Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Lean, Refocused and Simplified Church

If you have been worrying about the state of the Church during this strange time in our history, I want to share an encouraging image the Lord revealed to me this morning. In the image, I saw a person walking toward a doorway. They were wearing multiple layers of clothing. It appeared they were trying to wear every garment they owned to the point it restricted their full range of motion. They had to waddle to walk. 

Each excess garment was made from the cloth of assumption. These weren’t wrong assumptions; they were valid for a time but were no longer required. The accumulated garments needed to be shed. Then, I realized I was seeing the Church, the Bride of Christ, walking toward the future.

As the person moved closer to the doorway, they began to remove layer after layer of garments. I was amazed at how many layers the person was wearing. I also wondered how they could even move encumbered as they were. Then the person entered the doorway of transition and emerged on the other side clad only in the simplest of garments. They appeared light and agile, no longer encumbered. The uncovering revealed a lean and purposeful person whose eyes were filled with confidence and clarity. In one hand was a sword with a freshly sharped edge. They appeared ready for any challenge.

The Church is being disrobed.  Following our disrobing, something new will emerge. The new is not really “new.” It is the revealing of what was there all along, only hidden and encumbered by our assumptions. If we can remain focused on Jesus while disrobing, not on the maintenance of our current ministry model or even its survival, we will emerge from this time a lean, refocused and simplified Church. 

We cannot waddle awkwardly into the future, wearing the assumptions of the past and expect different results in the future. The Church I saw was like David when he faced Goliath. We are being made agile and free, so we can move forward unencumbered by the past, able to address the giants of deception that are waiting for us in the future.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Imagine If You Will

Cops, soldiers, and situationally aware people imagine. They imagine scenarios and practice mental defensive solutions. It keeps them alive when trouble comes. They train to be proactive, not reactive.

This imagining mindset also applies to our faith. Imagine that two years from now, churches are still not allowed to reopen and operate at full capacity. Imagine masks are still being required. Imagine the person you gave almost messiah-like status – no matter your party affiliation - is not sitting in the Oval Office. Imagine more innocent blood is being spilled in our cities. What will your faith look like if that time should arrive?

Our faith must be simple and unattached to negative outcomes so we can move through all the seasons of cultural change – the good and bad, the lean, and the prosperous. – with hope. Hope is the power and sustainability of true faith.  This hope is what kept the first disciples alive spiritually, many who became martyrs. That kind of hope was only possible because it was not sourced in outcomes. It was sourced in a Person. 

When we follow fear or rebellious invitations, we move away from the simplicity of true faith because our hope was displaced.  Hope sourced in Jesus Christ alone empowers our faith no matter what is taking place in the world around us. In all that is happening today, imagine Jesus.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Crushing Our Opinion

As I prepared our lunch of wild salmon, I used a mortar and pestle to crush together the ingredients of garlic, cilantro, and green onion to create a rub that would be applied to the salmon filet.  I began to imagine the flavor they would bring in harmony when all the ingredients came together.  Atop the paste, I laid a layer of chopped pecan halves to create a beautiful crust.

The mortar and pestle reminded me of something. Maybe we need to rethink the social conflict taking place in America. We all want our distinct ingredient in the cultural conversation to remain independent and not lose its singularity. That might be what is contributing to our current problem. None of us is meant to be a standalone ingredient. God is crushing our individual opinions along with the insight provided by others to create a flavorful and fragrant topping meant to adorn the broader culture-wide conversation. If we are not willing to have our opinion crushed under the loving hand of God, we will not taste the good thing He is preparing.

As a postscript - the salmon was excellent. So were the Parmasssean cheese cauliflower florets and green salad.

Made Ready To Hear Something New

My 16-year old pickup truck has a CD player. It was part of the truck’s original equipment installed at the factory. A couple of years ago the CD went on the fritz. It makes funny noises when it’s turned on and then it keeps repeating the same song without moving on to the next track on the CD. On some occasions it stutters, repeating a single syllable sounding like a rap song on steroids.

My CD player reminds me of the condition some of us might find ourselves. We can play the same song or the fragment of a song without knowing how to move on to something new. There are new songs the Lord wants us to hear but until a new system is installed, we are only able to play a single track of a much larger message.

I have written a number of books and each day I typically post an article on social media, but I know there is more. The more will not come from my existing understanding of the world and God’s Kingdom. It will come from downloads of fresh revelation. Sadly, many of us can resemble the broken CD player in my pickup. When we hit the play button, we play our opinion and reveal our limited understanding. We are not alone. This is the deafening noise being produced in our culture on any given day.

God wants to produce new content for our message. No one is an expert in God’s Kingdom. Experts are dangerous because they sell their terminal understanding as a complete revelation on a subject.  Just this morning, the Lord showed me something that hit my passion button. I began to write about an issue of which I am somewhat informed. In the middle of writing, I realized the subject needed more research and revelation than the hour or two I might give to something like this article you are currently reading. I put that writing project aside to allow the Lord to show me the next steps and fill in the blanks of my understanding. 

In the process of learning and listening to the Lord, our spiritual and intellectual CD player will be replaced. This will allow us to hear and play tracks of revelation and insight into subjects we could not hear before the process of installation began. 

As it has been for me this morning, so it will be for you if you are willing to let God do an install. He has new soundtracks to play through your life, but first, He must replace your old spiritual CD. Once the installation work has been done, you will be amazed at the sound that will come through the speakers of your life. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Power and Beauty of Belonging

On July 4th, Jan and I had the honor of officiating our daughter’s wedding. Toward the end of the ceremony, I had Anna and Jared exchange rings. I explained to them wearing my wedding ring for the last 47 years was a daily reminder that I belonged to someone – to Jan. I remember the day Jan and I drove to the Eastridge Mall in San Jose, California, to buy our rings. I still carry the joy of that day. After all these years, the pattern on our rings has long worn off, but their meaning has grown more significant and meaningful with each passing day.

A sense of belonging is critical for a person to be healthy, both emotionally and spiritually. Belonging is not created by wearing jewelry or owning shared property. It is a look in a person’s eyes when you embrace them that speaks of shared love and commitment. It is a feeling you carry when apart wanting to be in their presence once again. It is a sacred trust and something you protect at all costs.

Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for someone is to let them know they belong. For a friend, it is offering a reminder of the value of your friendship. For a stranger, it is affirming them as a fellow human being who is worthy of our love and respect. 

When people no longer feel like they belong, a separation occurs, and in that place of separation, mean-spirited and harsh things take up residence. The only thing that can disempower those things is a kind word or a gesture of affirmation that tells them they belong.  We all belong to each other and to God. No one should ever feel like they are alone. Knowing we belong is the first step in healing the painful wounds of separation. It is our responsibility to initiate that first step with each person we meet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Don't Take the Bait

Relationships are being tested.  A casual comment or post on social media that creates disagreement can challenge the honor of a relationship. Jesus knew each of us would see life differently, and He still said oneness was possible even in the presence of our varied opinions. We know we have taken the bait when we allow the hook of division to sink deep into our hearts and pull us away from those we previously loved and respected. The evidence the digested bait has been taken is revealed when we begin to see, think, and speak negatively of someone.  Don’t take the bait. It has a dark outcome prepared for your arrival.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Alarm Bells Are Still Sounding

On May 3, I wrote an article titled, “The Alarm Bells Are Sounding” and posted it on my social media sites. Like most prophetic insight, what we see is not always complete, nor has the context yet arrived for the prophetic word to be understood.

Yesterday, Jentezen Franklin posted the following on his Twitter feed, “California’s Governor just banned singing/chanting at church. Catholics can't recite mass; Evangelicals can't worship out loud. The very definition of discrimination is to allow thousands to march and scream without masks while telling churches 100 or less that you cannot sing.” Jentezen Franklin is not the only leader hearing the alarm bells. When alarm bells are being heard it takes courage to speak up and call out what is causing the alarm.

I live in the Northwest, where some of our theology has become intermingled with a form of progressive thinking that plays into the very scenario Jentezen Franklin mentioned. But there is something positive taking place. We are beginning to hear the alarm bells, and wonder how we can now respond when it is obvious that something is amiss. Silence is no longer a viable or righteous option. 

Our response to this kind of issue must be above and beyond the exercise of personal rights. If we get caught in that trap, we will fight with the wrong weapons and people will become our enemy.  This is a battle against unseen spiritual forces being played out in our communities and in the halls of our cultural institutions. Loving our neighbor is seeking their highest good. There are times when seeking the highest good requires that we walk against the flow of popular opinion in the culture.