Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Falling Numbers - Rising Faith

God is about to make a significant change regarding the speed at which certain things will take place in your life. He is about to reorder your understanding of time, dates and process.

In the Spirit, I saw the image of a clock. It was a tall antique clock that stood in a living room. As I watched, the numbers on the clock face began to fall onto the floor. Then an image of a calendar appeared. The same thing happened. The numbers assigned to the various days of the week began to fall. After the calendar, a speedometer on the dashboard of a vehicle came into view. The numbers on the speedometer fell like those from the clock and the calendar. On the floor lay a pile of numbers.

I asked the Lord to help me understand what I had just seen. He said, “I am changing how My people see time, dates and the speed at which things will take place. They have relied too long on natural measurements to determine the course of their lives. Some have allowed these indicators to discourage them and replace their faith with the limitations imposed upon them from measurements in the natural world.”

When the Lord finished speaking, the image returned. I saw the hand of a person enter the scene and begin to pick up numbers from the pile one at a time and place them on the clock, the calendar, and the speedometer. The numbers were not returned to their expected places. I knew then why the numbers fell to the ground.

God is calling you to reassign the numbers on the clock, the calendar and the speedometer of your life. As you reassign these numbers they will seem out of synch with what was expected of you. God will affirm your choices. This affirmation will reveal to you and to others that you did hear God. The reassigned numbers on your clock, calendar and speedometer will become a prophetic word that will reveal the testimony of what God is about to accomplish in your life.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When Life Falls Apart

I have noticed in the world of journalism some the best books are written by authors after they suffered a personal failure or experienced a season of life filled with trial and tribulation. The books written before these hard times were filled with practical knowledge but not much substance. The books they produced after their challenging season carried a depth and authenticity the earlier works did not possess. In the place of their pain, sorrow, and suffering, when they allowed God to bring healing, their restored lives created a powerful testimony of redemption and transformation.  
If you are going through a rough stretch you may not write a book about your experience but you have the opportunity to create a powerful testimony if you allow God to enter your place of suffering and bring healing.  
Let God have His way in your season of struggle. Learn to suffer well and your life will be used as a testimony to help others navigate through their own brokenness with the hope that life can go on even when life seems to be falling apart.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Time of Transition

The warning against “not forsaking our own assembling together” will fall on deafened ears in the coming reformation of the Church. People will not become deafened to the importance of gathering together but to the undiscerning threats made by those who see no need for change.  In these times of “forsaking” most people are not running away from God. They are actually searching for a simple and less complicated expression of the Church. Wise pastors and leaders will see this need and make adjustments to their model of ministry and leave the threats behind.

There is a word of caution. In your frustration do not allow yourself to walk away completely from some form of fellowship. You were not designed to live a life of faith alone and isolated.  In the same text of Hebrews 10 that warned us not to forsake some kind of gathering together, there is a promise of what happens when we do gather. When we meet together we are able to  stimulate one another to love and good deeds”. We need to actually gather together for this kind of stimulation to take place. The form of that gathering can be very creative and outside the box of your current ministry model. It might even appear less-than-spiritual to your critics but to God, it is how He intended His Church to function without all the trappings and complication we have attached to its expression.

In these times of personal transition, something greater than finding the right place to worship is at work. God is giving you a chance to work on your heart and your attitude. Becoming cold and distant will hinder your ability to express honor to those who don’t see your need for change and who will challenge your decision to leave. Follow the leading of the Spirit. He will be faithful to get you where you need to be no matter what happens. Your part in the process is to remain honorable, forgiving and mature no matter who disagrees with your decision.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's Time to Change the Bait

Last week, I went fishing. It’s been a really long time since I last enjoyed that long abandoned pleasure. Jan had a full day of appointments so I packed my pole and fishing gear and drove to a beautiful lake near our home. I found a quiet cove that was off the windy main body of the lake and plunked my bobber and bait out into the mirror-like water. I had high hopes. All across the lake, I could see fish jumping - everywhere. I was going to come home with my limit – no doubt!

Well…after about 10 minutes, I realized nothing was taking my bait. The trout were jumping all around me in what appeared to be a well-crafted display of mockery at my fishing ability. Further out on the lake, I heard the sound of bigger fish jumping completely out of the water and flopping their meaty sides down on the surface of the water just to let me know they had no fear of ever meeting my hook.

A guy in a pickup drove by and asked, “Catch anything?” I began to explain to him that I brought the wrong fishing tackle. I should have brought a fly rod, not a spinning rig since the trout were hitting surface flies, not a bobber and bait setup. He began driving off as I tried to finish the last line of the excuse for my failure. After a few more minutes of being humiliated by the fish ballet troupe, I packed it up and headed home.

On the drive back home, I thought of my failed fishing expedition and all my good intentions. No matter how well I thought I would do if I used the wrong bait, I wasn't going to catch any fish.  Fish can be jumping all around us and that activity can create the illusion of a coming success but if our tasty morsel is not what’s on the fish menu, nothing will happen. We do this in the Church. We assume what we are offering to the world as a representation of Jesus Christ is what they want. When no one bites, we have a choice to make. We can either blame the fish or we can change the bait.

Paul told the Corinthians he was concerned that, “your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Paul might say the same thing to some segments of the Church today. People are no longer interested in a lot of what we have to offer. I can’t blame them. We have become too complicated and overly defined. We do our best to disguise the stuff of religion we have accumulated over the years hoping people will still bite but they are simply not interested. Maybe the culture is actually teaching the Church something in this moment instead of us assuming we are always the ones doing the teaching.

The reformation currently taking place in the Church will become known historically as a reformation that returned us to a simple and pure devotion to Jesus. That return will become the “bait” on our hook. A reformed Church will look more like a quiet morning of fishing on a beautiful mountain lake or a quiet dinner with good friends. Simplicity is the best bait to offer a busy and overly complicated world.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Second Chance Jesus

Your second attempt to follow Jesus will prove to be a turning point in your life. You learned a valuable lesson in the failed first attempt. This second time around will define your life in ways you never thought possible.

Peter was called twice to follow Jesus. The first time was in Matthew 4 as Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and saw Peter and his brother, Andrew, throwing their nets. Jesus said, “Come, follow Me and I will show you how to fish for people!” Peter went on to follow Jesus for the next three years ending that first attempt at following in utter failure.

The second calling of Peter to follow Jesus took place when Peter thought his failure meant it was all over between him and Jesus. The record of Peter’s restoration in John 21 was both personal and profound. Jesus once again said to Peter, “Follow Me.” Peter took Jesus up on His offer and would go on to preach on the Day of Pentecost one of the most powerful sermons in history. He would write two profound epistles and be known as a rock solid man of faith.

If you need a second chance at your life of faith don't forget this one important truth, Jesus never runs out of His supply of invitations. Don't allow a failure, a misstep or an outright act of sin to take authority over the invitation of Jesus. Like Peter, you have things to contribute on the other side of your restoration that you could never imagine would be possible. With Jesus, there is always a second chance.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pulling a Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of our nation, created his own version of the Bible. Jefferson did not care for the miraculous aspects of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus or His followers who wrote the New Testament. He called them “ignorant, unlettered men” who created “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications.” So, with a razor and glue in hand, Jefferson cut and pasted a version of the Bible he called, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. 

It seems the spirit of Jefferson lives on in our nation. Scripture cutters have always been among us and continue their work to this day. Some have given themselves to cutting and deconstructing Scripture to such a degree it has become a drug of choice. They have become pushers of this drug and the kingdom of darkness has used that addiction to create spiritual drug cartels that produce addicts ready to mainline strange and unhealthy doctrines. 

While this cutting is taking place, it is easy to miss an important distinction. While there are people who are pulling a Thomas Jefferson with misguided cuts of Scripture, others are rightly dividing the Word by carefully unpacking the historical background required to correctly interpret and understand what was written. For example, trying to understand a difficult section of Scripture without knowing the context and audience to whom it was written will leave you with a partial, and in some cases, a dangerous misunderstanding. We need this valuable insight if we are to rightly represent the heart of God. 

A reformation is taking place within the Church. The process of reformation has produced a renewed desire to correctly interpret Scripture and to take a second look at our tightly held assumptions. This Spirit-birthed stirring has come to prepare us to consider new and undiscovered aspects of our faith.

Jude, a half-brother of Jesus, wrote to the believers in his day about this subject, “I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” The faith Jude described was the original deposit of faith that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to unpack and understand. Some call this faith a progressive revelation. It is not progressive in content but in the way we progressively unpack the immensity of its original deposit. On our best day, we only see bits and pieces of the truth of God. Contending for an understanding of the original deposit is not meant to be a contentious interaction with other believers. It is supposed to be an honest and honorable search for a clear understanding of a truth that remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Surround your life with trusted people who are gifted in the area of biblical interpretation. Give these interpreters the time needed to work out their own understanding of what they offer before you blast them away with a premature dismissal. These inquisitive relationships are part of a healthy spirituality. Put down your fear, your biblical cutting tools and the all-too-easy-to-attach label of “heretic”. Let the Spirit walk you through this uncomfortable season of reformation with wisdom and discernment. On the other side of these challenging experiences, you will discover a stronger, healthier and more informed version of the Church.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Outside the Door of Reformaiton

Martin Luther had to nail his 95 Theses to the outside of the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. He did this because those inside were not yet willing to receive the transformation that a reformation of their thinking would produce. Reformers are currently nailing the demands for a new reformation to the door of our current expression of the Church. These reformers are not the enemy. They are prophets announcing the way forward. Leave the sanctuary of the status quo and bravely go to the front door of your spiritual experience. Read what the reformers have posted. What they are asking us to consider will reveal our future and eventually, it will become the record of our history.

The Coming Birds of Pray

Last night, as I lay in bed just before falling asleep, an image came. I was being carried underneath the belly of a huge bird in flight. In my peripheral vision, I could see its massive wings working up and down. We were flying over something large but from our altitude, its largeness had faded in significance into the scenery passing below. The interesting thing was the lack of fear I was feeling. To be up this high and with nothing underneath would normally create fear but it was a flight of pure joy and wonder. I knew I was going to be safe and secure held in the bird’s powerful talons. I finally fell asleep with that image in my mind.

This morning, as soon as I awakened, I heard the Lord say, “I am sending the birds of pray”. The Lord showed me the words He was speaking like they were a ticker-tape presentation so I could see the actual words spelled out. I know birds of prey refer to raptors like eagles, hawks, and falcons that hunt and kill their prey. They are known for their unusually powerful eyesight and hunting prowess. 

The Lord explained that He purposefully changed the usage of the word prey to pray for a reason. Some of you have faced obstacles you need to get past. You can no longer wait at the base of these obstacles looking up at their summit of impossibility. God is about to intervene in order to transport you and your circumstance to the other side. You have prayed and the answers to your prayers are coming. When they arrive, they will be birds of pray – answered prayers - that are being sent to lift you up and over your greatest obstacle and put you down on the other side in a place of answered prayer.

This flight will be an exhilarating display of God’s power and His loving care for you. When this happens, relax and enjoy the flight. God will not drop you prematurely. He will gently set you down in a place that seemed impossible to imagine before the birds of pray arrived.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If it's Not in the Bible...

Have you ever heard someone say, “If it’s not in the Bible, I won’t believe it!” While I understand the desire for truth expressed in that statement, we need to understand a much larger reality about Jesus who is the Word and the partial presentation of His life given to us in what we call Scripture. The Gospel of John offers some understanding on this subject, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  Those unrecorded works of Jesus were no less “biblical” than what we read about Him in the Gospels and no less important than the works He is doing in your life and in the lives of millions of other people around the world. Bold sounding theological disclaimers like the one exampled in opening line in this paragraph carry the sound of integrity but lack understanding. Be careful with your words. 

Click Bait Culture

Last week, I had some time to kill so I began to scroll through Facebook. I came to something called a sponsored post. “Sponsored” means someone paid to have the posting show up on your Facebook feed more than normal because they want to sell you something. I normally move past those things but this one was about a piece of history I found interesting. I thought, “Maybe this one will be different”. It wasn’t. It was a series of 32 pages that carried only fragments of the promised article. If you wanted to read the entire article you had to hit the “Next” button 31 more times. 

On each page were loads of garish advertisements that were secondary baits used to either keep you clicking through the original article or jump off into another advertising universe for something you don’t need. Once I saw I had been taken, I bailed and returned to my Facebook surfing scrolling my way through my friend’s latest recipes or pet antics.

Here is a definition of “click bait” I pulled off an on-line dictionary: “An eye-catching link on a website which encourages people to read on. It is often paid for by the advertiser or generates income based on the number of clicks.”

A study done in the psychology of social media discovered that click bait relies on two things – curiosity and deprivation. The curiosity part is obvious. The deprivation part takes a bit processing to understand. The feeling of deprivation comes when you don’t click the bait. The image or comment plants a question in your mind. In order to find the answer you either have to labor through the research on your own or simply click the convenient bait being offered to quickly have your need to know satisfied and no longer feel deprived.

Here are some examples of click bait one-liners used to lure your response:

         “Wow - they forget the camera was still rolling!”
         “Number 2 is my favorite”
         “OMG – I can’t believe she did this!”
         “Wait until you see what they did!”
         “This is your last chance!”
         “I didn’t know a human body could do this!”

There is another form of click bait that is actually more dangerous. It is the click bait that gains its power from a lack of honor and integrity. This is the click bait of gossip. A friend says a few magic words and your sense of deprivation to know more kicks in and you take the bait and allow yourself to hear things about another person or ministry that soils your image of them with the convenience of unproven accusations or falsehoods. You could apply this to other things besides gossip.

God has called you to be a person who walks in a high level of integrity and honor. This calling can only be accomplished if you train yourself to scroll by the offerings of dishonor that want access to your eyes and your ears. This training begins when you go to your place of deprivation -and ask yourself a hard question, “What lie am I believing that would cause me to want to hear such things in the first place?” That lie will show you where your next advancement in honor and integrity will take place. These lies that conceal their presence under spiritual click bait will show you where you are finding satisfaction in something other than Jesus. Put those lies to death with truth and the next time the bait is offered you will scroll right by its false promise living in the freedom that only a life of honor and integrity can provide.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Living Without Regret

The most impactful and authentic things that take place in your life do not come from self-promotion or unbridled personal ambition. They are dropped into your life by the grace of God. These deposits are many times given in critical moments of spiritual growth as integrity checks to see how you handle their reality and steward their presence. Visibility in the marketplace of religion and a high profile ministry persona are never the evidence of character. They can simply be the result of effective marketing. Let God market your life. It will be far less complicated and will carry with it the sweet taste of a life lived without the bitterness of regret.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Reformation of Simplicity

As we begin to proof and format my new book, The Sound of Reformation, it is becoming clear to me the next reformation of the Church will not take place inside the Church as a structure or institution. It will take place between people in moments of human interaction in the marketplace, in homes, in city council chambers, in corporate board rooms, in big box store break rooms and everyplace  a follower of Jesus walks. The hallmark of the coming reformation will be simplicity. God is about to downsize the Church to remove the accumulated clutter of our faith in preparation for a return to the supernatural simplicity of our mission.