Category Archives: Faith

Come Run With Us (Part 1)

God often speaks through prophetic words at the most unexpected times through the least likely people, or at least he does when he speaks to me. I happen to believe God still speaks and He uses people just like us to deliver life-changing or life-affirming words from His heart through their lips to our ears. The ability to hear what God is saying and share it word-for-word is the essence of the New Testament gift of prophecy, which according to the apostle Paul, we are to “…desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you might prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). This is something God gives all of us permission to pursue.

This past Thursday I received such a word while meeting with a prayer group at the “There Is More” Conference. I was not expecting it. If fact, I was overwhelmed by it. My prayer-partner for the morning, an unassuming gentleman, opened his mouth and out tumbled a genuine word of affirmation and direction from God. He didn’t know me from Adam. All he knew was my name, state, and country of residence—only because that information was printed on my conference badge. God’s prophetic declaration, filled with power and authority, began to reverberate deep within my spirit. I saw William’s lips moving but I heard God’s voice. I have chosen to share the totality of this word with you, even though some of it is very personal to me.

 “I see a hard shell like a turtle shell on your back. It is not a bad thing—it is a good thing. This shell protects you. You are a free-thinker—a rebel, but you are not rebellious. You are focused and know where you are going, but you have been wounded by groups in the past. You have a group that is following you now, but there are many others who will come. You know where God is leading—the pathway is clear to you. Write it down, so others can read it and follow.”

Yes, God has given me a clear and distinct vision for Eagle’s Wing Church. From the beginning, we have tenaciously pursued this blueprint, confident God had called us to plant a different kind of church.  Different meaning what most believers would call unconventional, one that refuses to conform to the codes and conventions of what has become modern “church as usual.” I believe with all my heart God has called us to be a “church unusual”—one that operates with kingdom codes and conventions thus creating a kingdom culture where King Jesus dwells in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.   

It has not been easy. In fact, every inch of ground we have gained has been taken at great expense. This territory God is calling us to claim, re-conquer and occupy is not cheap or worthless. No, it’s our heritage as sons and daughters of God. This priceless birthright has been lost, stolen, and/or given away down through church history, but God is now calling out a people to fully take back what the Lamb of God purchased with his blood on the cross. We are part of that people.

If not us—who? If not now—when?

Yes, I am a rebel, if a rebel is one who refuses to settle for less than everything God has promised. Yes, I am a rebel, if a rebel is one who believes the promises of Jesus like the one found in John 14:12—that “…he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.”

Therefore, I choose to obey the word God gave me last Thursday on August 15, 2019. I choose to write this vision down over the next few week and post it publically so anyone who wants, can read it and follow it. I am doing this in full faith believing God will bring those of like spirit and heart to join us. I am doing it because those of you who are currently a part of Eagle’s Wing need to know where we are going, so that you might count the cost and decide if the destination is worth pursuing. And, I am doing it to obey God’s word, because full obedience always brings God’s blessing and the fulfillment of that word.  God says, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2-3).

Come run with us!

The Fallacy of Fear

thWhat exposes your fears? What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid?

Each of these questions reveals where you are in your journey with God. To grasp this post you will first need to answer the above questions—truthfully and completely. Otherwise, what you read will not make much of a difference anyway/

Fear (the kind that paralyzes us) reveals the black holes of unbelief in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Fear is unbelief, yet all of us struggle with it at some level. It may be apparent, or it may be hidden under layers of self-righteous gobble-dee-gook and a pseudo holiness camouflage. Fear is an emotion that creates a feeling of being out of control. Let’s be honest, none of us likes that. But the reality is, none of us are really in control—are we?

Fear causes us to act or react rather than to think and respond. It causes us to fall back on a survive-at-all-costs mentality or it insures that we seize and freeze up in our emotions, thoughts, and faith. No matter which of these options overwhelm us, we don’t respond to the situation or the circumstance with faith. Instead, we revert back to the B.C. (before Christ) mentality where life or death, failure or success, or heaven or hell, are in the power of our own hands. It is amazing, under stress, how quickly we forget the real truth about who is really in control.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7a) is not just a great verse to encourage us—it is a declaration of truth from the very lips of God to set us free. Fear (a feeling of dread that paralyzes) was not one of the emotions God hard-wired in human beings in the beginning. A reverent awe of God (sometimes translated “fear” in Scripture) yes, but not a suffocating paralysis that reduces a person to a quivering mass of protoplasm. Fear is a direct result of original sin and the fall. Fear when boiled down to its genesis is the dread of punishment for our sin. But through Christ, God replaced sin’s punishment with forgiveness and unconditional love

Fear has no real place in your life—at least not the kind that infects us with paralysis. Fear severs our ability to hear the Holy Spirit much like a muscle with a damaged nerve is unable to receive instructions from the brain. In the moment of crisis—you can’t hear anything but crickets chirping. And in a panic, your wounded soul chimes in with, “Where’s God? Why has he forgotten me?”—questions that reveal our underlying mindset of unbelief.

Fear and faith cannot reside at the same address. Fear is the absence of faith, but faith is an absolute aversion to fear. Fear empowers what we think—faith empowers what God says. Our partnership with one or the other determines our pathway.

Here’s a simple truth. When you were born again—born of the Spirit, Jesus Christ took full and eternal responsibility for you spirit, soul, and body. In that transaction called salvation, he, by covenant, agreed to take care of you lock, stock, and barrel. That was his promise to you!

Faith rests in that promise. Fear wrestles against it. That is the fallacy of fear.

Storm Kits for Life

The word “storm” is an adequate metaphor for those moments of chaos we all encounter from time to time as we walk out life. Rough and tough times, unforeseen pitfalls, and uncontrollable situations are common to us all. Trouble is an equal opportunity employer that never discriminates regardless of race, creed, social standing, or sex. At this moment in your life, you have just exited a storm, are experiencing a storm, or should be expecting a storm. It is not if but when.

Natural storms follow weather patterns so we learn to expect them. And so does trouble and tribulation, but our belief system is oddly different. We somehow believe “it will never happen to me.” Therefore it always seems to catch us unaware and unprepared. And boom—the storm hits and life gets turned upside down and inside out. Huddled in piles of anxiety and fear, we put our head in our hands and cry, “Why me!”

Job put it this way: “Man who is born of woman, is short of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).Trouble is on its way. The only question is—will it stop at my house today? Perhaps there’s a better way to deal with the inevitability of that trouble tornado or thunderstorm of trials than cringing in dread and despair. Perhaps we should all put together a simple storm readiness survival kit.

First, we need to be weather aware. Good times don’t last forever. The stock market that goes up will come down. You will not be 100% healthy all of the time. And people will disappoint you, disagree with you, disappear on you, and even die on you. There is some kind of storm on your horizon. So—be alert!

When the trouble hits and the winds seem like they will rip you apart, dig your feet in and stand firm. Storms are temporary even if they come in multiple waves. They do not last forever. Hunker down—God loves you and he is bigger than any storm that rages around you. You don’t have to hang on to him, because he has you by your hand and he will not let go. Even though you feel like the wind is tearing you apart—relax. God will not forsake you.Tuscaloosa, Alabama Tornado 2011

Next, find the eye of the hurricane—by that I mean find a quiet place in the midst of the storm and have a genuine conversation with God. For heaven’s sake talk to him. Tell him how you feel. Be totally honest and voice the fear, the despair, the discouragement, or the feelings of destruction or doom you are experiencing. Ignoring those feelings will not lessen their destructive impact. Release them before they have an opportunity to raze your faith. Then use what little faith you have left to thank God for his protection and his provision. Being thankful in the midst of the storm is a sure sign you will be standing when the gale ceases and the sun breaks out once again.

0512-0705-3017-2448Finally, once the wind subsides and the sun pops out, assess the damage, clean up the debris, and get on with your life. Don’t allow trouble to deter you from your purpose or freeze frame you in a place of less than or self-pity. Move forward—don’t live looking back. Find others who have survived similar storms and share your stories together. Learn from their experience, as well as yours. Experience is actually a good teacher if we learn from it. If we don’t learn from past experience, rest assured—history will repeat itself at some point in the futuTrouble is a part of life, regardless of the depth of your faith, the demeanor of your influence, the development of your pocketbook, or the discernment of your wisdom. You can’t avoid it, no matter how well your storm shelter is constructed. But—you can survive it and even thrive from it, if you strive in your preparation for the next one. Just check the radar—at some point another storm will blow in. Prepare now, you will be ready!

Burn Your Boats!

Burn Your BoatsTotal commitment is rare in our culture. Most people would rather duck out of it when the going gets rough or tough. Commitment is a promise to be loyal to someone or something…to give oneself totally. It means “you can count on me no matter what!”

Many would rather sit back and wait to see what happens. If something is successful then they are willing to hop on the train. And…if not, then they will hit the eject button and they are out of there. Sadly this permeates our culture. And yes, it is especially true in the church.

Yet commitment is the foundation of success in whatever one chooses to do. In 1519, Hernan Cortez sailed from Spain to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with the purpose of conquering the Aztec Empire. He landed on the sandy shore with 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 or so horses (by most standards not a very impressive military force to conquer a an empire which had withstood every invasion for over 600 years).

Once on shore, Cortez began building the courage of his force, while at the same time fueling their dreams of glory with stories of the fantastic treasures that awaited them. For several days he held seminars in which he described the richs of the Aztecs. At night he had pep rallies to encourage and pump up his soldiers. As they trained on the beach and sharpened this military skills and maneuvers, Cortez spoke eloquently of the the glory and the riches that would belong to each man once their conquest was completed. These soldiers were eager, excited, and energized!

Once the day dawned for Spanish conquistadors to march inland, Cortez gave a simple three word command…”Burn the boats!” He then repeated the command, “Burn the boats! If we are going home we will go in their boats.” As they watch from shore, 11 ships, their only way home, went up in flames.

There was now no turning back. Cortez and his little army were now fully committed. History records that this little army conquered one of the mightiest empires in the Americas.

How? They were fully commited. They had no back up plan and no other option except death.

Jesus is still looking for men and women who are willing to give him that level of commitment. There is no such thing as a partial commitment. You are either all in or you are on the outside looking in. Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:62: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Burn your boats! If you plan to get home you will have to go in Jesus’ boat.

Sacrifice, Suffering and Something Worth Living For

Jesus’s sacrifice insures our salvation. That sacrifice started in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended on the cross. It culminated in the Resurrection where God validated and accepted the sacrificial payment by raising Jesus from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit on that first Easter morning.

The sacrificial experience of Jesus was comprehensive as it touched him physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are very aware of the physical aspects regarding the scourging and the crucifixion. He was physically beaten beyond recognition—“marred” is the word Scripture uses. He was abused so that we might be redeemed from our sins, healed of our diseases, and delivered from our torment. That physical suffering began in the garden and ended as he gave up his spirit and died.

In my last blog I detailed the mental suffering Jesus endured. The stress and pressure was so great that his sweat was mixed with blood. The capillaries in the sweat glands of his forehead burst. The awfulness of the cup he would drink was mentally overwhelming.

But sometimes we forget his emotional suffering. Rejection, abandonment and betrayal are three of the deepest—most damaging wounds that can be inflicted on the human heart and soul. These triple torments cut far deeper and bruise even the human spirit. One of his intimate friends—one of the twelve, Judas, sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Then he betrayed him with a kiss—the symbol of love and relationship.

As Jesus was arrested and seized, the other eleven disciples fled and abandoned Him. Their past bravado did not match their present need to survive. Most ran away and hid—fearing their own impending death. A couple—Peter and John followed at a distance, hiding in the shadows and hoping they would not be recognized.

Later, the crowd that had hailed Jesus as king on Palm Sunday shouted for his crucifixion on Friday. Christ was rejected by religious leaders and the common people, and his own disciples abandoned him in the moment of his greatest vulnerability. Jesus suffered alone—there was no one who made the journey with him through this hellish experience.

Jesus also suffered spiritually. Many have attempted to describe this, but how can a finite one describe what is infinite in its scope? We can’t really grasp his spiritual suffering because we can’t pull back the veil much less understand how the Holy One could become our sin. The Bible is very clear—Jesus not only suffered for our sin, he became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

During this mysterious span of time, the earth became dark and the Son of God experienced what being forsaken by the Father is all about. I can’t explain this because I can’t even grasp it. I can’t conceive it in my mind. But, Jesus experienced hell so that we would not have to. He experienced being cut off from the presence of God and that spiritual suffering was beyond our capacity to understand. Each time I read the words of Jesus, just prior to his death, in Mark 15:34—“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? (which translated means “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?)—my soul cringes. It clutches something deep inside my spirit and forces me to contemplate the depth of how much the Son of God loved me and his willingness to endure this depth of spiritual suffering so I might experience that love. I can’t grasp its full meaning but I hunger for that kind of love.

Jesus suffered so that we might be spared an eternity of suffering. He died so that we might live. Therefore we should live in a state of constant celebration. We should stand up for our faith. We should be tenacious if we really believe what we say we believe. Jesus was willing to die for his beliefs! Are you willing to live for yours?

Family Matters! A Tribute to More Than a Friend

Stunned describes the way I feel today. A phone call early today knocked the breath out of me and it seems almost impossible to catch it now. Late night or early morning phone calls are never bearers of good news. This one wasn’t either.

As a pastor, most people expect you to say the “right” things at the “right” moment so that those who are suffering might feel “right” once again. But there are no words to say that can make anyone feel “right” once their life has been marred by death.

Today, I am not the pastor with the “right” words (I never have been because those guys really don’t exist)—I am just another human being struggling with my own emotions at the loss of a dear, dear friend. I’m processing the reality of the moment and not getting very far. Shocked is another word that expresses my state of mind. All those questions we are afraid to ask, like why? and how? are relentlessly pursuing me, clamoring for an appointment in my mind, intent on way-laying my faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore I choose to write the words I can’t seem to formulate with my tongue or lips. Words come hard at times like these. They seem cheap if they come too fast. This morning I just hugged my friend’s mate and cried…there are no words that will make the moment better. But perhaps these words will remind others who knew Johnny well of the sort of stuff he was made of.

The memory of his smile has illumined my day today. Every time I thought of him—I could see his pearly whites. He was not a somber, gruff man as so many are. His smile disarmed you—made you willing to take another look. It was not phony smile of someone hiding something or the bogus beauty queen smile we all know so well. That million dollar grin mirrored the state of his soul. His smile emanated from the inside; it was not just window-dressing on the outside. It was genuine—real—one hundred percent sincere. Johnny’s smile was capable of knocking walls down and reaching into the hearts and souls of those who needed a touch of compassionate attention.

That smile was often followed by a laugh. If you knew Johnny you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t—well it was laced with a certain kind of joy and echoed a grace that is sort of indescribable. Let me put it this way—if Santa ever needed a day off, Johnny could have slid right it, taken the old guys job, and none of us would have known the difference. That laugh put you at ease. It took the edge off tough situations with its disarming tenor. It made you feel comfortable and confident. It lifted you up and made you realize that he was a real guy in a real world doing the best that he could. Perhaps that’s the best word to describe his laugh—real.

In fact, real describes Johnny the best. There was far more to him than what meets the eye. He was far more than a pretty face. Johnny had a servant’s heart. He had trouble telling others “No.” It was a word I don’t ever remember him using. If you needed something and he knew it, he made himself available to do whatever needed to be done and more. If you asked him for help, you could count on him.

Johnny loved people, kids, and animals—and not necessarily in that exact order. He treated all of them with love and respect, and in most cases the kids and the animals responded. I can still see him riding his horse Colonel in the local Christmas parades—blue jeans, big gold buckle, boots, Stetson, and having the time of his life or training his Blue Healers with their bandannas tied smartly around their necks.

My mind is alive with memories of driving through Tennessee Amish country looking for good deals on syrup and horse tack, loading trailers on a Sunday morning at the birth of a new church or chuckling together in the aftermath of rabid raccoon bite and its subsequent pain-filled treatments. I will especially treasure my memories of Johnny willingness to do whatever was needed on Sunday morning as we struggled to put together a credible worship service that would not embarrass God.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say with these inept words that keep filling my mind, but failing mightily, is Johnny was far more than a friend…he was family. And family matters!

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 12)

q10700606In our last blog we looked at three separate moments in church history that helped diminish the ministry of healing. I use the word “helped” because it was not a single event, but rather a series of events, teachings, and personalities that when combined swept away the clear instructions of Jesus and left us with a host of faithless theologies and unbelieving believers. Culture, theology, and politics in the church produced a reversal in beliefs and behavior.

Over time, all these things affected the Church’s teaching on spiritual gifts. It moved from a supernatural understanding to one based on natural aspects. Around 600 AD, Pope Gregory the Great issued a new list of spiritual gifts which consisted of wisdom, science, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear (imagine that—a spiritual gift of fear…huh? What about 2 Timothy 1:7 or 1 John 4:18?). Apparently Pope Gregory the Great thought the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and other places were incomplete. He choose not to include the gifts of healings, miracles, prophecy, word of knowledge and word of wisdom in his new and improved list. What the Pope decreed the priests taught and the people believed. Most of them could not read anyway so they had no way of checking what the Bible really said.

Another change took place with a division between the clergy and the laity. The priesthood of every believer was replaced with a priesthood of only the clergy that excluded the common people. And with this false division, a belief arose that soon became the practice of the church—only the bishop could exercise spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts did not cease, but regular Christians became fearful of exercising them. Ordinary Christians who gave prophetic words or employed works of healing or did miraculous things were labeled as heretics or witches. They were persecuted and put to death by drowning or burned at the stake. It became unhealthy, even deadly to use the very gifts Jesus had given his church to demonstrate the presence of the kingdom of God.

The interpretational methods of the Bible by the church also contributed to the loss of healing as a viable ministry. The corporate church began to use the miracles, healings, and resurrection that Jesus performed as proof texts to prove the deity of Christ. We tend to forget that although Jesus was one hundred percent God, he was also one hundred percent man. And during the 3 ½ years of his ministry everything he did—he did as man fully dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit and fully obedient to the Father. Otherwise you and I cannot do what Jesus said we could and would do according to John 14:12.  Biblically speaking, these things were secondary proofs, but not primary proofs. Jesus healed because God is good and it was a demonstration of the gospel of the kingdom.

Add to this that the church did not distinguish or understand the true meaning of suffering. Jesus and Paul talked about Christian suffering, but they were talking about  a persecution for following Christ, not sickness or infirmity. The church mistakenly defined suffering as anything that afflicted you—sickness, diseases, infirmity, poverty, pestilence, etc.—and declared it to be the cross you were to bear and glorify Jesus. In other words, when you are sick it is your cross to bear making you more Christ-like. Sadly, that belief still lives and breathes today in many churches. Many believers will talk about how God allowed, sent, or gave them this sickness or that disease so they could become better Christians. (By the way—that is why God the Father sent his Son to die on the cross. If something else could make you better, the Father wasted the Son.)

The Protestant Reformation recovered the Bible and salvation by grace through faith, but most of the other things that were lost, including healing, were not recovered. In fact, the Protestant Church of today thinks much like the Church of Martin Luther’s day, or the Church of the Dark Ages, or even the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day.

We have invented all kinds of theologies to explain why God no longer does what he once did and then drape them in the trappings of biblical sounding excuses. Many churches and denominations believe the gifts of healing, as well as the other gifts, disappeared with the death of the last apostle or the canonization of the Scriptures. This is a powerless gospel and is not transforming the culture we live in. These excuses are nothing more than unbelief and a refusal to embrace the dynamic Jesus the Gospels declare. We have become guilty of the very thing that led to the crucifixion of Jesus—his wondrous works threaten our little religious kingdoms and he does not look or act like we think he should.

Biblical healing has been lost because we refuse to contend for it. Instead, we are willing to accept a series of flimsy excuses that attempts to explain why God won’t, don’t, or can’t. God has not changed—but over the centuries the Church has.