Thursday, February 19, 2015

Keep These Words (In February)

When I was a child, I looked forward to February because my birthday was at the end of the month.  With my birthday being in the dead of winter, the darkness and cold of February was easier to take.  This month, also, commemorates some events in the Spirit in recent years that leaves my birthday pale in comparison.

February, 2011, April and I attended a supernatural school of ministry in Tennessee.  One morning, as the participants in the school gathered for a time of soaking (silent prayer and meditation on scripture and leading of the Spirit), I asked the Lord to share with me some scripture.  I sensed within my mind, "Ecclesiastes 7: 14."  As I sat quietly, I looked it up, read it and thought I missed it.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

I then thought this couldn't be right.  I'd been praying and believing for the goodness of God to be manifested in our church.  Good and bad are bound to occur, and its all part of what God does.  This didn't bring me hope or encouragement.  

That same day, April believed she heard from the Lord, but it was a bit crazy. She thought she heard God tell her, "Buy a farm."  Over the weeks, months and years that followed, we've heard and experienced confirmations of this word being true for us.  It is our destiny and calling to own a piece of property on Sand Mountain where God will manifest his presence in the midst of worship and prayer and ministry.  Scores of lives will be permanently changed, and God will receive the glory.  

It was clear I'd heard from the Lord in February, 2011, as well.  There was good and bad in the breeze.  A couple days after we returned home, but still in February, I dreamed.  I've written about this before (The Left Hand In Hard Times, 7/31/14), so I won't go into detail.  Briefly, I dreamed I heard, "Ezekiel 3-7-9."  Ezekiel 37: 9 is the prophetic image of the dead bones rising which sounded wonderful.  Ezekiel 3: 7-9, I believed, couldn't be applicable to my life, but it manifested profoundly, anyway.  The congregation and me had hard heads and wouldn't compromise an inch.  All of this led to my departure from that church, and, ultimately, the denomination in 2012. The Lord told me in February the year before "the whole house is hardened and obstinate (Ez. 3: 7b)."

This February has its own feel, and words.  The Old Testament lesson from the Daily Office last Sunday brought some light to these days.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
-- Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

This so describes our lives right now. 
 
We share with our kids, and they with us.  We share what we've heard or experienced.  They do the same.  This is so much of what we do at home.  We're not mulling over the past or ancient stories.  We share what we're hearing, experiencing.  Everywhere.  In the bedroom, breakfast table, car, walking, at Starbucks or shopping.  We don't need to bind or fix the words on our bodies or fixtures at home.  The word and experiences and encounters are immediate and ever present.  We're looking for and expecting to sense the Lord's presence or Rhema word to come forth anywhere or any time. 

In the first verse of Deuteronomy 6, Moses is to teach the commands as they enter the land they're promised.  Observe the commands as you're about to step into your destiny.  Its as if the Lord is revealing to me we're living this way, the way the Hebrews were commanded to, as we're on the verge of stepping into our destiny.

Around the first of February, Anna told us about buying coffee on campus.  Where she bought a cup of regular coffee she smelled hazelnut.  Though she didn't order that kind, the smell stayed with her all day.  She got back to the dorm and looked up hazelnut's meaning because she believed the Lord was telling her something in the smell.  She found out hazelnut was understood to be almond biblically.  She looked in the Bible where almond might appear.  In Jeremiah, the Lord said, "Just like the almond tree, I will watch over my word to perform it. (Jeremiah 1: 12)"

We had supper a few nights ago (in February) with a couple we knew as non-denominational pastors from Albertville.  They offered us supper.  We accepted and met them at Cracker Barrel in Rainbow City.  Prior to supper, we did some window shopping at the Gadsden Mall and drank coffee at Books-A-Million.  April placed our order of two, small black coffees at the counter.  At our table, we took off the lids and found them both to be hazelnut.  This has never happened.  April wondered out loud if this was a prophetic sign for us before we ate with our friends.  He will watch over his word to perform it.

Tina shared some things with us over supper. The Lord told her he's secured some of his children in caves for a season for their security.  Its now time for them to be led out. Back in 2012, my friend, Taylor, said to me he saw us in a vision in a cave with water coming into it. This didn't endanger us, but it did collect inside.  Outside, there was a terrible storm that would endanger us if we were in it.

We refreshed their memories with our calling to buy a farm on Sand Mountain.  Tina then remarked, with prophetic insight, we won't spend a lot of time at the farm because we'll be elsewhere regularly.

She also said it was important for us to be in Anniston to be deprogrammed in this season.  We heard Kris Vallotton, an author and preacher from Bethel Church in Redding, CA, say recently on a video conference that in 2015 the Lord will detoxify many in more or less a six month season followed by a beautification season as preparation for what was coming.  Deprogramming and detoxifying sound similar.

Tina called us pioneers in the season to come as we step into our destiny.  Earlier in the day, April and I agreed with what Graham Cooke preached recently about a spirit of a forerunner.  She and I agreed we would be forerunners in stewarding a farm for the presence of the Lord to impact many, a 'farm' few have ever seen.  Pioneers and forerunners are comparable. 

This month commemorates words and experiences in the Spirit in years past that occurred and have shaped our calling.  This February, we've heard what we believe are expressions in the Spirit for this season.  It is ironic to see in Februarys past how our lives changed in light of what we heard.

Moses told the Hebrews to keep the words they're learning in their hearts.  When we gather together we can't help but talk about what the Lord has done, what the Lord is saying, and what we believe will emerge in the seasons to come.  He is faithful, and we will keep all of this in our hearts and on our lips to tell the world.

Monday, February 9, 2015

No Surrender

Eli texted me recently.  He bought a used copy of Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. album.  He'd been listening to it a lot. He closed his text, "Love you, dad." 

He knew I'd appreciate knowing he was listening to an album and artist I've always liked.  I remember playing a cassette copy of Springsteen's album, Darkness On the Edge of Town as I drove Eli several mornings to preschool.  He'll have to tell you if he remembers that and, more importantly, if he liked it. He never told me he didn't. 

When he let me know about listening to Born In the U.S.A., I was reminded of one song, No Surrender.  The album version is a hard driving rock number.  I'm much more familiar with the acoustic version on the live compilation set, Live 1975-1985.  Whenever I hear this version, I, at least, have a tear in my eye.   



In the last verse on the album, Bruce sings, 

Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim The walls of my room are closing in  There's a war outside still raging  you say it ain't ours anymore to win. 

In the acoustic version, Bruce sings the song in honor of Stevie Van Zant, his friend and band member.  The last verse is different from the album, and it always pierces my heart.  Its not written to dramatize an ill-faded love affair.  Its written to a friend and comrade in life. 

Now on the streets tonight the lights are growing dim, the walls of my room are closing in. Its good to see your smiling face and to hear your voice again. We could sleep in the twilight light by the river bed with the wide open country in our hearts and these romantic dreams in our heads. 

When I read Eli's text and remembered this song, I recollected my feelings of companionship associated with this song, and how I longed for that to still be true for Eli and me as son and father though he lives so far away and is paving out a life of his own.  A parent to child relationship is seldom ideal in every facet, but we love each other and share passions and experiences and mutual care I wouldn't surrender for anything.  I love you, Eli, and I'm proud of you. 

The acoustic version of this song performed in honor of a close friend stirs within me a longing for another deep relationship.  I believe this relationship to which I'm referring is deep and loving and friendly.  At the same time, religion in its strict and legalistic sense frowns on such intimate language and passion expressed in the relationship I'm alluding to.  Religion would prefer a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ to be grounded in fear and shame; a relationship not bound in love and devotion. 

I don't care what the spirit of religion tells me about how I should look at my savior or how I should speak to him.  The spirit of religion wants me weak and frail when it comes to living out my faith and devotion to my God and the world he so loves.  The spirit of religion doesn't want you or me to be effective in communicating to this world how amazing is the grace of God in Jesus 

There are days, particularly now, when hope and passion have grown dim and the walls of my room close in.  Then I encountered the presence of my Lord who I'm told sits closer than a brother.  It was good to see his smiling face and hear his voice again.  He never speaks to me of shame or fear as being necessary in our relationship.  He embraces me.  He breaks the circle in which I stand, as he did years ago for me, and hugs me as a friend, a son and a brother that he'll never forsake or abandon.   

We could and do share space and time together as partners with the wide open country in our hearts and romantic dreams of healing and salvation and deliverance manifested everywhere in our heads. 

We've both made promises to each other.  He's the unfailing, steadfast one, but he won't forsake me regardless of how I've failed him or the ones he loves.  I trust him and his love for me.  We won't surrender to the pressures of the enemy or the lies he tells.  We're committed and devoted to each other.  That will never change.   

I love this song and what emotions and passions it stirs in me for those I love.  I'm in a relationship in which I am not embarrassed or ashamed.  I love you, Jesus, my savior and my friend. 

We made a promise we swore we'd always remember  No retreat no surrender  Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend  No retreat no surrender

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Change

I've thought about erasing my master's degree in divinity from my resume.  Perhaps, by so doing, I'd look less educated,  hirable and more normal.  Then the thought comes to me regularly, I'll never be normal. 

Wednesday night, April and I went to a life group at a nearby church.  It was church, nothing to beat a drum about for us.  We came home, talked about it, knew and felt like it was so much like churches we've known.  It disappointed us. 

There was a fresh awareness in me Thursday because of Wednesday night.  Church will radically change from what it is now.  We've heard prophets say it for quite a while

I return frequently these days to what I heard Larry Randolph say in early January.  He said the church will be radically different in days to come.  Radical means to the root. Changes coming to the church will be differences in culture, expression and operation down to the root.  This doesn't scare me as it might others. In fact, I believe its irreversible.  Change is coming.  

April shared with me this weekend an ongoing sense within her as she worships.  She feels we're suppose to reach intentionally in the Spirit for the next level of manifestation and expression.  It seems to be available to us now while its been out of reach to us in the past.  She went on to say we're about at the same place we were seven months ago. At first glance, things haven't changed much. In fact, we could be much more frustrated with our circumstances now than we were when we first moved to Anniston.  On the contrary, things have become more fluid and dynamic in the Spirit now.  That makes us more hope filled today than in months past. 

Recently, April received a scripture indirectly through a Bill Johnson sermon. It spoke to her of what she's heard in the Spirit over the past year or two. 

He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.'" -- Luke 13: 32 

She's heard the expression of two days as she's looked out windows or read or worshiped over the last two years. She now believes we're in this season of rest to receive healing and deliverance, but the third day is about to come.  The Spirit's telling her to press into what is now available.  I'm sensing radical change is coming, first, for us and then the church, as a whole. 

Something came to me in words one night this week after our worship time.  I won't be content without doing the will of God.  April made it more exact for me - I won't be content outside my calling and anointing.   
No one I've talked to about my job search can understand why I haven't been able to secure employment. So many have offered advice freely.  None of it has produced fruit.  Even as some read this they're conceiving of what they can say and offer to us that could help us.  I know, but its obvious to us God has closed doors, and these same doors cannot be opened by anyone.  Clearly, we're suppose to stay focused on our calling and to concern ourselves with little else. 

I read Mark's version of the transfiguration story in chapter nine this week.  In light of knowing afresh I won't be content outside of my calling and anointing, I read Jesus' transfiguration with Moses and Elijah.  His calling and anointing is affirmed in this story.  The Transfiguration seals Jesus' destiny as the lamb of God, I believe.  His destiny will not lead him anywhere besides Jerusalem for crucifixion and resurrection.  The blessing given to me of the centrality of my contentment in nothing else but my calling and anointing is wonderful.  It focuses my life on the journey.   

My journey was prophetically depicted in the past by two visions a friend had while he was with me on separate occasions.  One vision I described in a previous post had me going off the path and climbing a mountain to reach the summit by navigating through underbrush and a much steeper ascent.  There was a second vision of traveling on a road, coming to a fork, going down a road full of debris, returning to the fork, going down the other road which was free and clear.  Both roads reached the same destination, but the second road got me there much sooner. 

Our calling will put us back on Sand Mountain to steward a place, we believe to be a farm. It will be  where the Presence of the Lord will abound to save, heal, deliver, impart Glory and inspire.  All of this will occur in worship, intercession, laying-on-of-hands, teaching and ministry to the area.  Our anointings are in the prophetic, healing, teaching, discernment and the apostolic (leading people in changing culture).   

Some may say this sounds like church.  You forget, church will change to the root.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

4 Episodes

I like it when I'm caught by surprise with inspiration. I was catching up in my gospel lesson reading in the Daily Office in the BCP when four episodes in the life of Jesus spoke to me. They follow each other in the eighth chapter of Mark. What I heard were lessons targeted at disciples, targeted at me.

Its interesting. There are three occurrences here where the revelation of Jesus is challenged. The disciples are present in these encounters. They ought to be more than witnesses. They ought to remain learners.

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat." -- Mark 8: 2 

First, he has compassion to feed, but the disciples look at where they are and what little they have. To ever think Jesus lacks compassion for those he encounters is a misread of the gospels. The great crowd of Mark 8 has his attention. They've stayed with him and haven't eaten all the while. He engages the disciples for what they have, but they believe its too little.

My Lord Jesus, I'm moved by your love for these. There is power in your compassion. Here, take what I have to bless and display the power of your name.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” -- Mark 8: 12

Second, the Pharisees challenge him by demanding a sign. It appears to be an ambush. What would a sign do? The hungry didn't demand a display of power to prove anything.

My Lord Jesus, you won't provide a sign to appease the spirit of religion and the skeptical. We will love, as you do, but we won't succumb to the pressure, and there's always plenty to prove and to justify our loyalty. Our allegiance is evident in love and trust alone. We love you above all and all you love.

They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” -- Mark 8: 16

Third, the disciples miss the Pharisees' challenge and turn it into an expression of faith in their lack though they witnessed him feeding thousands with little once before. There is confusion in following Jesus when he's challenged from multiple angles. Focus on him as your source of understanding in all circumstances. Focusing on our own inabilities or failures is not humble. It misguides our attention, and we miss what he offers us.

My Lord Jesus, you know I'm better off focusing on what you share than on what I lack. Your wisdom in all conditions satisfies me. Your power is in word and deed.

He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” -- Mark 8: 23

A fourth scenario that follows is not a challenge of the revelation of the Incarnation in Jesus. Its the simple circumstance when the sick come to him for healing. A blind man is prayed for twice for healing and receives it. Jesus is, first of all, persistent. Secondly, our Lord is in the moment. "Can you see anything?" Nothing is presumed. Jesus is there until he can see.

My Lord Jesus, the hurting come to you in faith for what only you can do. This is glorious! I will pay attention and learn of the power of faith.

In these circumstances, Jesus, if I were in any of them, I wouldn't want to miss what there was to learn and experience about you. Lord Jesus, I will continue to learn from you.