Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms (James 5:13b)
Most people I know only pray or ask for prayer in times of sickness, sadness and horrible tragedy. This is when all the calls for “thoughts and prayers” cometh forth. But do you know that God, our loving Heavenly Father, wishes to hear from us too when something good happens? There is nothing that happens to the believer which the Father hath not ordained. James says “every good gift  and every perfect gift is from above, and comes from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). This means “EVERY”.

The life we have, He gave it. The home we live in, He gave it. The spouse, children, parents and family we have, He gave it. The job, finances and automobiles we have, He gave. Our health, our joy, our peace of mind, our Salvation – all from Him. Why would we, therefore, not thank Him for any and all of this every single day?!

It is not the first time Scripture uses the word “cheerful”. When the Bible says “God loves a cheerful giver”, it means He loves someone who gives ungrudgingly, and  with a gracious attitude, or (attitude of gratitude).  The word also implies hilarity – jocularity and sheer joy which one is so filled with that it should burst forth to those around you, being grateful.

James not only brings up joy but directs us to the only true prayer book directly written by God – the Book of Psalms! Most of these psalms – all 150 of them – were written down by the great Biblical poet, King David but they emanated from the Spirit of God. This is so, for a reason – we are to pray them, learn them, sing them, read them, study them and simply  grow our faith through them.  A lot of modern contemporary worship singers like Third Day or Jeremy Camp have turned parts of psalms into amazing worship music. Third Day’s King of Glory is based on Psalm 24. But when James wrote this, all he had were the cantors in the Jerusalem Temple where Christians were not allowed (called “Followers of the Way” at that time). 

The closest you will ever come these days to what the psalms may have sounded like in Bible days can be listened to in these Messianic worship videos by Marty Goetz. Marty, like the Apostle Paul, was high up in Judaism as a Cantor, butwhen the Lord Jesus – Yeshua – saved him, Marty Goetz brought his brilliant talent, authentic synagogue background from the last 3500 years and his brilliant gift to singing Scripture.

Not all prayers are petitions asking something of our Great God in Heaven, through Jesus Christ. Some of them are designed to be just prayers of heartfelt praise and worship to our Creator and the King of the Universe!  Listen to part of Psalm 118 here, sung in original Hebrew, as recommended by James in Chapter 5, verse 13b. Some of what is being sung is from Psalm 118:25-26 "Save now, I pray, O Lord; O
 Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord....."

Thursday, December 24, 2015


The half-brother of the Lord Jesus – James the great winds up his five chapters of Instruction on Prayer with a huge punctuation mark.  The rapid fire teaching on corporate prayer is designed to build up the individual Christian’s prayer life by ordaining the proper role of corporate prayer, in the Body of Christ.  Here is the Power List for the Church of Prayer Concerns, which will survive  until Christ calls the Church home (the Rapture)”

- Hardship (Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray....James 5:13a)
- Happy (Verse 13b)
- Healing and Bodily Restoration (Verse 14-15)
- Confession of sin (Verse 16)
- Prayer for the Community…or nation (Verse17)

The good Lord addresses Hardship many different ways in Scripture. He does so for our edification, illumination, our application and then our that order. In this significant tutorial from the entire Book of James, we have an Apostle who knows precisely that of which he speaks. The man was persecuted (and then killed) by the religious authorities in Jerusalem and did not have an easy time even living day to day. So he not only spoke truth, he lived truth

A lot of Christians do not need to have someone describe hardship because it is their current state. What can we tell someone who is physically limited and/or in horrible pain and cannot cope with it spiritually and emotionally? What can we tell someone who is economically challenged and even in dire straits with apparently nowhere to turn? We do not need to teach hardship. People live it. They live it here in the West and in the persecuted Church of the third world countries.  We have all gone through hardship in our lives, in many different forms and at many different times. It is the universal condition since the Fall of Mankind (in Genesis 3).

However, what qualifies us to offer assistance to a fellow traveler here is what we learned while emerging victorious through these hardships and how the Lord did it. If we are wise and open to listening to the Spirit of God in these trying times, we will submit to God, lay our lives bare before Him and He will fortify us as we walk through these valleys, but will teach us hope to persevere. This perseverance through prayer and obedience is what James is instructing us towards maturity in Christ and being stronger in prayer, just like he was.

An obedient, repentant Christian, under duress, will keep clean hands or prayers will not be heard. Through it all, God has not left us alone but He has given us His Word to buffet our spirits, and soothe our souls. So as we come to Him in prayer, let us press in on these few of many powerful verses of Scripture, which zone in on Hardship and what God has to say. Our ability to make it through, rests solely on our availability to His Guidance and the reality of His dependability. The sooner we believe these promises and embed them in our minds and souls, the more confident we become of direction of victory in any matter. Therefore, pray through these verses in humility and surrender and then watch God move in a mighty way!

The Premise: 2 Corinthians 8:9 - "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (Jesus knows our fears, cares and pains).

The Prescription: Philippians 4:11-14 "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. read more."

The Promise: "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3) "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7) and "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.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

Monday, December 14, 2015


IN CONTEXT: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
There is a tendency among Christians, even praying ones, to appropriate our own actions and thoughts to the Will, plans and purposes of God. A lot of times, when we do that, we can find ourselves in a place we never expected to be. I have made that same mistake and gotten out ahead of God, only to see Him having to send an angel of mercy, to take me to a better place when my own plans failed.

This exhortation to pray first and act later is so critically important, if we want to really follow, submit and live in the Will of God. It is easy to understand why James is giving this real life application. I have seen too many people make and execute many life-altering decisions only to see them come crashing down on them. Some have moved out of state, only to struggle and even move back home. Some have changed perfectly fine jobs, to buy into something nice and shiny, only to ask their bosses later on, if they can return. Some so-called Christians have even walked out on their spouses and families, justify it as "God wants me to be happy". Later on, they find themselves in a painful world of hurt, wishing they could have things "the way they used to be".

Let us be perfectly clear - God is NOT the Author of Chaos and God would NEVER lead someone to sin and break vows made before Him.  However, He will allow us to have our own way and do what James is talking about in Verse 13 above ("today we will....."). God will do that until we learn the lesson we are supposed to learn.

Next the Lord (through James in verse 14) is gently warning us that we are not the ultimate master of our destiny. As in everything, nothing is guaranteed us past this moment of life we are in right now. The next breath is not, the next day is not...and most definitely the next year(s) is not. So this MUST spur us to continuous prayer. 

There is a reason the Apostle Paul exhorts us to "pray without ceasing" in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. He was not speaking of four hours of prayer before you go out the door each morning but a lifestyle of prayer and intimate conversation with the One Who created us. This is actually the best way to know the Will of God for our lives - through a closer walk with Him.  Once we have that have this close relationship with the Father, through prayer, only then we can experience His leading in our lives when we need to make a really important decision in life.

This is the gist of James 4:15 "Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” When James says that we "ought to say", he is really saying that it behooves us to pray!  The original word for "ought" is literally "anti-" ...where we got our prefixes for words like "anti-dote" "anti-type" etc. The Bible really giving us great advice here for our own benefit. God is saying "why don't you substitute your own thoughts and actions and consult Me first....ask Me -what is My Will for your life in this decision. I know the beginning from the end. Do you think I would withhold good things from you? You think this is the right course due to your own limited reasoning and planning. But I have a better course for you. I have a plan that will bless you, and bless others. All you have to do is to ask Me in prayer and then wait on Me! Can you do that? Great! It is better if you do!!" 

Sunday, December 6, 2015


James 4:8b 
 "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded".
No one has clean hands. We are all sinners and in the case of the Christian – sinners saved completely by the Grace of God. The Sacrifice of Christ, on the Cross of Calvary and the Precious Supernatural Blood of the Lamb made washed our souls clean, at the point of rejuvenation and rebirth into the Kingdom of God. We, who are saved in the only manner proscribed by the Word of God thus, are still capable of sin despite some pretty incredibly bad things. Sins Christians commit can range from little white lies all the way to adultery or even worse. Still,  the born-again believer has a way back to fellowship with God through repentance and spiritual sackcloth and ashes (seeking forgiveness for those wronged).

James instructs us to actively cleanse our hands. David showed us the exact prayer of repentance, thus, in Psalm 51:7 "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow".

James instructs us to “purify our hearts”, because we humans really can be double-minded! Since we are unable to remove the organ in our chest that pumps blood and keeps us alive, it is obvious James is speaking about the “spiritual heart”. This is where the spirit of man resides and if born again, where the Holy Spirit of God co-exists to be our Counselor, Teacher, Guide and friend. If there is any sin in the Christian, the spiritual heart immediately pings into it. Holy Spirit and a temporary mindset of lust and more cannot co-exist in one accord with sin. In this event, the Christian is operating with two minds or is double-minded and one will step aside. We are given a directive in Scripture to not grieve the Holy Spirit and this is why. He WILL step aside until the Christian comes to his/her senses; thereby proving that God is a gentleman and will never force His Will on anyone.

Of all the exhortations to correct living, through prayer which James lays out here, this is probably the most crucial.  Being doubleminded is being disloyal to God. As a sinner saved by Grace, I know exactly what that means and on the other hand, knowing the joy of living in peace with God’s Spirit abiding in our Spiritual Hearts is an amazing reality – minute by minute! How, therefore do we avoid being double-minded, so that we do not offend God?

It is easier than one would think, yet requires self-discipline and vigilance to maintain. There is no big secret to this simple form of “purification”, if you will. There is no chest beating or sackcloth and ashes. Simply pray this daily from Psalm 139: 23-24 "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting". 

You can guarantee all our sin and weak points will soon be discovered and then exposed. Then after that washing of the Scripture, ask the Lord in true sincerity and humility daily, to REMOVE that dross which He has found. This is not primarily about obvious sin, but from personal experience, it could be even the good things in life (ministry, family etc.) which would be drawing us away from that vital, intense relationship with Abba. That’s it! If we have a cancer or a problem spot – we remove and root it out and dispose of it. It is the same with being a double-minded man or woman of God.

This one phrase or sentence from James packs that kind of power because he is showing us - ONCE AGAIN - God's preferred method of being aligned with the Mind of Christ. The key here is to stay cleansed through the Word and obedience and just in case we are not sure how to do that, we go back to - you guessed it - the Word to discover exactly what we say in pray to accomplish this perfect alignment. God is good, all the time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


In recent years, since the Supreme Court stepped into the arena of outlawing
First in the Nation Nativity Scene, since 2008
certain basic traditions, like prayer in school and Bible reading, this same cultural/religious conflict has extended to Christmas traditions.

Every year we hear about "The War on Christmas". Before going any further, two things should be clear - there has always been a War on Christ. Secondly, since the enemies of God can never AND WILL NEVER get to Christ, the proxy war has always been against true followers of His since 33 AD, when Jesus has been confirmed as crucified by both Roman documents, Josephus the secular historian and of course, the Bible.

Nativity Scenes or "creches" or the "Manger Scene"  are the biggest bone of contention among those pebbles thrown against those who celebrate the Birth of the Savior. But how did we actually get a "Nativity Scene", which is really nowhere in the Bible? Believe it or not, this goes back about 800 years to the great Francis of Assisi who in 1223 observed the same lack of love for the Savior and commercialism we see in modern times. He was stunned by the fact that gift giving was taking precedence (yes also in 1220's!!) over Jesus!

Francis was known for his love of animals and did not just create the first Nativity Scene, but the very first "Living Nativity Scene".  He had live animals in the cave and based his creation on his concept of the atmospherics in the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem. We know from historical conditions around 4 BC to 2 BC, and from my conversations from centuries old families in the Bethlehem and fields of Boaz area, that Jesus was most likely born in a cave or grotto there. The well known shepherds of Bethlehem are still around in those ragged hills where the Choirs of Heaven sang the Saviors birth to the Shepherds in Luke 2. Visitors to the Holy Land can still experience the timeless authenticity of what the Bible spoke of two thousand years ago.

First Responder Chaplain, director of the Illinois Chapter of Wreaths
America at the Dedication to the United States Military
Over the years, it became obviously impossible to have live animals in every manger scene, every where. Therefore, all variations of nativity scenes have been created and many centuries old ones still survive to this day. For the last 8 years, a full size Italian Marble Nativity Scene has been placed in the Rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. How is this possible when it is obviously a 100% Christian expression of Faith in a country increasingly hostile to Jesus and Christianity? 

Quite simply, the first in the Nation State Capitol Nativity Scene is a privately-funded expression idea of the late Daniel and Julie Zanoza of Lincoln, Illinois. Together with the
Thomas More Society of Chicago, a religious liberty-defending Christian organization and the Illinois Family Institute, the Zanozas were able to form a committee of like-minded Christians to bring the Nativity Scene inside the "People's House" of the state of Illinois! Not just that, but it passed the test of the ACLU as it was one of many such expressions in the beginning, such as the Hanukkah Menorah and others. These others included Seinfeld's imaginary celebration of "Festivus" and its pole. There was an atheist's letter denouncing the existence of God and some others. Side by side, they all co-existed with the beautifully ordained and adorned Nativity Scene outshining them all. Not just that, they sat around the hugest Christmas tree I have ever seen - in the middle of the state capitol rotunda. This sort of religious expression would have made the Founders of this Great Condition smile with pride, as it was what America is all about - Freedom.

Over the years, only the Jewish Festive Menorah and our Nativity Scene have persevered and this is perfect as Christianity is actually a Judeo-Christian religion. Even Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in 29 AD! ("Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. John 10:22-23). Since Illinois has led the way in how to legally celebrate the Savior's birth in the public square (from 2008), ten other American states have followed, from Arkansas to Florida and Mississippi, under the counsel of the American Nativity Scene Committee of suburban Illinois. The Thomas More Society's Founder Thomas Brejcha is one of the leaders of this wonderful group.

In the last three years, Wreaths Across America has now joined us at the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee to partner in remembering and honoring the great United States Military with Christmas wreaths at National Cemeteries. In Springfield, this would be Camp Butler, which as been around since the Union fought the Civil War.  Representing Wreaths Across America, which places tens of thousands of these same sweet smelling natural wreaths at Arlington Cemetery, is Chaplain Steve Holden, of the United States Emergency Services Chaplains Corps. 

Each year, this first in the nation historical event, is celebrated with a full Christmas launch service with speakers and Christmas singers as well as the dedication of the wreaths with full military honors, on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The Springfield Nativity Scene remains inside the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois, until Christmas Eve, for free public viewing.