An Angels Easter Story

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empty tomb angel

An Angels Easter Story

based upon Matthew 28: 1-7

Zaphnath-Paaneah took his place before the Throne of the Great I AM. The sense of anticipation that he had had from the beginning now seemed to be palpable. From the time of his creation, he had known that this would be his assignment. He did not understand all of it until this day. Now, he felt like he was the most privileged of all the angels of heaven. Like all the other un-numbered angels, he felt most fulfilled when he was privileged to serve in some way, the King of Heavens Armies. It was what he was created for, and he felt the Lord’s pleasure in him when he would serve the King.

But these days were different. He had watched in amazement as thousands of his fellow angels had sung “Glory to God in the highest” as the Son, in some eternally mysterious way had been born in that dirty, and smelly, stable. But at the same time as it was in many ways revulsive because of its smells and looks, it was a holy place. None of them could quite fathom the mystery or the wonder that they felt to see the One who had created them, now wrapped in human flesh as a helpless newborn child. On the day of his birth, it seemed like all of heavens inhabitants were peering over the portals of heaven to get a glimpse of this unspeakable act of humility.

They watched as he grew in his human form, and walked among those he loved from before they were created. All of heaven never quite understood how those he had created, those he had called as a special people, and by his presence in the pillar of fire and smoke had lead them all those years in the desert, was now rejected, reviled and renounced by the objects of his eternal love

But it had become so much worse. Zaphnath watched with others as their King and Lord submitted himself to such cruel beatings and torture. He could still hear the echoes of the weeping in heaven as “Messiah” as they called him, was beaten and crucified without mercy. The stunned silence when he spoke from the midst of his pain, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” No one among the angels or creatures of heaven could fathom the depth of love in that simple expression.

Then, he died. None of them quite grasped how this could be possible, that the King of Heaven’s armies, the Eternal One who spoke all things into existence, now hung in a battered body, dead on that cross. How could it be? How could anyone love with that kind of love? They knew only in part of this plan that the Father, Son and Spirit had conceived. They had heard about it, but this idea of salvation was a mystery to them. Now, however, some of the pieces began to fall into place. Not one of those countless bulls, and goats, and sheep and birds that were prescribed for sacrifices had ever been enough to pay the eternal price for the rebellion of mankind. But now eternity took on mortality, and died. What love the Godhead had for this creation, just a little lower than themselves as angels.

But, oh the celebration throughout heaven when he who had suffered this unexplainable death, had risen, and conquered death! All of heaven rejoiced as one when the Son, now forever in human form, joined them again in heaven’s glory. It was a celebration unlike any they had ever experienced. But then came that moment when the glorious Son called his name, “Zaphnath-Paaneah, it is time.” The time had come for him to fulfill the purpose for which he was created. The reason why he was given the name that he had carried from the beginning of his existence, Zaphnath-Paaneah which means “revealer of mysteries.” Now! Now he understood. Now he put the pieces together. What an honor! What privilege was his. “Yes, Lord!” was his immediate response… it could be none other. And with his inner being filled with the joy of this occasion, he flew from the glories of heaven to that place where they had laid his master.

The sun was beginning to show it’s beautiful rays of light over the horizon. The morning was brisk and the air was filled with electric excitement. It had been three days and nights, and now was the time. The moment he arrived there was a strong earthquake, as the Master seemed to put an exclamation point on that had happened, and what was about to happen. When the Roman guards felt the earthquake, and saw him before them, they were filled with fear and ran away. Now all was ready. With little effort, he rolled away the stone. He already knew what he would find. His master had risen, now the only thing in the tomb were the grave clothes they had wrapped him in those three short days earlier.

There they came, the women. They were prepared to finish the task of preparing the body. They had not had time before, and bless their hearts, out of their love for the Master, they were ready to finish the task. But they were not ready for what Zaphnath had for them. As they approached the empty tomb, they were at first dismayed that the tomb was open. In their thoughts, someone, maybe the Romans or the Pharisees had come and stolen his body. But how was his time. He revealed himself to them and said the words He was commissioned to say, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. Now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women were frightened and ran away. But Zaphnath was filled with joy. He had completed that for which he was created. The mystery conceived before anything was created. As he flew back to the splendors of heaven, he could hardly wait to join his fellow angels to once again be in the presence of the great I AM, and worship him around his glorious throne. But from this time on, forever and ever, for Zaphnath-Paaneah that worship would have a special meaning. He was honored and privileged to be the revealer of the mystery of the empty tomb. He wondered if the Masters disciples would feel that same sense of privilege when they would be commissioned to be revealer of the empty tomb, and be send with this glorious message throughout all the earth. He thought, surely they would feel that same joy that he now felt. He would be watching from the portals of heaven to see what they would now do with this glorious message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Warriors never Retire!

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13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Bangazi

This past week I went and saw the movie, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Bengazi,” It was a very powerful and moving story of the September 11th attack on the American Consulate in Bengazi, Libya. I would recommend going and seeing it. Afterward, I sat in  my car and wept for what I saw and the tragedy that could have been avoided.

But at the end of the movie, after the battle was over, two of the men were on the roof, battered, and tired, and bleeding. One was dying and spoke of his family and life. The other spoke some words that immediately grabbed my attention. That phrase is: “Warriors never retire.”

This is not a thought just for intercessors, but to all of the Body of Christ, because realize it of not, we are those who are entered into this warfare against principalities, and powers and rulers of darkness (Eph. 6:10; 2 Corinthians 10:3). We live in days when the forces of darkness are raising the stakes, and being much more overt in their deceptions, and their attacks. This is a time when, especially those who have been fighting this battle many years, are weary and wounded, and there seems that there is no support, that we just want to find a place of peace and safety, and just quit the battle.

If you have been discouraged, if you have been wounded, if you are weary of the battle, let me tell you folks, we have a Commander in Chief who is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and you are NOT abandoned! You are not forgotten! We are called to fight, but with the weapons of the Spirit of God, and against these weapons, no forces of hell can conquer. But we must rise up and fight! There are souls whose eternal destiny will depend upon us being members of His Body who, though wounded and battle weary, will continue to put on the armor of God, and continue to contend in prayer.

You do not always see the unseen consequences of your prayers, but you must keep fighting… because A“a warrior never retires.” As the few remaining men are waiting to board a plane to take them home, one of the guys calls home. He’s made many such trips and been away from home too long. In the course of the conversation, he is speaking to his wife and says; “I’m coming home to stay.” Yes, there is a God appointed day when His warriors will go home to stay. There will be a day when our Commander in Chief, who is the Captain of Heavens Armies, will welcome us home, heal our wounds, and reward us for being faithful warriors… but until then…

Let’s fight!!

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Thinking Like God Thinks

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Thinking like God thinks… a few years ago, I had a “day of prayer” on the beach in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. And to answer your question, yes, that is a very easy place to be still and listen to the voice of the Lord. The warm ocean waves lapping over your toes, the warm breeze, and the vast expanse of beach all made it very easy to just quiet my heart and listen. There were many things on my mind… past, present, future. I needed direction and help with decisions I needed to make. At one point as I walked the beach, the Lord spoke very clearly to me and simply said, “you need to learn to think like I think.”

At first the words of Paul came to my memory, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5. I am currently doing more of a study of what does that really mean? What does it really mean to think the way God thinks? How do I wrap my puny mind around the thinking process of the creator of the universe? Well, I’m still working on that, and will post more about that here as things progress.

However, there was one thought that came to me recently in the midst of some very difficult and painful circumstances. A situation I never thought would be a part of my life, yet  here it is. Unwanted, unwelcomed, un-enjoyed, but smack dab in my face. How do I react? How do I conduct myself in this situation? How do I think the thoughts that God would have?

When we are in such circumstances, our first and best option is to turn to the Word of God for direction and counsel. I found myself reminding myself of all of who God is to me. He is my savior, my strength, my redeemer, my wisdom, my protector, my shield. So many more I could recount, and then… this thought: “He does not have to remind Himself of Who He Is.”

WOW! He does not have to remind Himself of Who He Is! The depth of that began to seep down into my spirit like golden honey. I, in my struggle to try to understand my circumstances, needed to remind myself who He is. But He never has to do that. He is always totally aware of all of who He is. In every moment, in every circumstance, in every disruption, every trial that comes our way, He is constantly and totally and fully aware of all that he is. He does not have to go and search the concordance to find a character to meet today’s need. He is “I AM” totally and eternally everything I need Him to be.

As I pondered this thought, and brought it before this idea that I need to think like God thinks, WOW!  What a revolution that would be in my life, in our lives, if we could come to that place in our walk and our relationship with Him so that in any situation, every circumstance, we would know who He is for that particular moment.This is profound for my daily walk. This requires not simply a study of theology (the study of God), it requires an intimacy with Him, so that in any circumstance I don’t need to search around, I will know who He is for me at that moment. It takes a knowledge and intimacy born out of time spent together. It brings a familiarity with Him and who He is for every situation. He who goes with me and lives within me desires that I come to such a place in my knowledge of Him that in any given moment I walk in the assurance of His sufficiency for that moment, that challenge, that crisis, that obstacle because the sufficiency is in who He is, and I know Him to that point I no longer have to stop and search… at that moment I know.

May the Lord grant that we come to know Him with that kind of intimacy and purity, that like Him, we will not have to remind myself of who He is, I will simply “know” and walk and rest in the character of who He is.

 

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The Inconvenience of Brokenness

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The Inconvenience of Brokenness

broken vessel

 I was reminded recently how inconvenient the Biblical teaching of brokenness really is. In many Christian teachings, it is much easier to talk about verses such as Romans 8:37, Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, or Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But if the subject of brokenness comes up, the topic seems to be quickly diverted to all we can conquer through Christ. To talk about our weakness and frailty doesn’t seem very victorious. It’s much more encouraging to talk about how we will overcome and win the battles and vanquish every foe. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a valid place for all of this teaching, but these teaching of conquering and victory must be understood in the light of what the Bible teaches about brokenness.

Part of the problem with this thinking is a lack of understanding of how God views brokenness. You see, to God, brokenness is never weakness. Some Christian teaching and the views of the world around us would have us believe that being in a place of brokenness is a place of weakness and vulnerability. Our response is that we need to get out of this place and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going. And to be perfectly honest, at least some of what results from the teaching of overcoming and more than conquerors is nothing more than Christianized self-effort. And that is abhorrent to God. It is a glorification of our own self will, self efforts, and self talk. So we need to understand the Biblical principle behind this idea of brokenness.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most Christians acknowledge the importance of brokenness but do everything they can to avoid the experience of it. There is a fundamental teaching about brokenness that helps us to understand it’s importance in the economy of God. That is simply, brokenness brings us to the place to complete and total dependence upon God. And that is God’s gracious purpose, because when we are completely and totally dependent upon God, then He is free to fulfill in us, all the destiny that He purposed for us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). There is an interesting cycle of brokenness and strength that is found in Philippians 4: 11 – 13. We are used to quoting verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but that comes in the context of Paul saying that he has learned how to be content in any circumstance. How did Paul come to that place? To be able to be content whether starving or having plenty? This is understood in light of chapter 3 where Paul says he puts no confidence in the flesh, and considers all his fleshly advantages to be as garbage. The one thing that is of utmost importance to Paul is to know Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Allow me to give this simple insight into “brokenness.” I have read several posts where people do not agree with the idea of “brokenness” and when I read them I realize that there is a misunderstanding of what this brokenness really is, and how it works. So here is my humble attempt.

Brokenness is being in that place where we have come to realize the total emptiness, and abhorrence to God of our fleshly efforts to please and serve our Most Holy God (John 15:5). Brokenness is the state of being more and more totally dependent upon the power of God to work in and through us for His purposes (Colossians 1:29). Brokenness is constantly on guard against the subtle influences of the flesh and when it realizes that fleshly attitudes, or efforts have begun to influence our total trust in God, there is immediate repentance and turning from the flesh to God (I Corinthians 15:31).

Brokenness can occur in times of trial, where God is testing us as He did Israel, to see what is in us, and Brokenness is an ongoing attitude of dependence upon God alone for our power, wisdom,  and service for Him. Think of this, take an unbroken clay jar and put a light inside, cover the top and how much light will shine through? NONE
Take that same jar,break it and then glue it together again, but the light inside, cover the top and light will shine through each of those broken places.

The flesh rebels against brokenness, the Spirit of God guides us into brokenness because brokenness is the place of usefulness and blessing, and God’s loving presence. Let us learn to embrace brokenness (James 4:10).

Finally, I leave you with this illustration that has touched my heart many times over the years…

THE TALE OF THE WILLOW

bamboo

Once upon a time in the heart of the western kingdom, there was a beautiful garden. There in the cool of the day, the Master was wont to walk. Of all the dwellers in his garden, the most beautiful and beloved was a noble bamboo tree. Year after year the bamboo grew more noble and gracious, conscious of his masters love and watchful delight.

One day the master himself drew near to contemplate his beloved tree, and bamboo in a passion of adoration bowed his great head to the ground. The master spoke: “Bamboo, I would us you.” It seemed the day of days had come. The day for which the tree had been made! Bamboos voice came low, “Master, I am ready, use me as you wish.”

Bamboo, the master voice was grave, “I must take you and cut you down.” “Cut me down! Me whom you, master have made the most beautiful in your entire garden, cut me down? Not that, not that! Use me for your joy, oh master, but do not cut me down!”

The Masters voice grew graver still, “If I do not cut you down then I cannot use you.” The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his glorious head. There came a whisper, “Master, If you cannot use me unless you cut me down, then do your will and cut.”

“Beloved bamboo, I must cut your leaves and branches from you also.”  “Master, spare me! Lay my beauty in the dust, but would you take from me my leave and branches also?” “Unless I cut them away, I cannot use you.” The sun hid its face. A butterfly glided fearfully away, and bamboo shivered in expectancy, whispering low, “Master, cut away.” “Bamboo, I would divide you in two and cut out your heart, for if I do not, I cannot use you!”

Then Bamboo bowed low to the ground. “Then master, cut and divide.”

So did the master of the garden cut down bamboo, and hack off his branches, and strip off his leaves and branches and cut him in two and cut out his heart. Then he carried him to where there was a spring of fresh sparkling water in the midst of the masters dry fields. Putting one end of broken bamboo into the spring and the other into the water channel of his field, the master gently laid down his beloved tree.

And the spring sang, “Welcome!” and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of

Bamboos torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted. And the days went by and the shoots grew, and the harvest came.

In that day, Bamboo, once so glorious, was truly put to use in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty, he had life abundant for himself, but in his brokenness, he became a channel of abundant life to his master’s world.

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Give Thanks with Me…. Dar Graças Comigo

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(clique aqui para uma versão em Português)

give-thanks

The day was January 3, 1969

I was in the Air Force with orders for Vietnam. My life up to that day had been increasingly filled with drugs and alcohol abuse. I had been watching my life slip farther and farther away, but I had no power to stop the slide.

My friend from High School, Mark McPherson had written to me about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and my response was, “I’m glad you found something that works for you, but that’s not my thing,”  But January 3, 1969 found me headed for his house in San Jose, California… just for a quick visit. I was on my way home to my parent’s house in Palos Verdes, in Southern California. I was planning only about a ten minute visit. After all, we didn’t have that much in common any more. He had his faith, I had my drugs, and booze. I was coming from a time with friends in Sacramento, California where I was on drugs or alcohol most of the time.

All I had was Mark’s address in San Jose. I had no map, so at the first San Jose exit off the freeway, I pulled into a gas station to ask directions. To my amazement, when I asked how to get to that address, the attendant said, “oh, that’s easy! Just go to the next light, take a left turn, take another left turn and you are there.”  I thought that was rather strange… little did I know I was being set up by the God of the universe! Mark told me years later that when he saw me walking up to his house, the Lord spoke t him and said, “Don’t let him leave until he knows where he is going.”

That planned ten minutes ended being the entire day. Mark was faithful to what the Lord spoke to him, and faithfully witnessed the love of God to me over and over again. We had lunch together, and he talked about a personal relationship with God. All through the afternoon. Over dinner, he faithfully answered my questions and continued to share about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross for me.

That night, about eight in the evening, while waiting to see a movie, sitting in my 1969 Triumph Spitfire,  spitfire1he asked me the ultimate question… “Are you ready?” I said yes, and prayed right there, asked the Lord to forgive my sins and make me a new person in Christ. There was no big flash of light, but the lifting of the burdens on my heart was immediate and profound. The desires for drugs and alcohol were immediately gone, and never returned.

My time in Vietnam turned out to be a time of rapid spiritual growth thanks to the img080ministry of then, Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers, now called Cadence International. I was baptized in April of 1969 in the South China Sea off the coast of Nha Trang, Vietnam.

vietnam-baptismEach year, on January 3, I take time to remember the power of a faithful witness, THANKS AGAIN, MARK! and the power of God to transform a life. This year, 2013 marks my 45th spiritual birthday, and I am eternally grateful to God for His grace and mercy, and how over these past 45 years, He has been faithful in every way. I would never go back, and count myself among those most blessed by God’s amazing love. I have never doubted for a moment since that night that I have a personal relationship with Him. Since that day 45 years ago, my only desire has been to serve Him in whatever way He has directed me.  As Pastor, Bible Teacher, Prayer Ministry leader, I have only one desire.. that on that day when I stand before Him,

I will hear the words, “Well done, Steve! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

I invite you to give thanks with me to God for His love, and mercy and grace that sent His Son to die on the cross for you and me, rose from the dead to conquer death, and ascended to heaven, and one day He will return for us.  If you do not have a personal relationship God in this way, feel free to contact me, I’d love to share with you how Jesus can transform your life, and give you a personal relationship that is for all eternity.

Thanks for sharing this Spiritual Birthday with me….  The Adventure Continues….

…till next time…

 

 

 

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Lessons from my Accident – part 1

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Clique aqui para ler este artigo em Português

On Sunday, October 27th, in our church, I opened the prayer time by running down the isle of the church saying, “The Word of God is Running!” based upon 2 Thess. 3:1, Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.

 

On Tuesday, October 29th, as I was riding my bicycle home, I was struck by a hit and run motorcycle driver. The accident left me with a severely fractured tibia, and assorted contusions and bruising. I was taken to the local trauma hospital here in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.

What follows are some reflections on things the Lord has been speaking to me about this incident, and lessons for myself and all of us.

WHY?

It is the most common response, and the least answered question in times of tragedy and pain… “why?”  Because God made us as rational beings, with reasoning powers, our first tendency when faced with overwhelming circumstances is to ask why. What caused this to happen to me? Or my loved one? Did they do something wrong? Is this a result of some sin or poor choice?  The best response to these kinds of question is found in the incident with the man born blind in John 9:1-5. Jesus response to the question of why by the disciples was to point them to the work of God, and the power of God at work in the man’s life.

Certainly being hit by a motorcycle and fracturing my tibia and being laid up for weeks of recovery was not something I ever thought would happen to me.

head - smAnd, to be honest there were those times when I asked that unanswerable question of why. Why now? Why me? Why here in a foreign country so far from everything familiar? What’s happening to my life?

But in the midst of the confusion and the tragedy, God was showing that He was in the midst of the situation. My fiancé, Crizelania was on the scene almost immediately, and became my life giving advocate. The pastor of the church was there to help and to advocate at the hospital, members of the church  became involved and were touched by how God was working in the midst of this difficulty.

kika2-smPersonal stories were written on the hearts of those who got close to our experiences. God was showing up and working, and as Jesus said to His disciples… so the power of God might be seen in him.

This saga is not yet finished. God has spoken to our hearts that He can use this for His glory on into the future. When I came to Brazil, it was with the call of Psalm 71:17-21 on my life. Verses 17 – 18 say: O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

One of the things the Lord spoke to me after the accident as I was reviewing this call on this season of my life, was that God reserves the right to decide HOW that will be fulfilled. His calling is still in effect, and He can decide how he wants to demonstrate that power in and through us. Our part is to be a willing vessel.

I do not know if,  in the Lord’s presence He will explain to us the “why’s” of our lives. But I suspect that when we are there in His presence, we will no longer have a need to understand why, because He will be all the answer we need.

’till next time…

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A Response to the Current State of American Affairs…

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A Response to the Current State of American Affairs…

manI have been, as many of your have been, watching the current horrific actions of our national leaders centering around the partial government shutdown and the debate over raising the debt limit. I have been appalled at the petty actions to hurt the American people, and American Veterans by denying access, and even arresting those who cross barriers to national monuments, and denying people access to their own homes or businesses if they happen to be on federal lands.

I have to confess my total outrage and disgust at the pettiness that is being shown on so many levels, and on many different sides of our society today.

My heart is broken for our society in these days, where at a school in Washington State, balls are banned from the playground because they might harm students, and the NSA spying issues, the lack of leadership and the list can go on, and on.

I have to confess also, that I have found myself being caught up into a sense of hopelessness for a time… a negativity that we have seen the last gasps of our great republic. I had thoughts that I have lived to see the descent of The United States of America into a form of government that was never intended by our founding fathers, and that most of us so not want, but have not stood up to defend.

But God…

Those are the words that I was reminded of out of that pit of hopeless thinking. I was reminded that this is a perfect time, and a perfect opportunity for the church to respond in an appropriate manner… in the manner that has, in the past brought great awakenings to our country.

I think many American Christians today are not aware of the writings and teachings of the revival historian Dr. J. Edwin Orr.

In a speech called, “The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening,” Dr. Orr describes the conditions in the colonies prior to the First Great Awakening. This is what  he writes:

Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were daily occurrence. What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennox, Massachusetts in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.” Voltaire averred, and Tom Paine echoed, “Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.”

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole of the student body. They took a poll at Princeton, as much more evangelical place; they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and burned it in a public bonfire.

Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

In case this is thought to be the hysteria of the moment, Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great church historian, wrote: “It seems as if Christianity was about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.” The churches had their backs to the wall, [highlights mine] seeming as if they were about to be wiped out. How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.

Dr. Orr goes on to describve how people began to gather in concerted gatherings of prayer, and in response to concerted, humble, desperate prayer, God responded with what we now call the First Great Awakening.

The Word of God is always true in every fluctuation of society, and when He says:

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and prayer and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land2 Chronicles 7:14

It is a promise we can count on today…

Are things terrible in our country today? Yes, on many levels. Does any of this catch God by surprise? Not at all! Is any of this beyond His ability to bring revival and transformation to our country? Not in the least.

The question is, what will my response be? What will our response be? Will we wring our hands in fear? or will we pound our fists in anger? or will we get on our knees and humble ourselves and confess that we as the people of God have been part of the problem? Will we cry out to Him in concerted, humble, desperate prayer? Or will we hold on to our own sins and pride, blame everyone else, and watch thigns continue to crumble before our eyes?

I am not claiming to be a prophet, but I know the Scriptures are true, and I know the testimony of history. If we will respond as God directs us, He will be faithful to answer us, as surely as the sun rises in the morning (Hosea 6:1-3).

Now is the time for the church to unite in humble, desperate,  united prayer for our nation. Turn off CNN, and Fox News, yes and even Facebook, and gather in prayer with other believers and petition God for the salvation of our nation. It is not too late. The Lord awaits our response.

This is my plea to believers wherever you are…start now… Dont’ let up until He answers with power in  your life, in your family, in  your city, in our nation…

praying man

Cry out for mercy, for revival, for transformation.

Even so, Come! Lord Jesus!

Humbly submitted,

Steve Loopstra

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A response to the current state of American affairs…

A response to the current state of American affairs….

I have been, as many of you have been, watching the current horrific actions of our national leaders centering around the partial government shutdown, and the debate over raising the debt limit.  I have been appalled at the petty actions to hurt the American people by denying access, and even arresting those who cross barriers to national monuments, and denying people access to their own homes if they happen to be on federal land.

I have to confess my total outrage and disgust at the pettiness that is being shown on so many levels.

My heart is broken for our society in these days, where at a school in Washington state, balls are banned because they might harm students, and the NSA spying issues, the lack of leadership, and the list can go on and on .

I have to confess too, that I found myself being caught up on a sense of hopelessness for a time… a negativity that we have seen the last gasps of our great republic.  I had thoughts that I would live to see the descent of The United States of America into a form of government none of us wanted, but none of us stood up to protest.

But God…

Those are the words that I was reminded of out of that pit of hopeless thinking.  I was reminded that this is a perfect time, a perfect opportunity for the church to respond in the appropriate manner, in the manner that has, in the past brought great Awakenings to our country,

I think many Americans today are not aware of the writings and teachings of the revival historian, Dr. J. Edwin Orr.

In a speech called “The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening,” Dr. Orr describes the conditions in the colonies prior to the First Great Awaking. This is what he writes:

 Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards: they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennox, Massachusetts in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning: he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.” Voltaire averred, and Tom Paine echoed, “Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.”

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole of the student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place: they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College; and they put on anti-Christian plays at

Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and burned it in a public bonfire.

Christians were so few on campus in the 1790s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

In case this is thought to be the hysteria of the moment, Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great church historian, wrote: “It seemed as if Christianity were about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.” The churches had their backs to the wall, [highlights mine] seeming as if they were about to be wiped out. How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer

Dr. Orr goes on to describe how people began to gather in concerted gatherings of prayer, and in response to concerted, humble, desperate prayer, God responded with what we now call the First Great Awakening.

The Word of God is always true in every fluctuation of society, and when He says,
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

It is a promise we can count on.

Are things terrible in our country right now? Yes, on many levels. Does any of this catch God by surprise? Not at all. Is any of this beyond His ability to bring revival and transformation? Not in the least.

The question is, what will my response be? What will our response be? Will be wring our hands in fear, or pound our fists in anger, or will be get on our knees and humble ourselves and confess that we as the people of God have been part of the problem? Will be cry out to him in concerted, humble, desperate prayer? Or will we hold on to our own sins and pride and watch things continue to crumble before us?

I am not a prophet, but I know the Scriptures are true, and I know the testimony of history. If we will respond as God directs us, He will be faithful to answer us.

Now is the time for the church to unite in humble desperate prayer for our nation. Turn off Fox News, and CNN, yes, and even Facebook, and gather in prayer with other believers and petition God for the salvation of our nation. It is not too late. The Lord awaits our response.

This is my plea to believers wherever  you are… start now…. Don’t let up until He answers with power in your life, in your family, in your city, in our nation.

Even so, Come! Lord Jesus…in revival power.

humbly submitted,

Steve Loopstra

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Some Personal Thoughts on Saving and Spending…. It’s NOT what you think

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Some Personal Thoughts on Saving and Spending…. It’s NOT what you think

piggy bankI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the subject of saving and spending. Most people my age (65, and very happy to be here!!) are looking at collecting Social Security, dipping into the 401K and enjoying the retirement life. Granted, today’s economy makes it a lot more difficult than it was when my parents retired, but that is sort of the normal “season of life” thing that you do when you get to be my age.

But I told you this is not what you think… sure, I’m starting to make plans to utilize my Social Security and retirement ( a very, very small plan), but that is not what I have in mind when I talk here about saving and spending. You see, Jesus used this kind of terminology in Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 and 17:33.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  –  Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)

In all three gospel accounts, Jesus is not talking about money but our lives. He is talking about what we spend our lives on; whether we have a mentality to hold on to our lives – saving, or spend our lives for Him and the Gospel.

Jesus makes it very clear that if we have a mentality to hold on to our lives, we lose. If we spend our lives, we win. So, I want to share with you what I have been thinking about saving and spending in this context.

I have been in ministry in some form or another for nearly 40 years. I am 65 years old. There are those who would say that at this age, I would deserve to settle back a bit, retire, and enjoy a more laid back lifestyle. Ministry? Sure in some less demanding form… part time ministry, and more time fishing, or painting, and taking it easy. I have thought about that. And I know friends who have at this point in life been on many varied points on this scale. Some have retired from ministry and are enjoying the fruit of their retirement. Others, some variation of continued ministry and retirement. Sounds nice, I have to admit. And don’t get me wrong… there is nothing wrong with that, I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m reflecting to you my own thoughts.

That would be what I call the “saving” aspect of my meditations. Now, here is the “spending” aspect, and how I have been thinking. Jesus tells us of another aspect of this that have been an exceptionally strong motivation for me in my ministry and life. It is found in Matthew 25: 14-29 and Luke 19:11-27 in what is known as the parable of the faithful stewards.

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ – Matthew 25:23 (NKJV)

One thing in these parables is branded into my heart, mind, and soul. I want to hear on that day (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, those words; Well done, Steve!! Enter into the joy of  your Lord.  No other reward could be as sweet. No effort too much in order to hear those words from my Lord Jesus.

judgment seatHere I am in Brazil. A crazy adventure that the Lord actually invited me on, in December of 2011 in what I would describe as a dream or vision. Even here, people ask me if I am going to retire. Well, yes and no. I will draw the monies that are mine in order to live here, and hopefully some support from those who believe in this ministry, but that is only a means to an end.

I want to spend my life. I want to spend my life on others. I want to spend my life pouring into others whatever little the Lord can allow me to spend so that they will love the Lord more, desire to serve Him more, and that they might here those words, “Well done.” I do not know how long the Lord will give me here on this earth. None of us know that for sure. My wife’s life was cut short, but she is now enjoying the joys of heaven. I am here, and I want to spend my life giving into the lives of others, so that on that day, I will know those precious words of my Lord Jesus. It looks at this point, that that kind of spending may take a very radical look. A kind of spending that most people would not expect at my age, or maybe understand. I have thought and prayed a lot about this. I could take a different road. But I believe the Lord would have me choose the “road less traveled.” The road to spend myself into the lives of others.

path of life2It will not be easy. It is not the “norm,” but then again… when have I ever done anything according to the “norm?” It will be demanding and tiring at times. But I actually get excited thinking about being able to pour my life into others in a way that could affect them for eternity. My guess is that you will be hearing more about this in the months to come.

Have you given much thought to this subject of saving and spending? Have you considered allowing the Lord to use you to spend your life for others, and shunning saving the last years for yourself? The Lord has a plan for each of our lives, and we need to discover what that is, but the words of Jesus echo through my being, and I long to hear them on that day, Well done, Steve!! Enter into the joy of your Lord.   May God guide you as you pray about and consider saving and spending.

“till next time…

 

 

 

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Wanted: Theolgians

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Wanted:  Theologians

As you read this title, you might be thinking of excluding yourself. After all, you are not a theologian. That is someone who has gone to seminary, and studied for years and is an expert in religion.

theologians

But wait… before you leave the room. Let me remind you of who we are REALLY looking for here.

The Webster online Dictionary defines Theologian this way: one who specializes in Theology

They further define Theology as: the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

A Theologian, simply put, is someone who studies the nature and character of God  and how He relates to this world and it’s people. Theology is simply, the study of God.

Does that sound a bit like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10 – 11? that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (NKJV).

We need theologians in the church… NO! I am not saying everyone needs to go to seminary… please no!!  But, I am saying we need more people who give themselves over diligently to the study of the nature, character, and ways of God. We need people who are growing in their knowledge of God.

bible fire

We do not need people who are studied in religious systems and theological debates. We need people who are growing in a personal knowledge of the Living God!

Why? Why is this important for you? What difference does it make? Friend, it makes all the difference in the world!  And here is why:

If you are not a theologian, a person who is growing and learning the person and character of God, you will not know how to handle the challenges, and storms of life. You will be tossed about as a dingy in a hurricane. You will be left to try to figure things out by your own perception, and that is a sure formula for failure, depression and wrong thinking.

I HATE using myself as an illustration here, but for the sake of this point, I am going to use my own experience to make the point. Two years ago, my wife, Marilou was in a hospital in the Seattle, Washington area, and finally being given the news from an oncologist that she had stage 4 cancer of the pancreas that had spread to the liver. There was no cure, no treatment except to relieve pain. The doctor said we had, at the outside, two to three months. Thirteen days later, she left this life.

My experience is not unique. Many people have travelled that road. I know of a friend whose wife died in a similar fashion. His response was to retreat into his home, avoid contact with others, gain weight and start drinking to mask the pain.

But if we are a theologian, one who knows and seeks to understand the character of God, we will know that our God is a God who gives strength, hope, and a future to those who grieve. I sure did, and continue to grieve the loss of my wife. But because I am convinced that God is who He says He is in His Word, I decided I would step out into the new territory of His character. He invited me on a new adventure, and today I am experiencing new dimensions of Him that I would never had known if I had not decided many years ago to be a theologian.

Are you a theologian? Are you actively seeking to learn more and experience more of the character and personhood of God? Is your life dedicated, as Paul’s was, to “know him?”

glory to godBecoming a theologian will prepare you to be able to weather, and be victorious over any circumstance that this life may throw your way. And you and I both know this life on earth can be difficult. I urge you to decide today to become a theologian. It’s the greatest decision you can make because you will find in Him, a treasure trove of grace, and love, and mercy, and hope, and so much more that you can apply to your everyday life.

 The church, and this world needs more theologians!

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