Letters

Mixing Promises with Faith


I have been meditating, unexpectedly, on Hebrews chapter 4 for a while, the second verse in particular. I was listening to it in The Message when it first hit me.

“We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith.” TMB

This is a topic that Father and I have been cogitating on together for many months. Now, I know that The Message is not the most literal translation of the scriptures, so I wanted to see if the same idea existed in a more precise translation.

“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” NKJV

Yep. It’s still there.


The topic I have been working on for a while is this. That God’s promises are not the whole story. There’s more to this story, than just God declaring wonderful promises to us.

Clearly, there has to be. There are so many amazing promises, in Scripture, in public prophetic words, and our daily devotions. If God making the promise was all that was needed for that promise to be fulfilled, we would be living in a Heavenly Utopia right now.

But we’re not. Therefore, ipso facto, there must be more to it.

And this verse tells us what that “more” is. If we don’t mix the promises that he has given us with faith, then the promise goes unfulfilled. The limitation is not his. It is ours.

Hebrews four declares that it has been this way for thousands and thousands of years, since the journey to the promised land. This is the reason that Israel did not inhabit some of the things that she was promised.

And this is a reason that you and I have not experienced the fullness of every one of our promises.

It is probably worth mentioning that the thing that is holding us back is almost certainly not the thing that we *think* is holding us back. It is almost certain that what we think is responding in faith to our promises is not actually the same as what God thinks “mixing those promises with faith” actually is.

We think we are responding to the promises with faith, but either we are mistaken, or God is a liar. I know who I am going to believe in this situation, and it’s not me. I’m going to believe that God is not a liar. So I clearly have missed it on this one.

It is beyond the scope of this brief missive to discuss what actual faith really is, what really will empower all of our promises. But if it was the thing that we call faith, that we have called faith all of our lives, then we would not be living the life that we are currently living, would we?

For the record, it’s pretty obvious that my own definitions of mixing promises with faith have been inferior, or insufficient, also. I suspect that this will be a topic of conversation between Father and myself for quite some time. You are invited to join in this search with me.

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Letters

The Cutting of the Lord


Jesus promised us that our growth would be rewarded with pruning. We think, “Pruning? That’s cutting! That’s taking things away! That can’t be good!”


Here are some details about pruning.

• Pruning carefully will drastically increase the fruitfulness of the pruned tree. Cutting back results in a dramatic increase of fruit!
• Pruning at the right spot strengthens frame of the base plant. Pruning makes you stronger.
• Pruning is not actually optional (John 15:2). If we bear fruit, we will be pruned. If we do not bear fruit, we’ll be cut back very severely (but not killed), so that when we grow back, we’ll grow fruit. And when we do, we’ll be pruned for even more fruit.

So how does he prune us?

In John 15:3 Jesus says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” So him speaking his word to us is part of our cleaning, our pruning. This is him speaking to us, mostly through the Book, and a lot of that is about how to respond to the crap in our life.

In Luke 13:8, he gives us more detail. The conversation is about pruning, and in that parable, Jesus says to the Father, “Leave [him] alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it....”

Fertilizer in that day was manure: animal poo. So pruning may show up as crap in our life.

Here’s an example: in Luke 9, the boys are arguing about who's greatest. That's poo. The ambition to be great is actually good. The competition apparently is the poo.

So in 9:48, Jesus prunes them. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

This is what pruning looks like. That’s not as bad as we feared, is it?


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Letters

Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

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

Related to that:

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Letters

Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

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

Related to that:

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Letters

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.
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Letters

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.
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Letters

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.
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Letters

A Rookie Believer

Some years ago, a friend of mine died.

She was a baby Christian, very young in her faith, and frankly, pretty immature, but she was growing.

She was 94, a 94-year-old baby Christian.

So she had a most unusual combination of character traits: some aspects of the wisdom that comes from nearly a century’s experience with life; some aspects that were wet-behind-the-ears fresh and immature. What an interesting person!

Donald Trump reminds me of her. He’s by no means a young or immature man. But he displays signs of what appears to be both sincere faith, and immature faith. I won’t get into what signs I see; you can see them for yourself if you look for them.


If it’s true that Mr Trump is an immature believer (keep in mind that maturity is a condition of the heart, not of the calendar), then we should expect to see some signs of immature faith moving forward.

We should expect to see a whole lot of zeal for the work he’s been given, with maybe a little more optimism than the real world allows for.

We should expect him to see inconsistency in the maturity of his moral and ethical choices. Note that he may or may not be immature of faith but he certainly is immature in politics, and he is not at all immature in business.

We might expect to see mistakes that he needs help cleaning up.


But it would be completely foolish to expect to see him follow the model laid down by your pastor, or by a famous religious leader. He ain’t never been a religious leader, and doesn’t aspire to be. 
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Letters

A Rookie Believer

Some years ago, a friend of mine died.

She was a baby Christian, very young in her faith, and frankly, pretty immature, but she was growing.

She was 94, a 94-year-old baby Christian.

So she had a most unusual combination of character traits: some aspects of the wisdom that comes from nearly a century’s experience with life; some aspects that were wet-behind-the-ears fresh and immature. What an interesting person!

Donald Trump reminds me of her. He’s by no means a young or immature man. But he displays signs of what appears to be both sincere faith, and immature faith. I won’t get into what signs I see; you can see them for yourself if you look for them.


If it’s true that Mr Trump is an immature believer (keep in mind that maturity is a condition of the heart, not of the calendar), then we should expect to see some signs of immature faith moving forward.

We should expect to see a whole lot of zeal for the work he’s been given, with maybe a little more optimism than the real world allows for.

We should expect him to see inconsistency in the maturity of his moral and ethical choices. Note that he may or may not be immature of faith but he certainly is immature in politics, and he is not at all immature in business.

We might expect to see mistakes that he needs help cleaning up.


But it would be completely foolish to expect to see him follow the model laid down by your pastor, or by a famous religious leader. He ain’t never been a religious leader, and doesn’t aspire to be. 
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Letters

Running Ahead of the Pack

Forerunners move out from the crowd they've been running with, to a place ahead of the crowd, where they are an example for others. As a result, it is not uncommon for forerunners to feel isolated, alone.

You need to know that that’s not isolation: that’s forerunning: it’s part of the job description of a forerunner – running ahead of the crowd, not with it – and that solitude is part of God’s provision for you. (Remember how Jesus sought it out? eg. Mark 6:45-46)

Others among the crowd see your example and move forward to join the forerunner or to even move beyond you. So the forerunner will have an empty spot, a vacuum, behind you, where others used to be, where others used to be. The more effective a forerunner is at bringing others forward, the greater the vacuum. Anyone trying to pull away from that vacuum will feel the vacuum pulling back.

Forerunners, that’s one of the things you’re fighting: you need to stay out of that vacuum; you may feel forces pulling you back. Resist the influences trying to pull you back to where you used to be. You need to keep pressing forward, keep reaching for the high calling in Christ Jesus. That’s who you are; that’s how you’re made.

There are others who need to move forward to fill that space behind you, who need to draft behind you, who will be encouraged to keep the pace you set.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…. (Hebrews 12:1)



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Letters

Running Ahead of the Pack

Forerunners move out from the crowd they've been running with, to a place ahead of the crowd, where they are an example for others. As a result, it is not uncommon for forerunners to feel isolated, alone.

You need to know that that’s not isolation: that’s forerunning: it’s part of the job description of a forerunner – running ahead of the crowd, not with it – and that solitude is part of God’s provision for you. (Remember how Jesus sought it out? eg. Mark 6:45-46)

Others among the crowd see your example and move forward to join the forerunner or to even move beyond you. So the forerunner will have an empty spot, a vacuum, behind you, where others used to be, where others used to be. The more effective a forerunner is at bringing others forward, the greater the vacuum. Anyone trying to pull away from that vacuum will feel the vacuum pulling back.

Forerunners, that’s one of the things you’re fighting: you need to stay out of that vacuum; you may feel forces pulling you back. Resist the influences trying to pull you back to where you used to be. You need to keep pressing forward, keep reaching for the high calling in Christ Jesus. That’s who you are; that’s how you’re made.

There are others who need to move forward to fill that space behind you, who need to draft behind you, who will be encouraged to keep the pace you set.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…. (Hebrews 12:1)



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Letters

Prophetic Exercise: The Chair by the Fireplace

Here’s an exercise, if you’re willing.

Imagine a comfortable room, a quiet room. There’s a big fireplace in the room, with a roaring fire, and next to the fireplace is a big chair. A Papa chair.

Father is sitting in that chair, relaxed. His eye, with a sparkle in it, is on you. He reaches a hand out toward you.


You can curl up on his lap, if you like, and rest your head on his mighty shoulder. Or you can curl up at his feet if you prefer. But this is a good time to be quiet and to rest with him, however that works best for you.

In the silence, you can hear his heart beating gently, peacefully, strong. His hand is on the back of your head, fingers in your hair, caressing gently.

You can feel the stuff of your day drain out of you, like dirty bath water vanishing down the drain: gone, never to be seen or heard from again, and in its place, you feel the presence of peace on you, like the warmth of the crackling fire.

Be still. Shhh…. Maybe you drift off to sleep for a bit. The quiet is all around you.

After a long time, you realize it’s not quite absolutely silent; you can hear his soft, deep voice whispering your name, over and over. Do you hear him?

Then he speaks to you, quietly, his words like a warm blanket over you. That feels nice.

What do you hear him saying to you?


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Letters

Prophetic Exercise: The Chair by the Fireplace

Here’s an exercise, if you’re willing.

Imagine a comfortable room, a quiet room. There’s a big fireplace in the room, with a roaring fire, and next to the fireplace is a big chair. A Papa chair.

Father is sitting in that chair, relaxed. His eye, with a sparkle in it, is on you. He reaches a hand out toward you.


You can curl up on his lap, if you like, and rest your head on his mighty shoulder. Or you can curl up at his feet if you prefer. But this is a good time to be quiet and to rest with him, however that works best for you.

In the silence, you can hear his heart beating gently, peacefully, strong. His hand is on the back of your head, fingers in your hair, caressing gently.

You can feel the stuff of your day drain out of you, like dirty bath water vanishing down the drain: gone, never to be seen or heard from again, and in its place, you feel the presence of peace on you, like the warmth of the crackling fire.

Be still. Shhh…. Maybe you drift off to sleep for a bit. The quiet is all around you.

After a long time, you realize it’s not quite absolutely silent; you can hear his soft, deep voice whispering your name, over and over. Do you hear him?

Then he speaks to you, quietly, his words like a warm blanket over you. That feels nice.

What do you hear him saying to you?


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Letters

Stupid Chickens

Chickens.

I have some chickens. They make good eggs and good soup.

But chickens are dumb. Stupid. Completely unintelligent. Goldfish are smarter than chickens. And so I learn a lot about myself from them.

These chickens are domesticated. Really domesticated. They know me as their provider, almost as if I were their god. Any time I open the back door, which they can see from their chicken yard, they cluster around the near side of their pen, eyes on me.

Any time I come near the chicken yard, they cluster around near me, knowing that I am their provider, knowing that very often, when I show up, I bring good things for them to eat. 

They’re constantly looking to me for their provision: what will I bring them today? They remind me of the apostle’s promise, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights,” only in this case, every good and perfect gift comes from me.

The other day, I brought a large handful of their favorite vegetable, kale, and I tossed it into their pen. They ignored the kale. They didn’t even notice that I’d tossed their favorite veggie into their pen. They just kept their eyes on me, knowing that I might give them something good to eat.

I explained to the brilliant birds: “I already brought you something good to eat. I have already provided for you. Go enjoy what I’ve already given you!”

And they clustered even tighter around that side of their fence, watching to see what I’d give them.

They were so intently focused on the fact that I am their provider, focused on what I might provide for them, that they completely missed the fact that I had already provided for them.

And as I watched them, I heard Father clearing his throat, drawing my attention to their actions. And I knew I was guilty.

There have been times that I’ve been so focused on God, who is my good provider, focused on what God is going to provide for me, that I completely miss what he’s already provided for me.

I’m learning to give thanks more, and to solicit provision less.


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