Monday, September 16, 2019

The Fruitfulness of Your Future

Atop our kitchen counter, I saw fruit marking the end of one season and the beginning of something new. The peaches in the photo were the last in the final harvest from our favorite orchardist. We grew the grapes in our backyard. The peaches were harvested at the end of summer. The grapes mark the beginning of the fall grape harvest when new wine is produced. Each fruit matured in a different season.

When I passed by our kitchen counter and saw the fruit, the Lord spoke to me about the time of transition between seasons. The Lord said, “Eat the fruit in its season.”  It was a short message with a longer interpretation. 

Every season and each assignment from God will bear a unique fruitfulness within an appointed season. We don’t have to be like the Israelites in the wilderness who, out of a fear of lack, gathered too much manna and it spoiled. Their fear revealed their lack of trust in God regarding their future provision. God's fruit appears and matures under His timetable. There is no need to ever hold on to the fruit of a previous season. God will always bear new fruit on faithful branches.

Eat the goodness of this season. It has an expiration date, not because it will spoil like the manna. It expires because more fruitfulness is planned for the new season you are about to enter. God delights in revealing the sweet fruit He has planned for your future. Do not allow a fear of lack to influence what you hold or release. This is a time to believe that the branches of your future will hang heavy under the weight of the fruit God plans to reveal. Eat the fruit of this season with joy and live in expectancy of what is to come. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mystery and Wonder

In your transition, leave room for mystery and wonder. This is a spiritual endeavor, not a business plan. 
Religion is mankind’s attempt to codify God and have him all figured out. Man-made religion is devoid of the mystery and wonder that exists when we relate to the eternal God. He is so large that we will need all of eternity to explore his depths. 
Whenever we lack a sense of mystery and wonder, we find ourselves attempting to control every aspect of the process and its outcome. Human control drains wonder and mystery from the process. 
God wants to amaze you. God wants you to worship in wonder and awe when other people think you should live in fear. Your journey is a spiritual journey. See it from that perspective, and you will live in a sense of awe at what God will do in and through your life. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Look

Have you ever noticed the image of celebrities when they are arrested for drugs or drunk driving, and their booking photograph is posted online for the world to see? They don’t look the same. In the pre-arrest publicity photos, they are well-coiffed and dressed in the latest styles. Their booking photo captures them raw, rude and undone. Any of us can look rough if caught and undone by our sin. Unredeemed guilt and shame can radically alter our appearance.

The photo I included in this writing is of me at age 26. I was an undercover narcotics cop getting ready to go through the hiring process at a large corporation in Silicon Valley in an attempt to arrest two drug dealers. I had an untraceable driver's license using my undercover identity issued by the State of California.

Just before I got the assignment, my supervisor asked me to cut off my beard and trim my hair. The booking photo of me “cleaned up” was actually a real-life booking photo with a dummied up arrest record so when the bad guys checked me out in the corporate office, my story would hold. I had to clean up to get past the personnel department regulations on personal appearance. Before the photo, I looked like a drugged up biker. Only a single corporate vice president in the corporation knew of my assignment. At the time, I was a very backslidden believer. It was a dark time in my life. You can see it in in the blank and lifeless stare in my eyes.

The blank stare is what I had in common with others caught in a moment of deep brokenness. There was no difference between my eyes and the eyes of a failed celebrity, a local meth addict, or someone caught in gross sin. The eyes tell the story. Ever since that fake booking photo was taken and seeing what my eyes looked like whenever I see a real booking photo of someone caught in a broken moment, the compassion of God rises up in my heart.

It doesn’t have to be a booking photo. It can be someone walking by me on the street and seeing that blank look in their eyes. I see those same eyes sitting alone in the audience of churches and conferences where I speak. The eyes tell a story of hopelessness. Of no way out. The ones who carry that stare feel like they have messed things up so badly they are trapped in their failure with no way out. The eyes reveal the sorrow of their soul. 

The only thing that can change that blank stare is hope – a hope that comes when a lost soul hears the words, “You are forgiven.” When those words are spoken dead hearts start to beat, and blank eyes begin to refocus on the possibility of a new reality. Hope is our mission.

“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven” (John 20: 21-23).

Friday, September 13, 2019

Passing Moments

Significant moments float upon
life’s constant breeze wafting
by our faces in silent disguise. 
They are suspended in their passing
 waiting to be recognized, 
to be captured, to be held,
 taken in by discerning hearts.
Turn your face 
into the Spirit’s wind, waiting
for the next moment
to pass by.
In its passing is carried 
destiny, delight, and discovery 
of things unimagined 
until captured by faith, 
and taken to heart.

Micro Sabbath Moments

Last week, I pulled into the parking lot of a local supermarket to do some grocery shopping. When I entered the parking lot, the song “What A Wonderful World” came on the radio. It was a very tasteful jazz rendition of Louis Armstrong’s classic song. I had a to-do list tugging on my time yet felt compelled to sit in my car in the parking to slow down and listen to the song. As I sat there, a deepening peace came over me with each note being played, and with each word the artist sang. In fact, at points in the song, I felt emotions rise into my consciousness traveling past the demands of my to-do list and my daily schedule. I was being emotionally washed in the pause. After the song ended, I let out a long sigh, got out of my car, and entered the store.

As I pushed my shopping cart through the store aisles, I processed the song, the pause, and my reaction with the Lord. He began to share with me another component of a Sabbath lifestyle. Jan and I have come to believe the Sabbath concept is a 24/7 way of thinking and living that is missing in so many lives. Sabbath is not something we calendar. It is something we carry. It is living and ministering out of rest. 

Walking through the supermarket, I realized how important it is for each of us to experience Sabbath moments throughout the day. I call them Micro Sabbaths. These are the moments when we sense the Spirit asking us to stay in our car and linger with Him just a little longer listening to a beautiful song. It’s stopping along a sidewalk and looking up from the cement at a beautiful sunset being painted across the canvas of an evening sky. It is lingering in an embrace with someone you love without hurrying the release.

Today, as you go about your life, become aware of what God is revealing in each moment of the day.  We can miss these moments when we think spirituality is always about moving and doing, not resting and being. The moment you encounter may be a sound, an image, or a feeling you pushed aside as you continued to move forward toward a goal. Follow these impressions. They will lead you to a place where the pause has an assignment to release a refreshing peace in your soul. That moment will become a place of visitation and revelation that would have been missed had you not taken advantage of a Micro Sabbath.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Louisiana - The Fire of God is Coming

Jan and I take communion every day. We pray for our family, friends, and our marriage. During communion, we remember God’s faithfulness in all things. We use a small thimble-sized brass goblet from Israel to serve the wine and matzo crackers for our bread. When we receive communion, we break the matzo crackers and serve each other.

After breaking the cracker today, it came out resembling the shape of Louisiana. I know to some that might be a reach, but the Lord drew my attention to the shape of the cracker to tell me something. As I held the Louisiana-shaped cracker, I noticed the top was burned as were several spots moving from top to bottom. The Lord began to speak to me about the fire of His presence being released in the state of Louisiana moving from the north to the south. 

I pulled up a map of Louisiana and the surrounding states. Looking at the map, I saw this fire of God coming to the northern border of Louisiana as a converging point from fires already burning in adjoining states and cities. These fires were all burning toward the northern border of Louisiana to then turn and begin a journey south.

I saw the fire of God coming from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to the west, from Memphis and a small town in Arkansas that is experiencing the beginning of a visitation of God’s presence. Mississippi to the east will add flames to the fire. Once the fire arrives, it will cross the border and move south inflaming Shreveport, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, and finally New Orleans. The surrounding cities of these metropolitan areas will also ignite for the glory of God. 

Louisiana, keep your spiritual tinder dry. The fire of God's presence is coming. Your dry tinder will allow something new to ignite and burn in your state. This will not be like anything in the past.  This is a new fire, so new it might cause some of you to ask God if it really is a work of His Spirit. Expecting something familiar will limit how God will steer this burning. It could actually stall the fire and turn it in another direction. Only expect God, nothing else. God is coming to burn up religious spirits, pride, and fear-based theologies. 

Louisiana, look to the north. The approaching fires of revival and reformation are staging at your northern border. The fire is coming. Prepare your tinder.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Going Tactical

When the first jet struck the Twin Towers 18 years ago today, I stood stunned as I watched the attack unfold. After the second jet hit the second tower, something paid a visit to my life that had been virtually dormant for 24 years. When the attack took place, it had been over two decades since I last donned my SWAT uniform, carried a weapon, and stepped into places of danger. At the moment I realized our nation was under attack, I went tactical once again.

I remember walking into our bedroom and assembling my kit. A kit contains the gear a SWAT cop or a Special Ops person carries into combat. It was as if no time had passed. My training and preparation were silently guiding me as I continued to listen to the unfolding newscast while assembling my gear atop the bed in our master bedroom. Like most Americans, I did not know what was coming next. Whatever was coming, I would be ready. Once my gear was together, I recall the shift that took place that morning in my thinking. I awakened to a new reality most of the world lives in on a daily basis outside the insulated suburban bubble where I was pastoring.

Today, on this sad anniversary of 9/11, I am still tactical both physically and more importantly, spiritually. In our culture, I see a lot of huffing, and puffing bravado tossed around by people who have never stepped into harm’s way. Along with the bravado is the polar opposite. It is a version of spirituality that lives in a dream world of an untested faith fueled by a misunderstanding of what Jesus meant when He said to turn the other cheek. This is the same Jesus who allowed Peter to carry a sword and the same Jesus turned over tables in the temple. Jesus meek and mild never existed. The Jesus of that illusion will get people killed both physically and spiritually.

While advancing age and circumstance may alter our ability to perform at our peak in the natural, our ability to be spiritually tactical never wanes. So I want to ask, have you assembled your spiritual tactical kit? What’s in it? Do you know how to use it? If something dark and disastrous were to spiritually assault your life or the lives of your loved ones, are you ready to do battle in the spiritual realm? Is your faith tactical?

As a culture, we are entering unfamiliar waters where the spiritual conflict will unfold in ways many have not experienced. This is not a place for the huffers and puffers or those who live in a spiritual la-la land. Life can be gritty and dangerous. When the light of truth displaces the darkness of deception and when hope displaces despair hell will come at us to bring its challenge. Being forewarned and forearmed will help us survive and overcome anything hell tries to throw at us - even a surprise attack on a peaceful morning.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”(II Corinthians 10:4).