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).

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Quiet Things

The quiet things speak the most profound messages.

a cloud moving across a blue sky 
a mother looking at the face of her sleeping child
a leaf falling in an autumn breeze
a romantic glance between lovers 
a touch of the Spirit 

Press through the noise and clatter of life and find these moments. In them, a message from God resides, as does the peace your soul hungers to experience.

Uncluttering Our Faith - Preparing for the Next Move of God

I awoke this morning having experienced a dream that was a bit unusual. Without going into all the details, I was in a very dated place. The buildings looked like something out of a 1930’s movie. People were attired in fashions from eighty years ago. The style, methods of communication and personal interaction did not fit into our contemporary life. What I saw in the dream was the norm back in the day, but it was frustrating for me as a dream-visitor. 

In the dream, I was a composite image of a person, both within the Church and culture, who wanted to move forward with God into the next epoch of revival and reformation. The frustration I felt was because in the dream I realized this dated way of thinking and interacting with culture would be unable to keep up with the current realities of life or engage people in a way that could most effectively communicate the Gospel.

After rising this morning, I forgot the dream and headed to my computer to begin my morning writing ritual. A few minutes into my first cup of coffee, I began to sense a stirring about a coming move of God – a significant and life-altering change in our current reality. 

To engage in what is coming, we must be willing to change and become a people who can bring solutions and options not currently on the table. This will require that each of us be willing to unclutter our faith. If not, those with whom we interact will begin to feel like I felt in this dream when encountering an expression of faith that is encumbered and no longer able to carry the substance of Spirit-empowered change.

Clutter can begin to accumulate when we feel overwhelmed by life and stop pressing in for something more because we can barely handle the stress of the moment. It comes when we think our opinions are the only valid opinions in the larger conversations taking place in culture. When religious clutter is stored and stacked in the halls of our mind, we can appear to the world like an isolated hoarder fearful that the “good ole days” will be lost if we don’t hang on to everything from our past that no longer works.

It is time to unclutter our faith. Once we start removing the clutter, we can begin mopping the halls of our thinking. Uncluttering our faith is part of an on-going and never-ending spiritual process. It is the evidence of a mind being renewed for the glory of God. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Poetic Life

I like the sound of creaky wood-framed screen doors. Streets without curbs and gutters. Old dogs. Rifles with wood stocks and the feel of a well worn genuine leather Bible. What I like about each of these things is the longevity they represent. There is nothing wrong with modernity. It serves a purpose, but it lacks a poetic feel. Today, look for the poetry in life. It will bring a sense of belonging and place that the quick and efficient can never deliver.

The Power of the Pause

I use a writing program called Grammarly.  Grammarly was suggested to me by a friend who is an accomplished, best-selling author. The program has been very helpful. It has revealed the places in my grammar that need improvement.

Each month, I get a copy of my grammatical errors. My most repeated error is in the use of commas. Commas, when properly used, separate parts of a sentence to make it more readable. Commas are like taking a literary breath. Without them, a sentence can appear crowded and run together. Maybe each of us can learn something from the proper use of commas.

In our world, there appears to be a great deal of breathless conversation taking place. People are passionate about their positions, both social and theological. In these intense conversations, we need to discover the power of a pause. In a moment where we provide a conversational pause (a verbal comma) is where the Spirit is given time to drop a fresh word of revelation into our mind.  The content of these words can move the conversation past just another hurried attempt to prove our point or bolster our current position. 

God has a lot to say at this moment in history. Those who make room for a Spirit-directed pause will be the ones who receive the kind of revelation that is able to communicate most clearly the heart of God and the way forward. The words released after these conversational commas are inserted into the dialogue will be the conversations that carry the greatest potential for change. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sailing the Vessel of Ministry

There are times when continuing to sail a ship without a retrofit is a recipe for disaster. Just as a sailing vessel needs some dry dock time to scrape off the barnacles and make sure all the fittings are seaworthy, so it is with a church, denomination or any Kingdom-envisioned endeavor within each sphere of culture. 

To keep sailing forward in a safe and secure fashion, we need to deal with the barnacle-like issues of culture that have attached themselves to the hull of our faith and the assumptions that have weakened the fittings of our ministry. To ignore these realities is spiritually foolish. If these issues are unresolved they will keep us from moving forward at the full potential and speed of love. Our passengers will become jittery sailing on a ship not fit for the voyage. Updating sails and fittings and scraping off barnacles do not damage or replace the hull of a sailboat. It merely makes it seaworthy. The same applies to our ministries.

The hull of our faith is never in a place of compromise if a wise captain is at the helm. This kind of leader is apostolic and will always turn the ship towards port for a time of retrofitting no matter what the perceived loss of revenue might be or what kind of disagreement emerges over the interruption. A vessel of ministry enters a sea of jeopardy when foolish and fearful managers are at the helm. This kind of leadership will continue to sail on in an attempt to keep the status quo afloat without having the challenging discussions and resulting determinations that a retrofit of a ministry will require. 

New ports of call exist in our future. Getting there is only dangerous if fear sets our course.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Performing for the Presence

When I was a young cop, I worked security for some famous people. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Emmylou Harris. Credence Clearwater Revival, Merle Haggard and a few more I forgot over the years.

I noticed something with every performer. Each had a stage presence and a pre-stage presence. When they stepped out on the stage, they were “on.” By on I mean they had a distinct style and playlist and an audience filled with expectations based on past performances they had grown familiar with over the years.

As I thought of those individuals and groups, I was impressed by the Lord that some of you have a date and a time approaching where you will step out onto a stage of expectations. Those who are waiting to hear the sound of your voice have certain expectations they want you to fulfill. But this time, you have something different you have been assigned to release. It will seem out of character for you. The “playlist” of expectations will, in love, be violated in obedience to the Lord.

The moment you are introduced will be like those times when I watched a famous entertainer step on stage to a thunderous applause and strike the first chord. When you begin to perform you will release a new sound and a new direction. Not everyone will appreciate what you say and do. Don't let the audience response deter you from being faithful to the Audience of One who sits enthroned in Heaven waiting to see if you will be obedient to His assignment. 

This approaching moment on your life-stage has significance for more than your current audience who may not understand the reason for this change in your sound.  Sing the song of faith the Lord has given you to sing and trust Him with what follows. This will be the most significant performance to date on the stage of your faith.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Letting Go of Dead Things

There are moments in every relationship when we can allow ourselves to be motivated by the fear of loss. In these situations, we find ourselves trying to preserve a relationship that actually needs to die before it can live. Attempting to hold onto the status quo of these relationships will only leave you with the mummified corpse of something that has no hope of life unless a resurrection takes place. Only when you give God these dead relationships is resurrection life possible. This requires that you let go and no longer hold on in fear. Letting go is your act of faith and the beginning of something new.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Facts Aren't Always Factual

Yesterday, I read a news article about a woman who was killed by a cougar while hiking on Mount Hood just east of Portland, Oregon. The reporter said it was the first documented fatal encounter with a cougar in the state's history. It is not surprising something like this would eventually take place since the same article mentioned we have an estimated 6,600 cougars roaming the countryside in our state. If you went to your local office supply store and purchased 6,600 colored plastic pins and stuck them in a map of Oregon, it would pretty much fill the map. 

I was hiking around Applegate Lake here in southern Oregon years ago when a drought had reduced the lake to just a puddle. Hiking on a trail on the backside of the lake, I ran into two old-timers. They looked to be in their eighties at the time. They were still spry and hiking strong many miles away from the trailhead. They spoke of a small town that once thrived in the ravine before the dam was built and the lake waters covered its memory. The town of Copper had a store, post office a bar or two, and a place to buy mining supplies. The old-timers relayed a story of an “Old Somebody” who was killed by a cougar in the 1920’s “up that drainage yonder.” It wasn’t a documented kill because it happened in a time and place before modern documentation. I wonder how many other Old Somebodies fell to the fangs of a cougar in the hinterlands of Oregon and it wasn’t documented?

The sad demise of the hiker on Mount Hood reminded me of the fallacy of facts. We sadly gather facts mostly to support our assumptions.  In Oregon, the voters assumed they could end hunting cougars with hounds by a vote and the population would self-regulate. The jury is still out on that assumption. We collect facts as we gather our friends, associates, and alliances. We use them to support our prejudice or bias. Facts do not always represent accurate information. Neither do they guarantee an accurate conclusion.

Today, when someone presents the “facts” to you about anything, pause for just a moment and consider a possibility. The facts might sound convincing, but maybe, just maybe, the absolute-sounding documentation that is presented as “proof” is only a narrow and misinterpreted slice of a much larger pie of information yet to be revealed. Wisdom waits.

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”(I Corinthians 4:5). 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Archaeology of Our Lives

It’s been almost 50 years since Woodstock took place on Yasgur’s farm on a grassy hillside in Bethel, New York. 400,000 people showed up to listen to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, and many others. It was an iconic moment in American history. I read a recent news article announcing that a team of archaeologists were on the site of the Woodstock concert excavating the meadow to find out where the vendor booths, main stage and sound towers were located. 

When I first read the article, I thought it was odd to have a team of archaeologists digging up a piece of history from my lifetime. I thought archaeology was for old stuff, not events and locations within my lifetime. I tried to imagine the importance of the project, but that was not my call to make. I did see something that actually had some value on a personal level.

If you look back at the life-changing events of your life, what would a team of spiritual archaeologists discover if they dug around in the buried debris? The things we cast away can tell the tale of what took place and the context of where it happened. In the field of archaeology, where an artifact is discovered is important because context tells as much of the story as the item being discovered.

The things that transpire in our life, the good and the bad, need to be deposited at the feet of Jesus if they are going to have a healthy final resolution. This is where the memories of our successes and failures belong if we are going to move forward in life not encumbered by the despair of failure or the pride of success. 

In the remaining history of your life if a team of spiritual archaeologists was to arrive digging around in your life trying to find out why it all seemed to work out so well, what would they find? In their research, I hope they would discover the context of the fruits of your life, the good and the bad, was always at the feet of Jesus. That discovery will reveal the history of a life well-lived.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Crossing the Aisle

The greatest achievements do not come from conquest or control. These victories only come when the wise ones in the intransient crowd are willing to step forward and cross the aisle of division, many times in private, to form an alliance against what ultimately hurts us all. These braves ones see a future the angry and noisy mob cannot see because they are blinded by shortsighted goals, personal ambition or undisciplined anger. Be the one who is willing to make this crossing no matter what the cost. History will thank you for your courage.

Spiritual Fathers and Mothers

One of the most unique and fulfilling seasons in life is when we become spiritual fathers and mothers. This happens at about age 50 or so. That number is not absolute, but this assignment in life does require the accumulation of years. By this time, hopefully, we carry a measure of proven wisdom and insight that only comes from decades of living and believing. 

The wisdom gained over a lifetime becomes a gift a spiritual parent freely gives to their children in the faith. You can see this in the relationship Paul had with Timothy. As you read the Pastoral Epistles, you sense in Paul’s words the depth of his desire for Timothy to become a trusted man of God in all aspects. Paul wanted his investment in Timothy to bring the highest return for the glory of God.

There is another side to being a spiritual parent that is not discussed much. You come to realize something when you enter this stage in life. There is no one older than you looking out for you and your needs. The younger ones are looking to you for provision and assume all your needs are met. This statement is not meant to be fodder for a pity party. It is just the reality of life. For example, in a natural family, kids don’t head off to school in the morning asking, “I wonder what mom and dad need today?” Teenagers don’t ask this question when they are hitting dad up for the car keys. It is only when children become older adults do they begin to consider the needs of aging parents.

By the time you arrive at spiritual parenthood, you should have developed a relationship with the Lord where you trust Him to meet your needs – the obvious ones and the ones only you, and the Lord can see. Trust allows you to rest in God’s faithfulness knowing He understands what you need and will be faithful to supply those needs. It also keeps you from moving away from a place of dignity and assuming the motives of a relational beggar subtly dropping hints of your needs, or worse, creating a platform where you attempt to self-honor and demand from others the provision you feel entitled to. 

As a spiritual father and mother, the greatest gift you will leave behind is a life that became a living advertisement of God’s faithfulness and goodness. This kind of parent has learned to trust God and trust God in their spiritual children to such a degree that worry and manipulation are nowhere to be found in the testimony of their life. 

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Sunday, September 9, 2018

An Unexpected Opening

The door of access you have been praying about will soon open, but there will be a surprise. You have been focused on a single doorway into your future, yet the door God plans to open is not the one that has gained your attention. 

You didn’t miss it. Your looking was an act of faith even if your faith was not directed at God’s best for you. A deeper understanding of the nature of God, not how this door of opportunity will open, is what you have been assigned to learn through this experience. 

The Lord is a loving and faithful Father who delights whenever His children seek His will even when those attempts are imperfect. Our misguided acts of faith never diminish His love for us.  He uses them to reveal a deeper understanding of His never-ending patience and goodness.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Accelerating Wildfires of the Spirit

Those of us living in the northwest part of the United States have been surrounded by massive wildfires all summer. Just two days ago, a new fire erupted south of the Oregon border and north of Redding, California. It exploded in size and became so dangerous that a section of Interstate 5, the main north-south freeway on the west coast, had to be closed. The freeway has been shut down for the last two days.

This morning, I read an article where a professor of Fire Science said a moving fire preheats the vegetation in its path as it pushes through steep canyons. When the fire reaches a new fuel source, it explodes as drought-dried trees, brush, and grass ignite. These fires are challenging to fight and contain in mountainous terrain.

In my travels, I minister in churches where people talk about the fire of God. This is a fire of holiness and purity that consumes all the things that stand in the way of our ability to receive the love of God. This fire of the Spirit is only destructive to those things that want to destroy us, and our relationship with God. The flame of this fire is always empowered by love.

If the fire of God has been ignited in your life, get ready for this Spirit-empowered fire to accelerate the speed of its burn. The wind of the Spirit is directing this fire to strategically consume each point of opposition in your life and calling. God wants to set you on fire so that He can burn through all the religious and relational underbrush that has accumulated over time. This underbrush, if left unchallenged, can choke the life out of your relationship with God and His Kingdom. Invite the fire!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Commercial-Free Life

Jan and I said goodbye to cable TV about 8 years ago, and we have never looked back. We did the same thing with a landline phone. We now only use our cell phones. 

Right after our cable TV service was terminated, we went to Netflix, Hulu and now, Amazon Prime. We like to watch TV series, mostly drama with a bit of spy intrigue. Some of these series are several seasons long. 

Yesterday, I noticed something. A show that is played on cable television has about 42 minutes of actual show time. The other 18 minutes are commercials. There is no comparison between watching a show that is continually being interrupted by commercials and one that runs straight through without interruption.  Sometimes a story can be lost in a sea of commercial product presentation and a continuous fear-based appeal for your money. TV shows with lots of commercials are like the lives of some people who no longer hear the voice of God because they have allowed other sounds to fill their thoughts – continuously. 

Where is your commercial-free zone? Where is that place where you can get the straight scoop on life from the Spirit without commercial interruption from religious or political pundits? This is more than a morning devotional time or a church service. It must become a cultivated lifestyle, 24/7. 

The story of this wonderful life being played out before you in plain sight. It can be missed if there are too many voices pulling on you for the attention of your intellect, choice, and resources. This never-ending cacophony has created such a level of frustration in some people they have checked out and closed their ears to all things, even the voice of God. 

Make a choice to turn off all the voices in your life that are vying for your time and attention. Do this until you are left with only the voice of the Spirit. In that quiet moment, rest. Fresh and surprising revelation is waiting to be released to you if you can find a commercial-free place in your life where the voice of God can actually be heard. When the clutter is removed, the revelation will come. God's most significant revelations are spoken in a quiet tone to those with discerning ears who wait for Him in a quiet place.  

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” (Luke 8:18).

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Memory Triggers

Yesterday, a song from 1970 began to play on my Pandora account while Jan and I sat in our living room working on our computers. The song was, Wild World by Cat Stevens. When the song started, we both smiled and turned to look at each other. The song sparked a journey down memory lane from the time when we first met in Portland, Oregon. It also triggered memories of long walks to Laurelhurst Park and drives up the Columbia River Gorge to Crown Point. 

When the song finished and we went back to working on our computers, that memory took me to other places in my memory that God wanted me to visit. In those places, I gave thanks for some things and in one case, was reminded of a commitment I made of something I did not want to forget.

We have the ability to make our life of faith into something otherworldly to somehow validate the experience. In reality, God can use any and everything to remind us of His goodness. He will take us back to memories that affirm the choices He asked us to make or He will use our memories to help direct us into the future. Whenever and however God chooses to speak to us is always a supernatural event.

Forty-eight years ago, as two college kids just getting to know each other while listening to Cat Stevens and Elton John, we wondered where our relationship would journey. The memories of that time have always reminded us of God’s faithfulness and mercy. A lot of life has been lived in those intervening years.  We have had sorrow, joy, hope, and despair and every other human emotion you could imagine. In the middle of it all, God was always there loving and encouraging us. Our redeemed memories will always contain a reminder of God’s goodness, even the memories sparked with a song by Cat Stevens.

Today, when a song plays, or a fragrance passes by, and old memories come to visit, follow their invitation to the places and people that were part of the memory. Some of you will arrive at a painful past. Others will find joy. No matter what greets you at the destination of your memory, you were taken there to see that God never left you or abandoned you. He was always there loving and encouraging. That is the sweetest recollection you will discover on a journey down memory lane.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Danger of an Audience

Every voice has an audience, and every audience has expectations. This applies to a stay at home parent whose life is focused on kids, a prophet with an international ministry platform or a local pastor who speaks before a congregation each Sunday. In the relationship between our message and the expectations of our audience is where our integrity will be tested and the depth of our character discovered.

The expectations of an audience are a rut of familiarity. A familiar and predictable messenger affirms their current beliefs and worldview. This allows people to settle into a way of life that gives them a sense of security. Disturb this equilibrium, and your audience might begin to question their allegiance to your message. When you deliver a message that is not on your historic menu of revelation the challenges that come with having an audience will begin to make an appearance. At this point, if we are not careful, our allegiance can make a subtle shift from pleasing God to pleasing people. 

The size of our following doesn’t really matter to God. What matters to Him is the condition of our heart and whether or not our message is buffered with enough integrity to not be affected by the demands of an audience that has become accustomed to the familiar sound of our voice and the recognizable content of our message. 

Ask God for the courage to step out of the ruts of expectation and speak with confidence the word the Lord has given no matter what the consequence. Being faithful to these courageous acts of obedience is actually your prophetic calling even more than the distinctive tone and content of your message that has made your voice unique, recognizable and comforting to your audience.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Logically Spiritual

Life can become a perilous journey when we choose to ignore the logic of Scripture and its historical context to affirm a favored theology or a point of doctrine. God gave us the gift of logic to keep us safe and sane when life around us seems dangerous and crazed. Don’t be afraid of Spirit-inspired reasoning. It is not anti-supernatural. God’s kind of logic helps us wisely navigate through the weeds of discord and disagreement that seem to always be present when people have differing opinions about God and His Kingdom.

It's Time

When I wrote the book, Prayers from the Throne of God, little did I know it would become an emotional and spiritual source of encouragement highlighting our freedom and authority as believers. Yes, the book is about a different way to pray, but it also creates a way of thinking that will set us free from feelings of dismay, discouragement, and helplessness in those moments when life seems to be going sideways.

When I wrote the book, I spent a lot of time in Ephesians unpacking the significance of our position in Christ at the right hand of the Father. Scripture tells us we already live there enthroned in a place of victory. Our victory is not some future reward that will come at the end of time. We are the fruit of Jesus’ victory enthroned with Him at this very moment in Heaven. It is your reality even as you read these words.

Today, when you are faced with social turmoil or a personal challenge, ask the Lord to reveal the power and privilege of your real-time position in Christ at the Father’s right hand. From this place look down on the issue or challenge that stands before you and do these three things:

DECLARE the heart of God. Declare God’s preferred outcome. Declare how He sees the person or situation from His heart and heavenly perspective. This is like a master artist standing in front of a blank canvas and inviting a protégé to come and see a yet-to-be-painted masterpiece and creating its reality with each brushstroke.

DECREE the victory of Christ. This is your Kingdom search warrant that gives you the authority to kick down the doors of darkness to rescue people and institutions held captive by dark agendas. A decree declares that no weapon formed against us will prosper.

PROPHESY a new future. Once you declare the heart of God and then decree the victory of Christ, the Spirit will begin to reveal prophetically a word of encouragement, a point of revelation or the next step toward freedom needed to transform the issue of your prayers.

Right now, your dual citizenship on Earth and in Heaven gives you the supernatural potential to shift any environment where your faith is alive and active. If you live from a heavenly perspective while still engaging the reality of life on Earth, that realization will begin to change how you see and interpret everything. In the end, it will radically change how you pray.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Exploding the Grenades of a Political Spirit

Lately, my dreams have been intensifying. The level of reality and color in what I dream is becoming high-definition in nature. Each night, I kneel at our bed and pray for the night. I pray for protection, and I pray for revelation in my dreams. 

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was walking alongside a lake. I was holding two hand grenades. I felt very uncomfortable and wanted to get rid of them in private not wanting to be caught and charged with a crime. One grenade was standard size. The other was the same diameter but a few inches longer. I placed them in my coat pockets to hide them while I walked around the lake looking for some deep water where I could toss them unexploded.

The problem I was having was the lake was too shallow. If I haphazardly tossed the grenades out into the lake someone might discover them, and the resulting explosion would cause death and injury. By now I was wading out into the water ruining my shoes and getting my pants wet. I was becoming concerned I would never be able to dispose of the two grenades. Then I came upon a man who was an expert in the disposal of bombs and military grade weapons.

I handed the man the two grenades, and at first, I was concerned how casual and confident he was when he handled them. It was like he did this all the time and it was no big deal. He turned a hidden knob on each grenade and one at a time he pushed them down into the wet sand at our feet. They fizzled out like a dud firework. Then the dream was over.  I asked the Lord what the dream meant and if I was free to share its content. He gave me both understanding and permission.

In the dream, I represented a composite image of people within the Church from both sides of the political aisle that realize a new way forward must be discovered or our nation will not fulfill its God-ordained role in world affairs. The man I met on the lakeshore who knew how to deactivate the grenades was the Holy Spirit. The grenades would remain lethal if not handed over to Him. What really caught my attention was the mission and definition assigned to each grenade.

The smaller grenade was called Remnant. It contained old accusations and condemnations being brought against our President. They were a carryover from a previous life. Similar remnants exist in every life but have been highlighted in our President’s life as an attempt to keep people focused on the lesser issues as a diversion to what is taking place the world stage - issues that will have a more devastating consequence than bringing up a forgiven past.

The larger grenade was called Disdain. This grenade is waiting to explode within a mindset that cannot see any good in what our President is doing. Disdain has created a spirit of dismissal. This larger grenade is potentially more dangerous because it has wider audience appeal, one that has been brilliantly crafted through a never-ending onslaught of negative information.

The next two months in American history will either be an explosive moment of destructive power or an acceleration into a new and hope-filled future neither political party could imagine or produce. I have trusted friends who voted differently in the last election who represent both political parties for reasons each felt passionate about. 

As the Church representing the will of God in the world, no matter what our political persuasion, trenching up remnants of the past and creating disdain in the present, is not the way forward. 

This is an Ephesians 3:20 moment of time. The Lord wants to accomplish something beyond what we could imagine possible in the middle of the overly-heated public debate where people from opposing opinions are tossing grenades into our cultural dialogue. These grenades have been handed to them by an enemy who knows his victory will only take place on a battlefield where division and dishonor are the weapons of choice.