Showing posts with label weapons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weapons. Show all posts

Wednesday

Waging War With Your Prophetic Words

It was a heartbreaking season in my life.

I’d been given some prophetic promises about an area of my life. God had declared some beautiful things: unity and power and intimacy and victory. Yeah, it was a lot of “the usual stuff,” but it came in a declaration from God. Actually, it came in two or three declarations; this wasn’t just a warm and fuzzy thought from one person.

We’ll pause here for a definition. When I talk about a “declaration from God,” that might be a prophetic word; those are the best, and I give them the most weight: when someone with a known gift of prophecy says, “This is what God says,” and the community judges it to be true (1 Corinthians 14:29), that’s the gold standard of prophetic revelation in my view.

But the idea of a declaration from God includes what I hear God whispering to me, and it includes those times that something from the pages of Scripture leap alive and demand my attention. They include when friends tell me what they hear God saying about me, and when the promises of scripture actually, contextually apply to me.

As I said, I had two or three of these, including both the prophetic words and the whisper of my Father. There was a good bit of unity among the declarations. I trusted them.

And then things began to go to hell. I wish I spoke metaphorically. Without putting too fine a point on it I’ll say that just when I expected the promises to begin to manifest, to show up, just when I expected to see things turn toward unity and power and intimacy and victory, they turned the opposite direction.

It was a heartbreaking season in my life. You see, this was an area that was really quite important to me. This was no cute little bonus.

I ran through the demonic logic tests: Can God be trusted? Is he really a good God? You know that list. They came at me hard and fast, and I threw them back in his face just as hard, declaring God’s goodness, his trustworthiness, and my confidence in Him. I went further and rebuked every demon I could think of from every aspect of this promise. I felt victorious!

I thought, There. That will do it. And the promises down-shifted for better acceleration into oblivion.

My heart was crushed, but still I held on. I began to ask better, more honest questions: Did I assume God had promised this, when in fact he had not? No, he’d been quite clear.

Were the promises for right now, or was I rushing him? That one was tougher, as he’d never actually given a date, but if this trend continued, then there was no chance of fulfilling them later.

Was I imposing my own definition of what these fulfilled promises needed to look like? Maybe the fulfillment was so different than my expectations that I didn’t recognize it. I searched my heart long and hard on this, and I examined the circumstances. No, the failure was real. This wasn’t just my misinterpreting it.

My life was pretty much over. I nearly gave up.

And then something whispered in the back of my mind. It was a quiet little whisper, easy to miss. “I want you to give thanks for my promises as if you were already walking in the fullness of their fulfillment, as if everything I said has already happened, even though you’ve seen nothing yet.”

It took rather a lot to take the voice seriously, and it took even more to do what he said. But I did.

In those days, I took my lunch hours in a remote meadow. I parked my truck, and since I pray best when I walk, I’d worn a trail into the grasses and shrubberies of the meadow.

I began to pace my trail, questioning my sanity, and mumbling thanks for these hallucinations, these promises. I recognized the failure of my prayer, so I began to pray out loud. That was better, but I could tell I wasn’t to the point of actually engaging my faith yet.

So I began to shout. It was hard, and it took me days to get there, but before long, I fairly flew into that meadow, locked up my parking brake, and before the truck had fully stopped, I was on that trail, roaring my thanks for these promises, for the glory of having been my experience, for the power that had been unleashed. I screamed my gratitude for a victory I had not yet seen, and I wept in thanksgiving for the intimacy that I still only imagined.

Over the next days and weeks, I watched several changes. The first were in my heart. Eventually, my empty declarations of faith began to actually fill with faith, and I began to understand that I was waging war with these promises (1 Timothy 1:18). Not long after, I realized that the things that I was declaring that had not yet happened, they were going to happen. I began to expect, not fearlessly, not solidly, but I began to expect to see things change.

My prayers expanded. I spent my spare time thinking of what that will look like when these promises are fulfilled, and I prayed every answer to that. By now, I was thankful that my meadow was remote, and occasionally, I checked the trees near the meadow, to make sure I hadn’t roared their bark off.

And still I prayed. I walked and prayed and shouted and demanded and wept and gave thanks like there was no tomorrow.

And then things did begin to change. It was like lighting a match to the tinder of a well-set fire: the change was so very small and fragile, and the slightest breath would extinguish it. I said nothing of this to anyone, so as to not blow out my precious flame, but I gave myself to serving that tiny, flickering flame, nurturing it the best I could.

But gradually, over months and years, it did turn, and today I can say I’ve been walking in the fullness of many of those promises for many years.

I’ve also noticed a change in me. I’m quicker to give thanks than I ever used to be. I think I like that.

Saturday

Responding to this Election

There are maybe two primary kinds of people reacting with distress to the election results.

One kind is all about outrage. That outrage has occasionally been public and violent. There’s much evidence that at least some of the protests are paid events, staged for prime-time television, but the outrage is still real.

Many of the faces and voices in the media are outraged, of course, and in the halls of power. Some are willing to express it; others less so, hiding behind explanations and accusations.

The other, larger, and often younger population are nearly invisible, feeling wounded and betrayed. How could these neighbors whom I’ve trusted vote for such a hateful man and such a hateful agenda. They truly fear for their future, for their lives and well-being and those of their friends. Their fear – whether we understand it or not – is very real, their pain is real.

This is the group that I’m most concerned about.

Many of these are Millennials, the generation that is only now stepping into power. They are young enough that they don’t understand what this election was reacting against. And while they recognize that there’s bias in the media, they are still a media generation, and the media still speaks to them and for them.

If we wanted to alienate these good people, if we wanted to drive them away from us, from ever respecting us, then we should condescend to them, we should disrespect their fears and mock their pain. A number of Christians, a number of conservatives are doing exactly that.

And of course, Internet memes are good for this. And while a few are genuinely humorous and make us laugh, they drive a wedge deeper between people, and a thorn deeper into their hearts.

“But they’re believing a lie! I must convince them instead of the truth!” Balderdash. Do you remember the Bible-thumping trolls who haunt Facebook and other online communities, mercilessly wielding their version of Truth? Do you remember Westboro Baptist and their hate-fueled vitriol? This need to “convince them of the truth” is what motivates them. Don’t be like them.

Honestly, we don’t have the authority to speak truth to anyone until we’ve helped them deal with the pain they’re feeling. Have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus taught truth it was always in the context of healing their pain: healing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead, multiplying food. The only exception was when he was talking privately with his disciples.

That’s a really good course of action: start with healing. We can heal supernaturally; that’s always good. We can heal through social means: food banks and street missions need our help in this season more than any other. We can heal through personal means, listening to their pain, and loving them eye-to-eye, heart to heart.

We can be Christians: we can be Christ to people.


Thursday

Fight the Good fight of Faith

When we don’t question our beliefs, when we just accept what others have told us (whether from a pulpit, from a seminary, or from a publication), there are repercussions well beyond our own belief structures.

Some of the things that we’ve unquestioningly believed for a few generations have functioned as incredible obstacles for people who don’t know God’s nature; some of these people take our un-questioned beliefs literally, point out the very logical failures of those beliefs, and cause formidable damage to our Father’s reputation on the Earth.

One of those beliefs is the version of hell that was primarily outlined by an unbalanced Catholic politician, pharmacist and monk in the 14th century. His imagination was brilliant, but not particularly either Biblical or true. These details which did not trouble him, but his writings have been (probably unintentionally) adopted by the “turn or burn” evangelists as the default definition of “burn.”

Their depictions of Heaven were similarly unbiblical, and similarly designed to maximize the number of people running to the altar at the end of the service.


The result of such haphazard doctrinal foolishness included a large number of “converts” eager to escape this horrendous and unbiblical threat, often described as “buying fire insurance,” which, of course, was never God’s goal. 

My hope is that we will ask questions about what we’re being taught, to test the doctrines that teachers are telling us are “The Truth.”

·         I’ve observed that the more  any particular doctrine  is mirrored in the “distinctive” practices or beliefs of a denomination or a fellowship, the more those particular doctrines need to be challenged. This is true in both traditional denominations and more fundamental or Pentecostal fellowships and denominations.

·         One of the best ways to test our belief sets – in addition to questioning their conformity to Scripture’s simple contextual instruction on the topic – is to examine the fruit of the doctrine. And examine the fruit of that doctrine among believers and among non-believers: does this doctrine increase people’s love for God and love for each other, or does it regularly result in resentment, legalism, judgment, generally keeping people from embracing God’s love for them.


This is part of Paul’s admonitions to his apostolic leaders: “Pay no attention to … myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

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The Fighter’s Regrets

Have you ever woken up with a song floating through the fog in your mind? Sometimes I think that’s just an echo of a dream or a memory, particularly if it’s a song I’ve heard or sung recently.

How about a song from your ancient history in your mind as you woke? I actually pay more attention to these; there’s less chance that it’s just my subconscious expressing itself.

I’d like to share one of these with you. You may find the process interesting, but I believe the lesson might apply to several of us.

Recently, I woke up with a song from my youth playing in my mind, and trust me, that’s from a long time ago. The song had nothing to do with the dream as far as I could tell, and I could only remember snippets of it – really only one phrase.

But that phrase kept replaying in my mind: that caught my attention. And as it replayed, my memory of the lyrics grew. This also suggested to me that this might be from God. So I spoke with Father about it, acknowledging that I thought he might be up to something; I asked for insight, and I paid attention as the memory of the song replayed and expanded in my mind.


Some themes began to stand out in the lyrics that kept playing in my memory. One of them definitely seemed to have the fragrance of my Father about it, so I meditated on that one. That is, I thought about it; I let it roll around in my mind to see what might come from it.

When my mind began to warm up (you know, I really appreciate the fact that God invented coffee!), I fired up Google and looked into it a bit more. And I realized that even after my memory had been playing it back for an hour or two, I had remembered only one verse out of five; the rest hadn’t come back to me, though those verses had actually been more important to me when the song was new.

Here’s the song: https://youtu.be/MYPJOCxSUFc. It’s called The Boxer, by Simon & Garfunkel. It was the last verse alone that spoke to me through the morning fog:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains*

This verse had literally never made sense to me, but suddenly, there was a message in it for me.

It speaks to me, but I’d like to share it with you, because I suspect it might speak to other, too, and maybe that includes you.

I confess: I’m a man of fairly strong conviction. I stand up for those convictions, and it’s not inappropriate to say that I fight to maintain them. If I believe something to be true, I’ll fight to defend it.

Father gently pointed out that I, too, carry reminders of those fights, reminders, I suppose, every glove that laid me down or cut me till I cried out. I’ve paid a price to defend my convictions. Like the fighter in the song, the price has been paid in several areas of my life: in my memories, in my body carrying the stress, in the solitude that comes from having lost relationships.

Then he drew my attention to the fighter’s vow, and that I’ve made vows like that as well: “I am leaving, I am leaving” but I don’t leave. I remain. I still defend my beliefs, my convictions, and I’m still laid down and cut up sometimes. I’m still wounded from the fights that I am convinced are right and good. And they still bring the fruits of “anger and shame” into my life, just like they did in his.

(Didn’t someone say “You shall know them by their fruit”?  Hmmm....)

This is something that’s come partly from my character (I believe that standing up for “what is true” is important), partly from my youth (I was taught that truth is important and should be stood up for).

But this fight may have been fanned into the biggest flame from my years in Bible-believing churches. “This is what I believe to be true, so I must defend it at all costs.” We teach that, we believe that, in many evangelical churches, and while we defend different truths in denominational churches, we still defend them vigorously.

Think about how Christians respond when a movie comes that we don’t like out (remember Russell Crowe’s Noah?). Consider how Christians respond to “The Homosexual Agenda” or to political candidates, or to the abortion issue.

We’re taught to fight. And we do fight. Vigorously.

And let’s be honest. We don’t win these fights. Hollywood’s marketing now counts on “Christian outrage” as a publicity tool for their controversial movies, and they’re always right. Christians have not affected “The Homosexual Agenda” that we’ve stood against, abortion is still a very big business, and we’ve never once had an Evangelical believer in the Whitehouse, despite our fights on those issues.

The world knows: Christians are fighters. They don’t win, but they sure will fight. Behold how much they fight.

Father hasn’t been talking to me at this time about the issues in themselves. He’s only been using them to illustrate the fight, to illustrate the blows and the cuts that so many of us have taken in the fights.

Then he drew my attention to the refrain:

“Lie-la-lie. Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, Lie-la-lie
Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie-lie-lie.”*

Oh my. It’s right there. I’ve sung this haunting refrain with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and I never saw it: there’s a lie here, and the refrain rubs my nose in it. That’s a lie, lie lie!

There’s perhaps some room for discussing what the lie is. The song itself identifies one:

“He cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.”*

And I’ve done that. I’ve declared that I’m quitting this fight. But I haven’t really done it. I’ve lied. I’ve gotten tired of being beaten up, tired of the anger, tired of the shame, and I’ve tried to quit the fight. And I’ve failed.

As Father comforted me in this, I realized that for a fighter, the fight is a choice. It’s an option, but only one of several options. I don’t actually need to fight.

As he held me and murmured his love for me, I realized that these are not fights that have helped me, or have helped the Kingdom, not even a little bit.

I occasionally have “won” a fight, but what was the result? Maybe I could say I won, that I defeated someone who believed differently. So what? Now they’ve been defeated, now they’re wounded, too. And now they resent me, and worse they resent my message, and they resent the truth that I fought for.

You know, I don’t think anybody’s ever been bullied into receiving the truth, have they? Oh, sure, we’ve bullied people into acting like they know the truth, but that’s just equipping them for hypocrisy. That’s not a win, not really, not for anybody.

For myself, I’m going to reflect on this for a while. I’m wondering if I might actually defend my beliefs better by walking them out than I would by fighting for them. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.

I may not need to be a fighter, alone in the clearing. I may not need to be laid down, cut open. I may not need to subject myself to the anger and shame.

The Kingdom is not about any of this, is it?

Lie la lie….

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* From "The Boxer," by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio albumBridge over Troubled Water (1970) ©1969

God Teaches a Teetotaler About Beer.

I grew up in a “dry” household. My family never drank alcohol. We didn’t vilify it, we just didn’t consider it, though occasionally at big family dinners at Grandma’s, my parents and other adults would drink something red out of goblet. They made funny faces when they drank it, so I wasn’t real eager to try it.

I grew up and learned religion. So of course, my home was a dry household. And then I worked for a pastor who never taught that alcohol was evil, but he surely acted as if it were, and expected his staff to as well. It started me thinking.

Eventually, we had children in our alcohol free home, and it was good, of course. Until God intervened.

On one of my regular retreats, on a solo camping trip, God woke me up in the middle of the night and warned me that I was failing my children. OK. he had my attention.

I crawled out of the back of the pickup where I was sleeping so I wouldn’t fall asleep in the middle of our conversation. Sure enough, the little voice, the impression in the back of my head continued:

“In a few years, your children will be entering junior high school. They won’t be out of your influence, but there will be many other influences there. Some of them, and you know what this is like, will invite them to discover beer, to discover drunkenness.”

And then he dropped the big one. “And you’ve done nothing to prepare them for that temptation.”

My heart sank. I knew he was right. But he didn’t let me sink there. After a moment or two, my mind began to fill up with perspectives and ideas and insights.

One of them caught me seriously off guard. He reminded me that I loved barbecue, but I was frustrated: a great steak was NOT complimented by a glass of milk, or by a CocaCola.

And then he tied them all together: “I want you to discover beers, good beers. I want you to find out what you like, and what you don’t. And I want you to invite your family to join you in that discovery.”

Oh my. Seriously?

But then I had visions (pictures) of what could happen. I saw better barbecues which led to better fellowship. I saw my children - my family - separating themselves from the religious spirit that accompanies many alcohol-free homes. And then I saw my son, in junior high school, being approached to step behind a barn and share a Budweiser with him, and my son responded with, “Beer? That’s not beer. That's cat piss! Let me tell you about real beer!”

Oh my. I remind you that this is in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods. I remind you that while I had tasted beer before (and not liked it), I had never had a glass of beer. I remind you that I was really comfortable in my no-alcohol religion.

And here’s God, telling me not just to drink beer, but to become educated about beer. And God was telling me to (gasp!) give beer to my school-age children, and to (gasp!) listen to their opinions about the stuff!

That was fifteen or twenty years ago, and it has been a glorious success (as if it’s surprising that God’s plans work!). I became a far better father than I had been before! And the beer? I had no idea of the variety. I still don’t love all kinds, but there are some that are pretty good, and there are some that make a good barbecued steak into a great barbecued steak. Who knew!

Oh, and that vision about my son telling his tempter, “Beer? That's not beer!” Yeah, that happened, though it looked different than the way I imagined it. And now he brings both life and excellence into a world I'd never reach, to people for whom alcohol is pretty important.

I’m not trying to say, “You need to drink beer!” Oh heck no! Don’t do that (unless God speaks to you the way he spoke to me). My obedience included learning about beer, but others' obedience involves not drinking beer.

I’m trying to say, “It’s a really good idea to do what God says, even if it’s really weird!”

Oh, and let me add: God the Father has some really good insights about how to be an excellent parent. I encourage you to learn from his wisdom on that topic!

Insight About Heaven’s Resources

Maybe you’ve had this experience. You’re praying, usually praying protection, for someone – perhaps ourselves, more often we’re praying for someone else. And then it happens: you see or feel the angels that are guarding them. 

Those angels are never wimpy little things, are they? No, the wimpy little things are the demons opposing you, or at least most of those demons are wimpy and little; a few are more capable and are worth another glance before banishing them.

I remember praying for a friend who was facing some legitimately frightening circumstances. We slapped hands on him and began to pray for God’s protection for our friend, Greg. 

As we prayed, it seemed as if Father was chuckling quietly. “Protection?” he murmured, as he opened the veil between realms so we could see the protection that was already in place. Our eyes were drawn up, and up, and up.

Greg is not a small man, but as we beheld the angel that protected him, suddenly Greg appeared minuscule. Standing tall, he didn’t reach beyond the calves of the angel who guarded him. Greg was already very well protected, indeed.

Since that day, I’ve “seen” the guardians of many, many people, and not a one of them is a wimp. And that’s consistent with the nature of the One who assigns these spirit-beings to protect us: He does not do things halfway. If He’s going to send an angel to guard his children, it’ll be a formidable protection!

That’s where I’ve been for years: thankful for these mighty defenders. But the other night, it changed.

In my dreams that night, I was facing a formidable assignment, something I needed to do, that I had no idea how I could ever accomplish that: it was way beyond my abilities, beyond my realm of influence, beyond my… and suddenly Father interrupted.

“I’ve given you a powerful advocate.” He said. “This task is not beyond his resources.” The invitation was clear, but that was the moment that I woke up, with those words ringing in my spirit: “I’ve given you a powerful advocate. This task is not beyond his resources,” and the sense that I needed to share this exhortation with the saints.

God has given you a powerful advocate. Don’t shy away from the dreams He’s given you, just because they’re beyond your own skills and abilities. Heaven’s resources are with you. You’ve seen them act for your protection. Now, don’t get all cocky about it, of course, but they’re working with you for your success, every bit as much as for your protection. This is no longer beyond you. 

Let’s take up the assignment, the dreams he’s laid before us, shall we? For we do not work alone.

My Times with God

Sometimes it was in the morning, if I was able to drag myself out of bed. Mornings were my preference, and before too long, this confirmed night owl was up before the sunrise. Sometimes it happened before retiring for the night.

More often, I just grabbed an hour or so wherever I could. I remember many times in an abandoned church building near where I lived, at my dining room table, in an empty classroom or lunchroom or conference room or a table at the library. Often times I parked for a while in a rest stop, or some wide spot in the road between here and there.

The first thing after I sat down was usually a sigh, and I’d just sit there for a few minutes. Then I’d open my knapsack or reach to my bookshelf and pull out three things: my Bible, my journal, and a mechanical pencil.

But before I opened any of them, we’d talk. “Hi Dad. Love you! I’m looking forward to what you’re going to show me today. Help me to see, eh? Help me to recognize what you’re showing me, please. Thanks. You’re awesome!” And I’d open both books at the ribbon.

In my Bible, I was working my way through one of the books, section by section. Most translations have headings dividing up the text: I’d tackle no more than the space from one heading to the next.

In my journal, I listed the date and the passage, and then I pushed that book out of my way, and I devoted my attention to the Bible.

I read the passage through. You know the way you read a text book assignment that you don’t love? Yeah, this was not that. I read it slowly enough that my attention didn’t drift. If I could, I’d read it quietly out loud.

During this time, I turned my imagination loose to walk among these people, hear the sounds, smell the smells of the story I read. If I was in an epistle, I’d listen for the apostle’s tone of voice, and I’d imagine how the people it was addressed to felt as they read it. If I felt like it, I’d look at a few cross references, but I guarded against bunny trails.

But more than anything, I waited for the light to go on. Invariably, one verse would catch my attention, as if my Father were pointing to it, and saying, “Look here, son.” Sometimes it was just a word, or a phrase. Maybe it was a repeated word. Or an idea that never actually made it into words.

If it didn’t happen the first time, I’d go back and read it again. I’d often underline the verbs, using a set of markings I developed for myself after years of this. If there was a list of things or a progression, I’d number the points. Sometimes I circled adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes I’d ask questions, of the text, of Father, about what was going on. But everything was just keeping me involved with the text until my attention was drawn to one part.

That signal was like arriving at the X on a treasure map. It meant “Dig here.” That was the real assignment.

The first part of digging was to write – legibly – the verse that stuck out to me into my journal. And then I go to work to interact with that verse, that passage, to dig for treasure in that spot. I figure that the investment of an hour was just about right, and good success would probably show evidence of at least one full page, more or less, of reaction in my journal.

So I looked closely. My personal Bible always has cross references, but is never a “Study Bible.” I don’t want to hear what other people think. I want to discover what God thinks, and see if I can make my own thinking line up with that.

My first step was pretty often to “center myself” and to dig into that little nudge itself, the nudge that said, “Dig here.” Often, that would give me some direction for my searching or meditation.

I used different tools to dig. Sometimes I would literally outline the sentences, like in English class in high school. Sometimes, I chased down the cross references, both those in the margins and especially the ones in my own heart.

But sometimes, it was just meditating on my one verse, reflecting it, asking questions of it, that brought the reward.

For example, when reading through Mark 8, I was caught by verse 31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This time, I found myself outlining what I saw in that verse:

1)      What are the “many things” he would suffer? (I listed them, cross referenced to Matthew 20:19 for details.)
2)      Who rejected him? (I listed them.)
3)      He would be killed: he doesn’t say by whom.
4)      He’d rise again after 3 days.

And as I was writing the outline, I realized I was thinking most about the fact that Jesus had never discussed this before. He was only free to talk about it after verse 29: after they realized that he was, in fact, the Messiah they were looking for.

I wrote for a while on what it must have been like, knowing that this terrible stuff was coming, and not having anybody – not a single person on the planet – that he could talk to about it.

I meditated for a while on how he himself learned of it, since he had been born as a normal baby (cf Philippians 2 and Hebrews 4:14,15) and he had to learn all this stuff in his own times with Father. I reflected on what that first conversation might have been like, when Father talked about what was going to happen.

And I realized that Jesus got his direction from – more or less – from the same thing that I was doing just now.

And I was done. Either I was out of time, or “the anointing lifted,” or something else. And that’s the point: I’m not looking to write a pretty article from this (though that came from it once or twice). I’m not looking for some big and powerful conclusion.

The big conclusion isn’t the point of this. The point is that Father and I have time together in his Word. Years later, I realized that he was training me – through these times – to hear his voice, and that it was remarkably effective. But even that training wasn’t the point. The point was our time together, our relationship.

Now, why have I just told you all this? It’s because of something I heard in our time together: I had the sense that some folks are pretty well grounded in hearing Father’s voice, but others are still scratching their heads and wondering how we do that?

Father showed me that during our times together, he was teaching me how to hear him, how to hear his voice and how to recognize his voice. And it seemed to me that he was suggesting that someone might want to follow the trail that he and I cleared together.

If you want to learn how to hear Father’s voice well, this is one way to learn. It has the additional benefit of giving you a solid grounding in the Bible.

If you decide to follow this trail, you have my blessing, and more important, Father’s. May you have as much fun in your time with Father on this trail as I have! I know he’ll enjoy his time with you!




Wielding Authority to Change the World

I have been reflecting on the changes going on in the United States and in the world. Those are both many and substantial.

But my thoughts focus not on what those changes are, but rather how we should respond to them.

Let us assume, for the sake of this conversation, that many of the changes are inappropriate, even evil, and should be opposed or reversed.

The question at hand is this: how shall we oppose the things we need to oppose. More specifically, what kind of power shall we exercise.

The changes are being made by the exercise of political power, the power of manipulation and intimidation, the power of deception, the power of public opinion, and some would argue that spiritual power is involved. Many of the changes have been by the use of a combination of these forces.

The question that appears to be neglected so often is this: what kind of power shall we wield as believers, to oppose the inappropriate or evil works in our land? Shall we exercise political power, or manipulation? Shall we wield the power of public opinion with petitions?

Let’s back up for just a moment, and ask a slightly more foundational question? What power has God given us? Or what kind of authority has he given us to exercise on his behalf?

In this whole conversation, I’d argue for these truths:

·         Some forms of power are simply not appropriate for sons and daughters of the Kingdom to use: deception and intimidation, for example.

·         The primary tool Jesus gave us was authority, which is not the same as power (that’s a topic for another article), and the authority he gave us is in the realm of the Spirit. Let’s acknowledge, however, that authority wielded in the spirit realm will manifest as changes in the physical realm.

·         Having said that, there are some believers (I emphasize: not all believers) who are specifically called by God to represent his Kingdom in the political realm. These brothers & sisters have the right to exercise authority in that realm.

My tentative conclusion, therefore, is this:  we as believers, when we see a political crisis (such as laws against Christians) or the exercise of violence (I think of ISIS or Hamas), we are not called to exercise the same force that is being used for evil. We are, instead, called to exercise authority in the spiritual realm, with the result of change in the natural realm.

This is the model of the New Testament.

When they experienced a political crisis (for example, Peter jailed, in Acts 12), their response was not to petition the government, and it was not a prison break); rather, they exercised spiritual authority in prayer, and angels were released to carry out the results of that authority in the natural realm.

The result was, ironically, a prison break of sorts, which was what the believers had been praying for, but also a testimony of supernatural power, which spread throughout both the church and the government.

And when they experienced violence (in the person of the Pharisee, Saul persecuting believers), they again went to prayer. In this case, Jesus himself appeared to Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 9), knocked Saul off his ass, and confronted his erroneous ways.

The result was a conversion, which stopped Saul’s “threats & murder” (Acts 9:1), which was what they were praying for, but it also resulted in arguably the greatest preacher of the gospel that has ever walked this planet: the apostle Paul.

I know that we have brothers and sisters who are called to exercise authority in the realms of political power, or of public opinion, or other forms of power. I contend that these are few, and are specifically called by God to those positions of authority.

But all of us, the whole Body of Christ, we have all been given authority to wield in the Spirit. We learned long ago how to wield that authority to lead others out of sin and into salvation. We’ve learned more recently how to wield that authority to heal the sick and raise the dead.

It is time to wield the authority that God has given us – and by doing so, to lay down the power and authority of the world – in the spiritual realm on behalf of nations, and people groups and regions.

It’s time for us to walk away from the weapons of the flesh, and to pick up the weapons that God has given us, and with them, to change the world.


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Some Experiences with Judgment in the Courts of Heaven

Some years ago, Jesus took me to a new place that I hadn’t expected: it was a tall, oak, judge’s bench. He took me around the back of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, he sat me in the great chair behind the bench, and when I sat, I was wearing black robes and I had a wooden gavel in my right hand.

I’ve learned to trust him in that place, and so I didn’t resist him, though my sitting in that chair was more of a novelty that first time than it was about actually judging anything. Since then, I’ve begun to learn some things about judgment, how important it is, how powerful it is, and especially how very good it is.

I was charged with judging my brothers and sisters, but judging from Heaven’s perspective, from the perspective of a King who’s madly in love with them, who’s unreasonably proud of them, who’s amazed and overjoyed with their every step of faith. So the judgments that I’ve been invited to pronounce are about God’s favor on his children; I’ve been charged with finding them guilty of pleasing their Father, and sentencing them to be loved and adored for all their natural lives, and beyond! It’s better work than I first feared it would be; I’ve actually come to love that bench.

But some of the judicial work has been darker than that. Once, I was praying intensely for a dear sister against whom hell was having a measure of success. Jesus brought me around to the stairs and up to the bench. I could see more clearly from up there, and with his help, I saw the cloud of filthy spirits that were harassing my sister. “Judge them,” he said, and I understood.

I began to recognize their crimes, and as I identified them – the spirits and their crimes – I spoke its name. As I did, it was as if the gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty!” to each charge. With each tap, a demon was bound and hauled of. Soon, I got into it, reaching into the Spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime: the gavel banged and the demon was bound. This, too, was judgment I could get excited about.

I needed to be careful, in my exuberance, to still judge accurately, according to what was true, not merely because I felt bad for my sister’s misery: this was a matter of justice, not pity, and it was a mighty justice that was handed down that day, and other days like it. I’ve developed the opinion that this judge’s bench is an excellent place for intercession.

There was one day, though, that I still shake my head about. It happened some years back, and I’m only now understanding what may have actually gone on.

God the Father somberly walked up to me, and he was looking really quite serious: he was cloaked in a rich black judge’s robe, and his eyes were as intense and alive with fire as I’ve ever seen them. With his eyes fixed on mine, he slowly opened his robe. I was surprised to see a red plaid shirt underneath, but before I had opportunity to react in surprise, he pulled a shotgun from the depths of his open robe, and handed it to me. Startled, I took it from him and glanced at it. Yep, that’s a shotgun, all right.

I looked up again, and now the robe was gone, and with it, the stern look from Father’s face. Instead, he sported a red hunter’s cap and a huge grin, and he held up a shotgun of his own. Movement caught my eye, and I saw Jesus, similarly attired with plaid shirt, red hat, grin and shotgun. Father asked, “You ready, Son?” but before I could answer, the air above our heads was suddenly filled with demons, their leathery wings flapping frantically as they zigged and zagged about the room.

Father laughed mightily, hoisted his shotgun and fired; a demon exploded into a black cloud. Jesus cheered and blasted another one. Soon all three of us were shouting and hollering and laughing uproariously. And blasting demons to tiny black dust. Shotgun blasts were interspersed with shouts of encouragement, great fits of laughter and the soft splatter of the demons shards. They had met their maker, and it had not gone well for them. He is a very good shot, actually.

I had enjoyed this experience so much that I hadn’t stopped to ask what it meant until recently; the answer wasn’t particularly surprising; something about “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” But the experience was, frankly, a great deal of fun. “Spiritual warfare” and “fun”: two concepts I never expected to put together.

That hunting party only happened the one time. I think it was more about teaching me a lesson than a regular part of our business in that place. He’s a good teacher, by the way: I’ve never forgotten that experience, though I’ve been slower to learn its lesson.

Good Treasure, or Evil?

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” [Luke 6:45]

Reflecting on the repeated word “good.” (Principle: when the Book repeats something, it’s worth paying attention to!)

The word for “good” is ἀγαθός, and it “describes that which, being “good” in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect; it is used
(a) of things physical, e.g., a tree.
(b) in a moral sense, frequently of persons and things. God is essentially, absolutely and consummately “good. (Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words)

This tells me something that I don’t actually want to know: what I say (and presumably what I write about on FB) reveals my heart. If I’m talking about things that are beneficial in their effect, if I am pointing out that which is good about things, then this verse declares that I am a “good man” and I have “good treasure” in my heart.

But if what I say (and presumably what I write about on FB) is talking about things that are faults, or problems, or failures, or complaints or even just drivel, then this verse declares that I have “evil treasure” in my heart.

Certainly, I wish to apply this to myself: I can judge my own heart by watching what I say. Are my words revealing good or evil in my heart?

But I probably need to take this a step further as well: who am I reading, who am I following. If they’re speaking things that comfort me or challenge me or cause me to dig deeper into God, if they’re declaring what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous or praiseworthy (see Philippians 4:8), then I can safely judge the fruit: this is “good treasure” coming from a good heart.

But if I’m listening to people or reports that are bringing fear, or outrage, or self-pity, or resentment, or entitlement, or powerlessness, or reports that are stirring worldly desires (“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” 1 John 2:16), then I can – and must – judge that report as “evil treasure,” and recognize that it is coming from a motivation that has evil toward me in it, whether those speaking it mean for it to or not. (I’m not judging their heart; I’m judging their words.)

May I tell you a secret? That’s why I stopped watching the news. Father showed me this, and he called it my “devotional with the world.” I don’t hide from the news, but I get my news on my terms now, not on theirs.

I intend to judge fruit. I choose to be a fruit inspector. I choose to filter the fruit that others give me, to receive the good, and reject the evil.

Prayer From a Poverty Spirit

I felt Father saying recently that one reason that some of our prayers aren't answered is because they're asked too early in the process, and thus, they’re not an expression of faith, but an expression of lack of faith.

Sometimes we are facing a journey, an obstacle, and we ask for help overcoming the obstacle BEFORE we start the process of overcoming it. We ask for help overcoming an enemy, a habit, a temptation, a struggle, but we ask before we've started to fight, before we’ve started the struggle (Heb 12:4), which means we don’t need that answer yet.

Sometimes, we feel the need to understand the process BEFORE starting the process; we want help in the warfare BEFORE we’ve engaged in the warfare. In other words, before we need the help.

Sometimes we feel the need to ask in advance because we don’t trust that Father will provide for us IN the process. We ask BEFORE we need because we don’t trust Father to provide IN our need.

Functionally, this is the expression of a poverty spirit: a lack of confidence that Father will be a good father to us; a lack of confidence in our place as favored son or daughter.

If we understand before we start, then the process, the journey, is not a journey of faith, it's a journey of knowledge. And suddenly, verses like Rom 14:23, 1Cor 8:1, and Gen 2:9 come into play:

[Romans 14:23b] "for whatever is not from faith is sin."

[1 Corinthians 8:1b] "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies."

[Genesis 2:9b] "The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

When we’re asking for God to give us NOW what we don’t yet need, we are not walking in faith, in trust. Or rather, we’re not trusting in him; we’re trusting in what we have, what we know, our own strength. That is a prayer that Father, because of his great love for us, cannot answer.

Having said that, it’s very appropriate to ask NOW for provision once we engage in the battle. I refer to these as time-warp prayers. “I expect to be engaged in this battle soon, Father, and I’m asking, now, that you’ll put into my hand the weapons that I need, when I need them.”

I believe that a good part of the solution to this is to change our trust from trusting the provision, to trusting our Provider. In application, this means more time in prayer knowing Him, and less time asking him for stuff; more time on the couch next to Him, and less time across the desk from him; more time in relational prayer, less time in business prayer.


A Legacy From Adam

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.” CS Lewis, Prince Caspian

As a man, as a human being, I am heir to the strengths and many of the peculiarities of those who have gone before me.

I have brown hair and blue eyes: I inherited these genes from my parents.

I sunburn easily. I inherited this characteristic from the Scotsmen and Englishmen who populate my family tree.

I also inherited something from one of my more distant forbears, the first Man, Adam himself. While I am certainly not his only descendent on planet Earth, I am one of his descendents, and one of his heirs. I believe that you and I, Adam’s heirs, have the right to name ourselves inheritors of his calling.

What was Adam’s calling? What was the first responsibility given to Adam?

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. –Genesis 2:19

Adam’s first responsibility was to give names to every creature that God made. “Whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.”

I had a revelation recently about how important it can be that we – Adam’s heirs – are inheritors of Adam’s calling, Adam’s authority.

One night, a group of prophetic intercessors had gathered together in our home, and were praying about a minor stronghold in our hometown. There was a high bridge downtown, a favorite among the despondent members of our community; it became known as “Suicide Bridge.” For years, it had been known by that name, and used for that purpose.

Recently, several of us had noticed that when we crossed that bridge, thoughts of suicide, temptation to jump, came upon us: we who were healthy, satisfied, happy individuals. These clearly were not our thoughts: they came from outside of us, from something associated with death, and associated with that location.

As we prayed together, we understood that there had been enough suicides, enough wrongful deaths in that place, that the enemy had capitalized on all the death, and assigned a demon to the bridge, to become a stronghold, whose responsibility, it seemed, was to maximize the enemy’s investment in the form of suicides from the bridge.

Most of the intercessors gathered together that night had learned that the “right way” to deal with things like this was to discern the name of the demon, and then to use that name, with the authority of the name of Jesus, to break the creature’s right to live there and to work there.

But we didn’t know the creature’s name.

As we were looking for the name, God spoke up: “You are heir to Adam.” Hunh? What? “You have inherited Adam’s authority to name living creatures.”

And the light went on!

We named the demon, “Bob,” and then we broke “Bob’s” authority and assignment in that place, and kicked him out. The “urge to jump” was gone the next morning, and within a week, the city “just happened” to raise all the railings on the bridge to eight feet high. There have been no more suicides that I know of off of that bridge. More importantly, there is no “urge” to end it all when passing by that place.

Hmm. That was interesting. I suspect we may be onto something.

Another time, we were involved in a wonderful and glorious session of healing and deliverance, in a wonderful, family-based environment. Most of the words of knowledge that directed our ministry came through pre-teenagers that night. Everything was going well, our friend was finding real freedom, until we came upon one demonic stronghold that would not let go.

After we fussed and fumed for a bit, God said it again. “You are heir to Adam.” We named the beastie “Squiggly” (as that was the dominant characteristic: he squirmed and slipped out of our “grasp” as we prayed). We assigned him the name, seriously: we took up the authority we’d inherited from Adam, we stripped it of whatever (unknown) name it had gone by, and we gave it a new name: its name was now Squiggly. Then we commanded it by that name, and the demon submitted quickly and left peacefully.

If you’ve been part of deliverance ministry, if you’ve been involved with a team breaking down demonic strongholds, you may have encountered the obstruction of a demonic beastie whose name you did not know, and therefore you may have had difficulties overcoming the thing.

Based on our revelation, supported by our experience and by the Biblical description of Adam’s calling, I believe that we as heirs of Adam have the right to Adam’s commission: “Whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.” If you can’t find the thing’s name, then give it a name, and use that name to get rid of it.

(I am not arguing for a theology that says our authority in Christ is limited only to those circumstances wherein we know the enemy’s name; I’m merely observing that many intercessors and ministers have encountered obstructions that we have associated with not knowing the demonic spirit’s name. And of course, I am not encouraging rookies to wield this weapon as if it were a talisman; I remind you of the seven sons of Sceva.)

Finally, I observe that there is, in practical terms, a substantial difference between referring to a spirit, and naming a spirit. Talking about “that squiggly demon” is not at all the same thing as naming the thing “Squiggly,” assigning it the name, exercising Adam’s authority. If I am just talking about a spirit, a demon, then I am not exercising the authority I’ve inherited from Adam; I’m merely talking (to it, to God, about it…) as a man. But to name something is to both claim and exercise authority over it, authority that you actually have, authority that you’ve inherited. Step into the authority you’ve inherited from Adam: wield the authority you’ve been given.

I’m interested to hear if others have found this weapon, and what experiences they’ve had when wielding it. Please comment here, or email me at nwp@northwestprophetic.com. I look forward to hearing from you.


Wednesday

A Basic Introduction to Prophetic Giftings

There is Not A Gift of Prophecy.
The prophetic is not one gifting, it’s several related ones. First the basic ones, available to anybody:

• Every believer can hear God’s voice. John 10:27 speaks to this.
• Pretty much anybody can prophesy when they’re in a prophetic environment. King Saul did in 1 Samuel 10:11.

In addition to those, some people get specific gifts. In fact, the whole Trinity gets involved: each person of the trinity gives their own version of the prophetic gift:

• Holy Spirit’s gift is described in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It’s a “tool in the toolbox” kind of gift: pull it out & use it when you need to.
• Father’s gift is in Romans 12:6. It’s a “This is how some people are built. This is how they relate to the world.” kind of gift.
• Jesus’ gift shows up in Ephesians 4:11. He gives some people as prophets, and their job description (v12) is “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Prophecy is much more about knowing what’s on God’s heart than it is about predicting the future. But the future is on his heart, so they do in fact go together.

Final word about it: 1 Corinthians 14:1 says we must “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” We are commanded to want to prophesy.

Left Turn: Discernment:

First cousin to the gift of prophecy is the gift of discernment. Both are critical in this day and age, and it appears that you have both gifts.

Properly called “discerning of spirits” (from 1 Corinthians 12:10), the gift has a few highlights:

• First, it’s about judging spirits. It’s not about judging people. When you heard noises and saw creepy things on that person, I suspect that what you encountered was demonic spirits showing off, not something weird that weird guy was doing.
• It means that you might see things that not everybody sees. That’s OK. It doesn’t make you weird (though you may be weird on your own…); it means you have a gift from God.
• The gift of discernment is mostly about being able (with experience) to identify, “This is from God,” “This is just them,” or “This is demonic.” You may develop to the finer discernment: “This part is from God,” “This part is not from God.” I have observed that not everybody gets there.
• The word means literally, “To know all the way through the thing.” As you mature in the gift, this aspect comes into play: as you discern gunk (like the creepy thing on that guy), you have authority over it: because of who you are in Jesus (and the “in Jesus” part is the biggest part), you can tell the creepies where to go and what to do. Mark chapters 5 & 9 have some cool stories illustrating this.
• Note: guard against interpreting the gift by what other people tell you. Let the Holy Spirit tell you (remember John 10:27). He’s the one who gives the gift, so he’s the best source of training for it. There are a whole freaking lot of ignorant ideas floating around out there.

Neither of these gifts work all that well without practice, even training. I encourage you to use the gifts, and to talk with other folks who use the gifts. Growth is necessary. Without growth, the gifts will likely kind of fade into obscurity.

On the other hand, even with pursuing the gifts, the experiences we have in God will likely be less dramatic than the early days, not more so. The goal is to focus on the One who gives the gift, not the gift itself, and so he whispers, so that we have to snuggle closer to him to hear. That’s because it’s safer for us there, it’s better there, and frankly, he really likes it when we snuggle close to him. He’s that kind of God: he likes his kids close.

Note that the gifts - all the gifts - are tools, not toys. But nobody said that you can’t have fun with the tools. Just know that there is no “kid’s size” version of the gift of God; they still have the power to change a life forever while you’re learning. Have fun with them, but have fun carefully! By all means, play! But play safely.

Oh yeah, the gifts are to you, but they’re not for you. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The gifts are more for the people around you than they are for your own benefit, like Jesus did: he was always healing other people, doing miracles for other people, not all about himself.

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.”