Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Truth Shock

Last weekend our entire community rallied together to find a lost runner. A local doctor went for a run on Friday morning and got lost. Thankfully she was discovered alive 56 hours later. She spent two nights in the mountains wearing only her running shorts, a tee shirt and baseball cap.  She had no food or water or cell phone. As the hours rolled on dire images of what might have happened to her filled our minds as we prayed and searched. 

Days later, after her joyful discovery, our local newspaper ran an article about what happens to people who get lost in a forest. Something called “woods shock” takes place.  Under the influence of woods shock a lost person can begin to behave erratically and fail to recognize familiar scenes. They can actually go into a trance-like state where they do not recognize their rescuers or respond to those conducting the search. They can be so deep into woods shock they can walk right by a rescuer without engaging them.

As I read about woods shock, I heard the word “truth shock.” There are people in your life who have become so disoriented to truth they have begun to act erratically. Their lives now resemble a lost person in a forest experiencing woods shock. You can walk right up to someone who has been given over to a lie and try your best to communicate, but to no avail. At this point you have a choice to make between judgment and mercy.

When the young doctor was finally rescued she was taken to a local hospital where her dehydration and injuries we treated with compassion and professionalism by the hospital staff. She didn’t need a lecture on why she didn’t take a cell phone with her or why she neglected to tell someone where she was going to run on that fateful morning. She need time to get well. She needed time to recover.

Giving a person space for healing is what mercy looks like. Many times the Church is so desirous to correct a culture’s behavior that we can appear merciless. If you are part of the Church you are on a search and rescue mission on Earth. When you find the lost ones let mercy be the first act you extend. Later on, when they have recovered from truth shock and being exposed to the elements of sin, then with great compassion you can engage in a conversation to help them see where they took the wrong trail and got lost.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Your Coming Season Of Fruitfulness

Here in southern Oregon our peach season has come to an end. I always have a tinge of sadness at this time of year because I love the peaches produced by my favorite orchard. In fact, the last six peaches from the last lug sold to me by the orchardist now sit on our kitchen countertop. They will be gone by tomorrow and the empty countertop will become a reminder of a season that has come to an end. In just a few short weeks the trees in the orchard will announce the approaching winter when the limbs that bore the sweet fruit begin to shed their leaves and remain bare until the blossoms of spring announce another season of harvest.

We have a tendency to look at the seasons of life as single events even though the very nature of the word “seasons” denotes a repeatable event. In some ways we get locked into an empty countertop way of thinking. Like the coming of my favorite peaches each year, life functions in cycles. Empty countertops are just one event in a series of events that are part of the larger definition of a life of fruitfulness.

Some of you are mourning the end of a season in your life. It could be the end of a job, your marriage, a ministry or a friendship. As you rightfully mourn the passing, you need to begin living in anticipation that something new is coming. God is never finished creating. He is not a single season God. In this very moment He is calling into agreement the ingredients of soil, the precise position of the Sun, systems of irrigation and the DNA of my favorite peach trees to begin creating next year’s crop. He is doing the same with your life.

If you are stuck in a place of sorrow over a season of life that has come to an end don’t look at the empty countertop of your life with a sense of finality. It is simply part of the process that will lead you to your next harvest. Look at the empty limbs on the tree of your life and begin to anticipate with hope a coming season of fruitfulness. God has great plans for your next harvest. He is already creating the sweet fruit that will hang once again from your branches.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Discovering Freedom Once Again

I keep seeing the image of a person wrapped with a clear plastic that resembles spiritual Saran Wrap. The wrapping winds around them in a continuous strand all the way from their shoulders down to their ankles. At first I thought it was a funny prank, but then I looked at the person’s face and realized it wasn’t a prank. It was real. I could see the look of regret for having allowed things to get this far. The person could walk but only by taking little steps that moved them forward an inch at a time. They were afraid of tipping over so every step was measured. Their arms were pressed tight against their sides under the restraining presence of the wrapping. They were no longer free to embrace another person or the new season of freedom God was now offering.

The person reminded me of a modern day version of Lazarus, but without the tomb. Now that the wrappings had fully enclosed their life they realized what they had allowed to happen. Their life had become a prison where they were the only person incarcerated. In that moment of desperate realization they knew it was time to find freedom at any cost. For the first time in recent memory they had a glimmer of hope that they might be able to explore new relationships and new opportunities, but first they had to get free.

The person began to cry out to God for help. Each cry became a pair of spiritual scissors cutting away the layers of deception that held them captive. One by one the wrappings fell to the ground. Their arms became free first, then their legs. Each limb once free was tested to rediscover its full range of motion.

The person began to run around like a young colt discovering its legs for the first time right after birth. The look on the persons face changed from fear to joy. Anticipation and hope returned because now the only wrappings that held the person were the bonds of God’s love. With those wrappings in place they were finally free to move forward in life taking steps as large as their faith.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Way Forward

I have come to realize some of the greatest advancements in life begin their journey from within a place of personal brokenness. At first this doesn’t make sense because it is so contrary to what is spoken in our culture and sadly, in some parts of the Church. I found that within each of these painful experiences is hidden a resurrection truth waiting to be discovered. Once discovered, that truth has the power to roll away our stones of disbelief.

In all our years of serving God together, Jan and I have learned that whenever a broken and painful experience visited our lives we knew that somewhere in all of the mess there existed a revelation about God’s goodness waiting to be discovered. The discovery of His goodness always took us to a higher level of understanding and anointing. Unless we believed this to be true we would have wasted the remainder of our lives in a state of sorrow not believing a new way forward was possible.

There are barriers to this discovery of goodness that will take a person down a path even sadder than the event that created the sadness in the first place.

Here are the top three barriers I have seen:

1 - Believing the lie that says you have the right to not forgive another person because they treated you unfairly. In this deception you make your self into a smaller version of God thinking your judgment is without error. This allows you to self-righteously position yourself above another person defining them as your enemy while the real Enemy smiles with satisfaction.

2 - Believing that revenge is an acceptable response against anyone who hurt you. This lie carries a hidden promise to take you down a path of spiritual derailment because you will have to follow the perpetrator(s) of your pain down their path of deception in order to catch them and enact your revenge.

3 – Finally and possibly the most dangerous of these barriers is to believe the pain and sorrow you are experiencing is somehow an expression of how God feels about you. This lie attacks the very nature of God and will shade everything you are going through with the deceptive dark cloud of an orphan spirit.

You always have a way forward with God. In His Kingdom there are no dead end roadways only opportunities for growth. This may not make a lot of sense when you are experiencing deep pain and sorrow, but it will always and in every situation, lead you forward toward resurrection life.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Coming Flood Of God's Presence

Yesterday, I was hiking the trails near our home.  I crossed a wooden footbridge that spanned a dry creek bed. Weeds and bushes were growing where water once flowed. I felt impressed to stop and take a picture. As soon as I clicked the picture the Lord said, “This is a word for some of my people.”

You have had a long dry season, but that is about to change. There has never been a moment where my presence has not been flowing. What has dried up is your ability to sense my presence. I getting ready to inundate your life with a fresh flow of my Spirit. Go and stand in your place of dryness.  Look and listen. Look upstream in hope. Listen in faith. The sight and sound of an approaching flood is about to arrive once you make the choice to look again in hope and listen in faith.

I am going to flood your thoughts with renewal.
I am going to flood your relationships with healing.
I am going to flood your finances with new provision.
I am going to flood your ministry with increased potential.
I am going to flood your city with signs, wonders and miracles.                                                             I am going to flood your soul with refreshment.

Happy Anniversary To My Wife

Today, Jan and I celebrate our 43rd anniversary. I want to take a moment to honor a most amazing woman. In fact, this is my anniversary card to her. It is just a little after 4:00 a.m. here in southern Oregon. I am letting Jan sleep in a little more before a day of celebration begins with a special breakfast.

I first met Jan when she was 19 and I was 20. It was a “chance” meeting while walking across the campus of what was then known as Multnomah School of the Bible. Now it is called Multnomah University. That first meeting was 46 years ago. To this day when I see her at a distance my heart still does a crazy little “flip”. Its like I am still falling in love with her all over again every day.

Jan was raised in Central America, the daughter of missionaries. She traveled through the nations in that part of the world on the back of donkeys, in four-wheel drive Jeeps fording swollen rivers and was flown to school in a missionary’s airplane from a jungle airstrip. She is adventurous. There have been times when I had chickened out on something when she would say, “Come on. Let’s try it!” She has never complained about anything in all our years together because she learned early on how to be happy with a little.

Jan has taught me about intimacy with God. That intimacy has produced something profound in our relationship. There is nothing I cannot tell her. I have confessed my sins to her with a red face and broken heart. I have never once been rejected. In fact, early on as we learned to love each other this way she said, “Now, I can really trust you.” Amazing! I cannot imagine a marriage without complete and utter honestly with your spouse. I have been given a gift.

After all these years, I really don’t know where I end and she begins. This is the miracle of becoming one. Neither of us lost our uniqueness as a man and woman as God took us deeper into a relationship of oneness. In fact, I found myself as a man in the process. Something very special happens in a marriage that can only take place in a relationship of one man and one woman committed to each other in marriage. It is an ongoing miracle.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart! I could have written page after page and found no end to what is amazing about you. The world, at least my little part of it, is reading your anniversary card. I wanted the world to know what I have been telling you for all our years together. You are a wonderful friend, wife and co-laborer in the fields of God. I love you without end.