Sunday, May 26, 2019

At Peace

One of the greatest gifts you can leave behind is to be, as far as it is possible with you, at peace with all people. 
“As far as possible” means we walk as far forward in the process of reconciliation as the will of the other person will allow. We can walk up onto the emotional porch of another person’s life and ring the doorbell, but they must open the door. 
Getting up onto this relational porch requires that we do some very visible things to position ourselves in a place of vulnerability. This will require humility. In each season of spiritual growth, there will be some porch time. Healthy transitions will include this element of vulnerability and risk. 
God wants us to be free, and he will hand that freedom to us as a medicine to dispense to others. Some people will crack the door open just enough to see you standing on their porch, and that will be enough to begin the process of reconciliation and restoration. 

(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Defining Your Assignment - Scout, Pioneer or Settler?

Recently, I spoke at a gathering of social reformers and cultural influencers. My assignment was to unpack the teaching gift from within the five equipping gifts Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4. In my presentation, I shared there are three expressions of a teaching gift in a reformation context - scouts, pioneers, and settlers. I used the metaphor of the westward expansion of the United States during the 1800s to present my material. What I shared was not limited to the gift of teaching. It actually applies to each instance in life when we ask people to consider something new and invite them to make a journey into the unexplored landscape of a fresh revelation.

Scouts Explore and Persuade

Every journey westward in the 1800s began with a scout heading out alone to discover a previously unexplored route toward a new place. Scouts would return from their scouting venture to invite people to make a pioneering journey based on the revelation and intelligence the scout obtained. Scouts found safe passage through dangerous mountain passes and across swollen rivers. Without the knowledge provided by the scout, those who followed to pioneer a new land would experience greater jeopardy. 

In a spiritual context, scouts explore the expanding edge of a fresh revelation where an apostolic blueprint is being considered. This is what John the Baptist did when he cried out from the wilderness announcing the approaching Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ. It is what Paul did when he returned from his missionary journeys. 

A spiritual scouting ministry extends an invitation similar to the invitations scouts would present to large bands of wagons gathering in the Midwest waiting to begin their perilous journey westward. They presented pioneers with the details of an explored route and convinced those listening to follow them. A spiritual scout’s ministry is persuasive. It challenges the status quo and invites people to entertain the risk required to follow a new route toward a promise.

Pioneers Learn How To Survive

The second group is the pioneers. They are the first to follow the intelligence gathered by a scout. Most wagon journeys began in the spring allowing the pioneers to travel during the summer months. The timing was critical because pioneers would need to arrive at their destination in the early fall. Once they arrived they would only have a few weeks to construct crude cabins to survive their first winter in an untamed wilderness. Their shoes had either worn out or rotted off in the journey along with their clothing. They learned from mountain men and indigenous people how to make clothing and moccasins from animal skins.  

When spiritual pioneers finally arrive in the untamed wilderness of a fresh revelation they must learn how to survive the first season. Like the early pioneers of the American West, some of what a spiritual pioneer brought with them at the start of the journey either wore out or was discarded along the way to lighten their load. Spiritual pioneers need to be clothed with new ways of thinking and new methods of operation in order to survive.  Like the children of Israel entering the Promised Land, a place of promise is not always a safe and prepared place when we first enter its boundary.

Settlers Create Culture and Community

Once a pioneer arrived and survived the first winter they become a settler. Once settled, they began to build a sustainable community and culture.  Settlers would create social structures, government, housing, transportation, and trade. Those elements would lead to the long-term socio-economic health of the community and as a result, those institutions would create a positive and stable influence on following generations.  

In a spiritual application, a pioneer must make the transition from pioneer to a settler or the revelation of the promise will not be fully experienced. A pioneer is a survivalist. Everything is immediate and short-term. That mindset is exhausting and does not allow a person to rest because they live surrounded by the on-going threats of an untamed wilderness. All revelation must mature in its application. Without that maturity, our presence will not be sustainable and our influence will eventually die off from exposure to the harsh elements that always surround the new thing God wants to accomplish.

These three unique assignments of scout, pioneer, and settler are present in any enterprise whether it is the fulfillment of the Great Commission, starting a business, establishing a new direction for civil government or an artist exploring a new genre. It is vital to know in which season your gift is currently assigned.  Defining your season will clarify your message and its application and help you lead others to the destination of a promise that was not yet seen when it was initially announced. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Preparing a Place for the Fruit

When I was a kid, I grew up in the Silicon Valley of California before the high tech companies arrived. Our valley was a continuous expanse of fruit orchards. My first real job was at age 9 picking prunes. 

The ease of picking prunes would depend on how the orchardist prepared the orchard floor for the falling fruit. If the orchard floor was well-groomed and flat it was easy to gather up the prunes and fill the wooden boxes. I was paid .35 cents per box. If an orchardist did not prepare his orchard floor a picker would have to push aside the weeds to get to a single prune. Working in an unprepared orchard made it difficult and time-consuming to fill a box. I watched my Mexican friends who came to work the orchards. They were wise. They only worked for orchardists who rightly prepared the orchard floor for the time of harvest.

As this memory came to mind, I thought of our lives. Our life is like an orchard floor. We can prepare for the arrival of the fruit of God’s presence or we can neglect the preparation because we grew impatient with the process. When the time comes for the fruit to fall it can disappear into the weedy frustrations of life or a lack of discipline that crept in when we dismissed the possibility of something good coming our way. 

Today, God has planned to deliver the beautiful fruit of His presence onto the soil of your life. In faith, prepare for its arrival. Pull the weeds of disbelief. Smooth over the rough edges of a negative attitude. Offer God a prepared place for the fruit to land. The fruit is not just for you. It is for all who will enter the orchard of your life to pick the fruit and taste the goodness of God. Make it easy for them to take part in the harvest.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The New Full Gospel Church

A few decades ago, a local church that believed in the supernatural works of God self-described itself as Full Gospel. The term noted an on-going belief in the supernatural works of God including the function of all the gifts of the Spirit. They did not believe in a cessation of the supernatural. For the most part, the expression of that fullness remained inside a church building or in conference settings and rarely walked outside the walls of mutual fellowship into the streets of a city or took its power into the halls of a cultural institution. The impact of that supernatural expression was isolated to meetings where like-minded people of faith gathered to experience God.

Today, God is expanding the definition of a full representation of the Gospel to include groups of supernaturally empowered people who have ventured outside our current church model and its limited creativity to export a Kingdom impact into all spheres of the culture. These new Full Gospel individuals and churches may not look “religious” enough to those whose definition of the Full Gospel must always function within a familiar church structure. 

The new Full Gospel Church sees nations and cultural institutions as the ultimate target of their ministry focus. They take the words of Jesus seriously and literally when He said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28: 19). The reformation-minded disciples who express a Full Gospel assignment will carry with them Spirit-empowered solutions and new forms of creativity not currently being considered or explored. They also know what we have been doing in this generation of the Church in western culture has not changed the world in the radical way Jesus intended when He gave us the Great Commission. They want to make a difference and they are willing to take the religious flak their assignment will draw.

These new Full Gospel disciples are business entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, single mothers getting elected to a city council position, retired persons who find a new career, and burned out pastors who have tried to prop up a dying ministry model. It is a diverse list of people hungry for something more – a fuller expression of what it means to partner in the global expansion of God’s Kingdom. 

A new fullness has arrived and that fullness will express the next chapter of our Kingdom assignment as we work with God to cover the Earth with a Full Gospel witness of His presence in all spheres of the global culture.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him” (Psalm 24:1).

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Announcing Something Better

When John the Baptist was crying out in the wilderness the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding region ventured out to hear his message. In that advancing crowd were people from all spheres of cultural influence. It would not be the innovators of a new product or the producers of a new media project or a promise made by the government that would get a culture moving toward change. It was the voice of a prophet who offered people an opportunity to change the way they think that sparked an entire culture to consider something new before any resulting creative process would begin. 

John said to the approaching crowds, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). The word used for repent in the original language throughout the New Testament has been defined as, “to change one’s mind.” More specifically in its usage in Matthew 3:2 three more words are added to the definition to read “to change one’s mind for the better.” 

The prophetic message of repentance uttered by John told people something better was coming and they needed to change the way they think in order to receive a new life-assignment. He was asking them to change the way they think so that the corresponding decisions about their lives and their assignments within the various spheres of cultural influence would manifest a repentant life – a life that entertains a better reality. A repentant mind would be required to align people with the message of Jesus and His Kingdom. That alignment would change how people crafted their mission statement and it would change how they used their unique skills in the marketplace of culture.

Every reformation has a prophetic voice calling out from the unexplored wilderness of a fresh revelation extending an invitation to people to consider something better. In times of cultural transition, a prophetic voice will be heard as an invitation to consider something better rather than a condemning voice of the status quo. The later is something anyone can do. It takes no real prophetic insight. To be a prophet of reformation requires that we wait to hear the better thing God wants to accomplish before we raise our voice and assume we are speaking in the name of God.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Discerning the Purpose of an Open Door

We write and speak a lot about open doors of opportunity. What we don't talk about is the need to pause on the threshold of those open doors to inquire of the Lord to determine if He was the one who opened the door. A life that demands continual forward motion is a life that puts itself and others in a place of unnecessary jeopardy.

When I was a cop, doors were opened to me that revealed things I did not know when the call came out. I've had doors open to decaying dead bodies, empty houses, women in skimpy lingerie, people with guns who wanted to shoot me, suicides in progress, booby traps, abandoned children and the list goes on. On some of these calls, impatient rookies wanted to rush in and see what was inside. Many times I had to forcefully put my arm across the chest of a rookie cop to slow them down to discern what was beyond the open door. These impatient ones lived to see another day because they slowed down enough to evaluate what was in front of them.

Your next open door might not open up to give you a blessing. God may send you through an open spiritual door to use you to solve a life crisis or serve the needs of another person. Some open doors are cleverly disguised traps of the enemy waiting to capture you for a dark purpose. It is important to know what an open door represents before you enter its room.

Open doors are threshold moments that must be evaluated to determine their source and purpose. Like it was when I was a cop, it is wise to take a moment or two to figure out what’s going on before you cross the threshold of an open door. In some cases, you will move forward and in other cases, you will back away. 

Knowing the purpose of an open door requires the gifts of discernment and wisdom. If you can pause long enough to work in concert with those gifts you will discover the direction of your next step when you are standing on the threshold of an open door. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Making the Cut

The soul and the spirit need to remain separate in the formation of our worldview and theology. Only the Word of God can make the separating cut revealing the distinction between these two components of our life. Theologies and doctrines formed by human logic in the realm of the soul without examination by Scripture have entered the Church throughout history as subtle invaders resembling a Trojan horse. These errors can unpack “lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:14).  

Contained in our soul are our emotions, will, and mind. It is that part of our being that gives us personhood, bringing animation and distinction to our lives. The spirit part of our life was created to house truth, and that truth is assigned to inform our soul how to respond to life, not the other way around. A mature believer is someone who has brought all the components of their soul in submission to their spirit. It is in our spirit where the Word establishes itself to begin the renewal process of our mind. Paul spoke about this in his letter to the church in Rome,  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”(Romans 12:2).

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Scripture plays an active and incisive role in this renewing process, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God” (Hebrews 4:12-13). The narrow distance between soul and spirit can only be sliced by the edge of truth, not the wide and diverse opinions found in human logic. Without the Word actively at work in our lives cutting through the stuff of life, we will eventually succumb to the lesser influence of an undisciplined soul and the errors that will accompany that influence.

Be careful to not allow a blending of soul and spirit to create a hybrid faith. From that blending have come deceptions throughout Church history crafted to appeal to a mind that is not under the renewing discipleship of the Word and the guiding influence of the Spirit. 

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).