Archive for June, 2012

OK, maybe my title is a little “inflammatory”.  It is perhaps a bit of an over-the-top venting of the frustration I feel as I see much of the American Church slowly imploding before my eyes.  And regarding relevance…I know — I know.  The Apostle Paul says that we should be “all things to all men” in order to reach the lost.  And I get it — I really do.  I think it’s useful to take the time to remove unnecessary cultural/generational roadblocks and to do what we can to communicate the Truth of Jesus in a way that makes sense to people.  This is not only helpful, it’s a labor of love that reveals how much we really want to see people saved.  Just like in a marriage – if people aren’t willing to work on their communication skills, it shows they don’t care much for the relationship.

BUT…having a culturally relevant message is not enough.  It has never been enough.  It was never meant to be enough.  The same Paul who mentioned being all things to all men also said this:“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”  (1 Corinthians 2:4-6)

Relevance was never meant to be a destination, merely a tool and a vehicle.  The real destination is true transformation.  And this transformation cannot happen without the power and anointing of God.  We can make a lot of mistakes and missteps culturally (and in our attempts at communication) and still see marvelous transformation when the power of God shows up.

A great example is William Seymour, God’s point man for the great Azusa Street Revival in 1906.  People came from all over the world to attend these meetings.  And I am sure that Reverend Seymour was tempted to make a good impression and to bridge with the crowd (as we all would be), and yet instead, he obeyed the Holy Spirit when the Spirit told him to sit on the platform (sometimes for an hour or more) with a box on his head, while the people were waiting for him to speak.  (doh!)  And there was every kind of reaction among those sitting in the congregation, from awe to curiosity to mockery.  But when William sensed the Holy Spirit releasing him to take the box off his head, he would take it off and say something like this (pointing at a group of maybe 50 people in wheelchairs to his left):  “You are all healed in the name of Jesus.”  Then there would be the loud sound of bones popping and people shouting and crying and laughing and EVERYONE in wheelchairs would rise up healed!

The power and impact of this revival has continued to resonate throughout the world, ushering in a new era of the power and reality of Pentecost that is responsible for hundreds of millions of people being saved globally.  And this is just one example of how the power of God can trump a lack of relevance.  Evan Roberts, one of the main leaders associated with the Welsh Revival, would sometimes speak nothing at all at a meeting, even though many had come to hear him speak.  He did not want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit moving in the meeting, even at the risk of initially disappointing those in attendance.  He was not concerned with the opinions of men – only the opinion of God.

Yes, relevance is useful —  and we should never purposely seek to alienate people or be weird for weird’s sake.  But in an age of church growth and relevance seminars, so much effort and time and money is spent on the vehicle and the style of our delivery, and so little time and effort is spent pressing into God for the power and anointing of true transformation.  And so the Church in America continues to shrink in size, drowning in a sea of cultural relevance while at the same time becoming more and more spiritually irrelevant.

“It is extraordinary spiritual unction, not extraordinary mental power, that we need.  Mental power may gather a large congregation, but only spiritual power will save souls.”  (Charles Spurgeon)

O that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow!
Burn up the dross of base desire,
And make the mountains flow!
(Charles Wesley)

Speaking of the return of Jesus to the planet… (see last post “We are headed for a Wedding!”), this is not a metaphor or symbolic in any way.  Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and Judge of the human race, God Incarnate, will one day soon set foot once again on the Earth. (No — I don’t know the exact day or hour…hahaha!)  You can count on it.  But are you ready? (here’s a short vid I made about it):



I had a dream recently:  In the dream, I am at a church where a wedding is supposed to take place.  There is much theological talk going on, but I see no bride or groom.  I woke up, and the Holy Spirit told me that the Church is supposed to be getting ready for a wedding and a marriage, but they have little or no concept of their call as Bride and do not know how to accommodate the Groom.

We (the Church) are not a corporation or a seminary or an organization bound together by mere theology or ritual.  We are the BRIDE of Christ.  And we are headed towards a MARRIAGE.  This whole experience is supposed to be FILLED WITH ROMANCE and a fascination for our incomparable BRIDEGROOM!

Amazing Husband-to-be Jesus… Please send the Holy Spirit to break us out of our passivity, busy-ness, and self-centeredness.  PLEASE tell the Holy Spirit to bring warmth and passionate focus to our cold, distracted hearts and prepare us for your return!

(A short vid I created about the elements of true worship.)

As I mentioned in my last post, dreams can come from a variety of sources, and it is extremely important to know what that source is.  And as I also mentioned, the best tool is intimate, extensive knowledge of God and His ways.  And another very important (and often overlooked) tool is a Holy Spirit gift that Paul mentions — the discernment of spirits: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit…to another discerning of spirits…”(1 Cor 12:7,10)

And Paul encouraged people to “earnestly desire” and seek after spiritual gifts.  So…go for it!  “You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:4)”

But dude, even after you’re convinced that it’s a dream from God, you’re not all the way there.  There are actually three steps to successfully receiving revelation from God:

  1. Inspiration (actually experiencing the revelation)
  2. Interpretation (understanding what the dream actually means)
  3. Application (actually responding to the leading of the Spirit concerning the meaning/directive of the dream)

So…#1…inspiration.  OK, you got what you think is a dream from God.  But what does it mean?  Some revelation is meant to be taken literally and some is symbolic (in a sense like parables).

Some dreams are so straight-forward that they interpret themselves.  I remember one time a security guard at a local grocery store told me about a dream he had had recently.  He said, “In my dream, God is calling me to preach the Gospel, but the devil is trying to get me to smoke marijuana all the time instead.”  Then he said, “What do you thing that dream means?!”  (Hahaha!  Sometimes, even when the revelation is simple and straight-forward, we don’t “get it” because we really don’t want to.)

But some dreams involve symbolic elements.  One time, I had this dream:  “I am a business man and I fill out a requisition for a camel.”  That was it.  And when I woke up, I began praying about the meaning of the dream, and this is what the Holy Spirit told me:  “Camels are animals that are able to carry people and goods long distances over arid terrain, not needing much water.  Your business is about to go through a dry season, but don’t lose hope, because I have provided a “camel” (grace from God) and this camel will successfully carry you through the dry season until things start flowing again.”

And of course, the application of the dream is of ultimate importance.  Without an obedient, faithful response, the grace that God intended by giving the revelation is lost.  In the security guard’s case, he needed to stop smoking pot (duh!) and take steps towards becoming a lay or full-time minister.  In my case, I needed to keep my eyes on God’s encouraging promise of provision, even when things got a bit dry, business-wise.  (Which, by His grace, I did.)

So…what has God been saying to you?  Do you believe that God still speaks today?  Have you received dreams from Him?  And if so, what are you doing about it?

“In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, He may speak in their ears…” (Job 33:15-16)

“This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had.” (Daniel 4:18)

“Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.” (Matthew 2:22-23)

Church fathers who believed that God still speaks through dreams:  Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Augustine and Jerome (among others).

Dreams can be amazing experiences.  They can seem more real than reality.  Many people have dreams that they dreamt years ago, but which still inspire or fascinate or trouble them.  It is clear from the Bible that dreams played an important part in God’s interactions with people.  In my experience, God has used a few strategic dreams to powerfully direct my life.

The problem that most people will acknowledge is that there are certain concerns about the source of a dream.  Where did it come from?  How can I know if the dream is from God?  And these are important and necessary questions to ask ourselves, since there are a variety of sources from which dreams can come:

  • God
  • our souls (our mind and emotions)
  • culture (including movies, TV, books)
  • biochemistry (illness, diet, drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • the enemy

That’s why it is so important to have an intimate, ongoing relationship with God through His Word, in prayer, and in our lives (including being in trustworthy, regular Christian community).  “Spiritual” experiences can seem very compelling at times — that is why it is so necessary to have true discernment, so that we can discern between a legitimate spiritual interaction with God and a counterfeit experience.  And discernment comes from knowing the real thing so well that it is difficult to be fooled by counterfeits.

If I have time, in the days to come, I may elaborate a bit on the importance of dreams, and how to navigate successfully in this amazing realm of experience.

Just kidding.  (Made you look.)  Hey, now that I have your attention:  When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

He [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord ,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

DOH!

The only way to overcome the debilitating fear that is presently being poured out on the Earth and gripping humanity, is to abide in the Presence of God.

“You will fill me with joy in Your Presence,” (Psalm 16:11)

I had a dream recently in which I was surrounded by devastation, as far as my eyes could see.  But in the midst of it all, I was safe.  And throughout the dream, I heard the lyrics of a song being sung:

“In Your Presence oh God, there is fullness of joy!
At Your right hand oh God, there are pleasures evermore!”

I want to encourage everyone to do whatever is necessary to daily experience the tangible Presence of God.  Pray, fast, worship, cry out, what ever it takes.  Now is the time to press in for more of Him.  And as we do, even though the world will be troubled and in chaos, we will not only be protected, but we will actually flourish:

“Arise, shine , for your Light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and His glory appears over you.”
(Isaiah 60:1-2)

The English language, like all languages, is a living, ever-evolving thing.  Words that meant one thing 100 years ago now sometimes mean something very different.  For instance, originally, the word artificial meant “full of artistic or technical skill.”  But today, it has a very negative meaning and usage.  And back in the day, the word awful meant something “wonderful, amazing and full of awe.”  Now…not so much.

I have lived long enough to see an interesting evolution of the word guilt (in the world and in the Church).  There has been a concerted effort in secular psychology for years to essentially eliminate guilt from the human experience.  Secular humanists associate guilt (and the sorrow associated with it) with archaic and manipulative religions and philosophies.  And because of this, there has been a tremendous effort to “cast off restraint” and enter into true, guiltless, utopian existence (WOOHOO!), where everyone is free to do as he/she pleases, without the shackles and burdens of “old time religion.”

I have seen this in the Church as well.  I periodically hear Christian teachers and counselors say that we don’t need to be weighed down by such things as feelings of guilt or sorrow for our sins, because God is a loving God and all He wants is for us to be happy.  And that the path to repentance can be a guilt-free, sorrowless process where we merely realize we have done things that are “beneath our potential” and therefore we need to make better choices.

The problem with this is two-fold:

First of all, we are not machines, we are human beings, and we are hardwired with emotions.  God has emotions and He made us to be emotional beings as well.  Emotions are meant to make us more like God in this sense, and experienced rightly, they bring an amazing pleasure and irreplaceable depth to life.  And emotions are also, at times, a very useful indicator that attach themselves to bad, sinful choices, so that we will be motivated to change.  For instance, when I hurt my wife, I don’t repent or ask her for forgiveness merely because I know that these things will lead to a more healthy marriage (although they will).  I do it because I love my wife, and it grieves me to see how my actions and selfishness have hurt her.  And so these feelings of guilt and sorrow are essential to real love continuing in my marriage.

The second (and most important) problem is that this concept (that feelings of guilt are to be avoided) clearly contradicts the teaching of Scripture:  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)  The key is that we need to have “Godly sorrow”, not “worldly sorrow”.  Godly sorrow is connected to three things (IMHO):

  1. The conviction of the Holy Spirit.
  2. An awareness that we are the only one truly responsible (and hence, guilty – doah!) for the sinful thing we did (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  3. The truth that the damage done and pain inflicted by our sinful behavior is not an abstract experience, but is something we have done against real people (including God – Ephesians 4:30 – “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…”).


And when we really receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit, admit our responsibility, and tell our best Friend that we are truly sorry, and that, by His amazing grace, we will turn away from our sin and follow Him, then guilt and Godly sorrow will have had their perfect way with us and we will be free to once again worship God in the “beauty of holiness”, without feelings of condemnation.

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day,
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town,
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.”
(Roger Waters, Pink Floyd)

Time is a mind-blowingly precious commodity. What do we do with it?  Are we aware that we will be held accountable for what we did (or didn’t do) with it? The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 24:14) is not just about money — it is about any precious thing God has given us to steward, including our abilities, our money and our TIME.

The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy.  Who is the thief in your life?  Who or what are you allowing to steal the invaluable moments, hours and days of your all-too-fleeting life?  Are you willing to fight for your inheritance, or will you passively allow these thieves to rob you of the unique adventure and fruitfulness God made available to you when He called you by name?


“Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.”