Showing posts with label obedience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label obedience. Show all posts

Thursday

Glad I’m Not Domesticated


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it…”


"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

That is pretty much the standard, go-to verse for people who want to convince you that you need to be in bondage to the Law like they are. Yeah, let’s look at that.

First of all, this statement is found in Matthew 5: Jesus is speaking to people under the Law. He is not speaking to New Covenant believers. He’s speaking in the language of folks under the Law, speaking to people under the Law, but he’s not reaffirming the Law.

Go look at it. Read all of Matthew 5. In that conversation, Jesus is not saying, “Be sure to obey the Law!” He’s saying, “The Law is only the starting point!”

Verse 17 is one example: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” If you don’t do better than the people who do the law the best, it ain’t gonna get you into the Kingdom. That's what this whole sermon is about: the Kingdom.

Then he gets real serious. What follows is where Jesus deconstructs the Law. “You have heard it said, … but I say to you….” Five times he raises the bar above what the Law had required.

Then he goes on (Chapter 6 continues that sermon) explaining a better way. He doesn’t really talk about the Kingdom for a while, but he gets to it: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

That very sermon continues on through Chapter 7, too. He’s already dismissed the Law, the godly works of the old paradigm; now he dismisses the godly works of the new paradigm: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’”

Yeah, that's not the goal either. "Depart from me, I never knew you."  It's about knowing him.

Then he finishes preaching wanders down the mountain and demonstrates his new Kingdom by healing the sick and teaching about the Kingdom.

OK. That’s our context. Now let’s look at that specific phrase, “I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it…”.

Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law. Now the Law is fulfilled. What does it mean when something is fulfilled?

My father fulfilled the mortgage on his house. Now that his mortgage has been fulfilled, that mortgage is obsolete, fulfilled, finished, powerless. That’s what “fulfilled” means. It’s done.

So, yes, ALL of the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant (for that's what the law is) are now obsolete, fulfilled, finished, powerless, now that the Old Covenant is dead and gone.

The Torah (the first five books of the Bible, containing the Law of the Old Covenant) is an interesting (and useful) history book. It tells the story of a covenant that God never wanted, and that never worked [Acts 15:10]. We can learn from their mistakes, and we ought to.

But it is completely without merit as a standard to live by today, if for no other reason than there is nobody, literally not one body, who is still part of the Old Covenant to which the Law applies.

People try to say, “But obeying the Torah (or at least the 10 Commandments) is good. It’s part of making us acceptable to God.

Balderdash! Obeying the Law is an obstacle, a stumbling block to us becoming acceptable to God. Obeying the Law in order to be acceptable is to throw his gift of grace back in his face.

I am so thankful that the Law has been fulfilled! This is such an excellent expression of God’s mercy!

You see, it is not even possible to obey the Torah in our day and age, and it hasn’t been possible for nearly twenty centuries.

A huge part of the law was the sacrificial system. And nowadays, there is no ark of the covenant (it was lost centuries ago), there is no tabernacle or temple (it was destroyed many centuries ago) with an altar to kill bulls and goat on. And James says, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."

More importantly, there are no Levites left to offer those sacrifices to God. The Levites were the only ones whom the law allowed to do that. Even worse, there are no records of Levitical bloodlines, and without those records, nobody could minister if there was a temple. Those are gone, literally forever. 

All of the genealogical records (all of the documentation of who’s a Levite and who’s not) was destroyed when the Old Covenant was destroyed as the Temple was destroyed in the conquering of Jerusalem in the first century. [https://nwp.link/WikiAD70]  There are many parts of the law that cannot be obeyed now, and stumbling in one point of the law makes you guilty of the whole thing. No wonder it was destroyed.

Scripture predicted that the Old Covenant was going to be done away with and the temple would be destroyed [Hebrews 8:13] and Jesus described it in detail [Matthew 24] a full generation before it went down. Literally, not one stone was left on another. (And because of his warnings, the Christians - the only ones who believed his warnings - escaped that destruction.)

Paul summarized this whole law business quite nicely: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” [Galatians 2:21] 

Does that mean that we live lives characterized by rebellion against the Law of the Old Covenant? Where the Old Covenant command was “Do not kill,” do we make murder our habit in order to avoid an old, dead Law?

You can hear how silly that sounds when we see it in black and white. No, we still don’t kill people. But that's not because of the obsolete rule book of a failed covenant that never applied to anybody but Israel anyway.

Rather, we don’t kill because we’re like Jesus and he doesn’t kill. We don’t kill because he’s teaching us to “love one another as I have loved you,” and murdering people isn’t actually very loving.

So throw off the lies that say, “You must live by the Torah! You must obey the Ten Commandments."

"Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” Cast out the efforts to obey as the way to please God. There is no inheritance for you in that path.

Target Fixation



I’m pretty careful about where my attention goes, and about how I handle my words. God’s instructions are pretty clear, and I’ve learned over the years that there’s reason for his instructions.

That command shows up in at least two places:

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

The other is in Hebrews 12:1& 2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

There’s a common thread in these: Guard what your attention is on. You know, I think he’s serious about this.

Have you heard of “Target fixation”? Whatever you focus your attention on, you tend to become like.

In these passages, God’s telling us to focus our attention on stuff that – should we actually put our attention on them – we’d become “excellent” and “praiseworthy” in our character; we’d become Christ-like.

That’s an excellent goal in itself.

But regardless of the result, it’s still a command. “Do this.” “Think about such things.” “Fix your eyes on Jesus.”

I take him seriously. :)





The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·    If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

·   I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
·   Honor is more important than “the best” price.
·   The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.

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.





Monday

Finding God's Will God's Way

I was talking with a friend recently about “finding our life’s purpose in God.” 

That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? We want to know what our calling is for, so we can spend our energy where it’s useful, and where it’s not. And fairly often, for example when we read the parables of the talents or the minas, we feel a real urgency about the topic. Sometimes, it feels like we’re just bumbling around in the fog, instead of actually changing the world. And all of us, whether we admit it or not, want to have an impact on the world.
 
I’ve been battering this topic around rather a lot. I grew up reading stories like God’s Smuggler, where the heroes heard God say, “Go do this!” and they went and did it, and there were miracles. I want to be that guy: the one that gets to walk confidently in God’s leading and in God’s miraculous provision.

I know other folks who have had a prophetic word that’s way bigger than them, or a vision of something big and effective, or just a longing for “more” in a particular area of working with God.

We want God to make that happen. Here’s the problem: I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation.

I’ve watched folks around me for some decades as they matured in Christ, and I think I’ve discovered some trends. Obviously, there are some folks who are not really attentive to their purpose in God; they just bumble around in one degree of contentment or another, attending conferences, complaining about difficult things, consuming resources and not really impacting the world around them. I’m not talking about them today.

But among those of us who are concerned for what God is planning for us, I think I see three broad categories:

a) Servants: These are the ones to whom God gives a good roadmap, and leads them along the way to the end of the line, sometimes step-by-step. These people often have amazing stories to tell of God’s leading.

Frankly, I suspect that some of these folks are asking out of immaturity (servants ask permission, sons not so much). But some seem to be mature in it, though I myself don’t see many of mature saints in this category.

b) Sons: These people have a rough idea of their calling, and they know their Father, so they just run off and do the things that are consistent with that calling. Most of the time, they learn more about their calling along the way.

The apostle Paul was in this category. Occasionally, God would give him a dream (“Go there!”), but most of the time, he just went. And he planted churches everywhere he went, because that’s who he is. I know an apostle who’s planted churches and Bible schools on three contents, and he says that God hasn’t told him to start any of them. That’s just his calling, and so he’s started hundreds of churches and dozens of schools by now, just being who God made him to be.

c) Useful: There are a lot of folks who would have a terrible time describing their calling, but instead are big on “do what’s right in front of you.” Is there a need to meet? Then meet that need! There are ALWAYS needs right in front of us; which ones we see, which ones we’re drawn to, may be a clue to our calling, but knowing the calling is less important than just “taking care of business” with the things around us. These people make “bumbling around in the fog” a means to being effective in ministry!

I’ve spent decades as one of these people, and it has seemed to work out pretty well. Over the course of meeting those needs right in front of me, I’ve discovered that the needs that I see, the needs that I’m most comfortable meeting, fit into categories, so I’ve moved from a category c) guy to a category b) guy, just by virtue of continually bumbling along.

It’s easy to pooh-pooh the Bumbling Around Method of Finding Your Calling. A lot of us want the kind of direction from God that we’re used to with the matters of this world: a clear email, or an owner’s manual, or even a quick-start guide. We want clear, easy-to-follow directions. Bumbling around in the fog is uncomfortable, darn it!

But God doesn’t very often do that. Even his specific instructions to Paul (Acts 9) were pretty fuzzy: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” That’s pretty vague.

Sometimes God gives us a vision or an understanding of something really cool, really mature, and very often it’s a lot of our heart’s desires.  For me, it involved Brother Andrew and God’s Smuggler, and it involved Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place. For others, he speaks to them, like he did with Paul, about the end game:  This is who you’ll be when we’re all done. Sometimes it’s just a vision or a dream, or a longing that’s hard to get rid of.

And we want God to wave his magic wand and make that happen. Or at the very least, to make the Treasure Map appear, with the great big X that marks the spot.

Yeah, no. I’ve never once - not in my life, not in the life of anyone I’ve ever known or heard about, and not in the life of anyone in Scripture - ever seen God wave his wand and make people into the thing they see in the vision, the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone for whom God gave them any Quick Start guide that was more than that initial prophecy or vision or longing.

Even the apostle Paul! God knocked him off his ass and blinded him for 3 days, but then he took him into the wilderness for perhaps as many as seventeen years, where he trained and mentored him.

He gives the glimpse (prophetic word, vision, longing, whatever) of the end of the process for three key reasons that I can tell about:

1) That glimpse is a target, it’s to help us make choices to aim at that end result, rather than aiming for something that’s not consistent with the way he’s built and accessorized our lives. For example, my glimpse, my longing, is always about equipping saints, and that helps me not try to focus my life on interpreting tongues or mercy ministries. Those are important and valuable, and they are not my area of calling.  

2) It’s to give hope: this is where he’ll take you, provided that you’ll walk with him. I’m of the opinion that hope is under-valued in our world today. Some years ago, God spoke to me about a “worldwide ministry of teaching about the Kingdom of God.” The internet had not even been invented then, so it was hard to imagine a worldwide influence, but the hope of being able to influence saints in favor of participating in God’s Kingdom kept me moving through some times where it would have been easy to crawl home and hide under a rock. (“I can’t do that, there’s this vision out there for me!”)

That illustrates a key principle: what the end result looks like will probably be remarkably different than what we thought it would look like, what we still think it should look like. I think God does that on purpose, because if we saw the end result too clearly, we'd likely rely on our own skills to get there, rather than relying on walking with him to get there. 

3) I think he’s just so excited about our future that he just wants to share it with you! Like any good daddy, he’s terrifically excited about sharing his secrets with his kids, particularly the kids that are going to grow up and inherit the family business.

Paul says, in Romans, “... whatever is not from faith is sin.” So if God just handed us the Complete Guide to Your Eventual Ministry Once You’ve Grown Into Maturity, we wouldn’t need it. And we might not even grow into maturity. If we saw our path to that goal so clearly that we knew every step of the process, then our faith would be superfluous; we’d walking by sight, not by faith.

And “Faith,” it has been said, “is spelled R-I-S-K.”

The process of getting from where we  are now to the place of mature ministry of our vision or prophecy will involve risk. It will involve asking ourselves, “Did God really say that?” and “Is God really leading me in this direction?” And every step of the way - whether we get it right or get it wrong - is moving us to that goal, as long as our heart is set on following Him!

Besides, once we’ve read the last book of the Bible, we get a good understanding of how important it is (to Father and to ourselves) to be an “Overcomer.” And how shall we ever become overcomers if we don’t have doubts, questions, obstacles, enemies to overcome? 

Maybe bumbling around in the fog isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe that’s the best way, the fastest way, to reach our goal after all.

Onward! Through the fog!

Thursday

Africa! No! Not Africa!

Africa?

It was a quiet day. I was a quiet evangelical man, doing my quiet evangelical duty: I was in the middle of my "quiet time" with God, something I did every morning, because that's what good evangelical men did.

I had dutifully read the appropriate chapter in the epistle I was working my way through, and had dutifully opened my journal to record my dutiful response when it happened.

God spoke.

"What would you do if I told you to go to Africa?"

I sat there, frozen; stunned.

First of all, God didn't speak to me. Didn't he know I was an evangelical?

But Africa? Don't be ridiculous. I hated Africa. It was filled with jungles and deserts and diseases and dirt. It was completely untidy.

Africa? Don't be ridiculous. What on earth would I do in Africa? I worked for a giant department store, selling fine china and luggage to wealthy residents of our community. I was painfully aware that these were skills that would not serve me well among lions and tigers and bears in Africa!

Africa? Don't be ridiculous. I had been taught - I had taught others - that God's direction always confirmed what was in your heart anyway. "He will give you the desires of your heart!" I had not one iota of desire for Africa.

But the question still hung there, in my soul, resonating. It had only been that "still small voice" that everybody talked about, but nobody (among my tidy evangelical friends) ever actually heard. The fact that the voice wasn't actually spoken into a marble cathedral did nothing to still its startling echo in my soul.

God asked me a question! Ohmigosh! WhatamIgoingtodo? (I had never known that it was possible to so completely panic while sitting quietly in my big "Papa chair" in a quiet house. This was a new experience.)

Ohmigosh! Ohmigosh! I have to answer him! Ohmigosh! What am I going to say?

It was (painfully, oh so painfully) clear to me that the one thing I could not say with any integrity was, "No, Lord." If nothing else, it's an oxymoron, but I was afraid if I told God "no" that I'd burn in heck for all eternity. (Dutiful evangelical men don't use that other, coarser word.) I couldn't say, "no."

But Oh! how I wanted to say no. I wanted to jump up on my comfortable chair, there in my comfortable living room, before I walked to my comfortable job in the comfortable store! I wanted to jump up and shout in God's face, "No! Not Africa! I won't go to Africa! You can't make me!"

But the problem was: he could make me. And besides, there's that "Lord" thing. You don't tell your Lord and King, "No." It's just not done. Especially, it's not done by dutiful evangelical men who dutifully tithe to their dutiful little churches.

I sat there, stewing in my own juices, until it was time to go to work, and I left God behind as I rushed out the door to go to work. I told myself that I needed to focus on selling fine Lenox and Wedgewood china, and fine Hartman leather luggage to fine local dowagers.

I didn't forget his question, try as I might. I very seldom pulled it out of the shadows and worked intentionally on it, but I knew it was always there, reverberating in my soul, waiting patiently for my submission, like a vulture waiting for me to die in the desert.

It took weeks, even months, for me to get fed up enough with the tension. One morning, I determined to face the cursed question head on. Let's do this! You’re going down, buddy!

I was out of bed before my alarm rang, teeth violently brushed, hair disheveled, and I slammed myself into that chair, and slammed my Bible and journal on the arm of the chair, and I addressed the One who had confronted me, me! with such an outlandish question!

His presence was there, and instantly, I cowered before him. A dutiful evangelical man does not get in God's face like that. What was I thinking?? It was all clear to me now. It was all over.

And as I cowered in my chair, alone in the dark room, I whimpered my submission. "OK, Lord. You win. I'll go wherever you send me. Even." I took a deep breath. I let it out slowly. "Even.." I shuddered. This was hard! You can do this! "Even.. . even Africa."

And now it all suddenly all relaxed. The pressure hadn’t been him, anyways. The war had never been with God; it had all been in my mind, and now it was gone.

But he wasn’t gone. I felt him waiting there, waiting for my attention. I gave it to him.

“Thank you.” I felt the words as much as heard them in my spirit. There was healing in his words.

“Thank you. Now go to Hawaii.”

And I kid you not: he sent us to live in Hawaii for a season.

And do you want to hear the funniest part? While we were living in Hawaii, a love for Africa began to grow inside me. And now I’m looking forward to the day that he really will send me to Africa.

Dealing With Bombs

I share this as a testimony. You know I love testimonies.

I had a dream. In the dream, or maybe it was a vision: I was working my way through the sparse underbrush of a very large hill. I was searching out unexploded ordinance: bombs that hadn’t gone off, and I knew that some of them were nuclear bombs.


My friends and I were cleaning out the area so that kids could play safely in the bushes and grasses there. My job was to find the bombs hidden under the bushes, behind the clumps of grass. There weren’t a lot, but it was more than I expected.


When I found one, I put it into the basket I was carrying (really? Carrying nukes in a basket?), and hand the baskets to others who took them off to other places, and came back each time for more.

As I was dreaming, while I was pulling a shiny silver bomb out from behind a clump of tall grass, Father began interpreting the dream I was still in the middle of for me. (I’ve never had that happen before!)

“You recognize these bombs?” and suddenly, I knew that these were issues in my life where offenses could grow. These were wounds, lies that I’ve believed, curses, and other detritus in my soul that could explode and cause problems. “Yes, sir,” I replied.

“And you recognize that this dream is just symbolic? That solving these issues in the real world is going to take more than just picking up the bombs and putting them in your basket?” I understood that he was right: these are real issues and they need real solutions.

The dream had prophetically pointed out that there were bombs, danger points (and I suspect we all have some). We can identify the bombs by prayer, by prophecy, by soul-searching, maybe by inviting input from godly friends.

I also recognized that he wasn’t commenting on the solutions that they needed, just that the issues needed something more than “prophetically picking up a bomb” and putting it in my basket. I was welcome to choose the solutions I was comfortable with: repentance, healing prayer, power of God, therapy, washing in the Word, and more.

I observe that God is speaking to a number of his kids in this season about getting rid of offenses, removing the stumbling blocks from our history; in fact, it’s a little freaky how many began hearing this topic at the same time. If you’re in this season, embrace it as from God, and work with him to remove the hindrances to moving forward.

We’re in this together.


Tuesday

Running the Race


I’ve been frustrated at some people recently, but I think I may be doing the same thing that they’re doing. I hate it when that happens.

In the past couple of decades, God has awakened a bunch of stuff inside of me, and I’ve gone from being a “faithful churchgoer” and a “good Christian” to being a lover. I’m running this race with more passion and more determination and more energy than I have since I was first saved.

As a result, I’m further along in the race than I used to be, the race I refer to as “That I might know Him!” Some of the people I used to jog alongside are still jogging, and we don’t fellowship as much any more, because I’m running with pretty much everything I have, and they’re still jogging. I don’t mean this to sound prideful, but I’m running ahead of where they’re running, and we aren’t close enough in the race to treasure the same things any longer.

Recently, a friend got in my face. He’s running the race, and very recently, God has lit the fire in him that He has lit in me, so my friend is running as hard (at least) as I am now, but he’s starting from way back there, from among the joggers. Among the joggers, my friend is now leading the pack.

He read some of the things that I’m posting, describing some of the new treasures that Father has been unveiling as I’ve run hard these last couple of decades, and my friend, who is still running among the joggers, didn’t understand the treasures that I’ve recently found. So he got in my face, and frankly, he ripped me a new one. “I’ve never heard of these things! These new revelations can’t be from God! Nobody that I’m running with has ever heard of them.”

Frankly, it hurt. It hurt a lot. But “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.” Father comforted me, and showed me the race we were running. And then he showed me the bigger picture.

My friend was making a mistake: he was running ahead of a pack of runners, ahead of everyone he used to be jogging with. That was a glorious thing, and Father is real proud of him. But my friend was only looking at the people that are following after him: he’s only looking behind him, and so he thinks that he’s running at the head of this race, leading everyone who is running in this race, able to speak and able to correct every runner in the race. He’s not looking ahead, not seeing the multitude of runners that are ahead of him, many of whom have been running hard for so long that they’re several turns ahead of him, out of his sight beyond him.

And so it’s hard for him to think of others running ahead of him, who might have revelation that he doesn’t have yet, but which he will have, if he keeps running as well as he is now. But when he encounters those other runners now – on Facebook or some other social venue – he thinks they’re running the wrong race, because they’re running a path he knows nothing about, and he thinks he has to correct us.

So I get hit with this fiery dart, and so I look back to see where the “attack” is coming from, and I see it’s coming from my friend running behind me, my friend who doesn’t yet understand the things that I’m discovering in God. I realize, it’s out of love – or at least out of concern for his friend – that he’s wounding me, that he’s slowing me from my own race, that he’s drawing my attention behind me.

And my attention is indeed behind me, helping some people catch up, dodging others who want to “fix” me, and remembering how I used to be a contented old jogger, back in the day, thankful that I’ve learned to run.

Part of me wants to slow down my pace, to drop back in the race to where I can run side-by-side with my friend. But Father reminds me that this can’t be a solution: there will always be someone slower than me, maybe someone who’s dropped out of the race altogether, who’s offended by the fact that others are making progress and he is not: someone will always be offended at those who are running the race. It’s death to stop running, and Someone else has already died for them, Someone else is encouraging them to run their own race, and He’s a capable coach: I can trust my friends to Him.

Father then gently pointed out that I’m doing the same thing. I’m looking behind me, at the people I’ve passed, at the people catching up. I’ve taken my eyes off the prize. I had started to measure my progress by those behind me. That’s a mistake!

He reminds me of the rules for this race: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Looking forward, I’m startled to discover we are in fact surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses! Oh my! I’d lost track of them.

Come on! Let’s run!






Dangerous Roads Ahead

There are some interesting roads ahead of us. Dangerous roads.

Some will choose not to walk the roads, because there is danger there. But to fear to go in that direction because there is danger somewhere down that road, well, that's the mistake that the Pharisees made, and that didn't turn out so well for them.

Someone spoke of vomiting out lukewarm believers in Revelation.  "I wish that you were hot or cold!" he said.

No thank you.

I will guard against error, against danger, of course. I trust my brothers and sisters to help guard me, as I help guard them. (Thank you for your help!)

But I will travel the road that my Father lays in front of me. If I fall, I fall, and I will get up and go on. But I will not be one who avoids the way my ever-loving Daddy has laid out before me, merely because it's dangerous. I trust him to help me travel this road. He has not promised that I would never fail; he has promised that he would never leave, and that he would provide all that I need. I can trust him.

Do you remember what Bilbo used to say: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

We must not hide indoors, simply because it's dangerous out there.

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.

Wednesday

Receiving Testimony

After Jesus died and was resurrected, things were different. And as that resurrected One, he joins the boys for dinner:

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14)

So here’s the resurrected Creator Son of God, freshly back from kicking hell and death in the teeth, sitting down with the eleven survivors of his intense 3-year training. Functionally, this is their graduation ceremony: he’s just about to commission them to go into all the world and represent him. So what does he say to them?

He rebukes them! And he rebukes them, not for what they’ve done, but for what they’ve not done. So what is this big sin that they’ve done, big enough that it needs to take center stage at their graduation? It’s not believing the testimony of others who had seen him.

The previous verse is one example: the apostles didn’t believe the boys who had encountered Jesus on the Emmaus Road: two guys have an experience of Jesus that is both outside the apostles’ control and outside of their understanding of how Jesus does things. Naturally, they’re cautious about a couple of country bumpkins stumbling in well after dark, shouting, “I seen ‘im!”

They had already rejected the testimony of the ex-prostitute who first discovered his empty tomb. And after they had rejected these testimonies, Jesus appeared to them personally. Their reaction was marked by fear and unbelief.

I do not say this to my credit: I understand why the apostles didn’t believe. I know that place of emotional weariness, where I really don’t want one more strange person telling me one more strange experience; I just want to process the grief I’m overwhelmed with. And I know that place of pastoral caution, where I’m thinking violent thoughts about the next freak that feeds my sheep lousy food based on screwball experiences, and I’m about ready to pull an Indiana Jones on the guy. I understand why they didn’t receive the testimonies.

Jesus, however, is not so patient. He clearly expects better of them. He rebuked them for not believing the bumpkins and the ex-hooker.

Our translation doesn’t do justice to the Greek word “oneidizo,” which is being translated “rebuked” in this verse. Here are some of the definitions for the Greek word:
  • to reproach someone, with the implication of that individual being evidently to blame.
  • to speak disparagingly of a person in a manner which is not justified - 'to insult.'
  • to upbraid, to throw it in one’s teeth.
  • In a more literal translation, the same word is variously translated, denounce, insult, insulting, reproach, reproached, reviled.
My point is this: Jesus was pretty serious about the topic he was “rebuking” them for: this was a big deal to him; he was clearly chewing them out!

If Jesus is that serious about it, I probably ought to be. I observe a couple of principles from this verse:
  • The Head of the Church expects me to believe the testimony of experiences with God from disreputable people. Since Jesus’ birth was announced to shepherds and foreign astrologers, I guess we should not be surprised that he continues to use freaks and outsiders to tell his story.
  • But freaks and outsiders have other stories to tell than just God’s story. There is nothing in this verse – or in the rest of Scripture, as far as I can tell – that suggests that we need to believe every story. We still need to discern. We still need to eat the meat and spit out the bones.
  • I don’t like this one: If I reject the (true) testimony of freaks, then I’ll not recognize him and his work when it’s my turn for a powerful experience with him. The boys rejected Mary’s testimony, rejected the bumpkins’ testimony; it’s my opinion that this rejection led to their unbelief and fear when Jesus interrupts their grief-filled dinner party later.
  • But Jesus doesn’t leave them in that cold, scary place. He breaks into the party and corrects their mistake, which leads to:
  • Learning to learn from others’ testimonies appears to be preparation for fulfilling the Great Commission; note that verse 15 follows 14 in the same conversation in Mark 16.
One last note: I suspect that in the 21st century, discernment may be even more needful than the first century. Bumpkins and ex-prostitutes are mixed in with demoniacs, heretics and Pharisees online, and we can’t look for drool in their beards to identify them. But we still need to draw the sacred from the profane.

Saturday

Upgrading Worship

There’s a wonderful worship song that sings about “Take me into the Holy of Holies.”

Take me past the outer courts
Into the secret place,
Past the brazen altar,
Lord, I want to see Your face.
Pass me by the crowds of people,
The priests who sing Your praise;
I hunger and thirst for Your righteousness
And it’s only found in one place.

Take me in to the Holy of Holies,
Take me in by the blood of the Lamb;
Take me in to the Holy of Holies,
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, Here I am.
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, Here I am.

By Dave Browning
©1986 Glory Alleluia Music CCLI #19272


I was in my quiet place, worshiping with this song this morning, giving voice to my desire to lay aside other things and draw close to him, and I was enjoying his tender response to me: I could feel his presence responding to my cry and snuggling close with me. Since I was in a public coffee shop, it was kinda weird, but who cares? God & I were connecting; when that happens, everything else is superfluous!

And in the middle of all of that, God interrupts our reverie together. “That’s Old Covenant. Aim higher.” There was no sense of condemnation or rebuke with his words, but a clear invitation to more.

Hunh? What? Um… Tell me more….

And he did. He began by pointing out that the whole imagery of the song is from the old covenant, from the Tabernacle of Moses and from the Temple of Solomon: the Holy of Holies was a kind of a secret room where one priest went, on one day out of the entire year, into the place that was supposed to hold God’s presence. The intent of the song is really good: “I want to be in your presence!” but the theology is weak, the goal is too low. The song is crying for God to take me to a place on earth, in a man-made, off-limits, structure, where God promised to put his presence from time to time. In fact, that’s kind of how we talk about God’s presence sometimes: kind of off-limits, hidden away, and sometimes we get access there on a special occasion.

He went on: “Why would you still want me to give you access to the special place on Earth when I’ve already given you access to my very presence in Heaven?” He was offering to upgrade my worship. By this time, I’m pretty excited. Yeah? Tell me more! Please!

  1. You’re aiming to enter a place on Earth I used to visit sometimes. I’m not like that; really, I never have been like that. I encourage you to come to the place in Heaven where I am always present.

  2. You’re asking me to do it for you. Don’t do that. I’ve already made the way available to you, any time you want! New Covenant is ‘Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ That’s what I want from you.


While we talked, he seemed to focus on the second point. When I was a child, it was really appropriate to ask my Mommy or Daddy to take me where I wanted to go. But I’m not a child any longer, he gently reminded me, and he’d rather relate to me as a mature son, as a co-heir of the Kingdom of God, seated with Jesus.

It’s not his job anymore, he explained, to bring me in. It’s my job to come in. The imagery was from my own life: my son has grown up and moved out and made his own home, and has his own responsibilities, but he’s always welcome in my home. If we’re going to visit together, it’s not my job to drive to his house, pick him up, bring him to my house and carry him through the front door. Let’s face it: that would be weird.

But that’s what I was asking God to do with me. I began to understand why he demurred.

I don’t know why, but I am often hesitant about intruding on others’ space. And I have friends that are freaked out by the thought of “taking trips to Heaven” to visit God. Yeah, that’s not commonly taught. But Father pointed out, “Jesus did it. He even talked about it. Interesting, isn’t it, that so few hear him say it.”

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” – John 3:13

Apparently Jesus, in his private prayer times, would – in some way that is available to me – visit heaven. Oh wait, Paul did it. Enoch appeared to do it (He didn’t come back!). And it was kind of normal for John. There is precedent for this.

So I am feeling challenged, provoked, to upgrade my worship in 2011:

  • I want to worship – at least some of the time – from Heaven, not from earth toward heaven. I’m seated there, I can do that.
  • I want to worship as a mature son, not dependent on Him or others for my entry into his presence. I want my visits to be characterized by “coming boldly.”
  • I want my life to be characterized by the fact that – while I’m walking around on the dirt down here – I’m also seated with Christ at the right hand of our Father’s throne: I’m also actually in heaven, while I’m on earth. I want that to infuse my life.


How will you upgrade your worship this year?

Wednesday

Treasure in the Wilderness

I've abandoned the vocabulary of "mountains and valleys" to describe the variations in the Christian life. It seems that the seasons (in my experience, maybe) are more of "seasons in the wilderness" and "seasons of fruitfulness." (Graham Cooke describes seasons of hiddenness and seasons of manifestation in a similar way.)

Fruitfulness is when we see the cool things happening: our prayers are answered quickly, our ministry thrives, we are seen for who we are in Christ and welcomed (or not). These are seasons of fruitfulness, and as we all love bearing fruit, we tend to love these seasons. We tend to know a fair bit about these seasons because we're always praying for them: "More souls!" "More revival!" "More provision!" are all praying into this season of fruitfulness.

Wilderness seasons, sometimes called desert seasons, are where the foundations for fruitfulness are built. And while many of us have never been taught to expect wilderness seasons (I certainly was not), pretty much all of the great saints had their seasons.

  • Moses: Tried to fulfill his destiny, but it really didn’t work out, so he fled to the wilderness. Met God in a Burning Bush in the desert. Then he took three million people with him back into the wilderness, where he was led by pillar of fire/cloud for 40 years. When they got thirsty, he brought water from the rock. Twice! And they ate “What’s that?” (AKA “manna”) for supper every day for 14,600 nights! Moses is famous for making the “Tent of Meeting,” and later the tabernacle: the wilderness is where he learned how to do that, and more important, he learned how to hear God.
  • David: He was anointed by God to be king, and immediately went back to tending sheep in the hills. He killed Goliath (using methods he learned in the wilderness with the sheep), served the king for a little while, and then fled to the wilderness when the king tried to kill him. There he learned how to encourage himself in the Lord, he wrote powerful & intimate Psalms, and he trained an army, and went raiding with them in order to kill Israel’s enemies and feed his friends.
  • John the B: Luke 1:80: “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.” He’s famous for eating grasshoppers, but in the wilderness, God taught him his assignment (forerunner for the Messiah) and how to recognize him.
  • Jesus: Jesus didn’t “flee,” but Mark 1:12 says, “the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.” Of course, it follows up with Luke 4:14: “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.” Something good happened to him out there.
  • Apostle Paul: Here’s another guy that tried to walk out his calling, but ended up fleeing for his life into the wilderness where he was trained by God. 2 Corinthians 12: describes part of what happened there: “I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” He later taught doctrine both from the Old Testament and from the revelation he acquired in the wilderness (for example, 1 Corinthians 11:23).

I see some common trends here:
o A season in the wilderness regularly precedes being released to do what God has called us to do.
o God provides for us in the wilderness, but it’s usually not what we wish his provision would be. For the Exodus, it was 40 years of “What’s that?”; for Elijah, it was water and roadkill (1 Kings 17:6). John had grasshoppers, and for Jesus, it was 40 days of fasting.
o The wilderness is the place where God teaches us how to hear Him. Most of us relate to God through other people (pastors, friends, leaders) until we visit the wilderness, where we learn to relate to him directly as sons.
o It seems that the wilderness is where we learn God’s strategies for the things he’s called us to do later in life: Moses learned how to hear God; John learned that the Messiah would be the one that the Spirit lands on like a dove; David learned to lead powerful soldiers; Paul learns doctrine.

I have begun to see the wilderness through the eyes of Hosea 2:14: it's there that God allures me. It's quiet there. There are burning bushes in the wilderness, and water from rocks, visions of the third heaven. But mostly, God is there, and if I listen carefully, he teaches me his ways: things that I'll need when I next go back to the city. I have learned to love the wilderness!

Don't get me wrong: the wilderness is difficult, but there are treasures there. For me, the difference was perspective: once I learned about the treasures, I began to treasure my seasons in the wilderness.

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.