Friday, June 23, 2017

A Proof-read Life

Yesterday, I did what I do each morning, I write. After I finish writing, I take the time required to make sure what was written was the best I could produce. I also use a grammar program called Grammarly that was introduced to me by a professional writer.

After my spell checker and grammar program were used yesterday, I still had a glaring error in my text that my writing programs and I missed. A faithful Facebook friend wrote me later that morning a kind personal note pointing out my grammar stumble. I am always so appreciative of people who take the time to help me write better.

I noticed after all my spelling and grammar checking tools had their way, and after I read and reread what I posted numerous times, an obvious mistake still got through. I once read a magazine article that said our mind can insert what we want to be in a text to such a degree that we actually read an error and think the text is correct and ready for publication. That is why writers have proofreaders.

While that is important in the publishing world, it is even more important in our personal lives. We need faithful friends who will speak the truth in love to us when we are not seeing an obvious flaw in our thinking or character. This is never to be done in judgment or to catch a person in a fault. It is done in love because the person reading our life knows our heart and what we want to communicate.  Those are the kind of proof-readers we all need in our lives.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Your Gate of Opportunity

We live on a street without sidewalks. It looks like a country road from the 1950’s. Oak trees arch over the street forming a leaf-filled arbor. A few doors down from us, a woman owns a small cottage along a creek. In her front yard is a single gate between two posts. There is no fence - just the decorative standalone white picketed gate with flowers tastefully planted at its base. I have walked by the cottage and the gate hundreds of times. This time, the Lord spoke.

A gate of opportunity is about to open. Each time you passed the gate it has always given you the impression it led nowhere, just like my neighbor's decorative gate. You thought it was a gate without a destination. This time the gate has gained your attention for a reason.

You will be asked to step through its opening. This will require two things of you. It will require faith to believe another world exists past the threshold of what appears to lead nowhere. It will also require courage to take the first step through its opening. To some of those who will watch you open the gate, you might appear foolish.  It would seem just as foolish as if on my morning walk I actually left the street to enter my neighbor’s yard to walk through her decorative gate. Your faith and courage will be the two keys that unlock the gate of your opportunity.

When you take this step of obedience you will disappear into another reality. It will be like the fulfillment of a child’s fairy tale of wonder when in child-like faith they followed the impulse of their imagination to discover a destination they never thought possible. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Farewell and a Warning

I cannot think of a more poignant and tender goodbye in all of Scripture than Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesians elders in Acts 20. Paul knew his days were numbered. He was trying to get to Jerusalem as quickly as possible. Paul asked the Ephesians to meet him in Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. Standing on the seashore at Miletus, Paul recounts his honest and forthright ministry in Ephesus. The part of the story that tugs the deepest on my emotions is found in the last three verses of Acts 20.

“When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship” (Acts 20:36-38).

In the text of Paul’s farewell address, he said, “Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:30). In the verses preceding that warning, Paul said that upon his departure false teachers would enter the flock like hungry wolves not sparing anyone tearing their spiritual flesh with the fangs of deception. 

Paul was not one to back away from speaking the truth in love. He was a spiritual realist. He saw prophetically in the future the downfall of some in this faithful band of believers. His love for the Ephesians moved him to speak challenging and uncomfortable words. Paul’s admonition still stands today.

We have entered a time of reformation in the Church. Strange interpretations of Scripture and the nature of God will arise creating deception so plausible it will sound like truth. No one is exempt for Paul’s warning. This should not create fear or be dismissed as a fear-based issue. It is called maturity, the kind of maturity Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4 that is the result of a group of people fully trained and equipped by the Five-fold ministry gifts for the work of the ministry.

In this time of reformation, get simple. Go back and reaffirm your core beliefs and in some cases, discover them for the first time. Ask the Lord to be your point of confirmation for what you choose to believe. Avoid the error of assumption. Hold tightly to Jesus. He will be your only safe place.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You Are Ready For Publication

I remember when I wrote my first book, Prayers from the Throne of God. I was a nervous first-time author. I felt the Lord nudge me to ask Jack Hayford to write the foreword. Each time I had been with Pastor Jack over the previous thirty years, he was gracious and affirming. He was the same way when I approached him about the writing the foreword. I knew I was asking a very busy man who gets asked the same request I was bringing to him multiple times each week. He graciously said yes and wrote a wonderful forward. Along with writing the foreword, he asked me to speak at his yearly conference. I was humbled and honored.

When I first talked with Jack about writing the foreword, I said I would send him the manuscript for the book telling him I was sure there were some undiscovered errors in the book. I wanted it to be perfect and error-free and told him so. Jack replied, “At some point, you just have to publish it. Every book will have a mistake or two. Never let that concern stop you from publishing your book.” That statement set me free. Jack’s word of wise counsel and encouragement has followed me through the writing process of seven books.

Your life is like a book. It will never be perfect because you are human. You have a choice to park at a known weakness or human frailty and let life pass you by or you can move ahead, errors and all. This is not about ignoring the needed work these broken places will require. We need to take them seriously but never let them hold us back. When you said yes to Jesus He made you holy and spotless. Your life is an error-free manuscript in the eyes of God. He has proofread your life using the manuscript of the life of Jesus. In that manuscript, He found no errors.

You have been ready for publication for a long time. It is time to move forward. If in the proofreading of your life you do find an error or two realize God has no plan to stop the publication and distribution of your life because you appear to be human. He knows all there is to know about you. In spite of what you may discover in your life, He has plans to make the story of your life a bestseller. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hearing the Sounds of Heaven

Certain sounds pull on the deep emotions of my soul. The sound of a violin solo, water moving across smooth stones in a mountain stream or a loon calling out as it swims across a lake through a wisp of early morning fog.

There are two levels where we process these beautiful sounds. One level is simply for their beauty and the emotional massage they provide for our weariness or stress. The other level is deeper. This is the level of spiritual revelation where God uses the sound to get our attention so He can speak to us. There are times when He gets our attention so we can simply enjoy the beauty of the sound together in a moment silence.

Today, take the time to become aware of the sounds of beauty all around you hidden in the hurried pace of life. Follow them to a deeper place. God has given you the ability to hear sound naturally but He has also given you the ability to hear the deeper sounds of a Spirit-inspired revelation. This kind of hearing requires that you become still long enough to listen.  In the pause, you will hear the most beautiful messages about life only available to those who offered God the gift of a quiet and listening heart.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Free Bird

I was sitting in the early morning light with my dog, Abby, reading the hard copy proof for my new book. I love this time of year when the mornings are cool yet warm enough for shorts and bare feet on the grass.

As I continued to read, a bird flew past me and through the open front door of our house. Abby began to bark and looked at me implying, “Do something!” I hurried through the front door expecting to see the bird flying in circles in our living room but it was nowhere in sight. I checked behind all the furniture. I explored the dining room, the kitchen – nothing. Finally, I walked to the back of the house to our utility room where an unscreened window is left open for our cat, Mister, to come and go. Mister was on alert at the open window meowing loudly. Both the dog and cat were now at my feet trying to tell me in the best of pet-speak that the bird actually flew through the obstacle course of the house unharmed and out the back window. The three of us stood there amazed at what we had just witnessed.

The bird did not intend to fly through our front door. It was a bird accident of life. Once in the wrong place, he did his best to steer clear of all the flight ending obstacles to make it through the whole house and out the back window past his final and most deadly obstacle our very adept bird-catching cat.

This might be a picture of some of you. Due to a strange and unexpected turn of events, you flew into a place where you did not belong. There was no turning back. In these situations, there is no plan of escape. Your only option was to keep flying forward and look for a way out. You are flying by the seat of your pants as pilots say.

If you find yourself in this kind of scenario don’t forget this one important point, God has an open window waiting for you just ahead. Don’t land. Keep moving. You don’t belong here. These are not safe places and will not offer you any protection. Your only hope is in the exit God has prepared for you. Keep flying in faith and it will soon appear.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Don't Throw It Away

Last night, Jan and I spent time with a great group of people celebrating a friend’s birthday. It was an outdoor venue held at a beautiful estate with fine dining and lots of joy. Throughout the evening, people would stand alongside the long, cloth covered table and share stories about the wonderful person we were celebrating. After sunset, candles and soft light bulbs strung overhead illuminated the remainder of our gathering as we dined in the warm summer evening.

As all of this was taking place, the Lord began to speak to me about someone who is considering throwing away something precious and sacred. It was like I was listening to all that was taking place around me while the Lord was giving me a word of hope for someone who was not sitting with us at the table.

I saw a person and inside their chest was a great treasure. The person was about to throw it away for a number of personal reasons. This treasure was alone and getting smaller and smaller with the passing of time. It had become the last thing the person was holding onto. Then I saw the hand of the Lord enter the person’s chest and take hold of the treasure to secure it until the moment of despair and confusion was over so the person would not do something they would later regret.

If this is you, understand the heart of God.  He is not going to let you throw your treasure away on just a painful impulse. His hand will hold it secure to give you time to come to your senses, but at some point, your freedom of choice will have its way. You are experiencing a moment of mercy. This is not like you to so easily cast aside what you have worked so hard to achieve. Take your hand off your treasure and let God hold it in His love until you sort things out. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Meeting the Echo of Your Voice

Some of you have spoken words of faith that have not yet come to pass. You have wondered if you missed something. If this is you, I have a word for you.

I saw you standing in the future. Sound waves created by your words of faith were arriving like echoes from the past. These sound waves were actually impacting you. You could feel their arrival. Then the image transitioned back into the past to a moment of belief when you spoke a word of faith that sent a sound wave of hope forward into your future. Past, present and future, God was proving Himself faithful to the word you spoke in faith.

I wondered how this was all possible then I realized God had accelerated the timing of your life to meet the word you released. The assignment of your faith was to continue believing what God had spoken. Your act of faith allowed Him to accelerate and position your life to now stand in the sound and content of what you had prophesied.

No word spoken in faith will ever be lost. It has an assignment to manifest in time and space. These words are creative in their potential. God has a plan to align your life with the content of what you prophesied to create new scenarios and bring about new relationships where the fulfillment has been destined to take place.

In the future, God is arranging your arrival and the arrival of other people for an alignment with a perfect set of circumstances that will become the stage where the word you spoke will be played out. Once all the participants are in place, the sound and effect of the word you spoke will arrive to begin a process of supernatural transformation. The timing and fulfillment of the word are God’s responsibility, not yours. You have been called to wait in hope for the arrival of what you have spoken in faith. God will be faithful to perform what He promised.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sunrise of Your Faith

The evening time is when the sun begins to set. Some of you dread the end of the day and the coming night. Every natural sunset will eventually become a sunrise. The same is true in spiritual matters. Don't dread any moment of approaching darkness and despair. As you trust without thinking that tomorrow's natural sunrise will take place, put a greater trust and confidence in God who will be faithful to provide a spiritual sunrise for the situation that has you concerned. God never runs out of sunrises. Rest in His presence and He will awaken you when His work is done.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sound of the Reformer's Hammer

Free-thinking is dangerous because it can challenge our assumptions and dismantle the status quo. A healthy spiritual environment will give people permission to ask questions about our assumptions without being condemned or discarded. 

This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther asked questions that led him to nail his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. A reformation is taking place in the Church today. The sound of the reformer’s hammers is being heard once again as probing questions are being nailed to the door of our current expression of the Church. This is not rebellion or heresy. It is the sound of reformation that will take place when our minds have been renewed and our faith has been refocused on the heart of God.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sailing Forward in Faith

Sail with the fair breeze of a simple faith. Leave behind the docks of despair, judgment and the slavish structures of a rule-based faith. Find your rest on the gentle swells of God’s love. Let no one sell you a cheap ticket in the dark caverns of steerage where many have sailed through life without a porthole of hope. You belong on the bow of your faith feeling the breeze of God’s grace on your face. This is your place of safe passage.

Alone, But Not Lonely

A friend of mine was talking with Jack Hayford a few weeks ago. Jack’s lovely wife, Anna, had passed away after they shared 62 years of marriage and 60 years together in ministry. My friend posted a single sentence on his Facebook wall from that meeting with Jack. The words were so profound they stunned me. When asked about how he was doing after the passing of his wife, Jack responded, “I am alone, but not lonely.”

The only way someone could say such words is to have cultivated a lifelong intimacy with Jesus Christ.  That kind of intimacy with God manifests both its comfort and its power when someone is experiencing one of this life's greatest sorrows, the passing of a spouse. Intimacy with God does not allow them to be overwhelmed with that passing because their sense of union with God is deeper than the depths of any sorrow they may experience.

As you cultivate your relationship with a spouse, your children or your best friend make sure that you cultivate your deepest relationship with God. This is the only relationship that will endure forever without the possibility of death or failure. Yes, you will mourn the physical death of a loving relationship like Jack Hayford did when Anna walked into eternity. Being able to appropriately mourn is part of being an emotionally and spiritually healthy person. God promises to fill these painful voids with His presence. If you have cultivated an intimate relationship with Jesus when someone you love departs or a relationship falls apart, you will be able to echo the words of Jack Hayford, “I am alone, but not lonely”.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Shredded Faith

Many of you know I like to cook, especially BBQ. One of my favorites is shredded pork. To begin the cooking process, I select a pork shoulder or tenderloin and slow cook it in hickory smoke. When it is done, I take the meat out of the fire and place it on a large cutting board to rest. After a few minutes, I take two forks and begin to pull apart the meat. This is called shredding. The last step in the process is to put BBQ sauce on the shredded pieces and toss it up to cover all the parts in sauce and then it is ready to serve.

Some of you have had your faith in people shredded.  Betrayal has shredded your trust. Disappointment has shredded your faith in the power of prayer. Sorrow has shredded your hope that a new and bright future is possible. What you have failed to realize is that God can take the shredded elements of your faith and like a BBQ pit master, turn them into something wonderful.

If you are being shredded in this season of your life the shredding has a purpose. God is allowing the disassembly of certain parts of your life so He can reassemble your shredded parts into a gourmet expression of His love. God never wastes a shredding season. He is always preparing something so mouth-watering in the Spirit that once you taste the end product you will understand why it all needed to take place. When God finishes this work in your life you will become a powerful witness able to tell others who are being shredded that the painful process they are undergoing is worth the fire, the smoke, and the shredding.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Sound of Love

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1).

Overlooking the city of Corinth is a mountain called, Acrocorinth. Atop the Acrocorinth was located the Temple of Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the goddess of love. 1,000 prostitutes worked in the temple compound servicing the “worshippers” who would come to pay tribute to Aphrodite. Corinth was known as a city of sexual perversion. To be “Corinthian” meant a lack of morality and license.

In the evenings, after finishing their work in the temple, the prostitutes would descend the mountain and walk into the city. Many of these prostitutes wore small cymbals on the inside of their ankles. As they descended into the city with each step they would strike these small cymbals together to announce the arrival of their perverted version of love for sale to anyone. When Paul penned the words of I Corinthians 13, he would have had this practice in mind.

The Church has been called to make the sound of love spoken with truth in each sphere of cultural influence. It will be a very different sound from the cheapened substitutes being offered to people. This is not limited to our sexuality. It can apply to any area of life where we settle for something less than the true love of Jesus Christ.  

As the Church walks in the cultures of the world we have the profound opportunity to announce the arrival of Jesus Christ by making the sound of love spoken in truth. We have no problem with the sound part. Each of us has an opinion about all matters of life.  The content of our sound is where the challenge comes.

A personal interpretation of love without the defining element of God's truth is not love but a prostituted compromise. Truth spoken without love carries the brutality and control of a religious spirit. Both love and truth must work together to create the message of Jesus. This sound is not for sale. It is a grace-gift given to all who are willing to receive the beauty of its message.