Letters

Testimony: The Covid “Vaccine”

A Little background:

 
• The Covid 19 virus is a real virus. People are dying from it.

• But the virus is being blown way the heck out of proportion, and most of the deaths attributed to Covid are actually people who had the virus dying from something else. (CDC has acknowledged it..)

• A fair number of people are scared silly of the virus. (This is not a time for judging.)

• There are a few vaccines for the virus. Except that they’re not vaccines, they’re “experimental therapies.”

• A fair number of people are scared silly of the vaccines/experimental therapies. (This is not a time for judging.)

• The federal government and a good number of state and local governments are working overtime to convince us that we need to get the vaccines/experimental therapies. (Ironically, as I’m writing this, I’m getting text and email notifications working to persuade me to get the treatment.)

• The attempts to manipulate/convince the public are primarily based on either bribes or threats; they are mostly not based on logic, research, or science.

• It’s pretty well documented that the medical community has opportunity to make a lot of money from the government for promoting the Covid “vaccine,” for treating Covid symptoms, for reporting Covid deaths. (NB: It’s my policy to place a lower value on the opinions of people who are being well paid to have and to convince me those opinions.)

• A fair number of people are scared silly of the government’s intentions. (This is not a time for judging.)

• The Bible is pretty clear: we don’t actually have reason to be afraid, and in fact we are commanded to not fear.

• A fair number of people are afraid to trust God when our health, our life or our government is on the line. (This is not a time for judging.)

OK. That’s the background. (Note that I’m not interested in arguing about these points. If you feel that urge to fuss about these, go somewhere else to do it.)

TESTIMONY. This is my own story; fair warning: it might be long and rambling.

I’m a fairly strong, fairly healthy adult male with a solid immune system. I’m not actually afraid of the virus. I’ve walked with Jesus long enough to know that he’s serious about his ability to take care of me, and I know that it’s true that “whether I live or I die, I am the Lord’s.”


I’ve heard first hand reports from medical professionals, from people who have taken the vaccine; I’ve read the manufacturers’ statements about them (and their disclaimers of any liability for their product).


Based on what I’ve read (and I’ve read the original CDC & other reports, not just the news reports about them), I don’t see any reason why I personally need to take the vaccine/experimental therapy that they’re so aggressively promoting. I don’t judge those who take it, but I am comfortable concluding that it’s not for me.

But there are people around me who are scared of the virus, some more than others, of course. Many of these are MY people, people I would die for, people who would die for me: people I love.

These people are scared for me, and they believe they have reason. They consider me higher risk for more than one reason, and the reports agree with them. Some of these people trust the vaccine/experimental therapy, and they want me to “protect myself” and take it. Some of them want me to take it as protection for themselves. (This is not a time for judging.)

So this put me in a tough place. I was confident that I didn’t need the vaccine/experimental therapy, and that in fact, I would be wise to avoid it.

But people who love me were paying a price for my choice. That wasn’t comfortable for me. There were people, people I love and whom I love to be around, that weren’t comfortable being around me. That’s not comfortable for me.

That’s been a hard place. And when I find myself in hard places like that, I try to remember to take these to my Father, so I brought this awkward, confusing, emotionally-charged mess that was in my heart to him. He listened quietly for a while (or at least I assumed he was listening, but he sure was quiet). I poured out my concerns and confusions to him. I wasn’t OK with this divided heart thing going on.

We spent a while here, days, maybe weeks, not minutes or hours. But eventually, his peace did what it does, and it settled my thoughts and emotions and drew my attention back to my Father’s goodness where it belongs.

And in that process, he drew my attention to Mark’s version of the Great Commission, and to one clause in particular: “If they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.” He wasn’t giving me a direction in the midst of the options, he was just reminding me: “This is the way I am with you, Son.”

As I kept praying (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stopped listening too early!), I felt his affirmation that I could trust him, I could trust this promise, whichever way I chose to go, but this was my choice to make; he wasn’t going to make my choices for me here.

I still believe that this virus isn’t a threat for me personally, and I still believe that I don’t need the experimental therapy that’s being promoted.

So I signed up to get the experimental therapy, confident that it will by no means hurt me. That was long enough ago that I had to work really hard to get it; it was really awkward, really uncomfortable, really irritating to jump through all the hoops. (The notifications I’m getting now announce that some places have it available for walk-ins.)

After several weeks, I made it to the front of the line and it was my turn. They had me sign a raft of papers (and were really confused when I insisted on reading what I was signing), and the nurse who gave me the injection confessed that he didn’t believe we needed “a ‘vaccine’ that is 95% effective against a disease with a 99+% survival rate.” We laughed about it together.

When it came time for the second injection, people crawled out of the woodwork to tell me their horror stories of how bad the second one was, and how dangerous it was, and how that’s where people got sick from the second one. Thanks folks!

So I reminded myself pretty aggressively of Father’s promise. “If they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.” My version went this way: “If I am injected with anything deadly, it will by no means hurt me.” It was kind of hard work to agree with him instead of all the fear-driven testimonies.

The next morning, I woke up feeling “off,” and the doubts whispered into my ear: “See! I told you you’d get sick! Now it’s happened to you!”

So I had a conversation with my soul. “If I am injected with anything deadly, it will by no means hurt me.” I kind of had a shouting match inside my soul for a while, but eventually my soul gave in, the symptoms vanished, and I had a great day. That was a month or two ago, and I haven’t been sick for a day since.

I still shake my head (sometimes when my soul gets out of line) at how much this changes the hearts and the choices of some of the people I love, but then I remember, “I did this for you, because I love you.” I can’t generally tell them that, of course, because they think I was convinced of their opinions when I saw the error of my ways because of their insightful presentation of the media’s hysteria.

And I feel my Father’s comfortable pleasure with my choices here. It was my choice, your choice might be completely different. But this is how I dealt with it.

I hope my story is helpful to you.
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Letters

Sometimes we fire blanks.

Sometimes we fire blanks.

Oh, we don't mean to. We think we are firing powerful weapons of war, kicking ass and taking names.

But sometimes, sometimes we're actually firing blanks.

Jesus modeled for us a way to pray that was more about telling the situation how it needs to be, rather than about us whining at God to pleeeeease make it be that way. We are learning to command, to declare, rather than to ask politely. Or impolitely.

That much is good.

The problem is, so often we just fire blanks.

We read the Gospels oh, and we observe how Jesus did it. He said, Lazarus come forth! And Lazarus came forth. He said, I am willing, be cleansed. And the leper was instantly healed.

We look at the model of Jesus, and we make it our model. But we are only looking at part of the model that Jesus gave us. We're looking at his Harvest, not his labor.

I am a member of a few prayer groups. I am embarrassed to tell you how many times, in response to a really dire need, somebody pipes up, blithely commanding all demons to go to hell, smugly decreeing bones and skin and organs to line up, happily commanding this and that, and wrapping it all up with a grin of self-congratulation.

And of course very little actually changes. Nobody really expected it would. I think even that the enthusiastic intercessor himself didn't expect it. And why would he? We get so that we’re commanding everything nowadays, and nobody points out that it's not really changing much of anything. The emperor has no clothes on, but everyone is afraid to mention it.

Yeah, I know. I’ve overstated it in order to make a point. You know this goes on, at least some of the time.

I have been reflecting on how much of Jesus’ life is hidden from the casual reader of his biographies in the Gospels. I suspect that this is on purpose. If we really want to know the secrets, he wants to go find them for ourselves, to do the work of learning, to make the knowledge our own.

The gospels are quick to tell his hero testimonies, how he healed this person, raised that guy from the dead, all before lunch, and without raising a sweat.

That's the part that big, flashy, and easily captures our attention. But it's only the end of the story. We miss the beginning and the middle. And I think that if we don't follow all of Jesus’ example, the beginning, the middle, and the end, we will probably not have the results that Jesus had.

I have been involved in a lot of spiritual war. I have friends who have been in so much more than I have. Some of it has been successful; some has been less successful. Ultimately, I think that Winston Churchill may have had it right. War involves blood, sweat, toil, tears. And healing the sick, raising the dead, these are acts of War. It’s not a quick declaration of victory and move on.

I've been thinking about the topic of rest recently. God is constantly inviting his people to a place of rest. Not a place of doing nothing, a place of doing much, but doing it from the place of resting in him. Kind of a foreign concept to most of us, I think. But it wasn't foreign to Jesus. Jesus seemed pretty big on working from a place of rest. I’m beginning to learn the value of this.

And Jesus was always getting away with Father. Sure, we have our “quiet times,” and that’s a great starting point, but it seemed that Jesus spent all night in prayer sometimes. All night, getting to know what Father was doing and thinking.

In fact, there was one time he spent much of the night in prayer, and it was hard work. He sweat blood. We talk about that in the context of the Easter story, but as he said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Paul kept up the theme. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”

I’m not saying that blood is the signifier of a solid prayer life. I’m saying there’s work involved, hard work, if we’re aspiring to declare with the kind of power that Jesus’ declarations had.

There is one more secret, I think, that we need to lay hold of. In John 5, Jesus revealed this secret: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

The last secret (for this moment) of Jesus’ amazing record was that he was only doing what he saw Father doing.

A whole lot of our failing comes from our making our declarations about things that are in our heart and mind that are not actually things that Father is doing. They may be things that we wish he was doing, things that we think he might want to do, or things that we ourselves want, and we’re maybe just putting God’s name on them.

That’s a whole lot different than seeing what God is doing, or seeing the situation - really seeing it! - in its completed state, and then telling reality to line up with that vision.

This is a hard one to ‘fess up to. But we kind of have to separate our desires from his, separate soul from spirit, as it were, in order to walk how Jesus walked.

I’m so thankful that we’re growing up into Him. We’re going to change the world. In him.

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Letters

Watch Out for the Yeast!


“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast [the influence] of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

The religious spirit and the political spirit are really bad influences on believers. Watch out.

They’re both about control; they’re both about about public opinion, optics: how does this look to the people watching?

That doesn’t mean to stay distant from religious people or the religious system. Jesus didn’t. He attended synagogue, temple, dinners with Pharisees. But he influenced them; he didn’t let them influence him.

He doesn’t mean to avoid politics or politicians. We’re commanded to pray for them. And we need believers in the middle of the political system; who else will influence the political system for the Kingdom, anyway?  But influence them; don’t let them influence you. Watch out for that.

In fact, it was when they work together that things get really ugly. Jesus was murdered by that combination. The Pharisees worked with Herod, to murder Jesus.

Same same in our world today. When the religious spirit tells the political process what to do, watch out! Doesn’t matter which religious spirit. The Muslim religious spirit is no better (and no worse) than the Christian religious spirit, though because it’s gaining political power in some places, it’s getting more aggressive about its influence. They’re both demonic, they’re both controlling, they’re both dangerous.

We’ve seen a lot of this over the last several years.

And when the political spirit tells the religious spirit what to do, watch out! When the political spirit tells us how to worship, what life to value, when or where to pray, that’s a problem. The Liberal political spirit is no better (and no worse) than the Conservative political spirit, though because it’s “in power” in some places, it’s more aggressive about its influence. They’re both demonic, they’re both controlling, they’re both dangerous.

There’s one more territorial spirit that we need to pay attention to; in fact, this is the strongest, most territorial of them all. The Holy Spirit is the one we need to be following. The others masquerade as him, try to mimic his voice so we’ll get confused.

Watch for him.


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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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Transformed Thinking about Scripture

It's hard, isn't it, to let the Scriptures stand on their own, particularly when they're passages that are a little uncomfortable for us, a little unfamiliar to us, passages that don't entirely support our current beliefs.

It's hard to just listen to what the Book is saying, without filtering it through our theology and fitting it into a tidy little theological box. When a verse or story doesn't support my view, and sounds almost like it could be used to support the other view, that makes me nervous, and I feel the need to quote verses that support my view to make me feel better.

So instead of that, I'm working on learning to not filter uncomfortable, unfamiliar passages through either my theology or yours. Sorry. Nothing personal. If it's true that "All scripture is God-breathed and profitable...," (and it is) then the passages that argue against my theological boxes are God-breathed and profitable as well. I want to profit from them, too!

I suspect that this is at least part of what he means when he tells us to renew our minds [Romans 12:3, Ephesians 4:23]

To my great surprise, that state of NOT having answers is becoming more comfortable, more comforting to me. It's in THAT place where Father can whisper to me, not so much his interpretation, but his heart on the matter.

I love it when he does that. I value hearing his whisper, his breath, as far more important to me than having perfect little theological boxes.

So if you find me posting about, or musing about uncomfortable things here, you may want to skip over them, and keep your theological boxes in tidy order. Or you may want to jump in and look for what God's breathing on there.

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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

Do Not Think That I Came to Destroy the Law or the Prophets

I’ve run into several people recently who quote Matthew 5:17, and use that to say that the OT Law is still valid. 

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” [MT 5:17]
 
They’re saying “Fulfilled means it’s still valid. You’re still obligated.”
 
Others say, “No, Fulfilled means it’s done, it’s concluded. It did its job, and now it’s over.”
 
So I thought, Let’s see how that word is used in other places in the Bible. That should give us an idea of what it means here.
 
So here’s a list. This is just part of the New Testament list, but the Old Testament use of the word is similar. (See the links to the full list in the footnotes)
 
Suggestion: For each verse, ask: “Does ‘fulfilled’ mean ‘It’s still in power; you’re still obligated’? or does ‘fulfilled’ mean ‘It’s done, concluded, and here’s the result’?”
 
Mat 2:15
where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
 
Mat 2:17
Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
 
Mat 2:23
and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
 
Mat 13:14
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
 
Mat 13:35
So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
 
Mat 26:54
But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
 
Mat 26:56
But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
 
Mat 27:9
Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel,
 
Mar 13:4
“Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
 
Mar 14:49
Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
 
Luk 1:1
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
 
Luk 1:38
“I am the Lord's servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
 
Luk 4:21
He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
 
Luk 18:31
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.
 
Luk 21:24
They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalemwill be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
 
Luk 22:37
It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
 
Luk 24:44
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
 
Jhn 17:12
While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
 
Jhn 18:9
This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
 
Jhn 19:24
“Let's not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let's decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.
 
Jhn 19:28
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
 
Jhn 19:36
These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”
 
Act 1:16
and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.
 
Act 3:18
But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.
 
Act 13:27
The people of Jerusalemand their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.
 
Act 13:33
he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “ ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.'
 
Act 23:1
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”
 
--
Which is it?
 
Still in power; still obligated?
 
or
 
It’s done, concluded, finished?
 
-----
So here’s a list.
This is just part of the New Testament list (whole NT list: http://bit.ly/1MbLMaf),
but the Old Testament use of the word (whole OT list: http://bit.ly/1MbLMqF) is similar.
 

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#Unfiltered


“Unfiltered” is sort of a thing right now.

Folks talk on Instagram or Facebook about posts and pictures that are #Unfiltered:  they’re real, authentic, not faked, not Photoshopped, not particularly posed. “This is real,” they insist.

I believe that this is something God is doing. God is bringing this value for the authentic to the front of our attention.  God likes authentic. He likes real.

That’s one of the things I like about him. He doesn’t filter stuff. He’s authentic. He’s real.

He’s got this book (I guess they call it a Bible) that’s all about his relationship with the human race, and so it includes lots of humans in it: lots of people and their stories.

And he doesn’t filter it even a little bit. Completely unfiltered.


The people in his book, he calls some of them friends: some of them are real screw-ups. Hmm. Actually, most of them are. In fact, nearly all of them. If you were omnipotent and writing a book about your peeps, you’d think you’d show the shiny side, the good-looking side. Make them look good.

He does that a little, but that’s the smaller bit. The bigger bit is how badly his favorite people fark everything up. Or nearly everything. And he still hangs out with them.

One of his favorites started out really poor, but with a whole lot of God’s help, made it to the big time. And what does he do? He seduces the wife of one of his best friends (and daughter of another good friend). He gets her pregnant while hubby’s off fighting his imperialistic war. And then he murders her husband so he can have her all to himself. Alongside several dozen other wives and mistresses.

And God calls this son-of-a-birch-tree one of his favorites. What?

Another guy lies about his 60-year-old wife (“Nah, she’s my sister!” Essentially saying, “You can sleep with her if you promise not to kill me.”) And while they’re trying to figure out how to seduce her, he trades in on his status and ends up one of the richest dudes in the area. They have to ask him to leave so he doesn’t destroy their national economy.

God says, “Yeah, that guy is my example. I’m going to call him ‘the father of faith.’” As if it never happened!

Another guy refuses (three times!) to even acknowledge that he knows the guy when God puts on skin and comes to town. The religious freaks were setting up to murder him, and he totally ghosts the son of God. “Nope. Don’t even know the guy. Could you pass me a sandwich?”

And God makes him head of the church. Are you kidding me?

Yeah. It’s outrageous. It’s a complete travesty of justice.

And it’s one of the things I like best about this God.

It’s not that he doesn’t care if we muff it up. It’s just that muffing up doesn’t piss him off. He knows that’s how this species – built from dirt in the first place, anyway – is predisposed. And he doesn’t shun, ghost us, or get embarrassed when we come around.

In fact, he has spent literally all of recorded history pursuing us, coming to find us, getting on his knees to clean off our mess, to pull our foot from the trap, even ransom us from both sin AND death.

And if that wasn’t enough, he is so stoked to be close to us that he’ll happily live inside of us. That was his idea: not a hair’s breadth of distance between his almightiness and our dorky foolishness. Or rampant suckiness. Or unmitigated evilness. He’s not impressed. “Yeah, come here, you! Let me clean you up! Now isn’t this better, here with me?”

But wait! There’s more! He’s not done yet!

“So how’d you like to sit up here on this throne with me? Look, you can see the whole Kingdom from up here! So as long as you’re here on this throne, what kind of things would you like to do with this Kingdom? Cuz I’m going to share it, all of it, with you! We’re gonna do this together!”

Yeah, that’s the God we get to be with. #Unfiltered. Authentic. Real. Embarrassingly so.

And he invites us into all of this, to do all of life, with him.

If we’re willing.

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Letters

If God is Love, Then….


Here’s an interesting exercise.

Scripture is clear: God is love (cf 1John 48&16). Not just friendship love, not just sexual love, but pure selfless love. The word used is “agape” with is describe as absolute, selfless love. God is absolute, selfless love.

So then, anywhere that the Bible discusses agape love, we can insert God there: because God IS love (not just “is loving”), then a definition of love must ipso facto be a definition of God.

Take the “Love Chapter” for example, 1 Corinthians 13.

The passage includes this definition:
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

And so we can describe God this way:

“4 God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. 5 He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. 6 God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I rather like that way of thinking. God is love. This is what love is like. Therefore this is what my God is like.

Then I expanded my thinking.

We’ve been discussing hell in conversations on my wall. So I look at what this says about God, and I ask how that speaks to my understanding of hell.

This one caught me in particular: “He keeps no record of wrongs.”

He’d pulled that card on me some years back, as I was meditating on Revelation 20 (specifically v12). This passage is often called “The Great White Throne Judgment.”

I hate that term, not because it’s wrong, but because it carries so much baggage. We declare this is “The Great White Throne Judgment,”  and we think we understand that. So we stop asking questions, we stop learning.

Nevertheless, the verse in question says, “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

It doesn’t say what that judgment is, but this judgment is not about hell or a lake of fire, for v15 says, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” That’s a different judgment, apparently at a different time, and certainly judgment according to a different standard.

So as I was reflecting on what it meant to be “judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books,” Father spoke up. “Those books are not a complete record.”

Wait, what? Hmm. Well, the text certainly never says that the record is complete, only that there is a record.

He took me to 1 Corinthians 13:5, which says, “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs,” and patiently explained. “I keep no record of wrongs.” He went on. “This judgment is about rewards.” And he took me to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. “Judgment is about rewards more than about punishment.” OK. I can see that.

But what about Revelation 20:15, those whose name is not in the Book of Life? This brought an interesting response. “Why are you so sure you know what the Book of Life really is. I’ve never defined it.”

Hmm. That’s true. [see https://nwp. link/BookOfLife]. OK. I’ll take that on out of the “Things I know” category and put it into the “Things I have some thoughts about” category.

By the way, a friend described that “lake of fire” judgment in a way that made sense to me: Matthew 25:41 is clear that this eternal fire is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” It was never prepared for humans.

And we assume (Scripture doesn’t say, as far as I can tell) that no demon, no angel of hell has its name in the Book of Life. That being the case, their destiny is that lake of fire.

But there are humans who have not yet let go of the demons that have haunted them, controlled them, who still cling to them. If they are unwilling to let go of their addiction to that demon that is thrown into the lake of fire, then those people will still be attached to the demon as it lands in the lake of fire. This is the result of a free will wielded unwisely.

And then my friend and I discuss whether God still loves these poor, bound, suffering people whose deception put them into a lake of fire? And we asked whether God would abandon them there, or whether his love would move him to keep wooing them in that hellacious place.

And we thought some more. What is God really like?

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Letters

Walking in The Woods: The Meaning of Life


One day I was walking in the woods, talking with God. Well, it was mostly me talking, but we were together, and it was a good day.

I started talking about some of the big questions. Why are we here? What is really the meaning of life? That kind of stuff. I was talking my way through some of these, and I’m afraid I was feeling a little like Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

“So what is the real purpose of my life? There are lots of things I can do with my life but in terms of eternity, not so much. In terms of eternity, there are only a couple of things that I can really accomplish.

“In terms of eternity, I can know God. I can introduce others to know God. And I can raise my children to know God. And that’s about it. Nothing ever really changes.

“Then it starts all over again. They can know God, and they can introduce others to know God, and they can raise their children to know God. And that’s all. It never changes.”

And the earth shifted.

I felt a veil removed from my eyes, and suddenly, I saw Father in his secret place, it was like I was seeing him in his bedroom, in his intimate place, half dressed. I was almost embarrassed by the intimacy.

And with tears in his eyes, he looked at me, and said, “Yes. That's it. That’s exactly it.”

And I realized that this was exactly the way he wanted it to be.



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Letters

Tambourines & Trumpets in Public Worship Meetings


This has been burning in me for a couple of weeks. I guess I’d better get it out. I’ll be as gentle as I can.

I get it that some folks like to worship physically. I get it that some folks believe that making a lot of noise makes their worship more meaningful or more powerful. And I truly understand wanting to get more deeply involved in worship.

Here’s the place I’m coming to: If you’re part of a group of people worshiping, then it’s not appropriate for your worship to be overwhelming the worship of the people around you.

And to that end tambourines and trumpets do not belong in a public worship gathering. The principle applies to things that we do in worship that over-ride or hinder the worship of others around us, but let’s use these as our focus.


Here’s the exception: If you’re part of the worship team, in unity with them, AND you’re really skilled, then there might be a place for those instruments.

But if you are regularly blaaaating your ram’s-horn when you feel the spirit move, then you are a disruption to unity, not a contributor.

And if you’re constantly banging your tambourine, regardless of whether you think you’re keeping the beat or not, you are a disruption to the unity of the group, not contributing to it.

There’s a bigger problem with tambourines, and I apologize, but I’m going to get a bit nerdly here.

Unless you are physically located on the stage with the band, your instrument is not physically ABLE to keep the beat that the band is keeping, and you will be (not “may” be) making their job substantially more difficult.

This is physics, folks: sound is slow. It takes time to travel from the stage to you. So when “the beat” leaves the stage, it takes time to travel to your location, dawdling along at a measly 343 meters per second: the farther you are from the stage, the more time it takes for the beat to reach you. The sound is delayed when it reaches you.

Let’s imagine that your tambourine playing is exactly perfect, and they strike their tambourine at the instant they hear the beat. They are still not striking their tambourine at the same time that the band is. They’re striking the beat after the sound has taken its time to reach them. That’s not the same time. They’re delayed in striking the tambourine, because of the delay that their beat took to reach you.

Then, of course, the sound from your tambourine – which is already the loudest thing in the audience – takes its sweet time moseying throughout the room. So that sister over there hears the beat from the band and then hears the beat from the tambourine at completely different times. Now she’s thrown off. This happens to pretty much everybody in the room that’s not standing right next to the rogue percussionist on the tambourine.

The worst part is by the time the band themselves hear the noise from your tambourine (and because it’s so loud, and its sound is so sharp and cutting, they will hear it), it is so far off the beat by the time that the sound reaches the stage – again because of physics – that now the delayed tambourine beat is competing with their beat. They cannot play their best with two out-of-sync percussionists fighting to lead.

If the drummer and the tambourine player are separated by more than 15’, the difference in the beat is noticeable and is distracting. That’s not opinion, that’s science. And if the distance is greater than that, it can be very difficult or impossible to lead worship in that space.

The saddest part of this is that the person playing the tambourine literally cannot recognize the havoc that they’re wreaking on the worship in that setting, because they are perhaps the only person in the room who cannot hear it. If you tell them that their playing is hindering the musicians or other worshippers, they’ll often not believe you and take great offense.

The net result of these instruments playing in a worship gathering is 1Corinthians 14:17: “You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.” In many cases, you are giving thanks well enough, but everyone else is prevented from worshiping at all.

Does that mean I cannot worship with my trumpet or my tambourine? Not at all. But it might mean that you shouldn’t worship with them in public. Use them all you like in your secret place. But please do not bring them into the public gathering, unless you’re very, very skilled with it, and you are a member of the band, responding to the direction of the worship leader.

I have also been part of percussion events, where the goal of the whole thing is for everybody to be gathered around together banging away together. Some of those have been heavenly!

But in a community worship gathering, no, not so much.

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Letters

Opinions About Pornography


OK. Let’s go step onto the scary trail. Let’s talk about pornography, and about porn addictions.

I’m going to speak about things that I have no training in. I have opinions, based on experience. I’ve not put this into words for a long time, so this may get overly-detailed (that’s how my process works).

Comment: I’ll be speaking as a guy (I generally do, but this time it may make a difference).

Another Comment: I’m not going to talk about how icky porn is. You already know that.

Warning: This isn't complete. Not sure it's actually possible to be complete on this topic. This is more of an outline, notes, rough thoughts.

Personal opinion: neither accountability nor inner healing will solve porn addictions. They may address some symptoms, but not solve the problem.

Personal opinion: solving symptoms is never a substitute for solving the core issue. If one symptom is solved, but the core issue is not, then the core issue will build pressure, and pop out in another place, or (more likely?) blow the scab off the same symptom.

Personal observation: when “church folk” respond to any addiction, their response is generally in the realm of “self control.” This does help a small number of people. 

Personal opinion: a porn addiction is not primarily about sex or about discipline. These are merely symptoms.

Personal opinion: the core issue is identity, specifically intimacy in relationship. Intimacy, in this context, is NOT a euphemism for sex: it’s about being known and accepted fully, and about knowing and accepting fully. And the first place for this intimacy is with God:

Personal opinion: if a man does not have an intimate relationship with God, if a man does not have confidence that he is fully known and fully accepted by God, then he will try to meet that very legitimate need by illegitimate means. Pornography is one of those illegitimate means.

Personal opinion: that business of being known fully and being accepted fully by one’s wife (or wife-to-be) is supplemental and very helpful, but does not replace the need for this relationship with God. Neither does sex replace real relationship with God. [That’s covered in the DUH-101 course.]

Personal opinion: This inherently creates a problem: the only solution is to know and receive the actions/choices of someone else. Fundamentally, no man can solve this problem on their own, by their own strength. There’s room for a sermon there, but this is not the time for that sermon.

Personal Opinion: the only thing that a man can do to facilitate others’ meeting of these needs is to initiate that sort of relationship. With God, that’s only about making one’s self as open as possible before God, and that is a scary process. With a bride that’s a terrifying thing, because it’s the same kind of vulnerability, but vulnerability before a fallible human being who has her own needs. Scary. But that’s all he can do to help her offer that to him: offer it to her, both for her well-being, and by way of being an example.

Personal opinion: the only things I’ve ever seen work appear to be two sides of the same coin: It can be described as “Develop this kind of relationship with God” or it can be described as “Know – really know, not just study – who you are in Christ,” but these are (IMHO) really the same thing.

Personal opinion: there is a bit of good news in an addiction to pornography: you were made for intimate relationship with God, and this addiction demonstrates that you have a real hunger, and a real readiness for that intimacy. You’re ready to develop a close relationship with your Maker. And God is ready to develop that close relationship with you.

I say again: a porn addiction is rock-solid proof that you are now ready and able to have the kind of intimate relationship with God that you’ve always wanted.

Is it scary? Hell yes!

Are we guaranteed a life of ease and no problems? You’re kidding, right?

But is it possible? abso-freakin-lutely.

And yeah, it really is the better deal! Oh my goodness, yes!

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Letters

Glad I’m Not Domesticated


I gradually drifted toward wakefulness the other morning. I rubbed my eyes, and looked at the clock, and rubbed them again. This was later than I expected.

I stumbled out the bedroom door, and the cat was standing next to her food dish, yowling for my attention. The food bowl was empty, and she is used to being fed earlier than this, thank you very much.


Later, she stood at the back door, watching the birds on the patio, and yowled again. I’d like to go out now, and chase some birds, please. She gave up after I’d ignored her for a while, and wandered down the hall toward her potty box.

A thought crossed my mind. “Aren’t you glad you’re not domesticated.” My mind went through some quick acrobatics in response: Me? Domesticated? Hah!

And then, wait. There was a season when I couldn’t feed myself. I had to “hold on!” until Sunday, when the pastor would spoon-feed me the same basic, elementary doctrines that I’d been spoon fed last year.

There was a season when I needed someone else to let me go outside once in a while. Unless I had assurances from senior Christians, I couldn’t trust that it was OK to go to things outside the church organization and church programs.

And there was a season when I needed someone else to change my potty box, or maybe change my diapers, because – even as an adult Christian – I couldn’t deal with my sins and failures myself. I always needed someone to point out to me, “Hey, that’s really not right,” or I always needed to have people pray for me to get me past some stumbling point. (Don’t go too far: prayer for one another is wonderful. But to always need others to pray for you to get past any trial is not a sign of health or maturity!)

So I stood there, watching my cat saunter down the hall towards the potty box that I’d cleaned out for her, I realized, not all that long ago, that was me. I had actually spent a good portion of my life domesticated, needing others to take care of every little thing for my life, as a human, as a man, and as a Christian.

Suddenly humbled, I nodded my head gratefully. “Yes, Sir. Yes, I am very grateful I’m not domesticated. Or at least not as domesticated as I used to be.”


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Letters

How Does God Feel About The Cross?


I was driving home from work the other day, and I found myself thinking about the Cross again. I’ve studied that center-point event of human history for half a century, and I’m constantly aware that there’s more to understand about it. 

I was reflecting what a bloody, violent, dark day that was: the creator of the planet was gasping, bleeding, nailed to this hunk of wood stuck in the ground. Evil men were sighing in relief. Disciples were shaking their heads in confusion. Demon hoards were cackling with delight.

I paused to ask Father how he felt about that dark day. After all these years, he still surprises me.

He reminded me of a day in my own life. 

I was standing next to my friend who was my pastor. My brother was standing next to me, and he and I were both wearing tuxedos. There were some other men and women with us, standing in front of a large crowd of people; music was playing somewhere. There were flowers, I think, and maybe some candles.

I saw none of that. There was a woman down at the other end of that  aisle. She was dressed in white and it seemed that all the light in the room came from her radiant smile. And she was looking at me. At me! She began walking quietly, confidently down that aisle. Toward me. I could barely breathe.

I had been looking forward to this day for years. I didn’t know a whole about my life and what I would do with it, but I knew, I knew I must share my life with her, we must do this together. She was my dream come true. 

And here she was. She was going to, willingly, without any coercion, join her life with mine. This woman, she loves me! Me!

And now it was happening. It was actually happening! My whole life was just now beginning, this day! She walked toward me, through that crowd that neither of us saw. She stepped forward and stood next to me and looked into my eyes. I was undone. My eyes were wet and my knees were weak.

And Father whispered hoarsely, 

“That. 

That’s how I felt that day.”



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