I firmly believe that God is restoring the apostolic and prophetic giftings to the body of believers. But He does so for His own glory and purposes, not so we can get new business cards! As far as I can tell, Paul never presented himself as the “Apostle Paul,” but as “Paul, an apostle.” Some fake, or even real, apostles can become obsessed with titles. How often people have introduced themselves to me as “Apostle Such and Such,” and I don’t even know them.
This was one of Yeshua’s deepest concerns for His would-be apostles during His three years of leadership training. How would He break them of the need for position and power?
Ambitious Mothers can Cause Trouble
Shlomit, the mother of James and John, felt the need to fight for her sons’ positions in Yeshua’s kingdom.
“Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matt. 20:21)
Yeshua’s answer brings a dose of reality to them:
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” (v. 22-23)
In other words, “You have no clue what you are requesting…you are looking for a crown, and I am calling you to embrace the cross!?”
When the other guys heard about this, they were incensed. How dare those sons of Zebedee! But they were just the same. They were not so concerned about James’ and John’s lack of humility, but rather that they tried to jump to the front of the line behind their backs.
Yeshua decided it was time for a teaching moment. He sat them down and said:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (v. 25-28)
You see a true apostle, one whose character has been tested, would not need to let you know that he is an apostle. He wouldn’t care and the fruit of his ministry would speak for itself.
Foot Washing Brings Humilty
And this took place just days before the crucifixion! In John 13, Yeshua is about to eat the Passover meal with His boys, when He feels the need to address this issue again:
Yeshua knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-15)
He knew He was leaving and He had little time to teach them this lesson.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (v. 12-17)
The Second Foot Washing
As I read this the other day, I noticed something I had not seen in the past. The meal had already started. It was customary for a servant to wash your feet immediately when you entered the home. The sandal-wearing community would have dirty feet, and that would not be pleasant as they reclined for the meal. You would not clean feet in the middle of the meal—which means Yeshua was washing their feet a second time!
So, why do it again? Because, apparently, the same issue of pride and position came up. During the meal, according to Luke (in fact just after Yeshua institutes the New Covenant!), “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Luke 22:24) Now this is only days after the episode with James and John, and just hours before the crucifixion. After rebuking them for their pride (Luke 22:25-27), He gets up from the table and sets an example for them.
The issue was urgent. He was about to die in just a few hours and these guys still didn’t understand that their positions in the kingdom would not be as sovereigns, but as servants. Yes, they would have real authority—but their authority would be to serve, support and strengthen the young body of believers, not to act like princes.
A Humbling Story
This is really embarrassing for me to write—but when I first became a paid youth pastor at the age of 28 years, I explained to our youth that it was their responsibility to serve me. Hopefully, I didn’t say it quite like that. I had a wife with three kids, a lawn that needed to be cut, babysitters would be needed, etc. I would give myself spiritually, but they needed to serve me.
Two parents gently confronted me and gave me a lesson on ministry, much like Yeshua did the disciples in Matthew 20 and Luke 22.
They Still Didn’t Get It
After Yeshua’s powerful example, and some more final words, Peter blurts out:
“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:37-38)
They still didn’t get it. Peter would have to suffer through his denial of Yeshua, before he and the others will finally have the character needed to serve as leaders. It is not about titles or being served—ministry is about sacrifice and laying down our lives for others. We need apostles today—leaders of leaders, overseers of ministers, those who birth ministries–but we don’t need people who want to be an apostle just for the title. Sadly, there are a bunch!
“It doesn’t really matter what you say I have done. God has called me here, and you can’t stand in His way.”
According to a friend of mine, these were the words a leader of a congregation used as he responded to a congregant, who sought to challenge him on issues of deep concern—issues of sin.
It reminded me of something that happened while I was in Bible school. I had been attending a church on Long Island led by a dynamic preacher. Everyone loved his fiery teachings. He was truly anointed. However, I became concerned when, during a service, he physically attacked an usher. The usher had laid his hand on someone, and the wife of the pastor removed his hand, as he was there to usher, not to pray. The usher reacted angrily to the pastor’s wife, and both he and the pastor had to be physically restrained.
I stopped going to this congregation. A few weeks later, some of my college buddies came back to the campus with glowing reports of Pastor Phil’s (not his real name) latest message. “You’ve got to hear it, Ron!” they crowed.
I popped the cassette into my Walkman (it was 1986!) and listened as Pastor Phil screamed at the people and blamed them for this and that. I did not sense anointing but human anger.
A few weeks later, I was told that Pastor Phil prophesied over a young lady in the church, just after he returned from a four-day prayer retreat, in which it was discovered he brought the very same young lady with him. Someone saw them return together, and Pastor Phil was confronted regarding his adulterous affair.
“He is still anointed!”
When the elders sat down with Phil and his wife for this confrontation, the very first words out of his wife’s mouth were, “He is still anointed.”
Most women would have hit him, yelled at him and called him a cheating #$%^—yes, even believing women. But this wife’s greater concern was for her husband’s authority in the congregation—that it would not be forfeited. While this was an elder-led team, she had much freedom as the senior pastor’s wife and loved being in that position.
In her mind, Phil was God’s anointed, even if that anointing did not help him with his zipper! It was like she was saying, “David committed adultery, and he was still king. Who are these elders to remove us from power? We are God’s anointed!”
The theory that leaders can only be removed by God comes from 1 Samuel 26:9-11, where David warns his trusted friend Abishai not to kill King Saul:
“‘Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,’ he said, ‘the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed’” (NIV).
A Dangerous Doctrine
From this text, some leaders have derived a very dangerous doctrine regarding a senior leader and accountability. According to this doctrine, the senior leader is understood as having a position like the ancient kings of Israel. He is “God’s anointed”; therefore, he is not to be removed by any process of men—no matter what he does. He is beyond congregational discipline. While he may have elders or a board, they are advisers only, and all decisions are his to make. Within his sphere, he is the final authority (or, as I call it, dictator).
If he abuses people or they do not like his decisions, they have two choices. They can either submit to his leadership and entrust the situation to God, or they can quietly leave the community. In any case, they are to make no waves or protest in their leaving. Those who do are labeled rebellious troublemakers and often become the target of malicious rumors and gossip.
In these circles, the authority of the senior leader is taught in very absolute terms. We are told, “Touch not God’s anointed.” I believe it is a destructive and devilish doctrine, and people should separate from those who teach it.
First, this was no even a doctrine in the Old Covenant. This was David not wanting to take matters into his own hands, and make himself King. There are plenty of examples of kings being rebuked in the Old Covenant.
- Nathan rebukes David
- Samuel rebukes Saul
- Elijah rebukes Ahab
- In fact, David publicly rebukes Saul, after he spared his life. David even says, “May the Lord judge between you and me.” (1 Sam. 24:12)
To be clear, we should honor and respect those who have embraced the yoke of leadership, but leaders should be held to an even higher standard than those in their congregations:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
And if you find yourself in a place where you need to bring correction to a leader, do with a loving, humble heart.
The Leader Is Not a King
In the New Testament, congregations are not led by kings. Yes, I know in many circles the pastor and his wife are treated like royalty. Some even refer to the pastor’s wife as first lady.
Just this morning, a pastor friend was telling me of a young elder who said, “Now that I am an elder, people will respect me.”
My friend told him that it was quite the opposite: “Now that you are an elder, you give up your rights in order to serve.”
In Hebrew, the word for minister (mesharet) is the same word for servant. A leader is called to serve, not to be crowned. Yeshua said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
New Testament congregations should be governed by teams of elders under the direction of a senior leader who is accountable to the team. Both Titus and Timothy, who were senior leaders, were encouraged to appoint elders (Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). And elders govern the congregation:
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17, emphasis added).
Saul did not declare himself God’s anointed. He didn’t tell people, “You can’t touch me because I am God’s anointed.” In fact, when David did not kill him, but cut off part of his garment, Saul did not rebuke him, but repented to David.
It most cases today, it is the senior leader who declares himself to be God’s anointed and therefore untouchable by man. In the case of David and Saul, it is Saul’s enemy, David, who calls Saul God’s anointed. It is a dangerous thing for a man to declare himself God’s anointed.
In Bible school, I had the opportunity to meet the great English Bible teacher David Pawson. After one of his messages (he was teaching all week), I was deeply moved. I felt like I had heard from a prophet. I walked up to Mr. Pawson and asked, “Are you a prophet?” He wisely said with his beautiful British accent, “That is not for me to say, but you.” And he walked away.
I was blown away. He was right. You don’t become a prophet or God’s anointed because you post it on your Facebook page or business card. You can’t declare yourself an apostle, as did the drunk and abusive character that Robert Duvall played in The Apostle. No, others affirm the gift of God in your life.
So let us be done with this abusive doctrine. It is rooted in pride and leads to abuse. May God raise up strong leaders who are secure enough to be accountable to their elders. If you find yourself in a situation where a senior leader refuses to be accountable because he is “God’s anointed,” my advice is to run! Find a congregation that has clear standards of morality for its leaders.
NOTE OF BALANCE: I do want to be clear about one thing. The explosion of mass media has given a wider voice to anyone who wants one. That is good. However, too often, people without all the facts enter into internet gossip and cast suspicions on leaders based on wrong information or half truths. We must fear the Lord and make sure we have all the facts, before we publicly accuse.
Once again, proving that it is morally bankrupt and anti-Semitic, the United Nations voted 120-8 in favor of a passed a one-sided resolution, calling for the protection of the Palestinian civilian population. Somehow, they failed to condemn the one group most responsible for putting Gaza’s civilian population in harm’s way: Hamas! Instead they blame Israel, for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” force in our efforts to stop terrorists from storming the border and killing Israelis..
In case you have not been reading the news, or live in a cave, Hamas has been urging citizens of Gaza to storm the border with Israel, so they can enter and commit acts of terror. This has been going on since Israelis celebrated 70 years of independence in mid-April.
Not a Peaceful Protest
Hamas has told the world that the protests would be peaceful. Not only does Hamas not believe this, but many of the nations, who condemned Israel yesterday, know it is a lie. They don’t care. They hate Israel—pure and simple.
Presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, the measure won a decisive 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions. (source)
No Place for Nikki
Nikki Haley, the fiery United States Ambassador, tried to include language that would bring a modicum of balance to the one-sided resolution.
“For some, attacking Israel is their favorite political sport. That’s why we are here today… the common practice of turning a blind eye to the UN’s anti-Israel bias is changing. Today, a plurality of 62 countries voted in favor of the US-led effort to address Hamas’s responsibility for the disastrous conditions in Gaza. We had more countries on the right side than the wrong side. By their votes, those countries recognized that peace will only be achieved when realities are recognized, including Israel’s legitimate security interests, and the need to end Hamas’ terrorism.”
One thing is for sure, Nikki Haley has become (in just over a year) the most outspoken, pro-Israel UN Ambassador in history. Once again, she held nothing back in pointing out the UN’s hypocrisy when it comes to Israel.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) June 13, 2018
Unfortunately, it takes a two-thirds majority to add the amendment. So, even though they had over 50% of the nations condemning Hamas, it was scraped. Even more shocking, is that 58 nations refused to condemn Hamas, a group that has not only terrorized Israel, but has:
- thrown Palestinian leaders off buildings,
- chopped off the heads of suspected collaborators with Israel (and then dragged their dead bodies through the street on motorcycles as a warning to others),
- Islamized a secular community, arresting people and torturing them for heinous crimes like wearing jeans or hair gel,
- And enacting policies that have all but destroyed the Gaza economy.
In this recent peaceful conflict:
- Hamas bribed families with $100 per family to come to the border protests.
- They threatened those who didn’t come with the possibility of being accused of collaboration with Israel—a death sentence.
- From the border, Hamas operatives are flying “terror kites” fill with petrol, causing 198 separate fires in Israel.
- A terrorist killed an Israeli soldier, in the West Bank, when a massive marble slab was dropped on his head from a height of three stories.
- Hamas operatives have sought to blow up Israeli tanks at the border.
- They’ve forced bus drivers to drive civilians to the border.
- Hamas makes innocent people rush the borders, resulting in the death of Gazans!
And that is their goal. They know they cannot beat Israel militarily, so they sacrifice their women and children, and rejoice when one is killed. They cry on TV and celebrate in private at the public relations jackpot.
“We are asking for a simple thing,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the UN assembly. “We want our civilian population to be protected.”
Well, Mr. Mansour, maybe you could start by demanding that Hamas stop taking civilians to the border and goading them, if not forcing them, to risk their lives by storming the border. But Mr. Mansour doesn’t dare challenge Hamas. He’d be a dead man.
Israel Loves Nikki
Israel’s UN Ambassador, Danny Danon, gave praise to the US for standing with Israel in a tweet.
While procedural maneuvers were used to block it, We’re proud that by working with the Americans and our friends around the world, a majority of nations in the @UN voted for the first time to condemn the terrorists of Hamas. pic.twitter.com/coyzqWPq1P
— Ambassador Danon (@dannydanon) June 13, 2018
Danon had strong words for UN comrades:
“The backers of this resolution are “colluding with a terrorist organization…empowering Hamas. You are the ammunition for Hamas’s guns. You are the warheads for its missiles. This session today is about our right to defend our people. It is the international community’s attempt to take away our basic right to self-defense.”
“The resolution before you today does not protect innocent Palestinians. It does not protect innocent Israelis. It does not condemn, does not even mention Hamas, the internationally recognized terrorist organization directly responsible the violence in our region.”
“The UN’s incessant focus on Israel not only brings shame to the organization. It also draws attention away from so many other pressing issues that demand the attention of the international community. Israel appreciates the Trump administration’s steadfast support for Israel at the United Nations and Ambassador Haley’s strong statement today exposing the hypocrisy of the UN’s bias against Israel.”
- Pray for the innocent victims in Gaza being manipulated by Hamas.
- Pray for protection for our dear soldiers defending our country.
- Pray for revelations of Yeshua to come to the Hamas terrorists.
- Pray for the IDF, that even in frustration, there would still be self-control.
- Pray for the Jewish citizens of the cities in the south, particularly the traumatized children.