First let me clarify: it's clear to me that we do have both the obligation and the authority to speak to natural disasters and effect change there. I'm just not convinced it's wise planet management to always speak to every act of nature that inconveniences man.
Our species, the race of mankind, is responsible for what happens on this planet. We were delegated that responsibility by the planet's Creator. It's a pretty serious thing, and I take that seriously.
So yes, natural disasters are within the sphere of our responsibility.
Thus far in our maturation as a people of God, I observe three primary ways we deal with natural disasters:
1. We ignore them, because they happen to other people, other places (or because we don't know any better), or
2. We panic before the disaster and mourn and wail after it. or
3. We decide that this event is a bad thing, and rebuke it (with varying results; we're still learning).
In point of fact, an argument can be made for each of these reactions at different times, though I have hesitation about how healthy each of them actually is as a default response.
But the issue that's got me scratching my fuzzy head today is this: where, in this process, do we perform our evaluation of the situation? Where do we assess how much our involvement is actually necessary, and what the best intervention might be?
We live on a planet that has a very long history of things happening to it. Since before Adam and Eve took their first job assignment, the planet has been active: storms spreading water around, volcanoes adding to land masses, forest fires cleaning up the leftovers of life in a busy forest, earthquakes from tectonic plates jostling. You know, those things.
And when mankind stepped onto the stage, we renamed them. Suddenly, they were no longer our planet doing what our planet has always done. Now, suddenly, these are "disasters."
If we want to get overly anthromorphic, we can talk about whether it's fair to the planet to suddenly redefine what had always been its healthy processes, I suppose. I figure that's something analogous to deciding that poop is icky, and making the decision never to poop again. There might be side effects.
Or we could consider how reasonable our expectation is that the planet should suddenly change how the water cycle works, or how it cleans up after itself, or how the planet's geology works, just because our species is covering the planet now and might be inconvenienced by the planet's natural processes.
Here's my point: I don't subscribe to the concept that just because there's a storm, just because that storm soaks soaks cities, blows down houses or destroys a season's crops does not automatically mean that we need to shut the storm down.
There were three experiences that led me to challenge my previous (and in my opinion, irresponsible) practices:
The first lesson came on an extended canoe trip. It had been raining hard enough that we couldn't safely travel the unfamiliar river, so we were stuck in our tiny tents in the rainstorm. The third day, I'd had enough, and I asked Father to stop the rain so he & I could go for a walk.
After a wonderful three hours with him, I noticed the sky: a huge rainstorm was coming in from the east, but just before it reached me, the clouds parted and went around me. I turned around and saw where the storm joined together just west of me. Every place around me was getting well watered, but I'd walked in sunshine for several hours, because Father pushed the storm aside for a little while. The storm was not stopped, only diverted for a couple of hours.
The second lesson came when a couple of very credible prophets warned about a devastating earthquake coming to my region. We live on The Ring of Fire, the planet's earthquake zone, so quakes aren't terribly rare, but this was going to be terrible.
A few intercessors for our region got together, sought God's counsel, and diffused the threat. His instructions were to a) cancel the assignment of the spirit of fear that was riding the (very public) conversation about the quake, and to b) redirect the pent-up tension in the tectonic plates involved so that the release of that tension would not be a terrible quake, but would be diffused in a large number of small quakes.
We did that and the stories stopped, the prophecies stopped, and the USGS commented on the unusual number of moderate quakes in the region. Crisis averted, but not by the brute force of stopping the tectonic plates from moving; by redirecting that energy to nondestructive symptoms.
The third lesson involved a very scary storm heading for a busy coastline. Father instructed us not to pray to stop the storm, but to turn the storm. The next day, the weather forecasters scrambled to explain the unexpected change in the storm's path to their thousands of relieved viewers.
In addition, I've taken some lessons from the realm of physics. I've realized that a great amount of "potential energy" or a great "inertia" can be more easily redirected than simply stopped in its tracks.
To stop a great storm in its tracks would literally require the equivalent atmospheric energy of several hundred thermonuclear detonations, and even if you managed to handle that power well with your prayers, you'd probably end up with scraps, several smaller storms spinning off causing less news-worthy damage in a number of smaller locations. That's a lot of work, whether it's in the natural or in the supernatural. And it's likely to be untidy.
But to change the storm's path, that requires a much smaller miracle, some say the flap of a butterfly's wings, properly applied, might be enough.
So if I've got a family picnic scheduled for this weekend, and there's a very wet weather front on a collision course with my picnic, is it appropriate to exert the requisite energy to stop the weather front, or to stop the front from dropping its rain? That might be a serious disappointment to the farmers in my region who are counting on that rain for their orchards and crops, and to the fish who live and breed in the streams and rivers.
And then, what would happen to the water that would normally have fallen in my region? It would be carried to some other region that isn't used to as much rain. How does the importance of my picnic stack up against frightening and unexpected weather patterns for my neighbors?
Or would it be better to just shift the storm? Shift it early enough and you only need to bump it off course by a few degrees. Not being omniscient myself, I confess that I don't really know what the effects of that would be.
Or should I leave Father's watering system in place, and just find a new location, perhaps one under cover, for the family gathering.
I'm not arguing that one answer is better than another. I am arguing that if we're going to take our responsibility to rule over creation seriously, we need to ask these questions.
"Yep. That looks like a problem. What are the available options to deal with it? Which option looks to be the best, and how do I implement that option?"
I recommend consulting with our omniscient Father on such matters. He has millennia of experience dealing with weather (and forest fires and earthquakes and floods and....). And he likes to keep his hand in matters of this sort.
So I prayed quite a bit; I prayed blessing on this man, on his business, on his real estate holdings. But wait, there's more!
It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is.
|This is a scary god on a scary mountain.|
But we got thinking about it over night. This is also a God that killed the slave lords’ animals and crops and eventually some of their kids. This is a God that chases his “special treasure” into the desert and then leaves us there to starve, to die of thirst. This is the God that I guess lives in an active volcano, and damn, he’s scary. You know, the more me and the boys talked about it, the less excited we are about hearing this God talk to us, hold us accountable to some “covenant.” And stuff like us all being “priests,” or being “holy,” now that’s not for us.
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.
A couple of years back, I was in a meeting where an apostle spoke. He spoke from his apostolic office, from his place as a father in the faith; his message was powerful. I watched as gold dust appeared out of thin air all over his black suit. By the end of the message it looked like he was wearing a rhinestone suit.
I ran to the side of the stage, and watched from up close. It was still amazing. Afterwards, I went up to rub my hands in the glittery stuff that was all over the pulpit, all over the stage where he had stood. A friend of mine had a brush and a container, and was gathering the dust up.
One recent weekend, at a friend’s birthday party, as we were sharing testimonies of God’s goodness, I watched cut gems show up on the carpet. Some of them appeared in front of my eyes. I gathered up a small handful. They don’t look to be anything spectacular (though they are pretty) until I remember that I watched them appear from thin air. Whoa.
|I watched many of these appear from thin air.|
Any time something unusual like this happens, myriads of voices shout “deception” and point to the fact that they’ve never seen this happening in the Bible! But then we’ve never seen flush toilets or computers in the Bible either, and we seem to be OK with those. And then there’s the detail that the Bible itself says that it doesn’t tell nearly all of the story (John 21:25). I don’t pay attention to those nay-sayers. But that doesn’t answer the questions.
Here’s where it takes a left turn I didn’t expect. A friend gathered up some of the gold dust from the cloud that appeared in church, and had it analyzed. It’s not gold. That didn’t surprise me, as it was swirling around in a way that the heavy metal couldn’t, but to have it confirmed: this is some sort of plastic. That’s weird.
My friend that gathered up the gold dust that had showed up around the apostle in the black suit had a unique view. As a videographer, he was watching the gold dust through the lens of his high-quality video camera. Zooming in close to the man’s shoulders, he looked to see where the dust was coming from. He watched it appear over his shoulders, from little disturbances in the light over his shoulders; he called them little portals, pouring glittery dust out, all over the man standing there preaching.
Some of the gold dust made its way to a jeweler, who analyzed it: this wasn’t gold. It’s not even a metal. “It’s a polymer of some kind.” Wait. What?
And the gems. Some gems have been analyzed by jewelers. Some are perfectly cut, so perfectly that it confused the jewelers. Many were not. A few appeared to be topaz or amethyst or other gems suitable for jewelry.
I’ve had some folks get in my face and declare that because it’s not real, metallic gold, because they’re not real rubies and sapphires, that proves it’s fake. Nonsense.
I suppose some of it could be faked, but not all of it. Seriously, I watched – I watched closely – as gems and glittery stuff appeared from thin air. I saw it happen with my own eyes, while I was on guard for falsehood and pretension. I’m convinced, both in my spirit and in my observations that at least some of what happened is absolutely real.
But then, why plastic instead of real gold? Why cheezy gems? Isn’t God capable of raining down diamonds and doubloons on his children?
As I asked the question, Father pointed me to the statement that often dominates the conversation when these topics come up: “Oooooh! I wish that happened to me! I want gems. I want gold dust!” These kinds of things, even when they’re cheezy plastic gold, poorly cut tiny gems, draw attention to the gifts.
Now I’m convinced that it’s good to appreciate the gifts Father gives, but I suspect that he’s not real fond of it when his gifts bring out the avarice in his children: “I want! I want!” And if there’s that much avarice with the cheap stuff, what will happen when he does pour out rubies and Krugerrands?
Honestly, I don’t think we’re ready for the real thing. If every time we worshipped Father, millions of dollars of worldly wealth (often referred to as “pavement” in the language of heaven; cf Rev. 21:21), would we worship God for his worth, or for the gold and gems? How about the people around us? Would they be paying attention to Him who sits on the throne, or to the stuff clanking on the floor around us?
And I suspect that this is part of the reason why signs and wonders – though they are increasing – are still relatively few and far between. We’re not really ready for the real.
If every person we touched was healed, if hospitals were emptied when we walked past, we’d never have a moment’s peace. We’d be offered millions of dollars just to come to this person’s mansion and heal this corrupt politician, that movie star, kidnapped for drug lords or terrorists.
Nope. Not ready yet.
I posted this photo recently, with this comment:
“Interesting night tonight.
Spent a lovely evening sharing dinner, sharing testimonies, blessing one couple among us,
and God drops gems all over the carpet.
These weren't from tonight; they showed up at other times, and they're easier to photograph.
There were others, larger, more spectacular.
But together, we probably gathered 60 or 80 small ones (jewelry size) just tonight.
I stood back, aloof, for a while. "We must honor the Gift Giver more than pursue the gifts!"
I (a little self-righteously) told myself.
Father chuckled at me. "If you gave your children a good gift, and they pushed it aside and
just sat there, staring at you, would you really love that? When you give a gift, you want
it to be appreciated. You want to make them happy. How do you think I feel?"
So I gathered 8 or 10 little ones. I watched some of them appear right in front of my eyes.
And you know, it really did make me happy.
We have such an awesome Dad.
And as a bride, we have an awesome groom, and a pretty epic future father-in-law.”
The post generated more response than most of my posts do. A couple hundred comments, maybe hundred folks shared it with their friends. A handful of folks made judgmental accusations which were deleted, but that’s par for the course.
But a couple of folks contacted me privately with some credible questions. The book says not to “receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses,” but the clear implication is that if there are two or three witnesses, to look into the accusation (1Timothy 5:19). I won’t go into details, but I had some things to look into. That was enough for me to pull the post last night.
I’m still not going to name names, except to say that a name was accused, so I’ve spent most of the next 24 hours consulting with folks (both people & God). I’ve counseled with some elders, with some accusers, with the accused, and with the accused’s pastor.
Accusations were made that someone had been caught at a service dropping gems. I’ll just say this: it has happened. The one accused in this story told me how it happened and why it happened, and what happened as a result, including their repentance and the process laid on them for their restoration. Several witnesses, including the supervising pastor and some of the accusers have corroborated the confession and the time frame. I’ve been saying, all along, Any miracle that brings fame or fortune to the people involved will be faked for the fame and/or fortune of others. That does not diminish the value of the miracle one whit.
So what we have before us is a child of God who walks in the miraculous, who has failed in ministry, who has repented, who was taken out of ministry for a season, and tested before being released into ministry again, and who has no fame nor fortune from ministry.
In the meantime, this child of God has spent quite a few years enduring the curses and accusation of the saints of the most high God. As a result, we have a beloved family member who has been repeatedly, incessantly wounded again and again by those who call themselves healers.
In the process of examining the accusation made by “two or three witnesses,” I met an embarrassing number of people who sure sounded pleased that someone got busted for their sin. I had real difficulty not getting more than a little bit angry about this. Those who were making accusations of someone’s sin – both the humble ones and the self-congratulatory ones – I have it on good evidence (Romans 3:10&12) that the accusers have failure in their life as well.
I know I surely do! Those who are close to me could tell you stories that are different in form than the sin with the gemstones, but easily more nasty. I can tell you first hand that before I was a Christian, I was a very un-lovely person, and even after the Son of God died for me, I’ve still made some heinous mistakes. But so have you. (Sorry.)
I can also tell you that the Son of God DID in fact die for me, and for you, and for everyone touched by this story. And I have the honor of telling you that He still loves you and me and them, even though – and even WHEN – we sin. Think about it: when Adam & Eve sinned the first sin, it was they who hid from God. God came looking for them. And while we were yet sinners – WHILE, I tell you – Christ loved you and me in the mist of our filth and stench and took it on Himself, and killed it.
My conclusion is this: Yeah, someone faked gems. Yep we know at least one person who did it. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts there are bunches more. I’ll bet someone’s doing it right now, somewhere on the planet, faking a miracle of some sort.
|These are the gems I found.|
I’m posting the original picture because it’s associated with the conversation. In hindsight, I think I should have posted a photo of the little things we found that night.
- We are a point where heaven and earth connect.
- We are a place where angels connect with earth.
- We are a place where God reveals himself as who He really is.
- We are inheritors of the promises of God: this is OUR land, and all peoples on this entire planet will be blessed through us, and through our offspring.
- Wherever we go, God goes with us, in us, through us!
- Wherever we go, God fulfils promises made to us, that infect all the residents of that place.
A catch like that could provide enough money to live off of for several months, maybe longer, while the fishermen spent their time hanging around Jesus and learning from him. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that this one catch was six months’ worth of income for their families: for us, that’s a lot of money, maybe tens of thousands of dollars.
- Peter never offered to rent his boat to Jesus. He never offered Jesus use of the boat. Jesus intrudes: he just stepped into the boat of the fisherman who had failed at his work all night, and asked to be pushed out from the shore. Jesus intrudes on Peter’s failure and expects Peter to comply with his request. I don’t think it’s too much to infer that Jesus just might break in on our own lives, even in the “ungodly” place of self-pity, and use us.
- “Being used by God” sometimes looks like it did for Peter: sitting on your sore backside, wishing you were doing something else, while he’s talking to other people about things you don’t really understand.
- Then Jesus told (he didn’t ask) Peter to do something foolish: to waste some more time and energy on something that hasn’t worked, to invest some more in the place of Pete’s failure. Worse: Pete is a professional fisherman, and he knows that this is the wrong time to catch fish (that’s why he’d been out all night: night is better fishing time on that lake), and this preacher-guy is trying to tell him how to do his job.
- Jesus didn’t just write Pete a check or a bag of silver coins for the use of the boat. He badgered Pete into working some more, and then he blessed the work that Pete did. Jesus used the vehicle of Pete’s own hard work (harder than he expected it to be: that was a lot of fish!) to drop twenty thousand bucks (or however much) into Pete’s checking account. While it’s not the only way Jesus does things, it’s a common one (Matthew 17:27)
- It was when Peter put the net down at Jesus’ direction that the freaky harvest came in. It happened again, almost the same way, after Jesus had raised from the dead, in John 21.
- But Jesus wasn’t afraid to drop a large chunk of wealth into the hands of an untrained fisherman. He didn’t give Peter a six-week lesson on How to Handle Money, or remind him about the importance of tithing if you expect God to bless you. He just blessed his socks off; and nearly sank his boat.
- Peter recognized the presence of God in the sudden appearance of slippery, flopping wealth sinking his boat and his partner’s! His response: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus uses that moment of spiritual openness to give Peter a new job: “From now on you will catch men.”
- It’s probably good to let Jesus intrude on my day-to-day trudging. Maybe even invite him in.
- I probably need to re-evaluate what it means to be “used by God,” so that there’s a whole lot less confusion. Sitting on my butt, if he’s asked me to sit, can be frightfully profitable ministry, though it doesn’t look so impressive on the resume or the Facebook page.
- I need to guard against resentment: fancy expectations (see #2 above), intrusions on my life (#1 above) and failures.
- If I’m asking God for money, perhaps I should ask him to bless my job. That seems to be something he does pretty well.
- And I remind myself: when I experience that transition from discouragement to fruitfulness, don’t be surprised if you get a new assignment from Heaven during that season.
The end of the age will involve Jesus doing some things and it involves the Church doing some things. If the Church will focus on the person of Jesus rather than that part of the work that is His responsibility - if instead we will focus on doing the things that are OUR responsibility - then the work will be done sooner, and better, than it has been over the past couple of millennia.