Matthew 10:7-8

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!


(Watch an amazing performance of this beautiful Christmas hymn which follows this post.)

My very favorite Christmas song is "O Holy Night" and the above is my very favorite verse. To me it represents the power of the gospel of Christ. "Truly He taught us to love one another." Without love we are nothing. When we carry the love of Christ, we carry power to shake the deepest parts of hell. I am convinced that when the love of Christ (and I mean agape) is released into even a roomful of people that there will be times when we don't have to even ask or pray for anything else. All we need to do is praise our Lord and love on the Father and His glory will come. Healing, peace, forgiveness, redemption, cleansing and salvation will just explode. I see this in 2011. I see an increase of it in 2011.

"His law is love and His gospel is peace." Read that line over and over. It is truth and in that truth is a power that is shaking earth. As I prayed with a group of pastors about a month ago I had a vision of a ring of fire that is burning that will not go out. It is burning over this region and other regions where brothers and sisters are bonding together in unity and love and with a strength that scares the devil. Because we have woken up and as we are loving and bonding as Jesus has desired for us to do, God will burn off the impurities of people and churches that do not belong in the kingdom. Watch for this to happen in 2011 in such a way that even the ungodly will begin to take notice.

His law is love indeed!

"Chains he shall break..............." Hummmmm. Even close your eyes right now and envision any chain of darkness being dissolved by the power of Christ. Some of you have gone though trials that now need to cease. Call for things that are not as though they were. God set the example for that. (Romans 4:17) Follow it. It is His love that causes this to happen. Chains he shall break indeed! Are you carrying one? In the name of Jesus I speak to that chain and command it to fall. Freedom reigns in this place. Mercy and grace! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is a prophetic spirit that is upon me as I write this. Even blind eyes will see and deaf ears will hear in 2011. "Watch for this," says the Lord. This will happen even in areas where it has not been heard of before.

There is more that I am hearing, but I do not wish to stray far from what I first set out to do tonight. I wish and pray for you a blessed and merry Christmas. You are my family. Let our hearts be turned to our Messiah. Love has come. Our sweetest Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley, our Bright and Morning Star. The Overseer of souls; the Lover of our souls. He is Jesus, God with us; let us fall in love with Him more than yesterday or the day before. Let us lay down those things which get in the way of a pure relationship with Him.

I wish you could truly understand the feeling that is coursing through my heart towards you as you read this blog. There is a love that God has given me for you that knows no bounds. It does not come from the natural man, but is Holy Spirit given and driven. There is something powerful that is happening here. All kinds of healing is being poured out. Physical, emotional and or spiritual. To God be the Glory! Yes, chains shall He break!

......"and of HIS KINGDOM there will be no end."

I love you guys! Merry Christmas!
Mark S.

"Oh Holy Night" performed by David Phelps

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

THE KEY IS IN YOUR HANDS

It's great to have you back here again! I really enjoy writing to you as well. Even though there is a great percentage of readers that I have never met and probably will never meet (at least until we experience the great crossover to Glory) I always feel a connection between us when I am writing. That connection, of course is the Holy Spirit. Because of Holy Spirit living in us, it's like He cuts down any distance in between. It's like I am right there with you and you with me.......right now. I've learned that when we pray for one another the Holy Spirit keeps us connected even though we might be states or even countries apart. It's one of those mysteries of God that you just want to be able to wrap your hands around. So anyway, it's good to hang out with you! It was my wife's birthday yesterday, so here...............have a piece of cake and sit at the table with me for awhile. There is a great verse or two from the Bible that I think we should talk about.

Just another thought before we get to that, though. As you and I grow in Christ and try to go deeper in our understanding of God and kingdom principles, let us not forget to love on other people. To do for other people. Inviting a struggling family or someone going through a really hard time over for dinner is a Jesus thing. Checking on a down and out neighbor on your street a little more often is being like Christ. Why did I use those examples? Because that's what the Holy Spirit nudged ME on this morning, reminding me that I can do better at loving others. This time of year we need to be especially aware of being ministers to others. What good does it do to reach for the deeper things of God, like we so often talk about here, if we aren't first simply loving people like Jesus did? The great Apostle Paul gives us a great talking to along these lines. And if you are one of those in a place of struggle as you read this, I am asking God to send someone or to release a ministering angel to come to your rescue.

It's hard to believe, but in less than two weeks we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus. As we think about Jesus and His coming to earth, think about this with me. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." Listen to that again. "He is the IMAGE of the INVISIBLE God..............." I read that verse in Colossians last week and something inside of me stirred. Then during praise and worship Sunday morning, God really messed with me (in a good way) and brought that verse back into my mind along with some random thoughts of........... the Kingdom of Heaven.........as in Heaven, so on earth.......the spiritual realm........the kingdom is here, but the kingdom is also at hand.
In that moment and with that verse in my head it was like God was saying to me, "It's because of Jesus. Because you encounter Jesus that is why there is access to the things of Me that you can and cannot see," and then the word "key" clearly came into my thoughts and I was able to put it together. I talk so much about the invisible realm. Jesus is the key to all that. He is the IMAGE of the INVISIBLE God. When we receive Christ He brings with that the ability to access the things of heaven. I sensed that in a strong enough way that I felt I needed to mention this to our pastor in case it had significance for the church service. No sooner had I mentioned this to him and began to worship again when I had a very quick vision. It came and went within a second, or so it seemed. I actually saw myself with keys in hand unlocking the front door to our house and boy did I get it. When we go in and out of our houses we don't even think about reaching for the keys. We just do it out of instinct. Instant access. And that, my friend, is what Jesus did for us when he brought the things of His father with Him to earth. Sometimes we petition God for things that already belong to us. All we need to do is use our "key." We shouldn't even have to think about it. When our grown children come to visit they don't need to ask me if they can have a glass of milk or make a cup of tea. Those things are already here.....for them.....whenever they want them.

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," somehow ties into all that. Think about what goes on in heaven compared to how things are on earth. How close can we get? I don't really know, but I do know that we should be seeing more of the things of God in operation here on earth. I don't know about you, but I want everything that God has made available for me through Jesus. That isn't selfishness. It is about reaching potential and destiny in Christ that the Father desires for us. I'm not going to give you any more of my opinion on this. If you've read this blog for any length of time you have to have a pretty good idea by now as to how I'm wired anyway. All I wanted to share with you this time was the concept of using our "keys" to gaining access to kingdom things. Ponder that for as long as you would like.

I hope to talk to you before Christmas, but I really try not to write just for the sake of writing. I try to hear from God regarding what I write, so just in case......MERRY CHRISTMAS. I truly wish and pray that for you.

You wouldn't know this, but I've tried to close this out twice now and God won't let me do it. I've been sitting here asking Him why and I think I'm getting to the pulse of that. I believe that God is telling me that there are people who will be reading this in the coming days who are struggling with self esteem and self doubt for the first time in a long time.

If that is you...FIGHT ON.

You are in a spiritual battle right now. satan has lost ground that he wants to regain and he is trying to be stubborn. You need to stand firm in Christ. Set your face like flint upon the things that you know in your heart to be true. Do not let the devil alter your thinking. You are on the verge of spiritual breakthroughs and fresh understandings and anointing. Do not let satan rob you of this. Remember, you are created by God, loved by God and chosen by God. "Call on me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:3) I'm thinking of a song that the late Rich Mullins used to sing in which he used to remind people that "You're on the verge of a miracle." Even as you're reading this, God is beginning to fill you with new strength and encouragement. The Holy Spirit is at work.....in YOU..............right now. I can't wait to see what God has planned for you!

Peace and goodwill,
Mark S.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NOT ON MY WATCH!

While Matthew was getting ready for school this morning, I pulled up the home page of one of the television stations in Cleveland. I almost started wishing that I hadn't done that. Headline after headline was filled with tragedy, brutality and hideous things. My mind was affected immediately and discouragement came all over me. I just stared at nothing for awhile. My thoughts were something like........

God what is going on? For months I've been telling people to watch out for a mighty move of You. When people will start moving back to you and we will see things begin to make a turn. God what about the dreams You've given me about the extended period of grace that is upon us? My vision about the Holy Spirit moving in and out of homes here and cleaning people up when they don't even realize it's You? I feel kind of numb.

........................BUT THEN.....
........SOMETHING STIRRED......AND....

God moved my eyes off of what is seen. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN. All those things that God has been showing me have started to take place. Others have had the same visions or similar experiences and we are confirming it for each other. Among all the bad things going on there is a lot of good and great God things.

And then, my mind drifted back to something that caught my attention last night which is what I really want to talk to you about today. I've started to read 1 Corinthians very slowly. Taking time to ponder each verse and to try to understand what Paul is really saying. It wasn't a particular verse that caught my attention, but it was more of the subtitle in my Bible right before chapter 4. This is the subtitle that is penned in the "Spirit Filled Life Bible." (Which is my favorite, by the way.)

STEWARDS of the MYSTERIES of GODand then chapter four begins.

I began to think about what it means to be a "steward," especially of the things of God. I won't try to paraphrase. I will instead quote directly from the Kingdom Dynamic section right out of my Bible.
"..........the "steward," one who manages the affairs of another. A steward is not the owner, but the OPERATOR and only EXERCISES the power, resources, or responsibilities given him with the interests and mind-set of the owner at heart and in focus." (Do me a favor and read that again.)

Now think about how God has us here......on this earth......to take care of all that is His. Now don't miss this, because this is the nugget that I want to pass on to you today that has the potential to change your neighborhood, community and city.

Remember the part about the steward operating and exercising the power, resources, or responsibilities? Well, this steward, meaning me, is going to enforce and release the spiritual power of the supernatural, invisible, and very real things of God that can't normally be seen. I have already begun to develop this mindset. Starting today though, more than ever I've decided to consider myself God's steward of Madison, Ohio. The keeper of the gate, so to speak. Yes, I pray for this county, this state, this nation and people in other countries, but Madison is where I live. You have the most direct impact on where you live. So it is here for me. While I can do tangible things to improve Madison and to help people in Madison, I have become much more determined to release the power of Heaven upon this town and I do not stand alone. God is raising up many "stewards" of Madison. We are determined to see this town won for God and will contend with any darkness that tries to come in. In football the term "prevent defense" is used. Many of us are already trying to practice what I will call the "prevent defense" in Madison. Remember, when you prevent something you've stopped it before it could happen.

Sometimes satan has the ball, or at least thinks he has the ball. He is like a roaring lion constantly looking around to see who he can destroy and devour. He is looking to pick apart and wear down not the defense of the Cleveland Browns, but rather families, schools, governments and entire populations. The time has come to stop his attacks before they can happen. This morning when I looked at the news headlines I saw the demonic at work hidden behind the veil of what we call the news. The schemings of the devil. Murder, lives taken by drunken driving and hideous acts by people that make made me feel sick.

You know what?

No more
Not in my town
Not on this stewards watch
I will stand and pray for protection against tragedy BEFORE it can happen.

Sound crazy like a fantasy? Does it? Think about it. All each city needs is for individuals to rise up in the name of Christ with this kind of mindset. Can you imagine if there were a dozen, or even a half dozen (and in Madison there already are) individuals who would become stewards of their city? Keepers and defenders of their town determined to stand their ground in Christ and in prayer, exposing darkness to the light, uncovering the plans and schemings of the devil BEFORE they can be manifested. The devil is nothing more that a pawn and I pray for God to expose his every move and intention to use the spirit of drunkenness, drug use, murder, hate, sex crimes and other immoral actions. Bring these things into light, God, before the unthinkable can happen. Raise up stewards in every community to begin to take action in the natural and in the supernatural. Because there is spiritual warfare that is always taking place I do believe that there are also specific times when satan works to destroy by using the natural forces of nature. I can think of two such instances lately where I am very certain that the devil wanted to use severe weather to bring death and devastation to northeast Ohio, but it was "unexplainably" stopped. In fact one of Cleveland's meteorologists wrote about one of those instances.

Click here on: NEAR MISS

This might be a bit of a stretch for some, but I give you an example that came to my mind that speaks quite a bit along these lines. At least for me. 2 Chronicles 20 starts out by reading, "It happened after this that the people of Moab and the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat." This surely was bad news and Judah could have been completely destroyed. Jehoshaphat and the people could have accepted what was about to happen to them and just hope for the best, plead for mercy at the hands of their enemies, or even turn and run. Instead, they put their "prevent defense" (humor me if you will) into effect. They got ready for this attack by calling on God, reminding Him (and in doing so reminding themselves) of the mighty ways of the Lord and how He had delivered them before. Jehoshaphat called for a fast. Instead of growing weaker, doing all the right things made them stronger. In both faith and in the understanding of what their God was capable of doing. Verse 13: "Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord." They ALL stood before the Lord! Their greatest defense, uniting together and drawing strength from the Lord was about to turn into a great offense. This seemed to excite the Lord to see this response, because things begin to get very exciting with God proclaiming to them: "Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's." And so it was!!!

After this morning, I will be the first to admit to you that the news is sometimes very bad, media reports are not the best, evil gets a lot of recognition. As for me and my house, though, we will trust in the Lord. Our defense is about to become our greatest offense.

What about you? Your town, your city. Are you ready to hear the call, abandoning all risk? Can I call you "Steward of the City?" Are you ready? Are you saying:

Not in my town
Not on my watch?

What say you?

The Steward of Madison (at least one of them),
Mark S.

Friday, November 26, 2010

RELATIONSHIP BASICS:101

During his sermon at this years community Thanksgiving service the pastor, who is also a friend, referenced the passage in John 21 where Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" You may have heard a dozen different teachings or sermons on this passage of scripture, but tonight as I was thinking about Thanksgiving, what I am thankful for and what God means to me, I thought about Jesus' question to Peter much differently. I suddenly allowed myself to imagine Jesus asking, "Mark, son of Wayne, do you love me?" What would I be able to say that would convince Jesus that I really do love Him. I started to evaluate how much time I really allow my thoughts to include Jesus; how often I read His Word; and how often I spend time in prayer. Add to that how well do I follow the teachings of Jesus and actually do them. As His disciple the scripture tells me that I'm supposed to act just like Him. I guess for me it all comes down to how much I allow Jesus to be in my life each day and how well I interact with Him.

I recently was listening to a man talk about how his dad and what defined his life. Among other things he talked about how his dad was dedicated to his faith and God because he always taught that we owed God one hour a week. The more this man spoke the more I began to realize that he was referring to attending church every week and going to confession. That is how the son knew that his dad "loved God." This greatly began to disturb me. I'm not being critical of this man. After all maybe that is what he was taught by his dad, or much worse by a pastor or priest. There have been a lot of church leaders throughout the years who have given people that impression. It's not hard to think about an entire generation, or maybe two, where a high percentage of men and women believe that they satisfy God because they attend church every week and that will keep Him happy. My friend, this cycle needs to be broken and I'm determined to do my part in helping to break it.

Imagine this exchange................
"Mark, son of Wayne, do you love me?
"Yes, Lord, You know I love you. I give you one hour every week."

Or, imagine this exchange between my earthly father...............
"Mark, I'm your dad, do you love me?
"Yes Dad, you know I love you. I call you every Father's Day and on your birthday."

Now I can imagine Jesus turning to the other disciples still eating breakfast that day and asking, "Where did we find this one?"

The Bible continually points to relationship. God wants to have a relationship with his creation. What decent father or mother wouldn't want relationship with their children? God is no different. If God took the time to "fearfully and wonderfully" make us, to use the words of King David, don't you think He wants us to come around more often and visit? If you have children and want to be a good parent, try giving them 1 hour a week out of the 168 available and tell me how that is working out for you. Try that with your spouse and let me know how long your marriage stays healthy, or if you aren't married how about giving one hour to a best friend or maybe another family member. I've talked to a lot of people over the years who are going through something difficult. I feel for them, but at the same time I often heard, "Well, I don't read my Bible like I should," or "my prayer life could be a lot better." Usually what that really means is, "I don't read my Bible and I really don't pray." This isn't rocket science this is simple common sense. When you have a solid relationship with God, He will help you through the stuff of life. Even in the most painful times a solid relationship with God will see you through.

I'm not going to tell you a formula for knowing that you've spent enough time with God. That is between you and Him. You will know, or God will let you know, when you are being a good steward of your time, talents and finances. All of that belongs to God anyway, so it's even silly to think we are giving Him a portion of our time or possessions. It's all God's anyway so He could just take it all back anytime He wants, but God isn't like that. He is patient, loving, caring and He wants to work with you on this.

My personal desire is to be aware of, think of, or acknowledge God every single hour of my day. Please don't think I am boasting, but I've reached a point in my life where I come pretty close to accomplishing that. I don't care if someone thinks I'm fanatic, when it comes to the Lord I want to go for it with everything I have. That doesn't mean that my life is all sunshine and roses, (borrowing there from Rocky Balboa) but I can tell you that in the difficult moments I know that FATHER has my back. There are things and situations that have occurred over the past year which ten years ago would have stressed or freaked me out and would have driven me to great anger or insane thoughts. Because of my relationship with the Lord now, however, I tend to realize much more easily that "this to shall pass."

It all comes down to a Man, who died on a cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have full access to the Father. That paved the way for relationship. Why don't you scroll down the blog, go to the "Think Tank;" feed the fish and ponder your relationship with the Father? Does it need to improve? Maybe some strengthening is due? Or.....maybe it's already in great shape. That would be fantastic.

Now, many blessing and thanks for coming by today. Until next time remember to stay RIGHT ON THE MARK!

Much love,
Mark S.

Friday, November 12, 2010

WHEN THE INVISIBLE IS SEEN

And life goes on! As it does, I often wonder about you. I wonder how long it's been since you last checked in and I wonder what has happened in your life between visits. I often ask God to give me insight into what is going on in your life and how I should be praying. I really enjoy it when I turn on the computer and see that someone is currently reading the blog. I will often say, "Ok, God, what does this person need. Guide me into prayer. It doesn't happen always, but sometimes I get an immediate sense on how my prayer should be targeted. Sometimes God causes me to really linger in prayer for someone. I've had this happen for people in the states and for readers in other countries.

I am not looking for some theological debate today. I'm just expressing some feelings and thoughts on something that has totally captured my thoughts lately. I haven't been able to stop thinking about the invisible, spiritual realm and the dimensions that God operates in. Some of the questions I've been pondering almost everyday for the last week or so are:

God, where exactly is the spiritual realm? Is it right in front of me? Am I actually moving in, out and around the things of the supernatural? Is a ministering spirit or angel sometimes right beside me to where if I move my hand I am touching it? Does it feel my hand even though I can't feel or see anything different? When we see a vision is it only a vision or are we really seeing something as it happens in the spiritual realm?

And then I keep searching the scriptures.

Are you familiar with the story where the Syrians were making war against Israel? Elisha kept telling the leaders of Israel the Syrian secrets. Prophets can do that. Ben Hadad sent a big army with horses and chariots to surround the city where Elisha and his servant were. When the servant got up early in the morning and saw this, he was horrified and asked Elisha what in the world they were going to do. Remember Elisha's response? "DO NOT FEAR, FOR THOSE WHO ARE WITH US ARE MORE THAN THOSE WHO ARE WITH THEM." Elisha was already looking into the invisible realm. The Bible goes on to tell us that "then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." These guys were actually looking into one of God's dimensions.

I recently had a pretty sweet experience while praying with my wife. About 2 months ago, Kay came home from work to tell me that the mother of her boss had passed away. We decided that we should pray for Sally and the family right away. As I prayed, "Lord, release Your ministering spirits"...........and before I could even finish what I was about to pray, which would have been something like...... "and bring comfort to Sally and her family"...... what I saw is still hard for me to describe without getting choked up with emotion. As the words.........."Lord, release Your".......were coming out of my mouth, I immediately saw the left side of what looked like a warrior. He had his back to me so I couldn't see his face, but what I saw was his left arm shoot straight out and his finger immediately pointed. The movement was instant. The speed was so incredible that I had no chance of making them out, but I knew that several ministering beings were on their way to be with the family. It was like this warrior was just waiting for my spoken words so that he could then order the command. It was intense, overwhelming and amazing all at once. Where exactly was this warrior being? Yes, he was in the invisible realm, but exactly where? How close was I to him when he issued the command?

When I invited Christ to come into my life I began to have a part in the kingdom of Heaven. If you've allowed Christ to live in you, so do you. The Bible tells me that those of us who belong to the Lord have been raised up from our old self of sin and have been made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6 has changed my perspective of where God is when I pray. I no longer think of Him being "way up there," while I'm way down here. My perspective is now like when I talk to someone who is close to me. It has even changed my expectations when I pray. If I have accessed the Kingdom, them I must be moving in and out of the supernatural realm constantly. I just don't always realize or even think of it. Angels must be able to slip in and out of our natural world and back all the time. The Bible is full of examples, both old and new testament.

Sunday in church, worship was incredible. Absolutely incredible. When hearts are poured out passionately to God, He responds. I started looking around the worship center expecting to see signs of angels moving back and forth. I was certain that we were in their company. I kept looking, but I just couldn't see them. I couldn't and didn't want to let go of the sense that we were worshiping in the natural and yet had also stepped into the supernatural realm at the same time. I hadn't discussed this with my wife at all, but almost as soon as we got home she told me that she had a vision during worship. I listened intently as she described how she saw what looked like a pyramid without the top connected to it. She did see the top, and as we worshiped it was being lowered toward the base. A glorious top that was crystal like in appearance, but yet the crystal was fluorescent green. For the people of that church that would be a pretty significant vision considering the many prophetic words that have been spoken about their church, what God is doing there and wanting to do there. This lasted for only a couple of seconds at most and Kay opened and closed her eyes to make sure she wasn't just seeing the outline of something that she had been staring at. She wasn't. Between the senses that I experienced and what Kay told me about her vision I am convinced that the passionate worship of the worship team and those of us in the congregation had opened up a portal into the invisible, supernatural realm. And what about my wife's vision? Was it just a vision, or was she actually watching something as it was happening in one of God's dimensions?

I remind of you something that happened to the Apostle Paul. Something that Paul must have pondered in his heart his entire life. Here is Paul's account in his own words.

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

Now I don't feel so bad. If the Apostle Paul wasn't entirely sure about how he had this experience then I'm certainly not going to put a lot of pressure on myself to fully understand these things. I'll just enjoy exploring the scriptures, pondering and asking God for clearer understanding. There are some things that I don't believe God wants or expects us to understand completely. If we could then that would remove our need for faith. One thing I do know though is that God is more than willing to allow us to experience, or at least to have a glimpse of the supernatural. In my humble opinion I believe that God delights in allowing us to have a peek into things that are not of our natural world. In fact in the coming days I am certain that this will become more and more common.

There will be many reading this who will think I've gone over the edge. That these things could have happened in Bible times, but they don't happen today. I'm 48. For most of my life I felt the same way. I felt that I understood that in this life there were limitations as to how much God wanted us to experience. I can't remember what exactly it was that challenged that thinking, but challenged I became. I started to read the scriptures FOR ME. I stopped trying to make the scriptures fit into some of the traditional things that I had been taught by man. Today I experience much more of what I would call the miraculous than I did even just 5 years ago.

I have a friend who has a saying which I really enjoy. He will say, "Eat the meat and spit out the bones." I encourage you to do just that with any of my writings!

Seize The Day,
Mark S.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A DEDICATION TO MY WIFE AND THOUGHTS FOR THE MARRIED

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil. (Proverbs 31:10-12,NKJ)

I woke up pretty early this morning well before the alarm went off which would tell my wife that it was time to get up for work. As I looked over at her it would be an injustice to try to explain the thoughts that went through my mind and how something that felt like more than love go through me. As I looked at her sleeping, the Holy Spirit softly whispered to me:

"She deserves your honor and your praise."

This is something that I recognized a long time ago, but hearing those words this morning greatly increased what I already knew. I have to tell you that in spite of dumb things that I have done over the years, especially the earlier years of our marriage, my wife has intended "good and not evil" for me. Kay is an incredible woman.

Because of my wife's faithfulness and belief in me and for her desire to follow God completely, we are about to step into some incredible new things that God has prepared for us. Things that even our own dreams and imaginations could not have scripted. I want very little about this blog post to be about me, so I will just say that because of me we have experienced major changes in our lives this year. Please understand that most of these changes were preceded by much prayer, occasional times of fasting, reading the Bible and words of confirmation spoken through different people. Still our daily lives were radically changed. If I were writing a book it would take at least a few chapters to journal our journey. Until recently, I had not been gainfully employed since March 19th. I started making trips back and forth to North Carolina and we all went in late July to see if God was putting something together there for us. We believe that one day we will be called to that state, specifically Wilmington and for ministry purposes. We have felt that way for several years. While the possibility that this was the year for that to happen seemed very strong, it didn't. While this went on into the summer, I spent many days in prayer, reading and preparation for something that was yet to come, but as days turned into early fall, what that something looked liked was remaining very much a puzzle. On top of that I was not working and at times would put pressure on myself that I wasn't being the provider. As financial pressure mounted, however, my blue eyed wife never thought about bailing. Instead she seemed to become stronger. Kay just kept believing in me. More importantly she believed God wanted to do something amazing in our lives.

Backing up just a little bit, there was a day last December when I was asked to a meeting. While it didn't happen that day, we were very certain that I was going to hear in that meeting that I no longer had a paid position due to the increased financial strains have filtered into many churches. You have no idea how much confidence and reassurance that it gave me to have my wife say to me that morning, "You know I was just thinking. I think that this is just part of a new great adventure that God has for us." Do you have any idea what that meant for me as a man? It certainly did seem that God was putting together a new plan for our family.

The great adventure did begin in late March of this year. While for the most part my faith is extremely strong, there were some days mixed in here and there where I would question myself and wonder if I was really hearing from God. It was on those days when my wife would be at her best. She made it very clear that she was in this journey with me, no matter what. She would remind me how God had done amazing things in our lives already simply because of obedience and trust. She had a way of being subtle in order to challenge me that I had no business to even think about doubting what God was doing. I even remember a couple of days to where I said that I just needed to go out and find the first job I could find. Want to know what my wife would say to that? "Do you really believe that is what God wants you to do right now?" Just the way she said it made it very clear to me how much she believed in that idea. She was letting me know that getting ahead of God and His plans was the biggest mistake I could make. Here was my wife working everyday while I was sitting at home reading, studying and praying. There were a couple of days where I felt pretty insecure in what I was doing while trying to hold onto the words, "I know the plans I have for you.............." I can honestly tell you that even when things were at their most difficult point my wife never even came close to complaining. Not once! I did.............she didn't. My "help mate" from God. My wife, my best friend. I could not have stayed the course like I did without her unending love and support.

God sustained us in some amazing ways. There were several times where He would supernaturally provide at just the right time as only God can. Going through this only increased our faith. I have spoken of some of my weakest moments, but those days were very few. For every difficult day, there were 30 or more good days. A pretty decent ratio. When I had those bad days, though, now you know how I made it through. My wife was a pillar of strength in keeping me on course.

And now? Maybe in the coming weeks and months I will be able to tell you of how blown away we are at what God is doing. It really has been an incredible journey which I know has really only started. For now though, I just had to dedicate some well deserved time here to my wife. I wouldn't be half the person I am without her incredible love and devotion.

I want to encourage other married couples, too. Don't you dare ever underestimate the importance of your spouse, or your importance to your spouse. A spouse can be the deciding factor between success or failure for their partner and for their family.

To the man I say:

Remember, we are to love our wives as Jesus loves the church. He gave His life for it. Will you resolve in your heart, along with me, that even if it meant dying that we would do that for our wives? Let us build up our wives so that they desire to remain pure and holy before the Father. If you have a godly wife, understand the value of the gift that God has given you. Thank God daily for your wife and your marriage. Constantly point out her strengths and only pray for that quality which might be weak in her. Be thankful! The next thing you should do is hold your wife by her shoulders and look straight in her eyes and tell her how very appreciated and loved she is. It will make her fall in love with you all over again.

Read the SONG OF SOLOMON

Now..........if your marriage is troubled. If your wife is not the godly woman that you would hope for her to be, that is still not an excuse to not love her. She is still the woman that you took vows with before God. Look for the good treasure in her, even if you have to look hard. God sees it. God looks for the treasure in all His creation. You need to do that, too. Pray for her. Thank God for the treasure in your wife. Ask him to bless it. Ask him to help her produce more of it. Commit your wife to God that He would help her to want to rid herself of any ungodly ways. That He would change her and in doing so maybe there would be things about you that would change, also. Then watch what God does in your marriage. You also should take your wife by the shoulders and let her know that you will do everything within your power to get your marriage back on solid ground. Look at her like you did when you first fell in love with her. You might be surprised how even a look like that could change a heart.

To the woman I say:

Honor your husband, especially if he is a godly man. Choose to recognize his strengths and remind him of them. In doing so you will cause him to grow in confidence. You will help him to continue to become the leader, man and husband that God intended for Him to be. Instead of talking about, or pointing out his weaknesses, pray over them. Give them to God and watch what He will begin to do with them. Those weaknesses were not intended for you to harbor or bear. They are for God to handle.

Read Proverbs 31:10-27

Now..........if your marriage is troubled. If your husband is not the godly man that you would hope for him to be, that is still not an excuse to not love him. He is still the man that you took vows with before God. Look for the good treasure in him, even if you have to look hard. God sees it. God looks for the treasure in all His creation. You need to do that, too. Pray for him. Thank God for the treasure in your husband. Ask him to bless it. Ask him to help him produce more of it. Commit your husband to God that He would help him to want to be rid of any ungodly ways. That He would change him and in doing so maybe there would be things about you that would change, also. Then watch what God does in your marriage!

"Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NKJ)

When you allow Christ to become the unbreakable strand, it can't be severed!

To my wife Kay, I just want to say with words that will now be read in literally dozens of countries around the world.......

I LOVE YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE. I THANK GOD EVERYDAY FOR YOU. WITH EVERYTHING
INSIDE OF ME I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR BEING MY WIFE.


Living for the King,
Mark S.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

RISE AND SHINE.....IT'S LIFE CHANGING TIME

Last week I wrote a little bit about waking up. How there are many who have became kind of "ho-hum" in their Christian walk. I'm not being critical. This happened to me for several years, especially at one point in my life. It's just that around 10 years ago I started waking up. It was through a Vineyard Church that we were attending in Parma Heights, Ohio where the stirring began. Through their pastor, Rick Evans and the many solid believers in the church, I started to re-learn to expect the unexpected from God. To not settle for the "I've seen everything that God wants to do in my life" attitude. Everything in my being woke up to the idea that Jesus, being the author (or originator)and finisher (or perfecter) of my walk of faith, wasn't done writing my life. A good author is always looking to write something new or fresh. JESUS IS A GREAT AUTHOR! He isn't finished with you either, no matter what your age or background.

If you have been slumbering, wake up! Join with me in running this great race. These are the days of grace. I believe that God, in only the way that God can, is somehow making an extension of even more grace for anyone who wants or needs it right now. God reminded me earlier this week that not only did He give me one very powerful dream about grace being poured out from Heaven, (which I described in great detail here) but He's given me two. Earlier this year while in Wilmington, North Carolina I had the first. I also had mentioned that dream in a June blog post about dreams and visions, although I didn't go into great detail. At the right time I will, but that isn't today. Just a few evenings ago a friend shared a prophetic email that he had received about much grace for the town in which we live. God wants to do that all around the world and in every nation. I think of how on payday we often fill up our vehicle gas tanks. "Payday" is here for you today. Start getting filled up!

Now can I tell you something that is really, really, really, really cool? It is possible for you to realize that God wants to do new and creative things through you, but here is the really, really, really cool part. God desires to begin to reveal to you what those things are!!!!! He may not reveal them to you completely,(He can) but He is willing to begin to give you hints, clues, or indications. Listen, here it is. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Oh how I love the New King James translation, but I'll splash this to you using the New Living Translation. We will start with 1 Corinthians 2:9, but then let revelation explode to you beginning in verse 10. Ready???!!!!!!

"This is what the scriptures mean when they say, 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.' (10-12) But we KNOW these things because God has REVEALED them to us by His spirit, and His spirit searches out everything and SHOWS us even GOD'S DEEP SECRETS. No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone and no one can know God's thoughts except God's own spirit. And God has ACTUALLY GIVEN US His spirit (not the world's spirit)so WE CAN KNOW the wonderful things God has freely given us." (emphasis added on what I feel are some key words.)

Wow, you actually need to read the rest of that chapter, but WOW!!!! Read it again and let it sink in. God has stuff that He wants to do through you and give to you and reveal to you that you don't even know about yet, but the Holy Spirit WILL begin to reveal them to you. There are revelations that I have received and gifts that I am operating in that just a few years ago I would not have thought would have been possible. The same with my wonderful blue eyed wife, Kay. I will share with you just one of the things that God has developed in her. Often while prayer is going on she will see a picture, a literal picture, a prophetic picture about what God is doing or wants to do regarding who or what is being prayed for. To be really honest I was always a bit envious (ok, quite a bit envious!) of how the Holy Spirit allows her to see pictures like that, so I started asking God to do that for me, too and it's actually starting to happen once in awhile. Not like it happens for Kay, but it is still pretty sweet. There are gifts and abilities like this just lying dormant inside of all of us waiting to come alive. Waiting to be used for His purposes.

I think it's really important that we all desire the spiritual gifts, maybe more than ever. Not for our own glory, but for God's and so we can bless others. There are lots and lots of people who are looking for answers and needing ministered to in desperate ways. This is only going to keep increasing. Look at everything that is going on in the world. We need to be as fully equipped with God stuff as much as possible. The bonus in all this is that this stuff is REALLY, REALLY fun, too. God doesn't expect us to be so serious all the time. He gave us the gift of laughter and the Bible often speaks of great joy in the Lord. Enjoy your walk with Jesus. I know that I surely am.

I'm being really serious with you when I say that if we all began to live up to the potential that God has for us, we would turn our neighborhoods and governments upside down. God is waiting for people like you and me to lead the way. At prayer tonight there was repentance for having little faith and small expectations. New standards have been set; the bar is being raised.

Don't let the snooze button go off even one more time. "Arise, shine; for your Light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you."

All For Jesus,
Mark S.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

WAKE UP, SLEEPIES

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered and said to Him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? YOU WILL SEE GREATER THINGS THAN THESE." (John 1:45-50, NKJV)

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and GREATER WORKS THAN THESE he will do, because I go to My Father." (John 14:12, NKJV)

I believe that the Lord is wanting us to know that the time is ripe for the "greater things." However, there are many who have allowed their relationship with Christ to become very ordinary and without expectation of the miraculous. It has become like riding a bicycle. You get on and don't even put any thought into what you need to do to make it go. In other words, riding a bike for us is a very routine thing to do. Now on one hand it should be very normal and automatic that we allow the Lord into our lives everyday, but the way we interact with Him should never become routine. There should always be a level of expectancy. Jesus wants us to learn and do new things all the time. There is a trap that we can fall into where we start thinking that we have seen all that God will do in our lives. I have even heard people say, "I will never lead anyone to Christ." Not because they don't want to, but because they've never experienced it, so they stop believing it to be possible. When we start thinking like that I believe our own mindset can even start limiting God from working in our lives the way He wants to. I'm thinking of the scripture where Jesus "could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief." (Mark 6:5-6, NKJV)

Here in the town where I live, Madison, Ohio, there are a group of guys that get together on Wednesday nights to pray and intercede for our town and surrounding communities. I love that time because we are not afraid to pray for extraordinary events that are lined up in the Kingdom and just waiting to be released. I had just finished praying last night for believers that are stuck in a rut in their Christian walk, much like I just described. No sooner had I prayed for God to stir their hearts and give them new dreams, when He caught me off guard by challenging me. God will always do His part, but in creating us God desires for us to be His ambassadors and spokespeople. He wants us to do what Jesus would do if He were in bodily form on this earth today. Jesus reached out to people. He loved and with great compassion. I heard God speaking to my spirit, "You need to do your part, too. It's the easy way out to ask Me to just do it, but I have given you the ability to speak into peoples lives. Be an encourager and I will be faithful. Tell them that the greater things are soon to come."

Around the same time as I was praying, another brother started speaking out what God was showing him. He said that God was showing him that it was time to start casting our nets on the other side of the boat. Some have been fishing off the same side of the boat for way too long. Some have become trapped in the same routine in ministry and personal walks with Christ day in and day out. We've stopped looking for new and fresh things. (I've interjected some of my thoughts along with his from last night.) It's time to change things up, allow ourselves to be stretched and see what happens when we fish off the other side of the boat, or in deeper waters. (For more of this fishing and dropping nets please refer to the fun stories found in Luke 5:1-11 and John 21.)

I guess in trying to bring everything together, I think that God is saying, "Wake up, sleepies!" (For those "Lord of the Ring" addicts, that quote just made you laugh, or at least smile...........admit it! At least humor me and tell me it did.) Yes, I think God wants to stir us up, shake us up and get us excited about Who we have living inside of us. Become the mountain mover that God wants you to be. Have you thought lately about the same Spirit living inside of you which raised Christ from the dead? Dull and routine? I think not! "CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory." Jesus, the Man who spoke calm to the winds and waves, the Man who raised Lazarus from the dead, the Man who opened eyes to sight, the Man who said to the crippled, "Rise, take up your bed and walk" and the Man who prayed, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they do." That MAN lives in YOU!

Expecting greater things,
Mark S.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT FOUND ALONG THE ROMANS ROAD!

From just off the shores of Lake Erie, I send you greetings! Once again, I hope you are found to be well and if things could be better for you I send my prayer covering. I know that may just sound like a bunch of idle words to score some points, but I promise that they are not. Quite often I pray for my readers and if I happen to log on and see that someone is currently on the blog I will go to the Lord in prayer for you and speak blessings over you. I hope you do the same for me when you are here and if there is something that I write which you don't agree with, we should pray about that, too. We should always ask God for more insight and wisdom and if our understanding needs to be clearer or change then let it be so. I learned several years ago that if I'm not willing to change then I'm not willing to grow! That's how we strengthen our community of believers. Anyway, I sure am glad you are here!!!!!!!

I've been slowly reading the book of Romans lately. This is a book which you just can't rush through, especially those first 5 chapters or so. I wouldn't encourage the brand new believer to read Romans right away, but there is so much to be gleaned from Paul's letter to the believers in Rome. There are so many golden nuggets along the way.

As seems to be the case more often than not anymore, last night I slept for a couple of hours and woke up. Instead of fighting to go back to sleep (which is a fight that I usually lose) I stumbled out to the kitchen table and began to read. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1, NKJ) (Before I go on, I do want to mention that if you have a NIV Bible, the verse ends with "....who are in Christ Jesus." Some of the earlier manuscripts did not include...."who do not walk according to the flesh......." With that noted, however, I do feel that much personal growth can be obtained by the verse as it is found in the NKJ.) Now before I could get to verse 2, something struck me about that verse that made me think about it a little more deeply than I ever had. We use the first part of that verse quite often to encourage a believer who doesn't feel worthy of God's love; maybe has admitted that they sinned or messed up. Even though God forgives, they still don't feel clean. It is and rightfully so, one of the most well loved verses in the Bible. What struck me last night, though, was the second half of that verse in the NKJ. "......who do not walk ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, but ACCORDING TO THE
SPIRIT.
"
Wow, that is good stuff to think on. We easily love the first part of the verse. After all God is allowing us to benefit from His most magnificent grace in doing something for us. The second half of that verse though, I can do something for myself which will bring me closer to my Lord, build up my inner man and allow me to reap even more of His benefits. I started thinking about why we do what we do; the choices that we make and are they choices driven from flesh or from the Spirit? Now I'm not talking so much about the things in life that we do for enjoyment or leisure. God wants us to enjoy life and have things like that. An example for me would be taking my family to a Pirates or Indians game, or because of the time of year it is, a Pittsburgh Penguins (who by the way will be the 2010/2011 Stanley Cup Champions even if they are off to a slow start) hockey game. As we live for the Lord, He wants us to do things that as His children we will just simply enjoy. God wants you to enjoy life, so if you're not, GET TO IT!!!!!!! :)

As I read that verse last night, I began thinking about decisions we make that can hinder, or slow down our walk and growth in Christ. I'll give you an example and being of the male gender, I will give you probably one of the best examples that men need to be reminded of (let the wives and girlfriends now rejoice.....ha ha ha). Here we go. GUYS; if we are walking according to the Spirit and NOT the flesh, it means that when an attractive woman is walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, you DO NOT allow your eyes the "fleshly" pleasure of glancing her way a second or third time! Even though your thoughts were hopefully pure when you first saw her, a second look could give foothold to not so pure thoughts. If a not so pure thought would set in, we all know that lust is a work of the flesh. We know that lust is a work of the flesh, because we know that Galations 5:19 reads: "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery (Jesus addressed the heart issue with that), fornication (sexual immorality), uncleanness.........................."On the other hand, SELF CONTROL is a fruit of the Spirit. (See Galations 5:22-23) That is just one easy example of flesh vs. Spirit.

Ladies, don't think for one minute that you are off the hook. Now let me go after you!.......Oh, on second thought, never mind. At 48 I've learned enough to know that you don't make unwise choices that could cut your life short!!!!! :)

Even though I am feeling very light hearted and find myself laughing a bit as I write this, I think that Lord gave me a pretty solid teaching to share last night. We all need challenged when it comes to things of the flesh. We all have areas to improve on. Tempers, selfishness, laziness, jealousies, gossip and impure thoughts are just surface scratching. If we can keep these things of the flesh under the control of the Spirit, Jesus keeps drawing us in even closer to Himself! It opens up the floodgates for the Holy Spirit to keep blessing us with more insight and wisdom. It also allows us to live a life that will become compelling to people around us. We will be like magnets to people who need encouragement, or a word from the Lord. People who need the Savior, accepted and loved for who they are. I think this is why Paul said, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" in his letter to the Corinthians. In other words, Paul didn't want to be a hypocrite. Walking in the Spirit keeps that from happening.

I have to share a personal experience with you which I'm sure will bring future victory celebrations. One day not too long ago, probably within the last couple of weeks, I was having kind of a "down" day. I was off my game a little bit and either the devil or one of his henchmen thought it would be a good time to take advantage of me. Suddenly I found myself faced with some tempting thoughts. Well, the plan backfired. I cast them aside and rebuked the enemy. As I was about to just move on with the day, God stopped me and this is what I heard! "Oh no, no, no, no you don't. You need to stop and celebrate what just happened. Do you remember times when you gave in to temptations and then badly beat yourself up for giving in? Now celebrate this victory." And then I had a picture of God rejoicing over me which completely changed my outlook for the rest of the day. I think God is weary watching His kids get swallowed up in that "I'm just a wretched sinner" mentality. It was pretty significant for me to hear God say, "YOU badly beat yourself up." I was doing the beating, not God. If you need to be forgiven of something, God is pleased to give it and then wants you to move on and become a better person for that gift of grace. I'm sure He trusts that you learned from your mistake and will not do it again. God doesn't have us as His children to constantly beat us up. He loves us. If I was constantly ripping on Matthew and beating him up I would be arrested for child abuse. God would NEVER be arrested for child abuse. He is Abba, Father, Papa!

I tell you that story to encourage you, just in case while reading this you thought of an area in your life where you have failed and the devil is trying to condemn you. Hey, I know it happens. I want you to start thinking about the times when you have pleased the Father. When you have overcome evil with good. When you have "done unto the least of these." satan condems; God brings grace and forgiveness. Rejoice today! Celebrate the life you have in Christ. You have destiny and purpose! Jesus has chosen YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That my friend, makes you a history maker! Now, don't you dare leave this blog without listening to the words of the Hillsong video that comes right after I say goodbye. As you allow the words to absorb into your heart, this song will allow our Lord to dance over YOU with singing. Oh how I hope to preach on that Zephaniah 3 passage one day soon. Also, while you are listening, you can scroll down to the "Think Tank" and feed my fish. They are feeling hungry and neglected.

God is dancing over you today! He has saved you! "He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17, but make sure you get your Bible and read that entire glorious passage beginning with verse 14 and finishing with verse 20. It parallels our Romans 8:1 verse incredibly!) God is passionately in love with you.

If today you have never said "Yes" to Jesus, today is your day! Salvation has come to your door.

For the prize,
Mark S.

History Maker - Hillsong London

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SHOOTING SACRED COWS

"The primary context for faith to emerge isn't a class on Christian doctrine taught by an expert. The context is an ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT with the world in need of repair." (Ken Wilson, Sr. Pastor of the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan)

I'm not one to memorize a lot of quotes, especially from books, but in the above quote I have found one that has struck my heart more than any other in recent memory and it will be committed to memorization. In reading his book "Jesus Brand Spirituality" I believe that Ken Wilson understands the movement that needs to emerge in order to right a very unbalanced world. I really hope not to offend the highly intellectual pastor or priest in this post, but I probably will. I have nothing against education or theology. I believe that the more education we have the better for us. However, if education (especially where Christianity is involved) is not balanced with "active engagement" with people in our communities then it is futile.

I have never believed in using this blog to get on my personal soap box, but this time will be the exception. I've had enough of the religious leaders who can debate someone into a corner, but when they see a lost, hurting, or dirty looking person in a corner they seem to develop selective eyesight. I'm going to be brutality honest in saying that I am trying to also distance myself from the ways of the traditional church as much as possible. Please hear me when I say "the ways" of the traditional church. The church, traditional church or not, is still the church, the bride of Christ. I will continue to pray for and bless our churches to become completely Holy Spirit lead and Christ centered. However, a lot of churches need to do some serious changing and if they refuse to do this there are going to be a lot of churches and even some denominations in serious trouble. I don't want to see that. I instead desire to see the great awakening that I do often talk about.

Let's be honest, when it comes to religion or Christianity, the average person in the neighborhood could care less about how many degrees we have behind our name, or the theology of all the different denominations. Those things are easily forgotten. You allow the average person in the neighborhood watch you walk in the footsteps of Jesus, though and they will take notice. They maybe could care less about your faith at the time, but it has been seen over and over who they go to when a crisis or illness hits. How many times I have heard comments from people who aren't followers of Christ say something like, "Hey, I know you like to pray.................."

I am not intending this time of ours to become a book endorsement. It's just that I have enjoyed Ken Wilson's book so much that I want to share some of his ideas and thoughts with you. Wilson talks about what He calls, in his words, "Jesus brand spirituality" which is really just an attempt to get us to return to a level of spirituality that parallels the way that Jesus lived. Can we again be honest? If Jesus was wanting to attend a church in 2010, (oh wait He actually does that) do you really think that He would be happy with a weekly quota of songs, an offering, announcements and a sermon, come hell or high water, while the man who just lost his dad, the wife who feels like dying because her husband walked out on her, the children who just lost a mom to cancer, or the couple who is desperate because this will be the week they lose their house, walks out the door the way they came in without being cared for or ministered to? You know as well as I that Jesus would have scoffed at that. Who was that group that he often was critical of because they were more concerned about tradition and appearance? .......Oh boy, I've gone and done it now. Sacred cows were probably meant to be left alone and now I've gone and shot one.

Believe me, I've already heard the question, "So what do you want to do, change the way we worship or do church?" YEP! It is time for a complete culture change when it comes to church. We need to ask ourselves how Jesus would do church, or more importantly, how Jesus would get outside of the four walls of the church and do church in the world. I was at a conference a while back. The guest speaker was even flown in, so you would think that it would have been worth taking note on what he said. His main point was that church can't be done the same way that it was done even ten years ago, yet the willingness to change very seldom happens because of the power of a very tiny word spelled f....e.....a.....r.

I'll tell you what though. Some HAVE started to change and I'm talking about both churches and individuals. Some ARE getting outside of the traditional box and the ones that have are beginning to make an impact in communities and families around them. The ones who are getting lost in the passion of (and again I use Ken Wilson's words) "Jesus brand spirituality," are learning how to repair a ruptured world. This movement, if you want to call it that, started out slow, but then it started to grow (where did I put those Dr. Seuss books?) and the pace is quickening. There is a growing desire to first bring healing to anyone who has been damaged or scarred by man, religion or the church (isn't that a painful thought?) and then to show them, one on one, of their value to God, His kingdom and society; teaching, equipping and then empowering them to become 21st century Peters and Pauls. Sometimes this is referred to as a shift, or a culture change. To me it is just rediscovering how God intended for things to be in the first place. When Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost"(Luke 19:10), there was a lot more behind that statement other than saving lost souls. Now before someone gets ticked off at me for saying that.....DON'T....until you have researched or studied what some of the key words were actually supposed to mean, such as the word "save", or even going back to verse 9 in Luke 10 and looking at the word "salvation." I know that receiving Christ is the first and most important step, but that doesn't mean it is the only step. It's time to stop accepting a traditional teaching just because it's easy to do.

Sorry about chasing that rabbit trail. I'll get off it now and return to the thoughts behind the re-discovering or shifting. One of the most exciting elements to this change was best expressed by a friend Sunday night. He talked about how EVERYONE has a piece to bring in what is taking place. Nobody should be left out. That includes you! You with destiny, importance and purpose in bringing ideas and dreams with you as we realize the potential of the Kingdom here on earth. The days of waiting on the sidelines and just hoping for a chance to play are nearing an end. For some, those days are already over.

Winning For the Kingdom
Mark S.

Brian Johnson - What Does It Sound Like

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WOW! DAD GAVE YOU THE KEYS!

To me it feels like a long time since I have written. I hope this entry on the blog finds you well. I pray that each day you are seriously looking for God sightings and ponder how He is working, or wanting to work in your life. God loves you with an everlasting love. Don't you ever forget it, either. Sometimes we tend to forget how real God wants to be in our lives, or that He wants to accomplish great things through us. Sometimes as Christians we can feel like class A screw-ups and end up wondering how God would even want to use "someone like me." The answer to that is really quite simple. He loves us. Within each one of us He has created a masterpiece. Appearance doesn't matter to God. Weight, height, or physical attributes He cares nothing about. Within you He created a masterpiece. Remember, God looks at the heart and only man looks at the appearance. Just think about how even your heart works every second and every minute to keep pumping life into you even as you are reading this. What magnificence God's workmanship is!

Now, if you ever start thinking that God can't use you, that you've messed up too much, just take a look in the Bible and you will see some other class A screw ups. People who messed up only to find God using them in unbelievable ways to further His kingdom. Where do you want to start? Jonah? Peter? Samson? How about David, Solomon and Paul? In those three alone we see an adulterer, one who fell into pagan worship and a murderer. But in those three we also see a great story of redemption. A story of redemption that is no greater and no less than your own. I listed the first six names that came to my mind, but the Bible is full of people who really messed up, who later seemed to overcome insurmountable odds. With God, however, nothing is ever insurmountable and it would be in our best interests to remember that.

So what does God want to do through you that will make you a hero of faith to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and beyond? How many times have you thought, "If only I had the faith of those guys in the Bible?" I can almost hear Jesus talking about how the Kingdom of God is near. I've been thinking a lot about that, how the kingdom of God is near, or the kingdom of God is here. So often I see Jesus talking to sinners and telling them that the kingdom is near, or "at hand," but then I see those sinners, just like you and me, submitting to Jesus' ways, His love and suddenly the kingdom is so near that we step right into it. No longer should we operate according to the limitations of this world and what we can see, but to operate according to the invisible and supernatural and the ways of the kingdom.

Today, more than ever God desires for us to live, love, work and play in the ways of His kingdom. Let us "walk by faith and not by sight." In doing so we show the world a different way. We show the world a different way to love and how people need to see that. Stuff is messed up. It's up to us to make stuff right. Instead of wondering why God doesn't do something about the wrongs in life, we need to be thinking about what God wants US to do in order to straighten things out. Hey, we are the ones after-all with the keys to the kingdom. They were given to us. What was it that the Master said? "Whatever YOU bind on earth, I will bind in heaven, and what ever YOU loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." It's like being 16 again and Dad gives you the keys to the car. MMMMMMM. The sky contained no limits then and the possibilities seemed endless. Now with a different set of keys, I'm going out to make a difference. I'm looking to be a man that would be written about in the Bible. I'd like you to come with me.

I've been thinking a lot about that dream that I had a week ago. I sure hope you have read it. If not, please do. After you are done reading here, you can go right into it. It will be the first one listed under the September archives listing. I've been praying into that dream and asking God to reveal to me what everything symbolized. Some have written to me either here, on Face Book, or through email, sharing with me what they believed God is saying about different things. I love that. That dream wasn't just for me and I knew that I couldn't keep it to myself. That dream was for you, too and it's your choice to either scoff at it, or to ponder as to if God is wanting to give us a glimpse. The fast moving sky filled with stars, the bruised woman, the moon and planets, that split second burst of light and energy that did sort of resemble some kind of a ship, but yet somehow I know that the Lion of Judah was involved with that burst. I do believe that God allowed a peek into what is coming, what is beginning to happen and everything in that dream contains impacting significance. I do believe that we are embarking on an unthinkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit and grace as God is once again making an attempt to allow the lost people on this earth to see His revealed Son as the lamb who was slain for the sins of the world. I already know that there is an increase of what we call signs and wonders that are taking place. Much of which is at our fingertips. "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons." We are to take care of the poor, the widowed and I believe that in today's times that includes one parent families; single moms and single dads. The keys to the kingdom.

Now listen, even though I believe that we are moving into the next phase of the last days, I DON'T want anyone to read into it that I'm saying that the return of Jesus is immediate. Some of my traditional views on Revelation have even changed. I have no idea how much longer it will be and the older I get I wonder even more how everything is going to play out. It's not in our place to try to figure everything out, either. I do know that we are to be ready. We are supposed to help others get ready. There are many who are lost who desperately are in need of the Savior. People need to learn the benefits of living in the kingdom now!!!!!!

Dad didn't give me the keys to the car and tell me to sit around, make them jingle, look at how shiny they were and imagine myself driving. Jesus didn't give us the keys so we could just sit around singing Kum-Ba-Ya, imagining, waiting and wondering how it's all going to come down, how and when He's going to make it all happen. Yes we do need to take time to read, pray and teach. We need to spend more time doing those things than what we sometimes do, but it's also time to get on the move. To create some friction. To be doers and not just hearers. It's time for passion and to let our hearts burn for the things of God. Holiness, righteousness, sanctification.

My friend, you are loved by God with an everlasting love. He has created you in a most magnificent way. He's given you the keys. I'm certain that He's looking for drivers and those who will be fueled by passion for Christ. What say you???

"BE VERY CAREFUL THEN HOW YOU LIVE, NOT AS UNWISE BUT AS WISE, MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL." (Ephesians 5:15-16)


Starting the car,
Mark S.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MY NIGHTTIME COLD AND FLU MEDICINE INDUCED DREAM................(Well, not really)

The last couple of days I have been a bit under the weather. Nothing serious, just a lot of sneezing, coughing and minor body aches. Not enough to keep you down, but just enough to where you wanted to sleep a lot and your common sense tells you to stay inside as much as possible. Even though I was feeling pretty good by yesterday afternoon and evening, as it became later in the night, I began to feel a few of those annoying body aches. I decided that for one more night I would take a dose of some nighttime cold and flu medicine. Now all my life when I haven't felt well at night it is fairly common for me to have some pretty vivid and colorful dreams. Once again this time was no different. This dream was so incredible that I just had to write it down so I can read it over and over. I never want to forget it. For the sake of you not thinking I am completely insane I will call it my Nighttime Cold & Flu Medicine Induced Dream! I loved this dream and pretty much wish that I wouldn't have woken up, but alas I did.

So here it is:

It was night and for some reason there were a lot of people still outside. I was walking in a field surrounded by a town which actually looked like a little village. Even though this was an enjoyable night as I neared the village I walked past a house that gave me the most chilling of chills. Outside the house was a young woman who was bruised and battered, her hair was long and stringy and she was weeping. Something was drawing her to go back in the house and even though she kept crying, "I don't want to go," for some reason she seemed to have no choice. Somehow I began to get a sense that this woman had been a prostitute. She wanted to now be free from that life, but she was held in a grip by something or someone that she couldn't get away from. As I saw her being drawn into the house, I could hear sobs and shrieks of the woman. Again, somehow I knew that during this night this woman would be faced with a physical beating and severe punishment that would come from the deepest of darkness.

As I was still looking at the house something else began to happen which immediately got my attention. There was something happening overhead and others were noticing it, too. It was the sky. It was a crystal clear night and the stars appeared to be moving across the sky in rapid fashion. The best way I can describe it is when you are watching a show about nature and everything is time enhanced so you can watch several hours in a matter of seconds. It really was like that, the stars were going from one end of the sky to the other. As my eyes followed a group of stars, my head had turned towards the west. I focused on an incredibly intense sight. It was the moon, only it was extremely bright and pure white. It was kind of like when someone is fairly close to you and shining a flashlight. They aren't close enough to blind you, yet the light is still pretty bright even though you are still able to look at it without squinting. Just to the right of the moon, the planets were all lined up in a completely straight line and perfectly parallel to the moon. Each planet was equally as bright as the moon, but just not as big. People were now running everywhere and those that had been in their houses had heard this commotion and were now coming out. Someone was running around hollering something about aliens and how excited they were that they were finally going to get to see them. (Even though I am recalling a serious and somewhat intense dream I have to tell you that I'm laughing right now, because I've thought about someone very near to my heart who will remain nameless.) My wife who had been close to me was also gazing upwards in amazement. Neither of us felt any kind of fear, but a sense of excitement began to build. The feeling was so incredible that your insides began to feel like they would burst open. Kay and I began to run back towards the other end of the field keeping our eyes on the moon and planets, glancing up occasionally at the rapidly moving stars. For just a flash of a second there appeared to be someone or something that moved across the sky just below the moon, but instantly out of eyesight. There was speed and power in that flash of a second and I heard someone yell (I'm laughing again), "there's the ship!"

At that point my wife and I looked at each other wide eyed and knowingly. Our eye exchange was saying, "Could this really be happening? While we are still alive, could this really be happening?" The thing that so many had predicted, but never happened. The event that the last book in the Bible speaks about and so many had predicted the time, only for it not to occur. Kay and I turned back and started to run towards the village. We wanted to grab as many of our friends as we could so that we could rejoice ands share in this moment with them. Suddenly Kay stopped and yelled, "LOOK!!!!" As I looked to where she was looking in the sky, I could hear her saying, "Oh look, there they are. Just look at them." Indeed there they were. Some looked like small, moving clouds and others looked like they had taken on the shape of a person, but they were all white and moving from the sky to earth. Somehow I knew that we were looking at ministering spirits. The ones you read about in the book of Hebrews. Spirits sent to minister to people who had been badly wounded. Just then I saw that same, young woman. She had managed to slip outside and was standing just on this side of that horrifying house where I even hated to imagine what took place in there. I could see inside a window to that house and I could see that a ministering spirit was filling the room. I noticed a sign that had suddenly appeared just below the window. It read, "All has been made safe. Fear no more." And the young woman was reading it. There was something else happening, too. Something was coming from the sky. How in the world I knew what it was I have no idea, but I did and just like you know immediately when you see rain or snow falling...............I was watching grace being poured from the sky. All over the place it was being poured. It was thicker than water, almost like oil, but as it was being gently poured everywhere and as it flowed there was the feel of warmth and comfort. Much like the warmth you feel when you cover up under a nice comforter on a cold winter's night. Only this was much warmer and it made you feel so incredibly safe.

At that point whether it was audible or in my spirit I do not know, but I heard a voice. A voice of authority, strong and firm, but yet it brought you contentment, more warmth, peace and joy all at the same time. A voice that said, "NOT NOW. NOT YET. BUT THIS IS FOR A PERIOD OF TIME. THIS EXTENDED PERIOD OF GRACE SHALL BE AVAILABLE TO ALL PEOPLE, BUT ONLY FOR A TIME. YOU LOOK FOR MY SON, BUT THE TIME FOR YOU TO SEE HIM IS NOT YET."

You talk about not being able to move. I can only imagine what my eyes must have looked like. I know they were opened as wide as they ever had been and they just stayed that way for I don't know how long. I looked at my wife without the ability to speak. Friends and people all around us, but none with the ability to speak. I think it was Kay who was the first that was able to use her voice again and I heard her say, almost proclaiming, "Now they will know. They will know that our God is real. They will know that Jesus was THE ONE. The precious Lamb of God." Suddenly a joyous but uncontrollable weeping overtook us and we became lost in that moment.

Something began to hinder this incredible experience that I was having, though. I was becoming aware of other voices. While this incredible experience and scene had unfolded right before our eyes, suddenly there were voices coming from people that I could not see. Voices that were saying things like,
"Well, there is an explanation for that."
"Stupid, gullible people."
"They think that was god? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha"
"Jesus, yea, right."
"Everything was just right in the atmosphere to create this very logical thing."


Suddenly there was a sense of sorrow in my heart. While most of the people were still stunned or rejoicing, these voices were voices of people that would not be saved, and again, somehow I knew that. The voices of men whose hearts had become so cold and hard hearted that nothing would ever penetrate the layers and layers of cold, scoffing, man-made denial of a living God who had sent His one and only Son for people just like them. My joy turned to sorrow for those sadly lost voices.

AND THEN I WOKE UP!

And then I woke up from my nighttime cold and flu medicine induced dream. I promise you that while writing about this dream I have not added one thing for dramatic effect. It is exactly the way it was.

But......something has me wondering. Something inside of me has me pondering. I took that medicine at 11:30 last night. Kay left for work shortly before 6:00am and I had not had that dream. I did have a dream, but it was not this one. In fact I can't even remember much of it. Kay left for work, I grabbed my pillow and after checking on things in the kitchen, I headed for the couch. I fell back to sleep for less than an hour. The last thing I remember before I woke up were those voices coming from faceless people.

I know that I will never forget that dream. The detail and clarity of my surroundings and the things that I saw were amazing. I will ponder this dream for a long time. I can't stop thinking, wondering, pondering. Was that dream induced by nighttime cold and flu medicine? I wonder......................oh, I do wonder......................

"AND I WILL POUR ON THE HOUSE OF DAVID AND ON THE INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM THE SPIRIT OF GRACE AND SUPPLICATION; THEN THEY WILL LOOK ON ME WHOM THEY PIERCED. YES, THEY WILL MOURN FOR HIM AS ONE MOURNS FOR HIS ONLY SON, AND GRIEVE FOR HIM AS ONE GRIEVES FOR A FIRSTBORN." (Zechariah 12:10)

Here, have another tablespoon of grace,
Mark

Saturday, September 25, 2010

RAIN COMES AND THE WIND BLOWS

"Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash."(Matthew 7:24-27, New Living Translation)

I've been thinking about this passage a lot the last couple of days. Do you notice that the house built upon the rock and the house built upon the sand are faced with the same storm? If you read this passage in the New Kings James even the wording for both is identical. Exactly the same. Usually when I have read that passage I think about the foundation that the two houses are built upon. Yesterday I started thinking about how each house is up against the same thing. This world shows no favoritism.

During my years as a Christian and in ministry I think about the times I have heard someone say that sometimes they don't know why they bother trying to be a Christian. How life is hard and no different than before going to church or coming to faith. If you go back and read the passage above you see that it is pretty much a given that the follower of Christ and the one who doesn't follow Him are going to face many of the same things. Even most Christians will at least acknowledge that being a Christian doesn't mean that life will be a breeze. I think some may say that just because it sounds good, because often when trouble and trials come, many either forget or choose to forget their very own words.

Jesus wasn't afraid to tell it like it was and He surely didn't hold anything back when He told the disciples, "In this world you will have many trials and sorrows." (John 16:33, NLT) Should we expect anything different? However, it is in that same verse that we find where Jesus shows us the difference for the believer, for before He spoke of the trials He first said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me." Then immediately following the statement about the trials He said, "But take heart, because I have overcome the world. Ahh, so Jesus doesn't allow us to escape trouble, but He sure does show favor on those that follow Him by being there to gracefully bring peace, strength and even show us how to obtain victory in our trials. I find much relief in knowing that I have an advocate who I can fall back on when struggle comes. Please let there be no misunderstanding; With or without Jesus we would often face the same storm, the same wind and the same rain. God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, (see Matthew 5:45) but it's in how we react to the situation that will make the difference. It is much easier to face the storms with Jesus than without, so use every effort to stay away from that "so what's the difference" attitude. There is a huge difference. Take a look at what Jesus does for those who love Him:

(For today, all scripture quoted is from the New Living Translation)
.......He is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us. Romans 8:34

.....despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25


And how about this encouragement offered to us by Jesus? "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." Matthew 11:28-30

If Jesus was to promise that if we followed Him there would never be one more problem or tough issue in life, can you imagine how many people would follow Jesus for all the wrong reasons? They would do it for self instead of love of God. They wouldn't really be following Jesus anyway and I doubt if we would ever see any good fruit being produced by them. It would be more like a cult following, but Jesus is way too wise for that. We need to love Jesus simply because He is worthy. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.

Remember, God is in three persons, so no matter if you are thinking of Him as the Word Made Flesh, God the Father, or the Holy Spirit, He longs for people to love Him just because of who He is, just like a dad longs for his children to love him simply because he is "Dad." God wants to honor us when we honor Him. One of my favorite verses from the Old Testament scriptures is 2 Chronicles 16:9, "The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

Because of my love for Jesus, He lives in me. With Him in me and the more I try to walk like Him, talk like Him and go to the Father like Him, the easier it is to live a victorious life, even when storms are faced. I have faced a lot of trials and there is very little that stresses me out anymore. I'm not being arrogant or boastful and I sure don't think I'm better than others, I certainly am not. I do know who my God is, though and my confidence lies in Him and He IS one to be proud of and I do boast of Him. There is no one like our God!

Is your foundation built on Christ? The next time the rains comes, the next time the floods come, the next time the winds blow and beat against you, remember.............Christ is in you and with Him you can stare adversity right in the face and keep right on standing. Your God will deliver you!!!!

"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." John 10:10


Longing to be more like Jesus,
Mark

Monday, September 20, 2010

BAD FEELINGS, BAD VIBES AND DESPAIR..........OH MY!

Do you ever have something occur in your life over and over in a short period of time? Maybe different people will make the same comment to you over a few weeks when they don't even know each other. You probably know what I mean. Well, over the last 3 1/2 weeks, I have had three people mention that they have experienced something that has been very disturbing and very troubling. Each has experienced it at different levels, but regardless, it has been similar. In all three instances, as soon as I began to listen I knew EXACTLY what they were talking about because it has happened to me, too. What really got my attention was when I was getting my hair cut on Friday (by a woman who didn't even know me) and she brings this up in conversation. As I left the shop I said silently, "Ok Lord, what do You want me to do with this?" Well, what He wants me to do with it is what I'm doing now! Talk about it with you. Over the next few minutes if you suddenly think, "That's me," then just know that while you read God is doing his part to set you free!

A few weeks ago a church leader was telling of sometimes experiencing a sense of darkness or evil, or would get the feeling that something bad was about to happen. Another friend told of waking up with this horrific feeling that something was going to happen to her husband. The lady cutting my hair told me of these "vibes" that she gets about someone or something and how she knows that means something terrible has either happened, or is about to happen. She told me that it usually involves a loved one. (I did use this as an opportunity to try to minister and encouraged her to investigate God.) Believe me, though, I can relate to all this. I know how sometimes this stuff can paralyze you.

Before we go on, I need to ask you the ridiculous question as to if you consider living with these feelings GOOD, or BAD? Like I said, ridiculous question. For me they used to be horrible. Now repeat after me: God is GOOD; the devil is BAD. God is GOOD; the devil is BAD.....and I know the difference.

Now we are all different. Even though many of us may share similar experience, it doesn't mean that the cause of the experience is always the same for us. In some cases the devil may be messing around. He might be wanting to plant seeds of doubt and deception. satan wants us to live in fear. A spirit of heaviness or darkness just might be trying to hijack our day. OR(and this is the case most often with me), there is another reason why this happens.

I cannot over emphasis though, if this is satan, you have the ability to turn the tables on him and cause some severe hemorrhaging in the realms of darkness. If satan plays with our minds and loses, it will cause him some great confusion. Talk about losing a grip.

There was a time in my life where I used to wake up with a sense of gloom and despair, like something terrible was about to happen. It would sometimes haunt me all day long and quite often something bad would happen. I would then think, "So that was it." One time I had this feeling and later in the day my mom called and told me my dad had badly cut his hand with a chain saw. After that my fear with these feelings grew out of control. There were times, however,where nothing would happen, other than my day being wasted in fear that something terrible was going to happen. That in itself was horrible because how can you have a decent day when it is filled with fear and paranoia?

Finally one morning while this was happening I got pretty upset. I mean who wants to live with that? In getting upset, I did what I should have done the very first time it happened. I had a conversation with God. I remember saying something like, "God what is going on? I am trying to live right, I read Your Word, I pray............why do You allow this to happen to me?" I wouldn't say I was angry with God, but I was pretty irritated that this happened so often. I just wanted to get to the bottom of the whole thing. Suddenly, almost without realizing it, I found myself entering into a time of prayer. Now, I honestly can't remember what exactly came into my mind that day, because I since have had dozens of similar experiences, but there was a situation that came into my mind that really burdened me, so I focused my prayer on it and asked God to intervene. I prayed on this for several minutes and suddenly I felt refreshed, relaxed and at peace. The feeling of despair was gone. Completely gone! I remember thinking, "Was that all I needed to do, pray about it?" (Was that ALL I needed to do.........jeez what a stupid question when it involves prayer!)

I took that experience and learned from it. However, those feelings didn't stop and in fact they still occur. In fact I woke up today with something very similar. Now, however, the way I REACT to the situation has completely changed. When I become unsettled like that, or develop a sense of desperation or anxiety, red flags go up all over the place and I know exactly what I need to do. I can be out in the kitchen watching a ballgame on the computer and suddenly there will be a disturbing jolt in my spirit. Kay knows exactly what is going on when the game goes off and she sees me kneeling down in the living room. Usually the first words out of my mouth are, "Ok, God, what is it? What do You want me to pray about? Who needs intervention? God there is something that is not right, that I need you to change!" I will then pray over every thought, person, or situation that comes into my mind. Usually, I will pray both in my own understanding and in the spirit, because I won't know how to pray. (Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27) Often times the Spirit will then reveal to me the person, or the exact situation that needs God's intervention and I will pray as long as it takes. That might mean 5 minutes or an hour. But I can tell you this. After I pray, I am often completely refreshed, renewed and encouraged. Instead of bondage, there is freedom. The feeling of gloom or despair is usually completely gone. Better to spend an hour in prayer instead of spending an entire day or night living in fear, paranoia, or anxiety wondering what may or may not happen. Now there are a few occasions where I am not completely released from that feeling, but it is always greatly eased. In those cases I will continue my day, but with an attitude of prayer and will stay alert to situations around me. When I do this and keep my mind on the Lord, sometimes I don't even notice when the burden is completely gone. It just goes.

I've even gotten to the point to where I am able to even discern the source. As I have grown in the Lord, I can now tell when it is the devil trying to mess with me and when the Holy Spirit is letting me know that it is time to intercede. EITHER WAY, the devil is defeated. If he is just wanting to mess with me, I mess with him. The last thing he wants is for me to go into a time of prayer, praising and worshiping the King. Obviously, satan has learned not to mess with me much in that way anymore, so with me it's usually just knowing that someone needs help somewhere and God will use my prayers to intervene in a great way. There have been MANY TIMES, even months later, where while talking to someone they will tell me about a certain situation they were in and the Holy Spirit will say to me, "Now you know why you were on your knees that day and at that very moment! You talk about a time of WOW and chills! (The good chills, the Holy Spirit kind of chills, maybe better known as goosebumps.) Sometimes, I can even discern who or what the call to prayer is for. I can actually discern right away when the "feeling" is for me to pray for myself. I've learned that it is kind of a warning from the Lord to be extra prayed up and mindful of Him, because there will be someone or something that I will encounter very soon that will tempt me to either think, say, or react to in a way that is not fitting for a child of God. I may suddenly become vulnerable to sin, so I know that the more I strengthen the inner man, the better the chance for me to be able to go to sleep in peace that night knowing that God gracefully led me to a time of victory. Don't think for one minute that I didn't have to learn this the hard way, but eventually this thick headed bone head did learn!!!!

I remember laughing years ago at a commercial on tv. Maybe you even saw it. You hear a woman's voice ask, while they are showing different people either at work, home, or in a park something like, "Do you live your life in anxiety or fear? Are you constantly faced with feelings that something bad is going to happen............."and she goes on and on. I only remember that part of it, I don't remember if the commercial was for a medicine you could take, or a book to read, or something else, but I remember thinking if people would just go to God for the remedy it would be so much simpler for them. Then again, isn't that the way it is with most of the things that come in and out of our lives? (And there was a woman in the crowd who had a hemorrhage for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors through the years and had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she was worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched the fringe of his robe. For she thought to herself, "If I can just touch his clothing, I will be healed." Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel that she had been healed! (Mark 5:25-29, new living translation)

The next time you have a feeling of gloom and doom, instead of running scared dare to think that maybe God instead wants to use you to turn the tide. God using your prayers and praises to wage war on a potential bad situation, the enemy and darkness. Of course there will still be times when bad things happen to us and in this world. We do live in a fallen world, but even then you will instead be so prayed up and walking in victory that you will be able to face adversity with confidence and the anointing of the Lord.

Now, go in His peace and remember, "..IF THE SON SETS YOU FREE, YOU WILL BE FREE INDEED." (John 8:36) After all, the DOCTOR is always in!!!

Sending victories in Jesus,
Mark S.