1969-2019 Auspicious Events for Ministry

It is appropriate for me that I started this article at 11:11 on 1-1-19. 1111 has had significance for me for some time, and it is the first day of a new year. Not just any new year, however. I’ve considered it, and during my lifetime significant events have happened at the end of each decade. Now, I suppose I could attempt a similar exercise with any year, but during each year ending in nine, something life changing has occurred, and/or something new has been inaugurated.

I wrote a blog yesterday and took it all the way back to ’79, but as I was thinking just now, I can even find a life changing event that occurred in ’69, when I was only seven years old. 1969 was the year my parents divorced. My biological father was an alcoholic and his irresponsible, sometimes violent, behavior precipitated that permanent separation. I never had a good relationship with my dad beyond that time. Early on he was a dangerous person to be avoided. Later he was distant and I had limited communication with him until several years before he passed away in 2008. This left a painful wound on my heart that didn’t heal until I fully accepted the reality that through Jesus, God is my Father, and He has not abandoned me. I will admit there is still a scar, but that has served to glorify my Heavenly Father. I am also thankful that my biological dad eventually put his faith in Jesus, so I’ll see him again one day.

I publicly committed my life to Jesus Christ at the North Phoenix Baptist Church when I was sixteen. One year later, in 1979, I surrendered to God’s call to preach. During that first year as a follower of Jesus I attended church faithfully, and often when Pastor Jackson passionately delivered his message I would feel a strong compulsion to do the same thing. I didn’t really recognize this as a calling until, shortly before my 17th birthday, an evangelist named James Robison came to our church and conducted and eight day event (back then they were called crusades). On the first night he spoke on apathy, and I responded to the invitation to recommit my life to Christ. As I was talking to the crusade counselor I mentioned, almost casually, that I thought I was being called to preach. The next year I graduated high school and pursued a college education to prepare for the vocation I’ve pursued since that time.

My first staff position in a church began after my first semester at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. I became the youth minister at First Baptist Church, The Colony–about an hour’s drive from seminary. In January of 1989 something remarkable happened at that church. You see, when I started ministry there they had recently hired a new pastor due to a previous church split. Two-thirds of the original congregation were meeting in the high school cafeteria with the previous youth minister as their pastor. The other third, who called me to be their youth minister, maintained control over the church property and met in the original building. The remarkable thing that happened was this fractured congregation agreed to unite. There was serious resistance from the pastor who hired me, and he quit in protest. My youth group increased ten-fold immediately. It had dwindled to just nine people due to the contentious atmosphere created by our pastor, but the Sunday after our merger there were 90 teenagers in attendance!

That wasn’t the only significant thing that happened 1989. It was also the year I started producing House of Judgement in the DFW Metroplex. The idea of an alternative haunted house was not mine. The concept came from a church in Alabama, and they called it Judgment House. Pastor Bill Wilks of our church, who was from Alabama (and ministers there now) outlined the concept and asked if I’d consider getting our youth to do a Judgment House. Frankly, the whole thing sounded cheesy and exploitive. But I kept thinking about it. I came to the conclusion that we could do it in a way that was realistic and relevant. I introduced the idea to our youth group in the living room of the home where I stayed. There were 30 kids there that night, and they enthusiastically committed to make the event a reality at our church. In fact, that first youth group was responsible for us called it House of Judgement, rather than Judgment House. They thought that sounded much better, and I added to older spelling of the word judgement. The rest is history. I wrote my very first play, and we produced it in what I like to call a “mobile theatre format.” Instead of audiences sitting still and watching the set change between scenes in a traditional theater, we moved audiences from scene to scene. Each year I wrote a new play. I wrote and directed of House of Judgement and led in it’s production with three different churches from 1989 until 2006. During that time nearly 100,000 people attended, and over 10,000 made public professions of faith in Christ. 1989 was an auspicious year indeed.

By 1999 I had been serving for seven years as the associate pastor and youth minister with Freeman Heights Baptist Church. It became obvious that God wanted me to start a church. A series of events took place that forced me to take action sooner than I would have planned. However, I had strong support from the pastor I served with and from our denomination. On July 4th, 1999 (Independence Day was intentionally significant), City of Refuge launched at 111 Ranch in Garland, Tx. Our day to day operations were out of a house I leased, and we met in hotel ballrooms for worship. About a year and a half later we decided to change the name of the church to Zion–a city on a hill, the people of promise. Ten years later we changed the name again, largely due to a changing culture and persistent misunderstanding of the name by some. We are now Lifewell Church. On July 4th of this year we will celebrate 20 years of ministry in the Garland area.

In 2009 our church leased the building where we still meet on the downtown Garland Square. It is 122 years old, one of the oldest structures in our city. We’ve had a presence in the center of the city for 15 years, but getting this building established us. It is the launch point for what I believe God is going to do next…

Do you see the pattern? 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009: during each of these years something significant has happened that has shaped my ministry.

It is January 1, 2019 as I write this. What will God do next? That’s something about which I’ve prayed fervently for several years, asking and seeking and knocking. The watchword for me this year is GROW. I want to see our church grow significantly, as individuals mature spiritually, and as God exponentially adds new people to our community. However, this morning I came to the conclusion that the time has come for me to write consistently, and to finish the book I started several years ago. I am insecure about this. I don’t know who will read what I write, but I’m going to write. What you’ve just read is the result of that conviction.

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79-89-99-09-19: Ready, Set, GROW!

I believe 2019 will be a significant year for me and for our church. The watchword for  this year is GROWTH.

It seems that every 10 years at the end of the previous decade, God establishes something significant in my life as a minister. 79-89-99-09-19. 

In 1979 I had been a follower of Jesus for a year and surrendered his call to preach. I pursued an education to prepare for ministry for the next decade.

In 1989 I was a year into professional ministry (as in, I got compensated financially; I’d been a volunteer minister for several years up to that point). Two important things happened: the church in which I ministered was reunited and re-established, and an I had the privilege of starting an annual event that was destined to reach thousands of people with the truth of the Gospel.

In 1999 the church I and a small group of young people founded the church I still pastor. At that point we called ourselves City of Refuge. Today the church is Lifewell. We’ve had our ups and downs, struggles and celebrations, people have come and gone, returned and left again, but we have a core group that has persevered. There are many new faces, and I believe they are the firstfruits of a new beginning that will result in tremendous GROWTH.

In January of 2009 our church established the lease on one of the oldest buildings in town. It is a 122 year old structure on the Garland downtown Square, and it’s been our place for ministry and worship in the heart of the city for a decade now.

So, every decade something significant has been established. Is something new coming in 2019. I cannot say. However, I do believe it is our year. I do believe it is a year the Lord will rain favor on me and our church–undeserved favor, which is grace. I’ve been tracking God’s promises for 20 years, and I’m looking forward to their realization in my life and ministry this year.

Here’s a promise I received from the Lord just this morning. Psalm 90 is a good Scripture to read as a new year begins. I memorized verse 12 many years ago: “Teach us to number our days rightly, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” However, the Spirit of God spoke at the end of the Psalm today.

“Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us, for as many years as we have seen adversity. Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands— establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:15–17, CSB)

Amen. I’ve seen hard times, lean times, and certainly some good times. However, I must admit I’ve been persistently disappointed at the limited growth of our church. But I am a prisoner of hope (see Zechariah 9:12)! I have continued to believe that we are moving through a process of preparation for significant impact on our world. I believe God will bring remarkable growth to me and to Lifewell Church in 2019– personal, spiritual and numeric growth. It is our year. Let the beauty and favor of the Lord our God be upon us! Establish the work of our hands! Amen.

I Am a Single Pastor

I just finished a book by author Preston Sprinkle titled People to Be Loved. The concluding chapter was very affirming to me as a never-married single. There is an often unspoken assumption that if you are single, well, you’re incomplete. In fact, it is an assumption held by many single people themselves. To this Sprinkle replies:

“But if you think marriage is the only way to say yes to life, yes to love, and yes to happiness, then you’ll not only be disappointed if you get married, but you will also forgo the cruciform joy that his possible in your singleness.”

Cruciform joy. Huh? Sprinkle is a Christian pastor and scholar. He is referring to the follower of Jesus identifying with Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Joy? The joy comes when I endure suffering together with the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. Sprinkle continues:

“The Gospel never promises happiness to married folk. It does promise joy for those who pick up their crosses and die with Jesus.”

Overwhelming joy follows when I identify with Jesus on the cross and thereby overcome sin and death as I continue to see myself in Christ’s resurrection. “For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). I am enabled to begin to experiencing eternal life (the Kingdom of God) now, even before I pass beyond this vale of tears to live forever with God.

I a single man, which is not uncommon. In fact, there are currently more single men and women in the United States than ever before, Further, the percentage of the population who are unmarried is on the increase. Where I am very different is in my occupation as a single. I am a pastor. I’ve never met another single senior pastor, although I’m sure there are others. I’ve considered that this could be keeping my church from growing numerically. Why, you might ask? Well, the expectation is that the pastor should be a family man. In fact, I wouldn’t be hired by the overwhelming majority of churches with pastoral positions open due to this expectation, and due to a misreading and misunderstanding of the requirements for a pastor listed in 1st Timothy and Titus (I’ll not cover the interpretive issue here).

So, are you asking yourself, “Hmm, what’s wrong with that guy?” Well, that’s how I feel sometimes, even though nobody who attends my church talks or acts like that. I do suspect most people I know would be relieved if I got married. And I suspect my church would grow numerically. Trouble is, I’ve never found anyone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, and to whom I would surrender and sacrifice. Is that selfish? I won’t deny that I’m selfish. Aren’t you? However, that’s not the issue. I really believe that God has a specific will and purpose for every individual, and every married couple. I’ve believed and taught my entire adult life that if God wants you to be married, then there is an Eve for every Adam: God created the two for each other. I’ve simply never found someone like that, and never felt compelled by God to marry anyone. And I’m not compromising.

So, you may ask, “Well are you looking? Do you date?” I pray and keep my eyes open. I’ve been on a Christian oriented dating site on and off for quite sometime. I’ve been matched with literally thousands of women and met a few of them. No one has been God’s match for me.

Will I remain single the rest of my life? I don’t know, but I’m okay with that if it is God’s will. You see, that’s what I want. That’s what Jesus taught his students to pray for: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I’d like to have an intimate partner. I’d like to have kids. I think I’d make a great father and husband. However, I want to do whatever my Father in heaven wants, and he hasn’t shown me that is what he wants for my life.

The reason I share this is because I believe many single people feel like they are missing out, or like they are incomplete without a mate. Fellow single person, we are only incomplete if we have no relationship with God. A man or woman is a poor substitute and cannot fill your need for intimacy. It has been said that there is God shaped hole in everyone, which only God can fill.

God has a purpose for each of us. God has a purpose for me as a single pastor. I believe our church is perfect. I don’t mean we are without flaws. I am the chief of sinners (see 1 Timothy 1:15), so that’s not possible. What I mean is our church is perfect for those whom God has called to be part of us. We have an amazing Teaching Pastor, who is married and has four wonderful kids. Our church has families with children and I’m certain they feel comforted and strengthened by his leadership and example. We also have a number of older single adults in our church, and I hope they feel they are not second class members. Perhaps they are comforted and strengthened because their pastor is single too.

You see, a church is a family, or it should be. We are the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus warned his followers that they needed to be willing to lose natural friends and family and even their own lives for his sake and that of the Kingdom of God (see Luke 14:26). However, the Lord also promised better and greater relationships will replace that loss.

“’Yes, Jesus replied, ‘and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.’” (Mark 10:29–30, NLT)

I’ve thought our church might grow numerically if I were to get married. However, I believe I am who, and what, and where God has willed me to be, and I seek to become more like his Son. Our church is my family. I’m like a grandpa to all of these wonderful kids. I’m open to meeting someone, but it is unnecessary. That won’t fulfill me, or even give me more happiness, if it is not God’s leading and will.

Persistent Peace of Christ

It is foretold that Messiah will be Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end…”

We believe Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning Messiah. What about him being the Prince of Peace?

At Jesus’ birth the angels proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

Has Jesus brought us peace? There appears to be a glaring contradiction, even in what Jesus said about himself.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. rom now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:51-52)

Certainly, in our world this is the case, isn’t it? Families are divided over politics and religion. Christians are disregarded, disrespected, or hated when they follow Jesus’ actual teaching. So, how is he the Prince of Peace? Let’s look further at what He said to his students.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(John 16:33, NIV84)

The Peace is In Christ.

In the world we will have trouble. As we observed a moment ago, following Jesus may increase the trouble you face in the world. Notice, the angels proclaimed that peace would come “to those on whom his favor rests.” The secret to Jesus’ peace is to put faith in his unmerited favor or grace, and trust Him to take care of you. When He is genuinely your Lord, then He is in control. Nothing will happen in your life that your Lord is incapable of handling, and giving you the wisdom, courage and perseverance to go through. In the passage surrounding this verse Jesus has promised to send the Holy Spirit to stay with his disciples. In fact, he promised the Holy Spirit would live inside them! When you have the presence of God within, you have the power of God to go through any circumstance with peace and confidence.

This isn’t to say you will be able to control all of your circumstances. In fact, the need to control everything will rob you of peace.

You cannot control everything but you can control yourself!

Ever feel like you’re out of control… and you just can’t seem to get it back.

Good news for believers is that self-control is a direct result of being indwelt & empowered by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Realize you cannot control other people, but you can control your reaction to them.

Realize you cannot be in control of the world and many of your circumstances, but you can determine how you will respond and act.

You cannot control everything but you can pray to the God who created the heavens and the earth.

The world is fallen and many people are in rebellion, so a lot of bad things are happening. Maybe you’re afraid something bad will happen to you! Rest assured God is on his throne in heaven and is in ultimate control.

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19)

Invite the LORD into your current situation and intercede for others, even if don’t believe or trust Jesus.

God changes things when we pray & trust him to work.

First and foremost God changes me when I pray. He gives me peace when I pray.

“Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and petition with Thanksgiving make your requests known to God and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Jesus promised that if we believe when we pray we can move mountains. So, yes, God can and sometimes will change circumstances when we pray. But we must trust him to move.

The peace of Christ is not freedom from conflict;

at least, not coming from others. Certainly, you and I as followers of Jesus are not to be staring fights with people over our opinions or the faith. We are taught to “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV84)

We are taught to “speak the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15),

which doesn’t mean to add, “but I love you,” as a tagline to your diatribe against someone’s lifestyle or opinion.

The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say, the conviction about when and how to say them, and anointing to make you effective (Mark 13:11, John 14:26, 20:22, 1 John 2:20 & 27)

The peace of Christ is not the absence of challenges

As long as you’re in the world, you will face trouble. There will be obstacles. There will be trials. Jesus will not remove all your struggles because you need to overcome them by relying on His Spirit in order to become more like your Lord.

We are promised that God will make everything work out for our good and his glory!

“All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

We have to go through the difficulty and overcome to become. God’s primary goal is to make you like Jesus, friend.

“For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (and sisters) (Romans 8:29).

Those of us who practice weightlifting know that through resistance we become stronger.

You will be tempted. Instead of crying for the Lord to take the temptation away, learn to rely on him and resist!

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but will with the temptation provide the way of escape so that you may endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

We are promised total victory when we fight the good fight of faith.

“If God is for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

“But in all these things we are overwhelmingly conqueror through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37)

The Peace of Christ means I have nothing to fear and no reason to be troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The world offers superficial answers, outright lies and temporary solutions to help you with fear, stress, anger and other emotional challenges.

Let me be clear:

Panic is Satanic.

God doesn’t inspire panic or the kind of terror that leads you to cower and run away. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but that is deep reverence not terror.

Faith brings the presence of God. Satan is the one who thrives on fear and drives you to panic. Panic means you feel vulnerable and without the ability to control some real or imagined circumstance. Admit you have not control, then. Give control to Jesus. TRUST the LORD! Pray. Sing songs of praise. Get on your face and worship the Living and True God.

Confusion comes from the Father of Lies

If you’re confused, it is not God. The spirit of confusion comes from the Father of Lies. “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21). God has made himself clear in his Word. He has a purpose for you. First of all, to make you like His Son Jesus. Are you completely committed to Jesus? If not, that is the real source of your confusion. God wants to reveal specific direction for your life. How will you know what it is? Commit yourself completely to Christ. Align your will with God’s. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Seek his kingdom above your ambition or profit. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

You’ll know what to do when you’re willing to do God’s will no matter the cost. “If anyone is willing to do His will that person will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own” (John 7:17).

Depression is of the devil.

Depression may result from frustration and internal anger over your circumstances or relationships.

It may be a response to loss. Ultimately depression is a lack of hope. The devil has told you that you’re unworthy of God and His love. OR he has made you believe that you deserve better. Either way, tell the truth to yourself, and to God. You ARE unworthy, whether you think so or not. None of us deserve God’s love. None of us has earned the right to be forgiven. None of us have lived a perfect life.

God offers grace to the undeserving

Grace is unmerited favor. God chooses to look your way, listen to and answer your prayers. Why? Because of What Jesus did on the cross to buy your forgiveness. Once you admit you’re unworthy, you’re in the perfect position to receive God’s love. He chooses to love you. It is in his nature.

Hope is renewed when we find and put our faith in God’s promises

God has offered us many promises in which to place our hope.

Let me remind you of the promise I believe God offered us last week Lifewell

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” (Zechariah 9:11–12, NIV84)

It is because of the blood of Jesus that God offers this, not because we deserve it.

You have been set free of your depression, your panic attacks, your fear. That is the promise. Believe and it will be!

Whatever the devil has stolen, God will restore two-fold or more! That is the promise. Believe it and receive it.

There are many more promises I believe God has made to me for this church. As you are willing to receive them, I will continue to deliver them.

But don’t wait for me. Search the Scriptures. Put your hope in God’s promises. Put your trust in Jesus. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Be at peace!

Prisoners of Hope

What are you waiting for? Do you expect anything to happen?

The people of Israel were waiting for deliverance from foreign domination, but except for a brief period that did not occur.

In the New Testament time it was Rome that ruled the Western world. Israel was known as Palestine and was an insignificant but troublesome land.

For many years the Jews waited for Messiah. They expected this to be a military deliverer and king who would free them from their enemies and restore the glory days of King David. That has not happened as they hoped, not yet. Even today, many expect Messiah to come.

Herein lies the fundamental conflict: the world vs the Kingdom, the flesh vs. spirit, temporal vs. eternal, sight v. faith

However, the believer in Jesus Christ receives salvation and deliverance from the greatest enemies of the human race: sin and death and Satan. We must come to realize that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is not located in a single place on earth. Dallas Willard refers to it as “the Kingdom of the Heavens.”

“Right beside and among the kingdoms that are not God’s stands his Kingdom always ‘at hand.’ It is that of Jesus and his Heavenly Father. It can be ours as well. The door is open, and life in that kingdom is real. Even now, ‘the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isa. 6:3). True, few see it.”

We may enter into the reality of God’s kingdom now by accepting the reign of Jesus the Messiah over our lives. All that is necessary for a Kingdom is a King and citizens. We become more than mere citizens, though. We are adopted into the royal family and become sons and daughters of the King.

What kingdom are you part of? Each of us has his own little domain because we all have self-will.

Extend that into the world–your home, your family, those over whom you exercise authority–and you have your kingdom. Giving your life to Jesus is giving your kingdom to Him and letting him rule through you. I would say it is a bloodless revolution, but that is only true if you consider that we did not have to fight and bleed. Jesus shed his blood on the cross to convince us of his love and to provide believers with the privilege of becoming part of His Kingdom of the heavens.

With all of this in mind, let us look at some famous messianic promises from the Old Testament, two of which are quoted by believers at Christmas.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV84):

“The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

This refers to anyone in any time in history, but initially it pointed to those in Israel who were living without direction and little or no hope that better times would come. Does it speak to you today? Do you feel like your walking in darkness?

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). You must believe in Jesus and trust him to lead you, not merely accept him or seek to feel him somehow. Then you must actually follow what you say you believe!

Isaiah 9:6–7 (NIV84):

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this.”

The baby born in a feeding trough has become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every nation on earth and every individual is still given the freedom to surrender to his loving rule or rebel, for now. But Jesus promised to return visibly and he will judge the world in righteousness and bring an end to evil and all self-will that opposes God’s will. “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10)

Philippians 2:5–11 Have this mind in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Have you surrendered your will to Jesus Christ. Do you confess him to be Lord over your life? Do you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and that he is at the right hand of the Father now? That is your salvation from this dark, hopeless world. I will conclude with a messianic prophecy from Zechariah, often quoted at Easter, a portion of which has been upon my mind lately. I believe it applies to us, Lifewell, and to many others who have ears to hear.

Zechariah 9:9–13 (NIV84):

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

and the war-horses from Jerusalem,

and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow

and fill it with Ephraim.

I will rouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and make you like a warrior’s sword.

We used to be known as Zion. It is a reminder that those who have faith in Jesus have been grafted into the Olive Tree of God’s people. Jews and Gentiles who believe are the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16, 4:28, Rom. 4:16-18) and are given the right to partake of the promises made to His people (2 Peter 1:3-4). Jesus is the basis for my application of this passage to you and I today Lifewell.

You will recognize the prophecy about Jesus ridiing into Jerusalem in the donkey’s back. He was a peaceful king. The military leader rides a horse or a chariot. Jesus will return on a white horse…

Taking away the implements of war from Ephraim and Jerusalem means that God’s people will be peaceful and the Kingdom will advance by winning hearts not forcing surrender through fear of arms. The real church has always increased this way. In fact, the Kingdom of God grows under persecution.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” -Tertullian

Now we conclude with what I believe to be the message for you today….

“As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

This promise is not offered to you and me because we deserve it, have earned it, or even because God feels sorry for us in our suffering. No, it is because of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

The promise is Jesus has freed you from your addiction today. He has freed you from depression today, from hopelessness and despair, from sadness, from anger and contempt, from the torment of abuse in your past, from failure.

Like Joseph of old, perhaps your brothers have thrown you into a waterless pit waiting to get the courage to kill you, then selling you into slavery. People you trusted, who appeared to be your friends, led you into darkness, evil, addiction. Your Christian brothers turned against you, slandered you, harmed your reputation, stole your joy. You have been persecuted for speaking about Jesus, and they threw you down into the bottom of a slimy pit, full of filth and mud but no clean water of life. That was what happened to Jeremiah, but God sent people to pull him out of the pit and he was kept safe in a fortress.

You are a prisoner of hope now!

You cannot help but believe things will get better, not because you deserve it, not because ‘everything will be ok’ naturally. NO, but because God is love. God is good. God has promised and fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ, who came to set the captives free!

Luke 4:18–19 (NIV84): “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Finally, friends, all that the devil has stolen from you will be restored. In fact, two times as much or more. You have come to the year of God’s favor, a perpetual Jubilee.

Do you believe it? What are you waiting for? Receive it now.

Creeping Along

They’re creeping along

these crying, cussing, copulating masses,

just living to die like animals,

while all around evidence

of God’s glory abounds.

Walking in darkness they curse the light;

when light shines they close their eyes;

tragically they love their worthless lives.

Cover the pain with short-lived pleasure,

medicate with chemicals incapable of touching

what really hurts.

It is the end of days and that is sure;

insipid lies cannot continue indefinitely.

Beliar was bound but now is free.

The Liar falsely inspires and conspires

with sons and daughters of liberty

to keep them from believing and seeing

the Truth.

The Lie will die permanently

when the Prevaricator is cast out,

imprisoned in fire for eternity,

then all who believe his manifold lie

will perish in the same flames.

So I cry to you, child of liberty:

open your eyes and become free!

The Light of the World has come;

truth and love and life have already won.

Despise your crawling, scratching, screaming

existence,

and find life in the One despised by tyrannical men.

He died, he rose, and he is coming again.