Friday, January 31, 2020

Forever Fruit

This morning, I asked the Lord what He wanted me to write. At the moment of my inquiry, I was shown an open hand holding a fresh apricot. The apricot was picked at the peak of perfection. Behind the image of the apricot was a film clip showing the coming and going of each season – winter, spring, summer, and fall. The image of the apricot remained unchanged as each season scrolled along behind the image of the open hand. Then the Lord spoke.

“The fruit you have born is everlasting because I gave it life. Its life and beauty did not rot or diminish as you moved through the challenging and painful seasons of your life. Nothing was lost or suffered decay. All along, I have held the fruit of your life securely in My hand. Continue to abide in Me. I have more fruit to bear through your branches. My seasons of fruitfulness are not bound by natural time or human limitations. I can bear good fruit in your life because you continue to offer Me your branches.”

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Pouring Hot Faith

I like to get up in the morning and hit the brew button on our coffeemaker and, within a couple of minutes, have a hot cup of coffee in hand to go along with my Dutch stroopwafel. This morning, the coffeemaker beeped, letting me know the coffee was ready. I placed my cup on the counter and began to pour. Out came clear hot water. I forgot to add the coffee. This is not a good thing to experience early in the morning. The hot water lacked substance. Without the substance of the ground coffee, the water remained just water and did not become the magic liquid, so many of us enjoy each day.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional reading of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The word “substance” is a pivotal word in the verse. It has been defined as “confidence, firm trust, assurance.” "Substance" is formed from two Greek words, “under” and “to cause or make to stand.” In other words, our confidence is based on something foundational that is not seen but makes us confident, firm, and assured. It allows us to stand in impossible places of belief and not give up, even when no natural evidence is present to support our faith.

If we do not believe in something not yet seen in the natural world, we will live a version of spiritual life that resembles someone pouring only hot water, not a fresh cup of hot coffee. When we live by faith believing in the substance of things not yet seen but promised, it is because we have anchored our hope in a realm beyond what we can see with natural sight. The greatest possibilities are waiting just beyond the line that defines something as impossible. Only a faith of substance can cross that line.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Uncanny Timing

Today, Jan baked a blackberry pie from blackberries our daughter picked last summer. As the house filled with the aroma of a baking pie, I could sense it was getting done. I got up and walked into the kitchen just as the oven timer counted down the last few seconds, 3…2…1, then the beeping sound of the timer began letting me the pie was ready. The pie looked fabulous. As I sat the pie on the stovetop to cool, I got the sense this will happen for some of you in matters of the Spirit. 

In the coming days, the Lord will cause you to move toward the completion of something before any outward sign alerts you that the time has come. In the next week, expect unusual timing events to take place. Some of you will be prompted by the Spirit to move with uncanny timing to experience a supernatural alignment of your life with what the Lord has been preparing. 

What I Do and Why

There are times, especially when we are new to the things of the Spirit, that we try to find “our gift.” At those early stages, there is nothing wrong with that pursuit. A problem can emerge later on when we become overly focused and enamored with our particular gift at the expense of more important issues.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with the Lord, asking why He had me work for so many years in a pastoral role when that was not my primary spiritual gift. The pastoral gift has never been revealed as my primary assignment in any gift assessment test. Prophet has always come out on top of all the tests I have taken. The gift of pastor belongs to Jan. She is the best pastor I know. We make a great team. 

The day I had that conversation with the Lord He said, “I had you spend all those years in pastoral ministry, even though it was not your primary gift, so you would know how to create a healthy environment for the prophetic movement.” At the time, those words sounded presumptive to me, and they might sound that way to you as well as you read these words. Such are the ways of God.

I write every day. It is a personal discipline and has become the resource pool for several books and a few thousand blog articles. Not everything I write is prophetic like a predictive word. Most of what I write are I Corinthian 14 kinds of words to strengthen people with encouragement and comfort. Some of the Old Testament prophets we quote with regularity only spoke a predictive word or two over their lifetime. We were never designed or assigned to be a predictive prophetic dispensing machine. Waking up to the need to produce a predictive word each day is a fast lane to compromise and a loss of credibility. 

Our spiritual gifts are like seeds we plant in hopes of a fruitful harvest. If the environment where a seed is planted is not healthy the seed will not live long enough to create a generational harvest. I have come to realize the environment in which a gift is delivered is as important as the gift itself. They work together.  In the end, this is called balance. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Drenched with the Dew of Heaven

In those times, when life feels dry and without the moisture of hope, when you are walking through what seems like an endless desert, a reminder of your true condition is important. The following is a portion of a blessing Jan wrote titled, “Blessing of a Sign.” It is condensed from Scripture found in Isaiah 37:30-32, Leviticus 25:21, and Zechariah 8:12-13.  Stand in the middle of your dry place and declare these words.

Hear God’s heart for you:
      The seed will be prosperous,
      the vine will give its fruit,
      and the ground will give increase,
      watered by the Dew of Heaven.
      So, I will save you,
      and you will be a blessing.

May you be saturated from the Dew of Heaven;
      may you have peaceful, secure growing
      conditions in order to take root
      and to yield its fruit of prosperity.

I bless you with seeds of peace—
      the grapevine heavy with fruit—
      a vintage, triple crop.

You have confirmation that God’s hand
      is upon you:
      you are the heir of His blessings—
      you are both a symbol
      and a source of blessing.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Traveling at the Speed of the Spirit

In a recent TED Talk, the presenter shared that, at some point in the future, hundreds upon hundreds of generations from today, we might travel into the far reaches of space in unimaginably powerful vehicles. Rockets that currently propel us using traditional sources of power cannot reach the speeds necessary to cross the vast expanses of outer space. These journeys are measured in light-years, not miles. The TED Talk presenter suggested we might somehow learn how to enter a parallel universe to move beyond the limitations of time and space that are present in our universe. 

God employed a form of supernatural travel for our ancestors, superior even to what was suggested in the TED Talk. It is superior because it is not limited to the dimensions of a theorized parallel universe. It moves people in the realm of the Spirit where time or space is not an issue.  Consider Philip the evangelist and what he experienced, "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus" Acts 8:39-40). 

It is too easy to read the accounts of Philip or Enoch and leave them in the pages of scriptural history as isolated events, OK to talk about but not consider as part of our reality. Perhaps recognizing the possibility of such an event is not our greatest challenge. Our greatest challenge might be our unwillingness to believe this could really happen again. Even worse, we might roll our eyes at the possibility of this kind of miraculous event happening and think that voicing its consideration is equivalent to intellectual suicide. 

In all matters of science, faith, and a work of God’s Spirit will always be able to do more and do it more profoundly than the development of our greatest technologies. God wants us to believe in Him and not be gullible. He also wants us to know that what is considered impossible only becomes possible when we believe. 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Winds of Personal Drama

Jan and I were in our local shopping mall and came across an arcade game called the Hurricane Simulator. It wasn’t tucked away in an arcade room. The machine was placed right on the main thoroughfare of the mall. The advertisement promises hurricane forces winds and a TV screen playing scenes of hurricane destruction to add both a visual and aural component to the experience. I wasn’t interested, only amused. I can only imagine what it would look like to someone who walked by the machine and saw a person inside with their hair flapping around in the wind and their eyes fixed on an imaginary scene of wind-born destruction.

I told Jan, “I know some people who carry a hurricane level of drama with them wherever they go even if no winds of drama exist outside the issues that are disrupting their mind. They just bring their storms with them.” We laughed and continued walking, recalling over the years, some dear souls who perpetually live in that disruptive mindset. At that moment, I also realized I have done the same thing from time-to-time. We can all carry our drama with us and let it mess with not only our peace but the peace of those who have to live with our dysfunction.

Maybe a better way to live would be to simply step out of our personal hurricane simulator and enjoy the peace of God. It is a peace we must choose to experience. God’s peace is not a false environment like the inside of an arcade machine. It is real and actually beyond our ability to explain or create. It promises to fill us and surround us no matter what is taking place. 

To experience this peace, we need to exercise our faith and step into its presence, exchanging our fear and doubt for God’s peace and security. The beautiful thing about God’s peace is that the admission price to experience its reality has already been paid. We only need to believe it is possible and then make a choice to leave the drama behind.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Danger of Relevancy and Credibility

As warm and embracing as our faith might be to us personally, to some, it will come across as strange, insignificant, or even foolish. One reason why we are seeing unhealthy doctrines entering the church is that, in some cases, our core message has been compromised in the pursuit of relevancy and credibility. For some, the highest compliment of their faith is to be accepted by all. The record of Scripture paints a different picture.

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers listening to Paul in Athens said of his message, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up? When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt” (Acts 17:18,32). These Greek philosophers were the thought-molders of the culture in their day.

The Roman court dismissively referring to Paul’s faith, “It was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive” (Acts 25:19). This “something about their religion” attitude conveyed a feeling of irrelevance toward the message of Christ in the highest civil court of the day.

The believers in Corinth, who in some ways resemble the Church in Western culture, faced a similar issue. In his first letter, Paul let the Corinthians know their faith will not always appear credible to the surrounding culture. Paul wrote, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the very power of God” (I Corinthians 1:17).

So, how then do we live? We live with an on-going tension between actually wanting to be relevant and credible in the right way, yet not compromising truth. There was something the Early Church carried with them each day that allowed them to move through the rejection of the message they preached. They carried anticipation of the supernatural.  The signs, wonders, and miracles of God confirmed their message in a way that legal or social acceptance could not.  The same is true for us today. An expression of faith without the expectation of God supernaturally confirming our message will always lead to compromise because we will seek an unhealthy expression of relevance and credibility as our solution. This compromise happens because the confirming element of what we preach is something we produce, not God.

“And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose” (Hebrews 2:4).

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Keeper of the Keys

From time-to-time, I will hear a simple phrase in my spirit that I know is the Lord speaking. This morning, I heard the words “keeper of the keys.” When I heard those words, I also received an expanded application. The phrase is a reminder for each of us who carry the keys of God’s Kingdom that those keys have a purpose. Jesus described the keys to Peter, “And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

We have some unlocking to do. This unlocking will take place in what Paul described as the second heaven, the realm between earth and the highest Heaven where Jesus sits enthroned alongside the Father. Jesus gave us the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to do our most significant form of spiritual warfare in the realm of the second heaven and ultimately take the fruit of that battle into the realm of earth to declare (forbid) the works of darkness.

Some of us are trying to insert our heavenly keys into natural locks in the first heaven - earth, and we wonder why nothing is opening up. The keys we possess have the power and authority to confront the activity of the dark powers at work in the second heaven that hold individuals and cultures in a place of bondage in the first heaven. 

The “forbid on earth” part of the Lord's instruction is our declaration of a victory that takes place after a lock has been turned in prayer and spiritual warfare in the second heaven. Once we turn Heaven's key in that realm, we will be able to confidently declare a victory on earth as it is in Heaven.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Caliber Clock

For the last year or two, I have been waking up and noticing numbers on my illuminated nightstand clock that read like rifle and handgun calibers - 2:23, 2:43, 2:57, 3:00, 3:27, 3:38 and 3:57. At first, I thought I was noticing the caliber numbers simply because of my background. I wondered if the numbers were something I should write about, but I had no unction from the Lord to do so at the time, so I just chalked it up to a fun way to wake up.

This morning, I decided to check a dictionary meaning for the word “caliber.” The dictionary meaning reads “degree of mental capacity or moral quality” and the internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel.” When I read the definition, a word finally came that prompted me to write something. 

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog article about an increased capacity to do spiritual warfare and used a gun metaphor. The metaphor was drawn from an experience I had as a cop. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about another firearm metaphor because we have some sensitive souls out there who view guns as evil and those who enjoy shooting sports as a bit off-kilter. But I knew I had a word, so here it comes.

God is increasing your spiritual capacity to receive words of revelation that will be specifically crafted for release in the new season we have just entered. The bore of your spiritual capacity is being expanded to carry a magnum-sized cartridge of spiritual insight that will be used to fire deep into the heart of the deception that is running rampant through the streets of our nation. The discharge of these words will bring life, not death. 

The increase of your influence is not something you can prepare for apart from keeping your heart and mind pure and focused on God, not on those things that are an enemy to righteousness. When the time comes for you to fire on the lies and deception, you will be amazed at the sound and impact the word will bring when the Lord discharges His truth through your life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Reset is Taking Place

The word “reset” has been mentioned recently by several prophetic voices. I agree. We have entered a moment in history where individuals, ministries, and each sphere of cultural influence will have an opportunity to experience a Spirit-empowered reset.

In 2016, I began to process the meaning of a reset with the Lord. It has a broader application than I first imagined. Early last fall, I wrote an article on this blog titled, “This is a Time of Reset.”  In the article, I shared a spiritual equation that begins with a reset and ends up with the release of new revelation. Just today, I finished the final draft of my latest book (to be announced in the early spring). In the book, I go into greater detail about the reset many of us are experiencing.

In the original blog article, and in my book, I define a reset, “A reset moves us back to the original intent or meaning of something. This is not going back in history. It is actually resetting us to be able to move forward and create a new history. Some have drifted away from the original intent of God living in a static representation of Kingdom life. God is resetting our priorities to His original blueprint to get us moving forward, directed by His original intent.

The original intent of God in all areas of life and faith will be revisited in this reset by those who are willing. In some cases, our preferred way of seeing the Church and its accompanying sacred cows will be dismantled as we return to what it means to be the Church, the Ekklesia of God. Hold on! This reset will shake some things loose that we hold dear, but under closer examination, they have become the very things that will prohibit us from moving at the speed of faith in this new era.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vetted Truth

Only God can create honest headlines. The rest is human opinion. Be careful what you determine to be true based on another person’s opinion. Even so-called evidence can be biased if not vetted by God’s Spirit.

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Turn Around

An unexpected turn of events is about to take place. It will turn expected events around to align them with outcomes not considered. Hold onto your faith and to your peace. God is at work behind the scenes doing something not visible with natural sight. Reserve your response until God speaks. He will have the last word.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Our Capacity To Do Battle

God is increasing your capacity for spiritual warfare. What worked in the past will not be sufficient to engage the battles in your future. This increased capacity is a work of God, not a capacity you can produce.

When I was a cop, one of my fellow officers got in a shootout with an armed robbery suspect. It was a hot July night, almost 100 degrees. My friend saw a man dressed in a heavy wool coat and a watch cap driving through town casing stores. The unusual attire caught the officer’s attention so he followed the vehicle. Like many criminals, the suspect provided a minor equipment violation that allowed the officer to legally make a car stop. 

When the officer approached the vehicle, the suspect bailed out of the car with a semi-auto 30-06 rifle and began shooting. The officer returned fire with his revolver as he ran backward, attempting to find cover behind his patrol unit. One of the suspect’s rounds hit the doorframe of the police vehicle fragmenting and wounding my friend. At that point in the gunfight, the officer had fired the last round in his six-shot revolver.  That last round hit the suspect in the upper thigh, and the gunfight was over. 

I was a department training officer so I grabbed some time to debrief my friend on the shooting. I asked him what he would do differently. His immediate response was, “I would want more bullets.” Back in those days, cops carried six-shot revolvers, not autoloading pistols that officers carry today with magazines holding almost three times the number of rounds as a revolver. The higher capacity of modern handguns is a far superior fighting weapon compared to the limited capacity of the revolvers we carried back in the day.

Having enough capacity to stay in the fight is critical, not just on the streets, but in our spiritual lives. When we put on our spiritual armor, we are actually putting on the Person of Jesus Christ, not a skill we learned at a workshop on spiritual warfare. When God increases our ability to fight the good fight, He is increasing our capacity to know and reveal Him in the challenging situations of life. He is our capacity.

The next time hell opens fire on you and those you love, ask the Lord to increase your understanding of His power and presence in your struggle. That is your most trustworthy battle weapon and defines your capacity to do battle. What God reveals to you at that moment will never run dry, leaving you facing the enemy alone and outgunned. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Pleasure of God

We will never be able to learn enough or work hard enough to please God. His pleasure is not sourced in our doing, but in our being.  At the end of all our striving and repeated failure, we will eventually meet the mercy of God. Knowing God is merciful beyond our wildest imagination is what will release joy, hope, and peace in our restless hearts.  

Friday, January 17, 2020

Navigating the Unexpected

Something unexpected is about to visit. This unexpected visitation will catch some unaware and off-balance, but only if they are focused on the wrong things. 

“Unexpected” is a word consisting of two parts. The first part, “un,” denotes the reversal or cancellation of an action or state, and the second part, “expected,” refers to something regarded as likely or anticipated.

This is not a time to assume anything, especially outcomes in the arena of politics and government. Our assumptions are polluted with our biases and personal preferences. Only the wisdom of God matters. Lay down everything you hold dear in hopes of an assumed outcome. Wait for the Lord to reveal what matters to Him. He will be faithful to let you know what you are supposed to pick up. Some of what you may be asked to put your hand to will come as an unexpected surprise. 

Beyond All We Can Imagine

Exploring the expanding edge of revelation is accomplished through imagination and faithful obedience, not by our preferred theology, the most advanced forms of scholarship, or a developed intellect. As valuable as those three things can be, it is faith and faith alone that places us on the leading edge of God’s ever-expanding revelation. It is there we get a glimpse of the substance of things only visible by faith.

Those who formally examine these acts of faith will create a theology for the experience, expand the resource base of scholarship and come to realize, once again, the earthbound limitations of human intellect. All of these studies happen after an event of faith takes place. 

C.S. Lewis defined this journey of discovery as the result of a “baptized imagination.” Albert Einstein noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand." The Apostle Paul shared about the journey beyond his knowledge-based reality, “I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell” (II Corinthians 12:4).

All Kingdom advancement takes place beyond what we currently know and define as reality. That is the nature of something that expands. It is always moving and cannot be nailed down and controlled. 

God is preparing to invite some of you to travel with Him to the expanding edge of His revelation. There you will see and hear things that will become needed course-correcting revelations for the Church as we enter this new decade. Your act faith will be studied and researched, and in that study, a new level of refreshing hope will be released to those of us who follow your path of faith.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Unfrozen Promises

When I walked along this wire fence that surrounds a meadow and saw the frozen water droplets hanging from the wire, the Lord spoke. 

You received a word from God and surrounded that word with acts of obedience. Everything the Lord asked you to do you have faithfully accomplished. But now, its fulfillment seems to have been frozen in place. You do not see the freedom of motion you imagined when you first received and obeyed the word. 

Your situation is about to change. The presence of God will begin to manifest and heat the circumstance surrounding the promise. Just like it is when water transforms from a frozen state to a liquid state under the influence of heat and melts to form a flowing river, so it will be with you and the promise you carry.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Premature Labels

I once knew a young man who was trying to find his voice in the faith community. He was sharp and possessed great potential. I believe he had and still does have a calling on his life. Then he made a turn. He turned toward judgment, the premature kind that immaturity is drawn toward. The young man discovered an affinity with those who create labels of judgment and feel it’s their mission to label people and churches with whom they disagree. It was sad to see. He did find his voice, but the sound he was making did not represent the heart of God.

It is too easy to prematurely define people and their motives before we fully understand their reasoning or life-experience. We use our current understanding of truth and reality to craft our premature labels. We have seen this take place in the history of science, medicine, and health habits. The Earth was once considered to be flat. Germs were an unseen and unknown threat, and the benefits of healthy eating and exercise were not yet understood. Those premature positions created labels crafted from premature judgments made before a fuller understanding was realized. 

The most dangerous labeling of all takes place in the area of faith. Be careful with labels. Only God knows how to properly label an individual or group who live outside the context of our current experience or level of comfort.  God’s labels always have a redemptive element. Most of the time, ours do not. When we become a self-appointed label maker, we step into the dangerous territory of accusation.  That is the devil’s favorite playground.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Hope of Resurrection

One thing I hate about this life is death - the death of a family member, a faithful friend or pet. Death in any form is the enemy of life. This is why the hope of resurrection is so critical to living a life of joy amidst sorrow and loss. Without the hope of resurrection life can offer us no joy only the fearful dread of ending.  

"Moreover, if the dead are not raised, that would mean that we are false witnesses who are misrepresenting God. And that would mean that we have preached a lie, stating that God raised him from the dead if, in reality, he didn’t. If the dead aren’t raised up, that would mean that Christ has not been raised up either. And if Christ is not alive, you are still lost in your sins and your faith is a fantasy" (I Corinthians 15:15-17).

Monday, January 13, 2020

Stop, Look and Listen

There are times when wisdom is expressed by stopping all forward motion to stand still in silence and listen. It is like someone walking along a city street in the middle of a large crowd of people who hears a subtle, strange sound. Wisdom alerts the person to stop, raise their head, and listen for something the head-down-always-moving-forward crowd missed. This is one of those times. Stop, listen, and wait for the instructions of the Lord.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Imperfect Lens of Our Discernment

We view people who are different from us through filters. We have gender, ethnicity, life experience, and personal preference filters. There is nothing wrong with these filters unless they become a rigid lens through which we see and judge someone. This corrupted lens transmits a jaded and prejudiced view of people and life itself.

When Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth he said, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point” (I Corinthians 4:3). Our judgment about people is not trustworthy. It is always clouded by the lens we use to see and interpret their lives. What we are unable to see is what is happening in someone's heart. That is a realm of insight only seen by God. 

“So, don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives” (I Corinthians 4:5). 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Revival of Rest

A revival is coming and it will begin in a place of rest. This is not a revival limited to a church gathering or conference setting. It will take place across the board in all areas where we live and work. Families will be revived. Corporations and mom and pop stores will be revived. Personal vision and bright hope for the future will come alive with a new purpose. 

Rest has been the great untapped source of spiritual awakening. This is not the absence of doing. It is actively choosing to say no to what is not needed, unnecessary, and a continual drain on our energy, our joy, and our resources.  One translation of the word sabbath is “to exterminate.” When we enter a place of rest, those things that have occupied our time and stolen our Kingdom potential will come to the surface. We will begin to see the thieves of our rest for what they are and be able to remove their dangerous flotsam from our life.

Rest will produce a new clarity and simplicity, allowing us to hear the word of the Lord in ways we could not have imagined before rest was entered. Some of you will hear things that at first will appear too simple to be true, but that instruction will carry with it the very revival you seek. The next great move of God is already among us for those who choose to rest.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Beyond the Visceral

Truth, the heart of God kind of truth, can be hidden behind an offense we hold against someone, a particular worldview we don't agree with or a personality type we find inappropriate. These issues must never be allowed to become an emotional or intellectual barrier holding us back from stepping through their restriction to discover the truth. They are diversions. This applies to all areas of life – to our friendships, family, how we cast our vote, and the workplace. Jesus was always able to look through these visceral barriers to see where the Father was at work. He courageously stepped through each barrier, no matter how unpopular or forbidden His decision was to those who stood in His way. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Why It's Important to Pray for Our Enemies

Reading Acts 8 and 9 made me think of a scary scenario. Imagine you heard that a band of religious zealots was going door-to-door in your neighborhood, dragging people out of their homes and killing them because they were Christians.  You were also told they were taking large stones and crushing the skulls of entire families against the hard pavement of the street and leaving piles of dead bodies behind as a grotesque warning.

What would you do? Before you too quickly assume a hyper-spiritual stance, creating a response to the threat void of reality, stop and think about it for a moment. I have been in situations where acts of terror were taking place all around me in real-time, and it’s not a pleasant experience. Your spiritual mettle is tested in those experiences. If I knew a band of crazies was working their way down my street and I had no way to escape, I would greet the intruders at the door with my 12 gauge and print clusters of 00 buck in the center of mass when the threat crossed the threshold of our home.

As I prepared to protect my family, I would also be doing something else. I would be praying.  “Lord, encounter these people and reveal yourself to them before they get to our home” would be one of my prayers as I waited, prepared for their arrival. I would pray for a Damascus Road experience or a diversion so they would not encounter the fury of my response. Anyone who loves their family will protect them at all costs. Protection is part of love, and it is not always a pleasant thing to watch. It is our responsibility to pray for our enemies before the consequence of their foolish and threatening manner catches up with them.

The decisions we make have consequences. Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, did things before he met Jesus that were painful reminders of what his life was like before he had an encounter with the Lord. We need to pray for our enemies so they can meet Jesus before they experience the consequence of their actions. While we live prepared in a crazy and unstable world, preparation is not all we do. We are called to pray for people who want to harm us, hoping that before they arrive and experience the reality of our preparation, they will see the error of their ways. The principle of praying for our enemies applies not only to our families. It also applies to cities or nations who are being threatened by evil. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Sting of Love

If we create a message hoping our audience will accept what we share, and if acceptance becomes our primary motivation, we will eventually compromise truth to hold onto our audience. At some point, we have all been guilty of this transgression. Humility, honesty, and repentance is the only way out of this trap. 

As a young pastor, I remember the day God challenged me on this subject. I still feel that sting today. I am still being stung to this day in other areas of personal compromise. I want to be stung again and again whenever I find out I am more interested in keeping my readers happy and having them enjoy what I write than serving them the hard and sometimes uncomfortable truth. 

If left unchallenged, our compromise will cause the Spirit to withdraw His instruction and leave us with a message crafted only by human wisdom and our version of spiritual reality. In America, we have created a lot of feel-good theology and subsequent worldviews.  This has taken place in our insulated culture absent from the stark realities of life being lived out each day by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. We can too easily create a spiritual and emotional Twilight Zone where reality and truth have been exchanged for a fuzzy, photoshopped lie. 

When God expands the sphere of influence of our voice, no matter if our audience is one or a million, we will experience a challenge to our integrity. If we do not allow the challenge to discipline our hearts and the content of our message, any of us can be susceptible to making a weak turn toward compromise.  This becomes especially important if we have allowed our identity to be hitched to a preferred response from our audience. The principles of truth and honesty never change. They walk with us into each new season of life, carrying with them the sting of love.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Stimuli of God

While military assets are being repositioned to deal with an emerging international crisis, never forget that long before the natural assets are put in place, God has already dispatched angelic forces to take up strategic positions around the world to accomplish His will. Jesus only responded to surrounding stimuli by watching and listening to the Father. God is never taken by surprise, and those who serve Him should reflect that same mindset.

The Gift of Imagination

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the freedom to imagine. This is part of a generational inheritance we give to our family. While imagination is something most children experience as a normal part of growing up, some imaginations have been hindered and even destroyed by neglect, abuse, or a loveless home.

Our daughter, Anna, is an artist and published poet. Her most recent book is titled, Living Large on Little. In the book, Anna shares principles of how to live in the largeness of God’s goodness, even when our resources are limited, and in some cases, not available.

Anna writes, “This book is about spending less time seeing limitations as obstacles, and it is about investing in our imagination to re-see obstacles as invitations. In fact, you might say this book is about revision, re-vision.”

When we did not have much to give our children in the way of finances or expensive vacations, we did give them the gift of imagination. The dividends of that freedom have released and transmitted generational creativity. We can be wealthy in the eyes of the world, but paupers in the area of imagination. Give those you love the freedom to imagine. That gift will walk with them through the span of their lives, and beyond and from it will come remarkable testimonies of a life well-lived.

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Return of Sweet Memories

This afternoon the sun came out and passed through my truck window to warm my face in the middle of a cold winter day. As soon as I felt the warm sun rays, Bob Marley’s reggae song, Jammin’, came on the radio. In a moment of memory, I was transported back to Kingston, Jamaica, where our family lived for a couple of years. As the song played it was 1993 again and I was driving my jeep down Constant Spring Road. It was a gentle memory just like the feeling of a warm winter sunray.

Some of you have been slogging it out for a long time with family issues, job challenges, and simply wondering what the future holds. The Lord in His kindness is bringing back some beautiful memories to remind you of what was, not as a reminder of loss and something never again to be experienced. These memories will come with an assignment to remind you that if God can do a good thing in your past, He can surely do it again in the present and in your future. 

Wars and Rumors of Wars

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matthew 24:6).

An unholy alliance of nations is forming, a governmental false trinity. These three nations will move in stealth behind diversions. Only those who look with wise eyes will see what is taking place. A fourth, not part of the three, will become reckless once it sees the trinity on the march.  When these events begin to transpire on the world stage, those not at peace with God will be overcome by fear because they believed a lie. God will not be mocked by the treachery of the false trinity or by those who blindly followed a lie declaring it as truth. When you hear of wars and rumors of war, let the peace of God guard your heart. No matter what nations are planning in their foolish backroom conversations, the Lord has a greater plan ready to deliver. When the world begins to shake, that will be the announcement that something new is about to be birthed by the Spirit. Live in expectation, not in fear.

“But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8).

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Beware of Light Winds

Before you change the course of your life, be careful to rightly discern the direction the relational and spiritual winds are blowing. Some of the first indicators of a positive way forward might not be telling you the whole truth.

Paul was being transported as a prisoner aboard ship to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. The sailing was slow, so the captain and crew became impatient. When a light wind began to blow, they decided to make a run for a favorable harbor. Winter was approaching. It was not a wise decision.

Paul warned the crew with prophetic insight that if they continued on the current heading, there would be danger and shipwreck ahead. Paul’s warning was ignored. 

“When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So, they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale” (Acts 27:13-15).

The ship entered a severe storm. The cargo was thrown overboard in an attempt to keep the ship intact. Eventually, they ran aground, and the ship broke apart on the island of Malta. In the disaster, Paul would become the spiritual captain of the ship, and all 276 aboard survived.

“The sailors thought they could make it” is a spiritually dangerous mindset. Beware of the undiscerned light winds blowing into your life, asking you to go against the instructions of the Lord. Every season of life has a safe heading given by God. Stay on that heading even if you seem to be delayed. These light winds offer a false and foolish invitation asking us to can follow their attractive lure. Every deceptive light wind will lead us into a personal life-storm where we will encounter things God did not want us to experience on our journey. Trust the last known heading provided by the Lord. It will keep you safe and out of danger.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Enemy in the Camp

The most dangerous enemy is never the most obvious. He plays the long game. Over time, this kind of enemy will use our naivety, personal compromise, and spiritual blindness to construct his dark plan. The products of this deception are things we would never have imagined or allowed to rule our lives and communities. Trojan horses carrying deception have already entered the public square and, unfortunately, the halls of faith.

This is not a time for false bravado, nor is it time for fear. Neither option will allow us to partner with God in a work of restoration and reformation. We need to ask the Lord to awaken the slumbering areas of our faith. He wants us to see our world with the eyes of the Spirit, not through the lens of human emotion or logic.  What is seen will be a disturbing image for some. 

Once we have clarity of vision, we will be given an assignment that will not look like the assignments of those who continue to live blinded to spiritual realities. In Ephesians 4, Paul said once the Church has been equipped and matured we would look like this, "Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love."

At first, speaking the truth in love will sound foreign and out of step with the false reality being presented.  Those who hear your redemptive words might reject them out of hand. Don't forget, people were created by God to hear the truth, not lies. While the lies might seem to have center stage at this moment, truth will carry the day. The sound of Heaven – truth spoken in love – will eventually displace the sound of lies. 

When the Lord asks you to speak it will require courage to make a sound. Before you speak, discern the difference between personal preference and truth. And above all, make sure you are speaking and acting in love. Love is the only thing the enemy fears and it is the only thing that has the power to dismantle his plan of deception. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Religious Lone Wolves

Our faith can be radicalized negatively in isolation. We need the iron of another person’s honoring critique to sharpen our thinking to make sure we do not become a religious lone wolf armed with misinformation and a distorted understanding of God’s heart.

Yesterday, a friend sent me an article from The Jerusalem Post written by a rabbi addressing the issue of antisemitism. In the article, the rabbi mentioned something called the “disinhibition effect.” This effect takes place because people can become more hateful when communicating electronically than when face-to-face. Fueling this negative effect is the issue of privacy. People can become more easily radicalized in the privacy of their homes without anyone seeing what is taking place.  As a result of losing their inhibition in private, a lone wolf is produced. The deeper the lone wolf deception, the more it creates a feeling of helplessness and the need to blame someone or something for the problems they blindly interpret. 

Our faith and our response to the social ills in our culture cannot be interpreted in a healthy and God-honoring way while sitting behind a television or computer screen and being fed information. We need face-to-face encounters with people to remain healthy and have our views challenged if they are developing in an unhealthy way. Lone wolves are dangerous. They will attempt to silence any opposing thought and demand the world submit to their distorted view of reality.  

If you have someone in your life with an opposing worldview perhaps the most productive thing you can do is meet for coffee and start a face-to-face dialogue. Have them bring their iron and you bring yours and let the sharpening begin.  Listening to someone’s opposing opinion has become a lost art in a social media-driven world where, in our socially insulated lives, we have lost our inhibitions and can too easily fall victim to the response of our flesh, not the Spirit. 

“It takes a grinding wheel to sharpen a blade, and so one person sharpens the character of another” (Proverbs 27:17 TPT).

Thursday, January 2, 2020

We Are Meant For More

If our New Year resolutions are limited to weight loss programs, gym memberships, or planning our next vacation, we may have lost our way as followers of Jesus Christ. Around the world, fellow believers are paying for their faith with blood. In our nation, dark agendas are working to undermine righteousness and truth, while many in the Church fail to identify, engage, and confront these agendas. My prayer is the next Great Awakening will not be defined as just another enthusiastic meeting but the awakening of the Church to the danger of living a life of faith within an insulated and self-focused existence. We are meant for more.

It's a New Day!

Last night in a dream, I was asked to speak at a conference. The church where the conference was being held had been a cutting-edge ministry. The sanctuary reflected what at the time was a very innovative form of architecture but now looked outdated and tired. The seating was positioned at different angles and elevations trying to represent diversity. The church had a place for two baptistries that had long since been removed. Many of the seats were worn and threadbare. The entire structure was dated and sad.

When the people began to arrive for the conference, it was like their eyes had been dulled to the sad reality of their ministry. They seemed robotic and focused only on their immediate surroundings. , As I walked around laying hands on each chair praying for the people who would occupy the seats, I realized the Lord had sent me to speak without giving me a word. He wanted me on site to discern what was taking place and then He would give me the word.

As I walked by the sound booth and saw my friend, Andy Southmayd, who was invited as the guest worship leader. He was adjusting the sound system. Andy had the same look I had on my face wondering what had happened to the church over the years of spiritual and physical neglect. In the next moment, his face began to glow with joy as he heard a word from the Lord. Andy shouted, “It’s a new day! It’s a new day! It’s a new day!” He kept shouting those words from the sound booth over the empty room. Then I realized my entire sermon would consist of only four words – It’s a new day! I would shout that declaration over and over again like a parent trying to rouse a sleepy child to begin a new day.

Each day is new to God. A new day only becomes worn and familiar if we allow our lives to succumb to fear, doubt and disbelief. If we choose to declare – It’s a new day! – a spiritual renovation will begin taking place. The lies we believed and the resulting tired and outdated ways of thinking will be displaced by our faith. Today is truly a new day. 

“How pleasant to see a new day dawning” (Ecclesiastes 11:7).

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

We're Pregnant!

Women who are pregnant possess a unique beauty. They are carriers of new life and the life they carry illuminates something in their expression only seen during pregnancy. I remember when Jan was pregnant with our children. She has always been a stunning beauty to me, but there was something unique in her presence that captivated my heart, even more, when she carried our children.

I remember Jan reaching down with both her hands and clasping her baby bump holding it like someone holding a precious package. She would look down at her bulging tummy and smile then look up at me. That is also the image of someone who knows they carry a promise from God.

When we are pregnant with a promise, we aren’t supposed to look and act like a skinny model on a runway functioning as a human clothes hanger in heels. We should carry ourselves in faithful expectancy like a woman on her due date. Spiritually pregnant people move through life differently than someone who is not pregnant. The promise carried by an expectant person changes how they walk through life, the spiritual food they eat, and the postures of life they assume.

If we know we are pregnant with a promise from God, we should live like the spiritually fertile person we are and not give off the impression of barrenness. Some of you are deep into the gestation process of your promise. Soon you will feel the contractions of the birth. Carrying the promise has not been easy, but to the rest of us, you have exuded an extraordinary beauty that only comes from someone who knows they are spiritually pregnant with a promise from God.