Monday, December 31, 2018

Returning Refreshed

The last two months not posting on social media has been a unique time for me of personal reflection and reset. I will resume posting again tomorrow, January 1, sharing some of the things I learned during this time away. I want to bless each of you in the coming New Year with an increased realization of the goodness of God in all areas of your life. From the Elkins home to yours, Happy New Year!

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Personal Change

For the last few weeks, I had been sensing a change was coming. I’ve written daily for several years. This daily routine was primarily for me to learn the discipline of writing. Over the years, this routine has become the seedbed for several books and opened the door for new relationships. For that, I am grateful.

I am sensing a personal reset is taking place. To partner with that reset, I will not be publishing on social media for the remainder of the year. I will ask the Lord in January of 2019 if He wants me to re-engage at that time. 

Perhaps it was the passing of Eugene Peterson that finally prompted me to take this step. I need to enter a reflective space. Because a reset is coming, I do not want to miss the adjustments that reset will require. I believe the Lord is bringing a reset not just for Jan and me, but for others as well. 

I want to reread Eugene’s Peterson’s writings and others like him and tap the depths of their wisdom and the history of their obedience. I want to meditate on the Word seeking a deeper revelation than my history or current assumptions can provide. I want to read good poetry to see this life from a creative perspective. I want to step aside from the things that can muddle the prophetic nature of our message. I am purposefully repositioning myself to listen intently for the still small voice of God in the midst of all the clamor and noise that currently surrounds our faith.

Thanks and be well. May God richly and abundantly bless each of you!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Expanding Frontier of Revelation

In the natural realm, a frontier marks a specific geographic location. It is static and once crossed what was previously a mystery becomes known. In the spiritual realm, a frontier is a mobile and always advancing line that moves the marker of what was known farther ahead of us toward a distant and eternal horizon. Spirit-breathed revelation takes us on a journey into unexplored places of faith. Never settle. Always be willing to journey with God past old frontier markers into the never-ending and always expanding depths of His revelation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Fragrance of Our Passion

Each morning, Jan walks into our living room where I sit in my writing chair. As a ritual, I rise and hug her, my face pressed into the right side of her neck. I kiss her and take in her fragrance. We always linger in our embrace. It seems to reset our life before the day begins. As I write, I anticipate her arrival.

Something beautiful happens when the chemistry of perfume is expressed in human biology. A reaction occurs in the mixture. When applied, the perfume takes on a uniqueness possessed only by the person wearing the perfume. It becomes their fragrance in the application. I could be blindfolded and smell thousands of necks and know Jan's fragrance above all the rest.

Our faith must have this uniqueness of expression and intimacy. Without it, we will fall back on a cold and passionless thing called religion. In religion, there is no relationship to carry a fragrance. No place of intimacy, no one to hug. Just hard positions and lines drawn in the sand. Passion and intimacy are not valued because they cannot be measured or promoted, only received and enjoyed. This is why our journey of faith if it is to remain healthy and vibrant, will require a constant returning to a place of intimacy with God. In fact, the consistent rediscovery of intimacy is the only thing that will ensure our long-term wholeness as spiritual beings. It is our map for life and the course corrector for our future.

Each of us carries the fragrance of a broken jar of costly perfume. The nard of a shared intimacy with God was poured into our hearts when we became one with Christ. As Jesus reclines in our hearts at the table of our fellowship and we pour our acts of love upon Him, He tells the religionists to leave us alone just as He told the betrayer of intimacy 2,000 years ago when he complained about the extravagance of love poured out upon Jesus describing it as a waste. 

Follow the fragrance of intimacy with God. The source of that beautiful perfume will answer all your questions and show you the way forward. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Creating, Always Creating

It’s all art, this creativity.
We write soul-poetry looking
over still water as loons cry
our verse written 
upon early morning mist parchment.
Touching smooth river stones 
we sculpt, 
arranging little rock piles 
in river shallows
balancing their rockiness wet
with dark water ink.
Holding brittle leaves of autumn color
kicked from piles,
we paint on a grass-canvas
our feet as brushes.
None of this is non-art. 
Each work an expression found outside
frames and canvas,
potter’s wheel, 
the poet’s pad.
God, the artist Father
created us to become
expressers of His Creator touch. 
Creating, always creating.

Thank you, Eugene

Yesterday, a hero of mine passed away. Eugene Peterson was known to many for his translation of the Bible called, The Message. I was able to correspond with Eugene a couple of times over the last few years. We talked about writing and leadership. He said he looked forward to reading my book, The Sound of Reformation. His words of affirmation about the book are a humbling treasure. His writing and commentary meant a lot to me as a pastor over all the years of my ministry. He expanded my faith and helped me understand the power of honor and faithfulness.

In 1981 as a first-time pastor, I entered the Christian bookstore in Kalispell, Montana and bought a book by Eugene titled, Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work. At the time, I had no idea who the author was or that he grew up in Kalispell following his Pentecostal mother into logging camps to preach the Gospel to rough and tumble miners. As I read Eugene’s book, he was talking about things beyond my level of maturity at the time, but I held onto those truths throughout the years as my experience and maturity eventually found a place of understanding for his wisdom. I would end up reading many of the books Eugene would publish during his lifetime. 

Men and women who carry a life of character and honor like that of Eugene Peterson do not have to be physically present in our lives to be a mentoring presence. Over the last 40 years, the Lord has used a number of people, some who have gone ahead and some who are still alive, to make significant deposits in my life that God has used to steer me toward my destiny. 

This summer, Jan and I vacationed on Flathead Lake in northwest Montana near to where we planted our first church 38 years ago. Our lakeside cabin was not far from the Peterson home where Bono met Eugene a few years ago. On our morning walks, I felt I needed to keep walking past the Peterson home and not disturb Eugene. Some of our most important relationships are kept secure by honoring a person’s private space and not becoming another demanding presence in their life.

Last night, I read an account of Eugene’s passing. A family member said that during his final hours, “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.”

In his life and writing, Eugene Peterson helped me learn how to live and lead well. In his death, he modeled how to die well – a final journey of faith we will all make someday in the future.

Thank you, Eugene. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Navigating a Life-Transition with Hope and Trust

As Jan and I were walking into town, I noticed a line of trees still carrying the fullness of color in their fall foliage. Most of the leaves on the other trees in town had already fallen, but this line of trees was still in the fullness of its colorful display. 

As I walked by the trees, the Lord impressed on me that some of you fear the end of this season and the approach of something new. Don’t fear the new and the unknown. It's all in God's hands. In this transition, the Lord will allow the goodness of what was to linger longer than expected to get you through this change before the promise of something new appears. 

You will always have a representation of God's goodness in each season of your life. Look for the color and beauty in the middle of your doubt and concern. You are not alone. We all have to deal with these things at some level. Learn to interpret each transitional season with an outlook of hope in the goodness of God. Hope will give the promises of God a place to assemble and manifest the future you are about to enter. Hope will also open up a new level of trust for you to see with the eyes of faith what God has planned for your future.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Filtering the Cultural Dialogue

With the mid-term elections in full swing and emotions running high, it is not too late to allow God to transform the sound of our voice and the impact of our lives to align with the greater purposes of God’s Kingdom. 

We all need a filter through which to process what is taking place. Each of us has Scripture, insight from the Spirit and the availability of wise counsel. These resources can mold our voice and direct our actions for the good if we are willing to engage the balance and wisdom they provide. Through these filters, we can sift the voices and images we are being asked to believe to see if they contain the heart and message of God. It is our individual responsibility to sift religious leaders, newscasters, cultural pundits, and even our friends to determine the quality and integrity of their message. If the input we are receiving is not able to pass through these filters we have not yet heard the voice of God.

Voices once prophetic are now announcing conspiracy theories, intrigue-laced political maneuvering, and solutions available to the basic inquiry of an unredeemed mind. These things sell and capture an audience, but they do little to advance God’s Kingdom. In this time of critical national importance, we need Heaven to speak a depth of wisdom not found when our voice sounds like the fearful and frustrated culture. None of this is new. It has been repeated in history and sadly plays well in the Church and the wider culture when unresolved frustration is allowed to lead the charge.

Here is what Paul wrote to Titus of his responsibility as a leader in the Church. It seems as if Paul’s instruction was crafted for this moment in time:

“Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone”(Titus 3:1-2).

To some, this approach will appear naïve and simplistic. It will ring of a narrow intellectual bandwidth or worse, a weakness of character. It does not sound hot-button enough to enter the bloodthirsty ring of our pugilistic cultural debate and win the fight. To those who fault the instructions of Paul, facts, gotchas and putdowns are what will carry the day. These shallow and Spirit-less solutions will end up replacing a message of truth spoken in love and eventually rob the Church of its prophetic voice in each sphere of cultural influence. 

If we fail to filter the sound and content of our voice in response to the constant barrage of emotional stimuli we are receiving, we will miss the downloads of Heaven sent to reveal God's preferred future. These downloads are only discovered if our alignment is with the heart of God, not the informational waste found floating in the cesspool of anger and dishonor that is filling some of the conversations and opinions currently being offered as the way forward.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Be Prepared To Stop

I was driving around town completing some errands and noticed an abundance of “Be Prepared To Stop” signs. Several road projects are being completed in our community so the bright orange signs are very present. After passing the fifth sign, the Lord began to speak to me.

Many prophetic words have been issued about advancement and acceleration. These words have a sense of motion attached to them. I agree with the encouragement provided by these words, but not everything the Lord speaks is about moving forward. 

There are some instances when standing still and waiting is the instruction of the Lord. Just like the signs in our town announcing roadwork ahead, in the Spirit, there are times when we need to wait while the Lord prepares the way for us. Some have kept moving forward when a way forward was not yet prepared. In their impatience with the Lord’s timing, they experienced a premature arrival. This prematurity has caused them to get stuck in an unprepared place. Others ran off the yet-to-be-made-ready road of their calling.

In an impatient world where bravery and courage are typically assigned to those who take charge and do something, waiting can appear to be a lesser choice. Never allow the pressure of a circumstance, the counsel of another person or your own need to appear in charge push you past a sign from the Lord to wait. In the waiting, the way will be opened in the perfect timing of God. Trust in His signs. They will never fail you.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Spiritual Parenting

A spiritual father or mother must be secure enough in their calling to let their offspring play unsupervised in the real world. This release will reveal if what the parent placed in their children by wise counsel and a loving parenting presence will actually work when the child is alone with God and takes responsibility for their own decisions. Without this release, the relationship will not have the depth of maturity and joy God desires for our intergenerational relationships in the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Harvesting the Fruit of Forgotten Faith

God has been working on your behalf without your knowledge. What He is about to do in this season of your life was originally set in motion by an act of faith from your past. You forgot about it, but God hasn't. What is about to take place will come as a surprise to you but not to God.

A few days ago, I set the stopwatch setting on my iPhone to time a task I was doing. I got diverted and forgot about it. The next morning, I went to set my phone to time another task and realized the stopwatch had been running for over 18 hours continuing to measure what I set in motion the day before. The stopwatch continued to run as I slept through the night.

The smallest acts of faith in our past can have a significant impact on our future. Just because an act of faith was small and forgotten does not mean it lacks the power and authority to accomplish the most profound things. God does not measure our faith by the limitations of human measurement. He measures by the condition of our heart. The Lord never forgets the seeds of faith we plant in love and obedience to His will.

Your act of faith was planted in the soil of God's heart. It will produce the harvest of a much larger spiritual reality than you could imagine from just a single seed. Your seed of faith will become a field of miraculous provision. When this field of harvest becomes a reality, you may be like me when I looked at the stopwatch on my iPhone and realized I had set the timer the day before and forgot about it. At that moment you will remember your act of faith and the promise of God that kept the potential of the seed alive. When this happens, you will give Him all the glory and honor when the fruit of your faith is finally harvested and remembered.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Our Gate-Crashing God

A fresh encounter with the presence of God is coming. Our theologies, our cultural barriers, and our personal opinions will not be able to stand in His way. Time is compressing under the weight of His passion. An explosion of His presence is ready to fill the Earth to accomplish things not imagined without a renewed mind.

In 1979, I was a young man running away from a commitment I made to Jesus as a child. The denomination I was part of in my youth loved God but did not believe in a present-day charismatic expression of the Spirit or the gifts. They said that all ended with the first apostles. In the middle of the night in 1979, Jesus walked into our bedroom and stepped through all my prohibitions and baptized me with the Holy Spirit and gave me the first syllable of a heavenly language. He could do this because He was God. He did not need my permission or a belief system that agreed with His approach. That night, I was wrecked and remain wrecked to this day because of God’s invasive love.

If you do even a cursory read of Scripture you will find my encounter with Jesus in the middle of the night was not an odd occurrence. From Genesis to Revelation, nothing has been able to stand in the way of God’s love. On the road to Damascus, Jesus met Paul and turned his life and theology around. Immediately, he began to love what he wanted to destroy. Peter went back to fishing after miserably failing Jesus three times. He would have an encounter with the Lord over an early morning shore-side breakfast that would restore him and reset the trajectory of his life. I could make a list of people in my own life who the Lord had to come and get because their current understanding of theology, culture or personal opinion did not have a gate through which the Almighty God could enter and begin a process of transformation. Jesus does not need a gate. He crashes through our puny little gates of objection and ignorance because His love knows no boundary or restriction.

God is coming to encounter His Church in a new way for a new season. When He arrives, He will crash through our foolish little barriers of sectarianism and our ornate gates of religious opinion. When God crashes through our opposition it will happen because He has arrived as God – the sovereign, all-powerful, loving God who can do anything He wants at any time He chooses. He can even violate our idea of who He is or how He should conduct His Kingdom business. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Warm, Wind and Leaves

I sat in the morning light,
in a red plastic Adirondack chair,
my back to the cool winds of fall,
my face toward the sun.
Leaves fall all around me 
like crackling red-orange potato chips
shaken from maple tree limbs.
They cartwheel across the lawn,
then catch for a moment,
on blades of grass.
Released again,
they tumble together with the wind
toward the fence.

The chair back formed
a lee from the breeze,
a calm around my face.
Sun rays reached down,
solar hands extended touching me
one more time in these
last days of Indian summer.
My face bathed in the waning warmth
for the longest time.
I sighed a sigh of goodness
and peace,
of God-things.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Out of Sight and Out of Mind Works of God

This week, we had a costly and much-needed repair project take place at our home. Our old sewer line needed replacing. It was not something we had in our budget, but such is life. 

Our house was moved onto our lot in 1948. It was a small officer’s dwelling from a World War II military base here in southern Oregon called Camp White. When the base was decommissioned, the houses were sold off at auction and moved to various locations in our valley. Over the last seventy years, the sewer pipes had become compromised. Roots from our trees would fill the line requiring a twice-yearly de-rooting. 

We contacted a plumbing contractor who specializes in trenchless technology. They employ something called a bursting head. It is a pointed steel device pulled by a cable through the old clay pipe cracking the pipe and towing into place behind the bursting head a new plastic pipe. It is all done underground and out of sight. No surface trenching is required. Lawns don’t get torn up. Trees don’t die because their root system was severed. The plumbing contractor pulled a hundred feet of new sewer line underground. Our new pipe should last long after Jan and I are gone.

As I watched this unique way of replacing an underground pipe, I thought of how God can work in our lives.  Some of His most profound work is done out of sight and literally, out of mind. We think we need to always be aware of what He is doing or that He only does things we have prayed about or can understand with our intellect. I used to think that way until I understood something deeper about the nature of God.  Many times His love will not burden us with the details of a process of restoration. He just does it - out of sight and out of mind. When these projects of restoration are finished all we can do is worship Him and thank Him.

Like our old sewer line, some of what has worked in the past in your life may no longer be working. Parts of your life might have become clogged. You know God is doing something new and you may see the beginning of that work like I did when I saw the bursting head first enter the old pipe in the trench. I would not be able to see what was taking place underground that would eventually install the new pipe. It reminded me of those times in my life when God did something for me simply because He loves me without requiring my moment-by-moment participation or my understanding. 

These hidden works of God inch along unseen toward the other end of a problem where a new connection is finally made and a miracle takes place. At that moment, we realize all the work was being done under our feet, unnoticed, as we went about the daily affairs of our lives. That is how God will, at times, accomplish a seemingly impossible task just because He loves us.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Passion of a Protector

All my life, I have been a protector. I once protected my little brother from a neighborhood bully. In the 6th grade, I got in a fight defending a Native American friend who was surrounded by mocking white kids who were issuing racial slurs. When I married Jan, I have always wanted to stand between her and danger. The nine years I spent as a police officer, I protected the citizens of each community where I worked. Once, as a SWAT team member, I was assigned to a security detail for the President of the United States. I protected celebrities at concerts who were unaware of my presence in the crowd. For 35 years, I was a pastor protecting God's flock. I don’t know what it would be like to live a life without protecting other people.

Each of us is called to protect the innocent and the unaware. It is easy to get angered at people who have no clue about the dangers of life, both in the natural and spiritual realm. If you are going to be a protector, you will have to deal with these judgments and resulting emotions because they can detract you from the attention needed when you are called into action. Watch a Secret Service agent guarding the President, and you will see a cool and collected demeanor of a person focused solely on the task of protecting.

As I get older, I am no longer able to do the things I did as a young man. As the changes of aging become a reality, protectors have to adjust their thinking and their tactics. These adjustments do not mean a person becomes a less effective protector. It means we must find new and creative ways to protect. A mom must learn how to let go of her immediate protective presence when she sends her child off to school for the first time. A father must trust his daughter to live with the integrity he instilled in her when she goes on her first date. A pastor must put more trust in the Lord’s ability to protect the flock that any theology, warning, or religious structure he or she might put in place.

At the core of any protector who remains effective over time is a deepening trust in God. This trust comes when we are fully assured that God is able to protect the ones under our care even when our abilities or a circumstance of life no longer allows us to protect them up close and personal. 

Trust in God is ultimately the most effective form of protection we can offer our loved ones. Having done all we can do we must learn to trust God with all things, including the safety of those under our care. Trust has the ability to defeat an assault before it begins because trust displaces the fear that empowers and emboldens the very thing we feared. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

From Above

If we are not speaking the truth in love, we need to stop what we are doing and disengage our voice from the conversation. To continue on with an agenda other than the sound of love, we will end up doing more harm than good, all in the name of God. 

Paul wrote the Ephesians and said the evidence a person has been matured under the influence of the five equipping gifts – apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher – is their ability to speak the truth in love, not parrot a political party line or allow their voice to be molded by fear in conversations around the latest hot-button cultural issue. 

A follower of Christ is not left, right or center on the political spectrum or the issues of culture. We are from above. Our citizenship is in Heaven and so is the source of our information. Our passport to walk the Earth has been issued from above – above petty and demeaning arguments and mocking statements and a never-ending series of gotcha pictures or statements taken out of context to prove our point. We are diplomats of another Kingdom. The solutions we bring to the table are not yet on the table. They are Kingdom solutions to complex issues that only love can solve. 

Today, recheck your spiritual passport. Confirm your identity and your place of allegiance. Those from above will not always align with the demands of a religious or political spirit. Every alignment must be examined by love. This love may cause us to step away from the line of an assumed position to go and stand in places of opposition where our loyalty to the party line will be questioned. Speaking the truth in love is dangerous. It was so dangerous it got Jesus killed and most of His early followers. This happened while the Church was in its purest form and nearest to its source of Life. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Seasons Departing and Arriving

The last of our grapes have been harvested
their sweet fruit a memory of summer.
Straggling tomatoes linger on the vine, 
little green ones too late to become red.
Leaves have taken on color just before they fall
carried by a chilled wind
forming lofty piles kicked by children.
Wood smoke tendrils fill the morning air 
with the fragrance of hearth, home and hope.
Geese fly south in honking formation
clearing the sky of summer’s traffic.
A season-ending has arrived,
its slow progression now wholly upon us.
A new season in the Spirit is also here
having stood in the wings, waiting patiently
to be revealed.

Living on Borrowed Time

Nowhere in your life are you living on borrowed time. God will grant you all the time needed to accomplish His will. Yet, it's not more time that will turn things around. Your turnaround will come because you serve a loving God who is faithful to perform what He has promised. Your job, while God is working things out, is to remain faithful in your place of obedience. Ultimately, it will be the Lord who will call forth a miraculous intervention on your behalf. He is the one directing the clock of your life, not your circumstance. 

Don’t buy into the mindset of living on borrowed time. It makes for a nervous faith where fear is calling the shots. Fear will have you looking at clocks and calendars instead of the Lord. Fear creates a distorted view of the nature of God. God doesn’t loan us time with a payback required like a crooked loan shark who will send a thug to break your legs when you default on your loan. 

Time has a purpose. It is the place where our faith in God's goodness has a chance to develop and reveal our level of trust.  That is the purpose of time. In the situations of life where time seems to be pressing in on us from all sides is where we have an opportunity to discover a deeper understanding of the nature of our loving Father – the Giver of Life.  

Right now, the Spirit is hovering over your life waiting to release Heaven on Earth at the command of the Father. Stay put. Remain faithful and continue to look up. Eternity is about to invade your timeline and make all things new.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It's Never All Figured Out

A man named Jerry Cook radically changed how I view the Church. Over a span of thirty years, I listened to Jerry speak at conferences and read his writing. I also had the opportunity to sit in several small group settings with Jerry and glean his wisdom. Toward the end of his life, he spoke in our church. Each contact was an honor.

Jerry’s first book, “Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness,” was the seedbed of my understanding of how the Church should function in both heart and deed. That book had a significant impact on the Church across denominational lines and a wide variety of theological opinion. It was one of those rare books that can reveal the heart of God and simplify our calling as people who follow God. Years after writing his first book, Jerry wrote another book titled, “A Few Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All.” The title caught my attention. 

I was only a few years into pastoring at the time and still developing, so when a noted man of God admits he doesn’t have it all figured out, I want to listen to that voice. It seems we all can get to a place where we think we have this life of faith all figured out. We become confident that our current version of God, Scripture and the Church is the purest. 

Somewhere on our journey, we will hopefully encounter a new depth of God where our all-knowing attitude gets lovingly knocked off its prideful pedestal. At that point, our greatest Kingdom potential can be discovered if we are willing to re-label our testimony to read, “A Few Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All.”

As someone who is seen as a spiritual father and an elder in the faith, I want to publicly say, I am still working some things out. While it is wise to have an informed position, never forget our position today on matters of faith may differ from the position we hold ten years from now. That is the nature of revelation. We only see parts of a much larger truth. Appearing all knowing to a naïve audience might sell books and secure speaking engagements, but it does not reflect a depth of spiritual maturity. 

One of the most mature things we can do is keep our hands open to change and the discovery of a new depth of truth. That openness does not dismantle our essential beliefs. It just takes us deeper to a simpler and less sectarian place where the Spirit is revealing aspects of God and His Kingdom that our current level of understanding cannot discover.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Found Innocent

God’s acquittals are far more powerful than hell’s accusations. When your character and reputation are under attack, and it seems as if you are about to be found guilty of an unrighteous charge, never forget that God has already adjudicated your case in Jesus Christ. He has presented your case before the Highest Court and found you innocent. No charge formed against you will prevail. In the end, the Lord will turn the barrel of accusation upon your accusers exploding their folly and revealing your freedom.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Healing Our Event Addiction

The Lord wants to heal the Church of an event addiction. We have filled arenas and stadiums at great expense. We have heard the word of the Lord and worshipped with great freedom, and yet our culture has remained largely unchanged. God is inviting His event addicts outside these terminal events with ever-increasing bright colored marquee into the unredeemed parts of our culture. We have allowed a good thing to divert us from the main thing. Revival without reformation is not the intent of the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”                              

A new move of God is already in play. A few insightful ones are beginning to see its potential. The great financial investments we have used to feed our event addiction will be redirected by the Spirit toward more creative and impactful ministries. This redirection will transform the environment of corporate boardrooms, media empires, educational institutions and every place of significance within the culture.                                                         

We have entered a season similar to drug rehab program regarding our mission and calling. God will not throw out our past efforts that led to our current addiction. We meant well, but those efforts fed a debilitating model. He is moving us beyond those terminal event models into something new and mobile. That mobility will deliver us into a new place where a great move of God is waiting to take place if we can get clean.

Standing on Truth

This is a photo I took of a steel grate that covers a hole a dug by a prospector during the southern Oregon gold rush of the 1850’s. The pit is deep. At the bottom, an old antique car rests in a dirt tomb along with various discarded articles like an old miner’s stove and tin cans. A few years ago, a young deer fell into the hole so those who manage this public hiking area thought it would be wise to cover the pit and install a plaque describing the history of the area. 

The steel grate reminded me of God’s word. The pit the grate covers is like any place in our life that a trap of sin is present and uncovered waiting to lure us forward to step over its edge into the depths of deceit. Like uncovered mining pits, there are some things in life we should avoid. These unprotected places become dangerous pitfalls in a journey of faith.

Some reinterpretation of our original understanding of Scripture is healthy and needed. Much of this is because we have assumed things through tradition that were never part of the original understanding. In this quest for truth, we must be careful. This is not a trek to make alone. We need community and wise counsel to study these issues in an attempt to bring clarity and return us to original intent. An unhealthy and unwise reinterpretation can remove the steel grate of God’s word and make us vulnerable to the dangerous depths theological fads fueled by a culture, and, in some cases by believers attempting to redefine historic truth to avoid the confrontations and challenges that truth will bring to our conversations and relationships.

Just before I continued on with my hike, I jumped on top of the steel grate and looked down into the depths of the pit. I would only attempt this from atop the security of the steel grate. I felt safe standing on bars steel bars like a believer would feel standing on God’s word and looking down into a deceptive pit of sin. As I looked into the dark shadows, I saw the rusted hulk of the old car and the rubbish. I would not want to stumble into the hole and try to get out on my own. 

Jesus went into the pit of sin for us and came out victorious. His victory allows us to live free from sins imprisoning depths. The Lord and His word now cover the pits of sin that line the trails of our lives. That is a comfort and security only available to those who have their weaknesses covered by the strength of truth. From that place, God can offer us a protected perspective only if the steel grate of truth remains firmly in place. That unique perspective will give us wisdom and discernment, two things critical to living a life of faith.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Safe Shelter

When I was on the football team at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, our coach asked if any members of the team could help a friend. The coach’s friend was a doctor who lived in the northern panhandle of Idaho. He was a sheep rancher. In the winter of 1969, a deadly snow storm was killing his unprotected sheep. The early storm caught the doctor off-guard. He was halfway through the construction of sheep sheds. The roof had not been installed in time. The doctor needed a few football players to help his Basque sheepherders finish the roof to get the sheep out of the weather. I had a free weekend and the pay was good, so I volunteered.

We finished the job, and the sheep were brought in from the storm. The rest of the animals survived. On the final evening, we sat down to dinner with the doctor and his wife and the Basque sheepherders we had worked alongside. The dinner was a victory celebration of sorts. A Basque feast filled the table. It was amazing. On the drive back to Spokane, my belly was full and so was my wallet. It felt good to have helped create something that allowed life, not death, to prevail.

When I recalled that memory from long ago, I thought of the Church and how important it is to create a safe place for people to survive the deadly storms that blow into our lives from time-to-time – storms of betrayal, division in an unsettled culture and the subversive works of demonic powers. Real sheep, like the ones in northern Idaho, need shelter from natural storms and so do the followers of Jesus Christ who are defined in Scripture as sheep and will encounter deadly storms in the spiritual realm. 

Our place of shelter in these storms is not found in the structure of our ministry or in fearful places of isolation. Our shelter is found in a person – Jesus Christ. He is our only sure shelter when the winds of darkness and division begin to pierce our soul. Any other protective enclosure will not have the insulating properties needed to keep the cold of a loveless faith away from our hearts. Shelters built around preferred theologies, political ideologies or unrestrained human emotions will always put sheep in jeopardy of dying a premature spiritual death. 

Examine where you and your sheep are grazing. When the personal and cultural storms come, where can the sheep under your care run for shelter? When the storms arrive, you have been called to give people a place free from the bone-chilling winds of deception that can easily hide behind a mask of religion. Entry into this place of safety does not require agreement on anything but the person of Jesus Christ. All other shelters will put people in a position of unnecessary vulnerability. 

If you help to build a place of shelter, you will someday sit around a table of fellowship when a storm has finally passed, and the sheep are safe and warm. At that moment, you will know you did something right and good.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Shot to the Heart

Recently, during worship at a large gathering of pastors, I looked across the sanctuary and saw a friend. He is about my age, and I know he is processing his legacy. He and his wife have a beautiful family and have become grandparents. As the worship deepened, the Lord revealed an image of this man’s prayer life. Like all people of faith, he has been praying for his family and their future.

As the image developed, I saw all his descendants lined up in a single line by age. The line extended far into the distance and disappeared off into generations yet to be born.  I saw him praying. Each word of his prayers became like heavenly projectiles fired in faith. As the prayers were released, they entered the heart of the youngest grandchild and passed through each heart lined up by age, one after the other. The impact and power of these prayer projectiles did not lessen no matter how far they traveled through time. None of the prayers missed their mark. Each one struck a heart and accomplished its intended mission.

I was enjoying what I saw in the vision so much that I began to pray for my family in the middle of worship. A Spirit-inspired confidence came over me. I became emotional knowing God would be faithful to perform what He had promised. 

Ask the Lord to expand your understanding of the power and impact of your prayers. Envision your family lined up, one after another off into the distance of what is known, and beyond. Begin to pray in faith trusting that you are releasing miraculous projectiles of transformation empowered by the love of God. As you pray, confidence will rise up within you knowing that hell cannot knock these prayers off course. God will be faithful to deliver your prayers deep into the hearts of those who bear your name, both now and far into a future yet to be revealed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Passion and Purpose of Our Lives

These two books have sat on the shelves of my library for over 30 years. One book is filled with John Wesley’s sermon notes published in 1847, and the other contains Charles Spurgeon’s sermons published in 1855. I pulled them off our bookshelf and held them in my hands contemplating the value of the legacy each of us will leave behind. Like you, I want to leave behind the evidence of the same passion and purpose for God's Kingdom that motivated these two great men and others like them. 
Each of us will leave behind a record of our life. Our choices are what will determine the quality of our life message. In certain seasons of life, each of us will be surrounded by very challenging circumstances. The challenges do not determine our legacy. Our response to the challenges is what will create the script of our lives. 
Someday long after each of us are gone someone will hold a book or share a story that will describe our time on Earth. When we live for the glory of God, we will leave behind the evidence of a life that was empowered by a passion to pursue a higher good and a greater purpose. That is the kind of life that will be remembered and emulated in the distant future whenever someone hears a story or holds in their hands a record of a life well-lived.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

When Access is Denied

A few weeks ago, I was hiking on a freshly cut trail in the hills above our home. When I got to the end of the trail, I entered a new development of high-end homes. A few weeks later I went hiking on the same trail and discovered a “No Trespassing” sign had been put in place. While I didn’t like the fact that the trail had been closed, I realized I was given a preview of an entire area that others will not have the opportunity to experience. 

This early access to closed areas has been granted to me on several occasions in the last 16 years while living in our home and hiking the many miles of trails that surround our small town. Over the years, new real estate developments have been built, and some of these developments have restricted public access to areas once open before the “No Trespassing” signs went up. I carry an image and understanding of terrain of these places not many in our small town possess.

Access into certain relationships in your life might resemble the trails I once hiked upon. Your previous access enabled you to see and understand what others cannot see. Now, you have been forbidden reentry. At first, you thought the closure was a theft of your freedom, but God has another plan. 

While the closure has been a shock, it actually contains a hidden gift. You now know in great detail what these closed environments look like and the intimate details of the lives of people who still live within their restricted enclosures. You are not without recourse. You can pray with wisdom and insight for those living behind the signs of closure because you have hiked the spiritual trails of their lives. 

You carry an image of what life was once like when these relationships were an open place. That image is your map of prayer and a place to invest your faith in the health and wholeness of people you know and love. God made a way for you to see inside these enclosures so you can work with Him to bring freedom to those who lives have been cut off from outside contact. Your faith will show them the pathway to their freedom.

“I will make a pathway through the wilderness”(Isaiah 43:19). 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Moral Disgust and Anger

Capturing an image or a sound bite of a person’s moral disgust will always be misunderstood and misinterpreted by those who have no morals. There is something called righteous anger. This kind of anger must be disciplined when it arrives or it will take you to places you do not want to journey. This emotion is not a sign of weakness or intellectual ignorance.  To not be disgusted and angered over things that harm individuals and the larger culture indicates a numbness in our soul. This is a more perilous issue than a display of moral disgust or righteous anger.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Rule of Grace

We are standing on a cultural boundary line entertaining the possibility of two very different futures. A new direction is being determined. The rule of law, right and trusted as it has been despite our human failings, has proven it cannot be the guarantor of our freedom nor can it be the hope of our future. Those who transit this moment in history and remain intact emotionally and spiritually are the ones who see the rule of grace as the only sure vehicle for safe passage no matter what unfamiliar boundary is crossed. 

Continue to contend for truth and justice in your personal relationships and within each sphere of culture. If a moment comes when truth and justice are pushed aside and the rule of law loses its authority, the Kingdom of God will remain solid and sure because it is eternally rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Choose to rest in God’s gracious faithfulness while you contend for what is right. He has remained the same throughout the ages in the rising and falling of each nation recorded in human history. In the end, grace will endure all things, even the tumultuous and painful seasons of change that come to visit each generation.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Removing the Muzzle of Fear

Living in silence during critical moments of our national history can become a threat to the effectiveness of the Church, an assault on our credibility, and a sorrow in the heart of God. As long as our voice remains safely cloistered behind the walls of a church building, without having a culture-shifting influence, we will miss what God has assigned for us to accomplish in love for His glory. 

Jesus was never silent. Neither were his first followers. Jesus always spoke the right word with the right heart. Just like His original twelve disciples, each of us will blunder forward in our attempt to emulate the Lord. Christ-followers are a diverse group. If you define unity as agreement on politics or social issues, you are missing a deeper understanding of what constitutes our unity and what it is that holds us together. The glue of our unity is love expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. It can be nothing else. Any other binding agent will eventually come apart.

In 1975, Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ) and Loren Cunningham (Youth with a Mission) met in Colorado and defined seven areas of culture where the Church must have a presence and a voice if it is to fulfill the Great Commission. The seven spheres of culture Bright and Cunningham defined 43 years ago are Government, Religion, Education, Economy, Arts and Entertainment, Family and Media. The voices that control these spheres of influence are not absolute or forever. The love of God has the power to transform the sound of these institutions and the message they deliver. To think the Church would not be able to voice an opinion from within any sphere of culture misses the point of our purpose on Earth. 

The Great Commission was not limited to altar calls. It was a larger commission that included the salvation of souls who, once born again, would partner with Jesus in the worldwide Kingdom mandate to, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus loved the individual, but He also saw nations, the ethnic clusters of humanity.

If you are nervous about a believer voicing an opinion on a hot topic in the public square regarding politics or the historic biblical view of marriage, are you equally nervous about that same person having an opinion about media, economics, education or any of the seven areas of cultural influence? Each of us seems to pick and choose our preferred offense.

Paul said that once we have been equipped and matured as a believer, we were to speak the truth in love. That assignment requires three things, sound, truth, and love. Remove truth or love from the conversation and the Church will become just another angry voice in the clamorous crowd. We have been called to make a sound. If the sound we choose to make is not the truth motivated by love, it is wise to remain silent.

Fear can become a muzzle on our faith. Scripture tells us that perfect love will cast out fear. When fear is removed from our thinking, the truth is then free to be spoken in love. That truth has an assignment to be heard first in the hearts of individuals and eventually from the summits of each mountain of cultural influence. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Discovering Old and Forgotten Foundations

I was hiking along a deer trail away from roads and civilization. The trail led me through an open prairie where I came across an old foundation. Upon inspection, I found it to be stable and strong. It was covered with moss, but other than the moss and its apparent age, something new could be built upon its footprint.

Some of you have been wandering along an unfamiliar path. This unfamiliarity of the surrounding terrain has caused you to ask questions about your next steps. You are about to discover the reason for your journey. The Spirit of God has been directing you toward an important discovery that will provide historical significance and a clarity of perspective about the future. That discovery will reveal the assignment God has planned for the next season of your life. 

In years past, a foundation was laid by others but was not built upon. Those who went before you were foundation builders. It will be your assignment to erect a healthy structure, both relationally and spiritually, to facilitate what God is about to release. 

Go back to your point of departure and announce your discovery. You will see other builders gathered at the trailhead, many who have the resources and calling to join you in constructing this new thing. You will lead many back to this old foundation, a foundation that has remained hidden to be revealed and built upon for such a time as this.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Discerning Momentum

Our life-momentum must be frequently discerned to make sure we are moving forward with the empowerment of God’s Spirit, not our need for recognition or affirmation. We can discern the quality and substance of our momentum by asking this question, “What generated this momentum and what is perpetuating its existence in my life?” 

Any momentum initiated by an undisciplined ambition, self-promotion, or a need to be accepted by others will create a tiring and disappointing experience. No human being is able to maintain this negative kind of momentum for long without coming to a place of compromise in their ethics and morals. 

When we are the empowering source of our life-momentum, we will eventually run out of steam and find our life stranded and stalled in a dark and lonely place. God’s momentum is different. It creates a life of rest where striving is absent, and peace is the atmosphere that fills our being. God is powerful and faithful. He is able to get your life moving and keep it moving forward for His glory. Trust Him and rest. It's the only healthy way forward.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Embedded Provision

We've had a Tiffany lamp for years. It is old and beautiful. I write by its light each morning. Like my writing chair, it has become a familiar companion. This morning, as I turned toward the desk where the lamp rests, I saw the grape cluster embedded in the glass. I know I have seen the grapes before, but this morning I was being directed by the Spirit to see it with new eyes. From my perspective, the grapes were being highlighted by the light from the bulb within the lamp. As I looked at the cluster of grapes, the Lord spoke two words, “Embedded fruitfulness.”

Some of you have walked by a place of fruitfulness not seeing it with the eyes of the Spirit. It has remained unnoticed because it was a matter of timing, not because you were spiritually blind to its reality. God has embedded supernatural fruitfulness in your life in an obvious, but an unrecognized place to be discovered and experienced in this season. God is about to draw your attention toward the fruit of this provision. When He finally makes this embedded fruit known to you it will be a notice that an unexpected provision of His goodness is about to be revealed and released into your life. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Answering Questions with a Question

Wisdom does not always provide easy answers. Neither does it answer the deep questions about life from the same shallow resource pool of information used by the asker to frame their inquiry. Wisdom responds from a deeper source of revelation not considered when there is a demand for a quick and simple answer. God is not nervous or hurried in how He responds to the questions asked by people, neither should we.
Jesus had a unique way of answering questions posed by people trapped by an Earth-bound perspective regarding life and spirituality. He answered some of their questions with a question to help the inquirer step out of the shallows of their current mindset to entertain the depths of a greater reality. The Lord’s encounter with the rich young ruler is one such example.  “Good Teacher,” the young man inquires, “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good?” 
Most evangelical Christians would pounce on the opportunity offered by the young man’s question inviting the man to bow his head in the supermarket checkout line to make sure he got saved. I don’t fault those who take this approach. I just think more is at play.
Jesus was after something deep inside the man’s heart - something still uncovered that could hinder Lordship if not addressed. It would require wisely crafted questions to uncover this hidden treasure of possibility.

After telling Jesus he had kept all the Law, the young man asked another question, “What am I still lacking?” Jesus, going deep into the place of the man’s misplaced identity, told him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. The Lord's answer went to the real heart issue, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” The Scripture tells us the rich young ruler went away sad from this encounter. 

Many of our first answers to the questions asked by individuals and the broader culture are not the answers God would provide. Wisdom will ask us to pause before we respond to a surface inquiry. In the pause, revelation has an opportunity to come and help us ask the kind of questions that can actually get to the heart of the issue being addressed. That is the kind of wisdom that has the ability to answer the deepest questions about life if we will give it a place in our dialogue.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dissolving Assumptions

This morning, I was corresponding with a friend who is an American citizen living outside the United States. We were talking about life and faith. As I wrote to him, I remarked, "I realize now that I know less than my assumptions have led me to believe." 

Our assumptions can become a barrier to a life of faith. We all have assumptions about how to live this life and how to interpret difficult sections of Scripture. We have assumptions about God and His Kingdom and about who God should love and what that love should look like.

I have come to realize we actually know less than what our assumptions so confidently declare. This is why our life of faith must boil down to Jesus alone. He is the purest essence of our faith. There is a danger in this boiling down process. We can stop the process at the shallow depth of our intellect or at our narrow interpretation of Scripture or a hardened political stance. Our faith must boil down to the depths of Jesus Christ and Him alone, or you and I will continue to follow our assumptions giving them a place of authority in our life they should never occupy. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your Unknown Audience

Every life has an unknown audience. These are people who are being affected by your life. They are people you will most likely never meet. They will only be discovered in eternity.

On this blog, I have an analytic device that tells me how many people read my blog each month and where my readers live. My blog program offers another analytic I only recently noticed. It describes an audience with the title, Unknown Region. This unknown group makes up about a third of my readers. The unknown designation can be for a variety of reasons. They can be spammers, restricted nations or merely a group of people whom the blog analytic cannot define due to the device they use. I don’t care. As long as people are reading about God and His love, I am good with that.

As I pondered my readers in this Unknown Region, I thought of some of you reading this article. You think the impact of your life is limited to just the circles of relationship currently known to you. I want to suggest that an unknown audience is also being touched by your life. Hell wants to lie to you and say you don’t have a significant platform and your voice only echoes within your known sphere of influence and relationships. You actually have significance beyond what is seen or heard in your normal daily routine. 

Today, pray for the watchers and listeners of your life in your Unknown Region. These people are being transformed through the testimony of your life and the on-going work of the Spirit. This realization isn’t about becoming proud. It is about discovering a God who can transmit the witness of your life into people and regions you never knew even existed. Raise your eyes and look beyond what you can see with your natural sight and God will begin to show you the reach of your life of faith. This discovery will amaze you, and it will humble you. 

“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).