Letters

Kindness Leads to Repentance

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is describing some of the ways that his family is to be different than how the world does things. In the middle of that lecture, he drops this bomb: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There’s one command in this, and one reason for the command. Don’t be like those people because unlike their father, your Father knows what you need, even before you tell him.

I’d like to share a testimony, if I may.

I was helping someone with a legal issue. This someone important to me, someone who calls me “dad.” And the legal issue was pretty bad. It wasn’t that he had done anything illegal, but he’d gotten involved with a World Class Pain-In-The-Hindquarters. 

The World Class Pain was making his life miserable, threatening lawsuits, threatening huge expenses, and was completely flouting the law on the matter. He was Too Important To Be Bothered with things like that (he is a legitimate millionaire, for all the good it does him), and he does know powerful people who owe him favors.

So we’d talked together about the options open to us. At its most intense point, my spiritual son called me in terror and confusion about the latest round of threats, so I called the Millionaire Pain and explained things firmly to him. I think he’ll be able to use that ear again in a few days. I did not submit to his campaign of terror. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t let him push me around.

But I pissed him off, so he jacked up the intimidation and threats, and neither my son nor I slept much for a couple of nights.

I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t feel that freedom.

A day later, I realized that when I got in his face, I misquoted some facts to him, so I called him back, and (as expected) he sent my call to voicemail, so I left him a long message. I apologized for my errant facts, explained the situation from my son’s perspective, acknowledged what we understood of his own needs in the situation, and proposed a sit-down meeting where we could resolve the disagreement.

He ignored me, of course. His intimidation continued, but it did not escalate again.

Again, I wanted to post a prayer request, but I still didn’t feel the freedom.

One night it really got to me. I should have been asleep. Instead, I was ranting, my intestines were growling, and my sheets were soaked with sweat. I had acknowledged that we’d probably need to take the Pain to court, but as I rolled it around in my mind, I realized that we couldn’t lose the case. We had him cold! We had documentation of a couple of things that would make this an open and shut case! I didn’t want to go to court (nobody in their right mind does), but if we needed to, we would win.

And then I realized that The Pain wasn’t doing any of this to hurt my son or to hurt me, and he wasn’t doing this to win a court case. He just needed to stay in power in his interactions with other people. He needed to feel powerful, and this whole drama was how he met that need. I honestly began to feel sorry for him. That was actually confusing; he was the reason I was still awake at 3:00 in the morning!

And then Father reminded me of Romans 2:4b: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” We wanted him to change his mind about the hell he was wreaking; we wanted him to repent. Here, God’s showing me the key to The Pain's repentance: my kindness. Nice.

So I prayed quite a bit; I prayed blessing on this man, on his business, on his real estate holdings. But wait, there's more!

I’d been studying angels in the Bible, recently. My new favorite book of the Bible talked about them: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

So I invited some angels to go visit him and minister the things of the Kingdom to him. We’re supposed to DO the stuff we’re learning, right? And I gave him a new name. No longer The Pain, now he was The Millionaire.

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

The next morning, the Millionaire surprised us all. He messaged my son with a remarkably reasonable response. He outlined some things he needed from us (reasonable ones!), and offered some concessions we hadn’t even asked for. Then he recused himself from the final negotiations and he invited us to work with his more reasonable partner. (What? Who IS this guy?)

I wonder if there’s a connection?

I shared the good news with Mrs P, and she admitted that she had been praying blessing on him as well (before she dropped off to a sound sleep several hours before I did!).

I never did ask others for prayer. Our amazing Father really does know what we need, even before we tell him. He’d been answering that prayer long before we got around to praying it.

Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I’m serious. It’s kindness that brings repentance. Not power, not strength of will, not even being right. It’s kindness.”

It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is. 

Standard
Letters

Kindness Leads to Repentance

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is describing some of the ways that his family is to be different than how the world does things. In the middle of that lecture, he drops this bomb: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There’s one command in this, and one reason for the command. Don’t be like those people because unlike their father, your Father knows what you need, even before you tell him.

I’d like to share a testimony, if I may.

I was helping someone with a legal issue. This someone important to me, someone who calls me “dad.” And the legal issue was pretty bad. It wasn’t that he had done anything illegal, but he’d gotten involved with a World Class Pain-In-The-Hindquarters. 

The World Class Pain was making his life miserable, threatening lawsuits, threatening huge expenses, and was completely flouting the law on the matter. He was Too Important To Be Bothered with things like that (he is a legitimate millionaire, for all the good it does him), and he does know powerful people who owe him favors.

So we’d talked together about the options open to us. At its most intense point, my spiritual son called me in terror and confusion about the latest round of threats, so I called the Millionaire Pain and explained things firmly to him. I think he’ll be able to use that ear again in a few days. I did not submit to his campaign of terror. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t let him push me around.

But I pissed him off, so he jacked up the intimidation and threats, and neither my son nor I slept much for a couple of nights.

I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t feel that freedom.

A day later, I realized that when I got in his face, I misquoted some facts to him, so I called him back, and (as expected) he sent my call to voicemail, so I left him a long message. I apologized for my errant facts, explained the situation from my son’s perspective, acknowledged what we understood of his own needs in the situation, and proposed a sit-down meeting where we could resolve the disagreement.

He ignored me, of course. His intimidation continued, but it did not escalate again.

Again, I wanted to post a prayer request, but I still didn’t feel the freedom.

One night it really got to me. I should have been asleep. Instead, I was ranting, my intestines were growling, and my sheets were soaked with sweat. I had acknowledged that we’d probably need to take the Pain to court, but as I rolled it around in my mind, I realized that we couldn’t lose the case. We had him cold! We had documentation of a couple of things that would make this an open and shut case! I didn’t want to go to court (nobody in their right mind does), but if we needed to, we would win.

And then I realized that The Pain wasn’t doing any of this to hurt my son or to hurt me, and he wasn’t doing this to win a court case. He just needed to stay in power in his interactions with other people. He needed to feel powerful, and this whole drama was how he met that need. I honestly began to feel sorry for him. That was actually confusing; he was the reason I was still awake at 3:00 in the morning!

And then Father reminded me of Romans 2:4b: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” We wanted him to change his mind about the hell he was wreaking; we wanted him to repent. Here, God’s showing me the key to The Pain's repentance: my kindness. Nice.

So I prayed quite a bit; I prayed blessing on this man, on his business, on his real estate holdings. But wait, there's more!

I’d been studying angels in the Bible, recently. My new favorite book of the Bible talked about them: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

So I invited some angels to go visit him and minister the things of the Kingdom to him. We’re supposed to DO the stuff we’re learning, right? And I gave him a new name. No longer The Pain, now he was The Millionaire.

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

The next morning, the Millionaire surprised us all. He messaged my son with a remarkably reasonable response. He outlined some things he needed from us (reasonable ones!), and offered some concessions we hadn’t even asked for. Then he recused himself from the final negotiations and he invited us to work with his more reasonable partner. (What? Who IS this guy?)

I wonder if there’s a connection?

I shared the good news with Mrs P, and she admitted that she had been praying blessing on him as well (before she dropped off to a sound sleep several hours before I did!).

I never did ask others for prayer. Our amazing Father really does know what we need, even before we tell him. He’d been answering that prayer long before we got around to praying it.

Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I’m serious. It’s kindness that brings repentance. Not power, not strength of will, not even being right. It’s kindness.”

It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is. 

Standard
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.


Standard
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.


Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Fight the Good fight of Faith

When we don’t question our beliefs, when we just accept what others have told us (whether from a pulpit, from a seminary, or from a publication), there are repercussions well beyond our own belief structures.

Some of the things that we’ve unquestioningly believed for a few generations have functioned as incredible obstacles for people who don’t know God’s nature; some of these people take our un-questioned beliefs literally, point out the very logical failures of those beliefs, and cause formidable damage to our Father’s reputation on the Earth.

One of those beliefs is the version of hell that was primarily outlined by an unbalanced Catholic politician, pharmacist and monk in the 14th century. His imagination was brilliant, but not particularly either Biblical or true. These details which did not trouble him, but his writings have been (probably unintentionally) adopted by the “turn or burn” evangelists as the default definition of “burn.”

Their depictions of Heaven were similarly unbiblical, and similarly designed to maximize the number of people running to the altar at the end of the service.


The result of such haphazard doctrinal foolishness included a large number of “converts” eager to escape this horrendous and unbiblical threat, often described as “buying fire insurance,” which, of course, was never God’s goal. 

My hope is that we will ask questions about what we’re being taught, to test the doctrines that teachers are telling us are “The Truth.”

·         I’ve observed that the more  any particular doctrine  is mirrored in the “distinctive” practices or beliefs of a denomination or a fellowship, the more those particular doctrines need to be challenged. This is true in both traditional denominations and more fundamental or Pentecostal fellowships and denominations.

·         One of the best ways to test our belief sets – in addition to questioning their conformity to Scripture’s simple contextual instruction on the topic – is to examine the fruit of the doctrine. And examine the fruit of that doctrine among believers and among non-believers: does this doctrine increase people’s love for God and love for each other, or does it regularly result in resentment, legalism, judgment, generally keeping people from embracing God’s love for them.


This is part of Paul’s admonitions to his apostolic leaders: “Pay no attention to … myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

--

The best part of the conversation will be on Facebook. Come join in.
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Fight the Good fight of Faith

When we don’t question our beliefs, when we just accept what others have told us (whether from a pulpit, from a seminary, or from a publication), there are repercussions well beyond our own belief structures.

Some of the things that we’ve unquestioningly believed for a few generations have functioned as incredible obstacles for people who don’t know God’s nature; some of these people take our un-questioned beliefs literally, point out the very logical failures of those beliefs, and cause formidable damage to our Father’s reputation on the Earth.

One of those beliefs is the version of hell that was primarily outlined by an unbalanced Catholic politician, pharmacist and monk in the 14th century. His imagination was brilliant, but not particularly either Biblical or true. These details which did not trouble him, but his writings have been (probably unintentionally) adopted by the “turn or burn” evangelists as the default definition of “burn.”

Their depictions of Heaven were similarly unbiblical, and similarly designed to maximize the number of people running to the altar at the end of the service.


The result of such haphazard doctrinal foolishness included a large number of “converts” eager to escape this horrendous and unbiblical threat, often described as “buying fire insurance,” which, of course, was never God’s goal. 

My hope is that we will ask questions about what we’re being taught, to test the doctrines that teachers are telling us are “The Truth.”

·         I’ve observed that the more  any particular doctrine  is mirrored in the “distinctive” practices or beliefs of a denomination or a fellowship, the more those particular doctrines need to be challenged. This is true in both traditional denominations and more fundamental or Pentecostal fellowships and denominations.

·         One of the best ways to test our belief sets – in addition to questioning their conformity to Scripture’s simple contextual instruction on the topic – is to examine the fruit of the doctrine. And examine the fruit of that doctrine among believers and among non-believers: does this doctrine increase people’s love for God and love for each other, or does it regularly result in resentment, legalism, judgment, generally keeping people from embracing God’s love for them.


This is part of Paul’s admonitions to his apostolic leaders: “Pay no attention to … myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

--

The best part of the conversation will be on Facebook. Come join in.
Standard
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
Standard
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
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


Standard
Prophecy

It’s Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.
My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.
But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.
Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!
For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.
God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.
But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!
And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!
The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!
The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!
And tonight is the night that it all began.
Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!
Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!
This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 

Standard
Devotionals, Letters

It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Do We Still Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?

Recently, a friend asked me, “Are we still required to pray for the peace of Jerusalem?” (as Psalm 122:6 says). I stopped to think about that question, and about Zionism in general. Here’s how my thinking went.

When the Old Covenant was in place, it was between one family – the children of Jacob – aka Israel) and God. (In fact, they resisted being called a “nation” until the 20th century.)

When the Old Covenant was in place, that family was the vehicle by which God related to the rest of the world. We’ll overlook the fact that Israel failed miserably in that task: it was their task. (Note that “The Law” was the “terms & conditions” of that Covenant. Note also that Israel failed so completely at that, that God was required by the terms of that covenant [which the people proposed, it was not God’s proposal] that he was required to judge them and punish them for failing to keep their covenant with Him. See http://nwp.link/1Ggenc6.)

And because Israel was the one primary means by which God related to humanity, they were the victim of many attacks, both political and demonic.

In that context, praying for the peace of Jerusalem – Jerusalem being in proxy for the nation/family of Israel – was praying for peace in the conduit between God and man. If Israel was at war, then Israel could not well represent God to the nations.

The Old Covenant is now over. It was “obsolete and growing old [and] ready to disappear,” [Hebrews 8:13] two hundred decades ago. And it was completely obliterated, totally eliminated when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 (the mortal wound: the destruction of all genealogical records of who’s qualified to be priest or Levite).  

Fortunately, 40 years earlier, the Old Covenant was replaced by a New Covenant. In contrast, the New Covenant is not between God and one family, or between God and one nation, or between God and ANY nation. The New Covenant is between God the Father, and God the Son, and we’re included in the Covenant by being “in Christ,” in the Son.

In the New Covenant, there is only one commandment: John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” That’s it.

Paul, expounding on our covenant, urged Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” This is, in his estimation, part of how we “love one another,” and he’s right.

So the question is: “Is Jerusalem part of “all men”? Are there leaders who qualify as “all those who are in authority”? Do they need prayer? In my perception, the answer is “Yes!” to all three.

So yes, we pray for Jerusalem, for the same reason, and in the same way that we pray for Tehran, or New Orleans, or Milan or Pretoria.

We pray “on behalf of all men,” and we pray “for kings and all those who are in authority.”

But really (and I suspect some people won’t like this), Jerusalem is no more special than your hometown, and Israel is now no more special than Iraq or Dubai. And simultaneously, no less special.



Standard
Prophecy

Do We Still Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?

Recently, a friend asked me, “Are we still required to pray for the peace of Jerusalem?” (as Psalm 122:6 says). I stopped to think about that question, and about Zionism in general. Here’s how my thinking went.
When the Old Covenant was in place, it was between one family – the children of Jacob – aka Israel) and God. (In fact, they resisted being called a “nation” until the 20th century.)
When the Old Covenant was in place, that family was the vehicle by which God related to the rest of the world. We’ll overlook the fact that Israel failed miserably in that task: it was their task. (Note that “The Law” was the “terms & conditions” of that Covenant. Note also that Israel failed so completely at that, that God was required by the terms of that covenant [which the people proposed, it was not God’s proposal] that he was required to judge them and punish them for failing to keep their covenant with Him. See http://nwp.link/1Ggenc6.)
And because Israel was the one primary means by which God related to humanity, they were the victim of many attacks, both political and demonic.
In that context, praying for the peace of Jerusalem – Jerusalem being in proxy for the nation/family of Israel – was praying for peace in the conduit between God and man. If Israel was at war, then Israel could not well represent God to the nations.
The Old Covenant is now over. It was “obsolete and growing old [and] ready to disappear,” [Hebrews 8:13] two hundred decades ago. And it was completely obliterated, totally eliminated when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 (the mortal wound: the destruction of all genealogical records of who’s qualified to be priest or Levite).  
Fortunately, 40 years earlier, the Old Covenant was replaced by a New Covenant. In contrast, the New Covenant is not between God and one family, or between God and one nation, or between God and ANY nation. The New Covenant is between God the Father, and God the Son, and we’re included in the Covenant by being “in Christ,” in the Son.
In the New Covenant, there is only one commandment: John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” That’s it.
Paul, expounding on our covenant, urged Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” This is, in his estimation, part of how we “love one another,” and he’s right.
So the question is: “Is Jerusalem part of “all men”? Are there leaders who qualify as “all those who are in authority”? Do they need prayer? In my perception, the answer is “Yes!” to all three.
So yes, we pray for Jerusalem, for the same reason, and in the same way that we pray for Tehran, or New Orleans, or Milan or Pretoria.
We pray “on behalf of all men,” and we pray “for kings and all those who are in authority.”
But really (and I suspect some people won’t like this), Jerusalem is no more special than your hometown, and Israel is now no more special than Iraq or Dubai. And simultaneously, no less special.
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Do We Still Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?

Recently, a friend asked me, “Are we still required to pray for the peace of Jerusalem?” (as Psalm 122:6 says). I stopped to think about that question, and about Zionism in general. Here’s how my thinking went.

When the Old Covenant was in place, it was between one family – the children of Jacob – aka Israel) and God. (In fact, they resisted being called a “nation” until the 20th century.)

When the Old Covenant was in place, that family was the vehicle by which God related to the rest of the world. We’ll overlook the fact that Israel failed miserably in that task: it was their task. (Note that “The Law” was the “terms & conditions” of that Covenant. Note also that Israel failed so completely at that, that God was required by the terms of that covenant [which the people proposed, it was not God’s proposal] that he was required to judge them and punish them for failing to keep their covenant with Him. See http://nwp.link/1Ggenc6.)

And because Israel was the one primary means by which God related to humanity, they were the victim of many attacks, both political and demonic.

In that context, praying for the peace of Jerusalem – Jerusalem being in proxy for the nation/family of Israel – was praying for peace in the conduit between God and man. If Israel was at war, then Israel could not well represent God to the nations.

The Old Covenant is now over. It was “obsolete and growing old [and] ready to disappear,” [Hebrews 8:13] two hundred decades ago. And it was completely obliterated, totally eliminated when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 (the mortal wound: the destruction of all genealogical records of who’s qualified to be priest or Levite).  

Fortunately, 40 years earlier, the Old Covenant was replaced by a New Covenant. In contrast, the New Covenant is not between God and one family, or between God and one nation, or between God and ANY nation. The New Covenant is between God the Father, and God the Son, and we’re included in the Covenant by being “in Christ,” in the Son.

In the New Covenant, there is only one commandment: John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” That’s it.

Paul, expounding on our covenant, urged Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” This is, in his estimation, part of how we “love one another,” and he’s right.

So the question is: “Is Jerusalem part of “all men”? Are there leaders who qualify as “all those who are in authority”? Do they need prayer? In my perception, the answer is “Yes!” to all three.

So yes, we pray for Jerusalem, for the same reason, and in the same way that we pray for Tehran, or New Orleans, or Milan or Pretoria.

We pray “on behalf of all men,” and we pray “for kings and all those who are in authority.”

But really (and I suspect some people won’t like this), Jerusalem is no more special than your hometown, and Israel is now no more special than Iraq or Dubai. And simultaneously, no less special.



Standard