Letters

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent beings pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache.

And then he saw you.

He saw your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And he fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. God was in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, yes. So? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is too be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, could not guarantee a relationship. He was completely adamant about free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more.

No, his death for us did not, we'll never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.


That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 
Standard
Letters

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent beings pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache.

And then he saw you.

He saw your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And he fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. God was in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, yes. So? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is too be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, could not guarantee a relationship. He was completely adamant about free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more.

No, his death for us did not, we'll never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.


That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 
Standard
Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, November 13, 2017

The vote swing in this week's "off-year" election is not a referendum on Trump, but a referendum on a divided Republican party. The victories came largely from a state that twice elected Obama. The party will succeed in elections as much as it succeeds in unity. Disowning Trump has now proven that it only helps Democrats, which makes all the sense in the world.

Trump has every reason to continue to allow Mueller's investigation. There doesn't seem to be any dirt on Trump to find, Mueller keeps losing credibility, and Anti-Trumpists are well-distracted by the distant hope that Mueller might find something to warrant impeachment. While the Mueller drama continues, Trump can get legislation through Congress, many Anti-Trumpists are too tired to notice, and the press doesn't have any ink left to report on it. That's not to mention that the stronger the fruitless scrutiny, the stronger it makes Trump look, not to mention a 25% boom in stocks since Hillary conceded. If Mueller is part of a conspiracy, it almost seems that his "conspiracy" would be to help Trump. That's what he is accomplishing, anyway.

Christians are getting even more guns. They are doing it legally and they are arming to the teeth. The Texas Church Massacre has opened many eyes to the vulnerability of certain traditions. "Conceal carry" seems to be a favored answer. Everyone is hardening their stance, the country is polarizing, and, thanks to social media, everyone's political opinion is on record. This year, the country is getting some of the strongest—and most helpful—looks in the mirror we've gotten for a long while.

continue reading

Standard
Letters

Declarations: For Yourself or for Others

Here’s a prophetic exercise for you:

Take a week and declare these [all of these] over yourself every day for a week. Then sit down and journal about what effect you’ve experienced.

Alternative: They’re also a great way to pray for someone you love, someone going through hell! If you prefer, declare these every day about someone else for a week.

Then sit down and journal about what effect you’ve experienced and what you observe in them. If it makes sense, ask them if they feel anything different this week from last week, and note that.

Instructions: Declare these aloud about yourself, or about the person you’re praying for. Declare them out loud. Shout them if you need to.

Engage your heart with them: don’t let them just be words. Recognize that you’re speaking both to all of Heaven and all of hell when you’re announcing these truths.

Note: These are things that the Bible clearly says are true. You’re not asking nicely if these can be so. These ARE so, the Bible says so. You’re just announcing the ruling of the King, like a town crier: “Hear ye, hear ye! This is the way it is now! The King has declared it!”

I am [or Suzie is] complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues.  I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).

I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9-10).

I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).

I have no lack for my God supplies all of my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one with my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).

I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am God’s child for I am born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I am a spirit being alive to God (Romans 6:11;  Thessalonians 5:23).

I am a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind (2 Corinthians 4:4).

I am a doer of the Word and blessed in my actions (James 1:22,25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).

I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and long suffering (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12).

I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).

I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).

I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).

I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).

I am healed by the stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).

I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

I am strengthened with all might according to His glorious power (Colossians 1:11).

I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
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. 
Standard
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. 
Standard
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. 
Standard
Letters

Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Abolish is a strong word.

People quote Matthew 5:17&18 at me, to say “See! We still need to be under the Law! Look! See!”

These verses reads, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

I have to admit, if you grab that verse, yank it out of its context, ignore the bit about the Prophets, and try to use it as a club to support a need for the Law (or at least the 10 Commandments), then it kind of fits. If you squint.

Let’s look at this a little more closely, a little more objectively, shall we? Is Jesus really saying, “Psych! I’m not really freeing you from the Law!”? Or is Jesus saying something else.


That “Something else” could be several things:

  1. Perhaps the context tells us some things?
  2. There may be a Jewish metaphor here that we’re not catching because we’re not first century Jews. That might change the meaning here.  
  3. He might be talking about a purpose of the Law and the Prophets that he’s going to fulfill.
  4. He might be talking about and end of the Law, but one that is not His doing.
Let’s look at these possibilities one by one.

1. First, what does the context tell us? This is in the middle of a sermon where Jesus is completely re-interpreting their understanding of the Law. The entire chapter is about Jesus saying, “You’ve heard the Law taught this way…. But I tell you this other thing instead.”

So it’s not reasonable to assume that this is about submitting to the Law, at least not without some more evidence to work with. It’s more reasonable to infer that Jesus is doing away with how that Jewish culture has always understood the Law, and replacing that with a completely new understanding. 

2. Is there a Jewish metaphor here? I’m glad you asked. Yes there is. Jesus says the Law is valid “until heaven and earth pass away.” Well, when is that?

We, in our 21st century, science-based world interpret that literally, and if Jesus were speaking on CNN or the Discover Channel, that would probably be a reasonable interpretation. But that is not how his audience at the time would interpret it, so it’s not permitted for us to impose a 21st century interpretation onto this first century document.

If you look at the phrase in scripture (http://nwp.link/2idn9Ml), it’s used more than 120 times (NKJV). In general, the words are used together to describe “Pretty much everything we know” (which was *much* less than what we know today!), but when used together, it’s specifically addressing the abode of God (see: http://nwp.link/2j2nNR5, especially Isaiah 66:1 and Jeremiah 23:24).

In fact, this view was so prevalent that eventually the temple and its courtyard in Jerusalem became known as “Heaven and Earth,” and was spoken of as immovable. The temple itself, the “dwelling place of God” was Heaven, and the courts, particularly with the court of Gentiles, was “the Earth. In more poetical language, it was described as “Where Heaven and Earth meet.” (https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/grawhe)

3. The structure of the sentence clearly points to the fulfillment of “The Law and the Prophets.” We’ve taught for generations (correctly) that the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus, and this passage in Matthew has been part of that teaching. Certainly, the reference to “the Prophets” would not be part of a declaration of keeping the Old Covenant Law.

These verses are clearly saying that the Law was still in place as Jesus made the statement; it hadn't been fulfilled yet. Recently, I fulfilled my obligations on a loan. Until that loan was fulfilled, I kept making payments. If I missed even one payment, maybe the last payment, then the loan was in default, and the bank had the right to seize my property and sell it off to cover that payment.

But when I fulfilled that loan, when the payments were done, then the loan no longer has any power over my behavior (“Payments are due!”) or consequences (“…or we’ll seize your stuff!”). I was now free from that law.

4. The Old Covenant Law was still in place when Jesus spoke these words about the Law being fulfilled. It was already “obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” (Hebrews 8:13), but it didn’t finally “vanish away” until the last possible second: exactly one generation (40 years) after Jesus’ death, when the Jerusalem, the temple (“Heaven & Earth”) and perhaps most significantly, the genealogical records of Israel were all destroyed. Without those records, it was impossible to determine who was a descendant of Aaron, and therefore qualified to be a priest and to make the sacrifices the Law demanded.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD (a description of which is in Matthew 24, in answer to the question of “When will the stones of the temple be thrown down?”), the Old Covenant finally breathed its last and died, completely fulfilled in Christ.

So these verses are not a statement that Believers need to keep the Old Covenant Law. They were a warning that while the Law was still in force when the words were spoken, that Law would end soon. Romans is blunt: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness….” Done.

And Jesus didn't just end Ten Commandments. He ended 613 laws; he ended all of them. All of that is dead. It was obsolete. It wasn’t needed any more.

You see, all of those commandments were the "terms and conditions" for the Old Covenant. And he ended the Old Covenant. (The Epistle to the Hebrews describes it pretty well, better than this article has room for.)

So when that broken down, obsolete covenant was replaced with a New Covenant, the terms and conditions of the first covenant (all those laws, and the priesthood, and the sacrifices) were all replaced with the terms and conditions of the New Covenant as well.


So anyone who names the name of Christ is not under the Old Covenant, and not obligated – not even a smidgeon – to the terms and conditions of that obsolete covenant. We share in a New Covenant, and no man can serve two masters. 
Standard
Letters

Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Abolish is a strong word.

People quote Matthew 5:17&18 at me, to say “See! We still need to be under the Law! Look! See!”

These verses read, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

I have to admit, if you grab that verse, yank it out of its context, ignore the bit about the Prophets, and try to use it as a club to support a need for the Law (or at least the 10 Commandments), then it kind of fits. If you close one eye and squint the other. 

Let’s look at this a little more closely, a little more objectively, shall we? Is Jesus really saying, “Psych! I’m not really freeing you from the Law!”? Or is Jesus saying something else.

That “Something else” could be several things:

  1. Perhaps the context tells us some things?
  2. There may be a Jewish metaphor here that we’re not catching because we’re not first century Jews. That might change the meaning here.  
  3. He might be talking about a purpose of the Law and the Prophets that he’s going to fulfill.
  4. He might be talking about and end of the Law, but one that is not His doing. 
Let’s look at these possibilities one by one.

1. First, what does the context tell us? This is in the middle of a sermon where Jesus is completely re-interpreting their understanding of the Law. The entire chapter is about Jesus saying, “You’ve heard the Law taught this way…. But I tell you this other thing instead.”

So it’s not reasonable to assume that suddenly he breaks his train of thought and talks about submitting to the Law, at least not without some more evidence to work with. It’s more reasonable to infer that Jesus is doing away with how that Jewish culture has always understood the Law, and replacing that with a completely new understanding. That is the context.

2. Is there a Jewish metaphor here? I’m glad you asked. Yes there is. Jesus says the Law is valid “until heaven and earth pass away.” Well, when is that?

We, in our 21st century, science-based world interpret that literally, scientifically, and if Jesus were speaking on CNN or the Discover Channel, that would probably be a reasonable interpretation. But that is not how his audience at the time would interpret it. So it’s not permitted for us to impose a 21st century interpretation onto this first century document.

If you look at the phrase in scripture (http://nwp.link/2idn9Ml), it’s used more than 120 times (NKJV). In general, the words are used to describe “Pretty much everything we know” (which was *much* less than what we know today!), but when used together, it’s specifically addressing the abode of God (see: http://nwp.link/2j2nNR5, especially Isaiah 66:1 and Jeremiah 23:24). This is describing the Jewish temple. 

In fact, this view was so prevalent that eventually the temple and its courtyard in Jerusalem became known as “Heaven and Earth,” and was spoken of as immovable. The temple itself, the “dwelling place of God” was Heaven, and the courts, particularly with the court of Gentiles, was “the Earth. In more poetical language, it was described as “Where Heaven and Earth meet.” (https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/grawhe)

So the Law and the Prophets are still valid, under Jesus’ new interpretation, until the temple was destroyed. That’s what it meant to the writer and the original readers of the Gospels. We cannot impose our 21st century cosmology onto the text.

3. The structure of the sentence clearly points to the fulfillment of “The Law and the Prophets.” We’ve taught for generations (correctly) that the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus, and this passage in Matthew has been part of that teaching. Certainly, the reference to “the Prophets” would not be part of a declaration of keeping the Old Covenant Law.

These verses are clearly saying that the Law was still in place as Jesus made the statement; it hadn’t been fulfilled yet. Recently, I fulfilled my obligations on a loan. Until that loan was fulfilled, I kept making payments. If I missed even one payment, even the very last payment, then the loan was in default, and the bank had the right to seize my property and sell it off to cover my failure. 

But when I fulfilled that loan, when the payments were done, then the loan no longer has any power over my behavior (“Payments are due!”) or consequences (“…or we’ll seize your stuff!”). I was now free from that law. 

Jesus was declaring that the fulfillment of everything the Law and the Prophets spoke about was upon them: they were about to see the realization of everything they’d been waiting for for the last couple of millennia!

4. The Old Covenant Law was still in place when Jesus spoke these words about the Law being fulfilled. It was already “obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” (Hebrews 8:13), but it didn’t finally “vanish away” until the last possible second: exactly one generation (40 years) after Jesus’ death, when the Jerusalem, the temple (“Heaven & Earth”) and perhaps even most significantly, the genealogical records of Israel were all destroyed. Without those records, it was impossible to determine who was a descendant of Aaron, and therefore qualified to be a priest and to make the sacrifices the Law demanded. Legitimate sacrifices could never be re-instituted.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD (a description of which is in Matthew 24, in answer to the question of “When will the stones of the temple be thrown down?”), the Old Covenant finally breathed its last and died, completely fulfilled in Christ.

So these verses are not a statement that Believers need to keep the Old Covenant Law. They were a warning that while the Law was still in force when the words were spoken, but that Law would end soon. Romans is blunt: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness….” Done.

And Jesus didn't just end Ten Commandments. He ended 613 laws; he ended all of them. All of that is dead. It was obsolete. It wasn’t needed any more.

You see, all of those commandments were the "terms and conditions" for the Old Covenant. And Jesus ended the Old Covenant. (The Epistle to the Hebrews describes that termination pretty well, better than this article has room for.)

So when that broken down, obsolete covenant was replaced with a New Covenant, the terms and conditions of the first covenant (all those laws, and the priesthood, and the sacrifices) were all replaced with the terms and conditions of the New Covenant as well.

So anyone who names the name of Christ is not under the Old Covenant, and not obligated – not even a smidgeon – to the terms and conditions of that obsolete covenant. We share in a New Covenant, and no man can serve two masters. Dont try.
Standard
Letters

Lukewarm Laodicea?


I’m tired of people looking at Jesus’ letter to the Church in Laodicea and misinterpreting it.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

So many preachers preaching from this passage, saying it’s better to be hot or cold. That’s fine, but then they drive right into the ditch. “Hot,” they say, is a person who’s “on fire” for God. And “Cold,” they say, is the opposite, someone who’s turned off on God. But people that are just “meh,” people who aren’t really passionate one way or the other are said to be “lukewarm,” and, they proclaim boldly, “God hates lukewarm!”

The encouragement to be passionate for God is wonderful. The thought that God likes atheists or passionately anti-Christian activity more than half-hearted Christianity? Yeah, that’s balderdash. You can argue that a half-hearted lover of God is better than a hater of God, or you can argue that God loves ‘em all the same, but you CAN’T argue that God loves haters better than folks that are tired of trying.

The root of this whole metaphor comes from Laodicea’s city water supply. This isn’t about half-hearted people. This is about water.

Laodicea, you see, had no reliable springs, no reliable city water of their own, so they imported their water.

They imported water from two other cities: Hierapolis(about 6 miles south) and Colossae, about 10 miles east.

Hierapolis was famous for hot springs, and the water they got from there was still hot if it was fresh. They were (and still are) famous for hot springs, for healing waters, where people can sit and soak their wounded or aging bodies.

Colossaewas in the mountains and the water they got from there was cold if it was fresh. Since Laodiceaspent summers consistently above 100ºF (38ºC), cold, refreshing mountain water was wonderful and refreshing and invigorating!

Both sources of water had a fair bit of minerals in them: they actually invented something like manhole covers to get into the pipes and clean them out regularly, because the minerals would build up and keep the water from running freely. When the pipes were clogged, the water sat in the pipes, rather than flowed through the pipes.

If the water had been sitting, stagnating, in pipes or in a pond or cistern somewhere, it was neither hot nor cold: it was lukewarm. It was also probably unsafe, so spitting it out is a really good thing to do.

But the statement here isn’t that God vomits out people who aren't passionate enough, though the call to passionate following is appropriate. The statement here is “Be who you’re called to be.”

If you’re going to be a healing person, where broken people can come and soak away their pains, great. Be that!

If you’re going to be a bracing drink of cold, mountain water, that’ll wake folks up and get them motivated, great. Be that!

Don’t sit in the pipes so long that you just gum up the works and nobody gets good ministry. And don’t sit and stagnate. That’s not good for anybody.


Whatever you’re called to do: do it. Be passionate about it! Don’t just sit and stagnate. 
Standard
Letters

Lukewarm Laodicea?


I’m tired of people looking at Jesus’ letter to the Church in Laodicea and misinterpreting it.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

So many preachers preaching from this passage, saying it’s better to be hot or cold. That’s fine, but then they drive right into the ditch. “Hot,” they say, is a person who’s “on fire” for God. And “Cold,” they say, is the opposite, someone who’s turned off on God. But people that are just “meh,” people who aren’t really passionate one way or the other are said to be “lukewarm,” and, they proclaim boldly, “God hates lukewarm!”

The encouragement to be passionate for God is wonderful. The thought that God likes atheists or passionately anti-Christian activity more than half-hearted Christianity? Yeah, that’s balderdash. You can argue that a half-hearted lover of God is better than a hater of God, or you can argue that God loves ‘em all the same, but you CAN’T argue that God loves haters better than folks that are tired of trying.

The root of this whole metaphor comes from Laodicea’s city water supply. This isn’t about half-hearted people. This is about water.

Laodicea, you see, had no reliable springs, no reliable city water of their own, so they imported their water.

They imported water from two other cities: Hierapolis(about 6 miles south) and Colossae, about 10 miles east.

Hierapolis was famous for hot springs, and the water they got from there was still hot if it was fresh. They were (and still are) famous for hot springs, for healing waters, where people can sit and soak their wounded or aging bodies.

Colossaewas in the mountains and the water they got from there was cold if it was fresh. Since Laodiceaspent summers consistently above 100ºF (38ºC), cold, refreshing mountain water was wonderful and refreshing and invigorating!

Both sources of water had a fair bit of minerals in them: they actually invented something like manhole covers to get into the pipes and clean them out regularly, because the minerals would build up and keep the water from running freely. When the pipes were clogged, the water sat in the pipes, rather than flowed through the pipes.

If the water had been sitting, stagnating, in pipes or in a pond or cistern somewhere, it was neither hot nor cold: it was lukewarm. It was also probably unsafe, so spitting it out is a really good thing to do.

But the statement here isn’t that God vomits out people who aren't passionate enough, though the call to passionate following is appropriate. The statement here is “Be who you’re called to be.”

If you’re going to be a healing person, where broken people can come and soak away their pains, great. Be that!

If you’re going to be a bracing drink of cold, mountain water, that’ll wake folks up and get them motivated, great. Be that!

Don’t sit in the pipes so long that you just gum up the works and nobody gets good ministry. And don’t sit and stagnate. That’s not good for anybody.


Whatever you’re called to do: do it. Be passionate about it! Don’t just sit and stagnate. 
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Study to Show Yourself Approved?

Has someone brought this up to you before? 

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

That's the King James for 2Timothy 2:15, and people often bring this up as a justification for their fascination with the Old Covenant, or to reinforce their point that you have to earn favor. 

There's so much Scriptural bastardry in how we've taught this verse. I'm really quite embarrassed.

First, "Study" in 1611, when King Jimmy commissioned his translation meant what the Greek word σπουδάζω means. However, in 21st Century English, the word means "be diligent," or "do your best." It has nothing to do with academic study. 


I'm very much in favor of studying the Bible. But this verse is not even remotely talking about that. Illustrations (like the one here) that tie this verse to a picture of a Bible are seriously missing the point of this scripture!

Second, παρίστημι, "show yourself" (or worse, "shew thyself
") in 1611, is more about "Show what you're really like," not "work for your approval."

"Approved" speaks of a coin that's been demonstrated to be real silver, not lead or tin: this is the real thing. Again, "Show what you're really like."

So the whole thing is more about, "Be careful to let who you really are show." The idea of "Don't hide God's delight in you" is there as well.

We could go on.

This is probably why the NIV (the "Nearly Inspired Version" lol) translates it as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

For decades, this verse was used as a club, justifying church rules and expectations, requiring my suffering sweat (or my academic study) in order to be acceptable.

Don't let people use the Bible as a club. It's a love letter from a lovesick Daddy who wants his kids back. Anybody that uses Scripture to control others is a good person to pray for, but not a good person to follow.
Standard