Pentecost 2020

First of all I want to say that – praise be to God – I believe He is already blessing us with a move of His Spirit just to bring us to this point where we are thinking, talking, and acting as we are today. It is His grace and Spirit that leads us to where we now stand. Having said this, as we talk about our need for divine intervention, for a Pentecost experience of some kind, and, as I prayerfully look to scripture for guidance, a few things stand out.

In Acts in the account of Stephen’s testimony in 7:24 our text states, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God….” And in 4:8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…” Why did the author choose, in these instances and timing, to highlight this fullness or filling in the manner he did, and what exactly is being indicated? Looking at Acts 4:31 we read, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” As I look closely, I begin to see this as well as some of the other examples as indicative of some kind of special, different manifestation of God’s spirit, as these same disciples had just been given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is the kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we now seek; but there seems to be some requisite.

 When we look throughout the Bible – even the Old Testament – and see great things being done by God through man, we begin to see a pattern. In the Old Testament God acted supernaturally and in profound ways when man went about, in faith, to do God’s will through great, and daunting…even “impossible” methods. And in the New Testament we see God not just provide the believer with The Holy Spirit at salvation but, apparently, provide The Holy Spirit in even greater ways when man was going about to do the will of The Lord and was set to great – and quite daunting – works…basically works that couldn’t be accomplished short of a supernatural act of God or a different kind of anointing of His Spirit and empowerment. Though supernatural acts still occur, from the time the Holy Spirit was given onward, God’s working through the Spirit-filled man to accomplish His will becomes prevalent and is a significant aspect of God’s plan for life on earth.

Here is where the “rubber meets the road.” Do we need The Holy Spirit now, more than ever, just to get  through life? Absolutely. (Or maybe it was always this way and we just didn’t understand). But if we are seeking an anointing so great, an outpouring of Spirit so powerful, a tangible manifestation of God’s power so profound like we have never seen before, this special manifestation is given to men and women who seek God for, and place themselves by God’s grace into, positions for not just life but abundant life. It is time we recognize that the abundance we like to refer to likely has more to do with abundance for God than abundance for ourselves, though we are the beneficiaries and partakers of His glory. You see, we are not just being called to survive, we are called to great works for the glory of and good pleasure of our great God. Yes, we need the Holy Spirit now more than ever…just to survive; and I believe God is calling us out of some things, because we are about to go through some things. But…don’t get it twisted…God is calling the believer to a blessed life of sacrifice, dedication, great works, and abundance – abundance that implies there is fruit. I believe as the world around grows darker, and as our own inner struggle and His calling comes into greater focus, there is greater abundance ahead if we repent of sin, put ourselves in positions where only a miracle will do, and call upon the name of God for an outpouring of His Holy Spirit that is sufficient for a life completely abandoned to God’s will.

It is time we seek The Lord for His purposes, and ask for the incarnate power to see them accomplished, rather than seeking Him for our own. I believe, if we do, we will certainly see a greater manifestation of His Spirit and power as His will is done on earth.

It is my belief that we are nearing or have already arrived at a time when answers to the questions God currently poses to man are required. Yes, this has always been a fact of relationship between God and man, but new questions are being posed to you, to us, right now. Just as “now is the time for salvation” for the unbeliever, now is the time for the believer to respond to this calling from God. If we cannot now, standing before a loving and gracious God in the current circumstances of our lives, answer the call, and trust in faith and follow, then how will we ever stand before man, when compelled by threat of life or liberty or possession, and answer rightly? I’ll leave you with a verse and a warning from those Israelites gone before us, who faltered at God’s calling and leadership. Though the context was the subject of the Sabbath, the greater context was God trying to lead His chosen people out of captivity and bondage and into a promised land of plenty.

“Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Therefore, since the promise of His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have the good news proclaimed to us just as they did, but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who heard (and did believe).”- Hebrews 3:18-4:2

One more word of caution for the believer

The Bible says “You have not because you ask not.” But why do we want to see God’s manifest power and Spirit so greatly right now? If it is for any other reason than to see His will be done and to bring about His glory then it is all for naught. It is time to rid ourselves of our self-serving plans and requests of God and first make sure we are asking the right things for the right reasons…and then boldly ask.

Never Going Back

There’s been much talk of what to make of Coronavirus. When an extraordinary event of this nature takes place, man pauses, hopefully, and takes account of himself and the world around. The reality of and circumstances surrounding the Covid-19/Coronavirus/CCP Virus have produced in our people varied, dramatic, and even divisive responses. Reactions and perspectives vary as much as our religious, political, racial, geographical, philosophical and socioeconomic differences. I, myself, have gone through a few waves of perspectives, observations and takeaways as we have progressed through the events of the pandemic and corresponding national and global reaction. As my family and I have embraced this strange time, we have sought wisdom, discernment, and knowledge in the surest of places and found one message resounding clearer and surer than others.

Let’s first observe a time-tested truth that history confirms and human-kind often conveniently ignores. Those who fear The Lord and seek after Him earnestly possess an inherent firmness of inner foundation the world knows nothing of. While others are shaken, by God’s grace, the godly man, woman, family or community has a peace that passes understanding. Scripture advises that wisdom and knowledge come from a fear of The Lord and that a man who builds his home on a rock (The Rock) will surely withstand. This isn’t to deride those who choose to stand on their own and know nothing of this promise and truth, but it is to offer hope to all.

“He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” – Psalm 145:19

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of The Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

As the realities of the Coronavirus (translated in some languages as Crown virus) began to become apparent in the U.S., reactions came quickly and with much conviction. In my home, the first response took on something of a “Whew…Thank God…a forced Sabbath rest.” My own personal observation was that many people, both Christian and non had been engaged in a debilitating and endless rat race of more, better, bigger, faster, get, do, be for so long as to have replaced life with an alternate version so undesirable you’d think it wouldn’t take a forced stoppage to recognize the futility in it. The fact is that many, whether consciously or subconsciously aware or unbeknownst, just haven’t had peace about the way they have been “doing life.” If you are a follower of Christ who has been reborn and have the hope of salvation and blessed assurance of His promises, if the purpose of your life is to seek His above all else, you still will not have full peace if there is duplicity in your heart and life. And if you have not “died” and given your life to Christ and been transformed by Him, then this duplicity is certain, and that longing in your soul will keep you from rest, pandemic or not. Rest is not only necessary for our bodies and minds, but a necessary component to honor God and His laws of nature. To pursue the desires of the world and the flesh necessarily puts you at odds with the promised rest of abiding in Christ.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I heard a pastor the other day say he was amazed at how some of the same people who a few months back were in his office complaining about their life were now telling him they “just couldn’t wait to get back to normal.” Now, that is really interesting. You were miserable with “normal” but now can’t wait to get back to it. As my 3 year old twins would say, “No-no, ah-ah.” Not in my house and not on my watch. This is a gift and to miss this fact is to miss the fact that blessing often comes disguised as trial or tribulation. And whether blessing is realized is usually dependent on our response and what we choose to focus on. My response to the whole Coronavirus pandemic and the national and global reaction that ensued was something like, “Great….exactly what we needed. Normal was not good and any fear I am feeling is the fear of things returning to the way they were, if anything.” This “new normal” was quickly embraced as an opportunity, by God’s grace, to grow, learn, live, expand….to get in touch with some areas that had been neglected and to see resurrected a few things that needed resurrecting in my life. I felt sadness and sympathy for those who had experienced massive financial upheaval or loss of health or life, but this is the course of things. We will have loss, we will have pain, we will have suffering in this life. The real question that needs answering is what loss is actual loss? Is it possible to lose something and find gain? If Paul can say “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” can we not at least say that our precious, so carefully constructed and controlled lives, when inconvenienced, are not valid measurements of suffering? I mean to say that few are experiencing actual death or grave and permanent financial consequences, but rather an inconvenient interruption to an already compromised and feeble form of life that hardly resembles prosperity or abundance. If the Coronavirus pandemic and how we let God choose to use it in our lives can bring forth newness from that which is old and stale, liberty from slavery, and life from death, will we call Covid-19 a curse….or a blessing? I’ll submit to you that your own personal perspective may rest on where exactly you cast your crowns.

We crown many things on this earth…hence our own shaking when those things are threatened. Maybe it is time to crown the one who is and was and forever will be. Now that is something you can count on.

For many months I drove up and down the fast-growing part of my family’s hometown streets as an economy on overdrive was resurrected from the rubble of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. I marveled at the speed, at the sheer will, at the determination of man to create, to expand, to persist and prosper. As trees were cut, new homes constructed, businesses opened and strip centers added…and added….and added, I asked both myself and my wife, “Is this sustainable? What is all of this stuff? Are there enough people to support all of this? Do we really need a Beef Jerky Outlet,” and I imagined it all being vacated or abandoned and torn down. Oh, these places won’t go away, at least not quickly or anytime soon; but I now see my notion as prophetic, at the very least symbolic. We have been functioning now on the very high levels of self-actualization for so long, with all we could need or want at our fingertips, with the just-enough becoming the just-a-little-more which gives way to the never-enough. If it isn’t food it is clothing and if not clothing it is entertainment and if not entertainment then technology or fitness or fame or politic or publicity. If it isn’t our wife it is our job, and if not our kids then our car and a hobby or two or three, and three or four more for each kid, and a few personal indulgences of guilty pleasure for self; and if we could just…reach…a little…bit…higher, and go a tad faster and then a bit more…and we will al-most have…it. We could almost have it all….normal.

The normal we know is where we are in control. The place where, unfortunately, even most Christians have been living in poverty of spirit, in bondage of time, space, and energy, is the normal we know. Our cues come from a secular culture whose values shape not only our thoughts and activity but our very lives. It has become so comfortable, so normal, not to mention busy, that the still small voice inside can barely get a word in edgewise to wit. That voice is still speaking. The question is “Who will hear?”

The Israelites strained and strove, they wallowed in the captivity of the Egyptians for centuries under harsh rule, subjected to a pagan nation and people who knew nothing of God. By God’s grace they were called out of Egypt by a merciful and very capable deliverer, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob – the same God of my family. They were delivered out by plagues which overtook the will of the Egyptian rulers temporarily and provided an escape. They were delivered from imprisonment, entrapment, starvation, and judgement and promised a new home, a free and abundant land of their own where peace and prosperity would be their lot. They were delivered by a God who had proven himself to them time and time again…and yet they faltered. Most were unfaithful and disbelieving, many ungrateful and vile in rebellion and largely rejecting God at His word. The majority demanded to return to the land they had known. The land where they would be slaves offered security and predictability, a comfort of the known, and a certainty that made them feel as though they were in control. They would reject God’s promise to return to normal if given the chance. Many couldn’t wait to go back to Egypt. The Israelites, save but a few families, never entered the new promised land. Like Lot’s wife before, they couldn’t turn their eyes from what they thought was good, what they feared might be better than the unknown and the new, even though it was in actuality Sodom and Gomorrah, a loathsome and dying place.

What new and better, unknown place is God trying to take usto take you to?

And what is your “Egypt?”

What things have you laid hold of that you will not release to the God of all Creation who holds a promise so true, so good, so desirable, and so real that it will provide genuine rest for your soul? You see, I believe we today are like the Israelites of old, and God, through extraordinary events, is graciously calling us out of where we have become all too comfortable – a place that was never meant to be our home. He loves and cares for us and Has plans so much greater than ours. He longs to save us from the slavery which binds and withholds liberty from our lives. He promises when we walk according to His ways, His plans, and His will for our lives, we live in freedom…we live in peace. When are we going to realize that sometimes we long for something that really isn’t that good? I mean, was normal really that great? Are you sure you are ready to go back? I, for one, am not. And while the world will rush back, my plea is that we take a stand right here and never go back.

The new mantra around our home is, “Never going back. Never going back to Egypt.” I heard pastor Steven Furtick as he shared his version of a similar sentiment (Isn’t the Holy Spirit cool?) suggest we do not return to normal but that we all, “Look forward to normal.” His suggestion was that what we have been doing is actually not normal for Christians and that, at least by God’s design and through His eyes, we need to get to normal…His normal for us. I concur.

Maybe you have heard of the phenomena of a long-time prisoner in our jail system being released only to purposely commit a crime to return to prison. This phenomena is said to be a result of what that person has come to know as normal, as safe, and easier than the alternative to adjust to. We can be that prisoner. We can be those Israelites who bemoaned God’s plan and relied on self, those ancestors of humanism, who chose to reject being called to a new and better promised land never to return to slavery and subjection; or we can be a people who never look back…never go back…and receive what God is graciously offering today.

Will you receive it?

Forget what you’ve known. It wasn’t that great anyway. Ask God to forgive you. Seek Him for guidance, discernment, and permanent deliverance from your Egypt. Or maybe you feel as though you are out of Egypt but are now stuck in a desert wilderness. Do not complain. Do not seek return. Ask for direction and clarity and seek a new place to dwell…God’s promised land for you – and never return to “normal.”

Letter to Loved Ones

This won’t be perfect…far from it. It will not be complete, or thorough, or without cracks. Make no mistake, if there are cracks in this writing, in the message, they are human in origin, and of the messenger not the source.

The fact is the situation is now too dire, too immediate to justify waiting by any reasoning. Furthermore, this fact of the situation isn’t only true now; but, it has been true for years, decades, centuries, and all the way back to Eden. The matter is one of life and death, and of utmost importance. The matter will define us as a people, now and for perpetuity. It is a matter not just for each of us, but for our family, for our children, for our generations. It is my hope and, more importantly, prayer that each of you reading this will find it within yourself to see that a few things be accomplished in you as you read this: Firstly, an honesty of mind, heart, and spirit and openness that reaches much deeper than your currently held beliefs, views, predispositions…and desires. The second is love…A willingness to love me whether you like the message or not and to appreciate the fact that it is with great love, empathy, compassion, and humility that I write to you. Thirdly, an acknowledgement of and grasping (really taking hold) of the inevitable longing that stirs beneath the surface in you and an acknowledgement of it. And lastly, a willingness and desire to “stay with me” and interest in future communications. This last point is great in importance, as one of the reasons I finally decided to write revolves around my acceptance that this will not be complete, thorough or “good enough” from both my perspective…and likely from yours. I am a BIG believer in communication, open and honest communication, and feel strongly that one of the primary impediments to our modern plight is we have lost the ability to reason with one another. We cannot seek truth, retain it, obtain it, and pass it down for generations if we cannot dialogue on matters of great import and face tough issues together. Our forefathers weren’t perfect, but they did this much better than we do, and the fruit was ours for the enjoyment.

This seems like a good place to “start”….

We were not taught the right things of God; and, undoubtedly, most of them were not taught rightly. As long as man has walked the earth, man has watered down, rebelled against, and forgotten God’s truth. This is how more than a message becomes distorted. This is how belief becomes unaligned with truth, with what IS.

For the sake of my point in writing, we can skip the earlier history lessons and pick up around the late 1800s. As we moved towards industrialization and consumerism, we basically forgot what we once knew. Man who counted on God for everything began to count on himself. More than just counting on himself, his reward was seemingly increasing and without limits. The imagination, creativity and work of man (or grace and providence of The Lord Almighty) sprung forth boundless earthly treasure, riches, glory and fulfillment…so we thought. With each stage of new achievement, and as each trial or tribulation passed, man became more emboldened, self-reliant….and forgetful. Much like the Israelites before us, we just couldn’t consistently accept, adhere to, and remember God’s provision and plan for our lives.

So what is that plan? I will tell you first what it isn’t…

It isn’t losing our minds to cheap entertainment or living for the next purchase. It isn’t Facebook or TV, Twitter or funny videos. It isn’t games or treats, expensive things or man’s praise. It isn’t sugar or cars, clothes or nice trips. It’s not your job. It isn’t being “in the know” or keeping up with trends. It isn’t red state or blue, liberal, progressive, or conservative. It isn’t black or white, left or right, Hispanic, Asian, young or old. It isn’t in a doctor’s office or at the hospital. You won’t find it on the ingredient’s list of your favorite foods (But you will find a lot of things you’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce). They won’t tell you on cable or brief you during morning coffee. It isn’t in the boardroom, showroom, and most likely not on your mind in your living room. They won’t prescribe it, pass it as legislation, give it out at the next promotional or sell it to you.

But it will cost you something.

The plan is this: To die.

God’s plan is that man, that families, glorify and honor Him with their lives. That our lives be a living sacrifice unto the Lord that His purposes might be fulfilled in us and that we might live in such a way that brings life, true and abundant life, to those whom He loves most…us, His children.

The fact of the matter is that we, for generations now, have “altered” truth to suit our desires and have evaded His plan, replaced recognition with opinions, values with vice, virtue with indulgence, and facts with feelings. We do not know truth and cannot think or reason properly. Critical thought, sound judgement, discernment and wisdom are nearly extinct.

We have rebelled against God, formed our own little kingdoms, and put ourselves firmly on the throne. This is most unfortunate as we do not hold dominion over the most important of things, cannot be trusted, and are pitiful “kings” as it turns out.

In reality, you cannot alter truth any more than you can say, “I don’t believe in gravity” and jump off a 20 story building and survive. All of our “replacements” have come at so great a cost. We have borrowed ideas from the Devil himself and the fruit of our doing (or, rather, undoing) is another kind of death. We are sick, our kids are flaky and have no clue what to think or believe. Our lower schools are in shambles, colleges are a joke, the medical community is completely untrustworthy, government is corrupt, our “art” is cruddy and commercials confirm the fact that we are, indeed, idiots. We are overmedicated and undereducated. As The Bible accurately predicts, many of us have been given over to a spirit of delusion and our wisdom is no doubt foolishness before God. Oh, what a firm foundation The Almighty laid, but here we stand, just barely, feet planted stubbornly on sinking sand and by our own choice. Lord God have mercy in Jesus’ name.

The Lord God of all creation sits enthroned as His children willingly pluck scraps from the floor beneath a banquet table He has prepared. (1)

We claim to be “basically good people” and pay lip service to our devotion to God, meanwhile God’s “eyes search the earth to and fro seeking but one who is righteous.” Don’t we know… “Friendship with the world is enmity with God…and man cannot serve two masters. Either he loves the one and hates the other, or will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

Our double-mindedness is evident in how we manage our work, run our homes, raise our children, approach health, “educate” ourselves, spend our free-time, love our spouses, and interact with the world around us.

When it comes to God, what we do best is throw an occasional twig on a fire that is unlit, oblivious to the fact that a savior’s love rages like a wild inferno longing to consume us.

But this is not just about our sin, weakness, and split personalities. It is very much about blindness.  There are two primary types of this blindness: First, is a blindness to the truth about God, His Word and instruction for us, and then, second, to reality itself. “Real” reality is that from the beginning of time God laid down the very fabric of our existence, it is truth itself; and we either become aligned to it or wage war against it, knowingly or not. Unlike what most of us were taught, being a “good person”, believing in God, and going to church does not save, justify, or deliver. It also doesn’t sanctify, refine, impart, or consecrate -all things necessary to a life that thrives according to His purposes, as opposed to one that wallows in the shallow, limited waters of our own design. We have been led to believe what man wants to believe, what is easiest for us: That God himself requires little for everything we want and desire to be at our fingertips. We shouldn’t judge….and so why would our God? There is no condemnation, no chastisement, no consequence here, or in eternity. A basically good man need not fear The Lord. We can enjoy the world and still love God. We can have our cakes and eat them, too…and a camel can easily fit through the eye of a needle. The world is a neutral place and things therein are harmless to us. There isn’t a Devil, truth is a matter of opinion (or perspective), celebrities are great role models, the media is a bastion of integrity, the healthcare system has our best interests in mind, public schools are cutting-edged, and technology is our best friend. No, the truth is there are many things “killing” our people. The repercussions will be seen for generations IF we do not change course immediately. We were not meant to be of this world, only in it. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

True life is to reject those things that are not of God, that do not bring forth life, that do not edify and move us closer into alignment with God himself and His life-giving purposes for us.

“I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What would it be like to have kids that live for Christ, to have a spouse pray over you, to hear your children sing praises unto the Lord, have peace, contentment, and true joy that leans on nothing temporal? What would it be like to see God move…His power released…in your home, in your marriage, in your relationships, in your health, and in your heart? How would it feel to give up things THAT AREN’T GOOD FOR YOU TO BEGIN WITH -and to give up that which cannot be kept for that which will never pass away?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (2)

What would the legacy be of a life well-lived for Christ? What would the earthly and heavenly influence and fruit be for generations from your faithful, devoted, fully-submitted devotion to The Lord? And what would the eternal consequence be of your giving your all for Christ? What are the eternal consequences of not doing this?

Let me be clear: We are not safe; and this is meant to be a wake up call to all who will hear it. “Awake, oh ye sleeper. Arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” The only safety is found in a life fully given over to Christ. It isn’t enough to believe in Him, one must believe on Him.

“Many will tell me in that day, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works? Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!”

Deitrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When God bids a man He bids him come and die.” It is here that we find life. It is here that we gain wisdom, knowledge, and true discernment. It is here that we gain truth and life itself. It is called the great exchange.

And today most have attempted to exchange a mere pittance to attempt purchase of something whose price is a life.

You see, He gave His life, that we might have life. And when we take up our cross and follow…when we choose this life through our own death…we are resurrected to real and abundant living.

Christ says, “You will know them by their fruits.” The fruit doesn’t lie. We are unsettled in spirit, shackled with addiction, restless of mind, and led by thoughts and feelings that have little relationship to the truth that sets free. We are unhealthy…inside and out. And our kids? They are poorly educated, restless, distracted, unfulfilled, immature, confused, often sad, and generally unhealthy. We raise our children to be just that….children. We should be raising mature, wise-as-serpent, virtuous reflections of God’s holy grace, magnificence, and glory. Generations before us were far from perfect, as has already been noted here, but let me tell you something: The young people of pastimes would kick our kid’s butts in virtually every meaningful pursuit.

“…And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thy sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates…”

The Devil, the media, our government, our “entertainers”, our healthcare system, our corporations, parents, grandparents, and forefathers are all complicit; but it is we who must assume the blame…and the responsibility. The “greatest generation” (which is beloved no doubt but was spiritually flawed) has given way to a generation (or two or three) who has, like the Israelites and most of our ancestors before us, forgotten all we once knew. We have failed to “love The Lord thy God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.” We have failed to live for Christ…to die and to gain. We have failed to educate and pass down all God has done and the evidence of our faith. We have not taught our children right things and they have not inherited a legacy of a family “…whose God is The Lord,” that they might know history, life, truth, and The Way so their lives can be as meaningfully and fully lived as ours were intended to be.

Vanessa and I recently taught a Sunday School group a class I entitled “Turning the Titanic”. The class was constructed in my spirit, mind and on paper over a course of a few years as I learned and reflected on my own family and loved ones, who we are, and what our legacy will be for generations. I live and breathe to love Christ and to see my family be a reflection of His purposes for man, family, and, ultimately, for His glory and honor. It would take pages to express to you all my gratitude to The God of all Creation that He cared enough for me, in spite of me, to grant me forgiveness, mercy, grace, salvation and, ultimately, true life. But He isn’t just a God of mercy or second chances. He is a God of “exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever think of or ask.” It wasn’t enough in His eyes to save me…He has richly poured out His blessing and shown me things I could never have imagined. He has granted wisdom, knowledge, purpose, peace, love, truth, life, and (the very best thing) Himself. There is no way…no way….I can sit idly by and watch us small talk our lives away, watching the world spin around us, hoping it all turns out OK when I KNOW God is on His throne, He loves us, His children; and He has a plan for abundant and fruitful life for us. He can overcome ANY situation any of us are facing. He makes the crooked straight, the low high, the doubt belief, delusion understanding, darkness light, and death life. There is no part of our lives, of your life, He isn’t willing to or unable to touch in a mighty way right now. Don’t get it twisted. Our goal here is not to have everything all worked out and perfect. I am not, we are not, all things are not perfect; and they never will be this side of Heaven. But there is real hope and change and not the kind they are peddling in the press. There is joy unspeakable, blessed assurance, a firm foundation, peace that passes understanding, and life abundant.

There are fake substitutes, also. The Devil’s lie in the Garden of Eden continues today…every day. My prayer, my exhortation, my warning and admonition to you, to us, is to stop right now, take an account of your life, be honest, and take a stand in this moment in time, in a place, in a way you will never forget nor regret. I know a God who is alive, who imparts to us when we relent, whose spirit can dwell within us, and whose power is available and unlimited – no matter your age, no matter your past, no matter your present. God loves you. He loves us all. He is calling to you right now this very moment and asking: Will you trust me with your life? Not on Sunday, not on Easter, not on holiday, not in the heat of a moment when you are desperate only, but always and completely. He is the one who asks, “Will you trade that which cannot be kept for that which cannot be taken away?”

Will you be the one who remembers what has been forgotten, who teaches what might be lost, who becomes undone to all that has been done to rob us from life itself? What will your family legacy be? Can you say, as Joshua did, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord?” You see, by God’s grace and His Holy Spirit, I never pictured this “turning of the Titanic” to be something for just Vanessa and I and my offspring. It has always been in my heart and a conviction I hold to that it be for you, for all of our family and friends, extended and beyond –the conviction that what God has placed in me and that which He is doing here in our hearts would be like a wildfire that would rage out and consume all whom I love and cherish so. It is that this “turning” would be so massive that it would create a ripple effect throughout all our generations, extending well beyond influences we could ever know or imagine!

This turning is one where we say, “Enough! This is where we make our stand. This is where we cut off the lies of the enemy.  This is where we end the decline of our understanding, recover our history, and renew our love for, fear of, and devotion to our God. This is where health improves, divorce ends, unbridled sin gets bridled, children thrive, light shines into darkness, love of the world is severed, love and God’s spirit permeates all and His purposes are served for His glory for perpetuity through a family given over to Christ. This is where we become a light in a world of darkness so desperately needing families who are light. This is where we “Let our light so shine before men that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven.” This is where doubt and wandering subside and are replaced by His blessed assurance and the wonder of His great works. This is where our will and purposes die and His are fulfilled. And don’t you know His are SO much better!?

I have always liked “deep things” …always been a little deep. I like the deeply intellectual, expansive, the philosophical, thoroughly and accurately vetted, and even imaginative. The more I mature in Christ, though, the more I like and appreciate the power and beauty of the simple things, little truths that are as weighty as the lengthiest dissertation (Is this it?), deepest philosophy, or most expansive research. Two of these simple truths and promises are two of my favorite verses of The Bible. The first is “seek and ye shall find” and the second “knock and the door will be opened to you”. These are promises from The Living God of All Creation, who is quite capable of doing “exceedingly and abundantly above all that we may ask or think.” Now, I must ask you, “Are you thinking highly enough?”

This is my hope. This is my prayer for you if you are receiving this. This is my prayer for our family, for our people. God is faithful. IF we earnestly seek…if you do…He will show you things unimaginable; and the rivers of life and blessing from which you and your family will drink will be boundless and neverending.

 “Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks the water I give them shall never thirst; but the water I give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

“He that believes on me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither –whatever they do prospers.”

Are you thirsty?

I would like to think I have always pursued truth, pursued knowledge, and the “explanation of things” (though earlier pursuits were as flawed and misguided as the East is from the West). With the mindset of the pursuance of truth, a warning I have carried for some time and share with others is, “It is what you don’t know that might kill you.” We must be willing to set aside what we think we know and openly and honestly open our hearts, our minds, to what we may be missing. This is vital to avoid death…a spiritual death more dire than death of the body; and this is vital to finding the true meaning and purpose in life. I hope and pray that you are doing this as you read…and always. We know so much today, and yet less than ever.

This is the hard truth: We have made a mockery of God’s plan for the life of man and gravely endangered our people. We ourselves, our families, children and posterity suffer from a cheap, watered down version of devotion to God. His plan is that Christ would die so that we might live. Yet we pick and choose how we might shape our lives, carefully (or very recklessly) crafting our image of self, view of God, and version of reality. God must only be viewed as He is. “I AM WHO I AM,” He says, making light of the fact that HE IS from the beginning; and His truth remains constant in himself, and thereby in us if we accept His grace and live accordingly.

 The love of Jesus shown for us at Calvary was too dear a price to be paid for us to squander on cheap substitutes the life that He bought.

He died that we might live, yet we choose death, in many cases unknowingly, for ourselves and our children. It is here that we must stake our claim and take our stand. Here is where the “rubber meets the road,” so to speak, in this writing. The purpose and motive isn’t to presume malice, accuse of hedonism, self- righteously judge another, nor to wax eloquent on religious philosophy as it applies to sociology because it just feels good to do so. The purpose is to sound an alarm and call to arms – This is a warning to awaken from slumber.  One is much more likely to get off course if he doesn’t know where he is going. Do you know where you are going…and why? A friend of mine once said that we cannot know the how, when, and where of our existence if we do not know the why and who. Who are you, really, and what is your “why”? What were you created for?

It would be unwise, in times like these, to assume things are as they should be…to do what we do best and avoid higher matters by covering with idle small talk, political correctness, superficial graces, indulgent silliness, or the like. Our depth is a concern. We have become a dumbed down people. It is time to wise up by God’s grace or we will certainly die indeed. No frogs-in-the-pot here is the motto.

“My people perish for lack of knowledge”

Let me ask you a few questions: Are you happy? Is your soul satisfied? Do you know that you know that the purpose and meaning of this life can be found in yours? Is there a little voice inside that says something isn’t quite right? Why are we so unfulfilled? Why so unsatisfied? What is the longing in our hearts, in our souls?

“I am The Way and The Truth and The Life…”

Like the Israelites wandering in the desert, disbelieving God. They, by their own choices and self-induced delusion, subjected themselves to a version of life – from then to this very day even for many – so much less than, so much lower than that for which they were created and which was intended by their loving Father in Heaven. Must we do this also?

Isn’t it time? Isn’t it worth it? Won’t you trust Him? Shouldn’t we do it now…before it is too late?

“So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.”

One final thought…

I am well aware of the “risk” in writing this. Let me say this about that: First, what I risk is little compared to what may be gained. Aren’t we kind of sleep-walking through this anyway?? The risk is that we might be shaken alive to something better in relationship to one another – in our hearts, in our homes, and on this earth. The standard that has been set for some time now, not just by us but by “our people” in general, is quite frankly poor in light of God Almighty, His word, and intent for us.

First, It is because of my love and care for you all that I take the risk. Second, the risk is taken as a measure of “push back” against a thing that troubles me greatly: As a people, we are much inclined to entertain things of little eternal value. We will consider foolish thought if wrapped up in pretty packaging, we will gladly nod our heads in agreement with enemies of God and smile at things we should rebuke. Oh, we will talk about all manner of things! Indeed, but the things which should be heard, those things which are truly worthy of consideration, and those respectable voices (especially those coming in the name of Jesus Christ and The God of All Creation – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) we quickly dismiss, rebuke, scoff at, or avoid altogether. We will smile for Lady Gaga, yet frown at the lady coming in the name of Christ.

“They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.”

I hope and pray that you will receive this act of love graciously and that you will communicate with me further if you have questions, desire clarification, or even wish to rebuke me!  My true desire is that you will take whatever measures at any cost in your heart, in your person, where you are, by God’s grace, to ensure that this same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of you, your life, and your (our) family. In Jesus’ name and praise be to God Most High, bless these words and the hearer.

“Jesus said unto them, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’”

Footnotes on quotations

All quotations outside of “scare” quotes are from The Holy Bible except as noted below

(1) Heidi Baker – Compelled by Love

(2) Jim Elliott – missionary and pastor

Things will get worse…and better.

Revival is at hand. The rise of Christianity is imminent.

But I thought Christianity was dead? An abandoned and antiquated point of view whose legitimacy and relevance has been made obsolete by the ever increasing advancements of an increasingly intelligent people with no need for it. Ah, but we aren’t talking about Christianity as defined by a culture. True Christianity has never been defined by culture, or country, or time, space, or popular thought. True Christianity, the faith in, submission to, and following of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of the world, is defined by God himself and, though not existing in a vacuum, its “health” is not effectively evaluated through worldly eyes.

Most Christians in America have been on quite a journey the last 20 years or so. Political, social, and cultural change and heightened political divide/tensions have provided a roller-coaster ride of personal challenge and, hopefully, spiritual growth. What we’ve seen…what we are seeing is, by God’s grace, a shift from earthly to heavenly; from worldly to godly, from the temporal to the eternal. This is a good thing; but, unfortunately, many of our brethren are missing out on the reality of what has taken and is taking place. What many see purely as political, social, or cultural occurrence is, in fact, evidence of God’s divine and omnipotent, supernatural working. If we miss “what God is up to,” we miss the point of it all entirely.

We’ve seen a lot with our human eyes only. We could go further back, of course, but if we go back just twenty-five or so years we can have good context for gaining present-day spiritual perspective. Politics and cultural issues are a good barometer of the recent journey. From Bill Clinton’s initial salvos of relativism on truth (You might recall his much ballyhooed and then-under-oath qualification in response to questions about testimony on sexual indiscretion when he said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”) to hot-off-the-presses news now that there are more than two sexes, babies are not really babies, marriage is antiquated and unnecessary, cheating or lying is all right as long as the ends justify the means, morality is relative, truth is whatever you say it is, and there is no God – It is clear reality is ignored by man when expedient for his own means to an end. Pilate ignorantly asks, “What is truth?” Nietzsche postulates there is no difference between good and evil. And today, the mighty modern man says, “Truth is what I make it.”

“21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”   – Dan. 2:21

It should be easy to see the set-up now. We have been graciously given a reprieve from our naive and mundane prior existence and brought face to face with the failings of what we thought we knew (At least if you have truly chosen to follow Christ or have the desire to do so, you likely have come to this understanding by now). While we may be a bit uncomfortable at the moment, our previous grasp of and comfort with what we thought to be reality wasn’t very good. What is good is the knowledge that, while we may find ourselves a bit less certain about things past, present, and future, our creator and sustainer God not only knows exactly what is going on, but how, when, why, and to what end. There is little doubt God is testing us; little doubt that all the words we’ve heard of refinement, shaking, testing, trials and the like are coming to pass, and for a just cause. If hindsight is 20/20, then how much more so sight when aided by The Holy Spirit! We’ve moved from complacency to skepticism, from disbelief to fear and trembling, from indignation to anger, from fighting mad to resigned, and from confusion to jubilation and back to head-scratching and…now what? Now, the picture is getting clearer. After all, God is not the author of confusion; nor is He confused. He doesn’t want us to be confused, either. So where do things go from here? One thing is clear: Our leaders and governmental circumstances, along with the ever-growing number of social, cultural, and political issues, entities and representative figures that mark our time, are signposts, mile markers if you will, that tell us something about where and who we’ve been and can be clues as to where we must turn and who we are called to be.

Make no mistake about it. There is a reason for that longing in your heart, that restlessness of spirit, that unsettling in your soul (And if you don’t feel those things there may be cause for alarm). The fact is that we, especially those of us in The West, have long been drifting from God. To say that the evidence of that fact has come as a shock to the body of believers is evidence in itself to just how far away we have drifted. All one need do is pick up one of the more noteworthy, and classic, older works of our forerunners and read, feel, and see the depth and richness with which they examined and related God. What began (at least for generations now living) in the 50s as a social experiment in suburbia has met with disaster. The enemies methodology, offering us the world on a platter has paid nice dividends – for him. God has spoken. It is time to come home.

“26…Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.”                      -Heb. 12:26-29

God will not be mocked, and His ultimate purposes will be accomplished. While Christians of the past 50 years thought they could compartmentalize their safety-blanket of faith, personal ambitions, and worldly desires as they wished, carving out a small place for their creator and master around their own established personal kingdoms, the God of Heaven has balked.  What we are now sensing, and I dare say seeing, is evidence of a necessary reckoning.

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of an incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man….”      – Romans 1:21-23

Reckoning is not a bad thing. There is a lot more good occurring right now than I believe most Christians in America recognize. The fact that a lot of what is going on isn’t being recognized for what it truly is leads us to understand part of what The Holy Spirit is trying to do: sensitize the believer to His leading, His voice, and His working in and around us. I have many times introduced people to God as a gentleman, one who doesn’t force himself on you, but rather is best glorified by the exercise of our own free-will when we choose to hear his gracious call; and the call doesn’t end after He has called one to salvation. The call is a continuous one. It is a call that can be heard now. The bible teaches us “The kingdom of God is at hand.” And we are also taught that the kingdom of God is within. We cannot be the refined bride of Christ, ready for His coming, without first seeing the establishment of His permanent and all-encompassing lordship in our lives…not as part of our lives…literally inside us. This is His call.

Not only is God enabling His people to recognize Him and His ways more fully, but He is calling His church to be active in what He is doing, and to abide with Him and His Spirit. There is a necessary dying to self, and letting go of the way we have looked at life, so that we can live it in the circumstances that are to come and serve His purposes. What are those circumstances and purposes? That is the aforementioned refinement. The beauty is that, for the believer, God has already begun pouring out His Spirit personally for the necessary work to be done in each of us, preparing us not just for what is to come on this earth but for eternity. He has heard the cry of our heart; moreover, He has put the cry there and answered it! Are you tired? Bored? Hungry? Feel a sense of longing that just can’t be quenched? If you have not yet recognized God for who He is and received Jesus Christ as your savior and lord and chosen to forsake all and to follow Him, this is the graciously-given longing in your heart for the God who created you and for a savior who died for you. And for the believer, that longing is deep calling out to deep – the Holy Spirit in you longing for God and His ways, His justice, His relief, His reward, His comfort, His purpose, His life, His kingdom, and, ultimately, for Heaven on earth. When we pray, “Kingdom come down,” God says yes, but some things are going to have to change! (Thank you, Lord)

Open the eyes of your heart. Abandon self. Pay close attention. Pray for clear vision, wisdom, and discernment. The evidence is all around. It is in nature, in our economy, in the headlines, in politics, church, in your neighbors life, in sports, TV, world news, and in your heart. Revival is at hand. God is calling all who are to be His to rise up. For all the focus and emphasis and reporting of what has been and is wrong with The Church and with Christianity, look closely: You will see refinement, you will see the true church rising, you will see evidence all around of God’s Spirit moving in His body and revealing His true nature, character, and intent. Do I believe things will get “worse?” Absolutely and without any doubt. Prepare yourself and your generations for it. But it will get better also, at least in the eyes of God. And He is, after all, the one who defines what is.