Friday, March 25, 2016

Stronger Than Death (Podcast)

I want to share a message from my favorite preacher.  This message was delivered six years ago and is appropriate for Easter weekend.  With it being shared here, I've decided to include podcasts in this blog.  Again, you're always invited to comment, share and, certainly, pray for us and all who are stepping out to bring heaven to earth.  We love y'all and your interest in where we are and what God is sharing.  Click here to listen to the podcast. Use Music Player for Google Drive.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Teach Me to Hear & See

I've heard sounds of things falling and landing recently.  I'd look around to see what fell and find nothing.  I've prayed recently for the Lord to teach me to see and hear better in the Spirit, particularly in light of a recent dream.

Living in our last parsonage and serving my last appointment in the United Methodist Church was a season of hearing sounds.  The sound we started hearing at the parsonage was the loud closing of a door.  I started hearing it.  I then started hearing it when I was alone in the house, and I'd walk inside and outside the house to determine what was shutting or being shut.  It would happen on days when there was no wind causing shingles to flap or flutter.  April started hearing it, and she'd ask if I heard it.  I'd say I'd been hearing for months, and I'd grown accustomed to it.  In light of what occurred in our lives and how our callings changed, its obvious now what was closing.  The Lord was telling us what was already taking place in the Spirit.

Near the end of last century, I took a leave of absence from pastoral ministry.  My last job prior to my return to ministry was in the hospitality industry - I worked in a hotel in Tuscaloosa.  I was at the front desk on the Saturday morning of The Iron Bowl, the annual football game between Alabama and Auburn.  I was checking guests out of their accommodations. One of the guests was the United Methodist bishop from the North Georgia Conference. I took the opportunity to introduce myself and share my status in the church.  He looked at me and asked me about the condition of my calling.

It was a dreary,  rain-soaked morning.  When the bishop asked me about my calling as a pastor would ask a congregant, I heard the loud sound of a low-flying jet aircraft.  What was a jet flying on such a stormy day as that and flying so close to the ground?  I stopped answering the bishop because the jet had startled me.  I asked, "Did you hear that?"  He just stared at me.  I figured he hadn't heard it.  I went on to answer his question.  He blessed me and my journey in God.  I thanked him.

For the next several minutes, I asked co-workers and a couple guests if they'd heard the low-flying jet.  Nobody had.  I obviously heard something to punctuate his question regarding the condition of my calling which was in flux but not abandoned.  Jet or angel or internal commotion is irrelevant.  I heard something to accentuate the moment and emphasize my need to evaluate my calling at that point in my life.  Today, I all the more want to hear and see what the Lord would want me to know regarding the people and world approximate to my life and ministry.  Teach me to hear and see, Lord.

Back in January, I posted about hearing Rocky Mountain High  in my spirit at work.  This was prior to my current request to hear and see and discern.  After a few days of asking for this particular gifting, I awoke from sleep in my bed hearing internally, Leaving On a Jet Plane by Peter, Paul & Mary.  I know I hadn't heard that song in months, if not years.  Where did that come from and why?

Last Sunday, the guest preacher quoted a parable from Mark 10:29-30,
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

In the spirit of how the preacher used this text in his sermon, the congregation affirmed the Word with "Amen," and "hallelujah" and applauseIn the midst of the expressed approval from the congregation, I heard someone say loudly, "Ponder-Twardys."  I dared not turn around to see who it was that spoke our name.  We're still strangers in this church. Who spoke our names?  In hearing our name, can I trust we who left houses and friends and comforts for the sake of the gospel will receive a hundredfold in this life and eternal life in the age to come?  Teach me to hear and see, Lord.

I trust these are the days to listen and see the Lord conveying truth, direction, conviction and love.  I will position myself to learn what the Lord would choose to communicate and to sharpen my senses in order to perceive that is placed before me.  Lord, teach me to hear and see.  Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Fight & A Birth

Without details needing to be shared, its been a fight in the Spirit this week.  Discouragement, degrees of hopelessness and clear uncertainty have shown themselves.  We continue to pray for the Lord to be merciful.

When I was a kid, fights were more pushing matches, trash talk and shouting contests.  We seldom came to blows.  Fights with my older brother amounted to me sucker punching him on the basketball court. I was the hot head.  He was the mature one or simply ignored my idiotic, immature rants and ravings.  When I did engage in a couple fights in school, rage seemed to work best.  I'd scream and holler and hope to intimidate rather than hurt.  It worked, but I'd feel guilt and shame soon after and apologize even when I knew I was justified in defending myself.  Weird.

Wanting a physical altercation with the neighborhood bully seems to describe best how I felt this week. I'm a guy. When things are like they were this week, I wanted to rant, rave and fight. April wanted to cry.  

Spiritual warfare is emotional and internal. So often, the enemy will strike me strategically where I'm vulnerable.  In reaction, so often, I've tried rage as my strategy. I'd just get mad. I don't even feel better afterward after fighting in the flesh.  Sitting down on a stool like a boxer in his corner, I hope the bell doesn't ring and summon me back into the contest.  I'm tired.

On St. Patrick's Day, Ryan LeStrange, a prophet from Virginia, shared this word.  Though I might had been reeling from three rounds with an enemy that reveled in my shadow boxing in rage that wore me out, this word centered and encouraged me to be still and wait on the Lord.

This has been such a season of divine shifting individually and corporately. I am reminded of the many times in prayer that I have seen visions of a giant checker board and The Lord moving the pieces around. Things are coming into divine alignment.

One of the things that will occur right before a shift is a growing sense of discomfort. You will become so uncomfortable where you are. This often creates feelings of frustration. It is imperative that you have prophetic perspective or you may misinterpret what you are experiencing. The pain that you are feeling may very well be growing pains! There is a birthing to release you into the ‪shift‬. The enemy wants to pull you off the birthing table. You must discern the times/season that you are in. The pains are most likely an indicator of the intended shift. Discern it, hold fast to the prophetic words and navigate it.

I claim eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that navigates!

He nailed it.  There've been feelings of frustration and discomfort in me which was manifested in anger. Being still and trusting the Lord is moving things around into divine alignment and discomfort is part of the birthing process helps me.  Sitting up and crying or standing up and flailing away gets us out of the birthing position or off the table completely.  Lord, grant us mercy.

After a projected labor/season of warfare, a woman may not have the strength to push on the birthing table.  April said to me after hearing Ryan's word, "The Holy Spirit has to be our midwife."

Knowing bouts with discouragement and frustration are part of this season helps me.  We've heard things in the Spirit recently that gave us heightened expectations.  Last week's counter attack by the enemy caught us flat footed.   We've surrendered our fears along with our expectations to the Lord, and we'll trust in the birthing process.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We Dream, Instead

It would be so smart and tidy for us to hear the Lord's voice with clarity.  My, it would be so much like the encounters Abraham and Moses had.  It would be so much like the teaching and sharing Jesus did with his friends in Galilee; however, we're not hearing things as easily as they did.  We dream, instead.

Psalm 16: 7 reads, I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.  It is at night the heart can instruct us when the Lord desires to share with us.  Sometimes daytime is too full of interference to hear his voice. 

Before dawn on Valentine's Day, April dreamed I was scheduled for an operation.  In fact, she was the one who administered the anesthetic.  To her surprise, it turned out to be a local anesthetic.  I was awake for the operation, and she was there to observe what took place.

The operation was to place a new heart in my groin.  I didn't suffer or endure pain.  April said in the morning, in recapping this for me, a groin in a dream symbolizes fruitfulness, and a new heart symbolizes increase or a new life.

February 16, Bethel Music posted a slide on Facebook advertising their new album, Have It All.  It became downloadable on February 26, my birthday.  The slide depicts a heart, not a Valentine image or a cartoon or artist's depiction of a romantic image often associated with the heart.  It's a sculpture's realistic rendering of an actual heart.  Merely coincidental that the advertisement promotes a CD with a heart on the cover available on my birthday after April's dream of a heart implanted in my groin?  I find it stupid-funny!  

On our way home from church that afternoon, in talking about this dream, April recalled in the last days prior to leaving my last church as pastor she dreamed I was crucified and emasculated.  During worship, she believed the Lord communicated to her what was taken from me in those days was being restored to me in these days.

I dreamed recently all four of us lived in a basement in an old house.  White washed walls in this basement symbolized God's presence. There were no windows, just openings in the walls, which symbolizes to see clearly.  Living in a basement implies things hidden and stored.  A basement can also symbolize the beginning or foundation of something significant. It was the first dream of mine for a while, if ever, all four of us in the family were together.

There were things I couldn't remember from the dream, but there were significant things I could recall.  Eli told me in the dream, "Dad, you dreamed in January of going to Loyola University."  In the dream, I thought that was interesting.  I then told him I dreamed that twice.  April and I told him two dreams was significant because two means something was witnessed as true (In Genesis 41, Joseph said two dreams of the same theme means its fixed by God).  Saint Loyola was gifted in spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10).  I believe I'm learning spiritual discernment (going to 'college' again), and it's fixed by God.

Later in the dream, Anna went upstairs in the house (ascension).  While moving upstairs, there was standing water in the basement, and her movement upstairs trembled the water.  We believe this depicts Anna's destiny.  She'll ascend and impact environments.

Also, it was raining outside in the dream.  Rain symbolizes the outpouring of the Spirit.  Eli put on a raincoat like one my parents gave me prior to seminary, a Botany 500.  It made me look like an adult as it did Eli.  He and I looked at each other, and he then walked outside.  There was an opening without a door. As he stepped outside, his head turned into a gorilla head.  In researching the images in the dream, I knew there was a referencing to gorillas or apes in the Old Testament.  A source I found referred to two verses.  The Greek word used for ape in these verses means swift, nimble, active, and we would add strong.  This sounds like Eli to us.  Like Anna ascending, Eli moves out into an outpouring as a strong, nimble and active man of God.

Now, it was just April and me (sounds like a dream April had in early February - our kids left us in that dream, as well).  The rain continued.  Water started flowing through the basement swiftly.  Water is always symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  I heard what sounded like a broadcast from a television, radio or computer.  The voice mentioned shutters like on a house covering windows.  I then noticed I was holding an old newspaper clipping where two men were walking and looking at the camera jovially, both carried two broken shutters apiece after an apparent tornado.

Before we left Albertville and moved to Anniston, April dreamed of tornadoes.  We experienced spiritual and other forms of turmoil our first year here.  April helped interpret that for me.  The shutters cover windows and sight or open vision through the windows.  These shutters in the picture were torn off.  Undoubtedly, I now can see.  In the basement, the windows were out - no glass, no frames.   My sight into the world from the basement is now unimpeded.  The newspaper pic was old reporting of tornadoes long past.

The dream in February portrays a new, fruitful life for me.  The dream in March sketches me as one with new sight and gifting as the Spirit begins to flow in our environment and our world. Are these smart and tidy channels of communication of the Spirit?  Dreams remain mysterious.

Dreams are part of the prophetic identity of Christianity's past, present and future.  Dreams are evidence of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh.  
Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.' -- Acts 2: 15-17

I wrote about us being in the fourth day as in the creation story in Genesis when the heavenly lights for signs, seasons and times were created (The Year of Leaping [Close to The Edge], posted 2/12/16).  Our dream life is providing for us signs, benchmarks labeling seasons and times. Some may canvas scripture and their favorite preachers and teachers to receive fresh revelations and other spiritual insights that bring insights of a loving and faithful God.  We have done the same for years.  Such work and rich encounters with our God have led us here and opened doors to our destinies in Jesus.  In addition, in the night, our hearts instruct us. In addition, we dream.