Thursday, February 28, 2008

Avoiding the Big D!

     Hmmm. In light of what I wrote about last time, I found it really interesting to receive an email this week from someone who sent me a link to a website that was warning us all about the "dangerous deception" contained in The Shack. As you probably know, the Internet has just about every kind of warning you can imagine about everyone and everything! Many of these websites generate a lot of fear with their self-appointed "ministries of warning" as they "inform" people about the dangers of being deceived in "the Last Days."
     Now the problem with being deceived, of course, is that you don't know it when you are. So we really do need to be wise and cautious, of course, about what we expose ourselves to. But the Bible has not left us without some wonderful help (and assurances) for those who are born-from-above followers of Jesus. Here are a few thoughts to help you evaluate not only these "warnings" but the websites themselves and the things they warn us about.
     First, the Apostle John gave us a wonderful way to check out the "spirits" and various teachings. In 1 John 4:1-3 he states that the test of any teaching/spirit is whether or not it confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. When John wrote those words originally, many false teachers were going around teaching something called "Gnosticism" which taught in various ways that "the Christ" never really became flesh (because of the Platonic view that all material things were corrupt). We can still use his test, though, because it's a good one: anything that lessens or diminishes either Jesus' humanity or His divinity or questions the mystery and miracle of Him being fully God and fully man should be thrown out. (Yup, The Shack clearly passes this test, and all the other "tests" I list below!).
     Also, in the passage I referenced last time (Matthew 7:15-23), it is clear that Jesus expected His followers to be able to identify false teachers. He says we are able to detect false teachers/teaching by their "fruit." Whatever else that means, it means that if we look closely at someone we will be able to determine whether this person's ministry is characterized by (and produces things) like increasing love for God and others, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, generosity, etc. Also, those who are true and good will be obviously committed to knowing Father more and more intimately and clearly committed to obeying Him, etc., (as it implies in verses 21-23).
     The Apostle Paul also gives some clues in his discussions about those who would try to deceive others. I won't list the passages for these, but some of the things Paul gave as indicators of deceivers are: they will be self-promoting and draw people to themselves more than to Jesus, they will be self-indulgent and self-oriented, they will proud and arrogant, focused more on earthly things than on the things of God, etc.
     So perhaps it will be helpful to ask yourself questions like the following to enable you to evaluate things that claim to teach you the things of God (as warnings or otherwise).
  • Does this (book, ministry, person, etc.) lead me closer to God as Father, Jesus as Lord, and help me to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit?
  • How does this person treat others, especially the "unimportant," the unnoticed, the poor, the disadvantaged, etc.? How people treat the "least" is a huge indicator to me about whether or not I should trust them.
  • Does this website (book, message) cause faith or fear to rise up in me? Many of the websites out there that warn people about deception literally exude fear and cause fear to come upon those who read their stuff. Does that sound like God to you? Isn't He the one who is able to keep us from falling? (Jude v.23).
  • Does it build people up, really?
  • Does it respect those with other viewpoints even while correcting them? (See 2 Timothy 2:24-26)
  • Does it "feel humble"?
  • Does it go against most of the rest of the Body of Christ? (The website that my friend sent me attacked many very well known, godly leaders.)
  • Does this have person who is warning me have an improper view of Scripture? Many of the websites out there that warn people about everything under the sun are written by those who are stuck in a non-Biblical understanding of the supernatural (they are deeply afraid of it). This faulty view happens to them because they are trapped in a western, modern, highly rationalistic worldview that is no more biblical than paganism. 
  • I think you get the picture. Ask questions that relate to things like humility, love, kindness, etc. That will help on both sides of any issue. It will keep you from being filled with fear from those deceived people who are warning us about deception, and it will keep you from following someone or some teaching that may indeed really be deceptive.
     That's enough for now. And for the record, The Shack, as you know, has been used by God to bring untold numbers of people into a wonderfully close relationship with the God of Scripture, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Any who would suggest that it's a deception are simply missing its message, a message that reveals the loving and redemptive heart of Papa God.

Stay lost in His love!

Tom, the least of Abba's children

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Signs, Wonders and Deception???

One of the biggest arguments against the supernatural among an increasingly fringe element in the church is rooted in the fear of deception. What do we say to folks who seem to believe that everything supernatural—anything that cannot be explained—is dangerous? For a longer answer, I would, of course, invite them to read a few books such as J.P. Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle and Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of God, but following are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

Tom’s thoughts on avoiding deception in these days of increasing numbers of signs, wonders, and miracles. It seems unlikely that the enemy it will be blatant and obvious in his deceptions. It seems more likely that he will attempt to appear as genuine and trustworthy as possible and inject only the slightest little twinge of that which is evil in order to slowly and carefully lead people astray. Given this assumption, it's conceivable that someone could start out genuine and yet be led into error, if they are not watchful and alert and submitted to others in the body of Christ and to Scripture. Indeed, a certain humility towards church history also seems in order in this matter. If folks who move in supernatural things don’t remain humble and open to input from others, it’s conceivable that they could be led astray and possibly lead many astray with them. We are told that the enemy can clothe himself as an angel of light, and we are also told that deception will increase in the Last Days so that, if possible, even the elect would be deceived.

Does this mean that we pull back from the miraculous? Absolutely not! That would be even more dangerous because it would leave the enemy as the only one who had power. No we must press in just as the early church did and ask persistently for boldness and signs, wonders and miracles to be done in the name of Jesus. But that last phrase becomes a key for us all in avoiding deception, because it shows us to whom the glory belongs and from whom the power comes and for whose purposes the power is exercised. Remembering those things will certainly steer us away from being deceived by the miraculous. And there are other things that will help as well. These things include remaining in humility and in mutual submission to one another; remaining in submission to God's Word and to what has been shown to us from those who have gone before; praying for and exercising discernment—we will need discernment in great measure. If all of these are part of our life as well as obviously part of those who seem to move in exceptional power, then we will not be deceived. For more on this, check out Matthew 7:15-23!

So as for me, I will press in ever harder to see the same level of power as was present in the early church present in my life and in the Body of Christ around the world. But I will do so in humility, with Isaiah 42 as my “model for ministry” and with many brothers and sisters around me to speak into my life as needed. I will do so with a desire to have only God honored by what happens and with a commitment to have the Holy Spirit and God’s word search me continually. What about you?

Stay lost, absolutely drowned, in God's love!

Tom, Abba's least child

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Violinist, The Shack and The Revolution

On December 16, 2006, during one of my times with Papa God, I had a visual impression (some would call it a "vision") of a violinist that I believe relates to what we see God doing in North America right now.

The visual impression came to me as I was pondering the devastation and brokenness of our nation and a very broken, weak church.
I was in the air looking down upon the North American continent, and as I looked I saw in the distance a violinist standing in the middle of the darkness and devastation. At first as I looked I thought that the violinist represented the church, which like Nero was "fiddling while Rome burned." But I sensed God telling me to keep looking, and as I did I realized that the violinist was Jesus! And as Jesus played the violin, all around in the darkness God's people began to listen to the music. As they did so, their eyes were opened, they saw clearly reality and truth both about the world and about God. Then as I continued to watch, light, life, fire and gold began emerging and spreading
around those who heard the music. As the light (golden light) began to spread, it began to form networks all across the continent--people were connecting everywhere. And the music grew louder, wilder and sweeter -- even now, I can hardly bear to think of it because of its wild, sweet, loud power!

Since I had that vision I have had increasingly frequent encounters with believers who are waking up to intimacy with God in remarkable ways. At last people are beginning to realize that the Good News is really good news--that God is delighted in His kids and is "especially fond" of each and every one of us. It seems that the violinist's music is getting louder, with wonderful results. And these folks are discovering one another in ways that only "heavenly orchestration" can explain.

Where does The Shack come in? I have found that this amazing book contains the music of the violinist in a way that enables people to hear it with life-disrupting clarity. "Shack stories" are beginning to pile up in my memory banks: 70 year old believers who have been "churched" for decades weeping unashamedly as they say, "Now for the first time in my life I can call God 'Papa'!" and young girls weeping through the entire book as Papa heals deep "father wounds" that could be shared with no one. Wow! This is amazing and exciting. Have you read The Shack yet? Please do so. I believe that it is one of God's best instruments for bringing the revolution ("revival") that so many have been praying for. You can order it through Amazon or directly from the website www.theshackbook.com.


So, has the revolution truly started at last? I believe that it has, and The Shack tells us what it looks like: "If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he's hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness--a revolution that revolves around Jesus and what he did for us all and what he continues to do in anyone who has a hunger for reconciliation and a place to call home. This is not a revolution that will overthrow anything, or if it does, it will do so in ways we could never contrive in advance. Instead it will be the quiet daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, everything matters. (page 248).

Are you in? Let us hear from you!

Stay lost in Papa's love, embraced by His grace,

Tom, the least of Abba's children