Breakthrough For All

Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”

David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.

1 Samuel 30:21-25

David and his men had been staying in the Philistine city of Ziklag. All their belongings were there along with their wives and children. David and his men left to fight a battle alongside the Philistines, but were sent back home because the battle was against Israel. Philistine leaders didn’t know if they could trust David to fight his own people.

When David and his men got back to Ziklag, it had been raided by the Amalekites. All their stuff was taken and their families were kidnapped. David and his men immediately went in hot pursuit of the Amalekites, but a group of them couldn’t keep up. Two hundred out of his six hundred men were too exhausted to continue. Eventually, the remaining men with David caught up to the raiders, defeated them in battle, and returned with their families, their belongings, and some extra plunder.

On their way back home, some of the men who fought didn’t want to share the bounty with the two hundred men who had stopped to rest. But David declares a new statute for his crew, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.

This principle of the Kingdom of God still exists today in the body of Christ. When one person pursues a gift of the Spirit, or when a person perseveres until breakthrough comes, the reward is meant for more than just that person. It becomes a gift to the whole body of Christ.

For instance, if one person’s years of bible study and intimacy with the Lord leads to powerful insights into living the Christian life, it was meant for more than just that person who spent years digging into truth. It was meant to be shared. And when it is shared, those who did little to no work digging into the scriptures benefit if they’re willing to be teachable.

Or, if a person pursues gifts of healing and prays for people over and over again. Through their victories and their defeats, God begins to pour out a unique gift to see neurological disease healed. Those painful years of persevering in prayer created the fertile soil where that gift could blossom. But that gift was meant for more than that person and his friends. It was meant for the church so that hundreds or even thousands of people with debilitating neurological disease could be set free. Then, as others hear the testimonies of healing, their faith for healing rises even in impossible situations.

One person’s breakthrough becomes breakthrough for the whole body of Christ. “All will share alike.”

There are some in the church who struggle to believe in this principle of the Kingdom because they don’t think it is fair. Like the troublemakers among David’s followers, they feel like people are getting things they didn’t sacrifice for. But the truth is that the whole Christian life is defined by getting what Someone else, namely Jesus, sacrificed for. All of our sacrifices are simply smaller and less significant imitations of His ultimate sacrifice. So when our sacrifice brings breakthrough for others, the joy of getting to identify with Jesus is ours.

The real question for the follower of Jesus is whether they just want to wait around to receive the breakthroughs that other people have paid a price for, or do they want to contribute to the body of Christ with a breakthrough of their own.

I have received SO MUCH from others who paid the price for their breakthrough and were willing to freely pass it along to me. And this is how Jesus always wanted it to be. He told His own disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give“(Matthew 10:8). A burning desire in my heart is to not be just a recipient of everyone else’s breakthroughs. I long to pay the price in order to be able to offer others a breakthrough that has happened in my life.

What about you? What breakthrough will you bring to the body of Christ?

Psychics, Mediums & Spiritists

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”

1 Samuel 27:3-4

King Saul had been living in rebellion from the Lord for some time. He had been chasing David all over his kingdom trying to put him to death. Then the Philistines amassed their army against Israel and Saul was terrified. We often make really bad decisions when those decisions are rooted in fear.

Saul thought he could use the Lord like a slot machine or a Magic 8 ball. He inquired of the Lord as to what to do. Saul wanted to hear from the Lord on his terms. He hadn’t been interested in hearing the truth from the Lord in years, but he wants God to suddenly start speaking to him again now that he’s in a crisis. How many of us do this same thing?

God refuses to be a puppet for King Saul. God is quiet. The normal ways of hearing from the Lord go silent. Saul doesn’t get a word from a prophet. “Urim” was a reference to one way that the priests inquired of the Lord. And Saul doesn’t get a personal dream from the Lord. These were the standard ways that the Lord would speak to His people–through prophet, priest and king.

In desperation Saul does the unthinkable. Years ago, in obedience to the Law of God, Saul had expelled mediums and spiritists from Israel. Yet, because of his fear and because of his life of rebellion, Saul now seeks out a medium–someone who would consult the dead for him.

God was very clear about his prohibitions on mediums, spiritists, fortune-tellers, and other forms of occult practices.

“Do not practice divination or seek omens.”
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:26, 31

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

Deuteronomy 18:9-16

The Lord was clear. What God really wanted to do was to speak to each member of Israel directly. But they were terrified by His Presence, so as a people they asked NOT to hear the voice of the Lord. Still wanting to speak to His people, God honored their request and spoke to them instead through a prophet. But they were absolutely forbidden to engage in the occult practices of the surrounding nations. If they did, they would “be defiled by them.”

This prohibition still stands for us in the new covenant.

God is able to speak to each individual personally through the Holy Spirit–something God always wanted with His people. He also still speaks through people gifted with prophetic gifts. Likewise, God continues to reject all forms of the occult and witchcraft. Divination, sorcery, mediums, spiritists, witchcraft, fortune-tellers, psychics and the like are all avenues to the demonic. Any visit to these practitioners or any experimentation with ouija boards, tarot cards, crystals and the like is an invitation for demons to set up camp in your life. I’ve seen this firsthand.

That Sunday the Presence of the Lord was strong in our worship service. When I concluded my sermon by praying over the congregation, a girl in the room started to shake. The shaking continued through the final worship song, and she knew she needed to get some help. This girl knew something was happening that was beyond her control. She approached me and one of my prayer team members for prayer.

We escorted her back to the prayer room and began to pray. She admitted that she thought she knew the problem. She confessed to dabbling in a certain kind of tarot card reading. She would get fearful about the future and wanted to know how things were going to turn out (sounds a lot like Saul). The more she engaged in these cards, the more something was taking over control of her body. She confessed that she would also engage in automatic writing. This is when she would hold a pen in her hand and invite spirits to take control of her hand and write a message to her. What started by her invitation soon became an oppression she couldn’t resist.

After she shared these things, I knew she had engaged in divination and was likely heavily demonized. As we prayed against a spirit of divination, she violently convulsed, dry-heaving and coughing until this spirit left. When it left she knew. She felt the peace of the Lord come over her. In subsequent weeks, we would pray for this girl multiple times casting multiple demons out of her. Engagement with the occult is a fast-track to demonic oppression.

Some people visit psychics, palm readers, mediums, spiritists, and tarot card readers just for fun. They think it’s a game, like something you’d find at the county fair. Others are afraid of the future and believe this is the best way to alleviate their fears. Some play with crystals, tarot cards, and ouija boards at home thinking these things are harmless. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These practices are all manifestations of witchcraft. They are all forms of the kingdom of darkness trying to imitate the Kingdom of God. They are all demonic avenues into the spirit realm trying to imitate the real thing, which is prophecy and prophetic gifting (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-4).

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. So even if you don’t have prophetic gifts or know anyone who does, you have the ability to hear from the Lord. Maybe no one taught you how to listen and hear from the Lord, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking. He wants to speak to you personally, through His word and through prayer. Engaging in the occult in order to hear from God or hear about your future is like going to a drug dealer in the city to learn about the side effects of prescription drugs. You’ll end up damaged and demonized by the process. Go to the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) if you need to hear from God. He wants to speak to you.

If you have engaged in these occult practices and now want no part of them, here is a prayer you can pray:

In the name of Jesus, I renounce any involvement in (name the occult or the cultic practice).
I renounce (list the practices you participated in). 

I ask you God to forgive me for my ignorance. I didn’t know how dangerous these things were. Forgive me for trusting in these things rather than in You alone. Forgive me for what amounts to worshipping false gods. I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Jesus is Lord of all, I will worship God and Him alone. 

I sever all contact I’ve ever had with the occult or with all false religion, and I commit myself to get rid of all objects associated with the occult or false religion. Now I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of my sin and my involvement in those occult practices. I break the power of their words over me. I break the victim spirit off of me. I rebuke the fear I have lived under. I cancel my bond to fear. I reject and renounce any unholy prediction made about my life or the life of my loved ones. 

In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against me that came from my involvement in these occult practices. In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against my loved ones that came from my involvement in these occult practices. I take every word captive that has been spoken over me, my loved ones, and that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses from hell. I cancel every assignment of darkness and I cast them to the ground. I call blessing to fall on me in their place. I take back every curse I have spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground. I return a blessing on those with whom I have cursed. Jesus took my cursing so I can live in blessing. 

In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to access my life through the occult to leave me right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to torment the life of my loved ones through these occult practices to stop right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any afflicting spirit to get out of my body and cause no more damage. In the name of Jesus, I command any tormenting spirit to get out of my mind, my will and my emotions. You are trespassing on the Temple of the Holy Spirit and I command you to leave now in Jesus’s name!

Women in Ministry

If you didn’t know, there is a debate in the church about women and their roles in the local church and in ministry. This debate has been going for some time. In my discussions with various church people and church leaders, it seems as though there are 4 views that are floating around. It’s important for you (and your daughters) to know what view your church holds. What follows is a quick (incomplete and cursory) summary of the four main views that are out there.

Imagine a continuum. On the right side of the continuum are the more conservative views and on the left side are the more progressive views. I will list the views as if we are moving from the far right to the far left.

Hard Complementarianism

This view holds that women should not be in the roles of deacons, elders or ordained pastors. It also holds that women should not ever preach/teach from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. This view comes from a universal application (meaning they apply to all churches for all time) of Paul’s words to the Corinthians that “Women should remain silent in the churches” (1 Corinthians 14:34) and Paul’s words to Timothy that he “does not permit a woman to teach a man/husband” (1 Timothy 2:12). Included in this interpretation is Paul’s words to Timothy about the qualifications for an elder and deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-13) which imply that all elders and deacons are men.

Not permitting women in these roles is seen as a way to protect them, not a way of oppressing them. It is an attempt to align the church with a God-ordained authority structure. Women do serve in various other ways throughout the church and are celebrated in those roles. Churches that tend to hold this view are: conservative Baptist churches, conservative Presbyterian churches, Reformed churches, and conservative Bible churches.

Soft Complementarianism

This view is similar to hard complementarianism but is less strict in its prohibitions. While women are not permitted to be elders or ordained pastors, they do sometimes serve in deacon roles and other leadership roles in the church (small group leader, missions team leader, etc.). The verses mentioned above are interpreted both universally (see above) and culturally (meaning part of the instruction of Paul was just mean for that specific church and cultural situation). Also noted is Priscilla’s role in teaching/discipling Apollo (Acts 18:24-26) and the fact that Phoebe was a deaconess in the Roman church (Romans 16:1). Because of this, you will see women speak from the pulpit from time to time (Mother’s Day, missions Sundays, Sanctity of Life Sunday, youth Sundays, etc). There is some disagreement as to whether this is “teaching” or simply “speaking.” Churches that tend to hold this view are: conservative Baptist churches, conservative Presbyterian churches, Reformed churches, conservative Bible churches and many nondenominational churches.

Egalitarian (based on gifting)

This view supports women in all roles in the church, including deacon, elder, and ordained pastor. Because of this, women teaching/preaching from the pulpit is welcomed. The passages of scripture above that record Paul prohibiting women from teaching and requiring them to be silent in the church are understood in their cultural context and are not applied universally (in the same way that braided hair and head coverings are interpreted culturally and not universally). It is noted that in the same letter to the Corinthians where Paul tells women to be silent (1 Cor 14), he also acknowledges that women pray and prophesy in the church (1 Cor 11:5). Prophesying in the early church was always done in a corporate church setting, and it seemed to be a common thing for women to do (Acts 21:9).

Likewise, Paul lists 10 different women who were co-ministers in the gospel with him in Romans 16. In this list, Phoebe was called a deacon, Junia was called “outstanding among the apostles,” and Priscilla was called a “co-worker in Christ Jesus”–the same word used to describe Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Luke and two other women, Euodia and Syntyche. Based on all of these roles that women served in the early church (apostle, prophetess, deacon, co-worker in the gospel with Paul) and in light of Jesus’s radically affirming actions toward women (they were the first to see and declare the resurrection of Jesus in a time when women weren’t allowed to be a witness in court), it appears that the passages that prohibit women should be interpreted as local, culturally informed prohibitions (likely because of the abuses of the cult of Artemis).

The emphasis of this view is that the Holy Spirit has distributed His gifts throughout His Church to men and women equally. So those who are gifted to lead and teach should do so. Those who are not gifted in that area should not. The determining factor is not based on sex but on Holy Spirit gifting. Churches that tend to hold this view are: Pentecostal and charismatic churches, Wesleyan holiness and moderate Brethren churches, moderate Baptist churches, moderate Presbyterian churches, and moderate nondenominational churches.

Egalitarian (based on justice)

This view is very similar to the Egalitarian view listed above. The views on how to interpret the various passages of scripture are very similar. The main difference is an emphasis on empowering women because they have been oppressed in the church throughout church history. Rather than the focus being on Holy Spirit gifting, the focus is on avoiding injustice toward women. The passage of emphasis is Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This emphasis on justice also allows for a re-interpretation of various passages prohibiting homosexuality. So churches that tend to affirm women in ministry from a justice perspective also tend to affirm the LGBTQ community. Churches that tend to hold this view are: mainline protestant churches & theologically progressive churches, liberal Baptist churches, liberal Presbyterian churches, and progressive church plants.
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I would label myself an “Egalitarian (based on gifting)” in line with the Wesleyan Holiness and Pentecostal traditions (though I come from a Southern Baptist background, went to an anabaptist college and a moderate Baptist seminary, and now pastor a nondenominational church). I have found that conversations between soft complementarians and egalitarians (based on gifting) are the most productive when discussing women in ministry. I have found that those with the extreme view on both the right and the left do a lot of yelling and not a lot of listening.

I would encourage you to do your own study and discover where you land on this issue. And then check with the leadership of your church and see what they say about this issue. Well-meaning Christians can humbly disagree with each other and still worship together. But it is important to know what your church is teaching about this issue.

Forgiveness

See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…

…May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

1 Samuel 24:11-12, 15

David and his men were being chased down by King Saul and his army. David and his men were hiding out in the back of a cave when Saul went into the cave to go to the bathroom. While Saul was relieving himself, David snuck up and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. All of David’s men wanted him to kill Saul, and David could have easily taken his revenge in that moment for all the ways Saul mistreated him. Instead, David seeks reconciliation and peace.

David comes out of the cave and humbly reveals the situation to Saul, and Saul breaks down at David’s kindness and generosity toward him. But notice David’s words to Saul because they are a perfect description of what happens when we forgive someone.

When someone has wronged us, the Lord commands us to forgive them. For followers of Jesus this is not a suggestion. This is a command. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven of so much. We are the most forgiven people on the planet. Who are we not to forgive? When we lavishly accept mountains of forgiveness from Jesus and yet refuse to squeeze out a handful of forgiveness for the ways other people have wronged us, we are trampling on the cross of Christ.

But notice David’s words. Forgiveness is not saying that what the other person did was okay. Forgiveness is not making excuses for other people’s wrongdoing. Forgiveness is not making light of the ways people have hurt us. Forgiveness is not a declaration that what they did was fine. It’s not an invitation for them to do it again and for us to be a doormat.

Instead, forgiveness is declaring that we will not be the one to bring justice and fairness into the situation. Forgiveness is giving up the right to seek revenge. I like the way David said it to Saul, “May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…” And then he reaffirms this idea when he said, “May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

When we forgive we are not saying there shouldn’t be justice. What we are saying is that we are not the Judge. God is. When we forgive we are putting the situation in God’s hands and declaring that He is the one who will bring justice. We are trusting Him to be the Just Judge. And in so doing we are also saying, “My hand will not touch you.” But this doesn’t just mean avoiding physical violence against the person who wronged us. It also means, “My heart will not resent you” and “My mind will not harbor bitterness toward you.” There are many kinds of revenge–many that originate in the heart and mind–and forgiveness is giving up our supposed “right” to all forms of revenge.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we instantly rebuild trust with the person. Rebuilding trust is the process of reconciliation and is step number two. Reconciliation requires two people willing to work to rebuild the relationship. Forgiveness does not. Forgiveness does not require that you trust the person, but it does require that you trust God. We must trust God enough to release the situation into His hands and trust Him with the outcome. Forgiveness is something that we work through between us and God. The third party is not required in this process. We can forgive family members who have long since passed away. We can forgive people who are no longer in our life. It doesn’t require their participation.

Reconciliation does require the other person’s participation and, if it is possible, we should pursue it. But it is not always possible, nor recommended, that we reconcile with some people. There are situations that are just too toxic for reconciliation. But no situation is beyond forgiveness. Forgiveness sets us free from the damage that resentment and bitterness does to our own heart. Forgiveness is a gift to us, made possible by Jesus’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive when it seems impossible. Jesus gives us the grace to forgive when we don’t want to.

Below is a great prayer of forgiveness by Rodney Hogue. Who do you need to forgive today?

PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS:

In the name of Jesus, I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I release any right I have retained to bring revenge. I release them from my hands and place them into Your hands, Jesus, my Just Judge. I break every curse I have sent to them and call forth a blessing to them instead. Thank you for the grace to forgive and the power to live in freedom.

You've Got a Friend in Me

While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”

1 Samuel 23:15-17

We all need friends like Jonathan. David was in trouble as Saul was hunting him down. Jonathan came to encourage David, and he did it in the best possible way. He helped David “find strength in God.” And the way Jonathan did this was to remind David of the promise God had spoken over David’s life.

Too often when friends are trying to comfort and encourage someone, they do it poorly. Here are some common mistakes that are made:

  1. Messiah complex: sometimes a friend tries to encourage someone by being the savior in the situation. They point people to themselves rather than to the Lord. They shell out their advice rather than help the person hear from the Lord.
  2. Minimizing: sometimes a friend tries to convince someone that it’s really not that bad. The intention here is good but too often it diminishes the real struggle that the person is having.
  3. Self-comparison: sometimes a friend tries to encourage another by comparing it to something they went through. Eventually the conversation turns away from the friend in need to the friend trying to help. It becomes all about a past situation that may have little to do with the current one.

But notice what Jonathan does. Jonathan doesn’t try to be the savior but instead points David to the One who can save. Jonathan doesn’t minimize the danger that David is in. Jonathan doesn’t tell a story of his own. Instead, he helps David find strength in the Lord. He helps David focus on the Lord rather than on his terrible situation. He reminds David of God’s promises to him. He reminds David of the prophetic words spoken over his life. He declares God’s words about the future even though those words seem impossible in the present.

Jonathan also didn’t try to compete with David. Jonathan was fine being in second place. He knew God’s plan for David and was not so arrogant as to fight against God’s plans. Jonathan humbly accepted the truth about what the future held for him. He wasn’t interested in competing with his friend; he just wanted to encourage him through this hard time.

We need friends like this. We need to become friends like this. Next time we encourage a friend going through a hard time, we need to think about how we can help them find strength in God (rather than in us). Let’s listen for the Holy Spirit and what He has to say about the person and their future. The word of the Lord is better than any advice we could give. Declare the truth about who God says they are, regardless of the situation they face. And if God has spoken a big destiny over their life, we shouldn’t be afraid to say it and we shouldn’t try to compete with it. We’re called to humbly encourage our friend. After all, this isn’t about us.

Checking In

When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.

”But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 

1 Samuel 23:1-5

David was on the run from King Saul who was trying to kill him. Yet, when he hears news about the Philistines looting one of the towns of Israel, he wants to help. David doesn’t want to get caught and killed, but his mind is not on self-preservation. His heart is for the people of Israel. His heart is tuned in to the heart of God.

Notice that David continually checks in with God. Scripture says that David “inquired of the Lord.” When you read the story of David you’ll noticed that he does this over and over again. He checks in with the Lord to see if he is the guy who should help in this situation. This shows that his heart and his life are surrendered to the Lord. He’s not fighting the Philistines out of bravado or trying to prove himself. He’s fighting out of a place of obedience.

When his men respond to him in fear, David checks in with the Lord again. In other words, he listens to his men. He takes their fears seriously and considers them. Then, he ultimately submits their fears to the Lord and asks if they should still go and fight. When God says, “Go,” David goes. He is fully obedient, fully surrendered, fully submitted to the Lord. His life is not his own. He knows he belongs to the Lord. And because of this, the Lord promises to go with David and give him victory.

David is modeling for us a heart-posture we should have before the Lord. Throughout our day, but especially when making decisions, we need to check in with the Lord first. Then, we need to hear from trusted friends and family. We need to listen to their concerns carefully. Finally, we need to go back to the Lord and submit their concerns to Him. We start with the Lord and we end with the Lord. He is the beginning and the end.

Even as Christians, we’ve tried to come up with ways of making decisions that don’t include asking the Lord. We try to work our systems and strategies thinking that human wisdom will be enough. But it’s not. We need God’s direction–wisdom that comes only from the Holy Spirit.

I think we avoid asking and listening to the Lord for a few reasons: 1) We haven’t cultivated a relationship where we are regularly hearing from the Lord because 2) we don’t think we can hear from the Lord. Or, 3) we haven’t been taught how to hear from the Lord, or 4) we don’t think God would speak to us even if we could hear Him.

The truth is that God wants to speak to us, and we can hear from the Lord. We do need to first learn how to hear from the Lord and begin to cultivate a relationship with Him where we hear from Him. And we don’t start with gigantic decisions. We cultivate a relationship of hearing from the Lord with smaller things first, things that don’t stir up so many of our emotions and our swirling thoughts. If we can begin to hear from the Lord on smaller, daily things, we will be better prepared when big decisions come our way. We will have learned how to hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to us. We’ll begin to learn how to discern His voice from our own internal monologue. We’ll be able to sense when it is a lie from the enemy or a statement from the Lord.

This is the kind of relationship David had with the Lord; it’s a picture–a foretaste–of what is available to us in Christ. Now that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, this kind of dialogue with the Lord is even more possible for every believer. The question for us is whether we are willing to surrender our lives in the way that David surrendered His.

Adullam Church Planting

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

1 Samuel 22:1-2

Too often what we see here with David is also what we see with church planting. As someone who has planted a church, I am big believer in the need for more new churches. Yet too often, an unhealthy gathering of unhealthy people is how a new church begins.

First, too often the leader is running away from an oppressive situation. They were an associate pastor or youth pastor who felt too controlled by their senior pastor or elder board. They may not be running for their lives like David was, but they are running from authority. Rather than facing the problem or facing their own issues with authority, they run away and call it church planting.

Then, notice who is compelled to join David. First, his family comes to support him, and this is pretty common among church plants. Nothing wrong with that. But also notice that those next to arrive are “in distress or in debt or discontented.” People in distress come because they’ve exhausted other church environments. People who are financially unstable come because a church plant feels more chaotic, and they are quite at home in chaos. And people who are discontented with other churches come because they believe their discontentment is always the other church’s fault. They think what they really need is just a new church that they can influence to do things the “right” way.

You can probably already see the difficulty of this situation. A church plant has little resources because it is just trying to get off the ground and many people are not financially stable enough to tithe regularly. What resources a church plant does have–financial, emotional, and leadership resources–can get drained quickly because of those who are in a constant state of distress or in a perpetual state of discontentment. This is part of what makes planting a church, especially in the northeast, so difficult.

Eventually, the ones who came discontented and were initially really excited about the new church plant find new reasons to be discontent. They carry the discontentment with them wherever they go, so they will end up hopping from church to church, never able to settle in. The ones in distress will also fade away, frustrated that someone wasn’t constantly holding their hand through life. The ones in perpetual financial crisis, if they don’t find ways to get healthy, won’t stay long either.

This is why the crowd that is there for the first year or two of the church plant usually isn’t there within a few years. In order for a church to survive, it needs solid leaders who have emotional intelligence and stable lives. Without people like this, the church will not make it. True disciples of Jesus Christ willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel has always been the core of a healthy church. Yes, the church should always be reaching out to the broken and the lost, and this will always make church messy. And yes, life always brings unpredictable crises into the lives of church members that we all walk through together. But the core of the church leadership can’t be in disarray or it won’t survive. And many church plants don’t.

The church was never meant to be a nonprofit where the discontented gather. It was never meant to be “the cave of Adullam.” It was meant to be on mission as the Body of Christ in the world ushering in the Kingdom of God to earth. It was meant to be a worshiping community of those filled with the Spirit and on fire for God. For every believer, the church serves initially as a hospital for sinners, but it was never meant to stay that way. It’s not supposed to look like a permanent ER. It’s supposed to look more like an army of saints, who take a field hospital wherever they go, spreading the love of God and the good news of Jesus.