Showing posts with label apostolic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apostolic. Show all posts

Thursday

Returning to the Glory of the First Century Church

Every so often, I hear someone moan wistfully, “If only we could return to the glory days of the first century church! If only we could be as full of faith as they were!”

I think if I hear that again, I’m going to scream.

May I speak plainly? That’s one of the stupidest spiritual-sounding things we could say in this day and age. I make the assumption that people who say that mean well, but come on! Let’s think about this a little bit:

The first century church, the church in the book of Acts, was a wonderful beginning. But they were only a beginning: this was the baby church, in diapers, as it were. I can tell you that I have no interest in going back to diapers. That would be such an epic failure, for the church of today to return to the “glory days” of the first century church! What was for them glorious success would be the worst of failures for us.

● “But,” someone will moan, “There were three thousand saved in a day!” That’s pretty good for rookies. Today, that’s less than an hour’s work in the Kingdom, and some reports suggest that’s closer to 20 minutes’ work.

Let us note that it only happened twice in the Book of Acts that three thousand were saved in a day. Today, more than three thousand people come to faith every single hour of every single day of every single year.

I’m thinking that’s an improvement.

● “But there were signs and wonders!” Somebody is seriously not paying attention. There were fewer than 20 miracles reported in the book of Acts, though there were repots of “lots of miracles.” Nowadays, we have lots of miracles on a regular basis.

I know one group that has a 100% success rate at healing the deaf, and nearly as good success healing the blind. I know two groups that won’t let people become elders unless they’ve raised someone from the dead. I know a group that legitimately calls themselves “The Dead Raising Team,” and they’re successful at it. I can’t tell you the number of successful healing teams I’ve heard about! They’re everywhere, and best of all, NOT just among the leaders, like the book of Acts.

Bethel Church in California reports thousands of documented miracles every time they send their students on outreach. And have you talked to the Healing Rooms movement recently?

Besides, I’m not sure I want more “Ananias & Sapphira events.” It’s my private opinion that even when that happened in Acts, it was an error, and not the will of God, but that’s another story. Surely it won’t be best for folks to fall dead in our meetings, when nobody can agree why it happened!

● “But they had all things in common!” I’ll grant that this is an area that we have room to continue growing in. But I am also aware that we’re talking about completely different cultures here. In that culture, if you couldn’t work, you starved to death. In our culture, the homeless guys on street corners make a (meager) living that in most of the world (or in the first century church) would be considered unmitigated wealth. (http://nwp.link/1s8woOt)

This does NOT mean that I propose that we stop helping the poor! Heaven forbid! This means I propose that we quit berating ourselves simply because we still have poor people among us: Jesus said we always would! (Matthew 26:11)

● “But they sold their homes! That’s dedication!” Well, some of them sold their homes. That was just good business; these were smart Jews! Jesus had clearly declared that the city would be destroyed shortly. It’s just good business to sell a house this week for full price that’s going to be destroyed with the city next week and be worth nothing! And clearly, if they “met house to house,” then not everybody sold their homes.

For the record, I know a bunch of people who’ve sold their homes for the ministry, several more than once. I know of others who sold themselves into slavery so that they could bring the good news to those in slavery, and they died in slavery. Most of these folks haven’t had books written about them, so they’re not known as well. But then Jesus taught us to keep quiet about our generosity, yes?

We could go on.

It is NOT my intent to disparage the excellent start that the Church had, as reported in the book of Acts. That was glorious.

What we have now is substantially more glorious. And that, too, is what we were promised. (See Isaiah 9:7)


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A Model for Apostolic Ministry

It was a Wednesday night, of course, because in the ’80s, that’s when you had your home group meetings.

This group was already considered a little aberrant, because we discussed more than merely the Sunday sermon. And we had discovered prophetic gifts. In fact, we’d often put someone on a chair in the middle of the circle and ask God for how to pray for them. We were sometimes quite surprised by how much our prayers touched needs we hadn’t known about.

So it wasn’t completely unusual when the home group leader brought some guests to one of our gatherings. Without any more than just their names, he parked them in side-by-side chairs in the middle of the circle, and asked us to pray for them. We gathered around and laid hands on them.

For a while, the prayers were rather generic Christian blessings. We discerned a significant leader’s calling on the couple, but then we paused and pressed in deeper. We waited in silence for more revelation.

A quiet sob broke the stillness, and then another. These were from an intercessor we all knew and trusted, who heard God as well as any of us. We waited while she wept, and then she shifted her position, grabbed the man’s feet, and wept over them. It reminded me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. By this time, the man and his wife were weeping as well, and several of us praying for them were near to tears, but we couldn’t have told you why.

Eventually, the intercessor was able to form words, and what she said through her tears has shaped much of my thinking on the topic. She explained she saw an apostle’s mantle on the couple, on the man in particular. That wasn’t what she was crying about: the Lord had revealed to her much of what that calling would mean in his life, the price that he’d have to pay to walk out that calling. She was weeping for the struggles and the abandonment he’d face, for the betrayals and the accusations, for the opposition he’d face, and for the burden of love he’d carry.

She saw the victories, too, and declared them, but that was the day that I knew something of what it means to “count the cost.”

That was the moment that I concluded that the big man on the big stage with his big congregation and his big budget is not the model for an apostle. An apostle is not just a really successful or really well-respected pastor or denominational leader. The image of a true apostle is not the corner office, not the fancy website, or even the anointed business cards.

Paul’s description of his ministry was not the exception; it was a healthy example of what many apostles will face. This is the model that the New Testament gives us for apostolic ministry:  

"Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." - 2 Corinthians 11:23-30

I've learned that a man, a woman, is not a an apostle that I can trust who does not know tears. 


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Tuesday

A New Wave of Rookies


In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the teachers were so prominent, we saw the big name teachers (Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindall, RC Sproul, …) and when we thought of teachers, these names came to mind. But there were tens of thousands of gifted and anointed teachers popping up around the land, some filling pulpits, others leading home groups around the land.

Teaching gifts fit in well with existing church leadership, and in some cases, help existing leaders to lead better. The “office of the teacher” is a 5-fold leadership office anyway, but all believers are commanded to be able to teach, able to disciple others, so there wasn’t a lot of controversy.

Later, when God breathed on the prophetic, we saw big name prophets (Bob Jones, Bill Hamon, Paul Cain and others) come to the forefront. And while they were blazing the trail (and taking the hits) to re-introduce prophetic gifts to the entire church, prophetic gifts began sprouting among believers from coast to coast.

Prophetic gifts come in three biblical flavors: manifestations of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12), ministries from the Father (Romans 12), and the 5-fold gift of the prophet, from the Head of the Church, Jesus himself (Ephesians 4). There’s been confusion between prophetic ministries and prophets, but we’re figuring that out now.

Unlike the teaching gifts of the previous wave, prophetic gifts did not fit comfortably with church leadership, so most of the budding prophetic people lived in hiding, or masqueraded as worshippers, intercessors and exhorters; a few used their new prophetic gifts to support their teaching or pastoring or leading gifts. A very few brave souls began to confess, “God says I’m a prophet,” and model their itinerant ministry after the traveling evangelist.

More recently, the church has grown more comfortable with both prophets and prophetic ministries as maturity has been showing up in the gifts, as people are finding their place among other ministries, and as the strangeness is replaced by familiarity.

We’re now in the midst of God’s restoration of apostolic gifts. There are big name apostles (Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Che Ahn, John Eckhart, Heidi Baker) that have brought the church’s attention to the topic.

But as with the other movements, while the “big names” are pioneering the 21st century version of the office of the apostle, there are also thousands of un-famous apostles in, and outside of, local churches across the land. Some successful local church pastors are taking the title “apostle” for themselves, or having it thrust upon them by peers or congregants; many of these seem to think that an “apostle” is just a really, really successful or respected pastor.

Mostly, church leadership doesn’t know what to do with young apostles. Where immature teachers could themselves be taught, and where immature prophets could be shuffled off to the intercessors, young apostles aren’t as easy to push around or marginalize: that’s not rebellion, it’s part of the calling.

So if you as a leader, as an influencer among the people of God, if you find a young man or woman who’s bumbling confusedly about in what just might be a budding apostolic calling, what will you do with them? If you find a less-young man or woman who’s been walking with God for 30 years, but may be stumbling into a new apostolic anointing (and there are more of these than I expected!), how will you respond to them? 

If your job as a pastor, as a teacher, as a prophet is to “equip the saints for works of ministry…” then how will you equip these young apostles? How will you discern the real apostles from the wanna-be apostles? Will you receive them, rough as they are, or will you try to shuffle them off out of the public eye? (Hint: good answers to these questions will be more about relationship than about programs!) 

The point of this article is not to outline an Apostolic Training Program, but to acknowledge that you and I may very well have dozens of immature, rookie apostles within our spheres of influence, and to challenge us to get to know them, to not write them off as the proverbial bull in the china shop (which they appear to be). Maybe we can even give some thought as to how to encourage them as they pursue the mysteries that God is calling them to.

What are you going to do with them? It will affect the next generation of the church in your region!



Saturday

Misconceptions About Church

It was late on a Sunday morning, and I was just waking up. I’d slept in, knowing that I wasn’t healthy and that I needed rest. I was thinking, “I’ll miss church if I don’t get up soon.”

For context, my Sunday morning “Church” is online and I attend by webcast. My “in real life” fellowship is another time during the week. This train of thought applies to both, really.

So I was thinking about what would happen if I miss church this morning, and that turned into an interesting train of thought. “What is my tradeoff? What am I missing if I miss church?”

The accusation crossed my mind that my online church is unnatural, not really what God has in mind for me, so I considered that for a moment. There actually is some merit in the argument that an online “fellowship,” where I am only an observer, not an actual participant, is not really what God had in mind as ideal for me. OK, let’s follow that thought for a moment?

But wait! Isn’t that what most Sunday morning gatherings are like? I’m an observer there, too. Oh, yes, I stand up when they say to, and sing the words they tell me to sing, and sit back down when they say to. But there’s no point during our time together at First Church of the Sunday Morning where I can raise my hand and say, “You know, I’m struggling here; could I get some prayer?” In some Sunday morning gatherings I know, I’d be thrown out for that action, and while there are exceptions, most churches would freak out and either ignore the “interruption”, or take steps to minimize it.

Someone will say, “That’s not what Sunday mornings are for. That belongs in a home group.” [And here is where I’ll add my commercial: if you’re not part of a fellowship of believers that meets in an informal setting like a home, then they’re seriously missing out.] that kind of “sharing” is not an appropriate expectation for a Sunday morning gathering, though it would fit in the hallway or the lobby, maybe. There’s merit in that statement: Sunday mornings aren’t really designed for those kinds of things (which is rather a strong argument in favor of my online church – or for house church – but I’m going a different direction here).

So what are Sunday mornings for? What is the church gathering for, really?

Is Sunday Morning for worship? That can’t be right. My best worship is private, and I hear others tell me the same. I find that I believe that corporate worship is at its best when the worshippers have worshipped privately, and I know that I am a far better worship leader when I have worshipped privately. So while I affirm the value of corporate worship, I suspect that it is not the primary motivation, at least in God’s mind, for the gathering of the Saints.

I hear people talking about the value of getting fed at church; maybe the value of the church gathering is in the teaching. And I do value the teaching of my online church! But the Book is clear, and I’m fully committed to the concept that I must learn to feed myself first. The teaching there is good, but it is to supplement my own feasting on the Word. That can’t be the main value of church gatherings.

I’m going to be blunt here: It seems clear that the idea of “the message is the most valuable part of church gatherings” has come from those who preach. And it is from worship leaders that I most often hear that worship is the most important part of the service. (Please don’t assume that I don’t value a well-preached message from a gifted teacher, or that corporate worship isn’t glorious. If that’s what you’re hearing, you need to read this again more carefully!)

The thought crossed my mind, “What does the Bible say about the church coming together?” and as it did, a verse from Hebrews came with it:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24,25

It hit me like a freight train: God’s purpose for us coming together is to encourage each other. Specifically, it’s to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” which is how we are to encourage each other.

That’s the reason for coming together as a congregation: encouragement.

There is more extensive teaching on the church gathering together in 1 Corinthians 11, and it’s focused on meals together. Paul touches again on the topic in the midst of teaching about spiritual gifts in chapter 14, and in that context, he says, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Same thing: encouragement. Apart from these passages, there is no definitive teaching on church meetings in the New Testament, though Acts shows that the early church met daily in homes and weekly for apostolic teaching.

We could take it all together and form this model: When the saints come together, let’s gather around the dinner table, and let’s encourage one another, and let’s use what God gives us to that end.

My recommendation: learn to worship by yourself, not dependent on a leader and a band, though worship with them when you can. Learn to feed yourself, though supplement that with good, inspired teaching sometimes. But choose the congregation you gather with by this: “Is this a place where we can encourage one another?” And then go there, prepared to encourage, prepared to encourage others.

Wednesday

What is an Apostle?

One of my favorite things to do on a fine, sunny afternoon is sit with a friend at the edge of a meadow and watch the clouds. I always see interesting shapes in the clouds (Look! There’s a puppy!), but my favorite friend (who still wears a ring I gave her some decades ago) generally sees different things than what I see (No, that’s a flower!). And as we watch, the cloud shifts slightly, and it’s no longer what I saw or what she saw; it’s something else entirely, except that what she sees now is still not the same as what I see. And a couple of minutes later, it shifts again, and again, and again.
  I’ve been asked by a friend about “What is an apostle?” I’ve decided that the question reminds me of watching those clouds with my sweetheart: a good working definition of an apostle is hard to see; it changes fluidly and consistently, what you see depends on your viewpoint and expectations, and it doesn’t really matter what you think you see: that doesn’t change what it is. The clouds are really water vapor, not a puppy, floating across the sky, no matter how loudly I declare that it’s a puppy!
  Because of some unusual circumstances in my life, I know a couple of dozen apostles personally, and a couple dozen more at a distance. And I’ve worked on that exact question for several years, long before my friend brought it up. All the apostles I know are completely different from one another. What is it about them that defines them as an apostle?
  Fair warning: this document is not intended to be a treatise on apostles; it’s thoughts about apostles, and it’s written from the perspective of “very early in an apostolic age.”
  I have studied this topic intently for a while, and I’ve been gathering input for a decade or two, so some parts will come from memory; many others will come from observations. Some fresher portions comes from watching and interacting with apostles.
  What Does Not Make an Apostle?
  First, here are some things that I have rejected as signs (or even requirements) of an apostle:
·         Church planter. Most church planters I know (I know several dozen) are pastors, teachers, or pastor-teachers.
·         Pioneer. Often, apostles pioneer new works, yes, but not always.
·         Head of a network, ideally an “apostolic network.” Bah, Humbug. Many heads of networks are ambitious, not apostles.
·         Famous. Most apostles I know are not famous. A few are. Most shy away from it.
·         Strong willed. Hmm. Often. Not always. I think.
·         Leaders of mega-churches. Most leaders of mega-churches are successful businessmen, excellent administrators, or, in those that are in the Calvary Chapel movement, gifted bible teachers. I have known only a couple of real apostles who led large churches, and for them, their large church was an accident.
·         Miracle workers. Some argue that miracles accompany a true apostle. I won’t argue, but that doesn’t make them specialists in miracles, nor does it make them famous for miracles. People who do miracles and draw attention to the miracles are often either evangelists, or they’re self-seeking. Apostles don’t seem to seek the spotlight, unless they’re also working under an evangelist’s anointing (some do). Some apostles use miracles regularly; many don’t. I will say this: I don’t know a single apostle who shies away from miracles or refuses to start something just because it would take a miracle to complete it!
·         Experienced. Nope. Nobody’s mature when they start something, and we’re just beginning the Apostolic Age. There are a lot of rookie apostles out there. A lot of them don’t even know the calling on their lives. Some do, and run screaming. A few embrace the calling and want to know why they aren’t suddenly experienced.
·         Clear or powerful vision. Often. Not always. Most with strong vision are merely ambitious. Paul – the prototypical apostle – had only the vision of “preach where no-one has preached before.” Other than that, he pretty much stumbled into his ministry trips.
·         In the Marketplace. For a long time, almost every successful Christian Businessman in his 50s was considered a “Marketplace Apostle.” Most of them weren’t apostles. Some knew it. Paul was a successful businessman. Peter, James & John left their business behind to pursue Christ.
·         Missionaries (cross cultural). A few are. Most are not. Evangelism is a more useful tool to most missionaries.
·         Male. Yeah, the mindset of “only men can be apostles” still exists in some circles. Heidi Baker ought to be enough to kill that little heresy, all by her little lonesome.

  “Apostle” in Ancient Culture
  Studying the original language for “apostle” is an interesting exercise. It was a word that was well used before it was ever used in the Bible, so the best tools for understanding the concept are often secular tools. It was never used for religious purposes before Jesus co-opted it for the twelve.
  In fact, the word is so unique, that we haven’t even translated it into English. The Greek word is “Apostolos” (ἀπόστολος). All we did was spell the Greek word with Roman letters.
  The concept of an apostle was something that was invented by the Phoenician empire and used heavily by the Romans. When the Roman army conquered a new nation, a new culture (something they did with remarkable regularity!), the Emperor would send an “apostolos.” It was the name given to the lead ship in a fleet of ships sent from Rome to the new land, and especially for the man – one man – who led that fleet. The fleet – and that man – were carrying the embodiment of Rome with them to the new territory.
  The apostle’s job description in Roman culture is functionally the foundation for the apostle’s job in the Church: to bring the home civilization to the new territory. In Rome’s day, the apostle brought Rome’s legal system, education system, language, government, financial systems, entertainment, culture. His job was to make the new culture fit into the Roman empire, to become Roman, to the degree that when Caesar arrived, he’d feel at home in the new territory.
  In our day, a Christian apostle is probably the spearhead of God’s answer to the prayer that he taught us to pray: “on earth as it is in heaven.” The apostle’s job is to see heaven, to understand what he sees enough to cause it to be done on earth: to manifest heaven on earth, to the degree that Jesus will feel at home in the territory.
  How’s that for vague? Pretty good, eh? Now let’s try to make some application from that. This is where it gets really interesting!
  Apostolic Ministry
  So the apostle observes what’s going on in heaven, draws on heaven’s resources, and works with heaven’s strength and strategy to accomplish change on earth. In my experience, the biggest changes are needed in the ways we think, so an apostle’s job often involves a new, heaven-based worldview, one that emphasizes the spiritual realm and de-emphasizes the natural realm. So apostles often teach, but they teach from revelation as often as they teach from straightforward study. I think.
  The teaching includes foundation-building: this is what the Kingdom of God is like. But the teaching of a true apostle will often involve strategies: this is what God is emphasizing right now, and that changes. Bill Hamon teaches – and the Bible illustrates – that occasionally, and under limited circumstances, apostles may find themselves teaching new doctrines from revelation rather than from scripture. No, they won’t teach doctrine that isn’t supported by the written Word of God. To be honest, this one scares me, but I recognize the validity of the principle.
  Seeing spiritual realities, apostles often confront strongholds, though that may be a casual confrontation, or it may be “collateral damage” when they’re going after something else. Since apostles are fixated on Heaven (and with Him who sits on Heaven’s throne), their idea of warfare is often God-focused; since they’re in touch with God’s plan for people, they may also be mercy-driven, and American Church culture doesn’t know what to do when spiritual warfare is driven by mercy.
  The power of God is present to support the work of an apostle, though it may not manifest dramatically. I know one woman who hated harsh language, but couldn’t rid herself of it. She said, “Oh crap!” around a young apostle. He replied, “No thanks. Already did,” and she was delivered from her “addiction” to swearing. Accidentally, really. Was that power? Yes. But it didn’t fit in the “normal” way we expect to see miracles.
  The apostle Paul always travelled with a team, and the apostles in Jerusalem were a team. I want to say that apostles generally work well with a team, but I don’t think that’s true of all the apostles; Apollos doesn’t seem to have travelled with a team. It may be God’s intent, and they’re not connecting with his means. Or it may be completely fantasy.
  I’ve had some really frustrating interactions with people who have called themselves apostles; some are frustrated religious businessmen and others are fresh bible-school grads. It’s probably superfluous to say, but it still needs to be said: not everybody who calls themselves an apostle is a true apostle. As an apostle friend of mine has said, “It takes more than a business card to make an apostle.”
  Since there are both bad prophets (inaccurate ones) and false prophets, it is likely that there are both bad apostles and false apostles: the first are unsuccessful at building the things of heaven (or successful at building things of flesh); the latter are building things from the realm of darkness; I believe they’re rare.
  Apostolic Relationships
  I’ve been frustrated by apostles’ difficulty relating to other folks sometimes, but again, that’s not consistent. Some don’t relate well to anyone; others relate best to other apostles, or other 5-fold people. I’ve never known an apostle that fit into a crowd well: they pretty-much all have been kind of other-worldly a little, not completely at ease with social skills like an evangelist or a pastor is.
  Since they see things from heaven’s perspective, sometimes apostles see better where individuals fit in the strategic plan of things: they can see, “Oh, you’re a prophet,” or “Your gifts would fit better here,” or “You and you should think about working together.” Again, not a focus of their ministry, and not exclusive to apostles (prophets do this too), but sometimes.
  Apostles and prophets work pretty well together. But again, it’s not consistent. I know some apostles who are themselves prophets (I think of Harold Eberle and Jonathan Welton), but there are others are paired with prophets (I think of Bill Johnson with Kris Vallotton, Dutch Sheets with Chuck Pierce).
  Apostolic Function
  The work of an apostle has already been outlined by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-12: “And He Himself [that would be Jesus] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” So the work of apostles, like the work of prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, is to equip the People of God.
  What does that look like? Well, like the clouds, it’s always different, and it often changes. It might look like a pastor who spends more time raising people into their calling and sending them to the nations than gathering a flock. It might look like a businessman whose work in the marketplace brings the presence and provision for the kingdom of God. It might look like a woman leading an orphanage and a church, who teaches on the kingdom, heals the sick, and raises the dead, and who sends out hundreds of pastors and evangelists and apostles who also teach the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead and plant thousands of churches. It might look like a young man who teaches the Kingdom in churches, home groups, and on the streets, who heals the sick and teaches others how, and in his spare time, he and a squad of intercessors break demonic strongholds off of regions.
  There is a degree that all the “fivefold gifts” (Ephesians 4:11-12) are about “equipping” saints. The Greek word there is “katartismos” (katartismos), which is about adjusting, aligning, like the work of a chiropractor aligning the spine. And as with a chiropractor, don’t be terribly surprised if a visit from an apostle leaves you feeling sore, but better, stronger, than you were before.
  1Corinthians 12:28 has been misunderstood about apostles: “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then….” Some have taken this to mean that apostles deserve honor first, or are the greatest authority in a disagreement, or get the biggest paycheck. Bosh.
  Jesus was real clear about leadership in the Body of Christ. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13-14-15) So the apostle should be the first one to wash the feet of others, to serve other ministries, to lift up others. If you meet someone wanting to be respected as an apostle who is more interested in greater honor than in greater foot-washing, you’ve met someone who is confused about apostles.
  The Apostle Paul said an odd thing in Romans 11:13: “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles.” I suggest that no one is an apostle without a people to minister to: Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles. Peter was an apostle to the Jews. It’s important to know who you’re called to. I know a man who is “only” an auto parts salesman when he’s in the US, but when he’s in India, he’s holding crusades, training pastors and leaders, and starting training schools: he’s an apostle to India, but not to the US. I would maintain that there is no such thing as an “apostle at large” or “apostle without a people” (though I have known some people who think they are).
  The principle is broader than just apostles, by the way: I may be trained as a pastor (or a prophet or whatever), but until I’m a pastor to a group of people, I am not walking in the ministry of a pastor. This is an extension of the principle that “Ministry flows out of relationship.” If there’s no relationship, then there’s no real ministry. This is not formal assignment, by the way. We know those we are called to: they’re the ones that listen.
  There are clearly young apostles being raised up today. But it’s probably worth mentioning that this is not the only way that God forms an apostle. Many of the apostles I know have encountered success in another area – in pastoring, in business, as a prophet – before God released them to apostolic ministry. And while apostles are always called by Jesus (see Ephesians 4:11) into the role, they are very often forged for the work as well: most apostles I know have been through incredible failure, have been crushed, and have learned, first hand, to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
  Finally, probably the best way to tell an apostle (or a prophet): wait until those already in the office recognize it in you before you attempt to walk in it. Believe it or not, one doesn’t become an apostle by getting Apostle business cards. More significantly, when a bunch of people in your church’s pews start calling you an apostle, ignore it: they don’t generally know what makes an apostle.
  But when apostles recognize the apostolic calling on you, it means it’s coming out, moving from “potential” to “actual.”
  

Saturday

Metaphors for Wise Warfare

We the church have talked about “spiritual warfare” for decades. In the past, we’ve yelled at demonic strongholds and called that warfare, or we’ve described unlucky breaks in life as spiritual warfare.

God is raising the bar in spiritual warfare. We’ve gotten away with ignorance and immaturity and sometimes foolishness for years. But over the past few years, over the next few years, He’s bringing us into a greater level of maturity.

I have only the highest regard for those who have been involved in warfare these many years. They’ve faced ignorance and opposition and sometimes just plain bull-headedness from the church, and they’ve stood in the gap on our behalf.

That incredible faithfulness notwithstanding, I believe the Lord is moving us into a new level of maturity, a new level of authority in the realm of spiritual warfare. I do not believe that those who have been involved in warfare in the Spirit have been only playing at “war games!” However, when we look back on this place from the place God is taking us to, we will say, “up until then, we were only playing with shiny toy guns. We were only waving our arms and pointing our fingers and shouting ‘bang!’”

Here’s the problem: I don’t entirely know where we’re going; I just know we’re moving forward.

I was discussing this with one of my mentors the other day, and we were using the American Military as a metaphor for spiritual warfare; much of this will be familiar.

Foot Soldiers: The most common role in this battle is the simple foot soldier: we obey orders given us from our officers and noncoms over us. We generally don’t have the strategic overview of the war, or even the battle that we’re in; we just point our weapon as we’re commanded and pull the trigger when so instructed.

Noncommissioned Officers: Other non-officers with more skills and more experience and a tactical understanding of the battle; if we’re wise, we’ll follow their advice, even though they don’t wear the brass of an officer. They may not know the big picture, but they know how to get the foot soldiers through this alive! These are the home group leaders, mentors, deacons.

Officers: These men and women have strategic-level understanding of portions of the warfare; they often receive orders from above, but sometimes they are given the objectives to accomplish, and they make their own plans with the soldiers that work with them. Some are junior officers, some senior officers, and their position in the spiritual army does not correspond to their position or influence in this world: I know pastors of huge churches that are faithful lieutenants, and leaders of a group of less than a dozen who are generals, though there are senior officers who lead large ministries as well.

Joint Chiefs: Currently, I’m not convinced that we have a functional Joint Chiefs; I am waiting for the day when we have something equivalent to the Council of Jerusalem of Acts 15: a council of apostles and elders who represent heaven to the forces on Earth. While there are obvious complications, the Catholic “Holy See” (the Pope and the Roman Curia governing body) approaches this authority within the realm of the Catholic Church.

Commander in Chief: We have but one Commander-in-Chief, and He is not elected.

Air Force: These are the intercessors in our war, and the goal is the same: air superiority over the field of battle. Weaponry includes worship, declarations, prophetic actions, and other weird things that reach the heavenlies, where these warriors are known to visit.

Marines: First troops into the territory, elite, but probably not occupation forces. These are the short term missionary teams, the apostolic equipping teams (which will include prophets and teachers),

Navy: Some of our forces are stationed off the coast, and provide artillery, attack forces and supply lines for the rest of the forces. Some of these folks are administrators, support teams, tacticians.

Army: Ground forces occupy the new territory. These include missionaries occupying new territory, evangelism teams on the streets, home groups and new congregations in previously unconquered territory.

Supply Lines: Any army needs food and ammunition. In our battles, these are the prophets, teachers, pastors and friends: the ones who invest in, who love on and support the warriors. These are also donors who support ministries financially, administrators who handle details so others can minister on the front lines.

Firebase: In the natural, this is an artillery base, esp. one set up quickly to support advancing troops or to forestall enemy advances. In this metaphor, this may be a team of intercessors or prophets.

Intelligence: Agencies like the CIA, Secret Service, FBI. This is clearly the role of the prophetic gifts: prophecy, discernment. But not them alone: Researchers (like The Sentinel Group) can give valuable insight into the demonic roots in a region; prophetic teachers reveal principles and application (strategies and tactics). This is often the primary role of prophetic intercessors. 

Weapons Development: James Bond has his “Q”; the US Military has DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency); in the Spirit, the developers of new weaponry come from the revelation gifts, particularly from apostles and prophets.

Boot Camp: The church is developing a large number of training schools across North America to train young men and women: revival schools, bible schools, Masters Commission, YWAM.

Military Academies: Military training schools, like Annapolis and West Point: We’re short on schools to train the officers, particularly to train senior officers in our current warfare.

Friday

The Thomas Syndrome

I’m really glad that I’m not the one responsible for the statement, “I will build my church.” That’s a monstrously large task, and I’m not always convinced that we His Church are all that willing to be built. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that He’s doing His job and doing it well.

One subject that I am watching Him addressing in His Church is what I call The Thomas Syndrome. You remember Thomas? He’s the guy that will forever be famous for the line, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

The central is along the eyes of “I trust my own eyes and my own experience. Yours isn’t good enough for me to trust.” We don’t say it that bluntly because we’re too polite, but that’s the essence of what we say to each other so often.

What we actually say is something like, “I’ll pray about it” or “I’m sure God will show me if I need to deal with that.” Or “No, God’s not telling me to repent of that sin right now.” Or “I’m glad that works for you.” Or “I just don’t see it that way.” I recently heard someone actually say “I don’t need any prophets to listen to, I have the Word.”

It all means the same thing: “I will not believe your experience. I must have my own experience before I will believe what you’re telling me.”

We were taught that in third grade science class: only trust empirical data (though when you come right down to it, that’s not practiced very well by those who preach it loudest).

Jesus corrected that perspective: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We usually teach this as “Hooray for all the people who are Christians, but have not seen Jesus for themselves. They’ve believed the testimony of other people who haven’t seen him, and that’s good.” That’s probably a fine thing, but I don’t believe it’s what Jesus was talking about here.

The context supports this interpretation: “When someone tells you what they’ve experienced in Me, you need to believe them.”

Consider His response when the twelve didn’t believe the boys from Emmaus: “He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” In other words: two of them had an experience – a strange and unprecedented experience – with Jesus and He expected the rest to believe them. He rebuked them – that’s a strong word – for not believing them. He required the apostolic leaders of the church to believe the two kids – not leaders, not even important enough to name – who had experienced Jesus in a new and different way.

For the record, they eventually got it right later on. When God bypassed the leadership and poured out His spirit on (shiver!) gentiles, they grilled Peter for even preaching to the gentiles, but when they heard about what they experienced, they changed both their response and their theology: “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

Does that mean that we believe every strange and spurious story that comes along? No? Then how do I know to believe the kids from Emmaus, and not the guy next to him that's just looking for attention? How do I judge what is God and what is not?

Here’s my point: The One who builds His church does not build it the way that you and I would. He sometimes shows Himself to no-name kids on the road to some country village, and He expects that the Apostles of the Church to believe their testimony and to change their expectations of God (their theology) because of it.

Here’s how that can work: until that time, almost nobody had the Holy Spirit resident in them. Now, we all do, though we don’t all listen to Him all that well. That’s probably why He sometimes disguises His voice: sometimes teenagers in Emmaus, sometimes as a friend’s encouragement, a secular movie, a weird dream, whatever. We’re not listening for what we understand. We’re listening for His voice. As He did with Elijah, He still speaks into a distraction in a still small voice.

He’s expecting us to hear it. And when we hear, He’s expecting us to believe.

The Third Place of Worship

Some time ago, I wrote a posting about The Two Tabernacles, and how they’re a metaphor for the people of God today. Please allow a brief quote, because I need to use that metaphor as a launch point.
We live in a day where there are large and prestigious and prosperous gathering places on the hilltops, in the public places. They’re in the media and in the eyes of the nation, and the people go there by the thousands to perform the rituals and offer the sacrifices and be trained by the religious authorities of the nation. They have the professional musicians, the professional speakers, the professional media technicians. The ceremonies are moving and the messages are relevant and uplifting. Thousands come to a faith in Christ through these tabernacles.
They lack only one thing. The presence of God is not in them.
These churches carefully following plans laid down by godly men and women, whether that’s the vision of the founders, the vision of the pastor or the directions of the board of directors. They’re doing their best to be what they think a church ought to be. They’re following the law as they know it.
But David’s tabernacle is not about following the Law. In fact, it was completely outside the Law. The Law required the Ark of the Covenant to stay in the Tabernacle of Moses. David was working outside of the law, outside of the rules that God had established for worship, outside of the Tabernacle.
But it is David’s Tabernacle, not Moses’, that God likes best and that He promises to restore.
Heaven is committed to this kind of worship, and this is the pattern of worship that makes God happy: people coming directly to God, coming freely and joyfully, without the pomp and circumstance of the Tabernacle of Meeting, without the religious trappings of the grand ceremony and tradition.
My point was not that the big churches are evil, rather they are in fact following the Command of God, though sometimes it’s hard to worship God with abandon in those places: worshipping in small gatherings makes it easier to be passionate and reckless in our worship. But where we worship is not the issue: how we worship is the issue: we must do whatever it takes, go wherever we need to, in order to worship God passionately, as He deserves to be worshipped! Our worship – yours and mine – is the issue, not whether it’s in a big building or a back bedroom, and this is the call on the church today: worship vigorously.

The Third Place of Worship

David worshiped at Shiloh, and he worshiped with the ark of God in the back bedroom. But there’s a third place where David worshiped, and God has for a few years begun calling His people to worship here as well.
I need to start with some background.
In Psalm 5, David declares, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” In Psalm 18, he says, “In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”
And Psalm 27 has one of my favorite quotes of David: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.”
So David didn’t just worship in the Tabernacle of Meeting at Shiloh and the pup tent in his back bedroom (which history calls the Tabernacle of David), but he also worshiped in the temple. And if Psalm 27 is any indication, he worshiped passionately there, too.
This is something that has confused Bible scholars for years. David worshiped at the temple, but the temple wasn’t built until after his death, after his son Solomon became king. The temple did not exist in David’s day, but he worshipped there anyway. David knew of the promise of the temple.
The best I can tell – apart from science fiction-type guesses – is that somehow David experienced the fulfillment of a promise that had not yet fulfilled on earth. Somehow David managed to visit the place of the promise, even though – in the natural – the promise hadn’t been fulfilled yet.
David visited the promised temple of his God by faith; either he moved himself into the place where that future promise will have been fulfilled (how do you handle verb tenses for something like this?) or brought the promise into his present reality, again by faith.
I’m not suggesting that David was physically transported through time, or that some years later, some worshiper in the temple would bump into the time traveler from the past (though that sounds like an interesting movie plot). Worship is a spiritual activity: this whole process happened in the spirit. David visited the promised temple of God in his spirit.
Now as for me, I have no aspiration to worship in a building that was built from stone and gold, that was torn down two or three millennia ago. However, I certainly do get to worship by faith like David did, but the place where I worship by faith is not the same as the place that he did. By faith, David worshiped in the temple that God had promised to David: no, he wouldn’t build it, but his son would build the it. That was God’s promise to David. In David’s day, the temple existed only as a promise, but David worshiped there by faith.
There are promises for us today. Ours aren’t about a temple of stone and cedar and brass and gold. Our promises are about … well, we have some promises in common and some promises that are different.
Together, we share promises about the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (“Thy kingdom come”: think about what that means for a while…). We share promises for an outpouring of His spirit on our generation unlike any the world has yet seen: a billion souls in a generation.
We also have individual promises. One of His promises to my family is a house that’s large enough to have home groups in. He’s made other promises to me about my place in His work: He’s told me things about who I will be and what I will be doing. The significant point is that whether I have seen the fulfillment of them or not, I can worship Him – I can approach Him – from the middle of my fulfilled promise. I can worship Him from the large-enough-for-a-home-group living room of my new house, even though I own no such house today.
Sometimes, it seems like God is forgetful. Sometimes, He makes a promise to us, and then He forgets that it’s just a promise: it hasn’t happened yet. He does things like call Abraham a “father of many nations” when he’s still childless. He speaks about things which do not exist as though they did exist.
Since God is not forgetful (even if it seems like it), then it must be something else: the promise must actually exist once He’s spoken about it; it just doesn’t exist here, where I am. But God, being omnipresent, isn’t limited to just “here, where I am.” And in another place where He is, the promise exists. In that place, His promises already exist, done, finished, completed. In that place, Abe was already the father of many nations, even though he had no children on Earth yet. In that place, the temple already existed, even though it would not be built here until after David’s death. In that place, a billion people worship Jesus who do not yet know Him here.
If my thinking goes no further than what I can see and experience in my flesh, I’ll never inhabit those promises until they’ve been fulfilled in the physical realm. If I limit myself to what I see and feel, those billion souls don’t exist, and my promises are but empty words. But if I look with His eyes, then I can see the fulfillment now. If I experience them with my faith, then I can walk among those believers and begin to understand their hurts and know their needs, so that when I encounter the men and women of that promised outpouring, we’ll already have things ready for them.
You see, by faith, I worship in a different temple. I worship in the temple in Heaven. I worship in the presence of God. Ephesians says I’m already seated in heaven, I’m already seated in Christ, I’m already in that place, in His presence. And that’s real, that’s true, even though it looks to me like I’m sitting on a wooden chair typing on a laptop computer. I only experience the hard chair and the computer if I’m only experiencing physically. If I look with my spirit, with my faith, I can see the angels crowded around crying, “Worthy is the Lamb!”
This is really hard to communicate; we don’t have a language to describe our very real experience of a not-yet-fulfilled promise. But my lack of language does not indicate a lack of reality, a lack of priority to that experience.
It is given to us to worship from the place of our promises, by the God who calls things that are not as though they already were. There are many and significant implications, but first, we must stand in that place of our promises. I propose we start there with worship. Then we can think about other things.

Sunday

A New Apostolic Reformation: On the Government of Apostolic Ministries.

I am privileged to know several young apostles and their apostolic ministries. For the past several years, I’ve been studying apostles and apostolic groups or apostolic ministries, and it’s being an interesting study. It seems that God is raising up more young apostles in this season than any other time in perhaps the past few centuries.

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, Paul traveled with another apostle. At first it was the team of “Barnabas and Paul” which before long became “Paul and Barnabas”. Later, Paul traveled with Silas and Barnabas traveled with John Mark after their famous argument. The point is that these ministries were led not by an apostle, but by two apostles working together, a model still virtually unheard of among today’s young apostolic ministries.

· 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 Paul. When Peter brought the gospel to the gentiles, he traveled with a group. In fact, most of the journeys in the Book of Acts are written in the first person: “When we did thus and such….” Author and doctor Luke was part of the traveling team. I notice that the team model was often led by two apostles working together. This team model of apostolic ministry is not completely foreign among the ministries of modern young apostles; it’s exciting to see young apostles today raising up others, taking others (both younger and older) with them as partners in ministry.

· The Apostolic Council: Jerusalem. Described in Acts 15, and led by the apostle James. Apparently, this group worked by consensus – at the least they discussed things quite a bit before they arrived at a community decision of some sort. There was a leader of this council (James), though the biblical record suggests that he was perhaps more facilitator and spokesperson than leader over the council; I observe that he doesn’t even speak until everybody else was through talking (Luke called it “much dispute”), and his declaration was clearly based on the testimony of Paul and Barnabas rather than his own thoughts. The rest of the group were not merely followers and supporters of James’ ministry, but were a council of “apostles and elders”. I’m waiting for the 21st century institution of the apostolic council, though it appears Peter Wagner is already working that direction.

· 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 Jesus and the boys: Jesus set the agenda and the pace, and the boys tagged along; they were followers and servants. If they agreed with Him, they were affirmed; if they disagreed with him, they were corrected, but they were not invited to lead. For the record, Jesus functionally repudiated this model at the end of His ministry: He promoted them from servants to friends, and then He submitted His will to theirs and committed Himself to – at least in a measure – to following their decisions in matters of the Kingdom. (Yes, I know: Jesus never abdicated His role as Son of God, but He did elevate the boys out of their servant role to partnership; face it: until His death, Jesus was the only Christian on the planet.)

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.

Tuesday

Go! Preach! Heal!

I’ve been studying the Bible for many years, and I’ve come to a conclusion: Jesus is a pretty good role model. For example, I’ve been watching Him in His ministry, and listening (so to speak) as He instructs His followers, and I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m a follower. Maybe I’d better pay attention!”
 
For instance, at the end of Matthew 9 we have a description of how Jesus did ministry, and if I want to be like Him, then I ought to do ministry the same way. And then in the beginning of Matthew 10, He instructs the Boys (aka “the apostles”) on how to do ministry. I’m thankful that He’s not a hypocrite: He teaches them to do the same things that He did. And when you boil it all down, it’s actually not real complicated.
 
Matthew 9:35: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
 
So the essence of Jesus’ ministry was pretty simple: Go, Preach, Heal.
 
Matthew 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.
 
And His instructions to the Boys were pretty much the same: Go, Preach, Heal. He added some details about what to preach (“The kingdom is at hand”) and how to heal (cleanse lepers, raise the dead, etc…).
 
Even the Great Commission focuses on the same things.
 
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
 
All of my responsibilities as a Christian fall into two camps: who I am and what I do. And in the “what I do” category, I have only three things: go, preach, heal.
 
I look at that list, and it scares me. I think: “Go. I can do that. Preach. I can do that.” And then I come to the last one: “Heal. I can’t do that.”
 
That’s wrong on a couple of levels. First it betrays a fundamental heresy in my understanding of the gospel: the gospel requires the supernatural. The presentation of the gospel that Jesus understood involves signs and wonders. It involves people throwing down their crutches, and dead guys climbing out of their coffins and surgeons looking at x-rays and scratching their heads and demons being chased out of people. That’s part of the gospel!
 
I’m thinking that a five minute presentation of “the Four Laws” is insufficient. That’s what brought most of my generation to Christ (maybe that’s our problem!).Someone who knows about these things pointed out to me that pretty much every time in the gospels that we see Jesus teaching or preaching, we probably see him healing the sick as well: a powerless gospel is not the gospel!
 
But that leads me to my second problem: I don’t do so good at healing people. I can’t really do that. And for long seasons of my life, I gave up trying. This is where my second major error happens. Sure, I can’t heal people without divine assistance. But what on earth makes me think I can do the rest of it on my own?
 
The whole gospel is – at its core – supernatural. It involves at the very least a transformation from death to life, and if you believe the Bible, then there’s a party in heaven when that happens, because something supernatural happened! So what makes me think I can preach without His divine impartation on me? What makes me think I can even go as a representative of Heaven except that He commissions me, He sends me, He goes with me? This is not a place where a “Please bless my words” prayer will work. I need power as desperately in my going and in my preaching as I do in my healing the sick and raising the dead.
 
And just because I can’t do it is no excuse. I still need to heal the sick and raise the dead.
 
So ultimately, my problem is that I don’t believe the Bible: I haven’t recognized the necessity of the supernatural, so I’ve left the healing part out, and then I’ve tried to do the rest of it pretty much on my own.
 
I think I have a lot to learn!
 
Go! Preach! Heal!
 

 


Saturday

Authority is Always Given, Never Taken

I figure that you and I can have two kinds of conversation: we can talk about the weather, or we can deal with the real issues of life. The first is easy; the second is kind of scary.

When we’re talking about real life, we’re not just talking about life in general. We’re talking about, among other things, your life and mine. And one of the dangers in that kind of conversation is the reality that you may see something in my life that needs to change. Maybe I’m not living up to the standards that I talk about, or maybe I’m disobeying the Word, and you see it.

But you can’t speak into my life unless I let you, unless I give you that authority. No, that’s not right: you can talk all day long, but unless I give you authority to speak into my life, I’m not going to be changed by what you have to say.

You can’t take that authority; it doesn’t matter if you are in the right and I am in the wrong. If I have not granted you authority to speak into my life, then your words are by definition without authority, and are powerless.

Likewise, I cannot take authority in your life if you haven’t given it.

There are people in “positions of authority” in my life. I must honor either the position, or the person holding the position, by giving them authority in my life, or else they have none. . The fact that you’re my boss means you should have authority to speak to aspects of my life and behavior, particularly during work hours. The fact that you’re my pastor means you should have authority in many areas of my life. The fact that I’ve invited you to speak into my life means that you should have such authority with me, but unless I decide that your word is authoritative to me, all is lost

I think we’ve lost track of this in our culture, though many foreign cultures seem to have a handle on it. Here, however, we have employees who disrespect their bosses and disregard their instructions, which leads to either fired employees or busted businesses. We have church members rejecting the instructions and teaching of their pastors and leaders, which results in stunning immaturity and moral failure.

Often, our employers, our pastors and leaders know the answers to our questions and failures, but whether they tell us the answers or not, it seems that the result is the same. The reason is that we have not submitted ourselves to their leadership, we have not given them the authority to have those answers in our lives.

And similarly, often times we can see a friend whose life is heading towards a shipwreck, but if they have not given us authority to speak into their lives, we cannot change their course, and their destruction is inevitable.

The challenge is that authority cannot be taken; it must be given, and in reality, it must be earned. Often, we expect that we already have the necessary authority based on our position, or on our superior knowledge or experience, and we speak up: “Let me tell you what’s wrong with you,” forgetting, or ignorant of, the fact that we must be given authority in someone’s life.

We cannot take authority; we can only be given authority.