5 Things We Learn About Praying for the Church from Paul’s Prayer for the Church at Thessalonica

IMAGINE!
If the Father fully released what Paul was praying for in verses 23 and 24, what would Jesus have had to say about the fellowship of believers at Thessalonica had they been one of the seven Churches of Revelation?

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24)

5 THING WE LEARN ABOUT PRAYING FROM PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE BELIEVERS AT THESSALONICA

1 • The GOD of peace HIMSELF wants to intimately do the sanctifying work in the hearts of His people. It isn’t something that He is willing to delegate to an emissary, or to a rule book. He’s in the center of the center of the purification process!

2 • We can pray for COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION for a whole group of believers; AND that our whole being – SPIRIT, SOUL and BODY is made mature and beautiful in holiness – together!

3 • That we could become a Church, IN THIS AGE, that is magnificently Christ-like; and that Jesus, (the One Who evaluates the lamp stands [Revelation 1:13]) would have NOTHING negative or corrective to say about us. (Imagine!) That we’d be BLAMELESS in His eyes!

4 • That Jesus, the One Who called us to Himself in the first place, is entirely FAITHFUL! He has GREAT DESIRE and ABILITY to bring a whole community of believers to PERFECT CHRISTLIKE tenderness, humility, brilliant in witness, love, holiness, supernatural power, zeal and endurance. (Wowzers!)

5 • Paul, the one who is standing in the gap on behalf of these beloved believers, doesn’t believe this is some hyped ideal. He actually BELIEVES GOD WILL DO THIS on account of his prayers.

THIS is how we’re praying for the Church in our region! (Hey! We’re just believing God for the truth of His Word!)

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JSB • March, 2021

8 Signs that Tell Us How Close We Are to Jesus’ Return

“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

By my count there are at least 8 or 9 major factors in place, or soon to be in place, that detail the hour of the Lord’s return. Over the last 70 years, and all-the-more in the last 20, the features surrounding Jesus’ return are advancing with mind-numbing speed.

Jesus always expressed desire that His people comprehend the days in which they lived. He’s zealous for us to see, and understand what’s on the horizon so we can be prepared and not be caught off-guard at His return.

1. Lawlessness. We live in a day when sin, lawlessness and evil is compounding exponentially. Today’s values are quickly being swallowed up by tomorrow’s avant-garde social mores… What you and I believed even ten years ago is perpetually being replaced with new paradigms of unrighteousness. And the level of rage against God’s time-honored standards of life and human relationships grows only more intense. This is the contentious context for the elevation of the man of lawlessness – the antiChrist. His arrival has never been more imminent.

2. The False Church. The degree to which the adulterous church is clothing herself with the unrighteous norms of a godless world is disturbing – both in terms of unholy social/political constructs as well as contra-Kingdom attitudes of the heart. Both are deeply influencing the heart of the crossless, harlot Church.

3. Israel. The fact that this tiny nation exists at all is nothing short of phenomenal. The fact that it has prospered so amazingly, and the fact that every nation on earth has a hot opinion about this nation, is a loud beacon to the whole world: The God of the Bible is true and faithful to His Word. His Son is returning to Israel, and will rule all the nations of the earth from His capital city: Jerusalem.

4. Technology. We have all the technology the world needs to implement the economic and social systems that the Bible has warned us about. What was the stuff of science fiction and comic books a generation ago is common-place infrastructure being employed by the governments of the world, today. We also now have the military technology to match the destructive capacities described in the Bible.

5. The Groan of Creation. The atmosphere, our oceans, the animals, our resources, and the explosion of the world’s 7.4 billion population is straining the limitations of humanity’s ability to adequately manage the earth we’ve been given.

6. World Unity. We live in an age when there is great willingness within the nations to collaborate and endorse common values, social-causes, political and economic ambitions. The ability of one nation to be influenced, and “brought into alignment” with the norms of other nations has never been greater, nor more expedient and feasible.

7. The Great Commission. Jesus declared that the gospel of His Kingdom MUST be preached to the ends of the earth before His day of return. Missions experts estimate that of the thousands of people-groups in the world today, barely a handful do not have an indigenous church in their midst, or a translation of the Bible in their language.

8. Prayer. Prior to Jesus’ second coming, the Church will operate with great, Bridal faithfulness, partnering with the Spirit of Jesus in intercession, filled with wholehearted first commandment love. The degree to which this dynamic, and the Church’s understanding of this dynamic is increasing around the world is mind-boggling. The Holy Spirit is purifying the Church, and the Bride is making herself ready through the prioritization of worship-filled corporate prayer. Again, around the world, the growth of this reality in even the last 20 years is simply off-the-charts.

It’s occurred to me recently that of the top 8-10 signs that need to be in place before Jesus returns, 2 or 3 of the features that most need to be brought into symmetry with the Biblical picture of “the last days” are conditions that exist within the will and control of the Church. As Peter observes, the Church has incredible power to “hasten the Lord’s return” (2 Peter 3:12).

What’s Jesus’ prescription for His disciples in the hours before He returns?

Again and again, it’s the same admonition:“Watch and pray.” (Matthew 26:41)

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JSB • March, 2021

10 Conversations God Is Zealous To Have With Us In This Hour

REPRINT from March 2020
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured… For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)

In a few short days, the uncreated God has brought our entire world to a standstill. Economies have stopped humming. Unprecedented restrictions are being put in place in every nation. Olympics, basketball, movies, ceremonies, conferences and other avenues of diversion are paused. The Lord has planet earth in “lock-down-mode”.

If we’re merely intent on riding the corona-virus episode out so our lives can return to an old normal, we’re in for a vast disappointment. God is too committed to us to allow either humanity or the Church to return to an “old normal”. The Bible tells us He will shake everything that can be shaken (Hebrews 12:27) in order to bring our world into the “new normal” where His Son will ultimately reign over 195 nations in perfect love and righteousness.

Beloved, no aspect of our planet is ready for this “new normal”. God’s ways are that other. And He Himself is that holy! Because He’s promised His Son the nations, and because He loves us deeply, He wants our hearts and spirits to be aligned with the new government of “the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13) Consequently, He is bringing 7.4 billion souls into His “tent of meeting”, called “quarantine”, where He is passionately urging us to reason with Him together (Isaiah 1:18) regarding the condition of our hearts.

I believe these are ten vital conversations the Holy Spirit is zealous to have with both the Church and the lost so we’ll champion, and not resist, the coming of our Bridegroom King:

1. Humanity, you’re vulnerable. Let’s talk about how weak and vulnerable you are to the forces of this world.

2. You’re corrupted. Let’s talk about your priorities, and your inability to assess your own needs and the needs of those you love.

3. You’re hostile. Let’s talk about how hostile you get toward others when you’re threatened – and how hostile you get toward Me.

4. You’re selfish. Let’s talk about what you’re willing to do to get what you lust after – and how basely selfish you really are.

5. You’re prideful. Let’s talk about how you really don’t want to have this conversation with Me (or anyone else) – at all, and how stubbornly you believe you can best handle things on your own.

6. You’re blind. In spite of all your “googled-wisdom-getting” let’s talk about how little you really see; how little you really know; how little you really understand, and how ill-equipped you are to know how to proceed in life, and in crisis.

7. You’ve spurned Me.
Let’s talk about all the times that you’ve held Me at arm’s-length and not intimately engaged Me, the God/Man, Jesus “face-to-face” – either because you were too busy pursuing your own selfish interests, or your own religious causes and activities.

8. …and You’re deeply loved. Let’s talk about how deeply I love you in your weak, blind, corrupt, fearful, obstinate state.

9. You need Me!” Let’s talk about how intimately and perpetually you need Me.

10. You need Me to transform your heart. Let’s talk about what your heart will want to be filled with in preparation for the return of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is zealous for our Bridegroom to find our hearts filled with Awe, excitement, humility, gratitude, zeal for others’ well-being in God, compassion, tenderness, worship, yieldedness to His ways, agreement with His leadership, first-commandment love, trust, intimacy, no shame, purity, integrity, forgiveness, mercy-giving, desire for unity with Him and others, adoration etc.

AND,
the Holy Spirit’s dedicated to cultivating these within us during this season – if we’ll humble ourselves, repent and let go of our old ways, and let Him fill us with His (Psalm 27:1-2) light, and , and strength and and salvation. Beloved, now is the (Isaiah 1:18) time to come into the (Psalm 27:4) tabernacle with Him.

“Holy Spirit, thank You for Your steadfast desire to dialogue with us about these vital issues. Use these days to fill our hearts with the attitudes and qualities that are most pleasing to our King. We want to be ready for His glorious return!”


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JSB • March 21, 2020

If the Church in America Were One of the 7 Churches in Revelation…

After more than 3000 hours of prayer “between the porch and the altar” the last 16 months, I’m profoundly humbled, but I’m not confused about what the Lord is saying to the Church in the Southwest. I submit that if the Church in America were one of the seven churches in Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3), Jesus’ message to us right now might sound something like this…

“To the Church in America that I love write these words:

I rejoice that you champion life. Receive My Word, and don’t abort it. My Word is life.

You who see the boundless corruption of the unfettered self; you have need of encouragement in your stance against the compounding curse of homosexuality. Take up your cross with Me, and together we will plunder the camp of all engaged in sexual immorality.

Because you stand with Israel, you stand with Me. I will enrich you with the wealth of My blessings.

Celebrate My heart for the beauty of race. I will give you grace for your many sins and the sins of your nation. Have confidence in My grace; not your excellence. The fact is, you have not been excellent in this. Be zealous with My compassion, and repent.

You have played the harlot and turned a blind eye to great evil for political power. If you continue to find refuge in this idolatry, I will decapitate you from the Head.

Yield and champion My constitution. Love meekness. Champion mercy. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Love all people.

Pray and seek My Face. Without My breath you will be defenseless against what is about to come.

I am returning quickly. All who respond to My judgements I will cherish, protect and lead into My promised Kingdom.”

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JSB • March, 2021

Plagues, Earthquakes, Angels and Trumpets

One year ago today:

I’ve thought about this one a lot over the last year. One week after a world-wide plague strikes the whole earth, a trumpet is knocked out of an angel’s mouth by an earthquake. (http://fb.watch/4j697uHXoP/)

Beloved, have you read Revelation 8 and 9?
Do you know that angels, earthquakes, trumpets and plagues are all mentioned in these two chapters?
Do you know that it is the prayers of the saints that actually spark the series of calamitous events known as the “seven trumpets of God”? (Revelation 8:3-5)
Do you know what the specific purpose of the seven trumpets is? (See Revelation 9:20-21)
Do you know that the Lord says judgement MUST FIRST shake the household of God (1 Peter 4:16-18), so that when these seven judgements (and more) touch the whole earth, the inhabitants of the earth know how to respond to the Lord they have not known?

This event (and the last year attached to it) begs at least 3 questions:
1. Are we rightly interpreting the present time?
In (Luke 12:54-57) Jesus believes we should be able to, and urgently and lovingly wants us to… 54 “Jesus also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A rainstorm is coming,’ and it does. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and there is. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time? 57 ‘And why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”

2. Do we, the household of God, know that this last year is mostly about God’s judgement re: the Church. Are we, in our church enterprises, prioritizing a response to God? Are we doing (Revelation 9:20-21)?
Are we repenting of the works of our hands?
Are we safeguarding ourselves against the worship of demons?
Are we putting away our idols?
Are we repenting of our murders? (see Matthew 5:22)
Are we repenting of our sorceries and incantations? (see Gal. 5:20)
Are we repenting of our sexual immorality?
Are we repenting of our theft?

3. Is the Church, in light of the severity of the trumpet judgements on the earth; (Look them up. They’re terrible!) giving intercession the place God intends for it to have; to actually tip the release of God’s judgements upon the earth; for good and justice, righteousness and punishment?
“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. 6 So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” (Revelation 8:3-6)

Do you know that in ALL SEVEN of Jesus’ judgements to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus declares: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” SEVEN TIMES!

How’s our hearing?
How are we cultivating our ability to hear His voice?

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JSB • March, 2021

Psalm 27: Employing God’s Way in “The Time of Trouble”

Throughout the fall of 2019, All Nations House of Prayer Southwest engaged in an in-depth study of Psalm 27. Psalm 27 is a Word of the Lord for His people to strengthen them to endure the time of trouble successfully.

PDF notes from that series of teachings may be found here: https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/043a3787-b307-4fec-b839-c17d45726639/downloads/PDF•Psalm27GodsWayInTheTimeOfTrouble.pdf?ver=1584627920603

KEY TEXT: Psalm 27
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Do not hide Your face from me. Do not turn Your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me. Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord!”

We Are In a “Time of Trouble”
Beloved, we are in a “time of trouble” (Psalm 27:5), and surprisingly, God’s primary objective isn’t to remove us from trouble. God is mostly interested in telling us  something throughthe trouble; either giving us insight into the nature of our trouble, or disclosing  some important truth about His character pursuant to the trouble.

How we define trouble is frequently quite different than how God defines trouble. It’s imperative that  we learn to not allowthe course of this world: social, political, familial and economic pressure to  define what trouble is at any given period. A whole generation in Noah’s time were preoccupied with  their own values and worldview, and therefore did not see the true nature of their trouble until the rain  of God’s judgment began to fall on them. Sin and selfishness had seared their minds and dulled their  spirits so that they shunned God’s light and salvation (Psalm 27:1) As a result of not entering into  face to face dialogue with God, they missed all the cues about the nature of the trouble they were in,  and the impending calamity.

It’s vital that we understand how God is defining the trouble in our world. (Beloved, if the response  our Lord is looking for is Psalm 27, I can guarantee you our primary trouble IS NOT corona  virus…)

Most evangelical Christians, pastors and leaders, in any season, because of the littleness of their  prayer lives, live conventionally disconnected from understanding God’s definition of trouble. They  are living in a dangerous way while a great “time of trouble” filled with “devouring wickedness” consumes the land. (Psalm 27:2)

In order to hear God’s definition of trouble, we must “inquire of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4) It takes intentionality to press against the natural gravity of seeing things from a different perspective than the one we’re used to operating from. We won’t see ourselves, our world, or God from God’s perspective  if we’re doing it casually, or “on the run”.

There is a greater trouble coming than COVID-19. Before Jesus returns, there will be escalating judgments, warnings and alarms. These  calamities are all about God removing everything that…
 a. hides our condition from us, 
 b. keeps us in our selfish pride, and 
 c. hinders us from entering into the covenant love that He’s created us for.

Tom Stolz, the director of The Lighthouse of Prayer in Kalamazoo, Michigan writes: “If mankind wants to try to live without our Maker, He will actually let us, but it is deadly  and painful. Right now we are literally witnessing man fail to control disease, economics and  social structures. If we repent and make God our strength, turn from our selfish ways, give  ourselves to prayer and intercession, we will find that He will lead us and protect us from  what is next. If not, He will give us over to more of our own leadership and that will be much  more painful than empty shelves. Read Lamentations. All this happened to the “Apple of  God’s eye” because they would not repent. What is coming is much worse than what is  described in Lamentations.” 

Jesus warned His disciples that trouble would increase and intensify before He returned.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be  famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of  sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by  all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another,  and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And  because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to  the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as  a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24: 7-14)

Our daily reality is, we live in trouble. Corona virus will lift and dissipate and we will still be in a “time of trouble” (Psalm 27:5). There’s an even greater pandemic that’s already infected 7.4 billion of us. It’s mortality rate  is 100%. You don’t need to test for it. You’ve already got it.

The good news is, there’s a Cure that’s come out of the nation of Israel. His Name is Jesus  of Nazareth. He took the disease in His own Body. And now His blood is the Perfect anti- body. His ability to save is 100%. It’s vital that the Church not only see the “threat” of the  “time of trouble” but also wholeheartedly seize the Holy Spirit orchestrated opportunities  that come with God troubling the earth, and declare God’s divine antidote to the trouble.

God Chiefly Defines “Trouble” According to What’s Happening in Our Heart
The trouble that the Lord sees in our hearts are attitudes that corrupt faith and hinder love between  ourselves and God, and ourselves and others that God loves.

These attitudes include, pride, selfishness, covetousness, unforgiveness, impurity, lust of pleasure,  bitterness, offense, fear, unbelief, hostility, idolatry, deceit, alienation, malice, rebellion… etc.

When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. So put to  death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion,  evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is  coming on the  sons of disobedience. You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among  them. But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your  mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices and have  been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the  one who created it. (Colossians 3:4-10; See also Ephesians 4:31)

If these attitudes are not addressed and purged from our lives we (yes, even believers) will actually  find ourselves warring against the Son’s sovereign, holy and perfectly loving reign. In a simple  sentence, our hearts will be “anti-christ”.

As I encounter different waves of trouble, and I’m tempted to give footholds to selfishness, fear,  anxiety and hostility, the Holy Spirit is training me to ask a simple question that reorients the overall  perspective of my heart: What will I want my heart to be filled with on the day I meet my  Bridegroom King? I’m also praying this prayer for myself and my sisters and brothers through this  hour of trouble: “Holy Spirit, use this season to fill our hearts with the attitudes and qualities that are  most pleasing to our King.”

Some of the attitudes and emotions that I want my heart to grow in include: Awe, excitement,  humility, gratitude, zeal for others’ well-being in God, compassion, tenderness, worship, yieldedness  to His ways, agreement with His leadership, first-commandment love, trust, intimacy, no shame,  purity, integrity, forgiveness, mercy-giving, desire for unity with Him and others, adoration etc. 

(Note: On that day when we meet, I believe one of the heart dynamics that will be most valuable  to me will be to look into His smiling eyes and rejoice over the shared history of love that we had  cultivated with each other. Episodes like the corona-virus outbreak, are a marvelous opportunity to make a memory of increasing in our love for this Man that we will one day see face to face.)
 

Our Hearts Are Weaker than We Think
Our hearts are weaker, and therefore, in more trouble than we’re conscious of. Our hearts are more  susceptible to the wickedness that is encamped and warring against me. David writes: the wicked  came against me to eat up my flesh…(Psalm 27:2) Our hearts are more at risk of being devoured  by contra-Kingdom attitudes than we are aware.

Unassisted, our hearts are no match for the forces of darkness, the pressures of the world, and the  temptations of the flesh. Apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit, the human heart will lose a  one-on-one battle with the lion who is seeking someone to devour 100% of the time.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking  whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

When the pressure of crises like corona-virus hit our heart, we violently default to attitudes that will  unplug our faith and corrode our love for Jesus. If we’re not vigilant the trauma of these events will  trigger self-defense mechanisms in our inner-man that abort humility, meekness, compassion and  other beatitudes; (attitudes that Jesus says contain the blessing) in favor of fear, unbelief, selfishness,  pride, anxiety, hostility, accusation etc.

When the antichrist is on the earth his power to deceive will be great. (Matthew 24:11; 2 John 1:7)  His deceit will shipwreck the love and faith of millions of born-again believers. However, the power  he employs to deceive and defile the human heart will not only be an external power, it will be a  power that draws on 7000 years of natural human tendency. Millions will have no power to resist his  temptations because they never considered the weakness of their own flesh to do so, and never  cultivated a history of learning how to infuse their hearts with the victorious power of Jesus’ strength.

The pressure on our hearts to succumb to devouring wickedness is only going to increase in 2020, and  the years ahead.

Right now, the Lord is graciously allowing the world to feel our weakness and littleness, and our great  need for Him, so that we can learn to turn to Him, repent and be clothed with His Christlike strength.
How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and who has not turned to the  proud, nor those who lapse into falsehood. (Psalm 40:4)

The great task in the hour of trouble isn’t for us to get strong in our own strength again! This is such a  counterintuitive mindset. No matter what, none of us are going to be strong enough for what is  coming. The point is for us to see that we’re weak enough in order for us to have the life-saving  conversation that the Lord wants to have with us! The Lord is saying: “I see your weakness. I’m not  put off by it. I’m exposing it to you so that you and I talk about your need for Me and My strength.”

Our Lord is gloriously committed to us knowing that our hearts are not as strong as we think they  are; and that He’s more loving, more compassionate and more capable of leading people with weak  hearts than we think He is.

God is Leading Us into a “New Normal”
Our nation and our world needs more than a perfunctory day of prayer to stave off death. God bless  every cry in crisis, but these prayers ultimately cannot merely be about our world economics, political  aspirations, and power-structures returning to an old-normal.

Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is about to return to rule 195 nations! His arrival will be the greatest “new  normal” planet earth has ever seen.

We want the new normal that comes with His presence! It’s the glory, the power and the righteous  order that we pray for and long for!

Year after year, and day after week, the Lord is preparing the heart of the Church for His arrival,  removing spot, wrinkles and blemishes (Ephesians 5:27) faithfully leading us deeper and deeper into  His vision of the earth’s new normal, so that when He appears we will be like Him. (1 John 3:2)

In His perfect love and grace, He’s just brought 7.4 billion of us into “lock down mode” – all to have a  focused conversation with us about the new normal He’s inaugurating.

He’s zealous for our hearts to be filled w the truth of His goodness in the land of the living (Psalm  27:13), so that we’re prepared to respond to Him in love and confidence through the great and terrible  now, and in the days that are ahead…

It takes supernatural revelation and faith to declare in the face of this raging and enticing world: “For  my part, I want the new normal of the King! I want generosity, joy and love instead of selfishness,  doom and condemnation.”

It’s also important that we let this be our message to our world. You really do want the new normal of  the King. We want Him to reign over sin; over the curse; over death – in us, and our world!
 

The Way to Shift Our Heart Into God’s New Normal is to “Focus on Jesus”
Psalm 27 is the Holy Spirit’s urgent exhortation to focus the eyes of our heart on the God/Man, Christ  Jesus.
“One thing I have desire of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all  the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

A prayer-phrase from Jon Thurlow succinctly expresses the spirit of verse 4, and the spirit that the  Holy Spirit is engendering in the hearts of billions in this hour: ”I turn off the other distractions; I  isolate this one conversation; O, Spirit of wisdom and revelation, open up my eyes to the beauty of  our King!”

The only way we will make the shift away from our strength to the Lord’s strength; away from our  old normal to His new normal is by beholding the sufficiency of the strength and goodness of our  coming King.

In order to do this we need to “Seek My Face!” (Psalm 27:8) and to establish (Psalm 27:4) lifestyles  of intimate dialogue with the Lord that will fill our hearts with love for Him, and confidence in His  good and perfect ability to reign.

The Spirit is saying: “Lock eyes with Me, My Bride! Just as Moses cried out to see My glory, come  into the cleft of the rock as I pass by… I long for you to be strengthened with revelations of My  goodness and My glory!”
My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away. For lo, the  winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has  come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs,  and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come  away! O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret places of the cliff, Let me see your face,  Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your face is lovely.” (Song of Songs 2:10-14)

The Holy Spirit is zealous to declare the dynamic realities of Jesus (John 16:13-15) into our hearts, so that we are conformed to His image. This is the focus of the preparation that the Holy Spirit is  engendering in these hours of crisis. These dynamic realities are divine strength in the inner man  (Ephesians 3:16). Furthermore, they can only be received and appropriated in our lives through the  dynamics of prayer.

Warning: It’s folly for us to believe that in the intensifying heat of the Day of the Lord, any of us will  have more wherewithal, to cultivate sufficient spiritual strength in the place of prayer if we are not  “seeking His Face” (Psalm 27:8) today. We should not assume that in the day of increased  turbulence, persecution and anxiety we will see the value of this lifestyle any clearer or have any  more bandwidth to cultivate it then. 
“For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You. In a time when You may be found; Surely  in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him. You are my hiding place; You shall  preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:6-7)

In this hour it would be extremely wise for the Church to entreat the Holy Spirit to train us up in  Psalm 27. The Lord has even conveniently divided the Psalm into fourteen individual verses – one for  each day that many are quarantining. Each verse is packed with God, Who is our solution to this and  every future crisis.
Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. (Psalm 27:11)

Our Lord is zealous to lead us into His definition of increased strength in this hour. His way entails  doing Psalm 27:4 and letting our hearts be saturated by the beauty of our coming King. If we fail to give ourselves to this regimen, we will be overwhelmed with the intensifying curse on the earth. Simply put, if we focus on the plague around us, it will obscure the King. But if we focus on the King  it will obscure the plague, no matter how intensely it surrounds us.
He shall set me high upon a rock, and my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me. (Psalm 27:5,6)
 

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JSB • March, 2020

Losing our Kingdom Identity for Idolatry

FLAGS
Fifteen years ago I was invited to a large, evangelical conference in the southwest, sponsored by a prominent Christian ministry. It was held in an enormous convention center and featured two familiar charismatic leaders.

I arrived on the third day of the gathering. As we entered the auditorium each of the ten-thousand attendees was given a small, American flag. I was happy to receive the flag – but a little curious. Perhaps it was a prayer prompt for some special message during the day.

I had no idea.

We began with inspiring worship, and I joyfully engaged the glory of God with my sisters and brothers. About forty-five minutes into the program, one of the chief leaders took the stage and began to describe how grateful he was to live in America – a land where he and his family could freely worship God. “Amen! Thank You, Father!”

He continued, and the musicians, who had been playing in the background, moved into a stirring melody: “Our nation, has been blessed by God ever since it was first conceived, and birthed upon this continent…”
…and a parade of actors began to march down the elevated center aisle of the auditorium.

At the front, there were three men looking like Jefferson, Franklin etc. and a woman who looked like Betsy Ross. This group was followed by a drum and fife corp, with “Old glory” flying above. Everyone in the hall was getting to their feet, and the music had transitioned into an exhilarating rendition of “O beautiful for spacious skies…”.

The leader’s voice continued to cheer the procession:
“We thank God for the Revolutionary war…
the war of 1812…
the Civil war…
the Mexican American war…
the first world war…
the second world war…”

With each war, another group of 4 or 5 actors marched down the aisle in replica military outfits… one squad of soldiers after another.
“The Korean war…
the Viet-Nam war…
and now the gulf war!”


At this point the thousands were standing on their seats waving their flags in the air – many with hands extended in full-on worship, while (this is no embellishment) the band had crescendoed into a chorus of “thank You for the blood… thank You for the blood.”

I could barely hear myself think. Gradually a picture of (Daniel 3) and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came to my mind. I thankfully found my seat, sat down, and laid my plastic flag on the chair next to me.

Friends, I love our nation – but, by the grace of God, that love is not in competition, or confusion with the affection that transcendently belongs to our resurrected Savior. They are not equal.

FLORIDA
Cut to Miami, Florida, where on January 3, 2020 President Trump launched his re-election campaign in the mega-church “King Jesus International Ministry”. He strolled into a private “meet and greet” with evangelical dignitaries, as if he’d just entered a pilot debriefing: “We got ‘im!” Trump exclaimed (referring to the fact that Special Operations had just assassinated the Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, and several of his Iranian attendants.) Our family burst into cheers.

The rest of the evening was remarkably similar to his typical campaign rallies – except for the notable absence of the curse-words that routinely lace his stump-speeches. Our President was in church.
The gathering did, however, conclude with his iconic theme song: “You can’t always get what you want”: (a song written and sung by an avowed satanist). Again, I remind you, our President was in church.

How is it that we don’t see just how removed our behavior in such events is from our evangelical heritage?

OUR MORAVIAN FAMILY
In the 18th century, the Moravians led a prayer-movement that spawned a missions movement that touched the nations. They sent their missionaries with great fanfare. When individuals left for a distant land, their whole community would tearfully parade to the docks and proclaim this commission over their departing sons and daughters: “Go and win for the Lamb the rewards of His suffering!”

The Moravian’s passion for souls was surpassed only by their preeminent love for the Lamb of God.

Question: When was the last time you and your whole church fellowship stood at the gate of your local airport and cheered the departure, or the return of a gospel missionary? [a]

What would Jesus say about a people who more vigorously applaud an Islamic terrorist being blown to smithereens, than the sending of missionaries to that same land to save the man, and his family? What would our (Revelation 2 and 3) Lord say to the Church of America who evidences more ardent zeal for our (Matthew 5:22) President than we do for missionaries who will lay down their lives for the Shi’ites going to hell?

We’ve lost our way, sisters and brothers. But it’s not a path that’s been unfamiliar to the Church. The ekklesia has persistently sought political control at the expense of Kingdom mandate since the opening chapter of the book of Acts:
has persistently sought political control at the expense of Kingdom mandate since the opening chapter of the book of Acts:
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) In today’s parlance, the disciples were asking their unconquerable King, “Are you now about to make our nation great again?”

Beloved, by the mercy of Jesus, we are primarily transcendent citizens of His Kingdom; and then secondarily, salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) citizens of another.

Jesus’ great commission to His cross-bearing disciples was, Jesus’ great commission to His cross-bearing disciples was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19) It was decidedly not, “Stay home. Shame the unrighteous, kill the heathen, and fight for your rights.”

As one who is keenly aware of the demonic influence humanism has had on our society, as one who has spent his life committed to conservative values, as one who prays for his President, governor, senators etc., and one who anticipates the Church’s purification through the Holy Spirit’s grace-filled unction – let me say this plainly: Our veneration of America and President Trump has become a full-blown (2 Corinthians 10:4) ) “stronghold”; a (Leviticus 19:31) ) “familiar spirit” that’s that’s strangling (Matthew 13:7) the heart and soul of evangelicalism. So many of our leaders, sisters and brothers seem no longer able to distinguish our Spirit-empowered loyalty to Jesus and His Kingdom from our sentimental loyalty for American nationalism.

The only hope we have of breaking free from this (Galatians 5:20) fever is by (Psalm 119:34) wholeheartedly, (James 4:9) repentantly, prayerfully and ruthlessly applying the (Matthew 10:38) cross to every aspect of our evangelical world.

Our cross, is the only cure for our deadly malady.

Should we fail to purge ourselves of this cancer, our moral-spiritual condition will become more fatal than our socio-political condition without a conservative in the White House.

Make no mistake: Our prayer-less, self-absorption is blinding us to the fact that the judgment of God is upon our nation. And most of the evangelical world is disconnected from the depth to which we are Make no mistake: Our prayer-less, self-absorption is blinding us to the fact that the judgment of God is upon our nation. And most of the evangelical world is disconnected from the depth to which we are “storing up (Romans 2:5) ) wrath” upon ourselves as we persist in this (James 4:4) idolatry. The truth is, we’ve grown dull to the very heart issues themselves that are at the crux of what the Holy Spirit is sanctifying in the Bride.

THE FROG IN THE KETTLE
In the spring of 2016 I wrote an article for a major Christian magazine expressing my concern about merely voting for “the lesser of two evils” and squelching our transcendent, prophetic voice to the nation.

I wrote: “As America reels under compounding sin and the tension of partisan philosophies, where are the voices that are unbowed to political expediency, that look at a humanistic candidate and declare with authority: ‘You’re a deceptive, corrupt and calculating spirit. You are not fit to govern your own soul, much less the soul of a nation.’ And then do not lose the integrity of their message because they no less boldly confront the hedonist candidate: ‘You have a carnal heart and a murderous tongue. We will not bow to your definition of greatness. Even now, our nation is overshadowed by the judgment of God. It’s you, O man, who needs to find shelter in the greatness of God.” (“Where Are the Friends of the Bridegroom?” June, 2016)

90% of my evangelical sisters and brothers resoundingly affirmed this heart posture.

Less than 4 years later, those (like the editors of Christianity Today) who continue to voice Kingdom concern about this President become the targets of angry letters, [b] are shouted down by the vast majority of our body, and even branded as “false Christians” [c].  

What’s changed, my friends? [d]  

When I hear of a thousand of our evangelical family members gathered to cheer someone who is being introduced as the man “who is changing the spiritual atmosphere of our nation”, [e] I think of that conference fifteen years ago. I ask God for the (Ephesians 5:15-16) ) circumspection to understand the social-psychological pressure that to understand the social-psychological pressure that “so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). And I pray for the day when politicians take up their cross with the company of the redeemed exclaiming “He is Lord! He is Lord! He is Lord!“, rather than the redeemed children of the Lord chanting “Rome! Rome! Rome!”

Beloved, we’re being enticed by a siren’s song. 
Our lost nation needs us to extricate ourselves… 
Jesus, our Deliverer, and our returning Bridegroom, demands it.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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JSB • January, 2019

FOOTNOTES:
[a] I love that we show honor to the men and women in our military. But as I’ve lived in our American culture for more than 60 years now, (40 years integrally connected to the evangelical American culture), I can honestly say I’ve never seen the same level of zeal, commitment and enthusiastic championing of our heroic missionaries – many sent over seas for their entire lives – that I do for the way we evangelicals show support for the heroic defenders of our nation.

[b] I find it lamentable that 200 of our evangelical leaders can spend four years turning a blind eye to our President’s contra-Kingdom behavior, not utter a word of concern about the many extra-Biblical, Trump-worshipping comments being made in our body today, but can immediately generate a letter of indignation when an evangelical publication like Christianity Today dares to acknowledge the contra-Kingdom character issues in our President. What kind of spirit animates behavior like this?https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/lori-arnold/nearly-200-faith-leaders-sign-letter-rebuking-christianity-today-op-ed.html 

[c] “Christians who don’t support President Trump will have to answer to God.” https://www.christianpost.com/…/paula-white-christians-will…, and “only saved people can love Donald Trump… Trump is a test of whether you’re even saved.” https://www.charlotteobserver.com/entertainment/celebrities/article239027493.html This is a different gospel, beloved; no less than an aberration of the message Paul warned us about in Galatians 1: This is a different gospel, beloved; no less than an aberration of the message Paul warned us about in Galatians 1: “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) 
We don’t curse Jim Baaker or Paula Cain White. But without a cross at the center of their theology, and by teaching political affiliation that supersedes faith in Jesus’ death, they are bringing their adherents under the natural order of the curse.  

[d] The apostle Paul provides the Church with an excellent diagram of the declension of the soul under the curse of sin. Paul outlines this in Romans 1:18-32.  
A. We argue about the ethics of choosing the lesser of two evils.  
B. We make excuses for our selection of it.  
C. We look the other way when the evil manifests itself.  
D. We offer the evil mulligans for it’s character, rather than its behavior.  
E. We normalize the evil. 
F. We redact the history of the evil. 
G. We champion the evil.  
H. And then we persecute others who do not celebrate the evil.  
This is the same frog-in-the-kettle condition; our unwillingness to prophetically confront evil wherever we find it, that has allowed whole segments of our culture to normalize abortion, same-sex relationships, embrace Islam as a religion of peace, minimize racism and foment anti-Zionism.  

[e] January 3, 2020. Paula Cain White introduces President Trump as the man “who is transforming the spiritual atmosphere in our nation”.  https://www.c-span.org/video/?467813-1/president-trump-speaks-evangelical-rally-miami