Showing posts with label grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grace. Show all posts

Thursday

Done


I found myself writing this down the other day. I wanted to share it, in case it encourages someone:

The Bible does not teach that Christ died “so that we can be saved.” He did not open the possibility for me to do enough good works or do the right deeds so that I can work my way in to heaven.

Rather, he took all the sin and all the judgment that was due to you and to me, past, present & future, and rather than buying the possibility of salvation, what he bought was salvation itself (the Bible calls it a “sure salvation”) that he provided for us. He declared, “It is FINISHED.” As in “There’s no more to do.” Done. Finis.

We (you and I, and everybody else) have the invitation, since God honors the free will he invested in us, to receive that free gift of salvation, or to reject it. It’s only a choice, and the choice is exercised by faith: by believing God’s offer. (Ephesians says that even the faith is a gift from God, not from my own works, specifically so that nobody can boast about it.)

So do you live now, today, in complete freedom from sin? From guilt? From shame? It’s God’s intent that you do. He bought that complete freedom for you!

Think of it this way: God has written me a check, in the amount of “complete forgiveness” (it’s WAY more than that, but we’ll go a step at a time), and he signed it. All I need to do is countersign the back (how? I believe him, I change my thinking) and deposit the check in my bank account.

The Bible is very specific that my works are not only USELESS for the purpose of acquiring salvation – of acquiring ANYthing from God, actually – in fact they actually get in the way, because if I rely on my works, then I do not and cannot rely on His works. It is His works, His finished works, are what accomplishes salvation and healing and grace and power and a clean conscience, and, and, and!

But let’s go back to that check for a moment: that’s not just for my debt to sin, that’s the full resources of Heaven payable to me, a son of the King of heaven, the heir (says Hebrews) of the riches of heaven: by depositing that check, I’m suddenly much wealthier than Steve Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Carlos Slim combined.

And of course, as that sinks in, I’m likely to live a different kind of life than I used to. As I understand my limitless wealth, as I understand how loved and accepted I am, I’m likely to change, to become generous, both in my resources, and in my care and affection. In other words, my actions, my “works” will reflect who I am.

THIS is the place for “good works.”

If I love on people in order to earn something from God, then I have rejected God’s free gift to me: I’ve essentially spat in his face and said, “I’ll do this on my own, thank you very much!” And of course, doing things on my own is not really in the same league as what He can do.

But when I am full of his love, fully accepted by my omnipotent Daddy, then I become generous and loving and giving like He is. Curiously, this often looks the same as the “good works” that I might consider by way of rejecting His gift; but the difference in my heart, in my motive, makes all the difference in the world (literally!).

It’s one thing to give someone gifts in an attempt to force them to love us and accept us. It’s quite another to bring the same gifts because we love them, and because we’re confident in their love for us. We call the first one a “stalker” and we call the police and we get a restraining order; the second is joyfully and gratefully received, and the already-strong relationship is further strengthened.

This is such a big deal that the apostle Paul wrote (Galatians 1): if anybody tries to teach you that you need to do ANYthing in order to be forgiven, to be loved, to become an heir in God’s family (which he describes as “pervert[ing] the gospel of Christ.”), then he says, “Let them be accursed!” If that weren’t enough, he takes it a step further: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”

“Accursed” is a pretty strong word.

Some time ago, I was meditating on Hebrews 4:16 (“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”) and talking with God about it, when Holy Spirit interrupted me. I could hear the tears in his voice, as he said, “You know, the priesthood wasn’t my idea in the first place.” And he explained Exodus 20:19 to me while he wept. (See http://bit.ly/TheOTHERbenefit)

This is the kind of relationship with God that it’s possible to have. This is God’s idea of what relationship between God and man is supposed to be like. This isn’t what I was taught in Sunday School, this is what I’ve learned from God and his word.

It may not be what you grew up with either. But if you’re up for this kind of a personal, face-to-face relationship with God, you might want to tell him so. ;) I’m very sure you’ll start a beautiful adventure together!

Tuesday

Lessons on Giftings & Callings From an Unlikely Source


I learned some things recently, and it’s not exactly rocket science.

This fellow looks like an eighteenth century British scientist, kind of like Sir Isaac Newton. Both were knighted by the queen (different queens), and they’re both astrophysicists, but this fellow is way more well known than Newton, though not primarily for his astrophysics.

Sir Brian May is better know as the guitarist and co-founder of a band that the Guinness Book of Records says is literally more popular than the Beatles ever were. He’s also a Doctor of Astrophysics, a 3-D stereoscopic photographic authority and a passionate advocate and campaigner for animal rights. (https://brianmay.com/brian/biog.html)  

I was listening to a song he wrote in honor of a flippin’ spaceship of all things (it’s a wonderful song: https://youtu.be/j3Jm5POCAj8), when some interesting thoughts wandered by.

• Your reputation does not determine who you are, or what you get to do with your life. (There are exceptions.)

• Your gifts and skills, even your gifts, do not determine who you are or what you get to do with your life. (Though they may provide some limits.)

• If you have great skills in one area, don’t be afraid to use those skills. (Planet Rock rates May as the seventh greatest guitarist of all time. [https://nwp.link/2FvwYoa])

• If God blindsides you with success in an area, don’t be afraid of changing your path. (May was in the midst of his doctoral thesis on the Motions of Interplanetary Dust when his side gig, a band called Queen, suddenly found some success. He quit his studies to play guitar.)

• If you follow the blessing of God, don’t necessarily let go of your previous dreams. (After a 30-year break for rock-and-roll super-stardom, May finished his thesis, and got his PhD in 2007.)

• You can still follow other interests, too. Your job or your studies (or your ministry) is not your entire life. (May started a stereoscopic imaging publishing company, was a University chancellor for a few years, and was a collaborator with NASA for the New Horizons Pluto mission.)

My sense is that some people (I decline to comment about whether this includes myself or not) have sometimes felt, “Well, I have some gifting [or some success, or some training] here, I guess this is what I’m going to do with my life,” as if the gifts of God were a life sentence.

Stated in more blunt vocabulary, a lot of western believers seem to be awfully religious about their life choices, choosing a career because of religious expectations, or following a path of failure (of one sort or another) just because they see it as their religious “duty.”

I’m not saying your choices will lead you down an easy path. Most of God’s paths aren’t rosy: look at Jesus’ example. But if Jesus isn’t on the path, maybe you shouldn’t be either.

If you’re looking for Biblical support for this, consider how Jesus walked away from successful ministry (Luke 4:43), or how Paul bypassed part of the Great Commission for his ministry choices (compare Matthew 28:19’s commands with 1Corinthians 1:17).

Walk with Jesus. Know him well. Love him well. Then do what you want, what you feel you should do. Do what actually works for you.


Thursday

Prophetic Exercise: The Judge's Bench

Since the prophetic gifts are for the real world, think of a real world person that’s going through some trouble, someone you’ve been praying for recently. Write down their name.

Now look in the Spirit, and look behind you. You see there a tall, oak, judge’s bench. Jesus is standing there, smiling, waiting for you.

He takes you around to the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, Jesus sits you in the great chair behind the bench. When you take your seat, you’re find that you’re wearing black robes, and you have a wooden gavel in your right hand. Are you wearing a white wig, too? 

Take a moment, if you need to, to deal with the emotions of being in a place like this. Ask him questions if you need to, but don’t argue with him. This is your assignment today, if you choose to accept it.

Now look out over the judge’s bench. From your new vantage point, see your friend, whose name you wrote down. Observe them for a minute as they go about their day. As you’re watching them, let Jesus show you his love for them, his compassion for the crud they’re going through. Rest there for a moment, feeling his heart for them.

Then Jesus reaches over and touches your eyes. And now you can see more clearly from the bench, and with his help, you begin to see the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that have been harassing your friend. Recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellions against their rightful king and against your friend. 

Jesus leans over and whispers, “Judge them!” Identify them, their names and their crimes. Recognize, by the Spirit who’s in you, the name, the assignment, the work of one of the demons harassing your friend. Speak that name out loud, and bang the gavel as you do name it. Write it down if that helps.

Then watch what happens next. When I did this, as I spoke the name, as I named each spirit, it was as if my gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each of my charges, and with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound.

Look around. Do you see angels in the courtroom? What do you see them doing? Consult with Jesus: what is his counsel on the work you’re doing?

This isn’t a game. This is literally life and death, but don’t interpret that to mean that you can’t enjoy the work you’re doing. Get into the work. Reach deep within your spirit to accurately name each spirit, and as you name it, watch as it’s snatched from the air around your friend and bound. Observe what happens to it next, if that’s revealed.

You may or may not have gotten to each of the demons harassing your friend when you feel that you’re done, when you feel the grace for this work lift, or when you hear Jesus say, “OK. That’s enough for this time.” Don’t stay there beyond the grace for the work. Your friend is destined to be an overcomer; they need something to overcome.

It helps me to go back through the session’s work: declare your friend’s freedom, thank God for your friend’s freedom from each of the spirits that you bound today. And when you’re done, perhaps as an act of worship, burn the list: don’t keep a record of hell’s work in their life.

Now, by my counsel, I’d recommend that you don’t talk to them about this experience, not for a long, long time, and this is for your benefit, not theirs. We tend to think, “Well, I bound up a spirit of self-pity, so they won’t be falling into self-pity any more!” Yeah, that’s not how it works.

If you bound the spirit of self-pity, then that spirit of self-pity isn’t plying its trade in their life any longer. But that doesn’t break years of self-pitying habits, or generations of self-pitying traditions. It means that spirit isn’t working there any more, not that they’re perfect now. 

And of course, don’t stop praying for your friend.  

Contempt for God's Kindness

This just ambushed my thought process.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

He’s challenging the Roman believers for showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience.

Yikes.

Who are the folks showing contempt for God’s kindness?

Well, this verse indicates part of that: the folks who don’t realize that it’s God’s kindness which leads to repentance. Folks who preach something other than God’s kindness? Yeah. Them.

The context makes it even more clear: those who “pass judgment on someone else” (v1) are the folks he’s addressing.

He’s very specific: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v3) That’s pretty strong language there, Paul!

More specifically, Paul is saying that believers who condemn other believers, believers who emphasize something other than God’s kindness are “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” (v5) That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?

That’s kind of a problem.

You know these people: people who get in your face (in person, or on Facebook) and shout about how others are going to hell for their sin, or how a nation needs to repent in order to escape God’s wrath. There are folks who go around denouncing everybody who believes differently than they do as false.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this garbage comes from pulpits around the country.

When you see them, first of all, don’t buy the manure that they’re selling. It’s not good for them and it’s SURE not good for you. In fact, if you’re able, don’t even let them spew that garbage on you. Walk away.

But more than that: pity them. Pray for mercy for them. Because the path they’re on is storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.

And most of all, do not go with them. That’s a pretty ugly destination they’re headed to. If they insist on going there, you do NOT need to go with them.

Show them kindness.

#PrayForGrace

Does Love Mean Acceptance?

I’ve been challenged by some of my brothers. The context has been how to respond to homosexual believers, but the issue is bigger than that. This is about how Christians relate to unbelievers, to people who have sin in their life.

They have held that unconditional love does not equal unconditional acceptance: that loving them does not mean that I accept them or their lifestyle.

I disagree. Unconditional love absolutely DOES mean unconditional acceptance of the person you're loving. The two cannot be separated. Conditional acceptance is absolutely conditional love, which is to say, it’s not love at all. Maybe it’s manipulation or something, but it is NOT love.

Someone would probably point out that accepting the person is not the same as accepting their lifestyle, and that's TBI: True But Irrelevant. Accepting their behavior is never part of the issue of loving the person. Let me clarify:

I love people whose political views offend me. I love people who believe lies and who tell lies, about themselves, about others, and about God. I love people who haven’t admitted that they struggle with gluttony, or with manipulation, or who don’t know how to submit to anyone else. I love people who take advantage of me. (Let's be honest: if I loved only perfect people, I would never love anybody; I could never even love myself.)

In all of this, I don't interview people before I decide to love them: “Are they good enough for my love? Do they deserve my love? Is there something that they do which disqualifies them from love? Would people on Facebook be offended if I loved this person? Would it look bad on my resume?”

Bottom line: the VAST majority of the time, their sexuality, their pridefulness, their gluttony, or any other sin should not even be part of the conversation: that's their business; that's pretty much between them and God. There are two exceptions.

The first is that if they are a danger to me or mine, whether great danger or small, I suspect (I’m not actually convinced of this one – see Christ’s example) that I have the right to separate myself from them. Because I love to be alive, I don’t hang around mass murderers, and because God made me an introvert, I limit how much time I spend in crowds. That’s fairly straightforward.

The second exception is when we're in a covenant relationship together: when I have their invitation to speak into their life. Then I can talk about their sexual preferences and whether that's sin or not. But if we’re in covenant, then they can also speak into my life about my egotistical preferences and whether that's sin or not.

But under NO circumstances do I ever have the right to stand apart and either judge or reject another human being because of their actions, their preferences or their choices. I can choose whether to love them or not (though the Bible does not give me this choice, I can choose it nevertheless), I can choose whether to be in a relationship or not, but I may not declare them unfit for love based on their actions.

Seriously: how would it be if God decided to love us based on whether we were good enough? “Oh, this guy judges people, that woman has bad theology. I’m not going to love them. I’m not going to bear their sin on the cross. Sorry. Sucks to be them.”

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

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8.



Remembering the Great Commission

We've misinterpreted the Great Commission, I think.

We're called to introduce people to Jesus, but sometimes it seems that sometimes we forget. Sometimes, we end up introducing them to our club, to churchianity. To religion. Ewww.

They're looking for real relationship, and Jesus offering real relationship, but we're offering membership in a Sunday Morning Club complete with its own foreign language and foreign culture. "Bring your friends to church!" we are exhorted, forgetting the "Go" of the Great Commission.

Coming to faith does NOT require leaving your culture, leaving your language, leaving your community, leaving your music behind. (Yes, it does involve leaving your slavery behind.) For example, there's no need for a pipe organ or Taylor acoustic guiter in a tribal church in order for their gathering to be legit. They worship with drums; you don't have to!

Here's a radical thought: Christian pop music is by NO means the only music that's acceptable - or desirable. Some believers like barbershop quartets! Others touch God in metal music or Dixieland or Baroque or dance music.

I even know of a church that worshiped with (shudder!) country music! They would line dance in church! What?!? (And they shared the building with a church that worshiped with grunge rock music! What's up with that?)

I get it that some folks often can't go back to the culture that enslaved them for years, but let's distinguish between the slavery that held us captive and the preference of music the enslavers enjoyed while they practiced their torture upon our souls.

And since music reaches people, the Great commission applies to music: GO TO THEM. Do NOT expect them to come to you. So bring the gospel to their music; not Gospel music, but the "Good News" of the Kingdom: that belongs in THEIR music, too. There's no need for them to leave their love for Italian operas behind in order to meet Jesus.

Our commission is to go to them, and to bring the good news of the Kingdom to them.

Our job is NOT to bring them to our culture, our little club.

When we disciple folks, we are to make them followers of Jesus, not into MiniMe's.

A Dream and its Sequel

May I share with you my dream, and its sequel? I’ve never been a big one for dreaming, and until this dream, I’d never, until this dream, received instruction in a dream.

The first dream: Many of us were on a large wooden ship. It was the size of a supertanker, but it was wooden. I don't know where it was going, and I don't think I ever did learn.

Below deck, on a very large deck, was a smaller ship: not a boat, a ship. As my wife was away, talking with crew or passengers, I was below decks, preparing that ship.

There were two things that were both heavy that I was loading up on. One was crowbars: not a "j" shape crowbar, but more of a "t" shaped crowbar. I loaded about 20 or 30 of them onto the smaller ship. I don't remember the other.

It seemed that I broke out a wall or a deck of the big ship in order to get the smaller ship out, and my wife showed up about that time to go with me. I woke up before we launched the smaller ship.

I had the dream during the time that I was enrolled in a dream interpretation class, so I shared it with my friends in the class. They agreed: The large ship is the Sunday Morning church, and truthfully, I didn’t really know where that was going. My small ship below decks was a heads up: God was calling me out of the established church into something more personal. The crowbars were preparation for me to help others into similar freedom.

What these good people didn’t know was that God had been calling me to do something I hadn’t done in nearly 50 years in the faith: to disengage from my local congregation, and to take responsibility for our own spiritual life, apart from a larger congregation: to become “unchurched.” It scared the stuffing out of me, which may be part of why Father affirmed it in a dream.

----- Interlude -----

Eighteen months later, I had left the Sunday Morning community, and my head was still spinning; this was something I’d never done before, something that I had regularly taught against, that I had prayed against. In that confusing season, I had the sequel to the dream, a dream that picked up right after the point the dream had ended.

In that dream, I had succeeded at launching the small ship out of the hole in the port side of the big ship. I watched as the big ship steamed on, unaware of our departure. When the great ship was out of sight over the horizon, I realized four things:

1) I suddenly saw my surroundings, and I realized that the only things I could see were waves. I had no idea where in the vast ocean I had departed from the great ship. I didn’t know where I was. I had no bearings.

2) Those waves had appeared as insignificant to the great ship. But now, in my small craft among them, they appeared much bigger. In fact, they were taller than our masts, though they did not threaten to capsize us. Suddenly, the waves captured a much greater portion of my attention; I was now far more aware of what was going on around me. (Note: both the sky and the waves were grey.)

3) I hadn't noticed this before. My small ship still had no sails up, and I'm not entirely convinced that I had sails on board. I had no means of moving, no means of steering my course. I was not anxious about that fact; in fact, in the dream, I was not attentive to it.

4) Everything was so quiet! I could hear everything: the seabirds, the waves slapping my ship, the wind in the rigging. 

As the dream ended, I realized that it perfectly represented my life in this season, where I was experiencing things I’d never experienced in my life before:

1) I was lost in a vast ocean: In truth, I didn’t actually know where I was in this great process that God is taking me through. I didn’t have any real reference points that mattered any more: experiential, social, psychological, theological. Everything was up in the air.

2) The waves appeared much bigger: There are issues around, issues that I never noticed before, that were now large and important to me. I had never really taken personal responsibility for my life and ministry before. Suddenly, I was aware of things God was emphasizing that I hadn’t even seen before. And now, I recognized gifts, particularly leadership gifts, on people outside of the traditional leadership positions, where I had never suspected them before.

3) I had no sails: It was absolutely clear that I now had no control over my life and ministry. I had no capacity to choose if I would be ministering, or where, or with whom. The most unusual opportunities kept opening up, and I had no control over them. 

4) Everything was so quiet: Without all the corporate noise in the background, suddenly, I was hearing Father’s voice so much clearer than ever before.

It was incredibly comforting to have Father re-affirm all that I was experiencing, to know that he had all this in hand. Even though it was new and unsettling for me, it was still completely in his hands.

I felt the need to share this experience (or this set of experiences) because I believe that there are others who are going through this kind of transition, or similar transitions. I want to say to you: Father knows what you’re going through, you can trust him. You can trust him to speak to you through dreams, and through your friends in the transition.


My Times with God

Sometimes it was in the morning, if I was able to drag myself out of bed. Mornings were my preference, and before too long, this confirmed night owl was up before the sunrise. Sometimes it happened before retiring for the night.

More often, I just grabbed an hour or so wherever I could. I remember many times in an abandoned church building near where I lived, at my dining room table, in an empty classroom or lunchroom or conference room or a table at the library. Often times I parked for a while in a rest stop, or some wide spot in the road between here and there.

The first thing after I sat down was usually a sigh, and I’d just sit there for a few minutes. Then I’d open my knapsack or reach to my bookshelf and pull out three things: my Bible, my journal, and a mechanical pencil.

But before I opened any of them, we’d talk. “Hi Dad. Love you! I’m looking forward to what you’re going to show me today. Help me to see, eh? Help me to recognize what you’re showing me, please. Thanks. You’re awesome!” And I’d open both books at the ribbon.

In my Bible, I was working my way through one of the books, section by section. Most translations have headings dividing up the text: I’d tackle no more than the space from one heading to the next.

In my journal, I listed the date and the passage, and then I pushed that book out of my way, and I devoted my attention to the Bible.

I read the passage through. You know the way you read a text book assignment that you don’t love? Yeah, this was not that. I read it slowly enough that my attention didn’t drift. If I could, I’d read it quietly out loud.

During this time, I turned my imagination loose to walk among these people, hear the sounds, smell the smells of the story I read. If I was in an epistle, I’d listen for the apostle’s tone of voice, and I’d imagine how the people it was addressed to felt as they read it. If I felt like it, I’d look at a few cross references, but I guarded against bunny trails.

But more than anything, I waited for the light to go on. Invariably, one verse would catch my attention, as if my Father were pointing to it, and saying, “Look here, son.” Sometimes it was just a word, or a phrase. Maybe it was a repeated word. Or an idea that never actually made it into words.

If it didn’t happen the first time, I’d go back and read it again. I’d often underline the verbs, using a set of markings I developed for myself after years of this. If there was a list of things or a progression, I’d number the points. Sometimes I circled adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes I’d ask questions, of the text, of Father, about what was going on. But everything was just keeping me involved with the text until my attention was drawn to one part.

That signal was like arriving at the X on a treasure map. It meant “Dig here.” That was the real assignment.

The first part of digging was to write – legibly – the verse that stuck out to me into my journal. And then I go to work to interact with that verse, that passage, to dig for treasure in that spot. I figure that the investment of an hour was just about right, and good success would probably show evidence of at least one full page, more or less, of reaction in my journal.

So I looked closely. My personal Bible always has cross references, but is never a “Study Bible.” I don’t want to hear what other people think. I want to discover what God thinks, and see if I can make my own thinking line up with that.

My first step was pretty often to “center myself” and to dig into that little nudge itself, the nudge that said, “Dig here.” Often, that would give me some direction for my searching or meditation.

I used different tools to dig. Sometimes I would literally outline the sentences, like in English class in high school. Sometimes, I chased down the cross references, both those in the margins and especially the ones in my own heart.

But sometimes, it was just meditating on my one verse, reflecting it, asking questions of it, that brought the reward.

For example, when reading through Mark 8, I was caught by verse 31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This time, I found myself outlining what I saw in that verse:

1)      What are the “many things” he would suffer? (I listed them, cross referenced to Matthew 20:19 for details.)
2)      Who rejected him? (I listed them.)
3)      He would be killed: he doesn’t say by whom.
4)      He’d rise again after 3 days.

And as I was writing the outline, I realized I was thinking most about the fact that Jesus had never discussed this before. He was only free to talk about it after verse 29: after they realized that he was, in fact, the Messiah they were looking for.

I wrote for a while on what it must have been like, knowing that this terrible stuff was coming, and not having anybody – not a single person on the planet – that he could talk to about it.

I meditated for a while on how he himself learned of it, since he had been born as a normal baby (cf Philippians 2 and Hebrews 4:14,15) and he had to learn all this stuff in his own times with Father. I reflected on what that first conversation might have been like, when Father talked about what was going to happen.

And I realized that Jesus got his direction from – more or less – from the same thing that I was doing just now.

And I was done. Either I was out of time, or “the anointing lifted,” or something else. And that’s the point: I’m not looking to write a pretty article from this (though that came from it once or twice). I’m not looking for some big and powerful conclusion.

The big conclusion isn’t the point of this. The point is that Father and I have time together in his Word. Years later, I realized that he was training me – through these times – to hear his voice, and that it was remarkably effective. But even that training wasn’t the point. The point was our time together, our relationship.

Now, why have I just told you all this? It’s because of something I heard in our time together: I had the sense that some folks are pretty well grounded in hearing Father’s voice, but others are still scratching their heads and wondering how we do that?

Father showed me that during our times together, he was teaching me how to hear him, how to hear his voice and how to recognize his voice. And it seemed to me that he was suggesting that someone might want to follow the trail that he and I cleared together.

If you want to learn how to hear Father’s voice well, this is one way to learn. It has the additional benefit of giving you a solid grounding in the Bible.

If you decide to follow this trail, you have my blessing, and more important, Father’s. May you have as much fun in your time with Father on this trail as I have! I know he’ll enjoy his time with you!




The Gay Revival


I’m going to address some very controversial topics today. If you have trouble with God moving outside your comfort zone, you may not want to read this article. I’m serious: be careful! This may push your buttons.

We’re going to talk about homosexual Christians, LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] Christians.

The Bible is clear, Old Testament and New: homosexual behavior is sinful behavior. Since we’re talking about Christians, we could go on about how there are loads of sins that we overlook in the church, while we call out certain others, but that hypocrisy is another topic for another day.

One day, years ago, I was with a small group, praying for some folks we knew that were stuck in homosexuality. It was one of those prayer gatherings where you just know that God is hearing your prayers, even as he’s helping to shape them and encourage us in them.

In the midst of that, I had a vision: tens of thousands of people in the homosexual community were encountering Jesus. It was a huge movement, and God was in their midst. They were worshiping powerfully, and God was delighting in their praise. There were signs and wonders. Many were in tears, some because of His love, some because of their sin, but it wasn’t always the sin I had my own eyes on that they were convicted of. It was a genuine revival.

I began to praise God for that revival, for the many sons and daughters that were coming back to their Father, and as I did, the vision became even more real: I was in their midst as they were worshiping God.

And then I realized: they weren’t – most of them weren’t – leaving their culture. Nearly all of them stayed in the homosexual community, and a very large number of them didn’t appear to repent of their homosexual ways.

I began to react to that: That's not right, I said in my mind. Father began to gently instruct me in this vision:

1)         When he calls people to himself, he does not call them to leave their culture. American Church Culture is not our goal. Relationship with Jesus is the goal. Hmm. OK. That’s true enough.

2)         When he finally got ahold of my life (after a longer fight than it should have been), I was not sin-free. There were several sins that he took decades to put his finger on. In fact, He said, There are some things I haven’t pointed out to you even yet. Yikes.

But it’s true. If he didn’t point out– and by pointing out, give me grace to deal with – some of my sins for decades, why should I expect him to be less patient with other sons and daughters?

3)         And son, he said so very gently: these are my children, not yours. I am their Father, you are not. I am capable of raising My own children without your getting in their way.

Since that experience, I’ve received a few reports that it’s beginning to happen, that substantial numbers of people inside the LGBT community are discovering the Lover of their Souls!

I have received credible testimony from different people in different streams that tell me about the revival that is going on among the homosexual population. (At their request, and for their safety, I will not be releasing their identities. Some people do not respond well when God moves outside their box.)

These people have been among gatherings of gay believers – we might call them church meetings or conferences – where the worship is powerful, where the Holy Spirit is present, where signs and wonders are in abundance, where Jesus is lifted up high. They have recognized God’s favor on the gatherings, and experienced His delight in them.

I have met believers who are homosexuals. Some appear to be your basic, timid churchgoers, some flaming transsexuals proclaiming the gospel to their community. Some are content with their homosexuality; some want out but don’t know how; some are proud of their status, though these seem to be the ones who’ve taken the brunt of the church’s accusations.

I’ve said all this to arrive at this conclusion: God is moving powerfully in ways that we never expected. And hold on to your hats, because he has more than this that he’s going to do.

So how shall we respond to homosexuals that call themselves Christians? That’s simple: we love them. Just like we’re called to love self-righteous people who call themselves Christians.

We surely have no right to challenge the faith of either group, and nearly always, we lack the right to challenge either their behavior or their culture. But we have the right to love them.


Let’s love one another, as Jesus commanded us, shall we? And let's trust our good Father to raise His children well. 


The Cleaning Lady

The Cleaning Lady


I’d like to tell you the story of a friend of mine, whom I’ll call Chantelle.

Chantelle had just found a roommate and a nice apartment, and they were in the early stages of moving in, when she called me. “I’d like your help in praying over our apartment before we move in.” She and I had dealt with some things together before, and she understood that teamwork is valuable.

So we began to pray. We prayed over the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, and declared the destiny we heard Father speaking about for the rooms and their activity. During the prayer time, I slipped away, and tossed a large handful of Dove’s chocolates into her empty room, just so she’s find a nice surprise.

When we finished praying about the public rooms, we headed down the hallway, and we both felt something strange, an unhealthy, unclean presence back there, and we both felt it at the same point, right as the hallway turned the corner.

Cool! A teachable moment! So we discussed it, discussed what it felt like, and I proposed that we check the back rooms individually for more sense of it.

We checked her room first, and there was no sense of that particular darkness, but there were wrapped dark chocolates scattered on the floor. She laughed and picked up a couple of them, and we agreed that this room wasn’t the source for the sense of the unclean that we felt. She offered me a chocolate and we moved on.

We prayed over the bathroom, blessed it, and ruled it out as a source of darkness, and moved on, while she nibbled her chocolate.

The roommate’s room. As Chantelle opened her roommate’s door, we felt the unclean darkness inside. “Aha! I suspect we’ve found a clue!” The roommate wasn’t home, of course; she wasn’t a believer, and wouldn’t understand what we were doing. In fact, there was just a small stack of boxes in the middle of the room.

We discussed the situation. We both sensed that there was uncleanness on the walls, though they appeared a clean white to our eyes. Chantelle stepped into the room, spiritual senses wide open, looking to sense where the unclean stuff was coming from. The closet? Nope. The window? Nope? This place where the bed obviously went? Nope.

That left the boxes in the middle of the room. They were just moving boxes, and only two or three of them; they looked innocuous enough. She popped the last of the chocolate in her mouth and touched the top box. Bingo! This is where the darkness came from! As we talked about the source of the presence, she straightened out the foil that had wrapped her chocolate, and read the quote it contained: “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” We laughed!

We didn’t get into the boxes; they weren’t our property, but we felt the need to address the darkness, particularly, the darkness clinging to the walls. So we prayed that it would be removed. Nothing happened. We commanded it to leave. Nothing. We prophesied blessing on the room and its future. Nada.

I had an idea. “Chantelle, why don’t you ask Father for the right weapon to remove the darkness?” She gave me a funny look, but we’d done stranger things than this together. She prayed, and I could see from the look on her face that she’d seen Him give her something.

“What is it? What did he give you?” She scowled. “A washrag.” We laughed some more.

But she began to wield the washrag that she saw in the Spirit against the darkness. In reality, she began to wash the walls with it, and it was the first time that we saw the darkness give way, though it was a fight.

After a few minutes, we recognized that this was going to take all night, and I couldn’t help her, as I was still standing in the hallway (out of respect for someone else’s room).

Another thought presented itself. “I wonder if that washrag is for you to wield, or if it’s for someone else?” We prayed. “An angel is to wield it.” “OK. Why don’t you invite that angel in?” She did, and she laughed. “What do you see?” “A cleaning lady!” We laughed some more.

So Chantelle handed the washrag to the cleaning lady angel, and invited her to wield the weapon. Immediately, she began washing the walls, and by the time Chantelle had reached the door to the room, the first wall was halfway clean; we could both feel the darkness lifting. That was better! We blessed the cleaning lady, and invited her to stay. It seemed to us that her assignment was the back of the apartment, particularly the hallway and the bedrooms.

We felt the freedom to invite a couple other angles to the house. A big armed one was stationed outside the downstairs entrance, and Chantelle assigned another, whom she named Cheese Grater Guy, to the front door, to remove any “Klingons” from guests to the home.

When we left, we looked back at the bedroom windows, and we both discerned what appeared to be a cleaning lady waving happily to us from the roommate’s window. We laughed and waved back.

The really fun part of the story came weeks later, when the roommate cautiously reported that she “could feel a presence” in the back hallway. Chantelle replied, “Yep, and she’s staying here! We’re not going to get rid of that one!”


And the cleaning lady likes cats. Both Chantelle and the roommate had pet cats, kittens, really, who loved to play with them. But from time to time, both women could see the cats in the hallway, playing with someone they couldn’t see with their natural eyes. 

Monday

The Judgment of God on His Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Whose Limits? Whose Understanding?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Curious Contrast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you remember River’s interaction with the demonic bad-guy Reavers toward the end of the movie? Here's a refresher of her great weakness:
(https://youtu.be/nAzZoU9tOeY [warning: violent content!])

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


A Change of Seasons


I guess that there was a season where God was blessing it, but I think the blessing has moved on. I think we’re coming to the end of the season of the anointing being on those whose full-time work is “in the ministry.”

I suspect that the blessing was less on “full time ministry” than it was on “ministering in His name,” but it sure looks to me like that season – whatever it was – is now over.

There are still some people in “full time” ministry who walk in favor, in the midst of God’s move today. But if you look closely, they are mostly in the work of equipping others, sending out a new generation of “ministers” who generally have no title, have no ministry paycheck. They are spreading the good news, demonstrating the Kingdom at their “secular” (whatever that means) work, and the secular mission-field pays their living.

As a result, they have a credibility among the world that those who make their living from purveying the gospel never had.

I invite the saints of God to work hard, forcefully, to rid themselves of the religious heresy that “full time ministry” is better ministry. It’s not. It’s actually a hindrance, though it is a comfortable hindrance.

The best ministry nowadays, and generally the best anointing, comes to those who live and work and eat and sleep among the world to which they minister.

That means that those whose “day job” gets in the way of “their ministry” probably have the more effective ministry. And many of those whose “full time job” is ministry, find their work less effective, when measured by Kingdom standards. 

Saturday

New Beginnings or Second Chances: What's the Difference

by Sue McLain

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, but recently I’ve come to the realization that subtle differences can make a large impact on the way we view something or someone. Besides, I’m in good company. Jesus has been known to say, “You have heard it said. But I tell you…” The Pharisees and Sadducees had their own very specific and unmovable understanding of the Law of Moses. (Similar, perhaps, to the political parties of today?) Along comes Jesus with a fresh understanding of the Law, based not on legalism but rather, on character: the Fathers character. Looking at something from a different point of view can radically alter our understanding of it. That’s what happened to me.

Several years ago during pre-service prayer I very clearly heard, “I am not the God of the second chance. I am the God of new beginnings.” It was one of those God moments where I knew that I knew that the Holy Spirit wanted to break through and make a point. It has stayed with me all these years as I’ve struggled to understand what that means and what the implications are in my relationship with Him.

I began by trying to understand the differences between a new beginning and a second chance. After all, aren’t they basically saying the same thing? Don’t both speak of a fresh start?

I found that chance, in its purest form, speaks of fate, the luck of the draw, the roll of the dice. Statistically, it’s 50/50. It’s “…the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled.” It is impersonal, detached. That does not sound like the Father. He is anything but impersonal or detached. The very fact that He is a person removes the ‘chance’ factor.

OK what else may chance imply? It can speak of opportunity. For example: a job offer from an old classmate you haven’t seen in years, an investment opportunity from a start-up company, a cancelled appointment giving you the time to catch up on some unfinished business. We are given opportunities every day, and they can be monumental or insignificant. They can be created by us or given to us. They can be purposeful or accidental. They can be relational or impersonal. It’s safe to say, “opportunities happen!” But what does second chance communicate?

A second chance is always given by another. There is history inherent in it. It carries weight or debt. An abusive boyfriend gives his girlfriend a ‘second chance’. The husband gives the alcoholic wife a ‘second chance’. The boss gives the chronically late employee a ‘second chance’. There is a sense of control, authority or dominance. “I give you.” You have the right to choose, yes, but it’s tainted, stained by the past. You did this but I’m going to give you a chance to be different this time. Different according to my rules, according to my expectations. Good or bad, there is baggage in the person giving the second chance and baggage in the one it is being given to.

God, on the other hand, says He as a God of new beginnings. He has said, “I will do a new thing”. According to the law of first mention, creation is foundational to the concept of the God being all about new beginnings. Out of chaos He created something entirely new. It was fresh, clean, and untarnished.

What does that mean for us personally? He rewrites our history, gives us a fresh start. Isn’t that the very definition of adoption? He gives us a new name, a new family? He makes us a new creation! What about forgiveness? He does not hold our sins against us. He chucks them into the sea. He is very intentional, very personal. Condemnation, debt and baggage are not in His vocabulary. He has nothing to do with fate or chance.

Some might say, “What about Jonah? Didn’t he get a second chance? ” My answer to that is ‘no’. God had a mission for Jonah. Jonah had personal issues with that mission. But God had a plan and Jonah was an integral part of it. God is not in a hurry. As Banning Liebscher says, “…the Lord will get me where He wants to get me, when He wants to get me there and how He wants to get me there”. Jonah’s call, the storm, the whale, the prophecy, all of it was part of God’s plan for Jonah and Ninevah. There was no ‘second chance’ involved because God completed His plan just as He intended.

Both second chances and new beginnings give us a do-over. Both are given from relationship. But, they start from completely different places. Second chances start from a place of failure. A new beginning, well, from a clean slate, just as if it never happened.

What if we could truly grasp the freedom and intentionality that comes from a God that gives us new beginnings? Past that is dead and gone, sin that is no longer held in debt against us. Who could we become? How would it change the way we view God? How would it change the way we view each other?