Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts

Monday

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent being pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man, about the implications of creating Mankind.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache. And God wept.

But then he saw you.

He observed your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And God fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. The creator was now in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, That is true, but so what? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is to be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness. We will open again that bridge for relationship.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, indeed could not guarantee a relationship, for He was completely serious about actual free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more. Without free will, we could never love him back.

No, his death for us did not, will never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.

That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 

Thursday

It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


When Darkness Comes Into the Light

For a long time, I’ve been praying that the things that have been hidden in darkness would be revealed in the light. Many of you have been praying similar things.

I’m not stopping those prayers (please, don’t you stop either). But I’m adding to it: I’m praying that those that see the things drawn out into the light would recognize them, would understand them, and would take wise action based on what they recognize and understand.

There’s a lot of dark stuff going on in hidden places in our world. It has to: there’s so very much light increasing all around, that the darkness is not just where dark things are most comfortable, but now, that’s the only place where the dark things can survive.

As I pray these prayers, I expect hidden things in governments to be brought into the light and recognized. I expect people to recognize and condemn atrocities in the Middle East and in Asia. I expect that dark things in the medical community and the business world will be revealed, perhaps most especially where those two worlds overlap. As I pray, I expect that hidden things in the education systems will come to light and surprise many.

Demonic strongholds will be uncovered, and – if we’re attentive – torn down. Demonic plans will evaporate to dust. Sins and influences that have been hidden in darkness will be uncovered; some will scurry away to find more darkness, and others, unable to hide, will find their end when a Saint notices them and wields their sword of the Spirit on them.

But it won’t only happen “over there.” This trend toward disclosure will also happen “over here.” And it’s probably good that it does. There’s darkness in the Christian religious system as well, and if we’re violently honest, there’s probably a measure of darkness in most of our lives that we’ve completely lost track of.

I suppose these will come into the light as well.

But I also expect that we’ll see our hopes and desires come to light, and surprise many, even surprising ourselves. And it won’t just be us, it will be many people, shaking their heads, as if awakening from a dream, and marveling at the dreams and visions that are in their own hearts.

I expect that as we pray, we’ll see the “sons of God” emerge from their hidden place, and take their places in the Kingdom of God, and no, I don’t really know what that will look like.

And best of all, our Magnificent Bridegroom, who has been hidden by the weeds and distractions of the world will no longer be hidden. He will be seen as he really is, and as we see him, we’ll be transformed.

I look forward to walking in the fulfillment of these prayers. Would you care to join me? 

Too Much Talking. Not Enough Listening.

I need to speak (again) about things that I lack expertise on, and therefore about things wherein I am NOT an expert. This isn't so much about the issue, as it is about the process of addressing the issue. 

Recently, I posted about a revival I’m beginning to see in the homosexual community. One of the things that makes this subject hard to sort through (and yes, it happens on many other subjects as well) is that both sides are talking at the other, and neither side is trying to listen: it's polarizing an issue that doesn't need to be polarized, or not so much as it is getting. 

In that article (http://nwp.link/1A6zNVd), I attempted to avoid taking sides, because I’m trying to propose a better response: we need to love one another.

It's really interesting when I chose to step outside of the polarization, and declined to take one side or the other in this controversial topic. First, it's really hard to see the actual issues clearly through all the rhetoric. And second, when I declare myself (as I attempted to do with that article) as not on either side, then I get passionate emails from both sides, saying, "This is what I believe, and it's true!"

I received a pretty large number of messages of this sort from “both sides” of the issue, and they all pretty much assumed the same conclusion: “I’m right, so you must agree with me!” inferring, of course that “Anybody who sees this differently is deceived!” I was honored to be approached by both sides. I was disappointed that most of those approaches were attempts to convert me.

I deduce that since the two groups – both declaring that their viewpoint is true! – are declaring what are sometimes mutually exclusive opinions, it is conclusive that there is a measure of deception involved. And the odds are – as we are dealing with humans, here – that there is deception in both camps. (And the guys like me that are trying to stay out of either group – by virtue of our humanity – are NO less prone to imperfection than anyone else.) 

I've been walking with God and with his people for more than half a century, and one thing I've learned is that when everybody's insisting that they're right and the other guy is wrong, that’s not an environment where we can find a common ground. It's only when we quit telling others what they must believe, and start listening to what they DO believe, that we have any chance at all at finding a small place where we agree that we can start building some relationship. Besides, me telling you what you must believe is clearly not loving you. 

So here’s a challenge: if you have an opinion about the subject of Gay Christians, I challenge you to shut your mouth and listen to the other guys. I don’t care if you’ve got eleventeen Bible verses that conclusively prove that you’re right and they’re wrong, I maintain that shouting at someone about their wrongness will never encourage them to hear you, and that’s what we want: people actually hearing each other.

So I encourage us to stop talking on this topic, and listen to someone else’s point of view. And after you’ve listened, make sure you’ve heard them right (“I think I heard you say this… did I hear right?”) because we’re not used to hearing real people: we’re used to hearing out-of-context sound bites that our own side uses to prove the point you already believe. Both sides do this, and it’s normal. It’s also messed up.

After you’ve tested what you’ve heard, and you know you’ve heard them right, then still keep your mouth closed, and think about what they’ve said. Consider their heart. Consider the wounds they’ve endured from you and your friends (this has happened on both sides!). Consider that God loves them every bit as much as he loves you! And maybe, if you dare, consider asking God what HE thinks and how HE feels about those people who don’t agree with you. (If you can do this in less than a week, you haven’t done a good job.)

And one final challenge: Consider not telling others what you believe, until and unless someone has asked for your opinion. Then go out of your way to not alienate others. 

This is a place where Saint Francis’s sage advice is priceless: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” In other words, once you’ve demonstrated the good news of the gospel, once you’ve loved until it cost you more than you wanted to pay, once it’s become necessary (ie, they’ve asked), then consider the gentlest, most loving way to share how God has led you. And then listen some more.

I guarantee that Westboro Baptist won’t find you acceptable in this. And I guarantee you won’t get a smidgeon of support from the mainstream media: they both thrive on controversy, but controversy isn't actually our goal. 

But you'll hear Fathers heart better. And maybe you’ll make your Father (who loves both of you) smile.

And his smile is ALWAYS worth the price! Always.


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





Put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.

This is before us today.

We all know that 20:20 speaks about vision. Also true for 2Chronicles 20:20, which includes this declaration: “Put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”

We will be established, we will stand our ground, when we trust what God has spoken to us, what he’s given & done! This is safe territory, and considering the context of the verse, that was a huge declaration! You’ll be OK.

But God is inviting us to receive a NEW word from him (“prophets” speaking of the prophetic community we’re part of), which will take us into a new realm of battle, and into a new realm of victory. You’ll take territory you’ve never had before, territory that you’ll never have to give up.

We can succeed, either playing defense or playing offense. But we score more victories when we take the offense.

God has been speaking to some of us in the Northwest about this, and he used the Superbowl to do it: I’ll summarize it this way: When the people that have spent their lives at defensive suddenly begin to play offense (even from their defensive positions), then the other guy is going to look really bad.

When we add offense to our defense (not a different place, in the midst of our defense), suddenly you accomplish things that nobody has ever accomplished before.

(We could add something about getting the people that have been sitting quietly on the sidelines for all these years involved, but that’s another topic.)

Interestingly, in the original context of our verse, this offense consisted of “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” When we get that down, that’s a big deal in the progress of the battle that we’re facing right now, the battle that looks to be the end of us and our line.

The result of this shift? The result of this declaration? “Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.”

If you’re going to listen to the NEW word from God, if you’re going to take the offense in the battle, then you probably ought to bring a wheelbarrow with you. Because you’re going to need it.

Dead Raising of Another Sort


One of the quietest places for a prayer walk is, at least in my town, the local cemetery. The neighbors don’t seem to be annoyed by my talking out loud in their yard.

I’d been walking in cemeteries all that spring and summer, just wandering around their back sections, talking with my Father. I usually chose the sections where all the gravestones are flat with the grass, simply because I didn’t need to go around them, so I was walking over peoples’ names. Occasionally one would catch my attention and I’d look closer.

Finally, the obvious occurred to me: ask God why this is catching your attention! Oh! There’s a radical thought. So I asked. “Father, why is Jacob Thompson’s grave marker catching my attention so much? What’s up with Jacob?”

In reply, I felt Father’s grief; Father was broken-hearted about this man, who had lain buried here for forty years, and he was sharing his broken heart with me. I felt honored, but I had to admit that I was also confused.

My first thought was that the man died in his sins, and was headed to hell, but it was not that. Father told me some things about his life: he was a Christian, and he loved God. In fact he was a prophet. But the church that he was connected with neither respected nor received prophetic gifts, and so his gift was never used, never really even activated.

Jacob Thompson had carried his gift to his grave, still wrapped, still unopened. This grieved Father.

I have to admit, I felt a little relief. If he was in hell, I knew that was really bad, and I didn’t have a clue how to deal with that. This didn’t feel quite as bad as that.

But I knew enough to realize that if Father were telling me about it, then there was something he thought I could do about it. So I asked. And he gave me a Bible lesson that was unlike any Bible lesson I ever heard in church.

I’ve taught often enough about Spiritual Gifts, and he reminded me of one of the things I teach in those lessons: spiritual gifts are exercised through an individual, but they aren’t for the good of the individual. They’re for the church.

In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul teaches us that “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” Peter supports the idea in 1 Peter 4:10: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The gifts God has given us are only for us to steward, and the goal is the profit of the whole community.

Principle #1: The gifts belong the community, though they’re exercised often enough by individuals.

Principle #2: gift has a metron, a “sphere of influence.” This is part of my teaching on gifts. Some are local, some are regional, a few are national, and a very few are global. Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry is global. Mine is not. As I reflected on Jacob’s gift, it seemed that his prophetic gift was given to the church in his city.

So Jacob Thompson had taken a gift belonging to the church of his city to the grave. That felt something like stealing: taking somebody else’s gift, and essentially throwing it away unused. That’s not good.

Next, standing in front of Mr Thompson’s name in cast bronze, Father took me to Romans 11:29: In my NKJV it says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (The KJV uses that curious term, “without repentance!”)

I stood there, thinking about what “irrevocable” meant. If nothing else, it means that once the gift has been given, it stays given. That means once a gift has been given to the church of a city, that gift stays given. Jacob’s prophetic gift was not his possession, when he took it to the grave, it belonged to the church in his city.

Principle #3: Once given, a gift is never taken away.

Jacob was dead. He couldn’t use a prophetic gift any more. But the church in that city was not dead, and they most certainly could use a prophetic gift.

This kind of stuff scares me a little. I could tell we were heading outside of the box, and it’s so far outside of the box of “normal Christianity” as I’d always experienced it, that it felt strange, wrong, cult-like. But it had three things going for it: God was speaking it, the Word supported it, and it was relatively solid logically, given the things the Word had to say about it.

I stood there and discussed it with Father some more, letting him walk me through this radical conversation a second time, and a third. I may be delusional, but at least it was consistent.

So what can I do about that? I was aware that Job 22:28 said, “You will also declare a thing, And it will be established for you,” but I also knew that this was the teaching of Eliphaz the Temanite, who had already demonstrated he had a lousy understanding of God. Fortunately, this time, he’s backed up by Jesus himself: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” [Matthew 21:22].

Conclusion: That which has been taken away can be returned.

So I prayed, and declared a thing: that Jacob’s gift would be returned to the church in his city, and that they’d use the gift, and find profit in it. That was all.

I had a vague sense of something flashing out of the ground, and flying off to somewhere else. More significantly, I felt like I was done with Jacob Thompson. Whatever was holding me there about him wasn’t holding me any more.

I spent a good bit of time debriefing about this interesting incident with Father, and later, with some apostles and prophets I respect. And they didn’t freak out. They reminded me that John G Lake’s grave site in Spokane has been a popular tourist destination, and a lot of people have lain on it, asking for the gift that he carried be imparted to themselves. And a lot of times, it seems that it has happened.

Since then, I’ve had a number of other walks in cemeteries, but they’re more distracting now. One time, I prayed to restore a whole flock of gifts to the Chinese church in the region. Another time, gifts were restored to the local longshoremen. 









Brass Heavens? Consider Some Options.

The phrase “brass heavens” comes from the King James translation of Deuteronomy 28:23. “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.” It was part of the consequences that God warned Israel would experience if they wandered off and rejected God in their new Promised Land.

We use the term “brass heavens” to describe an environment where it’s tough to connect with the heavenly realms, it’s difficult to hear from God, rare to experience his presence. Fundamentally, it’s about our experience of interacting with heaven.

Have you ever felt like no matter what you did or prayed, God didn't hear, didn't show up? That’s what we’re talking about.

There are a number of reasons for us to experience brass heavens. Deuteronomy says it’s a natural consequence of abandoning God. Indeed, it’s hard to connect well with God when we’re avoiding him. It is also commonly inferred that if the population of a region rejects God, then the heavens in that area may become brazen to them, and also to anyone else who comes into the region. Hmm. Maybe.

Personally, I believe that sometimes the “brass heavens” are a lie. There are times that the enemy simply accuses God before us: “He didn’t respond to us quickly or personally enough. You must be on the outs with God!” No, the devil just talks louder and faster than Father does.

There are times (Daniel 10:13 is an illustration) where the “brass heavens” are the result of events in the heavenly realms which we cannot see. Job also experienced this. It’s real, and it happens. In fact, in the Bible, it appears to only happen to good people.

There are undoubtedly other causes for that sense that we have which we describe as a brass heaven. Hold that thought; we’ll be back in a minute. Right now, let’s take a detour through the woods.

Some time ago, I was walking in the woods, and my attention was captured by something I saw there. I saw the same conflict acted out in two different ways, in two different parts of the forest.

I saw a giant fir tree, a grandfather, perhaps eight feet in diameter. The only tree of its size in the area, it was accompanied by its adult children: thousands of mature fir trees two to three feet in diameter surrounded it.

But the detail that caught my attention was the third generation of trees. There were not many saplings in the shadow of the larger trees. There were only a few young ones there, but they were thin, weak and yellowed from never having seen the direct light of the sun, their source of life. There were many that had died.

As I walked further, I came to a part of the forest that was dominated by great maple trees. A few giants spread their canopies, well separated from each other, the light through their leaves coloring the undergrowth a bright green.

Unlike the fir trees, the grandfather maple trees were not closely surrounded by their children. Between the great trees was a bright meadow, thickly populated by shrubs and berry bushes, but not a single young tree was growing in the meadow, though the meadow was surrounded by younger maple trees competing with younger fir trees for the light.

I’ve studied botany a little, enough to know that both behaviors are defense mechanisms for the mature trees. The fir trees grow tightly together so that there is no light left for any competitors, even their own offspring. The grandfather fir trees, the old growth giants, have no need to hinder the growth of any competitors: they tower above all others, secure in their own capacity to reach the sunlight, though the less mature trees still scratch and claw for their provision, even at the expense of the next generation of fir trees.

The great maple trees do it differently. The great giant trees give off a chemical that poisons the soil near them so that no tree can grow there, thus eliminating any competitors for the precious sunlight. Grandfather maple trees are broader, not taller, than their younger competitors. They cannot tower securely above the younger trees as the old growth firs can, so they must eliminate the competition.

Here’s a radical thought: what if the “brass heavens” over some people is the “forest canopy” of others?

I have lived among a metaphorical stand of fir trees. The community of saints were largely mature (both in age, and in their walk of faith), and they were so closely connected with others their age that there was no room for someone young in their faith to break in and discover the life that they needed to thrive.

Do you know how many churches have fights about the worship music? Just the question of “organ music or pop-rock music” has destroyed thousands of American churches. Other communities continually preach the same salvation message for sixty years, or, on the other extreme, the same marriage-and-family messages, ignoring the needs of the younger members, forcing them into the darkness, stunting their growth. The “brass heaven” there comes, at least in part, from the unwillingness of the adults to become parents, the inability to make room for the young ones.

I’ve also served the metaphorical mature maple trees, where the ministry is all about the one leader, and where no real growth is permitted among any other leaders who might challenge the position of the senior leader.

I’ve seen churches where the founding pastor is still the senior pastor 40 years later, but no youth pastor or worship leader is kept for more than 2 or 3 years, and the only associate pastors are those who’ve learned never to grow beyond a certain limit. The “brass heaven” in those places is, at least partly, the result of the senior leader’s ego.

As I’ve reflected on my lessons from the forest, I’ve been very grateful that I have feet instead of roots. I’ve used those feet to depart those deadly forests. There are thousands of folks like me, unwilling to sacrifice our own growth for the comfort of the fathers and grandfathers that have gone before us. Unfortunately, there are millions more, lost in the shadows, withering, dying without the sun.

Of course, wherever I go, there is always the temptation to gather a tight group of friends who support each other, but really don’t make room for another generation to be part of the community. Or there’s the temptation to create my own forest, where I’m the reigning monarch, and everybody else is reduced in order to serve my own needs.

The old growth fir tree is easily the best model from this particular day in the forest: tall and strong, secure in his own relationship with the sun of life, he broadcasts seed, carried by wind, and he populates entire regions, reshapes the environment within his influence.

The drawback, of course, is that it is incredibly costly to become the old growth fir tree: costly in time. It requires, in the tree’s case, centuries of growth to reach that size, centuries of avoiding the forest fires and logging companies and diseases that are the end of so many of its peers.

But I suspect that we can, ideologically, at least, become the old-growth giant long before we’re either old or giant. Being creatures that (unlike the trees) are created in God’s image with a free will, we can exercise our will.

We can choose to not participate in the closed relationships that keep others at a distance. We can choose to let others grow and thrive around us, encouraging the ones that will eclipse our own growth or gifting, so that they become greater and more successful than we’ve ever been.

We can choose to raise up and release a generation that’s just now encountering the “brass heavens” of the saints. 

Are We Preoccupied With Warfare?

Some believers don’t like to talk about spiritual warfare. Recently, someone said to me, “There is not much of a battle when I flip the light switch on. Darkness is not presence, it is merely the absence of light. Is it me or is the religious earthly kingdom preoccupied with war?”

And honestly, he has an excellent point. And it is completely true so long as we're speaking in the theoretical realm, so long as everyone and everything submits to the rules.

But not everybody does. In reality, the Book talks about things that do not (yet) bow their knee to the authority of the Light. There are some beings, therefore, who do not yet yield to that supreme authority. Some of them are people. That, of course, means that some of them are not people.

Think with me for a minute: if Jesus, who is God incarnate, who is the Light incarnate, had to deal with intense enough warfare during his temptation that it required angels to come & minister to him, then it is likely that we-who-are-less-than-He may also encounter demonic opposition.

If Jesus had to regularly spend all night in prayer, and at least one time he sweat blood in prayer, then you and I also probably need to invest in substantial prayer in order to accomplish the purposes of the Kingdom in our area of influence on this planet.

The Bible uses warfare vocabulary to describe this process, so I will as well. In fact, Paul declares that “we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). This is not a place where “ignorance is bliss.”

Paul’s apostolic counterpart, Peter, exhorts us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Someone seeks to devour me and mine? That’s not fair! (No, it’s not fair, but then, nobody promised that the devil who is a “lawbreaker” would always play fair! Sorry to burst your bubble.)

In the process of dispelling our un-blissful ignorance, Paul explains, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

In another place, he explains the war in more detail: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10).

Yeah, we’re involved in a war. In fact, we were born behind enemy lines, separated by a merciless enemy from the Kingdom of Heaven which is our heritage, which is where our Father is seated. It is God’s clear plan that we engage the war, and that we overcome the demonic enemies that are arrayed against us. And he has provisioned us for unquestionable victory.

I have learned that there is a word that accurately describes those who will not carefully and intentionally give attention to this warfare. It is "casualties."

Let us not be casualties, please.


Monday

Questions For God

It seems that God has selective hearing, at least when it comes to some of the questions his children ask. 

I have never known him to answer any question that begins with the word “Why?”  “God, why did this happen?” "Why didn't you do that?"

I’m getting tired of questions that don’t get answered, so I’m going to ask smarter questions. 

There are two questions that show up in the the second chapter of Acts that seem to work pretty well. 

In Acts 2:12, a crowd, amazed and perplexed, asked “What does this mean?” That led to a supernatural sermon by Peter-of-the-Foot-in-Mouth, where he answered that question remarkably well for “an uneducated fisherman.”  

An hour later, in response to that sermon, they asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter answered with a spontaneous altar call and 5000 of them came to faith. I suspect they got their question answered real well.

I’m reminded of one more verse that’s critical for getting questions answered. John 7:17 says, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” If we are not willing to commit to doing what God says – even before he answers the question – then it is far less likely that we will even get the answer to the question. 

“Yes, Father. The answer is ‘Yes.’ Now what was the question?”

Wednesday

Guard Against Counterfeit Grief


We’re in a season of transition. The old leaders are being replaced by new leaders: we knew that was coming, though we may not have considered that the old leaders might be going home in the process. In addition, the battle has been heating up for a while, and more warriors, more bystanders, are getting hit by an increasingly desperate devil.

As a result, there are a lot of us still in the battle who are grieving: for fallen brothers & sisters, dying fathers & mothers, wounded family members, and more. (There is a reason someone said, “War is hell.”)

I felt the Lord warn me this morning: Son, grieving is a good thing; it’s a good and healthy response to fallen comrades. But Son, watch out for the counterfeit: sometimes sadness slips in and the enemy tells you that you’re grieving.

Grieving is a process, and being sad is part of that healthy process. But it’s not hard to get stuck in just the sadness, and then the process stops. Instead of moving on, of resolving into healing, sadness just sits there; the longer we stay in the stationary place of sadness, the more difficult it is to choose to move beyond it.

The result of healthy grieving is healing. If we don’t see the process heading towards healing, we might have lost our way, and we may need help finding it again. Don't be afraid to ask for that help.

If we don’t keep moving through the grief process, if we get stuck in sadness, then sadness wants to bring forth fruits of bitterness, or of depression, or of some other unhealthy bondage and keep us in chains. The result of a derailed grieving is bondage, and nobody but the evil one wants us in bondage.

Grieve, brothers & sisters! Weep where you need to: even Jesus wept when his friend died. But guard against getting stuck along the way. 

Tuesday

Bluejays and Swimming Holes

During a time of prayer the other day, I saw a stellars jay picking maple seeds out of the gutters at the edge of the house I was staying at. I love jays, their bright blue boldness and perky confidence.

I had just asked God to speak to me this morning, and immediately the jay caught my attention; so I stopped what I was doing and appreciated his beauty. “Thanks Father, for such a beautiful creation.”

I felt the Lord whisper to me, “This bird was created for this purpose, to give you beauty to enjoy this morning, to draw your attention to Me.” Just by being who he was, he was fulfilling God’s purpose for him.

When I was nine or ten years old, my family went camping across western Canada; it was a hot summer, and we stopped and went swimming every chance we got, and always camped at a river or lake. One day, we found this really great camping place, and we swam and played and laughed until we were worn out, and then we ate smores until we were really full and went to bed.

The next morning, I had a difficult time waking up. After four or five attempts to rouse, my father threatened me: “If you don’t get up, I’m going to throw you in the lake.” Of course I didn’t believe him; he was my dad. He wouldn’t do that. So I didn’t take it seriously.

A few minutes later, I was still in bed, and my dad grabbed my sleeping bag, drug it down to the side of the swimming area, and unceremoniously dumped me out on the dock. “OK OK! I’m up. I’m ten years old, standing there in the cool morning air in my big flannel pajamas; I wanted to go back to camp.

But no! He pushed once, and I made a huge splash. Totally soaked, I climbed back up on the dock, but by that time, he was halfway back to camp, so I took off after him, splashing water everywhere! Eventually, I caught him and gave him a hug, as well as splashed my brother pretty well.

We're going to talk about two truths today, two truths that contradict each other, and yet each is true.

The first truth is this: just by being yourself, you accomplish much in the purposes that God has for you.

For example, Jesus said, in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

OK. What do you need to do to accomplish the task of being a light? Nothing!

In the middle of the night, even a little town like Tenino is full of lights. You can't hide something like that. You can't hide the light that shines out of you, particularly when you're walking among people in darkness.

Jesus says you’re like that; like a city set up on a hill that everyone can see in the darkness. It takes more work to stop being who you are than to continue.

Sometimes, Jesus ministered like this. Remember in Matthew 9, the woman that came up and touched the hem of His garment? She was healed from a twelve-year-long problem.

That happened regularly with Jesus.

Mark 6:56 Wherever He entered into villages, cities, or in the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.

All He did sometimes was just walk by, being Himself.

And if you’re walking with Jesus, then who you are is a powerful ministry. There's no sweat, no fuss, no panic, nothing you can do.

People see you. They recognize that there's something about you that is more than what’s visible.

I sell technical electronic stuff where I work, and one of my customers is Fort Lewis. I was working with one specialist in the Army's Special Forces Group on a couple of complex projects a year or two ago. He'd come into my office a couple of times a week and we'd have a grand time designing these complex technical systems that the federal government was going to pay for.

One Friday morning, he showed up as I expected, but he came into my office kind of quiet, and he closed the door behind him, which he never does, and sat down in the chair. “David, there’s something different about you,” he said. “There’s a peace about you and I need peace. What is it?”

Whoa.

Twenty minutes later, we were praying together, and this Special Forces soldier had his hat in his hand, and was asking the King of Kings to be His Captain and Savior.

That man came to Christ because he came in contact with an ambassador of the Kingdom of God. I accomplished my work in that situation just by being who God has made me to be.

You have stories like that, lots of them. I don’t know your stories. I only tell mine because I was there.

I told you that we were going to talk about two contradictory truths: both were true, and yet they're the opposite of each other.

This is the first truth: Who you are is ministry. Who you are is effective at accomplishing God's purposes on this earth (that's all ministry is). It’s easy. You’re just you, and that’s a reflection of Jesus. Remember: You’re made in His image.

Maybe you cause someone to ask questions about Jesus. That’s ministry!

Maybe you lift a weight off of someone who’s burdened. That’s ministry!

Maybe you encourage someone that they really can succeed. That’s ministry.

Maybe you help someone find an answer to a problem that you had no idea that they had. That’s ministry.

When you walk with Jesus, it’s like someone who fell into the swimming pool fully dressed. When they climb out, you can tell exactly where they’ve been because they splash water every time they take a step.

You're like that: you fall in the pool with Jesus, and when you get out, you splash Jesus all over with every step you take. If it's been a long time since you’ve been in the pool, then maybe you don’t splash as much, but you splash ministry wherever you go. You splash God's purposes wherever you go.

So what do you do with this?

Nothing, really. Just hang out with Jesus, and be who you are.

Well, actually, that’s something we can do, isn’t it? Hang out with Jesus. But that’s something we already do. Get in the pool w/ Jesus. Get in the Word. Talk. Listen. Obey. That kind of stuff. The regular stuff of a believer’s life.

This makes us splash better.

The blue jay wasn't trying to accomplish anything; it was just being blue. You just be you, and be at peace with that. Relax. Rest.

By the way, when you're riding a bicycle, which pedal do you push? They're opposite of each other, you know. Which do you push on?

Whichever one is needing to be pushed.

We've pushed one pedal: who you are is ministry. There's no sweat, no fuss, no panic, nothing you can do. You just are ministry when you walk with Jesus.

Are you ready to push the other pedal now? I'm not going to blow your circuits, am I?

Ministry takes hard work.

Have you noticed that sometimes, ministry is work? If you’re going to be effective in the long run, you’re going to run into seasons when keeping going is a real pain in the Yakt├╝sk!

In my work of selling technical stuff, most of my customers are churches, and I consider my work to be ministry. I serve churches. They have a need with their sound system, for example, and they call me, and I help them meet their need.

But sometimes, I have to explain technical things to someone who isn't technical, and it tries my patience. Or sometimes, something's gone wrong, and they're angry or confused or offended, and it's hard making any sense with them. Or sometimes, it seems like a thousand little details go wrong with one project.

You've had that happen. You try to help someone, and they take advantage of you. Or you patiently speak truth into their life, and they don't hear. Or worse yet, they do the exact opposite of what you just taught them. Or you have to help them do the same thing over and over and over again.

I had a friend who only called me when he was in trouble. When he called, I wanted to answer the phone with, “Hi Bob. What's wrong now?” He never called unless he was in a panic, and he never applied the scriptural truth I gave him so he was often in a panic, always at the end of his rope, and always expecting me to bail him out. After a few years of it, I got real tired of it!

The thing that drew my attention to this idea so thoroughly was a story in Acts that I was studying when I saw the bluejay that God used as an example for me. I was meditating my way through Acts, and I'd come to Acts 16 and the story of the slave girl with the spirit of divination.

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.

Now that's ministry!

While I was meditating on this, the Lord drew my attention to Paul's motivation here: he was greatly annoyed. Other translations say he was "wearied out" or "sore troubled" or "grieved" or "vexed." I looked the word up in my Strong's concordance (we have one on the bookshelf for anyone to use who wants).

Here's what it said:

The Greek is 1278 diaponeo {dee-ap-on-eh'-o: }from 1223 and a derivative of 4192, which ends up literally: "through pain" or "by way of great trouble or passionate desire."

Paul was ministering through his pain. There are some times when great ministry only comes through great pain, great trouble or great passion.

By the way, this is normal!

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul talks about his ministry among the people there:

8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.

Paul says similar things in Colossians 1:28:

28 Him [Jesus] we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

The word “Labor” here is kopiao: “to grow weary, tired, exhausted with toil or burdens or grief”

So I was sitting with the Lord, reflecting on this: “Lord, if I sometimes get tired in ministry, that doesn't really mean I'm unspiritual or weak, does it?”

He answered, “If my Son Jesus got tired in his ministry and had to get alone with me to restore his soul, what makes you think you won't also get tired?”

So what do we do with this pedal? How do we respond in the times when ministry is hard work and we get discouraged, or frustrated, or weary?

The same way: Get in the pool and rest in Jesus. Get in the Word. Talk to Him. Listen. Obey. That kind of stuff. The regular stuff of a believer’s life.

Even Jesus had to get alone with God to restore His soul. What makes you think you don’t need what Jesus needed?

I believe that many of us are spending too much time sweating FOR God and too little time resting IN Him. And as a result, we’re getting Tired. Weary. Worn out.

I believe some of us are too afraid of getting tired and weary that we won’t get out of the pool and get in among the people.

Both of us have to repent. We need to get in the pool. And we need to get out of the pool and go back to camp.

OK. We’ve pushed on both pedals. Now our bicycle is getting somewhere!

The first pedal: Who you are is ministry! We’re like the blue jays.

To be more effective, get in the pool with Jesus.

The second pedal: Ministry takes hard work! We’re called co-laborers with Christ.

To be more effective, get in the pool with Jesus.

Either way: get in the pool with Jesus.

Monday

Reciprocity With God

The other day, I went for a walk in the woods, in “our place”: a set of trails that God & I used to spend a lot of time on together. What with the price of gas to get there, and the business of life, I haven’t been to those trails much recently; we’ve been meeting in coffee shops and back rooms instead.

When I got to the trailhead, my first words were according to tradition, “Hi Papa,” and then He broke our tradition. Instead of waiting for me to quiet my mind over the next mile, He immediately began speaking to me of reciprocity in relationships, particularly His relationship with individuals. He seemed very excited about it. I’m afraid I loved that part best: His enthusiasm is very contagious.

“My relationship with you,” He began, and I could hear Him smiling, “is reciprocal.” And He let me think on that for a bit.

I sometimes teach a model of relationships that uses a bridge as an illustration of our relationship: the stronger the bridge (the relationship) between us, the more weight that can be carried across the bridge from you to me, or from me to you, but we both have to build the bridge.

I thought of this illustration now, as He was teaching me. “That’s actually not how I relate to you.” I was getting excited with Him by now.

So He began to describe to me how He limits Himself in His relationship with me – or anyone else – based on how I approach Him. While He is always attentive towards me, if I give Him my time and attention, then He gives me His time & attention: the degree to which I experience Him is pretty much determined by how much I’m willing to invest myself in Him, in our relationship.

I wish I could capture the joy, the immediacy, the clarity that came on those trails.

He pointed out that He’s “pretty much omnipotent” and if He relates to me in His omnipotence, I’ll pop, or my brain will fry, or I’ll burn up in a puff of smoke. “No one can see My face and live,” He said to Moses, and suddenly I understand better. If He brought the infinite force of His personality to our relationship, I would crumble to dust when He showed up. That’s hard on the relationship.

It’s mercy that keeps Him at a distance from me.

And so He must limit Himself, His glory that is in His person, His personality. I pray, “Show me your glory” like Moses, and He must answer, “I cannot.”

But the limit that He puts on Himself is the limit that I set. Or to put it the other way, the more I open myself to Him, the more He opens Himself to me.

I long for His presence. I appreciate His mercy.