Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts

Thursday

His Word as a Talisman?

I’m convicted this morning that sometimes we – that sometimes I – have used the promises of God as an incantation, his Word as a talisman.

There have been times that I have quoted the promises written in the Book at my problems as if quoting the promises written in the book would change my circumstances. While those recitations have occasionally worked change in my attitude, I cannot recall that those words alone have ever changed my circumstances.

On the other hand, there have been times that I have used those promises in discussion with my King, times that he and I have wielded those same promises on the problems that were facing me, and the problems have bowed their knee.

I am reminded this morning that it is not the words on the paper that carry power. It is not the noises that come from my mouth that are imbued with his authority, no more than noises from any other part of my anatomy.

It is he himself that is the word of God, and while he inhabits me, while he lives in me and with me, if I use his words apart from him, if I unintentionally leave him as a bystander or cheerleader during my fight, well then he can stand by, he can cheer me on, I suppose.

But if I intend to move in the power of God, I need to move with God, in God. And that’s not a challenge, it’s not difficult. I’m not convinced that it’s automatic either.

I’m not above chewing out an oblivious driver who endangers my life and my vehicle. I’m not sure those words are imbued with the power of God; in fact in hindsight, I hope not!

I’m not perfect in my relationships, and I’ve said hurtful or insensitive things, more than I care to remember, actually. If those words carried the power to move mountains, we’d be in real trouble, I can tell you.

There have been times I’ve declared, “I forgive you” with no more power than my mutterings at the oblivious driver. And there have been times when those words carried power and presence enough to change a life. Apparently it takes more than just the noises from my mouth.

But there are times where my words have been in harmony with his words, words like, “Come out,” “Be filled,” “Be healed,” “Be blessed,” and what I spoke changed reality, became reality. When I spoke with him.

The alternative is to be with him. To be with him when we speak.

Israel has Sinned. That’s Why They Cannot Stand

In my reading today, this stood out to me. I suspect that there’s a principle for me here. Maybe for your too.

Joshua 7: 11 “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”

I don’t know about you, but I was taught that sin is bad because it scares God off from me. “God cannot look upon sin,” they said, completely ignoring the fact that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

As my attention was grabbed by Joshua 7, I realized (yet again) that the big deal is the effect that sin has on me, NOT the silly idea that sin has an effect on God.

To summarize: “Israel has sinned; That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies.” In other words, sin let failure into their lives, sin let their enemy beat them up, sin opened them up to what the enemy was doing, sin made them victims, not victors. 

God doesn’t like sin primarily because of the mess that it makes in our lives: it separates us from (in this example) victory, from our destiny as overcomers.

So when God says, “Be holy,” he’s not laying down the law. That’s largely about, “Position yourselves in the cross-hairs of my blessing!”

Jesus Freaks Out the Disciples

I've been reflecting on Hebrews 1, which tells us that Jesus is the best representation of God's nature we're ever going to get.

In that context, I'm thinking about Mark 6:48-50, yet another place where Jesus is representing Father’s nature.

"He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened."

This, too, is Jesus representing Father to us.

I observe some things here:

• Jesus saw his best friends straining at their work, because circumstances were against them, and he did not stop the events raging against them.

• Jesus let his friends struggle all through the night.

• I remember the aphorism, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” So in the darkest part of the night, Jesus came to his friends. He still didn’t take the storm away, but he brought his presence to them in the midst of the storm. I love how he does this.

• He walks “out to them,” but “He was about to pass by them.” God does that sometimes: he comes to me, but … There are a hundred sermons in this line, but the bottom line is that he came “to them,” and he came close enough to see, but he was not stopping for them. That’s worth thinking about. “He was about to pass by them.”

• But his appearance scares them silly. God’s presence can be terrifying, if I’ve been focusing on the raging storm.

• He didn’t actually get in the boat with them until “They cried out.”

• We know from the other gospels that in here somewhere is the bit where Pete walks on the water, but it’s not in this particular gospel. While that’s a really exciting story (especially for Pete!), apparently that’s not the important lesson here.

• When Jesus gets into the boat, the storm dies down. Isn’t that how it goes?

• They were completely amazed. Duh. This one is not surprising!

• But the reason for their amazement, and maybe for their terror earlier, was because they didn’t understand God’s provision; they “had not understood about the loaves,” the story earlier in the chapter where Jesus “he had compassion” for the crowd of 5000 and taught them and fed them.

Apparently my not knowing God’s compassionate goodness leads to me being freaked out at circumstances, freaked out at his presence showing up unexpectedly, and leads to me being amazed when he changes things.

The last line teaches me that if I misunderstand God’s goodness, my heart gets hardened, and I’ll misunderstand what he’s doing. I might want to guard against this.

And the best way I can think of to guard against this is to be persistently thankful when I see him doing things. If nothing else, it helps me pay attention to what he's doing (so I’ll actually see what he’s doing), and it helps keep my heart in a healthy attitude toward him.

Led by Scripture?

This story has been bugging me:

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.' " - Luke 4:9-12

I’ve been taught, and I’ll bet you have too, to base my choices and my requests on Scripture. If I can support it from the pages of the Bible, I’m safe.

This passage puts the lie to that. In this story, Luci asks Jesus to do something, AND HE SUPPORTS IT WITH SCRIPTURE! This is the secret code we’ve been taught to trust blindly, and the devil is using it to tempt Jesus! ­čś▓

In this story, it’s pretty clear that obeying this scriptural request was very much not God’s will:

Luci (the debbil) was the one making the request.
JC had a better understanding of the whole counsel of Scripture, and recognized that this use (with scripture!) violated the bigger issues.
Jesus only did what he saw Father doing (John 5:19), and apparently Father wasn’t showing off by skydiving from a clifftop, waiting for God to rescue him from the law of gravity and from the consequences of his own choice.
We could add that the quote (from Deuteronomy 8) was out of context, but the worst out-of-context quoter of Scripture that I know is Scripture itself. (But that’s another conversation).

I realize that I’ve done this. I’ve done this: I’ve taken verses as approval for my wishes and choices, and expected God to jump through my hoops. And then I’ve gotten angry or disappointed when he didn’t.

Principle: just because I can find somebody doing it in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s God’s will for my life. Or that it’s safe.

Principle: Yes, look for what Scripture says on the topic, but don’t stop there. Engage Holy Spirit, involve mature brothers & sisters.

Most importantly, know your Father’s heart, so when somebody tries to use Scripture to pull you away from his heart, you’ll know better and not follow that slimy trail.




Edification, Exhortation and Comfort: What Are They Really?

But he who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation and comfort to men.” - 1Corinthians 14:3

I’ve been chewing on this one for several months now. I’d like to invite you to process the verse with me.

At a fundamental level, this is the purpose of prophetic gifts: edification, exhortation and comfort, at least how it works under our New Covenant. (Old Covenant prophets were working from a different foundation, of course.)

When I studied the New Testament Greek in school, I learned that the last item in the series is the important one, the item that the language is emphasizing.

(Four verses earlier is a clear example of this: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The most important one in the list is usually the last one listed.)

And that’s how we’ve handled prophetic gifts most of the time, particularly when we’re training folks to prophesy: “Keep your prophetic words in the realm of edification, exhortation and especially comfort.” Then we hastily add, “Avoid judgment and avoid prophesying relationships at all times.”

But let’s look at these three purposes of the prophetic gifts a little more closely.

Comfort” Paul uses the Greek word “paramythia,” and one of its key meanings is what we expect. It describes talk for the purpose of “calming and consoling.” And this is how we often teach it in the prophetic.

The other use of “paramythia,” particularly as used in other Greek writings, also includes the idea of “persuading, or of arousing and stimulating,” though we have to get that from Plato, Socrates and Josephus, as this verse is the ONLY place that the Bible uses the word, so we don’t get much help from looking up how it’s used in other passages. Comforting, persuading, arousing, stimulating. (Since this is on social media, I suppose it needs to be said: this has no sexual connotations whatsoever.)

Exhortation” comes from the word “parakl─ôsis,” which is closely related to “paraklete,” the word the New Testament uses for the Holy Spirit himself. We usually translate that word as “Comforter,” though in the prophetic, it’s usually in the context of “a calling near, summons,” or “supplication, entreaty,” or “admonition.” In other words, this is an action word, not a warm & fuzzy word. “Come on, let’s go” would be an example of a parakl─ôsis word.

Edification” isn’t a word we use outside of church these days, but we’ve figured out that “oikodom─ô ” talks about the desire and act of building others up.

All of this thinking is happening in the context (both in my own mind, and if I understand right, in the Corinthian church Paul was writing to) of getting away from using Jeremiah and Ezekiel as our models for prophetic ministry. Nowadays, we think in terms of ’Miah and Zeke’s example on one end of the prophetic spectrum, and Precious Moments merchandise for our example on the other end.

My take-away from all this is along those lines. I’m not disrespecting the Old Covenant prophets, nor the Precious Moments business model, but I don’t believe either is an acceptable foundation or model for New Covenant prophetic ministry. And yet both contain at least a hint of the right elements for us.

My conclusion (at least this week) is that New Covenant people are not in the business of fire and brimstone, and that sort of judgment does not belong in our prophetic expressions. In fact, I tend to get up and walk out on those sort of proclamations (which is pretty much metaphorical in the context of social media: I won’t submit myself to that spirit).

The other end of that spectrum, for which I use Precious Moments as a metaphor, strikes me as less harmful to its audience, though it presents an image of the prophetic that is no better.

Those who define prophecy by either example are deceived and badly shortchanged.

Rather, legitimate prophecy does include elements of comforting folks going through a hard time, but rather than a “There, there!” and a pat on the hand, it also includes (in the vocabulary of 1Corinthians 10:13) “a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” It is not at all without sympathy (or empathy), but it most definitely doesn’t stop with that. And it certainly does not get in the way of personal responsibility.

And while legitimate prophecy completely avoids any vocabulary of God smiting or hating folks for what they’ve done (which was not uncommon under the Old Covenant), the concept of “You can do better,” or “Here’s the truth to replace the lie you’ve believed” is very appropriate, and is a solid example of “edification, exhortation and comfort to men.

Another way of describing that change of focus when calling people higher is this: “Don’t declare the problem. Anybody can do that. The evening news does a pretty good job. That takes no faith. Declare the solution. Declare the Good News. Declare God’s point of view of “a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)


Running With Jesus

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” [Hebrews 12]

I was reflecting on this recently. I do that regularly, as this is one of the clearer statements in Scripture: Run the race by fixing our eyes on Jesus.

But first, which Jesus do we fix our eyes on?

• The Jesus of the Gospels? “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” This Jesus?

• The Jesus in Revelation? “There before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” This Jesus is certainly more attention-grabbing.

• I suspect rather, we need to fix our eyes – not on Jesus who was – but Jesus who is. Not how he was seen before and described by others, but who he is now and what he’s doing now.

The call is to fix our eyes on Jesus, not stories about Jesus (though they’re good!), not even the miracles that he’s doing even today (though they’re awesome!). But on the person of Jesus.

Now here’s the rub: how do we do that? “Fixing our eyes on Jesus”? How do we do that?

We can take day trips to Heaven and visit with him there [John 3:13]. But that’s short-term.

We can stay in conversation with him throughout the day [1Thessalonians 5:17]. But that’s not “fixing our eyes on….”

Suddenly, I understand why people would consider hiding away in remote monasteries. They can pay more attention to Jesus and less attention to the things of this world.

The more I meditate on this, the more I’m convinced that this is about staying in communication with him throughout my day, “doing life” together with him, talking, listening, watching, learning. This is about running with him

At least that’s how I’m seeing it today.



Adversity as a Test

 Chewing on these verses from Hebrews 3 today:

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.”

I’m drawn to the phrase “the time of testing in the wilderness.” When was that time of testing he’s referring to, anyway?

The first time the word appears in Exodus is shortly after the people escaped Egypt into the wilderness:

“When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test."”
[Exodus 15:23-25]

The people needed something, and what they found on their own was not suitable to meet their need, so rather than ask God (or his designated leader at the time), they complained.

God calls it a test. It was a pattern they continued all the way from Egypt to the promised land: they had a need, so they whined, but God came through.

It occurs to me that the whiney people, freshly delivered from slavery, didn’t recognize the tests. I understand why they didn’t recognize the first one: they’d never been tested by God before.

But it happened over and over and over. Every time they had a need, they could have looked to God who had already met every single need they had for escaping slavery and surviving in the wilderness, but they focused their attention on their needs instead. And they whined.

Hebrews interprets this whining as them hardening their hearts. They had the choice in the test: do we trust God, or do we harden our hearts and whine?

I admire God’s patience as the whiny people tested his patience. (Yes, Scripture is clear: they tested him, too.)

Then I realized that when I am faced with a need, that’s probably a test, too.

If God is my provider, he’s going to provide for my needs.

(Note that not every want qualifies as a need. God has not promised to provide for everything I want, just for my needs. I may need to discern the difference.)

So every time I encounter a need in my life, I’m faced with the same choice: do I use this as an opportunity to bring my need to my Father, which keeps my heart soft toward him?

Or do I look at my need, focus on my need, whine about my need, and harden my heart toward my Father who loves me, and who is using this as an opportunity for softening my heart?

Test for Apostles & Prophets

Ephesians 2 says, "You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."

Some among us are called by God to be prophets, and some are called to be apostles. Therefore this verse applies to these men and women.

Here’s a question for these folks: How are you doing at being foundational?

I sometimes wonder if this is one of maybe two key tests of the effectiveness of apostles & prophets: Are you being a foundation for others to build and grow on.

The other test, remembering Ephesians, chapter 4, is this: are saints being equipped, made more effective in their works of ministry after having been around you? Pretty similar work, wouldn't you say?

Observation: this seems to have little or nothing to do with how many conferences you speak at, how many people are in your network, or how many people greet you in the marketplace as Prophet Jered or Apostle Tiffany.

Success as a prophet or apostle doesn’t seem to be related to how many people you lead (not that it's insignificant), but what the nature of your influence is in their life.


Finish the Work of Church Discipline

I was part of a church one time, where one of the leaders developed what was seen as an inappropriate relationship with his female secretary.

He didn’t respond to counsel (he didn’t agree with their evaluation), and so Matthew 18 was brought out, along with 1 Corinthians 5:4&5 to bring him to repentance.
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For reference:
“...if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector....” [Matthew 18:17]

“...deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved....” [1Corinthians 5:5]
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This was a difficult gathering, when we obeyed these scriptures. It was, however, done tenderly and lovingly (I have seen these verses wielded in less loving ways at other times).

Over time, the gentleman in question recognized that he had been in error and repented. (Later, he testified that when we talked about “delivering him to Satan,” that it wasn’t a metaphor.)

It’s my observation that this sort of church discipline is exercised from time to time, whether with love or with a cudgel, by churches who value obeying the Scriptures.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a church practicing the rest of that process.
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“The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” [2Corinthians 2:6-8]
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It seems that pretty often, the church whose leader has failed morally is more focused on getting the stain off of their reputation than they are in restoring a fallen brother. And so “church discipline” when it goes this far, has come to mean that we’ll never see that brother again.

That’s not the plan.

The Matthew 18 passage instructs us to “treat him as a tax collector.” You might want to recall that the author of this passage, Matthew himself, was once a tax collector, until Jesus met him.

Or consider how Jesus dealt with the only other tax collector named in Scripture (“Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”). There was no shunning, no sweeping under the rug here.

The 1Corinthians passage goes on to say that the goal of that process is “that his spirit may be saved.” And if that weren’t enough, the apostle chews them out in his next letter for not going out of their way to restore the guy.

That’s how our Jesus does things: he restores folks. More specifically, he restores relationships with folks that the religious community has written off as embarrassing and inappropriate.

I’m thinking that Jesus is a good model to live up to.


Lessons From Samson’s Failure

This morning, I was watching a video that somebody posted online, a Bible teacher I had never heard of. And as I watched and listened, I realized that the things he was saying were not settling well in my spirit.

He was basing his teaching on the Bible, sort of. And he clearly had a gift, though it was negotiable as to whether his gift was teaching or gathering a crowd. 

I decided not to continue under his influence and switched him off. And I kept thinking about it, about the dynamics going on here.

Later, I was working my way through the Book of Judges, and I came across Chapter 13. (Interestingly, the term “Chapter 13” in US law often refers to bankruptcy.) This is where the story of Samson begins. As I listened, it came alive for me. I love it when He does that.

My attention was drawn to the fact that Samson had a real, legitimate gift from God. What he did not have was a discerning heart. Samson’s character was bankrupt.


Samson was a Nazarite. A Nazarite had only three limitations, three vows:

 1. No wine or fermented alcohol.
 2. No haircuts.
 3. No contact with corpses or dead things.

I have no idea how Samson did with the first vow. 

He's famous for obeying the second, at least for a while.

I find it fascinating to observe his complete disregard for the third vow. 

(It is beyond the scope of this meditation to consider why obeying his second vow was so important to maintaining his gift, but obeying the third vow was apparently insignificant.

At one point Samson kills a bunch of enemies with the jawbone of an ass: that is just a chunk of dead animal. Another time, he scoops honey out of a dead lion and casually shares it with his mom and dad.) 

Sammy was unquestionably gifted by God, clearly the most gifted person of his generation. But he was really stupid.

It appears that he let his gift cloud his judgment. 

More than once he put himself into nasty situations with the enemy, excusing it by rationalizing that his gift would get him out of trouble.

More than once, the pretty girls he was hanging around work were clearly working for his enemy and were intent on his demise. They told him so. And yet Sammy did not guard his heart, he did not guard his gifting.

Delilah asked several times how to bind him, how to take him captive. He gave her false answers the first few times, but he should have figured it out when every time, his enemies tried that false answer on him. Clearly she was giving all of his answers to his enemies.

And yet he was so confident in his gifting that he ignored the danger.

That arrogance cost Sam his freedom, cost him his gifting, and even cost him his ability to see. It left him a slave, working for his enemies.

As I was meditating on these chapters, it seemed to me that it's pretty easy for gifted men and women of God in this day and age to fall into the same sort of failure that Samson fell into. It seems that hell is still using these tactics against God’s folks.

I believe that we as gifted believers can and should rely on our giftings. But clearly, there is a limits to that. When we listen more to our gifting, when we listen more to our desires, than we listen to either the Spirit of God, the Word of God or the people of God, that's when it gets really messy.

I don't actually know if the gifted preacher in the video I was watching this morning is falling into Sam’s trap, but as I meditated on this, I found myself praying for that preacher.

I know several people who have gotten seriously sidetracked by their very real, very powerful gifting. Some were famous, some were not. But I have observed these principles in their lives.

Some of them clearly relied on their very real gift to get them out of questionable circumstances. Some of them relied on the very real revelation they were getting more than the revelation of scriptures or the counsel of brothers and sisters in the faith.

Most of them have crashed and burned; some of them are still in that process. It’s not pretty. It is clearly not God's will for their failure, but I observe God's mercy working in it. If nothing else, it stopped them from continuing down that twisted path and compounding their failure.

I suspect that this is a season where God is refining his people. I suspect that He is keeping his gifted sons and daughters on a shorter leash than in previous seasons.

I don't have gifts anything likes Samson or like the men and women that I have watched crash and burn, but I have gifts. Just like you do. I want to be careful with mine. 

So I find myself intentionally sharing more of myself with the men and women around me. I find myself intentionally asking God to search my heart. I know that I am not immune to the temptations that took out Samson or the others.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

This morning, I was watching a video that somebody posted online, a Bible teacher I had never heard of. And as I watched and listened, I realized that the things he was saying were not settling well in my spirit.

He was basing his teaching on the Bible, sort of. And he clearly had a gift, though it was negotiable as to whether his gift was teaching or gathering a crowd. 

I decided not to continue under his influence and switched him off. And I kept thinking about it, about the dynamics going on here.

Later, I was working my way through the Book of Judges, and I came across Chapter 13. (Interestingly, the term “Chapter 13” in US law often refers to bankruptcy.) This is where the story of Samson begins. As I listened, it came alive for me. I love it when He does that.

My attention was drawn to the fact that Samson had a real, legitimate gift from God. What he did not have was a discerning heart. Samson’s character was bankrupt.

Samson was a Nazarite. A Nazarite had only three limitations, three vows:

 1. No wine or fermented alcohol.
 2. No haircuts.
 3. No contact with corpses or dead things.

I have no idea how Samson did with the first vow. 

He's famous for obeying the second, at least for a while.

I find it fascinating to observe his complete disregard for the third vow. 

(It is beyond the scope of this meditation to wonder why obeying his second vow was so important to maintaining his gift, and why obeying the third vow was apparently insignificant.

At one point Samson kills a bunch of enemies with the jawbone of an ass, which is just a chunk of dead animal. Another time, he scoops honey out of a dead lion and casually shares it with his mom and dad.) 

Sammy was unquestionably gifted by God, clearly the most gifted person of his generation. But he was really stupid.

It appears that he let his gift cloud his judgment. 

More than once he put himself into nasty situations with the enemy, excusing it by rationalizing that his gift would get him out of trouble.

More than once, the pretty girls he was hanging around work were clearly working for his enemy and were intent on his demise. They told him so. And yet Sammy did not guard his heart, he did not guard his gifting.

Delilah asked several times how to bind him, how to take him captive. He gave her false answers the first few times, but he should have figured it out when every time, his enemies tried that false answer on him. Clearly she was giving all of his answers to his enemies.

And yet he was so confident in his gifting that he ignored the danger.

That arrogance cost Sam his freedom, cost him his gifting, and even cost him his ability to see. It left him a slave, working for his enemies.

As I was meditating on these chapters, it seemed to me that it's pretty easy for gifted men and women of God in this day and age to fall into the same sort of failure that Samson fell into. It seems that hell is still using these tactics against God’s folks.

I believe that we as gifted believers can and should rely on our giftings. But clearly, there is a limits to that. When we listen more to our gifting, when we listen more to our desires, than we listen to either the Spirit of God, the Word of God or the people of God, that's when it gets really messy.

I don't actually know if the gifted preacher in the video I was watching this morning is falling into Sam’s trap, but as I meditated on this, I found myself praying for that preacher.

I know several people who have gotten seriously sidetracked by their very real, very powerful gifting. Some were famous, some were not. But I have observed these principles in their lives.

Some of them clearly relied on their very real gift to get them out of questionable circumstances. Some of them relied on the very real revelation they were getting more than the revelation of scriptures or the counsel of brothers and sisters in the faith.

Most of them have crashed and burned; some of them are still in that process. It’s not pretty. It is clearly not God's will for their failure, but I observe God's mercy working in it. If nothing else, it stopped them from continuing down that twisted path and compounding their failure.

I suspect that this is a season where God is refining his people. I suspect that He is keeping his gifted sons and daughters on a shorter leash than in previous seasons.

I don't have gifts anything likes Samson or like the men and women that I have watched crash and burn, but I have gifts. Just like you do. I want to be careful with mine. 

So I find myself intentionally sharing more of myself with the men and women around me. I find myself intentionally asking God to search my heart. I know that I am not immune to the temptations that took out Samson or the others.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.


Assisting During the Glory

During the Transfiguration (see Mark 9), we see this interaction:

“[Jesus’] clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Father showed me some more of me in this story, today. It wasn’t about Pete freaking out by his mentor glowing in the dark. It wasn’t about him consulting with a couple of (presumably) dead guys. That’s gnarly, but we’ve seen that for years.
 
We know that Pete proposed putting up some buildings because he was freaked out. But I’d never before noticed that the fisherman was proposing a construction project to Jesus who was a) a trained carpenter, and b) the Master Builder of … well, of everything. 
 
And I realized how many times I’ve done that: offered to do “something that I can do” to my king and mentor who a) can do it better than I can, and b) has seen this opportunity from before the foundation of the world, and already has a plan for taking care of it.
 
But I come toddling along, feeling kinda powerless in the situation, wanting to find SOME way to be useful: “Here, let me do that for you.” Kinda missing the point.
 
One of the main reasons for this whole experience was that JC wanted his friends to see this thing happen. He wanted to be more fully known by them. He’s not showing off; that’s humility: being known as he really is.
 
And another of his reasons for this encounter was that he wanted counsel from a couple of guys who had been trail-blazers in their own day, and who had already made their own way through death (in two completely different ways) to the other side. He needed their support.
 
And here comes Pete, toddling along, feeling kinda powerless in the situation, wanting to find SOME way to be useful: “Here, let me do that for you.” Kinda missing the point of what was happening there.
 
As I read the story from Pete’s perspective, I reflect on how he could have been less stupid here. Maybe he just shuts up and takes it all in. Maybe he waits until the meeting is over and shakes hands with Mo & Eli. Maybe he just makes a list of questions he wants to ask on the way down the mountain.
 
I dunno. I’m still working on that, because I want to learn how I can avoid cramming my foot in my mouth the way I’m good at doing (and the way Pete is good at doing).
 
I sure love Father’s gentle reminder: “Guys, this is where your attention needs to be: Listen to my Son!”
 
This is an awesome family relationship that I’ve been brought into. I’m loving he (hard) process of learning how we do things in this family. 

Edifying One Another


Have you ever been surprised by what a verse you’ve always known means more when you see it in the light of another verse.

We all know 1Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” We know about our responsibility to comfort each other, to edify each other.

Today when I read this verse, I heard it in the context of 1Corinthians 14:5: “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”

There it is again: comfort each other, edify each other. And here, Paul describes this as the purpose of the prophetic gifts.

Two verses earlier, he commanded us, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” Again a command, this time to pursue prophetic gifts. One translation says, “covet to prophesy.”

Wait, what? You don’t mean to say that every one of us can prophesy, do you? That I can prophesy?

Yeah, I do. [cf 1Co 14:31] You can prophesy. You can comfort folks, edify [instruct or improve] them, exhort [encourage] them. In fact, that’s both part of your destiny and part of your instructions from God.

Wednesday

Consider John the Baptist

According to Jesus, John had a pretty solid ministry. The incarnate Son of God said this about him:
 
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. “This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”  [Luke 7]
 
It seems to me that if the Son of God describes you as the greatest prophet in the history of the world, that’s probably a ministry you can trust. But Jesus went further, calling him Elijah.
 
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” [Matthew 11]
 
Jesus was identifying John as the fulfillment of Malachi 4: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD,” the prophet that the entire nation was waiting for.
 
This John the Baptist from Jesus’ point of view. Looking at his life from his own perspective, we see a different picture:
 
“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
 
“Then they said to him, “What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ‘ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
 
And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”  [John 1]
 
A lot of people did not understand John the Baptist, and John himself was one of them.
 
John understood some of the role he was fulfilling. He knew that he was preparing the way for Messiah, but he didn’t recognize that he was fulfilling one of the more anticipated Old Testament prophecies.
 
In fact, John even questioned whether he had utterly failed at the part of his ministry he did understand, at one point sending his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” [Luke 7:19]
 
This is the man that the Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God described as, “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”
 
I was reflecting on these statements about John recently, and I realized, “If John can miss it that badly, so can we. If John only figured out part of what he was doing, and wasn’t even sure about that, then how often, I wonder, do we misunderstand the impact that we’re having on the world, on the lives around us. Do we miss the big picture?”
 
The reality is that we won’t really understand – we cannot understand – our effectiveness in our life in this life here on earth, not until we see it from God’s perspective. I refer to that day as Big Screen Day, when we’ll actually see the results of our life’s work, and we’ll meet the people whose lives we have impacted.
 
Until then, we “see through a glass darkly,” and we lack the whole picture. My recommendation is that we don’t waste our time wondering about the efficacy of our ministry. He’s instructed us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
 
 

Thursday

Do Not Think That I Came to Destroy the Law or the Prophets

I’ve run into several people recently who quote Matthew 5:17, and use that to say that the OT Law is still valid. 

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” [MT 5:17]
 
They’re saying “Fulfilled means it’s still valid. You’re still obligated.”
 
Others say, “No, Fulfilled means it’s done, it’s concluded. It did its job, and now it’s over.”
 
So I thought, Let’s see how that word is used in other places in the Bible. That should give us an idea of what it means here.
 
So here’s a list. This is just part of the New Testament list, but the Old Testament use of the word is similar. (See the links to the full list in the footnotes)
 
Suggestion: For each verse, ask: “Does ‘fulfilled’ mean ‘It’s still in power; you’re still obligated’? or does ‘fulfilled’ mean ‘It’s done, concluded, and here’s the result’?”
 
Mat 2:15
where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
 
Mat 2:17
Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
 
Mat 2:23
and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
 
Mat 13:14
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
 
Mat 13:35
So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
 
Mat 26:54
But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
 
Mat 26:56
But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
 
Mat 27:9
Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel,
 
Mar 13:4
“Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
 
Mar 14:49
Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
 
Luk 1:1
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
 
Luk 1:38
“I am the Lord's servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
 
Luk 4:21
He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
 
Luk 18:31
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.
 
Luk 21:24
They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
 
Luk 22:37
It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
 
Luk 24:44
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
 
Jhn 17:12
While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
 
Jhn 18:9
This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
 
Jhn 19:24
“Let's not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let's decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.
 
Jhn 19:28
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
 
Jhn 19:36
These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”
 
Act 1:16
and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.
 
Act 3:18
But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.
 
Act 13:27
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.
 
Act 13:33
he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “ ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.'
 
Act 23:1
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”
 
--
Which is it?
 
Still in power; still obligated?
 
or
 
It’s done, concluded, finished?
 
-----
So here’s a list.
This is just part of the New Testament list (whole NT list: http://bit.ly/1MbLMaf),
but the Old Testament use of the word (whole OT list: http://bit.ly/1MbLMqF) is similar.
 

Collateral Damage From Someone Else's Errors

In Genesis 14, the king of Sodom and some other kings went out to war, to oppose an invading horde that was conquering the region.
 
They lost, so the conquering horde plundered the cities of the losing kings. Sodom was plundered by the invaders: the riches (“goods”) of the town, and they hauled off the people to be their slaves.
 
As part of their plundering, they carried off Abraham’s nephew Lot, who lived some distance away from the cities in the valley. 

Abraham gathered up his own army, drawing heavily on his employees and friends, and defeated the invading horde that had just conquered and plundered the valley.
 
I’ve read this story (1) a thousand times. This morning, some new thoughts crossed my mind.
 
Lot was not part of the war, but he was taken in the plundering anyway. I’m feeling Father inviting me to look at the war going on around me: is it my war, or am I being plundered because of someone else’s war?
 
• Uncle Abraham wasn’t trying to rescue five kings and five cities. He was rescuing his nephew (2). It also happens that we experience breakthrough as a side-effect of someone else’s breakthrough. Those might be worth looking for, too.
 
• I observe that Abraham’s relationships based on relationship, rather than on gathering for warfare. (3) (They were “allies”; Hebrew: “Men of covenant.”) At least in this situation, the covenant relationship seemed to contribute to the victory in battle over what appeared to be superior forces.
 
• That happened to Lot a second time a few chapters later, but this time (thanks to Uncle Abraham’s prayers), the angels chased Lot & his family out of the city before the city was destroyed. This time, Lot was nearly destroyed by the consequences of someone else’s sins (4).
 
• When Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed, that was “Because the outcry against [them] is great.” It was in direct response to somebody’s crying out over the city. (5)  The things we say about a city will have great consequences. In this vein, I’m tired of folks cursing New York, Washington DC and San Francisco. Personally, I guard my mouth against even casually saying things that, if taken literally, would result in “stealing killing and destruction;” that’s someone else’s job and I WILL NOT help him. (5½)
 
• It was Abraham’s prayers for the people of Sodom & Gomorrah that spared Lot & his family. I suspect that if he’d had the nerve to keep going, he could have averted the entire judgment, but that is only conjecture. Clearly God does look for people to cry for mercy. (6) It’s probably good to be one of the people that cry for mercy. God goes out of his way to find these folks.
 
 
----
Footnotes
(1) https://www.blueletterbible.org/tools/MultiVerse.cfm?s=000Mbf
 
(2) Genesis 14:14
 
(3) Genesis 14:13
 
(4) Genesis 19:15
 
(5) see also: https://bit.ly/2Tvx7hb
 
(5½)  John 10:10
 
(6) Ge 18:23-33. See also Exodus 32:10-14; Ezekiel 22:30; Isaiah 59:16; Jeremiah 5:1; Psalm 106.23
 
 
 
 
 

Some Ways of God's Provision in the Desert

Point One: God has proven himself to be a skiled planner. If you look at the remarkable number (hundreds!) of advance plans (sometimes called prophecies) that he prepared in advance of his Messiah’s appearance on earth, details as far back as Genesis 3, you realize that God has some mad skills at planning ahead.
 
Point Two: God is good. That’s not negotiable. God is always (always!) in favor of his kids, always working for our good.
 
Point Three: In Exodus, God is pretty badass. His plagues confront the Egyptian “gods” and show them to be powerless. Then he leads a couple of million people out of slavery right on the schedule he had announced several centuries earlier.
 
And here’s where my ears seriously perk up.
 
God, the omniscient, omnipotent super-planner leads his people into the desert, famous for having neither food nor water. And what a surprise, the people have no water, no food.
 
So they complained. Like slaves do.
 
They wanted food (Exodus 16). So he fed them meat (quail: good eating!) in the evening, and bread (manna) the next morning (v12).
 
Then they complained about not having water (Exodus 17), and in the midst of their whining, they asked for water (v2). And God gave them water. He used a pretty epic miracle (v6) to do it, too.

And in these ways he provided for his children for forty years in the desert. (Hint: read Exodus again. What epic stories!)
 
We’ve all heard sermons about their complaining, and how that irritated God and really frustrated their leader, Moses. Reasonable lessons to draw from these stories.
 
I was talking to God the other day as we were going through Exodus. “You’re so good at planning. Why did you lead them into the desert without food or water?”
 
And suddenly, my mind was taken back to The Magician’s Nephew, CS Lewis’s book about the beginning of Narnia. Polly and Digory were on a mission for Aslan, the Christ figure, and they were hungry:
 
“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse. “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
 
And Father whispered to me, “I wanted them to ask me, so I could answer them.”
 
I realized that God was training them how to come to him to meet their needs: his goal is relationship, a relationship of trust.
 
Someone smart once said, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” God works on our behalf to teach us that faith, how to relate to him in faith.
 
He’s good that way.
 
 
  

The Ministry of the Winnowing Fork

John said of Jesus: “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3]

I used to think of this – I was taught to think of this – as a description of the judgment of people, the “turn or burn” kind of statement. It was often included in evangelistic threats... er... sermons. “Raise your hand or face unquenchable fire!” Ick.
 
I don’t think that way any more. I’m not saying there is no judgment of individuals; clearly there is (though we’ve misunderstood it most of the time).
 
But wheat is produce, it’s fruit. This is talking about what we produce, the fruit we bear. This isn’t Revelation 20, it’s 1Corinthians 3:12-15.
 
In fact, I don’t think this is something to run from; I don’t think this is a threat. This is an offer of help. This is priceless.
 
I can’t speak for you, but for myself, I have to admit that there’s stuff in my life that’s not helpful. There’s stuff that gets in my way, stuff that slows me down, stuff that distracts me. There’s chaff in my life. I’m OK with that being removed from me.
 
And one of the earliest and most foundational descriptions of Jesus is all about that: keeping the good, the nourishing, getting rid of the useless, the distraction.
 
And if I think about it, that’s the essence of Jesus’ first sermon: “Repent [change how you think], for the Kingdom of God is within reach.” Get rid of the thinking that keeps the Kingdom out of reach. Hmm.
 
Invitation: if you feel like it, invite Jesus to point out chaff in your life, in your memories, in your values, in your ways of thinking. And invite him to take his winnowing fork to you, and to remove those things.
 
And trust him to do it kindly. Cuz that’s who he is.

Examples of Mystical Experiences in Scripture

I’ve been thinking about whether it’s reasonable to ask whether  mystical experiences should be normal for Christians. So I dug deeper into the Bible to see more of what the Bible has to say about them.

I was raised to think these were foreign to Christianity, contrary to the Bible, and were only experienced by people oppressed by demonic influences.
 
It turns out that our heroes in the Bible experienced some pretty significant “mystical experiences”:
 
• Daniel, Peter and Paul experienced trances. (1)
 
• Jesus and Paul took day trips to Heaven. (2)
 
• Folks burst out prophesying unwillingly (3)
 
• Philip, Jesus & Elijah were transported from one location to another (4)
 
• Visions were common for God’s people throughout the Bible. (5)
 
• Many people had God appear to them in a dream. (6)
 
• Many people heard the audible voice of God. (7)
 
• How many people in the bible had encounters with angels? (8)
 
• I’m reminded of people who walked with God (9)
 
These are just the easy ones to find. How many people experienced his comfort, his presence, whether in their souls or in their natural senses. How many believers have had conversations with God, been given knowledge or instructions by God.
 
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” [Jesus, in John 14:2]
 
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” [Paul, in 1Corinthians 11:1]
 
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [Paul, in 2Timothy 3:16-17]
 
I’m thinking that we should be learning from the example of Scripture and stop fearing “mystical” or other supernatural experiences and maybe even embrace them. We can be confident that these experiences are indeed Biblical. We are indwelt by a supernatural God who loves mystery, after all.
---
 
Footnotes:
1.      Daniel 8:18, 10:9; Acts 10:10; Acts 22:17; 2Corinthians 12:2.
2.      John 3:13; 2Corinthians 12:2
3.      1Samuel 10:11, 19:24; Numbers 11:27
4.      Acts 8:39, 40; John 8:59, 12:3; 1Kings 18:12
5.      Genesis 15:1; Psalm 89:19; Isaiah 1:1, 6:1-10; Matthew 17:9; Luke 24:23; Acts 10:3, 10:11-17; Revelation 1:12ff
6.      Numbers 12:6; 1Kings 3:5; Matthew 1:20, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19,
7.      Exodus 3:5; Deuteronomy 4:33; 1 Samuel 3:4-11; Mathew 3:17; Mark 9:7; Acts 9:4; Revelation 1:10, 4:1
8.      Genesis 21:17; 2Kings 1:15; 1Chronicles 21:30; Matthew 1:20, 28:5; Luke 1:13, 1:30, 2:10
9.      Genesis 3:8, 5:24, 6:9; Micah 6:8, 2Corinthians 6:16

Tuesday

Scripture Interpreting Scripture: Eternity

You know how some things are better when they’re together? There’s more goodness when the right things come together. Cookies & milk are like that. Red wine & good cheese. Garlic & onion.

I always enjoy finding new combinations of things that belong together, that I had never considered together before. Sometimes that happens to me with Scripture. This is called letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and it’s known to be a good way to interpret the Bible.

When two or three passages are put together, sometimes they mean more than they did when they were apart. And since “all Scripture is God breathed, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” we can be confident that it’s a legitimate use of the Bible to use all of it for teaching or correcting our understanding of God.

For example, consider Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s kind of a big statement. It’s basically just a big list of stuff that cannot separate us from the love of God. There’s a lot of comfort in those verses.

Recently, two of the items on the list stood out to me: the first one (“death”) and the last one (“nor anything else in all creation”) also cannot separate us from the love of God. That’s a big deal.

And as I was reflecting on how we can’t be separated from God’s love by death or nothing else, another verse drifted through my mind. (It had my Father’s fingerprints on it.)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” [Revelation 21:8]

Wait, what? If death can’t separate me from the love of God, then the second death, the “fiery lake of burning sulfur” cannot separate me from the love of God.

But wait, there’s more! recently, God has been speaking to me through John 12:32, so let’s bring that one into the mix. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” How many people is he drawing to himself? It doesn’t say, “I will draw some people,” or “many people” or “144,000 people” to himself. It says “all.” Whoa.

It also does not say, “I might draw” all people to himself. It says, “I will draw,” and we studied that word to discover it was indeed a forceful drawing, like drawing a sword, or drawing a bow, or drawing a boat up onto the shore. “All” is a big word.

We can certainly argue that the promise of Romans might be only for believers; I know because I’ve done it, trying to make God exclusive. But God isn’t terribly exclusive (though his people certainly are), which makes that application difficult. Possible, but difficult.

And we can certainly argue that the warning of Revelation only apply to unbelievers; I used to teach that too, though if I’m honest, I know believers who fit every one of those qualifiers for the fiery lake, which kind of messes up that argument.

But John’s verse, now that little word “all” throws a pretty epic wrench in that whole “us vs. them” thinking.

So here’s where this whole line of thinking leads me: if there are people in the lake of fire, then the love of God is there with them, right there in the fire with them, doing what the love of God does: drawing people to Jesus.

That’s an unnerving conclusion. At this point, I cannot set this down as “What I Believe.” I can’t say that I’m confident this conclusion is an accurate representation of God (though I’m pretty confident that my previous beliefs were drivel and malarkey, only suitable for fertilizing the tomatoes).

All I’m saying is that if the whole Bible is true (and it is), if all scripture is God breathed (and it is), then I need to consider this carefully, seriously, in the light of the “whole counsel of God,” [Acts 20:27] and also in light of “the exact representation of [God’s] nature” [Hebrews 1:3].

My tentative conclusion is that God is not nearly so interested in smiting as we’ve tended to think he was. No, let me say it another way: God sure appears to be way more committed to the people he loves, and I think that might be everybody.

I think I’ve believed too little of him.

Thursday

Rethinking What God Drawing Us Actually Means


I’ve been looking at how the Bible uses the Greek word, ß╝Ľ╬╗╬║¤ë, helk┼Ź. It’s an interesting word. Fundamentally, it’s about “to draw by inward power, lead, impel.”

Here is the word in use:

• He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to *haul* the net in because of the large number of fish. [John 21:6]

• When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and *dragged* them into the marketplace to face the authorities. [Acts 16:19]

• The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they *dragged* him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. [Acts 21:30]

• But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are *dragging* you into court? [James 1:6]

• Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, *drew* it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. [John 18:10a]

Pretty forceful word, isn’t it?

Think about these examples, the force that’s involved. These are all involving a fair bit of force,
aren’t they? Yanking people or things from where they were to someplace else, without their participation. Interesting. . .

Think about who is wielding the power in these sentences; who’s making things happen here?

Now buckle your seat belt. Let me draw your attention to the ONLY other verses that use this same word that’s used for “haul” and “dragged” above:

• “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will *draw* all people to myself.” [John 12:32]

• “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me *draws* them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” [John 6:44]

I’ve always looked at this statement as if Jesus were talking about gently wooing folks, like warm and fuzzy marketing campaign, or like a young mother with a toddler. “Come on, all people, you can do this! Here we go! Upsy daisy!”

But that’s not the word used here. The word used here is a forceful word. It’s the word that is used in every other situation to describe yanking people or things from where they were to someplace else, without their participation, without asking their permission.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of the idea of free will: God gave us a mighty gift when he gave us free will. But these statements remind me of how powerful God’s pursuit of us is.

I think this might change how I pray some. I might be asking Father to helk┼Ź some folks, rather than just gently persuading them.