Archive for December, 2007
Okay, so God has given you an answer, a vision, a word, a direction, or some idea of where you go from here (Act 1: The Answer). He is faithful to do that if you just ask. James 4:2 “…You do not have because you do not ask.” Also, exercise a little faith in asking, Matthew 21:22 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Then, the enemy has tried to take it away or prevent you from receiving. You should know it is going to happen and expect it. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (Act 2: The Attack). The great thing about John 10:10, though, is that it is in the context of Jesus teaching that He is the good shepherd. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus says:
“10:3 …He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When He has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.”
Typically, however, John goes on to note in verse 6, “Jesus gave them this illustration but they did not understand what He was telling them.”
I think the real key to “The Application” is right there in John 10:4-6: recognizing the shepherd’s voice and following it, or following strangers because you don’t understand. Hence, the title, “Is That You God?”
By no means am I saying this is easy, or that I am an expert, I am not. I struggle with this question daily, but I do think that mastery of this is like mastery of anything else, it comes with practice. Part of the problem, I think, is that we are so out of practice, that we don’t recognize the shepherd’s voice…and He is trying desperately to lead us out.
The point of this trilogy is, in part, to show that sometimes we do hear that voice, we just may not recognize it because the thief is trying to prevent our understanding. An attack following an answer is a great way of doing that because it makes us question our very ability to hear the answer. We need to be sensitive to this. I will give one brief personal example.
Not too long ago, Lori (my wife, for you who don’t know her) and I began to recognize that we would have arguments over the strangest things immediately before our joint efforts would be needed the following day, usually for a ministry opportunity. It might be the night before or the morning of, but invariably, if we had an argument that seemed to come from no where, we knew something was afoot. This tactic has become less effective, note that I said less effective, not ineffective…we are still working on this one. I would imagine that if you reflected for a moment, you could very easily begin to discern a few of these attacks.
Why all of this energy and effort aimed at preventing or confusing “The Answer”? It is because of “The Application”. As great as “The Answer” may be, it does not have the same effect as “The Application”. If you keep it a secret, don’t implement it, or don’t otherwise share it, there is little or no ripple effect. The ripple effect is what the enemy is most worried about.
This goes all the way back to Abraham, God blessed Abraham SO THAT Abraham would be a blessing to others. (Gen. 12:2). When we get an answer, it is SO THAT we will bless others. You get a raise, more money for the kingdom (you help a family in need or a missionary); you get healed, a testimony for the kingdom (you give someone else a boost of faith); your marriage is restored, you become a counselor for the kingdom (other marriages are restored). It’s the ripple effect. The answer will always have ripple effects. If there are no ripple effects, then the answer wasn’t from God, or, more likely, there was no application.
So, what then is “The Application”?
You get it, then you give it. It is the whole point of the gospel: spreading the good news. GO MAKE WAVES!
Act 2: The Attack. Perhaps not always, but certainly far too often, I think answered prayers, opportunities for ministry and profound breakthroughs are thwarted before they can be fully realized. To put it another way, I seriously question whether anyone can accomplish any real good for the kingdom of God without having to go through a little hell to do it.
Imagine this: “Are they servants of Christ?…I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” 2 Cor. 11:23-27.
Why such trouble for the apostle Paul? The same reason the Jews and the nation of Israel have undergone generations of abuse, ridicule, persecution, hatred, and near annihilation: to thwart God’s plan. Will you and I face that kind of persecution and hatred? Probably not, but if we carried the gospel with the same vigor that Paul did, we just might.
PLEASE HEAR ME: I am not saying that you should chalk up all of your troubles to the devil trying to stop you on your holy mission from God. I think we can get ourselves into plenty of trouble on our own. But, there are very strategic, well-timed, laser-guided attacks designed to prevent us from realizing answered prayers, being effective ministers of the gospel, or experience profound breakthroughs.
Again, I want to give just a couple of examples from personal experience just to illustrate this point. Not that they were apparent at the time, only that God graciously made me aware of the reality of these experiences in due time.
I do not know anyone who has faced 39 lashes, but something like this may seem a little more familiar:
In March of this year, Lori (my wife, for those of you who do not know us) and I felt particularly led to minister to a family very close to us in tremendous need. If fact, if they read this they would have no idea I was talking about them because we allowed this opportunity for ministry to be thwarted. On a Sunday we committed to contacting this family, inviting them out for dinner and sharing what we felt led to do. On Monday, our dog, Maggie, was hit by a car and died.
This was especially devastating because Maggie was our wedding gift to each other, and she (yes, Maggie) almost singlehandedly held our marriage together early on. The shorthand version is she would not allow us to carry on a fight. If I was in one room upset and Lori was in another, Maggie would go back and forth until we came together. If we happened to be in the car, it was from seat to seat. This unique mediation technique ended more fights than any professional mediator could have, I assure you.
Needless to say, this left us debilitated for several days. A week or two later, the Lord posed a very gentle question, “What were you planning on doing before Maggie died?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. To this day, we have yet to recapture that sense of timing we felt then for this particular situation. I praise God, though, that even in my failures, spiritual training is taking place, and pray that this opportunity opens up again.
Example 2. When I first started this blog at the beginning of November, I simultaneously began researching methods for publicizing it. The surest way, it seemed, to have a successful blog was to publish in a variety of locations and direct traffic back to your blog. Naturally, I began doing this as well. In fact, I publish on many of the same topics in My Hubpages (where I also try my hand at humor).
Surprising though it may sound, it is difficult to promote blog content on all of the social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, stumbleupon, reddit, digg…the list seems endless, without encountering content that is, shall we say, dangerous for a male to encounter. In fact, I became apprehensive enough about this potential problem that I considered shutting this whole operation down early on.
However, I had a vision that I firmly believe was from God. As I was driving, I saw an endless spider web, a very dense but definable spider web. Then, the corners of each obtuse angle (thousands, if not millions) became computer terminals, and God posed this question: “Why do you think there has been such a flood of pornography, and hate, and violence, and evil, and pure distraction on the internet?” The answer was obvious: the church is designed to be that spider web of people, and groups, and organizations, and ministries. The whole interconnectedness thing from Act 1.
Now, over 2K years after Jesus walked the earth, we finally have the ability to be that web (literally the World Wide Web-how cool is that?), but we can’t because everyone is scared to death of the internet.
A quick aside, a relevant one, but an aside nonetheless. I was at a funeral recently and I overheard a Pastor and his wife telling a story. The gist of the story was this, “we couldn’t find a vacancy sign in ‘blank’ city except at a hotel next door to a casino. Can you just imagine what everyone would have said if they had seen us, ‘Pastor so-and-so and Ms. so-and-so going in to a casino, ha! ha!’ So we kept on driving.”
What if, and this is just a “‘what if?”, but what if there were people needing ministry in the hotel bar, or in the lobby, or in the parking lot? It was right next door to a casino, I think it’s a safe bet. Did God have a special room reserved for this pastor? But, is this not our view of the internet? There are a lot of people needing ministry on the internet (and not the kind of ministry that preaches how sinful they are, but that delivers the message the apostle Paul endured so much to deliver).
We need to avoid falling into the trap of assuming that an attack of the enemy is God’s way of telling us not to do something. It may be just the opposite: The Attack may confirm The Answer.
This past weekend I felt particularly led by the Spirit to write to someone (whoever you are), maybe several of you, or maybe even me, about how to apply the whole faith thing post prayer. I am usually not a fan of acronyms, alliteration or the like when speaking, teaching or writing. I know psychologists maintain that they are useful memory tools, but I think audiences deserve more credit. Nevertheless, I was stuck on how to frame this series of posts until God alliterated it for me. Thus, the 3 acts: The Answer, The Attack, and The Application.
Act 1: The Answer. There was a tremendous response to my post A Little Context where I wrote about faith, and how we have been conditioned to measure our faith by human standards. As I was driving this weekend, God very graciously showed me that if I did not follow up on that post, it would be incomplete.
Just like we will never have enough faith if we measure faith in terms of human quantity, we will never know the fullness of God’s grace in answering prayer if we only look for what we expect to find. I would like to illustrate this with a few examples. First, I will use the example I wrote about in A Little Context. For several months, my prayer was, “God, increase my faith.” I expected, and I assume many people would also expect, that the answer to that prayer would be to see things that were unbelievable or inexplicable in natural terms. Guess what? That is actually correct, but the unbelievable and inexplicable was not where I would have ever thought to look.
So, what does an answer to prayer really look like? There is no one right answer, but I think we often miss the answer because we do not recognize it. Recall from Daniel 10 that Daniel had a revelation about a great war; he prayed and fasted about its meaning. For 21 days, there was no apparent response. I would imagine Daniel was getting dejected. We now know that a “Daniel fast” is 21 days, but Daniel didn’t. A “Daniel fast” is only 21 days because that is how long it took Daniel to get his answer. I would imagine that even with all of Daniel’s faith (the lion’s den, etc.), after about 10, 11, 12 days he was getting pretty bummed.
Dan. 10:12 …“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”
Imagine, a 21 day angelic battle. Why do you suppose the “prince” of the “kingdom of Persia” tried to prevent that encounter? It is because the answer to that one prayer was so important. Literally, it was one for the record books. I want to pray those prayers. Understand me, I am no Daniel (not yet), but I want to see things and pray for things that all hell would try to stop. But, more on that aspect (Act 2: The Attack) in the next post.
As I recall, I started praying for the increase of faith in February ’07. I did not know it at the time, or for several months thereafter (21 days…forget about it), but God was on it[s]ince the first day that [I] set [my] mind to gain understanding and to humble [my]self before [my] God.
By March, my wife and I had committed to go to Israel on a mission trip, and by August we were there. That trip berthed a desire to study Hebrew and read the Bible in its original language, and (seemingly) by chance I came across a teaching regarding the meanings of Hebrew letters. In trying to stumble through Genesis, God lifted a veil from the word Elohim (which I wrote about in The Lord is My Shepherd) and I was blown away. I spent the next two months buried in Genesis 1:1 (which I will post on again, I promise). There was no doubt left.
By no means am I saying that what God was doing was immediately apparent to me, but right about the time I started to see the overall structure of Genesis 1:1, I had a Verizon commercial moment, God was saying, “Can you SEE me now?”
Example 2. Last week, I spent way too much time mentally wrestling with a particular issue that was giving me grief. By Thursday I was doing mental jumping jacks and praying hard for God to just tell me. Friday, I woke up convinced God was going to let me figure this one out on my own. Friday morning, I returned a call from a dear friend of mine (Pastor Eric von Atzigen, of Emmanuel Fellowing Church in Sweetwater) who had forgotten why he called me. Ultimately, he remembered, called me back and we went to lunch.
Near the end of our lunch meeting, he asked a few questions (again, seemingly) in passing, and my instinctive response was to answer “fine” as would be normal. The conversation moved on from there. Then, I got a gentle nudge (more of a jolt, really) from the Spirit asking me, “Hey, didn’t you have a question you wanted answered? What more do you want, I go through the trouble of setting up a lunch meeting with a pastor for you, your forget to ask, and now he’s the one asking you what you forgot to ask?” Needless to say, I asked, he answered, and my mind was set at ease.
The moral of that story is: I was a hair away from missing out on what God was dishing out. There is no telling how long I would have stewed over that one. The answer is not always a matter of grand revelation. In fact, I would say that grand revelation is the exception, not the rule. Answers come from everywhere. I suspect that God’s intention is that they most frequently come from others so that we stay interconnected and co-dependent. It’s cool to have a pastor handy, but even then you can miss it if you’re not careful.
Lastly, although it should be the first place we look, the answer to every prayer, question or struggle you could ever have can be found in God’s word. It may not be apparent, but it’s there. We may need someone to find it and explain it, but it’s there. We may need God to open it up to us, but it’s there.
Everything we will ever need has already been given to us, we just need to learn to look for it.
I’ll talk about The Attack after The Answer next time.
Thank you all so much for the response to my last post, the emails and feedback were very reassuring. To get where I want to go today, I need to give a little background information. For those of you who do not know, I was oppressed by a spirit of doubt for several years until the Lord very graciously (1) revealed the nature of my affliction, and (2) performed a miracle of deliverance on me beyond what I could possibly express here.
To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat apprehensive about putting this out there, creating a permanent record in the public sphere because of the potential skepticism, religious implications, and possibly even financial and political implications. But, it is what it is, and I hope this disclosure gives additional insight into who I am and context to this blog.
Since that time, God has opened up a whole host of truths to me which I would have had a very difficult time accepting, or rejected outright. One, revelation about Genesis 1:1, has been the subject of several posts, and which I will develop more in later posts. As I said, your comments and emails following the last post were a tremendous blessing to me. Thank you so much. But what I want to share is what, I believe, was the Lord’s blessing.
First, the scripture to make it official. John 20:25 “…But he [Thomas] said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails…I will not believe.’ … 27 Then He [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands…and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
It may seem obvious that my Thomas moment would have come when the Lord removed the veil of doubt from me, but that was just my first Thomas moment. Last weekend I came across a teaching by Joseph Prince that I had Tivoed and watched several months ago about the name Yahweh and the meaning of the Hebrew letters that spell Yahweh (YHWH). In short, he showed how in Hebrew the first letter of the four words making up inscription (or accusation) above the cross on which Jesus hung would have spelled YHWH. In Hebrew it would have read, “Yeshua (Jesus) HaNazarei (the Nazarene/of Nazareth) Vemelek (the King) HaYehudim (of the Jews).” Forgive my transliteration.
For those of you familiar with this blog, you will recall that the YOD or “Y” is pictured in the ancient Hebrew as the hand or arm and the VAV or “V or W” is pictured as a nail or tent peg. The HEY or “H” has a symbolic meaning of God’s grace. Joseph Prince’s teaching, then, concluded that God’s grace came by the nail in the hand.
I must say, I could not agree more. Also, this was in the context of a broader teaching, so I do not at all question this picture not really being developed further. I spent a fair amount of time meditating on that, researching the ancient Hebrew and praying for revelation. I knew there was something more I was missing, yet I simply could not find it.
Nevertheless, I was and have been, for several months now, stirred that I was missing something specifically for me, but I was stuck. Recall that there were several instances in the New Testament where either Jesus or Paul would say essentially, “there is so much more I want to show you, but if you can’t even get this, how can I?” Well, I had that very sensation only in reverse. I felt like God was having one of those moments with me, until this week.
It was another true Thomas moment that struck me while crossing the street of all things. Here it is: YHWY, YOD (Y) the hand, meaning my hand or works, HEY (H) a man with outstretched arms, meaning God’s grace, VAV (V or W) the nail, and HEY (H) same man with outstretched arms, meaning grace. There it was, so obvious. A man standing with outstretched arms, they seemed to be held out right in front of me, showing me the HAND and the NAIL or nail hole, and saying, “‘Reach here with your finger and see MY HANDS…and do not be unbelieving, but be believing,’ this is My gift of GRACE.”
Here is the visual (remember, Hebrew is read right to left):
I want to do a little backtracking for a moment. I probably should have written this as the very first post of this blog. It has been very graciously brought to my attention that the subject matter of this blog is somewhat complicated (or that I may be making the subject matter of this blog complicated). Not that it is too difficult, but that it is unfamiliar.
I have reviewed the prior posts, and I must confess, I agree. So, please, indulge me for a moment to do what I should have done a month ago. I would like to give a little context to this blog.
As many of you know, my wife and I recently spent time in Israel. I will post more on Israel later, but the shorthand version is that we have been blessed tremendously since that mission trip (trust me, when God said to Abraham in Gen. 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you…” he was not kidding).
I want to talk about just one of those blessings that relates very specifically to this blog. For several months before our trip to Israel, I had been praying a very specific and consistent prayer: “God, increase my faith”. When I use the term “consistent”, I may be giving myself too much credit, it’s probably more appropriate to say that I had been nagging God about it.
You see, I had this notion (one that I now know is wrong, but one that I believe is shared by many) that certain things God had shown me or promised me were not happening because I lacked the faith. I say me very deliberately. Not out of selfishness, or arrogance, but because the promises God makes are intensely personal, and I believe we should all internalize them that way.
I do not believe the Bible or any other word given by God, whether in a prophetic encounter, a vision, a word of knowledge, or otherwise is ever generic. There may be multiple if not infinite applications, but each and every word is specific and significant to me and YOU. The issue should never be, “Is this for me?”, I assure you it is, but rather, “How does this apply to me?”
But, back to lacking faith…You see, my eyes have recently been open to the fact that when we reason that this blessing, or that prophetic word, or this healing did not happen because we lack faith, we believe a lie of the enemy–a very effective one.
The enemy will always try to point the finger at you and at me: “I don’t have the faith…” or “You’ve just got to believe…” And while internal reflection is good, we need to be careful not to ignore what we know to be true. The Bible says God has given each person a measure of faith. I believe any measurable quantity given by God is enough…for whatever you need (the whole mustard seed thing).
However, I believe that our concept of faith has been distorted. I do not believe the Holy Spirit will ever tell anyone, “You don’t have enough faith.” As the need arises, I believe the Holy Spirit imparts supernatural gifts of faith as necessary, but that is something altogether different from my or your measure of faith. The question is, I think, faith in what? When I think, “I don’t have enough faith…”, my focus is on me, not God.
Faith, then, should look like what? Faith that God is faithful. Faith is irrelevant unless you know that God is faithful, to his Word, to his promises, to YOU. Here is a difficult concept to grasp, it should not be, but it is: God is on your side (and my side). He is not sitting around waiting to thump you when you mess up. To the contrary, He is waiting to pour out His blessings on you beyond what you could ever imagine.
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3) I do not need a whole lot of faith in someone whose faithfulness I question, what would be the point? I just need a measure of faith in someone I know is faithful. When God says, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive,” and I know God is faithful to His Word, His response is greater than you could ever imagine.
My prayer was, “Increase my faith.” Naturally, my fleshly expectation was that I would see miracles, signs and wonders, healing and deliverances, but that’s not where I lacked faith…I have seen those things, more would not increase my faith. Where I was lacking was in believing God’s Word to be true (all of it). So, God’s answer, not at all what I expected, but nothing short of proof (in the measure I needed) that his Word is true.
That is really the point of this blog. I have posted on a variety of words that I thought were really cool when you looked at the ancient Hebrew, they seemed to be a window into the mind of God. But, what I should have done first was explain the purpose of it all, and that’s what I am doing now. My next few posts will try to tie together some of what I have posted before and finish what I have started.