By: Shane Warren

November 30, 2015

The Terminator

Sitting here in the Knoxville airport this morning I overheard a man behind me talking to his employer about a fellow colleague. He spent 30 minutes ranting about the failures and incompetence of his fellow employee over whom he obviously has direct management. Being a person who loves the art of leadership I listened carefully to what he said and how he said it. 

After a few minutes it was crystal clear to me that he was blaming his failure as a leader on this person under his direct command. Because his neck was on the line, he was covering for a job not well done. In a self-preservation effort he was terminating this individual with his words and actions.

As a high level leader I could easily discern that this man is a low class leader who will not have a bright future in his field. Not one time did he take ownership for his job, role or its outcome. He was the type of individual that believes you climb the ladder of success on the backs of his peers. 

Leadership isn’t using or abusing people to get to the top, it’s teaching people how to use their gifts and talents rightly to fulfill their potential. This is how a real team is built! Unity is so vital to a team’s productivity in every field and teamwork is never achieved when the leader spends his time making excuses at the expense of people. 

REMEMBER, you can never make yourself look good as a leader by making other people look bad! High class leadership deals with problems privately and personally, not publicly. Take the high road of leadership. The attitude of your team is a direct reflection of your leadership. If you don’t like the outcome of a job stop and look in the mirror first. Take ownership! Then spend time with your team and lead them on how to do better. 

November 28, 2015

Opinions

They are like noses, everyone has one! If you try to do anything great in life you will quickly learn that there are many people who will not cheer you on. I wish I could tell you that all of your friends and family would get behind your vision and cheer you on, but that is not the case!

Everyone is going to have an opinion about you and about what you are endeavoring to do. If you aren’t careful you will allow the expectations of others to rule your life. If you are constantly trying to make everyone happy I can promise you that you will end up the most disappointed, miserable person on the planet. 

God created, called and gifted you to be YOU! Don’t be a cheap fake, be an expensive original. You can’t do that if you are constantly chasing people’s opinions. I have a motto that I am learning to live by: Everyone has a right to their opinion and I have every right not to listen to it. 

If what others say about you and your dream doesn’t match what God has put in your heart, let their opinions go in one ear and out the other. Be kind but don’t be swayed. Stay focused on your dream and be authentic. 

Here is a key: It’s ok to listen to people’s opinions and take advice, but you have to be secure in who God called you to be so that when someone has a different opinion you aren’t sidetracked. 

I have learned that trying to please people is a trap that leads to carrying greater burdens that I was never meant to carry. I heard about a grandfather who was making a trip into town with his grandson. Since the boy was young the grandfather put him on the mule to ride as he walked beside him. Someone came by and said, “look at that selfish, spoiled little boy riding while that old man is walking…”

Hearing this the grandfather let the boy walk and he got on the mule to ride. Someone came by and said, “can you believe that strong, full-grown man is riding and making that little boy walk…”

Hearing that the grandfather reached down and grabbed the little boy, lifted him up, and set him upon the mule so both of them could ride. Someone came by and said, “that poor mule, they are making him carry way too much weight…

Finally, both of them got off the mule and by the time they got into town they were both carrying the mule. 

The point is this, when you try to listen to everyone’s opinions and stop being authentic you end up carrying what you were never meant to carry. 

Everyone has an opinion, including God. The real question today is whose opinion holds more weight in your life?

October 22, 2015

Get Sharp!

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs 27:17, NLT

King Solomon’s writings are filled with illustrations meant to enlighten us about the power of meaningful relationships. He believed good friends could sharpen one another—that “metal to metal” relationships would result in an improved life (see Prov. 27:17). He also believed that poor relationships would wound us. Ultimately, he claimed, we are the product of our friendships, whether good or bad. 

The king clearly understood that human beings were never made to “go it alone.” He taught us that God often uses the influences of others to shape and prepare our destinies.

We can never be all God intended for us to be without significant people in our lives.  

For this reason, we must work hard at developing friendships with those more stalwart than ourselves—colleagues who aren’t afraid to “level with us,” who are more impressed with character than accomplishment. 

It is a well-known medical and scientific fact that life without significant relationships is not only meaningless, but very unhealthy.

In his book, The Broken Heart, James Lynch says, “Most of the people I deal with have at the root of their physical problems the problem of loneliness. They may well be living with someone, or indeed in a busy, bustling family atmosphere but they do not know what it is to experience a close relationship. The lonely are twice as likely to suffer physical problems as those who enjoy a warm relationship with at least one other person.”

Sydney Jourard in his book, The Transparent Self, said, “Every maladjusted person is someone who has not made himself known to another human being and in consequence he does not know himself. Nor can he be himself. More than that, he struggles actively to avoid becoming known by another human being. He works ceaselessly at it day and night. And it is work!”

The reality is that we not only need a right relationship with God but healthy relationships with one another. We can live successfully without having to be in a romantic relationship, but we cannot live a worthwhile life nor can we grow outside of meaningful relationships. As the Bible teaches, “It is not good to be alone.”
Finish together



One of the most memorable moments in recent Olympic history took place in 1992, at the summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. You may remember the name of Derek Redmond. He was the British runner who had been through twenty-two surgeries on his Achilles heel getting ready for the 400 meter race.

It was a shock to everyone that he was even running again, much less competing as the best athlete from his country. When the gun went off for his race, Derek took off. He was in the middle of the pack of some of the fastest runners in the world when, about halfway around the track, he pulled his hamstring and fell to the ground.

Of course, everyone thought he was finished. The broadcasters started yelling out, “Derek Redmond is out of the race! Derek Redmond is out of the race!” The cameraman stayed with the rest of the runners as they finished the race, but then the cameras raced back to Derek Redmond who was still down on the track, trying to pull himself back up. He was determined to finish the race.

Much to everyone’s amazement, this great athlete slowly stood up and began to hobble around the track, writhing in pain. You can see this on the video footage. As you watch his face, there were tears streaming down his cheeks. Yet, in spite of his determination, it was obvious to everyone watching that there was just no way he would be able to finish that race. He was in such pain.

Just as Redmond was about to collapse for the final time, a man came running down out of the stands. He climbed the fence at the side of the track, pushed his way past two big guards and ran onto the track. The man who came to Derek Redmond’s side that day was Derek’s mentor. He had been sitting in the second to the top of the grand stand that day in Barcelona, but he could not imagine anything but getting involved.

The man’s name was Jim Redmond. He happened to be Derek’s dad. For years, he had been there by his son’s side, getting up at four o’clock in the morning for practices, encouraging, supporting, and cheering his son on. Now, he felt he just could not stand by and let his son fail to finish the race.

So he came jogging up to his injured son; and, when he got close enough, he reached for him, putting his hand on Derek’s shoulder. Derek took a few more steps and then turned and fell into the chest of his mentor and dad. Then, Jim Redmond said these words, which were later quoted in the newspaper. He said, “Derek, we started this thing together, and we are going to finish this thing together.”

Then Jim took his son’s arm, put it around his own shoulders, put his arm around Derek’s shoulders and held his son up. I mean, literally, just held him up as together they made their way around the rest of the track. As you can imagine, the crowd was roaring its approval as Derek Redmond finished his race. But, he did not finish it alone. Together, linked arm in arm, father and son crossed the finish line as one. 

We desperately need strategic relationships to finish our race well in life. 


Here are some MAJOR relationship keys:

  • If you want a friend, you must first so the seeds of friendship toward people. 

So many people complain that they don’t have meaningful relationships, yet they never make themselves friendly first. 

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

The actions and attitudes you sow in relationships you will receive back again. If you value and protect relationships God will make sure that those same dynamics are reciprocated. If you are a source of discord and confusion your life will likewise be filled with discord and confusion. 

  • Be a giver and not a taker. 

So many people just use relationships as a means to an end. People are not ladders that you use to go higher in life. 

  • Be authentic, vulnerable and transparent

Just be you and let the “chips fall where they may…” A healthy, genuine relationship can’t be based on pretense. 

  • Be humble and extend mercy

Everyone has skeletons in their closet. When we first start relationships they go through a “honeymoon” phase. Eventually we rub each other the wrong way and feelings get hurt. Be mature enough to forgive and ask for forgiveness. 

We need to understand that going to the next level in God will always require us to discover and develop new relationships. However, we should never discard time-honored, meaningful relationships. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.”

So who needs friends, right? After all, this is America—the great bastion of independence and self-sufficiency.  Think again! Maybe it’s time once more for you and me to hear the sound of grinding metal in our lives. Iron to iron—friend sharpening friend. Lord, give us good friends! 

October 9, 2015

One of those days…

Have you ever had “one of those days” where you wake up, and immediately you can tell that today, this day, will be a hard one. You get ready for your day, and it seems like everything in the world is a struggle – You spill your coffee in your car, your appointments don’t go as planned and “Murphy’s Law” seems to be on steroids!

You know, the kind of day that makes you feel like screaming, “why won’t this day just END already?” Do you know those type of days I’m talking about? Surely I’m not the only one…

If you are like me you feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed and totally incabpable of doing what needs to be done. You get short, irritable, overly sensitive and feel like a total failure. 

Yesterday was a day like that for me. At the end of the day I wanted to crawl under a rock. I missed the mark and let the stress get the best of me. Haven’t done it in a long time, but I over reacted to some situations and let that spill out to my team. 

Because I am a “big picture” kind of leader I allowed my mind to determine the results of the future before it has even happened. What makes it worst is that I’m a Pastor and all Pastors are usually perfect leaders who don’t have meltdowns. Everyone else can meltdown, but not the Cheif…(can you feel the sarcasm?)

This morning I arose from my slumber still feeling the condemnation of personal leadership failure. No it’s not the end of the world, but just the “knowing” I could have done better and the internal questions of where did I personally drop the ball in the process. 

In these moments of life I’m thankful for grace and mercy. Not only from God, also from the team around me. Failure is not final if we learn from it! Sometimes those raw moments reveal something in us we thought we killed a long time ago. We all have “those kind of days…” and most of us (if we are honest) don’t handle them well. 

So what do you do when you have “one of those days”?

  1. Repent quickly – though people don’t like it when we miss the mark, they will forgive if they really understand that at the end of the day that action isn’t who you really are. Just ask for forgiveness – From the person and from God. Saying you are sorry goes a long way!
  2. Back up and look at the bigger picture – no it don’t go according to plan, but maybe, just maybe God has a surprise that you didn’t plan for. One issue doesn’t usuall sink the ship!
  3. Keep people a priority – relationships matter more than agendas, programs, or facilities. Jesus died for people!
  4. Let it go and move on – yes you blew it. Now let it go, cast of the condemnation, and use the failure as fuel for your dream. Carrying the extra weight of a “bad moment” only slows down your journey. One paragraph doesn’t define a book – how the story end determines how good the book was!
  5. Refocus on the goal – push forward inspite of the challenge. Pull your team together and encourage yourself and them that “better days” are ahead!

One final word – if you work for a leader like me that has some “bonehead” moments, grant a lot of mercy. Being a leader and carrying lots of responsibility isn’t an easy task. And trust me, your “days” are coming too when you will blow it or meltdown – you will also need all the mercy you can get! 

None of us have arrived; we are all a mess that God is making a masterpiece. Now rise up and go take on your day. It’s a new day with its own challenges and victories. Don’t use any strength regretting yesterday; you are going to need all the strength you have for today. 

October 8, 2015

DYING ON THE THRESHOLD

IMG_1407.JPGIt was on a Monday night. I went to bed, fell fast asleep and immediately entered a dream state. I’m not a dreamer by nature, so for this to happen to me was a big deal.
In this dream I saw myself standing on a platform holding a microphone and I heard myself say “Turn to Judges, chapter 19:22-30.” And then for the next hour I listened to myself preach what I am about to share with you.
When I woke up it was about two o’clock in the morning. I immediately jumped out of bed, picked up a pen and wrote down, verbatim, the six points the Lord gave me that you are about to read in this first chapter.
God literally wrote this message—one of the easiest that has ever come to me, but also one of the most prophetic.
At one point in my dream I was preaching with such fervor that I was ripping out the pages of my Bible and throwing them at individuals, saying, “You don’t believe this! You don’t believe this!”
While this account from the Bible may not be easy to digest, and may offend some, it is God’s Word.
The passage the Lord asked me to preach is perhaps one of the strangest in Scripture:

As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!”
But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.

Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, “Get up and let us be going.” But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place.

When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And so it was that all who saw it said, “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!” (Judges 19:22-30).

In reading Judges 19 you will discover that this story is about 10 a priest who married a concubine who committed the act of adultery. This concubine made her way back to her father’s house, which was in Bethlehem (Judges 19:2). We know that the priest must have been in love with this woman because after four months he left his house to go to the home of his father-in-law, hoping God would reconcile the relationship between him and his concubine.

One of the most unusual things in this account is the priest’s affection for this woman because, in Bible days, concubines had no legal rights as a regular wife. In those times, such a woman was there to satisfy her partner, have children and raise them, and to tend to the house. Other than that, she had no rights or benefits (except protection and provision as long as she remained in her master’s house).

Normally, a priest under the law of Moses would have had this woman stoned because she committed the act of adultery. Yet, this priest loved her so much that he left everything he owned in order to pursue her. As we learn, the relationship was reconciled—God reunited them. In fact, the father-in-law was enjoying the company of his son- in-law so much that he begged him to stay several days (verse 4).

Scripture tells us they were eating, drinking, and making merry—not a care in the world. Then, when it was time to return home, the priest and the concubine rose early. He had his servant get the donkeys ready for the journey, only to find out that his father-in-law had prepared a breakfast for them (verse 5).

The woman’s father persuaded them to stay for just one more day and night—which they did. The next evening, at dusk, the priest insisted that they must leave. He didn’t seem to be anxious or afraid of a nighttime journey.

Soon it was late and the servant, knowing how dangerous it was to be on the road at night, suggested, “Let’s find a hotel here and get some sleep.” They had reached the town of Jebus, near Jerusalem (verse 10).

The priest, however, wanted to keep moving on since Jebus was a non-Jewish community. So they continued on to Gibeah, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. It was the middle of the night when they arrived and no one would take them in for shelter. So they decided to sleep in the town square.

Even though Gibeah was Jewish, it was an extremely wicked city—much like Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, the priest was firm in his decision to camp in the square. He felt totally comfortable there, discarding the fact that it might put his concubine, his servant, and his goods in jeopardy. About that time, an old man walked up to them and, knowing the risks they faced, gave them an invitation to come to his house: “Let all your needs by my responsibility” (verse 20).
A SHOCKING RESPONSE
We pick up the story at verse 22 in our Scripture passage. They were relaxing, resting from their arduous travels and having a good time, when all of a sudden “perverted” (the actual translation says sons of Belial, or “sons of the devil”), demon-possessed men showed up and started banging on the door. They yelled, “Bring the man out so we can rape him all night long and have our way with him.” Their host resisted: “Please don’t do this wicked thing to my guest.” But in a shocking response, he offered them his young, virgin daughter.

In Old Testament days, girls were married at very early ages, so his daughter was probably 10, 11, or 12 years old. As a father, I can hardly wrap my mind around his decision, knowing they were about to molest and prostitute this child. In addition, he offered to send out the priest’s concubine. But the evil intruders would have nothing to do with it; they wanted the man. The priest, fearing for his life, took his concubine and pushed her out into the street where she was gang raped all night long. Then, as the sun was rising, the concubine, beaten, bruised, and bloody, crawled back to the place where the priest was staying. On the porch, in her desperate state, she reached out her hand to the threshold of the house.

The priest, who was ready to continue on his way, opened the door and saw his collapsed concubine with her hands on the threshold. Immediately, with no thought of her condition, he said, “Get up! Let’s go!”—but there was no response. She was dead! He and his servant picked up her body, placed it on a donkey and rode back to the hills of Ephraim.

Then, when he arrived home, he did the unthinkable. He brought her body into the kitchen, took out a knife, and cut her into 12 different pieces. Next, he placed each part into separate packages and sent them via the FedEx or UPS of the day out to the 12 tribes of Israel. Why did he do this? Because he wanted to incite the leaders of the 12 tribes to come and make war against the Gibeons.
SIX MISTAKES
There are a many unusual details in this account, but I want to share with you the six things God said to me concerning this story.

Mistake #1: The priest was totally comfortable in the darkness.
This man knew that the nation was on the verge of civil war. He also understood that the most perilous time to be out and about was when it was dark. Yet he was so comfortable in the darkness that he waited until it was nighttime before he began his journey. Then, when his servant said, “Let’s find a room. It is getting late and it’s dangerous outside,” he would not listen. Why? Because he had no fear of the night.

Mistake #2: The priest was a coward in the midst of danger.
Here was a man of the cloth, a progenitor of righteousness, who had taken a vow before God to protect the innocent and defend the defenseless. But when danger came knocking at the door, he pushed his own concubine out, knowing full well these men were going to rape and abuse her. This priest had a yellow streak running from the top of his neck to the bottom of his tailbone. He was a coward who showed no courage.

Mistake #3: The priest’s concern was totally displaced.
Since this priest had a servant, he could have sent his slave out to satisfy these abusers. According to Scripture, they wanted a man, didn’t they?
Here’s what I heard in the dream. God said the reason the priest did not send out his servant was because if he had, he would no longer have someone to wait on him hand and foot—to turn down his sheets for him that night, to fluff his pillow, or make coffee for him in the morning. He was self-absorbed; his concern was totally displaced.
Think of it. Supposedly, he loved his concubine so much that he traveled many miles to recapture her, yet he willingly thrust her out into the street instead of his servant. Something was terribly wrong with this priest.

Mistake #4: The priest was comatose in the midst of duty.
When his abused concubine, his lover, crawled up on the porch and reached out her hands to the threshold, what was the priest doing? Since the Bible says he “arose in the morning” and opened the door to leave, he must have been sleeping. After the priest put his concubine out into the night, he probably heard her screaming as she was being violated. Yet he had the audacity to lay his head down on a pillow and fall asleep through the entire ordeal. A man is supposed to defend the woman he loves, but not this priest. He was comatose in his duty.

Mistake #5: The priest was careless in the midst of difficulty.
Scripture records that when he saw his concubine laying on the ground, he said, “Get up! Let’s go!” A normal, caring person would fall to his knees, start weeping, caress the woman he loved, wipe the matted hair from her face and the blood off her brow. Not this priest. He didn’t kiss her bruised lips or hold her in his arms. He didn’t open the door and exclaim, “Oh, baby! What have they done to you? I am so sorry!” Instead, with a cold heart, he ordered her, “Get up! Let’s go!”—only to find that this woman was already dead. How careless can a man be?

Misake #6: The priest was totally callous in the midst of his deed.
A Jew is not supposed to desecrate a body—never. But instead of giving his concubine a proper burial, he mutilated and dismembered her body. This man was extremely callous. His thinking was totally wrong.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Now that I have shared what the Lord showed me, permit me tell you what He told me. There is so much more to this story than just the priest and his concubine. In the New Testament we read that “whatever things were written before [in the old covenant] were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4).

In my dream, I heard God say, “This priest represents the church and the concubine represents America.” The Lord told me to tell you that the dead and dying hand of our nation is stretched out right now upon the threshold of the church—and He is concerned that the ministers are going to be asleep and not open the door. Plus, if we don’t move quickly, the dead and dying hand of America, our concubine, is going to die on our doorstep.

Something is wrong with the church today. I believe the Bible when it says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Without question, God wants to pour out His Spirit on America—from the east coast to the west coast, from north to south. The Lord desires to visit our nation again with the greatest revival the world has ever seen. But I must honestly tell you I fear that America will never see revival. I fear that the outstretched hand of the world that is reaching out toward the church will only die on our front porch.

The reason I say this is because we have grown far too comfortable and complacent in our darkness. We live like the world lives; we talk like the world talks; we walk like the world walks; we see and watch the same things that the world sees. Yes, we are much too familiar and “at home” in the night that surrounds us. We know there is danger in the darkness, yet we will not come into the light.

The Apostle Paul saw these days approaching when he wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). In other words, darkness will come into the church. God has never had a problem with the carnal world; but He certainly has a problem with His church. We are far too contented in our present state.

We need to stop and ask once more, ”What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). We are called to be the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill (Matthew 5:14). People everywhere should know who we are because of our shining witness.

The problem, however, is that the body of Christ is asleep —and the light’s not on! We are still playing church, going through the motions and rituals. We may have moments of emotion, but the light of the glory of God is not brightly shining.

How will we ever see revival if we behave cowardly in the midst of danger. When one atheistic woman was able to rid our schools of prayer and Bible reading, where was the church? In the midst of the charismatic renewal, we were too busy experiencing Pentecost to stand up and be counted. Where are the believers when politicians prostitute our money, when there are perverts in our pulpits, when our government is erasing the name of God from our institutions? The church is not standing up because we are cowards. We’re “yellow” from head to tail.

It is time for a good dose of courage to be stirred up in our souls; something that rises within us which boldly says, “I know there is danger knocking at the door, but devil, if you think you’re getting what’s in my house, forget it! I’ll come out and fight you if that’s what you want, but I am not going to be a coward in the midst of danger.”
SOMETHING MUST CHANGE
Another reason I fear America will never see revival is because our concern is totally displaced. We do not have a passion for the presence of God. Let’s be honest and quit deceiving ourselves. If we enter the sanctuary and the lights, the atmosphere, or the music are not just to our liking, we can’t seem to worship. If the pastor doesn’t tickle our ears, we’ll find another church to attend. We will flee from truth and run to error because we don’t want to hear somebody tell it like it is and declare what is required for revival.

Why is this happening? Because our concern is displaced. We want our needs served—someone to turn down our sheets, fluff our pillow, shine our shoes, and make our cup of coffee! Something has to drastically change in the church. Instead of our personal comfort, we should be focused on welcoming the presence of the Ancient of Days—the Great I AM—God Almighty. If we are truly concerned we would say with David, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). Far too many enter God’s house grumbling and complaining, thinking only of themselves instead of the King of Glory.

I fear that America will never see revival because we are comatose in our duty. The church of Jesus Christ is asleep. It is time for us to arise and awaken from our slumber, to shake ourselves and let God use us as an instrument in the earth. Can’t you see that the world is crawling up to our doorstep? Its hand is stretched out on our thresholds, only to find we are still in bed, asleep. We hear the screams of a nation, the cries of hurting children, and the moans of the homeless. Yet the church sleeps on.

We are like Father Abraham. The Bible says the fowls of the air came to eat the covenant and at first Abraham did the right thing. He starts fighting away the fowls (in Scripture these represent evil spirits)—the demons that were coming to eat the covenant. Then we are told that “when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12).

That is where I see the church. We have the potential for an awesome spiritual outpouring, but we will never experience it because we are no longer alert and awake to the voice of God.

The Bible we hold in our hand has over 2,000 promises —and every one is “Yes, and in Him, Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” (Numbers 23:19). If He declared it, He will watch over His Word to perform the covenant promises that have been made to every believer. Yet the church is sick and apathetic. Something is wrong. We are dozing off while the demon spirits of this world are eating the promises of God right out from under us.

We are careless in the midst of our difficulties. In a nation that was founded on biblical principles, the church is responsible for prostituting America. We won’t believe this until our nation is totally lost—and by then it will be too late.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
America. Founded on the Word of God. Birthed by Puritans who came to our shores so they wouldn’t have to be under the religious structure of the Church of England. They wanted revival. So if anybody is responsible for corrupting this nation, for perverting America, it’s not the sons of the devil– they’re doing what’s natural to them, what Satan inspires. They are not the ones to blame.

Who put our beloved concubine out? It was us, the royal priesthood, a chosen generation, called forth to show the praises of His name. We are guilty of morally bankrupting America—and for the last few hundred years our nation has been whoremongered and gang-raped by the demons of this world.

What has the church done about this? Nothing. She slept while America was going down the tubes. We realize that our nation is dying, that she is hurting, and our response is, “C’mon, let’s go. Get yourself up!”

Where is the concerned church? Where are the Christians who are filled with loving compassion, who look at the bleeding, abused body of a nation that has drifted into error? Where is the church who will come to the door, fall upon her knees, hold America in her arms and say, “Oh, I am sorry that I was so foolish and pushed you out.” But I am thrilled to report that there is a Healer in the house today. Almighty God is able to mend every wound and heal your broken places. When we stand before the King, we, as the church, will have to give an account of ourselves.

It’s difficult for me to comprehend that we would put America out and let the world debase her. Yet, in these dangerous days, I see her inching her way back to the very thing that pushed her into abuse. Thankfully, there are signs that the world is coming back to the church. But how are we responding? What help are we offering? I watched a prominent evangelical preacher being interviewed on a national television talk show. He was asked, “Sir, do you believe there is only one way to heaven?”

I was shocked when he answered, “I believe there are many ways to reach heaven.” What happened to the words of Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”? (John 14:6). What is wrong with the church? As the world is crawling back to us, beaten and bloody, our response is to scream and yell, showing little care.
IS THERE HOPE?
I was recently listening to Mike Huckabee on the radio talking abut 9/11. He was honoring the victims who were killed when Islamic extremists flew planes into buildings and murdered over 3,000 individuals. He said, “As the Twin Towers collapsed, in the wreckage stood steel girders in the form of a cross. I believe God was speaking to America that in their greatest days of crisis, the answer for this nation can only be found in the cross.”

The secular media has seen the church drift away from what it was called to do, but now the world is in trouble—and it is returning to the only place they remembered a touch of hope and love. Today our nation, almost at the point of death, is slowly finding its way back. She is laying herself prostrate upon our porch, her dying hand is on the threshold of our church.

I shudder to think that we might not see America restored because we are calloused in our deeds. I see the church dismembering the very thing that she is responsible for killing. We’re guilty of pushing her out and now she is at our feet. How can we have the audacity to pick her up and cut her into pieces and spread her across the nations of the world as a mockery to our own shame?
Men, women, and young people are waiting to see if we’re going to be the priests that God called us to be. They are anxious to know if we’re going to rise to the occasion. They’re waiting to see if we still love them, if we are more concerned about them than we are about ourselves. My fear is that we are just going to let America die because we’re fast asleep.

I can share this message to gang members and they will weep and cry and run to an altar for salvation. But when I preach to a so-called Spirit-filled church, the people fold their arms and stick out their chins. There are no tears. Yes, we are a “stiff-necked people” (Exodus 32:9). If we fail to judge ourselves, God will do it for us. Where does it start? “The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

The key to revival is repentance. It’s humility before God, abandonment to self, crucifying every human desire, the forsaking of our every longing except His presence. Oh, how I am praying for a mighty spiritual outpouring.

October 7, 2015

Treestand Reflection

  

Jeremiah 29:11-14For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord…

What is it like when you spend time with your heavenly Father? What is it like to talk with Him?

I think most people get hung up on this hyper-used word, “prayer.” We over-spiritualize it. You see, God knows we are mere man, yet we try to impress Him somehow with “good” praying. And then, we get distracted and give up until the next time we “try.” In doing this, we’ve missed the whole point of what prayer is meant to be!

Prayer is simply how we connect with God. It’s how we relate to Him. And just how does God want us to come to Him in prayer? Well, His greatest desire is to have our total heart, mind, and strength as we read in Deuteronomy 6:5.

To begin with,  God wants us to enjoy Him—to focus on Him and not your “prayer.” We should always come to Him just as we are, giving our desperate, unworthy, yet wholly loved selves to our all-powerful, all-sustaining glorious, yet fully compassionate Father. And when we do, we find the overflowing cup of His strength, restoration, wisdom, peace, righteousness, and joy. In His presence is the abundant life. He is the Living Water and the Bread of Life.

When we pray, we should not only talk but also listen. Seek to hear and follow His good paths. Come rejoicing, come playful, come weary, come doubting or afraid. We should come to Him continually—in every possible situation. As we do, we begin to know our Shepherd. I mean truly know Him. As Paul E. Miller teaches in his book A Praying Life, “You can’t get to know God on the fly. You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it.”

Seek God today with all your heart, soul, and strength. I can promise you He eagerly awaits your call. 

September 17, 2015

It Hurts

(by Shannon Jackson – check her out… 

Once again I heard my Pastor deliver a message that pierced my soul. A message about a reality we face almost daily, yet not many want to talk about or accept it’s necessity. A message, ultimately of hope, but focused on the lonely road to get there. A road we all travel, but few navigate on purpose or successfully. There is no way to get to our destination without traveling this road, the road paved with pain.

My oldest child is 19 years old. She is beautiful, talented, and full of life. Before she was born I remember all the wonderful women who would encourage me, give me advice, and help me plan for her arrival; all while looking me in the eyes and lying to me! I clearly remember hearing these words, “Don’t worry about it. It will hurt a little, but when she arrives, you won’t remember the pain. You will be so overwhelmed with love for her that you forget all about the pain.” Lies! I clearly remember the pain! I remember the non-medicated  pain of bringing all four of my children into the world. Our lives begin in pain. Although I do not remember the pain of my own arrival, I clearly recall, in vivid technicolor, the arrival of my children. I remember squeezing my mother’s hand so hard that I bruised her, I remember thinking there was no way I was strong enough to handle this. The fourth time, I remember thinking I must be absolutely be out of my mind to do this AGAIN! Why on earth would any sane person CHOOSE to have children this way?! To be completely honest, I wouldn’t change a single moment. I love my children in a way my husband can never understand, because I embraced them through the pain.

The road of pain stinks! It is not fun. I can’t think of a single person who wakes up in the morning and says, “I wonder what painful experience I can endure today?” No one joyfully anticipates the possibility that the portion of road you travel today could be worse than any you’ve experienced thus far. But what would happen if we did? How would the productivity of our lives change if we began to wonder if today would be the day of my greatest pain? Will today be the day I birth the dreams planted inside me? Will today be the day I embrace those dreams through the pain? With my children growing inside my womb, I was limited in my productivity. They were hidden from the world. Each day of the last two weeks before their arrival I would wonder, pray and hope it would be the day. The anticipation was tangible, it drove me, and somehow the idea of the pain didn’t matter. The anticipation didn’t lessen the pain, it drove me to pursue the birth. I knew their potential could only be fulfilled on this side of the pain.

I think the same is true in our relationship with God. My pastor made this powerful statement Sunday, “God can not use a person greatly until they He allows them to experience pain significantly.” Every person in the Bible and in history who have accomplished great things for God have done so by walking the road of pain. (Take a moment to read Hebrews chapter and 11 and you can quickly see a list of those whose pain strengthened their faith.) Even the Son of God had to experience pain on a level we can never fathom. Why? He knew we could only arrive at our potential on the other side of the pain. His painful endurance of the Cross unlocks the key to our surviving the pain. When we learn to praise Him because of what He endured, we can pursue. The pain may not be lessened, but our endurance is multiplied. My Pastor said it this way, “Praise will take you places nothing else can. You will never walk through anything that your praise has not prepared you for.”

Life is full of pain. Painful words, painful experiences, physical pain, emotional pain, church pain (the most debilitating pain), and the list goes on and on. The joy comes in knowing that I am defined by my pain but by my praise. Today I am not flooded with resentment when I look at my children because of the pain they brought to me. I can recall the pain if and when I choose to. The same is true for my painful moments in life. I can choose to focus on the pain or I can choose to praise my way through it. If I lived everyday only remembering the painful births of my children I would miss the moments of joy they bring. The moments of their success when I can cheer and their painful moments through which I can encourage. God allows pain. He knows it will shape us. He allowed the road to be paved with it because He knows our potential is released through it. What the enemy would use to destroy us, God says, “Bring it on! This one’s got potential!”

I encourage you today to learn to praise your way through your pain. It’s going to come so you might as well praise your way through it. I know that sounds like a crazy, impossible task, but YOU CAN DO IT! Even if all the strength you can muster is to whisper a one sentence statement of gratitude, go for it! Before you know it you will be screaming that statement at the top of your spiritual lungs. Know that God sees your potential. He has given you the dreams and desires that are growing, tumbling and doing somersaults inside of you. He knows which painful experiences you must endure to solidify your faith and release your potential. He loves you! Now grab His hand, squeeze it until you bruise it, grit your teeth and PUSH!

September 16, 2015

Worship Fallacies (3)

Fallacy Number Two: You Must Worship in the Right Way 

To the woman’s understanding, Jesus’ response was based on a similar false assumption. He said, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:21–22, nkjv). Her concept of true worship was based on her cultural understanding. She knew that Jews worship one way and that Samaritans worship another, and her form of worship seemed best to her, because it was all she knew.

How many worship wars are started over the issue of style? What is the most anointed style of worship, Southern Gospel or Contemporary? How many times do we hear statements like these: “I wish we had the old red-backed hymnals back” or “When are we going to start putting the lyrics up on a screen?” I had just started pastoring when churches first discovered the overhead projector. My parishioners felt I had committed the unpardonable sin when I removed the hymnals so we could sing from overheads. Sometimes worship wars are frivolous!

“Worship is not about the song that you sing, but the heart that you bring!” It has been my good fortune to travel the world preaching the Gospel. I have ministered in the remotest parts of Africa where pots, pans, and drums were the only musical instruments available. That’s where I have heard some of the most anointed worship in the world. Those people are not preoccupied with equipment, lights, or styles. They are preoccupied with Jesus. During my latest trip to Nigeria, the worship was so anointed that hundreds of people manifesting demons were delivered—through the power of worship alone. They did not have hymnals or projectors and screens, high-quality musical instruments or trained vocalists. They were just people bringing to God their hearts of worship.

Worship transcends style. When we get to Heaven, we will see every style of worship because we will see every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation in full demonstration around the throne. It is foolish to expect everyone to abandon his or her cultural style in favor of the red-backed hymnal. If you are offended to think that your favorite worship style is being threatened, it could be that God is trying to give you a secret from the well of worship. I happen to love Southern Gospel music above all other types (and I am convinced that God loves it too). However, in my church we sing mostly contemporary songs. Why? We decided to use the style of music that inspires this current generation to worship. Real, biblical worship is the blending of many styles; “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

September 13, 2015

Worship Fallacies (2)

 Fallacy Number One: You Must Worship in the Right Place

The Samaritan woman said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20, nkjv). She was making the same mistaken assumption that many church people do today—that worship must occur in a certain place, or that worship is something that happens only on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. We Christians have erected great shrines to mark our places of worship.

In reality, worship transcends place. In fact, it has little to do with a place, but everything to do with a Person. You could even say that assigning worship only to a particular place is a form of idolatry.

The human race has a tendency toward idolatry, and sometimes it is hard to see. For example, consider the idolatry that Hezekiah opposed. (See 2 Kings 18.) As one of the righteous kings who came after King David, Hezekiah had his work cut out for him. He became king at twenty-five years of age, and his first act as king was very unusual. Did he erect a monument to his father or try to improve the economy? No. His first act as king was to reestablish true worship in Israel.

Second Kings 18:1–8 records the following things he did to refocus the people in true worship:

 

• He removed high places.

• He broke the images.

• He cut down the groves.

• He broke in pieces the brazen serpent of Moses.

 

The people at this time were steeped in idol worship, and yet it is interesting to note that some of the things Hezekiah destroyed were not dedicated to idols, but rather to the worship of God. The brazen serpent of Moses had been fashioned according to the instruction of God for the healing of the people of Israel after they were bitten by serpents (see Numbers 21). This was a God-ordained, sacred object, so why would he destroy it? For the simple reason that the people had made it into an idol. They had started offering incense to something that God had once used, but they were not really looking to God Himself. Anytime our worshipful attention gets directed toward an object, a methodology, or a place instead of God, it becomes idolatry.

Several years ago, I was trying to help a church that was experiencing a split. The conflict had started because they were renovating the sanctuary to accommodate more growth. A certain group within the church was against the renovation project because it altered their “sacred” sanctuary. In prayer, I was rebuking the devil of division in this church when the Lord interrupted me: “This isn’t the work of the devil; this is Me.”

I said, “Lord, I don’t understand. How can this be Your work?”

He replied, “This group of people has made this place more important than Me. It must be destroyed or others will be swept into their idolatry. Sometimes I have to pull down and destroy so that I can build.”

Please do not misunderstand; I strongly believe in the importance of corporate gatherings in houses of worship. I love the local church—I am a pastor! Clearly however, we have to avoid the belief that “church” means a place, a building. We are the Lord’s Body, and we carry His presence everywhere we go. A true worshipper enjoys the presence of God in his home, at work, or on vacation.

When King David desired to build God a house, God told him, “I never told you to build me a house (paraphrased from 2 Samuel 7:4–12) Then God promised David, “I will build you a house….” (see verse 27). In essence, God was saying to David, “I don’t want a place in which to dwell. I am looking for a people in whom to dwell.” Jesus stated this same principle to the Samaritan woman when he told her, “Believe me, woman. The time is coming when neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain will you actually worship the Father” (John 4:21, ncv).

September 11, 2015

Worship Fallacies

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” …Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.––John 4:7, 9, nkjv

When Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman drawing water in the middle of the day, which is highly unusual, we quickly learn from their conversation that there are probably some good reasons for her timing. Normally, she would go the well to fetch water in the middle of the day to avoid the scrutiny, rejection, and even mockery of the other women. As Jesus noted, she was far from being an expert on relationships, having suffered the pain of five divorces and currently living out of wedlock with a sixth man. In all likelihood, she did not come to the well when the others did because her lifestyle had shamed her before the other women of the community. Perhaps she could not take any more of the other women’s questions her about her serial relationships in a society that highly valued monogamy. She had run out of explanations, and the less said, the better. Her current lifestyle was her own business. Besides, every time the subject came up, the wounds of relationships-gone-bad were reopened like botched surgeries that never can heal. The oppression of past failures and reproach for her current questionable lifestyle enforced a penalty of isolation and inconvenience. Trips to the well in the heat of the day were only part of the picture.

Today she could not retrieve her supply of water without being noticed. What was this Jewish man doing here? As he asked for a drink, his tone of voice did not seem to indicate any hint of the traditional antagonism between the Jews and the Samaritans.

Jesus’ prophetic eyes must have seen a desire for breakthrough in the heart of this woman. I must admit that of all of the people in the Bible, a woman of her character would not have been my personal choice of someone to whom to reveal the greatest revelation about worship in the New Testament. But “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, nkjv). In His mercy, the Lord gave this nameless Samaritan woman a key that would change her life, heal her brokenness, and remove her shame—the key of worship.

Right away, the conversation took an interesting turn. No sooner did He reveal her deepest secrets and thus prove that He was more than just another thirsty traveler, but He immediately started teaching her about worship. There, sitting on the edge of Jacob’s well, which long before used to be an altar of worship, He revealed to a woman who had come to draw her day’s water from a natural well how to find the ever-renewable resource of a heavenly well. Worship was the key.

This woman’s life was in a mess. No amount of well-water could wash her clean or satisfy her thirst for love. While Jesus knew that worship would restore and heal her devastated life, she could not understand at first. He needed to talk about true worship. The problem was, this woman’s concept of worship had been skewed by the deep-seated cultural hatred between the Jews and her people. In order to position her to receive all of what He wanted to show her, Jesus first had to explain three common fallacies about worship… (Continued tomorrow)