And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

If you’ve ever stuffed yourself at dinner, you know that feeling. You feel full and heavy. But if you’ve ever fasted for a few days, you know the opposite feeling. You feel lighter but not full. What if, spiritually, you could feel both simultaneously?

Somehow, I feel both lighter and fuller at the same time!

This is a quote from a person who had just received inner healing and deliverance prayer. Read it again and let those words really sink in. This is what happens when the power of God comes to set people free from the heavy spiritual oppression of demonic spirits and then fills them with the Holy Spirit. When God comes in power to set you free, you feel both lighter and fuller at the same time. Only God can do that!

As we pray for people and these oppressive spirits leave, we always ask the Holy Spirit to fill the places in the person’s life that have just been vacated. We invite the Holy Spirit to fill every place in their heart, soul, mind, and body that had previously been occupied by the enemy.

Paul prayed something similar for the Ephesians when he prayed that they would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” This is also what he was saying when he told the Ephesians,

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…

Ephesians 5:18

Instead of being filled with the heaviness of sin and darkness, we are called to be people who walk in the lightness of the Spirit because we are filled with the Spirit.

If you have a heaviness that seems to follow you around, you may discover that you need freedom. You may have some spiritual parasites that have globbed onto your life and are sucking the life out of you. Demonic spirits love to bring a heaviness that feels empty. Instead, the Holy Spirit brings a lightness that feels full. This is the difference between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God.

Jesus paid a high price so that we could walk in freedom, lightness, and fullness. His Name is the only Name with the authority to set people free from demonic darkness and usher in the fullness of the Spirit.

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!”

Luke 4:36

he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth…

Philippians 2:8-10

You Will Understand

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

I was wrestling with God in prayer one morning. Some things weren’t happening that I wanted to happen. I was frustrated that housing in Kansas City wasn’t lining up a little easier. I was frustrated that better houses weren’t opening up in our target areas. I was frustrated that it felt like we’d have to move from an awesome house to an average house.

I let God know about it. I kept saying, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing. What are you doing here, God? I don’t understand what you’re doing.” This complaint-prayer was the main refrain of the morning. 

Then, I loaded the kids into the car to drive up to the baseball tournament in Pennsylvania that my oldest was playing in. A few minutes into the drive, the SiriusXM radio DJ, Ashley Till, mentioned that she picks a scripture verse every morning and takes it with her throughout the day. She shared with her listeners that her verse for that day was John 13:7 where Jesus says to His disciples, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Read that again. I was stunned. 

Sometimes God takes a long time to answer prayers. Sometimes He answers within the hour. This was the latter. She quoted a verse that directly answered the question I had been asking God that morning. And it came within minutes of getting in the car. Thank you, Jesus!

God heard my complaining and answered directly, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” This verse named my situation perfectly and then offered a future promise of understanding. Later you will understand. This is one of those verses that asks us to trust even when we don’t understand. Maybe this is a verse for you today. 

The original context of this verse is when Jesus washed the disciples feet the night before His crucifixion. They didn’t understand what He was doing. They felt confused and awkward. The Messiah wasn’t supposed to be washing feet.

The disciples were looking for understanding based on their past learning and experience. Jesus was clueing them in on the fact that God’s understanding doesn’t always come from the past but often comes from the future. Jesus’s act of washing their feet in that moment would only be understood based on what was about to happen (His death and resurrection) not based on the disciples’ previous understanding. 

Isn’t that interesting?

God often does things that we won’t understand because they are rooted in the future, not the past. We search our previous understanding and experience for some kind of understanding, but sometimes it can’t be found in our past. Often, we will only understand what God is doing right now once we have stepped into the future that God is already in.

God knows that right now we do not realize what He is doing, but He’s not troubled by that. In the present moment, pregnant with confusion and misunderstanding, we have to trust. Yet, we are given a promise that eventually, when we see what God sees from His future vantage point, we will understand. Maybe that future is 5 years from now. Maybe that future is eternity. But the promise still stands. One day, we will understand. And that is a truth we can hold on to today.

Depths of God’s Grace

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Andrew Ripp has a great new song out called “For the Love of God.” I really love this song. I love the truths found in verse 1 and verse 2, the chorus and the bridge. I love the sound of it too. Ripp’s voice is soulful and catchy. You can listen to it here.

Maybe my love for the song is why verse 3 caught my attention. What Ripp articulates in verse 3, I resonate with in my heart. However, as soon as I heard it, the “truth-meter” in my head sent alarm bells going off. As soon as I heard it, I knew two things: 1) there was something “off” about it theologically, and 2) it is a common trope in Christian circles that is regularly accepted as “true” but doesn’t line up with the life of Jesus.

So what does verse 3 say?

The first half of verse 3 says, “If it wasn’t for my failures and mistakes, I would never know the depths of this grace…”

My guess is that, if you have any experience in church, this sentiment feels familiar and maybe even comforting. You may have heard something like this a thousand times. And while it may resonate with our hearts, it actually articulates something that doesn’t line up with the gospel.

What this phrase actually ends up saying is that my sin was necessary. It’s saying something like, “The only way for me to know the grace of God is to sin against God and then experience His grace.” But, is that true? Jesus never sinned yet perfectly knew the depths of God’s grace. Can you see the problem here?

There are a couple issues with thinking our sin is a mandatory prerequisite to knowing the depths of God’s grace. First, it limits the definition of grace to something like “forgiveness.” But God’s grace is bigger than just His forgiveness. If all you know of God’s grace is the forgiveness aspect of it, then you don’t yet know “the depths of this grace.” Grace isn’t just God’s willingness to forgive us over and over again as we sin over and over again. Grace actually empowers us to to be transformed. Grace enables us not to sin.

Imagine God’s grace as a kind of spiritual fuel. We use up more grace not sinning than we do sinning and being forgiven. We can’t live a holy life in our own strength. So living a holy life actually requires more of God’s grace, not less. This is why Jesus knew the depths of God’s grace more than the rest of us yet was without sin.

The second issue with framing sin as a mandatory prerequisite to knowing the depths of God’s grace is that it makes our relationship with God dysfunctional.

Think of a parent/child relationship. There are two main parent/child paradigms where the child subconsciously feels the need to rebel in order to “prove” that their parent really loves them unconditionally. One paradigm is where the child got the message that they had to perform and be perfect in order to earn their parent’s love. Often, a child living in this paradigm will perform well and live a “perfect” life until they can’t take the pressure any more. Then they will subconsciously snap and turn into the “prodigal son,” all as a means to test if their parent’s love is real.

The second dysfunctional paradigm is that of an orphan or adopted child. Orphans will often test their adoptive parents through rebellion because they don’t really believe they are lovable. They are waiting to get rejected once again in order to prove what they already believe.

The point is this: if the only way I can know the depths of God’s grace is through sinning against Him, then I am relating to God either with a performance mentality or an orphan spirit. The truth is that I can know my parents’ deep love for me without rebelling against them. In fact, in a healthy parent/child paradigm, I can better experience their love for me if I don’t rebel against them. The same is true of God.

I don’t have to rebel against God to know the depths of His love and grace for me. If Jesus is our example, then obedience may actually give me a better taste of the unconditional love of God and the empowering grace of God. This concept is so foreign to so many people only because we’ve gotten so used to a dysfunctional relationship with God.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I do love Andrew Ripp’s new song. There is so much truth packed into it. But I wish verse 3 didn’t accidentally perpetuate a common theological falsehood. I wish, instead, it said something like, “Even in the midst of my failures and mistakes, I experience the depth of His grace…”

Unhealed Healers

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Matthew 10:1-4

In the popular television series, The Chosen, they often tackle some difficult issues in the life of Jesus and His disciples. One such issue is the question of why some people get miraculously healed and others do not. They tackle this issue in Season 3, Episode 2 by having James son of Alphaeus (or “Little James” as he’s called on the show) ask Jesus why Jesus hasn’t healed him. Little James walks with a limp and deals with “a kind of paralysis” on the show, yet, Jesus still chose to send Little James out to do ministry where James is used by God to bring healing to others. (You can watch this poignant scene here.)

This scene is particularly powerful because the actor who plays Little James, Jordan Walker Ross, isn’t acting when he walks with a limp. He was born with cerebral palsy and scoliosis. The struggles and questions of the character Little James were similar to Ross’s own real life struggles and questions.

Whether you agree with the particular answers Jesus gives in the scene or the particular theology of healing that the show portrays, it still raises and important question.

Why would Jesus use a person to heal others while not healing the person He’s using?

This question hit home with me as I listened to Ross being interviewed about this scene. He was very honest about his struggles with not being healed and the insecurities that he has battled. (You can watch that interview here.)

I had just finished a lunch meeting with someone and was sitting in my car, outside of Panera, watching the interview on my phone. And before I had a chance to even ask the Lord why He chooses to heal through people whom He hasn’t yet healed, the Lord answered the question. Maybe my spirit asked the question before my brain could catch up, and God decided to answer my spirit before my brain knew what was happening.

So, as I sat there in my car, the Lord brought to mind my own prayers about myself, that God would change certain parts of me to look more like Jesus. I had just prayed those prayers that morning. And as the Lord brought those prayers to mind, suddenly I knew what God was telling me.

“I only heal through people who are still unhealed.”

God was reminding me that He has healed people through me, and yet there are parts of my life that are still unhealed. The parts of my life that are unhealed are not as obvious as Ross’s or Little James, but they are still there. There are parts of my character, my heart, my thinking, and more that are yet to be fully healed. In fact, I will never be “fully healed” in totality this side of heaven. No one will.

So, yes, God will heal through people who are still unhealed because that is all of us. That is all He has to work with. The only One who walked this earth who was completely healed and whole was Jesus Himself. So, now, whenever Jesus heals someone through the prayers of another person or through the laying on of hands of another person, He is healing through someone still unhealed in some way. That’s all He has to work with.

Sometimes our “unhealed” parts are physical. Sometimes they are emotional or spiritual. Sometimes they have to do with parts of our personality or character. Sometimes it has to do with the condition of our heart or mind. All of us walk this earth partially healed and partially not. In Christ, we have been made new creations, yet that new creation is still working its way through us toward fullness.

We are already new creations in Christ, and we are not yet living in the fullness of it all.

Jesus healing others through people who themselves are not yet physically healed is a prophetic sign to us all. It’s a mirror showing us the reality of our own lives. It’s both a celebration of the grace of God who is willing to dwell in and use imperfect vessels of clay, and it is a humbling reminder of our own unhealed, unwhole parts yet to be brought into their fullness.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:6-10

The Supernatural

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

Romans 15:18-19

Inevitably, when you bring up the desire to engage in the supernatural parts of the Kingdom of God or the desire to operate in the power of the Spirit, you’ll have at least one person in the room say something like, “But I believe everything is supernatural,” or “The Holy Spirit is working in all of our interactions and activities.” It’s sort of like when you invite God’s presence and power to fill the room and the guy in the back says, “But God is omnipresent. He’s always here.”

When people say these sorts of things, sometimes it’s just an attempt at a theological “gotcha” moment. But in my experience, more often, it’s an indication of a lack of understanding of the way the Spirit works and the way the Kingdom works. 

The reality is that there are things we do as the church that we can absolutely do on our own strength without any help from the Spirit. We can make people feel welcome, create community, engage in relationships, etc. all without ever depending on Jesus. In fact, many businesses do this better than the Church and they don’t give a rip about the Spirit or Jesus. A lot of people feel more connected and loved at their CrossFit gym than at church. You don’t need Jesus for this. In other words, things like this are not what we mean when we use the word “supernatural.” We can choose to have Jesus at the center of these things (which opens the possibility for powerful Holy Spirit moments), or we can do it in our own strength. It’s up to us. 

But there are other things that we absolutely cannot do in our own strength. We can’t see people truly surrender their life to Jesus and get saved in our own strength. We can’t heal people in our own strength. We can’t cast out demons in our own strength. We can’t deliver an accurate prophetic word or word of knowledge in our own strength. These things are supernatural precisely because it is impossible to do them without God’s activity and our dependence on Him.

That is what we mean when we talk about “engaging in the supernatural aspects of the Kingdom.” That is what we mean by “operating in the power of God.” It means engaging in ministry where, if God doesn’t move in power, nothing happens. The results make it very obvious whether it was God’s power moving or just our own.

In the same way, those of us who invite the Holy Spirit to come, who invite the increased presence and power of God in the room, already understand that God is omnipresent. What we are inviting is God’s tangible (or manifest) presence. We are inviting God to step a little more through the veil that separates the natural world from the spirit realm so that we can feel His presence and encounter Him holistically–physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Lives are changed when God’s tangible presence fills the room. People are impacted in greater ways when this happens. This is why we invite God to do it. We desire to host His presence and make ourselves available to Him. When His tangible presence fills a room, He does more to transform lives in minutes than we could do in years.

Our society is fascinated with the supernatural but is mostly engaging with the counterfeit forms of it (New Age, mediums, psychics, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, energy healing, witchcraft, the Occult, etc). But, ultimately, what they are looking for is the real thing, they just don’t know the real thing can only be found in Jesus through the Spirit.

Here’s an unpopular opinion that I believe is true: Any church that doesn’t know how to operate in the power of God or the supernatural aspects of the Kingdom will find themselves very limited in reaching this next generation. The next generation knows that there is more to this world than the natural, but what they don’t know is that the true power and authority to engage in the spirit realm comes only through Jesus. Everything else is a poor counterfeit from the kingdom of darkness. A revival atmosphere where they can actually experience an encounter with God is what they’re longing for.

Are you seeing regular physical healings at your church? Are people regularly finding freedom from demonic oppression at your church? Are the prophetic gifts cultivated at your church so that people hear from the Lord regularly through these gifts? Are people just singing songs and hearing a message or are they having encounters with the living God? These aspects of the Kingdom will be essential for reaching the next generation. If your church isn’t yet engaging in these, it’s time to start now.


No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 1:18

I’ve heard it asked, “Why do ‘those streams’ of the church focus so much on the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t we be pointing people to Jesus? After all, the Holy Spirit’s main job was to glorify Jesus (John 16:14), right?” 

It’s an interesting question. But would we also ask, “Why do ‘those streams’ of the church focus so much on Jesus?” Is that a question that makes sense? Because, after all, one of the main missions of the Son was to reveal the Father (see John 1:18; John 16:9-10; Colossians 1:15). The Holy Spirit points to Jesus and Jesus points to the Father, so should we only focus on, talk about, pray to the Father?

No, of course not. 

There is another reality at play that flows in the other direction. The Son reveals the Father and the Holy Spirit reveals the Son. In other words, Jesus makes the Father more accessible, more tangible, more relatable and the Holy Spirit does the same for Jesus. And in this cycle of interdependence we see the beauty of the Trinity. 

If you want someone to know the Father, have them get to know Jesus. If you want someone to know Jesus, have them experience the Spirit. This is why so often people encounter the Spirit and experience the love of the Father. Their interwoven connectedness and unity is impossible to separate. 

So maybe some streams focus on the Holy Spirit because they want people to experience Jesus. And maybe other streams focus on Jesus because they want to reveal the Father. And still other streams focus on the Father because it glorifies the Son and the Spirit. The truth is that all streams should be focusing on Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are inseparable. They are God.


Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking a little about the incarnation–God becoming human in the person of Jesus. Nothing can limit or contain God except Himself. When Jesus became human in the incarnation, it was a gigantic act of self-limitation on the part of God. The One who was once omnipresent, self-limited to a time and place in history. The One who never experienced pain, hunger, or thirst, self-limited Himself into a human body that experienced all the basic human needs for food and sleep. He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.

Does this mean that Jesus wasn’t the fullness of God?

No. Colossians 2:9 is clear, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Imagine a dad playing basketball with his young son. If he is a good dad, he will “self-limit” the amount of force and skill that he exerts. He does this out of love for his son. Does this mean that in this moment he is “less” of a dad? Quite the opposite. In the dad’s loving self-limitation he is fully himself and maybe even the best version of himself because his love is tangibly on display. The same is true of Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

What about God’s omniscience and power? Did God self-limit those in the incarnation?

I believe He did.

It is true that we see Jesus know things He couldn’t know without supernatural insight. We also see Jesus do incredible miracles that He couldn’t do without divine power. Yet, I believe that what we see in Jesus is a tiny fraction of God’s total omniscience and power. I believe Jesus only did that which is possible to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. He only did that which was possible for a human to do who is completely filled and empowered by the Spirit and perfectly connected to the Father. In other words, I believe Jesus did these things as a perfect human conduit of the power of the Spirit not as God the Son.

Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” after His baptism as He was led into the desert to be tempted. Then, having been victorious over Satan in the desert, Luke 4:14 says that Jesus returned to start His ministry “in the power of the Spirit.” It’s not until this happens that we start to see Jesus do miracles, healings, and deliverances. So I believe that the “supernatural” aspect of Jesus’s ministry was Him acting as a human fully empowered by the Spirit and completely connected to the Father. I don’t believe they are instances of Him flexing is divinity (though He had every right to as God the Son). So even His miracles are an aspect of His self-limitation.

We know that the power He could have displayed could have been so much more overwhelming. Jesus even said, leading up to the cross, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?“(Matthew 26:53). There was so much more power that could have been unleashed but wasn’t. Again we see Jesus’s self-limitation.

Though Jesus knew things about people that He couldn’t have known without supernatural help (see John 1:47-48 & 4:16-18, Luke 5:22 & 9:47), I believe this was Him operating in what the apostle Paul would later call gifts of the Spirit like words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Yet, we still see that Jesus self-limited His foreknowledge when He talks to His disciples about the end times and says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Jesus’s self-limitation in the incarnation was a radical act of love toward us. It also leaves us followers of Jesus without excuse. We can no longer write-off parts of Jesus’s ministry with the statement, “Yeah, well, He was God.” We sometimes like to think Jesus’s divinity gets us off the hook from having to operate like Jesus did in the fullness of the Spirit. But, though He could have operated out of His divinity, I don’t believe He did. Everything He did He did as a human fully surrendered to the Father and fully empowered by the Spirit. And though we will never be the perfect conduit of the Spirit that Jesus was, we are still called to be a conduit just the same.

Carrying God’s Presence

Imagine God calls you into something through a prophetic word. You have a special assignment from Jesus. This assignment is so unexpected that the Lord actually uses supernatural divine revelation to bring it about. God tells someone else ahead of time what will happen and that person then tells you. And then, God’s prophetic word through this person comes about. It actually happens! As unexpected and unlikely as it seems, God brings about the word spoken over your life!

Now imagine that the divine calling that came through this prophetic word is that you will carry the very Presence of God on you and release it to other people. You will be the conduit through which people will experience a tangible encounter with Jesus. Other people will have an encounter with God because of the tangible Presence of God resting on you. This is your calling! Can you imagine?

Have you ever experienced something like this?

How special would you feel if this was you? How uniquely chosen would you feel? How honored would you feel? How humbled would you be? How overwhelmed at the enormity of this responsibility?

Yet, I am reminded that there is someone who had this exact thing happen to them in the Gospels. It was a donkey.

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

Luke 19:29-35

Jesus spoke a prophetic word to His disciples about what they would find. He called this donkey out ahead of time through a word. And what was the divine calling? It would be to carry the very Presence of God into Jerusalem so that the people of Jerusalem could have an encounter with their Savior.

We who have been called out by a prophetic word, we who bear the heavy responsibility and incredible honor of being a conduit of God’s power and Presence, need to remember that we are very much like that donkey.

We are special and unique and loved and called. We are honored and humbled and surprised that God would use us. Yet, our main task is simply that of the donkey. We simply carry the Presence of God to others. He does all the rest. We can’t save, or heal, or deliver, or empower, or comfort. But Jesus does all of that and more. Our job is to carry His Presence, follow His lead as He pulls on the reins, and do what He asks us to do. Then we watch as Jesus does the miraculous all around us.

A minister named Dr. Randy Clark operates in an astounding measure of God’s power. I love his prayer. Let it be ours!

“God! Let your eye fall on me, for I want to be totally yielded. I want to be that person through whom you can show yourself strong. I want to be the coin in your pocket for you to spend any way you want. I want your glory to rest on me. I want to be the donkey that you ride on. I just want to be yielded, God, and I want to believe that I can be the person that you clothe yourself with. I want to believe, God, that I can be mightily used in your kingdom. God, in my heart I am saying to you, please, look upon me and let your grace fall upon me because I want to reveal your glory. Show yourself strong through my life.” 

Dr. Randy Clark, Spend and Be Spent

Chosenness & Selectivity

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 

Mark 9:2

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. 

Mark 9:30-31

In Mark 9 we see Jesus choose to be exclusive on two back-to-back occasions. First, only Peter, James and John were invited up the mountain to see Jesus transfigured before them. Then, Jesus intentionally tried to avoid the crowds who needed ministry because “he was teaching his disciples.”

Peter, James, and John were Jesus’s inner circle. They were the ones Jesus wanted with Him when His soul was in turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:32-33). Jesus repeatedly picked these three men out from the rest of the twelve disciples.

Jesus also was unapologetic about choosing the twelve over the crowds. When Jesus wanted to spend extra time on discipleship, teaching the twelve disciples the deeper things of the Kingdom of God, Jesus didn’t mind intentionally avoiding the crowds.

This theme of “intentional chosenness” demonstrated by Jesus continues a theme we see throughout the Old Testament as God chose Israel as His chosen people. One of God’s main strategies throughout the Bible is to choose a small number of people in order that they might absorb the DNA of the Kingdom and then bless the rest of the world with it.

But this selectivity on the part of Jesus flies in the face of our sense of democratic equality. Shouldn’t everyone have been invited up the mountain with Jesus? How is that fair? Shouldn’t they at least vote on who gets to see Jesus transfigured?

And why would Jesus go incognito in trying to avoid people who are genuinely in need? Why did the disciples get an “unfair” amount of time with Him? Shouldn’t Jesus have made Himself more available to the poor huddled masses?

The truth is that good leadership demands that we pick and choose who to pour our lives into. We have to admit our limitations of time, energy, and resources. So the best leaders are selective. The point is multiplication. Invest in a few who will then, in turn, invest in a few, and the chain reaction impacts more people than one person could have otherwise.

So what looks like unfair selectivity and favoritism on the surface is actually powerful wisdom on display. If Jesus had spread Himself “equally” to everyone, no one would have had the depth needed to carry the DNA of the Kingdom after Jesus was gone.

In our culture we rightly champion equality because it is the closest approximation we can muster to the love and servanthood that is found in the Kingdom of God. But sometimes the unintended by-product is that this good principle of equality gets applied in ways that actually does more harm than good. Everyone should be treated with the same amount of love and respect, but that doesn’t mean we give our time and energy to everyone in the same way.

When it comes to good leadership, there are times we must employ “intentional selectivity” with our time and a kind of “purposeful chosenness” with people. “Equality” cannot be the driving principle behind how we spend our time. “Investment” needs to be the driving principle. We need to ask ourselves, “Who can we pour our lives into in such a way that it multiplies the work and impact of the Kingdom of God?”

No Demilitarized Zone

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…

Mark 9:43-47

What Jesus says here is so extreme! What in the world is He talking about?

First, we have to understand that this is hyperbole. Jesus is exaggerating to make a point. He doesn’t want people to literally cut things off. Jesus is trying to drive home the point that pruning unhealthy parts of our life is necessary in a life of following Jesus because there is no middle ground (also see John 15:1-6).

Jesus is trying to convey the severity of this truth: if we haven’t surrendered a part of our life to the Kingdom fo God then it has been surrendered to hell. And the gangrene of hell spreads.

We tend to frame things as if there is some neutral ground that is available to us. Jesus makes clear that there isn’t. We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or not?” But that is a false choice. The true question is, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or continue to submit it to the enemy?”

We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I step out in faith or remain safe in my comfort zone?” But if the Lord has asked us to do something then the true question is, “Should I step out in faith or continue to feed and cultivate the weeds of unbelief in my life?”

There is a war between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God and we are the battle ground. This war has no DMZ. What isn’t actively surrendered to the Kingdom of God in our life is already being used by the kingdom of darkness for the enemy’s purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying. The apostle Paul described it this way:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…

Ephesians 6:10-13

This lie that there is some magical middle ground, some objective neutral territory, some spiritual Switzerland is one of the most prevalent lies swirling around the Church. Jesus knew this lie would be tempting to believe because no one wants to face open warfare. Appeasement is so alluring in the face of open conflict. And this is why Jesus used language that would shock us back into reality. He knew only this kind of hyperbole would be enough to break through our biases expose us to the truth.