The Road to Grace

For the institutionally religious, the road to grace is the toughest journey they’ll ever face.

For me, this certainly has been the case. And although the road to grace has been a wonderful journey, there have been many bumps and detours along the way. But slowly, I’m finally starting to find my way forward.

It’s Jesus in me and Jesus through me, so that it becomes possible to have Jesus in us and Jesus through us.

So much of my life over the last five years has been about the Lord reducing me to that simple truth.

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I Saw Satan Fall

On Tuesday evening, I understood how Jesus felt when his disciples finally “got it” and reported back, after He sent them out to minister on their own for the first time, that the sick were healed and darkness conquered. In His joy, the Lord said He saw Satan fall from Heaven because of them.

On Tuesday I’m teaching and mentoring a class of students on how to minister in the areas of confession, forgiveness and repentance. After seven weeks of foundation laying, the students this week started doing ministry sessions on their own and – wow! – it was amazing what God did through them that evening.

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Christian Counseling Class

I will be teaching a semester-long Christian counseling class beginning next Tuesday, September 6th, through early December. We will be meeting every Tuesday evening at my home just south of Manassas, Virginia, from 7:00 to 9:15 pm.

The course is being offered through Emmanuel Christian Institute, in conjunction with Fulcrum Ministries, for a very modest $200 (this fee goes to ECI for much appreciated administrative support, not me!).

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Abusive Church Leaders (Part 1) – My Personal Angst

Much to my dismay, God keeps bringing people to my door who have been abused by a pastor or other trusted church leader.

Over the last year, I’ve taken on three cases against abusive pastors. Two involve significant embezzlement and fraud by pastors in different churches. A third involves extensive sexual abuse and misconduct by around half a dozen men on the pastoral and ministerial staff at Christ Chapel Assembly of God in Woodbridge, Virginia.

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My Prayer

How long, Lord, will you continue to tolerate those leaders among us who bring shame on your name and prey on your people?

How long, Lord, will you tolerate those who enable such predators, thus allowing even more harm to your precious children?

For your name’s sake, bring righteousness and judgment.

Purify your Church, Lord, of those building their kingdoms and manipulating your people to advance self interests, rather than Your Kingdom.

Transparent

My spiritual DNA — the way God put me together — makes me instinctively encourage others to give away what God has given them. Sharing God’s blessings is a key component to spiritual growth, I’ve found.

I often teach and minister in a faith-based dorm at the local jail. Rather than me “leading” this Friday, however, I took a seat among them and let the men bless each other by sharing what God is showing them and doing in their lives.

Some rose to sing songs they wrote to the Lord, some read and commented on short passages of scripture that had become alive to them, while others gave testimony to how God is now healing and making them whole men.

One brother read a poem he wrote about dealing with the issues of his heart and finding healing through confession, repentance and forgiveness. I’ve seen tremendous peace and maturity emerge over the last couple of months as he’s been totally transparent with the Lord — even though it’s sometimes hard and painful to expose those secret and hidden places to Him.

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Whole Health

The more pastoral counseling I do, the more I realize how often people deal with life’s traumas, hurts and disappointments by suppressing either their mind, their heart, or their spirit – and thus some vital aspect of who God created them to be.

integrated_wholeFor example, instead of being healthy, integrated people, they numb out or otherwise retreat exclusively into the realm of their minds – i.e., their analytical logic and reason – to the exclusion of their heart and their spirit.

They are alive, but hardly living – as they deny themselves the catharsis of honest emotions and the wonder of new-found belief.

For others, their heart is the oppressor as they subjugate their mind and spirit to their feelings and sensibilities.

Some even allow their spirit to squelch their minds and hearts by super-spiritualizing everything, and treating reason and emotions as irredeemably corrupt.

I now realize that God created our mind, heart and spirit to be equally vital aspects of the whole, complete individuals He wants us to be.

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Repentance, Forgiveness and the Kingdom of God

Recorded before a group of men in the local jail, this 55 minute audio teaching explains how we find peace and freedom when we allow God, through authentic Biblical confession, repentance and forgiveness, to change what we think, believe and perceive. That, in turn, allows us to know the righteousness, peace and joy that comes from finding and doing His will — which is what the Kingdom of God is all about.

This teaching arises from hundreds of intense pastoral counseling sessions through Fulcrum Ministries. In those sessions, I’ve seen how God uses Biblically authentic confession, repentance and forgiveness to bring quick resolution and lasting freedom from the lies, hurts and deceptions we carry from life’s circumstances — including routine disappointments to extreme situations like sexual abuse, occult ritual practices, childhood abandonment and many other life-crippling situations.

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A Very Public Confession

Here’s a news brief I came across that really stood out.

In it, the CEO for Continental Airlines admits that his company in the past was racist and refused to hire black pilots. Past racism, in and of itself, is hardly surprising. What is surprising, however, is the candor of Continental’s public confession and the public amends it made to set things right.

It is rare to see anyone anymore who is willing to publicly admit to public sins, mistakes and improprieties — especially among our leaders. In this case, I was very impressed by what Continental and its CEO did, and hope this can be an inspiration for us all.

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Regeneration

A friend posted this short video on Facebook and it’s too precious, timely and relevant to pass up. As you listen, may God mercifully and lovingly wound you in order to heal you.

It’s by Paul Washer, who I first mentioned in a blog back in March (see God Is Not Passive). His burden for the Church touched my heart then, and continues to do so now.

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The Sunday “God Show” at Your Friendly Podium Church

When did “church” become a podium-focused “God Show” watched by passive spectators for an hour or so each Sunday morning?

Where do we even find that in Scripture?

I believe that the days of the “podium church” and the Sunday “God show”are passing — where we gaze each Sunday past the back of the head in front of us to passively watch carefully scripted ministry delivered from a front podium through a tightly controlled microphone.

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Fellowship and Light

Self Delusion

Self Delusion

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:5-9 (KJV)

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Leadership Abuses: Private and Public Sins

“Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” – Martin Luther

“Church” can often be messy, especially when ongoing sins and improprieties begin to come to light – maybe even among our leaders. Yet God, I believe, is calling us all to a new level of collective integrity.

Incomplete ManSo how do we handle leadership failings, especially when they go beyond merely personal sin and involve an abuse of position or trust within a church, movement or mission, and hurts others?

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Conversion

It’s interesting how God sometimes returns us to our spiritual roots, even while we are pressing forward in the faith.

Forty-three years ago on Resurrection Sunday, 1966, I became a Christian at eight years of age in response to a sermon preached by George Batson.

George was then a young Assemblies of God pastor starting his first church in Annapolis, Maryland, and my parents were among the first members of his young congregation.
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God is Not Passive

I’m seeing others who also are quietly moving forward, with fire stirring in their spirits, to proclaim true repentance, Christ’s Lordship and the Kingdom of God rather than conformist, complacent Christianity.

These co-conspirators are being compelled by God to preach outside our churches because too many of our pastors have been unwilling, so far, to be jarred out of their desire for peace, stability and the comfort of long-standing personal relationships. For those pastors, complacency has become a hindrance to God’s progressively expanding Kingdom.

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God Shows Up

As “Mr. Analytical,” I’m the least probable person I know to be doing pastoral counseling, but God seems to have given me a special grace to walk with people to those places where He wants to meet them in very powerful, transforming and healing ways. I guess it’s one of those spiritual ironies that God uses to confound us. He works through the least likely to insure that the glory is His.

Whether in the jail or in my home study, I deal weekly with issues that – believe me – exceed anything you might imagine. But the Lord meets us in amazing ways, and men and women find freedom in just one or two sessions from decades of emotional and spiritual bondage.

God shows up!

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Pentecost in the Local Jail

Pentecost in the Local Jail

In 2007 over 75 men in the local jail – comprising more than a forth of those incarcerated in the “modular” building – had a dramatic encounter with God.

For some time, I’d been feeling that we were falling short with the men who were coming to the Lord or re-dedicating their lives through various outreaches in the jail. God was bringing men to salvation on a weekly basis, and over the previous months I’d been involved in scores of men becoming Christians. Others involved in ministry at the jail were having similar reports.

We were being successful in leading the men to Christ and were doing a good job teaching them God’s principles. The men had a heart to follow the Lord, and a basic understanding of how God wanted them to act and live.

The problem, however, was that they lacked the power to do so effectively, and when they got out, they were falling prey to old habits and circumstances. Although they had hearts that want more of God, and had understanding, they lacked the power to be overcomers.

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