Saturday, March 17, 2018

Krispy Kreme the Goal - Siri to the Rescue

I was in a strange city, and it was 5:00 a.m. If you know me, I am already up by that hour. There was anticipation in the air because Krispy Kreme had a donut store just a few blocks from our hotel. I got into our car with a single mission in mind – to bring two large coffees and four Krispy Kreme donuts back to our room to an awaiting wife.

On the drive to the hotel the day before, I had a hard time finding its location in the tangle of streets in broad daylight. In the darkness of the early morning, it would become a lot worse. I set out and got completely turned around – really turned around.

I pulled to the curb and asked Siri, my faithful traveling companion and the voice of reason on my iPhone, for help. Siri finally got me pointed in the right direction and there in the dark distance, I saw the neon sign of my sugar and caffeine delight just a few blocks away. This is a tremendous feeling for an early morning urban explorer.

Returning to our hotel, I got lost again. I did the “pull over to the curb and ask Siri for help” thing for the second time. She sounded frustrated this time and said, “Taking the walking route, your destination is 400 ahead feet on your right.” No joke! She actually said that. I think she had given up on my driving ability. With my red and less than manly feeling face brightly shining in the dark interior of my car, I looked up to see the lights of our hotel glowing in the darkness just where Siri said it would be. This early morning searcher returned home a less than confident road warrior with the treasures of Krispy Kreme in hand.

I have given up trying to find my way when I know I’m lost. Yes, we men at times fail to ask for directions, but when the coffee is hot and the donuts are warm, there is no time to waste trying to find our way when we know we lost. Wisdom demands that we pull over and ask for help.

The funny story of the donut trip aside, some of you need to pull your life to the curb and ask for help. You are like me trying to find my way in the darkness in a strange city. If you continue this way, you will get more and more lost with each passing day. People are in your life that would be honored if you would approach them and say, “I need some direction.” Love is available to those who ask and love will always help you find your way home.

Friday, March 16, 2018

First Apostles...

We are in a unique moment of Church history. The Lord is defining and redefining many things. He is defining the current expansion of His Kingdom that can appear radically new, exploratory and unfamiliar to some. He is also redefining our assumptions and releasing fresh revelation to help us reconsider old ways of thinking.

One morning, while I was processing the idea of defining and redefining, the Lord took me to I Corinthians 12:28. The text reads, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” He then said, “Look at the word 'first.'” I knew He wanted me to unpack the definition of the word to see below the surface of my assumed understanding.

Most of you know the word “apostle” means, a delegate, a messenger, one sent for forth with orders, and most commonly, “a sent one.” That understanding is not what caught my attention. It was the word “first” placed in the text just before the word apostle. That word in Greek is “protos.”  From it, we get our word “prototype.” A prototype is defined as a first, a preliminary model of something. 

The use of the word “first” (protos) in I Corinthians 12:28 in connection with an apostle is defined as first in a sequence of time and place. Apostles were the first to be sent out. The word does not apply to a hierarchy in leadership where the apostle is above the other gifts. I went on to read each instance in the New Testament where the word first is used in connection with an apostle. I discovered there is not a single usage of the word to denote a hierarchal structure of a top-down model of leadership. 

The word “apostle” did not originate with the Church. It was a word used by the Roman government to describe the first ones sent to a conquered nation to set up the government of Rome. These apostles brought the culture of the Roman Empire to recreate the culture of Rome in the conquered nation. This transformation was so complete that a Roman citizen could visit any conquered land and still enjoy the familiar government, culture, and entertainment of Rome.

When Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12 that apostles were first, he was not creating a spiritual hierarchy. He was describing someone who would be the first one in the sequence of events that would venture into new territory, and with the blueprint of Heaven in hand, establish the order of God’s Kingdom.

I remember when the Lord asked me to change how I led our church. He showed me a totem pole and helped me understand a top-down hierarchy of leadership was not His original intent. For that model to grow upward in its narrow structure of leadership, the person on the top had to die, get transferred to a new assignment or fall off in failure. It could only grow upward by addition, not outward in supernatural multiplication.

The Lord asked me to lay the totem pole of my leadership model down on its side so that all the gifts on our team would be grounded on the same level playing field of our overall mission. I was still the senior leader, but no longer in a hierarchal model where everything needed to be filtered through me before it could be birthed. 

Then the Lord said, “Now, let your team run at the speed of their faith.” Immediately, I saw apostolic potential released in our team. New ideas and new ministries were birthed. We moved beyond the old model of addition from a top-down form of leadership and began to release outward expansion through supernatural multiplication when all the gifts were getting equal traction. New territory was discovered, and our team entered new places of ministry in our city and began setting up the government of Heaven.

We are in a moment of time when some of our assumptions will be challenged. None of us have the complete picture.  Stay humble and teachable and don't allow a defensive spirit keep you trapped in a place of assumption. Lay down your totem poles and set God’s people free. Once people begin to run at the speed of their faith anything is possible.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Greatest Bully

A friend of mine shared the following on his Facebook wall several days ago, “The child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel it’s warmth” - African Proverb.

A lot of wisdom comes from the continent of Africa – ancient, wise tribal wisdom that helps us learn how to live together in close and at times, uncomfortable proximity. In the pursuit of and the demand for personal autonomy, we have created loneliness of the soul and a separation from a sense of community. One result of this separation, are horrific acts of violence we see taking place with increasing frequency in our culture.

A family or a nation can be destroyed when people no longer feel the embrace of love. They will eventually burn down the perpetrators of their pain. 

The heart of God is beautifully expressed in John 3:16. Most Christians know that verse from memory, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This verse expresses the heart of God and what should be the heart of the Church. God loved the entire world, and so should we.

What most of us forget is the following verse, John 3:17, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Verses 16 and 17 are a single thought. They should always be cited together. Verse 16 is the heart of the Church. Verse 17 is the mission of the Church. We are called to love, not judge or condemn.

Our mission is to love the marginalized, to seek out those who have never experienced the embrace of love who live in the margins of our culture, both rich and poor, the powerful and the disempowered. Everyone without exception of cultural rank needs this embrace. These discarded ones are those who in their loneliness live on the verge of burning down their village.

The greatest bully in our schools, our communities and our families is the absence of an embrace of love. This bullying presence pushes and shoves people out of relationships and into a place of despair where desperate acts can take place.

Each of us possesses two very powerful assets that turn back this tide of cultural sorrow and separation – our voice and our embrace. As you move through the halls of your school, or walk down your street or engage in your daily activities, ask the Spirit to direct you to that son or daughter who has never felt the embrace of their tribe. They can be young or old. You can tell who these people are by looking into their eyes. They are the ones who move through life staring straight ahead with a hopeless expression that comes from being denied the embrace of love.  When you meet them, speak the heart of God into their loneliness. Embrace them as another human being in need of affirmation. If we all do this we can be part of a cultural transformation that will turn a potential village burner into a village builder. That is the power of love, and no bullying presence can withstand its power.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reengaged and Restored

God has a panoramic view of your coming restoration. He sees the beginning and the end. He has never seen your situation as hopeless. This restoration will not be a return to what was like someone returning to a painful juncture in life and picking up where they left off. You have become a different person in this process. In the pain of what took place, you were able to see deep into the heart of God. His heart has become your only safe place.  With His heart as your compass, this reengagement and restoration will be vastly different than anything you have experienced before. God is releasing the people and resources, both spiritual and natural, to meet you at the point of your reengagement. They will journey with you into something wonderful as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Because you have trusted God, He can now entrust you with the desires of His heart for your life.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Preparing for the Arrival

You have been given the strength and authority of Jesus Christ not only to survive but to thrive in spite of whatever comes your way. God has given you a relationship with Him that leaves nothing to chance.

I recently read a comment from an astrophysicist who stated if the sun exploded we would not know it for 8 minutes and 20 seconds. It takes that long for light and the effects of the explosion to reach us then we would vaporize. In those 8 minutes and 20 seconds, we would have no idea what was coming our way until it was too late.

It can take 25 years before a hardened heart arrives with the words, “I want a divorce.” A breakthrough in scientific research can take years of trial and error before a cure is discovered and finally delivered to a waiting patient.  A prodigal child can wander for a decade before returning home to say, "Please forgive me." A disease can hide in a human body for the right conditions to sprout its deadly seed. Everything good or bad has an arrival time. 

You can prepare for the arrival of these unexpected events by doing one thing. It is something each believer can do no matter how long we have known the Lord. Make sure you are living in a place of daily intimacy with God. 

Intimacy with God is more than warm and tender feelings. It is a place of refuge and resistance. This is not some dishonest version of intimacy where we become an unthinking and unfeeling person immune to pain or sorrow. Intimacy with God is brutally honest - a David writing the Psalms version of honesty. It will demand submission of anything that would attempt to supplant its place of importance in the life of a believer.

Paul said, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Intimacy allows us to filter the pain of the unexpected events in this life through Jesus and His authority. A relationship of daily intimacy with God is our only safe place when a part of our life explodes, and the debris of that explosion arrives without warning.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Beyond the Edge of Endurance

The edge of your endurance, where you can go no farther, has the potential to become the ledge of your next launch. If you accept the invitation to step into an unknown future in obedience to a word from God, you will have to trade the false security of the ledge for a flight of faith. That choice will sever you from any ability to measure or predict the consequence of your choice or determine the final destination of your journey. At that moment, when you finally step into the unknown, you will step into the hands of God. To those who have come to their end and choose to take this step, they will find themselves in the most secure place this life has to offer.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Next Big Thing

At this stage in my life and ministry, I am in a place where, over time, I have been given an increasingly panoramic view of the Church. I preach in churches whose history is not known for the miraculous and in churches that are full-on signs and wonder churches, and everything in between. In each of these settings, I move primarily in a prophetic gift and try to release its blessing and benefit appropriately.

Prophetic ministry is not always the spectacular prediction of a world-changing event or the release of hidden facts known only to the person hearing a word. I have had a number of the latter over the years that truly amazed me, but for the most part, I have a ministry of releasing hope. I remember when God clarified this for me. He said, if I was willing,  I could be part of stemming the tide of cultural despair if I let Him do the judging, the Holy Spirit do the convicting, and me simply loving people (thanks, Billy Graham).

There is a danger if you carry a prophetic anointing. That danger is feeling like you always have to produce a word that announces the next big thing. Part of the danger that comes with that mindset is the compromise that any of us can experience from being driven to produce something spectacular and awe-inspiring.  If you do just a basic study of Scripture, you will come to understand the life of a prophet was not a day after day release of something amazing. Some of the prophets only said a few things of significance over the course of their lives. That historic reality helped me relax a bit when I was younger and really wanted to have my ministry validated.

I am so grateful to Paul who wrote I Corinthians 14:3, “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” This is the pure essence of the ministry of a New Testament prophet. I think I have this on my mind because over the next few weeks I will be teaching in several venues where I will be speaking specifically to people about the gift of prophecy.

Instead of living for the release of the next big thing, try to season your world with daily words that strengthen, encourage and comfort people. Maybe that prophetic simplicity is what Paul was trying to convey when he opened up I Corinthians 14 with the following verse, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” He was writing to the Corinthian church and any believer in the future who would follow the way of love.

No matter if you have just begun to sense the first inklings of something prophetic or if you are known as an established prophet, your primary function in that gifting is a ministry of strengthening, encouraging and comforting. If you can wake up each day and commit yourself to the way of love, God may from time-to-time release some spectacular revelation through you, but that is not the goal. The goal is to walk in the way of love.