Showing posts with label miracles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label miracles. Show all posts

Thursday

The Private Use of Miracles


It’s right there in Mark Chapter 8, but I’ve never heard anybody teach about it. Here’s the relevant part of the text:

Related image13 [Jesus] left [the crowd], got back into the boat, and crossed to the other side.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Watch out!” He cautioned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 So they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.
17 Aware of their conversation, Jesus asked them, “Why are you debating about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Do you have such hard hearts? 18 ‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you collect?”
“Twelve,” they answered.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you collect?”
“Seven,” they said.
21 Then He asked them, “Do you still not understand?”

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I get it that the warning (v15) about the influence of the Pharisees (religious spirit) and Herod (political spirit) preaches really well. That’s cool.

And I get the encouragement (v18) that there are three ways of building faith from miracles (seeing, hearing, remembering). That preaches nicely, and I’ve benefited from that lesson.

But in the midst of all this, Jesus is chiding the disciples for their concern about provision (food: bread). The clear implication of the conversation is that Jesus is completely comfortable with using the same miracle that he used twice before for thousands, but using it this time to provide for himself and his 12 disciples. He doesn’t actually come out and say it, but it’s pretty clear nonetheless.

This challenges a belief that I didn’t recognize I had, and it makes me uncomfortable. I find that I’ve believed that miracles are for evangelism, or for public ministry, that somehow using them to cover for my mistake of poor planning was disrespecting the miracle.

But Jesus rather blows up that false belief. (And if that weren’t enough, he does it again in Matthew 17:27, where he sends Pete to get their tax money from a fish’s mouth! And he walked on water just to meet up with his boys who had left earlier.)

As I reflect on my crumbling misbelief, I realize that it includes the assumption that God loves “them” (whoever “them” is) more than he loves me, that he is pleased to provide for hungry masses, but for some reason, I don’t qualify for that sort of miracle.

I call that out as a lie. That’s not true. God loves me. Period. And since he’s an infinite God, with infinite omnipotence and stuff, therefore his love for me is infinite: it is not possible for anyone ever to be loved more than he loves me. Not crowds of sinners, not the 12 disciples, not that missionary in Africa who gets to raise the dead so often. Not even you. He loves me fully, completely, infinitely.

It’s OK. He loves you that much, that way, too.

And apparently, he’s OK with relying on miracles for everyday life, for lunch, for taxes, for meeting friends. Wow.  


Managing Natural Disasters

I confess, I have some obstacles with how we pray about those events we refer to as natural disasters.

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.

Friday

Kindness Leads to Repentance

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is describing some of the ways that his family is to be different than how the world does things. In the middle of that lecture, he drops this bomb: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There’s one command in this, and one reason for the command. Don’t be like those people because unlike their father, your Father knows what you need, even before you tell him.

I’d like to share a testimony, if I may.

I was helping someone with a legal issue. This someone important to me, someone who calls me “dad.” And the legal issue was pretty bad. It wasn’t that he had done anything illegal, but he’d gotten involved with a World Class Pain-In-The-Hindquarters. 

The World Class Pain was making his life miserable, threatening lawsuits, threatening huge expenses, and was completely flouting the law on the matter. He was Too Important To Be Bothered with things like that (he is a legitimate millionaire, for all the good it does him), and he does know powerful people who owe him favors.

So we’d talked together about the options open to us. At its most intense point, my spiritual son called me in terror and confusion about the latest round of threats, so I called the Millionaire Pain and explained things firmly to him. I think he’ll be able to use that ear again in a few days. I did not submit to his campaign of terror. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t let him push me around.

But I pissed him off, so he jacked up the intimidation and threats, and neither my son nor I slept much for a couple of nights.

I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t feel that freedom.

A day later, I realized that when I got in his face, I misquoted some facts to him, so I called him back, and (as expected) he sent my call to voicemail, so I left him a long message. I apologized for my errant facts, explained the situation from my son’s perspective, acknowledged what we understood of his own needs in the situation, and proposed a sit-down meeting where we could resolve the disagreement.

He ignored me, of course. His intimidation continued, but it did not escalate again.

Again, I wanted to post a prayer request, but I still didn’t feel the freedom.

One night it really got to me. I should have been asleep. Instead, I was ranting, my intestines were growling, and my sheets were soaked with sweat. I had acknowledged that we’d probably need to take the Pain to court, but as I rolled it around in my mind, I realized that we couldn’t lose the case. We had him cold! We had documentation of a couple of things that would make this an open and shut case! I didn’t want to go to court (nobody in their right mind does), but if we needed to, we would win.

And then I realized that The Pain wasn’t doing any of this to hurt my son or to hurt me, and he wasn’t doing this to win a court case. He just needed to stay in power in his interactions with other people. He needed to feel powerful, and this whole drama was how he met that need. I honestly began to feel sorry for him. That was actually confusing; he was the reason I was still awake at 3:00 in the morning!

And then Father reminded me of Romans 2:4b: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” We wanted him to change his mind about the hell he was wreaking; we wanted him to repent. Here, God’s showing me the key to The Pain's repentance: my kindness. Nice.

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!

I’d been studying angels in the Bible, recently. My new favorite book of the Bible talked about them: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

So I invited some angels to go visit him and minister the things of the Kingdom to him. We’re supposed to DO the stuff we’re learning, right? And I gave him a new name. No longer The Pain, now he was The Millionaire.

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

The next morning, the Millionaire surprised us all. He messaged my son with a remarkably reasonable response. He outlined some things he needed from us (reasonable ones!), and offered some concessions we hadn’t even asked for. Then he recused himself from the final negotiations and he invited us to work with his more reasonable partner. (What? Who IS this guy?)

I wonder if there’s a connection?

I shared the good news with Mrs P, and she admitted that she had been praying blessing on him as well (before she dropped off to a sound sleep several hours before I did!).

I never did ask others for prayer. Our amazing Father really does know what we need, even before we tell him. He’d been answering that prayer long before we got around to praying it.

Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I’m serious. It’s kindness that brings repentance. Not power, not strength of will, not even being right. It’s kindness.”

It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is. 

Thursday

The Exodus: a Memoir

Four months ago, we was all slaves in Egypt, building bricks for a living, seven days a week, from before dawn till after dark. Our slave lords were so very cruel that they made us kill the baby boys that were born, leaving a generation that was mostly women.

Three months ago, this shepherd guy shows up, speaking both Egyptian & Hebrew, and announcing that there was a god who cared about, and who said it’s time to leave Egypt. Seriously? Who cares for slaves, anyway?

That pissed off the slave lords of course, and they made our lives miserable for a while, but then things got kind of interesting. It was like the gods were even more pissed off at the slave lords. Nature was out of control: disaster after disaster beat on the whole slave lord nation.

Two months ago, the worst disaster: a whole lot of the slave lords’ children died in a single night. We smeared our huts with blood and had this weirdly symbolic meal, and they said that was why our kids didn’t die. Seriously? I mean, how does that work?

But the slave lords backed off, and the Egyptian shepherd guy – I guess his name is Moe –  said it was time to go, and then it got really interesting! The slave lords “loaned” us slaves their gold dishes and jewelry and stuff, and we left. There was a really big crowd of us. I never knew there were so many of us slaves there. And the sheep! That was a lot of sheep!

And we headed out of town, with Moe up there at the front like he was Charlton Heston or something, with his big brother walking next to him. We had some carts, but mostly, we was carrying our stuff, dragging our stuff behind.

There was this dust storm that always seemed to be at the front of the parade, but even freakier, every night, there was a firestorm boiling up in the middle of the camp. It was really weird, but it did keep us warm, seeing how we was camping in the wild, and we didn’t even have decent tents yet.

Then one day, we went through this wet place where I thought I’d seen an ocean the day before. Sure enough, there were still fish flopping in the mud, starfish and seaweed alongside the path, but they was rushing us so much, and I was carrying two kids and a sack with all their clothes and stuff, so I didn’t get to pay much attention.

When we got past that wet place and hiked up the hill on the other side, we stopped to rest, and I heard this huge crash of waves behind us. I looked around, and by golly, there was the ocean, right where we’d just hiked through. The funny thing was that there were dead men, dead horses, and what looked like chunks of the slave lords’ chariots floating in the waves. Somebody started singing, and it turned into a regular party.

Then it got real. Now we had an ocean full of dead bodies between us and civilization, and we were stuck in the outback and it didn’t seem like anybody knew what was going on. Some days, we hiked, some days we didn’t, and I never did understand why. I was more concerned with the fact that we had no tent, no food, not even a freaking water bottle for the kids! (We got busy right away, making tents from sheepskins and camel hair any anything else we could get our hands on, and making other camp stuff.)

The kids were crying, the sheep were dragging their tongues, we were all hot and tired all day, or cold and tired all night, and it was miserable. The bugs were thick, the food was scarce, and all that walking! A few days after the ocean incident, we found an oasis with some standing water, but it was polluted. I was so thirsty, we were all so thirsty, I got on my knees to get a drink, but I couldn’t do it: it stank, and there was bugs and crap in it.

So Moe throws a stick in the water and says, “OK, it’s all good. You can drink it now.” It was still kinda funky, but it wasn’t so bad as before, and the sheep really liked it. They just waded in and drank and drank. We got our water out of the other end of the pond.

And still we hiked. Oh,  how we hiked! And there was always that cloud bank during the daytime, and the fire storm at night. Pretty soon, folks was real eager to claim there spot in the middle of the camp where it was warmest at night, but it wasn’t so bad even at the edge of that huge campground where me and the boys camped and talked every night.

And it was in the desert, so food and water was always an issue. I don’t know which was weirder: the couple of times Moe got mad and whacked one of the rock outcroppings, and out pops a waterfall, or the fact that every morning, me and the boy’s would go out of the camp into the bush, and gather up rice or quinoa or something off the twigs and bushes and have that for breakfast. It was pretty good, kind of spicy sweet. We’d go gather it up every morning, and save some for lunch and dinner. Except Saturdays. It was never there on Saturdays, which was even weirder.

But the jostling for the best camp spaces got weird. Some folks wanted to be by the firestorm where it was warm, and others wanted to be at the edges, so they didn’t have to walk so far for breakfast. It seems that weird stuff was all we ever ate any more, and who can blame ‘em: slaves don’t know how to hunt, and we didn’t want to eat the sheep. They were pretty scrawny and disgusting sheep nowadays anyway, but we drank the milk, or mostly the little ones did.

And then we arrived here, camped around an active volcano. It’s been weird here. First, Moe’s family showed up from wherever it was they had been, then Moe formed some sort of committee of leaders while there. It looked like we were going to be nomads for a while. Better make more tents.


This is a scary god on a scary mountain.
But then Moe decided he needed to go climb that volcano, just as a storm was settling in over the mountain. We heard the thunder, but after a while, it sounded more like a thundering voice, and the voice was talking to Moe, and the voice was telling Moe what to say to the crowd, to us.

‘You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. If you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all peoples you’ll be my special treasure. The whole Earth is mine to choose from, but you’re special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.’

We all heard the voice, and then Moe came and said the same thing to us, and we was all real excited! Us being a special treasure to a God who beats down slave lords, feeds us in the wilderness and makes a bonfire for us every night and breakfast for us every morning? What’s not to like about that, and me and the boys, and I guess just about everybody, told Moe, “Yeah, we’re all in on this!”

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.

Then we had this great idea: Maybe we can get the best of both worlds going on here? We’ll do the covenant thing, but we’ll make Moe go talk to the scary God in the volcano. He can be the priest, and he can tell us what the God wants us to do, and we’ll do what he says. More or less.

We can have a go-between! He’ll give us some token list of rules. Keep the rules, when it works out, and we’re on easy street. The God thrashes on any slave lords, and he keeps feeding us, and we don’t have to deal with the scary stuff!

What could go wrong with that? Right?


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? 


The Missing Diamond Rings

Some time ago, Jane & her husband John had difficulty connecting heart-to-heart with the people of their little country church. So they decided to invite folks to their home. That went so well that they made a habit of it, inviting folks from the church, and from the neighborhood to their small home for a meal and to talk about life, and how God relates with them.

One week, Jane was cleaning her home for the guests expected later that afternoon, and she took her diamond wedding rings off and put them onto her ring holder on her dresser. They were pretty large diamonds; they’d belonged to her husband’s grandmother, and they were every bit as special as they were valuable. One thing led to another, and she forgot them there when guests started arriving.

There were several new people, lots of good food, and excellent conversation. Throughout the night, individuals would excuse themselves to use their bathroom, which was accessed through the master bedroom, right past the dresser.

Jane didn’t remember her rings until they’d farewelled their last guest, and sat down to unwind. As soon as she remembered, she jumped up to check her rings, while John did the dishes and put chairs away.

As she rushed to her bedroom, she instantly saw that her ring holder was empty: her rings were gone! She burst into tears, remembering the many people, many of whom she didn’t know, marching past her precious rings, all alone in the bedroom, where anyone could slip a ring in a pocket. She searched the dresser, the floor, the bathroom, in case they’d fallen somewhere, but found nothing. One of her guests must have taken them. Now they were gone forever. 

She fell on her bed, weeping. John heard the tears, and took extra time with the dishes, so Jane had time to share her broken heart with the Lord, and that unleashed a fresh wave of tears. She was creating quite a wet spot on her bed quilt, and still she poured her heart out.

As her tears faded away, a black cloud of discouragement started to take its place in her heart. Those rings were family heirlooms, and she’d failed in her care of them. Now she’d never be able to pass them on to her daughters and granddaughters. The black cloud began to settle over her heart.

But before the cloud had completely settled in, a small voice whispered, “Check the quilt.”

Hunh?

“Check the quilt.” Then no more came.

She sat up and looked around. This quilt had also been in her family for generations. It had been hand-sewn by one of her great grandcestors as her wagon train made its way to the Northwest.

Check the quilt? What could he mean by that? She looked more closely at the quilt, noting the even stitching, not noticing the great wet spot from her tears. Eventually, she worked her way to the corners: her grandcestor had sewn a few coins into each corner so that the quilt would lay flat. It felt like four quarters in each corner.

“You’re getting warmer.” More of a thought than words. She examined the four corners, wondering what she should do next. Eventually, with a mental shrug, she got her seam ripper from her sewing kit, and, gritting her teeth, she opened the stitching holding the quarters in place.

Working carefully, to do as little damage to this family heirloom, she opened the seam, and four quarters fell into her hand. Her eye caught the nineteenth century date on the top quarter, and thought about her ancestor’s sacrifice to make the quilt. She picked up the top quarter with her other hand; the one beneath it was even older.

Now interested in the dates, she picked up the next quarter, and there, in her hand, between the coins from a century earlier, were her diamond rings that had just gone missing this afternoon.

She wept some more, but these were tears of joy.





When Darkness Comes Into the Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suppose these will come into the light as well.

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

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

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

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

Why the Cheap Stuff?

In recent months, during times of God’s tangible presence, a cloud of what appears to be gold dust has appeared in a church in the region. It’s showed up several times.

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.

Supernatural Gems and A Failure in the Church

You are hereby warned: I’m going to rant. Please prepare yourself. (Conclusions at the… er… conclusion.)

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.


The atmosphere that night was heavily and naturally focused on Jesus, not on gemstones: it glorified God. 

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.

Well it has happened, and I stand by my statement: we have an awesome God, who gives gems to his bride.

I have testimony from several people (I’m one of them) who have seen gems miraculously appearing; even some of the accusers agree: gems do appear miraculously in this person’s presence. The Book says, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established,” and it affirms the principle in both New Testament and Old, a total of no less than six times. The matter is beyond dispute: we have gemstones miraculously appearing. 

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.  Several of them, including the yellow oval, I watched as they appeared on the carpet before me.
These are the gems I found. 
I’ll bet it happens not at all infrequently: people so desperately want the miracle of God that they’ll do anything to get it, even if they have to fake it. People so desperately need the acceptance and approval of their brothers and sisters that they’ll do anything to get it, even if they have to fake it. 

Does that mean that gems don’t happen miraculously? Nope. It means that God still uses broken people. Like you and me. 

My conclusion: I stand by my original post: God spread some gemstones around. God did some miracles. It was cool, and it brought glory to his Son. Now, are you going to look for the false? Or are you going to look for the finger of God among the muck and the fuss of the human species? 

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. 

Monday

The Gate of Heaven


In Genesis 28, Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

The house of God is the gate of heaven.

Hebrews 3:6 says  “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Paul was even more direct in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

So I am [or we are, as a community, depending on how you read the pronouns] the gate of heaven.

Certainly, that applies in the evangelistic sense: it’s hard to become a child of God without having encountered the people of God first. (Possible, but hard.)

But that is clearly not the way that Jacob meant it in Genesis 28. This is his description of “the gate of heaven”:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

I believe that it is not unreasonable that we, the people of God, the heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, should expect to be a “gate of heaven,” with these effects:

  • 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.

This is who we are. This is what we need to expect from our life in God. Our goal is not faithful attendance at a Sunday service for 30 years. Our goal is that wherever we go, heaven leaks out of our footprints, and grows into the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven every place we go, and in every person we meet.

Our goal is nothing less than heaven on Earth. Through us. 


Wednesday

Paying Rent on a Fishing Boat


In Luke, chapter five, Jesus borrows Peter’s boat, pushes out from shore, and teaches the crowd.

But after he was through teaching, an interesting thing happened: it’s as if Jesus performs a miracle in order to pay Pete for the use of his boat: 

4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink

There are several lessons that could be, and no doubt have been, taught from this passage, about obedience, about team ministry, about trials in God’s blessings. But the one that stuck out to me today was this:

Jesus is not afraid of making his kids wealthy.

For some years, I lived in a fishing community in the Northwest. I was surprised to learn that some of the local commercial fishing boats would consider the night’s fishing profitable if they caught eight or ten salmon. They could sell the fish for enough to pay the costs of running the boat for the night, the wear and tear on their equipment, and still make themselves a paycheck.

But here, Jesus gives them so many fish that it swamps two commercial fishing boats. Admittedly they built fishing boats differently in the first century than in the twenty-first century, but it’s very clear that this one catch was way more than the optimistic boat-builders had planned for.

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.

There are a couple of interesting observations about the process which Jesus used to pay rent on Pete’s boat:

  • 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.”

By way of application, I find myself reflecting on these action points:

  1. It’s probably good to let Jesus intrude on my day-to-day trudging. Maybe even invite him in.

  1. 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.

  1. I need to guard against resentment: fancy expectations (see #2 above), intrusions on my life (#1 above) and failures.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.





Tuesday

Testing in the Waters

There’s an interesting story in Exodus 15. Right after the kids cross the Red Sea, right after God drowns their enemies, there are two significant events:

The first is a party about the multiple miracles in their escape from slavery. Moses and the kids sang a song about his glory and his strength. It sounds like three million people (historians’ best guess for the size of the crowd exiting Egypt through the middle of the Red Sea) spend the better part of a day partying with God, and Miriam and the ladies took up the refrain and went after it with dance and tambourines. That is a serious party! Have you ever had three million people at one of your parties?

After the party, they headed out into the wilderness, though they weren’t particularly well prepared for the wild-ness of it, and then the second significant event happened: the bitter waters of Marah. The hike from the party spot at the edge of the Red Sea was about three days, and by the third day, there was a lot of complaining among the community. These people had been slaves for hundreds of years, and had received their every provision from their slavers, and who had lived on the banks of one of the greatest rivers on the planet. They weren’t so good at taking care of themselves, and never thought they needed to bring water!

But the desert they were waking through had no water. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one person, except Moses himself, who had backpacked through the wilderness before, and I’m thinking Moses had other things on his mind besides telling three million people how to pack for the journey. The beginning of the trip was hard to plan for anyway, so it’s not completely unexpected to discover that they didn’t actually carry three days’ worth of water with them.

So on that third day, they’re whining and complaining, focusing mostly on their need (their thirst) when they round the bend and look, there’s water!

And it is there that the problem exposes itself. Here were a very large number of people who had been focused on their thirst for the last several miles of their trek through the wilderness, and when they come around the bend and discover something new, they interpret it through their focus for the past couple of days: they make an assumption.

I hate assumptions. They get me into all sorts of trouble, and it appears that an assumption got this vagabond community into trouble as well.

The people were so heavily focused on their lack (of water) and their problem (their thirst), that when they saw the water they made the assumption that this water had to be God’s provision for them.

The thought process apparently went something like this: “I’m following God, and I have a need. Here’s something that looks like it might be an answer. Therefore I conclude that this is God’s answer for my need.” Suddenly, the whole world was to be interpreted through the particular need that they were focused on. (I suspect that there were other things that this vagabond metropolis needed besides water, but water appears to be the primary one they noticed at the moment.)

And apparently that was an incorrect assumption, as the water wasn’t even drinkable: it was bitter. But they’ve already concluded that this must be God’s provision for them, so they go after Moses, who goes to God, and in his mercy, God provides a solution to the problem of the bitter water.

If the rest of their journey is any example, and if we’re able to learn from hindsight, then it is not unreasonable to infer that God’s plan actually had more to do with water flowing from a rock at the command of the man of God, than it did with a loving Father’s provision consisting of a nasty puddle of ickyness in the wilderness.

God, of course, had intended that instead of the people trusting what they found along the road, instead they would trust him for their provision, and I think that this is the crux of the issue with these people, and perhaps in our day as well. They trusted their need – and their interpretation of their need – more than they trusted God to take care of them.

I have known people – God’s kids even – who do this very thing. They discover they have a need, a lack, and they fix their attention on that lack, and now a disproportionate portion of their lives is defined by their lack. It’s easy to interpret a great many things by the vocabulary of that one perceived lack, and that perception begins to define their relationship with the Almighty.  

I have lived among people who described their provision as “living by faith.” But some of them lived a life that could better be described as “living by hints,” and by the donations that came as a result of the hints. Others have lived by scrounging: always on the lookout for money lying around, on the floor, in pockets, in vending machines, in parking lots. (Since I’ve participated in these patterns, I’m afraid I know whereof I speak; if others have not lived there, then I suggest they give thanks, rather than pass judgment.)

Even affluent people can fall into the problem of relating to the world through their lack, whether in regards to money, or to the need for a husband (or a wife), or the need for acceptance, or significance, any lack, really. Their interpretation of the world – and ultimately of God – revolves around the need that they are fixated on. This presents some problems.

·         Some of us see every expense, every scrap of money coming or going as an expression of God’s provision for our (very real) financial need. Often, these people find themselves “living by faith,” and financially living on the edge, where “enough” is a scarce commodity, or has fallen off the radar entirely.

·         Some of us see every relationship in terms of our own needs, and their conversations often center around their own healing, their own goals, rather than about the real need for community. If every relationship is evaluated by “Do they help me feel better?” then I’ve become just as guilty as these Israelites: I’ve stopped looking to God for my provision. Instead, I’m looking to my own understanding, though I may disguise the issue by using religious terms like “God wasn’t leading me that way.”  I may slap a prayer onto the process to convince myself that I’m focusing on God, while I focus on my own needs.

·         Some of us see every sickness and injury as a ballot on whether God is still in the healing business, or whether they’re good enough, devout enough, or holy enough to be successful at healing the sick. If we were to look at the situation from God’s perspective, we’d see it differently.

·         And we tend to judge (yes, “judge”) God’s care for us, predominantly by that one issue: has he met this need? At the waters of Marah, the people judged Moses and the God whom he served as having failed, because this puddle that they so desperately wanted to be God’s provision for them was not actually God’s provision for them.

Note that these are not illegitimate needs. We need provision. We need real relationship, we need to walk in the power of the Kingdom. And the Children of Israel in the desert really needed water! Those are real needs.

The issue is not in having a need, or even in acknowledging a need. My need is not a problem. It’s only when I begin to make a solution for my need apart from my relationship with God that I get into trouble.

This leads us, or at least it leads my own thinking, to an uncomfortable place: much of this could be resolved by simply trusting God – the God who promised to provide for us – to actually provide for my needs. It’s a shame that this is something of a radical proposition.

Trusting God really shouldn’t have been a great stretch for these particular folks. Apart from the testimony of their ancestors (Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, though their reputation was not yet what it is now), these same people had just watched a grand showdown between their God and the gods of the Egyptians. It wasn’t even close, which, of course, was God’s plan: God was showing off his provision for them, his advocacy of them. And in the actual departure, he made these former slaves wealthy, wealthy enough to construct a very impressive gold-laden tabernacle a few months later.

Oh, and the parting of the Red Sea (and the drowning in that sea of one of the most powerful armies in the world at that time) was what? four days behind them? They spent a day partying and singing about it! God had demonstrated his supernatural provision this week, another set of testimonies last month, and the testimony of their ancestors. God had proven both his willingness and his ability to provide for the people. But they hadn’t learned the lesson.

And then I’m reminded of the many times that God has very effectively provided for me and my household, and I’m reminded that every time he’s provided for me is another testimony of his faithfulness, and another reminder that I need to focus on God and his provision more than I focus on my own needs and wants. God – my omnipotent and beneficent, heavenly Daddy – is my provider, not the mud puddles along the road of my life.

We will prevent a whole lot of serious problems if we leave the means of God’s answer in God’s hands, rather than focus on the thing that we assume his answer must be.

Thursday

The Revival at the End of the Age?

Many people are declaring something along the lines of, "The greatest revival the world has ever seen is just ahead. The greatest miracles, the most wonderful wonder-working Church the world has ever seen is near." This is a wonderfully encouraging word.

The value of such a word, however, is determined not by how happy it makes us feel, but by the fruit it brings in the lives of those who hear it.

First, I need to clarify: I am neither denying or affirming that such a revival is coming. What I am doing is questioning the nature and the timing, and the results of these kinds of proclamations of it.

It is clear that the church has a consistent history of taking our strong wishes, presuming their truth, and building wonderful theologies of wishful thinking upon them. The above statement, and many more like it, was made more than half a century ago, and that might suggest that, at a minimum, his ideas of "just ahead" may not be the same as we normally mean by "just ahead.” The statement, while hopeful, has missed its mark.

It seems that every generation since the original Pentecost has believed that they were the final generation. So far, every single one of them has been proved wrong. Hope is a wonderful error, but it remains an error: hope built on an assumption is not hope built on God. Hope built on wishful thinking is a false hope, and false hope is my concern.

And this false hope has very serious consequences: the assumption that that we’re on the brink of a sovereign revival, then the human species tends to back off, to slow down in our part of the labor. It was a problem in the first century church (read 2 Thessalonians 3), and it remains to this day.

This complacency leads to (at least) two results:

1) Since the return of Christ is predicated on our success at certain tasks (Matthew 24.14), this false hope in fact delays the return of Christ. If we're not getting our part done, then we are delaying his part, his return. and

2) Because, many hopeful Christians have, over the centuries, complacently sat back and rested because of such a false hope, the result has apparently been that millions of individuals did not hear the gospel from their testimony, and presumably many of them are now suffering in hell, simply because some of those who were called to preach the gospel to them were waiting for the sovereign revival we’ve been declaring for so many generations.

I am suggesting that this is a problem: our focus on a sovereign revival is delaying the triumphant return of the Messiah, and is condemning people to hell. I repeat: I am not challenging the belief that such a revival is coming. I am challenging our response.

Nor am I suggesting that we deny hope to people. A hopeless church is an inactive church. Yet historically, a church motivated by false hope has also been a less active church. So what can we do?

Perhaps the answer is in avoiding either extreme position. Perhaps the answer is better found in honestly acknowledging, “Yes, God is going to do something dramatic. No, we don’t know when." Perhaps instead of focusing on what He is going to do, we can focus on what He has instructed us to do.

Jesus commanded that we pray, and gave us a model that includes praying, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth.” He’s commanded that we go “to Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the Earth.” He’s commanded that we preach the “Gospel of the Kingdom” (which is not the same as “the gospel of salvation”). He’s commanded that we make disciples “of all nations” (not “in” all nations). And he’s commanded us to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” And he’s commanded that we do this with Himself, “Lo: I am with you always, even to the end of the Age.” There is a lot for us to do!

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.


Sunday

A Season of Training for Supernatural Provision

I drive a little 4x4 truck. I love driving a 4x4 because I can take it almost anywhere.

Funny thing about trucks: they need tires. Mine needs tires. The tires on it now are steel-belted radials, and the tread is worn down so much that the steel belts are sticking out pretty badly on one back tire and not much better on the other one. The front ones aren't much better.

My truck has pretty large tires, and so they’re pretty expensive. I priced some discount tires, and a set of four cheap ones tires was $800.00. I really need all four, but I could get by with just two. But we couldn’t afford four tires or two.

As if that weren't complicated enough, I had found out when the tires were going to be on sale, and saved up most of the money for two tires. But then the truck needed a clutch, and that took all of the money I had saved for new tires. I felt thwarted.

So we didn’t buy tires. I’ve been praying about what to do for tires. I don’t trust the truck to go very far while the tires are messed up. I drive to work, to church, and to the grocery store, and I DON’T drive to anywhere else. I don’t go camping with those tires. I don’t drive to places God’s doing cool stuff. I don’t get to visit folks in other areas. It’s sad. I bought the truck so I could drive it interesting places, and I can’t go anywhere.

I’ve been talking to God about my tires. In fact, I’ve been fussing about our finances in general. Our bills are paid, but it bothers me that we can’t give generously, and I was rather complaining.

And God’s been reminding me that we’re entering a season where we need to be able to find money in the mouths of fishes, where we need to be able to feed a crowd with five loaves and two fish.

This isn’t a season of lack; it’s a season of training.

I’ve been thinking about that, and I think it’s right. We need to learn to trust God’s provision, and even learn to expect it.

So I’ve been thinking about this, about God’s provision.

Today, I needed to buy gas for the truck. I checked the account, and we can afford it, so I head over to Costco, and I’m on the phone with my friend (it’s OK, I have a Bluetooth earset). I pulled into line at Costco’s gas pumps; one line was shorter than the rest, so naturally, I chose that one.

And right there in front of me, a man was stepping out of my truck’s twin to pump gas into it. His truck was identical to mine, except I have a canopy on mine and in the back of his, he had four large tires on four wheels.

I felt a small nudge in my spirit: “Those are for you. Go get them.” I hung up the phone and got out of the truck.

“Say, those tires aren’t for sale, are they?” and I eyed the tires closely. They looked to be the right wheels to fit my truck, and the tires were about the right size. The tread on a couple of them looked real good. I'll bet they'd fit my truck.


“No, not really. I was going to sell them to a buddy of mine for twenty bucks.” Oh well. It was a nice idea while it lasted. “But he never showed up.” Say what?

“Uh, I’ll give you twenty bucks for them.” Uh… do I have twenty bucks? Oh! Yeah, I do. Hey, that’s weird.


“Hunh? Oh. Ok. I’ll meet you right over there, after you fill up. You’ll be able to find my truck.”

So I tanked up, and drove over to where he was. I backed my truck up to his, and rolled four tires from the bed of his truck to the bed of mine: they are exactly the same size as the tires on my truck. I handed him twenty dollars, shook his hand and drove off, shaking my head at my Father's loving provision.

I had just bought at least $400 worth of tires for twenty bucks. They were my tires. I just needed to recognize them. And go get them.

Thanks, Dad. I love you too.