Letters

“I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it…”

Judaizers have been speaking up again. I guess we'd better talk about it.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

That is pretty much the standard, go-to verse for people who want to convince you that you need to be in bondage to the Law like they are. Yeah, let’s look at that.

First of all, this statement is found in Matthew 5: Jesus is speaking to people under the Law. He is not speaking to New Covenant believers. He’s speaking in the language of folks under the Law, speaking to people under the Law, but he’s not reaffirming the Law.

Go look at it. Read all of Matthew 5. Jesus is not saying, “Be sure to obey the Law!” He’s saying, “The Law is only the starting point!”

Verse 17 is one example: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” If you don’t do better than the people who do the law the best, it ain’t gonna get you into the Kingdom. That's what this whole sermon is about: the Kingdom.

Then he gets real serious. What follows is where Jesus deconstructs the Law. “You have heard it said, … but I say to you….” Five times he raises the bar above what the Law had required.

Then he goes on (Chapter 6 continues that sermon) explaining a better way. He doesn’t really talk about the Kingdom for a while, but he gets to it: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

That very sermon continues on through Chapter 7, too. He’s already dismissed the Law, the godly works of the old paradigm; now he dismisses the godly works of the new paradigm: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’”

Yeah, that's not the goal either. "Depart from me, I never knew you." It's about knowing him.

Then he finishes preaching wanders down the mountain and demonstrates his new Kingdom by healing the sick and teaching about the Kingdom.

OK. That’s our context. Now let’s look at that specific phrase, “I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it…”.

Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law. Now the Law is fulfilled. What does it mean when something is fulfilled?

My father fulfilled the mortgage on his house. Now that his mortgage has been fulfilled, that mortgage is obsolete, fulfilled, finished, powerless. That’s what “fulfilled” means. It’s done.

So, yes, ALL of the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant (for that's what the law is) are now obsolete, fulfilled, finished, powerless, now that the Old Covenant is dead and gone.

The Torah (the first five books of the Bible, containing the Law of the Old Covenant) is an interesting (and useful) history book. It tells the story of a covenant that God never wanted, and that never worked [Acts 15:10]. We can learn from their mistakes, and we should.

But it is completely without merit as a standard to live by today, if for no other reason than there is nobody, literally not one body, who is still part of the Old Covenant to which the Law applies.

People try to say, “But obeying the Torah (or at least the 10 Commandments) is good. It’s part of making us acceptable to God.

Balderdash! Obeying the Law is an obstacle, a stumbling block to us becoming acceptable to God.

I am so thankful that the Law has been fulfilled! This is such an excellent expression of God’s mercy!

You see, it is not even possible to obey the Torah in our day and age, and it hasn’t been possible for nearly twenty centuries.

A huge part of the law was the sacrificial system. And nowadays, there is no ark of the covenant (it was lost centuries ago), there is no tabernacle or temple (it was destroyed many centuries ago) with an altar to kill bulls and goat on. And James says, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."

More importantly, there are no Levites left to offer those sacrifices to God. The Levites were the only ones whom the law allowed to do that. Even worse, there are no records of Levitical bloodlines, and without those records, nobody could minister if there was a temple.

All of the genealogical records (all of the documentation of who’s a Levite and who’s not) was destroyed when the Old Covenant was destroyed as the Temple was destroyed in the conquering of Jerusalem in the first century. [https://nwp.link/WikiAD70] There are many parts of the law that cannot be obeyed now, and stumbling in one point of the law makes you guilty of the whole thing. No wonder it was destroyed.

Scripture predicted that the Old Covenant was going to be done away with and the temple would be destroyed [Hebrews 8:13] and Jesus described it in detail [Matthew 24] a full generation before it went down. Literally, not one stone was left on another. (And because of his warnings, the Christians - the only ones who believed his warnings - escaped that destruction.)

Paul summarized this whole law business quite nicely: "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" [Galatians 2:21]

Does that mean that we live lives characterized by rebellion against the Law of the Old Covenant? Where the command is “Do not kill,” do we make murder our habit to lie in order to avoid an old, dead Law?

You can hear how silly that sounds when we see it in black and white. No, we still don’t kill people. But that's not because of the obsolete rule book of a failed covenant that never applied to anybody but Israel anyway.

Rather, we don’t kill because we’re like Jesus and he doesn’t kill. We don’t kill because he’s teaching us to “love one another as I have loved you,” and murdering people isn’t actually very loving.

So throw off the lies that say, “You must study the Torah! You must obey the Ten Commandments."

"Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” Cast out the efforts to obey as the way to please God. There is no inheritance for you in that path.
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Letters

Lessons on Giftings & Callings From an Unlikely Source


I learned some things recently, and it’s not exactly rocket science.

This fellow looks like an eighteenth century British scientist, kind of like Sir Isaac Newton. Both were knighted by the queen (different queens), and they’re both astrophysicists, but this fellow is way more well known than Newton, though not primarily for his astrophysics.

Sir Brian May is better know as the guitarist and co-founder of a band that the Guinness Book of Recordssays is literally more popular than the Beatles ever were. He’s also a Doctor of Astrophysics, a 3-D stereoscopic photographic authority and a passionate advocate and campaigner for animal rights. (https://brianmay.com/brian/biog.html)  

I was listening to a song he wrote in honor of a flippin’ spaceship of all things (it’s a wonderful song: https://youtu.be/j3Jm5POCAj8), when some interesting thoughts wandered by.

• Your reputation does not determine who you are, or what you get to do with your life. (There are exceptions.)

• Your gifts and skills, even your gifts, do not determine who you are or what you get to do with your life. (Though they may provide some limits.)

• If you have great skills in one area, don’t be afraid to use those skills. (Planet Rock rates May as the seventh greatest guitarist of all time. [https://nwp.link/2FvwYoa])

• If God blindsides you with success in an area, don’t be afraid of changing your path. (May was in the midst of his doctoral thesis on the Motions of Interplanetary Dust when his side gig, a band called Queen, suddenly found some success. He quit his studies to play guitar.)

• If you follow the blessing of God, don’t necessarily let go of your previous dreams. (After a 30-year break for rock-and-roll super-stardom, May finished his thesis, and got his PhD in 2007.)

• You can still follow other interests, too. Your job or your studies (or your ministry) is not your entire life. (May started a stereoscopic imaging publishing company, was a University chancellor for a few years, and was a collaborator with NASA for the New Horizons Pluto mission.)

My sense is that some people (I decline to comment about whether this includes myself or not) have sometimes felt, “Well, I have some gifting [or some success, or some training] here, I guess this is what I’m going to do with my life,” as if the gifts of God were a life sentence.

Stated in more blunt vocabulary, a lot of western believers seem to be awfully religious about their life choices, choosing a career because of religious expectations, or following a path of failure (of one sort or another) just because they see it as their religious “duty.”

I’m not saying your choices will lead you down an easy path. Most of God’s paths aren’t rosy: look at Jesus’ example. But if Jesus isn’t on the path, maybe you shouldn’t be either.

If you’re looking for Biblical support for this, consider how Jesus walked away from successful ministry (Luke 4:43), or how Paul bypassed part of the Great Commission for his ministry choices (compare Matthew 28:19’s commands with 1Corinthians 1:17).

Walk with Jesus. Know him well. Love him well. Then do what you want, what you feel you should do. Do what actually works for you.


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Letters

The Vengeance of God


Isaiah 61 begins, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor...”



This much is familiar to us. It’s the part that Jesus quoted when he began his public ministry (Luke 4). It was him announcing, “This is my job description for the next three and a half years. This is the what Messiah will be among you.”

But the statement He quotes from in Isaiah 61 goes on; Jesus actually stopped in the middle of a sentence. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve heard - and I agree with them - saying “That’s because it wasn’t yet time for the next part.” Which reads:

“...and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

We are clearly no longer in the days of Messiah, at least the days of his earthly ministry. I wonder if we’re now in the next bit, “the day of vengeance of our God.”

Look at how this verse defines the day of God’s vengeance. It continues on and describes God’s vengeance as:

¤ to comfort all who mourn,
¤ to provide for those who grieve in Zion,
¤ to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
¤ [to bestow on them] the oil of joy instead of mourning,
¤ [to bestow on them] a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Resulting in:

¤ They will be called oaks of righteousness,
¤ [They will be called] the planting of the Lord.
¤ [They will be called] for the display of his splendor.

That is how Isaiah describes “the day of vengeance of our God”: comforting, providing for, blessing his victims, until they are firmly established and displaying his splendor.

Hmm. I  believe I’ve misunderstood God’s vengeance.

I had learned about vengeance from Romans 12:19, which tells me, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”

I’ve always interpreted this as, “Don’t you beat ‘em up and make ‘em pay. God can beat on ‘em far more severely than you can!”

That was my understanding of vengeance. It was the image of God as my hit man, so I didn’t need to dirty my hands (or dirty my soul). He’d do the dirty work for me.

If I was really honest, the idea that I’d always had modeled for me was “God save me and destroy my enemies!” And I rather adopted that idea too, not in so many words, but this was the worldview from which I prayed.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s right any more. That’s not what his vengeance is; where he’s leading us.

Rather, God appears to want to save me AND save my enemies! (What? He loves those idiots, too?)

Jesus stopped quoting Isaiah before he mentioned the vengeance of God. But that didn’t stop him preaching these values.

Everybody loved it when he quoted Isaiah and announced, “That’s right here, right now.” They all smiled and nodded and clapped politely.

But when he went on, things changed.

Seven verses later, Luke records, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”

That’s a pretty big attitude change. What pissed them off so badly?

I’m glad you asked. In between, he declared, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

He was preaching that God wanted to save Israel AND save the gentiles.

It angered the religious community then, and it seems to anger the religious community now. But that’s not my issue here.

My focus here is that this idea that God wants to save us AND save “them” too is far more consistent with God’s character than the idea that God iss our hit man, on duty to smite our enemies so we don’t need to dirty our hands.

I remember a verse from my youth (from when I used to focus on sin as I was presenting the “good news”): “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). That’s him saving his enemies.

I could go on. Now that I stop and think about it (and I’ve been thinking about this for months), I find the value all over Scripture, now that I’m beginning to be willing to see it.

But for now, I’m going to just make this statement:

The vengeance of God is not about  smiting my enemies. It’s about saving them, about blessing them with everything he’s blessing me with.

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Letters

The Echoes of Greatness



Back when Seattle’s Kingdome was still up, I had an interesting experience there. I was with some friends who were setting up for a Promise Keepers thing (yeah, that long ago).

They shushed all the workers, and waited for it to get quiet. Then they dropped the lid on a huge equipment case. It made a formidable “Bang” as I expected. Then it echoed. And echoed. And echoed. It was nearly a minute before that single bang stopped rumbling around that room.

Another time, I was with a musician (a gift I do not have) at a canyon with a solid echo. She made music with the canyon. She sang some things, and the canyon echoed them back later, and then she sang harmony or rhythm with it. It was amazing. She was literally singing with herself through the time warp of that canyon’s echo.

While I don’t have the music gene, I do have the science gene. Did you know that both radar and sonar are both examples of creating pictures using echoes? Sonar uses echoes of sound under water. Radar uses echoes of radio waves in the air. It’s amazing how much detail they can come up with if they’re careful.

Sound is an interesting thing. It’s just stuff vibrating. Most commonly it’s air vibrating, but sound travels through most anything that will pass vibrations on. Water is especially good. Even space is not completely empty; many kinds of vibrations do still pass through space.

Another thing about sound is that it takes time to get from here to there. Light takes time too, but compared with light or electricity or radio waves, sound is really slow. That’s why when we see a lightning strike, the crash of thunder is delayed.

(You can measure the distance to the strike: every five seconds of delay indicates a mile; a twenty second delay means the strike was four miles away. Physics is also useful!)

One more factoid about sound: it loses volume as it travels distance (and therefore time). It’s a logarithmic scale, so every time the distance doubles, the volume drops by another six decibels, or about half of it’s energy.

So if the thunder you heard twenty seconds after you saw the lightning strike was 90 decibels, then twenty miles further away it will drop to 84 decibels, but it won’t drop that much again until it hits 78 miles from the source, but that won’t happen until almost a minute and a half after the strike. The next time it drops by half will be 160 miles (and almost three minutes) away. And it keeps going.

Sound loses half its energy every time you double the distance (or the time) since it was created. But that means that no sound ever goes away completely. It just keeps losing a portion of its energy. In fact, science nerds have actually measured the echoes of the Big Bang, from 13.8 billion years ago. It was very quiet, and they had to listen closely, but they did hear it (and they won a Nobel Prize for it),

OK. Sorry for the nerd-fest there. But we’re not quite done yet.

When God spoke and said, “Let there be light,” he made a sound. (My screwball personal opinion is that this sound actually was the Big Bang, but who knows.) Because he made a sound, therefore by the laws of physics, the echoes of his voice are still rattling around the universe.

The other thing that happened when God spoke and said, “Let there be light,” was that light was, in fact, created. When God speaks – and this is one of the basic facts of the universe – God’s voice carries not only information, it also carries power; it carries the power to accomplish what is declared. Think of it as the design for the creation and the funding to make it happen.

(And that, of course, is why our own words are so important. Being created in God’s “image and likeness,” our words also carry both information and power, though maybe not as much as his. We need to wield that power intentionally, not carelessly, but regardless of our means, power is wielded when we speak.)
Now here’s where I’m going. If the echoes of God’s creative statements are still echoing around the universe (and they are), does that also mean that the information and the power that they carried is also still echoing around the universe?

Image result for star nurseryI recall that there are a whole lot of places in the universe (seriously: trillions of such places) where ordinary matter is condensing into big blobs of matter, where friction and gravity ignites them and a new star is born, spewing forth newly created light where no light had been a moment ago. That looks to me like an echo of “Let there be light.”

The part that really captures my attention is a little later in that same Bible chapter, where God spoke again. Part of those words included, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.”

What if those words that resulted in the creation of mankind are still echoing around the universe, echoing around the Earth? Would that mean that God’s creativity is still at work forming mankind, forging mankind? Or do you think our creation was a one-time thing, and God isn’t still refining his masterpiece?

I have begun to wonder if we as a species are still in the process of creation. We’re not just starting out, but neither are we finished and done. I’m thinking that God is still molding and forming and making us into the mature Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom that he’s always planned for us to be.

The human race is pretty untidy. But it’s not broke. It’s just not finished yet.



Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1John 3:2

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Letters

Jesus and Intercessors


I woke up thinking this morning about how Jesus interacted with folks.

As I was wandering towards wakefulness, I was praying for some folks in my mind, silently. That’s a little unusual for me; I usually pray out loud (it keeps my mind from wandering) and while I’m walking (it keeps me from drifting off).

But I was still snuggled in my bed, two-thirds asleep, so I wasn’t walking anywhere and I wasn’t yet able to speak out loud. I was just remembering a few folks before God, asking his blessing, very specific blessings, on them.

For some of them, I’m asking for healing. Fairly often when I’m praying for healing, I reflect on how the Great Physician did his healing, cuz I want to be more like him.

And I realized that when Jesus was on Earth, he didn’t real often respond to silent prayers, unspoken requests. In fact, there are only a couple of stories where that could maybe have been what he was responding to, but even then, that’s only a guess: the text doesn’t say that. (Consider Luke 7:13 & John 5:6.)

And even in those situations, he interacted with the folks before wielding power on their behalf. This wasn’t an anonymous, drive-by intercession.

The vast majority of times, Jesus was responding to people face-to-face, to passionate people. Often tears were involved. Most (but significantly, not all) of the time, Jesus responded to people who came to him, who interrupted his day, and even then, he sometimes grilled them on what it was that they really wanted (as in Mark 10:51). Specificity, apparently, is good.

It appears that Jesus wanted folks to come to him; maybe it’s my imagination as I read the stories, but it looks to me like he seemed to enjoy the audacious ones (like Mark 2:4 & 10:48).

I observe that Jesus sometimes went way the heck out of his way with the apparent intent of making himself available to be interrupted by people’s passionate petitions (Mark 7:24 & Luke 19:5).

I also observe that Jesus never turned a single person away who had come to him for healing, even when it resulted in delaying his ministry to someone else (as in Matthew 9:20); he stopped for the one, and then went on about the task after fully responding to the interruption, even though it was now a “bigger” job (Mark 5:36).

And then there’s that time that Jesus heard about the need, and did nothing for a couple of days. (John 11:6. Note that the message said, “Lazarus is sick,” but it had taken several days to get the message to Jesus: by the time word reached Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. Jesus waited to respond so that he could be raised after “four days,” a thing that had not been done before.)

I learn from this story that Jesus doesn’t always answer prayers real quickly, and yeah, sometimes things get worse while I’m waiting for that answer. That’s never comfortable, for me or for him (John 11:35).

The conclusion I came to, as I drifted awake, was that Jesus pretty consistently responded to people getting his attention and asking for something. He didn’t generally just see the need and make it happen, and he didn’t appear to respond to polite, delicate, or hidden prayers from comfy places.



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Letters

Target Fixation



I’m pretty careful about where my attention goes, and about how I handle my words. God’s instructions are pretty clear, and I’ve learned over the years that there’s reason for his instructions.

That command shows up in at least two places:

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.”

The other is in Hebrews 12:1& 2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

There’s a common thread in these: Guard what your attention is on. You know, I think he’s serious about this.

Have you heard of “Target fixation”? Whatever you focus your attention on, you tend to become like.

In these passages, God’s telling us to focus our attention on stuff that – should we actually put our attention on them – we’d become “excellent” and “praiseworthy” in our character; we’d become Christ-like.

That’s an excellent goal in itself.

But regardless of the result, it’s still a command. “Do this.” “Think about such things.” “Fix your eyes on Jesus.”

I take him seriously. :)





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Letters

Audacious Prayer


Conversation, even online conversation, is a useful tool for discovering what’s in the heart, discovering what you’ve begun to believe that you didn’t realize you believed. These are some of the best conversations in my world.

Recently, I’ve been conversing about audacious prayers, “crazy prayers” with some good folks, and I realized some things that I have begun to believe.

I’ve been burned badly by “crazy prayers,” my crazy prayers, that I’ve prayed which were not actually on the heart of my Father. He graciously answered them anyway. It took the better part of a decade to recover from one of them. His grace, his kindness during that season were overwhelming.

And I’ve prayed some “crazy prayers” (for things I frankly did NOT even believe at the time) because he said to, which he then answered. Some of these completely revolutionized my life and my family’s life, and others changed the shape of my neighborhood, my city.

As a result, I’m all for “crazy prayers” that are in His heart – whether they were in his heart to begin with and I just figured it out, or whether they started in my heart, and he’s supporting my free will. But if I don’t find them in Father’s heart, I’m pretty gun-shy about what I’m asking for, what I’m speaking about.

I believe I’ve come to this: the more audacious the prayer, the more I need to have confidence that it is in my Father’s heart before I speak them out.

But if I hear these things from him, if I find even the most audacious, the craziest prayers reflecting his heart, then yeah, let’s do this! 



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Letters

How Jesus & the Apostles used “Repent”


I really love listening to the Bible. I’ve been listening through the gospels recently.

And wouldn’t you know it? It got me thinking again! How *does* that keep happening? (I love Holy Spirit’s lessons!)

I’m aware that the word “repent” has been one of the stumbling blocks for a lot of folks, particularly for people who have been raised in church or in religious households. So I listen closely when that word comes up.

And it came up today. I perked up.


But first, a little background:

We have two different camps in the Western church for how to interpret the word.

The traditional view, particularly popular in Fundamentalist and Pentecostal circles, is the view that understands that repenting involves focusing on action. The focus is generally on repenting *from* something.

If I’m repenting in this view, you can tell by looking. There probably will be confession of sin. There certainly will be commitment to changing certain behaviors. And if I’m doing a really good job of it, there will probably be tears and maybe even snot.

This has become the western, cultural definition of the English word, “repent.”

But the word that the writers of the gospels used for “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeō.” (They didn’t actually speak English.)

The word “metanoeō,” though, doesn’t actually speak of sins or choices or tears.

It’s a combination of two words: “meta” means “in the midst of” and “noeō” which is “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding.” These words indicate that repenting is something that happens in the midst of understanding.

Our word, “metanoeō” itself, literally means “to change one's mind” or “have a new thought.” Apple caught this idea really with their ad campaign “Think Differently.” Their goal was that people would repent from using Windows computers.

And so the more current understanding of the word “repent” is about “changing how I think,” and if I’m repenting in this view, you may or may not be able to see it happen. On the other hand, if you’re attentive, you can tell that it has happened, because I’ll be doing things differently.

And that’s where my thinking started today. Those are really different thoughts, and the folks who hold to those views hold them pretty passionately. There have been arguments.

I asked myself, How can I know beyond question which way that God thinks about repentance, because I really want my thinking to follow the paths that his thinking leads.

And I realized that when Jesus or the disciples used the word “Repent” in their preaching, that the context of that preaching would indicate what the word meant to them. I wanted to know what it meant to them.

I reflected on this. Rather a lot. All I need to do is “watch” them preach, and observe how they used the word. This might be easier than I thought.

If they held the first view of repentance, turning from sin and confessing, then that value would be part of their preaching. When they spoke of repenting, they’d talk about what to repent from, they’d emphasize changing behavior as the priority in their message, and they’d be pleased when people confessed their sins and wept. We’d be able to observe these things if this was their message.

But if their use of the word was about “changing your mind” or “thinking differently,” then their sermons would involve either words or actions that would help people to see things differently. They might explain what something means, or they might demonstrate new and different values, or they might contrast the way things are now with they way they used to be.

As you read the gospels and Acts, keep these thoughts in mind: besides using the word “repent,” what else is their sermon accomplishing?

The passage that triggered these thoughts is in Mark 6, as Jesus sends the boys out on their first missions trip. Then Mark says, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

Now all I needed to do was examine their behaviors and decide if they were focusing on the sin that people needed to walk away from, or if they were demonstrating a new way of thinking that these people hadn’t considered before.

They preach “repent” (which literally means “change your thinking”), and then they demonstrate deliverance and healing. They demonstrated the values of the Kingdom the people had never heard about before: this king is about deliverance; this king is about healing; this king is about your well-being.

I’m thinking that when the disciples used the word “repent,” they meant “Change how you’re thinking, or you’ll miss this Kingdom.”

Now the disclaimers for folks who have always understood “repent” as coming to the altar in tears, promising to stop sinning: Those are fine values. But they’re more likely to be the fruit of repentance than repentance itself.

And occasionally Jesus would say, “Go and sin no more.” But that was never the focus of his message. That seemed to me to be tagged on at the end, and it only happened sometimes. Not a priority.

I need to repent. I need to change how I see God.

For example: if I stop seeing God as a grumpy old man with judgment and smiting on his mind, and instead I see a loving Father who will pay any price, ANY price, in order to tell me he loves me, that absolutely will have an effect on my actions.

I’ll fall in love. And when I’m in love, I won’t want to do the stupid things that will endanger that love relationship. So I will no longer drink or smoke or chew or go out with girls who do, not because I’m adhering to a standard, not out of fear of judgment, but because that’s what love does.

I suggest that we look at the words and the actions of God – both New Testament and Old – as a loving God, who will do anything for his children, and give up on the grumpy judge, and see how that changes how you respond to God.

I’ll bet you it’s easier to love a passionate father than a grumpy judge! And it’s easier to obey him. 

Let's preach this message: “You might need to change your thinking. God’s not like you thought. May I tell you what he’s really like? Here, let me show you!”



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Are We Mere Men?


I’ve been struck by how much vitriol and, well, hatred that there is toward certain congressional leaders among Christians. I’m struck by how much vitriol and, well, hatred that there is toward President Trump among other Christians.  

I’m actually quite disappointed in how free Christians are about telling the world of their hatred for various leaders in Washington.

Let me hurriedly add that I have no great love for their political shenanigans! I abhor their apparent willful dismantling of the American constitution. I can see why so many American patriots have such hatred toward them.

But Christians? Really?

I get that we care about what’s going on with our country. I get it that icky things are being revealed.  And believe me, I understand that what has been going on with our country over the past several years is pretty bad, about as bad as anything since the Boston Tea Party. I get that.

And I also get that we want to vent our frustration about what’s going on, and our frustration about our political powerlessness.

But this is not how sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God express themselves.

I find myself thinking of 1 Corinthians 3:3: “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”

“Mere men.” What an indictment. But it appears to be a pretty accurate description of so *many* of the angry, hateful, disrespectful comments I’m hearing from Christians, that I’m seeing posted on Christians’ walls. “Mere men.”

Mere men are people who are swayed more by the news media, than they are by the Word of God. I can tell, because the Word of God tells me to “love without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9) and that our love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) We’re not “bearing” or “enduring” all that well right now, are we?

Then after all that, the Book, the Word of God, our Orders from Heaven, gets even more direct: "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

This is how sons and daughters of the Kingdom respond.

Politically, we are pretty powerless. But that’s on purpose: we are not primarily a political people. We are born to be a people who live from heaven, toward Earth, who walk in a body among the physical and political places and events of this planet, but fundamentally, the reality is that our primary reality is being seated in Heaven, seated with the Son of God, sharing his throne, at the right hand of the Father’s throne.

Fundamentally, the power we wield is not *supposed* to be merely human. The power that we are born to wield is the power of the Kingdom we’re born into: the power of Heaven. The power that will halt and reverse the damage done by various administrations, various congresses is wielded by the means of prayer: by “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-- for presidents and all those in authority.”

We are a prophetic people, but it’s not legit prophecy to declare what’s wrong and how mad we are about it. That’s the work of “mere men.” That’s submitting to the principalities of this world. Outrage demonstrates our failure.

Our prophetic calling is to call out the solution – which nobody else can even see – to the problem – which nobody needs help seeing. Our calling is to draw resources from Heaven and implement them on earth. To implement them in the House and the Senate and the White House in Washington DC. To implement them in the schools and businesses and news organizations in our communities.

Our calling is to be the fulfillment of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Now let’s see if we can go beyond being “mere men" 

– Nor'west Prophetic

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Letters

Jigsaw Revelation: the Love of God


Have you ever put a jigsaw puzzle together?

Sometimes you find two or three pieces that fit together, and suddenly that part of the picture makes sense, when a moment ago, it looked completely different.

I’m sort of thinking along these lines today. Would you think this through with me? This will likely get uncomfortable; brace yourself (or skip it and move on).

Revelation chapter 20 is in the middle of what appears to be The Epic Judgment Scene at the end of time. In verse 12 is this statement: “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

That’s the scene that we’ve all read about, heard preached about, where people are judged for all the good they’ve done. This is the verse that gives rise to the silly idea that God is going to somehow compare the good that we’ve done against the bad that we’ve done.

We know better than to think that the good we’ve done outweighing the bad we’ve done is the way to reach heaven. We know better, but there’s this statement: “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

It’s like that weird piece of the puzzle that just doesn’t seem to fit in with other pieces of the same color. There’s always one piece like that, isn’t there?

So let’s look at some other pieces of the puzzle. Let’s lay them all out together, and see where they lead us:

• “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” [Revelation 20:12] We’ve seen that one. Then add this one:

• “God is love.” [1 John 4:8 and 16] This isn’t terribly controversial. We knew that, too. Now add this piece in between those two pieces:

• “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” [1 Corinthians 13:5] Now fit these pieces together with me, and see how these work out:

Since God is love (see above), it seems to follow that God would keep no record of wrongs.

And if that’s true, it means that the books that people are judged by, the books that list what everyone has done, they maybe have no record of wrongs.

And if they have no record of wrongs, then they must be only full of the good things that folks have done. That’s a new and different thought. But that’s what these verses say, isn’t it? I know it’s not the harsh judgmental image of God that some people insist on, but I think that might be the God of someone like Jesus.

Now, some people’s books might be thicker than others.

I would expect that Mother Teresa’s book is pretty immense; she did a lot of good. And she maybe needed less “wrongs” erased out of her book. Just a thought.

Osama bin Laden’s book is on that shelf. I’m absolutely confident that there is some good recorded in his book, though he was famous on the earth for the other kind of things, the kind of things of which no record is kept.

My book is there, and perhaps it’s between theirs. I have to say that I am not overly offended by the idea that my book may be missing some of the things that I’ve done in my life.

Yes, Scripture declares the dead were judged by what was recorded in the books, and at least for the moment, I’m suspecting that this means that the dead were judged by the good that they did in their lives, not by the wrong that they did.

That sounds like an awards ceremony of some sort. Everybody gets a prize. Some are big, some are small.

It reminds me of Paul’s words:

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved--even though only as one escaping through the flames.” [1 Corinthians 3:12-15]

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I often insist on reading things in context, and the context of this statement in Revelation 20 is fascinating. There was another Book on the table in that scene, the Book of Life, and that’s where the real judgement happened: was their name in that book?

“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” [Revelation 20:15] That’s another story, another judgement, of course.

It’s a big deal, but it’s not what I’m looking at today.

The first judgement, the judgement based on “what they had done as recorded in the books,” I’m wondering if that judgement is based on records that “keep no record of wrongs” because they’re kept by the God who is Love. Hmm…

And if my Father keeps no records of wrong in my book, and if it’s true that “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more,” then I have several reasons to give up my records of who’s done right and who’s done wrong in my perception.

This way of recordkeeping will change my personal relationships, of course, but I’m suddenly impressed that this will affect how I read the news. Love keeps no record of wrong.

Hmm. This might be an interesting season.





                                               

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Letters

What Is The Vengeance Of God?


You know, I think we’ve misunderstood the idea of God’s vengeance.

For example, in Isaiah 61, God defines his idea of what vengeance should be like:

“…proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God (and here he defines it for us):

• to comfort all who mourn,
• and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 
• to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
• the oil of joy instead of mourning,
• and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
• They will be called oaks of righteousness,
• a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
• They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;
• they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
• Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
• And you will be called priests of the LORD,
• you will be named ministers of our God.
• You will feed on the wealth of nations,
• and in their riches you will boast.
• Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion,
• and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.
• And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
• and everlasting joy will be yours.

This is how God defines “the day of vengeance of our God.”

Perhaps we should consider defining it the same way as well.

“Oh, you’re suffering? You need a little vengeance! Come here, you! Let us love on you!”



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Letters

Won’t I Be Bored in Heaven?




Recently, someone asked an interesting question. They asked if we wouldn’t be bored in Heaven?

I used to be concerned about that rather a lot. I don’t do real well with boredom, and that exposed some of my assumptions about Heaven.

I realized that while Jesus spoke of Heaven quite a bit, he described the activity in heaven very little. So what happens there is something of a mystery, and I, like most of the Western Church, don’t like mysteries, so we invent things, and that leads to the idea of harps and clouds, or the thought that we’d do nothing but worship for billions of centuries: the ideas of being bored is a real issue.

I’ve had to realize that two lines of thought address that topic:

1)  When does our habitation of Heaven begin? Do we not get to participate in Heaven except after we die (another common, but false, belief)? Why would we be instructed to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” if we weren’t supposed to experience Heaven here, on Earth.

One could also ask: when do we gain eternal life? Do we only become eternal beings after we die? Or do we become eternal beings when we come to faith in Jesus – when we submit to His Kingship, the Kingship of Heaven? Our submission to the Lordship (Kingship) of Jesus is the beginning of my habitation in Heaven. Hmm.

Long story short, we’re seated in Heaven right now (Ephesians 2:6). Am I bored now? If I am, then I’m doing it wrong. If I’m not bored now, I won’t be bored in the other part of Heaven either, the part on the other side of the River.

2) Consider the parables of the Talents (Mt 25) and the Minas (Luke 19): the King entrusts us with some of His valuables, and leaves to go inherit a Kingdom (“…prepare a place for you…”?). Then he comes back after he receives that Kingdom (Luke 19:12) to evaluate how we’ve done. (Sound familiar at all? Consider Rev 20:12.)

So after the King returns, he judges the works of the folks he’s entrusted his riches to.

So what happened to the folks who did a good job with the King’s riches in these parables? What does it say?  “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’”

Authority over cities. I’ve never ruled a city, but I imagine that it it’s not boring. Particularly if I consider Jesus’ model for ruling, which is largely based on washing feet. That’s a lot of people to serve, to assist into their full destiny.

I don’t think we’re going to have any time to be bored in Heaven. I think we’ll have work to do, or at least the way Jesus talked about it suggests it, though it does not say it clearly.

I observe that from an Earthly perspective, the idea of civil government (ruling a city) contrasts with the worship festival that Scripture describes quite metaphorically in Revelation 5 (and other locations). I figure that this is just my earthly perspective getting out of hand. Serving saints, ruling cities, that strikes me as an excellent way to worship Jesus!

As a side note, I reflect that there are only a few things that are of enough enduring value to matter in Heaven:

• Human beings,
• The Word of God
• Relationships, with God & with people.

So I figure that these are the treasures (minas, talents) that Jesus has given, that he’s expecting to receive a return on his investment with. I figure that our handling of these treasures has a lot to do with how bored or how busy we will be in Eternity.

I no longer worry about being bored.

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Letters

Won’t I Be Bored in Heaven?




Recently, someone asked an interesting question. They asked if we wouldn’t be bored in Heaven?

I used to be concerned about that rather a lot. I don’t do real well with boredom, and that exposed some of my assumptions about Heaven.

I realized that while Jesus spoke of Heaven quite a bit, he described the activity in heaven very little. So what happens there is something of a mystery, and I, like most of the Western Church, don’t like mysteries, so we invent things, and that leads to the idea of harps and clouds, or the thought that we’d do nothing but worship for billions of centuries: the ideas of being bored is a real issue.

I’ve had to realize that two lines of thought address that topic:

1)  When does our habitation of Heaven begin? Do we not get to participate in Heaven except after we die (another common, but false, belief)? Why would we be instructed to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” if we weren’t supposed to experience Heaven here, on Earth.

One could also ask: when do we gain eternal life? Do we only become eternal beings after we die? Or do we become eternal beings when we come to faith in Jesus – when we submit to His Kingship, the Kingship of Heaven? Our submission to the Lordship (Kingship) of Jesus is the beginning of my habitation in Heaven. Hmm.

Long story short, we’re seated in Heaven right now (Ephesians 2:6). Am I bored now? If I am, then I’m doing it wrong. If I’m not bored now, I won’t be bored in the other part of Heaven either, the part on the other side of the River.

2) Consider the parables of the Talents (Mt 25) and the Minas (Luke 19): the King entrusts us with some of His valuables, and leaves to go inherit a Kingdom (“…prepare a place for you…”?). Then he comes back after he receives that Kingdom (Luke 19:12) to evaluate how we’ve done. (Sound familiar at all? Consider Rev 20:12.)

So after the King returns, he judges the works of the folks he’s entrusted his riches to.

So what happened to the folks who did a good job with the King’s riches in these parables? What does it say?  “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’”

Authority over cities. I’ve never ruled a city, but I imagine that it it’s not boring. Particularly if I consider Jesus’ model for ruling, which is largely based on washing feet. That’s a lot of people to serve, to assist into their full destiny.

I don’t think we’re going to have any time to be bored in Heaven. I think we’ll have work to do, or at least the way Jesus talked about it suggests it, though it does not say it clearly.

I observe that from an Earthly perspective, the idea of civil government (ruling a city) contrasts with the worship festival that Scripture describes quite metaphorically in Revelation 5 (and other locations). I figure that this is just my earthly perspective getting out of hand. Serving saints, ruling cities, that strikes me as an excellent way to worship Jesus!

As a side note, I reflect that there are only a few things that are of enough enduring value to matter in Heaven:

• Human beings,
• The Word of God
• Relationships, with God & with people.

So I figure that these are the treasures (minas, talents) that Jesus has given, that he’s expecting to receive a return on his investment with. I figure that our handling of these treasures has a lot to do with how bored or how busy we will be in Eternity.

I no longer worry about being bored.

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Letters

Audacious Prayer




Conversation, even online conversation, is a useful tool for discovering what’s in the heart, discovering what you’ve begun to believe that you didn’t realize you believed. These are some of the best conversations in my world.

Recently, I’ve been conversing about audacious prayers, “crazy prayers” with some good folks, and I realized some things that I have begun to believe.


I’ve been burned badly by “crazy prayers” that I’ve prayed which were not on the heart of my Father, but which he graciously answered anyway. Took the better part of a decade to get over one of them. His grace, his kindness during that decade were overwhelming.

And I’ve prayed some “crazy prayers” (for things I frankly did NOT believe at the time) at his direction, which he then answered, and which revolutionized my life and my family’s life, others that changed the shape of my neighborhood, my city.

As a result, I’m all for “crazy prayers” that are in His heart – whether they were in his heart to begin with and I just figured it out, or whether they started in my heart, and he’s supporting my free will. 

But if I don’t find them in Father’s heart, I’m pretty gun-shy about what I’m asking for, what I’m speaking about.

I believe I’ve come to this: the more audacious the prayer, the more I need to have confidence that it is in my Father’s heart before I speak them out.

But if I hear them from him, if I find even the most audacious, the craziest prayers reflecting his heart, then yeah, let’s do this!



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