Jan 20 2017

Perfection

Jesus tells us in Matt 5:48 that we should be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect. That’s a tall order and from a purely human perspective I have to think, is that even possible? Can we really live a life of perfection? Can we go through life without making mistakes or committing any sin? I tend to think that if Jesus said something, it must be possible. That might seem like an over simplification of faith but I really believe every direction or command that Jesus gave is something we can do. He wouldn’t have told us to do it if it wasn’t possible. He said “heal the sick” so we go out and heal the sick. And here he says “be perfect” so our reaction should be to live that out.
So, of course our first thoughts immediately go to sin. How can we live in perfection in light of sin? Can we go through a full day without sinning? How about a week? A month? Or even longer? I have heard preachers teach messages about grace and they usually say something about how they are not perfect and that they sin all the time. They are trying to make all of us feel better about our own mistakes, and that’s a valiant effort, but maybe we need to shift our perspective to what Jesus actually said.
Romans 6 paints this amazing picture of how, as Christians, we are no longer slaves to sin. Sin no longer has any authority over us because of what Jesus did for us. Verse 10 in the message version is my favorite one in this chapter, it says that “sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word.” I love this perspective. If we see ourselves fully submitted to Jesus, then we should see ourselves as slaves to righteousness. That would mean that sin is no longer our master which makes perfection a possibility.
This goes back to something I said in my last post. We sin because we don’t believe what God said about us. If we really believed that we were free from sin, we wouldn’t ever make another mistake. The other side of the coin is that we can’t get wrapped up in a performance mindset and beat ourselves up every time we do make a mistake.
Now, here’s my theological thought for the week that may border on heresy…or not. Perhaps the reason Jesus was 100% effective in healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, restoring lives, etc. is because he walked in 100% perfection. Every miracle Jesus performed was as a man anointed by Holy Spirit. We are also anointed by Holy Spirit and have access to everything Jesus has access to. Maybe if we really believe what God said about us we would see a lot more happen through us. I haven’t thought this part fully through yet, it’s a little raw, but there may be something to it.

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Jan 13 2017

Increase our faith

I spoke to a man this past week who had been so sick for several days that he hadn’t been able to successfully eat anything. I prayed for him then declared that he would be able to eat on that day and that the sickness was gone. His response was this: “God willing.” So, I told him about how it is always God’s will to heal and that there is no reason why God would want anyone to be sick. We talked about how some people believe God will put sickness on someone to teach them something and how that idea makes no sense. Why would God ever want to make someone sick? He wants us to live in perfect health! He agreed with me and a few minutes later he was eating some granola bars without any problems. I don’t know why we let this type of theology into our teaching. I have heard several great teachers talk about how we often let our experiences determine our theology. That’s not a wise way to live our lives. Our beliefs should not be driven by our experiences they should be determined by what God said. If God said it, it has to be true, and anything in conflict with what God said must be wrong. I think the reason we don’t see some of the things we want to see is because we don’t fully believe what God has said. I don’t say that lightly. There is so much I haven’t seen that I want to see. This reminds me of the verse in Luke 17:5 where the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. It’s a great request that we all should make. Increase our faith, Lord, so that we can fulfill every task for which you created us.

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Jan 6 2017

Ministry is easy

Ministry is easy, relationships are tough. I enjoy ministry. I enjoy ministering to people. I enjoy using the spiritual gifts God has given to me to bring freedom and healing to those who are hurting and in need. I used to think ministry would be tough because I would hear about pastors being burned out from counseling their congregation members, working on countless number of sermons, and constantly pouring out everything they had for the needs of others. But then I discovered that ministering in cooperation with Holy Spirit makes ministry easy. There is no striving when he is involved. There is no weariness when we allow him to empower the work we are doing. And there is no burn out when it is his energy flowing through us. We can be effective in ministry on our own. But we can only be supernaturally effective with his help. And then there’s the relational aspect of doing life with other people. That part is a little more difficult. We tend to sugarcoat our comments with our friends so we don’t hurt their feelings. And we tend to hold back on our opinions so we don’t inadvertently put a strain on a relationship. I was watching a movie this week and, in one of the scenes, one character was pointing out the other character’s faults and flaws after not saying anything to him about those flaws for many years. It was an impactful part of the story that led to the character making some changes in his life. And it made me think about why we tend to reserve our opinions until someone comes to a point where they need to be “set straight” and then we let them have it. That doesn’t feel very healthy to me. We need good relationships in life. We need people who have permission to speak into our lives, reveal our blind spots, and show us where corrections need to be made. There are lots of verses in the Bible about bringing correction to a fellow believer; Matt. 18:15-17, Gal. 6:1, 2 Tim. 3:16-16 are a few that come to mind. This is an important part of our walk with Christ. It’s easy to just minister and not pursue relationship with others because they we don’t have to ever be told about our own character flaws. But that would be very unhealthy. As you start out this new year, find someone you can trust enough to let them speak into your life in this way. You will be better for it. I know I will be intentionally reaching out to a few more people and giving them this explicit permission myself. Happy New Year!

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Dec 30 2016

Meditation

A lot of Christians will try to read the entire Bible this coming year and it’s a noble undertaking for all of us to pursue learning more about our King and his Kingdom. I love reading the Bible. I love sitting and absorbing God’s word any chance I can get. But my favorite thing is to sit and meditate on the same passage of scripture until it gets really deep inside of me. I believe that we will become what we meditate on, good or bad, and I want to fill my mind with as much wisdom as I can so that I can be used in even greater ways by God. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 199:15, and Philippians 4:8 are some of my favorite verses on meditation because they speak of the value of meditating on scripture and give us guarantees of what will happen when we do. For the last few years I have adopted a different method of an annual Bible reading plan. I have a tendency to get stuck on one chapter or just a few verses and spend several weeks soaking up its goodness. That tends to ruin my Bible reading plans so now I take the first month of the year to skim through the entire Bible instead and then I spend the rest of the year meditating on different passages the Holy Spirit highlights to me. It’s not the best method for a new Christian but if you have already read through the Bible a few times and are looking for a different method of study to dig a little deeper, meditation is the way to go. Try it for yourself, pick a passage and stick with it for a few weeks. Read it, ponder it, ask Holy Spirit to reveal something new to you about it, and watch what unfolds.

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Dec 12 2016

Stop for the one

I had the opportunity a few days ago to bless a friend with a nice birthday dinner. I listened as he told me the story of his life, how he has lived on the streets since his teenage years; more than 40 years in total. He recounted the pain of being unloved and unwanted by his parents, the sadness of the death of his wife, the pain numbing effects of drug use, and the many stories of being mistreated by churches. It broke my heart to hear about the tough life he has endured and the continuing pain that he endures every day. I pray for him often and I wonder why we haven’t seen any major breakthroughs for his needs. When the server came with a birthday dessert and sang happy birthday to him, tears began to fill his eyes. I could tell it has been a long time since someone has taken the time to treat him like an equal and I could see how touched he was even though he quickly kept himself from crying.
We all come across broken people every day. Some are homeless, some are sitting in the office cubicle next to us. It’s easy to walk past them, especially when they are seen as societies outcasts. It’s easy to think that helping them or simply saying hello isn’t our problem. But what if we looked at it from a different perspective? What if we viewed it as an opportunity instead of a problem? It’s an opportunity to love and bless someone who has forgotten what love looks like; or maybe has never felt loved. As I left that evening I found myself asking God what the solution was for my friend. There has to be an answer, there has to be a breakthrough available for him. And I won’t stop praying until I see it.
Heidi Baker is famous for her admonition to “stop for the one.” We our surrounded by broken people who need to feel loved. When is the last time you sat with someone who is completely broken? Maybe today is a good day to start.

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Dec 1 2016

Supernatural?

I have this rule. I don’t question any action or word from my sovereign King. If he wants to do something, and I know it is him, I don’t try to stop it and I don’t get in his way. He is the King of the universe, after all. He has the right to do whatever he wants to do. But, sometimes we don’t recognize his actions because we expect him to move in a very defined way. We create this theological viewpoint that says God can’t do anything outside the framework of what we are used to, what we have previously experienced, or what we read about in the Bible. That may seem theologically sound on the surface, but it is actually a flawed viewpoint because it assumes that the fullness of God has already been revealed and that he won’t ever do anything new or different. I look at this differently. I view God as a supernatural being who has complete authority over the earth and whose actions, personality, and sovereignty can never be fully captured in one book, or even in a library full of books. Even John, when speaking about the miracles of Jesus in John 21:25 tells us that all the books in the world could not contain all the things Jesus did in his few short years of ministry. So why would we expect a supernatural God to never do anything different than what we have already read about or seen for ourselves?

I lived in Japan for several years and I watched as people would walk up to idols made of wood and stone; they would pray to these idols, light incense, and leave offerings. It confused me. I knew these idols had no power to help them and I knew that the demons hanging around behind these idols also had no desire to help them. And yet, they would come in religious fashion to pray to something that couldn’t offer them any help. I don’t want to serve a God like that. I don’t want to serve a helpless God or one limited to the same actions a human being can take. I want a God who is supernatural. One who is almighty, all powerful, and can move heaven and earth if that is what is required to help me. Who, in all of the universe, when given a choice between a powerless idol and a powerful God would willingly choose the former? So, when I think about God encountering the people he created, I expect those encounters to be supernatural. I expect things to happen that seem a little weird to us. This is why stories of feathers falling out of thin air, gold dust appearing on people’s hands, faces, or clothing, and spontaneous laughter don’t phase me.

I get it, this can be theologically and spiritually disastrous if we just allow anything to happen in a church service. But it is equally disastrous to shut down everything that we don’t understand. This is where the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10) comes in. We have to be able to discern between what God is doing, what the enemy is doing, and what some random person is doing. But we also have to recognize that we serve a supernatural God. We should expect him to act in a supernatural way. And, more importantly, we should invite him to come and do whatever he wants to do.

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Nov 18 2016

Wikipedia Loves Charismatic Christianity

Several months ago, I stumbled across something interesting on Wikipedia that I didn’t know existed. Most people know that Wikipedia contains an article on pretty much every major topic you can think of and that a simple Google search tends to return a Wikipedia link as one of the first few websites to visit. But, what I discovered, is that there is an entire section of Wikipedia articles about charismatic Christianity; almost 1,500 of them! And, more surprisingly to me, no one was actively editing any of these articles. So, there are all these articles that come up as a top result when someone searches on Google but many of them are incomplete, inaccurate, or greatly slanted with a negative viewpoint. I thought to myself, if someone searches for a Christian topic, and one of the first results is a Wikipedia article, then that Wikipedia article needs to be accurate. In case you didn’t know, Wikipedia is mostly managed by volunteers and anyone can edit the content of an article if they adhere to a few basic rules. So, I created an account, familiarized myself with the Wikipedia crowd, and dove right into updating the charismatic Christianity project page. I chose the article on the Toronto Blessing as a starting point since that was the movement that spurred so many other movements and ministries into existence and when this one is finished I will branch out to some of the other already created articles to ensure they are accurate as well. But it’s something I can’t do by myself. I usually have a little bit of time each week that I can dedicate to this work and would love for some others to jump in with me. We can use a website with worldwide notoriety to spread amazing stories about what God is doing throughout the world! Come join me; you can create an account here.

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Nov 11 2016

SHIFT

Well, it’s been an interesting week of people and things shifting into place. There’s a lot happening in the spiritual realm right now. Angels are being realigned and released as God breathes freshly across this nation in the same way he breathed life into Adam. Half of the nation seems to be in fear at the result of this election but there is no reason for us to fear. God is doing something new and we should stand with excitement and watch as he unfolds his plan and invites all of us to participate with him. I, for one, am excited because I can feel the anticipation in the spiritual realm and have felt an increase in spiritual activity over the past few months. I feel like we are entering a season like the world has never seen before, or at least hasn’t seen for a long time. So how do we posture ourselves for this? It’s easy, keep your ears open to the Holy Spirit, be willing to make adjustments as he directs, and follow the wave wherever it takes you. I keep hearing people saying that we are living in the most exciting time and it is so true! These next few months and into the New Year are going to bring some exciting changes from heaven and I even feel like God is releasing surprise gifts to his children that will be exactly what we have been praying for. Stay hungry, keep your focus on Him, and enjoy the ride.

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Oct 28 2016

Real Solutions

I recently learned that many of the major social and political reforms throughout the world were started by believers who had become convinced that the ethics and morals of their Christian beliefs required them to take some form of action. They did so, not by stepping into the political arena or pontificating in social media spheres, but in taking real action. William Wilberforce worked tirelessly to abolish slavery and died just a few short days before the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was passed in England. Elizabeth Fry worked equally as hard to reform the conditions of prisons in the 19th century and was the first woman to testify to a British Parliament. Florence Nightingale was another social reformer who founded modern nursing. Each of these reformers had one thing in common; they were believers in Jesus and they put His teachings to work in their own everyday lives.

When I look at the issues that face the world today and I look at the organizations doing the most work to solve these issues, they are all Christian based. I often wonder why I don’t see other faith groups feeding the poor, working to end abortion, or trying to curb human trafficking. I have often wondered why believers are so inspired to take up these causes and what I have come to realize is that it is Holy Spirit inspiring people to make a difference in the world. God is directly involved in his creation and he is working both providentially and through individuals to ensure his plan for humanity is achieved. We are living in a tumultuous season of political wrangling that is creating so much confusion within our nation. As believers, we fall into this weird category of wanting to speak our mind about the current political atmosphere but also wanting to stay on the sidelines so we don’t get caught up in all the anger and craziness. We don’t have to get involved in the craziness. The issues that all the politicians are campaigning about are issues we can solve. We can look into heaven and get God’s solutions for how to solve the national debt, how to fix the healthcare crises, and how to solve any other dilemma, big or small.

It’s no easy task for us by ourselves, but with Holy Spirit, all things are possible. Now let’s get to work.

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Oct 8 2016

A season for loving

I woke up from a nap yesterday to the sound of worship music and I thought that I must have left something playing on my computer in the other room. I checked a few minutes later and found that there wasn’t any kind of music being played in the house and yet, I very clearly heard the Tim Hughes song, Here I am to Worship, playing in my ear. So the only logical explanation was that I was hearing it come from somewhere else, most likely the spirit realm. Then, as I sat down to write, I kept hearing the opening lyrics to Time of the Season from the 60’s play in my head. I’m not a 60’s child, I missed that era by at least a decade, and I don’t think every line from this song was written with righteous intentions, but this one, “it’s the time of the season for loving” jumped out at me. There are pockets of turmoil happening around the world and in our own country, and it’s easy to get swept up in the anger and frustration of all that is happening but I feel like God is calling us to a deeper place of worshiping him and a focused approach to loving others. It’s a season of loving him and loving those that he created; a season for loving. It’s time to toss out all agenda, tear down walls of separation, and truly begin to walk out the command of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves. I also feel like there’s another aspect to this and that the Lord is saying he wants us to have a greater realization of his love for us because, when we learn to live inside of his love, loving others becomes incredibly easy. Take some extra time today to bask in God’s love and find a way to intentionally share his love with someone you would not normally spend any time with; you might be surprised how quickly a wall can come down through an action of love. Love really does conquer all.

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