I must admit to you that my faith has been severely challenged during the past six months. I know that statement is not supposed to be spoken because we are “faith people.” Sorry to disappoint you. I know that there are many of you who are also going through some very difficult times, so I will speak on your behalf, as well.
There are disappointments that come into our lives on a regular basis. As ministers we tend to think that if we hide these disappointments we are helping those who follow us to walk strong in the word of God. I disagree. The greatest testimonies that have encouraged me the most have come from those who have not been afraid to relate their “downs” on the way to their “ups.” Until I believe what God’s word says about a situation my words are not the truth. I cannot fake it until I make it. I must believe, and then say it; then I can make it (Mark 11:23 and Hebrews 10:23).
Ministers are plagued with the same problems that everyone else faces. The way we handle these problems can influence the growth and maturity of the sheep. In my experience I have discovered that the many challenges and problems in our lives fall into three basic categories:
§ Our relationships
§ Our health
§ Our finances (or resources).
During the last several months I have been challenged in all three. I have had to fight drastically to not fall into a cynical pattern concerning relationships. Some relationships have angered me; others have greatly disappointed me and then there are those that hurt so tremendously I felt cut to the quick. I daily avoid the thought, ‘I will not extend my love ever again.’ Then I remember that it is God’s love that should be extended through me. Aha! Faith now kicks in and I take on, once more, the process of developing relationships.
At the age of 58 I must constantly decide on whether I want to give in to the creaking and cracking of a body that is growing older or do I want to be as Moses, whose eyesight was not dim and possessing strength at the age of 120. Every curse can be reversed. This includes genetic curses, too. The other night I woke up with chest pains and was reminded that it was at my age that my mother experienced her first major heart attack. I had to push those thoughts away and remember that I had not yet fulfilled my destiny. Then faith kicks in once more and I am “good to go.” Not only will I trust God, but it will be easier as I begin to make smarter choices in what I do in and with this body.
Every minister has, at some point in time, trusted God concerning their resources, only to find their dreams caught in a prison called time. Of course our “needing it right now” and God’s giving it to us “right now” seem to cross in the eternity/time zone of our lives. As our dream seems to move further away from us, our faith is challenged. Did we really hear God say? What made me think I could do something like this? Was I out of my mind?
Sometimes the health of our body, mind and soul is wrapped up in the reality of unfulfilled dreams; dreams we were sure came from God. Now those same dreams seem rusty, out of date and completely out of our reach. After all, there is not one dream God gives that does not require the resources of time, talents and treasures. Where is my faith for this dream God gave me?
In the midst of failed relationships, creaking bones and dwindling resources the Holy Spirit has made sure that “my faith does not fail me.”
Several years ago when my church was going through a tremendous time of testing and trials Pastors Bud and Betty Miller of www.bible.com came for the first time to minister to my congregation. During the week that they were ministering I had a death in my family. They literally took over the church and ran things for me as I went through a very grievous time with my family. The other day I found the notes of one of their sermons during that time. It is helping me through a difficult time so I want to share it with you, too, in the event you, too, may be going through something.
Let me preface this by saying that I have known Bud and Betty Miller since 1995 and have walked with them through some extreme times that have tested their faith in every area I have been talking about. The victories of their faith are continuing to unfold on a daily basis. I have seen them with plenty and have seen them when “plenty” seemed very far away. I watched Betty minister under extreme physical discomfort. Yet her faith was not feigned. There was no “fake it ’til you make it” type talk. You knew when she spoke she believed the words of God she was saying. The following are the notes. I trust they will encourage you as they have been encouraging me over these last few days.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE IN A TRIAL OR TESTING TIME
1. Stay focused on God and the vision He gave you (know that your trouble is not coming from Him.)
2. Avoid placing blame on others for the adverse circumstances you are facing. Be humble and open to God’s correction in your own life.
3. Stay in a praising attitude and resist complaining.
4. Receive your strength, guidance and encouragement from the Lord through prayer and staying in the Word.
5. Discern and resist satan’s lies that are designed to demoralize an destroy you; especially through fear. (Guidance that is different from what your original vision is or anything that works against that is designed by the enemy).
6. Look for God, alone, to come and save (deliver) you.
These are the supporting scriptures:
Isaiah 35 (the whole chapter);1 Peter 4:12-19; Peter 5:5-10; 1 John 5:18
So, the process of developing faith only comes where there are trials, testing, challenges and suffering. The area of relationships is a place the enemy likes to get us in the most because we are easier to pick off when we assume we are walking alone. Dr. Charles Trombley of Charles Trombley Ministries in Broken Arrow, OK says this: You and God are a majority. He says we should name our ministries, God and Sons, Incorporated.
I like that thought. You see, something that I am learning continually, is to do Hebrews 13:7-8: Heb 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday and today, [yes] and forever.
I am blessed to have a pastor, Apostle Melvin L. Tisdale, who does more than talk the talk; he also walks the walk.
I have mentioned these three ministries purposely because they are all precious in my life. They have exampled before me that difficult times come. Sometimes those difficult times may seem insurmountable. However, walking through them with God works every single time. I have seen the result of their conduct. While the challenges of bruised and sometimes abandoned relationships abound; the health of their mind, body and soul is challenged and the resources for their dreams seem far away, they consistently move into faith toward God (not for the things), trusting their entire lives in the hands of their creator. Then they just simply trust Him for the outcome.
We all need people like this in our lives: Those in the scriptures and those who are leading us and those who are our contemporaries.
1 John 2:6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
I must admit to you that my faith has been severely challenged during the past six months. I know that statement is not supposed to be spoken because we are “faith people.” Sorry to disappoint you. I know that there are many of you who are also going through some very difficult times, so I will speak on your behalf, as well.
Many years ago when I was barely into my twenties I was raising a young son who had enormous medical problems. I needed a job that could support his medical needs. He was uninsurable and the bills were outside of my ability to pay working a minimum wage job. The one good skill I had was the ability to type fast and with extreme accuracy. In those days we used manual typewriters with the electric ones slowly making the scene. I could type 130 wpm on a manual typewriter with no errors. This was the impressive skill I normally used to apply for a job.
The job I really needed was way out of my league. It was a job that required a college degree and several years of experience. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I decided to negotiate for the job, knowing that I was at the bottom of the barrel of candidates. The woman who interviewed me was a no-nonsense woman with a German name. I sat before her, never flinching. She was unaware that I was scared spitless. Here was my plan. If she would hire me for six months, if I did not prove that I could do the job she could let me go; and she did not have to pay me for the time worked. I do not know if it was my boldness so young or the fact that she liked a challenge, but to my surprise and delight she gave me the job.
On my first day of work I gathered all of the manuals that talked about the company and the job and carried them all home with me. I stayed up all night, day after day, until I had those manuals memorized. Within a week I knew more about the company I was working for than most of the seasoned employees. I studied on my lunch hour and worked through my breaks. I began to watch my boss; her demeanor, her attitude; the way she talked to the employees and to customers. She was a long time employee and quite accomplished for a woman during the 1970’s. I was impressed. I found myself emulating her in everything I did on the job. I began to get the same results she did. She was quite flattered by my mimicking her. She began to purposely teach me things that were not in the manuals I had memorized.
Within six months I not only excelled the current employees in my department, but I went way beyond the expectation of my employer. I kept my job with a promotion and raise at the end of the six months.
That same woman was eventually instrumental in my serving the Lord. It would be ten years later when I would share with her my salvation and the call into the ministry as well. She had retired by then, but she invited to her home as she showed me off to her husband. It was a high time in her life as well as mine.
I have had many prophets ask me to recommend books and audio teachings that would help them in their office of a prophet. I usually give them my very first recommendation. When they do not jump with excitement over that, I go ahead and give them a list of books, audio teachings and authors that can shed some light on the prophetic office. I have always been disappointed when they do not take me up on my first recommendation. Years of living, and years of ministry have taught me one thing. The place to study is your place of employment and the person to study is your employer.
Jesus said in John 14 that He only said what He heard His Father say and only did what He saw His Father do. This did not happen just because it was Jesus. We forget, sometimes, that Jesus came into the world as a human being, emptied of His deity and went through the complete human process of being a baby, growing up, learning to obey His earthly parents and as well as His Heavenly Father. So, His connection with His Father had to be an “on purpose” effort, the same as with us. There were eighteen years between the time He obeyed His mother, going off to grow in wisdom and stature, and the evidence of this growth at the age of thirty.
He had to pass the test at the river Jordan with John the Baptist. Once He submitted to John’s Gospel the Father identified Him as His Son. He was then led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of being tested by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Once He passed that test He was ready to have others follow Him.
In order for Jesus to “grow in wisdom and stature” He had to learn to hear His Father and see His Father. After all, if He was going to receive instructions from Him He needed to know what His voice sounded like and He needed to recognize the actions of His Father so that He would not be deceived. Jesus did not do this for Himself. He did it for you and me.
The prophet does not just have visions and dreams; hear voices and just know things in their spirit. These visions and dreams and voices along with the ability to know things come from the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is making every effort to teach us how to hear His voice so we can say what the Father says. He is also trying to teach us to see what the Father sees so we can do what the Father does. The only way we can know this is to learn about the one who is speaking to us.
It is still my number one recommendation to every prophet. Before you study anything else, you need to know the person from whom you are receiving your instructions. If you do not learn about the Holy Spirit beyond His gifts, you will be easily deceived. I see it all of the time, even from those that are pretty accurate. I am discovering that those who have asked me and have not followed through are losing credibility concerning their prophetic insights. They become deceived on the source of the prophetic word. They cannot discern whether it came from God, the devil or from their soulish realm. Prophets are deceived quicker from their soulish realm than from the devil. If the devil will wait long enough he does not have to do much. We deceive ourselves.
I have seen prophets become defensive when they are encouraged to keep themselves submitted and accountable to another minister/ministry. When they refuse to become accountable to authority, they are no longer submitted to God’s authority either. As a result the prophetic word coming through them cannot be trusted, even if the word is accurate. Water is still wet, even if it comes through a rusty pipe. However, water coming through a rusty pipe is undrinkable. I have seen the results of accurate words coming through an unclean stream. People’s lives are completely messed up as a result.
Seeing into the spirit realm is not the gift of the Holy Spirit. The ability to discern the spirit realm (including your own) is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So, my number one recommendation is that you learn everything you can about the Holy Spirit and His personality. Just knowing about His tools is not enough. If you do not have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, the words you are receiving and speaking could be coming through an unholy spirit, whether it is the devil or yours. We must be able to discern the source of information.
The first book to learn about the Holy Spirit is the bible. It is beneficial to start a study on the person of the Holy Spirit, laying aside what you have been taught in the past. This gives Him opportunity to teach you afresh, without any religious bias.
Among some other good books, my recommendation would be the teachings of Dr. Fuschia Pickett. Some of the chapters are:
- Relationship With a Divine Personality
- Emblems of the Holy Spirit
- The Fragrance of the Holy Spirit
- Seven Offices of the Holy Spirit
- Sevenfold Power of the Holy Spirit
- Seven Moods of the Holy Spirit
I believe at this time the book is divided up into three different books. You will want to purchase all three.
Another good one is Myles Munroe’s book, The Most Important Person on Earth. Some of the chapters are:
- The Power of Influence
- Declaration of Independence
- Restoring the Connection
- Manifesting Kingdom Culture
There are many good books available. I strongly encourage you to make this a priority. If you base your prophetic ministry merely on dreams, visions and experiences you will find yourself an easy mark for deception. I like what one minister has said: Let your gifts take you where your character can keep you. The study of the Holy Spirit and developing an intimate relationship with Him will help the prophet to remain a healthy prophet.
Every parent who has ever taken a trip with their kids in the car with them has been asked this question: Are we there yet?
As irritating and aggravating as this question was for parents to continually hear, I am discovering that we are still irritated and aggravated by the same question in our spiritual lives. We do not want anyone to ask us that question.
Are we there yet?
I have heard so many ministers compare the church of today with the children of Israel. Many have said we are still like them. While others may feel this creates an atmosphere of relationship, it is not a situation I care to commensurate with.
It is no comfort to me to discover that the church is no different than it was thousands of years ago. If we are destined to remain slaves, never possessing the land that God gave to us, why do we run around saying that Jesus loves us? Why do we tell people that God is a healer?
My oldest brother said something very profound to me about twenty years ago. He said he was tired of churches who always preached what they would not demonstrate. The moment he said it I knew he was speaking the truth. I was embarrassed and determined at the same time. Embarrassed because he could not, at that time, see enough in my own life to dispel that thought and determined that I would not leave this earth without the demonstration of God’s word being seen through my life.
The church is its greatest road block
Once that determination was made I found the greatest road block was the church itself. Dr. Charles Trombley of Charles Trombley Ministries in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma taught a number of years ago that we do not fear God. We believe in God but we do not believe God. A good example of this is our children. They may believe in us as their parents. However, they do not believe us when we tell them various things. They must experience the heartaches and challenges of life before they come to the conclusion that Mom and Dad were not imbeciles after all.
Many have cried out for the power of God to return to the church. I have to keep from laughing sometimes when I hear this. I do not know where God has gone from others, but I still possess the power of God. I am the church. The power of God has never left me. I do not believe He has left you either. Though this may sound too casual, in principle it is not: When I enter a room I can choose to turn on the light or leave it off. The lamp is in the room. I have access to it by turning on the switch. God is light. Then He says that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
The only way I can be the light is to turn on the light. God is the light that shines through me.
It does not take a great congregation of people to turn on this light. It does not require a large conference and great speakers to turn on this light. The power of God that dwells in you can be released by you.
obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
The outcome of my faith is supposed to be the deliverance of my soul. That word “soul” is the Greek word “psuche” which refers to our mind, our will and our emotions.
How will we be able to effectively bring deliverance to others when we are still in prison ourselves?
Being abused is not a requirement for ministry
We must stop wearing abuse as a requirement for ministry. Every person on the face of the earth has been mishandled in some way at the hands of someone else; and every person on the face of the earth has mishandled someone. We will never be able to change that. However, once we enter into the Kingdom of God, once we are born again, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17 everything has become new!
I am not ignorant to the fact of process. Change is not a process. Change is instant. We are instantly saved, delivered from the works of satan. We are being saved. That is the process of walking out the instant change that took place. We will be saved. There is a place when that process is complete and we can walk in full realization and the fruit of our deliverance.
Once a woman is pregnant the process of becoming pregnant is over. She is pregnant. She knows it and the doctor confirms it. Now we will see the growth of that pregnancy. She will change in her body as preparation is made for the fruit of her pregnancy.
Faith is like that. There has to be a fruit of faith (or an outcome) or it is not faith at all.
Just because we have not arrived yet does not mean we cannot arrive.
Joanne M. Bush
If you have no influence in Heaven and no impact in hell you have no affect in the earth!
Governmental influence in the earth by God’s people is not effective until we understand government in the realm of the spirit.
We cannot properly establish governmental authority in our local assemblies until we understand government God’s way. God’s way, I am sorry to report, really is not our way. The church is still trying to establish government in the church Saul’s way. The children of Israel were not happy with God’s way of ruling so they requested, demanded and received ruling man’s way.
God told Samuel to tell them the outcome of their decision. God told them that government man’s way would place them and their children into bondage. They would become slaves to that government. The people still demanded to “be like everyone else in the world.”
Well, God is like a dress maker. He believes in building by patterns. Heaven is the pattern. The Kingdom is a pattern of Heaven. The Promise Land is a pattern of the Kingdom.
We are so enamored with the earth that we think it is our pattern. We forget that the earth is made from a pattern. The light spoken into existence comes from the light that already exists in God. He just spoke it out of Himself into the earth. He gave Noah explicit instructions on building the big boat. The temple was built from the pattern God established. We must be careful that we do not continue to change the pattern God has already created.
Builders know the value of this because of the corner stone. Only one stone is used to measure everything else. When new measurements are taken from each new stone used, the building will be lopsided and unstable.
The reason that God rules in the earth is because He is the influence in Heaven: He is God Almighty, the Creator. He is the impact in hell for it would not exist without Him. He is the affect in the earth because He works through us.
THE PATTERN FOR GOVERNMENT IS JESUS
The pattern for government is Jesus. He is always our benchmark for everything. The assumption is that Jesus was automatically born into authority when He was born as a baby. Jesus did not fully exhibit an understanding of authority until He was twelve years old and had to go home with His mama. He was having a good time with the “big boys” in the synagogue, listening to what they had to say; listening and asking questions. The scripture says:
Lu 2:46 And it came about that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
For them to be amazed at His answers He had to have been asked questions, too. He was able to understand that God was His Father. He was ready to be about His Father’s business, yet He submitted to His mother and father going home with them.
Until Jesus was able to submit to His Heavenly Father’s delegated authority in His life, His ability to rule and reign in His Father’s business was not recognized.
Jesus would rule and reign in the Kingdom of God. However, His ability to rule hung on His ability to rule and reign in His flesh. He had to go home with His parents because it was the pattern God had set. Honor your mother and father and it will be well with you IN THE EARTH.
De 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
The same is true with us today. It is especially true in our local churches as leaders.
For some reason we think that our rank is determined by our position in the local assembly. Others may think their ranking is established by their office such as Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Pastor or Evangelist. If my governmental authority is not able to influence Heaven the same way that Jesus was able to influence Heaven, then the best I can do is rule man by fear and manipulation. I will not rule out of the pattern of heaven which was given to the Kingdom; I will rule out of my own fears and lack of proper esteem.
This lack of understanding governmental authority according to God’s pattern is the foundation for control and strong-arm ruling in the local assembly. We become like dogs and rally around the fire hydrant to determine our territory.
My rank in the earth is non-effective until I understand my rank in the realm of the spirit. The fruit of my rank in the spirit will be seen in the earth before my rank is truly established by man. There are people (and children) younger than some of us chronologically who outrank us in the Spirit. Until you are able to allow that influence in Heaven to be known in hell, the earth is still left to the dominion of the one who not only knows who they are, but what they possess.
I CANNOT RULE ANYONE IF I CANNOT BE RULED BY CHRIST
If I do not see myself positioned in Christ, I will create another position from which to establish my government. All government in the earth is found in our position in Christ. That means, first and foremost that I cannot rule anyone if I cannot be ruled by Christ.
Just because God ordains us into various offices is not the confirmation that we are being ruled by Christ. When a baby is born they come equipped with everything they will need to fulfill their destiny. However, their equipment has to be developed. Our equipment has to be developed so that we can grow into matured sons able to rule in the Kingdom of God, serving God as a priest.
I cannot prove my ability to be an apostle by being a strong-arm in the local assembly. The Apostle Paul speaks more of ruling his own flesh than ruling in the lives of others. He buffeted his body and brought his body under subjection. He did not buffet or bring someone else under subjection. That was not his job, nor was it Jesus’ job. Jesus only asked His disciples to watch and pray. He did not demand nor force them to stay awake by taping their eyes open. He challenged them but He did not treat them as a master and a slave. His whole purpose for being in the Garden of Gethsemane was to bring His own will under subjection.
The sons of Sceva were brought to shame because they did not understand their position, or lack thereof.
Ac 19:14-15 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
YOUR FIRST POSITION IS IN CHRIST AS A SON
Many young ministers (and probably older ones, too) think that there are great demonic assignments against them because they are apostles or strong leaders. I am sorry to inform you that these great demonic forces exist against you because your first position is not as an apostle or prophet or any other position of leadership. Your first position is in Christ as a son.
If you are not able to reign as a son of God by the pattern of His Son, Jesus, you are not able to reign in the office to which you were called in the local assembly.
The demons recognized Jesus. Jesus had influence in Heaven. He was the Son of God. Every time He spoke; every thing He did got the attention of both Heaven and Hell. He got the attention in Heaven because He only said what He heard His Father say and He only did what He saw His Father do. Father God’s words were recognized in heaven and heaven recognized the action of the Father; so there was a match. Jesus knew this so well that there were things He did not say on purpose. This power was so great and His influence so sure that He would have actually sabotaged the purpose for which He was sent.
Mt 26:53-54 “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?“
Your rank and my rank are established the same way that Jesus’ rank was established. Our ability to rule hangs on our ability to obey God and follow His pattern. Until we understand and submit to the Lordship of Christ, our position in Him remains unfruitful. The Lordship of Christ is allowing the nature and ability of Christ to rule in us. When His nature rules in us; when our nature completely submits to His nature, then we are able to influence Heaven. We speak like He does, and He speaks like His Father. We act like He does, and He acts like His Father.
The amount of people following me does not confirm my ability to lead or rule. How much I am recognized in Heaven does not determine how many people follow me, but how they follow me.
You can make people follow you out of fear. You can subdue men and have dominion over them. However, there will not be dominion in the Kingdom. God told us to be servants in the lives of people and rulers in the Kingdom.
If a father has to make a son be a son he does not have a son.
There is the saying that goes somewhat like this: If we do not correct the mistakes of the past we are doomed to repeat them.
The Apostle Paul had many Christians killed, thinking he was doing something good for God. His revelation of Jesus Christ was non-existent. Until that revelation came, Paul did not think he was doing something wrong. Our heavenly Father took drastic measures to ensure that Paul had the proper revelation and understanding. I believe He is doing the same thing today.Throughout the history of the church, attempts have been made to do God a service through our limited revelations. To avoid future injury from past bad habits, It is important that we purposefully seek God’s ways concerning Apostolic Authority.
Without a revelation of the kingdom of God and a benevolent King, our understanding of authority has been limited. In some cases it has actually been warped. I am watching some things happening among “the brethren” that reeks of Apostolic Gestapo methods rather than godly authority and/or parenting.
The power of God outweighs any power that man has or thinks he has, even when he believes his power comes from God. Power that comes from God is filtered through an individual who has feet of clay. It is filtered through all of the experiences of the individual. As Christ is being formed in us, the scriptures reassure us that our transformation comes from our way of thinking being changed or renewed (Rom 12:1-2). The transformation spoken of in Romans 12 is the yielding of our ways to God’s ways; our character and nature being transformed into the nature and character of our Heavenly Father. We begin to look and act like Jesus Christ. The image we grow into has to do with our inner man.
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19
The purpose of godly authority is to fulfill the desires of our King. Uncommon to the human way of thinking, Godly authority brings about the expression of His love. How that authority is used by His people is supposed to match His heart. How we see ourselves can determine how we understand and use power and authority. When we do not understand who we are in Christ, what we possess in Him and what we can do, we will attempt to rule others through God’s power. Allowing His power to rule in us as love will change how we begin to treat each other. Instead of having a sense of power in controlling people for our use, with proper Godly authority, we can begin to see people as God’s best resource and we will want to invest in them for God’s purposes; not for our own.
We must daily check our motives in leadership. We can usually tell where we are with God, ourselves and others when we do not get what we want. If we ask or instruct someone to do something and they do not do it; or they do not do it well, our reaction is a tell-tale sign.
Several years ago I found myself trapped in a ministry take-over. It actually started out as a merging. Once the merge took place I found myself within a less-than-benevolent rule. I was a baby pastor, young in the ministry and quite tired from working alone. One of my members went into the merge with me. He was a young, athletic young man, wearing sweats and gym clothes to church most of the time. It was difficult to get a dress shirt on this guy; and you just about had to strangle him to put a tie around his neck. I never made the demand on him unless we had a serious dress occasion, since he was also part of my leading team. When we merged with this other church he was immediately in dress attire every service. Unbelievable!!! He wore a white shirt, tie and dress pants. On formal occasions he wore a full suit. I was so amazed.
When we finally un-merged I asked him what made the difference. Why did he wear a suit for this pastor and I could not get him to even wear dress slacks most of the time? He told me, without hesitation: fear. The pastor of the church we merged with ruled with fear. This young man only obeyed out of fear. No other reason. He even told me that had I not un-merged when I did he had already planned to go on vacation on his job and not come back at all. He was already trying to figure out how to get away from the fear. He stayed in my ministry for sixteen years and was one of my most faithful members and leaders. And, of course, he still only dressed up when it was absolutely necessary.
Paul went to the various churches because of his love for Christ. He desired to see Christ formed in the people so that they would function as Christ’s body (Romans 8:29). He was not interested in how many followed him. We never see Paul forcing people to follow him; nor making statements that would cause the people to feel guilty if they did not do what he wanted. He invited those to follow him as he followed Christ. The writer of Hebrews invited us to follow after the faith of others; not necessarily their character. The intention was to keep us on the path of the doctrines of Christ and not the doctrines of man. Before Jesus invited disciples to follow Him, he had to go into the wilderness and pass a Holy Spirit test. What was the test? Could He survive the temptation of lust? (James 1:14-15)
Sometimes the very thing we are trying to do for God becomes an area of lust in our lives as well. The motivation has to do with our own personal self-worth. It is a lust for importance and value. When we cannot entrust our value to God, we cannot entrust our ministries to Him either. We will eventually use whatever means necessary to prove our value to ourselves, even at the cost of others.
PARENTING IS NOT CLONING
Natural children are not clones and spiritual parenting does not bring forth clones. We develop people. We should not be trying to develop ourselves through people. We do not need more people that look and act like we do. We need more people to look and act the way God purposed for them. My job as a spiritual parent is to work together with them to help them find their path of destiny and purpose. Then, working together, I can help guide them on that path as Christ is being formed in them. Their identity is in Christ. I have a responsibility to make sure that whenever they place their identity in me that I direct them to Christ. Sometimes that may mean pushing them out of MY nest so that they can think independently of me, yet dependent on God.
FORCED AUTHORITY IS A DISPLAY OF WEAKNESS
Authority can be a display of strength. Forced authority is a display of weakness.
Apostles do not have authority in another man’s house. I believe this statement bears repeating. Apostles do not have authority in another man’s house. The authority is in another man’s life. And that only comes when permission is given for that authority. We cannot assume authority nor force authority in the lives of people or their ministries. I do not see the apostles in the scriptures going throughout different regions and “taking over” churches. Even Paul, though he wrote letters to the various New Testament churches, he was really only answering questions he had been asked. Once those questions were asked, he was given permission to speak into those lives and situations. He never tried to run the church of Corinth. He did not try to run Timothy’s work. He simply made himself available to help these young ministries by being a trail blazer, paving the way for these ministries to come forth. He did so by teaching, instructions and using his own life as an example. The signs and wonders that followed the apostles were for the purposes of clearing out demon influences that were hindering these works.
I learned a valuable lesson several years ago from Dr. Charles Trombley. When he and his wife, Gladys, came to minister in the church where I was the pastor, he never told me what to do. He never came in and took over my church while he was there. He simply spoke into my life in areas where a motive of ministry may need an adjustment. Whenever he ministered in our church, the messages were great and the people received wonderfully. However, there was always something in his messages that challenged me as a leader. He never sat and told me all of the wonderful and/or lousy things I did. He simply talked about the things that were evident in the life of Jesus and in the life of his followers. It was up to me to eat what was set before me or to push away from the table.
I gave Dr. Trombley and Gladys permission to speak into my life and into the lives of my congregation. I made opportunity for the leaders of the church to partake from this seasoned stream. I encouraged them strongly to participate. I made it an opportunity. I did not make it a requirement. Nor did I manipulate them into coming. As a result there were rare times when the leaders of the church did not participate. And when they did not they had legitimate reasons. Notice I did not use the word “excuse.”
SEASONED HEART OR HARDENED HEART
There is a great difference between having a seasoned heart and a hardened heart. Both hearts have seen the same pains; the same challenges; experienced the same setbacks and heartaches. The dividing factor is the response. I am seeing more and more young apostles who are still experiencing life as it is. In an effort to maintain their own power, they are suppressing the pains and sorrows, rather than allowing the word of God to bring healing. Where there is no healing, the pain still exists. Where the pain still exists, that is the extent of our maturity. We exert our leadership filtered through our maturity or lack thereof. We can lead through a seasoned heart or a hardened heart.
Which way are you leading? By compulsion through a hardened heart, or by love through a seasoned heart?