Are You Ready?

I-Phone update 4-1-16 011As I  share these words, My heart is overwhelmed , because I was blessed to be part of something so overwhelming that even now, It is hard to comprehend as well as understand the depths of God’s mighty love. The Jesus’ Movement had burst on the scene, in the 1970’s followed by the Charismatic Renewal in the Protestant and Catholic Church. But as amazing and life changing as those Moves of God were, there was the Promise of another Movement of God’s Spirit that was in the formative stages laying the groundwork for a Revival that would shake our world in the not to distant future, and it would directly spring forth from my hometown of Canton, Ohio. Canton would not be the only aquifer or well spring of Revival nor would it be out of just one church. But it would burst forth from  those believers in our city hungering after God with a passion not seen before. This article is a reprint from an article that I wrote in November 2002, because the Movement has begun, Heaven is waiting, and the Holy Spirit is Gathering His Army signifying that Jesus is waiting on us, His Church, to burst upon the scene in all of His Magnificence and Glory! So here goes.

“Do you understand that where you live is unique to God’s end times plans. Do you realize that God has chosen your city to be mightily used in the Last Great Revival that will sweep the world?”

Those words I will never forget, and as my dear friend Miriam King related them to me, I came to the realization that I was part of something very huge spiritually. Miriam and Claire King, her husband, were spiritual giants in my life back in 60’s and 70’s, as well as giants in this city in the area of spiritual healing. . I had the privilege of attending many of their healing services at Christ United Presbyterian Church in downtown Canton when such things were unheard of . It was an encounter that Miriam had with a visiting  U.S. congressman’s wife that forever changed the direction of my life , for it began a sequence of events that have transgressed these past 40 some years. I remember the day that Miriam called me and mentioned that she wanted to share something with me concerning her conversation with the senator’s wife. She shared that as she approached the city, she saw a dome of light over Canton, and the Holy Spirit began to speak to her heart these words, as well as those above. ” I have chosen this city to be a key player in what I am about to do all over the world.”

We’ll, as a new believer and just recently baptized in the Holy Spirit, as well as possessing  a discerning if not skeptical mind, I heard those words but did not allow them to penetrate my heart nor understanding. But what I want to share with you is what the Holy Spirit did with those words, and just how He confirmed many times His Plan for our city. Space does not allow me to journal the totality nor depth of my experience, but I pray that as I share a few examples from the archives of my journey, you will be encouraged to know you also are part of something very special that God is about to do through our church and churches and city.

Several years after that initial encounter, I found myself in school in Anaheim, California, which was a miracle in itself, because being a homebody, California was the last place that I would have gone for seminary after  just dropping out of graduate law school. Then, strange things began to happen. One Sunday morning, in the midst of 4,000 people, my pastor called me out of the crowd. I couldn’t believe my eyes as he was directly looking into mine  and summoning me forward. As several friends pushed me out into the isle, I stumbled towards the front. With eyes that seemed to pierce through me, the pastor  looked at me and said,” Son, God is taking you back to Canton, Ohio to start a church and out of your city, will flow revival that will touch the world. ” I was speechless, because I had never met him nor spoken about where I was from.

A week or so later, I met a lady named Doris Smalley  who proceeded to tell me about a vision that she recently had. How I had met her, was another Divine Appointment that was beyond logic for my brain to figure out. Anyways, she had been waiting to meet me. The first words out of her mouth when she saw me were,”You’re the one.” ” The One what, I responded?” she replied,” You are going back to your city, and you’re going to start a church which will minister to youth in particular, but it will also minister all over the world. She then went on to describe our original meeting place at High Mill swim park, even describing the color of the front doors on the farm house which was our meeting place. She said that she had been given it in a vision. She and her husband Phil, became like our spiritual parents for the next 15 years and eventually came back and shared one Sunday morning the whole experience.

Sometime later, I was in San Francisco and during a church service, a man began to prophesy. ” There is a city in Ohio, named Canton, out of which will flow a mighty revival in the last days.” I was stunned and turned to a friend and said, ” Did you tell him that I’m from Canton, Ohio?” ” No, he replied, I didn’t know that was where you’re from.” No more than a week later, the same thing happened in Los Angeles and later in Denver and Canada.

Down through the years,  at various conferences, when my hometown’s name has come up and I’ve mentioned Canton, Ohio, I’ve gotten the same response. Not too long ago at a mega church in Atlanta, Georgia, a pastor friend related a like occurrence. The pastor began his sermon and then abruptly stopped. He began, ” I can’t go any further until I say something. There is someone here from Canton, Ohio and the Holy Spirit wants you to know that out of your city will flow a mighty revival that will touch the whole world.”

A well known author recently shared in a magazine article about Revival flowing out of Ohio-especially out of the northeast part of the state. A noted evangelist recently did likewise.

Church-What does this mean? Does it mean that we are special or more anointed? Of course not! I feel that it only speaks of the blood, sweat, and tears, as well as prayer that have been sown in this city and for this city by those who have possessed obedient servant hearts. I believe that we are going to reap the harvest which they have sown-And the scripture, “weeping and sorrow are at night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5)  will be our victory and destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

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When is the Last Time You Were a “Shoshben” to Someone?”

It had been a very warm day, and I was emotionally spent. It was my fourth day teaching at a college in Vanadzor, Armenia. I had been invited to teach a two week seminar at a local Christian College under conditions that were brutal. The temperature was approaching the low ninety’s, and there was no air conditioning nor any  fans. And while the students were very attentive and eager to learn, eight hours with only a one half hour break was taking it’s toll on all of us. It was approaching evening as I walked back to the small apartment where I was staying, and needless to say, I just wanted to relax in my room. But as I approached the door, I found that it was locked and my host was no where to be found. It is here that an adventure began that would touch my life and heart forever.

Darkness had set in, and I had no place to go. So, I walked back down the eight flights of stairs that I had climbed to reach my flat and just stared out into a small park area wondering what do I do now?. There sitting on a park bench were three older ladies, who I knew that were locals and spoke no English. Immediately one of them waved for me to come over. That was my first meeting with Asia. Probably in her mid 70’s, with a big smile and friendly heart, she asked me in Russian what I was doing. I spoke enough Russian, to explain that I was locked out and my host wasn’t home. Immediately Asia got up and told me to follow her. As we climbed back up the eight flights of stairs in what was a vintage world war two apartment complex, we soon arrived at Asia’s apartment which surprisingly was across the hall from mine! That began a friendship that has now lasted almost 15 years.

Over this time span, Hebrews 13:1-2 has become somewhat a reality in my relationship with Asia. ” Keep on loving each other as brothers (and sisters). Do not forget to entertain strangers , for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Was Asia an angel like the writer was talking about? I cannot say for sure, but she was one to me one scary night in a far distant country.

Asia has always had uncanny way of knowing when I show up to visit. She will tell others that her Pastor Chuck arrived yesterday or whenever without me ever letting her know that I was coming. I could cite so many other supernatural happenings through the years that sometimes do make me wonder about the angel thing; like her praying for me all night at times when I needed it the most. But that is not the focus of this article. You see, the day that I met Asia, that soft still voice of the Holy Spirit, spoke to me and said that I had been put in her life to ease her burden-To become a “Shoshben”to her. For almost 15 years, financially and otherwise, I have tried to fulfill that promise.

So what then is a “Shoshben?” In Eastern culture, a Shoshben was a friend of the Bride Groom.His responsibility was to handle all of the preliminaries that would take place before the marriage celebration. He made sure that invitations went out and the food was ordered. Besides helping with the ceremony, he would stand guard over the wedding celebration tent-where the groom would take his bride after the ceremony. He held a position of honor as the groom’s best friend.

John 3:29 explains it this way. “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom,waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.” Thus,as John was preparing the way for Jesus, his words are likened to the role of the Shoshben.  John was positioning the lost to receive the bridegroom who was coming-Jesus Christ. John held that position of Honor for Jesus. He was His Shoshben, so to speak.

A Shoshben then positions a person to receive Christ. Much like with the “Woman at the Well”, Jesus positioned her to receive the Words of the Father. Barimaeus, Zaccheus, Peter and John- all of these men plus many others, Jesus came along side of, and became a Shoshben, in front of them, to reveal the Father’s Plan through his example of caring love.

Look at it this way. Every time you take someone to lunch, a ball game, or spiritually intervene and show them the Father’s Love,you become a Shoshben in their life-preparing the way for the Messiah; positioning them for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ!

Relational Evangelism is very simple. We are the friend of the Bridegroom and have been given the most honored position of preparing people to Encounter Jesus Christ. But we must keep in mind that people don’t come to Jesus through osmosis or even acts of love. Through Word, deed, and action we are to pave the way for a Jesus encounter so that one day when Jesus becomes Lord, they will have already seen and DSC_0183met Him through you-the Shoshben, the very hands and feet of Jesus!

 

 

 

Are You Ready For Some Good News?

35-ISRAEL October 2015 432JUBILEE- (Hebrew -yovel)” A season of restoration, overflowing joy, forgiveness, debt removal, and the releasing of God’s Mercies every 50 years.”  Jewish custom has much to say concerning “The Year of Jubilee,” but my focus concerning Jubilee, in this blog, is to examine this period of time in light of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke chapter 4.:17-19. Here, Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day and stood up to read, and there was given Him the book of the Prophet Isaiah . “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for this reason; He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal those who are brokenhearted , to proclaim pardon to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth in deliverance those who have been crushed-To proclaim the acceptable Year of the Lord.” Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2. And what is amazing, with these words, His official ministry began on Wednesday September 11, 26 A.D.- The Day of Atonement and the beginning of the Year of Jubilee according to early church scholars.

Though today, modern Judaism does not recognize the celebration because it is non-applicable until representatives of all 12 tribes have returned to Israel and a majority of Jews live in the Land- ie. making Aliyah or the journey back to the Jewish homeland.. Yet the “types and shadows” of Old Testament Law invoked through Jesus’ ministry beginning on Jubilee, have immense implications. According to some Jewish Believers who believe that Jubilee can be practiced because of the establishment of the nation-state of Israel, the latest period of Jubilee began September 28, 2015, with the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles and will end in October 2016 with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. But it is not so much a date or event that I want to focus on, but rather what the Spiritual Concept of Jubilee offers to the Believer every day!

Jesus’ words in Luke,(quoting Isaiah), offer incredible Promises for those of us who celebrate The reign of Christ in our lives.  Jesus declares that He has been given Authority to help the poor-both physically and spiritually, heal broken hearts, set those trapped in impossible situations free, heal the blind who can not see right from wrong , and deliver those who have given up on life. He ended by declaring that, “The favorable time of the Lord has come.” In a Jewish sense, this referred to various feasts, but for our examination- I believe and Prophetically Declare that Jesus was saying, “Look up! I am offering you all that is necessary to regain control of your life. I don’t care how bad that it has been! This is a New Day, and I am ready to do a New Thing in and through you if you are willing to trust Me. So lay down all the excuses that are stopping you from becoming what you know that you have been called to do, pick up your Cross and follow me, for I am about to take you to realms that you never thought possible! No Longer can you look back, because I have Incredible News and  New Paths for you, stretching into a New Future so profound that if you were to know your Destiny’s conclusion, it’s very Glory would overwhelm you!”

Jesus came to declare a new season in our lives, and while the Jewish concept of Jubilee has a unique focus all it’s own, for us as Believers in Yeshua’s Masterful Plan for our lives, our Jubilee has come in the personage of a Suffering Servant, who, through His brokenness, our broken and scarred lives have been restored and now reflecting His Glorious likeness.

I want to conclude by examining a picture that I took portraying an early morning sunrise on the Sea of Galilee depicted above. I want to draw from it a Prophetic Picture of what I sense the Holy Spirit saying for our Jubilee year of 2016 and beyond. “As the early morning Sun rises over Galilee, depicting God’s Glory and Radiance-so I Am offering to you a fresh start, a season of restoration and joy in the broken places of your life, a reigniting of fresh enthusiasm, direction, and purpose, and a releasing of Holy Spirit Anointing- giving you relevance and a mandate to set the captives free leading people to the saving knowledge of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!” This is what He has given to me at the beginning of this Jubilee Year, and it is what I share with you as encouragement and strengthening for the establishment of His Kingdom Rule here on earth! Hadn’t we be about the Father’s business?

 

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So What’s the Big Deal with Israel Anyhow?

 

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As we stood on the Israeli Syrian border, with outstretched hands, we asked God to bless and protect our Syrian brothers and sisters, less than 50 miles from our vantage point. For me personally, it was a moment etched into my memory and feelings that I will never forget. While we stood safely and secure, under the protection of the Israeli army, just a short distance away, many were dying for their faith in Jesus Christ. In a sea of persecution, murder, and genocide, there we stood on a sliver of land, no bigger than 263 miles north to south and at it’s deepest width, no more than 71 miles, and it’s narrowest 9.3 miles. Israel can be driven north to south in approximately 5-6 hours and west to east in less than 2 hours. Under normal circumstances, one might ask why the Middle East is on the verge of major war over such an insignificant piece of real estate-the size of New Jersey? Well, these are not normal times and the significance of the establishment of the Jewish nation is key to understanding the times in which we are living- times in which the prophets dreamed of seeing and we are blessed to participate i Notice the size comparison between Israel and the Arab World below.

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I have been home approximately 3 weeks from a Holy land Pilgrimage which we saw transform many lives. While I have been to Israel many times, I can tell you that the excitement and joy of going again has never lost it’s splendor and expectancy for me, and each experience in the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob always offers new insight and clarity into God’s Plan for Israel and the Church.

Yet- this trip seemed different. I was given a new awareness of the Miracle that is the nation of Israel. Just think of it! The prophet Isaiah, writing approximately 2,700 years ago, proclaimed in chapter 66 verse 8, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” Yes! On May 14-15, 1948, by a United Nation’s charter vote, Israel was established as a nation-In one Day! In this article, it is not my intent to re-examine my last blog- “The Role of Israel and the Church” but to create an awareness of Israel’s Role in God’s Plan and the miracle that is the state of Israel today.

Understanding that present day Israel has rejected God’s plan for her, yet also realizing God’s Master Plan is far from completed, I want to examine why, as believers, we are intrinsically connected to what God is doing with His people Israel . My understanding is based, not upon personal opinion or my many ventures to Israel, but the wisdom and knowledge of men who have mentored me and established my faith upon sold rock and firm doctrinal understanding-men such as Dr. Jack Hayford, Chuck Smith, Walter Martin, J. Rodman Williams, and a host of others who have had a passion to Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

First of all, there are two main views concerning Israel in relation to God’s Plan. One view holds that Israel was chosen of God but has now been set aside because of her disobedience and rejecting Christ. God’s judgment fell on Israel when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by Roman legions in 70 AD. and hence, the Church has replaced Israel as God’s Chosen and now receives all the inheritance and blessings promised to Israel in the Old Testament- but only in a spiritual sense. This teaching is called Replacement Theology.

The position that I personally believe to be correct says that though Israel was judged and set aside by God for rejecting the Messiah, the judgment is not permanent. The Church has an obvious key role to play in God’s Plan, but not in the replacing of Israel. Rather, Israel does have a future in the Plan of God, and the Promises given to Israel will be fulfilled in Israel. This view is part of what is called Dispensationalism.

A lot more can be said on this subject, but I want to direct my final comments back to the miracle that is modern day Israel. No more than one day after her establishment as a nation, she was invaded by her Arab neighbors. Outnumbered 10-1 in weapons and man power, somehow the nation was able to withstand the onslaught and achieve a victory that many historians say should never have happened. Since her inception as a nation, in 1948, the State of Israel has fought seven recognized wars , two Palestinian intifiadas, and a series of armed conflicts in the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. Keep in mind, much of the land mass that is modern day Israel, was property purchased from Arab owners who had no use for it because of the terrain’s nature. Contrary to many biased in the media, it was not stolen from Israel’s Arab neighbors.

This land , ranging from mosquito infested swamps in the north to barren desert southward has been turned into fertile farmland and crop producing acreage like few other places in the Middle East. How interesting is the prophetic word found in Isaiah chapter 35 verse 1. In referencing Israel, ” The wilderness and desert will be glad, and the Arabah (or desert), will blossom like the crocus.”

Fully recognizing that some prophetic words concerning God’s Mighty Plan of Redemption refer to events and nation states existent at that time, we must keep in mind that  the Old Testament scriptures are replete with “types and shadows”- Old Testament events foreshadowing future happenings in God’s Plan. I believe that Isaiah, chapter eleven verse 12 can be fashioned in this way. ” And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Come to Israel and see. Jews are streaming home-over 4,000.000 making “aliyah” from every country where Jewish people can be found, thus fulfilling prophetic events that would transpire before the Messiah’s Return.

So why should we care about a land so far away? Simply, Israel is the spoon that stirs the cup, so to speak. That is why Jerusalem contains more media and press than almost any other capital in the world. The world is watching and waiting. Something Great is about to unfold! And as believers in the Jewish Messiah, we have been grafted in to God’s wonderful Plan of Redemption and soon from his Throne in Jerusalem, He will rule, and then Jew and Gentile alike will worship Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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Israel and the Church Today

Traveling to Israel many times has afforded me the opportunity to discuss with Believers the role of modern day Israel and the the Church of Jesus Christ. I might add that such a discussion is not without controversy nor arguments that champion varying points of view. But my intent in this blog is not to defend Israel’s role nor the Church in God’s Master Plan for the end of the ages. But rather, I want to examine the term “Chosen” as it relates to Israel and “Grafted in” as a reference to modern day Believers, because I believe that if we examine both terms in the context of culture and history, we will find that we have a lot more in common than we realize.

The Bible is many books but one story. It is a story of God’s never ending love to redeem mankind through human partners-becoming a light to the nations and making disciples. In a sense, God found Israel in the Negev desert where He spoke to Abram and Sarah and through their obedience, would bring about His Divine Plan consummating in the coming of the Lord Jesus. Abraham and Sarah had a passion for God and His Plan for mankind. Deuteronomy 32:10 tells us that, “He found him in the desert and kept him as the apple of His eye.” And today, He is asking us to be part of this 4,000 year old journey to bring people into a Righteous relationship with Jesus Christ!

Let me begin by examining God’s pledge to Israel. in Exodus 33:13-16, as they were about to leave Mt. Sinai,God promised that His Presence would go with them. Moses quickly responded that unless His Presence did go with them, He would not leave. His reasoning was quite simple-He had seen God do incredible things on Israel’s journey out of Egypt, but now more than miracles, he desired to revel in His Glory, because that Glory distinguished Israel from all the other peoples of the world! It is that same Glory today, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, that sets us apart as the “light of the world” in our increasingly immoral culture.

God had called Israel to Mt. Sinai to give them a mission. Like the church in I. Peter 2, They were to become a “kingdom of priests”-extending the rule of God and putting Him on display for the nations to see His Glory and come to know Him. He gave them the Torah, and they learned about their Patriarch father and how God had used Abram.

It was the role of the Patriarch in Israel’s cultural development that we first begin to realize the role of Israel in God’s Plan. The Patriarch was central to the family structure. All resources flowed to him, and he was in charge of “redeeming” all of those under his charge. The word redeem (Go’el in Hebrew) had a unique meaning. Of course, it has a religious significance, but at it’s very Old Testament root, it was tied to the Patriarch of the family who was in charge of meeting everyone’s needs. If someone was injured or strayed, it was his job to bring him back into the Father’s House (Beth-Ab). Redeem then meant, at a deeper level, to bring back or restore. If you had been alienated from the Father’s House, it became the Patriarch’s job, whatever it took, to bring you back! What a beautiful picture of the church’s role today;instead of settling for “business as usual” within our four church walls, we have been commissioned to redeem the lost-not just for heaven but for playing an active role as a kingdom of priests, bringing back into the Father’s House those who don’t have the Gift of Grace.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah-” I am Israel’s Redeemer” (chapter 43), In Psalms 135, God declared,” I redeemed you from your enemies,” and in Psalms 107, God told Israel that, ” I have redeemed you from your troubles.” In each Biblical example, God is saying,” I have restored you to the household.”

But what about when the Patriarch would die? Who would assume the Patriarch’s role? At death, the first born oldest son would replace him, and all the family would rejoice because now, that son would be in charge of taking care of them. The resources would go to the first born; likewise, God gave His resources to His first born Israel. Simply-God’s master plan for Israel was- ” Bring the lost children back into the Father’s House.” It was not because Israel was loved more than the others but was ” chosen” as the first born!

God wasn’t playing favorites but because of Israel’s birth right, they were commanded to “redeem”: the nations and bring them back into the Father’s House. But as God’s partners, Israel failed, and so God chose a second “first born” and gave Him all the resources of the Father. And because Jesus was God come in the flesh, He now offers us a way back into the Father’s House-any who would receive Him as Savior (John 14).

We, as Believers, have been grafted into this Great Plan. God has not forgotten His first born Israel. and revival will sweep the Land before the coming of the Lord, but for now the Holy Spirit is saying to the church-“I am entrusting you with all the resources, and your job is to bring a sick and dying world back into the Beth-Ab or the Father’s House!

Our commissioning has not changed from Israels. In Isaiah 43:1 God commanded Israel,” Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.” As God’s First Born, Israel has been Chosen through birth right and as grafted in branches, those same resources, are flowing through us who have received the “first born original bringer forth of all creation-Jesus Christ! (Colossians 1:15). So, what are we waiting for? As Israel received their commission at Sinai, we have been given the Great Commission by the Lord Jesus Christ. His Presence is with us! The Mission awaits us, His Calling is upon us. I don’t want to miss God-do You??Israel 2014 May 142

Thank You Steve for Showing Me Jesus!

Jesus was always about reaching out to the outcasts and the marginalized of society. During our morning service today at High Mill Church, I saw that same love modeled, and though my premise in writing this blog might seem simplistic to some, I believe that today’s events touched the very heart of God and gives us a living model of inviting others into the Father’s House!

I am not in the habit of writing blogs about individuals, but in this case I must. Thank You Steve for being the hands and feet of Jesus and modeling God’s love for the stranger in our midst. I don’t have to share your last name, because you know who you are, as do others who have observed you do this before.

I was standing in the back of the church as people were streaming in, when I noticed in the last row a couple with a teen age young man. I could tell that they were visitors and somewhat uncomfortable- being in a new surrounding with unfamiliar faces. I went over and introduced myself and soon realized that they were at High Mill for the first time. Immediately, I looked for another youth or leader to introduce the young man to. Initially, I didn’t see anyone, until I walked to the front of the church and saw, you guessed it, Steve. I asked Steve to go back and be friendly-nothing more. I always have a burden for those who need to be pulled into the “family” that we call church, so it was natural that a few minutes later, I looked back to check on the family, only to realize that the young man was missing. A few minutes later, I checked again, and he still hadn’t returned to his seat. My first reaction was that maybe he had been scared off by the attention that he had been receiving.

Worship was about over, and so I walked to the front of the church to where I would be sitting. Much to my surprise and joy, there sitting in the second row with Steve and a few other youth was the young man. You see, not only had Steve done the polite thing ,but he did the Jesus’ thing and took the next step and invited him to sit down front with him- literally inviting him into the security of our church family.

Again, this simple analogy might seem simplistic to you at the very least and a waste of blogging time at the greatest, but I want to ask you several important questions. When is the last time you took the time on a Sunday morning, or for that matter any other time and introduced yourself to the stranger in your  midst and invited them to sit with you? Jesus put it this way in Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger, and you invited me in.” Secondly, have you ever been that stranger and prayed for God to send you someone? Why is this simple lesson so important to me? Putting aside the fact that Jesus spoke and modeled such love, I can tell you personally, that it was that one simple invitation during a church service, in my moment of uncertainty and fear of the unknown, that catapulted me into a spiritual place that I had never known existed!

Finally, Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that,” Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” While I believe and take this charge literally, I am not suggesting that the Holy Spirit would place angelic beings in front of you, but the charge in Hebrews is to take seriously the stranger in our midst because just maybe…

God, make us a people that takes seriously the Great Commission- realizing that often times it can be lived out within the church as well as without!

This blog, will form the foundation for a soon coming blog answering what is Israel’s Role in God’s plan for redeeming man, and secondly, how do we see Israel in light of God calling them is Chosen and loved?

Living Witnesses and His Secret Place

Israel 2014 May 015-001Hayden Planetarium, in New York City, some time ago, offered applications for those who desired to make the journey to another planet, when the opportunity would arise. 18,000 applicants applied and were subsequently interviewed by a panel of psychologists who measured their mental status for making such a trip. When asked why they desired to leave this planet and start a life somewhere else, the vast majority replied that they were totally discouraged with life on planet earth.

Discouragement is not a respecter of persons. Anyone who has lived any length of time, will have been subject to situational experiences that can impact life and devalue the very zest and joy for living. Broken relationships, failed dreams, betrayal, the loss of a loved one- all of these are but a few examples of circumstances that can rob us of enjoying life to it’s fullest.

Yet, I feel that more times than not,chronic discouragement is not caused by a singular event but is symptomatic of a much deeper wound that is rooted in unfulfilled expectations and hopelessness and a sensing that nobody understands my situation nor experienced my pain. In other words, I am the only one to have walked my walk. More than once in counseling sessions, I have been told that nobody understands.

We only have to examine the words of two great pillars of the faith to understand the error of such thought. John Calvin,a great theologian said,” In addition to the great troubles by  which I am consumed, there is almost no day on which some new pain or anxiety afflicts me.” The great teacher Spurgeon said, “Depression creeps over my heart and dreadfully weakens me.” There is a cost involved concerning our walk of faith, and there are times when things don’t go as planned. But the Apostle Paul, in II. Timothy 1:7 says this. ” God has not given us the spirit of fear( the cousin of depression) but of love, power, and of a sound mind.” Let me make it very simple. Jesus did not die for you or me to live our lives in a perpetual state of depression. It is natural that depression can impact any of us emotionally through life’s events, but it should never be accepted as natural or a part of your experience with Jesus.

Today, I want to share practically and spiritually how depression can be effectively dealt with once and for all. Practically speaking, there are many scriptures that teach us about hope, encouragement, and trust but recently, one stood out in the midst of me feeling sorry for myself. I know that none of you reading this deal with such struggles, but for me ,I just felt all alone in my circumstances and it seemed that there was no one to understand. Then the Holy Spirit drew me to Hebrews 12:1-2. ” Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses to the life of faith surrounding us, let us lay aside any weight (depression, fear, anxiety) that slows us down. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” Suddenly, fond memories of those who have shaped my spiritual walk for almost 50 years, flooded my heart and spirit. Those guideposts who helped me to understand the Christian walk, seemed to appear before me, one by one, extorting me on to His higher calling for my life. I was both elated and guilty at the same time. So many have given me so much out of their richness of faith, and here I was forgetting all the relational miracles (witnesses) that Jesus had placed in my life. Suddenly, in the light of their examples of overcoming faith and endurance, my petty grievances faded away into a sea of thankfulness and love! Faith isn’t just a blind leap but a record of living testimonies beginning in scripture and impacting our lives today by His Living Witnesses, who have been through history, a living pledge to us that we can make it; men and women,who defied their culture to live Jesus Christ before a disbelieving world. And that is why their testimonies found in Hebrews chapter 11, have been labeled chapter wise, “The Christian Hall of Fame.”

Spiritually speaking, there is a place that the Holy Spirit wants to take you to. It is a place only seen by the Believer. It is a place only understood by those who know Him. The Psalmist said in Chapter 91:1-2 ” He who dwells in the “Secret Place” of the most Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. There, He is He is my refuge and and my fortress-my God and in Him, I will trust.” Now, here is an important key spiritually. Moses, part of that cloud of witnesses, in Hebrews 11:23-27 is described as seeing the King invisible or “seeing Him who is unseen.” How was that possible and how is it possible for us to hear His voice and perceive and see our Lord’s plan for us? Exodus 33 :7 tells us that Moses would leave the familiarity of the camp and pitch a tent away from the people to wait and hunger for God to speak in that “Secret Place.” He left all the distractions of life to go away to wait and seek the Lord. If we want more of Him, we must be willing to put down those distractions that rob us from intimacy with Him. I believe that depression takes over when we are like a hamster on the proverbial wheel- spinning in our circumstances and unable to take time for that Secret Place.

Hebrews 13:12-13 tells us, “so that Jesus might sanctify the people through His shed blood, suffered outside the gate, so therefore, let us go outside the camp and bear the disgrace He bore.” Simply, be willing to leave the familiar set of daily routines and seek Him in that Secret Place. In I. Corinthians 3:3, Paul rebuked the church for being like “mere men”-settling for status quo and spiritual mediocrity. Let us be willing to seek Him out and hunger for Him in that Secret Place where the King is made visible to all who seek Him. With that approach to life, there is no time left to become depressed.

Realizing the Living Testimonies who have given us spiritual life and seeking Him in that Secret Place-which is really a place of your choosing where His Presence is welcomed and unhindered, are two important keys that I have found to overcome those events in life that would curtail the every day joy that is mine in Jesus Christ.