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!
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,
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.
“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore…” ~ Luke 12:7
“I can’t breathe!” I exclaimed as I gasped for a small breath of air while a pain cut into my lungs like a knife. As the fog slowly lifted, pain had seized my left side as I struggled to move and breathe. Moments earlier, I had been barreling down the slopes on my snowboard when all of a sudden…
A woman and novice skier decided to stop abruptly right in the middle of the mountain blocking my intended path. There was no escape. In a split second I had to decide, “Do I smash into this woman and possibly cripple her or evade her jeopardizing myself?” I swerved out of her path and realized without any way to avoid it that I was heading straight for a cluster of trees! Baaam! I blacked out and woke up struggling to breathe. Inches above my left side which had made impact, there was a jagged tree branch sticking out of the trunk. If it had been a few inches lower, it would have speared right through me.
Although this happened many years ago, I can still remember the moments of fear right before and after impact when I didn’t know whether I was going to make it or not. I had to be taken down the mountain in a stretcher. Praise God my brother had been near by to come to my aid. I made it out and eventually recovered from a cracked rib cage.
What about you? Do you have a story like mine?
That wasn’t the only near miss in my life. God has saved me many times for his purpose. But dealing with fear is much deeper than the adrenaline rush that accompanies physical danger. It is an ominous cloud that lingers in one’s thoughts and emotions, and sadly, many people are under its icy grip. Its reach is far beyond the individual.
As of this writing in recent news in the USA, we have had a wave of unexpected tragedies and terrorist attacks. We have had fires that burned down a third of the northern Bay Area in California. Hurricanes beating against the southern states. Nuclear threats from enemies.
Do you feel the rise of the spirit of fear and uncertainty in our society? Has it reached into you as well? In the midst of such a world, God speaks into our lives.
He says, “Do not fear!” He has not given us the spirit of fear.
Jesus speaks to his disciples:
“And I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear. Fear Him who after he has killed has power to throw into Hell. Yes, I say to you. Fear Him!
Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.” ~ Luke 12:4-7
The Root of Fear
Fear is defined as:
a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; (dictionary.com) Root of the word means (sudden attack or danger)
It’s the idea of an ambush. You are going down the road and all of a sudden out of the bushes a gang of thugs rushes upon you and your family to attack you. But then it becomes this constant companion of paranoia… that behind every bush… there’s an attack lingering.
As I was meditating on this subject, I had a revelation in light of this passage of Scripture. What Jesus is saying is that if you know your God, you will realize you have no reason to fear.
All fear is ultimately rooted in not knowing who your Heavenly Father is. It comes from an identity crisis. We do not know who He is and so we do not know who we are either. Thus we are afraid.
If I am ambushed but realize I have an angelic army with me, I am no longer afraid. If I face financial struggle but realize that all of the riches of Heaven are mine, I am no longer afraid. If I have a doctor’s report that says I’m terminally ill, but realize that the God who raises the dead is at my right hand, I am no longer afraid.
How many people live with the paralysis of fear in their lives? Are you one of them?
What Are the Things We Fear?
Let’s make this specific. Do any of these describe you?
Many people fear rejection and abandonment. Thus they put on masks, becoming people they aren’t in order to please. They avoid situations of risk where they may be hurt or rejected. They live in fear and are never able to truly love because love requires vulnerability. Busyness is usually a cover up for the fear of rejection. I occupy my mind so that I don’t have time to think. I don’t have time to examine my heart and emotions because I overwhelm myself constantly with activities. I am uncomfortable with silence and rest. I find meaning in my busy schedule because I can control that. I cannot be rejected by my schedule. Distraction with media, drugs or workaholism is another form of escape from the fear of rejection.
The fear of pain. The pain of boredom, physical pain, or emotional pain. Thus like the first example, they avoid any people or situations that could cause this. Life must be carefully navigated as if walking through a minefield.
The fear of loss. Time, money, opportunities, relationships, reputation, freedom.
The fear of insufficiency and failure. This fear is rooted in shame. I feel shame because I have disappointed others. I have disappointed myself because I did not live up to a perceived standard set by society, moral law, or myself. I feel less than and unworthy to be in the presence of God or others.
The fear of being unloved. Similar to the previous fear, this is caused by words spoken against us or things done to us that make us feel unwanted. The messages by most modern media only reinforce what we are “not” and our need to perform or “have” in order to be accepted and loved. Sometimes people hear voices in their own head telling them they are not loved.
Symptoms of Being Controlled by Fear
What are some of the behaviors of those who are under the bondage of fear? How do we recognize this? Here is my list of symptoms:
- Manipulative and controlling of everyone around them. They seem to think they are everyone else’s boss yet don’t take orders from anyone.
- Excessive worriers.
- Critical and speak negative things. Tend to see the negative in all people and situations.
- Isolate themselves from community.
- Avoid anything that could cause pain or failure.
- Live with a profound lack of love and security.
- Feel a tightness or sickness in their stomach.
- Act abusively towards others through over reactions and rage.
- Try to create a fortress of security through keeping others or God at arm’s length or by putting their faith in an idol such as their own ability, intellect, or wealth.
- People controlled by fear live on the extremity of aggression or passivity. Fight or flight response to all situations.
- There is also a demonic element to fear. Those controlled by it are under the influence of the spirit of fear. Feeling it from time to time is different than someone controlled by fear.
- The demonic element can rob these people of sleep, joy and manifest in nightmares or horrible scenarios that play themselves out in their minds over and over. Something bad happening to them or their family for example.
If you said yes to any of these, you likely deal with the spirit of fear. The good news is God wants to set you free.
“God has not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
How Then Shall We Be Free?
The secret to living free from the bondage of fear is to know your Heavenly Father. When we know who He is, there is no longer any reason to fear. We see ourselves in His light and abide under His supreme protection.
According to the text earlier, here are some truths about who God is.
Lie: God does not know about or care about my situation. I am alone.
Truth: Not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Heavenly Father’s notice.
Breakthrough: Your Father does not forget! Thus, you are noticed. You are not alone.
Lie: God does not understand me or the details of my struggles. He is too busy to care.
Truth: The very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Breakthrough: Your Father knows the intimate details of everything in your life! Thus, you are important. You are loved beyond measure.
Lie: Others have power over me to harm me.
Truth: Man’s power is incredibly limited. God is the only one who has the power to cast men into Hell or to grant eternal life.
Breakthrough: Your Father is infinitely powerful! Thus, you are provided for. You are protected.
There were so many times during the gospels where the disciples were afraid. They were afraid that they couldn’t provide food for the multitude. They were afraid of the wind and the waves. They were afraid of the mob that arrested Jesus. You see, God is patient with his people. The longer the disciples walked with Jesus, the more they realized who he was and consequently who God was. Each miracle, each teaching broke down the barriers of fear in their hearts until it was no more. In the book of Acts we see a radiant church that went willingly to the ends of the earth free from fear. This is what God has for us. This is what he has for you!
In conclusion, fear is something all mankind deals with. It has saturated our world. But as children of God, you and I do not have to live under its bondage. We can choose to embrace God’s truth that will set us free from the spirit of fear.
If you need deliverance from fear, I invite you to pray this prayer right now.
Heavenly Father, I repent for giving way to fear. It was my choice. I trusted in other things instead of you. They seemed bigger to me than you. I see now that this was all a lie. You are all powerful, loving, and nothing escapes your notice. Therefore, I am protected, provided for, noticed, and loved.
Deliver me from the spirit of fear. I tell it to leave now in Jesus’ name and never return! I am free. Help me to remember who you are day by day when fear tries to attack me and to abide in your perfect peace no matter what comes my way. I will live a life of faith in who you are. And I confess that as your child, I have nothing to fear.
Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. ~ Psalm 23:5
I was fifteen years old. There was a revivalist named Rodney Howard Browne who had come to Oakland and my Mom and I decided to check it out. As the meeting went on, people began manifesting under the power of God. Some were shaking, some fell on the floor, some laughing, some sobbing… and others were just looking around dumbfounded as if they had walked into a strange episode of the Twilight Zone. It was then that Rodney said, “You can stand around all day looking at people or you can jump into the river. Don’t worry about the person next to you. They are just getting an oil change.”
They say you can drive on bad oil, but it will eventually burn out your engine.
If you are finding yourself discouraged, irritable with others, without passion or vision, without hope, lukewarm and distant in your walk with God, uninterested in seeing the lost saved, or just plain weary… then it sounds like your check engine light is on. When was the last time you had an oil change?
Listen to what the Word of God has to say,
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because he has anointed me… to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning.” Isaiah 61
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” 1 Samuel 16:13
“And it shall come to pass in that day that his burden shall be taken from thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” Isaiah 10:27
” ‘Not by might, not by power but by my Spirit.’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6
“Do not be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and went out and spoke the Word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31
There is an undeniable Biblical connection between the anointing with oil and the Holy Spirit. It has been the practice of the Church from the Old to the New Testaments to anoint people with oil and then the Holy Spirit would come upon them.
Instead of unnecessary heady theology about oil, how it’s made, or why it’s a symbol of the Spirit, I would simply like to encourage you to get an oil change.
David says in his famous psalm that the Lord anoints his head with oil … and his cup runneth over. This is speaking of an overflow of God’s grace, mercy, love, power, joy, and wisdom. There are no limits to the Limitless One.
What is someone like who has had an oil change?
Concerned with the Welfare of Others, Unafraid, Patient, Tenderhearted, Bold but not Obnoxious.
There is a fragrance when someone had anointing oil in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we are now called to bring the fragrance of Christ into a dying world. When people get around you, do they notice something different? Is there the smell of Heaven on your life?
If you are living with anything less than the above, let me encourage you to do the following:
- Ask for God’s Spirit to come upon you, and wait in His Presence. (Luke 11:13)
- Get yourself lost in worship. When was the last time you just turned off your phone, locked yourself in a room and put on your favorite worship album for two hours? You will be amazed at what can happen. (Psalm 16, Psalm 23)
- Get around Spirit filled people who can pray for you. This thing is also caught by osmosis. (James 5:14, Proverbs 13:20)
- Go to a revival meeting.
- Go on a retreat into nature for a day (or more). Jesus went onto the mountain.
- Allow your heart to let go of all fear and be free in God’s Presence. Let the emotions flow… tears, laughter (2 Tim. 1:7)
- Intentionally give out of your place of brokenness. Help someone else; Give thanks to the Lord; Give an offering. (Luke 6:38, 1 Kings 17:10-14)
- Do an honest examination of your heart and sincerely confess and repent of any sin. This will block your joy if you do not do this. (Psalm 51)
- Know that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you. He loved you before you ever knew him and there is nothing you can do or undo to change his love. (1 John 4:19)
Psalm 16 says that,
“In His Presence is fullness of Joy and eternal pleasures are at His right hand.”
Enjoy your oil change.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me… ~ Matthew 5:10-12
About two months ago, we got a shocking bit of news. A friend of mine from high school was found dead in his car from an apparent drug overdose. Our families have known each other for twenty years. Being that I was one of his close friends… and he didn’t have many because he was mentally disabled, the parents asked if I would speak at his memorial service. I happily obliged. As the service got closer however, some of the family members began prying and asking more specifically what I would speak.
“We know you are a Christian minister. And some people in the audience and in our family are very offended at evangelicals,” they said.
I told them I intended to share about my friendship with their son, his good qualities and some things we can learn from his life. Lastly, I wanted to mention my faith in Jesus Christ. It is important to give people hope in their grief and there is no greater hope than the gospel. The family rehashed their concern over offending people in the audience and the family (even though the memorial was being held at a liberal church). I asked them what they were so afraid of and they somehow turned the conversation into how bad Donald Trump was… and what my beliefs on homosexuality and other issues were. After responding that I believe what the Bible actually says, they uninvited me from speaking at the memorial service.
As I was praying and processing the hurt of this, the Lord reminded me of Jesus’ words to those who would dare follow him.
“Blessed are you when men insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad because great is your reward in Heaven for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~ Matthew 5
My anxiety and discomfort vanished at this revelation that God was calling me to rise above this and fix my eyes not on what injustice or insult had happened but on His eternal plan. Somehow this was part of it. The more I embraced this, the more I began to rejoice and laugh.
I chose to still go to the service to honor my friend and his memory and even went up after the service and shook hands with the family members who had spited me. I believe it is what Jesus would have done.
Here is another story.
A good friend of mine named Pastor Vieng who I labor together with in preaching the gospel on college campuses used to be a teacher in Oakland many years ago. He was doing a great job teaching Math. But his students were becoming increasingly unruly and disrespectful and it hindered his teaching. One day, he got so angry that he opened his Bible and said, “Listen you kids! God says there’s going to be a Day of Judgment. You need to fear God and follow the Bible and that includes listening to your teacher. But if you follow God’s Word, you will make it to Heaven.” (my paraphrase of his rebuke)
All of a sudden, everyone was quiet. The class seemed to want to know more about the Bible and how to get to Heaven. Amazed, Vieng said, “I can’t teach you this now because the school does not allow me to. I have to teach Math.” But the kids kept insisting.. so he told them to come on their lunch break and he would tell them more about Jesus. For the next few weeks, kids would voluntarily pack out his class during lunch to know more about Jesus! This continued on until the vice principal got wind of it. Vieng said he was doing no wrong. The students were coming of their own initiative and their parents even knew about it. That wasn’t good enough for the superintendent and the principals. He was fired the next day.
What a shame that in the country with freedom of religion that it has come to this. The devil has gotten control of the minds of those in authority to persecute the church. The very thing the kids needed the most was being stolen from them by the devil.
One preacher puts it this way, “You can’t have an impact without a collision.”
We are living in an age in America where speaking and living according to the actual Word of God will cause you to be persecuted. If you look at history, the Church has always undergone this pressure from the world’s system. We are not of this world. We are ambassadors of another kingdom: one with different values, laws, and rewards. The god of the world says “serve self” and, “Do what seems right in your own eyes.” Our God says, “Love and serve me. Obey my laws and my statutes for in them is eternal life.” Persecution is the byproduct of conflicting kingdoms.
The aforementioned stories I wrote to you are not unique. As a matter of fact, they are supposed to be normal for every Christian. Jesus expressly tells us to not be surprised if the world hates us.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” ~ John 15:18-9
“I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33
No one asks for or likes persecution. Jesus understood that we would all need his peace, his comfort and his strength in this world. This is freely given to us through the Holy Spirit. But compromising in order to avoid conflict with the world is a violation against God. It is what the apostle James calls spiritual adultery, friendship with the world.
In modern day Christianity, I see many alarming things. There is the “seeker sensitive” movement that is more worried about offending non-believers than God. In the name of bringing people to Christ, we actually drive them away or make false disciples by not preaching and modeling the radical Christianity that Jesus died for.
Additionally, there are the strains of false teaching on every topic imaginable from warping the Word of God to no longer call sin as it is, to preaching a gospel of cheap grace: you get everything at no cost. The fruit of cheap grace are people who calls themselves Christians but live just like the world. There is no holiness, fear of the Lord, no conviction and no real fruit. Every false teaching has elements that sound enticing or even right. We cannot afford to have some of the truth. We must have all of it. Our faith bears a tremendous cost.
Jesus calls us to take up our cross, not our latte.
Paul the apostle writes with delicate care and love to Timothy his spiritual son. He warns him of heretics, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and of perilous times where men will depart from the faith. He charges him to stay true to the gospel which he received. The gospel that cost Paul his life and confined him to a prison cell in rags.
It is in this context that Paul says to Timothy,
“In fact, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:12-5
The reason the church in America is losing ground is we have tried to do Christianity while avoiding persecution. And the only way to do that is to stop preaching the real gospel. Instead, peddlers of motivational success messages and false gospels fill many pulpits. Paul makes his case that if he was still preaching circumcision, he would not be persecuted. It is the offense of the cross that makes men angry and hateful towards believers.
The cross is central. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means that He (not man) is the Lord of All. The real gospel says we are accountable to God. It calls us to genuine repentance and transformation. The real gospel reveals both the judgment and grace of God. Only the real gospel will be anointed with the Holy Spirit’s power. Is this why we are not seeing revival in America? Have we peddled a message that God cannot put His Spirit on?
The moment you preach and live out the real gospel, you become a major threat to Satan’s dominion. That is why you will be persecuted. It is inevitable.
In the purification of all metals, it is necessary to melt them down. It is the fire that separates the pure metal from all the impurities that have worked their way in.
In the book of Acts, the Church enjoyed a season of great prosperity, peace, and growth. But shortly thereafter, persecution broke out against the Church beginning with the stoning of Stephen. The apostle Peter later writes to the believers to not be surprised at this fiery trial you are going through as if something strange were happening. Peter teaches that these trials have come so that our faith which is of greater worth than gold may be tested and found pure at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 4:12-3)
Persecution takes many forms. Have you been rejected or lost friends and family because of your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you suffered mockery, insults, verbal abuse or slander because you live according to the Word of God? Have you been fired, demoted, overlooked for promotion, or suffered other financial attacks because you profess Christ? Have you been beaten, imprisoned, or threatened with death if you did not recant your faith?
The Church until the present day continues to undergo persecution. Though one might argue that this is the work of the devil, God is using this to test his people. Jesus says that everyone will be salted with fire. (Mark 9:49)
Here are two keys that will keep you strong during every trial.
Know you are not alone in the struggle.
There is a great cloud of witnesses in Heaven, who have gone before us and endured much suffering for their faith. Moreover, believers around the world today are enduring much hatred because of the name of Jesus. Even more, the Holy Spirit is yours if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ. Ask for Him to fill you right now with peace that passes understanding.
Remember persecution is not forever.
This life is but a vapor. Solomon in all his wisdom concludes that all things both good and bad shall pass and that man should fear the Lord and keep his commands. King David reminds us of the goodness of God who is our faithful Shepherd. He will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. Do not give up or give in during the fiery trials. Rather fix your eyes steadfastly upon the One who is able to save and deliver you.
The devil will not bother attacking anyone who isn’t a threat to his kingdom. A good litmus test of whether you are really in the faith and in the will of God is…
Have you been persecuted for your faith lately?
I preach the gospel at UC Berkeley regularly. As strange as this may sound, I am more worried if we don’t get persecuted than if we do. Persecution tells me I am walking in the will of God.
Persecution is designed to test and refine us. It brings glory to God when his people endure injustice and evil. Let us conclude with how God would have us respond.
The natural fleshly response when we are wronged is to get vengeance. Justify me! You cut me off, disrespected me, took something that was mine, treated me unfairly… And the list goes on. We can go there and stew in it. We can seek retribution. But I ask, is this the will of God? Do we trust Him to right all wrongs and to plead our cause? Have we forgotten who the Judge of all the world truly is?
I want to encourage you. If you have been abused or mistreated because of your faith or your stand for Jesus (not because of sin or foolishness), the Word of God tells you…
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad!!!
You are joining the ranks of millions of others who will stand before the God of the universe unashamed and radiant in His eternal kingdom.
May the Lord give you his strength, comfort, peace and joy.
“Who invited that woman here? How dare she come into this house!” murmured some in the crowd. As if blind and deaf to the scorn of others, she does the unthinkable. She begins weeping upon and kissing the feet of the master.
What is God after … ?
The story begins in Luke’s gospel.
———————————- Luke 7:36-50 (NIV 84) ————————————-
“Now one of the Pharisees (a highly educated, religious leader) invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me teacher,’ he said.
‘Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii (a denarius was equal to a day’s wages), and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’
Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’
‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’
Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ “
What do we learn about the Savior through this encounter?
Postured for Forgiveness
It is customary when coming before a king to bow down as a posture of submission. In the ancient world and even today, the refusal to do this is not only an insult but a sign of rebellion. It is punishable even by death. In school as a child, I was taught about having good posture. “Sit up straight!” All of this illustrates a truth.
Our posture communicates something.
The scene is set at the Pharisee’s house. He invited this teacher to dine with him. Perhaps he was intrigued at Jesus’ miracles or the fame that was spreading throughout Israel about him. Then, in walks this woman. What we know from the text is that she was well known in that town and that this Pharisee judged her as a sinner. She doesn’t say anything to anyone. She doesn’t even look up. She postures herself low to the ground. She was weeping and deeply troubled in heart. What I find amazing about this encounter is that she wasn’t even invited to the party. It says that “when she heard Jesus was going to be at the Pharisee’s house” she came. She risked rejection. She risked ridicule. But to her it didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered, to be near Jesus.
She postured herself for forgiveness. While everyone else was joking, making small talk, and appearing dignified, she was weeping at his feet. While everyone else was sitting in the seats of honor, she chose the posture of dishonor. While everyone else was trying to impress Jesus or appear important, she is wiping his feet with her hair and kissing his feet. She crowns it all by pouring expensive perfume on his feet.
A humble heart posture will always leave a pleasant aroma in the atmosphere.
Jesus was the only one she came to impress and impress him she did. He commends her and forgives her sins. Perhaps, this woman saw something that no one else did… that Jesus was the King of the Jews. If the others had seen it too, they would have been bowing down likewise.
You cannot maintain a prideful posture and expect to be forgiven by God.
Passion for Forgiveness
In Charles Dickens’ famous musical A Christmas Carol, we see a crotchety old man named Ebenezer Scrooge. He has more wealth than he knows what to do with but no joy, no compassion, no friends. He finds glee by pinching pennies and tormenting his employees making them work long hard hours. The story takes a dramatic turn by the end as Scrooge is changed by an encounter with three spirits.
Have you ever asked yourself what God’s heart is like? Is he approachable, understanding, and compassionate or eager to punish?
Many see God as Ebenezer Scrooge … powerful and wealthy yet distant, cruel, and unmerciful.
As we look again at this encounter with Jesus, we see that Jesus exhibits the character of God to humanity in the way he interacts with the sinful woman. Before I go further, I’d like us to look at a passage from the book of Exodus. Moses is leading the people of Israel through the wilderness and is speaking with God Almighty. God begins to declare his nature to Moses:
“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ ” Exodus 33:19
“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet, he does not leave the guilty unpunished.’ “ Exodus 34:6-7
Does this surprise you? Now let’s get back to Jesus.
There he is in the presence of all these people at this dinner party. This sinful woman is making a scene at his feet. Not only does he not stop her, but he welcomes her. Why? Because Jesus exhibits the nature of God. Jesus said that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father (God). God’s nature is unchanging. He is compassionate and quick to show mercy to the humble and broken. Jesus had a passion for forgiveness.
He tells a parable to Simon (the Pharisee) about two debtors. One owes 500 denarii and the other 50. Neither was able to pay the master so the master (God) forgives them both. He then asks him which will love the master more. Simon was the one who owed 50. But his problem was that instead of rejoicing in his own sin being forgiven and then having compassion on others, he was excessively judgmental and proud. Comparison blinded him to his own debt before God. Jesus never commends the woman for being sinful. But he commends her for her faith and action. Although the Pharisee’s judgment about the woman’s sin was accurate, what the Pharisee lacked was a passion for forgiveness!
A passion for forgiveness causes us to rejoice at the repentance of a sinner, not look down on the one whom God is willing to forgive. To the Pharisees, those who think they have led better lives than others, be careful! Remember that you too are a debtor before God. Get down on your knees with the rest of the sinners and remember that Jesus is looking for a people who will love him much!
Power of Forgiveness
For anyone who has had an argument with a loved one or a friend, you know that there is no peace afterwards. Unless there is reconciliation, the damage will remain. Sadly, bitterness has robbed marriages of their vitality, friendships of their joy, and causes brothers to stop speaking. What then is the power of forgiveness?
Forgiveness holds the power to restore peace. After the woman worships Jesus and repents, he says to her, “Woman your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Peace is the absence of fear, anxiety and oppressive thoughts. It tells us that everything is okay. The war is over. Jesus extends this to the woman… and to anyone who comes to him in humble reverence.
The second power released by forgiveness is love. The one forgiven much loves much, but the one forgiven little, loves little. God has chosen to lavish his forgiveness on a broken and hurting world with the purpose of inspiring a people who will love him with all their hearts! Could it be that God allows our sin, brokenness, and pain while patiently waiting so that he can show us how merciful he is?
How do we receive this peace and love?
Although we may forgive others, we can’t cancel our debts before God. You need not look any further than your own heart, thoughts, words, and actions in the past few days to see that you fall short of God’s standard, which is to love him and love our neighbor as ourselves. Our sin makes us debtors before God. Jesus is the only one with the power to forgive because he paid the price for our sins on the cross. His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to experience a right relationship with God… and to be made new.
Which one in the story are you? Are you the Pharisee or the woman at Jesus’ feet? The good news is you can come to the feet of Jesus today to receive his mercy and grace. Will you come?
The one forgiven much, loves much.
If you would like to renew or make a first time commitment to Jesus Christ, message me. I would like to know.
Desire of Nations
Of all of the messianic descriptions of Jesus, the Desire of Nations has to be one of my favorites. Perhaps you haven’t bothered to think about it recently but each morning when you get up, you are being driven by a desire. What causes you to go to work, to school, to pursue a relationship, to teach others, to help your community, to work out? I was having a chat with an executive a while back and I was telling him how my true passion in life is to preach the gospel and see lives changed. This man was very successful in real estate. By earthly standards, he was a total success: money, power, respect, meaningful career, comforts of wealth. He said to me, “Zac, I envy you. I can’t say that I’m passionate about life right now.”
Wait a minute… you… envy me?
Isn’t that funny? The rich and powerful can be living a passionless life.
The psalmist writes:
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God! My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)
David, one of the greatest kings of history, writes this:
“One thing I have asked and this is what I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
What are you seeking?
Advertisers know that human kind is driven by secret desires. They have identified them; they use them to their advantage. It fits their gospel of, “Have this, do this, go here, and then….”
And then what? … you will be satisfied, accepted, happy, honored, successful. But is it really so?
In the time of prophet Haggai, the Lord is speaking to the people of Israel during a time of devastation. He first rebukes them for their complacency and their failure to build his house (the temple) while they are so consumed with their own houses and pursuits. The prophet’s message builds up to a crescendo with this messianic prophecy: “And I will shake all nations. And the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Haggai 2:7 KJV)
In this word, there are three key elements: the shaking of all nations, the desire of all nations coming, and the filling of the house of God with glory.
Each of these three elements deserves a sermon (or series) on its own. But I will provide a brief overview. Remember, this was a time of devastation. Israel had been judged and taken captive due its sinfulness and idolatry.
Kind of feels like where America is heading.
Are you going through a time of devastation in your work, marriage, relationships, health, or simply living a passionless life? Take the word of the prophet Haggai to heart and ask yourself whose house you have been building? Ask yourself who your nation is worshiping? The answer isn’t difficult to find.
In the midst of Israel’s state, the Lord says I will shake all nations. To those suffering, this may sound comforting. To those sitting comfortably, this may sound terrifying. But the word of the prophet Isaiah, and of Jesus will come to pass.
“All men are like grass and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (Isaiah 40)
Jesus says in Matthew 24:1-14 that we will see great shakings in the earth. Wars and rumors of wars, pestilence, famines, earthquakes. He says that the earth is giving birth to the kingdom of God. Not that the kingdom comes from earth but rather the earth is in labor… the old order of things is passing away. Interestingly, these shakings are part of the declaration that the temple will be torn down. This is the temple that was rebuilt in Haggai’s time. It was destroyed a second time.
Jesus tells Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion that,
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)
The prophet Isaiah also tells us of the final day of judgment in which the heavens will be shaken and the earth will move out of her place. (Is. 13:9-13)
The apostle Paul teaches us that “…the things that are seen are temporary but the unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
I have spent much time working in real estate. Ever since the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, there has been the utmost concern for the safety of buildings and their earthquake readiness. Rebar, tempered steel, counter weights that sway in the opposing direction as a building is shaken during an earthquake. These are all designed to try to prevent devastation. But man’s preparations only goes so far. Another example is the new Bay Bridge (billions of dollars over budget) and it’s already exhibiting cracks in its integrity.
Let’s bring this to 2016. What is being shaken? We have terrorists on the rise with radical Islam all over the earth. We have whole nations gone bankrupt. We have China, Russia, Iran and others vying to become a new power in the world. We have a nation in America that once obeyed and feared God and his Word but that now is confused, divided, morally reprobate, idolatrous. People put their trust in a government that is nearly 20 trillion in debt. 20,000,000,000,000 in debt! Louisiana is majorly flooded as has been parts of Texas. Wildfires raging in California, droughts. We now have a movement of people hating the police force and encouraging lawlessness and blaming them for the problems of society. We have a nation that has perverted and redefined marriage. A nation that slaughters its unborn in the womb. A nation that’s more concerned with chickens in cages than with souls being saved and human beings.
I will shake all nations says the Lord God Almighty. You see, we are no better than anyone else in history. It is the epitome of arrogance to think that the Judge of all the Earth will not execute his righteous judgment upon us too. Kingdoms will rise, and kingdoms will fall. Only the Word of the Lord abides forever.
But just as the hard ground must be plowed up before the seed can grow, so the nations must be shaken. Why? To show that all their desires and hopes were falsely founded. This prepares the way for the Desire of All Nations to come.
(Some translations render Haggai 2:7 differently. I believe the KJV and NIV 84 get it right.)
Could it be that all the warring, raging, striving, and laboring of the nations is in vain? The prophet Habakkuk says that, “Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire?” (Hab. 2:13) And the psalmist writes, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)
All that can be shaken, will be shaken. This must happen so that the ground is prepared. The shaking and breaking create a need for comfort, for building, for healing. Now let’s look at the promises that follow.
In the beginnings of the gospels, Luke records an encounter with a man named Simeon. He was a righteous and devout man and he was waiting for the Consolation of Israel. (Luke 2:25)
“Blessed are the poor (crushed, oppressed, weary) in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus says in Matthew 5.
Think about desire for a minute. Isn’t it different depending on your need?
The desire of the oppressed, is relief. The desire of the sick is healing. The desire of the fatherless is to have a family. The desire of the hungry is to be filled. The desire of the lonely is love. The desire of the fearful is to have peace and safety. The desire of the poor is provision.
The Desire of All Nations shall come.
We are now living in the reality of that prophecy. The messiah has come. And promises to come again.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb. 9:27-8)
Another example of this messianic title is seen in the encounter with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus speaks with a woman at the well in Samaria. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, nor was it common for a man to be talking to a woman in public. Yet Jesus shows himself as the desire of nations by his disregard for these barriers. Jesus asks the woman for a drink and eventually the conversation transposes into Jesus revealing himself as the Messiah.
He tells her, “Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will neither worship the Father on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For these are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:21&23)
Jesus Christ is the desire of nations. Just as he met the deepest desire of a foreign woman at a well, he is here to meet yours. He is here to satisfy your soul and show you his eternal kingdom, whether you are in China, Brazil, Zimbabwe, France, or America.
You see, the Desire of Nations had to come the first time in order to purify sins. Why? Because God had a final goal in mind.
“… and I will fill this house with glory.” saith the Lord of Hosts (Haggai 2:7)
Some argue a mere human interpretation. But Jesus himself when speaking to the Pharisees says,
“Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.” (John 2:19-21)
The apostle Peter says,
We are built together like living stones to be a spiritual house to the Lord. (1 Peter 2:1-5)
The apostle Paul says, do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit who was given to you? (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Moments before his murder, the martyr Stephen declares:
“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool. What house will you build for me says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?’ “ (Acts 7:48-9)
We see then that this is not an earthly temple of stone, timber, or gold that the Lord is speaking of. He is speaking of the hearts of men.
How then shall God fill this house with glory? Through Jesus Christ the hope of glory. Poured out into our hearts by faith and when we receive him as he knocks at the door of every man’s heart. The Holy Spirit given on Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that in the last days the Lord will pour out his Spirit on all flesh.
Picture a beautiful sunset on the beach. Picture a grand castle or mansion which you have been in or seen from afar. Picture the most beautiful woman or most handsome man. The glory of the Lord exceeds them all. It is not an earthly glory but a heavenly one.
We are approaching the end of all time when this earth and heaven will be shaken. The Messiah has come but promises that he will come once again to gather his church, the living temple to himself for eternity. Jesus Christ is the desire of nations. Do not be afraid at what you see around you or in your own life. Remember the shaking has a purpose… to create desire in the hearts of all nations.
To anyone reading this who does not know this Jesus. You can know him today. Invite him into your life to be your Lord and Savior. Turn from evil and ask for him to fill you with glory. And he will.
All the desires of the ages are met in him.
Blessings to you all.
A long time ago in a far away land, something happened that changed the course of history.
Before I continue, answer this. When was the last time you felt a sense of awe, wonder, or pure joy?
Was it at the birth of a child? Was it when you found out your brother was coming home safely from overseas? Was it at the news of your acceptance into the master’s program? Was it upon opening a hand written letter from your dearest love? Was it seeing the sun rise from the peak of Mt. Everest?
Have you noticed that as you get older, it takes more and more to produce a sense of awe and joy?
We are bored with the usual. We’ve seen that one already. We’ve heard that joke before. We got that promotion five years ago, and it didn’t satisfy us as we thought. We tried that drug, and it doesn’t produce the same high anymore. We’ve been let down by people we trusted. We’ve shot for the stars except we didn’t end up on the moon, but in the mud.
Disappointment, age, and experience have a tendency to paint life melancholy. The dark night sky looms above us.
Every year around this time, I meditate on the Christmas story. As a child, Christmas meant fun, carols, presents, lights, time off from school, and a little mischief and cheer. Christmas Eve was when we would celebrate and open presents. Collectively as a society it’s a time to think about the story of Christ’s birth. At least when I was growing up, we thought about it. Right before presents, my parents always read the tale of Jesus’ birth from the gospel of Matthew or Luke.
I remember wanting to hurry through the Bible reading to get to the good stuff, the presents. Now however, it’s quite the opposite.
Perhaps, it’s just me but hasn’t the world grown increasingly negative and weary? It’s rare to hear good news on any major media channel these days. People live in an unspoken state of panic, anxiety, and discontentment. Society hangs by a thread. Without a doubt, there is plenty to be concerned about.
… But that’s just it. At the time when life seems darkest, there appears a distant star. This is what happened all those years ago in the small country of Israel, the birth that changed history.
As I was reading through the first and second chapters of Luke this year, I was struck by the repeated mention of the words “awe” and “joy.”
The word awe conjures up wide eyes, a gaping mouth, a loss for words, a sense of wonder, a breathless pause. Life has just taken you by surprise. Your senses have been overwhelmed.
The word joy is different than happiness. Here’s why. Happiness comes from the root word “Hap” which means “chance, fortune” or “to suit, fit” or “favorable, convenient.” In other words, a state of favorable or pleasant circumstances. Everything is going your way; it fits.
Happiness comes from without. Joy comes from within.
It’s possible to radiate joy in the midst of loss or pain. It’s possible to feel joy with few material possessions or without the need for the acceptance of others. Joy tells us everything is going to be all right, better than all right. It lifts us and consequently anyone around us. It is a gift from God.
As I read through the familiar Christmas story again this year, I couldn’t find a single person who didn’t experience awe and joy. Everyone from shepherds to Mary and Elizabeth to people in Jerusalem and the countryside were overcome at the news.
In Luke 1:1-2:40, awe and joy are mentioned equally at five times each for a total of ten instances! They are probably mentioned more than any other emotion or reaction to the news the angel spoke that,
“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
What about you? Where do you stand? Are you a Christian who has allowed the storms of life to beat you down? Are you a non-believer who can’t help but wish that something in this world would bring you a sense of purpose, joy, and awe again like when you were a child?
It’s easy for the innocent to rejoice. It’s easy for a child to scream with delight. God did not choose to reveal Jesus on that cold morning to kings and princes. He chose to reveal him to lowly shepherds, to ordinary people living in Israel. You see God is no respecter of persons.
So often we make Christmas about everything except what it truly is. Forget the twenty errands to Target, Walmart, Amazon.com, and Victoria’s Secret. Forget impressing people with hand made cards. Forget having the perfect holiday party for your friends. Forget Santa Clause and Rudolph.
It’s a time to be overwhelmed with awe and joy. It’s a time to envision yourself on a cold blustery hillside with bleating sheep and all of a sudden, the sky lights up with the radiance of a thousand suns and a voice thunders to you from the angels in heaven declaring the birth of the Son of God!
It’s a time to see yourself beside oxen and donkeys in a damp, dark stable where the glimmering light of the stars flickers on this child laying in a manger. It’s a time to place yourself at the temple of Jerusalem when a man named Simeon says that God spoke to him that this child is going to be the Glory of Israel and the Light of Revelation to the Gentiles.
“His name shall be called Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)
You can have joy and awe this day not because you deserve either. Not because you are someone important. But because God chose to demonstrate his love for you by sending his Son into the world. Friends, there is no greater reason to rejoice! There is no greater cause for wonder and amazement.
When life is heavy it’s easy to lose the sense of awe and joy. There are entire industries built on the premise of bringing joy/happiness/wonder into people’s lives. Think about all the entertainment dollars spent, the money spent on counseling, the new cars, the pills or drugs taken… and where are you now?
Do you want lasting peace? Do you want to recover that long lost sense that the world could be new again?
You are in good company. It was found in a lowly place, among ordinary people two thousand years ago. And it is still found in the heart that says, “Yes Lord, I am ready to receive your gift. I can scarcely believe it, but if it be true, I’m all in!”
Won’t you stop your striving and lay down all your excuses? Will you do that today? Will you allow the awe and joy of God to fill your heart? You see Jesus isn’t afraid to be born in dirty and humble places. He was born in a lowly manger, and He is willing to be born inside of you! Will you let him in?
Claim this promise from the prophet Isaiah for yourself today:
“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Merry Christmas to you all!
Recently during a time of meditation, I distinctly heard the Lord Jesus say,
“Remember the poor this Christmas.”
Although the majority of my ministry consists of preaching and teaching, this was the perfect opportunity to pour out in a different way, a tangible and intimate expression of the love and message of the gospel.
Here’s what we did. I rounded up the people I’m discipling and invited a few other friends along.
We all pitched in and bought some presents for a variety of families in need. I specifically wanted to bless families that really had little to nothing. The word the Lord gave me is that they are not forgotten by Him.
Here are the stories of the families and pictures from the outreach on December 12, 2015. Thank you to everyone who participated and gave! It was my honor and privilege to lead and minister along side you all.
Zack Surunis writing Bible verses on the Christmas cards we passed out.
Arjun Thounaojam proudly presents one of the gifts. That he wrapped!
Prayer time before we head out.
The first family we visited was a refugee family from Thailand / Sri Lanka. Their father had wanted to get them out of the country so badly that he had threatened suicide if the government didn’t send them to the USA to have a better life. He tried to reunite with them but was prevented due to an illegitimate passport. He is currently in prison in Thailand.
The mother was so grateful we came that she made us a small meal afterwards with the little food she had. We got to sing them some Christmas carols, pray for each of the children, gave them a Bible, and some gifts. The big hits were the sheriff kit (with handcuffs!) and the whiffle lacrosse set. One of the two young boys prayed to receive Jesus. The names of the family are: Sitta (mother), Thomas (son), Johanna (daughter), Jude, and Paul (younger sons).
Thomas lives in a group home. Please pray for this family to continue to experience the love and growth of God in all their lives.
Sitta makes us a meal as a measure of her gratitude to us.
“You’ll never get away! I’ve got you now,” says Paul.
Where’s the sheriff to help keep poor Roberto from being kidnapped and turned into a Ninja Turtle?
After we finished with the family in Oakland, we went to Berkeley for a number of stops.
Unfortunately, a couple of the people we had intended to visit weren’t at home as planned… but we made the most of it and went around the neighborhood caroling!
There was a woman named Barbara who was hesitant at first and then as she sat and listened to us sing Joy to the World, and Hark! The Herald Angel’s sing, she began to warm up. Minutes later her husband Alfredo shows up and joins in the caroling! He later thanked us for coming and said that it’s so good that we’re out doing this. He insisted on giving me money to help with the church. 🙂
Next, we met a woman named Eve walking her dog. She saw us and asked if we were carolers. We said yes and she joined in singing along with us. We got to pray for her at the end and invited her to recommit her life to Jesus.
Lastly, in the picture below, there’s an apartment building that Zack thought would be a good idea to go up to. To our delight, both families came out of their apartments, joined us in the caroling, and thanked us. We got to pray for them all at the end before saying good bye.
Us in front of the apartment building where we caroled. From left: Frania Martinez, Erika Alvarez Martinez, Betty Yu, Arjun Thounaojam, me (Zac Linton), Roberto Diaz, Zack Surunis. And the talented Cassandra Lopez was taking the photo!
The last family we visited was a Mexican family. The father’s name was Adolfo and the little grand daughter is Marisol.
Marisol opens her gift.
The other daughter was named Jasmina. She got an Etch-a-Sketch, some Origami, and a Hoola-hoop.
We prayed for them, sang for them, and read them the Christmas story from Luke 2. Frania even got to pray for Adolfo in Spanish! I don’t know exactly what she said… but I’m sure it was good! (I felt the anointing on it.)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
“Whatever you have done unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40)
In all these visits, I could just feel the love and heartbeat of God for the people all over. Some are very broken and struggling. Some rejected the news while others rejoiced at the glad tidings we brought.
Truly, the greatest gift ever given is that of Jesus Christ, God’s Son born into the world. There’s no greater reason to celebrate. Amen!
This concludes our Christmas outreach. We hope you were encouraged and inspired by these testimonies and may God use you also to let people know they are not forgotten this Christmas.
Peace, joy, and love to you and yours this holy season.
(PS Thank you everyone for your participation and also to Jackie and Mario Alvarez Martinez even though you couldn’t make the whole thing!)