If Jesus Emigrated to Modern-day America…

Photo by Brennan Burling on Unsplash

If Jesus emigrated to modern-day America, would we Christians even notice?

Most of his ministry wasn’t in houses of worship. In fact, he upset the religious by breaking one of their rules to heal a man’s withered hand. I wonder what rules he might break if he came to one of our Sunday services?

Jesus spent his days out where the people were—in the streets, by the lake, on a mountain, or in the homes of “sinners.” If he hung out at the fish market or at a celebrity’s party, would we Christians ever come across his path?

Would we find Jesus marching in the streets, waving a banner for social justice? Isaiah 42:1-2 says, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.”

Or would he bring justice by filing lawsuits against the government, or mobilizing voters to end government oppression?

None of these are how Jesus stood for justice the first time he came. He never spoke a harsh word against the Roman oppressors—he saved his harsh rebukes for the hypocritical leaders of his own religion. It’s hard to imagine Jesus today condemning a particular political party, the media, the teachers’ union, the immigrants, or any other modern group on which we blame our problems. Yet so many of us Christians invest so much of our time and so many of our words fighting these perceived enemies, we could entirely miss Jesus calmly telling someone to put down his sword.

Would we find him at Costco, where we Christians stock up on our emergency food supplies, or at the gun store, where we pick up a pistol and extra ammunition to protect ourselves and our food supplies for the days when Christians are persecuted and anarchy reigns?

When we Christians boycott our gay cousin’s wedding, might we miss Jesus there too, turning some water into wine?

Then where would we find Jesus in modern-day America? Could we find him if we looked in the right places?

We could start with the sick—the hospice, the shut-ins, those with physical or mental handicaps. More of Jesus’ ministry was invested in healing the hurting than almost anything else.

We could look among those bound by chains—everything from those who manifest demonic influence to those caught in destructive addictions. Jesus dramatically turned their lives around.

We know he fed the hungry crowds. Perhaps we’d find Jesus among the poor.

We could look wherever those shunned by society hang out—like the Samaritan woman at the well, or the tax collector at his booth. What are those places in town that good Christians like us would never go? If we did, we might find Jesus there.

We could try gathering with others who were hungry for God, no matter their backgrounds. Of the many people who followed Jesus, we know of at least one who wanted to overthrow the government (Simon the Zealot), one who used a corrupt government position to get rich (Matthew the tax collector), one demonized woman (Mary Magdalene), two with murder in their hearts (James & John, wanting to call down fire on an entire village), and so on. They weren’t united by common theological positions, like our Sunday services are. They weren’t even all nice people! Jesus didn’t invite them to join his synagogue service once a week. Instead, he promised that whenever and wherever they would gather “in his name” there his spirit would be in the midst of them.

We Christians in America are busy doing our church things, fighting for this cause or that, protesting and suing and demanding our civil rights. None of these things are wrong, and some of these may come from a good heart. People might even applaud us for being good Americans, or good Christians.

But these activities don’t look like Jesus. Is it possible that we’ve forgotten what he looks like?

If Jesus emigrated to modern-day America, I’m afraid we Christians might be walking a path that rarely crosses the path chosen by our Savior.

So are we really “following Jesus”?

Partnering with God

Photo by Mark Potterton on Unsplash

This week my son generously offered to help me redo my website.

I was reminded of when he was small, and wanted to help. In those days, his help was limited to following my commands: “Hold this. Hand me that.”

Now he’s an adult. He knows what I like. But he also has his own preferences. So my new website design partly reflects me and partly reflects him.

And I love it!

God’s desire was always for us to grow into maturity, moving beyond obedience to commands, and into a true partnership. We learn what He likes, and He enjoys combining with what we like to create realities that reflect both of us.

An example one of my favorite pastors likes to use is King David choosing to move his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, also called “the City of David.” The Bible never mentions God commanding David to do this—it seems to be of David’s own choice.

However, after David’s death, God reveals to Solomon that He never before chose any particular city, but now He chooses Jerusalem (2 Chron. 6:5-6). So who chose Jerusalem? Looks like they both did!

I’ve felt this partnership with God so closely when writing my novels. Every day before I write, I ask Him to partner with me, and ask Him to inject what He wants into the stories I write. Then I write what’s on my heart, while adding anything I sense is on His heart. The result is writing that goes beyond myself, yet reflects both of us.

I see my wife partnering with God when she serves the street kids and the poor who come to our door. My wife wants to feed them, doctor them and hug them. Then God whispers, How about making birthday cakes for them? Many don’t know their own birthdays. Their lives are rarely celebrated. So my wife lets them pick a day to write on our calendar for an annual celebration complete with a birthday cake!

Could we partner with God each day at the office? We might begin the day praying like this: “God, today I want to get to work early and pray over the office. Help me to be patient with my boss and kind to everyone. How about You? Anything You want to do that I can help with?”

God whispers, Bob was supposed to spend this week on a cruise with his wife. It got cancelled. I’d like to comfort him today. Could you ask him how he and his wife are feeling, and just listen to him for Me?

I believe God not only wants to help us with our good desires, but He’d like us to help Him with His. Then every day becomes a true partnership between us.

Building God’s Kingdom was always supposed to be more than a Father and Son operation. When we partner with God, we take our mature roles in the Father and Sons business.

New Release–HOPE BREAKS THROUGH

HBT front I’m happy to announce that the Hope Trilogy is now complete!

After the book’s description, please keep reading about this profound writing journey for me.

Purchase at Amazon: Hope Breaks Through

Also available on iBooks, Nook and others

From the back cover:

The tension in the town of Hope builds to a climax in this thrilling conclusion to the Hope Trilogy. A major setback for those pursuing a citywide transformation drives them back to the House of Prayer and opens them to new partnerships with others. Change begins to infiltrate the spheres of business, education, media and the arts, resulting in all-out war with a corrupt government. Teenagers Kelsey and Harmonie are once again at the epicenter of shaking their city as they investigate a murder and fight for social justice, determined to see their town finally come into its destiny.

The Hope Trilogy is written for those who are hungry for God’s revival and transformation of their communities.

What a surreal journey!

I’m stunned at how the themes God gave me to write on last year and early this year, resulting in these 3 books, are so timely for our moment in history. The HOPE Trilogy addresses dealing with the sins of the fathers, racial injustice, race-motivated riots, police abuse of power, transformation in the 7 mountains of culture (government, media, business, education, religion, arts & entertainment, & family), the power of a citywide house of prayer, and angelic involvement in bringing revival and transformation.

It carries a prophetic vision for America’s broken places in 2020 to be awakened, healed and transformed.

We’re living in extraordinary times. There is a call for us to awaken to a past we’ve yet to overcome, a present pregnant with possibilities, and a future world that looks so much better than what we have now! God’s heart is to make all things new. Time to imagine and build a transformed world.

If you know someone who needs a fresh injection of hope right now, please buy these books for them!

Get the whole series at Amazon

Riots and Revival

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Photo by Marquise Kamanke on Unsplash

Riots motivated by racial injustice destroy a town . . .

. . . was a scene from my 2nd book of the HOPE Trilogy, published three weeks ago.

At the time, I would not have guessed I’d be spending the Saturday night before Pentecost under a citywide curfew as the National Guard had to be called in to restore order in my own city.

My HOPE Trilogy is about a small town in Colorado that experiences revival and transformation. But when the light comes, it first reveals all the evil hidden in darkness so that it can be dealt with. Only then can the town become a “city set on a hill” that draws others to its light.

Right now there is more prayer going on for revival in America than at any time I can remember. I believe God is hearing and answering our prayers. He’s revealing very specific things we can repent of, such as (but definitely not limited to):

  • systemic racism
  • pervasive gender bias and mistreatment in schools, sports and the workplace
  • a health care system that was designed to take good care of the rich
  • an unhealthy exaltation of our national economy: considering it our top priority in how we vote, and equating a strong economy with national “greatness”

I disagree with those who glibly promise, “We’re the greatest nation on earth—very soon we’ll bounce back from this.” I believe their confidence is misplaced.

I would prefer to hear our leaders say, “These shakings of our nation we brought upon ourselves. Our best solutions must begin with a National Day of Repentance. Those of us in power positions (law enforcement, legal system, law maker, boss in the workplace) must shepherd others in fear and trembling, fully aware that God may remove us and raise up new shepherds for His flock.”

For all those with authority over someone else, it’s time to take to heart the words of Jesus, that our nation will be judged on the final day based on how we treated “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

When the L.A. Riots of 1992 happened, I was a young man, patrolling my neighborhood at night, stunned that such a thing could happen so long removed from the Civil Rights Movement.

Now my adult children are trapped in their homes at night, watching the exact same scenes unfold. Another generation has passed, and we still haven’t changed.

Will we repent and learn the lessons of #MeToo, the Covid-19 virus, and the riots of Pentecost weekend 2020? If we do, we’ll still have many other issues to work on before we can call ourselves a “great” nation. But we’ll be on the right path.

Or is what we really care about a restored economy? Once we’re out spending money on shopping and entertainment again, will we keep putting off dealing with these social issues for another generation?

The path toward revival, and to becoming the kind of nation that passes the tests of judgment day, begins here: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Peter 5:6)

And what steps do we need to take after that?

You’ll have to read book #3 of my HOPE Trilogy to find out. 🙂

New Release–HOPE IN THE BALANCE

HITB frontI’m happy to announce that book #2 in the Hope Trilogy is now available!

Purchase at Amazon: Hope in the Balance

Also available on iBooks, Nook and others

From the back of the book—

The small town of Hope is shaken when teenagers Kelsey and Harmonie uncover its skeletons of the past. Will those secrets tear the town apart, or will they become a path to healing? Meanwhile, it appears someone is willing to use any means necessary to take over their town. The girls look for new allies to save Hope. A House of Prayer arises to confront demonic forces, leading to glimpses of angelic activity. As the intensity of the warfare increases, people on all sides are being pushed past their limits. The future of Hope hangs in the balance.

The Hope Trilogy is written for those who are hungry for God’s revival and transformation of their communities.

Check out these readers’ comments on the Hope Trilogy—

“Very good example of redemptive Christian fiction.” –Nike Chillemi, Christian mystery author

“Gripping…I read it in one day…I could not put it down.” –Carol Brown, Christian author

“I instantly fell in love with the characters Kelsey and Harmonie. Every time I thought I had the answer, I’d find out a new twist which would lead me in a different direction. I loved every minute of it!” –Tiffany Hersh, Christian book reviewer

If you’ve read book #1, please post your own comments below!

Cliffhangers

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Image by Hans Braxmeier

Snap!

With one deadly snap of his fingers, Thanos turned half the world—and half of my favorite characters—to dust.

If you’re a Marvel fan like me, the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War (Part 1) felt like someone threw me over the cliff and I’d have to wait a year to hit the bottom. I laid awake nights trying to figure out how my favorite characters could come back to life again.

Whether you’re a fan of movies like Avengers or Harry Potter, TV shows like Game of Thrones or Heroes, or books like Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring trilogy, you’ve no doubt come across the cliffhanger ending. You want to scream at the writer for making you wait for the resolution. But you also feel the anticipation build as you can’t wait to see or read the next part of the series.

Suspense writers often employ this technique at the end of chapters, to convince the reader to keep reading just a little bit longer. So do TV shows, hoping you’ll binge watch just one more episode.

Would God ever do such a thing?

The Gospels all end with Jesus coming back from the dead—what might he do next? Acts answers that question, but leaves us with Paul sharing the gospel in prison—then what? Will he make it out alive?

In my HOPE Trilogy, I’m trying to develop this part of my writing craft. So for those who finish a book and want to scream at me, I know your pain! But I hope the excitement it builds in you to read the next book is worth it.

Anticipation can become a complaint of how long we have to wait, or a wide-eyed wonder of what surprise might come next.

Remember when you were a child, how excited you felt on Christmas Eve? It’s the child’s annual cliffhanger. It holds the promise of something wonderful tomorrow.

We all understand what the Psalmist felt like in Psalm 13 when he cries out, “How long, O Lord, how long?”

  • looking for a job
  • longing to be married, or to have children
  • desperate for this COVID-19 lockdown to end

Even the earth is living in a cliffhanger moment, according to Romans 8:18-21 (The Message):

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

For those who live in “joyful anticipation,” cliffhangers prepare us to fully appreciate the reward when it comes.

What if on the other side of COVID-19 there is revival? a great harvest? “glorious times ahead”?

So whatever it is that you’re waiting for, why don’t you engage your imagination, excitedly wondering what might happen next . . . and get ready for the big reveal!

Corona Virus–5 Areas for a Fresh Start

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Image by Marcel Kessler

Have you ever clicked something on your computer, then suddenly realized that you made a horrific, disastrous mistake? At first you freeze, your mind scrambling for some way to take it back. Then you panic. You want to scream, cry, punch something, swear, or run away and join a monastery.

But eventually, you find a way to continue on with life.

That’s how I felt this week. Literally. With one click, I lost the first 20 chapters I’d written for my next novel, HOPE IN THE BALANCE. After a few moments of pure insanity, I spent the rest of the day trying to get them back. But all the king’s recovery programs and all the king’s tech experts couldn’t put my manuscript back together again.

One expert’s wisdom: “Unless you have a time machine, it’s gone.”

So I went for a run, showered, went to bed, and woke up the next day resigned to my loss, wondering the question we all wonder in those moments—“Why?”

Before I opened my Bible for my morning reading, I asked God to take me to a passage that would give me some perspective. In my spirit, I heard him whisper, “Jeremiah 18.”

In chapter 18, God tells Jeremiah to go learn a lesson from the potter. When the pot he’s forming isn’t turning out the way he desires, he flattens the clay, and uses the same clay but with a fresh start.

God tells Jeremiah, “Don’t I have a right to do the same with my people, Israel?” (my paraphrase) He’s our Creator. When we get off track from the beautiful design and the eternal purposes He has for us, doesn’t it make sense that He should give us a fresh start?

We tend to think of the Old Testament as only about God’s relationship with Israel. But Jeremiah 18 is one of many passages that gives us clues about His dealings with the rest of the world. He tells Jeremiah that He has been and continues to do this process with all the nations.

I’ve heard pastors refer to this moment in history as a divine “reset.” It’s certainly an opportunity for us to reevaluate our lives, and make a fresh start.

This is the final week of my 40-day fast as well. I’ve joined hundreds of thousands globally in a Jesus-fast for the End Times Harvest. Every day I’ve tried to read Isaiah 58, God’s heart for true fasting. From these verses, I’ve taken my 5 Areas for a Fresh Start.

In Isaiah 58, God corrects His people for being too busy with business and religious activities. Do any of us relate? The result of that busyness is

  • not being available to family
  • not noticing or helping the hurting ones around us
  • not guarding our rest and health (Sabbathing)
  • not trusting God with our finances (while we rest, He still provides; when we give generously to others, He provides us with more)

All four of these areas are being highlighted as the corona virus has forced us to shelter in our homes, many of us unable to work or go to religious meetings. Could it be that God is offering us a fresh start in one or more of these four areas? What new habits could we establish now to bring us back to God’s design and purposes when the crisis is over?

My fifth chance for a fresh start goes back to the Jeremiah 18 passage—

  • having a heart for the nations.

The corona virus has alerted us to the suffering of nations all around us. Have our busy daily lives so consumed us, that we’ve lost our influence as global citizens? Maybe this is a good time to reengage with the nations—through prayer, giving to charity work, or planning a trip to serve others. The end of World War II saw a massive missions movement in America, especially sending people to Japan. Could we believe God for a similar response to this world crisis?

I hear people using the phrase “God’s judgment” in ways that make it sound like He’s against us. That’s not true. He is for us! I’d love for us to understand the word “judge” in terms of “to analyze, evaluate, weigh.” When God judges that His creation has strayed from His intended beautiful design and eternal purposes, it’s His mercy to use the same “clay”—us—and give us a fresh start.

I’ve no doubt my next version of my twenty chapters will be even better than before. May our post-Corona version of our selves be even better than before as well.

Please click on the COMMENTS button and tell me your thoughts about a fresh start. I promise that click will be a painless one. J

Jesus and Social Distancing

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The dawning sun did its best to peek through the clouds as I prayerwalked my neighborhood this morning. I prayed that all of my neighbors would wake up feeling a supernatural peace, and a trust that God was for them, not against them. I prayed that as the world is being shaken, they would hold tightly to what is unshakeable.

I also meditated on our newest buzzword, “social distancing,” and decided that Jesus would not have been a fan of it.

In the New Testament, it was the Pharisees who were the champions of social distancing. Whether for  purposes of protection (from lepers) or purity (from Gentiles, sinners—basically anyone not like them), they prided themselves in keeping their distance.

Jesus was the opposite. He intentionally touched the leper—and healed him. He healed all kinds of diseases and demonization through the power of touch. He also went to foreign lands to seek out Gentiles, and went to the parties where the “sinners” gathered. Pharisees like Simon found Jesus’ lack of social distance offensive when Jesus praised a prostitute who kissed his feet.

The Pharisees were afraid of disease touching them; Jesus knew the healing power inside of him was stronger than any disease. The Pharisees were afraid that Gentiles or sinners would contaminate them; Jesus knew that the goodness inside of him was stronger than any sin.

“But we’re only human, not like Jesus,” some might argue.

Didn’t Jesus send out his followers with instructions to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons”? I have to believe that part of God’s provision for overcoming the corona virus is his children moving in healing miracles.

When Susie is a little girl, we tell her, “Don’t go to Jill’s house for a week or you’ll get chicken pox.” When Susie becomes a woman, she sets aside her fear to work in a hospice serving HIV patients.

When Johnny is a teenager, we tell him, “Don’t go to the red light district or the temptation could cause you to stumble.” When Johnny becomes a father himself, a greater passion governs him, and he starts a ministry rescuing children from prostitution in Thailand.

Growing into maturity in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t understand the dangers around us. It means we have enough faith to believe that the manifestation of Jesus’ healing power and compassionate goodness through us is stronger than anything we’ll face.

Social distancing is one effective solution to slowing the spread of the corona virus. But it can create new problems if it results in fear or lack of compassion to those around us.

When someone asked Jesus what it meant to “love your neighbor,” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. A Jew lay by the road, beaten and robbed. Other religious Jews, worried about either protection (from robbers) or purity (touching a corpse), or perhaps just busy with their religious activities, kept their distance. But a Samaritan traveler stopped, treated the man’s wounds, and took him to a hotel, even paying for his stay. He took a significant risk, and paid a significant cost, to love a stranger.

If this story were set in modern-day Beverly Hills, a rich white man would have been robbed and beaten, his body tossed behind a night club. The other guests would have been afraid to get involved. But a young African-American getting off work late would have seen the man, picked him up and carried him to his car, and driven him to a hospital, and offered to pay the bill. What a risk! Anyone seeing him carry the man to his car could have assumed the wrong thing. If the man was a tourist with no insurance, it could have set him back financially for a long time.

But that’s what “loving your neighbor” is all about.

I also prayed for my nation this morning. I prayed that in our desire to limit the spread of the corona virus through social distancing, we would not go too far and limit our love for those around us. Plenty of people need our help. We need to love without fear, trusting that the Christ in us has more than enough healing power and compassionate goodness to overcome anything we face today.

Let Christ guide us when to close that social distance, and be available to help someone today.

Hope is a Dangerous Place–New Release

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Read more here

I’m happy to announce the release of my newest novel, the first in a new trilogy with the theme of pursuing revival and societal transformation in America.

As always, the truths I want to present are woven into an entertaining suspense story, this time set in rural Colorado.

The hope for revival rests upon several ordinary people: a frustrated pastor, his daughter who doesn’t like church, her fearful best friend, an idealist teacher with a poor track record, and an ex-crusader journalist ready to quit.

But the main character is really the town of Hope–a dying town that has lost its sense of destiny. Much like many towns and cities in America, the town has a few rich and powerful people who are heartlessly sucking the life from everyone else, and a majority of the population who are just struggling day to day to survive.

There are “giants” in the land. No one carries enough faith to believe that the town could significantly change.

But God answers prayer, and when He starts showing up in unexpected ways, His light exposes the darkness, and the battle begins…

I hope you enjoy this new series, and share your thoughts about it either directly with me or with the world through a review on Amazon, your social media, or anywhere else.

And I hope this series stirs you to pray and believe that the next 20 years in America will see many towns and cities transformed by authentic revival.

Read more or order here.

Revival and Societal Transformation

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Photo by Jordon Conner on Unsplash

      What does revival look like? How might a true revival transform our society?

When I was young, I read everything I could about historic revivals. Here are just a few of my heroes—

I was enthralled by the courage of men like John G. Paton who led an entire island of cannibals to Christ—after the first missionary sent there, a fellow named James Harris, achieved a career lasting only minutes before he was eaten! Paton and his colleagues saw a massive transformative move of God across many South Seas islands.

After young Evan Roberts (namesake for our firstborn!) sought God and received visitations of the Spirit, he led a small group of mostly youth to spread the fire of God all over Wales. In some communities the crime rate dropped to zero, and the police spent their time forming worship choirs. Evan got to see his nation transformed before his very eyes.

Tommy Hicks was an unknown preacher God sent to Argentina with a word that a man named Peron would help him open a stadium to preach in. Peron turned out to be the president, and when he was dramatically healed as Tommy prayed, the stadium and the nation opened to the Gospel.

Duncan Campbell, who saw a supernatural visitation of God in the Hebrides islands that lasted 30 years, where most of the bars had to close because everyone was more concerned about things of great worth, said this: “Revival is something altogether different from evangelism on its highest level. Revival is a moving of God in the community and suddenly the community becomes God conscious…

All over the world today, the Lord is stirring up this God-consciousness wherever people are seeking His face and taking His Kingdom into every sphere of society. Evidences such as miracles happening in the streets, breakthroughs in social justice, and unity in diversity demonstrate that God’s reviving touch isn’t confined to what happens inside a church building. His Kingdom rule and reign is changing everything.

Years ago I feasted on George Otis Jr.’s Transformation videos. Now my faith is being stirred by those who are currently seeing God transform cities such as Johnny Enlow and Ed Silvoso.

Yes, I’m still on a quest to see revival and transformation happen where I live, even in the Muslim world.

And I want to invite you on a journey with me.

Soon I’ll be launching a new series of suspense novels called the “HOPE Trilogy.” These three books will distill all that I’ve learned from my years of research, from being part of a sovereign visitation of God in Pasadena, California back in the 90s, from my involvement in starting 3 houses of prayer, and from what God is speaking to me about these issues currently.

The first book will be published in February 2020. I hope you’ll plan to read it. Perhaps it’s time for you to ask God with me for something truly big, and time for you to receive a clearer revelation of where you fit in what He’s about to do.

So start praying now, and stay tuned!