The Covenant Love Message of Jesus

In my last blog, “When Relational Love Becomes Toxic,” I shard about how the Love message of Leonard Evans, based on I. John 4:7-11, had transformed my life (Read the blog for background related to this blog). It also laid the foundation for High Mill Church’s world view and foundation, back in the mid 1970’s. While Lenny’s message, then and even now,has transformed many lives, shortly before his death, we went to lunch, and Lenny told me that he had left something very important out of that message; He went on to say that it troubled him. As I stated in my last blog, I have wondered for years what that could have been. Then, just a short time ago, in the mountains of Armenia and Switzerland, the Lord revealed to me what Lenny was saying- the one part of “the Love Message” that completed the Message of Love that Jesus intended. He took me to John, chapter 21.

The disciples had gone fishing and caught nothing all night. Dawn arrives and from the beach Jesus asks about their catch.They had caught nothing. So, He tells them to throw out their net on the right side, and they would catch some. The haul was so many that they couldn’t haul in the net. Peter realizes that it is the Lord, and jumps into the water and heads for shore ahead of the others who pulled the loaded net to shore. There, breakfast was waiting for them. Jesus told them to bring some of the fish which they had caught. Something amazing happens here that most commentaries don’t comment on. Simon Peter brings a net with 153 fish in it. Have you ever wondered why the fish were numbered? The story continues with none of the disciples daring to ask Him who He was, because they knew. One part of the evidence was from the number 153, because when the number is broken down in ancient Hebrew, it states,”I Am God.” After breakfast, not only would Peter be restored from his betrayal, but would also be taught an amazing lesson about love; a lesson that I believe was the heart of Lenny’s Love Message that he failed to include.

In the American church today, the word love is tossed around a lot, but I believe is not understood in the way that Jesus lived and taught it. The beauty of this story was in Jesus’ willingness to restore Peter. As you read the chapter, Jesus asks Peter, ” Do you love me?” Peter responds emphatically,” You know Lord that I love you!” Jesus responds, “Then feed my sheep!” Three times Jesus asks the same question so that Peter truly understands what Jesus was asking. Jesus patience with us is mirrored in His patience with Peter in that He is willing to go any length to restore us, if we are willing. The understanding of what Jesus was asking of Peter is found in the meaning of two Greek words. When Jesus asked about Love, He was using the Greek word Agape, which translates boundless, unconditional, covent-al, and deeply loyal. Whereas, Peter used the Greek word Phileo as the word for love. Phileo love, while portraying brotherly love and care, is more emotion centered and can fluctuate depending upon circumstances such as performance and personal response to situations and experience. Simply, while Phileo love is relationship centered, Agape love is covenant centered. The difference is immense. The role of covenant, all throughout the old and new testament, is considered to be central to man’s relationship with His God and and with his brothers and sisters. This is made clear in I. John 4:7-11 where God is referred to as Agape Love. So How can relational love become become toxic creating idols in the heart, where relational soul ties replace our covenant relationship with God the creator of all relationship. Let me explain.

First of all, when personal church relationships become more important than hearing God’s soft still voice, God’s calling and destiny for us are replaced by how my friends act and respond to their surroundings physically and spiritually. The Holy Spirit is subsequently replaced by relational idols of the heart in the form of relationships that are neither healthy nor Biblical. Secondly, when relationships with others replace a personal relationship with God, unhealthy soul ties form where our spiritual walk is dictated by the responses and actions of others around us. Here, the “herd mentality” becomes the norm, as people’s personal commitment to a local church can be dictated by what their friends do. In my many years of experiencing “church life” in my church, as well as many others, I’ve seen churches become like country clubs, where people come to church to see each other and not hear from God; try preaching to that kind of crowd! Thirdly, in this setting, the focus shifts from God, to what have you done for me lately. I saw a cartoon recently that speaks truth to this issue. Someone quipped, ” I went to church today and didn’t really like the worship.” His friend responded,” Well that’s too bad, but we weren’t there to worship you!” Finally, Covenant love chooses to see the bigger picture in relationships and what God is up to. It’s roots are grounded deeply in unwavering love, loyalty, and commitment. It puts relationship with God before man, which in turn helps us to understand those around us. It models God’s unwavering love for us. In the old and new testaments, as the hands and feet of Jesus, we are referred to as a “kingdom of priests.” When defined by it’s Hebrew roots, the word priest literally means to show the world what God is like; to show off God! In a world of inconsistencies, lack of authenticity, commitment, and shallowness, it is so vital that if we are going to reach this generation, it becomes vital that our spiritual resume cannot be filled with a bunch of broken relationships but one of showing off our God to the world that we are different; that we are willing to reason with one another, be loyal to one another, and most of all be in true covenant relationship with one another. This is what Jesus taught , this should be what the church is reflecting, and I believe this is the missing component of Lenny’s incredible message of love- namely that it’s Covenant love that reveals the nature of our God, and it is that kind of love we must model if we are going to meet the challenge of reaching this desensitized generation for Christ!

When Relational Love Becomes Toxic

I met Lenny Evans in the early 1970’s, and I would never be the same again! Lenny was quite a guy. It seemed like he had doctorates from practically every major college in Europe and America, and with his some what British accent, sounded the part. Yet, for all of his knowledge and wisdom, he had the unique ability to take a complex subject and simplify it for anyone to understand. And so it was with his favorite subject to expound on. Lenny went all over the world teaching what he defined as the “Love Message,” based on I. John 4:7-11 which begins, ” Beloved, let us love one another, for Love is of God.” When I heard that message, my life would be forever changed, as would hundreds of my friends who established their walk of faith based on that same principle. In fact it would soon become foundational to a small Bible study in Massillon, Ohio that would later become High Mill Christian Center.
Lenny was not only a close personal friend but also a mentor, who loved to have me take him to lunch so that he could grill me concerning scriptures. I would leave those three hour sessions all beat up but the better for it, because Lenny loved me enough to be sure that I was handling the Word properly.
Lenny’s message was simplistic in nature; as God loves us, we ought to love one another the same way. It was simple but profound. It was and is the message of Jesus concerning how we treat one another. But shortly before Lenny died, we had one of our lunches and he told me something that I will never forget. He began in that unique accent that was all his own, ” I feel Chuck that I’ve left out part of the story about love, a missing chapter, that I deeply regret. I should have spent more time talking about a tough and abiding covenant love that doesn’t give up on others and is not dictated by emotions .” He didn’t go in to detail that day what he had left out, and as fate would have it, I would never have another opportunity to discuss the subject any further.
For years, I have wished that I would have had time to ask Lenny about what the Lord would have added to his Love Message. Amazingly, I had much like an epiphany or Revelation, while in Armenia and Switzerland, just several weeks ago. There, I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me what was in Lenny’s heart when he spoke those words to me. I believe that it was a revelation, first of all, of what true Love should look like in the body of Christ. But secondly and much more importantly- He revealed to me what takes place when Relational love and friendships replace the voice and Spirit of God speaking in guiding and casting future personal vision. It is when “Godly” personal relationships leave God out of the equation that toxic love replaces Jesus as Lord- making His will for our lives subject to the actions and wims of those I’m in deep relationship with. It is where the worship of personal relationships replaces the creator of all Relationship. He took me to John 21, and in my next blog, I will share with you what He revealed to me about toxic love and Lenny’s Love Message.

Fractured Faith- UN-Godliness in the Face of Testing and Adversity

I’ve been in the ministry for over 40 years and have seen just about everything, but there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me. It is when seemingly spiritual people respond in non spiritual ways when adversity and testings arise. I add the concept of testings because, often times, how we handle the test determines where our faith walk and spiritual journey takes us next.

I believe that the depths of a man’s relationship with Jesus Christ can be measured by his or her response to adversity and circumstances around them. Personally, I can tell you that failing the test at times can be part of the process of becoming what the Holy Spirit has in store for you, but the key becomes, what I have learned through adversity so as not to make the same mistake again. The Pharisees and Sadducee’s were considered deeply spiritual men in their day, but Jesus said about them in Matthew 13:13, ‘ For they look ,but they really don’t see, and they hear, but they really don’t listen or understand.’ Have you ever been in a conflict where someone refuses to see or listen even when the truth is placed before them? It’s as if there is a seemingly invisible barrier between the two of you. It is where wisdom and spiritual discernment are tossed aside and accusations and anger become the normative response.

We see this confusion and response in Peter’s life. Peter was one of the leading apostles and one of first disciples called by Jesus becoming spokesperson for the group. He also authored First and Second Peter. He was brash and bold in His Faith, walking on water,and cutting the ear off of Malchus the servant of the high priest when they came for Jesus in the Garden. It was Peter who proudly proclaimed in Matthew 16, ‘Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ It was Peter who said in Matthew 26:35,’ Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!…And all the other disciples vowed the same.’ Often times good intentions are not backed up by words and actions.

Peter became a man shaped on the Potter’s Wheel (Jeremiah 18), but it took failing the test to get there, because soon after all the gallant proclamations, Peter would deny the Lord three times. What is it that causes Christians in the Church to constantly reject the Gospel they’re supposed to be living and modeling and revert back to sinful and fleshy responses? Paul put it best in Galatians 3:1 in response to the Galatians reverting to old ways of thinking. ‘You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.’

So how can we pass the test when testing, masquerading as adversity, enters our quiet and peaceful lives? How can we march on to the next level of trust and purpose that the Holy Spirit has for us instead of circling the mountain of sinful responses over and over again? I want to share five simple and brief warnings that can save you from walking away from that destiny and next step of faith waiting for you,that your legacy might be fulfilled

First of all a former pastor shared from our pulpit recently that when she had been hired 18 years earlier, several people deeply hurt her. The easy thing would have been to run, but she didn’t. She stood the test, responded in a Godly way,and saw it for what it was-God’s test of her loyalty to the vision of our church. Now 18 years later, with mission trips all over the world, teaching seminars, women’s conferences, and many other experiences, Pastor Mary Kay said to think of what she would have missed if she had failed the test?

Secondly, When conflict arises, it is the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and discernment that should be governing your responses and not your tongue. In Acts 20:30 Paul warned the church, ‘ Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.’ What is in our hearts readily becomes evident by how we speak in tough situations. Scripture warns us again and again that we must not receive accusation but in wisdom and discernment, seek the Truth.

Thirdly, It is easy to be influenced by the roar of the crowd. It is human nature to listen to the crowd and let fear and confusion over ride what is the Truth. Peter did when he denied Jesus 3 times. Also, in Luke 12:54-56, Jesus said to the crowd before Him, ‘ You can tell when its about to rain by the cloud formations and when the south wind blows, you know that it will be a scorcher. You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and the sky, but you cant figure out and interpret the situations around you.’ This is why we have so many denominations. We are so spiritually naive and not prayed up at times that we cannot discern the signs of the times, so rather than seek God’s way, we just start another church for those confused individuals who are confused like we are.

Fourth, the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus is not only denied by verbal assaults but also how we model Jesus to the world. We must think before we speak. Hebrew teaching , when referencing our spoken words says that words have the power of life and death. Every word spoken can never be withdrawn. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.’

Fifth, stop listening to other voices but seek the voice of God. Psalms 46:10 states,’ Be still and know that I am God.’ Translated- cease striving, stop being so confused, wait in silent reverence, and let me speak! I have found out in talking to so many wounded believers, down through the years who had previously left other churches, that most often, they didn’t know why they had left.In most cases, they left because someone else, likely with second and third hand information was speaking into their ear and rather than trust the pastor or seek out the real answer, they walked out. That is the demise of the American church today.

Finally, consider the test laid before you, seek Godly wisdom and discernment, don’t surrender to the roar of the crowd, consider every word that you speak, and listen for God’s voice and not the voices of others, and you will graduate to the next part of the Plan that God has for you!

I Have a Friend for You to Meet!

In 1968,I met someone that I would like you to meet!I had read about Him and found Him to be quite famous. I heard a lot of people talking about Him and even heard some say that He really didn’t exist anymore in relevance. I listened to songs sung about Him, but I still had not met Him face to face.

Then one day,no more than a year after I had asked Jesus into my life,a little old Lady asked me if I had the Power. “Power”-what do you mean Power?”,I asked. In my short walk with Christ, my excitement and joy in knowing Jesus had seemed to wane, and I felt that there was more that I was missing, so when she talked about “Power”, I was ready to listen.

She invited me into her front room one afternoon, and sat me in a chair. Little did I realize that this chair was called the “hot seat”, where over the next four years, I would witness countless young people come into a deeper walk with Christ- one that I was about to experience, but that’s a story for another time! She tried to reassure me that what was about to happen wasn’t anything to fear. Actually how could I fear someone whose height barely reached four feet eight inches and weight tipped the scales around 100 pounds dripping wet. She simply placed her bony little hands on my head and asked me to invite the Holy Spirit to fill me. I knew that I received the Holy Spirit when I was born again, but this was different. She was asking me to invite the Spirit within me to flow out of me-in Power! Then I met Him. I can’t explain it. All I can tell you is that out of one simple act of obedience, my life was changed forever! I went from not sharing my faith with anyone because of inhibitions and fear to traveling the world, telling anyone who will listen about the one who desires to make you an over comer filled with His Power so that you can share the Great Commission to anyone who will listen!

Today, my heart is broken when I meet people who deny His rule and Authority in their lives. To deny the Holy Spirit, third part of the Holy Trinity, is to deny God Himself. Especially when I see high school students and Christian millennial’s, struggling to deal with a host of cultural attacks upon their walks with Jesus-individuals who know nothing about the believer’s second experience referred to as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. But I feel the deepest anguish, when I see believers settling for “casual Christianity”, which is void of True Joy, Peace, Purpose, and Vision. To be introduced to Jesus and then not have a Power packed relationship with Him is like falling in love with your human best friend without being able to enjoy the fruits of that relationship.

Yes, some will tell you that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the death of the last Apostle and the canonization of the Word. They will say that when “The Perfect” Paul talks about in First Corinthians 13:10 comes, there will be no need for supernatural Power. Because we now have the Word, we no longer need to be empowered. Such thinking is based on shallow exegesis of the written Word and poor historical understanding and time lines. Paul said, in relation to the “Perfect”, that when it would come the imperfect would pass away. He went on to say that when that Perfect would come, that,” Now I see dimly, but then I will see face to face.”(vs. 12)If the Perfect was the inscribing of the Word or Canon, then Paul missed it, because He died 35 years before various forms of the Canon came into existence and 25 years before the end of the Apostolic age! The “Perfect” (or completeness”) that Paul was waiting to see face to face must then be the return of the Lord Jesus, when there would be no longer a need for gifts, because the Giver of Gifts would be in our Presence!

Until then, the very Power that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us. (Romans 8:11), and that Power wants to flow out of you -putting an end to Casual Christianity forever! My Friend is waiting to become your Best Friend!

The Velvet Revolution

Now one week after the events, which myself and 3 team members witnessed in Armenia during the Revolution, I’ve had time to process what we actually experienced-Events which none of us will ever forget!

In today’s politically charged atmosphere, when Revolution is mentioned, violence usually follows, but the Velvet Revolution which it’s leader, the new prime minister, Nicholai, has called it, was and is different. Armenia has had governmental corruption at its core for years. It is a country that has suffered from genocide where a little over 100 years ago, 1.2 million Armenians were murdered by the Turks. It’s unemployment rate is astronomical, and the diaspora has led to her people being scattered all over the world; 2 million alone in Los Angeles. So one would expect that a country so scarred would be rife for a violent Revolution. But the Velvet Revolution or revolution that has gone very smoothly, would have none of it.

So, as Americans, what did we learn from these Brave Armenians, who have sought to gain their country back from those who would use her for their own selfish gain?

At the Constitutional Convention,in Philadelphia, during our Countrie’s founding, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a lady while leaving the meetings one day, Mr. Franklin, ‘What sort of a document are you giving us?’ Mr. Franklin replied, ‘ My lady, one that will last for many generations, if you base it on two important principles- A strong belief in God and strong moral character.’ Could it be in America that we are socially unraveling because we have walked away from those two principles?

What we witnessed in Armenia, in the mist of a diverse culture, was not unprincipled leaders trying to divide people into tribes or clans that they might war against one another and thus take advantage of chaos, but we saw a people who genuinely love their country and have put her interests first.

Because the love of God is deeply rooted in Armenian culture, we saw the respect for others and respect for human life honored everywhere. If there were instigators trying to take advantage of the moment, they were few and far between, and we didn’t see any! Because their universities and colleges don’t major in teaching radical political stances that only forment strife and division, there were no cars set on fire, rioting on campuses, nor fighting in the streets. The people were not interested in violence for violence sake, nor trying to make a statement by acting like thugs or petty criminals. In short, they were marching for a better life for their children and not for anarchy. While groups like Antifa in America and around the world seek anarchy as a means for what who knows, these Brave Young Armenians were looking forward to a future with renewed hope and change and standing up on its behalf!

Finally, it was a historic moment to be part of a Political Awakening that has a purpose, vision, and Goal-and that being to restore such Godly principles as honesty, integrity, morality, and vision to a country desperately in need of every aspect of Bibkical foundations. Prime Minister Nicholai has declared that Jesus is his hero. He will need his strength, anointing, and wisdom to fulfill the expectations now placed directly upon his shoulders!

Breaking the Heart of God

” And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His Heart.”(Genesis6:6)Does God have emotions? Of course He does! In John, He expresses Love. In Genesis and many New Testament passages, He has compassion. In Nehemiah, He is joyful, and we see Him Rejoicing In Isaiah. And yes, we see Jesus weeping in John at the death of Lazarus.(11:35)So how does He respond emotionally to our apahetic response towards His chief vessel, the Church- in this present church era?

What if I’m breaking the heart of God and don’t even realize it. Please, from my heart to yours,consider my words, because I believe that they reflect the very heart of God towards the Church that Jesus, God’s Son, gave His life for. And whether you are struggling with making sense of life right now or merrily going about living life, these words are for you.

How can I ever forget the unspeakable joy that I experienced just seven weeks ago, as I celebrated with 200,000 Ukrainians in Maiden Square, in downtown Kiev. They were not only celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, but the freedom to attend church and worship without the fear of going to prison or a re-education camp. Tens of thousands of teen and college age youth, family units, older people with Cains and walkers-they were all there to celebrate their freedom to worship-to be the Church, and boy did they party and celebrate that freedom!

As I shared in my last post, I will never forget that day, September 17th 2017. Eight hours before, we had begun our journey from L’viv, Ukraine on the train, and now we were about to witness the very first declared Day of Thanksgiving in the country of Ukraine. What were they being thankful for; the freedom to worship the one True God, as the body of Christ, without paying a heavy cost.

Now, seven weeks later, as I try to come to grips with what I witnessed, many thoughts and feelings are competing for my mind’s attention. But as I prayerfully have tried to think through just why God took me there-one overwhelming revelation stands out-THE CHURCH. And so, I want to share with you what He showed me; namely, what is breaking His heart concerning the church at large today.

Let me begin by saying that if you, the average American “Christian”,consider church as being irrelevant or not at the top of your priority list, you are increasingly, in this culture, in Spiritual danger. Now- hear me out. A recent reputable poll found that it is becoming commonplace today for the average believer to attend church only one in five Sundays! Hey- I’ve heard all the arguments;”I can do church at home. I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian or even a good person. There’s too much drama in church and hypocritical attitudes. I don’t have to be told how to live my life. Ive been hurt by Christians.” While there can be found fragments of truth throughout these arguments, how do our human imperfect responses impact an all loving but justice seeking God? Are we breaking the heart of God by our rebellion towards His Plan and why He birthed the church in Acts chapter 2?

I am increasingly seeing people coming and going to church on Sundays at their own convenience; showing up just enough to be sure that heaven still recognizes them but not enough to plant their flag, so to speak, while picking up the blood stained banner of Jesus Christ and taking the fight to the enemy along side of their fellow brothers and sisters who are counting the cost. The writer of Hebrews could not have made it any clearer when he wrote in chapter 10 verse 25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhort one another, so much the more as you see the day approaching. The times and ages never change. Let’s make his charge very simple-“THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY THEY ARE BELIEVERS BUT SEE AS IRRELEVANT AND UNIMPORTANT THEIR COMMITMENT TO THE CHURCH THAT JESUS DIED FOR. LET THEM KNOW THAT DANGER IS ON THE HORIZON, AND SOON, WE WILL NEED ONE ANOTHER MORE THAN EVER!

Doctor Tony Evans, in dealing with the state of the church today, had this to say.” The church is God’s primary agent for achieving His chief Goal-namely representing and advancing God’s Kingdom Rule. (Matt. 16: 18-19) That is why it saddens me when I meet Christians who are detached from the church, because I know that they are operating outside of God’s Plan and as such , are not well positioned to hear His Voice. Since He speaks the loudest within this Divinely established community, disconnected Christians are less likely to know His agenda and their part in it. The church is much more than a place where we go to get information, but it exists to cooperate and expand God’s Kingdom Agenda. The Bible refers to the church as a body (I. Cor. 12:13). Christ, as the head of the body, (Eph. 1: 22-23), communicates to the various parts of the body their function-that their Kingdom Purpose Role and Function might be lived out. But no individual part can receive instruction from the head, if it is detached from the rest of the body. Being connected to the church, as opposed to just attending occasionally, allows the Holy Spirit to speak into your life in ways that being detached could never accomplish. I truly believe that when God sees that He can work through us to be a blessing, He is much more apt to speak to you , trusting you with with His insight and instruction. This takes place in communion and the unity of the brethren.”

Well there, I have shared my heart! Let it never be said about us that we Broke the Heart of God by being indifferent towards His Greatest Chosen Vessel to establish His Kingdom Rule. Could it be that Revival is not engulfing our country because rebellion towards the Church, with all of it’s human imperfections, has hardened our hearts? Will we be like Israel and continue going around the same mountain until persecution and evil force us to love one another, stand with one another , and support one another again?

If you consider this an important message for the church at large, please feel free to re post!

Jesus Shines over Kiev

“Shine Jesus Shine-fill this land with the Father’s Glory- blaze Spirit blaze set our hearts on fire. Flow river flow, flood the nations with Grace and mercy-send forth your Word Lord, and let there be light.”

Thirty years ago, a powerful worship song echoed throughout the church with a passion and fervor that helped to ignite the Charismatic revival that was sweeping our country and the world. It was a song for the ages-with a message of hope for today! That song would be the musical theme for what we were about to experience in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

I will never forget September 17th 2017. Eight hours before, we had begun our overnight train journey from L’viv Ukraine. The ride was uneventful but filled with expectation of what was about to happen in downtown Kiev on Maidan Square- celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther, and which declared that salvation was not found in good works alone, but in the saving Grace of Jesus Christ.

As we left the Kiev train station, the fall air was crisp and the sky was a deep royal blue, with nary a cloud in the sky. Soon as<img src="; alt="kiev" we approached the Square, also known as Independence Square, we were immediately reminded of events that transpired there on November 21st 2013 when a violent revolution led to the deaths of many young Ukrainians. There were pictures honoring the dead on walls and buildings signifying the cost of the revolution which had established a new government in 2014. But today, there would be a different revolution taking place on the streets of Kiev.

The history of the Ukrainian people has been filled with human tragedy and violence. Especially during the last 100 years, the nation has experienced untold suffering -casting a shadow of darkness over her people and future. Beginning with the forced famine, instigated by Russian leader Joseph Stalin in 1932, which lead to the starvation deaths of 7,000,000 men, women, and children and soon followed by WWII, And ending with Communist rule that lasted until 1991-Ukraine had been cloaked in darkness for many years. But today would be different! The shadows of suffering and pain were being replaced by the dawning of a New Day and a Celebration of New Beginnings! Through a declaration ratified by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko , this day would not only honor the church reformation, led by Martin Luther but a Spiritual Revolution celebrating a New Day of religious freedom for Ukraine.

As we made the 20 minute journey to Maidan Square, we turned on to Khreshchatyk street which had always been a staging ground for Communist party demonstrations. But now people were joining us from every Ukrainian province, and what had begun as a trickle, was now quickly becoming thousands of Christians, marching under a different banner proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

I will never forget what happened next. As we approached a giant screen and stage, approximately 3,000 feet in front of us, as if on queue, the stringed orchestra, flutes and trumpets began to play "Shine Jesus Shine". It didn't matter that the choir hadn't joined in yet, because the words echoed in my heart and spirit as the sounds echoed between the towering buildings and alley ways.

"Lord, the light of your love is shining-in the midst of the darkness shining. Jesus light of the world shine upon me. Set us free by the truth you now bring us-shine shine on me."

Now, as days are turning into weeks, I do not believe that I have yet grasped the true meaning of what happened that day. Being part of a gathering which grew to 200,000, and experiencing joy that I have not seen since the JESUS Revolution OF THE 1960's and 70's, truly revived my spirit and reminded me that freedom isn't free and cannot be taken for granted; because these believers were not just celebrating Jesus but the freedom to worship Him!

Yet what amazed me more than anything, was not the sheer numbers, but the ages of those attending. Everywhere I looked, I saw families, young and old celebrating together their freedom in Christ- whether it was political or spiritual. I must add that as I observed the crowd, the average age had to be 30 and younger, with a large percentage being teenagers! This gave me renewed hope for our country!

Finally, I've asked myself the question as to why I had been given the privilege by God to attend such an important gathering in the history of Ukraine and the world, for that matter. A few thoughts have come to mind. First of all, I was reminded of the importance of the family unit as central to a country remaining strong. Because when family structure begins to crumble, a country decays from within. Judges chapter 2 verses 10-11 state, "When all the generations had been gathered to their fathers, there arose another generation who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children did evil in the sight of the Lord and served other Gods." This is an amazing picture of our country today. But Hope was birthed within my heart that day on Khreshchatyk street/Maidan Square , because God loves America just as much as He does Ukraine, and what He is doing there, He can certainly do here among our youth!

One Final point- one of the speakers, Terry Mecuwsen, from CBN, shared a thought that is still echoing in my mind. She began, "God is not looking for men and women of power and wealth. He is looking for men and women who are looking for Him." Those who came to Maidan Square on that beautiful fall day were not people of power and wealth but a people filled with meekness and humility-and they accomplished what no previously powerful world system could ever achieve, because they Looked for God, and they found Him!

"As we gaze on your kingly brightness, so our faces display your brightness. Ever changing from Glory to Glory-mirrored here, may our lives tell you story. Shine shine on me,

*You can listen to SHINE JESUS SHINE on You-tube.

What Ever Happened to John Kennedy’s America?

I-Phone update 12-10-16 0091-johnfkennedy109213“Let the word go forth, from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”                                              January 20, 1961 Inaugural Address  John F. Kennedy

This blog is not about personalities or even politics, for that matter. It’s not about whether you are A Democrat or a Republican or even who you voted for or what axe you have to grind. But it is about taking a long hard look in the mirror and asking the question- whatever happened to decency and free debate; even more so, just what are we allowing ourselves to become morally?

Benjamin Franklin, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia, in September 1787, was asked by a lady standing outside,” Mr. Franklin, what sort of document have you given us?” He replied, ” A Document that will stand the test of time, if you ascribe to two principles- First of all, as a nation and government, retaining a strong belief in God, and secondly and concurrently, retaining a strong moral foundation; without either, this document cannot stand.”

Whatever happened to Kennedy’s Torch passed down to our generation? Is it on the verge of being extinguished? What has happened to our integrity and character-both personally and politically? Where has respect for authority and the common good gone? We live in a time where arrogance has replaced humility, civility has been replaced by rebellion and anger, and truth with a lie. Seems like I read about this scenario in the Bible some place before, but that’s for the next blog.

We have practical examples all around us; For example, the movie industry has made it illegal to have actors or actresses smoking during any scenes. Just recently, a high school football coach was fired for kneeling in a moment of silence, at the end of a football game. In unbelievable comparison, a play in New York City, is allowed to continue night after night, depicting the President of the United States, playing Julius Caesar, being assassinated while the crowd cheers. A so-called entertainer, trying to gain ratings, holds up a bloodied severed head of the President of the United States and thinks it’s cute. Sadly, many on the left agreed with her in print and commentary. Save for the Grace of God, just several weeks ago, 20 Congressmen could have been massacred at a softball practice to raise money for charity. The gunman had a mind that had been poisoned by the media. Do you remember even five years ago, speakers being shouted down, buildings being burned, and college presidents surrendering their authority to ruthless thugs bent on not allowing free speech to Conservatives because well-they are conservative in their political views. The double standards are unparalleled in our nation’s history.  In John Kennedy’s America, coaches would have been praying and those espousing hate filled speech and actions would have been locked up!  Granted, John Kennedy, like all of us had issues, and America, during those years faced racial inequality and political turmoil about to be unleashed with the Vietnam War. But his America and the message he delivered, brought hope that together, we could make it. It seemed like Americans believed in America and our destiny as leaders of the Free World. Today, I wonder how many millennial’s even care to pick up that torch again. I was stunned when over Memorial Day Weekend, a talk show host walked the beaches of Southern Florida, as well as some major college campuses, asking question related to our heritage and history. One college sophomore, at a California college, was asked what year we declared our independence? He responded,”1984?” A young lady on the beach was asked who we fought in the Revolutionary War, and she responded,”China?” I could share many more enlightening facts concerning the state of affairs on American College campuses, but you can see my concern.

So what must we do as counter-cultural Christians to bring decency and spiritual order back into our culture and government? What role must the church play in that change in strengthening Benjamin Franklin’s two points of reference for a sound and functioning society? I want to address those issues in my next blog but want to leave you with several thoughts that will form the thesis and basis for that blog. First of all, we must realize that we are not dealing with political parties as much as principalities and wickedness in high places. While our government has many Godly men and women in office, the level of spiritual warfare has attained to new heights never seen before. Jesus warned us about these days. Secondly, we cannot wring our hands in despair, but fall on our knees, cursing the darkness and rejoicing in the Light of the One whose Kingdom is coming and even now dwells in us.

Finally, don’t surrender to a spirit of fear. The mayor of London recently proclaimed that we must learn to co-exist with terrorism as a fact of life. Wow! Realize that Jesus spoke of these times and false prophets and purveyors of lies and sent a remedy- His Holy Spirit that we might wave the banner of Righteousness and silence our enemies. This is going to be the Church’s finest hour!

As a nation, we must become unified again. We must pray for revival of enormous proportions, because that is what it will take to free our country of the evil besetting us. We cannot stand divided as a nation. President Lincoln , himself a Spiritual man, coined these words before his death.” At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us in a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined , with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it will  ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be it’s author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” Kennedy would have agreed!

Redeeming the Time

My God,where has all the time gone? I will never forget that moment in time when my dad said to me,” You know, one day you will wake up and be 40 years old and wonder just where all the time has gone.” I was only 14 or 15 at the time and today, while I can’t even remember what 40 looked like, I can appreciate what he was trying to communicate. Time is a precious commodity and too often, we don’t appreciate the fact that it is passing by at a rapid rate. Too often we wake up realizing that we have wasted valuable moments and what could have been becomes a distant memory instead of a promising future.

In 1819, Washington Irving, an American author, penned a short story set in the years before and after the American Revolution in a village at the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains. Here lived kindly Rip Van Winkle, a Dutch villager who was a blessing to the children in the village, spending time telling stories and fixing their broken toys. He also loved wilderness activities and hanging out with his friends. But to his nagging wife’s dismay, he shirked his duties at home and their farm fell into disarray. One autumn day, to escape his wife’s nagging, Van Winkle wandered into the mountains with his dog Wolf and suddenly hears his name called out. He sees a man wearing antiquated Dutch clothing carrying a keg up the mountain hollow. Seeing that he needed help, he gave him a hand. Soon he hears a thunderous roar where a group of ornately dressed bearded men were playing “nine pins”- a form of bowling. He doesn’t ask who they are but instead begins to drink from the keg and soon falls asleep.

When Van Winkle awakens, he finds himself in a totally different season of living. His musket is rusty and falling apart, his beard was a foot long, and Wolf was no where to be found. He returns to his village and knows no one. He soon learns that a revolution has taken place and a portrait of George Washington has replaced the one of King George the Third on the inn’s sign. He then finds that most of his friends had been killed in the revolution and there was another Rip Van Winkle in the village-namely his grown son! He also discovers that he had been gone for 20 years, and  his wife had died some time ago, but the news didn’t sadden him.

Awhile back, I was called to the hospital to pray with a dying man. As he lay in his bed, with only a short time to live, I asked him if he knew Jesus, and he said ,”No.” So I knelt at his side, and he prayed with me and as the words of salvation fell from his lips, he began to weep uncontrollably. When we were done praying and talking, I was going to leave when he looked up at me and said something that I will never forget. He began,” There is something that you must know; I’m not crying because I finally made it right with God, but more so for the years that I have wasted when I could have had the joy and peace that I have right now.” He was talking about time that was too late to redeem. He died an hour later.

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us this,” Be very careful then how you live-not as unwise but wise. Make the most of every opportunity-redeem the time, because the days are evil.” Question- What if you were to fall asleep one night and not wake up for 30 or 40 years? What would your reaction be? How would you feel about those wasted years and how time has passed you by; especially when you looked in the mirror?

I believe even more disturbing would be to hear the claims of Christ presented to you and realizing that He has something wonderful in store for your life, and then deliberately walking away and doing your own thing and rejecting His Plan- only to come out of the spiritual fog years later and realize that it was too late and a lifetime had passed you by.

In the Greek language, there are two words for the word time. Chronos time is simply time that just rolls on-day after day week after week with effortless boredom and monotony. I’ve seen kids lost in video games for days and weeks at a time with no real appreciation for the time that it is taking nor the opportunities missed. But Kairos time is time that is appointed. It is Divine! It is time in due season where opportunities abound. It is Kairos that is used to define time in this Ephesians scripture. Paul is challenging his readers that the times are evil and that they (we) must be careful how we use our time-being wise and making every moment count! Paul is saying,”Wake up church! We can enjoy the pleasures of life, but we must be aware that time is short and Jesus desires through us to extend His Kingdom Rule in a Culture that is decadent and crying out for answers. We are the Answer, because we have the Truth! Romans 8:11 tells us that the very power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. How can we sit on that and not take advantage of the time that we have been given on this earth to extend His Kingdom Presence ? There are Divine Appointments all around us waiting to be birthed if we are willing to seize the moment with open ears, seeing eyes, and expectant hearts! Don’t let life and time pass you by because of circumstances, perceived hurts, or selfishness. Rise up , experience the moment, become true History Makers and Changers and let it never be said of you that you sat on your gift while others were perishing!

We are a tapestry of life’s experiences, and when we allow those experiences to shape our destinies, what we are becomes a reflection of who we we were and most importantly, what we shall become-His workmanship redeeming the time allotted to us!Rip Van Winkle