In the Kitchen with Jesus

A few years ago, my wife & I were given the gift of a week at a resort in Puerto Rico. The company that gave us the trip was trying to impress us, so it was a nice place. One of the nicer parts of the trip (apart from the sun and the surf) was the breakfast buffet. We just needed to show up at a particular covered lanai any time between seven AM and noon, and a feast awaited us.

There were mountains of fresh fruit peeled and sliced , heaps of freshly baked goodies, piles of cooked bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns, great urns full of several kinds of fresh juices, next to urns of freshly brewed coffee. There were two chefs assigned to the buffet, in addition to the dozens of cooks working behind the scene and scores of servers; one chef specialized in fresh waffles and the other focused exclusively on making omelets exactly as you asked for them.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely, of course. The breakfasts were so good and so filling that we never bothered with eating lunch, just breakfast and dinner each day, before we swam in the surf, hiked the trails, napped in the sun or read by the acres of swimming pool. It was a week of indulgence.

It really was a nice break from the routine, but a lifestyle like that would quickly make us lazy, overweight, and completely bankrupt. There are reasons we cook our own meals: first, we have to pay for our own meals the other fifty-one weeks of the year, and second, I really prefer that my height remain greater than my waistline. Imagine what it would be like if I could eat like that every day, or even just a few times a week. I’d have to expand more than my tent-pegs!

In contrast, I go camping by myself fairly often. I have a camper on my truck, and so it doesn’t take a lot of planning. I have a kitchen in that camper, which I use for lunch during the week, but when I’m camping, I try to do all my cooking over the campfire. I don’t bring prepared meals. The first dinner always involves a steak; later in the weekend, I usually cook in aluminum foil in the coals, or in a pot hanging over the fire. I try my best to avoid “traditional” camp food (other than the first night’s steak): I make nice meals pretty much from scratch, and I try to make a great deal of variety The goal here is pretty much the opposite of the breakfast buffet: it’s to prepare the meal for myself.

The Bible speaks of our need to eat the Word of God, to be nourished by it. God’s word is our food.

We have “Bible Restaurants” scattered across our city; we call some of them churches. One of their several functions is to prepare the raw materials of the Word into a tasty and digestible meal for their guests. Similarly, we have conferences, which provide more robust fare for those who are looking for more specialized fare. And we can order prepared meals in a range of qualities online – from disgusting guck to spectacular banquets; we call them Podcasts. (Two of my favorites are iBethel from Redding; and OneThing from Kansas City.)

Bible Restaurants are wonderful things. When we attend church, or a conference or listen to aPodcast, we’re partaking of a meal that has been prepared for our consumption. Some, of course, are more nutritional than others, though with a little care, we can be sure that we avoid non-nutritional spiritual meals.

There’s a very real danger with Bible Restaurants: they can make me fat and lazy. Just like the buffet restaurants that are showing up in nearly every suburb in America, if I were to eat there every meal, or even just several meals a week, pretty soon, I could skip meals during the day and still get more calories, more nutrition than I really need. And spiritual obesity is probably as much of a problem to my health as physical obesity: I get all this nutrition, but no place to use it, and I’m immobilized by my own weightiness. What a mess.

A couple of decades ago, I read 1Corinthians 3, and it really impacted me. Actually, it scared me:

1Corinthians 3:1: And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

As I thought about this interesting little word picture, I realized that many believers, many of my friends, were still stuck on needing milk. I realized that I was still depending on others to feed me milk; I was not able to deal with real meat from the Book. It scared me. I’m a terribly curious person, and there were secrets that were not available to the believers in Corinth, or to me, simply because of our inability to feed ourselves. Some time later, someone pointed out Hebrews 5 to me:

Hebrews 5:12-14: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

My final year of college, I moved out of the dorms and lived in a house a couple of miles downtown from the school. Just before school started, my parents helped me move in to the house: the other two guys were already moved in, so I got the basement bedroom. We got there late in the day, so we planned to just drop my stuff off and head to a restaurant for a final dinner together before school started. As we were leaving the house, one of my roommates caught me: “Can you make me some macaroni and cheese? I haven’t eaten today, and I don’t know how to cook for myself.” I was shocked: who doesn’t know who to cook up macaroni and cheese?

I realized, “That’s me! The Bible is the food that feeds my spirit, and I don’t know how to feed myself any more than Charlie knows how to feed his body.” I was as helpless as he was. I had the raw nutrition available to me, just as he had the nutrition in the boxes of dry noodles and dryer cheese packages.

I was embarrassed, and I made a vow that week: I would learn to feed myself if it took me the rest of my life. I would learn how to take the raw ingredients of the Word of God and learn how to feed myself. I might learn how to fed someone else at the same time, but the goal was to feed myself.

I took some classes in “How to Study the Bible,” and they were fine. I read some books, and they helped a little. Some friends showed me how they read the Word, and that was OK.

But the day that my “spiritual cooking” skills started to really develop was the day that I stopped looking to everyone around me for help, and I just sat down with my Bible, determined to find nourishment in its pages.

This article is primarily aimed at encouragement: too many people who follow Jesus are unable to feed themselves properly from the word, and would starve if there weren’t a conference or a teaching CD waiting for them. I really want anyone who reads this to make the same desperate decision I did: “I will feed myself if it kills me!” But the teacher in me demands that I include at least a bare outline of what began to form from trial and error in my daily routine.

My eventual success came from a combination of four ingredients: 1. bite-sized pieces of the Word, 2. time enough to chew carefully, 3. a journal and a good pencil, and most importantly, 4) a willingness to cheat. I always figure it’s cheating to ask the guy who wrote the test for help on the test, but it seems that the Holy Spirit really likes to help me figure out how to make a meal from the Word! (I don’t suppose I should be surprised at that, but I was at the time.)

The recipe is just as straightforward: I work my way through a book of the Bible (the gospels are wonderful for this!), one section at a time: I used the headings as my markers, which made about ½ or ⅓ of a chapter a day. (I’m not looking for speed here.) I refused to use the “fast food” of a Study Bible, because I want to do this my own self! I’d give myself 45 minutes or an hour, and I’d start by asking the Author for insight into His word, emphasizing that He promised to do give it anyway.

And then I’d read through and think through and pray through the section until something began to light up in my spirit, at which point, I made use of my journal. I’d always push myself to have enough to say to fill up at least 2 pages in the journal: this is the content that I’ve learned from the Word today.

It’s one thing to make a meal from the Word, it’s another to eat the meal that we have prepared, but unless we make use what we learn, we’ll still starve. (Bulimia is no better than anorexia, either in the natural or in regard to the Word of God.) So we must apply it to ourselves, praying through what we need to, repenting or declaring or making plans for a change in behavior as necessary.

1 Peter 2:2: as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…



OK, this is probably only interesting to me, but the Pilgrimgram has a new URL: The old url ( now forwards to that address.

Woo hoo.


It's My Turn

For the years, I've had the privilege of being part of the sending community for scores of short term and a not a few long-term missions trips. I can't tell you how much I've valued that, and how much richer I am for having had that experience!

But now it's my turn. OK, so it's a little turn – only about a week – and I'm not even leaving the country, but it's something of a missions trip! I'm excited! Let me tell you about it.

Early in August, two friends and myself will drive to San Francisco, California, the garden from which the hippie movement sprouted during the "Summer of Love" exactly 40 years ago. It's our belief that the revivial that God started – known in the media as "the Jesus People Movement" – degenerated into the hippie movement: the knowledge of the love of God was corrupted into the casual sex and casual abortions of "free love"; the experience of the Holy Spirit was replaced by a drug culture that shouted, "Turn on, Tune In, Drop out!"; the Spirit of Revival was traded for war protests and campus riots.

In other words, the revival that had been handed to us was dropped, and the move of God was usurped by a move of the flesh: what came about contained some of the same seeds, but at least partly because of the mishandling of my generation, those seeds fell into poor soil. Yet again, Jesus' parable of the Four Soils in Luke 8 makes a whole lot of sense: the Jesus People from Haight-Ashbury fell victim to the weeds and thorns of Jesus' parable, and were turned aside from fruitfulness by many "cares, riches, and pleasures of life."

I'll be traveling with Trevor Macpherson and Todd Adams, and those of you who know these two Godly Yahoos know that their presence means an interesting, if intense, time together. Our goal is to meet with other leaders from the Jesus People revival of the early 70's and strategize how to avoid similar mistakes as we hand the leadership of the current revival to the men and women of the next generation.

We'll conclude with a very large gathering in Golden Gate Park repenting for these and other failures, celebrating the marriage of some of the leaders of the next generation (can you imagine? an outdoor wedding!), and bringing invitation to the denizens of the park for a Wedding Supper. Sounds pretty ostentatious, doesn't it? It does to me too, but that's what we feel like God is calling us to do.

On the way back, we think we can attend church with Graham Cook (Sunday morning) and Bill Johnson (Sunday night), if we plan our trip right. We'll be back home by the middle of August.

You can find similar thinking to ours here:

So we're looking for support. We don't particularly need financial support, though if you want to, you can invest in the trip; you can ask us how. What we really need is prayer, and lots of it. First, if you're aware of any ways that you personally have short-cut the legitimate move of God in your own life, please join us in repenting for those sins: that's the main thrust of our trip. Beyond that, we'll treasure prayer for our safety, for divine appointments, for wisdom and humility in the meetings, and anything else you can think of. Please don't hesitate to share what you're hearing in prayer with us, too.

Who knows? This may be just a wild hare of a fifty-something "aging hippie" and his buddies. On the other hand, we think that our Father is up to something, and we want to see if we can help Him, or at least watch Him, in His work. Anybody can do nothing; we'd like to do something. Even if it’s weird.

Thanks so much. You're a real blessing!

Two Tabernacles

One of the most fascinating situations in the Bible is never described. It happens during the latter years of David’s reign, say from 2 Samuel chapter 7 and onward.

Years before, David had finished conquering all of his enemies, and his people had rested from war. David had finished building his palace, and all this happened before he discovered Bathsheba’s midnight rooftop bathing habits.

David himself is experiencing something of a personal revival, and he has just brought the ark of the Lord into the city (from Obed-Edom’s house in the suburbs).

This time fascinates me intensely, and I believe that it’s a metaphor for where the church is today.

The House of Worship

In that day, the Tabernacle of Moses (also known as the Tabernacle of Meeting) was installed on the hill of Shiloh a good day’s walk from Jerusalem. It encompassed a whole campus of highly ornate tents covering several acres. It was the only place where the entire nation would go to worship, and they went there by the thousands. The Levites and Priests taught the Law, the sacrifices were offered there: sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings and all the rest. Offerings and sacrifices were received from the people in the form of gold, silver and animal sacrifices.

The Tabernacle was a big spectacle: there were gold and silver and bronze and embroidery and bright colors everywhere.

Shiloh had become a noisy place. The crowds of people brought their own noises, and everywhere was the noise of the sheep and birds and oxen that were brought for sacrifice, interrupted by the businessmen selling more animals for sacrifice.

Over all that was the music. Ah, the music! Choirs, trumpets, harps.

The air was filled with fragrances. The animals brought their own smells of course, but the sacrifices and offerings filled the air with the smell of barbecue. And when they lit the incense, the smell of spices filled the place.

Services for thousands of people were led by priests decked out with linen and jewels and fancy robes and sometimes fancy hats. It seemed that the more important you were – and all the leaders were important – then the fancier your vestments were.

The entire nation was commanded by law to come together for a national party three times every year, and when it happened, the crowds swelled from the hundreds or the thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Every hotel room was booked solid for weeks, every restaurateur made a healthy profit when the festivals came to town.

Imagine an NFL football arena ten miles outside your hometown, and then imagine that it was a legal requirement that the entire nation attend the game every weekend. Now imagine that your team is in the Superbowl in that arena three times a year, and that Disney and MTV co-sponsor the halftime show. The cheerleaders, the news media, the coaches and officials: what an amazing spectacle!

The people didn’t gather for worship at the Tabernacle of Meeting in rebellion or selfishness; their goal was not spectacle. They were in fact obeying the commands of the Lord, commands about when to worship, how to sacrifice and what to teach. The leaders were installed by the command of God, for all that the hands that were laid on them were the hands of men. This worship service was established by God, and it was perpetuated at His command by His blessing.

They only lacked one thing. God’s presence, the Ark of the Covenant, was no longer there. Other than that, they pretty much had everything going for them.

The Presence of God

The Ark itself had been moved into the city of Jerusalem, and it was now residing in a pup tent in David’s back bedroom. For the next several years, until Solomon took it back to the Tabernacle of Meeting in Shiloh, David and his household worshipped in that spare bedroom. David re-assigned some of the Levites from the Tabernacle of Meeting to his own back bedroom, to the new tabernacle there.

That little tent would soon be known as David’s Tabernacle, and nobody knows exactly what it looked like. It might have been set up in a private garden rather than the back bedroom, and we’re only assuming that there was a pup tent over the ark. Knowing David’s delight in honoring God, it was probably a very nice pup tent. And if David danced foolishly (and half naked) during the public journey of God’s presence to his back bedroom, then how did he worship in that back bedroom? I’m guessing that “with abandon” applies.

The significant point was that the Ark, and therefore God’s presence was no longer hidden behind layers of ceremony and religious bureaucracy. Suddenly, for the first time since the Burning Bush, God was immediately accessible to His people.

Based on how much the Bible describes David, I imagine that the king spent a fair bit of his time in that back bedroom worshipping. Because the head of the household was a worshipper, some of his household learned to worship: I can see the butler and the assistant cook waiting until David was through, so they could get into that bedroom to get their turn on their faces or dancing in the presence of God.

The remarkable thing was that Heaven knew of David’s Tabernacle. I suspect the place was as popular in Heaven as it was on earth: finally, there was a place where God and man could come together, finally there was a man who was passionate about God’s presence. Generations later, when David’s Tabernacle was broken and abandoned, God promised to restore it. God doesn’t often promise to restore the things that man makes.

Tabernacles and the Twenty First Century

In Acts 15, Peter reminds the people of God’s promise in Amos to restore the tabernacle, David’s tabernacle.

We live in a day like the day that David built his tabernacle. The Bible describes our day as “the last days” (heck, all the time after Acts 2 seem to be part of “the last days”) which is the time for David’s Tabernacle to be restored. And we’re seeing that happen.

Heaven is committed to this kind of worship, and this is the pattern of worship that makes God happy: people coming directly to God, coming freely and joyfully, without the pomp and circumstance of the Tabernacle of Meeting, without the religious trappings of the grand ceremony and tradition.

We live in a day where there are large and prestigious and prosperous gathering places on the hilltops, in the public places. They’re in the media and in the eyes of the nation, and the people go there by the thousands to perform the rituals and offer the sacrifices and be trained by the religious authorities of the nation. They have the professional musicians, the professional speakers, the professional media technicians. The ceremonies are moving and the messages are relevant and uplifting. Thousands come to a faith in Christ through these tabernacles.

They lack only one thing. The presence of God is not in them.

I am not opposed to mega churches, or to Sunday-morning gatherings in general; I repeat: I’m part of one, and I like it. These are not “ungodly abominations;” they are not sacrilegious and they are not (by and large) the work of the flesh, that is, they are not monuments to self or pleasure or our own righteousness. But they’re not following the presence of God (I remind you: there are exceptions to everything I write in this blog!).

These churches carefully following plans laid down by godly men and women, whether that’s the vision of the founders, the vision of the pastor or the directions of the board of directors. They’re doing their best to be what they think a church ought to be. They’re following the law as they know it.

But David’s tabernacle is not about following the Law. In fact, it was completely outside the Law. The Law required the Ark of the Covenant to stay in the Tabernacle of Moses. David was working outside of the law, outside of the rules that God had established for worship, outside of the Tabernacle.

But it is David’s Tabernacle, not Moses’, that God likes best and that He promises to restore.

Tabernacles and Me

The big deal is this: it demonstrates God’s heart! God, it appears, prefers passion to legalism, intimate worship to religious conformity.

This isn’t about location. I’m not lobbying for Believers to run screaming from their churches and worship God in their back bedroom. Location means pretty much nothing.

I’m saying that going to church is not the thing that God respects. I’m lobbying for Believers to worship God passionately, intimately. I don’t really care if you and I worship God in the big gathering or the little one, as long as we passionately worship. The goal is getting crazy for God’s presence. The goal is worshipping with abandon, holding nothing back. The goal is letting nothing and nobody get in the way of our worship, whether circumstances, other worshippers or church leaders.

The reality, however, is that that we often can’t worship that way in our Sunday morning gatherings. When we’re there, we often (and often appropriately) need to conform to cultural standards of the place. If we were to dance in church like David danced, most churches would freak. Everyone else in the building would focus on us, not on God, and that’s not as it should be.

But we must worship. We must worship in abandon. We must be passionate. We must find a time and a place we can be foolish with. We must find a people we can worship among, who won’t be distracted by our passion, because they’re lost in their own.


Spend the Oil

In Second Kings chapter 4, there’s an interesting story about one of my favorite radical prophets:

2 Kings 4: A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves." So Elisha said to her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?" And she said, "Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil." Then he said, "Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors — empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones." So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, "Bring me another vessel." And he said to her, "There is not another vessel." So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest."

The oil is of course the anointing of God, and we are enjoined to do whatever we can to make room for a whole lot of it: we’re to get many jars, gathering them from the whole neighborhood, and be filled in private before spilling out into the public.

I was at a gathering of believers recently, and we were praying – in response to the prophetic word – for an outpouring of oil, of anointing; the prophet had used this story as an illustration. I was as eager for the blessing as anyone else, and as I stood there, I had a vision of four glass jars standing empty. When they were filled, they would have held at least a gallon of oil each, but they stood empty. Then I saw them from below, as if they were on a glass table, and I saw the empty bottoms of the jars. Then I saw that they were actually resting on top of a large, a huge glass jar, one that would hold thousands of gallons of oil, and it was this jar that was being filled, and The Lord spoke to me that He’s not opposed to filling individuals, but He’s more excited about filling His Body, about filling the Bride of Christ, the Church gathered. The individual anointings might have to wait.

I hear the Lord speaking this to us today, and I hear a couple of specific assignments.

1. I believe that His preferred place of pouring out in this season is on the community, not on the individual. You’ll notice that it wasn’t until all of us “clay pots” came together that the anointing was poured out. It’s not that He’s unwilling to pour anointings on individuals anymore: no, He still loves that. But He’s more eager to pour Himself out on his people gathered, on the community of believers. If we come to Him together, not just as a flock of individuals gathering together in one building on Sunday mornings, but as a community, then we’ll get more of His stuff, and we’ll get it sooner. He wants to bless community. The day of the big guns is over.

2. The prophet gave three commands for what to do when the anointing was poured out:

2a. “Go.” We may get filled up in the private place, but the next command is to go, and that means get out of the private place; given the context, this had to be the marketplace (where else do you sell oil?). We are commanded to go.

2b. “Sell the oil and pay your debt.” The Western church is pretty deeply in debt: we’ve received boatloads of blessings, both material and spiritual, and we’ve not paid much of that investment forward. We must release the anointing to others to pay off our debt. That may mean healing the sick, feeding the poor, or proclaiming the gospel to the lost. Remember how Jesus announced his ministry: he announced how His anointing was to be spent:

Isaiah 61:1-2: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…

2c. “…you and your sons live on the rest.” We were meant to live to live on the Lord’s anointing. We were never built to live in debt, never designed to live on our own meager resources. We were intended to live on and in the anointing of God.

My advice is to find brothers and sisters to gather with. I don’t think that Sunday mornings – as Sunday mornings generally have been, anyway – qualify for this outpouring. But find people whose heart is like your heart, who share your passions, and gather with them.

And then, in that context, ask for His outpouring, ask for the oil, and look for it: what is He anointing? And when His anointing comes, take that anointing to the marketplace: give it to the people in the neighborhood, in the marketplace, and live on the rest. Find out what’s on God’s heart for your neighborhood, and pour the anointing of God into that move.

And have a blast doing it!