Archive for October, 2010

RENEW OUR DAYS AS OF OLD(Pt.3)

“When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream”(Psalm 126:1 NAS).

Even when it seems that life has been brought to the brink and there is no turning back…with God there is always hope.  I got to witness this firsthand as I, along with a team of others, ventured into what could be truly described as a “War zone” in Flint, Michigan.

Flint has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the past few years due to the high unemployment (46%), the high crime: gangs, murder, prostitution, not to mention the daily arsons.  There was such a sense of hopelessness and despair that even neighbors hardly appeared outside their homes, as suspicion and fear pervaded the very atmosphere.  But in spite of this, I, along with a team of about 25-30 from the Dallas Metroplex (some also joined from Arizona and Indiana), were led by a young man, Kyle Martin, to go and see what God would do.

The overall schedule worked something like this:  Ours was to be a nine-day assignment into Flint.  There are nine Wards(or Districts).  The team that had assembled would focus our attention on one Ward a day.  Each morning we gathered for a time of prayer together before we enjoyed a light breakfast (provided by the local believers who enjoyed calling themselves “Flintstones”).  This was followed by some discipleship training and researched information about the Ward we were to enter that day.   We all loaded up in our vehicles, and upon arriving at a central location we broke up into groups for the day and hit the ground, so to speak, engaging the local people of Flint.   We asked the Lord to guide us to whom we were to interact with, offering prayer for their situation or their neighborhood.   I must admit that this, at first, could seem a bit intimidating. But once we began to talk to people as people and tell them why we were there, people generally opened up to talk.  It was obvious that this prayer approach was the right strategy. It wasn’t long before conversations centered around Flint’s history, before their economic losses with GM’s (General Motors) closing.  Two of the most poignant comments made repeatedly by folk were: (1)Church people, “We were a prosperous great city until we forgot God and made GM our God”. And (2) for the man or woman on the street (often eyes listless or numb with hopelessness and despair), “Where is the Church?”

God began to make Himself known in the midst of these conditions as our team, joining with the Flint believers, became visible and engaged in prayer.   We literally witnessed hope begin to rise in the faces of the people.  We witnessed many tangible tokens of God’s mercy and Hand to turn the captivity of Flint.  Daily there were opportunities to share the love of the Lord; often there were salvations and people set free from drug addictions, and some testified of physical healings as well! And one of the neat signs and wonders God gave was that…There were no murders during all this time in the City!  To what do I attribute this “beginning of hope” of a turn around for Flint?  (1) The Church began to come together.  A spirit of unity and cooperation to take back it’s city.  (2) Corporate prayer.  As the believers began to pray daily (actually 3 prayer meetings: morning, noon & evening) there were specific answers to specific prayers. The noon day prayer time was held at a centralized place in the city, and those whom our team met were invited to attend this prayer meeting. Many did come to join in prayer (often the newly converted!). (3) Engaging the local people once again, listening to their concerns, sharing the love of the Lord Jesus in tangible ways, as well as unashamed evangelism, and offering prayer for felt needs. We had occasion to interact with both the City officials and the police.  This is what can happen in your city when, as Eugene Peterson stated regarding our Lord Jesus coming into the earth, “And God moved into the neighborhood”.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2010. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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RENEW OUR DAYS AS OF OLD(Pt. 2)

RESTORING PATHS

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where [is] the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls”(Jeremiah 6:16a)

There is no such thing as renewal without a full recovery of God’s ways. Sometimes in our haste to get on with the ‘‘new’’ thing we find resistance, not from the hand of man but from the Hand of the Lord God. While new can speak of exciting and exhilarating moments, they do not always mean progress, but a pause to catch our breath to see our way more clearly ahead.

Many today are realizing that the sure way ahead is ‘‘Back to the Basics’’. For some they interpret this as back to sound, biblical or doctrinal teaching. While this is absolutely essential, it still does not carry us far enough back unless it brings us to the old or ancient paths to which our fathers have walked. There are several paths that the scripture indicates that we can all find by faith. David said, ‘‘You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever’’(Psalm 16:11 NAS). Could it be that we have missed the path of life, not realizing that only by spending time in His presence does this path become illuminated. As John reminds us, ‘‘In Him (Jesus Christ) was life, and this life was the light of men’’(John 1:4 NAS). We lose our way when we forget that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (See John 14:6). The joy and pleasures that God stores up for each of His children are only experienced when we receive Him as our true light of life.

There is also what the writer of wisdom describes as ‘‘the path of the just’’, ‘‘the path of the just [is] as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). Here we are given to understand that God leads us progressively as we stay on the path to a greater light of revelation. As the Sun begins to dawn over the horizon, giving greater light, as the shadows of the night fall away, so too “the Son of righteousness” wants to rise in our hearts. The increased dawning of the light of His truth and love for us causes our hearts to expand with a greater love and intensity for Him. Paul put it this way, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”(Ephesians 1:17-18 NAS). Notice that this path reveals not only what we receive in HIM, but what He receives in US.

There is also the path that leads to a greater understanding of His ways. This is highlighted in the story of the two men who were on the road to Emmaus (Read Luke 24:13-35). They were heart-broken, discouraged and disenchanted because of all they had witnessed in Jerusalem. They had seen their master, the Lord Jesus, horribly crucified. The One in whom they had put all their hopes in for deliverance from Rome’s oppression was dead (At least that’s the last they heard). What happens? Jesus, resurrected and alive, joins them on their journey, this path of sorrow. He listens to their heartache and then reminds them of all that the Scriptures had to say about him, “How it was necessary that Christ should suffer to enter into his glory”(Luke 24:26). By the time they arrive at Emmaus their hearts are so lifted and lightened, and they invite Jesus into their home. And as He breaks the bread… “their eyes were opened and they recognize Him”(Luke 24:31a). He departs…and so do they! Back to Jerusalem (The place of Peace). Back to their future ( BIGGER than their past). Let’s get back to Him who is the path of Life. He is our true path of Peace in this hour.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr.,2010. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

RENEW OUR DAYS AS OF OLD (Pt. 1)

“Because of Mount Zion which lies desolate….Restore us to Thee, O LORD, that we may be restored. Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:18a, 21).

What will it take to see the glory of the LORD upon the life of God’s people in this hour? What does it mean when God comes to our Land? We cannot determine what God will do until we understand what God has done. Someone observed that “God takes the same path through His universe”, meaning that the unchanging God moves in principles He has established in the earth. History can be a great schoolmaster if we will learn the lesson it has for us. In the same way, the great School Master, God, has given us His pattern in the history of the Bible. If God will renew His people it will be according to His revealed Word. He can “renew our days as of old” if we will be true disciples of His ways. Take the story of Isaac in Genesis chapter 26:

Isaac, like his Father Abraham, had dwelt in the land of Gerar. He, like his father, had been visited by God to confirm the covenant to multiply his descendants as the stars of heaven and be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. He also weathered a famine like his father (saving he did not go down to Egypt). And God began to prosper his endeavors in the land, to such a degree that king Abimelech of the Philistines asked him to leave because “you are too powerful for us”(See further Genesis 26:1-16). Thus God confirmed His covenant blessing because of Isaac’s faith and obedience.

The movement away from Abimelech and the Philistines allowed Isaac to expand in the land through the renewing grace of God. Sometimes we have to move from the familiar in life in order for our expansion to be manifest. This expansion or enlargement began when Isaac began to re-dig old wells and dig new wells. There were five recorded instances of this in Genesis 26.

(1) The re-digging of the wells of Abraham. These wells were “patriarchal” wells, meaning Isaac uncapped and re-dug the wells of his father. They had been stopped up by the Philistines, thinking that “If we stop up these wells…he will be discouraged from dwelling in this land”. Isaac was not discouraged. He not only re-dug them, but he named them what his father had named them in the beginning. Sometimes our renewal cannot begin until we have learned to “re-dig” and honor the past of our fathers, those who have gone ahead of us, pioneering a way for our spiritual progress to be made. These wells are to be honored so as not to “remove the old landmark” of God’s movement and faithfulness. It is not a call to stay at the well, but to honor what God has done in order to rightly discern the way we are to take today. God says, “Those that honor Me, I will honor”.

(2) The well of Esek. Isaac dug a new well in the valley of Gerar, and the Philistines contended for it out of enmity. Their hatred and animosity would not let Isaac settle by this well. Isaac does not fight to keep his “water rights”. He lets them have the well. How often do we have to make a choice to be bigger than those who would contend with us and give what really was ours by labor? Not to worry, God will deal in His way with the “Philistines of enmity”. He has promised to contend with those who contend with us. Let God fight the battle. He always wins and makes us a winner in the process.

(3) The well of Sitnah. Isaac moved on and then dug another well. And once again, his enemies quarreled with him over it. Once more, Isaac gave them this well. It seems that Isaac understood that the LORD’s favor was upon his life even though he faced challenges to his inheritance in God. So he does not get “stuck” quarrelling. He operates in a principle Paul shares later, “ ‘…IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”(Romans 12:20-21)

(4) The well of Rehoboth. When Isaac moved on and dug this well there was no envy, contention or quarrel. He named it “Rehoboth” recognizing “The LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land”(Genesis 26:22). It is often the ways of God to enlarge us and cause us to be fruitful when we learn how to rightly handle difficult situations and difficult people in our life. David said, “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress”(Psalm 4:1 KJV).

(5) The well of Beersheba. Isaac dug another well which was named “Beersheba—The well of the oath”. It was so named because king Abimelech, who had asked Isaac to leave, was suddenly aware of the favor of God upon his life. He recognized that he would ultimately be fighting what God was doing in Isaac’s life in blessing him. Further, king Abimelech recognized he would be harming as well as hindering his own blessing if he did not make a covenant of peace with Isaac. In this season of God renewing His people, do not be surprised if the Prince of Peace doesn’t come to settle issues even among those formerly our enemies. Renewal is a matter of the heart. He can even make our enemies come and bow down at our feet, and they become friends. “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  And in that day you will say: ‘Praise the LORD, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted'”(Isaiah 12:3-4 NKJV).

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr.,2010. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com