Letters

The Church of the Septic Tank

I had a strange dream the other night. It was about septic tanks. Yeah. Poop tanks. Ewww. 

The dream began with a toilet. The toilet served a comfortable facility where a bunch of Americans gather together in God’s glory. But even American gloryhounds need to poop once in a while.

Then the dream shifted to the septic tank below that toilet. That was interesting.

The tank was full; needed emptying. We considered several alternatives:

• Dig a hole somewhere for putting the poop. We rejected that messy idea.
• Put in a second tank next to the main tank, and link the two. That’s not a solution.
• Pump out the tank. And that’s what we did.

After the tank was pumped, I was invited to hold a picnic in the empty tank. Say what?

Ewwww. That was still dark, still completely stinky! And besides, somebody’s hindquarters were above, beginning to re-fill the tank. Those places where the crap has been stored are not places to relax and spend our free time. No! That’s still stinky!

This afternoon, I realized that this is a metaphor, a lesson.

There are some places that are getting tons of crap removed from them. That’s absolutely happening in the church. There’s been a lot of crap in a number of places, and currently, a lot of that is being removed. It’s not done yet, but it’s getting there.

But when the crap is removed, those places that held the crap will still not be good places for a picnic, still not a good place to relax and enjoy yourself.

In the news far more than the revolution going on in the church is the uncovering of so much crap in the political world that it’s scary. A friend of mine says it's like a Russian novel full of twists and turns. But there’s a lot of the crap that’s getting sucked out of the system.

But when the crap is removed, those places that held the crap will still not be good places for a picnic, still not a good place to relax and enjoy yourself.

OK, what does that mean in practical terms?

Not a flying clue. I have no pretty little bow to wrap on this yet. But I have some candidates for how we can respond.

• We can ignore the cleaning out of the septic tanks and go on about our lives. I think this would be a poor choice.

• We can scrub the septic tanks out with prayer. This is likely to be uncomfortable, but then the prayer to get them emptied has been uncomfortable, too. We’re used to that.

• We can move the poop-hole so the best view in the house isn’t somebody’s bare butt unleashing another load of diarrhea on us. That will likely also involve some awkward and embarrassing prayer.

• I don’t know what this means, but it strikes me that we might need to upgrade our gathering place from a septic tank, where the crap is collected and hidden out of view. Maybe it’s time to put in a sewer system, where the crap still happens (because, be honest: that has to happen!!), but it’s taken away and made into something useful. What an interesting idea. I wonder what it means.

• We can choose a different place for a picnic. I know we’ve been invited to center our lives on the septic tank for a while. But we don’t need to accept every invitation we’ve been given.

I’ll bet you two rolls of Charmin that we won’t find the answers in this context. But if you felt like taking these to prayer, if you considered sharing some of this (even if you don’t share the source) with your prayer group, I’ll bet we’d see some good things happen.
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Letters

We Have Misunderstood Matthew 18


I’ll bet you’ve read this passage from Matthew 18. You may have heard it preached or practiced.

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell [it] to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” - Matthew 18:15-20

I’ve had to walk through this with folks (on both ends of it, actually). I’ve seen it up close, and I’ve seen the fruits of it up close.

And it’s made me think this through some. Did you know that this paragraph is surrounded by paragraphs where Jesus is not actually speaking literally? (Before: cut off your hand. After: forgive 70x70 and then the parable of the talents.)

So there’s good reason to reconsider our normal practice of ripping this paragraph out of its context in the rest of Matthew, out of its context in a first-century agrarian society. There’s good reason to reconsider our 21st century Information-Age literalist interpretation of this passage.


So consider this alternative rendering of this passage. Think of this as a cultural reference.

If your friend gets caught up in the stuff of their life, if they forget who they are, go be with him (or her), remind them of who they are, who God sees him to be, who you know they are. If he hears you, it’s all good.

But if he’s not able to hear you, gather some friends with you and remind him how awesome he is. Remind him of who you’ve known him to be. It’s likely he’d listen to a group of friends, if they’re people who he’s known are for him.

But if he still can’t hear you, get him up in front of the church. “Guys, this is Matthew. You all know how awesome Matthew is. Come on, let’s lay hands on Matthew. Let’s remind Matt of who he is, cuz he’s had a hard go for a while, and he needs our support!”

But if he is so messed up that they still can’t get past the garbage in their life, then treat him like a tax collector.

How did Jesus treat tax collectors? (He’s our example, remember?)

He befriended them (Matthew 9:9), he brought them close to him, he put them on his ministry team (Matthew 10:3, Luke 6:15), he trusted his reputation to him (the book of Matthew), he went out of his way to hang out with him (Luke 19:5).

That’s how we treat people that have forgotten who they are and gotten stuck in sin.

Go thou and do likewise.





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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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Letters

Kindness Leads to Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

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

I wonder if there’s a connection?

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

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

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

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

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Letters

Kindness Leads to Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

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

I wonder if there’s a connection?

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

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

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

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

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Letters

What Covenant Was That, Again?

The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So that's what Old Covenant prophets spoke about. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who defied what they knew about God.

That was the Old. That’s dead and gone.

The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness. So that's what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!

You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).

• If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid doing this or that, or about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has done for you.

• If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people group deserves judgment, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has done for you.

• If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.

Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re probably preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.

Come to Jesus and let him renew your mind, your way of thinking.
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Letters

What Covenant Was That, Again?

The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So that's what Old Covenant prophets spoke about. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who defied what they knew about God.

That was the Old. That’s dead and gone.

The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness. So that's what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!

You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).

• If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid doing this or that, or about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has done for you.

• If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people group deserves judgment, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has done for you.

• If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.

Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re probably preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.

Come to Jesus and let him renew your mind, your way of thinking.
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Devotionals, Letters

Accusations Against God.

I was thinking about God’s provision. Provision is something that God is really quite good at.

If I ask my Father for something to eat, and then I complain about what he brings me, my complaint is not merely against the food. My complaint is also against my Father who brought me the meal.

My words address the food: “This is yucky! I don’t like this.”

But the accusation continues further: “Your provision for me is yucky! I don’t like how you provide for me!” It’s inescapable.

The Israelites did this regularly during the Exodus. “Where’s the water? I’m thirsty!” “This water isn’t good enough; it’s bitter!” “I’m tired of manna; I want meat!”

We do this pretty often, don’t we?

We complain about God’s provision for us, because it’s not as generous or as comfortable as we want. We ask for a ministry, but it’s not as effective as we think it should be. We ask for a home, and then complain that it’s uncomfortable. We ask for a job, and then we fuss about the people we have to work with.

In all these things, we’re not just complaining about the things that God has lovingly and carefully provided for us. We’re also complaining about the God whom we accuse of such inferior provision.


The obvious solution to this problem, after we’ve repented (changed how we think about God’s care for us), is to practice giving thanks. “Thanks, God, for this adventure in the desert, away from the Egyptians. It sure is exciting to think about how you’re going to take care of us!

There’s one more place that Father’s been speaking to me about our whining:

I was visiting with a friend about how the Saints are pretty unhappy with the candidates for president in this election cycle (and I’m guilty of mocking them, too!), and Father whispered this verse to me:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1. Then he added,

“These are my provision. I’m sorry that you don’t like my provision. But you’re going to need to learn to work with them. You’re going to need to bless them, and not curse them.”

When I complain about the poor choice of presidential candidates, I’m accusing God’s fulfillment of Romans 13:1. With every complaint about Donald or Hillary, I’m accusing God of being a failure as a provider! And I haven’t even asked him about why He provided these candidates. 

(Even worse, when Paul wrote this verse, and when Peter wrote “honor the emperor,” they were referencing Caesar Nero, unquestionably one of the cruelest and most evil rulers in the history of this planet. We are without excuse.)

I’m thinking we have room to grow in how we respond to God’s provision in our government.

Let the lessons begin. Are we ready to learn? 


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Devotionals, Letters

Accusations Against God.

I was thinking about God’s provision. Provision is something that God is really quite good at.

If I ask my Father for something to eat, and then I complain about what he brings me, my complaint is not merely against the food. My complaint is also against my Father who brought me the meal.

My words address the food: “This is yucky! I don’t like this.”

But the accusation continues further: “Your provision for me is yucky! I don’t like how you provide for me!” It’s inescapable.

The Israelites did this regularly during the Exodus. “Where’s the water? I’m thirsty!” “This water isn’t good enough; it’s bitter!” “I’m tired of manna; I want meat!”

We do this pretty often, don’t we?

We complain about God’s provision for us, because it’s not as generous or as comfortable as we want. We ask for a ministry, but it’s not as effective as we think it should be. We ask for a home, and then complain that it’s uncomfortable. We ask for a job, and then we fuss about the people we have to work with.

In all these things, we’re not just complaining about the things that God has lovingly and carefully provided for us. We’re also complaining about the God whom we accuse of such inferior provision.


The obvious solution to this problem, after we’ve repented (changed how we think about God’s care for us), is to practice giving thanks. “Thanks, God, for this adventure in the desert, away from the Egyptians. It sure is exciting to think about how you’re going to take care of us!

There’s one more place that Father’s been speaking to me about our whining:

I was visiting with a friend about how the Saints are pretty unhappy with the candidates for president in this election cycle (and I’m guilty of mocking them, too!), and Father whispered this verse to me:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1. Then he added,

“These are my provision. I’m sorry that you don’t like my provision. But you’re going to need to learn to work with them. You’re going to need to bless them, and not curse them.”

When I complain about the poor choice of presidential candidates, I’m accusing God’s fulfillment of Romans 13:1. With every complaint about Donald or Hillary, I’m accusing God of being a failure as a provider! And I haven’t even asked him about why He provided these candidates. 

(Even worse, when Paul wrote this verse, and when Peter wrote “honor the emperor,” they were referencing Caesar Nero, unquestionably one of the cruelest and most evil rulers in the history of this planet. We are without excuse.)

I’m thinking we have room to grow in how we respond to God’s provision in our government.

Let the lessons begin. Are we ready to learn? 


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Devotionals, Letters

Contempt for God’s Kindness

This just ambushed my thought process.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

He’s challenging the Roman believers for showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience.

Yikes.

Who are the folks showing contempt for God’s kindness?

Well, this verse indicates part of that: the folks who don’t realize that it’s God’s kindness which leads to repentance. Folks who preach something other than God’s kindness? Yeah. Them.

The context makes it even more clear: those who “pass judgment on someone else” (v1) are the folks he’s addressing.

He’s very specific: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v3) That’s pretty strong language there, Paul!

More specifically, Paul is saying that believers who condemn other believers, believers who emphasize something other than God’s kindness are “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” (v5) That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?

That’s kind of a problem.

You know these people: people who get in your face (in person, or on Facebook) and shout about how others are going to hell for their sin, or how a nation needs to repent in order to escape God’s wrath. There are folks who go around denouncing everybody who believes differently than they do as false.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this garbage comes from pulpits around the country.

When you see them, first of all, don’t buy the manure that they’re selling. It’s not good for them and it’s SURE not good for you. In fact, if you’re able, don’t even let them spew that garbage on you. Walk away.

But more than that: pity them. Pray for mercy for them. Because the path they’re on is storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.

And most of all, do not go with them. That’s a pretty ugly destination they’re headed to. If they insist on going there, you do NOT need to go with them.

Show them kindness.

#PrayForGrace
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Devotionals, Letters

Contempt for God’s Kindness

This just ambushed my thought process.

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

He’s challenging the Roman believers for showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience.

Yikes.

Who are the folks showing contempt for God’s kindness?

Well, this verse indicates part of that: the folks who don’t realize that it’s God’s kindness which leads to repentance. Folks who preach something other than God’s kindness? Yeah. Them.

The context makes it even more clear: those who “pass judgment on someone else” (v1) are the folks he’s addressing.

He’s very specific: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v3) That’s pretty strong language there, Paul!

More specifically, Paul is saying that believers who condemn other believers, believers who emphasize something other than God’s kindness are “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” (v5) That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?

That’s kind of a problem.

You know these people: people who get in your face (in person, or on Facebook) and shout about how others are going to hell for their sin, or how a nation needs to repent in order to escape God’s wrath. There are folks who go around denouncing everybody who believes differently than they do as false.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this garbage comes from pulpits around the country.

When you see them, first of all, don’t buy the manure that they’re selling. It’s not good for them and it’s SURE not good for you. In fact, if you’re able, don’t even let them spew that garbage on you. Walk away.

But more than that: pity them. Pray for mercy for them. Because the path they’re on is storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.

And most of all, do not go with them. That’s a pretty ugly destination they’re headed to. If they insist on going there, you do NOT need to go with them.

Show them kindness.

#PrayForGrace
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Prophecy

What Covenant are They Under?

Old or New?

You can tell a whole lot about whether someone is walking in the New Covenant, or if their thinking is still grounded on the old. It’s especially important that we understand which covenant prophets and other declarers of truth are working from.

The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So Old Covenant prophets speak a lot about blessings and curses, or people who are blessed and people who are under judgement. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who had defied what they knew about God.

That was the Old. That’s dead and gone (Hebrews 8:13 & others). If you have trouble with that, you might want to stop here and work this out before going further in this; the rest will just make you stumble.

The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness (1Corinthians 14:3 and others). Therefore, that’s what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!

You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).

·         If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid this activity or that place or those people, or if they talk about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.

·         If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people-group deserves judgment, then that person is working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.

·         If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.

Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.

Come to Jesus and have your mind renewed.

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Devotionals, Letters

What Covenant are They Under?

Old or New?

You can tell a whole lot about whether someone is walking in the New Covenant, or if their thinking is still grounded on the old. It's especially important that we understand which covenant prophets and other declarers of truth are working from.

The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So Old Covenant prophets speak a lot about blessings and curses, or people who are blessed and people who are under judgement. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who had defied what they knew about God.

That was the Old. That’s dead and gone (Hebrews 8:13 & others). If you have trouble with that, you might want to stop here and work this out before going further in this; the rest will just make you stumble.

The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness (1Corinthians 14:3 and others). Therefore, that's what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!

You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).

·         If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid this activity or that place or those people, or if they talk about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.

·         If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people-group deserves judgment, then that person is working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.

·         If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.

Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.

Come to Jesus and have your mind renewed.
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

What Covenant are They Under?

Old or New?

You can tell a whole lot about whether someone is walking in the New Covenant, or if their thinking is still grounded on the old. It's especially important that we understand which covenant prophets and other declarers of truth are working from.

The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So Old Covenant prophets speak a lot about blessings and curses, or people who are blessed and people who are under judgement. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who had defied what they knew about God.

That was the Old. That’s dead and gone (Hebrews 8:13 & others). If you have trouble with that, you might want to stop here and work this out before going further in this; the rest will just make you stumble.

The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness (1Corinthians 14:3 and others). Therefore, that's what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!

You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).

·         If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid this activity or that place or those people, or if they talk about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.

·         If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people-group deserves judgment, then that person is working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.

·         If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.

Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.

Come to Jesus and have your mind renewed.
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