I really don’t like the fact that so much of our culture is informed by television. Now our kids learn about relationships from sitcoms, reality shows, and made-for-TV dramas. They used to learn about how to relate to their friends by watching their parents relate to their friends, or by relating to others themselves. Now, we learn how people relate from America’s Next Top Model or House MD.
I have to admit: I have pretty much never regretted blowing up my TV a few decades ago. The fruit has been very pleasing.But I’m not talking about television today; I want to talk about our relationships.
I have a core value that says that relationships – particularly relationships among believers – need to be things that work for our growth, our well-being.
The relational skills we pick up from
The catfights on Top Model (or The Apprentice, or Project Runway, or how many others?) don’t qualify as encouraging relationships.
This may come as a surprise, but the relational skills we learn from the television are not good examples for our lives. They’re designed, crafted, for entertainment, to capture our attention, and to discourage us from flipping the channel to some other over-the-top show.
I’m fascinated by the reverse lesson: those are the world’s ideas of relationships. What would godly relationships look like?
I’m captured by the idea of relationships among us that are focused on building each other up. Since we live in an era in which prophetic gifts are commonplace, I’m captured by the idea of prophetically discerning the calls, anointings, plans for blessing that God has established for others, and relating to each other on the basis of what God says about them, rather than what we see or hear.
In fact, I’ll go this far: we can relate to each other from at least three different perspectives, three different viewpoints that I can work with as I relate to you:
· What’s best for me in this relationship? What do I need in this? How can I relate to you in such a way that I get my own needs met? I see you as a means to my ends, as a repository of resources to meet my needs. Sounds pretty ugly.
· What’s best for you in this relationship? I’m not sure that this perspective has any real value beyond the theoretical. I have neither the capacity to discern what it is that you truly need, nor the means to provide it, but it always sounds good to say I’m working for your best interests.
· How does God see you? I think of this as the prophetic perspective: I can’t know all that God knows of you, of course (my brain would explode), but I can know what He chooses to show me. And if I choose, I can relate to you as if you already were the person that God has described you as.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to persuade each other of how we’re right (and therefore you’re not), and instead focused on “What can I do to help you become this person God sees you as today?”
For example. Let’s assume that you’re an ordinary with ordinary issues, like you get angry when people treat you unfairly, or if you haven’t had enough sleep. Or whatever.
Now let’s imagine that we have a chance to pray together, and in that process, God reveals that a) He loves you a whole lot (no surprise there), and that b) He sees you as a leader among His people. Now if I’m working on the concept of relating to you according to a prophetic perspective, then I’ll treat you as someone loved by an omniscient God, and as a leader and teacher.
I’ll treat you with honor. Yeah, I really don’t want to piss off the guy that’s in love with you, but that’s the short view. More significantly, as a lover of God myself, I probably want to love the people that He loves, and that includes you. It’s true theologically, but if He’s pointed it out personally, then it’s an even more powerful motivator.
I’ll also regard you as a leader, even though right now the characteristic that’s most evident about you is that you get angry a lot. God sees you as a leader, and if I’m going to agree with Him, then I’m going to see you – and therefore treat you – as a leader as well. I’m going to respect your opinion. Heck, I’m going to listen to your opinion!
Note that God has not put you into a position right now of leader. Those are your calling, your destiny. You can grow into those (or not), but they’re part of how God sees you. I don’t defer to your leadership above that of my existing leaders.
In at least three ways, I treat you differently because I now see you according to the revelation of your calling as leader:
A) I treat you with the respect that a leader and teacher would deserve. If the President walked into our room, how would I respond? If a business leader I respected walked in, how would I respond? How much of that response would be appropriate with you? More, how far can I push it: How much of that respect, that honor, could I get away with before it became inappropriate or excessive?
B) I look for signs of a leadership anointing in your life. I expect leadership gifts from you. Subject to a whole lot of other things (like the role of established leaders in both of our lives), I look for the gift to show up.
C) I look for opportunity to equip the gift. If I have the authority, I might give you opportunity to demonstrate the gift in a limited setting. I might see if I can find an environment where you can benefit from training in leadership; I might invite you to hang around with leaders, and talk with leaders.
If we want to do what God is doing, to agree with what God is saying, how can we do that in our relationships?
Do you remember 8 years ago. When
When the “liberal media” attacked him, demeaned him, smeared his reputation, we were saddened and angered. In the eight years he’s been in office, they have not relented, but only increased the pressure. Some would argue that this fact was foundational in the successful election of
During the recent election season, I heard similar dismay about
Those among us who had supported
The precedent is clear: the supporters of the defeated candidate increase the mudslinging, the civil disobedience, the vilification. That’s what this nation has done so well after so many elections before: if there was disrespect shown during the election, then there were many and awful things said against them during their office: the victorious candidate was vilified, pilloried and subverted at every opportunity.
I am proposing another response.
1) Pray for him: Pray for the man. Pray for his office. Pray for his family (I can’t imagine raising children in the White House).
2) Honor him: speak of him with respect. Yeah, I know: the disrespect, the vilification is part of the process of preparing for the next election: don’t do it.
3) Seek the welfare of his government: Pray towards, speak towards, even work towards the success of his policies, his administration. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet is writing to the exiles: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (
One last statement before I finish:
Like so many things in the Kingdom of God, we have a paradox here. Yes, our walk of faith is a process; there is tremendous value in the steps along the way: the relationships with each other and with the Lord, the lessons learned in trials and victories, they joy of worship and of being part of the move of God in a region or in an individual: these are priceless treasures, and clear indications of the value of the journey, apart from the goal at the end. In no way do I intend to devalue that truth in what I am about to say.
But ultimately, we really are working towards a goal. There will come an end to the process – regardless of how valuable that process has been – and our effectiveness at accomplishing the goal will be measured. The goal can be quoted a number of different ways:
Make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
Produce fruit of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:23)
Preach the gospel (Mark 16:15)
Be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
Bring forgiveness to the world (John 20:21-23)
Ultimately, they can all be summarized by a passage in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. It is our job to make this happen:
Some whom I trust would argue that this is not our task to do, but this is our prayer to pray; to them I would answer: do you not expect your prayers to be answered? If you are praying for the expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth, then we should see that the Kingdom expanded on your watch, in your area of influence.
Others would argue that this responsibility is ours not just to pray about, but to work towards as well, but the same standards apply if they’re right: we should see that the Kingdom expanded on your watch, in your area of influence.
My point is this: There will come a day when we will stand before our Heavenly King, and He will judge us. This is not about heaven or hell: we who believe in
I have the privilege (and I consider it a privilege, an honor) of talking with thousands of people from thousands of churches. One of the things that I hear as I talk with them is the value for the weekly events of the church. I hear the value of “business as usual.”
It seems that there are an awful lot of local congregations that have the “church as a process” value down well: they gather Sunday mornings, talk over coffee afterwards. Midweek, they have the same event that they did last year. Their Easter and Christmas are a little different this year than last, but functionally, they do the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.
Please don’t get me wrong. This is not the waste of time and energy that some of the more radical voices among us might imply. These congregations are doing a good job of “shepherding the flock of God” which is not, as the evangelists among us might imply, ignoring the command of God. They are very effective at the “process” part of the paradox.
But many churches, perhaps tens of thousands of them, are succeeding at the process but are not succeeding at the goal. They’re enjoying the fellowship at this week’s coffee hour and this month’s potluck supper, but the kingdom of God is not expanding in their area of responsibility.
Sure, a few more people are attending the church this year, but their community is not more representative of the Kingdom of God this year than it was last year; there are not increasing numbers of people pressing back darkness or similar numbers pressing darkness back more effectively; the dead are not raised, the sick are not healed, and nobody is grieving about it because the fellowship is good, the mortgage on the building is paid, and we’re enjoying the journey.
I’m thankful that we the church have finally begun to learn about the process of the Christian life. Now I’m praying that we’d reach the prize effectively as well.
Let’s go change the world; let's really change it!
As the book of Exodus begins, Israel is in captivity. They were the chosen people of God, descendants of
It was interesting that Reuel’s daughter’s described
Some have suggested Mo was in line for the throne; that may be just an interesting theory, but it illustrates the reality:
No wonder the ladies thought he was an Egyptian.
The church in America is in captivity. Genetically, at our very core, our essence comes from the realm of heaven, but we’ve lived on earth for so long, that we’ve become earthly, natural, in every other way. We think in natural terms. We live among the natural world. Our culture and mannerisms are of this world. We believe in the world we live among.
If the church were actually free, we’d reflect the culture and values of our birth-culture, Heaven. We’d see the events and people of the natural world through the values and resources of heaven. Like it happened around
God is raising up deliverers in our day. God has spoken it prophetically, but it doesn’t really require prophecy to see it: there have been only three times that a generation has been wiped out: the massacre that preceded
Here’s my point: I believe that many of the deliverers that God is raising up in our day will look like “Egyptians.” Egypt has often been used as an illustration of the ways of the world, and many deliverers will look very worldly. They’ll speak in worldly vocabulary and use colorful worldly metaphors. They’ll use worldly mannerisms – not church-cultured mannerisms. They’ll have worldly friends: business leaders, gang leaders, political leaders, artists, educators, barkeepers.
But they’ll be God’s people inside, under all that “worldlikeness.”
The first thing we might see in some of these leaders is that they’re standing up for believers in the secular arena. We’ve already seen some of that: when radical Hindu’s blamed Christians for a popular teacher’s death and started massacring Christians wholesale, there was an outcry, and some of it was from the secular world. The mainstream media didn’t touch the story as far as I can see, but the blogging community did, and many “secular” bloggers spoke out about the injustice.
Does the appearance of a secular person standing up for Christians mean that they’re a deliverer, that they’re even a believer? Certainly not in every case. I don’t believe we’re seeing God’s “Egyptian” delivers quite yet, but I expect that we will in the next several years.
Many men and women who find themselves in the position of defending God’s people against Egyptian slave-masters will shortly find God moving in their lives. They may have a dormant faith, from their childhood or youth, that God suddenly fans into flame. They may be “about to be” Christians, ready for harvest. Or they may be genuine followers of
We are coming into a day where God is bringing deliverers out of hiding, men and women who will not look like church-goers, and who in fact, won’t be church-goers, but they will be deliverers sent by God. If we’re not careful, we’ll reject these young leaders because we don’t recognize the clothing, the mannerisms, the style of speech. If we do, we’ll be rejecting something powerful that God is doing among us.
We will have some meetings that are about nothing more than maintaining and enjoying the friendship we share.
I was asked recently why I celebrate holidays - like Christmas and Easter - that are neither illustrated nor commanded in Scripture; does that betray an underlying issue of a disregard for the Word? It made me think.
I do observe celebrations not found in Scripture, and that’s an interesting question. I have an odd worldview, and perhaps an odd view of how Scripture relates to my life, or maybe how I relate to it.
I came to the realization some years ago that if I limited my life to only those things found in Scripture, it would be nearly impossible to live today. I couldn’t use a computer, as computers are not found in Scripture, or a car, or even a refrigerator. I would be limiting myself from using anything made with steel, metal, plastic, computer chips, or anything transported by truck or by air. (Certainly this would have huge implications on my chosen career!)
This led me to the realization that for decades, I have looked at the Scriptures as a guide, not as a rulebook: that in NT times, the Scriptures are a tool to introduce me to a living relationship with a living God who has come to earth as man, that my relationship is with Him, not with His book.
I also realized that the Book has a series of prohibited activities and a number of things that it encourages or commands us (depending on where it’s found in the Book) us to do. I could limit myself to doing only those things that it commanded me to do (such as only celebrating holidays that it talks about), or I could limit myself to avoiding only those things (in deed, in attitude, and in principle) that Scripture instructs me to avoid (which would allow me innumerable celebrations of Him). The difference was huge, and the repercussions of that decision would completely affect my life.
It took me quite a while to come to the conclusion that the way I relate to my heavenly Father is far more about “Yes” than about “No”, and therefore, I should probably assume “Yes” unless He said “no” (in one way or another). I’ve chosen – quite consciously – to say “no” to the things the Scriptures say no to, and to say “yes” to most everything else, with Paul’s limitations in mind (“Not everything is profitable,” and “Don’t make others stumble if you can help it.”).
So I celebrate any chance I get. I was worshipping last night with a gathering of saints, quite contrary to the model in the Scriptures (we used an iPod and a stereo for our worship band). I celebrate Christmas, not as a fertility rite, but as a celebration of my Savior who was God born as man, even though His birth had nothing to do with trees or colored lights or reindeer or fat men in red suits or even (most likely) with winter. I’ll take any reason I can to celebrate Him, and if I can use it as an excuse to draw my unbelieving neighbors into that celebration, that’s even better. (They certainly don’t know how to worship Him “in Spirit and in truth.” Yet.)
But you know what: that’s my belief, my way of relating to a God that is so big that there is no conceivable way I could understand all of Him. I know believers who celebrate mass and go to confession, and believers who change water into wine by prayer for communion every week, believers who choose a lifestyle similar to Bible times, believers who attend a drive-in church outside a crystal cathedral, and believers whose primary fellowship is via the internet. Those are all different than my beliefs, or at least my practices, but they’re still my brothers and sisters. I’ve got a real big family, and even if some of us are kind of quirky, they’re my family and I love ‘em.