Showing posts with label warning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label warning. Show all posts

Thursday

Jigsaw Revelation: the Love of God


Have you ever put a jigsaw puzzle together?

Sometimes you find two or three pieces that fit together, and suddenly that part of the picture makes sense, when a moment ago, it looked completely different.

I’m sort of thinking along these lines today. Would you think this through with me? This will likely get uncomfortable; brace yourself (or skip it and move on).

Revelation chapter 20 is in the middle of what appears to be The Epic Judgment Scene at the end of time. In verse 12 is this statement: “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”


That’s the scene that we’ve all read about, heard preached about, where people are judged for all the good they’ve done. This is the verse that gives rise to the silly idea that God is going to somehow compare the good that we’ve done against the bad that we’ve done.

We know better than to think that the good we’ve done outweighing the bad we’ve done is the way to reach heaven. We know better, but there’s this statement: “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

It’s like that weird piece of the puzzle that just doesn’t seem to fit in with other pieces of the same color. There’s always one piece like that, isn’t there?

So let’s look at some other pieces of the puzzle. Let’s lay them all out together, and see where they lead us:

• “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” [Revelation 20:12] We’ve seen that one. Then add this one:

• “God is love.” [1 John 4:8 and 16] This isn’t terribly controversial. We knew that, too. Now add this piece in between those two pieces:

• “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” [1 Corinthians 13:5] Now fit these pieces together with me, and see how these work out:

Since God is love (see above), it seems to follow that God would keep no record of wrongs.

And if that’s true, it means that the books that people are judged by, the books that list what everyone has done, they maybe have no record of wrongs.

And if they have no record of wrongs, then they must be only full of the good things that folks have done. That’s a new and different thought. But that’s what these verses say, isn’t it? I know it’s not the harsh judgmental image of God that some people insist on, but I think that might be the God of someone like Jesus.

Now, some people’s books might be thicker than others.

I would expect that Mother Teresa’s book is pretty immense; she did a lot of good. And she maybe needed less “wrongs” erased out of her book. Just a thought.

Osama bin Laden’s book is on that shelf. I’m absolutely confident that there is some good recorded in his book, though he was famous on the earth for the other kind of things, the kind of things of which no record is kept.

My book is there, and perhaps it’s between theirs. I have to say that I am not overly offended by the idea that my book may be missing some of the things that I’ve done in my life.

Yes, Scripture declares the dead were judged by what was recorded in the books, and at least for the moment, I’m suspecting that this means that the dead were judged by the good that they did in their lives, not by the wrong that they did.

That sounds like an awards ceremony of some sort. Everybody gets a prize. Some are big, some are small.

It reminds me of Paul’s words:

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved--even though only as one escaping through the flames.” [1 Corinthians 3:12-15]

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I often insist on reading things in context, and the context of this statement in Revelation 20 is fascinating. There was another Book on the table in that scene, the Book of Life, and that’s where the real judgement happened: was their name in that book?

“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” [Revelation 20:15] That’s another story, another judgement, of course.

It’s a big deal, but it’s not what I’m looking at today.

The first judgement, the judgement based on “what they had done as recorded in the books,” I’m wondering if that judgement is based on records that “keep no record of wrongs” because they’re kept by the God who is Love. Hmm…

And if my Father keeps no records of wrong in my book, and if it’s true that “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more,” then I have several reasons to give up my records of who’s done right and who’s done wrong in my perception.

This way of recordkeeping will change my personal relationships, of course, but I’m suddenly impressed that this will affect how I read the news. Love keeps no record of wrong.

Hmm. This might be an interesting season.



Audacious Prayer




Conversation, even online conversation, is a useful tool for discovering what’s in the heart, discovering what you’ve begun to believe that you didn’t realize you believed. These are some of the best conversations in my world.

Recently, I’ve been conversing about audacious prayers, “crazy prayers” with some good folks, and I realized some things that I have begun to believe.


I’ve been burned badly by “crazy prayers” that I’ve prayed which were not on the heart of my Father, but which he graciously answered anyway. Took the better part of a decade to get over one of them. His grace, his kindness during that decade were overwhelming.

And I’ve prayed some “crazy prayers” (for things I frankly did NOT believe at the time) at his direction, which he then answered, and which revolutionized my life and my family’s life, others that changed the shape of my neighborhood, my city.

As a result, I’m all for “crazy prayers” that are in His heart – whether they were in his heart to begin with and I just figured it out, or whether they started in my heart, and he’s supporting my free will. 

But if I don’t find them in Father’s heart, I’m pretty gun-shy about what I’m asking for, what I’m speaking about.

I believe I’ve come to this: the more audacious the prayer, the more I need to have confidence that it is in my Father’s heart before I speak them out.

But if I hear them from him, if I find even the most audacious, the craziest prayers reflecting his heart, then yeah, let’s do this!



Contempt for God's Kindness

This just ambushed my thought process.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

He’s challenging the Roman believers for showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience.

Yikes.

Who are the folks showing contempt for God’s kindness?

Well, this verse indicates part of that: the folks who don’t realize that it’s God’s kindness which leads to repentance. Folks who preach something other than God’s kindness? Yeah. Them.

The context makes it even more clear: those who “pass judgment on someone else” (v1) are the folks he’s addressing.

He’s very specific: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v3) That’s pretty strong language there, Paul!

More specifically, Paul is saying that believers who condemn other believers, believers who emphasize something other than God’s kindness are “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” (v5) That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?

That’s kind of a problem.

You know these people: people who get in your face (in person, or on Facebook) and shout about how others are going to hell for their sin, or how a nation needs to repent in order to escape God’s wrath. There are folks who go around denouncing everybody who believes differently than they do as false.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this garbage comes from pulpits around the country.

When you see them, first of all, don’t buy the manure that they’re selling. It’s not good for them and it’s SURE not good for you. In fact, if you’re able, don’t even let them spew that garbage on you. Walk away.

But more than that: pity them. Pray for mercy for them. Because the path they’re on is storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.

And most of all, do not go with them. That’s a pretty ugly destination they’re headed to. If they insist on going there, you do NOT need to go with them.

Show them kindness.

#PrayForGrace

The Commandments of Christ

I've heard John 14:15 quoted many times in reference to obeying some of the laws of the Old Testament:  “If you love Me, keep My commandments." Or they've quoted John, 15:14 "You are my friends if you do what I command."

The verse is thrown out as a prooftext: "You have to follow the commands of God!" though nobody's expected to follow all the commands: they don't promote blood sacrifices or stoning sinners. It's just an attempt to coerce believers into submitting to their own favorite part of the Law.

This is an attempt at control: whether from ignorance or malevolence, this is an attempt to wield the Law, as it has always been wielded, to exercise control over you: "You must do what I say you must do, because of this verse!" This is part of "the curse of the Law." And implicit in it is "If you don't do what I say, you're guilty!" and this is the rest of "the curse of the Law."

Let's look a little closer, shall we, at what Jesus said? Jesus doesn't say, "If you love me, keep all the commands of the Law," or even "If you love me, keep this particular group of the Law's commands."

What does he say? "Keep MY commandments." Keep the commandments that Jesus has given. Not the commandments of the Law: the commandments of Jesus!

What did Jesus command? Let's pull out a concordance and look, shall we?

Jhn 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jhn 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Jhn 15:17
This is my command: Love each other.

You're welcome to look it up yourself (http://nwp.link/1HpK278); these are actually the only commandments that Jesus gave. It's pretty clear that, while he has commanded it several times, he only gave one command: love each other.

So yeah: if you love Jesus, keep the commandments he gave: they're all about love each other. That's it. This isn't about obeying the law, or about religious traditions, or about dietary requirements or even a command to "do good works."

It's about loving each other.

It probably is appropriate to point out that love - true ἀγαπάω love - is a pretty big topic. It's all about pursuing their good over your own good, and that's a costly love that will itself require much of us. But the command is love; the command is not about submitting to the Law, either the Old Covenant Law, or the rules that someone is trying to control you with.

Brothers and sisters, the Law is dead. Long live the command of love.

A Vision of the Puddle.

I was visiting with a friend the other day, talking about what God was up to on the earth today, and I envisioned this picture. (In Churchspeak, “I had a vision.”)

I saw the devil, and he was watching you. And as he saw you emerging from your hidden place, as he saw you beginning to walk in your identity as a child, as an heir, of God, as he watched you shake off “every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares you,” I realized he was standing in a puddle. A yellow puddle. A warm yellow puddle.

Around the planet, the saints of God are coming out of their hiding places; they’re shaking off the snares of the enemy. Around the world, believers are beginning to believe, and are devouring the Word and learning who they really are, and what they’re really armed with. Around the Earth, wounded ones are healing the sick and raising the dead; some of them, without being healed themselves, are healing others in great numbers and with great determination.

And it’s scaring the piss out of hell.

This is one of the main reasons that “all hell is breaking loose” in some places: because all hell is terrified of the people of God growing from just being “Christians,” to becoming “Sons of God.” This is hell’s “fight or flight” mechanism kicking in, except that they have no place to run, nowhere to hide, so they have to fight.

This is also why we’re seeing so many earthquakes, so many storms, on the earth, in my viewpoint. These are the birth pains of the mature sons of God. And it’s also why so many believers are groaning, crying out for more, no longer content with sitting on a wooden pew once a week to be the primary manifestation of their relationship with God.

Romans 8 declares, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

This is happening today, right now. This is going on in you, today, right now. If you’re one of the ones wanting more of God – whether you want more of his presence, more healings, more people to know him, more signs and wonders: whatever! – then you’re one of the ones that are making the devil piss his pants.

Good for you! Keep up the good work! Don’t let down your guard, but keep pressing in! Keep manifesting heaven on earth!

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Nehemiah 4:17: “Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.”


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Come join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/northwestprophetic. 

Focus on What we're For.

Instead of focusing on what we're AGAINST, maybe we focus on what we are FOR? Instead of focusing on warning people against "wolves in sheep's clothing," I propose that we focus our attention and our affection on the Shepherd.

First, it's easier to keep track of: there's only ONE God to be FOR. There are too many more wolves out there, and they keep swapping their sheepskins, so you have to kind of study their evil to know what evil they're representing this week. Ick.

Second, we become like that which we focus on. I'd much rather be like Jesus than like the guys that people are warning us about, the wolves in sheep’s clothing. If I focus on the wolves, I become wolflike. Ick again. No, we aren't ignorant of them, but we don't squander our attention or our conversation on them.

Third, if I train people to pay attention to my warnings, or the warnings of others like me, then I am drawing their attention and their devotion away from where it ought to be. Believers in Christ ought to be following Christ, not other believers, and I don't want to be the one who has to answer Him for why His Bride is turning away from Him and following me. Yikes.

Fourth, if I feel the need to constantly be warning the sheep about wolves, then I have seriously underestimated the sheep. We think of the Bride in white lace, but this one has a ka-bar straped to each boot, and instead of flowers, she’s carrying an automatic weapon in her hands. This sheep is not without formidable resources.

Fifth, we're commanded to focus on the good stuff. Philippians 4:8 is pretty clear. Hebrews 12:1&2 tells us where to fix our attention. This is a WAY better (and WAY more useful) focus of our attention than the wolflike bad guys.

Sixth, we are NOT the only ones out there working to protect innocents from wolflike bad guys. If we act like that's our job, then we are completely disrespecting the Holy Spirit and the angels of God. It is not our job to do His job.

Seventh and finally, the power of God in us is orders of magnitude greater than the power of evil. Jesus kept messing with that one. In the old covenant, a good guy touching a bad guy polluted the good guy, and this is what many of today's warnings are about. But in the Kingdom, a good guy touching a bad guy brings healing to the bad guy: lepers, demoniac, even corpses!


Honestly, any ONE of these is enough reason to put our attention on bigger and better things. All of them together are overwhelming.


Homosexuals And the Move of God

There’s been a lot of talk about an increase in the movement of God on the earth, and how this is the beginning of a new “wave” of God’s interaction with this planet.

Recently, someone asked me a good question: “Where do gay people fit in the next wave? I heard one prophet say they will be a part of it, and they won’t necessarily be delivered, but that they too can walk with Jesus and be filled with the Spirit. Will the next wave deliver them, empower them wherever they are at, help them live single, or something else?

I’ve heard testimonies of Spirit-filled homosexual churches. I’ve heard prophets and evangelists testifying that they’ve been among churches that come from the homosexual movement: not “ex gays ministering to homosexuals,” not “former homosexuals,” but “churches made up of people in the homosexual community.”

The testimonies, from reliable sources, are of churches, filled with the Spirit of God, among the homosexual community. (The testimonies, like the churches themselves, are not in the public eye because of all of the wrath they have received from the religious community.)

I’m committed to learning from others’ testimonies (http://j.mp/WUa9gS), so I will not reject these testimonies. In point of fact, they are fulfillment of prophetic words from myself and others, and fulfillment of God’s promise that he would call people to himself from the ends of the earth.  

So where do homosexual churches fit into this next move of God? For right now, I’ll employ a new phrase that I’ve only just learned: “I don’t know.” (Whew. It feels good to say that.)

I’ve spoken out publicly about two characteristics that I (believe I) know about the coming wave:

1) It’s going to be so different than what we’ve experienced before and what we expect, that it will be hard for most of us to recognize.

2) It’s going to be so big that it’s kind of overwhelming.

When you combine those two, it makes for a real mess: outspoken church leaders who are overwhelmed by things they don’t understand or recognize. That ought to be interesting. Perhaps MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference was a representation of that?

But there’s a third thing that (I believe) I’ve seen: this wave, this move of God, being so big, and being so different, will carry with it things that we’ve always considered heresy, wrong, unclean. (Tsunamis are very seldom sparkly clean.)

This is where I put the reports of God moving freely among gay churches: I know (I’ve seen it in visions) God is going to breathe life into the homosexual community, and I hear reliable reports that he has begun to do this already. But wait! Shouldn’t they repent? Yeah, but I didn’t repent of all of my sin until I understood it was sin, and some of that was decades after I was saved and filled with the Spirit. And I guarantee you that their repentance is not my responsibility!

This is also where I put the (equally credible) reports of the New Age movement coming to Christ. I know God is going to breathe life into the New Age community, and I hear reliable reports that this, too, has begun to already. But wait! Shouldn’t they repent? Yeah, but see above.

So yes, the grace of God convicts God’s children of sin, and leads them to cleansing and repentance! Yes! Yes! But He clearly does that in his own time, not in mine.

So how will homosexuals and New Agers fit into the next move of God? I don’t know. I expect that they’ll be involved, but let’s see what God does, shall we? And let’s welcome those He brings into his house!


Opposing a Spirit of Fear


Some years ago, a few well-known prophets from America’s east coast prophesied hell coming to the west coast, and to my Northwest region in particular.

They didn’t call it hell. They called it “The Big One.”  They called it earthquakes and volcanoes and a tsunami, and millions of people screaming and dying. They went so far as to say, “Move away from the west coast, if you can!”

That pissed me off. I hate it when God’s people use God’s name to prophesy the devil’s agenda for my region! That is not okay with me.

Even the secular news caught on, and there were “news” articles on TV most nights: “It happened to Japan! It can happen here!” with interviews of geologists and politicians and emergency response people and preppers and fear-mongers. It was ugly.

The prophets then added, “We asked God if we can stop this, and he said we can’t.” That one caught my attention.

I asked Father about it. “Of course they can’t stop it. They’re from the east coast.” That was all I needed.

We gathered a handful of prophets together in one of our homes and came before God, to see what He said about it.

It was a fun evening, but too long to detail. To summarize, there were two primary points we needed to pray into:

1) We (on the west coast) live on the Ring of Fire: there are going to be earthquakes and such; it’s how God built the planet: stuff moves. We can try to stop the movement of continents, or we can just change the effect of their movements. So we decreed lots of tiny earthquakes instead of the killer quake that Japan got that year. (And sure enough, we got a lot of small quakes over the next couple of months.) This was the little attack, the flash that was to capture everybody’s attention while the enemy went after his real goal.

2) The greater attack was the spirit of fear that was riding on the reports, the prognostications, the conversations about “The Big One.” The enemy wanted to use these reports, and use any significant quakes, to embed a demonic stronghold of fear into the people of the west coast, and the people of America.

We also opposed that attack, and the public fear-mongering pretty well stopped. The enemy has not given up his goal of embedding a demonic stronghold of fear in the people of the west coast, but he’s going at it more subtly now. (This is one example of the current attack: http://on.fb.me/1geQU6L.)

The goal of embedding a spirit of fear into the people of the USA appears to be a pretty key issue for the enemy. It’s everywhere. Look at the conversations around Facebook that are talking about GMO foods, and you’ll hear fear in a lot of those voices. You’ll hear it in the conversations about the dismantling of the US constitution, the Second Ammendment conversations, the vaccine controversy, the Obamacare conversations.

And pretty much every conversation that talks about “Jesus is coming soon” or “the antichrist” or “the tribulation” or “the rapture” is tainted with a spirit of fear.

If I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest that we have not actually been given a spirit of fear. The Spirit we’ve been given is about power and love and it’s about a sound mind.

By contrast, the spirit of fear that’s coming against us is merely a temptation: Will the people give in to fear, or will they resist? Will they respond in fear or in power? In fear or in love? In fear or in a sound mind?

It’s NOT the enemy’s choice whether the spirit of fear infests your house, your community: it’s YOUR choice.


What say you?

No Wonder The World Doesn’t Love Christians.

No wonder the world doesn’t love Christians.

Many of the members of the Church of North America are the loudest an most vitriolic when pointing out the sins of others: the sins of a president they don’t like, the sins of other political leaders they don’t agree with, even the sins of their own brothers and sisters, Christian leaders whom they find fault with.

No wonder the world doesn’t take Christianity seriously.

“But they’re in sin! I must warn them of their sin!”

Bosh! If you bring me a wheelbarrow of that, I can fertilize my petunias, but I won’t use it on my vegetable garden. Ewww.

First, if you’re a child of God, then you carry some of the authority of God’s family: what you declare is, in some mysterious way, empowered to come about in the world of men. If you constantly speak of their sin, guess what’s reinforced? Their sin.

But it impacts you, too: if you’re constantly pointing out sin, then guess what happens in you: your life, being focused on sin, becomes sin-centric. I can’t imagine any good thing that could come from that. I sure wouldn’t want to live with you.

If a prophet or, even better, a friend had stepped in and warned some of those we’re describing, if they were speaking with the heart of God, then they'd be speaking TO the leader they were warning, not speaking evil of him to folks on the outside. You don’t warn somebody of anything by spouting nasty things about them on Facebok.

I hate to break it to you, but President Obama doesn’t follow your Facebook page. Neither does that televangelist that you think is spending money foolishly.

It is ABSOLUTELY part of the Kingdom to go to a brother and say, "Hey, friend. I see a problem here. Can I help you with it?" This is where a real friend can really help. It may be the only place. And it isn't really an option to strangers. Sorry, but unless I know them, and know them personally, I don’t qualify.

It is ABSOLUTELY part of the Kingdom to go over their head. Instead of slandering them, we always have the option of praying for them. (Now *there’s* a radical concept!) And the reality is that my words before Father will change their behavior far more than my words before my friends.

It is ABSOLUTELY from the pit of hell to go to the highways and byways, to the coffee shops and the interwebs, and spread slanderous accusations about them. There is no good that can be done by dragging their name through the mud on Facebook. Even if the accusation is true, it's still slander, it's still the work of the Accuser of the Brethren. And let’s be honest: those who actually do need to repent will not repent just because someone posted foul things online about them.

I get it that some of the slander posted about political leaders is intended as humor. And some of it – a pretty small fraction, if I’m honest – actually is funny. But really, it’s still slander. It’s still exercising whatever “kingly anointing” that I carry as a child of God, not for their freedom, but to keep them enslaved in their sin.

The hardest part is remembering that ultimately, the only one who can make choices for their life is them. You and I cannot, no matter how deeply we care. It is not, in the end, our choice.

Does that mean that I need to shut up and submit to what I believe is terrible and unconstitutional devastation done to my country? Oh, Heavens no! Please, no! But whining accusations are not the answer.

The Promised Transition: a true story.


We had been struggling to plant this church for more than a year, and we were confused.

We were three starry-eyed young men and our three faithful young wives. We were passionate believers, full of faith and ambition. We’d quit our jobs, sold our homes, and moved to Canada, amidst a flurry of encouraging prophetic words of victory and glory.

When we arrived, we found a few believers who were drawn to us. They’d had dreams of three young men in bright armor marching into their region, sparks flying from their heels as they dispelled the darkness.

Someone had had a dream about a network of home groups, maybe house churches, in every one of the thousands of apartment complexes, full of life and growth and health, people coming to Jesus every week, baptisms every month in the apartments’ pools.

We were so confident, when we started the church, that we’d find victory, that people would come to faith by the scores, maybe the hundreds, revival would visit the city, and lives would be changed.

It hadn’t turned out that way.

We’d been struggling to keep the young church alive for a year and a half. Tithes and offerings were barely covering the rent on the school that we were meeting in. People were coming to the church, but not really investing themselves.

When we came together, worship was good. The Word was taught. Prophetic words were not infrequent. But it as if nothing was sticking.

And then, in the spring, several of us heard the same thing from the Lord. “Prepare for transition. This fall, the church is going to experience a change.”

We rejoiced. We celebrated. Now, finally, we’d paid our dues, and we’d experience some fruitfulness! Now, finally, the church would grow, and we’d be able to settle into our lives and jobs, and make something of our lives. We were really ready for that change. We couldn’t wait!

Over the next few months, we talked about the promise, we rejoiced in it, we celebrated what God was about to do! We were thrilled.

And then things began falling apart.

Several families had an unexpected financial crisis.
So the church finances, which were barely sufficient, began to fail pretty badly.
A number of people in the church experienced unprecedented relationship failures.
One of the pastors was being drawn into an immoral relationship.
Hopelessness began to set into the life of the church.

And then when the fall came, my family was called home (with our tail between our legs!) by the organization that sent us, and the senior leader, needing to pay his bills and feed his family, accepted the invitation to pastor a prosperous church in the next community over.

When the time came for the transition, we acknowledged the inevitable, and shut the church down.

It turned out that the prophetic word was true. . “This fall, the church is going to experience a change.” What was not true was our interpretation of the word. We assumed that the change would be the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams. It was not that, but it certainly was a change.

I’ve observed this process going on throughout the people of God: we hear the word accurately enough, but we filter it through our hopes and dreams: our expectations.

God makes himself accountable to the promises he gives (keeping in mind the conditions associated). But he has not made himself even a little bit accountable to our attempts to shoehorn our wishes and desires into those promises.

Israel did that with the Messiah, Jesus. They expected that Messiah would come in force and deliver the nation from Roman tyranny. When he came as the suffering servant, they rejected him, and some theologians suggest that it was this disappointment that led Judas to betray Jesus, in an attempt to force his hand to become the conquering king.

When God speaks – whether in the prophetic declaration, or in the Holy Scriptures – it is a really lousy idea to try to force our expectations, our hopes and dreams – even godly hopes and dreams – onto his promises. It’s generally considered rude to put our words into someone else’s mouth; it really doesn’t work with God!

One of the disciplines that I’ve tried to develop over the years is one that I exercise whenever I encounter a promise: I try to peel away my own interpretation, and the interpretation of whomever I’ve heard the promise from (pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet, or Facebook friend), so that I can restrict my expectations to only that which God has actually promised.

That way, I’m in less danger of being disappointed by him not answering all my hopes. That way, I can expect him to be him, and not to live up to all of our expectations. And I can free myself to actually know him, instead of just putting his name on my own wishes.

Are We Preoccupied With Warfare?

Some believers don’t like to talk about spiritual warfare. Recently, someone said to me, “There is not much of a battle when I flip the light switch on. Darkness is not presence, it is merely the absence of light. Is it me or is the religious earthly kingdom preoccupied with war?”

And honestly, he has an excellent point. And it is completely true so long as we're speaking in the theoretical realm, so long as everyone and everything submits to the rules.

But not everybody does. In reality, the Book talks about things that do not (yet) bow their knee to the authority of the Light. There are some beings, therefore, who do not yet yield to that supreme authority. Some of them are people. That, of course, means that some of them are not people.

Think with me for a minute: if Jesus, who is God incarnate, who is the Light incarnate, had to deal with intense enough warfare during his temptation that it required angels to come & minister to him, then it is likely that we-who-are-less-than-He may also encounter demonic opposition.

If Jesus had to regularly spend all night in prayer, and at least one time he sweat blood in prayer, then you and I also probably need to invest in substantial prayer in order to accomplish the purposes of the Kingdom in our area of influence on this planet.

The Bible uses warfare vocabulary to describe this process, so I will as well. In fact, Paul declares that “we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). This is not a place where “ignorance is bliss.”

Paul’s apostolic counterpart, Peter, exhorts us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Someone seeks to devour me and mine? That’s not fair! (No, it’s not fair, but then, nobody promised that the devil who is a “lawbreaker” would always play fair! Sorry to burst your bubble.)

In the process of dispelling our un-blissful ignorance, Paul explains, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

In another place, he explains the war in more detail: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10).

Yeah, we’re involved in a war. In fact, we were born behind enemy lines, separated by a merciless enemy from the Kingdom of Heaven which is our heritage, which is where our Father is seated. It is God’s clear plan that we engage the war, and that we overcome the demonic enemies that are arrayed against us. And he has provisioned us for unquestionable victory.

I have learned that there is a word that accurately describes those who will not carefully and intentionally give attention to this warfare. It is "casualties."

Let us not be casualties, please.


Help Discerning the Move of God

God’s people have been rebuked with a couple of phrases plucked out of the Bible more times than I care to recount: “Decently and in order, Brother! God is not a God of disorder, but of order. You need to settle down.”

I have to keep reminding myself that Acts 2 - where people are accused of being drunk - is God's idea of “decently and in order.”

And evidently Hannah was “in order” when she went to Shiloh to ask the Lord for a child; she certainly found favor and Samuel was born to her. But she also was mistaken for a drunk, by Eli the priest, the one man who was most qualified to be able to recognize the workings of God in His people at the time.

Do you remember David’s wife Michal when David danced before the Lord?

Apparently there is a long history of religious people mistaking spiritual passion (or being influenced by God's Spirit) for drunkenness. Also apparent is the fact that they’re often wrong when trying to identify what is God moving on his people, and what is the flesh at work.

We could also discuss more recent events: Azusa StreetTorontoBrownsville, and others, and we’d find the trend continuing. I cannot tell you how many times I was warned that “God is not in that disorder!”

I was warned by my pastor to stay away from such places: “You never know what a crowd of emotional people will do! They’re out of control! It could be dangerous!”

This leads me to an awkward, even politically incorrect conclusion: when God is doing something with me, particularly when it’s something that seems strange to me, there is evidence to suggest that my church leaders may not be the best people to ask for help understanding it.

If their job is maintaining the organization of a Sunday morning fellowship, they have a vested interest in not rocking the boat. They have a vested interest in people not being “out of control” in their experience of God. It’s real difficult to condone your experience, if your experience creates ripples among others in the congregation. A few pastors can do it.

It may be better to ask Father to show you himself, what has happened in your life. It will also be good to ask him to introduce you to others who have had a similar experience, perhaps some who can help you understand.

Are there dangers? Are there freaky people out there? Sure there are. Welcome to the deep end of the pool. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.

As Jesus’ best friend wrote: “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27) This is not just theory. This is the Word of God instructing you about how to be instructed. This is the real thing.

This is why we follow God. This is also why we don’t follow people who follow God, but we walk alongside them. 


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Insights from the Book of Job

One of the most useful insights from reading the Book of Job is seeing the difference between what went on in Heaven, and how it manifested on earth, in Job’s life. (The worst use of the book is learning theology from Job’s “friends.” What a train wreck!)
  
Job never knew about the dialog between God and Satan. In fact, Job (and Job’s whole culture) didn’t really know about Satan, so they believed that God did all this bad stuff, when the Book *clearly* says it was Satan. (It’s embarrassing how many Christians believe the same way today.)
  
Job blamed God for the disasters that had struck him, and called him throughout the book to account for why he’d done such evil to him. The oddest part, from my perspective, was this: God took the blame. (I observe that at no point, did Job ever ask God, “Did you do this?” or even “Who did this?” Maybe that would have been useful.)
  
At no point during God’s several chapters of response to Job’s accusations did God ever say, “That wasn’t me. That was the devil.” In fact, God’s reply can reasonably be summarized as, “Job, this is above your pay grade. You don’t even have the capacity to understand what went on in this.” 

God took the blame for the devil’s destruction, knowing he was innocent. 

How many other times does it happen in scripture: the devil wreaks havoc, but we blame God for the destruction. 

We have *got* to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus, who was the “exact representation” of God’s nature. If we don’t see death in destruction in the ministry of Jesus, then death and destruction is not part of God’s character or his job description. 

Maybe it would be useful to look at the stories of the Old Testament through the revelation that is Jesus, and ask the question:“Who did this?”

Monday

The Enemy's Distractions


Nehemiah, Chapter 6 starts out this way: 

“When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that there were no more breaks in it—even though I hadn’t yet installed the gates— Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: “Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.”

I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”

Four times they sent this message and four times I gave them my answer.

In this season, one of the enemy’s attacks against the people of God, particularly the people of God who are building the Kingdom, is like these Yahoos were trying: to lure them away from the work to come spend time with me instead.

That temptation may come from strangers; on public forums like this one, that’s not particularly rare. But it may also come from friends who have themselves been sidetracked. I have seen these kind of temptations to stray show up as lonely widows needing a man’s perspective, or handsome young men suddenly paying attention to a woman (or a man). They can also come in the guise of recognition from important, influential or famous people or organizations. An invitation to review an article before publication may be more about drawing you off of your focus than about getting your opinion.

In conversation with a brother this evening, Father showed me that this is one of the biggest things motivating the people coming “alongside” us to “fix” us, or to “correct” us or “show us the error of our ways.” Their goal – the goal of the demonic that’s nudging them, that is, not the people’s goal! – is to draw Kingdom people away from Kingdom work. Suck ‘em dry if they can, but get them off the work of discovering the Kingdom and sharing those discoveries.

I’ve also seen this attack come in the guise of a business opportunity, a job offer, or a promotion.

There are several dangers here. The first is the one that Nehemiah was concerned about: that they will separate us from the people of God, from our community, and there they will suck us dry of fervor, of passion, of purpose. In other words, they’ll kill us.

The second is that the work that we’ve been doing – assuming that we’re actually doing Kingdom work and not just building our own kingdom – will go undone. In some ways, that’s just as valuable to them: “Do whatever you have to do, but stop them from building the Kingdom!”

Guard yourselves, friends. Resist them. Resist them repeatedly. Nehemiah had to chase them off four times. Don’t be surprised if you get more than one round of people trying to distract you, to draw you off of the task that Father has assigned you to.

You’re doing good work, work that nobody else can do like you can. Why should that work come to a standstill just so you can go meet with somebody?

It shouldn’t.

Don’t fall for it.

Wednesday

Guard Against Counterfeit Grief


We’re in a season of transition. The old leaders are being replaced by new leaders: we knew that was coming, though we may not have considered that the old leaders might be going home in the process. In addition, the battle has been heating up for a while, and more warriors, more bystanders, are getting hit by an increasingly desperate devil.

As a result, there are a lot of us still in the battle who are grieving: for fallen brothers & sisters, dying fathers & mothers, wounded family members, and more. (There is a reason someone said, “War is hell.”)

I felt the Lord warn me this morning: Son, grieving is a good thing; it’s a good and healthy response to fallen comrades. But Son, watch out for the counterfeit: sometimes sadness slips in and the enemy tells you that you’re grieving.

Grieving is a process, and being sad is part of that healthy process. But it’s not hard to get stuck in just the sadness, and then the process stops. Instead of moving on, of resolving into healing, sadness just sits there; the longer we stay in the stationary place of sadness, the more difficult it is to choose to move beyond it.

The result of healthy grieving is healing. If we don’t see the process heading towards healing, we might have lost our way, and we may need help finding it again. Don't be afraid to ask for that help.

If we don’t keep moving through the grief process, if we get stuck in sadness, then sadness wants to bring forth fruits of bitterness, or of depression, or of some other unhealthy bondage and keep us in chains. The result of a derailed grieving is bondage, and nobody but the evil one wants us in bondage.

Grieve, brothers & sisters! Weep where you need to: even Jesus wept when his friend died. But guard against getting stuck along the way. 

Saturday

Change of Focus

There is a remnant of God’s people who are more passionately pursuing the freedom of the Kingdom than they are pursuing participation in human gatherings. For a long time, these have resisted the control of man’s religion and man’s rules and man’s approval, or lack of approval.

It has been right, it has been good that we have resisted that control that has been pharisaical and restrictive. It has been appropriate that we have resisted constrictions that some have wanted to put on our freedom in Christ.

For years – perhaps for decades – those pursuing freedom have needed to watch for those who would, knowingly or unknowingly, steal that freedom away. It’s not time to let down our guard, but it is time that we change the focus of our resistance. We are not to be bound. We are not to be subject to others’ fears and limitations.

In fact, it’s time to stop looking at what we are not; time to stop looking at what we are leaving behind. Instead of focusing on what we have left, it will be good to look at where we’re going. It’s time to fix our eyes on the One who is leading us, the One who died for our freedom.

A very wise man once said, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” If it was not this season before, it surely is now.

We have had to keep our guard up against those who would take our freedom, and it’s good to guard our freedom. But we’re coming into days when we need to keep our eyes on the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. We need to watch Father closely, because he’s moving more quickly, he’s speaking more softly, than he has done before.

We still run the race. We still guard against man’s control. But our eyes are on the King. Trust me, he’s much nicer to look at anyway.

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.


Friday

The Curse of Curses

It occurs to me that we the church don’t really understand curses the way we need to. I suspect that God will be releasing a fair bit of new revelation on the subject of dealing with curses over the next several years.
I need to think this through a bit. Fortunately, this is a blog and that’s what blogs are for: to think out loud. Thanks for sharing this with me.
Proverbs 26:2: Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight.
Obviously, if there’s no cause, any curses aren’t going to stick to me. But in this is the clear inference that if there is cause, then the curses may very well stick to me, and I will be cursed.
Now, on the validity of curses, consider Joshua and the city of Jericho:
Joshua 6:26: Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, "Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates."
Now add this verse from several hundred years later:
1 Kings 16:34: In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho . He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn , and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.
So Joshua declared a curse on the un-known rebuilder of the city. In other words, there was no cause for that curse to alight, but when a guy named Hiel starts building the city, suddenly curse sticks, and the conditions of the curse kicked in.
Curses are rather like laws. The law of this land – and to a certain extent, the Law of the Old Covenant – are not primarily a statement of “You may not do this,” but more a statement of “If you do this, this is what will happen to you.” The law cannot change behavior (we’ve known that, haven’t we?)
Joshua’s curse never said, “Nobody can ever rebuild this city.” Rather, he said, “If they do, this is what will happen to him.” That’s what curses are like: when the curse has “a cause”, it will stick to the person that gives it the cause, and bring about the results of the curse.
Sometimes, the details of the curse are not real specific, as in Abraham’s covenant with God:
Genesis 12:3: I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
In this case, the curse describes the person who will receive the curse, and the condition that will make the curse stick, and they are the same: whomever curses Abraham (and his descendents, since the blessing was for generations); but it never describes the nature of that curse. Those who curse Abe’s descendents will be cursed, but the nature of that curse are not detailed. I suspect that the curse that falls on the curser is the same curse they fired at Abe’s kids: whatever they curse Abraham’s children with falls on themselves, but that’s mostly an opinion.
For the record, this business of cursing is not for us as believers. Jesus commanded us:
Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Also for the record, Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the Law:
Galatians 3:13-14: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
And there will be an end to the season of curses altogether. In Revelation, John is describing eternity:
Revelation 22:3: And there shall be no more curse , but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
OK, now for some principles on the subject of curses:
1. Anything we do from obedience to the Law – by extension, anything from a sense of obligation or duty as sole motivation – is cursed.
Galatians 3:10: For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.
2. A curse may wander around unfulfilled for centuries until it is fulfilled. See the example of Joshua (above), whose curse sat there unfulfilled hundreds of years after Joshua declared it.
3. I can choose whether I get stuck with a curse or not by whether or not I live my life with a cause for that curse.
Now think with me for a minute about application of these principles:
If we put a Christian bumper sticker on our car and drive like hell, then we deserve the curses spoken against us by other drivers. Trust me, they’re being spoken, and passionately. We live under a curse – many curses – because of our driving.
If we have a habit of saying things like “That was stupid!” or “I always do that!” when we make a mistake, we’re speaking curses against ourselves, and they’re likely to stick. We live under curses because of our habits of speech.
We live in a season when our nation looks win disfavor, even anger, against Arab nations, and there is a fair bit of cursing of Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia in popular culture. Remember Genesis 12:3: there is a curse on those who curse Abe’s kids, and it also means that anyone who curses the Arab nation may also make themselves a target of this curse, as they are the children of his son Ishmael, who is the father of the Arab nations.
My recommendation is this: stop cursing. (That’s not the same as “stop cussing”, though there is room for that argument as well.) There is no good that comes from speaking evil over people, whether generally (eg. Iraq) or specifically (the guy who just cut you off on the freeway), whether others or yourself. If we deal in curses, we are likely to earn them ourselves, and then the swallow stops flying and the curses come to rest on us; instead of living under the blessing of God, we live under curses, and everything goes wrong. Or those curses rest on someone else, and they have to live with what we’ve foolishly declared over their lives.