Showing posts with label 2008. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2008. Show all posts


The Power of Glory

How well do you understand the concept of glory? Yeah, me neither. I have an idea, a pretty good feel for it, but if you pressed me on it, I couldn’t define or explain glory. I needed to fix that.
The easy part is looking up the word “glory” in my lexicon. The dictionary described glory as “being worthy of high honor;” The Old Testament word chabod (or kabad) includes the concept “weighty.”

That reminded me of a line in Jurassic Park: “Is it heavy? Then it’s expensive, put it back!” Weight is associated with things of value. Like gold. Like the presence of God. And maybe, like Jurassic Park, glory is a little bit scary.
OK, the Glory of God is about Him being worthy of high honor, and there is an aspect of weightiness (like gold, or like high-tech devices) to Him. Since there have been times when I’ve felt His presence like a heavy blanket on me, that made sense, particularly since it was accompanied by a sense of awe.
But there’s a verse that didn’t settle well with me: I’ve usually heard Isaiah 42:8 (where God says, “I will not give my glory to another…”) taught as “God is the only one with Glory.” The logical extension is that I need to be really careful to never think highly of myself or of what I do. I hear important religious people end their prayers, “…and we’ll be careful to give you all the glory…” or I hear folks saying, when complemented, “It’s just Jesus!” in their holiest voices.
I see the correlation, but it somehow triggered a gag reflex in me when I heard it: there’s something completely wrong with that viewpoint that says we’re nothing but lowly clay pots, and if anybody looks good, it had better be Him; if we think there’s good in us, we’d better repent.
I ran into some verses that didn’t set well with that point of view:
Romans 3:23 is one of the most quoted verses in the Book: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” What is it that we’ve fallen short of? Have we fallen short of discipline? Or humility? Have we failed to attain the holiness of God? No, it’s falling short of glory that is the thing that God’s complaining about in this verse.

1 Corinthians 2:7 tells how the wisdom of God was “ordained before the ages for our glory.” Wait: He, in His wisdom, planned for our glory?
And what about 1John 4:17: “…as [Jesus] is, so are we in this world”? Isn’t He in the midst of the glory of Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling the Kingdom of God by intercession? And I am to be like that in this world? I’d always thought that I needed to be like He was: dusty feet, teaching, healing, suffering; but the Word is clear: “…as He is” (Wait, I’m seated with Him? That’s a whole other magnitude of “whoa!”, but that’s another conversation.)
So you and I were made for glory.
I figure there are three kinds of glory:
1) The glory of God. (See Psalm 24:8, Isaiah 6:3, and Revelation 21:23 if you’re taking notes.)
2) The glory that ambitious men and women take for themselves. I think this is often called “the boastful pride of life” and it’s not particularly a good thing. I don’t know anybody that wants to model their lives after these fools.
3) There is a glory that is for me. It’s not the same as taking glory for myself, but just because there is an illegitimate glory, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is not also a legitimate glory.
I looked more closely at that verse in Isaiah where God won’t give His glory to another. It’s all about false gods: He won’t give his glory to false gods, to idols and (as we’re taught in the NT) demons. That doesn’t mean He won’t share it with His kids, nor that He hasn’t planned a glory for us that might be different than His.

Have you ever heard about the substitute judge in the Texas Chili Cookoff? Two judges were familiar enough with hot chili to be able to appreciate the flavor, but the rookie was completely overwhelmed by the heat.
I figure that we need to be like that with glory: we need to become familiar enough with the glory of God that we’re not helpless when it shows up, strong enough to stand up under it and be useful.
My friend Mike has a hot sauce made from chili peppers that’s more of a paint remover than a seasoning: at nearly a million Scoville Units, even a toothpick dipped in the sauce and dried off will still make grown men cry.

By contrast, my friend Pat makes a chili sauce that is still hot, but the flavor has been moderated: her sauce is not about fire in the mouth, it’s about the flavor of the peppers, and I really enjoy it with crackers and cream cheese.
I think this is another way we need to relate to glory. The glory of God is so powerful that whenever even an angelic messenger of His shows up, they often have to begin the conversation with, “Don’t be afraid!” If the people of God freak out until the angels gives us the grace to not be afraid, then how will the world react? It’s like Mike’s sauce: just the memory of that much of God is hard to handle.
I see our job is to be like Pat: we take the glory of God, we live in it, and in Him, we pick up a glory that is appropriate for us, and we present it to the world in a milder version. We’re like Moses coming down from the mountain with the glow-in-the-dark face, or like someone climbing out of the swimming pool fully clothed: we splash the glory of God all over, but it’s not as powerful. We clothe God’s glory in flesh and blood that the world can relate to.
Think with me for a minute: when God’s glorious presence shows up in our community, what will happen? Sinners will repent, saints will fall more in love, society will change, people will be healed, demons will flee. Frankly it will be really cool.

If God is the only one who gets to be clothed in glory, then I can sit back and look forward to that day. But if I am designed to carry glory – whether His glory or my own – then these things should happen when I show up as well. Wherever I go, the glory of God goes. Wherever I go, the results of glory should show up: people should be changed, goodness should replace evil.

So here’s the bottom line commission: go forth and splash the glory of God! Go leak glory! Everywhere you go!

Grandmothers and their Photo Albums.

I realized the other day that I’m rather afraid of grandmothers. More specifically, I’m afraid of grandmothers who are armed with a photo album.

I’ve heard stories about getting stuck on an airplane next to a grandma with her weapons-grade photo album, pinned to the seat back by her stories about this grandson, that granddaughter, these nieces and nephews, for hour after painful hour. My wife tells me that I’ll be just as bad when I have grandchildren, but until then (at least), grandmothers make me nervous.

The other day, God did just that. I was in a worship service, and it was like God pulled out His photo album for the people in the room. He would draw my attention to one person after another in the room, and it was like He was showing me page after page of photos about them, what He loved about them, some of the fun things that He had done (or could have done) with them. I could feel His affection for them!

Sometimes I think prophetic gifts are treated too importantly, if that’s possible. We hold out for the profound prophetic word that will impact the whole room. While those words are wonderful and often powerful to the point of changing lives, they miss the aspect of the prophetic that I think is the most powerful: they miss God’s revelation of His own heart.

I’m convinced that the primary purpose of the prophetic is that we would get to know not just His plans, His works, but also His ways, the “why” behind the things that He plans and does. The primary reason He shares things with us is so that we would get close enough to Him to know the things that are important to Him, because unless we know Him, we won’t be able to love Him.

Ministry Flows Through Relationships.

Some time ago, I had this image of a network of islands in a vast sea, connected by a variety of bridges. The islands are people, and the bridges are the relationships. Some of the islands have many bridges, some just a few, and a few islands have no bridges at all. And the bridges are of all varieties. There are some rickety footbridges, some rope bridges or narrow wooden bridges. Some are just a fallen log. Others are well-made stone bridges, and there are a few modern steel or concrete bridges.

“No man is an island,” or so John Donne says. Nobody is completely self-sufficient. I may produce quite a lot of what I need on my island, but there are some things that I’ll need from others. Besides, if I get by with only what I can make myself, then I subject myself to a very primitive lifestyle: no cars, no cell-phones, no laptops or toilet paper: none of these can be produced without heavy industry.

If I want coffee, I can trade some of the things I make on my island (let’s imagine I’m a carpenter) with someone else for their coffee, but only if I have a bridge. But not just any bridge. I need to have a bridge that I can carry my wood furniture over: the rope bridge won’t do. In fact, the fallen log is out, and many of the narrow wooden bridges. The guy with the coffee can make use of most of the bridges, but my work requires a bigger bridge. The stonemason on the next island over needs really strong bridges.

I heard Rick Joyner say one time that when God sends him somewhere to minister, he’s always interested to see how they receive him. If they recognize him as a pastor or ministry leader, then there’s a certain amount of ministry he can bring. If they receive him as an author and a teacher, then there’s more he can bring. If they can accept him as a prophet, still more, and if they welcome him as an apostle, then he can bring the entire arsenal for them.

Rick is looking to see what kind of bridge exists between himself and the people he’s ministering to. If it’s a smaller bridge, built with less trust or less understanding of the things of God, then he’s able to bring less ministry over the bridge, perhaps just the ministry of a pastor. After a number of visits, perhaps the bridge is strong enough to support apostolic ministry.

If I don’t have any relationship with you at all, then it will be very difficult for me to minister to you, to strengthen you, encourage you, to equip you for the assignments that God has given you. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible for me to receive any strength or encouragement from you. There are people I know professionally; most of them don’t have a bridge with me that would support a prophetic word or a revelation from scripture.

When I speak with a group of people, the first thing on my agenda is to build relationship with them. I only have a few minutes with them, maybe an hour, so we have to work fast; I do that work with jokes, stories, illustrations. Fortunately, I have a teaching gift from God and the Holy Spirit loves to inhabit them: He makes the job much easier and faster, but it still takes time, and if I hope to carry something of value to them, I must have a bridge to do it!

Even Jesus saved his heavy revelation for the Last Supper, after Judas had left to collect his 30 pieces of silver. Only there among his eleven most trusted friends did he share his most significant secrets. Those were the only relationships that were able to bear it.

For a more scriptural example, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3: It’s my opinion that this is essentially what Paul is saying: “Your end of the bridge isn’t substantial enough for this ministry.” They were acting like “mere men” which prevented him from teaching them weightier subjects. Same with Hebrews 5. The seven sons of Sceva may be an example of the bridge of relationship breaking because they tried to carry too much weight over it, but Stephen certainly is such an example.

Recently, I needed to bring a very strong word of correction to a brother in Christ. I actually had the word two years earlier, but the word was heavy enough that our relationship couldn’t support it. We built a relationship over those years, and eventually he invited me to speak into his life on that subject, and when I did, our relationship supported the weight of the word: he made the needed changes in his life (it took a few years), and we’re still friends. Now we both speak into each others’ lives.

Now the question is whether you and I have enough of a relationship to support this much meat? It’s not really a lot of weight, but then, we don’t have a lot of experience relating to each other either.


Judging Judgmentalism

As the guy said in The Gods Must Be Crazy: “Ai yi yiii.” I hate this kind of stuff.

There are a number of Christian websites that are passionately critical of Todd Bentley and the Florida Outpouring (which is now on the road, currently in Califorrnia). Hank Hanegraff of CRI, the Christian Research Institute is one of the most visible and most vocal. A friend recently asked me an opinion of Hank’s critical article against Todd and his ministry. It got me thinking. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, you might want to read that posting on his blog, though it’s not entirely necessary if you’re at all familiar with the current standards of criticizing somebody different than ourselves.

It appears to me that so many critics of Todd, Hank included, are fundamentally evangelical: that much is a fine thing. The problem is that they seem to make the assumption that the only legitimate form of Christianity is evangelicalism, and everybody else is a heretic, and they're making a name for himself denouncing them. And they're using rather inflammatory language in doing it.

It’s interesting that Hank's biggest complaint against Todd Bentley that an usher wouldn’t let someone come to Todd for healing when they were discussing testimonies, not praying for the sick; they'd done that earlier. Todd’s usher practiced Todd’s teaching, which is (I suspect) a doctrine that Hank and many evangelicals would probably support: Todd is not the “healer”, but Jesus is the healer. Hank’s friend was prevented from coming to Todd as the “healer”, which is consistent with Todd’s teachings, and probably Hank’s too. (Though I allow for the possibility that he did it poorly or without tact.)

In addition, Hank’s friend was defying the instructions from the leaders of the meeting (which were essentially that “This is a time for testimonies, not for requests for healing.”), and Hank finds fault with Todd not permitting such rebellion. Moreover, Hank blames Todd for the emotional letdown and disappointment that his friend felt when Todd’s team stood up for two (appropriate) standards: they wouldn’t permit him to bust up the meeting, or to venerate Todd as “the healer.” Hank’s criticism strikes me as disingenuous here.

I also find it interesting that Hank defends his own judging of Todd while not validating others’ judging of Hank’s critical remarks.

Let me make it clear for the record, just in case Woodward and Bernstein (or their heirs) get ahold of this post: Todd Bentley makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t like how he does stuff. I don’t like how he does his meetings. I don’t like the way he relates to people. I don’t like the way his dad relates to people. I don’t like the truck he drives. I don’t understand the tattoos, and I think they could have been done much more artistically. (Note that these complaints are all about how he does things, not what he does; the difference is significant.)

I know something whereof I speak. I have business dealings with his ministry. I’ve met him and his father several times. I know well several people that appear to be Todd’s personal friends; I’ve been to a number of his meetings, as well as watched (as long as I could) some of his recent meetings on GOD.TV.

Having said that, I have to say that Todd is the best example I know of of the scripture that says, “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels.” Todd is a very earthy vessel, but the treasure inside is real: this is the real gift, and Todd – with all his warts and tattoos – is my brother. While I’m uncomfortable with his style, I’m convinced that the content is the real thing: God really does work through him to a degree that He does not in other mortals, including Hank, certainly including me, and possibly including yourself, dear reader.

Does that make Todd any less weird? Heck no. The guy’s covered in tattoos, is lousy in interpersonal relations, burns himself out with some (decreasing) regularity, and has a really weird public speaking style. He’s also – lest we forget – functionally a baby Christian: he only got saved a few years (was it 5?) ago from a life of drugs and violence: this guy was not raised in Sunday School: he looks like it and he acts like it.

The guy lacks maturity because isn't yet mature: he hasn’t had the time to develop it. He has his “flesh” hanging out all over the place. But probably no more than I do. Maybe less than Hank does (though I’m not confident that – despite Hank’s vociferous disputations to the contrary – I have the authority to judge that).

Todd's critics use the Bereans, as Hank does, to justify their judgments (Hank's word, not mine). In the Bible, the Bereans were commended for comparing Paul’s doctrine with scripture. Two conditions: judging doctrine and judging by scripture. It doesn’t appear to me that Hank is doing either. He’s judging Todd the man (calling him a “spiritual fraud,” a “liar,” among other things, none of which is about doctrine), and judging him by stories (while denouncing Todd’s stories simultaneously) and by “common sense”. Aargh. That’s not right!

The frustrating part is that both of them, stinky as they are, are my brothers in Christ.

The result that I see is that people are disappointed, hurt and confused by Hank’s ministry every bit as much as by Todd’s. But in the process, Hank is smearing everyone who is different than himself with slander, whereas Todd is trying hard (embarrassingly hard, IMHO) to point people to Jesus. I can’t tell to whom Hank is trying to point people; I’m not convinced it’s to Jesus, or at least not to the God of Love that I know Him to be. In other words, it's worth examining the fruit of both ministries: when people encounter Hank and Todd, what is the result; do either of them bring people closer to Christ, closer to other Christians, inspire us to be more passionate about loving God?

So I wish my brother Hank and others like him would just shut the hell up. I mean that literally: it seems to me that their words further the agenda of hell more effectively than that of Heaven.

(Isn’t that funny: the right-wing fundamentalist preaching inclusion? Sheesh. I know I make a pretty poor right wing fundamentalist, but I still get accused of it. )

One more in the sake of fairness. But first, let me ask this: is the Bible the standard for our behavior today? And if it is, do we limit ourselves to only what the Bible permits, or do we permit ourselves everything that the Bible does not limit (whether by command or by principle)? I know many Christians who say they espouse the former: if the Bible doesn’t permit it, then I don’t do it! But they drive a car. And they brush their teeth. And they use flush toilets, power tools and clean underwear, none of which is in the Bible. The Amish come closest to that standard, and they don’t come particularly close.

Most believers actually live (regardless of their doctrines) by the second: if the Bible doesn’t prohibit it, then neither do I. (Well, it could be argued that a fair percentage of American Christians don’t limit themselves at all, but that’s another conversation.)

Todd gets in a lot of trouble for living that standard doctrinally. He teaches some weird things that are not Biblical. They are also not anti-biblical; that is: the Bible does not teach against what he is teaching, neither do his doctrines contradict Biblical doctrine, but they do not conform to the stories and teachings in the Bible either. For example, I’ve heard stories that vilify him for speaking about an angel named Emma (I’ve not heard him directly on this). Is it weird? Yes! I mean, "Heck yes!" Is it Biblical? Well, not in the strictest sense: as far as I know the Bible names only three angels in all of scripture, and Emma is not on that list. But does it contradict Biblical teaching? Not really. It’s like the subject of toilet paper: pretty much ignored in Scripture (possibly for good reason).

Maybe it’s time to shut up about how God chooses to deal with His son and his servant Todd Bentley, and do what He’s telling us to do. Hmm. I suppose that would apply to His servant Hank Hanegraff as well. I think I'll shut up now. But please, let's not waste our time criticizing brothers who do things differently than we do.


Practical Deliverance from Demons.

I've been discussing practical deliverance with a friend recently. It seemed appropriate to discuss it here. This approach, while effective in street ministry and casual encounters, certainly is not the only approach; there are gentler ones (I really like SOZO ministry for established relationships!).

My favorite teaching passage for deliverance is Mark 9, and Jesus is our model here, not the boys.

Some principles that work well for me:

  • Be loaded up on the glory of God before going into that battle. Since it’s hard to know when you’re going in, go ahead & stay loaded up on glory. (vs 1 – 12)
  • Don’t be surprised if the occasion is marked by crowds, disputing, amazement, hubbub and such (vs 14 – 16).
  • It’s not unusual for believers to not know what to do with demons. (v. 17-18).
  • Demons often manifest (act out) when confronted by the presence of God. (v20). Nevertheless, in His presence is the best place for them to become free (v20 – 27).
  • There are 3 pieces of information that may be helpful in finding the key to that person’s deliverance:
    1. History (v21)
    2. Symptoms (v 22)
    3. Ungodly beliefs (v24) (This was the one that Jesus picked up on in this event, and he corrected the false belief before delivering the boy. Note that it was his father’s belief that was the key.)
    4. Note that these can be learned supernaturally (through prophetic words or words of knowledge) or naturally (by conversation or observation); a combination is always helpful.
  • Rebuking and commanding are appropriate (v25). Note that
    1. a) these do not need to be loud or aggressive in either the physical or soul realms to be forceful in the spirit realm; my experience is just the opposite: the gentler my voice, the stronger my authority is on the spirit, and
    2. b) the rebuke and the command are directed at the demonic spirit; the person hosting the demon are almost uninvolved in the encounter.
  • Making a scene is to be avoided (v25) if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassing the person to whom you’re ministering.
  • Expect to see a physical reaction (possibly convulsions or something dramatic; more likely a substantial and Godly peace) in response to the exercise of real authority (v26)
  • Ministering to their physical needs comes after the deliverance (v 27 and other examples).
  • The best authority is a life characterized by prayer and fasting (v29: note that Jesus neither prayed nor fasted during this event).

The biggest issue is knowing that you have the authority in the circumstance and the demon has none when facing Jesus. In circumstances like yours – where you were dealing w/ a demon in a friend (if I understood the facts right) – then it helps to explain some of these things, at least enough to be comforting, to the person being ministered to.

Don’t be freaked: that’s the enemy’s goal: to get you to look at him instead of at Jesus. Weird voices, weird manifestations and the like are just part of the sideshow. I could tell you stories, but it would be redundant: if you’re looking at Jesus & listening to the Spirit in all of this, then the vitriol, the vomiting, levitation, or whatever, is completely irrelevant.

It would be easiest to teach this if we were ministering side by side with a demonized person; this will have to do for now. Please ask questions if you have any.

Walk in warm footsteps!


Giving vs. Taking

The other day, I was looking at some services offered online by a non-profit organization. Some of their services were offered with a “suggested donation” and others had a “required donation” attached to them.

So what’s the deal with a “required donation”? If it’s required, then it’s not a donation, is it?

There’s a huge difference between me giving something to you and you taking something from me, and changing the name does not change the reality. Calling my required payment a “donation” does not make it a voluntary payment any more than calling my one-ton dually truck an “economy car” will improve its gas mileage

Both are appropriate at times, by the way. For my 2-year old daughter, demanding my attention may be appropriate. There’s an argument that can be made that a government is within its rights demanding taxes. A church “demanding” an offering is not the same thing. Or if a street beggar demands a donation from me, that’s called robbery, and we have a real problem.

Since I’m always writing about church life, what’s the application here? It’s this: There’s a huge difference between me asking politely and then waiting for God to give something to me, versus my pulling on it and “taking it violently and by force.” It seems that both can be supported biblically.

Since this blog is about the Church, here are two examples of the challenge of “giving vs. taking” that I’ve encountered in Church life recently.

First, there are times that the church embraces “taking” when we should invite “giving.” Some examples:

· I’m part of a leadership team at my church. Not long ago, the leader started something that was a fine idea, but she required the team members to volunteer for it. I’m sorry, but if you require it, then it’s not possible for me to volunteer. You have taken something I would have willingly given, and in taking it, you have stolen from me the opportunity for me to exercise generosity.

· How many churches do you know that get a little carried away when recruiting volunteers, particularly for the office of Sunday School Teacher? Sometimes the recruiting process gets pretty heavy-handed, or is exchanged – like political favors – for rights and responsibilities in the church. (If you have not been part of this in your church, give thanks for godly leadership!)

· Offerings. While many (most?) churches treat this biblically, there are some instances – most visibly, perhaps, on Christian TV – where the “opportunity to give” becomes a compulsion. This, of course, is specifically proscribed in Scripture, but it remains a common practice, particularly when budgets are tight at Church.

Second, there are times that we’re more caught up in asking politely when we should be forcibly taking something. Some examples:

· The most famous example is in Matthew: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” I’m not going to attempt exegesis on the passage, except to note that in some circumstances involving the kingdom of heaven, violence and force are appropriate.

· Jacob is an example of someone who forcibly demanded something of God:

Genesis 32:24-29

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks."

But he said,"I will not let You go unless You bless me!"

27 So He said to him, "What is your name?"

He said, "Jacob."

28 And He said,"Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray."

And He said,"Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.

· I love the example of Elisha: “He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over.”

· I’d have to add times where we’re praying about subjects where God has already revealed His will. If God has promised. If God has – hypothetically speaking, of course – promised Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”, then mamby-pamby or pleading prayers are not appropriate. God has promised clearly to provide for you. If that’s not happening, then you and I have a right to get in His face about it.

We as sons and daughters of the Most High need to learn to be clear in our communication. If we are asking for something, then “No” is an acceptable answer, and this is the kind of communication we need to be using with each other. But if “No” is not an acceptable answer, then asking politely is probably not appropriate: there are times to exhibit violence and force, though these are probably not appropriate with human beings; rather let us become violent in laying hold of the (unimaginably great) blessings that God has promised.


Correcting Error with Truth

There are several ways in which the church has walked in an out-of-balance position for a long time. 

For the sake of discussion, let’s take a very old position from the dark ages: there once was a day that it was considered doctrine that the only person who could read the Bible or understand the truths it contained was the pastor (called the “priest” in those days). It was one of the things that were addressed in the Reformation. 

It is true enough to acknowledge that some people are more gifted in understanding and teaching doctrinal truth (they’re called “pastors” and “teachers” often enough); it’s just heresy to say that they’re the only ones qualified.

I’m not going to talk this subject; I’m using the subject as an illustration about the process of correcting error.

Think of a pendulum: we’ve been way off-center in some areas, and we’ve been off for a very long time, and it’s time to come back to truth. In our pre-reformation example, there was a truth (that pastors [“priests”] who have studied the Bible for years might understand it better than those reading it for the first time) that was taken to an unhealthy extreme position (that it was actually a sin for a non-priest to read the Bible or teach doctrine).

They were way off-center in their approach to the Word, and that heresy needed to be corrected. That which was in a very improper position must be brought back to its proper position, which is often a position of balance. In this example, the priesthood of all believers must be balanced with the gifting and training of pastors and teachers in the church.

The process of this correction is our topic today. There are at least two means of correcting such an error:

1) We can present the correct truth in the proper balance, and hope that those who are seriously out of balance will recognize the truth and repent (change their mind) to embrace the truth. Or

2) We can present the correct truth in the opposite over-emphasis, contrasting to the previous – and erroneous – over-emphasis. Hopefully, an over-emphasis in one direction (in this example, the priesthood of all believers) will counter-balance the previous over-emphasis (the gifting and training of pastors and teachers in the church).

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 the error of centuries (“the teacher is gifted to present doctrinal truth more than those not similarly gifted and trained”) and serves only to bump the listener's understanding a tiny bit closer to center: they've had years (or centuries) of error, and ONE statement that's properly balanced won't fix their understanding. Or

2) We over-emphasize the opposite truth (“Every believer must read the Word and learn from God directly”), in hopes that when it's heard in the context of years of error, it will bring people to a balanced perspective after the dust settles. The drawbacks are that:

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

b) it relies on teaching one error in order to correct an opposite error.

It seems to me that pastors and teachers will typically only see the first option ("present it in balance"), while prophets and apostles typically tend to see the second option more easily ("emphasize the opposite truth"). 

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. Ultimately, it is Jesus who has said, “I will build My Church” and it is not primarily my responsibility. Perhaps the greatest error is taking responsibility ourselves – taking it from Him – to build His Church in a way that pleases us.


Some Thoughts about Leadership in the Church

I’ve studied the subject of leadership for decades. It’s a fascinating study. There are many people, many studies, that can tell you what makes someone a good leader instead of a poor one, and why these leadership techniques work better than those techniques.
One of the more interesting subjects is the study of what makes a person a natural leader. Some say that it requires an outgoing personality, except that there are people who are not the least bit outgoing who are incredible leaders, and there are outgoing individuals - some of whom aspire to leadership - who are really poor leaders (many of these live in Hollywood or Washington DC).
Some say that the defining hallmark of a natural leader is the willingness to give useful directions to others. Well, in some people, that is a sign of a leader, but in others, it’s a sign of an insecure control freak whom nobody willingly follows. They have no followers.
Followers: that’s the only real sign of a leader that scholars have settled on: a leader is someone whom people follow. They may be charismatic or withdrawn, they may be good communicators or not, they may be organized or overwhelmed by the details of their life. They may or may not have education or position of power, but they have influence. There are some people whom folks follow naturally, and there are others that have to work to be effective at leading, but true leaders have people following them.
John MacArthur says that if you think you’re leading, but nobody is following, then you’re really only out taking a walk.
In the book of Romans, Paul describes a gift of leadership. I have noticed that some senior pastors have that gift of leadership and others do not. Some pastors have people crowding around them, trying to find helpful ways to follow them, while others find recruiting volunteers is like pulling teeth: people are not following them, no matter whether they hold a leadership position or not.
A brief digression in the interest of a balanced story: if God has withheld the leadership gift, then He has given others: teaching or pastoring are often given in its place. And it seems apparent that there are some senior pastors who are not actually called by God to that position, and therefore may not be gifted to do the work that He has not assigned.
I’ve known men and women who seem to be called to leadership in the church, but who struggle in that responsibility. Have you ever gone for a walk with a cat: they’re like that cat: always watching you to see which way you’re going to go, and then scurrying to get in front of you, no matter which way you go. These “leaders” always watching the church to see where they’re going, then they declare, “We’re going to go this way,” as they see the church already going this way. They don’t have a real voice, only an echo.
The challenge comes in that some of these folks have a large gathering of followers. The sad part is not that they have followers, but that they don't know where to lead those followers.
By contrast, others seem to have no difficulty staying out in front. They seem to know what’s coming around the corner before others, and are preparing those who follow them for God’s next move.
I’ve been reflecting on that question: what makes leadership work in the Church for these people. Is there something about those who seem to know the path instinctively that’s markedly different than those who struggle to find their direction?
I think there is: those who lead naturally and comfortably usually have developed the lifestyle of feeding themselves spiritually, and those who seem to be called to leadership but have difficulty leading pretty consistently depend on others to feed their spirits.
Since this vocabulary is not real common to the church today, let me illustrate it. In 1 Corinthians 3:2, Paul says, “I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it.” Paul had to feed the believers in Corinth; more than that, he had to feed them baby food. They needed Paul to feed them because they could not feed themselves.
What did he feed them? I’m glad you asked that.
A few chapters later, Paul declares: “I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” Paul was able to draw nourishment directly from God – whether from the Word or from his prayer, or from experiences like the one where he “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” In one way or another, Paul was able to draw revelation from the heart of God, to digest it, and to nourish not only his own spirit, but to nourish the many churches that he fathered. Heck, half of the books in the New Testament came from Paul drawing nourishment from the presence of God!
From the nourishment we draw from Father, we can feed those whom we lead. We will have the wisdom and strength to shepherd the flock of God; we’ll know the direction that God is heading so we will have both opportunity and resources to equip the flock to go there with Him; we’ll have confidence we’re living and moving in His will because we’ll know it from Him. We’ll be strong and fresh and confident in proportion to our ability to nourish ourselves directly from Him. This is the nourishment we draw from Him.
There is certainly nothing wrong with benefiting from the revelation of others. We are even instructed to “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We must both encourage and be encouraged by, instruct and be instructed by others in the Body.
But if we aspire to be effective leaders in among the Body of Christ, then we must draw near the Head of the Body. Unless we are able to feed ourselves, we will never be able to feed those whom we are leading, pastoring and teaching. Unless we are well connected to the Head, we will not be able to lead the Body.


Mercy out of Control

Today we’re talking about a politically incorrect subject: mercy out of control.

It will be easy to miscommunicate on this subject, so let me state my premise, and then we’ll go to work on the subject: It’s my observation that most of the gifts of mercy that operate in our culture – both secular and spiritual – are messed up – out of control – and as a result, our mercy often does more harm than good. There are people who have what the Bible describes as a gift of mercy, and they’re real gifts. But too often, the gift is used inappropriately.

Let’s contrast this a couple of ways: First, there are others, who don’t have that gift, for whom it is less instinctive to respond with mercy; we’re not going to discuss these people today. Second, it’s possible to use this gift out of impure or inadequate motivation as it is for any other gift, and here is where there are some interesting lessons.

Jim Jones had a real gift (though it was clearly not a gift of mercy!). His gift was drawing people together and leading them toward a common goal, and he did that well, but he did not use it for God’s glory: rather it ended up with a bowl of strange Kool-Aid and an entire community dead because of his abused gift. Jim Bakker had a real gift as he started Heritage USA; he drew a lot of people and a lot of investment, and then things went haywire and his wife Tammy Faye divorced him when Heritage USA fell down around his ears. We see pastoral gifts, evangelistic gifts, perhaps even apostolic gifts used without the direction of the Holy Spirit, used for self-serving motivation (the media loves to report those errors!); why then do we assume that the gift of mercy is immune from such error?

The other day I saw a mother and child in a grocery store; you’ve seen them too. The child is acting out in selfishness or in rebellion, and instead of disciplining the child, mom capitulates and the child gets her candy and is appeased for the moment. (We see the opposite often enough as well: a parent in the grocery store who disciplines the child to the point of abuse, but that’s not the point of this article.)

A friend of mine (we’ll call him “Bob”) has several teenage kids. One of his daughters (“Suzy”) had moved out of his home and in with her boyfriend the drug dealer. She became addicted to a variety of drugs, and predictably fell on hard times, and wanted to come home. Both mom and dad are mercy-driven people and invited Suzy to come back home, but she came back with the drug habit and with the boyfriend. Over the next several months, some of the other kids also began experimenting with drugs.

Bob’s mercy was out of control.

The goal here is not to accuse or judge the addicted daughter, though doubtless she made her share of mistakes. The bigger error here may have been mom and dad not tempering their mercy with wisdom. Their choice was not between mercy and judgment (that one’s over: the Book is clear that “mercy triumphs over judgment”), but rather between the mercy of emotions and the mercy that is built on wisdom.

Yes, Bob felt bad for his daughter, and because of his daughter, and he wanted to rescue her. Maybe he saw some street people, and imagined Suzy begging for handouts on the street and sleeping under a bridge. He saw the options of judgment (“You made your choice, now live with it!”) and mercy (“You poor thing! Here, let me fix it for you!”) and chose the latter. That was a mistake that we make all too often in the church: we exercise mercy from our flesh.

I understand Bob feeling bad for his daughter! But his mercy – being untempered by wisdom – endangered his other kids and left Suzy’s sin free to control her. His error was in the analysis: the choice was not between judgment and mercy; it was between foolish mercy and wise mercy.

I tell these stories to illustrate my premise: most of the mercy gifts in the church today are out of control. First, we make the same mistake that Bob did: we mistakenly think that we can only choose between judgment and mercy. Since we begin with a lie, we can’t expect to discover the truth easily.

The second mistake we make is that we let the world tell us how we should express mercy, rather than letting God instruct us, and the world is not well informed in the wisdom of God. So the world says, “Do something, for pity’s sake!” and that may be part of the problem: pity is not the answer.

We see people making poor choices, and we want to make those choices for them. We see people hurting, and we want to ease the pain. But in reality, if we make their choices, then they never learn wisdom; if we ease their pain, then they never learn the lessons that discomfort can bring.

Just like Jim Jones’s gift of leadership desperately needed God’s wisdom, so Bob’s gift of mercy needed God’s wisdom. In fact, I’m not convinced that any of God’s gifts are going to function properly without God’s wisdom, but we tend to overlook the need for wisdom with mercy.

So rather than just jumping in to “rescue” and “fix it” and “save them”, I am proposing that we the church actually look to our Head for wisdom: “How would You like to meet this need, Lord?” Because none of us can claim to be more merciful than God, and certainly none of us can claim more wisdom than He. And because we’re damaging people by rescuing them unwisely.

So when we see people hurting, let’s stop and pray. Let's respond with the wisdom of God, not react out of our flesh.


It’s the Voice

I’m finding myself more and more convinced I’ve spent most of my Christian life backwards.

I grew up in a mainline denominational church, where they taught me Bible stories both as a child and as an adult. Next to the stories, the priority was on knowing the traditions of the church. I was taught to interpret the Word of God through the filter of my denomination’s doctrine: the doctrine was right, and what I read in the Word was right if it agreed with the doctrine.

Then I spent a couple of decades in the evangelical church, where I learned to study the Word: learn the principles that the Word teaches, and sit under those principles. My doctrine is to come from the Word, and my life is to be conformed to the principles that the Word teaches me and I judge the events around me by those principles.

The first can be described as deductive learning (I relate to the Word as it supports my previously deduced beliefs) and the second as inductive (I sit under the Word, and it instructs me both in doctrine and in behavior).

I’ve come to the conclusion that both of those methods have some value, but are ultimately woefully inadequate. Their value comes with the fact that there’s something outside of myself that’s an ultimate standard, rather than my experience being the standard by which everything is judged (which is the value structure taught in public schools and popular culture today: truth is personal: what’s true for you may not be true for anybody else). Knowing doctrine or knowing the Word, and treating either as a standard, has value.

On the other hand, both are fundamentally knowledge, and there’s trouble with that. “Knowledge puffs up” teaches the New Testament (1 Corinthians 8:1). It doesn’t say “knowledge of non-spiritual things puffs up,” or “knowledge of things not true puffs up.” It says, “knowledge puffs up,” and my inductive study shows me that the Greek vocabulary use here (fusio/w: fusioi) means “to make arrogant or haughty.” So knowledge of doctrine and knowledge of the Word of God work towards making me arrogant or haughty. How many times have we run into websites from people who have their doctrine down, but who are characterized by arrogance? The Word itself teaches that this is the inevitable result of growing in knowledge of the Word.

The other issue is that building my life on principles has serious limitations. Principles, like laws, are fairly immutable standards to which we must conform human lives. Interestingly, disparate principles can be drawn from the Word (and we already know how much variety there is in Christian doctrine).

When I watch some of my favorite heroes of the Bible, particularly in the maturity they develop in their later years, I observe them in a completely different model. In Acts 27, I see Paul talking to the ship’s crew based on what an angel has said to him. In the gospel of John, I hear Jesus declaring repeatedly that He’s doing and saying what God says and does. In fact, while the gospels do announce His fulfillment of prophecy I’m not aware of a single place where the Son of God describes the scriptures as the standard by which He determines either His actions or His teaching. Yes, He obeys them (very well!), but He doesn’t present them as His standard to obey.

Now lest some think that I disparage the Bible, let me hasten to say: the Word is supremely precious, and it is the standard by which all else is measured. Jesus never acted or taught anything contrary to the Word (though He re-interpreted it often enough), and I aspire to the same: that everything I teach is grounded in the Word. I note that when He was tested in the wilderness, Jesus wielded the word against the enemy with great effectiveness! I love that model!

But ultimately, I don’t want to be led by my doctrine. And I’m ready to be done with being led by principles, as valuable as they are. I want to be led by the voice of God; I want my life to be built on relationship with my Daddy more than on the book He left behind.

Certainly – since He is immutable – anything I hear Him saying now must be judged by what He has already said: if I hear something that contradicts the Word, I’ve heard wrong, and I need to hear again. On the other hand, if I hear something that contradicts popular interpretation or application of the Word, then I may have heard correctly: I’ll certainly want to be careful.

It’s been said that following the Book without following the voice of His Spirit qualifies me to be a Pharisee, and following His voice without the Book is flakiness. There are a thousand caveats, disclaimers and principles I can add here which would doubtless be of some benefit, if only to calm the fears of those who have built their lives on knowledge, or those whom they have taught. But I really only want to communicate a single point today: following the voice of God is more valuable than even following the Book of God.

The Thomas Syndrome

I’m really glad that I’m not the one responsible for the statement, “I will build my church.” That’s a monstrously large task, and I’m not always convinced that we His Church are all that willing to be built. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that He’s doing His job and doing it well.

One subject that I am watching Him addressing in His Church is what I call The Thomas Syndrome. You remember Thomas? He’s the guy that will forever be famous for the line, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

The central is along the eyes of “I trust my own eyes and my own experience. Yours isn’t good enough for me to trust.” We don’t say it that bluntly because we’re too polite, but that’s the essence of what we say to each other so often.

What we actually say is something like, “I’ll pray about it” or “I’m sure God will show me if I need to deal with that.” Or “No, God’s not telling me to repent of that sin right now.” Or “I’m glad that works for you.” Or “I just don’t see it that way.” I recently heard someone actually say “I don’t need any prophets to listen to, I have the Word.”

It all means the same thing: “I will not believe your experience. I must have my own experience before I will believe what you’re telling me.”

We were taught that in third grade science class: only trust empirical data (though when you come right down to it, that’s not practiced very well by those who preach it loudest).

Jesus corrected that perspective: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We usually teach this as “Hooray for all the people who are Christians, but have not seen Jesus for themselves. They’ve believed the testimony of other people who haven’t seen him, and that’s good.” That’s probably a fine thing, but I don’t believe it’s what Jesus was talking about here.

The context supports this interpretation: “When someone tells you what they’ve experienced in Me, you need to believe them.”

Consider His response when the twelve didn’t believe the boys from Emmaus: “He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” In other words: two of them had an experience – a strange and unprecedented experience – with Jesus and He expected the rest to believe them. He rebuked them – that’s a strong word – for not believing them. He required the apostolic leaders of the church to believe the two kids – not leaders, not even important enough to name – who had experienced Jesus in a new and different way.

For the record, they eventually got it right later on. When God bypassed the leadership and poured out His spirit on (shiver!) gentiles, they grilled Peter for even preaching to the gentiles, but when they heard about what they experienced, they changed both their response and their theology: “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

Does that mean that we believe every strange and spurious story that comes along? No? Then how do I know to believe the kids from Emmaus, and not the guy next to him that's just looking for attention? How do I judge what is God and what is not?

Here’s my point: The One who builds His church does not build it the way that you and I would. He sometimes shows Himself to no-name kids on the road to some country village, and He expects that the Apostles of the Church to believe their testimony and to change their expectations of God (their theology) because of it.

Here’s how that can work: until that time, almost nobody had the Holy Spirit resident in them. Now, we all do, though we don’t all listen to Him all that well. That’s probably why He sometimes disguises His voice: sometimes teenagers in Emmaus, sometimes as a friend’s encouragement, a secular movie, a weird dream, whatever. We’re not listening for what we understand. We’re listening for His voice. As He did with Elijah, He still speaks into a distraction in a still small voice.

He’s expecting us to hear it. And when we hear, He’s expecting us to believe.

Doctrinal Integrity

I’m becoming more and more aware of a confusing situation – a problem – in the church. It’s hard to talk about head on, so I’m going to approach it from the back side, through a story.

One day some years ago, my family and I were out driving on a sunny Sunday afternoon, talking about our need to replace the vehicle we were riding in. We happened upon a small car lot, so we drove through, looking to see what they had that was interesting.

Within seconds, we were greeted by a salesman with slicked back hair, a polyester tie and big toothed smile: the quintessential used-car salesman. He proceeded to tell us why it was in our best interests to trade in the vehicle we were driving for a similar car of the same make and mileage for “only a few thousand dollars more,” and we could make payments at “only 12% interest.” I imagined him licking his chops, as he looked on us in our tired station wagon.

It was clearly not in our best interests to do business with this gentleman. My daughter called him a shark.

I came away from that experience with a new principle for my life: “Never ask a car salesman if I should buy a car.” The reason is obvious: some car salesmen have difficulty separating what’s good for their commission check from what’s good for my household, and their recommendation – their “expertise” – is self-serving.

Another illustration: imagine a judge presiding over a trial in which his brother-in-law is the defense attorney. The reason judges recuse themselves from cases like that is because the public cannot trust their impartiality: they have a conflict of interest: do I serve justice, or do I help out my family?

I see this happening in the church with alarming frequency: I see self-serving principles taught from the pulpit without any acknowledgement of the conflict of interest. I hear doctrines taught as truth, which clearly benefit those teaching them, and which sometimes do not benefit those being taught. And nobody questions either the doctrine or the motive.

What am I talking about? I’ll state these doctrines more bluntly than they’re taught from the pulpit, but this is the content being taught. I’ll state them very directly in the interest of clarity:

* You must tithe in this church where I get my paycheck or else you’re stealing from God,”

* If you’re not in this building every Sunday morning you’re in town, the devil’s gonna getcha!”

* If you don’t teach in Sunday School, our children are all going to hell!” or

* Give $1000 to my ministry and God will give you [fill in the blank]!”

Let me digress long enough to clarify what I am not saying: I am not saying that the doctrine of tithing is incorrect. I am not saying that the doctrine of covering is heretical, or that there’s something wrong with teaching Sunday School. I believe in tithing and I believe in raising our children as a community.

I’m also not saying that we should reject any teaching that could possibly be construed to the benefit of those teaching. I’m also not saying that the people who teach these things are necessarily teaching them out of self-serving motives. An ethical used car salesman can give me good advise about cars; an honest judge can judge fairly even when his family is involved; a televangelist truly can speak about money without greed in his heart. A true pastor or can invite people to join his church without thought of personal gain – financial or otherwise. It can happen, but it’s hard to have confidence it’s actually happening.

I am saying that it’s kind of awkward that the only people teaching the doctrine that individual believers must belong to an organized Sunday-morning church are the leaders of organized Sunday-morning churches. I’m saying that it’s confusing that the only people teaching that the Old Testament laws about tithing apply to New Testament believers (and who also teach that the rest of the Old Testament laws don’t apply to New Testament believers) are generally the same people whose paycheck comes out of that offering basket they want me to fill up: they may be teaching the truth, but it sure appears that they’re going to benefit more than I am from that teaching.

I’m not convinced that the system is corrupt, or that just because a pastor benefits from our obedience to his teaching, that he is necessarily teaching from a self-serving heart. I know a lot of pastors, and frankly, the vast majority of them are men and women of integrity. I have watched one or two of them struggle with the very issues I’m writing about here. But I’ve watched many others – particularly in small churches, where the size of Sunday’s offering determines whether they get a paycheck this month or not – where the line between their doctrine and their need becomes seriously blurred.

Obviously, a response is appropriate on the part of leaders and teachers who teach doctrine from a motive of self-enrichment, and that response starts with repentance for trusting something other that God as their provider. It may or may not be appropriate to acknowledge the conflict of interest publicly: the real response of a right heart must be towards God first, and only then towards man. As leaders, we must guard our teaching, our counseling, our hearts from mixed motivation.

Interestingly, as believers, our response to this dilemma is old news: after we forgive them, we as the Body of Christ in the pews need to examine the Word for ourselves, not just live off of what is fed to us by others. I’m not advocating an abandonment of all that is taught by paid pastors; I’m advocating that we test the things taught us, that we “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.


A Warning About Declarations to a Prophetic Community

We’ve been hearing for several years now: our words have substantial power, not just in the lives of those we speak to, but they change realities; they release spiritual power. Before I go any further, I want to affirm some of the basic truths held there:
· One of the ways that I’m created like my creator is that, like Him, my words carry power and create or change the reality of the world around me.
· This is one of the reasons that the Word commands those working in the prophetic realm to speak “comfort edification and encouragement.”
· We can exercise this authority intentionally (perhaps as declarations) or unintentionally.
OK. Now on to the meat of this article. Jeremiah 28 contains a warning about making specific declarations that are not within the will of God. But first an overview of declarations.
There are at least three categories of Declarations:
1. Those things that God has already said to us specifically. We can declare these boldly, knowing with certainty that we’re working within the purposes of God.
2. Those things that fall within the parameters of God’s blank checks: “Ask whatever you want,” He said, “and you shall have it.” There were conditions, of course: primarily that we be well and truly “in Him.” (See Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 14, John 15, John 16 as examples.)
3. Those that are our will, for our own benefit, but are not part of God’s plan This includes those things that we already know are contrary to God’s will.
And this is where Hananiah and Jeremiah 28 come in; I recommend you read it again now. Please. God had declared one thing (70 years under Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke), and Hananiah declared something completely contrary (only 2 years in captivity). Some thoughts:
1. As a prophet, Hananiah was aware that he was directly contradicting Jeremiah’s word; he broke Jerry’s wooden yoke. It was a prophetic challenge, and he knew it.
2. The scriptures don’t identify Hananiah’s prophetic mantle any differently than Jeremiah’s: he was not a “false prophet.”
3. Hananiah was certainly declaring something far more comfortable than that which the true word of the Lord had declared. If I were going into captivity, I would prefer 2 years to seventy. And certainly it’s easy to understand why someone would want to be seen as a prophet who stood up to the judgment that was facing them.
4. God (through Jeremiah) declares he has not sent Hananiah with this message, and that the message he is speaking consists of lies, and that he was teaching the people “rebellion against the Lord.” Surely a prophet and the son of a prophet would know that he was not sent by God.
In verse 11, Hananiah prophesies the breaking of Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke, and he does it from his own will, contrary to God’s will. Yet in verses 13 & 14, God tells Jeremiah that things are different now because of Hananiah’s word. In other words, even though Hananiah was prophesying “lies”, even though his declarations were self-motivated, they had effect.
God backs up Hananiah’s prophetic word, even though it was in error. But it wasn’t a stamp of approval of his ministry. It cost Hananiah his life:
“Hear now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.’”(Jeremiah 28:15&16)
Now, this is Old Testament, but it seems that God honored the rebellious prophet’s word, knowing that it was a rebellious word, but he mitigated the effects of that word in two ways:
1. He removed the prophet from the scene. Hananiah actually died 2 months later.
2. He does an end around to accomplish His purposes in spite of Hananiah’s fulfilled word: “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made in their place yokes of iron.” (v13,14)
Hananiah’s word intended to reduce the yoke that Jeremiah had prophesied (from 70 years to 2 years), but instead, it increased the severity of the yoke (from a relatively comfortable wooden yoke to an immovable iron one).
The lesson in this: as a prophetic people created in the Creator’s image, our words have power, even in rebellion. But we must guard our words so that we speak what we really want to see created. Yes, God will mitigate the effects of our unwise words, but who among us wants to find himself opposed by the Almighty?
Let’s guard our hearts and our words. Obviously we must run from Hananiah’s example of defying the word of the Lord for his own good. But if we are to be judged for every idle word (and we are), then we must guard our casual speech as well.
We will be a prophetic people if we follow in the footsteps of our Father. Let’s speak “comfort edification and encouragement,” as far as possible, but whatever we speak, let it be His words, not ours.