Letters

Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Or something else may be going on.


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

Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Or something else may be going on.


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

Anointed Worship: What Does That Really Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Or something else may be going on.


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

The Controversial Source of the Law.

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

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


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

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

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

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

But he’s not One to walk away.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Letters

The Controversial Source of the Law.

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

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


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

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

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

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

But he’s not One to walk away.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Letters

Prophetic Exercise: The Judge’s Bench

Since the prophetic gifts are for the real world, think of a real world person that’s going through some trouble, someone you’ve been praying for recently. Write down their name.

Now look in the Spirit, and look behind you. You see there a tall, oak, judge’s bench. Jesus is standing there, smiling, waiting for you.

He takes you around to the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, Jesus sits you in the great chair behind the bench. When you take your seat, you’re find that you’re wearing black robes, and you have a wooden gavel in your right hand. Are you wearing a white wig, too? 

Take a moment, if you need to, to deal with the emotions of being in a place like this. Ask him questions if you need to, but don’t argue with him. This is your assignment today, if you choose to accept it.

Now look out over the judge’s bench. From your new vantage point, see your friend, whose name you wrote down. Observe them for a minute as they go about their day. As you’re watching them, let Jesus show you his love for them, his compassion for the crud they’re going through. Rest there for a moment, feeling his heart for them.

Then Jesus reaches over and touches your eyes. And now you can see more clearly from the bench, and with his help, you begin to see the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that have been harassing your friend. Recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellions against their rightful king and against your friend. 

Jesus leans over and whispers, “Judge them!” Identify them, their names and their crimes. Recognize, by the Spirit who’s in you, the name, the assignment, the work of one of the demons harassing your friend. Speak that name out loud, and bang the gavel as you do name it. Write it down if that helps.

Then watch what happens next. When I did this, as I spoke the name, as I named each spirit, it was as if my gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each of my charges, and with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound.

Look around. Do you see angels in the courtroom? What do you see them doing? Consult with Jesus: what is his counsel on the work you’re doing?

This isn’t a game. This is literally life and death, but don’t interpret that to mean that you can’t enjoy the work you’re doing. Get into the work. Reach deep within your spirit to accurately name each spirit, and as you name it, watch as it’s snatched from the air around your friend and bound. Observe what happens to it next, if that’s revealed.

You may or may not have gotten to each of the demons harassing your friend when you feel that you’re done, when you feel the grace for this work lift, or when you hear Jesus say, “OK. That’s enough for this time.” Don’t stay there beyond the grace for the work. Your friend is destined to be an overcomer; they need something to overcome.

It helps me to go back through the session’s work: declare your friend’s freedom, thank God for your friend’s freedom from each of the spirits that you bound today. And when you’re done, perhaps as an act of worship, burn the list: don’t keep a record of hell’s work in their life.

Now, by my counsel, I’d recommend that you don’t talk to them about this experience, not for a long, long time, and this is for your benefit, not theirs. We tend to think, “Well, I bound up a spirit of self-pity, so they won’t be falling into self-pity any more!” Yeah, that’s not how it works.

If you bound the spirit of self-pity, then that spirit of self-pity isn’t plying its trade in their life any longer. But that doesn’t break years of self-pitying habits, or generations of self-pitying traditions. It means that spirit isn’t working there any more, not that they’re perfect now. 

And of course, don’t stop praying for your friend.  
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Letters

Prophetic Exercise: The Judge’s Bench

Since the prophetic gifts are for the real world, think of a real world person that’s going through some trouble, someone you’ve been praying for recently. Write down their name.

Now look in the Spirit, and look behind you. You see there a tall, oak, judge’s bench. Jesus is standing there, smiling, waiting for you.

He takes you around to the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, Jesus sits you in the great chair behind the bench. When you take your seat, you’re find that you’re wearing black robes, and you have a wooden gavel in your right hand. Are you wearing a white wig, too? 

Take a moment, if you need to, to deal with the emotions of being in a place like this. Ask him questions if you need to, but don’t argue with him. This is your assignment today, if you choose to accept it.

Now look out over the judge’s bench. From your new vantage point, see your friend, whose name you wrote down. Observe them for a minute as they go about their day. As you’re watching them, let Jesus show you his love for them, his compassion for the crud they’re going through. Rest there for a moment, feeling his heart for them.

Then Jesus reaches over and touches your eyes. And now you can see more clearly from the bench, and with his help, you begin to see the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that have been harassing your friend. Recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellions against their rightful king and against your friend. 

Jesus leans over and whispers, “Judge them!” Identify them, their names and their crimes. Recognize, by the Spirit who’s in you, the name, the assignment, the work of one of the demons harassing your friend. Speak that name out loud, and bang the gavel as you do name it. Write it down if that helps.

Then watch what happens next. When I did this, as I spoke the name, as I named each spirit, it was as if my gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each of my charges, and with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound.

Look around. Do you see angels in the courtroom? What do you see them doing? Consult with Jesus: what is his counsel on the work you’re doing?

This isn’t a game. This is literally life and death, but don’t interpret that to mean that you can’t enjoy the work you’re doing. Get into the work. Reach deep within your spirit to accurately name each spirit, and as you name it, watch as it’s snatched from the air around your friend and bound. Observe what happens to it next, if that’s revealed.

You may or may not have gotten to each of the demons harassing your friend when you feel that you’re done, when you feel the grace for this work lift, or when you hear Jesus say, “OK. That’s enough for this time.” Don’t stay there beyond the grace for the work. Your friend is destined to be an overcomer; they need something to overcome.

It helps me to go back through the session’s work: declare your friend’s freedom, thank God for your friend’s freedom from each of the spirits that you bound today. And when you’re done, perhaps as an act of worship, burn the list: don’t keep a record of hell’s work in their life.

Now, by my counsel, I’d recommend that you don’t talk to them about this experience, not for a long, long time, and this is for your benefit, not theirs. We tend to think, “Well, I bound up a spirit of self-pity, so they won’t be falling into self-pity any more!” Yeah, that’s not how it works.

If you bound the spirit of self-pity, then that spirit of self-pity isn’t plying its trade in their life any longer. But that doesn’t break years of self-pitying habits, or generations of self-pitying traditions. It means that spirit isn’t working there any more, not that they’re perfect now. 

And of course, don’t stop praying for your friend.  
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Devotionals, Letters

Contempt for God’s Kindness

This just ambushed my thought process.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

He’s challenging the Roman believers for showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience.

Yikes.

Who are the folks showing contempt for God’s kindness?

Well, this verse indicates part of that: the folks who don’t realize that it’s God’s kindness which leads to repentance. Folks who preach something other than God’s kindness? Yeah. Them.

The context makes it even more clear: those who “pass judgment on someone else” (v1) are the folks he’s addressing.

He’s very specific: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v3) That’s pretty strong language there, Paul!

More specifically, Paul is saying that believers who condemn other believers, believers who emphasize something other than God’s kindness are “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” (v5) That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?

That’s kind of a problem.

You know these people: people who get in your face (in person, or on Facebook) and shout about how others are going to hell for their sin, or how a nation needs to repent in order to escape God’s wrath. There are folks who go around denouncing everybody who believes differently than they do as false.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this garbage comes from pulpits around the country.

When you see them, first of all, don’t buy the manure that they’re selling. It’s not good for them and it’s SURE not good for you. In fact, if you’re able, don’t even let them spew that garbage on you. Walk away.

But more than that: pity them. Pray for mercy for them. Because the path they’re on is storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.

And most of all, do not go with them. That’s a pretty ugly destination they’re headed to. If they insist on going there, you do NOT need to go with them.

Show them kindness.

#PrayForGrace
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Devotionals, Letters

Contempt for God’s Kindness

This just ambushed my thought process.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

He’s challenging the Roman believers for showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience.

Yikes.

Who are the folks showing contempt for God’s kindness?

Well, this verse indicates part of that: the folks who don’t realize that it’s God’s kindness which leads to repentance. Folks who preach something other than God’s kindness? Yeah. Them.

The context makes it even more clear: those who “pass judgment on someone else” (v1) are the folks he’s addressing.

He’s very specific: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v3) That’s pretty strong language there, Paul!

More specifically, Paul is saying that believers who condemn other believers, believers who emphasize something other than God’s kindness are “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” (v5) That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?

That’s kind of a problem.

You know these people: people who get in your face (in person, or on Facebook) and shout about how others are going to hell for their sin, or how a nation needs to repent in order to escape God’s wrath. There are folks who go around denouncing everybody who believes differently than they do as false.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this garbage comes from pulpits around the country.

When you see them, first of all, don’t buy the manure that they’re selling. It’s not good for them and it’s SURE not good for you. In fact, if you’re able, don’t even let them spew that garbage on you. Walk away.

But more than that: pity them. Pray for mercy for them. Because the path they’re on is storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.

And most of all, do not go with them. That’s a pretty ugly destination they’re headed to. If they insist on going there, you do NOT need to go with them.

Show them kindness.

#PrayForGrace
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Devotionals, Letters

Not Reluctantly. Not Under Compulsion.

Not Reluctantly, or Under Compulsion

Should believers ever charge for their services, for the exercise of their God-given gifts?

Many people quote this verse (from 1 Corinthians 9), “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”

Then they use it to judge each other.

They use this verse, often quite forcefully, to say, “I should have the freedom to give you what I want for your services (or products). You should not make your prices compulsory!” The most frequent examples are authors, counselors and conference speakers: they are “reluctant” to pay $80 an hour for professional counselling, or $40 for a weekend of worship and teaching at a conference, so they pull out this verse to justify their outrage at having to pay for the services they voluntarily choose to make use of. “That’s a gift from God. How dare you charge me for what you got for free?”

Some have been audacious enough to suggest, “Well, if you don’t want to pay for that conference (or book, or counselling), don’t buy it. Nobody is forcing you.” This is generally met with yet more outrage. “It’s my right! Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” (And this is an excellent illustration of a spirit of entitlement in action.)

It’s interesting that we can recognize the foolishness of this when we apply this “principle” in other places. “Walmart shouldn’t have prices. We should be free to pay whatever we want!” “Chick fil A shouldn’t have prices on its menu!” or “I’m going to have my car's engine rebuilt, but I don’t think I should pay the mechanic. After all, those skills are just a gift from God.” I’m pretty sure those wouldn’t be received well.

I find it curious that these people are not willing to let the conference speaker do the same thing they demand for themselves, to “decide in [her] own heart what to give.” Rather, these outraged consumers insist that authors and public speakers make their life work available for whatever they themselves have decided in their heart to give in exchange.

In other words, “It’s for ME to decide if I want to give you money, but YOU don’t get to decide if you want to give away your life’s work!”

Don’t we see the hypocrisy in this?

Perhaps it is significant that I’ve never heard anybody use this verse to defend someone else. If we’re going to apply it to ourselves, then it applies to our brothers and sisters, doesn’t it? Yet nobody has ever said, “This conference speaker should give what he has decided in his time to give, not reluctantly and not under compulsion. He should not be required to work for the rate that I want to pay him. That’s his choice, not mine!”

The verse in question (2 Corinthians 9:7) doesn’t actually apply in this conversation, anyway. Paul is not laying this down as a general principle for doing business in this. Not at all. He’s talking about receiving a voluntary offering for an impoverished church. He’s not talking about demanding things from other believers. He’s certainly not talking about how we demand others run their businesses and ministries!

Bigger picture: Are we not sons and daughters of the King of Kings? That makes us royalty, doesn’t it? Royalty never (not ever!) go around demanding goods and services for free. In fact, royalty goes out of their way to out-give others, to demonstrate generosity. That is our heritage, not shaming people trying to feed their family with the tools God has given them.

We, as sons & daughters of the greatest King of all, should behave like royalty, not like begrudging beggars, particularly with one another.

~nwp



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Devotionals, Letters

Not Reluctantly. Not Under Compulsion.

Not Reluctantly, or Under Compulsion

Should believers ever charge for their services, for the exercise of their God-given gifts?

Many people quote this verse (from 1 Corinthians 9), “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”

Then they use it to judge each other.

They use this verse, often quite forcefully, to say, “I should have the freedom to give you what I want for your services (or products). You should not make your prices compulsory!” The most frequent examples are authors, counselors and conference speakers: they are “reluctant” to pay $80 an hour for professional counselling, or $40 for a weekend of worship and teaching at a conference, so they pull out this verse to justify their outrage at having to pay for the services they voluntarily choose to make use of. “That’s a gift from God. How dare you charge me for what you got for free?”

Some have been audacious enough to suggest, “Well, if you don’t want to pay for that conference (or book, or counselling), don’t buy it. Nobody is forcing you.” This is generally met with yet more outrage. “It’s my right! Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” (And this is an excellent illustration of a spirit of entitlement in action.)

It’s interesting that we can recognize the foolishness of this when we apply this “principle” in other places. “Walmart shouldn’t have prices. We should be free to pay whatever we want!” “Chick fil A shouldn’t have prices on its menu!” or “I’m going to have my car's engine rebuilt, but I don’t think I should pay the mechanic. After all, those skills are just a gift from God.” I’m pretty sure those wouldn’t be received well.

I find it curious that these people are not willing to let the conference speaker do the same thing they demand for themselves, to “decide in [her] own heart what to give.” Rather, these outraged consumers insist that authors and public speakers make their life work available for whatever they themselves have decided in their heart to give in exchange.

In other words, “It’s for ME to decide if I want to give you money, but YOU don’t get to decide if you want to give away your life’s work!”

Don’t we see the hypocrisy in this?

Perhaps it is significant that I’ve never heard anybody use this verse to defend someone else. If we’re going to apply it to ourselves, then it applies to our brothers and sisters, doesn’t it? Yet nobody has ever said, “This conference speaker should give what he has decided in his time to give, not reluctantly and not under compulsion. He should not be required to work for the rate that I want to pay him. That’s his choice, not mine!”

The verse in question (2 Corinthians 9:7) doesn’t actually apply in this conversation, anyway. Paul is not laying this down as a general principle for doing business in this. Not at all. He’s talking about receiving a voluntary offering for an impoverished church. He’s not talking about demanding things from other believers. He’s certainly not talking about how we demand others run their businesses and ministries!

Bigger picture: Are we not sons and daughters of the King of Kings? That makes us royalty, doesn’t it? Royalty never (not ever!) go around demanding goods and services for free. In fact, royalty goes out of their way to out-give others, to demonstrate generosity. That is our heritage, not shaming people trying to feed their family with the tools God has given them.

We, as sons & daughters of the greatest King of all, should behave like royalty, not like begrudging beggars, particularly with one another.

~nwp



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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.
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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.
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Devotionals, Letters

Reflections On American Political Candidates

Election Thoughts

This has been the strangest presidential election season I can remember, and I remember back to JFK in the 1960s. Fair warning this is going to appear really cynical, but stick with me to the end before you write me off. 

If nothing else, the campaigns of this political season have given us nearly endless material for sardonic memes and twisted humor. But our laughter is mostly sad, not humorous, and it’s without hope.

We can easily find a thousand reasons why Mr Trump is not fully qualified to be Chief Executive of America. And his opponents are right: he really is crass and thoughtless, maniacally egotistical and he lacks any political experience whatsoever.

And just as easily, we can find a thousand reasons why Ms Clinton is not fully qualified to be Chief Executive of the United States. And her adversaries are right: she really is power hungry, committed only to her own aspirations, and she lacks any experience whatsoever other than political experience.

There appear to be a small number of people who are honestly confident supporting one candidate or the other, and there probably are a few more who are so blindly loyal to their ideology that they could not conceive of not voting for the candidate of their favored political party. And I’ve met individuals who are convinced that it’s “God’s will” that whichever candidate they support should defeat the candidate that they demonize, and anyone who disagrees is obviously opposing God.

I find myself considering the two options in terms of which choice is less unthinkable. Would I despise myself less if I voted for Hillary to be my president, or would I forgive myself sooner if I cast my ballot for The Donald to be my president. I can’t decide.

I don’t think that’s a very good way to make decisions anyway: which would I hate myself less for, should I support them? Neither candidate is tolerable from my viewpoint.

Well then. If I don’t vote for the candidate, then perhaps I could vote for one party or the other.

But that doesn’t offer to help much either. One party says they support the business and economic foundation of our country, and that’s a good thing, and they speak about certain moral choices that I’m used to supporting. The other party says they support the social foundation for the country, and that’s a good thing, and they want to help people that can’t help themselves and I'm used to supporting that.

That’s what they say. But when I watch what they do, I observe that there’s not so much difference between the two parties. Both of them seem to have sold out their collective souls for campaign contributions and Political Action Committees. And certainly, both parties have let any opportunity to create actual change slip through their fingers, as they have both of them lined their own pockets, secured their own retirements, and exempted themselves from the rules they demand everyone else shall live under.

Worse, both parties in our two-party political system appear to be on somebody’s payroll, and it looks to me like they’re on the same somebody’s payroll. And if I look closely, it appears that this real power behind them, if I were judging by what their handsomely-paid minions actually accomplish, that someone seems to hate my country and despise my faith.

So I can’t, in clear conscience, vote for either party. More specifically, were I to vote for either party, for either candidate, it seems to me that I’d be completely wasting my vote. The “powers that be” would accomplish their own agenda, regardless of who sat in the oval office and took their orders.

Maybe I’ve been gazing into Heaven for too long, but the “halls of power” of this earth sure look pitiful and powerless to me recently. And it dawns on me that our electoral process serves the same purpose in our generation that the Coliseum served in Rome’s day: cheap entertainment for the masses, keeping them distracted from the real issues in the country, in the world.

All of this has led me to this strange thought: If casting my vote for Donald or Hillary is a wasted vote, a meaningless gesture, then is there something that I can do with my vote that is not a waste, that is instead meaningful?

When you begin to think outside the box, all sorts of opportunities begin to show themselves.

Here are some of my thoughts about what I could do instead of investing myself in a political process that revolves around choosing the less despicable of two despicable candidates for a increasingly powerless position. (Note that I am not saying that the presidency is “powerless,” merely that is it has less real power, less ability to effect real change, than it used to have.)

·         I could decide not to participate in the political charade at all, choosing to invest my time, money and energy into something useful. Perhaps I could pray, not so much for “my candidate” to win, but for the values of the Kingdom (love, for example, or humility) to be present in those who lead my nation or yours.

·         I might choose not to participate in the political process at all, choosing instead to invest that time, money and energy into something that brings peace, rather than supporting tension, division and outrage. Perhaps I could plant a garden, or begin volunteering at the food bank, or take a vacation, or teach someone to read, or sit with my family in the evenings. Maybe I could write a story or make pottery or just dig a hole and fill it back up again.

·         I could participate in the political process, but do it in a new and different way. Perhaps I could cast my vote for candidates not affiliated with the two main parties: it’s time we were done with the two-party system anyway. There are competent candidates from the Libertarian party and the Green party. Maybe it’s time to vote for them, since my vote would be meaningless if I squandered it on Donald or Hillary anyway.

·         I could ignore the national political scene altogether, and invest myself in my city’s government, or police force, or port commission or fire department or school board. Instead of being a tiny voice among millions of tiny voices shouting in favor of the despicable candidate or the unconscionable candidate, maybe I could be a real voice, maybe one that has a chance to actually get heard, in a much smaller and infinitely less-glamorous arena in my own neighborhood.

·         Instead of giving donations to candidates or committees or other political tomfoolery, perhaps I could give my money, and maybe even (gasp!) my time, to the local street mission, or to foreign missions, or to that business that’s trying to create jobs for the otherwise unemployable members of our society. 

·         Instead of participating in the time-honored tradition of blindly defending my candidate and pouring out my outrage on their opponent, perhaps I could choose to invest in words that heal, words that encourage. These could be distributed anywhere: public transportation, local businesses, local government. Some of these places – some of these people – haven’t heard a real “voice of reason” for longer than they can remember. Maybe I can be that voice of reason, or maybe I can aspire to be a voice of encouragement and hope.


I’m interested in your opinion – certainly not your opinion about candidates – but about how you could defy “the system,” how you could get out of “the box” and do something meaningful. 

The best part of the conversation will be on Facebook. Come join in.
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