Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An Uncluttered Faith

As your faith matures it becomes less cluttered with the demands, opinions and speculation of those whose circles of fellowship are birthed, fueled and maintained by increasing levels of discord.

You will know that you have come to this place of freedom when you find yourself uninterested in the battles that are created by people and groups who constantly wage war over the non-essentials of life and faith. This place of freedom will allow the Holy Spirit to move in your life with new and increasing levels revelation and power.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sound Of Hope

This morning, as I sat in the darkness of a still breaking dawn, a goose flew overhead and honked. I wondered how the goose could navigate through the darkness and then I remembered something from my past. It reminded me of my days as a pilot when I would make an early morning departure from a valley still wrapped in the predawn hours of darkness.  After takeoff, I would climb up to my cruising altitude and actually be able see what could not be seen while still on the runway in the valley.  My flight path had taken me to a higher altitude allowing me to see the first rays of a new sunrise not yet visible to those in the valley below.

When the goose flew overhead this morning, I felt the Lord wanted someone to know that it may still feel very dark in the place you now find yourself, but God is about to take you higher and show you the way forward.

On Easter morning, Mary, Peter and John saw the evidence of the empty tomb while it was still dark. The darkness you are seeing in the natural is not a barrier to the revelation God is about to bring your way.  Resurrection always begins in a dark place. In the darkness is where your first sound of hope will be heard.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Throne Of Easter

A few years ago a much larger picture of Easter emerged for me. I could not understand why it had eluded me for so many years.  I came to realize three things in context and in relationship with each other about the Easter story.

       The cross is empty.
       The tomb is empty.
       But the throne is occupied.

What I began to see with increasing clarity was the reason for Jesus needing to stop along the way at the cross and the tomb. Each stop was needed to set us free from sin and its punishment, but neither was His destination.  I realized the Easter story describes the journey of Jesus Christ toward His throne where He would eventually sit down in a place of ultimate authority - a place where every believer now sits with Him.  This was the journey of Easter - a journey toward a throne.

As you process places of death and resurrection this Easter - places that were only intended as temporary stops in a much larger journey - don't forget the ultimate destination Jesus had in mind - the throne.  The throne of Jesus Christ,  where you now sit with Him at the right hand of the Father, was the goal of all the suffering He endured during the week of His passion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

If It's Not In The Bible...

Be careful of limiting your understanding of God and how He works to only what is written within the pages of scripture. Someone wisely said, “All of the bible is God, but not all of God is in the bible”.  Imagine how challenging it would be to press the Almighty God into the pages of a leather bound book or an iPhone.

The events recorded in scripture that describe great acts of faith were not the description of a people who followed an existing biblical text.  At the time of their obedience no text existed to tell them what to do. Once these events took place they were recorded in scripture as testimonials for our benefit, but not for our limitation. When God inspired people to write the bible He was not creating an experiential prison that limited the Church of the future to only what is seen in print. Even John said, “Jesus also did many other things.  If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

As God’s Kingdom advances upon the earth many will move forward in faith doing things not recorded within the pages of scripture, but fully in line with the heart and truth of God. These unusual works of the Spirit, not listed within the pages of our bibles or within the bible reading program on our smart phones, will make us wonder, but hopefully not doubt that Jesus can do the “many other things” not recorded in the sacred text.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kingdom Business Plans

This morning, I sensed a word from the Lord that contained the urgency of timing for those of you in business.   As one of the 7 Mountains of Culture, business is a very impactful influence in our lives. If you aren't the one who works in business, but have friends who do, share the following word with them. The timing of this word is important. New products and services are about to be released.  God is ready to amaze us with His creative potential, but adjustments must first be made in order for that release to take place.

Some of you are about to make a decision that needs to be reordered.  Do not lay your business plan over the product or service you are developing.  Retrieve your current business plan and recall the initial word the Lord gave you about how all of this was to develop. That word has been misplaced in the process and excitement of product development. Lay that original word over your current business plan and adjust the plan to fit the word.  The word, not the plan, has the power to launch your product for greater Kingdom impact. This decision will have its greatest effect in the personnel team you are about to assemble to make your product a reality.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Anointed Shoes

My wife, Jan, shared a story with me of parents who had a son that struggled with life.  These parents tried everything within their power to help their son.  Nothing was working.  They wanted their son to experience peace wherever he walked.  One day the parents felt impressed by the Lord to go into their son’s room and anoint his shoes with oil. Soon after anointing his shoes a friend of the son, who was equally challenged, put on the sons shoes.  That night, while wearing the anointed shoes, the friend came to know Jesus. Within days the troubled son was also touched by the love of God.

Some might say this was all a coincidence. I don’t think so. I believe in a God who takes our prophetic acts of faith seriously and uses them to release miracles. It is too easy to allow the cynical religious spirit of this age to make us critical of these unusual acts of faith.  Most of these critical voices are found within the Church where some people think they have God and His methods all figured out.

Those in desperate situations and without manmade options of rescue will seek any means possible to find freedom for those they love. When supernatural events take place that are connected to unusual acts of faith be the first one to celebrate these creative expressions of God’s nature.  Also celebrate those, who by their acts of faith, chose to do something that violated your sense of Christian normalcy and predictability.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jumping Ship

Recently, I was talking with a father about his son.  This father was obviously proud of the man his son had become.  The young man had received a full ride scholarship at a great university.  At some point before the school year began, the son told his father he did not want to take the scholarship, but instead, decided to go touring with his band.  His decision left many people stunned.

That decision was years ago and yet the father told me, “I am so proud of my son.  He was riding the large cruise ship of other people’s expectations and then he saw an island he wanted to visit so he jumped ship and swam to the island.”  When I heard that illustration it brought me a great sense of joy.  This young man was able to jump ship, stepping off the deck of other people’s expectations to pursue the desire of his heart.

There are callings and unexplored destinies that will not be discovered while living within the confines of other people’s expectations.  At some point you will have to follow what God has put in your heart no matter who becomes bothered by your decision.  There will be some who will label you as irresponsible, but don’t let that hold you back.  I am sure Peter’s family thought he had lost his mind when he left his fishing business to follow Jesus or when Matthew abandoned his lucrative tax firm to do the same.  There are times in life when jumping the ship of other people’s expectations is the only way forward.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Things Are Shaking Loose

I heard the Lord say, “Some things are coming apart.” Those words rolled around in my mind as the wheels of my bicycle rolled me along the road’s edge on my daily workout. My route was an 18 mile round trip. In both directions of travel, I saw bolts of all different sizes and shapes lying in the bike lane.  None of the bolts had a nut attached.  Each one had worked free from its original connection and fell to the pavement.

Bolts hold things together.  They are connectors.  This is a season where some relationships, ministries and alliances are coming undone. One ministry of the Spirit is to disconnect us from our current assignment in preparation for something new. These changes can be personally challenging. Your ability to remain transparent and humble in this process of change will determine if you are able to make the shift and move forward.

The reason these connecting bolts are coming loose is because this has been a season of rapid acceleration.  Things have begun to shake free at this new level of speed and vibration. Don’t rush to reassemble your past. Wait for the Lord’s instruction. Pick up the bolts from your current life experience and ask the Lord which ones fit His blueprint for this new season of your journey.  If the new assignment has no place for an old bolt leave it on the roadway and move on.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Give Them A Break

Two gifts an older generation can give a younger generation are patience and encouragement. Apart from sudden miracles most things of value take time to develop. Patiently and honorably choose to remain present in the lives of younger men and women and try to see what they are seeing. They are seeing the future and they desire to walk forward with you into that unfolding reality. Unfolding things are not always crystal clear in the beginning.
No matter what hits the fan in the process of change, it has always been the encouragers who helped people find the next step forward, not the critics or the friends who allowed personal preference to erase relationship. 
Remember what is was like when you were young and people didn't believe in you? You felt alone and dishonored. Our ability to believe is not limited to a list of doctrines and theology. Belief can mean giving people a break even when you don't understand all that is taking place.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Stumbled Generation

Several years ago, I emailed Dr. Jack Hayford a question about revival. This busy apostle of the church graciously took the time to write a lengthy email response that helped me see a larger picture than the one I had originally framed with my initial question. Gently correcting the misunderstanding of a younger leader is the ministry of a spiritual father. When I finished reading Jack’s email, I was humbled, but I was also honored at the way he graciously helped me see the issue from a different perspective.  As Pastor Jack wisely unpacked this deeper level of understanding he also provided an insightful observation.

He said an entire generation of leaders in our church family (Foursquare) had led without schooling and shaping the emerging generation of younger leaders on how to move, lead and respond to the working of the Spirit.  As I travel and minster in churches outside the Foursquare Church, I have seen this same thing taking place in other movements and denominations. Pastor Jack said these young leaders were not resistant to the Spirit.  They simply had not been raised in a ministry context where the Spirit moved with freedom in the grace of revival. This environment had created models of ministry that taught us how “to do church” which is often produced from within a studied caution to avoid the supernatural.

I titled this article, “A Stumbled Generation”. The stumbled generation is not the young leaders who are genuinely interested in a deeper move of God’s Spirit whose spiritual fathers failed to raise them up with an understanding of how this can take place.  The Stumbled Generation are leaders from my generation who now hold positions of influence and who have created models of ministry that function around the periphery of the Spirit’s supernatural intervention and manifestation.

It is not too late for my generation to rise from this stumbled posture and humbly confess a lack of courageous, Spirit-led leadership.  In this act of confession our generation can stand to its feet and with younger leaders walk forward together toward the only thing that will produce revival and cultural transformation – a fresh encounter with God’s Spirit.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Selective Literalism

When I was a young believer, I always admired people who were literalists when it came their understanding of scripture.  I felt this way because I thought these people carried a higher level of faith than the rest of us that enabled them to literally believe some of the things written in the Bible. When I began to read the Word my thinking changed. 

I read the words of Jesus where He said if your eye offends you, pluck it out.  He also said if your hand does something offensive, cut it off.  I always found it interesting that the same literalists who spoke to me about their literal interpretation of God and His Word always had both eyes and both hands fully intact and functioning as we talked. I began to wonder if they would also turn the other cheek if someone kicked down their front door and started to harm their family. Maybe Jesus was saying something different that is not discovered on the surface of a slavish literalism. At that point my own literalism about the non-essentials of my faith began to lose some of the intrigue they once held for me.

I have come to realize an uncomfortable fact – to some degree we are all selective literalists. We see so much of the Word through the lens of our personal bias and background. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he said, “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in all its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in heavenly places”.   This rich variety makes a literalist nervous because it doesn’t allow them to force the variety of the church into their narrow box of interpretation.

When the selective literalist inside me gets uppity and prideful about my understanding of what I think the Word means, I am reminded of what the prophet Isaiah said, “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts’, says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’”.  These words of Isaiah invite each of us to walk gently and humbly with other people when we are representing the Almighty God from within our narrow version of selective literalism.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Planting Presence Before We Plant Churches

The Early Church planted the presence of God before they planted churches.  In the Book of Acts, our original church planting manual, the birth of a local church came after the presence of God was released in a community through signs, wonders and miracles.  The by-product of that release was the birth of a local church.  Today, in some circles within the Church, we have lost this understanding.  Our efforts have been focused on developing well-groomed plans for church planting while somehow thinking this can be accomplished and sustained apart from on-going encounters with the supernatural God of heaven. We may have become too practical and measured in our desire to reach our cities.

We owe people a supernatural encounter with God. These encounters are not always practical or measured.  I wonder what would happen in our denominations and church planting movements if before we created well-crafted models of ministry we instead rediscovered the power and value of these God-encounters as a biblical key to unlock a city?  Cities locked in unbelief would be turned upside down if cancer were healed.  What would happen if lame people walked out of our hospitals or if a word of knowledge released in a corporate boardroom was able to create a new technology? 

All of these breakthroughs would come as the result of a God-encounter, not our best laid plans. Those gathering around to witness these manifestations would then want to know more about the supernatural God they just witnessed.  The by-product of that kind of an encounter would be a shared hunger that would find its expression in what we call a church plant. This is a healthy Kingdom progression where the product is always placed before the by-product.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Absolutes, My Bottom Line And The Things I Know To Be True

A life without a foundation of truth will eventually begin to wander. Our perception of truth becomes relative and flexible if sourced in human logic and emotion. If we allow these two issues to become our truth interpreters, it becomes difficult to live a simple and uncomplicated life and possess the unburdened faith Jesus invited us to experience. 
Have you explored what exists at your bottom line? Chances are it has become cluttered. It can take time and effort to dig down through all the religious debris to finally make this discovery. Digging through will require three tools: God’s Word, the Spirit and a personal honesty that only comes when you have navigated through your own personal failure to finally become humbled before the mercy of God. 
Here is what I discovered after a lifetime of a faith digging:
Jesus is God.
Love is the better way.
God is good.
Mercy will always triumph over judgment.
Forgiveness wins in the end.
God will never abandon me.
These points are my foundation for living. They have become the template of truth I place over my understanding of life. I don’t place my understanding of life over these issues to adjust their truth to my current reality. I adjust my life and my response to what life brings my way to these greater truths. 
Developing your own list will become a gift to you because once you establish your list you will no longer be drawn into the divisive battles that an overly complicated faith demands.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Failure To Yield

When I was in the 5th grade, I was assigned the job of a school crossing guard.  I got to wear a special vest and carried a metal sign on a pole with the word, “Stop”, printed in red and white across its face.  This was a big deal for a young boy. I was honored to be tasked with the safety of other people.

One day, as I was helping a group of younger kids across the street, a car slowed a bit then busted right through the crosswalk. This all happened as I stood in the middle of the street with my sign fully extended and visible with a line of kids in the crosswalk.  We all froze in place as the car accelerated between us. I noticed the angry driver was the father of one of the kids at our school. I knew this was wrong.  It was wrong at a deeper level than I was able to fully process at the time. In that moment, I felt ignored and demeaned. The other kids were confused and scared. Adults weren’t supposed to act that way.

Over the years, I have come so see this same thing happen in the adult settings of daily life. It takes place in the business world, in the church environment, within families and anywhere where those with more years of experience, position or power fail to honor those with less stature.  These people come up to a situation where someone is trying to make it across a challenging season of life and they choose to simply blow through the painful circumstance feeling their position in life provided them the privilege to bypass the need.

Some of the most powerful scripture we have describes Jesus interacting with those deemed “less” that the rest of culture – lepers, a woman caught in adultery, a vertically challenged man named Zacchaeus or a fumbling, over-confident disciple named Peter.  In these places of interaction Jesus revealed the compassion of the Father and brought heaven to earth. Today, if you are searching for miracles, signs and wonders, they are waiting at the crosswalks of life where the broken, lame and emotionally challenged are trying simply to get across.  In the middle of these crossings you will discover your place of ministry.