Showing posts with label intimacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intimacy. Show all posts

Thursday

Grey Haired Rockers?


There were some remarkably talented musicians in the heyday of rock & roll, back in the 70’s and such.

Have you ever noticed that a whole lot of the “big name” 70’s bands are still on tour, still singing the same songs, still riding that wave. And in all honesty, they’re still making a good living that way, reliving their past successes.

Other artists with just as much of a heyday in the past, are not riding on the past successes. They’re still pushing forward, still staying fresh, still developing.

Don’t worry, this is going to make sense in a minute.

I was listening to one of those “golden oldies” (ironically, it was a song called “Comfortably Numb”) when Father caught my attention, and pointed out that there are at least two lessons to learn here:

1) The artists who made the turn and are still fresh and creative have generally spent a season or three in a hard place before they were able to move on in their craft.  

2) This principle is true in the kingdom (and this one really kicked me in the gut). There are lessons for me (and maybe you) here:

                2a) There are some remarkably gifted ministries of the past heydays of one revival or another who are still singing the same (basic) message, still riding that wave. And in all honesty, they’re still making a living that way, reliving their past successes.  Some are big names; others still have regional or just informal spheres of influence. We notice the big names more.

                2b) There are other ministries (the ones that come to my mind tend toward prophetic ministries, though that may just be my perception) that have had just as much of a heyday in the past,  but are not riding on the past successes. They’re still pushing forward, still staying fresh, still pressing in for a fresh revelation for this fresh season.

                2c) The difference very often is about who has been willing to be allured into the wilderness, away from busyness and “success,” to sit with the Almighty, to listen to his heartbeat, to understand more of his heart, particularly his intents for today.

I remember that after his baptism, Holy Spirit “drove” or “compelled” Jesus into the wilderness [Mark 1:12] for a remarkable and memorable challenge. But at the end of that adventure, “the angels ministered to Him.” And afterwords, he “returned in the power of the Spirit.”

Apparently seasons in the wilderness are valuable.


I observe a few things here:

• Wilderness seasons seem to be God’s timing [cf Mark 1:12 & Hosea 2:14], not ours.
• But our choices are incredibly powerful here:
                ○ Do we choose to go to the scary, uncomfortable place that he’s leading?
                ○ Once we’re in that place, do we stand up and resist the evil that (mistakenly) thinks we’re weak? Do we whine and beg for people to pray for us, or do we stand  in the devil’s face and plant ourselves on the foundation of the Word (both scripture and prophetic words)? [Note: Community is precious in these times, but wildernesses are generally solitary events.]
                ○ Do we let angels minister to us? (Do we know how?)
                ○ When we come successfully through the wilderness, we walk in more of “the power of the Spirit.” What do we do with that power, that influence?

If this feels rough, that’s only because it is. I’m in the midst of these lessons myself. I don’t have all the answers anymore. I only share this in case others are going through such a time, or will shortly, and might benefit from some signposts along that trail into the wild places.

#AlMacksJournal

Odd thought just crossed my mind. Romans 5 is happening, or something like it.
 
We’re sure seeing a lot of the works of darkness revealed over the past several months: riots in the streets, bad people, bad plans and bad actions are caught. (Keep praying along that they’d be revealed, of course. And brought to justice.)
 
But then there’s Romans 5:
• Romans 5:10: For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
 
• Romans 5:15: But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
 
• Romans 5:17: For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
 
• Romans 5:20b: But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
 
The principle that I think I might be hearing is this: if we’re seeing the works of dark spirits, how much more will the Holy Spirit be accessible to us in that time and place?
 

My suggestion: in this dark season, look for the light. Snuggle close to the Light, whatever that means for you. In more religious terms (there’s a place for them): press into the Holy Spirit, open yourself to him (transparency, or “seek him with all your heart”), and keep eyes and ears open for revelation.
 
I think we’ll find him willing to share his heart with us. And I’ll bet you a shiny new nickel that it’s kind of a whole lot more encouraging than the sewage the spirits of darkness are spreading around.
 
Note: I believe that the revelation will come in unfamiliar form, perhaps in hard-to-recognize form. It may be in unusual coincidences, or stray thoughts in your imagination, or casual conversation. I was overwhelmed by Holy Spirit speaking about our days in a Marvel movie the other night. Keep your eyes open.
 
Where sin abounds (and isn’t it abounding now?), Grace (God’s power, God’s direction) much more abounds. 

Watch and Pray


“Watch out!” “Keeping watch” “Watchman”

The idea is consistent: pay attention; notice what’s going on. See what there is to see; hear what there is to hear.

The dictionary talks about “observing attentively,” and “following closely, maintaining an interest in,” and even “being careful.”

Pay attention. Notice.

Now here’s an interesting thing: Four times, Jesus tells us that watching and praying go together.*

It was a long time before I learned how those worked together. When I was growing up, “praying” was about “Say these words; that’s prayer.”

Later, prayer was about a shopping list, and praying was a lot like writing to Santa. “I want this; please do that, and bless everybody in the whole world.”

As I got more religious, my vocabulary became more about “Bringing needs before the throne,” but it was still functionally a Santa letter, a shopping list. At least I was adding other people’s needs to the list. “Watching” was seeing what was needed. “Praying” was bringing those needs to God’s attention.

Now I’m not saying this is bad. Some of those prayers got answered, including some whose answers would qualify as miracles. And I (mostly) don’t regret the time spent bringing real issues to God’s attention (though I really do not love prayer meetings that are more about whining and complaining about what’s wrong, than about God).

“Watch and pray.” Pay attention; notice.

I’m growing more and more committed to the idea that prayer is more than me reciting my wish list, more than me bringing issues to God’s attention. Prayer is relational, and it’s conversation. It’s dialogue.

And that, I think, is what the “watch and pray” thing is about. And it happens in relationship, in close relationship, in intimate relationship.

It’s about God and me talking. Maybe we use words, maybe we don’t, but it’s about us talking.

I’ve observed that sometimes when God talks, he uses words, sometimes he uses pictures or visions, sometimes he uses emotions or thoughts. He’s very versatile. (It wouldn’t surprise me if he gave us all these senses so we’d have more ways to engage with him.)

I’m coming to the conclusion that “watch and pray” is about us hearing what he’s saying (whether words or pictures or whatever) and talking to him about it.

That’s why words of knowledge are so often associated with people actually getting healed. God shows us what to pray for, and we pray for the thing God’s saying to pray for, and what do you know? He answers those sorts of prayers pretty often.

That’s the basic design of “watch and pray.” Pay attention to what’s on God’s heart. Talk with him about that thing until you know how to pray for it. Then pray for that thing that’s on God’s heart, in the way that God is showing you how to pray for it. Rinse and repeat. Spend time in that conversation, conversing about things that are on his heart. (You’ll be surprised how many of the things that are on your heart are on his heart, too.)

That will result in more answered prayers, of course. But it will also result in me knowing God’s heart better. It will result in me becoming more like him, knowing him more. And that is the very essence of the prayer he taught us to pray so long ago: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Watch and pray.

Pay attention. Notice. Talk about that. Pray that. Discuss that.

It’s all about relationship.

----
* Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33 & 14:38, and Luke 21:36



Why Jesus Turned James & John Down


James and John wanted to sit at Jesus’ side in glory. They wanted to be close (and, given the context, they wanted to be big shots).

[They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”][Mark 10]

Jesus said No.

Curiously, he wasn’t saying “No” to the desire to be a big shot. In the next breath, he shows them how to aspire to greatness appropriately. [Mark 10:42-45]

I’m thinking that Jesus said No because sitting on his right and left was too far away for his preferences. That means they’re separated, that means there’s (a little) distance between him and them.

He didn’t want them to be separate from him, even if they’re right next to him. He wanted them united in him [John 14:20, 15:4, 17:21]. He didn’t want them seated on the throne right next to his. He wanted them – just like he wants you and me – right there on his throne with him, in him [Ephesians 1:20]

So go ahead and aspire to greatness. Go ahead and aspire to “become great,” as Jesus encourages.

Just do it his way. Just do it from your place IN him. Don’t aspire to be separated, next to him. You are in him! Go with that! It’s way better than “next to”!


The Cutting of the Lord


Jesus promised us that our growth would be rewarded with pruning. We think, “Pruning? That’s cutting! That’s taking things away! That can’t be good!”


Here are some details about pruning.

• Pruning carefully will drastically increase the fruitfulness of the pruned tree. Cutting back results in a dramatic increase of fruit!
• Pruning at the right spot strengthens frame of the base plant. Pruning makes you stronger.
• Pruning is not actually optional (John 15:2). If we bear fruit, we will be pruned. If we do not bear fruit, we’ll be cut back very severely (but not killed), so that when we grow back, we’ll grow fruit. And when we do, we’ll be pruned for even more fruit.

So how does he prune us?

In John 15:3 Jesus says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” So him speaking his word to us is part of our cleaning, our pruning. This is him speaking to us, mostly through the Book, and a lot of that is about how to respond to the crap in our life.

In Luke 13:8, he gives us more detail. The conversation is about pruning, and in that parable, Jesus says to the Father, “Leave [him] alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it....”

Fertilizer in that day was manure: animal poo. So pruning may show up as crap in our life.

Here’s an example: in Luke 9, the boys are arguing about who's greatest. That's poo. The ambition to be great is actually good. The competition apparently is the poo.

So in 9:48, Jesus prunes them. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

This is what pruning looks like. That’s not as bad as we feared, is it?


Fight the Good fight of Faith

When we don’t question our beliefs, when we just accept what others have told us (whether from a pulpit, from a seminary, or from a publication), there are repercussions well beyond our own belief structures.

Some of the things that we’ve unquestioningly believed for a few generations have functioned as incredible obstacles for people who don’t know God’s nature; some of these people take our un-questioned beliefs literally, point out the very logical failures of those beliefs, and cause formidable damage to our Father’s reputation on the Earth.

One of those beliefs is the version of hell that was primarily outlined by an unbalanced Catholic politician, pharmacist and monk in the 14th century. His imagination was brilliant, but not particularly either Biblical or true. These details which did not trouble him, but his writings have been (probably unintentionally) adopted by the “turn or burn” evangelists as the default definition of “burn.”

Their depictions of Heaven were similarly unbiblical, and similarly designed to maximize the number of people running to the altar at the end of the service.


The result of such haphazard doctrinal foolishness included a large number of “converts” eager to escape this horrendous and unbiblical threat, often described as “buying fire insurance,” which, of course, was never God’s goal. 

My hope is that we will ask questions about what we’re being taught, to test the doctrines that teachers are telling us are “The Truth.”

·         I’ve observed that the more  any particular doctrine  is mirrored in the “distinctive” practices or beliefs of a denomination or a fellowship, the more those particular doctrines need to be challenged. This is true in both traditional denominations and more fundamental or Pentecostal fellowships and denominations.

·         One of the best ways to test our belief sets – in addition to questioning their conformity to Scripture’s simple contextual instruction on the topic – is to examine the fruit of the doctrine. And examine the fruit of that doctrine among believers and among non-believers: does this doctrine increase people’s love for God and love for each other, or does it regularly result in resentment, legalism, judgment, generally keeping people from embracing God’s love for them.


This is part of Paul’s admonitions to his apostolic leaders: “Pay no attention to … myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

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The First Commandment is a Threat.

May I share something kind of strange? OK. Thanks.

I've been thinking (yes, again)! (I do that.)

It seems to me that the first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3) isn’t really a commandment at all.

The commandment in question says simply, “You will have no other gods before me.” There’s no command in that verse. It doesn’t say “Don’t do it.” There is no “Thou shalt not…” in this. There’s actually no command in the first commandment.

What there is, however, is a threat.

It’s like this: “You ain’t ever gonna have other gods before me. If you set one up, I will knock it down. It will not succeed.”

This isn’t so much about what we must or must do. This doesn’t appear to be about us exercising our will power. This appears to be us being aware of God’s nature. If you enter into relationship with God, then God will be the big deal in your life.

I wonder if this might be why some folks get into trouble? I wonder if sometimes, other folks – and they themselves may not even know about it – put them on a pedestal, perhaps because they are open to being treated with reverence or with the kind of honor that really only belongs to One.

If I set up somebody as the authority in my life – maybe my pastor, maybe a famous author or conference speaker or maybe a godly broadcaster – if I listen to them for what I ought to believe, and how much money I should give and to whom, for the directions or limitations in my life, then I’ve set them up as a god in my life. Before the Lord.

And the threat is ready to be applied. God will need to remove them from the “before me” part of my life.

Now the real question applies: this is clearly an Old Testament / Old Covenant threat. Does this principle apply in the New Covenant? 



A Dream and its Sequel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----- Interlude -----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Father & Sons Development Co.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that I’m adopted. I was adopted by my Father at a very young age. I love my Father. He’s the best Dad in the world.

Did I tell you I’m working in the family business? The day I was adopted, I started working with my Dad. My Dad’s awesome like that.

When I was really little, he’d carry me in his arms as he walked through the factory floor. He’d stop and visit with machinists and foremen and janitors, pretty much everybody

Once when I was a bit older, I was building stuff with Legos™ in his office, while he worked on something. His desk overlooked the factory floor, and he saw something that caught his attention.

“Son,” he says. “You know Mr. Davidson? Tall guy. Red shirt. Big mustache?”

“I know him, Pop.”

“Son, would you go find Mr. Davidson and ask him to come up to see me? I’ve got something I want him to see.” And I toddled down the stairs to find Mr. Davidson. Soon he and Dad were talking seriously about something on Dad’s desk, and I added a new wheel to the thing I was building.

There was a time after I’d discovered books! Books are wonderful things! I was sitting in a chair in Dad’s office, sounding out a word, when he interrupted me. “Son, Miz Thompson works on the far side of the factory. Would you find her and give her this note?” He handed me the note, and I ran off to find Sally Thompson. She had a wonderful smile, and she used it on me sometimes.

I never did go to normal school. I would say that Dad homeschooled me, except it mostly happened in his office. Is there such a thing as officeschool? We had the best times together in his factory office.

He’d given me an arithmetic assignment that made me think pretty hard. If Mr. Jacobi needs to build this many boxes by the end of the month, how many does he need to build every day? Eventually I puzzled it out right (Dad showed me where I’d forgotten to carry the one, the first time), and he smiled this great big smile! “Son, would you please take this down to Marty Jacobi – he should be in the lunchroom right now – and show him how well you did this.” He wrote his initials on my math paper.

I found Marty. He gave me a cookie while he looked at my work. I munched, and then he smiled, and said, “You’ve got a real smart Dad, you know!” He was right, of course, but I already knew that!

One day he was reading letters. He had a lot of letters, and he read ’em all. One of them made him smile extra big, and he called me to himself. “Son, would you please go tell Bob Davidson that he’s got a new worker coming in the morning. He’ll want to put Cindy on the Quality Control team right away.” I delivered the message. Bob winked at me and nodded. “Sure thing!” he said.

One Thursday morning, Dad pushed my math books out of the way again, and set down his computer in their place. “Son, do you see this? What do you think that means?” and he pointed to a detail on the screen. This was a math test test, I felt sure. I was ready.

“That looks like trouble, Dad. Not big trouble, but trouble. Especially for the QC department. Um… Is that right?”

“That’s right, Son,” and he printed that page. “Would you explain this to Cindy in QC? And maybe talk with her about what to do with it, and bring me your favorite few suggestions.” Later, he picked one of our ideas, and implemented it. That was cool.

So I wasn’t altogether surprised when he set his computer on my desk some time later. He didn’t point to anything, but asked me, “What do you see here, Son?” I studied it a bit, and talked with him about the three or four things I saw. “What about this one?” “Hmm. I saw that, but didn’t think it was all that important,” I answered. “It’s all important, Son. Especially when this is trending,” and he pointed to the first detail I’d seen. “What happens when these happen on the same day?” I hadn’t thought of that! We talked about it and how to help the folks in the factory when that happened. I learn so much from my Dad.

And a few months later, those two things did happen on the same day. “Well, it happened, Dad.” “Yep, it surely did. Well, you know what to do.” I picked up my notes from our planning, headed down the stairs, and called the supervisors together. I explained the problem, and listened to their concerns. One of the guys had already figured it out, so I let him describe the adjustments we needed, filling in details when he needed help. We had the solution in place before the problem was big enough to slow production down.

Eventually we got to the point where I was really running the factory. Dad spent most of his time talking to individuals, or scheduling contractors for the expansion, and he spent a lot of time training some of the other kids, too. If I ran into a problem, he was always right there to help, and there wasn’t anything that he couldn’t figure out.

Figuring things out comes easy when you’re omniscient like my Dad is.

My Times with God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




The 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! 

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.

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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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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The Wordless Prayer of Faith

It happened during a gathering in our home. We’d had dinner some time ago, finished the dishes together, and now we were gathered in the living room, with mugs of hot tea, and the warm glow of good friendship.

It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to pray for individuals, for healing. We were all good friends, so there was much laughing and interaction while we prayed. That’s just who we were, and we didn’t feel the need to be different when we were with God.

We’d just finished praying for one person, and they got up from the “hot seat” (really a “hot hassock”: a place for them to sit in the middle of the group, so we could all see and all lay hands on if called for).

One of the women kind of hobbled to the center of the room and sat gently down on the hassock as soon as it was vacant. She announced that she’d hurt her back lifting something incorrectly, and needed it healed, please. We turned our attention to her, and asked God for his prayers for her; if Jesus only said what he heard Father saying, we figured that was a good model for us, so we waited for those prayers.

And we waited.

The silence went on for a while, and it became kind of awkward. The fact that it was silence was unusual: there wasn’t laughing or joking going on; people were listening for God’s prayers for our sister’s back.

And we waited. I asked a couple of the more prophetic people if they had anything, but they didn’t. This was unusual. So we waited.

Then, quietly, a teenager in the back of the room giggled. Yeah, I thought, this is rather odd: all these adult believers can’t even pray for one woman’s back. I can see why she’d laugh.

And her laughter continued. She tried, for a moment, to stifle it, but that never works, and it didn’t work this time. OK, so she’s laughing. What is God saying, for how to pray for this back?

But the laughing teenager was herself funny, and a couple more people glanced at her and chuckled. And they fought it, and they, too, were unsuccessful. And the laughter spread. And nobody knew why.

And soon, nobody was even trying to pray for the woman’s strained back; we were just laughing, loudly, uproariously. We didn’t know why we were laughing, but it was clearly not something we had the capacity to stop!

And after four or five minutes of unrestrained hilarity, the laughter slowly faded back out, ending as it began, with the happy teenager in the corner. Maybe five or ten minutes had passed.

And the woman who had sat down with the hurt back now stood up and stretched. “Aaaah.” she announced. “That’s much better. No more pain. Thanks guys.” And she walked, confidently, completely upright, out to the kitchen for a fresh cup of tea.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, chuckled again, and decided that we like hanging out with a sneaky God.



Some Experiences with Judgment in the Courts of Heaven

Some years ago, Jesus took me to a new place that I hadn’t expected: it was a tall, oak, judge’s bench. He took me around the back of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, he sat me in the great chair behind the bench, and when I sat, I was wearing black robes and I had a wooden gavel in my right hand.

I’ve learned to trust him in that place, and so I didn’t resist him, though my sitting in that chair was more of a novelty that first time than it was about actually judging anything. Since then, I’ve begun to learn some things about judgment, how important it is, how powerful it is, and especially how very good it is.

I was charged with judging my brothers and sisters, but judging from Heaven’s perspective, from the perspective of a King who’s madly in love with them, who’s unreasonably proud of them, who’s amazed and overjoyed with their every step of faith. So the judgments that I’ve been invited to pronounce are about God’s favor on his children; I’ve been charged with finding them guilty of pleasing their Father, and sentencing them to be loved and adored for all their natural lives, and beyond! It’s better work than I first feared it would be; I’ve actually come to love that bench.

But some of the judicial work has been darker than that. Once, I was praying intensely for a dear sister against whom hell was having a measure of success. Jesus brought me around to the stairs and up to the bench. I could see more clearly from up there, and with his help, I saw the cloud of filthy spirits that were harassing my sister. “Judge them,” he said, and I understood.

I began to recognize their crimes, and as I identified them – the spirits and their crimes – I spoke its name. As I did, it was as if the gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty!” to each charge. With each tap, a demon was bound and hauled of. Soon, I got into it, reaching into the Spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime: the gavel banged and the demon was bound. This, too, was judgment I could get excited about.

I needed to be careful, in my exuberance, to still judge accurately, according to what was true, not merely because I felt bad for my sister’s misery: this was a matter of justice, not pity, and it was a mighty justice that was handed down that day, and other days like it. I’ve developed the opinion that this judge’s bench is an excellent place for intercession.

There was one day, though, that I still shake my head about. It happened some years back, and I’m only now understanding what may have actually gone on.

God the Father somberly walked up to me, and he was looking really quite serious: he was cloaked in a rich black judge’s robe, and his eyes were as intense and alive with fire as I’ve ever seen them. With his eyes fixed on mine, he slowly opened his robe. I was surprised to see a red plaid shirt underneath, but before I had opportunity to react in surprise, he pulled a shotgun from the depths of his open robe, and handed it to me. Startled, I took it from him and glanced at it. Yep, that’s a shotgun, all right.

I looked up again, and now the robe was gone, and with it, the stern look from Father’s face. Instead, he sported a red hunter’s cap and a huge grin, and he held up a shotgun of his own. Movement caught my eye, and I saw Jesus, similarly attired with plaid shirt, red hat, grin and shotgun. Father asked, “You ready, Son?” but before I could answer, the air above our heads was suddenly filled with demons, their leathery wings flapping frantically as they zigged and zagged about the room.

Father laughed mightily, hoisted his shotgun and fired; a demon exploded into a black cloud. Jesus cheered and blasted another one. Soon all three of us were shouting and hollering and laughing uproariously. And blasting demons to tiny black dust. Shotgun blasts were interspersed with shouts of encouragement, great fits of laughter and the soft splatter of the demons shards. They had met their maker, and it had not gone well for them. He is a very good shot, actually.

I had enjoyed this experience so much that I hadn’t stopped to ask what it meant until recently; the answer wasn’t particularly surprising; something about “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” But the experience was, frankly, a great deal of fun. “Spiritual warfare” and “fun”: two concepts I never expected to put together.

That hunting party only happened the one time. I think it was more about teaching me a lesson than a regular part of our business in that place. He’s a good teacher, by the way: I’ve never forgotten that experience, though I’ve been slower to learn its lesson.

Why Does God Speak Cryptically

Anyone who has learned to hear Father’s voice has asked the question: Why does he sometimes speak in strange pictures and obscure messages? Why not just speak clearly?

One of the main reasons (in my observation at least) that Father speaks obscurely is because his goals are different from mine. If he spoke clearly, we’d grab that information and presumably do something with it. But neither the information nor the doing is his primary goal.

Father’s primary goal is relationship. And toward that goal, he speaks to us. Most of what he says to us is about us, or is our personal (and probably private) prayer assignment. Most of the tiny remainder of what he says to us is for our metron, our close circle of relationships: church congregation, home group, family, etc. Very little is to be shared, and so he speaks obscurely, in order that we won’t share private conversation too quickly.

And it is an error, in my opinion, to assume that God is speaking literally. He has been pretty clear about that (see 1Corinthians 13:12, Numbers 12:6-8). And so he speaks obscurely is because he’s more interested in you than he is in the information.

So I encourage you to go for walks with God: talk out loud. Tell him about your day, and how you feel about your day. Ask him about his day, and how he feels about his day, or about your day. Talk about your favorite music, your favorite flowers, and why they’re your favorites. Ask about his.

Avoid talking about prophetic stuff for a long while, either the process of prophesying, or the “prophetic words” he or others have spoken to you. This is about relationship, not the business of prophesying.

This is a favorite topic of mine: intimacy with Father on His terms. Anyway, lest I get overly long-winded, I leave you with these two thoughts. They both apply to the subject at hand, though the application is not overly obvious.  


One more detail: it’s pretty clear that the times, they are a-changing. It’s my opinion that this kind of intimacy with Father will be more important, rather than less important, as the world gets more tumultuous and our lives get busier. 

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? 

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.