It’s been awhile since I wrote anything. But here is something fresh:

In March of 2013 I was having a prayer time. I asked the Lord if He would give me an image, a revelation of Himself. The only thing that came to my mind was a goose. A large grey goose. My response: “I must be doing this wrong!”

I’ve had very little experience with geese. In 1983, I put a large and fiesty one in the old Homestead at Triple-R ranch to surprise the program director. (Sorry, Carol!) And occasionally where I used to live in south Tulsa I would have to slow the car while some Canadian geese walked across the road. But nothing in my experience that would bring a goose to mind in prayer!

So I put that image aside and asked something else. We had this conversation and I recorded it in my journal. I am going to share part of this private conversation with you as an encouragement for you and for me on my birthday:

Me: Lord, what is your name today?
Lord: My name is PURSUER, the ONE WHO PURSUES.
Me: Lord, why did you reveal this holy name to me?
Lord/Pursuer: Because like a goose I protect what is mine. I am vigilant, I will not be cowed. Like a goose, I set the agenda. I do not yield or surrender that to others. Whom I have set my sights on, I will pursue. They will be mine.
Me: Is there more?
Pursuer: You are mine. I have set my sights on you. I will not let you go. I will pursue you, protect you, be proactive on your behalf.

Me: What is your Word for me today?
Pursuer: I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.
Me: Pursuer, why did you give me this Scripture?
Pursuer: I have the agenda. I have the ownership. I am not responding to anything in you. I feel tenderly about you. It has already been done. It is accomplished. Your identity is that you belong to me.
Me: Pursuer, tell me more!
Pursuer: You get your identity from so many things. Let that go. I am enough for you. This is nothing that you did. This is my agenda, my action, my initiative. I called you by name. I redeemed you. Specifically. I know who you are. And you belong to me.

There’s more, but I will stop there.

From time to time since then, I have mused over the image of the goose. Clearly it was the revelation of God to me on that day. Our college minister told me that the early Celtic church saw the Holy Spirit as a goose. I tucked that away and forgot about it. Recently, I took a couple of weeks for prayer and rest. For over a third of the last decade, I have been doing a second full-time job of someone in transition on my staff. No complaints, but I was weary and had begun trying to do things in my own strength.

I went to Seattle and stayed with good friends in the ministry. I prayed, slept, read, listened, soaked, worshipped and painted a fence. And we visited together. I had been to their home about 14 years prior and participated in a nearby revival where I had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that I would characterize as unexpected, wild, and yet tremendously loving. It affected me profoundly. We were reminiscing about that time and I remembered the Wild Goose. I pulled out my journal and read the account to them.

It is hard to boil all the richness of this journey…this Wild Goose chase….into a blogpost…or even ten!  But clearly I have not been on a Wild Goose Chase…the Wild Goose has been pursuing me.

The thought came to me that I should see if there were a poem or a song written about the Wild Goose.  There is.  So without further ado, I introduce to you one of my new favorite artists Anne MacCallum, and her song An Geadh-Glas (The Wild Goose) from her album Over The Moon.

Listen at cdbaby.com/cd/annemaccallum or check out anne’s own site at annesings.com

The Problem of the Pharisees

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

Most of us hate hypocrisy, especially in other people. Meanwhile, we alternately love and are cynical about those who seem to have it all together.

To read the rest of my thoughts on this, go to my article at the918.org

Social media has been overflowing with articles about the imminent release of the pornographic film “50 Shades of Grey.” More articles than we can list here have highlighted the source book’s links to relational damage, disorders, destruction, abuse. And some have gone beyond sounding the warning to giving an empathetic but honest response, like this wonderful response from Annie Edwards: freedom meets pleasure

This loving response by caring adults to the huge media hype is calling attention in new ways to sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and abuse of power. Anyone interested in truth does not have to look far to discover the science behind the damage that normalizing a film like this will do to individual’s ability to have healthy relationships but also the harm that viewing a film that links sexuality and violence can do to the developing brain of a teen or young adult. I am grateful to all those who are loving their neighbor by speaking out.

But the apparent popularity of this dangerous tripe in book form tells me that people have a love hunger. This must be more than middle age women wanting to be in “the in group.” I think it speaks to a hunger across the ages for something more than people have. People wonder if there is more to love. Here is an opportunity for those who know to point to what love is.

Love Is the Greatest.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 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. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. #FightTheNewDrug EndSexualExploitation.Org

Sometimes the best way forward is by taking a step back.

I have been greatly influenced by the legacy of John Wesley. His understanding of God as a Father, his deep insights into God’s immeasurable grace, his gift of creating structures that facilitate spiritual growth and his love of questions that go right to the heart of the matter are all great gifts to the modern church and to me personally.

Among the powerful gifts that Wesley left us was the Covenant Renewal Service. (You can check it out here)

As we face a New Year, it is common to focus on our own resolve…or if we are more hip, our lack of it. But Wesley reminds me that my best is inadequate. And it is. Absolutely inadequate. But the Good News is that my Lord is enough.

That understanding doesn’t call me (or any of us) to some esoteric, abstract state, but a real earthy grappling of the great opportunities that lie ahead of us this year. “…Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both… Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.

I will fail this year. Probably before the day is out. As I failed yesterday…and the day before…and all of last year! If I am dependent on my own strength, I (and those around me) are to be pitied. But I am not my own person!! As we say in our affirmation of discipleship in our church, I “have been bought with a price.” And His purposes for me…and for you…are true.

Will you join me this year, by the grace of God, in praying the prayer that ends the Wesley Covenant Service?

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee, exalted for thee or brought low by thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.*

Happy New Year!

* The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 607.

Link  —  Posted: January 1, 2015 in Uncategorized
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In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

Holy Scripture has relatively few verses that say directly “this is the will of God for you.”  Can you think of more than a handful?  I seriously doubt it. So this must be pretty important.

I am personally convinced that gratitude (along with trust and obedience) are the primary markers of discipleship in the heart of a follower of Jesus Christ. Am I growing in trust? Am I growing in obedience? Am I growing in gratitude?

I don’t think it is an accident that our culture has chosen this weekend out of all the weekends in the year to focus us on Black Friday and it’s potential for cultivating envy, discontent, competition and the accumulation of stuff. But to keep this short this Thanksgiving morning, let me simply offer 3 reasons that I believe thanksgiving (with a small t)…or gratitude…is essential.

1. Gratitude takes my focus off myself onto another. No man or woman is an island. We are dependent on others and the Lord. To believe otherwise is delusional and dangerous. Gratitude returns me to a sane starting point.

2. Gratitude is an antidote to my pride. Pride is the temptation to believe I am the source, the self-sufficient one, the one who knows and can accomplish all that is needed. It’s a destructive, even damning lie and the antidote is gratitude.

3. Gratitude is an antidote to my sense of entitlement. My sinful nature easily moves me to focus on what I think I deserve, my “rights”, a reducing of my relationships to transactions and “how people can help me” instead of “how can I love them.”

Gratitude strikes at the very heart of entitlement’s cousins – comparison and envy. It reminds me that I am not the source…of anything!. And it moves me from the myopic selfishness of focusing on myself to focusing on others and ultimately on our Creator. When I practice gratitude I discover joy, contentment, peace. I discover that others find me easier to live with. I discover that my heart begins to change.

I am thankful for Thanksgiving and a national holiday that invites us to respond to the love and mercy of Christ with the baby steps of saying thank you!

What are you thankful for today?

Rapture theology has been a hot topic in the United States for almost 200 years!  That’s a long time for a person, a short time in church history.

If you knew me, you would know that for more than twenty years I have been explaining to young people that the doctrine of the rapture is new in church history, is fairly localized in its popularity, and is not specifically taught in Scripture.   You might have heard me raise the question whether those who are “left behind” in Luke 17 are the wicked or the righteous.

But when this remake of the movie “Left Behind” got close to release, here is what has been bouncing around in my mind. Why are we so worked up about this movie? Why is there a race in social media for many Christians to debunk this movie? Why is it suddenly important not to be “left behind” in our public denunciations?

Will this be a good movie?  I don’t honestly know.  And I’ve discovered people have a lot of criteria for deciding what makes or doesn’t make a good movie. Here are a few I’ve heard.

  • It made me cry
  • It made me laugh
  • It made me feel something
  • It didn’t have any sex in it
  • It didn’t have violence
  • It didn’t have more than 5 swear words in it.
  • It had a good story
  • It had great special effects
  • The acting was believable
  • I heard it was good

Personally, I’m a worldview guy.  It’s the worldview of a movie that matters to me more than anything else.  That means I’m going to love movies like “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy or “Its a Wonderful Life” but be troubled by the message of  impactful movies like “Meet Joe Black” or “Saving Private Ryan.”   (I can hear the comments beginning already!)   I may be inspired and encouraged, but I don’t expect hobbits to give me  a treatise on redemption or look to a young boy to teach me about heaven.

I don’t happen to agree with the theology of the movie, Left Behind.  But I feel no need to denounce it.  I was positively influenced as a young boy to wrestle with the condition of my soul by a similar movie called “A Thief in the Night.”  As I look around me today, what really has me thinking is….what is the worldview of Christians that would rather race to publicly denounce a movie than engage in thoughtful conversation around a potential cultural event about end times and sin and a returning Savior?  Who is our audience?  Do we think that our theological purity proclaimed on social media is going to create an atmosphere of mutual respect, genuine seeking for truth and thoughtful dialogue?  Or do we care?

Are we just so anxious to be right that we don’t care who gets “left behind!?!”

My taste in movies is pretty eclectic, but I’m a big fan of the Disney movie, Iron Will. There is a scene at the end of the movie that really inspires me and reminds me what a huge impact those who surround us, who believe in us and who are cheering us on have in our lives. I am reminded of “the great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Scripture – those saints that have gone before us and I believe are cheering us on.

Last Sunday I had separate moments as a dad and a youth pastor that inspired me anew to be a passionate cheerleader for every person I can to run well and to finish strong. If you are interested, read on.

Preaching on Sunday I looked into the audience wondering if my children would be there. I hadn’t asked them to be. I hadn’t even thought of it until I sat down. But I was excited to be bringing the Word and couldn’t help but wonder. After all, there were two services offered that hour. And they had heard me preach dozens and dozens of times before. Why would they come?

Our executive minister was up before me and she complimented my family in her remarks and had each of the four who were in Tulsa stand. They were all there – and so were others. My eldest was there with her husband. A boyfriend had driven from Stillwater to hear me. Good family friends had come across town, missing attending their own service to sit with my family. A young adult from a former youth group was there. Other friends who normally attend a different service were there. It caught me by surprise, but I found myself so encouraged. I was humbled and grateful that my family and friends had changed their routine to say with their actions, “I believe in you!”

After the services, we had a leaders meeting for all those with whom we partner in youth ministry. As I looked across the room and saw table after table of young adults to aging Boomers who have invested themselves in the lives of teens, I was moved. Surrounding our youth were these adults who love them, who support them, who call them to walk with Jesus, and who run the race with them focusing their eyes on the finish line. Weekly, even daily, this group of men and women proves by their actions to our young people “I believe in you!”

That afternoon I went to the baptism of two young men. Friends, church members, other disciples surrounded the pool as these two proclaimed their turning from sin and their trust in Jesus. Those surrounding the young men called out words of affirmation and promises to continue to walk with them. Their attendance said “I believe in you” and their words echoed “I will be there for you.” I knew…and so did they…that there would be days (like in the story of Iron Will) where we would need each other for the strenght to take the next step, to persevere, to move toward the finish line.

Who are you surrounding? Who are you cheering on? Who have you told this week with your actions “i believe in you!” And who were some of those who were there for you?