Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#10 Be The First To Forgive

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#10 Be The First To Forgive

As you walk forward in life you will collide with people. When this happens, and you get wounded, be the first to forgive. The reason forgiveness needs to be granted early is because the longer the gap is between the offense and the resolution the greater the chance the enemy has to get a foothold in your heart.

Being the first to forgive means you are large enough in spirit to lay down your rights, your demand to have been treated fairly, and the unmet expectations of what you think should have happened. These three issues belong on the Cross, in a place of permanent death, because waiting for others to uphold your rights, treat you fairly and meet your expectations is an impossible requirement to put on another person.

Act now and experience the freedom of being the first to forgive. Your act of forgiveness will help you cross the threshold of a doorway that leads to your destiny.

Monday, September 29, 2014

#9 Position Yourself Wisely

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#9 Position Yourself Wisely

A wise man once told me he never wanted to take a position where he would be required to represent an organization to people.  He always wanted to be in a position to represent people to the organization.  Finding this position requires wisdom.

Where you stand will determine whom you represent.  Stand too close to any institution and you will be seen as representing the institution. The man that gave me this wise advice actually served in several visible positions within our family of churches.  He was able to remain relationally connected to the rank and file becoming our voice to those who were stewards of our structure.

Institutions, denominations and even those groups who want you to believe they are neither, all have a system and structure that is uniquely their own.  Don’t get so caught up in the mechanics of any organization that your position would require you to draw your life and identity from the system. No matter where you go within your unique circle of fellowship make sure your brand loyalty remains with Jesus, not the perpetuation of a religious system. This will give your voice a power and credibility that only comes from knowing where you stand.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#8 Endings

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#8 Endings

Nothing is ever over until God says its over. Never let people, a painful circumstance or the devil define the end of anything.

When a situation seems dead and you want to agree with all your negative death-advisors never forget one critical truth – with God, resurrection life is always present and possible. In the Kingdom of God resurrection will be your ending.

You will face circumstances that look like death more than once in your life.  You can’t prepare for these future events apart from learning to trust God. Someday, as you lay in the tomb of a death experience where a vision, a relationship or your hope seems to have died, your only option will be to trust in God’s faithfulness to raise you up just like Jesus did when He lay in His tomb. God will be faithful to do this because He promises to raise dead things to new life.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

#7 Religious Skeletons

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)
#7 Religious Skeletons
Our physical body is supported by our skeletal structure. Remove our skeleton and we would fall to the floor becoming an unrecognizable mass of tissue. The same is true for any group or institution. We need some form of structure to support life.
As with a healthy physical body, the skeleton should not be the first thing we notice when we meet someone. Tragic death camp pictures of starving people, where human beings were reduced to walking skeletons, is how a group or institution can appear if too much emphasis is placed on structure instead of the life the structure supports. You will need a basic structure as a support mechanism for the life God is birthing in you and your ministry, but keep it to a minimum.
The Early Church saw how important this minimalist approach was in Acts 15 as the Gentile Church was being birthed beyond Jerusalem. Wise leaders suggested they only ask a few things of these new Gentile believers while others in the Jewish dominated church in Jerusalem would have reduced the Gentile Church to a skeletal expression of life by imposing a Jewish structure over a Gentile expression of the Church. Instead, what happened was the birth of a healthy image of a church in its unique cultural context where the skeletal structure was not the first thing noticed when the Gentile believers greeted their host culture with the new and life-giving message of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 26, 2014

#6 What Other People Think

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#6 What Other People Think

You will have two opinions for every decision you make. Some people will like what you did and others will not. Those who applaud you today may not do so tomorrow. Those who oppose you today could actually become a co-laborer tomorrow. Evaluate these varied opinions with patient wisdom.

Before you make a decision spend time with God and find out His heart for each situation you face. Wise leaders are led by revelation.

As your decisions become a reality, and the differing opinions begin to spin around your life, you will be able to remain strong and confident. Your strength and confidence will come from knowing you have a word from God and the ever-changing opinions about what other people will think will not be able to move you off the path God has asked you to travel.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

#5 Outwitting Your Imposter

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#5 Outwitting Your Imposter

Inside each of us lives an imposter.  This imposter wants to ruin your life by leading away from the person God created you to be and have you assume a false identity.  You have to learn to outwit the imposter. This outwitting is done with truth, honor and identity.

Truth creates brutally honest conversations.  Talk to yourself – the new one – the real one – and ask that person to take over the conversation with the imposter.  As you begin to speak truth, honor will come forth because honor is the product of truth. With God, nothing is ever lost even in the times when you walked away with the imposter and believed a lie.  The Prodigal Son learned this lesson when he returned home and the Father restored his life. The good work God did in you simply gets misplaced in the confusing seasons of life.  Honor will reach out and recapture the real you, dust off the neglect and abuse that took place, and point you in the right direction once again.  Your identity was never in jeopardy.  It is sitting with you, in Christ, at the right hand of the Father safe and secure in heaven apart from the broken seasons of your life.

The imposter will try to tell you lies, dishonor your life and falsify the new creation you have become.  Don’t let him do this.  Call him out.  Fight him in a spiritual bare-knuckle brawl and reset your boundaries.  This fight will go on in different forms for the rest of your life.  Paul told the Galatians there is never a time when these two identities are not in conflict with each other. Don’t let that thought trouble you.  It is the stuff of real life in the Spirit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#4 Trust Your Team

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#4 Trust Your Team

Every church, every family and every business is a team. If you have done your job well your team will know your heart and the things you are passionate about. You can trust them to make right decisions without having to manage every aspect of their lives and calling. This trust will release a deeper level of creativity within the team and allow each person to explore new levels of anointing.

When you need to make a decision that will affect the group it is wise to give your team the time they need to process any proposed change. Do this before setting things in stone. A new vision can seem stark. Initial reactions are only that - reactions. Wait and trust. Include each team member in the process. Their participation will show you things you cannot see. This will honor them. There will be few real emergencies where you need to make an on the spot independent decision. When these rare moments come you have permission to make those decisions. A healthy team will understand this.

It is too easy to make decisions in a time of private frustration and then announce it publicly, bypassing team interaction. This can begin to erode trust within a team. Your assignment is to release people to do their job with creativity and freedom. The trust that develops from this kind of leadership will create an atmosphere of honor. Trusting your team to do their job without you hovering over them as they work will allow them to rise to new levels in their calling and it will keep you free to pray and dream about the future.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#3 Choose To Believe The Best

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#3 Choose To Believe The Best

Choose to believe the best even when it seems a worst-case scenario is developing. Believing the best is not putting your head in the sand or living a life of naivety.  Believing the best is a way of living that continues to hope - all the way to the end - that something better is coming.

Some people have given up too soon and moved on believing that no good thing was possible.  When a miracle eventually happened their judgment and unbelief had put them in a place where they could not see the miracle that emerged from within the brokenness.

Choose to be the last person standing with broken people and broken situations.  When you take this position, and God does an eleventh hour miracle, you can look into the eyes of the restored ones and say, “I always knew God was up to something good in your life.”  This is why faith is described as the substance of things not yet seen.  Faith chooses to see the best when others only see the worst.

Monday, September 22, 2014

#2 Follow The Presence

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#2 Follow The Presence

There will be times in the coming years when you will run out of road.  You will come to a place where you won’t see the next step.  In these moments desperation and fear will try to take hold of your life and steer you toward the destination of despair.

When you begin to feel this way, remember, when you walk with God you are never without an option.  You carry the very presence of Jesus Christ.  While you carry His Presence at all times, God can also choose to manifest His presence outside your life.  This manifest presence of God has the ability to draw you forward to take steps of faith when no pathway is visible to the natural eye. This drawing of the Spirit is what the old timers called, “deep calling out to deep”. The presence of God within you will draw you forward step-by-step toward the direction where He is all ready at work. Follow these inclinations.  They will become your way forward.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#1 Choosing Wonder And Mystery

In one month, I will hand our church over to a new generation of leaders.  These are trusted men and women who know God and His heart.  They will serve God and His people with honor and integrity.  As I travel and minister in a widening circle of relationship, I am gaining other spiritual sons and daughters to whom these words would also apply. I feel a nudge to write and leave behind some things that have lingered in my heart over the years that might help them in their journey. I am not sure how many of these thoughts I will post, but let me start with the first one.

#1 Choose Wonder and Mystery

Make a place for wonder and mystery to always be present in your life and ministry. As you pastor a church, grow a family or develop a business plan there will be times when you find yourself falling into ruts of predictability. When you realize you have slipped into one of these ruts call out to God to reveal to you a sense of wonder and mystery. Wonder and mystery are the spiritual pry bars that will leverage you out of these ruts.

Wonder is that beautiful experience that will cause you to realize something bigger and unexplainable is taking place.  The bible describes a supernatural lifestyle as having an element of wonder - as in signs, wonders and miracles. Wonder can happen under a late night sky filled with stars.  It can happen when you hold a newborn baby in your arms or hear “I love you” for the first time.  These experiences make you wonder.

Mystery takes place after the work of wonder is manifested and you are left with a feeling that something unexpected and explainable has taken place – something mysterious.  Try to avoid defining and explaining mystery.  If you can explain it it’s not a mystery.  The people you serve and the family you love look to you to make sure they never settle for a life-experience that is void of these two energizing elements. Helping people discover wonder and mystery are hallmarks of Spirit-led leadership.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Gentle Buzzing

As I write this, I am in a hotel room north of New Orleans grabbing a few hours of down time between ministry sessions.  My host church has put me up in a nice hotel where I can relax, think and write.  The first thing I do when I travel and enter an unfamiliar hotel room is pray over it.  After I pray, I began to unpack my suitcase. This has become my travel routine.

This time, when I opened my suitcase, I heard a faint buzzing sound.  I had no idea what was making the noise.  In Louisiana they have some really large insects and I thought maybe one of them got inside my luggage.  I began to pick through my things.  I looked in my shoes, under my clothing and then came to my toiletry bag.  The noise was coming from within this little bag.  When I opened it up there was the culprit – it was my battery-powered toothbrush.  Somehow in the course of travel the “on” button had been activated.  I turned it off, laughed, and finished unpacking. I could sense this was a reminder from the Lord of how He wanted speak to me during my time in Louisiana.

It was only when I arrived in the quiet of my hotel room, away from noisy airports and freeway travel, did I notice the sound. So much of our lives are like the noisy and fatiguing process of travel.  We live surrounded by the noise of life and rarely find those quiet moments when something gentle and barely discernible can be heard.  Today, stop and listen.  Get away from the noise of your life for just a moment.  In that pause you might hear a gentle buzzing in your life-luggage that will be a reminder to you that God is trying to get your attention.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flaming Speech

This week a small town in Northern California was devastated by fire. Many homes in the city were lost and hundreds of people displaced. Video footage of the fire’s aftermath looked like a warzone. In the days following the fire, I would discover what gave the small town of Weed its birth would eventually create a situation that would bring about its destruction.

The city of Weed got its name from its founder, Abner Weed who purchased the original land in the late 1800’s for the sum of $400.00. His plan was to build a logging mill. By the 1940’s, Weed’s sawmill had become the largest lumber mill in the world. Mr. Weed chose this location because of the high winds that frequently blew through this mountain region. The winds would quickly dry the lumber making his product readily available to worldwide markets. What is sadly ironic is the reason for which Abner Weed chose the location for his sawmill was the same reason that would eventually aid in the city’s destruction. On the day of the devastating fire mountain winds that previously dried lumber were now being used to whip a single spark into a violent firestorm sending walls of fire into the streets of Weed.

Our words can have the same effect. I can speak words that affirm, build and honor or I can speak words that ignite destruction, death and dishonor. James said, “the tongue is a flame of fire – it can set your whole life on fire”. God gave us words to create, not to destroy. God used His voice to create our earth and when He was finished He said it was good. Goodness is the result of speaking in the name of God. This is the kind of breath we are called to release into our world – words of life filled with goodness, solutions and trust, not words that contain the spark of condemnation, suspicion and distrust.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Three R's

When I came to Medford, Oregon 15 years ago to pastor what would become Living Waters Church, I remember one particular day shortly after my arrival when the Lord gave me a distinct assignment for our church. 

I remember the day well.  I was driving on an overpass that crosses the interstate freeway that travels through the heart of our community. About midway across the overpass, I heard the Lord say to me, “I have called you to refresh, restore and release My people.”  I recorded that moment and those words and have used them over the years to share with Living Waters Church what our unique assignment would be as a local expression of the larger Church.

When the Lord spoke the three R’s to me, I instinctively knew what He meant. 
When people would come in contact with God’s presence in His people He would begin to refresh them as they exchanged a weary and burden-laden life for a life of freedom.  The refreshing presence of God was an invitation of hope. Once refreshed, God would begin a process of restoration to bring them back to His original intent for their lives.   The process of restoration would plant a sense of destiny in their hearts. These released ones would then become the refreshing presence of God walking the streets of our city and the nations of the world. We have seen this process take place over and over again in multiple lives.

For several years we have been working on the conclusion of my role as Senior Pastor at Living Waters Church.  October 26 will be our “Transition Sunday” when we hand over that assignment to a new leadership team. As the transition plan developed, a man in our church from a ranching background went to a blacksmith and had a branding iron made that reflected the Three R’s and he gave it to me as a gift.  This was so appropriate because over the years, this kind of ministry – refreshing, restoring and releasing people - has branded me, in a right way, to settle for nothing less.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Summons For Your Voice

Your unique ethnicity, gender or social status does not provide you with superior insight into the issues of life. Your humanity is what makes your contribution valuable.  Paul told the church in Ephesus that God created “one new people” in Christ to become a single body with a unique and redeeming voice in culture.

You are free to speak about racial issues, not because you wear the same skin color as the oppressed.  You are free to speak because you bear the same image as the Creator and the ones being oppressed. You are free to speak out when the opposite gender is denied expression because in this “one new people” the labels of male and female no longer apply.  You are free to move between the different levels of social strata, from rich to poor, educated and uneducated, valuing each person for who they are as a person, not by their position or possessions.

This is a summons for your voice to be heard in the courts of culture. You have felt you had no right to speak about issues that were not unique to your circumstance of life. That lie has limited your impact and your contribution.  As you test these new waters walk with wisdom and patience.  Draw your vocabulary from the dictionary of this “one new people” and your voice will carry a new authority and gain a new audience.  When you speak your words will be empowered by the breath of God’s Spirit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Colored People

When I was thirteen years old, I traveled with my family into the Deep South where my mother grew up.  This was in December of 1963 just weeks after President Kennedy was assassinated. We flew to our destination, picked up a car and then drove back home to the San Francisco Bay Area.

On one of our gas stops, I got out of the car to use the restroom.  As I walked around the side of the building I noticed three signs – Men, Women and Colored.  No Colored Men and no Colored Women signs – just Colored. I had never seen a sign like that in my thirteen years of life. I really had to go to the bathroom, but all I could do was stop and stare.  I can still see that sign in my mind’s eye.

What made that sign so degrading and wrong is obvious.  What is not so obvious is that we could have signs like that hanging in some parts of the United States and not in others – both at the same time.  Some of those who lived daily within this prejudice accepted it as a reality of life.

This morning,  I am asking myself where in my expression of faith do I have similar restrictive signs in place.  These are signs that I accept as my assumed reality that lumps people into narrow groups and assigns them a lesser-than-me designation.  We unconsciously put “Colored” signs over the doorways of people groups and experiences with which we are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  We do this over styles of worship, how people respond to the moving of God’s Spirit and over anything we think is different from our limited perspective. There is only one sign in God’s Kingdom and Jesus wrote across its face the words, “Follow Me.” That is a sign without personal prejudice and it invites all of us to step through its doorway into a place of real freedom.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Twenty-five years ago, I asked a wise pastor his opinion about the battles he fought over issues of faith.  As a younger pastor he was known to have had a history of picking verbal fights with anyone with whom he disagreed.  He had thankfully mellowed over the years.

I asked this pastor to describe the most important life-lesson he had learned.  He said, “I have learned to exercise more wisdom in the battles I choose to fight.”  In other words, he only entered battles that had eternal consequence.  The rest of the battles were over personal opinion and interpretation of non-essential issues and none of those battles were worth shedding relational blood over.

The Apostle Paul said, “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with.” (Romans 14:1, The Message)  If our lives are going to model the oneness that Jesus said would have the power to cause an unbelieving world to actually believe the message of Jesus Christ, then we need to greet each other with open arms and stop jumping into battles that don’t need to be fought.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Something Is Coming

Jan and I live on a quiet street nestled in the foothills of Southern Oregon. We are shielded from much of the noise generated by the communities in valley below. There are times when it is completely silent. This morning in the stillness, I heard the distant and barely discernible sound of a train horn. The train tracks are seven miles from our home and the distance made the horn sound soft and almost poetic in the quiet of the early morning hours.
As soon as I heard the sound of the train’s horn, I felt a nudge of the Spirit and heard the words, “Something is coming.” I knew this was the voice of the Lord. I also knew He was not speaking about a coming disaster, a war or another terrorist attack. These will always be with us until the kingdoms of this earth become the Kingdom of our Lord. This was a different kind of announcement. This was an announcement about the release of a new measure of God’s presence upon the earth. This arrival of God’s presence will take place while the noise and fear of culture tries to deafen the ears of God’s people to His ultimate work of goodness and restoration.
There has been so much of this surface noise in every culture throughout all of time. This cultural noise tries to fill our ears with hopelessness, fear and discouragement. As a result, the ability to rest is stripped away and people begin to live in a perpetual state of emotional fatigue that the noise of an unredeemed and fear-based culture produces.
As I heard the distant sound of the train horn this morning, I realized God is inviting us to listen in the same way. Today, amidst the noise of a fearful culture, find a peaceful place in your heart where you can hear the gentle invitation of God’s Spirit and you will begin to hear the sounds of something new that is coming you way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our Unleashed Comments On Social Media

A couple of years ago, I was hiking on a mountain trail above our home. As I hiked, I came across a very large and aggressive dog. I could see the owner had let his dog off leash to enjoy a run. Unleashed dogs are not allowed on this particular trail system. There are signs at all the trailheads telling dog owners to keep their pets on a leash. I am guessing the primary reason for this restriction is to prevent dogs from chasing the wildlife.

When the dog saw me he began to growl, lower his head and move toward me in a very threatening fashion. The owner tried calling back his dog, but the dog was now deaf to his owner’s plea. The man called out to me with words that were less than reassuring, “He’s never done this before!” I felt vulnerable to say the least. In the end the man was able to get his dog under control and I was able to continue living my life without bite marks. This unleashed dog reminds me of what has happened with social media to some people in the Church. The comments, likes, shares and tweets of some have become like unleashed aggressive dogs let loose without thinking about the ramifications of what will happen when they allow their words to run unrestrained on the Internet.

Self-control was listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit for a reason. Self-control seems out of place listed alongside the other fruit that have more poetic names like love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. Self-control is like a greasy wrench in the fruit bowl. It seems to not fit. It is actually listed last because the rest of them won’t work unless you attach the leash of self-control to your potentially aggressive input. Try being gentle without having self-control or being kind without self-control. It doesn’t work. Paul told the prophets in Corinth that a prophet is in control of his spirit. Self-control is one of the hallmarks of a Spirit-led life.

The next time someone criticizes a well-meaning benefit for the cure of a horrible disease or a big-name pastor who is a friend of sinners or someone who swims in a different stream of the Spirit than you – stop. Stop and go get your leash and connect your emotions to the fruit of self-control. Like all forms of distant and impersonal criticism our participation makes us look like a rabid dog meeting someone on the trail of God’s Kingdom. The signs on this Kingdom trailhead tell everyone to believe the best about each other and not allow a devouring spirit to be our only witness to a world already bitten and bleeding by the effects of sin.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Disposable Options

As a young man, I heard Richard Wurmbrand speak.  I sat in awe as I listened to his testimony.  Richard was held captive in horrible prison conditions in Romania because of his faith during the time of Communist rule. He was separated from his wife and family and everything familiar.  He was tortured in mind and body. In one particular moment of deep despair he could only process two realities – there is a God and love was a better way - nothing more, just those two concepts remained in his mind.  All else had been stripped away. Richard Wurmbrand had discovered his bottom line.

In our Western culture we have many options and little understanding of what it means to possess a bottom line.  Even the very poor in our nation have the option of receiving some form of assistance for their basic needs.  In Romania those options were not available if you openly professed Christ.  In the West we have options because most of us possess disposable income, disposable time and disposable relationships where we can discard people because they fail to live within our narrow definition of reality.

We are entering a time in human history where coming events will take us to our bottom line.  What is yours? It cannot be found in the disposable things where we seem to be the most critical and self-confident because we still think we are in control of our lives.  The bottom line of spiritual things is only found when everything is stripped away and we finally find out we can bring nothing more to the table. This is a desperate and lonely place without the options we previously used to make life work without a deep an abiding trust in God alone. This is the place where we can make our most profound discoveries about God and life. This is the place where we begin to discover our greatest freedom.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Changing Seasons

The older I get the less I like changing seasons. To some this sounds like emotional heresy, but that’s my reality. I prefer life to resemble a perpetual spring – the latter part of spring when the rains wind down and things begin to dry out.

Spring means new life and new beginnings. Spring is a time of unfolding – a season of blossoms and fresh scent. Summer brings with it the sagging days of warmth that hold on to the life spring first birthed. Summer is a gallery that hangs fruit-art for us to admire and taste. Summer is my second favorite season.

The longer summer goes on the more a lingering feeling tries to rise up in me and say, “This will be over sooner than you think.” As a boy, the most dreaded thing I remember seeing in print were the words, “Back to School Sale.” At age 64 those words still set my emotions on edge. I realize my response is so male and disconnected from the reality experienced by the other half of the human race. Late summer is the time of year when summer-frazzled-kid-overloaded moms begin to smile and think of coffee dates with girlfriends drinking espresso together in the coolness of a fall morning while the kids are safely – and finally - back to school for another year.

Fall has become the most challenging season for me. Fall used to mean other things, but it is different now that I am getting older. At my age there is a future date with my physical death that resembles a coming winter. I am living in the fall season of my life and my winter season is an approaching reality. Fall has become to me the preparatory season for winter’s death. The bright colors of dying fall leaves are a disguised reminder of something trying to perpetuate the illusion of sustained life.

Now, when I am caught in the grips of a real winter’s knuckle, my mind begins to vault forward in anticipation to late February with its first hint of a coming spring blossom. This is actually a healthy place for older people like me. Wishing, thinking and focusing on a coming spring season of life that may or may not be there to welcome us depending on how many seasons we have left. This isn’t as dark as it sounds because I always have spring on my mind. Aren’t you glad I turned this all around and ended on a positive note?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Surprising Your Enemy

You are in a spiritual battle and you need to let your enemy win.  This tactic will make no sense.  Jesus said to bless your enemies.  He instructed His disciples to forgive 7 times 70.  This crazy kind of cheek-turning love only happens when becoming the victor is no longer your goal.

Within each enemy is a potential ally who is only discovered when you employ the battle tactics of Jesus. Those who know this secret of Kingdom warfare choose to see their enemies this way no matter how down and dirty the battle gets.  This level of revelation is hidden from those who live by the tactics of payback and vengeance.  This is a childlike love and approach to conflict that ushers in the truest form of victory.

Place you enemies before you in your mind.  Prophesy hope to them.  Declare on this day that you have chosen to set them free from judgment and punishment. If you do this God will be free to turn this relational conflict into a place of potential fellowship, friendship and alliance.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Myth Of The Good Old Days

There never were any “good old days” for some people.  If you were a person of color the good old days had sunset laws that would not allow you to be out after dark.  If you were a woman you took your calling and went to the back of the line while a male-dominated clergy kept you in your place.  If you were a young person you were told that you were the Church of tomorrow and to stop raising questions today about things you could never understand until you became “mature”.

The “good old days” are an illusion held by those who many times feel confused and afraid of the present.  Have compassion for those held in this crippling mindset. They live in a mental prison that does not allow them to see the goodness of God in each generation of history.

Scripture tell us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  If this is true then there never will be a season of life that takes preeminence over another because the fullness of Christ is always available each and every day.  Those who are led by His Spirit will look for the good in this moment and declare this is the day the Lord has made and rejoice because of it.  This is what makes every day we experience a good day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Heretical Homies

This morning, I read a Facebook post from a pastor who hosts a radio program. He shared how this had been a challenging week for him because he had some people call him a heretic. Along with a few other pastors, I responded to encourage him. I shared that I found out I was on a “heretic” watch list along with Jack Hayford, Billy Graham and Glenn Burris, Jr. I told the pastor he was in good company.

Some people armed with a computer, too much time on their hands and a very narrow perspective on life and faith can too easily condemn other people who fall outside their very limited viewpoint.

You will never cleanse the Church of rabid people who disagree with everyone outside their small, sandbagged intellectual compound. What you can do is not join in with their foolishness by assigning labels to people. Pause before you hit the “like” button. Research that tantalizing tidbit of gossip on social media to see if it is only a demeaning urban legend unworthy of sharing. We owe this to the world as our testimony of love.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Silent Worship

Over the years, I have come to realize that silence in the presence of God can be one of the highest forms of worship we will ever experience.  In our highly energized church culture we can begin to think we always need to make a sound to express our worship of God. Recently, God reaffirmed with me the need for silence in worship.

While on vacation, Jan and I were able to spend a week in a cabin on the edge of Lake Wallowa near the small town of Joseph, Oregon.  From our cabin deck we looked out across this idyllic lake up into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  Words like stunning, surreal and beautiful fail to describe what we were able to view each day.  The different wind currents and positions of the sun upon the surface of the lake provided a constantly changing tapestry of God-art.

One morning, I went down to the boat dock and sat in the early morning sun.  As I tried to pray, the strangest thing took place - I couldn’t.  This moment with God required silence if I were to receive what was to come my way. I didn’t give up easily.  My religiously devoted side tried to motivate me to make some kind of noise to verify that I was having a private time with God.  The request for silence from the Spirit finally won out.  I sat there in the warmth of the early morning sun and watched as the canvas of the lake changed once again before my eyes. I was with the Presence and He wanted to be alone with me in the silence, just the two of us sitting together looking over the beauty He had created.

On the shoreline of Wallowa Lake, when I was in visual overload at the beauty of God’s creation, I experienced a profound moment of worship only discovered in the gift of silence that surrounded me. There comes a time when our lives can only be healed and restored when we yield in silence to God’s presence.  This experience will become one of our highest acts of worship as we simply wait in silence and receive.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Trail Of Your Regret

You have experienced the visit of past regrets. These regrets were produced because of a relationship you had with someone that took a wrong turn and you regret what happened. 

Yes, you and the other person could have handled life differently, but you didn’t and there is nothing either of you can do to rewrite history. Over the years you asked God to forgive you for your part in how things worked out yet a sorrow still lingers in your heart. God is about to show you what He wants you to do with these regrets.

Use your regrets and the emotions surrounding them to create prayers of blessing for the other person. Like a highly trained tracking dog these prayers will follow and discover the other person delivering to them the content of your prayers as an unexpected gift. The knowledge of this delivery will begin to transform your regret into a place of peace. God never wastes a sorrow.