How We Are Healed

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But He was wounded for our transgressions,

He was bruised for our iniquities;

The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,

And by His stripes we are healed. — Isaiah 53:5  

As we continue our 40-Day Fast, I want to encourage you with a promise of healing. (You can scroll down and read about the 40-Day Fast below if you haven’t already). 

“By His stripes we are healed,” the prophet wrote. By the stripes that He bore from a severe flogging, we are healed. By the pain He suffered on the Cross, we are healed. Other translations say, “By His wounds we are healed” or “He was whipped so we could be healed.” The stripes on His body were the rows of deep wounds inflicted by a scourging with iron-tipped leather whips.

But there is more to understand. Another level and meaning.

In a study of the original language, I discovered that the word for “stripes” in Hebrew is chaburah, meaning “a black and blue mark, bruise, hurt, stripe, wound” (Strong’s Concordance, ref. 2250, Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary). However, chaburah comes from a root word, chabar, which has among its meanings, “to unite, to join, to be compact…to have fellowship with” (Strong’s, ref. 2266). In modern Hebrew, it is translated as “friend.”

We are healed by His wounds, but we are also healed by our fellowship with Him. As we draw close to Him, we can experience His compassion and His power to heal. “No longer do I call you servants,” He said to His followers, “for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Our intimate friendship with Jesus is healing, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Be encouraged as we continue to fast and seek God’s glory. He will draw us closer to Him as we open our hearts and surrender our lives, and I know we will see His glory and experience His healing power in all aspects of our lives.

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Forty Day Fast

Fast40Cover2Do you have a hunger for God? If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God. —John Piper

We are starting our New Year by asking God to manifest His glory, allowing us to “drink deeply” as the quote above says.

On February 1 the staff and congregation of Maranatha Chapel will begin a 40-Day Fast and we would like to invite you to join us.

Fasting is a biblical practice that gives us the opportunity to focus on the Lord and to find extra time and energy to pray and hear God’s voice and experience His glory.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I recognize that fasting is an individual, personal time between you and the Lord. Choose the fast that is best for you. While fasting means abstaining from food for most people, it can also be abstaining from something else to give you deeper time in prayer and fellowship with the Lord. We do not suggest that anyone abstain from healthy nourishment for forty days, but if you give up something in order to focus on the Lord, that can be a meaningful fast.

St. Augustine recognized this when he wrote, “If you are not able to keep a fast today, at least partake of food with moderation.”

Numerous examples of fasting in the Bible include:

  •  Moses Fasted Before Receiving the Commandments – Deuteronomy 9:9-18
  •  David Mourning His Child’s Illness – 2 Samuel 12:1-23
  •  Elijah Fasted While Escaping Jezebel – 1 Kings 19:4-8
  •  Ezra Fasted While Mourning Over Sin – Ezra 10:6-17
  •  Esther Fasted for the Safety of the Jews – Esther 4:15-17
  •  Daniel Fasted for an Answer to Prayer – Daniel 10:1-3
  •  Jesus Fasted Before Temptation by Satan – Matthew 4:1-2
  •  Paul Fasted After His Conversion – Acts 9:1-9

(Read more: HERE.)

I like what John Piper said above. Our souls are stuffed with “small things and there is no room for the great.” I can think of nothing greater than hearing God speak and experiencing the manifestation of His glory upon our lives.

Our fast will also impact other lives. John Wesley said, “Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere, and mercy will come down.”

Pray and ask the Lord to show you how to fast, then prepare for a wonderful 40 days of experiencing His love in your lives.   I am looking forward to hearing and reading the stories that will come from 40 days of fasting and praying together, leading up to the greatest celebration of all— the Resurrection!

May we see His Glory!

Pastor Ray

To keep a record of your 40-day spiritual journey, we are providing a booklet called “Fast Forty for His Glory.”  This journal will lead you through each of the 40 days with a scripture concerning God’s glory and some room to jot down your thoughts.  You can also go online and download the booklet HERE.  

 If you would like to share some of your experiences and insights, post to social media with #mc40DayFast. 

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A Year for GLORY

glory-of-god-clouds

The word the Lord gave me for 2016 represents the visible manifestation of the presence of the Lord among His people. He is calling us to wake up and experience the GLORYof God upon us. I am excited to share with you what He has revealed to me for coming year, and to invite you to join me for a Prayer Climb!

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. —Isaiah 60:1-3

The glory of the Lord is the manifest presence of God. During a recent hike up a local mountain the Lord spoke to me saying, I am bringing My glory to Maranatha Chapel. I am going to manifest My presence, and you will see evidence that I am with you and among you. I will be beaming my light and my presence to you and through you as you reflect My love and light to the community around you.

 I yearn to have those prophetic words be true in my life and yours this year. To wake up each day and not only feel His presence but to see the glory of God  evident in life around us.

Jonathan Edwards said, “Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.” Whatever begins with God’s grace will lead to God’s glory.

Glory is an intangible noun described in the dictionary with words like honor, praise, thanksgiving, worship, majesty, magnificence, splendor, awesome beauty, and wonder. Glory inspires joy and beauty. God’s glory elevates the word to a level that is beyond earthly beauty and splendor. To experience the glory of God is to catch a glimpse of heaven and to be bathed in His light.

A History of Glory

In that moment of creation when God said, “Let there be light,” all the universe came into being, soon filling the heavens with the sun and moon, planets and life—and glory. Adam and Eve saw the Lord through eyes untarnished by sin as He walked with them in the garden and they basked in His presence. They lived with the glory of God surrounding them every day! Until they sinned and were expelled from Paradise. Then God withdrew His glory, and they were banished to a harsh world.

Noah witnessed the horror of a flood covering the whole earth, surpassed only by the wickedness and depravity God chose to eliminate. When judgment was over, a flash of God’s glory burst forth in a multi-colored ray of light. The rainbow…a prism of the glory, a fractured glimpse of heaven, and a promise of greater things to come.

Moses saw the backside of God’s glory. The Shekinah, the ancient rabbis called it. Moses stood before a burning bush that wouldn’t burn; seeing light that wasn’t light; hiding in the cleft of a rock, protected just enough to guard his life against the power that no mortal can look upon and live. Moses’ face lit up as he ran down the mountain, glowing, trying to hold onto the glory by covering his face with a veil.

But even Moses could not contain the Shekinah. So they built the Ark of the Covenant, a beautiful boxed sanctuary to carry the sacred tablets and to provide a place for God to dwell among the children of Israel.

Wealthy and wise King Solomon breathed in the presence of God as he dedicated the magnificent temple he built to house the ark. Fire came down from heaven as he prayed, and glory filled the temple.

Then God’s people turned away from Him, and Israel entered a desolate stage. Every fall, I think of that tragic time. During the crisp days of autumn, when costumed children come to your door looking for candy, someone inevitably pulls out the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the story of poor Ichabod Crane.

As a boy, I didn’t know the significance of Ichabod’s name, but as a young Bible student I discovered its meaning in the book of Samuel: Ichabod means “the glory of the Lord has departed,” and what remains is godless and desolate—a vacuum for evil and disaster. A good scary story name.

Ichabod figuratively became a prominent character in the landscape of Israel’s history. God withdrew His glory reluctantly, in response to Israel’s faithlessness. The temple, Solomon’s masterpiece, was eventually destroyed. Though Habakkuk the prophet proclaimed that the glory would return when the temple was rebuilt, the Shekinah never manifested itself again on a national level.

When the glory days of Solomon’s reign ended, Israel soon forgot what it was like to experience the glory of God…until one winter night centuries later. While shepherds watched their flocks, the night sky suddenly lit up with a burst of light, accompanied by heavenly voices heralding the birth of a King! A tiny baby, lying quietly in an obscure manger, brought the glory of God back to dwell on the earth.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory” (John 1:14). (When was the last time you “beheld” His glory?) But it didn’t stop there. Moses once long ago witnessed the burning bush, ablaze with fire that didn’t consume, but Jesus called His disciples the branches of the new tree of life (“I am the vine, you are the branches…). He came to baptize us with fire, setting our hearts ablaze with the power of the Holy Spirit. We are the burning bushes of the church age!

That’s what Pentecost was all about, the day that fire came down from heaven once again, only this time to rest upon the heads of the early church. Not like in Solomon’s time when the fire consumed. No, this time they sacrificed the Lamb of God, Jesus, on the Cross. This fire was the glory of God reaching its ultimate destination: the human heart.

Jesus displayed God’s glory in the way He loved, taught, and healed people until the controversy He generated led to the ultimate victory of God’s glory over darkness —the crucifixion and resurrection. The sorrow of Good Friday is always followed by Resurrection day. When Jesus rose from the dead, He changed the universe forever, and glory was manifested once again throughout creation.

No amount of sin, doubt, disbelief, rebellion, pain, or turmoil—nothing in this battered world can stand against the glory of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. CS Lewis said, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

Isaiah 40:5 promises us that “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Now we see the fulfillment of that promise in Isaiah 60. Even as darkness covers the earth, “the Lord will arise and His glory will be seen among you.”

Prayer Climb

Last month I felt a tug from the Lord to take a hike, so I climbed nearby Black Mountain. I wanted to hear God speak as He has so many times from the heights of mountains.

“It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” He said (Romans 13). “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.”

It is time for God’s people to wake up and experience and reflect His glory. He is ready to reveal His glory to the earth when He answers His people’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come!”

I invited the pastors of our church to join me on another hike up the same mountain, where we prayed and committed ourselves and our church to wake up and shine for Him. We are asking the Lord to open heaven and pour out a divine blessing and to overcome strongholds of evil that have tried to hold us back from receiving God’s blessings. We are praying for His Spirit to cover our community and land!

I believe we will see a great harvest and believers returning to the Lord, their first love, as we invite the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us the glory of the Lord.

I am asking you to join me this year in a Prayer Climb. If you live near by go to Black Mountain and take a hike (or walk) and pray. Or find a hill near you where you can experience a mountain top vantage and seek God’s will and glory in your life.

Take a picture of your hike and post it to social media with #mcprayerclimb.  We can do this together!

May God richly bless you as we anticipate a year of His glory!

You can read more about the Prayer Climb here:  http://www.maranathachapel.org/events/prayerclimb-2016

Coming soon:  Maranatha Chapel 40-Day Fast.

 

 

 

 

 

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Silent Night—When God Works in Silence and You are Wondering Where He Is

dark snowy night


This silent night was not golden, was not the beautiful, hushed version of a Christmas carol.
This was a numbing, anxiety-filled silence where God seemed far away or non-existent—when you’re not sure what you believe or what will happen to the rest of your life.

Where is He?
It was like being drawn into a dark hole, with no sun, no daylight.
Have you experienced this? I have.

I’m a pastor with faith, knowledge, and experience in walking with God. I teach the Bible, one of the great joys of my life. But suddenly I faced what has been described as “the dark night of the soul.”1   I desperately needed answers to my questions:

  • What is God doing in the silence?
  • What am I supposed to do?
  • How do I survive this?

I became depressed and withdrawn.

I clung to what was spiritually familiar and concrete—God’s Word. I could hold a Bible in my arms and embrace it, comforted by years of learning and revelation. But I also came to realize that historically, even in His Word, there is a long pause, a long silence.

Did you know that?

Four Hundred Years

Our present is rooted in the past. Everything that happens in your life today is influenced and shaped by history—your personal history, and the history of what God is doing in our lives. He weaves our stories into His story, weaving our past and future together, attending to every detail, making each life important and meaningful.

As I looked through my Bible during my “silent night,” I reflected on the 400-year gap between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first book of the New Testament, Matthew.

God’s people had grown accustomed to hearing Him speak. He was a God of words. He spoke everything into existence. He said, “Let there be light” and there was light. He spoke through the prophets and kings, angels, and ordinary people, from burning bushes to a still, small voice. He actively communicated—until this long pause.

What did a young Jewish boy or girl born in the second or third century of silence think? At some point all of the stories— the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah in the whale, the battle of Jericho, the shepherd boy who became King David—all of it must have begun to feel like mythology or fairy tales.

Where was God for 400 years? What was He doing? And what were His people supposed to be doing?

As I wrestled with fear, anxiety, and depression, and worried about what this would mean to the rest of my life, I learned some very important lessons during my “long pause.”

What is God Doing in the Silence?

The Old Testament closes with a poignant contrast to the magnificence of creation in the first book of Genesis. The prophet Malachi calls his nation to spiritual renewal, reminding the people that God said, “I have loved you.” I have loved you, but you have strayed. I have loved you, but your heart is not where it should be.

Malachi wrote, “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” Restoration is needed. God has work to do, behind the scenes, during the long pause.

Three very important world events occurred during this long period, preparing the way for the birth of Jesus.

  1. A common language emerged. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), son of Philip II and Queen Olympias, inherited the throne at age 20. He went on to create one of the largest empires in the ancient world. Before dying just before age 33, he said, “I have no more worlds to conquer.” But he did enforce a common language throughout his vast empire, Koine Greek.

Greek became the universal language. By the time the gospels were being written, many Jews didn’t speak Hebrew anymore. The New Testament was primarily written and/or translated into Greek.

  1. PAX Romana, or Roman peace, is a Latin term referring to the era from 27 BC until 180 AD. The Roman Empire was in its prime and enjoyed a long period of relative peace.
  1. A worldwide system of roads and transportation was built by the Romans. While Romans roads provided an efficient means of travel for military and trade purposes, it also made it much easier for the people to travel abroad—including the early missionaries like Paul, Barnabas, Luke, and numerous others.

If you‘ve attended a play, you might remember at the end of Act 1, going out into the lobby during intermission to stretch your legs and get a drink of water or a snack. When you return, the lights go up, and you see an entirely different scene from when you left. While the stage was dark, furniture, props, and lights were being moved. Costumes changed.

That’s what happened between Malachi and Matthew. While it seemed like 400 years of silence, God was working behind the scenes to rearrange the global stage, to prepare the way for the Gospel of His Son.

Our Silent Night

During my “silent night” the Lord did some rearranging in my life. I was spent, exhausted from a nonstop schedule. I had neglected my physical, mental, and spiritual health. Depression crept in while I was trying to figure out what was going on. God seemed very silent and far away.

I was in the midst a spiritual battle, but too tired to recognize it at first. If you asked me how I was, I probably said, “Pretty good. God is working. I’m OK.”

Reality was a dark, long, lonely, walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I kept meditating and praying and asking God, “Why are You so silent?” I pondered the idea that David the psalmist did not write, “I walk through the valley of death.” He wrote of a shadow. I’m not dead, I thought, but I felt that way.

But what casts a shadow? Light of course. I was looking for the light. Then I read Isaiah 6:5 and cried with the prophet, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

It was like walking out of dark theater in the middle of the day and being blinded by light. The Lord was telling me it was time to adjust – not to darkness but to a greater light that He wanted to reveal.

I began to see my self honestly, and to repent fervently. My selfishness, my pride, my fears, and anxiety—all were revealed. Yes, I was undone.

Coming out of the shadow is not easy. Adjusting to the blinding light was even harder. I had to learn that God was working behind the scenes of my life. His Silence is not His absence.

I sought counsel. I took a short sabbatical, I rested, I spent time with family members. I asked for help. We are not meant to go through these things alone. God uses the people around us to love us, bathe us in prayer, and draw us back into the light. I learned to accept being who I am and to be honest and vulnerable. It was very freeing.

I’m a shepherd over a flock I love. Some say as the shepherd goes, so go the sheep. My heart aches for my brothers and sisters who find themselves walking in that shadow, crushed by depression and hopelessness.

Let me try to assure you —God is working, He loves you, and He wants you to seek and find the help you need.

A Way to Rejoice

rejoice in darknessI needed to rejoice again. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Sometimes rejoicing is done by enduring. It’s not a flippant kind of rejoicing, nor a rote “Praise the Lord.” It is an enduring, deeper rejoicing that changes one’s character and who we are inside. It’s a prayer to know, believe, and trust that God is working, even in the silence.

The holidays are approaching—a wonderful time for many, but a difficult time for others. I pray that you can take heart in knowing that if you struggle, you are not alone. Reach out, ask for prayer, seek counsel, and know that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. He is working— especially in the silence.

May God richly bless you and comfort you.

Pastor Ray

1. While imprisoned in a tiny prison cell for his attempts to reform the Church, sixteenth-century Spanish mystic John of the Cross composed many of his now classic poems of the soul’s longing for God. Written on a scroll smuggled to him by one of his guards, his songs are the ultimate expression of the spiritual seeker’s journey from estranged despair to blissful union with the divine —they’ve been titled “The Dark Night of the Soul.” http://www.amazon.com/dp/1573229741/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

I just received this urgent letter from Anne Graham Lotz.  Please read it carefully and take to heart the message—and pray!

 April 28, 2015

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now…”  — Matthew 24:21

Anne GrahamLotzThis spring, Joel Rosenberg and I taught through the book of Joel as we led a prophecy seminar at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. It was my privilege to give the first two messages that covered Joel 1:1 through Joel 2:17. The impact on me was profound. Both times, when I stepped off of the platform, I knew God had spoken. The messages almost made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Why? Because God was clearly warning that His judgment is coming on America and it’s going to be ugly. I knew it then, and I know it now.

I believe Jesus is soon to return to take all of His followers to Heaven with Him in the Rapture. While this will be deliverance for you and me, can you imagine the impact on our nation, let alone the world, when suddenly every single authentic Christian disappears? Institutions will collapse. Banks will close. The stock market will plunge. Planes will fall out of the sky. Cars will crash on the road. Government in America at every level will disintegrate. Families will be torn apart. In the unprecedented turmoil, our nation will be vulnerable for our enemies to seize the moment and attack us. There will be mass chaos, confusion, fear, grief, despair, anger, threats, danger… judgment.

Just as God allowed the Israelites, His people, to go through three of the ten plagues He sent in judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt in Exodus 6-8, God may allow His people today to go through a time of distress and trouble before the rapture takes place. I believe we are in that time now. I believe it’s time to not just pray. It’s time to cry out to God on behalf of our nation and our world.

MAYDAY! MAYDAY! is an international distress call that signals a life-threatening emergency. And it’s the call to cry out that I am issuing May 15-May 23. These are the nine days between the Day of the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost that have Biblically and traditionally been days of prayer and fasting for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.

The purpose of MAYDAY! MAYDAY! is …

  • To claim God our Father’s promise of an outpouring of His Spirit in these days following extraordinary signs in the sky …I will pour out my Spirit in those days …The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Joel 2:29, 31
  • To implore God the Holy Spirit to compel the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God, that times of refreshing may come… Acts 3:19
  • To entreat God our Savior for an abundant harvest of souls for His Kingdom in the remaining days. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. John 4:35
  • To delay or soften God’s judgment that is coming on America and on our world. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing. Joel 2:13-14

 I’m asking you to please partner with me, and invite everyone on your email address list, or who follows you on facebook or twitter, to join us. I will be posting a blog this Thursday, April 30, at   http://www.annegrahamlotz.org/mayday/ that will include specific information on how to participate. Please feel free to forward this letter to your constituents or use it in any way that would be helpful.

I will provide a prayer I have written for each of the 9 days to help unite us in one spirit and one voice as we cry out to God. Those who receive the eBlast are invited to sign up for the daily email prayers. Please be assured there is no other agenda to this initiative. This is not about promoting anything or anyone. This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgment falls on our nation.1 Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible. Time is short.

Urgently,

AnneSignature

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.                                                                                                              – Psalm 107:19

1. One month after Mayday! Mayday! the Supreme Court will make a landmark decision on marriage. And four months after Mayday! Mayday! Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish Feast of Trumpets that many people believe will be fulfilled by the rapture of the church, will take place on September 13-15. Soon after Rosh Hashanah, the fourth blood moon will occur on September 28. The time is critical, and the time is now, to pray!

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