Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Pinch of Compromise

A spirit of compromise is descending upon the Church in Western culture. That compromise is not about the lesser things that occupy the mind of some believers like, what to eat, drink and where to go for entertainment. I am speaking of the deepest of all issues of faith, the person of Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer.

A disciple of Apostle John, Polycarp, lived from 69 AD until 155 AD. Polycarp carried an important transitional role between the first and second generations of the Church. He was engaged in confronting the emerging heresies of his day. Those heresies, the most dangerous of all, had to do with Jesus Christ. Polycarp understood that many things could be up for debate and preference in the Church, but not the work and person of Jesus as the Son of God and the only Redeemer of all mankind.

In Polycarp’s lifetime, the Church had become a threat to Rome. It became the duty of Rome to extinguish the flame of faith at all costs. Horribly brutal persecution was sweeping through Roman culture wherever Christ was professed. When it was time for Rome to call Polycarp to account, they threatened the old man with death. He was offered a choice of compromise. All Polycarp had to do was offer a pinch of incense as an offering to Caesar as god and his life would be spared. When offered a way out of martyrdom he uttered these words, "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" When he refused to ascribe divinity to Caesar, he was burned at the stake.

Every believer will have a moment in their life when a pinch of compromise will be offered to diminish the name of Jesus Christ. That moment is where the greatest memory of a life is recorded, either good or bad. Compromise to Polycarp was not about some childish spiritual-sounding argument about politics, whether Christians can drink wine or go to R-rated movies. It was about Jesus as God. He was asked to deny the divinity of Jesus and ascribe that divinity to Caesar. He could make such a definite and life-altering decision because he had an impassable line in his faith he would not cross when it came to Jesus. That same line must be defined by each of us or in a time of conflict and fear we will succumb to an easy way out that will demean both His name and our testimony. That choice can bring death to some of our existing relationships and to our reputation in a culture where pantheism reigns and where everyone is doing what seems right in their own eyes. 

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through me.” That truth was the final straw added to the kindling that would consume the life of Polycarp in the flames of martyrdom.  His life would be remembered as one who burned incense to no other name but the name of Jesus.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Here We Aren't

When I was a young boy my brother and I sat in the backseat of our family car on road trips. If the trip was long we did what most kids do – we asked our father, “Are we there yet?” I remember the day when my badgering questions came to an end. 

When I asked for the umpteenth time, “Are we there yet?” My dad said in an excited voice, “Here we aren’t!” There was a moment of silence as my brother and I tried to figure out what our father had just said. I sounded like, “Here we are!” but we knew that wasn’t right. Dad turned around and smiled at us and continued driving. It was on that day that we stopped asking the “Are we there yet?” kind of questions and just enjoyed the drive. I was nine years old.

Some of us who follow Jesus can ask the same kind of question. We think the best things in life are at some future destination, always ahead of us. We toss around words like destiny and promise thinking we are not already at those destinations. This continual quest for something more sounds good and can actually appear spiritual, but it can also be a mask that hides our dissatisfaction and a lack of peace.

True spirituality contains the understanding that if your life ended today there is really nothing more for you to gain or accomplish. You possess the greatest gift of unimaginable worth. Your destiny has already been fulfilled for you by Jesus and it is waiting for your arrival in eternity. All the promises you have been given have the word “Yes” written across their face even if you are no longer physically alive to see them fulfilled in this lifetime.

You will know when you have come to this new level of maturity when, in your continual asking God for things you already possess, He gives you an answer similar to the one my earthly father gave to me and you actually understand the answer. Your eternal destination is your destiny. Everything you need to know, do and possess has been given to you in and for this moment. Enjoy the journey. Do the best you can. Rest in His presence. You have already arrived. Knowing that makes for a peaceful journey.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Where Do You Fit?

Have you ever wondered where you fit in the larger picture and function of the Church? You were wired a certain way by God to do unique things in the Kingdom. If you are one who is called to equip the Church to do the work of the ministry here is a simple way to see the five gifts Paul described in Ephesians 4.

Apostles receive the download of a heavenly blueprint.
Prophets announce the blueprint.
Evangelists recruit people to the blueprint.
Pastors create the environment where the blueprint can grow and flourish.
Teachers expand and teach each element of the blueprint.

Over time you may carry a dominant equipping gift and actually be known in the Church for the function of that gift. In reality, there may be times when you might function in several of these gifts at the same time depending on how God chooses to use you in a particular season of life.

Paul said the functioning of the five equipping gifts matures the Church and allows her to stand in her full stature. As a result of the harmonious function of these gifts, we will no longer be tossed about by divisive teaching and unstable influences.

Paul ends his treatise on the subject by revealing one of the goals of this equipping, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love.” The full manifestation of a group of people equipped to do the work of the ministry is not the mechanics or style of ministry. It is each part speaking the truth of God with a heart of love to each other and to the surrounding culture.  The sound of that united voice will reveal the life of Jesus expressed through a fully equipped and mature Church. That is is how the original heavenly blueprint is supposed to look and sound when revealed on Earth.  Paul described that image as, “growing in every way more and more like Christ.” 

When Jesus gave the equipping gifts to the Church He gave those gifts to help us stand in culture as a flesh and blood representation of His life. That is the ultimate goal of a fully functioning blueprint made possible by the recognition and release of the five equipping gifts.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Creating Fresh Momentum

Each transition of life has an in-between moment. An in-between moment is that space of time between an old and expired season and the approach of something new. The momentum that brought you this far is the result of the faith you exercised in the previous season. Each new season will require the exercise of a new level of faith or your current momentum will come to a standstill. A fresh expression of faith has the ability to create the spiritual momentum required to open the door to your future.

Are you in a time of transition? Are you between seasons?  Fresh momentum is ready and waiting to be released. Its release is waiting for you to believe once again no matter how impossible the way forward may seem. That kind of faith will create the momentum required to deliver you into the new future God has prepared for you.  Belief is your way forward. Exercise it!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Get Out of the Blast Zone!

I was getting ready to begin writing this morning when an image entered my mind. It was the image of a blast zone. This blast zone was the center of a target where an explosion would take place from the detonation of an incoming missile. Anyone or anything within the blast zone would be destroyed once the explosion took place.

As the image developed, I saw a faceless person hear the sound of the incoming missile. It made a whistling sound like a falling bomb in an old World War II movie. The person began to run and moved quickly out of the blast zone to the safety of the perimeter. They watched as an incoming missile struck the target and wreaked horrible destruction.

This image is a warning of love issued to some who find themselves in a place of conflict. It is time to move out of the coming blast zone where a lack of love is creating a target of jeopardy. This place of jeopardy is inviting a work of darkness to come and detonate a loveless act of destruction. For a time love was able to provide a shield of protection for this group, but love has been abandoned for personal agendas and the spirit of control. This has left the participants vulnerable to things God never intended for them to experience.

You still have time to move out of the blast zone. Don’t try to prove yourself right or remain any longer in an attempt to plead your case. Run for the safety of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Once the devastation takes place God will have you return to the blast zone and work through the rubble to find the victims. Your rescue mission will be to speak words of hope and release resurrection life to the people and institutions that became victims in the blast zone. That is why God is telling you to run, not just for your spiritual safety, but to keep you safe so you can return to the blast zone as an instrument of rescue releasing the healing power of His redemptive love.

“He (Joseph) left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house.” Genesis 39:12

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can You Feel It?

Can you feel the shift that has taken place? I am not talking about the by-products of cultural change like the results of our recent election or the increasing levels of social unrest.  I am talking about a shift that has taken place in the spiritual environment. An alignment to the greater purposes of God has occurred. This alignment has created a place for the arrival of a suddenly of God.

The suddenlies of God are not planned events. These sudden events get their name from a sudden and surprising appearance. Their arrival produces amazement. Before these events occur, God will stir His prophets to begin announcing that something is coming. Most of these predictions will not contain specific detail. The Day of Pentecost was prophesied, but the actual elements of that day were a complete surprise to those in attendance.

This morning, I was reading about the cycles of culture.  One dictionary defines a cycle as “a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order.” God’s suddenlies do not follow predictable patterns or cycles. A suddenly is not a cycle or a pattern – it is the sudden arrival of something that exists outside the cycles of culture. The suddenlies of God come with the purpose to interrupt the existing cycle to make way for something new.

Defining a cycle or pattern of culture is not prophetic, it is academic. Investigating patterns and cycles of culture can be done without God. Announcing a suddenly is the work of a prophet and requires an intimate relationship with the Spirit. As the cycles of culture continue to unwind and create higher levels of uncertainty, listen for the prophetic voices that are announcing the suddenlies of God.  Raise your eyes above the level of natural human response and reaction. What is about to take place will not come from this realm or from our understanding of how the natural cycles of culture function. Something unusual and surprising is coming. A suddenly is about to arrive. Can you feel it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Jesus Triangle

I talked to a friend who is an accomplished hunter. Each year he successfully harvests both elk and deer. He hunts with a bow and arrow. In order to get within the limited range of his weapon, he must be very aware of how the animals he hunts process a threat. He uses a mental checklist called “The Hunter’s Triangle” to make sure he does not prematurely spook the animal. The triangle consists of sight, smell, and sound. He stays out of sight, downwind and whisper-quiet in his stealthy approach. These three elements working together allow him to get close enough to make a safe and humane shot.

Paul wrote about what I would call, “The Jesus Triangle” in I Corinthians 13:13.  “And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Paul wrote these closing words of I Corinthians 13 – The Love Chapter - after talking to the Corinthians about how we are to live in culture until time ends and only love remains. Paul was describing the over-arching strategy of a kingdom not of this world.

We live in a jittery culture. People are suspicious of religion. The name of Jesus has been hijacked for a variety of purposes like politics, national identity, closing business deals and motivational speeches. I don’t blame people for feeling this way. They feel had and used and like the wounded prey of a spiritual hunter armed with misguided motives. Approaching someone in the name of Jesus nowadays carries with it many warning signs that will spook a person before you can get close enough to actually begin a real relationship.

We need to ask ourselves a question, “Why are we on the hunt?” If our approach is motivated by anything less than the heart of God we will never get within range of another human being. Our shots will only wound because our tactics were not the tactics of God.

If I were to define The Jesus Triangle, here is how I would describe its three components. 

FAITH lets people connect with the substance of things not yet seen in this life. When you approach a person with faith you help them see beyond the pain and struggle they are experiencing to believe in something more. 

HOPE secures what faith reveals. When you approach a person with hope you help them understand that the most valuable things in life are secured for them in eternity beyond the stench of death and decay of this world. 

LOVE fills the cracks of our broken and pain-filled lives. When you approach someone with love the sound of your words will become the spiritual mortar that holds all things together. 

Only a message containing these three elements – faith, hope, and love – will allow us to get within range of another person because these three are honest, authentic and without sullied motives.

When you hunt for broken lives using The Jesus Triangle this selfless tactic will help you get close enough to another person to put an arrow of love deep within their heart. God’s arrows never bring death. They always bring life. Happy hunting!

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Renewed Spiritual Intellect

You can have a developed intellect, but not a renewed mind. The opposite is also true.

I have talked with kind and wonderful people in the Church who have never allowed their intellect to be developed. They parked on the first step of revelation thinking it was a destination. Some rally around this misunderstanding thinking it is somehow spiritual and that anyone outside their limited understanding is suspect. 

I have met highly developed intellects possessed by notable academics who think their accumulated and shared data is the final destination of developed thinking.  This narrow understanding limits them from receiving instruction from those they see as living on a lower rung of intellectual development.

We actually need both ends of the spectrum. This is not an either-or scenario. This is why Paul used the phrase, “the renewing of your mind” when he wrote to the Romans. Paul linked the renewing of our minds to our ability to be transformed while living in a world that demands conformity in thought and lifestyle. No matter where one falls on the intellectual graph, we need our minds renewed and our intellects developed.

This is why I think God chose Paul to write so much of the New Testament. In Paul, God gave us the extreme bookends in the issue. Paul was highly educated – the equivalent of a modern day Ph.D. On the road to Damascus, he was taken past the limits of his intellect when he experienced a supernatural encounter with Jesus. In that encounter, Paul's intellect was temporarily blinded so he could see Jesus. He would later write about things not available to the limited line of sight of his advanced education. These were the experiences where he described the Third Heaven, strange manifestations of the miraculous like placing handkerchiefs on sick and demon possessed people who were suddenly healed and set free or when he shook a poisonous snake from his hand on the island of Malta and lived to tell about it.

While all of this was going on with Paul a band of early disciples stood before the well-educated class of their day. When the elites interrogated the band of rag-tag disciples they commented, “ Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Both Paul and the disciples had an encounter with Jesus. That was a mutually shared starting point for the renewal of their minds and the process of personal transformation.

The coming revival, reformation or visitation – no matter how you chose to define it – will begin like it did throughout Scripture and history. An encounter with Jesus will take place that will cause us to think differently about our assumptions.  Our assumptions are created by either our misunderstanding of what it means to have a renewed mind or by an over-estimated value of education without the renewing presence of God’s Spirit. We need both if we are going to move forward as the Church.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dangerous Prayers

One of the most dangerous prayers you can pray is, "Come, Holy Spirit, come!" 
I prayed that prayer this morning at 4:30 a.m. as I drove by a church building in a small Oregon town. Immediately, in the Spirit, I saw the parking lot of the church filled to overflowing and the surrounding streets in holy gridlock. The congestion was caused by the crowds of people arriving from all across the nation who were coming to experience the move of God taking place inside the walls of the church. 
I encourage you to pray a dangerous prayer - dangerous to the spirit of unbelief. Pray a simple prayer of invitation - "Come, Holy Spirit, come!" - over all areas of your life and watch God begin to do the impossible. 
Significant change is in the air. That change is waiting for your prayers of agreement to usher in a visitation of God's Spirit.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Spiritual Crash Sites

When Jan and I were based in Kingston, Jamaica, we learned a lot about the history of the island. One day, I was speaking with an old-timer who told me about the day when the first traffic signal was installed on the island. If you were to visit Jamaica today, you would quickly realize even with an abundance of traffic signals in the cities the driving is very chaotic to this day. I could not imagine what it was like when an unfamiliar traffic light was first put in place.

On that day, the busiest intersection in Kingston was chosen to receive the new traffic signal.  A notice was placed in the paper about the coming change. No one had ever seen a traffic light before. As cars approached the newly regulated intersection many of the drivers simply did not see the traffic light. It was not in their field of vision because it was not yet part of their thinking. Wrecks happened one after another. The intersection became a massive crash site.

The old-timer sharing this memory with me began to smile. He said, “It was so entertaining! Hundreds of people filled the streets watching crash after crash. When a new crash took place we all let out a cheer and applauded like we were at a soccer game.” This crash scene went on for weeks until the drivers finally came to realize what it meant to have their driving regulated.

The day the first traffic signal was installed in Kingston a lack of self-control was present. The traffic signal did not press the brake to obey a red light. That was the responsibility of the driver. It would become a learned skill.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. This is not God or a pastor controlling our lives – it is you and me doing the controlling. That is why it is called self-control. We are the ones in charge of how we speak and how we choose to live. The appetites of our lives need a set of brakes and an accelerator in order to safely navigate the intersections of life. It may not be a positive-sounding message to consider a life lived under the control of the Spirit, but it is the only kind of life that will keep you from crashing.

Here are a few examples that Paul shared in Ephesians 5 that reveal to us what a spiritual traffic signal looks like when installed at the intersections of a life:

“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Vs. 25-27

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Vs. 29

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” 31-32

There are other spiritual traffic lights operating elsewhere in Scripture. Find where they have been installed and heed their warning. They will keep you safe in the journey. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Spiritual Surf Safari

God is calling you to step out and explore outside the current boundary of your faith. Good things exist beyond the borders of what you know and understand. An adventure is awaiting your arrival.

I began to surf as a 14-year-old kid living inland in Los Gatos, California. My mom would drive my brother and me over Highway 17 to Santa Cruz on Saturday mornings and drop us off at Otto’s Surf Shop where we would pick out our rental boards. From Otto’s we would walk down to Cowell’s Beach to catch our first wave. After a day of surfing, we would ride the bus back home and mom would pick us up. This Saturday routine went on until I was 16 and got a driver’s license, my first car and a new custom Hansen surfboard (www.hansensurf.com ). Because I was now mobile, I was able to explore all our local surf spots.

In the summer of 1966 the classic surf movie, The Endless Summer, was released. It spawned in every surfer the dream of going on a personal surf safari. When I graduated from high school a buddy and I planned our own safari. He who owned a 59 VW bug with board racks on top. So we set out with our sleeping bags, a loaf of bread and very little money. Our plan was to surf every break we could find between our local surf spot on the central California coast all the way south to the Mexican border. We were young and broke, but we had a plan. It was a great three-week adventure.

This week, I heard the words, “It is time for a spiritual surf safari.” Though the words sounded a bit unusual, I knew it was the Lord. It is time for some of us to expand the borders of our faith. Like a surfer who has never surfed a new break and always stayed local, we can settle for only what is known. There is a risk involved for those who step beyond the bounds of what is familiar, but that step of faith will always pay great dividends.

While surfing Rincon one afternoon, I paddled out to catch a wave.  When I finally caught the wave, I began to slide down the face. At the bottom, I made a hard right turn throwing a fan of spray in my wake. On the paddle back out my friend, Bill, yelled to me, “Man, that was the best bottom turn I’ve ever seen you make!” It was not that I could not have made a similar bottom turn at Cowell’s Beach back home, but something was different here. I really was going for it because I was on an adventure. The mindset of exploration and adventure caused me to step outside my personal boundaries and beyond my normal skill level. The whole trip was just like that - radical.

Maybe it is time for you to pack up your spiritual VW. Grab a friend and put your boards on the rack of your calling and set out to discover something larger and unknown. God will meet you in that new place with expansion and acceleration for the anointing on your life. In that place of newfound joy and wonder you will make the best bottom turns of your life because risk was no longer something to be feared.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Damascus Road of Media

God wants us to see through and beyond the obvious. He has given us the ability to see through the prepared script of the natural world into the realm of the Spirit. Without this dimension of sight, we will come to the same conclusions as an unredeemed mind. 

A.W. Tozer wrote,  “The man who has been taught by the Holy Spirit will be a seer rather than a scholar. The difference is that the scholar sees and the seer sees through, and that is a mighty difference indeed.” I believe Tozer was prophesying to the Church throughout the ages, but his words ring especially true in this moment of history. Change is in the air.

God is raising a cadre of seers from within the camps of entrenched social bias that exist on both sides of each cultural issue. Significant voices in the media are about to experience a supernatural transformation giving them the ability to see through the deception they have created. These newly transformed media seers will be used by God to dismantle the megaphones of darkness that carried their voice. The sounds of reformation will be released from the point of this revelation.

These events will be as stark in contrast and effect as Paul’s experience with Jesus on the road to  Damascus. Paul’s sudden transformation was viewed with great suspicion in the Church. The same thing will take place today. As events unfold, hold your final verdict until God has finished His work. God will ask you to believe what appears too good to believe to the natural mind.

Ask God to give you ears to hear and eyes to see what the Spirit is doing. You cannot assume the opinions you currently hold fully reflect the heart of God unless you have been able to see through the current issues instead of just seeing the issues. There is depth and dimension to this revelation. Revelation is never one-dimensional. It is always deeper than our current understanding. When this revelation comes it will bring unusual transformation to our media and that will be a mighty difference indeed.