Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blessed with Reformation Power

Jan asked me to do a final proof-read for her new book titled, Blessings of Hope and Joy. As I read the following excerpt from one of the blessings it reminded me of the reforming presence of the Church in the culture at this moment in our history. The Spirit has issued an invitation to the Church to begin to work with God to usher in a reformation that will influence each sphere of culture. Read this blessing over your life, your ministry, and your ministry team and watch the hand of God begin to move in profound ways. 
I bless you with words of knowledge
to give warning of the enemy’s plans:
to watch out for traps,
to warn others of ambushes,
to thwart secrets whispered in the dark.
I bless you with great favor
to influence leaders, decision makers,
and those who govern.
I bless you with the ability to discern trouble
and life-threatening issues
and the ability to offer God’s unique solutions
and facilitate His plans.
(Jan's new book, Blessings of Hope and Joy, will be released mid-November.)

The Character of Your Character

Our character is not determined by our geography or our social status. It would be an insult to a single mother who is trying to raise her children in an inner city ghetto to honor God and then limit the potential of her children to the level of sorrow that surrounds her life. On the other end of the social spectrum is a religious small-mindedness that views every person of means as shallow just because they made wise business decisions that led them to a life of righteous abundance and comfort.

The kind of character that carries the traits of the fruit of the Spirit cannot be overpowered by geography or social status. Its power is found in its portability through any and all circumstances of life. Developing a depth of character is challenging whether you find yourself in a tough circumstance of life or in a place affluence. Godly character is formed over time by the choices we make that reflect something higher and more honorable than the circumstance that surrounds our lives.

All stations in life will have problems unique to their particular setting. It takes spiritual endurance for a single parent to hang in there while working two jobs and steering her children toward righteousness and away from a gang culture. It takes spiritual endurance for a CEO to keep his business plan on track with Godly principles and not sell out his morals along the way to the false god of easy profit.

 Every life will have these challenges. Our character is formed by the decisions we make in faith to rise above the challenges to choose something better. The people who learn to live this way are the most hopeful people you will ever meet.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4).

Monday, October 30, 2017

Choosing Your Turnaround

Jan and I are away from home a lot in this season because of the calling God placed on our lives. This kind of life requires pacing, rest and the intentional care of our bodies in order to rightly steward what God has us doing. We try to watch what we eat and continue our daily physical workouts while on the road to keep the internal machinery of our bodies working properly.

Years ago as a young cop, I learned the value of running stairs. In those days, part of my workout would include running up and down stairs two at a time for twenty minutes inside the stairwell of a high-rise government building. The workout was intense getting my heart rate up and working my leg muscles. At my age, I no longer run stairs, I walk them one at a time for twenty minutes.

Typically, our ministry hosts are kind enough to provide a hotel when we travel. When we are in a hotel, I still use stairs for my workout whenever possible. I don’t like hotel gyms. On a recent trip, Jan and I were staying in a nine-story hotel. Each morning before breakfast we were in the stairwell for twenty minutes getting our workout. As I went up and down for those twenty minutes, the Lord gave me a word.

Seasons of life that seem like a long descent are no less part of the journey than a season where you are ascending to something higher. A descent is actually the required preparation for your next ascent. I realized as I was going down real stairs, I was using different muscles than going up. It also required more focus where I placed my feet so that I would not stumble and fall. 

Just as I did several times in a hotel stairwell a couple of days ago, after every ascent, I would eventually walk down into the very basement of the hotel. It was now time to turn around and climb once again. I had to make that choice several times during my work out if I was to keep moving.

If you have been descending for a season your descent will come to an end at some point. When you run out of stairs in the basement of this experience you will have to choose to make a turnaround. This turnaround will not be a miracle from heaven that will override your will. It will be your choice to simply turn around and begin a new ascent into a new season.

This is the stuff of faith. Your spiritual life is not always a glamorous, neon light show from Heaven. You may find yourself in a basement season but the basement is never your final destination. It is the place of your next choice of faith. A basement is the end of one season where a decision to turnaround and begin a new ascent awaits your arrival. The conditioning of your will is part of what keeps you in spiritual shape for the long haul. You will have many more seasons of ascent and descent ahead of you. It’s all part of the journey.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Context and Content

The context of your life is never more powerful than the content of the promises contained in God’s Word. Your context may be filled with pain and sorrow or a paralyzing fear about your future. These can be overwhelming things to experience but they never have authority over the content of God's Word if you choose to believe no matter what your circumstances are saying to you. You always have the option to choose life even when it seems like you are surrounded by nothing but death.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy” ( Deuteronomy 30: 15-16).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Listening for the Whispers of God

When Jan and I lived in Europe, we visited a cathedral that was uniquely constructed. The interior of the sanctuary had a smooth, rounded ceiling. The tour guide said a whisper softly spoken in one corner would rise and follow the curvature of the ceiling and be deposited into the ear of a listener fifty feet away as if the whisper had been spoken by someone standing right next to them. The tour guide had each of us try whispering a message to another person. It actually worked. When I whispered out a message, Jan heard me. Architects many centuries ago had designed a perfect architectural sound conduit. I recalled this experience just this week with a reminder from God to write it up today.

It is time to find a place to quiet your heart. There are too many sounds of life filling your ears. The message God is about to speak to you will be delivered in the quiet place you create when you reposition your life. You need to create distance from the noisy demands placed upon your life so you can hear what God is about to speak. This distance will reveal a new place - a place of revelation.

If this means you need to unplug from what has become the norm of your life in order to hear this needed word, then please do so. This is not a message God will yell at you. It is a message of power, a power that does not need the earthly stimulation of increased volume to be considered anointed. You have not become spiritually deaf, as you have wondered. You simply need to change your position like I did that day in the European cathedral when I purposefully stepped away from the crowd to go into the isolated corner of the room in order to carry on a whispered conversation with Jan. 

God is waiting to whisper to you a new season and new direction for your life. He did it thousands of years ago with the great prophet Elijah and he continues to do the same thing today when we find ourselves overwhelmed by what is taking place in our life.

“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (I Kings 19:11-12).

Friday, October 27, 2017

Avoiding Dead End Decisions

If you are a street cop, every so often you will have a pursuit. You attempt to pull over a car for a minor traffic violation and someone decides to run. The drivers can range from being a dumb kid in his parent’s car to a full-blown felon on the run.

One evening while on patrol, I tried to stop a car and off he went. It was about 2:00 a.m. so the streets in the residential neighborhood were vacant. After about 3 minutes into the pursuit, the suspect turned down a dead-end street. When you are running at high speeds your vision becomes overly focused on a small section of the road immediately in front of you. The driver did not see the Dead End sign. I began to slow because I knew what was coming.

At the end of the street was a wooden barrier. The road was elevated about four feet above the orchard that began at the end of the street. The kid must have been doing 75 mph by the time he hit the wooden barrier. He went air born and began to chop off the prune trees in the orchard in a descending arc before he finally came to a stop in the soft soil of the orchard.  He took out about 5 trees on his ill-fated flight.

I tell this story because if you are running from something in your life you will be so overly focused on your escape that you will not see the signs that tell you the choice you are making will lead to a crash at the end of your dead-end decision. I could list a lot of dead-end decisions.  These dead-ends come from an unforgiving heart, prideful ambition, self-promotion, self-hatred, a fear of the future, and many other things.

What are you running from? That is one of the most important questions you will ever ask. The only running a believer is called to do is to run away from sin or run to the Lord. All other forms of running will take you to a dead end where a crash is awaiting your arrival.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

For Those Who Want To Write

I do a bit of writing each day. I was a late starter, age 58 in fact. That was seven books and a thousand blog articles ago. In the process of that endeavor, I have learned a few things.

If you are a person who desires to write, here are a few suggestions:

1.  Become aware of your surroundings. Train your ears to hear what others miss. Focus your eyes on the fleeting imagery that can be the catalyst of fresh insight. The best authors do this. I have been told that Louis L’Amour, the famous Western writer, walked the exact trails he tried to describe to his readers. He tasted the dust and listened to sounds of a horse whinny describing each experience in captivating detail. My friend, John L. Moore, is a master at this.

2.  Create a deposit and retrieval system for the things that capture your interest. Find a place to store your thoughts either in a Word document or in a blog. You can come back later to get them if you have created a place for them. Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, said if you want to know where his next book is coming from, read his blog.

3.  Until you become proficient in writing, invest in a grammar program like Grammarly (Thanks, John). It will help you craft sentences people can understand. I have read emerging writers who had great insight and story yet stumble in their writing skills to such a degree that I had to check out and move on.

4.  Give people permission to show you the errors in your writing. I have a few authors and editors who have helped me with their wisdom when my writing stumbled. They have been kind enough to send me their wisdom in private messages. None of us like to be filleted publically.  They invested in my writing with sincerity and honesty. Welcome their insight. Honor them and thank them. They are some of your best allies.

5.  All writing will have mistakes. I have found errors in best sellers where teams of proofreaders had scoured the text assuming it was finally error-free. As a nervous first-time author, I asked Jack Hayford to review the manuscript for my first book, Prayers from the Throne of God, in preparation for him writing the foreword. I was nervous that my first attempt at authoring might have errors. In the beginning, when we are greenhorns, we can be idealistic and na├»ve. Jack gave me some wise advice, “All books will have some kind of mistake. At some point, you just need to make the decision to publish it.” I felt like a load was removed from my shoulders. The first printing of that book had a glaring spelling error on the cover when we spelled “Foreword” wrong. We corrected “Forward” in the next printing.

6.  Park your pride. It will keep you running solo and distance you from the help you will need to create something worth reading.

Happy Writing!

P.S. If you find a grammar error in what you just read….reread number 4.