Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Christ's Letter to The StoreHouse

I, the Lord, the Sustainer, the Strong Tower, the Ever-Present Help in Times of Trouble, the Master of the Harvest, and Your Soon Coming King, commend you for your tenaciousness. You have remained unwavering and committed to my mission in both good times and bad. You are firmly tied into the yoke with Me. You have endured much during my purging process and have remained a faithful, tried, and true remnant.

I am the Lord that Sees and that Hears. I see that you have grown deeper than at any time in your brief existence, yet I have this against you. I do not hear evidence of what I am seeing. I doubt not your commitment -- I have seen it! Yet, I do not hear your voices lifted in prayer; or melodies lifted in song. I know that you have the incense of my Word in abundance; and that I have given you gifted psalmists and musicians, yet you will not allow my Spirit to ignite it, thus the fragrance of your prayers and worship are not ascending into my throne room. I see your desire to reach out, and am delighted in the depth of your devotion to study, but you cannot grow farther in your influence without growing higher in your prayer and in your praise. I long to HEAR you. What is it that you fear? Be not afraid! Your shepherd and my Word will not lead you astray.

I love you. That is why I have given you so many gifts. The gifts of my Holy Spirit are in abundance among you. Gifts of helps, service, love, joy, languages, prophecy, teaching, giving, discernment, craftsmanship, faith, wisdom, knowledge and healing are all alive and well within you. You are more gifted now than you have ever been! Why do you not recognize these gifts as being gifts from me? Why do you limit recognizing my gifts as only being present during your gathering on Sunday morning? My gifts are present in you every day! Celebrate my gifts among you! Stop putting my gifts in the box of your tradition and your past!

I have blessed many of you with beautiful homes, yet you share them with no one, but those that are closest to you. Why are you so selfish with this gift that I have bestowed upon you? Why do so few of your brothers in Christ, your neighbors, and coworkers sit around your beautiful dining room tables to share in the blessing that I have given you? Why have none of the children and their families that you work so diligently to feed on Wednesday nights not been fed a meal around your own table in the homes that I have blessed you with. Why do you limit my gifts and my workings to your church building? Do you want my gifts to be removed from you?

We watch your love for 'the least among you' from my throne and are pleased with your untiring efforts.  Keep going into the streets for them. Keep feeding them. Keep teaching them. Keep loving them. Keep giving to missionaries around the world. Keep giving to the Homeless. Keep giving to save the unborn. Keep giving toward ministering to those in the hospital. Keep opening up your church to Kairos so that they can minister in the prison. Your love for those outside of your walls is visible from my throne. I see it, but, I do not hear it! Don't merely display gumballs in your pulpit. Weep over them! Satan has them in his grip, but I long to free them. Weep over your city, weep over your area! Weep! Weep over your University! Weep over your prison! Sorrow endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning! I long to hear you weep.

The One who Sees and The One who Hears calls on you to open up your mouth and to open up your homes as you have opened up your hearts and opened up your purse to His service. I call you to repent and to be heard from my throne.

I hold this one thing against you -- You live with your eyes fixed upon the past instead of focusing upon the future that I have prepared for you! I did not sacrifice myself for you so that you could have fond memories, or feed the bitterness of a past wrong. I sacrificed myself for you so that you can have a glorious future; so that each day can be a new day! A day of wonder! A day of hope! Your past joys are but a shadow of the future glory that I desire for you! Yet, you are as the wife of Lot! Continue to look back and you will suffer the same fate.

Behold, I am coming soon! Repent! Turn and face the future -- that is the direction that I will be coming from! Face it with hope! Face it with joy! Face it with love for one another! I have given you the gifts, and your shepherd is giving you my Word, open up your mouths and give a shout of victory as you march boldly into the future with your King by your side!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I Can't Keep Calm -- I'm Pentecostal!

 A dear friend that I have tremendous respect and admiration for recently posted something on Facebook that struck a nerve and I can't help but vent a little bit at my keyboard. I find that to be safer than flying off half-cocked and responding in the wrong way.

His post said this, "I can't keep calm -- I'm Pentecostal!"

I, of course, know what he was attempting to convey. He's excited because the Holy Spirit has empowered him to proclaim God's Word to whosoever will listen and he can't keep it quiet because it would be like trying to "Keep fire shut up in one's bones!" If you knew my friend you would also know that he has a passion for all things in life. People that know me casually would not expect me to enjoy hanging around a guy like him, but I come away energized each time that I am around him. I love his passion and find it contagious. I also cherish the way that he challenges me and makes me think.

So I find myself banging away at my keyboard right now, not in response to him, but in response to the majority of people claiming to be Pentecostal that read a comment like "I can't keep calm -- I'm Pentecostal!" and come away nodding their heads and say, "That's right, these people that don't jump up and down and call themselves Pentecostal need to get with the program!"

I have grown weary of people judging one's commitment to Pentecostal theology based on how they respond physically to external stimuli generated from platform personnel at worship events. When I look at Pentecostal leaders like George Wood, Jim Bradford and Charles Crank, I observe men of God that seem quite "calm" during worship events. I think that their "Pentecostal Creds" are quite legit! Thankfully, I am certain that my friend does as well. Yet, I have participated in many worship events with Pentecostal brothers and sisters in which someone from the platform will rebuke those in the audience that aren't responding with the physical response that the leader deems appropriate. I have seen people rebuked for not jumping, dancing, shouting, or clapping with the same exuberance as the leader. Over and over again I have heard their Pentecostal credentials be questioned. Quite frankly, I'm tired of it.

Should we dance, shout, clap, and raise our hands in worship? Absolutely! But, that has nothing to do with Pentecost. Long before Pentecost or even the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ the followers of YHWH were told that such physical manifestations were not only appropriate, but desirable in the worship experience. So Pentecost has nothing to do with it. We should be excited in worship because we're Christians, not merely because we are Pentecostal!

Admittedly, I'm not much of a dancer. It's never been a part of my cultural upbringing. After all, I think there is a "Position Paper" against dancing somewhere in the archives of my denomination. Oops, I mean "fellowship." And, I have to think that the Holy Spirit is a much better dance instructor than what I have seen Him be given credit for in worship services. So, I readily admit that I don't move my feet very much in worship, but I do shout praise unto the Lord, lift and clap my hands, look unto heaven from whence cometh my help, weep, and smile from ear to ear. I don't do these things because someone from the platform tells me to, however. Instead, I do them as an automatic response to what the Spirit of God is doing within me at the moment. Sometimes while others are shouting, I need to weep; or while they are laughing, I need to fall on my face and repent. At other times, I just need "to be still and know that He is God."

Being Pentecostal is not about how we worship among believers. Being Pentecostal is about the empowerment of the Spirit to testify of Christ outside of the walls of the Church. Pentecostal people are a missionary people! They cannot rest until the whole world knows! They can't remain silent while nearly everyone around them marches into an eternity without Christ! Their message is not "Watch me and worship like I do." Their message is "Listen to me! The Spirit has something to say!"

Sorry for the rant. "I can't keep calm -- I'm Pentecostal!"

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Does a Christian Response to ISIS Look Like?

Once again ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) has beheaded a group of Christians. This time they were from Ethiopia. Previously, the Christians that were murdered were from Egypt. As I think about these recent events what strikes me is just how much the reactions of Christians in America are out of line with what the Bible states that they should be. I do understand the outrage that people feel, but understanding that outrage does not make many of the reactions in line with what should be the Christian response to such horrific scenes.

The average response seems to be one of immediate military action in which we begin to send in troops, or at the very least launch missile strikes, or fly-overs of drones, in order to "decapitate" those that have decapitated Christians. That type of response certainly seems very far removed from "Turn the other cheek . . . Walk the extra mile . . . Give your coat also." We must remind ourselves that Jesus made those statements at a time when an extremely oppressive Roman force was occupying the land that God had promised to the children of Abraham. We should also note that it was the thief on the cross that challenged Jesus to call down warring angels. Jesus offered forgiveness instead.

What about the hooded men holding the knives? Do we pray as Jesus did, "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing"? Would that not be a more appropriate response. Would that not be a response that would be more in keeping with what our Lord and Savior would desire? Why are we so quick to think such a response is "weak."  What takes more strength, pulling a gun on an assailant or turning one's cheek for a second blow? Which is more likely to win the Middle East for Christ: missile launches or martyrdom? Is the real answer to blow up a mosque for every church that was destroyed, kill a Muslim family for every Christian family that was affected by a beheading? Why is it that the average Christian response looks more like a script from talk radio than it does scripture?

Why do we seldom stop to consider that perhaps the martyrdom of the saints in Egypt and Ethiopia is a part of the plan of God to build His Church? Why does such a statement shock so many people? Does the New Testament not clearly tell us that we should expect persecution. Did not the Apostle Paul just prior to his own beheading state, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day" (2 Timothy 1:8-12). Paul didn't call for missile strikes or commando raids. He called the Church to join in the suffering!

I would submit that Church History will reveal that ISIS has fallen into the hands of God and is being played the fool. Those kneeling on beaches and spilling their blood because they refuse to denounce Christ and convert to Islam are crying out to those that are watching that there is something worth dying for! There is no more powerful message than that. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:13-14). I fully anticipate that what ISIS has meant to destroy the Church will serve to embolden her and will bring revival to that part of the world like we have never seen before.

This is my prayer as I see these events unfolding in the Middle East: "May the men in black be touched as the Roman centurion at the cross was touched at the execution of Christ. And may the Church stop its cry to "take up the sword" and begin to take up the cross!"

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Self-Righteous" I don't think you know what that word means!

There is a line in "The Princess Bride" that I absolutely love. Actually there are many lines in "The Princess Bride" that I really love. "No more rhyming; I mean it! Anybody want a peanut?" "He's not really dead. He's just mostly dead." "But, what you don't realize is -- I'm not left handed!" I could go on and on and on so I had better stop now and get to the line that I was originally thinking about. There is a scene after the word "Inconceivable" has been uttered by his sidekick numerous times that Andrew the Giants character turns to his friend and says, "I don't think that you know what that word means!" That's exactly the way that I feel when people use the word "self-righteous".

Words have meaning and I think that one of the biggest problems that we have in communicating in our age is that we rarely know what the words that we are using mean anymore. Many times I find myself asking people, "What do you mean exactly when you use the word ____________?" Often, I find that the way they define the word and the way that I define it have very little in common. "Self-righteous" is one of those words. The word comes from the Bible when Jesus deals with the "self-righteous" Pharisees and teachers of the law. It means that they thought that they had the power within themselves to become right in the eyes of God. That if they just did all of the right things, followed all of the right rules, ate all of the right foods, and avoided all of the wrong places and people that they could somehow become what God desired them to become. The problem with such teaching is that human beings are completely powerless to make themselves right with God. That is why Jesus had to come as a sacrifice. His death took care of the payment for our sins. This was something that we were powerless to accomplish on our own.

Unfortunately, the word "self-righteous" has come to be acquainted with anyone that points out the sin in the world around them. If someone calls adultery sin that doesn't make them "self-righteous". It doesn't even make them judgmental. Why not? Simple, the Bible has already declared that judgment as fact. The Bible has done the judging already! The individual is merely point out what the Bible has already proclaimed. I rarely, if ever, encounter a "self-righteous" Christian. The very fact that someone is a born again Christian means that they have declared themselves to be a hopeless sinner in need of a savior that is completely beyond themselves. They have recognized that they cannot make themselves righteous.

What I find is that most of the people that I hear throwing around the term "self-righteous" are in fact "self-righteous." We live in a society that sees no need for a savior. They are not like the Pharisees who thought that they just need to do certain things in order to attain God's favor. On the contrary, they feel that they already have the favor of God and have no need to change anything at all about their lives because after all, "God loves me just the way that I am!" He made me this way so there is no need to change what He has made "Self-righteous" means "religious" in the minds of most people today. "Self-righteous" means church-goer in the minds of most people today.

The reality is that "self-righteous" means, "I don't need Jesus. I don't need the Church. I don't need to read the Bible. I don't need to pray. I don't need to change. I don't need to give. I don't need to be committed to the needs of others. I'm o.k. just the way that I am." We need to start confronting "self-righteousness" in our world with the same force that Jesus confronted it in His day. We don't do that by attacking the Church. We do that by addressing sin and the need of a savior!

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Response To The Names Of God

At The Pastors' Prayer Summit that I attended last week we were given an assignment to review the names of God in the Old Testament and to reflect on their significance. Below are the names of God and the my response to them:

Yahweh Tsidkenu -- I Am Your Righteousness
Yahweh M'Kaddesh -- I Am Your Sanctification
Yahweh Shalom -- I Am Your Peace
Yahweh Shammah -- I Am There
Yahweh Rophe -- I Am Your Healer
Yahweh Jireh -- I Am Your Provision
Yahweh Nissi -- I Am Your Banner
Yahweh Rohi -- I Am Your Shepherd

Lord, if you are all of these things for me, then there is only one thing left for me to say,
"I am a welfare recipient!"
It makes no sense to work for any of these things -- God has provided for all of them.
However, if I don't work, I will dry up.
I will have no fruit in my life.
I will be miserable.
I will be so much less than what His generous welfare has provided for me to become.
If I lay around and do nothing, I will become sick and of no use to your kingdom.
I will become a drain rather than a fountain.

God, thank you for offering me all of the assistance of your Kingdom.
You have offered it willingly.
You have offered it with the hope that I will accept it.
You have offered it, not to keep me in emotional, psychological, and  physical poverty, but to lift me out of it so that I can tell others how to sign up.

Keep me from feeling shame for accepting these benefits!
They are meant for my welfare so that I can be used to help the welfare of the Kingdom.
Thank you.
You never kick your kids off of your assistance!
You never even cut it back!
The payments just keep getting bigger!
I've served you in ministry for 30 years now.
You have always provided.
I don't need you to provide less now -- I need you to provide more than ever!
Not because I have squandered your benefits, but because I have used them up!
I have advanced in your kingdom and find myself facing greater enemies, and greater needs!
There is no hope of getting off of your welfare program.
Help me to realize that is a good thing, and not a sign of failure!
I'm not supposed to be self-sufficient!
I'm not supposed to pull myself up by my own bootstraps!

I'm supposed to be your dependent!
I'm supposed to expect you to reach down into the waves and pull me up!

I'm drowning dad!
I need your help!
These waves are too big for me!
I'm in way over my head!

I'll try not to fight you.
I'll try to relax.
I'll try to breath.

Please hurry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why Do I Run?

I've really been dragged through the ringer for the last several years.
I call it "The Lost Decade!"
The last two have had some really rough times and the last few months have been absolutely horrible!

I run to keep on going.
Running has saved my life.
Running has also probably helped me to spare the lives of others.
I thank God for running.

I take my frustration and my disappointment out on the asphalt and the trails.

I run for several reasons.
It keeps me disciplined.
It keeps me sane.
It keeps me focused on the harvest.

Running keeps me going.
Running is when I listen to Him the best.
No music.
Just breathing.
Just pounding.
Just heart beating.
Just listening.
Just praying.

"1,2,3 Pour out your Spirit!"
"1,2,3 Bless this county!"
"1,2,3 Pour out your Spirit!"
"1,2,3 Bless this campus!"
"1,2,3 Pour out your Spirit!"
"1,2,3 Give me wisdom!"
"1,2,3 Heal my friend!"
"Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away!"

During my run today I told the Lord,
"I'm not out here running in order to fill my Church you know!"
"I'm out here running in order to empty hell!"

His response:
"I know that!" "So does the enemy!"
"And, you expected that to come without a price?"
"You expect that to be easy?"
"You expected that you would just waltz in and free the captives?

"Will you run while I fill other churches even if I choose to empty yours?"
"Will you pray for souls if I send them to other pastors?"
"Will you be out here running if you have to, "Make bricks without straw!"?

"I won't pretend to like it, but YES!"
"What can I keep?" (Convicted the moment I said it!)

"Can I keep my family?" "Please."
"Can I keep my joy?" "Actually, can I get it back?" "I've lost it along the way!"
"The closest that I get to really experiencing it is in these moments when I run."
"I'll keep running and keep praying, but I need my joy back!"
"I want to keep my family."

In a moment of utter frustration at the end of 7.14 miles turned off my watch and I said,
"Is this the way you treat your sons?"
(Then I saw my Savior on the cross)
ANSWER: "Yes!" "This is exactly how I treat them!" (Ouch!)

I gave an honest answer: "Sometimes I don't even like you, but I will serve you. I trust you and I love you. But, I won't pretend to like what you allow me and those that I love to go through. I don't understand you. But I will serve you. I have watched people lose those that they hold most dear. I have watched godly men and women suffer tremendously while you seem to do nothing. Yet, I am on top of the roof right now taking off tiles and lowering my friends before you because I still believe. I honestly don't know why I do, but I do. I believe! It makes no sense whatsoever for me to believe, but I do."

"You've done the hard stuff! You've forgiven Bill Parks and Darla Taylor of their sin! You have erased their debt! You have paid their ransom and guaranteed them heaven! Why won't you do the easy thing and heal him of cancer and her of MS?"

"I just don't understand you."
"I love you; I still trust you; I will not let go of you, but I do not understand you."

It was dark by then and I turned into my driveway and looked up at the stars.
I felt like Job in the final chapters of the book that bears his name.
I felt small.
Lucky to be alive.
I scrambled to take off more tiles.
I lowered Bill, Darla, and the 30,000 plus lost souls of my county down to Him hoping for a miracle.
Don't know if it will ever happen.
But, I'll die on this roof taking off tiles and lowering people down because I just don't know what else to do.

I keep on running because I want to empty hell.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Milkweed Seeds

If you want God to speak into your life then put down the phone, close your laptop, and walk outside until you find a place where the only thing that you can see and hear is that which He has made and nothing which man has made. He reveals Himself through that which He has made. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" -- Romans 1:20.

The Lord revealed something powerful to me yesterday while sitting in a place where I could only see and hear what He had made. Now I am without excuse. I can't wallow in my self-pity and despair because He revealed Himself to me though that which He has made. There were dozens of seeds, Milkweed I think, floating through the air while suspended from their God-made parasails. They were on a journey to a destination that was completely beyond their control. I noticed that many of them would get about as low to the ground as one could get without completely "bottoming out" and then in an instant they would be lifted up by an unseen wind and in a matter of less than 3 seconds be soaring higher than the highest trees around them and would in another second be so high that they were completely out of sight. There were even a few that I saw picked up after they were completely on the ground and looked like they couldn't be dislodged.

God used this incident to remind me that I am not in control of His unforeseen wind. He controls the way that the wind of His Spirit blows. He is the one that provides the force, the timing, and the direction. He knows how low that I can go and when to lift me up again. That wind of His Spirit can come suddenly as it did on the day of Pentecost and create a lift that no one could ever have imagined. My job is to make sure that I resist the urge to cling to this earth and that I remain open to Him picking me up and carrying me away whenever He desires. I long for His breath to lift me up. I long to soar on the heights. I long for Him to carry me away in His presence. And, I am grateful that as long as I do not cling to this world, and what it has to offer, that at any moment the wind of His Spirit can lift me to that place where I can soar like an eagle.

I am thankful for what God revealed to me as I sat in the presence of His creation searching for answers. He never fails to provide them. Milkweed seeds. Who would have thought . . .