Friday, August 29, 2014

Sheltered Definitions

Many people have no idea what it means to live in a state of terror on a daily basis. Those in the war torn nations of the Middle East understand terror. A rape victim understands terror. Soldiers and police officers and those who put themselves in harms way understand terror. To the rest of the populace these experiences have not been part of their thinking process when they created interpretations of scripture detailing how a follower of Christ should live.

Many of our concepts of faith were formed from within a way of life that bears little resemblance to what so many people in the world endure each and every day. We use Bible verses to underscore our version of reality, but forget the circumstances that existed when the verses were actually written. The subtle temptation is to believe that our narrow understanding of life, crafted in the peaceful environment of a local coffee shop on Main Street America, carries with it enough reality to actually be a livable concept in the rest of the world.

The biblical understanding of life and faith was not drawn up in a world that lacked terror. People were brutally killed with regularity and hung on crosses that lined the roadways of the Holy Land. Psychotic despots could end your life on a whim and present your head on a platter as a grotesque party favor. What makes the truth of Jesus so powerful is that He spoke from within a culture where people were routinely terrorized.

This is the same Jesus while being arrested told Peter to put his sword back in its sheath, but said nothing about getting rid of it. This is the same Jesus who violently turned over the tables of the moneychangers. This is the same Jesus who said turn the other cheek. When Jesus spoke about cheek turning He also said if your hand offends you, cut it off and if you look at something you shouldn’t, pluck out your offending eye.

Jesus was using dramatic imagery to ask His followers to get intentional and serious about the issues of their personal life. He wasn’t asking people to cut off their hands, pluck out their eyes or always turn the other cheek. I have noticed in our highly insulated and selective Western church culture there are a lot of people who still have two eyes and two hands while making demands that other people turn their cheeks to terror and brutality.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Living Aware

An understanding exists among those who teach self-defense that there are three kinds of people – sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. Sheep are the vast majority of people in our culture, both in the Church and without, who are absolutely unaware of the dangers that surround them.  Wolves prey on this naivety and lack of awareness. And finally, there are the sheep dogs that put themselves between the sheep and the hungry wolves to protect the sheep.

As the Church, we are called to put ourselves between people and the threats of darkness that seek to devour them. This requires that we actually recognize the threat and develop a plan of offense against the aggressor.  We confront wolves with weapons powerful enough to bring down the most elaborate plans of darkness.  This is an aggressive form of spiritual warfare much like David confronting Goliath. A wise pastor once told me, “You don’t convert wolves - you shoot them!”  To most sheep this will sound harsh, but it is really an act of love.  What this pastor meant was a wolfing spirit will only back down if it is confronted with truth.

Many times this confrontation can take place with a stealthy prayer offered in the middle of the night or an act of kindness to an unloving recipient or granting forgiveness when we would rather hold a grudge.  Because sheep have very little situational awareness they may not even know you are there standing between them and the hungry wolf that sees them only as prey. Your participation with the Spirit of God will dismantle the attack strategy of darkness and give a sheep time to become a sheep dog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When You Run Out Of Road

In each journey there will be a time when you run out of road.  You will come to a place where no detour is provided, no crossroad exists from which to choose a new direction and no visible roadway is available to find your way forward.  You are in one of those places.  You have run out of road, but not out of vision.

Your only option is to trust God to partner with you to build a new way forward.  There are times to wait, but this is not one of those times. Why wait for your history to push you forward into the repeated failures of the past when the faith you carry is sufficient to lay down a new roadway? God is graduating you into a new season of trust and faith.

The greatest road-building material you possess is your knowledge of God’s heart.  He is leading you and He has promised to never leave you without a way forward.  This event will become your personal Red Sea crossing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Roof Over Your Head

There is a roof over your head.  This is not like the roof of your physical home, but one constructed by your attempts to cover and protect yourself from the sorrows of life.

You have forgotten that you walk under open heavens.  The realms above you were penetrated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  His resurrection opened forever all that is above you. This open heaven is far more secure than any covering you construct for self-protection.

God wants you to live and move freely.  You have not been called to live under a roof constructed with the building materials of fear.  A human-constructed roof is small and can never really protect you. God wants you to step out from under your roof and start running with the freedom that comes from knowing you live under an open heaven.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Last One Clapping

Your recent interaction with God has caused you to start applauding His goodness.  When God’s goodness was poured out on your life in a visible way others joined you in your celebration. Like a polite applause following a natural performance, people gradually stopped clapping and returned to life as usual.  But you have continued with your applause of God.  You are now left alone as the last one clapping in the auditorium of your life.

Don’t stop your applause of gratefulness.  You will look a bit strange still clapping after everyone else has stopped. People are watching. Don’t worry about looking strange and out of place. God has a reason why He has put this joy in your heart.  He has positioned you to be a perpetual testimony of His goodness – a reminder that God is always at work behind the scenes of human events. Keep clapping even when no reason to applaud is visibly present.  Your reason to applaud God is because of whom He is, not what you see happening around you.

Your expressed joy has become a Kingdom advertisement that something greater is taking place on earth than just the negative interaction between the kingdoms of man.  Your continued applause of God is rearranging the spiritual environment in which you live.  When you applaud the goodness of God sorrow is displaced by hope. Anger is pushed aside by peace.  Separation is confronted with unity.  This is the power of your celebration.  Your single applause will gently confront a silent audience to believe again that God is at work, not only in the single performance of your life, but also as a possibility for them. Your applause of God’s goodness has the supernatural potential to change everything.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

1,000 Alarms

(*Note to reader: This word came to me this morning at 3:30 a.m. as a 6.1 earthquake took place just south of us in Northern California. These words of encouragement and their timing are not by accident.)

As you walk through culture it feels like you have entered a room with 1,000 alarm clocks all set to the worst fears people can imagine. There is a tension in the air as people choose to live in the anticipation of disaster. Some of these alarms have been set to go off at the mention of wars, rumors of wars and natural disaster. Other alarms are set to go off when a relationship breaks down or some form of pestilence begins to sweep the land.

Pick up your alarm clock and turn it off. Don’t be like those who have chosen to sleep through the night relying on being awakened by the alarm of their individual fear. You have been called to stay awake through the night to pray, believe and trust.

You carry the presence of the risen Christ. Under His feet are all the things that cause people to live in fear. As a believer, you now reside in Jesus Christ at the right hand of God the Father sharing in His victory over death and His position of preeminence over all the things that steal peace and instill fear. Turning off your personal alarm is an act of love that will cast out the wanting to take control of your life. In doing so you will find that deeper place of rest that only comes from being fully awake spiritually living in the presence of God.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Crux Of The Matter

In the life of every person there is a lifelong search for the bottom line or what we would call, “the crux of the matter”. This familiar phrase, “the crux of the matter”, is a word that comes from the Latin language meaning “a cross”.  The cross being a place of torture, pain and sacrifice.

When Jesus died on the cross He reset the default for all human history. He reset the bottom line for everything.  Because of His death, the resurrection and His eventual enthronement were made possible.  Jesus went to the cross under His own power and will. Once Jesus was in the tomb and helpless everything that followed would be accomplished by God’s power and will.

The crux of the matter for each of our lives is that personal Ground Zero – that memorable moment - where we made the life-altering choice to die to our personal agenda and demands so that God could release resurrection life in us. This is called Lordship. This choice is the crux of the matter for every broken marriage, every broken friendship and every broken circumstance a believer will ever face.

Today, find that place where only a supernatural resurrection will bring life and freedom.  Be that one person in the midst of all the turmoil who is willing to die to a personal agenda or a demanded outcome.  If you make this choice you will see resurrection life begin to flow into dead situations because you invited the crux of the matter to have His way in your life.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Relational Dance Floors

You have been asked to enter a relationship with a new circle of friends.  This has been like an awkward dance.  You are stepping on each other’s toes.  The harder you try to perform this relational dance the more you find you are out of step with each other.

Stop trying to dance in a forced unison.  This is robbing you of creativity.  Break away, not from the relationship, but from how you think this season should be danced.  Stay on the relational dance floor, but do the dance God has created you to uniquely perform.  Your freedom of expression will begin to set others free.

Remember, you are all dancing to the same music, but the expression of the music will be performed differently because each of you is a beautifully unique creation of God.  Invite all the participants to relax, enjoy the music and freely express their life as God would lead. This is how the unity of our faith is supposed to look.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Test Of Truth

I had a conversation with a man who let me know he did not agree with me on a particular point of theology.  He went on to say that he and his group were like the Bereans in the Book of Acts who searched the scriptures to see if people like me taught the truth.  He dismissed me as someone living in error.  I had hoped we could have built a bridge between us for a future relationship, but that did not happen.

That conversation took place a couple of years ago and just this week I was reading through Acts and came across the scripture my critic referenced. “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (Acts 17:11)  I realized the man only quoted part of the verse.  He forgot the part about being open-minded.

As I read verse 11, I found the part of the verse where it reads, “were more open-minded”, was also translated in different ways in various translations, but carried a similar understanding. Words like “more fair-minded” and “more receptive” were used to describe being open-minded.

I realized the man with whom I spoke is like many of us – we bring our bias of life and faith to our reading of God’s word.  It is good to search the scriptures to see if what someone teaches lines up with truth, but in our searching for truth we must come to that search with an open, fair and receptive mind.  If we don’t, we can end up sounding like the Pharisees who thought their view of life was the only true interpretation.

Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders of his day, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39) The next conversation you have with someone with whom you disagree make sure you approach that conversation with an open, fair and receptive mind to their opinion.  The real test of truth is not discovered when we walk in lockstep, but when all our efforts point to the one who is Truth.

The Book Of Your Life

The book of your life contains more than one chapter.  You have been looking at recent events like they are the whole story of your life.  They aren’t. These events are only a single chapter in a developing story.

There is more to be written about your life. Like a physical book, your life will have many chapters describing both joy and sorrow.  The full description of your legacy is never written within the few pages that describe your current success or failure. Your life is more than a single event. The honesty you express about your life is what will make it a true and authentic read.  Turn the page and move on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Curtain Is About To Fall

The curtain that separates the known from the unknown is about to fall.  This will not be like the controlled lowering of a curtain at intermission in a stage production. The separating curtain that has blinded so many will literally come off its track and fall onto the world stage.

God is unveiling something new.  This unveiling will not be in a measured way.  It will not be a gradual reveal.  God is about to make Himself known in a very visible way. Words like “shock” and “awe” and “overwhelming” will be used to define what you are about to see.

To some, this will look like the random crashing of human events.  When these things begin to fall down before you, look up because these events will be heaven’s signal that God is doing something new and supernatural.  What is about to appear upon the stage of the earth will be a profound performance of God’s faithfulness.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Fog Of Confusion

Clarity and understanding are ready to walk toward you. This has been a confusing season in your life.  The emerging clarity and understanding will be like a person walking toward you out of a fog bank.  An image of something within the fog will slowly begin to take shape – like a vague form moving within the shrouding effect of the fog.  As you strain to see what is emerging you will notice the shape of a person walking toward you.  This is how the clarity and understanding of the Spirit will arrive.

Faith in its purest form is looking.  We look at things not yet formed in this realm and continue to believe that something is there. This developing substance of the Spirit can only be seen with the eyes of faith.

Look into the confusing fog and call for Wisdom to come.  He will come bringing the gifts of clarity and understanding this fog of confusion has tried to hide from your eyes.  Your assignment is to wait, trust and continue looking.  God will not allow your current lack of clarity and understanding to blind you any longer from seeing the greater work He has been doing within the fog of confusion.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

There Are No Foregone Conclusions

God wants you live like there are no foregone conclusions to any situation. A foregone conclusion is formed when we begin to believe certain outcomes are inevitable and will continue uninterrupted to a fateful end.

God wants you to live knowing the implications of a fearful medical diagnosis is never a foregone conclusion.  The aftermath of a failed relationship is not a foregone conclusion.  The lack of visible resources is never a foregone conclusion. The lack, limit or absence of anything is no longer a foregone conclusion because God is involved. The reason these situations should no longer be seen as having inevitable conclusions is because your faith will have joined with the goodness of God to create outcomes contrary to the results of natural systems, but in line with the realities of heaven.

Go through each area of your life where you have allowed the faithless definition of a foregone conclusion to reside and repent of your unbelief.  Redefine these situations based on the nature of the God you serve and the hope He has given. His invited presence into these situations will release outcomes contrary to the foregone conclusions of fear.  These situations, where fear once created definitions of doom, will be redefined as places where signs, wonders and miracles are destined to take place.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Never-Ending Wars

In the mind of some people relational warfare never ends.  A truce can be offered and people can quit battling, but some people will try to pick a fight anyway.  These people do not know how to live without conflict and they expect a fight in every relationship.

Resist the urge to return fire or you will make yourself a target.  A defensive response to this unwarranted attack will only empower your opponent. The person firing this verbal assault is looking for a response from you.  By not responding you will unload their weapon.  Your silence will also cause the target on your back to no longer be visible to this unhappy person and eventually they will move on looking for the next willing combatant.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spiritual Traction

Traction is different than momentum.  Traction gets your wheels moving and helps you sustain forward motion.  Momentum is something gained during traction, but is only maintained if traction continues to be supplied to the wheels.

It is too easy to live off of the momentum produced in a previous season. There is an accompanying illusion that your current momentum will be sustained indefinitely.  Spiritual traction is produced when you live in a moment-by-moment dependence on God. This kind of traction is required if you are going to move forward into the place of greater revelation God has destined for your life.

Your current momentum will eventually play out and leave you stalled on the roadside if you try to move forward without inquiring of God. Reengage the gears of your spiritual life and a fresh word of traction will come.  Obey this word and you will hear the screech of your spiritual tires as they once again take hold producing traction and a renewed forward momentum for a next leg of your journey.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Empty Office - A Full Future

Last night, I took this picture of my office. It was time to clean it out in preparation for our upcoming transition in October. I knew this day was coming and now it is finally here. The pictures, books, notes, photos, old sermon notes and memorabilia from our 15 years of ministry in Medford, Oregon now rested in boxes waiting to be loaded into my truck.

Someone asked me what it will feel like when you "retire" in October? Jan and I have actually never used that word to describe the next season of our lives and ministry. The coming season is proving to be more focused and filled than any previous time in our lives. In this month of August alone, we are out of town ministering in other churches 4 out of the 5 Sundays.

Living Waters Church has released us to be missionaries of sorts to pastors and churches all across the country. The reoccurring theme in what God has us doing is about alignment - aligning individuals and groups to the new future God has planned for them. As I have said before - God is good and He is always leading us to a good place. Jan and I are now in one of those good places standing in the middle of an empty office looking forward to a future filled with God's goodness.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wounding Words

Words have been spoken against you that in the past would have left visible wounds. But something has changed. This attack has left no evidence of any wound or scarring because you made a choice to allow God to do a deeper work in your life.

Those who are lashing out against you will stand amazed in the midst of their attack because they will see God begin to heal you even as they continue their assault.  Your healing will overtake their wounding. Your attackers will not be able to overcome this rapid and supernatural work of restoration. Your healed life will become a standing testimony to the power of forgiveness.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chasing The Pharisee

Today, I chased a Pharisee. In the pursuit of this despicable person, I called out for others to join me in my chase. They came running willingly fists raised in rage and shouting in unison. The fervor of the pursuing crowd propelled me on.
After a long and exhausting run, I finally caught the Pharisee. At the point of capture, I held the broken law of God in one hand and my stone of self-righteous judgment in the other. As I raised my stone to crush the sin out of this offender he turned his face toward me. As our faces met, I realized the Pharisee was not a stranger, he was me.
In our pursuit of all things unrighteous we are in essence pursuing ourselves. For within each of us lives a Pharisee. This Pharisee will never be convinced of the right or wrong of his or her belief through debate or in the fervor of a shouting match on the courthouse steps. The Pharisee will only be transformed when his pursuers see themselves in his face and drop the rocks of their judgment because God has revealed to them there is no difference between the ones they pursue and themselves.

Slippery Slopes

There are slippery slopes on both sides of every mountain of human opinion. Be careful.  Some people believe that slippery slopes exist only on the opposite side of the mountain from their current understanding of the facts.

When you ask God for wisdom you are not asking Him to confirm your opinion.  Your request for wisdom is an invitation for the Spirit to come and make adjustments in your thinking before you demand others to do the same.  It is in the reception of God’s wisdom and the subsequent adjustment to your thinking where humility and mercy begins to flow through you to those who hold a differing opinion.  Humility and mercy are the evidence that you have received the wisdom from above. This evidence is the only true foothold on the mountain of public opinion.