Thursday

Asking for What’s Already Been Promised

Dealing with a promise from God – whether a promise from the Scriptures or a prophetic promise – is in some ways a little counter-intuitive.

We tend to think, “He’s promised. He’s God! He’s probably not going to forget!”

No, God’s not going to forget, but that doesn’t mean that we can forget, and just expect the Bluebird of Happiness to drop promised blessings on our heads whenever he gets around to it.

King David was awesome. He’s the most “New Covenant” character in the Old Testament. I love learning from David! In 2 Samuel 7, God makes this epic promise to him.

So how did David respond to the epic promise from God? He walked out on the prophet.

He walked out without even a polite word, got on his face in God’s presence, worshipped, and then did something really strange.

He asked God to do the very thing that God had just promised he’d do.

"Now, O LORD God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. "So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, 'The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel.' And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. [2 Samuel 7:25-26 NKJV]

So David receives the promise from God, and then immediately asks God for the exact thing that God had just promised.

First of all, that sounds like a good way to get your prayers answered: ask God for what he’s already promised.

But more to our point today, it seems like a wise response to a promise: When God promises something that you like, respond by asking him for the very thing that he’s promised.

Jacob does the same thing in Genesis 32, and he, also, knows that he’s doing it: he’s asking God for what God has promised.

It’s easy to complain, “But he promised! It’s up to him to fulfill it! I shouldn’t have to do anything!” I understand that complaint, as I used to whine it at God with some regularity.

Have you ever been to a sushi bar that has thousands of plates of sushi on conveyor belts? They’re kind of fun. All kinds of yumminess rolling on by, and you can reach out and pick the one you like.

I suspect that God’s promises are a little bit like that. Or think of them like a menu: he’s making the offers, but it’s up to us to order what we want off the menu, or to take the sushi we want off the conveyor belt.

Why would God expect that of us? I’m so glad you asked. I believe there are two reasons.

First, he is honoring his promise to us. In Psalm 115:16, God declares, “The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, But the earth He has given to the sons of men.” This is the same commission he gave us in Genesis 1:26: he has delegated authority for what happens on this planet to us: he is asking for someone with that delegated authority to partner with him, to give him permission to do what he has indicated is his will to do. But he won’t go around our authority.

And second, he’s training us, as any good father will, for the job that we’re inheriting. We are heirs of the kingdom of Heaven, and if we don’t learn how to administrate the kingdom with little things (like believing him for the things that he has already promised), then we’ll never be ready for the work he’s planning for us.

This has the additional advantage of changing how our soul deals with things: if I’ve spent time in prayer on the topic, then it’s much easier for me to trust God in that area than if I’ve just seen it on the menu, and assumed that he’ll deliver it to my table.

So when you encounter a promise – whether in the Book or in a prophetic message – my recommendation is that you treat it like God has just described the “Specials of the Day” and order the ones that you want. 

A little bit of self disclosure. Or maybe an explanation.

You’ve probably already figured out that my first name isn’t actually “Northwest” and that I’m not really Gandalf the Grey. This is a “pen name”  (“A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author.” ~Wikipedia).

Pen names, of course, are not uncommon. Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber) to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) all wrote under pen names, though for different reasons than I do, I’m sure.

Here’s a little insight into my reasoning:

●         For the vast majority of people who read my writing, there is no functional difference between knowing me as “Todd” or as “Nor’west.” Whether you know my name or not, you don’t actually know me. Knowing me only comes through relationship, not through names. Get to know me, and then you'll know me, regardless of the name you know me under.

●         Some people want to say, “But that doesn’t tell me anything about you!” Those people aren’t paying attention: knowing my name doesn't tell you anything about me either. On the other hand, a fair bit of my calling is to build up the prophetic gifts in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, the area that geologists and sociologists call Cascadia; that’s where the name comes from. Facebook wouldn’t take “Northwest” as a first name, so we go with “Nor’west,”a nautical term that means the same thing. That certainly says more about who I am than “Bill Smith” ever would.

(By the way: Note that my name is NOT “Nor’west Prophet.” I’m not naming myself a prophet. Too many people give themselves titles and offices; don’t count me among them, please.)

●         I’ve run into a fair number of people who want to know my name simply to exercise some sort of power over me, whether imagined or real. I’ve walked this walk long enough to know that the enemy of our soul is real, and has real followers. I’ve found enough sacrificed animals to decide I don’t want to be part of that stupidness.

●         I’m not, as some have feared, trying to accomplish some nefarious purpose with this pseudonym. If that were my goal, I’d need to do something nefarious, and no thank you. Besides, I don’t like doing things I’d need to repent of later. 

●         More important to me, I’ve watched many believers work for the Lord, but build up their own name. I’ve met so many “ministers,” who are quick with their business card, announcing that they’re the founder and apostolic leader of “Fredrick J. Fuffenfuffer Intergalactic Glory Network” or some such foolishness. It is my opinion that there’s only one Name that needs to be magnified, and let's acknowledge, it isn’t mine. 

●         Perhaps you’ve heard the stories about the children of Christian leaders? They’re called “PK’s” (Preacher’s Kids) or MK’s (Missionary’s Kids). One of my best friends growing up was a PK, and I watched as he lived up to (down to?) the nasty reputation surrounding the name. There is a stupid amount of social pressure placed on the children of known church leaders. I determined not to do that to my treasured children. Frankly, I think it’s sad how many amazing kids are sacrificed on the altar of a parent’s ministry or career or public image. My children are in full agreement with my anonymity and the reasons for it.

●         The only folks who are treated worse than PK’s are Pastor’s Wives. I’ve been a pastor much of my life. If you knew the treasure who is The Lady that has, at great personal cost, gloriously lived out her vows about “for better or for worse,” then you’d understand why I don’t care to force her, against her will, into a fleshly limelight that glorifies people instead of God. It’s repugnant to both of us. I will not knowingly ask more of this from her.

●         A few people have been concerned that I’m not accountable. That’s silly. I’m just not accountable to them. I have a number of godly men (and one beautiful bride) whom I trust completely, and to whom I make my life as open a book as I am able. I reserve that kind of relationship for folks who have walked many miles through stinky places with me, and I’m not actually looking for new accountability partners at this time. 

●         I’ll tell you how the Gandalf image came about: over the years. (I use his image as an avatar on Facebook and other social media sites.) Over the years, I’ve used a number of photos as avatars (http://on.fb.me/1119FTZ ); one time when I changed my image from Gandalf to something else, a lot of people fussed and wanted Gandalf back. OK, sure. Since Gandalf has, as I do, has long hair and a big ol’ beard, and since he doesn’t come with all the social baggage of the other bearded guy (Hint: Ho, Ho, Ho!), I stuck with it.  I admit, I've been inconsistent, if only to save me from having to come up with new faces every few weeks. Besides, I love who Gandalf is in the books wherein he appears.

If you want to know more about me, then read what I write (I do write under this name for several blogs; they’ll generally post to Facebook automatically, so that is where you’ll find the biggest selection.) Feel free to dig through my archives in this blog and on Facebook, and read what I write about. Listen to see if God speaks to you there (that is, after all, the goal). Or you may ask other people about me (but please honor them [and me] enough to NOT ask them private details, like my name or my family life).

If you want to really know me, join in the conversation, though understand that I’ll be far more receptive to it in the public arena, particularly on ongoing threads on my wall. As a matter of policy (and honor for that treasured lady I mentioned earlier), I generally don’t engage in private conversation with women.

If all of this offends you, that’s actually OK. God has given both of us a free will, and you’re completely free to choose not to be in relationship with a strange old guy with hidden face and a funny name. God bless you as you follow Him along the path He’s leading you on. This is the path He’s leading me on. I really like walking with him, so I’m going to stay on this path, because that’s where I find him. If any of the insights from my path help you on yours, then we’re both richer for it, aren’t we?

(This page is http://nwp.link/nwpdisclosure.
This article is adapted from here: http://bit.ly/NWPDisclosure)

The Egotistical Nature of a Faulty Theology

I’ve come to suspect that it is one of the most egotistical and self-aggrandizing things we can do to declare that “God causes sickness in order to bring glory out of it.”

First cousin – and co-conspirator in this plot – is the slightly more timid version, “God allows sickness in order to bring glory out of it.”

My friend Joel Marius asks, “I
f you were a father, would you inject your kids with a disease to get some sort of glory from it?” to which the answer inevitably is “Dude? What kind of question is that? Of course not”

And of course, we’d all say the same.

But If I declare, “I will not do this, because it’s not the right thing for a father to do to his daughter,” and yet I hold that it’s something that God does to his daughters and sons, then I’ve just painted myself into a corner.

Logically, this leads me to one of three conclusions:

1)       We’re functionally declaring that we’re better parents than God is. Ya gotta have an epic ego to say you’re a better father than The Father. Or

2)       We’re accusing God of hypocrisy: things that would *obviously* be unthinkable for us to do are somehow magically morphed into good and helpful things when an omnipotent being performs the same crime. Or

3)       We’re mistaken, and God does not actually cause sickness.

I propose that we consider the third alternative. Sickness is not from God. Sure, he uses it for good; come on! he uses *everything* for good. That’s just who he is.

But the cause is not in God, and the permission is not in God.



The Promised Transition: a true story.


We had been struggling to plant this church for more than a year, and we were confused.

We were three starry-eyed young men and our three faithful young wives. We were passionate believers, full of faith and ambition. We’d quit our jobs, sold our homes, and moved to Canada, amidst a flurry of encouraging prophetic words of victory and glory.

When we arrived, we found a few believers who were drawn to us. They’d had dreams of three young men in bright armor marching into their region, sparks flying from their heels as they dispelled the darkness.

Someone had had a dream about a network of home groups, maybe house churches, in every one of the thousands of apartment complexes, full of life and growth and health, people coming to Jesus every week, baptisms every month in the apartments’ pools.

We were so confident, when we started the church, that we’d find victory, that people would come to faith by the scores, maybe the hundreds, revival would visit the city, and lives would be changed.

It hadn’t turned out that way.

We’d been struggling to keep the young church alive for a year and a half. Tithes and offerings were barely covering the rent on the school that we were meeting in. People were coming to the church, but not really investing themselves.

When we came together, worship was good. The Word was taught. Prophetic words were not infrequent. But it as if nothing was sticking.

And then, in the spring, several of us heard the same thing from the Lord. “Prepare for transition. This fall, the church is going to experience a change.”

We rejoiced. We celebrated. Now, finally, we’d paid our dues, and we’d experience some fruitfulness! Now, finally, the church would grow, and we’d be able to settle into our lives and jobs, and make something of our lives. We were really ready for that change. We couldn’t wait!

Over the next few months, we talked about the promise, we rejoiced in it, we celebrated what God was about to do! We were thrilled.

And then things began falling apart.

Several families had an unexpected financial crisis.
So the church finances, which were barely sufficient, began to fail pretty badly.
A number of people in the church experienced unprecedented relationship failures.
One of the pastors was being drawn into an immoral relationship.
Hopelessness began to set into the life of the church.

And then when the fall came, my family was called home (with our tail between our legs!) by the organization that sent us, and the senior leader, needing to pay his bills and feed his family, accepted the invitation to pastor a prosperous church in the next community over.

When the time came for the transition, we acknowledged the inevitable, and shut the church down.

It turned out that the prophetic word was true. . “This fall, the church is going to experience a change.” What was not true was our interpretation of the word. We assumed that the change would be the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams. It was not that, but it certainly was a change.

I’ve observed this process going on throughout the people of God: we hear the word accurately enough, but we filter it through our hopes and dreams: our expectations.

God makes himself accountable to the promises he gives (keeping in mind the conditions associated). But he has not made himself even a little bit accountable to our attempts to shoehorn our wishes and desires into those promises.

Israel did that with the Messiah, Jesus. They expected that Messiah would come in force and deliver the nation from Roman tyranny. When he came as the suffering servant, they rejected him, and some theologians suggest that it was this disappointment that led Judas to betray Jesus, in an attempt to force his hand to become the conquering king.

When God speaks – whether in the prophetic declaration, or in the Holy Scriptures – it is a really lousy idea to try to force our expectations, our hopes and dreams – even godly hopes and dreams – onto his promises. It’s generally considered rude to put our words into someone else’s mouth; it really doesn’t work with God!

One of the disciplines that I’ve tried to develop over the years is one that I exercise whenever I encounter a promise: I try to peel away my own interpretation, and the interpretation of whomever I’ve heard the promise from (pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet, or Facebook friend), so that I can restrict my expectations to only that which God has actually promised.

That way, I’m in less danger of being disappointed by him not answering all my hopes. That way, I can expect him to be him, and not to live up to all of our expectations. And I can free myself to actually know him, instead of just putting his name on my own wishes.

God, the Murderer

Since the character of God was brilliantly defined by Jesus, we can trust that if God is a murderer (as some claim, when they read of Ananias and Saphira), then Jesus would have clearly and intentionally revealed the murderous nature of God. 

Curiously, I don't read about Jesus ever murdering anyone, not a single person. Nor did he teach his followers about when and how to properly murder sinners in the Father's name. He did not praise a single murderer or extol a single act of murder.

Therefore I conclusively deduce that God is not a murderer. (In fact, Jesus revealed that someone *else* has the job description of "steal, kill & destroy.")

And if God is not a murderer, then he did not, in fact, murder Ananias and Saphira. If God does not kill, then he did not kill them. If God *does* kill, then Jesus would have revealed that, since he revealed God. 

If you hold that God killed these two - or any one *else* - in spite of the clear testimony of Jesus, then either you are confused, or you are uneducated about the nature and ways of God, or you believe God is an intentional and malevolent liar. 

Hint: there is someone ELSE who is the "father of lies," and he has a documented history of slandering the good character of your loving Father. I urge you to reconsider whom you accuse of lying. 

QED. 

("Logic. Why don't they teach logic in these schools.")