Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Stop, Look and Listen Before You Step Outside

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2020

Conflicting Sounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Our Broad Strokes of Judgment

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Our "Don't" and "Why" List

The “Don’t” and “Why” of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Coming Change in Leadership

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

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

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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What We Are Hearing

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Let Your Voice Be Heard

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Blessing Our Way Through Life

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Voice Without Compromise

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Accelerating the Rights Things

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 19, 2020

We Are Being Setup

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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Our Ever-Faithful God

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

Hidden Blessings in Betrayal

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Lord Has Released A Promise

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Place at the Table

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 15, 2020

A Time to Trust

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

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Repentance, Lament and Hope

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Restraint and Wisdom

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

Living in a Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 12, 2020

Confronting Spirits

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Failure of Constant Correction

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

Preference vs. Principle

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Hope for a Nation

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Fine Tuning Our BS Meter

When I was a young pastor, I had a private conversation with a mentor of mine who was a noted apostolic leader. He had a large church with far-reaching influence. In the youth of my ministry, I placed this man on a deserved pedestal of honor. When he passed away, the newspaper in his city described the 5,000 people in attendance at his memorial service as an event resembling the passing of a head of state.

In the conversation I mentioned, we talked about life and ministry. It was in-depth and informative - something I needed. I listened intently and took mental notes. Then he said something I will never forget. He said, “A lot of ministry is simply bull…t.” You can fill in the three missing letters. I left them out for those who might be sensitive to such language.  

That conversation took place 40 years ago. To be honest, I was taken back by what my mentor said, but his honesty was more refreshing than it was offensive. The word that sets off BS meters is defined in dictionaries as something that is nonsense or foolishness. My mentor went on to explain what he meant by that stark sentence, giving me a raw and insightful look into the realities of pastoral ministry.

My pastor was right. I could see my meter register a reaction when discerning the lives of other leaders. Then one day, it went off regarding my ministry. A BS meter does not care who we are or what position we hold. BS is BS. If we are not careful, we can succumb to things that don’t matter, foolish and nonsensical things, spending our precious time and energy on stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. Jesus had such a meter when He had to deal with some of His disciples, especially Peter. 

When our model of ministry or the way we think about God’s Kingdom undergoes a dramatic shift, like what is taking place during the Coronavirus, some of what we brought with us into this unusual season will have to be left behind. It needs to be left behind because others will see it as nothing more than religious nonsense and foolishness. In the end, BS of any kind compromises our message.

The life of Jesus was uncluttered and free from the things that set meters off. A return to the raw beauty, simplicity, and straightforward nature of His ministry is what I hope we can engage once we all come back together. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Following Our Frustration

Following a feeling of frustration is like the Chinese symbol for a crisis. It offers both danger and opportunity. As I look over Church history, I see believers who followed their unsettled frustrations under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and encountered unique moments of revelation that became turning points in history.

Everyone with a pulse will experience frustration at some point in their life. A religious spirit will tell you to walk around your frustrations because they are the fruit of a rebellious spirit and will create discord. A religious, controlling spirit will speak that way because if not curtailed, a frustrated explorer might actually discover and experience something that will disrupt the status quo.

Today, I would suggest that you follow your frustrations. It is a dangerous path filled with opportunity. It will be a safe journey if you allow God to do the leading and not follow an undisciplined emotion or the groupthink of a crowd. 

Every step of this journey must be protected by a willingness to remain humble and receive correction from the Lord and trusted friends.  If you can do this, you will arrive at a place where your frustration will transform into a revelation. The transformation required a journey of discovery to clarify a message not fully understood when you first began to explore the origin of your frustration.  

Sunday, June 7, 2020

When Spirits of Control Begin to Lose Their Grip

When a spirit that exercises control over the minds of individuals or nations is threatened, one of the first tactics it will deploy is confusion. In a state of confusion, agents working on behalf of the controlling spirit will begin to protect its interests at all costs.

Our current reality is not as clear cut and secure as many have come to believe. The political, social, and economic arenas are about to undergo a significant shift. That shift will be confusing if our focus is not aligned with the heart of God. What the enemy planned for evil, the Lord will be faithful to transform into good. Not all change will come overnight. Some of the changes we are beginning to experience will have decadal timelines.

God’s plan to counter these controlling spirits will require courage on our part.  His love will expose where we have believed lies and aligned ourselves with the very things that oppose the will of God. That will be a tough pill to swallow. In those moments of personal confrontation, if the influence of our pride is not challenged and overcome, it will cause us to be used as unwitting pawns in a spiritual chess game. Some of the lies we currently believe have been clothed in religious terminology and surrounded by relationships of shared values. These issues will make our disengagement from their deception very challenging. 

God is not interested in how confident we may appear or even what we believe so assuredly. He is only interested in how confident we are in Him, not our interpretation of Him or His Kingdom. In the coming confusion, there is only one safe choice. Turn to the Lord. In that turning, you will receive clarity in the confusion and become aligned with a new way forward. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Our Seat of Righteous Dissent

In recent months, discussions have taken place about when the rights of a believer-citizen should be exercised, or not. There are valid points on both sides of the conversation and worth hearing. One camp says a believer should never demand their rights and just take what comes as an example of a submissive and sacrificial love. Others stand immovable in their rights believing they are gifts from God. Which one is right? It is hard to tell sometimes. Maybe it’s a both/and kind of thing. On one occasion, the apostle Paul appealed to Caesar demanding his rights as a Roman citizen. On other occasions, he did nothing and just took what came and praised God in the process.  

One of my personal heroes is Rosa Parks. Rosa was a black seamstress living in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s. She was a devout Christian. Rosa would become an iconic symbol in the civil rights movement for not giving up her seat on a city bus to a white person. She was arrested during that event and her arrest was one of the ignition points of the civil rights movement.  In a 1956 interview Parks said of that day on the bus, "I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen. 

On Sunday, December 4, 1955, just days after her arrest, plans for the Montgomery bus boycott were prepared. The announcement for the boycott was made in black churches in the city. The boycott brought national attention to the evil of segregation. Some in today’s faith/politics conversation might not approve of what Rosa Parks did because she was asking for her rights to be honored not only as a citizen of the United States but as a human being created in the image of God. 

Today, we are beset with a shaming spirit that has entered our social discourse, sadly, even within the Church. That spirit and its demand for a one-size-fits-all response of social commentary, on either side of an issue, can be easily offended if its ideas are not accepted. History has shown us that there is not always a simplistic one-size-fits-all answer in God’s Kingdom. While we may see the same social issue playing out, we will not always see the same remedy or take a similar course of action. In December of 1955, Rosa Parks exercised her rights as a citizen and human being, and history was changed. 

I wonder where we would be today if four young black men at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina had not remained seated at the counter after being told to leave or if Martin Luther King Jr. did not have the courage to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama because his actions might upset another believer not convinced that King's actions were the right kind of witness for his faith. What if these individuals had allowed a shaming voice or threats to silence their peaceful dissent? Their lives and legacy have become gifts to all of us, modeling how our faith can be expressed in the public arena beyond just silence and submission. 

After all these years, we are still trying to learn how to live with each other in honor and peace. One of the challenges we still face is knowing when we should remain seated or when, under the impulse of God's Spirit, we choose to not give up the seat of our personal commitments before God, no matter who might disagree with that course of action.

A Change in Direction and an Adjustment in Relationships

This morning, the Lord gave me two different words to share with those to whom they might apply. The first paragraph has to do with seeking direction from the Lord. The second is about coming change within existing relationships.

DIRECTION: You have come this far by wisely evaluating every step along the way. Each time, before you moved, you have waited for the Lord to place a stone to mark your next step along the path. The pause you are experiencing between the last stone, and the one yet to be placed, seems to be taking longer than expected.  There is a direction change coming. What you discerned in the past as a linear and straight-ahead way forward into the future is about to make a turn. The next placement of your time, energy, and resources will be critical.  It will determine the path of your future. Wait for the Lord to place the next stone before you take a step.

RELATIONSHIPS: There is a cluster of significant relationships in your life. Those relationships are about to be tested. It will be tested in the hearts of those who make up the group. Each of you has come thus far in agreement. This unusual time in history has tested some of your previous shared agreements. Nuances are now being discovered. The sounds of a direction change are now in the mix. This is making some in your group nervous. What is taking place is not a work of division. It is a work of clarification empowered by the Spirit. This clarification will make it possible to experience a deeper level of team intimacy and unity. God is clarifying the calling of your group and expanding the breadth of its diversity. He is unifying you in a deeper place than the diverse personal opinions that have recently surfaced. God is at work in the heart of your group. Let Him have His way, and He will make a way. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Yes is the Victory

Every “yes” we say to God in obedience to His voice is significant. Each yes is part of a much larger spiritual process that will lead us to a place of ultimate victory. Even the smallest of yeses releases a tremendous impact. If we live a life of ongoing yeses, when we do approach a final breakthrough moment, our accumulative yeses will have gained such spiritual momentum, any hindering presence will simply fall in defeat.  In that moment of a final confrontation, only a whisper of rebuke will be required to topple what at first appeared to be an impossibly powerful and formidable spiritual opponent. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

No One Is Exempt

The prophet Joel spoke of the culmination of time and quoted the Lord, who said, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.” The “all people” wording leaves no one out. It will affect believers, non-believers, and those in between. It was an all-inclusive statement. 

This outpouring is not limited to a church gathering, a stadium event, or a conference venue. It casts a much wider net and will impact each sphere of culture and every human relationship. Nothing in all creation is exempt from an outpouring of God's Spirit.

Perhaps what we see playing out on our video screens is a reaction to an outpouring of the Spirit. When the Spirit moves upon humanity, we will respond from the condition of our hearts. And when the Spirit moves, people can respond by depicting acts of mercy or violence, truth or deception, tenderness, or brutality. Each action can be a response to the Spirit based on what is taking place in our hearts. According to Joel, the men and women who respond rightly to the Spirit will prophesy, dream, and see visions of something better.

In these challenging times, do not be surprised by what you see. The Spirit is moving powerfully upon the face of the earth. Not all responses will be righteous until hearts are changed. You can tell those who have rightly responded to the Spirit’s moving. They will be prophesying, dreaming, and seeing the way forward with hope and an assurance that what God promised He will be faithful to accomplish, even when it seems like life is spiraling out of control.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Since I Knew It Al;

The title of Jerry Cook's book, "A Few Things I've Learned Since I Knew It All," seems to express what many of us are experiencing as we discover the shallowness of our opinions in this heated time of social unrest. The title of Jerry's book has become an anthem over many of us as we learn how to live with each other in deeper expressions of honor and respect.

The Power of Reconciliation

When a friendship is healed and restored after an experience of misunderstanding and separation, it forms the deepest kind of friendship. If something takes place that separates good friends, and they come back together through mutual humility and forgiveness, a powerful bond is formed – a tested bond. This is why we should always contend for restoration. Restoration honors God and models to the world the overcoming power of love.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Engaging a New Gear

When I look down at the gear shift area in my truck’s center console, the shift knob indicates several choices that will create motion. The only position that produces no movement is neutral. 

Perhaps my car’s transmission is a metaphor for life. Without engagement, we are left in a motionless state of neutrality. A lot of life can pass us by if we live in a neutral state. Shifting out of intellectual or spiritual neutral requires that we take time to read the road ahead to know what gear needs to be selected. Every road will present us with opposing opinions that will either challenge our neutrality or entrench us deeper in its illusion. Friendships or associations are jeopardized when we shift out of neutral. If we are going somewhere in our faith, we will need to engage a gear that takes us deeper into the important conversations of life, not just allow them to pass us by.

A lot of what we do as people of faith can resemble a muscle car with a large V8 and a heavy cam rumbling in neutral at the stoplight of culture but never engaging a gear and dropping the clutch. The world watches our potential demonstrated expecting more from us than just a great exhaust sound and a nice paint job. 

God is speaking new assignments to unlikely drivers. These new assignments will be given with clear instructions on what gear to select. The choices these drivers make will end seasons of neutrality on critical issues of faith and culture. When God has people speak in His name, offering honest dialogue and bringing righteous solutions to the table, those words and actions will bring about a transformation thought impossible before a new gear was engaged.  These reformers will leave behind a trail of burned spiritual rubber through the heart of culture, moving us forward toward a heaven on earth solution for the most painful issues we currently face.