Letters

The Tidy Deception


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

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

It’s the deception of the finished lesson.

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

It was a long and arduous process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Letters

The Tidy Deception


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

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

It’s the deception of the finished lesson.

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

It was a long and arduous process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Prophecy

The Commandments of Christ

I’ve heard John 14:15 quoted many times in reference to obeying some of the laws of the Old Testament:  “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Or they’ve quoted John, 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

The verse is thrown out as a prooftext: “You have to follow the commands of God!” though nobody’s expected to follow all the commands: they don’t promote blood sacrifices or stoning sinners. It’s just an attempt to coerce believers into submitting to their own favorite part of the Law.

This is an attempt at control: whether from ignorance or malevolence, this is an attempt to wield the Law, as it has always been wielded, to exercise control over you: “You must do what I say you must do, because of this verse!” This is part of “the curse of the Law.” And implicit in it is “If you don’t do what I say, you’re guilty!” and this is the rest of “the curse of the Law.”

Let’s look a little closer, shall we, at what Jesus said? Jesus doesn’t say, “If you love me, keep all the commands of the Law,” or even “If you love me, keep this particular group of the Law’s commands.”

What does he say? “Keep MY commandments.” Keep the commandments that Jesus has given. Not the commandments of the Law: the commandments of Jesus!

What did Jesus command? Let’s pull out a concordance and look, shall we?

Jhn 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jhn 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Jhn 15:17
This is my command: Love each other.

You’re welcome to look it up yourself (http://nwp.link/1HpK278); these are actually the only commandments that Jesus gave. It’s pretty clear that, while he has commanded it several times, he only gave one command: love each other.

So yeah: if you love Jesus, keep the commandments he gave: they’re all about love each other. That’s it. This isn’t about obeying the law, or about religious traditions, or about dietary requirements or even a command to “do good works.”

It’s about loving each other.

It probably is appropriate to point out that love – true ἀγαπάω love – is a pretty big topic. It’s all about pursuing their good over your own good, and that’s a costly love that will itself require much of us. But the command is love; the command is not about submitting to the Law, either the Old Covenant Law, or the rules that someone is trying to control you with.

Brothers and sisters, the Law is dead. Long live the command of love.

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Devotionals, Letters

Some Thoughts About the Purpose of the Prophetic

How many times has it happened that a prophet gives a word to someone you know, and you think to yourself, “They missed it! That is SO not them!”
                                               
Sure, it might be a muffed prophecy; the only guy who never muffed a single prophetic word was murdered for it a couple of thousand years ago. Nowadays, we all completely miss it occasionally. It’s like the man said, “Now, we see in a glass darkly.”
But it might not be a failed prophecy. That’s actually the goal sometimes. The goal of the prophetic is NOT to declare what everybody already knows.
The prophets declare the goal, solution, the finished product, the end result of God doing something in the person’s life. And sometimes they declare it as early as when God is just beginning work on the project. They’re “declaring the end from the beginning.” If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how do you aim?
So when God speaks to a destitute homeless guy, “I see you as a man of substance, a man of wealth,” he’s probably not saying “This is they way you are now, in case you didn’t know.” No, he’s more likely saying, “This is your calling, this is your destiny. If you come with me, this is where you could go. Do you want in on this?”
Or he might say to the destitute homeless guy, “I see you as a leader of men,” and that may not show up the way we expect it to. The English language – especially American English – is not God’s first language. When he speaks of a “leader of men,” he may not mean what you’d mean: a recognized position of appointed leadership or power. 
I’ve known guys that chose to be homeless so that they could reach those that nobody else would reach. Their leadership was often just conversation between bunks in the local mission. They are indeed “leaders of men,” but nobody except the homeless guys they lead recognize it.

Really often, the fulfillment of the prophetic promise doesn’t line up with our expectation of what it would look like. But it does line up with the word.
Second, the prophetic declaration releases God’s resources to bring about that which they declare. 
When God speaks to the destitute homeless guy about wealth, that declaration, when activated by faith, is releasing the grace of God, the power of God, to gather wealth to the guy. Power to accomplish the word is carried by the word.
That doesn’t necessarily mean people will hand him cash money, though I’ve seen that happen. It may mean that God is lining up an educational opportunity, or bringing him an advocate, or giving him an idea for an invention, or lining up other, unexpected circumstances to make it happen. 

And fairly often, it’s true about prophetic words: “If you don’t declare it, it won’t happen.” 
If we want to be in on what God’s doing, we can discern what God is breathing on in the prophetic declarations (1 Corinthians 14:29), and then join in with that. We can add the prophetic word to our worldview and begin to see and relate to people according to the things that God has said to them.
Or we can bury the prophetic declaration, and the power that it carries to accomplish the thing of which it speaks, under our own unbelief and jealousy and resentment, and kill the word.
It’s our choice.

Come join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/northwestprophetic. 

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Devotionals, Letters

The Wordless Prayer of Faith

It happened during a gathering in our home. We’d had dinner some time ago, finished the dishes together, and now we were gathered in the living room, with mugs of hot tea, and the warm glow of good friendship.
It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to pray for individuals, for healing. We were all good friends, so there was much laughing and interaction while we prayed. That’s just who we were, and we didn’t feel the need to be different when we were with God.
We’d just finished praying for one person, and they got up from the “hot seat” (really a “hot hassock”: a place for them to sit in the middle of the group, so we could all see and all lay hands on if called for).
One of the women kind of hobbled to the center of the room and sat gently down on the hassock as soon as it was vacant. She announced that she’d hurt her back lifting something incorrectly, and needed it healed, please. We turned our attention to her, and asked God for his prayers for her; if Jesus only said what he heard Father saying, we figured that was a good model for us, so we waited for those prayers.
And we waited.
The silence went on for a while, and it became kind of awkward. The fact that it was silence was unusual: there wasn’t laughing or joking going on; people were listening for God’s prayers for our sister’s back.
And we waited. I asked a couple of the more prophetic people if they had anything, but they didn’t. This was unusual. So we waited.
Then, quietly, a teenager in the back of the room giggled. Yeah, I thought, this is rather odd: all these adult believers can’t even pray for one woman’s back. I can see why she’d laugh.
And her laughter continued. She tried, for a moment, to stifle it, but that never works, and it didn’t work this time. OK, so she’s laughing. What is God saying, for how to pray for this back?
But the laughing teenager was herself funny, and a couple more people glanced at her and chuckled. And they fought it, and they, too, were unsuccessful. And the laughter spread. And nobody knew why.
And soon, nobody was even trying to pray for the woman’s strained back; we were just laughing, loudly, uproariously. We didn’t know why we were laughing, but it was clearly not something we had the capacity to stop!
And after four or five minutes of unrestrained hilarity, the laughter slowly faded back out, ending as it began, with the happy teenager in the corner. Maybe five or ten minutes had passed.
And the woman who had sat down with the hurt back now stood up and stretched. “Aaaah.” she announced. “That’s much better. No more pain. Thanks guys.” And she walked, confidently, completely upright, out to the kitchen for a fresh cup of tea.
We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, chuckled again, and decided that we like hanging out with a sneaky God.

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