Going Back

4 Apr

Have you heard people say “You can NEVER go back in your walk with the Lord, you must ALWAYS move forward”? There’s a lot of truth in that statement, however, if you dig deeply into the word of God, you see specific times when people went back. Important people. Faithful people. Remember the story of the withered fruit tree? Peter would have never recognized that tree Jesus cursed the day before UNLESS they had gone back by the way they came. Remember Moses and the children of Israel and their trek through the desert? They back tracked more than a few times if I recall. Even Paul and his mission teams went back to visit the churches they had planted on their early missionary journeys.
Another interesting Bible character who found himself going back and revisiting a place he had been before was Jacob. If you remember the story, years before Jacob had to run for his life because he had stolen his brother Esau’s birthright for a mere pot of red stew. The fact is– he really didn’t steal Esau’s birthright, he just happened to offer a hot meal to a famished brother, who was so hungry he would have given his birthright and everything else he owned for that matter –to fill his empty belly!

After fleeing his home and family and attempting to escape the death threats of his enraged brother Esau, Jacob finds himself spending the night in a place called Luz. But this is no ordinary town. And this is no ordinary night. As Jacob places a stone for a pillow under his head, he drifts off to sleep only to experience a dream so vivid and mind blowing. He calls the place Bethel, which means house of God. For Jacob said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the gateway to heaven!” What’s more, Jacob makes a vow to the Lord and says “If God is indeed with me and his promises come true, I will give him a tenth of everything he gives me.” With that kind of declaration, you know the man was serious!

If you follow the rest of the story, Jacob ends up working for his Uncle Laban as a shepherd and endures seven long, arduous years, toiling in the hot sun and freezing cold. His pay? The right to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel – whom Jacob desperately loved. But not to be outwitted by his nephew Jacob ( a known deceiver ), Uncle Laban uses the “bait and switch” tactic and sneaks his first born daughter Leah in the honeymoon tent — right under Jacob’s nose. So when the two love birds woke up the next morning Jacob is… shall we say… ticked off?
After things calmed down and Jacob came to his senses, he agreed to marry both Rachel and Leah in exchange for another seven years working for Uncle Laban. Not the best deal in the world, but at least he got what he wanted, even if he was tricked into it!

Over the course of the next seven years, Jacob’s family was as fruitful as the Lord had promised him it would be — thirteen children, along with camels, donkeys, and more sheep than you could shake a shepherd’s stick at. He was blessed beyond measure. So much so, that his Uncle Laban and family had had enough of Jacob. Even Rachel and Leah were ready to move out.

Hearing the voice of the Lord to return to his homeland, Jacob packs up the family, and all their belongings without hesitation, and sets his sights for home, hoping to see his father Isaac and praying he won’t run into his brother Esau along the way.
As Jacob was making his way back home to reconnect with his father and family, he comes to Bethel, the very place God had spoken to him in a dream nearly twenty years before as he was fleeing from his brother Esau. The Bible says “God appeared again to him at Bethel. God blessed him, saying, your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on, your name will be called Israel.
Following that God encounter, Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place God had spoken to him a second time.

Followers of Christ don’t normally make a habit of going back. However, there are times when it is good to go back. It may be helpful to go back and remember the times and places where God spoke to you personally. In Jacob’s case, the first time at Bethel, the Lord spoke and introduced himself to Jacob as the God of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. The second time God met Jacob in Bethel, he changed his name! He gave him a new identity. Going back is not always counterproductive; sometimes it’s just the perspective we need. For Jacob, old things had passed away and everything became new.

Just Keep Walking

4 May

Who knows how different our lives could be if we would just stick to our guns and do the very things God had called us to do for his kingdom. Trust me– I know that sounds incredibly simple, when in reality it can be daunting task to say the least!

The Bible is filled with amazing stories of people who have done great things for the Lord. Think about heroes like Moses, Samuel, Nehemiah, David, Deborah, Isaiah, just to name a few. They each have their place in faith’s Hall of Fame. And what was the key to their success? It may be something as simple as this: They just kept walking. Even when they made huge mistakes. Even when they messed up royally.

For centuries the story of father Abraham has been preached in both Jewish synagogues and Christian churches around the globe. Millions have regarded Abraham as “the father of faith”, because he was willing to pack his bags, load up his wagon with everything he owned, and venture out to a place called Canaan — a place he had heard about in stories, but had never actually seen with his own eyes. Sounds like a gutsy guy to me.

Maybe the real miracle in Abraham’s story was convincing his wife Sarai ( later Sarah ) that this really was a God thing. A great adventure. Or the biggest blunder ever. Would they go from riches to rags? Would they even survive the trip?  Only God knew what was in store for this courageous couple.

I’m convinced most people have never delved into the heart of the story. If they had, they would know why Abraham was so willing to leave for Canaan in the first place. You see, long before Abraham packed his bags for the promised land, his father Terah had already purchased his ticket to Canaan. In fact, the Bible says in Genesis 11:31 ” He (Terah) was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there.”

So the question is why? Why did Terah take an early exit half way to Canaan and settle the family in Haran, when his original plan  was to go to Canaan? Could he have been called of the Lord too, like Abraham, but refused the voice of the Lord?

We may never know the full truth of the story, but here’s one thing we know for sure: Terah stopped walking. He literally went half way and parked. He threw in the proverbial towel. And who knows what would have happened if he had made it to the promised land? Maybe Terah would have ended up in faith’s Hall of Fame instead of Abraham? We may never find the answer until we get to heaven and interview both parties ourselves.

So, lets think about this for a moment: How many people could have been history makers if they hadn’t stopped short of the goal? Short of the promise? Taken the early exit? It’s hard to say and even harder to figure out.

Here’s one thing we can take from Abraham and Terah’s story: Don’t stop short of the goal. Don’t take the early exit. Finish the race. Don’t be Terah. Be Abraham. Just keep walking.

You may be facing personal issues that seem overwhelming. Maybe you’ve been through a  divorce, a moral failure, or a public humiliation. Maybe your business has hit the skids. Maybe you’ve lost a close friend through a misunderstanding. Maybe you’ve had a horrific year. Or maybe you’ve just lost your way on this rocky road called life.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in — just keep walking. God is in the business of restoration, but he can’t order your steps if you’re not stepping anywhere!

Just keep walking. Fight the good fight of faith, like Abraham. The Bible says, “Abraham believed the Lord and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

What was it that made Abraham so great in the eyes of God? He just kept walking… and so should we.

Pastor’s Friend Summer Update

3 Jul

         Dear Friends,

                  Happy 4th of July weekend everyone!

Janet and I wanted to say hello and let you know that we’re doing great, and Pastors Friend Ministries is alive and well and going strong! We are now networking with pastors and planters all over North Carolina, hosting small groups in the Triangle, Triad, Charlotte, Elizabeth City, Wilmington and Asheville. While we continue our work with Assembly of God pastors, we’re also building amazing relationships with Baptists pastors, ARC ( Association of Related Churches ), Plant NC, Four SquarePentecostal Holiness Churches, and many more Independent Pastors and Churches.

This coming August 17-18, we will be conducting our second annual Church Planters Summit in Winston Salem NC. We are expecting 30 church planting couples to come out for this yearly event. Our goal is to equip, encourage, resource, and connect our planters with like-minded planters throughout the state. Please pray for these church planters, their churches and families!

In recent days, the Assemblies of God church planting network (C.M.N.) has asked me to serve on their National Discovery and Development Team. One of my assignments is representing Church Planting Directors across the U.S — helping connect them both relationally and strategically one with another. Needless to say-  more I was more than willing to lend a hand to this worthy cause!

Thank you for your prayers and financial gifts to Pastors Friend Ministries!  God has put a unique calling on Janet and I, to encourage and equip pastorschurch planters and strategic leaders here in North Carolina and beyond. We couldn’t do it without your support!

We pray God’s best for you and yours this Summer season.

                      Pastor Jim and Janet Kelly

                     Pastors Friend Ministries / p.o. box 1091/ Wendell NC 27591

                    

                    

                    

                    

                 

 

         

Discernment and Deception

20 Jan

I’ve always been intrigued by the account of Joshua and the Gibeonite deception. This unique story, found in Joshua chapter 9, still sends chills down my spine. It went something like this.

The Israelites had just crossed the Jordan river on thier way to the promised land. After conquering Jericho and Ai, they set thier sites on Jerusalem and its surrounding cities. Among the people destined for slaughter were the Gibeonites, who had heard about Joshua and Israel’s advancing army. Not wanting to be listed among Joshua’s conquered cities, the leaders of Gideon resorted to deception as a means of survival. And what did they have to lose? They knew they were no match for the armies of Israel.

The Gibeonites sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys down with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They wore worn-out sandals and ragged clothes, packing their travel bags with dry, moldy bread, hoping the Israelites would fall for their ruse. When they arrived at Israel’s camp at Gilgal, they embellished their twisted tale, saying they had come from a distant land and petitioned Joshua for a peace treaty.

Instead of consulting the Lord about these strangers in their camp, Israel’s leadership council relied on what they saw rather than what they sensed–a huge mistake!  After examining their food and listening to their concocted “story”, Joshua adds insult to injury by making a peace treaty with the Gibeonites and promising them protection, guaranteeing it with a binding oath. Little did they know they were signing their names to a promise that would haunt them for years to come.

Three days later it was discovered that the Gibeonite representatives had totally deceived the Israelites, telling them they were from a far off country, when they in fact lived just a few days journey away! Joshua and the leaders of Israel were completely deceived by the Gibeonites and all Israel was in an uproar. The deception had completely caught Joshua and the leadership off-guard– and the people of Israel let their leadership know exactly how they felt about it.

We’ve all made that same mistake at one time or another. Someone deceived us along the way and we fell for it–hook, line and sinker. I wish I could tell you it’s never happened to me, but it has. And more than once. If we were to scan the books of the Bible, we would see story after story of lies and deception. Eve is deceived by the serpent and eats the forbidden fruit. Cain deceives Able and kills his blood brother in broad daylight. Jacob deceives his feeble, and nearly blind father Isaac, into believing he is his brother Esau. Judas betrays Jesus with a deceptive kiss and the list goes on and on.

Thank God that we now have the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives! Just as Jesus and the early disciples were empowered with wisdom and discernment through the Spirit, we now can discern situations we face each day by that same power of the Holy Spirit.

In the old covenant, people had to rely on their local priest at the place of worship to discern the will of the Lord. Now that we are the temple of God, the Bible says that we can know the mind of the Lord by the Spirit that now lives within us.

You and I don’t have to be in the dark concerning the will and plan of God for our lives! You may have struggled in the past, wondering which way to go, or where to turn in a given situation. But it’s a new day and a new season in your life! The word says ” the old is gone and the new has come”.

Let’s not be fooled by outward appearances! God has given us his Holy Spirit, to discern situations correctly. Relying on the Spirit’s help will keep us on track in this new season of life and ministry.

Prayer: Lord, in this new season, may we rely on the Spirit for wisdom and discernment, and not be deceived by our own natural inclinations. Amen.

MISPERCEPTIONS

14 Jan

People don’t always know who they really are. They don’t fully comprehend their calling, or the role they play in the lives of others. Some overestimate thier importance, while others underestimate thier contribution to the lives of those around them.

Jesus fully understood who he was and the role he was to play in God’s kingdom. So did John the Baptist. When the Jewish priests and temple assistants asked John if he was the Messiah, the prophet Elijah or some other, he said ” I am a voice crying in the wilderness, clear the way for the Lord’s coming.” I don’t think it can get much clearer than that.

When Jesus returned home to Nazareth with his disciples, the locals said to one another.” Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” Then they scoffed ” He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.( Mark 6:2-4)

These people had only known Jesus as the local kid who grew up in Joseph and Mary’s household along with his brothers and sisters. When his healing power manifested, they couldn’t accept it, comprehend it, nor appreciate it –for the simple fact that he was one of them– a Nazarite. Even Nathanael, who would soon be disciple of Jesus too, commented on Jesus’ home town saying “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But these things didn’t sway Jesus at all. He knew why he had come, who his Father was and was fully aware of his earthly mission.

In the book of Judges we see another famous character who hadn’t a clue as to who he was or his divine purpose. The Israelites were living under the harsh rule of the Midianites, who had no problem conviscating their sheep and cattle, not to mention stripping the Israelites clean of all thier crops, leaving nothing but the bitter taste of dust of thier mouths. Israel needed a leader, but no one was volunteering for the job. So God drafted an unlikely man for the mission.

Gideon, the son of Joash, was hiding in the family wine press, keeping himself and what was left of the family grain out of view from his enemies, when the Angel of the Lord appeared to him. The first words out of the heavenly messengers mouth were these. “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” Obviously shocked and taken aback, Gideon replies ” Sir, if the Lord is with us, why have all these terrible things happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?

The Angel, shoots right back at Gideon without hesitation and says ” Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”  Gideon, still doubting the words of the angelic messenger replies; “How can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Mannaseh and I’m the least in my entire family!”

Then the Angel of the Lord speaks those immortal words that have been spoken for centuries to the patriarchs, from father Abraham to the great Apostle Paul. “I will be with you”. With those four simple, but profound words, Gideon took courage and defeated the enemies of Israel.

Gideon didn’t fully comprehend his calling until God spoke his word through the Angel of the Lord.( Judges 6:11-16) The Apostle Paul didn’t understand his divine purpose until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.( Acts 9:1-19) Daniel did not know he was highly esteemed of the Lord until he experienced an angelic vision while fasting for 21 days.( Daniel 10:1-10)

Many times we miss out on the blessings of God for the simple reason we don’t fully understand who we are in Christ! The Bible says that we are blessed, highly favored, sons and daughters of God, and more than conquerors through Christ. The word of God tells us explicitly that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Just as God called men and women long ago to follow his will for their lives, so God calls each of us to his will–his plan.

The Bible says ” Our lives our hidden in Christ”.(Collosians 3:3) If that statement is true, than it only makes sense that we will never truly discover our kingdom purpose until we surrender our lives completely to Christ. Do you understand who you are in Christ? Has your heavenly calling been confirmed in your heart?

If you are reading this and still struggling with your calling , do this. Saturate yourself in God’s word. Spend quality time alone with God in prayer. Commit yourself to a local church and build relationships there. Be willing to serve others with a humble spirit. In time, God will reveal his plan and purposes to you, and show you who your really are in Christ. If he did it for Moses, Gideon, Daniel and Paul–he’ll do it for you too!

Thanks from Mike Santiago of Focus Church

10 Jan

Thanks from Pastor Mike Teeter of New Destiny Church in Denver, NC

10 Jan