Archive for: July, 2013

The Work of the Spirit Is Discipleship’s Foundation

Jul 26 2013 Published by under Evangelism, Life, Ministry

By Rev. Alton Garrison

Garrison Business Casual (1) 2011

Before my father was known across our community as Pastor C. H. Garrison, he was far better known as an alcoholic. An oil field worker, he dropped out of school in the 10th grade and endured a very dysfunctional life of hard work—when he could keep a job—and equally hard drinking.

C. H. and Alese Garrison were married when he was 30 and she was 18. They did not have children for seven years during which his drinking rarely abated. Had I been born and raised in that environment, I almost certainly would not have found God’s path for my life. But when I was about to be born, under the influence of the Holy Spirit to which my dad was completely oblivious, he began to get serious about quitting drinking.

While Dad tried unsuccessfully to give up alcohol, he was only marginally successful at holding down a job. When he was able to find work, he would hide his paycheck in an attempt to keep from spending it all on drink. Inevitably, he would find the check and spend it all in a night. He averaged a fifth of whiskey a day.

About six months before I was born, my parents had been to a Fourth of July celebration. Dad had been drinking. He and Mom were headed home in Southeast Texas where they lived. As Dad drove, he suddenly felt as if he were having a heart attack. His fear was if he died, he would wreck the car and kill Mom and the baby they were expecting. Without explaining to Mom why, he slowed the car down and began to plead with God.

“I don’t know how to pray,” he said under his breath, “but my mother used to pray. If You heard her prayer, maybe You’ll hear mine. Spare my life to see my child; save me; and if I ever take another drop of liquor for as long as I live, I want You to poison me and let me drop dead.”

At that moment, Jesus Christ looked beyond all of my father’s past failures, and he was healed, saved, and completely delivered in that moment.

In describing the state of the Great Commission today, Dr. John Perkins famously said, “We have over-evangelized the world too lightly” (David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2008, p. 137). So when I quote Dr. Perkins, I am in no way devaluing the initial miracle of salvation. As Jesus so clearly taught in His discourse with Nicodemus, the miracle of the New Birth is the crux on which everything rests when it comes to our eternal destiny (John 3:1-15). Just as clearly, Jesus identifies this miracle as a work of the Holy Spirit (vv. 5-8).

Dad was baptized in the Holy Spirit just weeks later. Here again, the Spirit’s work is fundamental to every growth process in the Christian life. Dad’s life changed, and he gave up smoking and other destructive habits. His two sisters had also been saved and were attending a little independent Pentecostal church in Sour Lake, near Beaumont and just a short drive from the Gulf coast.

The church was still getting on its feet when the pastor left, so Dad and his two sisters went to nearby Beaumont to meet with Rev. Harry H. Hodge, pastor of Sabine Tabernacle and founder of United Gospel Tabernacles. As they appealed to Bro. Hodge to send another pastor to Sour Lake, he looked over at Dad and said, “There’s your pastor.” Dad had only come as the driver. He looked around in surprise. He had only recently come to Christ and had been a hopeless drunk only months before. Bro. Hodge told Dad, “Go home and pray about it; and when God speaks to you what He spoke to me, you come back.”

In a couple of weeks Dad returned to Beaumont and was appointed pastor of the church. He had never finished high school. He had never been to Bible College. He had never preached a sermon. And he was the pastor of a church.

Dad stayed in that church for 22 years. Just a few years ago, my wife, Johanna, and I went back to preach an anniversary there. It is still not a large church—just a little white building that holds about 90 people, but the lives that have been impacted and the testimonies coming from that congregation speak of an astounding and continuing work of the Spirit.

Here’s my point. While my dad’s situation was certainly exceptional—his having no education to speak of—we do know that the Holy Spirit can compensate for our inadequacies.

Alton Garrison serves as the assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God and as the executive leader of the Division of Church Ministries and Discipleship. To learn more about the Assemblies of God, visit www.ag.org.

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Encouragement is Like a Breath of Fresh Air

Jul 22 2013 Published by under Leadership, Life, Ministry

By Ted Heaston

T. Heaston

After President Nixon was removed from the Presidency, he was so disgraced and emotionally disturbed that he wanted to take his own life.  He and his wife were in the hospital room with the curtains closed. A nurse came in and asked permission to open up the curtains.  When the curtains were opened, Nixon saw an airplane flying back and forth outside his window with a banner that read “God loves you, Mr. Nixon.”

When Nixon saw that word of encouragement, he regained hope.  Who was the encourager behind this? Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, had given orders to the pilot to keep flying that sign until Nixon opened the curtains.

A biblical encourager reminds and affirms the discouraged and troubled people in life that God accepts them and can use them.  There  are  many  people  who  have  the  curtains  closed  in  their lives.   They  need  an  encourager  to wave  the  banner that says ‘God loves  you!’  to  bring  hope  to  them.

In I Thess. 5:11, Paul exhorts us, “THEREFORE ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER AND BUILD ONE ANOTHER UP, JUST AS YOU ARE DOING.”

Recently my mission and assignment took me to the Asia Pacific islands of Guam and Palau.  That caused me to remember that there is something amazing about a warm ocean breeze blowing across your face.   There is something amazing about watching the wind fill a giant piece of canvas that tilts a large sail in a way that both powers and directs the vessel.  I think that is even more incredible than feeling the effects of the breeze on your face.

Before the age of motorized boats, sailors relied on trade winds to carry them across the ocean.  But there was one area that was to be avoided at all costs by these sailors. All mariners knew about it.  It was called the ‘Doldrums’.

You are probably familiar with the term ‘Doldrums’.  To most people it is a word that indicates “a dull or lifeless place in life.”   The very word doldrums is taken from the root word meaning “dull” or “lifeless,” so we have come to use the expression “in the doldrums” to describe the state of being bored and restless, in a slump.

But the doldrums is what sailors called a specific region along the equator where the weather always seemed to illustrate a lifeless condition.  An air mass could hover overhead, and nothing would move, which kept their sailing ships stuck in place.

It is my sincere prayer that God would develop my life and my ministry like a needed trade wind — ready to blow across the lives of people who have found themselves in a place like the doldrums.

There is no power like the wind of the Holy Spirit to energize and direct our vessel across the sea of life, and I want that power operating in my life and ministry.

In fact, I feel God has made it my calling at this time in my life to be an encourager – and that has become a major part of my reason for being.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in the midst of their worry and depression over persecution and the coming of the Lord.  “And he prayed for them:   MAY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF AND GOD OUR FATHER, WHO LOVED US AND BY HIS GRACE GAVE US ETERNAL ENCOURAGEMENT AND GOOD HOPE, ENCOURAGE YOUR HEARTS AND STRENGTHEN YOU IN EVERY GOOD DEED AND WORD.”  (2 Thess. 2:16).

The Doldrums were once more feared than the Bermuda Triangle.  Ships became trapped in this dead zone, which forced them to endure grueling storms until they wrecked.

Maybe you’re in that place right now. Maybe you know someone who is going through a storm and is doing all they can just to stay afloat.  Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve been passionate about anything.  Maybe you’re in a rut and you don’t know how to move forward.  I pray God will send someone to bring encouragement to you, and that He will send the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow across your situation to bring you up and out of the doldrums.

Ted Heaston is an International AGWM Missionary with the Assemblies of God, and serves as the Global Operations National Office Relations Director for Global University. To learn more about Global University, visit www.globaluniversity.edu.

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Change

Jul 15 2013 Published by under Life, Ministry

By Malcolm Burleigh

Malcolm FB photo

The difficulty of change is not knowing where it will lead you. However change is inevitable and necessary if we’re going to advance the purposes of God. Change is something we preach about, we like to sing about, we even celebrate the announcement of, but few are willing to embrace it. There are several things in life we can’t get away from – one of those things is change, because change is simply inevitable.

Throughout the Bible, we see examples of people refusing to change – great men have fallen, beautiful cities lie in ruin, and opportunities are missed.

To refuse change is to deny growth.

To deny growth is to wound the very heart of God.

There comes a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud becomes more painful than the risk it takes to blossom. Someone once said that the only people that like change are wet babies – and even they aren’t excited about it when being changed.

Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Remember, to be in Christ is to forever change. We move from learning about Him to living for Him. Listen to the counsel the Lord gave his disciples as they argue about who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven:  “Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

The truth presented in this text is that you can’t fully embrace the call of God upon your life unless you change. Change is not an event, it’s a journey. Ephesians 2:10 says: We are God’s workmanship created in Christ….”  There are plans that God has for each one of us but if we don’t change, we will never experience the fullness of what He intended.

Judas never became, because he didn’t change.

Absalom never became, because he didn’t change.

Bishop Tony Miller declared, “We’re not defeated because of who we are, we are defeated because of who we refuse to become”.

To become is to change, and changing is a process. Too often we miss out on what God is doing in our lives because we’re looking for progress instead of process.

Matthew 18:3 stresses the importance of change – if you don’t change, you won’t become, and if you don’t become, then you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

You’ll never enjoy the fullness of what was always yours. You’ll never have the capacity to complete the assignment placed upon your life. You’ll never become until you change.

The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.”

In order to change we must align our thinking with God’s word. II Corinthians 5:17 reads:  “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

 

 

Malcolm Burleigh currently serves as the National Director of Intercultural Ministries for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions,  where he leads in twenty-two fields of ethnic ministry and four fields of compassion ministry. To learn more about AGUSM, visit www.usmissions.ag.org.

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The Hand of God Across the Centuries

Jul 08 2013 Published by under Evangelism, Life, Ministry

By Dr. Robert Love

Love,Robert

We understand that people who lived in other centuries did not have certain things that we take for granted today.   However, if we consider the life and times in earlier centuries we find that there were some very special events and some very creative people.  Great things were accomplished without the aid of modern technology.

Let’s take a look at the 100 year period from 1750 to 1850. Jonathan Edwards was preaching in New England.  Mozart, Bach and Beethoven were composing some of the most beautiful music ever written. The arts and sciences were flourishing.  The Americans won the Revolutionary War.  Thomas Jefferson and others were establishing the United States as a new nation. Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of nation we would have. It is reported that he answered “A Republic, sir, if you can keep it.”  George III would rule until his death in 1820 and England would become a constitutional monarchy.  The world was changing.

If we look carefully we can see the hand of God in the pivotal events that occurred during this amazing century.  Let’s consider three events that are significant examples of the gifts of God though His people:

Our first president, George Washington, was inaugurated in Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789. The new president, and the Senate, and the House of Representatives      then walked to St. Paul’s chapel to consecrate the nation’s future into the hands of God. The first collective act of the newly formed American government was to gather for prayer. St. Paul’s chapel exists today, near the 9/11 ground zero and was the only building spared in the general destruction of everything within the area.

The oratorio, “Messiah” was composed in 1741 by George Frederick Handel. The scriptural text was compiled from the King James Bible by Charles Jennens. This oratorio would become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in all of Western music.  Since the time of King George II it had become customary to stand during the Hallelujah chorus.  About 100 years later, the aged Queen Victoria, who sat in her wheelchair as the chorus began, struggled to her feet as the choir sang, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” She said, “In no way will I sit in the presence of the King of Kings.”

Robert Hawker was one of the most prominent preachers of his day and thousands came to hear him.  For 43 years, from 1784 to 1827, Hawker served as the vicar of the Charles church in Plymouth, England. During this time the Rev. Hawker wrote “The Poor Man’s Commentary” which explained in understandable language the plain meaning of the books of the Bible.  The language seems archaic today but the message is abundantly clear:  We are in as much danger today as were the children of Israel on the eve of the captivity.  We cannot save ourselves and left to ourselves we would never do so.  We are indebted more than we can possibly realize to Jesus and His great work on our behalf.

Other examples could certainly be chosen to illustrate the thinking of these bygone days.  To be sure, we have many modern advantages today.  Our advances in medicine, communication, and transportation would be amazing to the people of the 18th and 19th centuries.  But there were those among them who used their talent and creativity to exalt the person and the work of Jesus.

Jesus observed that the men of Nineveh – with all their sins — would rise in judgment against His generation, and condemn it. This was the generation that heard the words of Jesus and saw the works that Jesus did, and did not consider or lay it to heart. And at the end of the day, they crucified him.

It is certainly true that there is no greater name.  There is no other name. Let us do all we can to discern the signs of the times, and live our lives in such a way that past centuries will not stand in judgment against us.   Let us use, as did our ancestors, every opportunity we have to send the message of our Lord and Savior to the world.  And if computers, the Internet, e-mail, and iPads are indeed advantages, let us use them too.  I have the feeling that George Washington, G. F. Handel, and Robert Hawker would agree.

Dr. Robert Love serves as the Professor of Education for Global University. To learn more about Global University, please visit www.globaluniversity.edu.

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