Thursday, June 22, 2017

Your Gate of Opportunity

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Farewell and a Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You Are Ready For Publication

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hearing the Sounds of Heaven

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

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

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Free Bird

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Don't Throw It Away

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Meeting the Echo of Your Voice

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sunrise of Your Faith

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sound of the Reformer's Hammer

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sailing Forward in Faith

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

Alone, But Not Lonely

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

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Shredded Faith

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

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

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Sound of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Transferrable Kingdom Skills

During World War I many of the battles were fought in what was called, Trench Warfare. Opposing armies would dig deep trenches and exchange fire over what was called, “No Man’s Land”. It was a brutal form of combat. In this kind of warfare grenades were launched over No Man’s Land hoping they would land and explode in the trenches of the enemy. This caused great devastation and death.

Someone had an idea how to stop the incoming grenades. They called for soldiers who shot skeet in civilian life. These soldiers were issued shotguns and positioned to shoot incoming grenades out of the air. Some of the grenades would explode midair and others were deflected enough to fall and detonate in No Man’s Land.

In World War II some of the B-17 gunners were trained to hit the moving targets presented in aerial combat by riding in the back of a bouncing pickup truck with a shotgun. As the truck drove through the combat training course the truck tires would roll over trip wires releasing clay pigeons. The shooter would then be in a situation that would closely resemble having to fire from a B-17 while bouncing around taking flak and firing at incoming enemy fighter aircraft. The skill of shooting skeet was transferable to real life combat. A similar transfer is taking place in the Church.

For centuries people have thought the five equipping gifts listed in Ephesians 4 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher) we tasked with training and equipping workers for leadership roles in the institutional church. This shortsighted idea has limited the effect of the Church. Things are changing as people realize the real responsibility of the equipping gifts is to train and equip everyone to do anything. This training is not for a specific job or profession but how to be the sound of Heaven in this life no matter what life-assignment you have. The vast majority of people in the Church will never carry the title of pastor or missionary. They will remain in their current job or profession to become a transforming presence for God's Kingdom.

God has a plan to use you right where you are without the need to go anywhere or become something different. A housewife, construction worker, congressman, bank teller, retired person, a Wal-Mart greeter or any other job title is your place of Kingdom assignment. This is where God intends you to live and function as the Church embedded in culture. These assignments are your place of ministry because your Kingdom skills are transferable into any environment.  You don’t need to go anywhere or become anything different for God to use you in a significant way.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Redefining Breakthrough

Breakthrough has become a well-worn word in the current sea of prophetic ministry. There are promises of breakthrough everywhere you turn on social media and in the blogosphere. Breakthrough has become an elusive prize for a lot of people. The search for a magic bullet or secret formula has revealed a lack of maturity in the Church sending some on detours without a destination. What these searchers have yet to realize is the promised breakthrough will many times come when we simply return to the less glamorous option of raw obedience to something God has previously requested.

Every word of God has the gritty presence of obedience somewhere in the vocabulary of its prophetic promise. Sometimes we move away from these seemingly insignificant requests for our obedience in search of a dramatic breakthrough and as a result, never experience a real breakthrough. Breakthrough is the by-product of obedience, not the goal.

Obedience is a critical step on the path of faith that will lead us to the doorway of our breakthrough. Many times God will camouflage the significance of the doorway of obedience with simplicity and hiddenness. Some have turned away from that doorway because it lacked the decoration of significance.

Take a moment today and review your life. Before you look for another prophetic word promising breakthrough, ask the Lord to show you the acts of obedience that were either forgotten or abandoned along the way. They are the doorway to your future. They will become your place of breakthrough.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Pain of Undisciplined Words

There is something called anesthesia awareness or accidental awareness. This occurs when a patient is not brought to a state of complete unconsciousness in preparation for surgery. They look like they are under sedation but they are still fully awake. The anesthesia has paralyzed them to such a degree they cannot alert the doctors that the anesthesia is not working. They can hear everything going on around them and feel the pain of each incision of the surgeon. It is a horrific experience. The effect on a person from this gruesome experience is similar to someone suffering severe PTSD. There is a parallel experience in a spiritual context.

Some of the people you will try to help have gone through such deep trauma they will resemble a person on an operating table not fully under anesthesia. You can too quickly assume they are ready to receive the word of counsel you have to deliver but they are unprepared. Many gruesome tales of a word given without wisdom and the timing of the Lord can be told.

When God gives you a word to speak it is important for you to make sure God has prepared the person to hear what you have to say. Some well-meaning people have allowed their need to correct another person cause them to step out of the bounds of wisdom and prematurely incise the recipient with a corrective word. This premature and unwise course of action creates yet another layer of pain and suffering.

Be careful. Inquire of the Lord before you speak to someone who is experiencing personal trauma. God has a plan to deliver your word in a due season without the unnecessary pain and suffering that a rushed delivery can produce.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Your Personal Awakening

Some of you have been living your life in such a predictable way the thought of something supernatural and unexplainable happening is not on your radar. You have been asleep in the slumber of the predictable. You have been faithfully managing the affairs of your life without the expectation of anything changing. Yes, you still believe God can do supernatural works but you see them as something distant from your reality and only possible in the lives of other people. That is about to change. Unexplainable events will take place in your life that you will not have the vocabulary to define. These events will remind you of the reality of a loving and supernatural God who replaced the known and predictable parts of your life with the mysterious and the supernatural ways of God.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Preparing for the Hunt

As a young man, I hunted with a bow and arrow. I no longer hunt but recall some great memories with friends chasing elk and deer through the mountains of Montana and Oregon. Each summer was filled with practice and preparation for the annual week in hunt camp. Many times I was able to harvest an elk or deer and sometimes both.

Summer was a time of preparation. I would go through each piece of my equipment to make sure it was in proper working order and most importantly, quiet and odorless. To get in range of a game animal, sight, sound, and smell had to be considered because these three indicators could spook the animal before you got within range of your bow and arrow.

One year, at the end of summer just before the hunt, I asked Jan to join me in our walk-in closet. Closets are like well-insulated sound booths where you can hear the slightest of sounds. I turned the lights out so she could not see me. Our meeting wasn’t for a romantic encounter though the thought did cross my mind. I wanted her to focus only on sound.  This meeting was for Jan, a trusted observer, to listen for any noise I was making that I was not aware of. It would be too easy in my familiarity with my equipment to assume I was silent. As we stood in the closet, I was dressed in my full hunting attire with my bow in hand. I moved around in the closet and even drew my bow and asked Jan, “Can you hear anything?” Any noise made by my boots, clothing or archery equipment would be remedied and then and only then would I would be ready to hunt.

I wonder what it might be in each of our lives that could spook the culture to sound of our voice as we attempt to share the message of Jesus Christ? Some see this kind of a question as a compromise. It’s not. It is actually a question sourced in wisdom and compassion.

We are all guilty of spooking people from time-to-time, this writer included. We can live with a lot of unexamined assumptions. Assumptions can create unnecessary distance between our lives and the people we want to reach. At times misguided people have defined this chasm of ignorance as something holy and allowed it to create a “us versus them” mentality.

On the opposite ends of this issue are two camps. One end I call the “Hallelujah, Amen, Praise the Lord” folks who cannot comment on anything about God without using a language that resembles a snake-handling sawdust floor revival meeting. On the other end are the intellectuals of faith who have allowed an academic shrouded language of literary excellence to place any conversation with them beyond the reach of us common folk. These are very different ways of living a life of faith, but in the end, they create a similar result - distance.

In the middle of these two narrow extremes is the vast and untapped resource pool of people we want a simple and honest representation of Jesus expressed with a familiar sounding language and with a lifestyle that is holy but not so far out there that a seeker feels like they need to wrap their head in tinfoil in order to be able to dial into our unique God-frequency.

Maybe it's time to have an honest friend meet you in your spiritual closet and ask them, “Can you sense anything I am saying or doing that would spook someone?” This is a tough place to go because it may require some honest and painful change. Once you ask these tough questions and make the needed adjustments you will be ready for the hunt.