On a Mission with Bro. Joel




JUNE 2024




2 Corinthians 7:8-9 says, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.”.

In Russia and other Slovak countries, when someone is converted, he doesn’t speak of being saved or even being born again. He says, “I repented!” And that act of repentance has both a public and a private side. Publicly the individual has to acknowledge his sin and wrongdoing, and privately, the act is a humbling experience, a realization that what he has done is wrong accompanied by a sincere sorrow for wrongdoing. In our churches in the United States today have we lost sight of what repentance really means? Is simply saying, “I’m sorry!” and then getting on with life, assuming that everything is forgiven and should be forgotten, really sufficient? What is repentance, at least the kind that is genuine and acceptable in the sight of God?

The issue isn’t a new one. It’s the same one that Paul had to face in the Corinthian culture of the first century. But to recognize the parallels we need to understand something of the background of Corinth, which was a beautiful Roman city on an isthmus between the Aegean and Ionian seas. To call someone a Corinthian was not a compliment in Paul’s day because it bore the connotation of moral looseness and shoddy character. As the result of his 18 months of ministry there, a church was born, and the moral problems of the converts were carried into their newly established lives as Christians. One man maintained a sexual relationship with his stepmother, and others seemed never to quite throw off their former lifestyles.

  1. his second letter, Paul confronts this issue of being genuinely repentant. He says that there are two kinds of repentance: the kind that makes you sorry because you got caught, and the kind that God honors, the kind that bears a deep sorrow for wrongdoing (See 2 Corinthians 7:7-8 above). The word that Paul used when he wrote of repentance is metanoia. It literally means a “change of mind.” Genuine repentance has four elements in it, and these are benchmarks by which we can discern true repentance from false repentance.

Element #1: A genuine sorrow for wrongdoing. This doesn’t mean an embarrassment because we got caught, but a sincere sorrow because of what we did. Wrongdoing always bears consequences to others—family, friends, business associates, as well as with God.

  1. #2: Overt confession for wrongdoing. Public sins need to be confessed publicly, private sins, privately. The Bible says in Proverbs 28:13: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy”. It is this element which usually reflects whether or not repentance is true or false.
  2. #3: Accountability. The mark of a genuinely repentant individual is that he or she becomes willing to answer the tough questions and to allow someone to ask them without saying, “This is none of your business.”
  3. #4: The acceptance of the consequences for wrongdoing. When Jesus confronted individuals who were wrong, He taught that part of the price of forgiveness is the willingness of the wrongdoer to assume the responsibility for what he has done wrong. That’s still true today. Forgiveness is one issue. Accepting responsibility for wrongdoing is entirely another issue—one that has been all but ignored in our generation.

When Paul confronted this issue, he concluded that there is a godly sorrow which leads to repentance and a “sorry-I-got-caught” kind which leads to death. Let us make sure that we know the difference. The difference between true repentance and a false repentance is the difference between salvation and judgment, heaven and hell, a successful Christian life and a Christian that lives in defeat. Perhaps we would do will to remember the harsh words of John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3:7-8 that says, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bring fruits worthy of repentance”. Let us all examine our lives and see if we are living our lives in a way that shows fruits that are worthy of repentance.




MAY 2024





Churches, It's time to pray. I am excited to announce our new emphasis on prayer. Every Thursday, at Centennial Park in Crossett, we (members of our churches) will be gathering to pray at 12:00 P.M. What is the purpose of our praying? Christians, churches, the community and the country desperately needs prayer. Some churches are on the verge of having its door shut, the community is facing tremendous moral and financial challenges. The country has never been this divided in every aspect. We are a heartbeat away from an implosion.

Never before has these words of Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 meant for people in our community and in America when it says, "“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Everybody acknowledges that we need this revival mentioned in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Do we also notice that one of the key elements that 2 Chronicles 7:14 mentions that is necessary for revival is prayer?

It has been rightly said, “the secret of all failure is our failure in prayer.” Not just our failure to pray, but our failure in the way we pray. In the story of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18, the Pharisee is one who prayed long and often, but he was a miserable failure. His prayers were never heard by God because neither he nor his prayers were ever right with God. I think it was Oswald Smith who said, “when we work, we work, when we pray, God works.” There never has been a prayerless revival in history. Revival starts with prayer. Notice what God said in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “Pray and seek My face.” We should not only pray, but we also should seek His face. There is a difference. We can pray like this: “Lord, send revival. Amen.” Now let’s get lunch. Or we can pray, “Lord, we are seeking You. Lord, we are calling out to You. Lord, we are desperate for You. Lord, we need You. Send an awakening to America.” It is effectively a prayer that doesn’t take no for an answer. Are we being presumptuous when we pray that way? No, because Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). Another way to translate this would be, “Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking.” Jesus goes on to say, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8).

When we are praying for revival, we are praying according to the will of God. When we are praying for the salvation of a loved one, we are praying according to the will of God. We need to press forward in our prayers and seek His face, not backing down. Perhaps, we can learn from the prophet Habakkuk who prayed for revival for His people in Habakkuk 3:1-2 that says, "A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, on Shigionoth. 2 O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy".

In these 2 verses, we should learn 7 lessons about prayer and revival.

I. Our desire for revival should show up in our prayers. The very first word, the word ‘O’ expresses a deeply felt longing for revival. The prophet had heard the voice of God and was in awe. This is where a prayer for revival begins. You can see it in the word 'O'. What intensity of feeling! Are we burdened like this? What is our reaction to the following facts: 1. Many Christians are living in defeat. The average Christian is living on a very low level of Christian experience, often defeated and powerless and in bondage to self. 2. We need to pray about the effectiveness of our witness. The testimony of the Christian Church in the world is frequently ineffective and very different from the testimony of the early Christians. 3. We need to be concerned about the division in our churches. Many Christians and churches are completely occupied with petty things such as jealousies, squabbles, barriers between Christian and Christian, and often there’s a lack of love amongst God’s people. 4. We need to be concerned about our ineffective corporate prayer meetings. Many churches have no prayer meetings or poorly attended prayer meetings. 5. We need to be concerned with the lack of gospel preaching. Many preachers and teachers have departed from the Word of God and from pure Gospel preaching. 6. We need to be concerned about the lack of people getting saved. There are few conversions in our churches. 7. Worldliness in the church. Much worldliness has taken over the lives of many believers in our churches.

  1. God is the One who brings revival. The word “Lord” (repeated) declares that God is the author of revival. Habakkuk’s prayer was rightly directed to the Lord because revival comes from Heaven. It cannot be worked up; it needs to be prayed down. It is not man’s doing, but God’s, though God in His mercy sends revival through His people. The fact that we so often place emphasis on outward things, on organization and methods, on advertising and publicity etc. shows that we do not see this amazing truth. These things do not produce revival – God alone can!

III. The believer humbles himself in the presence and revelation of God. The words “I have heard of your speech and was afraid…” show how revival begins. It is when a believer gets alone in God’s presence, hears His voice and trembles at His word (Isaiah 66:2). Habakkuk had in fact done this (2:1-3), and while he was alone in God’s presence, he experienced what the Psalmist mentions in Psalm 85:6-8. So often we rush into God’s presence and do all the talking, but it is when a man abases himself before Almighty God, confesses the sins of his people and his own sins, that revival can begin in that one man. One person can open the door through which the Risen Lord will enter in reviving and quickening power into His Church (Revelation 3:20)!

IV. Revival starts with God’s people. The words “Revive thy work…” (KJV) unveils the true nature of revival Habakkuk did not pray, ‘Lord, deal with the heathen and save them…’, but ‘Revive your work…put your people right…’ Many Christians confuse revival with the work of evangelism. Revival includes evangelism, but evangelism does not necessarily include revival. Evangelism includes organization, publicity, teamwork, perhaps media appearances, and much human effort – all of which is good; but when revival comes it is quite apart from these human endeavors. It always begins in the Church and in the hearts and lives of God’s own people.

V. The time for revival is now. The words “In the midst of the years…” (KJV) speak to us of the time of revival. Habakkuk repeats these words in his prayer, so what is their significance? No doubt the prophet meant, ‘O Lord, revive your work now, when the need is so desperate…’; and surely for us it means that any time is God’s time for revival, any time when revival is needed and when God’s people will pray. Here we are not in any way contradicting what has already been said about God being the author of revival; God is sovereign but has also declared in His Word that He is willing to hear and answer the prayers of His people. Therefore, “in the midst of the years”, at this very time, God will revive us if we will respond.

VI. Revival is when God reveals Himself. The words “make it known…” reveal the effects of revival. When revival comes, what does God “make known”? (1) He makes known His majesty, His glory and His holiness (Isaiah 6:1-8). (2) He makes known our sin, weakness, emptiness and failure (Lamentations 3:40-42; Matthew 5:23-24; Luke 19:8). (3) He makes known the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:11-12). When revival comes God reveals Himself, for revival is a revelation of the Lord Himself – and the result is a tremendous consciousness of God’s presence.

VII. Revival is about the deliverance of God’s People. The words “in wrath remember mercy…” suggest the true motive for praying for revival. God had been using the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to chasten His own people, but Habakkuk prayed He would reveal His mercy to show the other side of His nature – He hates and punishes sin but loves the sinner. Is that our prayer too?

I hope this shows us that there is not only a connection between revival and prayer, but that there is also a connection between revival, prayer and the Scriptures. I have known for years, of course, the importance of the connection between revival and prayer. But, for years, I must admit, my prayers were fairly generic: “O Lord, please revive us.” As I have grown in my approach to prayer, I’ve learned more specific requests, especially in using the Word of God, to help shape my prayers in all spiritual areas in my life including revival. I pray that we will use this example in Habakkuk 3:1-2 and many other Scriptures to teach us how to pray for revival. Our nation, our community, our families and our churches need it! So do we!



APRIL 2024



LUKE 24:36-53


Years ago, in 1992, the Reader’s Digest carried the story of one of the nation’s leading chest surgeons, Dr. Paul Adkins, who looked at his own chest X-ray and realized that he was looking at his own obituary. He was dead four and a half months later, at age 55, from lung cancer, the disease that he had attempted to treat in hundreds of other patients. The sad, ironic fact was that Dr. Adkins himself had smoked up to a pack and a half of cigarettes daily for 40 years. His mother had smoked and lived to an old age, and so Dr. Adkins had foolishly concluded that he could do the same. Even after he realized that he had lung cancer he continued to smoke, against the strong warnings of his colleagues. If anyone knew the dangers of smoking, Dr. Adkins did, but he did not apply that knowledge to himself. Knowledge is of no use if we do not apply it.

The same thing is true spiritually. We can know the truth, but if we do not apply it personally, it does us no good. I’m concerned because I read that anywhere between one-third to one-half of Americans claim to be born again Christians, and yet there is no appreciable difference in how they live. There is no difference between professing Christians and the American culture regarding how much or what TV shows we watch; our rate of sexual immorality; or our divorce rate. The lesson to learn is simply this: Knowledge of the Bible is not enough. We must respond to the messages in the Bible with repentance, submission and obedience.

As I was reading through the gospel accounts about Jesus' Resurrection during this past Easter season, my focus became fixed on what happened after the Resurrection. It became clear to me that, after the Resurrection, for the first followers of Christ, the adventure was just the beginning! It is clear that for the disciples, Jesus’ Resurrection demanded a response and directed them to a responsibility. Likewise, Christ's Resurrection demands a response and directs us to a responsibility today. In fact, we must ask ourselves: What about the message of the Resurrection of Christ? What should be our response? Let us read Luke 24:36-53 to learn more.

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen”.

In this passage in Luke 24, the eleven disciples had received the news that Jesus is alive. Peter even claimed to have seen him earlier that day (Luke 24:34); and the two men on the road to Emmaus saw him as well (Luke 24:13-35). But the other ten remaining disciples had not seen him yet, but when they finally do see Him and in the way that they responded will teach us about how we should respond to the Resurrection of Jesus. In fact, in this passage, we find four responses to the Resurrection of Jesus:

1) PEACE NOT FEAR (LUKE 24:36-39).

When we hear the resurrection of Jesus, we should respond in peace and not in fear. What’s the first thing Jesus says when he appears to his followers? “Peace be with you.” Jesus is offering peace to a group of men who are really scared. John’s gospel tells us they were hiding behind locked doors because they were so frightened (John 20:19). We lock our homes at night to feel safe, but their fear is even more real. They’re afraid of suffering a similar fate as Jesus. Luke 24:37 says that the disciples were startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost. In verse 38, Jesus says to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your hearts?” They were feeling fear, anxiety, and doubt—all normal responses to hearing that someone has risen from the dead.

In the face of all of this, Jesus offers his disciples and us today true and lasting peace. The Bible’s understanding of peace is based on the Old Testament word “Shalom” which is not just the absence of conflict, but the presence of blessing. It is wholeness, virtue, and flourishing throughout all of life. As one author writes, “Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” It’s the way things ought to be with God and those around us. Shalom is the opposite of hiding behind a locked door. What door are we hiding behind? What key have we thrown away because life is just too much? It’s too scary. It’s too hard. We can’t take it anymore. We’ve locked away our heart from God and others. We’ve had enough. If one more thing happens, we’re going to break down. What we need is Jesus appearing to us behind our locked door. He wants to show up with the power of his Resurrection—with shalom, with peace. If there’s anyone who can bring life to our situation - it’s Jesus. Our first response to the resurrection of Jesus must be peace and not fear. What’s our second response?

2) BELIEF NOT DOUBT (LUKE 24:40-43).

Jesus sets out to conquer their fear by inviting his followers to look at his hands and feet and to touch him ( Vs. 39). But, at first, they did not believe Jesus’ words. They’re too overwhelmed. It’s too good to be true. So, to prove he’s not a ghost, he ate some food. “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” (Vs. 42-43) When the disciples experienced the reality of the Resurrection they believed. But can we trust their witness? Can we trust this account? Can we believe in Him?

To answer this, we need to ask ourselves: What happened to the disciples after Jesus appeared to them? They went on to preach that Jesus is alive and to evangelize the world. Historians agree that the twelve disciples were either maimed or killed for their beliefs. How then, being first generation believers, would they, the disciples, be willing to die and to be tortured for something they knew to be a lie?” In other words, it does not make sense for someone to willingly suffer and die for something they know to be false, especially if it doesn’t benefit them with wealth, power, or fame. If the disciples made the whole thing up, their life of suffering wouldn’t make sense. As Lee Strobel writes in The Case For Christ, “People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.” So why were the disciples willingly to preach Jesus to others even if it meant their death? The three main possibilities of why the disciples preached that Jesus was alive and were willing to die for it is: 1) All of the disciples suffered simultaneous hallucinations (which is impossible). 2) The disciples simply made it up and were lying (but then their suffering doesn’t make sense). 3) The story of the disciples is true (sometimes the simplest explanation is the best). So, the fact that Jesus appeared to his eleven disciples, and they were willing to leave the safety of locked doors and go out and suffer and die for Jesus tells us what they saw was real. Jesus did rise from the dead. Our first response to the resurrection must be peace and not fear and our second response must be belief and not doubt. What should be our third response?


Jesus again reminds his disciples like he did on the road to Emmaus of why the Scriptures matter (Luke 24:27). Verse 44 says, “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’” But we can study our Bible our whole life and never really understand it. This is why verse 45 is key, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” In order for us to share the Scriptures and the message of Jesus we need the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts so we can first understand them. This does not mean that we have to understand them perfectly, but we need to understand them well enough to see our need for Christ.

It’s here in the text that Luke gives us his Great Commission. Maybe we’re familiar with the Great Commission in the gospel of Matthew (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”), which is perhaps more well recognized than Luke’s. But Luke’s is just as good. Here’s Luke’s Great Commission:

Luke 24:46-48: “He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke’s Great Commission has five key points:

  1. The Importance of Christ’s Resurrection – If there’s no Resurrection there’s no point, but if it is true then it changes everything we know and makes any hardship worth it.
  2. The Call to Repentance and Offer of Forgiveness – The heart of the gospel is an invitation to receive forgiveness for our sins through repentance.
  3. The Gospel is for “all Nations” – Christ sends us out to all people groups. So, every tribe and tongue that has not even heard about Jesus can hear. Christ is sending us out to share the gospel. We each have a place God has placed us so that we can share.
  4. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us – Luke’s commission is entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit. We cannot spread the message of Christ without the Holy Spirit working through us.
  5. We must pray continually for the Spirit’s power and God’s direction for our ministry. Prayer is the key to a successful fulfillment of the Great Commission.

As followers of Jesus we are called to share, not be silent. My sense (based on my own life) is that silence is our normal mode of operation. After a while we get so comfortable not sharing Jesus it becomes difficult to imagine sharing him. I want to challenge us each to get uncomfortable with our own silence. Let us pray that Christ will help us truly believe in his Resurrection so that we will share this good news with others. So, our first three responses to the Resurrection are peace and not fear, belief and not doubt, and sharing not silence. This all leads to our final response.


How does the passage of Luke 24 end? It ends with worship. How can it end otherwise? All people who had encounters with the risen Christ respond with praise and worship. When we realize who Christ is, what He has done for us on the cross and what He did to conquer sin and death at His Resurrection, then how can we respond in any way except praise, worship and gratitude? Because He lives, we can live also. As the Hymn “Because He Lives” says, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future; And life is worth the living because He lives”.

Jesus has been raised from the dead. He is alive! What does that mean to us? How should we respond? We should respond in peace and not in fear. We should respond in faith and not in doubt. We should respond by sharing with others and not by remaining silent. We should respond in praise and worship to the One who loves us and showed this love by dying for our sin on the cross and conquering the grave when He rose from the dead. To Him be all glory and honor and blessing and power! To Him I submit my life and give my allegiance.




MARCH 2024




Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7). One of the biggest struggles of not just the churches in our association, but in most churches around the world, is the discipleship of its members. After the moment of a new believer’s conversion in Christ, what is their next step? At the moment of conversion, a new believer becomes a follower of Jesus and enters into Christian discipleship. Thus, the main purpose of Christian discipleship is to make believers more and more like Jesus. It is a process of where a person learns to be an obedient follower of Jesus. This process only happens when a person grows to be spiritually mature in Jesus. So, spiritual maturity should be the goal of discipleship. So, how does a person grow to be more spiritually mature in Jesus?

Paul says in Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this life but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." There are two key words in this verse. The first key idea in Romans 12:2 is "transformation." All Christians are commanded to be transformed. Someone might say, how can we obey this command to be transformed? Only God can transform us. This is true, but we do have a part to play. This is why Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure". So, Christians are to continually work to bring their salvation to completion. While our salvation is not of human works, it is the responsibility of every believer to actively pursue obedience in order to grow mature in Jesus. But it is the Lord who produces the good works and spiritual fruit in the lives of believers. This act of transformation is accomplished because the Lord works in us by His Spirit who indwells us. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image (the image of Christ) from glory to glory just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The second key idea in Romans 12:2 is "the renewal of the mind." Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." The Scripture teaches us that transformation can only happen when our minds are transformed. If you change the way we think about those things in our life that displease God, then real change will happen. Our minds are so critical. They are critical because the way that we think will determine how we will act. Our thinking is where our behavior is formed. You show me a Christian who thinks no differently than others and I will show you a Christian who lives no differently than others. Our thinking must change. Many churches are trying to change the behavior of people but not change the way that people think. If we learn to think like Jesus, then our life will show the fruits of righteousness.

Thus, how do we change our thinking and work out our salvation? What exactly does God do to transform us? There are three ways that God transforms people. A) God uses people to transform us. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The people that God uses can be our family, friends, other believers and even our enemies. B) God uses our circumstances to transform us. God may not be the cause of all of our circumstances, but He is in control of our circumstances. Paul says in Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” C) God uses the spiritual disciplines to transform us. What are the spiritual disciplines? Examples of spiritual disciplines are the following: 1) Bible Intake (The Reading, Studying, Memorizing, Meditation and Applying of the Word of God), 2) Prayer, 3) Silence & Solitude, 4) Fasting, 5) Journaling, 6) Worship, 7) Giving, 8) Evangelism, 9) Fellowship, 10) Service, 11) Confession & Accountability and 12) Learning.

These are twelve (12) examples of some spiritual disciplines that will grow a disciple of Jesus if practiced regularly. The Bible has no comprehensive list of spiritual disciplines that we should practice, but it does give us commands to do certain things on a regular basis. And when we do, we will always produce fruit and experience blessings in our lives. So, spiritual disciplines are simply daily spiritual practices that help us to grow spiritually and produce spiritual fruit. We should notice that there are three things that God uses to transform us: 1) People; 2) Circumstances; and 3) Spiritual Disciplines. But of these three things, the only thing we can control are the spiritual disciplines. People and circumstances work from outside of us to the inside of us in order to transform us. But spiritual disciplines work from the inside of us to the outside of us in order to transform us. Thus, we can conclude that our only road to Christian maturity and godliness is through the spiritual disciplines.

Thus, churches need to train its members on how to make the spiritual disciplines a lifestyle. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." We are not to wait for God to make us holy, but we are to pursue holiness. How are to pursue holiness through the spiritual disciplines? We find the clear answer to this in 1 Timothy 4:7 that says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” The word discipline in 1 Timothy 4:7 means to exercise or to train oneself for an athletic event. We need to think of the spiritual disciplines as a spiritual exercise. To pray or study the Bible every day, for example, is like going to a gym and lifting weights. As physical exercise improves our health and strength, so the spiritual disciplines improve our godliness. When it comes to the spiritual disciplines, here are five (5) truths that will help spiritual disciplines become a part of our lifestyle.

1) The first truth is priority. Until we make the spiritual disciplines a priority, then we will never practice them. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”. Some people spend many hours every day on their physical bodies but give little thought to their souls. Yet, any impact from diet or exercise will only have a limited impact on our bodies as we will still grow old and die. It is interesting that Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day”. No matter what we do, our bodies will waste away, but our souls can continue to grow stronger. It is not that I am saying that we should not care for our bodies but what I am saying is that we should give our souls the greater priority. What we do for our bodies will only matter now but what we do for our souls matters now and will matter for all eternity. Why do you think Jesus says in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

2) The second truth is motivation. Without motivation, we will never start or continue to do the spiritual disciplines (or anything else). What is our motivation for practicing the spiritual disciplines? So, we have learned that the goal of spiritual disciplines is for us to become more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses the spiritual disciplines to grow and transform us. But we need to practice these disciplines daily. To better understand the value of the spiritual disciplines, we need to think about this illustration:

Imagine a boy that is 6 years old. His parents have enrolled him in guitar lessons. After school, each afternoon, he sits in his room in his house and tries to play his guitar while watching his friends play soccer in a park across the street. This is discipline without motivation. This is how many Christians today practice the spiritual disciplines. Now suppose the boy in our story is visited by an angel one day. The angel takes him to a live concert, and he shows this musician playing the guitar. The boy is astonished by what he sees and hears. He is amazed at the performance of this musician! He never imagined that anyone could play the guitar like this. "What do you think?" asked the angel. The boy answered, "That was amazing! “The angel then says to the boy, "The wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years". Then the angel pointed to the guitar, and said, "But you must practice". Then, the angel disappeared, and the boy is alone with his guitar.

Do you think his attitude towards practice will be different now? As long as he remembers what he will be in the future, the boy will have a reason to be disciplined and continue to practice on his guitar. In the same way, many of us feel like the boy did towards guitar practice. We have discipline without direction. Prayer is hard for us. The value of meditation on Scripture or fasting is unclear. But, when we can see the future and see the end goal of the Lord for our lives, then we will be motivated. As the Scripture says in 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know when He (Jesus) is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

3) The third truth is purpose. There is no value in spending many hours learning how to play the guitar unless it is for the purpose of playing music. In the same way, there is little value in practicing the spiritual disciplines apart from the single purpose of being godly. We must be committed to the prize of being like Christ and be willing to discipline ourselves in order to achieve this goal. Donald S. Whitney says: “Christians are called to make themselves do something they would not naturally do. They are to pursue spiritual maturity through discipline in order to become like Jesus".

4) The fourth truth is dependency. Spiritual disciplines, themselves, are a gift of God's grace. They are a way for us to receive his grace and to grow into spiritual maturity. We place ourselves before God so that through these spiritual disciplines God can work in us. In other words, the spiritual disciplines in themselves do not make us more like Jesus but only put us in position so that God, through His Holy Spirit, can make us more like Jesus. We need to be changed, but we cannot change ourselves. We can, however, work with the Holy Spirit by choosing to discipline ourselves. When we practice the spiritual disciplines on a daily basis, we put ourselves in places and we stay in places where the Holy Spirit can transform us. The Spiritual Disciplines are the channels for the Holy Spirit’s power. They are given to us by God in order for us to grow to be more like Jesus. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "May the God of peace sanctify you completely," and in Ephesians 2:8, Paul says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."

5) The fifth truth is habit. When we are out of shape, we do not begin our exercise program by running a marathon. Like with a diet or exercise program, the key to doing spiritual disciplines is to start small and try to make them a habit. We must begin being able to walk for 15 minutes. It is the same with the spiritual disciplines. It is been said that if we do anything continually for 21 days then it will become a habit. This should be our continual goal in our use of the spiritual disciplines.

If we want to have revival in our churches, if we want to see both spiritual and numerical growth in our churches, then our members must be regularly practicing the spiritual disciplines. Specific training in each one of the spiritual disciplines is critical for the spiritual growth of the church’s members. Let us all pursue holiness through the regular practice of spiritual disciplines.






Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.Hebrews 12:14. What does it mean to be holy? Holiness is the spiritual transformation of a person in Christ that results in spiritual maturity and obedience to the commands of Christ in the Scripture. Why is holiness so important to the church? The vast majority of American churches are in decline both numerically and spiritually. Why? There are many reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is a lack of holiness in the church. Why has this become such a problem? We have forgotten how to fear God. We do not think that there are consequences for our sin. We should have a new desire to please God. We should not be satisfied with where we are. But we remain complacent, indifferent and even approving of our sin. Why are we not concerned with being holy? How can we recover this holiness in our lives and in our churches? How can we be growing as Christians in Holiness? There are four (4) things to remember.

I. We need to remember that God is holy. Among God’s characteristics, as he has revealed himself, none is more significant than his holiness (see Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7). “Holy” and “holiness” occur more than 900 times in Scripture, and both the Old and New Testaments speak more about the holiness of God than any other attribute. Because of this characteristic, God is not able to tolerate our sin. As Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” So, God is holy and if our goal is to become closer in our relationship to Him and to become like Him, then we must become more holy. As Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” The first step to accomplishing any goal is to be motivated. What can be more motivating to accomplish the goal of growing in holiness than to fix our gaze on a God who is holy?

Here is the second thing to remember about pursuing holiness. II. We need to remember that the ultimate goal of our salvation is holiness. We tend to think that a free ticket to heaven is the ultimate goal of our salvation, but it is not. The ultimate goal of our salvation is our holiness or Christlikeness. God wants us to be in the image of His Son Jesus. So, Christ did not come just to save us from our sin, but He came to save us so that we might become holy. As Ephesians 1:4 says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”. So, the Bible could not be any clearer. The reason for our entire salvation, the goal behind our deliverance, the purpose for which God chose us in the first place is holiness.”

Here is the third thing to remember about pursuing holiness. III. We need to remember that the meaning of holiness is be set part or “sanctified”. The church is called to be different than the world, the community and the culture around us. The church is called to be different in three ways. We are called to be different in the way that we love, in what we believe and the way that we live. Of these three, it is in the way that we live or in the area of holiness that has often suffered the most. As I scan the landscape of the church, often I see sameness with our culture. The divorce rate of Christians is the same as the world. Members of the church are sleeping together before marriage without so much as a blink of conscience. Christians are often involved in dishonest business practices and are worshiping at the altar of the almighty dollar. Now there is a push from many churches for Christians to approve every kind of sin in the name of tolerance. Even more gravely, we see syncretism at work in the American church, where our Christianity looks an awful lot like the American culture around us. We have conformed to the patterns of this world. We are called to be both salt and light. But as salt, we have lost our flavor and so, as Jesus said, we are good for nothing but to be thrown out and stepped on. Also, as Jesus said, we are light that is has been covered up so that the world cannot see the light of Christ (See Matthew 5:13-16).

So, holiness is concerned with the separation from the ordinary or the profane, on the one hand, and connection with God or the divine, on the other. Holiness is not only being separated from sin and worldliness but also being set apart for God’s purposes.

Here is the fourth thing to remember about pursuing holiness. IV. We need to remember that we are called to live a life of holiness or “sanctification”. Sanctification is the lifelong process by which we become holy. There are five specific ways we strive to become more holy. Here is the first way. A. Make Holiness our Purpose. Of all the goals we have for our life, the most important is to pursue holiness because it is God’s goal for our life. As Oswald Chambers said, God has only one intended destiny for mankind—holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and he did not come to save us out of pity—he came to save us because he created us to be holy”. If we truly love God, then we will commit to making holiness the primary purpose of our life.

Here is the second way that we should strive to become more holy. B. Do not resist the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is by the Holy Spirit and is part of our conversion. As 1 Peter 1:2 says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”. It is the Holy Spirit who sets us apart in Christ so that we might be saved. The Spirit also works in us so that we can be obedient to Christ, a process referred to as progressive sanctification, because we are progressing toward holiness. In this sanctifying role, the Spirit: (1) exposes our sin so that we may recognize and turn away from it; (2) illuminates Scripture so that we may understand its meaning, and (3) helps us to see the glory of Christ. The Spirit is always willing to do this for us, which is why we must not “resist” (See Acts 7:51) or “quench” (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19) Him.

Here is the third way that we should strive to become more holy. C. Commit to being obedient. There is no holiness without obedience. As Peter says in 1 Peter 1:2, the Spirit’s sanctifying work is done so that we may be obedient to Christ. We can read about the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 and the conclusion to draw is that they are examples to us because they demonstrated their faith through obedience. Obedience is the pathway to holiness. This is why Jesus says to us in Luke 6:46, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” Jesus also says in Matthew 7:24-25: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock”. This is also what James meant when he says in James 2:17-18: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works”.

Here is the fourth way that we should strive to become more holy. D. Pursue Jesus not moralism. Moralism means to live one’s life according to established set of principles of right from wrong. There are some who believe that this is the goal of sanctification. They believe that that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior. But sanctification is far more than moralism. It is true that as we become more holy, we will naturally become more moral. But that is not the goal of growing in godliness. Our pursuit is of Jesus, not moralism. Holiness is not ultimately about living up to a moral standard, but it is about living in Christ and living out of our real, vital union with him.”

Here is the fifth and final way that we should strive to become more holy. E. Expect improvement not perfection. Too often Christians do not strive to be holy because they consider it an impossible standard. But God is not leading us to an unattainable level of perfection. Our lack of perfection should merely lead us to continually strive to become more and more like Christ. John Calvin wrote, “As even the most perfect are always very far from coming up to the mark, we ought daily to strive more and more. And we ought to remember that we are not only told what our duty is, but that God also adds, “I am he who sanctifies you.”

Let us all pursue holiness. Christians, we need to become more holy each day so that we will please our Lord, find fulfillment in our lives and so that others will be able to see Christ in us. Churches, our goal must be that each of our members become more and more holy. All of our ministries and plans should be centered around this goal of holiness. Let us also remember our true motivation for pursuing holiness: Because We Are Loved by our God. As believers we are to be holy not because we want to be loved by God but because we are already loved in Christ. We love him because he first loved us (See 1 John 4:19). And the best way to show that we love God is by seeking to become holy because he is holy.



Your Associational Missionary,

Joel Whitenton





If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

As we enter a New Year, many of us are thinking about our goals and resolutions. As some of you are thinking about those goals, no doubt you may be asking yourself: “What is God’s Will for my life?” This leads to the next question: “How can we know God’s Will? We all can have confidence that God’s sovereign will be accomplished in our lives. We also know that God’s standard and general will for our lives is found in His Word. But many of us are also praying and seeking to find God’s special or particular will for some choices and decisions we have to make. Whether it is in a relationship, a job, our finances, ministry, or other life choices, we all are seeking God’s will in making those kinds of decisions. How do we find it?


  1. First, we need to remember that God has promised to guide us. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 also says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”. In other words, God has a plan for our lives, and it is a good plan. We need to seek that plan with all of our hearts through prayer. When we do this, God has promised to guide us. Thus, to seek God’s guidance, we need to avoid having the common erroneous beliefs about discovering His will:
  1. God’s will is not a roadmap; it is a relationship.
  2. God’s will is not the end of our joy or happiness, but the beginning.
  3. God does not speak only to certain people; He has a plan for everyone.
  4. Learning God’s will is not always a dramatic experience; oftentimes, it is spoken softly.
  5. God is not finished with us, whether we’re 9 or 99.
  6. God does not hide His will from us. He wants us to know it even more than we do.


II. Next, we need to remember that knowing God’s will and guidance hinges on our willingness, meekness, and openness. (1) We must be willing to be guided by God. God is willing to guide us when we yield to His control. Sometimes, God will give us visions, miracles, or dreams to reveal His plans, but many times, He speaks softly and practically. He guides us through Scripture, His people, and the Holy Spirit within us. We must be sensitive enough to hear and know His small and still voice. (2) We must be meek or humble to be guided by God. God opens and closes doors and guides those who are meek or humble through it all. Many times, we don’t even know it was the providence of God until afterwards. (3) Finally, we must be open to receiving the will of God. Many of us do not know the will of God for our lives because we are afraid of what it might be! We don’t have to be afraid of the will of God. Adrian Rogers says, “The will of God will not take you where the power of God cannot keep you.”


III. Finally, we need to seek the God’s will through His Word and Prayer. Do you want to know the will of God for your life? Here’s a test: how much time do you spend reading the Bible? Do you think God really believes we want to know His will when we don’t take even 15 minutes a day to read the one Book above all books that God has specifically written to show, reveal, and unfold His will? Your first step in knowing His will is the surrender principle—surrendering your will to His. Your second step is the scripture principle. Read His Word, meditate upon it, share it, and study it. When you bow to His will and read His will, you will know His will. Commit to reading God’s Word at least 15 minutes a day for 30 days. When the month is over, re­evaluate what you have learned and ask God to help you be obedient to daily Bible reading from this day forward. As we put this into practice, with the purpose of seeking God’s face and will, then he will guide our steps in the direction that we need to go.


Joel Whitenton, AM



2 Peter 1:1-11 says, “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”.

We all wear many hats. We might be spouses, parents, grandparents, employers, employees, pastors, teachers, students, etc. One privilege that I and many of you have experienced is the privilege of being a parent. As we have experienced the privilege of being a parent, we discover that it is not something that we can learn from books. Instead, it is hands-on, learn as we go, trial and error business. I remember with my own children, how I would constantly read about the various growth and developmental milestones that they should achieve at each particular stage of their life such as learning to walk, talk eat solid foods, etc.

The point is that for a child, growth is the expectation. Over a few short months, babies mature from helpless little 8-pound infants to 28-pound toddlers bent on demolishing every single thing in their path. I watched in wonder as my three children all matured through infancy to the fantastic adventure of toddlerhood, through childhood, through the difficult stages of the teenage years into adulthood. As I think about their growth, I cannot help but think about spiritual maturity. Just as a good parent is thrilled to see their child develop and grow, our Heavenly Father delights as we grow and mature in our faith.

The Bible is clear that spiritual maturity is the expectation not the exception for all Christians. Just as a baby is born and then begins to grow, so we too, are “born again” into God’s family, and we then start to mature as children of God. Although this is the expectation, often many Christians get stuck and fail to make progress in their faith. In fact, this is a major problem in many of our churches. We have members who have never grown up. Hebrews 5:12-14 refers to this when it says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil”.

In 2 Peter chapter 1, the Apostle outlines some “spiritual milestones” that should increase in our lives if we are indeed children of God. These milestones are not given as a legalistic checklist wherein we strive to perfect ourselves. Instead, these qualities are the evidence that a person is spiritually maturing. Just as my children no longer behaves like children, but they have progressed to being fully mature adults, born-again believers should also mature spiritually beyond their initial conversion. The evidence of this growth is the qualities listed in 2 Peter: “Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, godliness, and love.” Accordingly, if we desire to grow spiritually, here are five keys to spiritual maturity that we need to apply to our lives if we want to mature in Christ:

1. The Word. In 1st Peter we are told that we grow in our faith by drinking the “pure milk of God’s word (See 1 Peter 2:2-3).” The analogy is clear and one I’ve witnessed with my own eyes. Infants are nourished with milk, and the result is tremendous transformation! Those tiny fingers, toes, legs and limbs begin to grow, stretch, and develop from simply drinking milk! It is not a coincidence that the Bible describes itself as the “pure milk” for our spiritual growth. For a believer to mature in her faith, he or she must feed themselves on the Word of God daily. It is not enough to go to church or Bible study once a week. That would be like eating a meal on Sunday and then starving for the remainder of the week. We must daily feed ourselves the Word of God if we expect to grow and mature in our faith.


2. Christ-centered Community. I can testify from personal experience that nothing in the world has fostered spiritual maturity in my life more than surrounding myself with other Christ-followers who love Jesus, fear God, and desire to live for His glory. When we surround ourselves with a Christ-centered community then we invite accountability, we are challenged to know God more, and we have relationships with people who will pray for us when trials or temptations occur. Indeed, we are better together.







Psalm 135:7

"He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth.

Who makes lightnings for the rain,

Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries".


Psalm 147:8

"Who covers the heavens with clouds,

Who provides rain for the earth,

Who makes grass to grow on the mountains".


Psalm 148:8

"Fire and hail, snow and clouds.

Stormy wind, fulfilling His word".

No can deny that during this past year, we have seen unparalleled bad weather across the United States. There have been a record number of tornadoes that have decimated entire communities all across our country. There has been a record amount of flooding from California to New England, hail the size of softballs battering the American landscape, high winds (Derechos) that have devastated towns and record heat waves. What is the reason behind all this bad weather? El Niño? Coincidences? Climate change? God?

It is important for us to recognize that almost all people believe that something unusual is happening with our weather. The disagreement is about the cause. A popular theory that has advanced among the beliefs of many people in the past few years has been that of climate change. What is climate change? Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns that are mainly caused by human activities, especially by those human activities that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Thus, cars, planes, factories and even cows are receiving the blame. The scary thing about the climate change movement is how government policies are being shaped based on this climate change theory and how the lives of many people are being affected by a theory that lacks any scientific consensus much less a theory that leaves a Sovereign God out of the equation of who is in control of the weather. I would advise all people who are trying to persuade me of the danger of climate change, that if you want to be successful in winning me to your point of view, you’d better not leave God out of the equation.


Historian and International Affairs Specialists Arnold Toynbee once said, “The fundamental need of our world today is a rebirth of belief in the supernatural.” The current age is dominated mainly by reliance only on what can be seen and tested. We live in a period of rank atheism and materialism, which essentially dismisses the spiritual and argues that all of life and reality result from scientific and material interactions. For instance, if one were to ask what controls the wind, most people would probably answer it has to do with the relationship between the earth and the sun, with temperature, and pressure imbalances. Few people think of God as the wind’s cause or its lack thereof. Yet Revelation 7:1-3 says: "Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so they did not blow on the earth or the sea, or even on any tree. And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, ‘Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.’” In this text, the Bible says that God employs his angels to restrain the winds to accomplish a specific purpose. The wind belongs to God. The winds are under his control and subordinate to his will. It’s not so much what’s behind the winds and storms; it’s Who!


In his commentary on Revelation, William Barclay, the renowned Scottish Bible scholar, says that the Old Testament often pictures the winds as God’s agents employed in his acts of judgment. Here are a few of Barclay’s examples: “Zechariah has the picture of the chariots of the winds, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth (Zechariah 6:1-5). Nahum speaks of the Lord who has his way in the whirlwind and the storm (Nahum 1:3) … The winds are God’s chariots (Jeremiah 4:13). God comes with his chariots like a whirlwind (Isaiah 66:15). Chariots were utilized for warfare and judgment on one’s enemies.] The wind is the breath of God (Job 37:9, 10). The wind rends the mountains (I Kings 19:11) and withers the grass (Isaiah 40:7, 24) and dries up the stream, the river and the sea (Nahum 1:4; Psalm 18:15). God’s day [Judgment Day] would be the day of the whirlwind (Amos 1:14). The whirlwind of the Lord goes forth in its fury and falls on the head of the wicked (Jeremiah 23:19; 30:23). The wind of the Lord…will come from the wilderness and destroy the fertility of the land (Hosea 13:15). God will send his four winds upon Elam and scatter the people (Jeremiah 49:36).”


Other passages of Scripture provide a window for looking inside God’s control of the weather. For example, God can use the weather to either bless or punish. Job 37:11-13 reads: “He loads the clouds with moisture, and they flash with his lightning. The clouds churn about at his direction. They do whatever he commands throughout the earth. He makes these things happen either to punish people or to show his unfailing love.” Perhaps one of the strongest passages which present the way God uses climate conditions to display his sovereignty is in Haggai 1:9-11: “You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? “Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew, and the earth produces no crops. I have called for a drought on your fields and hills — a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.”


In God’s economy, angels are also associated with affecting weather patterns. Angels have a ministry concerning the earth. They are linked to winds, fires, storms, and pestilence (Psalm 103:20; 104:4; I Chronicles 21:15, 16, 27). Throughout the book of Revelation, they are connected with fire, hail, blood, winds and storms. At certain times in history, God authorizes and directs them to use their tremendous powers to affect meteorological conditions. In other words, the Bible knows nothing of secondary causes for what is happening in the weather. It consistently shows that God is actively in control of our weather. Barclay concludes: “We say that atmospheric conditions, variations in temperature, land and mountain configurations, cause certain things to happen. The Jews described it all to the direct action of God. He simply said, God sent the rain; God made the wind to blow; God thundered; God sent his lightning. While God has set the laws by which His universe, including the weather, is governed, God can supersede those laws to accomplish his divine will”.


Does this mean every natural disaster is judgment for sin? Definitely not! Since Adam and Eve, who were initially placed in a perfect environment, rebelled against God and fell into sin, this universe and this planet has been negatively impacted. We live in a fallen world. Nature itself is broken like humanity and does not work correctly, and it cannot function correctly until the redemption of humankind is complete (Romans 8:19). Therefore, natural disasters are often simply the result of an ailing earth in convulsion.


Nevertheless, when a nation or nations operate grievously in sin, ignores God, rejects his ways, and despises Christ and His people with increasing intensity, it should not surprise us if God intervenes and sends catastrophic natural calamities to get people’s attention. These extraordinary misfortunes mercifully remind us of who is in control. They are warnings with redemptive messages to be reconciled with our Maker. So, when we watch the news and observe the things going on around us and when we see the moral decline and rebellion of the people along with the calamities being caused by the weather, we need to look at the events in a new way. We need to realize that these are not coincidences that are isolated from each other but are connected in every way.


Think of the degradation of our culture. It seems as if every person is a lover of self, a lover of money, a lover of pleasure – and eager to cancel anyone who disagrees with them. This translates to extreme persecution for the church in much of the world and to eroding religious liberty at home. Across our country, an unprecedented spiritual famine is causing an epidemic of emaciated hearts. In the process, many professed Christians are abandoning the faith. This has created a vacuum for the rising tide of socialism to flood into our land.


This reminds me of the words of the apostle Paul to young Timothy, his fellow worker and companion: “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Could there be a better description of the current times? Probably not!


Therefore, should we be surprised that in this generation, we are witnessing an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions: drought, rampant wildfires, incredible floods, terrifying tornadoes, above-normal hurricane seasons, abnormally powerful thunderstorms, and uncommon heat waves globally?


In their book, God’s Answer for America, Darrel and Cindy Deville rightly state that these environmental conditions, that are often referenced as “global warming” or “climate change” are all part of the birthing pains and natural disasters that will increase as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11, 25-26). These birthing pains are not ‘global warming’ (or ‘climate change’), but they are part of God’s ‘global warnings’ as signs for these last days. These will continue to increase and intensify as the return of Christ gets closer. Some politicians claim we all need to work together to ‘battle climate change,’ but there is nothing they can do to stop it. Like a woman in labor, the contractions will become more frequent and more intense the closer the return of Christ gets. So, this is not about ‘climate change.’ But the earth is instead preparing for a ‘kingdom change’ – the coming glorious kingdom and reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 11:15).”


Do not be blinded to the supernatural cause behind the natural cause. God is in control of the weather. And we need to remember that the same God who sends large-scale disasters in response to gross collective sinning can also employ his angels to restrain these judgments when there is repentance. Thus, our call as a church to the community around us should be: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13).




Psalm 33:12: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance".

          Happy July the 4th to everyone! This July the 4th, we will celebrate America's 247th birthday. Basically, July the 4th is a celebration of our freedom, our prosperity and our privilege of being a part of the great heritage of this great nation. But lately, as we see what is happening in our country, most of us may not feel like celebrating. Most of us can see around us a country in moral, financial and spiritual decline. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” It follows then that if the leaders and the people turn their backs on God, not only will they forfeit God’s blessing, but it will corrupt our system of government, which protects us from tyranny. Without a moral civil society, Liberty is not possible. As stated in Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people”. Today the United States of America stands at a crossroads. As our national culture becomes increasingly godless, it seems that lawlessness and chaos are increasing.

Is there anything that can be done? We can start with this question: What is our greatest need as a nation? Interestingly, in a Wall Street Journal article, written in 1947 (two years after the Second World War), a writer made this observation: “What America needs more than railway extension, western irrigation, a low tariff, a bigger cotton crop, and larger wheat crop is a revival of religion. The kind that father and mother used to have. A religion that counted it good business to take time for family worship each morning right in the middle of the wheat harvest.” In short, according to this writer, what America needs most is a revival of religion—a religion that is based on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Charles Finney, who was part of one of America’s great revivals, said, “Revival is nothing more or less than a new beginning of obedience to God.” A.W. Tozer defined revival as, “That which changes the moral climate of a community. “In his book—The Secret of Christian Joy—published in 1938, Vance Havner (1901–1986) also made a similar observation: “The greatest need of America is an old-fashioned, heaven-born, God-sent revival.” And I agree. I believe our greatest need as a nation today is true revival.


But what is a revival? In his book: Revival: A People Saturated With God, Brian H. Edwards gives what I think is a comprehensive definition of revival: “A true Holy Spirit revival is a remarkable increase in the spiritual life of a larger number of God’s people, accompanied by an awesome awareness of the presence of God, intensity of prayer and praise, a deep conviction of sin with a passionate longing for holiness and unusual effectiveness in evangelism, leading to the salvation of many unbelievers.”  In short, we need to experience this type of revival in our nation today. How can this revival happen? There are four (4) steps that must happen for revival to occur in America.


Here is the first step for revival in America: 1) Revival comes from God. Revival is ultimately the work of our sovereign God, not primarily for our good, but for his own glory. One of the last great American revivals was the Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1857–1858. It began with a 48-year-old businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier. He began a noon prayer meeting on Fulton Street in downtown New York. Jeremiah handed out flyers to downtown businessmen, saying, “Come to our prayer meeting when you are having a break for lunch.” Only a handful of people showed up. But Jeremiah persisted; and that handful of people kept meeting for prayer. Then something dramatic took place. The stock market crashed. Suddenly, the prayer meeting grew. People fell to their knees, and then the prayer meeting exploded. Prayer meetings were popping up quickly throughout New York City. Within six months, 10,000 people were gathering for prayer in New York City alone. They were renting venues that Broadway normally used and packing them out at lunch time with men and women who were calling on the name of the Lord. Fifty thousand New Yorkers reportedly came to know the Lord from March to May. During that single year, the number of reported conversions throughout the country reached an average of 50,000 a week for about two years. Even a notorious criminal nicknamed “Awful” Gardner shocked everyone when he came to Christ through the prayer meetings. When it was all over, one million people had come to faith. No one orchestrated that revival in New York. It wasn’t a campaign planned by people. It was a work of God where He poured out His Spirit. So, a revival is a work of the Holy Spirit; it’s not something we can make happen. Revival is God’s responsibility. It’s what God does for us.


          This leads to the next step for revival in America: 2) Revival has to begin in God's people. And before we pray to God to revive our country, we first need to ask God to revive ourselves in the church. Revival must begin with us believers. The English evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith (1860–1947) was once asked the secret of revival. His reply is convicting: “Go home. Take a piece of chalk. Draw a circle around yourself. Then pray, ‘O Lord, revive everything inside this circle.’” This ought to be your prayer and my prayer: “O Lord, revive me first.” Has it really been your prayer in the past few weeks that God will revive your heart? How quick we are to see the need for others to be changed, overlooking our own need for revival. We see the speck in another’s eye, and not the log in our own (Matthew 7:3). Before we criticize others, we first need to examine ourselves. Oh, may we sincerely pray with the hymn writer William Mackay (1839–1885): Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love; May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah, thine the glory! Hallelujah, Amen! Hallelujah, thine the glory! Revive us again’. The scriptural background for this hymn is Psalm 85:4–7 that says: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.” Revival is our nation’s greatest need. But before we ask God to revive our nation and our leaders, we must ask Him to revive ourselves.  

          This leads to the next step for revival in America: 3) God's people need to be in intercessory prayer for this nation. Oh, let’s not stop crying out to God to pour out his Spirit on us as a nation—to heal our broken land. Nothing is impossible with God! Could it be one of the reasons why we don’t experience revival is because we don’t earnestly ask for it? As James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Our nation has departed from God’s ways, disobeyed His Word, and ignored His warnings to turn away from our sin. The result is a nation where ‘everyone does what is right in his own eyes’ (Judges 21:25). Our hearts have grown hard and cold to the Gospel and until genuine, heartfelt repentance and revival occur, our nation will experience God’s judgment, not His blessings. All of this is because we are dependent on God for peace, security, and blessings. Until we seek God in humility and in prayer, our nation will remain a cursed nation.

          This leads to the next thing to remember for revival in America: 4) God's people need to be involved in evangelism in this nation. Revival is God’s responsibility. It’s what God does for us. But listen to this: Evangelism is what we do for God. Preaching the gospel is our responsibility. Christ commissioned us to go into the world and spread the Good News. We cannot make a revival happen, but we can make evangelism happen. We can start those conversations. We can share the love of Christ. We can invite friends to bible studies and church. So, let’s pray for God to do a great work of revival in our country, but let’s do our part. The root of the problem is that people are separated from God. And the way to change a culture is to invade it. It is to go out where people don’t typically hear the gospel, enter their world, and tell them about Jesus Christ.          There is no real revival in America because Americans are not convinced that they really need God. Or when they do think they need God it’s because they've been told God is the way to the "American Dream". We do so many things on our own, are able to accomplish so much through hard work, that really, God is just an afterthought, an addendum, an insurance policy. Will America fall? She has already fallen, and she cannot get up! America is spiritually paralyzed but too spiritually blind to realize it. All our preaching, all our crusades, all our TV and radio, have produced a spiritually obese Church content to be merrily on its way to heaven while the rest of the world is on its way to hell! Can anything be done? Can America be saved? It can, but only if we begin to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

          The answer to America’s problems is a spiritual one. We need to seek God's presence in prayer for ourselves first. Revival must begin with God’s people! Then, we need to pray for our country like never before. And we need to reach out to a lost world with the gospel like never before. We need more people hearing about who Jesus is and what He promises. We need to get back to the true God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who sent His Son Jesus Christ to be born in the manger, to die on the cross, and to rise from the dead three days later. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." We have heard it preached, we have perhaps preached it ourselves, but we must believe it and obey it if we are to see God move in our land. As stated in Joel 2:17: "Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the LORD be jealous for his land and pity his people." In Habakkuk 3:2, the prophet prays, "O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." This must become the Church's heart cry and desire for America!


          Our first president, George Washington, modeled for us how to pray for our nation, and I quote him here:

          “Almighty God, We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection, that thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States of America at large. And finally, that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of The Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord”.




          Matthew 28:18-20 says: "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen".


          Luke 24:44-49 says, "Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”


          All churches must be Great Commission churches. To determine if a church is a Great Commission church, we must first know what the Great Commission is. After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but before His ascension into heaven, Jesus commissioned His disciples to fulfill God’s great mission to reach the nations. This commissioning of the disciples is known as the Great Commission. The Great Commission is found in all four Gospels and the book of Acts. It is also summarized in the seven letters that Jesus, through John, sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3. As we begin to talk about the Great Commission church, we must recognize from the beginning that the Great Commission is a command by our Lord to His churches. All churches, therefore, are to be Great Commission churches, and any church that is not a Great Commission church, is not really a true church at all. So, what is a Great Commission church?  The Bible teaches us that a Great Commission church is defined in seven ways. (1) There is the Authority of the Great Commission church; (2) There is the Mission of the Great Commission church; (3) There is the Message of the Great Commission church; (4) There is the Head of the Great Commission church; (5) There is the Power of the Great Commission church; (6) There is the Endurance of the Great Commission church; and (7) There is the Promise to the Great Commission church. 


          The Authority of a Great Commission Church. The church has been given authority by the One who has been given all authority (Matthew 16:18-19; 28:18). It has been given the authority to be witnesses to this world as royal ambassadors to preach the message of reconciliation through Christ to God (See Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). The church has been the given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, an open door as a steward of Christ, which means that the church has the authority to admit entrance into the kingdom of heaven through the preaching of the gospel to those who are sinners See Isaiah 22:22; Matthew 16:19; Revelation 3:7-8). If those sinners respond favorably to the gospel, then their sins are forgiven, but if they reject the gospel, then their sins are retained (See John 20:23). The church also has the right to exercise discipline concerning right and wrong conduct over those who are in the kingdom of heaven as members of a local church (See Matthew 18:15-20). Failure to exercise discipline will result in major problems for the church (See 1 Corinthians 5; Revelation 2:14-6, 20-21).


          The Mission of a Great Commission Church. The mission of the church is to go and make disciples in all nations (See Matthew 28:19) and should begin in their own community (See Luke 24:47). There are several things that must be understood with regard to the church’s mission. First, there is the church’s call to missions. They must be obedient and “go.” They cannot be satisfied with successes in the past, but the church must stay awake and be continually going out to reach people for Christ (See Revelation 3:1-6). The church has been given an “open door” and they must take advantage of that open door to reach the nations for Christ (See 1 Corinthians 16:8-9; Revelation 3:7-8). Next, there are the people of the church’s mission. They are to go to “all the nations” (See Matthew 28:19). Jesus told His disciples to begin in Jerusalem (See Luke 24:47) and as stated in Acts 1:8, He told them to spread from Jerusalem, to Judea, unto Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth. The entire book of Acts follows this movement. Acts 2:1-5:42 describes the disciples’ ministry in Jerusalem. Acts 6:1-12:25 describes the disciples’ ministry in Judea and Samaria. Acts 13:1-28:31 describes the disciples’ ministry extending to the ends of the earth. The churches today need to follow this same pattern. The church begins within its own ranks (Jerusalem). Then, it extends to its Judea (its own community), then it spreads to its Samaria (the communities that are near but have those who are different); and then to both support and send its own members to overseas missions (the uttermost parts of the earth).


          The Message of a Great Commission Church. The message of a Great Commission church is found in Luke 24:44-47. First, the message is based on the Word of God (See Luke 24:44) in which a hearer is totally dependent upon God Himself for understanding (See Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16). It is all about Jesus Christ of whom the Scriptures affirm is the promised Christ who was sent to save us from our sins (See John 1:29-36). It was necessary, therefore, for Christ to suffer, die on a cross, and rise again from the dead (See Luke 24:46). Now people everywhere need to acknowledge that they are a sinner, repent of their sins, and believe in Jesus so that their sins can be forgiven (See Luke 24:47). This message of God’s grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone as stated in the Scripture alone (See Ephesians 2:8-9) is the message that the church cannot afford to compromise on. The church must avoid preaching a false gospel, a false Jesus, or claim to be empowered by a false spirit (See 2 Corinthians 11:3). The church must discern between truth and error and drive out those who would deny this message either by their doctrine or their conduct (See Revelation 2:12-29).


          The Head of a Great Commission Church. Jesus says in Matthew 28:18 that all authority has been given to Him. In other words, Christ is the head of the church (See Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18) and its husband (See 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:7-8). Jesus loves His church, and He demonstrated His love for the church by giving Himself for her (See Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 1:5). Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Not only did Jesus do this to restore Peter from his sin of denying Jesus at His arrest, but Jesus was also teaching him the most important thing he needed to learn and that is that our relationship to Jesus is absolutely essential to our service to Him. If our love for Jesus is strong, then we will feed His sheep (See John 21:15-17). If we follow Him, then we become fishers of men (See Mark 1:16-20). We are commanded to become fishers of men and we are commanded to feed His sheep. But we are also commanded to love Him and on this commandment of love rest the success or failure of the command to serve. This is the lesson that Jesus taught the two sisters of Martha and Mary (See Luke 10:38-42). What does it mean to love Jesus? It is like the love of Abraham for God when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac See Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19). It is like the love of God for us when He sent His Son Jesus (See Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). It is love that is unconditional, full of virtue, and superior to everything else (See 1 Corinthians 13). This love must be focused on Christ above everything else or otherwise it will not stand (See Matthew 6:24).  The Church at Ephesus was reminded to never lose this first love or the church itself would cease to exist (See Revelation 2:4-5). Whoever does not love the Lord Jesus is accursed (See 1 Corinthians 16:22), so let us open our minds and hearts and let the Lord Jesus be first in our lives and then He will come to us and fellowship with us (See Revelation 3:20). As we abide in Jesus and in His love, He will abide in us, and we will then bear fruit in our lives and in our ministry (See John 15:4-10). 


          The Power of a Great Commission church. The power of the church rests in the indwelling Spirit of God. Luke recorded Jesus’ command to His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Promise of the Father came and empowered them (See Luke 24:49). This was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost (See Acts 2:1-4) and the church was equipped to do the task of which it was called (See 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Missions cannot be accomplished apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. It is He who enlightens us to the truths of God’s word (See John 14:26; 16:13), equips us to witness (See John 15:26-27), and enables us to glorify Christ (See John 16:14). The Spirit indwells (See John 14:16-17; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19) and baptized us into the body of Christ (See 1 Corinthians 12:13). We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit continually (See Ephesians 5:18) and we need to walk daily in His power (See Galatians 5:16, 25). We dare not grieve Him (See Ephesians 4:30) or quench Him (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19) through our sin but we need to confess our sins (See 1 John 1:5-10) and keep the connection strong (See John 13:8). Then He will produce His fruits within us (See Galatians 5:22-23) and He will use our gifts from Him to equip the church to fulfill its missionary task (See Ephesians 4:7-16). We need to understand that it is not by our power or by our might but by the Spirit that missions will be successful (See Zechariah 4:6). It is He who guides us in our mission (See Acts 16:6-10) and it is He who protects us from our enemies (See 1 John 4:4). The church at Philadelphia realized it had little strength and, was therefore successful (See Revelation 3:8). The church at Laodicea thought that it could do the task with its own resources and was failing miserably (See Revelation 3:15-17). We cannot accomplish any task without the Lord, and we dare not make any plans without Him (See Proverbs 16:9; Isaiah 30:1; 31:1). Cursed is any person or church that trusts in man (See Jeremiah 17:5) but blessed is the person or church that trusts on God (See Psalm 40:4; 84:12; Jeremiah 17:7). 


          The Endurance of a Great Commission church. In Luke 24:49, Jesus told the disciples to “tarry” in the city of Jerusalem until they were endured with power from on high. In Jesus’ message to Peter in John 21:15-19, Jesus told Peter to follow Him and that it would cost him his life. This is a reminder that the Great Commission church will suffer hardships and thus, they are to endure for the sake of Christ (See Revelation 3:10). While Jesus has given the church authority over demons (See Luke 10:17-20), and while Jesus has promised to never leave the church (See Matthew 28:20), the church will face persecution (See John 15:20). This endurance is especially needed when the church is carrying out its task of missions. Like a soldier (See 2 Timothy 2:3-4), an Olympic athlete (See 2 Timothy 2:5), and a farmer (See 2 Timothy 2:6), the church must endure in order to accomplish its task. The work of missions is hard and involves much sacrifice, hardship and uncertain results. Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:23 that the road of discipleship requires sacrifice. Peter, after His call to feed the sheep, was told by Jesus that He would die in the call to duty (See John 21:18-19)! He was then challenged to follow Jesus anyway (See John 21:19). Jesus told His church in Smyrna to be faithful unto death and He would give them the crown of life (See Revelation 2:10). Considering all this, let us be willing as church to endure for the sake of the elect, so that it may be for their salvation and benefit (See 2 Timothy 2:10). Let us bear affliction, so that the task of missions can be accomplished (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-7). 


          The Promise to a Great Commission church. Jesus promised the church that gates of death itself will not prevail against it (See Matthew 16:18). The reason for this promise is that Jesus said that He would never leave nor forsake the church (See Matthew 28:20). Indeed, if two or three are gathered in His name, there He will be among them (Matthew 18:20). Just as God went ahead of Israel in the wilderness (See Exodus 13:21-22; Deuteronomy 31:8), so Christ will go ahead of us and be with us as we do missions. Is His name not Immanuel (See Matthew 1:23)? When Saul persecuted the church did not Jesus say that Saul was persecuting Him (See Acts 9:4)? Is not the church His chaste bride (See 2 Corinthians 11:2)? Then how can she ever be abandoned?  Even in our darkest hours, Jesus is watching over us (See Mark 6:46-52). With this promise of His presence, the church can be assured that as it obeys His call to do missions, the Lord Himself will be with them.


          So, we can see that the true church is a Great Commission church. The Great Commission church has been given authority by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to carry out the task of missions. Its mission is to go out and make disciples in all the nations beginning in its own community. Its message is a call to repent of sins, trust in the person, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and to follow Him as Lord. The Great Commission church needs to remember that Christ is its head, and their supreme responsibility is to love and obey Him. The Power of a Great Commission church is through the Holy Spirit and thus their needs to be a continual dependency on the Lord shown in prayer. The Great Commission church is called to endure in its faith, walk and mission with the strengthening promise that the Lord Jesus will never forsake them. Knowing all this, I ask you: Are you part of a Great Commission church?


          It is time for us in the church to wake up for the hour of Christ’s coming is at hand (See Romans 13:11-12). Let us be moved with compassion for the lost like Jesus is (See Matthew 9:36). Let us do the will of the Lord and to finish His work of missions. Let us do business until He comes (See Luke 19:13). Let us open our eyes and see that this world is ripe for the harvest of the lost (See John 4:35). Our desire should be to see fruit in our ministry as we spread the gospel outward (See Romans 1:13). We are debtors to be witnesses to not only our own communities but to all people everywhere (See Romans 1:14). We should prepare ourselves to preach the gospel for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes (See Romans 1:15-16). For how can anyone believe if they have not heard the gospel? How can anyone hear the gospel if there is no witness? How can anyone be a witness if our churches are not training and sending people (See Romans 10:14-15)? We need to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear (See 1 Peter 3:15). This should include being able to give our personal testimony concerning our salvation and walk with Christ as Paul did (See Acts 22:3-21; 26:4-23).  We also need to pray that the faith of our churches is spoken of throughout the whole community (See Romans 1:8). This will come when our faith is shown to be effective as people acknowledge of every good thing which is in us who are in Christ Jesus (Philemon 5-6). Yes, the harvest may be plentiful, but the laborers are few, so let us pray that the Lord of the harvest will send more laborers (See Matthew 9:37-38). Let us reach out to the lost knowing that if we are successful, we will be snatching them out of the fire (See Jude 23) and we will see that person saved from a multitude of sins (See James 5:19-20). We do this knowing that as we are used by God to turn a person to righteousness, that someday we will shine like the stars above (See Daniel 12:3) and our converts themselves will be our crown of rejoicing at Christ’s coming (See 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). All of this to say that we should embrace our call to be Great Commission churches!


One of the biggest ministries that the Association has is its Care Ministries. We look for ways to serve and provide care to the people in our community. Many times, that means we enter partnerships with other ministries such as the Crossett Food Pantry, Life Choices, Drug Free Ashley County Coalition, and Hope at Home among many others. Why do we do this Consider this Scripture in Matthew 25:40: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you. As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'” Jesus speaking to His disciples about when He comes back in glory, all the angels with Him, before Him, gathered all the nations. And He’s separating people from one another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. And the King says to those on His right, His sheep, “Come you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world because I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison; you came to me.” And the sheep are saying, the righteous answering, “When did this happen? When did we feed you? See you thirsty and give you drink? And see you a stranger and welcome you? And see you naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And Jesus says, “As you did it to one of the least of these of my brothers, you did it to me.” It is obvious that the point and call of this passage is that we should serve others. According to this passage, why should we serve others? Here are seven reasons why we should serve others.

1) We should serve others is because when we serve others, we are serving Christ Himself. Jesus so identifies with His people, that an act towards one of His children is an act towards Himself. What a powerful picture of Jesus’ identification with His church and what Jesus calls us to do as His church. To love, care for, provide for, lay down our lives for one another. This truth should make us pray to God to give us the hearts that have the desire to serve others, to love others sacrificially like this, that see people right around us who are hurting and in need. That God will enable us to see those who are hungry, those who are hurting, those who are enslaved to their addictions, Those who are prison and sick, and those who are desperate, lonely with no place to go. That we will respond with sacrificial love to those who are hurting and serve them and care for them.

2) We should serve others because we are grateful for what Christ did for us. Think about what Jesus did for us. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were blind, naked, hungry and desperate spiritually. We had no hope and were helpless. So, Jesus left the comforts and riches of heaven, came down, became one of us, suffered poverty, hunger, thirst with no place to lay His head. He was ridiculed, rejected, abandoned, unjustly accused, tortured, unjustly sentenced to die a horrendous death by crucifixion. He was nailed to a cross naked with a crown of thorns on his head. He was further mocked while he was on the cross and was even rejected by His own Father as he bore every single sin that every human being who has ever existed, exists today and will exist in the future. He took the punishment of our sins that we deserved to suffer for eternally in Hell and He died. We know that He was buried and rose again on the third day. We know He did this all because He loved us, and this was the only way to save us from our sins. In other words, Jesus saw our need and He met our need by becoming a servant. As a result, as Christians, who are grateful for what Christ did for us, should we not do for Christ what He did for us by serving others?

3) We should serve others because it is one of the very purposes of our existence. Serving is one of your life purposes. Mark 8:35 (NKJV) says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it". Now hear is an interesting paraphrase from Mark 8:35 in the Living Bible that says, "Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.” Until we learn how to serve, we’re not really living—we’re just existing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give away.


4) We should serve others because this makes us more like Jesus. Matthew 20:28 says, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” If we don’t learn how to serve others, then we will never grow to spiritual maturity. In fact, we’ll be a spiritual baby our entire life.


5) We should serve others because this is the highest use of our time. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil". So, how should we redeem our time for the Lord? 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord". If you want to make an impact and leave a legacy, one of the higher uses of your time is to serve God by serving others. Your service to the Lord is never wasted.


6) We should serve others because this is the secret to greatness. Matthew 20:25-26 says, "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant". True greatness comes from servanthood, not from living for yourself. The greatest leaders are those who serve the most.


7) We should serve others because this will be rewarded in heaven. Jesus said in Mark 10:29-30, “So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life". Ultimately, your real boss is Jesus. And he will reward you one day for everything you’ve done for him. That’s a guarantee!


How passionate are you about serving God? Could your enthusiasm use a boost? God wants you to think differently about serving and to follow Romans 12:10-11 that says, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord". One way to serve others for the Lord is to be involved in the ministries in your local church. Another way is for you and your church to partner with the Association as we continually seek ways to serve others for Christ in our community.





     As we are watching the implosion of America happening all around us, the greater tragedy is happening in its churches. Many of the churches are not reaching out to the community around them but seem to be satisfied with their comfortable and familiar surroundings and with their ever shrinking and ever graying membership. Being a church member seems to mean to be a part of a social club with free tickets to heaven and no cost of following Christ. Being mediocre or doing the bare minimum seems to be the standard for both the pastors and the rest of the church members. All of whom have seemed to forget about their call to go and make disciples. All of whom have seemed to forget that there will be a day of judgment and accountability that is coming. 

     This current generation of Americans, both in and out of the church, seems to settle for mediocrity: Mediocre work, mediocre education, mediocre relationships (friendship, family, and marriages), and even mediocre faith. As Christians, we are not called to mediocrity; we are called to greatness--to be the greatest at everything we do to the best of our ability for the glory of the Lord. I do not mean God expects you to be an absolute expert in all that you do, but He does want you to be your best because it will only aid in your growth as a human being, and doing your best brings glory to God. What will matter in the end is that we did our best to be at our best. It does not glorify God when we just go through the motions and settle for less.

     Jesus talked about this subject in a parable in Luke 19:11-27 which says the following: “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. 12 Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ 15 “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ 19 Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ 20 “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. 21 For I feared you, because you are [b]an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ 25 (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) 26 ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 27 But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’ ”

      Two things about this passage of Scripture. First, God will be to us what we expect Him to be. We are judged by the God we expect—we expect either a gracious God or a harsh God (v. 22). In verse 22, the nobleman being represented as Jesus was essentially saying, “That’s who you think I am? You think I am severe, so then I’ll be severe towards you since that’s how you expect Me to be. Your own words condemn you.” Before this parable, we see how God deals with the differing expectations of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). He deals with them both differently according to their expectations of Him (the Pharisee in judgement and the tax collector in forgiveness). Second, this parable teaches us to be faithful with whatever we have or face the loss of all we have, even if it’s only a little. Each of the servants were given 10 minas. The first returned with 10 more and the second returned with only five. The second may have returned with less, but he still made a profit regardless. In business, they came back with a return on investment—the nobleman invested in them, and they returned with more than they started out with. The third, however, wanted to avoid risk and didn’t do anything; he simply hid. Unlike him, the other two servants used what they had to advance the nobleman’s kingdom. No matter how much or how little resources God gives us, He expects us to use our resources to advance His kingdom. The world may not want Jesus to reign over them, but He does anyway, and we are sent out to do His business. God gives more to those who use their resources if not on earth, then certainly in Heaven—where our true treasure lies. Those who hide and are lazy and squander their resources will suffer loss. Each calling in life that we have is just another resource we have to advance God’s kingdom—every relationship we have. If we don’t take advantage of those relationships to be an example of Christ, we’re just squandering that opportunity to make Him known. By hiding the Gospel in each of our callings in life, we are settling for mediocrity. So why does mediocrity dishonor God instead of glorifying Him? As Christians, everything we do reflects who God is. We are ambassadors of Christ—we are His representatives. Because we have the label “Christian” (Christ follower), all eyes are on us. Thus, we must avoid mediocrity. There are three basic characteristics of mediocrity that do not belong to the Christian: procrastination, laziness, and timidity. When we’re lazy, timid, and procrastinate, we fail to reflect who Jesus is. In Jesus’ entire ministry He was neither lazy, timid, nor did he procrastinate. But in our endeavors to be Christlike, we often settle for mediocrity.

     The first basic characteristic of mediocrity is procrastination. Procrastination is the willful act of delaying or postponing something. There is no plausible reason for it—not matter the excuse that we may have. Ultimately, procrastination is another word for laziness. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap”. Every year, at the beginning of the growing season, farmers go out and work the fields. They plow, till, and sow seeds. Then they step back and wait for God to do His part and bring the rain. If the rain doesn’t come and the plants die, they must begin the process all over again. They don’t abandon hope, but plant and plant again until the crops grow plentifully and the storehouses overflow. This is how success is achieved. On the other hand, if the farmer goes out at the start of the planting season and says, “I don’t feel any wind or see any clouds; it probably won’t rain, so why bother planting?” then he surely won’t reap any harvest. If he waits for the perfect conditions to arrive, it might be too late, and the farmer will have missed his chance altogether. The farmer must plant his crops believing that the rain will come, otherwise he will never get started or ever enjoy the fruits of his labor. In the same way, when God places an idea on our heart or we feel called to do something, we can’t put things off until the conditions are just right. Sometimes we say, “I’ll do it when I have more time.” Or “I’ll do it when I have more money.” Or . . . fill in any of the many other excuses that hold us back in life. Instead, Solomon teaches us in the book of Ecclesiastes to have faith and take the first step, even when we can’t see how everything will work out in the end. The problem with procrastination is when it becomes a perpetual habit then we will ultimately do not get anything done. Therefore, we should not insult Him by being mediocre with what we do by procrastinating all the time.

     The second basic characteristic of mediocrity is laziness. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion tends to remain in motion, and an object at rest tends to remain at rest. This law applies to people. While some are naturally driven to complete projects, others are apathetic, requiring motivation to overcome inertia. Laziness, a lifestyle for some, is a temptation for all. But the Bible is clear that, because the Lord ordained work for man, laziness is sin. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Proverbs 21:25 tells us that a lazy person hates work: “The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work” He loves sleep: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed” (26:14); He gives excuses: “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets’” (26:13); He wastes time and energy: “He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great waster” (18:9 KJV); He believes he is wise, but is a fool: “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly” (26:16). Proverbs also tells us the end in store for the lazy: A lazy person becomes a servant (or debtor): “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor” (12:24); His future is bleak: “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing” (20:4); He may come to poverty: “The soul of the lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (13:4 KJV).

      There is no room for laziness in the life of a Christian. A new believer is truthfully taught that “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But a believer can become idle if he erroneously believes God expects no fruit from a transformed life. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Christians are not saved by works, but they do show their faith by their works (James 2:18, 26). Slothfulness violates God’s purpose—good works. The Lord, however, empowers Christians to overcome the flesh’s tendency towards laziness by giving us a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). In our new nature, we are motivated to diligence and productiveness out of a love for our Savior who redeemed us. Our old tendency toward laziness—and all other sin—has been replaced by a desire to live godly lives: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).

     As Christians, we know that our labors will be rewarded by our Lord if we persevere in diligence: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10); “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10). Christians should labor in God’s strength to evangelize and disciple. The apostle Paul is our example: “We proclaim him [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29). Even in heaven, Christians’ service to God will continue, although no longer encumbered by the curse (Revelation 22:3). Free from sickness, sorrow, and sin—even laziness—the saints will glorify the Lord forever. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

     The third and final basic characteristic of mediocrity is timidity. The last way in which we must not be mediocre is in timidity. Paul writes to Timothy, “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Timidity is having a lack of courage or confidence. When we’re afraid to try something new or are lacking confidence, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to overcome such weakness. It might sound odd, but timidity is a form of pride. When we’re timid, we’re afraid of what people will think of us if we fail. We think if we fail, people will think of us differently or our reputation will be damaged. Scripture tells us to obey our “earthly masters” (or bosses) “with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Ephesians 6:6-7). We are not doing this new thing for man. We might even be doing it for yourself, but ultimately we should be doing it for God—to bring Him the glory.

     We start over and try again until we succeed. Failure doesn’t mean, “It’s over.” It means, “Try again; do better.” “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). When we’re timid and become afraid of what others will think, if we fail or just purely afraid of failure itself, we’re putting ourselves in a snare—it’s a trap! Unless we trust in God, there’s no way out. What’s the point of having faith if we don’t trust the very one who gave it to us? By faith, we trust God’s promise of salvation, which is an extremely serious thing to trust Him with. How simple it is, then, to trust Him with every other aspect of our lives. Don’t settle for mediocre faith by failing to trust in the very one who gave it to you. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Make your plans and act on them; God will bring you through it. It may not be exactly as you envision it, but He will get you through it all to do what His will for you is.

     Procrastination is the failure to remain diligent and work dutifully for the Lord, therefore such mediocrity fails to glorify God. Laziness is the failure to take it upon yourself to take action in your life and make the best of it, therefore such mediocrity fails to glorify God. Timidity is the failure to trust God with all aspects of our lives, therefore such mediocre faith fails to glorify God. The world is apathetic about such mediocrity; therefore, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to remain ever diligent, enthusiastic, and courageous in bringing God all the glory through us. We sing the song, “How Great is Our God,” while at the same time settling for mediocrity in our lives and in our faith. What an insult it is to our great God to ignore the greatness He has called each of us to! If God accepted mediocrity, He would not call us to extraordinary faith and action. We’re not called to be like the rest of the world in their mediocre faithlessness. We are called to greatly serve our Lord Jesus Christ and love our neighbor. We fail when we procrastinate and become lazy or timid because in doing so, we fail in our callings, which is to fail as Christ’s workmanship. “Therefore, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).





   I have been reading about the events these past weeks at Asbury College, a small Wesleyan college in Asbury Kentucky, about nonstop worship services that many are calling a “revival”. I have heard some reports from some pastors who attended the event and felt like this was a genuine movement of God. Time will tell if this was a genuine revival and if there are hopefully more to follow. One thing is for sure. We in the church are desperate for a “true revival” to come into our churches, communities and nation.


The question remains: What is a revival? How can we experience it? When we Christians are praying for a revival, what exactly are we praying for? Anyone, who has spent any time in a Baptist church, might think about a series of meetings during which a church invites an evangelist to come in and reach unbelievers with the gospel. But in the Bible, revivals were not aimed at unbelievers; they were aimed at believers. Think about it: we cannot revive something that is spiritually dead. People without Christ do not need resuscitation–they need resurrection. Revival is for God’s people. Anytime that we have a revival in the Bible, it occurred when people who were believers became lethargic in their walk with God, and God awakened them. Here is a good definition of revival: Revival occurs when the Spirit of God using the Word of God motivates the people of God to obey the will of God. Revival is when, in the deepest levels of our being, we hear the call of God saying to us, “Come to Me, My people. Come closer. Go deeper. Leave your selfish, self-indulgent way of life behind. Turn from your sins. Be sorry for them. Confess them to Me with full faith in the work of My Son on the cross; and draw closer to Me. Let Me be your all. Let Me fulfill you and satisfy You fully.” And it’s not just simply that we hear the call and decide that it’s a good idea to come. When true revival comes upon us as a church and a community of believers, we become so overwhelmed by the work of the Holy Spirit that we cannot help but come! It’s a matter of the Holy Spirit blowing upon us, drawing us to a deeper relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son, and dramatically and permanently transforming us as God’s people. And so often, when revival comes upon God’s people, it’s accompanied by a remarkable spread and success of the message of the gospel—so that many other people also become followers of Christ. In true revival, God so transforms His people that they—in turn—transform the times in which they live. Do we want this type of revival? Do we want to regain that excitement we once had in our relationship with God? If so, Nehemiah 8:1-18 is for us. We read in Nehemiah 8:1-18:


“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. 13 Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. 14 And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” 16 Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. 17 So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. 18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner. “


We see a shift of emphasis at this point in the book of Nehemiah. The focus of the first seven chapters is on the building of a city wall and gates in the city of Jerusalem, so that the city would have protection from its enemies. But, beginning in chapter 8, the focus is on the spiritual needs of the people. The action in the first seven chapters is the construction of the wall, but the second half of the book deals with the instruction of the people. God used three specific men to help the captives of Israel to return from their captivity in Babylon. The first man was Zerubbabel. He came with the first group in 516 BC to rebuild the temple. Then in 458 BC the second man came back. That was Ezra, who was a religious leader. His job was to reinstitute the worship that was to occur in the temple. Fourteen years later, Nehemiah came back with the third group of people. His job was to rebuild the wall, and he did so in just fifty-two days. But that was not Nehemiah’s ultimate purpose. More than just building a wall, God wanted to build a community of devoted believers who would be His representatives in the culture. That is what Nehemiah’s ultimate purpose was. And just as God wanted to renew a group of His followers in Jerusalem, God wants to do that same kind of renewal work in our hearts as well. If we long for a renewal of our relationship with God, if we want that vibrancy restored to our relationship with our Creator, then Nehemiah 8 has five ingredients for a true spiritual revival. Here is the first ingredient:


1. A NOTABLE DESIRE TO HEAR GOD’S WORD (vv. 1-5). Verse 1 says, "Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel (v. 1)". Can we hear the cry of the people? “Bring the Book of the Law!” Do we understand what’s so remarkable about that? It was something that the people themselves initiated. They were the ones who asked for Ezra—the godly scribe—to get a copy of the word of God and feed them from it. They themselves had a yearning to hear from God! And of course, Ezra answered that call and fulfilled that yearning. We’re told; “So, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (vv. 2-3). Imagine that! Men and women; young and old; all who had the ability to hear and understand—they all stood in the open square and listened carefully. They stood from morning to midday—perhaps as long as four to five hours—giving their full attention to the reading of God’s law. And that, by the way, is how it naturally should be. The work that God does to renew and revive His people has always been through His Word. And note how this happened! Consider the solemnity with which the word of God was heard! Verses 4-5 says, “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up (vv. 4-5). So, in this story, a group of men made Ezra a pulpit, and everyone stood during the sermon. This shows us that in times of revival, the preaching of God’s word is received with the utmost seriousness and respect. It’s a time when everyone recognizes that when God’s word is faithfully being proclaimed, it is God Himself who is doing the speaking! When God begins to call us to a deeper relationship with Himself, He does it through His Word. One of the great marks of revival is a new, notable, passionate desires to hear that word from God—a desire that is accompanied by great reverence and receptivity. God shows His work in us by the fact that we become hungry—desperately hungry—to hear from Him! A second ingredient—one that I would say naturally follows from a serious hearing of God’s word—is:


2. A WORSHIPFUL RECOGNITION OF GOD’S GLORY AND HOLINESS (vv. 6-8). True revival not only involves a hearing of the word of God. It also involves a response in worship of the God of the Word. As this passage goes on to tell us about the reading of God’s Law to the people: “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground (v. 6). Here, Ezra was leading the people in worship. He was “blessing the Lord, the great God”. And think of the people. They weren’t responding passively. They were very active. First, they were lifting their hands and saying “Amen!”—which is to say, “It is true!” And then, they were bowing their heads and worshiping the Lord with their faces to the ground. They were up and down—emotionally high in enthusiasm, and humbly low in reverent awe. Many times, in the past, some have tried to manipulate people into ‘revival’ through such outward emotional expressions. I want to say this carefully; but some try to simply ‘work up the crowd’ into a state of a mere emotional frenzy and then call it ‘revival’. But that’s not true revival. I believe, of course, that true revival is often very emotional. When a community of people are being brought into a deep encounter with the living God in a transforming way, how can they not be emotional? But that transformation is not brought about by the emotions! It’s brought about by understanding God’s word; and that understanding—renewed by God’s word—results in a transformed inner disposition; and it’s that transformed inner disposition that shows itself in genuine emotion. When we hear the truth of God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit; and genuinely understand what we hear; and it so grips our hearts that we are transformed inwardly by an awakened understanding—when that renewed understanding shows itself in our being made to grasp who God really is; and we become awestruck by His majesty holiness, and begin to realize who we are in His sight and how much we need His grace—then we worship God in great emotion. When that happens, I believe we’re seeing a true work of God—true revival.


That’s why I believe it’s so important that the meaning of God’s word be explained, and that people be helped to understand what it says in such a way that it feeds their minds and grips their hearts. Look at what we’re told in verses 7-8: “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So, they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading (vv. 7-8)”. That’s why they displayed such emotion in their worship. May God so impact us with a clear understanding of His word that we become inwardly transformed by truth—and may that inward transformation show itself in outward expressions of deep, emotional worship! That kind of passionate worship of God’s majesty is a characteristic of true revival!

Now; because the people were understanding truth from God’s word—because they were getting an accurate glimpse of who God truly was, and of who they were before Him—we find yet another ingredient in true revival; and that is:




Apparently, as the word of God was being read to the people, and as their understanding was being opened, they began to get a sense of their own sinfulness before the Lord. We see something of this in verse 9; where it says, "And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law (v. 9)". So, this is another chief characteristic of true revival—a deep, sincere and profound mourning over sin that comes from an encounter with God. One of the great examples of this is found in Isaiah 6. At the time that God called Isaiah into the prophetic ministry, He gave him a vision of Himself in heavenly glory—” high and lifted up”. God allowed Isaiah to see the angelic hosts singing loud praises all around the throne of God; and allowed him to feel the temple shaking and the pillars trembling at the glory of His majesty. And when Isaiah saw the majesty holiness of God, he responded by mourning over his own sin. He looked at the glory of God and said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).


Another great example of this is seen in the life of the apostle Peter. Jesus had asked Peter to let Him preach from his fishing boat. When the Lord was done, He told Peter to cast his net off to the side for a great catch of fish. And when Peter brought in so many fish that the boat almost began to sink, he realized who this was before him. And what did he do? He responded by mourning over his own sin. The Bible tells us that he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). I believe that true revival doesn’t leave us feeling proud of ourselves, but, rather, true revival is characterized by deep sorrow over sin. True revival involves nothing less than a profound encounter with God; and a true encounter with God reveals our sin—and reveals our need for His grace. Thus, revival is often characterized by deep sorrow and mourning. But it’s sorrow and mourning with a purpose. Most of all, true revival leads people to turn to Jesus for cleansing from that sin over which they sorrow. But revival is not only characterized only by sorrowing and mourning. When we feel great sorrow before God for our sin and our disobedience of His commandments, and when we respond by turning with all our being to Jesus Christ for cleansing from our sins, then that deep sorrow turns into an even deeper and more permanent joy! I believe this leads us to our next ingredient in true revival; that is:




Revival always leads to a notable transformation in people. They go through an unspeakably terrible time of sorrow over the guilt of sin—almost as if they feel God should just cast them into the flames of hell right then and there! But then—gradually for some; quite suddenly for others—God gives a profound and overwhelming sense of His love and forgiveness. The dark cloud of sorrow lifts. God assures their hearts that they have been washed clean in His sight by the blood of Jesus, and that they now belong to Him. And as deeply as they sorrowed over their sin and felt that they deserved eternal punishment, they have even more joy over their forgiveness through Christ, and rejoice that they have an eternal home in heaven. And in true revival, that confident joy lasts for a lifetime!


I think we see something of this in verses 10-12 that says, "Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved. And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them (vv. 10-12)”. And there’s one more ingredient that characterizes true revival; and that is:




One of the things that most characterizes true revival is genuine, lasting change in our life. People who used to have no care at all about following the Lord’s commands and instructions now eagerly seek to do so. They want to obey God. We’re told in verses "Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.”


This was a command that God gave Moses to give to the people of Israel long ago. They were to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles at a certain time of year—to commemorate their time of wandering in the wilderness. They were reminded of this command as Ezra had read to them from the Book of Leviticus; and they wasted no time in obeying it. "Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. So, the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so". Vs. 16-17a). Think of that! They had neglected to obey this command since the days of Joshua! That means that they had been disobeying it for about eight centuries! But now—having heard of their neglect, they began doing what God had told them to do. “And there was very great gladness. Also, day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner” (vv. 17b-18).


There’s an important spiritual lesson in this concerning obedience. When God draws a people to a deeper relationship with Himself, obedience doesn’t necessarily occur all at once. It grows. The people didn’t know everything they were to do yet; and they did not try to become perfect overnight. Instead, they began obeying right where they were. They heard from the reading of God’s word about what they had been neglecting, repented of their disobedience, and began obeying in that one thing. As we read on in the book of Nehemiah, other areas of neglect began to be revealed to them later, and they repented in those things too. So, genuine revival isn’t characterized by instantaneous perfection. ‘Instantaneous perfection’ doesn’t really last long. Rather, true revival is characterized by a growing obedience—a life-long process in which the Lord Jesus reveals truth to us from His Word at just the time in life in which we need it, and takes increasing rule over every area of our lives progressively. We grow in our obedience over a lifetime.


Well; that’s what true revival looks like. That is a receipt for a revival. It’s what I’m praying for. And I would ask that you pray for it with me as well. May God grant such revival to us here for our churches in this Association. But as we pray, and as we wait, let’s allow God to make this a reality in our own lives. Let’s each one pray, “Give revival, O Lord—and begin with me!”






   You will notice that the title of my message is that the call of God is only heard by those who have surrendered their life to Jesus. A question that is often asked is: “What is God’s call for my life?” But, to receive the answer to this question, one must understand that there two types of calls that God gives to us. The first is a general call which is a call that God gives to everyone and then there is a specific call that God gives to anyone who has first accepted His general call. The general call of God is a call to surrender’s one life to Christ in faith and to follow Him where He wants us to go. This general call involves not just our salvation, but it also involves a daily call for Christians who need to decide whether Christ will be the first love in their life or not. The specific call of God is a way that God wants a particular born-again Christian to follow Christ. It could be a call to follow Christ as a missionary, a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, an evangelist, or another type of worker in the Kingdom of God. This specific call is not for everyone but for the one who has first accepted the general call. The specific call for one Christian may and probably will be different than the specific call for another Christian. The specific call can and often does change over time, but the general call never changes.


   Many Christians have lives that are stagnant and feel unfulfilled because they have never heard God’s specific call to their lives. The reason that they have never heard the specific call of God is because they are ignoring and disobeying the general call of God. They are refusing to totally surrender their lives to Christ and to follow Him as the first love in their lives. This is why so few members of the Church are involved in ministry. This is why we have pastors who are burned out and churches that have fewer and fewer members. is all clearly shown in Isaiah 6:8-9 that says, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people”. You will notice that God did not call Isaiah directly, but Isaiah overheard God’s call, “Who will go for us?” was God’s general call and Isaiah responded with “Here I am! Send me.” God did not try to compel Isaiah to accept the call nor did He plead for Isaiah to accept it. Rather, he gave out a general call which Isaiah heard and accepted. Then, after Isaiah accepted God’s general call, God gave Isaiah a specific call to prophesy to His people. So, God did not say to Isaiah, “Now you go”, but instead, He called our generally, “Who will go?” is the way that God call works today. God is still calling out, “Who will go for us?” but, most people are not responding to God’s call because they are not surrendering their life to Christ. Only the people who deliberately give up their right to themselves for Jesus Christ and surrender themselves entirely to God’s Will and Kingdom, will be ready to hear God’s call for their life.


   How we get ourselves in position to surrender our life to Christ and hear His call? In Isaiah 6:1-7, Isaiah saw a vision of a holy and infinite God sitting on a throne and then saw Himself as a wretched sinner undeserving of any of God’s blessings. He cried out for mercy and a seraphim took coals from the altar to purge Isaiah’s sins from his lips. Now Isaiah had a life that was surrendered to the Lord and he was ready to hear and follow God’s call. It is no different for us. We need to seek God’s face and presence through His Word and prayer. We need to see God for who He is - A God who is holy, infinite, full of live and Who is worthy of all worship, glory, honor, and praise. Then we need to see ourselves for who we really are – wretched sinners who deserve nothing but God’s wrath but who desperately need His grace, forgiveness, wisdom, and power so that our sins can be forgiven and that we can be equipped to truly follow Jesus and fulfill His call. Thus, we need to continually return to that old rugged cross where our Savior bled and died. We need to continually allow God to cleanse us of our sins and make us whole in Him. Then, we will be ready to hear His call and surrender our life to His Son Jesus. Then we will be ready to receive His specific call. How many of us today have heard his specific call and are following Jesus? How many of us need to return to the cross of Christ and ask Him to cleanse us and then use us for His kingdom and glory?






As we enter 2023, many of us are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. How can we be a better person this year? As Christians, we know that the answers to how to be a better person is found in God’s Word, the Bible. In the Bible, there is a verse that would be a great New Year’s Resolution for any of us to have: Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”. This verse naturally leads to this question: “How do we seek first the Kingdom of God? What is the will of God for my life? Am I accomplishing the will of God in my life? How can I please God? Before, we can answer how to seek first the Kingdom of God, we must understand what the Kingdom of God is. The Kingdom of God is simply God’s rule, reign, and sovereign guidance over all creation. We can look around us and see that God’s rule does not extend to most of humanity today. In fact, if we are honest, we must acknowledge that God’s rule does not extend over much of our lives today. So, the kingdom of God must start with us. In what areas of our lives is God not ruling over today and why is he not ruling? What changes do we need to make so that God can rule over all areas in our lives? We also need to understand that a kingdom in the Bible is synonymous with its king. In other words, to seek a Kingdom is the same as seeking its king. Since Jesus is the King in God’s Kingdom, how can we seek Him more? As we read through Matthew 6, we learn that there are two things that we must do to seek God’s Kingdom or Jesus first.

  1. We must put aside all other rivals and competition to Jesus. Matthew 6:33 says that we must seek God’s Kingdom first. The reason that many of us do not seek God’s Kingdom first is because we are serving other masters. As Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”. We must ask ourselves: What are we really worshipping in our hearts? Where are we devoting our time, treasures, and talents? There is room for only one king to rule our hearts. As Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. Whatever we spend much of our time, efforts and resources is what we are ultimately worshipping. Thus, we must do an inventory of our lives and see where we have potential idols that are dividing our hearts. Then, we must confess, repent of, and forsake these other masters and put Jesus first.
  2. We must submit all our worries and anxieties over to Jesus. A casual reading of Matthew 6:25-32 shows us that our own fears, worries, and anxiety keeps us from seeking the Kingdom of God. For example, Matthew 6:25 says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” We can become so consumed with our worries over money, job, marriage, family, health and even our church that we become paralyzed and unable to seek God’s Kingdom. How do we deal with this? 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”. So, to overcome our fears and worries, we must go to Jesus and give our fears and worries over to Him. How do we do this? First, we need to take our thoughts captive. We get anxious because of the thoughts we allow and entertain in our minds, which can make us pessimistic, fearful, and doubtful. If we want to control our fears and worries, then we must control our thoughts. This is a part of Satan’s strategy, and we must recognize and deal with the threat. As 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled”. Next, we need to pray about our fears and worries. As Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. We need to pray specifically and with faith that God will deal with whatever it is that is causing us such anguish. Finally, we need to read and trust God’s promises in His Word. Jesus identified the real problem of our fear and anxieties in Matthew 6:30 that says, “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” So, our small faith is the root cause of our fears and anxieties. This means that we must read, meditate, and trust the Bible more, for the Bible is the source of our faith. As Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Promises such as Isaiah 41:10 that says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” With this kind of promise why are we so afraid?

If we want to have a New Year’s Resolution and be a better person, why not adopt Matthew 6:33 and seek God’s Kingdom first. If we will be willing to eliminate all idols and competition to Jesus in our hearts and cast all our fears and worries upon Him through intentional control of our thoughts through prayer and His Word, then Jesus can assume total control and rule over our lives and His kingdom will grow in us. Then we will become a better person.


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