Dreams

Posted: June 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

The following piece is not original with me.  A friend emailed it to me today but it so resonated with my heart and my dreams for our church at Freedom Fellowship that I just had to share it.  It is attributed to a man by the name of Jim Graham.  I do not know him but based on his dreams for the church, I am pretty sure I would like him.  I did revise it slightly but not significantly.

I dream of a church that is founded on a love for Jesus rather than meeting our personal needs and fulfilling our preconceived ideas and preferences. That’s my dream.

I dream of a church so filled with the Holy Spirit that it becomes an utterly attractive community of God’s presence and God’s power. That’s my dream.

I dream of a church where seekers find reality in an eternal relationship with God and His Christ. That’s my dream.

I dream of a church where the sick are healed morally, spiritually, mentally, physically, psychologically and relationally.

I dream of a church where the oppressed are liberated, where the broken are cared for and where they are mended for God’s eternal purposes. That’s my dream.

I dream of a church where the poor are helped and given a new perspective and hope.

I dream of a church where families are restored and God’s order gloriously and gratefully established.

I dream of a church where addicts are set free and stabilized with a loving Godly discipline.

I dream of a church where people are empowered to become all that God created them to be.

All I can say is wow!  He articulated so well the dreams God has placed on my heart for Freedom Fellowship.  I am praying that God will continue to pour His Spirit out on Freedom Fellowship and make it a church where all of these dreams become reality!

 

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Limiting God

Posted: May 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have been wondering lately how much I/we miss out on that God wants to do in our lives, our families, our workplaces, our communities, our churches, our nation and even our world simply because we do not ask, we ask with wrong motives, we don’t really have a lot of expectation for the miraculous or we simply limit God by our unbelief.  Is that possible?  Can we really limit what God wants to do, how He wants to bless us, miracles that He wants to bring?  I believe so.

The Bible is full of scriptures that indicate what we receive from God is connected to how we ask, how we seek God, what we expect and how much faith we really have.

Here are some verses I am reflecting on and I invite you to join me.

When Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth it says this of His ministry there.. because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. (Mark 6:5 NLT). Notice it did not say Jesus WOULD not do many miracles there but rather He COULD not do do many miracles there. The Son of God was limited by the unbelief of the people.  I wonder how much they missed out on?  What Jesus wanted to do for them but couldn’t?  How many sick people would have been healed. But he could not do it because of their unbelief.

In Matthew 9 Jesus encountered a couple of blind men who cried out for mercy.  They were looking for Jesus to heal them.  Then notice what happens next.  It says, When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”“Yes, Lord,” they replied.Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”;  (Matthew 9:28-29 NIV) Jesus tells these men they are going to receive their sight.  Not because they are good, deserving, beg, plead, but simply because of their faith.  According to your faith it will done to you.

Sometimes, we limit God simply because we do not ask or if we do ask our motives are impure.  You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  (James 4:2-3 NIV)

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22)  Now, I do not believe this means if we have faith God will always answer our prayers the way that we want.  We are not God-He is.  But He is a good dad who loves to pour out blessings upon His children.  He only wants to give us good gifts, not snakes or scorpions.  But again, if we ask and don’t really believe God choose to limit Himself by our unbelief.

Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. ’ (Jeremiah 33:3 NASB) Could it be there is so much more God wants to show us, tell us, do for us, that can not be physically or mentally figured out by humans but the God of this universe wants to impart as knowledge to use that we miss out on, because we don’t really take time to call out to God and listen for His answer?

These are just a few of many, many verses that say the same thing, God wants to do amazing things, miraculous things, signs, wonders and miracles in our lives and in our churches but sometimes we put limits on what He can do.  In Habakkuk 1:5 God says this to His people, “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.  Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He wants to do things that will blows us away, that we can’t even believe if He were to tell us.  Let’s not limit God!

The Whole Gospel

Posted: May 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

A friend recently relayed this story to me.  Some people  approached Pastor Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA whose church is known for an emphasis on healing and critically said, “Pastor Bill, healing is not the whole gospel.”  Bill thought for a moment and then replied, “Neither is the gospel whole without healing.”  I have not been able to get that exchange off of my mind.

Is it true?  Is healing part of the good news that Jesus came to bring?  Because if it is, I have not been in many churches that seem to emphasize this aspect of the good news.

What does the Bible say?

Matthew 4:23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.  When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom, it clearly included healing disease and sickness.

Matthew 10:1, 7 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘ The kingdom of heaven is at hand. ’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.  Not only did Jesus include healing in the gospel of the kingdom, when He sent His disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, He gave them authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and cast out demons.

Luke 9:6 Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.  Again, we see when the disciples were sent out to preach the gospel, healing was connected to it.

Luke 10:8-9 Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘ The kingdom of God has come near to you. ’  Jesus is once again very clear.  When you preach the gospel, the good news of the kingdom, don’t separate it from a demonstration of the presence of the kingdom.  Heal the sick.

Matthew 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “ HE Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” The Old Testament prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah, Jesus, would take our infirmities and carry away our diseases.  Matthew records as Jesus healed, He fulfilled this prophecy.  In that same prophecy, Isaiah mentioned that He would take our sins and carry our iniquities.  No one would disagree that forgiveness of sins is part of the good news of the gospel, yet in the same prophecy, Isaiah says healing is also part of the gospel.

Mark 16:17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  Over and over again we see, the good news of the kingdom was not just a message of forgiveness, but a demonstration of the power of God through healing.  As you read through the book of Acts, you see over and over again as the good news was preached, people were healed.  Clearly the gospel is not whole without healing.

One more.  In Matthew 9, Jesus tells a lame man his sins are forgiven.  The scribes wonder, what is this all about.  And Jesus knowing their thoughts says this in Matthew 9:5-6  Which is easier, to say, ‘ Your sins are forgiven, ’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk ’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.   The man wanted healed.  He got healed but Jesus didn’t address the physical problem alone.  He forgave His sin.  Once again, Jesus connected the gospel with healing.  The two are inseparable.  A pastor friend of mine was preaching on this passage recently and he said something to this effect-if you are in a church that doesn’t believe they have been given authority to offer healing to the sick, how can you know they have been given authority to offer forgiveness to sinners?  Great question.

The New Testament strategy for evangelism always included healing.  I believe our strategy should as well.  You can not separate the words of the gospel from the works of the gospel.  Healing is definitely not the whole gospel.  But neither is the gospel whole without healing.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

I think one of the biggest needs each one of us has in life is the need for satisfaction. More than anything else we want to live life feeling fulfilled. Yet most of us end up relating to the Rolling Stones who sang, “I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction. I have tried, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried but I can’t get no satisfaction.” Does that sound like the story of your life?

Sometimes we say I’m starving to death. So we belly up to the Old Country buffet for an all you can eat feast. We skip the salad, of course. Start in on the main courses and we eat and we eat and we eat. And then when we are stuffed, we add on desert just because it’s included in the price and we leave thinking I am stuffed. I will never eat again. Until the next meal roles around and we are back to saying, “I’m starving to death! What is there to eat?”

Now this same thing that is true with our physical appetites is true of our desire for satisfaction. We think if I just got a raise then I’d be satisfied. We get the raise. Are we satisfied? For a few weeks. Then we think, if I only had a little more then I’d be satisfied. I might even be able to save some money. Then we get a little more. Do we save? No, we become unsatisfied with our car and we go get a new one. Why? Because we are now unsatisfied with the old one and we think a new one will make me satisfied. And we can afford the payment anyway.

Or we think if I just got a promotion at work. If someone recognized my efforts then I would be satisfied. So we work hard, we get the promotion and we are satisfied, for awhile. Then we wonder what is next? Surely there is more.
We constantly live our lives trying to meet our felt needs with money, clothes, possession, drugs, alcohol, new relationships, sex-whatever we think will bring satisfaction.

The truth is most of us don’t need more food, clothes, money or anything else this world has to offer to experience satisfaction.

One day, Jesus fed 5000 men, plus women and children, probably 15,000 to 20,000 people in all with 5 loaves of bread and two pieces of fish. The people thought, “This is satisfaction! We will follow Jesus, He will continue to feed us and we will never have to work again!” You can read this story in John 6.

Jesus called these people out for seeking satisfaction in the food that He could supply. In John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.

And then Jesus said this, I am the bread of life. You see the problem was that these people saw Jesus as the bread giver and not the bread.

And you know what? Not much has changed. We have this tendency to want to come to Jesus simply for what He can give us, for what He can do for us and Jesus says to us, I am the bread of life. I am not the bread giver, I am the bread. Stop spending your time and money and life and energy seeking satisfaction through things like food, clothes, jobs, money, drugs, and sex. It may seem for awhile, there might be some temporary satisfaction but it won’t last. It is not really bread. I have a free gift to give you, if you will only receive it. I am the bread of life. Eat of me, pursue me, not as the bread giver, but as the bread of life.

Let’s be honest about it. Sometimes we even pursue Jesus simply because we think He will get us close to the life we want. He healed one, if I get close to Him, will heal me? If he can multiply food, perhaps He will multiply my money? Jesus tells us, we are thinking too small. You are concerned with perishable things you can get anywhere. The problem is we see Jesus as the bread giver and not the bread. When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” He is saying don’t come to me simply for what I can do for you, come to me for me. Let me be your source of satisfaction. I know what you need and all you need is found in me.

And you know what? When we stop pursuing Him for what He can do for us and simply pursue Him for who He is He promises to take care of all these others needs we have as well.  In Matthew 6:33 it says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  What other things?  In context, He is talking about food, clothing, everything we need.  But it starts with pursuing Him not as the Bread giver but as the Bread of life.  And He says I will bring you satisfaction-Guaranteed!

This is an excerpt from a message I recently preached.  Listen to the entire message here

Childlike Faith

Posted: March 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

My wife easily gets scared when riding in a car.  Maybe it’s because I’m usually driving.  Every time I have to hit my breaks slightly hard, every time someone cuts me off, every time she thinks I might be following too closely, she can’t take it.  She gasps and often makes a comment as well.

What’s really interesting about that is she has been riding with me in the car for over 20 years and we’ve never once had an accident.  I’ve had a few accidents driving by myself – twice someone ran a red light and hit me in the side, once someone rear ended me in snow, but in each instance I was in the car alone and she wasn’t with me.

During these same 20 years however, she has been involved in a few rear end accidents.  But yet she drives and doesn’t seem to ever be afraid when she is driving.  I believe it’s because when she drives she feels like she is in control and when she doesn’t drive, she knows she is out of control.

I have noticed, on the other hand, that when my children ride with me, they are for the most part oblivious to what is going on.  They don’t gasp when there is a close call.  They don’t question me if they think I’m going too fast or driving too close.  They just ride and seem to feel safe in trusting the fact that their father is in control.

I was thinking about this and realized I’m often not a very good rider in life.  I see circumstances come my way that look scary and intimidating and I feel so out of control.  And sometimes, I even question my Father’s ability to drive me through those circumstances safely.  And yet, the truth is, in good times or in bad times, in calm or in storm, I am never in control, but I have a Father who already knows what is going to happen the next day, the next month, the next year and on and on, and I can trust Him.

Jesus said, In Matthew 18:3  “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Children are so trusting.  Children don’t get too worked up or too worried about what’s going on around them.  Children think their dad can do anything.  Maybe that’s why Jesus says we need to become like little children.  We need a childlike faith to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Faith makes all the difference in the world.

Matthew 21:21 NIV “Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”

All it takes it a child like faith. Lord help me to have faith like that!

 

“Like A Child” by Jars of Clay

Dear God, surround me as I speak,
the bridges that I walk across are weak
Frustrations fill the void that I can’t solely bear.

Dear God, don’t let me fall apart
you’ve held me close to you
I have turned away and searched
for answers I can’t understand.

Chorus:
They say that I can move the mountains
And send them falling to the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe with Faith Like a Child

Sometimes, when I feel miles away
and my eyes can’t see your face
I wonder if I’ve grown to lose the
recklessness I walked in light of you

Chorus

They say that I can move the mountains
And send them crashing to the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe
with Faith Like a Child

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
With Faith Like a Child

Excitement is Building

Posted: March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

We are now sitting just four weeks from our launch day for Freedom Fellowship!  I am getting so excited about some of the things that God is doing as we lead up to this.  I thought I would just share some of the ways we are seeing the Father work.

Partnership with Resurrection Fellowship.  When I resigned I had no idea what I would do next.  God clearly revealed He wanted us to stay in the area and plant a church.  One of the ways He confirmed this was by showing us that He had laid it on Pastor Jonathan Wiggins’ heart a year before that they were going to be part of a church plant.  That it wasn’t something they were to go search for, but rather God was going to drop it in their lap.  He even had his staff preparing a tool called “Church in Box” because he knew God was preparing them for this.  God has knit our hearts and our missions together and they have been phenomenal partners in helping us get this off the ground.  It’s amazing to know that God had this in mind long before I did!

Staff.  God has brought together a great team to work with us.

Tim Escamilla joined us first to help with worship ministry.  Tim has an outstanding heart for God and amazing skills at leading worship.  He has also assembled a complete band to come alongside him and help in this ministry.  This is amazing!  We visited a church that was launching yesterday with only one worship leader with a guitar.  Thank you Lord for working out these details!

We prayed for awhile about what to do with our Freedom Kids children’s ministry.  After praying for awhile about it, my wife Tricia felt God nudging her to step out and take on this role.  She has a great heart for the Lord and for children and I know Freedom Kids will be amazing.

We had decided because of financial considerations to not start with a student ministry.  However, God brought us Mark and Brandi Aspinall to step in and take on this role and they are willing to do this as volunteers until such time as the finances allow us to pay them!  We hope this isn’t long but it’s amazing that God brought us this amazing couple!  They too have incredible hearts for the Lord, an amazing love for students, and are experienced youth pastors!  God is good!

Space.  When we started looking for space in which to meet it was a little discouraging.  There was one school open in the area that met our criteria.  That was Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch.  The district however informed us that they had said they didn’t want a church.  I asked them to check with them again and Tricia and I prayed for favor and they said yes!  The people there have been wonderful to work with and God provided an amazing space that can seat 400 people and great classroom space adjacent to the worship area for kids!  Thank you Lord!

We also knew there would be a struggle for space for weekday programming but we have been able to work it out with Cresthill to rent a room for 610 Men’s community on Thursday nights at 6:10 PM starting March 15.  We also have secured a gymnasium at Cresthill for our student ministry, The Revolution, to begin meeting on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM starting March 28.

Launch team When we started this venture, we knew we needed people who would step up and be willing to help.  God has put together an amazing Dream Team who are excited and have been willing to take on leadership roles as we prepare to launch.  Again, God has provided in amazing ways.

God is good.  Excitement is building.  The staff is in place.  The location is secured.   The launch team is fired up.  Plan to join us starting Sunday, April 1 at 10:00 AM.  We can’t wait to welcome you to Freedom Fellowship!  For more details check out myfreedomfellowship.com.

Most of us have grown up hearing from our parents, teachers, pastors, or other authority figures in our lives the statement, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  We heard it when we made that cutting comment.  We heard it when we passed on that juicy piece of gossip.  We heard it when we said something downright cruel.  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

We not only heard that statement as kids growing up, most of us find ourselves using that statement regularly with our own kids.  I find myself constantly challenging my kids to watch their comments that are mean, vengeful, cutting or cruel.

It seems like no matter how many times we have heard or taught this lesson, this is one that many people still struggle with.  Why?  Maybe it’s because cutting others down makes a weak self-image easier to deal with.  Maybe it’s because we are hurt ourselves and we want others to hurt the way we hurt.  Perhaps it’s attention we are seeking.  When we share that juicy piece of gossip we seem to be “in the know.”   Perhaps its vengeance-you said something that hurt me so I will hurt you back.  There are many contributing reasons but the bottom line is many of us seem to have a hard time controlling our tongues.

In his book entitled Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns, Chuck Swindoll tells about a epitaph etched on a the gray slate of a tombstone in an English cemetery. It read like this.

Beneath this stone, 
a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young,
Who, on the twenty-fourth of May, 
began to hold her tongue

I think we would all have to admit that Arabella Young began to hold her tongue a bit too late.

Over the past few months as Tricia and I have answered God’s call to step away from a ministry in a large evangelical church to plant a charismatic church, I have been once again amazed at how difficult it can be for some people to control their tongues.  I have heard comments back that have obviously been intended to be very hurtful.  It has caused me to examine my own words once again.

In the book of James, James gives us 5 practical steps for controlling our tongues that we would do well to remember.

1.  Be quick to listen and slow to speak

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

Abrahams Lincoln put it this way, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

2. Bite your tongue more often

”If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)



3. Refuse to tear other people down


”Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another” (James 4:11)



4. Speak only what is true


”Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No”, no, or you will be condemned.” (James 5:12)



5. Surrender your tongue to God


”no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)  We cannot tame our tongues without supernatural help.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you open your mouth.  Is it true? Is what I’m going to speak the truth? If not, stop. If it is, second ask, 
Is it necessary? Jesus said we are going to be judged for every careless word.  Is it beneficial? Is what I’m going to say going to build someone up or tear them down?  Do I have permission to share it?
 Before you speak think about what kind of friend you’re being. Finally, ask yourself, 
Is my motive pure? Why am I saying this?

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.