Letters

Why I Smile on Airplanes

"Open the door, mate! Please, just open the door."

Knocks continued as I took my shower at the hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. It's not every day that your shower gets interrupted by a drunken Britt from Birmingham needing to, well, more kindly than he put it "relieve himself".

I knew who the guy was. We had talked recently and I didn't feel in any danger. In fact, danger hadn't even crossed my mind. I have no problem letting a bro into the bathroom when nature calls. I mean, a man's gotta' do what a man's gotta' do when a man's gotta' do it.

"Well, I need a moment." My body was covered in soap and I wasn't about to trudge soap across the floor.

"Please! Just open the door. I just have to take a [leak]. I'm drunk and I gotta' go!"

"Coming." I wrapped my towel around my waist and opened the door.

"Thank you so much mate. Ahhhh..." He probably relieved himself for a good two minutes, almost falling backwards twice.

Again, I really didn't mind letting him in. He had a delightful Cockney Birmingham accent, after all. In fact, so he claims, that driving cap I have was invented in Birmingham and, in his words, "You got to be a Birmie to wear one of those."

How did it all start?

I had walked into the hostel earlier that night to meet Shelly for the first time. She seemed exhausted, yet calm in a charming sort of way. I asked and she told me some of her journey. She had a semi-crazy trip. I'll spare the details, except to say that I asked, "What's a brilliant girl like you doing partying? You should be up at 5:00 A.M. interviewing shop owners, building a contact book, and making a journal of your discoveries."

"You know, you're right, actually," she said.

I gave her the boilerplate advice, which somehow never seems so obvious: Study what you hate, do what you love. It's not always true, but what a resume builder, eh? "I travel the world because I love people, I speak three languages, but I studied accounting and pre-MBA in college to keep myself well-rounded." Who wouldn't hire someone like that?

"I must introduce you to Heather," I said at last. "Heather is from a country right next to yours and she's quite similar. She's traveling with her friend, Brianna, which I can never pronounce to her liking."

Shelly was from central Europe and had just worked for an airline. She told me a story about a tough customer she once had, how airline employees must always wear a smile, even while laying down the law, even while being threatened.

...Airline employees must always wear a smile.

And, that was Shelly. Even after the rough story of travels she had been through, here she was, all in one piece, calm as a cucumber. In many ways, I envy her.

In walked Heather and Brianna. "There they are," I exclaimed. The three ladies got acquainted on the porch that evening in Saigon while I took to the shower. I had an early flight to catch and wanted to get to sleep early.

So, here I was in the shower—kind of—trying to keep a drunk "Birmie" from falling down while relieving himself. "Oh, thanks so much, mate! I'm so drunk."

"It's alright. I understand." We just have to wear that smile no matter what...

I finished my shower and made my way out to the porch to find our Birmie friend chatting it up with the three ladies on the porch. After a minute or two, his other Birmie friend showed up.

"Oh, please," one of the fellas said. "Just a little more massage."

"But, I already gave you three. You're quite relaxed as it is."

"I still want the full massage."

"But, you can't do everything all at one time."

That's very true.

Time to distract. "Jesse, what was it you said you were working on with your website?"

"It was a list of words. Many non-native speakers have trouble with some English sounds..."

"Get off of my bed! I want to sleep!"

"Don't bother Breeann," I say.

"No, no, no! It's Brianna," she corrected.

Her friend piped in. "Yes, there are some sounds that native English speakers have trouble pronouncing in other languages."

Touche.

This was going to be an interesting evening. I didn't dare doze off to sleep. The drunk boys probably aren't all that bad, but they wouldn't let the ladies be. Worse things probably happen in many other parts of the world, especially in so-called "civilized nations".

One guy playfully tosses Brianna on the bed. She objects with dignity. Heather tries to talk some sense into the drunk, but more as a distraction gimmick than any genuine hope of producing change.

As the night went on, the girls did a rather fantastic job of entertaining the drunk boys. It wasn't for any agreement or to join in their rough housing. There just wasn't anything else for them to do. So, they sat and listened to them through the night.

It began to rain. It stopped raining. The floor got wet. Then one of the boys threw Shelly's bag on the floor—right into a puddle of water.

"You can't throw people's things," I kindly explained.

"But, I want to throw things," he said.

Now, there's an indication of insecurity. The boys aren't really bad, just immature and insecure. That's quite a contrast to the girls with whom these boys quite clearly didn't stand a chance of rounding first base.

"You can't throw other people's things, though. They can break. Now, Shelly is sad."

Watching those girls deal with misfits was a lesson in life for me. I don't know where Brianna and Heather will go with their lives, but I'm sure it won't be a waste.

Shelly sat next to her wet bag, poking her fingers at her temples. Then, she smiled. She was tired. It was 4:00 A.M. Her only travel bag was wet—along with who knows what else inside. With her luck everything was probably okay. But, that's not the point.

In that moment, Shelly convinced me that she did indeed work for an airline. You have to have the patience of Job to not explode in a situation like that.

Shelly, I don't know where you will go with your life, but I'm sure it will be amazing as long as you keep going and, no matter what, keep smiling.

So, what happened to the boys? I couldn't stay around to find out. I had a plane to catch. That's another story of patience all to itself. I'll just say that the memory of Shelly kept me smiling.

continue reading

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Letters

Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

If somebody is telling you a flat-out lie, and I report, “This is what they’re saying,” without describing it as the truth or as a lie, Then am I telling you the truth to you? Or am I lying to you?

Related to that:

If somebody is telling a flat-out lie, and the Bible reports, “This is what they said,” without describing it as either truthful or a lie, Then is the Bible speaking truth? Or is it lying?

Of course, I’m going to argue that if the Bible is just reporting what they said, that this it is telling the truth, even if what it is truthfully reporting is a lie. Even when the Bible accurately quotes their lying words, it is telling the truth, and you can have confidence that they did, indeed, tell that lie.

For example, when Bildad the Shuhite says to Job, “When your children sinned against him, [God] gave them over to the penalty of their sin,” [Job 8:4] and the Bible truthfully reports Bildad’s fake news, then the Bible is still speaking the truth, even if Job’s children never sinned, and even if Bildad can’t tell his sphincter from a scepter.

Or when the Bible accurately quotes a snake calling God a liar, and declaring “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” [Genesis 3:5], then the Bible is still telling the truth, even though the words it is quoting are a flat-out lie, literally straight from the devil’s mouth.

This leads to a very awkward and uncomfortable place. I’m going to say this bluntly:


  • Not everything the Bible says is true.
  • Some of what the Bible says is a lie, because
  • Sometimes the Bible truthfully reports people’s lies.


That’s going to trigger some folks, but take a deep breath and think about it: we’ve just discussed two specific lies that the Bible quotes. The Bible accurately (“truthfully”) reports the lies. But they’re still lies. They’re still in the Bible. The Bible contains these two lies (and many more).

What’s even more challenging is that the Bible doesn’t generally identify whether people are speaking the truth or telling a lie, just like it doesn’t comment on whether what they’re doing is wise or stupid. It never commented that the snake was lying, or that Bildad was lying.

And there are some epic examples of stupid choices and stupid thinking that the Bible reports to us. If you think about it, you can think of several yourself.

“But what about that verse that says it’s all inspired?”

The verse actually says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” [2 Timothy 3:16] Yep. That’s what it says. And yes, this is true!

So yeah, it’s still good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Some of it, by virtue of accurately reporting people’s stupid choices, is particularly helpful for the rebuking and correcting parts! (Yes, David really did seduce his good friend’s wife, and then murder that friend to cover it up. No, we are not teaching that you need to do the same thing!)

In other words, yes, the Bible is still precious, and it is still God-breathed and useful nutrition for saints. But like all nutrition, some of it needs to be chewed well before the nutrients are available to help saints grow.

Don’t just grab pieces and swallow them whole. Find out who said it, who they said it to, and the circumstances they were said in. Learn to chew your food carefully.

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Letters

Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

If somebody is telling you a flat-out lie, and I report, “This is what they’re saying,” without describing it as the truth or as a lie, Then am I telling you the truth to you? Or am I lying to you?

Related to that:

If somebody is telling a flat-out lie, and the Bible reports, “This is what they said,” without describing it as either truthful or a lie, Then is the Bible speaking truth? Or is it lying?

Of course, I’m going to argue that if the Bible is just reporting what they said, that this it is telling the truth, even if what it is truthfully reporting is a lie. Even when the Bible accurately quotes their lying words, it is telling the truth, and you can have confidence that they did, indeed, tell that lie.

For example, when Bildad the Shuhite says to Job, “When your children sinned against him, [God] gave them over to the penalty of their sin,” [Job 8:4] and the Bible truthfully reports Bildad’s fake news, then the Bible is still speaking the truth, even if Job’s children never sinned, and even if Bildad can’t tell his sphincter from a scepter.

Or when the Bible accurately quotes a snake calling God a liar, and declaring “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” [Genesis 3:5], then the Bible is still telling the truth, even though the words it is quoting are a flat-out lie, literally straight from the devil’s mouth.

This leads to a very awkward and uncomfortable place. I’m going to say this bluntly:


  • Not everything the Bible says is true.
  • Some of what the Bible says is a lie, because
  • Sometimes the Bible truthfully reports people’s lies.


That’s going to trigger some folks, but take a deep breath and think about it: we’ve just discussed two specific lies that the Bible quotes. The Bible accurately (“truthfully”) reports the lies. But they’re still lies. They’re still in the Bible. The Bible contains these two lies (and many more).

What’s even more challenging is that the Bible doesn’t generally identify whether people are speaking the truth or telling a lie, just like it doesn’t comment on whether what they’re doing is wise or stupid. It never commented that the snake was lying, or that Bildad was lying.

And there are some epic examples of stupid choices and stupid thinking that the Bible reports to us. If you think about it, you can think of several yourself.

“But what about that verse that says it’s all inspired?”

The verse actually says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” [2 Timothy 3:16] Yep. That’s what it says. And yes, this is true!

So yeah, it’s still good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Some of it, by virtue of accurately reporting people’s stupid choices, is particularly helpful for the rebuking and correcting parts! (Yes, David really did seduce his good friend’s wife, and then murder that friend to cover it up. No, we are not teaching that you need to do the same thing!)

In other words, yes, the Bible is still precious, and it is still God-breathed and useful nutrition for saints. But like all nutrition, some of it needs to be chewed well before the nutrients are available to help saints grow.

Don’t just grab pieces and swallow them whole. Find out who said it, who they said it to, and the circumstances they were said in. Learn to chew your food carefully.

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Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·         If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

* I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
* Honor is more important than “the best” price.
* The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.




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Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·    If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

·   I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
·   Honor is more important than “the best” price.
·   The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.

Standard
Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·         If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

* I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
* Honor is more important than “the best” price.
* The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.




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Letters

Blue Collar Jesus

My day job is what’s normally called a “white collar” job. Most American jobs are.

Recently, I was doing a lot of digging. Digging is more of a “blue collar” job.

And while I was digging, I was listening to the Bible, ‘cuz that’s what I do. I was listening to the Gospel of Matthew.

And because I was in the midst of so much manual labor at the time, I saw the parables of Jesus through more of a blue collar lens.

It surprised me, seeing them like that. For the first time I realized – really realized – that Jesus told blue-collar stories. I observe that while he hung out with white collar guys (like tax collectors and perhaps Lazarus, and the rich guys who sought him out for healing), he never told white-collar stories. He told blue-collar stories.

Yes, a larger portion of first century jobs were blue collar jobs. But this is more than that. Jesus is going out of his way to reach the scruffy folks, the one that didn’t matter as much as the good folks, the people with position and influence.

I think in these terms: if Jesus started his church-planting work among the calloused-handed working class, I wonder why our church-planting efforts do things differently. Do we judge His work as insufficient, or unworthy?

I observe that Jesus handled money so very differently than modern churches do. He had a few (presumably wealthy) patrons, and supplemented that with miracles (coins in a fish’s mouth, multiplying meals; I wonder how often he did that?). By contrast, we generally work to attract upper-middle-class folks and then preach tithing to them: guilt or obligation as the means of paying the rent.

Rent. Jesus never did seem to have a place that he needed to pay rent on. That’ll help keep the expenses in line. No building to support (though he did preach in synagogues when invited). And he didn’t draw a salary from the ministry.

I am reaching the conclusion that this blue-collar thing, this is who Jesus really was. When he humbled himself (Philippians 2), He went all the way. Jesus loves to reach the folks in the gutters because that’s who He was when He was on Earth. That’s where He lived.



Standard
Letters

Blue Collar Jesus

My day job is what’s normally called a “white collar” job. Most American jobs are.

Recently, I was doing a lot of digging. Digging is more of a “blue collar” job.

And while I was digging, I was listening to the Bible, ‘cuz that’s what I do. I was listening to the Gospel of Matthew.

And because I was in the midst of so much manual labor at the time, I saw the parables of Jesus through more of a blue collar lens.

It surprised me, seeing them like that. For the first time I realized – really realized – that Jesus told blue-collar stories. I observe that while he hung out with white collar guys (like tax collectors and perhaps Lazarus, and the rich guys who sought him out for healing), he never told white-collar stories. He told blue-collar stories.

Yes, a larger portion of first century jobs were blue collar jobs. But this is more than that. Jesus is going out of his way to reach the scruffy folks, the one that didn’t matter as much as the good folks, the people with position and influence.

I think in these terms: if Jesus started his church-planting work among the calloused-handed working class, I wonder why our church-planting efforts do things differently. Do we judge His work as insufficient, or unworthy?

I observe that Jesus handled money so very differently than modern churches do. He had a few (presumably wealthy) patrons, and supplemented that with miracles (coins in a fish’s mouth, multiplying meals; I wonder how often he did that?). By contrast, we generally work to attract upper-middle-class folks and then preach tithing to them: guilt or obligation as the means of paying the rent.

Rent. Jesus never did seem to have a place that he needed to pay rent on. That’ll help keep the expenses in line. No building to support (though he did preach in synagogues when invited). And he didn’t draw a salary from the ministry.

I am reaching the conclusion that this blue-collar thing, this is who Jesus really was. When he humbled himself (Philippians 2), He went all the way. Jesus loves to reach the folks in the gutters because that’s who He was when He was on Earth. That’s where He lived.



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Letters

Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

I had an interesting revelation recently. I’d like your take on it. This might be a little convoluted, so follow close here. This took me down unfamiliar paths; perhaps they’ll be new ideas to you as well.

I was worshipping in the morning, and I was using a track from one of my favorite worship bands. The track was a very popular worship song: everybody and their bass player has covered it.

I found myself drawn into that place of intimate worship. I was thankful for such an anointed song to help lead me into the place of the sacrifice of worship. 

And it began to dawn on me that yes, there was an anointing here, but it wasn’t on the song. Hmm. Yes? Tell me more. 

I considered for a while the possibility that some songs might not carry an anointing on them, but people using the song for anointed purposes still produces an anointing.

That didn’t quite fit right. Why would this song be anointed, and that song not be anointed? (Yeah, I know: there are answers for this, but that’s not the path my meditation took this morning.) Might the anointing on a song vary with the anointing on the songwriter? Or the anointing present during the songwriting.

Then I recognized a feeling in my spirit: That’s not the right path; you’re getting distracted. (Have you ever played “hot & cold” [“You’re getting warmer…..”] when your parents or someone hid something for you to find? We did that with Easter eggs. This was like that.)

So I backed off and just listened in my spirit, watched to see what Holy Spirit might be highlighting for me.

After a bit, I realized that while He uses songs, it’s not songs that He anoints. Hmm.

The infinitely personal Spirit of the Immortal God doesn’t anoint melodies or harmonies with His presence, nor lyrics, though he’s quite happy to use them all. He doesn’t anoint the guitar solo, or the percussion mix, or the click track. It’s not the song’s arrangement, or the engineer’s mix of the song or use of equalization and reverb that carries God’s presence. Neither is it the choice of instruments nor the choice of microphones. It’s not the physical CD, or the data of the .mp3 or .wav file that He anoints.

God anoints people. God’s anointing is on people (and Biblically, you can make a case that he’s not all that particular about which people, believers or not), not on people’s tools. My tool is mine; God doesn’t typically anoint my stuff. God anoints what’s his: you and me.

I’m still working through the question of whether God anoints the tasks that we do; for the moment I think not, that His anointing is on people as they do the tasks, but the jury is still out on that one.

And here’s where it gets personal. This means – if I’m understanding His heart correctly – that when I sense God’s anointing on a worship song, as I did in this morning, that I’m mistaken.

I can think of a couple of directions that could go:

  • I’m pretty sure that very often what I mean when I say “It’s an anointed song,” is that I’m remembering experiencing His anointing while engaging Him with that song in times past. Our emotional memories are really powerful, and it could be those emotions I’m remembering.

  • Or when I experience an anointing in the context of a song, it may be that my own spirit (and perhaps my soul, too) is trained, conditioned to quickly and smoothly enter into the place where I experience his anointing. I can think of worse conditioned responses.

  • Closely related to the above, I think I’ve experienced times where my spirit is so thirsty that it leaps with joy at the barest hint of an opportunity to worship my Creator/King/Lover, and I mistake that leap toward Him for His anointing. I guess this one speaks to the quality of my private worship times. I confess, I love it when my spirit leaps to worship, but it is a sign of lack of spiritual nutrition in my life. Hmm.

  • Since I’m trying to be honest here, the possibility also exists that I’m deceived, too. It is a real possibility that when I experience something associated with a song which I’ve used for spiritual purposes, that I’m actually engaging a religious spirit. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of manipulation that happens in some times and places where we worship God. Looks like I need to keep my discernment ears on.

  • Or something else may be going on.


But God’s anointing is on people. Not tools. 
Standard
Letters

Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

I had an interesting revelation recently. I’d like your take on it. This might be a little convoluted, so follow close here. This took me down unfamiliar paths; perhaps they’ll be new ideas to you as well.

I was worshipping in the morning, and I was using a track from one of my favorite worship bands. The track was a very popular worship song: everybody and their bass player has covered it.

I found myself drawn into that place of intimate worship. I was thankful for such an anointed song to help lead me into the place of the sacrifice of worship. 

And it began to dawn on me that yes, there was an anointing here, but it wasn’t on the song. Hmm. Yes? Tell me more. 

I considered for a while the possibility that some songs might not carry an anointing on them, but people using the song for anointed purposes still produces an anointing.

That didn’t quite fit right. Why would this song be anointed, and that song not be anointed? (Yeah, I know: there are answers for this, but that’s not the path my meditation took this morning.) Might the anointing on a song vary with the anointing on the songwriter? Or the anointing present during the songwriting.

Then I recognized a feeling in my spirit: That’s not the right path; you’re getting distracted. (Have you ever played “hot & cold” [“You’re getting warmer…..”] when your parents or someone hid something for you to find? We did that with Easter eggs. This was like that.)

So I backed off and just listened in my spirit, watched to see what Holy Spirit might be highlighting for me.

After a bit, I realized that while He uses songs, it’s not songs that He anoints. Hmm.

The infinitely personal Spirit of the Immortal God doesn’t anoint melodies or harmonies with His presence, nor lyrics, though he’s quite happy to use them all. He doesn’t anoint the guitar solo, or the percussion mix, or the click track. It’s not the song’s arrangement, or the engineer’s mix of the song or use of equalization and reverb that carries God’s presence. Neither is it the choice of instruments nor the choice of microphones. It’s not the physical CD, or the data of the .mp3 or .wav file that He anoints.

God anoints people. God’s anointing is on people (and Biblically, you can make a case that he’s not all that particular about which people, believers or not), not on people’s tools. My tool is mine; God doesn’t typically anoint my stuff. God anoints what’s his: you and me.

I’m still working through the question of whether God anoints the tasks that we do; for the moment I think not, that His anointing is on people as they do the tasks, but the jury is still out on that one.

And here’s where it gets personal. This means – if I’m understanding His heart correctly – that when I sense God’s anointing on a worship song, as I did in this morning, that I’m mistaken.

I can think of a couple of directions that could go:

  • I’m pretty sure that very often what I mean when I say “It’s an anointed song,” is that I’m remembering experiencing His anointing while engaging Him with that song in times past. Our emotional memories are really powerful, and it could be those emotions I’m remembering.

  • Or when I experience an anointing in the context of a song, it may be that my own spirit (and perhaps my soul, too) is trained, conditioned to quickly and smoothly enter into the place where I experience his anointing. I can think of worse conditioned responses.

  • Closely related to the above, I think I’ve experienced times where my spirit is so thirsty that it leaps with joy at the barest hint of an opportunity to worship my Creator/King/Lover, and I mistake that leap toward Him for His anointing. I guess this one speaks to the quality of my private worship times. I confess, I love it when my spirit leaps to worship, but it is a sign of lack of spiritual nutrition in my life. Hmm.

  • Since I’m trying to be honest here, the possibility also exists that I’m deceived, too. It is a real possibility that when I experience something associated with a song which I’ve used for spiritual purposes, that I’m actually engaging a religious spirit. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of manipulation that happens in some times and places where we worship God. Looks like I need to keep my discernment ears on.

  • Or something else may be going on.


But God’s anointing is on people. Not tools. 
Standard
Letters

Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

I had an interesting revelation recently. I’d like your take on it. This might be a little convoluted, so follow close here. This took me down unfamiliar paths; perhaps they’ll be new ideas to you as well.

I was worshipping in the morning, and I was using a track from one of my favorite worship bands. The track was a very popular worship song: everybody and their bass player has covered it.

I found myself drawn into that place of intimate worship. I was thankful for such an anointed song to help lead me into the place of the sacrifice of worship. 

And it began to dawn on me that yes, there was an anointing here, but it wasn’t on the song. Hmm. Yes? Tell me more. 

I considered for a while the possibility that some songs might not carry an anointing on them, but people using the song for anointed purposes still produces an anointing.

That didn’t quite fit right. Why would this song be anointed, and that song not be anointed? (Yeah, I know: there are answers for this, but that’s not the path my meditation took this morning.) Might the anointing on a song vary with the anointing on the songwriter? Or the anointing present during the songwriting.

Then I recognized a feeling in my spirit: That’s not the right path; you’re getting distracted. (Have you ever played “hot & cold” [“You’re getting warmer…..”] when your parents or someone hid something for you to find? We did that with Easter eggs. This was like that.)

So I backed off and just listened in my spirit, watched to see what Holy Spirit might be highlighting for me.

After a bit, I realized that while He uses songs, it’s not songs that He anoints. Hmm.

The infinitely personal Spirit of the Immortal God doesn’t anoint melodies or harmonies with His presence, nor lyrics, though he’s quite happy to use them all. He doesn’t anoint the guitar solo, or the percussion mix, or the click track. It’s not the song’s arrangement, or the engineer’s mix of the song or use of equalization and reverb that carries God’s presence. Neither is it the choice of instruments nor the choice of microphones. It’s not the physical CD, or the data of the .mp3 or .wav file that He anoints.

God anoints people. God’s anointing is on people (and Biblically, you can make a case that he’s not all that particular about which people, believers or not), not on people’s tools. My tool is mine; God doesn’t typically anoint my stuff. God anoints what’s his: you and me.

I’m still working through the question of whether God anoints the tasks that we do; for the moment I think not, that His anointing is on people as they do the tasks, but the jury is still out on that one.

And here’s where it gets personal. This means – if I’m understanding His heart correctly – that when I sense God’s anointing on a worship song, as I did in this morning, that I’m mistaken.

I can think of a couple of directions that could go:

  • I’m pretty sure that very often what I mean when I say “It’s an anointed song,” is that I’m remembering experiencing His anointing while engaging Him with that song in times past. Our emotional memories are really powerful, and it could be those emotions I’m remembering.

  • Or when I experience an anointing in the context of a song, it may be that my own spirit (and perhaps my soul, too) is trained, conditioned to quickly and smoothly enter into the place where I experience his anointing. I can think of worse conditioned responses.

  • Closely related to the above, I think I’ve experienced times where my spirit is so thirsty that it leaps with joy at the barest hint of an opportunity to worship my Creator/King/Lover, and I mistake that leap toward Him for His anointing. I guess this one speaks to the quality of my private worship times. I confess, I love it when my spirit leaps to worship, but it is a sign of lack of spiritual nutrition in my life. Hmm.

  • Since I’m trying to be honest here, the possibility also exists that I’m deceived, too. It is a real possibility that when I experience something associated with a song which I’ve used for spiritual purposes, that I’m actually engaging a religious spirit. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of manipulation that happens in some times and places where we worship God. Looks like I need to keep my discernment ears on.

  • Or something else may be going on.


But God’s anointing is on people. Not tools. 
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Letters

The Controversial Source of the Law.

God offered, “You [Israel] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) God offered a covenant of equals: you and me, face to face with God with nothing in between. Peers.

They rejected his offer, and counter-offered, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)


They proposed the intermediary, which is what a priesthood is. And they promised to listen. The original language contains a hint of obedience, but no, this isn’t an express promise (which was probably good).

They rejected the peer relationship, the covenant of equals, and they substituted a vertical relationship: big god with the rules (and therefore the spank stick), and the only way to know him is through a priest. Ick.

So the idea of a priesthood was not God’s idea, but the people’s. And the idea of hearing and obeying rules wasn’t God’s idea, but the people’s. He wanted a face-to-face with every living being, but they threw that back in his face and demanded a priesthood and rules.

So God was backed into a corner: either relate to people through a priesthood and rules, or walk away, wipe his hands clean and start over again.

But he’s not One to walk away.

So he submitted his mighty self to their silly little demands. It was better than no relationship at all.

They wanted a priesthood: Moses started it with Aaron, and it continued on. That’s what Leviticus is all about. Don’t you love Leviticus? Isn’t it fun to read?

They wanted rules. So God gave them a handful. Those rules were never about “Do this and you go to Heaven.” They were “Do this and you won’t get spanked.” (see Deuteronomy 30, and Luke 10:28). “Do this and you won’t be cursed.”

But they broke covenant before the rules were even delivered (remember the golden calf?). Then came more rules. And they failed those, so he had to give them other rules, more specific rules.

If you have rules, then you need to have an enforcer, and that is ALWAYS your god. So God was party to a covenant he didn’t want, and was the enforcer if the people didn’t keep their end of the covenant.

No wonder God was glad to be rid of that covenant. “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)  He never wanted the stinky old rules or the silly little priesthood in the first place.


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Letters

The Controversial Source of the Law.

God offered, “You [Israel] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) God offered a covenant of equals: you and me, face to face with God with nothing in between. Peers.

They rejected his offer, and counter-offered, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)


They proposed the intermediary, which is what a priesthood is. And they promised to listen. The original language contains a hint of obedience, but no, this isn’t an express promise (which was probably good).

They rejected the peer relationship, the covenant of equals, and they substituted a vertical relationship: big god with the rules (and therefore the spank stick), and the only way to know him is through a priest. Ick.

So the idea of a priesthood was not God’s idea, but the people’s. And the idea of hearing and obeying rules wasn’t God’s idea, but the people’s. He wanted a face-to-face with every living being, but they threw that back in his face and demanded a priesthood and rules.

So God was backed into a corner: either relate to people through a priesthood and rules, or walk away, wipe his hands clean and start over again.

But he’s not One to walk away.

So he submitted his mighty self to their silly little demands. It was better than no relationship at all.

They wanted a priesthood: Moses started it with Aaron, and it continued on. That’s what Leviticus is all about. Don’t you love Leviticus? Isn’t it fun to read?

They wanted rules. So God gave them a handful. Those rules were never about “Do this and you go to Heaven.” They were “Do this and you won’t get spanked.” (see Deuteronomy 30, and Luke 10:28). “Do this and you won’t be cursed.”

But they broke covenant before the rules were even delivered (remember the golden calf?). Then came more rules. And they failed those, so he had to give them other rules, more specific rules.

If you have rules, then you need to have an enforcer, and that is ALWAYS your god. So God was party to a covenant he didn’t want, and was the enforcer if the people didn’t keep their end of the covenant.

No wonder God was glad to be rid of that covenant. “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)  He never wanted the stinky old rules or the silly little priesthood in the first place.


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Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
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