Church Supernaturally: Staying on Message

God has given me the responsibility of serving His church by proclaiming His entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.

(Colossians 1:25-26 NLT)

As I was cruising through Colossians this morning, I was arrested by this concise statement from Paul. What a great reminder of the job of ministry!

  • I am responsible.  Every one of us has an assignment in the Kingdom of God here on earth.  When we see Jesus, He will hold us to account for what He asked us to do. All Christians are responsible to pray, to give, to be involved in reaching others, and to serve the Body of Christ. Paul knew his specific area of service and understood that it was an obligation, not a suggestion.
  • It’s the message, stupid!  Sometimes in the uproar and dailiness of church life, it is possible to forget what’s important.  Thank God for covered dish dinners and clean rest rooms and printed bulletins and pretty music.  They are all wonderful, but you can buy that entire package at your local dinner theater.  Church without the Word is entertainment, and precious little of that.
  • It’s His message, not mine.  I have lots of opinions, plenty of prejudices, and innumerable personal preferences.  None of these are particularly life-changing.  My one and only job is to present the Truth that God has revealed in a way that is conducive to understanding and application.  I try to be entertaining and erudite, but the message must be His Word and not my best thinking on the subject.

Thank God for His Word. It serves to strip away the ornamentation once in a while and remind me of the substance. 

Church Supernaturally: Last Days Strategy

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

(Philippians 4:5 NKJV)

This verse has intrigued me since I first read it in 1979.  This translation has “gentleness” as the quality we are to demonstrate to others as the Day of the Lord approaches.  The King James Version has it “moderation.” The Amplified Bible says, “our unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). You get the picture. 

In our day, gentleness of spirit is rarely portrayed as a virtue.  Indeed, I have heard much sermonizing that in the last day the Church needs to be bold, or powerful, or morally pure, or biblically sound, or musically professional, or technologically savvy, or family friendly, or whatever.  In fact, these are not all bad things, but the thing Paul emphasizes to his precious Philippians as the Lord’s return approaches is gentleness.  Imagine it on the church sign: “The end of your search for a gentle church.”

As I think about it, I wonder if Paul may have stumbled on a good idea.  In an age where contention, consumption, and continual outrage seem to be the norms, I wonder if a group of people who were genuinely gentle, unselfish, forbearing, and considerate would stick out like a healed thumb. Maybe we are not supposed to out-entertain the entertainers, or out-shout the shouters, or out-politic the politicians.  Could it be that moral outrage is not our most attractive attribute? This Sunday I may give an altar call for the church to act a little more like the fella that said, “Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  OK, Church, now get out there and be gentle!

Church Supernaturally: If…, Then…

 I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to Himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

(Galatians 1:6-7 NLT)
After 50 years of listening to people’s stories, you would think I would have heard it all, but I keep getting surprised. It makes me feel better to know that Paul was shocked by folks in Galatia who were being seduced back into a common form of legalism: “If you’re really saved, you will keep the Law of Moses.”  The essence of legalism is to make salvation conditional on performance of some kind.  Whether it’s circumcision, diet, external rituals, or grandma’s traditions, legalism claims that salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ plus somethin’-or-other.  To quote a recent president’s favorite phrase, “let me be clear”: Salvation is by grace through faith.  Anything else is manmade. 

Now to the other side of the question. In church-world today, I hear folks applying the “legalism” accusation to lots of things that are simply not. Apart from salvation, most of the Bible’s promises have conditions. It is not legalism to report the teaching of Scripture concerning the pre-requites for receiving a conditional promise. Give and it shall be given to you: No give, no receive. (Luke 6:38) If you don’t renew your mind, you will not be transformed and live out the will of God. (Romans 12:2) If you want to experience supernatural peace, then stop worrying, start praying, and get grateful. (Philippians 4:6-7). Hopefully, you get the point. If you’re not seeing the “then” of God’s promise, maybe you’re not doing the “if.”

Church Supernaturally: Christmas Spirit

Happy Sunday!  I always feel as if the first Sunday in December begins the “Christmas Season.”  I used to be a Scrooge about the whole thing, but a few years ago I felt impressed to get myself in a frame of mind to take advantage of the opportunities Christmas provides. I began by making up my mind to say “Ho, ho, ho!” as often as possible.  Then I started looking for opportunities to just be kind to random people.  It’s amazing what a smile and a “howdy” will do.  Finally, I started putting actual Christmas music in our song services at church.  For all of December, let’s sing about the miracle of the Incarnation.

I am starting today with my favorite Christmas song, which is not intended to be a Christmas song.  It’s called “Heaven’s Humility.”  Check out the Chorus:” This is Heaven’s humility,  a Servant’s authority. You set aside Your crown, You laid Your glory down, with heaven’s humility.”

The second verse starts with my favorite line of all time: ” The voice that formed creation became a baby’s cry.” Let’s sing about the God who came into our mess so we could go to His glory.  Merry Christmas!!!  Ho, ho, ho!”

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

The Holy Spirit is an action kind of Guy. In the New Testament He is described as doing all kinds of stuff. He leads folks, falls on folks, descends from Heaven, speaks, teaches, anoints, reveals, and in one very dramatic instance, He translated a guy to a completely different town. That doesn’t even count all the places where He did stuff through the agency of men: prophecy, miracles, signs and wonders galore. Unfortunately, the Person and power of the Spirit in the Church dimmed over the centuries. Slowly but surely, He has made a comeback. He moved from the doctrinal statement to the preaching in the Reformation as His work in conviction of sin and regeneration of sinners began to be emphasized again. Over the last century, His gifts and manifestations have been re-introduced to the Church. We have enjoyed wonderful demonstrations of His power in our services.

Sadly, in many places and in many churches the things of the Spirit are again being relegated to the spiritual closet: “Yes, we believe in that, but we don’t do it in public.” There are many reasons for this, but I want to focus on what I believe is the root: We have allowed the things of the Spirit to remain behind the four walls of the Church. In many instances, we implied that the manifestation of the Spirit was reserved for Sunday, or for “special” meetings, or for cheesy television shows. Spiritual gifts were restricted to the platform to be operated by the chosen few: “These are trained professionals. Don’t try this at home.” Pentecost was reduced from the young men, old men, sons and daughters, servants and handmaidens, all flesh, all-hands-on-deck outpouring of Acts Chapter 2 to a mildly entertaining spiritual vaudeville hour. It is time for believers to be refreshed in their spiritual life, and compelled to take it to the world they live in. The supernatural is our life style, not a Sunday diversion.

Somebody Said: Our passion is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This requires we must follow Jesus out of baptismal waters, through our personal deserts, and into the harvest. We want to take the ammunition of the balanced evangelical theology with the fire power of Pentecostal practice, loading & readying the best of both worlds to hit the target of making & nurturing disciples. John Wimber

Scripture Reading: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (Acts 2:17-18 KJV)

I have experienced and seen so much, the scripture is so full of examples, that I can’t just let it go and sit back on the padded pew to offer the occasional “Amen” for a well-crafted homily. So let’s sing another chorus of “Takin’ it to the Streets,” and do away with the idea of “Laymen.” Instead let’s empower the people of God to do the work of God by the power of the Spirit. I have the sense that God is offering us a choice: Will we allow the things of the Spirit to be moth-balled for the museums, or will we decide to be the supernatural church that Acts Chapter 2 envisioned? Status quo is not an option.

Pastor Virgil L. Stokes
Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson
3141 W. Ironwood Hill Dr.
Tucson, AZ 85745
Office: 520-792-3238

Watch the full message Supernatural Mission on our You Tube channel.

De la Abundancia del Corazon

Martes, Noviembre 27, 2018

Construyendo personas de sustancia para obras de poder

En 1983, cuando estaba a punto de salir de la escuela Bíblica, El Espíritu Santo me hablo por medio de hablar en lenguas e interpretación, me dijo, “una vida vivida egoístamente, es una vida desperdiciada, la única razón para el hombre de vivir es traer a otros al plan de salvación de Jesucristo y ensenarles al mismo tiempo a hacer lo mismo. Por esta razón has sido llamado, no lo olvides.” Me gusta pensar que soy fiel a ese llamado, al hacerlo, he dedicado mucho aprendizaje y esfuerzo al trabajo de hacer discípulos, algunas cosas me han sido reveladas a lo largo de los años:

· El discipulado requiere compromiso. Jesús dijo que les Bautizáramos antes de ensenarles (Mateo 28:19) el llamado de seguir a Jesús es muy serio, es un llamado a dejar la vida que conocemos y tomar un camino totalmente diferente, un camino que bien pudiera ser marcado con privaciones y persecuciones, el bautismo es una declaración radical: ¡yo morí con Cristo!

· No puedes discipular a alguien que no esté interesado, y tampoco puedes parar a alguien que si lo este. Puedo hablar, rogar, y engatusar, pero se necesita un trabajo sobrenatural en el corazón del creyente para que acepten pagar el precio. Puedo orar por ellos, instruirlos y amarlos, pero no los puedo cambiar.

· Discipulado requiere que llevemos una vida radicalmente diferente. Jesús dijo, “ensena a estos nuevos discípulos a obedecer los mandamientos que os he dado.” (Mateo 28:20) Él lo hizo muy simple, les dijo que le imitaran en estas dos cosas:

o Amaos los unos a los otros así como yo les ame primero Juan 13:34-35

o Ir al mundo así como yo fui al mundo Juan 20:21

Nuestra responsabilidad es muy simple, hacer discípulos, lo primero que tenemos que demandar es compromiso. Los comprometidos debemos ensenar a amar a Jesús y predicar al mundo así como Él lo hizo. Eso nos debe mantener ocupados hasta el día que El venga, y El prometió estar con nosotros en el trayecto.

Alguien dijo: “reducimos el discipulado a un programa enlatado, y muchos en las Iglesias terminan marginados con una mentalidad de espectador que solo delega el hacer discípulos a pastores y profesionales, ministros y misioneros.” Francis Chan

Escrituras Bíblicas: un discípulo no debiera estar arriba de su maestro, pero todos los que fueron perfectamente entrenados, deberían ser como sus maestros. (Lucas 6:40 NVRJ)

Estas palabras de Jesús me ensenan que la meta de mi discipulado es llegar a ser como El, mi objetivo de hacer discípulos es que habrá muchos más como El: que se amen los unos a los otros, y ser sobrenaturalmente capacitado y apasionado para alcanzar al perdido. Cualquier meta menos que eso, no vale la pena en la cruz.

Pastor Virgil L. Stokes
3141 W. Ironwood Hill Dr.
Tucson, AZ 85745
Office: 520-792-3238

Church Supernaturally: Incomprehensible Love

I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever!  Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (GNB)

As I read this beautiful prayer this morning, I was struck by verse 19, especially the last phrase, “and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.” I’m sure Paul knew that we were already re-created with God’s nature.  I know and regularly profess that I have the nature of God.  He is love, life, light, and truth.  I have His nature, so that is who I am also.  The problem I run into is in those moments when my thinking and emotions don’t seem to be up to speed on the new nature thing.  A thought pops in of someone who hurt me, and love is not my first response. I remember something stupid I did, and I have a “you idiot!” moment.  A twinge of anxiety accompanies some physical hiccup. You know what I mean.

In his prayer, Paul is not saying that my nature isn’t changed, but he is indicating that there is room for growth, in allowing that nature to overtake my whole being, allowing who I am in spirit to flood through my mind, will, and emotions.  Knowing the love of Christ is the fountain from which this fulness flows.  Not knowing about the love of Christ, but knowing His love in a way that transcends mental understanding.  This kind of knowing requires revelation, a work of the Spirit in my spirit.  When my heart grasps the love of Christ words are fruitless, fear is powerless, hate is impossible, and shame is swept away.  I am flooded with Him. 

Join me as we pray this prayer for one another:  “Father, from the wealth of your glory,  give power to ____________________ through your Spirit to be strong in the inner self, ….”  You get the idea. 

Church Supernaturally: Seek the Lord

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.  (Hebrews 11:6 NLT)

In our day, most of us have come to believe that God is a rewarder.  We believe He loves us and wants us to be blessed.  This verse gives us an interesting take on what prompts God to reward us.  We have to believe that He exists: Check. We have to believe that He rewards us: Check.  But notice what He rewards us for: Seeking Him.  What does that mean?

I suspect the phrase “seeking God” paints different pictures depending on our background.  Some see fasting and praying.  Some see reading a daily devotional.  Some see a Christian church, others a yoga studio.  Today is Sunday.  Consider making yourself eligible for God’s rewards: Seek Him.  At the very least, for those who believe in ” the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” that means getting out of bed, doing an attitude adjustment, then heading for the assembly of the saints and listening for the voice of God as He speaks by His Spirit through His Body.  

Check out today’s message on “How to Seek the Lord” 

Church Supernaturally: But for the Grace…

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Galatians 6:1-5 NLT

Many things amaze me as I stumble through life as a Christian and a pastor. One thing that’s been a repeated shocker is the way we approach folks in the middle of tragedy. The brutal truth is that many of us spend a lot of energy judging them, not just for sin, but for anything unpleasant that happens in their lives.  If they are sick and struggling to receive healing, we diagnose their lack of faith. If someone’s kid is wandering away into the world, we assume they did a lousy parenting job. My all-time favorite is watching natural disasters on TV and pronouncing them to be God’s judgment on some demographic or geographic population.

Methinks, God has a different view of our responses to misfortunes and failures. The advice Paul gives us here is pretty good. If you catch somebody in a sin, the goal is restoration, not judgment.  In the face of any person’s distress, no matter the fault, share the load, don’tincrease it. You’re not that important, nor are you infallible. Stay off the judgment seat, it only has room for One. Take care of your own responsibilities. That should keep you busy.  When I stand at Christ’s judgment seat, He will evaluate my conduct, not yours. Part of that judgment, I’m sure, will be asimple review of how I used my opportunities for compassion. There but for thegrace of God…

Church Supernaturally: Don’t Feed the Corpse

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:19-25 NKJV) The idea of “walking in the Spirit” has been much discussed over the years. Paul gives us quite a vivid contrast between following the flesh and living from the Spirit, but how to get from one to the other seems a little dim. Years ago I heard the admonition to “Feed the spirit, starve the flesh.” That sounded pretty good, but still left me wondering about the how-to. Today, as I read this passage again, it struck me how stupid it is to be feeding a corpse. If the old man is dead, why do I keep trying to stimulate him back to life?

In the ongoing battle between flesh and spirit, the winner is almost always the one you feed the most. Feeding the spirit is pretty straight-forward: spend time in the Word, go to a church where the Word is preached, pray in the spirit, worship with your heart, fellowship the things of God with godly people …. I’m good with that. but what does it mean to feed the flesh? Undoubtedly, repeated yielding to sinful cravings strengthens the flesh. I believe, however, that acts of gluttony and drunkenness and fornication originate with inward issues. We feed the flesh on spiritual junk food by watching and listening to media, reading books and articles, engaging in conversations with junky companions, and allowing our minds to chew on junk when we are alone with our thoughts. You are what you eat!

To determine if you’re consuming junk, just print out a copy of Paul’s list on the works of the flesh. Anything you take in that arouses or encourages one of those attitudes or actions is spiritual junk. Spit it out. For example, if I am watching TV and folks start disrobing, I don’t sit and watch like a dope. I turn it off and spit it out. If I am listening to the news and I find myself getting angry and wishing harm toward people I don’t even know, I turn it off and spit it out. If I am at coffee with some Christians and they begin to discuss the failings of another minister, I speak up for him, then spit out the dissension and hatred. You get the idea. Quit feeding a dead man.

Church Supernaturally: Entering Rest

The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was bornin a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of His promise. (Galatians4:22-23 NLT)

Paul used Hagar and Sarai to illustrate the difference between the rightlessness of faith and the righteousness of human effort(flesh).  I wonder how much of what we “do for God” is just us pushing for all we’re worth in our own strength.  If I’m honest, I know when I’m trying to make something happen.  There’s a drive on the inside.  My mind is jumping from option to option with little attention to the atmosphere of my heart.  I just feel like I have to “do” something. Activity is my external cure for internal apprehension.  

Faith is different. When I manage to tap into the promise and let it saturate my heart, I have peace on the inside. The writer of Hebrews said, “For we who have believed do enter that rest…(Heb 4:3a)”  From the position of rest, I can actually do the works of faith: verbally agree with the promise (confession), and obey the promptings of the Spirit (leadings).  The same chapter in Hebrews says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest…(Heb4:11)” Almost paradoxically, it takes effort to get to the rest that comes from faith.  The effort that leads to rest includes grabbing hold of the promise by meditating in the Word, speaking the promise when anxieties beset my mind, and praying in the spirit to fortify my heart and quiet my head.  Peace!

Church Supernaturally: A Word in Season

What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion! (Proverbs 15:23 GNB)

I had the privilege this week to be around a group of pastors in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. We are working together to provide Bible training for several churches there. As I spoke with these men and women, I was struck by their heartfelt desire to bring the Word to their people, and to do it well. They look to the Lord every single week to give them jus the right message to impact the lives of their flock. I was again impressed with the importance of bringing fresh manna every time we stand to preach. It is so tempting to listen to a recording or read a book and simply regurgitate what we hear. And, to be clear, the Word will help folks, even if it is just being recited, but fresh bread is always better. It warms the soul in a peculiar way.

I have for years claimed the Scripture Isaiah spoke about the coming Messiah for myself as I face the needs of broken humanity, “The Lord GOD has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned. (Isaiah 50:4 NKJV)” I pray for each minister who stands to speak for God this week, that you will have the tongue of the learned, that you will speak a word in season, that you will no how to speak as you ought to speak. It is a daunting commission, but we have an undaunted God.