Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Assignment Is Insignificant

I live in the small historic mining town of Jacksonville, Oregon. Our community is immersed in the early history of Oregon. Gold was first discovered here in the 1850’s within a block of our home. Miles of hiking trails form a necklace that surrounds our little town. Each week, on a specific day, I have an appointment with God to hike the trails that crisscross the woodlands above our home. I walk and listen. There is a seasonal creek running through the woodlands. It’s called Jackson Creek. In the mid-1800’s miners from around the world descended on our town to seek the gold the hills and creek beds possessed. Miners used water from Jackson Creek to run their sluices, hydraulic giants and to wash the sediment from their pans. 

This week, as I walked along the trail that borders Jackson Creek, I stopped and took a photo. In my pause, I thought of where this little creek would travel in its journey. Later, when I returned home, I pulled up a map on my computer screen and saw that Jackson Creek flows out of Jacksonville for several miles before it joins Bear Creek and eventually merged its flow with the Rogue River that empties into the vast Pacific Ocean. Small streams always lead somewhere to become part of something larger than itself.
No matter the size of the stream God has assigned you to walk alongside, your journey will always be connected to something larger than itself. There is never a definition of insignificance attached to what you are doing for God – no matter how small it might seem. It is not the size of the stream you are part of that determines your significance. Your significance comes from the One who directs its flow.

Friday, February 27, 2015

If It's Not Broken

Some have said, "If it's not broken, don't try to fix it". This might work for cars and machinery, but utterly fails when it comes to advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. As the revelation of Jesus Christ continues to expand, each new season will require a reexamination of how effective our current model of the Church really is at accomplishing the will of God.

We need to remain open to personal and corporate course corrections at all points in our journey.  A healthy follower of Christ will welcome these needed course corrections because they know the challenge they present will help us see if we have mentally or emotionally put our lives and ministries on a form of ecclesiastical autopilot assuming what worked in the past will continue to work in the future. Expansion, increase and new life will always require change and adjustment for the Church to move beyond a current "relevancy" into a place of supernatural manifestation and advancement.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Key To Personal Freedom

To release someone is more than simply letting them go. The definition of the word "release" means to set people free from confinement or bondage, to deliver or to emancipate. It is a word used to describe the release of an animal from a cage or rescuing a hostage from a hostage taker.

If you say you have released someone from a wrong committed against you the  strongest evidence that you have truly set them free will be discovered in your heart where you no longer demand they remain imprisoned in your judgment.  That is what it means to release someone.  The greater bondage is these situations will always be experienced by the one who holds the key to a persons freedom, but refuses to open the lock.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

His Presence Will Make A Way

Several years ago, a friend and I were flying into Eugene, Oregon for ministry at a local church.  I was piloting a high-performance single engine airplane that was based at the Burbank, California airport.  When we departed Burbank the local weather was clear, but from the weather forecast we received we knew we were flying into deteriorating conditions that would greet us upon our arrival in Eugene.

After a short stop in Northern California for fuel we filed an instrument flight plan and took off for the last leg of our trip. The conditions in Eugene were not looking good.  Fog and low clouds were waiting for us and the other arriving aircraft.  As we got closer to Eugene we were number two for landing behind a commercial airliner.  This was a full size passenger jet.  We were only a four-seat private aircraft.

As we listened to air traffic control the airliner declared a missed approach. The airliner had flown down to the minimum altitude for a safe landing and could not see the runway lighting and therefore had to go around and try again.  I turned to the pastor flying with me and said, “Let’s give it a try”.  I based my decision on experience.  A large jet aircraft emits a tremendous amount of heat.  The heat left behind in the trail of a descending jet can actually change the weather conditions in its immediate flight path and open up the clouds to make a way for following aircraft to land. That was just what happened with our flight.  As we approached landing minimums we were able to see the runway and approach lighting and made a safe and uneventful landing.

I was reminded of this flight and its similarities for all of us in our journey of faith. Each of us will enter seasons when obscured conditions surround our families, ministries, dreams, plans and finances.  As people encounter these conditions some have declared a missed approach because the conditions ahead of them seemed impassable. 

These missed approaches are not the end of the story.  God allows each of us to make another pass for landing. On the day of our flight, after we had landed and while taxing to the terminal, we overheard a radio transmission from the jet that had declared the missed approach ahead of us.  They were able to finally land on their second attempt.

In times of pressure and challenge we can forget that God is a way-maker when no way seems possible.  The heat of His presence is able to alter the spiritual climate on our spiritual flight path and make a way, even using the flight path of those who have gone before us who had to declare a missed approach.

Each of us encounters a moment or a season when life becomes shrouded with the clouds and fog of disbelief, fear or hellish opposition.  We are not responsible to make our arrival at our destination a reality – only God can do this.  We are only responsible to keep flying in faith and trusting that He is making a way possible.

When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica he said, “We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.” (II Thessalonians 1:4) When Paul penned this sentence he used the word “endurance” a composite word created from two other words.  One of these words means “up” and the other means “to hold”.  Paul’s sentence could be read this way, “We proudly tell God’s other churches about your ability to reach up and hold on…” Paul was saying he was proud of the Thessalonian’s ability to reach outside their challenging circumstance and take hold of things not yet seen in this realm that were the substance of faith. This action is the essence of flying by the instruments of faith when the destination is not yet in sight.

Many of you are being prepared to make a landing into new seasons and new destinations.  The flight path may be shrouded by conditions that might cause you to abort your approach too early.  God wants you to know your landing is coming soon. This is a time to reach through the fog and clouds in faith and continue on with the flight plan of God.

God’s presence has gone before you in this journey.  Just like a large jet aircraft would heat up the environment and open up a way through the clouds, God is doing the same for you.  His presence is going before you and He is altering the spiritual environment of your flight path.  Your job is to keep flying in faith knowing that God will make a way when no way seems possible.  At some point you will see the runway lights and realize your arrival was a supernatural event made possible by a good and loving Father.

“For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Your Backup Is Coming

You find yourself in a situation where you are alone and facing a significant challenge.  You are like a street cop who pulled over a car for a minor traffic violation and then realized you had stopped a vehicle full of dangerous felons. Your tactics need to change if you are going to survive.

You need to get the suspects out of the car, but you can’t do it alone.  Help is on the way. This situation will be like that moment when a solo police officer hears a radio broadcast informing him that back up units are speeding to his location to help him handle a dangerous situation.

You have confronted a volatile issue and now you are holding it at spiritual “gunpoint”.  This is a time to trust your training and the fact that God is sending you the help you need to safely end this standoff. Stay vigilant and wait.  Stay behind the cover of truth. Help from heaven is in route and together with God’s Spirit and angelic intervention this threat to you and others will be arrested and the situation resolved.  You have been prepared for this moment.  This is a time to trust your training and the faithfulness of God.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Life Near The Edge

I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression.  My father had to hop the rails for 9 years looking for work and food.  My mother was part of a divorced family who struggled to make ends meet in the segregated South of the 1930’s after my grandfather left for work one day and never returned.  My grandmother ran a boarding house while my mother ran barefoot with black children along the dirt streets of her hometown in Alexandria, Louisiana. Growing up, I never missed a meal or lacked anything. Like many parents who grew up in the poverty of the Depression years they made sure their children would never suffer as they did.

Over the years, I have come to realize that people who live the closest to the edge of anything have formed a theology of life the rest of us miss growing up in a lifestyle where every need has a solution.  We fail to accumulate these skills of life-discernment because we live within the cushioned illusion of possessions, a never-ending supply of everything and an over confidence in self. These illusions are created in Western cultures where hunger does not normally visit our home and terror was always considered to be “over there”.

A theology of life crafted in the insulated comfort of a local Starbucks will lack the depth of reality needed to address the real issues of life. Craft your response to the poor by sharing the meal they are forced to eat. Develop your concept of Christian pacifism while imagining that extreme violence is knocking at your door. Draft your theology of God's mercy when you have suffered your greatest failure. These are the places where honest answers are discovered and where the credibility of our faith is established.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Repositioned Purpose

Your life has been repositioned in a dramatic fashion.  A decision was made that has thrust you outside the familiar sphere of a known relationship and an established influence.  This was not the act of a single person or group of people.  This was a work of God.

Don't focus on the reason why all of this has taken place because that misplaced focus will lead you into bitterness and self-speculation.  God is about to reveal His purpose and promise for your future. Guard your heart in the coming days and you will arrive as a spiritually healthy person in a new season and a new place not possible until this decision was made.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pursuing Excellence

The word “excellence” in the language of the New Testament has been translated in several ways.  It can mean “goodness”, “the manifestation of God’s power” or “a miracle”. 

In our pursuit of excellence within the church we should never allow excellence to only mean clean floors, hip video productions or the finely measured elements of a well-planned worship service.  Experiencing the excellence of God is the result of making room for His presence to be expressed when we gather.  The planning that flows from that kind of expectation will make possible the release of His goodness, power and miracles.  That kind of gathering will define what is truly excellent.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Six Questions

These are the six questions at the bottom of my daily prayer sheet that have been in my bible for the last 15 years. After praying through the daily list at the top of the sheet, I come to these questions and make myself answer them honestly before the Lord. When we let God search our heart, He helps us discover those things, that if left unchallenged, would prevent us from experiencing the full measure of His love.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Advancing The Unknown Ones

God is about to advance the unknown ones. These unknown ones are those outside the lines of historic pedigree and assumed inheritance. God is about to raise people up and lift them over the manmade restrictions that previously stood in their way. God will place them at the head of the line of consideration.

In a time when personal advancement or promotion is possible choose to remain obscure. Allow the process to seek you out. Avoid positioning or posturing to gain visibility.  Remain still and trust God. He will cause you to be discovered if He wants you to be discovered.  In the end, if it is His will for you to step into something new, you will do it with a clear conscience and with the knowledge that God, not you, made it happen.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Managers vs. Apostles - Organizations vs. Movements

The difference between an organization and a movement is found in the style of its leadership.  Organizations are led by managers. Movements are led by apostles.

A manager leads by protecting and maintaining the status quo.  If left unchallenged they will manage an organization to a standstill and eventual death. Managers are made nervous by the sound of an apostolic voice because an apostle leads by revelation and revelation has the potential to challenge the managed status of an organization.  A manager will view apostolic initiative as a threat to the system. This perceived threat can cause a manager to try and gain more control by removing the apostolic voice from the organizational process. An apostolic gift is assigned by the Lord to confront, with honor, the restrictions and ways of thinking found in an organization that are currently producing its eventual decline and demise.

Apostles initiate change by inviting and releasing those with a similar apostolic calling to move forward at the speed of their faith into new areas of ministry potential thereby creating the forward motion inherent in a movement. Be careful to what form of leadership you align your life because that choice can determine the destination of your efforts.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Your Coming Reunion

Recently, I was invited to preach in a church here in Oregon.  During worship, I saw an image that was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I was shown the arrival of a believer into eternity.  There was immense joy within the image.  Jesus approached this new arrival with a smile on His face. Following Him was a large crowd of people coming with Him to greet the one who had just arrived.

In this crowd were the parents and a sibling of this person.  Also in the crowd was an aborted child they had never met.  The child was smiling like Jesus. There was no sense of anger or judgment in the eyes of anyone in the vision.  The past and all it’s pain was covered under the sacrifice of Christ. Also present in the approaching crowd were those whom this person had seen as enemies during their lifetime. These former enemies were now approaching as friends.

As I watched the image develop it was all I could do to keep from breaking down and weeping at the beauty of what I was seeing.  As the worship ended, I stood and ministered what I had seen.  As I shared the details of the image, the Lord began to move powerfully bringing freedom to the people in the sanctuary.

Paul wrote that death has no victory and no sting for those who put their eternal destiny in the hands of Jesus Christ. The scripture also tells us that to be absent from our body is to be present with the Lord. Between the moment of our physical death and our entry into eternity there will be no measurable moment of time. Time is where sorrow has the ability to be birthed and express itself in a life held captive by fear and bondage. None of this will take place in pure and timeless eternity.

To prepare for your passing God has removed the element of time and replaced it with a swift supernatural passage that violates the constraints of time. There will be no long dark tunnels with a light at the end or a lingering in some netherworld place. The face of Jesus will be the first image you see as you make your crossover.  The promise of seeing His face as the first image in your passing is why death and the grave are to be seen in this life as defeated fear mongers.

Some of you are carrying a sorrow over what has taken place in your life. Some of these things are now beyond your ability to correct or make amends for because those involved are now gone. This sorrow is robbing you of the joy of your approaching appointment with eternity. God is the Restorer of all things – including the sorrow and regret you now carry over those unresolved issues.  The Lord wants you to know nothing is beyond the touch of His love and restoration including those things you were unable to reconcile in this life.