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For years now I’ve been answering questions each week that people email me in relation to what I’m teaching or what they are learning about the things of God. Some I can answer quickly, others I spend more time on. I call this D-MAIL for discipleship mail. The blog now becomes a perfect place for me to let many others in on what we are talking about so we can grow together in our understanding of God and Scripture.

QUESTION: Pastor Steve, this past weekend, in teaching on “territorial spirits” you said Satan, unlike God, is not omnipresent and therefore, since he can’t be everywhere at once, he must be somewhere at once. This raises another question in my mind relating to the difference between God and Satan. I was always taught that in addition to omnipresent, God is also “all knowing”, meaning he also knows all things, including my thoughts. Although I can’t recall being ever taught this I am assuming I am correct in stating that Satan does not have that ability (to know my thoughts). I don’t recall any scripture that would lead me to believe he has that ability. Is that your understanding?

MY RESPONSE: No way is Read the rest of this entry »

Woe to you when men speak well of you. Jesus said that. Yet the temptation in ministry is to have people speak well of you – the more the better. The goal for some appears to be- become a superstar and not so much a servant. Charisma Magazine just ran a story called “The Celebrity Syndrome.” The article fits the hero theme well. It’s amazing that these major magazines are reading my blog and copying my themes. I must have “arrived.”

Leadership Journal recently blogged about the need for a “hero boycott” in the Body of Christ….

Why the big-name celebrity leaders are turning me off…. It’s no different today than it was in the first century, when Paul noted in his first letter to the Corinthians that the Christ-followers there were dividing themselves over who they followed. “I follow Paul,” said some, while others countered, “I follow Apollos.” Today it’s the same story, just a different millennium: “I am of Hybels.” “I am of Warren.” “I am of Maxwell.” “I am of Stanley.” “I am of Moore.” “I am of Groeschel.” “I am of McLaren.” “I am of Driscoll.”…

Those are all evangelical heroes. Should we add some names from the charismatic camp? Hayford, Jakes, Osteen, Meyer, Barnett, Hagee, Copeland, Bevere. How about Bentley, King, Pierce? How about the Christian music scene, even the worship music scene?

There was a hugely refreshing moment at OneThing last month when somebody on the platform said “turn the stage lights off, this isn’t about anybody up here.” The focus was the Lord. Contrast that with endless Christian conferences that pride themselves on having the Who’s Who of the latest move of God on the speakers list.

A number of years ago, like ten or so, a bunch of pastors in the city here met and we were talking about bringing in PromiseKeepers. It was nauseating to see the enthusiasm as different big names were tossed around. I’d been on the bandwagon to bring in Franklin Graham in ’97. Really nothing in our city changed. However, something in me changed after that – I thought, we need God to visit here, no one else. It was one of the things that turned me into a pray-er. Everyone else seemed in the way. Heaven-sent heroes get out of God’s way.

One of the things I admire about heaven-sent heroes is their hiddenness and their humility. Whatever happened to hiddenness and staying hidden in God? Today I nominate no name – unsung – nameless – faceless people who, day after day, spend themselves in pursuit of God and his Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.

Watching the political primaries in Florida tonight underscored the next thought I wanted to throw out regarding heroes.  That thought being… they are all flawed.  With the exception of Jesus, or perhaps a fictional or cartoon hero, they all have a human side.  This fact alone ought to keep us from any form of hero-worship.  

Those of you who have scouted out my blog here perhaps noticed I’m into a biography of Truman. It’s 1007 pages long so I’ll tell you how it ends later. But he’s a hero with regard to being a political intercessor for Israel. He went against the political current of the day, against his own advisors to, in his words, “set right a historical wrong.” Jews called him the American Cyrus. Trygve Lie, the Secretary of the UN (in 1948) said, “If there had been no Harry Truman, there would be no Israel today.”

However, I recently read an article by Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Truman, My Flawed Hero. Foxman lists a few of Truman’s shocking anti-semitic comments and attitudes and concludes;

Truman was a product of his time and of a civilization’s attitudes. The anti-Semitism revealed in his diaries is a stain on his reputation. Still, he remains a hero of Israel.

Some of the men who have most influenced by life, guys I view as heroes of this or that, all are flawed in this area or that. When I’m around them I shake them like apple trees and pick up all the good apples and leave the rotten ones lay. We need to do this with all of our heroes. And worship only God.

Drum roll please…

The next hero on my list is CATG’s own Megan J.! Several reasons for this nomination. First, and something I haven’t even shown her yet because I wanted to announce it here… she made the COVER of a new college sociology textbook called “Social Problems!!!” I love it. (Megan is the one with the LIFE tape over her mouth praying here for the unborn – second column from left, three down).

I know you’re not supposed to talk about a woman’s age, but we are talking early twenties here and she’s already shaking society in notable ways! Admittedly there is a bit of (spiritual) fatherly pride coming through here but what pastor wouldn’t boast when a young adult in his church bucks the culture and takes a visible stand for the least of these. Actually, Megan’s mug shot already graced the Washington Post about 18 months ago.

Age is irrelevant to heroism. Looking out over the sea of faces at the Washington March for Life last week, many people from the platform noted the face of the pro-life movement is young – most under age 30. These are the survivors, Roe v. Wade survivors. 50 million of their peers didn’t make it.

Megan represents an emerging army of Nazirites who God is raising up in our nation – worshippers, history-changing intercessors, lovers of God. Be sure to click on the Nazirite link here and read Lou Engle’s comments. These are the heaven-sent heroes of our day. I’m committed to them and celebrate them.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear… a big honkin’ article on “Heroes” in my Leadership Journal that just came in the mail today. How ’bout that. Some good stuff too. Since 2000, church coach Chad Hall has been asking hundreds of church leaders he’s been coaching “Who are your heroes?”…

When it comes to naming one’s heroes, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern: the progress a leader makes in moving toward his goals is directly correlated with the degree of speed and certainty with which he can name his heroes. The pattern is most obvious in the negative: I’ve never coached a leader who is unable to name his hero and who also makes substantial progress toward real goals.

I really liked a chart called the Fantastic Four which illustrates the four types of heroes we all ought to have:

1. Familiar - Parent, mentor, teacher, coach, great-grandparent, etc.

2. Famous – historical (i.e. Churchill), successful (i.e. Bill Gates) or popular (i.e. Oprah) [I thought it too… Oprah??? He also listed Bono. Please. It’s a sign of the times)

3. Faith – Biblical figures, church history greats, mission pioneers

4. Fictional – movie or literary characters/folklore or legend (he lists William Wallace!?) (Again, I can’t restrain myself… William Wallace wasn’t a fictional figure.)

I like the four categories he calls the Fantastic Four. Who are some of your heroes and what qualities do you admire and seek to emulate?

I like to make up words. That’s no surprise to anyone around here. Made one up last weekend… “unmuzzleable.” That’s how we ought to be! It means you can’t shut us up… let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Moments ago I made up another word while reading my friend Dino Rizzo’s recent blog post on what is happening among the women of his church. Sounds like every Monday night down there is Chick Night and the Healing Place Church women have reached the point of unstoppability (another new word… now I’m on a roll!). POP! Into my head comes this new word… womentum! It’s momentum on estrogen! It’s when the sisters plow past the brothers in pursuit of the things of God. The serpent doesn’t stand a chance against her heels. In my head right this minute I hear Esther from Sanford & Son saying, “whaatchit sucker!” Even her name is prophetic – Esther!

For the locals tuning in here… the Firestarters are at the River tonight (CATG West Campus) at 8 P.M.. We expect it to go until it stops. I’m expecting God to move mightily so I hope you can come. Tomorrow afternoon they are doing a seminar for us on prophetic dance.

In other news, Bound4LIFE South Dakota invites you to participate in prayer with us tomorrow, Saturday January 26. 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM – Prayer Siege at the Planned Parenthood, 6511 West 41st in Sioux Falls. You may park at the Assemblies of God west parking lot. It is going to be in the 20’s – downright tropical! My friend Matt Lockett, Director of Bound4LIFE International will be there. Matt will be at CATG West Campus Sunday morning. He’s not preaching but I’ll twist his arm to say something. I’m going to hitting the subject “Enemies of Greatness – Part Two” so buckle up for that. There are other activities here on Saturday with Matt and Bound4Lifer’s from a five state area. If you are interested call the church office (605) 357-8136 for more info.

aborting-abortion-web-4.jpg

Another life message from me this past weekend. And, collected a few hundred signatures for the petition to put the initiated measure on our November ballot prohibiting abortion as a form of birth control. Pretty good day.

Four years ago this coming June God spoke to me clearly about making ministry to children central and not an afterthought. We started GO Kids! Daycare & Learning Center several months later. (We have 70 kids on the waiting list right now to get in!) We’ve risen to be a regional voice for the plight of the unborn. Kids at CATG are being released into their gifts and calling. Our Children’s & Youth Ministry Equipping Center rising mightily out of the ground and will be open in April. But, really we are just getting started. There is so much more to what God is calling us to do.

The next hero on my list had a heart for hurting kids that is unparalleled. I’m referring to Amy Carmichael (1867-1951).

Facesciously, first off, I like her because she’s Irish. (Yep, Hickey is Irish – it’s like Johnson over here – common… four pages of Hickey’s in the Dublin phonebook. I know because I tore them out and took them home with me. After being laughed at my whole life for this name I figured it was ok for me to do this.) Pardon the digression.

While listening to Hudson Taylor as an 18 year old girl in Northern Ireland, Carmichael committed her life the Great Commission. God gave her a burden for India and she fervently prayed God would change her blue eyes to brown so Indians would have less difficulty accepting her. Amy Carmichael served Indian orphans for fifty-five years without a furlough!! Read that last line over and over again until it is crystal clear why she makes my list of heroes. Fifty-five years without a furlough screams “relentlessness” to me.

Carmichael dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with coffee and walked long hot distances just to save one child. She is famous for founding an orphanage and spending her life saving babies abandoned and left to be raised as temple prostitutes. Quite prolific (writing 35 books), her sentences are dense with the reality of costly discipleship: “One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”

If any of you are looking for a “theological companion,” consider wading deep into this remarkable life. I recommend you start with this biography. Then read If (her most famous book).

The dictionary says a hero is one who we admire for their achievements and qualities. These are people who inspire us to greatness and chart a course for us to follow. Again, I’m not unveiling the heroes on my list in any discernable order. Yesterday I held up a hero in the today’s culture war. But heroes in a variety of arena’s have caught my attention – war heroes, missionary heroes, moral heroes, and of course, Biblical heroes. Among other things, I’m drawn to courage, culture warriors, single-mindedness, long-haul resolve and faith. There are heroes we have heard of and heroes we haven’t. Being widely known is irrelevant to heroism. Many of God’s giants go unnamed.

Many have heard of my featured hero for today – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian and martyr. Bonhoeffer was among the few clergy who stood against, and spoke against, Hitler in Nazi Germany. For this he was executed in a death camp in 1945. Fortunate for me, in seminary, I had numerous courses with Dr. H. Burton Nelson (now deceased) who was one of the world’s leading Bonhoeffer scholars. Me and my buddy Jon painted Burton’s house in Chicago and his wife was from South Dakota so he took a real interest in me planting a church here and we stayed in touch until his death. Burton knew Bonhoeffers family and wrote and taught extensively on him. I drank it all up. Burton told me he didn’t care who it was but that I should pick a “theological companion” – someone living or dead and read all they said and thought about God. I picked Bonhoeffer.

Why is he a hero? Anyone who is deeply committed to the Sermon on the Mount lifestyle is a model for me. Bonheoffer’s middle section of his famous Cost of Discipleship is a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. But he lived it and wrestled with its application. Though drawn to non-violence, he ultimately participated in a secret assassination attempt on Hitler right near the end of his life. The tension of the difficulty living the Sermon on the Mount in today world became his testimony. He engaged political and death spirits operating in his age while the rest of the “church” and “clergy” became bedfellows with it or even worse, disengaged. Even the picture above shows the clergy of that time buttering up to evil Adolf.

Before I sign off I’d be amiss to not mention Bonhoeffer’s critique of “cheap grace.” CATG’rs frequently hear me motor on about the gooey grace of evangelicalism today – “God loves me so I don’t have to live any different...” It’s a false grace and a key deception of the End Times. Bonhoeffer called it what it was.

Greatness and optimism are the themes I’ve felt led to lead the year off with so far via the pulpit and the blog. Anyone aspiring to greatness must surely have heroes they look up to and role models before set them. So, I will do two things in this run of posts on heroes…. 1) I will feature those on my list and 2) invite you to list and comment on your heroes via the comment link.

This week is also a key week for LIFE. Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the judicial act legalizing the killing of our posterity. You can tell a lot about someone by who they look up to. Planned Parenthood continues praise their founder, hero, and patron saint of feminism, Margaret Sanger despite her overt racist agenda. Bad seed brings forth a bitter harvest. One of my heroes is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – be sure to read yesterday’s Martin Luther King Day post on my life blog regarding how Sanger’s dream is killing Dr. King’s dream.

My list of heroes is in no particular order. But, again, because this is a key LIFE week, I’ll start with Phill Kline, former Kansas Attorney General. I’ve watched him from a distance these past couple years, know his rival Paul Morrison from a trial I testified at years ago, but I heard Phill Kline speak today and this guy rocks!!

Besides being from KC and graduating from a Shawnee Mission school (my roots too), anyone the Planned Parenthood website lists on their top 15 “domestic terrorist” list is a hero of mine. He’s also on their “top seven list of politicians you don’t want in your bedroom.” But Phill Kline rises to the top in my book. If I was for cloning I’d say clone him. The next best thing is for us pastors to encourage the lawyers and legal and legislative minds in our pews to take up these justice issues with all their might.

Kline is the only person in America who has been able to obtain the frightening abortion records from Planned Parenthood. He has the goods on this organizations pattern of criminal conduct – the covering up of sex crimes against minors. ABC News reported that “women’s reproductive rights activists are beginning to wonder whether Kline might deliver a big blow to abortion rights not only in Kansas but across the country.” You can read here the grave threat he is to the enemies of life.

Perhaps you would rather me list somebody, or at least start off with somebody, who is less controversial. Nah. The church has been too soft and too silent for too long and I think it’s time to point out we have a real hero in our midst here – a man who has gone to war against a great evil, one who is vilified, smeared, and demonized all because he has his hands on the truth that Planned Parenthood is a safe haven for child rapists, among other evils.

Why is this guy my hero? He motivates me to war against evil regardless of cost to personal well-being and reputation. I guess you can either dialog here about this or change the subject and share about a few of your heroes.

…back home again after my Sioux Falls to Chicago flight got canceled due to the snowstorm. There’s a chance for a later flight to Denver tonight, then a red eye at 12:30 AM to Philadelphia, then on to DC by 9:30 AM – puts me in my meeting about two hours late. No thanks. I outgrew red eye flights fifteen years ago. I’m thanking God I bought trip insurance. It was not meant to be.

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