love what Rick Warren has to say about this:

 

There is no growth without change. There is no change without loss. There is no loss without pain. There is no pain without grief…. Growth requires loss because you have to let go of the old to grab hold of the new. ” (Leadership TED talk)

 

The problem of holding on too long usually revolves around the fear of change, or egocentric leadership.

 

You and I are called to steward what God has given us be it our children, our money, or ministries. We have the baton for a time and we charge ahead. But there must come the time where we let go. It must be passed, or we have failed.

 

 

Who is Lord of the Harvest?

 

Imagine showing up to your job at Starbucks or the construction site or the school. What would you think of someone at the coffee bar saying, “I think I want to make a painting today. That’s what I’m going to do…” Meanwhile, the espresso and latte orders are piling up. Or showing up on the construction site and saying… “I’m kind of tired of all this drywall… itchy stuff. It’s time to play guitar and sing Mariachi!”

 

They would certainly entertain but wouldn’t have a job for long.

 

It’s important to remember that we are serving the Lord of the harvest. It is his field. And we must use his methods, fulfill our role, and work according to his timing.

 

In my personal journey, life hasn’t always worked out the way I expected. When I came to Berkeley, I had a vision of what I thought was going to happen: massive revival, warm welcome from all the churches, honor and acceptance. Glory, glory, gloraaaaay!! Yet, I have found it to be much harder work than I expected with fewer immediate results. The questions ensue, “Do I get offended by this? Am I being effective? Is this a waste of my time? Did I fail somehow?”

 

As it says in the Word,

 

The steps of the righteous man are ordered of the Lord.” (Psalm 37:23)

A man may plan his way but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

 

We all desire to be fruitful and to feel like our lives have meaning. The trouble is our definition of effectiveness may be different than God’s. Without a doubt, God desires that none should perish, but our role in that mission and how quickly or slowly things progress is in the hands of the Lord. We are simply called to be faithful.

 

Even more, I am convinced that God allows seasons of frustration and barrenness to provoke us to prayer, and to remind us that it is his harvest and his anointing not ours. Remember the disciples who fished all night long and caught nothing? Have you been there? I have.

 

But then Jesus speaks a word…

 

And the nets are filled…

The nations shake….

The most difficult college campus falls to its knees…

The dead are raised and the lame are healed…

 

Jesus said this:

 

“Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor. (John 4:37-8)

 

What?!! You mean I have to do all the hard work and someone else is going to reap?!! Are you kidding me? That’s not right!!

 

… Or is it?

 

The revelation that God’s story is like a relay race changes everything. Then, all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem so unfair. Those who went before who labored… the Abrahams, the Moseses, the Apostle Pauls, the Charles Finneys, the Mother Theresas… laid a foundation that others got to build upon.

 

The Transcontinental Railroad in the United States seemed like very slow going but once complete, people from all over the country were transported in days to places they could never get to before.

 

This is how the kingdom works. Perhaps your season is to do the hard labor and see no immediate results. Perhaps you are one of those who gets to reap after others who have gone before.

 

At the end of it all, we are building a railway that will take mankind from death to life.

 

 

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

 

My grandfather who is now in Heaven gave his life to go to Japan to preach the gospel to a nation that didn’t know Christ. Right after World War II, general MacArthur called America to send missionaries into this war torn country. My grandfather heeded this call. When he began, many villages had never heard the gospel, there was no suitable Bible college in Tokyo, and there wasn’t much of a Christian footprint in the nation. Decades later, my mother was in Minnesota and met some Japanese women who knew of my grandfather. “Thank you! Thank you for coming to us to bring us Jesus!” they exclaimed. Now there is a Bible college in Tokyo to this day and a number of churches he helped to plant. He may have never gotten to meet these women but they benefited from his obedience to the call.

 

The Bible speaks in Hebrews of a great cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us for the sake of Christ. They have run their race.

 

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—

of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… let us cast off every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

(Hebrews 11:37 – 12:1)

 

Anytime you find yourself feeling like life is hard work, full of failure or not what you expected… read Hebrews chapter eleven.

 

It is my time to pass on what I began in Berkeley to the next generation of disciples so that they may continue to see the fulfillment of revival on the campus. It is time to go to the next mission the Lord has: other campuses, other cities, other nations. I will stay connected to the work at Berkeley as a spiritual father, but the stewardship of the public ministry of the gospel will be passed on to others.

 

God is able to keep what we have entrusted to him until that Great Day, and he will reward each one according to his work.

 

… so pass the baton.