Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rightly Dividing the News

We have all heard the term “keeping abreast of the latest news.” It’s a fairly common phrase. I have always thought it meant to keep informed on the latest happenings in the world. It has a deeper meaning. 

The word “abreast” is defined to mean “beside one another in a line” or two ships docked “side by side.” The etymology of the word comes from Middle English and is made up of two words a - (“on” or “at”) and breast ("chests in line, side-by-side"). It is a word that infers proximity.

Paul wrote about our spiritual armor and referred to the chest area of our body when he wrote, “Put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). The breastplate Paul spoke about is constructed of the righteousness of Jesus Christ designed to cover a vital part of our spiritual anatomy. In the original language, the word “righteousness" is defined as "integrity, virtue, correctness in thinking, feeling or acting.” This breastplate covers the area of our heart where our emotions, thoughts, and choices come from. The book of Proverbs warns us about the condition of our heart, “Above all things, guard your heart” (4:23). Jesus said of our hearts, “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you” (Matthew 15:18). 

When we receive something from a news source and attempt to interpret the validity of its content, the condition of our hearts will determine what we allow to stand side-by-side with us in our opinion or predisposition. We can too easily dock our opinion alongside what is familiar and accepted by friends and co-workers and never entertain the value of an opposing opinion. At this point, we have allowed human opinion, not the righteousness of Christ to be our heart covering and the ultimate interpreter of truth.

To keep abreast of the latest news and the affairs of life requires that first and foremost we discern the condition of our heart before we try to discern the content of the news. Is the condition of my heart aligned with integrity and virtue? Is the response I am about to release regarding a hot-button social issue in line with the righteousness of Jesus? If not, my heart will be exposed to influences that lack integrity, truth and a right response. My interpretation of reality will be at odds with God’s truth. 

In the end, the uncovered state of our heart will leave us vulnerable to an attack of disinformation and we will not be aligned with what is truly righteous. Above all things...



Monday, June 17, 2019

Warm Summer Nights

Tonight, I’m thinking of the warm summer nights of my boyhood riding in my dad’s 59 Chevy pickup. Mom and dad were up front. My brother and I rode in the back seated in the truck bed. It was a Friday night ritual heading into town to get broasted chicken and milkshakes. 

Dwain and I tossed pebbles at passing mailboxes, told tall boy-tales and dreamed of cute girls. The warm summer air bathed our faces as the truck moved through the night. The clear sky above was filled with bright stars. The hot night air passing across our young faces set the thermostat for our dreaming young minds. It was white t-shirt weather, a 501 Levi’s and black hi-top Chuck Taylor period of life – a time of innocent simplicity. 

The memories of those warm summer nights were given to me as a gift to store away and be recalled toward the end of my life as a reminder of what's important. Those memories remain as tender today as they were many years ago when first experienced riding in the back of dad's pickup on a warm California summer night.

The Whisper of a God-Warning

Jan and I live in a small cottage built during World War II. It was part of an officer's housing unit in a military training facility located in southern Oregon during the war. After the war, our home was purchased at auction and moved to its current location in 1948. Like all older homes, it makes unique sounds. I can tell by the sound of a footstep where someone is walking in our home. We have four wooden gates on our property and each one squeaks and creaks its own sound when opened.

A few nights ago, I was awakened from a dead sleep when a gate just outside our bedroom window made a squeak that would be imperceptible to most people, but I am familiar with its unique sound. When the gate squeaked, I rose from our bed, to listen and to prepare. It would not be a wise move for personal health reasons for anyone to attempt to enter our home without permission at any time, day or night. No other sounds followed. I remained awake for a few more minutes and then went back to sleep.

Sounds of warning in the Spirit can be as quiet as the sound made by our gate. They are not a loud blast from a horn or a strident bell ringing. Sounds of warning made by the Spirit can be like a gentle whisper only heard by those whose ears have been trained and attuned to the voice of God.

There is a great deal of noise being made in our culture. We need discerning ears to navigate through the sound melee to find the substance of truth. God gives us the ability to hear in reverse of how an unredeemed mind hears. An unredeemed mind only hears the noise and assigns a threat level to the loudest noise being made. A redeemed mind hears just the opposite. Redeemed ears hear the gentle whispers of the Spirit embedded in the clamor and take appropriate action.

You have been given the ability to live at rest in the Spirit as I did in natural sleep the night I heard the gate open. The rest of God is a rest that never puts us at risk. It simply leaves most of life’s struggles in the hands of God until He calls us to take appropriate action. God will be faithful to rouse us from a place of rest like it was when I awoke from sleep the night the gate squeaked. In those awakenings, we will hear the kind of warnings a noise-infested culture cannot hear. In these Spirit-empowered warnings are the announcements of the real danger and the specific instructions needed to respond wisely. 

If you have been listening and responding to the loudest noise and the repeated false alarms being issued 24/7 by a nervous culture you have not been at peace. Ask God to show you how to rest. In that place of rest trust God to make the gentle sounds of warning that He will be faithful to bring if and when a real danger approaches. Those warnings can be missed if we have our ears tuned only to the never-ending noise of fear and restlessness being produced in culture and sadly, within the Church

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Night Voices

Nighttime can be the worst time. This is when hell often speaks the loudest and tries to turn your rest into restlessness. 
Fatigue in life and ministry does not come from a packed schedule. We can be busy but live in rest. In times of transition, our fatigue comes when our minds are filled with unresolved conflict and fear about the future. We lay in bed and cannot turn off the voices of fear that occupy our mind. 
Fatigue takes fear to a dark place. That dark place is where our hope is robbed, and our joy is extinguished. To combat this kind of fatigue, we must resolve to not worry about the future. This is easy to say but challenging to do. We make this resolution in the assurance that God is in our future waiting for us with his love and goodness. His presence in our future is what brings peace to this present moment. 
Take your thoughts prisoner. March them to the feet of Jesus and leave them there. This is your place of rest. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Trust - God's Spiritual Muscle Car

Today, I took a few minutes between errands to visit a car show that takes place each year in Medford, Oregon. Row after row of classic cars was
lined up on a grass field in one of our city parks. In the middle of all the cars was an Olds 442 muscle car. I stopped in my tracks and stared at the car. Memories began to flood into my mind from a time in my life many years ago. A 442 was the last undercover car assigned to me when I worked in an organized crime and narcotics unit. As I stood in the summer heat I recalled high-risk takedowns, drug busts and crooked politicians who liked their dope and those who trafficked its pain and sorrow. All of those memories were in an around an Olds 442.

One memory with the 442 was of a night when my partner and I followed a lead about a potential drug buy and discovered a dirty cop. The next day after filing our report pushback came from our higher-ups informing us to leave the case alone. The pushback was in the form of a subtle threat. 

Seeing the writing on the wall, my partner and I found employment elsewhere. I ended up going to Springfield, Oregon to take a job with the police department. I had one desire. I wanted to get back in uniform and leave behind my days as an undercover cop with the long hair, a beard, and a false identity. It was in that move that I eventually walked into the doors of Faith Center in Eugene, Oregon to encounter a supernatural God and the rest is history.

You are in a vehicle of sorts at this time in your life. It may not be a muscle car, but it could be a relationship, a job or a season of life. All of these vehicles are used by God to transport us somewhere. Little did I know one dark night in an alley when I almost had to shoot a dirty cop that the vehicle I was riding in that night would be the last vehicle I would use in that capacity. One season in my law enforcement career was being driven to an end where a door of opportunity would open to reveal a new season of my life. 

Whatever life-vehicle you are riding in today trust God to use that vehicle to bring you to a place where the unfolding of the next season of your life awaits. The ultimate spiritual muscle car is a model called Trust. No threat of hell or fear of man can beat it off the line.

Unfollowed

There are times on social media and in our personal relationships when people will unfollow us because they were afraid of where our faith would take them if they continued in the relationship. People can struggle with another person’s faith because it exposes their lack. It’s important to know this is not personal. 

When this happens, pray for them and bless them in their departure. Someday they might return and if you have kept your heart right you will be able to welcome them back because you did not label their departure as a betrayal. Their departure was a need for personal space to figure things out.  If you can give them that gift of space God will be able to do amazing works of restoration in relationships that seemed to be over before they had a chance to truly begin.

Friday, June 14, 2019

God's Pause Button

God is about to push the pause button on the circumstance of your life. The pause will cause all the confusion and surrounding spiritual noise to settle down and fall in place under submission to God's will. 

Right now it doesn’t feel like a pause button could possibly be pushed because the unsettling things in your life are making so much noise and drawing more attention than ever before. This upheaval needs to be reinterpreted. These sounds are the last dying gasps of the diversion tactics of hell just before they submit to God's pause and come into order. 

After the pause has served its purpose, the Lord will hit the spiritual play button and you will be amazed at what the Lord did for you in the pause. A tremendous peace will enter your mind and that peace will begin to direct your steps into a reordered future. 

You serve the God of the possible in all things. He wants you to know and experience that possibility especially when the desires of your heart look and sound like an utter impossibility.