In Order To Win Some, You Gotta Be Winsome!

This is a message I had the honor to preach on the Mission Sunday at the Skokie Valley Baptist Church in Willmette IL on March 12, 2017.


NIV The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.  

KJV   The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

                           Daniel 12:3

3 Characteristics of winsome believers

winsome: 1: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence a winsome smile    2: cheerful, lighthearted

1) Being generous with the lost helps overcome the obstacle that it is all about money

If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?  But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.                1 Corinthians 9:12

17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.   18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.              1 Corinthians 9:17-18

2.  Being culturally sensitive with the lost helps overcome the obstacle that we are attacking their heritage.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.                      1 Corinthians 9:22-23

3.  Being a person of integrity among the lost helps overcome the obstacle of distrust.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

3 Characteristics of winsome believers:  generous - integrity culturally sensitive

To be a great teacher you have to ask great questions!

On September 10, 2016, I had the honor of teaching a main session at the New Life Small Group Conference.  Over 450 people attended and I actually spoke within my time limit of 20 minutes on how to create discussion within a small group by asking open-ended question vs. close ended questions.  Below is a chart of some of the differences and also a link to the 20 minute training session I taught. 



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Double Impact: Embracing Your Call To Lead

Title:  Double Impact: Embracing Your Calling To Lead  (MESSAGE NOTES)

Passage: 2 Kings 2

Main Point: Become the Leader God Has Called You To Be.

INTRO:  Busy Making Every Day Count  (From Holman New Testament Commentary)

Zoyohiko Kagawa was a frail teenager in Japan. One pretty day he decided to go swimming. After frolicking and enjoying the invigoration of a good swim, he slowly stroked his way back to the beach. Reaching it, he reached down to pull himself up on his feet and out of the water. Instead, he collapsed. Fortunately, friends saw his plight, rushed to him, and pulled him from the shallow water. Minutes later a doctor stood over him. A quick examination was all it took. “This young man has an advanced case of tuberculosis. He has less than a year to live.”

Told of the prognosis, Kagawa looked up with a calm smile: “Then I must get busy immediately. I shall have to make every day count.” The dedication to make life count did not prove easy. He lived in a poor fisherman’s hut. Friends steered clear of him, afraid they would catch the disease. One man came—Dr. Myers, a Christian missionary. He even slept in Kagawa’s hovel for four nights. “Aren’t you afraid of me?” Kagawa asked. “No,” Dr. Myers replied. “Your disease is contagious, but love is more contagious.”

That day Kagawa dedicated his life to love the poor of Japan in their hovels as Dr. Myers had loved him. Preaching on the streets, he chanced to meet a former convict who pointed him to a “haunted house” where a murder had been committed. At least the rent was cheap. For fourteen years Kagawa lived there, even bringing his young bride there. Drunks beat him up several times. Still, he dedicated himself to live the life of his poor countrymen. As he preached Christ, he organized labor groups among the poor. This brought him a prison sentence. In prison he began writing books, forty in all. Finally the people realized what stood before them. “How like this Jesus he preaches about is Kagawa,” they said. God gave him more than one year to live, and he lived each of them as if it were the last, bringing new hope to the poor of the land.

Such dedication is what Jesus demonstrated in his ministry and what he called for in his teaching. Luke 11 is filled with the words of Jesus that show the meaning and direction of a life dedicated totally in faith to God.


 Butler, T. C. (2000). Luke (Vol. 3, p. 183). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


Story Summary:  Elijah’s Last Day To Live


—> Elijah was an amazing prophet in difficult times


—> He is famous for several things such as birds feeding him in the wilderness, a ladies last meal lasting months, calling down fire from heaven, praying for rain and also praying that it would not rain. 


—> 1 Kings 19 we discover he was ordinary person just like any of us because he went from a mountain top experience to the valley of despair.   God had just brought fire from heaven proving he was the one true God and that Baal was not a real god.   Elijah expected revival but instead he god death threats from the queen of the land.  He flees full of fear and an angel shows up and twice gives him food and rest.  He then goes on a 40 day journey fasting and ends up on the side of mountain near a cave.  There was an earthquake, fire and great wind.  But God’s manifest presence wasn’t in any of these great events.  He speaks to Elijah in a gentle whisper and reassures Elijah of his calling.  You would think after fire from heaven and incredible encounter with God that is still talked about to this day… Elijah would be good to go for the rest of his life.  But God’s prescription for Elijah involved more than being touched by an angel and directly hearing the voice of God.  God’s plan included bringing a companion for him to fellowship with.  He would have servant that would call him Master but also a mentee that he would pass his mantle on to.   Immediately following his mountaintop experience with God Elijah goes and find Elisha working hard farming a field with a pair of oxen.  He places his mantle on Elisha and Elisha tells him let me kiss my parents goodbye.  He ends up taking that ox and the wooden yoke and making a fire and cooking the ox and throwing a great feast.  He was called to serve a great prophet for God and there was no turning back.  During the ox and the yoke was a huge step of faith and total commitment for him to follow Elijah with no turning back. 


—>  In 2 Kings 2 we discover Elijah on his last day and the incredible story.  Imagine discovering you don’t one year to live but only one day.  What would you do with that day?  What if you discovered you parents had one day to live?  Or a great mentor who has had a great influence on your life?   Like Kagawa, it can altar the course and direction of your life…. whether for a few day or a few months. 


From 2 Kings 2 … we can discover 3 lessons in becoming the leader God has called you to be…  (leadership is influence in your circle) 

—> Parents … influencers in the home

—> Christians … influencers in the world (light, salt, witnesses) 

—> Workplace… influencers for a better work environment 

—> Community… seek the peace of our city (Jer 29:13)

—>  Church… helping more people be disciples who make disciples.  Using whatever gift you have to encourage and strengthen people. 


  1. To become a great leader, you must first become a great follower. 


    1 Kings 19:21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.


    2 Kings 2:1-2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.



3 Times Elijah saids stay and Elisha responded I will follow you to the end.

    2 Kings 2:4,6 “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”


Illustration: Samwise Gamgee’s commitment not to leave Frodo Baggins and he runs into the water to follow him even though he did not know how to swim… I will follow you and help you or I die.  A fellowship that did not end. 


    2 Kings 2:11a As they were walking along and talking together


illustration: when i was an assistant to the youth pastor, I made it my commitment to everything I could to make Pastor Asa the best youth pastor in Chicago. 

illustration: philosophy of youth ministry - “flow in the river” principal… when we were doing our own thing with our own ideas… things were not flowing well… but when we flowed with the vision of the senior pastor … things flowed well and the youth group exploded. 








2) To become a Spirit-filled leader, you simply must ask with the right motives. 


2 Kings 2:9 “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.” 


Luke 11:1-13Jesus teaches disciples to pray.

       v.9Ask, Seek, Knock (present active… ask and keep asking)

    v. 13 “how much more with your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask HIm.” 


Luke 11:13 in the amplified version (notice the verb tense in caps) If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ASK AND CONTINUE TO ASK Him!”  


John Piper:  Jesus teaches in verse 13 that our prevailing in prayer should be a prevailing for the Holy Spirit.

"If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

It is no accident that Luke tells us in Luke 3:21f. that while Jesus was praying, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. Or that the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost came as the climax of a ten-day prayer vigil. Or (in Acts 4:31) that when the church had prayed, the place where they gathered was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Prevailing prayer is the pathway to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

And lest you think God is distant from you, and inattentive to you when the Spirit tarries, listen to this encouragement. When you prevail in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, more is happening in your life through this prevailing prayer than you would ever imagine. God waits because our prevailing is good for us. May the Lord forbid that we would lose heart and fail in the very thing needful: mighty prevailing prayer.


James 4:2b-3…You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.


BIBLE ILLUS   Acts 8 - Simon the Sorcerer 

18 - When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”


1 Timothy 3:1Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.


ILLUSTRATION:  Prayed all night until about 4 in the morning before my first time speaking to an anticipated crowd of 1000 people.  Had a picture in mind of God unzipping my back and getting inside of me… which I interpreted to mean God was going to speak through me and use me an instrument.  The other two main youth leaders remarked later… “What got into Dwayne… he speaking in a different way.”  POINT: BOLDLY ASK AND KEEP ASKING





Transition: Why would God want to give you a greater filling of His Holy Spirit? 

3) To become a heroic leader, you must face difficulties head on!


2 Kings 2:10 “You have asked a difficult thing”


All that Elisha would go through… 

2:11-22 a city with polluted water 

2:23-25a town so wicked not one kid had respect for a man of God… all the kids were mocking him.. “baldy” 

3:1-27 dealing with evil kings … leading armies to war

4:1-7a bankrupt widow about to lose two sons to slavery

4:38-41 poisonous stew about to kills some at the school of prophets… healed the food

4:22-44 almost out of food for the school of prophets… 20 barley loaves feed 100 men.  

5:1-19 a foreign military general travels from afar asking for deliverance from leprosy 

5:2-27his servant Gehazi get greedy and dishonest… catches leprosy for the rest of his life.

6:1-7a prophecy student loses an ax head in the water… student debt :-) 

6:8-23A king with the latest horses and chariots come chasing him down… is able to see a spiritual army of demons and God’s army of angels “greater are those who are with us”

6:24-7:20 a 7 year famine so strong two moms get in fight over eating their kids in their state of starvation

8:1-6One of his supporters loses land but gets it restored.

8:7-30foreseeing painful events that yet to come


2 Kings 8:10-12 10 Elisha answered, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless,[a] the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” 11 He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael was embarrassed. Then the man of God began to weep.

12 “Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael.

“Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” he answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.”


“you have asked a difficult thing” 


Purpose for the Power… 

ILLUS… Suffering brings sweet fellowship with the Lord… 

—> Francis Chan story of Korean Missionaries captive in afghanistan

—>  Brother Your in chinese prison felt closeness to God like no other place. 

1 Thessalonians 1:6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.


J.R.R. Tolkein - The Fellowship of the Ring

QUOTE: “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


Multiplying our Congregation into two is a great difficulty, but our purpose is to cooperate with God… if God is in it … that is where we want to be… and in the difficulties we havea great opportunity to experience the presence of God and the filling of the Holy Spirit like no other… 


Ephesians 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.




face the difficult areas that are holding you back head on… find a spiritual mentor to help you get victories in those areas… don’t be a drain… serve them… and take the steps they prescribe for you.



after become a great life long follower / leaner… mentor others and teach other what God is showing you.



the church is the people not the building… if you only come to the building … you are missing out your greatest opportunity to connect to the people … small groups…



the opportunity for service will be greater than every before … because multiplication creates vacuums and God always fills those vacuums… start serving today … and perhaps you will be a leader tomorrow. (in due time) 


“Making the Most of Every Opportunity” 

— we have great opportunities ahead… the destiny of neighborhoods hang in the balance.


If not us, who? 

If not here, where? 

If not now, when? 


Commit to pray daily.. prayer line once a week

Commit to 35 days of Bible Reading (journal or post to facebook) 

Commit to connect to a crowded house group.

Don’t miss a sunday over the next 4 weeks. (listen online if you do miss) 


A rough draft of my message Calling New Life Community Church - Rogers Park to fast and pray

I never recommend anyone to preach a message that is not from their heart.  Like a baker kneading the dough to get all the air out... God has to work a message in our heart for it to be shared without a bunch of hot air. 

However, there is something to be said about teamwork and learning from one another.  I am posting this message ahead of time to encourage the sharing of creative ideas and perhaps to help provide a spring board to help all of us go further in our message prep.  Please give your input, feedback, and ideas in the comments. 


2 Chronicles 20:1-3 

January 8th, 2017

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.  2 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).  3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah

  1. Desperate times call for desperate measures.  You haven’t tried everything until you have fasted and prayed.

God won’t give you more than you can handle is a myth.  He won’t give you a temptation without providing help and a way of escape,  but he will allow you to be in situations where you are in over your head.

Sometimes the enemy is coming at you from every side and the battle is beyond you.

—> Three enemies aligned, already coming, close by.

—> Vast army signifies an attack to big to handle on your own.

There are some situations the only appropriate response is to fast and pray… in verse 3… the king proclaims a fast for the southern kingdom of Judah… for all those under his care. 


Fasting Definition: 

The voluntary abstinence from food and/or drink for a designated period of time for the purpose of seeking God more intently concerning specific matters.

Hebrew Term: Tsom   Greek Term: Nesteia

IN both instances the meaning is to abstain from food.

PURPOSE: (elmer towns) 

Among motives for fasting are 

     (1) a desire to mortify personal lusts (see 1 Cor. 9:27); 

     (2) express personal repentance (Jon. 3:5-10) 

     (3) strengthen personal prayer (Acts 10:3)

Types of Biblical Fasts: 

Absolute Fast:  No water or food for a short amount of time. 

Normal Fast:  No food for a specific amount of time. 

Partial Fast:  Abstaining from a pre-determined set of foods.

Daniel 10:2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

ILLUS: John Wesley tells us in his journal of a similar kind of deliverance in 1756. The king of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion of the French. Wesley wrote, 

The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquillity.

Then in a footnote he added later, "Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.”

3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

2)  Our initial response and continual attitude should be one of prayer and not the usual panic or planning

  1. Alarmed:  A bigger problem than the problem at hand is when we grow accustomed to the problem and no longer sense the urgency of the emergency.  We should be alarmed about what is going on around us. 
  2. Inquire and Seek:  To synonyms … the first is seek and often with the connotation of seeking for an answer to a question.  The second is seeking with more of connotation of seeking. 
  3. Came Together:  We can pray on our own, but certain things require a united effort in prayer.  They come from every town.  IN ACTS 13 the church was praying together in Antioch. 
  4. Seek help and seek him:  We are to seek the face of God and not just his hand.  But here it is both at the same time. 

We should be alarmed in Chicagoland.  (if outside the city, the city is still your neighbor and economically related.)

  • 750+ murders should alarm us
  • 20,000+ abortions in cook county yearly should alarm us
  • breakdown of justice system should alarm us
  • The inability of the church to reach the next generation should alarm us. 
  • The OVERALL state of the church in our country should alarm us .. often stats show there is no much difference than the world around us. 

WE OFTEN COME to God with our plan and ideas and ask him to bless them.  We need to come to the God who does have plans and ask us to bless our efforts to implement them.


(Jehoshaphat, a huge sacred assembly, some prophets speak.)

What would it look like for the leaders of Chicago to get away and inquire of the Lord what he would have us to do and say together.  Not just inquiring for me and my family and my congregation.  But us inquiring God for our city.  

Jeremiah 10:21The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.

Pray Chicago is a coming together to seek God’s help. 

v. 15’Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  … 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

3)  Sometimes God involves you in the fight.  Other times you just totally fights the battle for you.

David and Goliath:  David ran to the battle and had to throw a rock. 

1 Samuel 17: 47All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 

  1. They did have to stand and go out and face them. 
    1. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
  2. They did put singers on the front lines. 
    1. 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his[c] holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying “Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.”
  3. They did pick up the spoils.
    1. 24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.
  4. They did return and worship at the temple. 
    1. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah[e] to this day.
    2. 27 Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets.

21b“Give thanks to the Lord,

    for his love endures forever.”

4) Before, during and after, give God praise for His answer. 

Prayer and Worship are like a one-two punch in seeking the Lord.  The Word of the Lord is like a knockout blow.  

Different battle… similar response…. but notice the call for harps:

  2 Kings 3:11But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?”

An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.b ”

14Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you. 15But now bring me a harpist.”

While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha 16and he said, “This is what the Lord says: I will fill this valley with pools of water. 

Personal Seeking the Lord… I love some worship music to start my time out. 

Corporate Seeking the Lord… where is the guitar player or pianist… bring me one … Let’s get our praise on before we go to battle. 

ILLUS:  I love the scene from the Movie Glory where the men are singing before battle. “Oh my Lord… Sweet Sweet Lord… hmmm.

ILLUS:  Singing walking to the office that could take me out of college due to unpaid school bills.  “We are going for the in the Spirit of Elijah.

ILLUS.  Singing when was stuck trying to find a location… I gave it over to the Lord he worked it out.

Dear Chicagoland Pastor, when you step into your pulpit on January 8th, 2017...

I have for years thought Chicago needed a Day of Fasting and Prayer.  From my years as a youth pastor, I probably have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I have attended to many funerals of youth I loved and cared about who have had their lives viciously taken.  Some were church kids who started hanging out with the wrong crowd and become example of the verse who that says Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals.  We need the power of God to reach the next generation.  Perhaps a day of fasting and prayer would spare a few of our sister's in Christ from weeping at the burial of their child.  

But who am I to call a Day of Fasting and Prayer for a whole city?  I always thought it should be some more influential pastors in our city.  But after being so shaken this year I felt like Chicago could no longer wait.  What shook me more than the 750+ homicides that our newspapers so helpfully keep us informed of was the homicide count in our Lord's eyes.  I saw the statistic of the abortion rate in Cook County Illinois for 2014.  Over 21,000 abortions in our city.  At least 20,000 were most likely not to save the mother's life.  Over 60% nationally tend to be from non-caucation cultures.  I have not judgement nor condemnation for anyone who has had an abortion.  I have only compassion and much prayers for healing.  However I do believe the unborn baby has a soul based on the experience of John the Baptist leaping in the womb at the presence of Jesus in the womb.  I believe in God's eyes there have been over 20,000 homicides in Cook County this year.  It breaks my heart.  We need a culture of life in our city.  From the womb to the elderly, we need God to shift the culture and help us value the sanctity of human life.  As my dear brother and Pastor Michael Allen of Uptown Baptist Church has said to a newspaper reporter: It is hypocritical to tell young men to put their guns down but then encourage them to take their baby's mama around the corner to an abortion clinic and not tell the doctor to put their scape down. 

Shaken by the stark reality of the present condition of our city and county, I believe we need to fast and pray corporately.  Who am I to call a fast for our city?  I am probably not the right guy.  But I am inspired by the prophet Joel.   We only know his father's name.  He is not in the historical books of the Old Testament and we know little about him.  Yet he sounded the alarm.  He called a fast.  He called for a sacred solemn assembly.  I finally realized people may only know my name and my father's last name.  But that would make me in good company with the Proper Joel.  I believe God wants the believers of Chicagoland to fast and pray specifically for the church in our region.  And I am alarmed.  Therefore I am sounding the alarm. 

So dear pastor, when you step into your pulpit on January 8th, would you call the flock under your care to fast and pray for the life of Chicagoland the following Sunday, January 15th.  It is a very appropriate day: 

  • It is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
  • It is Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday
  • It is the Sunday before the inauguration.
  • It is the day of the next Prayer Summit

If we really expect our congregation to be a part of a corporate fast, we need to teach them what that means.  Most of our people have never been part of a public declarations of a Day of Fasting and Prayer.  Personally, I have been part of a gathering in Nashville TN where well over 50,000 people Fasted and Prayed and Cried out to God for 12 hours in the Tennessee Titans stadium. Such is possible in future years at Soldier Field.  But we must start somewhere.  And I believe God is calling his people to unite in Fasting and Prayer for our city.  

If we realistically want people to corporately fast and pray.. we need to teach them, encourage them, inspire them and literally call them to fast and pray.  

So my dear pastor friend, when you step into your pulpit on January 8th, please prepare your flock to fast and pray for their neighbors and our children on January 15th.  Please commit to do so yourself and please lead those under your care to the same. 

Decrease... Dwayne

How to pray for believers to set them on F.I.R.E.

I have never been too fond a pre-written repetitious prayer.  I become a Christ-follower at churches where you simply pray from your heart.  However, I love the two written prayers of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians.  They are so, so powerful. And there is much we can learn from what Paul prayed for those who had come to Christ and that he pastored for about 3 years!  I preached a sermon called... How to pray for believers to set them on F.I.R.E. based on Ephesians chapter 1 and 3.   Join me in praying for a Christ-follower to be on F.I.R.E.

1) F = Filled with the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:17  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the SPIRIT of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Ephesians 3:16, 19bI pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his SPIRIT IN YOUR INNER BEING,  ...   FILLED to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 6:18 And pray IN THE SPIRIT on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

2) I = Increasing in the Knowledge of God

Ephesians 1:17-18  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may KNOW HIM BETTER. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may KNOW the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Ephesians 3:19  and to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

3) R = Revolutionized by God's Love

Ephesians 3:17b ...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in LOVE, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the LOVE of Christ, 19 and to know this LOVE that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

4) E = Empowered for Incredible Works 

Ephesians 1:19-20a ... and his incomparably great POWER for us who believe. That POWER is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 3:16a, 20   I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with POWER through his Spirit in your inner being, ... Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his POWER that is at WORK within us,

Ephesians 6:19-20   19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

The two written prayers that Paul offers for the Ephesians and the prayer request that he asks for himself overlap greatly.  While the words may be different, the focus is the same.  We need the (1) filling of the Holy Spirit IN ORDER THAT we can (2) increase in knowing God better and (3) be revolutionized by his love so that (4) we can have power to do the incredible works God has prepared in advance for us to do.  

Heavenly Father, I pray for the believers reading this blog entry.  I pray that you would fill them with your Spirit even at this moment.  Remove any barriers of carnality so that the Spirit may have complete control over their life.  As they are filled with your Spirit, please blow their mind at how amazing you are as they get to know you better.  And of course the most mind-blowing thing about you is how that in all of your supreme greatness you can still love us in spite of supreme rebellious sinfulness. Open their eyes to your amazing love and let it rock their world.  And Lord I pray that you would strengthen them with supernatural power to amazingly great things in this world for your glory!  I believe according to Ephesians 2:10 that you prepare in advance works for us to do.  Help us not grow weary in well doing.  Help us not work in our own human strength but with the strength you supply through your Holy Spirit.  I pray in Jesus name that you would keep our love for you from growing cold and allow us to remain on F.I.R.E. until we see you face to face.  By the authority and power of the name of Jesus the Messiah I pray these things, Amen. 

When homicide numbers have a name and story... maybe we would have a city that mourns.

In 2015... the Chicago Tribune reports 492 homicides for Chicago.  In 2016... with about about 12 days to go until we the end of the year, there have been 758 homicides.  These are just numbers, and though I have met friends and family member of two of this years 758 homicides... I don't feel the pain as much as I do about some of the youth I have known over the last 20 years who have become victims of violence. 

Today I was thinking about the first young man I baptized.  It was in 1995 or '96 at Curie High School.  I was an assistant leader for a small group of teen guys.  And we were small.  My friend who lead the small group was scheduled to baptize David that Sunday.  

David was part Native American.  He was hungry for God... and perhaps more hungry for attention as he came from a broken family.  His uncle and aunt really loved him and brought him to church.  He totally was not a gang member or even the type of kid that would seem like he would join a gang.  He was coming to church.  And something got him motivated enough to go through some "First Steps" mentoring sessions on faith, repentance and baptism.  And he was ready.  And that Sunday was a big day in his life.  New Life Community Church was meeting at Curie High School and the baptism was taking place after the worship service in the School/park district pool.  

One problem came up that Sunday.  For whatever reason... his mentor and small group leader did not show up for church that Sunday.  Since I was the small group assistant it was called upon for the honor of baptizing David.  I had never baptized anyone before and hadn't even seen a baptism where the main pastor was not the one baptizing people.   That Sunday I was wearing some casual pants and a long sleeve shirt.  I had no change of clothes.  But when it is time for someone to get baptized, and your one of their youth leaders... you do what you go to do to help that youth along.  So I jumped in the pool with my regular clothes on.  It was an awesome moment.  I will never forget borrowing clothes to change after service.  I was forever connected to David. 

I talked today to my former co-leader and we were trying to remember the details.  Something happened in David's life where he had a turn for the worse.  Somehow he got arrested and went to juvenile for something minor and that didn't make sense.  I vaguely remember that he got jumped and beaten up pretty badly but can't remember if it was when he got locked up.  But after that beating or maybe it was jail, it seemed if David had a different personality.  He was super hyper and possibly had a chemical imbalance or something.  He was just not the same person even as far as his personality.  He began having problems with gangs targeting him and I am not for sure if he ever joined a gang or not.  

I was devastated when I heard from his uncle David's final state.  He got jumped and beat unconscious and left on some train tracks.  A train came and crushed out of him what life was left in him.  I fully believe David knew the Lord and struggled like us all with trying to find where he fit in and who he was.  I wish his life was a success story that we here about Jesus and mentors changing someone's life.  But David didn't make it.   But that doesn't remove the impact some extended family and some youth leaders had on his life.  I am confident when we were in the Curie pool he was crying out to God to change his life and save his soul.  The final impact of his life and story for all eternity will be one without pain and complete healing in mind, body and soul!  

But even almost two decades later.  It still hurts.  He is not forgotten.  And I am probably scarred for life but how evil, WE as humans can be.  I am sure that some of the 750 people murdered in Chicago this year might have been murders themselves.  I am sure some were living a crazy lifestyle.  But I am also sure there life didn't start out that way.  I am fully confident that some of them were church kids from gospel preaching, Bible believing, Spirit-filled communities of faith.  And yet bad company still corrupts good morals.  And bad things still happen to good people.  And I am confident that for some of the 750+ who lost their lives living in a city in desperate need of the Prince of Peace. 

I don't know the secrets that could turn a whole city around.  But I do know in the Bible God has used a corporate fast to shape history and to transform his people.  Often in the Bible, fasting is associated with mourning.  The appropriate response for a church that has compassion for a city it to mourn the loss of life in our city.  On January 15th, 2017, I have recruited some pastor friends to join with me in calling the believers of Chicago to fast and pray.  I am mourning with many as if my own son or daughters' life was taken.  I am crying out to God that 2017 will be different.  I may not know the 750+ who have died but have met friends and relatives who were shot multiple times and killed cold blooded with walking distance from my house that is suppose to be in safer part of Chicago.  

David is one name of the thousands who have been murdered in the last 22 years I have lived in  Chicago.  If we knew their names and stories... I think our hearts would break and we would lose sleep at night and we work tirelessly to bring the hope and peace of the gospel to our city.   Now is the time. 

His Presence - The Greatest Gift of All

His Presence: The Greatest Gift of All   Acts 10  

Acts 10 is the story where Peter has a vision from the Lord in which some animals that were not Kosher to dietary laws of the Old Testament are lowered down from Heaven and then Peter is told to eat.  Three times he has this vision repeated to him while in trance during prayer.  

At the same time God sends an angel to a God fearing Centurion in another city.  This man sends for Peter.  When Peter shows up and the share their respective visions, the sense the presence of God in the house where there is a crowd.  Peter shares the gospel and the Holy Spirit falls on uncircumcised people before he can even give a call to respond to the gospel.  This amazing breakthrough results in the early church no longer requiring Gentiles to convert to Judaism in order to accept the gospel.  This was God's plan all along but it took a vision from God and a might move of God's Spirit to take the church to the next level.  Here are three lessons I believe still apply to us today!   (These are the notes I am preaching for a message a week before Christmas.) 

1) Sometimes, even though we don't put God in a BOX, we do put him in a BOX in regards as to what he can do through us.

Acts 10:15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

2)  There are places and people where the PRESENCE of God is what is necessary to bring a breakthrough for the gospel to reach them. 

Acts 10:33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

3)   The Holy Spirit IN you is better than having Jesus NEXT to you.  His presence is the greatest gift of all. 

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

1 Corinthians 10:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The Presence of God - some selected verses to meditate on

Exodus 33:11 - The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Exodus 33:14-15  - The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.

Psalms - 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;    you will fill me with joy in your presence,    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalms 51:11  Do not cast me from your presence    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

(In NT Holy Spirit not taken away - Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.)  

Psalms 101:7 No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house;    no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.

Psalms 139:7  Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence?

Psalms 140:13Surely the righteous will praise your name,    and the upright will live in your presence.

Jesus called Immanuel - God with us

Isaiah 7:14 -  Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Matthew 1:21-23 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Jesus about sending the Holy Spirit - God in us!

John 14:16,17  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you.

John 16:7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

I've Got the Power... of Fasting and Prayer.

Power corrupts.  Just two words.  But the phrase has shaped my view of authority since I was a child.  Maybe it is because the lack of a good father figure in my life.  But I always have a tendency to be skeptical of those who have gained power.  I also have had an underlying fear of gaining power and even thought that desiring power is sinful. 

Yet the Bible teaches that as Believers we have power.  

  • Acts 1:8 - "But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 
  • 2 Peter 1:3 - His divine POWER has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
  • Ephesians 3:16 - I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with POWER through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • Ephesians 3:20-21 - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his POWER that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
  • Acts 6:5a,8 - This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit... Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and POWER, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:20 - For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of POWER. 
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4 - The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine POWER to demolish strongholds.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 - But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
  • Acts 4:33 - With great POWER the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all
  • Romans 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

This is just a sample of 10 verses.  The noun of the greek word doo'-nam-is appears 120 times in the New Testament. The verb form of the same word appears 210 times.   The strong's definition of the noun states: 

1) strength power, ability 1a) inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth 1b) power for performing miracles 1c) moral power and excellence of soul 1d) the power and influence which belong to riches and wealth 1e) power and resources arising from numbers 1f) power consisting in or resting upon armies, forces, hosts

This is what God has given every single person who has trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior.  Of course we must guard our hearts from the evil desire to lord over people and make a great name for ourself.  But I think we also need to guard our hearts from being passive, powerless weak-willed Christians.  The only reason we do not make use of the powerful weapons of spiritual warfare that we have is that we often allow our doubt and sin to hold us back.  The only reason we walk in defeat to sin is we often believe lies about God and ourselves and don't pick up the Sword of Truth, The Word of God,  and to destroy those lies.  Perhaps there are things in our lives like reptile skin that needs to be shed so that we can burst forth and live a life filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps our potential for power is far greater but God has to expand our minds for we have put him in box in regards to what he could do in our lives.  

As I prepare my heart for a season of fasting and prayer, I believe God can purify my motives and prune my life so that I can handle greater spiritual power.  If my desire is to bring God greater glory by walking in His kingdom with his kingdom power, then I believe God will bring breakthroughs in my life during an extended season of fasting.  

Jesus said of his very own life that apart from the Father he could do nothing.  In John 5:30 Jesus said of himself these very shocking words: "By myself I can do nothing."   Jesus in his humanity lived a life that completely modeled how we can live.  He said the same of is true for his disciples in John 15:5:  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

So with this in mind I prepare my heart during a time of fasting.  I boldly am asking God for his "anointing" which I take to mean his empowering me for the work he has given me.  I am asking God for the power to do what he has called to me to do and to live the life he has called me to live.  Apart from him I am powerless.  I can do nothing.  But through the power of the Holy Spirit there is nothing impossible in my life as related to fulfilling the mission of making disciples that he  has given me.  

Jesus modeled this for us in his own fast.  

  • He was lead by the Spirit when he started his fast.  Matthew 4:1-2 states: "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempteda by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry."
  • He was already filled with the Holy Spirit before he fasted.  Luke 4:1 states: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,"
  • He was full of the power of the Holy Spirit when he had finished fasting.   Luke 4:14 states: "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside."

Notice that our Savior did not start his ministry without first spending 40 days in fasting and prayer.  It shows he complete dependence upon his Father and the Holy Spirit in all that he did.  He had no sinful desires to be stripped away.  He had no hinderance of the fall in hearing from His Father.  He really didn't have to be baptize and he did not need to repent.  But he lead by example.  And he really didn't need to fast to defeat the enemy.  But he lead by example.  And he defeated the strong temptation of the enemy while he was at a state of complete weakness.  Perhaps he was was showing us by example the path to greater spiritual power. 

I am not pursuing power for power's sake,  I just have to read the rebuke to sorcerer who wanted to by God's power to keep my guard up and cry out to the Lord to search my heart and create in me a clean heart.   But I do want to make a difference for God.  And I do know there are things in my life that hold back the full flow of God's power in my life.  And the greatest spiritual discipline I know to strip me of my own strength and bring to the surface all of my sinful weaknesses so that I can face them head on... that greatest discipline  for me is Fasting and Prayer.  

At the end of this fast, I want to be more like Stephen.... full of fatih, full of grace, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of power.  At the end of this fast, I want to be more like the Apostle Paul who didn't rely on eloquent talks but on the power of the Holy Spirit.  At the end of this fast I wasn't to seek Paul Prayer for the Ephesian believers to be fulfilled in me... to be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in my inner being.  At the end of this fast, I want to be ready to go to the next level as a leader making a difference for the glory of God.  

If the result of Jesus spending 40 days with his Father resulted in him not only being Spirit-filled and Spirit lead, but also Spirit-empowered... then perhaps I can walk out of the desert of fasting and praying with less of Dwayne and a greater manifestation of the divine power he has already given me.  

I've got the power.  May this season of Fasting and Prayer remove the limits that constrain his full power working in me. 



To Fast or Not To Fast

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen"  Isaiah 58:6a

There is a wrong kind of fasting.  The Prophet Isaiah calls Israel out.  The Lord is clear.  He is not impresses with our religiosity.  He is not impressed by our supposed sacrifice.  He is not impressed when we pray and fast and yet we live the opposite way.  

Jesus clearly called out the hypocrites.  “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."  Matthew 6:16.  

But make not mistake.  There is a fast that God does indeed choose.  The start of any time of extended fasting is to ask God to choose for you.  Jesus was the supreme example for authentic fasting.  He was lead into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to fast.   Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

This may seem simple.  But sometimes it is hard to hear.  What is the Holy Spirit saying?  Where is he telling you to go?  Every year we consecrate a season of fasting and prayer for our congregation.  But within that season, it is of utmost importance to ask the Lord, what would you have me to do? 

My tendency is to go to the extreme.  I want to declare all out war on my flesh.  I want to experience the presence and power of God to my fullest capacity.  Perhaps you tendency is to go the extreme as well.  And I have found that at times, God has taken me to the extreme.  He has wanted to stretch me and take me places farther than I ever thought possible.  But sometimes I have fasted way to far and beyond what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do.

Perhaps your tendency is the opposite.  Perhaps you have never let hunger be an escort to a deeper relationship with God and greater focus on pursuing his presence in your life.  Other religions fast.  But the spirit of their fast is not the same.  Even health experts and dietitians recommend "fasting" for physical benefits.  And yet many believers in Western Civilization have for long forgotten the great spiritual discipline of fasting.  We mistakenly believe that God of all comfort would desire for us to stay in a comfort zone.  Suffering could never be in the will of our God.... especially a chosen suffering. 

Whatever your tendency, be sure of this:  The Holy Spirit is able to lead you into a time of fasting.  It is not you flesh that would desire you to put on hold your meals so that in their place you can wait on God to a greater degree.  It is not the enemy that would want you to turn off your TV and internet and spend that extra time in prayer and the word. It is not the world that will celebrate your mourning and a hear that cries out to God for a city lost and on its way to destruction.  But if you sense any urge to fast in a Biblical way... my guess is that it is the Holy Spirit calling you.. "Come."  

My friend Arthur Guice, pastor of Spirit of Liberty Church of God, recently gave me a great illustration on fasting and prayer.  There is two major standards for electricity.  There is 220 volts of power and 120 volts of power.  Fasting is for God to change you and give you a greater capacity in your life for his power to flow through you.   It is almost as if God has already supplied all the power we need but often our connection is corrupted.  There is a short circuit of sin and wrong motives in our hearts.  There is hinderances in our understanding of Truth that distorts our perspective of God.  We may not put God in box, but we put a box of limits around what we thing God could do through our own lives.  God is wanting to change us and expand our capacity for his Holy Spirit to lead us and direct us and show his power in our lives. 

Fasting is not for you to get a hold of God but for God to get a hold of you.  And fasting is not for you to manipulate God into doing what you want, but God getting your heart to match his heart so your prayers are aligned in the will of God.  

TO FAST OR NOT TO FAST.  Would you pray.  Would you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as far as the length of your fast and the type of fast.  God has chosen a fast.  And the Holy Spirit is more than capable to lead you into that fast.  When you have a strong sense of what he is calling you to do, write it down and make a commitment to follow through.   Choose a fast lead by the Holy Spirit!