Showing posts with label supernatural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label supernatural. Show all posts

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.

Principles for the Prophetic Study of the Bible

In the business community, it is said that the three most important factors in the potential success of your business are “Location, location and location.”

In the world of studying the Bible, the three most important factors in the potential interpretation of a verse are “Context, context and context.”

Biblical context is described a couple of ways:

· Immediate Textual context: What do the verses before and after the one in question say? The paragraphs before and after the verse in question? Knowing the whole thought from which this one verse is taken is a key part of understanding the meaning of the verse.

· Larger Scriptural context: What does the rest of the Bible have to say about the subject that your verse is discussing? Always use scripture to interpret scripture.

· Cultural context: What did the statement in that verse mean to its first readers, its intended audience? If you’re looking at a verse in an epistle, what would it have mean to the people that the epistle was addressed to? Understanding the cultural context is important to understanding the current meaning of the verse.

I knew a woman years ago who was not a Christian. She liked the Bible, but didn’t like how Christians behaved. Her favorite illustration was a preacher who didn’t like the hairstyles of the day, so he preached Matthew 24:17 (“Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.”) and declared, “top knot go down” decreeing that bee-hive hairdos were unbiblical. That strikes me as an abuse of the principle of context, in all three forms. She was still bitter against preachers because of that.

Slight change of direction: When studying the Bible, there are, I was taught, two ways to study it: I can study deductively, they said with a frown: I can bring my presuppositions, my theology and my pet doctrines to the Bible and look for verses that support what I already believe. Deductive Study is inferior, they said, and I’m not sure they were wrong.

Or I can study it inductively, and this was encouraged: I can lay aside all of my preconceived ideas and doctrines and let the Word teach me: I sit under it, and let the Word be my teacher, and as it teaches me, I develop my ideas and doctrines. I don’t know anybody who teaches Inductive Study who follows it completely (they all also study doctrinal texts), but it is certainly preferable than the “proof-texting” of deductive study. Inductive Study is good, of course, and it’s “the right way” to study the Bible.

I find myself torn here. These are valuable principles! I was taught these principles in my training, and they have helped me immensely. I’ve taught them to many others, presumably to their benefit. If their founders had practiced these principles, many cults and heretical groups would never have gotten started. (If their followers had practiced these principles, they would not have been led astray.)

These are valuable – nay: essential – principles for serious study of the Word of God. This is the good stuff here.

The only problem is that the Bible itself does not consistently follow them. Time and time again, the Bible takes itself out of context. Time and time again, the New Testament approaches the Old Testament with a method that is neither deductive not inductive.

Any readers that have been through Bible College will quickly label me as a heretic or worse, so I offer some illustrations:

In the first chapter of Acts, the apostle Peter blows up these principles:

"For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
'Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it'; and,

'Let another take his office.' --Acts 1:20

Peter is quoting from two places in Psalms in order to justify filling the position among the 12 apostles which Judas had abandoned. He starts by quoting Psalm 69 where David is writing, yet again, about “his foes”; then he quotes Psalm 109 where David is whining about the “wicked and deceitful men” who oppose him. Neither psalm is considered a Messianic psalm.

The Gospel of Mark begins with a couple of Old Testament verses to explain John the Baptist’s entrance on the scene:

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets:
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.’” --Mark 1:1-3

The first quotation is from Malachi chapter 3, and it is about the coming of the Messiah in the usual Old Testament vocabulary that mixes his first coming as a suffering servant with his second coming as a conquering king, but it is a Messianic passage: the context (according to the traditional rules) say that the verse quoted is indeed about the one who is coming before the Messiah. All is well and good.

The second passage is from Isaiah 40, and it’s clearly speaking to a discouraged nation as it tries to cope with a conquering army from Babylon knocking down their front door, preparing to haul them into captivity. The only way to know that Isaiah is talking about the Messiah is by Mark’s completely-out-of-context interpretation of it.

In these two passages, the apostle Peter and Mark, the disciple of the apostle Paul, both break the rules that I was taught about studying the Bible. They quote verses completely out of context. They interpret those verses in a way that is neither Deductive nor Inductive.

There are dozens more. John 12:17; John 10:25; Luke 2:46; Matthew 26:31; Luke 20:17….

I’ve come to describe it as Revelatory Interpretation. Looking at these passages Inductively, it appears that the Spirit of God occasionally takes verses, sentences, even brief phrases out of context and breathes new meaning, new application to them that their author never imagined.

I had an odd experience a few months ago. I was walking through my woods, on my favorite trails, and I was talking to God. OK, what I was doing was more like whining at God. I’d been going on for quite a while and when I stopped to take a breath, He interrupted me: "Are you done yet?"

It startled me. He didn’t comment about anything I had said (or whined). Rather, He reminded me of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and then He completely re-interpreted it for me in ways I’d never considered, never heard taught. It completely defused my whining, and the self-pitying attitude that was behind it, and frankly, that lesson has changed the course of my life.

He did the same thing to me that He’d done to Peter and Mark (and no, I am not comparing myself to them, other than the fact that we’re all under His teaching): He re-interpreted the Word in a way that was neither Deductive nor Inductive, in a way that disregarded context. He defied all the rules that men had taught me about interpreting the Bible, but He brought Life to it.

I am not arguing for a wholesale abandonment of the principles of sound Biblical interpretation! There is great wisdom in them, and they are tools both powerful and useful. When I have opportunity, I teach many of these tools because they’re helpful.

Rather, I am proposing that we implement those principles differently. Let us, as the Inductive method teaches, sit under the Word to learn from it, but let us also sit under the Author of the Word, and let Him teach His Word to us. If we lock ourselves in to what the Book says, then we’re perhaps in danger of becoming the right-wing kooks that the world already thinks we are. But if we treat the Word as “living and active” then it becomes “…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

And He doesn't always respect context.

Sunday

Spending Power


There’s an interesting story in Mark 5:
25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, "If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well."
29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My clothes?"
I rather love the fact that this woman was healed. I love that she was healed by her faith, and that her faith was focused by her words and activated by touching Jesus. I love that she immediately knew that the condition she’d lived with for twelve years was instantly healed. All that is well and good.
I’ve been reflecting on a single concept, quite apart from all that glorious stuff: Jesus knew that power had gone out of Him.
That’s an interesting thought, or rather, an interesting group of thoughts, for it says several things:
1. Power (greek dunamis) had been transferred.
2. The transfer was out of Jesus.
3. The transfer of power was discernable.
4. The transfer was a surprise to Jesus, or at least a mystery.
Jesus was walking along in the midst of a crowd of people (v31), minding his own business, and suddenly he knew (or “perceived”: epiginosko) that power had gone out of him. It’s interesting that the Lord didn’t say “power has come from God and gone through me.” He said, “out of me.” Strongs describes the language as “a primary preposition denoting origin.” It means “out of.”
His behavior (“Who touched my clothes?”) suggests that he didn’t even know where it went, though that may just have been an invitation for the woman to declare herself. It is was simultaneously acknowledging both ignorance (“Who did it?”) and familiarity (“This happened through touching my clothes.”). I wonder if it had happened before in one of the untold stories of Jesus.
Power (dunamis) is always an interesting subject. Here it manifested as an instantaneous physical healing. Other places it manifests as deliverance, and it was the stuff that came upon Mary that made her pregnant with Jesus. I tend to look on power as the energy from Heaven that accomplishes the work of Heaven on Earth.
It seems to me that if Jesus could have power drawn out of himself when he was not expecting it, then is it not possible that you and I could have power drawn out of us when we weren’t expecting it. Have you ever known people that are so hungry for more of God that it’s nearly impossible not to prophesy over them? Or people that so desperately need a father that it’s difficult not to father them? Or a new believer that is so eager to grow that you find yourself talking about the ways of God while they listen with rapt attention? Or have you ever been those people? I know I have.
Or even when we are expecting it, when we impart something of God into the lives of someone else, power is spent. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:20 that the kingdom of God is ‘not in word but in power’: in other words, power is what this kingdom is about. Our job is to handle power, to dispense power, so that there is more God-like stuff and less stealing, killing and destroying stuff when we’re done. I must walk in power!
Here’s where these thoughts have taken me: if this woman was able to draw power out of Jesus, and people are able to draw power out of me, then where does that power come from, and what happens to me when the power is gone? If doing the stuff of the kingdom spends power, then what happens when the power is spent?
I can see three options here, and I’m not sure I like the implications of some of them.
Option One: Hoard. We don’t spend power; we keep it ourselves. I’ve seen people who don’t seem to spend any power, for whatever reason. Whether they’re hoarding it, or whether they just don’t have any, they don’t spend power: people’s lives are not changed; healings (physical, emotional…) just don’t happen. I’ve been concerned lest I find myself here.
Option Two: Powerlessness. When the power is all spent, then it’s gone, and we’re done; we’re out of business. When we’re out of power, we find ourselves in option one: we got nuthin to give.
Option Three: Reload. We go get more power. Once we have spent what we have, we go back and get more.
There are only a couple of places where the New Testament talks about power on the increase.
· After his temptation in the wilderness, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee….” (Luke 4:14)
· The disciples were encouraged, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8)
· God told Paul in his weakness, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect (teleiรณo: accomplished, completed) in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
It’s easy to fall back on lazy theology and say, “Well, it’s God’s power, so it must come from him!” TBI: That’s True But Irrelevant: it doesn’t answer the real question; it just throws religious vocabulary at it. Let’s dig a little deeper: what does the Book say about how to increase the amount of God’s power in us and available for use? Let’s make some observations from these few verses:
1) Power comes from the Holy Spirit: it comes from relationship with God that lets Him be in charge.
2) Power is connected to my being a witness to Jesus (note that “witness” is something that I am to be, not something I do.)
3) I receive His power. It comes to me. I’m not just a mindless tool in this process; I’m a participant in it. One could say that it’s His power, but I wield it.
4) Power is an expression of God’s grace: the free stuff God gives for accomplishing His will on earth.
5) His power shows up best or most when my weakness is evident.
Some of the appropriate conclusions here are easy: if I want to have the power of God working in my life & ministry, I need to be in a very fresh relationship with Holy Spirit and I need to live a life that is a witness to Jesus.
I sometimes hear sermons about the power of God. I don’t often hear it preached that the purpose for the power of God is to accomplish that thing that we pray mindlessly in unison in thousands of churches: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It’s not for me. It’s for Him, for His will – though His will includes me.
Another conclusion that I haven’t often heard taught is that one of the best ways to lay hold of the power of God is to practice weakness.
One of my mentors was a man who, for nearly 30 years now, has worked at nearly minimum wage as a part-time teacher in a child care center. His shift starts at 6:30 in the morning, but he’s usually there a couple of hours early to pray for each staff member, each child, each classroom. I suppose it wouldn’t be surprising that he has changed the lives of hundreds of fellow teachers and thousands (more likely tens of thousands) of kids. Wherever he goes, there is peace, there is perspective, there is wisdom. Wherever he goes, fear flees, hopelessness gives up, love thrives.
I have another friend who has lived surreptitiously as a client in a recovery house. Officially, she’s there to clean up her life. In point of fact, she pastors the other women in the house. She’s chosen a life of weakness, of brokenness, and as a result, her life is full of miracles, to the point that the women there regularly ask her why she has so many miracles.
My personal application for this is a change of my own perspective (as good a definition for ‘repentance’ as any). As an American, I’ve been taught to seek my own will, my own good, my own strength. As an American Christian, I’ve been taught to use my own will, my good standing, my strength to help “those less fortunate.”
Rather, I hear here to abandon those goals entirely: instead, seek the lowest places, the places that make room for others to be esteemed, not abandoning what’s good for me (certainly not persecuting myself!), but making room for weakness in myself – and not hiding it. In those places, I can expect the power of God to work for His purposes.

Monday

Reciprocity With God

The other day, I went for a walk in the woods, in “our place”: a set of trails that God & I used to spend a lot of time on together. What with the price of gas to get there, and the business of life, I haven’t been to those trails much recently; we’ve been meeting in coffee shops and back rooms instead.

When I got to the trailhead, my first words were according to tradition, “Hi Papa,” and then He broke our tradition. Instead of waiting for me to quiet my mind over the next mile, He immediately began speaking to me of reciprocity in relationships, particularly His relationship with individuals. He seemed very excited about it. I’m afraid I loved that part best: His enthusiasm is very contagious.

“My relationship with you,” He began, and I could hear Him smiling, “is reciprocal.” And He let me think on that for a bit.

I sometimes teach a model of relationships that uses a bridge as an illustration of our relationship: the stronger the bridge (the relationship) between us, the more weight that can be carried across the bridge from you to me, or from me to you, but we both have to build the bridge.

I thought of this illustration now, as He was teaching me. “That’s actually not how I relate to you.” I was getting excited with Him by now.

So He began to describe to me how He limits Himself in His relationship with me – or anyone else – based on how I approach Him. While He is always attentive towards me, if I give Him my time and attention, then He gives me His time & attention: the degree to which I experience Him is pretty much determined by how much I’m willing to invest myself in Him, in our relationship.

I wish I could capture the joy, the immediacy, the clarity that came on those trails.

He pointed out that He’s “pretty much omnipotent” and if He relates to me in His omnipotence, I’ll pop, or my brain will fry, or I’ll burn up in a puff of smoke. “No one can see My face and live,” He said to Moses, and suddenly I understand better. If He brought the infinite force of His personality to our relationship, I would crumble to dust when He showed up. That’s hard on the relationship.

It’s mercy that keeps Him at a distance from me.

And so He must limit Himself, His glory that is in His person, His personality. I pray, “Show me your glory” like Moses, and He must answer, “I cannot.”

But the limit that He puts on Himself is the limit that I set. Or to put it the other way, the more I open myself to Him, the more He opens Himself to me.

I long for His presence. I appreciate His mercy.

Saturday

Five Ways of God’s Provision

I’ve been thinking about God’s provision for quite a while. I’m still working on the significance of this, but I’ve seen five ways that God provides for us in the earth. The order is significant here: from the most simple and self-sufficient to the more complex, more interactive, more dependent on others.
1. Provision from Creation. The earliest humans were hunter-gatherers, and that is a valid means of God’s provision: it’s right there, we just need to grab hold of it. Esau is an example: where his brother tended sheep, Esau went out in the wild and hunted his provision. I rather think friendship is often this way: we don’t need to create friends, we just need to meet the people around us because there are friends there, waiting for discovery.
The essence of this means of provision is that it doesn’t require anyone else. I just go find what I need, and I take hold of it and it becomes my provision.
2. Paycheck for Work. Shortly after the first hunter-gatherers came back with fresh mastodon, someone else offered something of value for some of the meat, and the first paycheck was exchanged. A paycheck is essentially an exchange of my time (or the fruit of my time) for your provision, whether that provision is in the form of money or flint knives.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the elder brother saw himself in a paycheck relationship to his father: he put in his time, how come Dad didn’t come through with the fatted calf for him?
It’s easy to aspire to this in our relationship with God, particularly among evangelical and charismatic peoples: we see “full time ministry” as a goal, where we get to do spiritual related activity, and we get a paycheck. Personally, I think that sells ministry short.
3. The Community as Provision. As early man developed a culture, and insofar as our culture is actually healthy, the culture itself, the community to which we belong, becomes a means of God’s provision for us. Jesus relied on community provision in Luke 8:2&3; Paul teaches this in 2 Corinthians: in chapter 1, he talks about how our comfort is for the provision of comfort to others; in chapter 8, he broadens it to financial provision.
We see this in the contemporary church as well. Missionaries depend on the financial (and other) support of the community of faith in order to be able to preach the gospel in the foreign field; and the local church, in order to pay the staff and the mortgage, relies on the support, both in finances and in service, of the members.
I’ve seen many times where believers long for this kind of provision. “I need to be a full-time minister,” they say to themselves and others, as if this is somehow a more holy means of provision than earning a paycheck in a regular job, a value which (having had both) I wholly dispute.
4. Sowing and Reaping. Many people make their living by planting seed and harvesting the resulting crop. Interestingly, God has set up creation so that the laws of sowing and reaping work outside of the realm of agriculture where we most expect them. Paul teaches extensively about other application of these principles in 1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians 6, where the seed and the crop are sometimes financial, sometimes matters of character.
It appears that this was a common practice for Jesus and the Boys. John 13:29 implies that it was common for the group’s bookkeeper to practice giving to the poor.
And I see the principles of sowing and reaping in the story of the Widow of Zaraphath (1 Kings 17) and between Jacob and Laban, and in both places, invoking the practices of sowing and reaping. Interestingly, Jacob’s relationship with Laban started out as a wage-earner (Genesis 29:15), but when Laban wants to renew the contract, Jacob substitutes provision based on sowing and reaping (30:31 and following).
In the natural realm (dealing with seeds and dirt and grain), this means of provision probably belongs in #2 position, as it requires very little faith and not much more interaction with either man or God. But when we apply this as a spiritual principle to more areas of our life, then it has earned its #4 position.
5. Supernatural Provision. There are a number of times where God bypasses all of the “rules” and makes provision supernaturally. I love the fact that Jesus paid his taxes with a coin from a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:27), and I love watching the supernatural provision for Elijah with the crows (1 Kings 17) and with Angel-food bread (1 Kings 19:5-7). Jesus used God’s supernatural provision when he multiplied fish and bread, and it seemed that this might have been (or could have been) a common practice (Mark 8:16-21).
I had an odd experience some years back. My wife & I were heading out for seven weeks of evangelistic missions in the far east (mostly in the Philippines, plus 2 weeks in Hong Kong and an overnight trip smuggling bibles into China). For various reasons, the financial reserve we had built up vanished in the last few days before we flew out, so when we landed in Manila, we had $14 for the two of us for fifty days in Asia.
It was then that I may have done something stupid; it was certainly educational: I prayed an odd prayer. I told God, "I know you're going to provide for us. But because I want to learn more of your ways, would you please provide for us without people giving us money?" In the culture of the group we were traveling with, generosity was a commonplace thing: people gave each other money as someone had a need, so it would be something of a miracle if that did not happen.
And it didn't. Nobody gave us a dime.
More interesting was the fact that we were never without. We didn't have much, of course. The most powerful lesson came when I woke up one morning wanting pizza, so I asked God for pizza, but I didn't ask anybody else. And that day, God gave us pizza. Without money. my bride was with a group of women and one of them declared, "Who wants pizza? I'm buying!" And a single mom bought a pizza for her kids, but they weren't hungy. The single men's dorm was empty, and so she brought it to me.
It was Philippine pizza, and only Shakey's at that. They don't even understand what cheese is over there. The month before, I would have turned my nose up at it. But that day, it was the best pizza in the world. I learned a world full of lessons about God's provision in that day and on that trip. On that trip, God and I conspired to move our provision from #3 (the community as provision) above to #5 (supernatural provision).
(That weekend, I discretely told God that I thought I'd learned the lesson, and I released Him to provide for us any way He wanted: with money or without. True to form, by noon, three people had handed us cash gifts.)
I’m guessing I’ll come back to visit these principles at another time. For now, I’m going to close with two observations: First, the earlier means of provision require less faith; the latter means require substantially greater faith. And second, I believe, from the example of Jacob &  Laban if naught else, that we have some say in the means by which God provides for us, just as my bride & I did in the Philippines.
So. How do you want your provision?

Friday

Practical Deliverance from Demons.

I've been discussing practical deliverance with a friend recently. It seemed appropriate to discuss it here. This approach, while effective in street ministry and casual encounters, certainly is not the only approach; there are gentler ones (I really like SOZO ministry for established relationships!).

My favorite teaching passage for deliverance is Mark 9, and Jesus is our model here, not the boys.

Some principles that work well for me:

  • Be loaded up on the glory of God before going into that battle. Since it’s hard to know when you’re going in, go ahead & stay loaded up on glory. (vs 1 – 12)
  • Don’t be surprised if the occasion is marked by crowds, disputing, amazement, hubbub and such (vs 14 – 16).
  • It’s not unusual for believers to not know what to do with demons. (v. 17-18).
  • Demons often manifest (act out) when confronted by the presence of God. (v20). Nevertheless, in His presence is the best place for them to become free (v20 – 27).
  • There are 3 pieces of information that may be helpful in finding the key to that person’s deliverance:
    1. History (v21)
    2. Symptoms (v 22)
    3. Ungodly beliefs (v24) (This was the one that Jesus picked up on in this event, and he corrected the false belief before delivering the boy. Note that it was his father’s belief that was the key.)
    4. Note that these can be learned supernaturally (through prophetic words or words of knowledge) or naturally (by conversation or observation); a combination is always helpful.
  • Rebuking and commanding are appropriate (v25). Note that
    1. a) these do not need to be loud or aggressive in either the physical or soul realms to be forceful in the spirit realm; my experience is just the opposite: the gentler my voice, the stronger my authority is on the spirit, and
    2. b) the rebuke and the command are directed at the demonic spirit; the person hosting the demon are almost uninvolved in the encounter.
  • Making a scene is to be avoided (v25) if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassing the person to whom you’re ministering.
  • Expect to see a physical reaction (possibly convulsions or something dramatic; more likely a substantial and Godly peace) in response to the exercise of real authority (v26)
  • Ministering to their physical needs comes after the deliverance (v 27 and other examples).
  • The best authority is a life characterized by prayer and fasting (v29: note that Jesus neither prayed nor fasted during this event).

The biggest issue is knowing that you have the authority in the circumstance and the demon has none when facing Jesus. In circumstances like yours – where you were dealing w/ a demon in a friend (if I understood the facts right) – then it helps to explain some of these things, at least enough to be comforting, to the person being ministered to.

Don’t be freaked: that’s the enemy’s goal: to get you to look at him instead of at Jesus. Weird voices, weird manifestations and the like are just part of the sideshow. I could tell you stories, but it would be redundant: if you’re looking at Jesus & listening to the Spirit in all of this, then the vitriol, the vomiting, levitation, or whatever, is completely irrelevant.

It would be easiest to teach this if we were ministering side by side with a demonized person; this will have to do for now. Please ask questions if you have any.

Walk in warm footsteps!

Sunday

A Warning About Declarations to a Prophetic Community

We’ve been hearing for several years now: our words have substantial power, not just in the lives of those we speak to, but they change realities; they release spiritual power. Before I go any further, I want to affirm some of the basic truths held there:
· One of the ways that I’m created like my creator is that, like Him, my words carry power and create or change the reality of the world around me.
· This is one of the reasons that the Word commands those working in the prophetic realm to speak “comfort edification and encouragement.”
· We can exercise this authority intentionally (perhaps as declarations) or unintentionally.
OK. Now on to the meat of this article. Jeremiah 28 contains a warning about making specific declarations that are not within the will of God. But first an overview of declarations.
There are at least three categories of Declarations:
1. Those things that God has already said to us specifically. We can declare these boldly, knowing with certainty that we’re working within the purposes of God.
2. Those things that fall within the parameters of God’s blank checks: “Ask whatever you want,” He said, “and you shall have it.” There were conditions, of course: primarily that we be well and truly “in Him.” (See Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 14, John 15, John 16 as examples.)
3. Those that are our will, for our own benefit, but are not part of God’s plan This includes those things that we already know are contrary to God’s will.
And this is where Hananiah and Jeremiah 28 come in; I recommend you read it again now. Please. God had declared one thing (70 years under Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke), and Hananiah declared something completely contrary (only 2 years in captivity). Some thoughts:
1. As a prophet, Hananiah was aware that he was directly contradicting Jeremiah’s word; he broke Jerry’s wooden yoke. It was a prophetic challenge, and he knew it.
2. The scriptures don’t identify Hananiah’s prophetic mantle any differently than Jeremiah’s: he was not a “false prophet.”
3. Hananiah was certainly declaring something far more comfortable than that which the true word of the Lord had declared. If I were going into captivity, I would prefer 2 years to seventy. And certainly it’s easy to understand why someone would want to be seen as a prophet who stood up to the judgment that was facing them.
4. God (through Jeremiah) declares he has not sent Hananiah with this message, and that the message he is speaking consists of lies, and that he was teaching the people “rebellion against the Lord.” Surely a prophet and the son of a prophet would know that he was not sent by God.
In verse 11, Hananiah prophesies the breaking of Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke, and he does it from his own will, contrary to God’s will. Yet in verses 13 & 14, God tells Jeremiah that things are different now because of Hananiah’s word. In other words, even though Hananiah was prophesying “lies”, even though his declarations were self-motivated, they had effect.
God backs up Hananiah’s prophetic word, even though it was in error. But it wasn’t a stamp of approval of his ministry. It cost Hananiah his life:
“Hear now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.’”(Jeremiah 28:15&16)
Now, this is Old Testament, but it seems that God honored the rebellious prophet’s word, knowing that it was a rebellious word, but he mitigated the effects of that word in two ways:
1. He removed the prophet from the scene. Hananiah actually died 2 months later.
2. He does an end around to accomplish His purposes in spite of Hananiah’s fulfilled word: “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made in their place yokes of iron.” (v13,14)
Hananiah’s word intended to reduce the yoke that Jeremiah had prophesied (from 70 years to 2 years), but instead, it increased the severity of the yoke (from a relatively comfortable wooden yoke to an immovable iron one).
The lesson in this: as a prophetic people created in the Creator’s image, our words have power, even in rebellion. But we must guard our words so that we speak what we really want to see created. Yes, God will mitigate the effects of our unwise words, but who among us wants to find himself opposed by the Almighty?
Let’s guard our hearts and our words. Obviously we must run from Hananiah’s example of defying the word of the Lord for his own good. But if we are to be judged for every idle word (and we are), then we must guard our casual speech as well.
We will be a prophetic people if we follow in the footsteps of our Father. Let’s speak “comfort edification and encouragement,” as far as possible, but whatever we speak, let it be His words, not ours.

The Wind of God

In this week’s posting, I want to look at something that God did in Canada a few years ago. This is the kind of plunder I want to see! May it happen in my community. And in yours!

This happened on Feb. 28th, 1999 at the Anglican church, in a special Sunday afternoon youth service in Pond Inlet. Pond Inlet is a small, predominantly Inuit community in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada and is located at the top of Baffin Island. As of the 2006 census the population was 1,315. The people were disturbed at reports of drug use amongst the teens in their community, and they came together to seek the Lord.

The Lord visited them that day with His miracle power, which was manifested in a very loud sound. They were recording a cassette tape of the meeting, and the sound of the Lord's wind and mighty fire was recorded. Here are some excerpts from the video on You Tube, where you can hear the recording and testimonies of that day:

"An invitation was offered for Youth who felt they wanted to come closer to God." The worship leader, Louee Arieak, was praying over the youth at the altar, "I felt so close to God... He kept giving me this verse that says, 'Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for they shall see God.' "

"Something started to happen, that was beyond our control."

"Fire went right through me!"

"It sounded like a jet, but I started to think, there are no jets in Pond Inlet".

"It was so loud, that everything started to shake, All the people started to shake."

"Fire !!!! Fire !!!! Hallelujah!!!!!! OHHHHHHH!!!!!"

When the sound first started, Pastor Moses Kayak tried to stop the sound by first adjusting, and then even turning off the sound board. But still the sound, and the recording, continued. "It shouldn't have been recorded. It's only by the miracle of God."

The pastor recounts the story. He was "... completely humbled, to the point where he wanted to continually come before God, kneel... and ask for cleansing of the heart - to become pure before Him."

"My name is John Tugak. I played the guitar that nite there at the service. The sound started just barely noticable like a tv with no signal. Then it built up louder like as if a big plane flew over but the noise was there longer than usual. Saw the pastor trying to adjust and fix the noise with the sound system but it continued. I even saw him turn off the system but it didnt help. Then I realize, and I believe the sound is from the presence of the almighty God. I still believe, and have never experience anything like it! If the sound was from the sound system, it would break as it was too loud for the speakers to handle it. The speakers cannot make that kind of sound and shake the building. The sound was amazing!"

Here's the story of what happened:


And this is a report from a few years later:


Please tell me what you think.

Are Christians Lazy?

I was walking along the lake this morning, praying. (Trust me, 6:30 AM in February qualifies as “the cool of the day!”) As we walked, he brought back to my mind a hope, a dream really, regarding ministry that He and I had talked about decades ago. I realized that I’ve seen nothing come of it.
I need to explain something before I go too much further here. I’m a direct communicator. God knows this and seems to not be offended by it. He sometimes speaks directly with me; it works for us.
So I’m reflecting on this ministry dream, and it crosses my mind that it hasn’t come to pass; in fact, I’ve known several folks with similar dream, and theirs hasn’t come about yet either. Hmmm. Oh look, it’s beginning to snow.
And the voice of the Holy Spirit whispers in the back of my thoughts: “That’s because my people are lazy.”
Whoa. Suddenly He had my attention, and he unfolded a series of thoughts in my mind, like a slideshow; no, more like an MTV video clip: fast, active, and full of energy. I feel the need to share some of those thoughts.
In many ways, the work of the Western Church has been functionally indistinguishable from the work of the secular world in which we live. Not completely, of course, but in some critical ways. We’ve often governed our congregations by political process (show me one place in the Word where the people voted; there is one, but it’s not our model). We’ve accomplished what we considered the work of the Kingdom, but we’ve been directed by our own goals and we reached them by our own strength.
There’s been a growing movement in the church that has rejected the concept of using the arm of the flesh to accomplish the work of the Spirit, and encouraged a more Spirit-led model of ministry. For example, we don’t often see Jesus setting goals and forming committees; rather, we hear Him talk about doing and speaking only “what He sees the Father doing,” and we see the supernatural results that He had, and we want to be like Him!
Then we read the story of Mary and Martha, and we hear Jesus rebuke Martha and affirm Mary, and we think, “Well, I should sit at His feet, not run around working hard, or He’ll rebuke me too.”
Unfortunately, what worked for Him turns into religion and passivity in us. We become religious because we forsake our vision for the marketplace for “more spiritual” vision. We become passive when we look at Jesus’ statements as if He sits around waiting for God to give Him direction.
A verse that has driven us is poorly translated Isaiah 40:31: But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. We see “wait” and we think about sitting in the lobby of the doctor’s office reading antiquated news-magazines, and that’s made us lazy. The Hebrew word actually means “to wait or to look for with eager expectation,” and is the root word for the making rope: becoming intertwined. When Jesus “waited”, He did it early in the morning or late at night: He worked hard to wait, to intertwine Himself with Father. Maybe that’s the reason that we don’t accomplish as much as He: we don’t work as hard at waiting.
I’ve encountered an attitude that appears to be uncomfortably commonplace among believers, particularly among believers who believe in and like to associate with the power of God. We wouldn’t put it this way, but it’s accurate: we kind of wait for God to hand us our dreams on a silver platter.
There’s a reason that Bill Gates or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are as successful as they are, despite the fact that they don’t (as far as anyone knows) spend much time waiting on God: they work hard.
We as believers should work as hard as unbelievers work, though certainly we don’t worship market dominance, wealth, or power as they do. Jesus didn’t rebuke Martha for working; He rebuked Martha for dismissing Mary’s choice as insignificant, or for working without having spent time sitting at His feet first. He never said, “Be more like Mary,” perhaps because if we all did nothing more than sit at Jesus’ feet, nothing would get done. I rather suspect that the goal is to be like both Martha and Mary. As Mike Bickle says, “Lovers make better workers.”
I hear people complain that if they take the time to be with God, time to be with their family, time for church, then the won’t have time to do the work of the kingdom. First, I suspect that’s more of an excuse than a reality, at least in the lives of some who have made that complaint to me. And second, I’ve become willing to suggest that we seriously cut back on the number of services we attend in order to spend more time with God, with family, and in the work of the kingdom.
So, to answer the question that I posed in the title of this posting, yes, I think Christians (including myself) are lazy, and we’re lazy because we have been poorly instructed. When we learn who we are in Christ, when we learn that it is our work to reign with Him, when we figure out that “waiting” has more to do with warfare than it does with killing time, then I think we’ll find our dreams come to pass, our promises fulfilled, and His kingdom come.

Tuesday

Go! Preach! Heal!

I’ve been studying the Bible for many years, and I’ve come to a conclusion: Jesus is a pretty good role model. For example, I’ve been watching Him in His ministry, and listening (so to speak) as He instructs His followers, and I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m a follower. Maybe I’d better pay attention!”
 
For instance, at the end of Matthew 9 we have a description of how Jesus did ministry, and if I want to be like Him, then I ought to do ministry the same way. And then in the beginning of Matthew 10, He instructs the Boys (aka “the apostles”) on how to do ministry. I’m thankful that He’s not a hypocrite: He teaches them to do the same things that He did. And when you boil it all down, it’s actually not real complicated.
 
Matthew 9:35: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
 
So the essence of Jesus’ ministry was pretty simple: Go, Preach, Heal.
 
Matthew 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.
 
And His instructions to the Boys were pretty much the same: Go, Preach, Heal. He added some details about what to preach (“The kingdom is at hand”) and how to heal (cleanse lepers, raise the dead, etc…).
 
Even the Great Commission focuses on the same things.
 
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
 
All of my responsibilities as a Christian fall into two camps: who I am and what I do. And in the “what I do” category, I have only three things: go, preach, heal.
 
I look at that list, and it scares me. I think: “Go. I can do that. Preach. I can do that.” And then I come to the last one: “Heal. I can’t do that.”
 
That’s wrong on a couple of levels. First it betrays a fundamental heresy in my understanding of the gospel: the gospel requires the supernatural. The presentation of the gospel that Jesus understood involves signs and wonders. It involves people throwing down their crutches, and dead guys climbing out of their coffins and surgeons looking at x-rays and scratching their heads and demons being chased out of people. That’s part of the gospel!
 
I’m thinking that a five minute presentation of “the Four Laws” is insufficient. That’s what brought most of my generation to Christ (maybe that’s our problem!).Someone who knows about these things pointed out to me that pretty much every time in the gospels that we see Jesus teaching or preaching, we probably see him healing the sick as well: a powerless gospel is not the gospel!
 
But that leads me to my second problem: I don’t do so good at healing people. I can’t really do that. And for long seasons of my life, I gave up trying. This is where my second major error happens. Sure, I can’t heal people without divine assistance. But what on earth makes me think I can do the rest of it on my own?
 
The whole gospel is – at its core – supernatural. It involves at the very least a transformation from death to life, and if you believe the Bible, then there’s a party in heaven when that happens, because something supernatural happened! So what makes me think I can preach without His divine impartation on me? What makes me think I can even go as a representative of Heaven except that He commissions me, He sends me, He goes with me? This is not a place where a “Please bless my words” prayer will work. I need power as desperately in my going and in my preaching as I do in my healing the sick and raising the dead.
 
And just because I can’t do it is no excuse. I still need to heal the sick and raise the dead.
 
So ultimately, my problem is that I don’t believe the Bible: I haven’t recognized the necessity of the supernatural, so I’ve left the healing part out, and then I’ve tried to do the rest of it pretty much on my own.
 
I think I have a lot to learn!
 
Go! Preach! Heal!