Calling Down Revival Fire

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“For he will be like a refiner’s fire…” (Malachi 3:2).

Fire is fascinating. It is intriguing to sit around a campfire and watch a burning fire. It hypnotizes onlookers as it dances up and down, and side to side. Experiments take place as those around toss items in the fire to see what will happen. To bring validity to the experience, we call these “memory makers.” Fire can be very helpful and useful, or it can cause great damage and harm. In the right hands, fire can provide needed heat and light and mold the toughest metals. The Bible often uses fire as a metaphor of purifying, judgment and growing closer to God. We might call it becoming more holy or set apart for God’s purposes.


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Need and Provision

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She stood outside my office door, looking forlorn, bedraggled and overwhelmed. I quickly ushered this dear octogenarian inside, out of the cold. I listened as five decades of heartache, verbal abuse and, most recently, realities of pornography addiction came tumbling out. Her husband’s refusal that morning to ever change was the final straw. So she had left, with only the clothes on her back, and found herself standing at my door.


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Excellence and Expansion Converge at E3

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Three years ago, pastors and other local church leaders gathered regionally for Equipping for Excellence (E2) to hear from Free Methodist bishops and other ministry experts. The sequel, Equipping for Excellence and Expansion (E3), arrived this year, and, unlike many movie sequels, it proved to be as acclaimed and popular as its predecessor.


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Lacking and Wanting?

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“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1).

I consider myself a “Bible-believing Christian,” but I admit that when I just read this familiar verse, I had second thoughts. After all, there’s not much in my bank account right now, I drive a shaky 14-year-old vehicle (one passenger told me a ride is like being in an airplane at takeoff), and the HGTV folks could get several episodes out of upgrading my home and yard. Many of my fellow Americans would say I lack plenty.


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What It Means to Love God

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“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

There is a seemingly paradoxical relationship in these two statements. Love God who is love. We are told by John that love comes from God, and those who love know God and those who do not love do not know God. But how can we offer love back to the very source of our love? We take a drink from a mountain spring to refresh ourselves, not to pour it back into the stream. The spring does not need the water we have taken, because it has a source we cannot see or add to. But still the command is to love God.

So if this is our command, we have to examine how we can fulfill this command, not as a regulation to be met as a condition of salvation, but as a response to the incredible grace that has been poured out on us. Our response has to flow from that place, because as John points out, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). We also know from the Old Testament that sacrifices offered out of obligation were rejected and that what God longed for from His people was their hearts — broken and contrite before Him, hearts that loved. The question we have to answer then is what does it mean to love a God from whom we learn what love is?


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A Testimony of God’s Love

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“Sweet are the promises, kind is the word,
Dearer far than any message man ever heard;
Pure was the mind of Christ, sinless I see;
He the great example is, and pattern for me.”

“Where He leads I’ll follow,
Follow all the way.
Where He leads I’ll follow,
Follow Jesus ev’ry day.”

William A. Ogden in “Where He Leads I’ll Follow” (1885)

Of the hymns we sing today, this is one that has guided my life since an 8- or 9-year-old little kid in northern Minnesota began to follow the Lord’s call. The songs that touched my heartstrings then still touch my heartstrings today.

“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

–  Charlotte Elliott in “Just as I Am” (1835)

I may come across as hard as steel sometimes, but God has given me a heart that is tender and caring. Like in the first hymn, I’m still following Jesus. We go way back.


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The First Day of the Week

On the first day of the week we became Easter People. the_empty_tomb__Medium_[1]

Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made in the beginning, has initiated the new creation.  Just as in the first beginning, Jesus completed the work—living among us, proclaiming Kingdom-come, casting out demons, healing the sick, mending the broken, confronting the powers and the evil that pulls their strings, taking their best shot, and dying—crying, “It is finished! 

His cry turned out to be the most delightful and wonderful double entendre.  The powers, of course, understood the one meaning—yes, indeed, would-be Messiah and King dead as dead can be, problem solved!  But they had no idea.  Later the Apostle Paul would observe, if they had had any clue at all what they were doing they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8).  No indeed.

The other, deeper and more powerful meaning was this: New Creation has now begun.  And so, as Jesus declares the fact—it is finished, the Sabbath quickly comes.  Just as in the first creation, so now, when the foundation for New Creation is set, then the God-man rests.  Sabbath comes.  And then …


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The Unsettling Truth About Peacemaking

The scripture tells us to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).  Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed people (Matthew 5:9).  Shalom (peace) is one of the richest Hebrew terms in the Bible.  Shalom is peace that leads to or is evidenced by wholeness.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  Peace is what Jesus promised to (John 14:27) and breathed on (John 20:19) his disciples in the upper room.  And peace is what most people deeply desire.

Many people never experience peace.  The soul of the natural person is at war.  The soul of this lost world is at war.  The inner and outer conflicts result from the lack of peace in us and among us.  In today’s world where God has been ignored in personal and global affairs, peace is scant and hard to come by in personal and global terms.  As someone quipped, “no God, no peace or know God, know peace.”  The first seems to have been the choice of many.  The second is the solution that is too often ignored.


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Alone

He didn’t have any friends. Literally, zero. So last week, he tried to impress a few potential buddies through a risky decision at school. Fortunately, it only cost him a 10-day suspension.

This week, he’s suffering the consequences…and still alone.

The Need for Friends
“Nick” attends the middle school Christian club where I speak every Tuesday. He’s also a member of my church. His younger brother is my son’s best friend. But Nick doesn’t have a best friend. Actually, he doesn’t have any friends.

Determined to change that, on Thursday morning of last week he snuck an OTC medication onto campus and tried to make Lean. Instead of impressing his peers, the honor-roll student was caught and suspended.

It was a wakeup call for his family…and me.

In the aftermath of counseling and consoling his family, I learned from a multi-decade long study that Nick isn’t the only one who struggles; the number of close friends Americans have is shrinking

. Here are just a few of the revelations:

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Dinners With Refugees

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Free Methodist bishops have called church members to “embrace all” and “go global.” Dearborn (Michigan) Free Methodist Church Associate Pastor Megan Weber is embracing people from around the globe without leaving Dearborn. She recently began hosting community dinners at which local believers dine with refugees.

“Community dinners are a place where we can lay aside our agenda — or our need to convert the other — and just be, and listen, and let God develop trust and relationship.” Weber said. “I am just trying to be a good steward of the experiences God has given me and the doors He has been opening in our community in working with refugees.”

Weber said her vision has been influenced by authors Hugh Halter and Carl Medearis. Halter teaches that Jesus’ life and ministry took this order: incarnation, reputation, conversation, confrontation, transformation. Medearis writes, “The distance between Jesus and people isn’t doctrinal. It isn’t political or social or even theological. It’s a matter of personal contact. Jesus collided with two fishermen, and their lives were changed.”

“We need Free Methodists colliding with people that are different than them,” Weber said. “As we invest in the lives of refugees, we are living out the incarnation where we are gaining a reputation, and there is opportunity for conversation. When we become good listeners, others trust us with their hard questions, but that first comes in setting aside agenda.”


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