Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God is in a Good Mood

I was visiting with a local radio and newspaper reporter this morning and he and I were reflecting on the “mood” of people. Our conclusion (and it’s always nice to find somebody who agrees with me implicitly) was this: the information age has created a monster! Four major news networks pump the airwaves full of every infinitesimal detail of every possible story on the planet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The old adage used to be, “stay tuned for film at 10pm.” FORGET THAT! Now, film can be instantly viewed by satellite, youtube, cable and even on our cell phones (!) at the very instant the event is happening. The result is that if there is something to scare you, worry you, intimidate you, give you pause, terrify you and generally make you want to run to your basement, bomb shelter or local law enforcement officer, a billion people (give or take a million here or there) know about it and are spreading the word before one scintilla of fact can be confirmed.

As if that isn’t enough, then a few voices of the church join the fray. I stumbled onto a late night TV “evangelist” the other day as he gleefully quoted scriptures faster than a speeding bullet and sprayed the background with news clips full of misery. The only thing missing was the Twilight Zone theme music. His program ended with an invitation to, “come to Jesus”. Am I missing something here? If God is somehow at the root of all the crazy bad stuff, how am I supposed to want to come to Jesus?

This year, Christmas can’t come a minute too soon, as far as I’m concerned. Luke’s gospel heralds, “…there were shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. (I know the feeling!) and an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them….and said, ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people’…” Paraphrased it means, “Hey, everybody on earth; God is in a really good mood! He would really like for you to join Him.”

This isn’t to say that we should pretend that bad stuff isn’t happening. It IS to say that the only productive way THROUGH bad stuff is to wrap your arms around a God who is in a good mood. He’s not angry. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God (Isaiah 53:11). He’s not the cause of our calamity, He isn’t in need of anger management counseling, He’s not running out of patience and He is most certainly NOT looking for new and creative ways to roast His creation! Nice and slow, read the Luke passage again, “GOOD news….GREAT joy…. for ALL people…”. God IS in a good mood; join Him.

Turn off the bad news and go do some holy rockin’ around the Christmas tree. That’s where you’ll find me and my house this year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kingdom NOW!

(The following is a transcript of my teaching at Living Word Chapel, Wednesday November 19, 2008)
Our goal, our command, our mission is nothing less than the Kingdom of Heaven explosively expressed, demonstrated, witnessed and enjoyed on the earth. We are not here to provide the church as a hiding place from the world. It is a sin to seek refuge from a storm over which we have been given authority. We are here to equip and ignite the church as platoons of infiltration, saturation and permeation throughout all of society for nothing less than the eventual healing of the nations through the triumphant resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ. My passion is to ignite you in each and every service with the flames of another world so that you leave here smoldering to overcome the lesser realities of the world you will walk through all week long.

It has been said that America’s last and best hope is revival. While I am sympathetic to the notion, and on many levels cooperative with the concept, it is my personal belief that Jesus proclaimed an even greater and more superior transcendence through His delivery of the very real and raw power appearance of the Kingdom of God on the earth. Upon launching His ministry He unapologetically proclaimed that everything from Him forward had the intrinsic potential of being transformed into outrageously good news.

Without so much as a hint of marginalization He shouted, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15) Allow me to pastorally paraphrase; “The wait is over. God has drawn a dark line in eternal sand. God’s total dominion expressed through human beings is presently fully available and simply at the disposal of your own hand. God is far better, bigger, presently available and massively potent than you think so change the way you think. Everything from here forward can be shockingly and fundamentally radicalized into good news.”

And then, as if to offer a sample of the raw power and simplicity of His “revival” Jesus journeys to the Sea of Galilee, sees Simon and his brother Andrew doing their work, steps into their space and seizes control of the atmosphere around them. Without a word of explanation other than the plain announcement, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

Herein, Jesus straight away demonstrates the ascendancy of His domain. Again, please allow me the indulgence of a paraphrase; “Hello fishermen. You are clearly familiar with the tactile pleasure of fish weighing in against your nets as an immediate reward for your craft and knowledge of placing those nets in strategic places and proportions so that the fish don’t know they’ve been caught until it is too late. Their instincts are no match for your clever ability to make a living at the expense of their self-indulgent swimming freedom. Hey; here’s a thought. Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of humans. Upon hearing these Words somewhere more deeply than they had ever heard a word in their lives, their hands obeyed a signal from a different source than merely the brain and they dropped their nets in order to make room to grab the insuperable domain, which, quite honestly had already grabbed them.”

To further underline these remarkable (pun intended….re-Mark-able) events Jesus takes His new human catch to the Synagogue and teaches. As He speaks, authoritative dominion power (with real effect being put into the atmosphere) is being released in His Words. (Mark 1:-22) Suddenly, a man with an unclean spirit cries out THE REALITY OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE SPIRIT REALM! (Mark 1:24) But Jesus would rather speak for Himself, thank you very much, and so He did and cleaned “house” in front of the entire synagogue.

If you continue to follow Mark’s account you read with utter amazement at the sheer power of the raw appearance of the Kingdom of God in, around and through Jesus. Two different homes are physically over-run by the crowds. One of those homes has its roof torn open in order to lower a lame man. In one place Mark says, “the whole city had gathered at the door”. In another place Jesus’ new “catch of the day” disciples searched everywhere to find Him (because He was out banking into Himself more of the Presence of God and the Kingdom) and when they found Him they excitedly kept telling him that, “everyone is looking for You.” (Mark 1:37)

So what’s my point? Our goal, our command, our mission is nothing less than the Kingdom of Heaven explosively expressed, demonstrated, witnessed and enjoyed on the earth. We are not here to provide the church as a hiding place from the world. It is a sin to seek refuge from a storm over which we have been given authority. We are here to equip and ignite the church as platoons of infiltration, saturation and permeation throughout all of society for nothing less than the eventual healing of the nations through the triumphant resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ. My passion is to ignite you in each and every service with the flames of another world so that you leave here smoldering to overcome the lesser realities of the world you will walk through all week long.


Monday, November 17, 2008

An Open Letter

Note the date posted just below. I have held this letter since that time as one among many writings I have filed through the years. Most are still filed, a few I have mailed, emailed or blogged. This is one of the few I am putting to my blog. I struggled with the contrast in content in view of my later blog, “A Culture of Honor” but I have decided to post this as well. I am still thoroughly committed to the content of “A Culture of Honor” as I view this newest post as a plea to the “handlers” and offered with no disrespect to our current new slate of leaders.
Feel free to send this along to any political party leaders you know, local or otherwise. I am committed to the idea of putting this in as many hands as I can.

October 28, 2008

To the Winners and the Losers of the Political Parties,

Congratulations and condolences. Both wishes are offered equally and without obvious application. The winners have lost more than what seems obvious and the losers might still win if the slogans of both sides of the campaigns can be changed from a cheer leading promise to living truth: CHANGE!

I am writing this letter exactly one week before the November general election. It is based on a wide variety of ponderings as a rural pastor/shepherd keeping watch over his flock by night. I’d like to say that a host of angels burst out in the dark sky announcing the arrival of peace, good will for all. It is quite the contrary. While I am elated that such an event is already etched in history and perfectly confident that its transcendent supremacy can not be reversed, I am also deeply troubled by the dreadful darkness that your campaign trails have plowed through the soul of this nation.

At a time of grave and real anxiety both major political parties gleefully seized the moment with barrels of salt to discharge into the nation’s wounds. At the risk of dragging the minutia of yet another poll into this mix, I do want to refer to the general conclusions of one poll (Associated Press-Yahoo News Poll conducted by Knowledge Networks conducted in early October) that reflected that the majority of Americans of all political stripes are “worried, unhappy, fatigued and frightened”. Yet both party’s political aspirations fueled an emotional feeding frenzy at the scent of our blood in the waters of your grabbing and grasping for political power. This is nothing less than shameful behavior easily comparable to a raging alcoholic parent threatening a family with further harm if they don’t unconditionally cede control.

One candidate for a national office completely fit the profile of this picture saying, “Once this campaign is over, the nation must be healed! We’ve been through a terrible time.” Hmmm….I’ve counseled a few people down through the years who have related how a rage-oholic adult would ravage a home and then sit down with the family later in tears to talk about how much they care and only desire to heal the bruises. It’s like a hospital posting snipers on the roof and simultaneously advertising discounted deals on treatments for gunshot wounds.

The following paragraph is now being written almost 2 weeks after the election.

Please end this vicious cycle. Please spend the next gap in time between campaigns in a search for the high road. Please read the other postings of this blog, “A Culture of Honor” and “Is it November 5th Yet?” Please fire the political gun slingers and hire some spiritual advisors. Please tell us what your core values truly are instead of spending millions to vomit in our living rooms. The mess is real, the stench is overwhelming and Republicans, Democrats and Independents are responsible. Please STOP IT!

I told my congregation this week to rise above the rancor and learn to be better and bigger people. I said this, “There will be those who feel that their cause is so just, so right that it grants them the right to be disrespectful and dishonoring. I say we should ennoble our cause by honoring those in authority who represent the contrary. Shine the light of honor on all your opinions, political or otherwise, so that those on the contrary side might better see what truth lies within.”


Pastor Randy Dean

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Culture of Honor

(The bulk of the following has been brewing in my spirit for many days leading up to the national general election of 2008. As you can tell, the first paragraph is specific to the very day of the election, but beyond that, these are words that the Holy Spirit has been perfecting within me).

I am writing this on the morning of November 4, 2008. There are no election returns in yet but I am thrilled to see lines all over the country as voter turn out is literally off the charts. Some of the pundits say that this bodes well for one party over the other but I say, regardless, this bodes well for our nation! I have longed to see this kind of involvement since the day I cast my first vote in 1972.

Whoever the new president is, I honor him now. I am personally committed to making a break with the past extreme partisan nastiness that has soiled the American soul for at least the past 16 years. I’m starting my own campaign, beginning now, for a national healing renewal that begins and ends in the Church (which, by the way, should have always been in the Church) as it relates to our relationship to governing authorities and beyond.

My apostolic father, Bill Johnson, when pondering the formation of a network of churches and ministries, wondered aloud several months ago, “How far could we go in a culture of honor?” He voiced this as others around him were pressing for a more formalized and legislated mechanism of relationship. That simple revelation of honor is now becoming a thriving spiritual family spreading the revival dynamics of the Kingdom of God internationally.

I Peter 2:17 says, “Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the King.” The first mention in that verse of honor is the greek word “tee-may-o” which means to prize, fix a valuation on and value with reverence. The second word is “tim-may” which actually ratchets up the stakes of the word to mean pay a price for value, to have esteem and dignity and to view as precious. Have you discovered that people will generally live up (or down, as the case may be) to the value you genuinely place in them? In our society’s full court press to teach “self-esteem” to our children, have we inadvertently omitted the possibility that esteem for self may be best built and expressed in a healthy and holy esteem for others?

Our current political climate has pretty much created a national sport of blasting the esteem out of others in a naked attempt to achieve our ambitions. Then when the elections are over we reap what we’ve sown as we go after the folks at the top until we can successfully blast them out of any esteem or value and this cycle goes on and on, and worse and worse.

My goal today is to be one person in my place of influence to put an end to that cycle. We can no longer wait for someone else to do this. We can no longer wait for “our” person to win an office before we decide to do the honor thing. In fact, the purest honor, the most tested and reliable honor is honor placed somewhere and in someone where it has cost you something to give it! I would go so far as to suggest that honor isn’t honor UNTIL it costs you something.

I admire the skills of a good comedian. Dennis Miller is a good comedian, not my favorite comedian, but a very skilled one. Recently, on a late night show he was in rare form lampooning Senator Obama. Suddenly, he reined in his monologue and took a serious turn. In a rare move for any comedian he apologized for a part of his verbal run that made fun of the Obama family. And then he said, “Listen, whoever wins this election…could we all agree now to avoid making the new president yet another anti-Christ?” The crowd cheered. This resonates with what I’m sharing here.

What would it look like if people of faith bestowed an outrageous spirit of blessing and honor, even on those we might deem had nothing intrinsically deserving of the same? What would it look like for us to be genuinely and profoundly thankful as we prayed for those in authority? (I Timothy 2:1-3) What would it look like for a body of believers to be an army unarmed by human resources yet heavily armed by Kingdom Resources who determine ALWAYS and in ALL THINGS to overcome evil (real or perceived) WITH GOOD? (Romans 12)

In Isaiah 44 and 45 the prophet speaks a Kingdom declaration on the pagan king of Persia and calls him “My Shepherd” (44:28) and “anointed” (45:1) Ezra 1 says that the expenses for Judah’s return to her land and the restoration of the temple came “by the hand” of that pagan government. If God can call Cyrus anointed, who am I to think that God could not do the same with someone elected to such an influencial position as the presidency?

Did you know that in his run for the presidency Abraham Lincoln promised to uphold State’s Rights in slavery and yet he is best known now for the Emancipation Proclamation (which overturned the State's rights with federal power)? What’s the greater miracle? That a pro-life president get elected? Or that a pro-choice president might have a change of heart?

What deeply concerns me in today's Christian "world-view" is that far too much of it is fear based and enslaved to the narrow view that our highest and best exercise of "power" is political. What political power did Jesus wield? How often did Jesus preach political activism against the raging vicious power of Rome? Never! And yet, where is the center of the world's largest Christian denomination today? ROME! How was Rome defeated? By the subtle servant King who healed the sick and made broken hearts whole again.

I am certainly not suggesting that we should take some lazy approach of political nuetrality....a snoozy "whatever" approach. On the contrary, I believe that the passage I referenced above (I Peter 2) demands of us in verse 12 "good works". Works so incredibly excellent and self-less that the world observing us sees them and shouts, "GLORY TO GOD!" It's one thing for us to sing "glory to God" in the comfort of our worship services....it is quite another thing to do something so God glorifying that a watching world can not hold back their praise to God because of what they see in us!