It was bedtime and I was snuggling Eva. I told a story about a bunny princess named Gertrude who only wore plaid, and a squirrel prince named Hank who only wore pajamas. I paused for the expected interruption and then listened, smiling to tears, as Eva made her revisions. Gertrude became Lizzy with a beautiful pink dress. Hank became Lizzy’s best friend Molly. She too had a beautiful dress, hers was purple; and they also had ponies. And as Eva imagined out loud, I thanked my Father for the wonder of this girl. In that moment, I knew love like I never had before.
We transitioned from story time into our closing goodnight communion.
“Eva, you’re my favorite. I love you best.”
I say this to all my kids. It’s become a Clark family way to express our love. And its true, every time.
“I love you best too daddy” She responded and the game began.
“I love you to the tops of the trees.” I grinned.
“I love you to the tops of the tree’s and the moon, times a hundred.” She knows how to play.
“I love you to the moon, and stars, and universe and back, times a hundred and five.” I said as I gave her nose kisses.
She giggled, “I love you to the moon, the stars, the universe and back, times a hundred and ten!”
We continued for a few more beautiful minutes, each taking turns surpassing the last statement, a million, billion, gazillion, eternity, to infinity and beyond.
Many of you know the pure joy of this game. You have played it with your loved one. It never loses its wonder.
I don’t know if you have ever thought of it this way but this is a game of measurements. The stunning thing is, love is immeasurable. Every time Eva and I play this game we do our best to measure love and discover to our immense joy that it can’t be done.
Eva always ends our competition with an amazing statement. The first time she said it I was astonished by its brilliance. Now it’s become the phrase that suspends our conversation until next time…
“I love you bigger than the future…”
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)
I can’t imagine how Paul felt trying to describe a love that is bigger than the future – a love that surpasses knowledge. But I bet it felt a little like the game Eva and I play at bedtime.
Paul starts by using the language of earth. Its as if he is saying Christ love is wider than forever, longer than eternity, higher than a million, billion, gazillion, and deeper than infinity, times a hundred.
Paul invites us into an encounter with Gods love that we may be filled to the full measure of the fullness of God.
Measurements are the stuff of earth. To measure, we use words like wide, long, high, and deep – words like filled and fullness.
But once Paul has done his absolute best to measure the love of God, he shifts into the language of heaven. In the next breath Paul expands our revelation.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Eph 3:17-20)
Paul essentially says, “I want you to be filled to the full measure of the immeasurable.” And just in case we might be tempted to apply measurements to the “immeasurable” Paul added, “beyond” and “all” as if to say, “Stop it, you can’t measure Love, He is bigger than the future”!
Measurements are something that make perfect sense on earth but are a foreign concept in heaven. Heaven sits outside of time, its infinite and operates in the economy of a love that is bigger than the future. I believe this scripture is an invitation to move from the measurable reality of earth to the immeasurable revelation of heaven.
And I would like to suggest that’s why Jesus came. Jesus didn’t live simply to reveal a destination, He showed us the foundation – our Fathers perfect love.
Jesus never lived for the immeasurable, He lived from it. Jesus demonstrated what a bigger than the future love could look like. And He invited us to know and live it like He did. Immeasurable was never meant to be simply a description of the destination, it’s always been His heart that it would be our foundation.
Need is measurable; it’s the stuff of earth. Love is immeasurable; it’s the economy of heaven. Love trumps need. This life is the only time we will ever be given the opportunity to live from heaven while on earth.
Thy Kingdom come…bigger than the future.
If there is anything I have learned over the last thirty something years, its that the question of identity is not only the theme of Jesus’ story, it’s ours as well. My story and yours will continue to be one in which we discover our Dad and in turn ourselves. Discovering our Father is the most important thing we will ever do. It transforms us and sets us free to live as His sons and daughters. The good news is, Jesus was sure in his identity and because of this, we can also become sure in ours…
I believe that every insecurity we face is birthed in Fatherless-ness. Our insecurities are the direct result of misunderstanding our heavenly Fathers nature. The greater we know our Father and His love, the more sure we become in our own identity. It was Jesus view of, and relationship with, His Dad that released Him to fully be the Son.
While I was born into a crisis of identity, the moment I said yes to Love, the moment my heavenly Father was revealed, is the moment I stepped into my new identity. I have been discovering my Father in greater measure ever since and the more I know Him the more confident I become as His son.
I’m convinced that our sureness in our identity is found in believing in the absolute goodness of our Fathers love. This journey we are on, this story we are living, has its breath in that revelation. It is through encounters with our Father that we are released to become the full expression of his sons and daughters in the here and now. I believe it’s why we exist, to know our Fathers love and become sure as His sons and daughters. We are loved and becoming love. The crisis is resolved!
What’s that mean? Well, for a start, whether our natural father or mother is amazing, destructive, or non-existent, there is available to us a relationship with a perfect loving always-good Father. And as we become more aware of His perfect love for us we are set free to live like Jesus did, sure as sons and daughters.
Like Jesus, we can know our Dad and live as the evidence of His love. When we know our Heavenly Father we become transformed into good earthly fathers and mothers. We become good brothers and sister, good neighbors, good co-workers, good sons and daughters. We become world changers, living in miraculous fashion, discovering the wonders of His Kingdom in every area of life.
The Kingdom of heaven operates from a different core value than earth. While earth revolves around the reality of need, heaven exists in the revelation of Love. Everything in the kingdom of heaven, operates, hinges, and moves in Love – it’s all about Love!
If you think about it, Love walked the earth in the body of Jesus. And while Jesus very much lived on earth, He very much lived from heaven. Everywhere Love went heaven invaded earth. What’s astounding to me is that every need that was presented to Love was met and fully answered, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, through the power of heaven – and it often looked miraculous. Love healed the sick, fed the hungry, and raised the dead. Love trumped every need, every time.
Not only does need not exist within the nature of God, it doesn’t exist in heaven. I’m pretty sure we won’t need to eat there; I hope we get to, especially fajitas, but we probably won’t need to. And if we do, we probably won’t need money to buy food, and if we do, we can just use the gold that comes from the paving stones out in the street…
We won’t need to be healed in heaven; there is no sickness there. We won’t need to feel loved there, we will know and be sure in love – we will have become love. We won’t have any questions about why we exist there, the manifest Glory of God will make it very clear. But its a different story on earth.
As a good friend of mine, Andy Squyres, says, “Earth is the only place we can love God while experiencing pain.” We have the incredible opportunity to discover that even while need is very much a part of our lives, love wins. Isn’t that amazing? It’s such an eternal heavenly perspective! You see, there is no pain, sickness, doubt, or death; there is no need in heaven. How blessed are we, that during our short time on earth, God has provided us with the stunning opportunity to love in the midst of need. We have been given the greatest gift, to know Love in the midst of need, to discover that its a powerful love, a love that transforms, a love we can chose. Like Jesus, we can love in such a way that the kingdoms of this world, the ones that exist and revolve around need, become the Kingdom
of our God.
I believe all of heaven is available now – all of it. We have access to the same heaven Jesus had access to. He revealed that we could live in the same revelation of Dad that He lived when He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven,: and so we can love in the same powerful, miraculous, heaven to earth, way Jesus loved.
I believe heaven is our home and not just for when we die. I believe it’s the greater reality from which we are designed to live here on earth, right now. What a privilege!
I have begun to discover that true dreaming, the kind referenced in Acts as “old men dreams”, are when sons and daughters have chased down vision, failed, lived through the very real pain of failure, even tasting death, and still believe in the absolute goodness of His love.
“Old men dreams” is not about age, its the journey into God revelation – the perfection of His always good love revealed. This revelation births faith and true dreaming can’t be done without it. I’m not describing a pretty concept or a good principle, neither is this the brash leap, or the optimistic bent, this is a faith that has been tried through the fires of failure and death.
It’s the faith that Peter experienced when he used a sword to advance a Kingdom that could only be advanced by Jesus becoming the sheath. Did Peter fail, yes. Was he a failure, no. Why, because the story didn’t end with failure and death, its never about failure or death. The story is always about resurrection, redemption, and revelation. “Old men dreamers” are those who have joined Jesus in that journey, the one where death isn’t the point, but it’s the only way to fully live.
When it was all said and done Peter knew a LOVE that wasn’t dependent on him. This is the only love with the power to redeem, this is the only love with the authority to move mountains. This is the love that empowered Peter to transform the world, this is the love that became the foundation, a rock upon which the church would be built and the gates of hell would not prevail. This is the love that possessed the keys of heaven; a love with the authority to say “yes” or “no” on earth and hear the echo in heaven. (Matt 16:13-20)
A true dream, one that is birthed in the heart of “old men dreamers”, carries with it authority and power. Only a person who has experienced the death of vision, who has nailed vision to the cross, has access to the power of resurrection. When he dreams again, he dreams the dreams of heaven. And a dream that’s birthed in heaven has power to transform earth, it can change a family, a neighborhood, a city, a nation, it grows exponentially and has eternal significance.
I believe that true dreams are revelation of, and then partnership with, the Father’s heart. You see, dreams are not meant to be possibilities; that’s the role of vision. Dreams are meant to be prophetic declarations that create the future – they have authority and power to pull heaven to earth.
Here is another way to look at it. Vision is about discovering our Fathers nature. Dreaming happens as we see ourselves from His perspective. When we see ourselves through our Fathers eyes we are empowered to dream in the authority of our identity. “Old men dreams” are birthed from our true identity. When we dream from who we truly are, we come into agreement with our heavenly Father and step into the authority and power to see the dream realized.
That’s why dreaming is the most powerful thing we could ever do. Its why Jesus is always asking as to dream, to ask. It’s the partnership with His heart and ours that pulls heaven to earth.
Of this I’m convinced, God wants us to dream with abandon. Wide-open places, that’s the heart of our Father for us. Jesus said “greater works” and His heart is that we would dream in the realm of “beyond all we could ask or imagine.” Jesus’ life on earth, the high watermark that no one has yet attained, is meant to be surpassed!
I believe “greater works” is available to “old men dreamers” who are willing to dream in the wide-open places of past failure. This is the place where their dreams carry the power of the resurrection.
I am learning to not be offended by my failures, to not be ashamed by weakness, or insecure by lack. Instead, as I choose surrender and intimacy, as I express my faith in His love I’m becoming transformed by His love. My prayer is that my heart would beat in sync with His so that my words release heaven and my life yields love – until my vision reveals His and my dreams transform the world around me, until the Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our God.
This song was written almost 10 years ago. Its the journey I have been on regarding vision, dreams and revelation. Its still one of my favorite songs.
My Dad has stories, lots of childhood remembering’s. Most of them include his brothers. Most also include fist throwing, rock throwing, and even knife throwing – all in good fun, at least, at the beginning. And many of his childhood stories have some small amounts of bloodshed.
And then there is the pretty story about an RV Trailer.
One summer the brothers Clark had a vision. And it was beautiful. It was all the best things that brothers dream together. It was about the
wide-open places, it was filled with adventure, pioneering, and discovery. The brothers would build an RV Trailer. This trailer would be spectacular, it would be pulled behind their dads 1961 Hillman and in this RV trailer they would see the world!
For several days there was brotherly love and good will toward all as the Clark boys gathered together to make the vision a reality. They spent days in the back shed behind the house. First they built the trailer bed out of a few boards. Then they constructed the wheels – also out of wood.
There’d need to be a bed, and a place to sit. And of course windows and maybe a table for breakfast. There would need to be a stove to cook the eggs.
Wood they had in abundance, and so they constructed.
While they built, they continued to envision and the trailer grew in their hearts and minds. It was a beautiful time, each day a new idea added life to the journey. And as the brothers worked they forgot their fists, rocks, and knives… sure there were disagreements, but the vision was too grand to allow petty infighting to stall the completion.
At first they were just going to travel down the road a ways. Maybe camp at the provincial park outside of London Ontario. But as the trailer amassed in size, so too did the vision. Soon they were traveling to distant exotic places like Niagara Falls and even further, The Rockies, The Grand Canyon, MT Everest. The dreaming added strength to their hands and they worked through lunches and well past dusk.
Finally the day arrived. It was finished. It was beautiful!
Their Dads car was parked in the driveway. It was time to unveil the Trailer and begin the true adventure.
And here is where the story takes a turn for the worse, you see, not one of the brothers had given any thought to the size of the shed doors in comparison to the size of the Trailer.
The Trailer was too big! Or maybe it was actually the other way around, maybe the shed doors were too small…
Either way, the story of the RV Trailer ended poorly. The boys went back to fists, rocks, and knives.
And yet, the vision of the open road had somehow impregnated them… you know, these kind of visions, they don’t let go so easily…
Vision is powerfully dangerous, at least, the true ones. You know when they are true because they try to kill you. And yet I am learning that to fully posses them, you must first let them kill you…
Hey all, I have reached a decision regarding my book and blogging the remainder of this year. I will continue to follow along in the last chapter themes but as I have not had the chance to edit these last months, I will just post sections.
Part One – The A-Team
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17
I’ve been told that I have the wisdom and leadership skills of Hannibal, the brute strength and loyalty of BA, the crazy humor and daring of Murdock, the imaginative resourcefulness and suave deliciousness of Face Man… and Amy’s eyes. Who told me that? …Um…
At eighteen I dreamed, and my dreams were like a good A-Team episode. I’d travel to a new place; encounter a beautiful woman who thought I was…delicious. I would discover an injustice being perpetrated by the Bad Dude’s place of business, a run down western bar.
I’d walk right into this place and, all cocky and clever, I’d look him straight in the eye and say…
(mocking southern accent)
It smells like ignorant wretch in here.
This don’t involve you stranger. Piss off.
I don’t think we’re gonna be friends.
I’ll give you till noon tomorrow to clear outta town.
Get em boys!
…One of his thugs takes a swing at me. With ease, I slide away, and using his momentum against him, I help him exit through the plate glass window. Just then BA shows up and in good “Bad Attitude” fashion, knocks some heads together. Face Man, who has been sitting at the bar, rolls his eyes and proceeds to saunter over to the exit while trying not to spill the contents of his drink – but alas, some poor sap bumps into him, and Face is compelled to get involved.
It’s a real ruckus now. Just as I think we’ll finish the Bad Dude off he replaces fists with guns. We dive for cover as crazy Murdock pulls up in the Van. Hannibal gets out of the passenger side spraying led everywhere covering our retreat. Bullets wiz past as we make our way to the Van. I roll my eyes at Face while we wait for Murdock to get out and let BA drive, but its not scary, its humorous – BA always drives!
And I’m not scared; I’m invincible! You see, no one ever gets shot in the A-Team; well, except that one time when BA took some lead.
He got shot in the leg. And though it wasn’t necessarily life threatening, he did lose a lot of blood. And of course we couldn’t go to a hospital on account of Col Decker being hard on our tail. So Hannibal and Face rigged something up for a blood transfer between crazy old Murdoch and BA. Apparently their blood type matches.
Then of-course BA and Murdock became blood brothers and Murdock tried to convince BA that crazy was in his bloodline. And BA kept threatening Murdock but couldn’t get out of his wheel chair to make good on his threats. And Murdock kept pushing him around on the wheel chair asking if he could hear the voices yet…
Yeah, as a young man I dreamed in the language of an 80’s action TV series.
Life was going to be an exciting and sometimes dangerous adventure. And if I got shot along the way, I imagined that it would be a mere flesh wound- and not the Monty Python kind of “mere”.
And if I got captured, the bad guy would probably hold me in an auto mechanic shop, or something. That’s where I would build a vehicle out of duct tape (thanks MacGyver) and exhaust pipes. I would burst through the garage doors and run all the Bad Dude’s cars off the road. I would right the wrongs.
Then I would kiss the girl, say something cool about plans coming together, exhale cigar smoke, and drive off into the sunset. Yep, my vision of the future was epic and could be wrapped up in a pretty bow in about 43 minutes with TIVO.
As a young man, I would have told you I knew how to dream. Back then, dreaming was about as easy as breathing. The fact is, there was very little risk involved, which should have been a clue… but I was young.
Over the last twenty some years I’ve had some rather rude awakenings. Yeah, I’ve traveled to new places and I’ve confronted Bad Dudes. But that’s pretty much were the similarities to an episode of the A-Team end. You see, the bullets were real and they didn’t miss. I’ve been shot, many times – and it was no mere flesh wound either. I’ve also spent countless years stuck in the mechanic shop. And when I finally invented a new vehicle and escaped, it got run off the road and flipped a couple times while I was in it. In my particular story, I did get the beautiful girl, but I’ve had to apologize to her many times cause she’s been in the car with me.
I’m not as young as I once was. I’m beginning to understand that true dreaming is the most powerful thing on earth, in fact its the substance of heaven. True dreaming is the partnership with the goodness of God that pulls heaven to earth. True dreaming isn’t for the faint of heart, its a radical act of faith that empowers generations to live out the greater works miraculous life Jesus dreamed, revealed, and promised us. And these world transforming dreams, well, they are only available to old men dreamers. Why, because old men dreamers know that the bullets are real, getting shot is painful, and then you die…
Hey guys! Though my days are much fuller with Crossroad’s Church, I continue to work on edits for the book in my spare moments. Below is a few first draft excerpts from chapter nine entitled, Well Done.
Parable Of The Talents
There was a master with three servants. He was going on a journey and he called them to Him and gave each of them some money. “To one he gave five talents (sum of money), to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
You have probably heard this story. It’s found in Matthew 25 as told by Jesus. Now eventually the master returns home to, as Jesus put it, “Settle accounts”.
The first fella embraced mercy and made good on grace; he had been able to turn his five talents into ten. “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!!
The second fella had a similar experience, also doubling his gift of two talents into four. He got the same beautiful increase in favor from his master. He also heard those stunning words we are all living to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Alas the last fella, it didn’t go so well for him. When he came before the master he said something terribly sad, “Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not scattered seed. So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own.”
With that the fella returned to the master the one talent he’d received. Sadly, this guy, he didn’t get a well done. “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” It was a question. One that reveals something pretty serious, the master will judge us by the revelation we chose to live from, by the master we chose to serve.
And that’s just what happened. After telling the servant that at the very least he could have banked the money for the interest, he takes the one talent and gives it to the one who now had ten. But it gets way worse for the faithless servant, “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Wow, that’s pretty harsh. I mean, the fella didn’t make you money and you send him to hell? Normally if someone doesn’t return on their investment they get fired or demoted. In some cases when a fella can’t turn a profit, he will lose his house and maybe his possessions. In extreme cases, where criminal behavior is discovered, and depending on the culture, the fella may go to jail. But I have never heard of someone being thrown into outer darkness with the gnashing and the weeping because he was worthless at turning a buck. Because he was a bad steward…
The Stewardship Gospel
Years ago I was at a church service where the pastor taught on the parable of the talents. You have heard it. It’s the well-done message. It’s the try harder, work better, giver stronger, lover bigger, good stewardship message. It’s the checklist I wrote about earlier in this chapter.
And its the North American gospel in which church attendance is a part of the holy trinity of being a Christian; the other two, reading our bibles more, and becoming more disciplined in our prayer times.
Not that any of these disciplines aren’t good but somehow the “well done” we hope for in heaven has been attached to our involvement in a home group, cell group, study group, care group, life group, connect group, small group, donut group, diet group, spandex group…
Somehow our faith journey has been reduced to good stewardship. As if we got saved to become faithful bible readers, and faithful churchgoers, faithful pray-ers, and faithful givers – of our time, our money, our souls.
Somehow, the Christian life has become about performing better and trying harder – its not.
The Christian life is a love story. The Christian life is simply a response, a “yes” to, and discovery of, His always good, relentless, life transforming love.
We’ve done nothing to deserve being loved, and we can’t do anything to get a well done. His love has nothing to do with whether or not we are good stewards nor does He love us so that we will become good stewards. As Graham Cooke, a friend and hero of mine says, “He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us…
He loves us because He is Love and that’s what Love does.
Honestly, if the “well-done” parable was just about stewardship, then Jesus is rather cruel. The fact is, He didn’t tell us how the faithful servants doubled their talents. Seriously, did the faithful servants invest in gold, or silver? Oil? Did their profits have something to do with real estate? What was going on in the stock market during Jesus day? Was it a bare market or bull? Or was it some other animal?
For those of us that aren’t business savvy or don’t fully understand the stock market, this story is practically a death sentence. If we read the “well-done” parable solely through the lens of stewardship regarding what we do, most of us will begin to feel inadequate and hopeless.
The stewardship message I most often hear suggests that whoever is the smartest and hardest working gets the biggest slice of paradise. The message implies that my success in stewarding His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven is directly connected to my personal gifting, ability, anointing, and work ethic. But if thats true, if this story at its core is about what I can do for the master, I am up $&@# creek without a paddle. And no offense, but so are you.
Faith – Trust & Risk
I have often heard it said that faith is spelled RISK. However, I would like to suggest that faith is actually spelled TRUST.
Have you heard the expression “leap of faith”? There is an implication that faith is about the leap. The term is a bit misleading. You see, if I had leapt out of an airplane without the fella and his parachute, it would have looked like risk but it wouldn’t have been faith. My faith wasn’t in the leap; my faith was in the parachute.
While faith often looks like risk, at its core, it’s about trust. You only risk to the extent that you trust…
And I think that this trust is the faith that pleases God…
The faithful servants from the Parable of the Talents were the fella’s who understood the true nature of the Master. They understood that their master was good and that he loved them. It was his goodness and love that set them free to trust and risk. Faith after all is about believing that God only has goodness and love for us.
Their faith empowered them to live in a revelation of his always-good love instead of the reality of harsh need.
What do we know about the one fella that got it wrong? His faith was in a lie. He believed that the master was evil. This enslaved him to live in the harsh reality of need. He could not trust and therefore he could not risk.
If you believe the master is harsh, your trust is compromised and you are not set free to risk. The best you can hope for is to not lose anything he has given. Your highest goal is to hang on for dear life. You are a survivor just trying to make it through another day.
Risk is an act of trust. The guy that got it wrong couldn’t even risk in trusting a bank. The guy that got it wrong served an unjust, harsh, and merciless fella who was impossible to satisfy.
“I knew you to be a harsh master,” he said. Need is a harsh master. When we relate to the master as a survivor (through the lens of need) we are forced to bury our little treasure in fear of failure. We live in terror, slaving for the man. We strive in vain.
The guy that got it wrong basically positioned himself to serve a harsh master instead of a loving Father. He positioned himself as a slave to need instead of a son of Love. In this parable, Jesus was revealing that we no longer have to live enslaved to the law of sin and death, but we are free, in Him, to live redeemed in the inheritance of sons and daughters.
I am not suggesting that stewardship isn’t a powerful principle, or that it isn’t important to God. I am simply suggesting that without a revelation of our Fathers always-good love, we have nothing to steward. It is impossible to steward the way Jesus has invited us to unless we know Love.
True stewarding is about seeing the Father. It is simply a response to our revelation of who He is. If we are sure in His love, we are powerful in our stewardship.
The stewardship Jesus revealed is not first about the natural seen world, it’s first about the unseen world. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. The faithful servants were stewarding their revelation of the Masters goodness. The faithful servants were stewarding their hunger to see the Father and become like Him. They were stewarding an intimate revelation of Love.
The well done we get in heaven has nothing to do with how we steward need and everything to do with how sure we become in our Fathers love. Why, because Jesus knew that Love meets every need; that His Fathers always-good Love was the answer and only those who were practiced in His goodness could be trusted to expand His family – His kingdom on earth as it is I heaven.
I would like to suggest that we aren’t called to steward need but love. I would also like to suggest that when we learn how to steward Love, we become answers to need – suddenly all of our gifting, anointing and work ethic are empowered to release life and transformation. The fact is we are called to make the kingdoms of this earth become the Kingdom of our God. We are called to steward from heaven to earth.
To do this, we must become intimate with Gods goodness and sure in His love.
I have offended a couple hundred someones…
So I have made a few revisions to the song Come Thou Fount, I have changed the lyrics ”prone to wander” to “prone to love.” For those who have never read why I feel free to change those lyrics, you can read My Grandma was Prone to Love or Adam & Eve – Minty Fresh. I have been writing and living out this message for several years now. Its been an awesome journey!
Whenever I write or talk about our new nature in Christ there are always some Christians that seem to get a little irritated, maybe even a lot irritated. I recently read a blog by a fella who was very offended by those particular lyrics being changed. He insisted that anyone who believes we aren’t prone to sin is a fake, insincere Christian – more or less an idiot who gives Christianity a bad name. Last I checked, there were nearly 250 responses to his blog, most emphatically agreeing with the authors assessment, both that we are dirty rotten sinners who are helpless to our ‘sin nature” and that anyone who would change the lyrics of Come Thou Fount is an insincere moron.
It made me a little sad. Not that strangers might think I’m a moron, I’m not a moron. Neither was I saddened by the fact that so many believers are convinced they are prone to sin, I understand that, I have lived it and still am walking out my faith regarding my new nature. But the thick condescending tone of hundreds of believers who are convinced that defending a proclivity to sin is somehow a badge to prove their authenticity was heart breaking.
I think its just the oposite by the way, authenticity isn’t just about confession but also transformation. In my opinion, confession without transformation is whats inauthentic, in fact I’d go so far as to call it hypocrisy. As a Christian, to admit I sin is only authentic if its followed by transformation through the power of His mercy and grace. But thats a rabbit trail for another day, or if you want to read it today, you can go to this blog Mercy & Grace…
What is really on my heart is that on more occasions than I can count, the same scripture is used to support our wandering ways. I saw it again in the responses supporting this fella’s claim of our sinful nature. You have probably read it, 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”
I think the temptation is to read this section of scripture through the lens of our own experiences and determine that Paul was acquiescing, tolerating, or even licensing sin, which is what was suggested by many responding to the fellas blog. That was the furthest thing from the truth! More than likely it wasn’t even sin Paul was talking about. Most biblical scholars believe the “thorn” was an illness. Paul mentions an illness in Galatians 4:13 and without going into detail there is enough other references to suggest that Paul may have had an issue with his eyes. Of course the thorn could also be the trials Paul was facing which he mentions just a couple verses later as, “insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.”
Whether it was illness, persecution, or even sin, Paul never acquiesced; he never suggested that the thorn had any right to him, or control of him, or that somehow it was sent of God to test him. In fact, he writes just the opposite – the thorn was “a messenger of satan. So even if the thorn was sin, it wasn’t a part of Pauls DNA or nature, it came from satan.
Paul continues, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn) away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Later in this same letter to the Corinthians Paul describes the power of this “sufficient” grace. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” ( 2 Corinthians 8:9)
So Paul prays three times for God to take away the “thorn,” affliction, illness, or sin. And then in the very next verse, God does something absolutely amazing, he answers Pauls prayer! God says, “My grace is sufficient.”
Here is a thought, the grace that was sufficient for Paul was the same grace Jesus operated in; the same grace in which Jesus become poor that His rich power would be available to all of us. Its the same “grace of God that brings salvation” Paul wrote about in Titus 2:11.
Could it be that the power of this grace is the whole point of Paul’s message? Of course it is! All you have to do is read anything else written by Paul to know that Grace is not a Band-Aid, Grace is a Person more powerful than any thorn.
Regarding the “thorn”, could it be that, just like all of us, Paul lived in the tension and mystery of unanswered prayer? And yet even there, God answers and says “My grace is enough.”
Is it possible that Paul wasn’t contradicting everything else he had ever written and the very life of Jesus by suggesting that just this once the grace of God didn’t bring salvation? Of course not!
When we read this scripture and use it to license sin or a nature prone to sin, we miss the one key phrase in this section of scripture that is the whole point, His “grace is sufficient.” His grace is the power that is evidenced through weakness; the same weakness Jesus humbled himself in that we would be raised up.
But there’s more, Paul continues, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I love this scripture because Paul doesn’t say when I am weak, He is strong. Which, by the way, is another song I may lyrically edit some day…
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong, when I’m weak then I am strong.”
That’s what Paul writes, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That’s what Grace does, it makes us strong. Even in the questions, the seeming unanswered prayers, the struggles not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers of darkness, even in the midst of loss or confusion, even when we do fall short, even when we don’t act like the saints His righteousness has transformed us to, His grace is sufficient, His grace is the power of the Gospel to bring salvation.
I would like to suggest that this “thorn” scripture is not about a weak and hopeless Paul who just can’t seem to overcome this one thing, no, this scripture is about Paul running the race in the power of Grace that makes us strong in weakness. We aren’t prone to wander, Grace says so. When we face unanswered prayers, Grace is sufficient. When we fail, Grace picks us up. When we tire, Grace strengthens. And when we repent, Grace transforms.
Its just the good news! Its the good news always getting better – even when it offends…
This months chapter Well Done for my new book Lets Go Find This Kingdom Come is now up.
Thirty Years Becoming Sure
Jesus walked the planet the last three years telling people who He was and backing it up with signs and wonders. He actually told us we didn’t have to believe that He was the Son of God if He didn’t back it up this way… But for His first thirty years, Jesus, the Father revealed, perfect theology, Love in human form, lived among humanity and only a handful of people knew it.
Some might be tempted to think that Jesus first thirty years were not as significant as the last three years simply because we have no miracles to measure Him by. However, I think that those first thirty years are the reason He lived like He did the last three.
And so we find Jesus at the age of thirty on the shores of the Jordan River where He meets John the Baptist and is submerged under the water. The heavens open and a dove descends, and a voice like thunder rumbles, “This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased”
In other words, “well done.”
The question has to be asked. Why was the Father pleased? What had Jesus done?
I would like to suggest that the first thirty years of Jesus time on earth was spent becoming sure in His Fathers always-good love. For thirty years Jesus saw His Fathers nature, and then saw more of His Fathers nature, and then saw more of His Fathers nature. For thirty years Jesus knew His Fathers love, and then knew more of His love, and more of His love. For thirty years Jesus grew in wisdom and favor until the absolute goodness of His Father was so deeply interwoven into His heart it was the only reality He knew. For thirty years Jesus became surer, and surer, and surer…
AND then, after thirty years, and in the fullness of time, God with us, perfect love, gets a “Well pleased.” He gets a “well done Son.”
This is absolutely amazing! Jesus got a “well pleased” before He did anything! He got a “well done” without any earthly evidence of doing.
Think about it, He got the well done before He turned water into wine, before He walked on water, before He made more food out of less. He got the well done before He healed the blind eye, the def ear, the lame, before He cleansed the leper. He got the well done before He cast out demons and set people free. He got the well done before He raised the dead.
He got the well done before He went into a wilderness, before He went to a cross, before He rose, before He saved all of humanity and set us free from slavery to need. He got a well done before He ascended and then descended in the form of the Holy Spirit to release us into a brand new one of a kind intimate revelation of His perfect love.
As far as we know, Jesus got a “well done,” before He did anything. And I think this “well done” is what empowered Him to “do.” I believe all the beautiful works He did over the last three years of His life was the evidence of the first thirty years of becoming sure in His Fathers always-good love.
I would like to suggest that those thirty years of seeming obscurity had nothing to do with doing and everything to do with becoming sure in His Fathers love. It was about intimacy. It was about seeing the Father and becoming sure as His Son.
I would like to suggest that when we get to heaven and we get a well done, it wont be for what we did, it will be for how sure we became in our Fathers love. The doing will simply be the evidence that we believed He loved us.
My Alarm Clock
It was the Christmas of 1986; I was twelve years old. Aimee, Joel and I all opened our identical individually wrapped presents at the same time. I was old enough to know that when this happened it meant we were all getting the same thing, “But what could it be?” I thought excitedly. And though I would have never guessed, I wasn’t disappointed.
I loved my alarm clock! It was cool white plastic, high tech small, and science fiction digital! State of the art! Although my new bike topped the gift list that year, the alarm clock was a close second. Yes, it was a good Christmas.
That alarm clock woke me for middle school, high school, and college. It cheered me on for 5 am hockey practices, and 6 am construction jobs. It woke me for international trips and fun days at amusement parks. It was a faithful companion long before I knew Karen. And after I got married it came with me, its steady rhythms waking me countless mornings.
Twenty-five years later the bike is long gone, but that amazing white digital alarm clock is still with me. To this day, it sits on my nightstand, its red numbers twinkling. Some of my best memories have been made with the help of my alarm clock. It’s hard to believe that strong loyal reliable friend has been ringing in my ears for a quarter century.
I hate my alarm clock. For twenty-five years that damn thing has buzzed in my ear forcing me to abandon the sweetness of sleep. The noxious arrogance of the vile sound assaults my spirit with its graceless existence. Its grating tone; like the sound of a thousand crying babies. It’s soulless wailing cementing exhaustion into my very bones.
When it begins its blathering I cant turn it off quick enough! There are mornings where I wake one minute before it goes off and thank all that is holy I escaped the sound. Over the years I have heard it on a TV show or movie and found my mood darkened instantly. I don’t know if there is any sound more annoying than that of my alarm clock.
So I respect my alarm clock, but mostly, I hate it.
I use my alarm clock to wake up, but I turn it off once I’m awake. If I didn’t, I would kill someone before breakfast. If at all possible I avoid it, it’s a last line of defense, a worse case scenario.
While we are on the subject of alarms, I also have a grudging respect for fire alarms… until I’m standing under the one in our hallway fanning it with a pillow I’ve snatched off the couch because we forgot the garlic bread again. Then I find them sickeningly obnoxious.
Alarms, mostly, I hate them.
While I’m on the subject…
The news, mostly, I hate it too.
I can’t watch it for more than a few minutes. Sometimes, even the commercials that run during “The Office” can mess me up. It’s the crimes reported that get me the most,
the news about what one human did to another. Sometimes the reports or statistics regarding the horrible state of our economy can be disturbing as well. It can stay with me for hours, days, if I let it.
I feel the same way about most talk radio. I can only listen for a while, then I need a break.
Its not that I don’t want to be informed, its just that
in my opinion, the news seems mostly to be a mouthpiece for what the enemy is doing on the earth today, a platform for spotlighting and amplifying his achievements. It’s like the newscasters sit there and say, “hey look at what He did here, and did you hear about what he did yesterday?”
To me, the news is
often a megaphone for an inferior reality. Its as if they are saying, “Be afraid little grasshoppers.”
The headline was brilliant, journalism at its finest, “We Are But Grasshoppers in Their Sight!” it read. And ten out of the twelve investigative reporters agreed, this was the best angle for the story.
Moses had sent spies into the land promised by God – twelve investigative reporters. They all returned. Like every good reporter, these men lived for the moment they could give personal commentary.
“The land flowed with milk and honey,” they all said. It was lush and beautiful and an all around wonderful place to live. In this they were all in agreement… However, the report didn’t end there. The spies let Moses know that there were rather large people that lived in the land and these people would probably try to kill anyone who attempted to take it.
Now ten of the twelve spies went on to focus their report on the size of the lands inhabitants. “They are giants,” they said. And with this reality as the cornerstone of their report, the consensus was that the land was unconquerable.
However, there were two spies who understood that the land was their inheritance. They
saw the land from Heavens perspective – a superior revelation – and their commentary reflected it. While they acknowledged the giants, their focus was on the size of their God. “We can take this land” they said. I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as unbiased reporting. I would also like to suggest that the bias is very important.
There were two ways to report on the Promised Land, from mans perspective or Gods. There are two ways to see our lives, from mans perspective or Gods. These are always the two perspectives we must choose from when it comes to life.
And in life,
we know we are influenced by an inferior reality if fear dictates how we act regarding the giants that posses our promise. We know we are influenced by an inferior reality if fear seems like wisdom. The eight spies, they where operating from an inferior bias.
There was devastation power in their untrue commentary “we are but grasshoppers.” It turned the beautiful miracle of manna into nothing more than welfare and produced a generation of manna eating survivors. While manna was Gods idea, and like all Gods ideas, it was a good one, He never intended it to become a way of life.
Those ten spies kept an entire generation from their promise. They condemned their people, their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, to a wilderness existence. They commentated from an inferior reality, they missed the truth, and in so doing, neutered their people and limited an entire generations impact on the world. The Kingdom was not expanded in their lifetime.
Turn The Damn Thing Off
I’d like to propose that the news we often get these days is being reported and commentated on by those ten spies. If you listen closely, you will hear the newscaster say it, “We are but grasshoppers.”
en it comes to where we get our news, we must seek heavens perspective…
If you are getting your information from the ten fearful “grasshopper” spies, find a new source. If when you are finished listening to commentary, you feel inadequate, fearful, or overwhelmed, find a new source. If after you’ve spent time with a friend, you feel insecure and hopeless, find a new source. If after you hear preaching, you feel shame or condemnation, find a new source.
What I am trying to say is, turn the damn thing off. Its one thing to be aware of the fact that there are giants but not one of us has to believe the lie that tells us we are but grasshoppers.
Jesus said when you pray say, “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We are called to seek and live from heavens perspective. We are free to know and become intimate with our heavenly Father that we might know His love and see ourselves, and the world we live in, through His eyes.
How do we know when we are living from His perspective? We hope, we dream, we envision, we give, we risk. You see, from heavens perspective, we are the giants.
The fact is, we all provide commentary, whether it’s at the office, at home, with our kids, or from a pulpit. Personally, I want to be with the spies who got it right, the fella’s that understood who God was and the nature of their call – to expand the Kingdom, to establish heaven on earth.
I want to be the kind of believer that reports from heavens perspective; a son that knows and is absolutely sure in his Heavenly Father’s always-good love. I want to run with the saints who believe that all impossibilities are possible with Him. I want to be a hope bringer who commentates in the power of the resurrection.
Jesus commissioned, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
What’s that mean? It means we are not grasshoppers; we are giants with all the authority and power of an open heaven. Don’t let your heart be troubled by the alarm clock, His Kingdom is near, its at hand!