Spiritual Bodybuilding

Pumping Iron Spiritually

Spiritual Bodybuilding

1Tim 4:6-8 
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Recently I started weight training in the morning after a ten year lapse. After a long break the first work out is a bit painful, using parts of your bodies that you haven’t used in a long time is something your body doesn’t let you forget soon; your chest, forearms, back of your arms, stomach, and legs. With each work-out you feel the strength come to each muscle group that you exercise. Accompanying those strength gains is the confidence knowing that you will not easily be injured and you can easily do those things that need to be done.

Around the house you can pick up the garden, clean out the garage, reach up and pick up something without hurting your back. I was recently inspired by my sister’s father-in-love (as we calls in-laws) in Oregon who was bucked off his horse and kicked and sustained only minor injuries.

The inspiration is that he is getting close to eighty years old! His doctor commented that “if you were not so strong, you would have sustained some major injuries”.

1 Timothy tells us that physical exercise is good and I believe it. But the Word emphasizes the need for spiritual exercise more than physical. Why? We are spirits with souls and we live in bodies (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

It may sound strange but we will someday leave the bodies we now live in. They’ll go back to dust so all the weight-training, swimming, and jogging won’t mean much when we get into God’s presence. That is only for this world, but spiritual strength is something we can take directly with us. How do we begin our spiritual strengthening? By setting aside time every day to study, meditate, and pray the Word of God. Just as in the physical, if we stray from the spiritual discipline to spend time fellowshipping our Father and getting to know Him; in a short time we will lose our spiritual strength. I’ve noticed this in my own life. As I am in the Word and flowing with the Father my spiritual strength cannot be stopped.

# My prayers for the sick are powerful and healing is quick (and a person with a spark of faith.ignites in strong healing power) 
# I quickly put demonic powers in their places. 
# I can clearly hear God’s voice on the various decisions I have to make throughout the week. 
# God can do the same for you! If you aren’t already, start your spiritual body-building today. Mark a daily time appointment in your calendar and write GOD in bold in the space and keep those appointments. 

Posted on 19 December, 2006

Filling the God Vacuum

Praise the Name!

This is a very interesting article from CBN.  We are not sure how long it will be up there so we will cut and paste it below.  The link is 
http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/73217.aspx

Japan: Filling the God Vacuum 
By Sarah Pollack 
CBN News 
December 18, 2006

CBNNews.com – Contrary to popular belief, Japan is far from being a “reached” country with a growing, vibrant church.

In fact, Japan has fewer baptized believers in Jesus Christ than some Muslim countries.

Christianity in Japan has faced an uphill battle for hundreds of years. Religious freedom didn’t come to the island nation until around the time of America’s civil war.

Before then, persecution was so severe that many Japanese Christians were nailed to crosses or burned at the stake with their children.

As recent as World War II the emperor called himself god, demanding the worship of his country.

After Hiroshima and surrender, the call went out for 1,000 missionaries. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur called Japan a spiritual vacuum.

Sixty years later, it still remains leaving a state of confusion.

In today’s Japan, there’s a popular saying: Japanese are “born Shinto, marry Christian, and die Buddhist.”

The lines between the predominant religions are blurred in a spiritual hodge-podge.

Many have looked to the economy to fill their ‘God vacuum.’

But recently it’s been faltering, and many jaded Japanese have lost hope.

One Japanese, called Kiku, explained, “But now we have everything, but what is lacking is purpose. Why are we here? We can’t answer the question ‘who are you?’ unless we know the Creator God—then everything makes sense.”

“There is what you might call a ‘dark night of the soul’ to use that phrase to describe the Japanese right now,” said renowned researcher George Gallup, Jr.

In fact, Gallup found that 11 percent of the Japanese wish they had never even been born.

That’s reflected in the country’s unusually high suicide rate.

But a new survey by Gallup says that might be changing.

When asked about their religion, four percent of adults and seven percent of teenagers checked “Christian,” out of a list of many different religions.

That figure made big news when it was released earlier this year.

The official number of Christians, according to the CIA World Fact Book, is less than one percent of the population.

Pastor Hosoi Makoto leads a congregation in Tokyo. He said, “From our point of view, the sense we have that the percentage suddenly went from under one percent to maybe five times that is, uh, unimaginable—and we don’t get the feeling that that has actually happened.”

While that number may not be born-again believers in Jesus Christ, researchers believe it could definitely mean Japanese hearts are softening toward the Gospel.

“This doesn’t mean that they are church members,” Gallup said, “And it doesn’t mean that they are solidly committed, but they identify with Christianity. Something about the ideas of Christianity and the values of Christianity appeal to them.”

One of the reasons why so many Japanese feel they can associate themselves with Christianity is the popularity of Western or Christian-style weddings.

Gallup said, “It’s the element of joy that comes through in the Christian weddings that appeals to the Japanese.”

Beyond that, the Japanese love affair with all things Western means a growing number of them are trading in the traditional kimono for the big white dress and tux.

Another reason the Japanese are softening up to the message of the Bible is the incredible phenomenon of black Gospel music.

Believe it or not, the reserved Japanese love the toe-tapping, finger-snapping, always swaying music.

Gospel music singer Garrison Davis has lived in Japan for eight years.

Davis said, “When they get in to an atmosphere of faith, where there is the Word being spoken or where there is Gospel music that is anointed and coming forth, their spirit is pricked. They really don’t understand what’s happening at that point. What they’re dealing with is really the emotional aspect of it.”

Many Japanese who like Gospel music have yet to understand the words behind the music, and much of it has become a commercial industry.

“They don’t have a sense of value with regard to who God really is and why we need to receive Christ,” said Davis. “What they see is the Western images of ‘religiosity’—‘religiosity and Christendom, if you will.”

That is where Gallup believes a movement called the Alpha Course can have some success.

People meet in small groups and hear a thorough presentation of the Gospel, while hitting real-life issues head on. It meets the Japanese at their point of need, hoping to shed some light into the “dark night of the soul.”

Kiku said, “God says, ‘You are precious in My sight, I love you.’ And that is a key word for Japan. Everybody is looking for their value, worth, state of worth, but God says, ‘You are valuable.’”

It’s that disconnect between a Christian image and a real relationship with Jesus Christ that the Japanese don’t seem to get.

“More Japanese need to know who Jesus is and what Christianity stands for,” Gallup said. “Jesus is irresistible, regardless of culture. That’s the way I feel. If you know enough about Jesus, He’s irresistible.”

Scott Parrish, a missionary with Asian Access, said, “Romans 10:14 is really key. It says you can’t believe in One you haven’t heard of, and you can’t hear unless someone tells you…Unless you hear about Him, you can’t believe.”

Posted on 18 December, 2006

God’s Boldness

Acts 4:30-31 
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. NAS

As a Christian, it is quite easy to get timid and go with the flow of the world around us.  Television promotes unholy lifestyles, movies are filled with things we should not watch, and even music can be filled with filthy language and graphic ideas that we should not expose our hearts to.  All of this contributes to the very sad world we live in.  If you take it as is and just go with it, you will be disappointed.  However, if you go with God’s way you will never be disappointed. 
There is this feeling out there that Christians have to suffer and be humble to be holy.  My friend from Australia who grew up in the Salvation Army said that was what he learned.  And you know what?  He wants nothing to do wih that type of lifestyle.  But you know, God wants nothing to do with that either. 
God is a god of light.  There is no darkness in Him.  He would never expose Himself to any of the dark things in the media that we mentioned above and neither should we.  How are we to respond?  If you are starting to watch TV and they are showing things that you know you shouldn’t be watching, turn it off.  If the music is bad, switch the radio station to something that glorifies God or turn on your music player. 
As we look around the world we live in, we see a lot of people that call themselves ‘Christians’.  The word Christ-ian means ‘Christ-like’.  If we are doing the exact same things the world is doing, how can we be like Jesus Christ the Anointed?  Furthermore, if we are not filled with the Holy Spirit we are ‘missing the boat’ spiritually because we have not been empowered by the spiritual strength of the Spirit that God gave us specifically for living on this earth.  It is deplorable, that people have labeled conflict as something Christian.  Terrorism is not a Christian in any way.  Years ago the Catholics and other denominations were supposedly fighting in Ireland.  These folks were not Christian.  They were just religious people making up excuses to fight. 
God wants us to be filled with His Spirit.  Why?  So that we can have power.  In Acts, the word for this power is ‘dunamis’.  Dunamis is the Greek word that we get words like dynamite from.  Dunamis is the explosive power of God.  If you have confessed Jesus the Anointed as your savior, but yet have not been filled with the Holy Spirit, then you need that filling.  You need that empowering for daily life.

Eph 5:18 
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit..  NKJV

The ‘be filled with the Spirit’ above should literally be translated, ‘be being filled with the Spirit’.  In the English language, we call this the present progressive tense.  Something I am doing now, that continues (or is progessing) on into the future.  
That would be a pretty good indication that Spirit-filled Christians have to consistently make sure they are spending time in the Word, spending time in His presence (praying), and praying the Spirit (praying in tongues).  Getting filled up with the things of God will help you in the time of need.  In Acts 4:8, Peter stood up before religious folks and the Holy Spirit empowered him to speak with boldness.  They noticed. 

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 
Acts 4:13 NKJV

The world gets drunk to solve their problems.  We all know that when you become sober again the trouble is still there to be dealt with.  Christian Believers should be so filled with the Holy Spirit, that when the trouble comes, He gives us the wisdom and the power to deal with.

Posted on 13 December, 2006

Cleaning Up Before A Move

Ps 24:3-4

3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? 
Or who may stand in His holy place? 
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, 
Nor sworn deceitfully. 

NKJV

It is amazing once you’ve lived in one place for a while, how much stuff one can accumulate.  No matter how much effort you make to avoid becoming too much of a ‘pack rat’, things just seem to add up.  A few things here and there, throw them in the box, and they fill it up.  Out comes another box and a few loose items to fill it up with.  Before you know it, you have things that are boxed-up and stacked up that are only just taking space.

We recently moved.  My wife is very good about getting rid of things that we don’t use.  There is a lot of stuff that is very nice that others can use.  We sow that into other people’s lives.  Then there are other things that just need to be trashed.  Although, we thought we were doing pretty well we found that as we were ready to move, there was some stuff in our house that was just taking space.  These were things that were unnecessary and not used in our lives but were taking space.  These things that were just luggage for us to carry around, but had absolutely no benefit to us.

Spiritually, the situation is exactly the same for all of us.  We get so involved in our everyday lives that we don’t trash stuff.  Someone says something or does something that hurts us, so we hold unforgiveness in our hearts towards them.  We hold onto these things that hurt us, not the person we’re upset with.  It wouldn’t do any good to return like for like anyway.  We hold onto something that happened to us, things people said to us, and all sorts of things that hamper going deeper with God.  Our hearts get cluttered.

When the Holy Spirit moves on us and our churches, He begins to clean us up.  Things that might be acceptable to the common man, are not acceptable to God and we need to just start throwing them out, never to see them again.  It is like that stuff that has accumulated at your house before a move or spring cleaning; you can’t carry it around.  You have to get rid of it, otherwise it will slow you down.  It will prevent you from going deeper with God.

Who can go deeper into their relationship with God?  A person ‘who has clean hands and a pure heart’. A person who has not got the clutter of the world distracting them from doing right.  Someone whose priority is their relationship with God, over their wine, television watching, career, their car (or any other hobby or sport).  God is willing to go deeper with us, but we’ve got to take the first step.  The as we go deeper with God, He rewards us.  Psalm 24 continues on.

Ps 24:5 
5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, 
And righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
NKJV 

God blesses those who go after Him.  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  I want to be blessed so I can be a blessing.  We should be so blessed that when we pray for the sick, they are healed.  When we see financial needs we are able to give to help people with food or funding to help them get back on their feet.  We are so blessed that we are a bright light in our community to save the lost.

How about it?  Are you ready for a move from the world’s ways to God’s ways? 

Posted on 7 December, 2006

Revival In Japan- The Word of Faith

Japan is an island nation made up multiple islands. The largest island holds the two major cities Tokyo and Osaka. Tokyo is the largest city spread out over 50 miles with 28 million people.

The geographical location of the Japanese islands has provided physical separation and maybe even isolation from the Asian continent.

The Japanese people are distinct and very strong as a group. Japanese corporations are extensions of that group mentality. As groups, Japanese are excellent at studying products and processes and perfecting them. The Japanese were demoralized by the loss of World War II to the Allies but quickly rebuilt thanks to help from the US and the great sense of teamwork. This group mentality is a strong. It is both a positive and a negative.

The first missionaries came to Japan in 1549. They were well received and many people came to know Jesus as their Lord. Even Japanese leaders were born from above and baptized into the kingdom. By the end of the 1500s insecurity in leadership arose and missionaries were expelled and many Japanese believers were tortured, persecuted, and in many cases murdered. This was something that happened on and off through Japanese history and forced many Japanese believers underground. The much famed Japanese tea ceremony was actually an covert way of celebrating communion.

Due to much persecution for the Word, many modern-day Japanese came to associate the historical persecution with what one has to be like to serve God. Worse yet, many Japanese Christians associate this lifestyle of not enough and sickness as something from God. These two factors have been successful in keeping many people out of church.

Most Japanese churches are under 30 people and the average age is somewhere around fifty. The pastors are old and suffering. They teach their flocks to go and do like-wise. Due to the small sizes of the churches and the insecure leadership, there is almost a dictatorial rule of pastors of the people. Much friction between pastors arises from members switching churches, or the fear thereof.

Many missionary groups have come to Japan with limited success in reaching the lost for Jesus. Every year, experts say 8,000 Japanese nationals return to Japan after being saved in the United States. Most apparently stop attending church within a few months of their return.

October 1997, after a week of intercession for Japan, Patrick Wolfe got an answer to why the church was failing. He saw a vision of a Japanese church while riding into Tokyo on a commuter train. The church was full of about 20 or 30 folding chairs. There was a cold tile floor. The pastor was not preaching but holding and eye-dropper over the front of the pulpit. In front of the pulpit were five or six Japanese members. They were skinny, bony and looked somewhat like the hungering people of Africa. They were starving, but giving the best to catch even a drop of the water coming over the pulpit.

The Lord spoke and said that the water represented to Word of God. He said the reason why the church was failing is because the leadership was not preaching the Word.

In 2001, after serving 3.5 years in a Japanese church, Spencer & Mariko Patrick left their church. It was a difficult step, but God spoke to Mr. Patrick that He had a great plan for Japan but was waiting for people to step into those plans. With this word from God, Victory Word Church was founded and plans were made on how to reach Japan for Jesus.

If spiritual things were considered in business points Japan should be thought of as a market of market of great potential. Less than 1% of the population is “Christian”. The Japanese are avid readers and are quick to pick up on something once it is understood properly. Japan is the world’s second largest economy behind that of the United States. This is even after the formation of the European Union.

Keys for success in Japan-

1) Create a committed prayer team of people willing to interceded for Japan
2) Build a team of people hungry for God and His Word. People willing to go all-out with God and work well together towards increasing the citizens of The Kingdom. This team will come together with people in Japan and families coming from the US.
3) Preach the uncompromised Word of God
4) Provide Word of Faith materials in Japanese. This is crucial for once the Word gets out, we need to have materials ready that people can access.

Posted on 28 November, 2006

Protect Your Heart! It will affect your whole life.

Prov 4:23 
23 Keep your heart with all diligence, 
For out of it spring the issues of life. 

NKJV

When we say protect your heart, most people in the world today would think of physical exercise to strengthen the heart.  Or possibly eating lots of greens that help keep the body pure and the heart pumping well and unhampered.  The New Living Translation says,

Guard your heart above all else, 
for it determines the course of your life.

What is it about the heart?  Is the Word of God (the Bible) talking about the physical organ that pumps blood in your chest throughout your body?  Actually, the Bible is talking about the center of your being.  Your heart is you. We know we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body from 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  But the book of Proverbs, and the rest of the Bible talks about the heart all the time.  Why?  Because the heart is the center of our being; the center of us.. our implicit self.  If someone is ‘heart-sick’, they can end up physically sick and possibly even die.

The spiritual entrances to our heart are our eyes, ears, and senses.  That is why we really need to be so careful about what we see, hear, and read.  I remember seeing something scary on TV as a kid and it was as if those images were burned into me.  When the lights went out, I would fear that whatever I saw on the TV was actually real and happen to me. It took years for me to forget those horrible images.

Someone once said you are what you eat.  I would like to expand that.  You are what you think.  In Japan, we’ll often see people practicing their golf grip, swing, and follow through, all on the station platform as they are waiting for the train.  They are consumed by golf as that is what they think about.  They read golf magazines, talk about golf with their friends, watch gold programs, and rather than spending time with their family on the weekend that are out on the golf course.  Golf has consumed them.

Others take a look at something they shouldn’t be looking at.  Just one look and it is hard to erase that mental picture they have taken.  The imagination is a powerful tool that the Bible tells us to keep in control.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:5

2 Cor 10:5 
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 
NASU

We must protect our heart if we want to have success in life.  We cannot allow ourselves to look at things or spend time doing things that take us away from the abundance that God has planned for us.  In the end, it all leads to death.  If you go after God, 100% you will have more than you can ever imagine, spiritually, physically, financially.  Everything comes together. 

God wants to know you, but you have to want to know Him as well.  If you allow your world to be crowded by the cares of this world, hobbies, sports, or things; you are missing the perfect plan God has for you.

Don’t be satisfied with what things are like now.  God has more for you, but the key is keeping your heart clear and free so that you can be led by the Holy Spirit. 

Posted on 21 November, 2006

Tapping Into God’s Power

Acts 1:8 
…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” NASU

Sunday, October 1st the Power of God fell at Victory Word Church like we’ve never seen.  As we were worshipping a strong spirit of intercession fell on the people.  It was something like I had never seen in Japan.  God has a great desire to do something in Japan, however we are His hands and feet and need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to make things happen in this realm.

Many people who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah have been duped.  They’ve been told that being filled with the Holy Spirit is something that happens automatically when you accept Jesus as your personal savior.  If this is true, then why do ‘believers’ do such nasty things to Christians and unbelievers as well? Have you ever been ripped off by a “Christian” or lied to by this type of person?  Well, unfortunately, I have seen in time and time again. 

Just recently, I know of a Spirit-filled believer who had become pretty good friends with a person attending a Baptist church (a graduate of Oral Roberts University to boot!).  The Spirit-filled gentleman was being an encouragement by giving the other guy all sorts of tips and hints on how to succeed in business in Tokyo.  Unfortunately, the ORU graduate evidently didn’t honor that and started sharing that information with the Spirit-filled believer’s competitor.  When the ORU graduate was confronted regarding the issue, he evidently thought it was a joke.  What a sad situation!  Even unbelievers familiar with the situation recognized this lapse in integrity. Just because someone apparently accepted Jesus or graduated from a great university like Oral Roberts University, does not make them any closer to God.  We’ve all got to personally know Jesus as Lord and be filled with God’s Spirit, not the spirit of this world.

People who are filled by the Holy Spirit will be cleaned up by the Holy Spirit.  Darkness and light cannot dwell together.  Very frankly the Bible has the filling of the Holy Spirit as a special gift by the laying on of hands.  This is very clear and is two separate acts of obedience, just as communion and being baptized are two things we are commanded to do.

Don’t be duped!  The infilling of the Holy Spirit IS NOT automatically received with acknowledging Jesus as your Savior and being ‘born again’ as John 3 talks about.  It is a separate act.  You receive the Spirit by having the leaders of the church pray over you and lay their hands on you (Acts 8:17). That is why in the book of Acts people who were ‘born again’ were able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when asked even though they already believed in the Lord Jesus the Anointed One (Acts 19:2). 

If you are not filled with the Holy Spirit, ask God for that gifting so that you can be ready for anything that comes.  Ask your pastor or minister at a Spirit-filled church to pray for you for the infilling of the Spirit.  You’ll never be the same!

Posted on 1 November, 2006

Making Dreams Come True

Commit your works to the LORD

And your plans will be established. Prov 16:3 NASU

It is so easy, as a highly-motivated achiever type of person to plan out of lives from every type of job we will work to how many children we have; all the way down to their names. There are so many self-help, time management, and leadership training books, seminars, and other resources out there to help us plan out our lives.

With all this information it is easy to go into information overload and lose track of our gifts and callings and how they related to God’s perfect plan for our lives. He does have a perfect plan for each and every one of us and part of planning our lives is having God’s involvement in those plans. He wants a part in what we are doing.

I remember working on a project at my job. We had the project meeting, worked through systems configurations and had ordered all the necessary pieces to connect to the rest of the world. Everything was set and the customer was ready to install the systems. A week before the cut-over the whole project was cancelled. We had not received the customer’s approval on the final plans and did not have their involvement in the project. While we were working, budgets were allocated to some other ‘priority’ project. All the work we had done came to nothing. We lost time, money, and face on the business.

God wants us to make plans and set goals. He wants us to work hard but also smart. He wants us to grow and develop and be on top of things not under smothered under things (Deuteronomy 28). Some believers just act as if everything that happens to them is from God and that He will just drop everything in their “spiritual laps”. They accept whatever comes as if that is God’s will for them.

Common people know that to succeed you have to be uncommon. God wants us to make our plans and submit them to Him so that He can be involved. We all have gifts and callings He wants to enhance and help us so that we can realize our greatest dreams. Our plans with God’s involvement are super-powered.

The original Hebrew word for ‘commit’ implies to ‘roll over’. God wants us to roll our plans over to Him so that He can show us where they match His perfect will and where the miss the mark. If we give our plans to God, not only will we have the pleasure to make the plans and know that He has called us to them, but we will get to see them come into being. If our plans our established with God, then we will see them come, materialize and make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. This is the real dreams coming true life.

Commit your work to the LORD, and then your plans will succeed.

Prov 16:3 NLT

Posted on 29 August, 2006

Finding a Good Church

Heb 10:23-25

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. NLT

In this world of volatile world of human relationships, people come and go in our lives. Some people are acquaintances, people we know for a time, while others are true friends for a lifetime. Friends are people who stick with us through the thick and the thin issues of life. They don’t trash the friendship just because of something someone else says, they don’t get something financial out of the relationship, or they have to spend time getting to know you. Friends are people who care for us because of who we are.

Well, in our country the best friends we have should be born again or more accurately, ‘born from above’ (John 3:16 NAS) believers who love God. To be friends, we have to spend time talking, caring, and sharing. When Jesus won back the authority we lost in the Garden with His resurrection from the dead the first thing he did was talk, care, and share with those who loved him and followed Him. That was the beginning of the church. What is the church? The church is the family of God on this earth.

What is the purpose of the church? To allow God’s family to talk, share, and care for others and the people around them. It is the basis for the community. That is why Hebrews exhorts us never to forsake the gathering together of the family of God. If we withdraw and pull back from our community, we lose track of what is going on with other people, our community, our world.

In this earth are many people; just as there are many people, there are many families. But which families are the ones that know God, and encourage us to develop our relationship and go deeper with God? Let’s look at the key points for choosing your church family.

Charisma In Leadership 
Humble Seekers of God 
Unmoved by people, moved by the Word 
Reaching people 
Consistent 
Holy Before God

Charisma In Leadership 
I remember as a high schooler going to church thinking that I was going to church for the people and the fellowship. That is so true. But someone once said, “You can only go as spiritually high as your pastor”. Those words changed my perpective on church leadership and especially the importance of having a good pastor who has a living, active relationship with the Almighty God.

Humble Seekers of God 
In these last days it seems many people focus on programs in the church more than the relationship with God. Youth groups, Kids church, orchestra, cell groups, the list of various things to keep people involved goes on and on. However, more than anything our church leadership has to be humble seekers of God. The strength of the Brownsville Revival of the 1990s was the prayer and intercession of the church before and during the revival. 
We have to always be hungry for more of good. Jesus said, “I Am the bread of life…” When we are hungry for God, what we got yesterday is not enough for today. We need to feed constantly on His Word and wait on Him.

Unmoved by people, moved by the Word 
Any good church you visit is a good church because it has good leaders. Good leaders listen to people. But not everything the people bring to the pastor is God’s will. A good church family always has a pastor that listens to his church, but more importantly seeks God’s Word for His church. 
I remember when we got our first facility, I had resistance from some people in leadership within the church. But I knew that God’s will was for us to minister to the people of our neighborhood. Well, those people are gone but we had God’s Word for our church and many more have come.

Reaching people 
The church is a family of Believers. More important than anything else, we have to remember that the church is there to minister to the needs of people and the city. When a church because focused on internal issues, church growth is stunted. When a church is overflowing in the neighborhood and reaching out to the people of the city, there is life and there is growth.

Consistent 
If there is any favorite word of the day, being consistent would have to be it. So many people fail for being inconsistent. Just as they are coming to the end of the race they just give up. Many times it is like they have just run 25 kilometers and are just 10 meters from the finish line, all the sudden they throw up their hands and say, “I am finished, I have had enough” and stop running. IF they would have only kept on the race of our spiritual life and continued for a few more steps and they would gained the prize for all the hard work. Consistency is the key to success. Churches also have to be consistent to be successful and meet the needs of the people.

Holy Before God 
Holiness seems to be the forgotten ingredient in so many churches. Everyone visits their church on Sunday but many are thinking about lunch than the message God is speaking. Some places can become overcome by a spirit of lethargy. 
As we are growing in Him, we desire more of a relationship with Him. If we are holy before Him, it is so easy to turn off that television, secular music, movie, or anything else that desensitizes us to the move of the Almighty God. 
I will never forget attending revival meetings in Florida. As we worshipped the Father I had a vision of Him on the throne. I had to get myself to the floor because I could not stand in His Presence.

Whether you are looking for a good church family or are attending the church that your family has been attending for years. Keep the real meaning of what a church is in your heart. To gauge a good church you will see a church that is;

Charisma In Leadership 
Humble Seekers of God 
Unmoved by people, moved by the Word 
Reaching people 
Consistent 
Holy Before God

Posted on 17 October, 2006

The Christian and Giving- First Fruits

Firstfruit and Our Finances

Prov 3:9-10 
9 Honor the LORD from your wealth 
And from the first of all your produce; 
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty 
And your vats will overflow with new wine. 

In my early days of ministry, I remember serving in my denominational church in Japan. We served there three plus years and during that time we prayed for the sick, cast out demons, and saw many miracles. You would think that seeing all the great things that God does, people would want to go deeper with God and tap into that authority He won back for us. However, we found that most people are always looking at their wallet. If they are “blessed”, that isn’t some spiritual thing. It means they have all the provision (money, food, and things) that they could possibly need.

In the Japanese church, I found that the most common question was how do I walk in financial prosperity that the Bible preaches? Being a good student of law in my University days, I answered their question with a question. I always asked them, do you tithe regularly? The answer was always, one-hundred percent of the time, yes that’s 100% of the time, a big NO.

After a handful of people responded to the same question in the same way, we got smart and started a course on Sunday after church called God’s Financial Plan. In that way we were able to teach the whole church how God’s Word works in the financial area. To tap into God’s Financial Plan one of the very basic things is you have to be a giver. But that is not just a giver, but a regular giver. What is a regular giver? Well, Proverbs 3:9,10 lays that right out for us. If we are believer in God, then we need to honor Him with our Firstfruits. What are the Firstfruits? We are to give of the Firstfruits of our income. In the Old Testament, that was usually the first fruits of our crops. That is the top ten percent of what we produce was given to God in thanksgiving for all that He has given us.

If we are a farmer, then that would be taking the best off the top and offering it to God. Some might ask, “But Pastor, God does not need our money…” Well, He doesn’t need our money in Heaven but He does use it to work on this earth to work through His servants. Just as Abraham gave a tithe to the priest-king Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20) to honor the Lord for His victory, we are to honor the Lord with the Firstfruits of our labor.

It is interesting that Abraham chose to give off the top ten percent (10%) of his income, hence the beginning of the word tithe, which means 1/10th. Personally, I don’t think we are limited to giving the first 1/10th of our income. The point is that we are needing to be a consistent and thankful givers. Rather than saying tithe, at our church family we like to call our tithes our Firstfruits as that is exactly what they are; the first fruits of our labor, the cream on the top of the milk we have skimmed off and offered to God. They can be whatever percentage of your income that you have faith to give for. For our family, the ten percent is a minimum as we are so thankful what God has done through our local church and we want Him to keep it up.

For the founder of a major US corporation, his goal was to give 90% and keep 10% for himself. And he did it, but not only did he do it but he built the best company in his field because God blessed him for honoring God first.

Well, what is God’s Financial Plan?

1) Give your Firstfruits to the church you are ministered to at and where you call home. Your offerings can go anywhere as these are above your regular giving.

2) Give consistently. If you are experiencing financial lack, it is most likely because you are not giving consistently. If you are on a salary, most people give the Sunday following the receipt of their paycheck.

3) Give with a cheerful heart. This is probably the most important point. If you are not happy and thankful about giving then you should keep your Firstfruits. God wants you to give because you love Him and want to do so.

One other guideline we follow is we give our Firstfruits to the church where we are being ministered to. Anything above that becomes the offering. Offerings can be given anywhere God leads you to give. We give offerings as God directs to orphanages, missionaries in other countries, intercity ministries… however you are led by God’s spirit. You can even give regular offerings to ministries that God really ministers to you through.

The amazing part is the connection you get as you tithe your Firstfruits and sow your offering seeds into ministries. We have seen a direct connection in our lives between where we give and how God provides for us. It is amazing how when we are giving into a ministry that is good ground we are blessed. What is a good ground ministry? A good ground ministry is one that is 1) Proclaiming God’s Kingdom 2) Healing the Sick (Matthew 4:23). When we began giving into good ground ministries as well, our income increased three-fold. What does that mean in monetary terms? Ten-thousand Japanese yen became thirty-thousand Yen. For those who operate in dollars, $100 became $300. Hallelujah!

Praise the Name of Jesus! God is SO good. He is the ultimate giver who gave His Son to die on our behalf. 

Posted on 10 October, 2006