When the Holy Spirit Comes To Town-Everything Changes
Holy Spirit, come among us, reveal Jesus and make Him precious to us. We ask you to make us Jesus possessed, Jesus intoxicated, Jesus Articulate. We don't want to talk about you Father, Son and Holy Spirit as if you are not in the room. We don't want to talk about You as if you don't have a heart and a dream for our city.. Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104) Burn within us a passion for the glory of Jesus to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Ojai, a city I pray for, serve, and am privileged to love, is a tiny city with a huge megaphone to the world's ear. It's an influential city that impacts millions of people throughout the world through spiritual guru's, films, books, and television.
For over 100 years it's been inundating the world with high and lofty things that exalt themselves against a knowledge of God.
But when the Holy Spirit comes to Ojai, He will spread the fame and renown of Jesus throughout the nations. Many of my beloved friends have been praying for this for over seven years weekly. Many others, have prayed for this for decades.
People all over the world have prayed for Ojai via a short Scripture turned into a short prayer that was sent to their email 5 days a week. Years later, we still send these out, but now there is a blank for you to put in the name of your city. You can sign up for them free here.
Imagine with me a huge circle. This circle represents all we know from Scripture and history of the power of the Holy Spirit coming to town to reveal Jesus and transform communities. Now, imagine a tiny circle within that circle. That tiny circle is our normal expectancy for transformation of our communities.
I am writing this in hopes that tiny circle will entirely fill the huge circle, for expectation precedes visitation.
We first meet the Holy Spirit at creation Genesis 1:2. He is doing a curious thing. Theologians are mixed on what it means. The Holy Spirit when we first meet Him in the pages of Scripture is brooding over the faceless chaotic deep. We have to look to Psalm 104 (a lush Psalm, I suggest you read in the Voice translation), for the key to understand what is happening as the Holy Spirit is brooding over darkness.
"You send forth your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth," vs. 30 New King James
Everything you see, touch, taste and hear,. comes from the Holy Spirit brooding over dark places.
Ray Ortlund said recently that the worse things get, the more anticipatory he is for a move of the Holy Spirit.
We know from Scripture and from history, the Holy Spirit creates, convicts, counsels, confirms and changes, dramatically transforms, individuals and communities.
When the Holy Spirit Comes to Town, Jesus becomes precious to us.
He becomes to us personally, all He has always ever been.
When the Holy Spirit Comes to Town, He Changes Everything 1
Following the Revolutionary War (1776-1781), the United States was full of rot and decay and the churches had become almost totally irrelevant in curbing the nation’s downward spiral into immorality.
►Women did not go out at night for fear of assault.
►The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.”
►Voltaire said, “Christianity will be forgotten in 30 years time.”
…only 5% of Americans in 1790 had formal ties to churches.
► The Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen published the book, Reason: the Only Oracle of Man,
Thomas Paine, who wrote in 1794, The Age of Reason. Ridiculed the Old and New Testaments as being unworthy of a good God. Concerning the Bible, Paine said
"…It would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God."
►Harvard University did not have a single Christian in the entire student body.
►Princeton University only had two believers.
►Williams College conducted a mock Communion service.
►Dartmouth College students conducted anti-Christian plays.
But then The Holy Spirit Came to Town and Changed Everything
The Lord of the Universe Stepped In and Took Over-Hundreds of thousands of people became life-long fully-devoted followers of Jesus and American communities were transformed.
Thousands became Jesus intoxicated, Jesus possessed, Jesus Articulate. They became as my dear friend Rory says "Dripping with God."
When the Holy Spirit comes to town, He captures hearts for Jesus, He captures the next generation of leaders who will spread the fame and renown of Jesus to the world. When the Holy Spirit comes, there is an outflow to the world of institutional change.
When He comes, it can become easy to be distracted by manifestations, (there is almost always manifestations), or statistics, or the novelty of it all, but when He comes, He comes to work within us, the glory of Jesus becoming our entire passion, pursuit, and path.
When the Holy Spirit comes to Town He not only makes Jesus precious to us, He brings institutional change. 2
The National emphasis on charitable giving during the Second Great Awakening earned the USA the title of “The Benevolent Empire ”
By 1834, the total annual income of all the benevolent societies rivaled the budget of the entire federal government.
Some of the effects of the Holy Spirit Coming to town include-
Child labor reform
►Women’s rights advances
►Public education established and curriculum developed
►Prison reform, along with reduction in brutal punishment
►Insane asylum reform for better treatment for the mentally ill
►The founding of many colleges In 1860 out of 180 colleges in the mid-west 144 came out of the revivalist.
►State-supported universities were started
When the Holy Spirit Comes To Town Everything Changes
Including the Least Liklely Embracing Christ
Consider Attorney Charles Finney, a man whose faith filled Pastor said “Finney will never be saved.” A man who a group of men said “We refuse to accept Christ unless Finney does.” Jesus appeared to him face to face and hundreds of thousands of people became life long fully devoted followers of Jesus through him.
The Holy Spirit radically transformed Rochester New York and surrounding areas through Finney. As a result of his Sept. 1830 – March 1831 revival in Rochester, revivals broke out in 1,500 towns and villages, sweeping 100,000 persons into the churches nationwide.
The District Attorney stated that after the revival in Rochester, NY, the crime rate dropped by two-thirds and remained that way for years. 3
When the Holy Spirit Came to Wales 4.
► The Cardiff police reported a 60% decrease in drunkenness and 40% fewer people in jail at the New Year.
► Coal miners crowded into prayer meetings that lasted till 3:00 a.m. and then washed, ate breakfast, and returned to work.
► Soul-winning spread through the coalmines. Cussing stopped. Even the coal miners’ horses were puzzled when the men, who had used cussing and kicking to get them to move, could not understand the commands.
► Judges had no cases to be tried.
► The illegitimate birth rate dropped 44 percent in two counties within a year of the beginning of the revival.
Even today you can go to Principality Stadium in Cardiff and 60,000 Welsh will spontaeously break out in the Hymn Bread of Heaven during the football game. I was in the stadium a few months back and was amazed.
When the Holy Spirit came to Wales He left an imprint in hearts that has lasted 118 years in the culture. The Welsh can break into hymns just waiting in any venue even if they are not Christians.
When the Holy Spirit Came to Hilo in the 1836 Revival in Hawaii 5
Conditions of Hawaiians Prior to the Revival
►Utter immorality, with the institution of family life almost unknown.
►Two-thirds of the infants were killed by their parents.
►Three-fourths of the women were childless due to infanticide, and the population of the islands diminished each year by several thousand.
Titus and Fidelia Coan came from Connecticut to pastor a church in Hilo. Titus would walk for many miles over rough terrain to preach the gospel.
The High Priest and Priestess of Pele
At six feet five inches tall, the high priest of the volcano goddess Pele was reputed to be the fiercest and most feared individual on the island. His duty was to keep Pele appeased, and at times required human sacrifices. His sister, who had a similar reputation, and who was of similar stature, was the priestess of Pele.
As the Holy Spirit moved upon the population, this priest wandered into the meetings and the Word of God pierced his heart. With weeping he confessed his sins and acknowledged he had been deceived by that which “was no god.” His sister, the priestess, in time also made a profession of her faith in Christ, and they both were received into church membership.
After a second.wave of revival hit years later-
►Kamehameha III, the reigning king of Hawaii, officially abolished idolatry, and though toleration was granted, the Christian faith was established with these words:
The religion of the Lord Jesus Christ shall continue to be the established religion of the Hawaiian Islands.
►The motto of Hawaii, established by Kamehameha III on July 31, 1843, is still the motto of Hawaii today:
The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness
When the Holy Spirit Comes To Town He Changes Everything-Colombia 6
► Colombia had been the world’s largest exporter of cocaine, sending between 700 and 1,000 tons a year to the United States and Europe alone ($500 million in exports per month).
► The drug cartel controlled the country. It was the richest and most well-organized criminal organization in history.
► Kidnappings and torture were commonplace, and up to 15 murders were occurring per day.
► Bribery controlled the banks, businesses, justice system, police, political system, and anti-drug units.
► Evil proliferated in all areas.
► Drug money was laundered through businesses owned by the drug cartel.
Condition of the Churches
► There were only 50,000 Christians out of a population of about 2 million.
► Though not fighting, the churches were not walking in unity.
► Churches would cooperate with and assist in city-wide events, but after they were over, they went back to business-as-usual.
► Churches worked independently with their own programs.
► Society saw the church as being weak and fragmented.
► With few professionals attending the churches, they were considered to be made up of poor, uneducated, and deceived people.
First All-Night Prayer Vigil: In March 1995 the ministerial association planned their first all-night prayer vigil in the city’s civic auditorium, the Colisco El Pueblo. The organizers had no planned agenda and, only expecting around 2,000 people, they were ill-prepared for the more than 25,000 that came (nearly half of the city’s evangelical population at that time!).
One startling result of the prayers from those 25,000, was that 48-hours following the event, the headline from the newspaper El País read: “No Homicides!” For the first time in as long as anybody in the city could remember, 24 hours had passed without anyone being killed. Prior to this, 15 people were killed every day.
Another result following the first prayer vigil, as read in a newspaper headline: “The First Drug Lord Has Fallen.” Corruption also took a major hit during the following four months, when 900 cartel-linked officers were fired from the city’s police force.
My beloved friends, Ramon and Carol Babilonia were greatly used by God in Colombia and saw phenomenal miracles. We've recently completed a film about them. Contact me if you'd like to see it.
Picture with me these three definitions of revival happening in your community.
I encourage you to take these definitions, and make them part of your daily prayer life.
1."When the Lord of the Universe Steps In and Takes Over."
2. "An extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results." -Richard Owen Roberts
3. "A community saturated with God." -Duncan Campbell
How Do We Invite the Holy Spirit to Our Town?
Four words, They are easy to say and take a lifetime to learn.;
Absolute Surrender and Absolute Dependence.
Pray for this daily. Listen and learn from those for whom it is a lifestyle. Ask, Seek, Knock. Brook no compromise within your own heart.
Welcome the Holy Spirit to have full voice in your life. Let Him become your every moment GPS, allow conviction of heart to be a daily experience.
Let Jesus become precious to us. Repentance is sweet, when the fear of the Lord is our treasure. Gather with other burning hearts asking for an unleashing of the Holy Spirit in our communities. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you crave with ravenous hunger, the Word of God,
Embrace the truth that the glory of Jesus will indeed cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
Do We Want to Invite the Holy Spirit to Come to our City, No Matter the Cost?
Expectation precedes visitation. What are our expectations for our community? What is the dream of God for where we live? Will we engage and collaborate with what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do? Do our hearts burn within us for God to send forth His Spirit and renew the face of the earth?
1. I am indebted to missionaries and revivalists Chet and Phyllis Swearingen, who have condensed this information and made it so accessible. Go to www.romans1015.com for 190 accounts of revival maps, statistics, and accounts.
Quest or Rest-Reading the Moment
You never know what a day might bring.
Perhaps like me you've been swimming in a storm tossed sea of question marks.
A little over a month ago, I fainted as I led a worship band rehearsal in a friends church,. No one can fathom how I managed to break 3 bones in my left foot with considerable soft tissue damage in my right because I fell backwards. On the way down I tipped over a Starbucks cup of coffee with heavy cream. It must have been especially heavy cream to break 3 bones.
So I''m to be off my feet for 8-10 weeks, being dependent on the kindness of others for almost everything. I went through Wales recently saying absolute dependency was the future. But I didn't mean physical dependence.
Squeamish trigger warning
-Shortly after my fall I had a strange encounter with a squirrel high up in a tree who baptized me in his urine, in front of close friends, followed by a millipede late at night crawling along our floor as well as a large spider heading for me at the podiatrist office, plus a cracked tooth that I need oral surgery to remove. Counting that tooth, I will have had 4 surgeries in a row, and am hoping to avoid surgery on my foot.
I have felt beleaguered and besieged.
Of course all of this is small potatoes compared to what people are going through in Ukraine, or the parents who are burying their babies in Texas.
In the wider view of a world hemorrhaging from every pore, this is just a tiny inconvenience hardly worth pondering.
But, I have been asking "Why? What's up? What can I learn about God's character in this season that I might not learn any other way?"
God has been remarkably silent.
I was talking it all over with my friend Lynn who goes quiet often, like she lost cell coverage. She generally listens to me with one ear and God with the other. I've learned to wait for her wisdom in the silence.
I told Lynn my favorite Scripture is that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of Kings to search it out.. I can't figure out all the surgeries I've had in a row, before the fall. She calls me Fawnie Quest and knows this about me. I say on the other hand, the secrets of the Lord belong to Him but that which has been revealed is for us so that we might do them.
After what seemed an eternity of silence, my friend says, "Hmmm, maybe you need to rest from the quest, and trust that if you need to know, God will show you."
I came out of the womb, questing. I did caesarian sections on my guppies as an 10 year old. I had a lab and was determined to find the cure to the common cold.
I practiced potential cures on myself.
Rest always sounds to me like solitary confinement. I equate it with punishment for hard core criminals. As a child I turned over every rock I found, and as an adult I turn every philosophical rock over looking underneath for meaning.
I am preparing to do two short video's for Wales on deconstruction, and I am wondering if questing vs. resting is part of an equation we need to consider.
We are all deconstructionists. Hopefully we are continually deconstructing lies within and without about ourselves, about God, about each other. The problem is not deconstructing lies, for heaven's sake, grab your hardhat and crowbar and show lies no mercy.
The challenge is when we begin to deconstruct truth. The temptation to deconstruct truth is often present when we refuse to let our souls rest with mystery.
When we insist all of life has to make sense, when we require God to commend Himself to our tiny inadequate view of the unknown. We are like frogs at the bottom of the well, looking up to the circle of light at the top and thinking that is the whole of the known world.
I am not arguing for mindless acceptance of everything. I am not suggesting a sloppy Que Serra Serra, whatever will be, will be. Science, medicine, engineering, technology, progress all thrive on questing. We need to quest.
But we need to read the moment well and understand when to quest and when to rest, trusting God to show us if we need to know a thing.
I am realizing most of life is mystery. I may never crack the code on why God allows suffering, or why certain people experience the horrors of war, and others win the birth lottery and are born in prosperity and peace. After a lifetime of questing, I know more of what I don't know than what I do.
I swim continually in a sea of question marks. It's exhausting.
But we worship a God worthy of our trust. A God who actually didn't lose His voice and still speaks.
He can tell us what we need to know, when we need to know it. As my friend Jamie Winship says, "What do I need to know about this that I don't know?" If you're met with silence, you can rest and stop questing.
It's not easy. This resting business for me is problematic. It doesn't fit my personality or my preference. But it is a form of potent worship.
In resting I am saying to God, "I don't get this, but I trust You." It isn't what I would have chosen, but I trust You will reveal to me what it's all about later, if I even need to know.
Read the moment well friend, whatever obstacle you are facing, know if you're to quest or rest.
In all cases trust.
This is most likely the most unusual Christmas message you've ever heard. Ponder it with Jesus.
A Sword Will Pierce Your Soul.
If I had my druthers, I’d give you a warm Christmassy sort of Bing Crosby, Have-Yourself-a-Merry-Little-Christmas-Let-your-heart-be-bright, from-now-on-our-troubles-will-be-out-of-sight-kind-of-message. (Sing it with me!)
If I did, you might remember it by noon.
Instead I hope (with the Holy Spirit’s coveted assistance), to speak words, of truth, words that are certain, words you will have to wrestle with and live through, the rest of your life.
Hallmark movies, television, novels and popular songs, sell us sweet lies.
We believe that if we just get through this present hardship, if we just pass this test, if we just are diligent enough, press though, learn our lessons well, we’ll come to a day when “from now on our troubles will be out of sight.”
We’ll live happily ever after.
It’s a message that sells, because it resonates with eternity in our hearts. There is a time when bliss will be the norm, but that time is not now.
Troubles out of sight is not God’s Word to us about this life. It was certainly not God’s Word to Mary.
Mary is spoken of in over 129 verses in the New Testament in over 7 books.
When we remember Mary, we remember Gabriel radiating splendor, saying-
“Fear Not!” You are highly favored, you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest: The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David: He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Gabriel saysGod will overshadow Mary. We remember Mary’s heart tender “yes’ that says “Be it unto me according to Your word.”
We remember Mary when she makes haste and goes to her cousin Elizabeth to stay and care for her the last 3 months of her pregnancy, and the Magnificat spills out of her lips, not as an original poem of praise, but as a composite of over 20 references in the Old Testament including the Song of Hanna in 1 Samuel 2.
Mary instructs us here, as Alexander Whyte used to put it, she read the Bible as though it were all
over “autobiographic of herself,” or, as Thomas Boston put it, she read the Bible “as though it were written for her.”
“My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He has showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
But the moment in Mary’s life I want to draw your attention to is found in Luke 2
“As they came to the temple to fulfill this requirement, an elderly man was there waiting—a resident of Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. He was a very good man, a lover of God who kept himself pure, and the Spirit of holiness rested upon him. Simeon believed in the imminent appearing of the one called “The Refreshing of Israel.”
For the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he saw the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Keeping his promise, the Holy Spirit led Simeon to be in the temple court at the very moment Jesus’ parents entered to fulfill the requirement of the sacrifice.
Simeon cradled the baby in his arms and praised God and prophesied: “Lord and Master, I am your loving servant, and now I can die content, for you have fulfilled your promise to me. With my own eyes I have seen your Word, the Savior you sent into the world. He will be glory for your people Israel, and the Revelation-Light for all people everywhere!”
Mary and Joseph stand there, awestruck over what is being said about their baby.
Simeon then blessed them and prophesied over Mary, saying:
“A painful sword will one day pierce your inner being, for your child will be rejected by many in Israel.
And the destiny of your child is this: he will be laid down as a miracle sign for the downfall and resurrection of many in Israel. Many will oppose this sign, but it will expose to all the innermost thoughts of their hearts before God.” Luke 2:25-29,32-34 The Passion
Simeon has wait for years, and now has Jesus nestled in his arms.
He prophecies Jesus will be a light to the Gentiles and that Jesus will be the glory of God’s people Israel.
Jesus will be the cause of the rise and fall of many, and then Simeon turns to Mary and says “A sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thought of many hearts will be revealed.”
A Sword? Wait a minute. Isn't heaven invading earth right here? Did Simeon give the wrong message?
When we think of Christmas we want everything troublesome to stop.
We want cars to turn into rubber and not get into accidents, we want cancer diagnosis’ to not be given, we want children who are trafficked to be protected. We want the kingdom of God to fully come to earth.
A sword will pierce your soul Mary, a sword will pierce your soul, John, a sword will pierce your soul Peter, a sword will pierce each of us, even after the Spirit of God has overshadowed us, even after Heaven’s brightest messenger has commended us, even after we’ve carried within us the Son of God, and given birth to him in our Bethlehem, or Togo, or Tibet, or the office, or our classroom, or our home.
Even after we’ve carried Jesus in the womb of our prayer life for specific people groups, even after we’ve endured the scandal (in the Aramaic the phrase is a “spear of scandal, of reproach”), even after we’ve swallowed hot tears of reproach. Even then, a sword will yet pierce our souls.
God is saying to Mary, to us, give me your expectations. Give me the storyboards of your life. You’ve heard the soundtrack, and you’ve heard it right. But the storyboard is not what you imagine..
Jesus is going to have the throne of David, of His kingdom there will be no end. But you don’t know the middle part of the story Mary.
Mary, right now Jesus feels one with you in your arms, right now you are enjoying the half slant smile, the smell of his skin, the pleasure of his laughter, the joy of watching him take his first steps and say his first “Abba”.
Right now you are taking pictures on your cell phone and sending them to the relatives, and posting them on Facebook, right now you are memorizing his face like firemen study the map of a city. Right now Mary, you’re singing Jesus to sleep, and pondering many things in your heart.
But you don’t know Mary, what lies between the promise and it’s fulfillment, but Mary, Mary, the prize is worth the price, there will be a costliness to this, a cost far beyond your imagining.
The sword that pierced Mary’s soul is also the cup that Jesus asks the disciples when they’re quibbling over who get’s what throne. Jesus says; “It’s not mine to give, can you drink the cup that the Father give’s me to drink?”
That cup is a cup of sorrow, it’s a cup of joy. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him.
Rick Warren says that life in two railroad tracks running concurrently, a track of sorrow and a track of joy.
The sword that pierces our soul, the cup that we drink, the sword is distinct to each of us, the cup, is a custom brew. No two swords, no two cups are alike.
Mary had to hear the snide remarks about her pregnancy. Mary felt the sword pierce her soul when they had to flee to Egypt, when she’d heard baby boys had been killed by Herod, Matthew 2:13 Matthew 2:14
The sword pierced Mary’s soul when an Amber alert is out on Jesus, and she doesn’t see him for three days. (Luke 2:48)
She endured the piercing of Jesus saying a few years later saying “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
The sword lunged through Mary’s heart when she had to watch the polarization of people toward Jesus, the common people who heard Him gladly and the religious who gnashed their teeth when he preached.
A sword pierced her soul at Calvary as she saw the baby she had born, now a man, Christ Jesus, bleeding, gasping, and dying, a torn “slump of a Savior” crying out “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” John 19:25
When the sword comes, it reveals our innermost thoughts and intents of the hearts. God’s word is a sword and it penetrates deep into the core of our being, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The sword comes to reveal to us, the true state of our hearts. Do we follow Jesus because He gives us great hope, or gifts, or eternal life, or joy? Is He simply our ticket to heaven? Or do we follow Him because we are committed to Him with un-daunting consecration and unquenchable love?
Remember Mary’s cousin John the Baptist? Fast forward the story a little, and John is in jail and Jesus hasn’t even sent him a Hallmark card.
No visits, no little notes slipped in between the bars, nothing. So John sends some of His disciples to Jesus to inquire, “Are you the One or should we look for another?”
You have to hear the silent sob in that question.
Jesus tells John’s disciples, go tell John the blind see, the deaf hear … and then Jesus almost ends with a P.S.: Tell John “Blessed is He who is not offended in Me.” Jesus is saying to John, don’t let the sword that pierces your heart distance you from Me. (Matt. 11:16)
"These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." (John 16:1)
John is about to lose his head. His story is not going the way he would have written it, just as Mary’s. The disciple’s story is walking off the page as well.
The truth is that God will offend you in your life. It's not that He is offensive, but His dealing with your heart and it's idolotries will be misunderstood by you and turned into offense. It’s part of the sword that reveals.
I’ve struggled with offense with God, frustrated I am not more anointed, that I haven’t been blessed to lead zillions of people to Jesus, I’ve been offended that the majority of my life has been here in America, when my heart has been in the nations.
I’ve been offended with God that He hasn’t been more demonstrative with me, that I haven’t seen His face, that I haven’t had a more fulfilling life in serving Him.
I feel perpetually over-prepared and under-challenged and the sword pierces deep in my soul and sinew.
Jesus says “Blessed is he who is not offended with Me.” You are blessed when you give God the pen and full authorship of your story. When you give Him your expectations. When you love Him to such an extent that like Job, you could Say “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
The sword of our personal experience, the spear of scandal of unfulfilling vocations, divorce, premature death of a loved one, tragedy, cancer, bankruptcy, broken relationships with children, and thousands of other spears of reproach reveals to us the inner state of our hearts.
Will we continue to trust Him? Will we continue to say with Mary “Be it unto to me according to Your Word? Will we still love Him with passion and unmitigated zeal?
Offense brings a constant new and humiliating discovery of self; an unvarying disturbance of established order in our lives.
Jesus not only reveals the Father’s heart, He reveals also the instability of our own wills, and the untrustworthiness of our own emotions.
Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword? Romans 8:34-36
Hannah wanted a son, but God wanted a prophet to Israel. God’s desires our bigger than ours. We never fully realize the fullness of God’s intention.
God is through the sword, enlarging our capacities, He is preparing us to rule and reign with Him, He has a much bigger destiny for us, that we have for ourselves.
And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. Romans 8:16-18
[But what of that?] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! Romans 8:17-19
[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [ which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] Philippians 3:9-11
“Blessed is he who is not offended in Me,
Who trusts Me when my way He cannot see,
Who in seasons of silence
Stays loyal to Me,
Blessed is He who is not offended in Me
When My way is uncertain,
And your hopes disappoint,
When you long to see my promises fulfilled
When mystery clouds your future and I seem not to care,
When you languish in confusion and despair.
Love is patient, love is kind,
It does not seek it’s own reward
Love always hopes, it always endures
And love will never fail.
Blessed is he who is not offended in Me,
Who trusts Me when my way He cannot see,
Who is seasons of silence, stays loyal to me
Blessed is he who is not offended in Me.
When the sword comes will we still be found loving Him?
When offense comes will still be found waiting for Him?
Our last glimpse of Mary is in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. She is on her knees, waiting for the Holy Spirit. Waiting to be endued yet again with power from on high. She who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, she who brought Jesus into our rogue planet, she is there in the upper room still dependent on the Holy Spirit, still obeying though she doesn’t understand.
Still bowed, having given her expectations to God. Let us join her there in joyful love, undaunted love, unquenchable love, asking for the fire of God and the Holy Spirit's power.
Almost Too Holy To Talk About
On your birthday you may have heard me bless you with the phrase,
"May you have many moments with Jesus too holy to talk about."
It's true we wish for people what we actually long for ourselves; that phrase provokes in me a wistful yearning beyond telling.
This week it almost came true.
I'd met and prayed with a church planter a few days prior. As I heard his vision, I did what I normally do, I thought of all the people he should meet, and began to arrange those introductions. That led to a few days later my new church planter friend and his wife sitting in a Chinese restaurant with another friend who'd had a twelve day encounter with Jesus, and we all mutually had a moment almost too holy to talk about.
My friend began to tell about his encounter, and started crying into his lemon chicken about how much he loved Jesus. My new church planter friend unsuccessfully restrained tears about his own love and desire for Jesus.
Here were two grown very successful men weeping out loud in public for love for Jesus.
My mind flashed back to decades of meetings with significant leaders for whom the name of Jesus never caused the slightest moist eye. I thought of decades in my own life where I had been in the thick of ministry nursing a metastasizing dullness of heart.
I think it was A. W. Tozer who said "There is nothing as deadening to the soul as the continual handling of holy things."
The stories and visions my friend shared were known to me. I had known them for years. One story I knew well and had shared many times, but as I heard it again, a flaming sword seared my soul.
My friend had seen Jesus dying on the cross and nearby were a group of businessmen irritated about something. Their business cards were attached to every inch of the cross, and as Jesus bled, the blood was knocking off or obscuring their cards.
In that moment, the impossible weight of our ego, our need for recognition and affirmation, our tendency to want to franchise the gospel, to profit from Christ's poverty, our diseased hearts, almost crushed me.
Are we unmoved by Jesus before us, as Ken Gire said "a torn slump of a Savior," as we scheme to capitalize on His blood?
I was undone.
I thought of Evan Roberts whom God used to start the great Welsh revival. Evan didn't want to go to Bible College because he feared it would dull him to Calvary. One day he walked into a church, saw a cross and found his heart unmoved. That which he'd feared had come upon him.
My friend said that he saw future songwriters signing songs they'd written with a simple attribution, "for the King". He had seen speakers who intentionally kept their face blurred as they proclaimed the gospel on social media. He saw a day when we were so overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus alone would have the preeminence.
The fear of the Lord, while an awkward phrase to our culturally conditioned ears, became beautiful to me as we talked and my brothers kept tearing up. Could a heart be so moved by the love of God, that to intentionally displease Him would be our greatest fear? Could a heart be so gentled by the Holy Spirit that all self-promotion would be distasteful and repugnant? Could Jesus so touch us that we would as John Michael Talbot sings "travel the world weeping out loud for love, weeping out loud for joy?"
It's where we're going. But first we need to revisit Jesus on the cross, and remove with repentance, our business cards.
My God and my all
I should like to love You
And give You my heart
And give You my soul
And so I will yearn for You
In the depths of Your passion
Show me the way to love
Show me the way to give my life for You
Show me the way to love
Then we will surely rise
To fly like an eagle through the wind
To find in Your dying Lord
We both shall live again
So I will weep with You
In the depth of Your passion
I will not be ashamed to travel the world
Weeping out loud for love
Weeping out loud for joy
Show me the way to love
Show me the way to give my life for You
Show me the way to love
Then we will surely rise
-John Michael Talbot
When Vision Outstrips Capacity- 3 Thoughts
I wasn't expecting the conversation. You would think God would have more important secrets to whisper..
You see, my friend Tracy listens to Jesus for me, and sends me everyday a couple of words he hears. One day this week he sent me "Sit Still with Me."
So I did.
It wasn't easy.
I wanted to pray for nations, or worship, or ask questions. My mind often is like the 405 freeway, the busiest freeway in America with 374,000 cars a day.
But I was graced to be still.
I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.
"Your house is not a failure."
We had 3 separate people far apart from each other, say as we were building our house 23 years ago that it would be a L'Bri, referencing Francis and Edith Schaerffer's house in Switzerland that had a steady stream of emerging leaders go through it. The synchronicity of three people saying such an obscure thing, led to ...
supercalifragilisticexpialidocious expectations on my part.
Have you ever created supercalifragilisticexpialidocious expectations based on a prophetic word?
Yes, in the past 23 years many hundreds of leaders have met in our house in a variety of learning environments.
But I was expecting ... thousands.
I felt the Holy Spirit whisper; "Your vision exceeded your capacity. Yes, you had geographic space but not emotional space. I am the Concierge of your house, I invite in who I will, when I will. I have been protecting you."
If you too, have vision that outstrips your capacity, here are three thoughts to encourage you.
1. Become Vulnerable to the Tenderness of God
Often we think God is withholding from us when in actuality He is tenderly protecting us.
Receive His tenderness.
God knows our capacity better than we do. Don't press beyond His tenderness in peripatetic intensities.
When I was in Bible College our dean of students shot himself in the head. He didn't manage to kill himself, but he did go blind.
The President of the College addressing the tragedy, gave a talk in chapel I'll never forget. He said that Ocean Liners have a watermark that delineates how much cargo they can safely hold. When we violate our watermark, we sink. Our dean of students, had not observed his watermark. He was getting graduate degrees, holding down multiple jobs, traveling great distances, and carrying way more cargo than he had capacity.
Some of us tend toward loading more cargo than is safe. I often joke I have more vision than lifetimes. It's true. I love vision filled people. They are my tribe. But it is the tenderness of God to not overtax us, to place on us more cargo than we have capacity.
Embrace His tenderness.
2. Big Vision is Great Until It Becomes Your Identity
Joey and I were once checking out a church. At a newcomer's luncheon I ask the pastor what his vision was for a growing demographic in the city. He said, "We have no vision for them." I knew immediately that I could not thrive in a sweet and lovely but visionless community.
Big vision attracts big thinking people.
God loves us imagining a better future.
But when vision becomes identity, who we begin defining ourselves by its fulfillment or lack thereof, we are on exceedingly thin ice.
God never intended big vision to define you.
Think of the visions of Isaiah that have yet to be fulfilled, or the John 17 vision of Jesus that we all might be one as He and the Father are one. Jesus, two thousand years later is still praying that dream.
Visions fulfilled are not God's Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Learn to be defined by love alone.
3. Big Vision is Best Fulfilled By Others Beyond Your Lifetime
We need vision that is big enough to live beyond us. It needs to be big enough that it will be fulfilled by people we may never meet.
I am privileged to love some astonishing young leaders. They are doing things I've had great vision for, but they are doing them better and reaching farther. Sometimes I am privileged to speak into those visions and help implement some of them, but it takes a village.
After WWII, many visionary leaders arose in America, and said "Follow me! I have enormous vision!" We were conditioned by two world wars not far apart from each other, to need great Generals. We followed many to our doom.
But the people who learn to sing the song of Jesus are the ones who followed the Lamb together going wherever He went.
We stand in a long line of vision filled Jesus lovers, who realize that holy dreams and visions take generations.
"Write down this vision. Write it clearly on tablets so that anyone who reads it may run. For the vision points ahead to a time I have appointed; it testifies regarding the end and it will not lie. Even if there is a delay, wait for it."
Habakkuk 22, 2,3 The Voice
Heart-Opening, Heartache 3 Thoughts
We've been pierced through with our palpable global paucity, our severe inadequacy, as in an instant 38 million people were transported back to the dark ages. We're experiencing a sighing too deep for words as the Taliban marched in and seized Kabul, and erased the future of millions, especially women and children.
Many have found themselves feeling helpless, feeling guilty of the contrasts of the softness of our own lives, realizing the enormity of the generational consequences, words fail us.
In a time of much grief, this grief seems beyond comfort.
This heartache I've found holds an unexpected heart-opening.
I am finding my heart opening anew to the beauty of praying Scripture over the people of Afghanistan. It is astonishing how conversant Scripture is with suffering as the common human condition. Psalm 57 could have been written in Afghanistan rather than in the cave where King David is hiding from murderous Saul.
I've found joy in the sense that people all over the world are praying together, appealing to the God who weeps (and who dries tears), the God who is the Father, from whom every family on earth derives its name, the Father of Mercies and the God of All Comfort.
I am finding a fresh and deeper appreciation of the beauty of Jesus the great Redeemer, the only One who saves. I've felt my heart opening to truths I've long prized, but have now taken on a new vividness, a fresh immediacy.
Someone from the Middle East that came to live in the West rushed back to their own country. They said the West was under a Satanic Lullaby. I find their analysis thoughtful, accurate and convicting.. Have we been lulled by comfort and ease to greater realities at work?
The gift of this present heartache, is the opening of my heart to a refreshed perspective in at least 3 areas.
1. Living Our Lives in Light of Eternity
Our Afghan brothers and sisters may teach us anew, what centuries of Jesus lovers have known and experienced a truth we in the West have forgotten; Jesus' blood completely conquers all, and that our story triumphs over evil when we do not love and cling to our own lives even when faced with death. (Rev. 12:2 TPT).
This life is just the title and preface page of the true story that will have no end, as C.S. Lewis reminds us.
There will be an increase in martyrdoms in coming days. Will those stories stir us from our easy comforts, our smooth lives of abundance and ease?
Our Afghan brothers and sisters are prepared to die for their love of Jesus. Will their stories refocus us from our preoccupation with the present?
2. We Need a Theology of Suffering
Someone once said "God made man in His image, and ever since, we have made God in ours."
As Americans we are gifted with perenniel positivity. We tend to inject that positivity into Scripture and theology. We have theologies of abundance, goodness, and blessing but as Francis Bacon said; "Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, Adversity is the blessing of the New."
We have long needed a theology of suffering, that matches the human experience of history and much of the two-thirds world. Our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan have much to teach us in perseverance and endurance. We need to humbly learn from their living illustrations of loyalty to Jesus.
Instead of being distracted from Jesus by looking for signs of the great tribulation, we need to awake to the reality that our brothers and sisters around the world have been living in the great tribulation throughout the ages. We make movies and books about a speculative future, that is their present everyday experience.
3. God is the Only One Who Can Save
What comfort to have a God who actually reigns over all the earth as King of the Nations! To love and commit ourselves afresh to a God who orders all things according to the counsel of His will, who's Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, a God who of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.
What joy to have Jesus the advocate, the intercessor who is touched by the feelings of our infirmity, our calamity, our fragility.
How precious to have the Holy Spirit who knows no boundaries, who comfort those far from us, who can give insight and wisdom and discernment.
He is our soul's true shelter, a God in whom our hearts may be confident that this present suffering is not to be compared to the glory that awaits us.
I believe Afghanistan and its excruciating story can open our hearts to a fresh awakening to treasure what really matters, the reality of a love that transcends all other things we hold dear.
Relinquishing Your Authority-3 Thoughts
I was walking out to record a live album, when one of my dearest friends, locked her steely eyes on my soul and said to me with great pointedness, "Don't relinquish your authority!"
Her words caught me off guard. My first reaction internally was "What authority?" Yes, I was the leader of the band, but I never thought of leadership in terms of having authority. I always thought of leadership in terms of servanthood, empowering others to exceed you. Leadership to me was a conductor of a symphony bringing in the instruments at the right moment.
Her words echo loudly in my ear even now, decades later. She had discerned and diagnosed something sinister at work, and she knew I needed to take the helm of the ship in that moment with great certainty.
You see, I love to lead. I would rather lead just about anything than eat. (and that is saying something if you know my girth). But I also love to defer to others and make space for them. And there's the rub.
Not too long ago, I found myself doing it again. I deferred to some people with more experience, relinquished my authority and created a consequence not irredeemable but maddeningly regrettable. It got me thinking.
There are tons of stories in history and Scripture of people who relinquished their authority and reaped disaster.
Take Eli for instance.
Eli the priest was in his nineties, had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas who slept with the women in the sanctuary and treated sacrifices as loot for their own personal appetites. They desecrated the house of God and held God in high contempt.
When Eli as a very old man hears reports about their scandalous behavior (which has been going on forever), he pleads with them to change their ways, but they harden their hearts and refuse to listen.
Fast forward the story, Israel is at war with the Philistines. Hophni and Phinehas cart out the chest of God the ark, (as some sort of token branding, though they are not walking with God). They are both killed on the same day. When Eli hears the news, he falls backwards, breaks his neck and dies. Phinehas wife is pregnant. When she hears the news that her husband is dead, and the chest of God has been taken, she goes into labor, has a son, and names him Icabod, meaning the glory has departed. It's a series of disasters, all preventable because at some point Eli relinquishes his authority.
I find this sad story deeply instructive.
1. We can relinquish authority by ignoring the present reality, until it becomes a major news item and we have to deal with the consequences.
We've all done it to some degree with compromise. Eli did it big with procrastination.
Eli hears from others the horror of what his sons are doing. He isn't aware of it from personal observation. It has to get so bad, it hits the front page, before Eli issues a rebuke. How many mighty men have fallen, because boards relinquished their authority to bring correction or didn't follow through when something smelled fishy?
How many times have we relinquished our authority to intervene when we see recklessness in the life of someone near and dear to us? How many times have we relinquished our authority over something within us that if left to grow will bring disaster?
It's easier to just pray, and hope for better outcomes. The hard thing to do is address issues as they arise, not when they are fully grown.
2. We relinquish our authority when we cave to circumstances.
We've all at some time or another caved to circumstances mistakenly thinking we were in the midst of a spiritual battle and casualties were inevitable, when really we had simply relinquished our authority.
An elderly friend of mine was asked to pray for an organization that had been battered and bruised. Never one to mince words, my friend asked the leaders, "Why have you relinquished your authority?"
It was a eureka moment for the leaders. They immediately took a stand, and the dire situation improved almost immediately.
We can spiritualize all sorts of situations, but often they spring from a relinquishing of authority.
3. We can relinquish our authority by deferring to others: thinking we are being gracious while we are actually being irresponsible.
This one trips me up all the time. I love to be gracious with leadership. I love to hand the baton to people. But if we don't know precisely what we are called to do, when we are called to do it, and who we are to do it with, we can allow other people to hijack what God intends in a moment..
I once saw a church almost destroyed by graciously allowing a person to hijack the meetings with their anger, and infantile behavior. There would be a spacious flow of the Holy Spirit, and then this person would turn everyone's attention to their problems and woes. It persisted for many months and many people stopped coming. People that stayed dreaded coming.
I've been in groups where people have hijacked the gathering with excessive talking, or insensitive interruptions, or focusing on themselves to the detriment of the group. In those fraught filled moments we need to know what God given authority we have, and not give it away.
Would the ark of God have been taken captive by the Philistines if Eli years before had been bold and taken a stand? Would Ichabod be named Ichabod?
Could the glory of God actually depart by our relinquishing?
5 Ways To Avoid Becoming a Spiritual Narcissist
"Simply stated, spiritual narcissism is the unconscious use of spiritual practice experience and insight to increase rather than decrease self importance." Gerald May in Will and Spirit.
We've been filming jaw dropping stories from Ramon and Carol Babilonia, a lovely Jesus-enthralled, humble-hearted couple whose stories from Colombia sound like the book of Acts on steroids. We can hardly wait for you to see it. The film is called Wonder Working God and we hope to have it out early next year.
The Babilonia's are quite a contrast to the powerful spiritual leaders I've known, who have slowly over the years become spiritual narcissists. I've been asking Jesus about it, wanting to make sure I don't become one.
I think all of us who lead need to be reminded of this huge occupational hazard.
Gerald May's definition is precise. "Simply stated, spiritual narcissism is the unconscious use of spiritual practice experience and insight to increase rather than decrease self importance." Gerald May in Will and Spirit.
I am writing from a Christian perspective because that is what I know, but spiritual narcissism is not limited to Christianity. You will find it in all religions and pathways that seek experience with the transcendent.
Here's 5 starting thoughts;
1. Ask Continually for the Holy Spirit's Conviction to Show You When You Transform Into the Hero of the Story
Most leaders who love Jesus don't intend to become the hero of the story. It happens gradually, almost imperceptibly. You're telling the amazing things God did, what happened, where you were, what you did, and then the plot lines get intertwined with God and you. You think you're giving God glory, but you end up fluffing your feathers.
God, like the line in the Elton John song, "Doesn't want to be a feather in your cap."
Before long amazing stories become part of your reference library of conversation. Even if someone is telling a story that is meaningful to them, you half listen; riffling through your memories with a similar or better story.
Spiritual narcissism is devious, like bad breath you're the last person often to know you have it. .*
The more God does, the more you silently own the story. Jesus gets shuffled out of the lime light.
Please hear me, I am not saying we shouldn't tell amazing stories. Ellie Wiesel said God made man because He loves stories. Stories create expectation of what God can do. Stories become a North Star to locate us in the landscape of faith.
We simply need copious amounts of the fear of the Lord regarding attribution. We have to have the author of the story in big bold type, center stage, unmistakably the main actor.
When's the last time your eyes misted when you told of something God did?
Make a lifestyle of asking for the Holy Spirit's continual conviction. I remember being at a Christian media conference in Los Angeles that began to devolve into Flesh-Out City. I was so grieved. Jesus was on the platform, but He wasn't preeminent, He was standing in the shadows with everyone's gaze and awe on the super stars.
At lunch, someone introduced me to someone quite well known, who actually knew me but didn't recognize me. Someone with the well known person said, "Oh Fawn! I am one of your greatest fans." I was thrilled until seconds later I felt a cold knife of fear of the Lord plunge through my heart. (When I speak of fear of the Lord, I am not talking about being terrified of God. I mean what I felt was the realization that only Jesus is worthy of glory. I felt a clean wound of desire that the glory that is His -goes to Him).
The very thing I was grieved about in the conference, I was participating in ... seeking fandom.
We all know the Scripture; "Seek first fandom, and all these things will be added to you."
2. Cultivate Continually a Growing View of God's Greatness
The more we become the hero of the story, the smaller Jesus becomes to our listeners.
Cultivate continually a bigger view of Jesus. Befriend people who have a growing view of Him. Read people who lay face down before Him before they write. Pray with people who truly know who He is, and who they are.
Awake to the wonder of Him. Find people whose eyes mist up at the name of Jesus.
When Joey and I were first married we met on the island of Guam a couple named Mike and Annie Gaither. Annie could hardly ever say the name Jesus without tearing up. Annie moved me to the core.
As Bobby Conner once said, "We can become awfully familiar with a God we barely know."
I know my own hearts capacity to become cavalier with the familiarity of knowing God.
3. Refuse the Starring Role in Your Prayer Life
This is particularly challenging. I violate this all the time. Much of my prayer life can be described like my friend John Huffman says, "simply trying to get God to worry with me." Dial in the focus of the aperture to God's greatness, His goodness, His graciousness.
The less selfies in your prayer life the better. Being a spiritual narcissist in prayer is common to us all.
4. Cultivate a Life That Prefers Others
A friend once described to me an occasion where he was the most talented person in the room. He said something I've never forgotten. He said; "I missed an opportunity to give joy to Jesus, by not letting the other person less talented lead."
Is our self-importance increased by using our talents at the expense of others?
Is our self-importance really all that important to us?
5. Listen More Than You Speak
I was recently in a conversation with a leader who for 3 hours spoke almost non-stop. I walked away conflicted because I love this person and esteem them greatly.. There was zero reciprocity in the conversation. I was grieved as well because I know my own capacity to pontificate, to share good spiritual insight, experiences and stories at the expense of learning from the other person.
I want to listen more, inquire more, mine the riches of other's souls, without needing the subtle validation of unconsciously using my experience to promote who I am in the eyes of others.
I think this may be a lifetime quest.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O God.
* I am indebted to Ed Silvoso who said "Pride is like bad breath. You're the last person to know you have it."
Wistful for more, there is a deep sense of an impending sea change among those weary and skeptical of past institutional approaches, yet who still love Jesus.
Author Phyllis Tickle was famous for saying that every 500 years the church goes through a massive shift. You can feel even now, the friction of tectonic plates underneath your feet as you observe and listen carefully to this generation.
Recently I was asked what I thought the future looked like among those who love Jesus.
Here are 7 ways I see the present/future shift.
1. Simplicity of Devotion to Jesus as Supreme
I see us returning to Jesus as not only central, but supreme. Whereas Jesus has been in the past like Waldo (Wally for UK readers, He is in the picture but challenging to find), I see Jesus filling our world, our thinking, our passions, our pursuits. Jesus will be our consuming desire.
Jesus has not been central in the Western Church. Compelling communicators, buildings, budgets, bands and bodies in seats has been central. But Jesus will be not only be central to the future church, He will reign supreme.
David Bryant describes the difference between the centrality and supremacy of Jesus, by using a water bottle. The bottle is us, the living water is Jesus. If you have a water bottle full of water, you have a picture of a believer full of Jesus. Jesus is central to the water bottle. But if you drop that bottle into the ocean, it is not only filled, but surrounded by water. Jesus is not only within, He completely pervades and is our whole world.
We will no longer seek Jesus being present in our gatherings, but presiding.
For more on this I recommend David Bryants Christ Institutes at www.ChristNow.com
2. Humility Toward Those of Other Persuasions
We will be a people who walk with the humility of Jesus toward those of other persuasions. I recently wrote my friend theologian Gavin Ortlund, that there is a grace on his life to release the glory of God in humility toward those of other persuasions. I see this as such a gift to the world.
I believe that grace will become normative, not exceptional.
We will not be known as Timothy Dalrymple says, "as communities of common loathing but for being communities of common love, a sanctuary from the fragmentation and polarization, from loneliness and isolation."
Fingers that point accusation toward the other will become instead, hands that bless, and caress the wounded, hands that compassionately point to Jesus.
We will continually stand with the intercessor, not the accuser in our stance and communication toward the world.
3. Inter-racial Communities Dependent on the Holy Spirit Rather than Traditional Hierarchal Leadership
In the forties, fifties, sixties, even as recently as a decade ago, strong leaders said "I have a vision, follow me!" In this new era, we will hear Jesus say, "I am the desire of nations, follow Me!"
We will no longer segregate according to race, preference of musical style, culture, status or class. We will gather around Jesus, in inter-racial communities who are dependent on the Holy Spirit to guide.
As we follow the Lamb where ever He goes, the Holy Spirit will be our GPS, (NAVSAT for British readers).
We will discern the voice of God together as to future direction. There will always be strong leaders, and they are a gift to us, but they will not amass a following based purely on their gifting, but their sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, listening together in gathered community.
Some Asian leaders decades ago were visiting Southern California churches and said "It's amazing what you can build here without God."
The future will be Holy Spirit inspired, directed, and sustained. Our gatherings will no longer be predictable and controlled because trying to control the Holy Spirit is like trying to cage the wind.
God will hold the reins of this coming global outpouring of His Spirit.
4. Agility-Turning on a Dime
When the Apostle Paul was itching to go to Bithynia in Acts 16:6 the Holy Spirit did not permit him to go. Paul, scratching his head, goes instead to the port town of Troas, meets with Luke and sees a vision of a man pleading for help in Macedonia. Paul turns on a dime and heads toward Neapolis on the European continent, where he plants churches among the poorest of the poor.
We will have a fresh agility to obey the Holy Spirit because our dependency and need to keep institutional systems afloat, will no longer bind us to sustaining systems, strategies or approaches that are no longer helpful. We will no longer keep systems functioning in order to make a living, but rather trust Jesus to provide for us as we obey His prompting, following the Lamb where ever He goes. We will have a new sensitivity to where Jesus is going, and a new longing to leave the comfort of the known, to be with Him.
Living an authentic versus a fictitious life requires the constant inviting of truth within both from the Holy Spirit through Scripture and trusted community.
The past few decades have revealed a host of leaders who were one thing on the platform, but another in private. When Nathan stories King David into conviction of his sin with Bathsheba, he utters a devastating sentence we all as leaders need to keep before us,
Nathan says "you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme." 2 Samuel 12:14
Sin can be forgiven, but as leaders we can never know the cost of how our duplicity, our lack of authenticity, caused the enemies of God to blaspheme His name and reputation for generations.
Bruce Thompson defined maturity as "coming out of deception into truth about ourselves." It's a life long process. Essential discipleship will not be a series of doctrinal propositions to affirm, but a daily receptivity to conviction and mentorship by the Holy Spirit through Scripture, conforming us to the image of Jesus.
Authenticity will produce vulnerability. When we have nothing to hide, we can be vulnerable with others about our weakness. We don't have to as my friend Jamie Winship says, continually self-promote and self-protect. We will not need to compare and compete. (listen here for Jamie's take on this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmTuN76xfJk )
We will be quick to acknowledge and ask for prayer from our community about our weakness and neediness. We have no image to protect, no one to promote but Jesus, nothing to offer the world but His self-emptying love.
Authenticity will produce vulnerability that leads to the beauty of transparency.
Missionary Heidi Baker had a vision years ago of people in chariots of fire going throughout the earth who were completely transparent.
All you could see of them were these huge hearts beating in rhythm with the heart of God. There was nothing hidden, nothing obscured, no shadows.
Our future is the future of Jesus. Our destiny is the destiny of Jesus. The heart of our story is Jesus. Our glory will be seeing His fame and renown cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Joey and I will begin producing two films next month, (one in Spanish, and one in English).
We've been longing to capture this story for over six years.
It's the astonishing and miraculous story of Carol and Ramon Babilonia who shine with the humility of Jesus. They are a mother and father of a wonderful outpouring of God's Spirit in South America.
We are wanting to summon a band of friends to be praying for these two films.
Would you occasionally, as the Holy Spirit prompts, whisper a prayer for these films to be all God dreams them to be, and be seen by all God desires throughout the world?
We begin filming July 19th. We'd be so honored to have you praying along side us.
Let us know if you're willing. You can just comment and say "count me in."
Three Dollars of God, Please
It was a big one gallon glass container, the kind in the old days they used for apple cider.
My friend Shari who lives with us, (and has surfed for over 60 years), brought it home with a look of joy on her face. It contained red tide, a super bloom of dinoflagellates. When the species is bioluminescent, wonder can knock you to your knees. We gathered in the darkest place we could find, our laundry room, and poured the water slowly into the sink. I felt like I was with God watching the creation of the cosmos. Our sink lit up with stars, and galaxies. We had no words. I remember thinking "There is medicine in this wonder."
I was leaving the next morning for Montgomery, Alabama to do a conference at Martin Luther Kings' former church, Ebenezer. I found a little glass olive jar and put some of the sea water inside. On arriving at the hotel, I told my dear friend Celie, that I was going to show her one of the most astonishing sights in the world. Always looking for unusual gifts, I had bought her a ticket to the beginning of creation. But alas, my little sea wiggles failed to light and delight. I thought maybe I'd killed them on the 5 hour flight. Maybe they had suffocated. I was dashed.
That night, nature called and I obeyed. There they were in their little jar, lighting up to beat the band. I ran back to awaken my friend. Come! You have to see this! It's the most astonishing thing you'll ever see!
It was was absolutely fascinating.
You were made for wonder. You were made to be fascinated, enthralled, captivated by beauty, astonished. You were made for endless fascination with Jesus.
Yet, through habituated religious routine, and mindless rituals, we often say His name with little passion. Our hearts if not kept lit, dull quickly. We are endlessly distracted. We swim in a sea of triviality.
Yet David managed to keep his heart on fire.
I long to drink of you, O God,
to drink deeply from the streams of pleasure
flowing from your presence.
My longings overwhelm me for more of you!
My soul thirsts, pants, and longs for the living God.
I want to come and see the face of God
As humans we are easily knocked out of awe, by our distraction, our preoccupation with the trivial. In becoming consumed with lesser things we miss the glory.
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 dollars worth of God please.” --Wilbur Rees
Sadly, we settle for our three dollar paper sack of the eternal everyday.
Yet, we have access to the stunning Jesus who in the words of my friend Joy Dawson is
You are King! God!!! Supreme in Your authority. Unquestionable in Your sovereignty.
Unparalleled in Your greatness. Limitless in Your power. Infinite in Your wisdom and Your knowledge.
Absolute in Your justice. Magnificent in Your splendor. We bow our hearts and bend our knees before You
You are dazzling in Your beauty. Ingenious in your creativity. Timeless in Your existence. Terrible in Your wrath. Unsearchable in Your understanding. Incomprehensible in your humility. Indescribable in Your tenderness.
Unfathomable in Your love. Matchless in Your grace. Unswerving in Your faithfulness.
Unending in Your mercy. Blazing in Your glory. Flawless in Your character. Awesome in Your holiness.
Pristine in Your purity. Fascinating in Your personality. God!!! God!!! God!!! ...
We declare how little we know of what You are really like. To know You is to love You!
To know You is to run to obey You! To know You is to understand You. To know You is
to pant and thirst and hunger to know You more, that we may more effectively make You
known. Meet our deepest needs by giving us a far greater revelation of Who You are. ..."-Joy Dawson
Want to cultivate an Endless Fasciation with Jesus? Want to live breathless at His beauty?
Start with reading His Word differently. Ask the Holy Spirit who you are in the story. Let your sanctified imagination feel the dusty roads, the heat of the noon day sun, see the faces of the people. Let The Word, give you a surround sound experience with the passage and an entrance into Jesus' heart.
Find friends of burning heart who are gobsmacked at the breath taking beauty of Jesus. Exchange stories of your experiences, join together in radical obedience to His slightest whispers. Whoever you spend the most time with, you become. Someone once said "Show me your friends, I'll show you your future." Find burning hearts and burn with them Holy fire.
Find Jesus' fascinating glory in all you see. Even people who have yet to meet Him. When you spy a virtue of Jesus in someone, pray that virtue into full blown expression in that person's heart.
David knew how to keep the fires of passion and wonder lit. He turned everything he saw into longing for God. He saw a rock, and saw the Lord was His rock and shelter from the storm. He saw grass and sheep and saw the Lord was his Shepherd, he saw a deer drinking from a brook, and it reminded him of his unquenchable thirst for God.
Let your heart be sensitized to His glory all around you. Learn to live in wonder.
Jesus is inviting you to an eternity of wonder starting now.
Don't content yourself with a gallon of sea water, (which it turns out, did have medicine in it. A scientist at Princeton discovered that bioluminescent creatures instant message each other before they light up. "Are you there?" "Yes." Many cancer cells also instant message each other before they metastasize, If we can interrupt the signal, we can contain some cancers from spreading). A gallon of the sea is just a wee appetizer to wonder.
There is a whole ocean of Jesus to explore.
Jesus is reaching out to you with nail scarred hands, saying "Come, take my hand, let's go into the unknown wonder together! Come discover Me! Have done with lesser things."