Devotionals, Letters

Explosions All Around Us

Some folks among us have had violent, “earth shaking” events in their lives recently. Some have been asking, “Why Lord? Why me?”

A good gardener (or “husbandman”) has many tools at his disposal, some which are not intuitive.

Our gardener has been preparing some of us for growth by detonating charges around us, even underneath us. Sometimes, all we see is the explosions going off around us, showering us and those around us with detritus.  

Occasionally, we may see our bearded Gardener, twinkle in his eye, as he stands back from a freshly lit fuse. It’s easy to suspect that he’s bringing harm from the detonation, and this is undoubtedly where we get the idea that God works to harm us.
It’s true that God allows in his wisdom many things that he could, by his power, prevent from happening to us. And it’s likely that he does set off some of the blasts that startle us and discombobulate us.

But it is always for our good. The blasts that throw dirt all over our carefully planned lives loosen the dirt around our roots, making room for fresh growth, fresh nourishment, and from there, fresh fruit.

And those explosions that disturb our peace and frustrate our own plans often kill off the grubs that chew on our roots, the little foxes that spoil the vines, the demons that contentedly prey on our hopes and our fruitfulness.

The reality is that if we’ve been praying for “more of God,” for “more fruit,” or for “expanded tentpegs,” then these jolting and disheveling explosions may be the answer to our prayers. They’re making room for growth, easier growth, in our lives.

Maybe it’s time to give thanks for the earth shaking events in our lives, or at least for the results of them. 
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Devotionals, Letters

Explosions All Around Us

Some folks among us have had violent, “earth shaking” events in their lives recently. Some have been asking, “Why Lord? Why me?”

A good gardener (or “husbandman”) has many tools at his disposal, some which are not intuitive.

Our gardener has been preparing some of us for growth by detonating charges around us, even underneath us. Sometimes, all we see is the explosions going off around us, showering us and those around us with detritus.  

Occasionally, we may see our bearded Gardener, twinkle in his eye, as he stands back from a freshly lit fuse. It’s easy to suspect that he’s bringing harm from the detonation, and this is undoubtedly where we get the idea that God works to harm us.
It’s true that God allows in his wisdom many things that he could, by his power, prevent from happening to us. And it’s likely that he does set off some of the blasts that startle us and discombobulate us.

But it is always for our good. The blasts that throw dirt all over our carefully planned lives loosen the dirt around our roots, making room for fresh growth, fresh nourishment, and from there, fresh fruit.

And those explosions that disturb our peace and frustrate our own plans often kill off the grubs that chew on our roots, the little foxes that spoil the vines, the demons that contentedly prey on our hopes and our fruitfulness.

The reality is that if we’ve been praying for “more of God,” for “more fruit,” or for “expanded tentpegs,” then these jolting and disheveling explosions may be the answer to our prayers. They’re making room for growth, easier growth, in our lives.

Maybe it’s time to give thanks for the earth shaking events in our lives, or at least for the results of them. 
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Devotionals, Letters

Learn This Parable from the Fig Tree

I love it when God speaks through secular artists.

The Pixies have some strange songs. One begins with the lines,

“Meet me by the coppice stool
Before the sky takes back its jewels
Bring your life of memories
Before they sink into the seas.”

There were two or three interesting thoughts in here, but it was the first line that spoke to me. “Meet me by the coppice stool.” What on earth is a “coppice stool”?

Some years ago, Father really challenged me from the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:

"A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' " [Luke 13:6-9]

Honestly, the story scared me. Since he was talking about my life, he was talking about cutting me down! What’s up with that? I was serving Him as hard as I could!

(By the way, if you ever find yourself asking “why is there so much crap going on in my life?” remember that manure was the fertilizer that Jesus was speaking about digging into the life of the fig tree.)

I meditated on the parable, of course. Then one day, while I was driving, I saw a piece of property where the owner had cut down some trees, but the stump was sprouting again. Even the logs stacked next to the stump were sprouting, and I realized, that must be how fig trees work.

So I googled it, and found it’s true: you can’t actually kill a fig tree by cutting it down. When you cut a fig tree down, you give the tree a fresh start, several fresh starts, actually. Because within several months of cutting down the tree, you’ll have several new trees sprouting from the same roots, surrounding the trunk. Instead of one old, slow-growing tree, you’ll have several young, vigorously growing trees.

Coppiced trees.
This method of extreme pruning is called “coppicing.” And that dead stump, surrounded by live trees from the same roots, is called a “coppice stool.” It’s a recognized forest management technique. “As  coppiced trees already have a fully developed root system, regrowth is rapid.” In fact, “trees which are periodically cut tend to live longer.” (http://www.coppice.co.uk/

So one reason that God may cut someone off at the roots is to extend both the breadth and length of their ministry. Another reason may be to bring back “the joy of my salvation” to saints that have grown weary or complacent.

So if you’re feeling like God is cutting you down (or just digging crap into your life), take heart: he’s preparing you for growth and expansion.



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Devotionals, Letters

Learn This Parable from the Fig Tree

I love it when God speaks through secular artists.

The Pixies have some strange songs. One begins with the lines,

“Meet me by the coppice stool
Before the sky takes back its jewels
Bring your life of memories
Before they sink into the seas.”

There were two or three interesting thoughts in here, but it was the first line that spoke to me. “Meet me by the coppice stool.” What on earth is a “coppice stool”?

Some years ago, Father really challenged me from the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:

"A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' " [Luke 13:6-9]

Honestly, the story scared me. Since he was talking about my life, he was talking about cutting me down! What’s up with that? I was serving Him as hard as I could!

(By the way, if you ever find yourself asking “why is there so much crap going on in my life?” remember that manure was the fertilizer that Jesus was speaking about digging into the life of the fig tree.)

I meditated on the parable, of course. Then one day, while I was driving, I saw a piece of property where the owner had cut down some trees, but the stump was sprouting again. Even the logs stacked next to the stump were sprouting, and I realized, that must be how fig trees work.

So I googled it, and found it’s true: you can’t actually kill a fig tree by cutting it down. When you cut a fig tree down, you give the tree a fresh start, several fresh starts, actually. Because within several months of cutting down the tree, you’ll have several new trees sprouting from the same roots, surrounding the trunk. Instead of one old, slow-growing tree, you’ll have several young, vigorously growing trees.

Coppiced trees.
This method of extreme pruning is called “coppicing.” And that dead stump, surrounded by live trees from the same roots, is called a “coppice stool.” It’s a recognized forest management technique. “As  coppiced trees already have a fully developed root system, regrowth is rapid.” In fact, “trees which are periodically cut tend to live longer.” (http://www.coppice.co.uk/

So one reason that God may cut someone off at the roots is to extend both the breadth and length of their ministry. Another reason may be to bring back “the joy of my salvation” to saints that have grown weary or complacent.

So if you’re feeling like God is cutting you down (or just digging crap into your life), take heart: he’s preparing you for growth and expansion.



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Devotionals, Letters

The Fighter’s Regrets

Have you ever woken up with a song floating through the fog in your mind? Sometimes I think that’s just an echo of a dream or a memory, particularly if it’s a song I’ve heard or sung recently.

How about a song from your ancient history in your mind as you woke? I actually pay more attention to these; there’s less chance that it’s just my subconscious expressing itself.

I’d like to share one of these with you. You may find the process interesting, but I believe the lesson might apply to several of us.

Recently, I woke up with a song from my youth playing in my mind, and trust me, that’s from a long time ago. The song had nothing to do with the dream as far as I could tell, and I could only remember snippets of it – really only one phrase.

But that phrase kept replaying in my mind: that caught my attention. And as it replayed, my memory of the lyrics grew. This also suggested to me that this might be from God. So I spoke with Father about it, acknowledging that I thought he might be up to something; I asked for insight, and I paid attention as the memory of the song replayed and expanded in my mind.


Some themes began to stand out in the lyrics that kept playing in my memory. One of them definitely seemed to have the fragrance of my Father about it, so I meditated on that one. That is, I thought about it; I let it roll around in my mind to see what might come from it.

When my mind began to warm up (you know, I really appreciate the fact that God invented coffee!), I fired up Google and looked into it a bit more. And I realized that even after my memory had been playing it back for an hour or two, I had remembered only one verse out of five; the rest hadn’t come back to me, though those verses had actually been more important to me when the song was new.

Here’s the song: https://youtu.be/MYPJOCxSUFc. It’s called The Boxer, by Simon & Garfunkel. It was the last verse alone that spoke to me through the morning fog:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains*

This verse had literally never made sense to me, but suddenly, there was a message in it for me.

It speaks to me, but I’d like to share it with you, because I suspect it might speak to other, too, and maybe that includes you.

I confess: I’m a man of fairly strong conviction. I stand up for those convictions, and it’s not inappropriate to say that I fight to maintain them. If I believe something to be true, I’ll fight to defend it.

Father gently pointed out that I, too, carry reminders of those fights, reminders, I suppose, every glove that laid me down or cut me till I cried out. I’ve paid a price to defend my convictions. Like the fighter in the song, the price has been paid in several areas of my life: in my memories, in my body carrying the stress, in the solitude that comes from having lost relationships.

Then he drew my attention to the fighter’s vow, and that I’ve made vows like that as well: “I am leaving, I am leaving” but I don’t leave. I remain. I still defend my beliefs, my convictions, and I’m still laid down and cut up sometimes. I’m still wounded from the fights that I am convinced are right and good. And they still bring the fruits of “anger and shame” into my life, just like they did in his.

(Didn’t someone say “You shall know them by their fruit”?  Hmmm....)

This is something that’s come partly from my character (I believe that standing up for “what is true” is important), partly from my youth (I was taught that truth is important and should be stood up for).

But this fight may have been fanned into the biggest flame from my years in Bible-believing churches. “This is what I believe to be true, so I must defend it at all costs.” We teach that, we believe that, in many evangelical churches, and while we defend different truths in denominational churches, we still defend them vigorously.

Think about how Christians respond when a movie comes that we don’t like out (remember Russell Crowe’s Noah?). Consider how Christians respond to “The Homosexual Agenda” or to political candidates, or to the abortion issue.

We’re taught to fight. And we do fight. Vigorously.

And let’s be honest. We don’t win these fights. Hollywood’s marketing now counts on “Christian outrage” as a publicity tool for their controversial movies, and they’re always right. Christians have not affected “The Homosexual Agenda” that we’ve stood against, abortion is still a very big business, and we’ve never once had an Evangelical believer in the Whitehouse, despite our fights on those issues.

The world knows: Christians are fighters. They don’t win, but they sure will fight. Behold how much they fight.

Father hasn’t been talking to me at this time about the issues in themselves. He’s only been using them to illustrate the fight, to illustrate the blows and the cuts that so many of us have taken in the fights.

Then he drew my attention to the refrain:

“Lie-la-lie. Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, Lie-la-lie
Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie-lie-lie.”*

Oh my. It’s right there. I’ve sung this haunting refrain with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and I never saw it: there’s a lie here, and the refrain rubs my nose in it. That’s a lie, lie lie!

There’s perhaps some room for discussing what the lie is. The song itself identifies one:

“He cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.”*

And I’ve done that. I’ve declared that I’m quitting this fight. But I haven’t really done it. I’ve lied. I’ve gotten tired of being beaten up, tired of the anger, tired of the shame, and I’ve tried to quit the fight. And I’ve failed.

As Father comforted me in this, I realized that for a fighter, the fight is a choice. It’s an option, but only one of several options. I don’t actually need to fight.

As he held me and murmured his love for me, I realized that these are not fights that have helped me, or have helped the Kingdom, not even a little bit.

I occasionally have “won” a fight, but what was the result? Maybe I could say I won, that I defeated someone who believed differently. So what? Now they’ve been defeated, now they’re wounded, too. And now they resent me, and worse they resent my message, and they resent the truth that I fought for.

You know, I don’t think anybody’s ever been bullied into receiving the truth, have they? Oh, sure, we’ve bullied people into actinglike they know the truth, but that’s just equipping them for hypocrisy. That’s not a win, not really, not for anybody.

For myself, I’m going to reflect on this for a while. I’m wondering if I might actually defend my beliefs better by walking them out than I would by fighting for them. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.

I may not need to be a fighter, alone in the clearing. I may not need to be laid down, cut open. I may not need to subject myself to the anger and shame.

The Kingdom is not about any of this, is it?

Lie la lie….

----

* From "The Boxer," by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio albumBridge over Troubled Water (1970) ©1969
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Devotionals, Letters

The Fighter’s Regrets

Have you ever woken up with a song floating through the fog in your mind? Sometimes I think that’s just an echo of a dream or a memory, particularly if it’s a song I’ve heard or sung recently.

How about a song from your ancient history in your mind as you woke? I actually pay more attention to these; there’s less chance that it’s just my subconscious expressing itself.

I’d like to share one of these with you. You may find the process interesting, but I believe the lesson might apply to several of us.

Recently, I woke up with a song from my youth playing in my mind, and trust me, that’s from a long time ago. The song had nothing to do with the dream as far as I could tell, and I could only remember snippets of it – really only one phrase.

But that phrase kept replaying in my mind: that caught my attention. And as it replayed, my memory of the lyrics grew. This also suggested to me that this might be from God. So I spoke with Father about it, acknowledging that I thought he might be up to something; I asked for insight, and I paid attention as the memory of the song replayed and expanded in my mind.


Some themes began to stand out in the lyrics that kept playing in my memory. One of them definitely seemed to have the fragrance of my Father about it, so I meditated on that one. That is, I thought about it; I let it roll around in my mind to see what might come from it.

When my mind began to warm up (you know, I really appreciate the fact that God invented coffee!), I fired up Google and looked into it a bit more. And I realized that even after my memory had been playing it back for an hour or two, I had remembered only one verse out of five; the rest hadn’t come back to me, though those verses had actually been more important to me when the song was new.

Here’s the song: https://youtu.be/MYPJOCxSUFc. It’s called The Boxer, by Simon & Garfunkel. It was the last verse alone that spoke to me through the morning fog:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains*

This verse had literally never made sense to me, but suddenly, there was a message in it for me.

It speaks to me, but I’d like to share it with you, because I suspect it might speak to other, too, and maybe that includes you.

I confess: I’m a man of fairly strong conviction. I stand up for those convictions, and it’s not inappropriate to say that I fight to maintain them. If I believe something to be true, I’ll fight to defend it.

Father gently pointed out that I, too, carry reminders of those fights, reminders, I suppose, every glove that laid me down or cut me till I cried out. I’ve paid a price to defend my convictions. Like the fighter in the song, the price has been paid in several areas of my life: in my memories, in my body carrying the stress, in the solitude that comes from having lost relationships.

Then he drew my attention to the fighter’s vow, and that I’ve made vows like that as well: “I am leaving, I am leaving” but I don’t leave. I remain. I still defend my beliefs, my convictions, and I’m still laid down and cut up sometimes. I’m still wounded from the fights that I am convinced are right and good. And they still bring the fruits of “anger and shame” into my life, just like they did in his.

(Didn’t someone say “You shall know them by their fruit”?  Hmmm....)

This is something that’s come partly from my character (I believe that standing up for “what is true” is important), partly from my youth (I was taught that truth is important and should be stood up for).

But this fight may have been fanned into the biggest flame from my years in Bible-believing churches. “This is what I believe to be true, so I must defend it at all costs.” We teach that, we believe that, in many evangelical churches, and while we defend different truths in denominational churches, we still defend them vigorously.

Think about how Christians respond when a movie comes that we don’t like out (remember Russell Crowe’s Noah?). Consider how Christians respond to “The Homosexual Agenda” or to political candidates, or to the abortion issue.

We’re taught to fight. And we do fight. Vigorously.

And let’s be honest. We don’t win these fights. Hollywood’s marketing now counts on “Christian outrage” as a publicity tool for their controversial movies, and they’re always right. Christians have not affected “The Homosexual Agenda” that we’ve stood against, abortion is still a very big business, and we’ve never once had an Evangelical believer in the Whitehouse, despite our fights on those issues.

The world knows: Christians are fighters. They don’t win, but they sure will fight. Behold how much they fight.

Father hasn’t been talking to me at this time about the issues in themselves. He’s only been using them to illustrate the fight, to illustrate the blows and the cuts that so many of us have taken in the fights.

Then he drew my attention to the refrain:

“Lie-la-lie. Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, Lie-la-lie
Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie-lie-lie.”*

Oh my. It’s right there. I’ve sung this haunting refrain with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and I never saw it: there’s a lie here, and the refrain rubs my nose in it. That’s a lie, lie lie!

There’s perhaps some room for discussing what the lie is. The song itself identifies one:

“He cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.”*

And I’ve done that. I’ve declared that I’m quitting this fight. But I haven’t really done it. I’ve lied. I’ve gotten tired of being beaten up, tired of the anger, tired of the shame, and I’ve tried to quit the fight. And I’ve failed.

As Father comforted me in this, I realized that for a fighter, the fight is a choice. It’s an option, but only one of several options. I don’t actually need to fight.

As he held me and murmured his love for me, I realized that these are not fights that have helped me, or have helped the Kingdom, not even a little bit.

I occasionally have “won” a fight, but what was the result? Maybe I could say I won, that I defeated someone who believed differently. So what? Now they’ve been defeated, now they’re wounded, too. And now they resent me, and worse they resent my message, and they resent the truth that I fought for.

You know, I don’t think anybody’s ever been bullied into receiving the truth, have they? Oh, sure, we’ve bullied people into actinglike they know the truth, but that’s just equipping them for hypocrisy. That’s not a win, not really, not for anybody.

For myself, I’m going to reflect on this for a while. I’m wondering if I might actually defend my beliefs better by walking them out than I would by fighting for them. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.

I may not need to be a fighter, alone in the clearing. I may not need to be laid down, cut open. I may not need to subject myself to the anger and shame.

The Kingdom is not about any of this, is it?

Lie la lie….

----

* From "The Boxer," by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio albumBridge over Troubled Water (1970) ©1969
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Devotionals, Letters

Some Ways the Enemy Opposes God’s Kids

In the last few days, I’ve had interaction with a wide variety of folks:

·         An author who insists that Christians are still obligated to obey the whole law, and how dare I declare that the Old Covenant is past!!!
·         Some folks who are angry at me because I teach that God is good and kind and well-represented in Jesus.
·         A friend who insists that the Resurrection was metaphorical, not literal.
·         Several “unbelieving believers” whose whole world view is built on their poverty spirit and whose theme song seems to be “I can’t! I need someone to do it for me!”
·         A “prophet” who is convinced that his job is pointing out fault in every congregation he visits (and who never visits a congregation a second time).

As I was reflecting on these, I felt Father’s sadness. “These are manifestations of the influence of an antichrist spirit,” he murmured softly.

I realized, that’s certainly not saying, “They’re the Antichrist!” or even “They’re possessed.”

It’s just acknowledging that these are some of the ways that an “anti-Christ” spirit works to influence God’s children. These are some of the accusations that the enemy makes against God, against Jesus, against the Cross.

As I reflected, the quiet voice continued, “How will you respond to them?” and I knew that my response must not include anger or rejection or resignation.

There is one thing that stood out in my heart in response. Sure, I must love them, but that’s not a real answer. The thing that stood out to me is that I need to be careful not to change my message in response to them. I must not react to them in anger, rejection, or resignation; I am not permitted to change my message because of them.

If I don’t speak of who God really is in me and to me, then it’s not really my testimony, it’s just empty words. If I soften the message in order to placate some, or if I sharpen it to make it hit others harder, then these voices that carry the echo of the antichrist have shaped my message, my heart. My message would likely carry further, but it would not carry the truth I want it to.

And then my voice would also carry a manifestation of the influence of an antichrist spirit. I’m thinking that this is not where I want to go. There be dragons down that path.

I'm working on keeping my message true. Your prayers - and your company - are invited.


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Prophecy

Some Ways the Enemy Opposes God’s Kids

In the last few days, I’ve had interaction with a wide variety of folks:
·         An author who insists that Christians are still obligated to obey the whole law, and how dare I declare that the Old Covenant is past!!!
·         Some folks who are angry at me because I teach that God is good and kind and well-represented in Jesus.
·         A friend who insists that the Resurrection was metaphorical, not literal.
·         Several “unbelieving believers” whose whole world view is built on their poverty spirit and whose theme song seems to be “I can’t! I need someone to do it for me!”
·         A “prophet” who is convinced that his job is pointing out fault in every congregation he visits (and who never visits a congregation a second time).
As I was reflecting on these, I felt Father’s sadness. “These are manifestations of the influence of an antichrist spirit,” he murmured softly.

I realized, that’s certainly not saying, “They’re the Antichrist!” or even “They’re possessed.”
It’s just acknowledging that these are some of the ways that an “anti-Christ” spirit works to influence God’s children. These are some of the accusations that the enemy makes against God, against Jesus, against the Cross.
As I reflected, the quiet voice continued, “How will you respond to them?” and I knew that my response must not include anger or rejection or resignation.
There is one thing that stood out in my heart in response. Sure, I must love them, but that’s not a real answer. The thing that stood out to me is that I need to be careful not to change my message in response to them. I must not react to them in anger, rejection, or resignation; I am not permitted to change my message because of them.
If I don’t speak of who God really is in me and to me, then it’s not really my testimony, it’s just empty words. If I soften the message in order to placate some, or if I sharpen it to make it hit others harder, then these voices that carry the echo of the antichrist have shaped my message, my heart. My message would likely carry further, but it would not carry the truth I want it to.
And then my voice would also carry a manifestation of the influence of an antichrist spirit. I’m thinking that this is not where I want to go. There be dragons down that path.

I’m working on keeping my message true. Your prayers – and your company – are invited.

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Devotionals, Letters

Some Ways the Enemy Opposes God’s Kids

In the last few days, I’ve had interaction with a wide variety of folks:

·         An author who insists that Christians are still obligated to obey the whole law, and how dare I declare that the Old Covenant is past!!!
·         Some folks who are angry at me because I teach that God is good and kind and well-represented in Jesus.
·         A friend who insists that the Resurrection was metaphorical, not literal.
·         Several “unbelieving believers” whose whole world view is built on their poverty spirit and whose theme song seems to be “I can’t! I need someone to do it for me!”
·         A “prophet” who is convinced that his job is pointing out fault in every congregation he visits (and who never visits a congregation a second time).

As I was reflecting on these, I felt Father’s sadness. “These are manifestations of the influence of an antichrist spirit,” he murmured softly.

I realized, that’s certainly not saying, “They’re the Antichrist!” or even “They’re possessed.”

It’s just acknowledging that these are some of the ways that an “anti-Christ” spirit works to influence God’s children. These are some of the accusations that the enemy makes against God, against Jesus, against the Cross.

As I reflected, the quiet voice continued, “How will you respond to them?” and I knew that my response must not include anger or rejection or resignation.

There is one thing that stood out in my heart in response. Sure, I must love them, but that’s not a real answer. The thing that stood out to me is that I need to be careful not to change my message in response to them. I must not react to them in anger, rejection, or resignation; I am not permitted to change my message because of them.

If I don’t speak of who God really is in me and to me, then it’s not really my testimony, it’s just empty words. If I soften the message in order to placate some, or if I sharpen it to make it hit others harder, then these voices that carry the echo of the antichrist have shaped my message, my heart. My message would likely carry further, but it would not carry the truth I want it to.

And then my voice would also carry a manifestation of the influence of an antichrist spirit. I’m thinking that this is not where I want to go. There be dragons down that path.

I'm working on keeping my message true. Your prayers - and your company - are invited.


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Devotionals, Letters

Some thoughts about Prophetic Ministry

Consider Jeremiah 1:5: “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Now consider Ezekiel 2:3: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites.”
Jeremiah was called to the nations; Ezekiel was called to the people of God. It seems that those who are called to prophetic ministry, are called TO a people, to a community.
There are a few, but there aren’t very many Jeremiahs in our day and age, people that are called to speak for God to many nations. Frankly, I’ve run into more people who think they’re called to the nations than those who are walking out that calling. Darned few prophets start with national or international ministry; they start with neighborhoods, families, home groups.
Most prophetic folks are called to a community, a region, perhaps a congregation. My own calling (if you didn’t figure it out from the name) is to the Pacific Northwest region, and within that, to the people of God, to Christians in that region, and I can be more specific than that.
I know of a man who is a prophet to children: once they’ve hit their 14th birthday, he’s got nothing for them. I know someone who is primarily a prophet to one man, a young apostle, just getting his feet wet in apostolic ministry. I know another who prophesies over the homes in his neighborhood, in the dark while everybody’s asleep. I know an awful lot of prophetic people called to one home church, one congregation, one community of homeless people.
(This isn’t exclusive to prophets. Apostles are called TO a people as well; see Galatians 2:8.)
In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons that so many prophets are not welcome in the place they’re speaking: they’re speaking in a place that they’re not called to.

Prophetic folks can also be rejected for carrying a message different than the one for which they’re called and gifted to carry. New Testament prophets are to be primarily characterized by two verses: Ephesians 4:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:3:

·         Prophets are an equipping ministry. Note that not everyone called to prophetic ministry is called as a prophet, and therefore not called to an equipping ministry. (Hint: if your ministry is not about equipping saints, then you’re not functioning as a prophet.)
·         People who prophesy under the New Covenant are to be characterized by speaking things that strengthen folks, encourage folks, and comfort folks. There are some exceptions, but not as many as we think. (Hint: if your ministry is more about exposing sin or doctrinal fault than encouragement, then you’re ministering either out of the wrong covenant, or from the wrong spirit.)
There is a reason that our message is called “the gospel of the Kingdom”:
1)      “Gospel” means “good news.” If our news isn’t good, then our message is not, by definition, the gospel. Don’t argue with me; talk to the dictionary and see if you can persuade it.
2)      “Of the Kingdom” of course means that our message is about the Kingdom of God. If our “good news” is about salvation, then that’s a good thing, but that’s a thing that men made up, which they call “the gospel of salvation,” a completely unscriptural term. If our good news is about membership in an organization or about a moral code, those are also good things, but they are not the gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus’ message (Matthew 4:17) was about the Kingdom (and how people need to change their thinking in order to partake). Ours probably should be, too.

If we’re called to speak for the King, then we need to speak for the king, not for someone else, and we need to speak to the one the King sends us to, not to whoever will listen.
That is, if we want to be effective, when we speak for our King.

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Devotionals, Letters

A Purpose for the Battle Against Us

War, it has been said, is hell. It gets tiring.
I find myself looking forward to the end of each battle. I don’t plan to, but I find myself considering “life without a battle raging around me” as a sign of success. Whew! I made it! 
I don’t think Father agrees.
I believe that sometimes God specifically and intentionally brings the battle to me. I get it that I don’t always embrace the “overwhelming conqueror” moniker, and so he needs to help me get there. And yeah, I understand that sometimes I open a door that the enemy would love to exploit.
But I’m coming to believe that he brings the battle to me for another reason. I suspect that he lures the enemy into battle – and it must be with his sons, the enemy wouldn’t survive battle with God for even a nanosecond – as part of His almighty plan to plunder the devil.
In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say that sometimes the battle that I’m in right now, especially the battle that I didn’t expect to be in right now, is really more of an announcement, like the “Coming Attractions” features at the movie house. This is what you’re going to get for plunder after you’ve beaten this puny little stronghold.
We’ve talked about God’s promised wealth transfer. Proverbs 13:22b talks about how “the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” I think we’ve misunderstood this.
I’ve heard this taught as a promise we just need to claim: “Receive it by faith,” they shouted (and it wasn’t always during the offering message!). I don’t think it’s as easy as that.
First, I’m not convinced that the “wealth” God is speaking of is merely financial, just as the inheritance we leave to our kids (13:32a) is merely financial (see also Hebrews 12:16).
I’m also aware that Father wants his kids to be overcomers (see Revelation 2 & 3). It’s tough to become a competent overcomer without practice overcoming stuff.
I’m beginning to suspect is combining these two values. He’s luring the devil into our gun-sights so that we can overcome him, and also so that we can take back what he’s taken from us. (Remember that the devil was broke when God threw him out of Heaven; anything he’s gained since then has been by deceit, trickery or outright theft.)
It’s pretty important, and in my own world, it’s increasingly difficult (probably some more of my training, as in Hebrews 12:7-11) to discern exactly what the battle is that we’re fighting. Yeah, stuff is going wrong. Yeah, my soul and my spirit are wrestling with an oppressing thing. Yeah, hope is difficult, or clear thought is a greater fight than usual. But WHAT IS THE REAL BATTLE?
As we discern the nature of the enemy who has been lured against us, we’ll see more clearly how to kick his buttocks up between his ears, but more importantly, we’ll also get a glimpse of the plunder, the wealth, that Father has planned for our inheritance.

— 

If seeing is believing, then what are you looking at?
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Devotionals, Letters

The chariots and Horsemen of Israel!

My attention today was drawn to the fact that a whole lot of Kingdom-minded believers are being pummeled by many challenges and problems.
A lot of us are facing formidable challenges. Many of us are facing a conspiracy of thousands of little issues that, taken together, threaten to be overwhelming. Some among us are facing victory that is so different than we expected, that is more complicated than we were expecting that it works as a weapon against our peace, breaking our focus. Some of us are feeling overwhelmed, but when we’re asked, we have a hard time identifying what is overwhelming us.
And as I saw that, I realized that it was on purpose: this is for a purpose. This is strategic. There is purpose for this. It’s not Father’s purpose, but the conspiracy of distractions is the enemy working overtime to distract us.
Father brought my attention to Second Kings:
2 Kings chapter 2:
“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.
Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”
  
As I saw this, I heard Father say, “I’m watching to see if you can be distracted, or if you’ll keep your eyes on the prize in the midst of all of the distractions.” We can’t be overcomers without overcoming, and Father really wants us to learn to overcome.

If we can be distracted, even by amazing things like “a chariot of fire and horses of fire,” then we aren’t ready for the double portion anointing. We will still have the testimony of having seen, possibly even ridden in a chariot of fire, and that’s not nothing! But we’ll miss the bigger prize that comes from keeping our focus where it ought to be.
Some of us have not even recognized, not remembered our heart crying out, “Let me inherit a double portion!” and some of us may never have gotten to the point of using words. But that cry really is in your heart.
May I say this to you: Father heard that cry, and it made his heart skip a beat to hear it! This is HIS heart’s desire, children that want more of him, more of his anointing, more of his ways! So it is with giddy joy that He is permitting the distractions: we really have asked a difficult thing, a thing that is only given to overcomers, and so he is giving us opportunity to overcome.
All that is hard to see, but the other part is more hidden. Father stands back and watches, biting his lip, to see if we’ll maintain our focus, to see if we’ll look past the distractions and the discouragements and see the thing he’s doing. But all the while, his other hand is reaching around behind us, touching us, pointing, drawing our attention, even occasionally grabbing our head and pointing it where we need to be looking. He’s doing everything in his formidable power to keep our attention where it needs to be in order that he can have the joy of giving us the double, the triple portion, beyond everything that our heroes and forerunners have had.

He really wants to have a bride that is not completely distracted by the trials, by the conspiracy of distractions, by the complications and nattering voices. He will have a bride that will overcome, and he wants you.

He’s conspiring, conspiring in favor of the cry of your heart.

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