Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day One

275_p1_06_1877 275_p1_06_1625If you want to see heaven come to earth, there is no better place than Guatemala. There were times today when we could see over the tops of the clouds as we drove up the winding roads on the mountainside.  Water bottles inflated and deflated as the altitude changed.  Ears popped.  We arrived after an eight-hour bus ride to a dinner of spaghetti and warm beds.

Much has changed in Guatemala City in the fifteen months since we visited last. Mike McComb tells us that eighteen new shopping malls have opened, food courts and all. Less has changed up here in Nebaj; but we hear the sight of people farming corn using ancient Mayan methods while talking on their cell phones is more and more common.

Tomorrow we will prepare backpacks filled with school supplies for the children in the towns we will visit.  We’ll also attend a local church service, and do Vacation Bible School for 50 children in the church.

Monday marks the beginning of the pastors’ conference.  One hundred and fifty pastors from around the region will meet us in Nebaj to be strengthened and encouraged.  We hope that this will overflow into their congregations, and the region as a whole.  Many pastors in Guatemala are selected on the basis of having any education at all.  Simply the ability to read may set them apart from all others in their congregation.  The courage to step up to the call of pastoring a church in these circumstances is beyond admirable, so please join us in praying for and honoring this group of servants for the Kingdom. We are here to lift up and support these men, and we are excited to share what God has put on our hearts for each and every single one.

We love you CityLight…See you tomorrow.

Text by Joshua Feldman. Photos courtesy of Tim Maggio.

The Anointing

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The Anointing’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 9/20/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1PzhCLf

The Anointing

The anointing is absolutely crucial to your ministry. It is both necessary and sufficient for God-inspired change to take place. It also makes the difference between whether your service to God feels like slavery or sonship.

Are you tired? Burned out? Even if you are succeeding at what God has called you to do, are you experiencing joy in your calling? If not, you probably need an increase in the level of the anointing on your life.

To anoint means to “smear or rub with oil, typically as part of a religious ceremony.”[1] We see Scriptural precedent for the anointing as David is anointed King over Israel. The prophet Samuel had passed over all of Jesse’s sons, looking for the future king. But David was out in the field, watching over the flocks:

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:11-13

As soon as the anointing was administered, David encountered God’s Holy Spirit in a brand new way. From that moment forward, he was not only called and sanctified (set apart) to be king.; he was capable of communicating with God’s Holy Spirit in the manner required for kingship.

We see the fruit of the anointing as David rules over Israel. We see the fruit of the anointing as David communicates with God. We see the fruit of the anointing as David cries out in worship, and his heart’s cries in the Psalms. David was touched by God’s Holy Spirit, and from that moment forward, he would never be the same.

For New Testament Christians, being anointed doesn’t mean we have to go out and ask someone to cover us in oil. The oil is symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit: His manifest presence all over us. For us, the anointing isn’t just something we use, or something we do; it is something we should all love to experience!

The anointing is the manifest presence of God’s Holy Spirit – the presence of God on us to do something. Maybe you’ve felt the anointing all over you as you pray. Perhaps you’ve gotten goosebumps during intimate times of worship when you can just feel God’s presence with every fiber of your being. That is the anointing!

As Christians, we are supposed to experience the anointing all the time. The more steeped you are in the anointing, the more you will see signs, miracles and wonders when you pray. The more covered you are in the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, the more joy you’ll feel in your calling.

Jesus ministered in the anointing; and if He did it, so should we.

…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. – Acts 10:38

Jesus ministered with the Holy Spirit and with power because He ministered in the anointing. The fruit of the anointing was good works, healing, and deliverance!

When I started in full-time ministry, our Lead Pastor gave me some very valuable advice: protect the anointing at all costs. We all have unexpected responsibilities that take over our schedules from time to time. We all encounter well-meaning people who just grate on us emotionally. The way we stay close to God’s heart, no matter what comes up, is by staying in the anointing!

When you pray, do you feel God? Can you actually feel His Holy Spirit on your body? Do the hairs on your arms and legs stand on end because of how tangible His presence in on a daily basis? Living in the anointing should not just be some unattainable goal; it should be our constant reality!

What Does the Anointing Do?

The anointing process has its origins in the way a shepherd would care for his sheep. Insects would constantly try to burrow into the ears of a sheep. If they succeeded, it would kill the animal. To prevent the attack, the shepherd would smear oil on the head of the sheep so insects couldn’t reach the ears. If the insect tried to climb to high on the sheep’s head, it would slip down off the sheep – unable to reach the point of entry it needed.

This has direct application for your spiritual life! The primary way Satan will try and knock you off-track from your destiny is by getting into your ears. He will try and burrow into your thought life so he can infect you with lies. If you partner with his lies, it can mean spiritual death. But the anointing keeps you safe! If you stay covered from head to toe in God’s anointing – the oil of gladness, every point of entry the enemy could ever hope to use is completely removed!

The anointing protects you from external attacks. It also delivers you from whatever spiritual oppression is going on inside of you right now. Isaiah prophesied the effect the anointing – the manifest presence of God’s Holy Spirit – would have on all believers:

It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. – Is 10:27

God offers to remove every burden from our shoulders at the moment of salvation; all we have to do to experience complete freedom is submit our lives to him, and ask for Him to rescue us in prayer.

But the enemy will always circle back around and try to put you back under duress. He will always try to re-establish the burden from which God has just delivered you.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. – Matt 12:43-45

Once we experience deliverance, if we fail to prize God’s presence the way we should, we can find ourselves oppressed. But staying in the anointing is the way we sustain complete and total victory.

The anointing doesn’t just break the yoke; it destroys it! That means that if you stay in the anointing, none of the enemy’s plans can ever be used against you again!

The Mantle and The Anointing

Many believers fail to understand the difference between a mantle and the anointing. The mantle is the call on your life: something God has given you to carry. The mantle is the productive, Kingdom burden (as opposed to unproductive, demonic burden) you are asked to bear so the borders of heaven can be expanded on earth. Jesus spoke of Kingdom mantles when he talked of “taking up the cross daily” (Lk 9:23).

We see the mantle come into full view as Elijah’s life on earth comes to an end, and his assistant picks up his mantle:

And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. – 2 Kings 2:9-14

Spiritually speaking, a mantle can be very heavy. On several occasions in my life, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and felt a spiritual mantle shifting onto me.

Our Lead Pastor spent this past summer in Montenegro, on a missionary assignment. The Sunday he left, I woke up in the middle of the night, and felt a spiritual heaviness all over me. I knew it wasn’t demonic; but it still didn’t feel good at all. In fact, I felt like I was going to throw up.

I was feeling the spiritual mantle to lead our church while our Lead Pastor was overseas. As soon as I started praying, the anointing kicked in, and all discomfort lifted. I was overcome by joy, and became excited as I felt the burden to pastor our church settle over me.

The mantle can be heavy, but the anointing makes it light. The mantle is the call on your life, and the anointing is the manifest presence of God’s Holy Spirit that makes that call joyful! The anointing lightens every heavy burden – no matter how big or how small! The anointing reminds you that God is always in control, and His Holy Spirit is living in and through you to accomplish all God’s desires!

The mistake we often make as Christians is accepting the mantle – the call on our lives – but refusing the anointing. We say yes to God once and for all, but don’t refresh our dedication to Him on a daily basis. We have a great sense of everything He has called us to do, but we forget that He is the Provider of every resource we could ever need to get the job done!

When we lose the anointing, we lose our joy. But when we revel in the anointing, we will experience joy unspeakable!

Paul reminded the members of the early church that they were all anointed:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2 Cor 1:20-22

This morning, I think God wants to issue the same reminder to each and every single one of us.

You are called by God to do amazing things! You are also anointed with His Holy Spirit to perform them! The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, gives life to your body, and purpose to your actions (Rom 8:11)!

As New Testament Christians, we are no longer held to an impossible standard, and asked to comply using our own strength. Christ in us is the One who accomplishes the work in and through us. Without Him, we can do nothing; but with Him we can accomplish whatever He pleases!

The difference between heaven and hell on earth is whether or not you allow God to do the hard work for you. Allowing yourself to experience and enjoy the anointing – the manifest presence of God’s Holy Spirit – is what will make you a joyful servant of the Lord!

If you try and carry your mantle without the anointing, you will buckle under the weight. But if you allow God’s manifest presence – the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit – to propel you, life will be full of joy!

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=anoint%20definition

Finding Happiness

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Finding Happiness’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 9/13/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1NzNbW8

Biblical Contentment

What does it mean to be content? What does it mean to be happy? Some people spend their entire lives looking for satisfaction, but never find it. Our natural tendency is to always hold out hope for the next big thing: a bigger house, a promotion at work, or a new opportunity. We push our happiness off until the next stage of our lives, and settle for the feeling that even though something is lacking, it will all be worth it when the payoff comes.

But what if happiness isn’t something we find? What if contentment is simply a decision? What if all God is asking is that we would make a choice to be content in Him: to find joy in His presence?

We should all plan for the future. You’ve probably heard it said that he who fails to plan, plans to fail. But even if you have vision for the future, it’s necessary to have passion for the present. Are you living every moment to the fullest? Are you finding joy in the simple things in life?

On the Other Side

All of us are praying for something major. Maybe it’s total healing from a crippling disease, or a release from financial difficulty. What’s the biggest prayer request you have right now? Ask yourself an important question: even if you get everything you’re praying for, will you be content? Will you stop to celebrate the victory, and take joy in God’s faithfulness? Or will you simply put your finger on the next thing you have to have to be happy, and move on with your life?

One of the most important decisions we can ever make is to find joy in our current situation. Paul said, “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11). Is your happiness conditional, or positional? Does it depend on where you are and what you have, or on Whom you’re with?

When you give your life to Jesus Christ, you are Heaven-bound. No man can ever harm you once God has saved you. No devil can ever touch you when you’re covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. God’s Holy Spirit lives in you! If we can’t take joy in that, how will we ever be content?

In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned seventy disciples to go out and perform His work, and expand His Kingdom. As they set out, they found themselves accomplishing every single thing they had set out to do. But instead of rejoicing with them, Jesus gives them a sobering lesson:

Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you… – Lk 10:17-20a

The disciples had their testimony in hand! They had done everything God asked them to do! Yet Jesus still told them not to rejoice. Their joy, He explained, should not be conditioned on what they saw happening in the world around them. Their joy should be fixed on the permanent change that had taken place in their hearts:

…but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” – Lk 10:20b

Jesus’ lesson on becoming Biblically content continues several verses later:

Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” – Lk 10:23-24

Jesus had to step back and remind His disciples that He is the Prize. Jesus is not a means to an end, He is the Beginning and the End. He is the reason we are alive, and He should be the only Source of our joy and happiness!

As New Testament Christians with God’s Holy Spirit living in us, we are capable of communion with God in a way that has never before been possible. Prophets and kings have desired for generations to see what you see, and hear what you hear! Peter stresses that even angels long to see God through the lens of salvation you and I get to look through every day (1 Pet 1:12)!

Scripture tells us repeatedly to always keep our eternal perspective. Everything we think, say, and do should be framed by the reality that eternity with God is the only permanent satisfaction we can ever enjoy. If we try to seek joy from any other source but God, we will end up dry as a bone; but when we step into the eternal life only He supplies, living water will flow out of us!

I had the chance to sit and catch up with several old co-workers last week. I come from a background in finance, and I stay in touch with a lot of the people with whom I used to work. Whenever we get together, the conversation is always focused around what’s next. We string ourselves along in careers and lifestyles that leave us unsatisfied, and placate ourselves by assuming we’ll be so much happier in our next job, our next apartment, or the next relationship we find.

But happiness is a decision! So what are you waiting for?

Never Good Enough

Before you can choose to be Biblically content, you have to understand what you’re up against. Satan – our accuser – seeks to convince you that everything you have in your life at this moment isn’t good enough. The enemy wants you to believe that unless you have more money, live in a bigger house, or go on a dream vacation, you’ll never be content.

He’s been using the same scheme since the beginning of human existence:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Gen 3:1-5

Adam and Eve had it all. God carved out a custom habitation that was perfect. They could go wherever they wanted and enjoy fellowship with Him. They could do whatever they wanted to do, and eat whatever they wanted to eat! But they couldn’t eat one fruit.

Satan showed up and put his finger on the one thing Adam and Eve couldn’t have. Then he whispered a tired lie into Eve’s ear: you won’t be happy until you get the one thing you don’t already have. He convinced Eve that she could never be satisfied with what was in her hand. Happiness was only one bite away:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. – Gen 3:6-8

Eating the forbidden fruit wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Adam and Eve were now recipients of a knowledge they were never meant to possess. They were now capable of evil.

Sin entered into all mankind because Adam and Eve couldn’t make the decision to be happy with everything God had given them. They allowed Satan to define their happiness: to tell them that happiness was around the corner, instead of believing they could be content with everything they had in their hand!

From that day forward, man has been afraid of God, instead of enjoying intimate fellowship with Him. God designed us to speak to Him face to face; but from Adam up until Jesus, man stayed as far from God as he possibly could. We have an opportunity to change that mindset because of the Cross of Jesus Christ. We have the chance to make a decision to be content with everything God has given us, and never desire anything more than His presence!

Satan can never steal your joy. That coworker who just seems to have it out for you every day can’t steal your joy. Joy cannot be stolen, only handed over. The enemy cannot take your joy unless you let him. They way Satan enticed Adam and Eve to give up their joy was by convincing them they could never be satisfied unless they had more! And he will do the same to you, if you give him the chance.

Consumerism Rears Its Head

Society (the “world”) follows in Satan’s footsteps by pushing a consumer mindset. In our daily lives, joy is relative. Our level of contentment is dictated by what we don’t have, instead of what we do! Our neighbor always has a bigger house, a faster car, or nicer shoes; and we convince ourselves we simply can’t be happy until we have the same stuff!

God has blessed my family with a beautiful home. My wife and I moved to Brooklyn several years ago when we were making room for our first child. God took out all the stops. He allowed us to own a home in New York City with every single amenity we wanted. It was amazing!

But even still, I remember sitting on our balcony, several months after moving in, and starting to feel unsettled. I sat and looked around the neighborhood, and started dreaming about owning a house, instead of the apartment God had just blessed us with. I immediately lost sight of everything God had just done for us, and started lusting after more. I was losing my joy!

In Jesus Christ, our joy is not relative; it is absolute. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we abandon our consumer tendencies and give them up for covenant promises. Whereas a consumer constantly lusts after more, a covenant promises lasting happiness.

God promises that He will never be dissatisfied with you! There is no sin so big that it can overshadow the finished work of the Cross. There is no secret so big and dark that it can’t be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. When God sees you, He sees His spotless Son Jesus Christ! And if the God of the universe has made a final decision to always be happy with you, isn’t it time to decide to always be happy with Him?

Picking Moments

There is only One lasting Source of perfect peace: Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, you’ll spend your life wandering, looking for someone or something to fill the hole in your heart. You’ll try diets and workouts, and replace your wardrobe when you get bored. You might even go back to school and change careers. But any of those solutions to the hole in your heart are just band-aids on a gaping wound.

Jesus is the answer! He is the Secret to joy, and the Source of happiness. In Him is fullness of joy:

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Ps 16:9-11

Individual moments are important. At any given moment in time, all your life experience up to that point is culminating in what you’re thinking, saying and doing. Every moment is too impossibly unique to ignore. So don’t let it go to waste.

Savor every moment. Make the decision to be content. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Decide to be happy in Jesus Christ today!

My wife encouraged me to take up a great habit some years ago. Whenever something good happens in our life together, we take time out to celebrate. It doesn’t matter how busy we are, or how many things we have on our schedule. We drop it all, and celebrate.

God has promised that no matter what you’ve done, you will be in His presence for all eternity! What more could any of us possibly need to be content?! What more reason could we ever need to celebrate?

Choose to be content in God’s presence. As God exalts you for His name’s sake, make time to savor the victory.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Biblical Keys to Building Wealth

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Biblical Keys to Building Wealth’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 9/6/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Nl88Ej

You Shall Lend and Not Borrow

We believe in Biblical prosperity at CityLight Church. In Scripture, God promises to bless His children with everything we need to carry out the unique assignment He has put on our lives. He also promises overflow: enough left over to bless other people in their missions!

Deuteronomy 28 outlines the blessings we can expect as the fruit of our obedience to God:

And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. – Deut 28:11-12

As New Testament Christians, obedience is simply defined as giving our lives to Christ: living completely for God!

But we all have times in our lives where we don’t see God’s promises reflected. If you live in New York City, you probably moved here with a dream of success. You came here for the long shot. After all, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!

I was talking with one of our members in the entertainment business this week. He made an interesting point. There are over 8 million people living in New York City. Even if you’re one in a million – the best and the brightest – you still have to beat seven other people for the job!

So what do you do when you’ve been holding out for the lottery ticket from Heaven that seems like it’s never coming? We all dream of being blessed abundantly, but how can we best wait for that blessing to come?

I want to start this morning with the assumption that you believe everything the Bible has to say about prosperity and increase. God wants to bless you, so that you can be a blessing to others. But what do we do when we don’t see it in our lives?

The approach we typically take is to look on the outside. We examine our surroundings, determine what we think we need to live our lives to the fullest, and then ask God to give it into our hand. But the inherent problem in that approach is that we are trying to figure out what we need. We’re carving God out of the process, and trying to do His job for Him. There is a better way!

The Key to Building Wealth

The way we prove we are ready for increase is by stewarding what we currently have as best as we possibly can. Instead of looking to external factors and asking God to give us what we think is missing, we should look to internal factors: what is preventing me from doing more with everything I already have?

Trust in God is built over time. Odds are, if God blessed you with the material increase you think you want today, you wouldn’t be ready for it. He needs to see that He can trust you to be a good steward over the little things, before He makes you ruler over much.

More often than not, the way God builds wealth in our lives is little by little:

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Prov 13:11 (ESV)

By giving us increase gradually – instead of all at once – God prevents us from shooting ourselves in the foot!

Did you know that lottery winners are twice as likely to go bankrupt?[1] Antoine Walker, a former forward for the Boston Celtics, was in the news recently because he went bankrupt. After 13 years in the NBA, and $110 million in total earnings, he ran out of money! Why? Because he didn’t know how to be a good steward when the increase came.

Parable of the Talents

Jesus illustrates good financial stewardship for us in the Parable of the Talents:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. – Matt 25:14-15

The ruler distributed, “…to each according to his own ability” (v 15). Then, he left! He didn’t give his servants more than they could handle, because he knew they couldn’t be trusted with it.

God operates exactly the same way! He will never give us more than we can handle, because the end result will be sin. That is never His desire. As we pray for wealth and Biblical increase, our mandate is not necessarily to ask for more – to look outside our life and imagine what we could add to it to make us better off! Our mandate is to look inside our current financial situation, and ask to become a better steward of everything we already have!

Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. – Matt 25:16-17

The first two servants dealt wisely with their master’s money. They didn’t lock themselves in a room and whine and complain at the hand they had been dealt. The servant who received two talents didn’t jealously look to the co-worker who had received five. Each made the best of his situation by seeking to steward his resources well.

The third servant, however, did not deal with his resources wisely. Instead, he became afraid:

But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. – Matt 25:18

We’ve done this, haven’t we? Instead of setting out and asking God to bless everything we already have, we refuse to move forward because we’re afraid. Maybe God called you into a new business venture, but you didn’t get started because you were worried about capital. Maybe God called you to pay off all your debt (living debt-free is a Biblical mandate according to Deut 28:12!) but the potential use of cash made you fearful.

But whenever we refuse to act out of obedience with everything God has already given us, we are missing out on an opportunity for Kingdom expansion!

After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.” His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” He also who had received two talents came and said, “Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.” His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” – Matt 25:19-23

The master was pleased with the servants who had made good use of the resources they had. Because they were faithful with little, he made them ruler over much. But the master made very clear to the third servant that he had wasted an opportunity:

Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.” But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matt 25:24-30

The fearful servant did not use what he already had to increase and expand God’s kingdom. As a result, his worst fear became his reality. Everything he had was taken from him.

What can we learn here? We prove we’re ready for increase by taking care of what we already have. The master’s refrain to his two faithful servants was, “…you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” So, do you want to be ruler over many things? Be faithful with whatever you have – no matter how small – and God will give you increase!

Blessings on Obedience

My wife and I have made a lot of financial adjustments over the past few years. In early 2013, I left a trading career on Wall Street to answer the call to full-time ministry. I’ll be honest with you: it felt like all our financial expectations were being shattered.

My wife and I both had a picture in our heads of the nice, big house we would live in when we were older. We both had dreamt of the lifestyle a career in finance could provide. My wife and I knew it wouldn’t have been a problem for her to stay home and raise our kids if I was working in finance; but would that possibility still be open now that I was in full-time ministry?

We chose obedience over fear of the unknown. I accepted the call into full-time ministry. And you know what? We have never looked back. Sure, we’ve had to tighten our budget a little bit. But as we’ve made the decision to do as much as we can, with everything we already have, God has blessed us abundantly!

We had our first son last summer: one year into full-time ministry. My wife now stays home and takes care of him. We chose to be faithful with what we have, and God has steadily provided increase every step of the way. We chose to look internally, and make the changes necessary to spend our money wisely. As a result, God has blessed us abundantly.

The fastest way to prosperity is obedience:

If they obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. – Job 36:11

The quickest road to financial success is serving God with all your heart. Serving God with all your heart doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and move into full-time ministry! But it does mean that you should view every single decision to spend, and to save, as an opportunity to honor God with obedience.

What You See, You Will Be

You embrace what you face. If you seek money first, and God second, you will find neither; but when you seek God first, and money last, you will find both!

Are you spending your days and nights trying to create your own wealth? If you create it, you have to maintain it! But if you simply ask God to give it into your hand, He will do all the legwork. Not only will He bless you with everything you need to perform His calling on your life; He will also maintain and protect everything that comes to you.

Focus in: take a look at what you already have, and ask God what He wants you to do with it. God speaks to me most often through pictures in time of prayer. Recently I’ve been asking Him to show me what He wants me to do with our money. I’ve been asking for pictures of people He wants us to bless. I’ve been asking Him for names of organizations He wants us to sow into. I’ve been asking Him what percentage of our income He wants us to give to the church (above and beyond the tithe – or 10% – which rightfully belongs to Him). When we ask, He answers!

As you become faithful with whatever you already have, God will give more into your hand. As we prove we can be good stewards over everything in our hand, He will make us stewards over that much more!

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matt 6:33

Seek God first. He will take care of the rest.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/11/28/why-winning-powerball-wont-make-you-happy/

Carrying Heaven’s Authority

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Carrying Heaven’s Authority’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/30/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1ilCVW1

Power and Authority

Last week we talked about walking in power: God’s hope that we will live our lives with an expectation to see miracle-working demonstrations of His power. Our prayers have power. Our ministry has power. When we pray, we should expect to see greater things (Jn 14:12) than even Jesus Christ saw when He prayed!

Power is the Greek dunamis: the power inherent in an individual by virtue of his or her nature (Strong’s #141). We have a right to see powerful things happen when we pray because we are sons and daughters of God!

This week, we are talking about a closely related concept: Godly authority. Whereas power is specific influence over a thing or a situation, authority is the capability to influence in general.  Power is the what: the things we should expect to see because we are hidden in Jesus Christ. Authority is the how: why is it that we should expect to see those things?

We get our power from God’s authority. Jesus made a point of explicitly stating that all authority was given to Him:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matt 28:18-20

All means all! God gave His Only Son all authority: in heaven, and on earth. His authority is limitless, just as His power is without borders.

What’s more, Jesus’ authority never expires! His authority will last, “…even to the end of the age” (v 20). Even if Heaven and earth pass away, the authority of Jesus Christ will always remain!

Our Place of Paralysis

Jesus has all authority. All throughout Jesus’ ministry, we see Him heal the sick and exercise His authority over Satan. We see Him exercise His authority over sin, disease and death. We know that when Jesus commanded the dead to rise, they were raised. When He spoke life, death was silenced. When He rebuked sickness, bodies were restored to perfect health.

We also know we are called to become like Him. We should pray for the same things He prayed for, and expect the same results! Unfortunately, we stop short of miraculous expectation because we’re not Jesus. It’s fun to see Him heal all throughout Scripture, but we don’t think we have the same authority He did. But what if I told you we do?

What if I told you that you have the same authority over sin, sickness and death as Jesus does? What if I told you that whatever you pray for on earth will be done in Heaven?

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matt 18:18

As we pray on earth, God makes resources available in Heaven. In other words, all of Heaven parallels our prayers here on earth.

Just as Jesus gets His authority from God the Father, and we get our authority from Jesus Christ. Jesus came from God, and we are hidden in Jesus. With that position comes the same divine authority Jesus exercised over Satan.

Every man or woman in a position of authority inherits his or her authority from someone. When a new king inherits a throne, he inherits the authority of his office from the prior ruler. There is a royal lineage that has to be followed. Authority doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it is passed from people who have it, along to people who don’t.

The other day, I was driving to the church in our Jeep. As we approached an intersection, I saw a police officer directing traffic. He wasn’t a big guy; in fact, he couldn’t have been over 5 foot 6. He definitely couldn’t have stopped our car with his body. But when he raised his white-gloved hand for me to slow down, I came to a screeching halt.

That police officer carries authority. I know that he was put there by the NYPD. The NYPD gets its authority from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. The commissioner was put in place by Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who has the full support of the NY State Legislature. There is a transference of authority that has taken place. I stopped just as fast as I would have if the mayor himself was standing in that intersection, because that police officer carries the authority of the entire city on his badge.

What if I told you that the same way I came to a screeching halt when I saw that white glove come out, the enemy grinds to a stop when he sees you?! Would that drastically change the way you pray? Would it change the way you live your life? Would it empower you to walk in Jesus’ footsteps?

Transference of Authority

Jesus transferred His authority step by step. The same way every police officer carries the authority of the mayor himself, Jesus intends for every disciple to carry the authority of God’s Son. When we pray, we must understand that Jesus has given us all His authority. We must understand that when Satan sees us, he sees Jesus in us.

Let’s take a look at how Jesus methodically transferred His authority to us: His trusted disciples. As a starting point, we know that Jesus has all authority:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” – Matt 28:18

He then takes His authority, and distributes it to the twelve disciples:

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick… – Lk 9:1-2

Jesus started with authority over all demons and any sickness; then He passed that authority on to the disciples.

Jesus gave His disciples three tasks: to cast out demons (v 1), heal the sick, and preach the Gospel (v 2). It wouldn’t have been fair if He sent them away with the mandate, but without the resources, to accomplish everything He asked. They needed His authority to carry out the mission God had put on their lives.

The transfer worked. The disciples were astonished at the authority they had. So Jesus replicated the process again. He took His authority and gave it to another seventy trusted disciples:

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest… And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” – Luke 10:1-2, 9

Jesus recognized that the fields were ripe for harvest, but the laborers were few. He had a lot of work to do; but three years was not enough time to accomplish everything He needed to get done. So, He multiplied His trusted disciples. He delegated His authority to men and women who knew the power of the Gospel, and prayed with fervency for supernatural stuff to happen.

And it worked! As the seventy prayed, they walked in the same authority as Jesus Christ! They came back to report to Jesus, head over heels excited at everything God was doing through them.

Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” – Lk 10:17

When the seventy prayed, their prayers carried the same weight as if Jesus Christ had prayed them Himself. They carried His authority. How much more authority do you have because the Holy Spirit lives in you!

Notice that Jesus sent His disciples out two by two. There is power in unity. God promises that whenever we pray with another believer, He is there in our midst; and what we pray for is immediately done in Jesus’ name (Matt 18:20)!

Jesus made His disciples a compelling promise. He sent them, “…into every city and place where He Himself was about to go” (Lk 10:1). Wherever we go and preach the Gospel with boldness, Jesus promises that He will be right on our heels! Wherever we go, He will confirm our speech with signs, miracles and wonders (Mk 16:19-20)!

Jesus gave His authority to the twelve disciples, and then to another seventy. Finally, we see Him extend His authority to all believers:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – Mk 16:15-18

He has given us His authority; now all we have to do is walk it out!

Authority Over All

So what can you do with Jesus’ authority? You can pray with full faith for His promises to unfold on the earth. You carry His authority, and you are filled with His Holy Spirit! You are endued with power from on high (Lk 24:49)! What more could you ask for to perform supernatural ministry?

Jesus gives us authority over three things which John G. Lake called, “the devil’s triumvirate:” sin, sickness and death. But let’s paint with an even broader brush for the sake of emphasizing the point. Jesus has given us authority over all the power of the enemy:

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. – Lk 10:19

Because we have authority over all the enemy’s power, we never have to fear. Nothing Satan tries to do can have any effect if we realize that He is powerless because of the Cross of Jesus Christ!

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left us with proof of the authority we carry. He gave us the power of His name:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Phil 2:9-11: 9

You have all authority to pray the same prayers as Jesus did. As you pray them in His name, every knee will bow to the will of God in Heaven!

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Walking in Power

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Walking in Power’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/23/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1U8TCVL

From Potential to Power

All of us have God’s potential in us. We are made in His image, according to His likeness (Gen 1:26-27). We share His DNA because we are His sons and daughters. But not all of us see His power in our lives.

How do we move from potential to power? How can we position ourselves so God is free to move through us with miraculous strength?

In the Book of Acts, Peter preaches to Cornelius’ household about God’s power:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. – Acts 10:38

Power is the Greek word dunamis, which means “inherent power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature” (Strong’s #141). Jesus got His power from God. He was able to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons (Matt 10:8) because God had anointed Him to do it!

The humbling realization when it comes to God’s power is that moving in power has nothing to do with us. God’s miracle-working power is not something we can cultivate in ourselves; but rather something He must cultivate in us. That revelation should be incredibly freeing. When you pray for the sick, or for any miracle to take place, the outcome has nothing to do with you! The result of your prayers has everything to do with God, and His constant willingness to honor our prayers from a place of relationship with us.

The Purpose of Power

God’s miracle-working power proves that He is real. In Scripture, we see Jesus criticize the people around Him as a “faithless and perverse generation” (Matt 17:17) because they did not believe in God’s power. Every generation seeks a sign that God is real, but it is up to believers to pray that they would see it.

Showcasing God’s power is the most poignant way to prove to unbelievers that God is real. I sat and spoke with someone recently who was having trouble believing God is real. They knew all the Scripture that supported His existence, but was having some serious trouble bridging the gap from intellectual understanding to practical experience.

I could have come up with an intellectual proof to demonstrate God’s existence. Instead, I shared a handful of testimonies. People in our congregation cured from terminal cancer. A newborn cured of “incurable” liver disease. A severed finger that re-grew when exposed to faithful prayer.

You see, there are certain things that I can’t un-see. God has proved He is real to me on so many occasions, that it is no longer within my right to doubt His existence. Our mission, as a church, is to demonstrate to others that God is real. When we pray, we should expect to see His miracle-working power on full display. As we pray for others, and they see His power for the first-time, entire generations of people will be motivated to become faithful disciples of Christ!

Miracles are still for today. As a church, we are fighting against cessationist theology: the doctrine that spiritual gifts ceased when the original twelve apostles died. Vast portions of the church have subtly accepted this stance, and the result is clear in our prayer lives. We seldom pray for things that require God’s miraculous power. Instead, our prayers have been neutered by our unmiraculous expectations. We settle for prayers focused on nominal, subjective improvement in our lives, and call it a day when we “feel better.” Instead, we should be praying specific, objective prayers that rely on God to show up and show off: to only settle when we see His best with our own eyes!

Church leadership is, unfortunately, largely responsible for the decline in believers showcasing God’s power. As pastors and leaders, we easily become afraid to pray for supernatural results. We think that if we pray for something big, and nothing happens, it’s our fault! We think it means we are less holy, or less faith-filled, than we should be! But that is never the case. Signs, miracles, and wonders have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God! When we step outside of our own insecurities and rely on Him to show up and show off, His power will be put on full display!

We fight the myth of cessationism with Scriptural truth. The truth is, God’s will has not changed:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Heb 13:8

Jesus’ earthly ministry was filled with constant, miraculous demonstrations of God’s power. If that was God’s will then, it is still His will now!

What’s more, the same Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus for His earthly ministry empowers us for ours!

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. – Rom 8:11

If you are filled with the same Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself, and God’s will has not changed, then why should signs, miracles, and wonders ever cease? And if we, as God’s church, don’t pursue God’s power in our lives, then who will?

What God’s Power Is Not

1) God’s power is not magic.

The power of God – breakthrough on earth as it is in heaven – cannot be conjured up. His power cannot be purchased for any sum, or earned with any resume.

The story of Simon the Sorcerer proves this point for us well. Simon was a magician in Samaria. As the people of Samaria started believing in Jesus, Simon realized that he was not as powerful as he once thought. He saw God do things that no level of expertise in magic or medicine could accomplish. When Peter and John came to pray in Samaria, Simon wanted what they had:

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! – Acts 18:18-20

Simon’s desire for God’s power came from a place of selfish personal ambition, not from a place of selfess Kingdom expansion!

God’s power is not for sale! It isn’t dispensed at any school, or packaged into any self-help program. God’s power comes from relationship with Him. Without the divine authority that comes from relationship, power is impossible!

2) God’s power is not a feeling.

Too often, we think we have to feel God’s power for something to happen. Many times, I will feel the anointing as I pray for people. The anointing is transferable, and we can feel God moving through us as we lay hands on other people.

However, just because we don’t feel Him doesn’t mean He’s not up to something! Some of the greatest testimonies I have ever seen have come from prayers where I haven’t felt a thing! As God’s people, we are not called to be feelings-led; we are called to be Spirit-led. Step out and take a risk based on God’s word, even if you don’t feel like it!

3) God’s power is not complicated.

Jesus is not complicated. His Gospel message is not complicated. Our infinite sin required infinite suffering. Jesus came and bore it all on the Cross for us. He served as our substitute, so that we could enjoy His reward in heaven!

God’s power is simple. Can I show you?

The Power Pattern

We see a pattern throughout Scripture when it comes to God’s power. I am intentionally using the word “pattern,” instead of the word, “formula.” A pattern implies correlation: we see certain consistent elements whenever God moves powerfully in Scripture. A formula, on the other hand, implies causation. We can never force God’s hand, and push Him into action. We can, however, invite God to move in and through our lives with power!

Power comes when God’s word is mixed with potential. We see this throughout Scripture. Allowing this pattern to play out in our daily lives is how we will see God’s power moving through us!

In the Creation Story, we see two things happen. First, God’s Holy Spirit was present to effect change:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. – Gen 1:1-2

Second, God spoke.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. – Gen 1:3

When the Holy Spirit was present, and God’s word was introduced into the atmosphere, creation took shape! God’s power was activated as the word was mixed with Spirit.

We see the same pattern in Jesus’ ministry:

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. – Lk 5:17

God’s Holy Spirit was present. The atmosphere was ripe for change – supernatural progress. Then, Jesus spoke:

Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. – Lk 5:18-25

God’s Holy Spirit was present to heal, and God’s word was introduced into an atmosphere ripe for change. Power followed!

When we follow the same pattern in our lives, God will follow our words with signs, miracles and wonders, wherever we go. We are filled with God’s Holy Spirit. The active ingredient for God’s power is already in you! The first condition for power – the presence of God’s Holy Spirit – is satisfied whenever we walk into a room. The second condition – God’s word – is all we need to see God’s power in our lives. All we have to do is speak His word into any circumstance requiring change, and watch the supernatural take shape!

Jesus told His disciples to follow this pattern before ascending to Heaven:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. - Mk 16:15-20

We don’t have to chase after signs, miracles and wonders. They should follow us. As we simply introduce God’s word where His Holy Spirit is already present, power will follow!

You don’t have to be a traveling evangelist to demonstrate God’s miracle-working power. You don’t need to spend hours in prayer every day to see God make stuff happen when you pray. Once you are filled with His Holy Spirit, all you have to do is speak His word over any situation, with the earnest expectation that change will take place.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” – Jn 14:12

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Waiting on the Lord

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Waiting on the Lord’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/16/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1E7xGmw

Waiting on the Lord

Our text for this morning comes from the Book of Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on 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. – Is 40:28-31

Isaiah introduces us to the idea of “waiting on the Lord.” More often than not, we’re encouraged to get busy for the Lord in church: to go out and do something for Him. But what if I told you that sometimes God simply wants you to wait on Him? What if the most productive time in your life was not time spent going out and doing something, but simply time spent waiting on God?

“Wait” is the Hebrew qavah (Strong’s #6960), which means to lie in wait for someone with eager expectation. Waiting on God is not something to be done passively, but rather actively. When we wait on God, we shouldn’t wonder if He is about to do anything; we should expect that He is about to do something amazing. We never wait because we have nothing to do! We wait because we know He is coming.

When I was growing up, our family had a dog named Sterling. He was terribly behaved. Whenever we left the house, he would jump up with his paws on the windowsill, bark at us, and scratch the glass. Whenever he heard us get close to the house as we came home, there he was: tail wagging, tongue out, and excited beyond belief because we were home. He couldn’t wait until we showed up!

That is exactly how we should wait for God. Sterling didn’t expect us to leave one day, and never come back. He didn’t wonder if we would ever come home. He knew we would be back; and when we returned, he was there to meet us with all the enthusiasm in the world.

When you wait on God, He will show up:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – Jas 4:8

We should have full confidence that when we earnestly desire and expect God to drop in on our prayer sessions, He will be there. You would never go outside to watch the sunrise, and wonder if the sun was going to come up. You would expect that darkness was about to turn into light, and cold was about to turn into warmth. When we wait for God in times of prayer, we should have the same steady confidence that He will meet us when we wait for Him!

When we wait on the Lord, we are promised several things according to our Scripture from Isaiah (above). First, the weak are promised power. We need to walk in power in order for other people to see God’s strength. God is our life source; and as we stay connected to Him, He will refresh us and fill us with all the miracle-working power we need!

Second, waiting on the Lord produces strength for those who have no strength left. The best way to get strong is to wait: to simply expect God to show up and make you stronger! Prayer is different from meditation. When you meditate, as practiced in many different forms of Eastern spirituality, you focus inside yourself. You find the strength in you. But when you pray, the focus should always be outside yourself, and on God! Genuine prayer means focusing on the Cross, realizing just how weak you are, and finding strength in God!

Third, waiting on the Lord allows us to “mount up” (v 31). Waiting on God with patient expectation prepares us to enter into His presence. As we wait on the Lord, the Holy Spirit actually gives us the strength we’re going to need to internalize everything God is about to say.

Finally, waiting on the Lord produces endurance. Waiting on God in prayer allows us to “run and not be weary” (v 31). In other words, God gives us sprinting endurance. He makes us ready to jump into action whenever God calls us out of our boats and onto the water.

Waiting on God in prayer also allows us to “walk and not faint” (v 31). That’s marathon strength. We need marathon strength to continue to believe in the fullness of God’s promises over our lives, even when we don’t see any tangible results in front of us!

Scripture encourages us to, “…run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1). We need endurance to hold fast to everything God has promised us; and the way we build endurance is by waiting on the Lord!

Jesus Is The Only Way

Without Jesus, we have nothing. He gives us strength when we are weak, power when we are drained, and life when our own decisions should result in death. The way we stay connected to Him is by waiting on Him in prayer: by spending time in prayer with no agenda.

Jesus told the masses at Jerusalem how they could find true life:

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. – Jn 7:37

Yes, “coming to Jesus” means that we must definitively give our lives to Christ. We must confess our sins and receive Him into our hearts as Lord over our lives. But Jesus’ instructions to “come to Me” were not just a one-time command. We are supposed to continuously return to Him and be refreshed.

Whoever makes a lifestyle of returning to Jesus by waiting on Him in prayer will have his thirst satisfied. Whoever comes to Him repeatedly will experience new life here and now. Did you know that God’s best life for you doesn’t have to wait until you get to heaven? He promises His goodness for you in the land of the living (Ps 27:13)!

If you’re thirsty, you can gulp down as much water as you want to quench your thirst. But that doesn’t mean you will never thirst again! It would be ridiculous to think that one heavy gulp of water would be all we need to survive for the rest of our lives. Yet that is exactly the assumption some of us make when we give our lives to Christ. We convince ourselves that we got all the fellowship with Jesus we could ever need when we gave our lives to Him. But He has so much more to offer. Waiting on the Lord in prayer leads to a fullness you can only imagine!

Structured Prayer Time

For many Christians, prayer time falls into two categories: ritual, and routine. A ritual is something we do regularly that has meaning and significance attached to it. Maybe you pray for your kids exactly the same way every day. These prayers are important, and shouldn’t be neglected. But God has more for you!

At best, we easily fall into settling for ritualistic prayer. At worst, we fall into routine prayer. Unlike a ritual, a routine has no lasting meaning. If you pray every single day and don’t experience relationship and intimacy with God, maybe your prayer life needs a jolt. When was the last time you cleared your calendar just to sit and listen to God? When was the last time you approached Him in prayer with no agenda at all: just to hear what He has to say?

I’m completely in support of structured prayer time. I pray many of the same prayers every day. I’m also all for structured time of Scripture reading. But I’d like to encourage you to take your devotional life one step further today. When you pray, make time to sit at Jesus’ feet with no agenda! Waiting on the Lord doesn’t have to make up all your prayer time; but it should make up some of it. We need to find our balance when it comes to spending time with God.

Unstructured Time in Prayer

God wants to ditch the prayer agenda and simply spend time with you! That’s the reason He created you in His image: so that His Holy Spirit could communicate with your spirit; so that you and He could experience incredible intimacy!

Educators have recently discovered the importance of unstructured playtime for the growth and development of children. In recent years, the focus of childhood education has moved drastically towards preparing for standardized tests. As a result, so much of classroom time is scheduled and planned out to the last drop.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) responded to that shift by arguing for balance. Educators began to argue for a return to unstructured learning. Parents began to understand the importance of unstructured playtime: taking it easy on all the extracurriculars, and simply allowing their kids to dream and play.

According to the AAP, unstructured learning time is, “…healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”[1] If unstructured learning time is that important for your mental development, think about how important it must be for your spiritual walk with God!

Yes, there will be times when structured prayer is essential. There will be times when a specific prayer need must be addressed in a methodical way. But we need to find balance. We can’t allow our busy schedules to let us rush through prayer! We need to wait on the Lord so He can refresh us, and make us strong!

Your spiritual health depends on your ability to wait on the Lord. Without relationship, you will wither and die. If you settle for ritual and routine prayer all the time, you will lose your passion for the things of heaven. But if you make time to just sit at His feet and worship Him, you will have the world to gain!

Ministering to God

When you pray, you are ministering to God. As part of Old Testament worship, priests would minister to God by offering Him sacrifices. As New Testament worshippers, we are God’s priests through Jesus Christ! And one of the ways we minister to God is through prayer:

Lord, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. – Ps 141:1-2

Our prayer is a sacrifice. Time is our most valuable commodity: we can never have more of it; only less. God receives our time spent with Him in prayer the same way He receives any other genuine gift: with love! And the truth is, whenever we set out to minister to God, He ministers to us so much more!

When we wait on the Lord in prayer, we attend to God. To attend simply means to be present in case He needs something. Butlers and servants wait on their superiors for instructions. Soldiers wait on their commanding officers for orders. We must wait on God if we are to receive everything He has for us!

Time alone with God in prayer is all He wants from us. My prayer is that it would become all we want from Him.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] http://www2.aap.org/pressroom/play-public.htm

Dealing with Crisis

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Dealing with Crisis’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/9/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Wm4H4i

This is the 3rd and final Sunday in a 3-part series titled, “The Bible Cure for Stress & Anxiety.” So far, we’ve looked at overcoming anxiety, and responding to bad news. This week, we round out our discussion of stress & anxiety by examining how we deal with crisis.

Is Crisis Bad?

Crisis is commonplace. Unfortunately, crisis happens all the time. Crisis is defined as, “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.”[1] At best, crisis is seriously uncomfortable; at worst, crisis can be disastrous.

Maybe someone you know has had a crisis of faith. I had a conversation with a friend in ministry just this week about how commonplace it is for pastors to have such a crisis. Some men and women in full-time ministry lose sight of the Gospel message, and get lost in the difficulty of God’s calling on their life. Sometimes they take a sabbatical to rest and regroup; other times they leave ministry altogether.

Maybe you know someone who has had a mid-life crisis. Some people work their entire adult lives without stopping to wonder if what they do every day actually makes them happy. Some people go to work, and then come home, without stopping to think if anything they’re doing actually makes a difference. Then, one day, all the things that used to make them happy no longer have any effect. New sports car? Doesn’t make a difference. House at the beach? Doesn’t put a dent in the emptiness. Crisis can be severely damaging to everything you think you know.

Closely related to a mid-life crisis is an existential crisis. What is the meaning of life? What am I here for? What is my purpose? This type of crisis can happen at any age, no matter your life experience. The well of enjoyment you used to get from simple pleasures suddenly runs dry.

So how can we effectively deal with crisis? Our tendency is to run from crisis. We figure we’ll never have a crisis of faith if we don’t think too hard about eternal issues. We avoid existential crisis by working even harder, without stopping to think about whether or not we get joy from what we do every day.

But ignoring crisis does not make it disappear. Sooner or later, we’ll have to make a decision on the issues that are most important in life. So if we can’t avoid crisis, what should we do?

Embracing Crisis

I’d like to propose that crisis can actually be incredibly good for you. Crisis does not have to be disastrous; it can actually be a monumental growth opportunity. Crisis forces decisions that you might hesitate in making, and pushes you beyond the limits of how far you would otherwise push yourself!

President John F. Kennedy noted that, in the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is actually composed of two characters. The first character represents danger: this is the side of crisis with which we are all familiar. But the second character represents opportunity: and this is the side of crisis we ignore!

Most importantly, crisis forces us to trust God in ways we never have before. Crisis paints us into a corner, and forces us to make a decision to trust God, no matter what. Faith is built in times of crisis, not in times of calm!

Moses In Crisis

God promises that, no matter what, He will cause us to grow through crisis. What’s more, He will often warn us – in advance – that crisis is coming. This is how God spoke to Moses before crisis materialized:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. – Ex 14:1-4

God spoke to Moses before crisis ever happened. He warned Moses: Pharaoh will pursue you, and you might be scared; but trust in Me, because I will have the victory.

Unfortunately for Moses, God’s word wasn’t very specific. All Moses knew was that 1) Pharaoh would pursue Israel, and 2) God was going to do something awesome. But he didn’t know what or how God was going to gain the victory over Pharaoh.

God will do this with us quite often: He will show us the big picture of what He is about to accomplish well in advance, but will wait until we follow Him with our faith to reveal the smaller steps required. Moses didn’t know exactly what Israel’s salvation would look like, but he definitely knew it was coming, one way or another!

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” – Ex 14:10-18

Even as Moses reassured the people of Israel that God would deliver them, he had no idea what God was about to do. He simply made the decision to trust God through crisis, no matter what. The moment Moses made the decision to cry out to God, God told him what to do.

Moses experienced crisis. He was the leader of a rebellious people who would have gone right back to Egypt if they had their way. When Moses got to the edge of the Red Sea, he had a choice. Would he listen to the voice of the men & women crying out in fear, and turn back? Or would he trust the voice of God, and keep moving forward in full faith?

Moses was obedient through crisis. Because of his insistence on trusting God, and faithfully walking out His instructions, God’s people witnessed a deliverance, the likes of which had never before been seen. Radical obedience through crisis brought deliverance.

Jesus In Crisis

Did you know that even Jesus experienced crisis? Remember, crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or anger. If even the Son of God embraced crisis as necessary, how much more should we?

Jesus knew His mission. God showed Him everything that He would do in order to save mankind. Just as God spoke to Moses ahead of his crisis, He spoke to Jesus ahead of the crisis He would face. But just because Jesus knew crisis was coming did not mean He could avoid it:

Coming out [of Jerusalem], He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me…” – Lk 22:39-42a

Jesus was in crisis. He was fully God, yet also fully man: subject to the same internal scrutiny and insecurities we face every day. He cried out to God, and asked Him if there was any way He could avoid what He was about to face.

Jesus had a choice: would He listen to the desires of His flesh, and turn back from everything God called Him to do? Or would He obey the will of God, and move forward toward His inevitable death to fulfill everything God had called Him to do?

Just as Moses had done centuries before, Jesus resolved His crisis through radical obedience:

“…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. – Lk 22:42b-44

Crisis allowed Jesus to trust God in a way He never had before. Just as with Moses, Jesus’ obedience through crisis paved the way for salvation for all God’s people! As a result of Jesus’ obedience through crisis – His insistence on walking out God’s instructions – God’s people witnessed a deliverance never before seen!

Your Crisis

What deliverance might be on the other side of the crisis you’re facing in your own life? When Moses trusted God’s word through crisis, Israel was saved. When Jesus trusted God through crisis, the world was saved. When you trust God through crisis, you become a testimony to the people around you so that they might be saved too!

Whenever we face a crisis, the question we’re actually answering with our response is, do I trust God? Will I trust the word of God? Or will I only go so far as to trust the words of other people? Will I trust God through thick and thin, or will I only trust Him up until my insecurities kick in and take over? After all, if we really trust God with all our hearts, is any situation really a crisis?

Crisis is inevitable. God never promises that crisis won’t come. He simply promises that He is our strength through anything & everything we could ever face. He will strengthen us, and help us to make the most of any opportunity. Whenever crisis comes, He will cause us to grow in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Rom 8:28

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=crisis%20definition

Responding to Bad News

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Responding to Bad News’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/2/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1KTMXHc

This is the 2nd Sunday in a 3-part series titled, “The Bible Cure for Stress and Anxiety.” Last week (7/26) we looked at how to overcome anxiety. Next week, we’ll deal with conquering crisis. This week, we’re diving head-first into the ways we should deal with bad news.

Bad News Is Inevitable

At some point in your life, you will receive bad news. I’m constantly asked by people who are skeptical of Christianity, “If God is real, why do bad things happen to good people?”

The answer is that we live in a fallen world. In the Creation Story, God gave authority over the world to man:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Gen 1:25

It was our job to be good stewards over everything God had given into our hand. But we failed. Through one act of infinite disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ceded control of the world to Satan. It is now our job, as Christians, to go out and re-take territory that rightfully belongs to God, in the Name of Jesus.

Suffering comes from Satan. In Job 1:11, Satan asked for Job. Because there was no mediator under the Old Covenant, God gave Job to Satan. However, Jesus Christ is now our Mediator. He sits at the right hand of the Father. So, whenever Satan asks for us under the New Covenant, Jesus Christ is there to intercede: to say no way!

However, Satan will still do his worst to derail God’s best for your life. We are called to higher places in Christ, and the world continues to descend around us. That creates friction.  Bad news will come from time to time as we forget to pray, or lose sight of the fact that God has already given us complete victory. But no matter what happens, we are meant to keep Jesus’ victory on the Cross in full view. Because He Is victorious, we are victorious in Him:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:4-5: 4

Bad news is inevitable. Whether or not you will receive bad news at some point in your life is not a choice we get to make. However, how we respond to bad news is our choice; and that choice makes all the difference in the world!

Leaning on Man

When you receive bad news, to whom do you turn? Do you look to your parents to calm your nerves? Do you go to your therapist to walk you back off a cliff? Do you go out with your friends and try to forget the bad news?

When we get bad news, our typical response is to run to man instead of God. Scripture is filled with examples of men and women who forget that, whenever the stuff hits the fan, God always wants us to turn to Him first.

Asa was a good king. He, “…did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chron 14:2). However, he wasn’t perfect. When Israel came to fight Judah, Asa forgot about God’s testimony over his people. Instead of turning to God and asking for deliverance, he turned to man and asked for help:

In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, “Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.” – 2 Chron 16:1-3

By turning to the king of Syria for help, Asa tried to buy deliverance from his enemies. He learned the hard way that other men and women can help us, but only God can deliver us. After all, if we know only God can save our souls, how much more should we know that He is the only One capable of delivering us whenever we become stuck?

Asa’s decision to lean on man, instead of God, only dug him into a deeper hole:

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” – 2 Chron 16:7-9

God was willing to deliver Asa from Israel. In fact, He was even willing to deliver the massive army of Syria into Asa’s hand! But Asa’s insistence on earthly means of salvation interfered with God’s plans for salvation.

God’s heart aches to show Himself strong on behalf of those who are loyal to Him. His eyes search the whole earth for men and women who are willing to remain faithful to Him: to trust in Him, no matter the cost. So, are you willing to trust God with everything you have?

Asa knew God’s testimony. He had seen Him faithfully deliver the army of Judah on many occasions before. But when Asa came up against an enemy who was bigger than he had ever encountered before, He lost sight of God’s sovereignty. He turned to man instead of God, and the result was war.

Turning to God

Whenever we receive bad news, or are faced with an insurmountable situation, our response should be to turn to God! Ten generations after Asa, Hezekiah took the throne of Judah. We see him encounter similar trials, yet his response is completely different. Instead of leaning on man, he turned to God. His insistent obedience made all the difference in the world!

In 2 Kings 18, King Sennacherib of Assyria mounted an attack on Jersualem. He sent messengers to Hezekiah’s servants, and tried to scare Judah into surrendering. Hezekiah could have gotten scared and rushed to make a treaty with a strong, neighboring nation. But instead, he turned to God:

And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. Then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz. – 2 Kings 19:1-2

The entire kingdom of Judah was about to be overthrown. But Hezekiah didn’t panic. His first reaction was to take his concern to God. He went to God, and then he sought a word from the Lord. Because Hezekiah sought Him, God was faithful to deliver the word Hezekiah needed:

So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. And Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”’” 2 Kings 19:5-7

The word of the Lord gave Hezekiah the strength to trust in God unconditionally. Romans 10:17 says that, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We build our trust in God by making time to listen to Him! Without God’s word through Isaiah the prophet, Hezekiah would have lacked the strength to maintain his conviction that God would deliver His people.

Notice the wording in 2 Kings 19:6. God doesn’t just accuse the king of Assyria of blaspheming Hezekiah, His servant; God accuses the king of Assyria of blaspheming Him. We are God’s trusted representatives. When someone comes to challenge the word of God and His destiny for our lives, God takes it personally. He is willing to defend and deliver us; not just for our sakes, but also for His!

God caused the king of Assyria to flee. Hezekiah was faithful, and God reciprocated. He took Hezekiah’s bad report and turned it into a good testimony.

A short time later, Sennacherib came back to Judah. He again sent messengers to blaspheme God, and bully Judah into submission. However, Hezekiah knew how to respond:

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord… – 2 Kings 19:14

Hezekiah had a terrible report on his hands again! The king of Assyria was back with even more troops. So how would he respond to this bad news?

Hezekiah had a choice to make. He could whine and question God, asking why God’s deliverance had failed and questioning God’s promise over his life. Or, he could continue to trust in God.

Hezekiah immediately brought his bad report before the Lord. He trusted in God instead of man. Hezekiah knew the value of a covenant relationship with God, because he had called all of Judah back under God’s Covenant. He knew that, because Assyria threatened Judah, they were really threatening God Himself! Hezekiah knew that this bad news wasn’t his problem to deal with alone: it was God’s problem to solve through him.

We are invited to experience a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The covenant is the most powerful, intimate, and binding form of relationship that can exist. Our human equivalent is marriage between a man and a woman. When we enter into covenant with God, our problems become His problems. Any word spoken against us becomes a word spoken against Him; and just as He always defends Himself, He will always defend us.

The end result of Hezekiah’s insistence on turning to the Lord was effortless victory:

And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. – 2 Kings 19:35

Hezekiah didn’t even have to fight! God promised him complete deliverance, and God delivered.

Whenever you receive a bad report, don’t face it alone. Don’t fear the outcome of what lies ahead; have faith that God determines the end result. Bring your concerns to the Lord, and ask what He would have you do! God desires partnership with us! He wants to co-labor with us to bring about His desires on this earth!

Healing Case Study

We see the same two kings, Asa and Hezekiah, demonstrate the extent to which they were willing to bring their bad reports to God at the end of their lives. Both men were afflicted with disease at the end of their reign. Both men responded differently. One lived to continue ruling; the other did not.

At the end of his life, Asa found out he was sick:

And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign (we see the mercy of God here), Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. – 2 Chron 16:12-13

Because he relied on man instead of turning to God, he died!

Even the best physicians in the world cannot extend our lives forever. I remember the story of a pastor walking into a hospital to counsel a dying member of his church. He got into the elevator, and rode up to the floor of the patient he was visiting. As he stepped out of the elevator, the attending physician met him face to face. The physician wondered aloud if there was any point to the visit, knowing that his patient was close to death. He continued to challenge the pastor, and was clearly of the opinion that any prayers the pastor could offer were pointless. The pastor replied that even the best physicians eventually lose all their patients; but the God who saves our souls never loses a single person from His care.

Hezekiah was also struck with sickness late in is life:

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”’” – He responded by prayer and weeping; the word of the Lord changed! – 2 Kings 20:1-6

Instead of leaning on man, Hezekiah trusted in God. Instead of running to his doctors, Hezekiah hit his knees and prayed. He cried out to the Lord, and God heard his prayers. He continued to live on, and walk out the calling God had put on his life!

God’s word didn’t change; it was perfected. Because Hezekiah turned his heart to God, God granted him a new lease on life. When we turn to God in the same way, with reckless abandon, His word will be perfected in us!

God Is Faithful

The enemy will use bad news to deter us in our pursuit of God. Yet God’s desire is that we would know the depths of His faithfulness. When you meet Him face to face, You will see His faithfulness unfold in front of your eyes. But we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to see how good God is. We can know Him for who He is here and now. Our intimate relationship with God starts when we learn to trust Him unconditionally. Our intimate relationship with God increases as we bring every bad report to Him, knowing that He is faithful to deliver us from anything we could ever encounter!

When we turn to God instead of leaning on man, everything changes. Bad news will come; but we can take joy in knowing that faith is built in times of tribulation. We can have faith that deliverance is coming.

At the end of his life, Joshua looked back on everything God had done for His people Israel:

So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass. – Josh 21:43-45

The people of Israel learned by experience that God was faithful to every single one of His promises. We should learn from their testimony, and believe the same thing. As we have faith in Him to deliver us from any situation, our problems will simply melt away in His presence.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Royal Generosity

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Royal Generosity’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 7/19/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1IpvpoD

Material and Spiritual

Your approach to giving will determine the extent to which you are financially blessed in your life. Do you cringe when it’s time for the offering? Or do you give with joy? Do you give your tithe to God out of ritual? Or do you give to God with passion, knowing that your gift is the invitation God needs to bless you and satisfy all your needs?

Too often, we see giving the wrong way. When we give to others, we think giving is just to satisfy the material need of the recipient. We think we’re simply meeting the perceived need in front of us. When we give to the church, we think we’re giving just to keep the lights on. But giving should be so much more than that!

When we give – either to an individual, or to the church – we are giving to God. Scripture says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Prov 19:17). Whenever we give alms, we’re actually not giving at all; we’re lending. We’re not just giving to meet a perceived, physical need right in front of us. It’s so much more than that.

Whenever we give our tithes to the local church, we’re actually not giving at all; we’re investing in God’s kingdom. We’re not giving to the pastors or the staff; we’re making an offering directly to God. And Scripture promises that when we invest wisely in this way, we will reap a harvest.

My wife and I attended a concert recently for a well-known Christian worship group. At one point towards the end of the concert, they took up an offering. A young man in front of me turned to his friend, and said, “I’m not going to give. It looks like they have plenty of money! Why do they need more?” This is how a lot of us feel when the offering buckets come around in church.

But thinking along these lines is completely missing the point. Remember, an offering is not a bill. Giving is so much more than just meeting a required, external need in front of us; it’s about meeting an internal, spiritual need within us. God created us with a desire to worship Him. Giving our tithes and offerings to Him is one of the ways we fulfill that desire.

Giving Is Worship to God

Giving our tithes and offerings to God is just as valid a form of worship as raising our hands and singing out to Him. It’s just as necessary a form of obedience as the disciplines of Bible study and prayer.

The writer of Hebrews explains that we’re not just giving to the local pastor, or the local church; we’re giving directly to God:

Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.  – Heb 7:8-10

When Abraham tithed to Melchizedek – the priest of the Most High God – he knew he wasn’t simply giving away ten percent of what he had to another man. He was investing ten percent into God’s kingdom.

We don’t give because the church needs it; we give because our hearts need it. Do you ever open your Bible because the pages need to be turned? No; you read God’s Word because it’s the way you transform your mind (Rom 12:2). Do you ever pray because you think God needs to hear you? No; you pray because communication with a loving Father is what give you joy and life! In the same way, we don’t give because God needs our money; He created the earth, and owns everything in it. We give because it’s a sacrifice to God.

CityLight is a tithing church. When our new members sign their membership covenant, the expectation to tithe is clearly outlined. One of the reasons we, as leadership, have no problem whatsoever asking people to tithe, is we have experienced the benefits of tithing in our own lives.

My wife and I have always given more than ten percent. Last year, our giving to the church was equal to about 17% of our net income. But this year, God asked us to step it up even more. I remember driving to work one day, and telling God He has my whole heart. “I want more of You,” I said, “at any cost.” Then I asked God a dangerous question: what does “more at any cost” look like to me?

I heard an answer immediately. “Twenty percent.” It was not what I wanted to hear. We had just had a son, and my wife had made the decision to stay home and take care of him instead of working full-time. We had a mountain of expenses piling up, and I needed all the extra wiggle room I could afford. And God wanted to take even more!

But I immediately said yes. God values obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22). If He tells me to do something, I want to do it. Bowing the knee to God’s instruction doesn’t restrict our freedom; it actually increases it. When God knows we are willing to do whatever He asks, He’s going to start asking even more. The more we hear from Him, the more we know how to go out and live according to our design; and when we live according to His design for us, we experience true freedom.

Since the day we started giving twenty percent of our net income to God, we have been amazingly blessed. We haven’t paid full price for a single piece of clothing for our son. God has sent people to bless us with steak dinners and movie nights. Because we were willing to demonstrate God has our whole hearts, He has increased our expectations for what He is willing to provide. We are dreaming with Him for increase, with full confidence that more is on the way.

Who Owns Your Heart?

When we give, we prove to God that He has our heart. Did you know that our giving is actually a reflection of our heart condition?

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” – Mk 12:41-44

Jesus sat opposite the local house of worship and watched. But He didn’t watch how much people gave; He watched how people gave! He wasn’t impressed by the value of the coins they offered. He was much more concerned with the motivation for their actions: were they giving out of duty, or out of desire? Were they giving because they had to, or were they giving because they get to?

The poor widow didn’t give much. A quadrans makes up 1/64 of a full days’ wages. In today’s terms, she probably gave around $2.00. But Jesus knew she was giving everything she had. She was giving Him her whole heart; and that was exactly what He was after!

Everything you have came from God. He has freely given, and blessed you with material increase. When we give, we are simply giving back a portion of everything He has already given us. We’re proving to God that we can be good stewards over everything He has given us. And as we do, we invite Him to make us stewards over so much more!

Do you remember the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30)? A wealthy ruler gave his goods to his servants. The servant who refused to invest because of fear was punished. But the servants who acted confidently, and invested wisely, were well rewarded! What better investment is there than sowing back into God’s Kingdom?

Sowing Seed

Our harvest will be determined by the 1) type and 2) quantity of seed we sow. If a farmer plants apple seed, he expects an apple tree. In other words, you need to plant a financial seed to reap a financial harvest. I’ve met too many people who refuse to give God their wallets, and then wonder why their wallet is shrinking. If God doesn’t own something, it will atrophy; but when He takes possession, it will thrive.

If a farmer plants a lot of seed, he expects a big harvest. The tithe literally means ten percent. Yes, that is a lot of money. If it didn’t hurt a little bit, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. When we tithe, faith is required, because giving is supernatural. We build our faith for finances by liberally sowing, by faith, into God’s Kingdom. Scripture gives us the tithe as a set amount because it’s what we need to invest to expect a harvest!

If you don’t have the money to tithe, tithe anyway. Several years back, we did a “tithing challenge” at our church. Leadership invited every single member of the church to “try” (test according to Mal 3:10) God’s promise for our finances. If anyone who signed up to tithe for 90 days didn’t notice a tangible increase in their finances, we invited them to ask for his money back: no questions asked! And guess what? After 90 days, not a single person asked for his money back. Every single participant had seen a tangible increase in his financial life. God’s Word works!

God’s word invites us to understand the principle of sowing and reaping:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. – 2 Cor 9: 6-8, 10, 11

God’s Kingdom is counter-intuitive. If we need financial breakthrough, we should give more; not less. We must sow to reap, and we must sow the kind of seed we want to reap!

At CityLight, we pray that every single person will receive the revelation that we can – and should – give from a place of absolute joy in our hearts. We invite anyone who can’t give that way to hold on to their gifts until they can. God loves a cheerful giver. When we sow from a place of joy, we will reap in a place of joy!

Whenever we have a guest minister at our church, I bless his or her socks off. Why? Because Scripture says, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt 10:41). When I bless a prophet, with no strings attached, I know what kind of seed I’m sowing. The best way I can increase the gifting on my life is by investing – liberally – into people God has already made gifted!

A Reflection of Our Royalty

Giving is a reflection of our royalty. No passage illustrates this better than the story of the queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon.

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. Then she said to the king: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great quantity, and precious stones. There never again came such abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

- 1 Kings 10:1-10

The queen of Sheba came to Solomon for the same reason we come to God: to ask Him the hardest questions we can think of! No matter what she asked, Solomon had an answer. His wisdom far exceeded her highest expectations. And this is the outcome God promises us when we come to Him with the toughest questions imaginable.

The queen of Sheba was so overwhelmed by the royalty and magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom that the only reaction she could think of was to give! She didn’t give because Solomon needed something; she gave because she needed to give. Through Solomon, God was establishing a Kingdom nobody else could build. The queen knew it, and did everything she could to sow into it!

And guess what? The queen of Sheba received a reward for her giving. Because she sowed, she also reaped:

Now King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, besides what Solomon had given her according to the royal generosity. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. – 1 Kings 10:13

King Solomon blessed the queen of Sheba according to the royal generosity. He didn’t bless her because she was needy; he blessed her because she was a queen. And do you know what Scripture says about you?

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light… – 1 Pet 2:9

You are royalty! God invites us to enjoy the same exchange with Him that the queen of Sheba enjoyed with King Solomon! When we bless God because He is King, He will bless us because we are His royal cabinet!

Our giving is a reflection of our status. Scripture tells us we are royalty; but not everyone believes it. Are you giving like royalty? If you’re not freely giving to a God who has freely given everything into your hand, then do you really understand the position God has given us as royal priests?

There is a story of Alexander, the Emperor of Macedonia, giving to a beggar on the road:

The emperor was walking along a highway with his entourage. All of a sudden, a beggar seated at the side of the road cried out for alms. “Please, spare me whatever you can!”

The emperor’s scribe looked at the beggar in disgust. But Alexander the Great turned and gave him his attention. He looked the man in the eyes. Then he said to his scribe, “Give him two gold coins.” The scribe was astonished at the amount the emperor had instructed him to give. He gave the beggar the coins out of his money bag, but then returned the to the emperor, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

“Why?” he asked. “Why did you give him gold coins? Surely copper coins would have adequately met the beggar’s need!”

Alexander responded in royal fashion. “Copper coins suit the beggar’s need. But only gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”

God wants us to understand that we are royalty. When that reality permeates every part of who we are, it will no longer be a struggle to give; giving will become a privilege and a pleasure.

God is the God of abundance. When Jesus fed the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish, there was more than enough to go around. There were leftovers! There was supernatural abundance. When Jesus told Peter to reposition his net and throw it to the other side of the boat, there were so many fish that the net almost broke! God isn’t interested in barely there, or just enough; He is the God who supplies above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20-21)!

God desires to bless us because we are His sons and daughters. We are royalty! Now let’s start acting like it.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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