The Gate of Heaven

In Genesis 28, Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

The house of God is the gate of heaven.

Hebrews 3:6 says  “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Paul was even more direct in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

So I am [or we are, as a community, depending on how you read the pronouns] the gate of heaven.

Certainly, that applies in the evangelistic sense: it’s hard to become a child of God without having encountered the people of God first. (Possible, but hard.)

But that is clearly not the way that Jacob meant it in Genesis 28. This is his description of “the gate of heaven”:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

I believe that it is not unreasonable that we, the people of God, the heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, should expect to be a “gate of heaven,” with these effects:

  • We are a point where heaven and earth connect.
  • We are a place where angels connect with earth.
  • We are a place where God reveals himself as who He really is.
  • We are inheritors of the promises of God: this is OUR land, and all peoples on this entire planet will be blessed through us, and through our offspring.
  • Wherever we go, God goes with us, in us, through us!
  • Wherever we go, God fulfils promises made to us, that infect all the residents of that place.

This is who we are. This is what we need to expect from our life in God. Our goal is not faithful attendance at a Sunday service for 30 years. Our goal is that wherever we go, heaven leaks out of our footprints, and grows into the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven every place we go, and in every person we meet.

Our goal is nothing less than heaven on Earth. Through us. 

Run to Win!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  ~1 Corinthians 9.24.

I was reflecting on this today, and Father drew my attention to the fact that this is a race. Once we’ve entered the narrow gate of the Kingdom, it’s easy to be entranced with the beauty and the riches and the glory of the route we’re on. It’s easy to look at our life as a saunter in an amazing park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But it’s in exactly that context that the apostle writes: “Guys, don’t forget! This is a race! If you’re not pressing yourself beyond what you’re comfortable with, you’re not even in the race! Run in such a way as to get the prize! Run to win!”

I don’t know if we get to saunter in the park later or not; the evidence isn’t clear, but it suggests that we’ll be “ruling and reigning,” and that sounds like work.

If it wasn’t clear enough, he goes on:

“25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

This does NOT say, “Never rest,” nor does it say, “Do this in your own strength,” which are the two ways the American church has generally interpreted it, and why the American church has ignored the command altogether.

If we’re not pressing forward, if we’re not stretching ourselves, if we’re not more deeply invested than we think we can handle, we may not be even in the race.

Run to win.

Decision-Making and Discipleship

I believe that every time we make a decision for someone else that they could make themselves, we hinder their growth. When I make decisions for my life I grow from them. When someone makes the decisions for me, they rob me of that opportunity for growth.

Even when we make the decision poorly, even when we make a mistake, we learn more than when someone “older and wiser” makes our decision for us. In fact, I suspect that we learn the most when we make those mistakes.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to children, and others who don’t have the capacity to make decisions on their own.

The Apostle Paul knew this lesson; in fact, this may be the primary lesson of his letter to Philemon: “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you --being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ…”

Paul was clear: he could make the decision, he knew the right decision to make, and he had the authority to make the decision, but he deferred to Philemon to make the decision [about what to do with his runaway slave Onesimus]. Paul deferred to Philemon’s decision on the topic. And Paul gives every indication that he will support Philemon’s decision, even though the life of his “son” Onesimus hung in the balance.

Pastors make this mistake often, and congregants very often encourage the mistake. So many decisions are held for the pastor to make, decisions about what doctrines we believe, about how to handle certain difficult individuals, what we’re going to do in our worship of God when we get together.

We could go on and discuss how others make this mistake: either we make decisions for others (wives, kids, parishioners, employees) or we defer decisions that we can (and should) make to others (wives, parents, pastors, bosses, mentors, board of elders).

If we’re going to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, even Christ…,” then we need to make the decisions as for DOWN the chain of authority as they can be made, even if mistakes are made. And we need to be committed to the individuals making the decisions, supporting them before, during and after the decisions.

Frankly, it’s nearly always more important that believers learn to stand on their own two feet in making decisions, than it is that we make the right decisions every time. If we’re afraid to make mistakes, nobody can grow.

Hit the Trail!

They were the days of the westward expansion of the United States, the era that history books talk about wagon trains and pioneer settlers. If you were done with “the old ways,” or if you wanted to be part of the new movement, the new explorations, then you moved to Missouri.

In the nineteenth century, Saint Louis, Independence, Westport and especially Saint Joseph became departure points for those joining wagon trains to the West. They bought supplies and outfits in these cities to make the six-month overland trek to California, earning Missouri the nickname "Gateway to the West". This is memorialized by the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

These weren’t the only places you could begin your trek from. But Missouri was the place where you could find like-minded individuals to travel with, where you could gather your supplies, where you could learn the safe routes, and dangerous places. Here, you could buy (or learn to build) a Conestoga wagon, hire a scout, consult with others who have made the trip before you, and come back to teach others.

You could actually leave from any place you wanted, but if you wanted to succeed best, you’d leave from Missouri. People didn’t move to Missouri to settle (usually). They moved to Missouri so they could move beyond Missouri. Or they moved to Missouri to equip others who would be going further.

In many ways, the people of God are in a season not unlike that one. There is indeed an expansion, though it’s not toward the west; it’s toward the Kingdom of Heaven.

But the model today is not dissimilar to the model then. If you want to discover the new territory that God is unveiling – and Oh! What territory it is! – then you’ll need to prepare yourself, to stock up, to learn new skills. It will be wise for you to travel with others who have been exploring further afield, or at least to learn from their experience.

Today’s exploration isn’t physical, so we don’t actually need Conestoga wagons (which is kind of too bad, because they’re really cool!). Instead, our exploration is primarily in the realm of the Spirit. But there are still launch points, cities, strongholds where knowledge – vital knowledge, if you’re going to explore – is far more accessible than it is in the rest of the “civilized” church.

Bethel Church, in Redding California, is one such departure point. It’s not the destination, but it’s a good resource point. The people of Bethel Church – not just the leaders, the people! – are often well experienced and well equipped, and willing to share their experienced insight regarding the trails we face: Yes, God is good. No, you don’t need to preach about people’s sin. Yes, you’ll want to develop key relationships. No, don’t pay attention to the detractors who won’t take to the trail themselves.

There are other departure points, every bit as effective, as knowledgeable, as well-stocked for traveling explorers. The point is not that we must launch from this city of Bethel, the point is that the departure city is for departing. Stock up, gather together, and hit the trail.

There are new lands to discover, new freedoms to explore, new aspects of the King of Heaven and the marvelous Kingdom he’s sharing with us to experience, and then to share with others back home.

Aslan said it best: “Come further up, further in!”

The War For America: It’s Not What We Thought

I had a dream recently, a dream about what may well be the War for America.
I believe we’ve been (or at least, I’ve been) thinking the wrong way about the war that’s shaping up for America’s future. We’ve been thinking in terms of previous wars. I’m not sure we’ve been learning from the right previous wars, though.

I know that a lot of people are watching the changes coming from the top down in America, and are thinking Germany went through when Hitler came to power. And frankly, there are a lot of similarities, and this metaphor is not completely wrong. But it may not be the main battle.
of the changes that

And I’m aware that there are a whole lot of people who are thinking in the vocabulary of the American Revolutionary War, that a number of people are thinking about a Second American Revolution. Frankly, there are a number of similarities here, too, and this metaphor, also, is not completely misplaced. But this, too, may not be the main battle.

If my dream last night means anything meaningful, the primary metaphor may be more along the line of the Arab Spring civil uprisings from 2010/2011. I suspect that this may be the model that a number of government agencies most fear, and it may be the model that a number of principalities may be most specifically targeting. (

This may be the war that American intercessors most need to pray against.

The other part of the dream addressed more of the strategies that the enemy (I’m speaking in terms of Ephesians 6:12) may be using in preparation for an American Arab Spring revolution.

I saw minor battle after minor battle, skirmishes, in which the enemy would attack smaller groups: occasionally geographic groups, neighborhoods, cities. More commonly, the attacks came against social groups: groups of friends, social sub-cultures, workplace communities. And occasionally, these would be national in scope (eg. “The Gay Community”), but more often the demonic attacks were much more localized in their scope (eg. “a group of friends, many of whom are gay-friendly, who work in retail sales in this county” or “Conservative Christians in this online community”).

The nature of the battles was interesting as well: the enemy would come among their target people group an sow strife, dissention, bitterness, accusations. And of course, the targeted people would respond, and generally they fought back: fighting against the works that the enemy was doing among them.

And very often, more often than I expected, the enemy would be overcome, defeated, and would withdraw. But when he withdrew, it was always with a knowing smirk, and I realized that his goal was not to win the battle. His goal was to leave something behind among the people that he’d targeted.

There was nearly always less unity among the group the enemy attacked, after the attack was over, and he had withdrawn. But more toward his goals, there were spirits left behind, minor strongholds among the people, unseen, like a fifth column (, awaiting later, more significant battles.

In the dream, Fear was the most common stronghold that the enemy was using against people, and he was sowing minor, even tiny, strongholds of fear all over the country, in individuals, in small social communities, in any people group he could influence. And while he waited for some sort of greater conflict – and he almost didn’t care if it was a Second Revolutionary War, or an American Arab Spring, or if some egomaniacal leader tried to follow the model of Hitler and conquer the world – his minions of fear worked among the people, and that was his real tactical objective.

Fear would manifest as suspicion of others, as dissention from others. Fear would open people’s ears to his lies, and close their minds to the truth. Fear made people hate and distrust and separate themselves from other people.

I invite the prophetic community to judge this as a prophetic word: do you hear something of God in this? I’m not so concerned about every little detail as I am about the big picture: that the enemy is sowing fear among people, specifically among the American people, at a prodigious rate, often “below the radar,” out of the public eye: this is a primary strategy.

And I invite the intercession community to take this before the Lord, and ask Him how to respond: how shall we pray against these kinds of things? More importantly, what, specifically, shall we pray for?

A Curious Contrast

It's a curious thing to walk in great weakness and in great peace simultaneously.

Heads up: a bit of self-disclosure going on here. It’s probably good that I’m comfortable with not “feeling the victory” every minute of every day. Right now, I’m more-than-usual in touch with my weakness as a man, my vulnerability as a human being. I’m really aware of the myriads of enemies coming against me.

Don’t jump to conclusions here. We’re used to interpreting these kinds of things as some sort of failure, where we need to rescue the person feeling such things. I’m not sure I need rescuing. I’m not sure I’m in trouble, really. Sure, enemies are there, always. I'm maybe more aware of it now, but I'm still separated from it, like watching it on a TV; a small, black & white TV: it's there, but it lacks reality, it lacks impact.

I’m not broken. I don’t really need fixing.

I know who I am in Christ. I know my victory in Christ. I’m not a victim of emotions or of demonic interaction; in fact, there are some demons hobbling around with my boot print embedded rather deeply in their buttocks right now, because they though I was vulnerable. Their mistake.

At the same time that I’m experiencing my weakness, my vulnerability, I’m completely clear that I’m SO much more than a conqueror in Christ. I am absolutely, positively, gloriously loved by the most amaaaaazing Daddy in the Universe, and I LIKE it that way!

This is an illustration in irony: it’s going to sound religious, but I think what may be going on is a peeling away of some of the religious “Man of God” garbage that I’ve grown up with. You know: “God’s man for the hour, filled with paste and flour.” I think some of that religious persona, some of psychological buffalo sprouts are landing in the recycling bin where it belongs.

What a wonderful contrast the Kingdom is. I can be in touch with my own inability, my own vulnerability, and still be a full participant in the almighty, awesome, kick-the-devil’s-teeth-in power of my Papa.

Do we have any Firefly fans among us? Any Browncoats? I’m sure you remember how River Tam is the weakest, most dependent character in [the best science-fiction TV series ever! And…] the movie, Serenity.

Do you remember River’s interaction with the demonic bad-guy Reavers toward the end of the movie? Here's a refresher of her great weakness:
( [warning: violent content!])

Maybe that’s a decent illustration of what it means to be weak, dependent. Maybe it’s OK to be weak and dependent, after all. Particularly when we're passionate.