Friday, July 31, 2020

A Bleeding Faith

One of the challenges each generation of the Church will encounter is the introduction of social grit into their expression of faith. Social grit is made up of the different perspectives offered by other people that affords us an opportunity to see the same issues of life and culture but from a different perspective.

 

Social grit is at first, abrasive and not welcomed. It feels rough as it grinds off the Hallmark card-like glossy exterior of our faith and makes it bleed. A bleeding faith is able to express its humanity in a raw and meaningful way. It also helps us recognize those who have suffered and bled in the times when our belief system failed to recognize their pain and sorrow. That revelation is the starting point of real change.

Opinions That Divide

Opinions have been shared that have tested the integrity of longtime relationships, so much that a distance now exists between friends. It would be a sad thing, if, in this season of social intensity, a differing opinion would be given permission to create division, resulting in separation, and eventual isolation. In the end, this division will have a more detrimental effect on the mission of the Church than the social disorder we see playing out on the stage of our culture. Our oneness as believers is not found in our politics or sociology, but in the person of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Surprises are Coming

Surprises are coming. When they arrive, they will adjust our interpretation of reality and bring correction to our misunderstanding of God's heart and His Kingdom. These surprises will be sourced from God’s throne, not from earthly logic, human reasoning, or our preferred religious history. 

Even the most brilliant thinkers and insightful prophetic voices will bow under the influence of this revelation. The surprises will come as an invasion of love - revelations of God’s heart and His merciful intent for humanity. 

We will all stand corrected under the waterfall of this revelation. As God’s revealed truth flows over our tired and defensive souls, a refreshment will come washing from our eyes the accumulated debris of frustration and angst that has blinded our eyes from seeing the intent and purposes of God.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Making a Righteous Sound

Speaking the truth in love requires sound. A silent church that hopes to get back to “normal” without addressing the elephants in the room will have missed an opportunity to express the sound of truth in this time of growing anarchy and censorship. Yes, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but we are also to be His voice. An honorable protest is part of our rich cultural history. Violent riots are the work of a spirit of anarchy and never lead to righteous outcomes. Civic leaders who have abdicated their assignment to protect a community will have to answer to a higher authority for their compromise and complicity. Evil taking place even within the smallest part of a city is like leaven. A tiny bit of leaven left unchallenged will eventually corrupt the larger host. We need to find our voice as believers, or someday our descendants will ask why we were silent. The fear of man will not be an excuse that will stand the test of integrity.

Polls, Opinion and the Word of the Lord

Polls and opinions do not reliably reveal the future. It is a prophetic voice, empowered and informed by the Spirit that brings the most trusted revelation of what is to come. Resist the urge to follow polls and opinions. The unreliability of those sources has been proven time and time again that it is God, not our ability to evaluate the future, who will have the last word.

Your Future Faith-Self

In the Spirit, you have already made it through this difficult time, even though many challenges still surround your life. You cannot see or feel that completed transition yet, but your future faith-self has already made it through in the realm of the Spirit. 

All of the difficulty you face has been overcome by Jesus. Scripture tells us we are currently seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father. That is both a future and a present reality. Your assignment now to live out the implications of that victory in faith. The Lord is inviting you to move forward by exercising your faith when you encounter a lie that tells you, giving up is your best option. 

By faith, we can join ourselves to a future that seems beyond our ability to imagine and bring the vision of that future back into the moment we are currently living. That single decision has the potential to change the trajectory of our lives. Faith births hope and hope gives us the spiritual and emotional strength needed to keep moving forward and not give up. With God, all things are possible if faith is present.  

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Global City Gate

I shared the following paragraph with someone who is substantially gifted in the technology surrounding the use of the Internet, website design, and social media applications.

I wrote, “The city gate is where the business of a community took place in ancient times. The city gate of our time is the Internet and its various applications such as websites, apps, and in some cases, social media. People are no longer limited to a geographic location to conduct business. Our city gates are mobile and widespread. Look at the transition from Blockbuster to Netflix. Even now, new “city gates” are emerging and challenging Netflix.”

The world we live in, whether it be a small village in the heart of Africa or a metropolitan setting in Europe, is immediate, rapid, and connected. Because we all conduct business at a global gate, no longer limited by access to a local and culturally isolated city gate, what we share, read, or transmit is read immediately on a global scale. 

It is wise and compassionate to make sure we are vetting our sources and the condition of our hearts before we transmit information that supports our passionate position on a particular subject. Even the information we transmit in the confidence of its accuracy is not always a full picture of reality. The opinions of other people will help us develop a fuller and more accurate perspective than the perspective we initially brought to the city gate to sell. 

When the cultural pendulum is swinging in such wide arcs as it is doing at this moment, we need to give each other an extra measure of grace as we freely share our opinions. I have friends who hold perspectives that differ from mine, but they handle our differing points of view with honor and decency. We share a mutual respect for each other in our diversity of opinion. Those are the kind of people I enjoy doing business with at the global city gate. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Signs in the Sky

Hang onto your credibility hat. Just when we thought we could not be living in stranger times, activity in the heavens is taking a strange turn. Findings from the Pentagon’s UFO unit were recently reported by the New York Times. One consultant to the Pentagon briefed Defense Department officials regarding some highly unusual items retrieved from “off-world vehicles not made on this Earth.”

Senate majority leader Harry Reid who at the time reviewed the information, commented, “After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports — some were substantive, some not so substantive — that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession.” 
Astrophysicist Eric W. Davis, a consultant to the Pentagon, and someone who examined the so-called off-world materials said, “we couldn’t make it ourselves.”
We are living in a moment of history where great diversions will take place. These diversions will appeal to our natural senses and could create fear in some and wonder in others. As these events unfold, God will reveal greater signs in the sky and on Earth that will affirm His Lordship and authority over even the most unusual other-worldly discoveries. Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “Thus, says the Lord, Do not learn the way of the nations and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them” (Jeremiah 10:2).
As earthly tensions build and fear mounts from things that will upend the brittle foundations of false, human-created security, God will prove Himself faithful above all things. He is seated in the place of ultimate authority. All things are under His feet in a place of submission. If and when things beyond our ability to explain begin to take place, set your eyes firmly on Jesus, and follow His lead. That will be our only place of security as our world continues to struggle in its search for reality.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Smoke is Clearing Away

The cultural shift some foretold was coming has already taken place. What we see playing out in the streets, courts, and politics of our nation are manifestations of that change. The smoke of conflict is beginning to drift away, revealing what actually happened when our culture made its most recent move. Many of us are now standing in new and unique places. As a result of that change, our faith and worldview have experienced a new focus and clarity. 

Self-control will be seen historically as one of the most significant choices we could have made in this heated social environment. Self-control is not silence, the abdication of responsibility, or relinquishing our duty to live as responsible citizens of our nation and of Heaven. Our dual citizenship creates a unique tension. As citizens of Heaven, our first responsibility is to God and His agenda. Even in our most patriotic moments, we allow the Lord to set the timing and content of our response to what is transpiring in the earthly realm, not our emotions, or the heated relational discord our choices might produce. 

There is so much to say at this time in our developing national history. We must wait for God’s timing to speak, or we will enter the floodwaters of disgust and offense where the impact of our voice will be drowned out because we were the ones who chose the content and timing of what was spoken, not God.  This is the spiritual tension created by our dual citizenship. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Arrival of Unexpected Miracles

To those of you who lead anything - a business, a church, or a family – God knows what you are facing. You are giving it your best, and yet you still have a lingering suspicion that your best might not be enough or that somehow you have missed an important step along the way. Everyone, this writer included, has opinions about what you should do, but not all we offer is the opinion of God. Sometimes, sadly, our opinions may not reflect the heart of God. 

The Lord knows what you are facing. While you struggle trying to discover your next step, the Lord has a hidden miracle planned, something secreted away from your current understanding. It will arrive unexpectedly and seemingly out of nowhere. These hidden miracles are hovering over businesses, churches, families, and even nations, waiting for deployment. When these miracles arrive, they will reveal the love of God in astounding ways. Choose to live in that expectation. It will bring you the hope you need to wisely lead in this very challenging season of life.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Sword of Government

The older translations of Romans 13 tell us the government does not bear the sword in vain. In more contemporary language, we would read that phrase as “without purpose.” One noted translator rendered that portion of Romans 13 to read “'not to hide it (sword) in the scabbard, but to draw it.” 

The rule of law is in place so we can endure the violent swings of culture and remain intact as a society. As those swings take place, a government will attempt to keep social order. If you have never lived in the middle violent social disorder, it is hard to imagine what that feels like. While missionaries serving overseas, Jan and I lived through situations where social disorder had broken down to such a degree that we worried about our safety, and in a couple of cases, our very lives. 

Jan had this happen to her as a little girl. Her parents were missionaries in Central America. Rumors had been circulating through the small town where they lived of a violent uprising coming against them as Protestant missionaries. One night, a large mob assembled in front of their home carrying torches, Molotov Cocktails, and machetes intent on killing her family and destroying their home. Just as the mob was about to carry out their deadly mission, soldiers arrived with bayonets fixed and pushed the crowd back bringing an end to what would have been the scene of multiple grisly murders.

Social order is more than speeches, kind gestures, and political promises. Order must be maintained at times by force. Force can seem rough and out of proportion to those watching the news from the comfort of a living room sofa or from within the insulated halls of debate. When the “sword” of government is wielded, it is not a pleasant thing to behold. But at times, it is necessary. To those whose neighborhoods, businesses, and even their very lives are in danger from a spirit of anarchy, the arrival of those assigned to defend life and property is a welcome sight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Most Dangerous Person in the Room

When I was a young cop, my training officer taught me a lot. I watched how he moved through a hostile crowd of drunks in a bar. He was able to read a crowd. One thing he did was to determine who was the most dangerous person in the room. This is the person who, if not approached with discernment and challenged with wisdom, could do the greatest harm. When that person was finally engaged and disempowered, all of their followers who fed off that person’s bravado seemed to lose steam.

There most dangerous people in our culture are not always found in a dingy, smoke-filled bar. Some of them are within the Church. The danger they present is not bullying, but a lack of gritty realism. This problem developed in the last few decades when well-meaning people mixed Christianity with a misunderstanding of biblical reality. As a result, they created a context that was never present in the real world of the first century. Today, these people call Jesus a socialist when, in fact, he and his father ran a carpenter business and had to turn a profit to stay in business. They were more like compassionate capitalists than socialists.  

Content from the Sermon on the Mount has been plucked out of context to justify pacifism in the face of danger. In that sermon, Jesus said if our hand offends us, cut it off. If our eye views something it should not see, we are to pluck it out, and if someone slaps us, to turn the other cheek. All of these commands were issued in the same discourse. I have noticed there are a lot of two-handed, two-eyed people telling others that defending life and limb is not the Christian way. Perhaps Jesus was simply asking if we would be willing to be radically obedient instead of actually cutting off a body part, plucking out an offending eye or sitting idly by as violence has its way unrestrained.  The most dangerous person in the room is not the barroom thug. They can be believers who have created a form of Christianity disconnected from reality. 

People are becoming increasingly nervous. That unsettled feeling has arisen because of a lack of leadership, not just in the institutions of culture, but in the ranks of believers. This happens when we allow our faith to be diluted with an irrational interpretation of reality. Our world is now at a tipping point, more than most of us realize. Courage is not silence and passivity. It looks a lot like what my training officer did when he was outnumbered and surrounded by a hostile crowd in a late-night bar. Courage and truth can disarm the plans of a thuggish spirit before it creates a hellish environment that makes living a good life seem impossible.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The New Sons and Daughters of Issachar

The Lord doesn’t want to define us by the obedience of a past generation. He is calling men and women in our day who will be just as honored in history as “…the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (I Chronicles 12:32). What made the sons of Issachar so unique was not just their accurate understanding of the times. They also had insight for what Israel should do in response to a prophetic word from God. A prophetic calling is not only the ability to see and understand what is taking place. It is also the ability to offer the next steps required to lead people into the will of God. 

Crossing the Point of No Return

We will not magically emerge from what is taking place in our culture and return to what we once knew.  We have stepped into a new season. Before we rebuke all that is happening in a knee-jerk response, we need to make sure we aren’t rebuking an adjustment God is bringing to His Church. We are on the other side of a significant cultural marker event - a point of no return. This time in our history will deliver more impact than what took place after 9/11 or the Great Recession.

Language, social gestures, and ways of living out our faith will have changed dramatically in this transition. Listen to those speaking new perspectives from an unfamiliar lexicon. Watch the people who are expressing their faith in ways that may be in conflict with what was familiar to us in the past. 

This transition time is not about a return to what we once knew. It is about advancing into a more impactful expression of our mission to bring God's Kingdom to Earth as it is in Heaven. Do not judge anything before its time. Wait, watch, listen, and discern. God is speaking.


Monday, July 20, 2020

Defining Freedom

There is a great deal of conversation taking place in our culture about the subject of freedom. Today, I took a look at what Scripture tells us about true freedom. It became for me a meaningful personal reminder and a point of clarity. While some may say this only pertains to matters of the Spirit, I would respectfully disagree. It pertains to everything because it is everything. This understanding takes place at the core of our being and will form the substance of our principles and how we choose to live our lives. 

OUR FREEDOM WAS GIVEN WHEN WE FIRST BELIEVED - Once we believed in Jesus Christ, we were set free. To remain free, we must continue to believe and trust in the Lord. “But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:22).

OUR FREEDOM IS MOBILE - We carry our freedom with us wherever we go no matter what the circumstance. “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (II Corinthians 3:17).

OUR FREEDOM IS NOT PROGRESSIVE – It took place once and for all and was made available to us by the death, resurrection, and enthronement of Jesus Christ. It is absolute and forever unchangeable by even the most challenging circumstance of life. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:7).

Today, the Lord is inviting us to live and speak like free people. Our words and witness regarding freedom may upset some who still think their freedom is tied to the promise of a nation or a set of cultural ideals. While those can be noble and good, they do not promise the same freedom found in Christ. Nations will rise and fail, and human ideals will change over time. Only Jesus remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

A Stream of Distractions

A moment of distraction has been created by a virus and social issues, both of which are important to address, but they are not on the front line of a developing global confrontation. Where our eyes are focused will determine our place in the coming conflict.

At this critical moment in history, God is looking for people who are like the warriors in Gideon’s army who were about to engage the Midianites in battle. God winnowed down 22,000 warriors to only 300 by using a simple test. He told Gideon to watch how his troops drank water as the conflict was developing. The Lord instructed Gideon to select only those warriors who did not submerge their faces in the stream to drink but cupped the water in their hands and brought it to their faces while watching for enemy movement. As it was for the army of Gideon, so it is for us. This is a time to keep our eyes on Heaven, not bury our understanding in a stream of distractions no matter how painful they seem. 

This morning, I wrote to several pastors in Portland, Oregon, a city under assault by dark forces. I shared with the pastors that God is about to release a heavenly invasion in their city that will overcome the works of darkness. The Church carries the destiny of cities, not elected officials or the pawns being used to institute unrighteous agendas.

God will always have the last word and the last, game-changing move no matter how hopeless a situation might appear. Any thinking that does not include that understanding is flawed. Do not allow your thirst for an outcome, no matter how convinced you are that you have the right perspective, to submerge your spiritual discernment in a stream of distractions. Those distractions will keep you from seeing the greater battle about to be waged. 

Stay vigilant and spiritually aware at this hour, even when your thirst for results seems overwhelming. In the coming months, we will see world powers begin to flex their threatening muscles leading some to believe a global confrontation is imminent. While that may take place, what God has planned will dwarf the most fearful predictions, even when truth seems outnumbered. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Taken by Surprise

We have always been at war spiritually. There has never been a time of peace between light and darkness. Jesus didn’t paint a rosy picture of how truth lives in a world of compromise and deception. Paul wrote about a battle waged in a realm not always visible to the natural eye. 

False battles are currently being offered to divert our attention, once again, from the reality of the actual spiritual conflict taking place on the world stage.  These false battles are waged with the wrong strategy, tactics, and weaponry. The weapons of our warfare are not discovered in the armory of the flesh. Our battle plan is not reactive. It cannot be discovered by watching the latest newscast or social media video of social unrest. How we are to conduct spiritual warfare is only discerned and implemented through revelation. 

What is taking many by surprise has been the sudden and intense manifestation of the current spiritual battle. What we see has been orchestrated and offered to us as a distraction. That offering is creating a reactive response by some, not a strategic plan for battle, or a wise response to the stimuli these events create. 

Today, examine your battleplan, tactics, and weaponry. What army do these components describe? It is not about winning. The Cross and Resurrection have determined once and for all the complete and absolute victory of Jesus. It's about advancing – advancing God's Kingdom in the face of an onslaught of lies and deceit. 

Truth spoken in love is the most dangerous weapon in our arsenal. For the last 2,000 years, that weapon allowed the Church to live and prosper even when oppression and violence tried to stall her mission. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Until the Lord Speaks

We have become walking and talking encyclopedias offering evidence to support our position for what we think ails humanity. As we stand naively confident in our assumption, we are unaware that soon the Lord will speak. At that moment, all of our best guesses and supporting data will bow in the presence of His revelation. 

What Happens When a Bully Gets a Bloody Nose

There are times when a punch to the nose of a bully is all that will stop their quest for dominance. As a chubby insecure pre-puberty kid, I remember landing a punch on the nose of our playground bully after repeated calls for him to leave me and others alone. After that confrontation, he lost his place of dominance. Peace, laughter, and child-like joy returned to our playground.

A bully is prowling the playground of our culture. He is using fear to push people around. During this time, when the truth is being turned upside, redefined, and trampled under the hooves of a spirit of anarchy, it seems like the bully is getting his way. As this bullying spirit tries to gain a greater foothold, a group of David-like individuals is emerging. They will enter the fray and bring down the bullying spirit of deception with a single stone of truth. 

God’s mercy, justice, and compassion, all components of truth, will empower these men and women to execute a strategic punch that will stun and disempower the spirit of fear that motivates the bully.  God's truth will be the sword that beheads the false thinking of this bully. The bully of fear has had his way for far too long. It is time for peace and order to return to our playground. 

Blessing of the God Who Will Do It Again by Jan Elkins

Isaiah 51:9-11; 35:9-10  

There is a reality of evil. Israel is reminded that when they were threatened with Egyptian genocide, they experienced a demonstration of divine power.

In the Name of Jesus Christ,
      I bless your spirit, soul, and body
      with great victories in overcoming
      the forces of hurt and evil.

Though He is not the author, creator,
      or instigator of all that disrupts you
      or threatens to destroy you,
      everything is under His sovereignty—
      even to the point that He sovereignly
      turns hardship into blessings.

You have the sure word of the Lord Jesus:
      the Cross was the final blow in Satan’s
      attempt for world dominion;
      the work of redemption made Satan
      of no further significance!

Just as the Red Sea became an escape
      route for the redeemed,
      may every skirmish to disrupt
      and destroy you become an exit
      to safety and promise;
      your divine Kinsman-Redeemer
      can turn every circumstance
      into a way of escape.
Make this your prayer:

      God, it was you who made a way
      to rescue your redeemed—
      do it again!

May you experience the demonstrations
      of His divine power.
Influenced by the certainty of His historical
      acts, signs, and wonders,
      may you now have confident faith
      that He journeys with you,
      He comforts you, He delivers you,
      He takes all your needs as His own.

Confident in Him, depression and despair
      will disappear, sighing and sorrow
      will turn to celebration
      you will be overwhelmed
      with never-ending gladness and joy.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Trimmed and Ready

A few years ago, we hired an arborist to trim some large trees that surround our home. The arborist looked up at our largest tree and said, “It would be good to thin some of the branches so the wind can move through the tree.” 

The model of the Western Church is undergoing a trimming. What is being trimmed is our model of ministry, not the actual ministry itself. We have a lot of limbs we think are critical to the advance of the Gospel that may get in the way of what God wants to do. We tend to believe our model is sacred and unchangeable. The Lord is very capable of accomplishing even more after a season trimming if He is allowed to move freely through areas we thought should have remained forever unchanged.

This week, I had the opportunity to spend time with two pastors. Both pastors have had their ministry model drastically trimmed in the last few months. But something very unique has been taking place as a result of the trimming. Because of the wise use of technology, more people are logging on to hear their messages than ever would have attended a typical church meeting. In one case, thousands more.  The giving is also up in both churches from online sources, and as a result, they are able to help those in need. 

God's creative abilities did not stop at Creation. He is always creating and recreating, even our models of ministry. You might feel like a tree undergoing a drastic trim job. Trimming should not always be interpreted as something negative.  It might be God preparing the way for a fresh wind of His Spirit to flow through your life and ministry. 



Beware of Smokescreens

Each city has dark spirits assigned to them to manifest their power and control in contradiction to the work of God’s Spirit. The identification of these spirits is not accomplished by natural instinct or intuition. They are identified by discernment empowered by the Spirit. The most visible works of darkness playing out in our cities do not always reveal the identity of those spirits. The dysfunction of a local government and social structures is many times only a smokescreen blurring the actual spirit fomenting discord.  

These smokescreens are offered to keep the Church reacting to their diversions and never really focusing their prayers and actions at the heart of these hellish emissaries. They desire to work undetected and unchallenged for as long as possible. 

You will not discover the identity of these spirits listening to yet another dark and despair-ridden newscast or following your favorite “end times” preacher. These are smokescreens, diversions from the real thing. This insight only comes by revelation - a revelation empowered and delivered by the Holy Spirit. 

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (Matthew 11:15). 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Confronting False Contentment

Every promise of God will have conflict associated with its possession. When we finally arrive in a place of promise many things will still stand between us and receiving the benefit of living in that new reality. It is in that place of tension that critical choices are made that will determine our future.

After a surprising defeat by a much smaller army, the leaders of Israel were dismayed. They did not understand why they were defeated by the small force from the city of Ai, the second of the ten cities Israel would need to defeat. The defeat came because of the sin of one man. That sin caused the entire nation to suffer and stumble in their mission.

Joshua, seen by many as one of Israel’s most courageous and faithful leaders, had his moment of doubt after the defeat at Ai. As Joshua cried out to the Lord wanting to know what happened, he said, “If only we had been content to stay on the other side!” (Joshua 7:7). The problem with Joshua’s comment was that it was made after Israel had miraculously crossed the Jordan River and were now standing inside the border of the Promised Land.

As believers in the New Covenant, we continuously live inside the Promised Land. Our Promised Land is not geographic or some futuristic heavenly dwelling. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ. We carry our Promised Land with us wherever we walk. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, the current economic problems, our unresolved racial issues, and the cultural dysfunction we see being played out on our smartphones and computer screens, is what all of us are facing at this time in our history. None of these problems has the power to defeat the plans of God for all people and all nations are to flourish under the banner of His love.

When we find ourselves wanting to go back to what life was like before these painful issues arrived and we find ourselves uttering similar words of despair like those spoken by Joshua, we need to stop and correct our negative response.  That correction will be sourced from the realization that we stand securely in the Promised One. Our act of faith is to bring every opposing thought into compliance with that reality. If we can do that, it will change how we view the current conflicts that can, at times, overwhelm even the strongest examples of faith.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Words in Time

Be careful about releasing a word before its time and declaring, “Thus saith the Lord.” The word may indeed carry Heaven’s authority, but only if it is released in the timing of the Spirit. What we speak in God's name must be shared without the impulsiveness of undisciplined emotions and frustration. 

Hell's Card Dealer

The Devil loves this time in our history. He and his troop of dark spirits are walking through our culture with decks of cards in their hands. Instead of traditional playing cards, these cards have images of disasters, conspiracies, and dark outcomes that are tailormade for our unresolved fears.

In gambling circles, there is a saying, “the house always wins.” The same is true in spiritual matters. The house we allow to deal our cards will always determine how we interpret life.

Today, check the cards in your hand.  The cards you hold have been given to you based on your faith or the lack of it. That is the hand you will play in your mind, at your family gatherings, and with your friends. It will also be the hand you bet your life resources on. It is a costly bet.

For some, it is time to fold and get a new hand – a hand of hope. That is not a na├»ve hand that ignores what is taking place in the world. It is a hand that sees Heaven being released on Earth and trusts the supernatural ability of God's love to turn the negative course of human history toward goodness. That is a hand you can go all-in on because it is backed by the heart of God. Nothing else is worth playing. In the end, a hand of hope always wins.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Pickup Your Memorial Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Choosing to be a Reconciler

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

The Demise of a Packaged Faith

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Lean, Refocused and Simplified Church

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Imagine If You Will

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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Crushing Our Opinion

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

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

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

Made Ready To Hear Something New

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Power and Beauty of Belonging

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Don't Take the Bait

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

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Alarm Bells Are Still Sounding

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

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

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

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




Look Up!

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

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

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

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

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