For those who haven't heard yet, we made quite an important and wonderful announcement at Fresh Wind on Sunday, Sept. 15. For those who only have a moment, if you just skim down to the bold letters below, you'll get the basic idea. Let me begin by sharing a visitation that I experienced the night before the announcement that finally gave me some perspective on it.
I came before the Lord in prayer and engaged with something he had been speaking to me through the writings of Hans Urs Von Baltasar. I sensed him say, 'Gaze on me and I will gaze on you. I will see you and see through you and into every part of you. I will open up every door and every drawer of your soul and I will evaluate you. I will judge you thoroughly, even where you would not dare judge yourself. I will see and know what you cannot even see and know. And I will render my verdict of mercy, my sentence of kindness, and my gaze will be adoration.'
Even as I engaged with those words, it was as if the entire front part of my body, soul and spirit opened like doors and drawers ... Things I would never want others to see or know were fully exposed to Jesus' gaze, yet without shame or condemnation. I could sense strongly the character defects of fallen kings like Saul, David and Nebuchadnezzar ... all there within me in their fullness, but available to the Spirit's searchlight. I could feel the deep lack of character, unmasked for him without fear, and the truth that I have been measured and found wanting ... But even in that, my willingness to open my heart and show it to him, hiding nothing, seemed to receive his generous approval.
In that place, God began to show me his secret wisdom. It was amazing because for months and months I have been told to stay in the mines and dwell in the darkness and receive God's secret wisdom. I had no idea what that was and no glimmer of it until now. It finally came ... things to be shared freely with the church that have been utterly inaccessible to the enemy until now. What I saw involved such a blindsiding / ambush / vengeance of the Lord against the accuser that I was became rather euphoric. The two secrets that came were allowed to be unveiled as part of our announcement at Fresh Wind.
First, I saw the intense suffering that so many in our midst have experienced this year. Physical, emotional, spiritual, marital, financial, vocational crushing has overwhelmed so many (just as the Lord forewarned in January). I saw the enemy behind it, pushing, pushing, pushing ... and that we have been pushed to the point of only two options: We would have to either give up (and some have, to the enemy's joy) or let go (which looks the same but is the very opposite, to the Lord's joy). The Lord has taken the terrible risk of allowing this horrendous trial by fire to lead us all the way to this letting go. For those who let go, they are surprised to find that God is waiting to pass them a baton of great purpose. Happily, in their poverty of spirit, they find themselves with empty hands, available to receive God's gift. They could not have received it without having let go and they would not have let go without the suffering.
I've already watched many among us picking up their baton: Eric J picking up the prophetic role, Charles and the Langtons joining the leadership team, Lorie stepping onto the pastoral staff. But others too, like the Collies (and their prayer tent) and Robin at LIFE Recovery or Heather getting healed and starting school to be a nutritionist. And so on. Many have already endured the fire, taken hold of their baton and it felt to me like they had utterly blind-sided the enemy. In his folly, he did not and could not see the courage of the elect. He failed to understand how our blood and God's light create gold of character in the alchemy of Jesus.
And then I saw my baton. I don't know what it is
exactly, but I want it. But to have it, I needed to join in the faith
of letting go ... And if I
let go, let go of what? The prayers and prophetic words of God's
people, mixed mysteriously with both the injuries and desires of own my
heart, have led me these past weeks to lay down two batons.
five years, I have now laid down the baton of team leader at Fresh
Wind. And after twenty-one years, I have laid down the baton of
pastoral vocation. Fresh Wind is still my home and family. I'll
continue for now as part of the team and stay on the teaching rotation.
I'm not planning to leave, but I've laid down my role as pastor. But
there is more. Remember first that Jesus is the leader of our church
and that our team operates on a consensus of hearing his heart as best we can.
But we also recognize the validity of having a team leader.
To whom would the team offer that baton? Surprise: Unanimously, it seemed good to us and to the Lord to pass it to Eden! (my dear and faithful wife) ...
And here is the secret wisdom in that. In picking up her baton, God is unlocking an enormous storehouse of kingdom strength that had not previously emerged. I believe we have no idea of what she carries. I have no idea. She has no idea. But there is a powder keg that has been lit and I believe what is emerging is a New Testament Esther. The last thing we need is a queen or a high priestess ... but just as the enemy has assaulted the church with the spirit of Jezebel (marked variously by manipulation, domination, control and/or seduction), God's answer far, far surpasses that strategy. He trumps the enemy with the spirit of Esther, by which I mean authority that only comes forward when summoned by her husband, her King and her God in order to minister deliverance of a people. The Esther spirit only lays hands on the King's scepter when invited and never grasps at it or takes it from his hand. Her authority comes because she has the King's ear.
It sounds grandiose, but I believe Eden bears this spirit. The beauty of God's wisdom is this ... the Jezebel spirit often functions to control leaders (like Ahab) or to take them out completely. Even Elijah withered before her. As I sat under God's evaluation, I saw how vulnerable and fragile my own character is ... But with Eden? Well, she smells that stuff a mile away and sees through it (always has). And now that God, through the team, has offered her the baton, I witnessed the enemy receive a serious drubbing. As best I can tell, this way of framing the role-shifting at Fresh Wind came not by reason but as revelation to my open-drawered soul. It left me cheering the wisdom of God. When I shared this with the congregation, they received and affirmed her, then prayed and prophesied over Eden as she received her baton. It was a holy moment charged with surprise and excitement. Just one highlight for me was hearing John Van Vloten say, "We as men welcome your leadership," granting simultaneous submission AND covering. Another joy was to hear Heinz and Doreen Borck saying, "We can follow you. And we have your back."
As for me, I fell asleep again after the visitation, not as Brad the pastor or leader but Brad the man and Bradley the boy, the son. I fell into an old recurring nightmare that always signals inadequacy and I woke up sucking my thumb (for real!), which signals insecurity. And it felt so good. Out of the safe place, out of my comfort zone and in full realization that I'm in over my head again. I'm launching into something I have no idea about. On waking, I heard Brian West's (our founding team leader) cheerful voice chiming inside ... 'Here we go again. Double or nothing!' Oh Lord, you mean I get to risk again? Between God and I, there has never been a guarantee. He has only and always said, 'I'll risk it if you will.' I am a long shot and I know it. I am a high risk investment and that's just how it is. So for now, I retreat to be his boy. I will plug away at the little projects he's given me and wait on the promised new baton..
So that's my story. A new chapter has begun in my family and in my church, entitled, 'Esther emerging.' This should be good.