Milk or Meat?

There are a couple of places in the NT where the apostles contrasted the intake of believers, using the metaphor of “milk” as the food for babies against “meat” as the food for mature men & women. (1 Corinthians 3, Hebrews 5, 1 Peter 2 are the clearest.)

The apostles (Paul, the anonymous author of Hebrews, and Peter) all seem to reference something similar to John’s stages of Christian growth (1 John 2:12-14): that there are clearly stages of growth for us as Sons of the Most High. John makes it clear: believers in different stages of growth have different needs (for a discussion of those stages, see here:

Reflecting on this, I observe several things:

§         There are several places where believers are described as children, as milk-drinkers, often bemoaning the fact that by this stage of their growth, they should be eating meat and changing the world.

§         There appear to be NO places where any of the apostolic writers of the NT acknowledge a group that has progressed from milk-drinking to meat-eating. This may be simply because the epistles were all written to address problems among one church or another, and the churches that made the transition didn’t need corrective letters. There is no epistle to the church at Antioch, for example; it may be that this early center of the Church may have gotten some things right, though we have no record of it.

§         When we are young believers, we require milk. And when we become mature believers, milk is still good.

§         We are expected to progress beyond the basics. We are expected to graduate from being nourished by the “elementary principles” of “milk” to digesting and being nourished by “meat.”

§         So much of the church in our day has not even well learned the “elementary principles”; These are the “milk” or “baby food” of Christian nurture (Quoting Hebrews 6:1 here):

1.      repentance from dead works and of
2.      faith toward God, of
3.      the doctrine of baptisms (note the plural), of
4.      laying on of hands, of
5.      resurrection of the dead, and of
6.      eternal judgment.

A number of prophets and apostles are speaking of the need, now upon us, but growing in necessity, of believers being established enough in theses topics that they are comfortable (and safe) moving on to more challenging topics. In fact, Holy Spirit has been speaking to a substantial number of believers about what some of those more meat-like discussions will be about, but they would only serve as a distraction in this conversation.

As He speaks to me about some of the meatier topics of growth that I see coming to us, I am reminded of two applications that have relevance in this conversation:

1) There will be people (possibly people who are invested in a spiritual “milk-delivery service”) who will not understand of believers’ need for meat, who will speak against it (even accusing meat-eaters of apostasy and heresy), and, sadly, who will succeed in preventing hungry believers in their sphere of influence from obeying the scriptures and pursuing more advanced topics.

2) Those who choose to leave the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, and go on to perfection, not laying again the above foundation, will likely have to go on in the face of such opposition. A very likely booby-trap will be to engage argumentative milk-delivery devotees in extensive discussion about the need for meat, though it will be necessary to discern between those committed to not moving on from milk from those who have only known milk but long for more. A wiser response may be just to “set our face like flint” toward digesting and practicing that which Father is feeding us, and leaving the nay-sayers to themselves.

I believe it will be valuable to recognize in advance (if it is in advance) the opposition that will be confronting us more and more as we run the race set before us. Such battles are often won in advance, when we make our determined decisions of how we will respond before we meet the opposition.

How will you respond when faced with this choice? Will you choose a steak knife, or a warm bottle?

Forgiveness & Healing: An Important Distinction

There’s an uncomfortable contrast between forgiveness and healing.

We forgive those who wound us, and with the grace that Jesus is so generous about pouring into our lives, we can (eventually) forgive even the most debilitating, the most wounding, the most egregious offenses against us.

More, we need to forgive those offenses. In some way (see Matthew 6:14), our own forgiveness is tied to how we forgive others. And we’re commanded to forgive (see Matthew 18:23-35), so it’s pretty important.

But forgiving is not the same as healing. The act of forgiving the one who hurt me does not – in and of itself – heal the wound that they caused. Forgiving them is about not holding the offense in my soul against them, about no longer looking for revenge (whether actively or passively) against them, about not allowing a “root of bitterness” to grow in my spirit to make accusations against my offender and against God. That’s powerful stuff, but it’s not the same as healing the wound that came from their offense.

On the cross, Jesus forgave the people who nailed him there, but he still died from the wounds. In Acts 7, Stephen forgave those who wounded him by throwing stones, but he, too, died from that stoning.

I’ve seen confusion among believers about this in two manifestations:

1) “I’ve forgiven them for wounding me. So why am I still wounded? I thought that forgiving them would make it stop hurting!”

2) “But you forgave me! Why aren’t you trusting me? Why are you still acting like you’re hurting there? I guess you didn’t REALLY forgive me, did you!”

The reality is that forgiving and healing are two completely different issues. One might as well ask, “Why am I broke at the end of the month? It’s still raining in the Northwest, isn’t it?” Well, yes, it is still raining in the northwest, but that doesn’t actually have anything to do with your personal spending habits! In similar manner, there is not a direct correlation between forgiving and being healed.

It’s worth noting that there IS a small-but-significant connection between forgiving and being healed: we receive healing more easily when we’ve forgiven. But don’t be distracted by that small issue: healing is not an automatic result of forgiving.

We must forgive, of course, and there are enough reasons to forgive to fill a book. We could fill another book on the differences between forgiving someone and trusting them in the same way again. Frankly, they would be fine books, but that’s not the purpose for this article, which is to shoot down the false belief that “My forgiving you brings me healing.” It’s a small step in the process, and an important one, but it is not the healing.

I can forgive you for shooting me in the knee, but I will still walk with a limp until my knee is healed. 

Bring the Light

How many times have you heard this warning: “Brother, we got to be careful because Satan comes as an Angel of light.”

I’ve been “warned” by sour-faced people not to trust my Father’s voice, warned not to trust Holy Spirit, warned to stay away from Father’s angelic messengers, warned against healing the sick or raising the dead or any of the fun things that Father has prepared for his children. 

Apparently, because the devil, who is a copycat and a corrupter, copies and corrupts some of God’s generous gifts, there are some who think that the right answer is to avoid the gifts.

That’s like warning me to never use $20 bills, because criminals counterfeit $20 bills. Or never to drink water, because vodka is clear like water, and you know vodka’s not as good for you as water. What? 

First, let’s abandon this foolishness that we need to run screaming away from anything the devil does. Yeah, I get it: he’s a pain in the butt: he’s a liar, and his work is about stealing, killing & destroying. And yeah, I have figured out that those are bad things. I get that. 

Heres the thing: if I’m watching to make sure that I never do anything the devil is doing, then A) my eyes are on the devil, not on Jesus, and B) the devil is directing my actions; Jesus is not. That would, under normal circumstances, mean that I was being led by the devil rather than by God. Thats not acceptable to me.

You see, the devil’s under my feet. He and his realm are required to submit to me and the authority I carry from my place in Jesus, from being the Creator’s beloved son, with whom He is well pleased. 

In fact (and this will be scary to some folks), the devil and I have one job description in common: we are both working to expand our kingdom as far and as wide as we can. Of course, he’s working to expand the “kingdom of darkness” and I’m working to expand the Kingdom I share with my Father: the kingdom of light. And you know what happens when light and darkness collide: nothing. Light shines unhindered in the darkness; if anything, the enemy’s darkness only serves to show off God’s light better.

So should I be afraid because the devil counterfeits some of the good gifts Father gives me? No way! Fear is not my inheritance! 

Should I at least try to avoid the devil’s deception? Um… duh! Of course. 

But just because I’m avoiding the counterfeit doesn’t mean that I run whimpering away from the real thing that is being counterfeited. The fact that there is a counterfeit proves that the real thing is valuable, it’s profitable. In fact, it’s worth the risk of counterfeiting and getting caught.

Yes, there are false spirits. I don’t listen to them. Yes there are demons masquerading as angels of light. I don’t fall for that. Yes, there is such a thing as demonic healing. I don’t go there. In fact, don’t even pay attention. 

My job is not to run from darkness. My job is to bring the light.