Friday, November 25, 2005

Can you be the trials?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina here in New Orleans, a friend asked me to post this message that had appeared in one of our past newsletters.

Having walked and served the Lord Jesus now for many years, I have heard many things said concerning God’s dealings with His servants.

One of the things that never really set too well with me was the statement, “There are only a few people that God could trust as millionaires.” This was usually said by a millionaire preacher on television wearing a $2000 suit and flying around the country in a Lear Jet that the poor untrustworthy television viewers paid for!

I do not believe that it takes a whole lot of character or even morality to be a millionaire— that’s easy. You can see wealthy people everywhere in our society– Hollywood, Professional Sports, Corporate America, Lotto Winners, etc and none of those areas had the prerequisite of trusting in Jesus!

Many times the “Church” gauges a person’s spirituality or right standing with God by their “measurable success.” Ministers (myself being one) are often the worst perpetrators of this fallacy.

“Oh, he has written a book and is well known. God must truly smile on him.” (or) “He has a mega-church and a TV ministry, he must be God’s Man.” (or even) “You can see the favor of God in his life. He never has a struggle!”

While all of these things may appear to be indicators of God’s favor and stamp of approval on a minister, ministry or individual, I feel that there is something else that God utilizes to reveal the heart, faith and character of those He would use as catalyst in these Last Days: Those who can be trusted in the trial.

“Have you considered My servant Job”, God asked of Satan who retorted, “You (have) put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands...But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

God responded (pp), “Everything that he possess I will allow you to take– except his life.”
Now, honestly, how many of us would want God to put us in such a situation? Within a short amount of time, everything that Job had was taken from him– his wealth, his home, his flocks, and even his family.

He would be smitten with sores and – yet Job 2:9-10 says,

“His wife said to him, Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die! He replied, You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

He would later add, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him (God).”

Could God have trusted you in that trial? Would you have endured and glorified His Holy name or would you have shaken your fist at heaven and cried out, “Where were you when I needed you God!”

Because John 16:33 assures each of us that “In this world you will have tribulation,” the Lord Jesus is looking for those that will endure through those times of trials and tribulations and exalt His name in them.

When Peter was beaten for refusing to cease his preaching of the Gospel he “rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ.”

Peter could be trusted with the trial.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could also be trusted with the trial as they were tossed into the fiery furnace!

The Word of God is full of individuals who went through extreme times of difficulty– physically, financially, circumstantially, etc only to glorify the Lord in the midst of their trials. These are the type of people that He is looking for now!

Some of you have been facing great and mighty mountains and have wondered if you have somehow “lost favor with God.”

Let me tell you this, God will never put more on you than you will be able to bear. When things seem impossible– rejoice, that like Job and those that proved “true through their trials,” that He sees something in you worth Glorifying His name in!

“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Why China is experiencing Revival and the USA is not"

EVERY Pastor and Church leader needs to hear this:
NOTE: The following is an extract from the book,"The Heavenly Man" by Brother Yun. Yun is a Pastor and House-Church leader in Communist China. His dedication to Jesus has lead to his being both imprisoned and tortured for his faith.
He is speaking here of what it will take for theWestern church to see Revival.
Brother Yun, "Many pastors in Europe and America have told me they want to see great revival. I'm frequently asked, 'Why is China experiencing revival but most places in the West are not?' This is a big question to answer, but some reasons are very apparent to me.
When I'm in the West, I see all the mighty church buildings and all the expensive equipment, plush carpets, and state-of-the-art soundsystems. I can assure the Western church with absolute certainty that you don't need any more church buildings. Church buildings will never bring the revival you seek. The pursuit of more possessions will never bring revival.
Jesus truly stated, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." -Lk 12:15.
The first thing needed for revival to return to your churches is the Word of the Lord. God's Word is missing. Sure, there are many preachers and thousands of tapes and videos of Bible teaching, but so little contains the sharp truth of God's Word. It's the truth that will set you free. Not only is knowledge of God's Word missing, but obedience to that Word.
There's not much action taking place. When revival came to believers in China, the result was thousands of evangelists being sent out to all corners of the nation, carrying fire from the altar of God with them. When God moves in the West, it seems you want to stop and enjoy His presence and blessings too long, and build an altar to your experiences.You can never really know the Scriptures until you're willing to be changed by them.
All genuine revivals of the Lord result in believers responding with action and soul winning. When God truly moves in your heart you cannot remain silent. There will be a fire in your bones, like Jeremiah, who said, "His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."Jeremiah 20:9.
Furthermore, it's only when we step out in obedience and share the gospel with people that we come to know God's blessing in every area of our lives. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to his co-worker Philemon, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." -Philemon v.6.
I've seen people in Western Churches worshiping as if they're already in heaven. Then someone invariably brings a comforting message, like, "My children, I love you. Don't be afraid, I'm withyou." I'm not opposed to such words, but why is it that nobody seems to hear a Word from the Lord like, "My child, I want to send you to the slums of Asia or the darkness of Africa to be my messenger to people dying in their sin."?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"What happens when you are Born again?"

When I was eighteen years old, I truly discovered what it meant to be “Born Again.” Up to that point I had heard and done a lot of religious things and most of the people around me (even church leaders) would have said that I was “saved,”

I knew in my heart that I was had no Biblical relationship with God apart from knowing the vernacular and having walked an isle, cried a tear, repeated a prayer and getting dipped in a tank!

But the time came when dead, tired religion just was not good enough for me anymore and I determined in my heart to truly repent and believe the Gospel. I think many people may find themselves in a similar situation and not know exactly what to do. Consider this:

I want to deal with the THREE primary CHANGES that take place in a person’s life when they are TRULY Born again.

#1. There is a change in IDENTITY:

Identity is the condition, state or fact whereby a person is specifically recognized by.
When I was a "lost" person, that is, when I was without Christ and without hope–there were very specific characteristics present in my life that identifies who I was.
  • My conversation described who I was
  • My company described who I was
  • My attitude described who I was
  • My thoughts described who I was
  • My priorities described who I was
  • My appearance even described who I was
I was specifically recognized by the conditions, state and facts evident in my person. But, when I came to Christ Jesus, I could no longer be recognized by those facts or characteristics– I had to take on a new condition that would cease to identify me with the world and would instead identify me with Him.

2 Cor 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (NKJ)

Creation (or creature in the KJV) can be defined as "a new foundation or building." That is you are changed from the very ground up!

You have a new Identity!

Within law enforcement– there is something that is called "The Witness Protection Plan." wherein a person can decide to testify against a major criminal and in turn be given a new identity–they cease to be known as who they were and have now been put in a safe environment and given the chance to live a new life on the right side of the law–

Through salvation, we too have been invited into the "Witness Protection Plan"
By choosing to serve God–we have testified against "Public Enemy Number One" and have been given a new name, a new home, a clean record and have been put on the right side of God’s law and outside the reach of this adversary the devil.

Col 1:21-23 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel..."

Before you come to Christ–you are identified as an Enemy of the Gospel!—but once one accepts the salvation brought and bought through Christ Jesus–we are free from accusation!
But the greatest CHANGE IN IDENTITY is not in how the world or those around us perceive us—but the CHANGE IN IDENTITY AS TO HOW GOD SEES US!

Rom 8:14-17 "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." (NKJ)

With the change of identity—you move from enemies of God to the sons and daughters of God!
This is the one point that I wish people could truly get a hold of—that God has claimed you for His own inheritance!
That when you come to Him and surrender your life to Him—that the Book of Life becomes your adoption certificate and that He is now dealing with you as His own—rather than seeing your relationship with Him as one better realized at arms reach! But instead one that desires you to rush into His arms any time that you may be in need!

Luke 11:9-13 "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (10) For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (11) If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? (12) Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? (13) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (KJV)

With your change of Identity comes the blessed provision as provided through the reconcilliation back to the Father.

AFTER THIS, one has a....

#2. Change of DESTINY:

Defined as "A determined course of events."

Rom 8:28-34 "(28)And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29)For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (31) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (33)Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." (NKJ)

2 Tim 1:7-10 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:(KJV)

When you get saved—something is set in motion that will forever alter the course of your life—it is called Destiny (a course of events designed by God to deliver you into His perfect will)

Ps 37:23 "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way." (KJV)

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our fatih..

The One who wrote the forward is the One who writes the epilogue as well! How is it that this can be? He sees EVERYTHING IN THE NOW! He is not limited in His knowing by the ticking away of seconds upon a clock. He sees BOTH your beginning and your ending RIGHT NOW in HIS omniscience AND He is designing a DESTINY with that in mind!

Then comes a...

#3 Change in RESPONSIBILITY (compound noun-derived from two words)
Response is a "reply"

Ability is the state of being able or competent

So when you get saved—you are given the ability to reply competently and act in accordance with your new state of condition.

Eph 2:8-10 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (destiny)that we should walk in them." (KJV)

1 Cor 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (NKJ)

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (KJV)

You now have the ability to respond righteously to every situation that you may be confronted with. Your BORN-AGAIN nature is designed to make the right decisions based upon the moral compunction that comes with having the Holy Spirit take up residence in your heart and life. YOU have the power through the Spirit of God and through resisting the adversary to overcome ANY circumstance that the adversary might present to you.

What happened when you were Born Again? The miraculous happened. Don’t forget it

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Who is YOUR Jesus anyway?" Part 1

Matthew 16:13
"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi,
He asked His disciples, saying,
"Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
Preaching the Gospel across this country affords me the opportunity to minister in many different churches and denominations. Additionally, when you minister beyond the proverbial "four-walls" of the church buildings and venture into the market places of Americana--you are confronted with so many varying ideas and definitions of "who Jesus is."
I learned long ago never to merely ask the question, "Do you believe in Jesus?" and just leave it at that. The reason being, is that not every version of Jesus is the One spoken of in the Word of God. Not every "Jesus" that people claim to believe in can stand up to the scrutiny of "who the Word says that He is."
Evidently the disciples of our Lord Jesus were also finding many defintions of The Christ as well.
"Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Verse 14
Hmmm, John the Baptist-- that's a pretty good guys from what I read. Jesus even offered some pretty strong compliments concerning him. He even "leaped" in his mother's womb when he and Jesus met prior to their births. But, there was already a John the Baptist--and by his own addmission, "There was one coming after him (Jesus) who he wasn't even worthy to unbuckle His shoes."
What about this Elijah---now THAT'S a Bad Dude! Calling down fire from heaven, making the rain stop for 3 1/2 years, causing the widow's food to last indefinitely and THEN raising here dead son back to life. I could sure think of worse people to be compared with. But, then again--he did run from Jezebel and the "Real Jesus" would never do something like that!
There is Jeremiah---it's funny that some would dare liken Jesus to this prophet considering his message to Israel. While he did enjoy a great period of longevity (40 years) and he was the last prophet to Juday (and Jesus was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah), yet Jeremiah never saw any marked success--as a matter of fact he was called to a deliver a message judgment--wherein the Word says that "Jesus came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Jeremiah came to bring some unfortunate bad news, and Jesus was the bearer of the ultimate Good News!
Strike one...strike two...strike three (You're out) Next Question please...

Matthew 16:15 "He said to them, But who do you say that I am?"
At the end of the day, it won't really matter who anyone else tells you Jesus is---because He will look into your heart and into the fruit of your life for the answer to that question. I hate to break the news to you, but the Jesus that you will one day stand before will probably look somewhat different that your: Baptist Jesus, your Pentecostal Jesus, your Catholic Jesus, or your (fill in the name of your sect or denomination) Jesus.
It seems that the more we try to hedge Him in and limit Him by our own fears, traditions, and worthless personal opinions--the more we sound like those saying, "uhhh, well maybe He is John the Baptist or Elijah the Pentecostal or Jeremiah the Catholic."
Worse yet--some have even digressed to the point of saying that He was just a "good man" or "a prophet" or "an alegorical hoax."
The Jesus, so discriptively described in both the Old and New Testaments seems to far surpass the power, holiness, love, and majesty that most churches, denominations, and therefore people "say that He is" by the fruit manifested in their lives.
Matthew 7:20 "Therefore by their fruits you will know them." or another way of saying this could be:
By their conversation (or)
By their faith (or)
By their willing to witness to others (or)
By their love, compassion and mercy for the lost and hurting (or)
By the attitude of their heart (or)
By the way that they worship Him (or)
By their desire for His will know them.
Without opening your mouth, who does your life's testimony say that Jesus is?
(look for part 2 of this blog)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Trouble Makers

John 5:1-9 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and troubled the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked..."

This afternoon, as I was driving through a devestated area of New Orleans having just emptied my trailer of medical supplies, food and clothing items--the brother in the Lord who was helping me said, "Pastor Troy, you can sure get people upset without even knowing it."

I didn't know how to take what he had said. I kind of consider myself a pretty "friendly" person who typically gets along well with everyone---so I had to ask him to clarify what he meant. He said, "I have worked with you for over ten years and I have seen people get upset with you time and time again because..."

I'll get back to that in a minute.

In John's Gospel, chapter 5, we have a great scene unfolding that the Lord quickened to me this afternoon. Here you had a place that was known for attracting the infirm or those who had something wrong with them and needed assistance. The place was the Sheep Gate Pool and there were "multitudes" of people brought there regularly for the opportunity to be healed.

It says that "at a certain time" an angel would come down and trouble or stir up the waters and whoever stepped in first was healed regardless of what the disease they had was. Now, this is exciting stuff! The first one in got the prize! It played out kind of like a spiritual King of the Mountain.

What caught my attention was that #1 it was located at the Sheep Pool and that those in attendance represented the worst cases imaginable; blind, lame, paralized...not your average run-of-the-mill sore throats and back aches! #2 that the healing came following the waters being troubled or stirred up!

Back to my earlier conversation: He said, ""I have worked with you for over ten years and I have seen people get upset with you time and time again because most people (speaking of ministers) talk about the things that they want to do or should do, while you just jump in and actually do it. They see you as a trouble maker because you stir things up when people just talk about doing things for Jesus, but make all kind of excuses for not doing them."

Hmmm, I have to admit it, I never looked at it that way until he told me what he did. I guess the thing about it is, is that I would rather try and fail than fail to try. I came to the conclusion nearly twenty years ago that I if I was going to serve Jesus, then I would serve Him with the same reckless abandon and passion that I served the world before I was born again.

I am of the opinion that there is w-a-y to much talk and w-a-y to many excuses and politics in the Modern Church. It is soooo governmental that most spiritual things are caught up in ecclessiastical grid-lock or have been spiritually "pork-barreled" to such a degree that JESUS has become lost in the religion that bears His name.

What's the point if there is no power? Why the effort if there is no evangelism?

"For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power also and in the Holy Spirit."

The problem in the Church today is the same problem faced in John Chapter 5:

  1. The angel only came at certain times
  2. Only the first one in received the benefit

It doesn't even say that the "certain time" was every day or when-just that it was at a certain time. They could have waited for hours or even days for the waters to be troubled and then only ONE would make it in first.

That tells me something--the Church needs more angels (messengers) that are willing to dive in and trouble the waters! In Revelation Chapter 1, "pastors or ministers" of churches are called "angels." We need preachers of the Gospel with enough righteous backbone to FINALLY stand up for the truth even in the face of overwhelming odds (multitudes of infirm people) and cause some trouble to the devil!

This may mean going agains the grain at times or in standing up when everyone else is sitting down---but notice---the TROUBLING was the catalyst for the MIRACLE. It was here in John 5. It was when John the Baptist came with the radical "troubling" message of repentance. It certainly was when Jesus came and preached like "never a man spoke."

Sure, you WILL upset some people--but maybe they need to get upset---it could be what causes THEM to "rise, take up THEIR beds and WALK."