Showing posts with label holy cows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holy cows. Show all posts


Learning From the Book and Beyond

I’ve been talking with a bunch of very cool people about the Gospel of John recently. It’s important to me to be fresh with what I’m talking about, so I’ve been burying myself in the first part of the book recently, more listening than reading this time, just for a new perspective. And indeed, I’ve heard things I’ve never seen in there.

I’ve been attracted to the very fascinating story of Nicodemus in John 3. There are so many interesting things in that encounter! Specifically, I’ve been watching how Jesus and Nick interact, and frankly, I’ve been sympathizing with Nick’s confusion in that conversation. We teach regularly from some of the content of that conversation. I’d like to look at the nature of the conversation itself, the context of it. 

A little background: Nicodemus is a Pharisee, which means he’s spent his life studying the Bible of his day, our Old Testament. Moreover, he’s “a ruler of the Jews,” which means that he’s been studying the Bible for a very long time, and that he has the additional weight of leading the People of God, by means of his immense knowledge of the Book. He’s probably a member of the Sanhedran, and he probably teaches teachers in Israel

I was taught from Sunday School on up that Pharisees are “the bad guys,” but Nick embodies all that is good about them. He comes to Jesus, seeking, recognizing God’s presence in Jesus’ miraculous ministry. He’s teachable! And so Jesus, who is the Word of God (John 1:1), teaches the teacher of the Word of God.

And Jesus is dropping some pretty heavy stuff on him. In a few short paragraphs (which may merely be a condensation of several of hours of conversation), Jesus introduces him to the concepts of being born again and being led by the Spirit. We think of these subjects as relatively foundational in the church today, but these would be revolutionary to a Pharisee who has only had the Old Testament to study. He’s studied the Word all of his life, but it hasn’t prepared him for the topics that Jesus is opening up to him. I’m impressed that he stays in the conversation; he doesn’t blow Jesus off, which tells me that he tastes some truth, some life, in it.

In the midst of this earthshaking conversation, Jesus drops in the fact that he, himself, makes visits Heaven while he’s on Earth (verse 13: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven,” whom he clarifies as being himself.) Even in our post-Resurrection era, the idea of visiting Heaven one is a bit of a stretch for many Christians. Fortunately, it allows us to experience a tiny bit of the paradigm shift that Nick was reeling under: this Man, clearly from God, is teaching some things that are waaaay outside the lines of Nick’s religious experience, just as most churches would consider visiting heaven at least “outside the lines” and possible “heresy.” This is what Nicodemus is dealing with.

This is no light conversation between Jesus and Nick. In this context we find the archetypal New Testament verse, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is that conversation: foundational.

Let’s look at our context: Today, we live in a season that has a lot of this kind of conversation in it. For decades, even for generations, we’ve known what we believed; our theology was settled, grounded, not really subject to change. And then Jesus steps in and suddenly it shifts. Suddenly, those theological foundations are remarkably less solid than we thought they were. Nicodemus experienced that shift, and we are also dealing with the that kind of shift, as the Holy Spirit brings up new topics for us as well. Think about the subjects of revival, apostolic ministry, street-healing, visiting Heaven, even translocation; things these were even not part of the conversation a few years ago. Like Nick’s conversation, these also are topics that are not easily supported from inductive study. 

Then verse 10 of Nick’s conversation with Jesus hit me: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” Jesus acknowledged that he was speaking to “the teacher” of Israel (the definite article really is in the Greek), and knew that he was speaking of content that was not supportable from exegetical or inductive study of the Old Testament, but He expected the teacher to know anyway. The topics did not reveal themselves in the Word, but Jesus expected “the teacher of Israel” to know – or at least have some familiarity with them – anyway. 
If an Old Covenant teacher (“the teacher of Israel”) was somehow expected to understand things that were not directly supportable from the Scripture of the day, is it not reasonable that we who are teachers, leaders, thought-shapers of the New Covenant may likewise also be expected to draw some of our understanding from sources OTHER than strict didactic study of the Word? 

If we stop and say it slowly, it’s not quite as scary: “There are more places to learn things than the pages of the Bible.” But we have a hard time with the subject. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Show me that in scripture!” (Comment: they said that to Jesus too. He gave them grief for it.)

Now, I am NOT suggesting that we teach – or personally hold to – any doctrine or practice about which the Word says “Don’t do it!” We don’t contravene scripture. End of story.  

Nor am I suggesting that we listen to every self-appointed spiritual authority out there. I’m suggesting that the Bible is about God speaking to us: let’s listen to God. I’m am suggesting that we allow ourselves and others to draw from non-Biblical sources – including personal revelation, supernatural encounters, and interesting conversations after hours – in order to correctly form our understanding of what the Spirit is doing and saying to the churches today.

Am I saying “The Bible is not enough”? Not quite. I’m saying, “Jesus seems to be declaring that there’s substantially more to learning than just the Bible.”

It looks to me as if Jesus doesn’t believe in the concept of “Sola Scriptura,” the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. The amazing thing about the Bible is that God is speaking. Why do we assume that just because we wrapped it in leather, He has stopped speaking?  The more I know Him, the more I am inclined to follow Him instead of the Book. And I'm coming to the radical conclusion that he has more to say than merely what had already been said and recorded

Personally, I am feeling challenged by the Spirit: that if I do NOT stretch my learning – more than just the Word, not replacing learning from the Word – at least in the data-gathering phase of my study, that I am short-changing what He can do in me and say to me. It is fine to teach from the Bible, to teach what God has said. But I suspect that we’ll be more and more relying on what God is saying. And I believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The real issue with Nicodemus was that the Spirit alone can unlock scripture; Nick’s head knowledge could never reveal mysteries of the Spirit. You know, I really don’t want Jesus saying to me, “You’re my child, and you still don’t get it?” 


Judgment: It's Not What We Think!

There’s a lot of conversation about judgment. We’re in the throes of a fascination with the last days, the “end times” and there is a substantial element of judgment in that whole conversation, and we talk about “the Great White Throne.”

There’s also a growing awareness among believers of how the world sees churches as judgmental. “Don’t do this, don’t like that.” It’s my observation that there is a growing polarization in the church on this topic – some are pronouncing more judgment and calling it holiness; others are judging the world and other believers less. Judgment is clearly on the mind of the Saints.

Judgment is Misunderstood

I believe that the topic is badly misunderstood in the church. I’ve certainly learned recently how badly I’ve misjudged the concept of judgment.

I suspect that the main reason we misunderstand judgment is because we are instructed by the wrong sources. Our culture has a great deal to say on the topic, from Judge Judy, to the evening news, to the entire legal system: our culture teaches us that judgment is largely about punishment: “Stop doing that!” “Go to jail!” “Pay this fine!”

Traditional Christian Culture supports this understanding: “God’s going to judge that,” though what it is that God purportedly will judge changes depending on which Christian subculture you’re listening to, but that’s another topic.

Here’s where I’m going: In one way or another, we generally consider judgment to be bad, to be about punishment. That’s not true! Punishment certainly is a part of judgment, but by no means is it the whole story.

Some years ago, when I was a potter, I entered several of my creations in the local County Fair. These were my creations, very personal. And do you know what happened? Judges came to look at my work. Judges! Can you imagine! And do you know what they did? They judged my creations! And then they handed me a couple of ribbons, and awarded me twenty bucks cash money.

Judgment, in the truest sense, does include punishment, but really, it’s more focused on rewards, particularly in the Kingdom of God.

In fact, I don’t think it’s judgment itself that is a problem, but the condemnation that is usually unleashed when judgment is performed inappropriately. I’m beginning to understand that while condemnation is to be generally condemned, judgment is to be embraced.

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD…. For thrones are set there for judgment, The thrones of the house of David.
             -- Psalm 122:1,5 [emphasis added]

A Closer Look at Judgment

Let’s look at the biggest, most famous judgment of all, at the end of the world:

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. … And they were judged, each one according to his works. … And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
             -- Revelation 20:12-15

This is, of course, not one judgment, but two. The famous one is in the last verse: if your name is not in the Book of Life, it’s “game over” when we come to that court. But that’s only half the story, only one of the books of testimony used as evidence in that courtroom.

The other judgment is about your works (and mine), and the testimony is a stack of books listing what we’ve done. The judgment is based on what is written in that stack of books.

So the Judge on the throne is making judgment based on our works, but the books that list our works have all the forgiven things wiped out of them, stricken from the record; a whole lifetime worth of the good things that we’ve done, said and thought are all that remain. When the Judge looks at those, his judgment is not going to be about punishment but reward:

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.
Put Me in remembrance;
Let us contend together;
State your case, that you may be acquitted.
            -- Isaiah 43:25-26

So the Judge on the throne is making judgment based on our works, but the books that list our works have all the forgiven things wiped out of them, stricken from the record: the only things that remain are whatever (hopefully few) sins are un-repented of, and a whole lifetime worth of the good things that we’ve done, said and thought. When the Judge looks at those, his judgment is not going to be about punishment but reward.

Jesus teaches on judgment rather a lot. This is the Parable of the Talents:

  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 
  “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 
  “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 
  “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 
  ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
                 --Matthew 25:14-30

And this is his Parable of the Minas: similar lessons, but a different presentation.

  Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.'  ….
  "And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.'  And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.'  And the second came, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned five minas.'  Likewise he said to him, 'You also be over five cities.'
  "Then another came, saying, 'Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief.  For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' And he said to him, 'Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?'
  "And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.' (But they said to him, 'Master, he has ten minas.') 'For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
             -- Luke 19:11-27
In the Parable of the Talents, every servant received a different investment; it would not be inappropriate to think of these as skills, giftings, opportunities: places where everyone is different. Those who were rewarded all earned the same profit – whatever they had received, they doubled – and they all received the same reward: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” It is not inappropriate to come away with the understanding that whenever we make an increase for the Kingdom from our God-given talents, He will be pleased.

It is also fair to point out that when we are afraid of God, when we bury our talents out of fear that what we do won’t be pleasing to him, that reaction itself is very displeasing to him. That is not a good choice: those who make this choice will regret it; here judgment does indeed bring punishment.

The Parable of the Minas teaches much the same lessons, but this time, every servant received the same gift; think of these as places where we’re all equal before God: we have the same new life, the same access to the Holy Spirit, the same freedom to come boldly before his throne and obtain grace. In this parable, each servant came back with a different success story: some brought back ten times the amount that was invested in them, others only five times as much. Every successful servant was judged and rewarded by the King; in this case, the extent of the reward was related to the amount of their success with his investment in them. Again, it is not inappropriate to come away with the understanding that whenever we make a profit for the Kingdom from our God-given talents, He will be pleased.

And again, there was one servant who was afraid of the King, afraid of failing, and therefore hid his gift away privately; this servant’s judgment brought punishment: his gift was taken from him and given to the more successful servant. The servant’s fearful, self-protective choices did not protect him.

What Is (And What Is Not) Judged

While we will indeed stand before God one day and be “judged, each one according to his works,” it is important to understand what we will be judged for and what we will not be judged for.
Here are some things that we will apparently not be judged for:

·         Our gifts. Some of us have greater gifts, some lesser, but like the talents, all are given by God. Why would God judge us (reward us) for how much he himself has given us in the first place? In both parables, the servants were rewarded, but never for the king’s initial investment in them.

·         Our works. I grew up in a generation that has valued hard work, and I don’t mean to disparage sweat, but our hard work is not the thing that God is looking to reward. God is not in the habit of rewarding man’s works, and in the Old Testament, he specifically prohibited things that caused sweat (see Ezekiel 44:18): a picture of not relying on our own works to accomplish his purposes.

·         Our Opportunities. Some people have tremendous opportunities for their gifting; others labor in obscurity. A couple who labors faithfully to pastor a house church is not judged to be inferior to the inherits the leadership of a mega-church from his father.

Things judged:

·         Our Faithfulness. While our giftedness are not rewarded, what we do with those gifts will be rewarded. The choice to faithfully use the gift is rewarded, but the choice to hide the gift is punished. John Wimber taught that “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K,” and that applies in this conversation: choices that are safe, that are comfortable are probably not choices that bring the kind of rewards that Jesus talked about. Choices that are built on a value to extend the Kingdom, but scare us, that make us rely on God more, choices where we must walk carefully, hand-in-hand with Jesus are the ones that bring eternal rewards.

·         Our Results. While our hard work, our sweat, is not rewarded, the parable of the minas clearly demonstrates that greater results from the same gifts will result in greater reward. It is clear that the greater results don’t come from working harder, but from strategies like cooperating more with God’s purposes

For now, I’d like to encourage us to submit to God’s judgment. I have a strong expectation that Holy Spirit will be teaching us more about judgment in the months to come. He is not through with the topic.


Misconceptions About Church

It was late on a Sunday morning, and I was just waking up. I’d slept in, knowing that I wasn’t healthy and that I needed rest. I was thinking, “I’ll miss church if I don’t get up soon.”

For context, my Sunday morning “Church” is online and I attend by webcast. My “in real life” fellowship is another time during the week. This train of thought applies to both, really.

So I was thinking about what would happen if I miss church this morning, and that turned into an interesting train of thought. “What is my tradeoff? What am I missing if I miss church?”

The accusation crossed my mind that my online church is unnatural, not really what God has in mind for me, so I considered that for a moment. There actually is some merit in the argument that an online “fellowship,” where I am only an observer, not an actual participant, is not really what God had in mind as ideal for me. OK, let’s follow that thought for a moment?

But wait! Isn’t that what most Sunday morning gatherings are like? I’m an observer there, too. Oh, yes, I stand up when they say to, and sing the words they tell me to sing, and sit back down when they say to. But there’s no point during our time together at First Church of the Sunday Morning where I can raise my hand and say, “You know, I’m struggling here; could I get some prayer?” In some Sunday morning gatherings I know, I’d be thrown out for that action, and while there are exceptions, most churches would freak out and either ignore the “interruption”, or take steps to minimize it.

Someone will say, “That’s not what Sunday mornings are for. That belongs in a home group.” [And here is where I’ll add my commercial: if you’re not part of a fellowship of believers that meets in an informal setting like a home, then they’re seriously missing out.] that kind of “sharing” is not an appropriate expectation for a Sunday morning gathering, though it would fit in the hallway or the lobby, maybe. There’s merit in that statement: Sunday mornings aren’t really designed for those kinds of things (which is rather a strong argument in favor of my online church – or for house church – but I’m going a different direction here).

So what are Sunday mornings for? What is the church gathering for, really?

Is Sunday Morning for worship? That can’t be right. My best worship is private, and I hear others tell me the same. I find that I believe that corporate worship is at its best when the worshippers have worshipped privately, and I know that I am a far better worship leader when I have worshipped privately. So while I affirm the value of corporate worship, I suspect that it is not the primary motivation, at least in God’s mind, for the gathering of the Saints.

I hear people talking about the value of getting fed at church; maybe the value of the church gathering is in the teaching. And I do value the teaching of my online church! But the Book is clear, and I’m fully committed to the concept that I must learn to feed myself first. The teaching there is good, but it is to supplement my own feasting on the Word. That can’t be the main value of church gatherings.

I’m going to be blunt here: It seems clear that the idea of “the message is the most valuable part of church gatherings” has come from those who preach. And it is from worship leaders that I most often hear that worship is the most important part of the service. (Please don’t assume that I don’t value a well-preached message from a gifted teacher, or that corporate worship isn’t glorious. If that’s what you’re hearing, you need to read this again more carefully!)

The thought crossed my mind, “What does the Bible say about the church coming together?” and as it did, a verse from Hebrews came with it:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24,25

It hit me like a freight train: God’s purpose for us coming together is to encourage each other. Specifically, it’s to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” which is how we are to encourage each other.

That’s the reason for coming together as a congregation: encouragement.

There is more extensive teaching on the church gathering together in 1 Corinthians 11, and it’s focused on meals together. Paul touches again on the topic in the midst of teaching about spiritual gifts in chapter 14, and in that context, he says, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Same thing: encouragement. Apart from these passages, there is no definitive teaching on church meetings in the New Testament, though Acts shows that the early church met daily in homes and weekly for apostolic teaching.

We could take it all together and form this model: When the saints come together, let’s gather around the dinner table, and let’s encourage one another, and let’s use what God gives us to that end.

My recommendation: learn to worship by yourself, not dependent on a leader and a band, though worship with them when you can. Learn to feed yourself, though supplement that with good, inspired teaching sometimes. But choose the congregation you gather with by this: “Is this a place where we can encourage one another?” And then go there, prepared to encourage, prepared to encourage others.


The Hidden Goodness of God

If God is good, how do we explain all the evil that happens to good people? How do I as a believer respond when my family, when godly people, are struck with unspeakable evil.

In the book of Job, we as readers get to peek behind the scenes of Job's torment, and we see what he does not: that it is Satan who does the work, and that he is inspired to do it by God's boasting of Job's righteousness. The book ends with the un-enlightened Job accusing God of the evil done to his family, and demanding an explanation for that evil. God's evasive answer is very enlightening.

God accepts the blame.

At no point in the book does Job learn that it was not God's hand that killed his family and destroyed his livelihood. God's answer can be boiled down to two arguments:

1) Job, you aren't big enough to understand, and

2) as a sovereign God, don't I have the right to take sovereign action?

It was only when Job understood those points that his fortunes were again reversed.

I conclude that I, like Job, am not big enough to understand all that goes on in the heavenlies. I know my Father is good. I know that He will bring something that His omniscience defines as "good" out of the tragedies that hit my life and the lives of the Cassie Bernals of the world. And I know that no matter what goes on, I can trust Him, even if I don't understand: justice will one day be done.

Oh yeah: I also know that when Satan steals from me and from mine, he owes me at least double for that theft. I don't need to stand there and suffer: my Daddy and I can fight back, and because we win when we fight, we can grab all the plunder I can carry from Satan's stinking, twisted fingers!!

God is good, but sometimes we have to apprehend that goodness by faith, not by our understanding.


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.


Two Brothers

I was talking to the Lord one day, and to be perfectly honest, I was whining. I was trying not to, but it didn’t work. I had a lot of things on my mind: situations that needed to change, people I cared about facing challenges, things that needed to change and I couldn’t see a solution. It was all swirling around inside my head.
He listened politely for a few minutes as I struggled vainly to bring some order to my thoughts and to actually come boldly before his throne of grace, then he interrupted me.
So as we walked, he began to teach me about the parable that we call The Prodigal Son. He just referred to it as The Two Brothers.
This is going to sound stupid and I already know it: I was yet again surprised by how well he knows the Bible. The depth of insight he has into his Word is overwhelming sometimes. And he communicates it better than I do.
Since we already know the story, I’m going to skim past a lot of the preliminary stuff:
The younger son didn’t understand who he was to his father, so he took what he could get, pretty much rebelled against his father and his father’s ways, distancing himself from Father as he runs off to find himself and his own way. When he came to his senses, he has the sense to repent, and his dad re-affirms him in four ways during his welcome home.
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;”
  1. A robe represents righteousness, so Dad is forgiving the boy. The first thing the son is reminded of is that he really is forgiven. It’s easy to miss that, and the boy didn’t even consider it an alternative with Dad.
  2. A ring speaks of authority: the son has authority within Dad’s realm. Again it’s contrary to his expectations that he is not a servant himself
  3. The son came back looking for a servant’s position. Dad gives him sandals: only nobility wore sandals, I’m told. “You’re part of the family. You’re nobility here.” At the very least, it’s provision for the sandals he’d lost, presumably in the pig farm.
  4. And then instead of the recriminations the boy expected, Dad has a party celebrating his son’s return. There was no accusation whatsoever: just joy. And the joyful party is a big one. A fatted calf can feed a whole lot of partygoers. Either they went on for days or they invited the whole neighborhood.

By contrast, the older son was out working in the field and ended up resenting rather than repenting: resenting the younger brother’s party and distancing himself from Father through working in the field. He point-blank refused to come to the party; instead he whines about the other son. His recriminations are also fourfold:
'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.'
  1. “Look, I’ve served you for many years!” (implying, “and you haven’t even noticed!”)
  2. “See how good I am! I always obeyed your commandments (unlike some sons of yours that I could mention).”
  3. “You’re cheap! You never offered me a party (not even a little one for my friends. Without you, Dad).”
  4. “It’s not fair! Your favored son hasn’t been anywhere nearly as righteous as I have, but you treat him like royalty!”

This brother doesn’t come to his senses like his younger sibling; Dad has to go to him, and this ungrateful kid chews him out pretty fiercely. Father affirms four things to him as well:
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”
  1. Relationship w/ God: “You’re always with me.” Don’t lose perspective: we’re just welcoming him back into what you have always had. It’s hard to have a great party celebrating our return when we haven’t run off & done stupid things.
  2. Authority: “All that I have is yours.” This boy whined that Dad didn’t offer an animal for a party with his friends. Dad says, “Look, it’s all yours. Do with it as you like.” We older brothers forget that we don’t need to ask someone else to give us what is already ours. It’s Dad’s kingdom, but it’s our inheritance.
  3. Relationship with the Family: “It was right that we should make merry….” It’s easy to lose track that we need to celebrate what God is doing in others, and sometimes that’s more important than working in the fields.
  4. This isn’t about you. It’s about your younger brother.

It’s my opinion that there are a number of us elder brothers in the church. Not all of us, of course, but we’re not small in number. We’re working in the fields, choosing diligent work instead of celebrating with our friends over a goat or celebrating a brother’s return with a fatted calf.
The older brother here was waiting for Dad to notice, waiting for him to spontaneously reward him for his works. How many times have we seen that attitude in the church? I’m hoping you haven’t seen it in your own motivations; I’m afraid I have.
In the Kingdom of God, it’s good to party. The Law commanded it what? seven or so times per year: “Come together & celebrate!” In the New Testament, we’re commanded to rejoice all the time.
More than that, since all He has is ours, the party is to be our initiative; we don’t wait for someone to force it on us, for someone to notice us and reward the self-righteousness of our self-sufficiency.
Instead of joining the party, we have our collective noses to the grindstone, and we’ve functionally missed the fact that every part of the Kingdom is ours. The truth is different; the truth is that we’re not working for another master, regardless of what it feels like. This is our kingdom; we have a say in how it goes.
I say, “I choose to repent, not resent.”
I say, “It’s time to party!”


Principles for the Prophetic Study of the Bible

In the business community, it is said that the three most important factors in the potential success of your business are “Location, location and location.”

In the world of studying the Bible, the three most important factors in the potential interpretation of a verse are “Context, context and context.”

Biblical context is described a couple of ways:

· Immediate Textual context: What do the verses before and after the one in question say? The paragraphs before and after the verse in question? Knowing the whole thought from which this one verse is taken is a key part of understanding the meaning of the verse.

· Larger Scriptural context: What does the rest of the Bible have to say about the subject that your verse is discussing? Always use scripture to interpret scripture.

· Cultural context: What did the statement in that verse mean to its first readers, its intended audience? If you’re looking at a verse in an epistle, what would it have mean to the people that the epistle was addressed to? Understanding the cultural context is important to understanding the current meaning of the verse.

I knew a woman years ago who was not a Christian. She liked the Bible, but didn’t like how Christians behaved. Her favorite illustration was a preacher who didn’t like the hairstyles of the day, so he preached Matthew 24:17 (“Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.”) and declared, “top knot go down” decreeing that bee-hive hairdos were unbiblical. That strikes me as an abuse of the principle of context, in all three forms. She was still bitter against preachers because of that.

Slight change of direction: When studying the Bible, there are, I was taught, two ways to study it: I can study deductively, they said with a frown: I can bring my presuppositions, my theology and my pet doctrines to the Bible and look for verses that support what I already believe. Deductive Study is inferior, they said, and I’m not sure they were wrong.

Or I can study it inductively, and this was encouraged: I can lay aside all of my preconceived ideas and doctrines and let the Word teach me: I sit under it, and let the Word be my teacher, and as it teaches me, I develop my ideas and doctrines. I don’t know anybody who teaches Inductive Study who follows it completely (they all also study doctrinal texts), but it is certainly preferable than the “proof-texting” of deductive study. Inductive Study is good, of course, and it’s “the right way” to study the Bible.

I find myself torn here. These are valuable principles! I was taught these principles in my training, and they have helped me immensely. I’ve taught them to many others, presumably to their benefit. If their founders had practiced these principles, many cults and heretical groups would never have gotten started. (If their followers had practiced these principles, they would not have been led astray.)

These are valuable – nay: essential – principles for serious study of the Word of God. This is the good stuff here.

The only problem is that the Bible itself does not consistently follow them. Time and time again, the Bible takes itself out of context. Time and time again, the New Testament approaches the Old Testament with a method that is neither deductive not inductive.

Any readers that have been through Bible College will quickly label me as a heretic or worse, so I offer some illustrations:

In the first chapter of Acts, the apostle Peter blows up these principles:

"For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
'Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it'; and,

'Let another take his office.' --Acts 1:20

Peter is quoting from two places in Psalms in order to justify filling the position among the 12 apostles which Judas had abandoned. He starts by quoting Psalm 69 where David is writing, yet again, about “his foes”; then he quotes Psalm 109 where David is whining about the “wicked and deceitful men” who oppose him. Neither psalm is considered a Messianic psalm.

The Gospel of Mark begins with a couple of Old Testament verses to explain John the Baptist’s entrance on the scene:

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets:
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.’” --Mark 1:1-3

The first quotation is from Malachi chapter 3, and it is about the coming of the Messiah in the usual Old Testament vocabulary that mixes his first coming as a suffering servant with his second coming as a conquering king, but it is a Messianic passage: the context (according to the traditional rules) say that the verse quoted is indeed about the one who is coming before the Messiah. All is well and good.

The second passage is from Isaiah 40, and it’s clearly speaking to a discouraged nation as it tries to cope with a conquering army from Babylon knocking down their front door, preparing to haul them into captivity. The only way to know that Isaiah is talking about the Messiah is by Mark’s completely-out-of-context interpretation of it.

In these two passages, the apostle Peter and Mark, the disciple of the apostle Paul, both break the rules that I was taught about studying the Bible. They quote verses completely out of context. They interpret those verses in a way that is neither Deductive nor Inductive.

There are dozens more. John 12:17; John 10:25; Luke 2:46; Matthew 26:31; Luke 20:17….

I’ve come to describe it as Revelatory Interpretation. Looking at these passages Inductively, it appears that the Spirit of God occasionally takes verses, sentences, even brief phrases out of context and breathes new meaning, new application to them that their author never imagined.

I had an odd experience a few months ago. I was walking through my woods, on my favorite trails, and I was talking to God. OK, what I was doing was more like whining at God. I’d been going on for quite a while and when I stopped to take a breath, He interrupted me: "Are you done yet?"

It startled me. He didn’t comment about anything I had said (or whined). Rather, He reminded me of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and then He completely re-interpreted it for me in ways I’d never considered, never heard taught. It completely defused my whining, and the self-pitying attitude that was behind it, and frankly, that lesson has changed the course of my life.

He did the same thing to me that He’d done to Peter and Mark (and no, I am not comparing myself to them, other than the fact that we’re all under His teaching): He re-interpreted the Word in a way that was neither Deductive nor Inductive, in a way that disregarded context. He defied all the rules that men had taught me about interpreting the Bible, but He brought Life to it.

I am not arguing for a wholesale abandonment of the principles of sound Biblical interpretation! There is great wisdom in them, and they are tools both powerful and useful. When I have opportunity, I teach many of these tools because they’re helpful.

Rather, I am proposing that we implement those principles differently. Let us, as the Inductive method teaches, sit under the Word to learn from it, but let us also sit under the Author of the Word, and let Him teach His Word to us. If we lock ourselves in to what the Book says, then we’re perhaps in danger of becoming the right-wing kooks that the world already thinks we are. But if we treat the Word as “living and active” then it becomes “…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

And He doesn't always respect context.

Discover, Develop, Deploy

A great portion of the work of the church can be described in these three words: Discover, Develop and Deploy.
We like the “discover” part. It includes evangelism and other tasks related to tracking down the people God is calling to Himself, and to identifying the work that He is doing in them. I love the expression of “discover” that happens in parks, on street corners and “in the marketplace.” The evangelists and pastors love bringing sheep into the fold for different reasons: the evangelist loves finding sheep, and the pastor loves shepherding them in the fold.
We even like the “develop” part. So many churches nowadays are led by men with a teaching gift, and we interpret (incorrectly, I might add, or at least incompletely) that teaching is functionally accomplishing the command “equip the saints for works of ministry.” So many teachers are excited to find audiences to teach. As a man with a teaching gift myself, I understand this snare.
But we generally overlook the “deploy” part of the equation. We miss it in three ways:
1) Our church leaders are so focused on bringing people into the church that they miss the part where we’re supposed to send them out too. We understand the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep, but we miss the other metaphors, such as the military image that Paul uses so often in the New Testament.
2) Both church leaders and “we the sheep” are also heavily focused on the process of development. Somehow we’ve developed this perfectionist mentality that says “I need more [fill in the blank] before I can be deployed.” Maybe that’s in the form of “I need to be healed” or “I need more training in evangelism.” The goal of development is not perfection: the goal of development, of any training, is deployment.
3) We miss the ultimate point. Most Christians know of the Great Commission (“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”). How often do we overlook the first command here: “Go”! The verb is not “be sent”; it is not “be perfect”; it’s not a “be” verb of any sort.
My point is this: the ultimate responsibility for our deployment lies with us. In fact, once we come into relationship with our Commander in Chief, all three areas are my responsibility. It is not my pastor’s job to discover my giftings, my calling, my passion, the places where God’s anointing works best on me. It’s fine if he helps, but it’s not his job. It’s not my church’s job to see that I’m equipped; though doubtless the church will be part of the equipping, it’s my responsibility.
And it’s my job to hear my orders from my Commander and obey them. Since I am in relationship with my church, no doubt they’ll be of great help in my obedience, but the responsibility is mine, not theirs. The command is “Go”, not “be sent”. I am the one that “goes”; they don’t “go” for me.


The Family of God

I am a man of many talents. I can be many things at once. Simultaneously, even.

I am a husband of the most wonderful woman who has ever walked this planet. At the same time, I am the father of three of the most amazing children of this generation. And while doing both of those, I am also the son of an awesome man and his awesome bride of nearly sixty years. It’s an honor to be related to them.

In other words, I’m part of a family. It’s an odd family, really, though I suppose most families can make a claim of that sort in one way or another. Ours is a very diverse bunch.

This Thanksgiving, we had – sitting side-by-side at the dinner table – the (successful) campaign manager for a very liberal politician and a (successful) football coach with unrepentantly conservative political views. We had passionate proponents of the social gospel sitting with evangelical bible thumpers and next to others whose credo is, “eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” and still others who preach that any road is a road to whatever god you want it to be.

When we gather for a meal, we share the responsibility for giving thanks. More than once, I’ve watched some folks cringe as others prayed; I’ve done it myself, and I’m quite certain that family members have cringed when it was my turn.

But none of that gets in our way of being family. Grandma and Grandpa are the matriarch and patriarch of this clan, and the clan knows it. They have knowingly raised a bunch of “rugged individualists,” and they’re not ashamed of it. In this family, if you’re family, you’re family! Deal with it. There is nothing you can do to revoke your family status. One of the family divorced his wife, but she’s still family. She comes to the campouts and the gatherings, and she’s well and truly loved.

We’re family because, whether by birth or by marriage, we all have the same father and mother. We don’t need to agree to certain conditions to be family. We don’t need to believe the right things, join the right groups, vote in a particular way. We’re family because we have the same father.

I have another family: the Family of God, sometimes known as The Church. In this family, we all have the same Father (though the mother part has me scratching my head). I’m part of that Family because I have Father God as my Father. In this case, I was adopted into this Family, but His commitment to me is no less than the commitment of my biological family.

Similarly, I don’t need to believe the right doctrines, follow the right traditions, hang out with the right people in order to be part of that Family. I’m family because I am a child of the same Dad as the rest of the Family.

I’m part of another family too, a third one. I’m part of a local fellowship of believers, a local church congregation.

I would suggest that the same rules apply in this family as in the other two: I am not a part of this family because I believe the right doctrines, follow the right traditions, hang out with the right people. I’m part of the family because the guy who leads us does a pretty darned good job of fulfilling the role of a father in our family. It’s odd, because he’s a young man, young enough to be my son, or the son of many of the leaders among this group. Yet it’s clear: he’s the father here.

He’s not a hireling, selected and contracted by some committee in order to fulfill the requirements of a job description. He’s a father among us because God has placed him in our midst and given him a fathering anointing. He’s a good leader, and he’s growing to be a better one, but that doesn’t change his calling as a father among us.

In the natural, biological realm, it’s not possible to be a father unless you’re a male, and your children – if you have any children, are younger than you by a fair bit, usually by decades. In the Spirit, there is no male nor female, that’s not an issue.

The other isn’t an issue either: I don’t need to be older than others who see me as a “father” in their lives. I usually am (partly because I’m older than most people I hang around with, I suppose), but that’s not required. Paul told Timothy that his youth didn’t disqualify him.

I have come to believe that families gather around fathers. Religion gathers around beliefs, doctrines.

This is a big deal because unity is a powerful thing in the Kingdom of God. But I guess we have forgotten that “unity” and “uniformity” are not the same thing.

If you and I have relationship because we’re in the same family, because we look to the same father, then there’s nothing you can do that has to separate us. But if you and I have relationship because we believe the same things, then when one of us does something as small as question a belief, then we can no longer maintain our relationship. One of us has to go.

That is not the way of the Kingdom. We don’t accept or reject people because they conform to the right beliefs, the right doctrines. We don’t cease to be family because someone hangs out with the “wrong sort” of people. Heck, Jesus was famous for that. Messed up the religious folk in his day too.

We're in the middle of the "Holiday Season," when families gather together. So let’s be family. Let’s not be religious. Let’s love each other because we have the same Father, not because (or if) we have the same beliefs.

Who’s in Control?

I should probably begin this with a disclaimer, a warning: this is not politically correct, not religiously correct, and may be offensive to a lot of folks. It’s offensive to me. You probably don’t want to read this.
What? You’re still here? Well, you’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.
A few months ago, I posted something on the topic of “Trust, Don’t Lean,” a lesson for this season from Proverbs 3. I can’t get away from that topic.
I believe that this is a season for us to trust Father God instead of leaning on our own understanding. I also believe that this is a much subtler issue than I have realized before.
I hear so many of my brothers & sisters praying the way that was so very common for me, until I realized the rebellion that it represented in me.
My favorite way to pray for guidance from God was along the lines of “God, show me what to do, and I’ll do it!” It sounds good, right?
But what was really in my heart had a slightly different interpretation. The way I walked this out was more along the lines of “If you’ll show me what you want, then I’ll make a decision about whether I want to do that.”
The difference is subtle, and it’s huge. It’s every bit as big as the difference between Him leading me and me leading Him, because that’s what it is.
If I insist on knowing his instructions before I obey, or if I want to understand before following, then I’ve changed the authority in my life. If I have reserved the final approval for myself, my own authority, then I am the “lord” of my life, and God has become my counselor.
In less subtle language, it would sound like this: “Look, you give me all the advice you want to; I’ll decide whether I’m ‘feeling led’ to obey it or not.”
That sounds harsh stated bluntly like that, but this is the way many Western believers follow God: “You advise me, but I’m making the decisions!”
A few years back, there was a popular bumper sticker: “God is my co-pilot.” Then another one came out to rebut it, and it captures something of what I’m trying to say: “If God is your co-pilot, change seats!”
If I am asking God to tell me what to do, then I choose to obey what he’s saying, of necessity, this means that I am the king of my own life, and God is reduced to my advisor or assistant.
In the same way, if I need to understand what is happening before I walk forward into it, then I am choosing to be master of my life. If this happens when I’m facing a room full of unfamiliar people, there is great wisdom in this approach. But if I’m waiting to understand what God is up to, then I’m back to making him my Heavenly Concierge again.
I wouldn’t bring this up, except that I see it in so many Western Christians: “When I understand what God is doing, then I’ll trust him with my life.” I see many believers sitting on their hands, “waiting on God” to understand what he’s doing in their lives before moving forward in obedience.
“Is this the season, Lord, where you fulfill all my grandest dreams?” If they feel an answer in the affirmative, they risk hoping in those dreams; otherwise, they don’t go anywhere.
I would argue that if God says, “Step forward!” then it’s time to step out. It’s not time to ask what will be the results of my stepping forward? “Will my sister ‘get saved’ if I step forward, and you know that it would be really good if she did!”
There’s room for this argument: “But how can I obey if I don’t know what I’m going to obey?”
It seems to me that asking the question reveals the disease: the folks who have God in the Number Two seat tend to be the ones who ask that question.
How do we obey without understanding what it is that we need to obey? I keep having to ask, why do I need to understand before obeying? Here are some of the questions that this leads me to:
  • What benefit does understanding provide to my ability to obey? I find that my understanding is limited by my capacity to understand, which is – as hard as this is to believe – noticeably less than God’s capacity to understand. He can see the relationship between my obedience and my sister’s salvation whether I can or not.
  • When I ask for understanding, have I already chosen to obey and even begun to obey, or is my decision to obey going to come after I understand, if I understand?
  • What do I do if God has a different plan for my life than I do? What if “success” in God’s mind is the thing that we call “failure”? Jonah will work as an example here. He wanted to live the comfortable and well-regarded life of a prophet in Israel. God had other plans: “Go to Nineveh!” Later, Jonah reveals his agenda. “You’re doing exactly what I didn’t want; that’s why I went the other way! Go ahead: kill me now!” (Paraphrased from Jonah 4:1-3.)

Here in the western church, we’re big on the concept of God as “Daddy” and our “best friend.” Those concepts are true, but we overlook the less comfortable concept of God as “King of Everything” (the technical term is “sovereign”) who has the inherent right to do any thing he darned well feels like with our lives. We are fortunate indeed that his plans for us are always (as in “100% of the time”) in our best interests, but his commands are no less commanding simply because they’re good for us.
I was whining about martyrs to God one evening long ago. He let me go on for a while, and then when I stopped my pity-party long enough to draw a breath, he interrupted: “Do I not have the right to spend the lives of my servants as I see fit?”
I realized that I had done what I’m writing about here: I had judged his plans by my tiny little brain, and because I couldn’t see the connection between “the blood of the martyrs” and any tangible benefits, I was judging his plans for ruling the world, for leading the Church as inferior to “the way I would do it.”
God the Father is indeed my Daddy and Jesus really is my Best Friend. But more than that, God really is omniscient: he really does know what will come of my obedience. He really is sovereign: he has the right to tell me “Go here” or “Do this” and he may give me an explanation or not as he sees fit. In fact, as my friend, he is very likely to explain things to me.
But for me to demand an explanation before I obey is not obedience. It’s rebellion of the highest order.
“Why Lord” is illegal until after we have declared “Yes Lord!” in both word and deed.

All Things

Let me tell you some stories.
First story: I was talking with a friend recently, and he told me an interesting story.
This friend is a musician. He lives & works in the California desert, but he had no air-conditioning in his office. Someone gave him one that didn’t work. He described to me how he was encouraged (someone had thought about his needs) and frustrated (so close, but it still doesn’t work!).
That’s when the story got interesting. He was thinking about the AC unit and since he’s pretty handy with fixing things, he was trying to get it to work, but without success. As he was grumbling about his lack of success, he heard the Holy Spirit whispering to him. “Try this” he said, and showed him a picture of some accessories for his monitors: these are components for a sound system. Oh, and he just happened to have that part in his pocket.
He applied it as the Holy Spirit suggested and it worked: impossibly and perfectly, and it has been running for several years now.
Together we chuckled: it appears that God is an expert in HVAC repair. That’s somewhat outside of the box that we had had Him in.
Second story: Another friend was out hunting one recent winter with a buddy. In addition to his hunting rifle, he carried a pistol, but this time he had brought a favorite: one that had been a gift from an important friend who had carried it as an officer in a recent war. During the creeping-through-the-undergrowth part of the hunt, the pistol fell unnoticed into the snow and was lost.
His hunting buddy, a good friend of mine, tells this story: frustrated by the loss of our friend’s pistol, he went back to the same hunting grounds, where he prayed. His prayer was well beyond anything he’d prayed before, but “What’s life without a little stretching?” he said.
“God, you know where that pistol is. Would you please show me?” Before he had a chance to entertain second thoughts about his unusual prayer, he felt a nudge: go this way. He spent a couple of hours wandering through the forest this way and that, following the little nudges that he felt, far from any trail or road. It was unusual enough that he had to work hard to quash both the doubts and the excitement that he felt rising.
Then the nudges went away. Stopped altogether.
“Father, would you please show me where the pistol is?” Nothing. Silence. He prayed several more times. Still nothing.
Frustrated and confused, he turned to head back to his truck, but his toe bumped something. He looked down, and there was the pistol. It was a little rusty from spending the winter under the snow, but only a very little as our friend had always kept it well oiled. As you might imagine, he was pretty happy about finding the gun, but even more excited about his adventure with God.
Third story: Corrie TenBoom tells the story of her father’s watch repair business:
There weren’t many repair problems he hadn’t encountered. But occasionally one would come along that baffled even him. And then I would hear him say: “Lord, you turn the wheels of the galaxies. You know what makes the planets spin and You know what makes this watch run….”
The answers to these prayers seemed often to come in the middle of the night: many mornings I would climb onto my stool to find the watch we had left in a hundred despairing pieces fitted together and ticking merrily.
The other day, I stumbled across a verse that I’ve read a hundred times:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26
In this verse, one of many places that He instructs us on the Holy Spirit, Jesus teaches that He’ll do two things: one is that he’ll remind us of what Jesus has said to us.
But the first thing Jesus says here is that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. All things.
I’ve been thinking about that recently. The Holy Spirit teaches me all things. That sounds too good to be true.
I looked up “all things.” You’d never guess it, but it actually means “all things.” Strong’s concordance describes it as “all, any, every, the whole”; Vine describes it as “every; every kind or variety”; Kittel says it’s “an inclusion of all parts”; Thayer says, “any and every, of every kind”; Balz says it’s “all things/the All (in the broadest sense).” It sounds pretty conclusive to me.
We tend to think of the Holy Spirit teaching us about spiritual things, or at least about things that the Bible commands us to do: raise our children, love our neighbor, help the poor.
But apparently “all things” includes fixing air conditioners, finding lost firearms and repairing broken watches. That would probably extend to astrophysics, gardening, auto mechanics. I could tell you stories about how much He knows about fixing sound systems!
I propose that we let the Holy Spirit teach us, particularly that we let Him teach us about subjects that we don’t discuss in church. We’ll be far wiser people!