Spending Power

There’s an interesting story in Mark 5:
25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, "If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well."
29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My clothes?"
I rather love the fact that this woman was healed. I love that she was healed by her faith, and that her faith was focused by her words and activated by touching Jesus. I love that she immediately knew that the condition she’d lived with for twelve years was instantly healed. All that is well and good.
I’ve been reflecting on a single concept, quite apart from all that glorious stuff: Jesus knew that power had gone out of Him.
That’s an interesting thought, or rather, an interesting group of thoughts, for it says several things:
1. Power (greek dunamis) had been transferred.
2. The transfer was out of Jesus.
3. The transfer of power was discernable.
4. The transfer was a surprise to Jesus, or at least a mystery.
Jesus was walking along in the midst of a crowd of people (v31), minding his own business, and suddenly he knew (or “perceived”: epiginosko) that power had gone out of him. It’s interesting that the Lord didn’t say “power has come from God and gone through me.” He said, “out of me.” Strongs describes the language as “a primary preposition denoting origin.” It means “out of.”
His behavior (“Who touched my clothes?”) suggests that he didn’t even know where it went, though that may just have been an invitation for the woman to declare herself. It is was simultaneously acknowledging both ignorance (“Who did it?”) and familiarity (“This happened through touching my clothes.”). I wonder if it had happened before in one of the untold stories of Jesus.
Power (dunamis) is always an interesting subject. Here it manifested as an instantaneous physical healing. Other places it manifests as deliverance, and it was the stuff that came upon Mary that made her pregnant with Jesus. I tend to look on power as the energy from Heaven that accomplishes the work of Heaven on Earth.
It seems to me that if Jesus could have power drawn out of himself when he was not expecting it, then is it not possible that you and I could have power drawn out of us when we weren’t expecting it. Have you ever known people that are so hungry for more of God that it’s nearly impossible not to prophesy over them? Or people that so desperately need a father that it’s difficult not to father them? Or a new believer that is so eager to grow that you find yourself talking about the ways of God while they listen with rapt attention? Or have you ever been those people? I know I have.
Or even when we are expecting it, when we impart something of God into the lives of someone else, power is spent. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:20 that the kingdom of God is ‘not in word but in power’: in other words, power is what this kingdom is about. Our job is to handle power, to dispense power, so that there is more God-like stuff and less stealing, killing and destroying stuff when we’re done. I must walk in power!
Here’s where these thoughts have taken me: if this woman was able to draw power out of Jesus, and people are able to draw power out of me, then where does that power come from, and what happens to me when the power is gone? If doing the stuff of the kingdom spends power, then what happens when the power is spent?
I can see three options here, and I’m not sure I like the implications of some of them.
Option One: Hoard. We don’t spend power; we keep it ourselves. I’ve seen people who don’t seem to spend any power, for whatever reason. Whether they’re hoarding it, or whether they just don’t have any, they don’t spend power: people’s lives are not changed; healings (physical, emotional…) just don’t happen. I’ve been concerned lest I find myself here.
Option Two: Powerlessness. When the power is all spent, then it’s gone, and we’re done; we’re out of business. When we’re out of power, we find ourselves in option one: we got nuthin to give.
Option Three: Reload. We go get more power. Once we have spent what we have, we go back and get more.
There are only a couple of places where the New Testament talks about power on the increase.
· After his temptation in the wilderness, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee….” (Luke 4:14)
· The disciples were encouraged, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8)
· God told Paul in his weakness, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect (teleiรณo: accomplished, completed) in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
It’s easy to fall back on lazy theology and say, “Well, it’s God’s power, so it must come from him!” TBI: That’s True But Irrelevant: it doesn’t answer the real question; it just throws religious vocabulary at it. Let’s dig a little deeper: what does the Book say about how to increase the amount of God’s power in us and available for use? Let’s make some observations from these few verses:
1) Power comes from the Holy Spirit: it comes from relationship with God that lets Him be in charge.
2) Power is connected to my being a witness to Jesus (note that “witness” is something that I am to be, not something I do.)
3) I receive His power. It comes to me. I’m not just a mindless tool in this process; I’m a participant in it. One could say that it’s His power, but I wield it.
4) Power is an expression of God’s grace: the free stuff God gives for accomplishing His will on earth.
5) His power shows up best or most when my weakness is evident.
Some of the appropriate conclusions here are easy: if I want to have the power of God working in my life & ministry, I need to be in a very fresh relationship with Holy Spirit and I need to live a life that is a witness to Jesus.
I sometimes hear sermons about the power of God. I don’t often hear it preached that the purpose for the power of God is to accomplish that thing that we pray mindlessly in unison in thousands of churches: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It’s not for me. It’s for Him, for His will – though His will includes me.
Another conclusion that I haven’t often heard taught is that one of the best ways to lay hold of the power of God is to practice weakness.
One of my mentors was a man who, for nearly 30 years now, has worked at nearly minimum wage as a part-time teacher in a child care center. His shift starts at 6:30 in the morning, but he’s usually there a couple of hours early to pray for each staff member, each child, each classroom. I suppose it wouldn’t be surprising that he has changed the lives of hundreds of fellow teachers and thousands (more likely tens of thousands) of kids. Wherever he goes, there is peace, there is perspective, there is wisdom. Wherever he goes, fear flees, hopelessness gives up, love thrives.
I have another friend who has lived surreptitiously as a client in a recovery house. Officially, she’s there to clean up her life. In point of fact, she pastors the other women in the house. She’s chosen a life of weakness, of brokenness, and as a result, her life is full of miracles, to the point that the women there regularly ask her why she has so many miracles.
My personal application for this is a change of my own perspective (as good a definition for ‘repentance’ as any). As an American, I’ve been taught to seek my own will, my own good, my own strength. As an American Christian, I’ve been taught to use my own will, my good standing, my strength to help “those less fortunate.”
Rather, I hear here to abandon those goals entirely: instead, seek the lowest places, the places that make room for others to be esteemed, not abandoning what’s good for me (certainly not persecuting myself!), but making room for weakness in myself – and not hiding it. In those places, I can expect the power of God to work for His purposes.


The Gathering

Have you heard about the time that the forest animals gathered together? “We must have unity!” they declared, and began their meeting. The Head Bear, the Raccoon Patriarch and the King of the Elk stood before the Gathering and called them to attention.

The Patriarch of the Raccoons spoke first. He told stories of how the Prince of the Entire Forest had walked among their trails generations ago, and how He promised to return someday. “The time is approaching!” declared the raccoon. “We must prepare for His return! We must be united together for His sake!”
“But how can we be united? We’re so different!” cried a skunk in the second row, and the convocation burst into excited squabbling. How indeed could a group this diverse become united? “Learn to eat nuts!” the squirrels chattered. “Build dams!” cried the beavers. “You must eat bugs” chirped the swallows, and the objections of the spiders and bees were missed in the clamor. The otters just wanted to go play in the river, and the owls were lobbying that the meeting should be postponed until midnight.
It was clear that it was easier to call for unity than it was to get all the animals to agree on how to become united. The discussion went on late into the afternoon until one of the younger coyotes, who had had very little for breakfast that morning, accidentally ate the Vice-Chairman of Ways and Means for the Mouse Kingdom. He was instantly ashamed, but the damage was done. The rodent species began to leave, the young coyote was barking his apology, and a grey squirrel, not being fluent in the coyote language, misunderstood his intent and chattered an alarm, and then there was pandemonium.
Dozens of animals were left dead on the meadow that night as the moon came up over the trees. There were a number of bloody trails where wounded creatures escaped to the undergrowth.
Hope may not have died that day, but it was seriously wounded. Species didn’t trust each other after that event, and there was bickering within the groups about whose fault it was. The King of the Elk had young bucks lining up to challenge his right to lead the herd that fall. There was no more mention of the Prince of the Entire Forest coming to walk among them anymore.
I have been privileged to know a number of prophets and apostles over my lifetime. When they have gathered, have been seasons when we have acted like these animals: “Be like me!” one would shout at the others. The intent was sincere: “I’ve discovered this truth! You need to know it too!” For decades, probably for generations, prophets have devoured each other, apostles have snapped at those who don’t see as they see, and teachers have tried to make entire congregations into their image. Those gifted with mercy have been angry with those who don’t grieve over the hurts of others, and intercessors have withdrawn to hide in their caves.
Let me give you an example: Do we rest in God, under the shadow of His wings, or are we to pick up the weapons of our warfare which are not carnal and become the violent ones who take the Kingdom by force?
We know that truth, but we overlook it sometimes. We know that the answer is “Both,” and if someone asks us as clearly as I just have, we can see that. But in the busyness of our daily lives, our focus narrows, and we only remember the lessons that we have learned recently. I think that there must be a rule somewhere: if I’m learning one lesson, then some of the people closest to me are learning the opposite lesson at the same time.
Recently, I was at a gathering of a couple hundred apostles and prophets, and I saw some things beginning that I’ve waited decades to see: I saw gifted leaders recognizing each other’s differences, acknowledging them as strengths, rather than considering them as weaknesses.
The call was still for unity, but – unlike the animals in the meadow, and unlike so many previous gatherings that I’ve seen – there was no value placed on uniformity.
In the past, at least in my experience, the call for unity is usually associated with a cry for some common ground: a common theology, a common lifestyle, a common expression of ministry.
I don’t know if those common ground goals have ever worked to produce unity. If they have, I have not heard about it. I was part of a denomination for several years that codified their theological “distinctives” into their confession of faith: you couldn’t receive their credentials if you didn’t agree with every detail of that doctrine. Our quarterly gatherings were morose and divided; our annual gatherings were full of sharp disagreement and biting criticism. The intention was good, but there was no unity.
I would like to propose a change: instead of building unity around uniformity, rather we build our unity around fathers, around relationships rather than doctrines or practices. (Of course, when I speak of “fathers,” I’m not speaking only of men, just as “the Bride of Christ” is not limited to only women.)
I fellowship with other believers regularly. One of the things we have in common is that we look to some of the same people as “fathers” to our own spiritual lives and in the life of our gathered community. We don’t have common theology, these people I fellowship with; in fact, we have some significant differences of opinion, which I find to be invigorating, challenging, encouraging, because I know that they love me regardless of my doctrinal differences with them.
I’m getting used to people encouraging me to be who God has created me to be, rather than to be like themselves. The prophets among us are learning to walk without the limp. Intercessors are coming out of their caves. Apostles are rising up to lead, though many of them are scratching their heads wondering what their gift is supposed to lead them into, but finally beginning to understand that it’s safe to ask those questions.
In our fellowship, we are not gathered around a common doctrine. We are united in our hunger for “more of God,” and we gather around a person, the one who comfortably fits in the role of “father” among us. Though many of those whom he fathers are older than his parents, we recognize his “fatherness” among us. Odd isn’t it?
As individuals, we gather around one father. As a fellowship, we relate to other fathers that we know and relate with. We are proud of the men and women who are “fathers” among us, but we’re not jealous of other fathers. If you gather around a different apostolic leader, then I’m delighted that you have such a man or woman to lead you!
In the natural – the biological realm – the only time someone will be jealous for another person’s father or mother is when their own has failed them. So it is in spiritual relationships, I’m not jealous for your fathers because my father is a good leader and a good friend among my house. It would be weird for me to long to be parented by people who neither birthed me nor know me as a son.
Unity is a wonderful thing, and I’m looking forward to us (at least in my region) growing more in unity as we gather around fathers rather than doctrines or practices, as we learn to celebrate our differences and focus on our own strengths and responsibilities rather than either conforming ourselves to others’ example, or working to bring them into conformity to our own patterns.

It’s Not About Faith.

OK, that’s going to unsettle some folks. I’m among them. But that’s what he said.
I was walking in the woods in the wee hours of the morning, and Papa whispered to me, “It’s not about faith.”
I stopped walking. Right there in the middle of the trail. And as he unfolded it, I understood a little more of what he was saying.
It’s not about faith. It’s about relationship.
Specifically, It’s not about what I call faith, what we call faith.
Faith is fundamentally an exercise of the spirit. It has nothing at all to do with what I believe. It’s certainly not about whether I believe or not. It’s about whom I believe in.
If I understand and agree with all the appropriate doctrines, that’s not an exercise of my spirit; it’s an exercise of my mind, part of my soul. Therefore, it’s not an act of my spirit, it’s an act of my soul.
It’s good to believe the right theology. It’s good to have a mind that is disciplined in the things of God, but it’s a different good thing than faith.
Instead of being about what I believe, faith is about whom I believe in. Again, it’s not intellectual agreement: “Yes, Jesus is the Son of God!” Heck, even the demons believe that, and they certainly don’t walk in faith. Faith is about whom I believe in, and it’s about whether I put my trust in him.
Whether I can pass the theology tests has nothing to do with whether I put my trust, my confidence in Jesus or not. In fact, people with no competent theology whatsoever can legitimately put their faith in Jesus.
I know a woman who had the gospel preached to her by a fellow drug addict: “Saved? Yeah, I know how you can get saved!” declared the druggie, and she went on to outline how to trust in Christ, and her partner prayed as instructed, received Christ, turned away from her sin and is still serving God decades later.
I know a man who was by his own admission so strung out on drugs that he could hardly talk. He was passed out on the beach next to his surfboard when some guys woke him up to tell him about Jesus. It was the first he’d ever heard the name, but he trusted, was healed and delivered, and has since led tens of thousands of others to faith, and has memorized most of the New Testament.
These two had no theology whatsoever. It was not possible for them to believe the right things. And until they had put their faith in the person of Christ, the rest of it would have been impossible, and it may have been a hindrance.
If I understand the right doctrine and agree with it, that’s not an act of my spirit; it’s an act of my mind, so it is not faith. In fact, it’s knowledge, and the Bible teaches us that “knowledge puffs up.” Even knowledge that is good and right and true puffs one up.
If I know what I should do or believe and I force myself to do that, this also is not an act of my spirit; it’s an act of my will, so it is also not faith.
If I feel emboldened and ready for any challenge, I may call that feeling faith, but it is not an act of my spirit; it’s an expression of my emotions, so it is not faith.
Correct knowledge is good. Right choices are good. Stirred emotions are good. In fact, I’m not sure it’s entirely possible to walk with Jesus over time without them. Each can serve as a tool to allow me to build relationship with God, or they can be used as a weapon against me, enticing me to trust in myself, in my soul, rather than in him.
But as far as the kind of faith that is described as “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” they’re pretty much useless.
But the goal isn’t that would have the perfect faith. It’s not about faith. It’s about the relationship I cultivate by faith between the Creator of the Universe and myself. Faith – even correct and right faith – is not the goal; it’s the means to the goal. The goal is him.
Paul talks about it in Philippians. He uses statements like “I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” He describes the things that he’s willing to lose “that I might know him.”
That’s the goal: He is my goal, our goal. That we would know him. That we would be known by him. That our fellowship would be with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.
That’s what it’s about.