Thursday

Blue Collar Jesus

My day job is what’s normally called a “white collar” job. Most American jobs are.

Recently, I was doing a lot of digging. Digging is more of a “blue collar” job.

And while I was digging, I was listening to the Bible, ‘cuz that’s what I do. I was listening to the Gospel of Matthew.

And because I was in the midst of so much manual labor at the time, I saw the parables of Jesus through more of a blue collar lens.

It surprised me, seeing them like that. For the first time I realized – really realized – that Jesus told blue-collar stories. I observe that while he hung out with white collar guys (like tax collectors and perhaps Lazarus, and the rich guys who sought him out for healing), he never told white-collar stories. He told blue-collar stories.

Yes, a larger portion of first century jobs were blue collar jobs. But this is more than that. Jesus is going out of his way to reach the scruffy folks, the one that didn’t matter as much as the good folks, the people with position and influence.

I think in these terms: if Jesus started his church-planting work among the calloused-handed working class, I wonder why our church-planting efforts do things differently. Do we judge His work as insufficient, or unworthy?

I observe that Jesus handled money so very differently than modern churches do. He had a few (presumably wealthy) patrons, and supplemented that with miracles (coins in a fish’s mouth, multiplying meals; I wonder how often he did that?). By contrast, we generally work to attract upper-middle-class folks and then preach tithing to them: guilt or obligation as the means of paying the rent.

Rent. Jesus never did seem to have a place that he needed to pay rent on. That’ll help keep the expenses in line. No building to support (though he did preach in synagogues when invited). And he didn’t draw a salary from the ministry.

I am reaching the conclusion that this blue-collar thing, this is who Jesus really was. When he humbled himself (Philippians 2), He went all the way. Jesus loves to reach the folks in the gutters because that’s who He was when He was on Earth. That’s where He lived.



Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

I had an interesting revelation recently. I’d like your take on it. This might be a little convoluted, so follow close here. This took me down unfamiliar paths; perhaps they’ll be new ideas to you as well.

I was worshipping in the morning, and I was using a track from one of my favorite worship bands. The track was a very popular worship song: everybody and their bass player has covered it.

I found myself drawn into that place of intimate worship. I was thankful for such an anointed song to help lead me into the place of the sacrifice of worship. 

And it began to dawn on me that yes, there was an anointing here, but it wasn’t on the song. Hmm. Yes? Tell me more. 

I considered for a while the possibility that some songs might not carry an anointing on them, but people using the song for anointed purposes still produces an anointing.

That didn’t quite fit right. Why would this song be anointed, and that song not be anointed? (Yeah, I know: there are answers for this, but that’s not the path my meditation took this morning.) Might the anointing on a song vary with the anointing on the songwriter? Or the anointing present during the songwriting.

Then I recognized a feeling in my spirit: That’s not the right path; you’re getting distracted. (Have you ever played “hot & cold” [“You’re getting warmer…..”] when your parents or someone hid something for you to find? We did that with Easter eggs. This was like that.)

So I backed off and just listened in my spirit, watched to see what Holy Spirit might be highlighting for me.

After a bit, I realized that while He uses songs, it’s not songs that He anoints. Hmm.

The infinitely personal Spirit of the Immortal God doesn’t anoint melodies or harmonies with His presence, nor lyrics, though he’s quite happy to use them all. He doesn’t anoint the guitar solo, or the percussion mix, or the click track. It’s not the song’s arrangement, or the engineer’s mix of the song or use of equalization and reverb that carries God’s presence. Neither is it the choice of instruments nor the choice of microphones. It’s not the physical CD, or the data of the .mp3 or .wav file that He anoints.

God anoints people. God’s anointing is on people (and Biblically, you can make a case that he’s not all that particular about which people, believers or not), not on people’s tools. My tool is mine; God doesn’t typically anoint my stuff. God anoints what’s his: you and me.

I’m still working through the question of whether God anoints the tasks that we do; for the moment I think not, that His anointing is on people as they do the tasks, but the jury is still out on that one.

And here’s where it gets personal. This means – if I’m understanding His heart correctly – that when I sense God’s anointing on a worship song, as I did in this morning, that I’m mistaken.

I can think of a couple of directions that could go:

  • I’m pretty sure that very often what I mean when I say “It’s an anointed song,” is that I’m remembering experiencing His anointing while engaging Him with that song in times past. Our emotional memories are really powerful, and it could be those emotions I’m remembering.

  • Or when I experience an anointing in the context of a song, it may be that my own spirit (and perhaps my soul, too) is trained, conditioned to quickly and smoothly enter into the place where I experience his anointing. I can think of worse conditioned responses.

  • Closely related to the above, I think I’ve experienced times where my spirit is so thirsty that it leaps with joy at the barest hint of an opportunity to worship my Creator/King/Lover, and I mistake that leap toward Him for His anointing. I guess this one speaks to the quality of my private worship times. I confess, I love it when my spirit leaps to worship, but it is a sign of lack of spiritual nutrition in my life. Hmm.

  • Since I’m trying to be honest here, the possibility also exists that I’m deceived, too. It is a real possibility that when I experience something associated with a song which I’ve used for spiritual purposes, that I’m actually engaging a religious spirit. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of manipulation that happens in some times and places where we worship God. Looks like I need to keep my discernment ears on.

  • Or something else may be going on.


But God’s anointing is on people. Not tools. 

The Controversial Source of the Law.

God offered, “You [Israel] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) God offered a covenant of equals: you and me, face to face with God with nothing in between. Peers.

They rejected his offer, and counter-offered, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)


They proposed the intermediary, which is what a priesthood is. And they promised to listen. The original language contains a hint of obedience, but no, this isn’t an express promise (which was probably good).

They rejected the peer relationship, the covenant of equals, and they substituted a vertical relationship: big god with the rules (and therefore the spank stick), and the only way to know him is through a priest. Ick.

So the idea of a priesthood was not God’s idea, but the people’s. And the idea of hearing and obeying rules wasn’t God’s idea, but the people’s. He wanted a face-to-face with every living being, but they threw that back in his face and demanded a priesthood and rules.

So God was backed into a corner: either relate to people through a priesthood and rules, or walk away, wipe his hands clean and start over again.

But he’s not One to walk away.

So he submitted his mighty self to their silly little demands. It was better than no relationship at all.

They wanted a priesthood: Moses started it with Aaron, and it continued on. That’s what Leviticus is all about. Don’t you love Leviticus? Isn’t it fun to read?

They wanted rules. So God gave them a handful. Those rules were never about “Do this and you go to Heaven.” They were “Do this and you won’t get spanked.” (see Deuteronomy 30, and Luke 10:28). “Do this and you won’t be cursed.”

But they broke covenant before the rules were even delivered (remember the golden calf?). Then came more rules. And they failed those, so he had to give them other rules, more specific rules.

If you have rules, then you need to have an enforcer, and that is ALWAYS your god. So God was party to a covenant he didn’t want, and was the enforcer if the people didn’t keep their end of the covenant.

No wonder God was glad to be rid of that covenant. “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)  He never wanted the stinky old rules or the silly little priesthood in the first place.


Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 

Do We Believe It?

We need to consider whether we actually believe the Bible or not.

Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)

Here’s the test question: who has the authority to stop the power of the enemy? Who has the authority to stop what he’s doing, to stop the stealing, killing and destruction?

Now here’s the hard part: Who has the authority to stop evil from happening around us? Who has the ability to limit what the devil is trying to do? Who has the responsibility to put boundaries on what the devil does around our cities and countries, around our families and neighborhoods?

I suspect that solving the problem is easier once we determine where the break is: it’s not on God’s part. (No, it’s not just black & white, but the black & white are a big part of it.)

Brothers & Sisters, let’s pick up the authority, the assignment that Jesus has already given to us, and let’s take our responsibility seriously, and let’s trample on snakes & scorpions; let’s overcome the enemy and his nasty work.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, here, in my neighborhood, as it is in Heaven. For Thine is the glory, the Power and the. Honor, for ever and ever. Amen.”

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.

Learning About Partnering With Angels

I hold an opinion that makes a lot of Christians, a lot of Christian leaders, very, very nervous: I believe that God gives new revelation in some seasons, which previous centuries of Christians may not have had, or may have once had and have forgotten.

One of the topics that it seems that God’s talking about – and it’s terribly uncomfortable to the traditions I was raised in – is the topic of angels. I believe that God is speaking to his children about angels, who are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

There are some reasons that this topic has scared people in the church: some leaders have feared that people would be more enamored with the angels than with the God who created them. And some believers have become so angel-centric that they can’t even spend time with their Heavenly Father without invoking angels.

Sure, there are legitimate concerns to avoid. (There are always legitimate concerns to avoid.) We’ll avoid the dangers, but avoiding the dangers isn’t our goal. Our goal is receiving what Father gives us, because if the Creator of the Universe thinks we need it, then who are we to argue? We need it.

I have a couple of these fellows who live at my home. They guard the peace and the people of  my home. They’re also eager to do stuff, so they roam my neighborhood, terrorizing any demons they find. And frankly, they provoke me to press into Father, to dig into the Word, to learn more about how to live with angels.

They didn’t teach me this stuff in Sunday School.




A Rookie Believer

Some years ago, a friend of mine died.

She was a baby Christian, very young in her faith, and frankly, pretty immature, but she was growing.

She was 94, a 94-year-old baby Christian.

So she had a most unusual combination of character traits: some aspects of the wisdom that comes from nearly a century’s experience with life; some aspects that were wet-behind-the-ears fresh and immature. What an interesting person!

Donald Trump reminds me of her. He’s by no means a young or immature man. But he displays signs of what appears to be both sincere faith, and immature faith. I won’t get into what signs I see; you can see them for yourself if you look for them.


If it’s true that Mr Trump is an immature believer (keep in mind that maturity is a condition of the heart, not of the calendar), then we should expect to see some signs of immature faith moving forward.

We should expect to see a whole lot of zeal for the work he’s been given, with maybe a little more optimism than the real world allows for.

We should expect him to see inconsistency in the maturity of his moral and ethical choices. Note that he may or may not be immature of faith but he certainly is immature in politics, and he is not at all immature in business.

We might expect to see mistakes that he needs help cleaning up.


But it would be completely foolish to expect to see him follow the model laid down by your pastor, or by a famous religious leader. He ain’t never been a religious leader, and doesn’t aspire to be. 

Christian Judgment

I confess that I’m haunted by Psalm 122. You know, the one that begins with,

“I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’“

I get it when the Psalmist gets excited about going to hang out with God! What a delight! But a couple of verses later, in the middle of his rejoicing, he explains,

“For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.”

One of the reasons he’s excited about going to hang out with God is because he looks forward to the judgment there.

What?

That tells me that among other things, I don’t have a good handle on what judgment is supposed to be. I can tell when it is used wrong, and that appears to be a lot, but we already knew that. Let’s be honest: Christians have earned the judgmental, condemning reputation we’ve picked up. (Sure, hell has reinforced the reputation, but as a community, we earned it.)

Today, I’m struck by this: if judgment is part of the work of the saints, then it’s subject to the same restrictions as the rest of the work of the saints. Judgment is to be an act of love. It’s to be for people, not against them. It’s to be something that builds people up, not tears them down, something that draws them in, not what pushes them away.

I don’t see much of that sort of judgment yet. Not among saints, not anywhere.

But it’s coming.


 

Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Abolish is a strong word.

People quote Matthew 5:17&18 at me, to say “See! We still need to be under the Law! Look! See!”

These verses read, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

I have to admit, if you grab that verse, yank it out of its context, ignore the bit about the Prophets, and try to use it as a club to support a need for the Law (or at least the 10 Commandments), then it kind of fits. If you close one eye and squint the other. 

Let’s look at this a little more closely, a little more objectively, shall we? Is Jesus really saying, “Psych! I’m not really freeing you from the Law!”? Or is Jesus saying something else.

That “Something else” could be several things:

  1. Perhaps the context tells us some things?
  2. There may be a Jewish metaphor here that we’re not catching because we’re not first century Jews. That might change the meaning here.  
  3. He might be talking about a purpose of the Law and the Prophets that he’s going to fulfill.
  4. He might be talking about and end of the Law, but one that is not His doing. 
Let’s look at these possibilities one by one.

1. First, what does the context tell us? This is in the middle of a sermon where Jesus is completely re-interpreting their understanding of the Law. The entire chapter is about Jesus saying, “You’ve heard the Law taught this way…. But I tell you this other thing instead.”

So it’s not reasonable to assume that suddenly he breaks his train of thought and talks about submitting to the Law, at least not without some more evidence to work with. It’s more reasonable to infer that Jesus is doing away with how that Jewish culture has always understood the Law, and replacing that with a completely new understanding. That is the context.

2. Is there a Jewish metaphor here? I’m glad you asked. Yes there is. Jesus says the Law is valid “until heaven and earth pass away.” Well, when is that?

We, in our 21st century, science-based world interpret that literally, scientifically, and if Jesus were speaking on CNN or the Discover Channel, that would probably be a reasonable interpretation. But that is not how his audience at the time would interpret it. So it’s not permitted for us to impose a 21st century interpretation onto this first century document.

If you look at the phrase in scripture (http://nwp.link/2idn9Ml), it’s used more than 120 times (NKJV). In general, the words are used to describe “Pretty much everything we know” (which was *much* less than what we know today!), but when used together, it’s specifically addressing the abode of God (see: http://nwp.link/2j2nNR5, especially Isaiah 66:1 and Jeremiah 23:24). This is describing the Jewish temple. 

In fact, this view was so prevalent that eventually the temple and its courtyard in Jerusalem became known as “Heaven and Earth,” and was spoken of as immovable. The temple itself, the “dwelling place of God” was Heaven, and the courts, particularly with the court of Gentiles, was “the Earth. In more poetical language, it was described as “Where Heaven and Earth meet.” (https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/grawhe)

So the Law and the Prophets are still valid, under Jesus’ new interpretation, until the temple was destroyed. That’s what it meant to the writer and the original readers of the Gospels. We cannot impose our 21st century cosmology onto the text.

3. The structure of the sentence clearly points to the fulfillment of “The Law and the Prophets.” We’ve taught for generations (correctly) that the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus, and this passage in Matthew has been part of that teaching. Certainly, the reference to “the Prophets” would not be part of a declaration of keeping the Old Covenant Law.

These verses are clearly saying that the Law was still in place as Jesus made the statement; it hadn’t been fulfilled yet. Recently, I fulfilled my obligations on a loan. Until that loan was fulfilled, I kept making payments. If I missed even one payment, even the very last payment, then the loan was in default, and the bank had the right to seize my property and sell it off to cover my failure. 

But when I fulfilled that loan, when the payments were done, then the loan no longer has any power over my behavior (“Payments are due!”) or consequences (“…or we’ll seize your stuff!”). I was now free from that law. 

Jesus was declaring that the fulfillment of everything the Law and the Prophets spoke about was upon them: they were about to see the realization of everything they’d been waiting for for the last couple of millennia!

4. The Old Covenant Law was still in place when Jesus spoke these words about the Law being fulfilled. It was already “obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” (Hebrews 8:13), but it didn’t finally “vanish away” until the last possible second: exactly one generation (40 years) after Jesus’ death, when the Jerusalem, the temple (“Heaven & Earth”) and perhaps even most significantly, the genealogical records of Israel were all destroyed. Without those records, it was impossible to determine who was a descendant of Aaron, and therefore qualified to be a priest and to make the sacrifices the Law demanded. Legitimate sacrifices could never be re-instituted.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD (a description of which is in Matthew 24, in answer to the question of “When will the stones of the temple be thrown down?”), the Old Covenant finally breathed its last and died, completely fulfilled in Christ.

So these verses are not a statement that Believers need to keep the Old Covenant Law. They were a warning that while the Law was still in force when the words were spoken, but that Law would end soon. Romans is blunt: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness….” Done.

And Jesus didn't just end Ten Commandments. He ended 613 laws; he ended all of them. All of that is dead. It was obsolete. It wasn’t needed any more.

You see, all of those commandments were the "terms and conditions" for the Old Covenant. And Jesus ended the Old Covenant. (The Epistle to the Hebrews describes that termination pretty well, better than this article has room for.)

So when that broken down, obsolete covenant was replaced with a New Covenant, the terms and conditions of the first covenant (all those laws, and the priesthood, and the sacrifices) were all replaced with the terms and conditions of the New Covenant as well.

So anyone who names the name of Christ is not under the Old Covenant, and not obligated – not even a smidgeon – to the terms and conditions of that obsolete covenant. We share in a New Covenant, and no man can serve two masters. Dont try.

Running Ahead of the Pack

Forerunners move out from the crowd they've been running with, to a place ahead of the crowd, where they are an example for others. As a result, it is not uncommon for forerunners to feel isolated, alone.

You need to know that that’s not isolation: that’s forerunning: it’s part of the job description of a forerunner – running ahead of the crowd, not with it – and that solitude is part of God’s provision for you. (Remember how Jesus sought it out? eg. Mark 6:45-46)

Others among the crowd see your example and move forward to join the forerunner or to even move beyond you. So the forerunner will have an empty spot, a vacuum, behind you, where others used to be, where others used to be. The more effective a forerunner is at bringing others forward, the greater the vacuum. Anyone trying to pull away from that vacuum will feel the vacuum pulling back.

Forerunners, that’s one of the things you’re fighting: you need to stay out of that vacuum; you may feel forces pulling you back. Resist the influences trying to pull you back to where you used to be. You need to keep pressing forward, keep reaching for the high calling in Christ Jesus. That’s who you are; that’s how you’re made.

There are others who need to move forward to fill that space behind you, who need to draft behind you, who will be encouraged to keep the pace you set.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…. (Hebrews 12:1)



Prophetic Exercise: The Chair by the Fireplace

Here’s an exercise, if you’re willing.

Imagine a comfortable room, a quiet room. There’s a big fireplace in the room, with a roaring fire, and next to the fireplace is a big chair. A Papa chair.

Father is sitting in that chair, relaxed. His eye, with a sparkle in it, is on you. He reaches a hand out toward you.


You can curl up on his lap, if you like, and rest your head on his mighty shoulder. Or you can curl up at his feet if you prefer. But this is a good time to be quiet and to rest with him, however that works best for you.

In the silence, you can hear his heart beating gently, peacefully, strong. His hand is on the back of your head, fingers in your hair, caressing gently.

You can feel the stuff of your day drain out of you, like dirty bath water vanishing down the drain: gone, never to be seen or heard from again, and in its place, you feel the presence of peace on you, like the warmth of the crackling fire.

Be still. Shhh…. Maybe you drift off to sleep for a bit. The quiet is all around you.

After a long time, you realize it’s not quite absolutely silent; you can hear his soft, deep voice whispering your name, over and over. Do you hear him?

Then he speaks to you, quietly, his words like a warm blanket over you. That feels nice.

What do you hear him saying to you?


Lukewarm Laodicea?


I’m tired of people looking at Jesus’ letter to the Church in Laodicea and misinterpreting it.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

So many preachers preaching from this passage, saying it’s better to be hot or cold. That’s fine, but then they drive right into the ditch. “Hot,” they say, is a person who’s “on fire” for God. And “Cold,” they say, is the opposite, someone who’s turned off on God. But people that are just “meh,” people who aren’t really passionate one way or the other are said to be “lukewarm,” and, they proclaim boldly, “God hates lukewarm!”

The encouragement to be passionate for God is wonderful. The thought that God likes atheists or passionately anti-Christian activity more than half-hearted Christianity? Yeah, that’s balderdash. You can argue that a half-hearted lover of God is better than a hater of God, or you can argue that God loves ‘em all the same, but you CAN’T argue that God loves haters better than folks that are tired of trying.

The root of this whole metaphor comes from Laodicea’s city water supply. This isn’t about half-hearted people. This is about water.

Laodicea, you see, had no reliable springs, no reliable city water of their own, so they imported their water.

They imported water from two other cities: Hierapolis (about 6 miles south) and Colossae, about 10 miles east.

Hierapolis was famous for hot springs, and the water they got from there was still hot if it was fresh. They were (and still are) famous for hot springs, for healing waters, where people can sit and soak their wounded or aging bodies.

Colossae was in the mountains and the water they got from there was cold if it was fresh. Since Laodicea spent summers consistently above 100ºF (38ºC), cold, refreshing mountain water was wonderful and refreshing and invigorating!

Both sources of water had a fair bit of minerals in them: they actually invented something like manhole covers to get into the pipes and clean them out regularly, because the minerals would build up and keep the water from running freely. When the pipes were clogged, the water sat in the pipes, rather than flowed through the pipes.

If the water had been sitting, stagnating, in pipes or in a pond or cistern somewhere, it was neither hot nor cold: it was lukewarm. It was also probably unsafe, so spitting it out is a really good thing to do.

But the statement here isn’t that God vomits out people who aren't passionate enough, though the call to passionate following is appropriate. The statement here is “Be who you’re called to be.”

If you’re going to be a healing person, where broken people can come and soak away their pains, great. Be that!

If you’re going to be a bracing drink of cold, mountain water, that’ll wake folks up and get them motivated, great. Be that!

Don’t sit in the pipes so long that you just gum up the works and nobody gets good ministry. And don’t sit and stagnate. That’s not good for anybody.


Whatever you’re called to do: do it. Be passionate about it! Don’t just sit and stagnate. 

Prophetic Exercise: The Judge's Bench

Since the prophetic gifts are for the real world, think of a real world person that’s going through some trouble, someone you’ve been praying for recently. Write down their name.

Now look in the Spirit, and look behind you. You see there a tall, oak, judge’s bench. Jesus is standing there, smiling, waiting for you.

He takes you around to the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, Jesus sits you in the great chair behind the bench. When you take your seat, you’re find that you’re wearing black robes, and you have a wooden gavel in your right hand. Are you wearing a white wig, too? 

Take a moment, if you need to, to deal with the emotions of being in a place like this. Ask him questions if you need to, but don’t argue with him. This is your assignment today, if you choose to accept it.

Now look out over the judge’s bench. From your new vantage point, see your friend, whose name you wrote down. Observe them for a minute as they go about their day. As you’re watching them, let Jesus show you his love for them, his compassion for the crud they’re going through. Rest there for a moment, feeling his heart for them.

Then Jesus reaches over and touches your eyes. And now you can see more clearly from the bench, and with his help, you begin to see the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that have been harassing your friend. Recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellions against their rightful king and against your friend. 

Jesus leans over and whispers, “Judge them!” Identify them, their names and their crimes. Recognize, by the Spirit who’s in you, the name, the assignment, the work of one of the demons harassing your friend. Speak that name out loud, and bang the gavel as you do name it. Write it down if that helps.

Then watch what happens next. When I did this, as I spoke the name, as I named each spirit, it was as if my gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each of my charges, and with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound.

Look around. Do you see angels in the courtroom? What do you see them doing? Consult with Jesus: what is his counsel on the work you’re doing?

This isn’t a game. This is literally life and death, but don’t interpret that to mean that you can’t enjoy the work you’re doing. Get into the work. Reach deep within your spirit to accurately name each spirit, and as you name it, watch as it’s snatched from the air around your friend and bound. Observe what happens to it next, if that’s revealed.

You may or may not have gotten to each of the demons harassing your friend when you feel that you’re done, when you feel the grace for this work lift, or when you hear Jesus say, “OK. That’s enough for this time.” Don’t stay there beyond the grace for the work. Your friend is destined to be an overcomer; they need something to overcome.

It helps me to go back through the session’s work: declare your friend’s freedom, thank God for your friend’s freedom from each of the spirits that you bound today. And when you’re done, perhaps as an act of worship, burn the list: don’t keep a record of hell’s work in their life.

Now, by my counsel, I’d recommend that you don’t talk to them about this experience, not for a long, long time, and this is for your benefit, not theirs. We tend to think, “Well, I bound up a spirit of self-pity, so they won’t be falling into self-pity any more!” Yeah, that’s not how it works.

If you bound the spirit of self-pity, then that spirit of self-pity isn’t plying its trade in their life any longer. But that doesn’t break years of self-pitying habits, or generations of self-pitying traditions. It means that spirit isn’t working there any more, not that they’re perfect now. 

And of course, don’t stop praying for your friend.  

The Exodus: a Memoir

Four months ago, we was all slaves in Egypt, building bricks for a living, seven days a week, from before dawn till after dark. Our slave lords were so very cruel that they made us kill the baby boys that were born, leaving a generation that was mostly women.

Three months ago, this shepherd guy shows up, speaking both Egyptian & Hebrew, and announcing that there was a god who cared about, and who said it’s time to leave Egypt. Seriously? Who cares for slaves, anyway?

That pissed off the slave lords of course, and they made our lives miserable for a while, but then things got kind of interesting. It was like the gods were even more pissed off at the slave lords. Nature was out of control: disaster after disaster beat on the whole slave lord nation.

Two months ago, the worst disaster: a whole lot of the slave lords’ children died in a single night. We smeared our huts with blood and had this weirdly symbolic meal, and they said that was why our kids didn’t die. Seriously? I mean, how does that work?

But the slave lords backed off, and the Egyptian shepherd guy – I guess his name is Moe –  said it was time to go, and then it got really interesting! The slave lords “loaned” us slaves their gold dishes and jewelry and stuff, and we left. There was a really big crowd of us. I never knew there were so many of us slaves there. And the sheep! That was a lot of sheep!

And we headed out of town, with Moe up there at the front like he was Charlton Heston or something, with his big brother walking next to him. We had some carts, but mostly, we was carrying our stuff, dragging our stuff behind.

There was this dust storm that always seemed to be at the front of the parade, but even freakier, every night, there was a firestorm boiling up in the middle of the camp. It was really weird, but it did keep us warm, seeing how we was camping in the wild, and we didn’t even have decent tents yet.

Then one day, we went through this wet place where I thought I’d seen an ocean the day before. Sure enough, there were still fish flopping in the mud, starfish and seaweed alongside the path, but they was rushing us so much, and I was carrying two kids and a sack with all their clothes and stuff, so I didn’t get to pay much attention.

When we got past that wet place and hiked up the hill on the other side, we stopped to rest, and I heard this huge crash of waves behind us. I looked around, and by golly, there was the ocean, right where we’d just hiked through. The funny thing was that there were dead men, dead horses, and what looked like chunks of the slave lords’ chariots floating in the waves. Somebody started singing, and it turned into a regular party.

Then it got real. Now we had an ocean full of dead bodies between us and civilization, and we were stuck in the outback and it didn’t seem like anybody knew what was going on. Some days, we hiked, some days we didn’t, and I never did understand why. I was more concerned with the fact that we had no tent, no food, not even a freaking water bottle for the kids! (We got busy right away, making tents from sheepskins and camel hair any anything else we could get our hands on, and making other camp stuff.)

The kids were crying, the sheep were dragging their tongues, we were all hot and tired all day, or cold and tired all night, and it was miserable. The bugs were thick, the food was scarce, and all that walking! A few days after the ocean incident, we found an oasis with some standing water, but it was polluted. I was so thirsty, we were all so thirsty, I got on my knees to get a drink, but I couldn’t do it: it stank, and there was bugs and crap in it.

So Moe throws a stick in the water and says, “OK, it’s all good. You can drink it now.” It was still kinda funky, but it wasn’t so bad as before, and the sheep really liked it. They just waded in and drank and drank. We got our water out of the other end of the pond.

And still we hiked. Oh,  how we hiked! And there was always that cloud bank during the daytime, and the fire storm at night. Pretty soon, folks was real eager to claim there spot in the middle of the camp where it was warmest at night, but it wasn’t so bad even at the edge of that huge campground where me and the boys camped and talked every night.

And it was in the desert, so food and water was always an issue. I don’t know which was weirder: the couple of times Moe got mad and whacked one of the rock outcroppings, and out pops a waterfall, or the fact that every morning, me and the boy’s would go out of the camp into the bush, and gather up rice or quinoa or something off the twigs and bushes and have that for breakfast. It was pretty good, kind of spicy sweet. We’d go gather it up every morning, and save some for lunch and dinner. Except Saturdays. It was never there on Saturdays, which was even weirder.

But the jostling for the best camp spaces got weird. Some folks wanted to be by the firestorm where it was warm, and others wanted to be at the edges, so they didn’t have to walk so far for breakfast. It seems that weird stuff was all we ever ate any more, and who can blame ‘em: slaves don’t know how to hunt, and we didn’t want to eat the sheep. They were pretty scrawny and disgusting sheep nowadays anyway, but we drank the milk, or mostly the little ones did.

And then we arrived here, camped around an active volcano. It’s been weird here. First, Moe’s family showed up from wherever it was they had been, then Moe formed some sort of committee of leaders while there. It looked like we were going to be nomads for a while. Better make more tents.


This is a scary god on a scary mountain.
But then Moe decided he needed to go climb that volcano, just as a storm was settling in over the mountain. We heard the thunder, but after a while, it sounded more like a thundering voice, and the voice was talking to Moe, and the voice was telling Moe what to say to the crowd, to us.

‘You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. If you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all peoples you’ll be my special treasure. The whole Earth is mine to choose from, but you’re special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.’

We all heard the voice, and then Moe came and said the same thing to us, and we was all real excited! Us being a special treasure to a God who beats down slave lords, feeds us in the wilderness and makes a bonfire for us every night and breakfast for us every morning? What’s not to like about that, and me and the boys, and I guess just about everybody, told Moe, “Yeah, we’re all in on this!”

But we got thinking about it over night. This is also a God that killed the slave lords’ animals and crops and eventually some of their kids. This is a God that chases his “special treasure” into the desert and then leaves us there to starve, to die of thirst. This is the God that I guess lives in an active volcano, and damn, he’s scary. You know, the more me and the boys talked about it, the less excited we are about hearing this God talk to us, hold us accountable to some “covenant.” And stuff like us all being “priests,” or being “holy,” now that’s not for us.

Then we had this great idea: Maybe we can get the best of both worlds going on here? We’ll do the covenant thing, but we’ll make Moe go talk to the scary God in the volcano. He can be the priest, and he can tell us what the God wants us to do, and we’ll do what he says. More or less.

We can have a go-between! He’ll give us some token list of rules. Keep the rules, when it works out, and we’re on easy street. The God thrashes on any slave lords, and he keeps feeding us, and we don’t have to deal with the scary stuff!

What could go wrong with that? Right?