Faith Calls

Luke 18: 40

Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him.

A funny thing happened on the way from the showers . . .. I was at a bicycle weekend recently. My friends and I were walking back to our campsite after leaving the shower truck and walking by some lovely old homes in Edenton, NC. As we walked past one particular house, there were people sitting on the porch and somehow we began speaking with them. I noticed a crutch leaning against the house and asked to whom it belonged. A woman there said it was hers and without a moment’s hesitation I asked if I could pray for her. I didn’t know her from Adam and didn’t know what her ailment was. I just felt compelled to pray for her, so I did.

As I mounted the porch, she arose telling me she had scoliosis. Well, given one more minute I would have surmised as much for she was bent over. I prayed for her and as I prayed, I felt the Spirit moving. The woman began to pray along with me. I know something happened that day though when I left, she was not standing upright like when Jesus prayed for the woman in Luke 13: 13.

Days later I was thinking about this incident, and something struck me. The two ladies I was walking with each had a need. One has MS and the other has Celiac Disease. I did not have a compulsion to pray for them even though I camped with them all weekend, but I was compelled to pray for a woman I literally was walking by and didn’t know at all. Isn’t that interesting? What was the difference?

Faith calls. Faith pulls. Faith demands. It turns out that the woman with scoliosis, Connie, is a person of faith. In fact, she is the worship leader at her church. The spirit in her sensed the spirit in me and pulled on that anointing whereas the two women with me have no faith for healing.

This was astounding to me. As I pondered this event, I recalled James 5: 14 – 15. It reads, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” The person who is sick is to call for the elders and the prayer offered in faith shall restore the one who is sick. My friends had no faith, but Connie did. Her faith reached right out to me and stopped me in my tracks the way Jesus was often arrested by faith. Isn’t that amazing?

I think too about the woman with the hemorrhage. She, literally, went and pulled on Jesus. There is a lesson here. Your faith heals. Jesus felt power go out of him. He told the woman, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well,” (Matthew 9: 22). That statement causes me to pause. We know God is the healer, but our faith must connect with that healing power and that is when the miracle happens. Even though Jesus didn’t know the woman was there, her faith reached out and took a miracle. Bless God!

Did you know that Jesus couldn’t always work miracles? Mark 6: 5 reads, “And 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,” (NLV). As crazy as this first sounds, it does make sense when you recall Revelation 12: 11, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony.” We would think that the blood of the Lamb is sufficient to overcome all obstacles, but we would be wrong and unbiblical. This scripture is very clear in teaching that overcoming is the product of the blood and the “word of their testimony” or, in other words, the words of our mouth. This reality makes us uncomfortable for two reasons. First, it places responsibility on our shoulders when we just want Jesus to make everything alright for us. Second, it defies our theology. We have been taught God is omnipotent and we took that to mean that He acts independently of us. That just isn’t Biblically sound. There is nothing in the Bible that says that. In fact, it says just the opposite. Psalm 115: 16 says, “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” God gave us freewill, and He gave us authority and He will not usurp either.

Well, this devotional might speak to a number of different things for you today. One take away for me is that you never know when God is going to move or when and how He is going to teach you something. I would have never guessed that the blessing of the Lord would manifest while I was walking from a shower truck to my tent with a towel slung over my shoulder, but there He was. Ready to bless someone. Oh, but this touches my spirit. Paul told Timothy to be ready in season and out (2 Timothy 4: 2) and brother, I am glad I was ready. We were also taught to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5: 17). That means even when you are not at church and not dressed up.  Be ready to pray at all times.

You can see the implications for an entire message in each of those scriptures as it relates to this experience. So, be ready at any time to minister but also, stir up your faith for whatever you need. Pull on the anointing in your spiritual leaders. If you aren’t calling me or writing me, you are missing an opportunity for God to minister to your need. Be filled and overflowing in Jesus’ name.

Calling All Believers!

Matthew 9: 28, 21: 22

And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this? If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Yesterday I sent you an unusual Word of the Day, unusual because I have never before asked you to give to this ministry. That wasn’t easy for me but there was a specific reason I made that suggestion and request. First, if you are being fed by this ministry, you should support it, but that is not why I wrote you as I did yesterday. I wrote to you trying to get you blessed.

Why am I anointed to teach the gospel? And for whom? Why did God give me that anointing of increase Sunday? All the anointing that is on me was given for you. I don’t benefit from the anointing on me. I benefit from the anointing that is on Jesse. However, no matter what gifts God sends, it up to each one of us to receive them. So, I want to tell you another story.

A couple of years ago, I decided to test God on this finances thing. You see, we all have trouble believing. As you can see from today’s verse, Jesus couldn’t always get around people’s doubt. Anyway, I took one dollar and sowed it. I prayed over it, I declared, and I put God on notice that I was going to see what He would do. Well, very shortly thereafter I received a check for fifty dollars. Okay, I was expecting one hundred but, where else do you get that kind of return on your money. So, being quite serious about sowing, I sowed the entire fifty dollars. Guess what ministry I sent it to. Jesse Duplantis Ministries. I sent that fifty dollars as soon as I got it. I was working on something. So, then I sat and waited. I was expecting the hundredfold return. And I waited and waited. I began to tell Father, “Hey, you owe me some money here.” Still nothing. Then one day I heard the Father’s voice say to me, “I will make it up to you on your truck.” Well, the thing there was that I wanted a new Tahoe, but I couldn’t afford it. So, I waited some more. Then I reminded Father, “You owe me money!” Again, I heard Him say, “I will make it up to you on your truck.” Okay, fine, but didn’t He understand that I couldn’t afford a Tahoe? How was He going to make it up to me? This went on and I held on though I couldn’t see anything coming in. Some days I was despondent. Other days I was full of faith. Through it all, though, He gave me the strength and tenacity to hold on. Now you see why I titled yesterday’s Word of the Day as I did. I understand. Anyway, time went on and I could see no way I would be able to afford a new Tahoe, but that is the vehicle my heart was set on. Well, long story short . . . you would like the looks of my pretty new Tahoe. I got it in December, and I still don’t know how it happened. What’s more, I got a new stationary bike for indoor training and sold my old Tahoe for the amount that I was going to donate it for. All of this happened within a week and it was purely the blessing of the Lord. Dad isn’t a liar!

Now, what are you going to do? “Do you believe that I (Jesus) am able to do this?” “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” So, who are my believers? Do you believe God is able to do something for you? Some of you sowed yesterday as soon as you read the Word of the Day. God bless you! I am going to pray a prayer over those donations that will rock the walls of hell. Some of you didn’t sow a gift to Ivey Ministries. Why? Why didn’t you? Do you not believe that Jesus is able to bless you? Are you having a battle with doubt? What do you think? You are not the only one to doubt. If you read Monday’s Word of the Day you know that the Lord said to each of us, “Those speculations, wonderings, worries, all those mental gymnastics, must be brought to kneel at Jesus’ feet.” See, all that matters is what Jesus says.

But here is the hard part. Do you believe him? I mean really believe him? Are you willing to risk something on his word? Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is,” as the saying goes. Don’t think I don’t know how hard it is to do, but sooner or later we have to decide where we are going to stand. Are you a believer or are you not? Are you going to let Jesus bless you with this special blessing he has for you? Who wins in your heart faith or doubt?

God is able to make all grace abound to you, but you’ve got to get in the game. You have to choose to be a part of this. I am screaming with my outdoor voice that God is doing something here. Let Him include you. Be a part of the blessing. Do you believe?

Shepherding the Flock

Hebrews 13: 17

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

It is hard to be a pastor. Even harder to be blessed with divine sight. I want to help people and sometimes I can see so clearly exactly where they are. I know I could help them. Sometimes I even offer, but I can’t invade. They must ask for my help. I can even give people a prophetic word but if they don’t move on it or ask for more, the moment and the opportunity may pass. I feel the resolution so close but for that person, it may be to them as looking through fog. If they only knew how close they were to their breakthrough. Just take my hand. Let me help you!

I have been asking the Lord a lot about ministry over the last year. What is our role? What good are any of us actually doing? I watched the church as a whole fail miserably when the Covid Pandemic struck. We lost our Billy Graham and there was no voice to fill the void. What is it that any of us can do? What should we be doing for our congregations?  What do people need and/or want?

There are many more questions, as the issue is quite complicated. You are part of the situation too. You aren’t sure where to turn or whether or not a pastor can actually help you. The role of the minister has gotten lost. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just a difficult time. Even before the pandemic, parishioners were changing, and the church was struggling to change to meet those changing needs.

Here is the good news. All bets are off. We are free to rewrite the book on ministry. God has given us lots of guidance in His book and He is showing us new ways we can help the people for which He will hold us accountable.  We can remake the church, saving parts and adding new things too.

I believe the ministry to which God has called me is being remade to meet new challenges. A great deal of what any minister does, though, depends on you. We, as ministers, must give you invitation to take advantage of the anointing which is upon us. That will only happen if you believe God has anointed us with ministry gifts. Second, if we make it taboo for people to ask their ministers for help then it will become a sign of weakness instead of a sign of wisdom for people to ask their ministers for their leadership. Here is the thing, I know there is a place and time for us to stand in the pulpit but there is also a time when we need to minister in small groups and individually. You need to call us. You need to pull on us so that we hear the need. And, you need to let us help you. We do have skills and gifts we would give to you. Though, truth be told, we are learning new ways every day with which to meet the needs of God’s people.

The challenges are very real because the landscape is changing. We do not always know how to offer the help you need nor do you know where the new boundaries lie. Neither do we but it is a brave new world with new potential. Let your ministers help you, nay, demand that we do. We will find our way in this new world, together. You will lead us by your requests, and we will lead with the gifts of God’s Spirit. Life, the church and the needs of the congregation have changed forever. Together, we will rebuild in ways that we couldn’t have foreseen years ago. We will rebuild stronger than ever and with more of the life and light of Christ than before. We needn’t mourn what we’ve lost but rather look ahead to the new thing God has in store for us. He hasn’t lost His way.

The anointing, which is upon pastors and ministers, has been given, by God, to bless His people. Do not let those gifts die on the vine. Call on the ministers of God to minister His grace and wisdom. Call upon us to fulfill our calling.

Receive the Breath

John 20: 21 – 22

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Why in the world did Jesus breathe on his disciples? After yesterday’s Word of the Day, I bet you know the answer. Let’s ponder this just a moment though. Yesterday we saw that the breath is the Spirit. We also saw that where this breath is there is life and when there is the absence, there is cessation of life. So, I suggested that everything which has life has a measure of the Holy Spirit. I also wrote that there are different measures of the Spirit. That reality is shown in today’s verses.

John 3: 34 reads, “For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit.” This verse is about Jesus and says that God gave him the Holy Spirit in unlimited measure. In John 20, Jesus breathed a new measure of the Spirit upon his disciples. I’m thinking, “Inhale deeply.” As he breathed on them, he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Wouldn’t you think this to be the end of the story regarding Jesus giving them the Spirit? It’s not. Later, in the first book of Acts, Jesus gave further instructions regarding the Holy Spirit to these same disciples, “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now,” (Acts 1: 4 – 5).

I find all of this interesting. We know the connection between the breath, specifically God’s breath, and the Holy Spirit. People who don’t know that the Spirit is the breath of God probably don’t recognize the importance of Jesus breathing on them. In fact, it probably looks odd to them but then Jesus did spit to make clay for a blind man’s eyes, so he has reasons we don’t always recognize the fullness of.

The most interesting thing is this conferring of the Spirit. You get the sense from today’s verse that Jesus was passing his anointing to them. In Acts, it was all about the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, the two acts are related but there must be some nuance in that Jesus is using two events to give the disciples the fullness of the Holy Spirit. So, every person has some of the Breath of God. Jesus has an unlimited measure of the Spirit and I believe it is this fullness, this unlimited measure that he transfers to us at some point.

The thing to ponder is these different measures. Why? If we recognize we can have a bit, some more, and then a fullness, it might move us to pray for the unlimited fullness of the Holy Spirit that Jesus desires for us. So, let’s all get filled up with the Breath of God.

Robe’s Edge

1 Samuel 24: 5 – 7

But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.

There is some good advice here, don’t mess with the Lord’s anointed. The Pharisees should have read this passage. If they had, they wouldn’t have messed with Jesus. Jesus is the anointed one.
I wonder what the rest of the life story was for those who sent Jesus to the cross. Don’t you imagine the seed of their actions grew up and produced a harvest. I bet none of them lived out the number of their years.

We all are anointed in Jesus, every one of us, even those who are not ministers. We carry a piece of his anointing. Although the anointing of Christ is not limited to ministers, I think looking at this group makes it is easier to see the dynamic. Some ministers have a healing anointing more than others. Some are more prone to prophetic utterances while still others move in words of knowledge and words of wisdom. They have all been anointed by the Holy Spirit to work in Jesus’ ministry. Their specific anointing isn’t actually “theirs.” It is Jesus’. He has sent us to carry out his ministry.

I really appreciate David’s respect for the anointing. Though Saul was deranged and clearly not following God’s leading, David still esteemed the office. Saul was chosen by God. At the time this story took place Saul was already in disobedience and God had already chosen David to replace him. Actually, Samuel had even anointed David with oil and proclaimed God’s favor on him as the King. Saul still held the office, though and David would not violate the Lord’s calling of Saul even in light of the passing of the mantle. It appeared God had placed Saul at David’s mercy but that is exactly what David showed Saul, mercy.

What would you have done if Saul had chased you all over the country trying to kill you? I fear what I would have done. Would I have had as much respect for Saul’s calling as David did? I think about that now when I hear people criticize their pastor. It makes me shiver a little, as if a lightning bolt is about to strike. I certainly don’t want the disfavor of God on me because I, in some fashion, attacked His anointed.

I think this verse creates a good pondering point. It’s not uncommon to hear about David’s sin but this story is so strong about the honor David showed God in everything. Yeah, he blew it as we all have, but he withheld his hand and his men when he could have solved his biggest problem with one strike. He honored God’s anointing on Saul more than he cherished his own peace and safety. Amazing!

Salvation is for Today

Luke 4: 18 – 19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Stop for a moment today and consider this passage. This is from the book of Isaiah and it is what Jesus read in the synagogue.  His speaking of this passage marked the beginning of his public ministry. If God sent Jesus only to die on a cross bearing the sin of the world, then why this scripture? If eternal life was the only thing on God’s mind, why did Yahweh anoint Jesus to do all these other things? My point is that we have narrowed our focus as to Jesus’ purpose and in so doing have missed the greater blessing.

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I suppose there is no other scripture in the whole of the Bible that is more well known than this one. We make our children memorize it in Bible School, put it on bumper stickers and even billboards. It is a wonderful passage, but it is not the whole story. Jesus didn’t stand up in the synagogue and say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me so that none shall perish but instead have eternal life.” Why? Because that was not his singular purpose nor his anointing. It explains God’s love but not Jesus’ purpose. If you want to know the reason God sent Jesus you must read 1 John 3: 8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” This scripture discloses Jesus’ purpose. Let us go further, though, to see what Jesus, himself, says about his purpose in the earth. John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life, free from the works of the devil, is the gift Jesus came to give us. Yes, eternal life is part of that package but that is the end game, not the whole thing. God made the earth for us to live in and enjoy. He gave us this planet to be our home, not heaven. He didn’t create earth as a testing ground but rather as a home. The point is, the time we spend here is not simply a waystation. Life here isn’t just passing time until we get to heaven. We are supposed to have abundant life here and now. Look again at today’s passage. Clearly that has nothing to do with heaven. Those conditions do not exist in heaven. Adam’s job was to make earth look like heaven so that we would have a heavenly home right here. Jesus prayed, “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” (Matthew 6: 10). Earth is to reflect heaven.

Jesus came to restore our original purpose to us and to return the earth to us as our heavenly home, a home made in the image of heaven. Then God will come here and live with us. We’ve got to stop waiting to get to heaven to start fulfilling our purpose. We’ve got to stop waiting until heaven to start living, especially living in the fullness of God’s intent for us.

Redemption? Yes, it’s a big deal, but it is not the end of the story. It is the means by which God put us back on track. We could not have the abundant life Jesus came to give us until we were cleansed of the sin which stained us and our existence. Furthermore, I do not think eternal life is the evangelical message; it is not the salvation message. The word salvation means, rescue or safety, deliver, health, victory, prosperity, help, and welfare, (Strong’s 3444 & 4991). It does not only mean deliverance from sin. The savior came to give deliverance, health, victory, prosperity, help and welfare. In other words, he came to give us an abundant life right here, right now. This is why I think evangelism is important, but it also points out why our evangelistic message is presently off target. We are trying to get people into heaven while Jesus is trying to save them from their current peril and give them a great life now and forever.

Eternity is now. It began a long time ago. God has plans to get us into heaven but the good news that Jesus shared is that our freedom and victory begins now. This is not the good news we have been carrying to the world, however. God wants people to know they can be free now. Jesus came to set the captives free. Amen? The good news of the gospel is that God wants to bless you now, in this life. He wants to free people from torment and hurt. He wants to mend their hurts and restore them to good life. People need God now, not just in heaven. The message of the gospel is that God loves you now. Salvation emphatically is not, buy your ticket to heaven and then suffer until you die. That is not God. If you know God at all, you know that is not His heart.

To be clear, the evangelical message, the message that all the world needs to hear is that God wants to be your savior today. He wants to move into our lives and improve them. He longs to give us perfect peace and joy in this world, right now. Yahweh is a now God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is that life which in intertwined with our beloved, our Father, Yahweh. He who loves us has sent His son to restore us back to health, welfare, liberty, prosperity and joy. This is the good news of the gospel. Tell that to someone. Heaven is here and now for all who live in Christ. Now is the salvation of the gospel. Now is life and love in the Son. Jesus is here now to give you a good life. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29: 11). Tell someone the good news. Jesus has come, and he has life and healing in his hands. This is his salvation, and ours. Amen.

See Him

Psalm 33: 8

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.

I went to hear a friend of mine preach last Sunday and had a marvelous time. Isn’t that funny, that we can actually have fun at church? In his sermon and his delivery I could see the seminary student. At other times I recognized the research he did in preparation. It was also clear that he allowed the Holy Spirit to lead him in the preparation and the delivery of his message. As I sat there soaking in all of the elements of the message, I found myself wondering. What makes a man like this even want to be a Christian? His message was full of reliance on God, reliance on the Spirit of God. His message was about the idols which we all set up in our hearts. One of the most prominent for preachers is that we tend to put our education and our ability to research and learn on the throne of our hearts. We get so busy trying to learn and convey what we have learned that we forget to actually yield ourselves and all that we are to the Lord. Craziness, right? As I listened, though, I became convinced that this is a man who truly adores God and who is submitted to him. For all the education and intelligence, this was a man hungry for more of God and humble before the Almighty.

It bathed my heart is the sweet honey of the love of God. The anointing in me was stirred up by the anointing on the message. That is the sweet spot and there is nothing better. That anointing only comes from those who truly love the Lord and stand in awe of Him. We sometimes have to remind ourselves to look at the Father and appreciate the grandeur of who He is. Messages from the Holy Spirit are only given to those who yield their will to that of the Father. There is a loud note of trust here. I have to put what I know, or think I know, on the back burner and let the Holy Spirit be the teacher. First, the Spirit preaches the message to the preacher and then preacher gives it to the congregation. In order to receive that message, we have to stand in such reverential awe of Him that we are convinced that He will not let us down. We trust and know that He will deliver.

Every aspect of life is this way. It is not only for preachers. Whatever work we do, in our relationships, with our money and everything else, we lay all those things on the floor of the throne room of God as we lift our eyes to gaze upon His beauty. From that adoration, praise and trust, from that intense sense of reverence and awe, flow all the miracles and all the sustenance. Understand this, to my friend, Jay, sustenance was a message for Sunday. It was one of his greatest needs. He had to trust God for it. There is great pressure in trying to develop a Sunday sermon. If you miss God in that situation, you do so before a crowd of people. Everyone knows you either didn’t seek God or you didn’t listen. That can put some pressure on you – if you let it.

Just like everything in life, we must take all these worry generating circumstances to the Lord and trust Him to meet our need. Clearly Jay did just that. His message was anointed in the grace of the Father and the oil of the Holy Spirit. God delivered. God was trustworthy. Yahoo! That is shouting ground folks. If God will do it for a preacher in North Carolina, He will do it for you. God is no respecter of persons. His grace and mercy are for every single person on the planet. Jay appealed to the Holy Spirit and trusted God for the answer. That should encourage all of us.

Whatever your problems, whatever your worries, lay them down. Look upon the Lord. See His magnanimity. I tell you truthfully, when we see God for who He is, not only does it arouse praise and reverence within us, it also minimizes the worries. We begin to understand that He is not only capable, but also willing. Look at the Father, our God. See the glory of His countenance. Let Him lift your heart. When you see Him, really see Him, you will lose all worry. You will know all your needs are met. Glory to God!

So the answer why people, capable people even, submit to God and serve Him is because God is so great. Great is a much overused word but I just cannot seem to find a word big enough to describe the kind-hearted generosity and love the Father has for all who seek Him. This is also the answer to how we can actually have fun at church. When we experience God, there is nothing greater. It may be hard to describe to a non-believer or a cultural Christian but the heart soars in the presence of God. We experience true freedom and joy. Look upon the Lord. See Him for His greatness and the kind intentions of His heart. Stand in awe that the God of the Universe is your very own Father – if you let Him be.