Keys of Authority

Today’s Blog is shared from Christian Harvest International, Greg & Rebecca Greenwood.  As I read it, I felt strongly that it had to be shared as it is a word for the body and what we are experiencing at this time:

Then I will set on his shoulder the key of the house of David; when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open. —Isaiah 22:22 AMP

We have weapons to invade realms! However, you might be pondering if contending against principalities is an off-limits activity for the church. What does Jesus tell us about our position of authority? As stated before, He has not left us to battle alone. He has given each of us keys. He has given each of us the authority to bind and loose. In Matthew 16:13-17, we have the historic core confession of the Body of Christ. It is Simon Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Now when Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they answered, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus answered him, Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. For flesh and blood [men] have not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven (Matthew 16:13-17 AMPC).

Jesus then made a paradigm-shifting proclamation of His own to Simon Peter: “And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros—a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra—a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church…” (Matt. 16:18 AMPC). Simon Peter, the first to make this Kingdom declaration, was the first to receive the promise that God would use him like a substantial piece of rock to build upon. Jesus stated that joining Peter would be other believers who would also proclaim this truth and represent the Kingdom of God. Together this Body would make up a great rock, like Gibraltar—petra. And on this rock, He would build His Church, which I am now going to term Ekklesia.

What Is the Meaning of Ekklesia?

The translation for the word Church in the above Scripture does not portray what Jesus was powerfully stating. The literal meaning is “called-out ones” or “assembly.” The word is used 114 times in the New Testament, and in 90 of these references a local church assembly is in view. However, in this first use of Ekklesia, it seems likely that Jesus had a more significant and larger picture in mind. He was building a worldwide Body of believers composed of all who make the same confession of faith.

The word and concept of Ekklesia was not new to the disciples. It carried significant cultural emphasis. In this time of history, this word was applied to the popular assembly of Greek citizens who helped to govern a city or district (see Acts 19:32,39,41). Also, the Greek translation of the Old Testament used Ekklesia to describe the congregation of Israel when it was corporately gathered when Moses presented the law for all of Israel to perform and carry out the law as a people and a culture.

In Greek and Roman society, the Ekklesia consisted of ones who functioned in their cities as a senate or legislative governors. They were known as a military task force of the culture they represented to cause things to appear as Greek or Roman. Their function carried with it the ideology to disciple people, cities, and nations. Why do we need to know this to be effective intercessors? To understand our keys of authority to bind and loose, we must realize the history-making message Jesus was relaying at this crucial moment. Allow me to explain further how history, misplaced translations, and words have shaped our effectiveness as the Church and as prayer warriors.

The Greek word kyriakon is the origin of the word church that we use in English. Kyraikon is composed of two words—kyrias, meaning the Lord, and oikas, meaning house or building. Together the meaning is clear—house of God or building. It is a purely religious word that originally meant temple or chapel, a physical location where people gather. It conveys something very different from the original meaning of Ekklesia.

Historically and theologically it is a known fact when the King James Bible was written in 1611 there was considerable argument over how this word Ekklesia would be translated. The Tyndale translation done in 1525 accurately portrayed Ekklesia as a governing body. By 1611 King James was head of the Anglican Church. The favored meaning of the word church under his leadership was that of a building. Therefore, this Greek word kyraikon was chosen as the basis for the English translation. Unfortunately, this word is not even in the Greek New Testament. This helps to give a clear picture why leaders keep explaining to people that church is not the building but rather the people of God who assemble to hear from Him, to be sent out, to pray and to release His Kingdom.

Further adding to the confusion, in AD 313 the emperor Constantine established himself as the head of the church controlled by the state and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. He began a massive building spree across the Roman Empire naming all the buildings after apostles from the Bible—for example, the church of St. Paul. He declared himself the thirteenth apostle and erected statues of the twelve apostles in a massive building in Constantinople and included a larger statue of himself in the building. He banned all house meetings and unofficial gatherings of any kind, and all had to gather in the buildings. Still to this day, all these years later, we think of the church as a building, not a Body of believers who pray and effect change. This in turn causes us to downsize the strategies of the enemy and our role to see victory obtained.

It Is Time for a New Paradigm

We see that immediately following His proclamation, Jesus focused on the position of authority in which the Ekkleisa is to operate:

…and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ]. I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19 AMP).

Gates of Hades

I believe Jesus was intentional. I find it interesting that when He initiated this discussion with the disciples, He chose the location of Caesarea Philippi, home to Mount Hermon. It was known as the rock of the gods due to the many shrines that are carved into the face of the mountain. Shrines to Caesar, an open-air shrine to Pan and the court to the fertility goddess, Nemesis. It also houses a large cave called the gate of Hades. It was believed that baal-hermon would enter the world from this cave. Worshipers would congregate and take part in bizarre, blatantly demonic sexual activities as well as rituals involving human and blood sacrifice. Jesus in a strategic move took His disciples to the most degenerate place possible. Clearly, He was making an object lesson.

The Lord of heaven and earth stands before His twelve disciples, and in a prophetic revelation of insight more vivid than the snow-capped glow of Mount Hermon—a place that fed the fears of men and demonically enticed surrender of their souls—Peter becomes the first human to acknowledge Jesus for who He really is. The King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Ancient of Days. Most Holy One. Lord of Hosts. Captain of the armies of God. The promised Messiah. Savior of the World. The Great I Am. Friends, when we get even a small glimpse into the complete kingship of our Savior, we stand at a new gateway or portal for understanding our own purpose. Why? It is now known that Jesus not only possesses all authority, but that He also bestows it. Understanding this truth far better than His disciples, Jesus takes the opportunity in front of His chosen band of disciples to declare out loud that Hades will not prevail. Unity is vital to breakthrough intercession. The size of the band of warriors is not the determining factor. Although, I will strongly emphasize here again that there are no lone rangers in dealing with principalities and territorial spirits. Individuals have been given authority over demons as stated clearly in Mark 16:17, “And these miracle signs will accompany those who believe: They will drive out demons in the power of my name” (TPT). But there needs to be a team or corporate assembly of the Ekklesia to defeat principalities. This can occur with a large governing assembly or even a band of warriors of two or three gathered together. What does matter is knowing God has assigned the battle—a clear revelation of the One who has directed you, a clarity of purpose that is voiced out in agreement among the gathered and convening Ekkelsia when on the land.

By standing at the rock of the gods, Jesus was making a clear and undeniable illustration. As the Church, we are His legislative body of people anointed in His glory to go to the darkest places of the world in order to destroy the schemes of the enemy and establish His Kingdom. One of the strongest demonic assignments and schemes of the enemy is the attempt to talk the church out of being the Ekklesia—the exact people to whom the glory of God has been imparted and distributed for stewarding and impacting the nations. It is not survival mode. It is overcoming and conquering mode. We carry governmental anointing in which our intercession made in partnership with the Lord can heal the past and shape the future.

Testimony of Jordan!

2018 has afforded us with the awesome privilege of developing relationship with Bible College of Wales. This is the college founded by Rees Howells in 1924. We have visited three times this year and are planning a return for next year. The last visit in October, our team experienced God moving in amazing ways. It was a time of soaking, intimacy with the Lord, intercession for Wales and the nations. I was also beyond honored and privileged to receive an invitation to teach an evening course.

It is hard to share all that transpired, but one day was supernatural in a way that only He can orchestrate. We felt the Lord leading us to visit, worship and intercede at Blaenannerch, the chapel where Evan Roberts in an abandoned cry of surrender shouted, “Bend me Lord!”  We experienced the Lord’s presence in a deep way which brought us into a place of revived surrender and desire for awakening. The worship time and intercession for Wales and the nations was transformational.

Following this time, we knew the Lord was directing us to pray for awakening and breakthrough in the land of the mountainous region of Preselau. It is an ancient occult site of druid worship and the location where the stones were removed for Stonehenge. It is scientifically proven that the earth in this region vibrates at a different frequency than any other locations in the world and it produces a rare sound as well as stones called Blue Stones.

We huddled in a circle on the high place, kneeling and laying hands on the land.  We worshipped, prophesied God’s new purpose and amplified sound to bring a harvest into the land following our time of breaking the occult power of Lilith and death. As we completed our time of intercession, I noticed a young man approaching who had been speaking to Roy and Adriane, the pastors who had hosted and driven us to this location. He approached the team. To explain the supernatural orchestration of this encounter, I must explain we were out in the middle of nowhere, in the mountains. Therefore, having someone approach us would not be a normal nor expected.

He asked what we were doing. I explained worshipping and praying to Jesus. I asked him if he knew Jesus. He responded, “I don’t think that I do.” I asked his name and it was Jordan. He explained He heard us shouting and worshipping as we were on assignment. He shared he had been in a car wreck three days prior. His car was totaled, but he walked away unscathed. In order to get home which was over 2 1’2 hours away, he had to buy a new car. Yet, he could not get a peace to leave the area. He had walked a 3-hour trek in the mountains seeking the Lord for direction in his life asking to hear His voice and guidance. His life being spared in what should have been a fatal car crash had gotten his attention. After his walk he sat in the valley directly below the mountain top we were on to worship and pray. He heard us, but he explained it sounded like hundreds of people not just eight. So, he came to see what was occurring. He shared that he knew Roy and Adriane and had visited their church 3 times and was surprised to see them.

Once again, I shared that we were praying and worshipping Jesus and asked if he wanted to know Jesus. Ten minutes later, this young man named Jordan received salvation! We knew this was a prophetic sign. Jordan is symbolic of crossing over into a new season. We know that Jordan’s salvation was a manifestation of a new season of harvest in the land of revival.  He is 24, and a musician. On a mountain known for its unique frequency of sounds a new soul to release a sound of praise and worship entered heaven’s sound.  There were eight of us on the team which means new beginnings. All of this occurred after our time at the church where Evan Roberts had his encounter with the Lord that sparked the revival in Wales. Even typing this I am undone by God’s goodness today!

Heading into 2019 to Fulfill the Call

I pray the above portion of a chapter from my (Becca’s) new book Glory Warfare and Jordan’s testimony blesses you. Greg and I fully believe the Lord is directing our paths in the days ahead to continue to pave the way in our nation and the nations as an Ekklesia anointed prayer army and not only breaking strongholds, but also building and planting for a sustained transformation in the land. Our nation and the nations are calling, and we are responding with a resounding, “Yes!”

As we head into 2019, we are preparing key assignments with our prayer network, SPAN, for our nation and the nations. The Lord has spoken clearly that we are to engage in strategic assignments heading into the 2020 elections. Therefore, we are busy with planning and strategizing meetings already underway as we close out 2018. We will also partner with Aruba, Scotland, Spain, China, Wales, Korea, Africa, Amsterdam and Europe in this coming year to speak and train in prophetic strategies for transformation with key leaders in these nations.

We are so emboldened by all God has allowed us to be a part of in the nations and in ours.  We wanted to send you a small token of our appreciation for your prayers and partnership with us financially as we move forward with all God is showing us.  Thank you.

If you would like to send a gift to the ministry, you can use the enclosed envelope or you can visit our website to give your tax deductible donation, www.christianharvestintl.org/donate.  We are so grateful for all of you who have joined us in seeing souls brought into God’s kingdom.  We pray for His Spirit and love to follow and be with you in 2019 and it will become your breakthrough year!

In His Love,

Greg & Becca

For My Fellow Survivors

For my fellow survivors and overcomers of abuse of many kinds, this blog may be more than you desire to read. So, just up front, it’s OK if at any point you need to put it down. I also don’t write this from the stand point of being a licensed counselor, nor an expert in the field.

Quite honestly, for the first thirty-some years of my life I avoided counseling like the plague, and would joke with my college friends, who were psych majors, that the ones going into the field were the ones who needed the most help. That’s no slight on those who are in the profession. I have great respect for counselors, healers, good psychologists, etc.   I just want to be up front in saying that’s not the angle this is written from.

I’m writing because I am the one who needed help, desperately, but I was too scared to reach out for many, many years to get it. I also had many black holes in my childhood memories, and had heard many people say, “If you don’t remember, it is for good reason.” “Don’t look back.”  “The past is in the past and can’t affect you now.” And even use scripture for back up. “Forgetting what is behind, and reaching for the things before me…” Phil. 3:13 But our life is all connected together, whether we like it or not. The things that happened to us as young children or as adults, do change the way we look at things. Sometimes, we just aren’t conscious of it.

Truly, I’m not pushing any particularly type or brand of healing or counseling or methodology. I actually would have loved for Jesus to just come and instantly heal my heart, mind, soul, and spirit all in one fell swoop. I know He has done that for others, and don’t doubt His ability. For whatever reason, this is not my story. Mine is a painstaking journey, that I still walk out from every day, though now the pace of freedom is much faster than it used to be.

So, why am I writing this? I guess for a few reasons, one there are a lot of misconceptions out there, and two, for awareness. Let’s tackle the first one. There are all types of abuse out there. Consider this, that in my state of South Carolina, the last statistic I’ve heard is that one in three women and children have been sexual abused. One in three. That’s of people who have told someone. Do you know how many people I’ve talked to, who have trusted me with parts of their stories who have not told anyone else? Let’s just say it’s a lot.

It’s usually the most put together ones that surprise me the most. The ones always smiling on the outside. (I always tried to put on that face myself.) They have their make-up and clothes just right, but they are hurting, sometimes dying on the inside, because they feel they have to play a part in order to be accepted in our communities, especially church communities.

I’ve sat in front of pastors, pastoral counselors, and/or spiritual leaders who simply had no clue how to deal with a survivor of extreme abuse. As I’ve told parts of my story, I’ve had some close their eyes and look the other way. I’ve been told that I should just read this certain book, or quote this list of scriptures, or that I needed to get out of my old family tree and get a new mindset into my identity in Jesus. Dear Pastors, I’ve tried. Truly, I have. I have read the books. I’ve quoted the scriptures. I didn’t even know what was in my family tree, until Jesus showed me, but I surely never wanted to hang out there. I didn’t even want to know what was there in the first place.

I was terrified of going to counseling, because I didn’t want to know how my mind worked. That’s why I tried for so long to hide myself from me. Even scripture memorization, though helpful, only went surface level, because the wounds inflicted upon me had been mortal wounds meant to fester and ooze, toxifying my mind, soul, body, until the infection almost took me out.

The religious methods given me, though well-intended, never worked for long; the aching pain, though not even conscious, was still there. The lies had been embedded in my soul like shrapnel from an explosion in a million pieces, they just didn’t go away because I willed them too.

Why is it that if someone is in a horrific car accident, they are cared for and understood, but if you have been in a horrific, emotionally traumatic event or lived a childhood of it, people want to look the other way, ignore it, pushing aside the broken hearted one. I didn’t ask for the parents I was given. I didn’t ask for the abuse I was subjected to. Most victims didn’t do anything to provoke their abusers. Children sold into sex trafficking have no voice, no say as to what happens to them. Yet, most survivors will tell you they partly blame themselves. “I should’ve been stronger.” “I should’ve done something to stop it.” I know, I lived with the shame for most of my life. “It was all my fault,” was drilled into my brain. So, I’d get out my scripture list and recite it. Pray, but would only hear “It’s not time yet.” Until it was time to open the wounds and begin the healing.

Let’s take panic attacks for example. Did you know that most of the panic attacks I used to have were not triggered by negative thoughts? So, how do you suppose right thinking corrects it? It was triggered by a color, a scent, a situation, or the way a person walked. It was triggered by countless moments, most of which I had no clue about. I just knew one minute I’d be fine, the next I couldn’t breathe, and thought I was dying. For the most part, I don’t have panic attacks any more, but I remember when I did have them all the time.   At times, I walked through depression, suicidal thoughts and urges, fear, insomnia, etc. I’m not saying this to make you feel sorry for me. I’m saying this to help bring understanding.

So, survivors or overcomers of different kinds of abuse come in different types and levels of pain, but generally many of the lies believed are the same. For some it is like a scrape on the elbow, for others, it may be like their arm has been cut off, and still for some, it may be like they have been ran over by a car, and then the driver put it in reverse and repeated the action multiple times. Many have no memory of the abuse, because their child’s mind simple couldn’t handle it. I call this a gift from God for children, the gift of disassociation. It is a real thing. And most people have some level of disassociation, even if it’s being addicted to their cell phones for the distraction of it. The ADHD labeled child sitting in the classroom who can’t seem to keep his or her attention on anything, I feel is often trying to distract their mind from something painful going on. That’s not in every case of course, but from what I experienced in the classroom as a teacher, it played out that way many times.

Beth Moore said in her book, Get Out of the Pit, that most people will never go through the healing process, because they believe the lies that they will die or go crazy if they face their pain, fear, and/or memories of the abuse. I can attest to this. Those have been two of my greatest giants to slay in the process of healing, and though I’ve been on this journey for more than a decade, they still try to raise their ugly head from time to time. One chapter, God gave me at the beginning of my journey was Ps. 32. In the amplified version, it reads, “I continually unfolded the past until all was told, and He instantly forgave me of my sins.” Clearly, there is value in all of our story to Him.

So, why would someone even want to go through the seemingly painful process of counseling? And what type of counseling do you go to? Many traditional counselors, at least from the ones I know, are more of behavioral modification flavor. And honestly, there are times, that I wish God would’ve have led me down that road first, just so I’d have had more tools in my tool belt to be able to cope with the pain, but that’s not what He did with me. For a long time, I took medication to help curb anxiety attacks, so I don’t judge someone who needs to take that route. For me, I came to a place of no return. I had two small children, and one on the way.   Anxiety attacks were hitting hard every time I went out the door, and I was hardly able to function.

At the right moment, the Lord flung open a door for inner healing ministry, and led me down a path of opening up the memories of what had happened to me, very slowly and steadily peeling back layer after layer of woundedness.   There are many ministries out there who now do this. There is no redeeming value of going to a memory just for the sake of digging up the past. That can be extremely damaging and retraumatizing. For many people, the brain though will begin to throw up pieces of trauma through flashbacks, in an effort to call out for help. For me, though, each time I remembered something, it was led by the Holy Spirit, and then I would see an image of the True Lord Jesus come into the memory with me.   When He did, He would change it for me, bringing peace, truth, love, forgiveness, etc.   He never left me hanging and always brought peace to the piece of the puzzle He would show me. Many times right after I’d leave the session, another issue would arise. It has been an extremely long and painful process for me, but that is because of the depth of abuse I suffered through. Many times, I’ve complained to God about the process, “Why did You lead me that way?”  “Why was it so painful?” Each time, He has reassured me that for me, I needed to know my story, and truly it was through that process I began to understand who He really is and that He is love. He has literally untwisted so many lies about myself, about who He is, and even about the abusers. These lies, vows, and judgements had been deeply branded in my psyche. He is the Truth, and He applied Himself directly to the places where the wounds were. Scriptures resounds now from my inner heart, because now His truth is imbedded there, instead of the lies.

This past year, I’ve been on a different journey with Him, for He has sped things up a lot. Now, He is dealing with whole structures in my heart, instead of little parts and pieces of memories tucked here and there.   He is taking down the full structures, the full strongholds that the enemy had firmly put in place through intentional, methodical abuse, and making me whole in ways I didn’t even know He could. But it is still a process of healing. Many days, I still face the thoughts of I’m not a safe person for others to be around, or the lie that I will suddenly drop over dead. When those things come, I see images of bad things happening, instead of having bad thoughts most of the time, and when I do, I still moment by moment take them to Jesus and ask Him to speak the truth to me about it. He always does, and I go on with my day. Some days, I’m tired, and just want to sleep. Other days, I find moments of joy, excitement over something in the future, or a feeling of being loved. Joy. Excitement.   Love! I actually have times I feel those now!

Some days I feel lonely, that no can relate to the things I’ve had to face. I get irate when people choose to get hung up on petty differences and won’t forgive. I sadden when people’s voices are not heard, ignored, misunderstood.   So many are just crying out for help in the only way they know how, but often times, instead of being validated, valued, and heard, they become liabilities to the religious system, a cog in the smooth functioning machine. Instead of seen as team players or family members, they are now segregated, marginalized, and systematically removed from the team. Too many times, the institutionalized church has a horrible track record of getting rid of the least of these who would challenge or slow down the agenda. Jesus always had time for the broken. In fact, He often changed course, went a different direction, just so that He could touch one person, heal one broken heart, go after one lost sheep, call one prodigal home. He is the healer of the broken hearted after all. Sometimes, that is a heart broken in two, and sometimes it is intentionally shattered into a thousand pieces. Either way, He knows how to heal, love, and bring truth to the those who need it most.

Even though many of my friends can’t really relate to where I’ve had to walk, some try to understand, and for that I am truly grateful.   Many survivors, though, don’t have anyone who can relate, or will try to understand. Many have the church turn their back on them when they hit bottom, and need a hand up. Maybe it’s because it makes the leadership feel insecure, because they don’t know how to help. I don’t know. Many of us do wrong things out of fear. Actually, I’ve had this happen to me when I was at one of my lowest points, and it hurt deeply. Thankfully, though, I had my husband who chose to stay and support me through the worst, because somehow, he loved the wrecked mess I was at the time, and I have had a handful of friends who chose to love me despite all the pain of what I was going through. That gift was and is immeasurable, for it was the gift of being seen and heard for who I really am, fears, failures, and all.

I recall two such friends who trapped me between them in a movie theatre, because the Holy Spirit had told me to watch the movie, The Shack. I thought multiple times I was going to die while watching that movie, but one held my sweaty hand the whole time through it, and the other blocked my escape route, and then wept with me in her truck, afterwards as I sat and processed. Another friend brought me home cooked food and took care of my children when I was too weak to walk to the bathroom unaided, and then when I was ready a few years later, let me meticulously retell the horrors of my story through snot and trembling, simply because I needed to see with my own eyes someone would listen and not turn away; especially, when you are told that you will die, if you ever tell anyone what happened to you.   I didn’t die. And she is still one of my closest friends to this day.

So, for those who have dared to read this, please know, if you relate, you aren’t alone. There are people who understand what you are going through. The enemy is the same. The lies are all similar. The pain is very real. But there really is a healer whose name is Jesus, and He’s really, really good at healing broken hearts, how ever He chooses to do it.

For those, who haven’t had to walk through such extreme pain and really can’t relate, just listen to those hurting around you. Don’t judge their healing journey. Be like Jesus and love the least of these. When you have, you have loved Him. You don’t have to have the answers. Just get them to the True Lord Jesus who does. Maybe it means swapping snot in the cab of a pick-up truck.

I leave you with this story from Luke 10 TPT. We should be known by our love for one another if Jesus lives in us. May this be a positive challenge for all of us to reach out to the one who is hurting and not just walk by on the opposite side of the road.

Loving God, Loving Others

25 Just then a religious scholar stood before Jesus in order to test his doctrines. He posed this question: “Teacher, what requirement must I fulfill if I want to live forever in heaven?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does Moses teach us? What do you read in the Law?”

27 The religious scholar answered, “It states, ‘You must love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy, and your every thought. And you must love your neighbor as well as you love yourself.’”

28 Jesus said, “That is correct. Now go and do exactly that and you will live.”

29 Wanting to justify himself, he questioned Jesus further, saying, “What do you mean by ‘my neighbor’?”

30 Jesus replied, “Listen and I will tell you. There was once a Jewish[k] man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when bandits robbed him along the way. They beat him severely, stripped him naked, and left him half dead.

31 “Soon, a Jewish priest walking down the same road came upon the wounded man. Seeing him from a distance, the priest crossed to the other side of the road and walked right past him, not turning to help him one bit.

32 “Later, a religious man, a Levite,[l] came walking down the same road and likewise crossed to the other side to pass by the wounded man without stopping to help him.

33 “Finally, another man, a Samaritan,[m] came upon the bleeding man and was moved with tender compassion for him. 34 He stooped down and gave him first aid, pouring olive oil on his wounds, disinfecting them with wine, and bandaging them to stop the bleeding. Lifting him up, he placed him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn. Then he took him from his donkey and carried him to a room for the night. 35 The next morning he took his own money from his wallet and gave it to the innkeeper with these words: ‘Take care of him until I come back from my journey. If it costs more than this, I will repay you when I return.’[n] 36 So, now, tell me, which one of the three men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?”

37 The religious scholar responded, “The one who demonstrated kindness and mercy.”

 

 

Unexpected Journey

I’ve often heard, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.” In my younger years, I dreamed of where I would be when I was 40 years old, and now I’m rapidly approaching 50. Like most people, I have put a lot of emphasis on the destination, and obviously, I want to finish well. How many conversations have I had with my girls of “What will you be when you grow up?”  Too many too count, I’m sure.

So far in my life, nothing has really turned out like I expected. Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Once, I sat in front of a former pastor, when he asked me, “What’s your purpose in teaching here?” I struggled to answer, because I just taught to have something to do to get me to whatever that grand purpose for my life was. Granted, I felt inspired in the classroom at times, and I loved the kids, but it wasn’t “the dream” I was looking for.

My pastor pulled a piece of paper out of his office desk, placed it on the table, and drew two dots, point A and point B. “To get from point A to point B, you would think you would draw a straight line like this.” Picking up a pen, he made the horizonal line across the paper connecting each point. “But this is the way God takes people.” Continuing to draw, he now penned a long, curvy line creating somewhat of a circular pattern, connecting the two dots. “You think life is going to be a straight line from point A to point B, but that’s not how God does things. He takes you on a journey, that may seem like it will never end, but it is the journey that teaches you what you need to know, to be able to thrive at point B.”

That may have been some of the best advice I’ve gotten, for almost thirty years later, there are things I’m just now beginning to see take place in my life, that I thought would have happened twenty years ago. Without that gem of knowledge, I would not have valued all of the journey, but instead would have been frustrated in how long things were taking or maybe even had become disheartened, believing I would never see point B.

There have been many times I’ve fallen into a hopeless place, wondering when, if ever, point B would come into view. (Whatever point B was anyway?) Thankfully, now, I’m beginning to see my journey through different perspectives, and continuing to learn to value all the experiences along the way.

One such example is my journey with organized church, which has been a huge influence and been part of our lives since birth, considering we’ve always been members of a church somewhere. Three weeks ago, we began a new journey, by stepping out of a church we’ve been involved in for almost three decades. That’s a long time, I know. I don’t ever remember a time in my life of not having a “church home”. It’s really odd for me to even think about, but this new path is challenging me on some belief systems that I’ve had, that I didn’t even realize where there or that they were an issue.

One paradigm shift for me is that I have always been taught I must have the spiritual covering of a local body or else something bad would happen: I would be out from the protective umbrella of God’s ordained authority; therefore, the enemy could wreak havoc on my life.

Please understand that I think it’s great to be involved in a local church, but not for some supernatural spiritual protective umbrella. It’s important to have a place to serve others, love others, have some accountability, and grow in community. And just for those who may wonder, we do have a circle of friends and family to which we have and will continue to be accountable to, so we havent rebelliously or with any bad feelings left “church” to go on out on our own, but we are being led down a different path.

For me, having come from a childhood of twisted, abusive authority in my home and in the church, then through an adulthood of witnessing other types of church abuse, to now walking in a place where we are simply going every day where we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us, it feels like a mixture of freedom and fear. Freedom, because I absolutely love God being my covering as He should be and not being “under” or “beneath” another man as my go between. Fear, because I have a life time of thinking I had to have this perpetual umbrella over me or else.

Over the course of the last two years, my whole paradigm of what “the church” is supposed to look like has been changing. I love being cared for, protected, loved by those in authority over me. I know that local churches have to have structure to keep the ship running, and there is value in that for everyone. According to the Bible in Eph. 4:11-14, pastors, teachers, evangelist, etc. are ministry functions that people operate in with the purpose of bringing the Body into maturity. They are just a different part of the Body meant to build it up, like a heart pumping blood to supply life or the brain sending electrical messages, so that we can think, feel, and move. They aren’t any more valuable, than the one cleaning toilets. In fact, how long would a church last without clean toilets?

A few weeks ago, I sat in a group of believers who had been badly wounded by church leadership. Many had walked away from abusive relationships, and in desperation sought help from their church leaders, only to be either sent back into abuse, and/or if they didn’t obey the authority, were subsequently, rejected from the local church body. I’ve heard this story over and over again, regardless of denomination, and seen it play out in my own life growing up. The amazing thing about this group though was that they weren’t lashing out, but instead were offering forgiveness, hope, and understanding. They were being “the church”, loving God and each other well, but also being brave and voicing issues that need to be addressed.

The church was never supposed to be set up like a governmental system. Yet, so often it is set up in that way, which can lead to problems. We are supposed to be a body, a bride, a family, not a business or an enterprise. We were supposed to have Jesus as our head, not the pastor, though pastors have important roles to play in helping others be cared for, being the hands and feet of Jesus. Yahweh, though is our covering. We hide under His wings, running to Him as our strong tower. From what I understand now, it’s idolatry to look to a man for that. And yet, because this has been so ingrained in me, I find myself nervous, wondering if God is going to be enough. He is of course more than enough!

A couple of weeks ago, we ventured to small congregation in a depressed, rural area. We’ve met the pastor there several times through a mutual friend, and love his huge, welcoming heart for people. An old, dead Presbyterian Church now houses hungry worshippers of Jesus. We were greeted with a hearty hug, which warmed my heart. Everyone took their seats in the worn-down pews. Sunlight streamed through a stained-glass window portraying Jesus as the Good Shepherd to my right. During the worship set, their sound system completely tanked, but those leading the worship never missed a beat leading everyone to sing all the louder their praise. As the pastor began his sermon, he said, “I wasn’t planning on talking about this, but let this be an illustration to you all. We can have the best sound system, lights, building, but one day this will all burn.” He threw his arms out in dramatic gesture. “What matters is the kingdom of God, us, the true church. We are the Church. That’s what matters.” The next day, the Notre Dame Cathedral caught on fire. An image I saw on the internet summed it up, for burnt wreckage lay all around, but the cross stood rising up out of the ashes. Though I know it was an immeasurable loss, the timing caught my attention. Man-made structures of church will burn one day, but Jesus’s redemption bought on the cross with His blood will remain, and how well we have loved Him and others, building His true Kingdom will last.

On Good Friday, we gathered with believers in remembrance of what Jesus paid for us. I was delighted, because every day, normal people got up and shared something that God had showed them about the final words of Jesus. Each person’s presentation was a unique, precious sharing of what the scripture meant to them. It was one the most beautiful experiences I’ve had. Someone organized the event, of course, but there was no governmental, “I’m the head, this is the tiered leadership, and you are the congregation at the bottom.” It was just a room filled with lovers of Jesus who cared for each other and wanted to worship their King.

In contrast, Easter Sunday, we sat in an Episcopal Church with family. As we sang traditional hymns and the orchestra behind us played, the sweet presence of the Lord wove through the air like incense. I imagined what the heavenly temple must be like, celebration like none we’ve ever known, with one day His spotless Bride united fully to Him. It was the presence of Jesus that made the difference. No matter if we worship in a pew, or are in our living room with friends, we are the body of Christ, and HE is present when we yield to Him.

Where will we end up next? I don’t have a clue. Will we ever land in another local church building? I expect we will at some point. But I’m learning more of what it means that we are the “church”. We are the living “temple” where God meets with us. I’m loving the process of discovering what being the “church”, outside of the four walls, looks like.

This journey has only begun for us, but I look forward to unexpected, new experiences, on which I will learn many valuable things about myself; hopefully, ridding myself of old mindsets that have been toxic, and embracing newfound truths more fully. I’m not even sure what the destination looks like. The journey is much different than I expected, but I can trust the One leading me. He is faithful and true.

Stinkin’ Feet

Traffic zipped behind my friend, as we slurped down our icy, Sonic slushies.  I tossed a golden tater tot in my mouth, as she explained, “Yesterday, after work, I did something I thought I’d never do.”   

I grabbed another warm tot, dipped it in ketchup, as I politely countered, “And what was that?”

“I washed Lisa’s feet.”

“What?  Why?”  Stunned, I stumbled over my words, as she continued to share her heart’s desire to humble herself and serve our boss at work.  Well, there are two people I would never wash the feet of.  The second I thought it, my gut ached from the punch.  Oh crap.  Do I have to, Lord?

The temperature hovered in the 90’s, as I led our summer program for the school where I taught.  A large, metal bowl of cool water and a small, white towel were hidden in an empty classroom close to the entrance door. Nervously, I waited for the first person whom I had so quickly and easily judged as un-washable to come to pick up her child.  An extremely large woman, in Goodwill hand me downs, overbearing and irritating, a single mom living on food stamps day to day, this was the woman I awaited.  She swung the door wide open.  For a second, with thoughts of retreat, I stepped back, but then pushed forward and extended my hand.

“I need you to come with me please.”  Her normally chattering lips pressed tight, as her eye brows arched into an inquiry.  “It’s OK.  Nothing’s wrong.  I just need you to step in here for a few minutes, before getting your daughter.”  I slowly opened the door, and invited her into the empty classroom.

“What’s this about?”  She stuttered as her eyes widened at the sight of the single chair, bowl, and towel.

“I need to show you how much the Father loves you,” I simply stated.  As she removed her worn sneakers and sweaty socks, I gently caressed each foot separately, pouring the refreshing water over her red, swollen ankle, and then patted each foot dry.

“God loves you, my friend.  He loves your daughter.  He sees what you are going through.  He cares about you.”  Over and over my words poured over her blessing, healing.  She wept.   Her tears and snot ran together as I handed her a tissue.

After I finished, she hugged me.  “Thank you.  No one has ever done anything like that for me before.”

My task was not yet complete that day.  I knew my co-worker would arrive any minute to pick up her paycheck, so I quickly cleaned up things, put out a fresh towel, and refilled the bowl.  I dreaded the next encounter more than the first, for inwardly I detested this woman’s attitude.

Multiple times the past school year, she had burst into the sanctuary of my classroom after hours to complain about how I treated her son.  She manipulated.  She controlled.  She threatened.  She made my life miserable that year.  I hate confrontation, yet she pushed me into it often.

I’ll be with you.  The small voice whispered inside.

But Lord, she may use this against me.  I countered.

Trust me.  Just trust me.  I took a deep breath as she bulldozed through the glass entry in a flurry of rush.  Reluctantly, I again offered my hand, and a gesture towards the classroom door.

“I need to do something.”  As I said the words, she began to protest, but curiosity won over.  She entered the room and sat down.  Bewilderment crept over her face.  “God asked me to wash your feet.  Please let me do this.”

“Oh, my little foot washer.”  she teased, as I cringed.  But then, she relented.

“You don’t feel like anyone here values you, but you are extremely valuable.  You think no one sees your pain and loss over your husband, all the time and energy you have put into caring for him and your children, but God sees.  He loves you and He cares.”  Again, I poured the water over her feet, and gently washed each one.

She just sat there, motionless, staring at me.  Quickly, she hugged me as we parted, simply whispering, “Thank you.”

That next year, she was honored “Teacher of the Year” and became a friend.  No one else ever knew about the foot washing that so cleansed me of my judgmental crud.    

I’ve heard it said recently, “Obedience has to look like something.” Yes. Yes.  It does. Obedience must look a lot like love. A lot like Jesus. It’s a lot like laying down your right to be right.  It’s a lot like picking up your cross and following Him. It’s a lot like losing your life to find life in Him. It’s a lot like 1 Corinthians 13, “the Love Chapter.”

If obedience doesn’t look like love, then we may be obeying the wrong spirit.  1 John 4 (TPT) explains this perfectly.  You test the spirits by this, 1 John 4:7-8 :“Those who are loved by God, let His love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love.  Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of Him.  The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love…v.10-11: This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins. Delightfully loved ones, if He loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life.”   

In verse 20, it goes on to say that “Anyone can say, ‘I love God,’ yet have hatred toward another believer.  This makes him a phony, because if you don’t love your brother or sister, whom you can see, how can you truly love God, whom you can’t see?  For He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also demonstrate love to others.”

My dear friends, if our obedience doesn’t start and end with what Jesus said was the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind.  And the second is this, Love your neighbor as yourself,” then we need to question our heart.  Who are we obeying after all?

It’s time to pick up our towels and wash some stinkin’ feet.

A Masterpiece

Some might call me an artist, though I’ve had no formal training. One healing, happy place for me is when I dip my brush into all these vibrantly, different colors. With the fresh paint on the tip, I push the brush to the canvas creating lines, patterns, and shades, until a form emerges, and the picture begins to make sense.

One of my favorite Greenville artists is the late, Guy Stevens. During an art festival, I poked my head into various studios in a downtown strip of shops next to the Reedy River. People sauntered in and out of the artists’ havens at leisure. The last shop in the row was the one I looked forward to the most. As I peered in, the bright, colorful, busy landscapes that I loved met me. Mr. Stevenson sat on his stool, brush in hand, smiling as he joyfully laid in his next stroke. Leaving the grasp of his mother’s hand, a child shoved his way in behind me. A hint of pleasure shimmered in Mr. Stevens’ eyes.

“Young man,” he said. “Would you like to come paint with me?” he paused. “If it’s alright with your parents of course?”

The child eagerly glanced up at his mom, whose nod was all he needed. He quickly grabbed the stool next the Mr. Stevens and began his additions to the masterpiece. Beaming with pleasure, Mr. Stevens sat beside him offering suggestions and praise.

As a crowd continued to gather around filling his tight studio space, Mr. Stevens explained. “All my artwork has the art of children worked into every piece. There are no mistakes in creating art. Everything works together to create a beautifully crafted piece of art. It’s what gives it character and makes it fun.”

Unity is not conformity. But I think many times, that’s what it is demanded. We say we want diversity, but when it comes down to it, I often see people wanting “yes men”, someone who will just agree with them, and not challenge them. Many seem to define unity in this way.

What does unity look like? Well, to me it looks like one of those beautifully painted pictures. There is lots of love, gentleness, kindness, patience, working with each other, encouraging one another, forgiving faults, graciousness, and humility. All these things woven together create an intricate masterpiece of unity.

In marriage, the times I feel most unified with my husband are when he is compassionate towards me, when he takes the low road and asks forgiveness first, when we are having to fight a common enemy, but we do it together in serving one another, loving each other well. Vulnerability and humility plays a key role in this. When we begin to demand that one of us is right and the other wrong, we are headed for some heartache. Neither of us are the big shots, demanding the other do what we say or “Hit the road, Jack,”

Unity is created by trust, vulnerability, and mutual respect, which is earned. It’s a by-product of those things. To throw someone under the bus because they offer a different color, stroke, perspective, or even correction, like “I think it might look better if we paint the tree like this,” is the act of immaturity in my opinion. Yet we do it to one another all the time, and say “Well, they weren’t a team player, so they just needed to be off the team.”

From my perspective, not only do you create another line of rejected, wounded people, but you also shoot yourself in the foot, because you miss out on the treasure in that person waiting to be released through compassion and encouragement.

If we are no longer orphans in the house of God, why do so many houses put the children out in the street again, because there is disagreement?

Sure. I understand that at some point, sin issues may need to be dealt with and in rare cases separation must happen, but that should be rare.

Instead, I believe we have revolving door churches, because we don’t know how to love each other well. We carry our agendas, and if you don’t support that, then move to a different house. That’s not a family. This is not what unity is built on. That is what worldly systems might look like, but not the body of Christ.

Jesus is coming back for one unified, glorious bride. But unity looks like something. It looks like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All different functions, yet working together perfectly. Perfect uniqueness. Perfect submission. Perfect love. Perfect unity.

Come, pick up your brush, choose your color, and let’s create a masterpiece together.

A New Name

Recently, a woman approached me in our church lobby in a secretive manner. “Psst. I know you write under the name Charismata. I’m sure you do that to give the glory to God and not yourself.” Chuckling to myself I thought, “I wish it were for such a holy reason.”I looked this woman in the eyes, smiled, and just shook my head. “Um. Not exactly. It’s an act of obedience. God told me to write under that name, because it’s a name He gave me. It’s more about identity, than me being so holy as to do that.”

Years ago at a women’s event, the speaker challenged us to go home and ask God what His name for us was. Reluctantly, I tried the experiment and heard, “I call you Charismata.”

My initial reaction was actually fear, intimidation, distress. I actually hated the name, and I wrestled with Him over it for weeks.

“Why?” you may ask? Well, I was terrified at the thought of power, because I was very afraid that if I was powerful, then I would hurt someone.

I looked up the meaning of the word. It had everything to do with having power and influence over people. Later, I found another meaning, that said the power of grace. That made me feel somewhat better.

So, why so afraid of power? Well, quite honestly, I grew up powerless, around those who would dominate me, in attempts to control and manipulate, and I saw what “powerful” people could do. Having power meant that I could destroy myself or other people’s lives. It was safer to remain powerless; better that, than become like those around me. My life revolved around playing it safe, erecting walls of protection, not just to protect myself from others, but to protect others from what I could potentially envision myself becoming: the Dr. Jeckle/ Mr. Hide.

So, when Abba called me “Charismata”, it was loaded with rounds of love ammo aimed at all those lies deeply embedded in my heart.

When He asked me to write under that name, He was saying, “ Sweetie, it’s OK to be powerful in me, in my grace. You are my daughter, and you will use power to help people.”

Power should be used to help others, not hurt them, to lift others up, not tear them down, to give others a voice, not silence them. Empowerment is to empower others. It is to stand for the widows and children, for the survivors, for the broken hearted, those who can’t stand for themselves.

When leadership or persons in power strip you of your voice, making you feel like you should just remain silent, condemning or devaluing you, you are standing in the face of the demonic, for that is a work of the enemy. I am not saying the person is a demon, but there is an agreement with darkness.

I recently read that if we are standing on the edge of the cliff of the world, then if we stumble we may indeed fall off the cliff. But if we are standing in Jesus far away from the edge, then if we stumble, we fall into Him. In other words, you don’t just wake up one morning, and abuse your kids. It’s a series of steps towards the edge of a cliff that if you continue, will lead you over the edge. I choose to stand on and in Jesus Christ. He is my keeper.

Through the years, Charismata has become a term of endearment to me, a name that, when He calls me by, I smile.

I still deal with the lies from time to time of “What if you lose it?” or thought-flashes of becoming an abuser. But I know that’s not who I am. He loves me, and He calls me by a new name, an intimate name, a name that brings joy when I hear Him say it over me.

What’s He calling you my dear friend? It may surprise you.

Proof of Love

“How do you hear God so well?” or some version of that, is a question I often hear people ask me.  My usual answer is something like, “Well, God and I have walked together through hell and back, so I learned out of desperation to hear His voice.”

I remember one such time with Jesus. In a type of prayer ministry I have received, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I was taken back to a horrific memory, and was desperately trying to visualize Jesus in that place with me. At first, the man I thought was Jesus, when he approached me, was vile with evil lurking in his eyes.

Quickly, I asked for the true Lord Jesus to come. He did. The precious lover of my soul walked into my hell, and bent down in front of a little, terrified girl, who was me. Holding out His scarred hands where I could see, He said, “Daughter, see my scars. This is always proof of my love for you. Always look for the scars, and that way you’ll always know it’s really me, for my love never takes from you. It always gives. It doesn’t rape you. It protects you. It always sacrifices for you. It doesn’t demand a sacrifice of you.” I remember the love that flowed from His heart to mine. I will never forget that moment.

Love is to be experienced, and that experience of receiving the truth of who He really is began to unravel a web of lies that had held me deeply captive.

So, my intimacy with God, who I now can call my Papa, my Father, developed by Him loving me back to life, by the many times He has spoken what He thinks of me over and over again, by my experiences with Him. He is love. But His love is also jealous.

In worship, recently, the Holy Spirit jolted me. I felt like He said, “My children choose masturbation over the real thing.” Well, honestly, that shocked me, but I have learned to lean into the voice and ask for understanding, rather than dismiss it.

In a marriage, obviously, the most intimate time is sexual intercourse. Many times though, lovers chose an imitation to the real thing like masturbation and/or pornography, because it’s something they can control and manipulate, satisfying the flesh without exposing their heart.
In the intimacy of the marriage bed, flesh to flesh, heart to heart, we can’t hide. Our imperfections are exposed. We are also vulnerable, which should be a beautiful thing; skin to skin.

God awakens us to His love. Jealous for our affection, for our naked heart, He will not settle for an imitation, instead of the real thing.

He is done with His bride running to everyone else for what they should be getting from Him. He is drawing His bride into His intimate love. He’s jealous for us. Nothing can substitute for the real thing.

Sometimes we want a facebook kind of love or relationship, instead of a face to face, heart to heart friendship with God. What I mean by that is we tend to only put our best foot forward. We only show people what we think they want to see. We don’t show who we really are. It’s a psuedo friendship. Could you imagine only relating to your spouse through social media? For many of us, that’s our comfort level with God.

I’ve been really talented at running and hiding, because I thought in the exposing of my heart, I would be disappointed, or expose something ugly in me that I didn’t want to face.

I’ve walked through at lot of hurt, a lot of broken promises. People disappoint all the time. In fact, I almost cringe when someone says I’ll always be there for you, or we are forever family. I know the intentions are good, but honestly, I’ve found that’s usually the point the commitment to friendship is tested and many have walked away from relationship.
I think many do the same thing with God. As long as He is able to be controlled, and we can have Him on our terms, then we are good, but if He asks us to obey Him in the hard time, well, some walk away.

I can hear Jesus asking His disciples, “Will you leave me was well?” after all the crowd left offended and only the twelve were still there.

If your love is infatuation, it’s not really love. 1 Cor. 13 talks about what real love is. Love is patient. Love is kind. It doesn’t envy. It doesn’t boast. It’s not proud or rude. It’s not self seeking. It’s not easily angered and keeps no record of wrong. It always trusts, always hopes, never gives up. It never fails.”

So, intimacy and my ability to hear Him are all tied up together in a loving relationship with Him. Because I have experienced His true love and grace, even in the worst places, it has opened my heart to want to respond to Him, to want to obey Him. It’s not based on performance, but on relationship. I love Him, because He first loved me! I hear His voice, because we are face to face, breath to breath.

Do I still struggle with fear? Yes. Do I still get tripped up with lies? Yes. But I run to Him, not away from Him, because I know that He will respond to me out of perfect love.

In perfect love, there is no fear of punishment. God is love. His love is jealous for us, for our devotion to Him. He is relentless in His loving pursuit of our hearts. And He won’t take a fake, shallow love for the real thing.

Hangry!

“Don’t drive hangry!” “Please forgive me for the things I said when I was hangry.” “Maybe I’m hangry or maybe everyone really is this irritating!”

H-anger is real! As proof of this statement, yesterday morning I found “H-anger” in the Bible!  No really.

I was in Isaiah…ISAIAH of all places…and found this gem: Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness. (Isaiah 8:20-22 NLT)

See! I told you! “And because they are hungry they will rage and curse their king and their God…wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair.” SEE! Like many recent scientific discoveries, this one too is already a known truth in the Bible and spoken about by God. H-anger is real and the world is in a tizzy because they are starving for God’s Word!

So where da food at!?

That is where our Royal Priesthood comes in. Us, believers, the Body of Christ. We are the caterers for this party. We are the problem solvers. We are the honey that refreshes!

Check out  Malachi 2:5-7 (NLT) “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin. The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (emphasis mine)

As I said, the hangry world is in a tizzy, they have “trouble, anguish and despair.” As priests, we, have “life and peace.”

The hangry world “rages and curses their King and God”;  as priests, we demonstrate reverence and awe of His name. (Aside, if you’re not sure He will take them back after this rebellion, check out Psalm 107).

The hangry are “weary and hungry.” We priests have truth, good instruction and intimate knowledge of God; sweet and soothing food with which to satisfy the hunger of the people.

im hungry.jpg

They are hungry to be filled with the truth; that God sees them as beloved sons and daughters. They are starving to know that He has already taken care of the sin problem that separated them from Him and He is holding His arms out to them to receive them in an everlasting hug!

We priests are to deliver the Bread of Life to the people, the sustaining truth that He will fulfill their every need. He won’t leave them, but He will help them to grow up, stand up as mature sons and daughters who are warriors who battle from victory.

They should hear from our lips that He sees them as royal sons and daughters who are co-heirs with their brother Jesus, who are to rule and reign on the earth in the authority He has purchased for them. This is the pleasant duty set before us priests by the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Did you notice that last bit? Our pleasant duty of bringing the truth and the intimate knowledge of God to His people is mandated to us, not by El Shaddai, (God Almighty) nor by Immanuel, (God With Us) nor by any other name, but instead our mandate comes from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Our role as priests who bring life and peace, truth and intimacy, reverence and awe of God, is a military role. We are a demonstration of the art of spiritual warfare.  Our warfare is not of this world, but powerful! (2 Cor 10:4)

Did you know all those complicated old testament duties that the priests performed were always about ridding God’s people of guilt and shame and the curses that came with sin?

As new covenant priests, we bring life and peace by assuring people that Jesus has done it all for them already and they need only turn from their own way and receive from Him.

We are privileged as priests to be with God in the intimacy of the Holy of Holies, which, by the way, is now wherever we are because His Spirit dwells within us.

From that place of intimacy we bring this abiding Presence to the hangry people and the fruit of His Spirit spills out of us satisfying their hunger with life, peace, joy, rest from their weariness, perfect love, patience, gentleness… all the nourishment that they are STARVING to receive.

You know when you are hungry, the slightest whiff of food catches your attention. Well, we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved…(2 Cor 2:15 NIV)  So just be. If you have spent time receiving from Jesus, just be and His aroma will draw them.

We are table hosts leading the hangry to the feast.  We invite them saying, “Come to the table!  Every satisfying thing your heart desires is in Him, there is peace to fulfill every appetite. The mouth-watering Bread of Life is there in abundance. It belongs to you. Nothing will be held back from you. No need to go hungry. No need to be hangry. The royal table is set before you and you are welcome. Let’s feast together.”

The Upside Down Kingdom Pt. 2

Snuggling up in a fuzzy, fleece blanket on a cold, wintry day in front of a crackling fire is one of my happy places. Give me some instrumental worship and a cup of hot tea, and I’m off into heavenly realms somewhere. As a woman, I love the concept of someone covering me with love and protection like that blanket. Sometimes though, I struggle to feel protected even when the blanket is offered by one I know loves me, and occasionally, I may still think the one bringing the blanket is coming to smother me with it.

In my last blog, “The Upside Down Kingdom, Part One”, my goal was to show you that the Kingdom of God is perhaps set up a little differently than what most think of. Position does not equal spiritual authority, as it does in a worldly system. We established that an attitude of honor is always appropriate, and honor by definition is to be highly valued. It was also established that spiritual authority is given to those who humble themselves the most, and serve others well in love.

There is a belief system that has been a part of the religious system for a very long time. Honestly, I think it’s been present since the fall in the garden; the temptation for us to look to other things or people to take the place of the true God.

The basic belief system is this: “I need someone else to be my go between with God. I need a human’s protection. I need a human’s covering. I need someone to represent me to God.” In many cases, what we are really saying is this, “God, you’re not good enough. Give me someone to rule over me.”

When God called Israel out of Egypt, to the mountain to worship Him, He wanted a family. He wanted a priesthood. He wanted to be married to each one of them. He wanted a friendship with each one of them like He had with Moses. As they stood at the foot of the mountain and saw the awesomeness of God, they said, “Nope, we are good! We will listen to whatever you tell Moses, but please don’t make us come to you ourselves. We want a go-between.” I believe it broke God’s heart to be rejected, but He allowed Moses to be that man.

Afterwards, when the people decided they didn’t care for Moses’s leadership so much, they rebelliously came against God’s friend. It wasn’t just because of the position that Moses held as to why God punished those who came against him. Moses humbly walked with God as His best friend. They had been invited to have the same relationship with God, but refused it, and then came against God’s best friend with rebellion and pride in their hearts. I believe this is primarily why they were punished.

 

Later, in the time of the judges ruling Israel, the people came to a place where they wanted a king to rule over them as the other countries had. Samuel, the prophet, told them God wanted to be their one and only King, but again, the people wanted a man to represent them to God. Samuel warned them of the consequences, but they begged for a human king anyway. They wanted protection, covering, leadership. Instead of looking to the one and only King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they decided He wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted flesh and blood they could see, hear, and touch. This was repeated over and over again through out the Bible.

Even when Jesus came on the scene, the Messiah they were looking for was one who would overthrow the Roman government and be supreme ruler. When they realized that Jesus wasn’t making His move to the human throne, they went from one day hailing Him as king, to three days later hurling curses of “Crucify Him!”

 

If you look at the teachings of Jesus, I don’t ever see where the kingdom He described had a man as go-between. In fact, the religious leadership of his day who had positions of authority over the people, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were the only “groups” Jesus really ever went after. His words against them were well, let’s just say some strong medicine, for He called them, “white-washed tombs”, “Sons of Satan”, etc… He saw what was in their hearts, and He called them out on it. If it were wrong for Him to say something against a religious leader, then He would have been sinning against Himself. Can you envision Jesus going up to many “church leadership” today? What would He see in their hearts?

In addition, in the Hebrew culture, the “Rabbi” who was the teacher in the synagogue, would read from the Torah, and then begin a discussion on the passage by asking questions that were answered by the people. The exchanges back and forth were highly relational, highly engaging. It was not what we think of today in modern churches of “the man of God” up on the stage giving his message.  The Rabbis were teachers there to discuss, engage, and exchange their knowledge of Torah back and forth with their pupils.

Jesus most certainly honored the governmental leadership of His day. In fact, it made the Jews furious with Him, because He told them if someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek. If they take your cloak, give him your shirt. It was the Roman soldiers of his day, that would demand such things. So, he most likely was implying that if a Roman soldier takes your cloak, give him your shirt. Even so, He wasn’t saying look to the Romans to protect you, to cover you. He was saying love those who don’t deserve it. Give to those who don’t deserve it. This is true love.

The disciples many times thought through the worldly lens of leadership, because they fought over who would be the greatest in His kingdom. Two of them, even sent their mom, to ask Jesus if they could sit next to Him on thrones. Jesus, however, taught His disciples to lead a different way. If they wanted to be great in the kingdom they must become like a little child, humble themselves, and serve others.

Jesus’s very purpose in giving His life was so that Papa could get His kids back. When He died the temple curtain tore in two, to show that we all have access into the Holy of Holies, as priest. We are now His family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. He wants an intimate, bridal relationship with all His kids.

In the Jewish marriage ceremony, the bride was invited to meet her groom under the “chuppa” or a canopy.  It was here under this beautiful covering of the groom’s love that they exchanged their vows with one another.  This “chuppa” represents how we come under His canopy of protection, love, intimacy, and provision in a bridal relationship, because He is the only “Bridegroom”. We are His bride.  Can you imagine a bride demanding another’s covering other than her groom’s?  That would be adulterous.

 

In the early church, they lived by this model. The power of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all, as they were in unity. It wasn’t just poured on the “spiritual leader of the group”. The power and authority were poured out on all of them. The more they walked in friendship with God, in humility and servanthood, the more power and authority followed them.

 

Yes, there were elders, and yes, there was a council, but it was only to serve the needs of the body and to keep the gospel message pure. The council of Nicaea, where we get the church’s Nicaean Creed, was one such group. When the Holy Roman Catholic Church came into play, the church became modeled after a governmental structure, like Rome. At that point, you had a Caesar or a King, and you had the Pope. There were many fights over which position was more powerful throughout the ages, Pope or the King.  I believe this is where the idea of the pastor being the Head of Church came from. In Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 4:15, the Bible says Jesus is the only Head of the Church.

It was this same tendency that led to the idea that the common people needed a leader to represent them to God. That’s why the church leadership didn’t want the common people to be able to read the Bible. When the printing press became accessible, and the first Bible was printed, it changed the world, being the forerunner to the Great Reformation. Now, the common people could read the Bible for themselves, and were given the opportunity to have their own relationship with God outside of the walls of their parish.

This mindset is really tricky, because it comes in sneaky forms and keeps resurfacing in different terminology. When I was a kid, in a traditional Protestant church, questioning authority meant you were being rebellious and the devil would get you. The rules lists was long. Pick your list of rules from denomination to denomination.

Growing up, dancing, going to movies, and speaking in tongues would gain you a place in hell. After my mom remarried, we began going to a Pentecostal church where now if you didn’t speak in tongues, you were less than. At the Pentecostal College I attended, the rules changed by the year. One year, it was if our ankles weren’t covered, we were leading our brothers in Christ into sexual temptation. Another year, it was you are damned if you go to the movies, but they put cable in all the dorm rooms. What????

This doesn’t even take into account that as a child, I experienced the worst of the religious system has to offer in the form of extreme abuse. In that world, my father, who was a pastor, taught that if I didn’t fully submit to what the “authority” was telling me, I would suffer immense physical, mental, and emotional torture. A fear gospel deeply embedded in my heart. Some may think that’s the exception, but it is a story I’ve heard retold from many others.

Back in the 80’s, when I was new to Pentecostal churches, it looked like the “Shepherding movement”. Many pastors felt it was there duty to shepherd their flock, which in and of itself is a good thing, but it led to this same deception that the sheep where not able to be lead properly without their wise leadership. Many became obsessed with their “flock”, and became the sole answer for their “sheep”. If their sheep saw something in the shepherd’s leadership that was a flaw and tried to bring that to the light, or if they wanted to leave to go to another “flock”, then it went very badly for the “sheep”, usually ending in excommunication.

It continues to pop up today in the name of “spiritual covering”. The idea is that if I don’t have a local church’s “covering” or “my pastor’s blessing”, I am now out from under cover, in rebellion, and I’ll have a large ringed target with bull’s eye in the middle on my back for the enemy to shoot me down. In my opinion, this is a manipulative fear tactic, which has nothing to do with the fear of the Lord.

In addition to submitting my life to my husband, I have several mothers and fathers in the faith who I go to for spiritual counsel. All of these walk in a high level of love and submission to others, but not all of them have a traditional, local church leadership that they are “covered by”. I’ve watched their lives of service, and have seen them operating in great spiritual authority and power from the Lord. Why? Because they serve, love, and submit themselves mutually to the other believers. They aren’t rebellious, because Papa has led them to do “church” outside of the traditional church walls.

I’m not saying that I don’t submit myself to my leadership, whether in government, business, or church. But submitting, looks like honor. Honor means I listen and value what you have to say. Some examples would be obeying the laws of the land or not stealing from my employer, because I do my work as unto the Lord, not to a man.

In the body of Christ though, submission is always two ways. Honor is both ways. There is no where in scripture where I see a separation between the leadership and the congregation in the body of Christ. We mutually should pray for one another and cover each other in love, for love covers a multitude of sins. It’s a family, with our arms locked walking in unity together. There is leadership, of course, but the leadership is to bring direction.

In a sense, my husband should represent the covering of Jesus, because the husband in the relationship of family is supposed to represent how Jesus loves, covers, and cares for the bride. In fact, I love it when my husband represents Jesus well, and I love to submitting to his leadership. There are times that he makes mistakes, and is human. That doesn’t negate me honoring him, but I may have to share some truth in love. We are in covenant with each other. He doesn’t kick me out if I mess up, and I don’t up leave when he is less than Jesus. We work this thing out together, mutually, in a covenant relationship. Many times in the church, sadly, it’s not that way.

I love the pastors at our church, but they, like us all, are fallible humans. They can’t be my go-between between me and God. If they are, they become my mini-god. I love them. I honor them. I love it when they love and honor me. I love it when they care for me. But they were not meant to be my covering, or my protection. God alone is that. We were meant to be a family. When I put the leadership in that position in my heart, I believe, that it is idolatry.

In Psalms 91, the psalmist is talking about running to the covering and protection of the God of the universe alone, and it is God who covers us with His feathers, under His wings. He is my High Tower. I run to Him! The promise is if I dwell in His shelter, in the secret place of the most High, that I’ll be under His care, and His protection. It’s is from abiding in Him, where we receive that promise.

The body of Jesus Christ is a bride, a family, and a priesthood. We mutually cover one another in love. We serve each other, giving our lives for the sake of another’s well-being. The ones who align themselves with the heart of the Father, loving and giving their lives like Jesus did, will operate in the highest authority and power.

I think Romans 12 says it best, because it speaks to how we should live as the body of Christ. If we will do this chapter well, everything else will follow.

Romans 12 NAB

Sacrifice of Body and Mind. 1 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. 2Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Many Parts in One Body. 3 For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. 4 For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mutual Love. 9Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. 11Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.19Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”20Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

The Upside Down Kingdom -Pt 1

The kings and men of authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, claiming that they do it for the good of the people. They are obsessed with how others see them. But this is not your calling. You will lead by a different model. The greatest among you will live as one called to serve others without honor. The greatest honor and authority is reserved for the one who has a servant heart. The leaders who are served are the most important in your eyes, but in the kingdom, it is the servants who lead. Am I not here with you as one who serves you? Luke 22:25-27 TPT

Sleepily, I rubbed my eyes and with blurry vision glanced over at the clock. 3:00 AM again. I sighed. In my mind, I heard the faint whisper, “Luke 22:25”. Reluctantly, I fumble for my phone, tap the screen, and begin scrolling through my apps to find my Bible icon to search for the reference I’ve just heard, while trying not to wake my sleeping husband.

Born into a pastor’s home, I have grown up in church my whole life. Sometimes that’s been a positive thing, and sometimes not. Through the years, I’ve seen many leadership models, programs, and church structures come and go. Friends have questioned me again and again as to why I’ve stayed in the organized, corporate church for I’ve had every reason to walk away. In truth, I have, but “Papa” loves people. He loves His body, and He compels me to stay. I used to be afraid of being outside a local body, because I was raised in a fear-gospel that was far from being good news, but now I don’t stay out of fear. I stay, because I love Him, and I love people. It is family to me.

My paradigms about “organized church” have been shifting though. His kingdom is an upside down one. My three o’clock revelation was one such moment.

Cultural systems typically fall into a pyramid-like structure. Many people at the bottom that support the few or the one at the top. The top is commonly somehow “elite”, “set apart”, and in many cases “untouchable”. Think “Pharoah”.

People also tend to want to put leaders on pedestals. Throughout all of history, this is the model that government, business, and even most of the time, “church”, has fallen under. Many times we look to the “man of God” to solve our problems, to be our “priest” between God and us. It’s more comfortable to send someone else to go on our behalf to the mountain of God than to go ourselves, because it doesn’t require much of us. Unfortunately, this fosters a welfare mentality, even in the church.

Every structure will have some resemblance to the pyramid model. We function best in a social environments with leaders. Cultural systems through out all history have some form of leadership. Even when the system was nomadic, there would be a clan or family head. The family unit is God’s idea, with the father at the head, then the mother beside him, and the children around them. Even God’s kingdom, is just that, it is a kingdom. He is the “King of Kings”. It’s not a democracy. It’s not a republic. It’s a monarchy.

There are aspects of the Kingdom of God though, that I think we should try looking at a little differently. Perhaps flipping that pyramid upside down would help us to have a better understanding.

The Jews in Jesus’s day were under the thumb of Caesar, a self proclaimed “god”. Generations before, the Jews had sought “a King” to rule over them, instead of choosing into the God of the universe being a King and them being “royal priests unto Him”. When Messiah appeared on the scene, they were looking for a dictatorship. They wanted a King, like King David, to come and rescue them from all their enemies. When Jesus came as a servant, they just had no way of wrap their minds around that concept. A servant King made no sense to them.

On a weekend excursion, my family found ourselves peering up at the most amazing tree I’ve think I’ve ever seen, the Angel Oak, the icon of Charleston. As I pondered it’s massive trunk, and hundreds of branches that reached out mangling in all directions, pushing outward, and upward like octopus arms weaving in and out, up and down grasping for sunlight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “This is like a family structure.”

I pondered what I felt He was saying. The trunk of the tree is at the bottom, supporting the branches with life giving flow. It serves the rest of the tree, by supporting it with it’s deep, deep root system, sucking life from the soil and stabilizing the massive body of the tree that rises above it. It’s the lowest to the ground, the most massive part of the tree, but not more important than the rest, though it is vital to the tree’s survival. It holds up the rest of the tree, so that the tree can flourish.

Jesus came to serve, to lay down His life for His children, so that He could win us back. The leadership model He leaves us with is very different than what we would expect. According to the verse from Luke holding a title in the church doesn’t equal authority in the kingdom of God.

We are to honor those whom God places in authority, absolutely. In fact, the word tells us to honor each other, to and love each other regardless of title, especially in the family of God. Honestly, we don’t really have a good grid for honor in our culture. Honor means I put extreme value on a person or thing. I treat it as precious.

There are times though that I’ve seen more spiritual authority operating in an unnoticed mama of babies who tirelessly serves her family or a forgotten elderly man who has spent countless hours on his knees in prayer, than in some church leadership. Why?

God doesn’t look at things the same way man does. He looks at the heart of the person, the way that person served others, laying down their lives for those around them. He gives authority to those who walk in humility, honor, love, who serve well, and forgive well. Authority doesn’t always look like a title or a position.

The offices of pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, and apostle were meant to serve the body until we all become mature enough to step into a priestly role in unity. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ. These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness into the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one into a perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed into the abundance of Christ. Ephesians 4:12–13 TPT

Have you ever read what a true apostle looked like? These are Paul’s word describing the office of apostle:  It seems to me that God has appointed us apostle to be at the end of the line. We are like those on display at the end of the procession, as doomed gladiators soon to be killed. We have become theatrical spectacle to all creation, both to people and to angels. We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are frail; you are powerful. You are celebrated; we are humiliated. If you could see us now, you’d find that we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated, and with no roof over our heads. We work hard, toiling with our own hands. When people abuse and insult us, we respond with a blessing, and when severally persecuted, we endure it with patience. When we are slandered incessantly, we always answer gently, ready to reconcile. Even now, in the world’s opinion, we are nothing but filth and the lowest scum. 1 Corinthians 4: 9-13 TPT In other words, I don’t think most of us would run for the office of “apostle”, if that’s what we thought it would be like.

Even the prophet, Samuel, when examining the sons of Jesse, thought surely he’d hit the jack pot with this fine line of robust young men, but God said no to them all. They summoned the ruddy, runt of the pack, the simple shepherd boy in from the field, and God said, “Yes. That’s my man.” He also proceeded to tell Samuel that He doesn’t look at man’s outward appearance like we do, but He looks at the heart. Most of the time, the girls of the family were the shepherds in Jewish culture, so David actually worked a lowly position in the eyes of his family. Some believe he was given the job, because he was a half-brother. Whatever the reason, he was not the favored son of his father by any means. But he was God’s favorite.

So, elders in the early church, what was their function? Well, initially, they were called to distribute money, food, etc. to help the poor, the elderly, the widows and children. Jesus said that undefiled religion is this, that you care for the orphans and the widows. Their function was to care for the body.

In 1 Corinthians 12 TPT, Paul talks about the parts of the body of Christ. He says, In fact, the weaker our parts, the more vital and essential they are. The parts we think are less honorable, we treat with greater respect. And the body parts that need to be covered in public we treat with propriety and clothe them… God has mingled the body parts together, giving greater honor to the ‘lesser’ members who lacked it. There is no hierarchy here. No line between the church leadership and the congregation.

He continues to talk about the spiritual gifts and offices, but at the end says that He will now show us a more excellent way.  In 1 Corinthians 13, he talks about that way. It’s the way of love. For all our prophecy, words of knowledge, titles, spiritual giftings, and positions will amount to nothing if we don’t have love. Agape love. In fact, many will stand before the King and have done many “good works”, but the “Righteous Judge” will say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

Leadership is valuable and needed, but maybe our view of the body needs to shift a bit. Spiritual authority is given to those who serve others the best with the right heart. If we will be like our blessed Savior, walking in the kind of love He did, we will be great in His kingdom. That matters to me far more than any title or position. We will be like the tree planted by the streams of living water, stable, full of life and vitality with deep roots and supporting many branches, helping others receive from the life giving Son, and bearing much fruit for the kingdom!