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.

Do Not Fear

“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.

Fresh Oil

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?

 

Joyful…

Healed…

At Rest…

Radiant…

Smiling…

Loving…

Giving…

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:

 

  1. Ask for God’s Spirit to come upon you, and wait in His Presence. (Luke 11:13)
  2. 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)
  3. Get around Spirit filled people who can pray for you. This thing is also caught by osmosis. (James 5:14, Proverbs 13:20)
  4. Go to a revival meeting.
  5. Go on a retreat into nature for a day (or more). Jesus went onto the mountain.
  6. 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)
  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)
  8. 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)
  9. 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, Persecuted

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.

 

The Inevitable

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.

 

The Testing

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 Response

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.

Forgiven Much

“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

Then,

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.