Nearly all of the ministries formed around these new young apostles follow the same governmental pattern: the apostolic leader carries the vision for the group, and is – functionally if not legally – the sole director or elder in the group. (It’s interesting that the ministries of more seasoned apostles do not seem to be limited to this model.)
Actually, this is clearly a biblical model for apostolic government: the ministry of Jesus followed that pattern: one leader (Jesus Himself) carried the vision, and everybody else (the multitudes, the 72, the 12, and even the 3 favorites) both submitted to His leadership and supported His agenda. I’ll comment on the relevance of this model in a moment, but for now, I’m just pointing out that this is the pattern that young apostles fall into: “I have the vision, and every one else gathers around that vision and supports it.” It’s not the only model, but it has been the most common so far among the young apostles I know.
In reality, the New Testament shows us several other models for the government of apostolic groups. Here are some that I’ve identified:
· Team Ministry: The Team of Two. For the majority of his travels,
· Team Ministry: Apostles and Others. Nearly every epistle in the NT begins and/or ends with greetings from a variety of people who traveled with
· The Apostolic Council: Jerusalem. Described in Acts 15, and led by the apostle
· Solo Apostolic Ministry: Apollos. It seems that much of the ministry of Apollos was solo; he appeared to generally travel alone. He’s not always recognized as an apostle, and his fruitfulness isn’t as well documented in the NT as apostles using other models: I’m not sure this is a model to emulate.
· The Apostle and Prophet: A model that is not uncommon today is an apostle teamed with a prophet; I can’t find a NT example of this team – though I note that the apostles Barnabas and Paul were called out to be apostles from a group of “teachers and prophets” – however the model is supportable by teaching in Ephesians and other places. Often, the apostle-and-prophet combination today shows up in married couples, but not often when leading a team of other anointed ministries. (Bethel Church, in Redding is one exception, though they don’t talk about it.)
· The Apostolic Father: Sometimes, we see the apostle as a father. If you read any of John’s epistles, you can hear the fatherly tone of his ministry. I don’t often see this in young apostles; though the “fathering” is often a part of their ministries, often it seems to come from other members of their leadership teams.
· The Apostle and his Disciples: As mentioned before, this was the model of
I understand that the current movement (which some are calling a New Apostolic Reformation) is young and therefore is not yet mature. I’m expecting that as the movement matures, we’ll begin to see more of these 20-something and 30-something apostles making use of more of these models, and no doubt developing new ones beyond these. That will be an exciting day: as the new generation of apostles begins to walk in maturity.
I’m convinced that one of the weapons in the realm of spiritual things – both for good and for trouble – is the issue of soul ties. As usual, this weapon was invented by God, was designed by God, and was absconded by the enemy.
Soul ties are pretty complicated to explain: it’s when two people’s souls are tied together. Please indulge me for a moment.
Soul ties start in the beginning. “In the beginning, God…,” and God is Father, son and Holy Spirit who are tied together. Shortly after that, he shared it with us: “…and they shall become one flesh.”
And God had a plan for soul ties:
So God’s plan for tying souls together is to create godly offspring: to make more kids. Kids like himself.
So the enemy hijacked the plan:
The enemy takes the same link between people, and he’s bringing his own children from the union. He’s using sex to tie people together in slavery.
Soul ties exist between guys who work together sometimes.
Here’s a soul tie that appears to be a good one, and it has nothing to do with sex. It’s a couple of guys working together in an authority-based environment (in this case, the army). You can be tied with your boss, or with an employee, or with a pastor or a teacher.
OK. Enough background.
I believe that there are a bunch of inappropriate soul ties among believers. We build relationships in the church that we’re serving – we build soul ties – and then we move on to another church. We build relationships – some of them become soul ties – and then we move. We have soul ties from our pre-Christian days and from relationships since then.
Many years ago, I had a soul tie with a very weird friend; after a while, we drifted apart. Later, I got married, and years later, my bride & I learned about soul ties. One night, ten years after I’d last seen my weird friend, my wife & I were in someone’s guest room, sleeping in twin beds across the room from each other. I couldn’t sleep, so I was thinking and praying, and God showed me the soul tie with my weird friend and told me to renounce it. Beneath my breath, inaudibly, I renounced the soul tie from that relationship. Instantly, my wife – with whom I have a wonderful soul tie – woke up, sat up in bed, and blurted, “What was that? Something just lifted off of me! What was it?”
So here's what it is:
God has given us a weapon to divide the soul, to divide my soul from the soul of my weird friend. The soul tie that I had with them clearly affected my wife through the soul tie I had with her. God has given you and me a tool to cut the ties that should be cut and to leave the ties that should be left.
And every soul tie, whether active or not, is a channel that brings stuff into your soul from somebody else’s soul. It’s like we have sixty-eleven IV tubes plugged into our arms, our legs, into every vein on our body; and every IV tube has stuff pouring into our lives from sixty-eleven different sources, with different motives, with different kinds of resources to pour into us. Some of them are fine. One or two may be good, but the majority are filling us with garbage.
So many of us in the Body of Christ have dozens of soul ties that need to be broken off. Let me encourage you to find some folks to walk with you through the process of cutting the ties that bind you.
No, we’re not done with him. In fact, I believe that
The heart of
That’s where a whole lot of the church is. “Sorry, I haven’t seen what you see. I don’t believe it.” We might be talking about Bible truth or moral conduct or the work of the Holy Spirit ; the issue is that we don't believe what someone else has seen, but we ourselves have not (yet) seen.
How many times have we seen this when God does something new or unusual: Someone we know experiences something new and unfamiliar (gold dust, laughter, shaking, or just a new understanding of an old passage of scripture), and many believers shout “Oh, that can’t be God!” Wait! Your brother, your sister, have just told you what they experienced and you don’t believe it? Or perhaps a father among us declares a new truth that we haven’t known before, and we reject it as unfamiliar. I’m not talking about receiving heretical doctrine from people who would compromise the gospel of
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen pastors declaring a Biblical truth to their people, and the people won’t see the truth they’re being taught. We join in the self-sufficient sin of
And that’s the heart of the issue: we won’t believe someone else’s word, someone else’s experience. Put into spiritual language, we won’t believe or receive the testimony of our brothers and sisters. And judging from his reaction in Mark 16, that’s not acceptable to God! Sure, there are screwballs trying to hoax us (think of the emails you’ve received from Nigerian princesses) but God has equipped us to avoid being hoaxed.
There are at least two reasons why this kind of Thomas-type fear is inappropriate:
1) God has made us to be a community, not a bunch of isolated individuals. “We are members of one another,” is how the NT says it. That means that I’m not complete without you, and I cannot hear all that God is saying to me by myself. I need you to hear some of it.
2) God has given us a tool – a weapon, if you will - to be able to distinguish the truth from the lie. It’s called discernment, and He requires us to use it. Discernment is a gift of the Spirit; it is not a gift of a suspicious mind. It requires exercise, but with this gift, we are able to discern good from evil, truth from the lie. This is not about “I know and understand;” this is about hearing the echo of truth from the Spirit of God about whom Jesus said, “He will guide you into all truth.” The capacity for discernment is His responsibility, not ours: He expects us to recognize the truth when we’re faced with it, even when it’s weird, and He equips us for that work from His Spirit.
A pair of brief testimonies of my own: recently, I was faced with a tough decision. I had difficulty seeing through all the emotional clutter to understand the direction God was pointing; both the “where” and the “when” of the issue were beyond me. So I asked a handful of folks with whom I have a covenant relationship. They were unanimous in their counsel: this is the direction and now is the time. I still didn’t see God’s direction myself, but I trusted their counsel, and made the decision. In hindsight, they were completely accurate, and had I not listened, I would have made a very bad decision, which would have hurt both me and my family.
Second: some years ago, I was faced with some very unusual people, who were behaving very strangely in church, in their “renewal service.” Their behavior – which I am omitting intentionally, as it is not the point – set off every alarm in my mind, but my spirit was at peace in the midst of it: I concluded that this – as strange as it was – was God. The next several months proved it right: my mind had missed this one, but my spirit had recognized His spirit in this.
So here’s the bottom line: God has equipped us to discern the truth from the untrue, and He requires us to exercise it: with that equipment, He expects us to receive the testimony of our brethren: if they have experienced something in God, if they give us their testimony, we are expected to receive it: when they grow, we are to grow with them! Yes, we discern, and yes, we throw out the garbage (and there’s plenty of that!), but we must receive the truth when our brothers and sisters share it with us, even if we don’t see it ourselves.
Nakedness isn’t about what I have. It’s about what I don’t have.
When I’m naked, as in “naked and unashamed,” I am without clothes. If I’m using “naked” as a metaphor – and I am – then I’m writing the absence of the things for which “being clothed” is a metaphor. I’m also writing about the absence of the things for which “being armored” is a metaphor.
Some time ago, God showed me a series of weird pictures about self protection. Clothes are a layer of protection, though not generally from great big bad things. A t-shirt and shorts protect me from a cool breeze, from embarrassment, from abrasions and scrapes.
Now think of wearing a layer of heavier clothes: more protection, right?
Beyond that, if I’m wearing body armor, then I’m probably planning on going in harm’s way, to places where I need protection from greater weapons and greater attack than a t-shirt will provide. (Either that, or I’m trying to impress the ladies, and that’s not part of today’s conversation.)
The image I saw was actually from the ‘70s movie Rollerball: where armored men played a testosterone-charged sport with armor and spikes (I told you it was weird!). In spite of the armor, it was a remarkably bloody sport.
The next picture was modern soldiers in an Abrams M1 tank: monster gun on top, monster engine in the back, several inches of armor protecting those inside. Did you know that there are weapons specifically engineered to successfully penetrate that much armor?
This is the way He presented it to me: no matter how well armored I am, there’s always a weapon that’s powerful enough to penetrate the armor. If I’m wearing a t -shirt, then my armor can be pierced when I trip and skin my knee, or by a stray blackberry bramble. On the other hand, if my armor is in the form of an Abrams tank, then it takes an armor-piercing shell or a larger-than-average land mine to penetrate my armor.
It’s true that were I to wear the ugly Rollerball armor or the thick steel of an Abrams tank, then I’m pretty effectively protected from skinned knees and blackberry brambles. I’m also protected from machine guns, hand grenades, and drunk drivers.
So which looks like the more effective armor? First glance rather looks like the heavier the armor, the more I’m protected doesn’t it? That’s what I thought too.
And then He pointed out that I can easily survive a skinned knee; and when my t-shirt “armor” is penetrated by a blackberry bramble, sure it hurts a little, and I bleed a tiny bit, but then I go about my day. I don’t venture into land mines or armor piercing shells, because I know that the armor that I’m wearing – the t-shirt that I’m wearing – is completely insufficient of itself to protect me from that level of warfare.
On the other hand, if my armor is thick like the steel of a tank, then when (not if) the armor is pierced, I will be destroyed: I’ll be completely dead. But think about this: if there are enemies in the neighborhood that have armor piercing shells, they’re looking for a tank to shoot at. They’ll never waste those shells on a guy in shorts and a t-shirt.
In other words, the strength of my defenses will to some degree determine the strength of the attack that comes against me. And at some point, an attack will get through my personal defenses. And then what will I do?
So which is the safer place: when I’m well protected behind several inches of steel? Or when I’m wandering around in out-of-fashion gym shorts and a worn-out T-shirt?
There is an application, of course, about walking before God with our defenses down. When we armor ourselves to keep the bad guys out, we keep the good guys out, too. Our armor may be our self-sufficiency, our pride, an unwillingness to let people speak into our lives, or it may be fear of trying something new: it’s anything that protects us from the people around us; it’s anything that keeps from being “members of one another.”
Those defenses – that personal armor – has two problems: first, it seems that people with a strong defense attract stronger attacks. And second, while it keeps out things that can make me hurt, it also keeps out things that can make me better, like my brothers and sisters in
Now let me clarify: I am not talking about the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6. I’m talking about my own armor, my own defenses. I absolutely need God’s armor, because it’s the only thing that actually cannot be overcome; there is no weapon that is forged against me that can prevail against His armor protecting me, and His armor doesn’t keep Him out of my life.
But in regards to my own defenses, the less I have, the better. Ideally, I’ll walk before God “naked and unashamed” like Adam did. Ideally, I’ll walk with “naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” I’ll live with my life open and uncovered from the eyes of the world. Naked (uh… that’s metaphorical, remember) in the streets.
But doesn’t that leave me open to attack? to being hurt by stupid people or stupid choices?
Well, yes, actually it does, all that and more: I can be wounded by stupid people, by evil people, and I can be wounded by good people in a moment of weakness, too. But the solution isn’t to develop stronger defenses. It’s to be as defenseless – in ourselves – as possible, to take the hits and be wounded, and then to learn to be healed quickly and effectively.
So I am encouraging us to be – spiritually, not physically, of course – naked in the streets: without the defenses of a hard heart, of a manipulative soul: to be open and transparent before God and before our fellow man, and to learn to heal quickly from the wounds that do come our way.
Simple, Powerful Tools
My wife – in addition to being a wonderful human being – is also a gardener. I’ve learned some interesting lessons from her gardens.
One of the most embarrassing lessons is about garden tools.
When Christmas or her birthday roll around, I often find myself in the garden aisle, looking at garden tools. Do you have any idea how many garden tools there are? There are thousands. There are whole, entire catalogs devoted to the latest, greatest, coolest and most high-tech gardening tools! Can you believe it?
Here’s the embarrassing thing: the latest and most high tech gift tools usually fail in comparison to the good old-fashioned tools like shovels and hoes. Best of all are hands; hands with gloves, yes, but hands are the best tools of all.
So the principle is that in gardening, simple tools are better than complex, new-fangled tools.
I think it works that way in the things of God as well, and that’s where I’m going with this. Years ago, one of my mentors taught me (well, “taught us”, a group of us) about a couple of really simple tools when praying – particularly when asking God questions, which is where our faith sometimes stumbles.
I have to admit that at the time, I thought they were so elementary that they were cheesy, simplistic, foolish. I went along with them mostly because I respect him and his team, and these tools work for his group, but secretly, I thought I was past them.
The tools – or weapons, if you like that metaphor – come from 1John:
The whole premise of 1John is that there are deceivers in the world, both people and spirits. Have you ever heard something in your spirit and asked “Was that God?” That’s really appropriate: there are (IMHO) four possible voices that I could hear when I’m praying (this is very basic):
1. It could be God.
2. It could be my own soul speaking.
3. There are demonic spirits that are eager to deceive, and
4. Under some circumstances, the spirits – or at least the desires and choices – of other people can influence us.
If you think about it, these two verses offer two tests for that very question, the question of “Is this God,” which implies “… or is this some other spirit?” So when they’re going to ask God questions, this guy and his team introduce their prayer time by addressing the Holy Spirit – and then to make sure they’re not being deceived (or "spoofed") – they ask two more questions:
1. “Whom do you say that
This is something equivalent of a test for the email that claims to be from your bank: is it really from your bank, or is it a “spoof” email. The idea is nothing new; the demonic realm has been “spoofing” the Holy Spirit for years! (How else do you explain Mormonism?)
If the answer they hear back is questionable, they know they're being spoofed: it's another spirit claiming to be the Holy Spirit, but it's been un-masked by the simple theology of First John. You can see that these questions necessarily require humility: I must acknowledge that I can be deceived – an admission that many in the Church have difficulty making.
So I’ve begun using these “simple tools” in my own prayer times. I haven’t talked about it (until now) because it embarrassed me: I saw myself as more sophisticated than that. But I’ve begun to value “sophistication” less than I used to, and as I’ve begun to use these simple – even simplistic – questions in my prayer, I’ve found myself asking, “Was that God?” far less often, I’ve found myself becoming more humble in my prayers, and I’ve been learning more. I’ve discovered something of the Holy Spirit’s quick wit, and I’m discovering how much fun He is to hang around when I’m not having to question everything He says!
May I recommend simplicity in your relationship with God, and may I commend the use of these questions when you’re asking for yourself, “Was that God?” It really helps, provided you can get past the simplicity. Like simple garden tools: the simplest disciplines in the Kingdom are often among the most useful.
Yet again, the Pharisees were angry with
This is a story about profanity, which is to say that it’s about some folks profaning what is sacred to someone else. It’s all about being offended in the name of God, and how
But first and foremost, I see
More important to today’s conversation is how
I’ve been taught that there are two basic ways to handle the Word today: Deductively, where I hold certain beliefs, and I go to the Word to find either teaching or examples that support my beliefs, and Inductively, where I come to the Word and sit under it in order to let it speak to me.
A brief digression: I am not
Conclusion: we must obey God rather than men. We need to be in community in order to guard against heresy, but heresy is maybe not as much of a danger to the development of disciples who know the Holy Spirit as religious traditions may be.