Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In Loving Lockstep

Recently, the term, “I’ve got your back” took on a new meaning.

This week, Jan and I were able to attend a church service where I was not scheduled to preach. It was a refreshing change. During worship, I saw an image of Jesus. He came up behind a child unannounced and began to walk in comedic lockstep. Jesus was really close behind the child. There was no space between them. Every step the child took forward the Lord mirrored those steps with His.

At first, the child did not realize Jesus was there. Everyone watching the scene unfold began laughing with joy as they witnessed this unusual expression of love. At some point, the child felt the bump of Jesus’ legs and turned around to see Him. Both Jesus and the child began laughing together as they continued to move along in this joy-filled walk. The image repeated in my mind like a short video clip programmed to loop over again and again. Then the Lord spoke the interpretation to me.

This is how the Lord wants you to view your past. He will slip up behind you and press His life next to yours, so close that your walk together will appear as though two had become one. Jesus does this close-in kind of work to help us see our past through His presence, not through our failures or even our success. He doesn’t blind us to the past. He simply requires the past to be seen through the filter of His presence.

Some of you have been turning around to look at your past failures without seeing Jesus and it is affecting your ability to move forward. He has always been there, but your pain has numbed your ability to feel the loving bumps of His presence. You believed you were the only one who had your back. You have attempted to self-protect every step of your journey out of a sense of abandonment. This has robbed you of your joy. 

A great joy is about to arrive. You will feel the bump of His presence and turn around to see Him. He will invite you to walk with Him like the child I saw in the vision. In the future, when you turn around to look at your past and you will only see Jesus.  This will be your healing.

Monday, January 30, 2017

No More Fake Anything

A fake gospel has far more negative consequences than fake news. While fake news can disrupt a culture for a season until the truth is made known, a fake gospel can have eternal consequences if not discovered and exposed in this life.

If you were an alien arriving in the United States at this moment in our history you would see the passion of some in the Church being fueled primarily by political outcomes. You would assume the messiah was a deity named either, Left or Right. The names, Jesus, God, and Spirit would be used only as seasoning to the message of this god, not as the main course. In some ways, we would look and sound to the visiting alien like the people in Galatia 2,000 years ago.

The church in Galatia was beginning to move away from the pure and simple Gospel. Paul nailed this foolish change of direction when he said,  “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He would write later in that same letter, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” (3:1)

We are being set up, not by a fake gospel or by the lines we have drawn in the sands of culture. We are being set up by God to see a great move of His Spirit.  From both sides of the political spectrum, deep distrust and frustration are building. I see an ugly insensitivity emerging from our shared distrust of each other. I can hear the sounds of frustration fueling our response to honest opinions. When the cover is pulled from this deception, people will feel used. They will have arrived at the end of their patience with all forms of information realizing they were manipulated and shuffled across the chessboard of culture like pawns in a game of politics. The last straw will finally fall on the backs of sincere people from both the left and the right who will say, “Enough is enough!” That will be God’s moment.

In that moment, God will release the pure sound of the Gospel in a way that everyone will hear like it was on the Day of Pentecost when a diverse cultural representation of people ran to the noise created by the fresh wind of God’s Spirit. Upon arrival, they remarked, “We hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done (Acts 2:11). A similar wonderful thing is about to take place to replace the fake.

Get your heart ready for that moment. Bury your weapons of conflict so deep that you will forget where they are buried. Burn the receipts of the wrongs committed against you. Reread the words in red and reset the course of your life. Erase your lines in the sand so those who oppose you will be able to come close enough to see your heart.  Get ready. The fake is about to be displaced by the real and when that comes real change will finally take place.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Our National Invasions

The culture of the United States has experienced two invasions in the last two Presidential election cycles. Eight years ago, half of the United States felt that a foreign power had invaded our nation with an unfamiliar mindset. Today, the polar opposite has occurred. Half of the nation now feels as if another invading army has arrived to set up a different culture. Invasions can cause us to feel like we are living in an occupied nation depending on which side of the social landscape our worldview falls.

An invasion is a result of what military strategists called an offensive. In these offensives, one geopolitical force displaces another with the goal of liberation through conquering a nation and its populace by force. A unique danger lingers upon the arrival of new troops after the initial victory. The invading troops will still be on the offensive until the dust has settled from the battle and new lines of authority are established setting a new government in place.

We are in such a moment of transition. If you follow Jesus, no matter which side of the issues your opinions fall, this is a time to assess and evaluate how you will respond in this time of transition. Guard your response to what is taking place around you. Make sure your response is empowered by the love of God.

Like a military campaign still in the dangerous mopping up stage after a victory, needless casualties can occur when emotion, not wisdom, fuel our action and conversation. As a believer, you will never be fully committed to either side of a national conflict because you are responding to something higher in purpose than the outcome of any cultural conflict. This is the fine line of spiritual balance required of each believer who prays and acts on earth as it is in heaven.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Confronting the Python Spirit

Earlier this week, I was teaching on the subject of Prophetic Alignment. I shared with the students a story of an experience I had in the nation of Zambia.  I was set to preach in the church of my friend, George Palo. During worship, the Lord said the following words to me, “There is a python spirit present.” I leaned over to George and shared what the Lord had just revealed to me.  George is a man of the Spirit. Immediately he went to the platform and paused worship and began to minister the word. He invited those who felt afflicted by a python spirit to come forward.

What took place in the next few minutes was both very strange and very beautiful. I looked back and some of the people coming forward fell to the ground and began to slither forward like a snake. Others were hissing as they came forward. As the people responded to the invitation under the command of God, George began to cast the python spirit out of people and freedom was released. It was an amazing display of God’s power.

 After the meeting, I asked George to share what he understood about what had just transpired. He shared with me this is a spirit of control that squeezes life and the will to obey God out of people. It is a constricting presence that results in domination.

Whenever a family, a people group or a nation is undergoing a God-ordained transformation this spirit will attempt to tighten its grip to retain control. The victims will become progressively more desperate to get free, but at some point will become paralyzed under the squeezing influence of this dark spirit. The only hope for freedom is to yield to the freeing presence of God, like what I saw taking place in worship that morning in the nation of Zambia.

Be wise in how you interpret some of what is taking place in our nation in this hour. Some are under the influence of a spirit of control. Do not look at predictable human responses in an attempt to understand how this spirit operates. Some of the victims under its influence look calm like they are in control and at peace, but they are actually being held in a place of control to do the bidding of darkness. They are experiencing a false freedom.  Others held in the grip of this spirit are violently responding to the squeezing causing some to think the visible acts of violence we are seeing are only the result of rebellion and human anger.

Ask God to give you the ears to hear and the eyes to see what is transpiring beneath the surface in the personal life of individuals and the administration of world governments. His revelation will be your assignment to gather wise counsel around you to pray and seek the freedom of those held in bondage to a spirit of control. You can miss what is taking place, even in a place of worship, if you are not listening to the Spirit and only work from natural indicators. This is not a work of suspicion. It is the result of the revelation of God’s heart that has the power to set the captives free.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Joy Invasion

Last night, I spoke at the Revivalist School of Ministry (RSM) at the Garden Valley Church in Roseburg, Oregon. Randy Rutledge leads this powerful ministry. There is never a shortage of hunger and enthusiasm at RSM. I value the students and the vision of this wonderful ministry.

Yesterday, before I drove up to Roseburg my wife, Jan, shared with me a word the Lord gave her about what would take place later that evening.  Jan heard the Lord say, “Joy spilling out and over.” She went on to tell me when our joy is full we cannot be thrown by our circumstances because there is too much of God’s strength present. Jan deals with many people in her Listening Prayer ministry who have experienced traumatic life events that robbed them of their joy. Their joy center became empty and they had no strength to stand in times of difficulty. Many of them simply gave up on that part of their life. Jan told me when joy is captured once again miraculous emotional and spiritual healing takes place.

Last night, in the middle of an evening of teaching, I felt the Lord ask me to stop teaching and minister the word Jan gave me. I had people stand up who had lost their joy through abandonment or an experience of loss.  Across the room, people began to stand. I had people around them encircle them and begin to pray calling forth a lost joy. I asked those praying to begin to declare the joy of the Lord back into those empty places. Then a shift began to take place in the room. Joy and laughter began to break out as long forgotten joy paid a visit. At times it got really loud and beautifully raucous with laughter and shouts of joy. People were being set free by the presence of joy. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Last night convinced me that a supernatural invasion of joy is what we need in our world in this moment of history. Many feel empty and disillusioned and weak. The only remedy is the joy that comes when God’s presence invades a life.

Today, stand before the Lord and ask Him to bring His joy to the empty and joyless parts of your life. An invasion of joy has been poised and ready to be released into your life awaiting your invitation. When the joy arrives it will bring with its presence a new strength and hope that will give you the ability to face the challenges ahead with expectation, not dread.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10

Finding the Loophole

The spiritual opposition coming against you wants you to think you are alone and vulnerable and that a dark victory is the only possible outcome in your current conflict. The dark entities waging war against you want you to continue living in retreat never taking a stand giving up more and more of your spiritual rights and possession. God wants to show you the real position from which you are supposed to fight. You are more protected than you realize.

In medieval castles, there were openings in the castle walls known as loopholes. Loopholes are the narrow slits in the stone wall through which archers would release their arrows at an approaching enemy. Today, the word loophole carries a negative connotation, but at the time of their introduction, they were a place of protection and opportunity enabling an archer to exploit the opening to strike the approaching enemy.

Though you cannot see what God has set in place as your defense you are actually surrounded by the presence of the Living God and His host of angels. David was in this position when he faced Goliath. Gideon was in a similar situation when his physical army was reduced to the equivalent of nothing.

The presence of God and His angels are your castle. Through that protective barrier, spiritual loopholes exist through which you can fire truth back at the approaching enemy. Paul said this battle is spiritual in nature and does not draw on the tactics of warfare from the natural realm. 

A spiritual loophole appears when we finally submit to the battle plan of God. Their appearance can run contrary to your emotions, the advice of close friends and the current mood of culture.  They are the only place through which victory is possible. These loopholes allow arrows of honor to be fired when dishonor is coming your way. They allow you to fire back forgiveness when some of your friends are trying to convince you to stand your ground and defend the false rights that unforgiveness promises. 

Stand up on the castle wall of God’s presence and fire back through your loophole with arrows of an opposite spirit than the spirit currently attacking your position. In this place, you will become dangerous to the enemy. You will also prove yourself to be a valuable asset in the army of God. A single believing archer positioned behind a loophole of truth has the potential to cause an entire army of darkness to retreat in defeat.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jesus is God

I had an appointment with a man who ran a t-shirt business. In the course of our conversation, I asked him, “What t-shirt logo got the most response from people?” Without missing a beat he said, “The one with only three words written across the front – ‘Jesus is God.’” He said there was a certain level of positive response, but also a lot angry confrontation and disgust that someone would wear such a garment in public. 

People have asked me what I consider my bottom line for everything in theology. I would have to agree with the t-shirt. Jesus is God and because of that reality, we need to make sure we know what that means because everything we do in God’s name will flow from that single understanding.

We are emerging from a season of theological confusion and deconstruction that comes when a faith has not been challenged in a culture by real life and death opposition and where everyone is doing what seems right in their own eyes. In those times of an unchallenged faith, strange interpretations of truth can emerge.

Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Shortly after the Day of Pentecost, Peter addressed the religious leaders in Jerusalem and said,  There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul was writing to the Galatians explaining why he was persecuted for what he preached and wrote, “If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended” (Galatians 5:11). And in the next chapter, Paul addressed those who were compromising the message of Jesus, “They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save” (Galatians 6:12). Jesus wore the t-shirt and so did Peter and Paul and the rest of the early disciples.

So, what is your bottom line? What is written across the front of your theological t-shirt? It is never comfortable in a culture like ours to announce the divinity and singularity of salvation through Jesus Christ, but that is the biblical record and the history of the believing Church. That is my bottom line and I want to wear that truth with compassion, never with compromise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Choosing to Walk Away

There are things taking place around you that God does not want you to get used to. They were never meant for you to become comfortable with their presence in your life. It is time to break away and walk away.

Once, while working vice, we got information of a prostitution ring operating out of a seamy men’s club in San Jose, California called the Pink Poodle. The club was a lurid place. Partially clad women danced atop a long runway surrounded by men who would tip them based on how appealing the performance was.

Our vice team was made up of four officers, three men, and one woman. The female officer was a very young woman without any street experience. She looked younger than her 22 years. Her assignment was to go up to the bar and sit down. We were trolling her to see if the pimp or female bartender who helped the pimp, would approach her with an offer to become part of the stable of prostitutes they ran out of the club. This is rough work, even for experienced cops. You see and hear things that only the cleansing power of God’s love can scrub from your memory.

When we entered the bar the three male officers provided cover for our female partner. I sat close to her on a nearby barstool to listen to the conversation. After our female officer ordered a drink, the female bartender started to make her move.  Our officer was everything these criminals wanted. She was young and pretty and innocent looking. The bartender could tell the surroundings were a shock to our female officer. The officer was not play-acting. She was in shock and so is anyone experiencing this level of degradation for the first time.

The bartender leaned over the bar and said, “Honey, I know all of this is a bit shocking. Just keep coming back. You will eventually get used to it.” I will never forget those last 7 words – “You will eventually get used to it.” A dark chill ran up my spine as I heard hell speaking. We eventually found the pimp and made the connection and arrests. The prostitution ring was broken. The events that took place in the Pink Poodle illustrate a reality for a believer.

There are things taking place in each of our lives that unless we disconnect from them immediately, we will “eventually get used to it.” These things are not always the obvious like a scene in a movie you should fast-forward or a conversation that takes an uncomfortable turn to become something base. Some of the things we get used to can be demeaning conversations about people or groups or the promise of “just one more time and then I will quit” when it comes to sinful behavior.

What have you become comfortable with in your life that you need to walk away from? Just like the backup we provided to our female partner, God is in the middle of your situation ready to help you walk away. A way of escape is always present. You never have to get used to anything. With God, there is always a way out.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Dangers of Prophetic Nationalism

Something has concerned me. It has been taking place with increasing measure in the last year. I would call it, Prophetic Nationalism. This is the hijacking of the prophetic voice of the Church to promote the agenda of a nation – any nation. On the surface, this can look patriotic, but in the end, it creates confusion concerning the mission of the Church in culture.

The Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines nationalism as, “exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.” It is a way of thinking that does not understand the Kingdom mandate of God spoken by John that states “the kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our Lord.” (Rev. 11:15) That mandate says all nations will yield to a higher calling than national preservation. That higher calling is where our words of prophetic promise should aim. In the heat of what some have called Culture Wars, the Church can lose sight of that larger picture. The manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth will require a greater and more dangerous loyalty than what is demanded by a nationalistic spirit.

This week, I read an insightful comment regarding the Apostle Paul who wrote in Romans 13 that we are to obey the governing authorities over us.  It was the governing authority of his day - Rome - that executed Paul for his perceived disobedience. The one who called for obedience to Rome disobeyed Rome. At some point, Paul’s obedience to the authority of Rome stopped and he could no longer follow their dictates in lockstep obedience to the demands of a lesser kingdom. That point of departure cost him his head in martyrdom under the direction of Nero, the Roman ruler.

The disobedience of Paul from the nationalistic requirements of Rome is where some in the prophetic camp will find themselves in the coming days. The influence of group acceptance is powerful. It can mute our voice. We can go along with the majority-sounding prophetic voice for a while hoping things will change, but true prophetic voices will not be able to abide for long within that restriction feeling they must continue to go along with the status quo. This will be a real challenge to those who are known within the existing and established camps of prophets. We are coming to a moment similar to what happened with Paul when he could no longer obey. I am sure some in the church in Rome questioned Paul's decision to disobey as will some in the Church question similar actions in our day.  It takes courage and grace to navigate through the offense this kind of a decision will create.

The prophetic voice of the Church should always speak to something higher and beyond the challenges a culture is facing or the disagreements created by those challenges. Our prophetic voice should sound different than the clamor created by a confused culture and in some cases, a confused Church. Our voice should not sound the same as our favorite cable news channel talking head with religious-sounding prophetic labels attached to make our voice familiar and appealing to those trapped in the current level of cultural angst and despair. There is something more and beyond that God wants us to see and address. That is the place to which we are called speak with words of prophetic hope and promise. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Hidden Gift in Our Cultural Division

We have arrived at a place in our culture and within the Church that is the product of 24-hour in-your-face immediate news, the isolation created by social media and our undisciplined emotions where the first bit of information out of the gate is typically the one most believed. The result of this destructive intersection is people have become confused, fearful and angry.

Hidden in this malaise of misinformation is a gift. The gift is the rediscovery of the value of community. We have created a culture of disconnect. In that disconnect, we can become callous and cruel toward others with opposing opinions. We then begin to shout our opinion from the mountaintop of our limited understanding releasing harmful opinions that have not been correctly filtered by the Spirit and wise counsel. Our opinions join with other like-minded debris rolling off the summit of our judgment like a sludge-laden avalanche of disinformation.

What if you and I simply stopped believing any and everything that is thrown in our face from any source with well-crafted appeals designed to rile us up? What if we found a place of honest community where honor and trust were the filters through which we strained the things that form our thoughts and action?

The hidden gift in our cultural division is the rediscovery of the tribe, of the community, of the small units of family, both in culture and bloodline, where we get to really know each other.  The value of this place is not isolation, but preservation for without community we are left to drift hopelessly in the winds of deception and misinformation arriving at destinations of disaster and dismay – and loneliness.

The Unplanned Arrival of Blessing

The greatest blessings in my life have all come suddenly and unexpected. They were never planned or programmed. They just appeared – suddenly.

We can reduce our life of faith down to a human level of understanding that produces solutions from the exercise of human intellect causing us to assume these self-sourced outcomes are the blessing. There are things we do each day - faithful acts of obedience, each drawn from within the pool of resource we provide and manage. These resources are not the stuff of miracles. They can bring us to the edge of supernatural provision, but they cannot produce the blessing. God's blessings arrive passing through the veil that separates the realms of heaven and earth. That kind of arrival is why we call them supernatural.

As you faithfully walk through the day keep one eye on the spiritual horizon. God is bringing sudden and unexpected blessing. Yes, He is bringing these blessings to help you in your place of need, but there is another reason that is far more significant. God never wants you to settle for a relationship with Him that is only empowered by what you can do for Him. He wants to show you what He can do for you if you will trust and believe.  When His sudden answers arrive they will redefine your understanding of the word blessing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pursuing the Glory

This morning, I had the honor to preach at Empowered Life Church in Medford, Oregon pastored by Ivan and Erica Roman. Ivan was out of town ministering and asked me to speak in his absence.

As worship began, Erica quoted Ruth Heflin by saying, ““Praise until the worship comes. Worship until the glory comes. Then stand in the glory.” I was struck deep in my heart when Erica spoke those words. All through worship, I could not shake the reality and importance of that single sentence.

Don’t stop at praise in your corporate gatherings. Move from praise into the depths of worship and from that place of worship welcome the glory. This transaction can happen immediately or it can take time. No matter when it comes, wait for it. It is the goal of your gathering. It is after the glory is experienced where sermons step into supernatural dimensions, where dead things come back to life and where sickness has to flee.

God's Hidden Security Detail

God has heavenly assets and resources assigned to your life that you cannot see. They are in place to protect you and watch over your life. To the casual observer, you look vulnerable, exposed and out in the open. With God that is never your reality.

The recent Inaugural activities in Washington, D.C., brought back a memory from my past. I recalled a time in my days as a cop when my SWAT team worked with the Secret Service to provide security for President Ford. Our team was positioned on the rooftops of Stanford University overlooking a plaza where the President would speak.  No one on the ground knew we were there unless they knew what to look for.

As I watched the Inaugural this week my eyes immediately went to the rooflines of the surrounding government buildings and there they were, the dark specks of observers, snipers, and tactical teams. And those were the ones we were allowed to see. Other layers of security remained hidden even to the most informed observer.

There is a spiritual parallel. Not everything God has prepared for your protection is visible – even to you. He has angels positioned in high places tasked with the singular assignment to surround your life and protect you when darkness calls.  The corridors of your life are lined with guardian angels. Your family has a heavenly security detail assigned to them to protect every step they take throughout each day. God’s Spirit lives in you and surrounds you. You are covered. Not one of God’s children ever walks into a zone of danger alone and unprotected.

Today, as you navigate through a challenging situation, look up. Look up toward roofline of the heavens. Ask God to open your eyes to see what He has put in place for your protection. He is always working behind the scenes and out of sight. You can walk forward in confidence knowing no weapon formed against you will prosper because God has your back.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Day After the Inauguration - Be Careful, Be Wise

Some of the dialogue taking place on social media and news outlets the day after the Inauguration reminds me of the Chinese language symbol that can mean both danger and opportunity depending on how it is used. We are in one of those moments of definition, not in the culture, but within the Church. The election was a tool used to reveal what was in our hearts – the good and the bad - on both sides of the election results.

Jan has been gone a few days helping her mother move into a care facility. I don’t do the bachelor thing well. I miss my wife whenever we are apart. We have been married so long we no longer know where one of us ends and the other begins. The longer we are married the deeper our expression of oneness becomes while we still retain our unique personalities and differences of opinion. We live in that deepening oneness because for the last 44 years we have chosen to actively protect our relationship by struggling through our times of opposition and disagreement with honor and forgiveness.

I think this is why when God designed the model of what a God-ordained idea of marriage was supposed to look like, He picked a man and a woman to represent His thinking. He chose two distinctly different people both anatomically and emotionally and said this is the representative symbol of his idea of marriage. God would use the marriage between two opposites to reveal what the relationship between Jesus and the Church would look like.

In John 17, Jesus prayed that we would be one. He went on to say the chilling words, “…so that the world will believe you sent me.” In other words, the world’s ability to believe depends on the Church choosing to be one with each other in the middle of really large differences of opinion.

Today, the day after the election when so many within the Church are sharing opposing views, your calling is to protect the oneness. Watch your words. Measure your response. Choose to see a bigger picture than the one being painted by your emotions and the unguarded opinions of other people. Our oneness is far more important than the outcome of any election. It is more important because our oneness, not an election outcome, carries the promise of belief.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Prayer For Our New President

Father God, bless our new President. May you give him the ability to reach beyond division and fear to embrace the broad spectrum of our diversity expressed in every color, creed, and religion and pull us together in a renewed state of the Union. Release in him the spirit of a father as one newly married into a divorced nation with a mandate to bring healing and restoration to our national family.

May you give each of us the largeness of heart to provide our new President an opportunity to prove himself faithful in the midst of our very diverse perspectives. Surround him with wise counsel. Protect him from evil plots of division and harm. Let this be the greatest season in the history of our nation where every man, woman, and child can feel the loving touch of God administered through the imperfect hands of our shared humanity. In the name of Jesus Christ, let it be. Amen.

The Baby Burrito

God has wrapped you tightly in His presence. You are secure, not in jeopardy. The things coming at you at this moment cannot breech His love or His purpose for your life.

When both of our children were born the hospital staff wrapped them tightly in a baby blanket. When I held my firstborn, our daughter, Anna, I told Jan, “She looks like a little burrito with a face!” I still have that image in my mind after so many years. Just the other day, I asked Jan why the wrapping was done and she told me it had to do with making the baby feel secure.

In times of intense struggle, God will wrap a believer so tightly in His presence they will feel immovable. Some have mistakenly interpreted this restricted place as something negative. They fought against it, struggling to get free missing the deep sense of rest and peace being offered.

The greatest personal advancement can take place when we feel the most restricted. In these times when God births us into something new and unfamiliar we experience feelings and emotions similar to a newborn outside the mother’s womb for the first time. Like a newborn that feels the assuring pressure of a swaddling blanket, a believer who knows they are wrapped in the presence of God will experience a peace and assurance that only comes from knowing they are never left unwrapped and vulnerable.

“Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Psalm 33:22

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

When Leadership is Challenged

There are times when you hear something that impacts you deeply and leaves a lasting impression. As a young pastor-in-training, I remember one such phrase. Early in his ministry, my pastor, Roy Hicks Jr., was confronted by a group of people in his church who felt his leadership style was too strong. The church was exploding in growth and what was comfortable and familiar was being challenged. Roy was in his late 20’s when the challenge came.

Roy met with the disgruntled group and listened to their complaints. When it was his time to speak he spoke one sentence that shifted the spiritual environment of the room. He said, “So, you want me to become weak so you can become strong?” That one Spirit-inspired sentence confronted the spirit that was challenging his leadership and illuminated the reality of what was taking place. Roy’s comment carried the sound of apostolic leadership.

After that meeting, some of the group stayed in the church and some left. Faith Center continued to grow in its influence within the city of Eugene, Oregon and beyond, both nationally and internationally. Jan and I were sent out to our first ministry assignment from that powerful church.

In pivotal times of change, both in the Church and culture, God will raise up strong leaders that will lead with a passion and vision that can challenge the thinking and comfort of those who only see the Church as something to be managed and protected. Management and protection are good things when positioned in an environment of faith. Left unsubmitted to apostolic leadership, they become agents of control.

Today, examine the demands you put on those God has placed in your life to lead and shepherd. Ask yourself, “Why am I bringing this challenge?” If you are uncomfortable with change or want things to remain the way they have always been, let God have access to your fear. When He is finally is able to touch and heal that weakness you will become a valuable asset to those tasked to lead the Church. You will have become strong enough to allow others to freely move forward in their gifts and calling.