Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ministry Update

WE MADE IT!

I find the week between Christmas and New Year's Day to be the most unique week in the year. Many use this time to reflect back at the significant events of the past 51 weeks. This year was not easy for many but there is also a sense of accomplishment. It reminds me of the attitude students have on their graduation day. You appreciate the look in their eyes that triumphantly declares, "We made it!"

It is also the logical time for the world to take a collected breath before jumping ahead into the New Year. Yes, there are gift returns to take care of and Christmas cleanup to be done but many people appreciate just a few days to catch their breath before watching the ball drop into an uncertain future. When I was a kid in northern Minnesota, I remember jumping off cliffs of abandoned iron ore pits that had partially filled with water. Instinctively, I always took a deep breath before leaping from the secure ledge and experiencing the thrill of flying into the unknown!

Here at Bethany Urban Development, we are also doing a bit of reflection. We can declare that, despite the difficulties, God's mercy endures forever. The situation continues to improve in the urban core. God's Kingdom has become a reality for many more people and I can't think of any time I've enjoyed serving the Lord more. However, despite the victories, we have a strong sense that 2009 will be much better. His love and Kingdom values burn with increasing intensity within our hearts.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

It has been a team effort and you have played an important part. Many of our partners have faithfully prayed for us this year. Still others have given financially and labored with us for the sake of others. I don't want to let go of 2008 without saying thanks to a few special friends who have been an incredible help and encouragement this past year. Because we are friends, I'll keep it on a first name basis:

Adam, Alison, Ani, Anna, Anton, Armand, Arnold, Art, Autumn, Barb, Betty, Bob, Brian, Brittany, Carol, Carolyn, Cathy, Cheryl, Christopher, Christy, Chuck, Connie, Dan, Darrell, Dave, David, Dean, Debbie, Deirdre, Diane, Divar, Donald, Doug, Eileen, Elaine, Gloria, Grace, Harold, Henry, Jacob, Jacque, James, Jamie, Jason, Jeff, Jennifer, Jim, Jimmy, Joan, Jodene, Joe, John, Jonathan, Jose, Juan, Judy, Karen, Kathie, Ken, Kristen, Larry, Leah, Lonny, Loraine, Louis, Luz Elena, Margy, Mark, Marte, Martha, MaryLynn, Matt, Melvin, Micah, Michael, Michelle, Mike, Molly, Nancy, Nathan, Nita, Noemi, Norris, Patty, Pauline, Peter, Randy, Rebekah, Rhonda, Ric, Richard, Robert, Roberto, Roger, Roland, Ronald, Rubens, Ruth, Scott, Sheila, Sheryl, Sonny, Starr, Steve, Terry, Tim, Vickie, Wayne, William, Willis, and Yvonne!

Finally, for everyone who has been connected to us this past year, I want to speak a special word of blessing into your life today.

May God grant you spiritual revelation of His awesome power and love. May you increasingly see the world through His eyes and be kept from the deceptive entanglements of this world's system. May you and your family victoriously fulfill your spiritual destiny in the Kingdom which cannot be shaken!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ministry Update

SURVIVING THE DEATH ZONE

At 29,029 feet, Mt. Everest represents the virtual top of the world and to climb it is an incredible challenge. A total of 630 people have reached the peak since 1921 but 144 have died in the attempt. That's a death rate of nearly one in four! The most experienced climbers are the local Sherpas. Their skill and endurance are legendary. They have served as both guides and equipment transporters for most other climbers. One Sherpa recently summited for the 18th time!

Every climber faces incredible dangers of wind, rock and ice. However, the most critical challenge is coping with oxygen levels that decrease with each ascending step. Beginning around 26,000 feet, climbers enter the infamous "Death Zone." Typically, climbers can only endure the Death Zone for two to three days. At this altitude most people lose all ability to acclimate to the low oxygen levels. Accordingly, their bodies begin to deteriorate and die. If they don't descend, they will likely experience High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). This life-threatening condition is the result of swelling of the brain from fluid leakage.

One day Jesus and three of His closest disciples climbed another mountain. At the summit, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face and clothes became brilliant. Soon Moses and Elijah appeared and talked to Him. The disciples were overwhelmed with the experience, especially Peter. He managed to blurt out, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

However, Jesus knew something the disciples did not realize - He knew the danger of them staying too long. They were not above 26,000 feet but the disciples were facing the same deterioration in the spiritual realm. Prolonged exposure would likely lead to spiritual pride (swelling of the brain) and a overinflated view of their abilities. They must return to the base of the mountain in order to survive.

VISITORS NOT SETTLERS

Early in Israel's history, God sought for a king after His own heart. This brought Him to an obscure shepherd boy. He elevated young David through the slaying of Goliath. Soon he became part of the Saul's royal court where he played his harp for the troubled king. But it wasn't long before Saul's dogged determination to hold onto the throne put David's life in jeopardy. Miraculously, David was delivered from the king's hands to become the second ruler of Israel.

As king, David oversaw the growth of a nation. He ruled with love and justice but ironically fell victim to a tragic rebellion engineered by his very own son. David was forced to abdicate his throne and flee once again for his life. Only after the death of Absalom, was David able to reestablish his kingship.

David is an example of someone who was elevated but then taken down several times during his lifetime. Unlike Saul, he accepted his frequent ascensions and descensions as an important part of his spiritual journey. Because he desired to follow God whatever it may cost, David fulfilled his spiritual destiny.

One of the keys to the Apostle Paul's success was an understanding of this spiritual dynamic. Prior to conversion he enjoyed an elevated position of religious Pharisee. However, on the road to Damascus he lost his reputation among peers and was treated cautiously by fellow believers.

During his ministry, Paul experienced incredible revelations and blessings. But his frequent life-threatening experiences and trips to forgotten prisons helped maintain spiritual submission and humility. Rather than resistance, Paul embraced everything God wanted for him. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:12-13).

LIVE TO CLIMB AGAIN

On a national level, our country has experienced years of unprecedented blessings and favor. However, there are now clear signs of a loss of world dominance. How will we respond to this new reality? Will our country continue to cling to its lofty position despite clear signs of altitude sickness? Could our economic downturn actually foster a desperation for God and reestablish our dependency on Him?

There have been many churches and ministries that have enjoyed years of power and prosperity. Unfortunately, some religious leaders have tried to maintain their lofty position even though it was killing them spiritually. Other Christian organizations have been faithful yet also face reduced attendance and a drop in financial support. Will our Christian organizations be able to see the silver lining of downsizing? Will they be able to shift from going higher to going deeper with God?

Millions of individual Christians have experienced extended periods of blessing - both materially and spiritually. However, many now are facing home foreclosures and loss of jobs. Others are suffering from physical and mental stress. During these difficult times, will we become angry and fearful at what has been lost or trustingly follow God so we can live to climb again?

I believe now is the time to join with King David, the Apostle Paul and others, who surrendered to God's ways - whether it brought elevation or abasement, honor or dishonor, blessing or suffering. Let us accept the God-directed fluctuations in our lives so that we will not only survive but fulfill our spiritual destiny!

"There is no strength to resist the ravaging lion as he prowls about seeking whom he may devour, unless our hearts have learned to accept the unexplained in our own lives, and the delays and disappointments and reverses which often come where our prayer for others seems to fall into silence and we see not our signs, and all is under snow. Accept the snowfall as the appointed providence for the winter months and wait till the voice which the winds obey calls to His south winds, 'Blow upon My garden'...it is in the forge of infirmity that strength is wrought to perfection [maturity]...'Rest upon God to do for you more than you can understand.'" - Amy Carmichael

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ministry Update

Urban Churches Unite!

On October 10th we participated in Prayerperation IV, an urban prayer vigil. Several churches and ministries from the neighborhood were involved. We gathered at one of the urban churches where we worshipped and interceded for the community for seven hours. In addition to confessing our sins and the sins of our city, we did a prayer walk in the neighborhood. Once we began, it was hard to stop. Old and young were involved as we filled these dangerous streets with prayers of deliverance and hope.

The prayer vigil ended in victory but within 48 hours, many of the key churches and ministries were subjected to spiritual attacks. One church was broken into, a prayer coordinator's computer was stolen containing her church's prayer records, and a pastor's car was vandalized with several valuable items stolen.

As I was reading these email reports, I heard my wife call for help from the adjacent room. When I arrived, I saw her pass out on the steps and fall head first rolling to the bottom. It was a frightening and potentially life-threatening situation but she has now recovered. It is obvious we are making a spiritual impact because of the amount of demonic reaction.

Children of the Kingdom

Recently the Lord revealed something to us that greatly impacted our lives. The concept is simple but profound. In the Kingdom of God a person's age is really not a factor. God is just as comfortable using someone young, middle age or old. It is not because He is committed to being an equal opportunity employer. It is because it just doesn't matter.

A few nights ago we met for one of our bi-weekly prayer meetings. Because of this concept the Lord had stirred up within us, we decided to have the children play a more active role in our prayer time. We started off by putting on a children's worship CD. After about the second song the whole atmosphere changed. The Holy Spirit had come into the room, not only making us aware of His presence, but the children also became consumed with His love and power. After the music, they each laid hands and cried out to God for each one of us. This continued for quite some time. Afterwards, twelve year old Jamie immediately ran upstairs to the computer and began to type. This is what was written as a result of her encounter with her God.

"I may not have the best clothes or even have the cutest hair; but through God I am beautiful. Through God I am a shining light. You may see me all ripped up, but all He sees is the most beautiful thing He's ever seen in His life. I may not have a clear face, or even have the cutest nails; but through God I've got the biggest smile and I'm as perfect as can be. So no lies, no lies am I going to hear. No lies, no lies, you can tell me. I'm not ugly or friendless, because God is my friend. Oh, God is my friend."

We are continuing to be encouraged by the feedback on our Ardor Media products. Recently we received a letter from a 90 year old lady from Michigan.

"I just finished reading your book and feel led to tell you how glad I am that the Lord helped you to write such a great book.... I gave my life to Jesus and invited Him into my heart when I was eight years old. The desire for more and more of Jesus kept growing through the years. All the pastors, priests, ministers and others would tell me - 'You're saved, aren't you? There isn't anymore!' And my heart cried out 'There is more! I know there's more!'

In my 40's, my desire began to be filled. I had to do lots of searching - books - people - 'digging' and learning - reading, studying, praying, etc. with the Bible becoming God's holy, personal love letter to me! So, thank you for writing your book, that others who have a deep hunger and thirst to really know Jesus, will have a wonderful guide and help.

There's much more to God's Kingdom, power, and glory for me to know, understand, live, experience, etc. in my life, even now! I beg the Lord, 'Don't leave me behind, running to catch your bandwagon. I want to be in your bandwagon now!! Praising and singing Hallelujahs.'"

Special Offer

The holidays are just around the corner so we wanted to do something special for our friends. For a limited time we are offering Consuming Love and Set Me Ablaze at a 40% discount! Just reply to this email telling us product name and quantities. We will send you an invoice with your order.

Consuming Love

Non-fiction book from the director of Bethany Urban Development. Consuming Love will take you to a deeper level of understanding about God's commitment, friendship, and passion for you. Special Price: $ 7.50 plus shipping/tax (List Price: $12.50)

Set Me Ablaze ~ Two CD set

This is a powerful collection of revelatory poems and instrumental music that will expose you to the passion of God's heart. Set Me Ablaze will stir your heart and soul. Special Price: $ 9.00 plus shipping/tax (List Price: $15.00)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ministry Update

Dear Friend, This past summer, we presented a three-part series on the clash between the kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of God. In this issue, I want to share with you how the Lord has led our family to apply this important message.

MOVING IN HIS KINGDOM

Several weeks ago, we sensed God leading us to sell our home. This was no small issue. We had lived in our house longer than any other residence in our 32 years of marriage. We had a huge attic where we had stored old clothes, several sentimental items, and just plain junk. It would take a lot of effort just to organize a move.

Despite the potential problems, I wanted to be objective. I had to admit we didn't need a 2,600 sq. foot home any longer. Martha and I were now empty-nesters with both Molly and Dan gone with families of their own. We had also accumulated considerable debt, primarily because B.U.D. had failed to meet its annual budget the past three years. But the turning point came when God revealed to us how a materialistic, pleasure-loving value system had penetrated the Western Church - rendering it impotent. I was determined to be a part of the solution not the problem. If I wanted to see first century Christianity then I needed to embrace first century values.

I contacted a realtor who explained to us the current market conditions. Unfortunately, our suburb had been hit the hardest in the Twin Cities housing market. She told us that over 700 homes were available in our suburb alone, with half of those being foreclosures! This had driven the prices way down and extended the length of time it would take to sell the home.

We knew this would be an incredible challenge. If we priced too high, we wouldn't be able to sell. If we priced too low we wouldn't be able to pay our bills. We decided to price it higher than a "quick sale" recommendation and pray for divine intervention. Well, it didn't take God long. We sold the house in the same month we put it on the market. The sale price was very close to our asking price and the proceeds would retire our debts.

I have never been to a real estate closing that felt like a worship service. The presence of God came down while we talked openly with our realtor about the goodness of God. The new buyers wept and gave us a gift in appreciation of the work we did to prepare their new home. It was awesome!

We have now moved into a four-plex unit where we will be renting for at least the next year. Interestingly, some of our urban pastors have also decided to sell their homes. The circumstances have varied but there is a general sense of God getting us ready for something new. We feel we are entering a fresh season of ministry that is in response to the current culture and its measurements of success.

Our house closed on the day that Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch went down. I feel I have been delivered from a broken system. As you know, the financial markets have continued to rock back and forth. It appears that our country is being systematically weaned off of our addiction to money and a materialistic lifestyle.

Many Christians have been praying for revival in this country. Unfortunately, our society has resisted any deepening dependence on God. Rather, our material prosperity has fueled an independent attitude towards His Kingdom values. The current financial crisis is a wake up call for all of us. Beyond punishing those who have failed the public trust, we need to proactively challenge the values of our current culture. I see a potential desperation rising in this country for God's intervention and a willingness to make all His Kingdom values our own.

I am not an economist or even a financial advisor. I am not suggesting we all sell our homes and live in caves. But I do feel we are entering a critical moment in our country's history. As a result, I believe we need to prayerfully consider the following changes:

1) Simplify our lifestyle. Get rid of extra stuff. Enjoy the blessings of giving our stuff to others in need. Get out of debt. Financial pressures can greatly hinder what we are able to do for God. We need to free ourselves from being a servant of the lender (Prov. 22:7b).

2) Make our home a sanctuary of God. Pray as a family often. The more we experience God in our homes, the more we will receive His strength in these troubled times. We must make certain we have enough spiritual oil for the days ahead (Matt. 25:10).

3) Become a change agent. We must demonstrate Kingdom values by our life and words. We need to challenge our society's fallen values and reach out, in love, to those facing frustration and fear. This is the time for the spirit of the first century Church to reemerge!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John (16:33).

Urban Prayer Event! Prayerperation IV

On October 10th B.U.D. will be joining with several urban pastors and ministries for an evening of worship and prayer. We will be meeting from 5 pm until midnight at St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church located at 1901 Portland Ave. / Minneapolis. Please join us and be a part of what God is doing in the urban core!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ministry Update

Dear Friend, For the past couple of issues we have been focusing on the Kingdom of God. If you haven't read the prior issues, please go to the newsletter archive section of our website, loveontheedge.org or just use the following links: Part One and Part Two.

EMBRACING GOD's KINGDOM

Part Three

The Clash of Kingdoms

Jesus came to earth to die for our sins. But He came for something more; He came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. In doing so, He had to fight against the prevailing kingdom and its value system. When Jesus preached repentance, He wasn't just trying to get people to turn from their sins, He was trying to get them to change their way of thinking. He knew they must let go of a corrupt value system and adopt a new program for life. The established kingdom had embraced money, pleasure, and human ingenuity. The Bible often refers to this way of life as Babylon. Its values had infiltrated the Jewish culture including the highest levels of their religious leadership. Even the disciples had been seduced by its love of power. Many times Jesus spoke and acted to expose the evils of this lifestyle:

When He performed supernatural miracles, Jesus wasn't just making people well. He was challenging a system committed to finding solutions to man's problems without God's involvement.

When Jesus attacked the money changers, He wasn't trying to stop businesses from operating on the Sabbath. He was challenging an earthly kingdom that wanted to extend control over a heavenly Kingdom. He was furious that it dared to encroach upon the very entrance of the House of Prayer.

Jesus declared, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matt 6:24). When He said this, He was exposing a value system that allowed a shared devotion of both material and spiritual riches. He exposed the lie that we can simultaneously be citizens of both kingdoms.

The Blessed Poor

Often Jesus healed the sick but didn't financially restore the poor. Rather, He preached Good News to them. This was because He didn't look at the poor as necessarily deprived. Yes, he was drawn to their suffering. But He also recognized that they were typically less attached to the Babylonian value system and had a greater sense of their need for God. "Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (James 2:5).

Poverty, therefore, is a relative term. You can be poor in a kingdom of Babylon context but rich in the Kingdom of God. Does this mean we should seek to be poor? No. To have money is not the problem. It is the love of money that is a core value of the Babylonian system. By setting our hearts too much on money, we are putting our trust in the kingdom of Babylon rather than God's Kingdom.

A New Measure of Success

To break free from the Babylonian value system, we must change our definition of success. In the Babylonian system, there is a great focus on wealth and material possessions. Unfortunately, churches today often focus on offerings, attendance figures, and facility size. Many who attend church have embraced the "American Dream" of a nice car, nice home, and money to buy stuff. Even the irreverent comedian George Carlin recognized the futility of this current mindset:+"If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down; you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get - more stuff!"

After Pentecost, the disciples rejected these values to completely embrace the Kingdom of God. This became the key to their unprecedented effectiveness. Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized," He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!" That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up... Everyone around was in awe - all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common." (Acts 2:38, 40-41, 43-44 MSG emphasis mine).

How will we know that we have broken free from the Babylonian value system? When we are hated by that system. The Babylonian system will only tolerate those who tolerate it. Fortunately, the disciples no longer desired favor from the system rather boldness to confront it.

Hop On Board!

One night, in a worship service, a vision unfolded in my spirit. I saw a nineteenth century frontier town with many from the community assembled at the train station. They had huge trunks and suitcases. Men and boys were handsomely dressed while the women and girls wore fluffy dresses and carried beautiful parasols. They all were excited about boarding the next train.

Finally, an observant young man shouted, "The train is coming!" In the distance, white puffs of smoke began to emerge above the tree tops. When the train rounded the last bend, the screech of the powerful brakes increased anticipation. There was an anxious shift to the train platform. Everyone was preparing to embark.

But as the train reached the depot something happened that no one expected. The train didn't stop! Looks of shock, confusion and disappointment filled the crowd. Some started shouting demandingly for the train to halt. Others tried running after the train while dragging their trunks and bags. A few desperate people dropped everything they were carrying and ran fast enough to jump on board.

As I witnessed this wild scene, I heard a voice coming from above, "This train stops for no one!" It then became clear to me that God was going somewhere but only those who were unencumbered would be able to join Him. We know obvious sins will weigh anyone down but let's not forget the baggage of Babylonian values and mindsets. "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1). This is a key to transforming revival in the West. It's time to let go of a fallen system and completely embrace a Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

Urban Car Wash Success!

Bethany Urban Development conducted its eighth annual free car wash on Lake Street, Saturday, July 26th. We partnered with Mt. Sinai Church of God, Evangelist Crusaders Church, and Teen Mania. We washed 105 cars and two motorcycles in just over three hours! It was an incredible ministry experience. Many free Bibles and Christian materials were distributed and eighteen people prayed for salvation! Thanks so much for your prayers and support!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ministry Update

Dear Friend, Recently I had an encounter with God in Mexico that overwhelmed me. This experience brought into focus the greatest threat to my faith. I have tried to condense some of the main points into three parts. I believe it is a very important message to the Church in the West. This month we will be looking at Part Two. If you want to read Part One, please go to the newsletter archive section at our website, loveontheedge.org or just use the following link Part One

Part Two

The Kingdom of God+Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God more than any other subject. It was the first message He preached and the last thing He taught prior to His ascension. In between, He mentioned it over 100 times. Jesus said it was the Gospel and that we must seek it before anything else. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He directed them to pray for the Kingdom to come even before asking for their personal needs to be met. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered to show the contrast between the Kingdom of God and the current prevailing kingdom. Jesus was constantly telling His disciples about the values of God's Kingdom. His most common message began with "The Kingdom of heaven is like"

As wonderful as Christ's atoning love is, we must not overlook that Jesus also wanted to establish God's Kingdom on earth. He was constantly promoting the values of His Kingdom. It was unlike any other kingdom on earth. It wasn't a religion or political movement. It was a revolutionary way of living. It was a superior program for life.

Initially, the disciples had difficulty grasping the message of God's Kingdom. They had knowledge but lacked understanding. All that changed on the day of Pentecost. Suddenly, they understood the Kingdom and totally embraced its values. As a result, the Babylonian value system was severely threatened. The pagan cities cried out "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too" (Acts 17:6 NKJV).

This battle has continued for over 2000 years. In the book of Revelation, we see that the Babylonian kingdom will be a major force in the years to come. But why is Babylon so powerful? I believe its strength comes from its ability to seduce and entrap. To illustrate this, we need to consider the two metaphors in Proverbs seven and eight. One is the story of a woman who is an adulteress and the other is a woman called wisdom.

The Power of Babylon

In Proverbs seven, the adulterous woman is described as sensual, crafty, loud, defiant, wealthy, pleasure loving, and persuasive. This parallels descriptions of Babylon in Isaiah 47 and Revelation 17,18. However, the passage further reveals the adulterous women is "at every corner" and has "looked for you and found you." Furthermore, she claims you will not suffer any consequences. Much of this description reminds me of today's media and the internet. Finally, the passage reveals that involvement with her results in death.

Proverbs eight reveals another woman who states, "choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold." In direct contrast to the adulterous woman, wisdom states, "I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech." Finally, rather than death, she proclaims, "whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD."

The common element in both stories is the young man who must decide which woman he will follow. I believe the two women represent the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of God. I believe the young man reflects the Western Church today.

The Goal of Babylon

What is the goal of the kingdom of Babylon? It can be summed up in one word - domination. This includes individuals, cities, nations and the world. I believe you will know that it dominates when the people's lifestyle reflects "WE DO NOT NEED GOD." The nations who embrace this belief system will hate those who dare to challenge it. So what is the current state of the world? Although, changing, the basic status is this:

Today, in Europe, the kingdom of Babylon basically dominates the culture. The church exists but it has become institutionalized. There is no community transforming revivals occurring here. The continent is in a general state of spiritual captivity.

The United States is not much better off. The Church is stronger and more evident than in Europe but it has made a terrible error. It has tried to coexist with the kingdom of Babylon in an effort to be relevant and successful. Ninety two percent of the people in America believe there is a God but most don't live like they need Him.

The kingdom of Babylon is gaining strength in Latin America, Asia and Africa. However they have not yet adopted its core belief, "WE DO NOT NEED GOD." Consequently, these areas of the world are experiencing transforming revivals today - as many as 500 are occurring simultaneously, affecting entire cities and nations.

Confronting Babylon

So how do we slow it down, stop it or even push it back? I believe we must follow in the footsteps of Jesus who understood the seductive power of the Kingdom of Babylon.

Jesus didn't try to coexist with it. He didn't try to embrace the Kingdom of God and appease the kingdom of Babylon. He didn't take some of the values of the Babylonian Kingdom and use them to improve His Kingdom message. He wasn't impressed with the kingdom of Babylon in any shape or form.

Jesus didn't try to avoid the kingdom of Babylon, hoping it wouldn't hinder His efforts. He didn't ignore the religious people who loved money and honor. He didn't stay clear of the rich and powerful who preyed on the misfortunes of others. He didn't play it safe by being politically correct and culturally hip.

There is only one way Jesus dealt with the kingdom of Babylon - He confronted it! From the moment of His birth there was a war that raged between the two kingdoms. This epic battle continued throughout Christ's life. Two value systems were competing for the same hearts and not even death would stop the fight. Above that noble head, bearing the pain of a crown of thorns, was posted: "Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews," This sign, mingled with ridicule and scorn, was a shabby attempt to declare the Kingdom of Babylon as conqueror over the king of God's Kingdom.

This hollow sense of victory, we know, lasted only a short time. The scene at Golgotha was soon overshadowed by another - that of an earth-shaking angel casting aside a useless stone that vainly attempted to restrain the King of Kings. It is a scene of a seraph, clothed in brilliance, mockingly sitting upon this pathetic rock which now lay prostrate at the foot of an empty tomb while nearby guards shook with fear and became as dead men. This angel understood the Battle of the Ages and that the Kingdom of God was not afraid to fight!

To be continued next month:

Help Us Clean Up Minneapolis!

Bethany Urban Development will be conducting its eighth annual free car wash on Lake Street, July 26th. This has always been an incredible urban ministry opportunity. If you would like to participate either as a volunteer or as a sponsor please let us know as soon as possible. You can make a difference!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ministry Update

Ministry Update

WE DO NOT NEED GOD!

Suddenly I woke up. I looked at the clock and it said 4:00 AM. Something immediately began to stir in my spirit. I closed my eyes and saw a map of the United States and Mexico. Covering the United States was a black darkness and somehow I knew it was poised to cross the Rio Grande River into Mexico. "What is this blackness?" I thought. Suddenly it came to me - its name was BABYLON.

Later that morning, I was scheduled to complete a week-long teaching session with the students of the Cave of Adullam in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I was prepared to speak on reaching the poor and immigrants of the urban core. With this fresh revelation from the Lord, I knew my plans were about to change. I jumped up and began looking for my notes and computer. The subject of Babylon had recently come up in my studies but it seemed so elusive. As I started to dig into the Scriptures again, I faced the same challenge. "What is Babylon?" The Bible tells us it is a woman (Rev. 17:3-5), a city (Rev. 18:10), a land (Isa. 39:3), and a kingdom (Isa. 13:19). If that wasn't ambiguous enough, it was also called a mystery (Rev. 17:5).

Not to be deterred this time, I decided to attack it from another angle. "Where did it come from? How did it start?" Soon I was reading Genesis 11:1-7 - the story of the Tower of Babel.

"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

This passage reveals three characteristics of Babylon that are foundational:

1) Intelligence. The builders of the city and tower of Babel were very industrious. They revolutionized structure building by creating bricks to replace stones. This gave them virtually unlimited building materials. Not only that, but they also discovered a substance that would serve as mortar for the bricks.

2) Independence. The passage states that they wanted to build a tower that "reaches to the heavens." God was in heaven and they determined to go there also - only without His help.

3) Pride. It is obvious from the passage that pride was a prime motivator for the tower. The outcome of completing it was "we may make a name for ourselves."

I then began to reflect on two other Scripture passages regarding Babylon - Isaiah 47 and Revelation 17, 18. Both speak of the fall of Babylon and the reasons for God's judgment against it. Several sins are exposed. Babylon is described as a lover of pleasure, especially sexual pleasure. It is also a lover of money and riches and capable of producing it. Babylon likes to dabble into witchcraft - for the power it promises. Finally, it hates the true followers of God and is responsible for many of their deaths.

As I reflected on these additional characteristics, I thought, "These are evident throughout the earth in various degrees. So why is the United States in blackness and not Mexico?" The answer came quickly and powerfully into my spirit. "Mexico has not received the heart of Babylon." "But, what is in its heart, Lord?" In my spirit, I clearly heard the answer, "WE DO NOT NEED GOD."

To be continued next month:

OUTREACH REPORT

A couple of months ago, the Lord directed us to the book of Joshua. I was struck by the manner in which the Promise Land was taken. Before commencing the battle, Joshua sent spies into the land to see the strength of the city. They discovered in Jericho some people who were for them and many who were against them. An assessment was critical in the process of taking the city. It is also strategically important in any city-wide spiritual transformation today.+Last month we had the privilege of facilitating an urban outreach involving 40 students from Bethany College of Missions and four South Minneapolis churches that are connected to our Wednesday Pastor's Prayer Meeting. A spiritual survey was conducted door to door throughout the Phillips West, Midtown Phillips and Regina neighborhoods.

Hundreds of folks were contacted. Dozens wanted prayer. Some had encounters with God right on their doorstep. Besides the local residents, many of the students received a fresh revelation of God's love for people, especially the poor and disenfranchised. Here's what some students had to say afterwards:+"I am changed and I do not even know the full extent at this point. Once again, I love. I feel. I long. I desire. I know this was a monumental week and I will look back to this as the beginning someday, the beginning of several things in my life."

"I really learned how to live a life of ministry despite the things that are going on in my personal life - and it was beautiful."

"I operated in my gifts and I found the immense satisfaction that comes from loving like Jesus loved. Living life this past week woke something up inside of me. It woke up the part of me that wants nothing more than a backpack, flip-flops and my bible!"

IN MEMORY of EFRAIN

Recently, we were saddened by the tragic death of six year old, Efrain - son of our urban ministry partners, Pastor Jose and Luz Elena Anleu. This brave young man had been taught to choose Christ above everything else. At the funeral, Luz Elena offered some powerful insights into the journey of life from earth to heaven. "All around the world God raised up intercessors who cried out day and night for two days proclaiming life over our son and God permitted them to see him standing on those stairs, he tried to climb, but our prayers made him return, he wanted to climb, but our cries made him descend. Suddenly a portal opened and Efrain looked first down and then at the pearly gates and said: 'PLEASE TELL MOMMY NOT TO BE ANGRY AT ME BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO COME BACK.' And just like that he climbed and entered the gates to heavenly glory as a "more than conqueror" where we encounter our eternal destiny."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ministry Update

Our B.U.D. team had just returned to the hotel from a Christian conference in Kansas City, Missouri. My seven year old grandson, Jason, took a seat with my daughter, Molly, in the main lounge area of the hotel. Suddenly a young man, who was also attending the conference, walked up and introduced himself to Jason. "My name is Alex and God has given me the gift to be able to see light and dark coming from a person. I noticed so much light coming from you that I would like to pray with you." He then prayed for Jason - that the light God gave him would always be there. His prayer was very sincere. When he finished, he started to say good bye but then Jason asked to pray for him. Alex was very excited at the offer!

Jason then began, "Jesus, I pray that you will take away all the fear Alex has that he is going to die. Please remind him that you will keep him here until he has done everything that you need him to do. Thank you God for Alex and just please take away all his fear, Lord." When Jason was done praying Alex fell to his knees. He looked in shock for a few seconds and then began to share something with Jason and Molly that they were not expecting. He told them that he had been consumed and haunted with fear his whole life. He never slept through the night for fear that he would die while he was sleeping. He was convinced that something was going to kill him the moment he fell asleep. Even after giving his life over to the Lord just a few months prior, he was still struggling with fear. He could not believe that Jason knew something that only he and his mother knew. He felt like God had set him free, but the true test would be going to bed that night!

We saw Alex the next morning and he looked completely different! He was going around telling everyone that the Lord used a seven year old to set him free. His mother, Crystal, came up to Molly and became very emotional. She told Molly that her son had never slept through the night for fear of dying - until last night! Crystal later shared she had been recently set free from a very difficult past and was now in an apartment with running water! We decided to give her Molly's CD, Set Me Ablaze and a CD player to listen to it. A few days later we received this email:

Molly and Jason, ~ Just wanted to send a hello and let you know that I've been thinking and praying for you. I also wanted to let you know that the CD that you gave me is way beyond awesome!!!! On the way home I was listening as the rest of the vehicle was talking and what a sight. Everyone else is laughing and cutting up and I'm bawling like a baby. Track three so hit the nail on the head. I don't know how but you managed to describe me. I am still listening to it at least three to four times a day. I thank the awesome Lord that I was blessed by having you sent into both mine and my son's life. May the Lord continue to bless you. ~ Crystal and Alex

Whether in the urban core or when traveling occasionally out of state, we see God reaching out; touching, healing, and loving. When individuals have an encounter with God, families are impacted. When families change, neighborhoods are affected. A lot of effort has gone into improving the urban core of Minneapolis. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor. 1:27-28). Jesus is using those who possess sincere love and childlike faith more than the "experts" with the latest church growth formulas and methods. May God grant us the grace to reflect the true nature of His Kingdom.

As Bethany Urban Development has passed its ten year milestone, could you prayerfully consider increasing your involvement? We are conducting a major outreach next month with the urban churches and Bethany College of Missions. Let's work together to make a positive difference in people's lives!