My Declarations for 2014

Last night, my wife and I had our first college ministry event of the New Year. Dani asked the students to write down what they thought God was asking them to do and to turn it into a declaration of intent. There were some really great things that came out – words about trust, dependency and growing in love. My declaration was this: I will stop for the one.

“Stop for the one” is a phrase I’ve taken from Heidi Baker. It means be present with the person I’m with, seeing everyone around me with eyes of love and compassion. It means to stop, literally stop, my frantic lifestyle and actually see people. It means to help someone change a tire on the side of the road. It means to help a stranger find their way. It means to love and serve, one person at a time.

I have a confession: I don’t tend to think in terms of individuals. I tend to think in groups and communities and movements. I think of preaching to crowds and statidums, not ministering to a single person. I think of cities, states and nations being transformed with the Gospel – not a man, or a woman, or a child.

But God calls us each by name.

God doesn’t look down from Heaven and see some ambiguous city. He looks down and sees Ben, Dani and Emory living next to Brian and Becca who live across from Jenna and Bekah. He sees each of us as ourself.

“Stop for the one” is the Sermon on the Mount, the Good Samaritan, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. It is stopping for blind Bartimaeus or the woman with incessant bleeding. Stopping for the one is the way Jesus ministered. He certainly taught crowds and multitudes, but he never lost sight of the individuals – he was never too busy, too hurried or too important to stop for a single person.

That challenges me. I realize I have a lot to learn about loving people – seeing people. Lord, help.

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My Take on “Digging Wells: A Parable”

I love parables. Especially ones that stick with you and/or require independent thought. As much as I love stories, they can sometimes lead to shallow thinking – as in, I tell you a story in such a way that you see what I want you to see, how I want you to see it so that, in the end, you agree with me. Stories certainly have their place, but it is no accident that Jesus taught in parables and rarely explained them. Some of His parables still leave people wondering what He was talking about.

I love that parables make you think and reflect. Unreflective Christianity has a tendency to go lock-step with the culture and that scares me. So the counter-cultural and subversive parables of Jesus are a true Godsend. My parable isn’t quite that good, but I hope it caused you to think. In case you missed the parable, scroll down, read it and leave a comment before you continue… Thanks!

My thoughts
To me, this is a parable about perseverance and going deep in the most important things, which are, by necessity, quite few.

It is a parable about human nature and our tendency to wander even though we’re told exactly what to do.

The people of the village were dying of thirst, but in order to find the thing that would give them life, they had to go low – much lower than they had anticipated, much lower than they were willing to go. They had to dig and dig, deeper and deeper in the same place. Instead, they got distracted. They dug down a little and didn’t find what they wanted, so they tried somewhere else. They put in all the work they needed to in order to find life, but it was a dispersed effort which resulted in failure – if only they had kept digging down and down in the same hole!

The holes, for me, are different aspects of Christianity. They can represent the love of God, prayer, service, miracles, worship. Digging deep in any of those wells will result in an encounter with Jesus, the Water of Life, which is the whole point. But a dispersed, half-hearted and distracted effort in five or six holes will kill you, unless you can drink from someone else’s well.

Remember John 4 and the Samaritan woman at the well? Jacob the Patriarch had dug a well people were still drinking from hundreds of years later, yet it was unable to satisfy. But when Jesus came, he offered an endless supply of living water to whoever would dig a well through relationship with him.

I think there are very few topics that are “well worthy,” things you can give your life to for years and never regret. I think growing in understanding of God’s love for you and your love for God is pretty much it. The way you grow in that understanding might look a lot of different ways – service to the poor, prayer, worship or bible study, maybe even a combination of all of those – but the goal remains connection with the heart of God.

There are definitely more things to dig out of this particular parable, but those are the insights I thought I would share.

Thanks for reading friends!

Digging Wells: A Parable

I vaguely remember reading this parable somewhere. I can’t give credit to the original source though I want to, for it is a parable to live by.

There was once a wise and holy man on pilgrimage in a distant land. In his travels, the old man came upon a village in desperate circumstances.

“There is no water,” cried the village chief. “There has been a drought for many years and now we are about to die. Please, teach us how to find water.”

The old man paused to pray before answering – “The Lord says there is water beneath your feet. You need only dig down 10 feet and you will find a spring of water that will save you, your family and your village. May God bless you in your work.” And then the old man carried on.

A month or so later, the old man returned to the village, everything was barren. He went to the center of town where the village chief lived only to find 10 holes, each a foot deep. The whole village had died of thirst.

What do you think? What does this parable mean to you?

Resource for Wimber Material

Hi everyone, short post today.

I just found this wonderful website that has a lot of original John Wimber material. The website is wimber.org. You can buy a lot of his teachings for fairly cheap, and there are also some free articles written by John, his wife Carol, and his daughter-in-law Christy.

I wanted to share this article, written by Carol Wimber, about the early days of the Vineyard. I love the fact that the Vineyard came out of the Quaker church. I also love her description of “communion” time in the Quaker services, we might have to try that out some night at VCC.

I also love her reminder that we worship because God is worthy, not to try and “make” something happen. God is worthy of our whole-hearted worship even if nothing miraculous happens. It is enough to come before the Uncreated One and worship, even if we are the only one in the room.

It is easy for me to get excited about revival and thousands upon thousands singing together. But what really needs to capture my hearts is the revelation that I carry around the Presence of the Invisible God all day, every day. I live before an audience of One. Nothing compares to pouring out my life in worship, praise, adoration and thanksgiving to the One who loves me completely.

Papa, thank you for the wisdom of John and Carol Wimber. I ask for the grace to be whole consumed with worshipping you and loving others as an overflow of the love You have for me. Amen.

Compelled By Love: Introduction, Part 1

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I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time now. I love Heidi Baker and how she lives life. And the title of her book, “Compelled by LOVE” reaches out and grabs my heart. I am so excited to read this!

My plan is to examine small chunks of the book and reflect on them. So far I’ve read the Introduction and Chapter One and they have rocked me. There is so much good stuff here. Hopefully you will enjoy reading this series as much as I enjoy writing it.

Compelled By Love: Introduction, Part One. Written by Heidi Baker

One-third of our lives is spent traveling around the world speaking to groups and churches and calling the bride of Christ to come in. The other two-thirds of our lives, we live in Mozambique among the poor and needy, the hungry and thirsty, and those who are desperate and starving for love and attention. So we have come to understand that people who live in the Western world do not have what we have in Mozambique. Believe it or not, our lives are much easier than yours.

You see, where I live, the poor know they are poor; they know they are sick and hurting; and so they come and give their lives to Jesus by the hundreds every week around the country. But in your nation, your poor do not know they are poor, and your sick do not know they are sick unless they are dying of a disease and no one can help them. They look confident, and they appear as if they are together. But maybe they are not. So your job is a lot harder than ours…

I know people who are very wealthy, but they are poor in spirit. And I know people who are very poor who aren’t poor in spirit. It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have; what matters is the attitude of your heart. The poor are not arrogant. The poor are needy — are you?

Are you needy? Are you thirsty? Are you hungry? Are you desperate for Jesus? Are you someone who feels as if you may just die unless God shows up? Or do you have a mind-set like many in the Western world — having a middle class kind of heart? Are you someone who thinks, “Yeah, whatever. God will either do it or He won’t, so it doesn’t matter?”

We can’t live in whatever. We have to see the kingdom of God break out in our cities, in our nations, in our lives…

That is possibly the most loving smack in the face I’ve ever had. “Are you needy? Are you thirsty? Are you desperate for Jesus… or do you have a middle class kind of heart?” When I read those words yesterday I burst into tears. Seriously. I had to put the book down and pray.

I know the kind of ache she is describing here. I know that kind of longing and desperation. I feel it more days than not and it colors the way I look at the world. I had a self-sufficient, middle class kind of heart for a long time. In some ways I still do. But I’ve prayed for at least three years now for God to wake me up, make me hungry, make me dependent and make me discontent with “status quo Christianity.” It seems He has answered those prayers.

I feel foolish pretty much all the time when I speak in front of the congregation I serve. I cry, I exhort, I go off script and can never seem to articulate things the way I want to. Maybe that is why I like Heidi so much – you should check out one of her teachings on youtube sometime, it will bless you even if it is initially uncomfortable to watch/listen to. But what else can I do? I’m trying to live and teach way of living and loving that I’ve never seen modeled before in real life; all I have are the Scriptures and the stories of passionate men and women who have gone before.

I don’t really mind looking silly. I don’t really mind sacrificing my reputation in order to be faithful to say and do what Jesus wants me to do. Sure, I wish I could look respectable while also being obedient (maybe I can some day), but I’d rather bear stigma for zeal than be accepted because I refused to rock the boat.

I can’t live in “whatever” any more. I know some people believe that God’s Sovereignty demands such a response. I believe it was God’s Sovereignty that provided us with free will and the means of spiritual violence through fasting and prayer. Humanity was created to take the Kingdom into the wild, to transform the untouched wilderness and make it like the Garden. That is what we are doing when we heal for the sick, raise the dead, drive out demons and cleanse lepers – we are setting up God’s government in the wild places of the spirit. We are creating an environment where God and man can dwell together in peace.

How amazing would it be to be part of a community compelled by love to take the Gospel of peace to the people around us? How glorious would it be to see an entire city put the Sermon on the Mount into practice? Believe it or not, there are numerous stories of God’s manifest Presence resting in certain regions and over certain cities with the result of total life transformation for those involved. Take the Moravians, who worshipped night and day for 110 years and even sold themselves into slavery in order the take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I believe it was John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, when he saw the zeal and dedication of the Moravian movement who declared “When will this Christianity fill the earth!”

If that can happen among German peasants in the 1700’s why couldn’t it happen among middle class Iowans in the 2000’s? I believe it can. I believe that God is searching the earth, looking for friends willing to listen to Him, looking to share the burdens of His heart, looking for a place to rest with His people. I think He has several of those places already, but I also think He desires more.

I am captivated by this kind of Christianity. It seems that this is what is modeled in the Scriptures. Lord, give us the grace we need to carry on. We let go of everything else in order to lay hold of all that you offer. Amen.

Thanks for reading friends.

Testimony: A Healed Shoulder

Hello again everyone. I have a story I’d like to share with you about a friend of mine being healed of a shoulder injury.

As most of you know, I love stories of God healing people supernaturally; they are a vital part of my faith journey. I am on the hunt for the manifest Kingdom of God in my life and stories like this keep me going. It can be really discouraging living on the front lines of faith . It is tempting to pull back, lower my expectations of the Gospel to the purely human elements and live safely, not risking my reputation or emotions on something like a move of God, which is totally outside of my control.

But I can’t.

I have become convinced of a Gospel that surpasses my understanding. I’ve become convinced that God loves me, and everyone around me, with a passionate and unyielding love that will not rest until every single one of His children has been set free from the bondage of sin. Part of that freedom, part of the Kingdom of God, is the supernatural restoration of the human body. We were never meant to live with sickness, disease or death – those are products of sin which mastered the human race at the Rebellion. But sin and all of its effects have been overcome by the life, death and resurrection of God’s Beloved Son, Jesus.

Ok, enough preaching – onto the story!

“K” and her shoulder

Around Thanksgiving, I noticed my friend “K” struggling to put on her coat. I walked over to see what was the matter and she simply said she was having some shoulder pain. I helped her put on her coat, prayed for her, didn’t see her healed and moved on.

A week or so later I saw “K” at church again and asked about her shoulder. She mentioned she had gone to see a shoulder specialist. They did an MRI and discovered that she had a full thickness tear in her rotator cuff as well as some bone spurs. The specialist told her that she would need surgery to repair the tear and that her recovery would be fairly extensive – at least 6 weeks with a wedge under her arm and her shoulder imobilized. I asked if I could pray for her again and she said yes, “K” specifically asked that the rotator cuff would be healed before the doctors eyes as a testimony of His power. We prayed, once again nothing happened.

We continued praying for the next several weeks, not just “K” and I, but many people from the congregation laid hands on her and prayed in faith. Still, nothing seemed to happen.

That is, until two days ago.

On Monday, “K” went in for surgery to repair her rotator cuff. The same specialist who had seen her torn rotator cuff on the MRI was the one doing the surgery. The surgeon opened up her shoulder to examine what needed to be done. Imagine his surprise to see a pristine, full intact rotator cuff — “K” had been healed!

I don’t know how healing happens – I only know that it does and that it comes in ways I don’t expect. I wasn’t expecting “K” to be healed at this point, I was expecting to chalk up another victory for the “not yet” of the Kingdom. But God answered “K”‘s prayer specifically and at the proper time. “K” was able to say to her surgeon, the very same on who did the MRI and found the tear, “I prayed and God healed me.” Outstanding.

God is a God who heals. His Kingdom is breaking in all around us if only we have eyes to see it. I am so thankful for “K”s healing because it reminds me that God sees us, He hears us and He is willing to act on our behalf. That is so glorious and so humbling all at the same time. I’m thankful that “K” didn’t quit asking for prayer. I’m thankful that we are a congregation who is tenacious about praying for healing.

I hope this encourages you and inspires you like it does me. I hope that if you are someone in need of healing that you don’t give up asking for prayer – you aren’t a burden, you aren’t an inconvenience, you aren’t taking up too much time. We love you and we want to pray for you.

I also hope that this whets your appetite for the things of God. There is more, there is so much more that God has in store for those who love Him. We haven’t even begun to explore the treasures Jesus made available to us through His blood. This is just the beginning, just a foretaste of the Kingdom to come. I believe that we can experience more – more love, more healing, more of God’s Presence – if we will ask for it. The riches of the Kingdom of God are given to the poor in spirit – those who know their lack, are hungry and desperate. We can no longer live in the state of “Whatever” as in “Yeah, whatever. God will either do it or He won’t, it doesn’t matter.” Yes! It does matter! And we have a direct and dramatic impact on the events of history through our prayers, intercession and declarations. It is time to get hungry. It is time to get desperate. It is time to trash “Plan B” and put all our chips on a move of God.

This is the cry of my heart. I hope and pray that it will become yours as well.

Until He comes,
Ben