Archive for April, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON THE PASSING OF DAVID WILKERSON

“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil”(Isaiah 57:1 NIV).

When I heard the news of David Wilkerson’s passing I could not help but stop in stunned silence mixed with personal sadness at this loss in the Body of Christ. I had the privilege of meeting and personally interacting with him at a memorial service for a personal friend and family member of his. His conversation to me was a personal benediction to my own life.

I have been reflecting on the words of his great namesake in the scriptures, David, that “a great man in Israel has died”. David Wilkerson now belongs to that great “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven. The likes of him will not be seen for a long time. And yet his light still shines in the midst of a dark and difficult world, offering “a new and living way” in Christ.

He was truly a great general of God’s Army. His call for holiness and righteous living did not make him popular with those who preached a false gospel of “fullness of bread and ease of living”. He gave no quarters for those who lead God’s people down paths of spiritual slackness, compromise or defeat. He knew that the scriptures taught “Be Ye holy for I am Holy, says the LORD”(1 Pet.1:16) and that “without holiness no man would see the Lord”(Heb. 12:14 ). He founded and led one of the truly great churches, TIME SQUARE CHURCH, in one of the darkest corners of the globe, New York City. The church continues to attract over 8 thousand people weekly to a message of faith and hope in God, through Jesus Christ.

He was a great man of prayer. If anything challenged others toward seeking the heart of God on a daily basis it was his deep commitment to abide in the presence of God. He never ceased to lead by example, coming “boldly” and making daily use of “the throne of grace”(Hebrews 4:16). He believed that the real strategy to change our society and the world did not come from bankrupt governments, crooked politicians or corrupt businessmen, but men and women of faith who found God “on their knees”.

He was a pastoral leader to other leaders. In addition to agonizing over weak and even fallen spiritual leaders, he was known to provide biblical counsel, and godly encouragement to many. His daily writings were an inspiration for many to trust God in the midst of hard times, heartache and difficulties. Through God’s Promises, he sought to guide the flock of God to still waters and green pastures, to graze and lie down, even in the midst of the enemy’s taunts and insight to fear and despair. David was personally generous to provide spiritual resources for young ministry, helping them grow with solid meat in the things of the Lord. He even reprinted godly resources in order introduce them to a spiritually malnourished new generation of young leaders.

He was a man full of compassion. His well known classic story of The Cross and The Switchblade has been read in homes around the world. His work with troubled youth involved with drugs, gangs and violence led to the founding of Teen Challenge and youth ministries. He personally and quietly has cared for the poor widows. His message seemed tough and at times hard to bear in a religious, godless society, but because his message was backed by the love of God and a godly example, thousands of lives were rescued from the jaws of death and hell.

He was a man of vision. He was a “seer”, like the prophets of old, giving warning of impending judgements and events coming upon our world. He not only saw destruction, but gave instruction as to how God’s people could heed the warning and avoid coming disaster. As in Noah’s day, many mocked David’s warnings, but our present day News Reports have been God’s vindication of his servant, proving the reality of many of his warnings.

May he rest in peace from all his labors. The scriptures say, “Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his saints”(Ps. 116:15). When Elijah was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha was there to pick up the mantle…The mantle of David Wilkerson is falling to the earth. Will this new generation see it and dare pick it up?

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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JOURNEYING WITH JESUS(Pt. 4)

“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him”(Luke 4:14-15).

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him”(Mark 1:16-18)

“But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee”(Mark 14:28).

Let us follow our Lord Jesus from his temptation in the Wilderness and His baptism in the Jordan River under John. We recall that it was right after John the Baptist’ arrest by Herod that Jesus begins his public ministry. Where did he choose to begin (And spend his most popular and productive) three and half years of ministry? In the religiously obscure place called Galilee, “Galilee of Gentiles” as Isaiah foretold, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”(Matt. 4:15-16).

God’s ways are not our ways. He did not send His Son with a blaze of glory and fanfare into the earth; he was not born into a Nobleman’s home or surroundings. God hid him away in Egypt to protect him from Herod, whose murderous intent was to seek and snuff out his life as a little child. He returned with Joseph and Mary to an obscure village called Nazareth. There he learned a Carpenter’s trade and lived with all the risks of the simple villagers, under the oppressive boot of Rome and Caesar. Now at last, His moment to go public, announcing the Kingdom of heaven was at hand….It would begin in Galilee.

Galilee teaches two things, primarily.  First, God is very humble. He rarely shows Himself to His creation in huge ways. He loves to make Himself known among those whose hearts are humble and can find Him with the simple eye of faith. The prophet Isaiah confirms this assessment. “For this is what the high and lofty One says–‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite”(Isaiah 57:15). Jesus public ministry flourished in the land of Galilee. The soil of the human hearts had been plowed and prepared to receive him who was the very Seed of God planted into the earth.

The Gospel writers all agree that Galilee was where the real action was at! Jesus greatest sermons and teachings were in Galilee. Jesus greatest miracles were recorded in Galilee. The first four disciples, soon to be apostles were from Galilee. Jesus greatest, loyal support base of women followers was from Galilee. After his death and resurrection, it was Galilee he chose to make his great appearance and commission.

There is a second lesson drawn from Galilee. If we are to experience heaven’s best,desiring to experience a true move of God’s Spirit we must humble ourselves. Like those from Galilee we must receive God on His terms, not ours. He comes looking for the humble and needy of heart to revive and empower with His Spirit.  Isaiah announces “This is what the high and lofty One says–he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite'”(Isaiah 57:15 NIV).

From Galilee our Lord Jesus’ fame spread abroad. The folks of Galilee did not seek to steal nor shield his glory. They simply waited and welcomed his presence and his love. A love that was full of compassion for the poor and downtrodden, the sick and the dying. These were not those who were privileged to be raised in a highly religious atmosphere. But they had a genuine appetite and heart for the true things of God. Their cried out like David, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you”(Ps. 63:1-3 NIV).

What a contrast of our Lord’s journey into Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the placed Jesus was challenged by the religious establishment of his day. They were more concerned with appearing right than being right in the sight of God. Ultimately, because he showed up their sham and hypocrisy, they plotted and planned to arrest him and have him killed. But Jesus knowing their intent, did not shrink from his mission. He was not a victim of the religious system of his day. He came to give his life on the cross, bringing forgiveness and salvation to all who were lost.

Jerusalem was his journey’s end–And beginning! He was as John the Baptist foretold, “The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world”(John 1:29). His arrest led to his passion. He was led like a lamb outside the City to be God’s sacrifice for the sins of the world.  And three days later, as Jesus foretold his disciples, he arose from the dead for you and for me. This is why we celebrate his victory over death today. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”(1 Co 15:20-22). This is our blessed hope.

Jerusalem’s journey was our journey as well. His victory over death, hell and the grave was our victory as well. He understood that there can be no crown without a cross. Without a seed planted there can be no harvest. He said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it will bring forth much fruit”(John 12:24)

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

JOURNEYING WITH JESUS(Pt.3)

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John…As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him Inamorata well pleased”(Matthew 3:13,16-17 NIV).

Jesus put up his carpentry tools for the last time to move toward his public ministry. The silent years or hidden years are at an end. He is right at thirty years of age. The number thirty in the scriptures is a number often representative of maturity. It is time for Jesus to enter into his life calling and service to God,his Father. His journey here on earth has led him to his first act in acknowledging his call. This coincided with the ministry of his cousin,John, who was baptizing people at the Jordan river.

The Jordan River is ever a place in the scriptures that is the place of separation and crossing over into the new land. So it was fitting that Jesus would make as it were his public entrance at the Jordan. It was a time of revealing. John the baptist had truly been sent as a fore-runner to reveal the Lord’s Messiah. He did not know that Jesus was the One the Father was sending until the Holy Spirit rested upon him,like a dove from heaven.

What a responsibility was given to John to reveal the Christ of God. But he will not presume to know who the Father is indicating with the natural eye. Perhaps he remembered how the prophet Samuel almost anointed the wrong son among Jesse’s boys by looking upon appearances rather than God’s eye,looking at the heart.

Jesus out of submission and obedience caused the heavens to open above him and the Holy Spirit to descend upon him. John describes this momentous event this way,”I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain upon him…The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit”(Jn. 1:32,33b). Surrender and obedience paved the way for the Holy Spirit to be manifest in our Lord’s life. “God gives him the Spirit without measure”(Jn. 3:34b).

Jesus understood the importance of not taking up ministry without the empowerment of Spirit from above. Later he will instruct his disciples in this same pattern, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high”(Lk. 24:49).  A call from God without the Spirit of his grace to fulfill it will only produce religion without life.  Your efforts on your best day with out the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is futile. It will never produce fruit for the kingdom of God. Although a lot of religious activity and zeal may be put forth  it will not advance God’s kingdom interest in the earth. By contrast, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…”(Acts 1:8).

Jesus received one more thing at his baptism at the Jordan. He received the affirmation of his heavenly Father. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. Jesus had performed no miracles; he had done no preaching or teaching. Nor had he gone to the Cross.  And yet a voice from heaven announces, “You are the beloved of God, my Son”. What affirmation! In a world where fatherlessness has become the order of the day, Jesus is affirmed by his Father;having only lived under the satisfied eye of God.

We need true fathers today in the land. They give us affirmation of our identity, purpose and destiny. Fathers tell us that we belong and that we are loved for who we are, not for what we can do for them. In a time of recovery we need the promise of Malachi to be manifest for this generation. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers”(Mal. 4:5-6a). The affirmation that our Lord Jesus receives was enough for him to confidently be led of the Spirit into the testing in the wilderness. Yes. He was able to face 40 lonely days, of weariness and hunger, while doing spiritual combat with the devil…coming out victoriously! How did he do it? The Father’s word of affirmation was a key to fortifying his inner man; agreeing only with the Word of God for his life and future. His journey was necessary to both set him apart to God and affirm publicly his true identity in order to be about the Father’s business in the earth.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

JOURNEYING WITH JESUS(Pt. 2)

So he (Joseph) took the child and His mother and went to the land of Israel…and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.'”(Matthew 2:21,23 NIV).

After the death of Herod, Joseph returned from Egypt with the child Jesus and His mother Mary to settle in a sleepy little town and village called Nazareth. It was a three days journey on foot from the Religious Capitol of Jerusalem. It is here that Jesus spent the next thirty years of His life in silence and obscurity. Apart from two brief glimpses into His life we are not given further insight as to His history during this period. But what we are to understand is instructive as we journey with Jesus while He was upon the earth.

Jesus lived in a Jewish home and culture. Joseph was a carpenter by trade. Jesus, as his supposed son, learned this trade as well. Jesus learned to work hard, long hours every day, earning an honest living among the poor village folk of His day. He was not sent by His heavenly Father to earth to be raised in a home of privilege and wealth. Nothing caused His years as a child to be outstanding on the surface. He faced all the risks in making a living; He experienced the simple joys of life among a Jewish community. He observed the religious rituals and observances that were required of the Law of Moses (From diet to observing the Feasts and Sabbaths of His day). In this sense, as Paul wrote, “He, being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself”(Phil. 2).

I wonder if we can appreciate the depth of humility with which Jesus stooped? Coming from the very Courts of heaven, enjoying the glory of full equality of the Godhead, the splendor and justly due worship of angels…He stooped coming to earth to become “the Son of Man”. He said later as His Mission Statement: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many”(Mk. 10:44-45). Although the cross was ever before Him, He did not call attention to His coming by demanding a more grand station in life. He accepted all the ups and downs, the trials and heartaches that befall our common life. And as a Jew by natural birth at that time, He accepted the unjust treatment with the people of Israel under the oppressive rule of a Roman government. Why did He do it? To both identify not only with His people, after the flesh, but with you and I, sinners in a fallen world. The writer to the Hebrew believers wrote, “He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin”(Heb. 4:15). The silent years let us know that HE KNOWS what we face in our struggles and can both sympathize with us and give us the grace needed to courageously face and overcome every temptation that comes our way.

Further we get a glimpse into our Lord’s development from youth into adult life. Luke tells us that Jesus was taken yearly by His parents up to Jerusalem during the time of the Feasts. At the age of twelve He was left behind in Jerusalem and was found three days later in the Temple, spending time with the religious elders, “listening and asking questions”…”Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers”(Luke 2:46-47). Not dealing with the issue of His divinity at this moment, the explanation He gives to His mother as to His whereabouts, “Why were you searching for me?”…”Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”(Luke 2:49 NIV). Apparently, in the mystery of God, Jesus indicates that He is aware of His true identity as a boy of twelve.

Luke lets us journey into the Nazareth years with Jesus by this statement, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men”(Luke 2:52). Jesus grew and developed on every level as Man. He grew physically in His human development. This is an important aspect to understand. He really did have a human body and experienced hunger, thirst and weariness. He was fully man albeit fully God. Jesus also was fully in touch with the human condition, emotionally. He wept, got angry, rejoiced and even laughed with others; He groaned and was moved with compassion as He looked on the conditions of those in need. But the outstanding thing about our Lord in days upon the earth, noted before His public ministry and passion, was that He ‘‘grew in favor with God and men’’.

Jesus was a whole and real man, physically, emotionally and spiritually. His journey in this world was to totally identify with you and I, as He ever lived His life under the eye of His heavenly Father. Thus He knew what it was to grow spiritually as a man (What a mystery!), gaining God’s favor, and was respected by men. The Hymn writer put it this way, ‘‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity’’.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

JOURNEYING WITH JESUS(Pt. 1)

‘‘An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him’…So he got up, took the child and His mother…and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so it was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ’’Out of Egypt I called my son’’(Matthew 2:13-15).

Have you ever considered the spiritual significance of the places that our Lord Jesus was given to dwell during His sojourn on the earth? They are very instructive for us. Often the places we each travel in life have meaning beyond the present moment of our sojourn. Often as we take time to reflect on the mercy and the miracles of God’s grace we discover that God wastes nothing in our lives. As we will prayerfully consider these appointed places we will often gain a true appreciation of God’s design, even in places we would certainly not like to revisit! I would invite you to journey with Jesus into some of the strategic places of His life to discern God’s greater purposes for Him and us.

EGYPT. The flight to Egypt occurred while our Lord was but a child. As such, Jesus was carried in the night, after Joseph was warned in a dream to take the child and His mother Mary and flee into Egypt. This was in order that He would be in a place of safety. He was hidden away from the murderous intent of Herod. While perhaps He was still being weaned from His mother Mary’s breast, the Anti-Christ spirit was at work to destroy ‘‘He who is born king of the Jews’’. This was the cause of the fulfillment of ‘‘Rachel’s weeping’’. For her children are no more. Herod, who did not have legitimate rights to the throne in Israel, became nervous to learn that the true heir had been born. So he ordered a massive infanticide of all baby boys from the age of two years old and younger. God, Whose throne rules over all the earth, foreknew of this plot and preserved His Son in the land of North Africa, Egypt.

In the mystery of God’s providential care Egypt became the place where our Lord would identify with Israel. We recall that Israel was both hidden and preserved in the Land of Egypt.

Egypt was also the place where our Lord made an identification with Moses. Moses, like our Lord, was hidden and preserved in the Land of Egypt, and later became their deliverer from their house of bondage.

Egypt, as a place, biblically held a paradoxical image. For Israel it was a house of preservation in time of famine. But it was also a house of great pressure. While hidden, they began to grow. But seen as a threat to a new Pharaoh who didn’t have knowledge of the Joseph’s years, they became the object of his persecution. But the more that they were persecuted, the more that they multiplied and increased in the land. Pressures in life are often sent by the enemy to defeat us. But when embraced (and endured) they can enlarge us, ultimately, for a greater good in God.

Egypt can also be a metaphor for spiritual bondage. The apostle Paul describes the nature of our spiritual captivity before we were delivered in Christ Jesus. ‘‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved’’(Eph 2:1-5 NIV).

Jesus, as a greater one than Moses, came to set His people free from the bondage of sin (C.f. Acts 3:22). He led many captives to freedom and victory (See Luke 4:18;Eph. 4:7) Again, the writer to Hebrews wrote: ‘‘In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for Whom and through Whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the One who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers’’(Heb. 2:10-11). He is the captain of their salvation. Why? Because like Moses, He learned obedience through the things He suffered in order to IDENTIFY with we who suffer in this present world order….As our pattern, God said of the child Jesus, “Bring my Son out of Egypt”.  Likewise,the LORD God “brought us out in order to bring us into’’ our rightful inheritance (C.f. Ex 3:8).

God knew when it was TIME to deliver His Son out of Egypt, and He has a designated time to deliver us today. ‘‘When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ’’Abba, Father.’’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir’’(Gal. 4:4-7 NIV).

The goal of Egypt was not only preservation, but also multiplication and deliverance that would ultimately bring them into their inheritance.  Likewise, Jesus came into the world to bring us out of the world, as true Sons of the Father. Bringing many sons to glory is ever His goal.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com