Friday, April 27, 2007

Divided No More!

First I want to thank those of you who prayed for me last weekend as I ministered at the singles’ retreat. In all, I believe the Lord had His way with those in attendance. It has stirred my heart deeply for more opportunities to preach His Word. The Lord has impressed upon my heart these words: “Contend for authority in prayer and proclamation.” This has been my heart cry in the past week as I’ve sought the Lord’s face.

I just finished writing a letter to Kirk Barth concerning what the Lord has been doing in my life in the past week. Interestingly all of this is occurring on the heels of my series on spiritual relationships that was initially inspired by Kirk’s writings.

This past week has been one of the most amazing, simply awe-inspiring weeks that I’ve ever had. There is simply a sense that I have stepped into a new level of destiny in the Lord. As I mentioned previously I ministered last weekend at a single’s retreat, which was intense. It seems that the Lord moved powerfully among the people, dealing with the issues of the heart that inhibit us from total surrender unto the Lord himself. After the retreat I went on a prayer assignment with a fellow brother who is a layman preacher in the Methodist church.

The Lord had impressed upon us to go to the site where the first Methodist church was planted in Virginia. Interestingly we learned that it was also the first deeded property given to the Methodist church in North America. Once we got there we were reading over the historical information they provided on the site. As expected, they had pictures depicting the despicable reality of the time: two doors – one for the white man and one for the black man. Then the drawing of the interior showed the whites sitting on the first level and the blacks sitting in the balcony. Segregation in the house of the Lord. Prejudice dividing the house of God: Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. (Matthew 12:25) This divisive element became a point of contention between the races in 1900 when a dispute arose as to who had legal rights to the ownership of the building. Unable to resolve the issue, the city of Leesburg intervened in 1902 to rectify the problem by ordering them to sell the church! Division within God’s house allows the world to exert its influence and authority over the Body of Christ. The church was sold and the “Old Stone Church” was torn down and its material sold and scattered throughout the region. For a mere $416.05 the building was sold.

This was a historical building, a place where God moved powerfully through the ministry of Francis Asbury and other blazing circuit riders; yet, the hidden, insidious hatred and anger brewing within created a contentious atmosphere between the whites and blacks, nullifying their kingdom influence within their locality. Interestingly there was an inscription over the altar and pulpit that puzzled us: Thou God seest me. (Genesis 16:13) Here is a quote by Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. Obviously there was contention between Hagar and Sarah; furthermore, this contending has continued through the ages through their offspring. So in this place, we sought the Lord’s direction for how to pray.

We identified with the sins of our predecessors in their sin against the blacks. We stood precisely where the original doors were located and cried out to the Lord for mercy upon us for creating divisiveness, hatred, and contention within God’s house. After about two hours, we sensed a release from the Lord that we had completed that specific assignment.

Later that day as I was browsing my Facebook page, I ventured to check out The Call Nashville event in July that was listed on Facebook. Scrolling down I noticed a person who had put a comment stating that they were definitely going to be attending. Upon closer inspection, this African-American brother looked vaguely familiar. Then I looked at his name which I thought I recognized from a guy that I knew from high school – Darrian Summerville. I sent him a quick message asking him if he had gone to school in Manassas, Virginia. In response, he affirmed that he had indeed gone to school in Manassas. From that point we started corresponding and it has been the most phenomenal orchestration of God’s Spirit that I have ever experienced. This man serves as a worship leader under Bishop Wellington Boone in Atlanta, Georgia. (Bishop Boone has been instrumental in partaking in racial reconciliation events in Promise Keepers over the past decade) There are so many parallels in our lives. We have both been involved in campus ministry; we have a heart for intercessory prayer; and God has spoken to both of us through a prophetic dream to give to Lou Engle when he was a guest speaker at our respective churches - among other things. These are just a few highlights. In all, we both feel like we’ve been long lost brothers. We have talked and email extensively since our reconnecting last Sunday.

It has always been on my heart to connect with a fellow African-American brother who has a leadership calling so that we could minister together. Both Darrian and I know that the Lord has called us together. God is calling me to walk in a new measure of covenant that I have yet to experience with a fellow believer apart from my own wife. I’m learning much about relationships as I adjourn this process!


Brian Francis Hume

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Isolated Hokie

A loner; silent; suicidal – these are words that have been used to describe Cho Seung-Hui, (pronounced joh sung-wee) the gunman behind the atrocious massacre at Virginia Tech. In reading over a number of articles about him, it becomes obvious that he was socially inept. In all, it would be safe to assume that relationships were virtually non-existent in his life. Even his roommates were frank regarding his social negligence: no eye contact whatsoever; minimal conversation, if any; strange behavior was the norm.

Am I saying that if he had more relationships that it could have averted this tragedy?

Well, no. But I do believe that the lack of relationships potentially reveals that he was so deeply troubled and insecure concerning his own self-worth that he went to the extreme to avoid any confrontation. In doing so it was a shield to protect his fragile self from further alienation. In a letter written by the gunman, he railed against “rich kids,” women, and religion, specifically Christianity. Essentially it was a “me verse them mentality.” It seems to me that the common denominator among the three elusive things that he couldn’t secure: acceptance. This alleged gap between him (the have not’s) and the rich kids in school could have been a reality in his experience or it could have been his own false perception. By all means this is an unfortunate reality in some situations; yet, I cannot totally dismiss the possibility that this gap was exagerated in his own mind. Or simply a broken record rehashing an earlier experience.

Tied in with his stalking of two specific female students at VT, it is plausible to suggest, again, that acceptance was elusive. As he was running amuck regarding his desire for the opposite sex, it was reinforcing his perception of a lack of acceptance. He fell short. He wasn't wanted. With his advances rejected, he could only look from afar. How does one internalize such circumstances in their mind? This seems to feed into the persona that he exemplified consistently through high school and college.

Then his inconsistency regarding Christianity lends me to believe that his alienation dictated his views of the Christian faith. Interestingly within his ramblings he seems to identify with Christ as one who is a fellow martyr. He could identify with the scorn and hatred heaped upon Christ – however, he failed to see his own doing in crucifying the Son of God.

Again, I am not a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist – but, I have to ponder the significance of the shortage of acceptance, approval, and affirmationt in this murderer’s life.

Recall Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: (1) physiological – those needs necessary for survival: food, shelter, water, and warmth (2) Safety & Security (3) Belonging & Love – friends, family, spouse, significant relationships (4) Self-esteem - achievement and mastery of skills (5) Self-actualization – engaging and fulfilling a cause greater than oneself.

As each level is mastered, the person is able to go to the next level. Sadly, Seung-Hui never mastered a sense of belongingness or self-acceptance. It doesn’t appear that he had any significant relationships. The evidence of meaningful expressions of acceptance is sorely lacking in this man’s life. When these needs aren’t met, it produces questions within us: What is wrong with me? In turn, these questions - if not addressed and answered - can fuel inner resentment that creates a hell within paradise. It is a heart that rages against the Creator.

Interestingly nothing has been said of his upbringing – namely, the pressures of expectations in a family from an Asian culture. Cultural expectations can create unrealistic expectations that can create deep inner anxiety and resentment. I have known personally Asian males who bore a brunt of deep shame because they couldn't measure up to the cultural and parental expectations that were demanded of them. The VT gunman's older sister was a Princeton graduate who is currently a State Department contractor. Could he measure up to what his sister was able to accomplish? Possibly the issue of acceptance within the home eluded him.

I want to make a statement that is true for anybody regardless of background: If the adversary is able to isolate you, he will then have the power to desolate you. The Apostle Peter writes:

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you konw that your brothers througout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (I Peter 5:8-9)

Our relationship, first and foremost with God, then with others determines how we view ourselves. We must learn to submit ourselves to God, thus believing what His Word declares who we are in Christ. We must humbly receive the reality of who we are in Him instead of allowing the diabolical venom to poison our spirit.

A believer who has become isolated must view their world through a framework that is incomplete. There are things that we can only see when alone before the Lord; yet, it is equally true that we need others to see more fully the biblical reality of life. Others are also enduring trials, temptations, suffering, and hardship. Life is tought. We are not alone in this journey called sanctification. It is dangerous when we start believing that somehow our experiences are so unique that others simply cannot fathom or relate to. Peter's epistle makes it clear that our fellow sojourners in the faith are indeed enduring the "same kind of sufferings." That is why we need both the alone with God and the relationships with other believers.

What about you? Are you in true fellowship with others? Are you taking the time to cultivate important relationships within your sphere? Or do you find yourself in a self-made prison of isolated confinement, thus allowing the enemy to make you an easy target to desolate? Have you constructed a false perception that everybody is somehow against you? You can still be attending church on Sunday and Wednesday and still feel like you are isolated. It takes work to find the right people to connect with in order to cultivate meaningful, biblical relationships. Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Remember that isolation is the breeding ground for desolation. Biblical relationships allow us to experience the acceptance of the Father’s heart through other believers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spiritual Friendships

Today I read an excellent blog posting by Kirk Bartha on Spiritual Friendships that reminded me of the value of covenant relationships. Please take a moment to briskly read over Kirk's posting. In light of what Kirk shared, I want to start a brief study on the Apostle Paul and how he cultivated kingdom relationships. Studying the framework of spiritual friendships in Paul’s apostolic ministry will help us to understand the value of covenantal relationships. Indeed, Paul would be tagged by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) as a Connector: one who traverses a number of different relational spheres, and is highly connected.

Why was Paul an effective messenger of the Gospel? Did it have something to do with his willingness to be close and transparent?

I think Kirk’s example of the Apache Indian Chief embracing him at the airport without reservation is powerful; unrestricted and uninhibited, this complete stranger was willing to bring him close. Erwin Raphael McManus – author of Seizing Your Divine Moment – wrote the following: If you want to increase your influence, risk bringing people up close. Close enough to see the warts and all; to endure offensive, stale breath; and, to simply feel their heartbeat – literally and figuratively. To know someone’s “heartbeat” is to know the heart wrenching experiences that defines their brokenness. It also involves a willingness to listen to seemingly outrageous dreams; it allows room for hidden insecurities and unsettling fears to be expressed; and, it passionately celebrates their greatest joys and victories.

I know I desire to walk in authentic, covenantal relationship with those that I am called to walk with. Thankfully the Lord has blessed me tremendously over the years with multiple relationships that have enriched my life – however, I believe the Lord is calling me to walk more fully in this revelation. It is the call to embrace heart-to-heart. It is the call to love and sacrifice.

Who do you have in your life that affirms the dream that God has placed deep within your spirit? Who are those that you can bear your soul – the good, bad, and the ugly – without fear of rejection or backlash? Have you exhibited this kind of holy embrace to another? And, how do we even begin this new journey of spiritual friendship if it is a concept that is foreign to our past experience? Is this something that we are all called to pursue or is it only for a select few?

Looking forward to some dialogue!

Brian Francis Hume

Thursday, April 5, 2007

What Are You Wearing Right Now?

Recently I have had several engaging conversations with my friend, Justin Kauffman, concerning divine shifts. During our first conversation he shared how someone had sent him a book in the mail: The Coming Shift by Larry Randolph. “Just reading the title was all the revelation I needed at that time,” said Justin, “I haven’t even started reading the book yet.” Indeed, it is a phrase that is pregnant with prophetic expectation that God is indeed doing something globally in this hour. There are multiple shifts transpiring daily that will culminate in a shift on a grand-scale that unleashes a visitation of God’s Spirit in an unprecedented way in the earth today. I believe this involves the emerging generation in the United States and abroad experiencing an awakening unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. This is the posture of my heart when I envision the coming shift.

An ensuing conversation with Justin revolved once again around the theme of divine shifts. He stated that we must learn to change our way of thinking when we are in a new season, which isn’t always easy. He gave an illustration that I thought would be applicable here: We must dress appropriately for the season that we are in. This physical reality has spiritual connotations that I want to explore. When we enter into a new season, we must change out of what we had previously worn in the past season, and put on clothing appropriate for the new season. Furthermore, if we are dressed for a winter snow storm, yet the weather is sunny in the mid-80s, we are going to be miserable. The manner of how we dress can either inhibit our effectiveness or enhance our adaptability within the new season. If construction road workers are wearing three layers of clothing (including thermal underwear) along with a heavy coat in the middle of the summer, they are going to potentially endanger themselves, due to the retaining of body heat. Their quality of their work will also diminish. We must learn to dress appropriately for the season that we are in so that we may maximize our effectiveness within that given season. Likewise, we must endeavor to take off outdated mindsets, underlying assumptions, and perceptions that will cloud our discernment in the new season.

A blog that I’ve read consistently over the years is by Dr. John Stanko called The Monday Memo. Both Aneta and I heard him speak at the church that we were a part of in Dallas, Texas, while attending Christ For the Nations Institute. In February Dr. Stanko wrote an excellent piece titled What Are You Wearing Right Now? (read it) – which had a profound impact on my own thinking and planning for the future. I had been in somewhat of a wrestling match as tension arose in my soul the past few months: What am I to do regarding the strong desires within my heart to travel and minister? Last spring I graduated from Regent University with a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership; immediately I started contract work for Dominion Technology Resources, Inc., a growing company in the national defense industry. I am working with the head engineers to develop an extensive seminar on leadership in complex systems. DTRI is on the cutting-edge of system engineering within their respective industry. Overall it has been a rewarding experience. With the completion looming, I’ve been pulled in a number of directions regarding my future plans.

As I read the following statement by Dr. Stanko, it struck a chord deep within my heart:

“It’s hard to walk in someone else’s expectations, especially when those expectations don’t relate to your purpose. You can try to please society, your family, and even your own expectations of what you think you should be or do, but eventually you will fail. It will deplete your energy and creativity and you will be miserable. So what’s the answer? It’s simple; just don’t do it.”

This brief posting gave me incredible insights into a remarkable dream that I had three years ago. Until then, the dream wasn’t clear, or it didn’t have the impact due to the lack of interpretation.

The Dream

The dream opens in our kitchen where Jerry and Shara (our spiritual parents) are seated at a round table as we are serving and feeding them. Jerry Seinfeld walks in as we are eating. Aneta proceeds to pray for Jerry Seinfeld while I am led by the Lord to pray for protection over his finances so that no one would steal his money; especially by someone who has been entrusted to watch over it. I specifically prayed for him to have the armor of the Lord on, as written in Ephesians 6. At the conclusion of this time, Jerry Seinfeld states that he had just read the section about the armor. As he was saying this, I was thinking about the passage in Ephesians 6 – however, he states that it was in I Samuel 17, which I was not familiar with. I thought he was mistaken. [End of the dream]

That morning I sat down at the kitchen table for breakfast as Aneta was reading her bible; I told her about this interesting dream. When I shared the part about Jerry Seinfeld’s comment that he had read about the armor in I Samuel 17, Aneta exclaimed with excitement that she was reading I Samuel 17 at that exact moment. Moreover, she noted that there was indeed a passage on armor. I was enthralled!

It was the story of Saul dressing David in his own armor:

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,“ he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. (I Samuel 17: 38-39)

Saul perceived that in order for David to be successful against Goliath the champion, he would have to go in the king's armor. However, David rightly discerned that he could not go in Saul's armor, and acted upon this discernment, instead of adhering to the expectations of others.

Interpretation of Dream

The name Jerry means literally “called of Jehovah” which lends understanding to the dream. I believe that both Jerry(s) represent the calling of the Lord; however, Jerry Seinfeld represents one that isn’t necessarily the Lord’s “good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2). They represent a contrast between walking in the fear of the Lord versus walking in the fear of man.

In the dream I was drawn to the round table where Jerry and Shara were eating. Round shapes speak of eternity because it is ongoing, without beginning or ending. Therefore, Jerry Phillips represents a calling that is feasting upon the things of eternity, namely Christ himself who is the Alpha and the Omega. Scripture also reveals that God has placed eternity in our hearts.

Ecclesiastes 3:11He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. (NASB)

Hence, it is plausible to suggest that God has placed eternity within our hearts so that we may pursue Him, and the calling, which He has upon our lives. What is it that burns deep in your heart to do? What does the sound of eternity point to when you ruminate upon the possibilities of the future? What must you do with you life, lest you die in vain for not attempting the destiny that God had in His heart for you? In 1996 I received a prophetic word through Jim Laffoon, who prophesied that “Heaven’s will is the only limit on your life.” It isn’t enough to peddle and meddle aimlessly about as eternity beckons us to live our all for the glory of God. In the grace of God, we must live our lives for His utmost glory and honor as we walk in the fear of the Lord.

Dr. Stanko’s article penetrated my heart due to his insights concerning David's refusal to wear Saul’s armor. Since Jerry Seinfeld alluded to this biblical episode (I Samuel 17), it represents a calling that is trying to be lived out according to the expectations of others. Our calling in the Lord can be thwarted because we’re trying to fulfill our calling according to the expectations by those whom we have entrusted our hearts to. To those whom we entrust ourselves to (I'm talking about unhealthy relationships that are predicated upon the fear of man), we become a captive audience, attentive to every whim, wish, or word. We seek to derive our sense of fulfillment through the approval of others – therefore, we find ourselves in a bind to meet their expectations. In short, we are walking in the fear of man.

We fall short of our destiny when we are living according to the expectations of others that is not in alignment with God's will. This in turn robs us of our “provision” due to the depletion of energy, creativity, and joy. Often we entrust our provision (our primary calling and purpose in life) to the expectations that others have for us, thus sabotaging all that we were called by Jehovah to pursue and accomplish. I recently read about a pastor who had a secret obsession: to own his own bakery. Yet, because of societal, family, and personal expectations, he was fearful to disclose this dream to others. Laboring tediously in a vocation that he abhorred, he trudged about fulfilling what he thought others perceive to be a noble calling. Nonetheless, his heart longed to sift the dough with his hands, to smell the aroma of fresh-baked bread, and to provide customers with delicious bread. This was the God-dream that burned within.

When I put on the “armor of Saul,” the enemy steals my divine provision because I am ordering my life – consciously or unconsciously – according to others’ expectations, and even to my own misguided expectations. When we conform to the expectations of others [at the expense of God’s “Father-Purpose] for our lives, then we are allowing our calling to be compromised. We need to repent of allowing ourselves to be deeply affected by the fear of man, thus choosing. to walk in the fear of the Lord. Floyd McClung recently spoke at Missionsfest, stating "If we fear man, we will not fear God".

So the question remains: Are you still "wearing" the expectations that others have for your calling?