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

Thursday

Mid-Course Correction Going On

If you’re an observer of the church, you’ll notice something interesting: God is leading the emerging generation of believers differently than the path the generation that’s finishing their race ran on.

Even now, if you ask about priorities for the people of God, believers in the “over 40” age group will talk about theology, and the need to have all the theology right. This group talks about the Bible as the authority, though they often live as though the Sunday sermon is the real authority. (Note: “over 40” is just an approximation: some 30-year-olds belong in this group, and some 60-year-olds belong in the other.)

But if you ask believers in the “under 40” age group the same question, they won’t mention theology. This group is more focused on “How can I change the world?” and they expect to refine their theology along the way. This group also regards the Bible highly; the Bible, interpreted by the Holy Spirit, not by the pastor’s sermon, is the real authority.

The curious thing is that the second group, rather than the first is actually more Biblical: this is the model used over and over in the Book of Acts: “He said preach the good news to the whole world! Let’s go preach somewhere that nobody else has preached yet.” In fact, it has been said that Apostle Paul’s method of being led by God was something of “bumbling around in the Spirit until something happened!”

Regardless of which group you find yourself in (I think of them as the “Get The Theology Right” group and the “Change the World” group), this is not suggesting to you that theology is not important. It is of critical importance. But theology is not more important – or more urgent – than obeying the Word.

As I’ve been reflecting on this, I realize that, being in the older age bracket, I’ve been assuming that the theological questions have been the right questions to ask. I’m changing that opinion.

Curiously, when given instructions by God to go do something (such as “Go into all the world and preach the good news of the gospel”), it is the servants who insist on getting the instructions exactly right. The response of sons of the Kingdom is more along the lines of “Hey, good idea. Grab the debit card and let’s go!”

Since many of us in the older group, who have valued theology so much, are finally understanding so much more about our status as sons, not as servants, and since we’re teaching the younger believers that they’re sons, not servants, I suppose we should not be surprised that they’re making the choices that sons make, rather than making the choices that servants make, as my generation has done (much to our embarrassment).

As I’m learning more about my identity as a son, not a servant (why did nobody tell me this decades ago???), I’m coming to value the perspective of the second group more. I admire their willingness to take risks, I admire their eagerness to follow God’s leadership, and I admire how much they’re getting done!
  
I’m going to think more carefully about how to continue my ministry before the Lord.




The Gay Revival


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Responding to “Melchizedek Means You Must Tithe!”

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

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

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

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

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But don’t take this too far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The OTHER Benefit of the New Covenant

Our history with God is a history of covenants. Covenants between God and mankind. This is how the mighty Creator King and the human species relate: through a covenant.

We do it too. We’re up-front about it with marriage covenants, and more subtle about other covenants. There is a powerful – unwritten – parenting covenant: violate that one and society takes your children away from you.

Now hold still, I’m going to talk directly about covenant for a minute. Necessarily, I will engage in willful oversimplification of some details in order to illustrate my point: the actual situation is much more complicated than this simple explanation.

A covenant is a “promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action.” Covenants are how people agree to relate to each other. Covenant is how God relates to humanity.

Noah had a covenant. Abraham had a covenant. David had a covenant. But the Big One was the Mosaic Covenant, often called The Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant was kind of a failure in before it ever got going, of course. God proposed a covenant to the people of Israel that had a lot of the elements of our New Covenant in it. Before there even were the Ten Commandments, God offered Israel a covenant where every single person is a priest, every single person can come to God for himself or herself:

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:6-7)

“Kingdom of priests and a holy nation”? Twice in the book of Revelation, we’re described as “kings and priests unto our God” (1:6 & 5:10). God was offering that relationship to the Israelites four thousand years ago? (Can you imagine what the world would be like if we hadn’t had the last four thousand years of legalistic bondage? But I digress.)

But the people who were offered this intimate “everybody is a priest” relationship with God reject that offer in the very next chapter.

“Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:19)

In the re-telling of it, it's even more clear:

“Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” (Deuteronomy 5:27)

The people had rejected a “kingdom of priests” covenant, and propose a covenant that requires a priesthood, and is based on obedience. Neither the Levitical priesthood, nor an obey-the-rules covenant, was God’s idea!

And so the “everybody is a priest” covenant was put aside, and was replaced with a covenant based on the people’s obedience. Any covenant that’s based on obeying will necessarily have consequences for disobedience. Thus this is a covenant about blessings for obedience, and punishment (sometimes called “curses”) for disobeying.

Deuteronomy 28 functions as kind of a summary: You’ll be blessed when you obey, and you’ll be cursed (or punished) if you disobey. Verses 1 through 14 outline the blessings. The rest of the chapter talks about the punishment for disobeying, and it’s God that is charged with that punishment.

Frankly, that was a lousy covenant, it’s a poor substitute for God’s first proposal, but it’s a covenant! Even that poor replacement was better than no relationship at all between God and man!

We remember that the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant (which we call “The Law”) were intended to constrain the behavior of the humans in this covenant relationship. But we tend to forget that the Old Covenant constrained the behavior of BOTH parties of the Covenant: God had chosen to bind himself to the Old Covenant as well.’

So when we read in Deuteronomy 28 about “If you disobey, you’ll be punished.” Guess who the punisher has to be. Yeah, that’s God. He has bound himself to this busted-up covenant, because it’s better than no covenant – no relationship – whatsoever. Moreover, this was the only covenant that the people would agree to, so this was the covenant that he bound himself to.

And this covenant, proposed by fearful men, required that God punish (or “curse”) the people that he loves so very much, every time they disobey. (Seriously, go read Deuteronomy 29!)

Now let’s remember that there was a third party loose on the Earth, who was not a party to the covenant between God and man. Lucifer had already demonstrated his eagerness to accuse God at every opportunity (see Genesis 3:4-5). And he’s up to his old tricks here as well.

So every time the people disobeyed (and that happened so very often!) and God was required by the people’s busted-up covenant to punish them, Lucifer steps up to the microphone and declares, “Look how mean God is! Look how bloodthirsty he is! Look how angry God is!” completely ignoring the fact that God is merely complying with the conditions of the covenant that mankind offered him.

That’s a hot mess. I’ve oversimplified the story in this short article, but it’s easy to see the mess that the Old Covenant is: seriously, the only one who benefited from that debacle was Lucifer, and that’s not actually what we’re aiming for.

Now skip forward until Jesus is sitting in the Upper Room, where Jesus is offering – for the second time – a covenant of an “everybody is a priest” relationship between man and God: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 2 Corinthians 11:25.) But this time, the representatives (the twelve) accept the offer.

I still marvel at that cup, that biscuit. With that token meal, God removes us from the Old Covenant and makes us participants instead in the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13 makes it clear: “In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.”). And this is a covenant whose sole commandment (John 13:34) is to love each other.

What an amazing relief that is: in a single moment, these guys are plucked from a covenant of “If you obey, I’ll bless you; if you disobey, I’ll punish you!” and dropped into a Covenant of Love.

The seminal New Covenant verse, John 3:16, says it beautifully: “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.” And if that wasn’t clear enough, verse 17 clarifies that the New Covenant is not about punishment: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” What a relief that is!

All that is amazing, spectacular, and otherwise completely awesome.

But it is also only half of the story. The Old Covenant is made obsolete, and we are released from its bondage, but we were not the only ones held in bondage by it.

With the passing of the Old Covenant, God Himself is no longer constrained by the Law to provide blessings when people obey, like treats for a dog that sits when you tell him. More importantly, God is no longer constrained by the Law to bring punishment, curses, judgment on the people that he so desperately loves.

When the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant, humanity could give a great, corporate sigh of relief. We’re no longer under the law, but now we’re under grace, under love.


But the greater relief may not be ours. In the New Covenant, God is now free to love us with all that is in his heart, as he has longed to do since the day he said, “Let us make man in our own image.” (Genesis 1:26). God is now free from the Old Covenant, and he’s more excited about it than we are. 

We are free. But more important, God Himself is free! 

The Commandments of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's about loving each other.

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

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

Changing Our Focus in Corporate Worship

May I be blunt?

Some among us need to be less concerned about singing the lyrics on the screen, and more concerned about giving voice to the words welling up from inside them.

I was taking a young lady shopping, and she needed to visit some beauty supply shops. You may not suspect this, but I don’t often find myself looking forward to reasons to visit beauty supply shops. So I parked outside and took a nap.

In my five-minute nap, I dreamed, and God met me and spoke to me in the dream. He talked about some people among the Body whom He called “psalmists.” Yeah, I know it’s not the normal way we use the word.

I’m sure there are other definitions, but in this dream, a psalmist was someone whose worship is best when they’re using their own words, not when they’re singing words – even “anointed” words – written by other people with other histories with God.

I could hear Father’s concern for his children who are this kind of psalmist. It seemed to me that this wasn’t something that we were ready to hear before, but now it’s time, and he said,

“Some among us need to be less concerned about singing the lyrics on the screen, and more concerned about giving voice to the words welling up from inside them.”

May I encourage you: worship with the words that are in YOUR heart. If the words on the screen communicate what’s in your heart, great! Use the words on the screen.

But if those words don’t reflect your heart, then don’t use them. Don’t make a scene, but use the words that speak for your heart, even if they’re words that nobody else is using.

Worship isn’t about conformity, is it? It’s about connecting with – it’s about exalting – the King of Heaven with our whole heart, soul and strength. Use the words that do that for you.

Avoid Evil, not the Appearance of Evil

The Bible doesn’t actually tell us to avoid every appearance of evil.

First Thessalonians 5:22 says to avoid evil, not the stuff that looks like it might be evil. We avoid the evil itself. 

Yeah, the translation from 400 years ago (King James) mis-translates yet another passage. The language today is different than it was in 1611; the words mean different things nowadays. (This is why I cannot trust any teaching that relies on the KJV to support it.) This is one place where that change makes a difference. 

Four hundred years ago, “every appearance” was kind of like “every kind” of evil. Our instruction is to avoid evil stuff. Avoid evil when it appears: avoid the appearance of evil: avoid every appearance of the evil.

And that’s how EVERY other major English translation of the Bible presents this: “Reject every kind of evil,” (NIV) or “Abstain from every form of evil” (NKJV and NASB). Even the King James usually translates this word “shape.” “Avoid every shape of evil.”

We’re called to avoid evil. The call is not to avoid anything that looks like it might be considered as evil by somebody. Don’t be fussing about stuff that might look bad. Don’t be fussing about your reputation.

Jesus surely didn’t. He hung out with porn stars and filthy rich tax thieves and the most unacceptable people of his day. He went out of his way to connect with Zacchaeus the tax collector and all his tax-collector friends.

He wasn’t afraid to have a rich hooker spend thousands of dollars worth of perfume that she massaged into his bare feet, wiping them with her prostitute hair and kissing him all over his feet. When she was done, he smelled very much  like a hooker, and he defended her actions!

Jesus avoided evil. He never sinned. But he spent so much of his time with the sinners that offended the “good Christians” of the day, that his reputation was “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Jesus had a reputation as a party-goer.

The reputation that Jesus had was that he was the favorite guy of the people who were stuck in sin.

That’s our call: to bring life to those people. These are the people who need what we’re carrying! 

Our call is NOT to avoid the appearance of evil and hang around with the good people. Church kids surely don’t need the grace that we’re carrying quite so much as the untouchable people who are caught in their sin.


That’s why he said, “Go ye, into all the world!” Because it’s all the world that needs what we’re carrying. 

Why Believers are Questioning Belief Traditional Views of Hell


All across the church, the move away from the doctrine of hell as "Eternal Conscious Torment" ("ECT") is pretty consistent: many thinking believers are abandoning that doctrine as inconsistent with the character of Christ (who, after all, is the judge of the living and the dead). 

This is the idea that God commands you to love him, and if you don’t he’ll throw you in a place of eternal torment, where you’ll be perpetually tortured for eternity. It’s what many Christians have been taught their whole life.

Frankly, most of the teaching I personally have heard on the ECT front has its foundation more in the writings of a Catholic monk from the dark ages than from the Bible (Dante’s Inferno,from The Divine Comedy). It’s really quite inconsistent with the glimpses that Scripture reveals of the afterlife, and it’s completely inconsistent with a God who loves us enough to die in our place. 

But it preaches well in "evangelistic" sermons, which is why I suspect it has held on for so long.

But regardless of why people are abandoning the ECT doctrine, what they're moving to is far less consistent.

Some whom I respect are landing on the idea of "Conditional Immortality." Those that don’t enter Heaven are just un-made; this view is also referred to as Annihilationism. Some think that they are unmade immediately; many believe that they are unmade after a period of punishment in "hell." There’s good evidence to support this, though that’s beyond the scope this article.

Others, whom I also respect, are seeing an extended time frame, and calling it "Ultimate Reconciliation." These folks do not question that hell exists or that some people are sent there. but they consider that the omnipotent God who loved them in life enough to be murdered on their behalf won’t actually stop loving his haters just because they die, and He won’t stop wooing them throughout eternity, even in hell. There is good evidence to support this idea as well. 

There are other landing spots, but those are the two primary ones. 

I'm not aware of anybody landing on basic Universalism: a free pass for everyone, regardless of what they did or believed in life! Frankly, most of those who speak up about rejecting Eternal Conscious Torment are accused of Universalism, sooner or later, by some of the people who are NOT leaving ECT behind.

A word of counsel: Don’t let people tell you that if you reject the idea that the lover of your soul is in league with demonic torturers then you therefore must be a Universalist. That’s just silly! Remind them that God is love, and that Jesus is perfect theology. 

Many others, among whom I am numbered, haven't landed anywhere yet. We don’t actually know what the reality is on this topic, and we’re aware that there’s far less instruction in Scripture to inform us than we wish there was. 

We're saying, "Yeah, Eternal Conscious Torment clearly can't be the long-term plan of a loving God, but I'm not sure what hell actually is." I suppose you could say that we're focusing more on heaven than on answering this (important) question. I’m not going to hell, and the people I’m leading aren’t going there. Let’s focus more on where we ARE going?

Yeah, it’s unbalanced, but that’s where a lot of folks are right now: questioning the things we were taught without trying to pretend we have all the answers.   

It's actually OK to not have all the answers yet. 

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

Considering Covenants

The Bible makes it abundantly clear. We are no longer bound by the Old Covenant.

For example, in Hebrews 8, the author argues forcefully and at length that the Old Covenant has been replaced.

“In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13)

Let’s be clear about it: the Old Covenant was rendered obsolete when Jesus established the New Covenant in his blood, not long before he spilled that blood for us. And within a generation, the last vestiges of that Old Covenant were gone, not one stone left upon another, all records destroyed, so that there could never be another temple.

The reason that the Old Covenant is gone is because it was obsolete. It was a bloody failure anyway. God originally offered the family of Jacob (also known as Israel) a covenant  a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation”" covenant (Exodus 19:6), but Israel turned down that covenant.

Instead, they proposed the priesthood covenant (Exodus 20:19), which they could not keep even long enough for Moses to walk down the mountain with the terms of the covenant they had insisted on. And the rest of the Old Testament serves as a dreary testimony to how thoroughly and how deeply Israel continued to fail in covenant with Father.

There’s a lesson here, I think: Humankind does not excel at keeping divine covenants.

But when we are in Christ, and Christ is in covenant with Father, then I don’t have to rely on MY capacity for perfection to keep my covenant intact. And since the New Covenant is not with a nation, then I don’t have to rely on YOUR capacity for perfection to keep MY covenant intact.

It is the amazing faithfulness of the amazing Son of God who keeps covenant on our behalf. And I am included in that covenant because I am in Him.

And while I made a conscious choice to be in Him, it is not my excellence at keeping that choice that keeps me in Him. Even while I am in Him, He is simultaneously in me, and he is indeed excellent at keeping me.


I choose to stay in Him, not because I signed some covenant agreement, and not because of the threat that he may not love me if I muff up.

I choose to stay in Him because He is the very best thing that’s ever happened to me, and because I am completely, madly, hopelessly in love. And you know what keeps me in love with Him? He is completely, madly, hopelessly in love with me!

Wow!

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Becoming Overcomers.

One of the most distasteful spirits is the Religious Entitlement spirit: it is the one that insists that everything we say or everything we write must be sanitized for the least mature person who might be listening. It’s the same Politically Correct spirit, but on Religion.

I don’t love this demon.

It’s why so many churches have replaced wine in Communion with grape juice: so that some recovering alcoholic doesn’t fall of the wagon during the Lord’s supper.

Here’s the problem: we’ve taken responsibility for that person’s sobriety away from them, and we’ve made it OUR responsibility: WE must avoid wine in order that THEY won’t stumble. And in the process, we’ve made a substitution in the instructions the Son of God gave, and required that every person in our midst must submit to this religious compromise!

And when we discuss the idea that Holy Spirit sometimes speaks about things that are not actually found in the pages of Scripture, we’ll get several people jumping up and railing against it, not because of what was said (that part is ignored, generally), but because someone might stumble and think less of The Bible.

The problem is the: we’ve taken responsibility for that person’s maturity away from them, and we’ve made it OUR responsibility: WE must avoid mature topics in order that THEY won’t stumble! And in the process, we’ve eliminated any controversial topics, or any topics where someone might disagree with me, from the curriculum: and we’ve required that every person in our midst must submit to this lowest, safest, common-denominator pablum.

In the pages of Holy Writ, these elementary, rookie-safe, simple (and often simplistic) teachings are called “milk.” By contrast, the teachings that we need to chew and digest for ourselves, teachings that stretch us and make us think are called “meat” in the King James, or “solid food” in the modern translations. The word is “τροφή” (“trophe”) and Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines it as “deeper subjects of the faith than that of elementary instruction.”

How in Heaven’s name will we learn to be “Overcomers” if we are never faced with something to overcome?

***We pause five seconds for the obligatory warning: Yes, scripture says to guard against causing a brother – an individual – to stumble *in*the*context*of*personal*relationships*. I’m not speaking of that.***

In the context of the whole community, Scripture is rather specific: focusing on milk is a failure. We must grow up. We must eat meat, too.

Paul, in 2Corinthians 3, rebukes the immature Corinthians pretty bluntly: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” Note that those who still need milk: well it’s the apostle Paul’s judgment that they are worldly. Apparently (and this is an inference), the way to get beyond worldliness is to teach people how to eat meat and then to give them meat to eat.

Hebrews 5 emphasizes it this way: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” and follows up with “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”

That’s something of a scathing rebuke, but he gives the answer to this failure: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The author declares that the way believers become mature is by training THEMSELVES to distinguish good from evil. Their maturity is THEIR responsibility. Not mine. Not yours.

Except in the case of the child who still poops in their diapers, it is never in anyone’s best interests for others to take responsibility for their choices. And in truth, it is never in anyone’s best interests to condemn an immature person to pooping in their diapers for the rest of their lives. Bigger and better diapers are not actually the goal of the Body of Christ.

When we take responsibility for others (“We can’t say that; someone immature might misunderstand!”), we’re condemning immature believers to immaturity! Their immaturity becomes OUR fault, and I suspect we will be required to give answer for it, when we get to that Day. Yikes.

Brothers and sisters, the Word of God is calling us beyond the safe “milk” topics. I intend to go there as I hear my Father bringing those topics up.

You are warned: I will occasionally speak about things that are more “meat” than “milk” and I will not try to translate every time. And because I am still learning here (News Flash: I do NOT have all the answers!), therefore sometimes I’ll miss it, too. Sometimes, I’ll explore a path that doesn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I’ll explore un-safe topics. Sometimes, I’ll ask hard questions, and sometimes I’ll probably get some answers wrong. Sorry.

That’s why you need to train yourself to distinguish good from evil: it’s YOUR job, not mine.

If you don’t want to hear these things, I invite you to go somewhere safe. This place will not be safe for you. If you need to be protected from ever being offended, I suggest you to unfriend me now, and find safer paths to travel. I make no promise of this being a safe place.

If you want to train yourselves to distinguish good from evil, feel free to join in the conversation here. I will never steer us in an unsafe direction on purpose, but I’ll bet you a shiny silver dime that I won’t get it right every single time. And there will be topics that come up here that are often not sanitized for immature minds. Occasionally, I will state opinions (sometimes intentionally) that will not pass the religious censors’ strict standards.

But it’s the less-safe paths that lead to the really interesting destinations anyway. 

The Word of God is calling us. The Spirit of God is calling us! Let’s go off the map. Let’s press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us!



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True Confessions: It's Not What You Think

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

Let me explain.

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

And that’s where the deception comes in.

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

But it is the stuff of real relationship with God.

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

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

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

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

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


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False Teaching, or False Signs

The New Testament speaks time and time again about false doctrine, false teaching, false shepherds. We don’t really pay a whole lot of attention (as a larger community) to these issues, which the Bible emphasizes pretty heavily.

The Book mentions “false signs and wonders” only ONCE, but that’s the thing that gets the attention. And the definition has been expanded: “If you experience _____ during your intimate times with God, that’s a false sign! It’s of the devil!”

Bah!   Er... “No, that would be in error!

The false teachers that those apostles were warning us about had one thing in common: they wanted to add some form of “works” to the message of grace. It came in various forms:

§         “Obey the Law!” (Or “Obey this part of the law.”) or
§         “Don’t eat meat!” (or some other dietary restriction) or
§         “Respect these Jewish holidays!” (or “…these new [age] holidays”) or
§         “Don’t drink alcohol!”

Fundamentally, the false things that the New Testament writers were warning us about generally were limitations to the freedoms that Jesus brings his people into! It was exactly this context into which Paul writes, “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!” and he goes on in that context to say, “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.” (See Galatians 5; it’s really quite graphic.)

This was the greatest danger to the new Church, and the one that so much of the New Testament epistles were specifically written to combat: that there would be people come into the congregations (called “savage wolves” in Acts 20:29) who would want to draw people away our freedom in Christ.

By contrast, we have very large numbers of congregations, where the leaders teach their favorite part of the Law (note that I did not mention tithing!), or about all restrictions about what good Christians should or shouldn’t do. Often, they preach an even more restrictive law to their leaders.

And many of them are warning their followers against what they’re calling “false signs and wonders,” but is really just brothers & sisters getting free. 

Freedom. What a wonderful thing when we experience it. It’s jumping and dancing and celebrating; it’s shaking and falling over and being rocked by love; it's worshipping with abandon; it’s healing the sick and casting out demons; it’s falling in love with the person of Jesus. 

This is what we were made for! This is exactly why God said, “Let us make man!”: we were made for relationship!
  
We're warned against these things, as if they were “false signs.” Nah. It's just freedom. And freedom is our goal.

I don’t understand why this is sticking in my spirit so strongly today. Perhaps someone needs “permission” to hunger for God (if it matters, you have permission!). Maybe you’re asking why all the “Do this, don’t do that” rules are not fitting you well. This would be why: they’re not for you!

It’s easy: It is for freedom that Christ has set you free! Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!

And maybe let me know if I was writing for you today? 


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Who Is Your Comforter?

I have it on good authority that someone very competent already occupies the position of “Comforter” in your life (John 14:26). Holy Spirit is a remarkably competent comforter, and he is capable of doing a magnificent job of it.

Now, if you try to bring someone else in to fill that position in your life, there’ll be trouble. You will have invoked the threat of Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

If I go to a prophet, or to a pastor, or to a friend with the intent of getting from them what I should have received from “The Comforter,” then I’ve caused a real problem. I have endangered that prophet, that pastor, that friend. I have set them up “before God” in my life, and God himself promises that he will not permit that. 

If you look at how God handled “other gods” in scripture, you’ll see it wasn’t pretty, not ever. You might review the story of Dagon in 1 Samuel 5. Men set gods up; God knocks them down. 

I do not wish to ever be put in that place, where I am “before God” in someone’s life. Frankly, I’ve had to learn this the hard way.

If you come to me asking for comfort, I may pat your hand, and say, “There, there!” or if you ask for advice, I may offer some (typically, too much, but that’s a guy thing). I'm figuring out how to mourn with those who mourn.

But if I feel that I’m being asked to provide for you what Holy Spirit should be providing, to speak into your life instead of your listening for Holy Spirit to speak, then I will probably point you back to him.

(It’s ironic that people are so often offended at me for pointing them to God. I haven’t figured that one out.)

And if you come to me and say, “God’s not talking to me. Would you give me a word?” you may see me run screaming.

You might be thinking, “If I can’t get it from God, I’ll go somewhere that I can get the word I want.” But I hear it as, “The God I’ve had isn’t living up to my expectations; I’m going to replace him with you.”

Nuh-uh! No you’re not. I’m sorry (on multiple levels) if this offends you, but I will not take the place of God in your life. I've seen what happens to other gods in the lives of God's people. No thank you!

The job of the pastor, and the prophet (and the rest of the ascension gifts!) is to equip the saints! If you’re a saint, then pastors should be equipping you for works of ministry, teachers should be equipping you or works of ministry, prophets should be equipping you for works of ministry, etc.

If ever we ask them to do for us what God should be doing for us, we have seriously erred, and we have tempted them towards something that (in my opinion) should scare the daylights out of them.

Let’s not go there, m’kay?  



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The Message We Preach

If the message declared to you makes you feel unworthy, alone, then whatever is being preached, whoever is preaching the message, it’s not the Good News. (This is hard for me to acknowledge, because for years, this is the only gospel I heard, the only gospel I knew to preach.)

Never once did Jesus preach, “You’re a sinner, and you’re going to hell if you don’t repent!” Never once did Paul or any other apostle use condemnation or the threat of hell to convince people of the goodness of a loving God.

If the focus is on sin, then (by definition) the focus is not on Jesus, and that’s a problem. It’s a problem, because it’s in defiance of scripture (Hebrews 12:2). It’s a problem because it makes sin the center of our conversation. It’s a problem because what we focus on becomes how we live.

But mostly it’s a problem, because it takes the attention away from the only One who really deserves the attention, the One who’s been dying (literally) to know us, who has been patiently waiting to demonstrate his love to us.

Whatever that is, it’s not the gospel that Jesus preached, that Paul preached.

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Consider this: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” ~Galatians 1:8 



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The Cleaning Lady

The Cleaning Lady


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Preparing for an Uncertain Future.

I’ve been asked recently, “How should we prepare for the upcoming hard times in our nation?” The topic comes up a fair bit in one form or another.

I started to reply to the individual who asked this one, but there are several folks with questions on this topic. Here’s what I observe on the topic:

§         No single prophet will have all the insight on this (or any other) topic. Father promises to reveal his secrets to “the prophets” not “to each prophet.” I won’t have anything close to a complete picture. Having said that,

§         It’s not the prophet’s job [ever] to replace your hearing from God yourself. Take what you hear from the prophets to God to get your instructions for your own situation.
 
§         I believe that fear is the primary danger ahead of us: the enemy is making a pretty strong focus on this sin, trying to drive God’s. If believers resist that temptation, we’ll be positioned to get the rest of it right. (This means, of course, filtering what we listen to, and HOW we listen to it.)

§         It’s my opinion that the disaster prognostications flooding the media are fear-based, and are in error, if only because they’re based on fear.

§         While God is calling some of his children into the prepping community, “prepping” is not the answer. Luke 12:20-21 applies to those who, because of fear, store up all they’ll need to survive Armageddon: I don’t believe that’s actually possible; if we knew all that we needed to store up, that violates the First Commandment, and God has promised to not permit that. (Note: the “first commandment” is more of a threat than a commandment: “You will not be able to have any other gods before me: you set ‘em up & I’ll knock ‘em down!” [http://bit.ly/1nn65Rm])

§         I personally believe that the epic disasters of Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation are clearly behind us, not in front of us (that is perhaps another conversation, and others believe differently). Nevertheless,

§         That does NOT mean I see blue skies and butterflies. Someone really smart said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.” I suspect that’s related to the fact that we are engaged in the greatest war this universe has ever known. It’s NOT “good vs evil.” It’s about the Kingdom of Heaven vs the lesser kingdoms (of which there are many: “good vs evil” is one; fear is another, and self-sufficiency is a third).

§         It is my opinion that the most critical things we can do are in John 2:5 (“Whatever He [Jesus] says to you, do it.”) and Hebrews 12:1&2 (“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”) Key: fix our eyes on Jesus. Having said that,

§         This does not mean “Don’t prepare.” It means look at what Jesus is doing and do what he says. He has had me make SOME preparations (we have gotten out of debt, and we grow some of our own food on our city lot, etc).

§         I’m reminded of stories like Matthew 17:24-27 (and we could choose many others!): It appears that Jesus is invested in provisioning us. Which leads to,

§         I believe we’re coming into a season where we rely on the supernatural for our daily lives. We need to (and are, in fact, beginning to) get used to miracles, so that we can multiply food or raise the dead comfortably and consistently.

§         Whatever troubles that come are an opportunity for the Kingdom of God, not obstacles. Even if there is real persecution against believers, upheaval of any sort open people’s hearts and minds to the King of the Kingdom. If we respond in fear we’ll miss the opportunity (see Romans 8:15).

§         Other people may be called to different responses. I am clearly called to a non-political response, but Father has specifically spoken to me about others whom He may be calling to be involved with politics, or even with forceful resistance to evil. Their calling is not my calling, but I need to not hinder them.

§         The story remains unchanging: God’s goal for us is still intimate relationship, his instruction is still to extend the kingdom, by means of the Great Commission.



So what do you hear God saying to YOU about this season ahead of us? 

The Egotistical Nature of a Faulty Theology

I’ve come to suspect that it is one of the most egotistical and self-aggrandizing things we can do to declare that “God causes sickness in order to bring glory out of it.”

First cousin – and co-conspirator in this plot – is the slightly more timid version, “God allows sickness in order to bring glory out of it.”

My friend Joel Marius asks, “I
f you were a father, would you inject your kids with a disease to get some sort of glory from it?” to which the answer inevitably is “Dude? What kind of question is that? Of course not”

And of course, we’d all say the same.

But If I declare, “I will not do this, because it’s not the right thing for a father to do to his daughter,” and yet I hold that it’s something that God does to his daughters and sons, then I’ve just painted myself into a corner.

Logically, this leads me to one of three conclusions:

1)       We’re functionally declaring that we’re better parents than God is. Ya gotta have an epic ego to say you’re a better father than The Father. Or

2)       We’re accusing God of hypocrisy: things that would *obviously* be unthinkable for us to do are somehow magically morphed into good and helpful things when an omnipotent being performs the same crime. Or

3)       We’re mistaken, and God does not actually cause sickness.

I propose that we consider the third alternative. Sickness is not from God. Sure, he uses it for good; come on! he uses *everything* for good. That’s just who he is.

But the cause is not in God, and the permission is not in God.