Life-changing Encounters With Jesus

For the church I am privileged to pastor, one key thing I sense for 2023 is God inviting us deeper in His presence to prepare us to be sent out.  God is wanting us to slow down and take time to enjoy Him because He is going to equip and empower us to go out and make disciples. Encounter always proceeds commissioning. We can only give what we have received; we can only pour out when we have been filled. This is what happened for prophet Isaiah and it is a prophetic picture for us in this season. 

Isaiah 6 “I Saw the Lord….”

Imagine standing in a room and suddenly you see a vast and majestic throne with God sitting upon it. His kingly robes are so expansive and wonderful they fill the whole room. Angels are singing. The room begins to tremble and you feel the vibrations throughout your body.  The atmosphere is filled with a fragrance and smoke you can see, feel, and smell. This is what Isaiah experienced.  

The encounter we witness in Chapter 6 of Isaiah is a “blending” of heaven and earth. Isaiah was seeking God in a physical temple in Jerusalem (notice he mentions a temple in v.1 and a house with doors in v.4) when the glory of God manifests in a profound and life changing way. God’s throne room, heaven itself, descended. Imagine an overlay – the pillars of the physical temple are overlayed with the pillars of heaven. The oxygen of earth is infused with the atmosphere of heaven. God’s heavenly throne room fills the physical space. 

When we praise, God’s throne descends and His glory manifests. This, according to a principle David taught in Psalm 22:3, is what happens when we praise God: “But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.” God inhabits or dwells upon the praises of Israel, His covenant people (this includes us who are in Christ – see Galatians 3:29). The Hebrew word in Psalm 22:3 can be translated “dwell, inhabit or even marry” – as in two merging, blending, or becoming one. God Himself draws near when we draw near to Him (James 4:8).  

When Isaiah says he “saw the Lord sitting on a throne” (v.1), He is really seeing the real God on a real throne. He is seeing by the Holy Spirit in the spirit-realm. Isaiah is in the physical temple and yet in this encounter he enters the heavenly holy of holies as God’s glory is unveiled to Him. God is always present; heaven always open. This encounter is made possible because of a removing of a veil over our spiritual eyes that keeps us from walking in this reality constantly. When we give God our full attention, we discover He is there – was always there waiting for us. When we become fully present to Him, we encounter His presence. When we adore Him, we behold His glory and discover He has always been adoring us. This is what Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 3:16, “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” This is a work of the Spirit who opens our spiritual eyes and ushers us into the presence of God. 

These manifestations of God’s presence are real and available to all of us. This is a regular occurrence in the bible. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Stephen, John, and so many more friends of God encountered the manifest presence of God. In fact, almost no friend of God called to partner with God was without some encounter and revelation. It is God’s way. He reveals Himself to those who seek Him, like He promised in Jeremiah 29:12, “If you seek Me, you will find Me.”  Many of us understand seeking, but there is a finding as well. If we are called to “enter in” to the holy of holies then there is also an enjoying of the holy of holies. 

You can enter into God’s presence and you can enjoy God’s presence. Simply pause now, turn your attention to the Lord, and begin to adore Him out loud with words of praise. Keep it simple. Offer loving adoration like, “Jesus, I love you. Thank you.”  Set aside every distraction and focus your mind on the Lord. See Him high and lifted up, seated on His throne. Join with heaven and tell Him He is holy, that there is no one like Him. Do this daily, maybe a few times a day.  Continually turning your attention to the Lord, setting the affections of your heart and the thoughts of your mind on Him.

As you do this, you will become aware of His presence. His Spirit will fill you with heaven’s glory – with joy, peace, calm, rest, strength. The atmosphere around you will change as heaven comes. Your perspective will shift in the light of God. Wisdom and clarity will come. In this place, called “secret”, you will encounter God’s presence and hear His voice. He will share His heart with you and transform you from the inside out to be just like Jesus. 

This is the slowing down, the diving deeper, the abiding that God is inviting us into because, just like Isaiah, God has some things He needs to change in us and speak to us (read Isaiah 6:7-8). He wants to share His heart with us and invite us to partner with Him. Will you, like Isaiah, say “Here I am” and become fully present to Him?  And when He shares His heart with you, will you, like Isaiah, say, “Send Me!” and partner with Him?   

A Friend of God: Collaboration

“They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”

Revelation 15:3

The Book of Revelation

There is a lot going on in the book of Revelation because there is a lot going on in heaven. The book, which details the coming of Jesus and the events leading to His return and eternal reign, is centered around visions of heaven. In Revelation 4-5 the Apostle John is taken to heaven. He has the awesome privilege of seeing the glory of God and hearing worship around His throne.  He is also invited to see and hear specific plans for the future of the world. He may be the first and only real time traveler! (more on that later). 

After John enters the throne room of God, He is shown a series of visions about the future of the world.  Everything is happening primarily in the spirit-realm and then manifesting secondarily on the earth. Scrolls and trumpets in the heavenly realm; famines, earthquakes, and such in the natural realm. We won’t comment now about the timing and fulfillment of these things. Some have happened, some are happening, and some will happen soon (see Revelation 1:19). It is all real—though the nature of the spiritual realm can seem strange to us. 

Revelation 15 – Song of Moses & the Song of the Lamb

Then we get to Revelation 15. The final judgements are about to be poured out on the earth. But first, a song! John is observing a moment after much judgement on the earth and before Jesus’ return. It is an “in-between pause. As human history draws near its conclusion, heaven takes a breathe. It is an intensely beautiful moment in heaven–and we get a glimpse!   In this moment, worship begins again and this time it’s the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the [b]saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Here is what strikes me as odd: why is it called the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb?  Clearly, the text is saying they wrote this song: It is Moses’ song and it is the Lamb’s song. So, I looked back in the Old Testament to find songs Moses wrote. There is a song in Exodus 14 after the Red Sea drowned the Egyptian army and became the highway of deliverance for Israel. But the words of Revelation 15 are not found in that song. Then there is a song he wrote in Psalm 90. Again, not in any way related to the song of Revelation 15.  

Revelation 15 has to be a new song written by Moses. But He is not the only one who wrote it. It is also written by Jesus. Brace yourself. They collaborated! It’s their song which they co-wrote together. It is a masterpiece of their friendship. Can you see it?  Jesus and Moses hanging out in eternity, collaborating on a new song.  A special song to be song in honor of God before the conclusion of human history and Jesus’ return to restore the world. All of heaven starts singing their song. John witnesses the debut, the single release of this song. 

Theological side note. Did you know Jesus loves His Father more than anyone and is the chief worshipper leader of all of heaven? Check out Hebrews 2:11-12 referencing Psalm 22.  Jesus is God. We need a much deeper, dynamic understanding of the triune relationship of God. Father loves and honors His Son more than anyone else and wants us all to do the same (John 5:20-23). It should not surprise us that Jesus is worshipping His Father and writing a worship song with Moses. Rather, this is likely the most magnificent realization I have had in a long time; this truth has drawn me deeper into my friendship with Jesus and it can do the same for you. 

Collaboration with Jesus

Jesus wants friendship with you. He wants to collaborate with you. This is the deep yearning of His heart: a friend, a partner, a bride. For Jesus, ministry is not something we do for Him but with Him. The various gifts He has given to you, the creative potential resident within you, was deposited by His choice. He gave you something that you might make something with Him for others. What masterpiece of your friendship will you make with Jesus? What does Jesus want to do with you? Lean into your friendship with God, seek Him, and ask. When you get intimately close to God, you can’t help but become confident in your calling and full of courage to walk it out in love.  What if that song you are called to create, or that business you are called to start, or that bible study you are called to write is something Jesus wants to collaborate with on you as an overflow of your intimate friendship with Him? Exit burn out; enter rest. Exit fear; enter confidence. Exit striving; enter joy.

The truth is that ministry is primarily worship to Him and friendship with Him. We serve others and share our gifts to be a blessing. But we also hide, compare, covet, judge. We are so caught up seeking applause or fearing rejection that we have forgotten why we were created. You were made for Jesus, designed for His presence, and fashioned for His glory. You will be free when you collaborate with Jesus. Only then will others truly be blessed because the masterpiece will be pure. How beautiful is that song of Moses and the Lamb, because it is their masterpiece of friendship offered in worship to God. Neither vying for control, ownership, or royalties. Our Master and Savior is a servant. He shares. He includes. He is the Vine and we are the branches. And Moses, God’s friend, wrote this song with Jesus and for His Father. He wasn’t looking for glory, but offering Himself as a servant of God. Let’s do the same.

A Friend of God: Conversation

Jesus “was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light.” (Matthew 17:2)

The story of Jesus’ transfiguration is one of my favorites because it is such a break from the narrative flow of the gospels. It was literally an “in-breaking” of God’s glory, a pulling back of the curtain to reveal more of Jesus than what everyone saw on the surface. It was the moment the disciples saw the glory of God in the tent of Jesus’ flesh, the Word revealed behind the flesh of His human body. Jesus’ humanity was unveiled for a moment to reveal the divinity within. It must have been an amazingly intense moment for the disciples and a very timely, needed encouragement for Jesus. 

Jesus had just revealed His assignment fully to the disciples: suffering, betrayal, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. They didn’t get it. They thought it was just another parable. The ministry of Jesus was exploding, His name was spreading, and crowds were gathering. And the persecution was growing more intense as well. He was experiencing the rejection of men constantly—teachers accusing Him of being the devil, leaders wanting Him dead, His own family calling Him crazy. The shadow of the cross was looming. Jesus’ cousin, John, was gone. None of His followers understood. Jesus was alone. 

I image the experience was life-altering for the disciples. It was so impactful that Peter references it in his second letter, clearly showing how well-known the story was to those he pastored. I am sure what Peter, James, and John witnessed marked them. And yet, I believe this moment was more for Jesus than for them. 

There are many profound things that happen in the story: Jesus heads up a mountain for a bit of R&R, spends some time in prayer like He often does. Peter, James, and John fall asleep (I figure that happened regularly when Jesus had extended times of communion with the Father). And then, all of a sudden, the boys wake up to see Jesus brighter than the sun and two guys talking with Him. While they are still groggy from sleep and wrapping their minds around the encounter, Father speaks from heaven to them about His Son.

Any one of these things could be its own message. But wait!? Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus! This is my favorite part. Why are these two guys hanging out with Jesus on earth and having a conversation? (The Greek word for “talking with” in Matthew 17:3 could be well translated “conversing” as in having a face-to-face dialogue). What are they talking about!? 

Let’s go backwards before we move on. Moses is one of God’s closest friends, ever. He made it into the hall of fame of faith. He, like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham walked with God. In fact, God Himself says that Moses is one of His closest besties: “I speak with him face-to-face” (Numbers 12). The intimate friendship Moses had with God is one that generations of believers have desired to have. Moses’ conversations with God are mind blowing. That a human was invited to talk with God about such things and receive such revelatory insight into God’s kingdom is amazing. Since God is the God of the living and Moses is one of His friends, it is very likely that this Moses has been in heaven hanging out with Jesus (The Pre-Incarnate Word) for hundreds of years before Jesus’ incarnation. Can you imagine the depth of friendship? 

Then there is Elijah. He is one of only two people taken bodily into heaven. He didn’t even experience death. He was a prophet who served the Lord his whole life and trained up many others to follow the Lord. Together Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets which point to Jesus. Both men, on earth, had insight into the coming Savior (see 1 Peter 1). And yet, likely they’ve been with God now for generations, soaking in the glory of God. 

Now guess what they are talking about? According to the gospel of Luke, they are discussing Jesus’ assignment. Luke says they were conversating about Jesus’ “exodus”, literally His departure or death and the details surrounding how He would accomplish this sacrificial assignment at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Is it a coincidence that the exodus of Israel from Egypt is a picture of our salvation (think Passover lamb, blood, deliverance and such)? Is it random that Moses, who led the exodus of Israel, is now talking to his own Savior of the new exodus, the true Passover lamb to be slain, and the eternal redemption of the world? I think not! 

Here is the point and the invitation to us: Moses and Elijah are friends of God. They have been sent by God to encourage Jesus. Jesus isn’t talking with angels; he’s talking with men. He has no one else to stand with on earth. Proverbs 27:9 tells us “the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” 

I want to be that close to Jesus! To know Him that deeply, to be invited into such intimate conversation, to be trusted with such vulnerable details. I want a “face-to-face” friendship with God; I want God to reveal His heart to me. And that is the invitation. Every God-encounter with one person is an invitation to all. Here are just a few verses that reveal the deep yearning of Jesus’ heart to be known: 

  • I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
  • The time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father (John 16:25).
  • Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me (John 17:24).

Jesus has invited you into a deep, intimate friendship with Himself. He wants to reveal Himself and the deep things of His heart to you. He wants to enjoy communion and conversation with you. The first step is to simply come to Him. Begin to set aside time daily to seek Him. Ask Him for revelation and then open the Bible (I recommend starting in the Gospels). He will meet you there and speak to you.  

He did it again! (an update)

Hey friends!

For those of you who are following our journey, you know that God called us to start churches in St. Louis.  This October will be the 2-year anniversary of our church’s launch.

Last year we were asking God for a building and standing on His promises to meet the financial needs of our ministry.  We were crying out for direction and provision and we were working hard to continually reach more people through outreach.  We were asking very specifically about a building: location, size, parking, favor with owner, look, kids area, etc.  In April, we found the place, with everything we asked for.  In May, we started preparing to move in July 1.  We again asked God specifically for the finances to come in for this move–we needed $10,000 by July 1 and $10,000 for renovations by end of August.   We declared we would be in the building by July 1 despite all kinds of logistical hurdles–permits, finances, insurance, etc.  There were so many elements out of my control.

Yet Jesus has taught us: “Ask what you DESIRE and it shall be done FOR you” and “if two of you AGREE on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done FOR them by My Father in heaven.”  We caught this!  That when we came together and asked for strategy, He gave it.  That when we agreed on our goals and dates, led by the Spirit, and asked our Lord, that He started moving on our behalf.  That when we worked hard, He put His hand with ours to make the impossible a reality.  

And so July 1 we got in the building, just like we agreed and asked!  July 1 people gave $10,000, just like we asked!  August 26 $10,000 more came in, just like we asked!  We started with two services and have been growing since.  We have seen people come to Jesus, healed physically, find their home, hear God, and so much more…just like we are asking!  Praise God!

This is just a set up!  I see God setting us up for a move of His Spirit.  I see He is preparing us for miracles.  Last year, at this time, God spoke to me about hosting a conference (a weekend set aside to worship God and hear His voice). I thought it sounded silly.  We did not have a building and we were just a small church plant team leading a newly born church.  And yet, here we are, a year later: we have a new building, we are growing, and anticipation is rising for breakthrough…just like God said.

Why does God speak in advance?  To prepare us, get us in alignment, and to get glory when it happens.  We hear God and walk it out, depending on His power and provision.  We ask and He moves.  God has provided every resource, every team member, and every dollar.  He has answered every prayer.  He has led us every step of the way.  He is fulfilling the vision.  He did it again.  And He will do it again.  

I remember declaring these things before we ever launched our church.  I could see the vision then.  I remember declaring we would reach people, be a multi-cultural, diverse, Spirit-filled church in the heart of the St. Louis metro area.  I remember us crying out for people to come to Jesus.  God is so faithful.  The vision is coming to pass.

If He did it for us, He will do it for you.  If He did it then, He will do it again.  God who called you is faithful and He will DO it.  So look to Him, ask Him for strategy, come into agreement with your team, ask for His help specifically, walk it out, and watch Him move.  He will do it…again!

Thank you to all who have prayed and given to us, especially in this recent season.  I am overwhelmed by the generosity and support.  If you are in the St. Louis area, join us for our first Rock Conference and our 2nd anniversary this coming October 5-7. We would love for you to be a part of our community and mission.

 

Key to Abraham

As we continue in our series out of Genesis, the book of beginnings, we journey with Abraham to see see how God transformed him and how God can restart our faith and transform us too.

I love how real and how raw Abraham was.  I love how God worked through his imperfections.  And despite Abraham’s flaws, there was something that set him apart; something that moved the heart of God, attracted favor, and released the miraculous.

What was it!?  What is the key to Abraham’s life?  As you listen to this message may you see how you can imitate Abraham and position yourself for deeper friendship with God and supernatural intervention from Him in your life.

Enjoy!

Transformation of Abraham

What do you do when your phone starts glitching or your computer freezes?  RESTART!  

Sometimes our device get overloaded or the power runs down or a code messes a program up and it just needs a reboot.  Sometimes we glitch and need a reboot too–we get weary, loose our way, start believing lies.

Genesis, the book of beginnings, is not only about creation; it is about God’s original intent, about real people learning to walk with the real God in genuine faith.  The Lord has been teaching me about faith and walking with Him through this raw book of beginnings.  I have been inspired by the messiness of Genesis and the beauty of God’s intervention.  Through this book, God is calling us back to the beginning; He is restarting our faith and walk with Him.

This audio message is about the transformation of Abraham.  I had never seen this before: how God took Abraham from being a person of compromise to a person of complete surrender, from hesitant fear to unwavering faith.

I hope the journey of Abraham and the journey I have been on will bless you as you listen to these messages about God’s transformation in the lives of people like Abraham, Sarah, Judah, and Joseph.  I hope you will see how God can RESTART your faith and draw you deeper into walking with Him in intimate friendship that radically transforms your life and those around you.

Enjoy!

A Long Overdue Update

Hey friends and family!

It has been way too long since I have sent out an official update. I know some of you follow our podcast or Facebook posts, but here is an attempt to summarize a whirlwind two-years (and if you just want the bottom line: our new church is moving to a new building).

If you just want the bottom line:

our new church is moving to a new building!

For those who don’t know about our journey, let me back up a bit.

4 years ago I was enjoying pastoring NewCommunity Church in Glendora, CA with amazing leaders and community.  I loved our church (still do love the people!).  I was blessed and content. Then Jesus spoke to me in a dream.  He took my wife and I to St. Louis, under the arch, and said, “This is your city”.  The compassion of Jesus overwhelmed me as I began to weep and declare God’s unfailing love over my city.  I awoke and the Lord continued to speak to me and show me what He envisioned to do through this ministry.  We passed NewCommunity to amazing leaders and it is thriving (visit Thrive Glendora).

2 years ago we left SoCal, close friends and family, comfort-zones, In-N-Out, the suburbs, and the beach.  We have been stretched in our faith, in our emotions, in our energy.  I feel like we stepped out on water and are still out of the boat every day!

In October 2016, we started the church with a team of 12 adults in the heart of the city of St. Louis.  We are a campus of The Rock (a multi-campus church originating in Anaheim, CA under Pastors Jerry and Kimberly Dirmann).  We are so humbled and thankful for the covering, support, wisdom, and partnership of The Rock.

Our church has grown (little by little) just like Jesus told me.  The church is diverse just like Jesus told me.  After a few months, one leader noted to me, “Our church is made up of people from almost every continent!”.  Well, not Antartica or Australia, but we are moving in the right direction.   We are seeing people return to the Lord, grow in faith, and be healed.  I love it!  It has been slow and trying many times (especially during ice storms), but it is always worth it to obey Jesus and love people.

We were born for adventure.

Our kids long for the danger of doing something eternal.

I currently work during the day for a Commercial General Contractor as a project Accountant.  In all my years of ministry and non-profit work I have never done finance!  It is funny to me how the Lord has provided such a good job with a great company.  A year ago I didn’t every know what “accounts payable” meant and now I am assisting the CFO to build systems and manage the financials of the company.  I can relate a little more to the Apostle Paul who worked so he would not be a burden to the churches he was starting.

God has provided every need of our church and my family thus far.  A friend recently asked me, “What is the best thing about the church plant?”  Among all the testimonies and all the new members I adore, my family is still the greatest highlight.  I have watched Michele blossom in her leadership, my kids witness the hand of God, and the Lord unite our hearts in a deeper way.  So many christians play it safe and insulate their children (really hide from their calling behind their children).  But we were born for adventure; our kids long for the danger of doing something eternal.

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And now we are moving to our own building in July!  Once again, the Lord has answered prayer.  He has directed our steps to the right location for us at this time.  We are in the process of securing a lease and preparing to move to our new building, where we will start with two services (9&11am).  Our team is super excited, full of expectation, focused on the vision, and moved with compassion for people.  My greatest joy is serving people with a team of like-mind leaders full of faith, love, humility, passion, and devotion.  The Lord has provided this team and the resources we need thus far.  After our strategic planning meeting a month ago, a shout of praise and roar of intercession exploded spontaneously from the team-I was thrilled by their faith!  Our goal is to move in July 1 and we will update everyone has the dates become solidified.

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This is the first floor of the new building!  This will be the main sanctuary. 

We are also believing God for $20,000 for our new building.  We need to purchase chairs, new signs and fliers, renovations for the sanctuary stage and kids classrooms, additional sound and lighting equipment, and such.  As you can image, it adds up.

If the Lord stirs your heart, we would be so grateful.

Would you consider partnering with us in prayer and giving?  Our diverse, urban church is stretching out to reach more people and make an impact in St. Louis.  I am convinced the vision Jesus showed me 4 years ago will continue to unfold and come to pass.  We could use your support to bump us into this next phase.  If the Lord stirs your heart, we would be so grateful.

Here is how you can join us in reaching our goal:

PRAYING with us in faith for all of the resources we need; for hundreds to be reached; and for the glory of the Lord to fill our church.

GIVING FINANCIALLY.  Give now.  This link will bring you to our church’s online giving portal powered by Secure Give.  Be sure to choose our campus, St. Louis English, and to donate to “Heart for the Harvest”, which goes directly to our specific facility and outreach goals in this season.

Thank you!

Pastor David

Dignity

When you don’t know who you are, the enemy can lie to you. When you don’t know what you have, the enemy can steal from you.  In this series of messages, God has been speaking to us about our inheritance-what we have in Christ as His blood bought children.  We need to know who we are and what we have in Christ so we can walk in confidence into all God has for us.

In this message, we explore our inheritance of financial dignity.  Though this truth entails more than finances, there is a dignity we have as children of God who have promises from God.  That dignity can free us from the easy traps of envy and fear and empower us to be extravagant givers, wise investors, and content enjoyers of life.

Enjoy!

Eternal Inheritance

Eternity puts life in perspective.  

When you see your eternal inheritance in Christ, even beyond the blessings of this life, it puts suffering and success in the right light.  All of the pain and heartache of this present life cannot compare to the weight of glory we will experience in heaven.  Even all of God’s blessings now, and our calling now, cannot compare to the weight of glory we will receive.  When we know our eternal inheritance, we can access that inheritance by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit for our life now.

In this message, be refreshed by a glimpse at your eternal inheritance and be reminded that the Holy Spirit is the down payment of that inheritance.  Eternal life doesn’t start when you die; it starts now.  I pray you would be filled with hope as you listen to God’s word.

Enjoy!

Immunity

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.”

-Psalm 103:2

King David shows us that there are benefits to being in covenant with God.  Too often we are unaware or forgetful about these benefits.  We need to know we are as children of God and what we have in Him so that we can appropriate those promised blessings into our lives and so that we will turn our hearts toward God in worship rather than turn away in offense, fear, or shame.

In this message, I pray God opens your eyes to see just how awesome your inheritance is in Christ.  I am confident that when you see, fear and anxiety will fall away and confidence and creativity will explode in your life.   You are not alone; you have a God!  He is with you and has made promises to you.  I pray you receive all He has for you.

Enjoy!