I was driving somewhere or the other, minding my own business chugging down the freeway on cruise control. I was thinking about stuff. I do that.
Along comes this little white sports car; it passed me, and pulled right in front of me and slowed down, not a lot, but enough that I needed to drop out of cruise control and change lanes. So I did.
Then it sped up again, pulled in front of me again, and slowed down again. I wrestled with the temptation to say some things, but about that time it turned off onto the exit lane. I wrestled some more, and George Carlin’s quote came to mind (“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”).
I understand that Carlin was describing human judgmental human nature, not human driving, so I decided not to call the driver of the white car any sort of names; I recognized that whatever things I called him would function as a curse, cuz words do that, so I restrained myself. That’s not Dad’s way. I just kept driving. No big deal.
It was then I “heard” a video game “be-doop” noise in my spirit, and had the sense that I’d just “leveled up.” OK. That was interesting.
“Now I can trust you with authority in your words more, Son.”
Wait, what? That was a test? I had no idea!
I had a million questions, but he was patient with me. (That’s not actually uncommon.)
He reminded me of the parable of the Talents and its lesson: if I’m faithful with whatever he gives me responsibility for, the reward is more of it, and specifically more authority in the Kingdom (Matthew 25: “I will make you ruler over many things!”).
He explained that the principle was true with my words as well. As I’m faithful with using my words in ways that extend and expand the Kingdom, I’ll find that my words will have more effect.
I thought you might enjoy sharing my lesson here.
I've had my attention drawn to the fact that the American church system (and possibly most of the church in western civilization) has an addiction problem.
More specifically, I see two addiction problems.
First, I find myself seeing that the average church-goer is pretty seriously addicted to the church feeding them spiritually, wiping their noses, changing their stinky diapers; not really taking responsibility for themselves, and not really able to stand as a believer without the church and its staff and its programs propping them up.
Second, I find myself aware that - whether intentionally or unintentionally (and both are present) - the institution and leaders of the western church are encouraging and sustaining that addiction.
Sure, it's the addicts' tithes and offerings that fund the buildings, programs and salaries. But the attentive, occasionally adoring congregations are fueling leaders' insecurities and need for recognition and significance as well.
It's at this point that I see visions of Christians wanting to take responsibility for their own lives trying to leave, and running into high barriers and guards with dogs coming after them.
Like I said, this sense has been in my face for a while, and it's come out of the blue. This is leading me to ponder, to pray, and so press into Papa on behalf of the Bride.
• Sometimes God’s plans for us are bigger than we are. So he needs to increase US before he can release those plans and dreams for us to walk out.
• That was true for Jacob (Israel) and the 40 or so members of his extended family. God had plans for him that called for a nation, not a family.
• Part of the purpose for their 400 years in Egypt was to make them big enough for what God wanted to give them.
• But while they were in Egypt, the enemy specifically targeted their growth: “Kill all the baby boys!” the enemy said. (That sounds a lot like the “kill all the black babies” that Planned Parenthood started with, or the “kill all the baby girls” that some cultures have practiced.)
• And yet, in spite of the opposition, God accomplished all the growth he had planned on.
As I reflected on all this, I felt God whispering, “Some of my kids are in a growing season, and they don’t know it. And sometimes the enemy is particularly opposing their growth. That is not going to stop me. The only thing that will stop me is if my children stop trusting me, stop walking with me.”
Is that YOU he’s talking about?
Let’s trust God, even when we can’t see what he’s up to.
Point One: God has proven himself to be a skiled planner.
If you look at the remarkable number (hundreds!) of advance plans (sometimes
called prophecies) that he prepared in advance of his Messiah’s appearance on
earth, details as far back as Genesis 3, you realize that God has some mad
skills at planning ahead.
Point Two: God is good. That’s not negotiable. God is always (always!) in favor of his kids, always working for our good.
Point Three: In Exodus, God is pretty badass. His plagues confront the Egyptian “gods” and show them to be powerless. Then he leads a couple of million people out of slavery right on the schedule he had announced several centuries earlier.
And here’s where my ears seriously perk up.
God, the omniscient, omnipotent super-planner leads his people into the desert, famous for having neither food nor water. And what a surprise, the people have no water, no food.
So they complained. Like slaves do.
They wanted food (Exodus 16). So he fed them meat (quail: good eating!) in the evening, and bread (manna) the next morning (v12).
Then they complained about not having water (Exodus 17), and in the midst of their whining, they asked for water (v2). And God gave them water. He used a pretty epic miracle (v6) to do it, too.
We’ve all heard sermons about their complaining, and how that irritated God and really frustrated their leader, Moses. Reasonable lessons to draw from these stories.
I was talking to God the other day as we were going through Exodus. “You’re so good at planning. Why did you lead them into the desert without food or water?”
And suddenly, my mind was taken back to The Magician’s Nephew, CS Lewis’s book about the beginning of Narnia. Polly and Digory were on a mission for Aslan, the Christ figure, and they were hungry:
“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse. “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
And Father whispered to me, “I wanted them to ask me, so I could answer them.”
I realized that God was training them how to come to him to meet their needs: his goal is relationship, a relationship of trust.
Someone smart once said, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” God works on our behalf to teach us that faith, how to relate to him in faith.
He’s good that way.
Before you knew how to ride a bike, you were a pedestrian. You had to walk (or run) everywhere, or have someone else take you where you wanted to go. You were limited.
After that day, you could still choose to walk (or you could still ask someone to take you), but you had a new choice: you could ride your bicycle! You had access to new forms of transportation. You were powerful.
And ever since, you’ve had that ability. We even use it as an aphorism: “It’s just like riding a bicycle,” we say, when we want to describe a skill that you never really lose.
That was not merely an experience to be remembered (though it was memorable). That was an invitation to come back to that place again and again.
And the more I think about the nature of God’s relationship with his children, the more I see him training us for participating with him in the Kingdom we are inheriting with Jesus.
Remember, It’s just like riding a bicycle.
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?
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.
If somebody is telling you a flat-out lie, and I report, “This is what they’re saying,” without describing it as the truth or as a lie, Then am I telling you the truth to you? Or am I lying to you?
Related to that:
If somebody is telling a flat-out lie, and the Bible reports, “This is what they said,” without describing it as either truthful or a lie, Then is the Bible speaking truth? Or is it lying?
Of course, I’m going to argue that if the Bible is just reporting what they said, that this it is telling the truth, even if what it is truthfully reporting is a lie. Even when the Bible accurately quotes their lying words, it is telling the truth, and you can have confidence that they did, indeed, tell that lie.
For example, when Bildad the Shuhite says to Job, “When your children sinned against him, [God] gave them over to the penalty of their sin,” [Job 8:4] and the Bible truthfully reports Bildad’s fake news, then the Bible is still speaking the truth, even if Job’s children never sinned, and even if Bildad can’t tell his sphincter from a scepter.
Or when the Bible accurately quotes a snake calling God a liar, and declaring “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” [Genesis 3:5], then the Bible is still telling the truth, even though the words it is quoting are a flat-out lie, literally straight from the devil’s mouth.
This leads to a very awkward and uncomfortable place. I’m going to say this bluntly:
- Not everything the Bible says is true.
- Some of what the Bible says is a lie, because
- Sometimes the Bible truthfully reports people’s lies.
That’s going to trigger some folks, but take a deep breath and think about it: we’ve just discussed two specific lies that the Bible quotes. The Bible accurately (“truthfully”) reports the lies. But they’re still lies. They’re still in the Bible. The Bible contains these two lies (and many more).
What’s even more challenging is that the Bible doesn’t generally identify whether people are speaking the truth or telling a lie, just like it doesn’t comment on whether what they’re doing is wise or stupid. It never commented that the snake was lying, or that Bildad was lying.
And there are some epic examples of stupid choices and stupid thinking that the Bible reports to us. If you think about it, you can think of several yourself.
“But what about that verse that says it’s all inspired?”
The verse actually says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” [2 Timothy 3:16] Yep. That’s what it says. And yes, this is true!
So yeah, it’s still good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Some of it, by virtue of accurately reporting people’s stupid choices, is particularly helpful for the rebuking and correcting parts! (Yes, David really did seduce his good friend’s wife, and then murder that friend to cover it up. No, we are not teaching that you need to do the same thing!)
In other words, yes, the Bible is still precious, and it is still God-breathed and useful nutrition for saints. But like all nutrition, some of it needs to be chewed well before the nutrients are available to help saints grow.
Don’t just grab pieces and swallow them whole. Find out who said it, who they said it to, and the circumstances they were said in. Learn to chew your food carefully.