Thursday

Jesus Freaks Out the Disciples

I've been reflecting on Hebrews 1, which tells us that Jesus is the best representation of God's nature we're ever going to get.

In that context, I'm thinking about Mark 6:48-50, yet another place where Jesus is representing Father’s nature.

"He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened."

This, too, is Jesus representing Father to us.

I observe some things here:

• Jesus saw his best friends straining at their work, because circumstances were against them, and he did not stop the events raging against them.

• Jesus let his friends struggle all through the night.

• I remember the aphorism, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” So in the darkest part of the night, Jesus came to his friends. He still didn’t take the storm away, but he brought his presence to them in the midst of the storm. I love how he does this.

• He walks “out to them,” but “He was about to pass by them.” God does that sometimes: he comes to me, but … There are a hundred sermons in this line, but the bottom line is that he came “to them,” and he came close enough to see, but he was not stopping for them. That’s worth thinking about. “He was about to pass by them.”

• But his appearance scares them silly. God’s presence can be terrifying, if I’ve been focusing on the raging storm.

• He didn’t actually get in the boat with them until “They cried out.”

• We know from the other gospels that in here somewhere is the bit where Pete walks on the water, but it’s not in this particular gospel. While that’s a really exciting story (especially for Pete!), apparently that’s not the important lesson here.

• When Jesus gets into the boat, the storm dies down. Isn’t that how it goes?

• They were completely amazed. Duh. This one is not surprising!

• But the reason for their amazement, and maybe for their terror earlier, was because they didn’t understand God’s provision; they “had not understood about the loaves,” the story earlier in the chapter where Jesus “he had compassion” for the crowd of 5000 and taught them and fed them.

Apparently my not knowing God’s compassionate goodness leads to me being freaked out at circumstances, freaked out at his presence showing up unexpectedly, and leads to me being amazed when he changes things.

The last line teaches me that if I misunderstand God’s goodness, my heart gets hardened, and I’ll misunderstand what he’s doing. I might want to guard against this.

And the best way I can think of to guard against this is to be persistently thankful when I see him doing things. If nothing else, it helps me pay attention to what he's doing (so I’ll actually see what he’s doing), and it helps keep my heart in a healthy attitude toward him.

Led by Scripture?

This story has been bugging me:

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.' " - Luke 4:9-12

I’ve been taught, and I’ll bet you have too, to base my choices and my requests on Scripture. If I can support it from the pages of the Bible, I’m safe.

This passage puts the lie to that. In this story, Luci asks Jesus to do something, AND HE SUPPORTS IT WITH SCRIPTURE! This is the secret code we’ve been taught to trust blindly, and the devil is using it to tempt Jesus! ­čś▓

In this story, it’s pretty clear that obeying this scriptural request was very much not God’s will:

Luci (the debbil) was the one making the request.
JC had a better understanding of the whole counsel of Scripture, and recognized that this use (with scripture!) violated the bigger issues.
Jesus only did what he saw Father doing (John 5:19), and apparently Father wasn’t showing off by skydiving from a clifftop, waiting for God to rescue him from the law of gravity and from the consequences of his own choice.
We could add that the quote (from Deuteronomy 8) was out of context, but the worst out-of-context quoter of Scripture that I know is Scripture itself. (But that’s another conversation).

I realize that I’ve done this. I’ve done this: I’ve taken verses as approval for my wishes and choices, and expected God to jump through my hoops. And then I’ve gotten angry or disappointed when he didn’t.

Principle: just because I can find somebody doing it in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s God’s will for my life. Or that it’s safe.

Principle: Yes, look for what Scripture says on the topic, but don’t stop there. Engage Holy Spirit, involve mature brothers & sisters.

Most importantly, know your Father’s heart, so when somebody tries to use Scripture to pull you away from his heart, you’ll know better and not follow that slimy trail.




Edification, Exhortation and Comfort: What Are They Really?

But he who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation and comfort to men.” - 1Corinthians 14:3

I’ve been chewing on this one for several months now. I’d like to invite you to process the verse with me.

At a fundamental level, this is the purpose of prophetic gifts: edification, exhortation and comfort, at least how it works under our New Covenant. (Old Covenant prophets were working from a different foundation, of course.)

When I studied the New Testament Greek in school, I learned that the last item in the series is the important one, the item that the language is emphasizing.

(Four verses earlier is a clear example of this: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The most important one in the list is usually the last one listed.)

And that’s how we’ve handled prophetic gifts most of the time, particularly when we’re training folks to prophesy: “Keep your prophetic words in the realm of edification, exhortation and especially comfort.” Then we hastily add, “Avoid judgment and avoid prophesying relationships at all times.”

But let’s look at these three purposes of the prophetic gifts a little more closely.

Comfort” Paul uses the Greek word “paramythia,” and one of its key meanings is what we expect. It describes talk for the purpose of “calming and consoling.” And this is how we often teach it in the prophetic.

The other use of “paramythia,” particularly as used in other Greek writings, also includes the idea of “persuading, or of arousing and stimulating,” though we have to get that from Plato, Socrates and Josephus, as this verse is the ONLY place that the Bible uses the word, so we don’t get much help from looking up how it’s used in other passages. Comforting, persuading, arousing, stimulating. (Since this is on social media, I suppose it needs to be said: this has no sexual connotations whatsoever.)

Exhortation” comes from the word “parakl─ôsis,” which is closely related to “paraklete,” the word the New Testament uses for the Holy Spirit himself. We usually translate that word as “Comforter,” though in the prophetic, it’s usually in the context of “a calling near, summons,” or “supplication, entreaty,” or “admonition.” In other words, this is an action word, not a warm & fuzzy word. “Come on, let’s go” would be an example of a parakl─ôsis word.

Edification” isn’t a word we use outside of church these days, but we’ve figured out that “oikodom─ô ” talks about the desire and act of building others up.

All of this thinking is happening in the context (both in my own mind, and if I understand right, in the Corinthian church Paul was writing to) of getting away from using Jeremiah and Ezekiel as our models for prophetic ministry. Nowadays, we think in terms of ’Miah and Zeke’s example on one end of the prophetic spectrum, and Precious Moments merchandise for our example on the other end.

My take-away from all this is along those lines. I’m not disrespecting the Old Covenant prophets, nor the Precious Moments business model, but I don’t believe either is an acceptable foundation or model for New Covenant prophetic ministry. And yet both contain at least a hint of the right elements for us.

My conclusion (at least this week) is that New Covenant people are not in the business of fire and brimstone, and that sort of judgment does not belong in our prophetic expressions. In fact, I tend to get up and walk out on those sort of proclamations (which is pretty much metaphorical in the context of social media: I won’t submit myself to that spirit).

The other end of that spectrum, for which I use Precious Moments as a metaphor, strikes me as less harmful to its audience, though it presents an image of the prophetic that is no better.

Those who define prophecy by either example are deceived and badly shortchanged.

Rather, legitimate prophecy does include elements of comforting folks going through a hard time, but rather than a “There, there!” and a pat on the hand, it also includes (in the vocabulary of 1Corinthians 10:13) “a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” It is not at all without sympathy (or empathy), but it most definitely doesn’t stop with that. And it certainly does not get in the way of personal responsibility.

And while legitimate prophecy completely avoids any vocabulary of God smiting or hating folks for what they’ve done (which was not uncommon under the Old Covenant), the concept of “You can do better,” or “Here’s the truth to replace the lie you’ve believed” is very appropriate, and is a solid example of “edification, exhortation and comfort to men.

Another way of describing that change of focus when calling people higher is this: “Don’t declare the problem. Anybody can do that. The evening news does a pretty good job. That takes no faith. Declare the solution. Declare the Good News. Declare God’s point of view of “a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)


Praying to Stop an Untrustworthy Person

I was praying recently about a man who has shown himself to be untrustworthy and whose efforts to control the world around him have caused a lot of harm to a lot of people. It could have been any of a number of folks, I suppose.

“Father, stop him!” I prayed, and as soon as I said it, I knew I’d missed his heart.


Two things came quickly into my mind:

• The principle I’ve held for a few years that it’s easier to pray for the storm to change its path than to stop it altogether,

• The image of a man on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians getting knocked off his ass and turned from a persecutor into a preacher. “I didn’t stop him,” Father whispered.

And I realized that I need to change my prayer from “Stop him!” to “Change his path,” and even “Redeem him.”

As I considered this some more, it occurred to me that my Father is awfully good at redeeming irredeemable people, and bringing good through them who formerly brought evil.

I realized, not for the first time, that when I pray against people that Jesus died for, I’m doing it alone, not with my Father; that a much wiser path is to pray for the people and for their redemption.

I have permission to pray against their work if it’s hurting folks, but I have his presence and even his partnership as I pray for their redemption.


The Miracle Car

May I share a testimony with you?

For years, I’ve had an older Toyota sedan. Recently, through circumstances that aren’t part of this story, the car died, and we replaced it with the same model, but a year or two newer. (What can I say? I like some of the classic Toyotas.) I hadn't had a chance to sell the busted one yet.

Then the newer one died. My daughter was driving her sister home in it, and suddenly it seemed that the engine exploded: steam and smoke and scary noises burst from under the hood; the girls jumped from the car, steered it into a parking lot and called me to come rescue them.
 
I was able to drive it home, but just barely. It was horrible: it chugged and snorted and belched great clouds of white smoke and threatened to die on the half mile trip home. A friend looked at the engine and hung his head: “Cracked head,” he murmured, and shook his head. I was horrified: that wasn’t worth repairing.

Father whispered to me: “You’ve learned to trust me in circumstances where My provision comes before the problem does. Now can you trust me where you see the problem, but you don’t yet see My provision?” Hmm. This might be interesting.

Then we had a brainstorm! We could use the cylinder head from the dead car on the new car! That might work! Let’s look closely, and see if we can figure out how to do that!

So four of us gathered around to examine it. Only two of us had experience working on cars: one on a Honda, the other on a Volkswagen; the third guy & I could maybe change the oil, if we were desperate.

We lifted the hood. There was rust spattered all over the engine like blood, and I was sad all over again. “Well, let’s see where it’s cracked.” and we stuck the garden hose to the empty radiator. The idea was to fill the radiator, start the car, and see where the water leaked out: that was where the crack would be.

But before we could start the engine, we found the leak: a long crack on the top of the radiator! That was a much easier repair.

The four of us ran to the old car and checked: yep! Same size radiator. So over the next several hours, we removed both radiators, tested both radiators, and installed the one from the dead car into the living car, and filled it up. We started the engine: the same chugging and snorting and great clouds of smoke belched from the exhaust. How discouraging.

But then one of the guys pointed at the loose wires on the distributor, and asked, “Would that make a difference?” Two of the cylinders weren’t even firing. We re-attached those spark plug wires, and started the car again: it purred like a happy kitten.

I was floored. We’d gone from a completely dead car to a completely happy car in half a day, without spending a single dime. I’ve never seen that happen before!

Then Father reminded me: “Son, I’ve told you that I am your provision. Do you believe me?”

For the record: No, I don’t get every need met that way. The first car was still dead. And no, I don’t get all of my needs met in the way I want them met (like getting my classic car repaired for no cost at all!). But yes, I’m learning.

Prophets of Doom or Comfort Porn Prophets

Somebody asked me recently about whether if a prophet speaks of a trouble, are they a prophet of God or a prophet of doom? “It worries me,” she said, “that some people spend so much time promoting these ‘words’ that they become self-fulfilling.”

Fair enough.

From my viewpoint, this really is a legitimate concern. 

Having said that, to completely avoid any mention of trials, to become only a “warm and fuzzy prophet” (prophesying “comfort porn”) is equally errant. Both ditches are problems. And there are other “ditches” I suppose. 

Yeah, there are a *whole lot* of publicized “words” that seem to me to be motivated by marketing, by a need to be “relevant” or “cutting edge,” or are merely coming from what appears to be a wounded soul.
Fake news among the prophetic community?

Yeah, that’s why God gave us the gift of discernment. It’s probably more needful now than ever before.

I observe, however, that many Biblical revelations did, in fact, acknowledge coming trials. It’s easy to find this in the Old Covenant, and it’s easy (and often appropriate) to write many of those warnings off as ministering under an inferior covenant.

At the same time, most of the prophetic words to Paul during the latter part of the book of Acts fit that category as well; Agabus is never even hinted as being a false prophet. Even Jesus prophesied warnings; have you read Matthew 24 recently?

If a “prophet of God” is legitimately speaking about troubles, I’d argue that there are some ways to discuss that topic that are more appropriate than others. “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets,” after all.

It seems that prophets need to speak what God is actually saying, not from other (lesser) voices/motivations. But those who hear the words have no less need to hear God as we discern those words.

The Pendulum Swings to Mercy

It seems that the history of mankind can be described as a rush from one extreme position to another, like a pendulum gone. We’re doing it again.

For the past several decades, we’ve lost track of the promise at the end of James 2:13: “…Mercy triumphs over judgment.” For the past several decades, the church has earned a reputation as a house of judgment and intolerance, of narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Frankly, we’ve earned the reputation.

You’ve may have noticed, however, that the pendulum is swinging back, as is its wont. There are several changes that are happening in the church that reflect the pendulum’s return: one that I have observed over the past several years today is a rise, an increase, in the expression of mercy gifts among individuals in the church. It’s one reflection of the change in direction of the church: we’re becoming less judgmental, and more merciful. 

We certainly need that change. The bad news is that the world has judged the church for being judgmental and out of touch, and that judgment has been appropriate. The good news is that the church is changing her heading, but it seems that we’re headed for increased turbulence with the corrections we’re making, not toward calmer waters.

The increase of the gift of mercy within the church, has not been well documented, and indeed it’s difficult to document and to analyze. You may or may not have seen what I have been observing for the past year; it is indeed subtle. Allow me to state my point fairly directly, and you can make your own observations.

Our text, then, is Romans 12:6-8:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

First, let’s agree that mercy really is a gift, and by divine command, it is to be exercised with “cheerfulness” (literally h├şlar├│s, a root word that has become “hilarity” in English).

It’s my observation as one who has been a part of the church for a bunch of decades, that there are more people in the church now than there were a decade ago who are gifted with mercy, and the gift is more respected than it has been before. The church is more aware now than perhaps ever of the need to respond to sinners with understanding and empathy rather than a good clubbing with Old Testament Law. Our services often focus on meeting the needs of “pre Christians” rather than discussing sin and its consequences for “sinners.”

We have softened our approach to people-different-than-ourselves, and even many of our street evangelists are asking questions or meeting needs more than proclaiming judgment on street-corners.

That much is good.

The context for this growth in mercy, however, has been neither cheerfulness nor hilarity. The mercy that is growing in the church is growing without having been disciplined, it is mercy out of control, and it is becoming a destructive force in the church.

Pastors and other leaders are finding themselves confronted by their congregations for being too stern, too strict when confronting sloth or sin. Church discipline – ever the touchy subject – has become anathema: we’re afraid to go there.

Often, the confrontation is motivated at least in part by mercy: let’s not be too harsh. But it’s mercy out of control, mercy without discipline behind it, mercy without maturity. The resulting of the conversation – a pastor afraid to speak the truth – is not normally considered a step toward maturity. This is mercy guided by ignorance or (worse) rebellion.

For example, a friend of mine leads a worship band, and her drummer was getting lazy. He’d use the same riffs for nearly every song, and his playing had gotten boring: he was stagnant and worse than that, he was content with being stagnant. As the leader, she had spoken to him a couple of times privately, and they’d agreed on certain goals, and on the means to achieve those goals.

Once during rehearsal, he drifted back into his old, stagnant patterns, and she needed to remind him of the standards they had agreed to. But when she did, she was surprised to find several other members of the band getting in her face about how she had “judged” him. The other members thought they were being “merciful” (and indeed, they are known to be merciful people), but because their mercy was un-tempered by self-control, it brought division, not unity to their band. This was mercy guided by self-indulgence.

In 1 Samuel 15, God sent king Saul to destroy the Amelekites, with specific instruction to kill everything:

• “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

Saul musters the army and conquers the enemy, but instead of obeying God, he shows mercy:

• “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them.”

Sure, there were other motivations; greed come to mind, but the act was merciful, whether it was mixed with lesser values or not.

The story concludes with God judging Saul, not because he was merciful (who is more merciful than God?), but because Saul’s mercy was undisciplined, and the fruit was disobedience. Saul feared the people more than he feared God; God could no longer trust him as king, and He fired him and began preparing David to replace him.

In our school district, very few students are “flunked” or “held back” because it’s considered bad for the student’s self-esteem. I’m all for being careful with kids’ tender hearts, but if a teacher feels pity for a capable-but-undisciplined student, and passes a failing student for whatever reason, that teacher is not doing the student any favors. If the kid can’t read his own high-school diploma because of well-meaning, but ultimately short-sighted policies, that student will still be illiterate and functionally unemployable, all because of his educators’ misguided mercy. This is mercy guided by shortsightedness, by fear of confrontation, or perhaps mercy without guidance at all.

For the past twenty years, the church has been getting used to the rebirth of prophetic gifts. We’ve seen Prophetic Schools and Prophetic Training Classes and Prophetic Conferences by the hundreds. All of this has been an attempt to teach the prophetic people how to minister their prophetic gifts: ultimately, it’s been aimed at producing mature prophets and prophetesses, who use their gifts responsibly: in other words, we’ve been breeding self-control into the prophetic movement, and I for one, am thankful for it. (Who wants to return to the prophetic poo-flinging and free-for-alls of the late ’80’s? Not I, thank you very much!)

So consider this a call (perhaps even a prophetic call?) to arms on behalf of the restoration of the gift of mercy. It’s time for mercy to come to the forefront in the church.

And it’s time that we begin to expect, even plan for, maturity in the gift of mercy.

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mature mercy triumphs better.

I’ve been thinking about something.

Sometimes when I need to think (“meditate”) on a topic or a verse, it helps me to do it “out loud.”

Some days, I go for a walk in the woods, and I teach on that topic to the trees and bushes. But it’s raining enough that the squirrels are marching two by two, so I’m using my other favorite method of “thinking out loud”: writing. 

Hold still. Thinking might happen here. This might get messy.

Part 1: Our words carry power. We’re made in the image of the Creator God, who used his words to do all his creating. We carry some of that.

Part 2: God is in the business of blessing, not in the business of cursing. We’re in the family business (see above), so there’s a reason he has commanded us to “bless and curse not.”

Part 3: If we’re honest, there’s a lot of stuff around us, a lot of people around us, that maybe have earned their fair share of cursing. Some bad people doing bad things.

Observation 1: Take #1 above with #3 above. I suspect that the reason some cities (and increasingly, states) in America are so messed up is because Christians are cursing them so much. Think about the times you’ve heard Christians talking about Washington DC or Chicago or San Francisco. What is usually the topic of those conversations. When was the last time you heard Christians actually blessing Joe Biden or Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi?

And as a result of Christians (and others, but it’s the Christians’ words that are the big danger) declaring curses, these cities, these people are targeted by hell. And you can see it. Just look at them: they’re not actually doing well, are they? Hell is having a heyday with them.

Observation #2: Personal experience: whenever I have asked for prayer for an ill-favored person or place, the curses (“Oh, they’re a bad person!” or “They sure need to repent!”) outnumber the prayers by about two to one. (I suspect that this illustrates our need to grow in the Spirit’s fruit of self control.)

Hmmm #1: If we hear about “God is going to judge this city” (or state, or whatever), we often think of running away from that place. I’m thankful there have been fewer of these awful curses recently, but they make me think of Abe’s conversation with God in Genesis 18, where Abe argues for both mercy and justice. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Hmmm #2: I wonder if it might be a healthier response, when we hear a credible declaration of impending doom, for Christians to rush to that city or state. And maybe echo Abe’s conversation in the process. “Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you!”

Hmmm #3: If that’s a reasonable thought (and so far it seems to make sense), would the same apply to individuals? If we see someone whose actions make them a target for hell (or “judgment” or whatever), is it more Christ-like to get ourselves far away from them, or to get close to them, to bring God’s mercy to them?

Hmmm #4: What would that look like?

Hmmm #5: How would God look on that? How would the world look on that?

As I write these thoughts, a verse comes to mind. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it.” I love the thought of confusing the darkness, but I like the idea of shining light into the lives caught in the darkness even better.



The Power of Listening

One of the more challenging skills in the age of social media is listening.

Listening is more than reading or hearing their words. It’s not a tool for finding fault with their statements or for winning arguments. In fact, listening reduces the need for actual arguments.

I was in a situation where someone and I saw things differently.

Well, that’s hypocritical,” I muttered under my breath.

Well, that’s one option,” Father whispered back. “What are some other options?” 


 
(I hold that when God speaks, power is released in his words. So, among other things, when he asks me a question, I now have more power to answer the question than I did before he spoke.)

So we discussed other possibilities for why people do things I don’t understand.

Yeah, hypocrisy is an option, though it’s probably less frequent than I imagine.

• Lack of knowledge. They may not know the things I know, so they are unequipped to come to my conclusions.

Lack of awareness. This is a big one. Sometimes people have access to the data I have, but their attention is on other things. I confess I had to fight back the response of “How dare they!” but I quickly realized that their focus is almost certainly different than my focus.

Different personal issues. The things going on in them, through which they consider the issue, are likely different than my issues. I know some folks who are tough to reason with before coffee. Or when they’re hungry. Or when their emotions are high.

Different core beliefs. I believe (very intentionally) that God is good, that the best explanation of what he’s like is Jesus. Other people don’t know this yet, and so they’ll interpret “acts of God” much differently than I will.

The lesson is: listen and you might learn something. You might understand someone. You might end up wiser than you were before you listened.



Issachar, the Cat

Oh my. God's using my cat to teach me a lesson again. Awkward.

Our cat gets a healthy breakfast. Then she gets lunch at 1:30 or 2:00. (She's a very well-fed cat.)

I don't eat breakfast. They call it intermittent fasting; I have breakfast at noon. (It keeps me from being a "very well-fed" human.)

So I was in the kitchen at noon the other day, chopping up the toppings for the personal pizza I was going to have for breakfast. And the cat saunters in, all affectionate, assuming that since I was in the kitchen, I must be preparing lunch for her.


I scritched her neck and she purred. Then she started to yowl when I didn’t get the hint, so I walked away. We repeated the cycle two or three times before she gave up and walked away and sulked. I went back to slicing peppers and shredding cheese.

Then I heard the whisper. "It's easy to misunderstand what time it is if you depend on someone else for that information."

Immediately 1 Chronicles 12:32 came to my mind. "...from Issachar [came] men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do."

Personally, I believe it's more important in these days than ever before in my own lifetime at least, to understand the times and to know how to respond in the midst of these days.

And I cannot (I MUST not) depend on somebody's prophetic word, or what my pastor preaches about, or what that person on Facebook writes about. I must understand the times from knowing my Father, from walking with Jesus, from listening to Holy Spirit.

It's awkward when I get misled by gifted saints who are walking in step with God. It's awkward when I follow what they're proclaiming rather than what Father is whispering.

Sharing Power

It seems that God has always been about sharing power.

The first thing he said to the freshly-created Adam & Eve was sharing power: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Genesis 1] That’s sharing power.

Even earlier, as he was thinking about it, he was already clear: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [also Genesis 1] That’s sharing power.

He reminds us of it later: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD's; But the earth He has given to the children of men.” [Psalm 115]

God is about sharing power, at least on this planet. But this planet is (for now) the only place we live, so that’s not much of a practical limitation.

God has always been about sharing power with us. Or call it sharing authority. For the moment, the difference isn’t significant here.

That triggers some ugly stuff in my religious history. For a while in my history, I lived among believers who seemed to think that it was up to them to do things, and if God wasn’t busy, maybe he’d help out a little. And then I spent a whole bunch of years among a “God is all-powerful and I’m only a worm” crowd.

But the idea of God sharing power with us shoots both of those down pretty well, doesn’t it?

Do you remember the parable of the minas [Luke 19]? It’s a picture of his reward system, and the biggest reward? “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.”

He’s sharing power again: authority over cities.

For a few years, I’ve been working on the belief that God doesn’t want to relate to us as a master and slaves. He’s a Father, for Heaven’s sake, he wants to relate to us as children, and since he’s a good Father, he wants mature children. Mature daughters and sons who can co-reign with him.

It’s been right there in black and white since the very first page of the Book. He never made a secret of it.

OK, that’s pretty well established. Today, we went off into the weeds a little:

If God is sharing power (on Earth), how much of his power does he share, and how much does he keep for himself?

I get that it’s reasonable to assume that everything that we do as his sons and daughters, well he’s in us, so he’s doing that work, not us. Stop it! That’s religious double-talk. He NEVER said, “We’ll let them think they have authority over creation, but we’ll keep it all for ourselves and just let them pretend to be kings and priests.”

That’s a pretty ugly accusation against a loving Father. I should know; I thought that way for quite a while.

For the moment, let’s assume that when God says, “...he earth He has given to the children of men,” that he meant it.

The question I’m pondering right now is more about how much: How much of the authority on this planet does he keep for himself and how much is he delegating to the human species (that would be you and me, you understand)?

Some have argued that he started the machine running, but nowadays, it’s largely up to us. (“The earth He has given to the children of men,” remember?)

Some propose that we don’t have any authority of our own, but we just get to hold his hand while he does kingly stuff sometimes. (“In him we live and move and have our being.” [Acts 17:28])

I’m thinking that sharing means sharing. He has some, we have some, but mostly, we both have our hand in the pot. If we’re smart, we’ll invite him to come with us when we lead and we’ll go with him where he’s leading.

How do you figure that works out? How do you see it? 

Balaam’s Presumption

I’ve been reflecting on Baalam son of Beor recently (Numbers 22 – 24, I believe).
Balaam was known as a prophet whose words carried power (“...For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”).

A local king (Balak, king of Moab) saw the horde of people on their way from Egypt, heading to the Promised Land, and he was afraid for his life. He had reason to be. This mob of former slaves had just wiped out the neighboring kingdom (21:25).

So he decides to hire the local prophet, and here is where things get interesting. This is what stuck out to me this morning:

Balak tries to hire Balaam to curse the invading army (22:6). Balaam answers, “I’ll check with God.” (22:8)

God tells Balaam “Do not go with them.” Balaam tells the recruiters, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (22:13)

So far so good.

But Balak is determined. He offers more cash, more status. Balaam knows God has already said no. That should have been the end of it. But he goes back to check with God again.

It occurs to me that an awful lot of prophets I know (NOT all of them!) have some measure of insecurity in them, and with reason. People who speak for God are not often welcome into polite society: prophets encounter rejection more than some folks. This seems to be a tender spot for Balaam.

And this is where things go haywire. God defers to Balaam’s free will, lets him go with them, but says, “...but do only what I tell you.”

Balaam saddles up his donkey and heads to Moab with the royal recruiters.

And along the way, an angel tries to kill him three times. 
His talking donkey saved his life. (22:28)

Interpreting this Old Covenant story through the newer, more complete revelation (Hebrews 1:3), it’s clear that it’s not God trying to kill the rebellious prophet. I suspect that rather his rebellion against God’s clear instruction (22:13) gave fallen angels (or demons) the right to go after him. A digression.

That’s what sin does, of course: it gives hell permission to beat on us. God says, “Be holy” for a reason. (Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2, & 1Peter 1:16) (Fortunately, his command to be holy also releases his power for us to choose holiness successfully.)

I come away from this thinking that free will really is a big deal. Our free will is so powerful, it will let us defy the will of God. Of course, there are some formidable consequences to that choice, but it is still a choice.

It’s not that hard to talk yourself into doing what God said not to do. And God will let us do it. There have been times that I’ve asked him not to, but free will seems to be a big deal to him: he generally insists that we make our own choices.

Note that in the end, Balaam did attempt to curse Israel, but God turned it into a blessing (Deuteronomy 23:5), but he ended badly (2Peter 2:15 & Revelation 2:14).

I don’t want to be like Balaam. His words carried power. His prophecies all came to pass. But he was damned fool about it: he disappointed God and nearly got killed by an angel. (But he got to hear a donkey talk! That’s kind of cool. An ass talking to an ass, I guess.)

Let There Be Light, and Other Divine Commands

Think with me for a minute.

It’s pretty clear that when God gave commands in Genesis 1, those things happened.

“Let there be light!” and Bam! There’s light.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

There’s a principle illustrated here: When God gives a command, power is released in that command to accomplish what is commanded.

For years, I misunderstood this. I heard (for I had been taught) “Be holy as I am holy” as instruction for how I needed to direct my own efforts.

God says to be holy, so you need to follow all these holy rules in order to accomplish holiness. The best you can.”

God says, ‘Go and sin no more,’ so you need to know all the Do’s and Don’ts and make sure you follow every one carefully for the rest of your life.”

I’ve since learned that this is complete hogwash. And it’s an insult to God.

God gives me a gift, “Be holy, son; and here is the ability (and the desire) to be holy!” But I had ignored his gift and tried to come up with the same “holy” result through my own legalistic efforts.

What a nightmare.

But once I quit focusing on the list of Do’s and Don’ts and just focused on my Father, once I gave my heart freedom (gasp!) to love him, my desire for sin left, and with it, my choice to sin.

I began to experience holiness. In my life. Mine! My own!

I’ve been reflecting on this process (with substantial thanksgiving!) recently, and then in this context, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) came to mind.

“Transformed” means changed, in structure, in appearance, even in genetics. Literally.

So how would I even recognize it when that transforming happens to me?

“Think about Easter, Son. Where was Jesus before dawn on that first Easter?”

Jesus was in the grave. He might have been preaching in hell, but he was between death and resurrection. (Around here, we call that “dead.” As in, “Jesus was dead.”)

But Jesus went into the grave as one kind of a man, one kind of flesh-and-blood, and came out another. If nothing else, he could walk through walls, afterwards. I’ll bet there were other changes, too.

He had been transformed, after. So right then, in the grave at that first Easter weekend, Jesus was being transformed.

At that point, my mind was spinning with religious thoughts like “dying to self,” and “being hidden away, cocooned,” and “renewing my mind,” in order to “be transformed.”

Father interrupted my thoughts. “What makes you think I’m not transforming you right now, right here as we talk? As we walk together every day? This isn’t something you do, Son. This is something I do.

“And if I can transform Jesus, even while he was dead, don’t you think I can transform you while you’re not even dead? “Trust me, Son.”

I’m a grateful son. I’m thankful.

And then it hit me: that’s the secret. The sentence continues: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Choosing to be thankful, even excited, for who he is and what he’s done and well… maybe just living thankfully, that’s the key that he works through. Or at least one of them.

What If God Really IS Moved by Love?

I've been thinking about this recently. I’m reflecting on the reality that God is motivated by love. I mean if “God is love,” then he’s moved by love, right? 

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t experience emotions, or that those emotions don’t affect him. And of course, God experiences emotion differently than we do (because he’s different than you and I are). But it’s love that moves him.

It’s love that moves him.

That is certainly more consistent with the God whom Jesus revealed than it is with a god who wants to smite. That god is a lie; satan has been selling that one for millennia. That’s the caricature that he talks about, that God is mean. “Did God really say….?”

Satan told the Norse people that God’s name (and character) was Odin. Or Thor. He told the Romans about Zeus. If you’ve ever read those stories, you know some epic lies told about the God Who Is Love, about the God who KNEW the Cross was coming, who knew He would die on it (“the lamb slain before the foundation of the world”) and yet he still created us.

I’m thinking this morning that I’ll get a better understanding of why he does what he does. I’ll understand the declarations of the Old Testament prophets (I’m in Isaiah this morning) better if I keep it in mind that He is always motivated by love.

So here’s a question for reflection on today. If you read history through the lens that God is moved by love (correctly, I might add), does that re-interpret certain things in your history? Do you see some things differently if you reflect on it with the foundation of “God was moved by love when that happened”

It’s worth remembering, of course, that it may not have been God that did whatever that was that you’re remembering. The accuser is still accusing him, particularly in front of his own children.


Knowing God

“Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.

But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

When Moses went up the mountain, the cloud covered it. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days.

On the seventh day he called to Moses from the cloud. The appearance of the Lord's glory to the Israelites was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop.”
[from Exodus 24]

A friend drew my attention to the cutting of the Mosaic Covenant, when God and the people of Israel formally entered into the covenant that the people had proposed [Deuteronomy 5:27].

I’ve always paid more attention to the proposal [Exodus 19 & 20] than the marriage [Exodus 24]. A few things speak to me here.

And it occurs to me that an excellent way to get to know someone better, is to sit down to a meal with them. I observe that both the Old Covenant [Exodus 24] and the New Covenant [Luke 22] were established with meals, and that he still invites himself in for meals with his people [Revelation 3:20].

In the Old Covenant, this was the first time they’d ever eaten with God, I think. In the New Covenant, it might have been the three thousandth time they’d eaten together (three meals a day for three years).

A little bit later, Moses gets up and heads further up the mountain into God’s presence, but it takes a full week for God to speak with him.

I reflect that the reality is that sometimes when I’m talking with God, it really does take a few days to connect well with him. But I also reflect that this is more a characteristic of Old Covenant thinking than of the New [Luke 11:13, John 10:27].

But while Mo and God were talking, it looked like a “consuming fire.” Sometimes when we meet with God, other folks can see the change in us. And sometimes the change does not comfort them, if they don’t know him like we know him.



Responding to Testimony

I had been listening to some pretty awesome testimonies of God's goodness recently. One day, I was driving across town, reflecting on the testimonies, admiring how good God really is.

“You know, Son, If you keep welcoming the testimonies, you might be in danger of seeing those things show up in your own life.” I could hear the smile in his voice.

I thought for a while about what he was saying: receiving the testimony empowers the testimony in my own life. Yeah, that's Biblical.

Then the other end of the scale crossed my mind.

“I wonder if that means that if I were to reject the testimony, that I would stop that work of God in my life, I would actually be working against God's move in my life?”

I felt Father sadly nodding agreement. There was a tear.

I pondered some more.

I could hear someone's argument in my mind: “Does that mean that I need to believe every unverifiable, every unbelievable fairy tale that anybody dreams up?”

He was silent.

I thought about that for a while.

After several miles, I realized that this isn't a binary situation. This isn't “Either I fully believe the testimony & receive it, or else I completely and utterly reject it.” There are times, no doubt, for each of those extremes, but there are other options, other choices, where I believe a portion of the testimony and respond to other parts skeptically.

I thought some more.

It came back to my attention that Father has been reminding me of my own testimony recently: how he's taught me how I don't actually need to form an opinion all the time. He reminded me of how much freedom that has brought me in recent years, to occasionally say, “I don’t know.” “I don’t have an opinion on that one.”

And that’s the answer in this situation. Or at least an answer.

If I don't have the faith (or the will) to believe the testimony before us, have another option, other than closing off the grace of God in my life in that area: I’m not actually required to form an opinion, a judgment, of every single thing that we hear.

It's easy enough to let unbelief disguise itself as the wisdom of not forming an opinion, but we’re mature enough to avoid that, aren’t we?

Use discernment. Duh. That’s why he gave us that gift; use the gift, then trust the gift that God has given. Engage your trust, or don’t, as you choose.

But if it's a good testimony, believe it, engage your faith with it, and look for the grace of that testimony to manifest in your life.

But maybe if it isn’t a testimony you find you can engage your faith with, I don’t need to utterly reject and shut down that move of God in my life.

Is All Worship Equally Precious to God?

Is all worship equally precious to God?

That question challenges me quite a lot. They stretch me. And I think I see a trap in it.

It seems to me that worship from a broken place might be more precious, as it costs us more.

It’s pretty easy, when God has just healed your daughter from cancer, to respond in worship toward the God who just restored the love of your life to you. In fact, sometimes it’s hard for believers to not worship God in those circumstances.

And that worship is precious to God.

But worship doesn’t come as naturally, as easily, when you’ve missed your rent payment again, when your family rejects you, when your favorite grandmother just died. Scripture talks about “a sacrifice of praise” [Hebrews 13:15]. One reason that Job is among my heroes is because when he got the news about the death of his children and the theft of his fortune, “he fell to the ground in worship” [Job 1:20].

Worship in these circumstances is more costly to us.

I find that worship in those circumstances is more precious in me as well, from two perspectives.

First, in times of disappointment and failure, my soul is more vulnerable, more pliable, more raw. When I come before God in worship in those times, I am more effectively conformed to his image, and I receive more of his comfort and provision (though I may not recognize that until later).

Second, when I observe you worshipping passionately in the midst of your trials, that ignites something in me in response. Sometimes it’s igniting worship in me, sometimes gratitude or joy.

Watching someone worshipping in the midst of blessing and gratitude is cool too. But when you are worshipping God purposefully in those times, your worship has a more powerful effect on me, and therefore is more precious to me.

Is it more precious to God? That’s a tough one. Since Scripture doesn’t seem to answer that question, I figure I maybe shouldn’t answer for him where he’s chosen not to answer.
However, a good number of people believe that yes, God does appreciate worship more when it comes out of difficult trials.

Now here’s where the trap comes.

If I believe that my worship is more meaningful to God when it comes from trials, then I might be tempted to go looking for trials in order to “level up” the value of their worship before God. And there are all kinds of problems with that.

○ I’ve known people who believed this, and tried to walk it out. Their lives were messed up. They intentionally chose physically demanding jobs, they wouldn’t let anyone help them so as to not “lose their reward.” They had no joy, no friends, and no fruit in their lives. These were miserable people.

○ In some religious movements, this has been elevated to a virtue, an art form. Self-flagellation – whether literal or metaphorical – is always popular. And it’s the metaphorical kind that’s the worst trouble. We all know people who regularly say sad and evil things about themselves (“I deserve this” for example). Many of them will defend these beliefs at some level.

○ The worst of it may be the worship of Molech, which we see in the Old Testament, and which continues even today. One of the more detestable things that evil people in the Old Testament did was to sacrifice their children [1Kings 3:27, Ezekiel 20:31].

I was reflecting on this the other day: Why would these people kill their kids? How could they be so deceived as to think that this was a good thing?

I could feel Father’s sadness as I brought the questions up. He pointed out that these people are badly deceived: it’s not really God that they’re worshipping, though they may or may not know it. But they believe that in sacrificing that which is most precious to them – bone of their bone – that they will be more pleasing to God or gods, or that they will gain more power.

In reality, those child sacrifices are acts of worship to demons, inspired by demons, and used by demons to control the people. That’s not all that hard to see from our viewpoint as twenty-first century Christians. We can see it where they could not.

And then it dawned on me: it is, all of it, in greater or lesser measure, and whether we intend it to be or not, it is all worship at a false altar. (I can’t bring myself to say, “It’s all worship of demons, in one measure or another,” even though that’s what I think I mean: that’s just too harsh.)

Let me say it more delicately, and I’m going to cut to the chase, here: any time we hold up our sacrifice, our works, as making us more pleasing to God, we’ve missed the heart of Jesus. In that moment that we believe (whether with words or not) that “I deserve this,” or that “My sacrifice will make me more pleasing to God,” we have taken our eyes off of Jesus, and put them on a false god of one sort or another.

Summary: Worshipping God in the midst of trials and loss is a beautiful thing. It’s good for you, it inspires people around you, it draws you closer to God and to his provision for you.

It is possible, whether blatantly (as with Molech) or subtly (with our attitudes) to carry that “beautiful thing” to a very ugly extreme and to rob it of all its beauty.

At the same time, it is also possible to be overly aware of the dangers of the ugly extreme, and shy away from worshipping God in difficulty or uncertainty, out of fear of making that mistake.

Reacting out of fear is never a healthy thing, is it? And taking things to extremes is so often such a mistake, isn’t it?

I’m reminded again of the wisdom of “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”


Raising Children is an Act of War

One of our practices, while milady & I were raising our kids, was to have a “date night” every week, so we engaged a young lady from our church, named Bella. Bella knew that every Thursday, she had an appointment babysitting our three young kids, while Mrs P & I went out on a date together.

(Comment: the date night is not for business, household or otherwise; it’s for maintaining and strengthening the relationship. Sometimes we had dinner, sometimes it was just a walk in the park, but the business of bills or work or leading our church was off limits. However, “I love you!” was permitted, even encouraged!) (’Nother comment: Date night was an outstanding investment we made in our marriage; got us through some ugly seasons.)

Back to Bella. Bella was a great young lady. She was the oldest daughter of a couple who were “pillars” in our church, and she was amazing, and the whole church knew it. She was active in the youth group, earned good grades, and didn’t hang out with the scruffy kids at school. Her parents were real proud of her. She was at our house every Thursday evening for several years.

One Thursday, we came home after a quiet dinner, and a police car was in our driveway. It seems that Bella had left our kids alone in the house, and gone off to a quiet place to make out with her (hitherto unrevealed) boyfriend; someone had reported the trespassers, so the police showed up.

Bella had told the policeman who arrested them about our home and our kids, so a cop was parked in our driveway, making sure nothing happened to our kids until we got home.

We had some difficult conversations that evening. In a couple of months, we attended Bella’s hastily arranged wedding.

Then there was Bennie. Bennie was an Eagle Scout. He was squeaky clean: good looking, short hair, bright eyes, had memorized hundreds of Bible verses.

He was the oldest son of one of the church’s elders, and the whole community was proud of him. He led worship, taught Sunday school, and was making plans for Bible college when he snapped.

His parents were completely undone when he went missing. “He’s such a good boy! He’d never do something like this to us!” they wept.

Three weeks later, Bennie showed up, covered in poorly-drawn tattoos and addicted to methamphetamines. His parents wept some more, and tried to “fix him,” but he disappeared again, this time for the better part of a year.

I know more of these stories, but you probably know some, too: good kids, kids who seem to have everything going for them, and then one day, during that terrible transition between youth and adulthood, they snap, they go off the deep end. Most of them don’t really come back.

My kids were coming up on their adolescence, so I was intensely interested. I grieved for Bella and for Bennie, and for their parents, but I wanted to do what I could to keep my own kids from this sort of flaming crash-and-burn. I talked to God about it. A lot. Hours, weeks, months.

One night, I was sitting next to my campfire, praying for my kids, when he began to unveil some things. Now, the unveiling took a lot of time, weeks, probably months, and I don’t have time for that whole story, so let me cut to the chase.

It seemed, in at least these two cases, that these kids felt immense pressure. They carried the heavy weight of expectation of sainthood, of perfection, from their parents, from their extended families, from their friends, from their churches, from everybody they knew.

It was overwhelming, stifling, constraining them while they were young, and they grew more aware of these expectations as they grew, until the weight that nobody knew they carried crushed them.

I think there were three factors to this.

The first was that eventually, as they touched on adulthood, they realized that they didn’t have to choose to wear that weight any longer. But they didn’t know how to lay it down, didn’t know how to get help, so they just threw it off and ran screaming from anybody that they associated with that crushing burden.

The second factor was that they were heroes as children, showpieces as youth and adolescents, but now they were facing that great unknown: adulthood! They had no idea how to be heroes or showpieces as adults, in fact, adulthood in general was overwhelming, so they cut and ran, away from adulating, away from responsibility, away from perfection.

And third, he showed me that these particular kids were living on their parents’ faith, not their own. And when the pressure of looming adulthood got to them, they couldn’t live on their own faith. They were making the physical transition to an adult body, but not the transition from their parents’ relationship with God to their own relationship with God.

Father showed me that I was similarly proud of my amazing children, and I was setting them up – particularly my all-star firstborn, for the same sort of implosion.

He gave us a few strategies to protect our kids. Fair warning, these things did not make our church elders happy, nor did the kids’ grandparents always approve. But we have healthy adult kids, and we’re still friends, so something went right.

When they were younger, we built a great big treehouse in the back yard so they and their friends could do that thing that all kids need to do, but church kids don’t usually get to do: play. Be kids. And they could do it in our yard, under our oversight. We had water fights there (I bought the balloons, and loaded them, while milady chased screaming kids with a Super Soaker and maniacal laughter!)

For the same reason, we bought a bunch of video games (we chose which ones we spent our money on, but we sought their counsel). For birthday parties, we rented a projector, invited the friends, and had a 16’ wide videogame on the wall. We played some of the games, but never as well as they did.

We encouraged them to do things, to stretch their experiences, with their friends. Go camping with your teenage friends (here, use my sleeping bag, my tent; this is how you set it up), make a fancy dinner with friend (here, use our kitchen, we’ll go somewhere else that evening). We ignored it when they snuck out of the house at night, but we did ask the next morning how their midnight walk had gone. Sometimes, we walked together in the dark. Often, I bought chocolate milk for us at the 7-Eleven.

We made an under-the-rose deal with them. If ever they got an invitation to go somewhere or do something and they didn’t want to go, or didn’t feel safe, we would be the heavy: “No honey, you can’t go to that. We have a family event that evening,” even if the family event was just dinner and a movie at home. (And we’d always come and get them, any time, any place, if they called and said, “I want to come home.”)

Since “rule-keeping” was part of the heavy burden that had broken Bella and Bennie, we practiced breaking the rules together. We’d go off the trails when we went hiking (waaay off!), and I’d show them the edible plants, and we’d eat them! We learned how to start a fire rubbing sticks together, and then we put it out in a great big hurry because we were in the garage when we finally figured it out. We’d play hide and seek in the grocery store and in the mall. We took off our coats and hats in the spring rain and sang silly songs as we jumped in puddles. We played Frisbee golf on all the important government buildings.

When they were approaching age 18, the age of legality, some of them made plans to get tattoos. Since I had no authority to prohibit an 18-year-old from getting a tattoo, I contributed to the “tattoo fund,” and discussed designs and colors with him. (The final choice was an ancient family motto, in Latin, no less! It looks great!)

I have a handful of things in my mind as I come to the end of these very fond memories.

1) Please don’t make the mistake of thinking we got it all right. We surely did not. But we actively loved them. We stayed in our kids’ lives, we stayed in communication together, we stayed in prayer. In the end, they’re still our friends, they’re still excellent people, though they sure turned out to be different than the good little church kids we’d originally (and ignorantly) envisioned.

2) I’m offering some perspective here, some opinion: There’s a reason why some kids blow up when they approach their majority. A lot of it has to do with how the generation before them handles the expectations they lay on them, how they train youth to become adults, how they give hope for a mysterious transition. Maybe with some understanding, we can choose wiser paths to lead them down. Every kid needs understanding. Like adults do.

3) I offer these as testimonies. There are some people who are facing similar situations and they don’t know how to respond, and these stories will give some folks hope, give other folks ideas. Your kids are every bit as worth saving as mine are. Every family needs hope.

4) In these, I’m offering a worldview that you can borrow, a worldview that says “people are more important than their reputation,” or “not every rule is for obeying.” You see, there’s more life outside the lines that everybody is coloring inside of than there is inside them. Wherever you want to exercise your right to color, that’s an excellent choice! Everybody needs freedom. Decide for yourself. Teach your kids to do that too.

5) If nothing else, here are some excellent ideas for prayer, for your kids, for your grand-kids, for the kids of your co-workers.

Every last child you know – every one of em – needs prayer.