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Sunday

Two Tabernacles

One of the most fascinating situations in the Bible is never described. It happens during the latter years of David’s reign, say from 2 Samuel chapter 7 and onward.

Years before, David had finished conquering all of his enemies, and his people had rested from war. David had finished building his palace, and all this happened before he discovered Bathsheba’s midnight rooftop bathing habits.

David himself is experiencing something of a personal revival, and he has just brought the ark of the Lord into the city (from Obed-Edom’s house in the suburbs).

This season of history fascinates me intensely, and I believe that it’s a metaphor for where the church is today.

The House of Worship

In that day, the Tabernacle of Moses (also known as the Tabernacle of Meeting) was installed on the hill of Shiloh a good day’s walk from Jerusalem. It encompassed a whole campus of highly ornate tents covering several acres. It was the only place where the entire nation would go to worship, and they went there by the thousands. The Levites and Priests taught the Law, the sacrifices were offered there: sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings and all the rest. Offerings and sacrifices were received from the people in the form of gold, silver and animal sacrifices.

The Tabernacle was a big spectacle: there were gold and silver and bronze and embroidery and bright colors everywhere.

Shiloh had become a noisy place. The crowds of people brought their own noises, and everywhere was the noise of the sheep and birds and oxen that were brought for sacrifice, interrupted by the businessmen selling more animals for sacrifice.

Over all that was the music. Ah, the music! Choirs, trumpets, harps.

The air was filled with fragrances. The animals brought their own odors of course, but the sacrifices and offerings filled the air with the smell of barbecue. And when they lit the incense, the smell of spices filled the air.

Services for thousands of people were led by priests decked out with linen and jewels and fancy robes and sometimes fancy hats. It seemed that the more important you were – and all the leaders were important – then the fancier your vestments were.

The entire nation was commanded by law to come together for a national party three times every year, and when it happened, the crowds swelled from the hundreds or the thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Every hotel room was booked solid for weeks, every restaurateur made a healthy profit when the festivals came to town.

Imagine an NFL football arena ten miles outside your hometown, and then imagine that it was a legal requirement that the entire nation attend regularly. Now imagine that your team is in the Superbowl in that arena three times a year, and that Disney and MTV co-sponsor the halftime show. The cheerleaders, the news media, the coaches and officials: what an amazing spectacle!

The people didn’t gather for worship at the Tabernacle of Meeting in rebellion or selfishness; their goal was not spectacle. They were in fact obeying the commands of the Lord, commands about when to worship, how to sacrifice and what to teach. The leaders were installed by the command of God, for all that the hands that anointed them were the hands of men. This worship service was established by God, and it was perpetuated at His command by His blessing. They were obeying the freshest revelation that they had. 

They only lacked one thing: God’s presence, the Ark of the Covenant, was no longer there. Other than that, they pretty much had everything going for them.

The Presence of God

The Ark itself had been moved into the city of Jerusalem, and it was now residing in a pup tent in David’s back bedroom. For the next several years, until Solomon took it back to the Tabernacle of Meeting in Shiloh, David and his household worshipped in that spare bedroom. David re-assigned some of the Levites from the Tabernacle of Meeting to his own back bedroom, to the new tabernacle there.

That little tent would soon be known as David’s Tabernacle, and nobody really knows exactly what it looked like. It might have been set up in a private garden rather than the back bedroom, and we’re only assuming that there was a pup tent over the ark, simply because “tabernacle” comes from “tent” in their language. Knowing how David delighted in honoring God, it was probably a very nice pup tent. And if David danced foolishly (and half naked) during the public journey of God’s presence to his back bedroom, then how must he have worshipped in that back bedroom? I’m guessing that “with abandon” applies.

The significant point was that the Ark – and therefore God’s presence – was no longer hidden behind layers of ceremony and religious bureaucracy. Suddenly, for the first time since the Burning Bush, God was immediately accessible to His people.

Based on how much the Bible describes David, I imagine that the king spent a fair bit of his time in that back bedroom worshipping. Because the head of the household was a worshipper, some of his household learned to worship: I can see the head butler and the assistant cook waiting until David was through, so they could get into that bedroom to get their turn on their faces or dancing in the presence of God.

The remarkable thing was that Heaven knew of David’s Tabernacle. I suspect the place was as popular in Heaven as it was on earth: finally, there was a place where God and man could come together, finally there was a man who was passionate about God’s presence. Generations later, when David’s Tabernacle was broken and abandoned, God promised to restore it. God doesn’t often promise to restore the things that man makes.

Tabernacles and the Twenty First Century

In Acts 15, Peter reminds the people of God’s promise in Amos to restore the tabernacle, David’s tabernacle.

We live in a day like the day that David built his tabernacle. The Bible describes our day as “the last days” (heck, everything since Acts 2 seems to be part of “the last days”) which is the time for David’s Tabernacle to be restored. And we’re seeing that happen.

Heaven is committed to this kind of worship, and this is the pattern of worship that makes God happy: people coming directly to God, coming freely and joyfully, without the pomp and circumstance of the Tabernacle of Meeting, without the religious trappings of the grand ceremony and tradition.

We live in a day where there are large and prestigious and prosperous gathering places on the hilltops, in the public places. They’re in the media and in the eyes of the nation, and the people go there by the thousands to perform the rituals and offer the sacrifices and be trained by the religious authorities of the nation. They have the professional musicians, the professional speakers, the professional media technicians. The ceremonies are moving and the messages are relevant and uplifting. Thousands come to a faith in Christ through these tabernacles. They are obeying the freshest revelation they have. 

They lack only one thing. The presence of God is not in them.

I am not opposed to mega churches, or to Sunday-morning gatherings in general; I repeat: I’m part of one, and I like it. These are not “ungodly abominations;” they are not sacrilegious and they are not (by and large) the work of the flesh, that is, they are not monuments to self or pleasure or our own righteousness. But they’re not following the presence of God (I remind you: there are exceptions to everything I write in this blog!).

These churches carefully following plans laid down by godly men and women, whether that’s the vision of the founders, the vision of the pastor or the directions of the board of directors. They’re doing their best to be what they think a church ought to be. They’re following the law as they know it.

But David’s tabernacle is not about following the Law. In fact, it was completely outside the Law. The Law required the Ark of the Covenant to stay in the Tabernacle of Moses. David was working outside of the law, outside of the rules that God had established for worship, outside of the Tabernacle.

But it is David’s Tabernacle, not Moses’, that God likes best and that He promises to restore.

Tabernacles and Me

The big deal is that this demonstrates God’s heart! God, it appears, prefers passion to legalism, intimate worship to religious conformity.

This isn’t about location. I’m not lobbying for Believers to escape from their churches and limit their worship of God in their back bedroom. Location means pretty much nothing in this context.

What I’m saying is that going to church is not the thing that God respects. I’m lobbying for Believers to worship God passionately, intimately. I don’t really care if you and I worship God in the big gathering or the little one, as long as we passionately worship. The goal is getting crazy for God’s presence. The goal is worshipping with abandon, holding nothing back. The goal is letting nothing and nobody get in the way of our worship, whether circumstances, other worshippers or church leaders.

The reality, however, is that that we often can’t worship that way in our Sunday morning gatherings. When we’re there, we often (and often appropriately) need to conform to cultural standards of the place. If we were to dance in church like David danced, many church congregations would freak out. Everyone else in the building would focus on us, not on God, and that’s not as it should be.

But we must worship. We must worship in abandon. We must be passionate. We must find a time and a place we can be foolish with. We must find a people we can worship among, who won’t be distracted by our passion, because they’re lost in their own.

We must worship passionately.




Saturday

Two Tabernacles

One of the most fascinating situations in the Bible is never described. It happens during the latter years of David’s reign, say from 2 Samuel chapter 7 and onward.

Years before, David had finished conquering all of his enemies, and his people had rested from war. David had finished building his palace, and all this happened before he discovered Bathsheba’s midnight rooftop bathing habits.

David himself is experiencing something of a personal revival, and he has just brought the ark of the Lord into the city (from Obed-Edom’s house in the suburbs).

This time fascinates me intensely, and I believe that it’s a metaphor for where the church is today.

The House of Worship

In that day, the Tabernacle of Moses (also known as the Tabernacle of Meeting) was installed on the hill of Shiloh a good day’s walk from Jerusalem. It encompassed a whole campus of highly ornate tents covering several acres. It was the only place where the entire nation would go to worship, and they went there by the thousands. The Levites and Priests taught the Law, the sacrifices were offered there: sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings and all the rest. Offerings and sacrifices were received from the people in the form of gold, silver and animal sacrifices.

The Tabernacle was a big spectacle: there were gold and silver and bronze and embroidery and bright colors everywhere.

Shiloh had become a noisy place. The crowds of people brought their own noises, and everywhere was the noise of the sheep and birds and oxen that were brought for sacrifice, interrupted by the businessmen selling more animals for sacrifice.

Over all that was the music. Ah, the music! Choirs, trumpets, harps.

The air was filled with fragrances. The animals brought their own smells of course, but the sacrifices and offerings filled the air with the smell of barbecue. And when they lit the incense, the smell of spices filled the place.

Services for thousands of people were led by priests decked out with linen and jewels and fancy robes and sometimes fancy hats. It seemed that the more important you were – and all the leaders were important – then the fancier your vestments were.

The entire nation was commanded by law to come together for a national party three times every year, and when it happened, the crowds swelled from the hundreds or the thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Every hotel room was booked solid for weeks, every restaurateur made a healthy profit when the festivals came to town.

Imagine an NFL football arena ten miles outside your hometown, and then imagine that it was a legal requirement that the entire nation attend the game every weekend. Now imagine that your team is in the Superbowl in that arena three times a year, and that Disney and MTV co-sponsor the halftime show. The cheerleaders, the news media, the coaches and officials: what an amazing spectacle!

The people didn’t gather for worship at the Tabernacle of Meeting in rebellion or selfishness; their goal was not spectacle. They were in fact obeying the commands of the Lord, commands about when to worship, how to sacrifice and what to teach. The leaders were installed by the command of God, for all that the hands that were laid on them were the hands of men. This worship service was established by God, and it was perpetuated at His command by His blessing.

They only lacked one thing. God’s presence, the Ark of the Covenant, was no longer there. Other than that, they pretty much had everything going for them.

The Presence of God

The Ark itself had been moved into the city of Jerusalem, and it was now residing in a pup tent in David’s back bedroom. For the next several years, until Solomon took it back to the Tabernacle of Meeting in Shiloh, David and his household worshipped in that spare bedroom. David re-assigned some of the Levites from the Tabernacle of Meeting to his own back bedroom, to the new tabernacle there.

That little tent would soon be known as David’s Tabernacle, and nobody knows exactly what it looked like. It might have been set up in a private garden rather than the back bedroom, and we’re only assuming that there was a pup tent over the ark. Knowing David’s delight in honoring God, it was probably a very nice pup tent. And if David danced foolishly (and half naked) during the public journey of God’s presence to his back bedroom, then how did he worship in that back bedroom? I’m guessing that “with abandon” applies.

The significant point was that the Ark, and therefore God’s presence was no longer hidden behind layers of ceremony and religious bureaucracy. Suddenly, for the first time since the Burning Bush, God was immediately accessible to His people.

Based on how much the Bible describes David, I imagine that the king spent a fair bit of his time in that back bedroom worshipping. Because the head of the household was a worshipper, some of his household learned to worship: I can see the butler and the assistant cook waiting until David was through, so they could get into that bedroom to get their turn on their faces or dancing in the presence of God.

The remarkable thing was that Heaven knew of David’s Tabernacle. I suspect the place was as popular in Heaven as it was on earth: finally, there was a place where God and man could come together, finally there was a man who was passionate about God’s presence. Generations later, when David’s Tabernacle was broken and abandoned, God promised to restore it. God doesn’t often promise to restore the things that man makes.

Tabernacles and the Twenty First Century

In Acts 15, Peter reminds the people of God’s promise in Amos to restore the tabernacle, David’s tabernacle.

We live in a day like the day that David built his tabernacle. The Bible describes our day as “the last days” (heck, all the time after Acts 2 seem to be part of “the last days”) which is the time for David’s Tabernacle to be restored. And we’re seeing that happen.

Heaven is committed to this kind of worship, and this is the pattern of worship that makes God happy: people coming directly to God, coming freely and joyfully, without the pomp and circumstance of the Tabernacle of Meeting, without the religious trappings of the grand ceremony and tradition.

We live in a day where there are large and prestigious and prosperous gathering places on the hilltops, in the public places. They’re in the media and in the eyes of the nation, and the people go there by the thousands to perform the rituals and offer the sacrifices and be trained by the religious authorities of the nation. They have the professional musicians, the professional speakers, the professional media technicians. The ceremonies are moving and the messages are relevant and uplifting. Thousands come to a faith in Christ through these tabernacles.

They lack only one thing. The presence of God is not in them.

I am not opposed to mega churches, or to Sunday-morning gatherings in general; I repeat: I’m part of one, and I like it. These are not “ungodly abominations;” they are not sacrilegious and they are not (by and large) the work of the flesh, that is, they are not monuments to self or pleasure or our own righteousness. But they’re not following the presence of God (I remind you: there are exceptions to everything I write in this blog!).

These churches carefully following plans laid down by godly men and women, whether that’s the vision of the founders, the vision of the pastor or the directions of the board of directors. They’re doing their best to be what they think a church ought to be. They’re following the law as they know it.

But David’s tabernacle is not about following the Law. In fact, it was completely outside the Law. The Law required the Ark of the Covenant to stay in the Tabernacle of Moses. David was working outside of the law, outside of the rules that God had established for worship, outside of the Tabernacle.

But it is David’s Tabernacle, not Moses’, that God likes best and that He promises to restore.

Tabernacles and Me

The big deal is this: it demonstrates God’s heart! God, it appears, prefers passion to legalism, intimate worship to religious conformity.

This isn’t about location. I’m not lobbying for Believers to run screaming from their churches and worship God in their back bedroom. Location means pretty much nothing.

I’m saying that going to church is not the thing that God respects. I’m lobbying for Believers to worship God passionately, intimately. I don’t really care if you and I worship God in the big gathering or the little one, as long as we passionately worship. The goal is getting crazy for God’s presence. The goal is worshipping with abandon, holding nothing back. The goal is letting nothing and nobody get in the way of our worship, whether circumstances, other worshippers or church leaders.

The reality, however, is that that we often can’t worship that way in our Sunday morning gatherings. When we’re there, we often (and often appropriately) need to conform to cultural standards of the place. If we were to dance in church like David danced, most churches would freak. Everyone else in the building would focus on us, not on God, and that’s not as it should be.

But we must worship. We must worship in abandon. We must be passionate. We must find a time and a place we can be foolish with. We must find a people we can worship among, who won’t be distracted by our passion, because they’re lost in their own.

Friday

The Third Place of Worship

Some time ago, I wrote a posting about The Two Tabernacles, and how they’re a metaphor for the people of God today. Please allow a brief quote, because I need to use that metaphor as a launch point.
We live in a day where there are large and prestigious and prosperous gathering places on the hilltops, in the public places. They’re in the media and in the eyes of the nation, and the people go there by the thousands to perform the rituals and offer the sacrifices and be trained by the religious authorities of the nation. They have the professional musicians, the professional speakers, the professional media technicians. The ceremonies are moving and the messages are relevant and uplifting. Thousands come to a faith in Christ through these tabernacles.
They lack only one thing. The presence of God is not in them.
These churches carefully following plans laid down by godly men and women, whether that’s the vision of the founders, the vision of the pastor or the directions of the board of directors. They’re doing their best to be what they think a church ought to be. They’re following the law as they know it.
But David’s tabernacle is not about following the Law. In fact, it was completely outside the Law. The Law required the Ark of the Covenant to stay in the Tabernacle of Moses. David was working outside of the law, outside of the rules that God had established for worship, outside of the Tabernacle.
But it is David’s Tabernacle, not Moses’, that God likes best and that He promises to restore.
Heaven is committed to this kind of worship, and this is the pattern of worship that makes God happy: people coming directly to God, coming freely and joyfully, without the pomp and circumstance of the Tabernacle of Meeting, without the religious trappings of the grand ceremony and tradition.
My point was not that the big churches are evil, rather they are in fact following the Command of God, though sometimes it’s hard to worship God with abandon in those places: worshipping in small gatherings makes it easier to be passionate and reckless in our worship. But where we worship is not the issue: how we worship is the issue: we must do whatever it takes, go wherever we need to, in order to worship God passionately, as He deserves to be worshipped! Our worship – yours and mine – is the issue, not whether it’s in a big building or a back bedroom, and this is the call on the church today: worship vigorously.

The Third Place of Worship

David worshiped at Shiloh, and he worshiped with the ark of God in the back bedroom. But there’s a third place where David worshiped, and God has for a few years begun calling His people to worship here as well.
I need to start with some background.
In Psalm 5, David declares, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” In Psalm 18, he says, “In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”
And Psalm 27 has one of my favorite quotes of David: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.”
So David didn’t just worship in the Tabernacle of Meeting at Shiloh and the pup tent in his back bedroom (which history calls the Tabernacle of David), but he also worshiped in the temple. And if Psalm 27 is any indication, he worshiped passionately there, too.
This is something that has confused Bible scholars for years. David worshiped at the temple, but the temple wasn’t built until after his death, after his son Solomon became king. The temple did not exist in David’s day, but he worshipped there anyway. David knew of the promise of the temple.
The best I can tell – apart from science fiction-type guesses – is that somehow David experienced the fulfillment of a promise that had not yet fulfilled on earth. Somehow David managed to visit the place of the promise, even though – in the natural – the promise hadn’t been fulfilled yet.
David visited the promised temple of his God by faith; either he moved himself into the place where that future promise will have been fulfilled (how do you handle verb tenses for something like this?) or brought the promise into his present reality, again by faith.
I’m not suggesting that David was physically transported through time, or that some years later, some worshiper in the temple would bump into the time traveler from the past (though that sounds like an interesting movie plot). Worship is a spiritual activity: this whole process happened in the spirit. David visited the promised temple of God in his spirit.
Now as for me, I have no aspiration to worship in a building that was built from stone and gold, that was torn down two or three millennia ago. However, I certainly do get to worship by faith like David did, but the place where I worship by faith is not the same as the place that he did. By faith, David worshiped in the temple that God had promised to David: no, he wouldn’t build it, but his son would build the it. That was God’s promise to David. In David’s day, the temple existed only as a promise, but David worshiped there by faith.
There are promises for us today. Ours aren’t about a temple of stone and cedar and brass and gold. Our promises are about … well, we have some promises in common and some promises that are different.
Together, we share promises about the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (“Thy kingdom come”: think about what that means for a while…). We share promises for an outpouring of His spirit on our generation unlike any the world has yet seen: a billion souls in a generation.
We also have individual promises. One of His promises to my family is a house that’s large enough to have home groups in. He’s made other promises to me about my place in His work: He’s told me things about who I will be and what I will be doing. The significant point is that whether I have seen the fulfillment of them or not, I can worship Him – I can approach Him – from the middle of my fulfilled promise. I can worship Him from the large-enough-for-a-home-group living room of my new house, even though I own no such house today.
Sometimes, it seems like God is forgetful. Sometimes, He makes a promise to us, and then He forgets that it’s just a promise: it hasn’t happened yet. He does things like call Abraham a “father of many nations” when he’s still childless. He speaks about things which do not exist as though they did exist.
Since God is not forgetful (even if it seems like it), then it must be something else: the promise must actually exist once He’s spoken about it; it just doesn’t exist here, where I am. But God, being omnipresent, isn’t limited to just “here, where I am.” And in another place where He is, the promise exists. In that place, His promises already exist, done, finished, completed. In that place, Abe was already the father of many nations, even though he had no children on Earth yet. In that place, the temple already existed, even though it would not be built here until after David’s death. In that place, a billion people worship Jesus who do not yet know Him here.
If my thinking goes no further than what I can see and experience in my flesh, I’ll never inhabit those promises until they’ve been fulfilled in the physical realm. If I limit myself to what I see and feel, those billion souls don’t exist, and my promises are but empty words. But if I look with His eyes, then I can see the fulfillment now. If I experience them with my faith, then I can walk among those believers and begin to understand their hurts and know their needs, so that when I encounter the men and women of that promised outpouring, we’ll already have things ready for them.
You see, by faith, I worship in a different temple. I worship in the temple in Heaven. I worship in the presence of God. Ephesians says I’m already seated in heaven, I’m already seated in Christ, I’m already in that place, in His presence. And that’s real, that’s true, even though it looks to me like I’m sitting on a wooden chair typing on a laptop computer. I only experience the hard chair and the computer if I’m only experiencing physically. If I look with my spirit, with my faith, I can see the angels crowded around crying, “Worthy is the Lamb!”
This is really hard to communicate; we don’t have a language to describe our very real experience of a not-yet-fulfilled promise. But my lack of language does not indicate a lack of reality, a lack of priority to that experience.
It is given to us to worship from the place of our promises, by the God who calls things that are not as though they already were. There are many and significant implications, but first, we must stand in that place of our promises. I propose we start there with worship. Then we can think about other things.

Saturday

The Transition from David to Solomon

For the past couple of decades, we've been walking in the pattern of King David.
In the late 1980s, God spoke to the church about a new generation of warriors He was raising up, and He used the young David as the model. The new warriors would be anointed by God in anonymity (1 Samuel 16:13). They would be unafraid of the enemy 17:26), and would be willing to step into the war that the generation of Saul had no heart for (17:32). They would initially be disdained by the church of the previous generation (17:28), then the church would try unsuccessfully to clothe them with the old armor, the old methods of waging the war (17:38-39). After the miraculous victories in the Name of the Lord (17:51), finally the old army pays attention (17:55), and draws them into its influence (18:2), which ends up in a sour match (18:8).
It was in this season that God raised up many young "Davids," and formed key alliances with supportive partners, "Jonathans," and brought the new warriors out of the old form of religion into a new model. While many ministries were birthed in this season, there were far more young warriors that fell from the favor of the traditional churches, and were forced by Divine strategy into the wilderness where they began to learn from God. There, they began to gather with others who were "...in distress... in debt, and ... discontented." (22:2)
Then in the middle of the 1990s, God was speaking of David again, this time from the story of where he brought the ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6 & 1 Chronicles 13 & 15). God taught us that the desire for His presence (the Ark) was good and right, but we must seek for His presence in His way. Jokes were made in pulpits all across the land that the use of "boards and big wheels" (the components used to make a cart, 1 Samuel 6:3) is the wrong way: that's the way of the Philistines. Uzzah (lit. "strength", speaking of man's strength) was killed when he touched the presence of God (the Ark, 6:6,7). David was angry (6:8), afraid & confused (6:9), and put off the project for months or years (1 Chronicles 14). A holy fear came on some as God judged His church.
Later, David submitted to the Law of God & brought the Ark (God's presence) into Jerusalem (the church) using the methods God had commanded (1 Chronicles 15:13), and was lavish with sacrifice (speaking of holiness, 1 Samuel 6:13) and praise (6:14). The house of Saul again expresses disdain, and is judged for it (Michal, in 6:20-23), but the power over the new warriors was broken off: never again would David be subject to the house of Saul.
During this season, the worship movement exploded across America (with Integrity Music & Vineyard Music in their prime), and the cry for holiness was heard, albeit less vigorously. And God's presence did indeed begin to come back into His church. Cities like Toronto and Brownsville became famous for God's presence, but many communities began to see His presence in less publicized outpourings.
The presence of God is hidden away in "David's Tabernacle," which is little more than a pup tent in a back bedroom or courtyard in David's palace, but God's presence is there, and David himself undoubtedly leads the band of palace employees in worship there.
Now there were two places of worship. David and his household worship in God's presence in the back bedroom. But the nation - or those who worship God - still worship at the tabernacle of Moses, which is still in operation on Shiloh's hill. They're obeying the Law there, like their fathers did before them, and God's blessing is on them. The pagentry of the priesthood and the Levites continues in full swing, and the people's offerings support that worship. Israel is obeying God when they worship at the tabernacle. But God's presence, the ark of the covenant, is now gone.
David was the only historic figure who walked in all three anointed offices of prophet, priest and king, and those three ministries are being released on the church again, in the prophetic, intercessory and apostolic movements, and the Lord Himself leads the movements. David's psalmist spirit is being released again, through prophetic song or "ode pneumaticus," the "song of the Spirit."
During the recent years, much was made of the requirements needed to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, but little or nothing was said of what happened to the ark once it got there. In the past few years, God has been speaking of this: there is an established, obedient, liturgical church that is walking in obedience to what God had commanded, and they enjoy power, prestige, position and possessions. But the Ark of God's presence is no longer among them. There is no judgment on them, they are obeying God; but His presence is not among them.
God's presence is more often found in the little bands of God chasers, gathered in small storefronts, converted warehouses and living rooms, led by the Son of David Himself. These are the modern Tabernacles of David.
During those historic years, David worshiped at that little tent in his back yard, but he also worshiped "in the temple" (Psalm 27:4), though it wouldn't be actually built until David was dead and buried. David worshiped in faith, seeing with the eyes of faith that which mortal eyes wouldn't see for another generation. God is beginning to release a faith for the work that God is beginning for the next generation. With eyes of faith, some have seen His outpouring in the generation that is now in its youth. Those visionaries - like David - are beginning to prepare plans, materials and workers for the richest, most glorious outpouring of God since the angels sang to startled shepherds outside of Bethlehem two millennia ago. Many of those preparing and interceding for the outpouring will never see this house with their mortal eyes, but having seen it in faith, that's almost irrelevant: the tidal wave is coming.
This move of God's Spirit, this message, is not yet established in the Church. The preparations are not yet complete, but the waves are coming more quickly now. I believe that another wave of His Spirit is already beginning. This is not the tidal wave, the move of God that will compare to the glory of God in the completed temple, the outpouring that will bring the harvest of perhaps a billion souls in a single generation. This is merely another lesson, and not necessarily the next one, in preparation for that day which is still yet to come.
The vision is certainly not yet clear, but here are some shadows to be discerned in the approaching wave. 1 Kings 1 documents the transition of leadership from the generation of David to the generation of Solomon.
But there comes a challenge for the succession to the throne, and this is where we must now focus our attention. God's purposes call for Solomon, the son of Bathsheba, to be on the throne. But Adonijah son of Haggith ("rejoicing" or "festive") declares "I will be king" (1 Kings 1:5; see also the "I will" statements of Isaiah 14:13), and he has some claim to the title, being the eldest surviving son of David. (He is also brother to the now-dead Absalom, born from the same mother.) He sets up a coronation with a group of leaders, including some from Saul's days: Joab , the great general & traitor, and Abaithar the priest, the last priestly descendant from Eli. Notably absent are the true leaders of David's generation.
The self-coronation is revealed to the prophet Nathan, who involves Bathsheba, a picture of redemption and forgiveness, and King David himself. The plot is stopped, the right son, Solomon, is sat upon the throne (1:35), blessed (1 Kings 1:37) anointed (1:39). Adonijah repents and is spared (1:51-53) for a season. After David instructs Solomon & dies, Adonijah makes a manipulative try for the crown in the guise of proper relationship (2:13-18), but he's found out & executed (2:22, 25).
I believe that God is raising up a "Solomon generation." These will be characterized by wisdom (Solomon's great gift), by peace (the literal translation of "Solomon") inwardly if not outwardly, by God's favor (Solomon was offered something no one else has ever been, 1 Kings 3:5), and by the great outpouring of God's grace (the "tidal wave" mentioned above).
This generation is also known as the "Samuel generation," for like Samuel, God is preparing them from a very early age to move powerfully in the prophetic and to turn the tide of history. While they will not fight the wars of the older generation, they will lead an entire generation into the glory of God. Of course, they will not go unchallenged by the enemy.
When the present generation of leadership is dying off, I expect that my children's generation will be challenged for the right to shepherd the move of God. There will be some who will rise up from a background of religious obedience, or even the evangelical movement (Adonijah means "the Lord is my master"), and some from a background of the renewal movement (Haggith means "rejoicing" or "festive") to lay claim to the leadership of that generation, and indeed they will have the natural right to claim the position; and they are natural leaders. And they will augment their claim with leaders from the Saul generation, persons (formerly?) of influence in the denominational or traditional church structures. But they will not be God's choice to lead their generation.
Those chosen by God will be brushed right by, and it will seem like they never had a chance, but our generation must recognize the new leaders, and place them in the office that is being wrested from them.
It is interesting that although the attack is against the Solomon generation, it is the David Generation that must identify & overcome the enemy at this time. Our prophets must see the challenge (as Nathan did) and speak out, our pastors must cry out (as Bathsheba did), and our apostles (in the role of David) must designate and anoint the leaders whom God has chosen. They must be brought into leadership, even ahead of us, while yet God's grace is still upon our generation (the throne: 1:35), and this process must be public (1:39). The Solomons will sit on the throne, but it is our war to fight, not theirs, which will make that happen. However, the final victory over the Adonijah rebellion will be theirs.
I believe God has reason for bringing this to light now:
* Our generation will require years of preparation before we ourselves are ready to carry out our responsibilities at the end of our time of glory.
* God will anoint the new generation before the old generation is gone. (I told you the waves were coming faster now.) By that point, before we are through with our own ministry, we must have conquered the Philistines, and have handed the kingdom - and the preparations for the great temple - to the divinely chosen leaders of the next generation.
* The plans, materials and workers must be in place before the next generation is ready, or even understands the vision. We must train the children and the youth in the ways that God has given us: intercession, prophecy and apostolic leadership must be in their blood before they reach adulthood.
* We must intercede for the battle over leadership that is yet to come. A war can be turned by little effort spent before battle is joined. If comes to full combat, the cost will be much greater. We must pray for those chosen by God to be raised up instead of the natural leaders.

Friday

Ministry Flows From Relationship

This God that you and I follow is an interesting fellow.

Some time back, he went through a lot of work, starting with, “Let there be light,” and then using that light to make the sun and the moon, to make planets and stars, then to make plants and fish and antelopes and woodpeckers, and finally to make a species of beings – we call them “human beings” – in his own image. “And,” he said, “It’s really good!”

And God worked hard enough during those six days of creation, that when he was done, he – God – had to rest, for a whole day.

And when he had finished this amazing work of creation, what did he do? What did he do with this thing that took six days of God working to create?

Why, he went for walks with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, of course.

That was the high point of creation. God went through all of Creation for one thing: a relationship – a friendship – with his creation. God made us so that we could be close with him, so that we could be intimate with him.

And God said, “It’s really good.”

And that’s been a priority for God ever since: that we’d be close friends with him, and we’d be close friends with each other.

And you know the story: Adam & Eve sinned, and our race fell out of close relationship with God, but God had a plan to deal with that – a good plan, but it was an expensive plan. And through Jesus, we have a way back to close friendship with God.

And God still says, “It’s really good!”

For thousands of years, humanity related to God through Moses’ Tabernacle, and later through a Temple built on the Tabernacle’s laws. But for a very few of those years, King David had a tabernacle – a tent, essentially a pup tent – in his back bedroom or his back garden, where he and his friends worshipped God side-by-side, intimately, face-to-face, with nobody in between.

Both tabernacles fell into disuse over the centuries. And God has not chosen Moses’ Tabernacle, the place with tradition and history, as the model for New Testament worship. He chose to restore David’s Tabernacle, the place of informal intimacy, and he specifically emphasized that this was the way we relate to him: intimately, personally.

In these New Covenant days, God has completely affirmed this value. When the Son of God stepped into space and time as a human, he called a some human beings and “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.”

Clearly, their efficacy at preaching, healing the sick and casting out demons came from being with him.

I love how Jesus described our relationship from his point of view. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Jesus considers you and me to be so precious, so alluring, that he sold everything – in Bible terms, “He laid aside the prerogatives of his deity,” and became one of us: God became human – so that he could have that intimate relationship with us again. We are his treasure!

And that’s been our foundation for doing anything worthwhile ever since. We’ve been saying it this way: “Ministry flows out of relationship.” Relationship with God. Relationship between us.

Without that, the best we have to give, is just us. Without an intimacy with God, there’s nothing supernatural to give.

Wednesday

Treasure in the Wilderness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday

I Have Misunderstood the Tithe


Tithing is a difficult topic to examine objectively for many reasons. One of the most hidden and un-talked-about reasons is the issue of benefit:

If those teaching me a principle get their paycheck from my believing what they teach, then their teaching cannot be objective. It might be factually correct, but they are not the right person to help me understand the truth of the subject.

In my history, the people who taught tithing were nearly always the people whose paycheck came from my tithe. I have almost never heard anyone whose paycheck came from people’s tithes ever question the need for people to tithe to their church. I cannot help but question their objectivity. Worse, I have known pastors who will not allow anyone in their church to even ask questions about tithing. And we’ve heard stories of religious groups who make membership conditional on tithing. They’re called cults.

Tithing is a topic where truth is best revealed by personal study, by prayer and counsel of the Holy Spirit, and by consulting with knowledgeable, faithful friends whose objectivity is not so desperately compromised by the topic.

God taught it to me this way: Never ask the car salesman if you need to replace your car. Never ask a real estate agent if this is a good time to buy a house. Never ask a pastor whether you need to tithe. It’s not fair to put them into that position.

Note that there are at least three ways to compromise objectivity on the subject:

a) If you believe what I tell you, you'll be morally obligated to give me lots of your money.
b) If you believe what I tell you, then I won't be alone in believing it, and my position will be easier for ME to hold.
c) If I choose not to give 10% of my money to you, then I’ll have more money to spend on me.

It is not only those whose paycheck comes from the tithe that are compromised on the topic.

I’ve made a list of some of the difficulties that I have with the tithe as it is preached in American churches in this generation:

1)       All of the Biblical teaching about tithing is in the Old Covenant. Remember, please, that the New Covenant began with the Cross. Jesus mentions tithing, but does not teach it, but he is speaking to Old Covenant Pharisees during the time of (the end of) the Old covenant. The only mention of tithing after the Cross is in Hebrews 7, where it is used as an argument that Jesus’ New Covenant has more authority than the Levitical priesthood.

The conclusion of the Hebrews passage on tithing is verse 11: “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?

By contrast, the New Covenant addresses the Old Covenant Law this way: “By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace.” (Ephesians 2:15)

2)       It is manipulative. While not all teaching on the subject of tithing is manipulative, a great deal of it is based on taking Old Covenant scriptures out of context and laying that burden on New Covenant people. The most blatant case is Malachi 3, where we hear the oft-quoted, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house,” but we never hear the introduction to that section: “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.

This was speaking to the priests, not the people. It’s manipulative to tell the people that this passage is commanding them to give their money to the pastor/priest.

3)       It misses the point. The purpose of the Old Testament Tithe was a party.
And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. Deuteronomy 14:23

Even the Malachi 3 section, which we now understand is commanding the priests, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house.” This is about helping others celebrate God, even if they were too poor to chip in for the food: being broke is no excuse. This is consistent with Deuteronomy 14.

4)       It supports the wrong goals. The goals for tithes were never to build buildings, pay for clergy or create programs. The Tabernacle was funded with offerings, the Temple was funded from David’s private wealth, essentially a sugar-daddy. The Levites made their own living like anyone else, though the priests did eat of sacrifices (not tithes) brought to the temple: their priestly work paid for the priests who did the work.

The typical tithe-funded church budget (and I know whereof I write) spends between 60% and 90% of those tithes on salaries and building expenses. Therefore even if the Old Covenant law of tithing applied in the New Covenant, it does not apply in the way that we’re applying it.

5)       It violates the principles of fatherhood. The model from both Scripture and culture is that fathers provide for their children; it is not the children’s responsibility to provide for their parents.

Note: there is, of course, an exception, but that only applies when the parents are old and cannot provide for themselves.

6)       It creates an artificial separation: Clergy vs. Laity. Jesus was pretty adamant about removing the differentiation between clergy and laity: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 

The idea that some people (“clergy”) are supposed to do the work of the gospel: visit the sick, teach the Word, and so on, while other people (“laity”) are supposed to pay them to do that work is not found in the pages of Scripture.

7)       It’s too cheap. In the Old Testament, we “owed” one tenth of our increase in the tithe (“tithe” means “a tenth,” or “ten percent”). But if we eliminate the Old Testament law about tithing, then we’re left with Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

The truth is that I don’t owe God a tenth of my increase; I owe him all of me: everything I own, all that I am.

Having pointed out problems with the contemporary system of tithes, let me put some limits on this:

1)       Generosity is healthy and Biblical. While it’s difficult to support a New Covenant tithe from the Bible, the idea of giving generously is well grounded in the New Testament.

2)       There is power in numbers. Several thousand people giving money to a single cause can accomplish more than all but the richest of individuals. Even billionaires Bill Gates & Warren Buffett, two of the richest of individuals in the world, recognize that the contributions of many accomplish more than the contributions of a few.  

3)       “Not tithing” does not equal “Not giving.” It only means “Not giving a specified amount because of a law.” The alternative to tithing is not “I keep it all and spend it all on me!”

4)       Tithing is an effective reminder. Those who give “to God” are using a very powerful tool (their money) to remind them of the reality that God is their provider. It is not the only powerful tool (a love relationship also works), but it is a solid way of remembering.

By way of a conclusion, I offer this exhortation: This is a good time to question what you have been taught about tithing. This is a good time to study the subject on your own; I’ve added a great number of hot-links to relevant passages specifically for that purpose. This is a good time to get in God’s face, and ask Him to teach you about how He wants you to handle your giving. And this is a great time to participate in conversations with godly people on the topic: don’t preach; ask questions. Listen to answers and opinions.

This is a lousy time to respond in greed: to stop giving in order to spend money on yourself. The principle of Sowing and Reaping is still true. And selfishness just stinks.

Be generous. Be free in your generosity. Reflect God in your finances.