Friday, June 30, 2017

Be Careful Making Your Approach

This morning, I awoke to a strange, yet familiar feeling. Forty-three years ago as a young rookie cop in training, I experienced my first car stop. I was riding with a training officer and relied on his wisdom to survive. Car stops present a vulnerable situation where your training will become one of your primary survival tools. Also present is an intuitive sense of danger that is developed in a real-life conflict.  This is an intuition known only to cops and combat veterans. All of these elements must work together in order to survive the mean streets.

When you pull over a car you never know who is inside. It may be a little old lady who forgot to activate her turn signal or someone with a plan to take out a cop in a well-designed ambush. On the approach to the car all your sensory perceptions, intuition and training should be running at the highest level possible. Failing to approach a vehicle without this level of awareness could be a fatal mistake.

We are making an approach to a challenging season in our history. Discernment, training, and wisdom will be needed to accurately determine how to approach people and how to take an appropriate course of action. You will also need the intuition of the Spirit that only comes because you have trained yourself to be aware of the spiritual realities of the world in which we live. This is not a business-as-usual season. How you approach this moment in history will determine the survival of your credibility as a believer and the ability of the Church to impact the surrounding culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Heavy Feet

The image I was seeing in the Spirit was depressing. I felt for the person I was watching. I saw them walking through a difficult season of life with heavy feet. Their feet were so heavy they could barely shuffle along the floor sliding one foot in front of the other. They were running out of steam. They had heavy feet because they were carrying an unintended load – a load God never asked them to carry. The person assumed it was their religious duty to carry such a load. While God really wanted to unweight this person from the load they were carrying, the more damaging load was a misunderstanding about their relationship with God.

Paul told the Galatians, ”For you have been called to live in freedom” (Galatians 5:13a). The word “freedom” Paul chose describes the ability we have to omit things from our life that have nothing to do with our salvation. This kind of freedom comes when we realize our relationship with God is intact apart from our broken or misinformed performance.

What are you carrying that has nothing to do with your salvation? Everything you possess was given to you in grace and by grace.  The grace of God has no negative weight. It is what Jesus described in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” What we carry is the recognition of grace. The weight of grace does not produce heavy feet.

Let your children go into the hands of a loving Father. Let your future go. Do your best to plan but never forget God is the one who is ultimately ordering your steps. Let a broken relationship go. If you have done all you can to make amends it is time for you to trust God. Whenever we attempt to carry people, situations, and outcomes, our feet will become heavy. Throw off these burdens and move forward under the weight of grace. This is how you were designed to walk through this life.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Retrieving the Lost Treasure of Your Life

An archaeologist will tell you to never unearth a treasure from its original context without first seeking professional assistance. The context in which an article is found gives it history, meaning, and cultural value. An archaeologist has the skill and training required to do the extraction of a historical artifact in the right way. Treasure is not supposed to be removed by amateurs from its place in history to rest on the mantle above someone’s fireplace. These discoveries belong in museums after a careful and studious retrieval from their original place of discovery.

This is true for your life. The further you distance yourself from your history the less meaning the testimony of your life will have. Paul understood this concept. He used his painful history to reveal to the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of God. A testimony requires contrast. You are a combination of the history you were delivered from and the future you have been promised.  The promise of a new future requires the context of your past for it to be fully appreciated and pursued.

To be ashamed of your past or fearful of its recall is a reminder that you are still in the process of being healed. The result of that healing will be the ability to share your history without fear of rejection or a visit of the emotional devastation that still remains from an unresolved past. At that point of healing, your life will be removed from a disconnected mantle and placed in a spiritual gallery as a masterpiece of God where everyone passing by can view your complete life and see it as evidence of God's transforming love.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Young Men

Young men, a life of faith is not meant to be complicated.
         It is meant to be a simple, authentic and wearable way of life.
Young men, a good life is all about intimacy.
         Wife, friends, children, all people need the real, intimate you.
Young men, a spiritually healthy man is a forgiving man.
         It is the only way forward when you fail and others fail you.
Young men, His presence is your sweetest possession.
         Forsake all things that want to displace this treasure.
Young men, life is not about gaining a following, it is about following Him.
         Submit your ambition to the fruit of self-control.
Young men, a woman does not want a distant machismo version of manhood.
         A woman wants tenderness, a listening ear, and a gentle embrace.
Young men, it is an illusion that your youth will hang on until the end.
         Embrace your aging seasons. They are sweeter than your youth.
Young men, if you do these things, when your last breath comes,
         You will have finished well.

A Power-Washing Faith

This morning I did something I do each morning before I sit down to write.  I stand by a window in our living room and look up into the night sky and pray for the day. I asked God to release His presence through my family and through me. I prayed, “Lord let your presence flow through us like a river”.  In that moment, I knew my prayer was meant for more than just our family.

Immediately, I saw a person moving through the schedule of their day. They were slowed because they had to step over the debris of human failure and obstacles placed in their path to slow the progress of God’s will for their life.

As they walked forward, the center of their chest opened up. A river of God's presence began to pour out onto the ground before them. The person looked like a high-pressure power washer. As the flow from their chest was released it began to clear away the debris and rubble that was hindering their forward motion. Nothing could remain in place when impacted by the force of the spray. The person continued to walk and turn in different directions spraying away every hindering presence.   

There is a supernatural river of God’s presence waiting to flow from your life. This river will be released when the knob of your faith is turned opening the floodgate. It is time for you to believe more in the power of the One you carry than the prohibitions that stand in your way. God desires to show you the extent of His authority. Open your heart and mind to the Spirit of God and He will begin to flow through you in a supernatural way. The outpouring of His presence will clear the path for you so you can begin to move at the speed of your faith along a clear and unobstructed path. This is your time!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Creating Apostolic Communities

Creating an apostolic community will challenge our existing thinking and current structures of ministry. The mission of the Church is big and requires big thinkers. An apostolic leader will disrupt comfort levels. They gather around mission instead of preferences. They help differentiate between the essentials and non-essentials.
Historically, movements have gathered and formed around a common theology or a shared experience. Over time pitfalls will be encountered and unless they are challenged and corrected they will keep living and working in the same rut producing the same results. Here are a few of those pitfalls: 
- We protect the past at the expense of the future.
- We take ownership instead of stewardship.
- We only gather around us people who think the same way we think.
- We build defensive systems to protect our group against any challenge.
- We shut out new ways of thinking, new personnel and new vision.
- We fail to institute systems that honestly evaluate our effectiveness.
- We ignore the real issues and carry on with business as usual.
What makes this organizational shift toward an apostolic environment so difficult? It becomes difficult when we define how we do church as something sacred and immovable. At that point, we see any challenge to our self-defined sacredness as a threat or a compromise. 
These challenges are either marginalized or eliminated from the discussion and, as a result, we stop moving forward. We are afraid our religious apple cart will be upended if change is allowed to take the wheel. The very message God wants to deliver might be brought by a person or an idea we consider threatening. Subsequently, the potential of something new is dismissed from our discussion or in some cases, from our community of fellowship.
We are deceived if we think we don’t need to continually change and reform. A shift requires personal assessments and adjustments in our beliefs and our thinking. These changes never toss out our core beliefs. The process simplifies our thinking and keeps us mobile instead of becoming entrenched in a partial understanding of a much larger truth. These corrections and adjustments will change the lens through which we see our friendship with God. With a more mature love, we will be able to live a simple faith that has the ability to transform culture because it first transformed us.
(This excerpt was taken from chapter four of my new book, The Sound of Reformation. (Released date, mid-July)

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.