Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Greater Things

Way back when, in a galaxy far, far away, I was reading from the first chapter of John early one morning.  I read verse 50, and it blew me up.

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 

The phrase that caught me, blindsided me was, You will see greater things than that.  It made me cry out loud.  Like the Grinch would say, “What’s happening to me?”  I didn’t know what was happening to me.  Now, it’s the matter of understanding the phrase.  Yes, having an encounter is significant.  In fact, we need encounters of the heart with the Lord that will lead us into understanding the will of the Lord in this day.  The encounter I will never forget.  Now, it’s the matter of understanding the phrase.  I will see greater things.

Recently, April and I attended a one-day conference in Atlanta.  One of our new friends said to us he attends these things nowadays not so much for the info but for the anointing that the speakers bring with them.  I spent the rest of the day wanting and praying for the anointing in the room to empower us. 

I wrote about this before, but I’m briefly mentioning it again.  Over a year ago, I was invited to pray in the state house in Montgomery at the opening of a legislative session.  I was honored.  On my way, I was listening to worship music in the car and feeling good.  I started recollecting all the places we’ve lived in Alabama and all the people we’ve met in churches we’ve pastured and encountered in ministry, and I was thankful for these experiences.  At that point, I sensed the voice of the Lord in my heart saying to me, “You can have the state of Alabama if you want it.”  It messed me up like that morning I read John 1: 50.  I said out loud, “Yes, I’ll take it.”  Nowadays, I pray with this story in mind, “Give me the anointing necessary.”   When I heard our friend in Atlanta mention an anointing being available, I had this trip to Montgomery in mind.  Give me the anointing necessary.

I few weeks ago I dreamed I was in my parents’ house in Baltimore.  We were using it as a house church location.  I had a level of anxiety at this point in the dream.  A friend of ours brought a box full of stuff to me.  On top of the stuff was a thick, multi-page form with my name and address at the top of it.  Our friend said to me, “You need to write in the account number from your electric bill in those spaces.”  Someone had attempted, but only a few numbers were written in and a couple numbers were scratched out.  It dawned in me that I knew where to get the account number.  No problem.  “That’s easy,” I thought.  The anxiety left me.

Then I looked in the box again and saw a handful of wrist watches.  I believed that they were all mine at some time.  There was one I was attracted to, and I noticed it was operating while the others had stopped.  In fact, the time was accurate.  It was 10:20.  I told April about this dream the next morning.  She said that the electric bill meant power, and the watch running the accurate time meant now.  Power now.

Years ago in a God encounter in the living room of our parsonage in Scottsboro I was encouraged to believe that greater things are coming and I will see them.  Since then, I have witnessed the healing and deliverance of several people.  I have seen God bring holy encounters to several other people.  I have experienced the Lord’s holy presence in several places and times to confirm all over again I was his beloved child.  It’s been wonderful.

We’re now at a time of courage and sacrifice in ministry that we’ve never experienced before.  It’s wild and sobering.  Few have ever come to the place where God has led us.  Our resources in the natural are few.  Few understand what we’re doing and would prefer defining what we’re doing as a regular church that merely meets in a house for the meantime.  That inaccurately defines what God has called us to do – greater things than this.


We’re now at a time of courage and sacrifice while being prompted to trust the power of God is at hand.  Yes, greater things than this shall be seen.  It’s a wild time to be alive.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Attraction, Worship, Faith



When I’m learning something or needing to accomplish something through a sequential procedure that I’m not familiar with then I’m comfortable with formulas.  I remember my mother would be asked to bake a cake for the women’s group at her church.  She always agreed because she would say the baked cakes others would bring were never as good.  Other women would ask her why her cakes were so much better.  She would unashamedly say that she would follow the recipe. She would tell us at home, “How hard can it be?”

I’ve learned in my relationship with God that in learning things as a disciple a recipe or formula may work when I was young in the faith, then I’d learn latter the relationship and ongoing encounters with God were what aided my life in God more than the procedures and recipes.

In reading Luke 7: 36-50, the story of a sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and pouring perfume on them afterward in a Pharisees’ home doesn’t easily fit into a sequential procedure of repentance and salvation.  I’d just assume not discuss any formula for salvation.  Something is going on here.

Jesus is invited to Simon the Pharisee’s house for dinner.  A woman who lived sinfully learned Jesus was there.  She gets into the house during dinner.  She’s not merely curious.  Something else is at work here.  She washes and refreshes Jesus’ feet like a servant would.  Something else is going on here.  Tears are what cleanse his feet and the perfume is an act of worship.

In this house there is attraction and there’s worship.  Both Simon the Pharisee and the woman are attracted to Jesus.  Simon is theologically and socially curious.  The woman is not romantically attracted, but something is going on here.  Again, you can’t put her emotions and actions into some sort of formulaic recipe of what a sinner does to get saved.  It should be enough to say that something is going on here.

In Luke 17: 11-19 ten people afflicted with leprosy cry out to Jesus for mercy.  He tells them to go show themselves to the priest.  They are healed on the way.  One of them returns to Jesus and worships him.  Something has happened.  Jesus then tells the guy who returned, “Your faith has made you well.”

These two stories show us that when you’re attracted to Jesus, something’s going to happen.  The woman is attracted to Jesus. She brings perfume to pour on him.  In the encounter she cries enough to wash his feet.  Those afflicted, you can say are attracted to him, cry out to him.  In both stories, these folks want Jesus to impact their lives.  They knew if they got to Jesus something would happen.  If you get to him, you won’t be the same.  When we’re attracted to him, something’s going to happen.

In these two stories there is attraction, worship & faith.  Simon the Pharisee is attracted to Jesus, but he wasn’t aware that there would be an opportunity for an encounter that would change everything like the woman knew there would be.  He was attracted, but there was no faith or worship on his part.  He was religiously correct by being theologically curious, but he “loved little” because he felt he had little to be forgiven for.  The woman loved Jesus much because in the encounter without any words being exchanged she was forgiven much.  After her expressions of worship toward Jesus, he declares she’s forgiven and that it was her faith that saved her much like he said to the man who was healed that returned to worship him.

Be attentive to when and where and how you’re attracted to Jesus because you’re being set up for an encounter that could change everything for you.  Simon the Pharisee missed his opportunity to encounter the very gracious heart of the savior because he wanted to keep his dignity and respectability and religious standing. 

Even now, you’re attracted to Jesus and what only he can do for you.  Surrender yourself to worship and believe and something beyond what you believe is possible is about overwhelm you.  Your faith has saved you.

Friday, August 30, 2013

One Flesh



A reoccurring thought I’ve had lately has to do with the one-flesh of marriage.  On one occasion, Jesus quoted Genesis 2: 24, “’For this reason a man will leave his father & mother and be united to his wife and two will become one flesh.’”  He then said in verse 6 of Matthew 19, “So they are no longer two but one.”  This is what was intended at the beginning, but divorce, as well as disunity regarding anything in marriage, breaks this bond.

There is suppose to be unity in marriage, one-flesh.  The fall produced imbalance in the relationship in Genesis 3: 16, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbirth; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’”  Imbalance, yet, one-flesh.

An evening recently, April and I went to hear Chuck Pierce at a church in Selma, AL.  A former United Methodist colleague, but current friend, of ours came and sat beside me before the worship began.  He told me that that day was his last day at a church where he served on staff.  No honor by word or deed was paid to him by anyone who knew he was being let go.  All of this came as a shock to me.  He felt hurt & very disappointed.  When he went back to his seat, I felt a strong sense of compassion arise within me for him, and I knew I’d pray for him and declare peace and blessing over him before he left there that night, which I did later.

During worship that night, April, who didn’t hear him tell me any of this, felt shame & disappointment well up on the inside of her.  She knew these emotions were not from her but didn’t know where they came from until I told her about what our friend told me. 

Honestly, I believe much of this can be chalked up to April’s gift of discernment.  I also believe this episode is exemplified by the fact that April and I are one flesh.  Since we are one flesh, we have the potential in the Spirit to see and hear the same things in the Spirit or to experience connects in the Spirit even if we’re not involved jointly. 

This is what the Spirit does in us as a married couple, one-flesh.  This is, also, why divorce or disunity in marriage is so counterproductive.  A wife and husband can unite and become remarkably formidable in the Spirit to bring heaven to earth and destroy the works of the devil in the name of Jesus Christ.  Divorce tears that unity apart and weakens what could be a force for the Kingdom. 

Thinking about a pending divorce or separation?  How about thinking better of it?  How about fasting and praying for your unity as a couple to grow strong again so that y’all be what God intends you to be – one flesh? 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yes, Amen, So Be It!



I was praying yesterday, and a thought came to me that was not mine.  “Say, ‘Yes” to that which God has promised.”  The more I thought about that, it turned into “Yes, Amen, So be it!”  So, this is what I say yes to today.

When I heard for the first time Bill Johnson preach in person at New Freedom Church in Webb, AL, he said one reason he was there was to raise up an army in this region of people who’ve said yes to the things of God in these days.  I then remember joining with others in raising my hands over my head and saying, “Yes” to God.

I’ve written about this before, but it connects with the call-to-say-yes theme today.  I was driving down to Montgomery to pray at the state house at the start of a session of the legislature.  While I drove, I called to mind all the people we’ve met in ministry in Alabama, and where we’ve lived in this state.  I then openly thanked God for these years in ministry and related experiences.  With that, I then heard the Spirit say, “You can have this state if you want it.”  I believe it was the voice of the Lord because it made me laugh and ball like a baby simultaneously.  As I drove and cried, I collected myself and said out loud, “Yes, I’ll take it.”  In recollecting this encounter, I still say out loud, “Yes, I’ll take it.”  In remembering this event while praying, I’ve started requesting in prayer for an anointing to accomplish what the Lord would want me to accomplish in Alabama.

My brother-in-law had an experience while driving up on Sand Mountain in June.  The Lord told him that our ministry on this mountain will be beyond anything we can imagine.  He said it was beyond words to describe.  One recent Sunday morning, a friend of ours was worshiping with us in our house.  She had a visitation with the Lord.  As she lay on the ground, she took me by the hand and told me what the Lord wanted to convey to me that day.  Our ministry on this mountain will be beyond words to describe – beyond anything I could dream or imagine.

This reminds me of what a colleague in ministry told me a couple years ago.  He saw me going up a mountain (already sounds familiar) on a path and then moving off the path.  It was a tougher climb, but I was moving faster up to the summit.  Before I reached it, the satchel I carried was proving to be a burden.  There were things in the bag I might need, but I decided to drop the satchel and leave it behind.  I made it to the summit quicker than I would have if I stayed on the path.  Once there, I sprouted wings and took off to parts unknown.

The question is, “Do you want to be a part of what is to happen and what is happening?”  My answer is, “Yes, amen, so be it!”  In hearing what your destiny could be, do you want to be a part of this?  My answer to my destiny in the Lord is yes!  What about you?

It’s an important prophetic, committed act to say out loud to what is believed to be the voice of God inviting you to step into your destiny, “YES! I WILL!”  Or “YES! I’LL TAKE IT!”  Or “YES!  AMEN!  SO BE IT!” 

The Lord is looking for believers to do more than believe.  The Lord is looking for hearts, minds & spirits to say yes to what the Lord is looking to do in and through a company of committed children of God.  With passion and faith, say yes to what the Lord wants to do in and through you.  Fear not.  He’ll never leave you or forsake you.  You’re too important in God’s plans to advance his Kingdom agenda through you.  Say, “Yes, Amen, So be it!”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Will of God (Part 2)



Recently, I was leading a devotional/Bible study at a boarding house I’m very familiar with.  We found ourselves talking about prayer.  It was my intention to use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for prayer that Jesus taught.  I, also, intended to talk about the will of God.

As we moved from discussing prayer to knowing the will of God when it comes to prayer, I asked if it was possible to know the will of God.  It surprised me that a couple dominant voices in the room to this point were quick to answer, “No, we don’t know the will of God.”  Usually, that would be followed by a statement like, “That’s why we pray, ‘If it be your will.’” That wasn’t added in this case, but it did surprise me they spoke so candidly about not knowing the will of God.  It’s remarkable that many Christians say that the will of God is unknowable, and they, obviously, take comfort in that.

We’d just talked about the Lord’s Prayer.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we know what the will of God is.  I quickly referred again to the prayer to show God’s will ABOUT SOMETHING! 

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  It’s God’s will that no one starve.

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive . . .” It’s God’s will that we seek forgiveness and be quick to forgive others.

“Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”  It’s God’s will that we not fall into the clutches of temptation and evil.

The will of God is not a mystery.  It sounds rather religious (I gave up religion a couple of seasons of Lent ago) to not say we know the will of God or to say God’s will is God’s business.  Being religious is more of a curse than a help when it comes to stuff like this.  In fact, when it comes to anything, religion is boring and cruel (a quote from Bill Johnson, lead pastor, Bethel Church, Redding, CA).

It’s pretty remarkable, if we’re honest with ourselves, how much of the will of God we already know.  In Mark 1, a man with leprosy comes to Jesus and says, “If you’re WILLING (If it’s your will), you can make me clean.”  Jesus said in response, “I am willing.  Be clean!”  Immediately he was cured. 

I’m about to be controversial.  It’s taken me several paragraphs to get here.  It’s God’s will to heal.  How come more aren’t healed?  How come hospitals are full?  Someone may actually say about me that I’m boring and cruel.  One of my answers to this is, “I don’t know, for sure.”  Another answer from me is, “Many Christians constructed doctrines to discourage other Christians to believe in healing when a couple people died after prayer, anyway.”  Seriously, in order not to be cruel and criticize unbelief, these doctrines were constructed (“It was the will of God.”) and encouraged so that members are not lost to other churches.

Knowing what the will of God is doesn’t mean it’s always fulfilled.  The King James Version of 2 Peter 3:9 reads, “He is patient, willing that none should perish, but all come to repentance.”  Its God’s will that no one perish, but all repent, but souls perish everyday. 

Libraries are full of theology explaining the will of God in all circumstances.  I’m actually comfortable with divine mysteries.  I’m, also, comfortable with seeking and finding the will of God and doing my best to participate in the divine will in given circumstances.  I believe that’s what contemporary disciples are called to do – seek and find the will of God and do it.  He’s looking for partners in doing his will in the earth.   Simply saying and believing that the will of God is unknowable is what drives me crazy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

You Can Do Nothing



Has anything been done?  No one can justify the doing of nothing.  It’s best not to respond to the question if nothing’s been done, and your answer would have to be nothing.  Just say nothing.  Don’t say that in response to the question.  Just say nothing.  Nothing at all.  I’m not quoting what you might or could say.  Just say no thing. 

There are times we determine by our own honest evaluation of our actions that we’ve accomplished nothing when really we’ve done a lot.  We’ve constructed and manipulated and created and communicated and congregated and represented and calculated and still accomplished nothing. 

Well, how can this be?  We’ve been in motion to bring about what we or others we trust have formulated to be a worthy end to our hard work.  What is to be the result of our hard work?  What is the measurable end?  What do we want to accomplish?  Even when we’ve determined what the goal is, it still may amount to nothing.

Jesus speaks in John 15 one of the best and, I believe to be, important statements in the gospels.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
-- John 15: 5

This solves the issue of accomplishing nothing.  If you have the nagging persistence that you’re accomplishing nothing in this life, you may not be.  Apart from Christ, you can do nothing.  The nagging from within may be a real tug that is drawing you into a realization that Jesus wants all of you. 

I’ve seen too much in the church done because we believed we had to do something and it amounted to nothing.

In Mark 4, Jesus teaches from a parable that he describes as the parable from which we can understand all parables.  The sower sows the Word (Mk. 4: 1-20).  Two of the places where the seeds have fallen are places where the seed/the Word does germinate and plants grow, but they either wither or are choked to death.  I look at these two pieces of ground and I’m reminded of the church.  Ooo, such joy and excitement in the beginning, but then troubles, persecutions, cares of this world cause the new born plants to wither or suffocate.  In the church, we say, “That’s ok.  Good try.”  But we never change the ground so that the next seed can find a good place from which to grow AND PRODUCE A HARVEST!  The harvest is the thing!  The little green shoot isn’t the thing.  Neither is the pretty blossom on the stem the thing.  The fruit is the thing.  The crop is the thing.  The harvest is the thing!

You and I can do nothing in our faith and be content with it because we’ve heard enough of our contemporaries tell us, “Good try.”  We think its enough to try.  We think its enough to calculate and congregate and assume our heavenly Father is content with our failures.  You and I can do nothing.  Often enough, we do nothing.  We do nothing because we do not remain in him.  We do nothing because our soil is shallow or it’s full of weeds.  When there is a degree of growth, it’s choked or it withers, and we, again, do nothing.  This is not acceptable.

Much fruit must come from us, and there must be a harvest from the seeds planted in our lives.  The fruit and harvest that’s valuable is that which heaven cherishes and reflects the hand and the will of the Father. 

Stop doing nothing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Psalm 102 Revisited



Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God:  God looked out from his high holy place;
    from heaven he surveyed the earth.  He listened to the groans of the doomed, he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion, so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets and wherever people gather together along with their rulers to worship him.
-Psalm 102: 18-22 (The Message)

God gave me this passage through the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer 13 years ago (today as I write this) as I worked at a hotel in Tuscaloosa.  These verses were a living prophetic revelation (His words are Spirit and life – John 6: 63) that led me back into formal pastoral ministry.  These verses revealed to me the nature of God.  I needed to experience again the heart of God.  This is the heart of God.  God looks out from his high holy place, surveys the earth, listens to the groans of the doomed, and sets them free from their death cells.  Alleluia!

This is the heart of God.  This is the nature of God – to survey, to hear, to set free.  Alleluia.  Our heart & nature is to record what he’s done so the generations to come would know.  Our heart & nature is to sing God’s praise in the streets wherever the people & rulers gather to worship.  Our heart is to remember the doomed being set free so the generations to come would know & experience & praise.  Alleluia.

Now I read Acts 5: 32.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.  I read this verse a few days ago.  It struck me all over again and, this time, because I found this nugget of truth through my own inquiry and not because somebody told me.  I am a witness of the resurrection because the Holy Spirit dwells in me.  This puts new light on what I’ve experienced through Psalm 102: 18-22.

I still know the heart of God, and I will encourage the singing of God’s praises everywhere.  The writing down for the generations to come is good, yet, with the Holy Spirit in the future generations, they will be witnesses of all God has done & is doing.  Our responsibility is to recall God’s actions AND to perpetuate an environment where the Holy Spirit is welcomed, known, embraced & craved.

Bill Johnson, in his book, Hosting the Presence, speaks about a dove landing on a person.  If the dove is to stay, one must walk carefully.  Bill encourages us to walk with the dove in mind.  We ought to live with the presence of God in and on us in mind.  The Presence is the Spirit upon us.

As we walk and live and work and love with the presence of God in mind, the Spirit witnesses to our spirit over and over again that we are God’s children redeemed by his blood and saved by the resurrection and made new by the Spirit himself.  We are witnesses of God looking, hearing & setting free throughout history.  Tell this to the generations to come and live with his presence with us always in mind.  Write it down, sing it, join with others as they rejoice in what God has done and is doing.  We are witnesses and so will be the children to come because we’re welcoming, embracing & craving his presence. 

What if you lose your journal or forget what he’s done in your life over the years?  Seek his face and crave his presence.  The great God will remind you and encourage you to be a living witness of all Daddy has done for and through you and all saints throughout time.  That’s pretty cool!  What a wonderful life God has given us!

Alleluia!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Will of God



The fishing was fair.  The sun was high.  The wind was blowing, and the waves were growing.  I was certainly glad there was no storm on the horizon, but the waves were getting the better of me.  My stomach was growing more and more uneasy.  That bothered me more than physically.  My pride was being affected as my queasiness grew.  I had been on the ocean before with high waves.  Why was my stomach rebelling this time?  Even twenty years later, I can’t tell why.

It would have been a good time to pray, I guess, but I didn’t.  In relating this to Mark 4 where the waves grew and the boat had its fair share of fishermen aboard, I didn’t pray, but the disciples felt the need to do the next best thing, wake up Jesus!

They saw a need, went to the source of all help, asked for relief and received it.  As a result, Jesus asked them, “Why do you have so little faith?”  Didn’t they do what they were supposed to do?  That’s how we pray, and are suppose to pray, right? 

Jesus wanted them to live out of their faith, faith in the name of him who was with them.  They are his disciples, his learners.  We learn from Jesus in order to be like Jesus.  When Jesus was awakened, he knew what the will of God was, to still the storm.  The disciples knew what their will was.  It was to still the storm.  Perhaps they weren’t sure what the will of God was in this situation. 

We sometimes think God might have a bigger purpose in mind than what we think.  Maybe it was the will of God for several elementary-age kids to die from a tornado in Oklahoma this spring.  Maybe it was the will of God for suicide bombers to kill ten people in Baghdad a few days ago.  Maybe it was the will of God for hundreds of people to die when a building collapsed around them in India a few weeks ago.  Need I go on?  Isn’t that down right stupid?  Surely we can all agree none of this was the will of God.  If it was, I’ll stop writing now and become a content agnostic if you stop reading this dribble.

Sorry, I haven’t stopped writing.  What about you?

We are his learners.  From him, we learn what the will of God is.  From his actions and words, we learn what our responsibilities are from what he said and did on the earth – to bring heaven to earth.  Jesus didn’t bless this storm in Mark 4.  He calmed it by declaring the will of God in the atmosphere.  Disciples are to learn the will of God and declare it, live it out, share the Good News and see what heaven looks like.

In prayer, bring before the Lord your agreement with what you already know to be his heart-felt will regarding that concern and declare your trust in that.  As part of prayer, we should also listen for directions from God on how he would want his will carried out. 

I never lost my cookies on that fishing trip.  I’m prone to feel nauseous, however, when good church folks construct theologies that make God out to be a conjurer of storms and murderer of the innocent.  That makes me sick because I know what the will of God is.  What about you?  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Invisible



You can find it discussed regarding the birth order of children and their behavioral tendencies and how they feel about themselves.  Children that are in the middle of a family’s birth order may recognize themselves at certain points in their development as the invisible children.  The oldest and the youngest get all the attention naturally.  Middle children may only get attention from their parents in disciplinary forms when the children behaved negatively.

As we have followed God’s calling and disappeared from a denomination’s radar screen and pursued employment and relationships outside of the ecclesial dictated format, I feel invisible.  I’m the youngest in the birth order in my family.  We’ve promoted ourselves in order to find employment and to inexpensively advertise the ministry we founded and now direct.  Regardless, I feel invisible.

Though dreams are not dependable, I don’t believe, to accurately depict all of my inner feelings, I’ve dreamed on several occasions of being in a group of people engaged in activities, some chaotic and some orderly, but I was never acknowledged or engaged by any of the people.  I felt invisible and ignored.

We’re now designated as those who have withdrawn their ordination voluntarily from our denomination.  One of the outcomes of this recognition is that home office permits us to withdraw monies we’ve personally contributed to our pension.  For this to happen our regional office must send word to home office that we’ve voluntarily turned in our ordination certificates.  The funny thing is that April was sent a letter from home office stating that she had turned in her ordination and is permitted to withdraw her funds.  I had turned in my certificate months earlier and still was not recognized as having voluntarily quit ministry.  It was as if I was invisible.

Have you ever felt invisible?  Or have you ever felt visible for the first time because most of your life you’ve felt unseen by most people in your world?

This reminds me of a story in the gospels of a woman who suffered from unrelenting bleeding.  In the midst of a large crowd pressing in on Jesus, she knew if could but touch his clothes she could be healed.  She did, and she was.  Jesus knew of all the people pressing in on him there was one who touched him and power left him to heal her.  She was no longer invisible. 

She became visible, known, never forgotten, recorded in the gospels and healed.  In her invisibility, she became desperate and sought out Jesus as her only hope.  Suddenly, invisibility is an asset and not a liability.  Invisible as a member of crowd.  Visible by her faith and determination to find and encounter Jesus and Jesus alone.

Jesus, you’re my only hope.  I will press in to find you, though I remain invisible.  I will press in to hear your words and trust in your power, though I am not visible by my world ever present.  I will touch your very essence and know of your grace for me, though I feel invisible or alone as I pray or worship in a crowd of believers.  Jesus, you’re my only hope.  Your power in love and Spirit will fill me and address my needs, and I will experience your love for me as your follower, born-again of your Spirit, and healed of all my diseases by your strips for all.  You see me.  You know me.  You love me.  You touched me, and I am whole.  Alleluia!

Friday, May 31, 2013

In the Sight of Everyone



There are secrets that are kept.  Not everyone would understand.  Not everyone would appreciate the disclosure of what is hidden.  Not everyone would treat us the same if they found out what’s been hidden and now revealed.

In Psalm 31: 19-20, I found some words that speak to me about our current circumstances.
O how abundant is your goodness that you have laid up for those who fear you,
and accomplished for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of everyone!
In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues.

In our circumstances that are grafted into what the Lord has declared and promised to us, we’re living in a season where God is really all our security.  We believe the Lord has brought us to a place of absolute dependence on him because of what he’s revealed to us will only be accomplished through his power and grace.  So, we respect the Lord above all other authorities, and we trust in his abundant goodness for us as we take refuge in God in the sight of everyone.

This weekend, the denomination’s mantle under which we have lived for over 20 years of ministry will be formally lifted off of us by a voice vote in executive session of the clergy in our conference.  It is not a disciplinary action, but an acknowledgement of our wills being exercised in surrendering our ordinations.  We surrendered our ‘authority’ (really, as April says, “we have responsibilities, but no authority) because we believed we couldn’t in good conscience remain under the denominational mantle and do things in ministry in opposition to the church’s ecclesiology.  With that being our choice, we fear the Lord most of all in light of his inspiration and direction.  We take refuge in God alone.  Alleluia!  In the sight of everyone!

Often I’ve kept secrets from my world regarding what I believe about myself and my relationships. None of this is earth shattering.  The secrets have been locked boxes that contained feelings or judgments I’ve willingly kept to myself because I didn’t want to be judged or ridiculed.  It’s that simple. 

In this season, April and I have acted willfully to give testimony of what we believe God has called us to do and be.  With that being true, we’re keeping no secrets (take a look at our ministry website to read our ministry vision and mission - https://sites.google.com/site/safeharborofalbertville/).  This is what God has called us to do and be, and we’re taking refuge in him in the sight of everyone.  I may be reading these verses from my neediness, but how these words strike is that we’re taking refuge in God openly, in the sight of everyone, unashamed. 

How are you to live out your faith in these days in the sight of everyone, openly, uashamed?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Doctor!



A few days ago I was suffering from muscle soreness and a rising temperature.  This led to an evening of flu like symptoms including the need for me to don a hoodie and to curl up on the bed.  I asked April to pray for me twice.  In the second prayer, she declared, “Jesus, you told us you’d be our insurance.  We trust in you for healing and our health.” 

The insurance reference was in the context of a dream April had many months ago that confused her greatly at the time.  She dreamed that Jesus stood before her and told her, “I’ll be your insurance.”  In the days we currently live, the dream makes outrageous sense today, and I experienced the Godly benefit of healing that only God could provide.  I rose from the bed the next morning feeling much better with no temp.  Alleluia!

This experience brought back to mind an episode several years ago when I was experiencing a ‘male health’ issue.  It had grown persistent (don’t you love a mystery?) and I was beginning to worry.  One night, I dreamt of having a conversation with a woman I respected greatly from a church I was pastoring.  In the middle of the conversation her voice was muted and replaced by a loud voice yelling, “Doctor!”  This startled me awake.  “Wow!”  I thought.  I had never experienced anything like that. 

I soon made a doctor’s appointment.  I was examined and blood was drawn.  I came back a week later.  My symptoms had sense subsided but I was still worried what the blood work might disclose.  Come to find out my cholesterol was 260.  The doctor said he didn’t want to prescribe meds and preferred I attempt to change my diet and lifestyle, if I was open to that.  I was cool with that.  I went back to the doctor in 5 months after cutting back on drive thru fare, eating more veggies and fruit and incorporating daily walking and jogging in my life.  He drew blood from me.  I went back in a few days to find out my cholesterol had dropped 60 points.  He had never seen anything like that without meds.  He congratulated me.  I thanked him and praised the Lord. 

First of all, pay attention to your dream life.  God can and will use dreams to communicate to us when our minds are calm as we sleep.  Two verses I know speak of God’s activity in the night as we sleep.

‘Where is God my Maker, who gives strength in the night.’
--Job 35: 10 (NRSV)
‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night.’
--Job 35: 10 (NIV & NASB)

And . . .

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
--Psalm 121: 4 (NASB & NRSV)

There are other verses that refer to God’s movements at night.  That’s all cool.  The best thing is when your dreams move to being efficacious.  The dreams become effective when you act on what is communicated to you.  April prayed over me and declared in faith that Jesus was to be our insurance.  Alleluia.  I’m much better.  When I heard, “Doctor”, I knew what I was supposed to do, which brings me to my second point.

The Lord does whatever pleases him.
--Psalm 115: 3 & 135: 6

The ‘male health’ issue (don’t you love a mystery?) led me to having my blood examined and the high cholesterol found which could have led to a stroke.  The ‘issue’ subsided after the exam, but the blood work was the most important thing.  Alleluia.

Healing can come in many forms and fashions, and it’s the nature of God to heal.  He loves all of us, and it’s my responsibility to give testimony of what my Lord has done so that worship would be inspired for generations to come (Psalm 102 In the Message). 

Additionally, our God uses dreams to communicate his will for us.  My words of caution to you regarding this is that you must bear in mind, our own subconscious can project uneasiness or fear or whatever into our dreams.  This may not be God speaking to you.  Also, our enemy can, on occasion, attack our souls in the night.  My best advice is to grow accustomed to what your heavenly Father sounds like when the sun’s up and how he chooses to talk to you.  Don’t attribute every form of communication that enters your soul and spirit to God.  That’s a mistake.

It’s all gonna be OK.

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Worth Remembering (Part 3)



It’s worth remembering why I named this blog Psalm 102 In the Message. 

While I was on leave of absence from the pastoral ministry “the first time”, I worked at a hotel in Tuscaloosa, AL.  One of my habits was to check with The Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) to see the recommended psalm passages to be read that morning.  I would note mentally what they were before I left for work.  I would stick in my pocket The Message translation of the New Testament and Psalms.  At a break I would pull out The Message and read the psalms for the morning.   

One morning I read Psalm 102: 18-22.  It rocked my world. 

Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God:
God looked out from his high holy place; from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed, he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion, so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets and wherever people gather together along with their rulers to worship him.
-- Psalm 102: 18-22 (TM)

This one passage rekindled in me a new birth of a ministerial calling that I didn’t believe was possible at that point in my life.  These verses still ring within my spirit the Holy Spirit’s anointing to preach and declare the good news of deliverance for all groaning in cells of all fashions.  In fact, these verses echo the importance to remember the wonderful works of God, write the stories down and declare them in the streets so that we have every reason to worship passionately our God and Christ.  It’s worth remembering.

Just over a year ago I had an encounter with God as I drove to Montgomery, AL to pray at the opening of a session in the state house.  It’s worth remembering.

As I drove past Birmingham heading south I recollected all the places we’ve lived in Alabama as pastors of UM churches (In 25 years of marriage we’ve lived in 10 different homes.  No complaints.  Just recollecting).  As I was remembering the homes and circumstances while I worshiped God and sang praise music, I began to intercede for the broken, hopeless and addicted we’ve ministered to recently and those we’ve yet met.  As I continued to head south, sing, praise, and pray, I believe it was the Lord who spoke to me.  The Lord said, “You can have the state of Alabama, if you want it.”  At that, I said out loud, “Oh, my God!” 

After having such encounters with God in the past, I recognize God when he speaks like this.  It messed me up.  I reached for napkins we keep in the glove compartment for such encounters in our travels.  As I wiped my eyes and continued to drive I said out loud, “OK, I’ll take it!  I’ll take it!” 

Well, what does that mean? You can have the state if you want it.  I still don’t know for sure, but after realizing that the anniversary of that encounter had just passed, and that God doesn’t do things quickly but suddenly, and that whatever and however this is suppose to come about, I’ll live out of my gifting and anointing first.  I will not reinvent myself to fulfill this outrageous plan, but, rather, I will seek His face and continue to pray and remember what he’s done and acknowledge what he’s doing and trust that God’s just looking to provide the fire and for me to be the sacrifice.  All of this is worth remembering.

Lastly, as I recall God’s wonderful works in the form of the Lord’s voice speaking and directing me, in August of 2011 the Lord directed April and I to lead prayer services at my church on Tuesday evenings.  Our intent was to lead those who attended into times of prayer and intercession for this church and community.  We personally fasted Tuesdays to prepare our hearts with hunger for what God would show and tells us in the services.  One Tuesday as we prayed together, I saw in my mind a pencil write on a legal pad Matthew 5: 6.  (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled).  Then I had the impression in my heart of a second passage, Luke 1-8-7.  I looked up Matthew 5: 6.  I then looked at Luke 1 just to check if there was an 87th verse.  Duh, there wasn’t.  I then went to Luke 18: 7 and found, And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 

I stood up and shared these two passages and told them how these verses came to me.  I then strongly encouraged them to pray fervently for the Lord’s will to be done in justice and righteousness, and they should be encouraged because the Lord is speaking to us in these days.

I still recall these verses and trust that we who are hungry and long for divine justice will be filled and God will not keep putting us off for the sake of those who groan for deliverance and release.  Oh, how does it go?  Oh, I remember – Stay thirsty, my friends!

Never forget what the Lord has said to you.  These are his wonderful works for you.  Now they are meant to flow through you to others in the streets looking for reasons to worship the Lord their God.  It’s all worth remembering.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's Worth Remembering (Part 2)



As I mentioned, there are so many places in scripture on which to land and begin talking about the power of remembrance and recollecting the wonderful works God has done.  The touchstones I will step on may not be your favorites, but you can read my reflections and it’ll inspire you to go back and find your favorite passages that stir up memories and testimonies.  See, I’ve done my job.

Psalm 42 is a comfort to many who have slipped into levels of depression or uneasiness.  It also inspires me to remember the wonderful works of God.

Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I will again praise him, my help & my God. – Psalm 42: 5 & 11

Why are you troubled within?  You can hope in God and worship the Lord AGAIN.  Obviously, you had every reason to praise God in the past and you will praise him again.  There is some collective and suppressed memory of worshiping God.  There was a reason to praise & worship, even if it were merely the tradition of your tribe.  There were memories of the collective of the Lord’s wonderful works that supported and inspired worship. 

Why do you worship God?  He deserves praise.  Does the Lord deserve worship because if we don’t, he’ll get angry?  The biblical record shows a holy God that makes himself known to a people in order to establish, build and maintain relationship.  God wants a deep & lasting relationship with us.  Worship is one of our languages to communicate with God.  In worship, we remember the stories experienced by our parents of the faith or our own stories that cause us to remember our own experiences of our God who rescues, saves, heals, speaks, inspires, teaches and strengthens.   Hope in God, for I will again praise him.  It’s worth remembering.

What follows speaks of remembering – My soul is downcast within me; therefore I remember you (Psalm 42: 5b).  The honest reflection of our soul’s condition can lead us to remembering, remembering the wonderful works of God.  A previous verse depicts a memory regarding worship. 

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng and led them with procession to the house of our God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.  – Psalm 42: 4

Psalm 42 addresses uneasiness within by calling the believer to remember the reasons for and the target of our praise and worship.  The result of remembrance and fresh worship will be hope, and hope will give birth to faith.  Alleluia.

As you worship, remember God’s wonderful works.  As you remember God’s wonderful works for you and those you love, worship.  We don’t worship in order to be faithful to our calendar appointments or to make a public appearance so that our friends won’t need to worry about us.  We worship and praise God for what God has done and is doing.  What makes our worship experiences personal is our own recollecting of how loving God has been to us and others like us.  Honestly, we then reach out to him, and it is there we meet him AGAIN.  Hope in God, for I will again praise him.  It’s worth remembering.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Worth Remembering



The most insidious diseases of our time are those that affect and infect the brain, and most directly, the memory.  My mother was stolen from me, from my brother & sister, my father and their grandchildren by the strokes that emanated from Alzheimer’s disease.  I hate that disease.  I don’t hate those afflicted by it, but I hate, loath entirely, Alzheimer’s disease because what Paul Simon wrote many years ago is true for many – Memories, they’re all that’s left you.  

We must remember so much of what can easily be attributed to the grace of God in our lives.  We must remember those answers to prayer & surprises & gifts & experiences of mercy and kindness from a good Father who loves us dearly.  We must remember.

There is a lot in scripture that speaks of the power of remembering what God has revealed and done.  There are many directions to go in writing about such.  Recently, however, I read from Psalm 105, in a verse and a half portion, a reminder to me to recollect intentionally, 

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.  Remember the wonderful works he has done . . .  – Psalm 105: 4-5a

I suppose you could blog a good bit about seeking the Lord and all that he is and has done.  This verse, however, speaks to me of seeking the Lord continually by first remembering God’s wonderful works.  This is what I want to convey today.

I will remember God’s wonderful works.  The same day I read Psalm 105, I read from Luke 5 about Jesus telling Peter to push out from shore for a catch.  Reluctantly, he did and found his nets bursting with fish.  We would tell our kids when they were younger when we were about to go on a family outing, especially if they were unwilling to go, that we’re going together to make a memory.  Jesus made a memory with Peter and his family and co-workers and all of us who have read and know and remember this story.  Remember the wonderful works he has done.

I will remember your wonderful works, O God.  Your presence comes among us on Wednesday evenings (Wednesday Night Praise, 8706 US Hwy 431, Albertville – see our Facebook page, Safe Harbor of Albertville) and your presence came among us on Tuesday nights in August, 2011.  As we prayed, your Spirit came among us.  There were prophetic utterances and declarations regarding the days we now live in, and it’s worth remembering.

I remember your works in your Spirit coming upon me as I interceded for the church and the community.  As I prayed, I saw in the Spirit rows & rows of Boy Scout tents set up in the field behind the church which I pastored.   Scores and scores of people were there who didn’t want to leave and miss worship and testimonies and intercession and miracles happening in the fellowship hall.  I remember your wonderful deeds in giving visions to two other people who saw scores of people in the same field and so many in the parking lot and field that they couldn’t get in the full fellowship hall for worship.  I remember, so I will seek you and your strength and your presence continually.

Daddy, I remember the healing of a child’s skull and women with cancer and back problems and memories of abuse and arrant decisions that brought shame and guilt.  I remember your wonderful works of being overcome by your gracious Spirit through experiences of worship and the laying on of hands and falling down due to the weight of divine glory.  I remember friends and family giving freely and lovingly gifts and offerings because they were moved by faithfulness affirmed and lived out.  I remember, and your strength and presence is what we long for.

Sister and brother, what wonderful works of the Lord do you remember?  You must intentionally record these works for you to remember in your future and never forget.  Not forgetting, but remembering, is a key to seeking the Lord and his strength and his presence in the days ahead.  You will need to be familiar with his presence and strength for the days ahead of you. 

I remember, so I will seek the Lord only to find him afresh.  Alleluia!