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."
Later that day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” ... Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. Mark 4 The Passion
You don't need me to tell you, the shadows are deepening. The winds are contrary to us. The waves are battering our security and sense of safety. The boat is taking on water, and we are all but swamped.
Normal is becoming a dissipating memory. Normal lays squeezed out of the toothpaste tube never to return.
We are in a once-in-a-500-year-global-sea-change. History tells us when peril increases, rather than band together, our first resort is often accusation.
We accuse our perceived cultural enemies, we accuse media, we accuse people in power, we accuse institutions and we accuse God.
We've all heard blasphemous, soul cringing accusations against God. But rarely are we conscious that that voice we hear, may actually be our own.
This morning, I was wondering how many times in my own prayer life, I have silently accused God of not caring. How often do I confuse prayer with trying to get God to worry with me?
A friend's life is precarious, and I agonize trying to get God to care, or a marriage is dissolving, or a nation is unraveling, I feel impotent, and pray as if God needs to realize the gravity of the moment and intervene.
If we were an alien listening to our prayers, would we assume God is a disinterested potentate that must be convinced at all costs to care for His creation?
Should I wrestle to convince God He should act like He already, actually is? The all wise, all knowing, God of mercy, God of compassion, who is slow to anger, and brimming with lovingkindness really needs convincing to be who He is? Really?
How many ways have I accused God in my thought-life? How often have I inwardly sulked at His seemingly lack of intervention? How many times when my boat was overwhelmed with the storms of life, have I thought "Don't you even care?"
My friend Ett, when she prays, laughs. Every time she does this I feel immense joy. She is so convinced God will be Himself in the situation, that the very real problem she's praying about shrinks to its proper size. It's a beautiful thing to behold, her laughter. It's music to God and my ears.
Sadly, that kind of laughter is rare..
Is there anything more winsome and compelling than to believe God will be just who He is, the Perfect Savior?
Yes, my friend might die, yes, the marriage may dissolve, yes, the nation may unravel, but God will be His Perfect Self, in faithful love and tenderness.
It's never about the when, why and where, it's always about the Who.
Who is our Who?
My friend Joy Dawson in her book Intimate Friendship with God, unforgettably declares with absolute conviction who is the Who to whom we are praying. Her prayer makes my accusatory, "Please worry with me God", prayers blush with inadequacy.
Here is the Who.
"We acknowledge you as the God above all gods ... There is no one like You, Lord. You are King! God!!!
Supreme in Your authority. Unquestionable in Your sovereignty. Unparalled 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 As we acknowledge 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. ..."*
Our greatest need is always a greater revelation of Who He is.
When the storm is lashing our hope, when our hearts quiver with fear of the unknown future, and the depth of the sea, may we remember our wonderful Who.
May our frail hearts be as confident in who He is, as ST THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX who said, "Jesus is in my boat, and I dare not for love wake Him."
Here's a powerful song from Cath Woolridge to remind us once again, where to look.
*Joy Dawson, Intimate Friendship with God (c) 1986 Fleming H. Revel
Jesus, Missing in Action? Three Thoughts
My dear friend Lynn was telling me the other day how Jesus was missing in action. It caught my ear, and imagination.
You see her little granddaughter somehow lost Jesus from their little Nativity set.
So they found a different Jesus, but He did't really fit the crew. The new Jesus was classic, and everyone else was plastic. That too, caught my ear.
It got me thinking.
Is our Jesus also missing in action? You know the plastic one that little children enjoy, and we have had for decades? The Plastic Jesus we inherited from generations past? The Plastic Jesus who was cheap and easy to own?
Do we need a more real Jesus? Might we need a Jesus we can't lose?
1. It Will Take All of Eternity to Completely Know Jesus as He Knows Himself to Be-
Our plastic Jesus is culturally relevant, easy to hold in our hands, easy to loose, easy to be sentimental about. He doesn't demand anything from us. We can trot Him out at Christmas and box Him up for another year. The real Jesus is a different story.
He is ineffable. His glory is indescribable. His power incomprehensible. He is more than wonderful, more than our minds can conceive.
As Luci Shaw says in her poem Mary's Song, "...He whose vigor hurled a universe, ... his breath once ruffled the dark deeps to sprout a world ... who overflowed all skies."
It's a subtle haughtiness to think we really know Jesus, especially those of us who embraced Him long ago.
We are called to an endless fascination with Him, a fascination that is inexhaustible. You can tell the people who are fascinated by the freshness of their stories about Him.
2. Jesus Cannot Be Domesticated No Matter How Hard We Try
Much of our praying, fasting, good works are idolatrous attempts to get the Plastic Jesus to do what we want. But Jesus is not an idol. He is who He knows Himself to be. He is all powerful, all knowing, all sufficient. He inhabits all of time, past, present and future.
Jesus knows our complete story, beginning, middle and end. He refuses to be domesticated and tamed to our expectations. He will not be anything less than what He is.
We cannot cage Him. Religion, tradition, seeks to limit Him, but He is limitless. Unbound from any of man's confinements.. We cannot curtail Him.
Our attempts at pleasing Him will not be allowed to make Him an ingredient in our recipe.
Yet, He is acquainted with all our ways, and is moved by our frailties. This is our God.
3. His Realness Initiates Our Realness
In the wonderful children's book The Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin horse says; "Real isn't how you're made. It's a thing that happens to you. when a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
The real Jesus in the manger has loved us for a long, long time. He doesn't play with us. He doesn't toy with our affections. He doesn't use us to boost His ego.
His realness, His revealing of Himself as He knows Himself to be, initiates our realness. The plastic parts of our soul are sloughed off by His love. We become like Him, as we know Him as He is.
May the real Jesus be our endless fascination and joy.
Our gift to you this Christmas is from our beloved friends at Sound of Wales. It is music to cheer your ears and heart. We encourage you check our empowering content in a variety of forms from Sound of Wales new www.CreativeExchange.co All content is free. You'll be moved by our Welsh brothers and sisters who are aflame with God.
Who Are You? 3 Steps to Answering Well
Who are you? It's one of the most important questions you'll ever answer.
How you answer determines your capacity for wonder, for creative flow, for rest of soul, and diminished internal angst. How you answer determines your future.
There are two main identities you must know. The true identity of Jesus, and your very own identity. The two are intertwined. Knowing the first, helps you know the second.
Here's three simple thoughts.
1. Verify God's Actual ID (You Probably Have an Inaccurate Picture of Him).
Once I was mobbed by a group of young people at Los Angeles International airport, mistaking me for a famous actress, (who also happens to have a double chin). My denials were met with their protests; "You're just trying to be incognito. You're saying you aren't her, because you want us to go away!" I hugged them all.
Like those dear young zealots, (they had just returned from Sacramento protesting something or other), we often think we know what God looks like, but we've got the wrong person. We think we know, but we actually don't. We have to come out of deception into truth.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to you as He knows Himself to be. Not how religion, or empires, or your grandma said He was, who He actually is. Read the gospels with the Holy Spirit interpreting it as you read. As my friend Shari often says; "Don't let your mind wander, it's too little to be out on it's own."
Jesus asked His followers, "Who do men say that I am?" He followed their answers by asking, "Who do you say that I am?" Open-Mouth-To-Insert-Foot Peter finally has a good day and answers accurately, "You are the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God!" Jesus responds,
"You didn't discover this on your own but my Father in heaven has supernaturally revealed it to you." Matthew 16:16 The Passion
A. W. Tozer said that reading the Bible takes as great a revelation, as it took to write it.
Read to find the Person. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God's true identity to you as you read.
2. Embrace Your Distinctive Identity/Get Greater Revelation of His
While the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, emphasize what Jesus did, the gospel of John emphasizes who Jesus is.
John often called himself the "disciple whom Jesus loved." Could it be, that John knowing his own true identity, opened him to greater revelation of the identity of Jesus? And the more John knew Jesus, the more he knew himself?
John gives us a shimmering immensity to the story of Jesus. He begins at the very beginning, and ends in the book of Revelation with a sweeping panoramic view of eternity.
As we embraced our identity of being 'the disciple Jesus loves", we open ourselves to a wide river of revelation of who He is.
All my life, I've known theologically that Jesus loves me. But experientially I've thought I wasn't actually the disciple Jesus loved.
I longed to see continents bow at the feet of Jesus, but I've lived a fairly small life. My 9 books have sold "relatively well' (they have sold to relatives), I have been privileged to love exceptional leaders, but my heart print on the world has been remarkably ... unspectacular. I thought if I was truly the one Jesus loved, more doors would have opened, more favor would have been given, more anointing, more everything.
Yet, in my old age, I am dimly realizing that my true identity is that I am actually the disciple Jesus loves.
Even though I have loved a Perfect Savior imperfectly, yet, I too am the disciple Jesus loves. Even my quirky bits are loved. As I embrace my belovedness, His flow of life giving creativity and revelation will continue to increase.
3. Shed False Identities of God and Self/See the Unseen
John who Jesus called earlier a "Son of Thunder", was transformed to become the disciple whom Jesus loved, simply by laying His head on Jesus chest, placing his ear near His heart.
Your location determines your transformation. The zealous "Son of Thunder" becomes a man who writes Revelation, because he opened himself to love.
As Madeleine L'Engle says “We all tend to make zealous judgement, and thereby close ourselves off from revelation.”― Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
As we open ourselves to love, we open a door to greater revelation.
We shed false identities of God and ourselves, by going past cultural norms and like John placing our head to His heart. Notice John doesn't refer to himself as the disciple whom Jesus taught, or the disciple whom Jesus knew, but the "Disciple whom Jesus loved."
John owns His belovedness, and that opens him to seeing deeper seeing farther, seeing the unseen realities that surround him.
1. Who might I become if I embraced my belovedness?
2. What might I co-create with Jesus if I believed I was 'the disciple Jesus loved?"
3. Why do I live impoverished in false identities of fear?
Every time you look in the mirror, get up in the morning, or go to bed, say out loud so you can hear yourself
"I am the disciple Jesus loves."
3 Swift Mind Shifts Coming Soon
Change is our friend.
Like the constant flow of the ocean, change oxygenizes our environments causing everything to thrive.
Culture constantly changes, moves, churns. We too, like the ocean are in a constant state of change. You can't resist it.
Don't believe me?
This very moment as you're reading, your osteoclasts are drilling out old bone, and your osteoblasts are filling in new. One hundred million new red blood cells are being produced, flowing through your frame every single minute. Stomach cells change every 2 to 9 days. Unfortunately for many of us, our fat cells are not so swift. They can last up to 8 years.
Your body is a walking change factory. You woke up this morning different than when you went to bed.
It's not just you changing; all of nature is in a constant and glorious state of flux.
God alone is the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We better not be.
Mindsets, institutions, traditions, politics violently resist change, circling the wagons to defend the status quo.
Change like the wind cannot be caged. It will happen with or without us.
3 Mind Shifts Coming Soon
1. New Perspective/Emphasis on the Who- Not the Why, How, What or When.
Jesus has been like Waldo (for UK audiences, Wally), in most of our conferences, podcasts, books, magazines, media. He is in the picture, but hidden so deeply you have to really search to find Him ... with a magnifying glass.
I have missed Him.
I missed Him so much I wrote a book on it, twenty years ago called It's All About You, Jesus, a Fresh Call to an Undistracted Life.
The spotlight hasn't been on Jesus for decades.
What has been in the past, what has sold, is the why, how and when, not the Who.
We wanted templates for success, plug and play strategies that would work anytime, anywhere with anyone.
Some Asian leaders once came to Southern California and said "It's amazing what you Americans can build without God." They also said that they saw we wore our God on our wrist, meaning our watches.
This new era will be about Jesus. The Holy Spirit will provide the specific individuated details about the why, how, when and what.
This truth of this was recently driven home to me, as one of the most important collaborative connections in my life, resulted from a team of us going to a different country based solely on dreams.
2. New Mind Shift on Identity
There will be a swift mind shift about our identity.
We will get our identity less from leaders, fashion, institutions, sports teams, or politics, and instead hear our own true God given identity. As we do, we will feel a new deep felt need for each other being their own true unique identity.
I woke up the other morning thinking of an identity name I am slowly owning, "Mover of God's Heart." (You will have multiple identity names in different seasons of your life).
I realized that to accept that identity, much of my old theology has to go.
True confession: even though I've spent most of my life gathering people to pray, prayer has felt somewhat futile to me. I knew it changed me, but it rarely seemed to move the needle in changing society. It's why many people of prayer tend toward depression.
The fact is, I have lived for 63 years with a dragon breathing fire on my mind with corrosive conflicting theologies. Most of my early life, everything was up to me, and I attempted spiritual perfection. Then later in life, everything was up to God. It was the age old classic free will/sovereignty controversy, written large on my heart.
Corrosive, conflicting theologies provided me no end of conundrums.
I ate them for breakfast.
But if my true identity is "Mover of God's Heart", I have as Pascal said "the dignity of causality." I can approach God on behalf of the Uyghurs, or North Korea, with confidence that I have standing before Him and a history of moving His heart to intervene.
I am not a death to self, zombie for Jesus, emptied out of all personality, desire, and longing. I have passionate longings for the fame and renown of Jesus. I can put my entire heart in one sentence of burning desire. I want all the nations for Him, and all of Him for the nations.
Knowing my own true identity, gives me a deeper sense of need for others moving in their true identities. Like a human body, we need multiple systems, and individuated identities to function. You are not human if all head, or all heart.
3. New Collaborations that Create Change
We are in for new surprising collaborations. Just like the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel's right to exist, we are in for many new unexpected alignments.
I mentioned one of the sweetest and most meaningful collaborations of my entire life came from a crazy obedience almost two years ago.
When we think of collaborating, we think of those we know, in our city/country. But collaborations will take place internationally, or locally with people you never knew existed.
The Changeless One, knows precisely every person on the planet, their passion and their potential.
He is the great conductor, who assembles the orchestra. He knows just who to put you next to, to bring out the most soul stirring, life altering symphony.
All we need to do is keep your gaze on the Who. The Pre-Existent Never Changing One. The conductor who moves us through the score.
When we do, everything changes.
5 Keys To Thriving No Matter the Future
Joseph named the second [son] Ephraim (double fruitfulness), for “God has caused me to be fruitful and very successful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52 The Amplified
Like a cartoon, the planet screeched to a halt freezing in mid-air. Global leaders scratched their heads. Media around the world dumped chums of doom into news cycles. Fear slithered in. Overnight everything changed. Prognosticators and prophets were all over the map regarding the future. How shall we now live? How can we thrive no matter what the future holds? Hearts trembled.
Joseph was no stranger to unexpected plot twists. You'd be tempted to think his story was made up by Hollywood.
Joseph went from powerful prophesies in dreams over his future, to being thrown in a pit, then purchased for 20 pieces of silver by slave traders, to Potiphar's house, to a propositioning wife of Potiphar, to Prison, to the Palace, to Prime Minister of all of Egypt all by the time he was 30. Just when he thought the tide was turning, it got worse.
Yet Joseph prospered and all that he touched prospered. He ended up saving not only Egypt but the people of Israel.
Here are 5 quick take-aways from his story. I encourage you to read his whole legendary story in Genesis 37-50.
1. Joseph thrived in the land of His affliction because even in his confinement, God was with him and caused all that he did to prosper.
"When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes, and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household and entrusted to his care, everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned the Lord blessed the household, of the Egyptian because of Joseph. Gen. 39:3-5
Your confinement does not define you. Your destiny is not deterred by your detractors, or your environment.
This Lord is with you friend right now, as close as your breath. You are not confined. You may feel hemmed in on all sides, with no options, others stronger than you dictate your circumstances. You are not confined by health, status, gender, finances or country. God is with you. God loves being with you. Pit, prison, palace, makes no difference. God never changes address. You are surround wrapped in His presence and absolutely anything is possible. He has a zillion ways to fulfill His promises over your life. If you think you know which way He'll use, you probably can cross that way off your list. His ways are not our ways.
2. Joseph thrived in the land of His affliction because he lived before the face of a God who speaks and reveals the future. A God not only of revelation, but interpretation and application.
When Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker were thrown in prison they were put under Joseph's care, they both had dreams in the same night. Joseph inquired why they looked depressed. (he had grown in emotional intelligence which he lacked as a teenager). Joseph replied;
Don't interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams. Genesis 40:8
Ask for God's revelation, interpretation, and application not only for yourself but for others. Learn to always have one ear on God and one ear on the person before you.
Ask people to tell you their dreams. Ask God to give you clues and keys, not just the dream but the interpretation and application of it.
The coming days will need great creative strategists, who can take the God dreams of others, and have heaven given plans for their implementation. Ask God to be one of those people.
3. Joseph thrived in the land of his affliction by using his gifts to serve his oppressors.
Joseph didn't whine about the injustice he suffered. He may have felt he could have written a better narrative than God, but he didn't live in his victimhood. He didn't wallow in his wounds. He didn't demand his rights, and shake his fist at his oppressors. You don't find him trying to escape or sabotage his oppressor's systems.
Joseph served with an excellent spirit, so that his oppressors prospered. In our present moment those statements sound like I am suggesting injustice should go unaddressed. God forbid, no!
In America we have much injustice to repent of, lament, and address. What I am saying is that Joseph, like Daniel, like Nehemiah, lived before God's face in such a way, that promotion kept happening in ever increasing worst possible scenarios.
4. When Joseph looked in his rear view mirror, he saw clearly how the narrative of His life, was the fastest path to the fulfillment of His dreams.
He says to his long lost brothers later in his story.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 New Living Translation
Your life may not look like it at the moment, but God is taking you the fastest way possible to the fulfillment of the dreams He's given you. No matter how heart rending your moment, it is producing in you greatness of character, so you can steward well the fulfillment of His promise.
For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! 2 Corinthians 4: 17 The Amplified
Have you ever been transparent and vulnerable about the unfulfilled longings of your soul for the future and had people be dismissive of them? God will never despise or abhor your current plight.
For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. Psalm 22:24
5. Your Branch Like Joseph, Will Grow Over Every Wall of Confinement as You Live Before the Face of God
When Joseph's father is ready to die, and blesses Joseph he describes him as a tree that grows beside a spring, its fruitful branches reaching over the wall. Genesis 49:22-26
There is no wall of confinement, of limitation, of restriction, that can keep your fruitful branches from growing over the wall.. Like Joseph your branches will grow beyond confinement to provide fruit, shade and beauty for the nations. As your roots grow deep beside the spring that flows and makes everything alive that it touches, so your trunk will grow up.
You will thrive no matter the future, as you continually live before the face of God.
5 Keys from Joshua About This Present Moment
Weariness can leech our souls, sap our will, and paralyze our hearts. I've been feeling it deeply of late, I imagine you've been too, especially if you live in America.
Joshua, Moses right hand man, has much to say to us in this moment.. Say the name Joshua to some, and the song "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" comes to mind. But Joshua was so much more than just a crack military leader.
Yes, he subdued 31 kings and kingdoms, but as with all of us, he was so much more than his resume.
If anyone had a right to be weary it was Joshua. Forty years wandering in the wilderness, paying for others unbelief about entering the promise land. Forty years reading the obituaries every morning, seeing if the last person of that unbelieving generation had died. Forty years of being Moses assistant, forty hot years of patience, pawing the desert ground like a race horse at the gate, waiting to enter the land of promise.
In Joshua 1 God says a most curious thing, "Moses my servant is dead. Arise, cross this Jordan, into the land I am giving you."
God's words at first glance seem overly obvious. Joshua knew Moses was dead, all Israel had just spent a month weeping in the desert, lamenting his demise.
But sometimes you need to hear God say the obvious to you.
5 Keys From Joshua About This Present Moment
#1. Moses is dead. Normal is dead. Your past role is dead. Cultural norms are dead. Quit rouging the corpse.
We are sloth-like-slow at burying our dead.
Like Rizpah (2 Samuel 21:10), who flung the birds off the dead corpses of her two sons for 5 months, we tend to spread our sackcloth and protect what is dead. We sleep lightly, and become wary of anything that might attack what is dead.
Lament and bury the past. It is not coming back..
What is God saying is dead to you? Write it down, and talk to someone about it. Put it in an unmarked grave like Moses'.
#2. "Arise and Lead!"
Get up and get going! Possess your possessions! (Obediah 1:17) Even Joshua years later tells the Israelites, "How long are you going to hang around and do nothing? Possess what God has given you!" (Joshua 18:3-5)
Gather those you influence and get going. Yes there is a Jordan before you. Yes, there are innumerable enemies, yes, there will be failures. You'll get tricked by the Gibeonites going to the local Goodwill store and buying old garments. There will be sin in the camp when Achan sees treasure he can't resist and hides it. It's not going to be a cakewalk. There will be struggle and hardship, but I am with you!
Don't despair. Your greatest credential is God is with you. Get the people ready, tomorrow God is going to do wonders. Create expectancy for God's supernatural intervention.
#3. Cross this Jordan!
The Jordan wasn't particularly deep most of the year, but when God tells Joshua to cross it, it's at flood tide.
God is crossing with them as a sign to the nations watching.
What's so important about the Jordan parting and the children of Israel crossing a dry river bottom? Because God is reminding them of the exit from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. Sometimes you need as much of a miracle to get into the promise land as you did to get out of the land of bondage. Sometimes only supernatural intervention will do.
The miraculous is God laying the red carpet into the land of promise. Our miracles are not just for us, but for the watching world.
Often when we cross into new territory we need a miracle story to sustain us in the new land. Our enemies as well need to hear of God's intervention on our behalf. Joshua says about the Jordan miraculous crossing;; "This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God's rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always." Joshua 4:24
#4. Circumcise Your Hearts
The medical practice of circumcision didn't remove something evil, it removed something unnecessary. Through COVID-19 God has been removing a lot of unnecessary things from us. Fortunately we no longer have to actually circumcise our physical bodies, but we allow metaphorically the circumcision of our hearts ... the removing of what is unnecessary.
Ask the Holy Spirit what is unnecessary that you can give to Him. Maybe it's unbelief, or fear, or undue attachment to the past.
#5. You've Never Been This Way Before, Keep Your Eyes on His Presence
Our reliance on the guidance the GPS of the Holy Spirit will need to be greater than ever before. Joshua told the children of Israel; "When you see the Ark of your God carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile--be sure now to keep your distance!-- and you'l see clearly the route to take."
"You've never been this way before."
Globally, we've never been this way before. Yes, we have had plagues in the past, but we have never been as connected before, economically, informationally, with interlocking systems that depend on each other. We are in a planet wide era change.
The Holy Spirit has a plethora of new creative cures for education, medicine, faith communities, government, and cities.
We will only know them by leaning our ear into His voice, doing whatever He says, no longer leaning on our own understanding. He has strategies that seem ludicrous. Walk around Jericho's, keep silent, shout!
Intentionally be responsive to the whispers of the Spirit.
Walls will fall when we do.
A Letter to Beloved America
Congratulations on your 244th birthday! (From a Native American standpoint you are actually eons older, which is why many Native American's do not celebrate their independence today, nor is it a day of celebration for our black brothers and sisters), but it is to all who are celebrating independence today, I write.
Your history America, is full of wonderful things to celebrate and unrighteous deeds to lament and rectify.
You helped save the world against Hitler, you rebuilt Europe with the Marshall Plan, you have thwarted dictators. You are filled with hard-working, self-sacrificing, beautiful people of every nation. You have shed your own blood for many nations. You are brimming with people who laugh easily, give generously, create marvelously. You put a man on the moon, invented the internet.
While many around the world were working on flight, your Wright brothers made it reality. You are full of optimism, entrepreneurism, inventiveness. Your volunteerism is legendary. You have amply blessed the world in a multitude of ways. Flags should fly on your birthday.
Yet against your own beautiful values of dignity and equality, you have also tolerated racism both implicit and complicit from the beginning and the day of reckoning has come.
As Kori Schake, observes: "The Marquis de Lafayette, for whom the square in Washington is named, was a great friend to the U.S. “The welfare of America is bound closely to the welfare of all humanity,” he once wrote to his wife. “She is to become the honored and safe asylum of liberty.”
Kori continues about our present dilema, "This churning, disputatious, and even sometimes violent dynamic is what social change in America looks like ... Our struggles are the world’s struggles, because the values that form our republic are universal values." 1.
But all is not lost, there is hope for you beloved America ... strong hope. A hope that must be fully embraced for your survival and thriving.
The dream of Jesus for you America, was that all peoples of the earth could live together in you in peace and harmony and thrive. That dream can still yet be. There is a great river of redemption flowing to you. Repentance is how you step into that flow.
John Dawson, founder of the International Reconciliation Coalition, says "When we study human conflict we see that Satan's method of getting one group to abuse another is rooted in the hardheaded collision of the self-righteous people within each group. Take some truth, polarize the people with different sides of that truth, tempt them to unrighteous judgment against each other, and then watch them wound each other with rejection, harsh words and injustice." 2
On your birthday America, we can reject the polarization, and self righteousness on all sides. We can embrace truth and let it have full voice. We can ask for the conviction of the Holy Spirit about our own self-righteousness. We can ask for healing words and actions. We can listen, lament and rectify.
We can reject boiling down "... the complex reality into simplistic, bipolar paradigms such as us and them." 3
We can own our own sin, embrace nuanced understandings of history, and refuse to be played by either side's political agenda.
We are called to be a people of conviction. That 24/7 conviction needs to start within us. Judgement begins at the house of God.
America, you are like the beloved individuals who inhabit you. Your history is a mixture of glory and gory, and everything in between. Today as you by some reckoning, turn 244 years old, may you become all that God dreams you to be.
May you, the elder brother legalist, and the younger brother anarchist, find healing in the arms of the waiting Father of the Prodigal. It is the only safe place.
Your best days are yet to be.
1. This Upheaval is How America Gets Better, Kori Schake, The Atlantic, June 8, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/upheaval-how-america-gets-better/612799/
2. What Believers Should Know About Reconciliation, John Dawson, www.reconcile.org
3. Can Americans Be Too Patriotic? David Lawrence, https://www.westmont.edu/god-bless-america-can-christians-be-too-patriotic
Bringing Peace to Conflict, 3 Principles
But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form
and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace.
James 3:17 The Passion Translation (TPT)
No doubt about it, we are in a global epic sea change. Conflict, controversy, civil unrest is challenging the status quo. Much of it needs to be challenged. Much of it, needs to be wisely discerned.
This is the time for wisdom's fruit to be planted by those who cherish peace. This is the time for you to create peace in your specific arena of influence.
There is wisdom from above aplenty. It is always ours for the asking. We have a liberal God who is not stingy in His lavish giving of wisdom. It comes from HIs pure heart, a heart that is completely at peace. It is a heart of love that never displays prejudice or hypocrisy. It is a heart that produces a harvest of peace. It is a heart that can beat within every chest. It can beat in yours, just for the asking.
Bringing Peace to Conflict, Three Principles
(I am indebted to my friend Jamie Winship for this Conflict Narrative. I encourage you to go on YouTube and listen to anything you can by him).
1. All external strife, quarrels, fights, result from an interior war within us.
2. All interior strife, quarrels, fights, are sourced by fear.
3. All fear comes from false beliefs about ourselves, the world, the other.
Let's unpack these 3 truths, that work in any culture, any time frame, any situation. Scripture is shot through with examples, but for sake of brevity, and because our eyes are going square from so much screen time, we'll look at Saul, Israel's first king.
1. All external strife, quarrels, fights, result from an interior war within
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? James 4:1
Remember how Saul is hunting down David in 1 Samuel 19? His exterior war with David was evidence of an interior war raging within. Saul had major interior conflict that was sourced in fear. It caused him to throw javelins at David, and hunt him like a wild animal.
Saul presumed David hated him, as much as Saul hated himself.
2. All interior strife, quarrels, fights are sourced in fear
What was Saul's fear? That he would lose the throne. That he would lose control. That he wasn't as powerful as David, that he wasn't as appealing to the masses. Saul feared his mighty men would switch their allegiance to David. Saul had a serious case of fearing what people thought of him.
What are our fears? That we aren't good enough. That maybe God isn't all that into us. We might lose something important to us. Our reputation, our dream, our long held longing might die.. We fear the unknown. We fear our own frailty. We fear God isn't as kind as we'd hoped.
We are a whole zoo of fears.
Fear is like the pain from a splinter underneath our fingernail. The pain points to the source, the splinter which is false belief.
Fear is captivating. We serve it tea and scones, and rent it space between our ears. We make our fears our identity, and march to their rhythm. We fondle our fears, and feed them.
Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death—the devil— and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive. Hebrews 2:14, 15
3. All fear comes from false beliefs about ourselves, the world, the other.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind -2 Timothy 1:7
What were Saul's false beliefs? He thought he could retain the throne in his own strength. It wasn't his strength that got him to the throne in the first place, so this was a false view. He thought it was all up to him, by himself to protect himself. Instead of throwing himself on the mercy of God (always a good idea), Saul sought to protect himself by killing his perceived competitors. He thought his cunning and craftiness could save him.
What about us? What are our deepest fears? Ask the Holy Spirit continuously this question. What are the false beliefs about God, ourselves the other, that is fueling the fear? Ask the Holy Spirit. He speaks. He'll tell you.
Recently I faced a silly fear. But I kept asking until I got to the root false belief underneath it. The false belief was that God toys with our hearts and gives us longings He'll never fulfill. The false belief was that I could imagine more scenarios than God that would give me joy. The false belief was that God was not really invested in my joy. I felt I had to stiffen my heart against expectations of delight.
In bringing peace to conflict we need to understand that our hearts and minds are put right by the wisdom of God. Then we can bring that wisdom producing peace to the world. Ask God to show you your role as a peace creator. Breathe in the pure, lovely, without hypocrisy, without prejudice peace of God, and then breathe it out, to an asphyxiating world, gasping for breath.
Race in America, Where Do We Go From Here? 4 Steps
This weekend some of my friends with some of their friends, gathered to tell stories. (link below to hear the conversation, but please stay with us).
I love stories, I love that God made me a storyteller. Mention any subject in the whole wide world, and I probably have a great story for you. But as a white person, at this moment, I need not tell, but listen.
My friend, poet, playwright, prophet, pastor, Michael Dalton's story was about winning speech competitions when he was young. At one award ceremony where his speech had been submitted on tape and they didn't know till he arrived, that he was black, they were perplexed and hurriedly handed him his award and asked his family to leave, while the award dinner of 200 people come to celebrate him, continued. At another award event when a picture was being taken, one girl standing next to Michael, told the photographer to wait. She couldn't be seen standing next to a *****.
My friend, EJ, Carter, is an educator in Ventura County. As a child EJ was stopped while running with his friends, with the police saying "Stop or I'll blow your brains out." EJ told how he was pulled over on his way to choir practice, assuming he was a gang member, one of several times EJ was pulled over by police for driving black.
My friend Holly, (EJ's wife, who is also an educator), told of how her church, The Mission, has thousands of volunteers that each year give a prom to special needs children in Ventura County. There are hairdressers, make-up artists, limousine drivers, it's a massive caring cast of often young volunteers. Holly's church has a mantra for the night to their volunteers ... "No matter what happens, it's not about you."
This season in America is a moment where "it's not about you."
My friend, Fern Noble, a Canadian Cree, First Nations elder, told how her people were always referred to as "those dirty Indians." Her grandmother was not allowed to speak her own language in school so she quit, and spent her life praying in three languages.
My friend Rhonda, told how she curled up in a ball and asked God to take all the generations of racism out of her, and wept for hours. She awoke with it completely gone.
My friend Bill, a deputy sheriff long ago in Medford, Oregon left because of the racism he observed.
We asked Michael, EJ, Holly and Fern's counsel as to how America could move forward. Their answers were compassionate, and direct.
Here are 4 steps, all doable today. (I am indebted to my friend Rex Holt for these never fail L words).
4 Steps Forward
A black church planter in Ventura said when he came to Ventura recently, he experienced racism here like his grandparents did in the South. Having spent 3 decades gathering people for prayer over Ventura County my heart was especially broken.
Leaders from outside of California when visiting, have felt Ventura County was to destined to be a county of reconciliation. Is this not to be? Will we own the condition of our neighborhoods and cities? Will we own the condition of our own hearts?
Are we truly listening to the stories we rarely hear in our own bubbled white existence?
I remember 30 plus years ago a friend telling me she worked the cosmetic counter at a major local store in the mall. When she would go to give change, people would have her lay it on the counter so they didn't have to have any contact with her black hands.
TD Jakes recently shared how his son was in an automobile accident at 11:30 at night, and called him crying. TD was scared to death what could happen when the police arrived. He had his son keep him on the phone to assure his safety.
I was leading a Concert of Prayer in Oxnard many decades ago. We were praying for the police, and all the white people in the room were blessing them, and thanking God for their protection. (and we do bless the many righteous police there are. I can't imagine having to put on the uniform in America right now), but the little African American children near me, were holding hands and praying earnestly, "Jesus protect us from the police. Keep us safe." I acutely realized the color of your skin, often determines your experience in America.
Do we know their stories? Are we searching them out?
We have a list of resources at the end of this blog. Choose a movie, book, song, article.
We are told by Scripture we are to weep with those who weep. Do we? Do we feel the angst of our brother and sisters of color who have seen four centuries of us simply pruning the evil tree when it's politically expedient, but leaving the root to grow it's tangled malignant tendrils deeper into our hearts?
Yes we need legislation now, but true repentance is a heart matter. Are we willing to weep with Jesus at
Lazarus' grave and not rush to solutions? Do we truly know this man of sorrows, acquainted with grief?
Bryan Lorrits says; "We must be careful that in our haste for quick resolutions we don’t settle for a cheap reconciliation. Solutions can often times become a hand sanitizer of sorts for a guilty conscience. Let us first stop and feel before we try to fix. Now is the time for what my colleague Soong-Chan Rah calls, Prophetic Lament."
Lament with Him.
When we assault His image bearers, we are crucifying Him afresh.
We are being invited to be lifetime learners of how deeply God is repulsed by dehumanization in all it's many manifestations. Listen friend, a terminal degree in this is not possible. We are being invited into a lifetime of baring our true hearts, and welcoming conviction.
Dehumanization is hell made visible. No nation owns a franchise. It's a global issue. It's a historical issue. It's a human heart issue.
My Native American/First Nations/Indigenous friends can tell you, we haven't really learned their stories. In politeness they try to spare us. My Latinix friends suffer as well, often in silence. My Jewish friends can tell us, they have been dehumanized concertedly for millennia in every nation they've lived.
As my 7th grade history teacher kept saying to us who just wanted to hurry up and get through the class; "The roots of the present are deep in the past." Take time to not only listen, but learn the history.
We live on blood soaked soil.
Someone said recently that in America, the system isn't broken, the brokenness is baked in. Our constitution originally counted slaves as 3/5th's of a person for purposes of representation in Congress. Racism is America's deepest foundational wound
Learn how much the African American Community and all people of color want you to stop being complicit in silence. They don't need you to wash their feet, they need your voice speaking to the government, speaking to God, speaking to the community.
My friend John Dawson says, there are only two sins you can commit, sins against God which is idolatry, and sins against man which is injustice. You can boil down all the 613 laws of the Hebrew Bible into two.
My stunning friend Hilary, a white mother with two gorgeous now grown black sons, asked God once, why He created the races knowing how much pain they would cause one another. She felt God reply "So you would never be able to pretend you knew how to love."
Love does not come easily to us. We think of love in fluttery, blissful terms. But true love takes great intentionality.
Love, like confession (telling the truth), and repentance, (listening to God's truth and agreeing and engaging), is never a one act play.
True love for those different from us requires the author of Love Himself, living large within us. Our love grows thin when inconvenience sets in.
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love, never stops loving. 1 Corinthians 13 The Passion Translation
What would America look like if we all came together to Listen, Lament, Learn and Love? It could be over tea or coffee one on one. It could be a large Zoom call of friends. It could someday be a normal part of our existence. Someone said there are many lanes we can choose to move us forward.
Who will gather us?
That gentle tap on your shoulder?
It just might be God picking you.
Resources on Race in America
Where Do We Go From Here?
TD Jakes and Carl Lenz https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=carl+lentz+t+d+jakes
Raw, honest, start with this.
Mike Todd Racial Reconciliation
I Can’t Breathe, Pastor Charlie Dates, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlKBIhJDIdk
Jemar Tisby's The Color of Compromise The Church and Race through History https://www.amazon.com/The-Color-ofCompromise/dp/B083ZMNSB2/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3LECW03ISOVUE&dchild=1&keywords=color+of+compromise&qid=1591463358&sprefix=color+of+%2Caps%2C392&sr=8-2
Healing the Racial Divide- 3 Feature Length Documentaries-Click rent button and apply promo code
Reconciliation in the Bible Dr. Craig Keener
A Class Divided
Dr. Walter McCray on George Floyd
The New Jim Crow-Michele Alexander
White Rage- Carol Anderson
40 Million Dollar Slaves (for sports fans)-William C. Rhoden
The Fire Next Time-James Baldwin
Between The World and Me- Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Me and White Supremacy-Layla Saad
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation Latasha Morrison
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism Robin J. DiAngelo
Healing America’s Wounds-John Dawson
One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love - John Perkins
The International School of Reconciliation Studies, a self paced, biblically based online school taught by reconcilers from around the world. In honor of George Floyd is waiving tuition www.reconcile.org
When They See Us
The Hate U Give
12 Years A Slave
See You Yesterday
Dear White Friends I Need You To Love My Black Sons
On the Road To Reconciliation, Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil (powerful roadmap)
Twenty Dollar Bill|Tom Prasada-Rao
How Much Longer Ike Ndolo
Come and Tear Down the Walls
How to Talk About Race with Kids
Last Stop on Market Street,
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.
Podcast of My Friends Sharing Their Stories on Race