Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Digging Ditches, Part 3

Greetings from the harvest field! I’ve had the distinct blessing of ministering in several churches in Puerto Rico this past week. The Lord truly blessed us with His presence and several visible miracles. I am very glad to report that the fire of God is permeating the land and people of this lovely place!

“Digging Ditches” has been the subject we’ve been dealing with in the last few articles. Please see Parts 1 and 2 if you’ve missed any portion of this series. We’ll pick up with 2 Kings 3:14.

14 And Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you.”

Note that he’s talking to the king! Did you ever wonder what you’d say if you were in the presence of a king? There was Elisha, the prophet/man of God, and he looked at the King of Israel and was like, “You know what? If it weren’t for the King of Judah (Jehoshaphat), I wouldn’t even look at you. I would totally ignore you. You would not even be here.” Look at what was said next in 2 Kings 3:15.

15 “But now bring me a musician.”

This is important. Even prophets need to calm their souls once in a while as they can get wound up pretty tight. If you read the preceding chapter, you’ll find out that Elisha had just taken part in an altercation before this happened. Then here came “We Three Kings,” and they wanted the Word of the Lord. Elisha saw the son of Ahab and Jezebel coming to inquire of him, and he seemed to be a bit stirred up. Let’s look at the last part of verse 15.

“Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.”

There is a God-ordained connection between music and the calming of the soul. Now, I’m not talking about Led Zepplin and Metallica! I’m talking about calming and soaking music. People have asked me, “Why do you soak?” I do so because it has a calming effect, and it puts me in a position/posture to hear more clearly from the Lord!

Elisha knew that he dared not speak forth the Word of Lord without knowing that he had received the Word of the Lord! The first thing the prophet needed to do was to get his soul calmed down. Do you know that one of the best things we can do is to quiet our soul? We think we’re hearing from God, and oftentimes, we haven’t even consulted Him! We assume we’re being led of the Spirit! So when things go wrong, our immediate reaction is to blame God! “Well, God brought us here.” Did He? Did God call you to that endeavor? “Well, the Lord put the two of us together!” Did He? Oftentimes we do not consult the Lord or seek to discern His will until we’re neck deep in a problem, and then suddenly we’re humbled and come on bended knee to inquire of the Lord.

So the prophet understands the value of calming his soul in order to hear the Word of the Lord! We need the Word of the Lord. So often we go consult others to give us His Word. Nothing wrong with that . . . sometimes people will come to me for advice and say, “I need you to pray about this and let me know what you feel God is saying.” Quite often the counsel I give is, “You need to go quiet yourself, seek the Lord, and see what He has to say about this, and HE will give YOU the answer.” It is not for me to answer all of your questions. I don’t have all the answers. Many times, Jesus won’t give the answer! I believe I’ve made this statement before: if you study the life and ministry of Jesus, you’ll see that He responds with many more questions than He does answers! A lot of times, He’s really giving the answer in the form of a question because He wants us to look within ourselves. Let’s continue with verse 16.

16 And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’"

We need to understand something about the geography in the region to which we referred. It was a very dry, barren land, particularly around the south side of the Dead Sea (it still is today). It’s very dry and has many craggy rocks . . . quite rough terrain. The man of God said, “Make this valley full of ditches.” This was a very difficult task.

I’ve named this series, “Digging Ditches,” and I believe it’s very relative for us today. Oftentimes God brings us to a place of digging ditches. I don’t know how many of you have ever been involved with digging literal ditches. When I was a young man, I did all kinds of labor in the hot Florida sun to include everything from digging, to roofing, to building tennis courts. I labored! When I was a young man, I WORKED HARD! If some of you wonder why I don’t work so hard anymore, I WORKED HARD when I was young. I remember living in a place called “Weeki Wachee, Florida.” I assisted with putting in the new water and sewer lines. There was a whole lot of ditch digging, and it was DIRTY work!

When it comes to digging ditches, I don’t care if we’re talking about digging physically, digging spiritually, or digging from a business perspective, there’s a reason for digging them! It just may be the Lord Who calls you to that place. Don’t despise the day of ditch digging; it is preparation for something! You can’t expect a miracle if you won’t dig the ditch. The ditch digging precedes the miracle!

Now that I have whetted your interest, next week we’ll find out what happens when we begin to dig!

Thank you so much for keeping our family lifted up in prayer as we seek to accomplish all that the Lord is directing and guiding us to do in Dominican Republic and elsewhere.

Grace and peace,

Monday, November 18, 2013

Digging Ditches, Part 2

Hello! We’re just coming from a weekend of great ministry here at OceanSide! My wife gave a powerful word to the ladies on Saturday, and the men had an opportunity to serve those wonderful women that God gave us! It’s such a great privilege to be where God has placed us, and we don’t take it lightly.
In the last blog, we were talking about the Israelites and how they were experiencing trouble in the midst of their journey, and as a result, concluded that it was “God’s doing.” Let’s pick up right where we left off . . .
Jehoshaphat—remember, he’s the King of Judah—said in 2 Kings 3:11: “Is there no prophet of the Lord here whom we may inquire of the Lord by him?” Things got tough, and finally someone said, “Let’s inquire of the Lord.” It’s amazing how often we wait for problems to get so big that we can’t handle them and then we turn to God to see what He thinks about them. Is anybody listening to me? Nobody consulted of the Lord before they even embarked on this whole journey!
Nobody asked the Lord which route they should take. Nobody asked the Lord if they should even attack the Moabites. God was not consulted until the going got tough, and then suddenly they fell on their knees, got all spiritual, and cried out to God. They probably sounded something like this: “Oh God, what would Thou havest me to do? Here I am, your humble, broken servant.” Hello? Why do we wait for the going to get tough before we go to God when He’s always there and willing to be consulted?
So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.”
I read that and said, “Goooolly (spoken like Gomer Pyle), well, lookie there! Elisha just ‘happened’ to be there!” What do you make of that? Talk about spiritual kingdom coincidence! Elisha could have been in one of ten thousand places, yet there he was in the middle of nowhere just waiting for somebody to come and consult the Word of the Lord.
Prophets have an uncanny way of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes I wonder, “What has happened to the true prophets?” You know, I remember being around prophets thirty years ago, and it made me nervous. I didn’t like being around them. Nowadays, everybody is a prophet. If it isn’t a “good word,” then it isn’t deemed a Word of the Lord.
We tend to be like the Israelite king and say, “Oh, I don’t like that prophet because all he ever does is speak bad things to me. I like prophets who say good things.” Today, the world is full of prophets who have nothing but goooood things to say: “Oh, God loves you and wants to bless you, and He is giving to you and pouring out, etc.” Whatever happened to, “Turn from thy sin, and the Lord will bless you.” When I used to be around some of those prophets from back in the day, I always thought they knew things about me that I didn’t want anybody to know. Come on, you act like you’ve never had anything in your life that you didn’t want anybody else to know! We all have had things that make us think, “Hmmm, I wonder if he’s going to be reading my mail; I’d better repent before I go have lunch with this guy.” Anyway, enough about prophets, and I’m not saying that they can’t prophesy good words. I’m just saying that it seems like all we hear from these days are what I call, “Pop Culture Prophets.” There are far too many of them on the scene today.
12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
13 Then Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.”
See, this is what I’m talking about: the prophet looked right at the King of Israel and said, “What do I have to do with you?” He then sneers at him and treats him with a level of disdain. Elisha says, “Go the prophets of your father and mother.” Anybody know who his mother was? The king’s mother was Jezebel! At this point, she was still alive and continued to be so throughout this guy’s entire reign. 
But the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the Lord has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.”
Do you know that sometimes we speak the same curses over our own lives? Many times we think the worst of our own situations, and oftentimes we don’t realize that we’re thinking the same about God!!!
Whatever happened to, “Speak the Word only and my servant shall be healed”? Huh? Whatever happened to, “Where is the Word of God . . . what would Jesus say about this situation”? If we don’t know what God says, we ought to open the Scripture and find out! It seems that our first inclination is oftentimes to speak words of cursing over our own lives, families, ministries, and businesses. It’s almost like, “Well, I guess we’re all going under.” God’s not called us “to go under”! We might not always “go over,” but bless God, He’ll always bring us “through”!
Look how the king blames the Lord:

10 And the king of Israel said, “Alas! For the Lord has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.”
I don’t recall anybody asking the Lord anything before they started this whole journey! The Lord didn’t do that! That was the king saying, “You owe us money, and since we want it, we’re coming after it.”
I’d better stop here. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Let’s continue to look for God’s hand in our lives and to seek Him early!
Grace and peace,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Digging Ditches

Greetings from the North Coast of the Dominican Republic! We’re starting a new series today called, “Digging Ditches,” and we’ll begin in 2 Kings 3.

This is a message that is really intended for those who have an entrepreneurial spirit. What is an entrepreneurial spirit? What do you think about when I say that word? I might ask you, “Are you an entrepreneur?” You may respond, “Oh no, I’m in ministry.” The word “entrepreneur,” by definition means, “One who takes responsibility, oversight, and risks involved with an endeavor or an enterprise.”

In other words, an entrepreneur is someone who is willing to take some oversight and risks. The similarities are striking between being in business and being in ministry. A lot of people think that they’re worlds apart, but they are not. The person who is in business basically has the same attitude and outlook as the person in full-time ministry. Even those who are missionaries are of an entrepreneurial spirit, and they’ve already proven it by taking the risk. So let’s not be confused thinking that only those in business are entrepreneurs.

Now, I believe this message will speak to all of us. Every person who has this type of mindset will be involved with what I call, “Digging Ditches.”

Our biblical account begins in 2 Kings 3:1.

Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, but not like his father and mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he persisted in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin; he did not depart from them.
Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheepbreeder, and he regularly paid the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams.

In other words, the King of Moab was a type of vassal king, and in that role, he was required to pay tribute to the King of Israel. He was not a ruling/reigning king in his own right. He was forced to pay tribute to Israel in return for not being utterly destroyed and wiped out. That pay-off, or bribe, was paid to the true ruler.

But it happened, when Ahab died, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
So King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. Then he went and sent to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?”

So I want to draw the picture and make it plain. The King of Moab declared that they were not going to pay tribute to Israel anymore. Historically (and for quite a length of time), no tribute was paid. They owed Israel a lucrative amount of tribute from the wool of these rams. In fact, this particular king of the Moabites raised the best sheep and rams. They were renowned for the quality of their wool, and the people were heralded for their sheep-breeding skills. They also had the best pastures for raising them.

The Moabites said, “We’re not going to pay tribute to Israel anymore.” So the King of Israel said, “Okay, if you’re not going to pay us our money, then we’re going to come after you.” Please note that the Kingdom of Israel at this point of history was divided in two. The two kingdoms were Israel and Judah. The King of Israel went to the King of Judah (Jehoshaphat), and he asked him, “Will you go with me to fight against Moab?” And he said . . .

 “I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”  Then he said, “Which way shall we go up?”

Basically, the King of Israel was telling Jehoshaphat that there were two directions from which they could approach Moab. They could go around the Dead Sea to the north, which would have been a bit of an easier journey, or they could go the southern route that was more difficult, but it would have made the attack of Moab easier. The great fortress stood at the northern border of Moab, and that’s where the armies of Moab were logically situated. The Moabites never expected an attack from the south because of the terrain, as it was much rougher. Nobody in his or her right mind would attack from the south.

Jehoshaphat, drawing on his own logic, said, “We will take the southern route, and we’re going by the way of the wilderness of Edom. They were going to go through Moab to Edom (Edom and Moab were separated by a stream). So the King of Israel went with the King of Judah to approach the King of Edom. They had recruited the Edomites to fight with them.

There is one thing that will bring two enemies together: a common enemy. Many covenants have been established upon the commonality of an adversary. We may have two people groups who hate each other, but they will join in an alliance in order to go after a common enemy. So, they recruited the King of Edom and marched on that roundabout route for seven days. We see that it was very circuitous. There was no water for the army or the animals that followed them.

10 And the king of Israel said, “Alas! For the Lord has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.”

So the immediate response to the King of Israel was, “God has brought us together so we could all die together.” Isn’t that amazing how some people’s inclination is towards the negative? “We’re all gonna die.” Not only was he making the claim that they were all going to die, but he also blamed God. “God did this to us. He brought us together so we could die of thirst together.”

It’s amazing how often God’s people blame Him for adversity in their lives. They’re saying, “God did this,” when in reality, God was not even consulted. Up to this point, nobody had even asked God what He thought about the whole plan.

Now we have built our premise for the continuation of this series, “Digging Ditches.” Vickie and I pray for those of you who receive these emails! May God bless you mightily in all of your endeavors.

Grace and peace,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Light 'Em Up! (Fox Tales, Part 4)

We wrapped up the last blog referring to Luke 19:13 wherein it speaks of the ten servants/stewards. The surrounding passage recounts the master telling his servants, “Occupy until I return.” We’re going to pick up right at that same point today.  
“Occupy” doesn’t mean that I’ll just take up some space and breathe some free air. It means that I’m supposed to do something. We’re not called to simply take up space. We’ve been sent here to set some fields on fire! Now, we have to have some fire before we can spread some fire!
For example, let’s just say it was my birthday, and Ms. Alexandra made me a birthday cake, as we all know that she bakes, right? You would proceed to light sixty birthday candles. I know many of you would wonder why we would need that many. Now let me ask you this: Are you going to take a match and light just one candle at a time, or are you going to light one candle and use that same candle to light others?
I have news for us today. We are those candles! God has lit us on fire so we can light other candles because there’s a great big birthday cake with a whole lot of candles that need to be ignited! It ought to be that we are so fired up that when our lives barely touch anything around us that it automatically blazes as well!
All it takes is simply one life touching another, one candle igniting another! God has sent us here to be torches and to set the world ablaze. Actually, that word, “blaze” comes from the Old English, and it was the word for “torch.” So God wants us to get fired up! “To get fired up” speaks of passion. Passion will fire you up, and sacrifice will depress you. Some of y’all think that you’re here on the earth to sacrifice. God didn’t call you here to sacrifice; He called you here to be obedient!
So get passionate about being obedient to God and that passion will transform into some fire, and it will bring life to those who are sick and dying all around us. God wants to set us on fire! He wants to see us burn with passion. Some of us need some fresh fiyah!
Hallelujah. God has sent us here to take care of business on His behalf . . . to advance the Kingdom of Christ. In order to do that, we’re going to have to be driven by passion, not simply motivated by a sense of sacrifice. I understand sacrifice, I do. When I spent five years in Haiti, people would come down from the States to visit or do some mission work. I lived very, very, very humbly back then. I was broker than broke. People would think I was suffering for Jesus because I was traveling on top of charcoal trucks or riding on tap taps everywhere I went. You know, even then, I never saw it as sacrifice. I was just doing what God called me to do. Come on, somebody! We should always consider it a privilege to serve the living God.
Do you know that out of six billion people in the world, He has called you to your specific mission? I would often tell my sons, “Do you know how few people in the world get to do what we’re doing right now?” In regard to my forty-year-old son, we’ve been through some stuff together—in ministry—in life. He’s always been by my side, during the hard times and many of the good times. So often I would say to him, “Josh, do you know how many people get to do what we’re doing right here, sleeping in this jungle? Do you know how many people get to sleep on a mat, in a jungle in Thailand, eating stuff that we don’t even know what it is? Praise God! Isn’t this fun?”
I’m going to close here with this simple message. Whatever it is that God has called you to do and be, simply go for it! The passion that you have burning on the inside of you WILL cause others to combust around you as a result.
This is the end of the Fox Tales series. I pray it’s been of value to you and that the light in you will burn so bright that you won’t even be able to control or contain all the fields that catch ablaze for God’s glory!
Grace and peace,