Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Defining Never

God promised to never leave or forsake His people. He never promised any nation would stand throughout time. Understanding God’s use or lack of use of the word “never” will bring clarity, peace and a renewed perspective to your life and calling. 

A misunderstanding of this word has led some people to become insecure in their relationship with God. It has led others to base their security on the strength of a nation instead of the strength of God. In a rapidly changing culture we can become prey to fear if our understanding of the word “never” is misunderstood and misplaced.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Carry On Theology

God wants to lighten the load of your theology.  Some of you are carrying too much non-essential theological baggage.  This load of excess baggage will inhibit you from moving forward at the speed and flexibility required to navigate this current season of rapid cultural change.

I have visited close to 50 countries.  That amount of repeated travel taught me how to pack my bags. When I first began to travel, I packed way too much.  The first real trip Jan​ and I took together was comical.  We had planned to be gone for only 4 nights to a conference.  We packed so much luggage you would need an Olympic weight-lifter to help carry all our suitcases. Today when I travel, I can do an entire week with one small carry on bag.  This single piece of luggage has enabled me to connect with tight flight schedules without ever worrying about my luggage.  It keeps me light and mobile and available for any unexpected changes in my travel schedule.

I often wondered what Paul meant when he said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)  I think I now understand what Paul meant. He was able to deal with a variety of people and belief systems because he kept his theological baggage light and mobile by focusing on Jesus alone.  This is where we find the Church in the current cultural climate.  The itinerary God has planned for the Church will not allow us to travel with the excess theological baggage of our past.  We will need to leave behind some of the non-essentials of our faith in order to move forward.  Our journey of faith started out as Jesus-plus-nothing and it will end in the same way.  Be wise in what you pack for the coming journey.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Don’t Say Anything Stupid

About thirty years ago, I was a young pastor sitting in a long and spirited business meeting during our yearly denominational convention.  A topic on the agenda was getting some heated response from the floor of the convention body. 

My pastor, Roy Hicks, Jr., was seated on the platform as one of the officiants of the meeting. In the middle of that very long meeting Roy got up and walked out to take a break.  As he walked down the aisle past hundreds of people he passed by a group of us younger pastors who were seated together. Roy had raised each of us in ministry and sent us out to plant our first churches. He was our spiritual father.

Each of us were filled with all kinds of personal opinions and wanted to be heard on the subject being addressed.  As the meeting progressed, we began to whisper our opinions back and forth between each other hoping we might craft something to say that would sound wise beyond the years of our limited experience. Roy could see the youthful impatience in our eyes from the platform. As Roy walked down the aisle toward the back door, he never glanced our way.  As he passed by he leaned slightly in our direction and without breaking stride whispered, “Don’t say anything stupid!”

I never forgot that situation or Roy’s words.  What wise advice for those of us who live in the age of immediate and undisciplined social media interaction. When the issues of life become heated in the public arena it is all too easy to say stupid things in the heat of the moment and forget that a fruit of the Spirit - self-control - is the vehicle in which our wisdom is communicated in a timely and Spirit-led manner. By the way, “stupid” in the dictionary means “1. Slow to learn or understand; obtuse. 2. Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes.” Here’s to not saying stupid things in the name of God when our culture and some in the Church are filled with passion and the desire to be heard.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Hidden Potential of Weakness

We all have the tendency to try and distance ourselves from the places of our greatest weakness. Somewhere in our journey of faith we discover a hidden gem of truth - our weak places are where God promises to do His most powerful work.

Jesus revealed this gem of truth to Paul when He said the most profound God-work would take place in the weakest area of Paul’s life - an area Paul had been praying would go away. When Jesus  was speaking to Paul, He was also speaking into the future where you and I now struggle with feelings of desperation and despair.  Just as He promised Paul, the Lord is willing to pour out His Spirit in the weakest areas of our lives if we would simply yield those areas to Him. This is why we are asked to step out in faith in obedience to God’s voice for things not yet seen in the weakest parts of our lives.  We do this believing that something supernatural is possible with God when all human resources have been exhausted. 

Once we understand this truth, we can begin to rejoice because something fresh and new from God is about to arrive and turn the weakest part of our life into a place where His power is supernaturally displayed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Myth of Heroes and Success

(The following is Chapter 45 from my book, The Leadership Rock. Today, I felt a nudge that a pastor, someone in business or anyone leading something somewhere needed this encouragement.)

Twenty years ago, I sat in a large convention center with several thousand pastors. We were attending a denominational conference.  One of the scheduled speakers had to cancel at the last moment, and Roger Whitlow, a pastor of a large and impacting church in Fresno, California, was asked to speak in his place.
The Valley Christian Center in Fresno had grown over the years to thousands of people. The church had a beautiful facility and school.  Its ministry impacted a city and a region. I heard Roger speak on several occasions, and he is one of the most solid and balanced leaders I had ever listened to. I still have some of his notes from when I was a student and the contents ring as true today as they did decades ago.
To the best of my memory, when Roger stepped up to speak, these were some of the first words out of his mouth:

     "Many of you think what is taking place in Fresno is because I am some great leader. You see the    numbers of people coming to our church and think its all happening because of me.  Let me tell you the truth.  God decided to do something special in Fresno, and I just happened to be the pastor leading the church when all of this happened.  It wasn’t because of me. It was because God decided to do this on my watch."

When Roger finished speaking there was a pause. The atmosphere of the meeting began to shift. Something strange took place—I could sense a collective sigh of relief sweep across the room. I was one of those sighing. Something was being broken off.
At the time of this conference, pastors in the American Church were in the midst of a season when we were being asked to attend conferences with titles like, “Breaking the 200 Barrier.” Numerical markers were being laid down to denote ministerial success. Your emotions and self-worth were determined on which side of the numerical barrier you found yourself.
A subtle message was being sent out via the large glossy conference invitations that came to our church mailboxes inferring that only beyond certain numbers could we really be doing something significant for God. It didn’t help that denominations across the nation supported this error of thinking by “platforming” pastors of larger ministries as a way to encourage us to “break out.” It didn’t work. It just got a lot of us depressed in the process of comparison.
As Roger Whitlow’s words of freedom were released, the weighted yoke of having to produce something defined as numerical “success” began to lift off many of the leaders present that day. What was being broken off was the yoke of the lie that says, “Bigger is Always Better.”
Today, many of the leaders I talk to within the Church are waiting for something to happen. The danger in times like these is to respond in the way we did twenty years ago. What we really need today, like we did twenty years ago, is an encounter with God. We really don’t need another conference or the acquisition of a new skill set. 
Most of us have attended the conferences, enrolled in the self-analysis programs or even added a fresh skill set in an attempt to do old things in a new way. These attempts have failed as a jump-start. They fail because they try to do what only God can do.
Anymore, when I pray for people, I only pray for an encounter with God.  I pray for one of those supernatural Book of Acts kind of encounters that so radically shifts the life of a pastor that the culture of the church they lead is also shifted. When the Church discovers God in a fresh way, the culture will also share in the shift. This is the domino effect of a God-encounter. 
Over the years, I keep hearing the words of Roger Whitlow. They make more sense today than when I first heard them twenty years ago. Roger reminded us that we don’t need another leader at a conference who makes us think that anything other than a God-encounter will make a difference in the long run. He reminded us that what we need is for God to show up.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Coming Turn

Where I live in southern Oregon we have something called the Bear Creek Greenway. The Greenway is a nature corridor that follows Bear Creek as it winds its way through the beautiful Rogue Valley.  Part of the Greenway is a paved bike path that travels 20 miles along the creek edge.  This week, as I pedaled my bicycle along a familiar section of the Greenway, I noticed a sign along the path.  It warned me to slow down and proceed with caution because I was entering a blind corner.  As I passed the sign, I felt impressed to stop, turn around and go back.  I found myself standing in front of the sign and listening. I knew this was a God-moment. As the other cyclists whizzed by the Lord began to speak.

You are approaching a sharp and unexpected turn. This turn will be what is called a “blind turn” because what lies ahead cannot be seen. I want you to know I see the full arc of this turn and all that will be involved as you change course and head in a new direction.  I see the beginning and the end and because of this, I want you to move forward with confidence.

In your approach to the turn, you will slow down to adjust your position and speed in an attempt to safely navigate the pathway. These are not the adjustments I want you to make. I am changing your status quo.

Human reasoning will not help you navigate through the inertia of the coming turn. This turn can only be navigated in response to the immediate, in-the-moment instructions I will provide by My Spirit. Don’t simply rely on past experience or how successfully you were able to predict and navigate through the previous turns of your life.  I want to take you to a new level of trust required to deliver you to a new destination. This new level of trust will require that you ignore the warning signs of fear erected by others on the pathway of your faith.

As you approach this turn - speed up by increasing your trust in Me.   Press forward beyond the limits of your past failures and the fears of an unexplored future. I invite you to make this turn with shouts of joy and the exhilaration that comes from a ride saturated with trust. The wheels of your faith will hold because My hand will be your point of traction. I will reveal the way forward as the turn deepens. I will accelerate you through this moment and deliver you safely to the good place I have planned for you.

When the Lord finished speaking, I got back on my bike and continued to ride ahead making the turn the sign had warned me about.  I knew this word was for me and for others who will read these words.   Our God is a Deliver.  He not only delivers us out of situations, but He also faithfully delivers us through the turns and twists that exist along the path of faith. As I finally pedaled out of the turn and onto the straightaway of the bike path, I knew God was extending an invitation to me and others to experience a supernatural change of direction that will require the power of His love to complete.  This is where I want to place my trust and I invite you to do the same.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Speaking to an Angry and Frustrated Culture

Forty years ago, I was a young police officer trained as a Hostage Negotiator.  The new and developing science of hostage negotiation was beginning to find a place in many large metropolitan police agencies across the nation.  As negotiators, we were sent into life and death situations hoping to find a peaceful resolution.

In these loud and highly stressful scenarios one of our first tasks was to deescalate the emotions of the hostage taker.  We needed to bring the emotions and resulting conversation down to a level where we could begin to find a peaceful resolution.  This would only happen in a two-way conversation.  The deescalation would many times take place while a suspect was holding a gun to someone’s head or the threat of an explosion from a destructive device was imminent. The emotion exhibited in these high stress situations did not appear over night.  Sometimes these events were the result of entire lifetime of pent up emotions and finally losing their remaining bit of self-control in a moment of desperation.

I would begin the process of deescalation by talking in a barely audible voice.  This would cause the suspect to stop yelling and consciously lower his voice if he wanted to hear what I had to say.  Our conversation became his link to the outside world and to freedom, even though I represented authority.   After we had a few back and forth exchanges the conversation would eventually come down to a volume level where I could hear his demands and ask how I could help.  It was amazing to see how that single technique of lowering the volume of the conversation would begin shifting the situation from the potential outcome of death to one of life.

As a culture, we are living in a noisy, anger-driven world.  Years of pent up emotions are beginning to boil over and this has created a loud and unhearing audience.  God is about to reveal the power of a prophetic word spoken with the quiet confidence of the Spirit.  Increased volume does not gain anyone’s attention nor does it carry the authority of your voice.  Our culture is floating in a cacophony of human emotion where the “loudest” voice will be the most gentle and in the end, the most impacting.  If you are going to be heard as a trustworthy prophetic voice you will need to take the volume of these heated conversations down to a level where angry and frustrated people can  be in a place to hear the word of the Lord.  In that quiet moment you will be able to release a word of hope that can actually be heard.  That word has the potential to turn an angry and hate-filled conversation into a place of potential freedom and hope.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Boundary of Honor

As a young pastor, I once heard an older pastor say, "If something is public, deal with it publicly.  If it is private, deal with it privately." That seasoned and wise leader was helping younger pastors learn how to deal with disruptions that can take place in a church gathering. It someone is disrupting a public church service or domineering a small group meeting they need to be graciously dealt with in public because the event is being played out in public and impacting the lives of those present.  On the other hand, if someone's personal life-challenge is private and limited to only a handful of people, that personal issue should remain in the privacy of the closed group.  He was teaching us the boundaries of honor.

Learning to be a person of honor requires learning the scope of the audience affected by an offense and because honor should be the filter for how we treat each other, not expanding that audience beyond it’s intended borders. Honor will not make what is private public and it will not allow what should be handled publicly remain private and hidden under layers of fear or a lack of leadership initiative.

In a culture where social media releases all the facts without any filter, we can lose sight of the boundaries of honor. When these lines are violated our voice becomes untrustworthy because it did not honor the boundary of the intended audience. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Price of Freedom

Living in Europe afforded me a unique opportunity to view my American life and culture through a variety of different perspectives.  I remember one conversation when a man was bad-mouthing the United States.  I don’t normally seek to correct people, but I knew this man well enough that I said, “Don’t talk with your mouth full!”  He responded, “What do you mean?”  I replied, “It was the very Americans you are putting down who rescued your country and defeated Hitler. If it wasn’t for America and her allies you would still be occupied by goose-stepping Nazis.” I went on to say, “The national blessing you are now experiencing, the very food in your mouth, is the result of having lived as a free nation since the war ended - all because of the Americans you are putting down.”

This man is really no different than the rest of us.  He had simply forgotten who paid the price that gave him the freedom to speak his mind and fill his mouth with the blessings of liberty. When we forget the history that delivered us into the place of our current blessing we can become callous and distant from the reality of our own history.

A young pastor can forget the price paid by previous generations of older saints who through faithful serving and giving created the very platform upon which the ministry of the young leader now stands.  An older generation can forget what it was like to be young and how important it was to be released to plot your own course in life and ministry without being a slave to another person’s vision.  A married couple can forget who they are and what made them fall in love in the first place. A stalled business can forget the shared passion of the original team that created the first product prototype. We can too easily forget the history someone else lived that became the vehicle that delivered us into this present moment of personal freedom. Remembering is a powerful form of revelation.

Freedom in any form has an original price paid by someone.  Someone paid the price to become the source sacrifice that would release freedom for the generations to come - all from a single sacrifice. That original price can become hidden under layers of history and forgotten by following generations.  In the end, all true freedom will  be traced back to Jesus hanging on the cross to free us from the bondage of sin. Jesus paid the price once and for all for all of humanity. 

Today, begin to trace the freedom you now have back to the original price paid by someone somewhere in your history.  Do two things with that discovery.  Thank someone if they are still alive and then look for that place in your own life where you can make a sacrifice to set others free.  At some point in the future when you are long gone there will be a conversation when someone begins to talk with their mouth full and the memory of your sacrifice will release a loving call to remembrance and a gentle correction.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All Is Not Lost

For some of you the last season of your life has resembled Paul’s stormy passage at sea.  You were aboard ship held captive because of the calling on your life.  In route to a new season you encountered a storm that has put everything in jeopardy. Like the storm in your life, Paul’s storm was so intense the scripture says, “The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.” (Acts 27:15) Your personal storm has been so powerful you have given up your ability to sail against it’s influence and you now find yourself being pushed forward by unfamiliar winds toward an unknown destination.

You have made radical adjustments in your lifestyle in order to lighten your load.  Like Paul and his companions, you have begun to throw things overboard you thought you would need to complete the passage, but now realize those things will soon be adrift without you. 

Luke describes what was happening aboard Paul’s ship: “The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.” (Acts 27:18) The situation was so serious the ship’s crew and all the passengers aboard felt all hope had been lost. They would soon discover in every hopeless situation, God always has another plan.

The personal shipwreck you are going through will not be a total loss.  The cargo of your life can be replaced.  In God’s thinking it is your life, not the cargo that has accompanied your life thus far, that has value to Him.  He has plans and a future for you, not for lost cargo.  While in the middle of his life-threatening storm Paul addressed the 276 souls aboard ship and said,  “God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.” (Acts 27:24)

You are going to make it through this storm.  You will make it by trusting God to safely land you at a port-of-call not previously listed on your itinerary. Trust is your vessel for a safe passage. Your coming landfall will reveal God’s purpose for this unplanned and unexpected leg of your journey.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Court of Personal Opinion and Speculation

As a father in the faith, I find myself viewing the Church from that perspective.  This kind of assignment slips up on you by mere time in rank and age.  The realization I was a spiritual father first visited me about 10 years ago and has deepened its definition in my life during the intervening years.  Most of what I now write and teach flows from the heart of a father.

A short drive south from our home in southern Oregon there exists a powerful and culture-impacting church.   I first entered the doors of this church with an invitation extended to me from one of the apostles in its relational network. The invitation was to attend a twice yearly gathering of leaders associated with the global movement that had risen from this ministry.  People come from all over the world to encounter God during these gatherings.

Seven years ago,  when I entered the doors of this church, I immediately sensed the honor of God. The worship was driven from the throne of God and the teaching flowed from the apostolic voices of the senior leadership team. In the course of a few days, I had an encounter with Jesus similar to the encounter that provided a jump-start for my dead spiritual life back in 1979.  I came to the meetings as a dry well needing to be filled and left over-flowing with a fresh drink of Living Water. As I looked across those attending the meetings, I was amazed at who else was attending.  I saw pastors and leaders from my own family of churches who were walking around the sanctuary with a familiar look on their faces that said, “I want more!”

This church and the movement it has birthed have taken hits from some people, many who have never darkened it’s doors.  These kinds of accusations are usually fueled by the undiscerning use of social media and church-sanctioned gossip. The scalpel of accusation has sliced and diced this ministry and it’s leaders without mercy.  In the last 7 years, I have attended several gatherings in this church and each time I came away with the same feeling - God is in the house.

I write all of this to say this -  be careful what you unwisely indict from a distance. When Festus gave audience to Paul’s accusers the text says, “The Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove.” (Acts 25:7) What we try to  “prove” many times comes from the evidence pool of our personal bias and narrow understanding of the real facts.  When we finally have our  “proof” we gather our supporters to make our case with accusations we cannot prove.

Churches and their leaders, like the one I am obliquely describing, have always taken hits from those who think they understand all the facts.  These ministries take hits because they are contending for things abandoned by those in our own circle of fellowship.  They also take hits because they are walking across spiritual frontiers into the new and uncharted territory of faith.  This is the reality of God’s expanding Kingdom - it will always transport us to a new and unfamiliar destination. Expansion can make some people nervous because it requires we leave behind the status quo and accept an invitation to experience something new.

This is a good time to review the essentials of your faith. Truths like Jesus Christ as the way, truth and life and the only way to the Father would be an essential of your faith.  There are a few more essentials, but not many.  So much of what we hold as essentials to our faith are only non-essential opinions that can become baseless accusations “proven" only by the evidence of human opinion and speculation. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Aligned with the Wind of the Spirit

You are entering a strategic season. In this season your primary task will be to make sure you are properly aligned with the coming wind of the Spirit. This alignment will position you to move forward when the wind begins to blow.

As a sailing vessel adjusts it's sails to embrace the full power and energy of the wind, so it is with this season in your life.  Make sure you have adjusted your life to align with the wind of the Spirit instead of trying to adjust the wind to fit your life. Bringing the proper adjustments will create the alignment required to put you in position to move forward.

If the sails of the most perfectly designed world class sailing vessel are not rightly aligned to embrace the full potential of the wind it will be dead in the water and passed by the smallest home built sailboat whose sails are in right relationship to the wind. In this season size, potential and personal history will mean nothing unless you are in proper alignment with the wind of the Spirit.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Love is a Bag of Carrots

When Jan and I began dating in 1970, we were both students at what is known today as Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon.  I was carrying 17 units at school and working full time at Elmer’s restaurant as a cook.  I lived in a dirt floor basement of an old house just north of campus. Three guys shared the limited basement space and our “apartment” rooms were separated by hanging blankets for privacy.  The only bathroom was upstairs in the house.  We had access to the single bathroom if our landlords were home to let us in.  If not, it was a 5 minute jog to campus to use the facilities. My rent was $25.00 a month.

Every single penny I earned at Elmer’s was assigned to a bill. I had tuition, books and rent to pay. My only real food was the meal I was given during work at the restaurant.  I had very little money left over.  I bought most of my clothes at the Andy and Bax Military Surplus store in downtown Portland to accommodate my two pair of blue jeans and combat boots. Many of us dressed like revolutionaries in those days.  I was part of a ministry called the USSR - United Students for a Spiritual Revolution. We stood atop soapboxes in the middle of the street in downtown Portland during anti-war demonstrations and preached the Gospel as thousands of demonstrators marched by.

Jan would later tell me that on the rare occasion I could afford to take her out on a date she would feign being full and let me order a single dish so I could at least eat and keep from spending the extra money a second meal would require.  When I transferred to Multnomah from Whitworth College, I was a 215 pound football player. After several months under the new work load and it’s accompanying stress, I had dropped down to 175 pounds. I was skin and bones.

One of our most special dates was a six mile roundtrip walk from the campus of Multnomah to Laurehurst Park.  My VW bug had already been repossessed so I was without wheels. Our date was simply a walk  - being together. Along the way I found .25 cents in my pocket so we entered a small family store.  I asked Jan what she would like to eat.  She said, “Carrots!” I think she asked for the carrots because it was about the only edible thing in the store that could be purchased for such a small amount.  Off we walked toward the park munching on a bag of carrots and falling more in love.

I share our story to speak to some of you who think your life and the pursuit of the best in your life requires money, status or having to know the next step of your journey.  None of these things are required to experience the best God has planned for your life.  In fact they can sometimes camouflage the best.  God’s best is never defined in the abundance of anything except love. Jan and I were two struggling college students who were flat broke in the world’s eyes, but wealthy beyond measure because we possessed what could never be purchased with money or labor.

As I look back on the last 45 years this truth has held true for Jan and me and I know it will hold true for you because the source of God’s love is not found in a large bank account or even a small bag of carrots. Real love is found in presence - being together with those you love.  On that walk to Laurelhurst Park, Jan and I never felt poor.  We were rich.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Illusion of Human Potential

As you journey through life you will hear people speak of human potential.  Every human has natural potential, but this potential is not where the greatest breakthroughs occur because our human potential is limited by human intellect and ability. 

As you look back and reflect upon your life, you will come to realize it wasn’t your potential that made things happen - it was God’s presence and power at work in your life beyond your greatest personal asset that made the real difference.  At this point you will also discover the power and patience of God was at work in your life while you still lived with the illusion it was your potential that caused things to happen. 

One of the greatest freedoms you will experience comes when the limits of your human potential is unmasked and you realize what you considered your greatest natural strength was actually your greatest weakness. There is great joy in this discovery because it is in these weak places where God promises to do His greatest work.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Father, Son and the Holy Bible

I don’t remember who first coined the phrase, “The Father, Son and the Holy Bible”, but when I heard those words I had to stop and think. My impression was that some people had elevated their understanding of scripture to a place where their interpretation was the final arbiter of fact and truth.  The three-faceted revelation of the Godhead is a beautiful thing and so is the scripture, but not as beautiful as the One scripture reveals. From time-to-time we need to be reminded that Jesus was the Word before people had the written word and these people did some very remarkable things for God.

A few months ago a good man who struggles with some of my understanding of God’s Kingdom said to me, “Our group is like the Bereans - we like to search out the scripture to find what is true.” I was happy my friend searches scripture, but I was saddened he used his understanding of what he thought the scripture said to distance himself from me. His words were like a theological stone wall constructed to let me know I did not fully understand certain elements of God’s Word because I had not come to the same conclusions as he or his group.  I let his comment rest.  This week, as I was reading Acts 17 where my friend found the text to justify his reasoning,  I saw something more.

When Luke wrote Acts 17 he described a segment of one of Paul’s journeys when he visited Berea. The text does say the Bereans searched the scriptures to see if what Paul and Silas were teaching was the truth - a valuable use of scripture. What we can miss is the first part of the same verse that says, “All the people in Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message.” (Acts 17:11) The evidence the Bereans were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica was revealed when Paul spoke to the Bereans - they listened. They had open minds allowing the Spirit to reveal something more about Jesus outside the boundaries of their current level of understanding. When the close-minded Thessalonians heard what Paul had to say, there were riots.

The word Paul used to describe the open-mindedness of the Bereans has been defined as “forwardness of mind” and “willing”.  In others words, someone who is open-minded to truth is willing to think forward beyond their current understanding.  This willingness is not a compromise of an essential doctrine, but a place of vulnerability requiring a new level of faith enabling us to see where the Spirit is revealing a deeper dimension of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus told His disciples when the Spirit comes He would lead us into all truth. This means the Spirit is the One who interprets the scripture, not those of us who think our insight of scripture is final and without error.The leading of the Spirit invites listening, not riots. No riots please!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Myth of a Constant Following

There will be seasons in your life when the greatest evidence you are a leader is discovered when you turn around and realize no one is following, yet you keep moving forward toward a promise.  These are seasons where some of your greatest tests will come because the layers of relational insulation are removed and you come face-to-face with the depth of your relationship with God apart from other people and the constant noise and demands of community.

Just as Jesus ultimately went to the Cross alone, some of you will be asked to enter the next leg of your journey alone with God in preparation for a future of resurrection life. This season will not last forever, but it is necessary.  These times are designed by God for you go deeper so you can go farther.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Watching The Hand Of God

I live in Oregon where just yesterday we had five earthquakes off our coast. These earthquakes took place in a region near a major undersea subduction zone that if released will bring great devastation to the western states of America and beyond.  Off our coastline an underwater volcano is erupting.  Across the Pacific in the South China Sea the nation of China is creating new islands in disputed waters and installing weapon systems to defend their claim.  China is threatening war with anyone who would oppose them. These events are all taking place on my side of the globe while other parts of the world are dealing with their own issues. Our earth is noisy with pain, sorrow and the birth pains of change.

Before I began to write these words, I saw an image of God's hand resting on the handle of an antique plunger box used to signal a detonation to a load of dynamite. As I viewed this image it appeared that time had slowed down in anticipation of what was about to take place.  As time slowed all of the potentially traumatic events on earth were being pushed to the perimeter of this moment in time as God was preparing to detonate an explosion of His presence upon the earth.  As the Psalmist said, "I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy." (Psalm 123:1-2)

In this moment in human history the only safe place to fix your gaze is on the hand of God. This will also be your place of peace while others become bound more tightly with fear. God works in reverse of natural thinking.  Just when everyone is overly focused on turmoil and potential catastrophe, God will ask you to focus on His strong hand.  As you begin to shift your focus away from the cultural storms and fears of natural disaster to the hand of God, the power of these fearful events will be displaced by the supernatural peace of God.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Revisionist History

This morning, I was reading Acts 7 where Stephen reminded a group of religious leaders of their abandoned history. The actions of Stephen took courage, especially when the existing religious system in his day also controlled the cultural power base. In some faith circles the same thing is present today. We have a lot of faithful people and church movements that have forgotten their own history. These are rich histories that need to be rediscovered and revisited. Replacing these histories is a form of religious activity that has become an unintended burden.  The power of God has been replaced with good works and tiresome work schedules.

For those who no longer move in a visible display of the Spirit's power through signs, wonders and miracles, trying to remind them of the Spirit’s work in their own abandoned history can be dangerous.  Stephen took 53 verses in Acts 7 to remind the Jewish leaders of his day of their neglected spiritual heritage.  Because of that reminder they stoned Stephen to death. While we no longer stone people to death with real stones, we can easily do it with our words or by choosing to distance ourselves from those who remind us of what we no longer believe.

Religious systems or individuals who have abandoned the very history that birthed them and now live and defend a revisionist form of their own history, can become the most upset when reminded of what they no longer believe.  Stephen modeled a forgiving attitude as he was ushered into eternity under the crushing weight of stones thrown by those to whom he brought the reminder. As a result of Stephen's death the Church began to grow and expand under the persecution that followed.  The Early Church stepped into a developing history that had it’s start empowered by the supernatural works of God that continued throughout the remaining pages of Acts and into our present day.

If you are one of those called to bring this kind of reminder the attitude of your heart is more important than the reminder you will bring. Examine your motives before you speak so that the message you deliver will be seasoned with mercy and grace.