Friday, October 26, 2018

A Personal Change

For the last few weeks, I had been sensing a change was coming. I’ve written daily for several years. This daily routine was primarily for me to learn the discipline of writing. Over the years, this routine has become the seedbed for several books and opened the door for new relationships. For that, I am grateful.

I am sensing a personal reset is taking place. To partner with that reset, I will not be publishing on social media for the remainder of the year. I will ask the Lord in January of 2019 if He wants me to re-engage at that time. 

Perhaps it was the passing of Eugene Peterson that finally prompted me to take this step. I need to enter a reflective space. Because a reset is coming, I do not want to miss the adjustments that reset will require. I believe the Lord is bringing a reset not just for Jan and me, but for others as well. 

I want to reread Eugene’s Peterson’s writings and others like him and tap the depths of their wisdom and the history of their obedience. I want to meditate on the Word seeking a deeper revelation than my history or current assumptions can provide. I want to read good poetry to see this life from a creative perspective. I want to step aside from the things that can muddle the prophetic nature of our message. I am purposefully repositioning myself to listen intently for the still small voice of God in the midst of all the clamor and noise that currently surrounds our faith.

Thanks and be well. May God richly and abundantly bless each of you!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Expanding Frontier of Revelation

In the natural realm, a frontier marks a specific geographic location. It is static and once crossed what was previously a mystery becomes known. In the spiritual realm, a frontier is a mobile and always advancing line that moves the marker of what was known farther ahead of us toward a distant and eternal horizon. Spirit-breathed revelation takes us on a journey into unexplored places of faith. Never settle. Always be willing to journey with God past old frontier markers into the never-ending and always expanding depths of His revelation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Fragrance of Our Passion

Each morning, Jan walks into our living room where I sit in my writing chair. As a ritual, I rise and hug her, my face pressed into the right side of her neck. I kiss her and take in her fragrance. We always linger in our embrace. It seems to reset our life before the day begins. As I write, I anticipate her arrival.

Something beautiful happens when the chemistry of perfume is expressed in human biology. A reaction occurs in the mixture. When applied, the perfume takes on a uniqueness possessed only by the person wearing the perfume. It becomes their fragrance in the application. I could be blindfolded and smell thousands of necks and know Jan's fragrance above all the rest.

Our faith must have this uniqueness of expression and intimacy. Without it, we will fall back on a cold and passionless thing called religion. In religion, there is no relationship to carry a fragrance. No place of intimacy, no one to hug. Just hard positions and lines drawn in the sand. Passion and intimacy are not valued because they cannot be measured or promoted, only received and enjoyed. This is why our journey of faith if it is to remain healthy and vibrant, will require a constant returning to a place of intimacy with God. In fact, the consistent rediscovery of intimacy is the only thing that will ensure our long-term wholeness as spiritual beings. It is our map for life and the course corrector for our future.

Each of us carries the fragrance of a broken jar of costly perfume. The nard of a shared intimacy with God was poured into our hearts when we became one with Christ. As Jesus reclines in our hearts at the table of our fellowship and we pour our acts of love upon Him, He tells the religionists to leave us alone just as He told the betrayer of intimacy 2,000 years ago when he complained about the extravagance of love poured out upon Jesus describing it as a waste. 

Follow the fragrance of intimacy with God. The source of that beautiful perfume will answer all your questions and show you the way forward. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Creating, Always Creating

It’s all art, this creativity.
We write soul-poetry looking
over still water as loons cry
our verse written 
upon early morning mist parchment.
Touching smooth river stones 
we sculpt, 
arranging little rock piles 
in river shallows
balancing their rockiness wet
with dark water ink.
Holding brittle leaves of autumn color
kicked from piles,
we paint on a grass-canvas
our feet as brushes.
None of this is non-art. 
Each work an expression found outside
frames and canvas,
potter’s wheel, 
the poet’s pad.
God, the artist Father
created us to become
expressers of His Creator touch. 
Creating, always creating.

Thank you, Eugene

Yesterday, a hero of mine passed away. Eugene Peterson was known to many for his translation of the Bible called, The Message. I was able to correspond with Eugene a couple of times over the last few years. We talked about writing and leadership. He said he looked forward to reading my book, The Sound of Reformation. His words of affirmation about the book are a humbling treasure. His writing and commentary meant a lot to me as a pastor over all the years of my ministry. He expanded my faith and helped me understand the power of honor and faithfulness.

In 1981 as a first-time pastor, I entered the Christian bookstore in Kalispell, Montana and bought a book by Eugene titled, Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work. At the time, I had no idea who the author was or that he grew up in Kalispell following his Pentecostal mother into logging camps to preach the Gospel to rough and tumble miners. As I read Eugene’s book, he was talking about things beyond my level of maturity at the time, but I held onto those truths throughout the years as my experience and maturity eventually found a place of understanding for his wisdom. I would end up reading many of the books Eugene would publish during his lifetime. 

Men and women who carry a life of character and honor like that of Eugene Peterson do not have to be physically present in our lives to be a mentoring presence. Over the last 40 years, the Lord has used a number of people, some who have gone ahead and some who are still alive, to make significant deposits in my life that God has used to steer me toward my destiny. 

This summer, Jan and I vacationed on Flathead Lake in northwest Montana near to where we planted our first church 38 years ago. Our lakeside cabin was not far from the Peterson home where Bono met Eugene a few years ago. On our morning walks, I felt I needed to keep walking past the Peterson home and not disturb Eugene. Some of our most important relationships are kept secure by honoring a person’s private space and not becoming another demanding presence in their life.

Last night, I read an account of Eugene’s passing. A family member said that during his final hours, “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.”

In his life and writing, Eugene Peterson helped me learn how to live and lead well. In his death, he modeled how to die well – a final journey of faith we will all make someday in the future.

Thank you, Eugene. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Navigating a Life-Transition with Hope and Trust

As Jan and I were walking into town, I noticed a line of trees still carrying the fullness of color in their fall foliage. Most of the leaves on the other trees in town had already fallen, but this line of trees was still in the fullness of its colorful display. 

As I walked by the trees, the Lord impressed on me that some of you fear the end of this season and the approach of something new. Don’t fear the new and the unknown. It's all in God's hands. In this transition, the Lord will allow the goodness of what was to linger longer than expected to get you through this change before the promise of something new appears. 

You will always have a representation of God's goodness in each season of your life. Look for the color and beauty in the middle of your doubt and concern. You are not alone. We all have to deal with these things at some level. Learn to interpret each transitional season with an outlook of hope in the goodness of God. Hope will give the promises of God a place to assemble and manifest the future you are about to enter. Hope will also open up a new level of trust for you to see with the eyes of faith what God has planned for your future.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Filtering the Cultural Dialogue

With the mid-term elections in full swing and emotions running high, it is not too late to allow God to transform the sound of our voice and the impact of our lives to align with the greater purposes of God’s Kingdom. 

We all need a filter through which to process what is taking place. Each of us has Scripture, insight from the Spirit and the availability of wise counsel. These resources can mold our voice and direct our actions for the good if we are willing to engage the balance and wisdom they provide. Through these filters, we can sift the voices and images we are being asked to believe to see if they contain the heart and message of God. It is our individual responsibility to sift religious leaders, newscasters, cultural pundits, and even our friends to determine the quality and integrity of their message. If the input we are receiving is not able to pass through these filters we have not yet heard the voice of God.

Voices once prophetic are now announcing conspiracy theories, intrigue-laced political maneuvering, and solutions available to the basic inquiry of an unredeemed mind. These things sell and capture an audience, but they do little to advance God’s Kingdom. In this time of critical national importance, we need Heaven to speak a depth of wisdom not found when our voice sounds like the fearful and frustrated culture. None of this is new. It has been repeated in history and sadly plays well in the Church and the wider culture when unresolved frustration is allowed to lead the charge.

Here is what Paul wrote to Titus of his responsibility as a leader in the Church. It seems as if Paul’s instruction was crafted for this moment in time:

“Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone”(Titus 3:1-2).

To some, this approach will appear na├»ve and simplistic. It will ring of a narrow intellectual bandwidth or worse, a weakness of character. It does not sound hot-button enough to enter the bloodthirsty ring of our pugilistic cultural debate and win the fight. To those who fault the instructions of Paul, facts, gotchas and putdowns are what will carry the day. These shallow and Spirit-less solutions will end up replacing a message of truth spoken in love and eventually rob the Church of its prophetic voice in each sphere of cultural influence. 

If we fail to filter the sound and content of our voice in response to the constant barrage of emotional stimuli we are receiving, we will miss the downloads of Heaven sent to reveal God's preferred future. These downloads are only discovered if our alignment is with the heart of God, not the informational waste found floating in the cesspool of anger and dishonor that is filling some of the conversations and opinions currently being offered as the way forward.