Showing posts with label healing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label healing. Show all posts

Thursday

Be Holy. Be Healed.


The first words spoken in the Scriptures sound like a command to our Western way of hearing (1). We translate those two words (אוֹר הָיָה) as “Let there be light,” but  translating it “Light, be!” is perhaps more literal, though it feels odd to command light.

And that’s largely because it isn’t really a command in the “obey this rule” sense. Light didn’t even exist and it couldn’t obey a rule, not until God called it into existence. When God said, “Light, be!” he was releasing his power to create light, causing “reality” to conform to his will. It would be silly to expect the light to hear this as an agenda item, and to work hard (can you imagine light sweating, feeling guilty for failing?) to conform to the directive?

His words caused the thing he said to become reality. It was not reality until he said it. He did the same thing a few more times, and then he took a day off to reflect on his “very good” creation (2).

In the beginning God established the pattern: he commands a thing to “be” and suddenly, by the release of his power, it is. And it is good. This is the way God began this whole creation; this is the pattern he uses.

Years later, he speaks to a family he’s trying to adopt as his own (and just like in our day, there were lots of complications). He makes a similar statement to that family, releasing his power in them to accomplish what he was describing, but this time, they were terrified, and out of their fear, they interpreted his release of power as a directive (3), as a rule for them to obey.

“Be holy,” he said (4). And they tried. They sweat and made laws and practices (5) and did everything they knew to do. And they failed miserably. They failed because they tried to do in their human obedience what was released as a disbursal of heaven’s power. They did not receive the power, therefore they were not able to actually “be holy.”

A few millennia later, he did it again, this time while he was walking on the planet: he spoke several times in the same ways, releasing the same creative power.

Nearly a dozen times (6), he declared to various people, “Be healed!” He’s not telling people to live up to a standard of healed-ness, he’s not giving them a rule to obey. He’s releasing power. We get it, because we understand that we don’t generally have the power to “be healed” on our own, apart from the power of God.

Only twice (one woman literally caught in sin, one man with a history of brokenness and disappointment) (7), he released the power of God to remove the bondage of sin: “Sin no more,” he said. We make the silly mistake here of thinking that we can do this apart from God’s power (we cannot) (8), and therefore, we think this is a rule to follow (it is not), and we teach others, “You must be holy! God commands it!”

All of these statements were declared by the same person of the Godhead (“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (9) ) and they followed the same pattern: it sounded like a command, but functionally, this is about the Creator God releasing his power to create the thing he speaks about, causing “reality” to conform to his will.

When the Godhead declares for something to “be” (whether it’s “be healed” or “be holy”) it’s not a commandment, not a rule. It’s a disbursement of his power, a declaration of our destiny. Our response is not to grunt and sweat and fail and then condemn ourselves for failing to do the impossible. That’s foolish. We cannot do what it takes the power of God to do (10). If I may say so, it is the Christians who think they can accomplish in their will what God has offered his power to  create, whose “gospel” is the least hopeful and the most ridden with condemnation: their “good news” has the least “good” in it.

When the Scriptures say, “Live this way,” it is a release of the power of God. Our job is not to make that word come about. Our job is to set our sights on that target and it is God’s job to pull the trigger, to release the power to accomplish that word. And that will only come about as he and I are one, are in actual unity.

And when a prophetic word declares, “This is your destiny,” it is a release of the power of God. Our job is not to make that word come about. Our job is to set our sights on that target and it is God’s job to pull the trigger, to release the power to accomplish that word. And that will only come about as he and I are one, are in actual unity.

When God speaks, it releases God’s power to accomplish what he’s saying. If he thinks I need his power to accomplish that task, then it is extreme arrogance to attempt it in my own will; the only greater arrogance is teaching others that they should live as I live.

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Footnotes:
1 Genesis 1:3
2 Genesis 1
3 Exodus 20:19
5 see Exodus through Deuteronomy
7 John 5:14 & 8:11
8 Romans 3:23 & 5:12
9 John 1:3
10 Mark 14:38, Romans 8:5-13, 1Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 2:20, 3:3, 5:16, etc.

Opinions About Pornography


OK. Let’s go step onto the scary trail. Let’s talk about pornography, and about porn addictions.

I’m going to speak about things that I have no training in. I have opinions, based on experience. I’ve not put this into words for a long time, so this may get overly-detailed (that’s how my process works).

Comment: I’ll be speaking as a guy (I generally do, but this time it may make a difference).

Another Comment: I’m not going to talk about how icky porn is. You already know that.

Warning: This isn't complete. Not sure it's actually possible to be complete on this topic. This is more of an outline, notes, rough thoughts.

Personal opinion: neither accountability nor inner healing will solve porn addictions. They may address some symptoms, but not solve the problem.

Personal opinion: solving symptoms is never a substitute for solving the core issue. If one symptom is solved, but the core issue is not, then the core issue will build pressure, and pop out in another place, or (more likely?) blow the scab off the same symptom.

Personal observation: when “church folk” respond to any addiction, their response is generally in the realm of “self control.” This does help a small number of people. 

Personal opinion: a porn addiction is not primarily about sex or about discipline. These are merely symptoms.

Personal opinion: the core issue is identity, specifically intimacy in relationship. Intimacy, in this context, is NOT a euphemism for sex: it’s about being known and accepted fully, and about knowing and accepting fully. And the first place for this intimacy is with God:

Personal opinion: if a man does not have an intimate relationship with God, if a man does not have confidence that he is fully known and fully accepted by God, then he will try to meet that very legitimate need by illegitimate means. Pornography is one of those illegitimate means.

Personal opinion: that business of being known fully and being accepted fully by one’s wife (or wife-to-be) is supplemental and very helpful, but does not replace the need for this relationship with God. Neither does sex replace real relationship with God. [That’s covered in the DUH-101 course.]

Personal opinion: This inherently creates a problem: the only solution is to know and receive the actions/choices of someone else. Fundamentally, no man can solve this problem on their own, by their own strength. There’s room for a sermon there, but this is not the time for that sermon.

Personal Opinion: the only thing that a man can do to facilitate others’ meeting of these needs is to initiate that sort of relationship. With God, that’s only about making one’s self as open as possible before God, and that is a scary process. With a bride that’s a terrifying thing, because it’s the same kind of vulnerability, but vulnerability before a fallible human being who has her own needs. Scary. But that’s all he can do to help her offer that to him: offer it to her, both for her well-being, and by way of being an example.

Personal opinion: the only things I’ve ever seen work appear to be two sides of the same coin: It can be described as “Develop this kind of relationship with God” or it can be described as “Know – really know, not just study – who you are in Christ,” but these are (IMHO) really the same thing.

Personal opinion: there is a bit of good news in an addiction to pornography: you were made for intimate relationship with God, and this addiction demonstrates that you have a real hunger, and a real readiness for that intimacy. You’re ready to develop a close relationship with your Maker. And God is ready to develop that close relationship with you.

I say again: a porn addiction is rock-solid proof that you are now ready and able to have the kind of intimate relationship with God that you’ve always wanted.

Is it scary? Hell yes!

Are we guaranteed a life of ease and no problems? You’re kidding, right?

But is it possible? abso-freakin-lutely.

And yeah, it really is the better deal! Oh my goodness, yes!

How Jesus & the Apostles used "Repent"


I really love listening to the Bible. I’ve been listening through the gospels recently.

And wouldn’t you know it? It got me thinking again! How *does* that keep happening? (I love Holy Spirit’s lessons!)

I’m aware that the word “repent” has been one of the stumbling blocks for a lot of folks, particularly for people who have been raised in church or in religious households. So I listen closely when that word comes up.

And it came up today. I perked up.


But first, a little background:

We have two different camps in the Western church for how to interpret the word.

The traditional view, particularly popular in Fundamentalist and Pentecostal circles, is the view that understands that repenting involves focusing on action. The focus is generally on repenting *from* something.

If I’m repenting in this view, you can tell by looking. There probably will be confession of sin. There certainly will be commitment to changing certain behaviors. And if I’m doing a really good job of it, there will probably be tears and maybe even snot.

This has become the western, cultural definition of the English word, “repent.”

But the word that the writers of the gospels used for “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeō.” (They didn’t actually speak English.)

The word “metanoeō,” though, doesn’t actually speak of sins or choices or tears.

It’s a combination of two words: “meta” means “in the midst of” and “noeō” which is “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding.” These words indicate that repenting is something that happens in the midst of understanding.

Our word, “metanoeō” itself, literally means “to change one's mind” or “have a new thought.” Apple caught this idea really with their ad campaign “Think Differently.” Their goal was that people would repent from using Windows computers.

And so the more current understanding of the word “repent” is about “changing how I think,” and if I’m repenting in this view, you may or may not be able to see it happen. On the other hand, if you’re attentive, you can tell that it has happened, because I’ll be doing things differently.

And that’s where my thinking started today. Those are really different thoughts, and the folks who hold to those views hold them pretty passionately. There have been arguments.

I asked myself, How can I know beyond question which way that God thinks about repentance, because I really want my thinking to follow the paths that his thinking leads.

And I realized that when Jesus or the disciples used the word “Repent” in their preaching, that the context of that preaching would indicate what the word meant to them. I wanted to know what it meant to them.

I reflected on this. Rather a lot. All I need to do is “watch” them preach, and observe how they used the word. This might be easier than I thought.

If they held the first view of repentance, turning from sin and confessing, then that value would be part of their preaching. When they spoke of repenting, they’d talk about what to repent from, they’d emphasize changing behavior as the priority in their message, and they’d be pleased when people confessed their sins and wept. We’d be able to observe these things if this was their message.

But if their use of the word was about “changing your mind” or “thinking differently,” then their sermons would involve either words or actions that would help people to see things differently. They might explain what something means, or they might demonstrate new and different values, or they might contrast the way things are now with they way they used to be.

As you read the gospels and Acts, keep these thoughts in mind: besides using the word “repent,” what else is their sermon accomplishing?

The passage that triggered these thoughts is in Mark 6, as Jesus sends the boys out on their first missions trip. Then Mark says, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

Now all I needed to do was examine their behaviors and decide if they were focusing on the sin that people needed to walk away from, or if they were demonstrating a new way of thinking that these people hadn’t considered before.

They preach “repent” (which literally means “change your thinking”), and then they demonstrate deliverance and healing. They demonstrated the values of the Kingdom the people had never heard about before: this king is about deliverance; this king is about healing; this king is about your well-being.

I’m thinking that when the disciples used the word “repent,” they meant “Change how you’re thinking, or you’ll miss this Kingdom.”

Now the disclaimers for folks who have always understood “repent” as coming to the altar in tears, promising to stop sinning: Those are fine values. But they’re more likely to be the fruit of repentance than repentance itself.

And occasionally Jesus would say, “Go and sin no more.” But that was never the focus of his message. That seemed to me to be tagged on at the end, and it only happened sometimes. Not a priority.

I need to repent. I need to change how I see God.

For example: if I stop seeing God as a grumpy old man with judgment and smiting on his mind, and instead I see a loving Father who will pay any price, ANY price, in order to tell me he loves me, that absolutely will have an effect on my actions.

I’ll fall in love. And when I’m in love, I won’t want to do the stupid things that will endanger that love relationship. So I will no longer drink or smoke or chew or go out with girls who do, not because I’m adhering to a standard, not out of fear of judgment, but because that’s what love does.

I suggest that we look at the words and the actions of God – both New Testament and Old – as a loving God, who will do anything for his children, and give up on the grumpy judge, and see how that changes how you respond to God.

I’ll bet you it’s easier to love a passionate father than a grumpy judge! And it’s easier to obey him. 

Let's preach this message: “You might need to change your thinking. God’s not like you thought. May I tell you what he’s really like? Here, let me show you!”



The Ministry of Broken People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday

Responding to this Election

There are maybe two primary kinds of people reacting with distress to the election results.

One kind is all about outrage. That outrage has occasionally been public and violent. There’s much evidence that at least some of the protests are paid events, staged for prime-time television, but the outrage is still real.

Many of the faces and voices in the media are outraged, of course, and in the halls of power. Some are willing to express it; others less so, hiding behind explanations and accusations.

The other, larger, and often younger population are nearly invisible, feeling wounded and betrayed. How could these neighbors whom I’ve trusted vote for such a hateful man and such a hateful agenda. They truly fear for their future, for their lives and well-being and those of their friends. Their fear – whether we understand it or not – is very real, their pain is real.

This is the group that I’m most concerned about.

Many of these are Millennials, the generation that is only now stepping into power. They are young enough that they don’t understand what this election was reacting against. And while they recognize that there’s bias in the media, they are still a media generation, and the media still speaks to them and for them.

If we wanted to alienate these good people, if we wanted to drive them away from us, from ever respecting us, then we should condescend to them, we should disrespect their fears and mock their pain. A number of Christians, a number of conservatives are doing exactly that.

And of course, Internet memes are good for this. And while a few are genuinely humorous and make us laugh, they drive a wedge deeper between people, and a thorn deeper into their hearts.

“But they’re believing a lie! I must convince them instead of the truth!” Balderdash. Do you remember the Bible-thumping trolls who haunt Facebook and other online communities, mercilessly wielding their version of Truth? Do you remember Westboro Baptist and their hate-fueled vitriol? This need to “convince them of the truth” is what motivates them. Don’t be like them.

Honestly, we don’t have the authority to speak truth to anyone until we’ve helped them deal with the pain they’re feeling. Have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus taught truth it was always in the context of healing their pain: healing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead, multiplying food. The only exception was when he was talking privately with his disciples.

That’s a really good course of action: start with healing. We can heal supernaturally; that’s always good. We can heal through social means: food banks and street missions need our help in this season more than any other. We can heal through personal means, listening to their pain, and loving them eye-to-eye, heart to heart.

We can be Christians: we can be Christ to people.


Thursday

Learn This Parable from the Fig Tree

I love it when God speaks through secular artists.

The Pixies have some strange songs. One begins with the lines,

“Meet me by the coppice stool
Before the sky takes back its jewels
Bring your life of memories
Before they sink into the seas.”

There were two or three interesting thoughts in here, but it was the first line that spoke to me. “Meet me by the coppice stool.” What on earth is a “coppice stool”?

Some years ago, Father really challenged me from the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:

"A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' " [Luke 13:6-9]

Honestly, the story scared me. Since he was talking about my life, he was talking about cutting me down! What’s up with that? I was serving Him as hard as I could!

(By the way, if you ever find yourself asking “why is there so much crap going on in my life?” remember that manure was the fertilizer that Jesus was speaking about digging into the life of the fig tree.)

I meditated on the parable, of course. Then one day, while I was driving, I saw a piece of property where the owner had cut down some trees, but the stump was sprouting again. Even the logs stacked next to the stump were sprouting, and I realized, that must be how fig trees work.

So I googled it, and found it’s true: you can’t actually kill a fig tree by cutting it down. When you cut a fig tree down, you give the tree a fresh start, several fresh starts, actually. Because within several months of cutting down the tree, you’ll have several new trees sprouting from the same roots, surrounding the trunk. Instead of one old, slow-growing tree, you’ll have several young, vigorously growing trees.

Coppiced trees.
This method of extreme pruning is called “coppicing.” And that dead stump, surrounded by live trees from the same roots, is called a “coppice stool.” It’s a recognized forest management technique. “As  coppiced trees already have a fully developed root system, regrowth is rapid.” In fact, “trees which are periodically cut tend to live longer.” (http://www.coppice.co.uk/

So one reason that God may cut someone off at the roots is to extend both the breadth and length of their ministry. Another reason may be to bring back “the joy of my salvation” to saints that have grown weary or complacent.

So if you’re feeling like God is cutting you down (or just digging crap into your life), take heart: he’s preparing you for growth and expansion.



Returning to the Glory of the First Century Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m thinking that’s an improvement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We could go on.

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

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


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A Season of Healing

This may be more of a “prophetic observation” than a prophetic word.

I’m observing that God is putting a substantial emphasis on healing his kids right now. It’s not like he ever walks away from this topic, but it seems to be near the top of his “to do” list now.


He’s certainly healing us physically, but I believe that the emphasis is on healing the wounds in our souls and in our spirits. Everybody can see if they’re missing a leg. It’s much more difficult to see it when we’re missing the foundations in our inner life.

There have been other seasons where a priority was placed on understanding new revelation, or on learning to hear his voice, or bringing the good news to those who haven’t heard it. And he’s not forgotten those: that’s what we’re all about: knowing our Father and making him known!

If I may extend this a bit: it’s my opinion that we’re entering – rather rapidly – into a new season where it will be “All hands on deck!” as “Life as usual” and “Church as usual” completely lose the “as usual” part.

And if we’re going to be ready to partner with what he’s revving up to be doing, then we really need our souls strong and healthy. Honestly, the likely alternative is to be content to be one of the “last move of God” that persecutes “the next move of God.”

I feel a particular need to urge folks that have been putting off dealing with issues of the soul: it’s time to quit ignoring the issue and take specific steps to get healed up.

As a first step, I encourage you to get alone with God and ask two questions:

1) Father, how do YOU see me? (Hint: if the answer isn’t about love, then it isn’t God speaking!)

2) Father, what is getting in the way of my fully experiencing that? (Hint: it’s most likely about some lies you’ve believed, either about you or about God.)

It is really appropriate to get help with these. Where? Cheat: Ask God to bring you help. But don’t run when they come to you, asking pointed questions about your inner self.


It’s no longer cool to walk with a limp.


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The Vision of the Wooden Spoon

The vision began with a quiet stream, in a quiet, green meadow; it reminded me of Narnia for some reason: that peaceful. The stream was wider than one could jump across, and deeper than you’d want to wade across, and its flow was smooth and fairly fast. All in all, it was a very peaceful environment. The birds were singing.

Then a giant hand appeared in the sky, holding a giant wooden spoon, the kind of spoon that people use in the kitchen to mix cookie dough. The spoon dipped into the stream and stirred.

For a while, nothing much happened, except the stream became more turbulent from the spoon’s motion. After a minute or two, the stream darkened, and soon I could see things in the muddy stream: old tires, boots, cans, bottles, sticks and stones, jars, bags of rubbish. The hand with the spoon withdrew into the heavens.

I was kind of appalled. This had been a peaceful stream, in a beautiful meadow, and now it was full of trash and garbage and muck and mess. Well, actually, the peaceful stream had always had the trash and muck and garbage and muck and mess, but it had been lying hidden in the mud on the bottom of the stream. Now the stuff was out in the open.

The vision continued, and the stream kept flowing, and then I saw it: the garbage was flowing downstream with the flow of stream. Some of what had been stirred up came to the top of the stream, and was carried far downstream, out of the picture. Other things, heavier things, were carried a little ways downstream but they settled back to the bottom of the stream. Soon the stream was clear and peaceful again, but I knew that old tires, discarded shoes, bottles and cans were still there, lying on the bottom of the stream.

The hand with the spoon appeared again, and stirred the water again, and again the stream darkened with mud, again tires, discarded shoes, bottles, cans, and other detritus were stirred up, and again they floated various distances downstream.

The cycle was repeated several times, until eventually, the stirring from the almighty spoon did not bring up muck and garbage.

The stream returned to peace, but it flowed smoother, faster, than it had before, and I realized that it flowed cleaner than it had before. The garbage on the stream bed had settled under so much mud that the stream flowed smoothly over it, but still the garbage had polluted the stream.

Now the stream was actually clean.

I believe that this is what Father is doing in some of our lives. He’s stirring things up in our lives, and it’s uncomfortable. It’s easy to be appalled or offended at what he’s doing, because he’s good at what he does. Things are being stirred up, memories, habits, relationships that have been in our lives are being stirred up from the dark depths of our lives, and brought into the light.

And the reality is that much of what he’s stirring up is garbage: shame, embarrassment, memories of foolishness, of sin, histories of unwise choices, character weaknesses. It’s easy to resent these coming to the surface after how many years of being hidden in history.

But he’s bringing them up in order to wash them away, in order to remedy the issues. Trust him. Have hope, rest in the confident assurance that he does know what he’s doing, and that he’s working for good in you, for the purity that we really have wanted. He’s answering our prayers.

We can trust the spoon. More specifically, we can trust the hand wielding the spoon.


Sunday

Healing & Daniel’s Delay

I was healed recently, for an issue I’d pretty much stopped asking for healing about.

It confused me, so I took it to prayer: Why was I healed now? I had prayed about this a lot back when, but now I’d kind of resigned myself to living with the problem. Why now, when I wasn’t even paying attention?

I have discovered three new pieces of this puzzle so far:  

First, the prayers that I prayed – that many of my friends prayed – over and over some years back are still valid. There is no expiration date, it appears, on prayer. Just because I’d stopped praying doesn’t mean the prayers stopped changing things.

Second, God reminded me of the story of Daniel 10. An angel showed up with Daniel’s answer to prayer, several weeks after he began to pray.

He continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” - Daniel 10:12-13

Then Father asked, “If the answer to Daniel’s prayer had been delayed, do you think your healing may have suffered the same problem?” Hmm.

I suspect that the same thing happens with healing some times. I suspect that more often, perhaps, than we realize, when we begin to pray for a healing, an angel is dispatched with the requested healing, but he gets held up.

In fact, this is consistent with my experience in this example. I had been prayed for a number of times for healing, and by some people who knew what they were doing in the realm of healing. Several of them had sensed that I was healed, though I experienced no change. If what they were sensing was God’s release of the answer, then my experience could be explained by an angel getting stuck in traffic with my healing in the back seat.

And the third piece of the puzzle of the delayed answer to prayer comes from Revelation 5:8b “Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” The pattern, in the book of Revelation, is that when bowls were mentioned, they were slowly filled up, and then poured in a manifestation of what they held.

So the thought is that sometimes, when we’re praying for a person or a cause, we’re helping to fill the bowls. And since we don’t know the capacity of the bowls, we don’t know how much it will take to fill them up. The parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18 supports the same conclusion, “that [we] should always pray and not give up.”

These three puzzle pieces lead me to conclude that the best direction for continued prayer on that person’s behalf may or may not be to continue praying for healing; it may be more effective to pray into the spiritual battle that the angelic delivery service may be experiencing.

Of course, this won’t work as an assumption: every time the answer to a prayer is delayed, to go deal with the heavenly battle, or every time an answer is delayed to assume that we’re just filling a bowl, and so we must keep praying to keep filling the bowl. Obviously, how we respond will depend heavily on good discernment and competent prophetic insight.

On a related note, I have been observing that God has been opening up more revelation recently on two subjects that could play into this subject quite helpfully:

·         He’s been talking about angels, and our partnering with them, which may apply if he leads us to forcefully intervene in the heavenly battle that our delivery angel may be caught up in.

·         And he’s been revealing quite a lot of information about the courts of heaven, by which we may address the same problem from a legal perspective: we may need to get an injunction against the demons holding my angelic messenger for ransom.

For years, I’ve been feeling the need to listen before I pray: “Father, what’s Jesus praying about this right now? I want to pray that!” I’m thinking that this is more needful than ever before.

Is this the time to pray for healing? Shall I go to war? Go to court? Or shall I just give thanks for the prayers that we’ve already prayed that are taking their time ripening? Or shall I keep on praying, in order to fill the bowl?

Our bottom line, I think, can be found in Jesus’ declaration: “Very truly I tell you, 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.”

I think that might be good practice for all of Father’s sons.




Thursday

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?


Forgiveness & Healing: An Important Distinction


There’s an uncomfortable contrast between forgiveness and healing.

We forgive those who wound us, and with the grace that Jesus is so generous about pouring into our lives, we can (eventually) forgive even the most debilitating, the most wounding, the most egregious offenses against us.

More, we need to forgive those offenses. In some way (see Matthew 6:14), our own forgiveness is tied to how we forgive others. And we’re commanded to forgive (see Matthew 18:23-35), so it’s pretty important.

But forgiving is not the same as healing. The act of forgiving the one who hurt me does not – in and of itself – heal the wound that they caused. Forgiving them is about not holding the offense in my soul against them, about no longer looking for revenge (whether actively or passively) against them, about not allowing a “root of bitterness” to grow in my spirit to make accusations against my offender and against God. That’s powerful stuff, but it’s not the same as healing the wound that came from their offense.

On the cross, Jesus forgave the people who nailed him there, but he still died from the wounds. In Acts 7, Stephen forgave those who wounded him by throwing stones, but he, too, died from that stoning.

I’ve seen confusion among believers about this in two manifestations:

1) “I’ve forgiven them for wounding me. So why am I still wounded? I thought that forgiving them would make it stop hurting!”

2) “But you forgave me! Why aren’t you trusting me? Why are you still acting like you’re hurting there? I guess you didn’t REALLY forgive me, did you!”

The reality is that forgiving and healing are two completely different issues. One might as well ask, “Why am I broke at the end of the month? It’s still raining in the Northwest, isn’t it?” Well, yes, it is still raining in the northwest, but that doesn’t actually have anything to do with your personal spending habits! In similar manner, there is not a direct correlation between forgiving and being healed.

It’s worth noting that there IS a small-but-significant connection between forgiving and being healed: we receive healing more easily when we’ve forgiven. But don’t be distracted by that small issue: healing is not an automatic result of forgiving.

We must forgive, of course, and there are enough reasons to forgive to fill a book. We could fill another book on the differences between forgiving someone and trusting them in the same way again. Frankly, they would be fine books, but that’s not the purpose for this article, which is to shoot down the false belief that “My forgiving you brings me healing.” It’s a small step in the process, and an important one, but it is not the healing.

I can forgive you for shooting me in the knee, but I will still walk with a limp until my knee is healed. 

A Problem with Trusting.


One of the less-visible wounds from betrayal or abuse by leaders we've trusted is an unbalanced sense of trust. Some will not easily trust again, and yes, that needs healing, but a less-visible (and therefore more dangerous) wound works in the opposite direction: too much trust.
 
A victim of untrustworthy leadership (and the "untrustworthy" can be merely in the mind of the wounded) very often has lost a measure of confidence in their own ability to "correctly" hear from the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to walk away from an untrustworthy leader, only to concede too much trust to trustworthy leaders, even to the point where we (perhaps unknowingly) trust the leader's words more than the things that Holy Spirit speaks to us directly.
 
I see at least three temptations in this:

1) Leaders can be flattered and tempted to take the place of the Holy Spirit in a wounded person's life. ("They need me!") This is not an insignificant temptation; it feels good to be needed.
 
2) The wounded person can be tempted to look to a man (or woman, but usually a man) instead of to the Holy Spirit. ("I trust him to hear God correctly!") This often masquerades as a "safe" alternative.
 
3) They both are likely being set up for a serious disappointment. We're talking "crash and burn" level  disappointment here.
 
The reality is that no human being can really take the place of the Holy Spirit in my life, and any attempt (intentional or not) to do so will end in disaster.
 
I have watched helplessly as this scenario has exploded in marital affairs, divorce, broken congregations and the violent end of the successful ministries of people on both ends of the equation. Occasionally it has resulted (presumably with other complications) in murder. I suppose these are predictiable, given that the source of this calamity is famous for "stealing, killing & destroying." 
 
My "takeaway" from this is to emphasize - in my life, and to the folks around me - that God is an effective Father, well able to lead his children Himself: my goal is always to lead others to Christ, and to be led myself to Him. Any time (and I think this is an absolute) one human being lingers between God and another human being, there will be trouble. 

Sunday

Learning with the Sadducees

Jesus taught the Sadducees some lessons about the Kingdom. Let’s learn from them.

I’ve been fascinated with the story in Mark 12 where Jesus schools the Sadducees. They came to test him (it seemed to be the popular thing to do in those days), to try to get Jesus to agree with their heretical doctrines. Unsurprisingly, Jesus didn’t play along. But His reply is worth learning from, particularly in these “Last Days” which Jesus himself described as “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” The periphery of the Church contains so many self-appointed Guardians of the Truth, but many (or most?) of them seem to be speaking with the error of the Sadducees, or the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Jesus’ response here is a wonderful lesson on identifying Truth.

The fact that Jesus takes the time to teach the Sadducees, rather than rebuke them publicly (he wasn’t afraid of that; see Matthew 23 for a blistering example), indicates something significant, I think. There were two primary theological camps among the teachers of those days: Pharisees and Sadducees. The interesting thing here is that the Pharisees actually had the better doctrine: they acknowledged the resurrection from the dead, they acknowledged the presence and ministry of angels, they acknowledged spirits, and therefore the Holy Spirit. The Sadducees did not acknowledge any of these (see Acts 23:8).

But it was the Pharisees that Jesus blasted publicly, not the Sadducees. Here, the Sadducees come to test Jesus with a hypothetical scenario, and Jesus responds gently, and shows them their error. I observe that when Jesus points out the error of the Pharisees (for example, Luke 12:1), he does not address their doctrine, but their hypocrisy.

I learn from this that I can be theologically sound, and completely messed up: I can have my doctrines correct, and earn the castigation and judgment of Jesus. Apparently, correct doctrine is not the highest and most valuable treasure to the Son of God.

The Sadducees must have had a more teachable attitude; they missed several key doctrinal points, but Jesus gently instructs them. Since I aspire to be teachable more than I aspire to doctrinal perfection, I suspect I can learn from his schooling of these teachable heretics.

The first thing that Jesus does in instructing these guys is that he completely rejects their whole foundation: they came to him with an elaborate hypothetical situation to convince him: he ignores it completely, focusing on the truth instead. I confess: I want to deal with the real world (as Jesus did here) more than with hypothetical situations which can only generate hypothetical theologies.

Before Jesus corrects their erroneous theology, he points out the source of the error: they’re mistaken (the word also means “deceived”) because they lack knowledge of two things: the Scriptures and the power of God.

It is an amazing thing to me that Jesus accuses the Sadducees of not knowing the Scriptures: these men spend their lives studying the Scriptures, and yet, Jesus says, they don’t really know them. Apparently it is possible to study the Word, to know theology, to earn advanced theological degrees (for that is what it meant to be a Sadducee), and still be deceived. Apparently book-learning isn’t enough.

The second thing that the Sadducees missed, which led to their deception, was that they didn’t have a working knowledge of the power of God. It makes sense that not knowing the power of God would be a contributing factor towards a theology that denies the supernatural. If you don’t ever heal the sick, or see people who do, then it’s easier to say, “God doesn’t heal the sick anymore.” I know of one seminary professor who declared, “Well, I don’t experience miracles, so God must not do miracles any more,” as he taught his poor students about the virtues of cessationism.

I believe that the reverse is also true: the reason that people come up with theologies – or excuses – to explain away the power of God is specifically because those people have not experienced the power of God in the way that Jesus expects us to.

For the scholars among us, the word “power” here is indeed the Greek work dunamis, the root word of “dynamite.” This is the same word that is used for healing (Luke 5:17), for resurrecting the dead (Romans 1:4) and for casting demons out (Luke 9:1), and which Jesus assigns, delegates, imparts to those of us who are His disciples (Luke 10:19). Jesus is describing signs and wonders when he describes the reasons for their deception: because they don’t know the signs and wonders of God, they are mistaken, in error, deceived: we must know the supernatural power of God to stay out of deception.

That leads us to a necessary corollary: we must use these two foundations in order to have our theology right: we must really understand the Scriptures – not just study, but letting the Author teach us – and we must have a working, experiential knowledge of the power of God. Indeed, a perusal of the Gospels will reveal that most of the time when Jesus taught the people, he then also healed them, or when he started with healing, he followed up with teaching. Theology teachers and Bible teachers whose ministry doesn’t include the power of God are – according to Jesus’ correction of the Sadducees – missing one of the two pillars of complete theology. Powerless theology teachers cannot teach theology well. That’s a scary conclusion, and it’s driving at least this teacher to pursue supernatural signs and wonders more passionately than ever before: I decline to fall into the deception of he Sadducees.

It is at this point in the conversation that things get really interesting. Jesus has explained what they were doing wrong that led to their deception; now he goes on to correct their theological errors. I’m not going to examine the theology that he’s teaching (it is self-apparent); rather, I want to look at the way he teaches it: He corrects their theology using the same two tools, the same two reference points – the Scriptures and the power of God – that he has just accused them of lacking, though he does so in the opposite sequence.

Second (I’ll cover the “First” in a second), Jesus refers to the Scriptures, using Moses’ reference to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to affirm the resurrection. While he’s using the Scriptures as his foundation, his interpretation and application of the Scriptures is prophetic, rather than the usual inductive or deductive tools more commonly used both then and now.

But first, he speaks as the Son of God, whose residence and throne are in Heaven, and he speaks to a situation that neither the Sadducees nor we have any way to understand apart from either a resident of Heaven comes to explain it to us, or us journeying to the heavenly realms to see for ourselves. Jesus’ declaration cannot come from earth when says, “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” He’s describing eternity from the point of view of someone who has seen first-hand what the resurrection is like. “This is what it’s like on the other side of death and resurrection.”

That knowledge, of course, is impossible apart from the supernatural. I can think of a few ways that I could have learned those things, but not a one of them comes from studying well. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:4), Jesus (John 3:13) and John (Revelation 1:10 and 4:2) appeared to travel to Heaven while on Earth, though there’s very little teaching on the topic in church today. A whole number of people had things explained to them by angels (beginning with Hagar [Genesis 16], and including Moses [Exodus 3], Balaam [Numbers 32], Manoah [Judges 3:17], Elijah [2 Kings 1:15], Zechariah [Zechariah 6:5], Zacharias [Luke 1:13], Mary [Luke 2], Cornelius [Acts 10:22], and of course, John [Revelation 17:7].

I make two applications from this fact: A) I need to get used to supernatural revelation of information – whether it’s my visiting heaven or angels instructing me. And B) I need to not be afraid of basing theology on that revelation: Jesus did, and he taught it as theology – not just as a testimony – to unbelievers, based on his own revelation of Heaven.

(Of course the usual caveats apply: don’t use personal revelation – or prophetic interpretation of Scripture – to contravene Scripture’s clear teaching [how many cults have started that way?]. But at the same time, don’t run from it either!)

Jesus, of course, has a fine conclusion to this brief teaching. Verse 27 says, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” He summarizes the whole conversation in a single, very obvious generalization of the nature of God: “He’s the God of the living.” If the Sadducees were as open to new understandings about God as it seems, then I can imagine two or three of them slapping their forehead and muttering, “Of course! Duh! God of the living! Why didn't I see that?”

Monday

It’s Time To Negotiate a New Contract

Most professional sports begin with a training camp of some kind. And many training camps begin with a level of controversy: very often, there are a few individuals that don’t show up for the beginning of camp. They’re often some of the best players, and they’re holding out in order to negotiate a better contract.
There are benefits and drawbacks for that renegotiation. The good is that a new agreement can be created, one without the assumptions of the previous season.
The drawbacks are plentiful in that kind of a negotiation. Chief among them is the fact that this quickly becomes an adversarial negotiation: opponents, each trying to get their own way.
And contract negotiations that impose on the sports season are always a distraction. They distract the players, those men and women who are preparing themselves for the upcoming battles. They also distract the fans, the people who are watching from the sidelines, including those that play the game at another level (whether PeeWee ball, or high school or college sports programs).
Any professional contract, for example a professional sports contract, is an agreement; the terms of my contract will spell out what I will do and what you’ll do. Generally there’s a correlation between how successful I am and how well I’m rewarded.
Michael Jordan had an amazing contract with the Chicago Bulls. He was paid handsomely, and he earned it: he was arguably the best player in the history of the team, both in terms of how he played (and won) the game, as well as his impact on the business: more fans bought tickets because Michael was playing.
Michael serves as an interesting example. In 1993, he quit playing basketball (he called it “retiring” to honor the terms of his basketball contract) and started playing minor league baseball. Suddenly Michael was playing a new sport. I’m not privy to Michael’s finances, but while “the best player in the history of the team” may earn a multi-million dollar paycheck, a very lanky outfielder in a mediocre minor league baseball team probably doesn’t get the same reward.
When the game changes, it’s time to negotiate a new contract.
That was surely true for Michael’s move from basketball to baseball, but that’s also true when a player moves from college ball through the draft to the world of pro sports. Matthew Stafford played football for Georgia for a few years, and he did quite well. College football players don’t When the Detroit Lions drafted him, they gave him a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $42 million.
When the game changes, it’s time to negotiate a new contract.

We can say it in spiritual terms:
When there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. Hebrews 7:12
We’re in a season when the game is changing. Have you noticed the changes? God is on the move. For the last couple of decades, He’s been restoring the prophetic gifts to the church. In the last couple of years, he’s been taking it to the streets. For the last decade or so, He’s been restoring healing gifts to the church. In the past year or two, he’s been taking those to the streets. (Have you seen the videos of healing breaking out at Disneyland?)
I might even go so far as to suggest that we’re experiencing a change of priesthood.
Two thousand years ago, there was a fairly significant event that turned our relationship with God on its head; as a result, no longer are we under the law, but we are under grace. I suppose every generation needs to grasp that for themselves, that the church is not a minister of the law, of rules, of expectations, but it’s a place where we’re beginning to experience “the priesthood of believers.”
For generations, the pastor of the church has been “the minister,” and they meant it: he’s the one that studies the word and on Sunday morning, he presents it. He’s the one who visits the sick and prays for them, who welcomes visitors to the church.
In the past several years, we’ve watched as the body of the church step up out of our pews and begin to do the work of ministry. We’ve moved from “Pastor as minister” to “the body is the minister.”
When the game changes, it’s time to negotiate a new contract.
Finally, many of us as individuals are experiencing a transition to, for lack of a better term, a new level in God. We’ve outgrown the old; like in a video game, we’ve pretty well beaten the bad guys on our level, we’ve picked up all the plunder from the level we’ve been on for the past few years (or decades). Now we’re going through the awkward and uncertain phase of stepping into new role to which God is assigning us.
When the game changes, it’s time to negotiate a new contract.

So we are in a new game. The rules have changed. It’s time for a new contract with the team we play for. Besides, we didn’t change the game. God has changed the game. He’s ready for the new contract as well, though in the Bible, He called them covenants. I guess that’s what Jewish sports teams call their contracts. Bible scholars talk about the Adamic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, the New covenant. Lots of covenants.
Just as in professional sports, or with union contract negotiations: we can continue to work under the old contract if we choose, accepting less reward than is our due. A friend of mine said it this way: “That the old contract is up, the one where we had to accept 3 pennies for every dollar that we are worth”
When we negotiate our new contract with the Captain of our team (Human sports have the coach on the sidelines; ours is on the field of battle with us!), there are some principles that still apply:
First, we do not negotiate from an adversarial position, but from a position of favor. We don’t need to fight to persuade him to grudgingly give us the kind of reward that we are worth: he’s the one who is arguing, “No! You’re worth more than that! Ask for this as well!”
Then, knowing that God is your Daddy, your advocate, and that you’re his favorite kid, ask what you should contend for in this season: your kids? Your finances? (Yes, that’s legal!) Your marriage? Your community? Your region? Your nation? Another nation? An area of freedom in God? A new realm of ministry?
This is the part of the contract where you’re negotiating for what you’re going to get cheap on yourself here? What is it you really want? What are you willing to contend for, for that’s the third part: what is the work that you are willing to do to on your part?
Michael Jordan didn’t get paid his gazillions of dollars just because he was a nice guy. He earned it by playing the most amazing basketball that we had ever seen. He put on his jersey, marched out onto the court, picked up the ball and did whatever it took to put it through the hoop on the other end.
In our realm, we have some very valuable skills. We intercede and God changes things. We declare things, and they come to pass. We stare down the enemy with the praises of God in our mouths and all of Heaven breaks loose to destroy that bit of hell.
In times past, we’re told of worshipers who marched around cities, ahead of armies and in the courts of hostile kings. Today there are mountains in Korea, covered with tiny caves, each filled with praying believers. I know a man who has fasted forty days twenty times; he watches limbs grow out and gold dust form on his hands when he prays for the sick. I know another who fasted 120 days and saw the world change around him.
This is absolutely not a case of earning the rewards that we’re asking for: our families, our communities. But there is reason to suggest that if we are not willing to fight for our dreams, our children, our marriages, then who is? If those dreams don’t move us to passion, why in heaven’s name should we expect that they’ll move God or His angels to passion?

And so I counsel you to negotiate your contract for this new season that we’re entering: determine in advance what you want to have happen, and what you’re willing to do in order to lay hold of those dreams. Determine how you will respond to the favor of God that is calling you to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”


Sunday

The "Logic" of the Gospel


Do you remember that old evangelism tract, The 4 Spiritual Laws? It is accurately described as one of the most effective evangelistic tools ever developed. Millions of copies (one report says billions of copies) have been distributed in all of the major languages of the world. Millions of people, possibly tens of millions of people have given their lives to Christ through this tract.

I am very thankful for that tract, and for how God has used it. It has been a powerful tool.

I'm coming to the conclusions that evangelism based on the 4 Spiritual Laws is inferior and that such a method of evangelism is becoming rapidly irrelevant in our culture. The tract worked fine in the 60s and 70s (it was written in 1956), but the 60s and 70s were a long time ago.


Let me explain, because this feels like the kind of statement that might trigger a response. My complaint is not with that tract, nor with using it to present the gospel. My complaint is with the the gospel that the tract supports.

I've used the 4 Laws a lot, and I've led many to Christ with that tract. It's a good tract, but it's still a tract. But it is fundamentally a logical argument to present the logic of the gospel: here are the reasons why you should pray this prayer and receive Christ. I believe that a logical presentation of the gospel is an inferior presentation because of this: anybody that I can logically persuade of something (for example, the gospel) can also logically be persuaded away from that position. There are too many men and women who were logically persuaded have experienced that and are no longer following Christ: they've been persuaded again.

And it's my observation (and if you watch American advertising, they’re convinced as well) that our culture is less interested in logic, less compelled by argument; hence my conclusion that the 4 Laws is less relevant: we no longer live in a logical culture.

In its place, I would suggest an encounter with the supernatural power of God might be a fine introduction to a God who loves them.


I know a man, a chef named Tom, who is pretty excited about Jesus because God healed his left knee that had been hurting him for many years. Every time he sees me, he tells me again that his left knee is healed, and he's still excited three years later. He's excited about God not because he's been persuaded, but because when God healed his knee, it spoke to something deeper than his intellect, deeper than his logic.

I have a close friend that had been faithful in a solid church. My friend, also Tom, was faithful, but dying on the vine. (Some would argue that "at least he was still on the vine" and there is merit to that argument.)

Only because of the encouragement of a friend and mentor, Tom and his wife Pat went to a meeting where a prophet was visiting. The prophet "busted him": spoke to the deep hidden issues that he hadn't shared with anybody but his wife. The prophet gently and lovingly told Tom the questions that he had been hiding, and then he answered them. Tom and Pat are changed people. For the 5 years since that encounter, they've been very excited about God, about the Word, about fellowship, about knowing God, about introducing others to God, about caring for lost sheep. They're so excited, they've written a book about their supernatural encounters with God.

I have, if anything, a higher regard for the Word than ever before. I studied the Word and I studied exegesis, and I use those skills and techniques regularly today. I teach the Word, and I teach how to study the Word (among other subjects).

But, you know, Jesus never persuaded anybody about his message. Logic had no part in His version of the gospel. Never once did he point out, "because of this and this, therefore you know I'm the Messiah."

What he did was healed the sick, cast out demons, multiplied lunch. Pretty much every time he taught, he also did miracles. And pretty much every time he did a miracle, he used that to teach. Jesus did not use logic, He used signs and wonders. He healed the sick and cast out demons, and then declared that to be who God is.

I had been taught (I don't know if you got stuck in the same place I did) that knowing and obeying the Word was the answer. It’s valuable; and it’s not the answer. But it would be easy to foolishly go to the opposite end of the spectrum and say that knowing and obeying the word is irrelevant. That would be complete hogwash. The answer is (in my opinion today) that the Word is the best tool we have for knowing God. But it's only a tool; it's not the goal; the goal is that relationship; the goal is knowing God.

The message that Jesus brought was also not about the Bible of His day. He didn't ignore the Word; He used it. But the message He brought was "Follow me." It was "The Kingdom of God is at hand." It was about "I am the Way." The gospel that Jesus brought was focused on Himself. And Jesus used signs and wonders to introduce people to God.

Our presentation of the gospel should be the same.