As the book of Exodus begins, Israel is in captivity. They were the chosen people of God, descendants of
It was interesting that Reuel’s daughter’s described
Some have suggested Mo was in line for the throne; that may be just an interesting theory, but it illustrates the reality:
No wonder the ladies thought he was an Egyptian.
The church in America is in captivity. Genetically, at our very core, our essence comes from the realm of heaven, but we’ve lived on earth for so long, that we’ve become earthly, natural, in every other way. We think in natural terms. We live among the natural world. Our culture and mannerisms are of this world. We believe in the world we live among.
If the church were actually free, we’d reflect the culture and values of our birth-culture, Heaven. We’d see the events and people of the natural world through the values and resources of heaven. Like it happened around
God is raising up deliverers in our day. God has spoken it prophetically, but it doesn’t really require prophecy to see it: there have been only three times that a generation has been wiped out: the massacre that preceded
Here’s my point: I believe that many of the deliverers that God is raising up in our day will look like “Egyptians.” Egypt has often been used as an illustration of the ways of the world, and many deliverers will look very worldly. They’ll speak in worldly vocabulary and use colorful worldly metaphors. They’ll use worldly mannerisms – not church-cultured mannerisms. They’ll have worldly friends: business leaders, gang leaders, political leaders, artists, educators, barkeepers.
But they’ll be God’s people inside, under all that “worldlikeness.”
The first thing we might see in some of these leaders is that they’re standing up for believers in the secular arena. We’ve already seen some of that: when radical Hindu’s blamed Christians for a popular teacher’s death and started massacring Christians wholesale, there was an outcry, and some of it was from the secular world. The mainstream media didn’t touch the story as far as I can see, but the blogging community did, and many “secular” bloggers spoke out about the injustice.
Does the appearance of a secular person standing up for Christians mean that they’re a deliverer, that they’re even a believer? Certainly not in every case. I don’t believe we’re seeing God’s “Egyptian” delivers quite yet, but I expect that we will in the next several years.
Many men and women who find themselves in the position of defending God’s people against Egyptian slave-masters will shortly find God moving in their lives. They may have a dormant faith, from their childhood or youth, that God suddenly fans into flame. They may be “about to be” Christians, ready for harvest. Or they may be genuine followers of
We are coming into a day where God is bringing deliverers out of hiding, men and women who will not look like church-goers, and who in fact, won’t be church-goers, but they will be deliverers sent by God. If we’re not careful, we’ll reject these young leaders because we don’t recognize the clothing, the mannerisms, the style of speech. If we do, we’ll be rejecting something powerful that God is doing among us.
One day some years ago, my family and I were out driving on a sunny Sunday afternoon, talking about our need to replace the vehicle we were riding in. We happened upon a small car lot, so we drove through, looking to see what they had that was interesting.
Within seconds, we were greeted by a salesman with slicked back hair, a polyester tie and big toothed smile: the quintessential used-car salesman. He proceeded to tell us why it was in our best interests to trade in the vehicle we were driving for a similar car of the same make and mileage for “only a few thousand dollars more,” and we could make payments at “only 12% interest.” I imagined him licking his chops, as he looked on us in our tired station wagon.
It was clearly not in our best interests to do business with this gentleman. My daughter called him a shark.
I came away from that experience with a new principle for my life: “Never ask a car salesman if I should buy a car.” The reason is obvious: some car salesmen have difficulty separating what’s good for their commission check from what’s good for my household, and their recommendation – their “expertise” – is self-serving.
Another illustration: imagine a judge presiding over a trial in which his brother-in-law is the defense attorney. The reason judges recuse themselves from cases like that is because the public cannot trust their impartiality: they have a conflict of interest: do I serve justice, or do I help out my family?
I see this happening in the church with alarming frequency: I see self-serving principles taught from the pulpit without any acknowledgement of the conflict of interest. I hear doctrines taught as truth, which clearly benefit those teaching them, and which sometimes do not benefit those being taught. And nobody questions either the doctrine or the motive.
What am I talking about? I’ll state these doctrines more bluntly than they’re taught from the pulpit, but this is the content being taught. I’ll state them very directly in the interest of clarity:
* You must tithe in this church where I get my paycheck or else you’re stealing from God,”
* If you’re not in this building every Sunday morning you’re in town, the devil’s gonna getcha!”
* If you don’t teach in Sunday School, our children are all going to hell!” or
* Give $1000 to my ministry and God will give you [fill in the blank]!”
Let me digress long enough to clarify what I am not saying: I am not saying that the doctrine of tithing is incorrect. I am not saying that the doctrine of covering is heretical, or that there’s something wrong with teaching Sunday School. I believe in tithing and I believe in raising our children as a community.
I’m also not saying that we should reject any teaching that could possibly be construed to the benefit of those teaching. I’m also not saying that the people who teach these things are necessarily teaching them out of self-serving motives. An ethical used car salesman can give me good advise about cars; an honest judge can judge fairly even when his family is involved; a televangelist truly can speak about money without greed in his heart. A true pastor or can invite people to join his church without thought of personal gain – financial or otherwise. It can happen, but it’s hard to have confidence it’s actually happening.
I am saying that it’s kind of awkward that the only people teaching the doctrine that individual believers must belong to an organized Sunday-morning church are the leaders of organized Sunday-morning churches. I’m saying that it’s confusing that the only people teaching that the Old Testament laws about tithing apply to New Testament believers (and who also teach that the rest of the Old Testament laws don’t apply to New Testament believers) are generally the same people whose paycheck comes out of that offering basket they want me to fill up: they may be teaching the truth, but it sure appears that they’re going to benefit more than I am from that teaching.
I’m not convinced that the system is corrupt, or that just because a pastor benefits from our obedience to his teaching, that he is necessarily teaching from a self-serving heart. I know a lot of pastors, and frankly, the vast majority of them are men and women of integrity. I have watched one or two of them struggle with the very issues I’m writing about here. But I’ve watched many others – particularly in small churches, where the size of Sunday’s offering determines whether they get a paycheck this month or not – where the line between their doctrine and their need becomes seriously blurred.
Obviously, a response is appropriate on the part of leaders and teachers who teach doctrine from a motive of self-enrichment, and that response starts with repentance for trusting something other that God as their provider. It may or may not be appropriate to acknowledge the conflict of interest publicly: the real response of a right heart must be towards God first, and only then towards man. As leaders, we must guard our teaching, our counseling, our hearts from mixed motivation.
Interestingly, as believers, our response to this dilemma is old news: after we forgive them, we as the Body of Christ in the pews need to examine the Word for ourselves, not just live off of what is fed to us by others. I’m not advocating an abandonment of all that is taught by paid pastors; I’m advocating that we test the things taught us, that we “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
When we’re talking about real life, we’re not just talking about life in general. We’re talking about, among other things, your life and mine. And one of the dangers in that kind of conversation is the reality that you may see something in my life that needs to change. Maybe I’m not living up to the standards that I talk about, or maybe I’m disobeying the Word, and you see it.
But you can’t speak into my life unless I let you, unless I give you that authority. No, that’s not right: you can talk all day long, but unless I give you authority to speak into my life, I’m not going to be changed by what you have to say.
You can’t take that authority; it doesn’t matter if you are in the right and I am in the wrong. If I have not granted you authority to speak into my life, then your words are by definition without authority, and are powerless.
Likewise, I cannot take authority in your life if you haven’t given it.
There are people in “positions of authority” in my life. I must honor either the position, or the person holding the position, by giving them authority in my life, or else they have none. . The fact that you’re my boss means you should have authority to speak to aspects of my life and behavior, particularly during work hours. The fact that you’re my pastor means you should have authority in many areas of my life. The fact that I’ve invited you to speak into my life means that you should have such authority with me, but unless I decide that your word is authoritative to me, all is lost
I think we’ve lost track of this in our culture, though many foreign cultures seem to have a handle on it. Here, however, we have employees who disrespect their bosses and disregard their instructions, which leads to either fired employees or busted businesses. We have church members rejecting the instructions and teaching of their pastors and leaders, which results in stunning immaturity and moral failure.
Often, our employers, our pastors and leaders know the answers to our questions and failures, but whether they tell us the answers or not, it seems that the result is the same. The reason is that we have not submitted ourselves to their leadership, we have not given them the authority to have those answers in our lives.
And similarly, often times we can see a friend whose life is heading towards a shipwreck, but if they have not given us authority to speak into their lives, we cannot change their course, and their destruction is inevitable.
The challenge is that authority cannot be taken; it must be given, and in reality, it must be earned. Often, we expect that we already have the necessary authority based on our position, or on our superior knowledge or experience, and we speak up: “Let me tell you what’s wrong with you,” forgetting, or ignorant of, the fact that we must be given authority in someone’s life.
We cannot take authority; we can only be given authority.
Over the past few years, the Lord had been speaking of an impending battle. One of His illustrations has been this picture from The Horse and His Boy, at the end of the Narnian army's march to the battlefield in Archenland:
Here, the army halted and spread out in a line, and there was a great deal of rearranging. A whole detachment of very dangerous-looking Beasts whom Shasta had not noticed before went padding and growling to take up their positions on the left. The giants were ordered to the right. The archers, with
For a season, we've been preparing for a great battle that is yet before us. What you're seeing now is the first skirmishes of that battle already upon us. It's like God is bringing His reluctant army into warfare little by little, toughening us up, preparing us for the bloodshed to come.
Since you are a warrior born, and since you are always drawn to a battle, you are one of the first to experience the fight. You have surrounded yourself with warriors, and so you see many of your friends beginning to encounter more of the enemy.
This is the purpose of God, this is His plan: that you would not shrink from the battle, that you would cause more casualties than you take, that you would learn to be healed quickly and to heal those around you quickly, and that you would leave behind you a very wide swath of demonic corpses as you take the battle to the enemy.
This is your destiny! Draw your sword! Throw your cloak to the ground! Let's go to war.
It had been only three or four days since I heard first whisper to me, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you,” and in those few days, two other people have come to me with the same message. They’re the first two people who have brought that particular verse to me in more than a decade.
There is a commonly held opinion in the church today that we are now raising the last generation that will live on this planet, that the end of this world is near and that Jesus will soon come back to collect His bride and take home to Him in Heaven. I’ve known some young believers who jokingly engage in “Rapture Practice”: standing outdoors and jumping towards heaven, arms outstretched, as if to be taken heavenward any second.
And I’ve heard some Christians grow frustrated with the leaders of this world, and write them off with, “Aww, they can have it!” the clear implication being that they are soon to abandon this world for the next. I remember old hymns by the names of “I’ll Fly Away” and “I’ve Got A Mansion, Way Up Yonder.”
On the other hand, there are other believers who live from day to day, not paying much attention to the imminent return of
Both groups are in error, of course; the “Steady Eddie’s” for ignoring the approaching Day, and the Rapture Fanatics for ignoring their assignments on Earth.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to be away of the drawing near of that day, and to make changes in our lives accordingly:
The way I see it, we’re supposed to live for heaven, but we’re supposed to live on earth. We live with our eyes on our Heavenly Father, but our hands on the work that He’s given us to do on this earth.
Scripture is given, you recall, as an example to us.
There’s a verse that I’ve been puzzling about for a long time. Finally, with this command of “Invest in your community, Son,” it begins to make sense:
A newer translation says it this way:
The English word “occupy” is a military word; it means you’ve already conquered the territory, now keep it governed for the new rulers. The Greek word for “occupy” or “do business” is pragmateúomai and it is a business term, but it’s a term of ownership, not busywork. It means both “Be engaged in a business for profit,” and “be occupied with reference to the affairs of state.
God is looking for a gain, a profit, an increase from us, which means that we must invest the resources that He’s given us into the people and circumstances that He’s placed around us.
Clearly, He’s not looking for money from us; “You can’t take it with you” clearly applies, but having money is a fine way to accomplish a profit in terms of lives, of influence, of relationship. Have you noticed how much influence the wealthy have as compared to the poor?
So the command is to invest in the community that God has placed you into.
Our place is to be in the world, not of the world. The other half of that, of course, is to be of Heaven, but not yet in Heaven: we have a job to do here.