Monthly Archives: January 2011

Revival: Normal May Not Be What You Think

Revival is not a scheduled event. It is the manifest presence of the Lord located in a particular person or group of persons—a community saturated in God. It is the presence of the Kingdom and the King come to earth through His sons and daughters. It is Immanuel—God with us.

I believe Jesus intended His Bride—the church—to be a visible representation—a fully functioning illustration of revival 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Revival is the supernatural presentation of the Father’s love, grace, and favor purchased by His Son, guided by His Spirit, and revealed through the daily life of the church—that’s you and me. It is a miraculous ongoing experience with the King manifested in His children through supernatural lifestyles and divine encounters. It is according to the record of the early church in the Book of Acts—the “normal” life of the church.

Most of what we have experienced and called “church” is an “abnormal” representation of God’s original purpose. We get excited if we have good programming, intimate lighting, rousing sermons, and well-crafted worship that can invoke a chill bump or cause the hair on the back of the neck to stand up now and then. That may offend some, but read the early accounts of the church—a “normal” day was marked by the miraculous presence of God in them and through them. They were doing the “works and greater works” that Jesus spoke of in John 14:12 on a routine basis. They possessed as a lifestyle what we are so desperately crying out for.

We have accepted far less than Jesus promised in the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s guarantee was that the Spirit would jar our memories about everything Jesus had taught (John 14:26) and He would clothe us with power to be Jesus’ witnesses (Acts 1:8). Sadly, the church as a whole is largely naked of power and ignorant (unlearned) of most everything Jesus promised. We have not listened, thus insuring and insulating our ignorance in the clothing of unbelief. Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Therefore, we have turned relationship into religion, holiness into hard work, praise and worship into a ritual of crescendos, guitar riffs, piano runs, and mind numbing repetitions of catchy lyrics with no meaning, the proclamation of the Word into three alliterated points and a poignant poem, and worst of all, a lifestyle of revival into an emotional event in the spring and fall where no lasting corporate change ever occurs.

Revival is not an event. It cannot be planned, manipulated, or constructed. It is the sovereign work of God. In the early days of the church, regular people like you and me walked the streets clothed in the power of the Holy Spirit doing all the works of Jesus and revival was the literal atmosphere of the church. It was the normal air of a supernatural lifestyle—the life’s blood of a growing, thriving organism known as the church. Today…the church has evolved into an organization, and organizations don’t need the heavenly air of revival to live. Organizations have no life, and therefore, the children they reproduce are lifeless. All they really need are well organized workers with numb spirits, selfish souls, and deep pockets.

If you long for a change—if you’re desperate for something that seems to be missing—wake up: the Holy Spirit is gently shaking you. He is calling you back to the lifestyle of the miraculous—the bondage-breaking, disciple-making, Spirit-shaking, city-taking lifestyle Jesus intended when He promised to clothe us in the Holy Spirit. Strip off those hand-me-down generational garments of unbelief you’ve been given and stand in the purifying presence of God and cry out for the mantel of revival. Once you receive it, walk in what God calls the “normal Christian life.” Walk in real revival!

Unsettled: A New Address

Snow globes were meant to be shaken. Those dream landscapes suspended in liquid and encapsulated under glass were never meant to sit on a shelf like other knick knacks collecting dust. The purpose of the globe was to be unsettled—turned upside down. It is only in the agitation that the beauty of the snow, glitter, or sparkles is released. The quaking and shaking unveil the dream of its designer as the magic is released, picking up glints of shimmering light. Here the scene comes to life. But most snow globes are only stirred up a few times, and then they find themselves sitting on a ledge in a curio cabinet, under the socks at the back of a drawer, or swallowed up with the broken and shattered toys that eventually migrate to the bottom of the toy box. Here it languishes and finally disappears.

Unsettled is the address of a happy snow globe, but for most of us it is a dark back alley in the wrong part of town. It’s an address to visit only at gunpoint. We avoid the feeling of unsettled at all costs. That uncertainty upsets the stomach and creates what seems like panic. That agitated state dislodges the paralysis of thinking that we are in control.

God created us to be like snow globes. We were designed with His beauty in every aspect of our makeup, but for that to be released He must unsettle us. We tend to retire to the curio cabinet where the landscape that is our belief system is static—in place—everything under control. We tend to become what we believe. So, on occasion, He challenges what we have become by shaking up the things we believe.

Once a snow globe is shaken, the scene on the inside is changed forever. It will never be exactly the same because that which is shaken settles into a different pattern every time, revealing a different view for the discerning eye. That’s the beauty of its design and that’s the ultimate goal of its designer.

God is shaking me. I am unsettled in many areas of my spiritual life. It’s uncomfortable, unnerving, and down-right scary at times. The only solace I have is that in this unsettled state, I am somehow accomplishing the purpose for which I was designed. When the shaking stops and the snowflakes eventually come to rest, I will not be the same person I was. That’s a good thing because it reminds me that I am not in control—He is. And I can take confidence in this as well: if God is shaking my theological foundations and belief system, when it is over and the flakes of snow settle once again, they will be closer to His.

Perhaps yours are fixed—etched in stone and based on your unshakeable truth. If so, enjoy the shelf, the sock drawer, the curio cabinet, or the clutter of the toy box where you find yourself. You may have arrived…but at the wrong address.

Sorry I missed you, I’ve moved to a new address—unsettled.

Am I A Christian Zombie?

Am I a Christian zombie?

Now that’s an interesting question you might be thinking. Freeze that first picture that just raced through your mind. Everyone knows what a zombie is. In our culture they have become folk heroes, video game celebrities, and movie icons. It might even be chic, bad, hot, rad, or cool (depending on your generational language) to be a zombie.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s get a working definition for a zombie. It’s a dead body that appears alive. I could give a more graphic description of one but this will suffice. We use the term “zombie” as slang denoting someone who is just one click on the life meter above a corpse. We’ve all had days when we just wandered around in a funk or fog wondering what I am doing. I’m breathing air, occupying space, but getting nothing done. You know what I mean—it’s the dead man walking syndrome.

It’s very easy to do the same thing in our relationship with God. Most of us, if we’re honest, have. You may have been weary and exhausted, caught in some sin, discouraged, or hurt by someone you trusted, and then all of a sudden you woke up two weeks later and found yourself mindlessly coasting—your spiritual gear knocked into neutral. That’s what I mean by a Christian zombie—going through motions but making absolutely no difference in the Kingdom of God.

I’m not talking about being a Pharisee—a hypocrite. They belong to another class of zombies for which I don’t have the time, energy, desire, or word space to describe. I am talking to regular people who love Jesus, follow Jesus, but without knowing it, are aimlessly wandering around out in right field in the high grass near the bleachers, and can’t remember how they got there.

Right now might be a good time to test yourself and see where you land in the zombie zone. January is always a good month for self-evaluation—a good time to check your spiritual oil. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I existing but not living abundantly? In other words, am I just here getting by? Jesus said in John 10:10 that He had come that we might have life, and might have it abundantly. That means a life of superabundance—excessively good—over and above—life over the top.
  2. Am I modeling a powerless life?  Is my life marked by religious piety—that mindless list of do’s and don’ts. A life externally shaped to look one way, but on the inside a life totally empty, like a Hollywood movie set— a hollow, powerless façade. Do I hold a form of godliness, yet I have denied its power? (2 Timothy 3:5a).
  3. Does my daily walk require faith? Am I walking naturally or supernaturally? If the Holy Spirit decided to step out could I survive without Him? Perhaps I am walking without him—walking without any faith whatsoever? A faithless walk is a natural walk that does not require God to get by.
  4. Does my outward reputation match my inward devotion? Is there any passion or do I have it all—job, family, the right church, membership in the right organization, etc…? Do I look good on the outside but feel dead on the inside?

To sum it all up in one simple question:

If Jesus had preached the gospel I’m living right now, would they have crucified him?

Lessons Learned in Silence School (Part 5)

Listening is a lost art. Studies show that the average person can listen for only 15 seconds without responding. In reality, most of those 15 seconds are lost formulating a response to what is being said. If most of us struggle to listen to those around us, how can we hope to hear from God?

I believe God speaks. I don’t happen to believe He stopped talking when the apostle John stopped breathing. That may mess up your theology, but welcome to the club. It messed up my theology too, when I realized a silent God was my theology, not His. If you’re looking for good theology, look no further than Jesus. Jesus is perfect theology. Jesus heard the Father’s voice and we can hear that same voice if we are willing to listen.

I believe God speaks primarily, but not exclusively, through Scripture. The Holy Spirit speaks to our spirit, but rest assured, when He does, He will never do so at the expense of what He has already said in the Bible. He will not contradict Himself, but neither will He limit His options in communicating His purpose, direction, and love for each of us.

Now…enough defense. You can debate if and when, or why and why not. I would rather hear one word from God than listen to all the theologians of the world. God will speak if you will listen.

I have found in that quiet place behind the veil, God does speak in words and ways I can understand. He will do the same for you if you will do whatever it takes to go there and if you will quietly listen. The longer I seek the heart of God, the less I talk when I am in His presence. Our tendency in prayer is to talk instead of listen. In fact, most prayer is monologue rather than dialogue. Talk less and listen more and you will certainly hear God speak.

In my experience, God speaks in a way that I can understand. He does so because He wants me to hear and understand His words. He does not waste words and He never stutters or stumbles. He is direct—straight to the point—in that still, small voice. He does not yell, nor does He badger or berate. He simply speaks—my responsibility is to listen, hear, test (with the Bible), and obey. It is through my obedience that faith is released, and with that faith comes more conversation to stimulate more faith.

Many don’t hear God speak because they didn’t obey the last thing He told them to do. Disobedience clogs the ears of our spirit, rendering us deaf to the divine directives of the Lord. Silence has a way of putting us in touch with who we really are, instead of who we would like everyone else to think we are. If you quiet yourself, the junk hidden deep within will ooze up to the surface. If that happens, confess it and God will open your deaf ears once again.

If you’re struggling with what I’ve written your struggle is not with me but with God. He spoke on the first day of creation and continued speaking throughout the Old and New Testament. He has not changed, and according to His infallible, inspired, and inerrant written Word—He ain’t likely to start now. If He was talking then, He’s talking now. Let me challenge you to take a course this next semester in God’s Silence School and see what He’s saying to you.

Lesson #5: If you will listen and obey God will speak no matter your particular brand of theology. Listening to God is a matter of the heart. Hearing and obeying His voice will increase your faith and nothing pleases God more than faith. God loves to talk with faith-filled people.

Lessons Learned in Silence School (Part 4)

As I pursued this strange silence with an insatiable hunger and a knawing fear, I disappeared behind a strange, but wonderful veil. Veils were designed to hide beauty from leering eyes and intimate places from unwanted visitors. This veil I discovered was never erected to keep us out, but rather as a personal invitation to enter. No one who enters this veil does so by force or manipulation. It parts only for the one who passionately hungers for the presence of God. You see, the soothing silence is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—God must be the final destination of my starving heart. Otherwise, the silence that I find is only the absence of noise, not the presence of God.

Behind this veil, or as the Scriptures so elegantly put it—under His wings, is a hidden place to rest—to cease that daily struggle we all endure. It is only here, away from the unreal expectations, the unwanted demands, and the incessant deadlines, that you or I can find a place to be still. Now this trip may be in a quiet retreat, a closet, at lunchtime, or on a crowded bus. The location is not as important as the destination. For it is here the truth of Psalm 46:10 is discovered and internalized. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will…”

Stillness insures a silence deep within our spirit. Once our spirit is still, the soul and body will follow, although their required attendance may come with a bit of kicking and screaming. But once you’ve found this place of passion and presence, the material and immaterial you will have found its purpose for creation. This peaceful spot behind the veil is much like the Garden of Eden our human parents walked in so long ago.

Let me share what I have discovered here. It is a place of experience. The Hebrew word is yada, which means to experience in the fullest sense. God desires intimacy with you and with me. He knows us, yet He wants to know us. We hunger to know Him, but fear what it might cost. That cost has already been absorbed by Christ.

It is occasionally a place of conversation and we will deal with that later. But, it is often a profound place of silence. It is a place to gaze and be gazed at. It is a place to admire His beauty and to be admired because of our beauty. Intimacy is a mutual enjoyment by two friends of each other. Nothing is demanded, yet all is given. It is possible for two intimate friends to know each other so well that the only conversation is the antiphonal beating of their hearts. God enjoys the silence far more than you do. For in that soothing silence dawns the full experience of knowing and being known without regret, or fear, or a thousand other things we’ve been mistakenly taught in Sunday School, catechisms, and religious traditions.

Lesson #4: There is a place if you search for it with all your heart under God’s wings where you can passionately experience relationship to its fullest extent. Conversation is optional, but the fulfillment of knowing His presence is insured. It’s all about destination, not location.

Lessons Learned in Silence School (part 3)

My journey into silence brought another discovery. As I pursued the pathway with cautious expectations mixed with a tinge of fear and trembling, I heard another voice screaming at such a level I thought my spiritual eardrums would burst. The tenor and shrillness of speech caused me to put my fingers in my ears and push them with all my might. The phrases, the words, and even the articulation of the syllables created a sense of fear, shame, and condemnation. In the fog of the darkness that ensued, the critical voice sounded amazingly like my own. The thought even went through my mind: “Why can’t I just shut up?” It was in that moment God taught me a terrifying, yet soothing lesson: In the silence, Satan cannot hide and will be exposed for who he really is.

Once you enter the silence, the only screaming you will hear is the voice of Satan. He shouts because it’s his only means of getting your attention. He was never designed for silence—not even in his previous vocational life as the worship leader of the heavenly hosts. He was created to make music, but his sin perverted that ability into nothing more than a noisy gong and a clanging symbol. That great baritone voice, once deep and full, echoing through the portals of the universe, has now become nothing more than noise.

And…he screams to get your attention. If you listen to him, he will overpower the voice of your own spirit, thus insuring your inability to hear the voice of God. It’s certainly easier to listen to him, for he says the same old things over and over and over. It is in some ways like a deadening lullaby, lulling you into neutral or worse, into reverse. The graveled voice, though damning, seems to grip the scars of the soul, promising to give them exactly what they deserve. Its husky tone massages the depths of the wounds undealt with, and releases the poison of jealousy, envy, malice, and murder from that Pandora’s Box of the soul. Listen for long and you will find yourself once again lost in the noise and unable to find the silence.

He does not want you to seek the solace of silence. His condemnation and harassments work far better in the everyday noise of life. For it is from here he will convince you into believing the ultimate lie of condemnation: The voice that you hear is your own voice and you definitely deserve it.

In the silence, when you first hear the timbre of that voice—silence it! You have the authority and the power. Simply speak confidently from your position in Christ: “Shut up in Jesus name!” Then focus once more on the One you are searching for. God’s promise is clear: “If you seek me with all your heart, I will allow you to find me”…even here in the silence.”

Lesson #3: Silence exposes the screaming condemnation of Satan. Recognize it, file it in your spirit’s memory, and remember its purpose—to kill, steal, and destroy. Shut it down every time from your position in Christ through the power and authority of Jesus name.

Lessons Learned at Silence School (Part 2)

Silence has a dual effect on most of us. It intrigues, yet terrifies. It beckons us to follow, and seemingly warns us not to get too close. It sharpens our perception, but does not promise what we might hear. Silence unlocks the door to the caverns where your dreams and desires are hidden and beckons you inside for a tour of the gallery. The second lesson I learned was unsettling: Silence will expose the real you.

Once you reach that place where you can hear the tempo of your breathing and the cadence of your heart, you will be forced to come face to face with the rhythm of who you are. By choice, most of us fear this encounter with authenticity, and do all we can to avoid it. Who we are is often not who we think we are and certainly not who we want to be. Therefore, it is easier to live a life of doing instead of being. Being demands that you make peace with yourself and be yourself—that “someone” most of us live in terror of actually meeting.

Just an encouragement here: God made you (all of you—the inside and outside you), and He made you for a purpose. He has planted divine destiny deep within your spirit. But…you will never express that destiny in a tangible way until you yada (Hebrew for experience—fully embrace in relationship—to know in the fullest sense) the real you hidden deep within.

I have found over the last couple of months that my hidden self will often slip out from within the vast hiding place of my mind in the wee hours of the morning around 3 a.m., as God will often shake me awake and step back to watch the collision. It is a terrifying thing to run head on with your own self.

It is here the hidden desires and dreams of your heart find expression and exposure. I am not speaking of evil or wicked perversion, but simply the divine wish list—the dreams of your spirit. Here, fear and faith crash into one another like a linebacker hitting a running back. Fear will sweep you right out of this place and rock you back to sleep, but faith will pause and explore with care the finger prints of God on this intriguing terrain.

In my experience these silent encounters will seem like ethereal dreams, until one day the sheer weight of these collisions push the impact of what I’ve seen and heard in the silence into my conscious mind during the day, regardless of the noise level. The confrontation of silence has now become a confrontation of choice. I must now choose between who others perceive me to be and who I really am. That is why most people refuse to visit those silent places. It is far easier (they think) never to have gone there, and blandly live out the expectations of others. Reality says not to choose is in fact to choose. The choice of the future is made in the decisions of today.

Lesson #2: Silence will expose the real you. Divine destiny demands the decision of authenticity. You must be true to yourself or live a lie. The choice resides with you.