Testimony

Interview at Cypress Church: How to Explain “Being Born Again”

I had the incredible privilege of being asked to share with my church family yesterday. Find the link highlighted below.

Here is a wonderful message from Ben Sobels, co-author of the Discipleship Gospel and pastor of my home church, Cypress Church in Salinas, CA. Pastor Ben interviews me toward the end of his sermon as the object lesson of sorts.

The teaching is on John 3:1-8– Nicodemus asking Jesus, “how is a man born again?”

Questions People Asked Jesus #1: How Can One Be Born Again?

Testimony

“A farmer went out to plant some seeds.” Matthew 13:3

In church this Sunday, our congregation was drawn by the leadership into a time of prayer to turn our faces to the New Year with purpose and humility.

During the service, “enough” was the word of the hour for me. It was impressed on me, while I prayed, that there is already “enough” to accomplish the work God has set out for us as people, as a church, as the Church, and as people of the Kingdom sown into the world (Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 13:37).

It is easy at year’s end to reflect on how hard the year has been. All over Facebook, I see people writing how glad they are that 2018 is over, and that they have high hopes and determination to make 2019 a better year, or even the best year yet.

We focus on change when 2018, in fact, had enough and 2019 has the same enough that we needed yesterday and will need tomorrow.

When we focus on change we operate in complaint, dissatisfaction, and disbelief.

Consider this: What God plants is accomplished.

The seed has to die to sprout; it has to struggle to take root and simultaneously reach its shoot through the soil. The one who planted it might not be the one who waters it. It will mature over time, and it bears fruit at the right time. (John12:24; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7; Mark 11:12-25.)

The seed goes through death and pain and struggle over its course. It experiences phases of unseen dormancy but also times of radiant flourishing.

But it was not change the seed needed. It didn’t need anything to change to make one season good or another bad.

When God plants a seed, that seed has everything it needs within it to run the race the Lord has set for it.

It will accomplish bearing fruit because God has already written that into the seed.

The length of seasons. The course of the race. The construct of time, is what’s difficult.

He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Jesus is the “Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 3:18). Jesus’ offering for our sin preceded our need for it.

Faith is the principle of the seed– all that is needed is already there and governed over time by the One that wrote into that seed the work He created for it (Matthew 17:20).

Mountains will be moved by the principle of a seed.

Abraham had faith in the impossible– that a nation as innumerable as stars and as plentiful as sand would be birthed for him by a barren woman; and that this nomad would inherit not only a land promised to him but all the nations of the earth. (Hebrews 11:8-12; Romans 4:13; Galatians 4:21-31.)

He never saw any of it happen. He knew his son of promise; but the full expanse of God’s promises to him he never saw. He only saw Isaac– the seed.

Today we know that through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit that people of all nations have been adopted to Abraham as an inheritance. And we are still by faith watching the seed’s tendrils grow into the fullness of every promise made not just to Abraham but even back to Noah and to Adam.

We have faith like a mustard seed now; we will see the landscape of the earth reshaped in the fullness of time later (Isaiah 40-42).

May your New Year be filled with contentment, expectancy, and belief in the eternal nature of our God.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is no shadow of turning in Him. His word does not return void. He sends rain and snow and it doesn’t return to heaven until it makes the seeds bud and flourish for the farmer. (Hebrews 13:8; Isaiah 55:10; James 1:17.)

Maybe last year was bad. But don’t spend time trying to figure out how to make this one better, or make yourself better, or your kids better, or your income better.

I’m not gunna tell you to pray more, or focus on having more faith, or being more grateful.

I mean, I could, those are all good.

My recommendation is that you meditate on, study, and reframe every thought (take your thoughts captive) to this: God is eternal.

What God is doing in your life is eternal. It is outside of time. It’s not better or worse year to year. It is according to His eternal purposes (Psalm 57:2).

When He made you a new creation, He changed you once and for all and gave you enough.

He planted His word within you and abides in you by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 13:23; John 15-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17.)

And this wasn’t for your own aggrandizement. It was so you would have what it takes to be living in a dying body for a life that is outside of time (Philippians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 4:16.)

You don’t need to make resolutions because God is the one who is resolved (Luke 9:51).

As a Christian, you are in Someone else’s agenda and on Someone else’s time.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. And the life I live now in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

Live eternally this year. Full of hope in God’s “enough.”

1 Peter 4:1-11.

 

 

 

Testimony

Festivities or Fasting. You had Forty Days to Spend this Christmas.

Every year, I promise myself that I will go easy on Christmas this year.

I’ll spend less, I say. I’ll schedule less outings. No caroling this year. We can skip baking cookies; that’s just a mess anyway. We can bow out of one or two charitable activities.

Last year, I used old pictures (gasp!) for our Christmas cards. And this year, though I have bought $80 worth of Christmas stamps already…I am not going to send out Christmas cards. I thought I was compromising by opting for generic store bought holiday cards. One thing led to another, and I’m scrapping ’em altogether this year.

I’ll have seasonal greeting cards on hand for the next 40 years.

Listen, I’m gunna level with y’all here: I am pretty sure the credit cards I just consolidated were by majority “the ghosts of Christmases past.”

For someone with seasonal affective disorder– amongst other brain challenges– a desperate attempt to cheer up the dark days of December seems logical on a surface level.

My large extended family has also always been big time fans of the holidays. Forced Family Fun is an important component of familial culture on my mom’s side.

This means observance with gifts, decorations, and gluttony are vital for maintaining positive internal relations with the clan.

My daughter, mom, and grandmother also are all born on the same day in December!

So come on, we go big or go home. ‘Tis the season.

Here’s what I have noticed about the time between mid-November and New Year’s Eve: things fall through the cracks.

In the past several years, I’ve seen insurance renewals, logical budgeting, personal boundaries, and even people forgotten in the over-scheduling that is inherent to six weeks of celebration.

We can’t realistically expect to quadruple our responsibilities for a month and a half and still attend to our normal routine.

I have a hard time keeping up on a normal day, so if I’m gunna get all festive, you better believe just about everything else falls to the wayside.

I sabotage my New Year by exhausting my finances, family, and body; cluttering my calendar, home, and mind; and diverting my priorities, attention, and spirituality for 6 whole weeks out of 52!

That is 11.5% of my year– more than a tenth of my year– spent in inattention.

I sacrifice peace, calm, purpose, intentionality, and contentment to indulge for nearly a tenth of my year.

There is a lot a person could accomplish in six weeks– 40 days– with the passion, unrestraint, and commitment that we reserve for the holidays.

Like, crossing over into the Promised Land? Preparing for conquer, victory, sanctification, establishment, and blessing?

That’s what the Israelites were on the precipice of in the Book of Numbers. They were standing at the border of all things New.

About to say goodbye to their rock-star leader Moses. About to test their mettle, their resolve– their ability to lean hard on God’s promises.

But it was at this crucial point that they are sabotaged by Balaam and their attention is diverted to feasting, carousing, indulgence.

They put aside what they know is good for living and spend just a little time treating themselves to just a little bad behavior.

Do you know that Christmas Day is the deadliest day of the year?

And nope, sorry, it’s not drunk driving accidents. Nor is it suicide. Oddly, there’s a spike in suicide at Easter.

Christmas Day is the deadliest day of the year due to negligence. It is possible to stack up more deaths nation wide due to neglect!– inattention– than any other way.

Drug overdose doesn’t kill a record number of people on a single day every year. Drunk driving, shootings, smoking. None of those compare.

How does the enemy of our souls harvest as many of us as possible in a single day? Distract us.

And it’s so insidious. The way that people die on Christmas:

Not going to the hospital when he feels tightening in his chest, after all, he doesn’t want to disrupt the holiday dinner. The kids are having fun; don’t bother them.

More people die in house fires at Christmas. There are not more house fires at Christmas; but people are more distracted and therefore more likely to die in the house fires at Christmas.

We just aren’t paying attention.

Every pastor and Christian thought leader encourages us to focus in periods of 40 days.

Fast, pray, diet, give…for 40 days! That’s always the pitch.

And come on, we never do it. Or never finish it. Somehow, I am a perpetual quitter at 33 days. I can be intentional for 33 days but not 40 for some reason.

So, yeah, we can’t wage war in the spirit, we can’t tarry, for 40 days.

But we sure can drink, spend, eat, travel, instigate pointless quibbles, and have sad, lonely, “I’m-the-only-single-cousin” bar hook-ups in the ol’ hometown.

Satan easily steals, kills, and destroys your new year utilizing these 40 days of inattention and compromise.

At the borderland of your year, your promises, your hopes, your expectations for God’s goodness and purpose– His newness. And we let the enemy work us over and set us back and shake us just before we enter in.

That’s the embattlement of this season. Don’t miss it. See it. Attend to it.

 

 

Testimony

Halloween on Hallowed Ground. When Christians are Roaming rather than Resurrected.

Religion is always in agreement with the spirit of the air and the spirit of the age. It has an affection for temporal things, contemporary thought, and desires to be a part of the context of its time in history.

The spirit of the air= religion loves the systems and contents of the world. The spirit of the age= religion loves the knowledge, technology, and sophistication that marks individual time periods.

Religion will always tend toward intersectionality; intersecting and assimilating, appropriating and absorbing the secular in the name of the gospel– it brings in the pagan making “faith” accessible to the unchurched utilizing whitewashed pagan rituals that are familiar to the proselyte so that it is easier for him to get to church.

Ezekiel 13 talks about false prophets “inventing their own prophecies” ahead of a time of tribulation for Israel. In the passage the Lord speaks, comparing such prophets to “jackals digging in the ruins.” These prophets were proclaiming peace in the land, when in fact the Lord was preparing judgment for Israel.

The false prophets had a nice, easy-going, happy go-lucky, “we’re all good,” message to spread that was placating the guilty consciences of people who were about to be destroyed for their sins.

The Lord says to these prophets what Jesus will say to the Pharisees centuries later:

These evil prophets deceive my people by saying “All is peaceful” when there is no peace at all! It’s as if the people have built a flimsy wall, and these prophets are trying to reinforce it by covering it with whitewash! Tell these whitewashers that their wall will soon fall down. A heavy rainstorm will undermine it; great hailstones and mighty winds will knock it down. And when the walls fall down the people will cry out, “What happened to your whitewash?” Ezekiel 13:10-12 

Just as Ezekiel debuts the equivalency of false religion and “whitewash,” Ezekiel also happens to house the term “fishermen.”

When Jesus tells the disciples they will become “fishers of men,” it is probably not so that they can relate to their new vocation in terms of their old occupation. Jesus calls them “fishers of men” because both Jeremiah and Ezekiel use the title “fishermen” to prophesy about a group of people that God ordains to go out into the nations and bring back His people from captivity. (Jeremiah 16 & Ezekiel 26-28.)

In fact, in Ezekiel 26, the completion of God’s judgment against His enemies is marked by the fishermen laying out their nets to dry. The fishermen’s job is complete once all of God’s people have been pulled out of the world so God can judge it.

“Fishermen” was not an accidental phrase on Jesus’ part– nor was whitewash. Both terms are references to Old Testament prophecy– prophesies that are for the Church Age at least in part.

The Old Testament prophesies of fishermen and whitewash are today’s evangelists and false prophecy, namely, a false gospel of peace.

Christians as evangelists are supposed to be yanking people out of their context, not putting an aquarium within church walls for them to swim around in their same old sea of humanity– we seek to comfort them with the familiar things of the world.

And here we come to the holiday case study: Halloween is all about familiarity — familiar spirits, spiritism, necromancy, and seeking the eternal in temporal beings. At Halloween the dead are venerated, prayed for, and by some, they are sought out.

Dead people are dead, gone. Jesus told His followers to “let the dead bury the dead.” Saul’s final insult to God was summoning Samuel from the grave.

There are nine specific laws in the Torah alone forbidding the use of witchcraft, sorcery, psychic practices, and mediums.

People are temporal beings. Once they are gone, they have no business on the earth save for the demonic– apparitions included.

The affinity for the spirits of the dead that our culture puts on parade at Halloween, is as an affinity for the spirit of the age and the spirit of the air— the spirit of things tied to the earth.

As Christians we are called to set out eyes on things above.

We are not called to celebrate dead things.

Yet, we celebrate many dead things– a love of culture, the idolatry of passing philosophies, beating the system we’re in; that’s not resurrection life, it’s being buried neck deep in the world.

A few months back, I was having very strong nostalgia for my “glory days.” It so happened that I was traveling back and forth through a few of my old haunts, and it was bringing up very potent memories.

This very real and nagging love and sadness for what had been, the person I was, the people I used to know, the types of jokes and drinks and cigarettes and music, the conversation, beliefs, books, and newscasts, the art, and scenery, and clothes and jewelry…I was aching for the past. The more I engaged with this wistfulness, the more I found myself puffing up with pride about “the sort of person I am,” the “things I know,” my “taste,” and I sort of developed an indignation toward my real in the flesh life.

There was this very real process of looking to the past, admiring objects that I didn’t even have anymore, and creating a pretentious scaffolding around myself. Oddly, these waves of nostalgia– and legitimate temptation– were instigated by the beautiful scenery of the places I was visiting.

My love for earthly things was literally being piqued by the Earth. The second commandment is no small thing! Thou shalt not create an idol of anything on, above, or below the earth.

In 1 Samuel 15:23 we read, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshipping idols.”

Witchcraft and idolatry are natural companions. They arise out of, and within each other. It is our love of dead things that gives us a love of dead religion.

Religion is obsessed with the riches of the earth. It wants its earthly reward. It is of the world but not in the world. Rather than being in the world but not of it. It venerates all things dead– dead works, dead rituals, dead people.

It’s little wonder that the Catholic holiday of All Hallow’s Eve is such a natural companion for the Neo-pagan holiday Samhain.

People make a big deal about Halloween, and about Christians participating in the festivities or about churches participating in the festivities.

And I think it is a big deal. It’s something you have to be thoughtful about- examine 1 Corinthians 10. But firstly, be prayerful about. Regardless of whether or not you go trick or treating, or go to a vigil mass, you need to be in prayer at this time about the dead things you are involved with all year that need to be laid to rest.

Is Halloween even the worst way you are tied up in culture?

The Lord has been showing me how much I am a product of this age. I’m seeing how much I love philosophizing, and thinking, and talking in super smart post-modern ways. He’s showing me where my treasure lies; and how many of my peers are like me, and how we are turning the gospel into intellectual rhetoric, throwing up flimsy walls to house ridiculous aquariums; and we are fawning over yellow books by dead Austrians, and all the new books, and just a lot of dead spirituality that generally damns.

The fellowship of light and darkness is of equal concern in July as it is in October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testimony

Who’s afraid of Yom Kippur? My devotional journey as a Wilderness Christian.

I have been a little stumped on what to write about for Yom Kippur. My week got hijacked by a burning need to understand covenant theologies vs. dispensational theologies and all the “progressive” versions of those theologies in between.

It wasn’t a completely unrelated pursuit. Christians are often curious about how the Old Testament figures into salvation by grace through faith. This definitely raises the question of why I would be interested in writing about the Fall Feasts to begin with as a fairly Reformed Arminian– Reformed Arminianism is also a thing!

To be fair, I am going to write about the liturgical holidays too, which have even less to do with the New Testament than the Old Covenant feasts. Perhaps I have more of a thing for calendars than I do Levitical law!

I do have a pretty interesting background theologically. I was born into a Portuguese Catholic family that converted to Pentecostalism. Yes, conversion is the appropriate word, just for information’s sake, because evangelicals of all denominations believe in a personal conversion moment where one is born again in Christ, which Catholics absolutely do not.

From Pentecostalism, my mother lead the charge as we journeyed into Messianic teachings, then into Calvary Chapel’s fundamentalism, into a charismatic inner healing ministry with prosperity doctrines as incidentals, then I personally branched out as a teenager to attend a Presbyterian church where I was first exposed to post-modern emergent mysticism. I also spent a lot of time singing at a Lutheran church in high school with all the High Church formalities and completed my “theological confusion studies” at Azusa Pacific University which in 2004 was just flirting with ecumenical and inclusive theologies where I visited the seeker-sensitive and emergent meccas– Saddleback and Mosaic– albeit unimpressed. I was impressed by the Billy Graham crusade that I went to just because Jars of Clay was playing at it. Witnessing one of Graham’s crusades kinda kept the revivalist ember alive somewhere in my soul.

I also got to see Francis Chan an abundance of times in Azusa’s compulsary chapels. In reality he may as well have been my pastor in terms of percentage of sermons I sat under in my college years.

So what does all this have to do with Yom Kippur? I don’t know, maybe nothing!

But, you know, I think it does. The theologies and pastors I have sat under really all come from a heritage restorationism in one way or another. Restorationism is that old Puritan desire to return to the biblical basics of the church.

The Restoration movement could ultimately be pinned on Luther and it has taken a multitude of names over the centuries. Now we call it emergent.

We all have a sinking feeling, and perhaps a sincere concern, that we have added so many costumes, preoccupations, and presumptions to our religious practice that we render it void. I think many of us probably fear that our personal devotional lives have gone in the same way of becoming so pretentious that we are pretty useless to the cause of the Gospel.

See, I don’t feel that the Old Testament is the mold for clunky trappings and phony tall hats. I don’t think it’s antithetical to the New Testament. I think the Old Testament and it’s Old Covenant laws is Relationship With God For Dummies.

I have gleaned four core beliefs about God from tagging along on my mother’s spiritual sojourning. The following are unshakable foundations for how I read, interpret, and organize my understanding of the unity of the Bible:

  1. God does not change His mind. (Numbers 23:19)
  2. The physical and the spiritual are one reality, though mercifully, humans have a thin veil separating their perception of the spiritual activity in their physical reality. (Talk to anyone who has done hallucigenics, had a psychotic break, experiences prophetic dreams, has been a missionary, knows a Satanist, has read Genesis 3:7, knows anything about Eastern Orthodox or Catholic beliefs on the spiritual realm, has the unfortunate experience of having seen demons, or just entertains philosophical sytems other than Western scientific rationalism and materialism.) Based on the premise that we live in an equally spiritual and physical reality, I believe that God’s physical laws and promises are in no way separate from His spiritual laws and promises. In other words, Christians are the spiritual children of Abraham and have been grafted into the physical promises of Abraham along with his spiritual promises. My belief in both of these statements is ultimately grounded in that I see no significant difference, in the Old or New Testament, between how the physical and spiritual components of reality are treated.
  3. God is Triune in the Old and New Testaments. He did not become Triune over time, neither in revelation nor in relationship to humans. (Genesis 1, Judges 6, John 1-3.) Therefore, the Levitical laws were as much from the heart of Jesus as from the heart of the Father. (John 12: 44-50)
  4. God has always been more concerned with the heart’s condition than outward disciplines. That concept did not originate in Matthew 5. Laws are to discipline the flesh, and the more yielding a heart is the more free a person is from strict disciplines. (1 Samuel 15:22-23, Psalm 40:6, 1 Corinthians 8:1-10:13, and everything written about King David.)

Therefore, celebrating, and I do mean celebrating, any component of the Old Covenant does not automatically make a person a Hebrew Roots legalist. In my case, it’s just something I enjoy.

I don’t depend on the Day of Atonement to give me salvation for just one year. I depend on that atoning Good Friday long ago for my salvation forever.

I neither think that my works please God, nor do I disparage any work I do in pursuit of Him. I know where my eternal rest comes from.

And remembering an earthly day of “solemn rest,” 1, 3, 7, or 52 sunsets a year as a foreshadowing of my Eternal Rest does not make me forget one iota that only faith pleases God.

By faith I know that God both demands sacrifice and is the sacrifice; that He simultaniously demands perfection and that He irrationally, literally, by choice sees me as perfect.

And if you choose to read Leviticus 23:26-32, regarding the institution of the Day of Atonement, let me give you the key words of faithful practice that are as applicable today as they were 4,000 years ago:

  1. Be careful (1 Corinthians 16:13)
  2. Holy assembly (Hebrews 10:23-25)
  3. Deny yourselves (Matthew 16:24)
  4. Offerings of purification are made for you making you right with God (1 John 2:2)
  5. All who do not deny themselves will be cut off from God (Luke 9:24)

Be free in Jesus name. Even free enough to be unafraid of the Law– because in Jesus, it ain’t got nothing on you! (John 5:45)

 

 

Testimony

Shavuot and Pentecost. The Spirit vs. the Computer Virus.

So today, God answered a prayer of mine. This “answer” was a two and a half hour conversation with “Mike” from Apple care, while he carefully tried to ferret out and extract malware from my laptop.

How on earth is that an answer to prayer? I’m glad you asked. I have been praying– reluctantly– that God would educate me, in just the right proportion, about spiritual warfare.

Now, I know that spiritual warfare is a big, amorphous, difficult topic. It’s been overblown, outplayed, and contrived by some who have loved to herald their prowess and stature as spiritual warriors. And by others it has been reduced and boxed up as little more than a Christian jargon idiom that has about as much flavor as a communion wafer.

Well, “Mike,” my Apple genius gave me a little education today about how malware and viruses work on computers and what their goals are. Let me narrate and then unpack.

According to my Apple genius, malware and viruses are decidedly different in their goals. Simply put viruses destroy computers. They completely annihilate them. That’s it. Boring and brutal. Malware on the other hand “takes over” computers. The point of malware is to nestle into your computer, steal your personal information for fraudulent purposes, and to slowly take control of the operating system.

Mac’s supposedly cannot get viruses. Mac’s have built-in protection from viruses that would obliterate them. They can, however get malware. While “Mike,” my Apple genius took me through folder after folder checking for unnecessary, suspicious, and known-to-be-harmful downloads in my system, I noticed that with every step we took to rid my laptop of the malware, we lost more control over my desktop. The malware was reacting to our efforts to unseat it!

At first I had control over my cursor arrow, then I didn’t, then the arrow disappeared all together and in it’s place a little blue ring was bouncing around my screen against my commands. I asked, “Is there a person operating the malware in my computer?”

I was told “no,” that malware is created, written code, a logarithm, that once released just does what it’s made for. I said, “but it’s reacting to you being here, and accessing my screen. It is taking more control, and blocking our efforts the closer we get to find it.”

“Well-written malware, like all technology, can have a degree of artificial intelligence and can seem like some person in a dark room is running it.”

Because the malware was reacting so strongly to our efforts to trash it, we had to go into “safe mode.” Safe mode requires a special key-combo to log into your laptop and allows you to move freely without the malware’s interference. You can only do so much in safe mode, because it is separate from your main user profile. So you can clean up a lot, but eventually you have to go back and confront the malware head-on with special malware software.

Fittingly, the software’s logo is a warrior’s helmet pretty similar to Gerard Butler’s in 300. This special reinforcement warrior cut through the malware’s defense but in the end, the malware was sophisticated enough, and had been in my computer long enough, that I had to wipe my laptop clean.

With a clean computer, malware flushed out with the rest, I now have the task before me of watching out for identity theft and fraudulent behavior in my accounts. The malware had been watching my passwords by controlling my internet activity– actually its maneuvers to steal my identity was the final frustration with my computer’s performance that got me to call for help.

And for me that is a near complete education about the battle we face that “is not against flesh and blood.”

Here are some really confidence-building things that I see from comparing my computer virus to the spiritual realm:

  1. Christians, like Mac’s, can’t get viruses that destroy, only malware that controls. We don’t need to fear death, but we should be aware of defeat.
  2. Just like the malware reacted to my Apple genius cleaning up my laptop, our spiritual enemies react to God’s cleaning up in our lives, and will try to block us even more the more free we get.
  3. Malware is created, artificial intelligence. I love this one. I recently came across a writer that said “God and Satan are not equals. Satan is created. God is not.” Forces against us do not have “real” intelligence. They operate in a similar type of bondage to what we do before we are in Christ. True intelligence to move and respond in real time, requires the freedom we receive in Christ. We have a big advantage in that!
  4. We get to hide in “safe-mode” to get spiritual work done away from malicious forces. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of my God, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God in whom I trust,” Psalm 91:1-2.
  5. Just like the software that we downloaded to cut through the code that we couldn’t see or didn’t have skill to find, we have warrior angels and heavenly hosts that the Lord orders to our aid. “For he will give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your way. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you don’t even strike your foot on a stone,” Psalm 91:11-12.
  6. And of course, at the end of the day, after all our battling, after all our efforts, if nothing can be done, if nothing can be saved: it is all wiped clean so that it is in fact, all saved.
  7. Yet, even then, there is still need to be diligent, because when you see your identity in Christ being challenged, distorted, misused– made fraudulent– then you know that you yourself have been restored, but what was stolen from you before salvation is still being used against you. And little by little as these red flags arise, you address the issue and take back your identity, take back your riches, and become a whole, inviolable person, complete and un-breached.

So why share this testimony during Shavuot/Pentecost? Well, because many of us want to live in the Spirit, under the Spirit, but according to the Law.

You want to know what I mean? We want freedom in Christ from sin, guilt, shame, and legalism. We want to be empowered by the gifts of the Spirit. We want to be impactful for Christ in measurable ways. But we don’t want the Spirit or the spiritual to be real.

We want this wonderful transforming gift that Jesus gave us, as he said, “I am sending someone greater than me to help you,” (John 14; 16.) At the same time though, we don’t want that transformation to be supernatural– we’d like for it to very much come through natural processes.

Well, that is the Law.

Natural processes are legalistic processes. They are governed by physics and morality and reason. And because they are governed by those laws, they are limited by those laws.

We also know that, of course, we are in a natural world, so we can’t just throw the natural “Law Baby” out with the bath water, which is why I personally still have great respect and honor for the place of the Law in Christian life and devotion.

But there is an irreplaceable, irrepressible importance to seeing the spiritual as real, if you are to embrace the Holy Spirit as real, and to operate in that glorious, victorious “safe-mode.”

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation,” Psalm 91:14-16.

I often feel afraid of this topic, and these things, but maybe that’s because I believe more in malware’s realness than I do in my Apple Genius’s realness.

 

Testimony

Purim to Passover. Exodus and Esther

Passover ends tomorrow. I can feel a season of my life passing with it. A wintery storm dominated the last four months of our family’s life. Beginning on my daughter’s birthday, December 7th to tomorrow, April 7th, one disaster followed another.

On Clementine’s birthday, she and I went to visit her great-grandmother, my husband’s grandmother. That day we found out that Grandma Pat was not doing well. At 89 years old she was living independently, paying her own bills, had only recently stopped driving, and had control of her mental and physical faculties. But she wasn’t getting around well. And she wasn’t thinking very clearly. And she was very uncomfortable with her medical care. She had a deeply entrenched depression, and she begged her daughter to put her into hospice.

Dave and I began to visit more often and tried to take on a more helpful role. We began visiting near daily. On the 40th day of our visits, Grandma Pat had passed away. Home hospice had come in. Grandma Pat had relaxed into the care of strangers and on into eternity.

I had a very difficult time accepting this. It was maddening to me to watch her let go of her hope—literally maddening, I was worried about my mental health during this time! Later a hospital chaplain at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital told me, “It sounds like it has been difficult for you to let go of your vision for her life. You had a vision of joy and longevity for her, and that is not what happened.” This helped let go of her life and release her death.

The hospital chaplain— that’s one other story. The night after Grandma Pat’s passing, Clementine was in the emergency room. She had been vomiting frequently. We’d be back in the emergency room a few weeks later. Clementine had a golf ball sized lump on the left side of her neck. After a week of Clemmie not taking her antibiotics, and diagnoses from swollen lymph nodes to cat scratch fever to hematoma floated, her lump was inflamed and her pediatrician instructed us to rush her to Stanford’s ER and told us to pack a bag because she’d need surgery and to be admitted for a few days.

Well, she was admitted for a few days, for eight days in fact. She had a 4cm abscess that the surgeons kept calling “impressive.” That is code for “scary.” She had to go under anesthesia twice. That reduced me to a puddle of crying mommy. She had to have four different IVs put in and underwent twice daily blood draws— all under the restraining talents of seven adults, two parents, and special ultrasound tools. Whenever the lab sent just one person with a tray of tubes, we’d ask, “they didn’t tell you about her?” A sort of “you’re gunna need a bigger boat.”

After a few days, we were probably going to get to go home. They had removed the drain that had been TWO inches in her neck. Clemmie was riding around the cardiovascular unit in a red wagon when I noticed a growth on the right side of her neck. We had known there were four smaller abscesses on her right side. One could not be “needle” aspirated because it was behind her carotid artery. So we had to let it grow.

It has been growing! Clementine’s “owie lump” has taken us back up to Stanford every week since we were discharged. It is still really red and leaky sometimes, but our wonderful doctor has been needling it in her clinic and doing everything in her power to keep Clemmie out of the hospital. Dr. Ahmad is aware that Dave was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer, so she has been doing her best to help us minimize the stress of Clementine’s treatment.

When I say that Dr. Ahmad is aware Dave was diagnosed recently, I mean that he was diagnosed with cancer while we were admitted at the children’s hospital. The week after we got home from Stanford, I was back in Palo Alto for Dave to have surgery to remove the tumor. The next day I made the trek again for Clementine’s abscess to be aspirated in clinic. This means she was strapped into a straight jacket on a table in what looks like an optometrist office and stuck with a syringe. Once pus begins to come up into the syringe, the doctor hand presses out an entire vial of infection and then some.

The medical procedures are barely half of it. We took the child life specialist’s advice and bought Clemmie medical toys for play therapy. From playing with her, it seems that the most trauma has been sustained in administering her antibiotics at home. I completely agree with her! That has been quite traumatic for me as well!!

Dave has been recovering emotional and physically from his surgery. We are waiting for his follow-up appointment to find out what the next steps in his treatment will be. We also will need to take steps to treat and accommodate the degenerative arthritis in his lower back that was revealed in a CT scan that was looking for more cancer.

Talk about the angel of death! I will be happy to see him pass over! The intensity of these past four months, and the fear of loss, has completely overhauled my stress coping skills. The only coping skill I have had, is to trust God. This is not trust-fall trust, this is like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon leaping into ether trust.

That day we first took Clementine to the emergency room in Monterey was February 28th. This year that was the date of Purim. Purim is the holiday established in the book of Esther. It commemorates the uncovering of an evil plot to destroy God’s people. The result of the plot being uncovered is that God’s people were able to be armed to defend themselves against the coming attack.

Purim is a major Jewish holiday. The next major holiday in the Biblical calendar is “Pesach” or Passover. Passover lasts a week with a feast on the first sabbath and a feast on the second sabbath within that week. Tomorrow is the “2nd Passover” feast. I felt very strongly in the weeks leading up to Purim that we were in a season of exposure true to the theme of Esther.

It was! Illness that was fomenting in the dark was brought to light during Purim. It is painful to face six weeks of hospitals, anesthesia, surgeries, wage losses, fear of death! But hidden threats are far worse than those exposed. Praise God that he revealed the threat!

Physically and spiritually we are constantly under threat. You know, like, wash your hands ’cause bacteria, viruses, and parasites are basically continually plotting against us;) Passover celebrates protection. It reminds us of salvation and deliverance. My hope is that with the end of Passover coming, that I will in fact see that salvation and deliverance of the Lord.

This season between Purim and Passover has been unreal. I wouldn’t trade it though. As with all our trials, the Lord doesn’t just give us resources in tough times, He gives us Himself.