February 2015 Newsletter

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying…’When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink…all the days of his separation no razor shall come upon his head…he shall not go near a dead body. All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord. -Numbers 6:1-8

I believe God is giving the body of DSCN1479Christ extra grace in this season to live consecrated. This last month Loretta & I have talked to lots of couples and everyone seems to be on the same page. It almost seems like there’s an open window from heaven right now to go above and beyond the minimal requirements and live completely abandoned for God. There have always been people through the centuries who lived with an unusual level of dedication to the Lord. We usually only read of them or hear of them in sermons but we want to go beyond just hearing about them. We want to become them!

Back in Moses’ time God offered the people of Israel a way to go the extra mile if they wanted to. This offer came through the Nazirite calling in Numbers 6. Though it looks different in our day, I think God is offering the same invitation to New Testament believers who want to live “radical”. There were three components to the Nazirite calling. The first was abstaining from wine. Wine was a symbol of pleasure. By saying no to wine, the Nazirites denied themselves some of the legitimate pleasure in the world to fill that space with God. In our day, this doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t drink alcohol (though that’s a great commitment). It may be something more like not watching television or movies for a season. It could be staying away from Facebook. The point is to say no to other legitimate things to experience God at a greater level. The second component of the Nazirite calling was not cutting your hair. It was a public mark of consecration and a form of open accountability. For us, that could be telling others about our commitment and not being ashamed of it. The third thing was avoiding anything dead. For us, a dead body is as anything and everything that defiles us spiritually. Even aside from blatant sin, there are some things that keep us dull spiritually. I believe God is extending a special invitation for the Church to say no to some of these distractions in our lives. Loretta & I responded to the invitation this month by going on a 40 day movie fast. It’s amazing how much more we hear the Lord without the clutter of entertainment.

The main thing the Prayer Room has been focusing on lately is college campuses. As we know, college campuses are some of the devil’s favorite playgrounds. There is such a stronghold of humanism, atheism, and immorality. Many young people enter college as Christians and leave as atheists or muslims because of the strong spirit of deception that fills the air. Every Wednesday morning from 10am – Noon we’re praying for this deception to be broken. We’re praying for God to raise up bold witnesses for Jesus in some of hardest places in America. You can pray along with us on the web stream at http://www.ihopkc.org/prayerroom. One of the ministries we’re praying for is called the Luke 18 project. They’re committed to establishing worship and prayer to Jesus on campuses all throughout America. They’ve already seen some awesome fruit. Just last week, we heard a story about a muslim who encountered Jesus and gave his life to the Lord. He is now one of most dedicated intercessors in the prayer meetings. God is on the move!

January 2015 Newsletter

“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” -Hebrews 11:7

Hello 2015! Loretta & I brought the New Year in with a bang at our annual Onething Conference December 28-31. We joined 20,000 people in Bartle Hall to xvenue-photo.jpg.pagespeed.ic.QVxtxBgrSkworship Jesus and to get vision for the road ahead. It seems these last four days have become an opportunity for us every year to share what the Lord’s been speaking and doing in our midst. This year the main theme was preparation.

The years ahead will be much different than others and we need to start preparing ourselves both naturally & spiritually for it. As we well know, the spiritual climate of America is changing. The homosexual agenda is accelerating to dangerous speeds and an economic crises is looming over our Nation’s head. I believe God is looking for men and women like Noah who will build arks in this generation. Our arks won’t be made of wood. They’ll be made of prayer & watchfulness. As the storm looms ahead we want to be those who are ready. We want to have hearts that are alive, minds that are clear, and spirits that are sharp. We don’t want to be dull or disconnected and caught off guard. We want to move with godly fear like Noah and respond to the signs of coming crises. Mike Bickle, Allen Hood, & Reinhard Bonnke were some of the main speakers at the Onething conference and all of them seemed to say this same thing. Revival is coming to America but it is coming in the midst of a great shaking.

Reinhard Bonnke was particularly inspiring. He has led many gatherings in Africa with over one million people making decisions to follow Christ. The stories he told were phenomenal. Thousands upon thousands of people have been saved through the Lord healing their physical bodies. He is convinced the Lord wants to do the same thing in America. But as mentioned, it will probably be in the context of crises. The America we know today will not always be this way and we need to be ready!

Before the conference Loretta & I enjoyed the week of Christmas and were able to have lots of down time. We spent Christmas Eve with Loretta’s parents and went to a candlelight service, followed by a wonderful meal at the Macaroni Grill. I especially liked the grilled salmon! After that we came back home and watched “The Nativity”. Two days later we were downtown in KC for the conference. I’d say one of my favorite things in life is seeing thousands of people sing together to Jesus. It always reminds me of what it’s going to be like in Heaven. Every eye will be upon the Lord and no one will be even slightly elevated to distract us from His glory. The sound of God’s Church singing in worship is a beautiful thing. We’re so grateful to be part of a ministry that happens to do it day and night.

How it Really Happened – The Birth of Christ as the Bible Tells It

I appreciate movies on the life of Christ.  Movies like “The Nativity”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, & “The Gospel of John” may be a bit cheesy but they can make the Biblical narrative come more alive.  But as good as they may (or may not) be, we don’t want to get our understanding of the life of Christ from a movie.  They’re not exactly three wise mentrue to the Bible and tend to deviate from the chronology of events as they happened.  We want to know how it really happened!  Surprisingly, there’s a large portion of the Church that’s still pretty fuzzy about how the events of Jesus’ birth unfolded.  There are a lot of misconceptions.  So with the Christmas season here, I thought I’d write a short blog on how the events ACTUALLY happened, as told by the Bible.

It happened (in order) like this:

Luke 1

Zacharias and his wife receive word from the angel Gabriel that they’re going to have a baby boy.  This boy will be the forerunner who prepares the way of YAWHEH (Luke 1:1-25)

The angel Gabriel visits an obscure teenage girl in Nazareth months later, telling her that she will give birth to the Son of God.  She should call His name “Jesus”. (Luke 1:26-37)

Mary leaves Galilee and visits her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.  When they see each other they rejoice and Mary sings the famous “Magnificat”.  (Luke 1:38-55)

Mary stays 3 more months with Elizabeth after she arrives and most likely sees the birth of John the Baptist, her Son’s forerunner. (Luke 1:56)

John the Baptist is named by Zacharias as his mouth is opened and He prophesies about the coming redemption.  Mary was likely there to hear it.  (Luke 1:57-80)

Matthew 1:18-25

Mary returns up north to Nazareth after being 3 months pregnant.  She is discovered to be with Child though she’s never been with a man.  Joseph considers writing papers of divorce in secret but while he thinks about these things, an angel appears to him and tells him to “marry Mary” and to name their Son Jesus.  (Matthew 1:18-25)

Luke 2:1-38

Caesar Augustus issues a decree that all should be registered in their hometown.  Mary and Joseph have endured 6 months of reproach in Nazareth.  Mary is now almost due to have their firstborn Son.  They travel about 7 days to the south and arrive at Bethlehem.  As the city is crowded with everyone to be registered, Mary’s time for delivery comes and she gives birth to Jesus in a cold stable since there’s no room for them in the town.  (Luke 2:1-7)

Some time after Jesus is born (probably minutes or hours) a group of heavenly hosts appear to Shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem.  These shepherds were likely keeping the flocks that were used to offer sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem.  After angelandshepherdshearing the angels, the shepherds go to Bethlehem and find Jesus in a feed trough.  After seeing the sign they begin telling the story to everyone in the area.  (Luke 2:8-20)

After Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph seek better accommodations.   Eight days after Jesus is born, He is circumcised in Bethlehem.  (Luke 2:21)

Thirty three days after Jesus is circumcised (Leviticus 12) Joseph and Mary travel to Jerusalem with their 6-week old baby.  The journey is about two miles.  After arriving at the Temple, they meet two elderly people who declare Jesus to be the Messiah and prophesy regarding Jesus’ ministry.  (Luke 2:22-38)

Matthew 2

After their stay in Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple, Mary & Joseph return to Bethlehem and find a house to stay in.  While in Bethlehem, a group of “wise men” from the east come to Jerusalem.  They tell Herod that a king has been born in his region.  They’ve seen His star and have come to worship Him.  After Herod gets more details he sends the wise men to Bethlehem, telling them to bring him word when they find Jesus.  Upon arrival they find Jesus in the house with Mary and worship Him.  After giving him costly gifts, they return to the East by a different route to avoid Herod.  (Matthew 2:1-12)

The night after the wise men visit, Joseph receives an alarming dream from an angel telling him to take Mary and Jesus to the land of Egypt to avoid Herod’s wicked plot to kill Jesus.  Joseph leaves that night and flees to Egypt.  The trip probably takes a few weeks.  (Matthew 2:13-15)

Herod realizes the wise men aren’t coming back.  In a blind rage he issues a decree for any children under the age of 2 to be murdered.  The city of Bethlehem probably loses 20 to 30 children in the massacre.  (Matthew 2:16-18)

After an unknown time (2 years?) Herod dies.  An angel visits Joseph in Egypt telling him it’s safe to return to the land of Israel.  (Matthew 2:19-21)

The family seeks to return to Bethlehem in the south but receive word from an angel that Herod’s wicked son Archelaus is reigning in his place.  They reluctantly return up north to the town of Nazareth where Jesus spends most of His earthly life.  (Matthew 2:22-23)

“And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” -Luke 2:40

December 2014 Newsletter – Indestructible Joy

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” –Luke 2:9-11

We should constantly be fighting for the-nativity-large-image-zoomjoy in our lives.  Not a joy that dissipates as our circumstances change but a joy that is indestructible, a joy that cannot be affected by what we have or do not have.  Indeed, this is what determines the spiritual health of every believer.  Are they happy in God?  Is the joy of the Lord their strength?

In a sense, all of our life could be defined as a battle to enter into indestructible joy.  We crave happiness, fulfillment, and safety.  We long for our hearts to be glad in God, though we may not have this kind of language for it.  The good news of the gospel is that this longing can be fulfilled.  In Christ our joy can finally become complete.  He Himself is joy incarnate and though He was a Man acquainted with sorrows, He was also the happiest Person that ever lived.  Where did His joy come from?  It came from the same place it comes for us: fellowship with the Father.  Psalm 16 tells us that “In His presence is fullness of joy”.  Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus was “anointed with the oil of gladness more than His companions”.  This is the joy of the Lord, the joy of Jesus.  It comes from abiding in God’s love.  It comes from walking in wholehearted obedience.  It comes from hearing the voice of God.  And it’s available for us if we really want it.  Jesus wants to impart this joy to us.  He longs for our hearts to be happy in God.  As we enter into another Christmas season, let’s remember to tap into this joy.  The simplest way is to set apart time to gaze at the mystery of His birth and to commit to wholehearted obedience.  We want the same good news that was announced to the shepherds 2,000 years ago to be alive in our hearts.

One cause of rejoicing this Christmas is that my Dad is still here!  Loretta & I were able to visit him and my Mom for Thanksgiving and we had a wonderful time.  We celebrated together by opening Christmas presents (We celebrated early since we’ll be in KC for Christmas), watching “It’s a wonderful life”, and stuffing ourselves with stuffing.  I was impressed by the nursing home my dad is living in.  It doesn’t feel institutional and the staff is always happy and helpful.  For where my Dad is at right now, it’s a wonderful place.  In fact, it’s such a large facility that many families celebrate the Holidays with their loved ones on the campus.  That’s exactly what we did.  All of our relatives came to my Dad’s place for Thanksgiving and we’re continuing to pray that his strength returns and that he fulfills all the days God has apportioned for him.

Here in Kansas City, everyone is gearing up for the annual “onething” conference at the end of the year.  One special note of excitement is that the world renowned evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, will be joining us this year.  He has ministered for decades in third world countries and his ministry has touched hundreds of thousands of people.  But most importantly, he’s a humble man whose heart burns with love for Jesus.  All of the staff at the International House of Prayer is looking forward to hearing him speak.  You can actually join with us online.  I believe the web stream is free.  The conference will be from December 28 – 31st.  By going to our website, “ihopkc.org” you can watch the sessions and see what Loretta & I are doing.  Merry Christmas!

The Remedy For Deception in the Church

church building

100 years ago William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said this about the twentieth century:

“The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and heaven without hell.”

We are now living in those days.  Everywhere one looks there’s a new doctrine that excuses people from living the true gospel.  Praise God, there’s still a righteous remnant in the land who hasn’t bowed their knee to Baal.  But still the danger is real.  This was the primary thing Jesus warned us of in the end-times: “Take heed that no one deceives you (Matt 24:4).”  

One of the worst things about being deceived is that you don’t know you’re deceived. You think you’re walking in the truth, when in reality, you’re not.  How do we know whether we’re walking in the truth or not?  How can we be sure we’re on the path that leads to life?

The simple answer is the Bible.  Despite the sinking sands around us, God’s Word is truth.  It has continued to be the anchor for the Church throughout the centuries.  Yet even if we’re in the Bible on a regular basis there is still opportunity for deception.   And this is where many believers stumble and believe a lie:

Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” – James 1:21-25

We must do what it says.  If we hear the Word but don’t obey it we deceive ourselves.  Sadly, this is happening in the Church now more than ever.  There are many worship leaders, pastors, and prophetic leaders who read, “take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life”, but don’t do what it says.  They drink too much alcohol and give their bodies over to drunkenness.  They read passages that say “The lamp of the body is the eye.  If your eye is good your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness”, but at night they binge on watching television shows and movies that grieve the Holy Spirit.  They hear passages saying, “Take heed what you hear”, but they indulge in worldly music that defiles them as they listen to it.

It almost seems they are living two different lives.  In the ministry they are anointed and sincere.  But in their personal lives they are grieving the Holy Spirit.  Their lifestyle choices are shallow which lead them to watch questionable things, listen to questionable things, and talk about questionable things.  But in the ministry they are reaching for God.

How do we reconcile such things?  How can we be reaching for God but still dabbling in compromise?  How can we be reading the Word but not doing what it says?  The answer is, we can’t.  Those who listen to the Word but don’t do what it says deceive themselves.  Over time, they become cynical towards the Church.  They’ve “been there, done that” and so they feel relieved from the responsibility of focusing.  Their lack of follow through after reading the Scriptures causes them to believe they’re walking in holiness, when they’re not.  The areas in the Bible they disobey have created “blind spots” in their spiritual vision, though they don’t know it.

This is when the fellowship of believers should come in.  We ALL have blind spots, every one of us.  Our fellow believers are meant to see these blind spots and kindly point them out to us in love (Eph 4:14).  Unfortunately now days, that’s pretty rare.  We’re too kind to confront.  We’d rather stay comfortable and not disturb anything.  But if we all stay comfortable how will we be freed from these blind spots?

What we need is a few courageous men and women who speak up.  But there’s one important thing these courageous men and women need to learn first: compassion.  If we’re beating people on the head with Bibles everywhere we go, not much is going to happen.  In fact, truth without mercy is a sure way to make things worse.  God usually brings these courageous men and women through a refining process before He uses them to speak the truth.  They must first learn their own weakness & depravity.  They must first learn that without the grace of God they’re nothing.  Then, once the refining process is complete they are ready to speak the truth in love.

The remedy for deception in the Church has these two components.  The first component is 100% obedience.  We sincerely seek to obey everything the Bible says, even the things that are difficult.  This requires us to read our Bible on a regular basis.  We regularly open the Word of God and then we commit to obey it.

The second component is the fellowship of believers.  We make a commitment to receive and give each other the truth in love.  We call each other higher.  We refuse to let our friends off the hook with disobedience.  We stand for holiness when it’s unpopular.  And we kindly address the blind spots we see in love.

It will take a lot of courage for the Church to be freed from deception.  It’s roots go a lot deeper than we realize.  But it is attainable and Jesus has promised a reward for all who overcome it (Rev 2:7, 26).  Let’s do this thing together.