Fixing the Eyes

If I dwell on, if I feed my spirit on, if I meditate on, the things that God has NOT done, or not done YET, then it creates an offense in my heart, whose result is unbelief, and it wars against the Kingdom of God, and everything in my life is tainted by unbelief. I don’t really want that!

Judas had a problem with this, or at least I think that he did: he really wanted the Triumphant Messiah, but Jesus didn’t come as that. Jesus came as the Suffering Servant. All the Boys struggled with this disappointment, but it would have been easy for Judas, the man of action among them, to focus on what was NOT being done.

When Mary broke the Nard on Jesus, Judas saw that poor people weren’t being fed (and that his own pocket wasn’t being enriched) with what that box of perfume must have cost, and that is the only part of that magical evening that he talked about. If you had eyes for it, you could see the Incarnate Son of God being prepared, being encouraged by a heart of love, for the Battle of Eternity that was about to unfold in the next few days. Mary was preparing Jesus to rescue Judas and the entire human race, and all Judas saw was that there were still hungry poor people.

Jesus taught, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” When I talk about – when I notice – what God has not done, or what is wrong with the world (which God created) or when I discuss the failures of the Church (which he declares he will build), then it reveals where my heart is: focused on problems, ensorcelled by failure. My words reveal that my thoughts, my emotions, are wrapped up with what’s not right, and they empower it. In the same statement (Luke 6:5), Jesus identifies this process as “an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart bring[ing] forth evil.”

Ouch. When my words and my actions reflect that I’m meditating on unbelief, it’s evil. When I’m talking about what’s wrong, it’s evil. When I tell people why my day was bad, it’s evil And it brings forth evil. It spawns evil. Evil multiplies because of my talk, and it brings forth evil results.

Saul wrestled with it. In 1 Samuel 13, he fed his spirit only on Samuel’s delay and the people’s unrest, and his resulting choices cost him his dynasty. In 2 Samuel 15, having not learned his lesson, he dwelt on the wastefulness of God’s command, and instead kept “only the best”, and that cost him his kingdom. The divinely-chosen, supernaturally-aided mortal king of God’s own favored nation was destroyed because he was focused on what he saw as wrong with God’s servant, with God’s people, with God’s plan.

That was an easy takedown for the enemy.

And in fact, this is a very old strategy of the devil. The serpent’s temptation of Eve was about what God was not giving (experience of both good and evil), and ignoring what he had made available (everlasting life, intimacy with their creator), and they both fell prey to it, and it cost us (and Jesus) everything, absolutely everything!

If you want to discourage someone, tell them all that’s wrong with them. Tell them about their mistakes, their poor choices. Bring their attention to the injustices around them, to the uncomfortable circumstances that they’re in. Help them see what is wrong, and you’ll help them become what is wrong. Evil will win.

If the enemy was looking for the simplest, most efficient way to destroy an anointed man or woman of God is to get them to focus on their problems, the bad events in the news, the oversights of their family, the bad habits of their co-workers, the idiots on the freeway, the mistakes of the government. There’s lots of very real “wrong stuff” out there. If I put my attention on that evil stuff, then evil will grow in my heart, and I’ll make a small mistake that will cost me – and those around me – everything.

Someone wise once said, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.(Somewhere in Philippians 4, emphasis added.)

If you want to make someone dangerous, if you want to make them into somebody that can change the world, that can send hell running for cover, that can actually demonstrate the Good News of the Kingdom, then tell them what’s right. Tell them of their destiny in God; reach into Heaven and prophesy it by faith if you have to, but tell them. Tell them of the greatness of God in them. Show them the good choices they’ve made (they already know about the other ones!), and show them how good came from them, from their choices. Tell them how they’re changing the world.  Better yet, tell his wife, tell her husband, tell their friends, their kids, their pastor, and let them hear you telling them.

The Book says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! [Hebrews 12:2-3, MSG]

Don’t prophesy the problem. Anybody can do that. The evening news does a pretty good job. Prophesy hope. Prophesy destiny. Prophesy the solution.

When we speak of the good, then we’re thinking, meditating, feeding on the good. And when we speak out loud of the good, then we’re feeding others on the good. And when we feed on what’s good, what’s true, what’s noble, there ain’t hardly nuthin’ that can stop us. 

Discerning the Times

Let’s discuss some theory and practice of discerning the times, discerning our times. We live in interesting times.

First, Let’s establish that discernment is a good thing. The Book addresses the topic. First, the Bible celebrates these particular boys who had good discernment:

“… sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” 1 Chronicles 12:32

Jesus is more forceful on the topic.

“When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:2-3.

Yes, he’s chewing out some religious leaders, but the reason he is chewing them out was because they couldn’t discern the times. Specifically, they couldn’t discern what God was doing, and the Son of God rebuked them for it.

It is that important that we discern what God is doing in our day. In these outrageous times, I am convinced that it is more important than it was in previous generations that we understand our times, that we discern our times correctly.

I want to set something of a foundation for where we’re going. Let’s start with Jesus. He’s a pretty good foundation.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1.

I feel the need to re-emphasize some basic truths from this passage. There’s nothing new or controversial here.

· Jesus is the Word of God incarnate.

· He was alive before the beginning of creation.

· Jesus is God.

· Creation happened through him.

· Apart from Jesus, there was no creating going on.

One of the stones of this foundation that we’re laying is this: Jesus is the Creator. My point is this: Jesus is that it is well documented that Jesus is creative. I would argue that he is the source of all creativity, the fountain from which all of his creation draws from in their own creativity. Creativity was in Jesus’ blood before he had blood, before blood was invented, before the molecules that would eventually make up blood had been formed.

The New Testament adds to this:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

If Jesus was creative for that very first week of creation, then the Book says that he remains unchanged. He is still creative. The guy who declared, “Let there be light!” is still that guy. Creativity is a part of him.

“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? Isaiah 43:18,19.

God identifies himself as a God who does new things. We could get technical and point out that “I will do a new thing” is an Active Participle, which “represents an action or condition in its unbroken continuity.” In other words, it could quite accurately (and more clumsily) be translated, “I do new stuff. That’s who I am!”

Then he adds, “You’re going to know it! You’re going to experience my new stuff!”

This is pretty basic: If God does new stuff, then he is doing new stuff. If Jesus – who is unchanging – is creative, then he is still creating, still doing new stuff. If this is who he is, then it’s who he is.

Therefore we should expect new stuff to happen. We should expect God to do new stuff. New stuff in us. New stuff around us. Things that nobody has ever seen before. (The Hebrew word חדש speaks about something that’s brand spankin’ new, and is contrasted with other words that mean rebuilt or renewed.)

I’m making a strong point about this because it seems that whenever someone says, “God is doing something new today!” someone crawls out of the shadows and snarls, “No he’s not!” Their justification for their narrow mindedness generally comes from Hebrews 13:8 (quoted above), or from their own self-centeredness: “I ain’t never seen that before, so it can’t be God.”

It has often been pointed out that the greatest persecutors of the latest move of God are very often the members of the last move of God. But it is to us specifically that God says, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old!”

“Quit measuring things by the past. Stop looking back to what I did before. That is not what I’m doing now.”

Then the LORD said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. Exodus 34:10

OK. God is doing new things in our day, things that have never been seen on the earth before. But God isn’t the only one who’s doing things that we have never seen before. How do we discern between the unfamiliar thing that is God and the unfamiliar thing that is not God.

This is the rabbit trail that God led me on this morning. We must be able to discern our times. We must be able to discern that which is God from that which is not God.

Here’s where it got awkward for me, where it became unfamiliar to me: I cannot use my mind for that task. “But I have a good mind! It works well!” I argued. He agreed, and added, “but your mind is limited to what it knows, what it remembers, what it has seen before, and – from that – to what it can imagine. That’s insufficient. You must discern these times with your spirit.”

If God is doing new things in our day, things that have never been seen on Earth, then we must use a tool that is capable of working with things that are new, never before seen on the earth.

May we learn to discern well, to rely on our discernment, and to receive the new and different and unusual things that God is doing.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Christians on the InterWebs

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it happen, but you probably have seen it as many times as I have: someone, somewhere – let’s call him Henry – posts an opinion online. Fine. All is well and good.

Then some fundamentalist Christian sees that post! Far too often, the Christian ignores the heart of what they said, but finds some little detail that they don’t agree with, and they tell them why they’re so wrong. Others join in, and soon we have a feeding frenzy, rapid-fire accusations of all kinds of nasty things, all on account of a detail.

• We are on Facebook, not in theology class. The requirement of rigorously defending one's theology is different in a social environment, such as Facebook, than in an educational environment. I will not demand that someone quote chapter and verse, listing supporting papers for their position, while we're sitting at a dinner table among friends who have no idea what we're talking about.

• Some among us are teachers, and as such, they have a standard that we must live up to. Most people online are not teachers, though their post sounds a little like they’re trying to teach. I will not hold him to the same standard that I hold teachers to. The James 3:1 kind of thing. We don’t hold kids just learning to hear God’s voice to the same standard we hold a mature prophet, do we?

• I do not have my theology perfect. I don't know where it's wrong, and I work hard at correcting it where I find errors. But I am aware that I don't completely agree with ANYone's theology, including my own. Let’s quit arguing about insignificant theology. Who cares if it reminds you of some hated heresy of the past? That’s not the point of their post! Get over it! Move on!

• I tend to agree with John G Lake, when he said, "It is a law of the human mind that I can act myself into believing faster than I can believe myself into acting." In similar spirit, I have concluded that it is FAR, FAR more important to get young Christians out doing stuff, expanding the Kingdom, doing something, anything, even (hear me carefully) even if it's wrong, than it is to sit them down behind a desk and make others learn theology. For example: I would really rather deal with someone who had just raised my dead friend back to life, but was confused about Ananias & Sapphira, than I would deal with a young buck who had just gotten his MDiv and was looking for a church to pastor, but as yet has not really done anything.

• Likewise: I'm far more interested in the fruit that comes from a your life than I am the doctrinal correctness that comes from your teaching. That is NOT to say that good doctrine is unimportant: it IS to say that good doctrine is not preeminent over living out that truth which we already know.

• Authority to teach comes from God. But my authority to teach YOU comes from YOU and nobody else. If Tyler has not invited you or me to speak into his life, but we go ahead and speak into it, then he would be correct to label us as nosy busybodies or worse. If you were on your way to buy a dozen red roses for your sweetheart, and someone jumped in your face, blocked your way, and proceeded to tell you why America made a mistake to abandon the gold standard for its currency, what you can do about it, and why you needed to deal with it •right•this•minute•, it is likely that you would have difficulty receiving that data, and it is likely that anything that that person ever told you would be colored by that encounter. Let’s not be that person.

Brothers and sisters, please hear me. Unity isn’t about everybody agreeing with your personal pet doctrines. In fact, unity is not about doctrine at all. Unity is about us all having one father, and a very good heavenly one, and trusting each other to follow Him. Agreeing isn’t part of that equation, and agreeing with YOU is completely off the topic. If I’m following the same Father you are, then eventually, we’ll get to the place where you and I see the main things through His eyes, and we see the peripheral things through our individual assignments. We probably won’t ever agree on the details.

I am not saying that doctrine doesn’t matter. I’m saying people matter more.