Thursday, April 30, 2015

Redefining Our Reality

Only God is able to pen the final definition for any person, group or culture. Resist allowing other people, special interest groups or governments to define your outlook on life. The only definition you can trust is one written from the dictionary of God's heart and mercy.

These redefining moments take place when we are willing to exchange our current understanding of the facts for the revelation of God. This revelation can make us uncomfortable because once God's heart is revealed we may discover that the ones we initially opposed had the most insightful definition all along.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye

This morning, I stood in front of a dumpster where I had just put my old chair.  It had finally worn out.  This was a chair I bought in Germany twenty years ago and it followed me back home in 1999.  For the last twenty years this chair has supported me in my early morning times with God.  It allowed me to sit in it’s warm embrace encouraging my thinking process as I wrote five books and hundreds of blog articles.  That old worn out chair had been my companion while I prepared messages and took phone calls from struggling people.  Looking at my old chair in the dumpster, I got choked up. I felt like I was throwing away an old friend.

As I stood in front of the dumpster part of me wanted to jump in and rescue my old friend, but I knew I could not.  It was time to say good bye. Even as I write this article a tender place in my heart is reacting to the typing of these words. The place my old chair once rested now has a new guest - a vintage Ekorne chair made in Norway.  My wife and daughter promised me this new chair would be a suitable and honorable replacement for my old friend.  As I sit here and write the Ekorne chair is faithfully supporting my endeavor.

In everything I experience in life, I try to see if there might be a personal message attached to the experience.  Today, my old chair provided such a message for me.  My old chair taught me there will be times when we simply need to let something go because it’s time of usefulness is over.  I think God allows us to feel these moments of release to prepare us to say goodbye to the more significant things in our lives like a loved one or a season of life that has come to an end.

Solomon wisely wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Everything in our lives has a time and a season to live and be part of our existence.  At some point we need to let go. Letting go of a relationship or a meaningful season of life is part of living.  Letting go of my old chair was helping me consider the release of other things in my life that are no longer serving me well. 

As I sit here writing, I notice that my back is not hurting because my new chair has a wonderful lumbar support that my old chair did not have.  This new chair might become a close friend sooner than I thought. The presence of this new chair is like a strange and unfamiliar season of life that begins to wrap itself around our lives inviting us to become a new and comfortable friend.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Leave No Mark

A friend of mine works with mentally challenged people.  Some of his clients have severe disabilities.  His work is really a ministry.  His commitment is humbling.  This week we had breakfast together. In the course of our conversation he described how he and his staff handle violent confrontations.  I listened with interest because I know my friend is also a second degree black belt in karate. I was expecting this highly trained martial artist to tell me how he did some exotic Bruce Lee style karate move on an aggressive patient.

As we sat in the diner, my friend said that because of abuse in the workplace, new ways to handle violent attacks were developed.  Each staff member is now trained to not grab a client because grabbing someone would leave a mark - a bruise.  The thumb is the culprit. They are now taught to touch aggressors with only an open hand. They do this by placing their thumb alongside the index finger forming an open hand that is not able to grab and apply pressure that would leave a bruise. They only way they are allowed touch a client during an assault is with an open hand until the client is able to calm down. As a result of this technique, no bruising marks are left on the aggressor when the violent encounter is over.

As I sat listening to my friend, the Lord began to download so much to me about how we as the Church should engage our culture.  There is a lot of cultural and theological pushing, shoving and grabbing taking place. We have all seen the angry confrontations in the public square where both sides of an issue try to grab each other in an attempt to forcefully subdue the opposition.  In some cases this interaction has left bruises on both sides.  The writer of Hebrews describes the only thing we can take hold of that will not leave a bruise -   “Take hold of the hope set before us.”  (Hebrews 6:18). Hope, not the will of another person, is the only safe place to apply pressure.

My friend used to be a pastor.  He told me working with mentally challenged people has taught him more about how to love other people than he ever learned working within the walls of a church.  He said he is now the student and his clients are the ones teaching him. My friend has learned all of this with an open and gentle hand.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dropping Rocks Of Judgment

This morning, as I prepared a message on the section of scripture in John 8 describing the woman caught in adultery, I was struck by something.  As the Pharisees brought the woman and put her in front of Jesus they wanted to stone her to death for her sin.  What struck me was the part of the story that reads, “When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.” It wasn’t Jesus alone with the woman – it was Jesus and the woman together in the midst of the crowd after the religious accusers had left.  The crowd was now waiting to see what Jesus would do with this woman and her sin.

Jesus gave us a profound picture of how the Church should live in the crowd of culture.  If anyone ever wanted to know the difference between an Old and New Testament prophet this is a prime example. There will always be haters and judgment-casters in our midst who forget that we live in a New Covenant.  This new way was not our idea, but God’s.  Jesus said He did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  He confronted the hypocrisy of the religious establishment of his day and they departed.  What was left was an audience of seekers hungry to know the loving God that stood before them.

The most profound sound the guilty and an inquiring culture will ever hear is the thud made by rocks of judgment falling from our hands and hitting the ground whenever truth is spoken in love. The only time we should pick up rocks is to build a memorial to God’s goodness. The rest of the time rocks belong on the earth, not in our hands.

Yes, Jesus did tell her to go her way and sin no more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Transforming Power Of Intimacy

I remember being a young pastor and trying to counsel couples who were going through a difficult time in their marriage. I tried to give them tasks to do to help them deepen their commitment to each other.  After a few years, I realized this wasn’t working.  About 30 years ago the Lord offered me some fresh insight.  He said, “Don’t give them any more lists.  Give them this one instruction.  In their place of separation tell them to begin walking toward Me. Their first task is not to save their marriage – it is to reestablish their individual intimacy with Me.  As they continue to walk toward Me in a deepening individual intimacy they will eventually close the distance between each other and stand shoulder-to-shoulder before Me. This is how I restore marriages.”

Intimacy with God is like target practice.  The closer you are to the target the less chance you have to score a miss. Intimacy with God has a greater potential for breakthrough than standing at a distance from each other demanding that all our questions be answered or having things work out the way we had hoped.

Every struggle you now face can find its resolution in God’s presence. God is restoring more than marriages.  He is restoring individuals, businesses, churches, denominations and nations.  Each of these restoration processes will have in its core a reestablished intimacy with God. No matter how well crafted your plan of restoration may be, it will ultimately fail if the participants are not living together in a relationship where intimacy with God is the greatest value.

Today, stop trying to fix yourself and other people and simply invite them to walk with you deeper into a reestablished intimacy with God.  In this journey you will begin to shed the dividing issues that created the separation in the first place. This is where you will find the peace you are seeking.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can We Blame Them?

How can we blame a culture for their anger and distrust of religious institutions if somewhere along the way we began to think we could displace the merciful voice of God and begin telling people how to live?  Paul said, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside.” (I Corinthians 5:12-13b)

There is not a single person you will meet today that God loves any less than the greatest saint who ever lived.  We are all His children – even those whom you believe are dismantling the Western Culture you hold so dear.  As this political season begins to heat up choose to turn down the volume of your personal rhetoric so that the redemptive quality of your voice is not lost in the angry crowd.  Some of the most angry voices don’t come from those Paul described as “outsiders”, but from those who have been redeemed. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Jesus got angry in the Temple environment, but not on the street with those who were still considered outsiders.

As a believer everything you need to live a godly life has already been given to you. Hell and the hellish lifestyles of others can never take away what you possess.  The most anti-Christ voices can many times come from within segments of the Church who believe they can best represent God by demanding all of culture and politics be defined within their narrow interpretation.   This is a fear response that paralyzes the message we carry.  God’s Kingdom is expanding on earth and nothing can stop it – even the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in the United States. 

A Blooming Season

In the hills above my home grows a rare flower from the Lily family of plants called the Gentner’s Fritillaria. This plant was first identified in 1942 in a young woman’s bouquet of flowers.  It only lives on earth in this part of Southern Oregon.  It is believed that only 1200 of these rare plants exist.

The Gentner’s Fritillaria can only grow in certain microclimates that exist within this part of Southern Oregon in the hills above the small town of Jacksonville, Oregon.  You have to be walking along the right trail, at the right time of year, in the right part of the forest to see these beautiful plants.  You won’t find them elsewhere in Oregon or during any other time of year.  God was very specific when He created this plant and placed it in this small part of the world. He had a purpose for narrowly defining the habitat of this plant.

This week, I was hiking these trails when I came across this plant in full bloom. It was stunning to see. I slowed my walk down to just a slow stroll and counted about twenty different blossoming plants during a four-mile hike.  As I pondered the unique and rare nature of this plant the Lord began to download a word to me using this plant to explain His truth.

We are in a season where there exists an abundance and wide variety of prophetic words. God and His truth have many unique facets, reflecting the same truth in many different ways seen from different perspectives. Truth and revelation are not diminished because we see the same truth packaged in ways resembling a field of uniquely different and beautiful flowers. 

In the field of prophetic words, God has a specific word waiting for you.  Like the discovery of a rare flower that grows nowhere else on earth, God wants you to find a specific word for this specific season.

On the day of my hike a group of amateur botanists were on a power hike through the mountains in an attempt to find this plant.  They seemed desperate and asked if I had seen any blossoms.  They had just hiked through the same area I had hiked.  Their speed had caused them to worry more about where their feet were going on the trail than on their surroundings, causing them to miss the beauty of the forest beyond.

Just as there is a right place and right time to view this rare Fritillaria flower in bloom, God has specific and unique treasures for you to discover over the course of your life.  Some revelatory words will not come quickly because there has yet to be created a personal context in which to deliver the word. This is a time to wait and trust God to assemble the right people and the right circumstance needed for the delivery of the word you have been seeking.

Ask God to take you into the forest of prophetic words and reveal that one rare word you need for this season. His word will bloom and He will make it known to you.  Ask Him if you are on the right path, in the right forest and in the right spiritual climate where this word is planted awaiting your arrival.  If you are out of position ask God to reposition your life. He will be faithful to do so.

Once you find the word God has spoken over you, it will be a rare treasure - not seen unless you were on the right path, in the right forest at the right time of year where His word has been destined to bloom.  Slow down and you will be able to discover your specific word hidden in plain sight.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

God's Girl

He runs to meet her.
Her arms hold His advance at a distance,
safely away.
She is not yet ready to embrace again,
not trusting still.
Sorrow of promises broken push hard against
His advance of love.
Back again He comes
wanting to hold her,
to feel the warmth of this distant daughter,
this God-girl.
Her refusing arms still extending,
limbs of disbelief.
His tender strength takes her unwilling arms
inviting her to love again,
to live a future not believed possible
before this last embrace came
changing everything.