Showing posts with label Integrity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Integrity. Show all posts

Thursday

The Vengeance of God


Isaiah 61 begins, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor...”



This much is familiar to us. It’s the part that Jesus quoted when he began his public ministry (Luke 4). It was him announcing, “This is my job description for the next three and a half years. This is the what Messiah will be among you.”

But the statement He quotes from in Isaiah 61 goes on; Jesus actually stopped in the middle of a sentence. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve heard - and I agree with them - saying “That’s because it wasn’t yet time for the next part.” Which reads:

“...and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

We are clearly no longer in the days of Messiah, at least the days of his earthly ministry. I wonder if we’re now in the next bit, “the day of vengeance of our God.”

Look at how this verse defines the day of God’s vengeance. It continues on and describes God’s vengeance as:

¤ to comfort all who mourn,
¤ to provide for those who grieve in Zion,
¤ to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
¤ [to bestow on them] the oil of joy instead of mourning,
¤ [to bestow on them] a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Resulting in:

¤ They will be called oaks of righteousness,
¤ [They will be called] the planting of the Lord.
¤ [They will be called] for the display of his splendor.

That is how Isaiah describes “the day of vengeance of our God”: comforting, providing for, blessing his victims, until they are firmly established and displaying his splendor.

Hmm. I  believe I’ve misunderstood God’s vengeance.

I had learned about vengeance from Romans 12:19, which tells me, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”

I’ve always interpreted this as, “Don’t you beat ‘em up and make ‘em pay. God can beat on ‘em far more severely than you can!”

That was my understanding of vengeance. It was the image of God as my hit man, so I didn’t need to dirty my hands (or dirty my soul). He’d do the dirty work for me.

If I was really honest, the idea that I’d always had modeled for me was “God save me and destroy my enemies!” And I rather adopted that idea too, not in so many words, but this was the worldview from which I prayed.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s right any more. That’s not what his vengeance is; where he’s leading us.

Rather, God appears to want to save me AND save my enemies! (What? He loves those idiots, too?)

Jesus stopped quoting Isaiah before he mentioned the vengeance of God. But that didn’t stop him preaching these values.

Everybody loved it when he quoted Isaiah and announced, “That’s right here, right now.” They all smiled and nodded and clapped politely.

But when he went on, things changed.

Seven verses later, Luke records, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”

That’s a pretty big attitude change. What pissed them off so badly?

I’m glad you asked. In between, he declared, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

He was preaching that God wanted to save Israel AND save the gentiles.

It angered the religious community then, and it seems to anger the religious community now. But that’s not my issue here.

My focus here is that this idea that God wants to save us AND save “them” too is far more consistent with God’s character than the idea that God iss our hit man, on duty to smite our enemies so we don’t need to dirty our hands.

I remember a verse from my youth (from when I used to focus on sin as I was presenting the “good news”): “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). That’s him saving his enemies.

I could go on. Now that I stop and think about it (and I’ve been thinking about this for months), I find the value all over Scripture, now that I’m beginning to be willing to see it.

But for now, I’m going to just make this statement:

The vengeance of God is not about  smiting my enemies. It’s about saving them, about blessing them with everything he’s blessing me with.

Friday

Kindness Leads to Repentance

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is describing some of the ways that his family is to be different than how the world does things. In the middle of that lecture, he drops this bomb: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There’s one command in this, and one reason for the command. Don’t be like those people because unlike their father, your Father knows what you need, even before you tell him.

I’d like to share a testimony, if I may.

I was helping someone with a legal issue. This someone important to me, someone who calls me “dad.” And the legal issue was pretty bad. It wasn’t that he had done anything illegal, but he’d gotten involved with a World Class Pain-In-The-Hindquarters. 

The World Class Pain was making his life miserable, threatening lawsuits, threatening huge expenses, and was completely flouting the law on the matter. He was Too Important To Be Bothered with things like that (he is a legitimate millionaire, for all the good it does him), and he does know powerful people who owe him favors.

So we’d talked together about the options open to us. At its most intense point, my spiritual son called me in terror and confusion about the latest round of threats, so I called the Millionaire Pain and explained things firmly to him. I think he’ll be able to use that ear again in a few days. I did not submit to his campaign of terror. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t let him push me around.

But I pissed him off, so he jacked up the intimidation and threats, and neither my son nor I slept much for a couple of nights.

I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t feel that freedom.

A day later, I realized that when I got in his face, I misquoted some facts to him, so I called him back, and (as expected) he sent my call to voicemail, so I left him a long message. I apologized for my errant facts, explained the situation from my son’s perspective, acknowledged what we understood of his own needs in the situation, and proposed a sit-down meeting where we could resolve the disagreement.

He ignored me, of course. His intimidation continued, but it did not escalate again.

Again, I wanted to post a prayer request, but I still didn’t feel the freedom.

One night it really got to me. I should have been asleep. Instead, I was ranting, my intestines were growling, and my sheets were soaked with sweat. I had acknowledged that we’d probably need to take the Pain to court, but as I rolled it around in my mind, I realized that we couldn’t lose the case. We had him cold! We had documentation of a couple of things that would make this an open and shut case! I didn’t want to go to court (nobody in their right mind does), but if we needed to, we would win.

And then I realized that The Pain wasn’t doing any of this to hurt my son or to hurt me, and he wasn’t doing this to win a court case. He just needed to stay in power in his interactions with other people. He needed to feel powerful, and this whole drama was how he met that need. I honestly began to feel sorry for him. That was actually confusing; he was the reason I was still awake at 3:00 in the morning!

And then Father reminded me of Romans 2:4b: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” We wanted him to change his mind about the hell he was wreaking; we wanted him to repent. Here, God’s showing me the key to The Pain's repentance: my kindness. Nice.

So I prayed quite a bit; I prayed blessing on this man, on his business, on his real estate holdings. But wait, there's more!

I’d been studying angels in the Bible, recently. My new favorite book of the Bible talked about them: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

So I invited some angels to go visit him and minister the things of the Kingdom to him. We’re supposed to DO the stuff we’re learning, right? And I gave him a new name. No longer The Pain, now he was The Millionaire.

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

The next morning, the Millionaire surprised us all. He messaged my son with a remarkably reasonable response. He outlined some things he needed from us (reasonable ones!), and offered some concessions we hadn’t even asked for. Then he recused himself from the final negotiations and he invited us to work with his more reasonable partner. (What? Who IS this guy?)

I wonder if there’s a connection?

I shared the good news with Mrs P, and she admitted that she had been praying blessing on him as well (before she dropped off to a sound sleep several hours before I did!).

I never did ask others for prayer. Our amazing Father really does know what we need, even before we tell him. He’d been answering that prayer long before we got around to praying it.

Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I’m serious. It’s kindness that brings repentance. Not power, not strength of will, not even being right. It’s kindness.”

It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is. 

Thursday

Some Ways the Enemy Opposes God's Kids

In the last few days, I’ve had interaction with a wide variety of folks:

·         An author who insists that Christians are still obligated to obey the whole law, and how dare I declare that the Old Covenant is past!!!
·         Some folks who are angry at me because I teach that God is good and kind and well-represented in Jesus.
·         A friend who insists that the Resurrection was metaphorical, not literal.
·         Several “unbelieving believers” whose whole world view is built on their poverty spirit and whose theme song seems to be “I can’t! I need someone to do it for me!”
·         A “prophet” who is convinced that his job is pointing out fault in every congregation he visits (and who never visits a congregation a second time).

As I was reflecting on these, I felt Father’s sadness. “These are manifestations of the influence of an antichrist spirit,” he murmured softly.

I realized, that’s certainly not saying, “They’re the Antichrist!” or even “They’re possessed.”

It’s just acknowledging that these are some of the ways that an “anti-Christ” spirit works to influence God’s children. These are some of the accusations that the enemy makes against God, against Jesus, against the Cross.

As I reflected, the quiet voice continued, “How will you respond to them?” and I knew that my response must not include anger or rejection or resignation.

There is one thing that stood out in my heart in response. Sure, I must love them, but that’s not a real answer. The thing that stood out to me is that I need to be careful not to change my message in response to them. I must not react to them in anger, rejection, or resignation; I am not permitted to change my message because of them.

If I don’t speak of who God really is in me and to me, then it’s not really my testimony, it’s just empty words. If I soften the message in order to placate some, or if I sharpen it to make it hit others harder, then these voices that carry the echo of the antichrist have shaped my message, my heart. My message would likely carry further, but it would not carry the truth I want it to.

And then my voice would also carry a manifestation of the influence of an antichrist spirit. I’m thinking that this is not where I want to go. There be dragons down that path.

I'm working on keeping my message true. Your prayers - and your company - are invited.


The First Commandment is a Threat.

May I share something kind of strange? OK. Thanks.

I've been thinking (yes, again)! (I do that.)

It seems to me that the first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3) isn’t really a commandment at all.

The commandment in question says simply, “You will have no other gods before me.” There’s no command in that verse. It doesn’t say “Don’t do it.” There is no “Thou shalt not…” in this. There’s actually no command in the first commandment.

What there is, however, is a threat.

It’s like this: “You ain’t ever gonna have other gods before me. If you set one up, I will knock it down. It will not succeed.”

This isn’t so much about what we must or must do. This doesn’t appear to be about us exercising our will power. This appears to be us being aware of God’s nature. If you enter into relationship with God, then God will be the big deal in your life.

I wonder if this might be why some folks get into trouble? I wonder if sometimes, other folks – and they themselves may not even know about it – put them on a pedestal, perhaps because they are open to being treated with reverence or with the kind of honor that really only belongs to One.

If I set up somebody as the authority in my life – maybe my pastor, maybe a famous author or conference speaker or maybe a godly broadcaster – if I listen to them for what I ought to believe, and how much money I should give and to whom, for the directions or limitations in my life, then I’ve set them up as a god in my life. Before the Lord.

And the threat is ready to be applied. God will need to remove them from the “before me” part of my life.

Now the real question applies: this is clearly an Old Testament / Old Covenant threat. Does this principle apply in the New Covenant? 



Responding to “Melchizedek Means You Must Tithe!”

Does Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek mean we must tithe?

When teaching on the topic of tithing, pastors generally refer to Genesis 14, where Abraham was just finishing wiping out four kings in a war to recover his captive family. Melchizedek, a priest, came out to congratulate Abe, who gave that priest 10% of the plunder. Here’s the story:

When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.’” - Genesis 14:14-23 

“The tithe precedes the Law!” they declaim. “So when the Law went away, the tithe stays: You must tithe because Abraham tithed before the Law!” (And they’ll often reference Hebrews 7, where the story is mentioned in passing in support of a whole different point.)

I hate that argument: it’s 98% irrelevant to the topic. (A little bit is relevant: One guy did tithe once before the law.)

But he tithed only once. One time only, Abraham gave 10% of the spoils of one war to Melchizedek, while he gave 90% to the kings of Sodom & Gomorrah. He never tithed from any other source, either before or after that day.

So we’re supposed to make application for our lives from this story. Here are some ways we can apply Abraham’s example of tithing to Melchizedek:

* Does this mean that we should tithe on the spoils of our war? Do we get the Pentagon involved in this, or do we limit ourselves just to wars that we ourselves lead? Are we limited only to foreign wars, or does a fight with my wife count?

* Does this mean that we tithe after we kill people? If so, whom shall we kill on Sunday morning? Abe killed people who held his family captive. Who would that be today?

* Does this mean that we should tithe when a priest brings bread and wine to our workplace and blesses us (as Melchizedek did here)? In that case, I should tithe to the traveling sales reps, I suppose. They bring food to my workplace, though they’re not really priests.

* Does this mean we should tithe only one day in our lives, as Abraham did? If so, how do we choose which one day we should tithe? Should it be when we’re young and strong, or when we’re old and wise? And should it be a work day, or a weekend day? If it only happens once, we should be careful to pick the right day.

* Does this mean that we should give 90% of our income to the leaders of “Sodom & Gomorrah”? I thought we were opposed to the pornography industry or the sex trade? Or are you saying we should just pick some worldly politicians and give them our life savings? (Sure glad that happens only one day in our life!)

My point is this: it is foolishly disingenuous to say, “You must apply this one detail out of this story, but ignore all the rest of it!” That’s religious manipulation at its worst! It is completely unworthy of the People of God.

Conclusion: This story is clearly not appropriate to use as a tool to demand that people give you 10% of their income.

But don’t take this too far.

I am not trying to say, “Do not tithe!” Nor am I saying, “Don’t be generous!” as some mistakenly say.

I’m saying that the People of God are not subject to the extortion that the tithe teaching has become: “If you don’t obey this Law, you’re a lousy Christian!” Many churches today deny members opportunities to serve, or to receive ministry, unless they’ve submitted to the extortion.

Christians are not under law. We are not required to tithe.

However, note that the law of sowing and reaping is part of our lives in the New Covenant. Consider 2Corinthians 9:6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That's for us. That’s real.

And the need for believers to be characterized by generosity, particularly to the poor, is incontrovertible! Really, 10% is a pretty wimpy standard for people who have generosity in their soul. Giving from a free heart is completely encouraged! And we’re free to give where we want to: to missions, to local congregations, to a benevolence group, directly to needy people, or to a secular group that does worthy things. And we’re free to donate money, or time, or sweat, or influence, or anything else we have to give.

So, if people read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek and then they say, “Well that proves it. I must give 10% of my income to you every week because Abraham gave 10% to a priest one time!” then somebody is not thinking clearly. That’s just the spirit of stupid.

But if they read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek and then they say “That’s cool! I want to do that!” then more power to them! That’s a beautiful thing! 


Just don’t try to make it a law. That would be a lie. And it’s not good to lie to the people of God.

Killing Terrorists?

I admit: the murderous persecution of Christians in the Middle East is an ugly thing. I’ve seen photos that make me want to throw up, and I've heard stories that make me want to send an army to the Middle East to bomb them back to the stone age.

I’ve been talking to other believers who have been arguing in favor of responding to terrorist violence with a violent (eg military) response. I understand that there are good and responsible arguments that can be made for using force against terrorism.

I'm not saying we should or shouldn't. I suspect that there are good arguments on both sides of that conversation. I am fortunate in that I don’t need to have the answer to that particular question.

However, I’ve been observing that when the Church faced its first terrorist, God didn't kill the terrorist. In fact, that terrorist, a maniacal Pharisee named Saul, became the apostle Paul, the greatest evangelist for the Kingdom of God in the history of the planet.

I'm not saying, "use force" or "don't use force" against terrorists.

But I think I'm ready to say, Whatever you do, pray for their conversion. Pray for a Damascus Road experience for whichever terrorist group has your attention right now.

If it is true (and it is) that "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," then there is going to be a revival of epic proportions in several places in the Earth as soon as those seeds hatch.

We'll need passionate people to lead it, and we'll need more of them than we have now.

Shoot them or don’t shoot them, as your conscience leads you. But for Heaven’s sake, do pray for them. Pray for their conversion. Pray that they meet the God of the Universe. And pray that he uses them in His Kingdom, like he used Paul.

That’s a response to terrorism with a good track record.

--

Come join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/northwestprophetic.

The Commandments of Christ

I've heard John 14:15 quoted many times in reference to obeying some of the laws of the Old Testament:  “If you love Me, keep My commandments." Or they've quoted John, 15:14 "You are my friends if you do what I command."

The verse is thrown out as a prooftext: "You have to follow the commands of God!" though nobody's expected to follow all the commands: they don't promote blood sacrifices or stoning sinners. It's just an attempt to coerce believers into submitting to their own favorite part of the Law.

This is an attempt at control: whether from ignorance or malevolence, this is an attempt to wield the Law, as it has always been wielded, to exercise control over you: "You must do what I say you must do, because of this verse!" This is part of "the curse of the Law." And implicit in it is "If you don't do what I say, you're guilty!" and this is the rest of "the curse of the Law."

Let's look a little closer, shall we, at what Jesus said? Jesus doesn't say, "If you love me, keep all the commands of the Law," or even "If you love me, keep this particular group of the Law's commands."

What does he say? "Keep MY commandments." Keep the commandments that Jesus has given. Not the commandments of the Law: the commandments of Jesus!

What did Jesus command? Let's pull out a concordance and look, shall we?

Jhn 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jhn 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Jhn 15:17
This is my command: Love each other.

You're welcome to look it up yourself (http://nwp.link/1HpK278); these are actually the only commandments that Jesus gave. It's pretty clear that, while he has commanded it several times, he only gave one command: love each other.

So yeah: if you love Jesus, keep the commandments he gave: they're all about love each other. That's it. This isn't about obeying the law, or about religious traditions, or about dietary requirements or even a command to "do good works."

It's about loving each other.

It probably is appropriate to point out that love - true ἀγαπάω love - is a pretty big topic. It's all about pursuing their good over your own good, and that's a costly love that will itself require much of us. But the command is love; the command is not about submitting to the Law, either the Old Covenant Law, or the rules that someone is trying to control you with.

Brothers and sisters, the Law is dead. Long live the command of love.

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.



Come join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/northwestprophetic

True Confessions: It's Not What You Think

I have a confession to make. I’ve been leading you astray. I’ve deceived you.

Let me explain.

I write, from time to time, about some of the interesting interactions that I’ve had with God, and about some of the interesting things I’ve discovered as I walk with him.

And that’s where the deception comes in.

I only write about the interesting stuff. I don’t write about the days and days of nothing in particular going on, because there’d be nothing to write.

Let me explain.

I’m a married man. More specifically, I’m a happily married man. Sometimes, Milady & I will spend the whole evening together in the same room, her reading, me writing, neither of us saying a thing. We’re just happy to be in each other’s presence. Seriously, I was in tears the other day, just thinking about growing old with her. It makes me really happy.

When I’m working in my garden, I can really often feel Father’s presence like that: quietly together. He’s taught me quite a lot there: how to transplant tiny seedlings, how to get more produce from a tiny garden, how to nurture the tender plants, and how, if I get the basics done well, the weeds won’t really be an issue.

I’m also a working man. And I gotta say that it’s not real often (though it does happen) that God speaks into the technical details of a project that I’m working on. And even when he does, I don’t write about it, because most of the story is about tweaky nerdly stuff that nobody outside my field is interested in. God showing me the right path to take a big bus through a crowded parking lot, or the best way to make these particular gears fit properly in a watch: this is not the stuff of interesting articles of faith and maturity.

But it is the stuff of real relationship with God.

I’m convinced that the best part of my relationship with God is not the amazing encounters or the awesome revelations or the impressive miracles. Yeah, those are fine, and I’ll not complain about them (this is a good place to say, “More Lord!” I think).

It’s like a good marriage: I love the times we get to go out to dinner, or where we host a barbecue for some friends, times of intimacy together. But the real strength of the marriage doesn’t come from those: it comes from the quiet, daily, almost ritual times together. We don’t have to talk about who’s turn it is to empty the dishwasher or take out the garbage or cook dinner, because we’re together.

And a love relationship with the Creator of the Universe is actually pretty similar: The fancy dinners are great, but quiet times of everyday life are where the real life & health come from.

So I apologize if I’ve left you with the impression that life in God is not all cool revelations and glorious highlights. Those happen, and they’re fun and all. But the day to day time together, not even really needing to form words: those are the places where the treasure’s found.

And those don’t make good stories to write about.


--

Come join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/northwestprophetic. 

How Do You Give Up The Thing You Love?

Oh, baby! I could spend a few years here.

I was wandering through a marina some years ago, looking at the sailboats, imagining the wind in the hair, the splash of seafoam, the smell of the sea.

I’d grown up with a small sailboat. I’d learned early on to love the rock of the waves, the sound of the sea, learning to rely on the sea for my home, my transportation, my grocery store, my schooling, my solitude.

I love the sea. I love who I am on the sea, and who Father is with me when we’re on the sea together.

I was thinking, imagining, planning: how can I change my lifestyle so that my sweetheart and I could adopt a lifestyle on the water. I knew she wouldn’t really take much persuading.

Let's see... It would need to be sailboat, because the wind is cheaper than gas, and I expect to be using a lot of one or the other. It would need to be at least 35’ sailboat, as that seemed the smallest size to house two people as a live-aboard, and we couldn’t afford a boat – a real boat – and a house, too. We’d need to change our careers, but that could be done. I’d need to …

Father interrupted me, tenderly, almost hesitantly. It seemed that he enjoyed how much I was loving his creation, but perhaps there was yet a reason to steer me in another direction.

“Son, would you consider an offer from me?” Oh my. God is deferring to my choice? God has something to say about this plan? This ought to be good! “Sure, Father! What are you thinking?”

“Son, would you consider a trade? If you’ll sacrifice a sailboat – a sailing lifestyle – in this life time, then would you like it if I took you on a sailing trip in the next one? We’ll sail around the rings of Saturn first, and then we’ll explore more interesting places. Would you be willing to make that trade?” Though I heard the words only in my mind, they sounded as if he – the God of the Universe – had his hat in his hand as he came to me with this question: it was clear that this was important to him.

He had me. On several levels, he had me. Sure, it would be completely awesome to go sailing around the rings of Saturn with God; that was an easy choice! The Creator as my own personal tour guide! How cool is that! That would be a no-brainer.

But he had me before he ever mentioned the rings of Saturn. It was clear – he wouldn’t have asked it otherwise – that he had other plans for my life that sailing would interfere with. I could imagine what those things might be, but I chose not to. He wasn’t offering other plans to me. He was revealing his heart to me.

The biggest thing that made me shout “Yes! Of course, yes!” was that my Daddy who loves me foolishly, extravagantly, irrevocably, my lover had just bared a big piece of his infinite heart to me. And for some reason, he wanted me to choose differently than I was beginning to choose; it would make him sad if I continued this path. How can you ever do something that would sadden the one who loves you like that? I couldn’t imagine saying no to a love like that!

This has been a powerful lesson in the decades since that interaction. We’ve come back to this conversation over and over again as he teaches me his ways. What a lesson in how to love well! What a lesson in how he values my free will! What a lesson about how that which is good can get in the way of that which is best.

But most of all, what a lesson in how much, how tenderly, he loves me.

Do I still love sailing? Absolutely.

Do I regret making that decision, walking away from something I loved, with nothing in return except his quiet smile? Not for a freaking second!



Supernatural Gems and A Failure in the Church

You are hereby warned: I’m going to rant. Please prepare yourself. (Conclusions at the… er… conclusion.)

I posted this photo recently, with this comment:

“Interesting night tonight. 
Spent a lovely evening sharing dinner, sharing testimonies, blessing one couple among us, 
and God drops gems all over the carpet. 
These weren't from tonight; they showed up at other times, and they're easier to photograph. 
There were others, larger, more spectacular. 
But together, we probably gathered 60 or 80 small ones (jewelry size) just tonight. 
I stood back, aloof, for a while. "We must honor the Gift Giver more than pursue the gifts!" 
I (a little self-righteously) told myself. 
Father chuckled at me. "If you gave your children a good gift, and they pushed it aside and
just sat there, staring at you, would you really love that? When you give a gift, you want 
it to be appreciated. You want to make them happy. How do you think I feel?"
So I gathered 8 or 10 little ones. I watched some of them appear right in front of my eyes. 
And you know, it really did make me happy. 
We have such an awesome Dad.
And as a bride, we have an awesome groom, and a pretty epic future father-in-law.”


The post generated more response than most of my posts do. A couple hundred comments, maybe hundred folks shared it with their friends. A handful of folks made judgmental accusations which were deleted, but that’s par for the course.


The atmosphere that night was heavily and naturally focused on Jesus, not on gemstones: it glorified God. 

But a couple of folks contacted me privately with some credible questions. The book says not to “receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses,” but the clear implication is that if there are two or three witnesses, to look into the accusation (1Timothy 5:19). I won’t go into details, but I had some things to look into. That was enough for me to pull the post last night. 

I’m still not going to name names, except to say that a name was accused, so I’ve spent most of the next 24 hours consulting with folks (both people & God). I’ve counseled with some elders, with some accusers, with the accused, and with the accused’s pastor. 

Accusations were made that someone had been caught at a service dropping gems. I’ll just say this: it has happened. The one accused in this story told me how it happened and why it happened, and what happened as a result, including their repentance and the process laid on them for their restoration. Several witnesses, including the supervising pastor and some of the accusers have corroborated the confession and the time frame. I’ve been saying, all along, Any miracle that brings fame or fortune to the people involved will be faked for the fame and/or fortune of others. That does not diminish the value of the miracle one whit.

Well it has happened, and I stand by my statement: we have an awesome God, who gives gems to his bride.

I have testimony from several people (I’m one of them) who have seen gems miraculously appearing; even some of the accusers agree: gems do appear miraculously in this person’s presence. The Book says, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established,” and it affirms the principle in both New Testament and Old, a total of no less than six times. The matter is beyond dispute: we have gemstones miraculously appearing. 

So what we have before us is a child of God who walks in the miraculous, who has failed in ministry, who has repented, who was taken out of ministry for a season, and tested before being released into ministry again, and who has no fame nor fortune from ministry.

In the meantime, this child of God has spent quite a few years enduring the curses and accusation of the saints of the most high God. As a result, we have a beloved family member who has been repeatedly, incessantly wounded again and again by those who call themselves healers. 

In the process of examining the accusation made by “two or three witnesses,” I met an embarrassing number of people who sure sounded pleased that someone got busted for their sin. I had real difficulty not getting more than a little bit angry about this. Those who were making accusations of someone’s sin – both the humble ones and the self-congratulatory ones – I have it on good evidence (Romans 3:10&12) that the accusers have failure in their life as well. 

I know I surely do! Those who are close to me could tell you stories that are different in form than the sin with the gemstones, but easily more nasty. I can tell you first hand that before I was a Christian, I was a very un-lovely person, and even after the Son of God died for me, I’ve still made some heinous mistakes. But so have you. (Sorry.)

I can also tell you that the Son of God DID in fact die for me, and for you, and for everyone touched by this story. And I have the honor of telling you that He still loves you and me and them, even though – and even WHEN – we sin. Think about it: when Adam & Eve sinned the first sin, it was they who hid from God. God came looking for them. And while we were yet sinners – WHILE, I tell you – Christ loved you and me in the mist of our filth and stench and took it on Himself, and killed it. 

My conclusion is this: Yeah, someone faked gems. Yep we know at least one person who did it. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts there are bunches more. I’ll bet someone’s doing it right now, somewhere on the planet, faking a miracle of some sort. 

These are the gems I found.  Several of them, including the yellow oval, I watched as they appeared on the carpet before me.
These are the gems I found. 
I’ll bet it happens not at all infrequently: people so desperately want the miracle of God that they’ll do anything to get it, even if they have to fake it. People so desperately need the acceptance and approval of their brothers and sisters that they’ll do anything to get it, even if they have to fake it. 

Does that mean that gems don’t happen miraculously? Nope. It means that God still uses broken people. Like you and me. 

My conclusion: I stand by my original post: God spread some gemstones around. God did some miracles. It was cool, and it brought glory to his Son. Now, are you going to look for the false? Or are you going to look for the finger of God among the muck and the fuss of the human species? 

I’m posting the original picture because it’s associated with the conversation. In hindsight, I think I should have posted a photo of the little things we found that night. 

The God Who Gossips?

How often does this happen to you: you’re minding your own business, and suddenly God points out someone’s fault to you? Sometimes, it’s a dream or a vision; sometimes it’s suddenly becoming aware of what’s going on around you.

I’m hearing of how God is speaking to people – regular people, people without position or influence – about how individual believers are experiencing trouble or lack from pastors and church leaders. 

Clearly, sometimes this is just disgruntled people speaking out. People do that. Why would God point out the failure of pastors and other leaders of local congregations? And so many people dismiss this phenomenon as “not of God,” as if this disgruntlement is the only motivation here. And so people who talk about unlovely things that God has showed them are often labeled as gossips and malcontents or fleshly believers.

Have you read Ezekiel 34 recently? Why don't you read it again, keeping this trend in mind. It’s not a lovely conversation. God himself is calling pastors and leaders to task about how they’re treating the sheep, the believers that they’re called to care for! And he’s not doing it gently. This is obviously a matter that God cares very deeply. But Is God actually gossiping?

Some people – generally people who are enamored with the prophetic or who aspire to be a prophet – read this passage, or hear this complaint from God, and then feel the need to go prophesy it. I understand how “prophesying” what God said is a defense against being labeled (yet again) as a gossip or a malcontent.

But think about it: God tells them something in private, and they feel the need to shout it from the mountain tops. I’d like to suggest that this is not the smartest thing to do. 

Actually, I recommend starting with a question, not an action, and this is where it becomes a little tricky; not just any question will do.

We very often are used to beginning with a question from our souls:

■ Our emotions are part of our souls, and so when we see, hear or feel something harsh or unflattering, it’s easy to let our emotions flare up, and ask questions like, “How could they DO that?” or “That’s icky, why would God show me icky stuff; this must be demons talking to me!” and so it’s easy for the enemy (or my own flesh) to turn it toward accusation of one sort or another.

■ Our minds are also part of our souls, and so when we see, hear or feel something harsh or unflattering, it’s easy to let our thoughts flare up, and ask questions like, “Where is this in Scripture?” “How does this line up with other principles I live by?” “How do I think I should deal with this?” and so it’s easy for the enemy (or my own flesh) to turn it toward confusion.

■ Our will is also part of our souls, and so when we see, hear or feel something harsh or unflattering, it’s easy to let our choices flare up, and we make choices like, “I must tell someone!” or “I must warn them!” and so it’s easy for the enemy (or my own flesh) to turn it toward manipulation and self-importance.

I’d like to suggest that when God shows us uncomfortable things by the Spirit, that we respond to him with our spirit. In fact, I suggest – and I encourage this as a regular practice – that we ask the question of Acts 16:30: "What must I do?" God, you’re showing me this for a reason. What do you want me to do with it?

Talking about someone’s sin without working toward a solution is pretty much the definition of gossip, and I’m pretty sure that God’s not actually a gossiper. If he’s sharing it with you, he expects you to do something with it. If we stop listening before we get to the application, then we’ve left God in an awkward place, leaving both him and ourselves open to the accusation of gossiping. He’s trying to partner with us, but we run off before there’s been any real partnership.

In fact, it’s not unusual for God to bring up a problem with you specifically so you can help him solve the problem. Ezekiel 22:30 (in context) talks about how God sometimes tells people about icky stuff specifically so that they can “stand in the gap” before Him on their behalf. That’s very often the primary role of intercessors: hear what’s weighing heavily on God’s heart, ask how he wants us to respond, and then respond that way.

I’d suggest that the vast majority of the time, when God shows us something un-lovely, he’s asking for us to bring the thing back to him and ask him to do something in that place. He’s bringing it up so we can pray.

Why does he invite us to get involved? Why doesn’t he just go do it himself? He can’t, not without going back on his own word. Psalm 115:16 says, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.” Stuff in the realm of Heaven is his responsibility; stuff on earth is our responsibility.

This responsibility started back in Genesis, chapter 1; that’s pretty early. In v28 he assigned rulership of physical creation to Adam & Eve. If he steps in and does things without consulting with the delegated rulers of the planet (the race of Adam & Eve), then he’s stepped outside of the way He himself set things up to be done. Who can trust a leader – divine or human – that gives us responsibility for something, but keeps the authority for doing it to themselves? That’s not smart.

The ministry of intercession is a very important ministry. When God shows you a problem, begin by asking him for the solution to the problem. “What must I do?” is a really good starting place.

--
http://www.pilgrimgram.com/2014/03/the-god-who-gossips.html
Subscribe at www.pilgrimgram.com. 




A little bit of self disclosure. Or maybe an explanation.


You’ve probably already figured out that my first name isn’t actually “Northwest” and that I’m not really Gandalf the Grey. This is a “pen name”  (“A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author.” ~Wikipedia).

Pen names, of course, are not uncommon. Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber) to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) all wrote under pen names, though for different reasons than I do, I’m sure.

Here’s a little insight into my reasoning:

         For the vast majority of people who read my writing, there is no functional difference between knowing me as “Todd” or as “Nor’west.” Whether you know my name or not, you don’t actually know me. Knowing me only comes through relationship, not through names. Get to know me, and then you'll know me, regardless of the name you know me under.

         Some people want to say, “But that doesn’t tell me anything about you!” Those people aren’t paying attention: knowing my name doesn't tell you anything about me either. On the other hand, a fair bit of my calling is to build up the prophetic gifts in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, the area that geologists and sociologists call Cascadia; that’s where the name comes from. Facebook wouldn’t take “Northwest” as a first name, so we go with “Nor’west,” a nautical term that means the same thing. That certainly says more about who I am than “Bill Smith” ever would.

(By the way: Note that my name is NOT “Nor’west Prophet.” I’m not naming myself a prophet. Too many people give themselves titles and offices; don’t count me among them, please.)

         I’ve run into a fair number of people who want to know my name simply to exercise some sort of power over me, whether imagined or real. I’ve walked this walk long enough to know that the enemy of our soul is real, and has real followers.

         I’m not, as some have feared, trying to accomplish some nefarious purpose with this pseudonym. If that were my goal, I’d need to do something nefarious, and no thank you. I can’t think of anything nefarious that sounds interesting. Besides, I don’t like doing things I’d need to repent of later.

         More important to me, I’ve watched many believers work for the Lord, but build up their own name. I’ve met so many “ministers,” who are quick with their business card, announcing that they’re the founder and apostolic leader of “Fredrick J. Fuffenfuffer Intergalactic Glory Network” or some such foolishness. It is my opinion that there’s only one Name that needs to be magnified, and let's agree, it isn’t mine.

         Perhaps you’ve heard the stories about the children of Christian leaders? They’re called “PK’s” (Preacher’s Kids) or MK’s (Missionary’s Kids). One of my best friends growing up was a PK, and I watched as he lived up to (down to?) the nasty reputation surrounding the title. There is a stupid amount of social pressure placed on the children of known church leaders. I determined not to do that to my treasured children. Frankly, I think it’s sad how many amazing kids are sacrificed on the altar of a parent’s ministry or career or public image. My children are in full agreement with my anonymity and the reasons for it.

         The only folks who are treated worse than PK’s are Pastor’s Wives. I’ve been a pastor much of my life. If you knew the Treasure who is The Lady that has, at great personal cost, gloriously lived out her vows about “for better or for worse,” then you’d understand why I don’t care to force her, against her will, into a fleshly limelight that glorifies people instead of God. It’s repugnant to both of us. I will not knowingly ask more of this from her.

         A few people have been concerned that I’m not accountable. That’s silly. I’m just not accountable to them. I have a number of godly men (and one beautiful bride) whom I trust completely, and to whom I make my life as open a book as I am able. I reserve that kind of relationship for folks who have walked many miles through stinky places with me, and I’m not actually looking for new accountability partners at this time.

         I’ll tell you how the Gandalf image came about: over the years. (I use his image as an avatar on Facebook and other social media sites.) Over the years, I’ve used a number of photos as avatars (http://on.fb.me/1119FTZ ); one time when I changed my image from Gandalf to something else, a lot of people fussed and wanted Gandalf back. OK, sure. Since Gandalf has, as I do, has long hair and a big ol’ beard, and since he doesn’t come with all the social baggage of the other bearded guy (Hint: Ho, Ho, Ho!), I stuck with it.  I admit, I've been inconsistent, if only to save me from having to come up with new faces every few weeks. Besides, I love who Gandalf is in the books wherein he appears.

If you want to know more about me, then read what I write (I do write under this name for several blogs; they’ll generally get posted to Facebook, so that is where you’ll find the biggest selection.)

Feel free to dig through my archives in this blog and on Facebook, and read what I write about. Listen to see if God speaks to you there (that is, after all, the goal). Or you may ask other people about me (but please honor them [and me] enough to NOT ask them private details, like my personal identity or my family life).

I’ll say this much about me: I’ve been walking with Jesus for half a century, and that, in fact, is the high point of my life. I’ve been a pastor (usually associate), a missionary, parachurch ministry leader, church planter, wayward son and religious hypocrite. I’ve learned of His ways in all of that. Oh, and I’m in love with his fiancé, but he tells me he’s not jealous.

If you want to really know me, join in the conversation, though understand that I’ll be far more receptive to it in the public arena, particularly on ongoing threads on my wall. As a matter of policy (and honor for that treasured lady I mentioned earlier), I generally don’t engage in private conversation with women.

If all of this offends you, that’s actually OK. God has given both of us a free will, and you’re completely free to choose not to be in relationship with a strange old guy with hidden face and a funny name. God bless you as you follow Him along the path He’s leading you on.

This is the path He’s leading me on. I really like walking with him, so I’m going to stay on this path, because that’s where I find him. If any of the insights from my path help you on yours, then we’re both richer for it, aren’t we?


Help Discerning the Move of God

God’s people have been rebuked with a couple of phrases plucked out of the Bible more times than I care to recount: “Decently and in order, Brother! God is not a God of disorder, but of order. You need to settle down.”

I have to keep reminding myself that Acts 2 - where people are accused of being drunk - is God's idea of “decently and in order.”

And evidently Hannah was “in order” when she went to Shiloh to ask the Lord for a child; she certainly found favor and Samuel was born to her. But she also was mistaken for a drunk, by Eli the priest, the one man who was most qualified to be able to recognize the workings of God in His people at the time.

Do you remember David’s wife Michal when David danced before the Lord?

Apparently there is a long history of religious people mistaking spiritual passion (or being influenced by God's Spirit) for drunkenness. Also apparent is the fact that they’re often wrong when trying to identify what is God moving on his people, and what is the flesh at work.

We could also discuss more recent events: Azusa StreetTorontoBrownsville, and others, and we’d find the trend continuing. I cannot tell you how many times I was warned that “God is not in that disorder!”

I was warned by my pastor to stay away from such places: “You never know what a crowd of emotional people will do! They’re out of control! It could be dangerous!”

This leads me to an awkward, even politically incorrect conclusion: when God is doing something with me, particularly when it’s something that seems strange to me, there is evidence to suggest that my church leaders may not be the best people to ask for help understanding it.

If their job is maintaining the organization of a Sunday morning fellowship, they have a vested interest in not rocking the boat. They have a vested interest in people not being “out of control” in their experience of God. It’s real difficult to condone your experience, if your experience creates ripples among others in the congregation. A few pastors can do it.

It may be better to ask Father to show you himself, what has happened in your life. It will also be good to ask him to introduce you to others who have had a similar experience, perhaps some who can help you understand.

Are there dangers? Are there freaky people out there? Sure there are. Welcome to the deep end of the pool. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.

As Jesus’ best friend wrote: “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27) This is not just theory. This is the Word of God instructing you about how to be instructed. This is the real thing.

This is why we follow God. This is also why we don’t follow people who follow God, but we walk alongside them. 


(Subscribe to the Pilgrimgram here: http://www.pilgrimgram.com/)

Monday

Dealing With New Evidence



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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