Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Baby Burrito

God has wrapped you tightly in His presence. You are secure, not in jeopardy. The things coming at you at this moment cannot breech His love or His purpose for your life.

When both of our children were born the hospital staff wrapped them tightly in a baby blanket. When I held my firstborn, our daughter, Anna, I told Jan, “She looks like a little burrito with a face!” I still have that image in my mind after so many years. Just the other day, I asked Jan why the wrapping was done and she told me it had to do with making the baby feel secure.

In times of intense struggle, God will wrap a believer so tightly in His presence they will feel immovable. Some have mistakenly interpreted this restricted place as something negative. They fought against it, struggling to get free missing the deep sense of rest and peace being offered.

The greatest personal advancement can take place when we feel the most restricted. In these times when God births us into something new and unfamiliar we experience feelings and emotions similar to a newborn outside the mother’s womb for the first time. Like a newborn that feels the assuring pressure of a swaddling blanket, a believer who knows they are wrapped in the presence of God will experience a peace and assurance that only comes from knowing they are never left unwrapped and vulnerable.

“Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Psalm 33:22

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

When Leadership is Challenged

There are times when you hear something that impacts you deeply and leaves a lasting impression. As a young pastor-in-training, I remember one such phrase. Early in his ministry, my pastor, Roy Hicks Jr., was confronted by a group of people in his church who felt his leadership style was too strong. The church was exploding in growth and what was comfortable and familiar was being challenged. Roy was in his late 20’s when the challenge came.

Roy met with the disgruntled group and listened to their complaints. When it was his time to speak he spoke one sentence that shifted the spiritual environment of the room. He said, “So, you want me to become weak so you can become strong?” That one Spirit-inspired sentence confronted the spirit that was challenging his leadership and illuminated the reality of what was taking place. Roy’s comment carried the sound of apostolic leadership.

After that meeting, some of the group stayed in the church and some left. Faith Center continued to grow in its influence within the city of Eugene, Oregon and beyond, both nationally and internationally. Jan and I were sent out to our first ministry assignment from that powerful church.

In pivotal times of change, both in the Church and culture, God will raise up strong leaders that will lead with a passion and vision that can challenge the thinking and comfort of those who only see the Church as something to be managed and protected. Management and protection are good things when positioned in an environment of faith. Left unsubmitted to apostolic leadership, they become agents of control.

Today, examine the demands you put on those God has placed in your life to lead and shepherd. Ask yourself, “Why am I bringing this challenge?” If you are uncomfortable with change or want things to remain the way they have always been, let God have access to your fear. When He is finally is able to touch and heal that weakness you will become a valuable asset to those tasked to lead the Church. You will have become strong enough to allow others to freely move forward in their gifts and calling.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Sign of Your Times

Yesterday, I was driving between appointments when I passed one of those electronic signs with moving script that ticked off a message as the words moved across the screen. The sign read out the words, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season – Merry Christmas!”  While the message would have been warm and informative a month ago, it now seemed out of place. Yes, Jesus is the reason for all seasons, but Christmas has come and gone.

I know the business that owns the sign. They are great people with a great product who just forgot to have someone reprogram their sign. It will not damage their business image unless people are still reading the same message during Easter week. The problem with the sign is that it continues to announce a season that has passed and no longer present.

When I drove past the sign I thought of the lives of some good people I know who are now in a new season of life, but their lives are a lot like the electronic sign I passed. They are still announcing the person they were in the past, not the new person God has revealed. They still live under the influence of old slogans that continue to announce a part of them that no longer exists. Like the business with an out of season sign, they need to reprogram their life-sign with a new slogan for a new season.

Check the sign of your life. Your thoughts and the words will either announce in faith the new person God has created or something old and out of date that is no longer applicable. Invite a trusted friend to do a drive-by of your life and ask them to tell you what they see and hear. God has Kingdom business coming your way. It may be time to reprogram your sign.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Purpose of Your Frustration

The frustration you are feeling could actually be a work of God’s Spirit. Before you rebuke its presence, let me try to explain.

Last week, I had personal interaction with three people who represent three of the 7 Mountains of culture. Each of these people has a significant voice on the mountains of Government, Arts, and Economy. They represent a new expression of the Church. This is an expression that has remained virtually undiscovered in our lifetime but is now emerging with a mission to bring reformation to our culture.

Many of our existing ways of living and models of ministry have created a siege mentality forcing the Church to circle its wagons of influence to fight against the wild tribes of culture that are currently circling our wagons. Some of you have felt frustrated with this narrow solution, but nothing else was being offered. In the past, you allowed your unique gift and calling to become circled up with the other wagons of religion thinking this was your only option. You are sensing there is more and that is where your frustration is coming from.

You may have tried to rebuke your frustration thinking it was something malevolent. Actually, unrest and frustration can be a work of God. It sounds contradictory that the Prince of Peace would create unrest in His people. There are times when God stirs the heart of His Church to prepare us to be willing to let go of what is not working to embrace something new that has the potential to literally transform our personal lives and the life of culture.

The answer to your dilemma will not be found by remaining circled in fear. Ask God to give you the measure of courage required to break free from the circled wagon mentality and make a run for it. God will protect you in your escape. He will keep the arrows of disbelief from piercing you heart.

God has a plan for you and others like you to explore new frontiers of culture with the mission to set up encampments of faith on the highpoints of culture. You will become a new expression of the Church that will someday be defined by historians as a group of brave souls who were able to break free and discover previously unexplored places of cultural influence.  God will use you to establish His presence on the mountaintops of influence with the assignment and authority to begin shifting the mindset of culture to express the purpose and the heart of God.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Running Person

I saw the image of a person running. They had been running so fast in the pursuit of their life ambition that they left behind something of great value.

As the person continued to run forward they heard a strangely familiar sound behind them. The sound caught their attention and caused them to come to a stop. They turned around looking for the source. 

Finally, what was making the sound caught their attention. There it was – something wonderfully simple that was once loved and loved the person back. In that moment, the person realized the value of what they had left behind.

 If you are the running person, stop and walk back toward the sound. Embrace its message once again. The journey ahead was designed for that beautifully simple sound to walk with you into the coming years. Without its presence in your life, the future can only promise more relentless running in pursuit of something you once possessed but lost not realizing you already had it all and needed nothing more.

“Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Best is Yet to Come

We create our best music and write our best books in the middle of the most painful seasons of life. David wrote passionate Psalms in his most devastating moments of personal struggle. Something takes place in us during those times that exposes the fake salesman aspect of our faith and reveals the lies we fell for in a moment of impatience that led us to a place despair.

We think nothing good dwells in our pain, but that is where revelation is the clearest because it is no longer diluted by the false promises that got us into trouble in the first place. In our pain, we walk with our head down looking only at the pavement right before us. Pain is myopic. In these times we can walk right past blessing and provision and never see it. We become metronomic in our life-stride taking only one hopeless step after another. We abide with the pain as our only traveling companion. The journey becomes filled only with the expectation of more sorrow.

Today, in the middle of a never-ending grind of sameness; in a place where everything bad happening feels like it is your fault; in a place where you gave up so long ago that you cannot remember what life was before that fatal resignation – look and listen. Look for the hand of God. Listen for His voice.  He has not walked away from you. He has been walking beside you all along the way, but you thought you were alone. He wants you to hear His words of affirmation and feel His touch of love.  He has been whispering hope, but you listened only to the sour voice of pain. He has reached out, but you moved away. Your sorrow and grief are about to undergo a transformation and release an assignment you never thought possible.

You will craft a song. You will write a book. You will create a testimony. These will be your best messages. They will contain the kind of hope that will tell the rest of us the best is yet to come.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Paris - January 15 - All Hands on Deck

A few months ago, I wrote about seeing an image of the blue helmets of United Nations peacekeeping forces walking the streets of Jerusalem. At that time the image seemed far-fetched. Now it does not seem out of the realm of possibility if the UN becomes the enforcing agency of a resolution that could emerge from the decision made by the 70 nations gathering in Paris on January 15 to divide up the nation of Israel. Many think this is only a political issue or an issue having to do with secular Israel. It has a deeper spiritual implication for Israel and for the nations of the world.

Because of the significance of what will take place in Paris, a call has been issued for the Church to spend extra time in prayer on January 15 to avert any plan of hell that could ignite a conflict with wider implications than just a regional confrontation. None of us have all the facts on any complex issue. In conflicts like these innocent people on both sides are harmed when evil has its way.

The boundary lines of Israel are ancient, not contemporary. A longer view of history is at play than even the politics or decisions made in our lifetime. It is popular in some theological discussions taking place today to redefine many things, including Israel. History does not afford us that casual attitude and God is about to reveal the power of His view of history and His promise to the nation of Israel.

There are times when we need to shift the position of our prayer altar from Earth to Heaven in order to gain a different perspective. As a dual citizen, a believer lives in both realms and can pray from both dimensions. This is one of those times when prayer from our position in Christ seated with Him on His Throne is so important. There is a sense of authority that enters our prayers when we consciously pray from the third heaven into the realms of the first and second heaven.

The unseen realm of the second heaven is where demons and angels battle. From heaven, your prayers move through the second heaven releasing their authority in the second heaven, a place most people, and sadly, many Christians, never consider. What plays out on Earth is a by-product of the spiritual conflicts that take place between Earth and Heaven in the second heaven.

When I wrote the book, Prayers from the Throne of God, I wrote about this kind of prayer. It is composed of three elements – Declarations, Decrees, and Prophecy. When we pray from the throne of God we declare His heart over the situation we are praying about. It is His heart that sets the agenda for our prayers. Second, we decree the victory of Christ over the opposing forces at work trying to come against the heart of God. No weapon formed against the plan of God will succeed because of the victory of Christ in His death and resurrection. And finally, we listen to the Spirit for those real-time prophetic words that will begin to flow in the atmosphere of this kind of prayer. The release of these prophetic words has the ability to literally steer the events taking place on Earth.

Rise to your place at the right hand of the Father in Christ and begin to declare, decree and prophesy over this moment in Israel’s history. So much is at stake that can only be seen by those who see with the eyes of the Spirit. That revelation will become your agenda for prayer.