Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stand Up

Many years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said he heard the voice of Jesus tell him to stand up for the cause of civil rights.  This week a television personality ascribed mental illness to anyone who thinks Jesus talks to His followers. Everyone has an opinion.

The word Jesus gave to Dr. King was so powerful that it changed our culture because it changed our hearts. Dr. King’s life and his mission were empowered by a word from Jesus that declared all people are created equal and should be treated with honor. In this moment of our national history, we need a word from the Lord incarnated in brave people who are willing to rise up and speak the truth in love.

Have you noticed after every traumatic event where unspeakable pain and suffering occur, the same solutions are offered, but no meaningful change takes place? People have come to think the solutions offered in the public square are the only way forward. They look at the buffet of opinion and pick a favorite entree and begin to mouth it along with the other frustrated voices, believer, and non-believer alike. While there may be some validity in each opinion, none of these solutions have created the traction needed for real change to take place. We have become an entrenched culture. In some cases, the Church itself lives in the same entrenchment. It is seen by many as intellectually sophomoric to think the answer to our problems could be as simple as a change of heart. Dr. King brought change to our culture because the word he carried and eloquently released changed our hearts.

In many ways, the prophetic voice of the Church has been robbed of its influence by special interest groups, not only in culture but also by special interest groups inside the Church. The emerging prophetic voices that will offer a culture-shifting change of heart will not resemble parrots uttering the same message as the surrounding culture trapped in frustration and dismay. They will be like John the Baptist crying out from a wilderness place offering something new. They will declare a message so powerful in its hope and promise they would be willing leave the confines of their personal Jerusalem and experience one of the greatest of all miracles - a change of heart.

Friday, February 16, 2018

High-Definition Spiritual Clarity

God is releasing a high-definition version of prophetic insight. Just like high-definition photography and television provide cleaner lines of the image being portrayed so it will be with you. Vaguely defined and blurry prophetic imagery will give way to profound clarity. God is releasing this supernatural insight to accelerate the rate of transformation that is taking place in individual lives and within the institutions of culture. This higher level of clarity will empower our mission for greater effectiveness because our focus will be have been made clear and precise. Supernatural high-definition clarity is coming. Get ready to be amazed!

An Averted Ambush

Recently, I was on a conference call with a group of prophets from across the United States. Some of our friends were under attack. We gathered to pray and prophesy over their ministry. It was a powerful time.

As we prayed, I heard the words, “Ambush averted!” What had been planned by the enemy as an ambush to take out our friends, would fail. God had a plan for blessing and increased ministry potential that was far greater than any ambush hell could plan and attempt to execute.

As the word came about an averted ambush, I saw an image like one of those old black and white cowboy westerns where someone was about to ride their horse up a box canyon where an ambush was waiting. In the box canyon, they would be trapped with no hope of escape. It was sure death. At a fork in the trail leading to the entrance of the box canyon, the lone rider responded to an internal nudge and took another route leaving the ambush waiting and wondering what happened to the rider. Their deadly plan fell apart.

Some of you reading these words may be riding into an ambush. It could be a relational or spiritual ambush. You do not know it has been planned. You think life will go on as it has in the past without ever considering an ambush is waiting just ahead. 

Hell is always planning an ambush for those who are making a difference in God’s Kingdom. You will be safe and directed away from these evil plans if you continue to seek the Lord at every turn of life.  Assumption and complacency will cause you to not interpret your spiritual reality and will leave you situationally unaware of what is taking place.

God is faithful. He will show you which fork in the road to take that will keep you safe. The ambush planned for your arrival will come to nothing because the route God has planned will direct you away from the enemy’s plan. God will lead you through a passage in the mountains of opposition into a place of greater Kingdom potential. That was the word we gave our friend during the conference call, and that is a word I give to each of you who are reading these words. Your greatest asset and place of safety will be your intimacy with God. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Gift of a Restart

I have given up 10,000 times and tried again 10,001. Knowing with God I always had another chance for a restart helped me get up and take the next step even when it felt like my fear was larger than my faith. In times of self-doubt, I forgot that faith as small as a mustard seed has a greater potential than a mountain range of fear.

Each time I got up and tried again, it was never based on my personal fortitude. It wasn't about sucking it up and moving forward in my own strength. Getting up after our lives fall apart is about coming to grips with the profound meaning of forgiveness, grace, and hope. These three are the only true and trusted portals into the future after failure. Our failures, no matter how large, are never without the hope of a restart. 

Your future is bright if you follow the light of God’s love and move past your 10,000th failure to believe that another opportunity is waiting just ahead. God never becomes impatient with His children because He wore a body like ours and understands our struggle. It is time to get up and move forward. Your 10,001 chance to try again is awaiting your arrival.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Give It Away

This week, in a conversation with a couple of pastors I respect, I was asked by one of the pastors to share something that would help him finish well in his life calling. I said, "Identify your greatest gift and give it away." A spiritually and emotionally healthy person is not one, who in the end, has held on to what God had given to them, but one who learned how to release what was only entrusted to them as a gift of grace.

Let God Make A Way

As a young and insecure pastor, I listened to Ron Mehl, the pastor of the Beaverton Foursquare Church, give some sage advice. At the time, I had less than 10 people attending my struggling church plant. Ron had thousands. I was asked to meet with a group of equally young and inexperienced church planters. Ron was one of the speakers. He spoke regarding how to handle our struggle with personal identity in those seasons of insecurity when we don't see much happening. Ron said, "Let God make a way for you." Those words went deep into my troubled heart and never left.

At the time, I would have done anything to promote myself and my ministry out of what I had labeled as an utter failure. My problem was, I had nothing to promote. Eventually, the church began to grow and those painful years faded as Jan, and I grew along with the church. What did not leave were the opportunities to self-promote. At each level of blessing and increase in ministry influence, this has been something God wanted me to process with Him. I have failed a few times in the ensuing years at self-promotion. But, with Ron Mehl's words in my heart and the guidance of God's Spirit, I have come to a place that I now actually hate to see any remnants of self-promotion in my life. I try to be quick to silence that voice within me whenever it rears its ugly head.

If we let God be the one who opens the doors of opportunity in our lives, we will not always know what doors will open or if they will open at all. This is a place of trust that can be unsettling if the doors mean financial or relational gain. Many who burn out or become disillusioned arrive at that place after striving in the power of the flesh to do what can only be accomplished as a work of the Spirit.

God knows you are valuable. He knows your gifts. Rest and be at peace with that profound knowledge. God will be faithful to open any doors that need to be opened when the time is right. When He opens a door of opportunity, He will also release the ability to carry any blessing and recognition that come once you step across the threshold into something new.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Experiencing God's Glory

God can take us as equally deep on a journey into the human heart as He can into the deepest parts of unexplored outer space. This life we have with God is far greater than we can comprehend. Keep that perspective in the forefront of your thinking when the trivial detours of life create frustration in your thinking. Something grander than our temporary displeasure and distraction is unfolding all around us. Don't lose a sense of wonder. It will be your doorway of access to the glory of God.

Responding with Honor to a Dishonoring Comment

If a dishonoring ricochet is coming at you fired from a comment made in a private conversation where you were not present to defend yourself, God wants to reveal His heart to you despite what has taken place. In love, the Lord has allowed the comment to become public because He can trust you and your response.

In the Spirit, God will slow down this incoming shot of death giving you time to get your bearings and turn aside just in time and not take a direct hit. This will not be like it has been in similar situations in the past. Since the last time something like this took place, God has strengthened and matured your ability to wisely respond to such a negative and painful comment.

Follow the leading of the Lord. Let His heart be your response. If you only offer the targets of grace, humility, and forgiveness this round from hell will fall to the ground powerless and not find its intended target. God will use this situation to create a public testimony that will bring healing to those who dishonored you in private. It will also reveal to you the work God has accomplished in your life. This experience will show you a new way to live your life when facing opposition. This is what freedom looks like. Walk in it trusting that God can turn what was intended to harm into a moment of healing for everyone involved.

Monday, February 12, 2018

When Life Goes Silent

You have entered an unfamiliar place. In this season of change, it feels like you are out of range of normal communication, even with God, but you know that is not true. You just need to learn how to hear Him in a new way in this strange and unfamiliar place. He will be faithful to direct you with the internal signals of His Spirit when it seems no normal external lines of communication and feedback are present.

When I worked as a patrol deputy for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department in San Jose, California back in the 1970’s, we had one patrol beat we called, South County. It was south and east of Gilroy, California in the mountains of Pacheco Pass. This mountainous area was the dividing line between the Silicon Valley and the San Joaquin Valley. There was a point while on patrol when we had to let dispatch know we would be out of radio contact. In those years, radio technology did not offer the level of coverage we have today. It was an eery feeling to realize you were entering a place of radio silence.

It was spooky working South County because any backup was rarely available and if you needed help, it could take 30 minutes for another cop to arrive. Every call and car stop carried a unique danger that is only experienced when you are out of radio contact.

There will be seasons in your life when you will be out of contact with your familiar lines of communication. Friends leave. You change churches. A new job plants you in a new environment. Or, you see a significant life transition approaching, and you realize your new season in life will change everything. These changes can deposit our lives in a place of silence.

In these situations, you can feel really vulnerable and disconnected from the familiarity of what has been your routine in life. It will be vital for you to stop and affirm in your heart and mind that you are never without communication with God. He is always present and communicating even when you feel the most isolated. You need to train your spiritual ears to do what Elijah did in the time of his isolation when everything familiar was stripped from him. He learned to listen to the still small voice of God. That was his way forward, and it will be your way forward.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Developing a Healthy Theology

The word theology and the title of theologian do not appear in Scripture. When God gave gifts to equip and mature the Church those gifts were wrapped in the definitions of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. It would be from the ministry of these equipping gifts that our theology was intended to form, not from someone educated in isolation with concepts formed from within a narrow slice of theological study. Each of these gifts carries an aspect of God and His Kingdom that we need to see from their unique perspective in order to be a fully equipped follower of Christ. Tapping into the combined revelation provided by these gifts will form the theology and practice of a healthy believer and a powerful Church. Find a theologian who understands this, and you will have found a gift worth unpacking with joy and expectation.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Our Personal Delete Button

One mark of spiritual maturity is learning how and when to use the personal delete button. Some things should not be shared in a public forum until God has been given the time required to first process the issue in our heart. This is important because an unprocessed thought can rise into the unrenewed parts of our mind and be prematurely released as an unconditioned opinion. A pause to reflect before publishing anything is a very useful tool to employ. 

Navigating Through Opposing Opinions

We need to do a better job relating to each other when we find ourselves holding an opposing position on an issue of faith. These positions are in essence, only an opinion we have attached to very complex subjects. Our opinions are never the full measure of truth.

I have noticed people can have differing views regarding God’s Kingdom and the end of time. There are notable and trusted theologians who hold opposing views on this subject. One view has the Church in a state of decreasing influence as the world continues to descend deeper into realms of darkness. This view will culminate in the world being destroyed in an apocalyptic fireball. In the other view, the Church is increasing in her influence throughout the Earth, growing in maturity and authority with the kingdoms of this world becoming the Kingdom of our Lord. I have come to believe the latter.

I no longer try to prove my position on any point of theology. In the end, that will only produce the label of winner and loser instead of brother and sister. I choose to see fellow believers as brothers and sisters, not winners or losers. As Billy Graham wisely said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” With those three understandings in place, I am confident everything will work out.

When the chronological record of time finally runs out, and the new Heavens and the new Earth are the only remaining realty, each of us will stand together in Jesus Christ as the Church, a fully redeemed people. That redemption will be complete. Nothing will be left out, even our most firmly held opinions. We will finally be one as Jesus prayed we would be. Always keep that in mind if you hold an opposing opinion to the status quo or if you are an ardent voice for the status quo. In the end, we are brothers and sisters with differing opinions on just about everything. Our opinions are just that, opinions. Our identity as followers of Christ is described in the language of family, not in a language sourced from our opinions on a particular point of theology.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Worst Nightmare

Last night, I had a powerful dream. It was a nightmare. I dreamt that I had never confessed my worst sins to my wife. It was a horrible feeling – a feeling worse than the sins themselves. When I awoke, I literally thanked God it was just a bad dream.

The purpose of the dream was to affirm for me the power of living an open life of confession and repentance in my marriage. Jan and I are far from perfect. We have been married 44 years not because we discovered some magic three-step formula for a successful marriage. Along with having a gracious, loving and very patient God, we discovered the freedom and intimacy that comes when nothing is hidden. I can and have told Jan everything. Nothing is hidden between us.

The fear I experienced in the dream was a holy fear. It was the fear of having a relationship with my wife where she did not really know me because the fear of exposure kept me silent. We can never really know a person until together we cross the barriers of fear that guard our hearts and wall off the most intimate regions of our life. Jesus knows everything about us, the good, the bad and the ugly, and He loves us beyond our wildest imaginations. He is our example of how to live in a healthy and free relationship with another person, especially in a marriage.

Some of you cannot awaken from your nightmare because you are living it in real time. You can change the nightmare into a place of freedom by choosing to wake up and put all your spiritual cards on the table. In some cases, it may be wise to seek out some help if it’s a really messy and painful situation. 

The healthiest relationships I know are not ones who continue to live under the delusion of perfection without intimacy. The strongest ones have discovered an unimagined intimacy and restoration on the other side of a painful season of brokenness. This is where the most powerful testimonies of hope are waiting to be discovered and shared.

If you want intimacy in any relationship, honesty, disclosure, confession and repentance will always precede that intimacy. Without it, we will remain strangers living under the same roof and living in a shared nightmare. I stand with you and in Jesus' name, I call forth the courage required to overcome the power of fear that holds you captive. Trust God. He will show you how to wake up from your nightmare and experience true intimacy.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Hidden Enemy

Lust is a seamy word. We associate its use primarily with sexual sin. It is more than sexual. Lust is defined in Scripture as any strong and undisciplined craving or desire. It can be associated with the unhealthy use of anything in life.

Our place of jeopardy begins when a desire of any kind gets off track and leaves its union with the heart of God and becomes autonomous. Lust is a self-seeking, self-gratifying pursuit. Anytime we allow a desire or craving, no matter what it is, food, sex, status, money, to live an autonomous existence, we will reap a deadly harvest.

If you are dealing with lust in any form you are actually dealing with the spirit of death. This is where most of us have missed the boat. We spend time rebuking lust when it is death that needs our rebuke. Lust is only an empowering emotion employed by the spirit of death.

James provides clear insight into the death spiral of unbridled lust:

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Lust wants to kill your marriage, your family, your friendships, and your place of calling and influence. We spend time trying to rebuke the spirit of lust when our real enemy is the spirit of death.

This death-producing reproductive cycle is at work anywhere autonomy rules our lives. Confess the sin of autonomy and confront the spirit of death. Lust will begin to lose its grip because the light of truth will have exposed a death-inspired plan that can only survive in the shadows of deception.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Arrival of the Impossible

God is restoring what has been considered lost forever. Abandoned relationships, missed business opportunities, and unimagined cultural breakthrough will be some of the examples of these miraculous restorations. These supernatural acts of God will be considered both a sign and a wonder because they will arrive unannounced from a place defined as an impossibility according to human standards. Live in expectancy!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Changing Our Clogged Filters

God is asking many of us to change the filters through which we interpret the issues of life. Some of these filters are so clogged nothing new is able to pass through. We are choking to death for the lack of a fresh breath of revelation.

I’m usually on it when it comes to things like changing the air filter in our forced air heating/cooling unit, but this month, I missed it. One morning, I noticed the house was cooler than normal even though I had the thermostat programmed for a comfortable setting. I walked over to the thermostat and sure enough, the room temperature was 5 degrees cooler than the setting I had chosen. Then it dawned on me maybe the air filter needs changing. I opened the vent cover and to be honest, I had never seen such a clogged filter –ever! My heating unit was literally being choked to death and the result was the unit had no fresh air to heat and circulate. When I replaced the old filter with a new one, the Lord began to speak to me.

Each of us has filters in place. We filter news about the world and interpret our understanding of reality through the opinion of our favorite news channel or political affiliation. We filter our understanding of Scripture through our preferred strain of theology presented by our favorite teachers. We filter our interaction with people, good or bad, through the conditioning given to us in the family unit in which we were raised.

Some of these filters can actually choke off the flow of God’s Spirit in our lives. Over time, these filters get clogged with the debris of human opinion and unresolved personal brokenness. We begin to breathe the unfiltered air of what we think is the only way to see and live this life. Our unfiltered opinions begin to find equally clogged people who will join us in breathing the same stale air of party politics, narrow bands of fellowship and a worldview that is void of the fresh air of another opinion.

The Spirit wants to breathe new life into the Church. In order for this to take place, we need to replace our filters. The only safe filter is the person of Jesus Christ. His life filtered the fears of the disciples, the judgment of the Pharisees and the control of Rome and offered to the surrounding culture the fresh and unpolluted air of Heaven. This is the mission of the Church. We are actually in the spiritual air quality business. We have been called to bring the fresh breath of Heaven to Earth, not the stale substitutes that are long overdue for replacement. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Healing Light of God's Presence

This weekend, I was speaking at a conference at Valley River Life Church in Eugene, Oregon. During a worship session, something unusual and breathtaking took place. It is always a joy to worship in a church where those who lead us not only possess musical excellence but the patience to wait and linger in the presence of God. In the lingering, where the clock and the morning program are no longer pushing us is where we can experience the unique encounters with God’s Spirit that many times go untapped because we rushed past them in a hurried sense of duty to the service plan.

As we sang the powerful Chris Tomlin song, "Good Good Father", I had my eyes closed when I experienced a supernatural encounter with God. As I stood in worship with my hands extended to Heaven, I saw the bright light of God’s presence begin approach where I was standing. In the next moment, every cell, molecule, and atom within in my body separated and moved apart from each other. Then the light of God’s healing presence slowly passed through my body bringing healing and cleansing in its passage. I stood there overwhelmed at what had just taken place. I literally felt the presence of God pass through my body. 

When I was introduced to speak, and before I brought my planned message, the Lord had me minister what had just taken place. I asked all those with disease and sickness in their body to stand and to extend their hands in worship and invitation to the healing presence of God. I then invited the Lord to come as He did for me just moments before. As a creative and declarative act, I said, “Let there be Light!” I could see the same experience begin to take place with those, who in faith, stood to receive healing. It was beautiful to behold people being touched by the light of God's healing presence.

I felt I was to extend that same invitation to any of you reading these words that are carrying sickness, disease or any form of relational or emotional damage. I invite you to stand now in God's presence. Extend your hands to Heaven in a posture of worship and speak these words as an invitation, “Let there be Light!” God wants to pass through your entire being to heal, rewire and restore all that is broken and diseased. He wants to do this because He is a Good, Good Father.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

This New Place

You are physically on the other side of a challenging experience, but your emotions and memories are still alive and they have made the journey with you into this new place. These emotions and memories need to find a healthy resolution so they don’t blind you to the goodness that currently surrounds your life. Each time these feelings arrive and take over your thinking, immediately offer them to God. Only in His hands, will they find a healthy place of redemption. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

You Make Me Brave

I remember the first time I experienced the power of a worship flag being used outside a corporate worship service. It was ten years ago. I was lying on the floor of the Alabaster Prayer House at Bethel Church in Redding, California. Beautiful music filled the room. People sat, reclined and quietly walked around the room. The air was filled with the power of intercessory prayer and worship. When I was a student at Multnomah University almost 50 years ago, I spent many hours in a prayer chapel there crying out to God about my life and the mystery of my future. Places dedicated to prayer carry a special sense of God's presence.

As I lay on the floor in Bethel’s prayer house, unknown to me, a woman was moving around the room gently moving a flag over each person in prayer. She was quiet and respectful. I began to feel the gentle breeze from her flag. The movement of air became like the breath of God.  When the worship flag stirred the air, I began to physically experience a song yet to be written titled, You Make Me Brave, with the lyrics, “As your love, in wave after wave, crashes over me.” At that moment, I was on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific. The water was warm and clear and the sky was blue. I was lying down on the beach at the water's edge as wave after wave of God’s presence gently washed over me, I was being restored.

When the experience in the prayer house took place, I was a tired senior pastor trying my best to lead a local church. I needed a fresh touch of God’s Spirit, and so did our church. When the flag stirred the air above my head, something shifted in my heart and mind. The waves of God’s presence began to wash away the things I was carrying so that the only thing remaining was a hunger for God’s presence. I returned to our church transformed and have never been the same since.

That day in the prayer house, I was invited to a place of surrender. I was asked to lie down and not be the one in control. With that physical change in posture came a willingness to lay down all the things I was carrying that I thought a pastor was supposed to carry in order to be faithful and successful. In that place of surrender, spiritual bravery was realized. Bravery is not always demonstrated in some visible act of personal accomplishment. Some of our bravest acts take place in a quiet and private place when we lor down in the middle of a battle and let wave after wave of God’s presence gently crash over our broken and tired lives.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ushered by God

You are about to be shown the way forward. It has been a dark and unsure season, not in your relationship with God, but when it came to knowing your next step. That is about to change. God is going to usher you into a new place for a fresh revelation.

When I was a kid in the 50’s and early 60’s, our movie theaters were different. For a single admission price, you got to watch two movies with cartoons in between. We also had an intermission where we could head to the snack bar and grab some buttered popcorn and a Coke.

One of the unique things about this long-forgotten movie experience were the ushers. Uniformed employees with flashlights would illuminate the aisle as they led you to an available seat. The flashlights they used had red plastic extensions that glowed in the dark. As an usher saw our family standing in the doorway, they would walk to the back of the theater to greet us with the bobbing red flashlight in their hand. This always got me excited knowing that a seat awaited our arrival somewhere in the dark theater. When I recalled that memory, the Lord gave me a word of encouragement for some of you who are reading these words.

God is coming to meet you at the doorway of a new season. You have no idea how to find your place in this unknown future. If you try to get there on your own without illumination, you know you will stumble over things hidden in the darkness. God never intended you to navigate through the darkness alone without the light of His presence. He has always planned to meet you and guide you forward to safely find your place. You just need to believe He is coming and He will make the way known.

Like our family waited for the usher to take us into a dark theater to find our seat, so it will be with you. Don’t step forward thinking you know the way. Wait for the light of God’s revelation to come. Then you will find your way and discover your place. When you find your place, something new and fresh will begin to unfold on the screen before you.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).