Monday

Second Hand Smoke


I felt God drawing my attention to second hand smoke today. 

Second hand smoke is smoke that you breathe from someone else’s cigarette, or pipe, etc. It doesn't come as a result of your actions, but its smell still clings to your clothes, and it exposes you to lung cancer nearly as much as if you were smoking yourself. 

In some ways, it's more dangerous: pipe-smokers (and some cigar and cigarette smokers) don't generally inhale their own smoke, but if you're in their company, you don't have a choice about whether you inhale their secondhand smoke: it's just part of breathing when they're smoking around you. Your body actually experiences more of the deadly smoke than their body does.

In my own experience, there are far more times that people around me are smoking, than there are times when I am the person smoking. (Full disclosure: I do occasionally smoke a pipe.)

Second hand smoke happens in the spirit realm as well. We experience things – smells cling to us; we’re exposed to deadly danger – not because of things that we’re doing, but because of things that others are doing around us. I suspect it is true here: there are far more times when people around me are doing things to stir up the hornets' nest, than when I'm stirring that nest. After all, there are many people around me, and there's only one of me! 

May I encourage us: when we're feeling the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" coming against us, avoid the foolishness of self-accusation: "Well, I must have done something wrong." Sure, sometimes we do something stupid and open a gate to give the devil permission to steal, kill & destroy. And he generally makes use of those opportunities. In that case, all we do is repent, kick him in the teeth, and move on. 

But sometimes the troubles coming against us are brought about by the actions of others: maybe stuff passed on by parents, or foolishness committed by people we're in covenant relationship with, or maybe we've associated ourselves with a group that has given place to some sort of stronghold. Just because we're in relationship with a number of people, there's secondhand smoke around. 

It's probably appropriate to remember that our own actions affect many of the people we're in relationship with; in another way, there's no such thing as a "secret" or a "victimless" sin. 

I'm not trying to bring a teaching on how to overcome demonic attacks: there's lots of that around, and we all remember: repentance is a super-power, and I suspect the 'kicking the devil in the teeth" exercise will still be valuable. 

Rather, this is about diagnosing the source: when trouble comes our way, it isn't always about us; sometimes it's from second-hand smoke

Believing What the Bible Says About God

We need to consider whether we actually believe the Bible or not. We generally do not in this one area:

We have been fed a pack of lies about who God is, about God being the source of all kinds of evil, but we miss the foundational underlying truth: God isn’t actually evil. He’s actually good. Seriously. We don’t really believe it.

We need to understand, deep in our soul, that this is who God is. We say, “God is good,” but we believe all kinds of evil accusations about him! We (our culture) blames him for death (“God took her.”) and disaster (“an act of God!”) and trouble (“Well, he must be teaching me patience.”) and we blithely accept it (“His ways are higher than my ways… sigh.”) and we even quote scripture (“Look! It SAYS God did that! Why, it must be that simple!”) to support our na├»ve belief that God does nasty things. 

Let’s look at the record: 

Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”: God is actually good. This is who he is. A good God does good things. 

1 John 1:5: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all”: So nothing of darkness can come from God because he has no darkness to give to anybody. The only thing he can give is light. 

Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”: God’s will is only about goodness, about pleasing us, about perfection. This is something that can be tested; we can know this. Moreover, we are to be like this, our will is to be like this. 

James 1:13a: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…”: God doesn’t have anything to do with evil. There is someone else (fairly often ourselves) that is responsible for the evil that survives in our presence. 

Matthew 13:28a: “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.” When evil comes in among the people of God (in this parable of the tares), Jesus defines it as something done by his enemy. 

Matthew 7:11: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” : paraphrase: If you roughnecks can figure out the difference between a good gift and a bad gift, you can seriously trust your heavenly Father to give only good gifts. In other words, bad things do not come from God. 

John 14:9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” We have a brilliant revelation of who God is, of who the Father is: He’s like Jesus. They’re so unified, they’re so alike, that if we have seen one, we’ve seen the other. You want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. 

John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him”: So we must trust what Jesus says about God more than we trust our own perception, because we ain’t never seen him right. Everything else we believe about God must be interpreted through what Jesus says about Him.

Hebrews 1:3a: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of [God’s] being”: So we must trust what Jesus shows about God more than we trust our own perception. Jesus is the clearest (“exact”) revelation about God’s character. Everything else we believe about God must be interpreted through who Jesus is.

There is a principle of Biblical interpretation: if you see something in an obscure passage (eg. in a story, in a passage that’s teaching on a different topic, in a passing comment, in an unclear passage), then we MUST refer to the clear passage to interpret it. We cannot just see something done in the Bible and then all go do what someone else did, or we’d all lie to the Holy Spirit like Ananias did, or we’d all hang ourselves like Judas did. So what’s the clearest revelation of God’s nature?

The Bible itself clearly says that the “exact” revelation about who God is has been given to us: it’s Jesus, who is the Incarnate Son of God, who best reveals the nature and character of God to us. He is the very best revelation about who God is: if we believe something about who God is, but it isn’t found in the life of Jesus, or it isn’t found in what Jesus teaches about who God is, THEN IT ISN’T WHO GOD IS! 

Do we believe the Bible or not? I vote to believe the Bible. 

Replacing God With God's People


When we take it upon ourselves to be responsible other believers, to be their warning of possible error, possible deceiving spirits, then we are working from the assumption - I'm not sure we often see it - that protecting believers is our work. I believe that is a faulty foundation.

I try (with only moderate success, I grant) to work from the assumption that it is God's work to protect his children - using other children sometimes in that process, no doubt, but it is his work. I recall Jesus claiming, "I will build MY Church," and I don't remember him delegating that to anyone else at any point.

Let's assume that I never once err in my identifying what is of God and what is from deceiving spirits - and that of course is pure fantasy at best - then perhaps I have saved them the inconvenience of being sidetracked for a short while. But in the meantime, I have denied those immature believers the opportunity to hear from God themselves, substituting my own words in the place of His words, substituting my leading instead of His leading.

I do not believe that this is in their best interests for us to replace God's leadership in peoples' lives with our leadership, our protection.

And although it might make me feel important, I do not believe it is in our best interests either.