Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Times of Refreshing

Last week we traveled to Florida to participate in the first Calvary Regional Conference of the year. Before attending the conference my wife and I were able to visit the church we planted almost 20 years ago in Brandon, Florida. We were so blessed to see so many people we love still walking with the Lord and loving one another. I was thankful for the privilege of sharing the Word of God with the people of God at Calvary Chapel Brandon. One of my dearest friends pastors the church; his name is Marc Orozco. He has done such a wonderful job the last ten years, faithfully serving the congregation there. Following our time in Brandon, we headed over to Calvary Chapel Merritt Island for the regional conference, the theme of which was "Times of Refreshing," taken from the book of Acts. The very first time we attended this conference our middle son, who is now 20 years old, had just turned one. Then, Pastor Chuck was there and we took our son to Pastor Malcolm's office where Pastor Chuck dedicated our boy. So many memories came flooding back. That conference was and continues to be an oasis for weary workers to be strengthened in ministry. It was wonderful reconnecting with old friends and co-laborers from the East Coast.

I am happy to report that we did indeed experience times of refreshing. We were all gathered together in one accord worshipping the Lord in Spirit and Truth with a mutual love for one another and the bond of peace. We heard some wonderful messages from God's Word by John Miller, Ray Bentley, Lloyd Pulley, Razz Vasquez, and Neil Spencer. Corporately we were all desperate for the outpouring of God's Spirit and His presence to be among us. The Lord did not disappoint. It was one of those conferences where I felt like I didn't want to move from that spot and didn’t realize until I arrived how much I need times of refreshing to come from the presence of the Lord in my own life.

I don't often receive visions from the Lord; however, during our time of worship the Lord showed me something in my own heart that I shared with everyone at the conference during an afterglow. The Lord showed me a vision of an embattled Roman Soldier. His face was dirty and scratched from fighting. Then I saw a hand reach for the breastplate of the soldier. As the hand pulled the breastplate down there was a visible wound to his heart. Yet he was so engaged in battle it seemed that he did not realize he had been wounded. As the breastplate was removed the wound began to heal. I sensed that the Lord was not only speaking to me but perhaps many more in that room. It's easy to be so engaged in the battle that you don't realize you have been wounded in the fight. You are fearful of taking down armor lest your heart be exposed to a fatal attack. But unless you allow the armor to come down your heart can get infected with bitterness and it can take over your whole life. The Bible says the Lord is near to those who are of a broken heart. Our Lord is a healer, a great physician. After that word was given many people identified with the vision and came forward to receive prayer. As well, I received a loving touch from the Lord.

I am excited for our next regional conference to be held in California at Calvary Chapel Golden Springs from April 3 through 5. Many of my favorite Bible teachers will be there teaching God's Word. I am thrilled to be able to take our pastors and leaders to this event for a time of encouragement through the Word.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Unafraid in 2017

Over the last several months we have been making our way through the Old Testament looking at both major and minor prophets. There are several things that stand out to me concerning these men. First of all there were times when the LORD revealed things to prophets that He had not revealed to anyone else. He gave these men insight, perspective, and discernment to see things that others did not necessarily see. 
For example, Ezekiel was given a vision into the plans and practices of the leadership in Jerusalem while he was sitting in Babylonian captivity. Within his vision he dug through a wall and observed the detestable practices of the spiritual leaders.  The prophets were also called upon to stand up and say things that were not popular to say. The prophets were not applauded for their sermons, instead they were hated and rejected.  The messages they were called to herald were the exact opposite of what the world and culture wanted to hear.  The prophets paid a price for serving the Lord. Some were tortured, others were imprisoned, some were martyred. Perhaps that is why Jesus said to His disciples so many years later, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matt. 5:11-12

I am both humbled and convicted by the following quote from the late A.W. Tozer
"If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.
Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the one and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.
We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the church, and it is my belief that the one gift we need most now is the gift of prophecy."
A.W. Tozer -God and Men