Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 40: Don't Stop Now!

Congratulations! You made it through our 40-day journey. I hope you have a lot of personal stories that showed God’s faithfulness along the way to reclaiming vital areas of your life. Don’t stop practicing these spiritual disciplines that you’ve developed over the course of our journey because this is where spiritual growth stems from.

One thing that I reclaimed is my joy in writing. Sharing my thoughts with you around a Bible passage kept me in the discipline of writing daily.

In light of Proverbs 12:15, which reads: “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice”, I want to show myself as the wise man by soliciting your advice on the blog.

My heart is to connect with you in an online relationship on a number of levels including the promotion of your ongoing spiritual formation. So allow me to learn from the answers you’ll post to any of the following questions.

1. How can I reinvent the blog so that it achieves the outcome of a deeper online relationship, if it is to continue beyond our journey?

2. How can we make the blog more engaging and interactive without my having to post on a daily basis? (Although I enjoyed writing, I don’t have the time every day to post a devotional, perhaps weekly would work best.)

3. Should the blog stay with its current format?

4. How would you want to use the blog? Is it a Bible devotional you want or something else?

5. If I reinvent the blog, should it reach beyond the walls of Christ Church congregants?

6. Share whatever else is on your heart about the possible restructuring format of our blog.

What I’d like to do is to gather all of your comments, especially knowing that many of you have far more experience than I in blogging, and respond back with a strategy. And, if the consensus is to scrap the blog, I can live with that too. Please post your thoughts.

I look forward to seeing you at tonight’s Power Encounter service @ 7:30 p.m. [6:55 p.m. pre-service prayer] at the East Campus. Remember to bring all those things in your home that reflect a dark part of your past so that we can burn it for the glory of God and your deliverance (Acts 19:18-20). Blessings to you!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 39: Back to Basics

We’re just one day away from the end of our 40-day journey. Operation Take Back was originally launched with a singular purpose in mind: We want to reclaim areas of our lives which may have been inactive or tampered with by Satan. One of those areas many maturing Christians seem to lose focus of is their soul-winning activities. We tend to become so preoccupied with our careers, spiritual development, family activities, and whatever else is earthly, that the need to rescue lost people from an impending hell is seldom on the radar.

In today’s devotional reading of Proverbs chapter 11, my attention focused on verse 30: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” The latter part of the verse is a kernel of truth that drives me to make a lot of choices as to how I use my time, establish my priorities, and adjust my prayer focus. I’ve not always been good at keeping soul-winning as a top priority. I have to be reminded regularly by the Holy Spirit to keep soul-winning always on the dashboard of my life.

One interesting way I try to keep myself focused on soul-winning is to stay involved in the art of holding spiritual conversations with pre-Christians. At every season of my life I try to have at least one unbeliever in whom I’m targeting my attention, energies, and expression of love toward in an effort to win them for Christ. I place them on my prayer list so that I am reminded to pray for them regularly; not just for their salvation but also for their success in family, career, etc. I then look for ways I can help them with my gifts, my counsel, and my resources; be they networking opportunities, social outings, or whatever can be a benefit to them.

Since it takes wisdom to attain the noble status of a soul-winner, I try to call on God for His wisdom to help me maintain that spiritual rank. I don’t want to be someone whose testimony is: I used to be a soul-winner. Rather, I want to always be able to say: I am a soul-winner. Currently, I have a few unbelievers that I regularly interface with on a friendship level, where they are comfortable with me to have periodic dialogue on spiritual topics. To keep them in the hopper so to speak requires an ongoing commitment of time on my part in addition to wisdom in knowing when to share my faith and when to simply be a friend.

What are some unique skills that you have honed in order to be a soul-winner? Or, what methods have you come across that speaks of wisdom in the art of soul-winning? Please share your wisdom and experience on the subject.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 38: Let's Wrestle with the Text and One Another!

Thank you for keeping me on track that today our focus is really to be on Proverbs chapter 10. With that said let’s take another look at verse four: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Let’s wrestle a little with the text and with one another’s perspective of the text. A number of your posts from yesterday share that it is your opinion that wealth is not for everyone. I beg to differ. If what you are saying is: Not everyone is wealthy and not everyone will become wealthy, I wholeheartedly agree. But, the text is sharing a principle of wealth-building: God created humanity with skills, gifts, and creativity in such a way that if they choose to become diligent and utilize these endowments, they can over time generate income for their families. In essence the text is saying: We all have been created with the POTENTIAL to make and accumulate wealth.

(Now, the text does not address, or is it meant to address in this specific citation, the known historic violations of human rights by one group upon another in the removal of their potential to have equal access to shelter, education, fresh drinking water, and financial opportunities as cited by the United Nations [cf. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes].). My argument is not on the existence of systemic violations that affects wealth-building opportunities in many nations. My contention is that oftentimes a failed Christian view of the Bible and money is that “making money is not God’s will or that some have been specially graced by God to make money and others have not been.” To that claim, which I think some of yesterday’s posts intimate, I offer my contrary perspective, which was so well articulated by the famed minister who helped found Temple University, Russell H. Conwell. In his classic book that captured one of his most powerful and historic lectures in Philadelphia, Acres of Diamonds (p. 20-21), he shared my sentiments better than I ever could when he said:

“For a man to have money, even in large sum, is not an inconsistent thing. We preach against covetousness, and you know we do, in the pulpit, and oftentimes preach against it so long and use the terms about “filthy lucre: so extremely that Christians get the idea that when we stand in the pulpit we believe it is wicked for any man to have money—until the collection-basket goes around, and then we almost swear at the people because they don’t give more money. Oh, the inconsistency of such doctrines as that!

Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it. Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches, money sends your missionaries, and money pays your preachers, and you would not have many of them, either, if you did not pay them. I am always willing that my church should raise my salary, because the church that pays the largest salary always raises it the easiest. You never knew an exception to it in your life. The man who gets the largest salary can do the most good with the power that is furnished to him. Of course he can if his spirit be right to use it for what it is given to him.

I say, then, you ought to have money. If you can honestly attain unto riches in Philadelphia, it is our Christian and godly duty to do so. It is an awful mistake of these pious people to think you must be awfully poor in order to be pious.”

Armed with that perspective, how do you interpret Proverbs 10:4? Let’s hear your view!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 37: Show Me Your Hands!

In Proverbs 10 and verse four we read: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” I realize that looking at a person’s hands does not, in many instances in our society, reveal whether or not he or she is lazy or diligent. But, what we do learn is that laziness leads to poverty. It’s not the only source or contributor to a person’s low financial state. But, it is a significant contributor nonetheless.

On the flip side, we also learn that diligent hands—busy and focused hands—leads to wealth. I love the fact that the Bible does not teach or intimate that wealth is a bad thing. I spent a lot of time this past weekend in my sermon sharing how to Develop Creative Income Streams. However, if that message was the best sermon in history on making money, it would mean absolutely little to us if we’re lazy. Lazy people don’t make money!

As a pastor, my struggle is: How many people would accept the fact that they are lazy? I don’t know too many. In my opinion laziness has a strong association with hustlers—people who don’t really want to work hard just hope that they make a quick buck doing minimal activity. Another form of a lazy person is a “pseudo spiritual Christian” who thinks that prayer is akin to a slot machine. Just pray and wait for God to drop bags of gold in their pathway is their lazy outlook on life. This kind of person would never admit that they’re just lazy—unwilling to work hard—even if you presented them with data in support of your accusation of them.

I’m convinced that it is hard to help a lazy person to see himself. It may be that the lazy person doesn’t have to see himself. He may only change when he sees others’ wealth associated with their diligent hands. What has been your experience with helping a lazy person morph into a diligent person? Or, if you want to be a bit vulnerable, tell us what made you change from being lazy to being diligent (if this is the case).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 36: How to Accept Correction

Congratulations! You’ve made it into the last week of our six-week (or 40-day) spiritual journey. I can’t wait until Friday night @ 7:30 for the Power Encounter service at the East Campus. I’ve intensified my time of prayer and fasting in order to be a really good facilitator of God’s amazing delivering power. Join me in praying for God’s power to deliver His people from all kinds of traps and spiritual attacks this Friday.

In our devotional today, our focus turns to Proverbs chapter nine. What grabbed my attention, and have always grabbed my attention, is verse 8, which reads: “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”

How do you respond to correction? Our response puts us into one of two categories: a mocker or a wise person. A mocker is one who ridicules what she hears by rejecting it with contempt. Let me ask again: How do you respond to correction? Do you angrily or sharply dismiss the person’s insights or opinions without giving it any thought? Or, do you dismiss it because of how it may have been shared, assuming it was communicated with a little attitude? In either case, that type of dismissal puts us into the category of a mocker.

The Bible does not caveat the style, manner, or form of the rebuke heeded by the wise man. It doesn’t tell us that the person offering the rebuke is attractive, speaks calmly, or smells nicely. It simply says that the wise man’s response to the rebuke—the correction—is to love the person who offered the adjustment. This leads us to conclude that wise people know that correction in any form will only make them a better person—a wiser more knowledge individual. Thus, when it comes, it is viewed from a positive perspective. Conversely, the mocker sees correction as an insult or an attack against their judgment, actions, thinking, choices, etc.

In looking over the past 30 days, how well or poorly did you respond to correction? If you had the chance to relive that last interchange surrounding your correction, in what way would you respond differently? Please post your answer to either question.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 33: Wisdom Warns Us Against Danger

After reading verses 20 through 35 of Proverbs chapter six, I can clearly see how seduction works its magic in the soul of a na├»ve person and destroys their life. We’re told that the wayward wife has a smooth tongue and if one is not careful her beauty may lure us into a sexual trap. Solomon is not being sexist with his speech but rather personifying beauty in the feminine gender.

The sad realty that you and I have experienced is that adultery comes in all shapes, sizes, color, and age. Adulterous actions are not prejudice; it is an equal opportunity sin.

In growing in wisdom, however, I wonder what you would do if a friend of yours is at the early or middle stages of being seduced. Would you warn him or her, or would you say: That’s none of my business? What would be an act of wisdom: Saying something, minding your own business, or making it exclusively a matter of prayer without warning the friend?

In light of verse 32, which reads: “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself”, what would be your responsibility toward your friend? Let’s make the assumption that this is a relatively new friend who’s married. And, you find this friend talking closely to an attractive co-worker on a regular basis.

What would you do in this situation? And, why would you consider your action to be an act of wisdom?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 32: Wisdom Wins First Place

In the eight verse of Proverbs chapter four we read, “Esteem her [wisdom], and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.” The Bible gives us a major clue to earning a promotion on the job, in the church, and frankly, in any area of life. If you esteem—to regard highly and favorably—wisdom, she will exalt you. In other words when you value wisdom and use it in your actions, behavior, and decision-making processes, you’re sure to be promoted to higher levels of influence and leadership.

The same verse offers a companion benefit to the use of wisdom. If you embrace wisdom, you will receive honor. Honor speaks of being decorated, earning high respect, and receiving distinction. I don’t know about you, but I can always do with a little more honor in my life. And, a surefire way for this to occur is to walk in wisdom.

How does one walk in wisdom? I believe that since wisdom captures the elements of having foresight, insight, and hindsight, walking in wisdom means that you strive to have these ingredients constantly at work in your lifestyle and choices.

To exercise wisdom also means that you’re soliciting the counsel of wisdom to be continuously at work in how you think and in your approach to life. Ask yourself these kinds of questions before making major or minor decisions and before serious interactions with others: Does this direction reflect the highest level of wisdom? Should I search out someone’s advice on this matter before I act? What would Jesus say or do in this matter? Do I have full insight and foresight in this matter?

These probing questions are internal filters to the engine of wisdom and they should always be broached if you are to walk in wisdom. What are two things that typically hinder you from walking in wisdom? I mean when you look back over the past 30 or 60 days of your life, what was the cause of the unwise decisions that were made? How come wisdom wasn’t used?

Post your answers, please. In so doing, you’re helping to reclaim the role and value of wisdom in your life and that of the other bloggers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 31: Learning to Trust God

Did you know before reading Proverbs chapter three that walking in wisdom means that you trust in the Lord? I did not. Trust actually means that you rely upon; you lay face down—the most vulnerable of body postures—in the midst of your season of uncertainty. To trust God then signifies that a lot of courage is exhibited as you lie face down in the presence of danger and ambiguity.

Can you do this? I mean: Can you trust God right now? I mean, right in the midst of your present trial and predicament? The answer should flow out of your soul in a resounding “yes”. That’s what wisdom is calling for you to do.

Have you heard of the Trust Game? It’s that silly group exercise where someone falls backwards in an act of trust because they are assured the people standing behind them will catch them. The action of falling without knowing exactly that you will be caught by the others on your team or in your work unit is a demonstration of trust on your part. Recently, a young man on the high school football team was playing that game with the other members of the team. The coach wanted to heighten the players’ ability to trust one another, with the hope of improving the overall team’s ability to win more games.

As providence would have it, the quarterback who had been struggling all season with playing at his level of potential, could not perform the trust game. The coach pulled him into the privacy of the locker room only to learn that the teenager had been having family problems that made trust an impossible concept to grasp. I wonder how many people are unable to trust God because they are unable to trust other important people in their lives.

What’s your interesting story surrounding trust? Or, what can you contribute to our conversation in the relationship of trust and wisdom? Go ahead, make the post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 30: Let Wisdom Guide You

Every time I read Proverbs chapter two I always am amazed by how wisdom forecasts outcomes, particularly as it relates to moral choices. From verse 16 to 22 we learn than adultery, sexual dalliances, affairs, etc. are all quite alluring in the beginning. The end, however, is quite painful and miserable for all parties especially the ones who were emotionally connected with their lover.

Last week in the Midweek at Christ Church service, we featured “A Conversation with Pastor David Ireland”, as the method of teaching for the night. Essentially I was answering questions forwarded to me by email. One of the questions posed was: Is flirting okay? The innocent inquirer wanted to know if as a single person she can flirt with a guy and still be honoring towards the Lord. But, because of time sake, I did not get a chance to answer it publicly. So, I now throw it to all of you bloggers.

In light of the meaning of the word flirt—to play at love; to act amorously without serious intentions—do you think it is okay to flirt? Let’s assume that the flirting is between two single adults.

Can flirting be done innocently? Remember, you are dealing with a single person who wants to get married one day. How would you counsel her or counsel him, if the inquirer was a guy? How can you apply any portion of Proverbs chapter two to this issue?

You may post an answer that addresses any one of my questions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 29: Growing in Wisdom

Congratulations! We’ve completed the reading of the 28 chapters in the Book of Acts as the first leg of our devotional reading in Operation Take Back. Now, our attention turns to the Book of Proverbs for the next 12 days—the remainder of our 40-day spiritual journey.

In Proverbs chapter one, Solomon informs us that heeding wisdom is like accessorizing oneself with jewelry. Have you ever seen a garland placed on someone’s head? I’m sure you’ve seen someone, whether on television or in-person, with a wreath made from twisted flowers hung around their head. That’s what a garland is. It is very attractive and decorative because the flowers are bright, sweet smelling, and arranged in a graceful manner that fits the wearer’s head perfectly. It’s not too small and it’s not too big—it’s perfect to the shape and size of the wearer’s head. This is what you look like to others when you walk in the wisdom of God. You look good and the wisdom you’re walking in fits your style, personality, manners…it’s you!

How we’re beautified by wisdom doesn’t stop there. Practicing a lifestyle of godly wisdom is also seen as having a stunning necklace adorning our neck. I wonder if the mental image we should have of this word picture is that of looking like “Mr. T” as he’s loaded down with gold necklaces. I would imagine that it depends on how much wisdom you walk in. If that’s the case: I’ll take a Mr. T look in the spirit any day. How about you?

As we dive into the Book of Proverbs, in what area(s) of your life do you need more of God’s wisdom to adorn your head or neck? I can’t wait to read your posted answer. I’m seeking a greater degree of wisdom to lead God’s people and how to navigate the cultural season that we’re in as a society. What are you seeking?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 26: Memorable Moments with God

Once again we find Paul rehearsing his conversion story as part of his defense of faith. This time, as we read Acts 26, his story is communicated before the court of King Agrippa. What I find remarkable is that each time Paul shares his testimony; it is enriched by additional snippets of the mood, feeling, and words revealed to him by Christ as he laid on the road en route to Damascus.

Paul’s conversion established a memorable moment for him which fed him again and again whenever trials intensified in his life. The message that was told him back then by the reigning Savior was: “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you” (26:16).

Do you have a memorable moment with God that feeds you over and over again? Can you share the essence of it in a quick post? We’d love to hear what God did for you, in you, through you, or around you that is so memorable. Operation Take Back helps us reclaim areas of our lives which may be lying dormant or in enemy territory. Let’s reclaim the power of our testimony for Christ’s sake!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 25: Muscle Memory

Look at God’s ingenuity—He allowed Paul to share his faith with a few premier dignitaries including King Agrippa. Acts chapter 25 captures how natural circumstances of one ruler visiting another can be used by God for divine intentions.

When Agrippa stood before the Judge of all the earth (Jesus) regarding his eternal destiny, he had no excuses about not having an opportunity to hear the message of salvation. Likewise, there are some people in our lives today simply because we’re in a tense trial. The challenge I find is that when we’re experiencing tough trials, we tend to shut down and not want to share information about our savior with others. Paul was just the opposite. While imprisoned he was still vocal about the One who died for him.

Let’s not hope that one day we’ll really grow strong in the Lord. Let’s seize today and start acting like that spiritually-strong person we hope to become.

Are you immersed in a nice trial? Why not refocus your attention outward toward the lost and see what God will do through you. It is not our job to save people; it’s just our job to share Christ with them. God is the one who does the saving!

Have you ever heard of the term “muscle memory”? In the world of physical fitness, the phrase signifies that our muscles—that group or set of muscles used in a particular exercise/sport—have the capacity to remember the movement and motions associated with the motion even if we’ve not performed it in awhile. In the same way, I believe that we have “trial memory”. The behavior that we practice during trials becomes normative during future trials despite the fact that we know the right thing to do.

So, if we don’t break out of the present pattern of discontinuing our witnessing practices during trials, we will not be able to change our “trial memory.” Consequently, your next trial may have you doing the same things as this present trial if you do nothing drastic to change your “trial memory”. If you want an evangelistic heart, you cannot simply hope for one. You must intentionally act that way while in your present circumstances.

Let’s break the pattern today! What can you do to break the pattern of “trial memory”? Post at least one strategic action you intend to take within the next few days.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 24: Your Choice: Money or Righteousness?

Imagine having to make a choice between experiencing peace with God and being offered a bribe. In Acts 24 we learn that Paul’s Judge, Felix frequently had him brought from the dungeon into his courtroom under pretense that he was interested in hearing about the gospel. But, secretly Felix was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe (vv. 25-26).

If the great apostle Paul was not being taken too seriously when he shared his faith with this man, yet he persisted nonetheless, it appears that I must follow Paul’s lead in matters like these. How often we give up talking to people about our faith because we’ve spoken with them umpteen times without seeing any noticeable effects of the gospel. In frustration, we often say to ourselves because we don’t dare say it aloud, “I’m not going to waste my time anymore on this person.”

Yet, that was not Paul’s mindset or disposition. Paul practiced a sincere hope in the Lord and in the power of His word. This expectation demonstrated that Paul’s confidence was not in himself, his ability to preach, or his skillfulness in the witnessing of his faith. His hope relied squarely on Jesus Christ and in the power of His word.

Who have you given up on? Who have you stopped sharing your faith with because no noticeable change has occurred in your mind? What theological promise are you basing your actions? Come on, be honest with yourself! Is there a Bible verse that you can use to cite as a proof text justifying your actions to back away from that individual in the continued sharing of your faith? I’m not referring to pestering someone every day about the need for salvation. But, in the same breath I’m not aware of any verse telling us to abandon the person. I think that we can admit exhaustion, frustration, or if we’re biblically slick, we might even dare say that Paul had nothing else to do other than break his monotony and talk with Felix since he was imprisoned.

To that last excuse, we all laugh because we know the real deal. The real deal is we have rendered a decision concerning that “pre-Christian” by saying to ourselves, “Well, he’s aware of his eternal destination. It’s up to him now to make a decision.” Know matter how we slice it; something is very wrong with that thought process. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 23: The Activities of the Holy Spirit

Paul certainly is in a pickle. Acts chapter 23 continues the account of Paul’s arrest and representation before the Sanhedrin—the Jewish ruling court—as to his guilt or innocence. What I find amazing, however, is how the Holy Spirit was still functioning as a Counselor to Paul even when painful, horrific, and ungodly things were happening to him.

Verse 11 says: “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”

Paul is counseled by the Holy Spirit as he learned supernaturally that his prison ordeal was going to be moved to Rome. I realize that most often we Christians think that the role of the Holy Spirit is simply to get us out of difficulties and trials. But, we seldom recall that a principal function of the Holy Spirit is to comfort and counsel us while we’re steeped in a crisis. When the Lord said to Paul, “Take Courage”, His words were like a booster shot of strength into Paul’s soul.

I wonder what role faith played in Paul’s imprisonment. What I mean to say is: Do we see more of the counseling ministry of the Holy Spirit released in our lives when we expect it? Or, do we not experience much of the activities of the Spirit when our faith is passive? What do you think?

In your post please address the previous question or one of the following ones.

What role does comfort play in our trials?

What does the phrase “take courage” really mean?

Your answer should prove to be accurate when help against the litmus test of Paul’s experience in Acts 23.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 22: Your Testimony Has Much Value

In reading Acts chapter 22 we see Paul once again sharing his testimony about his personal conversion. His conversion was quite dramatic because his perspective was radically transformed. He moved from being an abuser of followers of Jesus to a proclaimer that taught: Follow Jesus—He is the way to eternal life!

What is your conversion story? If you’ve been around Christ Church for any length of time you’ve heard me tell mine a million times. Every time I share my story new information is recalled as to where I was mentally at the time. And, God some how uses it to reach unbelievers.

Don’t downplay the effectiveness of your testimony in reaching lost people. Your family and friends know you. They know what you used to be like, how you acted, and they saw the transformation before their eyes. Why not tell them and others whenever you get an opportunity.

In graduate school the Christian community had a phrase when they wanted to hear the conversion story of a newcomer to the fellowship. The brothers called it: “Man to Man”. So, they would come up to me and say: I’d like to have a “Man to Man” talk with you so that I can hear your story of spiritual conversion.

I’m not sure if the ladies asked for a “Lady to Lady” talk, but the point I’m bringing out is that when someone hears where you’ve come from in light of meeting the Savior, they are endeared to you or they will approach you with a new degree of respect because of your testimony. Don’t be embarrassed of your journey to faith. Whatever your past may be God wants to use it to draw sinners unto Him. May I ask you two questions to invite your post?

1. What was one unique experience you encounter when you shared your conversion story with an unbeliever?

2. Do you feel embarrassed about your past or are you at peace in telling your story…all of your story that captures your journey to faith?

Have a great day!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 19: Benefiting from a Power Encounter

When our church advertised that we’re hosting an Acts 19 deliverance service on October 30th—the 40th day of our journey, today’s reading makes it all clear what to expect. In Acts 19 we learn that Satan’s hold on someone’s life is trumped by a Power Encounter—the power of God goes on display to free people from the bondage of darkness.

The people unconsciously prepared for this Power Encounter by doing a number of different things.

1. They saw that the spirit realm was real and well-intentioned unbelievers (like themselves) can get hurt trying to cast demons out of someone when the exorcism team lacked a genuine conversion.

2. They no longer wanted any part of the kingdom of darkness.

3. They openly confessed their evil deeds.

4. They brought all of the emblems, items, etc. for public destruction that were in their homes. They wanted all of the items that associated them with a dark lifestyle to be destroyed, no matter its economic or sentimental value.

At that meeting, the power of God fell and delivered scores of people from darkness into light. That’s what you ought to pray and expect come Friday, October 30th at 7:30 p.m. at our East Campus.

Let me point out one simply observation that I kept cloaked until now. The second preparatory step mentioned above is really to be seen from this perspective: The people began their own Operation Take Back the moment they desired to reclaim their life from satanic influence and associated activities.

As we close out this week of blogging, pray for a mighty outpouring of God’s spirit at our Power Encounter service. I want our congregation to expereince a modern day Acts 19 service.

Please take a minute and post one thing that you’ve already reclaimed thus far in the Operation Take Back journey. I want to know that the journey is working by hearing your praise report.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 18: Helping an Emerging Champion

Have you ever met someone who’s really sharp about the things of God but would be exceptional with a little more instruction? That’s how Priscilla and Aquila felt in Acts chapter 18 when they were first exposed to the ministry of Apollos--an emerging spiritual champion.

Apollos was a brilliant defender of the faith with the little knowledge he already had. So this couple decided to invite him over to their home in order to explain the things of God more adequately. Would you do something like that if you met a modern day Apollos?
Even if you had the confidence to make that connection, are you in the place spiritually to help provide guidance to Apollos? The latter question is totally different than the former and it’s very telling of where you are in your walk with the Lord.

Fortunately, if your answer is “no” to the second question or even to both questions, there is still time for you to grow in your faith. In fact, you probably may have grown already in the past 17 days and may not have noticed it because you weren’t focused on it. However, with some reflection, please tell your story. I want to learn of how you’ve grown already in this 40-day journey. Post your answer to any one of the below questions which is an indicator of your testimony of growth.

1. How has your prayer life been impacted thus far in the journey?

2. What one major thing have you learned by reading through the Book of Acts?

3. What have you taken back from the enemy so far in our journey?

4. What spiritual conversations have you been able to have with others that you were never able to broach in this manner?

5. How is your spiritual life faring since day one of the journey?

6. Have you seen any financial improvement since our journey began?

7. Has your health improved since our journey started?

After your post, remember to keep your eyes open for your Apollos. You may be the one that will help him or her get better aligned to the things of God. And, as in the Scriptures, a little alignment may result in the furtherance of the Christian message because Apollos becomes a more powerful defender of the faith in the greater public arena.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 17: Check for Yourself!

Bloggers, you gave some great answers to yesterday's questions. You guys know your word! Now, let's turn our attention to the Bereans who according to Acts chapter 17 were probably the tribe of people from which modern day New Yorkers originated (LOL). These guys did not believe a thing Paul and Silas taught until they checked it out for themselves in the Scriptures. Isn’t this the attitude of New Yorkers—“Prove it to me, first, before I believe you,” they say.

Do you do this? After you’ve heard a specific teaching, do you peruse the Bible to ensure that what the preacher preached was biblically accurate, doctrinally sound, and culturally on point? In order to practice this valued approach to discipleship, you first have to take notes or purchase the CD of the sermon. Without the ability to have an accurate recollection of the message, how can you search the Scripture to see if the teacher was on point? It’s not possible.

The outcome for the Bereans is that many of them became believers because they were able to track with Paul through their own study, the accuracy of his interpretation about God’s path to salvation. This means that their faith was activated and piqued as they learned the word of God daily. Studying was a daily part of their lives and not an occasional activity.

Throughout this journey, why not develop this style of discipleship in your life? Establish a daily time for the study of the Scriptures even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Your knowledge of the Bible will increase rapidly as the days go by.

Next time you’re in the house of the Lord, try taking notes of the sermon. You will gain a number of benefits including:

1. The strengthening of your by the additional knowledge gained through note-taking.

2. Taking personal responsibility to secure your own spiritual development and heightening your Bible knowledge. This is part of Operation Take Back. Take back your ownership of your spiritual life!

3. The protection of the word from the “snatching” practices of the evil one. The word will no longer be like seed cast on the surface of your heart but rather it will have time to germinate because it will penetrate the good ground of your heart by your ability to recall what you heard once you read and re-read your sermon notes.

Let me ask you a couple of questions as a form of a simple spiritual exercise.

1. Can you think of a time when you wished you had written down what a preacher said?

2. When in your life did your sermon notes prove to be real handy?

Remember, be like the Bereans! Scrutinize what others teach before you run with it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 16: The Incident Near the Place of Prayer

The Early Church had established places of prayer. In fact, in Acts 16 the phrase “the place of prayer” occurs twice—once in verse 13 and the second time in verse 16. It was Paul’s habit to frequent the place of prayer, as we learn.

On one occasion as he’s en route to this special place of intercession, an unforgettable incident occurs. He finds himself being annoyed by the spirit that influenced a very vocal young lady. He spoke directly to the demon spirit that had possessed her and commanded it to come out of her. And, because we have been given authority against all the powers of the Satan, the demon obeyed. The girl was freed.

Do you know what the indicators are for discerning demon possessed people? What do you see hidden in the text between verses 16 and 19? Let me ask you six questions, that when answered, will lead you to nuggets of wisdom concerning how one spots a certain type of demonic activity.

1. Why did the demonized woman follow Paul and company shouting: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved”?

2. Was the demonized woman’s message true or false?

3. If her message was true, why did Paul get annoyed with her?

4. If her message was false, why didn’t Paul simply ask her to be quiet?

5. How did Paul distinguish the fact that it was a demon influencing this girl versus she just has a very vocal personality?

6. What kind of a demon had possessed her? And, how did it show its nature?

If you’d like to chime in, please answer one of the questions in your post. Thanks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 15: Handling Conflict in the Ministry

Congratulations! You’ve made it into the third week of our six-week or 40-day journey. How do you feel? Are you more fired up for the Lord? Well, if you don’t sense a deeper walk with the Lord, hang in there, your change is coming.

The 15th chapter of Acts ends on a sad note: Two apostolic giants—Paul and Barnabas—part company over a lazy co-worker, John Mark. It’s an interesting study to learn about John Mark’s background and character (Acts 12:12-17). Paul refused to take John Mark along because he had previously deserted them while they labored in Pamphylia but Barnabas believed it to be a good idea to give him another chance.

What do you think was the right solution to the disagreement given the limited information the Bible gives us? If you were called to referee this heated debate, who would you say should honor the other’s opinion? Or, would you be too shocked to even know what to do seeing two spiritual giants disagreeing in such a heated manner? Well, it happens.

Let’s get back to the questions, however. How would you have handled the argument? Should the deserter be allowed to re-join the ministry? Should Paul be obligated to take along a guy that walks away from the team when the workload gets tough? Or, should grace be extended, as Barnabas wanted AND did, to John Mark? And, would it really be grace or can it be more accurately described as a guy trying to take advantage of your kindness? If you don't like my choices, you still cannot avoid the role of a referee. What would you do had you been present?

Remember, how you answer these questions sets your philosophy of ministry in motion. You cannot create a dysfunctional, non-committal type of ministry team, or if you go to the other extreme, you should not create a harsh legalistic model either. Albeit, both are wrong; but, what’s the right model?

Take a peek in the future by reading how Paul re-built a relationship with John Mark (2 Tim. 4:9-11). Incidentally, John Mark is the one who authored the gospel of Mark; who according to many scholars used Peter as his source for the information about the ministry of Jesus. Go figure!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 12: Nothing Can Stop Us!

In Acts chapter 12 we learn that the heathen king—Herod—arrested a number of the church’s leaders in order to curry favor with the Jews. Yet, the saints were not heartless; they cried out to God for a miracle. And, as usual, God did it! Once again we learn, nothing can stop a child of God when they are living for God!

As the saints gathered for prayer, God dispatched an angel to free Peter from prison. Do you see the importance of corporate prayer? It’s great to pray by yourself, and for that intercessory time to be sweet and life-giving. But, it’s a whole different experience when brothers and sisters in Christ bring their faith to the prayer room for a time of corporate travail and intercession. We need individual and corporate times of prayer to complete our prayer lives.

During this journey ask God to rescue people from the clutches of the evil one, like Peter was rescued. Be specific! Call individual names before the Lord. So that when the answer comes, you can only attribute glory to God.

During this journey, try to connect with the corporate prayer opportunities at our church. We offer corporate times of prayer at the midweek services—Wednesdays @ 6:30 p.m. in Montclair and Thursdays @ 6:30 p.m. in Rockaway. There are two additional times of corporate prayer: 1) Every Friday night starting @ 8:00 p.m. and running through the entire night, some 50-70 intercessors gather at the West Campus for a night of prayer. [This meeting has never been made public but it has been going on for several months now.] They offer 3-hour shifts if you can’t stay the whole night. 2) Every quarter, we offer the Encounter with God services followed by a night of prayer. Look for the dates. You become unstoppable when your prayer life is unceasing!

Drawing strength from No Easy Road—a wonderful book about prayer by Dick Eastman—“To learn prayer men [people] must pray. We learn prayer’s deepest depths in prayer, not from books. We reach prayer’s highest heights in prayer, not from sermons. The only place to learn prayer, is in prayer, bent and broken on our knees.”

And everyone said: AMEN!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day 11: Seeing the Grace of God

How would you fare if suddenly you became homeless because members of your faith were being persecuted? I probably would be thinking about securing a new home and keeping my mouth shut about what I believe. Not the early church! Acts chapter 11 points out that evangelism was at the forefront of the activity of those who scattered as a result of the persecution triggered by Stephen’s stoning.

The only reason why Christianity exists today is because down through the centuries courage was a quality exhibited by genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. Where are these courageous disciples today? Why are so many believers hiding in the closet about their faith? Why are so many powerless in declaring God's love even when regularly exposed to a high grade Bible-based teaching?

I’m at a loss for words but not discouraged. So, people like you and me must arise with a clarion call for believers to take their place in society and let their light shine before people so that glory is attributed to our heavenly Father. We must demonstrate true courage!

During this journey pray for your courage to grow. Pray for fearlessness to abide in your life so that you may sensitively and wisely share your story with others regarding the great things Jesus has done for you. If your work environment, as some bloggers noted, does not lend itself to sharing your faith, it means that you must create evangelistic outlets in your life such as volunteering with a non-spiritual community organization or integrating yourself in a non-Christian sub-culture like I do (I’m involved with triathletes via workouts, etc.). You have to go where the sinners are and not wait around for them to ring your doorbell and announce: “I’m a sinner and I want you to witness to me right now so that I will get saved.”

Establish a “hit list”—a prayer list capturing the names of the people who you’d like the Lord to save by using you and others to share His message with at key points in their lives. Look for practical ways to demonstrate God’s love and how that can be leveraged honestly and genuinely into evangelistic opportunities.

As a number of bloggers including Dinah and LaToya pointed out yesterday, praying for your loved ones and co-workers paves the way for opportunities to share your faith with them. LaToya commented that it seems like the more she prayed for her younger brother’s salvation, the worse his behavior became. Be encouraged, oftentimes the increase of someone’s bad behavior suggests that they are running from God and they think that the more they sin the quieter the voice of God (or His conviction) will be in their life. We must learn how to pray and praise God for the matter has already been done. You pray for them then you praise God for His answer.

Reclaiming your courage will certainly help others to see the grace of God at work in your life—a life of a modern-day saint.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 10: Souls is at the Heart of God

Today’s reading—Acts chapter 10—reveals God’s love for people outside of His family. Can you imagine being Peter and having an in-your-face vision that reveals two things: 1) You’re prejudice against Gentiles; and, 2) You don’t care enough about lost people outside of your immediate circle?

The first person that I ever led to the Lord some 27 years ago was a Caucasian gentleman—a fellow engineering student—a few months after I became a believer. We were students at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. I was so excited that I literally ran down the main thoroughfare of Hoboken, as soon as I left the gathering where we had met.

Unlike Peter my struggle was not with culture, race, or our ethnic difference. Giovanni was Italian and you know my heritage—part Irish (L.O.L.). Albeit, I had huge struggles in other areas, which made Peter look like a saint. But, for those who are stuck with the dynamics of race and how it plays out in daily living, God wants you unstuck so that you can move freely across ever racial divide as His ambassador of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-21).

What dramatic experiences have you had to move you across the room in an effort to align you with God’s plan? This question goes beyond racial issues to address all issues. Answering it will help move you along the healing path.

Have you ever had a vision like Peter’s wherein you saw yourself, saw God’s plan, and recognized the gap that existed between the two?

I pray that this journey will help you take back your fire for evangelism and the personal call to restore lost people to God’s family.

Have a great day in the Lord!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day Nine: How God Catches Leaders

Acts chapter nine is one of my favorite stories concerning the acts of the Holy Spirit. The man who was to become the great apostle—Paul of Tarsus—was caught red-handed by the Holy Spirit as he was riding off to imprison Christians for their faith. Just because he did not believe what they believed, he wanted to rid the earth of them. Just because he thought that the believers were hurting Judaism, as he knew it to be, he wanted to rid the earth of them.

Fortunately, God is not afraid of big mouth, know-it-alls who are unafraid to voice their opinions and even demonstrate a willingness to back it up with warlike actions. Who in your life that’s fits this description? You need to have faith in God’s ability to save your big mouth, cocky, pugnacious friend or family member! Start believing God for their conversion. Ask God to catch them in His net like He did Saul.

In fact, after you read this blog drop to your knees and offer up this prayer to the Lord.

“Dear God, bring strong willed, unbelieving __________ to You in a dramatic way! Leave no stones unturned! Catch them in Your salvation net! May they immediately, like Saul, begin to share Your word and their conversion story with others. I ask You these things in the name of Jesus! Amen.”

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Bloggers, the purpose of this daily blog is not for me to preach to you or for us to preach to one another. Rather, we are to find encouragement to successfully complete our 40-day journey. We are also to offer praise reports citing how God has helped us reclaim areas of our lives that have been stolen by Satan or had been lying dormant through our own neglect or discouragement until now.

Cyndi’s testimony blessed me and even helped Erica (as did Wilene’s words) see how one has to be Spirit-directed even in sharing our faith.

So, drop a few lines—nothing lengthy—sharing how you’re reclaiming areas of your life through this journey. Remember, brief is good. And, if you have any sticking points or require further clarity with my daily blog, please let me know. Have a great day!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Eight: Sharing Your Faith

Congratulations! You made it through week one of our six-week (or 40-day) journey. We had some powerful meetings yesterday at the East Campus. I’m sure God did something similar at the West Campus. In Montclair, there was such an air of expectancy in each service that it was almost effortless on our part to receive personal breakthroughs from the Holy Spirit. Reading through the Book of Acts builds our faith to expect similar expressions in our day from the Holy Spirit.

In Acts chapter eight we discover the first instance in the history of the church that persecution occurred in association with the Christian faith. Notice, that while Stephen was being stoned to death because of his faith, Saul—the guy who we’ll later refer to as the Apostle Paul—was standing by giving approval to this wicked action.

Although this brutal act caused the church to go into a major panic and upheaval, the saints still shared their faith with unbelievers. Are you personally facing a tough trial? I mean a trial that absorbs all of your attention and energy. Even if your answer is “yes”, you still are called to share your faith with others. This is the model of Christianity that we are to emulate in our day.

In our journey to reclaim areas of our life that has been either lost, stolen by Satan, or simply non-functioning, let’s not limit it to material things. Why not include in your quest for wholeness the salvation of your family and friends. Consider these thought-provoking questions as you go throughout your day.

1. Have you established a prayer list which has the names of people of whom you’re praying for their salvation?

2. What are the names of those in which you’re intentionally developing a relationship so that you can influence them for Christ as the relationship grows?

3. Is your life so jam packed that there is no discretionary time for sharing your faith?

Notice how Phillip in Acts chapter 8 did not need an official church “evangelism” program to share his faith with people in Samaria or with the Ethiopian eunuch. Bloggers, let God use you this week as you endeavor to reclaim your evangelistic fervor!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day Five: Learning to Live Obediently Before God

Can you imagine a church service where two people died dramatically because of their disobedience to God? Well, this is exactly what we read in Acts chapter five. Ananias and Sapphira—a married couple—were guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit. The result was sudden death. This kept the congregation walking in a genuine honor and fear (reverence) of the Lord. How are you doing in your obedience to God? C’mon now. How important is being obedient to God to you?

In the early part of my Christian experience I struggled to live obediently toward God. Now, obedience is easy, but it still requires an ongoing confrontation of my will. On our journey you will learn by personal experience that drawing closer to God requires making a stronger commitment to living an obedient life. If you choose to waffle in this area, you are also choosing the same path as Ananias and Sapphira. They loved the appearance of obedience without the inner quality of life to support such a position.

May I ask you four penetrating questions?

1) Is there anything in your recent past (within the last 12 months) that God has asked you to do and you’ve either hesitated or simply refused?

2) Is there anyone that God has told you to go to and share but for whatever reason you’ve not done it?

3) Is there anything in the present moment in which God has asked you to do but you’ve reasoned away the call to be obedient?

4) Ask yourself this question: Why am I afraid to live a fully obedient life?

Answering these questions will move you along the healing journey so that all of your life will be reclaimed, especially the inner call to submission and obedience to God.

I look forward to our time together in worship and around the sacred Scriptures this weekend. Have a great day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Four: Personal Transformation

Have you ever been in a smoked filled room? Even if you don’t like the smell of the smoke, which I don’t; when you leave, the smell follows you. It is embedded in your clothing and also in your hair. On the flip side, being in the presence of God regularly is quite telling—it follows you. After an encounter with God you’re able to act, think, and interface with people based on the influence of the lingering presence of God.

We learn in Acts chapter four that the ordinary and unschooled men, Peter and John, demonstrated a unique courage and fearlessness simply as a result of hanging around Jesus. During this journey learn to spend special times lingering in the presence of God through prayer and worship. These times of soaking will literally heal you of fear and doubt. You will reclaim the interior areas of your life by having the medicine of courage applied to parts of your life wherein fear had taken up residency.

Notice, the prayer of the saints: “Now, Lord, consider their threats [the godless people] and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29). Their outlook towards God was that they wanted to grow in courage, boldness, and fearlessness. Their prayers conveyed a faith that such a request was in keeping with His will and their need. As you read the postings of our fellow bloggers, it is evident that people are pressing into God for healing in their interior—their feelings, moods, and personality. Ask God today for His grace so that you can reclaim courage and boldness in your life where fear, doubt, and timidity may have ruled.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day Three: The Power of Expectation

Expectation is such a powerful tool of the Holy Spirit that if not careful, we overlook its pungency. The third chapter of the Book of Acts opens with Peter and John being used as instruments of divine healing all because they created expectation in the mind of the crippled beggar. There words: “Look at us!” made the man anticipate a forthcoming blessing. He thought that a coin or two were going to be plucked into his waiting hand or basket. Rather, Peter’s faith-filled command followed: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” In the next moment the man is walking, jumping, and praising God.

Peter and John expected God to use them. The lame man’s initial expectation was quickly redirected by Peter’s words to a higher more sacred one, his healing. Once his expectation was aligned with Peter and John’s perspective his healing was sure to follow. What is your expectation today? Before you leave your home expect God to work a miracle in you, through you, and around you…today.

Expectation is spelled F.A.I.T.H. Your faith is activated when you start expecting God to use you. As Peter and John walked to the temple to pray, they walked in faith. You cannot go to pray without a solid faith in God. Their faith couldn’t be contained only for intercessory reasons, however. It spilled out because they saw something that could be changed if the lame man’s expectation was aligned with God’s will and plan. How about you? What remains beneath the will of God because your expectation has not been activated?

Expectation is activated once your heart becomes burdened for more…more deliverance…more blessings…more sanctification...more of the release of God’s power in everyday life. Today, expect a miracle! Expect to lead someone to Christ! Expect to receive a breakthrough in your marriage! Expect to bless someone! Expect to experience a new dimension in the Lord! Expect God to use you today!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Conversations with Dr. David Ireland


It’s great to be in touch through this weekly blog. I offer it as a way to encourage you to stay the course during Operation Take Back, our 40-day spiritual journey beginning Monday, September 21st through Friday, October 30th.

You may have participated in a 40-day spiritual journey with us or another group of Christ followers over the years. Perhaps you recall having your enthusiasm peter out after the first two weeks and you’re approaching this one a bit apprehensively—even with a degree of “been there, done that.” I’d like to challenge you to change your perspective by pointing out a few key differences.

During Operation Take Back, you will be given a variety of opportunities to keep you motivated along the journey. This weekly blog is one of the ways I will be directly communicating with you, along with preaching our weekend services and leading our Acts 19 service on Friday, October 23rd.

Over the 40-days you will also have opportunities to meet with pastors and key leaders following our weekend services to interface in topical discussions aimed at strengthening you throughout the journey. We have also planned a wide variety of multimedia approaches designed to stay connected with you during the journey.

Will you put aside 40 days to seek God and to war in the spirit on behalf of your family, your career, your finances, and your spiritual life? If you answered yes, let’s begin this journey like no other—with a dogged determination to take back everything the enemy has stolen from us. And let’s finish in victory. Here are your marching orders: No Surrender. No Retreat.

Our King Cometh!
Dr. David Ireland

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