Archive for January, 2011


Wendy’s used an advertising campaign featuring three little old ladies standing at the “Home of the Big Bun” hamburger counter. Clara Peller lifts the big bun to see a tiny patty and yells out “where’s the beef?” The other ladies say: “It certainly is a big bun. It’s a very big bun. It’s a big fluffy bun. It’s a very big fluffy bun.”

Today we may be seeing a new ad with gringos holding a Taco Bell taco saying, “where’s the beef?”

An Alabama law firm is suing Taco Bell, saying that they are falsely advertising ‘beef’ products.

The meat mixture sold by Taco Bell restaurants contains binders and extenders and does not meet the minimum requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be labeled as “beef”, according to the legal complaint. Attorney Dee Miles said attorneys had Taco Bell’s “meat mixture” tested and found it contained less that 35 percent beef.[1]

The question I want to look at over the next few weeks involves our belief in Jesus Christ, and who we believe Him to be. The question we must ask ourselves is how much of the real Jesus do you have to have to be a true born again Christ follower. I believe that some Christians are following only 35% or 50% of the real Jesus.

In other words, I am hoping you will take an honest look at your life and see if you believe in the real Jesus Christ, and if so, does your life reflect the real Jesus? We are going to lift the bun on our lives and hopefully none of us is going to say, “Where’s the real Jesus?”

THE REAL JESUS WILL JUDGE US

  • And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42
  • For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

While many of us believe we follow the real Jesus, the Scriptures say that many of us are being fooled. We are following a Jesus of our own making, taken from parts of the Real Jesus. The important question is does Jesus know me? Because if He does not, no matter how much good you do for Him, He will declare to you, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23

It does not mean you violated God’s Law, it means you want your own way; you were living and serving for your benefit. You thought Jesus would be happy with what you did, but you did not understand the real Jesus. You never gave your life to the real Jesus. You never even saw the real Jesus, so it is no wonder that He did not know you.

Partial Obedience is a “No Go”

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:1-13

Jesus was pointing out that the proof of real worship is your obedience in your everyday lives. Anyone can go to church, anyone can be baptized, but to Jesus, the proof of your Christianity is the change in your heart that produces obedient living no matter the cost to our convenience.

The Pharisees obeyed God, but if they had to choose between obeying God and their convenience of profit, they would overrule the command of God with some fabricated tradition or false practice. The one example given regards the command to honor your father and mother.

With Jesus, words are not enough, and a show of obedience is not enough.

Look what Ezekiel experienced:

PUTTING ON A SHOW IS A “NO GO”

“As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain (besa)[2]. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. Ezekiel 33:30-32

‏בֶּצַע‎ (beṣaʿ)

  • To cut off what is not one’s own, or in the slang of our day, to take a “rip-off”, thus to be greedy, covetous.
  • Personal advantage derived from some activity. Used largely in the negative sense, as in the case of the racketeer who takes his “cut” from the profits of an otherwise legitimate business.

People want the show and the spiritual experience as long as it is entertaining and moving. But if it requires a change in the way they live their lives, no, that’s too extreme for me. Just as a con man plays people for a “rip-off” for personal gain, so do many ‘Christians’ slice and dice the Real Jesus down to someone they can tolerate in their personal lives. They do so for their personal gain.

Jesus asks us: “Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16:15

Peter Answers: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Jesus responds: “On this rock I will build my church”.

Jesus indicates that who we believe  Jesus is will determine how solidly our church is built!

As a Pastor, the greatest error or sin I can commit is to preach a false salvation, a false or incomplete Jesus. I must preach Jesus Christ without compromise, without watering Him down, without mixing man’s ideas with who Jesus Christ really is!

I do not want anyone to be surprised when they meet Jesus. I want Him to know you, because you knew the real Jesus. You gave your heart to the Real Jesus.

With Jesus, there is no 35% and you are a Christian. There is no 50% and you are a Christian. There is no 85% and you are a Christian. Jesus told us what His standards of Christianity are in one of His last commands to us:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe[3] all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We are to teach others to observe ALL that He commanded us! Observe is not a passive word, like a bystander. It involves 100% attention, it means to “keep your eyes fixed upon”. It draws the picture of a prison guard or warden who must constantly watch a vicious killer. If you take your eyes off him, he could escape and kill you.

We are to have that attitude not just toward the commands we like, or can gain from, or fit into our lifestyle. We are to observe ALL the commands of Christ as if our life depended upon it.

Paul and James made this clear:

  • Paul: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
  • James: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

Who do you say that Jesus Is?

Are you like Ricky Bobby, praying to baby Jesus? Or are you like so many football fans, following Touchdown Jesus? You know the one, the one who gives you victory.

The fans of Notre Dame Football love their team. Win or Lose Notre Dame is followed by fans around the world. At one end zone, just above the stadium seats, you can catch a glimpse of Touchdown Jesus. He is atop a huge stain glass mural. His arms are raised as if to signal a touchdown. Before they added more seats at that end, he was clearly seen by the entire stadium.

That is the Jesus most of us worship. Upraised arms, stepping forth from the tomb, rising in the air, standing at the right hand of the Father, coming back in the air, riding on a white horse, ruling on the throne of David!

Touchdown Jesus! He’s a winner, He’s a conqueror! He’s the victor! He’s the ‘hero of the world’! He’s my hero! and he will make me a hero too!

This is where we start to fold in our ideas and our traditions with the Jesus Christ of God’s Word. Somehow, Jesus has become more about me than about a Sovereign God! We like the Touchdown Jesus because he is the winner, and we all want to be winners. We are taught that from our crib. We boast about when our baby started crawling, started walking, started talking, how smart they are, what grades they get, how well they play this sport, how well they excel at this activity. We want our kids to be winners! Therefore, we like Touchdown Jesus. He is a winner that fits nicely with our ideas of life in America.

Touchdown Jesus and the American Dream

Michael Jordan was arguably the greatest basketball player to play the sport. When he retired, the owner of the Chicago Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf said, “He’s living the American Dream”. Someone defined the American Dream as “reaching a point in your life where you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do and can do everything that you want to do”. James Truslow Adams defined it as “a dream… in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are”.

Consider whether YOU worship an “Americanized” Jesus

I believe that many American Christians have made Jesus Christ into a Jesus that fits nicely into our “Touchdown” mentality, our “American Dream” mentality. We are guilty of being like the Jews in Ezekiel’s days, turning God into someone we are comfortable with, as long as he is good for us, and fits in with our desires for success and wealth.

We like a nice middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and would never tell us to do something ridiculous like give away our wealth, or stop saving for retirement. We want a practical, realistic Jesus, one who understands the pressures of life, accepts nominal devotion, and is considerate of our need for creature comforts.

We want a balanced Jesus, a Jesus who wants us to avoid outrageous extremes, and who for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether.

As David Platt (author of Radical) says, we want a “Jesus who brings comfort and prosperity to us as we live out our Christian spin on the American Dream”. In an interview with the Christian Post, David Platt underscored the danger of following the American Dream:

“The American Dream begins with self. It exalts the self and says you are inherently good and you have in you what it takes to be successful” (David Platt)

The American dream is built on gaining, but Jesus said:

“Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39

The foundational commmand of a true follower of Jesus Christ is to ‘destroy’ your life.

Lose=  apollymi “To destroy, cause to perish”[4]

  • Jesus said you are not worthy of following HIM unless you are willing to take your cross and have your life destroyed (‘apollymi’ in Matthew 10:39).
  • You can live this life following the dream, gaining as much as you can, but you will wake up in the reality of eternal destruction.
  • Or you can be willing to take up your cross and have your ‘life’ destroyed in total abandon to Jesus and wake up in the reality and beauty of His presence.

“Believing in the Jesus in the Bible makes life risky on a lot of levels because it is absolute surrender of every decision we make, every dollar we spend, our lives belong to another,” he said. “It is relinquishing control in a culture that prioritizes control and doing what you need to do to advance yourself.” (David Platt)

The goal of the Christian American dream is to make much of us, to follow a Touchdown Jesus, a winner, who we can point to when we make our goal! However, the real Jesus has different priorities. Instead of encouraging our self-fulfillment, he confronts us with our inability to accomplish anything of value apart from God. He says if we want to be great, we must become a servant!

Instead of wanting us to be recognized by others, he commands us to die to ourselves and seek the glory of God above everything. The goal of the gospel of the real Jesus Christ is to make the MOST of God. And the LEAST of us!

I encourage you to read the book Radical. It will shake your Christianity to its core.

Who do you say that I am?

Peter gave the right answer, but denied Jesus Christ. He gave up on Jesus, and went fishing. You can know the right answer, but deny Jesus Christ in your life, because you honor Him with your lips, but not your heart and life.

The goal of this sermon series is to hold forth the real Jesus Christ, and to encourage each of us to observe all that He commands, without being watered down by our conveniences, our conceptions, our priorities. My prayer is that our lives, our goals, our walk, our priorities will be a clear reflection of the real Jesus Christ.

Where do we SEE the Real Jesus Christ?

The Bible School ‘skinny’ on the Gospels is that Matthew presents Messiah Jesus, Mark presents Servant Jesus, Luke presents King Jesus, John presents Divine Jesus. But there is one book we often overlook as representing the Gospel of the Real Jesus. It is the book of Revelation.

There we find two things: What was needed for John to see the real Jesus, and second, what happened when he saw the real Jesus.

  1. John was in the Spirit (10). He was under the influence and control of God’s Holy Spirit. Moreover, to see the real Jesus, we must be under control of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who reveals Jesus to us. That is His delight and Joy!
  2. When John saw the real Jesus, he fell at his feet as though dead (17). The Jesus that John saw was not the Jesus that John thought he knew, had touched, and had spoken to. When he saw the real Jesus, John was deeply affected. He was shaken to the core of his being. He was emotionally, physically and mentally overwhelmed to the point of swooning and passing out.

Was he overcome with a sense of failure, a sense of awe, a sense of fear, a sense of shortcomings in being like Him? Yes, all of these. Bottom line, however, when our heart and eyes are opened to see the real Jesus, we are knocked down from the platform of our comfortable life and laid out in the dust of our lives. It is just like Saul on the road to Damascus. He saw the real Jesus, and He fell to the ground. His life, his priorities, his goals were forever changed.

When we see the real Jesus, we will know it, and we will be changed. Our priorities will change. Our goals will change.

The Key to Understanding the Real Jesus

The key to understanding the Real Jesus of Revelations is to change our concept of Divine Love. The Book of Revelation is the final chapter in God’s Work in redeeming man. It is an account of the final settlement. That final settlement reveals the consummation of God’s Love for man. God’s love consummation begins and ends with His church. The church is in view in Revelation Chap 1:11 and 22:16

  • John reveals the key to understanding Jesus in Rev 1:5

Divine Love

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6

Understand that the foundational motivation of Jesus Christ was divine love. That divine love moved the Son of God to do what He had to to free us from our sins. It cost Him His blood, His life, but in return, He made us a kingdom, He made us priests for His Father, and it brought Him Kingship and dominion.

As our King, and as priests in that Kingdom, we will be judged by the standards that He has set, and those standards are revealed in the vision of the True Jesus that John saw.

Quick Glimpse at the Real Jesus

“and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest”. Revelation 1:13. John saw the  SON OF MAN. “When John heard His voice, he immediately turned around and saw one like the Son of Man”.

The Real Jesus still held on to His humanity. John described as the Son of Man, a title that Jesus gave Himself. This meant that He really was one of us, exactly like us. As the Son of Man, He was our redeeming kinsman, who came into our lost estate. Jesus Christ became flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone to redeem us to His Father.

John Saw Gold about His chest

As we look and gaze upon the Real Jesus, the Jesus that John described, we will find that He is “clothed with a golden sash around his chest”. ASV: “girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle”. Revelation 1:13

Every word speaks of Divine love, the breasts, the gold, the girdle.

  • The girdle is the symbol of strength, of energy, of intention, of purpose. You mean business when you gird yourself. The robes are no longer flowing for leisure, loose for reclining.
  • The girdle is golden, symbolic of the very nature of God who is love.
  • The breasts or chest is the place of the Heart, the heart of Divine Love.

The Real Jesus is the sum total of God’s Divine Love!

The Real Jesus Has a Message for the Churches. That Message uses Divine Love as the standard. The Vision of the Real Jesus is to be revealed to the churches (write therefore the things you have seen)

Here is God’s standard:

  • We are called with this great calling — to be like the real Jesus. God’s desire is that we be brought into conformity with Him.
  • What is true in Him has to be true in each of us, and in the body, the church. “Girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle”. There is to be a heart devotion and faithfulness to the real Jesus Christ!

This is the real Jesus.

  • How can this be? What about the nice Jesus with the children, or the footprints in the sand that become one set while he carries me?
  • This Jesus in Revelations is frightening. John passed out  when he saw him. How can that be the effect of Divine love? After all, we’re supposed to dance when we see Jesus!
  • This is Lord all-terrible, not Lord all-loving!

We have to change our concept of Divine ‘agape’ love. The real Jesus is real Love, but He must have our devotion. He must have our heart. Have you ever been disciplined by the Lord, your life, your dreams shattered, your soul being poured out like water on the ground? Afterward did you say, “You were right Lord, you knew what had to be done. It was a terrible experience, but you are faithful and true”.

John says, “When I saw him I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not.”

This is not judgment, this is not destruction, and this is not death and condemnation. The right hand is the token of honour, of favour. “Fear not; I am the first and the last.” “Everything is in My hands and in the end it will be all right; I took it up and I am going to finish it; fear not”.

Paul’s Encounter with the Real Jesus

There was another man who, travelling on a road with hatred in his heart, and murder on his mind. He wanted to destroy Christianity, but instead his life, as he knew it was destroyed by the vision of the Real Jesus Christ.

Did Paul describe Him as All-terrible, frightening, scary? No, Paul said in Gal 2:20, “He loved me and He gave Himself for me!”  Far from a meeting with a terrible King, Paul met the lover of his soul.

We need an “Extreme Makeover” of our concept of Divine love.

It is not that sickly, sentimental thing we call love. It is not that I love you so much that anything you do is ok.

  • This divine love is something tremendous.

This Savior, this real Jesus, represents divine love that has our eternity in His heart. And that desire means He will deal with us faithfully for the betterment of that eternity.

God’s divine love has the end in view. His job is not to be a babysitter, trying anything to get the baby to stop crying.

Jesus Christ is our standard for eternity. If we set our eyes on the real Jesus, to be like Him, to live for Him, our eternity will be affected.

We are called into His eternal glory “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”, 2 Corinthians 4:17

The Real Jesus is Divine Love. But Divine Love is set on our eternity, not temporal comfort and riches that encompass the American Dream.

The Seven Churches Were Judged According to the Divine Love in Jesus Christ

Jesus message to the churches are on the basis of how they represent His character, His nature as seen in the vision of the Real Jesus.

The messages and the churches are bounded by Ephesus and Laodicea. In Ephesus and Laodicea, the trouble is defective love. Ephesus, “thou didst leave thy first love”; Laodicea, “thou art neither hot nor cold.” Each church had failed to measure up to the real Jesus Christ. Each church failed to measure up to His standard of Divine Love.

Jesus is the standard of judgment for the churches.

Do you love the real Jesus? Or do you love a Jesus that fits into your dreams and desires and with your own ideas of what is best for your life? If your love is defective like that of the churches in Revelation, so will your concept of the Real Jesus be defective.

The real Jesus is a picture of Divine Love. It is awesome, it is terrible, and it knocks you off your feet. It is not always loving in the sense we imagine. At times it is harsh. At times it seems cruel.

His divine love is the basis for how we will be judged. Do you know the real Jesus? Do you know what real Divine Love is? Has your life been transformed by the Real Jesus?

  • To the Ephesians Jesus says: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”.
  • To the Laodiceans Jesus says, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”.

Our earthly love for Jesus will be the basis of our heavenly reward and duties. So yes, following the real Jesus is a struggle, it is a fight, it is a discipline, it requires a steadfast desire to conquer, against all odds, but the rewards will be worth it all!

As we study, see, and understand the Real Jesus Christ, I am praying that that we will understand true divine love, and how the real Jesus is the mark, the representation of how that love is to impact our lives.

I am praying further that once we see the real Jesus and what He expects of us, our very lives will be changed as we determine to be followers of the real Jesus Christ.

Adam & Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen is a well-known Catholic Priest who authored over 40 books. Even though a Catholic, his books The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, The Life of the Beloved and The Way of the Heart are classics. He was sought the world over as a gifted teacher and speaker. Yet the last 10 years of his life, he gave it all up to work in a home that took care of severely retarded and handicapped adults.

Nouwen has said that all his life two voices competed inside him. One encouraged him to succeed and achieve, while the other called him simply to rest in the comfort that he was “the beloved” of God. Only in the last decade of his life did he truly listen to that second voice.

“I left the university and went to France. After a year in France, I was called to become a priest at the Daybreak Community in Toronto which is a L’Arche Community (the word L’Arche means the Arc of Noah) a community of about a hundred people, fifty handicapped people and fifty assistants. L’Arche is a community of mentally handicapped people and their assistants who try to live in the spirit of the beatitudes. So I went to Toronto”[5].

The first thing they asked me was to work with Adam—of all names. I had to work with Adam! It sounded like working with humanity. Adam, a twenty-four-year-old man, was very, very, very handicapped. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t dress or undress himself. You never really knew if he knew you or not. His body was very deformed. His back was distorted and he suffered from continuous epileptic seizures.

It took him nearly two hours to prepare Adam each day. Bathing and shaving him, brushing his teeth, combing his hair, guiding his hand as he tried to eat breakfast-these simple, repetitive acts had become for him almost like an hour of meditation.

I must admit I had a fleeting doubt as to whether this was the best use of the busy priest’s time. Could not someone else take over the manual chores? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted him. “I am not giving up anything,” he insisted. “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.”

He had learned what it must be like for God to love us-spiritually uncoordinated, retarded, able to respond with what must seem to God like inarticulate grunts and groans. Indeed, working with Adam had taught him the humility and “emptiness” achieved by desert monks only after much discipline.

He taught me that the heart is more important than the mind. … Adam didn’t think. Adam had a heart, a real human heart. I suddenly realized that what makes a human being human is the heart with which he can give and receive love. Adam was giving me an enormous amount of God’s love and I was giving Adam of my love. There was an intimacy that went far beyond words or far beyond activity. I suddenly realized that Adam was not just a disabled person, less human than me or other people. He was a fully human being, so fully human that God even chose him to become the instrument of His love. He was so vulnerable, so weak, so empty, that he became just heart, the heart where God wanted to dwell, where He wanted to stay and where He wanted to speak to those who came close to His vulnerable heart.

Adam was a full human being, not half human or less human. I discovered that … God loves Adam very specially. He wanted to dwell in his broken person so that He could speak from that vulnerability into the world of strength, and call people to become vulnerable[6].

“Every time I told [Adam’s story] I could see new life and new hope emerging in the hearts of my listening friends. My grief became their joy, my loss was their gain, and my dying their coming to new life. Very slowly I started to see Adam coming alive in the hearts of those who had never known him, as if they were being made part of a great mystery. . . . Is this when is resurrection began, in the midst of my grief? That is what happened to the mourning Mary of Magdala . . . for the disciples on the road to Emmaus . . . for the disciples in the upper room . . . for the grieving friends of Jesus who went back to fishing in the lake. . . . Mourning turns to dancing, grief turns to joy, despair turns to hope, and fear turns to love. Then hesitantly someone is saying, ‘He is risen, he is risen indeed.” (pp. 119-120)


[2] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, ed., “267: ‏בָּצַע‎,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 122.

[3] tēréō; contracted tēró, fut. tērésō, from tērós (n.f.), a warden, guard. To keep an eye on, watch, and hence to guard, keep, obey,

Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993).

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 230.

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An elderly man had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the Doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of new technology hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%.

He went back for a check up and the Doctor confirmed: “your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”

To which the gentleman said, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve already changed my will three times!”

We are going to eavesdrop on a conversation between God and His chosen people, the Jews. I don’t expect you to change your wills, but I do want you to examine your heart in light of what we will find is of Greatest Value to God.

I am asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us that being a Christian is much more than going to church and reading the Bible. You are a Christian because God puts His Name upon you through Jesus Christ, and His Name upon you means we are partners with Him in pursuing the thing which is of greatest Value to Him!

Historical Background of Nehemiah and Malachi

The Book of Malachi was written during the time of Nehemiah. Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 445 B.C. to rebuild the wall, and returned to Persia in 433 B.C. He later returned to Israel (ca. 424 B.C.) to deal with the sins Malachi described (Neh. 13:6). So it is likely that Malachi was written during the period of Nehemiah’s absence[1].

Ezra had rebuilt the Temple years before, but Nehemiah was concerned about the city of Jerusalem. The protective wall and gates surrounding Jerusalem had been toppled and destroyed. The people were easy prey for marauding invaders. There was no pride in God’s City.

Cultural Judaism

As Nehemiah served as Governor of Jerusalem from 445-433BC, he discovered there were tremendous problems with the lives of the Jews, problems which would prevent the Name of God from being lifted up by their lives.

The problem was the Jews had become so effected by the thinking of the “heathen” around them, that they were Jews in name only. They were “Cultural Jews.” They were no different from the people around them.

Nehemiah discovered that while everyone “appeared” to be ‘religious Jews’, serious problems were going on.

Some of the Jews were enslaving their fellowmen. Times were tough, crops were not good, and folks were selling their children just to get money to plant a crop. If the crop failed, they had to mortgage the land. They had to borrow to pay the king’s tax.

The people had intermarried with people of other languages, cultures and religions. They were letting those religious beliefs influence how they worshipped. It was OK to worship other gods as long as they still went to Temple worship. Furthermore, God was not real in their homes, and the children were growing up ignorant of God, ignorant of the Hebrew language. When Ezra read the Law, Nehemiah had to have people in the audience who could translate and explain what was being read.

The people were treating the Sabbath as if it were an ordinary day. Ammonites and Moabites were going into the Temple. Merchants were conducting business in the Temple, even storing their goods there, treating it as if it were just another building. The Jews were divorcing Jewish wives and marrying women of Ammonite and Moabite ancestry, profaning the Word of God. Even priests had married foreign women.

Type of Holy Spirit

It became Nehemiah’s passion to rebuild the wall, repopulate the city and restore God’s Name to the nations. As such, Nehemiah is a type of the Holy Spirit, for it was His desire to get the people to stand up for God’s Name and be the chosen people of God that they were.

The Wall represents our Testimony

The wall represented their testimony for God. They kept the evil things out, kept the righteous things in. The gates represented Godly judgment in what went out and was allowed in.

The walls provided protection from the evil of this world.

Zechariah 2:5 “And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst”

REFORMS

Nehemiah in chapters 5-12 effected reforms, but then he went back to Assyria for 9 years. During this time the people resorted to their old ways, and that is when Malachi preached the Message from God.

As a result of the Message, when Nehemiah came back, the people repented and returned to God and Nehemiah was able to write in chapter 13:

Nehemiah 13:30 “I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work”

What Did God Say to His People?

Don’t you want to know what God said to these “cultural Jews” that turned their hearts around and made them start living for God?

But before we do, understand this. These people all thought they were “good Jews”. You would see them every Sabbath at the Temple. You would let your children play with their children. You would see them at Little League. You would help them at harvest time. Times were tough, crops were scarce, and money real tight. Most everyone was barely surviving. The Assyrian’s taxed heavily, and those taxes had to be paid, crop or not.

First of all God called to His people and simply said:

1.  (1:2) God says “I love you”, yet the people say “you call this love?”

God gives them a quick lesson in how He has chosen them, and how if He didn’t love them, they would be in worse shape.

  • He says, you will one day say “Great is the Lord!”

2. (1:6): “Where is my honor?” – His people say “how have we despised your name?”

  • spoiled food & animal offerings
  • blind and lame animals
  • They were giving God their “leftovers”
  • God says “I have no pleasure in you” & “I will not accept your sacrifices”
  • (1:11) because “My Name will be great among the nations” (twice He says)

3. (1:13) The Jews Respond: “What a weariness (burden) this is”

  • They weary the Lord!

GOD: “I am a great King, and my name will be feared among the nations”

When God sees the attitude of the People, He addresses the Priests:

4. (2:2) “Give Honor to my name” (to the Priests)

  • No fear of God’s Name
  • Turned away from God’s Word
  • Corrupted the teaching of God’s Law
  • Partiality
  • Temple is profaned.
  • Covenant is profaned

Then God reminds the people of what He has seen:

5.  (2:13) “Why Does God Not Bless Me?”

  • Cover the altar with tears
  • You think God has no standards, that anything goes!
  • I see how you treat your families, your wives.
  • You are being faithless by divorcing and remarrying foreign wives that do not know me.
  • I seek a Godly Offspring, children that Know my Name!

(2:15) God sought a Godly Offspring! Their children were growing up not knowing the Power and Authority of God’s Name, because of divorce!

  • God tells them “You are wearying to Me!”

6. (2:17) “How have we wearied the Lord?”

  • Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord
  • Where is the God of justice

7. (3:13) “How have we spoken against you?”

  • It is a waste to serve the Lord
  • The arrogant are blessed
  • evildoers prosper, get away with evil

You have dishonored the Name and Word of God!

What Do You Think God Values above everything? What is Mentioned more than anything else?

God Values His Name above everything else in this world!

Mal 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

  • The “name” of Jehovah refers to his authority and reputation. God wants a people who personally stake their lives on the authority and the reputation of Jehovah.
  • God wants a people who Know and Reverence and Honor His Name. That Honor is not superficial but is displayed in the way they live. The Name of the Lord is synonymous with His Power, His Faithfulness, His Love, His Mercy, His Glory, His Being!

When Moses said to the God in the burning bush, Who do I say sent me to Egypt to lead the Jews. God said “I am [hāyâ] that I am [hāyâ].” From haya we see the Name of God – Jehovah (YWWH) which occurs 5,321 times in the Old Testament.[2] Jehovah is Our Lord who has always been. JUst as Jesus says in Revelations 1 “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.

The Bible that most of us read, that most of us believe is living and God inspired, is only what it is because of the Name of God!

Psalms 138:2 2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your loving-kindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE NAME OF GOD

Look at what God instructed Aaron to say to the Jews way back in the wilderness, even before they went to Israel:

Numbers 6:22-27

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

  • The Lord bless you and keep you;
  • The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
  • The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

  • God had chosen the Jews to set His Name upon them, and to bless them

God enters into a partnership with the people He puts His Name on

  • God would bless them, but in return he wanted them to honor his name, and represent him to the world.
  • The common bond of this partnership was the Glory of God’s Name!

As Christians, God puts His Name on us!

  • John 17:26  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
  • Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
  • Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Moses knew the Power of God’s Name:

Deuteronomy 28:10 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.

David Knew the Power of God’s Name:

Psalms 20:7 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

When God Puts His Name on someone, He is entrusting that person with the authority and power and reputation of His Name. He expects us to Live our lives as representatives of His Power and Authority, and honor His reputation!

We become the Visible Expression of the Glory of God to the world, to generations to come.

But the Jews of Nehemiah’s days were bringing God down to their level, and making His Name common, and corrupt.

They were saying that God will accept anything and everything you give Him, it really doesn’t matter what you sacrifice. It doesn’t matter who you marry, or how many times you marry. It doesn’t matter how you treat people, or whether you lie cheat or steal to get ahead. He doesn’t really care what we do and even if He really does, He doesn’t have the power to do anything about it!

Psalm 7:11-13 David said, “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

What did God reveal that turned these people back to HIM?

God cries out “Return to me and I will return to you” (3:17)

And the people replied: “Yes, let us return to God.  But how shall we return?

And God’s reply is a thousand miles different from what I would ever have thought of.

He replies to them: “God will bless us, and be with us, and open the windows of heaven, and pour out an abounding immeasurable blessing upon us if…”

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse… and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts. if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there should not be room enough to receive it.

“Your hearts aren’t big enough and your arms aren’t wide enough to receive all the blessings I’ll pour out upon you if you will return to Me with a sense of stewardship, with a sense of partnership with my Name.”

Such a gift from God, that no matter where I am in my walk with Him, that if I see that His Name is upon me, and He depends upon me to Honor the power and authority of His Name, if I start honoring our partnership with giving unto Him that which is His, He will uphold His reputation and His Word by blessing me!

I can partner with God Himself. He wants such a relationship with me that He is willing to put His reputation on the line if I simply Honor His Name!

Our tithing, our giving grows out of this partnership, this relationship we have with the Name of God!

If this is not the foundation of your giving: You will see the tithe as nothing but a gimmick to get money out of reluctant people, or as a bargain we make with God. If a man could believe: “If I tithe, I’ll get ten dollars for every one that I give.  Or I’ll get a hundred dollars for every ten that I offer:” Then, who wouldn’t trade a one dollar bill for a ten-dollar bill or a ten-dollar bill for a one hundred-dollar bill?  The most greedy person in Cass County would start tithing!

Tithing is not a gimmick

Tithing is about the Name of God and us Honoring His Name, because we are partners with the power of His name.

Tithing is the way we return to God, the way we show our reverence for His Name. Tithing is proof of our partnership with God!

I read about a man who was having trouble with this concept. He had been taught tithing, so he told his pastor, “I don’t see how I can give ten percent to the church when I can’t even keep on top of our bills.”

The pastor replied, “John, if I promise to make up the difference in your bills if you should fall short, do you think you could try giving that much for just one month?”

John thought about it for a moment and then replied, “Sure, if you promise to make up any shortage, I will try giving ten percent for one month.”

“What do you think of that?” mused the pastor. “You say you’d be willing to trust a mere man like me, who possesses so little materially, but you couldn’t trust your Heavenly Father, who owns the whole universe!” John began giving regularly off the top each month, and God always met his needs.

When you place your money in the offering bag, do so with a sense of His presence. Do so with a sense of the His Name upon you. Do so as a sign of your partnership in the Glory of God’s Name!

IS GOD DISTANT?

If you find yourself wondering where God is in your life. If you find yourself thinking He seems so distant. If you are missing your joy, God says “return to me” start embracing this partnership we have in Honoring and Upholding the Power of My Name. Start realizing the power of this partnership by simply giving me your tithe.

God has placed a burden upon my heart, a burden that our nation, our churches, are becoming a place of “Cultural Christians” who are bringing God down to their level.

CULTURAL CHRISTIANS INFECTING AMERICA

“numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. “Gallup and Barna,” laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, “hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.”[3] Divorce is more common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their non-evangelical peers.[4]

Cultural Christians believe they are Christians, but they do not Honor the Name of God to the point that their lives reflect His Values, and the Power of His Name. Cultural Christians simply try to fit God into their lives as long as it is convenient.

If God is getting through to your heart the way Malachi was getting through to the cultural Jews of Nehemiah’s Day, the first thing you do to tell God you take this partnership seriously is simply start tithing!

The Joy of Partnership

Returning to God begins with that “walk of faith” and complete trust in the Name of God. Returning to God is the wonderful acknowledgment that God and you are partners. We are stewards of God’s Name. We are Stewards of God’s Possessions.

I don’t have any breath but that God gives it to me (Breath is a gift of God).  There’s not any sunshine, but God’s sunshine; there’s not any failing rain, but God’s rain; there’s not any increase, but God’s increase; there’s not any harvest, but God’s harvest.  All of it is a gift from God.

As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy: “We brought nothing into this world and we shall certainly carry nothing out”.

I am a partner with God; and, as such, He is my first creditor.  That’s why the first fruits belong to Him.  And He says: “Honor me with the first fruits of all thy substance; so shall thy barns will filled with plenty and thy presses bursting out with new wine.”

He and I are partners.

This is God’s part: The breath, the life, the sun, the rain, the increase—that’s God’s. My Part is the labor and the love of my hands.  And when I honor God, God honors me. God wants to bless us.  God has put His Name upon us. When we come to God in consecration and dedication; and bring to Him our tithe and offering, out of the appreciation of my heart for our partnreship—two things happen.

1. We step into the supernatural.

When we tithe, God’s strength comes into our soul. His Face shines upon us. His Life is upon us! He lifts His countenance upon us and gives His peace! The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. His Name is upon you!

You are stepping into the unseen, the presence of God. You are embracing the Power and Authority of His Name! God has placed His Name upon You!

2.  We bless someone else.

Giving to God is just another name for helping somebody else. Preaching the gospel, saving the lost, teaching our children, assembling our families in praise and worship—it’s just another name for serving Jesus.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”  And, when I give to God, that’s another name for ministry to somebody else.

That’s Good. That’s Great

And when the Lord made the beautiful and verdant earth, with its teeming plants and vegetation, grasses, and trees, God looked upon it and God said: “That’s good.  That’s good.”  When the Lord spoke to the air and [it] was filled with fowls and birds; and unto the sea and it was filled with the fish; and to the land mass and it was filled with animals, God looked at it and He said: “That’s good.  That’s great.”

Well, when we bring a tithe and an offering to the Lord, we are being like God.

  • We go to Awana’s and see boys and girls learning God’s Word, learning about Jesus, and we say: “That’s good.  I’m glad I had a part in it.”
  • We look at our teenagers, and we see them being taught how to make decisions based upon Jesus Christ ans His Word, we say: “That’s good.  I’m glad I have a part in it.”
  • When we see families strengthened to follow the Lord, and husbands and wives being encouraged to love each other and make Christ Lord in their homes, we say: “That’s great.  I’m glad I have a part in it.”
  • When you see our church responding to needs and sickness and surgeries and loss of loved ones, we say: “That’s great.  That’s good.  I’m glad I have a part in it.”
  • And we look upon the ministries of our church, reaching out to our neighbors, showing them the love of Christ, we say: “That’s great.  I’m glad to have a part in it.”

But the truth is, I believe we can see God do much more!

Somewhere in rural Midwest, years ago, when most of the income was earned at harvest time, there was a town in which a big expansive elevator was built.  One man owned the elevator and took the grain, the wheat, the corn, the oats, the rye, the barley from the people.

He attended the main church in town. This church had built a beautiful building and was now deep in debt.Giving was down, debt payments were high, they hadn’t been able to fully cover the pastor’s salary. They had stopped giving to missions.

So at a conference in the church, they turned to that man who owned the big grain elevator and asked him if he would be treasurer of the congregation.  And the elevator man said: “I will accept the place as treasurer of the congregation if you’ll give me one year and don’t ask me any questions and don’t expect any report from me until the end of the year.”

Well, they were in dire straits and so they agreed. They elected him treasurer with the understanding they’d never ask him any questions during the year and not to expect a report until the end of the year.  When the end of the year came, he stood up before that congregation and made his report: They had paid every dime of the big debt they had on the church; they had raised the pastor’s salary; and they had increased their gifts two-hundred percent to missions; and they had thousands of dollars in the bank.

And the people gasped in amazement and one man finally had the courage to stand up and say: “But how did you do it?”

And the elevator man said:

Whenever you came into my elevator with the wheat, or the corn, or the barley, or the rye, or the oats,or the beans, I took one-tenth of it and set it aside for God.  You never missed it, you never knew it, but one-tenth of all that you brought me, I set aside for God.  And out of those tithes that you unconsciously dedicated to the Lord, I have paid off the church debt; I have raised the pastor’s salary. I have given to missions.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, if each of our people were to tithe, if each of you were to partner your life with the Power & Reputation of the Name of God; why next year we would be saying “what are we going to do about the money? Not because we do not have enough, but we’d be wondering what to do with all the extra!

Is the Name of God upon You? Do You See that He has entrusted His Name with You? Do you see that returning to God begins with trusting Him with His tithe, trusting Him to Honor the Power of His Name and His Word!

As we have eavesdropped on God’s conversation with the Jews 2400 years ago, could He have been talking to you? Have you settled for a cultural Christianity, when God wants you to see you are in partnership with the Power of His name?

I encourage to not be a comfortable, convenient, cultural Christian. Allow that which is Most Valuable to God, the Honor and Power of His Name, to be your most valuable possession.

Lift up the Name of Jehovah, see Him as the “I Am of your life, try Him and see if His Name is not the Most Powerful Name, able to open the windows of Heaven and pour out Blessings from heaven that you will not be able to contain.

Those that Lift up the Honor of His Name, who live their lives in the Power of His Name are promised a Reward!

Malachi 3:16-17 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.

Your name is written in His Book. You shall be a treasured Jewel. You shall be spared in the day of Judgment.


[2] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, ed., “484: ‏הָוָה‎,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 210.


Harriet Tubman said: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world”.

  • You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis
  • “Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.” Marsha Norman
  • “Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”
  • “Dreams are like stars…you may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny.”
  • “The inability to open up to hope is what blocks trust, and blocked trust is the reason for blighted dreams”. Elizabeth Gilbert

Nearly two thousand years ago a solitary man hung on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth. His crucifixion was the manifestation of a dream that God had before time began[1]. That dream to restore mankind to God[2] resulted in God Himself being born as a defenseless baby in a forgotten manger, to parents of no standing or reputation[3]. That baby dreamed dreams not of success, not of comfort, not of adventures, but of a horrible death, death on the cross. Instead of visions of fame and riches, he had visions of the floodgates of the sins of all humanity being opened upon Him[4]. Instead of dreams of the love of his father and mother, his dreams were of becoming the vilest creation in the universe, and becoming forsaken by his Heavenly Father[5].

As Jesus hung on the tree, Scriptures says “He became cursed for you and me”[6]. While He became cursed for us, He was beloved by His Father[7], because he was being obedient[8], and He was acting on His Father’s behalf[9]. Jesus had come to earth to set things right. He had come to restore righteousness and justice[10] to a world in the grip of an evil overlord who was bent on enslaving man for himself. He had come to take back this world from satan and from sin, and return God’s Justice to the world[11]. When Jesus ascended to heaven in view of over 500 witnesses, He was holding a huge IOU signed by God[12]. That IOU gave Jesus ownership of the world, of the nations[13] and of all those who trusted in Him as their Savior.

God wrote an IOU to His Son, a huge IOU, and some day Jesus will return to claim it!

The Father is delaying the return of Christ[14] so that more people can be redeemed from the curse. He is delaying the return so that the Bride of Christ can be prepared[15]. Moreover, here we are on the cusp of a new year. Will this be the year our Lord returns to claim His IOU? Will this be the year the vision of Isaiah comes to pass?

Isa 43:19  “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”.

God will do a New Thing, and when it springs forth, the way through the wilderness will open up, and there will be rivers running in the desert.

As we stand on the crest of a new year, I believe God wants us to listen to what His plans are. Behold, God wants us to give ear to Him!

Isaiah 42:8-9 “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them”.

We are so pre-occupied with our life, our problems; our interests that we fail to look to God and see what He is doing. Most of the time we walk around so absorbed with what we have going on, that we lose our sense of God and His plans for our lives. Only when we are in a real bind do we look heavenward and call for a lifeline!

God has been challenging me of late. He has challenged me to lift up my Eyes[16] and Dream, Dream of What He wants to do. I Have A Dream for 2011.

Solomon described the type of church I want to pastor:

Proverbs 14:11 The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.

In order to flourish and thrive, we need to focus on our Almighty God; we need to focus on what His plans are for our church and for our lives. We need to be focused on Him!

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

We need a vision of God, a vision from God, and that vision will grow out of our love for God’s Word.

We need to be little Samuel’s, and say, “Lord, Speak, for I am Listening!” The reason Samuel was born was to restore the Word of the Lord to Israel:

1 Samuel 3:1 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

We need to have visions from God. We need to have messages from God! We need the Power of God’s Word in our lives and in our church! But He will not speak if we are not listening and willing to obey!

We need to be like Isaiah, that when we look into God’s face and we hear Him say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

We need to stand and say, “Here am I! Send me!”

When we are dreaming alone it is only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality. – Dom Helder Camara

I do not want to dream alone, so would you listen carefully and share in my dream?

I HAVE A DREAM

Ninety Nine Score years ago, the Son of God, in whose church we stand today, canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. That momentous decree disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities, and shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. (Colossians 2:14-15) The cross has become a great beacon of hope to billions of souls who have been enslaved by sin. Resurrection morning was the joyous daybreak that ended centuries of captivity to satan.

However, one thousand nine hundred and eighty years later, billions still are not free. Mankind is sadly crippled by the manacles of sin and the chains of satan.

One thousand nine hundred and eighty years later, multitudes are enslaved.

One thousand nine hundred and eighty years later, mankind languishes on a lonely island of spiritual poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

One thousand nine hundred and eighty years later, mankind finds himself an exile in God’s own country.

Therefore, we have come here today knowing this world is in a shameful condition.

Our only Hope is that someday Jesus Christ will return to cash in the IOU he gained on the cross. When Christ blotted out our sins by nailing them to the cross, He was signing a promissory note that every man woman and child could be heir to. That note was a promise that all men, by faith, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of eternal life, liberty from sin and the pursuit of God.

It is obvious today people of this world have failed to take this promissory note by faith. Instead of honoring a risen Savior, people have accepted a bad check from Satan, a check they believe promises freedom, but in reality enslaves them to sin and condemns them to hell.

But we refuse to believe that the dream of our Savior is faded and forgotten. We refuse to believe that he has insufficient power to reign over a defeated satan.

We refuse to believe that the bank of Heaven is bankrupt and without resources to bring men to salvation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom in Christ and the security of justification before God!

We have come to this hallowed place to remind ourselves of the fierce urgency of now!

This is no time to engage in the luxury of complacency or to take the tranquilizing drug of apathy!

Now is the time to make real the Promises of Jesus Christ!

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of indifference to the sunlit path of God’s Redemption Power!

Now is the time to lift our neighbors from the quick sands of sin and selfishness to the solid rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to make redemption a reality for all of God’s children!

It would be fatal for this church to overlook the urgency of the moment. This freezing winter of mankind’s sinfulness will not pass until there is an invigorating Prairie wind of forgiveness and freedom from sin. Two Thousand Eleven is not an end, but a beginning.

Those who hope that the people of Pleasant Prairie will be silent and apathetic will have a rude awakening this year. There will be neither rest nor tranquility until we have freed our enslaved neighbors all around us. The whirlwinds of the Holy Spirit will continue to shake the foundations of our community until the bright light of Jesus Christ emerges in glory!

However, there is something that I must say to each one of us who stand on the warm threshold that leads into the Heavenly palace. In the process of winning souls for Christ, we must be conscious of our testimony for our Savior. We must be careful not to satisfy our thirst for God by drinking from the cup of self-effort.

We must forever conduct our struggle in the power of the Holy Spirit of God. We must not allow our passion for the lost to degenerate into selfishness and personal distractions.

Again and again, we must look upon Him who is invisible and rise to the majestic heights of walking by faith. The marvelous Holy Spirit must engulf our church and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, and cause us to rise up with the wings of eagles. Our freedom is inextricably bound in the freedom of the Spirit. We cannot walk alone!

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. We cannot turn back, we cannot turn aside, and we cannot be distracted. Some of you are asking, “When should we be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as one man remains the victim of the unspeakable horrors of sin.

  • We can never be satisfied, as long as our brothers, backslidden with sin, turn their backs on fellowship with God’s saints.
  • We can never be satisfied as long as the needs of our neighbors go unmet because of our callousness and selfishness.
  • We can never be satisfied as long as children are stripped of their hope and joy by parents who fail to teach them of their loving creator God, and the Savior who died for them.
  • We can never be satisfied as long as our neighbors think there is nothing beyond the grave but darkness.
  • We can never be satisfied knowing our neighbors will face the judgment of God without our Savior Jesus Christ and be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity.

No… no…, we are never satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until salvation rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have faced great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from personal tragedies. Some of you have been battered by the storms of tribulations and others have staggered through personal trials of faith.

May we remember God’s promise: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you”!

I encourage you to count all things as loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and to keep pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. May all your trials be the means of knowing Jesus, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. Every trial and tribulation you endure is more precious than gold!

Let us go back to Belton, go back to Peculiar, go back to Cleveland, go back to Freeman, go back to Raymore, go back to your homes and neighborhoods, knowing that the salvation of your neighbors, of your children, of your grandchildren can and will be achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. May we never wallow in the valley of despair or defeat.

I say to you today, my friends, even though we face difficulties in the year ahead, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the quest of the Son of God.

I have a dream that one day “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God”. Psalms 86:9-10

I have a dream that one day throughout our nation God will put His laws into our minds, and write them on our hearts, and He will be our God, and we shall be His people. (Heb 8:10)

I have a dream that one day the nations of this world, nations sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of persecution and oppression, will be transformed by your throne, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants”. (Ps 89:14)

I have a dream that my children, their spouses and our grandchildren will one day dwell in the New Jerusalem because their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!

I have a dream that each of you and each of your loved ones would enjoy the mansion that Jesus is building for you, because your hearts have embraced Him as your personal Savior.

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will be a place of giving people because we trust in the power of God to generously provide all we need. We will always have everything we need and plenty left over to share with others.

I have a dream that God will say of our church, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will be known as a house of prayer for all peoples, and that all who enter here will sense the Joy of God’s presence.[17]

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will be a place where husbands learn to love their wives and wives learn to respect their husbands.

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will be a place where children can come and find Jesus Christ and grow in His grace and His Word.

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will be a place for Families to be strengthened as they grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will be a people of God’s Word, and to God’s Word they turn daily for it is our bread of life

I have a dream Pleasant Prairie will send out gospel teams ministering to the needs of our neighbors in the Name of Jesus Christ.

I have a dream that Pleasant Prairie will send out gospel teams to Africa and Asia and wherever the Lord burdens our hearts to go!

I have a dream that the folks of Pleasant Prairie will simply be willing to GO!

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which we enter 2011. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of uncertainty a stone of precious Hope.

With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of sin and selfishness into a beautiful symphony of the Spirit’s Power.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to witness together, to stand up for Jesus Christ together, knowing that our Savior will be returning soon!

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning,

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name.

He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free; his blood can make the foulest clean; his blood availed for me.

And if Pleasant Prairie Baptist is to be God’s church, this must become true. So let the freedom of the Gospel of Christ ring from Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church.

Let the freedom of the Gospel ring from the front yards of Belton.

Let the freedom of the Gospel ring from the hilltops of Peculiar.

Let the freedom of the Gospel ring from the rooftops of Raymore!

Let the freedom of the Gospel ring from the backyards of Cleveland!

Let the freedom of the Gospel ring from every hill and valley of our great nation. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we proclaim the freedom of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when we let it ring from every village and every town, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black and white, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and in the words of Psalm 98,

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

And one day, when we finally behold the precious Lamb of God, “every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God our Father!” and we will sing a new song as Jesus claims His IOU!:

“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”

And we will finally be able to shout:

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank Christ Almighty, we are free at last!”


[1] 1 Pet 1:19-21

[2] 2 Tim 1:9

[3] Phil 2:6-8

[4] Isa 53:10-11

[5] Mark 15:34

[6] Gal 3:13

[7] Matt 12:18

[8] Heb 5:8

[9] John 17:21

[10] Ps 37:6

[11] Isa 53:10-11

[12] Rev 5:1-5

[13] Ps 2:8

[14] 2 Pet 3:9

[15] Rev 19:7

[16] Isa 60:4

[17] Isa 56:7

Additional Verses which form the foundation for the Dream:

1 Peter 1:19-21 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Philippians 2:6-8 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:10-11 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Matthew 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Psalms 37:6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Revelation 5:1-5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Psalms 2:8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 42:8-9 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!

Isaiah 60:4 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.

Proverbs 14:11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

1 Samuel 3:10 And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

1 Samuel 3:1 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

Jeremiah 11:14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.

Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

Isaiah 6:8-9 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Colossians 2:14-15 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Hebrews 12:26-29 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Luke 11:4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Isaiah 40:31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Isaiah 35:6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

Isaiah 43:1-2 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.

Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Psalms 86:9-10 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Psalms 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Revelation 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

2 Corinthians 9:7-9 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

Isaiah 56:7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Ephesians 5:25-28 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Mark 10:14-15 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Matthew 4:4 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Mark 16:15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Luke 3:5-6 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

Hebrews 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Psalms 98:1-4 Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power! The Lord has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation! He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel. The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!

Romans 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Philippians 2:10-11 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Isaiah 45:23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Revelation 5:8-10 When he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp, and they had golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sang a new song and these are the words they sang, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”