Letters

Scripture Interpreting Scripture: Eternity

You know how some things are better when they’re together? There’s more goodness when the right things come together. Cookies & milk are like that. Red wine & good cheese. Garlic & onion.

I always enjoy finding new combinations of things that belong together, that I had never considered together before. Sometimes that happens to me with Scripture. This is called letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and it’s known to be a good way to interpret the Bible.

When two or three passages are put together, sometimes they mean more than they did when they were apart. And since “all Scripture is God breathed, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” we can be confident that it’s a legitimate use of the Bible to use all of it for teaching or correcting our understanding of God.

For example, consider Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s kind of a big statement. It’s basically just a big list of stuff that cannot separate us from the love of God. There’s a lot of comfort in those verses.

Recently, two of the items on the list stood out to me: the first one (“death”) and the last one (“nor anything else in all creation”) also cannot separate us from the love of God. That’s a big deal.

And as I was reflecting on how we can’t be separated from God’s love by death or nothing else, another verse drifted through my mind. (It had my Father’s fingerprints on it.)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” [Revelation 21:8]

Wait, what? If death can’t separate me from the love of God, then the second death, the “fiery lake of burning sulfur” cannot separate me from the love of God.

But wait, there’s more! recently, God has been speaking to me through John 12:32, so let’s bring that one into the mix. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” How many people is he drawing to himself? It doesn’t say, “I will draw some people,” or “many people” or “144,000 people” to himself. It says “all.” Whoa.

It also does not say, “I might draw” all people to himself. It says, “I will draw,” and we studied that word to discover it was indeed a forceful drawing, like drawing a sword, or drawing a bow, or drawing a boat up onto the shore. “All” is a big word.

We can certainly argue that the promise of Romans might be only for believers; I know because I’ve done it, trying to make God exclusive. But God isn’t terribly exclusive (though his people certainly are), which makes that application difficult. Possible, but difficult.

And we can certainly argue that the warning of Revelation only apply to unbelievers; I used to teach that too, though if I’m honest, I know believers who fit every one of those qualifiers for the fiery lake, which kind of messes up that argument.

But John’s verse, now that little word “all” throws a pretty epic wrench in that whole “us vs. them” thinking.

So here’s where this whole line of thinking leads me: if there are people in the lake of fire, then the love of God is there with them, right there in the fire with them, doing what the love of God does: drawing people to Jesus.

That’s an unnerving conclusion. At this point, I cannot set this down as “What I Believe.” I can’t say that I’m confident this conclusion is an accurate representation of God (though I’m pretty confident that my previous beliefs were drivel and malarkey, only suitable for fertilizing the tomatoes).

All I’m saying is that if the whole Bible is true (and it is), if all scripture is God breathed (and it is), then I need to consider this carefully, seriously, in the light of the “whole counsel of God,” [Acts 20:27] and also in light of “the exact representation of [God’s] nature” [Hebrews 1:3].

My tentative conclusion is that God is not nearly so interested in smiting as we’ve tended to think he was. No, let me say it another way: God sure appears to be way more committed to the people he loves, and I think that might be everybody.

I think I’ve believed too little of him.

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Letters

The Great Cloud of Witnesses: An Exercise


Here’s an interesting spiritual exercise if you’re interested.

Hebrews 12 begins with this image: “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.”


I’ve been reflecting on that great cloud of witnesses. This passage starts with “Therefore,” which means “Because of what we’ve just talked about....” All of Hebrews 12 rests on the foundation of Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith.”

The great cloud of witnesses, then, is all the saints of God that have gone before us: the famous ones, the great ones, the ordinary ones, the nobodies. By now that’s several billion witnesses that are watching us run our race. Some of them are my predecessors, though it may take a number of generations before I find the interesting ones.

• The exercise that I’m working on this morning is reflecting on specific “whos” that are among that great crowd. Most of these are family members that have gone before me. In my line, there were some preachers several centuries ago, and Sunday school teachers in more recent years, and I know of one or two forbears whose names show up in history books. I’m thinking of them.

• And I’m thinking specifically of them witnessing my race, my life, my choices. I absolutely reject the idea of making my choices because of how it looks to others, even to them, so that’s not it. But I consider their thoughts and feelings as their look on their great (or more) grandson. Are they embarrassed? (What would they be embarrassed about? Heaven has already blotted out my sins!) Are they cheering me on? They’re probably not bored!

• Most of all, I’m trying to look at my life from their perspective: They see the great plan of God. They see history from beginning to end as they’re watching me. What do they see in my life (which is different than what I see in my life) that relates to the great plans of God.

My encouragement then is to take some time and ask Holy Spirit to show me some of what’s going on as the great cloud of witnesses watch me, and specifically as these witnesses that I can think of are watching me, what’s their response to me? Are they cheering? Can they offer strength or encouragement?

This crosses my mind: “What do family members do when they’re watching one of their kids or grandkids running a race? Especially, what do they do when they are approaching the end of the race?” Why they stand up and cheer, don’t they?

Do you see them cheering for you? Can you hear them? Can you feel their joy in you? Their pride in you? Their excitement as your race is approaching that next interesting thing in the purposes of our mutual King?

If you try this, what do you experience? What do you see? What do you hear? Who’s cheering the loudest? Who’s poking the angels and pointing you out?

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Letters

A Measure of Faith

Romans 12:3b: “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Measure: μέτρον Metron. “determined extent, portion measured off, measure or limit.”  This is the same word that describes our “sphere of influence,” also a limited extent.

We learn several things here:


• Our faith is “dealt” or distributed to us from God. We are not the source of our faith. Ephesians 2:8 affirms this.

• God has dealt faith to each one of us. Nobody is left out.

• We’re given a measure of faith, a certain amount. No one among us has infinite faith. It’s possible to increase our capacity for faith, of course, but I’m thinking in other directions right now.

If we reference the mustard seed in Matthew 17:20, we know that a little bit of faith goes a long ways. But if we have a measured amount, it is possible to spend it all, whether a little bit at a time, or in great big battles. This suggests that it’s possible to run out of faith.

That leads me to some questions:

○ Is this the reason we feel depleted after a great fight: we’ve spent a lot of our faith?

○ I wonder if this is why some folks wander away from the faith? Maybe they’ve just run out of faith. Perhaps they’ve squandered it?

○ Does this suggest that maybe we want to be frugal in our spending of faith? (For example: sure we can believe God for every dollar we need, but if we get a job, we spend less faith, so we have more faith to invest in other areas.)

○ Is faith refillable, like my truck’s gas tank? When the gauge is reading low, just go fill it up, remembering that faith is dealt from God. (No pat answers please.)

○ Is faith sharable? It’s awkward to siphon gas from my truck to put into your gas tank, but it’s possible. Can that be done with faith too? Can faith be rented out?

I think we’ve got rather a ways to grow before we know it all. 



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Letters

Maintaining the Garden


I had an interesting train of thought this morning in the … er… Library.

I have some plants and some starts that will go into the garden when the weather stabilizes (around here, that’s traditionally Mother’s Day). I had already brought many of those out of the greenhouse into what may actually be sunshine at some point in the day; it’s a good idea (in my view) to get plants ready for their new environment before I plant them there permanently.

I’m really looking forward to the growing season. I’ve got a fair number of plants ready to go, the garden beds are ready to go. The soil has been turned and amended with fresh compost. The weeds are gone (except for one: I want to know what it will turn into), and I know where each plant will be going. I have a few seeds in the ground (mostly salad things), and I know where more will be going.

And Father ambushed me on that topic. “You keep your garden up-to-date, don’t you?” and he reminded me how I try to keep it weed free all year, how I add plants and fertilize plants and how I water it regularly.

“Yeah, I do. It is a better garden if I take care of it.” I’ve had gardens in the past that I haven’t taken care of very well. They had been overtaken by weeds and grass and their produce was small and scarce.

Then he shifted gears on me; he reminded me of the investment I make in my marriage. “A good marriage takes the same kind of work that a good garden does, doesn’t it?” He reminded me that a marriage needs fertilizer and needs weeds removed just as much as a garden does.

I am (we are) pretty intentional about keeping the relationship healthy. We talk things out, we regularly express our love with words and touches and time together and such. We have maintained a delightful discipline of taking date nights, just for our relationship, every week (or more often) for more than 30 years.  

I reflected on the different joys that my marriage and my garden bring me.

“A relationship with me takes similar investment, you know. And it will bring you similar joy.”

He’s right, you know. (I say that kind of a lot. I’m not going to change that. He is. :) ) A relationship with another person – a marriage relationship, a friendship, a family relationship, a relationship with my creator – takes maintenance. Since we’d started with the metaphor of the garden, I’ll stick with it: it takes adding things (seeds, young plants, fertilizer, water) and taking things away (weeds, birds who want to dig up the seeds and eat the young fruits, cats who are thankful for a clean sandbox) to make the relationship thrive.

I think I’ll be meditating on this for a bit. How can I best invest into my relations with God and with the people around me? 

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Letters

A Closer Look at Clearing the Temple

Jesus cleaned out the temple twice, once at the beginning of his ministry, and once at the end.

A lot of folks read the story about Jesus chasing the cattle and sheep out of the temple, of Jesus overturning the tables of the business-people there, and they infer that Jesus was angry, that he was displaying a holy wrath.

But that’s not what the stories actually say. In fact, since the stories never say what Jesus was feeling. Anybody who declares what Jesus was feeling – whether they think he was angry or whatever – are using something *other* than Scripture for that statement. Mostly, they’re imposing their own imagination into the gap of where the Bible is silent.

That is not Bible interpretation. That’s abusing the Bible to justify your own prejudices and misunderstandings of who God really is.

So what does the Bible actually say?

The first time, in John 2, it says that Jesus saw what was going on in the temple, and then stopped to weave a whip out of cords (literally, out of cords made from rushes, from plants like grass). Some observations:

• It takes a fair bit of time to make a whip, and it takes even longer to make one out of *small* cords. This was not a rash action, not an act of rage or passion. This was carefully thought out.

• The sort of whip you make from rushes or small cords is not a weapon. It’s a flimsy thing, only useful for driving livestock. This is not Indiana Jones’ favorite weapon; it’s more like a sisal rope. It will get the animal’s attention, but no more.

• The record is very clear: Jesus used even that wimpy whip only on the cattle and sheep. He reacted to the people differently, and unpleasantly for them, but Jesus did not go after people with even a wimpy whip.

The second event (Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19) is different. Jesus came into the temple during his “Triumphal Entry” on Palm Sunday. So he saw the shopping mall that they were setting up that day.

But it was the *next* day that he came back and cleaned the place out [Mark 11:11-12].

This was not a rash action either. He went back to his AirBNB outside town, and took no action whatsoever until the next day. He certainly had time to think through his choices. And knowing how Jesus did things, I’ll bet he talked it over with Father before he did anything. After all, this is the guy who said, he “can do only what he sees his Father doing” [John 5:19]. So apparently, cleaning out the temple was something he saw his Father doing.

Conclusion: the actual facts of what the Bible says about these events, absolutely do not support the idea of Jesus flying off the handle, Jesus in a rage, Jesus having a temper tantrum. Jesus was not out of control.

Yes, he did clean the place out. Yes, he did make a big old mess. Yes, he interrupted business in a very big way.

But there is no record of him ever hurting anyone, either human or animal. This was not an emotional reaction of any sort: in both cases, the record is very clear that he took his time before responding.

Summary: there are lot of folks who have a vested interest in the idea of an angry God. Some of them have leathery wings. But the New Testament doesn’t actually support that silly idea nearly as much as they shout and fuss.

Don’t believe their shouting and fussing.
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Letters

Grey Haired Rockers?


There were some remarkably talented musicians in the heyday of rock & roll, back in the 70’s and such.

Have you ever noticed that a whole lot of the “big name” 70’s bands are still on tour, still singing the same songs, still riding that wave. And in all honesty, they’re still making a good living that way, reliving their past successes.

Other artists with just as much of a heyday in the past, are not riding on the past successes. They’re still pushing forward, still staying fresh, still developing.

Don’t worry, this is going to make sense in a minute.

I was listening to one of those “golden oldies” (ironically, it was a song called “Comfortably Numb”) when Father caught my attention, and pointed out that there are at least two lessons to learn here:

1) The artists who made the turn and are still fresh and creative have generally spent a season or three in a hard place before they were able to move on in their craft.  

2) This principle is true in the kingdom (and this one really kicked me in the gut). There are lessons for me (and maybe you) here:

                2a) There are some remarkably gifted ministries of the past heydays of one revival or another who are still singing the same (basic) message, still riding that wave. And in all honesty, they’re still making a living that way, reliving their past successes.  Some are big names; others still have regional or just informal spheres of influence. We notice the big names more.

                2b) There are other ministries (the ones that come to my mind tend toward prophetic ministries, though that may just be my perception) that have had just as much of a heyday in the past,  but are not riding on the past successes. They’re still pushing forward, still staying fresh, still pressing in for a fresh revelation for this fresh season.

                2c) The difference very often is about who has been willing to be allured into the wilderness, away from busyness and “success,” to sit with the Almighty, to listen to his heartbeat, to understand more of his heart, particularly his intents for today.

I remember that after his baptism, Holy Spirit “drove” or “compelled” Jesus into the wilderness [Mark 1:12] for a remarkable and memorable challenge. But at the end of that adventure, “the angels ministered to Him.” And afterwords, he “returned in the power of the Spirit.”

Apparently seasons in the wilderness are valuable.


I observe a few things here:

• Wilderness seasons seem to be God’s timing [cf Mark 1:12 & Hosea 2:14], not ours.
• But our choices are incredibly powerful here:
                ○ Do we choose to go to the scary, uncomfortable place that he’s leading?
                ○ Once we’re in that place, do we stand up and resist the evil that (mistakenly) thinks we’re weak? Do we whine and beg for people to pray for us, or do we stand  in the devil’s face and plant ourselves on the foundation of the Word (both scripture and prophetic words)? [Note: Community is precious in these times, but wildernesses are generally solitary events.]
                ○ Do we let angels minister to us? (Do we know how?)
                ○ When we come successfully through the wilderness, we walk in more of “the power of the Spirit.” What do we do with that power, that influence?

If this feels rough, that’s only because it is. I’m in the midst of these lessons myself. I don’t have all the answers anymore. I only share this in case others are going through such a time, or will shortly, and might benefit from some signposts along that trail into the wild places.

#AlMacksJournal

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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

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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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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Faux Report

Daily Meditation Improves Orgasms In Men And Women

meditation

DOVER, New Hampshire – 

In addition to relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving concentration, meditation has a new claim-to-fame. Meditating daily has been show to increase orgasm intensity, duration, and even load size in both men and women.

Chuck Young says he started meditating after seeing improvement in his wife. “I was wondering what she was doing in there when all that ‘omming’ turned into moaning,” said Young. “I’m not into that new-agey stuff, but after seeing how it’s helped her, I make time to meditate every morning. Not only are my orgasms much more intense, I feel better and am able to focus more at work.”

Orgasm improvement can be seen on day one. The key is mindfulness and not worrying about “doing it right.” Young claims it didn’t come easy at first, but he has made adaptations that work for him. “I haven’t learned how to clear my mind yet, so I meditate on breasts. Big, milky breasts. Meditation wasn’t easy at first, but not it comes to me like nothing.”

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