Showing posts with label 2007. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2007. Show all posts

Thursday

New Weapons for New Seasons

I’ve been accused of wielding the “warfare” metaphor more than is perhaps strictly necessary. Perhaps it’s true. It’s what I have; bear with me please.

I was awakened this morning in the middle of the dream. As I worked to get my bearings, the Holy Spirit whispered to my spirit: “You just had a dream. It was about the need to use a different weapon in each different season that comes upon you.”

After talking with my bride for a minute, I stumbled into the … er, the “library” and God & I continued our conversation. I’ll cut to the chase.

I believe that the circumstances we confront, the “battle” if you can handle the warfare metaphor, will be changing, perhaps rapidly. Moreover, every time the nature of the circumstances change, we’ll need a new weapon. For example, I was instructed that right now, I need to use the weapon of “Rest in the Spirit.” I’m actually pretty good at resting, at least at physical rest, and I’m gaining expertise at resting my soul – my mind, my will and my emotions. But I’m not as good at resting in Him. Nevertheless, that’s my weapon for this week.

I heard that, at least for me, the battle will be changing at the end of this week, when I will need the new weapon of “Confronting the Lie with the Truth.” Sounds cheesy, I know. Nevertheless, I believe that this is a legitimate warning for others as well: we’ll need to develop proficiency in a number of weapons (or “disciplines” if you like that better) to confront a variety of assaults against us in the coming weeks and months.

Later this morning, after this whole interesting conversation, I received an email from a friend in Canada, warning that he’s hearing God talking about what he calls “a major initiative by the enemy” in the realm of “dead spirits rising.” I translate that to include “Things that I have overcome are coming back for another shot at me,” and indeed many folks I know have been dealing with that in the past 24 hours or so.

So you can take this warning as you like: it has cost you nothing and it may be worth nothing to you. As for me and mine, we’re going to keep our eyes open for changes in the circumstances that confront us, and keep our ears open for appropriate responses in the Spirit to keep us in all this.

Tuesday

Go! Preach! Heal!

I’ve been studying the Bible for many years, and I’ve come to a conclusion: Jesus is a pretty good role model. For example, I’ve been watching Him in His ministry, and listening (so to speak) as He instructs His followers, and I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m a follower. Maybe I’d better pay attention!”
 
For instance, at the end of Matthew 9 we have a description of how Jesus did ministry, and if I want to be like Him, then I ought to do ministry the same way. And then in the beginning of Matthew 10, He instructs the Boys (aka “the apostles”) on how to do ministry. I’m thankful that He’s not a hypocrite: He teaches them to do the same things that He did. And when you boil it all down, it’s actually not real complicated.
 
Matthew 9:35: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
 
So the essence of Jesus’ ministry was pretty simple: Go, Preach, Heal.
 
Matthew 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.
 
And His instructions to the Boys were pretty much the same: Go, Preach, Heal. He added some details about what to preach (“The kingdom is at hand”) and how to heal (cleanse lepers, raise the dead, etc…).
 
Even the Great Commission focuses on the same things.
 
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
 
All of my responsibilities as a Christian fall into two camps: who I am and what I do. And in the “what I do” category, I have only three things: go, preach, heal.
 
I look at that list, and it scares me. I think: “Go. I can do that. Preach. I can do that.” And then I come to the last one: “Heal. I can’t do that.”
 
That’s wrong on a couple of levels. First it betrays a fundamental heresy in my understanding of the gospel: the gospel requires the supernatural. The presentation of the gospel that Jesus understood involves signs and wonders. It involves people throwing down their crutches, and dead guys climbing out of their coffins and surgeons looking at x-rays and scratching their heads and demons being chased out of people. That’s part of the gospel!
 
I’m thinking that a five minute presentation of “the Four Laws” is insufficient. That’s what brought most of my generation to Christ (maybe that’s our problem!).Someone who knows about these things pointed out to me that pretty much every time in the gospels that we see Jesus teaching or preaching, we probably see him healing the sick as well: a powerless gospel is not the gospel!
 
But that leads me to my second problem: I don’t do so good at healing people. I can’t really do that. And for long seasons of my life, I gave up trying. This is where my second major error happens. Sure, I can’t heal people without divine assistance. But what on earth makes me think I can do the rest of it on my own?
 
The whole gospel is – at its core – supernatural. It involves at the very least a transformation from death to life, and if you believe the Bible, then there’s a party in heaven when that happens, because something supernatural happened! So what makes me think I can preach without His divine impartation on me? What makes me think I can even go as a representative of Heaven except that He commissions me, He sends me, He goes with me? This is not a place where a “Please bless my words” prayer will work. I need power as desperately in my going and in my preaching as I do in my healing the sick and raising the dead.
 
And just because I can’t do it is no excuse. I still need to heal the sick and raise the dead.
 
So ultimately, my problem is that I don’t believe the Bible: I haven’t recognized the necessity of the supernatural, so I’ve left the healing part out, and then I’ve tried to do the rest of it pretty much on my own.
 
I think I have a lot to learn!
 
Go! Preach! Heal!
 

 


Saturday

Authority is Always Given, Never Taken

I figure that you and I can have two kinds of conversation: we can talk about the weather, or we can deal with the real issues of life. The first is easy; the second is kind of scary.

When we’re talking about real life, we’re not just talking about life in general. We’re talking about, among other things, your life and mine. And one of the dangers in that kind of conversation is the reality that you may see something in my life that needs to change. Maybe I’m not living up to the standards that I talk about, or maybe I’m disobeying the Word, and you see it.

But you can’t speak into my life unless I let you, unless I give you that authority. No, that’s not right: you can talk all day long, but unless I give you authority to speak into my life, I’m not going to be changed by what you have to say.

You can’t take that authority; it doesn’t matter if you are in the right and I am in the wrong. If I have not granted you authority to speak into my life, then your words are by definition without authority, and are powerless.

Likewise, I cannot take authority in your life if you haven’t given it.

There are people in “positions of authority” in my life. I must honor either the position, or the person holding the position, by giving them authority in my life, or else they have none. . The fact that you’re my boss means you should have authority to speak to aspects of my life and behavior, particularly during work hours. The fact that you’re my pastor means you should have authority in many areas of my life. The fact that I’ve invited you to speak into my life means that you should have such authority with me, but unless I decide that your word is authoritative to me, all is lost

I think we’ve lost track of this in our culture, though many foreign cultures seem to have a handle on it. Here, however, we have employees who disrespect their bosses and disregard their instructions, which leads to either fired employees or busted businesses. We have church members rejecting the instructions and teaching of their pastors and leaders, which results in stunning immaturity and moral failure.

Often, our employers, our pastors and leaders know the answers to our questions and failures, but whether they tell us the answers or not, it seems that the result is the same. The reason is that we have not submitted ourselves to their leadership, we have not given them the authority to have those answers in our lives.

And similarly, often times we can see a friend whose life is heading towards a shipwreck, but if they have not given us authority to speak into their lives, we cannot change their course, and their destruction is inevitable.

The challenge is that authority cannot be taken; it must be given, and in reality, it must be earned. Often, we expect that we already have the necessary authority based on our position, or on our superior knowledge or experience, and we speak up: “Let me tell you what’s wrong with you,” forgetting, or ignorant of, the fact that we must be given authority in someone’s life.

We cannot take authority; we can only be given authority.

Sunday

The Gospel According to Zelda

My kids are experts at videogames, as are their peers. I don’t know anyone of my generation that plays the kind of games that the teenagers do, so I took on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. My daughter is my tour guide through Zelda’s lands, and she coaches my battles with the bosses, but she still thinks it’s strange that her fifty-something dad is playing Zelda.

I’m playing the game for several reasons, but I think God has other reasons. For me, I want to have fun, yes, but more than that, I want to understand the mindset of the games because it influences their culture and generation: I want to understand that influence; after all, that generation is already assuming the leadership of the Church in North America.

I’ve been learning some really interesting life lessons from video games. Zelda, at least, encourages values like teamwork, curiosity, persistence, loyalty. But did you know that Zelda is an excellent training tool for learning about spiritual warfare? I was stunned!

Think about it: these games – Zelda included – are all about moving into a new territory, overcoming the enemy in those places, learning lessons, discovering treasures, and finding weapons in the new territory, taking out the big boss (the stronghold), and then finally occupying the territory. Along the way, we get shot at, we overcome enemies; if we fail the test, then we go back to the beginning of the level (“Game Over”) and we try again. If we succeed, then (usually) we’re given back our “life points” (we’re healed) and we emerge a more formidable warrior.

That strikes me as a pretty good picture of the real world, or at least one aspect of the real world: As we grow, God brings us into new territory – like He did with the Israelites in Exodus, but the new territory has not been pre-conquered for us.

Our job – like in Zelda – is to run around discovering what is waiting for us in the new territory: what opportunities, what weapons, what enemies, what treasures. We capture the treasures, pick up and learn the weapons, overcome the enemies, and grow in experience and strength through the whole experience. Eventually we confront a substantial enemy (the “big boss” of the level) and it takes everything we have learned and every weapon we’ve found to overcome him, but when we do, his plunder is ours, his territory is now ours, and we are more formidable than we’ve ever been.

When Israel had conquered Canaan, they suddenly had a homeland for themselves that was among the richest in the world. When we conquer the enemies and landmines in the territory that God gives us, we have new wisdom, new strength, new influence. Obstacles and temptations that would challenge and threaten us are suddenly insignificant. Life blooms around us, and people and ministries are strengthened by our presence in their lives. It takes everything we have, but the reward is worth the cost!

Besides, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us – like my daughter is doing for me – to help us find the enemies, to show us the weapons and the treasure caches, to guide us along the way. We can do this!

Impending Battle

Over the past few years, the Lord had been speaking of an impending battle. One of His illustrations has been this picture from The Horse and His Boy, at the end of the Narnian army's march to the battlefield in Archenland:

Here, the army halted and spread out in a line, and there was a great deal of rearranging. A whole detachment of very dangerous-looking Beasts whom Shasta had not noticed before went padding and growling to take up their positions on the left. The giants were ordered to the right. The archers, with Queen Lucy, fell to the rear and you could see them bending their bows and then hear the twang-twang as they tested the strings. And wherever you looked, you could see people tightening girths, putting on helmets, drawing swords, and throwing cloaks to the ground. There was hardly any talking now. It was very solemn and very dreadful…

For a season, we've been preparing for a great battle that is yet before us. What you're seeing now is the first skirmishes of that battle already upon us. It's like God is bringing His reluctant army into warfare little by little, toughening us up, preparing us for the bloodshed to come.

Since you are a warrior born, and since you are always drawn to a battle, you are one of the first to experience the fight. You have surrounded yourself with warriors, and so you see many of your friends beginning to encounter more of the enemy.

This is the purpose of God, this is His plan: that you would not shrink from the battle, that you would cause more casualties than you take, that you would learn to be healed quickly and to heal those around you quickly, and that you would leave behind you a very wide swath of demonic corpses as you take the battle to the enemy.

This is your destiny! Draw your sword! Throw your cloak to the ground! Let's go to war.

Wednesday

We Have Entered A Dangerous Season!

Some time ago, Chuck Pierce released a prophetic word that said in part, “The enemy would like to knock your legs out from under you and drive you off of your path,” and “The confrontation of the enemy is at hand. You must be filled with praise to enter into that conflict ahead. War is stirring in your midst. War is rising,” and “We are entering very dangerous times. This is a time of opportunity, yet a time of danger.”
I can’t tell you how many people I know that are walking in those times right now. I know I have been, and – as warfare generally is – it’s been hard to keep my perspective in the midst of the battle.
Recently, the Lord reminded me of the promise, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” A lot of the church is experiencing the refining.
In reality, however, I’m not sure that this one is for the whole church. It seems that this fight is for the Calebs among us: “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.’ ” (Numbers 13:30, 14:8-9, also quoted by Chuck Pierce).
A bunch of us are in that battle now: we’re being hit and the people around us are sometimes being hit even harder. The enemy is not stupid: he knows that sometimes the easiest way to take down a warrior is to hit the people that the warrior cares about. He also knows that hitting our families is terrifically discouraging, and if he can discourage warriors, then he doesn’t have to face us in battle.
It’s like 1 Samuel 30: where the Amalekites hit David’s home base of Ziklag while the warriors were out killing bad guys; they took their provision, their families, their future and their promise. “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” That’s pretty serious grief, and there are a number of people in the church that are suffering like that.
David, in contrast, is our example. After grieving, “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” Grief is fine, it’s appropriate, even valuable. But if we stop with grief, we’ll soon end up in self-pity or bitterness. We must move on to strengthening ourselves in the Lord.
The result was that “David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all.”
There is no battle, whether spiritual or physical, that is without spoil, without booty that can be taken, must be taken, by the victor. The enemy fights for our attention, our hope, our vision. If he takes those, he is victorious: that’s how he can tell he has won: he has plundered our treasures.
That’s the spoil that we bring to the battle. But the enemy is at risk as well. He has brought captivity, disease, poverty to the battle. If he loses, then captivity and disease and poverty fall to the forces of those who have taken part in the battle. It is our privilege, it is our duty, to take the plunder, and to use it for righteousness.
You know people around you that are wrestling with disease and discouragement, who are under the heaviest attack in this battle. If you leave them there alone, they will be casualties, and the enemy will turn next on you. If you join with our brothers and sisters, and help them keep their hope, their vision, their eyes fixed on Jesus.
Some of us are in the midst of the battle, in the furnace of affliction right now. If we fight alone, we’ll likely fail; then we will have fought in vain, and the enemy will be unhindered as he trains his sights on those we’ve sought to protect.
We certainly must keep our eyes on Jesus in the fight, but we will do that better if we stay in relationship with the other members of our squad, our battalion. If we can receive their support, their encouragement, their reinforcement, then we will overcome, and they will overcome.
And we’ll share the plunder together.

(With thanks to Chuck Pierce, Trevor Macpherson, and Bill Johnson)

Saturday

Invest Yourself in Your Community

It had been only three or four days since I heard first whisper to me, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you,” and in those few days, two other people have come to me with the same message. They’re the first two people who have brought that particular verse to me in more than a decade.

Jeremiah 29:3-9: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. ‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.

There is a commonly held opinion in the church today that we are now raising the last generation that will live on this planet, that the end of this world is near and that Jesus will soon come back to collect His bride and take home to Him in Heaven. I’ve known some young believers who jokingly engage in “Rapture Practice”: standing outdoors and jumping towards heaven, arms outstretched, as if to be taken heavenward any second.

And I’ve heard some Christians grow frustrated with the leaders of this world, and write them off with, “Aww, they can have it!” the clear implication being that they are soon to abandon this world for the next. I remember old hymns by the names of “I’ll Fly Away” and “I’ve Got A Mansion, Way Up Yonder.”

On the other hand, there are other believers who live from day to day, not paying much attention to the imminent return of Christ, or to the degradation of the world around them. Some display a measure of irresponsibility, but most live as members of society, holding down a job, raising a family, making mortgage payments, and attending church faithfully. Whether they believe in an imminent rapture or not appears to have no visible bearing on their behavior. They’re the same today as they were ten years ago, and the same as their fathers were thirty years ago.

Both groups are in error, of course; the “Steady Eddie’s” for ignoring the approaching Day, and the Rapture Fanatics for ignoring their assignments on Earth.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to be away of the drawing near of that day, and to make changes in our lives accordingly:

Hebrews 10:24-25: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (emphasis added)

The way I see it, we’re supposed to live for heaven, but we’re supposed to live on earth. We live with our eyes on our Heavenly Father, but our hands on the work that He’s given us to do on this earth.

Scripture is given, you recall, as an example to us. Daniel is an example:

Daniel 2:48-49 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

And Joseph is an example:

Genesis 41:39-45: Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you." 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt."

42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, "Bow the knee!" So he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt."

There’s a verse that I’ve been puzzling about for a long time. Finally, with this command of “Invest in your community, Son,” it begins to make sense:

Luke 19:13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. (KJV)

A newer translation says it this way:

Luke 19:13-14 So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.' (NKJV)

The English word “occupy” is a military word; it means you’ve already conquered the territory, now keep it governed for the new rulers. The Greek word for “occupy” or “do business” is pragmate├║omai and it is a business term, but it’s a term of ownership, not busywork. It means both “Be engaged in a business for profit,” and “be occupied with reference to the affairs of state.

God is looking for a gain, a profit, an increase from us, which means that we must invest the resources that He’s given us into the people and circumstances that He’s placed around us.

Clearly, He’s not looking for money from us; “You can’t take it with you” clearly applies, but having money is a fine way to accomplish a profit in terms of lives, of influence, of relationship. Have you noticed how much influence the wealthy have as compared to the poor?

So the command is to invest in the community that God has placed you into.

‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you….’

Our place is to be in the world, not of the world. The other half of that, of course, is to be of Heaven, but not yet in Heaven: we have a job to do here.

T.B.I.

I’ve become aware recently of a great trend that has no doubt been part of the American church for a long time. It’s the making of irrelevant and meaningless excuses.
The other day, I was counseling with a man who had managed to get himself addicted to a particular brand of sin. I’ll call him Bob for convenience sake. Bob and I were discussing some of the action that he needed to take if he was going to free himself from his sin. To be fair, the course of action was a challenging one, but he and I both agreed that it was necessary if he was going to get free. And then he pulls out the excuse from hell:
“But that’s so hard!”
When I hear that excuse – and I hear it often – I groan inside. Bob’s right, of course: it will be difficult. But then it’s a difficult task he proposes: extricating himself from persistent sin to which he has been enslaved for some time.
The problem with that excuse is that it’s true, but it’s irrelevant. Yes, it is a difficult road he proposes, but so what? The choice, contrary to Bob’s evaluation, is not between “that which is hard” and “that which is not hard.” Rather, it’s between “continued enslavement” or “freedom.” Freedom, by nature, requires hard choices.
Both roads are difficult, of course, but our flesh is eager to agree with the enemy that the road to freedom is hard. The devil is not particularly forthcoming when it comes to acknowledging the trials of enslavement or addiction.
I’ve come up with a response – for my own amusement – to those excuses: TBI: True But Irrelevant. I’m fascinated by the number of times we come up with excuses to obedience that are true, but completely irrelevant to the heart of the matter.
Recently, I was talking to a businessman who is faced with some challenging circumstances in his business; I’ll call him Henry. He has some tough decisions to make if his business is going to make it past its current challenges. Recently, Henry made some decisions that represent something of a moral compromise; not a big one, but they mean that he’ll break his word to some people who count on his truthfulness. We were talking about his business, and I brought this up. His was to explain why he “needed” to make this compromise and why it wasn’t really that bad. “I didn’t have any choice! We have a problem in the company!”
TBI.
Yes, it's true, Henry does have that problem in his business, and yes, this morally compromised decision will help solve some of those problematic symptoms in his company. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a moral compromise: Henry is still breaking his word. He’s still betraying a trust, and this decision will make it harder for his staff to believe his word in the future, and I believe it will distance his business from God’s blessing.
I’m making the choice in my own life to attempt to escape this trap, to not offer irrelevant, self-centered excuses to the things that my relationship with Christ require. I’m going to attempt to deal with the issues of what is required of me, by God, by the people around me, by my circumstances.
You can pray for me.


Sunday

Missing Jesus at Bethesda

This is an interesting story:

John 5:2-9: Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water , was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

It seems that there were a bunch of needy folks there, enough that John called them “a great multitude.” And their need was substantial! They were sick, blind, lame, paralyzed. That strikes me as substantially needy! So we have a great multitude of people who were greatly needy. Then in walks Jesus.

This is going to be good: we have the Son of God, the Healer, the Great Physician Himself walking in among a crowd of desperately sick people. We would expect to see hundreds of healings, right, and dozens of people repenting from sin. A great revival is going to break out: we have the need, and the presence of the Son of God is there? What could be better?

But out of that multitude, only one person was healed.

I’m stuck by that: the normal pattern is the other way around: everybody who comes to Jesus with a need always had their need met. They got healed, delivered, even fed! But not this time.

I know dozens of people like that: they have huge needs. Some of them have prophetic words promising a healing or promising that Jesus will meet their need. And Jesus is there, or rather there they are in His presence. It’s the same situation: Needy people and Jesus is in the midst of them.

And one or two get healed, get their miracle, but most of the people don’t. And often, I’m one of the ones who don’t.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that talks about this:

Proverbs 13:12: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

So we have people hoping for a healing, not being healed. We have people with huge needs, and even huge promises of God’s provision. But the hope, the longing, remains unfulfilled, and heart sickness sets in. Now the physical brokenness is accompanied by a brokenness of soul.

I see a principle: Being needy in the presence of God doesn’t change anything. Let me say it another way: making my needs known in God’s presence doesn’t change anything!

That’s not heresy, you know. It’s actually an accurate description of hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the Church.

And, I’m becoming convinced, there’s a reason: Here in the crowd, at the pool of Bethesda, nobody brought their need to Jesus. Jesus seeks one man out – I think he had a grandma praying and Jesus was answering her prayers when she sought him out – and even then, Jesus has to drag it out of the guy: “Do you want to be healed?” The guy replies in such a way as to communicate “yes” (he takes a lot longer to say it), and Jesus heals him.

So what’s going on? Unfortunately it’s simple: people were needy in Jesus’ presence, but nobody brought their need to Him. Nobody asked Him for anything. Here they are – here we are: paralyzed or blind or hopeless in one way or another, and the almighty Son of God is in our midst, but nobody is asking Him for anything. Nobody actually brings their needs to Him.

Some of the people who have unmet needs, who have a heart growing sick, have been in God’s presence with their needs, and they’ve talked about their needs in His presence, they’ve taken their needs out, they’ve taken their sick heart out and looked at it in His presence, but they haven’t actually captured His attention. They (we) haven’t brought the need to Him in such a way that His attention is brought to our place of need.

Being needy isn’t enough. Being needy in His presence isn’t enough. We need to ask. We need to bring our need to Him, and we need to leave it with Him. If we take it back then it’s ours again, and we don’t want that.

That’s hard to hear and it’s hard to say. Sometimes the very act of looking at the wound in our heart, the disappointment, the heart sickness of never having this need met is so painful that it’s a terrifying and exposing experience just looking at the wound, whether in the body or in the soul.

Bill Johnson said something fascinating once, when he was talking with a group of intercessors. “if we come away from our prayer time still burdened by the same things that were heavy on us when we started, then we weren’t praying. We were whining. There’s a difference.”

I’ve done that before. I’ve brought my need out and looked at it, talked about it, wished things were different, and some of the times that I’ve done that, I’ve done it in God’s presence. But that isn’t praying. That was whining. I brought out my need, but I never released it to Him.

I’ve done it in worship, too: I’ve been there in an environment of worship, and I’ve been in His presence there, but my attention, my focus, was on other things, some of which were my wants and needs. I missed worship; I had the opportunity to worship Him, but I hadn’t connected with Him. I was in the place where He was, but I missed His presence.

Disclaimer: I am not saying that the only reason that our prayers aren’t answered is because we never actually bring them to Jesus, because we have never actually connected our needs with His person. But I think I am saying that one of the main reasons that we don’t have our needs met is because we’re where He is, but we miss His presence. We look at our needs, we focus on our needs, and we miss Him.

Correcting an Imbalance

The reality is that the church (I hasten to add "in America") has clearly been way out of balance in several ways for the past few centuries. There are two perspectives, then, from which this contrasting perspective can come:

1) We can present the correct truth in the proper balance. Or

2) We can present the correct truth in a similar over-emphasis, opposed to the previous, erroneous over-emphasis.

Since most people who will hear a new or corrective word will hear it from their own history of imbalance, their history will impact how they hear the new word. I'm guessing that it will be strongly flavored in favor of their history: that’s what they know.

So the net result of the two options are:

1) If we present the balanced truth, it's heard and received in the context of their historical error and serves only to bump the listener's understanding a tiny bit closer toward center: they've had 40 years of error, and ONE statement that's properly balanced won't fix their understanding. Or

2) We over emphasize the correct truth, in hopes that when it's heard in the context of 40 years of error, it will bring people to a balanced perspective after the dust settles. The drawbacks of this perspective include:

a) It requires people to think for themselves, which is a sketchy proposition at best, and

b) Taken by itself, the truth thusly presented is as unbalanced as the preceding error has been, and therefore it is open to legitimate criticism, which may cause the truth to be altogether discarded and therefore become completely non-influential.

Note that pastors and teachers will typically only see the first option ("present everything in balance"), while prophets and apostles typically tend to see only the second option ("emphasize the truth"). I think evangelists just ignore the conversation while they preach to the lost. . .

I wrestle with the same thing on my blog (which you are reading now). I keep having friends correct my over-emphasis of current revelation to the point where I think my writing comes out pretty wimpy. I'm trying to learn a healthy balance, and I haven't found it: somewhere between balanced and unbalanced is the right balance…. I think. . .

It seems to me that when the OT prophets spoke, they spoke the truth bluntly and forcefully, with no attempt to balance it. But then, they're motivated as prophets, not pastors, aren’t they.

Sigh.

In reality, I suspect that God is more interested in the truth being presented, rather than the details of how it's presented. He's going to take our words - whatever words we use - and shape them with the Holy Spirit anyway.

In other words, it’s probably more important that we “speak the truth in love” than that we speak in exactly the right way, particularly if we bathe the thing in prayer.

So let’s speak up when we hear heresy, when we see the church going awry, when there are wolves among the sheep.

Monday

The Trouble with Christian Bumper Stickers

1. All they do is identify car’s owner, and they do that poorly: “I’m an ineffective communicator trying to get a message across without actually relating to anyone!” or “I’m a member of the Christian Country Club!”

2. Bumper stickers are a violation of the great commission: we substitute “I’m a Christian” instead of “The Kingdom of God is among you!” We don’t preach the gospel; all we do is show a sticker on our car, and we generally stop there.

3. It replaces dialog with our culture or government with a vinyl proclamation of “I’m better than you, and here’s why!” No wonder the world doesn't like us!
4. They’re excuses: instead of living a Christ-filled life, we slap a sticker on our car. We substitute appearance for a life of obedience.

5. Many bumper stickers are written in in “Christianese”: Christian culture vocabulary – which the world doesn’t understand. Why would we want to parade our irrelevancy on our car?

6. Many of them are a false witnesses. The State Patrol in my area talk about “Flying Fish”: cars with fish stickers who drive like hell. Rude drivers with Jesus stickers are only giving evidence for the assumed hypocrisy of the church. If you can’t live up to the standard, don’t put the sticker on the car!

7. They’re an exercise in futility: Who ever heard of someone’s life – anyone’s life – being changed for the better by a bumper sticker, regardless of how witty it is?

Sunday

Make Disciples, not Converts

The last great commandment that Jesus gave us before he left us to continue the work is the one we call the Great Commission. Matthew is most succinct about it:

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In the English translation, there are four verbs in this command: go, make disciples, baptize and teach. So we teach our people to support missions, we make doctrines about baptisms and we expect the pastors to do the teaching.

I think we’ve misunderstood the heart of what Jesus was talking.

You probably know, the Bible (including this command) wasn’t written in English. It was written in Greek. In the original Greek text, there is a single command: Make disciples.

The rest of the verbs are actually participles; they discuss how to make disciples:

· Make disciples by going.

· Make disciples by baptizing.

· Make disciples by teaching.

So there is a single command: “Make disciples.” By the way, the command is not: “Make converts.” Jesus is not commanding us to count the number of hands raised at an altar call or to finish meetings with the famous line, “With every eye closed….”

For the record, He’s also not commanding us to make “church members,” “fellow believers”, or “saints” or “new converts classes.”

He’s telling us to make disciples.

The question arises: what is a disciple. Jesus never defines the word, but He models it:

Matthew 10:25: “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.”

Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Paul expounded on it a little more.

1 Corinthians 11: 1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

2 Timothy 2: 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

For the sake of completeness, Vine’s Bible Dictionary says that the Greek word (which is mafetew for those who need to know) says “A ‘disciple’ was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher

So here’s the assignment: clone yourself. Whatever you have, give it away. (Don’t worry about the things you don’t have: you don’t have to give that away. Yet.) As you follow Jesus, lead by example. The Book describes it this way:

1 Thessalonians 2:8: We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

One of my pet peeves is that the Church has been taught for so many years that we’re sinners, we’re bad people, and it’s only by the grace of God that we’re not like those tax collectors and harlots of the world. “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I’m not good enough!”

Bosh! The Book says we’re saints, even priests! Everyone running the race has someone ahead of them that they can learn from, and someone behind us that we can help. Let’s find those people.

Our whole purpose, from the very beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, has been to “Go forth and multiply!” That means “make disciples”, not “make converts.”

So it’s not all about keeping the midwives busy with new babies. Sometimes it’s about making spiritual babies into spiritual leaders. There are different levels of maturity, and our job is to help each other – those ahead of us, those beside us and those behind us – to keep moving forward towards maturity.

I have three suggestions for walking this out:

1) Make a conscious choice to become an influencer of people. If you see yourself as a sheep, you’ll never see the opportunities. If you see yourself as a shepherd, suddenly, you’ll see sheep everywhere. Be ready to be a disciple-maker.

2) When you have opportunity, leak. Let the character, the values, the actions of heaven show. Don’t ever be pushy, don’t try to make a program out of it, but look for opportunities. I was surprised recently to discover an opportunity to speak into the life of a successful sales rep who was concerned about the fact that his territory included Las Vegas. I had the chance to speak into him, and we prayed together on the crowded sales floor.

3) If you’re not in a in discipling relationships, it’s time to change that. It’s time to make sure that we are a disciple before we become a disciple-maker. I guess it’s kinda hard to give away what we don’t have.

But let’s make disciples!

Tuesday

The Gospel Has Two Wings

I have an interesting family. My immediate family consists of two adults, a flock of energetic kids, a dog, a cat an a handful of birds. One of the birds, whose name this week is Chiquita, has recently taken for herself the position as head of the household; she has learned how to work the lock on her cage, and she gets herself out and flies around the room from time to time. I figure it’s good exercise for her wings, not to mention her heart.

We’ll come back to her shortly.

My extended family gets together often, to celebrate whatever is handiest for celebration, and it’s not infrequently that we have fifteen or twenty people gathered in my parents’ house, and when we gather, the house if filled with laughter and energy.

As you might imagine, there’s a lot of talk. Most of it is about family things or community things, or peoples’ lives, and it’s an expression of care for each other. We tend to steer away from the three social unmentionables: politics, religion and sex. I appreciate avoiding the latter conversation, but I am intrigued by the former two. We have a huge spectrum politically in our family, and a fair breadth religiously as well.

One brother-in-law has a position working for a liberal politician in a liberal community, and he seems to have political and religious beliefs to match. The other one gives the impression of being a right-wing republican and religious fundamentalist. My problem is that both are brilliant men, better thinkers than myself, and both are gentle and well-spoken – well, most of the time.

When I listen to my conservative brother, I hear opinions like “Why are we surprised that so much is going wrong with our schools when we’ve banned prayer, banned any discussion of God or of right and wrong and encouraged kids to do whatever they feel is right”, and I understand his point: there is an absolute right and wrong, and his name is Jesus, and when we lose sight of him, we lose direction in our culture.

Then my liberal brother opines about how morally evil our culture is because of the inherent disrespect for the poor and weak among us, and I remember how God values the poor, and I understand his point: a religion or a politics that ignores the poor cannot be morally upright no matter how many bible verses they quote.

An over-simplification would say this:

1) The liberal church says, “You can’t love God if you don’t care for the less advantaged folks.” It’s about mercy. For example, the abortion issue is about people who are victims, people who are in a bad way and need some help getting out of it.

2) The conservative church says, “You can’t love God if you don’t live right in relationship to God.” It’s about right and wrong. From this perspective, the abortion issue is about taking responsibility for your actions, and about killing babies is not a good solution.

Neither quotes James, but they could: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

I don’t really like conflict or relational tension, and I see a fair bit of it when our family has these conversations, but I can’t get rid of this feeling that they’re important dialogs. If I take the traditional conservative position, then I need to either dismiss my liberal family members as irrelevant or uneducated – and they are manifestly neither – or I must admit a flaw in my position and in the logic that I use to defend it. The same is true if I hold to the traditional liberal position: there are some good-looking truths on the other side of the aisle, and I need to either abandon my traditional liberal position to embrace them, or I need to dismiss both those truths and the godly men and women who hold them as religious kooks. That doesn’t work for me.

James seems to have it right: there are two halves to pure and undefiled religion:

1. Helping widows and orphans (having a heart of mercy for disadvantaged folks), and

2. Keeping myself unspotted from the world (making right choices and living in right relationship with God).

I know a bunch of churches that preach the necessity of being right with God. If you were to press them, they’d acknowledge the need for mercy to the poor, but in reality, far more of their church budget (and their sermon content) is invested in “right wing” values: evangelism, moral choices, particular moral evils in our society. And I know several churches who are so invested in the homeless, in the rights of women, or of social outcasts, or of the victim-of-the-week that they seem to overlook the necessity for salvation by faith, or the reality of eternal judgment.

This is where I come back to Chiquita, our little escape artist. It seemed to me that God brought her to my mind as I was thinking about these things. When she makes her escape from the cage, she spends the next several minutes working hard to break the sound barrier flying around our living room, flapping furiously to keep out of our reach if we try to put her back where she belongs.

I felt that God was saying that His church has two wings. We tend to emphasize one wing or the other: So many of the left-winged among us have declared forcefully that if we don’t love the poor, we can’t love God, and they’re right. And the right-winged among us have emphasized that if we don’t live according to God’s standard of right and wrong then our love for the poor is empty works, and they’re right, too.

Just like Chiquita can’t fly furiously around the room with only her left wing or her right wing; she needs both wings to fly. With just one, she’d flap furiously in little circles, and those watching would either laugh or weep.

We, the church, have been stupid. (This is my blog, remember, and my opinion!) Most of us, and most of our churches, have focused on one wing or the other, and we’ve so completely missed a good portion of what’s on God’s heart. Why do you think it is that the groups with the most of God's power (as in healings, signs and wonders) are the groups with both wings in action? If we stay in a “one wing dominant” position, we too will flap around in little circles, while hell laughs and heaven weeps.

So what do we do? My recommendation is this: figure out which wing you identify with (that shouldn’t be very hard, really). Don’t abandon it, but make plans to add the strengths of the other wing into your life and ministry. If we're part of a bible-believing, then we need to get involved personally with feeding the poor or helping the homeless, or something similar. If we're part of a socially-conscious gathering, then we need to add a focus on the gospel in evangelism or missions, or the like.

Come on, folks. We need both wings to fly.

Sunday

The Work of Giving Birth

There are a lot of promises in the Kingdom that still need to be birthed.

Just sitting and waiting for them isn’t enough to make them come. I can sit and wait forever, and some things just won’t come to pass.

Maybe you know that you’re going to have children, you’re going to be a parent someday. That’s not enough to make it happen. Knowing something will happen does not make it happen.

If you want to give birth, first you need to become intimate. I understand that you can’t get pregnant without getting intimate: just doesn’t happen that way. You will be a parent of that child; the one you become intimate with is the other parent. That’s just the way it is: no intimacy – no pregnancy. No love – no sons and daughters.

Then you need to make preparations in your life for the change that’s not yet come: pregnant women live somewhat as if they already have a baby: they decorate the room, buy furniture and clothes and those silly little dangly toys that hang over the crib. They have baby-parties (which they call “showers”) and they celebrate the child that is coming. Some activities need to be given up altogether: if she doesn’t stop bungee jumping or scuba diving, she may unintentionally kill her child.

Obstetricians don’t need to advertise their services. It seems that expectant women possess an almost a genetic urge to place themselves in the hands of a medical doctor: “What do I do? How do I get ready? How do I protect this little one inside?” They take large pills and vitamins specifically designed for expectant mothers.

Being pregnant appears to be terribly uncomfortable; it’s awkward, inconvenient. Her body changes and things work completely differently. The digestive system changes; the bowels stop working right, the bladder shrinks to a fraction of its former size. Various portions of anatomy change size or dimension. Her chemistry changes and therefore moods change. She want to eat pickles. Right now. It’s really weird living with a pregnant woman!

Everybody can see that she’s pregnant: her belly eventually precedes her wherever she goes, and her gait is unique to the pregnant. Other women get weird around pregnant ladies, and it seems impossible to speak to them without rubbing their tummy.

Eventually it comes time for the child to be born, but even that requires pretty aggressive, assertive action. The doctor commands, “PUSH!” and she pours every fiber of her being into pushing, even though the urge to push was incomprehensible until the transition is upon her. But when that time comes, her whole person is focused on the birthing of the baby. If she cannot or will not push, the child is not born correctly, and the insurance company is displeased because the alternative is expensive.

We have some promises that we’re looking forward to. Like children. But having the promise isn’t enough. Having a prophetic word isn’t enough. The prophetic word gives us a target to aim for, it promises that if we work that direction we will be successful, but most of the time (there are exceptions), the prophetic declaration does not make the thing happen. That part is up to us.

If we want to give birth to the promise, first we must get intimate with the one who can inseminate us with promise. We must come to His private chambers and uncover ourselves. We must draw near with love and let Him plant the dream in our uncovered heart.

Then we need to make preparations in our lives for the changes that are not there yet: we must live in some measure as if the thing which was promised was already here. We need to make room for it. Has God promised you a teaching ministry? Then you’d better spend hours in the Word. Has God promised you riches? Then you must learn responsibility and restraint. Has God promised you a mate? Then you must make room in your house, your budget, your personality for him or her. There are some activities and more attitudes that must be eliminated altogether; if we don’t, we may unintentionally kill the promise.

Being pregnant with promise is as terribly uncomfortable, awkward, inconvenient as physical pregnancy. Things work completely differently. You’re in the “Now but not yet” place that makes no sense. My relationship with God is different: He sees the promise fulfilled yet, even though I can’t see that fulfillment to save my life.

My relationship with my church family is different: some of them can see the bulging promise, and some cannot. We can’t see the promises ourselves sometimes. Those that can see it can’t help but speak to it, rubbing our belly as it were; those that can’t see it don’t understand why we’re acting the way we are; they complain and whine about the changes we are making in favor of the promise.

Eventually it comes time for the promise to be born, but even then, aggressive faith is required. There’s a “push” that is needed, and often, we don’t understand it until it’s time. But if we don’t push, the promise may be stillborn.

Babies and promises are alike in that they don’t happen without a whole lot of participation on our part.

There are many among us that are pregnant with promise in these days. Some are aware, are under the care of a “doctor” in the form of a mentor, and as a result, many are moving well towards their goals and dreams. Others have no doctor caring for them, but the Father of their pregnancy is counseling them wisely, and their birth is approaching well; there are no complications.

Yet there are some who sit around watching TV and wonder at what’s happening to them. Some keep bungee-jumping or deep-sea diving, and reject the counsel of those older and wiser around them, and they wonder that the birth of their dreams is not proceeding well. They make no room in their lives for the promise, and they wonder that the promise does not come in the way they expect it, in the time they expect.

Do you have a promise that has not been fulfilled? Have you submitted yourself to the care of a mentor, to the care of the Father, or are you still living as you did before you received the promise? Are you making room for the promise, making preparations to birth?

Saturday

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…

Monday

New URL

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

Woo hoo.

Saturday

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: http://www.realsummeroflove.com/

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!