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The Crown: Visible Leadership & Invisible Government

Meditation on 1 Samuel 8 and 9.

A major turning point in Israel’s history was when they asked for a visible king like all the other nations: “Give us a king to lead us”. God took it personally. It was, in effect, a rejection of God’s invisible kingship over them (1 Samuel 8). Painful. Especially after God, as Israel’s Warrior-King, saved her out of 400 years of slavery by supernaturally defeating the gods of Egypt. After God continued to manifest his invisible kingship in many powerful visible ways.

This is fallen human nature. We want the crown. We want the gift we see more than the Giver we do not see. The security of materiality, the physical form of leadership more than God’s spiritual Ruling Reality – to which all earthly forms point. It’s easier to live by sight than by faith. Easier to have visible leaders like other nations than to live by trusting God and his Kingship over us. The former tends to idolatry of humanity, the latter is true worship of the true God. Idolatry costs us dearly.

Though rejected, God obliged Israel, warning her of the consequences of physical kingship – see the list in 1 Samuel 8:10-18. In short, kings want to be served (using people and resources), not to serve. Be careful of what you ask. God may give it to you!

So, Saul, the first king, is introduced as an “impressive young man without equal, a head taller than any others” (the ideal champion people wanted) and a wandering donkey wrangler searching for stray donkeys (1 Samuel 9). That symbolised Saul’s stubborn and disparate kingship over the rebellious people who asked for a king. Their lust for a king was such that “all the desire of Israel turned” to Saul (9:20). Whereas all their desire ought to be turned to God (Psalm 73:25).

In contrast, the second king, David, is introduced as “a man after God’s own heart” (desired God above all else) and a shepherd caring for his father’s flock (1 Samuel 16). David knew Yahweh as his shepherd who met his every need (Psalm 23:1f). That symbolised God’s shepherding of God’s own flock via human agency, pointing to God’s ideal, the future son of David, Son of God. David’s own kingship, however, fell far short of the reality it represented. And likewise, all the kings that followed. Until Messiah Jesus, the promised son of David, who was/is God’s ultimate answer to, “Give us a (physical) king like the other the nations.”

Jesus of Nazareth was not only the material model, but actual embodiment, of God’s invisible Person and Ruling Presence. Jesus inaugurated, taught and lived God’s Kingship on earth as it is in heaven, teaching his followers to be and do the same.

However, even Jesus had to wean his followers from dependence on his physical presence and leadership. Even that could become idolatrous! After Peter rightly identified Jesus as God’s King, he opposed Jesus’ talk of suffering and death. Messiah must live and conquer! Jesus rebuked Peter: “Get behind me, Satan, your human ideas and interests oppose God’s ideas and interests” (Matthew 16:16-23).

Therefore, first Jesus’ followers had to go through the deep disillusionment of their leader suffering and dying in weakness, unable (apparently) to save anyone, let alone Israel. Would this traumatic test, this inversion of “leadership”, throw them back onto God’s kingship in purified faith? Or would they turn to another physical king to meet their expectations? A golden calf to save them, to take them back to “the good old days”?

Secondly, before Jesus suffered and died, he carefully taught and prepared them to live under God’s direct invisible government by his indwelling Holy Spirit (e.g. John 14 to 16). The Spirit will be “another Parakletos”, not physically with them as Jesus had been, but spiritually in them, just as the invisible Spirit of his Father had indwelt Jesus, governing and guiding his every thought, word and deed… even to death… and resurrection.

Thirdly, after his bodily resurrection, Jesus weaned his followers from dependence on his physical presence by repeatedly appearing and disappearing over a period of 40 days. Then he ascended “out of sight” to be coronated as The King over the heavens and the earth, and to pour his Holy Spirit into them. They had to live by faith and not by sight.

Christ’s followers throughout the ages are called to live in this way under God’s invisible leadership by the indwelling Holy Spirit. To live out his heavenly Kingship as a model and witness to all nations of what it will be like when Messiah returns to set up his visible Kingdom: a wholistic spiritual-socio-political-economic-ecological reality of God’s Shalom. An ‘in-Spirited’ tactile reality transformed into the fullness of God’s glory, of which every created material form has always and only been but a shadow representation.

Sadly, however, Christians (let alone people in general) continue to lust for physical kings and leaders to champion their cause. We do not really trust Jesus’ Kingship over us and over secular powers. The result – the price we pay – is that Christians and large parts of the Church continue to be captured by the idolatry of leaders, blinded by the ideological powers working through them. We knowingly or unknowingly live out their corrupt rule.

We are thus more a copy of contemporary society than a model of God’s coming Kingdom. We are unable to think biblically – with Jesus’ worldview, beliefs, mindset, values and ethos – about socio-political-economic-ecological issues and cultural challenges. The issues and challenges that come and go in each generation evangelise and divide Christians and Churches way more than we evangelise and reconcile them. We are as polarised along party lines and divided by ideological powers as society in general.

To conclude, the above is not to discount or reject physical leadership. No, it’s to strip our need and desire for, and our exercise of human government from all idolatrous elements, by recovering a biblical theology and praxis of leadership. It’s the call to see Jesus’ Kingship. To renew our thinking. To recommit to genuine faith in God’s invisible leadership, as we follow Jesus’ way (ethics) of the Kingdom, yielding to the government of the Spirit guiding our every thought, word and deed. In short, to form the moral character fit for such leadership.

To the extent human agency models and imparts THAT biblical quality of leadership and governance, whether political, civil or spiritual, we receive it. To the extent it does not, followers of Jesus prophetically speak truth to power. Why? Because “Jesus is Lord”, not Caesar! That common proclamation in the Early Church meant Jesus is King and Judge over all – by virtue of his suffering servant leadership, vindicated in resurrection power, given all authority over the heavens and earth. Jesus will hold every leader (emperor, king, president, government, priest and pastor) accountable for their leadership and treatment of people. Shakespeare was right, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

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When we Presume on God – Ichabod

Reflecting on 1 Samuel 4 and following, I was struck by Israel’s presuming on God and what resulted. This story relates to what is going on in our world, and the response and role of God’s people, Jesus’ church.

When Israel lost the battle against the Philistines, they asked the right question, “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us?” (1 Sam 4:3)

BUT they did not wait to hear God’s answer. No self-reflection. No humility. 

Instead, the prideful presumption of declaration. “Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant” into battle “so that it may save us.” 

They took the visible symbol of God’s invisible Ruling Presence into battle, believing it would defeat their enemies. God was now definitely with them, on their side. Victory was assured!

BUT, the Invisible Reality, of which the material symbol spoke, was not there: “Ichabod” – “the glory has departed!” (1 Sam 4:21). God withdrew his presence, thus his power.

And they did not know it! God would NOT be presumed upon. God would NOT be used for their purpose. God would NOT be coerced into doing their will simply because they possessed the ark. So, the Philistines defeated them, again, and captured the ark. 

Therein lay Israel’s presumption: The ideology of the ark, which blinded them.

They trusted in the earthly symbol of rule, not in the heavenly Person and Presence that it represented. It’s the idolatry of what is seen, not the true worship of the true God. Human nature lusts for a visible king, a tall Saul as heroic leader to champion our cause. In so doing, in effect, we reject God’s invisible Kingship, which refuses to be used ‘on tap’ to fight our battles.

The ark was captured because it had ALREADY been captured by Israel’s ideological presumption. THAT offended God. THAT blinded them. THAT, unbeknown to them, is what emptied the outward form of its inner glory and power. THAT is Ichabod reality.

Reality is something we run into when we are wrong.

Only when Israel was defeated and the ark captured by the Philistines were their eyes opened to reality. BUT, they denied it. Refused to acknowledge it, to repent, to ask what they asked the first time round: “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us?” In contrast, the old priest, Eli, understood what it meant and fell backwards off his chair in utter shock of Ichabod. He broke his neck and died.

How blind are those who refuse to see! It took twenty years (1 Sam 7:2) for “all the people of Israel” to mourn and seek God for the return of his Presence. Yes, sadly, twenty years of desperation to come to humility and repentance! To face Ichabod reality.

Paradoxically, God’s presence ‘returned’ to the ark when the Philistines placed it in their temple. They only saw THAT reality by its effects: The next morning they found Dagon, their national god, face down on the floor before (in homage of) the ark.

They then located the ark in other places. But wherever it went The Presence manifested in defeat of the Philistine gods. Eventually, in desperation, they shipped the ark across the border! God’s victory, ironically, was not through his people, but apart from them, despite them, in rebuke of them! 

Therefore… what can we learn from this?

How do our declarations presume on God?

How does the Church (try to) use God for its own purposes? How do we ‘capture’ God in symbols of earthly power (’state-capture’) to fight our battles?

How does ideology/idolatry of power blind us? “Just bow down to me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth” (Luke 4:5-7). “What will it profit a person if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” (Matt 16:26).

How can we identify and be delivered from ideological blindness?

How do we honour, receive and live by God’s invisible Kingship more than reliance on heroic leadership in visible government?

How do we let GOD be God, and not play God?

How do we know when we’re operating in ‘ichabod’, a form of godliness emptied of its power? Will it take twenty years of suffering desperation before we face up to it?

How can we keep humility and integrity with God – true worship of the true God – so that our outward forms of godliness have the power of God’s indwelling presence, for which they were made and meant? 

Those who have ears to hear, hear what God’s Spirit is saying to Jesus’ church and world.

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Authority – Kingdom Leading in an Uncertain World

These notes are the basis of Alexander’s presentation to the Australian Vineyard National Leadership Conference, 30 October 2020. You can view the teaching: https://youtu.be/6J3YAorIjmI


Hello, my name is Alexander Venter, and I’m a recovering sinner-pastor.
My life’s work is to understand, live and teach the teachings of Jesus.
That, for me, is essentially learning to live a life of love, just as Jesus loved us.


My Prayer for you: (from Dallas Willard)

I pray that you will have a rich life of joy and power, abundant in supernatural results, with a constant and clear vision of never-ending life in God’s world before you, and of everlasting significance in your work day by day as servant leaders – a radiant life and a radiant death.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen!


My Text: Matthew 28:16-20  (my biblical quotes are from the NIV)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My focus is on the authority Jesus was given by the Father, and then given to his disciples, commissioning/authorising them to go and make apprentices of him from people of all nations. We are mandated in God’s co-mission (Missio Dei) to make disciples of Jesus, not of ourselves or our church. We can only make disciples of Jesus to the degree we ourselves are his apprentices – then God’s authority operates through us in real terms.

Therefore, leadership in God’s Kingdom, in Jesus’ effective authority, is largely determined by the degree of our personal apprenticeship to him. An apprentice is a person who commits to live with, to learn from, to become like their teacher/master. The Great Omission in the Great Commission – the elephant in the room of the church – is that we make converts, church members, but not apprentices of Jesus. That is the reason why Christians and the Church are so powerless to effect change in our world. We are more a copy of the world, of prevailing culture and ideology, than a model of God’s Kingdom come.

The context into which Jesus was born and did his ministry has similarities with the context in our world today. It was a time of pressure and extremity under Roman rule, with psycho-spiritual-emotional reactions, and socio-political responses from leaders and people. Jesus offered The Kingdom of God as the answer, discipleship to him in his community, in contrast to what the other groups/parties in Judaism were teaching in response to the times (Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, Essenes, Chief Priest and Elders, and ‘the sinners’). We are first followers and apprentices in Jesus’ Way of the Kingdom, then we pastor and lead in that Way. What does it mean to exercise ‘Kingdom leading’ in God’s authority, just as Jesus did, in our uncertain world? I will comment on our changed world context and post-lockdown church, then define authority, power and leading, in Daniel and in Matthew.


Our Changing Context:

The corona pandemic, among other factors, has forever changed the world we live in, the uncertain context in which we now pastor/lead. Awareness of these signs of the times will help us exercise our authority in Kingdom leading, with wisdom, compassion and fortitude.

Signs of heightened stress in times of extremity (from clinical & social psychologists):

  • Fear & anxiety – confusion & uncertainty.
  • Grief & sadness – mortality & mourning.
  • Loneliness & depression – mental health issues come to the fore.
  • Numbing the pain, escape into addictions and self-created reality and fantasies.
  • Relational stress & breakdown – marriage, family, domestic abuse, GBV.
  • Economic recession, widespread social protests/unrest, challenge of social conscience, pull back to political populist nationalism and conservative protectionism, geo-political power-plays, increased inequality, human rights violations, environmental challenges.
  • Loss of personal and social security – more crime & violence.
  • Dooms-day syndrome, end of the world prophecies, fanciful Bible interpretations.
  • Ideological clash and deception, conspiracy theories, lies and fake news.
  • The need for a savior, for metaphysical answers, seeking spirituality, return to religion.

A prophetic perspective sees it as God’s shaking, of realignment and ascendency of spiritual powers. This crisis is a kairos moment, a time of disaster/judgement and God-opportunity for Kingdom breakthrough and change – for revival. The “signs of the times” (Matthew 16:1-4) must be interpreted in light of Hebrews 12:26-29. The Lord of the heavens and the earth is shaking all things, our nations and churches, and the powers over them, that what cannot be shaken, his eternal Kingdom, may emerge for all to see. We are being tested as to how much of our lives, ministries and churches are truly built on the unshakable rock of the King, on the “gold, silver and precious stones” of living and teaching the Kingdom Jesus lived and taught, or on the “wood, hay and straw” of lip-service to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).


Leading Post-Lockdown Kingdom Church:

What is the ‘new norm’ after lockdown, post-corona? Here are some of my observations that will introduce my discussion on leading in Kingdom authority from Daniel and Matthew:

  • No longer Sunday dependent church with all its performance. Don’t go back to “Sunday as usual” too quickly. Rethink how to do church differently in this changed context.
  • No longer building and office centred, no longer program driven.
  • No longer centralised preacher/pastor dependent – yet we must lead more effectively.
  • The failure of megachurch and the man of God/celebrity leadership syndrome. The average church is 70 people. That’s the reality we must work with.
  • We’ve learnt to do online church (favourite new phrase, “unmute yourself”!). It has been a necessary surrogate tool. However, the danger is that technology forms us in its image; it is not a neutral tool. List the negatives and positives of online church. Some folk will be forever lost in its convenience and smorgasbord offerings. Don’t abandon it, but balance forms of online church by using technology wisely for clear purposes.
  • BUT what is now clear:
    1) the need for community, as in face-family home churches of high touch and care, within larger congregational gatherings that meet in different ways at different times – all with corona safety protocols for love of neighbour.
    2) The need for pastoral care, intentional relational engagement, healing ministry.
    3) Continue outward missional community service, as most engaged in under lockdown.
    4) Devolve leadership by purposeful discipleship/formation to release more people and leaders to ‘go do’ ministry and mission ‘out there’, to start/lead small groups to disciple others (Vineyard ‘mantra’ IRTDM: identify, recruit, train, deploy, monitor).

All this means: it is a time to revisit and clarify our philosophy of ministry, to reflect on our mission and vision, what is of core value and priority, with greater flexibility on how it’s contextually expressed, being far more fluid and organic than programmatic. Defined by ‘doing the Kingdom main and plain’, not ‘the excellent’, ‘the experimental’, ‘the exotic’. This essentially means making apprentices of Jesus in the four irreducible dimensions of God’s unshakable Kingdom, the four Kingdom missional implications that define church:

Power Encounter: discipling our people in the ministry & power of the Spirit
Personal transformation: discipling them in character formation to Christlikeness
Social transformation: discipling them in wholistic social engagement
World mission: discipling in evangelism and church planting – a world vision


Kingdom Leading and Authority

Leadership in God’s Kingdom – leading God’s Kingdom people – starts with Jesus: his vision, theology and praxis of the Kingdom, with a focus on his understanding and use of authority. When it comes to exousia (authority), the book of Daniel is clearly Jesus’ primary source – discussed below. But, let me first define authority (exousia) and power (dymamis), and their necessary inter-relationship.

Power is the ability to do something, the innate capacity (strength) of someone or something to act with the energy/force/resource needed to make it happen (i.e. empowering).

Authority is the right to do that something, the right of action by appointment, commission, mandate (i.e. authorization – the authority to act and do certain things).

Authority is always person related whereas power can be person or otherwise related. For example, nature has innate power/energy, or spirit, which is personal power/energy. The human body is potential power activated by spirit – either human, God, or evil spirit. 

Biblically, all authority is from God, the Creator-Ruler-King. Thus, all authority is derived, given, delegated, and ultimately represents God’s authority, for better or for worse. Authority is the right of action linked to a commission, mandate or appointment, to be used or exercised in keeping with – in the spirit, boundaries and limits of – the purpose for which it is given. I.e. authority is the right to use  and  the right use of  the power/resources available to us. Thus, all authority (and power) is ultimately dependent on and accountable to God. Misuse of power is abuse of authority (authoritarianism), no longer a ‘domain/dominion’ directly under God, but a ‘domination’ of/by evil working against God. In short, authority is given and can be exercised, or neglected, or assumed, taken, usurped, resisted, abused, etc. BUT, we must be clear: all authority and its use will be held accountable by God.


Daniel, Authority and the Son of Man

The Greek Septuagint (LXX) translates the Hebrew memsalah (dominion/kingdom/authority) and the Aramaic soltana (domain/rule) as exousia in Daniel. Authority is a domain, a rule, a kingdom. As in our personal kingdom, and human national kingdoms (empires), and God’s kingdom. Therefore, ‘kingdom’ can be defined as the effective range of our will, the authority we have in real terms to make things happen, for our will to be done. Where God’s will is done, his Kingdom has come!  In summary, exousia is used in Daniel of:

  • God (Yahweh) whose rule/kingdom/dominion is eternal (Dan 4:3, 34-35; 6:26)
  • God rules over all earthly kingdoms: “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Dan 4:32).
  • All authority of human-earthly rulers derives from the spiritual realm. Ultimately from God, either directly or via angelic authorities in obedience to their divine commission; or (mostly) via spiritual powers that are fallen/evil in denial of their divine commission (Dan 10:13, 20-22; Psalm 82). Thus, the character of any visible national government represents the spiritual formation of the (corrupted) invisible authority behind it.
  • God installs and removes kings (Dan 2:21; 4:17,31; 5:20) and the spiritual powers behind them, taking away their exousia (Dan 4:35, 7:12, 10:13,20): “God does as he pleases with the powers of the heavens and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him ‘what have you done?’” (4:35).

Daniel describes four empires/kingdoms (“beasts”) that arise on earth with the spirit-powers behind them, perpetrating injustice and evil (ch 2, 7). In contrast, God’s Kingdom is “power and wisdom” (Dan 2:20), “rescues and saves, performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth” (Dan 6:27 cf. 4:2-3). In the days of the fourth beast (the Roman Empire), the most brutal cumulation of all other kingdoms, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever… the rock cut out of a mountain, not by human hands” (Dan 2:44-45).

This is how it happens (Dan7:9-27). The Ancient of Days takes his throne/seat in the heavenly court and rules against that culmination of evil embodied in the fourth empire. Then “one like a son of man” (a human) comes on a cloud into his presence and is given all authority and power:  all peoples, nations and languages worship him (a human being! v.14). They no longer worship other human rulers and the powers behind. The “son of man” represents the saints of the Most High who refuse to worship the rulers and their empowering spiritual authorities (their ideologies and idols). This mysterious human-divine figure ascends from suffering with/for the saints under the empire’s oppression (vv.21,25), and is enthroned in the heavens so that “the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven (i.e. ALL exousia) will be handed over to the saints” (v.27). The people of the Most High receive God’s Kingdom-authority of “power and wisdom” that “rescues and saves, performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” So, the Son of Man embodies the new humanity with authority restored to rule the earth (vv.18,22,26-27 cf. Gen 1:28).


Matthew’s Son of Man, Authority and Leadership in the Kingdom

Jesus based his theology and praxis of Kingdom authority and leadership on THIS prophetic worldview, believing he was Daniel’s Son of Man (his self-designation, occurring 81 times in the Gospels). Coming out of suffering and death, through resurrection and ascension, Jesus says, “All authority in the heavens and the earth has been given to me”. He is quoting Dan 7:9-27; i.e. Matthew’s Great Commission literally fulfils Daniel 7.

Jesus gives the saints, the new humanity who will rule the earth, that authority. NOT to go and take over and dominate people and nations, as the four beasts and “the rulers of the Gentiles” do in their idolatrous worship of spiritual powers (Matt 20:25). Rather, commissioned to go and make apprentices of Jesus in his Kingdom from people from all nations. Jesus: the quintessential human being, the new humanity at God’s right hand. We live King Jesus’ heavenly rule on earth, doing his will as in heaven. Indeed, we are in training for reigning in this life and the life to come on the new earth. And we lead by lived example in this great Kingdom enterprise.

The nature and exercise of this Kingdom-Authority expounded by Matthew:

Earthly confrontation after birth: Herod, puppet king of the Romans, the fourth beast, authorises the killing of Jesus – all boys two years and under are killed (Matt 2:16).

Spiritual confrontation at start of ministry: The devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert. Each time Jesus overcomes by using the authority of God’s Word (Matt 4:4,7,10).

Teaching with authority: The people recognise that Jesus taught with divine authority in contrast to the teachers of Torah who quote rabbis as their authority (Matt 7:28-29, 9:6,8).

Miracles by Kingdom exousia: Matthew 8 & 9 narrates ten miracles that introduce Jesus’ teaching, and sending the twelve on the mission of the Kingdom in chapter 10. Jesus is the new Moses (Deut 18:17-19) leading a new Exodus through ten miracles that defeat the oppressive spiritual powers which keep Israel in exile from God. In Matt 8:5-13, the second miracle, a Roman Centurion asks Jesus to exercise his authority to rescue and heal his servant. This military representative of Daniel’s brutal fourth beast (the most evil exousia, Jesus’ enemy) sees and confesses God’s exousia in the Son of Man – echoing confessions by Gentile rulers in Daniel 3:28-29, 4:34-35; 6:26-27. Because the centurion is under authority, he exercises authority to order his soldiers to dominate/enforce the will of Rome, coercing Jews into submission. He recognises Jesus has spiritual authority because Jesus evidently operates under God, using his authority as merciful power to serve and save those exiled from God, liberating them from evil dominion to do God’s will by free choice. “Speak the word and my servant will be healed.” Amazed at such understanding and consequent faith, Jesus says, “I have not found such great faith” in all the supposed people of God. The centurion has structural authority with the resources/power of the Empire to back him up. He knew Jesus has spiritual authority because God backs him up with heavenly resources/power. This exousia is clearly the basis of all Jesus’ gospel miracles that defeated the powers and freed people from enslavement.

Exousia to forgive sins: In healing the paralytic (Matt 9:1-8), Jesus quotes Dan 7:13, “the Son of Man has authority on earth”, and specifies it, “to forgive sins” – because he spoke forgiveness to the man. That causes consternation. To prove he has authority to forgive sins, he commands the paralytic to “get up and walk!” And it happens! So, evidently, his sins are forgiven. The crowd is in awe that God “has given such exousia to men.”

Exousia given for Kingdom co-mission: After modelling Kingdom authority by speaking the word in humble service, Jesus gives his apprentices “exousia to drive out evil spirits and heal every disease and sickness… freely you have received, freely give” (Matt 10:1,7). He warns them that exercising such servant authority will incur opposition and suffering.

The keys of the Kingdom: Jesus reveals his identity, the Son of Man, to his apprentices (Matt 16:13-20). Peter sees and confesses Jesus for who he is: God’s Messiah/King (only after the centurion and spiritual powers [demons, Matt 8:29] recognise Jesus for who he really is). Jesus gives Peter, thus the church, “the keys of the Kingdom”: authority to open and close, for people to enter or not, to “bind” and “loose”. Jesus had modelled using “the keys”. I think of it as having the keys to a powerful motor vehicle. We enter, activate and work with a power way beyond our own. We are transported and empowered to do God’s will. J.P Meier (Historical Jesus scholar) defines the Kingdom as a power-zone, a force-field, that Jesus lived in and operated through. If we do not drive the car responsibly, selfishly misusing the authority and power given to us, we cause harm to ourselves and others. A driver’s license (preparation and authorisation) is needed, but that does not guarantee responsible usage of the authority and power – trusted character does.

Exousia to lead in the Kingdom: For the disciples, exousia in God’s Kingdom is “being the greatest” (Matt 18:1; 20:26), “first”, “master/leader”, requesting to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand (Matt 20:20-28).
First, Jesus is shocked at such grasping presumption. He says that authority to lead/rule means immersion/fellowship in his suffering, drinking his cup: the suffering love which forms the character that can be trusted to responsibly handle such authority, to fulfil the purpose for which it is given.
Second, Jesus has “all authority”, yet he knows its limits: only the Father gives those places to whom the Father is preparing, training with the formation fit for such authority.
Third, Jesus exposes the mindset of all his apostles: the ten are angry because they too want to sit on those thrones next to Jesus – “the thrones set in place” in Dan 7:9f, the thrones Jesus had earlier spoken of to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28). That reveals their dominant consciousness of exousia as position, power, prestige, title and turf. Jesus responds: The Gentile rulers and officials use authority to “lord it over” people, to enforce, control, dominate, in order for their will to be done. To make their kingdom great again! “NOT SO with you! Instead, whoever wants to be great among you, must be your servant (diakonos), and whoever wants to be first must be your slave (doulos, a stronger word) – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

Here Jesus joins Daniel’s Son of Man and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, embracing both as his identity-destiny in his co-mission with the Father, forming his life to fulfil both. I.e. the authority to lead and be great in the Kingdom is spiritual influence and power based on self-sacrificing service, not structural position and coercion based on being served. God gives authority in real terms to those who serve, as they suffer in love of those they serve, to free them from slavery to sin, sickness, demons, death, injustice, ideology, poverty (Luke 4:18). God backs them up with heavenly grace, the resources and power they need when they need it. Even if they are crucified at the hands of earthly and spiritual powers, God will vindicate them by the ultimate power: Resurrection. In short, Jesus’ exousia is the freedom to serve by laying down his life in suffering love, and to take it up again (John 10:18). As Martin Luther said, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” 

The authority that Jesus exercises is clearly from God (Matt 21:23-27): The Jewish leaders eventually come to see and recognise this in Jesus’ final week of confrontation with the powers. Unlike the people, centurion, demons, and Peter, they refuse to acknowledge and confess it. Rather, they decide to kill him. Though they think they are “the saints, the people of the Most High”, they are the real pagans serving Daniel’s fourth beast, the brutal Roman authorities. They bow the knee to and are instruments of the evil powers, the idols of Compromise and Corruption, of Temple, of Torah, of Land, of Jewishness.


That brings us back to The Great Commission: After this tour of authority and power in Daniel and Matthew, here are the summary points of what it means (from Matt 28:16-20):

Visionary Worship: Authority begins with seeing Jesus for who he really is. When they saw him, the Risen King, they bowed down and worshipped him, though some doubted (I love Matthew’s realism of the “not yet” in the brightest “already” of the Kingdom!) It is the first time in Matthew that Jews worship a human being. But this is Dan 7:14. Our only adequate response to the coming of the Son of Man, to his self-revelation, is worship. All authority and its exercise is born in vision and worship, in surrender to the authority of the Risen King.

Collaborating Co-Mission: All the authority in the heavens and the earth given to the Son of Man is given to us, the new humanity. The authority is linked to The Great Commission: go and make apprentices of Jesus from all kinds of people in all the nations. Exousia is collaboration with The King in his servant mission to the ends of the earth.

Participating Baptism: We enter and exercise collaborative authority by participation and immersion in the death and resurrection of the Son of Man, by which we die to our sin and rise to life in The Trinity. Baptism is initiation of apprentices of Jesus on confession of faith into (The Eternal Trinitarian) community. We teach/train them to daily live the meaning of their baptism – it is not a once-off ticket to get into heaven! That’s making converts, not disciples. Baptism in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit” is plunging apprentices into the nature and character of the Trinitarian Reality:  The Life and Love of the Father and the Son by the Spirit. Learning to live eternal life (of the Trinitarian kind and quality) on earth is to do God’s will as it is in heaven. That is authority in real terms.

Transforming Character: Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Participating baptism leads to transforming character. This is the challenge of leadership authority in the Kingdom: train apprentices of Jesus to obey everything he commanded (“teaching” was formational training). We cannot obey what he commanded simply by trying. But by training, through the Kingdom practices of Jesus, we become the kind of person who predictably obeys God when we need to. “Train yourself (and others) to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7), having the spiritual fitness to naturally and easily do what Jesus would do if he were you, in any given situation at any given time. That is transformation into the character of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). We become like Jesus, who obeyed all his Father commanded for love of the Father (John 15:9-10), doing his will on earth as it is in heaven. Thus, God consistently backed up Jesus’ authority with heavenly power. Among Jesus’ commands is love of God and neighbour (Matt 22:34-39) and “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons” – do the works of the Kingdom (Matt 10:7-8).

Empowering Presence: “And I will be with you, in you by my Spirit, till the job is done.” The job is to make apprentices of Jesus from people of all nations, who do God’s will for love of God and people. Jesus’ abiding presence is the power of his Spirit, the charismata – enabling grace-gifts – that back up our exercise of authority. What he authorises us to do, he empowers with the resources of his Spirit. Till we complete the job (Matt 24:14)! Then the Son of Man will return on the clouds of glory to rule and reign with us at his side!

Therefore, the process of “Authority – Kingdom Leading in a World of Uncertainty” is:
From visionary worship of the Son of Man, Risen Ruling King;
To collaborating authority in his co-mission of making apprentices by lived example;
To participating baptism in his death and resurrection, living in/from the Trinitarian Reality;
To the transforming character and empowering charisma of Christ… in real terms… till our job is done!

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The Risen Lord Renews Our Calling, Part Two: Loving & Leading

This is the second part to my teaching  on The Risen Lord Renews Our Calling: Fishing & Feasting (see my notes). A continuation of the same post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, now focused on loving and leading (see the video teaching). John shifts the attention from Peter and the disciples fishing and feasting, to Peter’s personal renewal of calling to lead, from love, with an implied contrast to John’s calling, the beloved disciple.

Using homiletical license, we can say that Jesus, the master-psychologist:

First, recreates the scene of their first calling in Luke 5:1-11, for them to relive and renew their calling in resurrection power.

Second, recreates the meal of the Kingdom feast that he frequently enacted, breaking bread and fish – his shared life, now in resurrection power.

Third, in so doing, Jesus recreates the scene of Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus while warming himself around a fire (John 18:15-27). For emphasis, John repeats the word “warm/ing” three times along with Peter’s three denials. That incident – Peter’s guilt-ridden, pain-full memory of his threefold denial – is now reversed by Jesus as he creates a new event around a new fire, a resurrection healing memory of a threefold confession and forgiveness, affirmation and commission.

Renewal of Call to Lead by Love (John 21:15-17)

Imagine the dramatic scene. Put yourself in Peter’s sandals. He was cold after swimming to the shore. He warmed himself at the fire that Jesus had made. Then, “when they had finished eating”, he turns to address Peter. Why did he wait till after the meal to address Peter? Was he contemplating what to say? Perhaps quietly praying for Peter as he had done earlier (John 17:9,15; Luke 22:31-32)?

So, as they all sit around the fire warming themselves, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”, and waits for his answers. Peter must have thought, “I’ve seen this movie before!” His three answers reversed the words he spoke only two weeks earlier around the fire outside the High Priest’s courtyard. Then Jesus commissions Peter, renewing the call, now not to fish people, but to shepherd his sheep – going beyond “have you caught any fish?” to “do you love me?”, beyond “doing” to “being”.

Jesus pierces Peter’s heart with the demand of love, just as Peter pierced his heart with sorrow by his shameful threefold denial (especially because he said he would die for Jesus, John 13:37). Matthew 26:69-75 shows a downward spiral of intensity around the earlier fire: Peter first denied being “with Jesus”, then swore an oath, “I don’t know the man”, finally he “called down curses on himself” to prove he was telling the truth! Now the Good Shepherd comes to seek the one sheep that has gone astray. He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail (Luke 22:32). He knows his sheep, tenderly calls him by name (his birth name, “Simon son of John”), and gently leads him out to be the lead-shepherd of Jesus’ flock.

The three questions:

We should not read too much into the usage of agapeo (love) in Jesus’ first two questions and phileo (love) in Peter’s three answers. Scholars have shown that John uses these two Greek words for love interchangeably. The most we can say is: Jesus’ use of phileo in his third question comes down to Peter’s level of “you know I phileo you (affectionately love you)”.

The point is: Jesus wants to know, does Peter love him after he denied knowing him? To hear his verbal confession/commitment in this regard. Jesus wants to know if love the source of your ministry and leadership, indeed, life itself? Anything else will not sustain, it will subvert us. We all live and lead from mixed motives: for identity, to feel good about ourselves, for success, popularity, power, etc. The demand of love is the heart-motivation. To love is to obey Jesus (John 14:15,21). Jesus’ persistent questions of love echo the essence of God’s revelation to humanity: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”, “Love one another as I have loved you”, “I am the Lord your God, have no other gods before me”.

His first question “Do you love me more than these?” refers, not to the disciples sitting there, but to the fish, Peter’s fishing business and ‘life as usual’ (see my notes from last week). What or who do you really love? That ultimately is your life and worship either of God or gods – “money, sex and power” – the traditional false trinity in church history. What or who you love is your treasure. That is where your heart is.

The three confessions:

The questions face Peter with his own heart and his failure. He answers, “You know that I love you!” The words reverse “I do not know him”, and affirm his love and commitment to Jesus, despite acute awareness of his sin. In effect Peter is saying, for all of us, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you! You know me, I can’t hide anything from you. You know I’ve messed up, that I’m weak and sinful. Nevertheless, I really do love you – as faulty as my love may be!” This is implied in his third response when he “was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time” (v17).

Jesus pressed the point. He wants to know how honestly in touch we are with ourselves. Then he can entrust his sheep to us! We are all wounded healers. To the extent we deny our own brokenness, we minister and lead from a wrong source, from faulty motivations. It leads to use and abuse God’s sheep for our own purposes, to achieve our vision, as the false shepherds of Israel did (Ezekiel 34:1-6), as the “hireling shepherds” did in Jesus’ day (John 10:1-13). Confession is indeed good for the soul. It cleanses and forgives, releases and empowers us, so that our brokenness and failures do not disqualify us in our God-given calling.

The three commissions:

Jesus’ response to Peter’s honest confessions/affirmations of love, is not to exhort him to be strong, do better, be faithful, etc, but to entrust his church to Peter! Entrust his lambs to Peter! Can you believe it? Jesus never called the successful, professionally holy, Torah obedient, theologians, lawyers, to follow him; but simple fishermen, tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, very ordinary broken people. He patiently, lovingly, transformed them into leaders that would change the world!

“Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep”. In the context it means, “feed my sheep just as I provided for you and fed you this morning.” Jesus is our example, the Chief Shepherd, who calls us to lead with him as his ‘under-shepherds’: to lovingly feed his lambs and sheep, to care for them in their pain, sin and failures, as he would if he were us. Peter later teaches this from personal experience (1 Peter 5:1-4). They are HIS sheep, not ours! The Church does not belong to the man of God, the pastor, the elders, but to Jesus! He bought it with HIS precious blood. He will hold us accountable as to how we shepherd and lead. Jesus’ commission is clearly based on his teaching in John 10:1-18, which in turn clearly refers to Ezekiel 34:1-16.

Following and Leading from Love (John 21:18-24)

Why did Jesus do this personal confrontation with Peter in the presence of the other disciples (John 21:2)? They see and hear the drama. Perhaps, because Peter said at the last Passover meal, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I will never… Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”. And all the other disciples said the same (Matthew 26:33-35). That happened in community around a meal and is now reversed in community around a meal. In other words, Jesus is also addressing them, through Peter. And also, because Jesus reinstates Peter as their leader. He does it in their presence because, what unfolds, shows that there is still insecurity and comparative rivalry among them, as is common among leaders and people.

After Jesus’ threefold commission to Peter, he says, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want… Follow me!” (John 21:18-19). Earlier Peter had “wrapped his garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water” to swim to Jesus (John 21:7-8). He did what he wanted, when he wanted, taking the initiative. That is the mark of youthful leadership, the ideal of freedom.

Maturity, however, is different. It faces death. It goes through death into resurrection. Leadership in the resurrection is the freedom of surrender, God’s true liberation, entered into by the obedience of “not my will, but yours be done”. The longer we “follow me”, under the loving discipline of the Chief Shepherd’s rod and the staff, we learn to lead by being led. The paradox of Kingdom leadership. We surrender initiative to him in all things, just as he surrendered initiative to his Father in all things, thereby leading by being led (John 5:17-20). It means we let go. We surrender control, trusting his patient and persistent love that initiates, defines and leads us. We learn to no longer define ourselves but allow God to (re)define us through community, through others. Incredibly vulnerable.

Like our Master who was stripped naked, flogged, and re-clothed in a purple robe (John 19:1-2), God slowly but surely strips us of that which identified and defined us in our heroic early years of ministry and leadership. God uses people and circumstance, ‘strangers’ who walk on the shore, even our enemies, to do this. We open our hands in vulnerability, even stretch them out to be nailed to a cross. We lead with spiritual authority and real influence, like Jesus, to the extent we allow ourselves to be led by those whom God uses to dress and take us to where we would naturally not want to go. That is leading in, by, and from the suffering love of God in Jesus, who suffered the brokenness of those he led, healing and transforming them in his resurrection. So, to lead in the Shepherd’s Spirit is death to self, to live his love in resurrection power.

This kind of mature selfless leadership is what truly glorifies God; just as God’s choice of Peter’s martyrdom was “the kind of death by which he would glorify God” (John 21:19); just as the Good Shepherd “glorified God” (John 12:23-27) by “the kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:33). Indeed, Peter literally “followed in Christ’s footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21), “knowing that I will soon die as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me” (2 Peter 1:14). Reliable tradition says that Peter was executed by the Romans, crucified upside down at his own request, because, he said, he was not worthy to be crucified right side up like his Lord and Master. Astonishing.

To complete the story. Perhaps, in all of this we see John ‘setting the record straight’ in his old age, long after Peter had glorified God through his life and particular death. I say this because we see Peter still looking around and comparing himself with John (John 21:20-23), just as we do with other followers and leaders: “Lord, what about him?” “Why didn’t I first recognize it was Jesus?” “Does Jesus love me as much as he loves him?” “Why didn’t I get to rest my head on Jesus’ chest and listen to his heartbeat?”

Jesus’ answer is, “It’s none of your business! YOU follow me!” God’s plan and destiny for each of us is different, because we are uniquely loved and called by God. That is what gives us our value and identity, our meaning and purpose. Insecure leaders cause great damage to their fellow leaders and those who follow them. The sooner we learn to be fully secure in God’s personalized love for us, the more we surrender to that love, and learn to lead in and from love, as Jesus did.

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THE RISEN LORD RENEWS OUR CALLING – Part One

This is part of a series of teachings that began with Passover Crucifixion and Easter Resurrection – The Big Bang of New Creation (see my notes Part One and Two)
Then, Jesus Breaks Lockdown, Part 1 and Part 2
Then, The Resurrected King Changes Everything (see my notes)

These notes, on The Risen Lord Renews Our Calling: Fishing & Feasting, are reflections on John 21, the last chapter of John’s good-news story of King Jesus. I acknowledge drawing from Craig Keener, David Carson and Leon Morris in their respective commentaries on John.

The chapter has two parts (or ‘pericopes’), each with two internal subsections.
John 21:1-14, Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples on the shore: a) the fishing story and miraculous catch, and b) the breakfast story where Jesus feeds them. (Part One)
John 21:15-23, Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter as leader: a) his confession and commission, and b) his unfolding future call/leadership. (Part Two)

Renewal of Calling: Fishing & Feasting, John 21:1-14

The context: The life changing events of Jesus’ traumatic death and resurrection, and his appearances to his disciples (over a period of 40 days, Acts 1:3). John records two prior appearances of the risen Lord to Peter and the gathered disciples in Jerusalem (John 20:19-29). After that, Peter and six others return to fishing (their business) in the Galilee.  

Failing at business and life as usual (John 21:1-3)

In the aftermath of all that had happened in Jerusalem, Peter and 6 others return to ‘business as usual’. This fishing story shows the well-known tradition in the gospels of Jesus first calling fishermen to follow him, to make them “fishers of people”. The story echoes Luke 5:1-11 as a renewal of that initial calling to fish people for Jesus. 

The fact that John mentions seven disciples, the number of completion, could symbolize the uncertain mind and mood of all the apostles. Peter takes the initiative (as usual, a natural leader), “I’m going out to fish”. The others follow. But that night they caught “nothing”; the same word John uses in John 15:5, where Jesus says, “without me you can do nothing”. In other words, John emphasizes their failure in going back to business and life as usual in their own resources and efforts.

Jesus gives fish – renewing their calling (John 21:4-8)

“Early morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus…” A repeat of Mary’s experience (John 20:1f), early morning, seeing Jesus but not recognizing ‘the stranger’ (as with the two on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13f). It’s the early morning darkness of dashed hopes and human failure. Yet it’s the first light of a new dawn of new creation. Through their dark experience they see Jesus on the shore of resurrection – the other side of death, the coming age – from their boat of business and life as usual, in the untamed sea of the uncertainty of this age.

They don’t recognize Jesus. That ‘stranger’ takes the initiative and calls out, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No!” After a whole night of hard work! He makes them face and confess their own insufficiency of effort and resource (indeed, they can do “nothing” without Jesus, 15:5), so that they trust and obey his word: “throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some”. Some fish? They catch so many that they can’t haul the net into the boat, confirming Jesus’ miracles of ‘over the top’ abundance in God’s Kingdom come in him (John 2:1-11, 6:1-14).

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved” knew “it is the Lord”. He said (confessed) it to Peter. Revelation of who Jesus really is, the Risen King, is not only by the obedience of faith, and miracles, but also by the intimacy of love. John is “the beloved disciple” who is at Jesus’ side (‘bosom’, John 13:23, 21:20), as Jesus is at the Father’s side (‘bosom’, John 1:18) – that profound intimacy is the source of Jesus’ revelation of God. The others come to know/recognize later that it’s Jesus (at the breakfast, John 21:12), but dare not ask him “who are you?” This indicates that revelation unfolds differently for each person, with intuitive immediacy (John), with responsive action (Peter), or with timidity and doubt (Thomas and the others, John 20:24-29, 21:2,12). Jesus came to the world and it did not know/recognize him (John 1:10), but his own know him because he calls us by name and we recognize his voice (John 10:3-5, 20:16).

Peter’s response to the first miraculous catch of fish when he first met Jesus, in Luke 5:1-11, was to fall to his knees and say, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (v8). But Jesus responded, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch people” (v10) – their calling to work with him to fish people into God’s Kingdom. Now, seeing this second miraculous catch, he must be thinking, “I’ve seen this movie before!” His response this time is not to run away, but to clothe himself, dive into the sea and swim 100 meters to the shore – the impulse and passion of love to see his “friend” (v5) and “Lord” (v7), despite acute awareness of his failures. He swims over the water that Jesus walked on (6:19), crossing the unknown, from the uncertainty of business/life as usual to the shore of intimacy at Jesus’ side of resurrection.

Jesus gives a feast – confirming their calling (John 21:9-14)

Peter finds him making “a fire of burning coals with fish on it, and some bread” (a South African ‘fish braai’!) Jesus provides his own fish and bread to feed Peter and the disciples after an exhausting night that produced “nothing”. All who come to Jesus will not hunger or thirst (John 6:35). “Jesus came, took bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish” (John 21:13). The Resurrected Shepherd lovingly feeds his hungry sheep with his own life (John 10), with the bread of heaven (his body, John 6), with the waters of his Spirit (John 7:37-39), the power of new creation (John 20:22).

The breakfast he prepares symbolizes the Kingdom banquet/feast that he frequently enacted during his ministry. He invites the disciples to “bring some of the fish you just caught” – that he (also) provided! All we have is, literally, all from him! We are, however, invited to share what we do have, just like the little boy’s “five small barley loaves and two small fish” (John 6:9), that Jesus multiplies to feed the nations through the hands of his followers. The Kingdom is indeed a collaborative relational work with the Resurrected King, in his power, to reach all peoples, all nations. 

Peter gets up and helps the others to pull in the net. They count them: 153 fish! Commentators try to make the number mean “the nations” or all sorts of things! I agree with Keener: It was obviously so impressive that they remembered the number, and it simply suggests the great abundance of unlimited supply from the Risen Lord, at the table of The King (john 6:13-15).

John deliberately adds, “even with so many (fish) the net was not torn” (John 21:11) – in contrast to the net breaking with the first miraculous catch when they were first called (Luke 5:6). Is this a picture of the Resurrection Church, relationally joined and united as one (John 17:20-26):  God’s net to “fish the nations” into his Kingdom? And to bring them to the table fellowship of the Shepherd-King’s “abundant life” (John 10:10)?   

In Summary: Seven Lessons

1. After life-changing events like the crucifixion and resurrection – also the Corona Pandemic – we cannot simply go back to life and business as usual.

2. We must cross over to find the new normal, to live resurrection now.

3. Discipleship is hearing Jesus’ call, trusting and obeying his word, which releases his resurrection life and power.

4. The call of discipleship is to follow Jesus, to be formed into the net of his Kingdom, to fish people (the nations) for The King.

5. If we act on the revelation we have, we receive more revelation and enter the abundant fullness of the Kingdom.

6. Collaboration with King Jesus in all things, joining what we have with what he has, is the great enterprise of the Kingdom.

7. Fishing and Feasting with King Jesus is living Resurrection Now.

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Guidance in Leading A Kingdom Response to Corona

A full solar eclipse

I was asked this week to share thoughts on giving leadership in response to the corona pandemic. Pastors and spiritual leaders carry a particular responsibility before God to guide churches, and society in general, with a godly response. How do we think about this crisis, and what do we do? Note that this is from a South African context in response to developments here. But it has application globally.

Biblical thinking, theology, does matter! It leads to right or wrong attitudes and practices, depending on our underlying beliefs. How do we respond to God in faith at this time, and not react in fear to the situation? We’re living in unprecedented times: a micro-virus holds the whole world to ransom, to a lockdown not seen in our life time, with all the socio-economic-political implications. It is very serious. Our lives have changed. Globally, as I write, there are 468,644 infected & 21,191 deaths (see live tally, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/). It’s a kairos moment, a time of threat AND opportunity, of disaster AND of God’s Kingdom breaking through like we’ve not seen before. How do we maximise a ‘Kingdom response’ that is life-changing at this critical time?

Kingdom-Prophetic Perspective:  How do we think biblically about this pandemic?

‘Corona’ means crown. The scientists who, in 1968 came up with the term coronavirus, noted that the virus they were looking at under the microscope resembled a solar corona, the bright crown-like ring of gasses around the sun, visible in a solar eclipse. However, corona is not king!

Jesus is King! He is the Son that shines so bright with his crown of thorns, from his throne of the cross, that his beautiful light is blinding darkness. The darkness of human sin & sickness, suffering & death – of hell itself – that he took into his own body, to overcome evil and free humanity from its power. In his death AND resurrection, Jesus is victorious and rules over evil powers, all pandemics, all catastrophes. Not in arrogant triumphalism! But in humble compassion, because he suffered, and suffers, with and for all who suffer. Mercy is the mode and manner of his majestic reign that gives light and life to all who turn to him. This is the message we seek to live and preach, of the King to whom all other crowns (coronas) must bow, the King who is the hope of the world.  

What on earth is God doing at this time?  God is shaking all things, all the kingdoms of the earth, so that what is unshakable may emerge for all to see and receive: God’s Kingdom (Hebrews 12:26-28) in his Suffering Servant, by whose wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). The entire biblical message is simply: God is King… God will become King. While God is – and always will be – sovereign over all reality, including our lives, something serious went wrong after creation and turned against God. So, God will become King by defeating that evil rebellion, putting everything to right.

How then do we view pandemics and natural disasters?  They are due to the fall of humanity into sin and death, part of the chaotic rule of ha satan – Hebrew for the opposer of God, his purposes and his people. Humanity in Adam and Eve lost their God-given authority – their kingdom – to the devil, who is now “the god of this age who blinds the minds of those who do not believe” (2 Cor 4:4). Satan is the perpetrator of all that works against God and God’s purpose of Shalom-Good for humanity, of all created reality.

So, has God lost control?  No! God is King, sovereign over all. God has no equal opposite. Satanand his kingdom of evil spirits are created fallen beings. The Hebrew Testament shows that God can even use ha satan as an instrument/servant of judgement. It also means that no matter what evil does, God can ultimately use it to fulfil his purpose. More so, no matter what happens, God works in it for our good, for those who love him and are called as per his purpose (Romans 8:28). This requires faith to see what God is doing in each kairos moment. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8) – in all things – where God is present & active, to work with God!

What is God’s answer to corona?  The Messiah. God will become King. God becomes King in two accumulative historical steps: Jesus inaugurated God’s Kingdom 2000 years ago, in principle and power, and will consummate the Kingdom when he returns, in fullness and finality. This is to defeat and “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and free humanity and creation into the fullness of God’s Shalom Kingdom. Paul uses three tenses for this mystery of salvation: “God has delivered us (past)… will deliver us (future)… and will continue to deliver us (present)” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Evil has been defeated at the nailed-pierced hands of Jesus, is being defeated at the prayerful hands of the Church, will be defeated at the Second Coming. In other words, we’re in a war that we cannot lose, a life and death battle with evil in all its forms, including coronavirus.

Practical-Responsible Perspective:  How do we give leadership, what do we do?

We teach our people the Kingdom has come, meaning, we engage with conviction and courage as a time of great Kingdom opportunity to work with God (listed below). We also teach that the Kingdom is yet to come, meaning, we wait in prayerful hope for God’s breakthrough, facing reality head on, being honest about where we are at, and reaching out to others in need.

Our people must avoid two extremes: an overemphasis of Kingdom now that is presumptuous and arrogant, denying reality due to “faith in the blood of Jesus”, “corona is hyped/fake news”, “we can meet, touch each other”, “we’re immune to COVID-19 because of PSALM-91”. That’s presumption, not faith. The devil tempted Jesus with this, quoting Psalm 91; but Jesus said, “don’t put God to the test” (Matthew 4:5-7). Or, an overemphasis of Kingdom not yet that is faithless and fearful, succumbing to reality in doom and gloom, escaping into “it’s judgement, it’s the end”, “hoard stacks of food and withdraw”, “save yourself”, “the rapture can happen any moment”.

Therefore, the radical middle we lead and teach our people is…

  • As citizens of heaven PRAY ceaselessly, “May your Kingdom come and defeat this pandemic… have mercy, O God.” Pray continually for miraculous breakthrough.

  • As citizens of our nation, PRAY for the President and government as they lead us in this difficult time (1 Timothy 2:1). Pray for all health workers who put their lives at risk. Pray for all who are vulnerable, sick and dying. Pray for the poor & unemployed, for business & the economy.

  • It also means supporting and upholding the government requirements of “social distancing”, sanitization and lockdown. Distribute the list of requirements during isolation to all church members, that they may be good citizens as per Titus 3:1-2, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always be gentle to everyone.”

  • “Social distancing” is better reworded as “physical distancing AND social solidarity”. Keep bodily distance (1.5m) but socially engage via all the technological means available to us, for love and care of our families, friends and people in need.  LOVE = physical distancing + social solidarity. NB: think about what this (LOVE) means for so many poor and unemployed people living in townships, informal settlements, rural areas, for whom hand sanitization, running water, storing up food, working from home, social distancing, drawing on savings, means little or nothing. If we are willing, God will show us how we can do something to help those within reach. The Church can be the nail-pierced hands of Jesus to them – a shining witness of love.  

  • Make arrangements to pastorally care for your people through increased ‘high (tech) touch’ by video and audio calls, pastoral letters, Whatsapp groups, pastoral visits with bodily distancing, live-stream teachings, video recordings, getting food and medicine to those in need. Ask God to show you how to do church, and leadership, creatively different at this changing context.

  • Have special sensitivity for the elderly, singles, for those vulnerable to mental health issues, depression, loneliness, dysfunctional marriages and potential domestic abuse in the ‘pressure cooker’ of the home in weeks of lockdown.

  • Finally, the lockdown means we now have the space and time to do three things:

    a) Deepen our discipleship to Jesus by engaging more in spiritual practices like extended solitude, learning silence, hearing God, meditation & prayer, fasting, good spiritual reading & study, among other exercises. (My two books are available as a resource, Praying the Psalms, a 12 week program of meditative prayer in 12 psalms; and Doing Spirituality, where I discuss all 24 classic spiritual practices in the Christian tradition).

    b) Deepen our relationships with our closest others we live with, learning to listen and love, resolve differences & conflicts, play games together, read a book together, etc. The lockdown will test us and our relationships in new ways. Use it for personal and relational growth.

    c) Deepen our social solidarity with others in need – commented on above.  

God bless you with the grace and wisdom, the love and faith that you need at this difficult time to lead your people as Jesus would if he were you! I pray that over you in the Name of Jesus!      

I close with an honest, biblical, prophetic and practical quote from Martin Luther in giving advice to Lutheran pastors in a letter in 1527 when Wittenberg was overrun by the plague. When asked what he would do, this was his answer: 

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

(Luther’s Works Volume 43, pg 132, the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess).

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Reflection on Significant Personal Shifts 2019/2020

In January I decided to start a long slow journey to meditatively read the Bible cover to cover. This morning, 30 December 2019, I finished Deuteronomy. The end of Torah/Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses. It’s been rich! I enter 2020 reading the next book in the Bible, Joshua, going into ‘The Promised Land’. How significant is that? Unplanned on my part. End of an era, beginning of a new year, a new decade, a new season to ‘inherit God’s promises’.

What makes this shift more symbolic is that Gill and I came to Johannesburg – independently of one another – in January 1980 (we met in 1984, got married in 1987). And we relocate to Salt Rock on the South African north coast, to a brand new house, on my birthday 14 January 2020! We both, in other words, have lived in Johannesburg exactly 40 years, planting and pastoring churches. Not that they have been a ‘wandering in the wilderness’ like Israel – at least not all of the time! But I do see God’s sovereignty in the timing of things. Has it been ‘training for reigning’, as in Israel’s formation and preparation in the wilderness, to rule with God in the new land?

Briefly, three years ago we started a succession process to hand over our local church. Two years later, on 13 January 2019, we laid hands on a younger couple to lead the church (when I began reading Genesis, ‘new beginnings’). We took the big step of faith to trust God month by month for ministry and finances, making ourselves available to the broader church to travel, consult with leaders, teach conferences, lead spiritual retreats, and write more books. Not that the last one has happened yet! And we decided, with a sense of leading from God, to relocate to the coast – north of Durban, where I was born in 1955. God has encouraged us with prophetic words that speak of a whole new season in our lives. We’ve been stretched in our faith like never before. Without going into detail, here’s one example: due to SA’s economic recession we’ve not yet sold our Johannesburg house, which we really need to sell (if there’s anyone out there who wants to buy it, let me know!)

I have learnt that the longer we faithfully journey with God in life, leadership and ministry, things do not get easier. Faith is further tested and seriously stretched for the finishing work of God in us, and through us, in his preordained plan for us. Jesus’ biggest test was toward the end of his life – Gethsemane – ‘Father, if it’s possible, take this cup from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will’. Greater faith is need for the greater and final things God wants to do in our lives. It’s ultimately training for reigning with Jesus in our resurrected bodies on the new earth, in the coming age(s). God has personally come through for us, reassuring us, providing, making a way, working miracles, keeping promises, being our light in darkness – ‘My God, that’s who you are!’

I conclude by grounding this brief 2019/2020 reflection in my year’s scripture reading. What amazed me is that the five books of Moses are named, in the Hebrew Bible, by the opening phrase of each book. They constitute an overview of headline lessons, a story told backwards from Deuteronomy to Genesis:

  • From ‘the words’
  • That ‘the Lord speaks’
  • Based on ‘the Lord’s calling’ on our lives
  • Calling us ‘by name’ to ‘exodus’ out of slavery to sin into God’s Promised Kingdom
  • Which is ‘the beginning’ of (a new) creation.

Deuteronomy is essentially the repetition of ‘These are the words’ (1:1, the Hebrew name for Deuteronomy) of God’s covenant, to prepare Israel to enter The Promised Land. They are literally “the words” (debarim) from God that give us faith and life (Romans 10:8-17), that equip us to inherit God’s promises, to enter the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom come.

These ‘words’ (Deuteronomy) follow on, and come from ‘The Lord spoke’ – Hebrew name for the book of Numbers (1:1; the Hebrew Bible also uses “in the desert/wilderness”, 1:1). Did you know that ‘the Lord spoke/said’, and its related phrases, occur 150 times in Numbers? Astonishing! In other words, the message of Numbers is that life’s wilderness is all about learning to hear God’s voice again and again in each and every situation – to receive God’s words, to be guided and trained by them for life. For 40 years in the desert, whenever Israel was tested, facing trials and temptations, Moses prayed and listened, heard and obeyed God. Israel, in contrast, moaned and groaned, reacted and rebelled. To the degree we learn to live and lead by listening and obeying, we exercise God’s authority to rule and reign, demonstrating the signs and wonders of the Kingdom, as Moses did.

‘The Lord said’ (Numbers) is based on ‘The Lord called’ (Leviticus 1:1) – the Hebrew name for the book of Leviticus. The Greek Septuagint name, Leviticus, means ‘relating to the Levites’. The Hebrew message of Leviticus is: because God has called us, therefore we hear God’s Word. It’s all about our calling and identity as God’s redeemed and holy people. The Lord’s Word – recorded in scripture, incarnated in Jesus, revealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit in each life situation – equips us to rule and reign with Christ on the basis of God calling and identifying us as his own. God calls us by name, sets us apart, makes us holy by the blood of the Lamb for his Kingdom purposes.

Our calling (Leviticus), in turn, comes from our Exodus – miraculous deliverance, departure, exit – from our life of slavery to sin, sickness, demons and death. The Hebrew name for the book of Exodus is ‘These are the names of” (1:1). God personally calls each of us out from under Satan’s rule by name, as members of his great diverse family, into a (new) covenant of love, in training for reigning to inherit the Kingdom. Exodus is all about God’s personalised love, fighting for us, freeing us from evil.

Lastly, this exodus – in fact, all four above – is based on, and constitutes, ‘the beginning’ (Genesis) of God’s creation. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (1:1). The book of Genesis is about God bringing order out of chaos, making all things new in a Garden of Delight (the meaning of Eden). God mandated his human image-bearers to take that Garden, that glory and abundance of God’s Shalom-Kingdom, to the ends of the earth.

Therefore, to move from Deuteronomy to Joshua – which I do on 1 January 2020 in my Bible reading; and, symbolically, we will do when we move to Salt Rock after 40 years in Johannesburg – is to come full circle back to the beginning: a new Genesis, a new birth. To move from Deuteronomy to Joshua is to move from Moses to Jesus (Hebrew Yeshuah, Yahweh Saves). Jesus leads us into the Promised Kingdom, to live in and advance God’s new creation – the new heavens and new earth – to the ends of this old, broken, chaotic creation, for the redemption and renewal of all things.

It’s a new year, a new season, a new start.
In Christ, you are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. Take heart! Turn to God, listen for his voice, receive his word, hear his call. God calls you by name!
Follow Jesus and he will lead you into the Promised Land.

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UK Ministry Report & Observations

I’m resting up after returning home from a wonderful ministry trip in Vineyard Churches in the UK. I was honored to minister in Plymouth, Truro & Falmouth, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, and Yoevil. My essential message was the four irreducible missional dimensions of the Kingdom of God (the message & ministry of Jesus that defines how we do church).

  1. Power encounter: Spirit-ministry of  healing & deliverance, signs & wonders.
  2. Personal Transformation: Spiritual Formation of discipleship to Jesus.
  3. Social Transformation: Holistic engagement in society, as in mercy relief, justice advocacy, community development, ecological ethics.
  4. World missions: Evangelism & church planting to advance God’s Kingdom to all nations that The End will come (Matt 24:14).

In teaching Jesus’ basic Kingdom framework and explaining the four implications, I focused mainly on the first two – though I emphasized it is a ‘package deal’ and we cannot engage in ‘selective obedience’ (we do all four at the same time). After doing the conferences & seminars in these cities and being with all the leaders and people, I summarise my overall sense in the following seven points:

  1. Vineyard churches in the UK are on the cusp of a further and new season of growth and expansion. 
  2. There is a feel of vitality and expectation in the face of serious spiritual opposition, dark secularism and divisive social uncertainty. I sense the UK is ripening for a real move of God.
  3. There’s a need for stronger grounding in a clearer biblical understanding of Jesus’ worldview and praxis of The Kingdom for the health and longevity of what God is doing.
  4. There is also the need to do succession well by focussing on the younger generation of leaders to train and mentor and hand over authority and power as Jesus did to his apostles and disciples.
  5. The deliberate turn toward deepening the  psycho-emotional health and spiritual formation of the pastors and leaders is very encouraging. Pacing oneself in the easy yoke of Jesus, in what GOD is doing, is key for good sustainability and growth.
  6.  The call of God is to seek first  Jesus and HIS Kingdom, then Jesus will build HIS Church. If we focus on building the church it subtlety becomes our kingdom, and we stop pursuing GOD’s Kingdom. If we truly fall in love with Jesus and stay in love with Jesus, it will change everything. This is discipleship to Jesus in the spiritual formation of GOD’s LOVE for us and his world.
       
  7.  Jesus is coming to his Church in the misty wind and waves of all our years of rowing against the storm of evil and social turmoil. The clearer we see Jesus for who he really is, the more we will step out of our boat of security, of what we’ve known and worked with for so long, and we will  walk on water. Fix your eyes on Jesus in the midst of all that’s going on. It’s time to exercise assertive faith and push into the unknown of ‘the  already’ of the Kingdom.  It’s time to walk on water! Even if the ‘not yet’ overwhelms us and we sink – taking our eyes off Jesus – he is beside us. He reaches out his hand and pull us up to stand with him in faith, in the dynamic reality of his Kingdom come.
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Living the Life God Intended – Talk 6 – Fulfilling God’s Law

To hear the audio teaching on these notes click on:
http://followingjesus.org.za/sermons/living-the-life-god-intended-talk-6/

Jesus’ mission: “Fulfilling The Law & The Prophets”, Matt 5:17-20

In teaching The Life God Intended for us to live, Jesus describes those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven (KOH, the “blessed be’s” of Matt 5:1-12), and their prophetic witness as “salt & light” in society (Matt 5:13-16). Then he clearly states his mission: to fulfill The Law & The Prophets (vv.17-20). And then he follows on with what that means, what that looks like, from Matt 5:21-48 and on through to Matt 7:12, which “sums up” and echoes Matt 5:17.

Jesus says that he did NOT come to abolish Moses’ covenant, The Law, but to fulfill it in his KOH mission. The Law (Torah) is God’s prescribed will for human flourishing – the life God always intended human beings to live. We flourish as human beings – God’s image-bearers – if we obey God’s law and live it. Thus Jesus upholds it’s value: nothing will disappear from The Law “until everything is accomplished” (v.18), i.e. fulfilled. In fact, he intensified its ethical demands, seen in Matt 5:21-48, while other teachers of The Law in effect relaxed them (v.19), as we will see in subsequent posts.

It was an open secret that, though Torah embodied God’s will, it lacked the power to make people obey and live it. Why? Not because the first covenant of Moses was faulty per se, but because of the sinfulness (“the hardness”) of the human heart, which God’s Law repeatedly exposed. And therefore God provided the Temple sacrificial system for the forgiveness of sins – when Jews repeatedly broke God’s commands. God also promised a new covenant-relationship that will transform the heart by the Spirit, enabling God’s people to do his will (Jer 31:31-36, 32:38-40, Ezek 36:26-27).

Jesus was God’s Anointed King (Messiah), giving the promised “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Matt 3:13) in the coming of the KOH new covenant (Matt 4:17). All who enter ‘it’ – this new relationship with God through faith in Jesus – receive a “righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees” (v.20). This is the righteousness that Jesus lived and modeled, enabled by God’s indwelling Spirit – and given to those who enter the KOH that Jesus proclaimed.

Righteousness is (God’s) ‘covenant faithfulness’ that gives us ‘right-standing-before-God’ and ‘right-way-of-relating/living’ in society. It is NOT attained or merited by outward behavioral performance, conforming to the rules, as the Pharisees taught. Jesus said they taught one thing and lived another reality, i.e. hypocrites (Matt 23:1-4). Righteousness is given through relational faith in Jesus, by trusting HIM for right-standing-before-God and right-way-of-living – rather than earning the reward of righteousness by our efforts at obedience. Followers of Jesus live by relationship and not by rules. We live by relying on Jesus and his enabling Spirit, not by trying to keep God’s requirements in our own strength.

Behavior changes when the heart and mind is changed. We don’t try to obey the letter of The Law of Moses written in stone – we will fail, because our hearts are “hard” (sinful). Rather, we depend on the Spirit of The Law writing God’s will in our hearts and minds. That is the Hebraic way of saying the Holy Spirit enables us to do God’s will “as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10) from “a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26-27). I.e. as our hearts and minds are changed – progressively transformed from the inside out by living in God’s Rule and Reign of Love – we live the life God intended. The “heart” is the core and whole of the human being, the spirit-fountain out of which all of life flows and is lived (Prov 4:23).

In summary: the Pharisees focused on outward behavioral conformity, trying to obey God in the moment when needed. Jesus focused on inward transformation of the governing intentions of the heart, training for obedience by relational trust in God’s enabling Spirit in every moment. Jesus repeatedly taught this ‘heart-change-behavior’ principle in various ways:
The behavioral-fruit comes from the heart-root (Matt 7:16-20, 12:33-35);
What’s in the heart comes out – or is seen outwardly – in our thoughts, words and deeds (Matt 15:16-20);
First clean the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean (Matt 23:25-26).

To illustrate what he meant by “fulfilling the Law & the Prophets”, Jesus gave six ethical redefinitions in Matt 5:21-48. Each one shows how God’s intended purpose of The Law & Prophets is fulfilled in all who enter the KOH (Matt 4:17) and receive his Spirit-baptism (Matt 3:11). What Moses prescribes under the (old) covenant, Jesus describes in his new covenant relationship with Spirit-enabled behavior. By beginning each of the six with “you have heard it said… but I say…”, he teaches like the other rabbis, quoting a text and then giving his interpretation. He also ‘builds a hedge’ around the commandment; i.e. long before you get to actually break the commandment, you ‘run into’ and discipline the inner governing tendencies that cause you to disobey it.

However, there are four basic differences in Jesus when compared to the other teachers of his day:
1) He assumed the coming of the KOH in his ministry with Spirit-enabled new covenant behavior;
2) Thus he claimed and spoke with an authority from God that was not acknowledged, and even rejected, by most Rabbis – but recognized and respected by the common people (Matt 7:28-29);
3) Showing the Jews of his day that his movement really was the fulfillment of all that Israel believed and longed for – to be God’s kingdom of priests and prophets among all the nations – and…
4) That Jesus and his followers were to live by, and even die for, this revolutionary new way of being human, being God’s image-bearers.

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Report on my Ministry Trip to Chile, 2-10 January 2017

I had an exceptional time of ministry in Chile, thanks to all who partnered with me by collaborating with God in prayer to bring about what HE wanted to do with the Vineyard youth leaders, pastors and churches.

There were about 75 youth leaders and 12 pastors from 18 Vineyard churches in Chile. We met for 5 days (Tuesday to Saturday) in a Catholic retreat center 200 kms South of Santiago in the foothills of the Andes mountains. A remote setting with beautiful walks in the forests and crystal clear rivers. I had three sessions per day: two for teaching and one for questions and answers (Q&A), each 50 to 60 minutes long. What pure joy to teach such open, keen, sharp and enthusiastic young adults – an impressive group of leaders filled with God – the future of the Chilean Vineyard in really good hands! In all my years of ministry travels I have seldom come across such a sense of God’s presence, such promise, hunger for God, desire to learn and grow, where God is so evidently at work in such depth.

I was asked to teach 10 sessions on the Biblical Story and Kingdom Theology. A detailed systematic exposition of the Kingdom of God had not been done with the Chilean Vineyard leadership in this manner, and I was honored to do it! The Q&A times showed they understood everything I was teaching, and more. Their questions probed many aspects of Jesus and the Kingdom. They also watched 2 DVD sessions per day of John Wimber teaching “Power Evangelism” – a privilege for me to share a conference with John – even if it was ‘Electronic Wimber’!

The worship times, all in Spanish, were simply heavenly. I had little or no clue what I was singing, but most of the time I was overwhelmed with tears at the sheer sense of God’s presence, passion, intimacy and joy. The ministry times were equally remarkable. They went on for at least an hour at a time. Whenever I said, “Come Holy Spirit…” and watched and waited to see what God was doing, things began to happen. There is an extraordinary openness and responsiveness to God. The emotional freedom and expressiveness – perhaps part of the Latino culture? – made for a glorious mess! Some simply stood, faces shining with light. Some cried and shook, while others were coughing up ‘stuff’ (spiritual powers?) that came out of them. A few young women ended up on the floor wailing and screaming as God pulled out the deeply rooted pain of rejection and abuse.

Men also responded to the Spirit and freely expressed what was happening to them. One tall young man was standing up against a wall with eyes closed and hands and face raised to heaven. I saw the Spirit of God all over him. Then I said, “Juan, God is your real father. God is a father to you as your own father was unable to be.” He began to cry. Then bent over sobbing. I said, “God is saying to you, ‘my son, my son, my son, I love you my son’…” Then he collapsed on the floor and wept and wept. His close friends ministered to him for a long time.

It’s pure heaven to see God on people in different ways, working his own good work – largely is a mystery hidden from our own eyes and understanding, more so when you don’t know the language! I’m learning to let GOD be God, and trust him for HIS compassionate work. God is more willing to touch people and do his work through us than we are willing to take the risk of saying, “Come Holy Spirit…” Whether I feel inspired or feel nothing at all (which often is the case), I simply bless what God is doing, not knowing what he’s doing! I’m learning to relax into God and follow the faintest promptings, trusting that any movement in my thoughts, or emotions, or body, is the Holy Spirit. Then as I take the risk of speaking it over the person in faith, I see things begin to happen. What an awesome privilege to work with God and his power in our human weakness!

I preached in San Miguel Vineyard in Santiago on the Sunday morning. God gave me a specific word for them from Psalm 133: Maintain the unity of the Spirit through right relationships with God and each other. Where there is relational unity God anoints with his Spirit and commands a blessing! Where there is unresolved disunity, the devil is at work, a curse! We had a great time of ministry, with good feedback as to it being the very word from God that they needed. Then a Kingdom feast followed with all their leaders, with Chilean meat and wine and all sorts of tasty food, from 12:30-18:30 – with an intense question and answer session on Jesus and his Kingdom for the entire time! I understood Jesus feasting with people and sharing stories and teachings of the Kingdom!

At 18:30 my host said, “It’s time to take Alexander across town to preach at Agape Vineyard!” The people had been worshipping since 18:30 and as I walked in at 19:10, the pastor called me up to preach!! Again, in all my tiredness and over-eating, the power of God broke out as I taught on The Love of the Father. When our buffers and restraints are down it seems God can work more freely with less interference from us! The ministry time was particularly powerful – people didn’t want to leave the building – we only got out after 23:00! One last story: I went to a young woman who was bent over a chair. Whenever I touched her she moved and moaned with pain, as if things moved under her skin. We got her laid on the floor and then I laid both my hands on her back. There was an immediate strong reaction of body convulsion, coughing and vomiting. It went on for some time till full release and rest came over her. Eventually, in debriefing with her, a interpreter-friend told me she had sensations of burning heat and power wherever I touched her body. Yet subjectively, I felt no feelings or sensations of power. I simply followed Jesus in rebuking whatever was binding her. She had a history of chronic bodily sickness and depression. She said that she didn’t know what had happened, but she felt as if her body had been renovated and set free!

Thank you Jesus, and thanks to all who pray for me when I go on ministry trips!