Thursday, September 25, 2014

Guest Post

Empty Pockets
By Gene Markland

Old Joe sits on the edge of his bed and struggles with arthritic hands to fasten the cufflink on his shirtsleeve. He does pretty well for a 91-year-old man. The people at the assisted living center help him into his wheelchair, for the church bus is soon coming. Today is a special missions Sunday service and Joe hasn’t missed one in 82 years.

As they roll him toward the door, he reaches over to a small wooden box sitting on his bureau. He takes something out and puts it in his change purse. Returning the empty box to its place, he leaves for the bus.

Later at church, he sits in his wheelchair at the end of the front row, and his mind is flooded with memories. The singing ends and the Pastor begins his sermon about the missionaries they support, some of which are in attendance.

Again Joe’s memories take him back, to a time in his childhood at the age of nine. He sat in this same church on this same missions Sunday, and listened to songs calling men to service for God, and testimonies of the glorious works of God overseas. When they passed the offering plate, though inspired, young Joe had nothing to give. This saddened him, so on that day he purposed in his heart to never again have empty pockets when the missions offering plate is passed around.

So young Joe got himself a paper route and the next year he placed a brand new silver dollar in the missions offering. Every year thereafter, Joe continued to give. The church grew and prospered and so did Joe. It seemed like the more Joe gave, the more he prospered and the more he prospered, the more he gave.

Years passed and he became a successful manufacturer, owning his own factory. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t out-give God. Missions' projects flourished around the world for years through his giving, and God blessed him in all his ways.

In time, Joe retired, sold his factory and enjoyed his latter years with his beloved wife Bernice. Now she is with the Lord and his possessions have been reduced to one small room in an assisted living center. Through insurance, his expenses are paid but he has no income and therefore no spending money. So, after all those years of blessing and wealth, old Joe sits in the mission’s service once again with empty pockets.

He thinks back to his first wedding anniversary, the mint condition silver dollar dated the year of their marriage that Bernice gave him, and the small wooden box he kept it in all those years. Today, old Joe would reach beyond his empty pockets and into his change purse.

As the Pastor prayed over the special missions offering, Joe struggled with knarled bony fingers to open the clasp on his small change purse. He reached inside and held his treasure tightly between his thumb and forefinger. As the offering plate was presented to him, he held his feeble hand over it and raised his thumb to reveal that precious silver dollar that Bernice had given him so long ago.

A tear rolled down his cheek as he lovingly placed his last offering in the plate for the Lord. His pockets are empty once again. As the service continued, Joe’s hands rested in his lap and his chin rested on his chest. Joe entered his rest and his reward.

I suppose as he entered heaven he was met by his heavenly Father, who embraced him and said, “Son, you started with empty pockets and ended with empty pockets, but in between, you have been faithful. Multitudes of souls rejoice here today because of your generosity. Like the widow who gave all she had, though small, it was counted as great. So well done Son!  Great is your reward in heaven, and you don’t need pockets!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.  For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Luke 21:3-4 NLT).

You can contact Gene at

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hosea: The Broken Heart of God

The Broken Heart of God
         I would like to tell you a story.  This tale is not all from the Scriptures, but it is scriptural.  It did not originate with me I have just rewritten it.  I am not sure who first told it, but I believe ultimately it came straight from heart of God.

Lord, How Can I?
         The Lord came to Hosea, a prophet of God, bound and determined to glorify the Almighty;  ...Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord (Hosea 1;2b NASB).  “Lord”, exclaimed Hosea; “How can a man of God marry a prostitute?”  To be sure this was God speaking, but how can God ask me to join myself with such sin, Hosea thought to himself.  Strangely, he felt a pulsating love in his heart for this woman, Gomer.  He was not sure if this was good or bad.  I don’t understand but I must obey Him, Hosea decided.

The Marriage
         The first years were happy ones.  Hosea was very affectionate and Gomer reciprocated.  Their first child was born and the Lord directed he be named, Jezreel.  He was to be a sign of retribution to the nation.
         A rift started to come into their marriage.  Hosea noticed that other men were showing her increasing attention.  Quick looks and coy glances were becoming evident as Gomer’s beauty was proving to be a snare to her.  She kept it veiled, but her expressions and body language communicated she enjoyed the attention.  What must I do, Hosea contemplated.  He concluded that the only thing he could do was to pray.
         Their second child was born, this time a girl.  A haunting question started to arise in Hosea’s thoughts.  Was she his?  The Lord said to call her Lo-ruhama (Hosea 1:6), unloved or no compassion. His fears only continued to mount.  When Lo-ruhamah was weaned a third child was born.  The Lord directed he be named Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:9), literally, not my people or no kin of mine.  Hosea could not deny it.  He was not his son.  He was stunned and dazed as his worse fears had become a reality.  She had left his love for another’s lust.

The Look on Her Face Pierced His Heart
         “Oh Lord, what do I do”, Hosea cried?  He still had an unquenchable love for his wife but as a man of God he could not be in companionship with sin.  Even though he felt as if his heart is was being toward apart, he knew what he must do.  “You must turn from your lovers and be true to me”, Hosea pleaded.  With a breaking heart he gazed into the eyes of the one he loved, and waited trembling.  Like a drowning man searching for lifeline, he grasped for a sign of repentance. She raised her head and looked into his eyes.  The look of indifference on her face was like a dagger going into his heart.  Finally, there was a one-word reply, an emotionless, no!
         Crushed in grief, he sought vainly to hold back the tears.  He sat quietly and listened to her gathering up her things to leave him.  He heard the door open and then close and the sound of her fading footsteps.  He had an almost overpowering impulse to stop her.  But no, love to be true must be holy.  Finally, though straining to hear them, the sound of her footsteps were gone.  He waited for a time in silence, hoping against hope that she would reconsider and return to him.  Eventually, loneliness crept over him.  He burst into tears.
         With tears still in his eyes, the children came into the room.  “Where is mama”, they asked?  “Why did she leave?”  He had no answer.  At the supper table that night there was a conspicuous empty place.  Lo-ruhama cried, “I want my mama.”   Hosea wanted to cry with her.  But he must not give way before his children.  They gathered for evening prayers; “take care of Mama and bring her home safely”, they prayed with faltering lips.        

The Cry of a Broken-Hearted God
         Later that night he tucked his children in bed and soon they were sound asleep.  He walked into the next room and threw himself down and gave way to his grief.  He sobbed out the sorrow of his soul. “This cross of suffering you have given to me, oh Lord, seems unbearable”, he lamented.  Anguish passed into bitter agony and out of dark despair he cried, “Oh God, why”?  The answer came in an unexpected manner.  Worn out from weeping, he sat and stared into space.  He heard the sound of weeping and turned his head to listen.  His children were asleep.  Who could this be? Then came some words.  How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel (Hosea 11:8 NASB)?  That night Hosea learned he did not suffer alone.  The voice he heard was the cry of a broken-hearted God sorrowing over the sins of His people.  As Gomer had rejected Hosea’s love, Israel had been untrue to her God.  Hosea was experiencing the fellowship of God’s suffering.  That night he learned that without suffering there is no love and as a prophet, you can’t give away what you don’t have.  A message was born in Hosea’s heart; there is an awful price of suffering in the heart of God and love must and will find a way.

God’s All Pursuing Love
         As time when on, one day Hosea was praying.  A voice spoke, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress....” (Hosea 3:1 NASB).  It was the same voice that spoke to him years ago to take a wife.  To be sure it was God’s voice. 
         The next morning he walked down the same road that Gomer had walked months before.  He came to the city of Bethel.  He proceeded through nice section of the city and into the slums. He found his way into the slave market. He caught a glimpse of a girl.  Was this Gomer?  He starred at her, hardly recognizing his own wife.  Sin had taken its toll.  With a pounding heart he purchased her.  He bought her for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of barley (v. 3:2).  She held her head in shame.  She had sold her soul to sin and had ended up in bondage to the slave master.  In spite of all her waywardness her husband was redeeming her.  Can this really be happening, she wonders.
         They turned and started their trip home.  They walked along silently.  Then Hosea spoke, “I love you.  Every day I have longed for you.  My heart has never lost its love for you and not once did I give up hope that you would return.  All the past is forgiven and we will never speak of it again.   You must stay with me and never be untrue again.
         She saw their little house in the distant.  What once had been so confining now looked inviting.  As they entered the house, it looked so good compared to the slave market.  Suddenly Gomer saw herself as she really was.  She saw the awfulness of sin.  “God, how could I have been so selfish, only thinking about myself?  Lord, please forgive me” she pleaded.  After all I have done, could God ever forgive me.  Hosea had, she thought.  All of a sudden, like a burst of light from heaven, a thought invaded her mind.  God’s heart of forgiveness had already been offered to her through the love of her husband.  Hosea had done only what he saw God already doing. Mercy was God’s idea and Hosea was just the messenger.   She looked up to heaven with a radiant smile through tears of joy and received that forgiveness.  God’s all pursuing love had found a way.

To All The Broken-hearted
          Some of you reading this story have experienced, like Hosea, the fellowship of Christ’s suffering.  This story is for you. I must tell all of you, that you have never cried alone.  God has counted every tear and has collected them in his bottle of remembrance.  God is birthing a message in your heart.  Without suffering there is no love.  And love must and will find a way.
         How can we, His creation, reject this kind of love?  But, like Gomer, we do.  Yet, God just keeps on loving.

1.  I first heard this story told by Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships.

2.  Some who read a story like this feel that it may humanize God. Ravi Zacharias has said when addressing the nature of God; “He is a self-sufficient God who has no lack.”  God does not need anybody or anything.  He is complete in Himself.  He’s God.  But the Bible records that at times God is sad, he is grieved; he is angry, or joyous.  We are made in His image therefore we have these same emotions.  But there is a difference between God’s sadness and ours.  When we are rejected we are sad and hurt because we have lost.  Lost a relationship, lost respect, fair treatment, etc.  When God is rejected, He is sad, not because He has lost (remember He self-sufficient), but because He knows that without Him we have lost.  His love, unlike ours, is perfect, not self-centered. It’s unconditional, always seeking our best.
In writing this story, it was not my purpose to make God more like us, but help us to be more like God.

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Appeal To Heaven

Dutch Sheets

A Man With a Burden to Pray
            Dutch Sheets has been one of the foremost leaders of the prayer movement in the Body of Christ in recent US history.  Until recently he has been the Executive Director of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas.  Once in a great while a message from God comes along significant enough that it must be passed along.  This is the type of message I heard from the lips of Dutch Sheets.  Dutch was one of the speakers at the CBN Week of Prayer 2014.  He delivered a message he called “An Appeal To Heaven”, which I feel is a word for the Body of Christ in this nation.  I believe that if you take the time to read this blog, you will agree with my assessment.   I have received permission from his ministry to give to you the essence of his message in my blog.
The Synergy Of The Ages
            As I mentioned, Dutch was the Executive Director of Christ for the Nations, which was founded by Gordon Lindsay.  God spoke to Dutch that he was to agree with the prayers of Gordon Lindsay.  Dutch thought to himself, I can’t. he’s dead.  God said to Dutch, “his prayers aren’t, and until this generation comes into agreement with his prayers, I can’t fulfill them.”  Then God gave Dutch a concept, “the synergy of the ages.”  Synergy can be defined as the interaction or cooperation of two agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of the separate parts.  God was speaking to Dutch that he wanted this present generation 
to agree with the  prayers of previous generations, which will not just add to their prayers but multiply themHe knew that he could agree with people sitting next to him, but he never realized he could agree with the prayers of past generations.
            This motivated Dutch to start studying among other things, Hebrews 11, which we refer to as the hall of fame of faith. He noticed in v. 39b-40,  yet none of then received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race (NLT).  God began to reveal to him that there is an inter-connectedness of God purposes where we need them (past generations) and they need us.  God will promise us something knowing that he will fulfill it through our children or our grandchildren.  When God saw Abraham he perceived the twelve sons of Jacob.

Put Yourself In The Storyline
            God started to reveal some miraculous things through visions by night that would speak to Dutch.  A lady he knew had a dream where there were seven ambulances lined up with their lights flashing.  She looked into the first ambulance and saw an angel trying to revive a body.  The angel looked at her and said, “we can’t find a heartbeat.”  She peered in the other six ambulances and the same thing was happening.  One of the angels told her these are the intercessors.  Then an angel in one of the ambulances screamed, “I have a heartbeat but it is very faint.”  One of the other angels asked, “how did you get this to happen?”  The angel responded, I began to tell them of revivals past and as I told the old stories the heart started to revive.  The angel said, “tell the old stories,” and commenced to mention the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awaking, people like the Finneys and the Wesleys.  Then the angel said something very interesting to the women in the dream, “put yourself in the storyline.  Those revivals are your revivals; they are just another act in the same play.”  Dutch realized that God was saying to him to get in the storyline.   There is a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on and saying that if we don’t get with it, they (generations past) don’t get finished what they started.

Everlast And Evergreen
            A man had dream that added another part of what God was speaking to Dutch.   In this dream Dutch was a boxer.  He boxed five giants and knocked out all five.  He alternated hands.  The first round he knocked out a giant using the right hand.  The second round he knocked out the giant with the left hand.  For five rounds he did the same using alternate hands.  He (Dutch in the dream) says, “if you are going take out the giants you are going to have wear these two gloves.”  On one glove was written Everlast and on the other the inscription, Evergreen.  And that was the end of the dream. 
            Dutch thought he understood what Everlast is all about.  He has been studying about the everlasting God.  In Genesis 21:33 in Hebrew you have Olam El, “the Eternal God”.  It’s the God of infinity in both directions, past and future.  In this portion of scripture, Abraham was calling on the everlasting God.
            Abraham had made some pretty major blunders in his life.  He had been deceitful and lied about Sarah being his sister to insure his safety.  He had compromised his faith by allowing Sarah to convince him to father a child through her slave Hagar.  In calling on Olam El, the everlasting God, he was saying that God’s purposes were eternal.  In spite of Abraham’s flaws, and the weaknesses of the patriarchs (their story in part reads like a soap opera) he believed that God (Olam EL)was bigger than their weaknesses. If we think God is going to answer our prayers because of our goodness, we are on the wrong track.

The Tamarisk Tree: An Everlasting Covenant
            So Dutch has a handle on Everlast, but what is Evergreen all about?  As his role as the Executive Director of Christ for the Nations he had to choose the speaker for the graduation ceremony.  This particular year he made an unusual choice.  Instead of a preacher or teacher he picked a military man.  At the end of his speech, the military man took out a flag that some of the founding fathers of this nation had flown before we had our present flag.  He brought it to give to Dutch.  He unfolded the flag and it had the phrase on it, “An Appeal To Heaven” plus an evergreen tree.  Dutch said to himself, “I am going to get the other glove.”
            The speaker explained the significance to the evergreen tree.  The tree was put on the flag because of the influence of the Iroquois Nation.  They had an Iroquois Confederation, where they joined with other Native American tribes in a covenant relationship.  They took weapons and buried them at the foot of an evergreen tree.  They were saying that we will fight with you and never against you.  This is where we got the expression “bury the hatchet”.  They chose the evergreen tree because to them it was a symbol of eternity (never losing its leaves or ever changing).  The flag expressed that our founding fathers would “Make An Appeal To Heaven” based on an eternal covenant.
            In Genesis 21:33, before Abraham called on the name of Olam EL, the Everlasting God, he planted an evergreen tree. Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba(v 33).  A tamarisk tree is an evergreen tree.  It is a very slow growing tree.  It has been said that no one plants a tamarisk tree for himself, but for future generations.  .  One lexicon has said that in planting this tree, Abraham was saying to future generations that you will sit under the shade of my covenant with God.  At this point, Dutch asked this question,  “Is this not what we are doing today?  Sitting under the shade of the efforts and covenants of previous generations.  We must commit ourselves to God’s eternal purposes.  Not ours, but His.”

Reaping The Harvest Of The Ages
            You are not going to believe this, the story continues on through yet another dream.  One month after Dutch is given the flag a friend of his has a dream.  The man who had the dream waits three months to pray it through to make sure it is from the Lord before he tells Dutch.
            In this dream the man finds himself in an old camp meeting style building.  An old gentleman comes up to him and says “let me show you around.” He takes him up to the platform and puts him on a stool.  The gentleman points to the window and they see ships coming to shoreline.  They were the Puritans and Pietists.  Several thousand make a procession into the room and start worshiping the Lord.  He looks out the window again and he sees pioneers.   Sure enough covered wagons appear.  Then they make their processional into the building while the previous generation cheers, “well done, thanks for keeping the dream alive.” Then a third generation comes in and the old man says, “They are the planters.” They built the railroads, the towns and the cities.  They march in to the cheers of the previous generation.  Six generations came and the old man points to automobiles and airplanes.  Then our generation comes in and there are seven generations in the room worshiping the Lord.  Dutch then asks a rhetorical question “Is this the synergy of the ages?”
            Then the old gentleman looks at a double door and a Pilgrim comes through it and goes up on a metal bridge that was over the platform.  He begins to prophesy about the destiny of this nation.  Five more generations do the same.  Then it’s our turn, our generation, and the old man says to him, “Are you ready to take your place “in the synergy of the ages?”  The man like Dutch had never heard this expression.  The man answers, “yes I am.” The double door opens and a delegation from our generation, the 7th, enters and Dutch is the last person in the delegation.  Dutch gets up to the top of the bridge and the man in the dream notices he has something in his hands.  None of the other speakers carried anything.   Dutch unfolds a white flag.  Quickly Dutch says to his friend who had the dream, “was there and expression on it?  Did it say, “An Appeal To Heaven?” The man replies, “yes, how did you know?”  This man doesn’t know anything about the flag that Dutch was given.  With a look of rising expectation on his face, Dutch says, “did it have a evergreen tree on it?”  The man says, “yes.”  Dutch is speechless as the answer resonates in his spirit.  He has goose bumps on top of goose bumps.  In the dream for about ten minutes he doesn’t say anything, he stands on the bridge and waves the flag in a figure 8 (the symbol of eternity.  Then he starts to prophesy and the last thing he says is “America is returning to the ancient path to reap the harvest of the ages.”

My Reaction
            Like many Christians in this nation, I have been very concerned about what seems to be the downward spiral of this country.  At certain turn of events I have been downright disgusted and angry.  But after hearing this message there was a flicker of hope in my heart again.  I thought to myself, maybe it is not too late to pray for this land.
            God has blessed the American people but in many ways I think we have become proud of the blessing.  We have started to believe that God has prospered us because of our goodness or greatness.  We have started to worship the provision rather than the provider, God.  The Jewish people were not chosen because they were special.  They were special because they were chosen.  It’s not about America but God purposes. But saying all this, Americas have been called to be a missionary sending people, a light to the nations.  Pray with me that we will return to the ancient path, and be blessed to be a blessing. 
            Please pass this along to anyone who you might be interested in agreeing with the prayers of pass generations to see God purposes accomplished on this earth.  Give it to those who want to make “An Appeal To Heaven” to reap the harvest of the ages.

I would be very interested in your comments.  and the spirits of the prophets are
subject to the prophets;
(I Corinthians 14:32 NASB)