The 2016 theme for Crossfire Church is Wake-Up And Respond, or W.A.R.
We are living in critical times; our Christian foundation has been eroding away. It started with prayer being taken out of schools in 1962. In 1973, abortion was legalized, and ever since our culture has been on a slippery slope.
We’ve witnessed runaway government spending to fund the increasing entitlement culture in America. Pornography has now become the new drug for our culture. Marijuana and drugs are becoming an increasing problem, creating a generation disconnected from reality and unable to cope with the basic pressures of life.
Baltimore, Maryland, is a prime example of an entitlement city, where nearly half of her population is on some kind of government assistance, 40% of all Baltimore’s revenue in 2015 came from government spending, and 10% of its population is addicted to hardcore drugs.
Families are under attack; for the first time in America’s history, same-sex marriage has been legalized.
America is in an identity crisis! Our culture is at war with the foundational Christian values that made our country great.
John Adams, second president of the United States, said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
The alarm is ringing for America to wake up and respond to the current crisis. We are in a war whether we like it or acknowledge it. We can choose to fight, act as though it doesn’t exist, or run. The choice is ours.
Ancient Chinese philosopher, Menicus, said, “I dislike death indeed, but there is that which I dislike more than death, and therefore there are occasions when I will not avoid danger.”
Ezekiel 22 echoes some sobering words to America. Ezekiel writes from Babylonian captivity to the people of Judah, particularly those in Jerusalem. He confronts their rebellious and sinful ways that have brought God’s judgment upon them through the Babylonian empire.
He states in verses 30 and 31, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the walland stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger,bringing downon their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
If only someone would have interceded in prayer for Judah, and spoke boldly like Ezekiel to the people, judgment could have been averted.
God is again echoing Ezekiel’s plea for godly men and women to stand in the gap for our spiritual foundation to be re-established. I encourage you to be available to God, inside and outside the church. Take the gospel message to the streets and be available to God on a daily basis. Pray for divine appointments so you can influence people to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Get involved in the political process to elect godly men and women to positions of leadership in our local, state and federal government.
We are in a real war, so make 2016 a year to Wake-Up And Respond.
Monday mornings are special for me because this is the time when I focus my prayers on my immediate and extended family. I have learned over the years prayer is like the thermostat in our home, it creates the climate for enjoyable and peaceful living.
Prayer not only sorts out the good from the bad, but also the good from the best. I’m amazed at God’s faithfulness in accordance to consistent, focused prayer.
Last week was our annual prayer and fasting week. Our church takes this week seriously because it sets the tone for our year. This year we added a nightly corporate prayer focus. Each night we watched Pastor Jim Cymbala on DVD for the first 30 minutes, and then we prayed together for the next 45 minutes.
Pastor Cymbala’s DVD focus was, When God’s People Pray. He pastors Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York.
In his weekly Tuesday night prayer meeting there are over 3000 in attendance. How can this be? The answer is quite simple – in Pastor Cymbala’s early years as a pastor, he became worn out by the weekly responsibilities and cares of his church. While on a vacation cruise ship in the Caribbean he cried out to God for help in his ministry. He was desperate and realized ministry would destroy him if God did not intervene.
God heard his son’s prayer and gave him a simple plan that has become the foundation for his success and for the ministry of his church – prayer!
God spoke directly to him in his hour of need with these words, “Jim, if you will make prayer a priority in your life and the life of your church, I will promise you three things. I will always give you a sermon for your people. I will always give you the finances to pay your bills. You will never have one building that will be able to house the people I send to you.”
Pastor Cymbala followed God’s command for his life and today thousands have been encouraged and touched through his ministry and his church.
Prayer is a focus for Brooklyn Tabernacle because the spiritual darkness of New York City reveals itself in the lifestyles of the people who live in the neighborhoods adjacent to their church. Drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, human trafficking, cults and satanic worship, etc. saturate the environment. Spiritual darkness threatens them every day. Cute sermons and nicely packaged ministries will not change the people or their circumstances. Tapping into the power of heaven is the only force able to break the stronghold of darkness in people’s lives.
Prayer is the vehicle that breaks Satan’s grip on people and liberates them to receive God’s love in Jesus Christ.
We don’t live in New York and do not have these visible signs of darkness; however, Satan is still roaming around like a lion seeking victims. He uses busyness, toxic relationships, bitterness, anger, criticalness, spiritual isolation and even religion to blind our eyes. Prayer keeps our focus on God as the source of our strength and power.
Genesis 4:26 says after Cain killed Able, people began to call on the name of the Lord. Sin had entered the world through Adam and now its multiplied effects had polluted mankind. Mankind’s only answer to their sin problem was to call upon the Lord.
Whatever your situation, make that call of prayer to God today.
Last week a memory popped into my head of a time when I was very young. It wasn't a very good memory and even though it wasn't horrific - I realized it had followed me into my adult life. The memory came with an emotion that surprised me as I shared it, completely out of the blue, with a close friend of mine last week.
She listened intently as I told her I still remembered the hurtful feelings of rejection and guilt, and the sadness I felt at the thought of being such a big disappointment to this person I loved and admired. It was very clear - I had not met her expectation or approval.
Our relationship began when she lead me to Jesus at 8-years-old. I was a good kid with a strong desire to please. I attended the small church faithfully by myself and grew very close to my pastor and her husband. Then, a few years later I started junior high and was involved in sports, musical programs, and studies.
I was an overachiever and looking back I can see how my desire to please may have caused some hardships in my life.
One day it hit me I hadn't been in church for a while and I missed everyone - especially my pastor. So I was pretty excited when I found a ride to the evening service.
I was 14 and I remember walking in with a huge smile on my face, only to be confronted with a strong look of disapproval from my pastor. No hug ... no smile. Just some words that let me know her disappointment with me was greater than the joy of seeing me. I quietly took my seat and I honestly don't remember much about the night after that, except feeling far away from a person I once was so close to.
I don't believe she wanted to hurt me; I guess looking back both of us had unmet expectations as well as disappointment. I did end up returning to the church for a few years, but something was definitely missing for me. I'm thankful to say I found it! It was grace! That lovely, unconditional acceptance Jesus always gives us with open arms.
So, don't let disappointment or unmet expectations hold you emotionally captive. Grace wants to set you free!
The Lord said in 1 Corinthians 12:9
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Photo: Daria Nepriakhina
My morning habit is usually enjoying a cup of coffee while I do my devotions and Bible reading. So I start off good, but often find myself still going back to some old habits before the day is over, like grabbing a cookie instead of an apple or letting myself get busy with a project when I should be working out.
The truth is I had gotten lazy about making right choices and found myself returning to old habits. Then, last week a particular devotional got my attention. The first sentence was in big bold letters: I WANT YOU TO LEARN A NEW HABIT.
I couldn't seem to get past the phrase, “I want you to learn a new habit.”
Habits are things we do without thinking; they just become a natural part of our routine and often don’t even require much thought. I knew God wanted me to become more deliberate in my everyday choices and more natural in choosing His way before my way.
So, later that night as Keith rubbed my feet, we began to thank God for the wonderful day. It's in those tender moments after prayer that I find myself completely relaxed, not really thinking about anything. The soft lights on the tree made the room so peaceful and quiet. I closed my eyes and we both sat in silence. Then, softly I heard this in my mine; the word H-A-B-I-T-S was spelled out to me. Then I heard "Heavenly Appetites Before Ingesting Temporary Satisfaction."
I waited a few minutes and told Keith what I heard. We both knew it was from God.
The verse that came to me was Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added on to you."
How simple God makes everything. I knew He was telling me how to successfully replace old bad habits for brand new ones, habits that would bring me health, strength, peace and joy. I just need to remember that before I give in to old habits that satisfy my fleshly desires, I need to stop and apply this truth. When I decide to satisfy my Heavenly Appetite Before Ingesting Temporary Satisfaction, I will be filled with what's eternal.
Our relationship with Christ affects every aspect of life.
I love everything about the Christmas season - parties where friends gather, Christmas carols filling the air with a message of peace and love, and the joyful laughter that overtakes our home when the grandkids come to decorate cookies, while covering my kitchen floor with sprinkles of every color.
My children lovingly call me Mrs. Claus, because I usually have my very own festival of lights going on throughout the house. The warm glow of the tree lights and other lighted decorations seem to set the atmosphere for cuddle time and peaceful chats.
I enjoy decorating the tables and mantles, but my favorite symbol of this meaningful season is the tree. My granddaughter helps me decorate the tree with special ornaments that friends and loved ones have given to me. I especially love the ones that reflect the light. Sometimes I sit and just stare at the tree, its peaceful presence calms me and I'm reminded of another tree that has brought me such peace.
It was chosen for The Son of God. It isn't a tree that you can find on a tree lot or in any cut-your-own evergreen field. It was a special tree that held the most precious ornament known to mankind - Jesus. The tree didn't need twinkle lights, for the light of God’s glory still illuminates it for all the world to see.
This tree was the cross of Calvary, which held the innocent body of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. You see, to me this is The True Christmas Tree.
So, the next time you see a Christmas tree, covered with lights and beautiful decorations, I hope you remember that God loved you so much, that He gave the most precious gift He had, His Only Son, Jesus Christ - Who hung upon that tree for all eyes to see and all hearts to know. This tree doesn't need manmade lights, for Jesus is the light of the world.
I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of life.
Photo: Maciej Korsan
Have you ever read the statement, “You need to get rid of your stinkin’ thinkin’ in order to be healthy,”?
This phrase reflects a person’s outlook on life. Every action starts with a thought; if the thinking is wrong, the action is wrong. You can’t think wrongly and act rightly.
Thanksgiving is a great time of year to correct wrong thinking. It’s a time for us to catalog all the good things God has blessed us with in our lives. It’s amazing how our feelings change when we focus on the blessings rather than the deficits.
The apostle Paul was in prison while he was writing the letter to the Philippian church. One would expect him to complain about his imprisonment and even feel sorry for himself because of the suffering he was enduring. However, Paul was joyful and thankful while he was living in these horrible conditions.
How do you rise above this and have a good attitude?
Paul reveals the answer to this question in Philippians 4:8 – 9:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I was privileged to have grown up in a thankful family. Both of my parents went through the Great Depression; they experienced lean times. Many of their friends and peers experienced the same things but they chose to become bitter and cynical. Dad and Mom always focused on the important things of health, relationships, the church, opportunity, food, shelter and one another. They took care of their aging parents’ affairs. In fact, my grandmother lived with our family for thirteen years.
I never heard my mom complain about caring for my grandma, her mother-in-law. She was thankful that she was able to honor my dad by being kind and generous to his mother.
She also focused on the benefits the children received by having daily interaction with an elderly grandparent. This experience was extremely valuable for me because it helped me understand and honor older people in my pastorates. Being thankful brings value to everything we experience in life.
I Thessalonians 5:18 explicitly says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
God’s will for you this thanksgiving season is to be thankful and focus on the benefits and blessings in your life.
Healthy people are thankful people.
Photo: Inspiration Feed
How many times have you faced a locked door? Do you remember the frustration you felt as you tugged and pulled on it over and over, but it still remained locked?
Well, just a few weeks ago I personally experienced this very situation. Sometimes I stay in the Green Room to be available for anyone who might need prayer or to talk over a personal situation. Other times, I do what I call a prayer walk in the halls or in the arena. This particular time I felt kind of torn about where to be, so I stepped outside the room. However, as I did, the door swung shut and locked. I thought, "Oh great! Now what?"
After observing different people making several attempts to unlock the door, I decided to leave it in God’s hands and I would find a hall to pray in.
It was then that one of our people, needing a restroom, was directed down the hallway I was standing in. She looked so worn out and as she walked toward me, I felt this strong urge to pray for her. As I put my arms around her, I prayed for the Lord’s strength to fill her, and instantly He just poured His strength into her body. I watched as her energy returned and her eyes began to brighten.
She then shared with me the difficulty of dealing with some tragic family situations, but said she now felt stronger and hopeful. I'm so grateful I happened to be right there at that very moment. I told her I was there, because my door was locked.
We talked a little longer and then as she started to walk away, she looked back over her shoulder smiling and shouted, "Wow! God sure knows when to lock a door."
If the door hadn't locked on me, we both would have missed this wonderful opportunity God had planned. He knew her need and wanted to hold and comfort her with His strength.
The next time a door shuts and locks on you, instead of getting frustrated ... look around. Perhaps God has something better planned on this side of the door.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Photo Courtesy: R Adam Davidson
Today we welcome guest blogger, Pastor R Adam Davidson from Portage (Michigan) Free Methodist Church. With Pastor Adam’s permission we are sharing a post originally published on his website: radamdavidson.com. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.
I officially declare (as far as my meager role will allow) the following:
**November 1, 2015 is National Fall Back (to Church) Sunday!**
Here’s what happens: We get connected. We get enriched. We get spiritually formed. Then we get… busy. We get busier. Next thing ya know, it’s been 3…4…7 weeks since Sunday worship together. Missed connection with God and others. Missed times of corporate prayer. Missed moments of encouragement as people around you seek the same thing as you. Missed: that’s the word for it (as in “you are missed!”)
Be there every Sunday of the year? Of course not! Even the pastor pulls a planned no-show during vacations and big family events. But most Sundays? AMAP (As Many As Possible)? That seems about right.
Dish Network has a “guilt loop” that they used to broadcast only to people who were using unauthorized equipment. By intercepting the Satellite signals with unregistered equipment, the whole billing process was (ahem) eliminated. A man would show up on screen and say “ya know… this is wrong… ya know…?” Please don’t hear me like that. I’m not here to guilt anybody. That’s the complete opposite of the gospel, btw.
But… I am here as a pastor and a friend. Listen: you need worship gatherings. Even if you don’t think you do… you do. You have been programmed for spirituality, wired for community, and updated with the New Covenant. Nothing replaces worship together. To remember the story of God’s rescue. To lift up the name of Jesus with your brothers and sisters. To listen to the Holy Spirit together, like they did in Acts and throughout Church history.
Are you a Mountain Bike Sunday kinda person? Is your favorite Hymn #3 (under par)? Do you love the soft preaching at Bedside Baptist? I get it. You don’t need to be in a church to connect with God. That’s true. But Father, Son and Spirit have revealed themselves as a community. The scripture forms Christians within the context of community. Think of it this way: even if you don’t need it (you do, but let’s just say you don’t), maybe someone else needs you. Maybe you’re the one who will make eye contact with someone in the back row this Sunday. You might even say “Hello”, which for you is a forgettable five seconds but for them is a reason to go on. Again, no guilt. Just something to think about. Maybe it’s not just about your personal experience.
Why not use this coming Sunday, November 1, as a time to reset clocks and reset priority, too? Why not use the extra hour as a buffer to readjust? Why not make the most of a new month, where things start fresh and new, including the practice of making Sunday Worship a part of your spiritual formation? Please hear me: the challenge comes from caring, not from guilt. This isn’t about numbers. It’s a shepherd-y thing that we’re called to do. So…
Sunday, November 1 is Fall Back (to Church) Sunday. It also happens to be All Saint’s Day. Oh how I want (you) to be in that numberrrrr! When the Saints go marching in!
Plus, I bet your Pastor would love to see you.
Last week my 101-year-old aunt left this life to enter eternity. She and my uncle lived their whole lives selfishly. They had no children so they became even more absorbed in living life on their own terms. Spiritual issues were secondary to creating wealth that they could depend upon in their elderly years. They achieved their financial goals. Their house was paid for and they had plenty of money in a number of banks.
My mother was the executor of their estate. My uncle asked her to look after my aunt if he should die before her.
In 2009, my uncle died at 94-years of age, leaving their small fortune to his wife. Mom tried to talk to her about her financial situation, but each time her words were met with anger and accusation that she just wanted her money. All mom wanted to do was carry out their wishes.
The last six years were difficult for my mother because my aunt developed dementia and often showed horrible hostility toward her. This resulted in an attorney becoming the trustee of her estate so Mom wouldn’t have to endure her abuse.
Over the last six years, much of their estate was used up to pay for her in-home care.
Many times my mother tried to talk with her about her relationship with God, but it was always met with resistance. However, I had the privilege of praying with her for salvation on one of my visits at home with my family. I hope she reached out to receive Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. However, there was no evidence that she really made this commitment. Both mom and I can only hope that she understood and really meant business with God.
My aunt had a stroke two weeks ago that paralyzed her right side and destroyed her speech. The first one she reached out to from her hospital bed was my mother. She knew that Mom was prepared for this journey beyond this world.
Luke 12:13-21 describes a person much like my aunt and uncle. A wealthy farmer focused only on his own wealth and security. He forgot that it was the ground that yielded an abundant harvest.
In verses 18 and 19, this farmer says, “I will store up more crops and build bigger barns. I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years, take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.’”
However, God’s answer to this man was, “You fool. Tonight your soul is required of you.”
This man’s focus was wealth, not his relationship with God. His wealth was left for others to enjoy while he faced the terror of entering eternity without God.
Today, I encourage you to be wise and live your life in the light of eternity. Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Hold temporal things, especially wealth, with an open hand so it does not become your focus. Remember, eternity is only a breath or heartbeat away.
Photo: Ryan McGuire
Today my thoughts seemed to drift toward the people I care about; so many family and friends needing prayer, so my day began by sending out prayers in their direction.
I find that sitting quiet after reading the Bible helps me to focus on how to pray for others. It's like being invisibly drawn into their circumstance for a few minutes, as if I am right there with them. However, I'm reminded that it's not me with them, but The Spirit of God Himself, and what greater comfort could there be.
Prayer partnered with God’s Word is more powerful than we realize. It's not hindered by distance and knows no boundaries. It can penetrate through the hardest walls of resistance and change the most impossible situations.
I have learned that prayer is actually the battleground where we engage the enemy and that His Word is like a bullet in a high powered rifle. The rifle can look intimidating as we point it toward an enemy, but the truth is...without the ammunition in place (His Word), we are just trying to fake our way through, hoping the enemy doesn't catch on that our weapon is not even loaded.
When I went through breast cancer 3 years ago, God’s peace came to me through scripture and I clung to it like an oxygen mask when you can't breathe on your own. It was Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you; you only need to hold your peace."
I asked God what that really meant and His answer has made my times of prayer more peaceful and given me a greater understanding of how spiritual battles are won.
In the wilderness, Satan approached Jesus three times, yet Jesus only responded by speaking the Word of God. God’s Word shot Satan over and over until he finally limped away, having been seriously wounded by it.
When we speak God’s Word in prayer, we are like high-powered rifles, releasing deadly blows to the enemy. His Word destroys fear, sickness, addictions, and any enemy that tries to defeat us. It's the Word of God that fights for us.
So, stay cool...loaded and ready...when an enemy appears, let God’s Word take him out!