Letters

New Respect for the Word of God


I used to proudly and unquestioningly hold to a particular standard of belief that I now find myself questioning.  Some will likely call me a heretic for this. Heck, back then, I would have called these questions heretical!

The reason for questioning is simple: I live in the 21stcentury, among a highly industrialized, aggressively secular global community. I don’t live among a first century community of farmers in a religiously-dominated culture, or among a bronze-age nomadic society. I marvel that I didn’t catch this sooner.  

And with this in mind, I’ve found myself concluding that “the most literal translation” of the Bible won’t actually be helpful to me. So I’ve abandoned my search for the most literal translation of the Scriptures for several reasons:

• The original texts of the Bible are full of stories, parables and metaphors: it wasn’t actually written for literal interpretation. Looking for “the most literal” translation strikes me as fundamentally contrary to the writing styles and methods of the Biblical authors.

• In order to have an effective, “literal”, word-for-word translation of the Bible, we need to have an equivalent English word – and ONLY one English word – for every Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic word of the original texts. And we aren’t even close to that. These languages are completely different from their roots up.

• Literal communication of agrarian metaphors and religious allusion don’t translate well (if at all) into the Information Age. The ideas are valuable, but we need to translate the metaphors, either during the translation to English, or during my reading of the English translation. Knowledge of grafting grapevines, for example, is not prevalent in my world.

• There really is at least a measure of truth behind the principle that as years go by, both the skills and the resources for Bible translation advance. Therefore, all else being equal, there is real reason to expect that more modern translations will ultimately capture the heart of the Scriptures better than earlier versions.

• I don’t actually need divine wisdom for dealing with slavery, temple prostitution, arranged marriages, leprosy, and other topics that the Bible did deal with literally. But there are principles that, if I consider them metaphorically, have application to my Facebook interactions and my driving habits.

• My other challenge is that I no longer am as interested in the (admittedly priceless) words of famous first-century (or much earlier!) followers of God. I’m actually more interested in hearing the Word of God Himself speaking to me through their words. [see John 1:1-2, Hebrews 4:12-13]

I still respect (and study and read) the NASB and NRSV and other word-for-word translations of the Bible. I value those translations, and I seriously respect their goals!

For the last 50 years or so, I’ve used my paper-and-ink Bibles very heavily, and worn them out regularly. So I’ve replaced my “primary” Bible pretty frequently. And curiously, I chose to get a different translation for my primary study & ministry Bible every few years. (My thinking back then was that I wanted to get past the mindset of the translators, and hear the heart of the authors behind the translation.) So I’ve avoided growing up loyal to any particular translation.

In recent years, there have appeared some fresh translations that are aspiring to translate the heart of the content, rather than to shoehorn an English word into being an equivalent for a Greek or Hebrew word that isn’t even part of our thinking in this century. As a result, these are fresher to my understanding and more accessible to my emotions than the shoehorned vocabulary of earlier versions (consider “adjure” or “husbandman” or “prick against the goads”).

I’ve been listeningto the Bible rather a lot recently, more than reading it (“Faith comes by hearing….”), and while I own audio versions of four different translations, I find myself most inspired, most provoked, most comforted by The Message Version. Not even a little bit of a “word-for-word” version, their goal was to communicate Scripture into the actual, everyday vernacular that we speak today. I think it succeeds wonderfully!

I chose it primarily to get out of the normal “religious” thinking that I’d grown up with listening to KJV and NIV preachers, and it’s worked for that purpose.

When I’m digging into the Greek & Hebrew, I still use the older, more traditional translations, particularly the NIV.

So you’re welcome to write me off as a heretic if you feel the need to. Keep in mind that “heretic” was a word invented during the Inquisition specifically to accuse those who [gasp!] thought independently of what the religious government told them to think. Yeah, I aspire to do that.

But you’re also welcome to join me in exploring the riches of the Word of God as He expresses Himself through the word of God.




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Letters

The Tidy Deception


There’s a deception that I’ve come to … well, I don’t know that I actually “hate” it, but I sure don’t love it.

It’s a deception, an illusion, and it’s perpetrated, many times, in God’s name, and often with the best of intentions.

It’s the deception of the finished lesson.

I became aware of it while I was studying something-or-other for teaching. I felt like I was wrestling a greased pig. I cut my way through bunny trails and wild goose chases and fought off premature and inaccurate conclusions.

It was a long and arduous process.

And when I was done, I presented my results to the folks I was teaching, all tidy, all logical, all wrapped up with a nice little bow on it.

It was good teaching. And my conclusions were both accurate and relevant.

But I was uncomfortable with how tidy it was. This was not a tidy topic, and I felt that I’d done folks a disservice by hiding the blood, sweat, toil and tears that went into the process.

In actual fact, the blood, sweat, toil and tears are a legitimate part of the topic, of the conversation. Let’s be honest: outside of TV shows, there aren’t a lot of thorny questions that tidily wrap themselves up in 30 minutes, are there?

It seems to me that the need to make things tidy and clean and neat is not actually a benefit to American culture.

Let’s be specific. If we think that the abortion issue has a clean and simple answer, we’re not paying attention. If we think that the topic of social justice can be solved easily, we’re smoking something interesting. If we think the fear of God, or the grace of God, or the rapture, or the solution to immigration, or balancing a household budget have tidy answers, we’re not seeing the whole of the subject.

Christian platitudes are an abysmal failure. But Christian blogs and Christian books (and not-so-Christian books) that have clear-cut answers are equally deceptive.

We’ll see how I respond to this, how I deal with this in the future. As much as anyone else, I like having clear answers readily available, and I like not looking like a dork as I stumble for an answer that actually means something on a complex topic.

But we might find that not every post has a confident conclusion. I don’t know. We’ll see how this turns out.


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Letters

Mixing Promises with Faith


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

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

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

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

Yep. It’s still there.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Letters

The Cutting of the Lord


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


Here are some details about pruning.

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

So how does he prune us?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Letters

What Covenant?

Abraham believed God & God made a covenant with him. (Gen. 15:6 & 18) That covenant was based on the fact that Abe believed God. Now he’s God’s friend, as well as his covenant partner.

But in Genesis 12, Abe is afraid & lies about Sara. He was afraid the king would kill him to get his hands on his hot wife, so he says, “She’s my sister, not my wife!”

Abraham is giving in to a spirit of fear, and he’s a liar. Those are bad. But God backs him up, IN THE LIE! He defends Abraham (and his marriage) from the ignorant, horny kings.

Wait, what? God defends the liar? And defends the lie? Why would he do that?

It was hundreds of years later that Moses comes down the mountain with The Law, which includes “Don’t sleep with another man’s wife,” and “Don’t tell lies” and such. Now, with coming of The Law, adultery and lying (and several other things) become a sin.

The Law is a part of Moses’ covenant with God. It’s not part of Abraham’s covenant with God, or Noah’s.

In Abraham’s day, there was no rule that said “Don’t sleep with his wife,” and no rule that said, “Do not bear false testimony.” These rules didn’t show up until late in Moses’ life. They weren’t forbidden in Abraham’s day.

Were they still stupid things to do? Of course. And Abraham paid the price for that. But they weren’t “wrong” in Abe’s day and age.

So it’s not appropriate (or even meaningful) to judge Abraham or Noah by a covenant that didn’t exist in their day. In the same way, it’s not appropriate to judge a Peruvian farmer by Norway’s laws, or to judge a Mostho factory worker based on Peruvian law.

And The Law not actually part of our New Covenant either. Therefore, it’s completely inappropriate to judge New Covenant believers by Moses’ covenant. Or Noah’s covenant. Or any other covenant.

Are you a New Covenant believer? Then it’s completely inappropriate to judge yourself by Moses’ covenant either.


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Letters

Angels Support the Values of the Kingdom


It was one of those days where it seemed there were more crazy people on the roads than usual: cars pulling out right in front of me, crowding me off the street, the guy turning right from the left lane right in front of me.
 
I was not amused.

Eventually I made my way to the freeway, and took a deep breath. “This feels like an attack,” I realized.

So I prayed. I invited angels to protect me as I made my way across town to my appointment.


And as soon as I prayed, I knew I was wrong: I didn’t need to invite them to protect me; they already were protecting me. They were the reason I hadn’t actually been hit by any of those crazies on the road. That green Volkswagen had stopped so suddenly was because an angel was stopping it from running into me.

So I thanked the angels for their effective service, and invited them to continue. And I went after any assignment against me, cancelling that. That felt better, and I encountered no more crazies that day.

And Father & I talked about this as we drove. I was thankful for the protection of his servants – our servants – on the roads, but if the angels are protecting me, why were there so many near misses if they were on duty? Why not just keep things safe and sane, why not stop the green Volkswagen five or six feet earlier so I didn’t jump out of my skin with that near miss?

This is the part I’d like to share with you, see what you think.

Angels are (essentially) employees of the Kingdom of God, serving those who will inherit salvation, right? So their actions will be consistent with the values of the Kingdom, yes?

It floated into my mind: “What is the currency of Heaven? What is it that moves His hand?”

Faith. Faith is the currency of Heaven. It’s the prayer of faith that changes things.

In fact, Romans goes so far as to declare, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [11:6] More, that’s how this whole adventure began: “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We enter the Kingdom by faith and ever after, the Kingdom continue to work by faith.

Then it hit me. The employees of the Kingdom of God won’t be working in such a way as to bypass God’s values, in such a way as to invalidate the currency of the Kingdom. That means that angels won’t be working in a way that removes the requirement for faith, for my trusting God.

In fact, it’s more likely that they would choose their actions in such a way as to increase the faith of those they minister to, to encourage me to trust God more, in this case, rather than trusting my own driving skills.

In fact, it appears that angels are aware of the level, the maturity of our faith, and treat us accordingly. Their actions will be different for a new believer than for one who has walked with God for several decades, because it takes more to grow the faith of the seasoned saint, while the babe in Christ is challenged by even the simplest things.

In some cases, God (perhaps through the ministry of angels) provides for us, but his provision might show up at the last second. (“God is never late, but he sure misses a lot of opportunities to be early!”)

Why? Because if the provision showed up early, we’d never have to exercise faith. We’d stroll along comfortably, content that our provision was in the bank, rather than trusting our Father.

Us trusting our Daddy. Yeah, that’s part of his goal for us. Us being comfortable? Nah, that’s not a priority.

And God’s work in our lives, angels’ work in our lives, will never work against the need for us to walk (or drive) in trust.



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Letters

Angels Support the Values of the Kingdom


It was one of those days where it seemed there were more crazy people on the roads than usual: cars pulling out right in front of me, crowding me off the street, the guy turning right from the left lane right in front of me.
 
I was not amused.

Eventually I made my way to the freeway, and took a deep breath. “This feels like an attack,” I realized.

So I prayed. I invited angels to protect me as I made my way across town to my appointment.


And as soon as I prayed, I knew I was wrong: I didn’t need to invite them to protect me; they already were protecting me. They were the reason I hadn’t actually been hit by any of those crazies on the road. That green Volkswagen had stopped so suddenly was because an angel was stopping it from running into me.

So I thanked the angels for their effective service, and invited them to continue. And I went after any assignment against me, cancelling that. That felt better, and I encountered no more crazies that day.

And Father & I talked about this as we drove. I was thankful for the protection of his servants – our servants – on the roads, but if the angels are protecting me, why were there so many near misses if they were on duty? Why not just keep things safe and sane, why not stop the green Volkswagen five or six feet earlier so I didn’t jump out of my skin with that near miss?

This is the part I’d like to share with you, see what you think.

Angels are (essentially) employees of the Kingdom of God, serving those who will inherit salvation, right? So their actions will be consistent with the values of the Kingdom, yes?

It floated into my mind: “What is the currency of Heaven? What is it that moves His hand?”

Faith. Faith is the currency of Heaven. It’s the prayer of faith that changes things.

In fact, Romans goes so far as to declare, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [11:6] More, that’s how this whole adventure began: “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We enter the Kingdom by faith and ever after, the Kingdom continue to work by faith.

Then it hit me. The employees of the Kingdom of God won’t be working in such a way as to bypass God’s values, in such a way as to invalidate the currency of the Kingdom. That means that angels won’t be working in a way that removes the requirement for faith, for my trusting God.

In fact, it’s more likely that they would choose their actions in such a way as to increase the faith of those they minister to, to encourage me to trust God more, in this case, rather than trusting my own driving skills.

In fact, it appears that angels are aware of the level, the maturity of our faith, and treat us accordingly. Their actions will be different for a new believer than for one who has walked with God for several decades, because it takes more to grow the faith of the seasoned saint, while the babe in Christ is challenged by even the simplest things.

In some cases, God (perhaps through the ministry of angels) provides for us, but his provision might show up at the last second. (“God is never late, but he sure misses a lot of opportunities to be early!”)

Why? Because if the provision showed up early, we’d never have to exercise faith. We’d stroll along comfortably, content that our provision was in the bank, rather than trusting our Father.

Us trusting our Daddy. Yeah, that’s part of his goal for us. Us being comfortable? Nah, that’s not a priority.

And God’s work in our lives, angels’ work in our lives, will never work against the need for us to walk (or drive) in trust.



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Letters

The Bible or Relationship?

I love the Bible.

I don't mean that metaphorically, this is literal: I love that book, I love those stories. Even more, I love the precious revelation of this relationship that I've been reborn into, the Story of Covenant.

However, I'm far more interested in hearing Holy Spirit speaking through the words than I'm interested in taking the words of the translators - skilled as they are - for my definitive final word.

Even if I could get past the translators, if I could have walked around with Peter and Paul and John and hear them, in their original language, share their experiences and counsel of their relationship with God, I'd still rather talk with God, face to face.

And I think He'd prefer that, too.

This is about a relationship, isn't it? A PERSONAL relationship, right? So the relationship with the person is the authoritative reference.

I am thankful for my marriage certificate. It tells me about a relationship that is precious to me. But I can tell you that I'd much rather curl up before the fireplace with the Lady named in that certificate, than with the certificate itself.

The certificate is valuable, priceless even. The Lady, and my relationship with her, is even more priceless.
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Letters

Sent

We Are Sent.

There’s a big difference between us going out on our own and spreading the Good News of the Kingdom because we like it, and being sent on assignment to to do the very same work.

We’re sent. We're on assignment. Commissioned by Heaven.

Jesus sent us: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” [John 20:21]

Think about that first word, “As” for a minute: This is like what Father has done.

You and I are sent under the same terms and conditions that applied when Father sent Jesus to Earth.

Let that mess with your head for a minute. Jesus was sent as the embodiment of Heaven to extend the Kingdom (“kingship”) of heaven on Earth. Every time Jesus confronted darkness, the Kingdom of Heaven emerged victorious. Every time Jesus met someone sick, he healed them.

OK. That stretches me a fair bit. I’m not just a follower, just a “believer”, just a pew-warmer, just “little ol’ me.” I’m sent to Earth with the same assignment, with the same backing, with the same power that Jesus was sent with.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Whoa.

Now for the second half:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God….” [John 13:3]

How was Jesus sent from the Father? With all things under his power, knowing he had come from God, knowing he was returning to God.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” What does this say about how you’re sent?

And of course, the very next thing Jesus did was to wash the boys’ feet. Isn’t that how we’re sent?

We're sent to wash feet in the power of, and as a representative of, the King of Kings. He's washing feet through you and me.










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Letters

Guard Your Heart

You’ve all heard people talking about “guarding your heart.” You’ve probably heard a sermon or ten on the topic.

It’s usually presented as, “Don’t let the enemy influence your heart in any way.”

A famous Bible teacher said it this way, “The enemy wants to embitter and corrupt you. Guard your heart against contamination by lust and loneliness, bigotry and arrogance, and everything in between.”

Now that’s all well and good, but I saw this in a new light recently. It messed up my thinking, and I think I'm on to something.

I used a revolutionary new Scriptural Interpretation Technique (maybe we can call it SIT?) for this new revelation. Let me share it with you:

• Read the whole freaking verse.

That’s it. Pretty complicated, isn’t it? Let’s practice this together on this topic, shall we?

Turn with me to Proverbs 4:23: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

Do you see what it’s saying here? It’s not talking about guarding your heart so you don’t think bad thoughts. If you’re in love with Jesus, if your mind is “fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1&2), then there’s no room for the bad thoughts anyway.

[Hint: if you have problems with where your mind goes, this is a great tool: focus your mind on the God-Man that loves you silly! Bury yourself in Him, and in the Word of God. It works!]

It says, “Guard your heart… for....” “For” is an awfully big word. In other words: “Here’s the reason you guard your heart: because stuff springs out of your heart if it’s not guarded well.”

Have you ever spoken before you took a second to think, and wished you could take those words back? Have you ever discovered that you related to somebody through a messed-up filter? Have you ever believed a lie, and had that lie influence how you do life?

The reason you guard your heart, the reason I need to guard my heart, is not so bad stuff doesn’t get IN. It’s so the issues of my life don’t get OUT to mess up other people.

Moreover: our job is to guard our heart DILIGENTLY so we don't let the wrong stuff out. This is a big deal.

We don’t guard our heart to protect ourselves. We guard our heart to protect the folks around us.

(Wait. How often are we actually commanded to protect ourselves, and let everybody else fend for themselves? Yeah, like never. So this is consistent with the “whole counsel of God” too! Nice.)

--

“Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”



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Victory. Overwhelming Victory.

This has been on my mind for a while.

Where our Owners’ Manual speaks of the battle (in Ephesians 6), it’s very specific: the victor is defined as the one still standing when the dust settles.


“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore.”

So if you’re battered and bloody and discouraged and weary when the fighting stops, that’s normal. If you’re still standing, you’re the victor.

We tend to think “victory” means that we’re still humming a happy tune, the birds are still singing and our armor is still shiny.

Bah! Shiny armor means you haven’t been in a real battle yet. And the birds will sing again when it’s time. And you can always choose what kind of tune you want to hum.

Someone will bring up Romans 8: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” True that. We are more than conquerors. Isn’t that talking about the happy Hollywood ending where the hero (you) rides off into the sunset with his heart’s desire next to him?

Not so much. What it means is that you’re still standing.

How do you conquer except that you do battle? Real battle. War. Blood. Guts. Demons flapping. Curses flying. Tongues wagging. Naysayers naying. Enemies screaming.

Look at our own example of “more than a conqueror.” He wore the crown of thorns and not a scrap of cloth as he dangled bloody, groaning “It is finished.” That’s our example. That’s our Forerunner. That’s our King.

Have you fallen and you’re not getting up? That’s not winning. I don’t care who’s fault it is. Lying there, staying there, with your face in the mud and blood is not victory.

Having face-planted, and then struggled to your feet as the angels mopped up the battle, even if you need three others to help you to your feet, that’s victory. That’s more than a conqueror.

Do not let the devil tell you you’ve lost if you’re still on your feet, if you’re still fighting, if you’re weary to the bone. If you’re upright, you’re the victor.

‘Nuff said.
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Reflections on Some Influencers

I was reflecting on some of the guys who have influenced my life in God over the years. None of these guys had a position of “leader,” but all three of them were competent leaders.

I knew a man who studied God, and God’s ways, for decades. He could put all kinds of letters after his name, including DMin, and PhD. He understood the Bible better than anybody else I knew at the time.

When I listened to him, I thought, “What a learned man. What a great foundation! I need a foundation like that.”

I knew another man who didn’t have a degree, but had spent a couple of under-funded decades among a people who didn’t even know who God was: teaching some, discipling a few, and desperately depending on God every day, for his meals, for his ministry, for his family’s lives.

When I listened to him, my heart melted. I prayed earnestly, “Father, I want to know you like this man knows you!”

I knew another man who came from the streets, and even that was just recently. He had not the slightest shred of education, and it showed. But he spent hours, many hours, just sitting in God’s presence, listening to his heartbeat, talking with him about what was on his heart.

When I listened to him, I realized that he had some ideas that were pretty messed up, and the first guy could help him with that. And I saw that he had some serious insecurity issues, identity issues, and the second guy could really help him with that.

But when he talked, he blew my mind. He healed the sick regularly, got words of knowledge effortlessly, and unbelievers listened carefully when he talked about his Jesus.

When I listened to him, I thought, “Father, is this really possible? Can your children walk in this kind of revelation, this kind of power, in this day and age?”

I learned some things in this reflection.

I really do love meditating on the things God has done in my world, in my life. The angel in Revelation 19 was right: the testimony of Jesus, who he is, what he's done, really is the spirit of prophecy. Mmm mmm. So good.

Different people have imparted different strengths into my life. If I only listened to people like me, I would certainly not be who I am today. Since both my wife and I like who I am today, this would be a bad thing.

Even people that make me uncomfortable can have a great impact on my life, provided I’m willing to learn. It's that "willing" part that I wrestle with sometimes.

It’s not enough to know ABOUT God. I must know God. And there’s more to know than I have any idea, even now. What a big heart!

It’s not enough to know God. I must also know ABOUT God if I aspire to trust him, to be like him. And again, there’s more to know about him than I even believe is possible.

When God invests himself into a person, he doesn’t necessarily make that person tidy, neat, clean, respectable. My ideas for what a “Good Christian” is were woefully inadequate, which means they are probably still woefully inadequate today. (Yet again I am reminded: He is NOT a tame lion.)


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Believers Who Find Fault

A favorite activity among some (not many) Christians is fault-finding. When someone makes a positive comment about certain topics, the faultfinders are quick to point out all the reasons we shouldn’t be positive, all the bad things that are associated there. 

Favorite targets for these people include:

a) Famous Christians (“Did you know that this famous leader once sinned? Gasp!”),

b) Politicians (This doesn't need much explanation; there aren’t many Christians who can say positive things about all three: Trump, Clinton and Obama),

c) Poignant Facebook posts (“Martin Luther is an evil man because some of his followers did bad things!”)

I’m convinced that this is a model given to us by the accuser of the brethren, since these are indeed accusations, and it’s aggressively marketed to us by the secular (and, to a lesser extent, Christian) news media.

When I run across people who have to begin their conversation with criticism or “We need to know both sides of that!” then I’m afraid I make the assumption that this is a person who is more influenced by the news media than by the Spirit of God. (I don’t like assumptions, particularly in myself.)

Our Instruction Book gives us certain standards for our behavior, and for our conversation with each other, standards like “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6)

And one of those standards is not fault-finding: Proverbs 11:12 “People without good sense find fault with their neighbors, but those with understanding keep quiet.” & Jude 1:16 “These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”

Another of those standards is the solution: fixing our attention on whatsoever is good and right. Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”.

Faultfinding is a fundamental failure to meet Scriptural standards, I’m afraid. It’s also something I aggressively discourage in conversations on this page (as I am doing in this post).

Off the record, my motivation for discouraging this is not Scripture: you are responsible for your own response to that standard; that’s not my job.

I speak up because being around that particular work of the enemy (the “accuser of the brethren” Revelation 12:10) is like swimming in a sewer for me: it’s incredibly distasteful, and more importantly, it’s really quite dangerous to my own health.

If you want to find fault with people, living or dead, do it somewhere else. If you to take a crap, don’t use my swimming pool for that purpose.

Thanks! 
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Letters

God’s Beauty in Creation

It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was out and the rains of winter hadn’t come yet so it was cool and clear.

I was wandering through a grassy field with Father. We were talking about something or other, sauntering, quiet and peaceful. I was running my fingertips through the tops of the grass as we walked.

I loved the way the wind moved the grass, blowing gently, eddying. The tops of the grass swaying with the breezes was fascinating and lovely. I sighed in appreciation.

I latched onto  one stalk of grass as I walked and pulled it out, something to fiddle with as we walked, rolling it around my fingers.

After a few minutes of fiddling blankly with the grass, I looked at the single stem of grass, and suddenly I saw it. Suddenly I realized that the single stalk of grass was every bit as beautiful - in a completely different way - as the entire field of grass. The tall, straight stalk had a classic, almost a formal beauty.

I reflected on that for a while as I looked at my piece of grass. Then I looked more closely, and I saw the pattern of the veins in the leaf. It was on the stem, too: completely irregular patterns that reflected it’s Creator’s attention to detail.

I stood there in awe of how beauty infused the grass at every level: the field was beautiful, the single stalk was beautiful, the tiny veins were beautiful. What a wonderful Creator we have. That’s Jesus (John 1). He’s amazing.

 Suddenly, I remembered my high school biology classes where I examined the cells of a leaf of grass. That had another beauty all its own: row after irregular row of semi-autonomous life all contributing to the overall life of the plant, each asymmetrical in its beauty.

And then I thought about the molecular structure of the grass, the molecules all reaching out and attaching to the molecules, all the atoms perfectly in place within each molecule. Wow. What beauty at that level, too.

And then we could talk about quarks and neutrinos and string theory! Beauty, all the way down! I was overwhelmed.

And that’s it. Nothing profound. Just amazement at a Creator who fills, full to the brim, everything He touches with beauty.

Beauty is everywhere. I just need eyes to see it. And when I do, I get to see more of God’s amazing attributes.

I’m so proud of my big Brother. He’s amazing!



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