From West to East and Back Again

It takes a lot of bravery to pack up your stuff and move across the country to a place that you feel led to move to. This is exactly what happened 5 years ago when we packed up our stuff in Redding, CA and moved to New Jersey, in the greater Philadelphia area. At first the decision was based on a few mundane and fairly practical realizations and decisions. God, however always finds a way to inspire practical decisions with supernatural vision.

We had been feeling slightly frustrated with ministry opportunities in Redding. My wife and I had both attended Bethel Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry and realized, fairly quickly, that if we were called to do something non-traditional in ministry, we needed to go where the lost and those in need of this ministry are. That just simply wasn’t in Redding. For a “city” that has a population of less than 100,000, Christians were everywhere and churches lined the country roads. There just wasn’t much of a need for another church or ministry.

At the same time, the recession was impacting northern California in a significant way, especially Redding. Finding a job there was very difficult and that was before the recession hit. At the time we left, the unemployment rate was just under 22%. So we had decisions to make. Struggle through circumstances or look for greener pastures with bigger population and maybe more economical possibilities.

We prayed, talked with wise people and made the decision. Then God decided to make things very interesting. I started to get woken up at 3am every night by a loud church bell. There are no churches near us that ring bells so this was very strange. Also, my wife never heard anything. So I decided to go to our prayer room, which was simply an addition to the house with no insulation that was previously used as storage space. When I asked God why I heard that bell and what the purpose of it all was I heard, very clearly, “Pray for Philadelphia and NJ.”

The weeks went on and I was up everyday at 3am to pray for Philadelphia and NJ. We made the trip across the country in our little Kia and were sitting at Erin’s parents house in NJ (they had moved out east 6 yrs before) when a news broadcast aired on the local Philadelphia news station. It was a story of a catholic church that was disturbing the peace in a Philly neighborhood by ringing a crazy loud bell every morning at 6am. When asked why they did this every morning, even though they knew how annoying it must be to the local residents they answered, “so they can pray for Philadelphia and New Jersey.” 3 hour time difference between NJ and CA.

So yeah, I freaked out a little. I had found myself on the east coast, in New Jersey no less, because of maybe wise practical decisions but meanwhile I had stumbled into God’s leading. He loved this area and had led us here whether by circumstance or fate, it was clear His heart was there. A little later we connected with a NJ local who was part of a group who had been praying God would send a young couple from Bethel to NJ. So yeah.

The first year in New Jersey was rough. We didn’t really make friends, I didn’t find work as quickly as I thought I could and the pay was not great even though New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in. It seemed as though all our wise practical reasoning for moving out east was failing hard. God’s heart was still here but when you have a really difficult time connecting or even agreeing with Him, it still proves to be discouraging. Eventually we connected with a few cool churches and stumbled, again, into the prayer movement in NJ. We met so many amazing leaders and tried to pour into what God was doing in the region.

That pretty much brings us up to date with where we are now, about a month away from moving back out west to Reno, NV, a city we have always felt called to and have always loved. So what did we learn? What was the point of being in NJ for 5 years on the beckoning of a few epic prophetic experiences?

One thing we definitely learned is the value of community. We had always come from places that did community pretty well. In Redding, even though its easy to get lost in the sea of scriptures on T-shirts, we had found a community of people and very close friendships that will sustain till our last breath in this world and I say that with great confidence. In Reno, we had the same, friends that will never leave our hearts, though at times, we left them geographically. In NJ we found it far more difficult to find community. We made great friends and we treasure them with all our hearts but there was always way too much distance between us. Either the drive was just too far and expensive after a while or the area was just out of reach for us to move to financially. We were at least 45 minutes away from any church community we could be a part of. We still did it but it took a toll on us. For the first time in our marriage, Erin and I felt pretty alone. That’s an odd thing when you’re a couple because you have each other, however, there is almost a dual longing for companionship and friendship that you need from others as well. That just wasn’t there to the degree that we have had it in the past.

There are many factors for why community is a difficult thing to find in NJ and even the east coast. One is the nature of the east coast rush. People are after living their lives whether that’s a career or schooling or building a family. I found that friendships were always left at the bottom of the priority list. This was the first time I had to ever tell people to just come over my house. This caused some arguments because it was a foreign concept to many people. I didn’t want anyone to call first or text or plan some huge party or event, just to be in my life. Finding honest, vulnerable and real relationships was very difficult but when we did, we jumped on it and invested as much as was possible. This obviously isn’t how everyone is and how everything was but in our experience, NJ’s biggest character flaw was value for community simply not being a value. Good community was the exception, not the rule.

This pushed Erin and I to become very close and gave us a deeper and more profound ability to minister as one person. In the past, I did so much in ministry as far as speaking, teaching, prophetic ministry but now Erin is functioning in a higher place in her gifting and for that, I am willing to trek through any journey in life. There is nothing I want more than for the love of my life to be happy, fulfilled and blazing with the fire of God in her life.

Now the more awesome things about NJ, haha. There is a prayer and worship movement in NJ and NYC , whose power is incomparable and its nothing I have ever seen or felt before. I was unprepared for the revival fire that is resting upon the community of believers, especially at Resting Place, a house of prayer and revival center in Woodland Park, NJ. They taught me so much and blessed us in relationships and spiritual impartation to a degree that I still can’t describe. I believe that what is happening in NJ in the worship and prayer movement is having global impact on such a deep scale. It’s revival history happening right now and I believe a second Asuza street movement is right on the cusp of hitting America through that region.

I often think, would I do everything the same if I were to go back in time? Would I still move? Would I still say yes to God? The answer is a confident yes! I have grown in ways that I know were not possible in Redding or Reno. I know! Even in Redding!

Sometimes God sends you to uncomfortable and foreign places to get power and to grow because power doesn’t live in safe, comfortable places. It’s found in volcanoes, storms and dangerous seas. The waters of risk are filled with dangerous creatures and nonstop perils but they are also filled with growth, power and breakthrough. Don’t resist what God is calling you to and live life with no regrets. You can’t live a life abundant and live in regret. It’s not possible.

False Grace and the Sin of Appearance Without Substance

Today as I was driving home from work, God started to speak to me about releasing several prophetic words to the church in America. I felt a very sober atmosphere in the car as He spoke to me. It’s an atmosphere that I haven’t felt in quite a while. I knew that whatever was about to be heard by my ears would be rather intense and that this was not only a word for the body of Christ but for me as well. It seems, throughout scripture, that the prophetic words God releases to men and women of God have a profound impact on the listener and prophetic person and not just the recipient of the word.

God tells the prophet to eat the scroll, not only to speak it and deliver it but also to ingest and receive nutrition first. That’s the danger of releasing words before their season and delivering words too quickly. Many times we want to feel the thrill of prophetic ministry and in our youthfulness and inexperience we exchange responsibility for thrill. This is why accountability and mentoring is so important in prophetic ministry. We need those who have ministered in this manner for years before to come alongside us and guide us in the things of the Spirit.

God began to say to me, “The church thinks it knows about grace but it does not. The church also thinks it knows about righteousness but it does not. The grace that they think they know is really controlled complacency. The righteousness they think they walk in is the sin of appearance without the reality of holiness. Yet so many are engaged in arguments and debates with these two sides yet they are guilty of the sin of both. Those that are opposed to too much grace being given are guilty of the sin of appearance; they look like they are following all the rules, doing the right things but do not possess holiness and are not actually set apart. Those that are opposed to legalism, works and the performance of righteousness are guilty of controlled complacency; they offer a false grace to those imprisoned and held in slavery to sin and never free people from sin but perform planned ignorance of compromise. They suppose that if they are patient with the sin of these people in their lives, sin will disappear and righteousness will take shape with little or no effort on their part. This is not grace. It may be their version but it isn’t worthy of the same word I use.

In both of these groups, they are guilty of the sin of the priest, Eli and his sons. Eli’s sons were wicked and would sleep with prostitutes and the entrance of the tabernacle of meeting and defile the offering causing people to despise giving the offering because they would take the best parts of the meat for themselves.”

I was struck with such of an awareness of the presence of the God and also the mercy with which we live in. I immediately realized that many parts of my life should be removed from the place of complacency. I asked the Holy Spirit to come and empower me even more to be transformed and to be increasingly set apart for the purposes of advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I came home and began to read about the life of the prophet, Samuel, one of the many men in the bible that I relate to. Samuel heard the audible voice of the Lord very early in his life and ministered before the Lord as a child. When I was 22, I made a decision to follow Christ and surrender my life to Him. That very night, I heard the audible voice of God call me by name and this continued on Feb 22 of the next two years. Just like Samuel, I heard the audible voice of the Lord call me three times and the last time, God revealed to me my calling and what my life was meant for. God truly met me in the child likeness of my early years just like the prophet Samuel. I had no idea what I was doing and in many cases I still don’t. I learned that it was ok if I didn’t and the Father simply wanted me close to Him; ministering before Him like Samuel.

I believe what the Lord is communicating to the church in this season is a warning to not be guilty of the sin of Eli. Eli’s role as priest of the tabernacle was a profound responsibility. He was in charge of making sure the Tabernacle was run and kept holy and that the priests were ministering to people and administering the worship of God appropriately. Instead the sons of Eli were engaging in intense sin because of their position. They were having sex out of covenant with various women at the very entrance to Holy ground. The tabernacle of meeting at that time was a very holy location for the people of God. It is where many would come to bring various offerings to the Lord. Eli’s sons were defiling the offering by removing the choice cuts of meat from it. This essentially removed all substance from the offering, as the point of making an offering was to offer your best to God. If the best parts of the meat were being removed, God was receiving the leftovers.

This was very serious sin and it was up to Eli to confront his sons and hold them accountable. Eli only confronted them after he heard bad reports from several people including another man of God, presumably a prophet or anointed servant of the Lord. Even when they were confronted and did not give heed to the words of their father, nothing was done. Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel and warned Eli of danger and destruction because of his sons’ sins and Eli’s response was the OT version of “it is what it is”; and so, it was.

How does this translate to the modern warning the Lord is giving many leaders and priests in the body of Christ today? Very simply put, false grace is rampant in the church. This fake grace is not grace at all and isn’t even worthy of the description of the word, grace. God’s grace is an immeasurable force in our lives and relationship with God and so defining it as a currency or number is absurd. Grace doesn’t look the same for every person or every situation in life. When we hear the word grace, what most people immediately visualize is the action of mercy; to deal mercifully with someone. For example, it was the mercy of God to forgive our debt of sin; it was the grace of God to give us resurrection life.

Grace does not in any way ignore sin. It is actually violently opposed to the bondage and slavery of sin in the Christian’s life. A “grace” that empowers ongoing sin in the believer’s life is the plan of the enemy to use revelation against us by adding a slight perversion. To some grace is mercy and forgiveness and a complete pardon of the wages of iniquity. To another grace is forgiveness but also justice; a justice that requires the individual to respond obediently and pursue health. Grace is like water; it fits and adapts to each of us as if we are containers. If you experience freedom of sin, then you can be sure you are being met with grace.

The other side of this issue that the Lord is addressing is false righteousness and specifically the sin of appearance. Many people, in reaction to a false grace ideology, go to the other extreme and deny grace the place of its redemptive power. Instead they insist on the appearance of holiness but lack its substance. It’s like someone who mimics tough talking fighters and thugs but has no fighting skills, guns, ammunition or any real experience being a tough guy. They may look the part but if you had x-ray glasses you would see the lack of any real substance. Much like the sons of Eli, they have the priestly position but their character is extremely lacking and though they wear the robes and the garments of someone who loves and ministers to God, they DO NOT know the Lord.

Obedience is vital, but it must be sincere otherwise we are not obeying the Lord but trying to buy a position of power. We are attempting to bribe God. Maybe if we don’t watch these movies or don’t listen to this music, God will give us a higher position before men. See, this attitude doesn’t desire the love of God or intimacy with God but rather prominence before the eyes of men. It is as ritualistic and evil as the building and worship of wooden idols. We are looking only for the benefits of being associated with God and not for truly knowing Him.

Ok, now its time for good news! God is sending out Samuels, modern-day prophets who will know the voice of the Lord and declare hope to sinning priesthood. It was said of Samuel that not one word that he spoke fell to the ground empty. Imagine if we had a company of prophetic voices whose words never left unfulfilled but carried weight and substantial power! Imagine the power of these prayers!

Yes, God is releasing a new wave of prophetic ministers who can hear from God; speak with authority and whose identity is grounded in sitting before the Lord. We need more ministers who live from the secret place and understand that it’s not a season but the purpose of life! They minister to the Lord and before Him, not to men and before men.

Who am I? No, Seriously…

The longer I examine my devotion and the way my Christian life unfolds, the more I identify myself with the stories of the prophets. Do I believe that I am called as a “Prophet” by God? Well, that’s an enormous can of worms to open. In one sense, I identify with their struggles, their failures and their joys. In another, my dreams are pioneer dreams; very apostolic. I want to pioneer new things, great things, things no one has ever seen or dreamed of before. However, I love people and specifically being in relationship with great leaders and people who are changing the world. My motivation for being in relationship with these people is not selfish but selfless. I wish I could take credit for this but I believe it is simply how I’m wired. In reality, it is probably a very selfish way to live because my heart is full when I pour into great people and not full when I don’t. I guess even my selflessness is, in a sense, selfishness. Is there such a thing as selfish selflessness?

I believe we are given people’s hearts by God Himself. We are given stewardship of the most precious treasure in this world; the hearts of His kids. I find nothing better than wasting myself on God and His kids. It is so fulfilling and fun! Sometimes it sucks, it really does. Not doing this would suck way more.

“It’s Love. Love comes with hurt.” – Maggie: The Walking Dead

So the question of what office I’m wired to fill in the body of Christ is a complex one. Am I a prophetic pastor, a pastoral prophet, an apostolic prophet or a prophetic apostle? See what I mean? What I have come to learn is that I’m me. I’m unique and in many ways I fit many roles. I’m like a spiritual jack of all trades. I can wear a lot of hats if its needed but what is home for my heart? That’s pretty simple; home for me looks like intimacy with Jesus, writing about what He is teaching me and empowering people in my life and those who I come across. So that looks like more of a prophet. It’s what I have been called more than anything by the people I love.

This is an open conversation I have with God and myself and has been continuing for years. Who am I? This question is a resounding bell in the inner parts of humanity. Moses asked it, who happens to be one of my favorites, and God answered him by promising to always be with him. God’s answer to our identity issues is telling you who He is and promising to be with you, no matter what. That’s why I love that dude.

I don’t have a conclusion here, just more questions. So talk. Who are you? Who is God to you? What does home look like in your heart?

Be a Child and Stop Wiggling

Sometimes the best thing you do to help your spiritual development is to believe in yourself. Being happy and at peace with your own heart is one of the most understated keys in communing with God. I have had the pleasure of meeting and doing life with some of the best human beings in the world. Yet, so many of them, are plagued by the absence of self-peace. No matter the blessings or the accomplishments they experience in life through God an others, they have a hard time being at peace with who they are. This often translates to increased religious tasks and duties, of which there is no actual command or urge from the Lord. It is something inside of them that says, “can’t you do better, do more, be better, and stay away from more?”

In all the striving and stretching out their hands to become better and do more of the things which do not actually please God any more than He is already pleased, they completely miss one of the great treasures of life with God; contentment. Truly, the greatest joy found in the secret place with God must be a contentment to be with Him, lacking nothing because with Him we have everything.

Many of my friends have children and when I come and visit them, they always hand me their children like some sort of chocolate treat that I just HAVE to enjoy. I don’t know what it is about parents that makes them want to show you how much they adore their children by throwing their helpless bodies in the arms of an inexperienced friend. I often feel like I’m being tossed 10 golden eggs covered with butter and oil. These children do not know me so they wiggle, writhe and try to get out of my hands like Frodo running from the ring wraiths. At this point, I gladly return their children to them.

This perfectly illustrates striving and intimacy with God. When you don’t really know someone and you are told to have unwavering faith and trust in them, you will wiggle and writhe to get out of that situation. But if you have intimacy with this person, you actually don’t feel right unless you’re within their arms. You trust them wholly and completely, yearning for the embrace of complete abandon.

Striving is the wiggle, the writhe, the helpless and hopeless escape attempt of our hearts when they come into contact with a God who is completely at home in the impossibilities of human life. He does impossible all day, that’s His jam. Be a child. Trust Him in that place and stop wiggling! It’ll be ok; it has always been ok for everyone ever in history who has trusted Him.

SCOTUS and Christian Outrage

Christian outrage may be the biggest vice of the modern church. It’s an issue that isn’t new to the church or its congregants. Interestingly enough, self-righteousness has a way of blinding us to our own sin. In the eyes of loveless focus we lose sight of the identity of our brothers and sisters and focus instead on their struggles. We lose the valuable ground of being able to call them forward and empower them with the spirit of transformation.

In these past few weeks, a few issues have been brought to the forefront of many right-wing christian extremist’s new headquarters, Facebook. Gay marriage was legalized through a SCOTUS ruling this past Friday and people went nuts. I mean really crazy. Outrage spewed from all directions and respectable people were found verbally flailing like a wild air dancer man at an auto sale. It exposed an obsession that many Christians have with building a utopia and a governmental system that mimics the laws and morals of Christianity to no end.

Before we go any further I would like to add that I am obviously a Christian if you have paid any attention to my life, my writing and/or my Facebook/Twitter pages. I love Jesus. I love scripture. I love the Holy Spirit and there’s nothing I love more than seeing a world and the people in it transformed by Him. That being said, I will not withhold the rights and freedoms of any person so the appearance of holiness will be maintained.

The Supreme Court made a ruling, a just one, completely separate from the Church. It does not infringe upon the rights of the church or clergy nor does it impose indoctrination of LGBT ideals upon the church or its people. These are the fears of people who mostly have not reached out to the homosexual community and live inside a doom shell that has been gradually cracking under the weight of living in a free world. If the Church is ever going to learn how to selflessly love the homosexual community and any community it has quarrels with, it must learn how to administer love in a practical real way. With this ruling, much of the weight of conflict can start to be lifted from the Gay vs Christian conflict in America.

I have many gay friends. My wife and I are often referred to as a friend of the gays. We are always pleased with this statement. I have some gay friends who struggle with homosexuality and want nothing more than to be straight, attracted the opposite gender but instead live with the pain of that inner conflict. My heart for them is one that burns for them to find freedom and liberty. I have others who are gay and know what scripture says but what they experience in life is so solidly different and excruciatingly complex. They have my love and I long for them to know freedom, in the process and in the destination.

My interpretation and belief in what the scriptures say about homosexual behavior have absolutely nothing to do with my love for my friends and my intercession for their lives. There is not one gay man or woman who is wondering what the church says about their lifestyles. We have been very forward with our opinions via picket lines and extremist behaviors. My job is to pray, love them like crazy and let the Holy Spirit bring transformation. That means treat them as human beings deserving of love, respect and equal rights, whether I agree with their lifestyle or not.

My issue with the response of many Christians this past week is not with them saying that homosexual behavior is contrary to scripture. That is clearly what’s in the bible. Its their treatment of the people I love and whose hearts mean the world to me. It’s their force feeding of their ideals in their nation through legislation whose slippery slope is destined to have a bottom similar to ISIS. If you want to know what it would be like to have a nation ruled and governed by extreme religious laws and ideals you won’t have to look far. Turn on the international news and read of numerous afflictions of the innocent administered by an organization of fanatics that believe that they are right. They are forcing a whole region to look and act Islamic just to avoid punishment from Sharia Law. It’s an extreme example but, my friends, that is the slipper slope extreme right-wing “Christian” republicans in America can be possibly falling towards.

In my prayer times, I see two groups that need a high level of intercession. Christians and those they are hurting for the sake of the world being comfortable enough for them to live in. Christians, you are ambassadors of Christ, not corrupt tyrants. You are the salt of the world but don’t pour yourselves forcefully in the wound you’ve inflicted on the homosexual community. Learn to love and be a catalyst for transformation.

He is Father to us All

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You don’t have to look for very long online to see arguments and discussions unfolding concerning one person’s sin on display in our society and the outrage therein. I usually try to keep quiet until I’m no longer extremely irritated to respond. I’m still irritated but at least I’m not in such a violent mood. It is said, and truthfully so, that the most irritating and angering people in your lives are your family. for some reason people within your family can incite such rage and emotion with very little effort. We have to work very diligently to forgive and give grace to them meanwhile we could get robbed and beaten by strangers and easily be moved with compassion. It’s a mystery to me why this is so.

Judging by other’s behavior and words, I can only assume that many believers have lost their first love. Do you remember when you first fell in love with Jesus? The first time His presence showed up in your life and in your heart? Remember the way He could whisper softly to you and every ounce of pride and rebellion just crumbles to pieces immediately? I remember when I first fell in love with Him. I remember the things I would do because I was in love. I would read the bible expecting and anticipating Him speaking to me and the scriptures became a love letter, written obviously to many but somehow speaking to the heart of me, the individual. I found it impossible not to love people. I found myself smiling at people I didn’t know, knowing instead that He loved them beyond description. Their sins did not offend, scare or deter me. I understood that we are all on our journey either in Him or to Him, escape is hopeless. Some were more bound in sin than others. This fact was never to have too much attention. I just loved them, hugged them, spoke encouragement and displayed the love of the Father.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Cor 13:4-7

When I read 1 Corinthians 13, I can’t help but to see the heart of the Father on display in the character of the believer. These characteristics are the description of the believer who is in love with Jesus. Only through lovesick devotion can we ever hope to prefer others, to not seek our own and to be kind. This wonderful passage should be daily reading and meditation for every believer, immature or mature, young or old.

Sadly, almost as soon as I turn on my computer and click on that browser, I come face to face with a group of people who believe that writing blogs that speak against certain people and their reality in this life, are helpful. I feel as though Job is coming to us asking us for relief, comfort and help. We are answering as foolish friends from a list of procedures and principles, calling our his past, his failures and doing anything but what we should and must do; ask the Father for his heart. Our Father in Heaven knows the answer to all things in all times. The fear that kept us from intimacy on the mountain is still in play even today.

“Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.” John 4:5-30

When Jesus met the Samaritan women at the well, He did not condemn her lifestyle or speak bitterly against her for being with 5 different men. Instead we see Jesus using those hidden facts about her life to display His power and identity and then speaking to the deeper need within her. She was thirsty and He was the only drink she could have that would quench and satisfy her. He did not say go and sin no more, He didn’t have to. He spoke to the underlying issue and the process of transformation began.

What I see is people speaking to the symptoms of sin and not to the underlying, deeper need of the human heart. It’s easy to point at things we don’t understand, sin or not, and shout scriptures from our far removed lives. Jesus is calling us to a deeper devotion to the people He has given us. He is calling us to walk with people through their issues and love them, remembering that they are His children and that He longs for reconciliation. Remembering always the day that we first fell in love with Him and who were on that day.

I thank God every day that He is the Savior that we need and not the one that we want. If we received the God that many of us want, a merciless destroyer of all imperfection, we would be in big trouble. The problem, of course, with any of these statements that I’m making is that it will be perceived as not speaking against sin is what I’m asking for. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can speak to the sin in someone’s life all you want but please speak to it as if you love them and as if you prefer them before yourself and as if you are not seeking your own. God has called us to be a righteous and spotless bride. This is not a demand from an angry God for perfect behavior but a promise that the Father Himself will perfect and transform us. This will happen easier and probably faster if we are obedient. If we are not, if we are a rebellious people who make bad choices over and over again, I would think that the church would not react in extreme criticism but respond gracefully like a brother and sister who understands we all fall short. My hope is that we will come alongside these to walk with them and love them into their breakthrough.

We have not been given the ministry of criticism but the ministry of reconciliation. No matter how much someone’s choices, sin or not, healthy or not may offend and upset us, they are also His children and should be treated with honor and respect. They should be approached in love, again remembering the day we first fell hopelessly and endlessly in love with our Father in Heaven. He is the Father of us all, the perfect and those with messy issues, thank God.

Faith Like a Child

So many people have the whole principle of faith so mistaken and out of proper alignment. We have looked to a group of men inside the church to define what faith looks like for us in our lives. Faith was never defined within the organized religious system. Look at the origin for faith in church history. It all began in the streets of the ancient cities of the bible. It began with Jesus showing a select few, who had been with Him, what the Kingdom of Heaven looked like when it came to earth. It looked like the poor eating and being happy for the first time in years. It looked like the outcasts of society finding their voices again. many finding their sight and their hearing for the first time as well.

When Jesus showed up to minister to the crowds, these were not church crowds at a stadium lined with merchandise tables and book deals. I am not against these things as they are really fun and exciting but in speaking of the origin of faith, it was not the scenery the bible described. Many times Jesus spoke from a boat out on the water to a crowd assembled in the open air. Water carries voices very well so I guess this could have been the reasoning behind it as there were no microphones or amplification technology.

Of course this isn’t the actual pure beginning of faith, just the first demonstration and the teaching by Jesus in the practicality of life. Faith is a byproduct or symptom of a deep devotion to the Father. The first demonstrations of faith came as a result of relationship with God. Every action and decision made by human life is in response to the hidden life of intimacy within the God & man relationship. The old testament, then, is a historical narrative describing this relationship of faith and ultimately man’s succumbing to fear and mistrust.

If you were to look at any portion of your sin life, the decisions and behavior in your life based upon the choosing of sin, you will, in the end, find lies which have led you to the belief of mistrust in God, especially in the care of all the different facets of your life. Even the devil’s confrontation with Jesus in His famous time of temptation is riddled with accusations of God’s inability to care for Jesus. The enemy sought to sow mistrust into the Father’s relationship with the Son. Jesus utilized one of the most important things in a father/son connection, the words of a father. Jesus used the words God had previously spoken in scripture over His children to battle this attempted schism. The Son was successful in His defense because He trusted the Father and because God’s words were life to Him. He trusted His voice and had a confidence that what His Father said is actually true. I imagine this interaction to be absent of the common faith demonstrations of the modern age. I am doubtful that Jesus threw olive oil at satan or danced with a snake in front of him. I’m not sure He yelled at His enemy with a gospel accent or blew a shofar in his face. Jesus simply stated what was true because His Father in Heaven said it.

Faith, in the Kingdom of Heaven, doesn’t look like an adult screaming at things like a madman but like a child trusting his/her parents. It’s not a power struggle. It’s simply and purely a tiny hand grasping the Father’s clothes, holding on with complete trust. Prayer is a threat only because the recipient of prayer is our Father, not our boss. His loyalty and tenacity to complete what He has begun in us is not rooted in a task or a mission. It’s rooted in His love for His children, which has no end in sight.

Disney Has Created Relationship Disaster

Our culture has a huge obsession with finding a partner or lover that matches us. We also want romance. Not just romance but the greatest romance that has ever lived. I blame Disney. Disney movies have taught many young kids what a normal relationship is full of, dysfunction. Now we have a bunch of Disney characters running around hoping for love and getting disaster. Let me cite a few examples.

Beauty and the beast. 

Holy crap. If there was ever a horrible depiction of romance and relationships, it’s this movie. There’s this dude and he gets cursed and has to become a beast until he can get someone to fall in love with him and than he’ll be a prince again. This is a classic co-dependency recipe. Dysfunctional people are great at blaming who they’ve let themselves become on someone else, usually that dude or chick before you showed up. Listen bro, you’re a beast. You always were a beast, curse or no curse, and I don’t mean beast like workout beast, though that’s even dumber. You can’t blame your gnarly teeth and furry, hunched over relation disposition on anyone but yourself. They think that if they can just get the perfect person then they can be happy finally and transform into who they should be the whole time anyway. How do they find the perfect person? By treating everyone like crap and if the person puts up with it and breaks through their walls of intimacy then and only then will they actually be awesome. Are you kidding?

Cinderella.

Listen I get it girl. You live in a crappy home with crappy parents and siblings. Poor you. You need someone to rescue you from this life and of course he should be rich because you really need to be taken care of. That’s like your love language or something. There’s nothing at all weird about one person being absolutely perfect so you can ignore your life and how crappy everyone except you is. Meanwhile, he has to be on a crazy search for you and jump through all these crazy hoops. Also, he has to maneuver around these woman flying around you, keeping men away from you.

Doesn’t it seem like people have a lot to deal with even before they can get close to these Disney characters. Don’t be a Disney bro/chick. Be real. Take responsibility for your own heart, how you grew up, all your dysfunction and issues. Honestly it becomes a part of your story and our interactions with each other’s issues are usually light-hearted and hilarious. There are obvious exceptions but aren’t there always? My wife and I have so many combined issues. We have family drama and weird things about each other that are genetically passed down and inherited through the environment we were raised in. I wouldn’t change any of that. I don’t want a perfect mate or spouse. I want a hot best friend with whom I can share all of myself with and do life with.

Where are the Women?

If we look closely at the atmosphere of the millennial generation that is currently emerging as leaders today, we will hear a unified cry for justice and equality. They are challenging many of the ideologies that the generation before them has held close to. Whether its the current church structure, religion vs relationship or equality in the church, there is a generation who is asking questions and if we’re smart, we’ll engage them.

I hope today to try to address at least one question that I have been having and have been sensing in the body of Christ. This is obviously not a response that will appease most nor is it my motivation to do so. I simply want to start a dialogue. Judging from recent Facebook activity, at least most of the people I interact with online agree to some degree. I will be very vague because it’s not my heart, at all, to single out anyone and focus on areas of disagreement.

I was having a conversation with a pastor of a church out west about church unification and the idea of having a conference of all local speakers. One of the churches I mentioned including belonged to a certain network of churches. This network had certain doctrinal groundwork and core values that the pastor did not agree with. It was not a theological disagreement on the basis of pentecostalism vs cessationism but rather on the role of women in the church. I was shocked that this was a position still upheld by such a modern, emerging young church full of young leaders and ministers. I began to do some research of my own and became very disturbed. Not only was this true but in the language of this church network, which is very well known, the word “she” was not present on the description of church leaders and/or pastors.

When I think about all the churches and leaders I have been in relationship with and involved with, and when I try to imagine these houses of God without the female leaders in them, I begin to sense such an emptiness and lack of healthy leadership. I began to notice that every church environment that was missing a solid female voice and leader that I knew of or had been in, had some very serious issues. I also researched the amount of male pastors and leaders in ministry who had fallen to moral failures vs female pastors and leaders. I came to an amazing result. Very few female leaders have been removed from the ministry due to an issue that had seemed to plague male leaders. Why? The answer is I don’t know but the evidence is too real to pass over.

Church is a man’s world yet men are exactly what’s missing from the church. In every church I have spoken or ministered, the ratio of men to women is just sad. You would be hard pressed to find a man in church who isn’t being forced to go by their family or looking for a wife. Where are the men that love Jesus and are leading the charge in ministry? They’re out there but when you look into the crowds you will mostly see pretty female faces. Where are the men?

Women are not leading churches. They aren’t even heading up important church programs. Women are in the nursery or in hospitality. In some cases they are running the prayer and intercession ministries. Woman, for the most part, are not given the place to preach and teach.

In my life, I have been greatly impacted to pursue God by women. I have been ministered to greatly by men as well but for some reason I always receive more from the women around me. I find that sermons and messages from women are so much better and a lot easier to sit through. I remember listening to Beni Johnson speak on prayer and intercession in ministry school at Bethel Church and being so stirred to be with God all the time. I remember looking for anything Cindy Jacobs put out on intercession and the prophetic gift. I used to watch hours of footage from Kathryn Kuhlman meetings with such a hunger to see God move in my life like He did through that woman. There’s just something so beautiful and transparent about God speaking through a woman’s life. Maybe it’s because I’m a momma’s boy. I have always had more female friends than male friends. Maybe I’m just weird.

I think it’s more likely, however, that men are missing from the church today because they’re tired of seeing strong female leaders sent to the kitchen or to the nursery to be with kids. Maybe they’re tired of seeing their moms and sisters and wives passed over and so easily dismissed. The suffrage movement seems so far from us in history yet it only occurred in the early 1800’s. Before the civil war occurred, men saw women fight for their place in society. Women, who were previously regarded as the property of men, were now free. Then slavery acquired an expiration date. Maybe that was just too much for men to take. Not long after, civil war was declared.

I feel as though history is bound to repeat itself, this time within the church. Will men take up the cause of women and stand up for equality? Or will the body split on the issue of female leaders and pastors? I think it’s the former. We are seeing so many pastors and leaders, who are men, speak on this issue and declare the beauty of women! Yes, men are starting to get out of the way! It’s very encouraging!

It’s time that we make room for the Deborah’s, the female leaders of God who are destined to lead the charge and bring to the church body what it has so severely been lacking, mothers. We need both parents in our house because a church without women as leaders is a single parent home.

New Wombs of Hope

I have been stuck on a verse for the past few days.

Luke 24:45 – “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,”

I guess some context should be the first order of business. Jesus has been crucified and has risen from the dead. The disciples are freaking out and their faith is in disarray. It’s been a few days since the death of Jesus. Then some women went to His tomb and his body was missing. Basically things are getting wild and even though the female disciples are filled with hope, most likely an angelic encounter has something to do with that, the men are undone with doubt and panic.

On the road to Emmaus, two of these disciples, on a 7 mile walk from Jerusalem, began to discuss their day and all that had occurred. Jesus shows up and starts to talk with them but they don’t recognize Him.

 In v.32 it says, “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures”

Then these astonished men with burning hearts go to the other disciples and describe what happened and poof, Jesus appears again (I think He likes doing this). Everyone seems pretty freaked out and disturbed and they think Jesus is not Jesus but the spirit, or ghost, of Jesus. So Jesus takes some time to explain the difference between encountering a ghost or spirit and what form He is, the resurrected Christ.

That brings us to v.45…

Upon further study, I stumbled upon the meaning of the word, “opened” in this particular verse.

Strong’s 1272 – dianoigo (dee-an-oy-go) from 1223 and 455; to open thoroughly, lit. (as a first-born) or fig. (to expound) – open.

The literal usage in the Greek means to open thoroughly as a first-born child opens the womb. The figurative usage meaning to expound upon. Jesus clearly expounds upon the scriptures in a figurative sense but I believe the literal usage is actually very evident in these encounters.

I began to think about all the times I have read and studied the scriptures and have opened, expounded, certain passages or verses. Then I began to think about the times I have merely glanced at a few words on the bible page or computer screen and eternity envelops me. Time stands still and I feel revelation seeping in as a first-born baby, breaking open a once barren womb. Life begins to flow and birthing begins. This is what I feel like Jesus does. He can explain all the things of this world and other dimensions to us but at times, what He does is unlock the walled garden, the hidden realms of our heart to receive revelation.

In the past few days, I have not only read scripture but my understanding has been opened. There is something being birthed in the remnant of God in these days. Hope has often been carried but lost as a miscarriage in the toils of life. Luke 24:45 speaks of a faithful promise. God will open us and unlock us!

Some of us, in order to birth revelation need new wombs. I discovered this as I read a story about a woman in Sweden who couldn’t have a child. Doctors there actually took the womb of her friend who was in her 60’s and transplanted it in the first woman. Even though her friend had already gone through menopause, the transplanted womb brought forth life! What’s incredible is that when the womb was opened through c-section, the child screamed immediately! It was a great sign to the doctors! I’ll attach the link of the video interview of the doctors below.

I prophesy and exhort us to ask God for new wombs of hope and for the unlocking and opening only Jesus can do! Through the unlocking of our understanding, new revelation will be birthed and it wont be a gentle proclamation but a first-born screaming and heralding a new message! It won’t need our help. The new thing is being birthed and we won’t make it happen, we better just hold on and give birth!

http://emp.bbc.co.uk/emp/embed/smpEmbed.html?playlist=http%3A%2F%2Fplaylists.bbc.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fhealth-29488685A%2Fplaylist.sxml&title=The%20baby%20will%20%22give%20hope%22%20to%20those%20wanting%20children%2C%20say%20the%20transplant%20team&product=news&lang=en-gb