Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Language of Revival

Wallace Henley, a revival historian, shared an interesting note about the Welsh Revival of 1904-5. Henley wrote, “The transformation was so profound and so personal that the mules pulling the coal out of Welsh mines had to be retrained. They only knew the foul curses by which the miners drove them. But the converted miners quit cursing, and even the animals had to learn a new language.”

God wants the evidence of His presence in our lives to break out of our meetings and move into the streets. We love to fill up what I call our three C’s – conferences, coliseums, and churches. While it is wonderful to see and experience a full venue, it will do little to steer the course of culture toward a flourishing future if these remain as standalone events. Our gatherings will cease being isolated events only when they are purposefully connected by vision and mission to the Great Commission of Matthew 28, calling us to disciple nations.

We will know our faith has broken out of the orbital pull of attending just another meeting when from the depths of a coal mine, or behind the closed doors of a backroom political deal, or around the table of a corporate board meeting, the sound of personal integrity is expressed with the language of a different Kingdom. The evidence of these transformations will be so profound those involved will have to learn a new way of speaking to conduct business because the old language no longer communicates the content of their heart. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Turning the Cultural Tide

At some point, each of us may be called to resist the downward slide of society toward further manifestations of insanity by saying no and standing immovable in our convictions. This kind of courage has been the hallmark of freedom, both politically and spiritually, throughout history. A single act of courageous resistance can begin to turn the tide of culture toward a righteous outcome.

Our Sacred Trust

Just because a journey begins with excitement and hope that is not a guarantee that it will end as such. Only God remains unchangeable. Every human being and cultural institution is subject to decay if not living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Only God’s Kingdom remains secure because God is the one ruling. From time to time, we need to reposition our hope not in the outcome of the next election, an upturn in the stock market, or a season where we are experiencing some level of personal success. All of these things are fleeting and foolish places to place our sacred trust.

A Moment in Time from The Jesus Movement

A request was sent out over social media by Wheaton College requesting stories from anyone involved in the Jesus Movement. Wheaton is conducting a research project about that time in history. I copied a chapter from my book, The Prophetic Voice, and sent it to the researchers for their review. It is about the first encounter I had with someone speaking in tongues over me during a conference a Bethel Bible College in Scotts Valley, California. I believe the interpretation of that prayer has been used by God to bring me to this current season in my life.

**************************

DECLARING THE MYSTERIES OF HEAVEN

As a nineteen-year-old in the middle of the Jesus Movement, I was like so many other young people of that era: we were all searching for something.

The summer of 1969 was an unusual time in the culture of the United States. Everything was changing. God was reaching out and touching thousands of young men and women, and I was one of them.

I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time. I couldn’t get enough of the Bible and fellowship. I attended Bible studies in coffee houses and church services at places like the Peninsula Bible Church. I sat with hundreds of other young people in standing room only crowds listening to Ray Stedman preach. One of these journeys took me to Bethany Bible College in Scotts Valley, California. Bethany was hosting a conference open to the public. A friend and I got into my VW bug and made the drive to Scotts Valley from my home in Los Gatos.

When we stepped into the auditorium, it was packed wall to wall. Young people with long hair and sandals stood around the perimeter of the main seating area. We found an available place to stand in the very back of the auditorium.
I grew up in a very conservative church. I had never experienced the Holy Spirit moving during worship in the ways I was seeing. It was strange and uncomfortable, but it was also right and good. Despite the strangeness, nothing was out of order. For the first time in my life, I felt the manifest presence of God being welcomed in a public gathering. I was drawn to this new and unfamiliar work of the Spirit.

The people conducting the service sat in rows of chairs on the platform. I don’t recall who they were, but they looked important to my nineteen-year-old self.

About halfway through worship, one of the men sitting on the platform raised his head and looked out past the platform lighting and across the audience. I watched him as he scanned the crowd. He stopped and looked in our direction. I thought nothing of it, thinking he could be looking at a hundred other people who were standing along the back wall.

I watched as the man stood from his chair and walked through the worship team and down onto the main floor. He began walking in my direction. It was still impossible to think he was walking toward me, but he continued in my direction until it became more and more obvious that he was. When he was about ten feet away, he locked eyes with mine as he closed the remaining steps between us.

The man looked to be in his late seventies. He was wearing a suit and tie and carried a blend of authority and gentleness. He came and stood directly in front of me. Then he did something that made me really uncomfortable. He put his arms on my shoulders and pulled me close. He began to speak into my ear in a language I had never heard before. I would later come to know this heavenly language of the Spirit in a very personal way. On that day, the foreign language the man spoke into my ear was as strange as the meeting that was taking place.

The man only spoke briefly. He then pulled away and looked into my eyes for another second, turned, and made his way back to the front. I knew something holy had just taken place, but I was not sure what it was. At the close of the meeting later that evening, I drove back to my parent’s home in Los Gatos, still pondering what had taken place.

I parked that experience in the back of my mind and forgot about it. Ten years later, Jesus would visit me in the middle of the night, supernaturally transforming my life forever. Within weeks of that visit, the Lord took me back to that time when I was nineteen and attending the conference at Bethany. The Lord said, “I am bringing the interpretation of the words the man spoke into your ear. Your life will be a living interpretation of what was spoken to you that day by my Spirit.”

These experiences are mysterious. We can forget we are interacting with the God of Heaven who spoke galaxies into existence by just a word. Much of what God does remains in the realm of mystery until we find ourselves living out a new reality we never imagined was possible.

When the elderly man made his way toward me, he did not have the full picture of what would take place in my life. He was simply responding to the Spirit. When he prayed by the unction of the Holy Spirit in his spiritual language, he did not know what he was saying. He did not give me the interpretation. Like the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 14:14: For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying. Like Paul, the man who prayed into my ear only knew he was praying a message from the Holy Spirit.

You will need to become comfortable with the mysterious part of prophetic ministry. Much of prophecy is straightforward and simple to understand, but it will carry a dimension of mystery you want to leave alone and not try to explain. God is the only one who can accurately unpack the mysteries of Heaven.

Remain open to the nudges of the Spirit. Like the elderly gentleman, you will sometimes go to a person being highlighted—maybe someone you have never met before. Speak what the Spirit gives you and trust Him with the outcome. As you release the mysterious and wonderful words of the Spirit, they will help direct the course of someone in ways you could never have imagined. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Recalling History

My grandfather riding
home in a horse-drawn buggy
one sunny afternoon
when, as a young boy, 
saw a man swinging from
makeshift tree gallows 
in the fall of 1889.

My father, born at night
in a sod house in ‘08
on the Oklahoma plains
west of Guymon. 
Horse and buggy hitched up
outside, waiting, just in case
granddad needed to fetch a doctor
for my grandmother’s labor. 

Family on my mother’s side ran
into their house one night, in fear. 
A “machine" seen for the first time trundled 
down Chicken Row 
headlights flashing in the distance, approaching
the family farm outside
Quitman, East Texas.
That first generation of automobile, 
a spacecraft occupied by
alien lifeforms of modernity.

Each family carries similar
histories, revealed if explored, 
oral transmissions of life-legacies 
from another time.
Our own history now developing, 
familiar to us, will be viewed 
someday in a distant future recalling
days long past, distant vapors
of history and experience.

We are living our moments
to be recalled ahead of us,
stories heard by future hearers
as strange to them as 
a man swinging on a rope, 
sod houses and horse-drawn buggies, 
machines riding through 
an East Texas summer night,
headlights bouncing along a dirt road.

Available To God

Jesus loved people, but there were times when he needed to get away to process life alone with the Father. Some answers only come in times of separation. The deeper you get into this transition, the more you will need to make yourself available to God. 
When Moses went to the mountaintop, he was enveloped in the cloud of God’s presence. We are told the people heard him talking to God, and they were able to trust him because of that dialogue. People trust us more when they know we have been with God. 
Look again at your schedule. Make room for time away with God so he can make those subtle adjustments with you when he has your undivided attention. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Dusty Gravel Roads

You were moving forward untroubled and at peace on a long road of smooth pavement. All of a sudden, you entered a rough gravel stretch. It’s raw, noisy, and uncomfortable. Slow down and steady your grip on the wheel. Smooth pavement is returning in just a few more miles. Don’t let the gravel road experience throw you. It’s only a challenging section of road on your life journey. You are still moving forward. Soon, the cloud of dusty memories will be seen in your rearview mirror when you finally hit the smooth pavement once again.

The Gritty Side of Life

When I am in the mood for the gritty side of life – the side of life that is unvarnished, real and gutsy, I set my Pandora app to the music of Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Kathy Mattea, and others who sing from the soul. These artists create songs about people living in the margins of life where pain and loss are real and in your face. This margin place is where Jesus did some of His best work with those rejected and marginalized by the religious establishment. 

Those trapped in a religious spirit cannot go there because they think they will be stained by something their religious detergent can’t scrub off. To sing or express how we really feel about a life-struggle is evidence for them that our faith is somehow in jeopardy. It doesn’t take much Bible reading to discover this sound expressed in David’s psalms or the life of Job and others.

Our spirituality is the healthiest when it looks freshly sanded and rough, not smooth, varnished, and all together. Somewhere in this gritty side of life, hope must be present, or our song will become just another hopeless dirge. Hope is expressed in its clearest form when heard in the deep and painful trough of life’s margins. It is there where our best music is played because our songs of hope have become the most distinct and beautiful when sung in a place of despair.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Fire of God is Announcing a Change of Seasons

When the fire of God’s Spirit begins to burn to announce a new season, the first response by those not aware of how the Spirit works might be less than joyful. In fact, some may consider it distasteful and even unpleasant, but there is a reason for that response.

This morning, I turned on our gas stove for the first time. It is a stove that looks like a log burning stove except that it runs on gas. It happens each fall, a musty, kind of funky smell fills the room the first hour of burning after several months of inactivity. The smell comes because of dust that gets in the stove’s system over the summer and is burned off with the first fire of fall.

As believers, we can accumulate the dust of spiritual inactivity when we live for long seasons of time without a personal encounter with God’s Spirit. These encounters heat up our life, relationships, and the environment in which we live.  The accumulated dust of our inactivity can create an unpleasant disruption and reaction until the Spirit can fully have His way in those situations. 

Don’t run when the Spirit's fire begins to burn. Stay put until the Lord says otherwise. Choose to look beyond what is taking place in the natural realm. When the fire comes, it will burn away the inactivity of the previous season, preparing us for something new, warm, and inviting. This will be our announcement that a new season has arrived. Whoever runs from these encounters will end up out in the cold spiritually. Those who remain have learned the burning and our resulting reaction will always take place as an announcement that a new season in the Spirit has arrived. 


Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Dispersed Ones

Between the Day of Pentecost mentioned in Acts 2 and the persecution noted in Acts 8, a span of 3-4 years had transpired. During those years, the Church gathered around Solomon’s Collonade. It was a beautiful time of sharing resources, feeding the poor, and seeing signs, wonders, and miracles taking place. The Church was being added to daily. In all that goodness, there was a problem. The Church was not dispersing into the cultures beyond the familiarity of Jerusalem. The fulfillment of the Great Commission mentioned in Matthew 28 was in jeopardy of being stalled. That all changed when the persecution of Acts 8 happened, and a scattering took place.

Every new season in Church history will experience a moment of dispersal, either physical or theological. We can struggle with the idea of being scattered away from what is familiar, especially when we might be experiencing a good season like the gathering of the first generation of believers around Solomon’s Collonade. 

We are in a moment of dispersal within the Church. This dispersal can appear confusing to some who do not understand the Great Commission and the ever-expanding nature of God’s Kingdom on Earth. It is too easy for us to remain in a good place at the expense of the best. If you are being dispersed, do not fear what is taking place. God could be repositioning your physical life or challenging a point of your theology to increase your effectiveness in God’s Kingdom. If you allow God to have His way, He will show you the way.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Embalming Fluid of the Spirit

I had a funny thing happen last night. Jan and I were asked to be part of a prayer team to pray over pastors at a conference in Bend, Oregon. Each of us on the prayer team was handed a small tin of anointing balm infused with frankincense and myrrh. The balm was a solid paste-like substance more convenient than oil that can be a bit messy when applying it to someone’s forehead. For any legalists reading this, the balm is actually an oil, just a solid version.

Jan and I had already prayed for several individuals when I said to the next person in line waiting to receive prayer, “I want to anoint you with this embalming fluid.” I had no idea what I said. The woman looked at me with a wry smile, and then I realized what I had said. We all broke out in laughter at my slip of the tongue. Then Jan said, “Where there is death, there is a resurrection.” 

That evening a lot of resurrection life was taking place during worship, from the conference speakers and in the prayer lines that wrapped around the front of the stage. There was a fourth Person with us when I tripped over my language. He was laughing with us. There are times when laughter is evidence that healing is taking place.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Rest

God is in charge of the outcome of our faithfulness. The clearest evidence that we trust God is seen when, after doing all we can, we choose to rest in God’s faithfulness. 

Discernment in a Dark Place

This week, Jan and I were out of town for a conference. A comfortable room in a nice hotel was provided for us. If you travel, you may have experienced what I am about to share. I awakened at night and rolled over to check the time on the illuminated digital clock as I do at home. Instead of my familiar clock, I saw nothing but darkness. The illuminated clock was on Jan’s side of the bed, out of sight. It took a couple of seconds for me to realize what was happening. I remembered I was in a hotel, not at home. Then I recalled that before going to bed, I placed my iPhone on the nightstand. I reached over and quickly found out the correct time. All was well. I went back to sleep. 

I like to know the time and season in which I am living. This is not always clear, especially in a transition from one season to the next. While our hotel room was dark and unfamiliar, it did not affect the reality or accuracy of time. Somewhere in the room, a clock was telling the right time. My wristwatch was out there in the darkness doing the same along with my iPhone. The problem was with me. I was not sure where I was. I needed to gather my thoughts in the darkness to discern my location before I could determine the correct time.

If you cannot make sense of the current season of your life and it all feels a bit dark and unfamiliar, stop and take a moment to grab your spiritual bearings. Somewhere in your situation, the correct time is being displayed. At some point, you will awaken enough to make sense of your surroundings, even in a dark place where all your familiar bearings are no longer visible. God will be faithful to speak to you in the darkness. In these dark places is where your faith can shine the brightest as you move forward toward the substance of things not yet seen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Crossing Frontiers

In your transition, you will cross a spiritual frontier. All spiritual frontiers have demons guarding them. Don’t ignore this reality. Stepping through the gates of transition will cause them to react. 
Every physical crossing recorded in scripture was a spiritual crossing. These crossings were guarded by dark spirits whose primary assignment was to detour and delay God’s people through fear and discouragement. 
This is not just a simple life adjustment you are making. You are crossing into destiny. In this crossing, you will come face to face with demonic powers whose primary assignment is to prevent you from crossing over into your destiny. They have been placed there purposefully to try to foil the plans of God. 
You may have forgotten that your battle is not against flesh and blood. You may even think the problem is just you and your personal issues. The battle is larger; it is a spiritual battle in which you are contending against dark forces. This is your reality check. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place.) 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Rise of Cultural Prophets

In each cultural revolution in human history, it was the poets, musicians, painters, writers, and cultural prophets who first publicly portrayed the enslaving injustice of their time – an injustice ultimately against the heart of God. These expressions of prophetic revelation took place across all spheres of cultural influence. They were the first to be silenced by those in power because they had the ability to move around the limitations imposed by media and governmental control. Their expressions created jeopardy for the status quo. 

God is raising and releasing prophetic people who will create the imagery, sounds, and script of a reformation that will express both the angst of our culture and the heart of God. The ability to connect our anxiety with the resolutions provided by God will help us know if what we are spending our time, energy, and resources on is part of the solution or something that only fuels the flame of further social discontent and offers us another trip around the same mountain of despair.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Angry Scissors

Anger rising, creating
edges, sharp edges of opinion 
always cutting, flashing out 
against opposing thought.
Our voices becoming
angry scissors cutting
each other.
Why so angry? 
Violent words, a bloody 
dialogue falling, dripping 
red ink upon
blank pages describing
a future no one wants.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

If It Bleeds, It Leads

The title comes from the world of journalism. Blood and gore catch the attention of an audience. It’s not just the blood and gore of murder, catastrophe, or natural disaster that gains our attention; it is the blood and gore of broken lives, broken political systems, and the potential of a future filled with the never-ending promise of disaster.

A fear-based message wrapped in a morbid sense of curiosity is not from God. Proverbs tells us our future will be like the light of dawn that grows brighter and brighter until the full day. Jeremiah quoted God saying our future is filled with hope and a plan to prosper us. Under the ever-expanding revelation of God upon the Earth, things are actually getting better, not worse. The statistics reveal that reality. A message of hope and redemption is contrary to the pitchmen and women in the news and, unfortunately, some in the Church whose product sales depend on you and me perpetually living in need of our next fix of death and disaster to feed our fear-based habit about the future.

If you turned off your television or put down your smartphone for a year and did not listen to any reports from the “If It Bleeds, It Leads” crowd when you reengaged your device, you would hear the same dark prophecies. The only things that would have changed were the names and places. 

We have been called to live in hope, not fear. Fear, and the resulting doubt, and despair that comes with that message are not on Heaven’s menu. God is not the purveyor of these things, and we should not consume them or promote them without discernment. If we do, we will exchange a message of hope for a message of fear and become spokespersons for another kingdom.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Safety of Deacceleration

Some of the imbalance you are feeling could be God applying the brakes on your self-effort and worry. It's like sitting in a car when someone uses the brakes to avoid a crash, and you are thrown forward under the force of deacceleration. Not everything in God’s Kingdom is about acceleration. There are times when God will slow us down to protect us, so we don’t collide with things in our lane of travel that are not God's best for our life.

We Need Each Other

This morning, I am making pancakes for breakfast. After I got the coffee going, I melted some butter in a pan, then added a cup of fresh blueberries, some maple syrup and set the pan on the stove at a slow simmer. I went about a few more morning tasks then turned off the stove and let the butter, blueberries and maple syrup get to know each other. Later, I will turn the heat back on when the pancakes are ready and pour the beautiful salty butter, sweet maple syrup and tart blueberry goodness over a plate of pancakes and Jan and I will have our breakfast.

I learn a lot about life from cooking. The information I just shared about preparing the syrup for our pancakes is something a lot of us need to learn when we interact with each other. We all have ingredients to add to the conversations and cultural interactions we think are so important.  Unfortunately, many times, we think our take on life is the most essential ingredient. Our standalone ingredient has value, but only when added to the input and considerations of others. When we allow a merging and blending of thoughts and ideas, the end product will become something truly delicious intellectually and spiritually. It will invite others to the table of conversation.

To create this inviting syrup of life, we need to do more of what I did when I brought together the butter, blueberries, and maple syrup. Before we prematurely serve our opinion, we need to bring it all together and gently warm the contents under the influence of the Spirit. This allows all the ingredients of the conversation to merge into something that reflects the expansive heart of God instead of a separate and many times ill-informed ingredient of a singular opinion.

“We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete” (I Corinthians 13:9 MSG).

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Drawing a Line

G. K. Chesterton, the British writer, philosopher and lay theologian of the last century once wrote, “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” Faith without the presence of lines is not faith. It is an emotion.

In the public square, drawing a line has become increasingly unpopular. By nature, a line can create offense and separation.  Lines will define where we walk and how we live, and in some cases whom we choose to walk through life with. 

The most important line to draw is the one that marks the difference between what pleases God and what grieves Him. This is the line we must first consider before we start drawing lines that mark something as either holy or unholy, right or wrong. Without first knowing God’s heart, our faith will appear like a scribbled mess of cruel and dysfunctional lines that do nothing to further God’s Kingdom or express His love.

Be careful and wise where you choose to draw a line. Jesus drew lines in the most unexpected places - places the religious establishment of His day vehemently opposed. Even the disciples who walked with Jesus for three years were not sure where some of His lines would be drawn.