Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moral Inventory

Before I dive into this blog, let me lay down three defining principles that will help keep me and you on track:
1. I am using Alcoholics Anonymous’ Fourth Step as the platform for these thoughts. I’ve heard it said that A.A. needs the church, but the church equally needs A.A.
2. Unhealthy introspection leads to nothing…and I mean nothing! If I was the devil (and I’m not) I would have Christians preoccupied with deep and obsessive internal reviews to keep them feeling religiously active and spiritually neutered.
3. Too many people love to use the word, “morals” as long as they can emphasize their favorite ones to the exclusion of a wide variety of other, equally valuable morals. For instance, Romans chapter one lists homosexuality along with other deeds of the flesh such as slander, gossip and being unloving and unmerciful. Once you quote a list like this you surrender the right to pick and choose…its all or nothing.

Other than for taxes or financial reports, when a store conducts an inventory it is quite often for the purpose of simply knowing what sells. They are productively looking for the means of how to serve a larger customer base. When a grocery store notices that sugar coated “Sticks and Stones Cereal” has been sitting on their shelves for months while “Wilbur’s Wonder Cereal” is flying off the shelves, they act precipitously to stock what is selling and lose the dead weight inventory if they want to grow and keep their customers well served.

Galatians 5:19-26 offers a superb grid for a healthy moral inventory and the clarity of defining two value systems: “The deeds of the flesh are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and “things like these…” On the other hand, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Allow me to play a couple of scenarios for you. Let’s say one of my church members comes to me today, stumbling drunk, and says to me, “I got drunk because the Obama administration is taking this country into a socialist state.” I will rise from behind my desk, walk over to them and say, “You are drunk because you are living out of the wrong value system. You are living in the flesh and outside pressures have exposed your erroneous priorities”.

Now imagine another member walks in my office, red in the face with anger, and they say, “I just came back from a town hall meeting and I am just so angry because the Obama Administration is taking this country into a socialist state.” Once again, I would rise from behind my desk, walk over to this church member and say, “You are angry because you are living out of the wrong value system. You are living in the flesh and outside pressures have exposed your erroneous priorities”.

Angry outbursts are no more or less acceptable than drunkenness! They both bear witness to our internal realities. When our internal realities are only within the scope of our own abilities, measured by our human reasoning and marginalized by fear, the “deeds of the flesh” WILL NOT BE FAR BEHIND.

Verse 21 of this chapter says, “…those who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” When our life is lived within the anemic framework of our own resources unplugged from Heaven’s Resources, we will miss seeing the transcendent supremacy of the Kingdom of God happening before our very eyes! The only thing we inherit is our frail limitation.

God is offering us a far, far greater bounty. When our internal reality is steeping in the River of the Holy Spirit’s unlimited power, out of us will rush, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.

And when we live this way, we will SEE the Kingdom of God trumping all inferior realities around us. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality”. Conversely, this means that when we amputate truth from the soil of the Holy Spirit, it has the same outcome as compromising the same truth we say we hold dear.

After his home was fire-bombed Pastor King (I love remembering that this hero was just simple pastor) was taunted and admonished to join the radical militants of the civil rights movement. In response, he called the media to his front yard, stood on his charred and badly damaged front porch and proclaimed forgiveness to the perpetrators of that crime. He refused to allow his internal realities to degenerate into the obtuse limitations of the flesh. Instead he chose the unlimited power of the Spirit and His resplendent fruit.

My brothers and sisters, we are in a similar time, though in vastly different political dynamics. When we are wronged, politically or in any other way, we have a choice to transcend or descend. If we truly believe that the Kingdom of God will ultimately triumph over all inferior challengers, then we will live TODAY by seeding the world with the Kingdom’s Fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Firebrand School of Ministry; Year 2!

Last summer I took complete leave of my mind and ordinary thinking and obeyed God in starting Firebrand School of Ministry. Now, with the first year nearly completed I am ecstatic that God gave us this opportunity.

At 11 p.m. last night, after a full day that started at 7 a.m. I was discussing the new second year about to begin September 14th with my daughter Libby and my son-in-law Darren. Darren is taking on an additional teaching load and Libby is starting a new class as an additional instructor (all of our instructors are volunteer at this point). We were brain-storming and agonizing just a bit over some of the preparations for the new year when Darren said, “Can you even imagine our church now without Firebrand and the interns?” We all laughed and remarked that there is no way to fathom being who we are as a church without the presence of Firebrand and our student-interns!

Current western Christian culture is at risk due, in part, to two anemic fixations:
1.“going to heaven” and a related “end times” fatalism
2. Berating and bemoaning the darkness and wickedness of our day

Firebrand School was born to impart a Kingdom Culture in the heart and mind of the church. We intend to raise up a generation of believers who have received a new baptism in fire through the Holy Spirit from the very Hands of Jesus. Our mission is to equip and deploy full time ministers, whose core value is, “on earth, as it is in heaven” into the full spectrum of life; artists, teachers, politicians, entrepreneurs, inventors, home-makers, church workers and servants of every description. Revival will result from their faith as they set out in an authentic passion to change the world through the communication and demonstration of the Kingdom of God. Here’s a thought, “Darkness leaves when light shines”.

While I am typing these words our students are on the streets in a class called, “Treasure Hunt”. Pastor Darren takes the school out at least once a week to serve a variety of towns and cities around us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Before the school leaves the church they pray for “clues” to find the treasure in the hearts of people they have never met. They compile a treasure map (red scarf, grocery store, limping person, etc) and head out on a Kingdom adventure.

Simply put the students are being trained to serve in unconditional love and power. No witness pamphlets, no threats of “going to hell”, no arm twisting to come to our church and zero pressure to “get saved”. Just love people through the heart and eyes of the Holy Spirit. They have prayed for dozens of people at malls, parks, stores and other public venues with incredible results. As an example, imagine in your mind’s eye Darren along with his students standing in the middle of a grocery store aisle, holding a sobbing grandmother who is overcome with gratitude for a simple prayer of comfort.

Joining me as teachers in our school are these marvelous people;
*Pastor Steve Olson – Founder and Director of Impact Ministries (a live-in treatment center for chemical dependency). Steve has a degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling and an amazing testimony of life out of a spiritual grave.
*Pastor Gene Morfitt – A former senior pastor with a MBA and a variety of graduate studies from places like the University of Minnesota and Bethel University. Gene and his family run a retreat ministry that has literally touched families from all over the world.
*Libby Hose – My daughter and our church worship director and women’s ministry leader. Libby has a PhD in life and living! Her powerful and anointed leadership in worship has lifted our church to an entirely new dimension of the Kingdom of God.
*Pastor Darren Hose – Darren has been a youth pastor for 14 years. He has studied at Northwestern College and the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Currently he is finishing a B.A. in education. Pastor Darren leads our missions outreach at LWC as well and is powerfully gifted as a prophet.

Classes include such topics as; Creating a Kingdom Culture, Worship and Work Ethic, Creating a Prophetic Culture, Culture of Honor and Spiritual Authority, Supernatural Lifestyle, Supernatural Mental Health and many other Kingdom of God inspired topics.
Our second year begins September 14th. Registration is due by September 1st. Applications are available on-line at our church web-site; www.LWC1.com. Go the FBSM link for further information.

Our school isn’t for everybody…but it is for giant-killers, world changers, miracle minded servants and passionate lovers of God. Is that you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Naked People

Add one naked person to any crowd, anywhere and you’ve got instant awareness; “Hey! There’s a naked person!” Beautiful, ugly, young, old, male, female…naked will turn heads on a swivel. Depending on multiple factors, heads will spin toward, away, up, down and quite possibly some necks will suffer severe sprain.

Five years ago my wife and I spent a few weeks in Jamaica. We found a quiet beach with no kids and no noise which was no small feat. We were pretty impressed with ourselves…until we discovered that it was a clothing optional area. “Ginger! Look at that lady over there!” To which Ginger said, “Randy! Look at me…NOW!” The rest of that story is that we used that section of the beach quite often for the peace it afforded. Our swim suits stayed ON. And yes, I behaved…most of the time.

There was a time in the human experience when it did not matter. There was a time, long, long ago when being naked didn’t even merit a comment. No heads swiveled. God made it that way. Adam and Eve had absolutely no consciousness of their condition. “Naked and unashamed” is the exact descriptor of that state.

This is not going to be some weird nudist admonition. OK? Now, tune in.

The original word for ashamed meant, “not confused or in any way slowed down”. IT DID NOT MATTER! IT HAD NO BEARING ON HOW THEY LIVED THEIR LIVES. Eve didn’t have an eating disorder born out of some disgusting demand on her life to have a certain “look”. Adam was not driven by a broken and unbridled “need” to impress Eve. Body image had no bearing on personal definitions.

What would our lives be like if no external factor mattered, at any level? What source would nourish our value systems, our assessments and our judgments if we were unregulated by the dominance of sensory perceptions?

Does this have anything to do with Jesus commandment, “Do not judge lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1)? I am convinced that it does. I am convinced that the arrival of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of Jesus Christ has re-introduced a climate for freedom beyond our normal imaginations.

The Presence of God was once the glory (weightiness) that made nakedness irrelevant. Now the Presence of God can be a glory (weightiness) that offers a completely new platform for our self-awareness and security.

Let me come at this in another way. God would like to complete us in ways we ordinarily assign to our appearance. This doesn’t mean that I stop shaving, brushing my teeth and combing my hair. It means that when people meet me that they can be immediately and convincingly aware of that God is with me.

More than my power tie, more than my designer suit, more than how much I weigh, more than my complexion, more than my hygiene; there is SomeOne ON me.

God is with me and His Presence in my life makes heads swivel. This is my goal in life and I will live in THAT power suit all the days of my life.