Read the Book!
In 1977, there was a tragic airplane crash on the island of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. Because of miscommunications from the traffic control tower, two airlines collided and exploded on the runway, killing 583 of the 596 on board the two planes. One of the survivors was a man named Norman Williams, who some years later, was one of our speakers at a Spiritual Renewal Conference held at Belmont Church.
When the accident occurred, both airplanes burst immediately into flames. People all around Norman died immediately, some of the bodies charred beyond recognition, but Norman not only survived but survived in strength without his body being either scorched or singed. Why? How?
Here was Norman’s testimony later: On the morning Norman left for his trip, his Pentecostal prayer-warring mother sensed that some tragedy might lie ahead, and cautioned her son to stand on the Word of God.
Perhaps as a result of her caution, when the collision and explosion happened, Norman began shouting words from Scripture, words that were lodged inside him because of his careful acquaintance with the Word of God: “When you walk through the fire you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2).
“I stand on the Word of God! I stand on the Word of God!” Norman began to shout, and in some supernatural way, which he never fully understood, he was able to escape through a hole in the roof of the airplane, slide down a wing and jump to safety on the ground. Even though the bones in Norman’s left foot were crushed and he spent many days in surgeries and recovery, his body was restored.
Why did Norman survive? Why not others? We do not know all the answers, but we know that Norman’s survival was connected to the fact that he had for years read and responded to the Word of God.
These are perilous times, times in which those who claim to be followers of Jesus are making decisions that are incongruent with the Word of God. Why? Because they either have never read the Word or they have decided that the Word of God does not really mean what it says.
As we are entered into this New Year, let me challenge you to find some reading plan that will assure that you are reading the entire Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, even if it takes you five years to complete the reading. Respond to His Word!
Read the Book!
Thousands of us are entering or have entered into a time of fasting and prayer in these opening days of 2019. In all my years in the Nashville area, and in other cities, I have never known the body of believers to be so united for such a time of corporately seeking the Lord together with prayer and with fasting.
Fasting is not the easiest thing we have ever done, so why are we fasting and what do we expect from this time? As I was sitting and pondering this, here are some of the things that are motivating me:
- First of all, Jesus expected His followers to connect to God through fasting and prayer. He did not say, “If you fast,” but “When you fast,” and told His accusers that when the bridegroom left, His disciples would fast (See Matthew 6:16 and 9:16).
- I/we need a more complete surrender of ourselves to Jesus, and this manner of full-body praying (that’s what I call it) helps us in that surrender. We humble ourselves through fasting (Psalm 35:13).
- There are areas of our lives where we are not gaining the victory. When this happened to the disciples, Jesus said, “This kind comes out only through prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29 NKJV).
- Because we are desperate to see a greater move of God in our region and in our world.
- Asking for instructions and God’s provisions for the days ahead (Ezra 8:21)
- For healing (Isaiah 58:3-9)
- When we need God’s intervention for a particular crisis (2 Chronicles 20)
- As a way of joining across all lines as we seek to answer the prayer of Jesus in becoming one before the Father, so that the world will know that Jesus is the Sent One from the Father (John 17:20-21).
Let’s join our hearts together during these days and encourage each other as we devote meal times and other times to be before the Lord, expecting Him to work in astonishing ways in our own personal lives and in the lives of those around us.
O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
Who mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
This now has to win my first place award among Christmas carols. For years the Church has sung and prayed this song without realizing what they were saying. The song was written in Latin in a monastery in the 9th century, translated into English in either 1851 or 1861 (I’ve read both dates). The song was born out of a Church that believed the Church had replaced Israel, thus not sung as a prayer or proclamation about the Jewish people. Even today much of the Church that sings these lyrics are not intending to be declaring anything about Israel.
But we know God’s plan, so let’s sing the song over and over as a prayer that the biblical prophecies will be fulfilled in our day, that Israel will return trembling to the Lord and His blessings in these last days (See Hosea 3:4-5), that their hearts will become open to their Messiah so that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26).
Yes, Christmas is still a grand time of the year. Why? Because our Messiah, our King, our Redeemer, and Savior is being heralded in the malls, on the radio and TV, and in special programs even in a largely secular society.
No, I do not believe Jesus was born at Christmas. I believe He was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, but that would mean that His conception was during this season, probably during Chanukah. And why would not God send His Son, even in the most minuscule form, into the world at the darkest time of the year?
Why do I believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles? Because Zechariah was serving in the Temple during the later part of the 4th month of the year (He was in the order of Abijah, who served in the 8th rotation out of 24) when he was told that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son whose name would be “John.” Six months later, Gabriel went to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, thus the latter part of the 10th month. We would assume that Jesus was born nine months later, thus the latter half of the 19th month, or the latter half of the 7th month of the following year. The Feast of Tabernacles begins on the 15th day of the 7th month each year (I’m speaking of God’s calendar year which begins on the 1st day of Nisan (See Exodus 12:2).
So – let us rejoice! Let us worship the King during this season and in every season! He came to be among us, first in the womb of a young virgin girl from Nazareth. After His birth, He lived among us only 30+ years before He was executed as if He were a common criminal.
But praises forever to God! He is risen from the dead (a historical fact with many witnesses) and is now at the right hand of the Most High, awaiting the time when He will return as King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords.
For the Cross of Christ
As I was recently pondering the last hours in the life of Jesus, I was impressed that
His sweat drops of blood in the Garden were not because He feared death on the
cross. For that, He came into our world to face death. His words to the Father, “If it is
possible, let this cup pass from me,” had little to do with the physical agony of the
crucifixion, but His knowledge that He would be bear the weight of the sins of all the
generations since Adam, and all who are yet to come. Bear all sins. He had come into
our world to bear those sins, yet He also knew that the weight would be almost
unbearable. His hours in prayer were spent with the Father so that He would be able
to finish the work.
Recently I was reading Oswald Chambers’ November 20th, of “The Forgiveness of
God,” where he says that for us to be grateful for our forgiveness without attaching
it to the agony of Calvary is unconscious blasphemy. The only ground by which we
have forgiveness is that Jesus took our sins. Even going to hell with them, so that we
are freed from condemnation. By Jesus’ resurrection, He now can give us His
righteousness and His Spirit so that His nature can be reproduced within us.
As we celebrate these upcoming seasons in giving thanks, may we be deeply aware
of our sins that caused Jesus’ death, and express extreme gratitude for all that His
death and resurrection have produced and will produce in us.
Receive Jesus! Receive that forgiveness He worked for us! And walk gratefully in His
Many of you have heard me say, “I am an unrealistic optimist and I intend to stay that way.” That’s true because I am confident that ultimately for all believers in Jesus, the end is good. As I have also often said, “Following Jesus is exhilarating though often agonizing.”
Though I am not given to depression, several years ago I went through a season of awakening every morning “oppressed.” I had to fight my way into victory before I could function for the day.
I did everything I knew to get rid of this stranger in my life. I worshipped. I prayed. I bound. I pled the blood of Jesus. I read Scripture. I memorized Scripture. I confessed. But the depression remained. I went through deliverance to see if someone else could help me find victory. Nothing helped. I was functioning, but not with the same joy that I had come to know.
Late in the year, while attending a conference in another state, I awoke between two and three in the morning and immediately knew that the oppression/depression was gone. I sat up almost involuntarily and began to praise the Lord, and for the next weeks, remained in a kind of euphoria rich fellowship with Jesus.
Why did this happen? I don’t know. Was it so that I could partially sympathize with others who fight depression often? I still don’t know.
Why am I telling you this?
1. Because some of you are experiencing attacks that are unexplainable, and need the encouragement to endure.
2. So that both of us can be more gracious with others who are experiencing oppression.
3. So that we can yearn for and experience times of rich fellowship in the Presence of Jesus.
4. And to know that He is faithful, even when we do not feel His Presence!