Seek Wisdom

 

“…personal Charisma replaced the charismata.”heart-fire

We’ve been talking lately here, and in our church, about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, believing and praying that there will be a new and powerful outpouring that will embolden and equip the church in a very real and tangible way. We have that Spirit available to us already, and the Spirit of the Lord has— as Paul worded it to Titus—been poured out on us generously.  

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3

But I am contending and believing that there will be a fresh anointing in the church; that there will be new life breathed into weary hearts, and that people from all walks of life will be drawn to the church, drawn to Jesus, as they see and feel the Spirit of God reaching out to them in an irresistible way so that they surrender to his love and compassion. I am praying for and preparing for a revival within and without the church.

To facilitate this, to be in a place where we can be used by the Lord —to witness that Love and compassion to people— we must not be simply charismatic, loud and proud, which is where some of the church who has embraced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—found in the baptism of the Spirit—ended up. If you were moving in Pentecostal circles or watching some of the TV Evangelists back in the 80’s and 90’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Speaking in tongues became an end in itself instead of a means to facilitate the will of God. And the gifts of the Spirit— prophesying, healing, words of knowledge— became something to flaunt and make a spectacle of, as it seemed Spirit filled Christians were just trying to outdo one another or to prove their Holiness by virtue of how they could be used by God to perform signs and wonders. Experience took precedence over the wisdom found in the word of God.

Honestly, from what I have witnessed, even in Pentecostal circles, the scriptural understanding of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the gifts, the process— the hows, the whys and the what-fors—  are still being debated, as the theological explanation for what the Lord has done and what we have been experiencing is still playing catch up. Everyone assumes that it has all been explained or figured out by someone else smarter than they are and, to me, some very obvious misunderstandings have been perpetuated.

I think it may be because people looked to other people for wisdom instead of going to the source. God has a way of quickly outgrowing all the neat little boxes we try to put him in to match our own limited experience and understandings. Anyway, I digress.

The 80’s and 90’s were kind of the wild west as far as the Spirit filled parts of the body of Christ went. I know, I was there, and I kind of got caught up in it also. We began to lose sight of what the gifts were for, and that they were not a stand-alone thing. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that facilitates the release of his power to allow the Kingdom of God to move in this realm of the natural, must be accompanied by a strong sense of the desire of God’s heart to love, bless, heal and serve others.

Everything God does is motivated by his love, even his rebuke and correction is motivated by that love just as a parent’s discipline of a child is. We have to be smarter about the coming glory, we have to seek the wisdom of God that is available in greater and greater measure as his power in our lives increases, as we learn to move in him.

So how do we know? How do we know what we are to do with the things the Lord gives us, how and when to use the gifts, to not just be a receiver but a giver as well. God doesn’t bless us, fill us and heal us just so that we can sit back and be fat and sassy—God fills us so that we can give to others. His gift are tools to build his Kingdom and the more we give, the more we pour out what he has so generously given—the more we will receive.

This works for everything, blessings are blessings whether it’s our money, our time, our talents, or our spiritual blessings—your healing and wholeness can be shared, your joy can be shared, your life—the life that you have received from Jesus—can be shared. That’s what the supernatural gifts are for. Everything God gives us is motivated by love but it is also to equip us to share that love, to give love.

So how do we know? How do we know how to do any of this. How can we share these things? What do I do with the outpouring of the Spirit? You might think: I’m not sure I want it because I won’t know how to handle it. That’s what happened to the last revival, the Azusa street revival, people lost track— not all people, much of the church is still alive and well and moving powerfully in the power of the Holy Spirit—but many stopped seeking the wisdom of the Lord, they just wanted the glory.

Large churches that initially drew people by the droves because they were moving in the power of the Holy Spirit became seeker sensitive and pushed all vestiges of the Holy Spirit’s power aside, depending on the show and the charisma of the pastor to keep people coming. Personal Charisma replaced the Charismata —the Greek word for the secondary pouring out of the Spirit that brought with it the gifts that equip the church to be Jesus to a dying world.

So how do we know? —Ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1

 

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The Final Loosening

Christian dove

“One act of courageous  obedience will spark the fire”

I believe the Lord is readying his people for a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit, one in which we shall see his glory in new and irresistible ways that will shake this world to its very foundation as we await the return of our Lord to avenge and rescue the martyrs and the persecuted as the church is being slaughtered in unprecedented numbers in much of the world.

So what will spark this final great revival? The obvious answer to getting us to a place where the Spirit of the Lord is free to move among his church in a new and powerful way— a fresh outpouring if you will— is to pray. We are all praying, I won’t insult you by railing on you to pray. We pray for our families, we pray for the nation, the world, that people will come to know the Lord the way we do and know the joy of their salvation— we fast and pray, making our requests known to God in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.

But I believe there is another key, one that I have heard spoken prophetically over the church recently, and one that is certainly scriptural; That one courageous act of obedience would spark the fire that will engulf the world in the glory of Christ.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. 1 Sam 15:22

All the Lord has ever wanted from us, whether under the Old Covenant or the New, is obedience to his word. Courageous obedience that originates from the heart, not the outward show of obedience that comes from religion.

Riding the wall

I was visiting with another old Construction hand the other day whom I have worked with on and off for years—Steve—trying to remember when we first worked together and he reminded me of when we built the GSA building in Billings back in ’93. “Oh yeah, you were there when we were doing the foundation, how could I forget you flying through the air on the wall!”

Under the GSA building there is a parking garage, which meant the foundation walls were 24 feet high. In order to save time and not have to assemble and disassemble a whole bunch of concrete forms every time we poured another section of the wall, we built what we called gang forms. So we had these big panels, 24 feet high and 24 feet wide made up of Simon’s forms, 3 forms high and 12 forms wide, with all the stiffeners and scaffolding planks and handrails on them so all we had to do was stand them up on either side of the rebar, with a big crane, poke the snap ties through the hole in the forms to tie them together, brace them off and pour the concrete.

Sounds a lot easier than it is, there is a saying in the business, “There is nothing easy about concrete.” Anyway, the day after we poured we would then pull the gang forms off the wall and move it down the footing for the next section. This was done by hooking cables to the top of the form to be held up by a crane while we knocked all the keeper pins loose from the snap ties—hundreds of them. Once all the pins were loose the crane could pull the forms back off the wall and then pick it up to reset it.

This almost never worked, inevitably a pin would get missed somewhere or a tie would hang up on the forms and somebody would have to get up on the scaffold planks and look for the errant pin or go up on top with a spud bar and some two by fours and try to work the forms loose from the wall while the crane held it up. I was the lucky volunteer a couple of times and it was always quite a rush when the forms suddenly came loose and you were standing on a moving scaffold 20 feet up in the air.

We had learned to be very careful about how much tension we put on the wall early on after watching Steve, this was the memorable flying wall episode, get up on top to see what was hanging up. He got the top of the form pulled away from the wall and was looking down into the gap trying to see what was holding it up, way down he saw one tie that was snagging on the form and not letting it go. He had already signaled the crane operator to put tension on the line to try and pull it out and away as he was working it loose.

Now, the thing about really big cranes, there is a lot of flex in them, if something is not budging and you keep pulling there is some give in steel, and when you have a hundred feet or so out there that flex can really add up. So Steve sees the errant tie— he told me the other day; “Yeah, I saw it down there and thought: ‘Well, if I drop this spud bar just right it will hit that tie and hopefully bust it loose.’”

He did, and it did, and all of a sudden— I will never forget this as long as I live, and neither will he— that gang form cut loose and he shot what looked to be about 15 feet straight up into the air and then swung back many more feet away from the wall. He was holding on to the scaffold hand rails for dear life as we ran to grab the tag lines and stop the swinging.

Thots

I think we are at the stage in the redemptive history of mankind where we are one keeper pin away from all heaven breaking loose.

The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound of its coming but you don’t know whence it came or whither it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  -Jesus

I don’t know what that pin is, I don’t know what the Lord is going to require of us that will constitute a courageous act of obedience, as a church where we see the Holy Spirit poured out on us in a new and unmistakable way, and I don’t know what it will take in your own life for God’s power and blessing to be fully released in you, but when the choice is presented you will know.

Listen for the wind and don’t be afraid to follow.

 

Whose Glory?

 

Church is not entertainment…Abstract burning cross

Those of us who live out of town sometimes take for granted just the ability to see the stars. There are many places in the world where you cannot see even a single star for the lights of the city, there are people who have never seen the milky way, the Big dipper, Orion’s belt or even the planets of our own solar system—have never seen a falling star or even a satellite streaking across the sky.

I’ve been camping even with people from Billings who marveled at seeing the Milky Way for the first time and I think: “How sad that you grew up not knowing what you were missing right above your head.” I know I never stop being amazed at the glory of the heavens as we are blessed to live far from any bright lights up on our hill in the middle of nowhere. Often we’ll come home late from somewhere, or when I’m leaving for work in the early morning and just look up on a clear night and say: “Wow.”

There is just nothing on this earth that compares to the grandeur of the lights the Lord has put in the heavens, especially knowing just how unimaginably far away and spread out all those lights are—and we are seeing but a tiny fraction of them.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

Back on the Heyu-cow Ranch I used to go out in the evenings just before I went to bed during calving season to make the rounds to see if anything was calving. I would do a head count as the cows would all be bedded down in or near the barn for the night and if there were any missing I would know that they had gone off somewhere to calve so I would go look for them to make sure they didn’t need help.

I always loved being out there in the night because it just seemed like I could see every star in the heavens and after my eyes adjusted to the dark. Even without a moon I was always amazed at how much even just the stars would light things up. There was even a couple of years there when we had a couple of comets in the sky that were visible for weeks on end it. One year it was Hale Bopp and I don’t remember the name of the other one but they were both pretty awesome— this huge star with a big illuminated blur behind it that was the tail.

It must have been the late 90’s I guess. But anyway, I would head out into the pasture to find the cow with my flashlight and the moon and stars for a guide. I remember always wishing I could turn off the big security light we had near the house because, as nice as it was to have light right near the house, it just messed me up everywhere else.

I always had to be careful not to look back towards the house when I was out searching in the dark because even from a few hundred yards away, once my eyes had become good and adjusted to the dark, if I looked at that bright pinpoint of light in the distance it would hinder my ability to see anything between me and that light.

All I could see was that light of the lights from the house and nothing more than a few feet beyond. I really like not having one of those obnoxious security lights where we live now because I can walk right out the door and look up and see the stars,  I don’t have to walk out away from that fake light.

When I had the power company install that light back at the ranch I thought: “Yeah, it will be nice to have a nice bright light out here.” And it is nice to be able to walk out and see the car or look out and see what might be prowling around too near the house, but what it really did was prevent us from being able to see the big picture. Ironically— the bigger the light the less you can see.

That’s why the big cites can’t see a single star in the heavens, they just have bright light after bright light on top of bright light: “Isn’t this grand, we have the whole city lit up and we can see everything!” No, you can’t. All you can see is what you have created, and what you have created is pretty paltry and pathetic compared to the glory of the heavens and the beauty of nature that has yet to be spoiled by anything that needs an artificial light to illuminate it with your garish light.

Thots

Maybe you’ve figured out where I’m going here. We build our churches and we build‘em big and beautiful. We do research and hire experts to figure out the best lighting to set the right mood in the various parts of the church, the best way to illuminate the worship team, the preacher. We spend thousands of dollars on spot lights, lasers, and things that go flash and change colors and create an environment that makes you say Wow! —as we appear out of the smoke like we just descended from heaven itself.

Many churches do not want any windows in the sanctuary because heaven forbid we should have any light coming in that we cannot control. And what do we get? An artificial glory, a pale representation of what is available if the Lord would just be welcome to reveal his glory.

Our paltry little lights leave us ignorant of the real glory of the heavens and even diminish our view. Our best attempts to glorify God are paltry and pathetic in comparison to what the Spirit of God can do himself if we just get out of the way.

…will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 2 Cor 2:8

The ministry of man is nothing compared to the ministry of the Spirit, the temple of this earth is but a representation of the true temple in heaven just as we are nothing but representatives of God. Sincere though we may be, empowered and anointed though we may be, it is still just a shadow of the real thing—no matter how hard we try to conjure up glory and inspire glory, we are looking through a glass darkly.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.      1 Cor 13:12

I don’t fault the pastor or worship leaders for this, it’s the culture, and it is easy to get caught up in the technology of putting on the best show you can. But that’s the problem, it’s become a show, because that is what people expect, and pastors have come to believe that that is what keeps people coming back. It’s not just church leaders who need to rethink what it means to see the glory, so does the rest of the church.

Next time you are in church ask yourself: Why am I here?— Church is not entertainment, church is Jesus’ time to minister to us, so that we can be Jesus to the rest of the world—get out of his way and let him.

 

It is well with my soul

There is an old hymn that has been on my mind going into the new year, a hymn that begin with the words: Peace like a river. I believe the Lord has promised me, and my church, that thisred_deer_river would be a year of blessings, among those blessings is a peace, a peace that as the scriptures say, “Surpasses understanding.” (Phil 4:7) The kind of peace we all long for, the kind of peace that is not dependent on external circumstances, the kind of peace that leaves us saying: “It is well with my soul.”

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Chorus:

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

          Thots

That is a peace that can only come from God, a peace that surpasses understanding, that is the power of grace. It is something I have experienced and something I have witnessed over and over, so I have no doubt that it is real and that is why I often pray—if I have prayed for you there is a good chance you have heard me say—Lord grant them the peace that passes understanding. It is not just an empty church platitude or an encouragement to screw up your courage, to somehow manufacture your own peace, it is an invitation for God to overwhelm you with a sense of wellbeing that can only come from him.

Only through the good shepherd can we walk along the still waters, only then can peace like a river be our guide—steady, true and unstoppable. Or, as the more contemporary composers, the Doobie Brothers sang, “O black water keep on rollin’ Missississippi moon won’t you keep on shining on me…gonna make everything, yeah momma gonna make everything all right.”

Rivers

Peace like a river…Think about a river. If you grew up here in Montana you probably think of the Yellowstone. I think of sitting on the river bank up near Livingston casting lures into the water hoping to hook a big Brown or a Rainbow surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in the world—they don’t call it Paradise Valley for nothing.

Or I think of fishing on the Mississippi, as a kid, while camping with my Dad in Southern Minnesota—the river so wide and deep that you hardly even know it’s moving, watching a grain barge go by on the way to Minneapolis with another load of wheat destined for the mills that will turn it into flour to feed a hungry world, creating a wake that you watch heading your way for what seems like an impossibly long time.

Or later in after moving to New Mexico— I think of standing on a bluff looking down and seeing  the infamous Rio Grande for the first time as it reflects the last rays of the sun as it sets in the west, setting the sky ablaze with reds, golds  and purples— the river winding its way through a thirsty desert and stretching on as far as the eye can see— Marveling that a river, so small in comparison to the might Mississip’ would be called Grande yet marveling that a river could even exist in such a hot dry place.

There is just something about a river that brings a sense of peace. Perhaps it’s the quiet strength and dependability as it just keeps flowing, ever moving, always in the same direction to an unseen destination that you can only imagine, coming from a seemingly inexhaustible source, also far beyond your sight. A river brings life and is always going somewhere if you should choose to follow, yet if you choose to just stay and ponder it, it will still be with you as long as you choose to tarry, and is always there when you come back.

—Peace like a River. I think I just described our Lord.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10,11

It is the presence of the Lord that brings our peace.

Peace is not always the absence of conflict, peace is often overcoming conflict. Peace is being in Christ, Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, I shall not fear. It is well with my soul.

If the Lord is promising us a peace this year, then to me that can only mean he is promising to be with us, offering us a strong sense of his presence. If the God of peace wants to be with us than I want to do all I can to stay out of his way— trust and follow.