Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Opening Up Our Spiritual Arteries

Last Sunday, December 28, I had a heart attack. I had been invited to preach at a wonderful church - the Klamath Christian Center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.  This is a gracious church with a reputation for loving God and loving people. The pastor, Scott Hines, has been a friend for many years. So when Scott asked me to preach I was happy to say, “yes.”

As I stepped up onto the platform and began preaching the first of two services, I felt fine.  We were experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit in a very special way. I was impressed with God’s heart for this church and their hearts for Him.  In just a few minutes, I began feeling pressure in my chest.  My jaw began to ache and I had a hard time catching a full breath. I was pausing and exhaling more than normal trying to make it through the message.  I did not know what was happening.  A heart attack was the last thing on my mind. I finally made it to the end of the message and handed the service over to Scott.

After I finished preaching, I walked out of the sanctuary and had an usher find a quiet place for me to rest. Several members of the leadership team met me to offer assistance.  One of the team worked in the local hospital Emergency Room. After he interviewed me about my symptoms I said, “Two plus two equals a heart attack, right?”  He agreed and dialed 911.  Within minutes I found myself in an ambulance in route to the Sky Lakes Medical Center.  Later that afternoon a clogged artery to my heart received a stent and my blood flow was restored.  No damage to my heart took place.  God is good.

I believe I experienced an attack on my life. I now have a personal testimony of God’s beautiful intervention.  I’m glad I wasn’t on some hike in the middle of nowhere with no one available to help.  During this event I was surrounded by the most amazing people of God both in the church and at the medical center.

As I sit here resting up, this may sound like a personal testimony, but there is more to this than just the description of a challenging incident and my medical procedure.  I felt impressed that God wants to use this event as a prophetic image for me and for others to describe what He wants to do in all of us in the coming year.  In 2015, God wants to restore the health of the heart of His Church.  We can limit the flow of God’s life through us by allowing our spiritual arteries to become clogged with the plaque of our own brokenness and fear. God wants to open up these clogged pathways to our heart and remove the blockages that prevent a free flow of His love and life through us.

As I lay on the operating table, my cardiologist, Dr. Kubac, guided a wire deep into my chest and inserted a stent into my clogged artery opening up the blood flow to my heart. I was back in recovery in less than an hour.  The entire process was amazing.

On this New Years Day I celebrate my 65th birthday.  I will enter the New Year with an open artery and a healthy heart.  I am going to reexamine some aspects of my lifestyle to cooperate with long-term health.  Jan has become my knowledgeable and loving nurse as I take a few days off to rest.

As you enter the New Year take a moment to review your life to make sure no spiritual plaque is forming due to an unresolved toxic attitude or choosing to believe a lie about your destiny. If clogging has already occurred, don’t resent the God-surgery intended to keep your heart from being damaged and provide you with the strength needed to engage a new season in your life.

Happy New Year!

Revealing Hidden Women

This morning, I read a short prophetic word written by a respected woman who carries a prophetic mantle. She spoke about a coming reformation among women. When I read her words I felt the Lord impress upon me how this reformation might take place.

Over the years, I have taught that when God begins a new work in a region He will use supernatural manifestations of the Spirit to open up unbelieving hearts to the message of the Gospel.  This was the model employed in the Book of Acts and it is the same model used today where revival and cultural transformation is taking place. On the Day of Pentecost Peter said that God endorsed the ministry of Jesus through signs, wonders and miracles.  When Jesus sent word back to John the Baptist saying He was the Christ He calmed John’s heart by sharing evidence of the miraculous as proof that He was the Coming One John had prophesied. 

Our cities and some of our churches resemble a hearing impaired person.  We teach year after year without a demonstration of what we preach. History and the biblical record reveal to us that we cannot teach a city into transformation.  At some point our teaching must translate into the demonstration of what we teach. Some have settled for a ministry of good works without a demonstration of power. God has placed the church in culture not to replicate another form of community service, but along with needed good works to demonstrate the power of God. This demonstration is not complete without the full participation of women.

I believe we are in a moment in history when God is asking women to humbly and intentionally step over the barriers that have been placed in their path and walk forward into a supernatural demonstration of God’s power. This is not a time for women to wait for permission from stalled religious institutions. You are to no longer allow yourself to be chained to male-dominated leadership structures or to other women who live under this bondage.  You will need to see some areas of the Church as an unreached people group – not unreached regarding salvation, but unreached about the potential of a Spirit-empowered woman. This insight will give you great compassion for those with whom you minister that still remained locked into a diminished view of women.

As the Lord continued speaking to me, I felt Him say that He is raising a band of women who will walk in signs, wonders and miracles.  As this begins, guard your heart.  You have nothing to prove.  Avoid the voices that want you to be enslaved by the mentality of having to prove yourself. God has already released you and He is poised and waiting to empower your first step of faith and obedience. As you begin to step out and cooperate with the heart of God entire churches, church movements and cities will no longer be able to deny what you carry. The miracles performed by God through you will be too obvious to dismiss and as a result, your anointing will no longer be able to be dismissed.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When God Makes A Way

When God parts the waters before you to help you make a passage that seems impossible without His supernatural intervention, you will walk across on dry ground. He did this at the Red Sea crossing with Moses and He did it with Joshua leading the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promise Land. He will also do this for you as you navigate across new and unfamiliar boundaries that stand between you and the promise God has made for your life.

These miracles, signs and wonders of God will violate the natural laws of science and confound human logic. Once you cross over to the other side you will notice that your feet will not be smeared with the confusing mud of human logic or the limitations of a scientific explanation. Your testimony will be simple and powerful,  "God made a way for me when no way seemed possible".

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Heavens Above Us

The heavens above us were opened once and for all when Jesus rose from the dead. Because of His resurrection, each believer now lives under an open heaven. The heavens do not open or close based on our disobedience. Heaven is not in submission to human disobedience. What some describe as a closed heaven is simply a closed heart that came as the result of an unresolved experience of personal wounding or a disappointment in life.

The beginning of personal freedom is coming to the realization that there is never a moment when the heavens above your life are not open.  You carry an open heaven into painful divorce proceedings.  You carry an open heaven down a dark alley in the middle of the night.  You carry an open heaven into church meetings where those present deny the reality of the Spirit’s power and presence.  You carry an open heaven with you no matter where your life takes you.  The possibility of a supernatural solution always hovers above your life in an open heaven waiting to be released by your faith.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last One Standing

There is a belief that says the last person standing wins the prize. In personal conflicts empowered by positional dominance people must be cut down through the unrighteous use of power in order to gain and maintain position.  The victor in these conflicts will eventually arrive at a lonely place reserved for those who have pursued this false form of abusive victory. When Jesus spoke during the Sermon on the Mount, He revealed a greater victory. This victory only exists on the other side of our letting go of the need to rule other people.

Jesus offered us a completely different way to live. He said if someone wants your coat give him your shirt also. If someone in authority demands that you carry a coat for a single mile carry it for two. He revealed other ways to live like praying for your enemy and loving those who hate you and treating other people like you want to be treated. None of the things Jesus spoke about will get you to the top of the cultural heap or help you become the last one standing when engaged in relational combat. But if you choose His way the outcome of the battle will dramatically change.

Once you choose to give up your demand to have the last word and the need to occupy the top of the heap you will be taken to a safe and secure place within the heart of God while the battle rages.  In this safe place the Lord will minister to your soul healing you from the need to win each human conflict.

When the natural battle is over, the Lord will call you out onto the battlefield now littered with human brokenness. At this point, you may be the last person standing in a marriage, a business or a community of faith. The Lord will ask you to reach down and extend mercy to the very people who, by their own definition, do not feel like they deserve your mercy because of how they treated you.  

In God’s Kingdom only the humble in heart carry the strength required to help others rise up after personal failure.  Extending a hand of mercy to a former combatant is one of the highest callings a believer can experience. Jesus came and extended the hand of God to us while we were still sinners and enemies of the Cross. His example is ours - not our will, but His will be done.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The $14.26 Christmas

As you gather to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, I want to tell you a story.  As a young couple with two little children our family ventured from Oregon to Kalispell, Montana to plant the first Foursquare Church in that mountain town.  We went as pioneers.  No one was there to greet us.  Apart from the prayers that sent us out – we were alone with God. That first Christmas was very different as we gathered around our wood stove surrounded by the snowy landscape of the Rocky Mountains.

It was financially tight that first year.  Our new church had less than 10 people in attendance. I remember in that season being able to only purchase one roll of toilet paper at a time.  We made every dollar stretch.  As Christmas approached it was obvious we did not have enough money to buy our kids a load of presents.  Jan said, “Let’s go through the house and see what we have”.  We emptied out our change jar, looked underneath the couch cushions, scoured the car and came up with $14.26.  That was it – all of it in coin. We had a total of $14.26 to buy presents for our two little children who trusted mom and dad to make their Christmas special.

Jan went out to a dollar store and stretched the $14.26 to the max coming home with a bag full of little toys.  She wrapped the toys and placed them under the tree.  In the next few days, gifts from grandparents and aunts and uncles began to arrive in the mail. As the gifts from family came and were added to our $14.26 worth of gifts under the tree, we saw a developing miracle.  There were more presents under the tree than in any previous Christmas.  In fact, it looked abundant. Jan and I stood in front of our Christmas tree and wept at God’s goodness.

That Christmas taught me a valuable lesson. God can take our little and make it a lot.  God loves to bring abundance out of lack. It reminded me of the disciples bringing Jesus a boy’s lunch and He turned it into a feast to feed thousands. One truth that has helped Jan and me through similar challenging seasons is this - anything we bring to God has the potential for supernatural multiplication.

This is a unique season of the year.  No matter what your circumstance or emotions tell you, choose to believe that you and your family are candidates for something wonderful. This is the Immanuel season – God with us.  This is a time when impossible things become possible.  This is the time of year when a $14.26 Christmas was by far our most memorable one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Accelerated Maturity

We have moved into a new season of human history where the wise will make critical adjustments in the way they chose to think and live. To prepare for life in this new reality, God wants to rapidly mature some who have become slack in their faith.  This slackness came because hope was lost through betrayal, sorrow or abuse. As a result, you gave up. This will be a season of supernatural catch up where the grace of God will be extended to you in unusual measure. Grace is offering you a second chance and with that second chance will come an accelerated maturity.

Your spiritual maturity is not based on chronological time in some religious group.  Your history does not mature you. Living a certain number of years does not make a person mature.  Gray hair is not a guarantee. Spiritual maturity is measured by the length of time between the realization of your sin and your willingness to repent.  The length of this cycle is what measures maturity. The shorter the duration of this cycle – void of delaying excuses and justifications - is what defines a mature person.

God is poised and ready to accelerate your life, but He first needs from you a willing and pliable heart in order to begin the process.  Once you give God permission to begin this new work, the resulting acceleration of your maturity will begin to touch every area of your life. As you choose to live this kind of yielded life you will find yourself arriving in places of spiritual maturity you had previously thought impossible.  Once this level of maturity takes place you will give God the glory for something only His grace could have made possible.