Monday, July 13, 2020

Pickup Your Memorial Stone

Amid all the noise, clamor, and disruption taking place in our culture, God wants to reveal His love and power. That love and power will be visible to those whose eyes have been trained to see His goodness.

When Joshua was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, they had to cross the Jordan River, which at the time, was running at flood stage. The Lord stopped the river’s flow allowing the Israelites to cross over on dry ground. When the miraculous passage was complete, two memorials were constructed.

The Lord instructed Joshua to tell the people to choose a leader from each of the twelve tribes who would select a single stone and build a stone memorial where they would camp the first night after the crossing was complete. This would be a forever memorial to future generations of God’s faithfulness to deliver His people. 

The second stone memorial was built by Joshua. His memorial was built on the dry riverbed, in the middle of the Jordan. When all the people finally crossed over, the river began to flow again, and Joshua’s memorial would be submerged.

The crossing of the Jordan is a word picture for each of us.  We are making a crossing from what we once knew to a future yet to be defined.  Today, we have been given an assignment similar to the assignment that Joshua gave the Israelites. Stop and look for your stone of remembrance of God’s love and power displayed in the last few months. This stone is somewhere in your life. Only the eyes of faith can see this stone. Pick it up and carry it with you as you journey forward. It has a place on the other side of this time of transition where your stone will be placed with other stones of remembrance to remind you, your friends, and your family of God’s goodness.

If you are leading a family, a business, a church, or an entire movement of people, you also have a memorial to construct. Your memorial will be like the one Joshua assembled.  Place your stones where you stand today on the dry ground of your passage. When your passage is complete, it will be submerged and out of sight. In future generations, leaders will remember that your memorial to God’s faithfulness is there, somewhere underneath the future floodwaters of transition. It will give future leaders who follow in your footsteps the courage to step into the floodwaters of transition, knowing that God will always be faithful to reveal a way forward.

“Today, you will know that the living God is among you” (Joshua 3:10).


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Choosing to be a Reconciler

If division among believers is not reconciled, dismemberment will soon follow. The Lord does not want His body slashed, cut, and abused by the blade of our most heartfelt opinions, no matter how valid those opinions might appear. As the physical body can heal itself, given the right diet, exercise, and environmental conditions, so it is with the Church – the body of Christ. If we are willing to contribute to those health-producing conditions, God will position us amid strife to accomplish the most profound works of reconciliation.  We seem to forget our Lord was a reconciler, even among those who fervently disagreed with His opinions.

The Demise of a Packaged Faith

Over the last 40 years, I have seen faith come in a variety of packaged forms. These packages of faith are created geographically, socially, and by the requirements for employment. This packaging takes place in local churches, denominations, and groups with shared affiliations. If you want to be in the group, you signed on the dotted line of a statement of faith and its corresponding worldview.  

Something has been taking place in the last few years. People are questioning the need for such things. This is not to devalue good theology. We need it now more than ever. What I am seeing, especially since the cultural lockdown, are people questioning the value of some of what they believed with unquestioning loyalty before this time of isolation. This is not a challenge to the truth itself. It is the unwrapping of our package of faith to see if its contents actually represent God's Kingdom with clarity and function in a rapidly changing world.

Jude wrote about the faith once delivered to the saints. When he wrote those words, he did not have in mind our current interpretation of faith in all its unique representations. He was describing a faith so simple it cannot easily be packaged and bowtied with our personal preferences.  The current unraveling of a packaged version of faith is actually bringing us back to something simple and agile – the faith once delivered to the saints. It is a good thing.

If you are a leader who offered a packaged form of faith and required strict allegiance to that package, you will face some challenges when people return from this time of quarantine. Before you demand people adhere once again to the previous package you or your organization offered, give people time to share what they are sensing. It might actually be the Lord speaking.  The way forward for you and the group you represent could be discovered in that exchange. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Lean, Refocused and Simplified Church

If you have been worrying about the state of the Church during this strange time in our history, I want to share an encouraging image the Lord revealed to me this morning. In the image, I saw a person walking toward a doorway. They were wearing multiple layers of clothing. It appeared they were trying to wear every garment they owned to the point it restricted their full range of motion. They had to waddle to walk. 

Each excess garment was made from the cloth of assumption. These weren’t wrong assumptions; they were valid for a time but were no longer required. The accumulated garments needed to be shed. Then, I realized I was seeing the Church, the Bride of Christ, walking toward the future.

As the person moved closer to the doorway, they began to remove layer after layer of garments. I was amazed at how many layers the person was wearing. I also wondered how they could even move encumbered as they were. Then the person entered the doorway of transition and emerged on the other side clad only in the simplest of garments. They appeared light and agile, no longer encumbered. The uncovering revealed a lean and purposeful person whose eyes were filled with confidence and clarity. In one hand was a sword with a freshly sharped edge. They appeared ready for any challenge.

The Church is being disrobed.  Following our disrobing, something new will emerge. The new is not really “new.” It is the revealing of what was there all along, only hidden and encumbered by our assumptions. If we can remain focused on Jesus while disrobing, not on the maintenance of our current ministry model or even its survival, we will emerge from this time a lean, refocused and simplified Church. 

We cannot waddle awkwardly into the future, wearing the assumptions of the past and expect different results in the future. The Church I saw was like David when he faced Goliath. We are being made agile and free, so we can move forward unencumbered by the past, able to address the giants of deception that are waiting for us in the future.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Imagine If You Will

Cops, soldiers, and situationally aware people imagine. They imagine scenarios and practice mental defensive solutions. It keeps them alive when trouble comes. They train to be proactive, not reactive.

This imagining mindset also applies to our faith. Imagine that two years from now, churches are still not allowed to reopen and operate at full capacity. Imagine masks are still being required. Imagine the person you gave almost messiah-like status – no matter your party affiliation - is not sitting in the Oval Office. Imagine more innocent blood is being spilled in our cities. What will your faith look like if that time should arrive?

Our faith must be simple and unattached to negative outcomes so we can move through all the seasons of cultural change – the good and bad, the lean, and the prosperous. – with hope. Hope is the power and sustainability of true faith.  This hope is what kept the first disciples alive spiritually, many who became martyrs. That kind of hope was only possible because it was not sourced in outcomes. It was sourced in a Person. 

When we follow fear or rebellious invitations, we move away from the simplicity of true faith because our hope was displaced.  Hope sourced in Jesus Christ alone empowers our faith no matter what is taking place in the world around us. In all that is happening today, imagine Jesus.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Crushing Our Opinion

As I prepared our lunch of wild salmon, I used a mortar and pestle to crush together the ingredients of garlic, cilantro, and green onion to create a rub that would be applied to the salmon filet.  I began to imagine the flavor they would bring in harmony when all the ingredients came together.  Atop the paste, I laid a layer of chopped pecan halves to create a beautiful crust.

The mortar and pestle reminded me of something. Maybe we need to rethink the social conflict taking place in America. We all want our distinct ingredient in the cultural conversation to remain independent and not lose its singularity. That might be what is contributing to our current problem. None of us is meant to be a standalone ingredient. God is crushing our individual opinions along with the insight provided by others to create a flavorful and fragrant topping meant to adorn the broader culture-wide conversation. If we are not willing to have our opinion crushed under the loving hand of God, we will not taste the good thing He is preparing.

As a postscript - the salmon was excellent. So were the Parmasssean cheese cauliflower florets and green salad.

Made Ready To Hear Something New

My 16-year old pickup truck has a CD player. It was part of the truck’s original equipment installed at the factory. A couple of years ago the CD went on the fritz. It makes funny noises when it’s turned on and then it keeps repeating the same song without moving on to the next track on the CD. On some occasions it stutters, repeating a single syllable sounding like a rap song on steroids.

My CD player reminds me of the condition some of us might find ourselves. We can play the same song or the fragment of a song without knowing how to move on to something new. There are new songs the Lord wants us to hear but until a new system is installed, we are only able to play a single track of a much larger message.

I have written a number of books and each day I typically post an article on social media, but I know there is more. The more will not come from my existing understanding of the world and God’s Kingdom. It will come from downloads of fresh revelation. Sadly, many of us can resemble the broken CD player in my pickup. When we hit the play button, we play our opinion and reveal our limited understanding. We are not alone. This is the deafening noise being produced in our culture on any given day.

God wants to produce new content for our message. No one is an expert in God’s Kingdom. Experts are dangerous because they sell their terminal understanding as a complete revelation on a subject.  Just this morning, the Lord showed me something that hit my passion button. I began to write about an issue of which I am somewhat informed. In the middle of writing, I realized the subject needed more research and revelation than the hour or two I might give to something like this article you are currently reading. I put that writing project aside to allow the Lord to show me the next steps and fill in the blanks of my understanding. 

In the process of learning and listening to the Lord, our spiritual and intellectual CD player will be replaced. This will allow us to hear and play tracks of revelation and insight into subjects we could not hear before the process of installation began. 

As it has been for me this morning, so it will be for you if you are willing to let God do an install. He has new soundtracks to play through your life, but first, He must replace your old spiritual CD. Once the installation work has been done, you will be amazed at the sound that will come through the speakers of your life. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Power and Beauty of Belonging

On July 4th, Jan and I had the honor of officiating our daughter’s wedding. Toward the end of the ceremony, I had Anna and Jared exchange rings. I explained to them wearing my wedding ring for the last 47 years was a daily reminder that I belonged to someone – to Jan. I remember the day Jan and I drove to the Eastridge Mall in San Jose, California, to buy our rings. I still carry the joy of that day. After all these years, the pattern on our rings has long worn off, but their meaning has grown more significant and meaningful with each passing day.

A sense of belonging is critical for a person to be healthy, both emotionally and spiritually. Belonging is not created by wearing jewelry or owning shared property. It is a look in a person’s eyes when you embrace them that speaks of shared love and commitment. It is a feeling you carry when apart wanting to be in their presence once again. It is a sacred trust and something you protect at all costs.

Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for someone is to let them know they belong. For a friend, it is offering a reminder of the value of your friendship. For a stranger, it is affirming them as a fellow human being who is worthy of our love and respect. 

When people no longer feel like they belong, a separation occurs, and in that place of separation, mean-spirited and harsh things take up residence. The only thing that can disempower those things is a kind word or a gesture of affirmation that tells them they belong.  We all belong to each other and to God. No one should ever feel like they are alone. Knowing we belong is the first step in healing the painful wounds of separation. It is our responsibility to initiate that first step with each person we meet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Don't Take the Bait

Relationships are being tested.  A casual comment or post on social media that creates disagreement can challenge the honor of a relationship. Jesus knew each of us would see life differently, and He still said oneness was possible even in the presence of our varied opinions. We know we have taken the bait when we allow the hook of division to sink deep into our hearts and pull us away from those we previously loved and respected. The evidence the digested bait has been taken is revealed when we begin to see, think, and speak negatively of someone.  Don’t take the bait. It has a dark outcome prepared for your arrival.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Alarm Bells Are Still Sounding

On May 3, I wrote an article titled, “The Alarm Bells Are Sounding” and posted it on my social media sites. Like most prophetic insight, what we see is not always complete, nor has the context yet arrived for the prophetic word to be understood.

Yesterday, Jentezen Franklin posted the following on his Twitter feed, “California’s Governor just banned singing/chanting at church. Catholics can't recite mass; Evangelicals can't worship out loud. The very definition of discrimination is to allow thousands to march and scream without masks while telling churches 100 or less that you cannot sing.” Jentezen Franklin is not the only leader hearing the alarm bells. When alarm bells are being heard it takes courage to speak up and call out what is causing the alarm.

I live in the Northwest, where some of our theology has become intermingled with a form of progressive thinking that plays into the very scenario Jentezen Franklin mentioned. But there is something positive taking place. We are beginning to hear the alarm bells, and wonder how we can now respond when it is obvious that something is amiss. Silence is no longer a viable or righteous option. 

Our response to this kind of issue must be above and beyond the exercise of personal rights. If we get caught in that trap, we will fight with the wrong weapons and people will become our enemy.  This is a battle against unseen spiritual forces being played out in our communities and in the halls of our cultural institutions. Loving our neighbor is seeking their highest good. There are times when seeking the highest good requires that we walk against the flow of popular opinion in the culture.




Look Up!

Every 4th of July, my dad would take my brother and me from our home in Los Gatos, California to a part of San Jose where we could buy strings of firecrackers. While the typical 4th of July fireworks were fun, it was the firecrackers that we loved the most. 

One of our favorite things to do was fill a basin with about an inch of water. We punched a hole in the bottom of an open tin can just large enough to insert a firecracker leaving only the fuse exposed. Then we would set the open end of the tin can in the water and light the fuse. When the firecracker went off, the tin can would launch like a rocket and fly into the air sometimes as much as fifty feet. My brother and I loved watching our neighbors look into the sky and wonder what the Elkins boys were up to now. We especially loved it when the wind carried our airborne tin cans in the direction of a neighbor’s home. There was something strangely satisfying to our still-developing minds knowing that our tin can mortar rounds could land on someone's roof.

For some reason, I recalled that long-ago memory this morning as the dawn was breaking on this July 4th of 2020. There is a great deal of noise being produced in our culture. Everybody has an opinion and their preferred evidence to support their position. As a result, we are divided and quickly becoming a dismembered nation. The sharing of our diverse opinions is like a string of firecrackers going off at someone’s feet. You don’t know who or what to believe. You just jump in response to all the sounds exploding at your feet.  

We have arrived at a ridiculous place where the evidence used to produce and support some opinions is no longer able to pass the muster of rationality. The Lord is about to change our confusion into clarity. Like a single firecracker rightly prepared in a tin can and water basin, words of truth and their resulting adjustment will be sent into the cultural air for all to see. This launch of truth will be used by God to draw the attention of people away from the noisy confusion long enough for them to come to their senses. 

Look up from all the nonsense being thrown at your feet. Its purpose is to confuse. God is about to reveal what is hidden in all the noise. A single firecracker of truth placed in the right environment will produce dramatic results. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

God Has You Covered

The greatest protectors are not always the most visible. Special Operations teams work covertly, engaging in dangerous operations to protect a nation. Cops patrol by your home in the night looking to intercept those who might cause you harm. The quiet majority of good men and women who appear silent in times of peace will emerge when conflict develops to protect you when you feel the most alone and vulnerability.

Intercessors are willing to rise in the middle of the night to pray for you motivated only by a simple impression from the Lord. There are people you have yet to meet who are willing to step over the boundary lines of a restrictive relationship, not carrying what it costs them to speak out in your defense. 

In your time of need, God has you covered in ways you could not imagine. Do not let a fear of the unknown paralyze your faith. In the unknowns of life, God has you covered. You can trust Him.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

When Dreams, Visions and Prophetic Words Miss the Mark

Many believers are concerned about what is transpiring on earth. Some of that concern can blind us to a greater reality. A fear-based concern will paralyze our faith because it is absent of hope.  Fear can cause us to believe and take stock in diversions.  To remain spiritually healthy, we must receive our insight and marching orders from the throne of God, not from a lesser dimension of revelation.

Paul addressed different levels of what he called “heavens.” We live on earth in the first heaven, where spiritual warfare is waged on the battlefield of human minds. The throne of God is established in the third heaven in a secure position of ultimate authority, forever unchangeable. It is in the second heaven between heaven and earth where spiritual battles are fought between light and dark, demons and angels, and where the prayers of the saints have a tremendous effect in determining the outcomes of earthly spiritual battles.

Kingdom vision and prayer assignments are created and released from the third heaven. From that secure place, we can pray with confidence and live in peace when life seems spiraling out of control. When visions, dreams and prophetic words are sourced only from the battle being waged in the second heaven, we will live in fear and limit our response to only what is seen in that realm. We can even get what appears to be a word of knowledge from the limitations of a second heaven revelation and actually miss the greater truth because what we have chosen to believe is not sourced in hope. God’s revelation, and even His warnings, always contain hope.

Jesus is enthroned in a place of ultimate authority at the right hand of the Father. As believers, we are seated there with Christ. This realization does not produce a fearful response to a world in decay and disorder, nor does it produce theologies or an understanding of the culmination of time that is wrapped in the dark cloth of disaster and despair. The sound and content of our voice will reveal which heaven we have chosen as our source of inspiration.

Of One Heart

Being of one heart has a greater impact than being of one mind. In a close environment where people work together toward a common goal, hearts that follow after God in love, create a healthy and cohesive work environment. 

The apostle Paul encouraged us in the second chapter of Philippians to be of one mind. That one-mindedness was the by-product of living together in an environment of love. Love is always a matter of the heart.  Many times, we miss what creates a by-product by focusing on the by-product and not what produced the by-product.

If a leader requires all team members to be of one mind, typically, that translates as being in lockstep obedience with the worldview and preferences of the team leader. That requirement actually creates a weakness in the team. It is a false unity and restricts Spirit-led creativity that only comes through a diversity of opinion. It also limits the breadth of expression and insight required to engage greater Kingdom exploits. 

For example, if you are a team leader who releases edicts of how your team should respond to the issues of culture in an attempt to maintain team discipline and portray unity to those outside the team, you are creating followers, not leaders. Work first and foremost at building a team unity around the fruits of the Spirit, not your opinions. If the hearts of your team members are right and expressing love and honor toward each other, even if they say or do something that differs from your opinion, it will all work out in the end because their hearts were right. This is the kind of working environment that creates trust and honor in a team because people know they are loved in their diversity, not only in their conformity.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Ride-Along

When I was a cop every once in a while, I would be assigned a ride-along. A ride-along is a civilian who has been cleared to ride with a patrol officer to see what life was like on the streets. Of all the people that rode along with me, each one left that experience with a greater understanding of the job.

I wonder what it would be like if we could have a ride-along program in other areas of life. What would it be like for someone to ride along with a small business owner struggling to make payroll and keep the doors open during an economic downturn? What would it be like to ride along with a young, single mom with two kids in tow working multiple jobs just to survive, or riding along with someone who has a different ethnicity or social status and on the receiving end of demeaning comments and behavior? What would it be like to be a politician, an honest one, trying to pass laws that only get passed in an environment of compromise?

Separation from each other’s daily struggles is where the danger of misunderstanding takes place. We judge someone before we know who they are or the struggles they face. It’s easy to lob judgmental grenades into the lap of someone who is living in a challenging situation, of which we have no firsthand knowledge or empathy. Perhaps the most life-changing thing that takes place during a ride-along is getting close enough to see and hear the personal struggles other people are experiencing. It’s in that connection where understanding comes, and a compassionate response can be offered.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Stop, Look and Listen Before You Step Outside

This morning, I finally got a picture of our puppy’s morning ritual. Each morning, she sticks her head through the doggie door to see if the way is safe before she goes outside. She does this every day. Ladybug is only six months old, but she is teaching us something.

Our culture is filled with legitimate issues that need our attention. However, those issues have offered some individuals and social agendas an opportunity to lure the undiscerning into places of deception. They are using heartfelt matters as bait to draw people out and prematurely align their lives and resources with diversions and hidden agendas. 

It would be wise to learn a lesson from my dog. Before we charge ahead when our emotions and the culture are wanting action, we need to stop and discern the environment into which we are about to step and unwittingly offer our support. When things heat up, it's too easy to allow our emotions, group pressure, and our desire to do something to cause us to make unwise and premature choices that put us in a place of emotional and spiritual jeopardy. 

Our home is close to a forest. Some mornings, as I sit in the darkness, I can hear the howl of a coyote pack who just made a kill. A few times, we have seen cougars. Our puppy would become an easy meal for these predators if she was not wise enough to stop and discern what awaits her outside the walls of our home, even in the familiar environment of our back yard.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Conflicting Sounds

It’s a bit after 2:00 am. A few minutes ago, I woke up and could not go back to sleep. I had a few things on my mind I needed to deal with so, I quietly got up and went into our living room to talk with the Lord. A few minutes after rising, I started my audio bible program to listen to the book of Ezra while following along with an open bible in my lap.

As I started to listen to the narrator, I also heard a beautiful piano soundtrack that accompanied the reading of the text. The music seemed out of time and confusing, not like what I was used to hearing. It soon became apparent to me the sound engineers made a mistake and placed a flute soundtrack on top of the piano music. It was hard to follow along, listening to the person reading the text with the conflicting soundtracks playing in the background. I was glad Ezra was only ten chapters long.

When I finished reading, I turned off the audio bible. The piano music that accompanied the audio bible stopped, but the flute music continued to play. At that moment, I realized my error. Last night, Jan and I were listening to some beautiful flute music on YouTube. When we went to bed, I closed my laptop but did not turn off the YouTube channel. When I opened my computer this morning to listen to the word, the flute music started once again.  I had two channels playing music at the same time, YouTube and my audio bible program.

Then I realized why the Lord had me get up to take care of some personal business. The day before, I made two decisions that were in conflict with a previous instruction from the Lord. The unresolved conflict did not allow me to sleep. My soul was restless. Just like the competing soundtracks on my computer that made it hard for me to hear the word, I had given the competing voices of human reasoning the freedom to speak. Their sound compromised a word the Lord had given to me previously.

This is a very unusual time in history. We need to be focused and clear in our thinking. We also need to be quick to rectify those things that impede our ability to hear His voice.  The Lord desires clarity in our lives. If we continue to allow outside voices to create a conflicting sound in opposition to the Lord’s voice, we will struggle to hear His instruction just like I struggled to hear the bible text being read through my computer. 

This is a loving warning for all of us from the Lord regarding the days ahead. He has things to say to us that will not be heard if we continue to allow competing voices to obscure the sound of His voice. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Our Broad Strokes of Judgment

In the noise of the current social clamor, the voice of the Church can become diluted by politics, personal preferences, and undisciplined emotions. In this back and forth defensive environment, we can defend our preferred position to such a degree that we miss the essence of true justice. 

It is too easy to lump someone of an opposing opinion into a single group and, with a broad stroke of our narrow judgment, unjustly label them based on their heritage, profession, or worldview. If you don’t think this is true, ask a person of color, a good cop, or someone who happens to see life through a different lens. This form of judgment will always lead us to make unjust decisions. 

The Lord has something to say about that kind of unjust thinking. “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— both are detestable to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15). I was struck by the word “both.” The Lord does not play favorites. His righteousness is meant for all, not just those we deem worthy or unworthy.

If, in our attempt to right the wrongs of culture, we only side with one opinion, our credibility as a healing and prophetic voice will be compromised. This will be especially challenging for those who have entered this time of social upheaval and continue to allow their undisciplined emotions to control their speech and actions.  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Our "Don't" and "Why" List

The “Don’t” and “Why” of Life

I DON’T confess my sins against my wife to clean the relational slate and just move on. I confess my sins to honor her and the Lord.

I DON’T work out just to stay in physical and emotional shape. I work out so I can stay in a fight as long as possible to protect those I love.

I DON’T read God’s word to gain more biblical facts. I read it to know the Father’s heart.

I DON’T pretend to listen to someone’s opinion while crafting my response. I listen because it might inform and correct my answer before I open my mouth. 

I DON’T vote for a particular political candidate based on their personality. I vote for the platform they represent. 

I could go on with my list. You probably have a similar list.  The reasons why we do certain things is important to know.  Knowing what motivates our reasoning will inform and create our responses to the stimuli of life. 

There have been many times when the Lord reminded me that my Don’t and Why list needed refinement and adjustment. I have even had them in reversed order at times. This struggle is part of the discipleship process. It is never a perfect science. It is a life-long process of revelation discerning what it is creating the content of our conversations and empowering our actions. Be patient with yourself because God is patient. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Coming Change in Leadership

What has culturally transpired over the last few months will reveal that some in positions of authority are no longer suited to lead those they serve into a new and unfolding future. This will not be a personal indictment or an attack on a leader's character. It will simply be the realization that a mismatch of gifts and assignments has taken place. 

In the coming year, some leaders will step down from places of authority or be asked to do so. These decisions will be made on local and national levels and within the Church. 

The decisions made to initially assign these leaders in their current roles were made based on what was known at the time. But now, the context of their assignment has changed. Assignments that seemed right before the current upheaval took place will no longer bear fruitful outcomes. Those involved in reassigning these individuals must make their decisions with compassion and understanding in order for the grace of God to rest upon the process.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What We Are Hearing

Perhaps one of the most impactful things that will transpire in this unusual season of history is the realization by the Church and her leaders that we are in a time of reformation.

Realizing our calling to influence all 7 spheres/mountains of culture has long been neglected by many in the Church, thinking somehow our ministry should be limited to church meetings, being a good neighbor, and waiting for the rapture. This way of thinking has caused many to neglect the commission of the Great Commission, the discipling of nations. A nation can only be discipled once people are led to Christ, but then, those new converts are called to become an influence for righteousness in all areas of culture.  Our salvation experience is the platform from which we can begin to make a real Kingdom difference in our particular sphere of influence, and eventually a nation.

Which of the 7 spheres/mountains of culture have you been called to influence - Government, Religion, Education, Economy, Arts and Entertainment, Media or Family? If you are reading this and you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are already involved in the areas of Family by birth and Religion by choice. How is your voice releasing a reforming Great Commission impact in one of the other areas when you go to work on Monday?

Some of the struggles we see taking place in the lives of individuals, Church leaders, and congregations, is the struggle to break free from decades of silence and inactivity.  I know this firsthand. I thought this way for many years. We become comfortable doing Kingdom business the way we have always done it, not realizing we have a much larger calling. 

Before we judge the new sounds of reformation being heard in each sphere of culture, we need to pause long enough to consider the possibility that these voices might actually be the Lord speaking. For millennia, the Lord has spoken through imperfect vessels who will make mistakes as they form the content of their message. The Lord knew this when He called us. We are beginning to see the emergence of these new voices. Their emerging sound is part of a process of reformation where everything will be up for examination and change, hopefully creating a brighter future.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Let Your Voice Be Heard

You have a God-given right to address any ill of humanity no matter what color your skin, your gender, or your social status. Do not let any person or social movement try to silence your voice through shame. The only requirement is that when you speak, you are speaking the truth in love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Blessing Our Way Through Life

Today, an angry man sped past Jan and me on our morning walk. It happened at a four-way stop and was a bit too close for comfort. Instead of offering him a vulgar gesture or a word of cursing, we blessed him. 

Everyday angry, depressed, and fearful people will cross our path. As ones who carry Peace, these are opportunities to bless, not curse. When our paths cross with distressed people, wisdom and love wants to offer them a blessing when our pride wants to do otherwise. Our blessing might be what releases their personal breakthrough. Like you, we have not been perfect in this endeavor.

Many times, we look for some big breakthrough event on a national or global scale and miss the purpose and significance of these negative personal encounters. What if we become an army embedded in culture, releasing an onslaught of blessings? Perhaps, the turnaround we seek in our nation would happen quicker than we might have imagined.

Regarding the man we encountered today on our walk, I chuckle imagining how the blessing we released over his life will dog him all day long and just maybe, bring him the personal breakthrough he so desperately needs. Jan and I walked away from that encounter with smiles on our faces and peace in our hearts.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Voice Without Compromise

There is such a thing as a healthy compromise. This is a meeting where two opposing parties step over existing prohibitions and warnings and try to work things out no matter what the cost might be to them personally.  Compromise becomes unhealthy when we filter our obedience through “what will so-and-so think?” or “how will this affect my standing in the group?” 

When the issues of life become emotionally over-heated, and opinions are being expressed at warp speed 24/7, it becomes too easy to compromise the prophetic nature of our voice. This happens when we silence our voice out of self-protection. 

We all have access to prophetic content. This content is not reserved only for those who might call themselves prophets or have a ministry with a public presence. A prophetic voice belongs to each and every member of the Church. Prophecy is no respecter of people, position, or title. 

In the coming days, when many repetitive “prophetic” clich├ęs have run their course to no avail, and few are willing to break free from a place of unhealthy compromise and self-protection, we will begin to hear new voices emerge. These new voices will rise and begin speak with a clarity that only comes when someone is so sold out to the Lord and His truth, they have nothing left to lose.  


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Accelerating the Rights Things

I recently read a term I had not seen before - Accelerationist. The word is used to describe people who live on the extreme edges of the social spectrum, either far left and far right. An accelerationist is someone who uses social causes that might not even be their own as a chance to create disorder and invoke people to respond in violence.

While those of you reading my words would hopefully be nowhere near these radical edges, I want to offer each of us a word of caution. Our voice, if we represent Jesus Christ, must be monitored and disciplined to keep us out of the vile stream of ideologies that motivate the dark aspects of fringe accelerationism. Discernment is not just something we relegate to a religious setting to cast out demons or prophetically deliver a word of hope. It is also meant for the public sphere. God gave us discernment to see through the opinions being offered to discover their motivation and to make sure we are not naively being used to foment angst and further division.

Today, I was impacted by the words of Paul. I have included his words below as a refresher for many of us. Paul wrote the following words in a chapter where he was trying to help people deal with relational disagreements, appealing to them to live in the joy of the Lord and to confront the worry that can rob us of our peace. 

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

Our thoughts will either accelerate the goodness of God or accelerate agendas contrary to the values of His Kingdom. Paul used the phrase, “Fix your thoughts." "Fix" is a word in the original language that means “to consider, take account, weigh or mediate.” It is not a reactionary word. It implies deliberation, consideration, and moderation. When we fix our thoughts on God, we will accelerate the kind of actions and conversations that an accelerationist mindset has not conceived in their quest to sow disorder and fear or to prove a point. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

We Are Being Setup

We are being set up by God. This set up will bring us to the end of human reasoning as a way to correct the problems currently facing our world. In that place of realization,  God and His love will become our only viable option.  We are being set up to no longer rely on or be satisfied with outcomes created apart from the will of God. Live expectantly! The setup has begun.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Our Ever-Faithful God

The Lord is saying that He is about to turn history on its heels, changing its direction to align with His will. When all our best efforts fail, and when we have doubts about our future, never forget a merciful God is at the helm of all things. He will not be found unfaithful to His promises no matter how dire or desperate our unfolding history might appear.

Hidden Blessings in Betrayal

Jan and I have learned and God has faithfully reaffirmed, a powerful life-lesson after each painful betrayal we experienced. We learned that betrayal is a doorway into hope and resurrection. This was only possible if we did not allow our hearts to grow hard, cold, and unforgiving. We have experienced several deep betrayals over the years, and each one, without exception, turned into an opportunity for a blessing we could not have imagined when we were first immersed in the pain. Betrayal is not the end. It is the beginning of something new.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Lord Has Released A Promise

Today, I needed to get away from human input and opinion. I went to a place called Lower Table Rock. Lower Table Rock is an immense rock plateau in southern Oregon that rises above our valley. For thousands of years, from native groups to the present day, people have climbed its summit to seek a place of peace, solitude, and reflection. That is why I went to the summit.

The issues taking place in our culture have brought us to a critical intersection. "Divine Direction" and "Dark Deception" are the street signs marking this intersection. False solutions have been offered, each inspired by a dark agenda, but something deeper is taking place inspired by God's Spirit. A distraction intent on keeping us from seeing the deeper work of God is being offered to us in well-crafted packages. These distractions pull on our emotions, and those parts of our mind not yet fully renewed. These distractions are blinding many to Heaven's plan and will lead them to make critical errors in judgment.

Once atop the plateau, I hiked toward the cliff edge that overlooks the Rogue Valley and the city of Medford. In the Spirit, I saw the image of a hand unfolding. I immediately knew I was seeing the hand of God. From within the Lord’s opened hand, a butterfly rose and began to fly away. 

I asked the Lord to help me understand what that image meant. He said promises are being released that will join with other promises. Their fulfillment would reveal the plan of God and give people a sense of direction. No one promise could accomplish what God had planned nor provide clarity all on its own. The only safe way forward is to follow the unique promise God has provided for each of us individually. It is our spiritual GPS calibrated to Heaven's direction. 

The cruel and heated events taking place in the world of recent date has caused the Lord to reach out and capture promises and hold them safely in His hand for this time of strategic release. While these promises were captured, protected and out of sight, some wrongly assumed God had abandoned them and their dreams. He was holding them safely in His hand for the right moment of release. The promise you thought was lost has been kept alive. It was never crushed, only out of sight. When released, follow its leading.  The promise will direct your steps through all the cultural carnage and relational havoc, and keep you safe from deception as you pass through this critical intersection.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Place at the Table

Recently, someone said they would prefer a place in the kitchen before they were offered a place at the table of cultural dialogue. I thought that statement to be very insightful. In the kitchen is where we prepare the meal that we will serve at the table of discussion. I would like to suggest we add an additional step. 

We need to offer each other a place in the decision-making process of what ingredients we will bring into the kitchen. There are times people can feel like a menu has been prepared without consulting their unique spiritual and emotional dietary requirements.

What would it look like to invite people with opposing views to go shopping with us? As we walk the aisles of a market together and instinctively reach out to grab a familiar ingredient that our intellectual taste buds have grown accustomed to, what would happen if we paused?  And in our pause, asked our fellow shoppers if our preferred ingredient would actually prepare a meal that all could enjoy?

This shared shopping experience is not a compromise of truth. It is a process of exploring the depths of truth to reveal a more substantial conversation than a fixed menu could provide. 

We are in a moment when a diplomatic faith will be what moves us forward into a more inclusive and powerful representation of our faith. The menu of our social dialogue is changing because new ingredients are being selected. We are learning how to shop together to prepare meals of discussion and fellowship that will genuinely change us and, as a result, change the world.

Monday, June 15, 2020

A Time to Trust

No matter how dark or despair-ridden a moment of history might appear, God will always remain faithful and true to His word. In these tense and challenging times, one of our greatest enemies is cynicism. It robs us of hope and steers us away from the very things we need to overcome obstacles that can appear insurmountable. No matter what is taking place, God is never hindered from revealing His goodness. He can still part a sea to reveal the way forward or raise the dead and call forth new life. We just need to trust Him.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Repentance, Lament and Hope

In the coming days, many of us will take part in prayer and repentance gatherings to heal our hearts in an attempt to heal our nation. One of the themes for these gatherings is the subject of lament. Lament is an expression of grief and sorrow. The recognition of lament is what joins us with and helps us recognize the grief and sorrow being experienced by our fellow citizens. The subject of lament motivated me to begin reading the book of Lamentations in the Old Testament. It is a book filled with heavy and dark images of suffering that come as a result of unrepentance. Jeremiah held nothing back when he penned Lamentations.

“Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope” (Lamentations 2:14).  When I read those words, I was struck by the blindness we can so easily embrace when we fill our minds with things that deny our part in our current social sorrow. These issues are the subtle and hidden attitudes we possess that are deceptive and can be overlooked if we think we are not complicit in some way.

When we live a life without lamenting the sins of our ancestors and the sins we currently choose to ignore, we set ourselves up for consequences that are not God’s intent for us individually or as a nation. We need to prophesy hope, coupled with responsibility. Without personal responsibility, we will only paint false images that will fill us with false hope and lead us to believe that real change can take place apart from repentance. 

What we see playing out on our TV and computer screens is the result of people either accepting false hope or someone experiencing the loss of hope. Hope is only possible when we offer the Lord our hearts and allow Him the opportunity to mold us through acts of repentance into people who can reflect His heart to those who suffer and will continue to suffer if true repentance does not take place.   This hope is only found in Jesus Christ. Every other offering of hope is a false hope.


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Restraint and Wisdom

The Lord is about to reward your restraint. You have bitten your lip on several occasions as foolish and harmful words have been tossed about without discernment. More than once, you almost spoke, but you did not. Heaven has taken notice of your discipline. You have become a trusted voice. Words of insight, wisdom, and healing will be released through you that will not only amaze those who hear you speak, but it will amaze you because you will know God was the source, not a pool of polluted and indisciplined emotions.

Living in a Nightmare

When Jan and I were first married, we went on a cruise in the Caribbean. Our room was a cheap windowless enclosure the size of a walk-in closet somewhere near the engine room. About two nights into the cruise, I had a nightmare. I thought we were under attack. At the time, my 24-year-old frame was in top shape, having spent several years training in martial arts.

As the dream-induced fight began, with each punch and kick, I let out a scream, a karate kiai, punching and kicking an imaginary enemy that my nightmarish mind thought was real. Jan later told me she made herself as small as she could and waited. At one point, I jumped up from the floor and snap-kicked the ceiling with the ball of my foot. I can only imagine what the people in the room above us felt when my kick awoke them in the middle of the night, thinking the ship had struck a submerged reef. Finally, I awoke, drenched in sweat to see Jan looking at me with a concerned expression, hoping I was finally awake.

After Jan told me what happened, my first thought was, “The people on the ship must think I was killing Jan.” I opened the door to our room and looked both ways up and down the hall. Heads were poking out of doorways with expressions of concern looking for the source of the mayhem. In a somewhat weak and embarrassed voice, I tried to assure them all was well and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, “I am sorry for all the noise. It was a bad dream.” 

I recalled that incident this morning, realizing people may feel like they are living in a bad dream - a cultural nightmare. Viruses, racism, and brutality are in a nightmarish clash. None of us reacts perfectly to these issues when they appear. People can hear our words or watch our responses to the cultural nightmare and judge our first response, thinking that is our reality. What we all need is enough time to wake up and regain our composure to reconsider and reevaluate our initial response. 

Jan modeled wisdom that night in our “stateroom” 45 years ago. She kept her head down and waited for me to come to my senses. I think that would be wise for all of us to model at this moment in history when life seems to be a nightmare and out of control.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Confronting Spirits

History teaches us many lessons. One lesson we have learned is the ugliness of our humanity is not eradicated by laws alone. It requires a change of heart. What we see surfacing at this time is a repeat of human history. Nothing is new under the sun. 

Not many are talking about what is really stoking the cultural fire we are currently experiencing. It has become a conversation limited to issues of politics, race, and preferred lifestyles. What is taking place is more profound than the resulting surface issues we see. It is the manifestation of a battle taking place in the spiritual realm now being played out on earth. Harmful and hurtful human interactions are the ministry of evil spiritual entities influencing people to act in destructive ways toward one another.

Voicing displeasure and taking a stand against evil in any form is a righteous thing to do. But if what we do in response to evil is limited to personal protest and declarations of displeasure, we will not challenge the forces that are waiting to reproduce yet another sad chapter of negative human history.  

Some have come to realize we are not fighting against flesh and blood. For others, the spiritual battle is ignored because it appears to them a less intellectual form of faith.  The latter typically have a more prominent place in the institutions of culture, and in some cases, within the Church.

In the coming days, I am joining friends within my particular stream of faith for a time of prayer, fasting, and lament. That is a good thing. During that time of corporate response, I plan on doing some binding and loosing prayers against the spirits that are empowering our current cultural problems. While I am praying that way towards the enemies of faith and love, I will also be open to rebuking and repenting of the influence those same spirits might have in my own life. Confronting these hidden spiritual influencers is a critical task for people of faith. If we don’t stand in that unseen gap where spiritual warfare is waged, we will reap an unnecessary harvest of sorrow and record another sad chapter of history for future generations to read.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Failure of Constant Correction

When we feel the need to constantly monitor and correct the response of others to volatile social issues, we have yielded our authority to a spirit of control. This is especially dangerous for a leader who has authority over the lives of people under their care. Resist the urge to correct and over manage the opinions of others, even those opinions you do not agree with. The answers you seek for the way forward may be present in the very things you try to correct, silence or dismiss. 

Preference vs. Principle

Years ago, I had an insightful conversation with a friend. He shared a story that helped me create a decision-making process in my life. 

A troubling situation was taking place that required him to make a difficult choice. He said the decision he was asked to make violated his preferences, not his principles. He eventually made a choice that was not his preference but allowed his principles to remain intact. My friend made a choice that preserved harmony in the group in which he held a leadership position. Over the years, I have come to know him to be a person who did not take the easy way out of tough decisions to maintain a false peace. As a man of integrity, he spoke the truth when required, even when he voiced a principle that did not align with popular opinion. He chose his relational battles wisely.

After the conversation with my friend, the preference vs. principle issue became a personal decision-making tool for me when I faced similar situations requiring my input or decision.  

When we fail to make a distinction between preference and principle, we can become reactive instead of proactive when facing the issues of life. A reactionary way of living fails to exercise wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t choose sides as its first response. Wisdom helps us form our life-principles from the essence of truth, justice, and honor and those principles are what we use to create our response. Without making a distinction between preference and principle, the impact of our voice will disappear in the din of the cultural shouting match.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Hope for a Nation

A couple of days ago, I needed to get away and detox my soul. I did not know where I was going when I first started to drive. I finally ended up at a local lake. I parked my truck and walked down to the water's edge. The water was low. Our region is experiencing the beginning of a drought. After a few minutes, I came across a section of an old roadway that is normally submerged when the lake is full. It was part of old Highway 99 that was the major north-south roadway along the west coast from the early 1900s until the freeway system came into existence in the 1950s. The old road was submerged when Emigrant Lake was created, and north-south traffic began to travel on Interstate 5.

As I stood on the crumbling section of asphalt seen in the photo, I realized I was standing on a section of a road traveled by my parents and Jan’s parents when they were newlyweds. It was a road filled with personal history. I could hear their laughter and conversations as they sat next to each other in a classic old car en route to some new destination. The evidence of that history only appeared when things got dry, and water was low.

We are in a dry time and low watermark in our culture. Each of us needs to get away from time-to-time to recalibrate. This away time is not ignoring our painful realities. It is a dedicated time that offers the Lord a chance to walk with us under the highwater mark of our experience.  That walk will reveal that none of the dysfunction we now see and hear in our culture is new.  It is the same old road our ancestors traveled. God is revealing once again, what time and dismissal has hidden. The only constant in all of the painful revelations of recent date is the brokenness of the human heart. Hearts and history can only be changed by an encounter with Jesus Christ. The best of our laws and intentions cannot bring about that kind of change.

Peaceful protests and laws guaranteeing and affirming individual freedoms are all part of a healthy culture. We should aspire to such things, but when all is said and done, and the water gets deep once again, nothing will have changed. While much of what is currently being done to raise awareness and institute change has merit, a new road forward is only found in Christ. An encounter with the risen Lord is the only hope for our world no matter how deep or shallow the cultural waters might become. 

As I walked back to my truck, I sensed a renewed hope that God has a plan for our nation, a plan only experienced in a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.