Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts

Thursday

Lessons on Leadership from the Flock

I learned an interesting lesson from my chickens some time ago, from their pecking order. And then I realized something new about them just this week. 🤔

The chicken app the top of the pecking order is concerned about maintaining her position, her dominance over the rest. She has no interest in discovery or exploration, because she’s busy maintaining her power.

The chickens at the bottom of the pecking order have no power to maintain. Therefore they have the time and the energy to discover new things. (Unfortunately, they regularly discover new ways to escape from their chicken yard. But it's always the hens at the bottom of the pecking order who discover this.)

I realized that this works for humans, also. People who are concerned about their position, people who need to keep consolidating or defending their position, are never the people who discover new things.

There is a key for leadership here, I think. Maybe several.

× If I am a leader, then I can either work to keep my position of leadership, or I can work to encourage and environment of exploration, of discovery. I probably can't do both.

× If I am not a leader, I can either work to become a leader, or I can work to defend my current position, whatever it is, or I can discover and explore. Pick one.

× If I am a discoverer, or an explorer, then I probably am not involved in jockeying for a leadership position. I am probably also not as ambitious for promotion as others around me either, if my goals are about discovery. (And my life may actually be more enjoyable, if possibly less “successful.”)

× If I am somebody who stretches to discover new things, new experiences, new ideas, then the people whose goals are about position, about power, probably don't understand me. They probably don’t value what I value, either. I probably should not look to them for encouragement in this area.

I was reflecting on this whole process here, when I realized something else. These principles were more true with my previous flocks of chickens. The current flock, well I raised these girls all by hand, feeding them by hand, cuddling them every day as they grew up. (Did you know that baby chicks are terribly cute and cuddly? 🐥 )

As a (surprising) result, this flock isn’t nearly as focused on position. There’s much less fighting over the pecking order, because they consider ME to be the one on the top of the pecking order.

So unlike previous flocks, these days when I walk into their chicken yard, they gather around me for petting and skritching and snacks and such; they don’t run away.

So there’s no “top of the pecking order” for them to fight over, because they know thats me, it’s my job. They trust that Ill do my job.

And they don’t spend as much of their days either maintaining power or looking for ways to escape their community.

I’m thinking there might be some lessons in this about being secure in our Father’s affection for us. 🤔 What say you?


The Vengeance of God


Isaiah 61 begins, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor...”



This much is familiar to us. It’s the part that Jesus quoted when he began his public ministry (Luke 4). It was him announcing, “This is my job description for the next three and a half years. This is the what Messiah will be among you.”

But the statement He quotes from in Isaiah 61 goes on; Jesus actually stopped in the middle of a sentence. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve heard - and I agree with them - saying “That’s because it wasn’t yet time for the next part.” Which reads:

“...and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

We are clearly no longer in the days of Messiah, at least the days of his earthly ministry. I wonder if we’re now in the next bit, “the day of vengeance of our God.”

Look at how this verse defines the day of God’s vengeance. It continues on and describes God’s vengeance as:

¤ to comfort all who mourn,
¤ to provide for those who grieve in Zion,
¤ to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
¤ [to bestow on them] the oil of joy instead of mourning,
¤ [to bestow on them] a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Resulting in:

¤ They will be called oaks of righteousness,
¤ [They will be called] the planting of the Lord.
¤ [They will be called] for the display of his splendor.

That is how Isaiah describes “the day of vengeance of our God”: comforting, providing for, blessing his victims, until they are firmly established and displaying his splendor.

Hmm. I  believe I’ve misunderstood God’s vengeance.

I had learned about vengeance from Romans 12:19, which tells me, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”

I’ve always interpreted this as, “Don’t you beat ‘em up and make ‘em pay. God can beat on ‘em far more severely than you can!”

That was my understanding of vengeance. It was the image of God as my hit man, so I didn’t need to dirty my hands (or dirty my soul). He’d do the dirty work for me.

If I was really honest, the idea that I’d always had modeled for me was “God save me and destroy my enemies!” And I rather adopted that idea too, not in so many words, but this was the worldview from which I prayed.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s right any more. That’s not what his vengeance is; where he’s leading us.

Rather, God appears to want to save me AND save my enemies! (What? He loves those idiots, too?)

Jesus stopped quoting Isaiah before he mentioned the vengeance of God. But that didn’t stop him preaching these values.

Everybody loved it when he quoted Isaiah and announced, “That’s right here, right now.” They all smiled and nodded and clapped politely.

But when he went on, things changed.

Seven verses later, Luke records, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”

That’s a pretty big attitude change. What pissed them off so badly?

I’m glad you asked. In between, he declared, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

He was preaching that God wanted to save Israel AND save the gentiles.

It angered the religious community then, and it seems to anger the religious community now. But that’s not my issue here.

My focus here is that this idea that God wants to save us AND save “them” too is far more consistent with God’s character than the idea that God iss our hit man, on duty to smite our enemies so we don’t need to dirty our hands.

I remember a verse from my youth (from when I used to focus on sin as I was presenting the “good news”): “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). That’s him saving his enemies.

I could go on. Now that I stop and think about it (and I’ve been thinking about this for months), I find the value all over Scripture, now that I’m beginning to be willing to see it.

But for now, I’m going to just make this statement:

The vengeance of God is not about  smiting my enemies. It’s about saving them, about blessing them with everything he’s blessing me with.

Reflections on Some Influencers

I was reflecting on some of the guys who have influenced my life in God over the years. None of these guys had a position of “leader,” but all three of them were competent leaders.

I knew a man who studied God, and God’s ways, for decades. He could put all kinds of letters after his name, including DMin, and PhD. He understood the Bible better than anybody else I knew at the time.

When I listened to him, I thought, “What a learned man. What a great foundation! I need a foundation like that.”

I knew another man who didn’t have a degree, but had spent a couple of under-funded decades among a people who didn’t even know who God was: teaching some, discipling a few, and desperately depending on God every day, for his meals, for his ministry, for his family’s lives.

When I listened to him, my heart melted. I prayed earnestly, “Father, I want to know you like this man knows you!”

I knew another man who came from the streets, and even that was just recently. He had not the slightest shred of education, and it showed. But he spent hours, many hours, just sitting in God’s presence, listening to his heartbeat, talking with him about what was on his heart.

When I listened to him, I realized that he had some ideas that were pretty messed up, and the first guy could help him with that. And I saw that he had some serious insecurity issues, identity issues, and the second guy could really help him with that.

But when he talked, he blew my mind. He healed the sick regularly, got words of knowledge effortlessly, and unbelievers listened carefully when he talked about his Jesus.

When I listened to him, I thought, “Father, is this really possible? Can your children walk in this kind of revelation, this kind of power, in this day and age?”

I learned some things in this reflection.

I really do love meditating on the things God has done in my world, in my life. The angel in Revelation 19 was right: the testimony of Jesus, who he is, what he's done, really is the spirit of prophecy. Mmm mmm. So good.

Different people have imparted different strengths into my life. If I only listened to people like me, I would certainly not be who I am today. Since both my wife and I like who I am today, this would be a bad thing.

Even people that make me uncomfortable can have a great impact on my life, provided I’m willing to learn. It's that "willing" part that I wrestle with sometimes.

It’s not enough to know ABOUT God. I must know God. And there’s more to know than I have any idea, even now. What a big heart!

It’s not enough to know God. I must also know ABOUT God if I aspire to trust him, to be like him. And again, there’s more to know about him than I even believe is possible.

When God invests himself into a person, he doesn’t necessarily make that person tidy, neat, clean, respectable. My ideas for what a “Good Christian” is were woefully inadequate, which means they are probably still woefully inadequate today. (Yet again I am reminded: He is NOT a tame lion.)


Running Ahead of the Pack

Forerunners move out from the crowd they've been running with, to a place ahead of the crowd, where they are an example for others. As a result, it is not uncommon for forerunners to feel isolated, alone.

You need to know that that’s not isolation: that’s forerunning: it’s part of the job description of a forerunner – running ahead of the crowd, not with it – and that solitude is part of God’s provision for you. (Remember how Jesus sought it out? eg. Mark 6:45-46)

Others among the crowd see your example and move forward to join the forerunner or to even move beyond you. So the forerunner will have an empty spot, a vacuum, behind you, where others used to be, where others used to be. The more effective a forerunner is at bringing others forward, the greater the vacuum. Anyone trying to pull away from that vacuum will feel the vacuum pulling back.

Forerunners, that’s one of the things you’re fighting: you need to stay out of that vacuum; you may feel forces pulling you back. Resist the influences trying to pull you back to where you used to be. You need to keep pressing forward, keep reaching for the high calling in Christ Jesus. That’s who you are; that’s how you’re made.

There are others who need to move forward to fill that space behind you, who need to draft behind you, who will be encouraged to keep the pace you set.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…. (Hebrews 12:1)



Insight from Gandalf the White

In The Return of the King, Denethor, Steward of Gondor (the realm of men) says of himself to Gandalf, “Yet the Lord of Gondor is not to be made the tool of other men’s purposes, however worthy. And to him there is no purpose higher in the world as it now stands than the good of Gondor; and the rule of Gondor, my lord, is mine and no other man’s, unless the king should come again.”

To this Gandalf responds, “Unless the king should come again? Well, my lord Steward, it is your task to keep some kingdom still against that event, which few now look to see. In that task you shall have all the aid that you are pleased to ask for.

“But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”

I suppose that it’s not completely unimaginable that I sometimes find inspiration in Gandalf's insight. I love this image: it is our job, the job of men, to rule, but it is our ultimate destiny to submit our rulership to the True King who is yet coming. Ultimately, our job is stewardship.

Even more, like Gandalf, our task is stewardship of “anything … that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower….” This includes stewardship of our world, our influence in that world, our fellow human beings, and of the planet that we now call home.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” ~Matthew 18:23


(Many thanks to Kriston Couchey for provoking this line of thought.)

A Dream and its Sequel

May I share with you my dream, and its sequel? I’ve never been a big one for dreaming, and until this dream, I’d never, until this dream, received instruction in a dream.

The first dream: Many of us were on a large wooden ship. It was the size of a supertanker, but it was wooden. I don't know where it was going, and I don't think I ever did learn.

Below deck, on a very large deck, was a smaller ship: not a boat, a ship. As my wife was away, talking with crew or passengers, I was below decks, preparing that ship.

There were two things that were both heavy that I was loading up on. One was crowbars: not a "j" shape crowbar, but more of a "t" shaped crowbar. I loaded about 20 or 30 of them onto the smaller ship. I don't remember the other.

It seemed that I broke out a wall or a deck of the big ship in order to get the smaller ship out, and my wife showed up about that time to go with me. I woke up before we launched the smaller ship.

I had the dream during the time that I was enrolled in a dream interpretation class, so I shared it with my friends in the class. They agreed: The large ship is the Sunday Morning church, and truthfully, I didn’t really know where that was going. My small ship below decks was a heads up: God was calling me out of the established church into something more personal. The crowbars were preparation for me to help others into similar freedom.

What these good people didn’t know was that God had been calling me to do something I hadn’t done in nearly 50 years in the faith: to disengage from my local congregation, and to take responsibility for our own spiritual life, apart from a larger congregation: to become “unchurched.” It scared the stuffing out of me, which may be part of why Father affirmed it in a dream.

----- Interlude -----

Eighteen months later, I had left the Sunday Morning community, and my head was still spinning; this was something I’d never done before, something that I had regularly taught against, that I had prayed against. In that confusing season, I had the sequel to the dream, a dream that picked up right after the point the dream had ended.

In that dream, I had succeeded at launching the small ship out of the hole in the port side of the big ship. I watched as the big ship steamed on, unaware of our departure. When the great ship was out of sight over the horizon, I realized four things:

1) I suddenly saw my surroundings, and I realized that the only things I could see were waves. I had no idea where in the vast ocean I had departed from the great ship. I didn’t know where I was. I had no bearings.

2) Those waves had appeared as insignificant to the great ship. But now, in my small craft among them, they appeared much bigger. In fact, they were taller than our masts, though they did not threaten to capsize us. Suddenly, the waves captured a much greater portion of my attention; I was now far more aware of what was going on around me. (Note: both the sky and the waves were grey.)

3) I hadn't noticed this before. My small ship still had no sails up, and I'm not entirely convinced that I had sails on board. I had no means of moving, no means of steering my course. I was not anxious about that fact; in fact, in the dream, I was not attentive to it.

4) Everything was so quiet! I could hear everything: the seabirds, the waves slapping my ship, the wind in the rigging. 

As the dream ended, I realized that it perfectly represented my life in this season, where I was experiencing things I’d never experienced in my life before:

1) I was lost in a vast ocean: In truth, I didn’t actually know where I was in this great process that God is taking me through. I didn’t have any real reference points that mattered any more: experiential, social, psychological, theological. Everything was up in the air.

2) The waves appeared much bigger: There are issues around, issues that I never noticed before, that were now large and important to me. I had never really taken personal responsibility for my life and ministry before. Suddenly, I was aware of things God was emphasizing that I hadn’t even seen before. And now, I recognized gifts, particularly leadership gifts, on people outside of the traditional leadership positions, where I had never suspected them before.

3) I had no sails: It was absolutely clear that I now had no control over my life and ministry. I had no capacity to choose if I would be ministering, or where, or with whom. The most unusual opportunities kept opening up, and I had no control over them. 

4) Everything was so quiet: Without all the corporate noise in the background, suddenly, I was hearing Father’s voice so much clearer than ever before.

It was incredibly comforting to have Father re-affirm all that I was experiencing, to know that he had all this in hand. Even though it was new and unsettling for me, it was still completely in his hands.

I felt the need to share this experience (or this set of experiences) because I believe that there are others who are going through this kind of transition, or similar transitions. I want to say to you: Father knows what you’re going through, you can trust him. You can trust him to speak to you through dreams, and through your friends in the transition.


Father & Sons Development Co.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that I’m adopted. I was adopted by my Father at a very young age. I love my Father. He’s the best Dad in the world.

Did I tell you I’m working in the family business? The day I was adopted, I started working with my Dad. My Dad’s awesome like that.

When I was really little, he’d carry me in his arms as he walked through the factory floor. He’d stop and visit with machinists and foremen and janitors, pretty much everybody

Once when I was a bit older, I was building stuff with Legos™ in his office, while he worked on something. His desk overlooked the factory floor, and he saw something that caught his attention.

“Son,” he says. “You know Mr. Davidson? Tall guy. Red shirt. Big mustache?”

“I know him, Pop.”

“Son, would you go find Mr. Davidson and ask him to come up to see me? I’ve got something I want him to see.” And I toddled down the stairs to find Mr. Davidson. Soon he and Dad were talking seriously about something on Dad’s desk, and I added a new wheel to the thing I was building.

There was a time after I’d discovered books! Books are wonderful things! I was sitting in a chair in Dad’s office, sounding out a word, when he interrupted me. “Son, Miz Thompson works on the far side of the factory. Would you find her and give her this note?” He handed me the note, and I ran off to find Sally Thompson. She had a wonderful smile, and she used it on me sometimes.

I never did go to normal school. I would say that Dad homeschooled me, except it mostly happened in his office. Is there such a thing as officeschool? We had the best times together in his factory office.

He’d given me an arithmetic assignment that made me think pretty hard. If Mr. Jacobi needs to build this many boxes by the end of the month, how many does he need to build every day? Eventually I puzzled it out right (Dad showed me where I’d forgotten to carry the one, the first time), and he smiled this great big smile! “Son, would you please take this down to Marty Jacobi – he should be in the lunchroom right now – and show him how well you did this.” He wrote his initials on my math paper.

I found Marty. He gave me a cookie while he looked at my work. I munched, and then he smiled, and said, “You’ve got a real smart Dad, you know!” He was right, of course, but I already knew that!

One day he was reading letters. He had a lot of letters, and he read ’em all. One of them made him smile extra big, and he called me to himself. “Son, would you please go tell Bob Davidson that he’s got a new worker coming in the morning. He’ll want to put Cindy on the Quality Control team right away.” I delivered the message. Bob winked at me and nodded. “Sure thing!” he said.

One Thursday morning, Dad pushed my math books out of the way again, and set down his computer in their place. “Son, do you see this? What do you think that means?” and he pointed to a detail on the screen. This was a math test test, I felt sure. I was ready.

“That looks like trouble, Dad. Not big trouble, but trouble. Especially for the QC department. Um… Is that right?”

“That’s right, Son,” and he printed that page. “Would you explain this to Cindy in QC? And maybe talk with her about what to do with it, and bring me your favorite few suggestions.” Later, he picked one of our ideas, and implemented it. That was cool.

So I wasn’t altogether surprised when he set his computer on my desk some time later. He didn’t point to anything, but asked me, “What do you see here, Son?” I studied it a bit, and talked with him about the three or four things I saw. “What about this one?” “Hmm. I saw that, but didn’t think it was all that important,” I answered. “It’s all important, Son. Especially when this is trending,” and he pointed to the first detail I’d seen. “What happens when these happen on the same day?” I hadn’t thought of that! We talked about it and how to help the folks in the factory when that happened. I learn so much from my Dad.

And a few months later, those two things did happen on the same day. “Well, it happened, Dad.” “Yep, it surely did. Well, you know what to do.” I picked up my notes from our planning, headed down the stairs, and called the supervisors together. I explained the problem, and listened to their concerns. One of the guys had already figured it out, so I let him describe the adjustments we needed, filling in details when he needed help. We had the solution in place before the problem was big enough to slow production down.

Eventually we got to the point where I was really running the factory. Dad spent most of his time talking to individuals, or scheduling contractors for the expansion, and he spent a lot of time training some of the other kids, too. If I ran into a problem, he was always right there to help, and there wasn’t anything that he couldn’t figure out.

Figuring things out comes easy when you’re omniscient like my Dad is.

Responding to “Melchizedek Means You Must Tithe!”

Does Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek mean we must tithe?

When teaching on the topic of tithing, pastors generally refer to Genesis 14, where Abraham was just finishing wiping out four kings in a war to recover his captive family. Melchizedek, a priest, came out to congratulate Abe, who gave that priest 10% of the plunder. Here’s the story:

When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.’” - Genesis 14:14-23 

“The tithe precedes the Law!” they declaim. “So when the Law went away, the tithe stays: You must tithe because Abraham tithed before the Law!” (And they’ll often reference Hebrews 7, where the story is mentioned in passing in support of a whole different point.)

I hate that argument: it’s 98% irrelevant to the topic. (A little bit is relevant: One guy did tithe once before the law.)

But he tithed only once. One time only, Abraham gave 10% of the spoils of one war to Melchizedek, while he gave 90% to the kings of Sodom & Gomorrah. He never tithed from any other source, either before or after that day.

So we’re supposed to make application for our lives from this story. Here are some ways we can apply Abraham’s example of tithing to Melchizedek:

* Does this mean that we should tithe on the spoils of our war? Do we get the Pentagon involved in this, or do we limit ourselves just to wars that we ourselves lead? Are we limited only to foreign wars, or does a fight with my wife count?

* Does this mean that we tithe after we kill people? If so, whom shall we kill on Sunday morning? Abe killed people who held his family captive. Who would that be today?

* Does this mean that we should tithe when a priest brings bread and wine to our workplace and blesses us (as Melchizedek did here)? In that case, I should tithe to the traveling sales reps, I suppose. They bring food to my workplace, though they’re not really priests.

* Does this mean we should tithe only one day in our lives, as Abraham did? If so, how do we choose which one day we should tithe? Should it be when we’re young and strong, or when we’re old and wise? And should it be a work day, or a weekend day? If it only happens once, we should be careful to pick the right day.

* Does this mean that we should give 90% of our income to the leaders of “Sodom & Gomorrah”? I thought we were opposed to the pornography industry or the sex trade? Or are you saying we should just pick some worldly politicians and give them our life savings? (Sure glad that happens only one day in our life!)

My point is this: it is foolishly disingenuous to say, “You must apply this one detail out of this story, but ignore all the rest of it!” That’s religious manipulation at its worst! It is completely unworthy of the People of God.

Conclusion: This story is clearly not appropriate to use as a tool to demand that people give you 10% of their income.

But don’t take this too far.

I am not trying to say, “Do not tithe!” Nor am I saying, “Don’t be generous!” as some mistakenly say.

I’m saying that the People of God are not subject to the extortion that the tithe teaching has become: “If you don’t obey this Law, you’re a lousy Christian!” Many churches today deny members opportunities to serve, or to receive ministry, unless they’ve submitted to the extortion.

Christians are not under law. We are not required to tithe.

However, note that the law of sowing and reaping is part of our lives in the New Covenant. Consider 2Corinthians 9:6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That's for us. That’s real.

And the need for believers to be characterized by generosity, particularly to the poor, is incontrovertible! Really, 10% is a pretty wimpy standard for people who have generosity in their soul. Giving from a free heart is completely encouraged! And we’re free to give where we want to: to missions, to local congregations, to a benevolence group, directly to needy people, or to a secular group that does worthy things. And we’re free to donate money, or time, or sweat, or influence, or anything else we have to give.

So, if people read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek and then they say, “Well that proves it. I must give 10% of my income to you every week because Abraham gave 10% to a priest one time!” then somebody is not thinking clearly. That’s just the spirit of stupid.

But if they read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek and then they say “That’s cool! I want to do that!” then more power to them! That’s a beautiful thing! 


Just don’t try to make it a law. That would be a lie. And it’s not good to lie to the people of God.

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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Who Is Your Comforter?

I have it on good authority that someone very competent already occupies the position of “Comforter” in your life (John 14:26). Holy Spirit is a remarkably competent comforter, and he is capable of doing a magnificent job of it.

Now, if you try to bring someone else in to fill that position in your life, there’ll be trouble. You will have invoked the threat of Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

If I go to a prophet, or to a pastor, or to a friend with the intent of getting from them what I should have received from “The Comforter,” then I’ve caused a real problem. I have endangered that prophet, that pastor, that friend. I have set them up “before God” in my life, and God himself promises that he will not permit that. 

If you look at how God handled “other gods” in scripture, you’ll see it wasn’t pretty, not ever. You might review the story of Dagon in 1 Samuel 5. Men set gods up; God knocks them down. 

I do not wish to ever be put in that place, where I am “before God” in someone’s life. Frankly, I’ve had to learn this the hard way.

If you come to me asking for comfort, I may pat your hand, and say, “There, there!” or if you ask for advice, I may offer some (typically, too much, but that’s a guy thing). I'm figuring out how to mourn with those who mourn.

But if I feel that I’m being asked to provide for you what Holy Spirit should be providing, to speak into your life instead of your listening for Holy Spirit to speak, then I will probably point you back to him.

(It’s ironic that people are so often offended at me for pointing them to God. I haven’t figured that one out.)

And if you come to me and say, “God’s not talking to me. Would you give me a word?” you may see me run screaming.

You might be thinking, “If I can’t get it from God, I’ll go somewhere that I can get the word I want.” But I hear it as, “The God I’ve had isn’t living up to my expectations; I’m going to replace him with you.”

Nuh-uh! No you’re not. I’m sorry (on multiple levels) if this offends you, but I will not take the place of God in your life. I've seen what happens to other gods in the lives of God's people. No thank you!

The job of the pastor, and the prophet (and the rest of the ascension gifts!) is to equip the saints! If you’re a saint, then pastors should be equipping you for works of ministry, teachers should be equipping you or works of ministry, prophets should be equipping you for works of ministry, etc.

If ever we ask them to do for us what God should be doing for us, we have seriously erred, and we have tempted them towards something that (in my opinion) should scare the daylights out of them.

Let’s not go there, m’kay?  



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The Wordless Prayer of Faith

It happened during a gathering in our home. We’d had dinner some time ago, finished the dishes together, and now we were gathered in the living room, with mugs of hot tea, and the warm glow of good friendship.

It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to pray for individuals, for healing. We were all good friends, so there was much laughing and interaction while we prayed. That’s just who we were, and we didn’t feel the need to be different when we were with God.

We’d just finished praying for one person, and they got up from the “hot seat” (really a “hot hassock”: a place for them to sit in the middle of the group, so we could all see and all lay hands on if called for).

One of the women kind of hobbled to the center of the room and sat gently down on the hassock as soon as it was vacant. She announced that she’d hurt her back lifting something incorrectly, and needed it healed, please. We turned our attention to her, and asked God for his prayers for her; if Jesus only said what he heard Father saying, we figured that was a good model for us, so we waited for those prayers.

And we waited.

The silence went on for a while, and it became kind of awkward. The fact that it was silence was unusual: there wasn’t laughing or joking going on; people were listening for God’s prayers for our sister’s back.

And we waited. I asked a couple of the more prophetic people if they had anything, but they didn’t. This was unusual. So we waited.

Then, quietly, a teenager in the back of the room giggled. Yeah, I thought, this is rather odd: all these adult believers can’t even pray for one woman’s back. I can see why she’d laugh.

And her laughter continued. She tried, for a moment, to stifle it, but that never works, and it didn’t work this time. OK, so she’s laughing. What is God saying, for how to pray for this back?

But the laughing teenager was herself funny, and a couple more people glanced at her and chuckled. And they fought it, and they, too, were unsuccessful. And the laughter spread. And nobody knew why.

And soon, nobody was even trying to pray for the woman’s strained back; we were just laughing, loudly, uproariously. We didn’t know why we were laughing, but it was clearly not something we had the capacity to stop!

And after four or five minutes of unrestrained hilarity, the laughter slowly faded back out, ending as it began, with the happy teenager in the corner. Maybe five or ten minutes had passed.

And the woman who had sat down with the hurt back now stood up and stretched. “Aaaah.” she announced. “That’s much better. No more pain. Thanks guys.” And she walked, confidently, completely upright, out to the kitchen for a fresh cup of tea.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, chuckled again, and decided that we like hanging out with a sneaky God.



Brass Heavens? Consider Some Options.

The phrase “brass heavens” comes from the King James translation of Deuteronomy 28:23. “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.” It was part of the consequences that God warned Israel would experience if they wandered off and rejected God in their new Promised Land.

We use the term “brass heavens” to describe an environment where it’s tough to connect with the heavenly realms, it’s difficult to hear from God, rare to experience his presence. Fundamentally, it’s about our experience of interacting with heaven.

Have you ever felt like no matter what you did or prayed, God didn't hear, didn't show up? That’s what we’re talking about.

There are a number of reasons for us to experience brass heavens. Deuteronomy says it’s a natural consequence of abandoning God. Indeed, it’s hard to connect well with God when we’re avoiding him. It is also commonly inferred that if the population of a region rejects God, then the heavens in that area may become brazen to them, and also to anyone else who comes into the region. Hmm. Maybe.

Personally, I believe that sometimes the “brass heavens” are a lie. There are times that the enemy simply accuses God before us: “He didn’t respond to us quickly or personally enough. You must be on the outs with God!” No, the devil just talks louder and faster than Father does.

There are times (Daniel 10:13 is an illustration) where the “brass heavens” are the result of events in the heavenly realms which we cannot see. Job also experienced this. It’s real, and it happens. In fact, in the Bible, it appears to only happen to good people.

There are undoubtedly other causes for that sense that we have which we describe as a brass heaven. Hold that thought; we’ll be back in a minute. Right now, let’s take a detour through the woods.

Some time ago, I was walking in the woods, and my attention was captured by something I saw there. I saw the same conflict acted out in two different ways, in two different parts of the forest.

I saw a giant fir tree, a grandfather, perhaps eight feet in diameter. The only tree of its size in the area, it was accompanied by its adult children: thousands of mature fir trees two to three feet in diameter surrounded it.

But the detail that caught my attention was the third generation of trees. There were not many saplings in the shadow of the larger trees. There were only a few young ones there, but they were thin, weak and yellowed from never having seen the direct light of the sun, their source of life. There were many that had died.

As I walked further, I came to a part of the forest that was dominated by great maple trees. A few giants spread their canopies, well separated from each other, the light through their leaves coloring the undergrowth a bright green.

Unlike the fir trees, the grandfather maple trees were not closely surrounded by their children. Between the great trees was a bright meadow, thickly populated by shrubs and berry bushes, but not a single young tree was growing in the meadow, though the meadow was surrounded by younger maple trees competing with younger fir trees for the light.

I’ve studied botany a little, enough to know that both behaviors are defense mechanisms for the mature trees. The fir trees grow tightly together so that there is no light left for any competitors, even their own offspring. The grandfather fir trees, the old growth giants, have no need to hinder the growth of any competitors: they tower above all others, secure in their own capacity to reach the sunlight, though the less mature trees still scratch and claw for their provision, even at the expense of the next generation of fir trees.

The great maple trees do it differently. The great giant trees give off a chemical that poisons the soil near them so that no tree can grow there, thus eliminating any competitors for the precious sunlight. Grandfather maple trees are broader, not taller, than their younger competitors. They cannot tower securely above the younger trees as the old growth firs can, so they must eliminate the competition.

Here’s a radical thought: what if the “brass heavens” over some people is the “forest canopy” of others?

I have lived among a metaphorical stand of fir trees. The community of saints were largely mature (both in age, and in their walk of faith), and they were so closely connected with others their age that there was no room for someone young in their faith to break in and discover the life that they needed to thrive.

Do you know how many churches have fights about the worship music? Just the question of “organ music or pop-rock music” has destroyed thousands of American churches. Other communities continually preach the same salvation message for sixty years, or, on the other extreme, the same marriage-and-family messages, ignoring the needs of the younger members, forcing them into the darkness, stunting their growth. The “brass heaven” there comes, at least in part, from the unwillingness of the adults to become parents, the inability to make room for the young ones.

I’ve also served the metaphorical mature maple trees, where the ministry is all about the one leader, and where no real growth is permitted among any other leaders who might challenge the position of the senior leader.

I’ve seen churches where the founding pastor is still the senior pastor 40 years later, but no youth pastor or worship leader is kept for more than 2 or 3 years, and the only associate pastors are those who’ve learned never to grow beyond a certain limit. The “brass heaven” in those places is, at least partly, the result of the senior leader’s ego.

As I’ve reflected on my lessons from the forest, I’ve been very grateful that I have feet instead of roots. I’ve used those feet to depart those deadly forests. There are thousands of folks like me, unwilling to sacrifice our own growth for the comfort of the fathers and grandfathers that have gone before us. Unfortunately, there are millions more, lost in the shadows, withering, dying without the sun.

Of course, wherever I go, there is always the temptation to gather a tight group of friends who support each other, but really don’t make room for another generation to be part of the community. Or there’s the temptation to create my own forest, where I’m the reigning monarch, and everybody else is reduced in order to serve my own needs.

The old growth fir tree is easily the best model from this particular day in the forest: tall and strong, secure in his own relationship with the sun of life, he broadcasts seed, carried by wind, and he populates entire regions, reshapes the environment within his influence.

The drawback, of course, is that it is incredibly costly to become the old growth fir tree: costly in time. It requires, in the tree’s case, centuries of growth to reach that size, centuries of avoiding the forest fires and logging companies and diseases that are the end of so many of its peers.

But I suspect that we can, ideologically, at least, become the old-growth giant long before we’re either old or giant. Being creatures that (unlike the trees) are created in God’s image with a free will, we can exercise our will.

We can choose to not participate in the closed relationships that keep others at a distance. We can choose to let others grow and thrive around us, encouraging the ones that will eclipse our own growth or gifting, so that they become greater and more successful than we’ve ever been.

We can choose to raise up and release a generation that’s just now encountering the “brass heavens” of the saints. 

Opposing a Spirit of Fear


Some years ago, a few well-known prophets from America’s east coast prophesied hell coming to the west coast, and to my Northwest region in particular.

They didn’t call it hell. They called it “The Big One.”  They called it earthquakes and volcanoes and a tsunami, and millions of people screaming and dying. They went so far as to say, “Move away from the west coast, if you can!”

That pissed me off. I hate it when God’s people use God’s name to prophesy the devil’s agenda for my region! That is not okay with me.

Even the secular news caught on, and there were “news” articles on TV most nights: “It happened to Japan! It can happen here!” with interviews of geologists and politicians and emergency response people and preppers and fear-mongers. It was ugly.

The prophets then added, “We asked God if we can stop this, and he said we can’t.” That one caught my attention.

I asked Father about it. “Of course they can’t stop it. They’re from the east coast.” That was all I needed.

We gathered a handful of prophets together in one of our homes and came before God, to see what He said about it.

It was a fun evening, but too long to detail. To summarize, there were two primary points we needed to pray into:

1) We (on the west coast) live on the Ring of Fire: there are going to be earthquakes and such; it’s how God built the planet: stuff moves. We can try to stop the movement of continents, or we can just change the effect of their movements. So we decreed lots of tiny earthquakes instead of the killer quake that Japan got that year. (And sure enough, we got a lot of small quakes over the next couple of months.) This was the little attack, the flash that was to capture everybody’s attention while the enemy went after his real goal.

2) The greater attack was the spirit of fear that was riding on the reports, the prognostications, the conversations about “The Big One.” The enemy wanted to use these reports, and use any significant quakes, to embed a demonic stronghold of fear into the people of the west coast, and the people of America.

We also opposed that attack, and the public fear-mongering pretty well stopped. The enemy has not given up his goal of embedding a demonic stronghold of fear in the people of the west coast, but he’s going at it more subtly now. (This is one example of the current attack: http://on.fb.me/1geQU6L.)

The goal of embedding a spirit of fear into the people of the USA appears to be a pretty key issue for the enemy. It’s everywhere. Look at the conversations around Facebook that are talking about GMO foods, and you’ll hear fear in a lot of those voices. You’ll hear it in the conversations about the dismantling of the US constitution, the Second Ammendment conversations, the vaccine controversy, the Obamacare conversations.

And pretty much every conversation that talks about “Jesus is coming soon” or “the antichrist” or “the tribulation” or “the rapture” is tainted with a spirit of fear.

If I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest that we have not actually been given a spirit of fear. The Spirit we’ve been given is about power and love and it’s about a sound mind.

By contrast, the spirit of fear that’s coming against us is merely a temptation: Will the people give in to fear, or will they resist? Will they respond in fear or in power? In fear or in love? In fear or in a sound mind?

It’s NOT the enemy’s choice whether the spirit of fear infests your house, your community: it’s YOUR choice.


What say you?

Prophetic Feelers

Some people experience God in pictures or visions (seers); others in dreams (dreamers). Some experience God by hearing things (hearers, I guess). Those are all relatively easy to describe to others. More socially acceptable, these men and women are often great communicators.

Some folks experience God and the Spiritual realm through their feelings (feelers). My experience has been that these folks experience more of the heart of God, perceive more deeply and often more accurately, but have more difficulty translating the revelatory experience into language, and therefore, their revelations are less often received and understood by the body as a whole.

Our language has difficulty handling feelings well, partly because our culture doesn't respect taking responsibility for our feelings.

Folks that experience God in ways that are easy to describe (visions, words, etc) have a much easier time talking about the revelation they receive. Because they “fit in” better, they also do better in schools and seminaries.

So they become the pastors and teachers, the leaders of the churches. And because as a culture, we’ve delegated responsibility for the state of our soul to the leaders of the church, they have also become the standard for how God’s children receive revelation from their father. We can describe them either in spiritual terms (seers and hearers) or in educational terms (left brained academics).

As a result, we have a church that is led by academics and left-brain leaders. I have no complaint against that fact, except this: the churches they lead are not made up only of academic, left-brained people, even though their sermons and classes are primarily academic, left-brained lessons.

In fact, our seminaries and Bible schools, even our public schools, hardly legitimize such emotive people, and so the leaders and peers which they turn out don’t understand, and often don’t acknowledge the presence and the legitimacy of the feelers among us, of our creative and imaginative brothers and sisters.

Our church leaders are generally left unable to train feelers, people who interact with both the spiritual realm and the natural realm by way of their feelings. And so we are unable to pastor or lead the feelers among us, seeing them, through the eyes of academia, as people who need us to fix them.

Most of the resources for the left-brain, logical prophetic folks don't fit real well for the right-brained creative, for the prophetic feeler folk. Much of our basic discipleship training is in academic vocabulary, leaving the feelers among us less capably discipled than we believed, and therefore more vulnerable to the ravages of the war that we are engaged in.

I grieve for my brothers & sisters that we’ve disrespected and wounded. I’m thankful that God is addressing these disparities and bringing them back into alignment.

We have a ways to go, but we’re on the way. I look forward to our continued growth together.

Supernatural Gems and A Failure in the Church

You are hereby warned: I’m going to rant. Please prepare yourself. (Conclusions at the… er… conclusion.)

I posted this photo recently, with this comment:

“Interesting night tonight. 
Spent a lovely evening sharing dinner, sharing testimonies, blessing one couple among us, 
and God drops gems all over the carpet. 
These weren't from tonight; they showed up at other times, and they're easier to photograph. 
There were others, larger, more spectacular. 
But together, we probably gathered 60 or 80 small ones (jewelry size) just tonight. 
I stood back, aloof, for a while. "We must honor the Gift Giver more than pursue the gifts!" 
I (a little self-righteously) told myself. 
Father chuckled at me. "If you gave your children a good gift, and they pushed it aside and
just sat there, staring at you, would you really love that? When you give a gift, you want 
it to be appreciated. You want to make them happy. How do you think I feel?"
So I gathered 8 or 10 little ones. I watched some of them appear right in front of my eyes. 
And you know, it really did make me happy. 
We have such an awesome Dad.
And as a bride, we have an awesome groom, and a pretty epic future father-in-law.”


The post generated more response than most of my posts do. A couple hundred comments, maybe hundred folks shared it with their friends. A handful of folks made judgmental accusations which were deleted, but that’s par for the course.


The atmosphere that night was heavily and naturally focused on Jesus, not on gemstones: it glorified God. 

But a couple of folks contacted me privately with some credible questions. The book says not to “receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses,” but the clear implication is that if there are two or three witnesses, to look into the accusation (1Timothy 5:19). I won’t go into details, but I had some things to look into. That was enough for me to pull the post last night. 

I’m still not going to name names, except to say that a name was accused, so I’ve spent most of the next 24 hours consulting with folks (both people & God). I’ve counseled with some elders, with some accusers, with the accused, and with the accused’s pastor. 

Accusations were made that someone had been caught at a service dropping gems. I’ll just say this: it has happened. The one accused in this story told me how it happened and why it happened, and what happened as a result, including their repentance and the process laid on them for their restoration. Several witnesses, including the supervising pastor and some of the accusers have corroborated the confession and the time frame. I’ve been saying, all along, Any miracle that brings fame or fortune to the people involved will be faked for the fame and/or fortune of others. That does not diminish the value of the miracle one whit.

Well it has happened, and I stand by my statement: we have an awesome God, who gives gems to his bride.

I have testimony from several people (I’m one of them) who have seen gems miraculously appearing; even some of the accusers agree: gems do appear miraculously in this person’s presence. The Book says, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established,” and it affirms the principle in both New Testament and Old, a total of no less than six times. The matter is beyond dispute: we have gemstones miraculously appearing. 

So what we have before us is a child of God who walks in the miraculous, who has failed in ministry, who has repented, who was taken out of ministry for a season, and tested before being released into ministry again, and who has no fame nor fortune from ministry.

In the meantime, this child of God has spent quite a few years enduring the curses and accusation of the saints of the most high God. As a result, we have a beloved family member who has been repeatedly, incessantly wounded again and again by those who call themselves healers. 

In the process of examining the accusation made by “two or three witnesses,” I met an embarrassing number of people who sure sounded pleased that someone got busted for their sin. I had real difficulty not getting more than a little bit angry about this. Those who were making accusations of someone’s sin – both the humble ones and the self-congratulatory ones – I have it on good evidence (Romans 3:10&12) that the accusers have failure in their life as well. 

I know I surely do! Those who are close to me could tell you stories that are different in form than the sin with the gemstones, but easily more nasty. I can tell you first hand that before I was a Christian, I was a very un-lovely person, and even after the Son of God died for me, I’ve still made some heinous mistakes. But so have you. (Sorry.)

I can also tell you that the Son of God DID in fact die for me, and for you, and for everyone touched by this story. And I have the honor of telling you that He still loves you and me and them, even though – and even WHEN – we sin. Think about it: when Adam & Eve sinned the first sin, it was they who hid from God. God came looking for them. And while we were yet sinners – WHILE, I tell you – Christ loved you and me in the mist of our filth and stench and took it on Himself, and killed it. 

My conclusion is this: Yeah, someone faked gems. Yep we know at least one person who did it. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts there are bunches more. I’ll bet someone’s doing it right now, somewhere on the planet, faking a miracle of some sort. 

These are the gems I found.  Several of them, including the yellow oval, I watched as they appeared on the carpet before me.
These are the gems I found. 
I’ll bet it happens not at all infrequently: people so desperately want the miracle of God that they’ll do anything to get it, even if they have to fake it. People so desperately need the acceptance and approval of their brothers and sisters that they’ll do anything to get it, even if they have to fake it. 

Does that mean that gems don’t happen miraculously? Nope. It means that God still uses broken people. Like you and me. 

My conclusion: I stand by my original post: God spread some gemstones around. God did some miracles. It was cool, and it brought glory to his Son. Now, are you going to look for the false? Or are you going to look for the finger of God among the muck and the fuss of the human species? 

I’m posting the original picture because it’s associated with the conversation. In hindsight, I think I should have posted a photo of the little things we found that night.