Friday, May 31, 2019

When You Want To Walk Away

If you have experienced a frustrating and painful outcome from a decision or an action made outside your control and now you want to walk away, make sure you are walking into the arms of Jesus, not into the arms of bitterness and anger. Be wise in the choices you make in these moments because other arms are also waiting to embrace you that have unhealthy agendas. 

God is willing to work with you to restore you from the hurt you experienced.  When His plan of restoration is complete, He may not return you to the place where the offense occurred, but that will be His choice, not yours. 

When we are wounded we can make really bad decisions fueled by our emotions that will set us on a sorrowful path leading to a life of regret and a series of never-ending scenarios of future disappointment. The only time our hearts can make wise decisions is when they are aligned with the heart of God, not the wounds caused by others or the pain of our unmet expectations.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Dangerous Christians

A dangerous Christian - dangerous to the works of hell -
is one who…

refuses to align with other people’s negative expectations.
is not led by the established religious or political party line.
responds to the Spirit, not to peer pressure.
believes the miraculous is always possible, no matter what.
stands with the rejected and condemned ones.
extends mercy even after a final verdict has been issued.

Be dangerous. It is the way of Jesus.

Too Good For This World

An audience is not an anointing.  Some of the most anointed lives are lived in isolation and suffering. Celebrity and notoriety come and go at the whim of a consumer culture both within society and the Church. Do not chase the affirmation of people thinking an affirming audience is the best evidence of the quality of your faith. Pursue God alone and take the next step of faith He places before you no matter where it leads or what it costs. This is your only safe place. That kind of radical obedience can, at times, send you in the opposite direction from where the term “success” finds its popular definition.

When I recently read Hebrews 11, described as The Hall of Faith, I was taken by the journeys made by some of our spiritual ancestors. Each time I read that chapter I am challenged to evaluate the quality and depth of my faith. We can allow our fears and our pride to create buffers that keep us away from the very people and places where our life-calling was meant to experience a deeper expression of faith.  How we choose to live in these challenging places will create the testimony we leave behind for future generations. 

There are times when the greatest testimonies of faith take place without an affirming audience. These isolated places only have the presence of Jesus as their affirmation and consolation. I want that to be enough for me and for you. In that place, a sweet purity surrounds us and give us something an adoring audience could never provide.

“Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground”(Hebrews 11:37-38).

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Journey Marker

Clarity and confirmation are coming. A significant marker that will guide you through this last challenging leg of your journey will soon appear. Its presence will pilot you into a new place, one that has remained hidden until this moment of time. God will reveal this affirming marker to confirm your direction and bring clarity and validation to your original vision.

Near the border between California and Oregon just south of Ashland, Oregon stands a rock formation created during a time of volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The rock formation is called Pilot Rock. It rises 540 above the surrounding terrain and thousands of feet above the valley below. It can be seen for over 40 miles. Early settlers called the rock Boundary Rock. It was a noticeable boundary marker between Spanish California and the Oregon Territory. The primary use of Pilot Rock was as a navigation marker for early pioneers making the arduous wagon trek into the settlements of Oregon during the 1840s and 50s. 

Early wagon trains would not know Pilot Rock existed until they got within range to see it. The rock became a source of encouragement letting pioneers know the promised destinations they dreamed about would soon appear. After a long and challenging journey, the appearance of Pilot Rock affirmed the faith of many.

God will be providing a final piloting marker for your journey of faith if you continue to move forward and not give up and turn around. The marker is not yet visible. Your personal Pilot Rock will soon appear on the horizon and give you the hope needed to finish the last leg of the journey. Just as Pilot Rock in southern Oregon became a prominent natural feature in our local history, so it will be with you in your journey of faith. Keep your eye on the horizon of your calling and continue to move forward in faith. Your Pilot Rock is about to appear.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Stolen Valor

If you are not familiar with the term “stolen valor” a quick YouTube search will reveal in vivid detail what it means. Stolen valor takes place when someone who never served in the military dons a uniform and medals and tries to impersonate a veteran. There is always something in their demeanor or how they wear the uniform and medals that is a giveaway to a real vet. What makes this kind of thing such a violation is the fact that the imposter never paid for the right to wear the uniform and medals – a right that only comes from the sacrifice of life and limb.

Stolen valor is present in other areas of life to a lesser degree. I saw it as a cop when security guards tried to pretend they were real cops by intimidating people when they initiated fake car stops. Real cowboys see it in city slickers who travel west in the summer and try to act like a crusty old trail hand at a dude ranch. It’s present in the Church when insecurity pushes people to self-promote themselves as the next Apostle Paul or Elijah. They assume others will think it must be true because the title is on their business cards and depicted in the garish images on their website. We are all susceptible to this stuff in varying degrees if we live a life without examination.

Wannabees, imposters and those who steal precious valor each have a common problem. They lack an understanding of their true identity. While they aspire to be what they are not, they are actually revealing their lack of understanding of who they are. In an attempt to be something more they have become something less. After I watched a few YouTube videos of people impersonating a real veteran and finally letting my disgust settle down, I actually felt sorry for the imposters. I hoped the public shame of exposure would lead them to a place of real honor where they could humble themselves, repent of their ways and ask someone for help. 

We all need to visit God’s word and read again about our true identity in Christ. The definitions of our identity are magnificent and beautiful. We are so much more than we realize. We never have to pretend. We are seated with Jesus at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. We are in that elevated place of significance because of the shed blood and beatings Jesus wore as the medal of His honor.  We don’t have to fake anything. The price has already been paid. In Christ, we possess all the identity we will ever need and as a result of that reality, we can be ourselves and never strive to be anything less.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

At Peace

One of the greatest gifts you can leave behind is to be, as far as it is possible with you, at peace with all people. 
“As far as possible” means we walk as far forward in the process of reconciliation as the will of the other person will allow. We can walk up onto the emotional porch of another person’s life and ring the doorbell, but they must open the door. 
Getting up onto this relational porch requires that we do some very visible things to position ourselves in a place of vulnerability. This will require humility. In each season of spiritual growth, there will be some porch time. Healthy transitions will include this element of vulnerability and risk. 
God wants us to be free, and he will hand that freedom to us as a medicine to dispense to others. Some people will crack the door open just enough to see you standing on their porch, and that will be enough to begin the process of reconciliation and restoration. 

(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Defining Your Assignment - Scout, Pioneer or Settler?

Recently, I spoke at a gathering of social reformers and cultural influencers. My assignment was to unpack the teaching gift from within the five equipping gifts Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4. In my presentation, I shared there are three expressions of a teaching gift in a reformation context - scouts, pioneers, and settlers. I used the metaphor of the westward expansion of the United States during the 1800s to present my material. What I shared was not limited to the gift of teaching. It actually applies to each instance in life when we ask people to consider something new and invite them to make a journey into the unexplored landscape of a fresh revelation.

Scouts Explore and Persuade

Every journey westward in the 1800s began with a scout heading out alone to discover a previously unexplored route toward a new place. Scouts would return from their scouting venture to invite people to make a pioneering journey based on the revelation and intelligence the scout obtained. Scouts found safe passage through dangerous mountain passes and across swollen rivers. Without the knowledge provided by the scout, those who followed to pioneer a new land would experience greater jeopardy. 

In a spiritual context, scouts explore the expanding edge of a fresh revelation where an apostolic blueprint is being considered. This is what John the Baptist did when he cried out from the wilderness announcing the approaching Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ. It is what Paul did when he returned from his missionary journeys. 

A spiritual scouting ministry extends an invitation similar to the invitations scouts would present to large bands of wagons gathering in the Midwest waiting to begin their perilous journey westward. They presented pioneers with the details of an explored route and convinced those listening to follow them. A spiritual scout’s ministry is persuasive. It challenges the status quo and invites people to entertain the risk required to follow a new route toward a promise.

Pioneers Learn How To Survive

The second group is the pioneers. They are the first to follow the intelligence gathered by a scout. Most wagon journeys began in the spring allowing the pioneers to travel during the summer months. The timing was critical because pioneers would need to arrive at their destination in the early fall. Once they arrived they would only have a few weeks to construct crude cabins to survive their first winter in an untamed wilderness. Their shoes had either worn out or rotted off in the journey along with their clothing. They learned from mountain men and indigenous people how to make clothing and moccasins from animal skins.  

When spiritual pioneers finally arrive in the untamed wilderness of a fresh revelation they must learn how to survive the first season. Like the early pioneers of the American West, some of what a spiritual pioneer brought with them at the start of the journey either wore out or was discarded along the way to lighten their load. Spiritual pioneers need to be clothed with new ways of thinking and new methods of operation in order to survive.  Like the children of Israel entering the Promised Land, a place of promise is not always a safe and prepared place when we first enter its boundary.

Settlers Create Culture and Community

Once a pioneer arrived and survived the first winter they become a settler. Once settled, they began to build a sustainable community and culture.  Settlers would create social structures, government, housing, transportation, and trade. Those elements would lead to the long-term socio-economic health of the community and as a result, those institutions would create a positive and stable influence on following generations.  

In a spiritual application, a pioneer must make the transition from pioneer to a settler or the revelation of the promise will not be fully experienced. A pioneer is a survivalist. Everything is immediate and short-term. That mindset is exhausting and does not allow a person to rest because they live surrounded by the on-going threats of an untamed wilderness. All revelation must mature in its application. Without that maturity, our presence will not be sustainable and our influence will eventually die off from exposure to the harsh elements that always surround the new thing God wants to accomplish.

These three unique assignments of scout, pioneer, and settler are present in any enterprise whether it is the fulfillment of the Great Commission, starting a business, establishing a new direction for civil government or an artist exploring a new genre. It is vital to know in which season your gift is currently assigned.  Defining your season will clarify your message and its application and help you lead others to the destination of a promise that was not yet seen when it was initially announced. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Preparing a Place for the Fruit

When I was a kid, I grew up in the Silicon Valley of California before the high tech companies arrived. Our valley was a continuous expanse of fruit orchards. My first real job was at age 9 picking prunes. 

The ease of picking prunes would depend on how the orchardist prepared the orchard floor for the falling fruit. If the orchard floor was well-groomed and flat it was easy to gather up the prunes and fill the wooden boxes. I was paid .35 cents per box. If an orchardist did not prepare his orchard floor a picker would have to push aside the weeds to get to a single prune. Working in an unprepared orchard made it difficult and time-consuming to fill a box. I watched my Mexican friends who came to work the orchards. They were wise. They only worked for orchardists who rightly prepared the orchard floor for the time of harvest.

As this memory came to mind, I thought of our lives. Our life is like an orchard floor. We can prepare for the arrival of the fruit of God’s presence or we can neglect the preparation because we grew impatient with the process. When the time comes for the fruit to fall it can disappear into the weedy frustrations of life or a lack of discipline that crept in when we dismissed the possibility of something good coming our way. 

Today, God has planned to deliver the beautiful fruit of His presence onto the soil of your life. In faith, prepare for its arrival. Pull the weeds of disbelief. Smooth over the rough edges of a negative attitude. Offer God a prepared place for the fruit to land. The fruit is not just for you. It is for all who will enter the orchard of your life to pick the fruit and taste the goodness of God. Make it easy for them to take part in the harvest.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The New Full Gospel Church

A few decades ago, a local church that believed in the supernatural works of God self-described itself as Full Gospel. The term noted an on-going belief in the supernatural works of God including the function of all the gifts of the Spirit. They did not believe in a cessation of the supernatural. For the most part, the expression of that fullness remained inside a church building or in conference settings and rarely walked outside the walls of mutual fellowship into the streets of a city or took its power into the halls of a cultural institution. The impact of that supernatural expression was isolated to meetings where like-minded people of faith gathered to experience God.

Today, God is expanding the definition of a full representation of the Gospel to include groups of supernaturally empowered people who have ventured outside our current church model and its limited creativity to export a Kingdom impact into all spheres of the culture. These new Full Gospel individuals and churches may not look “religious” enough to those whose definition of the Full Gospel must always function within a familiar church structure. 

The new Full Gospel Church sees nations and cultural institutions as the ultimate target of their ministry focus. They take the words of Jesus seriously and literally when He said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28: 19). The reformation-minded disciples who express a Full Gospel assignment will carry with them Spirit-empowered solutions and new forms of creativity not currently being considered or explored. They also know what we have been doing in this generation of the Church in western culture has not changed the world in the radical way Jesus intended when He gave us the Great Commission. They want to make a difference and they are willing to take the religious flak their assignment will draw.

These new Full Gospel disciples are business entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, single mothers getting elected to a city council position, retired persons who find a new career, and burned out pastors who have tried to prop up a dying ministry model. It is a diverse list of people hungry for something more – a fuller expression of what it means to partner in the global expansion of God’s Kingdom. 

A new fullness has arrived and that fullness will express the next chapter of our Kingdom assignment as we work with God to cover the Earth with a Full Gospel witness of His presence in all spheres of the global culture.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him” (Psalm 24:1).

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Announcing Something Better

When John the Baptist was crying out in the wilderness the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding region ventured out to hear his message. In that advancing crowd were people from all spheres of cultural influence. It would not be the innovators of a new product or the producers of a new media project or a promise made by the government that would get a culture moving toward change. It was the voice of a prophet who offered people an opportunity to change the way they think that sparked an entire culture to consider something new before any resulting creative process would begin. 

John said to the approaching crowds, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). The word used for repent in the original language throughout the New Testament has been defined as, “to change one’s mind.” More specifically in its usage in Matthew 3:2 three more words are added to the definition to read “to change one’s mind for the better.” 

The prophetic message of repentance uttered by John told people something better was coming and they needed to change the way they think in order to receive a new life-assignment. He was asking them to change the way they think so that the corresponding decisions about their lives and their assignments within the various spheres of cultural influence would manifest a repentant life – a life that entertains a better reality. A repentant mind would be required to align people with the message of Jesus and His Kingdom. That alignment would change how people crafted their mission statement and it would change how they used their unique skills in the marketplace of culture.

Every reformation has a prophetic voice calling out from the unexplored wilderness of a fresh revelation extending an invitation to people to consider something better. In times of cultural transition, a prophetic voice will be heard as an invitation to consider something better rather than a condemning voice of the status quo. The later is something anyone can do. It takes no real prophetic insight. To be a prophet of reformation requires that we wait to hear the better thing God wants to accomplish before we raise our voice and assume we are speaking in the name of God.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Discerning the Purpose of an Open Door

We write and speak a lot about open doors of opportunity. What we don't talk about is the need to pause on the threshold of those open doors to inquire of the Lord to determine if He was the one who opened the door. A life that demands continual forward motion is a life that puts itself and others in a place of unnecessary jeopardy.

When I was a cop, doors were opened to me that revealed things I did not know when the call came out. I've had doors open to decaying dead bodies, empty houses, women in skimpy lingerie, people with guns who wanted to shoot me, suicides in progress, booby traps, abandoned children and the list goes on. On some of these calls, impatient rookies wanted to rush in and see what was inside. Many times I had to forcefully put my arm across the chest of a rookie cop to slow them down to discern what was beyond the open door. These impatient ones lived to see another day because they slowed down enough to evaluate what was in front of them.

Your next open door might not open up to give you a blessing. God may send you through an open spiritual door to use you to solve a life crisis or serve the needs of another person. Some open doors are cleverly disguised traps of the enemy waiting to capture you for a dark purpose. It is important to know what an open door represents before you enter its room.

Open doors are threshold moments that must be evaluated to determine their source and purpose. Like it was when I was a cop, it is wise to take a moment or two to figure out what’s going on before you cross the threshold of an open door. In some cases, you will move forward and in other cases, you will back away. 

Knowing the purpose of an open door requires the gifts of discernment and wisdom. If you can pause long enough to work in concert with those gifts you will discover the direction of your next step when you are standing on the threshold of an open door. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Making the Cut

The soul and the spirit need to remain separate in the formation of our worldview and theology. Only the Word of God can make the separating cut revealing the distinction between these two components of our life. Theologies and doctrines formed by human logic in the realm of the soul without examination by Scripture have entered the Church throughout history as subtle invaders resembling a Trojan horse. These errors can unpack “lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:14).  

Contained in our soul are our emotions, will, and mind. It is that part of our being that gives us personhood, bringing animation and distinction to our lives. The spirit part of our life was created to house truth, and that truth is assigned to inform our soul how to respond to life, not the other way around. A mature believer is someone who has brought all the components of their soul in submission to their spirit. It is in our spirit where the Word establishes itself to begin the renewal process of our mind. Paul spoke about this in his letter to the church in Rome,  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”(Romans 12:2).

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Scripture plays an active and incisive role in this renewing process, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God” (Hebrews 4:12-13). The narrow distance between soul and spirit can only be sliced by the edge of truth, not the wide and diverse opinions found in human logic. Without the Word actively at work in our lives cutting through the stuff of life, we will eventually succumb to the lesser influence of an undisciplined soul and the errors that will accompany that influence.

Be careful to not allow a blending of soul and spirit to create a hybrid faith. From that blending have come deceptions throughout Church history crafted to appeal to a mind that is not under the renewing discipleship of the Word and the guiding influence of the Spirit. 

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).

Sunday, May 19, 2019

I Have Come to a Conclusion

The older I become and the closer to eternity I get, I have come to a conclusion. Amidst all our opinions about God, His Word and how the Church should function, in the end, God’s mercy will have the final say. His mercy gives me great peace about what will take place in eternity. His mercy also extends an invitation to each of us to live the remainder of our days at peace with each other in the middle of our never-ending debate and discussion about so many things that, at our best, we only see in part.

A New Vision

New is not better. New is different. We have the tendency to think that our turn at the helm navigated the ship of our ministry into its most unique ports. While that sounds good, it is a limited view of God and the future. Something about God is new each morning, and so are the ports of call he has planned for those who will follow you in this assignment. 
Our pride wants to enshrine our season as being the truly unique one in the history of a family, a church, or an organization. We all want to feel that our investment was of value. While we all contribute value, our contribution is still only one ingredient in the larger recipe. 
Someone is being positioned to follow you. Honor them by allowing them to step forward without having to wear the garment of your reputation and faithful history. Let those who follow you sew their own garments. 

(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Magnified Effect of Our Obedience

When the average citizen of Jerusalem walked by Jesus and the two criminals hanging beside Him on crosses it was nothing unusual. Crucifixions were a normal occurrence at that time in history. No one seeing the crucifixion could ever imagine the salvation of all humanity was hanging on display before their eyes. 

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany someone passing by would simply think another priest had something to say about some obscure point of theology. 

When Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus and sit in the "colored section” during the Montgomery Bus Boycott those on the bus who occupied places of social privilege thought she was rude. They were unaware that her act of defiance would provide momentum to the civil rights movement in America. 

When the unidentified young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during the protests of 1989 he displayed courage in a nation where courage could become a death sentence. The image of his act of resistance was smuggled out of China and went worldwide becoming one of the most iconic images of our time. 

While Jesus on the Cross was, far and away, the most significant of these examples, the others speak to us about the impact of courageous lives and the corresponding acts of obedience they committed to something better and higher. These acts set in motion repercussions that would impact the global community.

Each life will have similar moments. While none of us are the Savior of the world, each of us has the potential to be the next Martin Luther, Rosa Parks, or the unidentified young man in Tiananmen Square who would become known in history as the Tank Man. These individual acts of obedience would release ripple effects that were unknown at the time. When we act in response to our violated conscious or an ethic of God’s Kingdom we never know where that ripple of obedience will travel.

Today, you have something significant waiting to happen as a result of your obedience. It may not be as dramatic as the examples I cited, but it might have the potential to change a single life or reveal the God-ordained destiny of a family. You and I are only responsible to drop the rock of our obedience into the pond. Where that ripple goes only God knows. You are a person of Kingdom significance. Walk in that significance and God will magnify the effect of your obedience to reach out and touch people and places you cannot yet see or imagine.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Skin That Smoke Wagon!

In the classic western, Tombstone, Wyatt Earp played by actor Kurt Russell, walks into a bar that used to have more business and a gentrified clientele to see it virtually empty and barely surviving. Customers had been chased off by a bully who sat each day at a card table issuing loud, boisterous and abusing threats to the remaining patrons. 

Earp decides to change the environment of the establishment and unarmed, he walks up to the bully and tells him to get out of his seat. No one had ever confronted the bully. The bully could not believe what he was hearing and in his normal fashion tried to bully Earp. It didn’t work. So the bully stands up and puts his hand on his revolver like he had done in the past to challenge anyone who posed a threat to his control over the business. Earp then utters one of the most classic lines in a western film, “Go ahead…Skin it! Skin that smoke wagon and see what happens!” In other words, “Go ahead…Pull your gun out of your holster and I will take your head off.” The bully had never been confronted by such a display of authority and backed down into a whimpering mess. Earp grabbed him by an ear and escorted him out of the business like a disobedient little child. After the bully was confronted and cast out, business returned and flourished.

There has never been a time when a wimpy faith has ever worked to dislodge spiritual bullies. Spiritual bullies are not people or institutions. They are the spirits behind the bullies motivating their behavior. A wimpy faith develops when we allow our faith to become only a devotional expression without ever issuing a challenge to darkness. At some point, we all need to become a spiritual version of Wyatt Earp and walk into the spiritual realm of captive relationships and cultural institutions and with the authority of Jesus Christ, declare the rule of hell is done.

An interesting note of history, Wyatt Earp was still alive in the 1920s when John Wayne was a fledgling actor. Earp was at the time an advisor to the movie industry. Young John Wayne followed Earp around movie sets and developed his screen character by copying the speech and mannerisms of Earp. If you don’t know how to walk into a tense spiritual environment and tell the devil, “Skin that smoke wagon and see what happens!” then you need to find people who live in that reality and learn how to take back the seat of authority the enemy is occupying in your life, your family and your nation. We are living in a time when bold and courageous faith is required to shift captive environments from bondage to freedom.

When our families, our cities and our nation are held hostage by dark agendas we are called to take bold action in the spiritual realm and appear just as aggressive when challenging these spirits as Wyatt Earp depicted in the film Tombstone. God has called the Church to unseat the bullies from their places of spiritual authority to install the rule of God. This is not about slapping people in the natural. It is an aggressive form of prayer that may only be seen in private that decrees an end to hell’s rule. It announces it's time for the bully to get out of his seat and leave town.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lord, Have Mercy

Scripture tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment. We typically think that instruction is for us on how we are to conduct our lives. That is true, but it has another meaning. It is the revelation of how God relates to humanity. In a single moment of time He could destroy all who violate His laws, but instead, He occupies a higher and more powerful position called mercy. His end goal has always been mercy, never judgment. Without mercy none of what He promised can work. That is why He sent Jesus to carry our judgment and to execute His plan of mercy.

God began His relationship with our ancestors in a garden. It was a place of freedom framed within the boundary of obedience. We chose the bondage of sin instead of the freedom offered by God. At that point, we were hopeless to self-redeem without the mercy of God creating a plan of intervention. The only way God could return us to a place of freedom was through the merciful sacrifice of Jesus. The moment the first drop of His blood was shed the Mercy Seat in Heaven was sprinkled with the blood of God and our freedom was once again possible. 

The writer of Hebrews said, “And we have come to Jesus who established a new covenant with his blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat; blood that continues to speak from heaven, “forgiveness,” a better message than Abel’s blood that cries from the earth, “justice” (Hebrews 12:24 TPT).

In our attempt to seek justice in society through acts of judgment as the remedy for humanity’s ills, we miss what God ultimately desires to release on Earth. Mercy is a higher revelation than our attempts at justice.  While it is good to pursue justice and just causes, at some point the real breakthrough will not come by balancing the scales of justice, but by extending mercy to the guilty.

“For I will demonstrate my mercy to them and will forgive their evil deeds, and never remember again their sins”(Hebrews 8:12 NLT).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Critics at the Doorway of Your Future

Your loudest critics have been positioned at the doorway of your future. Many have stalled at this noisy threshold not because they weren't gifted to function in the future. They stalled because they were unable to handle their critics with wisdom and grace. The presence of a critic is an indicator you are about to enter new territory. Press through these critical encounters with integrity and watch what God will accomplish.

A Strange Feeling

This morning, I am waiting at a car dealership to get our car serviced. While waiting, I went to use the restroom. Once inside, I realized the familiar male-oriented fixtures were not present. In the one tenth of a second it took me to realize my error, I flew out of the women’s restroom to find refuge in the men’s room and recapture my manhood.
There was certainly some sense of humor in my wrong choice of restrooms, but it does teach a lesson. It’s important to read signs, especially the signs of the times as noted in Scripture. In our haste to live in an accelerated pace of life we can miss the signs of the times that are in place to serve as a direction, and in some cases, as a warning. Like the feeling I had in the women’s restroom, when we rush past those signs we will end up in a place where something just does not feel right. We have to do something about those feelings because what they are spiritually transmitting to us requires that we engage in a response for our own good and for our spiritual safety.
A lot is going on today in the realm of the Spirit. Some of you need to make a rapid course correction or you will be found in the wrong place at the wrong time. Follow those impressions of the Spirit. They are given to us to keep us safe and free from the consequence of assumption.
P.S. The women’s restroom was thankfully empty. God is good!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Close To Power

I have noticed people like to get close to those in places of power and notoriety hoping that proximity will give them a similar power, leverage or an impression they are somehow on the inside. I know this because like most of you reading these words we have all done this at some point in our life. This has escalated in the age of the selfie. It isn’t just a problem in what we call “the world.” It’s in the Church as well when people who have a visible public ministry platform are promoted and displayed like a product to sell. 

True power and authority do not rub off. It is something we carry as believers. Yes, there are times of impartation, but those are purposeful and usually come with an invitation, not an assumption. 

Years ago, I knew a man who once met the President. In the man’s corporate office was a shrine of sorts with photos of him shaking the President’s hand. There were also letters of thanks from the President and various mementos surrounding his visit to the White House. The only thing missing was some burning incense. 

What was unknown to those who visited the man's corporate office was the fact that thousands of people each year are hustled past the President for a 3-second handshake and a smile while the line of hand-shaking hopefuls snakes well past the captured image. The letter from the White House in the display was a thoughtful gesture, but not as personal as people think. Literally, thousands of these letters are written each month by a team of correspondent secretaries without the President ever knowing what was sent. I got to talk to one of those secretaries when I was in D.C. years ago. It's a nice thought, but not an extension of power. 

Many of us have had times in our lives when we sought an association with someone in power to somehow make us feel more powerful. At some point, hopefully, we became disgusted with our self-promotion and realized we already carry the truest expression of power by the indwelling of the Spirit. That power was given to us the moment we believed before we knew its potential or could, in faith, display its power and authority for the glory of God. 

When we finally come to realize we already carry the power and authority of Heaven we won’t transmit a desperate self-promoting demeanor. In moments of introduction with someone in a position of power, we will display the life of the One we carry in purity. That display of confidence in God will transmit a message to those in positions of authority that we are someone in possession of even greater authority.  These encounters can create a follow-up invitation for a private meeting. Those private meetings will have no photos, selfies or social media advertisements. They take place behind closed doors where the real culture-shaping decisions are made. Walk in your God-given authority. You will be amazed where it will lead.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sacrificial Altars

Sometimes, we make sacrifices on altars that do not exist. We can make a sacrifice when a blessing was God’s actual intent.

Some of us need to be set free from thinking our entire experience with God is a sacrifice. Life does include sacrifice, but Jesus came and made the ultimate sacrifice so we could experience joy—even in our suffering. Jesus was obedient because he saw the joy set before him. This kind of joy is always greater than the pain of sacrifice. 

We can look ahead and think we are called to build altars for a continuous life of sacrifice and not see the places of celebration. Each altar we construct for a personal sacrifice should be followed by an expression of joy dedicated to celebrating the victory of that sacrifice. Jesus went forward toward the Cross because of the joy set before him. 

(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

God's Pretty Girl

On a recent ministry trip, I stayed in a not-so-great motel. It was out in the middle of nowhere. Things didn’t work in the room. The bed sheets looked like they were used the night before by another guest and had not been changed. It is the kind of room where you want to take another shower after getting out of the shower.  I got into the lumpy bed only to have an ancient air conditioner wake me throughout the night as it clanged to life every few minutes to blow tepid air in my face. A restaurant attached to the motel offered a free breakfast to its overnight guests. 

When I walked into the dining room the next morning, I felt impressed to sit in a booth next to the waitress service station away from the other patrons. When my waitress brought me a menu and water, I noticed she had some pronounced physical issues with her face. In fact, she had to repeat her welcome because her ability to speak was impaired. Her entire demeanor spoke of someone who had lived a rough life. 

When the waitress left my table to place my order, the Lord said, “Tell her she’s my pretty girl.” I knew this comment could come across a bit strange so I asked the Lord for the right time and the right words to prepare her to hear what I would say. I now understood why the Lord had me choose a secluded booth.

When the waitress brought my bill, I said, “I am a pastor and a father with a daughter about your age. I want to tell you something the Lord said about you. He said, ‘She's my pretty girl.’”  From the look on her face, I could tell she had not heard those words before. She smiled a beautiful smile and said, “Thank you. That’s very nice.” She then began to share with me about her family and how God was working in their midst. After we talked a few moments longer, she returned to her job. I left a tip and got up from the table, paid my bill and left the restaurant. When I walked out into the parking lot to return to my room I got emotional to the point of choking up with tears of joy. I had just witnessed God touch someone in a beautiful way.

Leading up to that morning in the restaurant, I had been on the road for a few days doing a lot of ministry in different venues and I was tired. Before my encounter with the waitress the whole motel thing was a bust. In that moment of tearful joy, I realized the encounter with the waitress might have been the most important thing I did on the trip. When I walked back into my cruddy motel room it was no longer cruddy. It was filled with the beauty of God’s presence and the lingering image of the smiling face of one of God’s pretty girls.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Prophetic Courage and Integrity

For my prophetic friends, Jan just sent this blessing to me that is part of a book of blessings she is writing. Read this and then listen to what the Lord is saying. When you hear His word, step forward and speak with a boldness and courage forged by integrity and truth. A new prophetic clarity is coming!
Blessing of a Watchman
Isaiah 21:6-10
Isaiah’s response to the vision of Babylon’s downfall is followed by a strong sense of divine revelation: “This is what the Sovereign Lord said to me.” Isaiah’s stance on the “word of the Lord” is to be ours. 
Garris wrote about a “high-definition” version of prophetic insight that God is releasing to accelerate the rate of transformation and reformation. “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.”

In the name of Jesus Christ,
I bless your spirit with high-
definition clarity: 
Listen for what He says to you,
look for what He shows you.
Go! Set a watchman
to declare what you see.
Like Isaiah, may you be a
watchman for the Sovereign Lord: 
Post a lookout.
Without bending to intimidation,
may you respond with resolute
strength, persevering daily
and all the nights.
Wait for His word to be given—
and then reliably speak without
fabrication or falsity:
May you speak with certainty—
without skirting around the truth,
being vague about the truth,
delaying to give the truth,
over-stretching the truth,
or avoiding telling the whole truth.
Tell only what you see and hear—
in order to get the right message
and to get the message right.
I bless you with trustworthiness
and passion to speak His truth in love.
Watch for signs of a fulfilled word
and report what you see.
In the end, the sign will be fulfilled.

It Will Still Pour

My daughter, Anna, was rummaging through some old clothes kept in storage and came across a karate gi (uniform) that I wore as a young 20-something when I trained at the historic  Pacific Judo Academy in San Jose, California under the legendary Sensei, Bill Montero. As a teenager, I was on a fighting team for a different martial art - a Chinese style called Kenpo. This dojo (studio) was Japanese. At the Pacific Judo Academy, I was not in a formal Judo class. I was training in an early version of what we would call today, mixed martial arts – a mixture of Shotokan karate, ju-jitsu, judo, aikido, and bokken stick fighting. 

For a year, it seemed as if I lived in the dojo. I trained for several hours a day on most days of the week. Sensei Montero was a respected man as was the history of his dojo. He was also respected because he had advanced black belts in multiple styles and because he pressed his students to strive for excellence through hard work and lots of sweat.

When I held the old gi in my hand after not seeing it for almost 50 years, I closely examined it. I noticed old sweat stains from my youth and a frayed collar from repeated use. Those images brought back memories of the sounds of falling to the mat after being thrown or throwing someone in a takedown. I heard the sounds of thousands upon thousands of kicks and punches. I recalled the thrusts and strikes I made with my bokken fighting stick. I still have that original bokken. It rests against the wall alongside our bed in our master bedroom.

The frayed collar and stains are a reminder of my investment in time, energy and personal resources. Some of you are like me and my old gi. You are far removed from a season of significant investment of your time, energy and resources. While those investments are somewhere in your distant past, in God’s Kingdom, none of your labor of love is ever lost. It can be recalled when needed. You might have become rusty in its exercise over time, but God has a way of calling something forward in time and having it work in the present. 

I remember the day when I asked Sensei Montero what happens years in the future after people had stopped training. I asked if what we learned would waste away over time. He said, “Martial arts are like a teapot that holds hot tea. Over time, the tea becomes cold, but it can still be poured.” The same is true for the investments of faith you made in your life in seasons past.  When the time comes they will pour out when needed as called forth by the Spirit. With God, nothing we do for Him is ever lost. It is simply stored away for a time in the future when it is needed. At that time, it will pour.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Sometimes We Need To Ask For Help

You may feel disconnected from what you have known and even disconnected from the voice of God. There is a solution to that dilemma. The connection you desire is not always one you can make on your own. At some point in our lives, all of us will need to ask for help.

Yesterday, after a 4-hour drive to Salem, Oregon and after taping two TV programs for Elijah Streams, I was one tired guy. I got to my hotel room after dinner and fell asleep early in the evening. At 3:00 AM, I was awake and decided to start writing, but the Internet access to my room was experiencing a problem, so I called technical support. After 30 minutes of working with a technician, I was finally able to access my online resources.

The man helping me was both patient and professional. Never once did he lose his cool. He kept working with me until a connection was made. At the end of our call, I complimented him. I didn’t let him know he would be the subject of this morning’s word or that his demeanor was so exceptional that it would displace what I had originally planned to write. I thanked him for his professional patience along with several words of personal encouragement and then we parted ways. He went on to help other Internet-challenged people and I went to my computer keyboard to write these words.

Disconnection is not just a problem with the Internet. It happens in friendships, marriages, between parents and children and in crowded church sanctuaries. It can also happen in our relationship with God. If you are feeling disconnected on any level you need to tell someone and ask for help. Being alone and disconnected will leave you out of the stream of your calling and in a worst-case scenario, in a place of emotional and spiritual vulnerability. 

What made the technician so remarkable was his professionalism seasoned with patience.  He never once became irritated when I asked questions during our phone call. He simply helped me reconnect. There are people in our communities of faith, like the technician, who are ready to help us make a connection in whatever manner of disconnect we might be experiencing. This word is coming to you because I sought someone's help for a non-spiritual issue, but the principle is the same. The connection we want so desperately is many times waiting for us on the other side of our willingness to ask for help. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Walking Across Impossibility

This morning, Jan shared a dream with me she had last night. In the dream, we were running and laughing with joy across a frozen lake. As soon as Jan finished describing the dream, I saw something in the Spirit. 

Some of you are facing an impossible obstacle. It is a crossing you know you cannot make in your natural strength or by human reasoning. It's like you are standing on the shore of a huge lake with no way to cross to the other side. You need a miracle. The enemy wants to immobilize your faith to get you to believe there is no way across. The plan of darkness has been lying to you telling you that your life will be forever marooned on this shoreline of disappointment. 

In the next moment, I saw the lake begin to freeze. God was immobilizing the evil plan set against you. When the freezing began, you decided to take your first step out onto the frozen lake surface to see if what was taking place was real. As soon as you took your first step, you took another, and another and then you began to run with joy. You were laughing, skipping and skating across the frozen plans of the enemy no longer worried if you would make it to the other side. The passage was as much fun as knowing you would make it across. 

There is a time coming when you will dance, skip and laugh upon the plans of hell. In that moment you will stand upon a dark and fearful plan of hell as a living testimony of God's faithfulness. All things, including all powers and principalities and their authority, are under the feet of Jesus and because you are seated with Him at this very moment in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, all things are under your feet as well. God is making a way for you to walk across the impossibility you are facing and you will make the crossing with joy.

“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Transformed Under the Weight of Suffering

Yesterday, I received an early Father’s Day gift from my daughter, Anna. It was a mortar and pestle from Bali. Since I enjoy cooking this gift really blessed me. In the bowl of the mortar shown in the photograph are the herbs, garlic cloves and olive oil that I would soon crush to make a marinade for the baked cod fillets we were having for lunch. Crushing the herbs took the flavor profile of the meal to the next level. The fragrance of the crushed herbs filled our kitchen and sparked our appetites.

As I looked at the ingredients sitting in the mortar bowl waiting to be crushed, I thought of our lives and how in certain seasons it feels like we have spent time on the receiving end of an emotional stone pestle. We want to keep things in our lives tidy, separate and unchanged, but there are times when parts of our life will get crushed without our permission under the weight of suffering. In some instances, our lives are changed beyond recognition in comparison to what was previously known.  There are hidden blessings waiting to be discovered in these crushing times if we choose to see them.

God can turn our crushing seasons into something beautiful that will result in a deeper union with His heart. Crushing has the potential to transform the fragrance and flavor of our lives into something wonderfully unexpected, just like the herbs and oil formed a marinade that transformed an otherwise normal meal into something extraordinary. In these experiences, the witness of our life will become like the fragrance of the crushed herbs that filled our kitchen with expectancy. That witness will announce to others that an exquisite meal of a shared fellowship with the sufferings of Christ is always available to us on the other side of a crushing season if we choose to look to Him and not the suffering to find our answers. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Revival in Venezuela

The revival in Venezuela continues to surge. This photo was posted on Facebook by Glenn Burris, President of the Foursquare Church. Glenn shared the church shown in the photo has grown to over 6,000 people. Churches all across Venezuela are experiencing a fresh move of God's Spirit because they are finding their only hope in a time of despair is in the person of Jesus Christ. Only God can turn despair into hope.