Lift Your Banners High!

by Shane Caskey

Lift your banners high! Blow the trumpets! Holy nations sanctified will be our battle cry!! I encourage you to listen to the Casting Crowns song, “Until the Whole World Hears”. Pay attention to the lyrics!

The revelation of repentance to a lukewarm lethargic (slow to move or act) generation is about to begin. It’s time for the Sleeping Giant (The Church/Body of Christ) to awake!

Could you imagine the possibilities of a united church on the front battline!! Standing together as One Body of Christ!! This is how the church should begin to awaken.

Maria Woodworth Etter believed God is upset with some of the churches today, because they refuse to allow the people to openly and freely express themselves to God ( I personally feel the Holy Spirit saying the same message to me as well).

If people can’t express themselves to God, then He can’t move upon them. Our church MUST have a fresh movement of God that affects the EMOTIONS. 

God’s presence begins to manifest in a church when believers commit to doing the following: 

  1. Cleaning the church (sanctuary). This involves anointing and applying the blood of Jesus to every doorway to keep demons from coming in
  2. Praying at the beginning of EVERY service. We need to ask the Lord to send heavenly warriors to escort any demonic forces that made it on the inside to be taken out.
  3. We then need to prayerfully invite the presence of Almighty God inside.

In this way, a real powerful service will begin!

TRUTH

by Sarah Itterman

TRUTH. Such a broad yet narrow word. The world we live in defines truth in ways which do not even make sense. The pure truth is slandered and demonized. The truth which they want everyone to believe is placed on a soapbox of lies and empty meaning. Truth is placed in the dark shadows. Anyone who goes in search of it risks much who find the answers. What truths do we deem necessary to undergo dangers for? What are we willing to sacrifice to unveil the curtain? Are some truths worth taking extreme perils for more than others? Truth is never easy to keep hold of. Perhaps that is how we know when it is worth everything, even our very lives, to find it. Few are willing to suffer the consequences, yet it is the few who grasp the truth who are set free. It’s not about physical freedom. It’s the spiritual freedom gained which provides the strength to carry on. What an honor it is to know truth and share this priceless gem to those around us!

A Lesson From Ezra

by Kendra Williams

“Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping….” –Ezra 3:11-13

The first time I read this passage I thought the elderly were weeping out of joy. They had witnessed a devastation in their lifetime- the destruction of the first temple- and probably hadn’t expected to live long enough to see the restoration of their beloved building. But the weeping told about here is written in contrast to the joy of the rest of the people. The elderly weren’t weeping for joy… they were grieving.

Why? Why would they grieve the restoration of something so precious to them? Because they didn’t want something new, they wanted the old that was lost. They remembered well how the first was anointed, how God dwelt there and all the dedicated effort they themselves poured into it. Who knows what kind of God-encounters these elderly men had witnessed in that place? It was like the glory days, immortal in their memories. They got so stuck on the anointing of the past that they failed to see God’s work and anointing on the present. They missed one of the greatest blessings ever given in their lifetime. They missed it, even as it unfolded right before their eyes… all because they failed to move onThe idea that God’s new dwelling could be as beloved and anointed as the first was lost on them. By nature, failure to move on has the view that nothing could be as great as what’s already been. As we can see here this is a blinding lie.

I was mulling over this passage this morning at work. Something about it resonated, so I tried to figure out what it was I was missing. We can relate to passages of Scripture in every chapter of our lives but there’s always a lesson to walk away with. For some reason I couldn’t place it with this. I tried to think it through but it was difficult focusing because of the memories that constantly hamper my thoughts at work. They’re so vivid sometimes I can’t see where I am, almost like flashbacks. Every single room triggers unbidden memories, snatches of days past. Days I grieve because of all the recent losses in the ministry and the resulting change it produced in me and many others. That’s when it dawned on me. I’ve missed the blessed work of God going on right before my eyes because of grieving the destruction of His past work. The first temple was built and used (the original ministry days), destroyed (ministry dramatically altered and hurt), and then restored with a new temple (ministry continued in a new way). But I couldn’t see the restoration. In fact, the restoration’s been resented and keeps the wound fresh. I’ve failed to let go of the glory days and see God’s work on the new foundations.

One of my best friends said it could be easy to go down the road of grief, to focus on the losses in life and get stuck in them. She chooses to approach each day seeking for God’s blessings in the present, even when things hurt. Considering how long I’ve had a relationship with Jesus, it shouldn’t be surprising when a recent conversation and stumbled-upon verse coincide so completely on a point. As always, I’ll try to follow her example. The blessings of the past will always be missed. But how can I treasure the memories- not grieve them- and seek out the blessings of today? Where can I witness God’s work and anointing like it was seen before? I’m blinded by the past. It’s time to see what’s happening before my eyes

Life may have changed. Seasons, people, callings…. beginnings and endings are inevitable. But God is unchanging and He is doing what He’s always done. Lord, like we’d talked about awhile ago, my desire is to rub shoulders with You in the work. You never stopped…I did. Help me to regain Your heart and join You again. Help me to shout Your praises instead of weep.

United

by Shane Caskey

United we stand divided we fall!

This goes back to the very principles of what this country was founded on. The church today is too divided. Instead of working together as the body of Christ should, we are arguing and stuck on interpretations of the scripture. What matters the MOST is we stand on ONE principle: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all believe in God and we all should believe in Jesus our Lord and Savior. The King of this earth who died, conquered death and rose again on the third day. Through His blood we are given authority over the principalities of darkness. Claim that authority and let’s start fighting back!! Let’s stand together and fight this demon who is laughing at us because of our petty differences!

You are Free

by Cassie Lynch

Perhaps it’s because I never looked closely enough. Perhaps it’s because I watched the Prince of Egypt too many times growing up. Regardless of the reasoning, I’ve always imagined the Hebrew people crossing the Red Sea in slave clothes. 

But that’s not at all what happened. 

Before any miracles. Before any plagues. Before the great exodus out of slavery in Egypt. God laid out the plan. In Exodus 3:21 he says that the Hebrew women, when the time comes, will ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold and clothing and they are to dress their sons and daughters in it. It would be their plunder of the Egyptians who had abused them for so long. 

Can you see it? 

Slaves their whole lives. Abused and mistreated and broken down. For so long having cried for rescue. And rescue had finally come. The people of God marched across the sea on dry land and their children were no longer wearing slave clothes. No! They walked into freedom dressed in the wealth of their captors. 

God didn’t just set them free – which would have sufficed- no he lavished them in excess. 

The Lord wanted his people to know they were no longer slaves. They were his children, his people. They were valued and dignified and loved. 

And what makes this reality all the more unbelievable is that the jewelry hanging from their necks and wrists and ears would be the very gold they would soon melt together to form the golden calf- a rejection of the one who set them free.The all-knowing God, fully aware of what this jewelry would become, still told his people to take it. 

Is it possible that his highest concern for his people in that moment was identity- not future sin? (Sin he would deal with severely when it came to pass). When Jesus paid the price to welcome us into the family of God, he set did the work to us free. Before, we were slaves to sin. But now, we’ve been given a Red Sea moment; the cross has paved the way for us to march into freedom.

And we will fail. We still stumble. We will abuse his gift. 

But know this. Today. Right now.  God wants you to know you are his. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are free.

Things Eternal Film

This is an excellent, thought provoking production based on real life events. The spiritual realm is real and one that we need to take seriously. I encourage you to take time to watch the whole thing!

God is in the Fire

by Shane Caskey

If you are going through some hard times, I want you to remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. They didn’t burn, God saved them.

Keep going brothers and sisters. When you think all of hell is after you, remember who has you, and who you belong too! God has you, just trust Him!

Winston Churchhill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Let me tell you, if all of hell is coming after you, you should consider yourself honored and highly favored by God. For some reason the enemy is freaking out and trying to stop you. If the enemy is after you that badly, you must be doing something right! Keep going!! Don’t let anything stop you. Let God keep ordering and directing your steps. Just stay focused on Him. And if you need help and feel like it’s too much to handle, reach out to a brother or sister in Christ and ask them to help you and pray for you. We aren’t supposed to do this alone. We need each other. I am praying for all of you! Whatever you are going through, just praise Him in the storm and the enemy will flee!! I pray a hedge of protection around you and that God will send His angels to look out for you and protect you. Just know that fire can be cleansing, and when you come out on the other side you will be stronger than ever before!

Praise God!! Bless His Holy Name Forever!!

Humility

by Sarah Itterman

God, give me humility. May my wants and desires never take precedence over Yours. Give me strength to remain humble and not allow pride to get in the way. May Your words be on my lips and not my own. Give me the courage to do what is right when my flesh is screaming to be complacent. Give me the strength to run the race which You have set before me. Let me not stumble or fall by the wayside for the sake of peace and rest. Encapsulate my soul with Your love and how You see those who would do me harm. Help me to forgive and share Your heart with them. May my life be an offering that only points to You. As I raise a hallelujah, let fear wash away into an ocean of hope and joy which can only be found in You. When the flower of my life is crushed beneath the feet of the enemy, let the aroma be a taste of who You are. God, give me humility. 

The Joseph Blessing

by Kendra Williams

Some may think that living a life with few pains, difficulties or struggles is the greatest blessing to desire from God. It would be great to be kept from the many hardships life loves to throw at us, but if God were to grant this request it would only be a temporary blessing. If I can be so bold, a cheap blessing… a thing that has no effect whatsoever on our growth or has any eternal worth. In the Bible, God clearly favors the poor in spirit, the broken, the persecuted, and the tested with eternal blessings.

My life has been easy. The few trials and testings I’ve faced have been treated like an ugly scar that I point to and tell stories about for the “oohs” and “aahs”. They aren’t the humble testimonies of what God has done, they’re stories for attention. In the moment of truth, when the testing comes, God doesn’t find faith in my heart. He finds the tantrum and questionings of an immature child. In the smallest discomfort I cry out for the temporary blessings of relief, unwilling to walk through them to learn and grow in maturity.

This is what I’m getting at: The blessing that’s of great worth is at the heart of the testings we so despise. It’s what I like to call the Joseph Blessing. So often I’ve wondered, “Why is God allowing this? He should be blessing  instead of allowing such pain!  This is wrong!”, not knowing that He’s in the process of bestowing the rich blessings of Job and Joseph. When everything is painfully stripped away it is actually a step forward in the process God is working on if we trust Him.  This is a rabbit trail here, but it’s key: There are many Jobs and Josephs today stuck half way through the story because they failed to trust God with the end of their story. They didn’t keep their eyes on Him or remain faithful servants when things began to fall apart. The real Joseph stayed true to the task at hand, making no distinction between the jail and the more blessed circumstance he’d tasted. Both came from God, and he kept his eyes on Him even though it didn’t make sense. You know, we’ve always known the end of Joseph’s story. It’s easy to overlook his attitude since we’ve got the whole picture at a glance, but think about his faithfulness for a minute. He had no idea what God was up to, but he trusted Him and kept the focus. Through that, God moved. What about our story? Will we walk through it like Joseph did, trusting that we serve the same God Who deliberately allows hardships for His greater purpose? Or will we give up and be an unfinished story of a miracle? A more sobering thought is, are we going to stop this “developing miracle” in us that God intended to use as a key tool in someone’s life? Working in that jail, Joseph had no idea his little acts of faithfulness would lead to saving two nations from death. Our stories are never just ours. This is especially true for the children of God.

This is going to sound really strange, but here goes: the fact alone that God allows some of His children to suffer is an honor. Why?

God is deeply concerned with our spiritual depth and the well-being of those He desires to reach through us. The maturity, anointing, and communion with Him (as well as the experience level needed to reach some people groups) usually can only be learned in difficulties. God searches for people with faith strong enough to endure these lessons. If it can’t be found in one, He’ll find another. Think of the work force or the military: it’s the strong ones that are depended on for the biggest tasks because the leader knows they can handle it. It’s not punishment. It’s a sign of deep trust. When God presents a trial, it’s a sign of His confidence in our ability to handle it (look at how God literally boasted about Job!). Can you imagine having the confidence of God? So, the greater the confidence, the greater the lesson. The greater the lesson, the greater the assignment and alignment with God. And remember, the great assignments have to do with the most difficult missions that are at the very center of God’s heart: peopleIt’s not about us! In the work force I felt the most honored when my boss would delegate a very difficult assignment to me as if it were no big deal. It was a huge sign of confidence regarding something that was on their shoulders. How many difficult things does God see and shoulder alone? If He were to train you and give you a part in shouldering the difficult things He cares for so much, wouldn’t it be a huge honor? Why then is it so easy to assume we’re being punished in the training stage? And why in the world does it always have to be about us?

I don’t want the temporary blessings of an easy life. Oh, my flesh wants it for sure. But I’d be devastated if God let me be in my easy life because He couldn’t count on me to handle His training or to handle working with Him in the things He cares about most. I don’t want to miss out on this intimate mission with Jesus. Lord, bless me with the blessings of Joseph! Don’t let me sleep in the faith! I don’t want to settle for a cheap blessing. Train me.

The Importance of Self-Discipline in the Christian Walk

By Sarah Itterman

The word “discipline” is not one that many of us like to hear or desire to strive towards on our own. Often, there must be something which drives and motivates us from within in order to carry out this virtue in a particular area of our lives. When we view people whom we look up to in the world, we see that most often they lived a life filled with discipline. In order to be successful in the calling which God has given each of us to carry out, we must learn early on the vital importance of this character trait and realize that it is the essential key through which we are able to live our lives to the fullest potential.

The Apostle Paul was someone who regularly acknowledged the necessity of a disciplined life. Throughout his many epistles, he instructed the church and Timothy especially in this particular gift . In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul uses the example of how when an athlete is eager to win a prize, he beats his body into a routine of submissive discipline. How much more so, Paul argues, that as believers running to win a prize which is eternal and not temporary, should we strive to live a life dedicated to the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). This should make us eager to count the cost and joyfully accept a lifestyle of constant obedience to the will of God in every area as we are molded more into His image. It should not make us afraid to receive discipline when needed as it causes us to become more like Him (Hebrews 12).

The lessons which can be learned for living a life of self-discipline should fill us with anticipation and not dread because of the many blessings which come with it. Though the road is not easy and filled with hardships, the spiritual growth far outweighs the physical pain and sorrow. It has encouraged me personally to reform certain areas of my life and I have developed deeper levels of discipline in areas where I know God wants me to change. “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us too, put aside every impediment and keep running with endurance in the race which is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). This is a wonderful reminder that just as Jesus was given a race to complete while He was on earth in order that He might fulfill everything which His Father had commanded Him to do, so even more so should we be persevering in the race which has been given to us with this at the forefront of our minds.

Another aspect of living a life full of discipline is to make sure that we are not forcing others to run the same race as we are. Each of us individually has been given a unique calling and direction from God.  While there is certainly room for giving encouragement and building each other up along the way, we must not allow a legalistic mindset to enter into our thoughts when we see others not diligently following a similar pattern. However, when we see a brother or sister not living a life pleasing to the Lord, we should seek to guide them back gently and firmly-not with a judgmental attitude.

Finally, our motives for carrying out a disciplined walk with the Lord should be out of our love and relationship with Him and not for what we get out of it in the end. Our mind frame should be that of completing the race with joy and thanksgiving that the Lord was able to use us to our utmost capacity because we were willing to yield to Him in every area of our lives. Our prayer should be to say confidently with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7). To Him alone be the Glory! Amen.

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