Monday, July 22, 2019

Swimming in the Deep Waters of the Spirit

Deep water feels different than shallow water. If you have ever jumped off a boat into the middle of a deep lake or out at sea, you will know what I mean. Yes, water is water, but the unknown depths beneath your dangling feet do something to your perception. For many, swimming in deep water creates a fear of the unknown. When we enter the depths of the Spirit something different takes place. We do not experience fear. We encounter awe and wonder. 

When I enter a church, and the worship is being led by the Spirit, I get the feeling that I can’t touch bottom. That depth is a place where trust is expanded and miraculous encounters take place. In some instances,  I have experienced shallow professionalism that never took us out into the deep water.  I have also experienced a sloppy ministry style that each week was defined as "we are just being led by the Spirit." Neither one got far from the dock. 

In the moments when the deep water of the Spirit was encountered, I experienced something that a well-scripted worship event or a loose leadership style could not attain. The depths of worship in those moments was an invitation to float into something more profound and awe-inspiring. Our lives must occasionally take these swims into the deep waters of the Spirit, or we will succumb to the acceptance of a wonder-less faith where our spiritual feet will always demand that we must feel the bottom. 

This is not limited to worship teams. It applies to a Fortune 500 executive leading a corporate team into a new venture, a musician taking his genre in a new direction or a single mom faithfully leading her children into a new season of life after her husband walked away. No matter our life-assignment, this boils down to a willingness to do all we can to host the Presence with as much skill, excellence, and commitment as we can muster and then diving into the deep water in faith willing to do whatever it is God that has called us to do. 

For many of you, your next season of life will be revealed in your willingness to sail your boat of faith out into the deep water of something new. In that new place, the Lord will ask you to jump out of the boat into unexplored waters where you can no longer touch the bottom of what had previously felt secure and familiar. In those moments awe and wonder will fill your heart with an unexpected buoyancy only experienced by those willing to swim in the deep waters of the Spirit.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Stepping Out of the Box

In a dream, I saw Jesus running across a stream. He looked like all of us who have run across a narrow mountain stream landing on each available stone with the ball of our foot. It’s a delicate dance of passage. 

In the dream, Jesus wasn’t landing on stones. His feet were landing inside the little boxes of religious opinion and narrow worldviews we create in an attempt to define who we think God is and how His Kingdom should be manifested through our bias.

The Lord did not look angry as He made the crossing. The look on His face was one of joy. He was moving to the other side of the stream not allowing any small box way of thinking to inhibit His forward progress.

When we create a box of opinion, worldview or alliance and demand that God fits into what we created, we have actually created an idol of sorts. The idol reflects an image of us, rarely of God. These are foolish and limiting creations. God is always moving forward beyond the most expansive edge of our current level of understanding. He steps in and over the little boxes we create where we live with other like-minded people who share that same limited understanding.  

God’s love and plan for humanity can never be restrained or held back by the boxes we create to contain and define our opinions and conclusions. We are the only ones held back from something better when we choose to live inside a small box of preferential thinking that restrains and contains the fullness of God and His Kingdom expansion. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Setting Up a Defensible Perimeter for Spiritual Battle

In warfare, humans have always constructed their defenses at the outer limit of an enemy's range of effective fire. These defenses were set up in the mouth of caves, moats around castles, walls of a frontier fort and today, with firewalls around our technology. In the natural, this makes sense as an attempt to keep people alive during a conflict.

The weapons of spiritual warfare are different. Their effectiveness is not measured by natural distance or placed in this realm based on what can be seen.   Our spiritual weapons of defensive and offensive action must be positioned from an eternal perspective. Many succumb in a spiritual battle because they fight from within a natural mindset setting up defensive perimeters based only on human measurement. These conflicts create unnecessary casualties because they put us within range of hell's weaponry.

Ten years ago, I began to see images of thrones. After several months of continually seeing throne images, I began to inquire of the Lord what He was saying. He took me to Paul’s writing in Ephesians, where Paul detailed our position in Christ at the right hand of the Father. I came to realize our position in Christ is not some positional theory of placement we will occupy in the distant future. It is a "now" position because we were resurrected with Jesus. 

As a result of that season of seeing thrones and realizing the present-day significance of our position in Christ, my first book, Prayers from the Throne of God, was written.  That new perspective changed everything for me, especially how I pray and conduct spiritual warfare. 

When we fight a spiritual battle, we need to rise above the fight in two ways. First, we must rise above how we see the battlefield and the combatants. It is too tempting to only see people and cultural institutions that need changing and limit our engagement to that lower level. Yes, there are essential things we can do like becoming involved in our culture to bring about change or voting, but these battles are not won in that arena alone. These involvements are the by-products of having engaged a more significant conflict being waged in the spiritual realm.

Secondly, we need to understand the outcome of each earthy battle will be determined by the outcome of a heavenly conflict. This is why we do not set up our spiritual defensive lines or unleash an offensive campaign based solely on natural intelligence gathered through human intellect and thereby constructing our fortifications determined only by input from our emotions, our circumstance, or a religious spirit. We set up our defensive lines and determine their placement in the defined space between Heaven and Earth - the space Jesus ascended through during His resurrection. Some call this boundary line the separation between the first and second heavens and the actual Heaven, the third heaven, as described by Paul.

We sit at this very moment with Christ inside His defensible perimeter in Heaven, a perimeter that is based on His ultimate authority and sacrifice. Our spiritual battles are fought from behind the security of that perimeter. Within that perimeter, the weapons of hell cannot reach our encampment unless, by an act of fear and faithlessness, we step over the perimeter to engage the battle in our flesh. Only those who approach earthly conflict from a heavenly perspective will have the ability to remain safe and secure in the spiritual conflicts that play out on the personal and cultural battlefields of life.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Dealing with Relational Death and Decay

This week we realized one of our beautiful maple trees had finally died. It has been a slow death. We tried to help the tree, but its disease was stronger than our desire for it to live. The maple stands 65 feet and is positioned at the front of our property. Last night, I sat on the stairs of our porch looking toward the tree and thought of how much I will miss it.  As much as I love the tree, it needs to be taken down. Our arborist confirmed that it was indeed dead and has now become a hazard. We have a date on the books for its removal.

Early this morning, I was sitting once again on the steps of the porch looking out at the dead tree now silhouetted against the early dawn light. It literally fills the horizon. I realized when the tree is removed I will be able to have an unrestricted panoramic view of the late afternoon sky when the light reflects off the clouds and highlights the distant ridgeline of pine trees. If left in place, the dead tree would continue to fill my field of vision with its dead limbs and crispy leaves obscuring a beautiful vista, one I have never been able to fully see and appreciate. 

We have prayed over the tree for the last two years, hoping this day would never come. We sought the advice of professionals, had its limbs and branches cared for by arborists, and now, we have to deal with the reality of the tree’s death. Without its removal, I would look out on a scene of death and decay. In the end, the dead tree will become a dangerous hazard to our home and lives when the winds begin to blow with the arrival of winter storms.

Some situations and relationships in our lives will eventually die, and in their death, they will obscure our vision. They will also become a hazard if not removed. That sounds harsh to some, but it is a sad reality of life. We all need to establish healthy and life-giving boundaries. There are times when we will have to make a decision to define that boundary with the blade of incisive clarity. 

These dead issues will someday become a hazard to our spiritual and emotional life and limb when the winds of change and challenge begin to blow.  Leaving them in a place of influence will create an unnecessary hazard to our lives and to the lives of those around us. Their removal is not a callous act without a process of love that offers redemption options while always trying to believe the best. But at some point, they will need to be lovingly removed from the landscape of our lives. When this happens, we will see something that was hidden by a scene of death and decay, something that would have remained hidden had we had not taken action.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Cost of Doing the Business of Life

Yesterday, Jan was off to meet someone for a counseling appointment, so I headed to a local market to buy some groceries for dinner. In the checkout line, I began to place items on the conveyer belt. When I picked up a bottle of Kinder BBQ sauce, my hand slipped, and the bottle fell to the floor and exploded. If I could have reduced time and let the image play out in slow motion, you would have seen the BBQ sauce splash upward in a beautiful fan-like pattern all across the front of my clean shirt finally coming to rest in a blast zone of smoky goodness on the floor of the checkout aisle.

Like all events of this kind, I stopped and stared in unbelief at the mess I made that was now dripping its luscious BBQ sauce bliss from my previously clean shirt. The first words out of my mouth were, “I am so sorry. Please charge me for the bottle.” The man checking me out said, “No problem. That’s the cost of doing business.” He went on to thank me for offering to pay for the bottle.

When the man said, “That’s the cost of doing business,” I realized how true he was. Some disasters, large and small, are simply the cost of doing the business of life. Like you, I would love to live in a disaster-free zone, but that kind of life is an illusion. The recent arrival of our new puppy, Boone, has harkened me back to the days when our babies arrived and changed our lives into something called parenthood. Boone’s teething teeth and the accompanying puncture wounds up and down my arms are evidence that blood is the cost of experiencing puppy love until they are trained to use their mouths in less destructive ways.

If perfection and a BBQ sauce-free floor or a puppy without teeth is what we are looking for in life or even demanding from God, we will become disappointed and perpetually angry with people and eventually, with God. This world can be a mess at times. That is the cost of being human. 

If you caused a mess in someone's life, confess your part in the problem, offer to pay for the damages and then help clean up the mess. Don't just walk away and ignore what happened. If someone else causes the damage, represent God’s heart regarding their failure. Step in and help them clean up their mess. Jesus modeled this for us when He stepped into our world to pay the ultimate price to clean up the mess of our unredeemed lives. That’s the only way we can live free when human failure takes place. It’s the cost of doing the business of God’s Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Arrival of Your Good Deeds

As I read through the 14th chapter of Revelation, I came across verse 13. One part of that verse caught my attention. The text reads, “…for their good deeds follow them.” As I pondered what that phrase could mean for us today, I began to get a sense of what the Lord wanted to say to some of you reading these words.

You have had seasons in your life that were filled with trials and challenges, but you kept moving forward in faith. At times what took place was overwhelming. You felt alone even though in your heart you always knew the Lord was near. It has been a struggle trying to find meaning in all that has transpired.

The Lord wants you to know your good deeds have not disappeared. They have been following you and are about to arrive to manifest something you could not have imagined or even considered as a possibility. These good deeds that have been following you are the acts of obedience and love you did in the name of the Lord when it would have been easy for you to simply bail out on your life of faith. 

Your good deeds have been silently following you waiting for a moment in time when at the Lord’s command, their accumulated goodness would be poured out upon your life. You will be overwhelmed when you see what has been following you.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Crumbing Credibility

Years ago, when I wrote my first book, Prayers from the Throne of God, a man paid me a compliment. He said my book was better than a well-known classic on prayer. When he spoke those words,  I had two responses, both internal. One, I knew the man was not being honest because I was familiar with the classic he referenced and my book would never be a threat to that well-deserved classic status. Secondly, I knew in that season of his life, the man was trying to gain my friendship using false flattery as a tool. It worked for him in his broken past, but now he was in an environment where that was not a value or a virtue. 

The day the man spoke the shallow flattery, his credibility crumbled in my eyes. Not a throwaway kind of crumbling, but it was a reason to weigh his future words with a grain of salt. We continued to have a relationship, but the relationship needed to be more honest and truth-telling before it could be real. The man’s crumbled credibility was eventually rebuilt. It was rebuilt through God-honoring conversations that were a two-way street of honest interaction. 

Many times we try to build our credibility by the improper use of flattery and affirmation.  These ways of communication are the equivalent of an emotional selfie with people we deem to be important. Social media is full of cheesy photos that equate proximity with a relationship. It also happens when we type a comment we know is not fully true. In those instances, we are trying to connect with someone we value to somehow salve a sense of lack we might have regarding our own identity.

I have found the best thing to do in any relationship is to simply affirm the person, not an action or accomplishment. Yes, there are some actions and accomplishments that do deserve affirming, but the deeper affirmation is always apart from what a person does – it’s an affirmation of who they are as a human being valued by God. These affirmations can travel with a person through all the seasons of life – the failures and the successes – and allow them to emerge on the other side emotionally and spiritually intact.