Friday, May 29, 2015

Eternal Hope

Sometimes, one of the most difficult things to do is to maintain a healthy perspective of eternity.  As "life happens" and we shoulder the load of unexpected challenges, we can easily shift our focus to the temporal.  We can easily become distracted by the hope of immediate relief.  However, Psalm 17:15 gives us an alternative way of viewing life.  "As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness."  We can take great pleasure that despite life's mishaps, the "reset button" will be pressed when we reach eternity.  In the big picture, this is what really matters.  My friend, take heart; eternity trumps the temporal every time.  If you know Jesus as your personal Savior, you always have eternal hope!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Beauty of Oneness

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (read) offers us a picture of the divine beauty and strength of unity among the brethren.  The enemy understands the power of Christian unity and makes it his aim to disrupt the spirit of oneness.  In fact, I believe one of the most powerful tools the enemy uses against the church is the tool of isolation.  I’ve seen this demonic tool manifested in local church bodies as well as the corporate church.  It’s a tool that threatens Kingdom expansion and clearly hinders our ability to walk as the church united—God's Hands extended in the earth.  Rudyard Kipling, the British writer, once wrote these words in relation to isolation:  “We're all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.”  I don’t believe Jesus ever envisioned His church as one of factions and segments that worship in their own vacuum never looking to enjoy the blessings that come along with oneness.   

Why does it seem easier for us to isolate than to assimilate and literally become interwoven in spirit?  I believe it’s because isolation enables us to avoid having to engage one another's story or lot in life.  Sometimes, it feels as if it’s all we can do to manage our own lot in life.  We isolate because unity sometimes requires us to wrestle with difficult questions, to engage in loving confrontation and challenge our preconceptions.  Plainly stated, isolation really requires no faith or trust, and it soothes our fears of having to deal with the unknown.   

Apparently, isolation is not a novel or new behavior in the church.  The writer of Hebrews (10:25) actually exhorts the church to be intentional about connecting and avoiding isolation.  As is so beautifully depicted in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, the Lord is calling the church to walk in a divine spirit of unity so much so that we literally live the answer to Jesus prayer in John 17:20-21 where He prays these words:  "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us..."  Friends, as we approach these final hours before the imminent return of Christ, let us continue to pursue unity and walk in the power of oneness so we might be conduits through which the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can touch the lives of unbelievers all over the world.  Realizing our unity is found in none other than Jesus Christ, I offer this final thought:  “Our commitment to Christ binds us irrevocably to each other.” 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Backsliding is Real!

1 Corinthians 10:12 offers valuable advice regarding our faith--"Therefore let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."  There is a sad reality among the Christian church today that many Christians are falling away from the faith (i.e. backsliding).  The questions is: Why?  Is it because the pressure of doing right overcomes them?  Is it because they have no real Christian support system (i.e. church family, born-again friends, sound teaching, etc.)?  Is it because they have a misconception of what Christianity really is?  Here is an interesting question:  Is it because they have a hard time delineating between the lifestyles of people who profess to be Christians and those who don't.  Do they simply decide there's no real difference so the benefits of living their lives on their own terms outweigh the costs of being a hypocritical Christian?

Perhaps the answer is all of the above.  The reality however is we (those who sincerely care for wandering souls) must ask the Lord to show us how to become part of the solution.  First, I believe we must all take heed to 1 Corinthians 10:12 to ensure we don't become one of these "wandering souls."  That is the first part of the solution.  Secondly, I believe love helps to close the gate to backsliding.  In a Charisma magazine article, Dr. Michael Brown shares about the leader of a famous Christian group announcing his departure from the faith and his decision to embrace atheism.  It's a tragic story.  In his comments, the group leader essentially tells his audience he was looking for acceptance, not a set of hollow rules that are in no way rooted in relationship.  Friends, love produces genuine relationship.  People engaged in loving and healthy Christian relationships with believers are more likely to experience the very real love of Christ.  Once you have experienced His love in reality, it will be very hard to simply walk away and declare yourself one who denies His existence. Confessing Christ is the responsibility of a single individual.  However, love is the responsibility of the entire gathering of believers (what we call the church).  

Be aware that people are walking away from the faith every day.  Perhaps, by our love, the corporate church can prevent one or two "wandering souls."  Even one or two equates to much in the eyes of God.  Have an awesome love-filled day!

Friday, January 16, 2015

21-Day Corporate Fast - Day 12

Do Something New

Conventional wisdom says it takes 21 days to convert new behavior into a habit.  At the beginning of each year, many people begin their quest to establish new patterns and new habits.  This can be a good thing, but at the same time, it can simply become a practice in futility.  The key to establishing new behavior is to first develop a new perspective (or outlook) and realize new behavior is established by strength beyond yourself.  To that end, I want to suggest that we not simply try something new; instead, we should seek the ability to gain a new perspective and access to strength beyond ourselves.  This almost guarantees a new pattern of behavior will follow.  

In Romans 12:12, the Apostle Paul offers us great advice on how to gain new perspective.  He tells us we can gain a renewed perspective by "...renewing our mind." A renewed mind is the result of the daily practice of scripture reading and concentrated prayer.  Regarding strength, Job reminds us in Job 9:19 that "... He [GOD] is mighty!"  Friend, as we continue our fast, I encourage you to use your time to allow God to renew your perspective and offer you strength that is beyond your human ability.  Perhaps the real question is not how long it takes to develop new behavior, but whether we have the actual ingredients in place--new perspective and supernatural power.  

Saints, with that understanding of how to develop new behavior--let's go and do something new!

In Him,

Bishop Izzard

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

21 Day Fast - Day 10

God wants your heart

I would like to share a short devotional thought as we walk through the 10th day of our fast.  Most, if not all of us, would say “our heart belongs to God.”  However, as we enter this 10th day, I encourage you to take time to examine the true state of your heart.  Sometimes, we can mistakenly believe God has our total affection when, in reality, our affections may be split among many things that occupy the intimate spaces of our heart.  In Joel 2:12, the prophet admonishes Judah to “…rend their hearts, and not their garments.”  This nation had spent their time in a posture of affection towards God (outwardly), but over time their hearts had begun to drift towards other gods and other objects of affection. 

I encourage you to fall in love with Him again if your heart has begun to drift.  Focus on directing all your affection towards Him.  This means, your greatest desire is to connect with Him intimately, despite the state of your life at any given moment. 

Blessings to you! 

Bishop James R. Izzard, Jr.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

21-Day Corporate Fast - Day 9

The Power of Persistent Prayer

The Gospel of Luke offers a very compelling thought about the importance of us being persistent in prayer.  Luke 11:5-8 says—“And he said to them, “which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and he will answer from within and say, do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot  rise and give to you?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”

One of the greatest tools the Lord has given us in our Christian walk is the tool of prayer.  However, this tool is like any other tool; it is not as effective unless it is used properly.  Persistence can be a very effective tool to use in prayer.  It is easy to become discouraged by a lack of results or when there seems to be a delay in answering our prayers.  However, Luke encourages us to be persistent.  I would add, we should also be patient.  Luke continues in 11:9-10—“…I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” This is an open invitation for us to go before the Lord with persistence and boldness as we make our requests known. 

Friend, I encourage you to fight discouragement and continue to persist in prayer.  God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  Don’t give up; rather; use this time of consecration to pray more earnestly that God will move on your behalf.  You may be surprised at the results.  Blessings!

In Him,

Bishop James R. Izzard, Jr.

Monday, January 12, 2015

21-Day Coporate Fast - Day 8

Happy Monday!

What a wonderful time we had in our Sunday Worship Encounter yesterday.  I trust it has helped you to begin day eight of the fast with as much determination as you have had during the first seven days.  Today’s thought is taken from Ephesians 3:20-“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…”  Simply stated, this verse offers us hope for intervention from God.  There is a role we can play in this process of intervention however and I would like to briefly discuss this.

One word that rises to the surface of that passage is the word—expectation.  In the verse, the writer is reflecting upon the One who is able to exceed all we can “ask or think according to the power that worketh in us…”  Our expectation is the starting point of God’s intervention in our lives.  The comfort we have is the fact that He is One who can exceed our expectations.  With that in mind, I want to challenge you to raise your level of expectation as you continue through this fast.  Choose to not only view this as a time to pray and read scripture, but also see it as a time where God will send divine intervention in your life and circumstances.  Expectation places a pull (or demand) on your faith; it forces your faith to spring into action.  Therefore, you will do well to purpose in your heart to raise your level of expectation and look for clear evidence of God’s intervention in your life and those around you.

I look forward to hearing the great testimonies of how God has exceeded your greatest expectation through His divine intervention in your life.

In Him,

Bishop James R. Izzard, Jr.