The Church of the Septic Tank
The dream began with a toilet. The toilet served a comfortable facility where a bunch of Americans gather together in God’s glory. But even American gloryhounds need to poop once in a while.
Then the dream shifted to the septic tank below that toilet. That was interesting.
The tank was full; needed emptying. We considered several alternatives:
• Dig a hole somewhere for putting the poop. We rejected that messy idea.
• Put in a second tank next to the main tank, and link the two. That’s not a solution.
• Pump out the tank. And that’s what we did.
After the tank was pumped, I was invited to hold a picnic in the empty tank. Say what?
Ewwww. That was still dark, still completely stinky! And besides, somebody’s hindquarters were above, beginning to re-fill the tank. Those places where the crap has been stored are not places to relax and spend our free time. No! That’s still stinky!
This afternoon, I realized that this is a metaphor, a lesson.
There are some places that are getting tons of crap removed from them. That’s absolutely happening in the church. There’s been a lot of crap in a number of places, and currently, a lot of that is being removed. It’s not done yet, but it’s getting there.
But when the crap is removed, those places that held the crap will still not be good places for a picnic, still not a good place to relax and enjoy yourself.
In the news far more than the revolution going on in the church is the uncovering of so much crap in the political world that it’s scary. A friend of mine says it's like a Russian novel full of twists and turns. But there’s a lot of the crap that’s getting sucked out of the system.
But when the crap is removed, those places that held the crap will still not be good places for a picnic, still not a good place to relax and enjoy yourself.
OK, what does that mean in practical terms?
Not a flying clue. I have no pretty little bow to wrap on this yet. But I have some candidates for how we can respond.
• We can ignore the cleaning out of the septic tanks and go on about our lives. I think this would be a poor choice.
• We can scrub the septic tanks out with prayer. This is likely to be uncomfortable, but then the prayer to get them emptied has been uncomfortable, too. We’re used to that.
• We can move the poop-hole so the best view in the house isn’t somebody’s bare butt unleashing another load of diarrhea on us. That will likely also involve some awkward and embarrassing prayer.
• I don’t know what this means, but it strikes me that we might need to upgrade our gathering place from a septic tank, where the crap is collected and hidden out of view. Maybe it’s time to put in a sewer system, where the crap still happens (because, be honest: that has to happen!!), but it’s taken away and made into something useful. What an interesting idea. I wonder what it means.
• We can choose a different place for a picnic. I know we’ve been invited to center our lives on the septic tank for a while. But we don’t need to accept every invitation we’ve been given.
I’ll bet you two rolls of Charmin that we won’t find the answers in this context. But if you felt like taking these to prayer, if you considered sharing some of this (even if you don’t share the source) with your prayer group, I’ll bet we’d see some good things happen.
What is a Tidal Wave, really?
Learn This Parable from the Fig Tree
A Personal History with Unchurched Believers
Unfortunately, when I returned home, I discovered I had left my jacket, with my wallet, behind, and I didn’t recognize it until I returned home, an hour’s drive away.
Homosexuals And the Move of God
A Change of Seasons
I Have Peas! (I Have Revival!)
Some time ago, I planted peas in my garden. This is what they look like now. I'm so excited! I have peas!
Actually, to state it precisely, I don't really have peas. I have sprouts. If I care for the pea sprouts and pull out the sprouting weeds, if I train the tiny plants to climb the poles, if I keep the slugs and beetles away, if I water them with some regularity, then I am likely to have peas next month.
But I have peas! I know I have peas. I just can't see them yet.
Father spoke to me through this. "It's only those who recognize my move when it is in its infancy, who bless it when it's only a sprout, who will be qualified to be a leader in the movement when it is bearing fruit."
There was a gathering last weekend, a convocation, of some of the prophetic folks of the Northwest (notes are here: http://nwp.link/If5Xgl). The one thought I heard over and over again was different prophetic folks saying, "It's here. The move of God has already started, but it's only in sprout form just yet.
Now my job is to recognize the peas, the awakening, the move of God. My job is to to nurture the tiny sprouts, to train them to climb the poles on their own, to keep the pests away, to water them once in a while.
It's going to be a glorious harvest!
(Hint: This is not about gardening. This is about partnering with God. :-)
Regarding Physical Manifestations,
Freaky Physical Reactions
- Why do they do that?
- Is that God?
- Can they control that?
- Are they faking it?
- That can’t be good for them, can it?
- That’s not going to happen to me, is it?
- Some folks react because God is touching them; it's involuntary, like touching a live electrical wire.
- Some of them, God isn’t touching them physically, but he’s working on their emotions, and their physical manifestations are simply a symptom of God addressing and healing deeply rooted emotional wounds.
- For others, it's psychological: they need to feel like they're part of what's going on, or they need to feel loved. For some of these, it's marginally voluntary: they may not know whether they can control the physical reaction.
- Others are moved socially: everybody is doing this; I need to fit in, so I should too: their reaction is voluntary, though the thinking behind it may not be.
- Some may be manifesting because their resident demons are freaking out.
- And there are mentally ill persons among us, who are legitimately reacting for their own reasons, real or imagined.
- I leave out those who are mockingly “faking it.” I actually haven’t ever met such people, and though I imagine they exist, I have difficulty imagining them sticking around without fitting into one of the other categories.
- Why doesn’t somebody stop that?
- That is not God! That can’t be God!
- They could control that reaction!
- They’re faking it!
- That can’t be good for them!
- That’s not going to happen to me!
- The critics are an easy one: their fruit is bitterness, judgment, and anger. That doesn’t sound like it represents God well. Therefore, I decline to partake of this fruit.
- The curious observers are easy as well: they manifest genuine hunger, honest questions, eager anticipation, or legitimate confusion. They are willing to listen to testimony and teaching on the topic, but will judge both by what they’ve seen. Most of these onlookers will become participants before long. These characteristics (these fruit) seem to reflect God’s character well; they fit well on his children who are growing and learning. I find this to be very nice fruit.
- The fruit of those who manifest is harder to classify, because it’s so varied. Some, like my friend the sound guy, have an honest encounter with God and get up changed. Those are easy to discern: that’s God! But some seem to have an honest encounter with God, but develop a fixation on the encounter, missing the God whom they encountered, and these seem to be less changed. I find good fruit in some people, and less desirable fruit in some others.
Choosing Your Course in the River
I think it’s time that we expand that metaphor. For those who have been in the river, it’s been good to be in the move of what God is doing. It’s certainly been exciting, fairly often, it’s been confusing, and it has not been boring.
One of the basic truths about a river is that a river never holds still. A river is always moving from its source to its destination. Sometimes, I fear that we’ve missed this truth about the
When I was a kid, my friends and I got some inner tubes, drove upstream, jumped into the local river, and floated down the river. We ended up terribly sunburned, bruised from bouncing off of things, very late to work (the river was slow that day) and altogether, kind of disappointed. I decided that day that floating out of control was not my favorite way to enjoy a river: the reality is that when you’re drifting in a river, like a piece of driftwood, you’re at the mercy of the river’s currents: wherever it goes, you must go. We ended up stock on sandbars more times than I could count.
If you want to be able to choose your position in the river, you must be paddling: forward or back, it doesn’t matter for the purpose of control (though it matters greatly for the purpose of progress). Being intentional give us freedom to choose; if we just float along with the crowds, we’ll always go where the crowds go, and that is certainly not always a good choice. Remember the lemmings.
I have decided that, in this adventure in the river, I want to make progress: I want to choose my path in the river, rather than drift lazily from place to place, I want to avoid the (many) obstacles, and while I am thoroughly enjoying the trip, I really am eager to reach the destination: I want to make choices that take me there quickly. This isn’t about control (though some make it that); this is about choosing responsibility over leisure or slothfulness.
Years ago, when I was a young buck, I went on a very real river adventure. A group of us from my college, with a professional adventurer as a guide, went on an expedition in the far north reaches of
This was back in the day before cell phones: we were pretty well stuck in the arctic north until we made it to
In reality, there were several dangers that could cause us real troubles in the rivers. All of them came from choosing our course poorly. There were some basic principles we used for choosing our route down the river.
- When you’re coming up on obstacles in the river, steer clear. The spiritual principle is straitforward: as we travel through this revival with Jesus, there will be obstacles: there will be things that can offend us, thing that are done wrong, mistakes that are made. We have a choice: get out of the river or steer clear of the mistakes, and instead focus on the good things that God is doing in you here. If you want to find problems (and some people do), then you’ll pay a serious price for your labors.
- There are two places in the natural course of a river, where the river actually flows backwards. Both are dangerous. The first is behind rocks in the middle of river, where the current can draw you in, under the water pouring around the rock and sink you quickly.
(It's curious that the place of “moving backwards” is connected with the obstacles, isn’t it?) The other is along the edge: there are very strong eddies where the water swirls backwards. If you’re not careful, they can flip your canoe in an instant. I know: I’ve done it. Principle: There are some people in the river that are not moving forward in God. There are some folks that have “tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,” but have not moved forward in God. These are also to be avoided. Wherever God is moving, there will be people resisting his move. That does not need to be us.
- When you’re coming up on multiple rocks in the river, the water forms a “V” between them. Keep to the deep water in the center of that “V”. Even a tiny rapids, if handled poorly, can sink a canoe in seconds. I did experience this one first hand. It was … uncomfortable. Principle: stay in the deep places in God. Don’t snuggle up close to obstacles or offenses: stay as deep as you can in what God is doing.
- I’ve already mentioned the danger of the current wrapping a canoe around a rock. I’ve seen that done (it didn’t happen on this trip!), and it is very much NOT pretty! Principle: When we are in the
, there is real danger from the obstacles. Our ability to participate in the river may be destroyed if we get hung up on the naysayers, on the problems, on the religious spirit that loves to destroy what God is doing. Riverof God
- Some rocks never cleared the surface of the water. Just below the surface, they lurked, ready to tear the bottom out of our aluminum canoe. Principle: There are dangers you don’t see. Use your gift of discernment to avoid things that ‘seem’ OK but really aren’t. Failure to discern may hurt you badly.
- We could get hung up on a gravel bar, or a sandbar. If you don’t watch where you’re going, you may end up watching the rest of your party disappear around the bend while you and your mates jump overboard and get completely cold and wet, as you wrestle your boat off the sandbar and back into the real current. Principle: A wise man once said, “Major on the majors and minor on the minors.” The trick to avoiding the sandbars is to stay where the river is deepest: to train yourself to watch ahead where the deep places are and stay in the deep waters. Those who don’t watch carefully will be the ones stuck on the sandbar.
- When the river turns, the inside of the turn is shallow, often filled with sandbars or gravel bars. The deep water is toward the outside of the turn, but not the very outside of that turn. The inside of the curve is the sandbar: a wonderful place for a picnic, watching others make progress while you are not. The outer fringes are dangerous: rocks, trees, roots and other freshly exposed obstacles are in the way of your progress. The deepest place is just inside the curve from those obstacles: stay there. Principle: Haven’t we heard this before: Stay in the depths. Stay in the heart of what God is doing and saying. Avoid the fringes. Avoid the shallows. Don’t go there: focus on staying in the depths.
- There are times when the rapids get too strong, too tumultuous. In times like that, staying to the shallows is a fine way to travel. Principle: there are times when revival is overwhelming. I know a number of people who have gotten burned out on 7-day-a-week meetings, or who have lost their families because they were always following every little thing that God might have been doing. Principle: When things get intense, relax. Don’t feel like you need to be in the middle of everything. Sometimes, being in the middle of everything will kill you.
- Some places are so dangerous, or are so shallow, that the only thing you can do is get out of the river and carry your boat and all its contents to another place in the river, or to another river. Principle: A revival is the move of God among human beings. It is entirely possible that the humans involved can go completely “off the deep end,” or they can steward the revival so carefully that the whole thing peters out. When it stops bringing life, stop giving your life to it. It’s completely OK to quit participating in something that has been taken over by religion, or that has had all the life choked out of it.
There’s the secret about river travel: if you want to make progress fast, stay in the depths. The riverbed has a profile: there are deep places and shallow places along the entire length of the river.
In a relatively young river, or near its source, the river is likely to have more obstacles, more dangerous rocks and snags. As the river ages, or as you move out of the mountains into the flatlands, the river is less dangerous, but you have far more curves to deal with, along with the erosion that comes with them.
If we commit ourselves to the depths of what God is doing, then we’ll make the best progress, we’ll grow up the fastest, we’ll reach maturity as quickly as possible. It’s true: we’ll miss out on the sandbars, on getting hung up on obstacles, on being destroyed. Won’t that be a shame?
The Revival at the End of the Age?
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.
The Curse of Curses
Metaphors for Wise Warfare