Showing posts with label maturity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maturity. Show all posts

Thursday

Transactionalism. Not a Lovely Thing.


“Transactionalism” is the belief that if I do this thing, then God will do that thing. It says that if I do the right things, then God will do the thing I want him to do.

That’s how a lot of people understand religion, understand the nature of God. If I do this, then God does that.


And it’s why a lot of people are eager to be told what to do to get the favor that they want, that they need. That’s what they’re looking for from the Bible, from Christianity: they want to know the rules. What are the things that I need to do to get the reward I want?

That reward might be heaven after they die. Or it might be a peaceful life in the here and now. Or “enough” money (or “just a little more”). Or the perfect relationship.

If we do the right things, if we choose this and shun that, if we hold our mouth just right, God will give us that thing.

That’s remarkable fertilizer. That’s the generous product that comes from the south end of a north-bound steer.

Jesus was clear: we’re the treasure (the coin, the sheep, the son) that he’s come looking for, to draw to himself. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Before we did all the things.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are still consequences for our actions. Just not with God.

If I make stupid choices, then stupid consequences are mine. And sometimes other people make stupid choices that also affect  how my life goes. But in all that, God is still with me. And not because I did the things that satisfy his requirements.

Yeah, free will is real. I really do have the power to screw up my life. So do you. But we do not have the power to manipulate God to do what I want.

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. 

Glad I’m Not Domesticated


I gradually drifted toward wakefulness the other morning. I rubbed my eyes, and looked at the clock, and rubbed them again. This was later than I expected.

I stumbled out the bedroom door, and the cat was standing next to her food dish, yowling for my attention. The food bowl was empty, and she is used to being fed earlier than this, thank you very much.


Later, she stood at the back door, watching the birds on the patio, and yowled again. I’d like to go out now, and chase some birds, please. She gave up after I’d ignored her for a while, and wandered down the hall toward her potty box.

A thought crossed my mind. “Aren’t you glad you’re not domesticated.” My mind went through some quick acrobatics in response: Me? Domesticated? Hah!

And then, wait. There was a season when I couldn’t feed myself. I had to “hold on!” until Sunday, when the pastor would spoon-feed me the same basic, elementary doctrines that I’d been spoon fed last year.

There was a season when I needed someone else to let me go outside once in a while. Unless I had assurances from senior Christians, I couldn’t trust that it was OK to go to things outside the church organization and church programs.

And there was a season when I needed someone else to change my potty box, or maybe change my diapers, because – even as an adult Christian – I couldn’t deal with my sins and failures myself. I always needed someone to point out to me, “Hey, that’s really not right,” or I always needed to have people pray for me to get me past some stumbling point. (Don’t go too far: prayer for one another is wonderful. But to always need others to pray for you to get past any trial is not a sign of health or maturity!)

So I stood there, watching my cat saunter down the hall towards the potty box that I’d cleaned out for her, I realized, not all that long ago, that was me. I had actually spent a good portion of my life domesticated, needing others to take care of every little thing for my life, as a human, as a man, and as a Christian.

Suddenly humbled, I nodded my head gratefully. “Yes, Sir. Yes, I am very grateful I’m not domesticated. Or at least not as domesticated as I used to be.”


The Vengeance of God


Isaiah 61 begins, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor...”



This much is familiar to us. It’s the part that Jesus quoted when he began his public ministry (Luke 4). It was him announcing, “This is my job description for the next three and a half years. This is the what Messiah will be among you.”

But the statement He quotes from in Isaiah 61 goes on; Jesus actually stopped in the middle of a sentence. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve heard - and I agree with them - saying “That’s because it wasn’t yet time for the next part.” Which reads:

“...and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

We are clearly no longer in the days of Messiah, at least the days of his earthly ministry. I wonder if we’re now in the next bit, “the day of vengeance of our God.”

Look at how this verse defines the day of God’s vengeance. It continues on and describes God’s vengeance as:

¤ to comfort all who mourn,
¤ to provide for those who grieve in Zion,
¤ to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
¤ [to bestow on them] the oil of joy instead of mourning,
¤ [to bestow on them] a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Resulting in:

¤ They will be called oaks of righteousness,
¤ [They will be called] the planting of the Lord.
¤ [They will be called] for the display of his splendor.

That is how Isaiah describes “the day of vengeance of our God”: comforting, providing for, blessing his victims, until they are firmly established and displaying his splendor.

Hmm. I  believe I’ve misunderstood God’s vengeance.

I had learned about vengeance from Romans 12:19, which tells me, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”

I’ve always interpreted this as, “Don’t you beat ‘em up and make ‘em pay. God can beat on ‘em far more severely than you can!”

That was my understanding of vengeance. It was the image of God as my hit man, so I didn’t need to dirty my hands (or dirty my soul). He’d do the dirty work for me.

If I was really honest, the idea that I’d always had modeled for me was “God save me and destroy my enemies!” And I rather adopted that idea too, not in so many words, but this was the worldview from which I prayed.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s right any more. That’s not what his vengeance is; where he’s leading us.

Rather, God appears to want to save me AND save my enemies! (What? He loves those idiots, too?)

Jesus stopped quoting Isaiah before he mentioned the vengeance of God. But that didn’t stop him preaching these values.

Everybody loved it when he quoted Isaiah and announced, “That’s right here, right now.” They all smiled and nodded and clapped politely.

But when he went on, things changed.

Seven verses later, Luke records, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”

That’s a pretty big attitude change. What pissed them off so badly?

I’m glad you asked. In between, he declared, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

He was preaching that God wanted to save Israel AND save the gentiles.

It angered the religious community then, and it seems to anger the religious community now. But that’s not my issue here.

My focus here is that this idea that God wants to save us AND save “them” too is far more consistent with God’s character than the idea that God iss our hit man, on duty to smite our enemies so we don’t need to dirty our hands.

I remember a verse from my youth (from when I used to focus on sin as I was presenting the “good news”): “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). That’s him saving his enemies.

I could go on. Now that I stop and think about it (and I’ve been thinking about this for months), I find the value all over Scripture, now that I’m beginning to be willing to see it.

But for now, I’m going to just make this statement:

The vengeance of God is not about  smiting my enemies. It’s about saving them, about blessing them with everything he’s blessing me with.

The Echoes of Greatness



Back when Seattle’s Kingdome was still up, I had an interesting experience there. I was with some friends who were setting up for a Promise Keepers thing (yeah, that long ago).

They shushed all the workers, and waited for it to get quiet. Then they dropped the lid on a huge equipment case. It made a formidable “Bang” as I expected. Then it echoed. And echoed. And echoed. It was nearly a minute before that single bang stopped rumbling around that room.

Another time, I was with a musician (a gift I do not have) at a canyon with a solid echo. She made music with the canyon. She sang some things, and the canyon echoed them back later, and then she sang harmony or rhythm with it. It was amazing. She was literally singing with herself through the time warp of that canyon’s echo.

While I don’t have the music gene, I do have the science gene. Did you know that both radar and sonar are both examples of creating pictures using echoes? Sonar uses echoes of sound under water. Radar uses echoes of radio waves in the air. It’s amazing how much detail they can come up with if they’re careful.

Sound is an interesting thing. It’s just stuff vibrating. Most commonly it’s air vibrating, but sound travels through most anything that will pass vibrations on. Water is especially good. Even space is not completely empty; many kinds of vibrations do still pass through space.

Another thing about sound is that it takes time to get from here to there. Light takes time too, but compared with light or electricity or radio waves, sound is really slow. That’s why when we see a lightning strike, the crash of thunder is delayed.

(You can measure the distance to the strike: every five seconds of delay indicates a mile; a twenty second delay means the strike was four miles away. Physics is also useful!)

One more factoid about sound: it loses volume as it travels distance (and therefore time). It’s a logarithmic scale, so every time the distance doubles, the volume drops by another six decibels, or about half of it’s energy.

So if the thunder you heard twenty seconds after you saw the lightning strike was 90 decibels, then twenty miles further away it will drop to 84 decibels, but it won’t drop that much again until it hits 78 miles from the source, but that won’t happen until almost a minute and a half after the strike. The next time it drops by half will be 160 miles (and almost three minutes) away. And it keeps going.

Sound loses half its energy every time you double the distance (or the time) since it was created. But that means that no sound ever goes away completely. It just keeps losing a portion of its energy. In fact, science nerds have actually measured the echoes of the Big Bang, from 13.8 billion years ago. It was very quiet, and they had to listen closely, but they did hear it (and they won a Nobel Prize for it),

OK. Sorry for the nerd-fest there. But we’re not quite done yet.

When God spoke and said, “Let there be light,” he made a sound. (My screwball personal opinion is that this sound actually was the Big Bang, but who knows.) Because he made a sound, therefore by the laws of physics, the echoes of his voice are still rattling around the universe.

The other thing that happened when God spoke and said, “Let there be light,” was that light was, in fact, created. When God speaks – and this is one of the basic facts of the universe – God’s voice carries not only information, it also carries power; it carries the power to accomplish what is declared. Think of it as the design for the creation and the funding to make it happen.

(And that, of course, is why our own words are so important. Being created in God’s “image and likeness,” our words also carry both information and power, though maybe not as much as his. We need to wield that power intentionally, not carelessly, but regardless of our means, power is wielded when we speak.)
Now here’s where I’m going. If the echoes of God’s creative statements are still echoing around the universe (and they are), does that also mean that the information and the power that they carried is also still echoing around the universe?

Image result for star nurseryI recall that there are a whole lot of places in the universe (seriously: trillions of such places) where ordinary matter is condensing into big blobs of matter, where friction and gravity ignites them and a new star is born, spewing forth newly created light where no light had been a moment ago. That looks to me like an echo of “Let there be light.”

The part that really captures my attention is a little later in that same Bible chapter, where God spoke again. Part of those words included, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.”

What if those words that resulted in the creation of mankind are still echoing around the universe, echoing around the Earth? Would that mean that God’s creativity is still at work forming mankind, forging mankind? Or do you think our creation was a one-time thing, and God isn’t still refining his masterpiece?

I have begun to wonder if we as a species are still in the process of creation. We’re not just starting out, but neither are we finished and done. I’m thinking that God is still molding and forming and making us into the mature Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom that he’s always planned for us to be.

The human race is pretty untidy. But it’s not broke. It’s just not finished yet.



Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1John 3:2

Tuesday

Audacious Prayer


Conversation, even online conversation, is a useful tool for discovering what’s in the heart, discovering what you’ve begun to believe that you didn’t realize you believed. These are some of the best conversations in my world.

Recently, I’ve been conversing about audacious prayers, “crazy prayers” with some good folks, and I realized some things that I have begun to believe.

I’ve been burned badly by “crazy prayers,” my crazy prayers, that I’ve prayed which were not actually on the heart of my Father. He graciously answered them anyway. It took the better part of a decade to recover from one of them. His grace, his kindness during that season were overwhelming.

And I’ve prayed some “crazy prayers” (for things I frankly did NOT even believe at the time) because he said to, which he then answered. Some of these completely revolutionized my life and my family’s life, and others changed the shape of my neighborhood, my city.

As a result, I’m all for “crazy prayers” that are in His heart – whether they were in his heart to begin with and I just figured it out, or whether they started in my heart, and he’s supporting my free will. But if I don’t find them in Father’s heart, I’m pretty gun-shy about what I’m asking for, what I’m speaking about.

I believe I’ve come to this: the more audacious the prayer, the more I need to have confidence that it is in my Father’s heart before I speak them out.

But if I hear these things from him, if I find even the most audacious, the craziest prayers reflecting his heart, then yeah, let’s do this! 



Thursday

How Jesus & the Apostles used "Repent"


I really love listening to the Bible. I’ve been listening through the gospels recently.

And wouldn’t you know it? It got me thinking again! How *does* that keep happening? (I love Holy Spirit’s lessons!)

I’m aware that the word “repent” has been one of the stumbling blocks for a lot of folks, particularly for people who have been raised in church or in religious households. So I listen closely when that word comes up.

And it came up today. I perked up.


But first, a little background:

We have two different camps in the Western church for how to interpret the word.

The traditional view, particularly popular in Fundamentalist and Pentecostal circles, is the view that understands that repenting involves focusing on action. The focus is generally on repenting *from* something.

If I’m repenting in this view, you can tell by looking. There probably will be confession of sin. There certainly will be commitment to changing certain behaviors. And if I’m doing a really good job of it, there will probably be tears and maybe even snot.

This has become the western, cultural definition of the English word, “repent.”

But the word that the writers of the gospels used for “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeō.” (They didn’t actually speak English.)

The word “metanoeō,” though, doesn’t actually speak of sins or choices or tears.

It’s a combination of two words: “meta” means “in the midst of” and “noeō” which is “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding.” These words indicate that repenting is something that happens in the midst of understanding.

Our word, “metanoeō” itself, literally means “to change one's mind” or “have a new thought.” Apple caught this idea really with their ad campaign “Think Differently.” Their goal was that people would repent from using Windows computers.

And so the more current understanding of the word “repent” is about “changing how I think,” and if I’m repenting in this view, you may or may not be able to see it happen. On the other hand, if you’re attentive, you can tell that it has happened, because I’ll be doing things differently.

And that’s where my thinking started today. Those are really different thoughts, and the folks who hold to those views hold them pretty passionately. There have been arguments.

I asked myself, How can I know beyond question which way that God thinks about repentance, because I really want my thinking to follow the paths that his thinking leads.

And I realized that when Jesus or the disciples used the word “Repent” in their preaching, that the context of that preaching would indicate what the word meant to them. I wanted to know what it meant to them.

I reflected on this. Rather a lot. All I need to do is “watch” them preach, and observe how they used the word. This might be easier than I thought.

If they held the first view of repentance, turning from sin and confessing, then that value would be part of their preaching. When they spoke of repenting, they’d talk about what to repent from, they’d emphasize changing behavior as the priority in their message, and they’d be pleased when people confessed their sins and wept. We’d be able to observe these things if this was their message.

But if their use of the word was about “changing your mind” or “thinking differently,” then their sermons would involve either words or actions that would help people to see things differently. They might explain what something means, or they might demonstrate new and different values, or they might contrast the way things are now with they way they used to be.

As you read the gospels and Acts, keep these thoughts in mind: besides using the word “repent,” what else is their sermon accomplishing?

The passage that triggered these thoughts is in Mark 6, as Jesus sends the boys out on their first missions trip. Then Mark says, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

Now all I needed to do was examine their behaviors and decide if they were focusing on the sin that people needed to walk away from, or if they were demonstrating a new way of thinking that these people hadn’t considered before.

They preach “repent” (which literally means “change your thinking”), and then they demonstrate deliverance and healing. They demonstrated the values of the Kingdom the people had never heard about before: this king is about deliverance; this king is about healing; this king is about your well-being.

I’m thinking that when the disciples used the word “repent,” they meant “Change how you’re thinking, or you’ll miss this Kingdom.”

Now the disclaimers for folks who have always understood “repent” as coming to the altar in tears, promising to stop sinning: Those are fine values. But they’re more likely to be the fruit of repentance than repentance itself.

And occasionally Jesus would say, “Go and sin no more.” But that was never the focus of his message. That seemed to me to be tagged on at the end, and it only happened sometimes. Not a priority.

I need to repent. I need to change how I see God.

For example: if I stop seeing God as a grumpy old man with judgment and smiting on his mind, and instead I see a loving Father who will pay any price, ANY price, in order to tell me he loves me, that absolutely will have an effect on my actions.

I’ll fall in love. And when I’m in love, I won’t want to do the stupid things that will endanger that love relationship. So I will no longer drink or smoke or chew or go out with girls who do, not because I’m adhering to a standard, not out of fear of judgment, but because that’s what love does.

I suggest that we look at the words and the actions of God – both New Testament and Old – as a loving God, who will do anything for his children, and give up on the grumpy judge, and see how that changes how you respond to God.

I’ll bet you it’s easier to love a passionate father than a grumpy judge! And it’s easier to obey him. 

Let's preach this message: “You might need to change your thinking. God’s not like you thought. May I tell you what he’s really like? Here, let me show you!”



Are We Mere Men?


I’ve been struck by how much vitriol and, well, hatred that there is toward certain congressional leaders among Christians. I’m struck by how much vitriol and, well, hatred that there is toward President Trump among other Christians.  

I’m actually quite disappointed in how free Christians are about telling the world of their hatred for various leaders in Washington.

Let me hurriedly add that I have no great love for their political shenanigans! I abhor their apparent willful dismantling of the American constitution. I can see why so many American patriots have such hatred toward them.

But Christians? Really?

I get that we care about what’s going on with our country. I get it that icky things are being revealed.  And believe me, I understand that what has been going on with our country over the past several years is pretty bad, about as bad as anything since the Boston Tea Party. I get that.

And I also get that we want to vent our frustration about what’s going on, and our frustration about our political powerlessness.

But this is not how sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God express themselves.

I find myself thinking of 1 Corinthians 3:3: “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”

“Mere men.” What an indictment. But it appears to be a pretty accurate description of so *many* of the angry, hateful, disrespectful comments I’m hearing from Christians, that I’m seeing posted on Christians’ walls. “Mere men.”

Mere men are people who are swayed more by the news media, than they are by the Word of God. I can tell, because the Word of God tells me to “love without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9) and that our love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) We’re not “bearing” or “enduring” all that well right now, are we?

Then after all that, the Book, the Word of God, our Orders from Heaven, gets even more direct: "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

This is how sons and daughters of the Kingdom respond.

Politically, we are pretty powerless. But that’s on purpose: we are not primarily a political people. We are born to be a people who live from heaven, toward Earth, who walk in a body among the physical and political places and events of this planet, but fundamentally, the reality is that our primary reality is being seated in Heaven, seated with the Son of God, sharing his throne, at the right hand of the Father’s throne.

Fundamentally, the power we wield is not *supposed* to be merely human. The power that we are born to wield is the power of the Kingdom we’re born into: the power of Heaven. The power that will halt and reverse the damage done by various administrations, various congresses is wielded by the means of prayer: by “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-- for presidents and all those in authority.”

We are a prophetic people, but it’s not legit prophecy to declare what’s wrong and how mad we are about it. That’s the work of “mere men.” That’s submitting to the principalities of this world. Outrage demonstrates our failure.

Our prophetic calling is to call out the solution – which nobody else can even see – to the problem – which nobody needs help seeing. Our calling is to draw resources from Heaven and implement them on earth. To implement them in the House and the Senate and the White House in Washington DC. To implement them in the schools and businesses and news organizations in our communities.

Our calling is to be the fulfillment of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Now let’s see if we can go beyond being “mere men" 

– Nor'west Prophetic

Audacious Prayer




Conversation, even online conversation, is a useful tool for discovering what’s in the heart, discovering what you’ve begun to believe that you didn’t realize you believed. These are some of the best conversations in my world.

Recently, I’ve been conversing about audacious prayers, “crazy prayers” with some good folks, and I realized some things that I have begun to believe.


I’ve been burned badly by “crazy prayers” that I’ve prayed which were not on the heart of my Father, but which he graciously answered anyway. Took the better part of a decade to get over one of them. His grace, his kindness during that decade were overwhelming.

And I’ve prayed some “crazy prayers” (for things I frankly did NOT believe at the time) at his direction, which he then answered, and which revolutionized my life and my family’s life, others that changed the shape of my neighborhood, my city.

As a result, I’m all for “crazy prayers” that are in His heart – whether they were in his heart to begin with and I just figured it out, or whether they started in my heart, and he’s supporting my free will. 

But if I don’t find them in Father’s heart, I’m pretty gun-shy about what I’m asking for, what I’m speaking about.

I believe I’ve come to this: the more audacious the prayer, the more I need to have confidence that it is in my Father’s heart before I speak them out.

But if I hear them from him, if I find even the most audacious, the craziest prayers reflecting his heart, then yeah, let’s do this!



Decently and In Order


“On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place.  Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear!  Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them.  They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned! …

When the people of the city heard the roaring sound, crowds came running to where it was coming from, stunned over what was happening, because each one could hear the disciples speaking in his or her own language.  Bewildered, they said to one another, “Aren’t these all Galileans? … Yet we hear them speaking of God’s mighty wonders in our own dialects!”  They all stood there, dumbfounded and astonished, saying to one another, “What is this phenomenon?”

But others poked fun at them and said, “They’re just drunk on new wine.”

Peter stood up with the eleven apostles and shouted to the crowd. “Listen carefully, my fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem. You need to clearly understand what’s happening here.  These people are not drunk like you think they are, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”

This [Acts 2, TPT] is what happened at the first gathering of the saints after Jesus left for Heaven. That was quite a meeting. Functionally, it would be hard to distinguish this “church service” from a riot in the streets. This was not tidy.


By the Law of First Mention – this being that first meeting where the Holy Spirit shows up – this meeting is our standard for when the Holy Spirit shows up in our midst.

This is the Scriptural precedent for 1 Corinthians 14:40: “All things should be done decently and in order.” [RSV]

This is what Holy Spirit considers “decently and in order” when he comes among us.

Let everything be done decently and in order. 




Angels Support the Values of the Kingdom


It was one of those days where it seemed there were more crazy people on the roads than usual: cars pulling out right in front of me, crowding me off the street, the guy turning right from the left lane right in front of me.
 
I was not amused.

Eventually I made my way to the freeway, and took a deep breath. “This feels like an attack,” I realized.

So I prayed. I invited angels to protect me as I made my way across town to my appointment.


And as soon as I prayed, I knew I was wrong: I didn’t need to invite them to protect me; they already were protecting me. They were the reason I hadn’t actually been hit by any of those crazies on the road. That green Volkswagen had stopped so suddenly was because an angel was stopping it from running into me.

So I thanked the angels for their effective service, and invited them to continue. And I went after any assignment against me, cancelling that. That felt better, and I encountered no more crazies that day.

And Father & I talked about this as we drove. I was thankful for the protection of his servants – our servants – on the roads, but if the angels are protecting me, why were there so many near misses if they were on duty? Why not just keep things safe and sane, why not stop the green Volkswagen five or six feet earlier so I didn’t jump out of my skin with that near miss?

This is the part I’d like to share with you, see what you think.

Angels are (essentially) employees of the Kingdom of God, serving those who will inherit salvation, right? So their actions will be consistent with the values of the Kingdom, yes?

It floated into my mind: “What is the currency of Heaven? What is it that moves His hand?”

Faith. Faith is the currency of Heaven. It’s the prayer of faith that changes things.

In fact, Romans goes so far as to declare, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [11:6] More, that’s how this whole adventure began: “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We enter the Kingdom by faith and ever after, the Kingdom continue to work by faith.

Then it hit me. The employees of the Kingdom of God won’t be working in such a way as to bypass God’s values, in such a way as to invalidate the currency of the Kingdom. That means that angels won’t be working in a way that removes the requirement for faith, for my trusting God.

In fact, it’s more likely that they would choose their actions in such a way as to increase the faith of those they minister to, to encourage me to trust God more, in this case, rather than trusting my own driving skills.

In fact, it appears that angels are aware of the level, the maturity of our faith, and treat us accordingly. Their actions will be different for a new believer than for one who has walked with God for several decades, because it takes more to grow the faith of the seasoned saint, while the babe in Christ is challenged by even the simplest things.

In some cases, God (perhaps through the ministry of angels) provides for us, but his provision might show up at the last second. (“God is never late, but he sure misses a lot of opportunities to be early!”)

Why? Because if the provision showed up early, we’d never have to exercise faith. We’d stroll along comfortably, content that our provision was in the bank, rather than trusting our Father.

Us trusting our Daddy. Yeah, that’s part of his goal for us. Us being comfortable? Nah, that’s not a priority.

And God’s work in our lives, angels’ work in our lives, will never work against the need for us to walk (or drive) in trust.



My Authority


Authority is always given, never taken.  That’s pretty much immutable.

Father could claim authority in my life in his role as my creator, but he doesn't. That's what free will is about: he gave me the right to choose whether he will actually be my Lord or not, and it’s a choice I need to keep making, not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it choice.

Civil government assumes (correctly) my submission to its authority by virtue of the fact that I choose to make my home within the boundaries of its authority.

Nobody else has the right to claim authority over me, though some may claim power over me (e.g. incarceration).

I can and do choose to submit myself to other authorities in my world. I have submitted much of my will to my bride with the simple commitment, “I do.” I have a pastor (not in position, but in fact) to whom I submit this: I will always listen to his input, and take it seriously, but I do not delegate my decision-making (my will) to him.

Similarly, I have invited a few others to speak into my life, though not all of them know it. However, if someone assumes that they have authority in my life, that generally disqualifies them to speak into my life. If they insist, we’ll have a blunt conversation. I am the one responsible for me. Only I can exercise my own free will, regardless of theology or psychology or civil law. The best they can do is either a) counsel me on *how* they think I should make my choices, or they can make their own choices for how they will respond to my choices (e.g. if I drive drunk, they might choose to incarcerate me), but they cannot make my choices for me.


I’ve had a goodly number of folks come into my life for the sole purpose of assuming authority over my life and my choices. I used to submit to that process, but giving away my free will has never worked out well in my world. And it insults my beloved King if I despise (= “to treat as unimportant,” e.g. by giving away) his precious gift of free will.

In my opinion, this is one of the greater obstacles to the western Church, and one of the greatest problems in many western nations, particularly my own: individuals giving up their responsibility for our own lives, choices and circumstances. 

The current buzzword for the process of not taking responsibility for our free will is “entitlement,” and it’s a doozy. The sense of “It’s not my fault!” is pretty epic right now, and it’s often accompanied by either “…therefore someone should pay me for it!” or “…therefore I’m powerless!” or pretty often, both.

So much gets resolved when we merely accept responsibility to make our own free-will choices.





Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

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.

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 

A Rookie Believer

Some years ago, a friend of mine died.

She was a baby Christian, very young in her faith, and frankly, pretty immature, but she was growing.

She was 94, a 94-year-old baby Christian.

So she had a most unusual combination of character traits: some aspects of the wisdom that comes from nearly a century’s experience with life; some aspects that were wet-behind-the-ears fresh and immature. What an interesting person!

Donald Trump reminds me of her. He’s by no means a young or immature man. But he displays signs of what appears to be both sincere faith, and immature faith. I won’t get into what signs I see; you can see them for yourself if you look for them.


If it’s true that Mr Trump is an immature believer (keep in mind that maturity is a condition of the heart, not of the calendar), then we should expect to see some signs of immature faith moving forward.

We should expect to see a whole lot of zeal for the work he’s been given, with maybe a little more optimism than the real world allows for.

We should expect him to see inconsistency in the maturity of his moral and ethical choices. Note that he may or may not be immature of faith but he certainly is immature in politics, and he is not at all immature in business.

We might expect to see mistakes that he needs help cleaning up.


But it would be completely foolish to expect to see him follow the model laid down by your pastor, or by a famous religious leader. He ain’t never been a religious leader, and doesn’t aspire to be. 

Prophetic Exercise: The Judge's Bench

Since the prophetic gifts are for the real world, think of a real world person that’s going through some trouble, someone you’ve been praying for recently. Write down their name.

Now look in the Spirit, and look behind you. You see there a tall, oak, judge’s bench. Jesus is standing there, smiling, waiting for you.

He takes you around to the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, Jesus sits you in the great chair behind the bench. When you take your seat, you’re find that you’re wearing black robes, and you have a wooden gavel in your right hand. Are you wearing a white wig, too? 

Take a moment, if you need to, to deal with the emotions of being in a place like this. Ask him questions if you need to, but don’t argue with him. This is your assignment today, if you choose to accept it.

Now look out over the judge’s bench. From your new vantage point, see your friend, whose name you wrote down. Observe them for a minute as they go about their day. As you’re watching them, let Jesus show you his love for them, his compassion for the crud they’re going through. Rest there for a moment, feeling his heart for them.

Then Jesus reaches over and touches your eyes. And now you can see more clearly from the bench, and with his help, you begin to see the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that have been harassing your friend. Recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellions against their rightful king and against your friend. 

Jesus leans over and whispers, “Judge them!” Identify them, their names and their crimes. Recognize, by the Spirit who’s in you, the name, the assignment, the work of one of the demons harassing your friend. Speak that name out loud, and bang the gavel as you do name it. Write it down if that helps.

Then watch what happens next. When I did this, as I spoke the name, as I named each spirit, it was as if my gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each of my charges, and with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound.

Look around. Do you see angels in the courtroom? What do you see them doing? Consult with Jesus: what is his counsel on the work you’re doing?

This isn’t a game. This is literally life and death, but don’t interpret that to mean that you can’t enjoy the work you’re doing. Get into the work. Reach deep within your spirit to accurately name each spirit, and as you name it, watch as it’s snatched from the air around your friend and bound. Observe what happens to it next, if that’s revealed.

You may or may not have gotten to each of the demons harassing your friend when you feel that you’re done, when you feel the grace for this work lift, or when you hear Jesus say, “OK. That’s enough for this time.” Don’t stay there beyond the grace for the work. Your friend is destined to be an overcomer; they need something to overcome.

It helps me to go back through the session’s work: declare your friend’s freedom, thank God for your friend’s freedom from each of the spirits that you bound today. And when you’re done, perhaps as an act of worship, burn the list: don’t keep a record of hell’s work in their life.

Now, by my counsel, I’d recommend that you don’t talk to them about this experience, not for a long, long time, and this is for your benefit, not theirs. We tend to think, “Well, I bound up a spirit of self-pity, so they won’t be falling into self-pity any more!” Yeah, that’s not how it works.

If you bound the spirit of self-pity, then that spirit of self-pity isn’t plying its trade in their life any longer. But that doesn’t break years of self-pitying habits, or generations of self-pitying traditions. It means that spirit isn’t working there any more, not that they’re perfect now. 

And of course, don’t stop praying for your friend.  

Stupid Chickens

Chickens.

I have some chickens. They make good eggs and good soup.

But chickens are dumb. Stupid. Completely unintelligent. Goldfish are smarter than chickens. And so I learn a lot about myself from them.

These chickens are domesticated. Really domesticated. They know me as their provider, almost as if I were their god. Any time I open the back door, which they can see from their chicken yard, they cluster around the near side of their pen, eyes on me.

Any time I come near the chicken yard, they cluster around near me, knowing that I am their provider, knowing that very often, when I show up, I bring good things for them to eat. 

They’re constantly looking to me for their provision: what will I bring them today? They remind me of the apostle’s promise, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights,” only in this case, every good and perfect gift comes from me.

The other day, I brought a large handful of their favorite vegetable, kale, and I tossed it into their pen. They ignored the kale. They didn’t even notice that I’d tossed their favorite veggie into their pen. They just kept their eyes on me, knowing that I might give them something good to eat.

I explained to the brilliant birds: “I already brought you something good to eat. I have already provided for you. Go enjoy what I’ve already given you!”

And they clustered even tighter around that side of their fence, watching to see what I’d give them.

They were so intently focused on the fact that I am their provider, focused on what I might provide for them, that they completely missed the fact that I had already provided for them.

And as I watched them, I heard Father clearing his throat, drawing my attention to their actions. And I knew I was guilty.

There have been times that I’ve been so focused on God, who is my good provider, focused on what God is going to provide for me, that I completely miss what he’s already provided for me.

I’m learning to give thanks more, and to solicit provision less.


Accusations Against God.

I was thinking about God’s provision. Provision is something that God is really quite good at.

If I ask my Father for something to eat, and then I complain about what he brings me, my complaint is not merely against the food. My complaint is also against my Father who brought me the meal.

My words address the food: “This is yucky! I don’t like this.”

But the accusation continues further: “Your provision for me is yucky! I don’t like how you provide for me!” It’s inescapable.

The Israelites did this regularly during the Exodus. “Where’s the water? I’m thirsty!” “This water isn’t good enough; it’s bitter!” “I’m tired of manna; I want meat!”

We do this pretty often, don’t we?

We complain about God’s provision for us, because it’s not as generous or as comfortable as we want. We ask for a ministry, but it’s not as effective as we think it should be. We ask for a home, and then complain that it’s uncomfortable. We ask for a job, and then we fuss about the people we have to work with.

In all these things, we’re not just complaining about the things that God has lovingly and carefully provided for us. We’re also complaining about the God whom we accuse of such inferior provision.


The obvious solution to this problem, after we’ve repented (changed how we think about God’s care for us), is to practice giving thanks. “Thanks, God, for this adventure in the desert, away from the Egyptians. It sure is exciting to think about how you’re going to take care of us!

There’s one more place that Father’s been speaking to me about our whining:

I was visiting with a friend about how the Saints are pretty unhappy with the candidates for president in this election cycle (and I’m guilty of mocking them, too!), and Father whispered this verse to me:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1. Then he added,

“These are my provision. I’m sorry that you don’t like my provision. But you’re going to need to learn to work with them. You’re going to need to bless them, and not curse them.”

When I complain about the poor choice of presidential candidates, I’m accusing God’s fulfillment of Romans 13:1. With every complaint about Donald or Hillary, I’m accusing God of being a failure as a provider! And I haven’t even asked him about why He provided these candidates. 

(Even worse, when Paul wrote this verse, and when Peter wrote “honor the emperor,” they were referencing Caesar Nero, unquestionably one of the cruelest and most evil rulers in the history of this planet. We are without excuse.)

I’m thinking we have room to grow in how we respond to God’s provision in our government.

Let the lessons begin. Are we ready to learn? 


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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Study to Show Yourself Approved?

Has someone brought this up to you before? 

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

That's the King James for 2Timothy 2:15, and people often bring this up as a justification for their fascination with the Old Covenant, or to reinforce their point that you have to earn favor. 

There's so much Scriptural bastardry in how we've taught this verse. I'm really quite embarrassed.

First, "Study" in 1611, when King Jimmy commissioned his translation meant what the Greek word σπουδάζω means. However, in 21st Century English, the word means "be diligent," or "do your best." It has nothing to do with academic study. 


I'm very much in favor of studying the Bible. But this verse is not even remotely talking about that. Illustrations (like the one here) that tie this verse to a picture of a Bible are seriously missing the point of this scripture!

Second, παρίστημι, "show yourself" (or worse, "shew thyself
") in 1611, is more about "Show what you're really like," not "work for your approval."

"Approved" speaks of a coin that's been demonstrated to be real silver, not lead or tin: this is the real thing. Again, "Show what you're really like."

So the whole thing is more about, "Be careful to let who you really are show." The idea of "Don't hide God's delight in you" is there as well.

We could go on.

This is probably why the NIV (the "Nearly Inspired Version" lol) translates it as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

For decades, this verse was used as a club, justifying church rules and expectations, requiring my suffering sweat (or my academic study) in order to be acceptable.

Don't let people use the Bible as a club. It's a love letter from a lovesick Daddy who wants his kids back. Anybody that uses Scripture to control others is a good person to pray for, but not a good person to follow.