Showing posts with label 2013. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2013. Show all posts


The Judgment of God on His Children

This may be my favorite picture of the terrible judgment of God:

In the book of Exodus, when the Hebrew children chickened out, rebelled against God, when they steadfastly refused to go into the Promised Land, God had to judge them for that rebellion!

And this is how he judged them: He supernaturally fed them miraculous meals that nobody else on the planet got to taste, for more than 14,500 consecutive days, because they were helpless to feed themselves in a desert.

He led them safely through the most dangerous desert in the region, continually keeping his presence in the middle of them, in a pillar of cloud guiding them by day, and a pillar of fire warming their feet and scaring off both mosquitoes and desert marauders by night.

Sure, people died. Over the course of a generation's time, a generation of people died and were buried, and life went on. That would have happened even if they had followed him into the promised land, so we certainly can't call that judgment!

But as part of his judgment, "They lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell." (Nehemiah 9:21) That'll show em!

Wow. This is my Father. This is the family I'm adopted into. 

Romans says that we should "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God." If this is his severity, then what on earth is his kindness like?

The Gadarene Swine Fallacy

We hear it preached quite often that if a Christian isn’t in fellowship with others, she is in greater danger from the various enemies of our soul. We preach (and I, myself, preach) that believers are stronger, safer, and more alive when we’re in relationship with other believers.

But there’s more to that story. It isn't that simple.

There’s an argument that appears in the “Logical Fallacy” section of common logic textbooks, called the “Gadarene Swine Fallacy.” Simply defined, “The GSF is the fallacy of supposing that because a group is in the right formation, it is necessarily on the right course; and conversely, of supposing that because an individual has strayed from the group and isn't in formation, that he is off course.”

When Jesus visited the Gadarene demonic, there were some key players in the region:

  • One man, alone in the tombs, filled with demons and despair. 
  • Local swineherds and their local herds of swine (pigs). 

If one was to assume that “be in fellowship” is the highest truth, one would have to predict that the community of swine was the safe place to be, and the lone demoniac would be lost to eternity.

But that’s not what happened: the tormented man, alone among the tombs, was the only one who had the encounter with Jesus. The swine did have an encounter, but it was with the legion of suddenly homeless demons. He lived. He thrived (as ambassador for the Son of God to the Decapolis). They died a rather ignominious death.

In this case, and this is not by any means normative, the one by himself was in the right place, and the herd of swine – which may not have been appropriate on the outskirts of a kosher community anyway – were off course.

“In particular, it is of fundamental importance not to confuse the person who may be 'out of formation' by telling him he is 'off course' if he is not. It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that, because a group are 'in formation,' this means they are necessarily 'on course.' This is the Gadarene swine fallacy.”

I still maintain that Believers are healthier in community. But if the only choice available is either life alone, among the tombs, or a community of swine, it may be healthier alone – though there may be (literally) a hell of a price to pay for solitude – than at home in a community of swine.

Of course, the healthiest place is neither among the tombs or among the swine. A small group in my home is infinitely preferable solitude among the tombs, and even community online (now that it is technologically feasible) is better than life with a legion of demons, or a herd of swine.

The Father's Love

Have you ever had someone go out of their way to be mean to you? Maybe they spat in your face, or kicked you in the crotch just for fun. Maybe they drove down the street shouting curses at you, or made fun of your ears or your grades or your accent. Maybe you were just in the wrong place when someone got mad and they took it out on you. 

How often did their meanness make you want to get to know them? How many times did you want to spend time with your attacker after he punched your teeth in and shouted drunken insults at your mother? I don't remember my history books reporting a large influx of black Americans into the Ku Klux Klan after the massacre of black men, women and children just for their skin color. Maybe I missed that lesson.

Here's a really radical thought: God doesn't use those practices to get to know the precious children for whom he personally was beaten, accused, mocked and killed. The God who was murdered for their sins probably won't be judging people for the very sins that he just paid for, won't be hating the men and women he loved enough to die for, won't be killing your daughter with cancer and then demanding, "Love me, trust me, or burn in hell for eternity." 

We've believed some pretty stupid things over the years. Let's not do that any more.

There's a Reason We're So Secure

I've been reflecting on our secure position: we're hidden in the rock, engraved in the palm of his hand. That's pretty secure!

If you are responsible for someone precious to you, but they're in absolutely no danger whatsoever, you take no special precautions. It's only when you're going to be in dangerous places that you put the leash on the toddler, the bulletproof vest on the officer, the rope around the waist of the mountain climber. You don't wear a seat belt in a church pew, or a life vest on your La-Z-Boy in front of your high-definition wide-screen TV. 

God has secured us more surely than any of those. This suggests that he expects us to "Go ye" into more dangerous places than those folks go. We're held securely so that we can go to uncertain places, so that we can stand up in dangerous times and cry, "Follow me! I know the way out!" 

We have the safety line keeping us from drowning, from falling. We have the great and precious promises. What's the worst that can happen: a welcoming party in Heaven. 
It's interesting that the only time that anybody in the Bible walked on the water was during the storm, the only time a box lunch was multiplied for thousands was when facing thousands of hungry people. The only time the dead were raised was when God's representatives were around dead people. The only place that the incarnate Creator chose to go to redeem mankind and pay for their sin was into the middle of the sinful and rebellious world. 

I’m thinking that if we don’t occasionally go places that make our knees knock, we’re missing the point. We need to have days where we’ve got to wash off the slime and the stink from the world, because we’ve been among them, carrying the love and the grace of the King in our bearing, in our words, in our smile, in our hugs, into the very darkest, smelliest, most un-welcoming places we can find. (Most of the time, thats not in another country; probably not even in another city, but I assure you, it’s not in our comfort zone.)

If we don’t spend time in harm’s way, we’re not living up to our calling. And we’re not bringing the Lamb who was slain the full measure of the reward for his sacrifice. 

I want a crown worth throwing at his feet. 

Whose Limits? Whose Understanding?

“You can have a life of understanding and live in a small world, or you have heaven’s peace and live in a world without limits.” Bill Johnson, Redding

I’ve been reflecting kind of a lot on this: If I insist on understanding, staying in the realm where I do understand, then I am limited to a world the size of what I am able to understand. I’m a pretty bright guy, but I am not all that!

The alternative is to trust someone who’s so foolishly in love with me that he died horribly and wrongly accused, just for the opportunity to woo me, someone who really is  all that, someone who doodles in the sky while he’s thinking about me, and creates a masterpiece of a sunset. Sometimes, he doodles at night, and creates a masterpiece of the stars. I’d use the word “lovesick” if he had the capacity to be sick.

The cool thing about that is this: when I trust his understanding instead of my understanding, then we’re working with the kind of capacity that’s labeled, “omniscience.” There are no  gaps in his knowing. 

On top of that, it’s tied in with a little thing called, “omnipotence,” that completely outshines my own capacity to deal with the few things that I do understand.

And if that weren’t enough, when I trust him with the storms that I call “my life,” then he takes personal responsibility for peace in my life, at least insofar as I will let him. He provides for me a great big overwhelming mountain of peace, of His grace (and it's a beautiful mountain), just for me, so that wherever I walk, I get to be in the midst of Heaven, in his own presence; wherever the sole of my foot touches this planet, Heaven itself is planted and grows, if for no other reason, then just to make a place of sufficient glory for his son to walk.

I think I’m impressed. I think I’m in love. 

I think I’ll trust him and live in his world, even in this world.

The Gate of Heaven

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

The house of God is the gate of heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run to Win!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run to win.

Decision-Making and Discipleship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hit the Trail!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Curious Contrast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gate of Heaven

Think with me for a minute:

Genesis 28:17 says, "And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" 

In this case, the gate of heaven was described asa ladder, set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. [28:12] From earth. To heaven. The house of God is the gate of heaven. Hmmm.

Principle: the house of God is the gate of heaven. It is specifically the means of accessing heaven from earth.

I Corinthians 3:16 (or 6:19) declares that in our day, the house of God [the “temple” of God, the habitation of God] is you. Well, and me. We are – specifically, our bodies are – the temple, the dwelling place of God.

Therefore (and this might stretch you as much as it stretches me): you are a gate of heaven. Note: not a gate “to heaven,” but “of heaven.” There’s a difference.

In Jacob’s vocabulary, there is “a ladder, set up IN YOU, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

So I’ve been reflecting on what it means that I am a “gate of heaven.”

·         For people who don’t have any other access, I am an access point to Heaven.

·         I can, myself, access heaven. I can take day trips there. (John 3:13: No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Jesus is announcing that, as early as John 3, he has taken day trips to heaven.)

·         Heaven also has access to earth through you. But (“set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven”) it takes my initiative on Earth to release Heaven.

·         If my NT “gate of heaven” is like Jacob’s OT “gate of heaven” (I’m not quite ready to make that as an assumption), then angels have access from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven through me. One word: Whoa!

If nothing else, this perspective requires that I take seriously my role as a son of the Kingdom, as a “king and priest” [Revelation 1:6 & 5:10] of our God. 

English is Not God's First Language

I was involved in a conversation today about interpreting prophetic symbols, what does this symbol mean? What does that symbol in a dream mean? When he talks about sheep in Song of Solomon, what’s that a picture of?

I'm kind of changing my worldview on those kinds of things. I used to love to look up all the symbols in a dictionary and solve the problem, kind of like a math problem. I still think those kind of references are valuable (My favorite:, but I have a different paradigm nowadays.

Fundamentally, when I have a dream or a vision or a prophetic word, God is not setting up some sort of IQ test. The Father is the most romantic person in the history of the universe; these are in the language of romance, they’re not puzzles and tricks. His goal is not that I go to a dictionary, but that I come to him; maybe that I bring the dictionary with me and he and I work together on my difficulty with his love language.

So nowadays, when I’m asked, “What does this symbol mean?” I scratch my head. There isn’t a cast-in-stone, never-an-exception answer to any of his images, like there always was in math class. The better question is “What does this symbol mean to you?”

You see, when he speaks to me, we have a language issue complicating the communication between us. English is my native language, but it is NOT his native tongue. His native language (go look at Genesis 1) is creativity. The result of his speaking is galaxies and fishes and waterfalls and provision and purpose. He speaks a language of love.

My wife and I have a language that we don’t share with others. Not even our children understand our love language. When she says, “Ding!” to me, it means something different than when she says “Ding!” to any other person on this planet. (And you don't have a clue what she’s talking about!)

It’s that way with the love language between God and me, too. When he uses an image in our conversation together, it means something personal, something that he may or may not have shared with any other person on this planet. 
Sure, he uses a common vocabulary when he’s speaking to the masses (and that’s when the Prophet’s Dictionary is most helpful!), but when he draws my attention to an interesting thing in the news, or a particular number keeps showing up on my digital clock, or I keep having a particular line from a song run through my head… when he’s speaking to me personally, he’s using the love language that he and I have developed in our intimate times together.
That’s clearly an argument in favor of intimate times together, isn’t it? If he’s going to use vocabulary or imagery that is birthed from our intimate relationship, then I won’t know that vocabulary (and in fact, our language may not exist) unless we have time together to develop it. So I’ll understand his mysteries better as we spend time together.
But the other side of it is this: I’m going to stop looking to what your love language says when he’s speaking to me in my love language. In fact, I can’t really go to someone else and say, “God said this to me; what does it mean?” Nobody else has been part of my intimate times with him; nobody else shares my intimate love language with him. 
And the final “takeaway” for me in this is pretty basic: this kind of takes away the “spiritual hierarchy” we tend to put people in. His language with me is every bit as valid as his language with anybody else. My intimacy with him is as valuable to him (and more valuable to me!) than Bill Johnson’s intimacy with him, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s intimacy with Him. We’re all equal in our intimacy. And we’re all equal in our love languages with God.

Practicing Hebrews 5:14

I’ve become aware that a number of the doctrinal details that I’ve always assumed were true have, in fact, been unsupported in Scripture. God being a grumpy old man, quick on the “Smite Button” is one of them.

Discovering such error makes me question an awful lot of my doctrine. What else have I believed that is not true? 

Not the basics, of course: Jesus is the Son of God, who died for me; that stuff is settled. But so much of the rest, the “not critical” doctrines, I have to test them all; I can no longer trust the “Everybody knows that!” declarations about doctrine. I'm figuring out that  “Everybody” has been wrong before! Imagine that!

And it’s inevitable: in the process of testing what really IS true, I cannot help but stumble across what really is NOT true. Sometimes it’s pretty easy to tell: that just smells bad (think Westboro Baptist Church). Some doctrine is best suited for fertilizing the petunias.

But sometimes we’ve gotta look pretty closely. This is where we really have to rely on Hebrews 5:14: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The clear implication is that without constantly using “solid food,” we’ll never be trained to distinguish good (καλός, “sound, whole, nourishing, magnificent”) from evil (κακός, the root of “kaka,” the stuff we fertilize petunias with). In other words, unless we jump in and test stuff, we’re unable to tell good, nourishing spiritual food apart from plant fertilizer. It's NOT alright with me if I can't tell prime rib from sewage. 

Therefore, you’ll find me testing things, and some of it will be on this page. I do this publicly for two reasons: a) those who wish to train themselves are invited into the process with me, and b) to reveal my reasons to those who want a foundation for the hope that I’m walking into (a la 1 Peter 3:15).

Some will say (and have forcefully said!) that those of us who ask questions must do it in a place or in a way where new believers can’t see, lest they be confused or misdirected. To which I answer, a) how else will they learn, b) who am I to decide that they do not have the right to learn?

If I may be so bold: the one person on this planet who is responsible for your spiritual growth is YOU. It’s NOT your pastor, your parents, your favorite conference speaker, or me! We can (and must!) help equip you, encourage you, provide you resources. But it is you who will be accountable before the Lord for your growth.

So MANY believers are already getting this and taking up that responsibility. If that’s you, GOOD FOR YOU!

If you’re not taking personal responsibility for your spiritual growth yet, please hurry up: you’re living in a fantasy, and the real world is calling you; Heaven is calling! We’re calling! We need you!

Partnering with the Promises of God

There have been a number of prophetic words that have spoken about God doing something cool this summer.

This one ( talks about kingdom advancement in June: hold your ground because help is on the way.

This one ( talks about this spring & summer as a season of spiritual transformation. Many of Gods people are being transformed from what they have been to where they are going next.

There have been a lot (like this: that talk about the move of God like a tsunami. In fact, there are a lot of these.

But there are always promises from God. The real question is how do we respond to those promises?

So what do we need to do? Do we just sit around and drink coffee until God hands us the fulfillment of these promises? In other words, is it all up to him? Or do we have some responsibility in their fulfillment?

Let’s ask that question another way: Are we created to sit still and let him do everything, or are we created for something more? (Hint: check Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”)

We might think of the Kingdom of God as “The Kingdom belongs to God. It’s all about him.” And in that, we would be mistaken. The Kingdom is the rule of the King, the realm where he’s given leadership.

Jesus taught us, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” So whose Kingdom is it? Or who’s inheriting it? It makes God happy to give it to us! (Note: he’s excited to give the Kingdom to a “little flock.” We don’t need to be “Mighty warriors” or something; just part of the flock.) We’re part of the realm of the King’s influence.

Here’s where I’m going: we share some responsibility to accomplish “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

And in these prophetic words – as in nearly all prophetic words – God has revealed a little about the Kingdom, about His will, that he wants done on Earth as it is in Heaven. But being that we-re co-heirs of that Kingdom, we are co-responsible for bringing it to pass.

How do we do that? Well, Ephesians says it’s by “good works,” a term that the Bible uses regularly, but never defines.

As I’ve been praying into the question of “How do I advance the Kingdom during June?” (I encourage you to ask the question for yourself!), I found myself facing several things:

I’ve been reminded that one of the reasons I’ve seen so many prophetic words remain unfulfilled is very likely because I’ve sat on my hands, waiting for God to wave his Magic Kingdom Wand. That’s a good way for prophetic words to remain unfulfilled, and for God’s people to lose hope: by not taking a measure of responsibility for the words.

I need to live a life that’s a good representation of the Kingdom. Wow. No news there; that’s been my assignment for decades. It reminds me of Saint Francis’s words: “Preach the gospel [of the Kingdom] at all times; if necessary, use words.” If I expect the Kingdom to expand, then I need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

I’ve been moved to partner with these prophetic words with my own words, to agree and affirm that the Kingdom is advancing in me, in my relationships, in my family, in the communities where I have some influence. I think I’ll be making some declarations, not empty words (“I declare thus…” without engaging myself or engaging with God relationally in the process), but sitting with Father and discussing it with Him. “You know, I don’t see it, but I still think you’re right!” If I expect the Kingdom transformation, then I need to talk the talk, not just walk the walk. I need to make sure my words are full of life and hope and encouragement, not criticism, unbelief or irrelevance.

And here’s the secret: the best way for me to accomplish most of this is to spend my time with the King of the Kingdom. I’ll spend some of that time not doing anything else, just being with him, but more important, I stay with him when I mow the lawn, when I work at my job, when I deal with frustrating circumstances. If the Kingdom is the real-world realm where the King’s rule is present, then staying tight with the King is an awfully fine way to make it work.

I’m looking forward to a great summer!

Judgment for Sins Already Judged

I’m tired the foolishness of all the “God is going to judge America!” proclamations.

But first, a warning: don’t read more into this than what I’m actually saying. This may trigger some sensitive spots, it may be similar to words others have used on their way to a different destination. If you’re going to react, react to what I AM saying, not to what others have said.

OK. Let’s start again. 

I’m tired the foolishness of all the “God is going to judge America!” proclamations. They make the proclaimers feel better, but they aren’t consistent with scripture. And they paint God as a smiter, a big, stern guy who wants to make everybody pay the price for their sin.

But the price has already been paid for their sin. If Jesus died for sin, then sin is dealt with, at least for now. (I’m not saying Rev 20 doesn’t apply; I’m saying it doesn’t apply NOW.)

If God judges America for sin, then that means that either a) for some reason Jesus missed somebody’s sins while paying for sin on the cross, or b) America would be judged a second time for sins which have ALREADY been judged. 

If God were to judge America for sins that Jesus already judged, I think maybe he would need to apologize to Jesus, because that would mean that Jesus suffered and died without accomplishing what he died for. Personally, I don’t think Jesus failed in his mission.

Biblically: Father handed [past tense] all judgment to the Son (John 5:22), and Jesus judges [present tense] no one (John 8:15). I repeat: this does not even talk about the Revelation 20 judgment [which is future tense].

Having said that, I am NOT saying that there are not consequences for the sins in question, and which can certainly LOOK like judgment. And I’m NOT saying that some people don’t bring nasty things upon themselves and/or their communities because they partner with demons. That looks like judgment too, but it’s not.

I’ve come to realize that the greatest danger from sin is not that it will separate me from my Father – the Cross is proof that it won’t – but that it empowers my enemy, it gives him permission to wreak his havoc in my life, my community, my nation. That’s a good enough reason to repent, and isn’t the only one in Scripture, but it’s not to avoid God’s judgment: it’s to avoid empowering the demonic.

The bottom line: There were no sins – there were no American sins either – lying around at the foot of the cross when Jesus was dying for sin. God is not actually looking for reasons to smite you.

Let’s get our understanding of Father right, people.

Dealing With New Evidence

There’s a principle that we all deal with. When we discover new evidence about something that we already have an opinion about, we are required to re-evaluate our opinion. If the new evidence contradicts what we believed before, then we probably need to change our previous opinion.

It happens in movies: Throughout the movie, you’re led to believe a particular opinion about one of the characters (perhaps “the butler did it!”), but at the end of the movie, new evidence is revealed, or old evidence is shown in new light. All of a sudden, everything changes. My favorite for this was The Sting. When they got up off the floor, it floored me! I realized that I had seen things wrong, interpreted things wrong. And suddenly, I understood previous bits of the movie in a whole new light! Suddenly I understood the characters completely differently.

I saw Philadelphia Story recently. Throughout the movie, Clark Gable’s character looked like a troublemaker, but in the denouement at the end, it’s revealed that he did it all out of love. Suddenly, I understood Mr. C.K. Dexter Haven completely differently!

It happens in TV shows: Well, it did when I watched TV, anyway. In the old courtroom series Ironsides, Raymond Burr’s character did that every week. Barretta, a slightly less antique show, did the same thing. I imagine that many crime shows use this pattern regularly.

It happens in real life: We interpret the news one way, but then something happens that reveals that maybe things aren’t the way the media spun it the first time.

It happened in the Bible: Throughout the Old Testament, we were shown evidence that suggests certain things about the nature of who God is: what His character is like, what moves Him, what’s important to Him. But the New Testament is all about the denouement: Jesus himself is the new evidence, and it reveals a whole lot more about God, and reveals Him more clearly than we’ve ever seen before. And suddenly, I understand previous bits of the story in a whole new light. Suddenly, I understand God so differently, so much better.

For example, throughout the Old Testament, God seems far off and aloof, not really interested in hanging around the human race; after all, He keeps sending prophets to lead them instead of coming Himself. But in the New Testament, we see God in human form walking the streets of a subjugated city in order to be among humankind. Maybe He’s not really far off and aloof! Maybe that’s not a good picture of Him.

The stories of the Old Testament, the way that they were told and re-told and translated, and interpreted through countless pulpits, suggested that God rather enjoyed smiting people; a lot of smiting sure went on in those stories, and sometimes they’re described as God’s actions, and other times, the perpetrator isn’t really identified, but everybody “knows” that God did it, because “that’s what God is like.” (Compare 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1 for one example.)

But in the New Testament, Jesus, the “God in human form,” the “exact representation of the Father,” who “always does what the Father is doing,” never smites a single person, not even once. And it’s certainly not like he doesn’t have the chance! Rather, he reveals a God who not only turns the other cheek, but lets himself be murdered rather than smite a few deserving Pharisees. The God that Jesus reveals is not a smiter, isn’t eager to judge, always brings healing and life abundantly, and never brings death or destruction. We had understood him wrong before, but now, we have new evidence.

We’ve found ourselves in an interesting place. We have lots of evidence – and I’m going to call it inferior evidence – about who God is and what He’s like. And we have, in some measure, allowed that evidence to create or to inform our opinion of who God is and what He’s like.

We know better now, or at least we should. We have been given better evidence, been adopted into a better covenant. The evidence we have now, in the person of Jesus, and in our own relationship with God, tells us that the wrathful, judgmental, distant smiting God of the Old Testament is not a true picture of who God is. We have better evidence than that now: if we don’t believe it, then it’s our own fault that we’re deceived.

A Prophet's Failure

Here’s the saddest story in the life of the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. It’s from 1 Kings 19. This is where Elijah fails. As sad as it is, we can learn some lessons from him to help us in prophetic ministry today.

[Elijah] traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”  

The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.  Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.  Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Elijah had some reason to be afraid: Jezebel had threatened to kill him. Of course, this was right after he had called fire down from heaven, killed 450 false prophets, and ended a devastating drought in an afternoon’s prayer, so how much threat was she really?

Father has schooled me from this passage a number of times.

First, he contrasted Elijah on Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18) with Jesus feeding the 5000. Afterwards, Elijah takes on two more big and demanding projects: first, he prayed in a rainstorm, and second, he ran from Mt Carmel to Jezreel, ahead of a chariot (that’s a marathon distance!). Then he collapsed in a depression, and ended up in a cave whining at God.

By contrast, when Jesus had fed 5000 men (plus women and children: maybe 15,000 to 20,000 people), he dismissed the crowds, sent the boys home on a boat, and went up into the mountains to pray all night. Think about it: if the Son of God needed to get with God to get recharged after ministry, what makes us think that we can keep running?

The first lesson: when you’ve spent everything in ministry, don’t go do more ministry; get alone with God, and let him minister to you; debrief with him. After that, go walk on the water through the storm to the guys in the sailboat that’s swamping in the storm: miracles are easier then, and prophetic people work in the realm of the miraculous.

 “…I am the only one left,
and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The second lesson that he emphasized was this: whenever our prayers sound like Elijah’s prayers sounded in that cave “…I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too,” then we’re in a very bad place. That’s a really good time to shut up, to stop arguing with God, and to listen. It’s a good time to let angels minister to your spirit. But it’s really NOT a good time to talk.

Elijah kept talking, and God let him talk. Then he asked him the same question again (that might not be a good sign), and Elijah gave him the same self-pitying answer: “…I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too!”

God gave Elijah some assignments: go anoint some people. Notice that he’s sent to “anoint Elisha … to succeed you as prophet.”  Elijah is being fired as the prophet of Israel, and if we can count on the context, he’s being fired because he won’t leave the place of self-pity. From this day forward, Elijah never was the prophet he had been before; he wasn’t completely left out, but he wasn’t involved in any history-making events ever again.

My point is not to bring fear that we’ll get fired as a prophet. My point is that when we start seeing ourselves like the tree in this picture, that we’ve gotten into a place where we can’t minister well. We need to shut up and sit still and let Father speak into our souls. In this place, we really need to NOT declare things from self-pity, not from hopelessness or fear or discouragement. In this place, we need to stop speaking until we can speak life. 

This has been a heck of a season. A goodly number of people I know in the prophetic have been involved in big things. We need to learn the lesson of Jesus, and head up the mountain, not back into ministry.

And a goodly number of the prophetic people I know are as drained as Elijah was. (Some are on both lists.)  In this place, we need to stop speaking and let him speak to us, until we can speak life again. 

Questions For God

It seems that God has selective hearing, at least when it comes to some of the questions his children ask. 

I have never known him to answer any question that begins with the word “Why?”  “God, why did this happen?” "Why didn't you do that?"

I’m getting tired of questions that don’t get answered, so I’m going to ask smarter questions. 

There are two questions that show up in the the second chapter of Acts that seem to work pretty well. 

In Acts 2:12, a crowd, amazed and perplexed, asked “What does this mean?” That led to a supernatural sermon by Peter-of-the-Foot-in-Mouth, where he answered that question remarkably well for “an uneducated fisherman.”  

An hour later, in response to that sermon, they asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter answered with a spontaneous altar call and 5000 of them came to faith. I suspect they got their question answered real well.

I’m reminded of one more verse that’s critical for getting questions answered. John 7:17 says, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” If we are not willing to commit to doing what God says – even before he answers the question – then it is far less likely that we will even get the answer to the question. 

“Yes, Father. The answer is ‘Yes.’ Now what was the question?”

Are You a Light? Or a Reflection? And Which is Better?

Years ago, Barry McGuire (if you remember him, you’re a hippy! Or you used to be.) taught about the difference between the sun and the moon.

Some people are like the sun: they are a source of light, of revelation. Others are like the moon: they have no light in themselves, but all they do is reflect the light of others. Be a light, not a reflection. Be a voice, not an echo. (see Matthew 5:14)

Sounds good doesn’t it? And the message is good: have light in yourselves. Sounds good. It reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Have salt in yourselves.” (Mark 9:50) and it reminds me of Paul’s words (1 Corinthians 3:2) and the author if Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12) to learn to feed ourselves on solid food.

Recently, I encountered this photo of the moon. And as I admired the beauty that God hid there, he whispered to me, “Look how much is revealed in the reflected light,” and I understood that I had (yes, again!) over-simplified things.

And (yes, again!) he schooled me: without reflected light, we’d never be able to see. The only thing we see directly is when we look at the sun, or directly stare at a light source (and even most manmade light sources use reflected light heavily). When I look at your face, I don’t see the glow of light coming from your face, I see reflected light, from some irrelevant source, bouncing into my eyes, onto my retinas, and showing me what you look like and, if I know you, who you are.

Really, that’s a whole lot of our goal: to reflect Jesus, isn’t it? So maybe being a competent reflector is not such a bad idea. Specifically, he pointed out to me how much more detail we see here in the reflected light of the moon than we ever would staring directly into the sun: often people see Jesus better reflected off of a real human being than trying to look directly at him.

But beyond that, I still believe that “Be a light yourself!” is a valuable exhortation, but for other reasons: unless someone nearby is a source of light, many people would still be wandering in the dark. If you’re with people who don’t have a whole lot of direct revelation, then it would be awfully easy to wander off the path and they’d never even see the edge of the cliff. 

Of course, even better is to hang out with a bunch of people who each have light in themselves, lighting things up for each other, for those around them. That way, the path is very well lit with no shadows, and each of us can see both people and the challenges of our environment clearly.