Sunday, December 13, 2015

Problem Solving Made Easy

Solving the problem is easy - once you understand the problem!
We are all looking for solutions to our many problems.
"Read the Question." Those words were emblazoned at the top of the first page of my chemistry test. Unfortunately I failed to heed the warning. Instead I jumped in and tried to solve each problem as quickly as possible. After all isn't that what many of us do?

Turning in the exam and walking out of the room, I smiled at how easy it had been. When I got the test back, I did not smile. The problem was that I had not read each question carefully and there were a number of trick questions which were placed on the test to measure the our knowledge of the subject and also to train us to think clearly.

In problem solving we often fail to read the question carefully, listen clearly to what others say, or take the time to fully consider all aspects of the problem. Our problems in technology, business, religion, government, and personal relationships fail to be solved because we do not read the questions properly.

As a result we try to solve problems by treating symptoms without ever facing up to the real problem. We are often like the child who finds a hammer and believes everything in the house needs to be hammered. We look for a solution before we understand the problem. Then when we find one solution we run around using it to solve every problem whether or not it is appropriate.

We need to first read the question and understand the real problem. Once we are able to define the problem clearly, the solution or solutions become obvious.
It is not solving problems that is hard; it is in understanding the true problem.
The biggest example can be seen in bureaucracies. There are some in governments that believe the solution to every problem is regulation. So they want to regulate technology, business, healthcare, the economy, and relationships. Government regulation is the hammer and everything must be hammered.

But, in our own businesses, churches, and personal relationships we have a similar practice. We keep looking around for that magic hammer that will solve our problems. We attend webinars, conferences, and read every new book looking for the thing that worked for someone else, then try to apply it to our particular problem. We do this without a careful understanding of our individual problem.
Before we buy that new course or apply that hot program, we must be introspective and look at ourselves and understand our specific issues. Then we can pick the proper solution that applies to our situation.
You cannot solve a problem if you do not understand the problem. But if you fully understand it and can clearly state the issues, the solution or solutions will usually become obvious. Then we can pick the one best suited for the issues we face.

When we truly understand the problem, the solution or solutions become obvious.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Do You See the People?

Jim was a veteran of World War II -a member of the "Greatest Generation." He was a colleague and a personal friend.  As a B-24 bombardier, Jim flew many bombing missions over Germany. We were having lunch at a Mexican restaurant one day when I asked "the" question, "What were you feeling and what was it like to be the one dropping bombs on people below that could be wounded or killed?" 
His reply was very telling and has wide implications, “When I looked through the bombsight, from altitude, I never saw people, I only saw buildings and weapons factories.”
I never saw people!
Jim’s answer provides an interesting insight not only about war, but also about our business and personal lives. War is hell and there will always be innocent lives lost and threatened. But there is another concern that hits much closer to home. 
Leaders are often gifted with the ability to focus on long-range issues. In focusing on the goal/vision/purpose, there is a tendency to lose sight of immediate surroundings. Looking to the future, leaders can fall into the trap of never seeing the people. 
In this TGIF world (Twitter, Google, I-Phone, & Facebook) there is so much technology at our disposal that we have a tendency to rely on these modern forms of communication without interacting with real, live people.  We need to have face to face meetings between people, without phones, texts, or Skype. The most effective communication is still one on one. Studies have shown that what we say is not half as important as how we say it. A text can be misinterpreted. People interpret our communications in three different ways; 
  • 55% of what they hear is based on facial expression & body language, 
  • 37% percent is based upon the tone of our voice, 
  • and only 8% on the words that we say.

In the church, we tend to sit in our comfortable pew and send money for someone else to go into the poor neighborhoods of our cities, go overseas to minister in the developing countries, or to just share our faith with our next door neighbor. We will never receive the blessing of touching lives until we serve others face to face. That is a life changing event, not for those touched, but for those who touch.So often we think we are doing our duty by sending a donation to the Salvation Army, overseas missionaries, or disaster relief. But without interacting directly with people, we are never doing enough. Something of our message is lost without our presence. It is the difference between being and doing. You can do good stuff, but being good is more effective. 

In the business world, it is easier to sit in a padded chair behind our plush desk than it is to go out among the employees, customers, and the community. The view from the office is a distorted image of the needs of the organization. There has to be a time to get away from all the hustle and bustle and to think and plan, but it is just as important to see the people and listen to what they are saying and become known to them.
When taking an automobile trip with my wife, Rita, I usually do all of the driving. Her driving makes me very nervous while its relaxing for me to drive. It has taken years to understand why this is so. It is not about being in control. There are others, worse drivers than Rita, with whom I am not nervous. We finally figured it out. Rita is a detail oriented person with shorter range vision. I, on the other hand, am a long range viewer. She sees everything around her but does not see the things I see - way ahead down the road. While I am focusing on the road ahead, I often ignore, or do not always see, the things that are close up on either side. 

I never want to get to the point where I do not see people!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Renewal: Step One - Think!

On Monday morning a friend was driving me to the Seattle -Tacoma airport after a long weekend of teaching and leading. On the way, he asked me, “What do you feel is the best thing about your new situation?”
The question caught me by surprise. I didn’t have a ready answer. My life had always been a busy and exciting journey. My early career years were spent as a corporate executive in the electronics industry, starting and growing business organizations. Then leaving that behind we transitioned into full-time ministry - planting and growing churches and teaching and leading seminars and workshops. My new situation was semi-retirement. We had left our church, moved to Mississippi, and started Aslan Ministries - a non-profit organization to encourage and equip churches and other organizations.
After about thirty seconds of thought, I blurted out the answer that had suddenly hit me, “Now I have time to think.” The answer seemed to stun me, and also my friend. But it was true. My life had become far more productive.
Too often, we get caught up with daily activities and do not take the time to reflect. Our lives have become too organized.
Today this starts in early childhood as parents begin to organize their children's lives. They fill the child’s life with organized activities - sports, dancing classes, and church groups. These are all worthy and teach, but they keep children, and the parents, so busy they have no time to think and reflect.
I grew up in a time when there was no television. We would sit on the floor in front of the radio and listen to the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, and other programs. You could shut your eyes and picture the great white stallion, Silver, and trusted Indian friend Tonto. When these programs came to television something was lost. No television set could equal the imagination pictured in a listener’s mind.
For many years I have been struck by an interesting fact. The state of Mississippi, which is often near the bottom of positive statistics, stands out above all other states in the number of creative people per capita. Was there something in the water? I have since come to the conclusion, that because of the poverty and slower lifestyle, people have time to think. When people have time to think, they can use their creativity.
When starting a company from scratch, there are few customers to serve. There will be a lot of marketing activities, getting out and meeting new people, and setting up your products or services. It is the same way planting a church. This leaves time for thinking and soul searching - sometimes wondering why you ever tried this.
As the organization grows, you have to get organized, because that is what everyone does. You start with the vision of the future, a significant purpose that will motivate the leadership to spend their lives for that purpose. Concerns for any difficulty are subjugated by the sheer power of the vision. The rewards will be greater than the risks. The family, employees, or members of the organization are able to foresee the significance of what they are trying to accomplish.
As the organization grows, the exciting adventure of achieving the vision dims, even in the best of situations. Somewhere along the way, the organization itself changes. Instead of being the instrument for fulfilling the vision, it now has become a consumer of valuable resources. Like an overindulged, spoiled child, the organization itself demands everyone’s attention. The vision is subjugated to the demands of maintaining the organization. Resources intended to serve the greater purpose are now consumed maintaining the organization.
Renewal can only come when the original vision is restored. If you feel that your life, your job, or your organization has become a drudgery, it is time to stop, get to a quiet place and spend time reflecting upon whatever happened to your dream. Several years ago we were teaching a group of missionaries, pastors, and evangelists in Costa Rica. It was obvious that many of them had lost their God-given vision. My advice to them was if their vision has dimmed, they should stop what they were doing, go up on a mountaintop, and pray for their vision to be restored. They should not go back into ministry until that vision was clear again.
If you are a leader of an organization, do not let the organization lead you. You should be led by your vision. If that vision is unclear, take time to think, reflect, and pray.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What Happened to The Dream

(Excerpt from "Disorganize or Bust") 

When a baby is born, the family gathers around and are struck with the wonder of what the child will accomplish. It is a time of joy, looking to the future and dreaming big dreams. There is the potential for greatness. Parents also feel the burden of responsibility to provide the child everything needed to reach its full potential. As the child grows into adulthood, there will be many trials passing through different age levels – the terrible twos, teenage years, and leaving the nest. Later in life choices are made, good and bad.
So also is an organization. There is the vision of what the organization can become. There will be a significant purpose that motivates the organizers to expend their lives for the good of the purpose. The future trials are subjugated by the sheer power of the vision. The rewards are seen as greater than the risks. The family, employees, or members of the organization can see the significance of what they are all about.
Then trials begin to show up and the vision of the future is dimmed in light of immediate circumstances. The exciting adventure has become a drudgery. This can happen even in the best of situations. Somewhere along the way the organization itself has changed. Instead of fulfilling the vision for which it was created, it now has become a consumer of valuable resources. Like a spoiled child, the organization demands everyone’s attention and the vision is subjugated to the demands of the organization. The organization which was started to fulfill a need has become the entity in need. Resources intended to serve the greater purpose are now consumed to maintain the organization.
The organization has become institutionalized. It acts like Audry Jr., the crossbreed of a Butterwort and a Venus Fly Trap in the movie Little Shop of Horrors. Little Shop of Horrors is a 1986 American rock musical horror comedy film directed by Frank Oz. It is a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical comedy of the same name by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman about a nerdy florist shop worker who raises a vicious, raunchy plant that feeds on human blood. As the plant keeps growing, it became more demanding, and commands its owner, “Feed me Seymour!”
Organizations can grow into bureaucracies and become more demanding, consuming more and more time and resources, just to continue to exist. The leaders, employees, or members become so consumed with keeping the organization fed that they forget the original purpose. 

Imagine the “Borg Collective.” The Borg are a fictional alien race that appears as recurring antagonists in the Star Trek franchise. Aside from being the main threat in First Contact, the Borg play major roles in The Next Generation and Voyager television series, primarily as an invasion threat to the United Federation of Planets, and serve as the way home to the Alpha Quadrant for isolated Federation starship Voyager. from the Star Trek television series.
The Borg was an alien race that was a collection of species that have been turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones in a hive mind called the Collective, or the hive. The fictional Borg, whose ultimate goal is "achieving perfection," resembles a large organization trying to achieve ultimate institutionalization.
Any organization, large or small, can fall into the trap of losing sight of the original significant purpose for which it was created. Governments, major corporations, labor unions, service organizations, religious entities and individuals all are vulnerable to losing the vision. 
The obvious examples of this bureaucratic process are government agencies. But, we see it in the banking industry where a bank becomes “too large to fail.” Some corporations have grown out of control through merger and acquisition in an attempt to control an industry. Labor unions which came into life to protect the workers have become institutions which have lost sight of their original purpose and exploit workers as the industrial barons once did. Education systems have become large bureaucracies which must be maintained while the education of students continues to fail. In the old one room country school, the expenditures for education were spent mostly in the classroom. Now the majority of funds are spent on maintaining a hierarchal bureaucracy. The bureaucracy of some charitable organizations has grown to the point where only a small fraction (as little as five percent in some well-known cases) of their income is actually spent helping people while the majority of income feeds the organizational beast. Our religious institutions are not immune to this structural obesity. Many local churches spend the majority of their budgets on maintaining facilities and infrastructure. As a result little is left to feed the poor and minister to those in need.
While this situation is pandemic throughout the world, there are solutions that can renew these organizations. Renewal infers that there was a significant vision which has been lost but can still be realized, but it will require taking drastic steps. The alternative is to continue on the path of growing budgets while providing less and less significant work.
John 15:2 (NIV) He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Where is Your Organization In its Life Cycle?

If an organization were a well-oiled machine it would never change. It would keep working as long as its parts did not wear out and if it did not lose its power source. But organizations are made up of imperfect people who have a limitations and capabilities. Their working life varies with the individual. Empirically, we have observed that organizations go through a process of initial startup, improving, and growing until they reach their peak performance. Then most tend to decline and finally cease to exist or become ineffective. This is true of social business organizations, churches, denominations, government agencies, and nations.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that less than fifty percent of business start-ups will survive beyond five years. Even when an organization makes it through the initial five years, after seventeen years only one-fourth of businesses are still alive. 
As Egypt declined in power in the eighth century BCE, the Assyrians, under Tiglath-Pileser III, became the power in the Middle East. Assyria then went into decline as subsequent kings were weak. Assyria was conquered by Babylon which later rose to great power under King Nebuchadnezzar. After his death Babylon declined and was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire without even a fight. Then the Greeks rose to power when Alexander, The Great, conquered the Medo-Persians and all of the Middle East. Greece declined in power after Alexander’s death and the Roman Empire rose up until it too lost its way. Since then we have seen nations rise to power and then fall into decline. Most organizations follow this same path with a limited life.
For simplicity, we have chosen to divide the life cycle of an organization into five phases. Any business, church, or nation will go through this cycle and only strong intervention will bring renewal.
These are not the only phases one could identify, but they illustrate the point we are making that organizations are fluid and move from phase to phase. There is not a specific time frame for moving through the phases and initiating change can reverse the movement towards disintegration.
There can be hope for an organization that is in decline if it returns to its initial vision and purpose.
Initial Structuring
At the starting point of a new organization, there is a sense of destiny among the leader and his initial team of followers. There will be a strong commitment to the mission. The visionary leader communicates his vision and many are attracted to that vision. The leader’s positive enthusiasm attracts others with positive and supportive attitudes. The future is still unclear, but it does not dampen the enthusiasm of the followers. There is a mutual dependency as each – leader and followers – are willing to work long hours. In this phase, decision making is spontaneous, plans are being formulated and there is very little organizational structure. Because of this, people are receptive to change and it is easy to make course corrections. Everyone involved feels ownership. Morale and self-esteem in the organization is high. Innovation and creativity thrive in newer organizations.
Formal Organization
After the initial start up, a more formal organization is normally established. This heightens the sense of mission and purpose among every member. They are now more able to see the vision of the organization coming to fruition. This results in a high level of goal "ownership." People begin to give a high percentage of their time and identity to the organization. It is easy to get volunteers and hire new employees.
The organization’s structural “form” is governed by “function.” That means that the form of the structure is only created in response to the corporate functional needs. It is at this point that traditions begin to form, but it is still reasonably easy to incorporate changes and integrate them into the whole organization. Morale is still high and leaders consider suggestions from all levels. Self-esteem is easily affected by circumstances, short-term successes, and failures.

Maximum Efficiency,

When the business has reached or is approaching “maximum efficiency,” the mission and purpose are still highly visible and well understood by everyone within the organization. 
All participants or employees realize the common purpose and work together for its achievement. Even new people quickly find their place and participate enthusiastically. New programs are created to respond to new needs. Leaders freely delegate responsibility and authority and new roles are created. New proposals are given serious consideration. Morale and self-esteem are at their highest levels and confidence has become contagious.

When the organization reaches the institutionalization phase, there is a lowering of members understanding of purpose. People begin to look only at their own small areas of responsibility and not extend themselves. The attitude has become, “I have done my thing, now there are enough others to do the job.”
Older participants or employees feel they have done their part and do not need to take on new responsibilities. Few, if any, new programs are added. Now the organizational structure itself creates needs, rather than responding to needs. Changes, when proposed are not considered if they radically depart from the status quo. Morale becomes polarized into two groups; high and low. Self-esteem develops uncertainties.
Institutionalized organizations are commonly referred to as bureaucracies. The following quote comes from a “Tongue in Cheek” article by historian C. Northcote Parkinson. It appeared in the November 1955 edition of The Economist. Parkinson typifies an organization in the institutionalized phase.
Parkinson’s Law roughly states"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
This is a good definition of “Institutionalization.” Parkinson based his theory on studies of the British Admiralty over fourteen years from 1914 to 1928. In that period the number of capital ships in the fleet was reduced by sixty percent while the staff at headquarters increased seventy-five percent. Parkinson actually created a mathematical formula predicting an institutional growth of between five and seven percent per year, regardless of the amount of work required.
Where: “x” is the number of new staff needed each year; “k” is the number of current staff seeking promotion through hiring new subordinates; “p” represents the difference between the age of appointment and retirement age; “m” is the number of man-hours devoted to responding to memos within the department; and “n” is the number of units overseen.
The cost involved in this institutional expansion cannot be sustained and will ultimately lead to disintegration.


In the disintegration phase the organizational purpose is lost and mission not understood. Programs are eliminated for lack of participation. It is difficult to recruit new participants and/or employees. Ten percent of the workers are doing ninety percent of the work. Funding has become difficult and services are being reduced or eliminated. The primary focus is on preservation and survival. At one board meeting, I attended, the president made an announcement that the companies largest customer was undergoing a slowdown and their purchases would be reduced by ten percent. His solution was to raise his prices ten percent to compensate for the reduction in the number of parts the customer ordered. That same company had never produced a five year plan. When they were encouraged to plan ahead, the response was, "We've never done it that way before. We do not even know whether we will be here in five years."
In the disintegration phase, Leaders rationalize why goals cannot be achieved. Morale is at an all-time low. Leaders do not know how to stop the decline resulting in frustration and despair among workers whose self -esteem suffers.

For free E-Book "Motivation" go to

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Problem is......

The political season is upon us and candidates are sparring around for their position in the polls. Congress and the executive branch seem to be floundering with the issues of this day. Lately, it seems things are getting worse here and around the world.

Years ago I learned that solutions are easy. The hard part is identifying the true problem. Once we know why things are like they are, the solutions become obvious. In our government and governments around the world, so called leaders are putting band-aids on symptoms instead of treating the problem.

I believe that where the world is today is a result of natural laws. Gravity is one of these natural laws. Beginning with Galileo, then Isaac Newton, and continuing today, scientists, astronomers and physicists are still trying to get a complete handle on gravity.

As an engineering student at Georgia Tech, I was required to take a course in thermodynamics. The only thing I remember from that course was the term "entropy." Entropy is a unit of measure. It describes level of disorder in systems. An increase in entropy means things are becoming more disorganized. The second law of thermodynamics, a natural law like gravity, can be stated as; if left alone, all systems will deteriorate and get worse.

Systems may be families which are falling apart, neighborhoods which are deteriorating, churches which are declining, cities which are falling apart, nations that are going backwards, and regions of the world where chaos reigns. It all points to the (natural) second law of thermodynamics. Without a strong influential leader, entropy increases.

There are two facets to our problem:

  1. Leading has become a bad word in some circles, because it implies that some have more power or influence than others. Hence we have anarchy, the "Occupy" movements, and childhood sports without losers. As a result, potential leaders are not willing to accept authority and entropy increases. Police and first responders have always been there to take charge when problems arise. Now their authority has been damaged and entropy increases.
  2. God is being removed from our society. As we turn our backs on Him, He lifts His hand of protection and entropy increases. 

We cannot eliminate God's natural law of entropy, but we can become stronger leaders to influence the systems over which we drive. We can also turn to God and He will restore His hand of protection.

Evolutionists understand the law of entropy but explain that somehow it was suspended as life forms evolved from disorder to the more complex, or as one writer put it, "From Goo to you by way of the zoo." Creationists, on the other hand use entropy to prove the existence of a Creator who continues to influence His creation.

Genesis 1:1-2 (KJV) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Throughout biblical history we find that when God's people turned their backs on God and did things their own way, God lifted His hand of protection. When God's influence was removed, entropy took over and things got very bad.

Judges 2:2c-3 (KJV)  ....... but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. 

Once the problems is determined the solutions are obvious:

  1. Better leadership over our systems
  2. Better follower-ship of God.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nine Steps to Maintain Your Spiritual Health

Aslan Ministries' present home is in Mississippi, a state which has become famous for a number of health issues. Admittedly, I probably have contributed to one major issue. Mississippi is currently the most obese state in the union. Politicians from the White House to the Statehouse are wringing their hands to come up with solutions. It seems when our physical health is threatened the government calls out the EPA, NIH, CDC, and sometimes even the Military to protect its citizens- even if they do not want to be protected. In addition in a recent study Mississippi beat out Louisiana to be the most corrupt state.

It seems the government, while focusing on physical health, ignores the spiritual health of the people. Our spiritual health is not only important to our well being but also may be a contributor to physical health problems.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the visionary Jesuit priest, wrote in the 20th century: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience".
As human beings we are designed by our Creator to live with the ability to touch two coexisting environments; spiritual and physical.

Spiritual hygiene is important to our welfare and must be part of a regular regimen. We have provided nine spiritual actions which will aid in maintaining our spiritual health.

1.     Take Spiritual Showers

After a shift at work - hospital, office, factory, or church dealing with infective situations we will often become unclean. The first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah identify many things that make a person unclean and prescribe remedies such as ritual washing. When we have been slimed and are unclean it is time to take a spiritual shower. We may want to combine this with a physical shower.
First pray, "Lord, wash me clean, you are the Living Water.  Wash away all of the junk that has come into me from the world today. Wash me clean from all the gory details we have encountered at work or on TV." 
We are washing away things that have stuck to our human spirit. We are not supposed to hold on to the burdens of others. God asks to minister to others in His power and authority and to pass all the pain and hurt up the line to Him. We often may become defiled as we hold on to what we should be passing through.
We need to also pray, “Lord, take this burden from me. Your burden is not oppressive but I have made it so.”

2.     Acknowledge the Lord’s presence

Before we enter into a difficult meeting, hospital room, an unpleasant task, or a ministry situation it is
important to acknowledge that the Lord is with us. We can celebrate that presence in prayer. Pray that He will place Himself between you and your task and be a holy filter to protect you. His presence is a reality, not something we just conger up in our mind, but we have to choose to be aware of His presence as we meet each situation.
Pray "Lord, don't let me think, do, say, feel, etc. anything that would dishonor You.  Let me be in tune with You."

3.     Cleanse the atmosphere

The spiritual pollution is all around us. Before we begin to work we need to spiritually cleanse the area in which we are going to use.  This brings up the question, “Do we have spiritual authority to safely cleanse a place?” When we have ownership, we have the authority. If we are working in an area where we have no authority, someone else’s home, a hospital room, or a public place, it is more effective to pray and ask the Lord to cleanse the space. 

Spiritual warfare is not chasing demons around, but taking the light of Christ into dark places. The intensity of our light is a function of our relationship with Christ. When we are closer to Him, our light shines brighter.
“Lord, we ask that you bring the light of your spirit into this place to replace the darkness.

4.     Take regular breaks from work or ministry

For many years I looked down at monks who spent so much time alone in prayer and devotions, locked in a monastery away from people. In my immaturity, I felt they could better serve God ministering to God’s people out in the streets. Then I read somewhere that you cannot really understand the needs of the world until you get away from it for a time. While we are in a spiritual environment with which we are familiar, we become desensitized to the needs of that environment. If we get away to a place of prayer and meditation, we will be able to hear God clearer and when we return to our place of ministry we are more sensitive to both good and evil.
We need to physically exercise regularly to release stress and heaviness.

5.      Maintain our Sabbath.

            Make sure that we set aside a day each week to rest.  God made us with the need for a Sabbath day. Otherwise we become vulnerable for defilement.  We become vulnerable in a very negative way when we take on more than God has called us to take. And we lose our sense of balance and our discernment.  We are not protected because we are not rested. And we are not in tune with God's plan for us.

6.       Do not take on more than God assigns us.

            There are many good things that need to be done that do not have our name on them. Allow others to have the blessing of serving.

7.       Do not let your devotional life die.

           Remember to have your prayer time, if possible, each day.

 8.     Keep your relationships in good order. 

9.     Do funny things. Have humour in your family.

The above is partially excerpted from my book "Physician, Heal Thyself; the Oxygen Mask Principle."

Bill Johnson

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Deliver Us From Evil

The call came in around noon on Wednesday while I was studying for next week’s sermon. I was alone in the office and it was a good time to work, study and enjoy some quiet time. An unfamiliar voice on the other end sounded hesitant and confused as if he did not know what to say or how to say it. I waited patiently to hear what he was calling about.
“Reverend Johnson,” he began, “My name is Phil Short and I am a Presbyterian pastor and currently the chaplain at Magnolia Hospice here in town. We are facing a strange situation and thought you might be able to help.”
“How can we help?” I asked expecting to talk about funeral arrangements or ministry to the family.
He hemmed and hawed for what seemed like minutes but it was probably much less. Then blurted out the question that he was not sure about how to approach. “Are you familiar with spiritual decontamination?”
Chuckling to myself over the choice of words I responded in a tone similar to his solemnity, “That term is unfamiliar to me but I think I understand what you are asking and we can probably help.”
“If you have the time I would like to come over and talk.”
“Come ahead.” This sounded more interesting than what I was about and could still finish later.
Arriving within ten minutes Chaplain Short appeared to be a gentle compassionate man with a heart for people in the last throes of their earthly life. He seemed to fit the role comforting and encouraging the patient and family through the death process.
He began to share about one particular case which had him very bewildered.
“Ms Jones is a frail, eighty year old lady, who is dying of a brain tumor. She is less than five foot tall and weighs about ninety pounds. She was so weak she hardly ever got out of bed.”
“Yesterday she said she had been attacked by demons,” he explained. “Of course I immediately went to her apartment and found it in ruins. She was always neat and tidy and her apartment had always been spotless.”
Then he asked, “Would you go with me to her place and see what you think about this situation.”
As we walked up the concrete stairs to her second floor apartment Chaplain Short whispered, “Don’t be amazed. The apartment looks like a war zone.”
The slight woman was exactly as the chaplain had described. One thing he failed to mention was the tennis ball sized tumor projecting from her forehead. The mess around her seemed to embarrass her but she politely invited us in.
The two room apartment was as described, as if a vicious battle had been fought in this small space. The large, brown, imitation leather sofa was turned completely on its side, two large fichus trees in two foot pots appeared to have been had been thrown in anger high up against the wall, the wooden dinette table with its chairs were broken into pieces and strewn around the floor.
“What happened here, Ms. Jones?” I asked.
“A demon did this yesterday. He has been attacking me for weeks but this is the first time he became violent and destroyed my home.”
Ms. Jones and the chaplain looked at me for help, but this was way beyond my personal experience.
We rearranged the sofa and each found a place to sit. We wanted to get acquainted and learn more about Ms. Jones and why this occurred. We learned that she was a devout Christian woman and had served in the church all of her life. She had recently changed churches and loved her new church. I made a mental note to talk to her new pastor as he was a friend, and a strong man of God.
It was then that the Lord prompted me to ask Ms. Jones two questions. Her response amazed me with her wisdom and forthrightness.
The mood in the room was transformed so we spent time praying and continued to visit until we had to leave because of another commitment.
I never saw Ms. Jones again, but Chaplain Short told me that her tumor had disappeared and she had been released from hospice care. She had moved to Arkansas where she lived happily for several more years with her daughter.

What were the two questions we asked Ms. Jones which changed everything?
John Dawson in his book “Healing America’s Wounds” uses an illustration of an explorer in Africa, chopping his way through a dense jungle. Suddenly his machete slips and puts a deep gash on his arm. The blood running down his arm attracts a number of flies. At this point he has a choice to make. He can stop and chase the flies away, or he can bandage up the wound to deprive the flies of a target. In spiritual warfare we can chase demons around or we can eliminate the reason they are there.
The first question was, “Ms. Jones, you are a devout Christian woman, can you explain to me why the demon was allowed to attack you?”
Most of the time spiritual attacks will come in areas of our lives that the Lord is not in control. These are areas of sinfulness, unforgiveness, and our own stubbornness where we want to be in control to do things our own way without consulting God.
Ms. Jones knew exactly what I was asking and she knew exactly where the trouble lay.
She explained, “I have been a member of my church for over thirty years. When the pastor’s wife became ill they asked me to move in and take care of her. I took care of her for twenty years until she passed a several months ago. Then the pastor told me I could no longer live there with him. I became very upset and angry and have been trying to get revenge for him treating me this way. In spite, I left the church and joined the church down the street. I guess my anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness gave the demons the excuse to attack me.”
The second question was, “Can you forgive your former pastor for the way you were treated?”
She forgave and repented for her actions. We then spent the next half hour praying with her and over her apartment.

My friend, the pastor of the church that Ms. Jones joined before we met her contacted me. He explained that they had tried to help her but were not able to. He asked if we could teach his people about spiritual warfare. 

We have been teaching a workshop on Spiritual Warfare for several years. Our workshop, "A Balanced Approach to Spiritual Warfare," is available for churches or small groups from:

Bill Johnson

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why do bad things happen to good people?

A few weeks ago I stepped off the curb at a convenience store in Collins, MS only to see a previously parked white Escalade roaring down on me. In reverse. There was no time to run, and there was no way I could escape being hit and hurt badly. The next thing I knew, I was laying flat on my back on the tarmac, feeling around for injuries. and drawing a crowd people wanting to help. I was alive, and miraculously the only severe pain was at the seat of my pants.

I remember thinking, “God must not be through with me yet.” When the driver saw what she had caused she began to panic. By this time I sat up and thanked God for my safety.

One week later while in Oklahoma, my wife Rita was bitten by a Brown Recluse spider and spent over a week in the hospital and is looking forward to months of pain and a possible skin graft, as the wound heals.

While these events are important to us personally, what about the earthquakes in Nepal, the tornadoes in the Midwest, the train wreck in Philadelphia or wars in the Middle East?

When difficulties arise we ask, “Why me? Is God punishing me?” “If God is almighty, why did he not stop these disasters? This leads some to the conclusion that Atheists and Deists are right. Others may not want follow a God Who would allow these things to happen.

Theologians over the years have attempted to develop sound meaningful explanations that seldom satisfies. With a loving and caring God, why is there still evil in the world?

Jesus told us:

John 16:33 (MSG) 33  In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

Other Biblical writers contributed:
James 1:2-4 (MSG) Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Hebrews 12:7-9 (MSG) God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children.

One of the best explanations I have heard is an analogy with WWII in Europe. In the Old Testament there are very few examples of bad things happening to good people. Most notably is the story of Job who was a righteous man and God allowed Satan to test his loyalty. For most of the Old Testament we see the Jewish nation suffering because of their disobedience to God. Their physical state is often a barometer of their spiritual state. Their disobedience then leads to  enemy attacks, oppression, and capture.

In the Christian New Testament, the story has changed. Now bad things are regularly happening to good people, while the incidents of punishment by God for disobedience is rare. What caused the change?

This is how the WWII analogy helps to explain. Until June 6th 1944, the Axis forces in Europe pretty
much had things there own way. On D-Day, the Allied forces invaded the enemy's territory beginning one of the most deadly times in history. Patton’s Seventh Army made great progress, but the enemy took advantage of other allied weakness and attacked and began the famous “Battle of the Bulge.”

When Jesus came into a world completely controlled by Satan and his forces, it was the spiritual D-Day. Up until then, Satan had his own way, but with Jesus cosmic invasion, the war began in earnest.

In the European Theater more lives were lost between D-Day and VE-Day than at any prior time in the war. In our spiritual war, there have been and will continue to be many casualties between Jesus’ invasion of Satan’s realm and when Jesus returns in victory.

This analogy has helped me over the years, but I would like to get your comments on this important subject.

Bill Johnson


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Truth or Consequences?

There has been a movement in this country where people commit vandalism looting throwing rocks and worse and they do not expect to suffer any consequences for their actions. They believe that because they keep getting away with disobedience at home and in their cities there are no consequences for their actions. If we take these actions we must suffer the consequences of what we do.

The train left Kaiserslautern on its way up north to Frankfort, then on to the North Sea port of Bremerhaven. I was on my way home after a three year tour with the US Army in Germany and had chosen the liesurely ocean voyage over a crowded airline flight. We were to meet the USS General Alexander M Patch, a recently reactivated troop ship that would take us to the Brooklyn Army Depot, in New York.

The train made several stops along the way, and large groups of GI's boarded at each stop. Interestingly, they all seemed to know each other. I questioned the private sitting across from me how everyone knew one another.

"We were all in the stockade together and were just released. We are being sent to the home to be dishonourably discharged."

These troops, fresh out of the Army prison, were to be my companions on the voyage home.As we boarded the Patch the next morning I received more bad news. It appeared as a 1st Lieutenant, I was the senior Army officer on board and was assigned the command of those 300 former prisoners. My cadre was two helicopter pilots and a group of sergeants. We were grossly outnumbered.

At first blush there was not much we could do to these people that was not already planned and there would be eleven days to New York. The first night started off badly with fights and destruction of the property. Our strategy was to arrest one troublemaker from each of the six sections and put them in the brig.The brig of the Patch was all the way in the bow, at the water line. The compartment came to a point where the bow cut through the waves. It was most vulnerable to the wave action of the North Sea in November. Ten to thirty foot swells were translated into ten to a thirty foot rise and fall in the brig as well as the continuous pounding of the waves. The brig had a three decker steel bunk beds with steel springs with no blankets, sheets, pillows or mattresses. The meals consisted of the Navy's traditional bread and water.

The next morning, the men were released and sent back to their respective sections to tell of the conditions of the brig. We had no more trouble until we arrived in New York harbor. The realization of the consequences of their actions allowed for a peaceful ten days.It was too late to dock, so we spent the night anchored in the harbor a few miles from shore. That night the fire hoses had to be deployed.

Something is dreadfully wrong when people can do anything they want without paying the consequences for their acts. Sexual activity outside of marriage can lead to disease or pregnancy, but we have ways to eliminate the consequences, abortion, pills and medical research all contribute to the unrealized consequences of immoral acts. Rioters and looters in cities around the nation are getting away with crimes against the community with little or no consequences.

When there are no consequences only a personal moral compass or religion will say what is right or wrong. As a result many feel they can get away with whatever they want to do because no one will stop them, this results in anarchy.

It is not just the minorities and the downtrodden that are getting away without paying consequences. Businesses, that are "too big to fail", are not suffering the consequences of poor management, because there is always the government to bail them out. Maybe if there were no bail out managers of companies and government bureaucrats would be more careful how they handle other people's money

In the end there are always be consequences for our actions.

At the end of this life there will be consequences to pay for all we have done and not done in this life. At that time no one will be able to escape the consequences of their actions.

Bill Johnson

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What in the World is Happening?

There seems to be a geometric expansion of anger, bitterness and frustration. Religious leaders explain it in terms of eschatology – the world is coming to an end. Scientists explain it in terms of entropy; the second law of thermodynamics – the disorder of systems will increase as time passes. In other words, left to themselves things are going to continue to get worse.

As we meet and talk with people around the world, there seems to be a growing frustration that we have never seen before. In my experience the level of anxiety and anger is higher now than at any time in my lifetime. There is a frustration within nations, ethnic groups, political parties, and religious bodies. As frustration rises, anger increases. As anger increases, actions become stronger and emotions explode. We see this happening almost everywhere - in our cities and towns and around the world.

In the US we see frustration rising in minority communities, in the millennial generation as student loan debt and unemployment rise. Middle class workers find their income falling while their cost of living increases.

Frustration is at the base of the world’s explosion of violence, and is the result of a reality that does not live up to expectations  The level of anger increases geometrically as the ratio of expectation divided by reality increases.

We elect a leader or a political party and expect things to change for us. Instead they get worse and frustration rises to the boiling point. We have sold our youth on the idea that if they graduate from college, they will get good paying jobs. They went to school and they still live in their parents basement playing video games.

So, what is the solution? How do we solve the problem? At first glance, there are two methods which may work: Change reality or lower expectations.

Lowering expectations has been practised by many nations by establishing socialistic economic systems. The state controls everything and owns everything.. That evens the playing field for everybody except the ruling class. There is little incentive for workers to excel and the populace lives in mediocrity while the power of the state increases and often leads to tyranny.

We have seen the lowering of expectations in our education system as grades were eliminated. In our children’s sports activities winning has been de-emphasized. Lowering expectations will lead to more frustration because the human spirit seeks the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. Plato termed this “A fully functioning person", others have used the term, "healthy personality." Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, calls this "a self-actualizing person."

The only viable solution is to change reality, but how?

In the twentieth century, missiologist  Donald MacGavren coined the term "Redemptive lift". Missionaries in India and the third world began to notice an interesting phenomena. Where ever the Judeo-Christian message impacted people groups, there was a parallel increase in standard of living. In my first trip to India, I noticed that there were areas that seemed prosperous and healthy while other areas the populace was living in extremely third world conditions. India is the worlds largest democracy with social programs galore, but many people are locked into an illegal caste system with no hope.

We can change our reality through a revival of Judeo-Christian values including love, acceptance, forgiveness, and hope.

Any traveller to Israel can see the difference between the Israeli controlled areas and the Palestinian controlled areas. There is a stark contrast that is not caused by Israeli persecution of the Arabs. It is more dependant upon the God they worship. We become like the God we worship. If we worship a kind and loving God we tend to be kind and loving. If we worship an angry and vengeful god, we will be angry and vengeful like him or her. If we worship the dung beetle (scarab) we will become like it.

So how do we change our reality? Find the right God to worship and allow Him to guide our lives, as a nation, as an tribe, people group, or as an individual human being. Social programs fail while cities, nations and regions have only been changed by the presence of God in the lives of the citizens.

Sign up to receive a free E - Book and discover your spiritual gifts.