Thursday, August 26, 2021

Faith Comes by Hearing


In May of 2020, I remember standing in my dining room, fielding calls from various Christian leaders in our city.  That evening, we were planning our first citywide prayer protest (called The Wall - check out and we were beginning to hear rumbles of counter-protests potentially breaking out.  The body of Christ was coming together to silently pray and protest at five different sites around our city.  My prayer was that no matter where people were driving on that evening, they would see the Church stepping up to the plate and taking a stand for righteousness and justice.  Although I had led a couple of small “walls” in the past, this was the first time my friends and I had organized a large one for our city.

You can imagine then, how hard it was when respected leaders began calling me to see if we were cancelling the prayer protest.  They were themselves receiving intel about the threat of violence, even sharing how a Molotov cocktail was supposedly found under a truck in front of  the court house.  (That was the location I would be at.  Yikes!)  They were feeling the pressure from their sources about potential violence breaking out if the Church gathered to silently pray.  No judgment from me - I knew they wanted to keep their people safe.  But quite honestly, those calls were whittling away at my courage.  Were we making the right decision?

I was frustrated.  You can imagine how small and weak I felt, trying to discern what the Lord was speaking to us.  So many loud voices, but what was the Lord saying?  I knew we needed to take a stand - that we couldn’t let the forces of this world dictate when and where the Church could boldly pray.  But in that moment, I just felt so nervous and afraid.

Something powerful transpired over the next two hours or so.  I began calling some of my African American pastor friends, asking for wisdom as to how we should proceed.  And the most amazing thing happened, they each began to encourage me and even preach to me about what God was speaking in this hour. The word of God, coming through their lips, strengthened my resolve to move forward.  I remember listening with tears streaming down my cheeks.  God was saying, “Go!”

And for those that don’t remember, we did end up doing The Wall in four locations with almost 500 people participating.  All of our prayer protests were peaceful, saturated with the presence of God.  At the court house, we concluded with communion and impromptu, unplugged worship, and the preaching of the gospel.  Such a powerful time for those that gathered and for those that watched.

I’ve been thinking about that day this morning as I contemplate how the Lord has chosen to encourage me recently.  Just a week ago, I was sitting under a tent on Chicago’s south side while a Christian leader was preaching about how God provides what we need when we need it.  There was something so powerful about hearing his personal story of provision that my tears just flowed, un-beckoned, creating rivulets down my cheeks.  I knew God was saying, “Go!  I got you!”

And then, just this past Monday, I was speaking with one of my closest friends on the phone.  He literally felt led to re-preach to me the highlights of his Sunday message.  I know that the message was meant for a certain congregation, but in that moment, it felt like it was intended just for me.  Everything he preached was exactly what I need to hear in this hour of transition.  And again, the unsolicited tears came.  And so did the strength.  God was saying, “Go!  I am with you!”

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Rain Drops of Refreshing

Today I had the opportunity to pray with this prophetic powerhouse on a group Zoom call.  Her name is Jo and she was doing someone’s hair in her home, then took a break to violently dismantle some demonic principalities and powers through the name of Jesus and His powerful Word, and then just as suddenly went back to working on hair.  Like it was no big deal - all in a day’s work.  

It was so powerful to hear her intercession for the city of Chicago.  Soooooo powerful.  My soul was infused with hope and expectation as she prayed.  

It reminded me of the time at KHOP some years ago when John and I were under immense pressure and attack and one of our veteran intercessors began to pray over our family.  It was a Thursday afternoon and her eyes were closed as she sat up at the mic. She began to pray and pray and pray for me and John, our family, and for our call and destiny.  I literally lay down in the front row of seats as she prayed.  I was so tired and my soul felt frayed and pummeled and we desperately needed breakthrough.  As she prayed, I physically felt a gentle rain begin to fall in the prayer room.  I don’t know how to explain it - I didn’t feel the wetness of actual rain, but I felt the light pelting of God’s raindrops….I physically felt it.

My friend prayed for about a half hour, with her eyes closed, unaware of the remarkable blessing I experienced as I lay on those seats.

Eventually she shifted topics and moved on.  But man oh man, that Holy Ghost sprinkling was exactly what my weary soul needed.  I remember slowly sitting up, stunned, trying to process what had just transpired. I felt better….different……refreshed.

For those men and women who labor in the hidden place of prayer - THANK YOU.  Heaven sees you.  Our Father hears you.  Demons fear you.  And the Body of Christ needs you.  Keep praying, keep prophesying, keep declaring the promises of God.  Don’t stop.  You ARE making a difference.  My life is proof.  

Monday, February 8, 2021

Listen. Learn. Lament. Love.

“Maybe they’ll finally see us.”

Those were the words spoken by my African American friend when I described to her the Listen. Learn. Lament. Love. prayer room.  My heart broke.  There was no edge of bitterness attached to her words.  What I heard was someone who was tired, tired of being unseen, unheard. Her words marked me.

Who are “they?”  We are.  All of us reading this - every ethnicity, especially white America.

Who are “us?”  People of color.

I’m not an expert in reconciliation.  I have made plenty of mistakes through the years as I’ve walked this journey. As a white American, I have wrestled with the fear that I will say or do the wrong thing.  I wish I could say that my wrestle was only because I did not want to cause more damage to those that have already experienced the soul-crushing impact of racism.  Although that is true, I confess that some of my wrestle was because I didn’t want to look dumb or tone deaf…or complicit.  

Here’s the reality: I have spoken and done many wrong things along this path of reconciliation and restorative justice. I HAVE been tone deaf, proud, insensitive, blind, partisan….and racist.   {Tears squeezed out of my eyes when I typed that last one.  Ugh.]  And when the Lord in HIs mercy would reveal those undercurrents in my soul, sometimes through conversations with my friends of color, sometimes through books, articles, movies, prophetic dreams, and scripture, I have repented and sought to be teachable and humble.  THIS IS NOT EASY.  There have been many times when I’ve wanted to defend myself, defend my opinion, and paint myself in a more pleasant, rose-colored light.

What I am learning to do is shut my mouth in those moments and listen.  




Reconciliation is holy ground. Reconciliation is the place of the cross.  Reconciliation is choosing to lay down your life for your friend. Choosing to go low, grabbing a towel and wash basin and washing your sister’s feet.  

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love….so he got up from his meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciple’s feet, drying them with the towel that was around him.”  John 13:1b, 4 - 5

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dancing with Charlotte

Today I had the opportunity to preach at our home church, the one where I serve as the worship director. This was my first Sunday morning message there and I was feeling a bit nervous when I arrived at the church this morning. You think I wouldn't since I speak and/or lead worship in front of people often. But for whatever reason, today felt different and I found myself wrestling with my nerves. In fact, when I first walked into my office this morning, my heart sounded like a bass drum, pounding away in my chest.  

Worship began and it was yummy and marked with joy. I felt the Holy Spirit moving. Suddenly, my little 5 year old friend Charlotte ran up to me and began dancing with all her might. She was hopping and clapping and boogying right there in front of me. I was delighted and tried to match her with my own swaying, arm-pumping, waist - shimmying, and clapping. It was such as a sweet, spontaneous moment. Truly, a kiss from heaven and exactly what I needed - a reminder that God is dancing with me, whether I'm shopping at Meijer or getting ready to preach.  I must have danced away my nerves with Charlotte and Jesus, because I felt good after that.

I'm not sure where you find yourself today, but I have good news for you: God is present and He's dancing with you. Right now. He is dancing with you. May our eyes be opened to His goodness. May our hearts feel calmed by His peace. May our feet be moved by His dance.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I am Learning to Listen...

I am learning to listen…
To the woman whose husband walked out on her, leaving her to support three kids on her own.
To the pastor who’s been trying to lead her congregation well during Covid.
To the minister who was repeatedly pulled over for “driving while black” in his own neighborhood.
To the silent screams of the unborn babies who are violently robbed of life.
To the frightened woman who thought abortion was her only option.
To the friend who is exhausted by injustice.
To the grandma who’s afraid her grandson will go to prison.
To the young woman who’s been trafficked.
To the man who daily, diligently battles his addiction demons.

I am learning to listen…
To the God who beckons me closer.
To the son who whispers, “I love you” as he falls asleep.
To the daughter whose impromptu singing pours sunshine into my soul.
To the husband whose belly laughs ignite giggles from our children.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that listening is one of the ways we “wash one another’s feet” in our conversations.  I invite you during this next month to invite someone to coffee and listen.  Listen to their story.  Listen to their hurts.  Listen to their joys.  Honor them by giving them your time….and your ear.  Let’s build the table of brotherhood again.  Let’s see what God will do when we choose to listen.  

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Heal Them vs. Heal Me

I heard people crying out to the Lord, “Heal our land!  Heal our land!”

In response, I saw the Lord focus his attention on someone’s house and yard.

The person crying out could feel the gaze of the Lord.  “No!  I didn’t mean this land.  I meant THAT land.” and pointed to a part of society they abhorred.  "Heal THAT land, Father."

But the Lord’a gaze did not shift.   His focus remained on their home and yard.

“No, no, no.  Not my home.  Heal THAT home.” they shouted in desperation and motioned at their neighbor’s house.

They felt His unrelenting gaze burrow deep into their soul.  His undivided attention made them uncomfortable.  They felt His love, but also His fire. They felt exposed, naked, seen.  And yet, they also felt loved, awakened, and known.  

And they were silent. 

They realized that the Lord first wanted to deal with their heart and their home.  The prayer they were using to leverage change in the world had become a doorway for their own healing.

Humbled and moved by His love, the person kneeled down in surrender and said, “Okay, Lord, heal me.”

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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

My Journey into the Refiner's Fire

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog.  There are a couple reasons for that: #1 - I’ve been working on a curriculum with a friend, so even though I’ve been doing a lot of writing recently, it’s for another project.  #2 - I started doing some videos on the basics of prayer during this season of quarantine.  I felt the Lord ask me to begin those a few weeks back, and so that became another “blog” outlet.

However, this morning I awoke with the feeling that it was time to write a blog today about a recent God-experience.  A few days ago, I had an encounter that forever changed me.  Let me explain.

A couple weeks ago, I posted on Facebook how there were certain lyrics I don’t sing unless I can sing them with complete sincerity.  One of them came from a Maverick City Music song about  wanting to be “tried by fire.”  I was singing this song during a set at KHOP about a month ago and actually stopped when I got to that line.

Frankly, I didn’t want to be tried by fire.  Yes to being purified, in some cosmic, esoteric, not tangible way where I can sing songs to Jesus, feel closer to Him, feel better about myself, and then continue on my way.  But willingly put myself into the fire for Him?  

I think part of it stems from my real life experience with tragedy, death, betrayal, financial lack, severe disappointment, public humbling….  Why ask to be tried by fire when I’ve had my share of hardship and still feel a bit singed in certain areas of my heart?  Why cry out for more refining when He’s going to refine me in His time anyway, as my life has proven?

So, I wouldn’t sing that phrase.  Keepin’ it real between me and God - I just would not sing, “I wanna be tried by fire.”  I literally stopped the song half way through and put it aside.

And then the Lord met me this past Tuesday evening at KHOP in a powerful way.  I felt His palpable holiness like I had not experienced in a while.  In my mind’s eye, I saw Him walk into the room.  The feeling of His holiness was so overpowering, 

I remember sitting there at the keyboard, this revelation hitting my spirit like a sunrise: that choosing to walk into the fire is an expression of love unto the Lord.  It’s declaring that His love is worth it.  That He is worth my heart being cleansed and purified and therefore growing in its capacity to love Him.  That beholding His face is 100% worth having a pure heart, no matter the cost.  He is worth everything.

Here’s another way of looking at it: Purification is not about me.  I always thought it was.  It’s not about God making me “holy enough” so He can stand to be around me.  Jesus’ blood has already redeemed me and cleansed me of my sin.  He already LOVES to be with me.  Purification is about all the little foxes that can ruin the vineyard of our souls (Song of Songs 2:15).  It’s the refiner’s fire and the launderer’s soap (Malachi 3, Hebrews 12, Zechariah 13, etc.).  Purification is about Him.  My “yes” to the fire is my gift to Him.  And it’s His gift to me.  

In my mind I had separated His love from His fire.  I saw them as two separate entities.  What the Lord was showing me is that His love is fire.  And His fire is love.  It’s like trying to decide if God if more love than holy?  Or is He more holy than love?  The truth is, He is love and holy.  He is holy and love.

Later that evening at home, when I was alone, the Lord met with me.  He opened my eyes and I beheld His nail-pierced feet on the cross.  I pause, even as I type these words, allowing that holy moment to wash over me again.  When I saw His feet, I groaned. Or yelled.  It was completely involuntary.  So, I’m not really sure how to describe it.  It’s like my soul could not handle the beauty and weight of what I was glimpsing.  His feet were holy.  And like Isaiah, I was overcome by what I saw.

This verse went through my spirit, “How beautiful…are the feet of those who bring good news” (Is. 52:7a).  I had never connected that verse to Jesus.  I always thought about it in relation to us - that we are the ones with beautiful feet when we share the gospel.  And it’s true the verse does have to do with feet that proclaim peace, good tidings, and salvation.

But in this moment, the Father was also showing me that Jesus, the One who both is the good news and preached the good news, that His wounded feet were beautiful.  Jesus, the spotless Lamb, became obedient unto death on a cross.  It was His gift to His Father and it was His gift to me.  And to you.

I am undone.  Not sure how else to put it.  I am undone. 

It’s time to sing.

Refiner  by Chandler Moore 
(Maverick City Music)

If the altar's where you meet us
Take me there, take me there
What you need is just an offering
It's right here, my life is here

And I'll be a living sacrifice for you
You're a fire
The refiner
I wanna be consumed

I wanna be tried by fire
You take whatever you desire
Lord here's my life

If Your glory wants to come in
Let it fall, we want it all
Your fire is consuming
Fill this place, set it ablaze

So clean my hands
Purify my heart

I wanna burn for You

Faith Comes by Hearing

  In May of 2020, I remember standing in my dining room, fielding calls from various Christian leaders in our city.   That evening, we were ...