Monday, September 16, 2019

The Fruitfulness of Your Future

Atop our kitchen counter, I saw fruit marking the end of one season and the beginning of something new. The peaches in the photo were the last in the final harvest from our favorite orchardist. We grew the grapes in our backyard. The peaches were harvested at the end of summer. The grapes mark the beginning of the fall grape harvest when new wine is produced. Each fruit matured in a different season.

When I passed by our kitchen counter and saw the fruit, the Lord spoke to me about the time of transition between seasons. The Lord said, “Eat the fruit in its season.”  It was a short message with a longer interpretation. 

Every season and each assignment from God will bear a unique fruitfulness within an appointed season. We don’t have to be like the Israelites in the wilderness who, out of a fear of lack, gathered too much manna and it spoiled. Their fear revealed their lack of trust in God regarding their future provision. God's fruit appears and matures under His timetable. There is no need to ever hold on to the fruit of a previous season. God will always bear new fruit on faithful branches.

Eat the goodness of this season. It has an expiration date, not because it will spoil like the manna. It expires because more fruitfulness is planned for the new season you are about to enter. God delights in revealing the sweet fruit He has planned for your future. Do not allow a fear of lack to influence what you hold or release. This is a time to believe that the branches of your future will hang heavy under the weight of the fruit God plans to reveal. Eat the fruit of this season with joy and live in expectancy of what is to come. 



Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mystery and Wonder

In your transition, leave room for mystery and wonder. This is a spiritual endeavor, not a business plan. 
Religion is mankind’s attempt to codify God and have him all figured out. Man-made religion is devoid of the mystery and wonder that exists when we relate to the eternal God. He is so large that we will need all of eternity to explore his depths. 
Whenever we lack a sense of mystery and wonder, we find ourselves attempting to control every aspect of the process and its outcome. Human control drains wonder and mystery from the process. 
God wants to amaze you. God wants you to worship in wonder and awe when other people think you should live in fear. Your journey is a spiritual journey. See it from that perspective, and you will live in a sense of awe at what God will do in and through your life. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Look

Have you ever noticed the image of celebrities when they are arrested for drugs or drunk driving, and their booking photograph is posted online for the world to see? They don’t look the same. In the pre-arrest publicity photos, they are well-coiffed and dressed in the latest styles. Their booking photo captures them raw, rude and undone. Any of us can look rough if caught and undone by our sin. Unredeemed guilt and shame can radically alter our appearance.

The photo I included in this writing is of me at age 26. I was an undercover narcotics cop getting ready to go through the hiring process at a large corporation in Silicon Valley in an attempt to arrest two drug dealers. I had an untraceable driver's license using my undercover identity issued by the State of California.

Just before I got the assignment, my supervisor asked me to cut off my beard and trim my hair. The booking photo of me “cleaned up” was actually a real-life booking photo with a dummied up arrest record so when the bad guys checked me out in the corporate office, my story would hold. I had to clean up to get past the personnel department regulations on personal appearance. Before the photo, I looked like a drugged up biker. Only a single corporate vice president in the corporation knew of my assignment. At the time, I was a very backslidden believer. It was a dark time in my life. You can see it in in the blank and lifeless stare in my eyes.

The blank stare is what I had in common with others caught in a moment of deep brokenness. There was no difference between my eyes and the eyes of a failed celebrity, a local meth addict, or someone caught in gross sin. The eyes tell the story. Ever since that fake booking photo was taken and seeing what my eyes looked like whenever I see a real booking photo of someone caught in a broken moment, the compassion of God rises up in my heart.

It doesn’t have to be a booking photo. It can be someone walking by me on the street and seeing that blank look in their eyes. I see those same eyes sitting alone in the audience of churches and conferences where I speak. The eyes tell a story of hopelessness. Of no way out. The ones who carry that stare feel like they have messed things up so badly they are trapped in their failure with no way out. The eyes reveal the sorrow of their soul. 

The only thing that can change that blank stare is hope – a hope that comes when a lost soul hears the words, “You are forgiven.” When those words are spoken dead hearts start to beat, and blank eyes begin to refocus on the possibility of a new reality. Hope is our mission.

“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven” (John 20: 21-23).

Friday, September 13, 2019

Passing Moments

Significant moments float upon
life’s constant breeze wafting
by our faces in silent disguise. 
They are suspended in their passing
 waiting to be recognized, 
to be captured, to be held,
 taken in by discerning hearts.
Turn your face 
into the Spirit’s wind, waiting
for the next moment
to pass by.
In its passing is carried 
destiny, delight, and discovery 
of things unimagined 
until captured by faith, 
and taken to heart.

Micro Sabbath Moments

Last week, I pulled into the parking lot of a local supermarket to do some grocery shopping. When I entered the parking lot, the song “What A Wonderful World” came on the radio. It was a very tasteful jazz rendition of Louis Armstrong’s classic song. I had a to-do list tugging on my time yet felt compelled to sit in my car in the parking to slow down and listen to the song. As I sat there, a deepening peace came over me with each note being played, and with each word the artist sang. In fact, at points in the song, I felt emotions rise into my consciousness traveling past the demands of my to-do list and my daily schedule. I was being emotionally washed in the pause. After the song ended, I let out a long sigh, got out of my car, and entered the store.

As I pushed my shopping cart through the store aisles, I processed the song, the pause, and my reaction with the Lord. He began to share with me another component of a Sabbath lifestyle. Jan and I have come to believe the Sabbath concept is a 24/7 way of thinking and living that is missing in so many lives. Sabbath is not something we calendar. It is something we carry. It is living and ministering out of rest. 

Walking through the supermarket, I realized how important it is for each of us to experience Sabbath moments throughout the day. I call them Micro Sabbaths. These are the moments when we sense the Spirit asking us to stay in our car and linger with Him just a little longer listening to a beautiful song. It’s stopping along a sidewalk and looking up from the cement at a beautiful sunset being painted across the canvas of an evening sky. It is lingering in an embrace with someone you love without hurrying the release.

Today, as you go about your life, become aware of what God is revealing in each moment of the day.  We can miss these moments when we think spirituality is always about moving and doing, not resting and being. The moment you encounter may be a sound, an image, or a feeling you pushed aside as you continued to move forward toward a goal. Follow these impressions. They will lead you to a place where the pause has an assignment to release a refreshing peace in your soul. That moment will become a place of visitation and revelation that would have been missed had you not taken advantage of a Micro Sabbath.



Thursday, September 12, 2019

Louisiana - The Fire of God is Coming

Jan and I take communion every day. We pray for our family, friends, and our marriage. During communion, we remember God’s faithfulness in all things. We use a small thimble-sized brass goblet from Israel to serve the wine and matzo crackers for our bread. When we receive communion, we break the matzo crackers and serve each other.

After breaking the cracker today, it came out resembling the shape of Louisiana. I know to some that might be a reach, but the Lord drew my attention to the shape of the cracker to tell me something. As I held the Louisiana-shaped cracker, I noticed the top was burned as were several spots moving from top to bottom. The Lord began to speak to me about the fire of His presence being released in the state of Louisiana moving from the north to the south. 

I pulled up a map of Louisiana and the surrounding states. Looking at the map, I saw this fire of God coming to the northern border of Louisiana as a converging point from fires already burning in adjoining states and cities. These fires were all burning toward the northern border of Louisiana to then turn and begin a journey south.

I saw the fire of God coming from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to the west, from Memphis and a small town in Arkansas that is experiencing the beginning of a visitation of God’s presence. Mississippi to the east will add flames to the fire. Once the fire arrives, it will cross the border and move south inflaming Shreveport, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, and finally New Orleans. The surrounding cities of these metropolitan areas will also ignite for the glory of God. 

Louisiana, keep your spiritual tinder dry. The fire of God's presence is coming. Your dry tinder will allow something new to ignite and burn in your state. This will not be like anything in the past.  This is a new fire, so new it might cause some of you to ask God if it really is a work of His Spirit. Expecting something familiar will limit how God will steer this burning. It could actually stall the fire and turn it in another direction. Only expect God, nothing else. God is coming to burn up religious spirits, pride, and fear-based theologies. 

Louisiana, look to the north. The approaching fires of revival and reformation are staging at your northern border. The fire is coming. Prepare your tinder.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Going Tactical

When the first jet struck the Twin Towers 18 years ago today, I stood stunned as I watched the attack unfold. After the second jet hit the second tower, something paid a visit to my life that had been virtually dormant for 24 years. When the attack took place, it had been over two decades since I last donned my SWAT uniform, carried a weapon, and stepped into places of danger. At the moment I realized our nation was under attack, I went tactical once again.

I remember walking into our bedroom and assembling my kit. A kit contains the gear a SWAT cop or a Special Ops person carries into combat. It was as if no time had passed. My training and preparation were silently guiding me as I continued to listen to the unfolding newscast while assembling my gear atop the bed in our master bedroom. Like most Americans, I did not know what was coming next. Whatever was coming, I would be ready. Once my gear was together, I recall the shift that took place that morning in my thinking. I awakened to a new reality most of the world lives in on a daily basis outside the insulated suburban bubble where I was pastoring.

Today, on this sad anniversary of 9/11, I am still tactical both physically and more importantly, spiritually. In our culture, I see a lot of huffing, and puffing bravado tossed around by people who have never stepped into harm’s way. Along with the bravado is the polar opposite. It is a version of spirituality that lives in a dream world of an untested faith fueled by a misunderstanding of what Jesus meant when He said to turn the other cheek. This is the same Jesus who allowed Peter to carry a sword and the same Jesus turned over tables in the temple. Jesus meek and mild never existed. The Jesus of that illusion will get people killed both physically and spiritually.

While advancing age and circumstance may alter our ability to perform at our peak in the natural, our ability to be spiritually tactical never wanes. So I want to ask, have you assembled your spiritual tactical kit? What’s in it? Do you know how to use it? If something dark and disastrous were to spiritually assault your life or the lives of your loved ones, are you ready to do battle in the spiritual realm? Is your faith tactical?

As a culture, we are entering unfamiliar waters where the spiritual conflict will unfold in ways many have not experienced. This is not a place for the huffers and puffers or those who live in a spiritual la-la land. Life can be gritty and dangerous. When the light of truth displaces the darkness of deception and when hope displaces despair hell will come at us to bring its challenge. Being forewarned and forearmed will help us survive and overcome anything hell tries to throw at us - even a surprise attack on a peaceful morning.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”(II Corinthians 10:4).

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Night Before Disaster

On this night 18 years ago, we all went to bed unaware of what would take place the next morning in New York. The only ones aware were the terrorists. We never know what tomorrow will bring. Tonight, pick up your phone or go to your keyboard and tell someone you love them. If something in your life is not right, make it right before sleep takes you into the night. Like all disasters in life, they come unannounced and without warning. Keeping our life-slate as clean as possible will keep us free from the cold and sorrowful embrace of regret.

The Ultimate Futility of Social Censorship

The sound of our voice can never be silenced if the sound we are making is truth spoken in love. When attempts to muzzle truth have taken place in human history, the truth those voices carried always seemed to get louder under restriction. The sound of truth has the ability to move through and around the obstacles placed in its path. Truth will always find its audience.

In the last year, I have read of individual accounts being blocked or censored on various social media platforms. Algorithms have been created to steer our Internet inquiry toward specific online resources in an attempt to focus our attention on a narrow slice of reality. I can understand some of this if a person is conducting illegal business or threatening to harm another person. But some of the recent efforts by those who control social media is an attempt to silence opposing voices and limit our access to their content. It has become worldview censorship and a mechanism to steer social awareness.

This is not limited to silencing the voice of the Church. It is an effort to silence truth no matter where it resides across the social spectrum. As these attempts to silence the voice of truth and reason become more prevalent and widespread, we will see the hand of God at work in remarkable ways. There is coming a supernatural increase in both the volume and breadth of righteous voices as they come under prohibition. 

We have come to rely on social media as a primary form of research and communication. It is convenient, immediate, and global.  While social media is all of those things, it is not supernatural. Only God is supernatural. He will reveal the hidden channels of communication He has prepared for this moment in our history. They will appear when He wants to make His voice heard. God will not be mocked, neither will His voice be silenced.




Monday, September 9, 2019

Connecting

Together, we exchange
passing glances, slyly
smiling at the possibilities.
We brush shoulders, 
press our lips upon sweet necks,
hold hands in the spur 
of a moment,
no matter time or place
or who may be watching.
Each of these speaks 
of a love connecting and reconnecting,
again and again
over a lifetime.
Perhaps this is an evidence
of love that endures,
this desire to connect
to stay connected
to keep touching, pressing together
over time,
through all the seasons
no matter what comes 
our way to get in the way
of each other.



Can You See Me?

Everyone goes through seasons of life where their maturity is being developed. In those stumbling seasons, when our immaturity was glaringly obvious, someone made a judgment call on our life. Years could have passed, and they still see us the way we were in days gone by. Their judgment blinded their eyes from seeing the new person we became in the intervening years.

Maybe this has happened to you. In the passing of time, you may have gone through a substantial transformation and in some cases, several transformations. You are now a completely different person with new insight and anointing. You know you have changed, but some people are still unable to see or receive the new you.

When you meet those who judged you in the past, and they still cannot see the fruit of your transformation and continue to talk to you like they are talking to the old you, this is your chance to move forward into new spiritual territory with a new level of spiritual authority and maturity. These moments are integrity checks. To pass these checkpoints, you will need to extend to those who cannot see the real you the same mercy you desired when you experienced the first volley of their judgment and condemnation. Pass these tests, and you will find yourself standing in a place of spiritual authority only available to those who can move past defensiveness and step forward in mercy.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Valuable Lessons

We can learn some of our most valuable lessons from leaders who show us what we do not want to become. Not all wisdom comes from positive examples. 
We can think the most valuable lessons are learned from the most honorable leaders. These faithful leaders do have much to teach us. There are, however, lessons to learn from those who have failed. From their failure, we can learn what not to do. Failure can be a powerful teacher if we allow God to have access to those places in our hearts where the failure was birthed. 
The life of a leader in transition might anger you. Maybe what you see is wrong morally or ethically. Or maybe it is just a personal preference. You feel that if you were the leader, you would have done things differently. 
In the meantime, what are your options? You can be offended and retreat into a place of judgment, or you can be offended and ask God to show you where in your own heart the same sin is possible or even in operation. In that invitation, you will begin to discover humility. Mercy will begin to flow toward those you had previously judged. Mercy and humility help us deal with our lack of love, and they act as a safeguard to protect us from going down the same road.  
(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Spiritual Pendulums

A pendulum is constantly swinging back and forth between opinions as the Church tries to navigate through the extremes of theological interpretation. Don’t try to follow the path of the pendulum. If you do, you will become spiritually dizzy and unfocused. Pendulums will never cease to swing in this life. Follow the Lord with your eyes and heart. That is the only place where equilibrium is promised.

Crossing a Spiritual No Man's Land

I try to recognize the repetitive things I notice throughout the day to see if God is trying to get my attention. In the last few days, I have seen the word “dichotomy” in print, once on someone’s Facebook post and once on a delivery box. After these notices, I got that familiar nudge from the Spirit, asking me to pursue a deeper meaning.

A quick dictionary search reveals the word dichotomy to mean, “a division or contrast between two things that are opposed or entirely different." Another definition states, “a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups.”

God does His greatest work in places where the most strident dichotomy exists. After all, He is the Redeemer of humanity. He brought together His love and our unredeemed lives, and as a result of that union, He now calls us His beloved. God's act of redemption crossed the widest separation and joined two opposing relationships demonstrating for us what love looks like. God's love has the goal to bring together what was once considered mutually exclusive or contradictory individuals or groups. This coming together of opposing forces becomes a testimony that God's redemptive love is at work in humanity.

We have become expert at holding separated positions we define as sacred at the expense of something greater that God wants to accomplish. These invitations to cross a dichotomy is not about compromise. It is about revealing the love of God in what many think are impossible situations to redeem. It is stepping out into a place where only a redeemed mind can walk.

Today, I saw a quote someone posted from Anne Lamott, "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people (or political persuasions) you do." In essence, the evidence that we have created a god in our image is that he will hate the same people we hate and divide us from the very people we need to reach across the cultural aisle to embrace in love.

The division we see in our culture and within the Church is a lesser way of living defined and empowered by our strident dichotomies. I’m not talking about redefining the unchanging nature of God or replacing Jesus as the Redeemer of humanity or importance of truth. I am referring to our strident political and social dichotomies that have produced a cultural and spiritual no man’s marked by the trenches of our preferred dichotomy. People are afraid to cross these divides for fear they might lose their faith. If our faith is so fragile it cannot cross a dichotomy for a work of redemption and remain intact; it is not the same faith offered by Jesus. He modeled a courageous faith in Scripture where we see Him regularly stepping up and out of religious trenches and crossing the dichotomies of his day to reveal to the world the heart of God and the power of redeeming love.  

Friday, September 6, 2019

Future Predictions

We can too easily believe predictions that align with our predisposition or bias on a particular subject. I saw it just this week where a news commentator was predicting the outcome of the next presidential election. I’ve seen it in the predictions made concerning a child’s future success, whether a marriage would last or the direction of the housing market. Pick something, and there will be a prediction attached. This is how oddsmakers in Las Vegas stay in business.

When we allow a predisposition or bias to create a prediction about the future of a person or circumstance, we can miss hearing the voice of God because we are busy slavishly following our prediction. Once our thinking is aligned in such a way, we will gather people of like mind around us, and together focus all our energy and resources on the future outcome of our shared prediction. 

More than any time in my life, I see the need for independent thinkers – people who are willing to break away from groupthink, especially within the Church. Independent revelatory thinking is formed by revelation from the Spirit of God, not from human logic or fear about the future. Without this prophetic insight, our minds will follow the fearful herd, and together we will move blindly through life led only by natural insight. 

To make a conscious choice to not believe the predictions offered in the public square or within the halls of faith takes courage. It may cost you a relationship or a membership. It may cost you the reputation you currently have that was created within a group where you shared a common prediction. While you process your unsettled feelings about a prediction, you might even utter words to the group that will cause them concern about your loyalty to the cause,  “I don’t know. I am rethinking the issue.” Each one of us will have to make the choice of which predictive voice we will follow. Only one voice is God’s.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Character Above Gifting

Everyone has a gift. To say someone is “really gifted” is a statement of preference.  It simply says we value and might even prefer a particular gift and its function. We like gifts so much we take tests to determine what gifts we might possess. They are popular, fun, and informative. Some have devoted their lives to help us discover our unique gifts. It’s become a ministry of the Church and in some cases, an industry. I haven't seen any character tests. Most of those are conducted in private when no one is looking or listening.

Having served in the Church for the last 40 years, I have noticed something. It’s not the results of a gift-assessment test that guarantees we will leave behind a significant legacy. I have found it was the depth of a person’s character that enabled them to leave behind a legacy of significance. 

The depth of our character developed in a painful maturing process is what gives our particular gift its long term influence and fruitfulness. It is not wise, nor is it healthy to ever promote gifting above character. It is a fatal flaw, and many have succumbed to its lure, both the holder of the gift and the recipients who follow the ministry of a gifted person. 

Our character, not our gift is what needs nurturing. After all, a gift is given to us by the grace of God. It is a grace gift, not one we can work to produce. We can develop the qualities of a gift and the way it is delivered, but it still remains a tool graciously handed to us by God. It is only effective when carried by character and empowered by the Spirit. For a season we can function in a gift with amazing results with a deficient character, but at some point, that charade will no longer work. The development and wholeness of our gift can only thrive atop the stable platform of a healthy and whole character – a character developed while living in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Tacos, Jan and Willie

Eating tacos in a converted gas station 
that’s now pumping out Mexican fare.
Listening to Willie Nelson playing in the background.
Wearing old jeans and worn boots.
It’s an easy space and time.
My lady sits across the table, smiling back at me.
She’s sending a message without words.
Dreams move aside as the moment takes center stage.
This is the purest salsa,
the finest of flavor.
It's the taste 
of simple times,
of lasting memories
of tacos, Jan and Willie.

Spiritual Eruptions

Church history is formed over time and can appear like a glacier moving at a speed imperceptible to the natural eye. In these glacial-like seasons, some have given up hope and allowed human opinion to form a worldview in conflict with truth.  At other moments in our developing history, unexpected eruptions will take in the culture and within the Church. These eruptions can appear like a volcano exploding violently and unexpectedly, radically changing the spiritual and cultural landscape. 

We are coming out of a glacial season. Eruptions are about to take place that will release a spiritual pressure that has been building up over time. When this spiritual volcano erupts emotional debris will be thrown into the air, and the molten lava of God’s presence will move down the slopes of our theology clearing away any misunderstanding of His heart and purpose for the world. 

The only way to prepare for this coming eruption is to wisely monitor the condition of our hearts. Unrighteous judgments, a misunderstanding of God’s love or any human attempt to form God into an idol of our own making will be burned away in the explosion of God’s presence. 

We can become like an old mountain lying dormant encrusted with spiritual cynicism and disbelief. God wants to change the landscape of our faith. That change is nothing to fear. His eruptions are eruptions of love. They have a mission to alter our acceptance of the status quo as our forever reality. God's eruptions will clear away the old and make way for something new.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Confronting a Religious Spirit

If you want to know what a religious spirit looks like remove its ability to punish someone. At the moment of disempowerment, when the religious spirit stands before you naked and exposed without the trappings of its deceptive camouflage and language, it will turn and come after you. This happened to Jesus, and it will happen to anyone who dares to confront its evil. Speaking the truth in love is not for the faint of heart or the weak of faith. It is the evidence of someone who is willing to follow the leading of God’s Spirit no matter where that leading may take them.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Seeing Our Addictions

Whenever we choose to rest, we will discover our addictions. Rest from anything is the cessation of the effort required to maintain the presence of deception. That effort can be the unhealthy pursuit of power or prestige, eating to ease emotional pain, a life of constant busyness, substance abuse, or sexual bondage. These issues want to occupy our time, energy, and resources.  This occupation takes place because they constantly require our attention to cover our painful reality with a false sense of wellbeing. They help us mask and ignore the deeper unresolved issues in our life. 

Fasting is an expression of rest. It is more than not eating food. It is saying no to anything for a season to discover its importance and place in our life.  When we say no to something, we do it with a mission in mind of finding out if we can live at peace without its presence and effect. The danger of an unchallenged addiction is its ability to ultimately supplant the voice of God in our lives. 

From time to time, we need to review our assumptions by choosing to enter a season of fasting from their influence. In the fast, God may lovingly point out something that has kept us from hearing His truth. Once we understand the deeper truth of God in a particular area of our life, we will be able to establish that truth as our reality in the place of our addiction. When that exchange is made, a deep soul-satisfaction will come because the numbing presence of a lie will no longer hold a place of power and persuasion in our life.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Feeling Used

At some point, you might feel used or even manipulated as you help someone else make a transition. 
Planned transitions can take on a life of their own. Once plans get rolling, they can feel like a freight train running ahead at full steam. You either get on board or get out of the way. The process can feel pushy to those called to serve its ultimate goal. 
We are called to serve one another. The only healthy way you can navigate this season is to put to death your ability to be offended. Offense is something you choose to pick up. Don’t do it. People will see your negative attitude and how you hold yourself back when you should be pressing in. 
You can never be manipulated if you have a servant’s heart. Servants anticipate the needs of those they serve. They are too busy serving in love to be sidetracked by self- interest. Press in and God will do a wonderful work in your heart, and you will be a blessing to others. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)