Showing posts with label 2009. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2009. Show all posts


It’s Not About Faith.

OK, that’s going to unsettle some folks. I’m among them. But that’s what he said.
I was walking in the woods in the wee hours of the morning, and Papa whispered to me, “It’s not about faith.”
I stopped walking. Right there in the middle of the trail. And as he unfolded it, I understood a little more of what he was saying.
It’s not about faith. It’s about relationship.
Specifically, It’s not about what I call faith, what we call faith.
Faith is fundamentally an exercise of the spirit. It has nothing at all to do with what I believe. It’s certainly not about whether I believe or not. It’s about whom I believe in.
If I understand and agree with all the appropriate doctrines, that’s not an exercise of my spirit; it’s an exercise of my mind, part of my soul. Therefore, it’s not an act of my spirit, it’s an act of my soul.
It’s good to believe the right theology. It’s good to have a mind that is disciplined in the things of God, but it’s a different good thing than faith.
Instead of being about what I believe, faith is about whom I believe in. Again, it’s not intellectual agreement: “Yes, Jesus is the Son of God!” Heck, even the demons believe that, and they certainly don’t walk in faith. Faith is about whom I believe in, and it’s about whether I put my trust in him.
Whether I can pass the theology tests has nothing to do with whether I put my trust, my confidence in Jesus or not. In fact, people with no competent theology whatsoever can legitimately put their faith in Jesus.
I know a woman who had the gospel preached to her by a fellow drug addict: “Saved? Yeah, I know how you can get saved!” declared the druggie, and she went on to outline how to trust in Christ, and her partner prayed as instructed, received Christ, turned away from her sin and is still serving God decades later.
I know a man who was by his own admission so strung out on drugs that he could hardly talk. He was passed out on the beach next to his surfboard when some guys woke him up to tell him about Jesus. It was the first he’d ever heard the name, but he trusted, was healed and delivered, and has since led tens of thousands of others to faith, and has memorized most of the New Testament.
These two had no theology whatsoever. It was not possible for them to believe the right things. And until they had put their faith in the person of Christ, the rest of it would have been impossible, and it may have been a hindrance.
If I understand the right doctrine and agree with it, that’s not an act of my spirit; it’s an act of my mind, so it is not faith. In fact, it’s knowledge, and the Bible teaches us that “knowledge puffs up.” Even knowledge that is good and right and true puffs one up.
If I know what I should do or believe and I force myself to do that, this also is not an act of my spirit; it’s an act of my will, so it is also not faith.
If I feel emboldened and ready for any challenge, I may call that feeling faith, but it is not an act of my spirit; it’s an expression of my emotions, so it is not faith.
Correct knowledge is good. Right choices are good. Stirred emotions are good. In fact, I’m not sure it’s entirely possible to walk with Jesus over time without them. Each can serve as a tool to allow me to build relationship with God, or they can be used as a weapon against me, enticing me to trust in myself, in my soul, rather than in him.
But as far as the kind of faith that is described as “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” they’re pretty much useless.
But the goal isn’t that would have the perfect faith. It’s not about faith. It’s about the relationship I cultivate by faith between the Creator of the Universe and myself. Faith – even correct and right faith – is not the goal; it’s the means to the goal. The goal is him.
Paul talks about it in Philippians. He uses statements like “I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” He describes the things that he’s willing to lose “that I might know him.”
That’s the goal: He is my goal, our goal. That we would know him. That we would be known by him. That our fellowship would be with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.
That’s what it’s about.

Prophets Today? Are They Real?

I had an interesting conversation online recently: we have many people in the church today who claim to be “prophets” but who are clearly motivated by greed or by a need for acceptance or respect. How can we trust that there are any real prophets today?

There are evangelists in the church and some of those seem to be motivated by, um... something less than God's heart. Yet we never question whether the office of the evangelist is now vacant. I know some evangelists who are very skilled in their gift, and others who have a legitimate gift, but have no training, no discipline and inferior motives; who have too few skills supporting their gift.

So too the prophet: some few indeed are motivated by personal gain, whether financial, social or emotional. Their failure does not invalidate the reality of others. NT prophets have a different role than OT ones: the Spirit is now on "all flesh" where in the OT, it was very rare, yet in these "all flesh" days, the ministry of the prophet is still needed. Agabus was one; Paul and Barnabas were too (AC 13). The instruction about prophets (eg 1 CO 12-14) and warnings about false prophets (eg 1 JN 4) indicate their presence in the NT community of faith.

I've known scores of legitimate prophets over the years, a very few who claimed to be prophets and were not, and quite a few folks who were legitimately called to prophetic ministry, but lack the discipline, the skills, the training to use the gift properly. Too many people with real & legitimate gifts prophesy not out of God's heart of love, but out of their own hurts, out of their religious culture, out of "the second heaven" (in contrast to 2 Corinthians 12) as if it were from God.

And of course, when a man or woman of God whom we know and trust says, "God said thus to me", then whether we understand or not, we much discern: either they are deceived, or they are intentionally deceiving you, or they are telling you the truth, though it may be outside of your own experience. I have had prophets tell me what I had prayed in my hidden place the night before: either they are hearing from God, or there's something demonic going on, but it absolutely cannot be explained away. The first man who did it to me, I knew to be a man of God, which eliminated the option of my blaming the devil.

If I am called to be a pastor, I must also acquire training and develop character. Likewise if I am called to be a teacher or an evangelist: I must acquire (and learn from!) training and develop character. In the same way, if I am called to be a prophet or apostle, I must acquire training and character, and personally, I believe these latter gifts require more of both training and character than the former ones simply because we have so many fewer examples of what a godly prophet or godly apostle is. We can always look to Billy Graham as an illustration of evangelist, Jack Hayford as a pastor, John Maxwell as a teacher. It’s harder to point to as visible, as clear an example of a prophet or apostle.

Lack of training or character does not invalidate the office, nor my call to it. It merely invalidates the results of my ministry.


Gatekeeping in my Neighborhood

Several years ago, my family was in a tough way and needed to find a home to rent. We made two lists: things we needed in a home, and things we wanted in a home. Through a series of miracles, financial and otherwise, we actually purchased a house that had everything on both lists. We were elated.

But the elation was short-lived. Our home had everything that we knew to ask for, but there were some things we didn’t know to ask for. In our first week living there, I learned of three drug dealers on our block. I watched drug deals go down at the front door of the house across the street while my kids played in my yard. They knew about that dealer, and they told me about the other two dealers on the block, and which houses they lived in.

This was absolutely not OK with me. I talked to the authorities, and they told me about the standards of evidence that they needed in order to intervene. I talked to other neighbors, and they shook their heads and “tsk tsk’d”.

Then I talked to God. More precisely, I whined at God. “God, why is this going on? This isn’t right! Make it stop!”

It seemed as if he let me vent for a while, and when I paused to catch my breath, He interrupted. “So what are you going to do about it, Son?” Hunh? That stopped my whining immediately. Once my head stopped spinning, I asked more intelligently, “Uh… what can I do?”

He gave me some prayer strategies: some specific ways to address the situation in prayer, rather than through legal means, social means, or whining. The specific strategies aren’t important except that they involved me obeying Him, and they involved me making some particular declarations over my neighborhood. Throughout the process, God used the metaphor of a gatekeeper with me: the one who decides who can come in and who cannot.

So I obeyed: I prayed the things He said to pray for, the way He said to pray it. It was odd stuff, so I did it in the middle of the night and the wee hours of the morning: I didn’t want someone calling the cops on me!

His instruction to me was to establish some "gates" at the entrances to my neighborhood. That felt really weird. I didn't see anything in the natural, looking with my "spiritual eyes," they looked like the gates of an ancient walled city.

Fundamentally, the decree to the "gates" was: "Welcome in the Holy Spirit, and the human spirits of the people who live here, and their legitimate guests. Keep out every other spirit, human or demonic."

Suffice it to say: it worked. Within 30 days, the three dealers were gone. The one across the street sold the house to a family with a daughter the same age as my daughter. The other two just picked up and left, leaving empty houses. All three houses were soon remodeled.

I was stunned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen prayer answered in more detail than I did in this adventure: first our house, then the removal of the drug dealers. Life was good!

Then my next door neighbor invited a woman to live with him. She brought guests: two silicon implants for him, two full-blooded wolves for herself, and a host of demonic co-habitants. Life was no longer good.

I called every government agency I could think of that might have some authority with wolves: federal, state, and local agents told me time and time again: “No sir, wolves don’t belong in a residential neighborhood, but yes sir, she does have the necessary permits for them. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

I ignored the time that they lunged from the back of her Toyota pickup and nearly ate me. But when they tried to eat my daughter (they didn’t succeed, but just barely – she was unscathed), I confronted the neighbor: politely, gently, because he was a wimpy little guy and I didn’t want to intimidate him. But the wimpy little guy got big and snarly when I suggested that the wolves shouldn’t live there: he cussed me up one side and down the other in his rage, and vowed in no uncertain terms that they were not leaving, not today, not ever!

Hokay! That’s not going to work!

So I tried prayer. Again, I whined at God; again, He interrupted, but more quickly this time. “What are you going to do about it?” Again my slack-jawed “Hunh?” Then He went on, “You’re my representative in that neighborhood. It’s up to you. What’s your decision? Do they stay or do they go?”??

That floored me. I didn’t have a theology to deal with that kind of a question, but I didn’t hesitate. The wolves wanted to eat my daughter, and God was saying that it was up to me? “Heck no! They cannot stay. They have to go!” and I knew I was speaking with the authority of a judge announcing a decree.

That very weekend, they moved out. No explanation. The guy that cussed me out and shouted that they were staying, took their wolf-house down himself, packed it into the Toyota truck and moved it away. We never saw the wolves again, or their owner with the implants, except once, and the Police arrived en masse with drawn weapons to make sure that didn’t happen again. No explanation for that either.

Since then, I’ve tried to exercise this authority in other ways, and when I felt that I was following God’s leading rather than my own, I have found that things often unnaturally change.

I have also found that I need to increase my skill in wielding this power: I watched a porn shop close after I made some decrees, only to be followed by another in its place, and that one was more firmly rooted (though it had a “going out of business!” sign on it regularly). A pagan worship center was closed, only to open up again a couple of blocks away. Both have since gone out of business

These are curious stories, and true ones, but what’s the purpose?

I have developed a couple of guiding principles from these events, and the others that surrounded them (this was an interesting season in my life!):

1) God delegates authority to His representatives in an area. (My “area” of influence was only a couple of blocks; others’ territory may be smaller or larger.)

2) He takes that delegated authority very seriously. When He gives authority, He means it.

I guess there’s a third principle:

3) I probably ought to exercise the authority that I’ve been given, and I probably ought to exercise it for good purpose.

I know I’m nothing special. May I suggest these principles for the life of the church in this season? May I suggest these principles for you?

The Pilgrimgram comes from an elder Pilgrim about the thing we call "church." Seldom politically correct, this is what I hear God saying to and among His Church today. Feel free to share it with others.

Freedom within Limits

"Freedom within Limits" is a real thing.

Years ago, I worked with a daycare that had a field for their playground; the kids stayed in the middle of the field, or near the building. When we fenced in the field, their behavior changed: now they used the whole field.

The Bible treats us this way. In Galatians 5:13, Paul says "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love." That's freedom within limits: "Yes you're free, but you're also free from sin! In your freedom, don't choose sin."

The Pharisees of Jesus time set a model that is occasionally followed today: "Yes you're free, but you're also free from choosing! In your freedom, don't choose anything." As leaders, they choose to keep us safe from ever making a mistake, ever becoming exposed to anything unhealthy, or anything that could eventually become unhealthy.

And so they set up fences to protect us. Like this poor guy has.

The foundation on which he stands reads "Freedom" but he's fenced in so tight he's functionally immobilized.

The fence around the daycare's playground enclosed about half an acre: there was room where the kids could run all day, wear themselves out. It also enclosed the coolest playground in town: bridges, climbing things, tunnels, a fireman's pole, all custom-designed and hand-made with love. There was so much fun inside the fence that we never had trouble with the kids even wanting to leave. In fact, it was difficult - on sunny days - to bring them back inside after play time was over.

There must be fences around our lives. But the fences must be so big that we can run at full speed as long as we can and still not run into fences. There must be enough play stuff inside the fence - stuff like opportunities to heal the sick, disciple young believers, field trips to glorious meetings, treasure hunts on the streets - there must be enough of a playground that we don't ever want to get out of the fence.

That's the way life in the Kingdom should be!


The Curse of Curses

It occurs to me that we the church don’t really understand curses the way we need to. I suspect that God will be releasing a fair bit of new revelation on the subject of dealing with curses over the next several years.
I need to think this through a bit. Fortunately, this is a blog and that’s what blogs are for: to think out loud. Thanks for sharing this with me.
Proverbs 26:2: Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight.
Obviously, if there’s no cause, any curses aren’t going to stick to me. But in this is the clear inference that if there is cause, then the curses may very well stick to me, and I will be cursed.
Now, on the validity of curses, consider Joshua and the city of Jericho:
Joshua 6:26: Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, "Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates."
Now add this verse from several hundred years later:
1 Kings 16:34: In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho . He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn , and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.
So Joshua declared a curse on the un-known rebuilder of the city. In other words, there was no cause for that curse to alight, but when a guy named Hiel starts building the city, suddenly curse sticks, and the conditions of the curse kicked in.
Curses are rather like laws. The law of this land – and to a certain extent, the Law of the Old Covenant – are not primarily a statement of “You may not do this,” but more a statement of “If you do this, this is what will happen to you.” The law cannot change behavior (we’ve known that, haven’t we?)
Joshua’s curse never said, “Nobody can ever rebuild this city.” Rather, he said, “If they do, this is what will happen to him.” That’s what curses are like: when the curse has “a cause”, it will stick to the person that gives it the cause, and bring about the results of the curse.
Sometimes, the details of the curse are not real specific, as in Abraham’s covenant with God:
Genesis 12:3: I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
In this case, the curse describes the person who will receive the curse, and the condition that will make the curse stick, and they are the same: whomever curses Abraham (and his descendents, since the blessing was for generations); but it never describes the nature of that curse. Those who curse Abe’s descendents will be cursed, but the nature of that curse are not detailed. I suspect that the curse that falls on the curser is the same curse they fired at Abe’s kids: whatever they curse Abraham’s children with falls on themselves, but that’s mostly an opinion.
For the record, this business of cursing is not for us as believers. Jesus commanded us:
Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Also for the record, Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the Law:
Galatians 3:13-14: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
And there will be an end to the season of curses altogether. In Revelation, John is describing eternity:
Revelation 22:3: And there shall be no more curse , but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
OK, now for some principles on the subject of curses:
1. Anything we do from obedience to the Law – by extension, anything from a sense of obligation or duty as sole motivation – is cursed.
Galatians 3:10: For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.
2. A curse may wander around unfulfilled for centuries until it is fulfilled. See the example of Joshua (above), whose curse sat there unfulfilled hundreds of years after Joshua declared it.
3. I can choose whether I get stuck with a curse or not by whether or not I live my life with a cause for that curse.
Now think with me for a minute about application of these principles:
If we put a Christian bumper sticker on our car and drive like hell, then we deserve the curses spoken against us by other drivers. Trust me, they’re being spoken, and passionately. We live under a curse – many curses – because of our driving.
If we have a habit of saying things like “That was stupid!” or “I always do that!” when we make a mistake, we’re speaking curses against ourselves, and they’re likely to stick. We live under curses because of our habits of speech.
We live in a season when our nation looks win disfavor, even anger, against Arab nations, and there is a fair bit of cursing of Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia in popular culture. Remember Genesis 12:3: there is a curse on those who curse Abe’s kids, and it also means that anyone who curses the Arab nation may also make themselves a target of this curse, as they are the children of his son Ishmael, who is the father of the Arab nations.
My recommendation is this: stop cursing. (That’s not the same as “stop cussing”, though there is room for that argument as well.) There is no good that comes from speaking evil over people, whether generally (eg. Iraq) or specifically (the guy who just cut you off on the freeway), whether others or yourself. If we deal in curses, we are likely to earn them ourselves, and then the swallow stops flying and the curses come to rest on us; instead of living under the blessing of God, we live under curses, and everything goes wrong. Or those curses rest on someone else, and they have to live with what we’ve foolishly declared over their lives.


Metaphors for Wise Warfare

We the church have talked about “spiritual warfare” for decades. In the past, we’ve yelled at demonic strongholds and called that warfare, or we’ve described unlucky breaks in life as spiritual warfare.

God is raising the bar in spiritual warfare. We’ve gotten away with ignorance and immaturity and sometimes foolishness for years. But over the past few years, over the next few years, He’s bringing us into a greater level of maturity.

I have only the highest regard for those who have been involved in warfare these many years. They’ve faced ignorance and opposition and sometimes just plain bull-headedness from the church, and they’ve stood in the gap on our behalf.

That incredible faithfulness notwithstanding, I believe the Lord is moving us into a new level of maturity, a new level of authority in the realm of spiritual warfare. I do not believe that those who have been involved in warfare in the Spirit have been only playing at “war games!” However, when we look back on this place from the place God is taking us to, we will say, “up until then, we were only playing with shiny toy guns. We were only waving our arms and pointing our fingers and shouting ‘bang!’”

Here’s the problem: I don’t entirely know where we’re going; I just know we’re moving forward.

I was discussing this with one of my mentors the other day, and we were using the American Military as a metaphor for spiritual warfare; much of this will be familiar.

Foot Soldiers: The most common role in this battle is the simple foot soldier: we obey orders given us from our officers and noncoms over us. We generally don’t have the strategic overview of the war, or even the battle that we’re in; we just point our weapon as we’re commanded and pull the trigger when so instructed.

Noncommissioned Officers: Other non-officers with more skills and more experience and a tactical understanding of the battle; if we’re wise, we’ll follow their advice, even though they don’t wear the brass of an officer. They may not know the big picture, but they know how to get the foot soldiers through this alive! These are the home group leaders, mentors, deacons.

Officers: These men and women have strategic-level understanding of portions of the warfare; they often receive orders from above, but sometimes they are given the objectives to accomplish, and they make their own plans with the soldiers that work with them. Some are junior officers, some senior officers, and their position in the spiritual army does not correspond to their position or influence in this world: I know pastors of huge churches that are faithful lieutenants, and leaders of a group of less than a dozen who are generals, though there are senior officers who lead large ministries as well.

Joint Chiefs: Currently, I’m not convinced that we have a functional Joint Chiefs; I am waiting for the day when we have something equivalent to the Council of Jerusalem of Acts 15: a council of apostles and elders who represent heaven to the forces on Earth. While there are obvious complications, the Catholic “Holy See” (the Pope and the Roman Curia governing body) approaches this authority within the realm of the Catholic Church.

Commander in Chief: We have but one Commander-in-Chief, and He is not elected.

Air Force: These are the intercessors in our war, and the goal is the same: air superiority over the field of battle. Weaponry includes worship, declarations, prophetic actions, and other weird things that reach the heavenlies, where these warriors are known to visit.

Marines: First troops into the territory, elite, but probably not occupation forces. These are the short term missionary teams, the apostolic equipping teams (which will include prophets and teachers),

Navy: Some of our forces are stationed off the coast, and provide artillery, attack forces and supply lines for the rest of the forces. Some of these folks are administrators, support teams, tacticians.

Army: Ground forces occupy the new territory. These include missionaries occupying new territory, evangelism teams on the streets, home groups and new congregations in previously unconquered territory.

Supply Lines: Any army needs food and ammunition. In our battles, these are the prophets, teachers, pastors and friends: the ones who invest in, who love on and support the warriors. These are also donors who support ministries financially, administrators who handle details so others can minister on the front lines.

Firebase: In the natural, this is an artillery base, esp. one set up quickly to support advancing troops or to forestall enemy advances. In this metaphor, this may be a team of intercessors or prophets.

Intelligence: Agencies like the CIA, Secret Service, FBI. This is clearly the role of the prophetic gifts: prophecy, discernment. But not them alone: Researchers (like The Sentinel Group) can give valuable insight into the demonic roots in a region; prophetic teachers reveal principles and application (strategies and tactics). This is often the primary role of prophetic intercessors. 

Weapons Development: James Bond has his “Q”; the US Military has DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency); in the Spirit, the developers of new weaponry come from the revelation gifts, particularly from apostles and prophets.

Boot Camp: The church is developing a large number of training schools across North America to train young men and women: revival schools, bible schools, Masters Commission, YWAM.

Military Academies: Military training schools, like Annapolis and West Point: We’re short on schools to train the officers, particularly to train senior officers in our current warfare.

Five Ways of God’s Provision

I’ve been thinking about God’s provision for quite a while. I’m still working on the significance of this, but I’ve seen five ways that God provides for us in the earth. The order is significant here: from the most simple and self-sufficient to the more complex, more interactive, more dependent on others.
1. Provision from Creation. The earliest humans were hunter-gatherers, and that is a valid means of God’s provision: it’s right there, we just need to grab hold of it. Esau is an example: where his brother tended sheep, Esau went out in the wild and hunted his provision. I rather think friendship is often this way: we don’t need to create friends, we just need to meet the people around us because there are friends there, waiting for discovery.
The essence of this means of provision is that it doesn’t require anyone else. I just go find what I need, and I take hold of it and it becomes my provision.
2. Paycheck for Work. Shortly after the first hunter-gatherers came back with fresh mastodon, someone else offered something of value for some of the meat, and the first paycheck was exchanged. A paycheck is essentially an exchange of my time (or the fruit of my time) for your provision, whether that provision is in the form of money or flint knives.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the elder brother saw himself in a paycheck relationship to his father: he put in his time, how come Dad didn’t come through with the fatted calf for him?
It’s easy to aspire to this in our relationship with God, particularly among evangelical and charismatic peoples: we see “full time ministry” as a goal, where we get to do spiritual related activity, and we get a paycheck. Personally, I think that sells ministry short.
3. The Community as Provision. As early man developed a culture, and insofar as our culture is actually healthy, the culture itself, the community to which we belong, becomes a means of God’s provision for us. Jesus relied on community provision in Luke 8:2&3; Paul teaches this in 2 Corinthians: in chapter 1, he talks about how our comfort is for the provision of comfort to others; in chapter 8, he broadens it to financial provision.
We see this in the contemporary church as well. Missionaries depend on the financial (and other) support of the community of faith in order to be able to preach the gospel in the foreign field; and the local church, in order to pay the staff and the mortgage, relies on the support, both in finances and in service, of the members.
I’ve seen many times where believers long for this kind of provision. “I need to be a full-time minister,” they say to themselves and others, as if this is somehow a more holy means of provision than earning a paycheck in a regular job, a value which (having had both) I wholly dispute.
4. Sowing and Reaping. Many people make their living by planting seed and harvesting the resulting crop. Interestingly, God has set up creation so that the laws of sowing and reaping work outside of the realm of agriculture where we most expect them. Paul teaches extensively about other application of these principles in 1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians 6, where the seed and the crop are sometimes financial, sometimes matters of character.
It appears that this was a common practice for Jesus and the Boys. John 13:29 implies that it was common for the group’s bookkeeper to practice giving to the poor.
And I see the principles of sowing and reaping in the story of the Widow of Zaraphath (1 Kings 17) and between Jacob and Laban, and in both places, invoking the practices of sowing and reaping. Interestingly, Jacob’s relationship with Laban started out as a wage-earner (Genesis 29:15), but when Laban wants to renew the contract, Jacob substitutes provision based on sowing and reaping (30:31 and following).
In the natural realm (dealing with seeds and dirt and grain), this means of provision probably belongs in #2 position, as it requires very little faith and not much more interaction with either man or God. But when we apply this as a spiritual principle to more areas of our life, then it has earned its #4 position.
5. Supernatural Provision. There are a number of times where God bypasses all of the “rules” and makes provision supernaturally. I love the fact that Jesus paid his taxes with a coin from a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:27), and I love watching the supernatural provision for Elijah with the crows (1 Kings 17) and with Angel-food bread (1 Kings 19:5-7). Jesus used God’s supernatural provision when he multiplied fish and bread, and it seemed that this might have been (or could have been) a common practice (Mark 8:16-21).
I had an odd experience some years back. My wife & I were heading out for seven weeks of evangelistic missions in the far east (mostly in the Philippines, plus 2 weeks in Hong Kong and an overnight trip smuggling bibles into China). For various reasons, the financial reserve we had built up vanished in the last few days before we flew out, so when we landed in Manila, we had $14 for the two of us for fifty days in Asia.
It was then that I may have done something stupid; it was certainly educational: I prayed an odd prayer. I told God, "I know you're going to provide for us. But because I want to learn more of your ways, would you please provide for us without people giving us money?" In the culture of the group we were traveling with, generosity was a commonplace thing: people gave each other money as someone had a need, so it would be something of a miracle if that did not happen.
And it didn't. Nobody gave us a dime.
More interesting was the fact that we were never without. We didn't have much, of course. The most powerful lesson came when I woke up one morning wanting pizza, so I asked God for pizza, but I didn't ask anybody else. And that day, God gave us pizza. Without money. my bride was with a group of women and one of them declared, "Who wants pizza? I'm buying!" And a single mom bought a pizza for her kids, but they weren't hungy. The single men's dorm was empty, and so she brought it to me.
It was Philippine pizza, and only Shakey's at that. They don't even understand what cheese is over there. The month before, I would have turned my nose up at it. But that day, it was the best pizza in the world. I learned a world full of lessons about God's provision in that day and on that trip. On that trip, God and I conspired to move our provision from #3 (the community as provision) above to #5 (supernatural provision).
(That weekend, I discretely told God that I thought I'd learned the lesson, and I released Him to provide for us any way He wanted: with money or without. True to form, by noon, three people had handed us cash gifts.)
I’m guessing I’ll come back to visit these principles at another time. For now, I’m going to close with two observations: First, the earlier means of provision require less faith; the latter means require substantially greater faith. And second, I believe, from the example of Jacob &  Laban if naught else, that we have some say in the means by which God provides for us, just as my bride & I did in the Philippines.
So. How do you want your provision?

An Encounter in the Woods

I came to a realization today. I was walking across a wooden bridge, nestled in the rainforest, surrounded by moss and vine maple, when I realized that God doesn’t love me because of Jesus. He doesn’t love me because of the cross. In fact, the cross had no part of Him loving me.

I don’t know if that’s a radical thought for you; it was for me. It caught me off guard, and I stood still on the bridge thinking about it.

Is it true? God doesn’t love me because of the cross? It messes with some of my religious thinking, certainly, to think that God does not love me because of Jesus and what He has done. But is it a biblical thought? Is it true?

As I was standing on the bridge, the thought occurred to me that the cross was not what I thought it was. I had been working from the assumption that the cross had been a rescue mission: that it had allowed God to love me because it put me in Christ (or put Christ in me) and certainly Christ is quite lovable, and so I had merely been caught up in that love-fest between the Father and the Son. I understood that in Christ, I was loved; apart from Christ, I was not so lovely, not so lovable.

Without the cross, I’m just a sinner heading for hell. God didn’t plan hell for me, of course, but when I rebelled (when I chose a way that wasn’t his way – when I sinned) hell was the consequence of my choice. I discovered that, fundamentally, I saw myself as the sinful man, separated from God, thankful for the rescue that the cross provided. I was really quite grateful for the rescue!

And there’s truth in that. But standing among the mosses on the bridge, I realized that the cross did not somehow manipulate God into doing something that wasn’t in His mind already. There in the woods, He took me back to before creation, before He declared “Let us make man in our image.” By the time He made that declaration, He would have already been committed to the process: to the creation of a species in His own image, and the creation of a universe in which to place that man. Standing on that bridge, I was caught off guard by a vision.

In the vision, I saw the omniscient God considering the process of creating man before He took the final step of creation. In that instant, I saw that because He is omniscient, when He considered creation, He also saw all that comes with it; He knew that if He created a species in His image, they would be loving, because He is love. They would be creative, because He is creative.

But in order to create us – you and me – as a loving, creative people, for it is us He is contemplating, He must create free will, for love that comes from a will that is not free is not love at all. And free will – truly free will – will lead to someone among the billions of individuals choosing to sin. In point of fact, it has led to every single one of us sinning, and so our omniscient Father knew that as He considered creation, it required a cross; if He created us, then He must die for us, and He knew that before He made up His mind to create a race of men in His image.

But because He is omniscient, He saw more than just the concept of a species of beings: He saw the members of that species. Standing there obscured by the vine maple, I looked up and it was as if I saw God looking down at his creation from that moment, as He was thinking about the creation He would make.

He saw Adam and Eve eat of the wrong tree, but his eyes didn’t linger. They looked beyond them to their children. All of humanity was in his gaze. I watched his eyes light on different figures in history, some were heroes, some were villains, most were neither one. He saw every one. He took it all in. This is what creating mankind would result in.

And then he saw me! I caught my breath.

Before He made me, He knew me, yes, that’s true. But before He had even made up His omniscient mind about whether to make a creation or not, He grasped that once He said “Let us make man,” that would result in me.

And in this vision, as He saw me from before His decision to create, I watched him as he fell in love with me. (It’s OK: He saw you from that vantage point too, and He fell in love with you, too, but this is my story!) From before He ever decided to create a universe with space and time, and a race of people to inhabit and explore that universe, He had already fallen irrevocably in love with me.

And now, before He had committed Himself to creation, He was already committed to me in love; He was hooked. He had fallen in love with me. Even though I didn’t exist yet, and I would never exist unless He chose to follow through with creation, yet He had fallen in love with me, and now He must follow through with creation, with the cross, in order that He might know me, that He might share his heart with me. His heart had been ravished. He was smitten. With me!

And suddenly, I saw the cross differently. He didn’t send His Son to the cross as a rescue mission, to deliver me from all the crap and slavery I’d gotten myself into. And He didn’t love me because finally I had come Christ and He certainly loves His own Son, so I get included in that love too.

No! The cross was conceived, all of creation was conceived, planned and carried out, because He loved me! God had fallen in love with me, and He was going to do everything He could do to get to me, to find me and wrap His arms around me. He would climb any mountain to get back to me, so to speak; and that’s what He was doing.

That’s what the cross was: It wasn’t the goal. It was the means to an end, and the end was me. Standing there in the woods, leaning on the railing of an old wooden bridge, I looked up into eyes that were seeing me from before “Let there be light,” from before “Let us make man.” And those eyes were falling in love with me – had already fallen in love with me. And He would do anything, absolutely anything, in order that He could be with me.

Later that week, I got up the nerve to share this experience with my bride as we headed out on our date night. That was difficult because it was so personal. And as I shared it, I realized that it sounded strange. The immediacy of it began to fade as I spoke of it, and I began to question my experience, maybe even my sanity.

We got to the restaurant, but because it was so full, we ended up seated at the bar. And at that moment, the bartender changed the station of the music to an oldies station. They’ve never played oldies there.

Suddenly, Diana Ross started singing, “Ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wild enough, To keep me from you!” and I recognized the voice of the One who had spoken to me in the woods.

I literally cried in my beer. Yeah. You love me that much.

And yeah. He loves you that much. That much.

The Lord’s Flock

The Lord’s Flock

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about God’s stray sheep for a while. It seems that there are a whole lot of Christians who haven’t darkened the door of a church in years: for one reason or another, they’ve lost faith in the church. It was in that context that I found myself drawn to this passage recently:

“But I [the Lord] will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the LORD. –Jeremiah 23:3,4

As I meditated on the passage, I felt something of God’s heart for His people, particularly His lost sheep. I’m convinced that He is very tender towards His lost sheep, His children that have long since quit coming to church meetings. I’m beginning to understand something of what He feels for them, and that helps me understand why He’s so protective of them.

As you read the context for this verse, It’s clear that God is quite upset with the shepherds to whom He had entrusted His sheep, because they served their own needs and not the sheep’s needs. I recommend not making God mad at us. Personally, that does not appeal to me.

I’m beginning to hear some of His heartbeat for the sheep – the believers – who are separated from the gathered church. And because this is what I do, I experienced it in bullet points. Here are some key points from the verse above:

• God is going to gather the remnant of His flock from all the different places that they have gone; places like “hidden from church,” or “withdrawn into hopelessness,” “given up,” or “just filling the back pew.” The gathering will be His work; we don’t need to advertise for gathering; gathering is not our work, though we probably need to make room for the gathered sheep. [Note that these sheep are coming from wild places, so they’re likely to be unfamiliar to us, both by name and in their mannerisms.]

• The place He’s bringing them back to is their folds. I know too many churches that functionally belong to the pastor, and may others that belong to a board of directors. By contrast, the place God is bringing his sheep is to a place where they belong, a place they can call their own, a place where they have ownership and influence, where they fit in as full-fledged participants, not just as observers, not just as “nickels and numbers.” If we make room for them to sit down and for them to give their tithe but don’t make room for their vision, their passion, their calling, then we’ve completely missed the point of what God’s doing. Note: by definition, this will significantly change the nature of the gatherings.

• When they are gathered in, these “missing sheep” will become fruitful. They will increase. (It does not say that “we” will be fruitful; they will.) In other words, we must make room not just for our missing brothers and sisters, but for their gifts, for the people in their circle of influence, for their ministries. It’s almost a given that we won’t understand where they’re coming from – they’ve spent the last few years / decades in places you and I have probably never been; they ain’t gonna be as shiny and well-dressed as life-long churchgoers, and we’ll be tempted to think that we’re better than they. That would be stupid. We’ll be tempted to make them wait for a season, for us to decide if we approve of them and their ways of doing things, before we release them to minister. That would be a mistake.

• God will set up shepherds over them. In this, I hear a couple of warnings: I can imagine some men and women in pastoral positions setting themselves as “over” the returning sheep. That would be a mistake any time of course (pastors, like all 5-fold ministers, are to serve), but especially so with these sheep who have learned to survive in the wild. God promises to set up His own shepherds over them and I can’t imagine that He needs help with that. We can look to identify those He’s raising up, rather than installing our own people. Perhaps you and I will be among those set by God into those positions, but not unless we’re already shepherding the sheep He’s given us; not unless we’re doing it according to the goals and values that He has described in this passage and others like it.

• Note that the only responsibility mentioned for the shepherds is to tend the sheep. We (assuming that we’ll be involved) are not assigned to direct the sheep, to rush their development or their healing, nor to hinder their advancement. Our job is to feed them. Yes, there are some other responsibilities associated with being a shepherd, but the one that God points out is feeding. We tend to add other responsibilities that are more appropriate for cowboys than shepherds; God is not adding those. Maybe we shouldn’t either, eh?

• God gives a specific goal: “…and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking.” Whatever it is that we do with these old-timer newcomers, we need to make it so that they are not afraid, not discouraged, not re-evaluate their decision to re-join the gathered body of the Church. We’re going to need to get rid of those religious spirits we have gotten so used to.

• Let me add this personal note: As God brings many of these people back into the church, we will be tempted to see them as “lost sheep” and want to baby them, clean them up, dress them up and minister to their obvious bumps and scrapes. I believe that if we take that approach, then the best we can hope for is that they don’t kick us in the teeth as they run from us and our “help” for them.

A better image may be to look at ourselves as an army training for battle (an appropriate image for the church any day), and these returning believers as battle-tested warriors, returning from the front lines. We may know more about the theory of battle and the reasons why our weapons are better than the enemy’s. But these warriors have spent the last few decades practicing what we talk about.

Many of them will be like the stereotypical Platoon Sergeant who chews on the stub end of a cigar as he hunts the enemy in the jungle. If you’ve read Tom Clancy, think of the character John Clark. If you’re a comics fan, think of Nick Fury. If you like superheroes, think Wolverine: not so polished as we may like, but the right guy to have at your back in a dark alley full of bad guys.

At the same time, it would be a mistake to vacate our leadership positions in favor of these returning warriors. We must not blindly follow them any more than we would blindly follow anyone else. In this generation, ministry – including the ministry of leadership – flows from relationship. It’s unreasonable and irresponsible to place complete strangers into leadership and then instruct our people to follow them. We need to welcome them into friendship, into relationship. Some of them, like some of us, are more suited for leadership than others, and we discover that through relationship.

Legitimate Ministry

A friend of mine says that “We need to be extremely narrow in our focus of ministry, but extremely broad in our definition of what is legitimate ministry.”
I think he’s on to something.
I was meditating on this recently, and two stories – connected stories – spoke to me on the subject.
The first is the apostles’ answer to the Sanhedran when the were questioned about their work: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
I see this as a standard for how we define our own ministry: we obey God. It’s pretty simple actually. Whatever God tells us to do, we do that.
More specifically, we don’t look to religious leaders (or other people, for that matter) to approve of the thing that God is telling us to do. We have one judge, and it’s not you or me, or the guy down the street leading a lot of people.
I think I might go further: you don’t need their approval, and you don’t need their permission to obey God. If God is calling you to do something, to start something, to take a risk, do it!
(I need to insert the obligatory warnings here: “Don’t be stupid!” “Don’t do it in rebellion.” “Don’t build your own empire.” OK? Let’s move on.)
The second story is in the next paragraph. Let me quote it for you:
34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” Acts 5:34-39
This story addresses how we define the ministry of others. The short version: we don’t. As Gamaliel points out: we can’t always tell if someone is moving in the power of God or in the power of man: wisdom is to step back and Let God sort it out.
But what if we get people going off and starting their own thing in rebellion? Then we have people going off and starting their own thing in rebellion. It’s OK. God is not thrown off by that. As Gamaliel points out, those eventually “will come to nothing.”
God will take care of it. He promised to build His church, and I think He means it.
The danger of course, is that if we take on the responsibility of preventing people from starting illegitimate ministry, then we – who are not omniscient – are in danger of preventing legitimate ministry.
Some said – back in the day – that young upstart Loren Cunningham should not leave the Assemblies of God church where he was youth pastor to start Youth With a Mission (YWAM). In the 50 or so years since then, YWAM has become the largest and arguably most effective missions agency in history of Christianity. Millions of people have come to faith through the men and women of that ministry.
Would you want to stand before God and say “Oops…” for having prevented Loren
from starting YWAM? Would you want responsibility for preventing millions of salvations because you thought Loren was missing God? Me neither.
So my recommendation is that we put our efforts into obeying God. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t worry about what others do.
Like Nike says: Just Do It.™

Revival: Future or Present?

For as long as I can remember – and that’s a long time – I’ve been looking forward to revival. I’ve heard the same stories that you have: a great outpouring in the last days, a great pouring out of God’s Spirit that draws people to Him by the millions and changes the face of the church and the world in a year or a month or a day.
We read about the Book of Acts, where 5000 people came to faith in a day, 3000 the next chapter, where signs and wonders seem to permeate the air and where the church met house-to-house. That’s what we’re longing for in our generation.
More than longing, many of us believe that such a revival – or greater – is coming to the Church before this is all over. There have been prophetic words from credible voices that God’s going to bring a harvest of a billion souls in a generation, that He’s going to “change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one.” Pretty heady stuff.
All that is well and good. We long for revival. We believe revival is coming. I have two problems with that. Both of them come from looking at revival as this great big thing that God does as a sovereign act of amazing power.
The first problem with our picture of revival is that we define revival as so big and so massive that we see it – consciously or subconsciously – as something that God does when He’s good and ready, and we stop taking personal responsibility for it.
I certainly can’t bring a million people to faith in a day, so we step back and most of us confine ourselves to wishing that He’d do His thing in our day.
(If we really believed that God was going to pour out that kind of harvest, wouldn’t we do something to help? Wouldn’t we do something to prepare? Sometimes I wonder if we expect God to do it so we don’t have to. )
At no point did God say, “You know that ‘Go ye into all the world’ thing? Nah… don’t bother. I’ll do it for you.” But we act often enough as though He did.
No, if God is going to bring a massive revival that turns the world upside down again, (and I believe He is), He’s going to do it mostly through His church. Us. You and me. He’s going to use us.
When Jesus walked the earth, He walked as a man, not as fully-powered-up God in a human disguise: as a man in right relationship with God. That’s what the incarnation is all about. And His walking the earth certainly changed things: people’s lives were turned upside down, the lame walked, the blind saw, the dead lived, thousands were fed, thousands more followed Him to hear Him talk about the Kingdom.
He did all of that as a man: flesh and blood like you and me. He taught. He healed. He resurrected people. At no point did he wake up in the morning to sudden success: thousands of adoring followers where none existed the night before. Father God did step in with the odd sovereign act, but that was exclusively limited to speaking: “This is my Son whom I love! Listen to Him!” (See Mark 1:11 & 9:7)
Jesus did the work. He did it empowered and directed by His Father, just as we need to do the work of revival empowered and directed by our Father. But it it’s our work to do; we must not just wait for God to do it for us, hoping that we wake up one day and suddenly there are the tens of thousands of people wanting to fill up our churches. Yeah, He could do that. No, that’s not how He does things.
The second problem with our picture of revival is that we limit it to only the great and spectacular, only the front-page news; worse, we limit it only to front-page news in America.
A wise man once told me: “If you want to see revival, go home. Close your door. Draw a circle on the floor and sit inside the circle. Then pray for revival to start in the circle. When you are revived, then revival has started.”
I am firmly committed that revival has already started. But because it doesn’t conform to our expectations, we say to ourselves, “That can’t be revival!”
First, if you and I are revived, then revival has begun. It’s already here! Now, I happen to believe it’s quite a bit bigger than that, but it’s true: we don’t have people pouring out into the streets asking how to meet God.
We have testimonies of God doing signs and wonders again. In America! We haven’t had that for generations! Other parts of the world are seeing millions won to Christ in a generation. Some African nations are now 80% or even 90% Christian, where the gospel was virtually unknown a century ago. South Korea is experiencing similar amazing growth.
I will agree, this is not enough. We want more. Jesus deserves more! The Moravian prayer has not yet been answered: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”
What we have is not enough, but it is revival. Our prayer needs to change from, “O Lord, please bring revival”, to “Please increase our revival!” Shepherding a revival is a different process than hoping and praying for one to start.
My goal of this article is this: we need to re-define ourselves. We are not waiting for revival; we are caretakers of revival. We have something of revival now, and it is our responsibility to nurture it, to shepherd it to carry it out. We must be empowered and directed by God, yes, but it’s our revival. What are we going to do with it?

Rant: Home Groups

I’ve been thinking about home groups. Sunday morning church is a really good thing and all, but no matter how good the church is, it’s still a big group. It’s still hard to really get involved. It’s still easy to hide in the background.

I love the worship of the big group; it’s often really hard to match that in most home groups. And the teaching in the big meeting is often (but not always) really valuable. There are things that you can do in a big group that you can’t do in a little group.

But the reverse is equally true. There are things you can do in a little group that you can’t do in a big group, really valuable things like making great friends, like sharing your heart, like getting prayed for regularly, like laughing together until your sides hurt, or weeping together in the presence of God.

The combination of the two is priceless. In fact, between the two, I often think the home group is the more important gathering of the two. Not always. Not saying the big meeting is insignificant. Just saying home groups are that valuable.

Too often, I’ve found it too easy to be too comfortable in a big church. If I plaster on a big fake smile and don’t linger too long in conversation in the lobby, I can get away without ever having engaged anyone at all. I can’t get away with that in a home group. And I like that. I need that.

We’re starting home groups in our church. It’s kind of hard work, mostly because of all the bad experiences we’ve had before. We have as much un-learning to do as anything else.

Here are some values we have in our home groups:

• The first rule is that church leadership is not making a bunch of rules for home groups. If you want to start a group, go for it. We’ll help, but we won’t tell you what to do. Well, we’ll try not to.

• You can meet whenever you want, wherever you want, and as often as you want. Homes are always a good place for home groups, but so are coffee shops, pubs, conference rooms and the local shopping mall. Take field trips. Wherever you are, the Church is, so have at it! Be creative.

• Teach what you want to teach. All we ask is that you love God and love people. Then teach what you want. Teach the Bible. Teach from a study guide, from a popular book, from current movies. Or don’t include any teaching in your group. We don’t recommend reviewing this weeks sermons unless the group insists. They’ve already heard that.

• Invite who you want to invite. People from the church. People from the neighborhood. People from other churches. People from other home groups. Heck, you can invite people from other planets if you can figure out where to park their cars. Bring in guest speakers if you like. Or not.

• Relationships are primary. More than teaching. More than acts of service. More than prayer. More even than having a meal together! (Oh my!) On the other hand, there’s not much that’s better at building relationships than praying together, or serving together, studying the Word together or especially sharing supper together.

• If you’re leading a group, you’re choosing to submit yourself to a higher standard of accountability than Joe Schmotz in the back row of the church with the big fake smile. But like Paul Manwaring says, “Accountability is not about making sure you don’t smoke. Accountability is making sure that you are on fire.”

We’ll undoubtedly think of more values as we do this for a while. But for now, this is a good starting place.

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Hope Does Not Disappoint

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5
I’ve been reflecting on hope for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t understood the subject very well.
In our culture – and our churches are part of this – we make statements like, “Oh, I hope John’s operation goes well.” We use “hope” as a synonym for “wish”, and when we do, we reveal that our concept of hope is relatively powerless. Our actions and our unguarded words reveal that we consider hope to be little (if any) more than random chance.
Since I’m going to shoot that perspective down, I might as well do it directly: this thinking is heretical, it reveals lazy thinking, and it’s insulting to the God who loves me enough to die for me.
I’m certain that our insulting heresy is not (normally) an intentional choice; we believe poorly because we haven’t learned any better. We’ve let our secular culture do too much of our thinking for us instead of letting the Spirit of God teach us.

Hope Does Not Disappoint.

First of all, whatever hope really is, it is not about disappointment. It’s not about the longings of my heart (or yours) being disregarded, crushed or ignored.
Hope is built on the love of God, not the roll of the dice. Because the love of God has been poured out in my heart through the Holy Spirit, therefore hope does not disappoint. Two observations:
· This is a done deal: the love of God has already been poured out, the Holy Spirit has already been given. I am not waiting for God to do something, nor is He waiting for me to do something, for hope to become secure. It’s based on things that have actually happened.
· This is likely proportional: If I don’t know the love of God, then I am likely to have difficulty knowing the hope that does not disappoint. To the degree that my life is entwined with the Holy Spirit who was given to me, to that same degree I am able to know this powerful and reliable hope.
In fact, Biblical hope does not rely on chance and it does not rely on me. It relies on God. It doesn’t even rely on God’s power or his will: it relies on who He is. “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and it is His love – His very identity – that is the assurance that hope does not disappoint.

Hope Involves the Unseen

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. – Romans 8:24-25
Hope is all about promises that we have not yet received. If we have the thing promised, then hope is meaningless. But if we have a promise that we have not yet received, then that’s a good place to employ hope.
More specifically, if it’s been promised by God, then we can rely on it, we can be confident that although we don’t see it now – and we may not even see the first clue that it’s even possible – yet because I are recipients of God’s love poured out in my heart, I can have confidence that hope will not disappoint.

Hope is a Fight

What does the verse say? “…with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” The Greek word for perseverance involves fight, a determined persistence in the face of obstacles. There are some animals that when they bite, their jaw locks into place, and letting go is not an option for them until the fight is over. If you kill the animal, the jaw remains locked in place.
So we wait with perseverance. But we also wait eagerly.
I have a friend who has four kids, and on Christmas morning, he doesn’t let them leave their room until the parents give the call, “Merry Christmas Kids!” Before that moment, the parents are wrapping the last of the presents, tucking the last toy into a stocking, while the kids are nearly beside themselves with anticipation. When the call finally comes, there are four pajama-clad blurs down the hallway and woe be unto anyone or anything that stands in the way. That's how we wait.
If you have ever tried to persuade a child that Christmas has been cancelled this year (and I’ve tried), you’ll get an earful. If you persist (and it was a mistake), then you’ll get an idea of what “…with perseverance we wait eagerly” actually means. That's how we wait.
That’s what our hope is to be like. Even though it’s not here yet, nevertheless we cannot be persuaded that it is not coming, and we are excited beyond measure for the arrival of that for which we hope.

Hope Has an Object

We hold on to hope, not as an end in itself. We don’t hope in hope, we hope in God. We have Hope because it is God Himself that has given us hope as He has already given us His love and His Holy Spirit.
And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:7
There is a weakness, a vulnerability, in the subject of hope, and that’s why the object of our hope is so important. Because we have confused “hope” with “wish”, it’s not impossible – not even difficult – to confuse our wishes with hope.
I know people who (generally unintentionally) use hope to attempt to manipulate God. Because they want a thing, therefore they build this expectation of epic proportions, and they tell themselves (and anyone else who will listen) that God is obligated to provide this thing for them because if He doesn’t, He’ll be letting them down. And using this argument, they wait for the perfect wife, the ideal husband, the perfect ministry to be dropped into their laps.
I am not saying that God has not made promises to these brothers and sisters. I’m saying that God promised salvation (sozo) and eternal life, and that we can and must hold onto those promises, knowing (not wishing) that while we may not see them in their fullness yet, nevertheless, we will inhabit that place, and our confidence those truths is as secure as the truth that God loves us, that God has given His Holy Spirit to us.
I live today knowing that I will inherit all that God has promised to me. I can bank on that, regardless of what my circumstances tell me. More than that, I will.

Visit Northwest Prophetic for a complete archive of regional prophetic words.