Sunday, May 31, 2015

Stepping On Storms

When Peter stepped over the side of his boat and began to walk on water the side of the boat represented the line of separation between human logic and reasoning and Spirit-led wisdom and revelation. Jesus invited Peter to experience a miracle in the middle of the storm when He said to Peter, “Come”. Peter then wisely responded to the revelation of Jesus.

Navigating a storm with human logic and reasoning will only produce an interesting story of survival.  Crossing a stormy sea while walking on the waves will produce a testimony of something miraculous.

There are times when responding to the voice of Jesus will require that you defy religious logic and reasoning.  In these moments of radical obedience is where miracles are experienced. Today, climb over the side of your boat and respond to the voice of Jesus no matter how illogical or unreasonable His request may sound.  This is where your miracle is waiting.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Father's Duty

This morning I am performing a duty required by all fathers. I am helping one of my kids.  My daughter, Anna,  is out of country in Chile.  She called last night from Santiago asking me to start her car since and let it run since it will have sat idle for several weeks prior to her return home. When I went out to start her car the battery was dead.  On the outside the car looked great, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I jump-started the car and drove it down to our local tire dealer who sells batteries and had them install a new one. The old battery had no life left. When I parked the car in front of the business the battery was so completely dead it would not even restart for the technician who was trying to drive it into the service bay.

As I sit here in the lobby of the tire business waiting for a new battery to be installed, I realize my life, and maybe the lives of some of you who are reading these words, looks a lot like my daughter’s car. On the outside we appear functional, but inside we lack the spark needed to get our lives moving forward. Throughout the various seasons of our lives each of us will find ourselves in those moments of time where we need the Father to come and jump-start a dead place in our life and install a new spiritual battery. This is not something we can provide for ourselves.  God our Father does this because He loves us. Our contribution to the process is asking Him to come and check us out.

Our spiritual batteries run out of juice when we rely on the anointing from a previous season to somehow carry us into a new season.  The discovery of a dead spiritual battery is an invitation to begin believing for something more - a new start that requires a new anointing.

I used to get depressed when I discovered my spiritual battery had run out of power.  Anymore, I am learning to get excited because I have come to realize our loving Father delights in fulfilling His duty of love to jump start our lives when they have become parked and immobilized. When God comes He will install a fresh anointing that will carry us into a new season of life and ministry. This is what a Father does. Like my daughter did with me, call your Father to come and check out the status of your spiritual battery.  If you discover it no longer has enough power to get you going, trust God to install a fresh measure of His presence in your life for the next leg of your journey. Our Father loves to do this for His Children because it is His duty of love.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wait For The Sweet Fruit

As I bit into the beautiful apricot, I was expecting the sweet familiarity of a fruit I have known all my life, but instead, I received an explosion of sour. I knew it was still early in the year for the best apricots when I purchased a bag full at my local market. I made the premature purchase because I wanted the first taste of an apricot to come and usher in the beginning of my summer. I had rushed something that needed more time to become the sweet fruit I was expecting. I was disappointed, but not surprised. You cannot rush the maturity of fruit.

As a young boy, I picked apricots during the summer. I spent many hours atop a ladder in the orchards surrounding Los Gatos, California. My first ritual during those early mornings was to climb to the top of my ladder and pick a perfectly ripe apricot still covered with morning dew. It would be hard to describe the taste to you if the only apricot you have known came from a store. Only an apricot eaten in the fullness of its perfection and picked straight from a tree, can provide such an experience.

While the sour taste of the unripened apricot filled my mouth the Lord said, “Tell them to wait for the sweet fruit.” Upon hearing those words, I sensed something prophetic being given to me for people whose lives are beginning to bear new fruit in a new season. You have waited a long time to finally see the fruit that is beginning to appear on the vine of your labor, but it is still too early. Your fruit is still maturing. It looks like mature fruit, but it does not carry the sweet impact God intends. God is using this time to bring your fruit to a fullness of flavor. He is asking you to wait just a little longer. Once you taste what God has done in these final days of maturing you will understand why He asked you to wait before you begin your harvest.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

No More False Starts

There have been a series of false starts in your life. You have wanted to see your life move forward and you thought it was your job to deliver yourself into a place of blessing.  This has always been God’s task - not yours, but you seemed to have picked up the illusion of this responsibility somewhere along the way.  In doing so you have linked your understanding of God’s favor to what you can produce by your efforts. A false start is the result of trying to do in your power what can only be done in God’s power. 

Trying to move forward under human power is an indicator of a misunderstanding of God’s favor. This is your time to live in a place of restful productivity that only comes to those who know they already possess the favor of God. God’s favor is a gift.  It can never be earned through human activity. 

The new start you are seeking exists within the understanding that you already possess the favor of God apart from what you do. Once you know you are a favored one you will not have to prove your worth by attempting another false start motivated and empowered by an orphan spirit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This is a Season of Realignment

We have entered a season where some of you will have your lives and ministries realigned for greater impact.  You are about to enter a new and unexplored future.  A realigning must first take place before that future is experienced. This realignment will require a change of direction because the previous course would not bring you to the destination God has planned for your life. To experience the blessing and benefit of this realignment you will need to focus your efforts on a new and previously unseen horizon.  This new horizon is where you will see the approaching manifestation of a fresh work of God's Spirit.

Some of the elements of this realignment will take place without your permission. You will simply be forced through circumstances beyond your control to align with a season of life you had never considered. This is where you will have the opportunity to live out Paul's words to the Romans that tell us God can work out everything for our good - even in the middle of the whirlwind of a life-transition.

Because so much is happening that is unfamiliar you will want to control what is taking place. In His great love, God will not allow you to control this outcome. He is inviting you to a place of trust.  This need to control is one reason why you are being realigned.  God wants you to let go of your need to control every aspect of your life and return to the raw faith you once displayed when you relied on Him in a pure and childlike faith.  You don't need to have any of this figured out.  Once this realignment is over it will make sense.  Right now you simply need to know that God's hand is on your life and He is leading you forward. You have nothing to fear.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why This Sunday Is So Important

This is Pentecost Sunday - a day the Church celebrates the events of Acts 2 and the ministry of the Spirit. Today we are reminded that the Church began it's journey with a display of the Spirit's power.  We are also reminded that if we are to do all that God has destined the only way we can accomplish that task will be to continue in that same model of a Spirit-empowered life and ministry.  We will not discover a more successful model or method to transform lives, plant churches or impact cities.

So much of what is done in the Western Church today is good, but can be accomplished by a local civic club. We should continue to do the good things, but there is more.  In scripture the most significant events took place when God showed up and did something miraculous beyond the natural ability of human beings. I am no longer surprised when people decide to spend their limited time off outside the activities that take place within the walls of many local churches. We owe our world an encounter with a miraculous God and we also owe those who have professed His name that same encounter.

My hope and prayer for this Pentecost Sunday is that as we gather today we would make room for God to show up in such a profound and powerful way that we will no longer need to set aside a single day of the year to remind us of His supernatural ways that only took place somewhere in the pages of our history.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Life Closes In Around You

In the last season you felt the pressures of life close in around you.  You felt crushed under the weight of what you experienced. You ran away and thought you had finally distanced yourself from the pain, but those uncomfortable feelings are coming to visit once again and you are concerned. You want to run away again in an attempt to free yourself from the coming pressure, but God in His great love has asked you to remain.

The reason why this time will be different is because God has put a new strength within you that He wants you to discover.  This inner strength is like the walls of a fortress being tested in battle for the first time.  Your walls will hold.

As these unwelcome pressures come stand still and trust what God has put in place.  He has you right where He wants you.  Don’t run. You will not be be crushed.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Hinge of Hope

The door into the new season of your life hangs on the hinges of your attitude.  What you choose to believe will become the hinge upon which the door to your future hangs.  Your belief and attitude toward God and your future will determine if your door is able to swing open or remain closed.

The breakthrough you are seeking will take place when God is able to free you from the hindering attitude of negativity. This attitude has allowed the spiritual rust of doubt and fear to encase and immobilize the hinge on the door to your future.

No matter how long your door has remained shut behind a rust producing attitude it is never too late to make a change.  Stand before the door to your future and begin to speak of God’s goodness. Prophesy hope about your future.  Declare that your path is a known way to God.  You have not been forgotten. Speak words that reveal a future filled with promise. 

Your words of faith will invite the oil of God’s Spirit to come and begin to supernaturally lubricate the frozen hinges allowing the door to your future to swing open and reveal what the doubt, fear and hopelessness of your past did not want you to see.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

When God Moves

The greatest moves of God have taken place beyond the limiting familiarity of personal history, tradition and preference. This is why when a revival arrives it can appear out of control and uncomfortable to some. The challenge produced by living within the walls of our personal history, tradition and preference is the familiarity they produce.  We want a repeat of what we understand.  God wants to do something radically new. He does not promise that we will understand everything taking place in every new season of life. This need to understand is why we can become suspect of things taking place beyond the boundaries of our familiarity.

The prophet Isaiah said, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) The new thing God wants to do requires a new level of perception - the ability to see beyond what is known and familiar.  When God births something new it will appear as unexpectedly as a freshly cut path through an impenetrable forest or as unusual as a stream supernaturally birthed and flowing in a place historically known only as a desert.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Peeling Off Labels

As I prayed about the day, I saw an image of God's hand.  His hand reached out and began to peel off a sticky label that had been attached to someone in an attempt to define their life.  These unrighteous labels carry demands that require you to live under the banner of their limited definition of your life. This particular label needed to come off because believing it's lie had closed doors that God intended to remain open and it had shut down relationships before they had a chance to develop.

Today, you are being relabeled.  You will know these new labels are from God because they will have words written on them like, "Friend", "Beloved" and "Cherished".  His labels will define His passionate love for you.

As God relabels your life He will ask you to monitor more closely who you allow to bring definition to your life.   Only Jesus, not you, your failures, any person or group of people, has the right to place a label on your life.  Only Jesus has permission to do that because He paid the price for the right to relabel the lives of those whom He redeems.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Looking Beneath The Surface

In the current state of national and international affairs the gift of faith will be required now, more than ever, if we are to correctly see and interpret the times in which we live. 

The unbelieving culture of Jesus’ day was much like the culture of our day.  They were angry and upset. Into this disturbed culture Jesus said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (John 7:24)

God is always at work beneath the surface of visible cultural malaise preparing to do those things that are infinitely more wonderful than we could ever hope or imagine. These wonderful things are what our eyes of faith will see if we choose to look beneath the surface of what is obvious to see correctly the works of God that are taking place.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Getting Simple

I love the scriptures. I trust them.  The purpose of scripture is to reveal Jesus - the One who is the Word Himself. He was the Word before scripture was penned into existence. He was there before the beginning of everything and He will remain after everything is finished. As you read the words of Jesus in the Gospels - the words written in red - you are reading words spoken by the Word Himself. All other scripture takes a supporting role to the words spoken by Jesus. Jesus said, “You search the scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the scriptures point to Me!” (John 5:39)

I wonder how Paul would respond if he and Jesus were in a room today surrounded by church leaders? Would Paul give more importance to what he wrote or to the words spoken by Jesus?  Without diminishing the profound nature of the Spirit-inspired scripture written by Paul and other disciples, I am confident the filter for truth would be Jesus, not the words written by any follower of Jesus, Paul included.

As you attempt to define your faith or find your way through a tumultuous political season, your primary source document for life and cultural interaction are the words of Jesus. As you step into this new season put your Bible reading program on hold and go back to the words in red spoken by the Word Himself. Park your heart and mind in the Gospels. Allow the beautiful simplicity of Jesus’ words to rearrange all aspects of your life.  His words will be like a breath of fresh air that blows through your mind removing all the religious cobwebs left behind by an overly-complicated life of faith.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Shaking The High Places

  • News Feed

    Nepal has been hit by two devastating earthquakes. On April 25 a 7.8 earthquake struck and was soon followed by a 7.3 magnitude quake on May 12. These earthquakes have left thousands dead and injured. Heroic rescue efforts are underway as I write these words. My daughter, Anna, just returned from Nepal so this tragedy is hitting close to home. The world is rushing to Nepal and the surrounding nations to bring aid and mercy.

    National Geographic said these two earthquakes were so strong they likely caused permanent changes in the surface structure of the earth. Early reports indicate these earthquakes may also have changed the altitude of Mount Everest - the highest place on earth. Preliminary data provided by European scientists from the analysis of satellite data indicate Everest has experienced a slight decrease in altitude. The city of Katmandu shifted as much as nine feet from its previous position. Because of these two events maps and topographical renderings will need to be redrawn.

    Natural disasters can reveal some disturbing views of God and human tragedy. My personal understanding of God and His heart is that He is not the author of tragedy. He loves people. His love motivated Him to put Jesus on the Cross as our substitute. On the Cross God judged our sin once and for all. This was a full and complete judgment in order to provide for us a full and complete salvation. The final judgment of God will be take place in eternity before His throne. Between the Cross and eternity God is not in the business of judging anyone and neither should those who bear His name. In the meantime, a fragile and groaning earth will provide enough upheaval of it’s own until it is one day returned to it’s original design. When a natural disaster like the one in Nepal takes place it is too easy for some to label the tragedy as “an act of God” giving God a cruel and undeserved label.

    I wrote the previous paragraphs to lay the groundwork to share the following: As I read the incident reports detailing the Nepal earthquakes and the information regarding altitude changes to Mount Everest, I heard the Lord say, “As the natural world is shaking, I am about to shake the high places of government and culture. What seemed high and immovable will now yield to My will. I will bring down what seems out of reach and I will raise up what has been forgotten. Watch the high places of position and power. This shaking will be a sign of a coming move of My Spirit upon the earth. I am about to shake the high places. Watch the high places.”

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    The Building Pressure of Promise

    Some of you are feeling a tremendous amount of internal pressure. This pressure is not the result of a build up of personal frustration or the challenges you face in an unstable culture. Something else is taking place.  It would be easy to misinterpret the real reason for the pressure. This pressure has come because the promises of God are being stored up in your life and ready for release.  In the Spirit your life resembles a large and powerful hydroelectric dam put in place to capture the energy potential of a large river. God is allowing the capacity of these promises to reach a critical point of pressure before release.

    The enemy of your soul wants you to run away from this building pressure because it feels uncomfortable and unusual. God wants you to wait and trust Him.  These feelings of pressure are not to be your focus in the waiting.  This will not last forever. Release is coming.  In the waiting turn around and look downstream.  This release will transform the spiritual terrain and relationships that are waiting for you in your future.

    The One who faithfully made these promises is to be your focus, not the pressure or even the promises themselves.  That focus will be your place of peace in this season of building spiritual pressure.

    Friday, May 8, 2015

    More Than A Proverbs 31 Woman

    This morning, I read Proverbs 31. Mother’s Day is approaching. I have the significant women in my life on my mind - my wife, Jan and my daughter, Anna. Years ago, Jan and I had a conversation where I asked her how she wanted to live her life and express her gifts and talents. I have supported that decision for the last 35 years as we have lived that definition together.

    Recently, I told my single daughter how proud I was of her to have not let the cultural models of Christian womanhood dictate how she would live her life. Both of these significant and unique women express the freedom of a choice they made with God’s leading and permission. They are both beautiful and dangerous. They are beautiful because they are being uniquely defined by God and they are dangerous because they both have broken the molds of what it means to be a woman of faith.

    As I read Proverbs 31 - a text that has been promoted as the pinnacle of Christian womanhood - I am bit uncomfortable. If I were a woman, apart from the wonderful character qualities expressed in this chapter, I am not sure I would want to follow that model. I would be somewhat confused about my role as a woman of faith especially having read the New Testament where women traveled with Jesus, ministered alongside Paul as spiritual equals and did all the same things the men did who followed the Spirit’s leading. My confusion would be further affirmed when I read Paul words to the Galatians, “There is not longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    While the image of the Proverbs 31 woman is admirable, it also sounds like a prison, of sorts. Again, not the beautiful character traits of this woman, but the one-size-fits-all model it promotes. I write this as a man, not as a woman. So please bear with me as I process these thoughts from the opposite gender. So much changed after the Cross. Serving each other has never gone out of style, nor did giving permission for some women to faithfully serve their husbands and families just like the woman in Proverbs 31 who accomplished all her daily tasks so her husband could sit at the city gates and be well-respected.

    Proverbs 31 is not the only model of life for women. It is not transferable to every woman. In our family I am the one who rose before dawn this morning to cook Jan her breakfast so she could do some of the things that express her calling in ways beyond a limited definition of an Old Covenant model of womanhood.

    With Mother’s Day approaching maybe the greatest gift we could give a woman on this special day, whether single or married - with children or not - would be to ask them how they would like to live their lives and then wrap that decision as a gift and give it to them.

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    A Published Life

    When I wrote my first book, Prayers From The Throne of God, Dr. Jack Hayford honored me by writing the foreword. During a phone conversation with Pastor Jack, I mentioned I was worried about the book having grammatical mistakes. Jack said, "All books have mistakes. Just publish it!" All of a sudden the weight I carried as a new author fell from my shoulders as I received the words of a wise man.

    This applies so much to how we choose to live our lives. Some of the best advice I could ever give a person would be - Just live it! You will make mistakes, but don't let the fear of a mistake hold you back from what God has asked you to do. A lot of life goes unpublished because we live with the illusion that what we do for God will be without mistakes. This is not true. After my first book was published there were several mistakes found after the proof readers had signed it off as ready for publication. The same thing just happened with book number five. Such is the essence of living. Just live it and give the mistakes to God.

    Sunday, May 3, 2015

    The Way Forward

    I am more and more convinced the way forward for the Church in the coming season will not be discovered by traveling a known course predicted and planned by our logic and reasoning.  The way forward will be discovered within the wind of the Spirit. 

    Near our home in Jacksonville, Oregon is one of the premier paragliding launch points in United States called Woodrat Mountain.  Paragliders fly a cloth wing suspended by cord lines that resembles a high-tech parachute.  As I drive through the Applegate Valley, I always glance up toward Woodrat Mountain looking for a paraglider in flight. 

    This sport has developed a niche group within it’s ranks called vol bivouac.  Vol bivouac is fly-camping. These pilots pack minimal camping gear and launch into flight not knowing where they will eventually land.  They take an expedition to an unknown camping spot where they will land at the end of the day waking the next morning to do the same thing all over again.  Some of these pilots travel hundreds of miles over the course of a week.  Only a handful of vol bivouac pilots exist worldwide.

    The goal of these pilots is to seek out and enter a rising a thermal of air to capture the upward lift it produces gaining enough altitude to then glide forward in their journey until they discover another thermal.  This process of catching rising air thermals and gliding forward is the engine of this form of travel. At the end of the day they try to land at the highest point of altitude. This high place will put them in the best position to launch the next day.

    This is such a powerful illustration of how the Church needs to travel into the next season of our history. We have some adjustments to make in how we live or we may end up creating an expression of the Church that resembles a large airliner where we sit in a noisy aluminum enclosure for hours droning along established routes of travel to predetermined destinations.  We need to return, and in some cases reinvent, how we interact with God and His Spirit.

    The way forward for the Church will not be discovered by flying established routes of religious flight.  Our way forward will resemble a vol bivouac pilot.  To do this we must rethink how we fly. 

    I learned some valuable lessons from these fly-camping paragliders.

    They Fly Simply

    A paragliding traveler packs minimally.  Ounces, not pounds, determine what they carry.  It is time to offload much of what we think we need as believers and get really simple once again - like the first disciples who walked with Jesus without carrying a lot of excess religious baggage. We carry God’s presence. That is our bottomline.  God’s presence within us contains all we will need for the journey.  Anything else is just added weight.

    They Fly Without Defined Map Lines

    While these pilots carry topographical maps they only use them to determine what kind of terrain they are flying through.  The rising air thermals dictate their direction. This kind of flight is not planned with straight lines drawn on a map. Many of our religious straight lines are drawn over known pathways or the way we have done things in the past.  We have become good at repeating the predictable. God is wanting to launch us into unpredictable spiritual airspace where we can rediscover what it means to live, trust and move in the Spirit.

    They Value Altitude Over Distance

    A paraglider must gain altitude in order to achieve distance. They search out rising air thermals and once discovered, they stay within the columns of rising air to gain every foot of altitude possible before moving forward.  We need to rediscover how to linger in the presence of the Spirit.  This is where we will gain spiritual altitude and this is where we are finally able to stop living with the self-imposed requirement that we always have to be moving forward along a straight map line as the ultimate measure of our success. 

    This ability to linger in God’s presence will be critical if we are going to rise above the cultural terrain we are facing in this new and unexplored leg of our journey. To experience the freedom this kind of flight offers requires that we step off a precipice of predictability and begin to soar within the unpredictable thermals of God’s presence.