Hope in Christ

April 2015 Newsletter

“But I will hope continually, and I will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits. I will go in the strength of the Lord God.” -Psalm 71:14-16

I’m writing this update on a rainy day here in Wisconsin at my parents house. We’ve spent the last week having as much quality time with my Dad as possible, while helping my Mom out around the house. As many of you know, his health seems to have 03738_sunset_1680x1050declined more the last few weeks. He is now sleeping most of the day and finds it very difficult to speak. It’s painful to see a man who loves so well and who is so filled with life disabled from sickness. But even now, our family is filled with hope and is singing praise to Jesus. We know that in Christ, death always leads to life and that the valley always lead to a mountaintop.

Paul the Apostle said something that seems to contradict what the world around us says: “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We don’t often see death as gain, it feels like loss. Of course, it is a loss for friends and family members. When someone we love goes home to be with Jesus it creates such pain in our hearts. They’re presence is no longer with us and the gap that is created by their absence seems unbearable. But truly, for a Christian, death is gain. Paul said that it’s far better to be with the Lord. We rest in the hope that when we die our spirits go to the the New Jerusalem (Heaven) where there is perfect peace and joy. All the saints of old eagerly wait there to return with Jesus to the earth at the sound of the last trumpet. The dead in Christ will be raised and receive their new and improved body. In this body we will eat, work, touch, and experience life just as we do now. But it will be so much better! No more sickness or pain. Perfect beauty. Boundless joy. In Christ, we can rejoice even in death because we know the end of the story. We will live for billions of years with Jesus as priests to our God. Hallelujah!

One highlight from this last week was the Sunday before Easter. A group of believers have been visiting my Dad weekly on Sunday afternoons with a guitar and violin to worship Jesus right there in the nursing home. It blessed us so much to see how many people love my parents. As we sang songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” the atmosphere became charged with hope. We’re so grateful for this band of believers who are loving my family so well!

Would you also join with my family in praying for my Dad’s healing? One of the Scriptures the Lord gave me as we pray for him is in the book of Daniel. It’s the response of three young Jewish men after Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace: “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).” We have faith that God is able to heal my dad and are believing He will do it. Sickness entered the world as an enemy of God. Jesus wants us to be whole and we are standing on that promise. We’re praying for my Dad to fulfill all his days and even that his life would be extended. But no matter what happens we will continue to trust in the Lord. We will not be offended. We will trust His leadership. Some believers find it difficult to do these things at the same time. Praying in faith for healing while praising Him when nothing seems to be happening can seem painful. But this kind of faith pleases the Lord like nothing else can. We choose to hope continually and praise His name to the end. As we do so Jesus will be glorified and will strengthen our faith.

Responding to the Crises in the Nations

March 2015 Newsletter

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled. For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My names sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another…and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:3-12

By now, it’s obvious that the spiritual 794869063atmosphere of the earth is changing. ISIS grows in numbers and power as they slaughter hundreds of innocent people. Anti-Semitism grows at an alarming rate in Europe as well as here in America, so much so that it’s starting to look like it did before World War 2. The homosexual agenda has entered much of the Church as many spiritual leaders passively condone it. Movies coming out in theaters are defiling young people’s minds with distorted views about sex, relationships, and morality. Terrorist attacks and rumors of wars are everywhere on the news. Famines and diseases continue to ravage countries throughout Africa. Christians who take a stand for Jesus are being persecuted and ostracized by society more than ever. If this isn’t the time Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24 known as “the beginning of birth pains” I don’t know what is.

The good news is that Jesus isn’t nervous as He sees all this. He is sovereign and is orchestrating everything with perfect wisdom, justice, and love. We don’t have to be afraid of the things we’re hearing and seeing on the news. In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus told us not to do,“see that you are not troubled.” But at the same time, the bad news is that this pressure and crisis in the nations isn’t going to go away. It’s going to get worse. The pressure will keep mounting until the crescendo at the end of the age when Jesus returns to the earth and sets up His kingdom. If we’re finding it hard to stand for Jesus now and maintain our stand for righteousness, what will we do when it gets worse? More than ever before, the Church needs to slow down and focus on what actually matters. Love, humility, the kingdom of God, family, Bible study, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, holiness: these are the things that matter. The newest I-phone, hollywood movie, Oscars gossip, or personality test on Facebook don’t matter much, especially in the season we’re in. We can no longer afford to waste time with these types of things. We must heed the words of Jesus, “and what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mark 13:37)”

Loretta & I have felt the weight of what’s happening in the earth right now, as we believe you have. There is a new sobriety in the Prayer Room. Though our hearts are filled with joy as we see the breakthroughs of prayer, we are beginning to pray more urgently, realizing that our prayers have the power to change the destiny of our Nation. If the Church does not stand against this darkness, no one will. It’s time to wake up from our slumber and pray. It’s time to be brave and take a stand for what may be politically incorrect. Anti-semitism has been a particular concern lately. At the weekly Sunday Service last week, a video was shown on how anti-semitism is growing on college campuses. In response, our IHOPKC community gathered together in the prayer room in a “solemn assembly” to focus on praying for the people of Israel and their salvation. Like never before the Church needs to take her place as a light in the darkness. We can no longer afford to be asleep.

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