Showing posts with label 2014. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2014. Show all posts

Thursday

Do We Believe It?

We need to consider whether we actually believe the Bible or not.

Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)

Here’s the test question: who has the authority to stop the power of the enemy? Who has the authority to stop what he’s doing, to stop the stealing, killing and destruction?

Now here’s the hard part: Who has the authority to stop evil from happening around us? Who has the ability to limit what the devil is trying to do? Who has the responsibility to put boundaries on what the devil does around our cities and countries, around our families and neighborhoods?

I suspect that solving the problem is easier once we determine where the break is: it’s not on God’s part. (No, it’s not just black & white, but the black & white are a big part of it.)

Brothers & Sisters, let’s pick up the authority, the assignment that Jesus has already given to us, and let’s take our responsibility seriously, and let’s trample on snakes & scorpions; let’s overcome the enemy and his nasty work.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, here, in my neighborhood, as it is in Heaven. For Thine is the glory, the Power and the. Honor, for ever and ever. Amen.”

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.

Learning About Partnering With Angels

I hold an opinion that makes a lot of Christians, a lot of Christian leaders, very, very nervous: I believe that God gives new revelation in some seasons, which previous centuries of Christians may not have had, or may have once had and have forgotten.

One of the topics that it seems that God’s talking about – and it’s terribly uncomfortable to the traditions I was raised in – is the topic of angels. I believe that God is speaking to his children about angels, who are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

There are some reasons that this topic has scared people in the church: some leaders have feared that people would be more enamored with the angels than with the God who created them. And some believers have become so angel-centric that they can’t even spend time with their Heavenly Father without invoking angels.

Sure, there are legitimate concerns to avoid. (There are always legitimate concerns to avoid.) We’ll avoid the dangers, but avoiding the dangers isn’t our goal. Our goal is receiving what Father gives us, because if the Creator of the Universe thinks we need it, then who are we to argue? We need it.

I have a couple of these fellows who live at my home. They guard the peace and the people of  my home. They’re also eager to do stuff, so they roam my neighborhood, terrorizing any demons they find. And frankly, they provoke me to press into Father, to dig into the Word, to learn more about how to live with angels.

They didn’t teach me this stuff in Sunday School.




Friday

What Covenant Was That, Again?

The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So that's what Old Covenant prophets spoke about. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who defied what they knew about God.

That was the Old. That’s dead and gone.

The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness. So that's what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!

You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).

• If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid doing this or that, or about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has done for you.

• If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people group deserves judgment, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has done for you.

• If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.

Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re probably preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.

Come to Jesus and let him renew your mind, your way of thinking.

Thursday

Clean Off Your Boots

Father has had something on my heart for a few days, now. I’d like to share it, in case this is talking about you.

Some folks are in a formidable war, and they know it, but they’re misunderstanding the war.

Some of the battles are about overcoming a sin that’s been besetting you. You’re fighting back, and mostly you’re succeeding, but you surely wish the temptation wouldn’t be so strong and so in-your-face.

Some of the battles come in the words of our neighbors, our leaders, even our brothers and sisters, but they are surely not God’s words. Instead they’re words of accusation, words of manipulation and control, words of rejection and abandonment. You keep shaking them off, but it’s hard to dismiss them entirely.

A small number of the battles are when we’re pressing forward to walk in the fulfillment of God’s promise (and maybe you’ve heard God well, or maybe you’ve missed some of it, it doesn’t matter here), and you encounter opposition and discouragement and ridicule and slander. But still you still fix your eyes, if not on the promise itself, then even better: on the giver of the promise, and you are trying to press forward into your calling.

 Some of the battles that we’re fighting aren’t even our own battles. We’re fighting for sons and daughters who, despite our prayers, are still making foolish choices, partners who have chosen to no longer partner with us. Some of us are fighting on behalf of those who have hurt us, and may still be hurting us. They seem to be trying to fight off our prayers and reject our best intentions for them, and how discouraging that is.

Some time ago, Father spoke to me as I woke, and he’s been bringing it back to my attention recently.

“Tell them that they need to clean off their boots,” He said.


“Wha? Hunh?” I mumbled reflectively. I hadn’t had any coffee yet.

“Tell them to clean off their boots. They’ve been kicking the devil’s ass for so long that their boots carry his stink.”

So I tell you: you need to clean your boots. The devil has told you that you’ve been losing the fight, that you have no hope of winning this particular fight. The devil has been lying to you. (Imagine that!)

The devil has been hiding from you the fact that you’ve been making hamburger of his hindquarters, and he can no longer walk straight because of the beating you’re giving him. He wants you to think you’re losing, when in fact, he’s already lost, and you are, in fact, successfully enforcing our victory over him.

I tell you that you have been more successful in your battle against the evil one than you can know. Keep fighting, he cannot maintain the illusion forever.

His promise is certain: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

He’s talking about you. http://nwp.link/1SjebvW


It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


Another Look at the Forsaking of Jesus

I grew up in a church that sang hymns. Lots of hymns. Old hymns. A big, red hymnbook full of hymns, each with a hymn number.

Did you know that many hymns, particularly the old hymns, often didn’t have titles. I don’t know if song titles hadn’t been invented yet, or if they didn’t want to waste the space, or what. That’s why we use hymn numbers, because often there was no name to use. In that old red hymnbook, Hymn 100 was “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come.”

Instead, they referred to the hymn by the first line. Several relatively well-known hymns are still known by their first lines. “Amazing Grace” is one of the more well known. I grew up singing hymns like “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and “Blessed Assurance,” hymns that are still known by their first lines.

There’s a hymnbook that’s even older than the old red ones I grew up with. The Book of Psalms was the hymnbook of the Jews before Christ, as well as that of the early church.

Have you ever noticed that those psalms, like many hymns, don’t have titles. We generally refer to them by number (like we do with hymns). But the chapter numbers and verse numbers weren’t added until the middle ages (by Steven Langton, in the 12th century if you’re interested). Before that, there were no numbers associated with the psalms.

So before that, they used the first line as the title. People referred to that psalm which we now call “The Twenty Third Psalm” as “The Lord is My Shepherd.” It worked well, because that’s how everybody did it back then.

In fact, it functioned as kind of a shorthand as well. When someone spoke of “The Lord is My Shepherd,” others of their culture knew that was a reference to God’s faithfulness in trying circumstances. (Read Psalm 23 again: that’s what it’s about.)

Star Trek followers may remember “Darmok.” This memorable episode was about a race that spoke only by this sort of reference. In that context, the phrase, “Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra,” clearly spoke of cooperation, while “Sokath, his eyes uncovered” was an obvious reference to understanding or revelation.

The Psalms worked that way. Quoting the first line referenced the entire psalm, and brought the message of that psalm into people’s mind.

Another example: We talk about Psalm 22 only as the twenty-second song in a very long list of songs. But the Hebrew people knew that this psalm spoke about the Messiah, in more detail than many other passages.

Verse 8, for example, predicts his mocking: “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” (See Matthew 27:43.) Or consider verse 18, which says that “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” (Compare that to John 19:24.)

When someone referenced Psalm 22, Hebrew listeners knew that they were talking about the suffering of the Messiah.

But they never called it Psalm 22, because the numbers hadn’t been added yet. They referenced it by quoting the first line: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Do you remember Jesus saying that on the cross? (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)

When we hear Jesus quoting Psalm 22:1, we scratch our heads and wonder why Jesus was accusing God of abandoning him. But that question didn’t occur to someone who grew up with the Psalms, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees. To them, Jesus was clearly referencing Psalm 22. Jesus was reminding the people listening of the Messiah who suffers.

When Jesus quoted this verse, he was saying, “Guys, what you’re witnessing is the Messiah suffering. I am that Messiah, and you need to recognize it.”

Jesus wasn’t accusing God. He was announcing, finally, now at the end of his life, that yes, he was God’s Messiah. Messiah has come. Messiah has been killed. Now what are you going to do about it?

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Note: Dr. Jonathan Welton provoked these thoughts in me.
Others have considered them as well: http://bit.ly/1I5R2JZ

Church, Impropmptu

So the other evening, I invited a couple of guys over for an impromptu barbecue. And it turned into a glorious gathering of some of my favorite saints.

The four of us sat on the back porch, doing very un-churchy things, in the presence of God. 

What kind of un-churchy things? Well we were eating New York steak, fresh off the barbecue, for one. Some of us had a beer with the steak (a nice, black oatmeal stout, in fact!). And we were telling God stories: stories that makes God look good.

After we finished the steaks, a couple of us lit up our pipes, and we listened to the peaceful sound of the rain on the roof. 

And we shared story after story of God intervening in our lives and lives of others we knew. 

And we relaxed.

That was it. Nothing else. No signs and wonders. No offerings. No sermons (got close once, but we dodged it!). Didn’t even get out our Bibles. We just enjoyed God and each other.

I wanted to tell this story for a couple of reasons.

First, the evening really touched me pretty deeply. These are some of my favorite men, and I treasure their company. I just thought I’d share my joy with you.

Second, we sometimes still have the expectation that we need to be doing godly things to be in God’s presence. Bosh! The Incarnation put that one to death. God didn’t seem to be offended by good beer, good tobacco or even the occasional wide-eyed expletive in response to his amazing exploits.

There’s a third reason, and it may not make sense to everybody reading this, and that’s OK: In my world, there isn’t much that says “You’re off duty!” as much as an oatmeal stout and pipe full of Black Cavendish. And if we can’t be “off duty” in our Christian fellowship, then something is seriously wrong!

Yes, I’m suggesting that we put our religion away, far away, and build real relationships with real people in the real world. Those are the ones that will keep us strong in the long run.


Changing Our Focus in Corporate Worship

May I be blunt?

Some among us need to be less concerned about singing the lyrics on the screen, and more concerned about giving voice to the words welling up from inside them.

I was taking a young lady shopping, and she needed to visit some beauty supply shops. You may not suspect this, but I don’t often find myself looking forward to reasons to visit beauty supply shops. So I parked outside and took a nap.

In my five-minute nap, I dreamed, and God met me and spoke to me in the dream. He talked about some people among the Body whom He called “psalmists.” Yeah, I know it’s not the normal way we use the word.

I’m sure there are other definitions, but in this dream, a psalmist was someone whose worship is best when they’re using their own words, not when they’re singing words – even “anointed” words – written by other people with other histories with God.

I could hear Father’s concern for his children who are this kind of psalmist. It seemed to me that this wasn’t something that we were ready to hear before, but now it’s time, and he said,

“Some among us need to be less concerned about singing the lyrics on the screen, and more concerned about giving voice to the words welling up from inside them.”

May I encourage you: worship with the words that are in YOUR heart. If the words on the screen communicate what’s in your heart, great! Use the words on the screen.

But if those words don’t reflect your heart, then don’t use them. Don’t make a scene, but use the words that speak for your heart, even if they’re words that nobody else is using.

Worship isn’t about conformity, is it? It’s about connecting with – it’s about exalting – the King of Heaven with our whole heart, soul and strength. Use the words that do that for you.

Fixing Our Eyes on the Good.

There have been some remarkable discoveries in physics recently, particularly in the realm of quantum mechanics (sub-atomic particles: the tiny things that make up every piece of matter in the universe): Oversimplified: The very fact of observation changes reality.

(This video does a pretty good job of explaining this. The first 5 minutes give you the basics.)

The physicists’ conclusion: “The very act of observing [subatomic particles] caused the wave function to collapse and create the existence of matter.” In other words, observation creates real matter.

This has epic implications: what we observe becomes real. In fact, physicist Anton Zeilinger declares that “What we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure [or observe].”

Let’s describe this in Kingdom vocabulary: it clearly suggests that sons of the Most High create reality not merely by their words, but also by simply paying attention.

This gives greater understanding to passages like Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Applying quantum physics to Scripture, this explains WHY we are directed to dwell – to observe, to fix our attention on – good things: because our observation of them causes them to manifest more completely in the physical realm.

By extension, the reverse is also true: if we do NOT give our attention to things that are negative or evil – we call them “bad reports” – then we do NOT help those things become reality. What we don’t pay attention to never becomes as real as the things we do pay attention to.

So one of the ways that we accomplish our task of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” is in Hebrews 12: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

But the current research in quantum physics has learned even more: just observing subatomic particles not only causes them to actually exist, but it causes them to have already existed, prior to observation (around the 7:00 point of the video), or sometimes, in the future.

I hear this as both a powerful encouragement to focus our attention on good news, on things that are “worthy of praise,” and a clear articulation of WHY we need to pay attention to good things.

As Dr Zeilinger says, This is “a very, very deep message about the nature of reality, and our role in the universe. We are not just passive observers.”

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Avoid Evil, not the Appearance of Evil

The Bible doesn’t actually tell us to avoid every appearance of evil.

First Thessalonians 5:22 says to avoid evil, not the stuff that looks like it might be evil. We avoid the evil itself. 

Yeah, the translation from 400 years ago (King James) mis-translates yet another passage. The language today is different than it was in 1611; the words mean different things nowadays. (This is why I cannot trust any teaching that relies on the KJV to support it.) This is one place where that change makes a difference. 

Four hundred years ago, “every appearance” was kind of like “every kind” of evil. Our instruction is to avoid evil stuff. Avoid evil when it appears: avoid the appearance of evil: avoid every appearance of the evil.

And that’s how EVERY other major English translation of the Bible presents this: “Reject every kind of evil,” (NIV) or “Abstain from every form of evil” (NKJV and NASB). Even the King James usually translates this word “shape.” “Avoid every shape of evil.”

We’re called to avoid evil. The call is not to avoid anything that looks like it might be considered as evil by somebody. Don’t be fussing about stuff that might look bad. Don’t be fussing about your reputation.

Jesus surely didn’t. He hung out with porn stars and filthy rich tax thieves and the most unacceptable people of his day. He went out of his way to connect with Zacchaeus the tax collector and all his tax-collector friends.

He wasn’t afraid to have a rich hooker spend thousands of dollars worth of perfume that she massaged into his bare feet, wiping them with her prostitute hair and kissing him all over his feet. When she was done, he smelled very much  like a hooker, and he defended her actions!

Jesus avoided evil. He never sinned. But he spent so much of his time with the sinners that offended the “good Christians” of the day, that his reputation was “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Jesus had a reputation as a party-goer.

The reputation that Jesus had was that he was the favorite guy of the people who were stuck in sin.

That’s our call: to bring life to those people. These are the people who need what we’re carrying! 

Our call is NOT to avoid the appearance of evil and hang around with the good people. Church kids surely don’t need the grace that we’re carrying quite so much as the untouchable people who are caught in their sin.


That’s why he said, “Go ye, into all the world!” Because it’s all the world that needs what we’re carrying. 

Jesus as a Test of Questionable Doctrine

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being....” This is just saying as a principle that which Jesus had already declared, when he stated “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 and others)

If Jesus is the exact representation of who God is. Jesus is the best revelation we’ll ever get of who God is. It is legitimate and appropriate handling of the Bible to acknowledge that the revelation of God’s nature that Jesus provides (both through scripture and through our experience with him now, it can be asserted) is a superior revelation of God’s nature than any other revelation of God. It is superior to what angels declare, superior to supernatural experiences, superior to Old Testament prophets. Jesus is the best revelation of God’s nature that we will ever, ever have.

Therefore, when examining a doctrine or a teaching, it is Biblical and appropriate to ask, “Is this doctrine consistent with the nature of God as Jesus revealed it?”

If we are faced with a doctrine that assumes that God does this or that, or that infers that God approves this or that, then that makes a statement of the character of God. For example:

    If we believe that God creates beauty, then this infers that God affirms beauty. Is this consistent with Jesus?

    If we believe that God creates evil, then this infers that we believe that God is the source of evil. Is this consistent with how Jesus lived or what Jesus taught?

    If we believe that God is going to snatch his people out of their socks and leave the world without the people He gave the Great Commission to just as the world is entering its greatest tribulation and challenge, then this says things about God’s character: are these things consistent with the revelation of who God is as Jesus has revealed Him? Is this how Jesus has revealed that God works?

Frankly, to avoid or to diminish this test of our doctrine is to reject or diminish the authority of Scripture, because Scripture affirms that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

Having established this test [“Is this teaching consistent with the character of God as revealed in Jesus”], this does not mean that we necessarily completely throw out all doctrine that fails the test. We may only need to refine our belief in that area. This may call for maturity in our doctrine.

If we conclude that the life of Jesus does not support the idea that God is the creator or source of evil, then we do not necessarily throw out any doctrine of evil, or even any doctrine that God uses evil. We may want to acknowledge that while God uses evil to bring about good (the cross may serve as an illustration), it does not therefore follow logically that God is himself the source of evil. We may need to learn that evil has another source.

Or if we conclude that the idea of God snatching his people away just before difficulty strikes is not consistent with the revelation that Jesus provides, we do not therefore need to abandon all consideration of a “Rapture.” Perhaps we just need to re-think the Rapture in terms that are more consistent with God’s character and less consistent with a spirit of fear.

Perhaps there’s real reason for the command we’ve been given: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Maybe part of the reason that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus is because He is STILL the standard by which we understand what is true and what is not.



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Why Believers are Questioning Belief Traditional Views of Hell


All across the church, the move away from the doctrine of hell as "Eternal Conscious Torment" ("ECT") is pretty consistent: many thinking believers are abandoning that doctrine as inconsistent with the character of Christ (who, after all, is the judge of the living and the dead). 

This is the idea that God commands you to love him, and if you don’t he’ll throw you in a place of eternal torment, where you’ll be perpetually tortured for eternity. It’s what many Christians have been taught their whole life.

Frankly, most of the teaching I personally have heard on the ECT front has its foundation more in the writings of a Catholic monk from the dark ages than from the Bible (Dante’s Inferno,from The Divine Comedy). It’s really quite inconsistent with the glimpses that Scripture reveals of the afterlife, and it’s completely inconsistent with a God who loves us enough to die in our place. 

But it preaches well in "evangelistic" sermons, which is why I suspect it has held on for so long.

But regardless of why people are abandoning the ECT doctrine, what they're moving to is far less consistent.

Some whom I respect are landing on the idea of "Conditional Immortality." Those that don’t enter Heaven are just un-made; this view is also referred to as Annihilationism. Some think that they are unmade immediately; many believe that they are unmade after a period of punishment in "hell." There’s good evidence to support this, though that’s beyond the scope this article.

Others, whom I also respect, are seeing an extended time frame, and calling it "Ultimate Reconciliation." These folks do not question that hell exists or that some people are sent there. but they consider that the omnipotent God who loved them in life enough to be murdered on their behalf won’t actually stop loving his haters just because they die, and He won’t stop wooing them throughout eternity, even in hell. There is good evidence to support this idea as well. 

There are other landing spots, but those are the two primary ones. 

I'm not aware of anybody landing on basic Universalism: a free pass for everyone, regardless of what they did or believed in life! Frankly, most of those who speak up about rejecting Eternal Conscious Torment are accused of Universalism, sooner or later, by some of the people who are NOT leaving ECT behind.

A word of counsel: Don’t let people tell you that if you reject the idea that the lover of your soul is in league with demonic torturers then you therefore must be a Universalist. That’s just silly! Remind them that God is love, and that Jesus is perfect theology. 

Many others, among whom I am numbered, haven't landed anywhere yet. We don’t actually know what the reality is on this topic, and we’re aware that there’s far less instruction in Scripture to inform us than we wish there was. 

We're saying, "Yeah, Eternal Conscious Torment clearly can't be the long-term plan of a loving God, but I'm not sure what hell actually is." I suppose you could say that we're focusing more on heaven than on answering this (important) question. I’m not going to hell, and the people I’m leading aren’t going there. Let’s focus more on where we ARE going?

Yeah, it’s unbalanced, but that’s where a lot of folks are right now: questioning the things we were taught without trying to pretend we have all the answers.   

It's actually OK to not have all the answers yet. 

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Considering Covenants

The Bible makes it abundantly clear. We are no longer bound by the Old Covenant.

For example, in Hebrews 8, the author argues forcefully and at length that the Old Covenant has been replaced.

“In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13)

Let’s be clear about it: the Old Covenant was rendered obsolete when Jesus established the New Covenant in his blood, not long before he spilled that blood for us. And within a generation, the last vestiges of that Old Covenant were gone, not one stone left upon another, all records destroyed, so that there could never be another temple.

The reason that the Old Covenant is gone is because it was obsolete. It was a bloody failure anyway. God originally offered the family of Jacob (also known as Israel) a covenant  a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation”" covenant (Exodus 19:6), but Israel turned down that covenant.

Instead, they proposed the priesthood covenant (Exodus 20:19), which they could not keep even long enough for Moses to walk down the mountain with the terms of the covenant they had insisted on. And the rest of the Old Testament serves as a dreary testimony to how thoroughly and how deeply Israel continued to fail in covenant with Father.

There’s a lesson here, I think: Humankind does not excel at keeping divine covenants.

But when we are in Christ, and Christ is in covenant with Father, then I don’t have to rely on MY capacity for perfection to keep my covenant intact. And since the New Covenant is not with a nation, then I don’t have to rely on YOUR capacity for perfection to keep MY covenant intact.

It is the amazing faithfulness of the amazing Son of God who keeps covenant on our behalf. And I am included in that covenant because I am in Him.

And while I made a conscious choice to be in Him, it is not my excellence at keeping that choice that keeps me in Him. Even while I am in Him, He is simultaneously in me, and he is indeed excellent at keeping me.


I choose to stay in Him, not because I signed some covenant agreement, and not because of the threat that he may not love me if I muff up.

I choose to stay in Him because He is the very best thing that’s ever happened to me, and because I am completely, madly, hopelessly in love. And you know what keeps me in love with Him? He is completely, madly, hopelessly in love with me!

Wow!

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Becoming Overcomers.

One of the most distasteful spirits is the Religious Entitlement spirit: it is the one that insists that everything we say or everything we write must be sanitized for the least mature person who might be listening. It’s the same Politically Correct spirit, but on Religion.

I don’t love this demon.

It’s why so many churches have replaced wine in Communion with grape juice: so that some recovering alcoholic doesn’t fall of the wagon during the Lord’s supper.

Here’s the problem: we’ve taken responsibility for that person’s sobriety away from them, and we’ve made it OUR responsibility: WE must avoid wine in order that THEY won’t stumble. And in the process, we’ve made a substitution in the instructions the Son of God gave, and required that every person in our midst must submit to this religious compromise!

And when we discuss the idea that Holy Spirit sometimes speaks about things that are not actually found in the pages of Scripture, we’ll get several people jumping up and railing against it, not because of what was said (that part is ignored, generally), but because someone might stumble and think less of The Bible.

The problem is the: we’ve taken responsibility for that person’s maturity away from them, and we’ve made it OUR responsibility: WE must avoid mature topics in order that THEY won’t stumble! And in the process, we’ve eliminated any controversial topics, or any topics where someone might disagree with me, from the curriculum: and we’ve required that every person in our midst must submit to this lowest, safest, common-denominator pablum.

In the pages of Holy Writ, these elementary, rookie-safe, simple (and often simplistic) teachings are called “milk.” By contrast, the teachings that we need to chew and digest for ourselves, teachings that stretch us and make us think are called “meat” in the King James, or “solid food” in the modern translations. The word is “τροφή” (“trophe”) and Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines it as “deeper subjects of the faith than that of elementary instruction.”

How in Heaven’s name will we learn to be “Overcomers” if we are never faced with something to overcome?

***We pause five seconds for the obligatory warning: Yes, scripture says to guard against causing a brother – an individual – to stumble *in*the*context*of*personal*relationships*. I’m not speaking of that.***

In the context of the whole community, Scripture is rather specific: focusing on milk is a failure. We must grow up. We must eat meat, too.

Paul, in 2Corinthians 3, rebukes the immature Corinthians pretty bluntly: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” Note that those who still need milk: well it’s the apostle Paul’s judgment that they are worldly. Apparently (and this is an inference), the way to get beyond worldliness is to teach people how to eat meat and then to give them meat to eat.

Hebrews 5 emphasizes it this way: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” and follows up with “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”

That’s something of a scathing rebuke, but he gives the answer to this failure: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The author declares that the way believers become mature is by training THEMSELVES to distinguish good from evil. Their maturity is THEIR responsibility. Not mine. Not yours.

Except in the case of the child who still poops in their diapers, it is never in anyone’s best interests for others to take responsibility for their choices. And in truth, it is never in anyone’s best interests to condemn an immature person to pooping in their diapers for the rest of their lives. Bigger and better diapers are not actually the goal of the Body of Christ.

When we take responsibility for others (“We can’t say that; someone immature might misunderstand!”), we’re condemning immature believers to immaturity! Their immaturity becomes OUR fault, and I suspect we will be required to give answer for it, when we get to that Day. Yikes.

Brothers and sisters, the Word of God is calling us beyond the safe “milk” topics. I intend to go there as I hear my Father bringing those topics up.

You are warned: I will occasionally speak about things that are more “meat” than “milk” and I will not try to translate every time. And because I am still learning here (News Flash: I do NOT have all the answers!), therefore sometimes I’ll miss it, too. Sometimes, I’ll explore a path that doesn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I’ll explore un-safe topics. Sometimes, I’ll ask hard questions, and sometimes I’ll probably get some answers wrong. Sorry.

That’s why you need to train yourself to distinguish good from evil: it’s YOUR job, not mine.

If you don’t want to hear these things, I invite you to go somewhere safe. This place will not be safe for you. If you need to be protected from ever being offended, I suggest you to unfriend me now, and find safer paths to travel. I make no promise of this being a safe place.

If you want to train yourselves to distinguish good from evil, feel free to join in the conversation here. I will never steer us in an unsafe direction on purpose, but I’ll bet you a shiny silver dime that I won’t get it right every single time. And there will be topics that come up here that are often not sanitized for immature minds. Occasionally, I will state opinions (sometimes intentionally) that will not pass the religious censors’ strict standards.

But it’s the less-safe paths that lead to the really interesting destinations anyway. 

The Word of God is calling us. The Spirit of God is calling us! Let’s go off the map. Let’s press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us!



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Counterfeits in the Kingdom

One of the signs that says to me, “Hell is scared,” is the immense quantity of spiritual forgery going on. 

Nobody in their right mind counterfeits $3 bills. What gets counterfeited are $20 bills and $100 bills. Why? Because they’re the most valuable.

There is more value tied up in US $20 bills than all of the other American bills combined, except the $100 bill. And of course, there is more value tied up in the US $100 bill than all other US bills combined!

When things are valuable, they are counterfeited. When they are meaningless, they are not counterfeited.

And it’s not just the “most valuable” things that are counterfeited. Nobody counterfeits ten-thousand-dollar bills. That’s silly. The bills exist, but they are so very rare, that they stand out. And there are so few of them that all together, they aren’t worth as much as $1 bills.

No, people counterfeit what is valuable, and they counterfeit what the public can regularly expect to use and handle.

In the Kingdom, nobody is counterfeiting God’s work in Genesis 1. That’s too very rare, and let’s be honest: it’s hard to fake that. And nobody is (seriously) counterfeiting the Cross of Christ. Yeah, people have themselves crucified every Good Friday, but nobody believes they’re Jesus: it’s obvious that they’re fakes. Besides, that particular counterfeit leaves the counterfeiters dead, and it’s hard to make a profit when you’re dead.

But the things that Father is releasing, unveiling in this generation, the treasures that he’s giving (has already given) to every single believer: these are getting counterfeited.

God is speaking about sonship, about how we’re legitimately God’s heirs. So the enemy is showing several counterfeits claiming to be Jesus Christ in the flesh. Here’s one: http://nwp.link/1uLEuNa

God is speaking about how hell isn’t what we’ve always thought it was, so these false Christs are denying hell.

God is showing us how weak and helpless the devil really is, so these false Christs are denying the devil himself.

Our response is not to get all excited that there is yet ANOTHER false Christ. They’ve been around for millennia, and there will be more. Yawn. Our response is not to tell everybody about why this false Christ or that false Christ is actually false. Neither is our response to declare that just because there is a false Christ, therefore all Christs are false, and then deny that Jesus came in the flesh. (Don’t laugh: there are many who have done this!)

Our response is the same in this situation as it is any other time the false is declared: we focus on the real.

If the devil is parading false Christs, we fix our eyes on Jesus, the real Christ.

If the devil is raising up false healings and false miracles, we become skilled in wielding the healing gifts, the gifts of miracles that come from the real Holy Spirit.

If there are New Age mystics who talk about being transported to other places, whether spiritual or physical, either in their own spirits or actually in the flesh, then we press into these gifts (all of which are described in Scripture) and we learn what Father is releasing to his children today.

Bottom line: if the devil is leading people astray, we drawer closer to God to be led by Him (and not by our reaction to the devil) into what is true.

What does the Word say?
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. … But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. – [1 John 2:18-20 NKJV]


Our response to the antichrist spirit that is pretty busy in the culture around us is the anointing from God, to know what he knows, and (since he’s talking about experiential knowledge, not book-learning) to practice what we know from Him.

Let’s follow God, shall we, wherever he shall lead us.

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Wielding Authority to Change the World

I have been reflecting on the changes going on in the United States and in the world. Those are both many and substantial.

But my thoughts focus not on what those changes are, but rather how we should respond to them.

Let us assume, for the sake of this conversation, that many of the changes are inappropriate, even evil, and should be opposed or reversed.

The question at hand is this: how shall we oppose the things we need to oppose. More specifically, what kind of power shall we exercise.

The changes are being made by the exercise of political power, the power of manipulation and intimidation, the power of deception, the power of public opinion, and some would argue that spiritual power is involved. Many of the changes have been by the use of a combination of these forces.

The question that appears to be neglected so often is this: what kind of power shall we wield as believers, to oppose the inappropriate or evil works in our land? Shall we exercise political power, or manipulation? Shall we wield the power of public opinion with petitions?

Let’s back up for just a moment, and ask a slightly more foundational question? What power has God given us? Or what kind of authority has he given us to exercise on his behalf?

In this whole conversation, I’d argue for these truths:

·         Some forms of power are simply not appropriate for sons and daughters of the Kingdom to use: deception and intimidation, for example.

·         The primary tool Jesus gave us was authority, which is not the same as power (that’s a topic for another article), and the authority he gave us is in the realm of the Spirit. Let’s acknowledge, however, that authority wielded in the spirit realm will manifest as changes in the physical realm.

·         Having said that, there are some believers (I emphasize: not all believers) who are specifically called by God to represent his Kingdom in the political realm. These brothers & sisters have the right to exercise authority in that realm.

My tentative conclusion, therefore, is this:  we as believers, when we see a political crisis (such as laws against Christians) or the exercise of violence (I think of ISIS or Hamas), we are not called to exercise the same force that is being used for evil. We are, instead, called to exercise authority in the spiritual realm, with the result of change in the natural realm.

This is the model of the New Testament.

When they experienced a political crisis (for example, Peter jailed, in Acts 12), their response was not to petition the government, and it was not a prison break); rather, they exercised spiritual authority in prayer, and angels were released to carry out the results of that authority in the natural realm.

The result was, ironically, a prison break of sorts, which was what the believers had been praying for, but also a testimony of supernatural power, which spread throughout both the church and the government.

And when they experienced violence (in the person of the Pharisee, Saul persecuting believers), they again went to prayer. In this case, Jesus himself appeared to Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 9), knocked Saul off his ass, and confronted his erroneous ways.

The result was a conversion, which stopped Saul’s “threats & murder” (Acts 9:1), which was what they were praying for, but it also resulted in arguably the greatest preacher of the gospel that has ever walked this planet: the apostle Paul.

I know that we have brothers and sisters who are called to exercise authority in the realms of political power, or of public opinion, or other forms of power. I contend that these are few, and are specifically called by God to those positions of authority.

But all of us, the whole Body of Christ, we have all been given authority to wield in the Spirit. We learned long ago how to wield that authority to lead others out of sin and into salvation. We’ve learned more recently how to wield that authority to heal the sick and raise the dead.

It is time to wield the authority that God has given us – and by doing so, to lay down the power and authority of the world – in the spiritual realm on behalf of nations, and people groups and regions.

It’s time for us to walk away from the weapons of the flesh, and to pick up the weapons that God has given us, and with them, to change the world.


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Terrorism: Father's Grief

The most famous verse in the Bible declares that “For God so loved the world, that he gave…” God loves the world, the whole world.

Father brought that one back to me recently, as I was praying for his Spirit to move among the ISIS terrorists. “Son,” he said, “Christians are all worked up because the terrorists are killing Christians.”

I listened. “I love the Christians. But I love the terrorists just as much.”

That startled me a bit. And it brought back to my mind a conversation we’d had years ago about martyrs. “Do I not have the right to spend the lives of my servants in the way that I know is best?” I could hear tears in his voice as he said it.

And I realized something. While it’s an ugly thing that terrorists are killing Christians, while it’s a heinous act to crucify or behead women or children for any reason, there’s a reality behind it that is yet even worse.

When the Christians are brutally murdered, they go to run and jump and shout and play with Jesus. They go to a place full of light and love and wholeness and acceptance. The route there was evil, but the destination is glorious.

But for the terrorists, when they brutally murder a Christian, the demons that control him wrap their claws tighter around his soul. And when someone blows up a terrorist camp with a cruise missile, it is not to glory that the dead are destined, and it is most definitely not a flock of eager virgins that they will meet when they arrive.

Here’s what I learned today. I already knew that Father wept over his children’s murders, but I was reminded that their blood would, as it always has, be the seed of yet more revival on the earth. Every time a Christian’s blood is spilled, the grace of God is unleashed to bring even more people into the Kingdom.

Their murderers think they are doing evil, but they are sending individuals to glory and empowering revival upon the earth!

But I learned that my Father weeps more over the murderers than over the murdered. Because these do not know hope, because of what their sin does to their soul and how it enslaves them all the more, because when they are killed, their destiny is far away from Him who died that they could know Him. Father grieves because the terribly costly sacrifice of his Son has not yielded in them the benefit for which he paid that terrible price.

Father weeps more over the terrorists than the Christians they murder.


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A Vision of the Puddle.

I was visiting with a friend the other day, talking about what God was up to on the earth today, and I envisioned this picture. (In Churchspeak, “I had a vision.”)

I saw the devil, and he was watching you. And as he saw you emerging from your hidden place, as he saw you beginning to walk in your identity as a child, as an heir, of God, as he watched you shake off “every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares you,” I realized he was standing in a puddle. A yellow puddle. A warm yellow puddle.

Around the planet, the saints of God are coming out of their hiding places; they’re shaking off the snares of the enemy. Around the world, believers are beginning to believe, and are devouring the Word and learning who they really are, and what they’re really armed with. Around the Earth, wounded ones are healing the sick and raising the dead; some of them, without being healed themselves, are healing others in great numbers and with great determination.

And it’s scaring the piss out of hell.

This is one of the main reasons that “all hell is breaking loose” in some places: because all hell is terrified of the people of God growing from just being “Christians,” to becoming “Sons of God.” This is hell’s “fight or flight” mechanism kicking in, except that they have no place to run, nowhere to hide, so they have to fight.

This is also why we’re seeing so many earthquakes, so many storms, on the earth, in my viewpoint. These are the birth pains of the mature sons of God. And it’s also why so many believers are groaning, crying out for more, no longer content with sitting on a wooden pew once a week to be the primary manifestation of their relationship with God.

Romans 8 declares, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

This is happening today, right now. This is going on in you, today, right now. If you’re one of the ones wanting more of God – whether you want more of his presence, more healings, more people to know him, more signs and wonders: whatever! – then you’re one of the ones that are making the devil piss his pants.

Good for you! Keep up the good work! Don’t let down your guard, but keep pressing in! Keep manifesting heaven on earth!

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Nehemiah 4:17: “Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.”


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Returning to the Glory of the First Century Church

Every so often, I hear someone moan wistfully, “If only we could return to the glory days of the first century church! If only we could be as full of faith as they were!”

I think if I hear that again, I’m going to scream.

May I speak plainly? That’s one of the stupidest spiritual-sounding things we could say in this day and age. I make the assumption that people who say that mean well, but come on! Let’s think about this a little bit:

The first century church, the church in the book of Acts, was a wonderful beginning. But they were only a beginning: this was the baby church, in diapers, as it were. I can tell you that I have no interest in going back to diapers. That would be such an epic failure, for the church of today to return to the “glory days” of the first century church! What was for them glorious success would be the worst of failures for us.

● “But,” someone will moan, “There were three thousand saved in a day!” That’s pretty good for rookies. Today, that’s less than an hour’s work in the Kingdom, and some reports suggest that’s closer to 20 minutes’ work.

Let us note that it only happened twice in the Book of Acts that three thousand were saved in a day. Today, more than three thousand people come to faith every single hour of every single day of every single year.

I’m thinking that’s an improvement.

● “But there were signs and wonders!” Somebody is seriously not paying attention. There were fewer than 20 miracles reported in the book of Acts, though there were repots of “lots of miracles.” Nowadays, we have lots of miracles on a regular basis.

I know one group that has a 100% success rate at healing the deaf, and nearly as good success healing the blind. I know two groups that won’t let people become elders unless they’ve raised someone from the dead. I know a group that legitimately calls themselves “The Dead Raising Team,” and they’re successful at it. I can’t tell you the number of successful healing teams I’ve heard about! They’re everywhere, and best of all, NOT just among the leaders, like the book of Acts.

Bethel Church in California reports thousands of documented miracles every time they send their students on outreach. And have you talked to the Healing Rooms movement recently?

Besides, I’m not sure I want more “Ananias & Sapphira events.” It’s my private opinion that even when that happened in Acts, it was an error, and not the will of God, but that’s another story. Surely it won’t be best for folks to fall dead in our meetings, when nobody can agree why it happened!

● “But they had all things in common!” I’ll grant that this is an area that we have room to continue growing in. But I am also aware that we’re talking about completely different cultures here. In that culture, if you couldn’t work, you starved to death. In our culture, the homeless guys on street corners make a (meager) living that in most of the world (or in the first century church) would be considered unmitigated wealth. (http://nwp.link/1s8woOt)

This does NOT mean that I propose that we stop helping the poor! Heaven forbid! This means I propose that we quit berating ourselves simply because we still have poor people among us: Jesus said we always would! (Matthew 26:11)

● “But they sold their homes! That’s dedication!” Well, some of them sold their homes. That was just good business; these were smart Jews! Jesus had clearly declared that the city would be destroyed shortly. It’s just good business to sell a house this week for full price that’s going to be destroyed with the city next week and be worth nothing! And clearly, if they “met house to house,” then not everybody sold their homes.

For the record, I know a bunch of people who’ve sold their homes for the ministry, several more than once. I know of others who sold themselves into slavery so that they could bring the good news to those in slavery, and they died in slavery. Most of these folks haven’t had books written about them, so they’re not known as well. But then Jesus taught us to keep quiet about our generosity, yes?

We could go on.

It is NOT my intent to disparage the excellent start that the Church had, as reported in the book of Acts. That was glorious.

What we have now is substantially more glorious. And that, too, is what we were promised. (See Isaiah 9:7)


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