Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Power of Listening and Learning

We all react with disgust when we see a video of evil brutality or images of an inner-city burning in protest. The problem comes when we fail to realize the deeper issues in play that brought these images into view. Being willing to move past our initial emotional response and engage the underlying issues is where healthy personal and cultural change begins to take place. We must all be willing to address what we missed in our initial reaction, or we will continue to see more sick videos and destructive riots on the computer screens of our future.

Jesus had a solution for strained race relations. He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His commandment to love others as we would want to be loved applies to every relationship we have – friendships, marriage, government policy, family, and many others. Every single relationship we have must come under the scrutiny of this love, or it will be highjacked by our preference or bias and leave us entrenched in broken relationships with people who look and believe differently from us. The concept of loving our neighbor can appear like just another simplistic saccharin-infused concept if no change has taken place in the way we think. When we demand the other opinion to be the ones who must always change, we are actually part of the problem.

When Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandment, He first mentioned loving God with our entire being - heart, soul, and mind. He then said our love of God is manifested in real life by loving our neighbors. Loving our neighbor is not a separate issue from loving God. It is the measurable byproduct of our love for God. 

One of the areas that love wants to change is how we think. In our minds is where uncomfortable and unfamiliar conversations are waiting to take place.  Love helps us push aside our bias, our preferred worldview, and any resulting prejudice we might have and simply listen to those who are expressing a sorrow we know nothing about. The process of listening can be painful - painful when we discover what we thought we knew but did not understand.

I linked below a resource a friend of mine shared on his social media account. It is a grace-filled first step of personal preparation to help us engage in conversations about race. Race relations is a complex and challenging subject. It will not be solved in a day but we can begin to move forward toward a more healthy place of dialogue if we are willing to simply listen and learn.

https://bethebridge.com/docs/16Tips.pdf



Friday, May 29, 2020

When Cultures Collapse

 The world “collapse” came to me this morning. It’s not a very positive word, but it is part of life. One dictionary defines collapse asto fall or cave in; crumble suddenly.”

I remember looking out from the roof of our apartment in LA during the Rodney King riots and seeing how quickly social order collapsed in our neighborhood. I watched footage on the current riots taking place in Minneapolis where entire neighborhoods are burning. Life as we know it can collapse in a moment. That reality is unsettling.

I remember how quickly things changed in a divided Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. I recall the rapid fall of the old USSR. These changes appeared to take place suddenly, but the ingredients of their collapse were added to the mix over time, long before the physical collapse took place.

We are in a time when some things we thought immovable and forever secure will begin to collapse because they cannot bear the weight of needed change. Each generation hopes that collapse will take place somewhere in the future, not in their lifetime. While no one wants to experience social collapse, our desire to push needed change forward into another generation could be our contribution to an eventual collapse of a culture. 

What can catch us off guard is the suddenness of a cultural collapse when it does occur. A neighborhood can be a familiar and secure home to generations of a family, and in one night, it all burns to the ground as the sad fruit of a riot. Nations given almost omnipotent status can fall in a day. Only God is unchanging and immovable. Everything else on earth is subject to sudden collapse.

Before any more history unfolds, it would be wise for each of us to take time to reorder our thinking and reaffirm where our hope has been placed. Nothing on earth is immune to change and eventual collapse. Only in Jesus can we have true peace and an immovable hope.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Shaming

When someone attempts to shame you into silence, their attack only reveals the weakness of their position and the shallowness of their character. Don't take it personally. Turn away, and don't respond. Let God be your defender. 

The Gift of Honor

In the last few days, I have been reading through Proverbs. Proverbs is one of those down to earth, practical sections of Scripture that helps us navigate life with wisdom.

This morning I read, “If you do, you will lose your honor” (Proverbs 5:9). The context of that declaration has to do with someone being seduced sexually and the sad consequences of that choice. But that warning applies to more than just sexual seduction. It can refer to any form of seduction like the seducing presence of power, control, or pride.

With that in mind, I went back and reread chapter 5 to see how seduction takes place. It first begins with smooth words that appeal to a place in us that is vulnerable to the kind of seduction being offered. Once the smooth and inviting words are received, a conversation begins leading the victim to the door of the house of the seducing spirit. Once inside, it is too late. Seduction is complete, and honor is lost.

The writer of Proverbs shares the regret of the seduced person, “How I hated discipline. If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace” (v.12-14). 

Seduction of any kind can seem like it comes out of left field, but in reality, we carry and develop our vulnerability to its lure over time.  This is why each day, we must examine our hearts to see if we are carrying a vulnerability to any form of seduction that has the intent and purpose of robbing us of our honor. Protect honor at all costs. It is a gift from God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pray for Pastors

In this pandemic, pastors are getting input from all sides. This has caused me to want to be more sensitive to the challenges they are facing. This is not a comfortable time to be a pastor. Not all of the input they receive is kind, loving, or sensitive. Since pastors are the ones tasked with creating an environment where the Church can flourish, this is a time for apostles and prophets to listen to what a pastor is sensing is best for the people they shepherd. The five equipping gifts are a team,  not a hierarchy. Each gift has a unique contribution to make in the maturing process of the Church. These equipping gifts work best when they function in mutual submission to each other. 

God is Offering Us a Great Treasure

As I was pondering what is taking place in our culture, in my mind’s eye, I saw the image of a small clothe bag being held by someone. Immediately, I knew the hand was God’s hand, and the bag was filled with gold. It was a visual metaphor of what God wants to do before we return to some sense of normalcy.

Many of us have been working on a re-engagement plan for our life, work, and ministry. We want that plan to be in place before this season comes to an end, so we won’t miss a beat upon re-engagement. That is good, but it is not the most important consideration. There is something greater. The greater is the treasure within the cloth bag the Lord is holding out to His people. The treasure is reconciliation and restoration.

In the last few months, increasing levels of tension and frustration have manifested in some relationships, causing the exchange of hurtful words and actions. This has created wounding and division. God wants to prepare us to reengage and see our plan succeed, but this will only happen if we are willing to reconcile and allow restoration to take place in our relationships. 

This is not about who is right or wrong. It is about protecting oneness and unity within the Church so that our lives become a living testimony of God’s grace to the surrounding culture. Without a willingness to reconcile and restore, our best-laid plans will not survive the coming reengagement because the plans of God are empowered by love. Without the redemptive power of love, even the best of plans will become hollow and short-lived.



Monday, May 25, 2020

The Clanging Cymbal of Our Opinion

Over the years, I've noticed we can make Scripture say what we want it to say when our opinion on a subject has become entrenched and unmovable. I know this because I have been guilty of the practice. Like you, I have “proof texts” for everything I think an opposing opinion might offer as evidence proving their opinion is superior to mine and vice versa.

This is why Jesus must be our ultimate authority even above our interpretation of a bible text or preferred translation of the bible, something none of the earliest disciples possessed. I know this can sound like borderline heresy to some, but such is the life of faith. There will be times when two believers who both love God and live lives of integrity will disagree over the interpretation of a text or how to represent our faith in culture. In these instances, only Jesus can be the ultimate mediator, not our opinion on Scripture, our worldview, or how we think our faith should be represented in culture.

Living with honor while holding divergent opinions requires a pliable heart. Pliability is not a loss of biblical integrity or compromise of our ethics. It is a manifestation of mature love. Some of the most remarkable men and women I know in God’s Kingdom have very different opinions and interpretations about a life of faith, and yet they are still able to move forward under the banner of love and accomplish great things together. 

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1).


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Discerning Preference and Conviction

Learning to discern the difference between personal preference and conviction is an important distinction to make. Personal preference is something we all have because we have been uniquely created and live within different lifestyles and social environments. We can yield the ground of our personal preference when we encounter a divergent opinion and not be compromised morally. Conviction is different. It holds fast to our understanding of truth and does not waver. Both preference and conviction must be handled with grace and wisdom, or relationships can be destroyed, and a mission can be aborted prematurely.                                                                     

It is too easy to mistake a preference for a conviction and draw an emotional line in the sand and miss the fact that different preferences and viewpoints are actually an invitation for dialogue, not distance. Truth is what should empower all we do, not our emotions, no matter how passionate those emotions might be convincing us of the rightness of our position or worldview. Our undisciplined emotions can redefine a preference and turn it into a conviction, and that is where a lot of our problems find their origin. 

Lord, help us know the difference.



Friday, May 22, 2020

The Love of Acceptance

Prophet Wanda Alger recently shared a word that caught my attention, challenged me, and brought clarity to some of what is taking place in this unique moment of history, "Though your love for me is strong, your love for acceptance is stronger. Though your commitment to me is unquestioned, your compassion has led you to compromise. You have traded righteousness for relational equity and divine providence for self-protection. Your spirit is willing, but your flesh has been leading."

Our pursuit of truth can be compromised by the need to be accepted by a group, any group no matter how well-intentioned that group might be or how much we want to belong. God is not surprised by our weakness in this area. He wants to bring clarity to these broken places in our lives so He can perform a work of deliverance freeing us from the control of this spirit of flawed acceptance. Those set free in this area will eventually find their voice and begin to declare the will of God with boldness and balanced compassion.

This time of social isolation has caused many things to rise to the surface.  What we allow to remain hidden and unchallenged will infect the authenticity of our relationships. 

What we will see rising to the surface is the flotsam of our unhealed brokenness and masked fear. This spiritual debris is what God wants to heal before we move forward. Do not fear when these negative things become visible in your life and the life of those you love. This manifestation is meant for our wellbeing and freedom if we are willing to let them go to receive something better. God is preparing us to reengage life and move into a new season with purer motives and priorities. That is a good and authentic thing. 


Turning Over the Tables of Our Faith

When we read about Jesus entering the temple and turning over the tables of the moneychangers, our interpretation of that event is viewed through the lens of our worldview. Our worldview, no matter how right we think it might be, is only a partial view of a greater reality.  We always have more to learn than our current understanding would lead us to believe.

What Jesus was overturning that day in the temple was a misrepresentation of God's heart. The temple officials who represented God to the people and the moneychangers they allowed into the temple complex to conduct business were portraying a false image of God. They were rejecting the sacrifices the people brought to the temple and required them to buy a “temple approved” sacrifice at a higher price. The average family was being abused financially and morally, but the greatest abuse was creating a false image of God.

Jesus is moving through the Church at this moment, looking for any abuse and misrepresentation of His name. The way He challenges that abuse or misrepresentation could make some of us uncomfortable, especially if it is our table being overturned. 

Before every move of God, a dismantling and overturning of our motives and assumptions must take place. We will all be subject to this overturning.  No one is exempt. When Jesus interrupted and overturned the status quo 2,000 years ago, it was an act of love. That same love is moving through personal temples today, bringing order and clarity to our individual lives and to the mission of the Church currently being represented in culture. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Responding to Disappointment

This morning, I was reading the results from our state and local elections. I am familiar with one of the men who was seeking office. He lost. I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, help him turn his disappointment into worship.” 

Over the years, like you, I have experienced the sorrow of disappointment. I have come to realize the only safe response to these painful moments is a willingness to worship in the middle of our pain. Only worship has the ability to refocus spiritual eyes that have been blurred by the sorrow of disappointment. 

This kind of worship does not require skilled musicians or a smartphone app filled with the latest worship choruses. It can take place when we have little to offer in the form of traditional worship. This worship might resemble a moment of reflection on God’s past faithfulness or a willingness to utter just the fragment of a sentence that redirects our hearts toward the Lord. The first act of faith is redirected sight.  When we choose to look beyond our sorrow, all things are possible. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

At No Point

When we allow our personal opinion to become doctrine, we will always harm and divide the unity of the Church. At no point in my lifetime have I seen the importance of making that distinction as it has become in this moment of history.

Silent Running

God has been inviting some of us to go to a deeper place, away from the overwhelming and never-ending surface clatter we hear in the public sphere. Fear has bullied its way into our cultural dialogue. Some of what is being vented is our unresolved fears – fear of what is happening in our world, fear of a loss of control, or simply a fear of the unknown. God is coming after our fear because fear and love cannot coexist. One will be supplanted by the presence of the other.

In submarine maneuvering, there is a tactic called silent running. It is a stealth mode of operation that allows a submarine to move undetected through the ocean to position itself to gather intelligence or set up a tactical operation.  During silent running, all but the essential systems of the sub are turned off, and the propeller speed is reduced. The crew is told to remain quiet and not make any noise that could transmit through the hull and alert enemy detection systems of the submarine's presence. 

Positions on a variety of important issues have been declared on the surface of our current cultural conversation. We know where most people stand. Maybe wisdom will ask some of us to take a moment to go deep and run silently. In going deeper, we will take our opinions with us to a new depth. In that deep and silent place, apart from the noise of human opinion, the Lord will speak either affirmation or adjustment to those things we thought were so right while we were still cruising on the surface, confident that we saw everything with such clarity. When our voice finally returns to the surface, we will bring with us a new understanding and insight that only comes when we have allowed God to take us deep and run silently in a quiet place.

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 32:15).

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

God is Commissioning Scouts

As a new season approaches, the life-assignments of some will make a transition.  God is calling a new breed of spiritual scouts who are willing to explore beyond the boundary line that separates the old from the new. Accepting this calling will change everything.

The Spirit is stirring these scouts to explore territory that has opened up during the last few months of the global shutdown. These are scouts who sense something new is now upon us, and they want to go and take a look. Some scouts will discover ancient trails that are overgrown, out of sight, and long-neglected. Others will blaze entirely new trails into the future. 

If you are a scout, you have been sensing something new that exists beyond the horizon line of our current understanding. You are compelled to venture out to explore a way forward for others to follow. This exploration will require that you break camp with any mindset that would hold you back from your mission of discovery. Your decision to break camp with the status quo will not always be understood by those who consider the current encampment adequate. 

If you are a scout, you have been called and commissioned for this adventure. Travel wisely and always carry with you an assurance that God will reveal the way forward when the obstacles on the trail seem overwhelming. The way forward will be revealed as you walk in a moment-by-moment dependence upon God’s Spirit.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Deeper Truth

God wants to transform how we see this time of social isolation. Beyond all the discussions currently taking place, a deeper truth is waiting to be discovered.

Paul wrote some of his most impacting epistles from prison - Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. We call these the Prison Epistles. The depth of their revelation confirms for us that our calling is never hindered by our physical circumstance, no matter how dungeon-like it might appear. Paul described himself as a “prisoner of Christ." No chains or cell bars could ever imprison the revelation and love Paul experienced from God.

One of the prisons Paul spent time in was the Mamertine Prison in Rome. Mamertine was a horrible, dark place. Prisoners went there to await execution. Mamertine would eventually close, sometime in the Middle Ages. Since that time, two churches were built and now rest upon the ruins of the original prison.  

There is something powerful and life-transforming, knowing we are a prisoner of Christ and not our circumstance. That knowledge has the power to transform our place of natural imprisonment into a place of worship and revelation. Perhaps that is what will happen in this time of social isolation if we choose to see the deeper truth God wants to reveal in our place of discomfort. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Matter of the Heart

Every follower of Jesus has an anointing given to them by God to accomplish what He has called them to do in His name. That anointing can lift if our hearts and not aligned with the heart of God. Experiencing success of any kind can become an illusion if we think in our success, we can overlook the small things that are, in essence, the big things to God. 

Aimee Semple McPherson, the woman Billy Graham said, was the greatest evangelist of her century, exampled the kind of heart God loves to work with. I remember talking with an oldtimer in the Foursquare Church. He shared a story about Aimee. On a typical Sunday morning, multiple services of 5,000 people were taking place. It was standing room only. Many were getting healed and saved. The nation had its eyes on Aimee and her profound ministry. 

On one particular Sunday, as Aimee was making her way to the platform, she became brusque with a young woman who was part of the ministry team at Angelus Temple. As Aimee was getting ready to walk upon the platform, the Lord told her to go back and make things right with the young woman, or He would lift His anointing from her ministry that morning. Aimee's heart was so in tune with God that she immediately turned around and searched out the young woman to ask for forgiveness. When she finally arrived on the platform, the power of God fell on the meeting.

In this time of isolation, when our emotions can experience fatigue, and our responses might resemble a less than loving response, we cannot move forward if we let our negative responses to people remain unresolved. On our way to re-engaging as a culture, we need to make sure we make things right if we have wronged each other. It doesn't matter who is right or who is wrong.  It's a matter of the heart. The anointing on our life and ministry depends on it. God has some profound things to accomplish as we re-engage. He needs our hearts right so we can move forward under a fresh anointing for a new season.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Your Future is Hope

In the last hour, I was thinking about a couple of good friends who are making a significant change in their lives. The Lord gave me a word for them. While it was a specific word of encouragement, the Lord said, “This word is for others. It has a wider application.” So, with that instruction, I want to share the word with you if it applies to your circumstance. Be well. God has you covered. Hope is your future.

“You just came to mind, and when you did, I felt the Lord nudge me to share something with you. I know significant change is on your horizon. In the coming days, God will reveal a new level of His faithfulness to you. The honor and love you have carried and displayed to many of us while you were near will go before you in our absence. It will open doors for the many wonderful things God has planned in the new place. Go expecting joy to greet you upon your arrival.


Have Our Prayers Been Answered?

For years, I've heard many of us pray for a return to the model of the Early Church, as seen in the book of Acts. In the first century, people moved in the power of the Spirit in the streets of their city in between daily appointments. They met in homes in small groups and shared the burdens of life - emotional, spiritual, and financial burdens. Large gatherings were not the norm after the dispersal that took place in Acts 8.  Those larger gatherings would emerge centuries later and become the norm of our day. 

The Early Church wasn’t yet a big event form of Christianity. It was local and organic, strengthened by dependence on God and a close connection and support from fellow believers. In some ways, that prayer for a return to the original model of the Early Church may have been answered to some degree in this time of social isolation. 

This is a time for all of us to reset our understanding of the Church. It is not an entirely negative time. Yes, it has been painful for many people for some very obvious reasons. That pain has offered us an opportunity to demonstrate how resilient and loving a genuine faith can be in times of crisis. 

What we had become accustomed to as an expression of the Church may not have the ability to accomplish the Great Commission without this needed adjustment in our perspective. That adjustment could be one of the reasons why this time of isolation has become an answer to our prayers.

Friday, May 15, 2020

When Relationships Become Unhinged

Over the years, I have had people become, as they say, unhinged in their response to something I said, did, or wrote. Its probably happened to you as well. The term unhinged is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to describe something as “highly disturbed, unstable, or distraught.” 

When we are the recipient of an unhinged response during a stress-filled exchange, an open door of opportunity appears. Just this week we bought a new refrigerator because our old one died. The delivery team had to take our back door off its hinges to remove the old frig and deliver the new one. Without the door coming off its hinges, the delivery could not have taken place. 

If you have received an unhinged response from someone during this strange and unfamiliar time, choose to look past the remarks or actions to see the opening that stands before you. The best of people who usually exhibit sound, stable, and measured responses to life can become unhinged in a moment of personal weakness. These negative interactions are an opportunity to begin praying for people with greater understanding and compassion. It also allows us an opportunity to examine our own hearts. Those who delivered an unhinged response to something you said or did might be facing stressors and challenges you are unaware of that inflamed their initial response.  

Until a time when a resolution and mutual healing takes place, your prayers and words of blessing will make possible the delivery of something new to the wounded relationship that only an unhinged doorway of opportunity could have provided. God has the ability to turn the negative experiences of life into something good if we are willing to work with Him, even the hurtful unhinged responses we toss back and forth at one another during a moment of unguarded response.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Selling the Bike

A few nights ago, I had an interesting dream. In the dream, the Lord asked me to sell my recumbent bicycle and buy a mountain bike. I thought the request to be odd since I enjoy the laidback riding position of a recumbent. It’s like peddling while sitting in an easy chair.  

I knew the image of bicycles was a spiritual metaphor, so I asked the Lord to help me understand the message. He said, “You have new terrain up ahead. This transition will require that you explore new and challenging trails. I need you in a terrain-appropriate vehicle.” Yesterday, I put my recumbent on Craigslist as a prophetic act of obedience.

Many of us are about to enter new and unimproved trails of our calling. The vehicle we used in the past may not allow us to navigate the terrain of an unfolding future. 

I know I'm not alone in this feeling. God is preparing new vehicles of vision, mission, and calling for many of us. As we enter a time of social re-engagement it's important to know we are riding on something that will allow us to navigate through this time of transition and arrive in the future God is about to reveal.  

Reassembling Relationships

Soon, our culture will begin to reassemble. In our reassembling, we will also have to reassemble fragmented relationships that were divided over divergent opinions on what has taken place during the pandemic and how we should have responded to the challenge. As we come back together, choose to be a person of mercy and forgiveness. That is the only safe way forward. Remember, even our most heart-felt opinion can only see in part the greater truth. The wise ones will allow the humility of that understanding to direct their steps and craft the content of their words.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Going Deeper

When something crosses our path and challenges our perspective, our first response is many times crafted from a variety of issues like our unresolved fears, pride, past acts of betrayal, or the pain of relational abandonment. These are surface responses that are reactive in nature. They can hold us captive on the surface until we choose to break free and go deeper. 

This deeper place is where the Spirit reveals truth with greater clarity. It is where we need to go to receive a healthy evaluation of the content of a message that is currently challenging our reality or perspective. This deeper level is where the Spirit brings insight and wisdom that is not crippled by a first-level interpretation fueled by our emotional response to the painful events of life. 

The prophetic voice of the Church is a shared calling for all who believe. It is not limited to a group of people who are known to speak prophetically. God wants to take all of us deeper. The deeper place is where revelation is waiting to be discovered that will shift human hearts and redirect the destiny of nations to align them with the mandate of the Great Commission.

When we finally arrive in that deeper place, we will have an opportunity to humbly allow God's Spirit to counsel us and craft our message. In some cases, we might actually be asked to recraft our message for greater impact.  In that deeper place is where we will discover our prophetic voice, a voice that speaks the truth in love.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Doing What is Right in God's Eyes

History has a strange way of repeating itself. 3,000 years ago, Samuel wrote the book of Judges. It was a time of anarchy in the land. One verse, in particular, reveals the attitude of the culture at that moment in history, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

The context of this verse is couched in a sad story describing how people were creating personal idols to fill the void in a perceived leadership vacuum. This has happened throughout history when people begin to think no one is leading them toward their preferred future. We have a sad history of filling voids with idols.

While we all want to think our worldview and resulting interpretation of how people should live is the correct one, the truth is, we all interpret life through a lens clouded by our life-experiences, social bias, and circles of affirming relationship. I think this is why Jesus gave such a broad definition of how to live a good and right life. In the long run, it really does not matter who is at the helm of an earthly government because Jesus will still be the King of kings and Lord of lords no matter what culture is going through or who is in the lead. He is always and forever at the helm of His kingdom. We are never without a King. 

When asked by the religious leaders of His day to tell them the most important commandment, Jesus said, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39). 

Jesus didn’t reference a preferred interpretation of Scripture or a single way to worship God or whether or not the culture was manifesting Godly wisdom in the highest office. It was love and love alone that defines the rightness of our lives. This kind of selfless love is the evidence that we have a King at the helm of our life. As a result of that understanding, we will be able to do what is right in His eyes no matter which way a culture turns.

Monday, May 11, 2020

At the End of Our Ability

God is all-powerful. He can change the course of human history by a glance, an upraised hand, or by simply standing up in the middle of what we would consider an impossible situation and bring an abrupt end to what afflicts us. His slightest response without a word literally shouts to what opposes His will, “I have declared this finished. It will go no farther.” 

When we have come to the end of our ability to bring about righteous change, this is where the power of God waits to be displayed. Trust Him with the issues you are facing. He will not leave you alone without a heavenly resolution to the challenges that currently surround your life. Wait in a posture of hopeful trust for Him to move. When this takes place, it will change everything.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

I've already wished Jan a happy Mother's Day in a public and personal way. I wanted to take a moment to honor my mother, who has been with the Lord for ten years this month. She came from a life of poverty in the deep South. My mom had only one pair of shoes she wore to church and school. She traveled from Louisiana in the late 1930s to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. The attached photo was her publicity photo when she tried to break into 20th Century Fox Studios. Becoming a starlet did not work out, so she opened a restaurant not far from Angelus Temple, where she heard Aimee Semple McPherson preach. A few years later, along with her mother, she moved north from Los Angeles to San Francisco, where she would meet and marry a young carpenter named Charlie Elkins. Together they would birth a firstborn son who would later serve in the Foursquare Church many years into the future. In San Francisco, my mom would become an actress and dancing presence in San Francisco stage productions, most noticeably at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Such a rich and diverse history she had. Happy Mother's Day, mom. I love you.

Be Careful

Our culture is coming to a collective emotional head in this time of isolation, especially in communities of faith. The number one issue we are all facing is fear - fear of losing control. It could be our fear that the “normal” we once knew might go away and never return. Sometimes this fear is manifested when an opinion is expressed that breaks rank with a narrow interpretation of a critical issue causing someone to be pushed out of the orbit of a familiar relationship they once knew.

When an early Church leader wrote the poignant words, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things love” he gave us a key to help us navigate through this challenging season, primarily through the area called the non-essentials. Non-essential does not mean unimportant. It is referring to something not worth destroying years of relationship over.

What lies between the bookends of essential truth and expressing love is where we can encounter relational jeopardy. When an opinion, which is the realm of a non-essential, is allowed to become essential or a reason not to love, we are in trouble. A single idea expressed outside what was considered acceptable is sometimes all that an individual or group needs as a reason to say goodbye to a relationship, and punish the opposing viewpoint with separation and silence.

We have all been guilty of this offense at one time or another. Our fear, if not disciplined, will weaken our most cherished theology or, worse, destroy the bond of love in our relationships. That is always such a sad and disheartening experience. 

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3”12-14).

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Surviving Conflict

I listened to an interview with a combat vet talking about his experience in war. He said, on the day of his most intense battle, everybody on both sides thought they were right. Maybe that is one of the most conflicting issues in any kind of warfare, whether in actual combat or in the conflict of ideas – we think we are right, and the other person or group is wrong. He went on to say, “No cause that’s built on hate will survive.” The foundation upon which we engage conflict of any kind will determine our emotional and spiritual survival. In these intense days, choose wisely. 

Relational Excommunication

When we hear the word "excommunication" the image of someone sitting under examination before a panel of people wearing ornate robes surrounded by a high church environment might come to mind. The picture looks ominous.

Excommunication is not limited to a formal inquiry. There is a form of relational excommunication that can take place when someone says or does something of which we don’t agree. In those instances, we can choose to distance ourselves from them, no longer wanting to remain in fellowship with the offending party.  One day the guilty party is a friend and co-laborer, sharing mutual life and joy, and the next, they are held at arm's length with a cloud of suspicion hanging over their head.

I am sure there have been times in the last 2,000+ years when someone violated the essential truths of Scripture remaining unrepentant, and some excommunicating action was warranted. Those actions have been few and far between. Today, in our emotionally charged culture, we can too easily dismiss a person from our life simply because they think differently. 

We all need to guard our responses regarding people who might not align with our view of life, the role of the Church in culture, and in some cases, an opposing view on a hot-button issue. In these instances, the Lord delights when we are willing to step over our offense to reengage the offending party making sure that our love and fellowship remain intact. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Retreat to Reset

What if the future unfolds in a way none of us could have imagined? What if the issues we thought were the problem was not the problem after all, but a diversion not only from reality but from the truth itself? 

I am pondering these questions today because I want to resolve some things in my heart and mind before I move forward from this moment. In some ways, many of us have felt like a greyhound dog at a racetrack. We feel like we are running with the race pack chasing a fake rabbit dangling just ahead of us, yet forever out of reach. That way of living will burn out the best of us. It also makes us hard to live with and to be around.

Unchecked, we can find ourselves running around the track of our thoughts and reasoning, thinking that is reality, never running outside the fenceline of our personal preferences. This way of living becomes even more empowered when we run with like-minded people who feel the same way.

Maybe for just a single day, we could all stop running and retreat into a quiet place to allow God to reset our souls. There we could turn off all the outside input and let God work on our insides. Emerging from that pause would allow a new perspective to pay a visit. It would break us free from the confines of our current race and let us hop the fence and freely run forward to discover a future we would have never imagined had not a retreat and reset taken place.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Layers of Understanding

Every subject will have layers of understanding. It is wise to discern the heart of God in a matter before we make a decision or provide an answer that could negatively affect a relationship or alter the direction of our life. 

God’s heart on a subject is the deepest and purest place of revelation. It requires patience to dive into that deep place. From there, once we discern His heart, we can work our way back to the surface of the moment where an important question was asked of us that required a response. 

This journey into the heart of God is a deep dive. It requires we move through and many times push aside, our personal opinion, emotions, and personality traits, not allowing them to become the prominent voice in our response.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Our Gate of Passage into the Future

Our social isolation will soon come to an end. During this time, we have experienced the cessation of forward motion. What was normal came to a standstill. That lack of felt movement and the accompanying sense of isolation can cause areas of personal dysfunction, not dealt with in the past, to rise to the surface. This surfacing of emotional and spiritual dysfunction is a gift for us because seeing is the first step in healing. 

While pondering what this all meant, I saw two ornate pillars in the distance. They were the gate posts positioned on each side of the way forward. Passage through this opening into what God has planned depends on what we are willing to leave behind as we move forward to engage our new and yet unexplored future.

We all need to take a moment to review what has transpired in this time of isolation. The spiritual and emotional quality of our interaction with people, our response to what has displeased us in this time of separation, and any demands we might have placed on others need evaluation. Did these encounters reflect God’s heart or our angst?

Finally, I saw that the two gateposts guarding the future were movable, not anchored in time and space.  As I tried to interpret what I was seeing, I realized we would need to stop and address what we might too easily ignore in our rush to return to a connected life.  Ignoring these issues will push the gate posts ahead of us, causing us to not pass through their opening into the new future God has planned. 

It will be too easy for some of us to think a new season of life or a refreshed ministry plan is to be our primary focus. It’s not. The way forward will open to us based on the condition of our heart, not a misplaced hope or the excellence of our re-engagement plan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

As Time Passes

In a marriage, 5 years will quickly pass, as will 10 and 20 and beyond. Somewhere along the line, you will arrive at a place where time itself no longer measures the depth of the relationship, only a mutual commitment to love each other no matter what may come.

Frayed Lives

Many of us are having our emotional garments trimmed. We are all living under intense pressure at this time in our lives. This experience can fray the best of us. Let God, not the scissors of unrighteous judgment or personal condemnation, do the trimming. Only God can trim the frayed edges of our lives without destroying the garment of our faith.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Fork in the Road

Some of you are approaching a relational fork in the road. At this intersection, good people with longstanding relationships will disagree over sensitive issues and then choose to take different paths into the future. 

This does not have to be a negative interaction if the hearts of the participants remain open, sensitive, and honoring to each other. God in His great wisdom will help both parties to arrive at a safe place in the future even though they will travel on different paths. 

A healthy spiritual family is bound by the diversity of love, not the similarity of control. Each child will respond to life differently from a variety of convictions, even though they share the same family history. 

In the coming days, resist the desire to control the choices of other people by demanding they see and react to life in the same way as you. This is an opportunity for us to model to the world a diverse faith that invites freedom, not conformity.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Alarm Bells Are Sounding

Spiritual alarm bells are not always heard by the masses. In the turning of a cultural tide, the glaring clang of alarm will be heard by those whose ears are tuned to the sound of freedom. If culture-wide deafness goes on for too long, a nation can miss a God-given opportunity to turn its developing history away from a negative outcome. 

Most of us want to be hopeful people, but there is a problem in our understanding of hope. The majority of our definitions of hope were developed in times of stability, not jeopardy. This kind of hope is not a challenged hope and, thus, remains an untested and unproven hope.

I remember when Jan and I lived in Berlin, Germany. I can recall the times I would ride my bicycle by the childhood home of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who saw what was taking place in his homeland and would later feel called to confront the emerging influence of Hitler and the Nazi Party. His opposition to Hitler eventually caused him to be hung on the gallows within the walls of the concentration camp of Flossenb├╝rgon on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the U.S. military arrived to liberate the camp. Bonhoeffer was hung for sounding an alarm while the sheep-like obedience of the German people, and sadly many in the clergy, walked in lockstep to the unrighteous mandates of the government.

An alarm is currently sounding in the streets of our nation. If we cannot hear that sound, we may have succumbed to the very thing Bonhoeffer felt called to challenge. Going along with every government mandate is not wisdom; it is a weak and unbiblical submission of our will to servitude. 

At this point in the conversation, someone will always point to Romans 13 and say we must submit to the governing authority. While that is true most of the time, it is not true all the time, especially when the destiny of a nation is being derailed. A simple rereading of the biblical text can be a needed refresher where we see the earliest disciples saying to those in positions of power, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29). 

The courageous response of Peter and the apostles when they were told to remain silent is what we need in this hour of our national history - an obedience to God, not to the dictates of a religious organization or the mandates of a government who might be abusing its authority. That kind of raw and courageous obedience can get your credibility hung on the gallows of public opinion, or worse. 

Casting Down the Spirit of Jezebel

Some people feel like they are living in a cave. Their fear or the fear experienced by others has isolated them from the life they once knew. 

As I considered what is taking place in our culture, I thought of Elijah, who had just come off the most powerful and God-affirming event of his life, a confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Immediately after that event, under a threat of death from Jezebel, Elijah became so fearful that he ran away and holed up in a cave. He stayed in the cave until God showed up. We are living in a moment of history when we need God to show up. When He shows up, the first thing He will deal with is our fear because fear stands in the way of faith.

We can mask our fear with a variety of responses like bravado, allowing ourselves to be shut down emotionally or choosing to whistle in the dark as we walk by something that scares us. Perhaps the greatest weapon Jezebel had was instilling a spirit of fear in those who defied her will. Paralyzing fear has become our greatest threat in this shutdown. When we are paralyzed, we are unable to move with God. Fear is a manifestation of the spirit of Jezebel. Today, that spirit demands the same compliance to its will, as was manifested thousands of years ago with Elijah. Its ultimate goal is to silence the voice of truth by instilling fear in the people of God.  

The Jezebel spirit manifesting in our day is about to experience the same fate as the biblical Jezebel, who was thrown down from a high and secure place by the very people she made into eunuchs to serve her agenda.  In the coming days, two things will happen. God will show up, and fear will be cast down. As this begins to transpire, our greatest act of courage will be to offer God our fear and receive back in exchange, the faith needed to walk out of our cave.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

When Historians Write About Us

When historians look back and review this time in our national history, what will they write? Honest historians will write with reflective clarity seeing in retrospect what we have been trying so hard to comprehend. 

Today, many are trapped in shallow layers of understanding represented by either group compliance or isolated rebellion. If we are locked in cultural conflict at a surface level, we will not be able to discern something deeper that is taking place where dark spirits are influencing our nation in ways the natural mind cannot perceive. Only renewed minds will be able to navigate the coming days with wisdom.  

There is a real challenge if we allow God to renew our minds. We might actually begin to see the very things we had previously dismissed as folly,  finding they were, in fact, points of truth hidden behind our fear, dismissal, and cynicism. 

When Critics Arise

Critics in the Church come and go like the cycles of ocean tides. They run up on the beach of the Church to make their claim and then recede, leaving behind the hissing foam of their declaration of judgment. Over the years, I have noticed several areas where critics are especially drawn.

Scripture – Critics typically have a narrow field of acceptable Bible translations. They find a few sections of a particular translation they view as objectionable and discount the entirety of that translation. They begin to lump entire groups of people into their judgment and dismiss longtime friends and relationships on a quest for biblical purity – a purity not available in any translation.  

Worship – Critics in the area of worship resemble someone kicking down the bedroom door of a married couple, catching them in an intimate moment, and criticizing their lovemaking. These critics have a preferred form of worship. They believe one size of worship fits all and anything outside that understanding is heresy and worthy of their judgment and condemnation.  

Sin – Critics like to focus on the sins of other people, not their own. Unrepented sin does need to be addressed, but only within the parameters laid out in a biblical process. That process is filled with mercy and offers of restoration over time. Sin critics like to use public forums to shout out the sins of other people to gain a following of fellow sin-critics. Social media has made this dark ministry viral, like a virus that infects all who come in contact with its sickness. 

Be careful taking on the assignment to be a critic of anything in the Lord’s Church. Use discernment in all things. Be wise and compassionate in how you apply that discernment. Only the Spirit can convict someone of their sin in any meaningful way. Above all, everything we do must be done in love, or it will produce the fruit of another kingdom, a fruit that is bitter and filled with sorrow.