This insightful Stratfor article lists five calls to strategic intercession for the Church. That’s not necessarily what George Friedman intended, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this Jewish man came from the tribe of Issachar, given his gift of understanding the times. I would encourage Christians to read it and expand their understanding of what is transpiring in the world and then to take it to the Throne of Grace to ask the Lord what He thinks and how one should pray. I believe that Jesus cares about all of it – from the last item on the list (very personal and “micro”) to the other very “macro” international developments – and everything in between.
If you’re part of a House of Prayer, print this out and let it be some of the fuel for intercession. We, the Church, are called to stand in these gaps as priests – bringing them before the Lord and bringing the Lord directly into the middle of each of these events/situations.
I’m struck by a message I just finished listening to by Paul Manwaring. He asked this question – “What do you stand for? What are you willing to pay a price for?”
Honestly, I’m not quite sure yet.
As I look back, I have paid a price for certain convictions, but at the same time I’m not aware of clearly defined life messages in me or people knowing what I stand for. It seems that this is still developing in me – at the tender young age of 53!
At one point in the message I heard, Paul asks people who DO know what they stand for, to stand up and make declarations. Declare what they want to see; what they’re pulling for.
Well, I’m going to start to declare (write):
what matters to me
what I want to see
By writing it down, it gets it out of me and puts words onto sometimes shifting feelings/experiences. By posting it, I’m just starting to stand – to be public – preparing to pay the price for my convictions.
Here goes (in no particular order):
Europe matters to me – both the land and its people. I wasn’t born here, but I most certainly trace my ancestry here. It certainly began before I could say it was “God” but I know now that it was God who put it in my heart and brought our family here to live.
Reconciliation – ever since being awakened to reconciliation as a “thing” by Nadine Roure and Elvire Dieny, seeing reconciliation happen – at ALL levels – has been deeply satisfying and I increasingly see where it’s vital. After all Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we’ve all been given the ministry of reconciliation.
Family matters to me – I’m certainly NOT the poster child for how to do family (in ANY of my family roles thus far in life), but the theology of family continues to grow for me on a regular basis. God’s design for family; God’s government is family; The enemy’s incessant targeting of family; etc.
Identity/Son (and daughter) ship – WHO we are is so incredibly important. When we understand the glory that God put in each one of us and His design for us and how being His son or daughter literally unlocks eternity TODAY for us – Wow! It’s just the key to everything. If I can (and increasingly as an older man, I CAN) help someone to find their identity – call out who and what God has made them to be – that is TRULY satisfying and has eternal value.
Marriage matters to me – Why? Because Jesus is coming for a Bride. There’s going to be a wedding! The power of this eternal union is echoed by what we experience right now between a man and a woman who commit before God to each other for their whole lives. The power of that covenant is amazing and it’s only a shadow of the covenant that Jesus has with His Bride. The depths of this are amazing.
Worship and God’s Presence matter to me – Not simply because I’m a musician, and one who is named David to boot, but I was made to be in His Presence and to focus on Him. We all were, in fact, but because God has given me this gift and desire, I believe that He’s also given me a mandate to facilitate the experience of His Presence to others. I also believe that we are changed by His Presence and we are fundamentally designed, as creatures, to become what we behold – to become like what we worship. Hence if I worship God, I become like God. If I help others worship God, I help them become like God. This is my principle tool of discipleship that I have to offer.
The Kingdom of God matters to me. It is so important to me that my citizenship is primarily with Heaven and that my understanding of “progress” in society is linked to the advancing of the Kingdom where Jesus is King and not necessarily a particular earthly government. My love of a country must be motivated by Jesus’ love for that country (and He loves them ALL) and what Jesus wants for that country. This may or may not be my country of birth or my passport country(s).
Erasing Dualism and Living in Tension matter to me – So I’ve just finished stating “where I stand” but actually because of the things I stand for, I refuse (in principle) to let these stances hinder love or put God in a box. Jesus was “box buster” in so many ways. Our detachement from the cultural context of His earthly sojourn makes it easy for us to miss just how many boxes He exploded in His time. We probably will never discover fully how He made people feel and react in in 1st century Palestine, but the willingness to understand that Jesus does do that – not just to 1st century Palestinian residents but to us as well – is the first important step to letting our own boxes disintegrate and letting Jesus out of the box that we so-easily stuff Him into. When we let typical “either/or” thinking dominate our reality, we immediately begin to de-humanize those who think differently. In so doing we declare where Jesus is not welcome to challenge us to love that which we don’t understand or with which we don’t agree. If, for example, reconciliation matters to me, then I can’t afford those walls to stand in my reality. Not easy at all this wall-dismantling-process, but essential as members of God’s family.
So those are the things that I can say that I stand for and that I want to see – in me, through me, and around me.
I’m involved in a small committee and yesterday two members decided that it was best that they no longer be involved. (excuse me, but I’m going to be deliberately vague in respect to the people involved) We had not done well in all working together. This announcement was bittersweet for me. There is a certain amount of pressure being lifted off in that we were struggling to work together, but definitely an amount of sadness in that we all failed to work it out.
Yesterday would not have been the day to “work it out” and due to the maturity of everyone involved it was not ugly. No, working it out is something that we all managed to not do on the way. I’m convinced that God is as interested in the success of the committee becoming a loving family and effective leadership team as He is in the success of what we’re directing. So in that respect, yesterday felt like the stamp of “failure” at least in the part of team-building. The fact that it happened with maturity and grace, though, allows me to think that it might have been simply an interesting plot twist in the improvised story that God and we are all acting out.
I’m a musician but I’m also a very ordered computer-geek as well. Put those two together and I’m more likely to listen to Pachelbel’s Canon than Miles Davis. Yesterday’s events feel dissonant to me like much of certain jazz styles. The more predictable stuff, I can hang with, but when it gets out there, I’m lost. But I know enough music to understand that Jazz DOES work and that it DOES have coherence but that the way it works and the coherence it demostrates looks nothing like Pachelbel’s Canon
The message from Dr. Chris Green this morning really helped me in that I’m understanding that Miles Davis and Charlie Parker may be more theologically sound than Pachelbel, Vivaldi and Bach. Hard to stomach in the ordered world that I want and in my own struggles with the idiom of improvisation – both in music and in life – but I believe it’s a truth that’s hard to deny.
God put Germany on my heart early. I began taking German as a foreign language in junior high and continued through high school and a bit in university (actually speaking German remains a challenge for me ). I’ve been drawn to Germany ever since. It’s not always been with an overtly "spiritual" context either. It’s mostly the culture and the geography that have somehow been attractive to me (though I know now that culture and geography are both VERY spiritual). I would have said it was just an "interest" to me when I was young. Now I’d say that it was God who gave me an attraction to this country, it’s culture and it’s people. Consequently, I’ve been really blessed in that:
When God called us to France, He had us do our initial YWAM training (DTS) in Hainichen, Germany.
Then, after several years of preparation and transition, He placed us in our current home in Alsace just 30 minutes from the German border.
I’ve had the pleasure of regularly tasting German culture and connecting with German people while attending seminars and conferences in Germany.
Two of our children even spent their high school years just across the Rhine river from us in Germany at Black Forest Academy.
As intercession for Europe has interested me for a while now, a couple years back when Operation Capitals of Europe (an intercession initiative to travel to each European capital and pray for the government and its leaders and to be a catalyst for ongoing intercession in each capital) began, I began to think about which capitals I’d like to connect with. One of the key ones for me was certainly Berlin!
So, as I write I’m on a day-long train trip across Germany back to France after having participated in the OCE initiative in Berlin. This was a very rich time. Here are some of my impressions.
I arrived after a cramped EasyJet flight from Basel-Mulhouse on a Tuesday afternoon. I met up with another YWAMer from England and together we negotiated the public transport from Berlin’s Schönefeld airport on the far south side of the city to the S-Bahn station at Alexanderplatz. Then a bit of urban orienteering on foot from Alexanderplatz for the last kilometer to the Jerusalem Gemeinde in the center of the city where we would be convening until Saturday. Getting off the train at Alexanderplatz, one is greeted with the site of the famous television tower, dating from Cold War East Berlin days, that dominates the Berlin skyline a bit like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We had arrived during the period of time when Berlin was celebrating its 775th anniversary. As such many of the landmarks were lit up each night with changing colors and laser light shows on their facades. The TV-tower was a beautiful red-violet that we saw each night as we returned to our accommodations.
The Jerusalem Gemeinde is a small church, amazingly and strategically located right on the Spree river that bisects Berlin. Their location puts them in the heart of modern Berlin and with respect to Berlin’s ancient history they are located in the very cradle of the city’s origins. Their name comes from their strong connection with Israel where they run a prayer house (the Father’s House) on the Mount of Olives. They also run a prayer house in another location in Berlin. Their pastor, Andreas Bauer, is warm, welcoming, bilingual and well-connected! I would say that they were an ideal choice as the host church for the OCE intercession initiative. Obviously God knows how to connect His people together!
Having been on a couple of previous OCE trips and also being connected with some of its organizers, arriving in the church it was good to see some familiar faces! These trips are a wonderful way to build rich relationships in the Body of Christ as you reinforce existing friendships and create new ones each time – all in the context of worship and prayer in the service of a local expression of His Body.
Our evening was one of introductions (new friends!), worship (led by a wonderful long-time German resident from New Zealand who could quickly usher a group of eager worshippers into God’s presence) and a welcome from the OCE leaders of this trip (Jacky und Angela Krättli) and the pastor of Jerusalem Gemeinde to help orient us to the structure of the week. The presence of God and relationship form a fabulous foundation for any sort of outreach and this evening was no exception.
As is usually the case in an OCE trip, we received excellent presentations on the spiritual history of Berlin. This is done to help outsiders coming in to pray to have more insight into the specific anointings and callings of a city and the resulting spiritual struggles that the city has experienced. In a capital city both the redemptive anointing given by God for the city and the perversion of this anointing by the enemy are magnified and amplified for the nation and, in an "international city" such as Berlin, the influence extends outside its national borders as well – in Berlin’s case, especially for Europe.
A "spiritual history overview" is a way of looking at events in history with the discernment of the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual forces behind certain events and spiritual effects of certain events. Seen over time, these reveal patterns that show us God’s original "redemptive" intentions for a given place/people and how Satan has used deep wounding in the lives of people as the result of sin to harden and twist hearts and distort the image of God. This discovery is done by both looking at present societal problems in a place and trying to find historical roots as well as studying history while allowing God to highlight specific moments that were key turning points.
Kudos to those who presented to us the spiritual history of Berlin. 775 years of history in this place is enormous and really impossible to fully distill in our short time. Consequently, I can assume that what we covered only scratched the surface of spiritual dynamics of Berlin, but also that it was just what God wanted our small band of intercessors to engage with on this trip. They did an excellent job of researching and presenting some key points of history to help us connect what we see today in Berlin to the origins found in history. My distillation is, of course, even more concentrated than theirs.
For me, the key points that I took away were:
Berlin and Germany are called to exercise authority – to rule
Berlin is called to exercise this authority with a father heart and a servant heart
I believe these two are the most important, or foundational calls which Berlin has. After that are other important gifts/callings:
Berlin has a gift to teach
Berlin has a gift of creativity
Berlin has calling as a city of refuge/welcome
The "Father Wound"
When we look at the history of Berlin and Germany in the first half of the last century it is relatively easy to see that the personification of an "abusive father" fits fairly well. This is fatherly influence, responsibility and authority perverted by Satan. One can see that in Hitler, who was at one point a real "father figure" for Germany after World War One but who obviously exercised that authority in a perverted, controlling and abusive way. This kind of abuse of authority distorts the image of God as Father and fosters rebellion against authority of all kinds.
Farther back in Germany’s history, however, we were introduced to a key case of an abusive father whose wounded son opened the door to one of Berlin’s biggest challenges today – homosexuality. I quote from one of the excellent documents we received about Berlin’s spiritual history:
Frederick II (the Great) (1712-1786), prepared the way for homosexuality in Berlin. He was raised by a brutal, tyrannical father with extreme harshness and many beatings. In 1730 Crown Prince Frederick attempted to flee from his father during a trip to southern Germany. After he was caught, the king demanded the death sentence for his son. Through the intervention of the emperor and the Prussian judges, the sentence was lessened to incarceration in Küstrin. In order to make an example, the king had Frederick’s friend and helper, Hermann von Katte, put to death before his eyes. Following Frederick’s submission under the will of his father and an imposed marriage in 1733, Frederick was of course deeply traumatized.
This wounding through his father (thus no example of fatherhood and no example of God as Father) led to Frederick’s rebellion against God. In many ways, he opened the spiritual gate to the Enlightenment, humanism, and philosophies which turned against God. He was a homosexual.
To continue in the spiritual history on this theme:
On May 15, 1897 a homosexual doctor in Charlottenburg, Magnus Hirschfeld, founded the "Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Whk) with the goal of getting rid of paragraph 175 of the German penal code. He attempted to research homosexuality "scientifically" and founded the theory of the "third gender". Thus through the gate of Berlin, seemingly "scientific" sexual research began, which was aimed in a specific direction: to legalize homosexuality and establish the possibility of a third gender. Thus the path began, and today Berlin is still a leader in this area. The work of this institute was definitely successful starting what today would be called lobbying on the political level.
In the 1920’s homosexuals were drawn to Berlin and its "freedom". Here they and others could live out their sexuality relatively freely. Many artists were homosexual. In the 1920’s there were already dance halls for men.
In 1933 everything changed instantly. The Nazis fought against these "deformities", sharpened paragraph 175, and founded the Third Reich’s Centre for Fighting against Homosexuality and Abortion". Homosexuals were incarcerated, deported to concentration camps, and murdered. Hirschfeld’s works were burned on the Bebelplatz.
The student revolts in 1968 (a rebellion of the sons against the fathers), which began in Berlin, also brought change for the homosexuals. Leftist political homosexual groups were formed. Paragraph 175 was abolished in 1969. Films were made in which statements were made such as, "It’s not the homosexual who is perverse, but rather the situation in which he lives."
Humility and Pride
In the evening we had a speaker from Poland who would share with us an amazing story Thursday and Friday evenings of how God has used prophetic intercessors at the very highest levels of Polish government to demonstrate to leaders that it is God who raises up and brings down authorities in a land, leaving man no reason to boast but simply to humbly serve while in positions of leadership. To underline, however, that those in places of prophetic intercession are no different in their need to serve with humility, he shared with us a deeply personal message about pride and humility in the place of exercising our spiritual authority.
There were four different prayer walks that had been proposed to us by email before the beginning of this trip. Two had to do with local government and the general history of Berlin and two had to do with the issue of homosexuality in Berlin. Before arriving, I had planned on the prayer walk concerning the local government and was very interested in it. I’d not given any real thought to either of two walks concerning homosexuality. As is the case in most intercession initiatives, the vast majority of the people involved were women. As we began to hear about the calling of Berlin to reflect God’s Father heart and the abuse of authority that had opened the doors to homosexuality, and of the importation from America of many aspects of the homosexual culture, I really felt convicted that even though I didn’t WANT to go on the prayer walks concerning homosexuality, that it WAS, in fact my place as a man, as a father and as an American. In so doing, I would come with the ability to identify more closely with the sin that had opened the doors to the influence of homosexuality in Berlin. As we were finishing one of the worship times, I really felt like it was a time where God was mourning the loss of the chance for the young men snared in homosexuality to become fathers. In the world wars a generation of fathers was nearly wiped out, leaving a void still felt today in Europe. With the spread of homosexuality another generation of fathers is being "killed off" by the enemy.
Our particular walk focused on three of the monuments to homosexuality in Berlin and their proximity to other important structures in Berlin. Our path started with the Schloß Bellevue where the German President has his office. President Gauck has fairly recently come into office and is the third president in fairly quick succession following two previous "failed" presidencies. The two previous presidents were both attacked mercilessly by the media and both resigned after a relatively short period of time in office. Though his personal life is somewhat "fractured" (he is estranged from his wife and lives with another woman), he once was a pastor and has accepted the challenge of taking responsibility in a challenging political and social climate. We were able to pray that he would be a "father" and a "pastor" to this nation, exercising authority with integrity and humility.
We moved on to two monuments to Magnus Hirschfeld (see quotes above). The first one is a set of two plaques that have been erected in a place near to Schloß Bellevue with an eye to constructing a larger, more permanent monument. Here we prayed that the advancement towards the seat of authority would be stopped and would, in fact, retreat. This monument was just next to the river Spree and at this very spot, all the tourist boats turn around in a wide spot in the river. We prayed for a shift in the direction of this movement that it would turn around and retreat in the opposite direction and that the other monument would not be built on this site. The second monument to Hirschfeld is on the opposite side of the river and specifically refers to the crackdown by the Nazis of all homosexual activity. Here we prayed about the abuse of authority that creates deep wounds, opening the doors to the enemy to sow division and rebellion into the society.
Then we walked/prayed past the Chancellor’s office, the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate before arriving at the last monument. This is a monument to the homosexuals that were exterminated by the Nazis. This monument is just across the street from the Holocaust Memorial. The Holocaust Memorial is a very unique and powerful area. It is rows upon rows of large concrete blocks of varying heights that one can walk among. (see my Berlin gallery for more photos) The homosexual memorial across the street is interesting in that it is a single block, about twice the size of the largest on in the Holocaust Memorial. It’s symmetry is slightly skewed. On one end is a small window/portal into which you can look. On the inside is a film loop that shows alternately, men kissing men and women kissing women. Again we saw the placement of this monument as strategic, across the street from the Holocaust memorial. Here we were also able to pray about the abuse of authority and also that each monument would be isolated from the other – so as to not create a more influential "whole" as a series. Already they form the three points of a triangle and we believe that their physical placement, one related to the others, is not a spiritual accident.
Prayer for government
On Friday morning we heard from a pastor from Tübingen about praying for the government and government leaders. This pastor and his church practice what they preach. Some years ago, their church acquired an apartment in Berlin, some 7 hours drive from Tübingen, that they use only for bringing prayer teams on a regular basis to the capital city. As he spoke, we could see his commitment to the responsibility to pray for the government – regardless of one’s agreement with the policies of any particular politician. He spoke of how the Lord supernaturally showed him Germany’s Chancellor (a previous one) with whom he did not agree, through the eyes of Jesus. A compassion was immediately placed in his heart and he realized at that moment that the Lord was calling him to be the Chancellor’s "spiritual bodyguard." We heard later from one of the members of the German parliament (with whom some of our group were privileged to meet) of the ENORMOUS pressures put on these politicians; how they are literally scheduled to be in three places at once and must consequently have discernment at all times to know where to go and what to do. We gained more understanding about how much these men and women need our regular, on-going prayer as they navigate the pressures put on them by their office.
In the afternoon we split up into three groups. One prayed in the Reichstag dome – a impressive glass enclosed structure that sits above the plenary session hall on the top of the Reichstag. Another group was the group which was able to meet with the aforementioned parliament member. The group that I was in prayed at the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We were able to sit at a café in the huge atrium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, split into to groups of 3-4, and "innocently" sip our coffees and pray as we had no official invitation to be there. Afterwards we were walked around the enormous complex of two large buildings (one of which was designed by Hitler and used as the Nazi’s finance ministry during that era. While walking around, we witnessed the departure of a Japanese delegation and the changing of the flags from Japan to the next nation that would be visiting. One could really see the "international connecting" that went on in that building.
As Germany has a "Father" anointing as a nation, its impact and influence on the world stage, especially in Europe, is significant. Chancellor Merkel might get the most air-time and ink, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his office put the face of Germany into clear relief on a daily basis in countries around the world. Whether it be the role of gatekeeper of individual visas, foreign trade agreements, the official voice of German foreign policy or the promotion of cultural exchanges, Germany’s role in the world has an impact. We were able to pray that the Foreign Affairs Minister would, again, show the Father’s heart in the way he presented Germany to the world. We prayed that Germany’s stand as friend of Israel would not only be firm/unwavering for Germany as an individual nation, but also that Germany would serve as an example, in particular to other European nations and in particular with respect to the vote in November at the United Nations about the Palestinian’s request for "observer status".
We were privileged during this week to connect with Germans who have lived their whole life in Berlin and love their city and take their watchman and priestly responsibility very seriously. One of these was an 80-year-old spry man by the name of Wolfgang. Wolfgang was 8-10 years old as Berlin was bombed during World War II. He remembers the hand-to-hand combat in the streets between the German and Russian forces and he lived in East Berlin during the years of the Cold War. He told me that what he sees now with respect to coordinated and united prayer for the city of Berlin is unprecedented. There was really a sense during our week there that "now" is the time for Berlin.
After our time of prayer was over, we had a few free hours in the afternoon before the evening teaching session. After a loooooonnnng wait for a bus (thank you Lord for the fabulous, sunny, "open heaven" weather that we experienced in Berlin), I was able to return to the Holocaust Memorial and walk slowly through it taking photos in some incredible autumn afternoon light. We ended the day with a time of worship and sharing from the different groups and then we commissioned the OCE team that is travelling to Moscow.
Saturday, our last full day was filled with one principal focus, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin. As we were already staying in the northern suburbs of Berlin at Gnadenhaus (a wonderful Christian guest house), we were able to catch a bit more sleep before being taken by the pastor of Jerusalem Gemeinde to Sachsenhausen. Sachsenhausen was a strategic camp in the German network. It was built close to Berlin to be used as the "mother camp" where camp architecture and methods (including extermination) where developed and "perfected." It was also where the other camps were administered from and where the camp staff was trained. Rudolph Hess lived in the town next to this camp.
The pastor shared with us that though foreign missionaries and intercessors come to Germany all the time with the same message: "You are forgiven. Put down the past. Take off your mantel of shame. Move forward." etc., the truth is that the horrors of the concentration camps have yet to be fully dealt with spiritually. Their church has made it a regular practice to come to Sachsenhausen (the pastor also lives in the northern suburbs of Berlin) for different occasion to simply pray and worship. He told us that while in places such as Auschwitz and Treblinka, the local towns have incorporated this part of their history into who they are – not trying to distance themselves from it but to help facilitate the healing – the town where Sachsenhausen is located however, does not openly try to engage with it. One new vision is, that as there was a network of camps, that there would be a corresponding network of prayer houses at the towns where all the camps were located to establish life where death was once established.
We did not see much of the camp itself, but we went into one of the remaining barracks that has been converted into a meeting room for different presentations on the camp site and we simply worshipped and took communion there. We then went to the former administration building of the network of camps (currently in use for local Brandenburg state administration) where we did an prophetic act. We took a length of about 250 meters of red nylon cord and went around the building with it. (it was good to do this on Saturday, but we still had to explain our bizarre activity to one person in the building!) We then proclaimed the blood of Jesus via this red cord around the building in an act of cleansing and to cut off the negative influences that once spread from Sachsenhausen to the other camps.
We then returned to downtown Berlin just in time for the Jerusalem Gemeinde’s weekly service, Saturday at 4pm. As we had used their facility the whole week and connected with a handful of people from this church, it was good to "meet" the rest of the congregation and worship with them. Finally, grabbing a great Kebab on the way back (thank you Edith!), we took the train back to Gnadenhaus to pack and sleep.
Up early for a beautiful, calm day-long trip on the train from Berlin to Mulhouse. Thrilled to pass through the German countryside for several hours and to reconnect with my family at the end!
Our school happily received the news in the spring that a Christian school in Holland was going to donate "around 20" computers to our school to upgrade our computer lab. We had 19 computers that were getting pretty old!So we ended the school year by sending a LOT of stuff to the dump. This emptied our computer lab and allowed us to restructure its layout and do a few other housekeeping things that as the school’s only IT staff, I’d wanted to do for awhile. BUT, it did leave us with only a firm but non-detailed hope that better stuff was, in fact, coming. Then the computers from Holland arrived and there were exactly 15of them…and one didn’t work! (What’s a bit funny about this is that in French, there is a word for "around 15", quinzaine and a separate word for "around 20", vingtaine. Repeatedly, I was told "vingtaine" for the number to expect. When exactly 15 arrived, I thought that somewhat interesting that 15 was "around 20" and not "around 15!" ) They arrived with Dutch-language operating systems and noother information (like administrative passwords to facilitate any modifications to make them ready for our environment or information about operating system licenses or which machines had which problems, etc.) These are all things which can, of course, be overcome, but which do add to the work…multiplied by 15 (or 14 at this point!)
My job this summer was to figure out what to do with these Dutch machines (make them work, make them speak French, make them connect to our internal network, connect them to the internet, decide on operating systems, etc.), prepare some additional systems to make up the lack of machines from Holland and overhaul one of our internal servers as well. Throughout the school this summer however, there were also practical renovation/beautification projects undertaken by teachers and parents (including us) in various parts of the small campus. My wife and I also have a vision for a house of prayer and worship to start in our area and so we simply committed to worshiping twice a week during the summer at church. So, our summer was pretty well laid out…while the majority of others around us scattered on vacation!
Our school grounds has an orchard on it and this summer we began to have production from all the fruit trees like I’ve never seen in our 7 years here. I tried the apples on one of the trees and became addicted! Incredibly good! Those apples became a constant source of physical sustenance for me throughout the summer while working on the computer network (work a couple hours, go out and shake the tree, eat, work some more, etc.) But it didn’t stop there. God really spoke to me through that tree…in two ways especially.
First of all, the orchard’s fruitfulness spoke to me as a sign of the fruitfulness that He intends to bring to the school this year (or at least we’re entering into such a season). So many things, like apple trees, peach trees, and significant efforts in God’s Kingdom can take time to germinate, mature and finally bear significant fruit. In the meantime we prune when really needed but can often just become accustomed to the unfruitful presence of something (after all, it’s still pretty and gives shade, etc.)…until suddenly it produces a bumper crop! At that point, we need to start picking or it falls on the ground and rots. So these fruitful trees got me really praying for the fruitfulness at school this year, and that we would be ready to pick what ripens.
Secondly, my efforts this summer were sometimes frustrating and tiring and discouragement would knock routinely on my door. During some of these times, the Lord reminded me of Song of Solomon 2:3 “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” Just as those apples were incredibly good, I needed to stop my intellectual head-banging and contemplate the goodness of Jesus and let the refreshing nature of His presence invade and drive out the pressure and discouragement I was feeling.
School started at the end of August and the computer lab is usable, but still much computer work remains. I, however, am excited by how God can and will take the summer pruning and cultivation work that many have done here and use it to enhance the growth, fruitfulness and multiplication that in the end, only He can bring.
In the latest Online Update Newsletter from Church Production Magazine the question is asked, “Should techs stop and pray during services?” My first reaction to this is along the lines of, “Oh brother! Can we not waste our time on pointless discussions please!?” I know that there are sincere people on the other end, but this rationalistic/dualistic way of “doing church (services)” is so far removed from my reality that I struggle to even wade into the conversation. I read the article however (hoping to find a place where I could fire off my “eye-rolling” comments). Thankfully this article wasn’t up for discussion on their site…and thankfully I have my own (barely visited) site where I can comment away.
My philosophical/theological stance on all this is we need to be praying all the time and our definition of prayer needs to expand as well. Consequently a discussion of whether this circumstance or that circumstance should/should not include “prayer” is difficult for me to engage with (other than my judgmental eye-rolling!).
But, I read the article and I think they treated the sincere question well and with much more grace than I would have. For me, personally, I find that my time at the mixing board during a service is ideal time to intercede for the worship and whatever else is going on in front of me. For example, we have a couple of youth worship teams, and I love to intercede for them while they do their thing. They’re taking risks and learning how to lead people in worship at an age where I was simply goofy…nothing more! It’s stimulating to pick one of them out up on stage and call for more of the anointing to flow through them!
However, this still leaves me with a personal dilemma/question: How do I pray constantly (without ceasing) in other areas? It’s all well and good to think “correctly” that I should…it’s a whole other thing to actually do it .
This is a constant struggle with me because my work (computers) is cerebral in nature. There are times when I can interject worship and prayer and declaration, etc. into what I’m doing and there are times when I need to focus on something simply to understand it. I don’t have a problem with the idea that my focus time is “prayer/worship”; that I’m honoring the Lord in my work. What is difficult is coming out of that deep focus and consciously bringing Jesus into it. I’ve no problem with the idea that Jesus wants to be in it and that He has great solution ideas for me and that we can commune with each other in my technology work…I just have a hard time doing it consistently; a hard time remembering that He’s closer than my skin and desiring that intimacy with me…and not always to the exclusion of my work, but actually in my work!
I like to think back to the Brother Lawrence’s example of Practicing the Presence of God where he does the dishes with God (and for God as an act of worship). I think that’s great and, in fact I love that example because I already do the dishes with God. Literally, that’s where I listen to teachings or pray or ruminate on some scripture. That kind of routine, manual work is such an opportunity for me because of what I can and have gotten out of it. Now, if I could just add that next level of connection in the realm of cerebral work! Help Lord!
This is a brief outline for a Bible Study/devotion that I gave to one of our EuroTeam construction teams (check out their great team blog here). It’s purpose was to put their practical work into the context of God’s purposes for His Creation. I believe its application, however, is broad and needs to touch every domain where we exercise an activity that God has called us to.
In the Old Testament, much significance is given to the Temple (and the Tabernacles, but I’ll refer just to “The Temple” for simplicity when I mean both). The fact that it’s significant is plain to see in cursory readings of the OT. The theology of that significance is perhaps less plain to our modern, Western thought patterns. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this so I only offer some main points about that significance. (Here are 2 podcasts on Eschatology by Martin Scott where the symbolism of the Temple is more fully discussed: https://3generations.eu/blog/?p=928 and https://3generations.eu/blog/?p=941)
What I’d like to posit is this short study can be summarized in the following statements (most of which are a synthesis of observations presented first by others which have particularly resonated with me):
The desire of God with respect to The Creation/The Cosmos/”The Heavens and the Earth” is to fill it with His Glorious Presence and to rule it in intimate relationship with His People
The Old Testament Temple is an intentional picture of God’s Creation
God’s manifest and abiding presence in the Old Testament Temple is an intentional picture of how God wants to fill all of Creation with His Glory
The planning, preparing, building and consecrating of the Temple are an intentional picture of how God desires to work with man and has chosen to do so in order to prepare a resting place for His presence
The coming of Jesus launched God’s “New Creation Project”
Our renewed Creation Mandate is to facilitate (in any way that God calls us to) the indwelling presence of God throughout all of His Creation
To this end, we can glean significance and understanding in our mandate based on what we see revealed in the Bible accounts of the Temple
Significance of the Temple:
This was a physical location where the presence of God was continually manifested – In my understanding we’re talking about the “spirit realm” or “heavenly realm” or “God’s space” intersecting with the “natural realm” in tangible ways. For those of us who don’t easily sense things “in the Spirit”, I think we’d probably actually sense this! 😉
This was a physical location where one could “meet God” – One went to the Temple to connectwith God, to meet with God, to relate to God, to talk with God, etc. It was a place where relationship with the Creator of the Universe was fostered and facilitated. Moses – spoke face-to-face with God “as a man speaks with his friend” – Exodus 33:11 Joshua – stayed in God’s presence even after his master, Moses, had left! – Exodus 33:11 David – he simply wanted to stay there all the time! – Psalm 27:4 God’s intention was to meet with His people there and to dwell with them – Exodus 29:43-46
The physical Temple was a micro-representation of God’s Creation – In ancient temples in the Middle East, there is more than one example of the physical temple (of the god that they believed created everything) architecturally representing the cosmos created by their god. Some of the connections between the Creation and the Temple in the Old Testament are as follows: Job 38:4-6 – the Creation is seen in architectural terms. One could envision a Cosmic Temple with the words that God chose when responding to Job Exodus 39-40 – In these chapters there are parallels with Moses setting up the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and God’s Creation in Genesis 1-2. Here are a few verses where the activity of the building of the Tabernacle alludes to the Creation:
Exodus 31:1-6 – Even in the building of the Tabernacle, God demonstrates an earthly example of how He created with Wisdom (Proverbs 8 ) when He calls out Bezalel and Oholiab, skilled craftsmen anointed with wisdom, to create various items in the Tabernacle. Psalm 78:69 – The psalmist Asaph indicates that the design that God gave for His Temple makes one think of the majesty of Creation Genesis 2:1-3 – Palace building is a common recurring theme in ancient Creation narratives. So :
gods build their palaces
their palaces are their temples
Israel’s temple is called The House of the Lord (over 200 times in the Old Testament)
The Cosmos is God’s House (Isaiah 66:1), where He finds rest
The 7th day of Creation, God finds His rest
1 Chronicles 28:2, Psalm 99:5, Psalm 132:7 – David and the people of Israel understood this idea of their Temple, on earth, being the footstool of the Lord. The footstool is a symbol of someone being in in their own home. They have authority there and they are at rest there. God’s just kickin’ back and enjoyin’ His handiwork! Genesis 1:26-27 – The final activity in the construction of a temple was to install the statue or image of the god. This is exactly what happened in God’s Creation Temple on the 6th day. Exodus 40:34-35, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 – God’s desire to fill His Creation with His Glory, (which is His manifest Presence (which means where He dwells (which is His House))) is demonstrated in the consecration of both Moses’ Tabernacle in the Wilderness and Solomon’s Temple when the cloud of God’s Glory completely filled the house of worship and everyone was overwhelmed.
The spread of the presence of God – God’s intention was that Israel take this “tabernacling presence” (John 1:14) of the one true God into all of Creation, that He would find rest or a dwelling place everywhere in Creation.
Psalm 8:3-6, Hebrews 4:9-11 – God has chosen the pinnacle of His Creation, mankind, to be the “hinge” between Heaven and Earth so that we would find our rest or our dwelling place in Him and then bring His Presence to where we are.
Romans 8:20-21 – Even the Creation itself was subject to this design of God that humans be the agency of connecting the Creation with Heaven so that God would have a “footstool” all over His Creation. The Creation groans and anxiously waits for God’s people to connect with this reality and get on with the task.
God’s Glory – Again, this can be another way to speak of His presence, which is, in turn, a way to speak of where He dwells or abides. Numbers 14:21 – God desires that the whole Earth be filled with His Glory Isaiah 6:3 – Isaiah says that the whole Earth is filled with His Glory Habakkuk 2:14 – Habakkuk shows us, however, that God is interested in people having an experiential knowledge of the fullness of His Glory in every place on earth
Genesis 1:26-28 – If we truly are the image of God in His Creation Temple – His “temple statue” if you will – then our mandate is to facilitate places where the presence of God can rest or abide – where He finds rest – in His Creation and to disciple people to find their rest in Him.
John 1:1-5 – Another way to look at this is that with Jesus, God launched a new Creation project to which He invites the participation of His “image bearers”. Accepting this invitation is to begin to walk with Jesus and to begin to create in the same way that God created in Genesis 1:
Bring light into dark places
Bring order into chaos
Bring life where there is no life
Haggai, Ezra and the people of God – In the book of Haggai, we are taken to the time where Ezra led a group of Jews back from Babylon to rebuild God’s Temple. The work begins, but then it stops and 14 years pass with no progress. God sends Haggai with a prophetic message to the people of Israel that they need to get on with the project!
Facilitating God’s Kingdom – What I like about the message of the book of Haggai in this context of rebuilding the Temple is that God’s people are admonished to apply themselves to physical, concrete labor to facilitate the intersection of Heaven and Earth; the abiding presence of God in a specific geographical context. What kind of practical activities would this temple re-building entail (not an exhaustive list)?
Demolition of the burned out remains of the old temple
Separation of reusable and non-reusable materials
Establishing foundations and structure
Lumber work and carpentry
All types of finish work
All types of decoration work
1 Corinthians 3:9-10,16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 3:6 – These sorts of tasks are what is required to prepare a place for God’s presence, both in terms of the individual spirit as God’s temple and in terms of a piece of physical geography; very practical; hard work required.
God’s view of practical work – In Haggai 1:13, God says that He is with them in this important task. He even fills them with His Holy Spirit (Haggai 1:14) for construction work…Spirit-filled trash removal, Spirit-filled carpentry, Spirit-filled painting, Spirit-filled ditch digging, Spirit-filled architecture, Spirit-filled artistic design, Spirit-filled sewing, Spirit-filled metal-casting, etc.!
God’s promises for our work – God promised to fill that house they were building with His Glory (Haggai 2:7) and His Peace (Haggai 2:9). He promised physical provision as a recompense for the work (Haggai 2:19). The final word in Haggai 2:20-22 is a prophetic word about God moving in judgment and the establishing of His Kingdom. There is, in my opinion, a direct correlation between the people getting on with the practical work of preparing a place for His Presence and God acting to establish His Kingdom…even elsewhere in the earth.
The book of Haggai shows us where God is saying to the people of Israel, “Have you forgotten what you are to be about? Come on! Let’s build together and I promise to be with you!” To then take this study further, there is the book Ezra, the contextual situation in which the book of Haggai actually resides. There is much to be discovered here as we take God’s admonition into all domains of society, family, work, education, arts, etc. throughout all of His creation. We are, after all, sub-contracting with the Master Architect of the Universe to create space for His abiding, glorious presence among us!