Savoring the Moment

Earlier today, I posted the following on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.50.45 PM

I wanted to give you a little more of the story.

Full Disclosure

While Dani and I were eating at Tony’s the girls running the raffle were walking around and stopped by our table. I wasn’t particularly interested in them – I was there to have an unhurried dinner with my wife, not win a t-shirt. So I took a number and they continued on.

As Dani and I were waiting for our waitress to get our change, I happened to look over and notice one of the girls walking with a limp. I opened my mouth, then closed it. My mental dialogue went something like:

“Huh, she’s walking with a limp. I wonder what happened? I wonder if I should pray for her? Does she know Jesus? Oops, she’s already walked past and I don’t really feel like tracking her down. Maybe if she comes around again…”

Dani must’ve noticed because she looked at me and said, “Why didn’t you pray for her? You’re the one who always says you want to do this stuff. Why didn’t you?” I didn’t really have any words worth saying just flimsy, flimsy excuses.

The truth is, I’ve been really shy about praying for people lately. A month or so ago I had a convicting realization that the inner voice I’d been listening to, that had been directing much of my effort as a Pastor and a Christian, wasn’t God at all. I had fallen into the lie that healing and salvation are attained through my efforts rather than God’s. It was humiliating and disheartening and I took a huge step back from prayer and evangelism and for the last couple months have felt rather aimless.

Fortunately, God’s call is irrevocable and He doesn’t change His mind. He’s been slowly moving me back to a place of trust in Him and His word. It was His idea to give us the ministry of healing, I’m just trying to be obedient. (I really suck at that most of the time.)

Also, this morning we had a great testimony from Mason (video coming soon) about stepping out in faith to pray for people and had stirred up those longings again. So, between Mason’s testimony and Dani reminding me of what is really true and important I was trapped. I had to do it. I excused myself to the bathroom to work up some courage.

When I came back, the girl was standing at my table! She had drawn my number in the raffle and wanted to get my size for the t-shirt. Holy setup Batman.

Obviously, I had to go for it. I did a short interview and found out that she had just had her third knee surgery (she was in her mid twenties) and was actually in a lot of pain. I asked her to sit, explained that I was a Pastor and that I wanted to pray for God to take away the pain in her knees. She gave me the “you’re crazy” look but let me pray for her.

After a short prayer I asked her to test it out. She felt better. Her pain had gone from a 10 to a 5. I asked her to sit again. After a second prayer she was down to a 1 and had increased her range of motion about 20 degrees. I didn’t notice any reduction in swelling, but I’ll take a 90% reduction in pain.

I asked her if she knew Jesus and she said she did, and that she and her fiancé were in-between churches. Since she lived in Waterloo I directed her to some friend’s churches and we left.

Some Take Aways

I’d like to reiterate that, on my own, I would not have prayed for this girl. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed her pain. I was too busy and then too afraid. A healing would have gone undone and my intimacy with God wouldn’t have grown simply because I was too busy. Ugh.

BUT, the healing did happen because Mason’s testimony had stirred up my heart and my wife reminded me to be the man I am called to be. Testimony and community are powerful force multipliers in the Kingdom. They call us to higher standards. They remind us that it is God who is great, not us, but that we have the privilege to serve alongside him. It is a beautiful and humbling thing to be used by God to take away someone’s pain and share with them the Good News of the Resurrected King.

That girl wasn’t healed because I am special or gifted or anointed. She was healed because Jesus is awesome. Our Resurrected King shattered the powers of sin, death and the devil on Calvary and we are messengers of that fact. We have the privilege of enforcing His Kingdom wherever we go and the kingdom of this world must give way. It is a glorious existence my friends.

Savoring the Moment

Satan can steal from us in at least three ways. He can constrict the flow of life from God to us and slow down the answers to our prayers so that we give up. He can take something we have when we give him legal access through unrepentant sin. He can also make us forget. This last seems to be his favorite tactic and the one most devastating to the Church.

The enemy causes us to forget our victories, our histories with God. He convinces us that we have to fight old battles again or that the successes of previous generations do not belong to us. He gets us busy and tired and we forget the multitudes of times God has intervened in our lives. He sucks us dry, like a bug caught in a spider’s web until we forget God’s goodness and his work in our lives.

A forgotten work of God isn’t much different than one that never happened as far as its impact on our lives. If we don’t constantly savor the presence and power of God in our lives then we become ever more paralyzed and ever more religious. What was once a vibrant interaction with God becomes a formalized ritual – an appearance of godliness devoid of life changing power.

I think that one of the best things we can do for one another is to share stories. We need to share testimonies of God’s Goodness, we need to remind one another of the words spoken over us and the call of God on our lives. We need to call out what is best in one another and remind ourselves of what is eternally true. This is what I hope our home groups can be – a launching pad for Kingdom invasion as the saints are fed, equipped, encouraged, empowered and healed.

I hope my story gives you courage to take your own step of faith. You are made to carry the Spirit of the Living God into the world around you. There are miracles waiting to happen, stories as yet untold. Some of them, maybe many of them, will happen wether you decide to participate or not, but don’t you want you?

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Reclaiming Outrage and Indignation

I’ll admit that outraged and indignant aren’t usually the first words that come to mind when I think of Jesus – not even the second, third or fourth. Though I know it isn’t accurate, I still tend to think of Jesus as the long-haired hippy of my youth, sitting with children in a field of flowers and teaching everyone to be nice. And then I read the Bible and see that Jesus is a multifaceted and complex person, not so easily written off by sentimental Hallmark cards.

Indignation is defined as “anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.” Outrage is indignation on Red Bull. It is a little easier to see Jesus’s indignation with that definition in mind.

Remember the man with leprosy who said to Jesus, “If you’re willing, you can make me clean”? Jesus was indignant and said, “I am willing! Be clean!” Some translations says that Jesus was moved with compassion. I’d like to suggest that the two ought to be the same thing of a Christian. Perceiving injustice and unfair treatment ought to provoke something within us, fill us with compassion and cause us to take action.

I could go on. There was a man with a shriveled hand, a women whose back was bent in half, the money changers perpetuating a system of religious slavery… Jesus very impolitely upset the apple cart in each instance. He was not overly concerned with public opinion or what would be good for business. He was zealous and passionate, outraged by man’s injustice to man.

How many Christian men do you know that could walk into, say, a football stadium and drive out all the vendors and instill such fear into the security guards that they do nothing but stand on the sideline? That is what Jesus did in the Temple. I used to think that was a shabby illustration, until I learned how many children are sold or traded in the sex slave industry at sporting events, and Iowa is at the crossroads of the nation, smack dab in the middle of it.

My intent isn’t to stir up a lot of machismo within the Church. My hope is to elevate us to a greater level of awareness and action. I’m tired of being in the camp of limp and powerless Christianity. I want to burn for something… and that something is the Kingdom of God.

I’ve been reading a lot about vaccinations lately. As many of you know, the idea behind vaccines is to administer a sub-clinical dose of something so that the body will build a resistance and immunity, a process known as hormesis. I fear that the Western Church has been vaccinated against agape, love in action. We’ve built up such immunity to the Gospel message of a God of Justice that we’ve settled for a definition of agape as loving inaction. James would be pissed.

We suffer from chronic, low grade outrage in the West. Taxes, bills, road rage, email, and hectic schedules all contribute to our sense of entitelment. We’re “outraged” when there isn’t a parking spot close to the door, “so mad” that our neighbor’s dog pooped in our yard – come on folks, can we care about something important?

What about the fact that 1.2 million children are aborted in the U.S. alone every year? That is the equivilent of 333 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings happening every day of the school year. What about the fact that there are now more slaves in the world today than ever before in history? What about the fact that the most prosperous nation in history is also the most indebted, has the most incarcerated citizens and has hungry and homeless people dying in its streets every day?

And we’re concerned there might not be enough Tickle Me Elmos to go around?

I realize that some people might misconstrue my ideas of outrage and indignation for self-righteousness, a ‘savior of the world’ mentality. I assure you, I have no such delusions of grandeur. This world is a sinking ship, no matter what I do, or we do, we aren’t going to create the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth through our own efforts – only Jesus can do that.

I love the idea of transforming cities and discipling nations – that energizes me and gets my blood pumping. But it is naive and unbiblical to think that we are going to make the world a progressively better place until Jesus says “I guess they did it without me, might as well go back.” Not very “saviorish”. But that doesn’t mean we give up, huddle up and let the enemy continue to ravage the world around us. We fight, we make a difference one by one.

I think the Starfish Story illustrates this perfectly:

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

“It made a difference to that one.” In the case of evangelism and salvation, it makes an eternal difference. Do we give up and call it vanity knowing we can’t save everyone and that this world is going to turn to ash? Not at all. The Kingdom we inherit is eternal, unshakable and only going to be revealed in its fullness at the end of the Age. Then we will see the impact of all the hours we spent throwing starfish back into the sea.

We can’t lose – the cross, death and resurrection of Christ assures us victory. Our task now is to prove our faithfulness and the quality of our character, not to God, but to ourselves. Will we hold on to our integrity when no one else is watching? Will we give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work of the Kingdom since we’ve accepted the promise of so great a reward?

I hope so. I want us to be the miraculous burning bush for all the world to see. It isn’t surprising to see trees spontaneously combust in the dry and brittle climate of the desert. But it is surprising to see one burn and burn and burn, longer than is right or that naturally makes sense. Anyone can burn with love for Jesus, passion for Justice or righteous indignation for a couple weeks or months, but I want to burn for decades. I want to more vigorously follow Christ at the end of my life than I do right now. I am hungry for my inheritance.

John Wesley is attributed with saying, “Set yourself on fire and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” That may be true, but I’d rather spark something in them. I don’t want spectators, I want a community of torches.

Will you burn with me?

(Re)Digging Wells

My passion in life is to pursue what is available of the Kingdom of God in this Age, even to pursue some things that shouldn’t be available in this Age. I want to be a ladder, a conduit for perpetual intercourse between Heaven to earth. I want to live in the land promised to us in the Scriptures.

I want to live out the commands of Jesus in their fullness. I want to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, raise the dead and set people free from demonic oppression. I want to see the exclusive claims of the Gospel confirmed by none other than God Himself. I want to participate in a move of God that will rock the very foundations of this world. I want to shake everything that can be shaken so that the Unshakable Kingdom remains. This is why I contend for healing and write about revival.

I’ve been asked several times recently, ‘how do you continue to have faith to pray for people to be healed when so many people haven’t gotten better, even died?’

My usual response is “I can’t NOT pray. It is who I am.” While that is the truth, it is only a partial truth. I do get discouraged. I question and I doubt. I get mad that my prayers seem to be little more than good intentions. But one story continues to give me hope. It is what I turn to and trust in when all seems lost and I just want to quit. It is the story of Isaac in Genesis 26.

Abraham has died and Isaac has assumed leadership of the family. A famine breaks out, but The Lord commands Isaac to stay in the land. Isaac’s faithfulness is rewarded and he becomes enormously wealthy, so wealthy that his neighbors become jealous. In an attempt to get Isaac to go away, the Philistines fill in the wells that Abraham had dug with dirt. The Philistines used this method to reclaim some land and force Isaac to move his herds to where there was water.

Isaac moves a short distance away and reopens the wells his father had dug. Then he goes on to dig new wells. He becomes so prosperous, so favored, that his enemies actually come to make peace with him.

I love that story. I love that Isaac chooses to stay in a famished land when everyone else wants to leave. I love that when the enemy dries up the wells that water his flock, Isaac (He Laughs) stays put and patiently digs out the wells again. Then, when the wells are once again nourishing the flocks, Isaac is able to dig more wells, become more established, so much so that his enemies can’t deny the hand of The Lord on his life.

Many times I feel as though I am re-digging the wells of my fathers, particularly with healing. I think to myself, “I know there is water here, but all I see is dirt!” So I keep shoveling, down and down through the dust and the dirt and the failure. I want much more than a healing anointing – I want a healing well. I want something that is going to nourish the Flock for generations.

Early on in my pastoral career The Lord told me I was called to exchange my reputation for credibility. I was called to be a forerunner of certain truths – healing, revival and the return of Jesus. Until those things happen, I’m going to sound like a nut to a lot of people. That is OK, because when those things happen I will be in the position to pastor those who previously saw me as an enemy.

So, this is how I encourage myself in The Lord, particularly in regards to healing. I revisit my prophetic history, I find my identity in the stories of Scripture, I focus on what God has done and is doing rather than what He isn’t and I continue to move dirt.

It is a humbling thing to dig a well of revival in a dry and barren land. It requires walking in faith and hope and not by sight or experience. And yet, when the healing water, the Living Water, begins to flow it will be so much fun to see the thirsty come and drink. That hope is what keeps me praying.

Ben, the Laugher

What I Meant to Say: Pentecost and Jubilee

[Author’s Note: This is a vastly different sermon than I gave on Sunday – it is the sermon I wish I would have given, but I didn’t get the revelation of it until I was talking. Thanks for your patience with me as I develop as a messenger. Ben.]

At the start of Jesus’s ministry, he quotes the famous passage out of Isaiah 61: 1-2a

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

What is fascinating is that Jesus intentionally cuts the quotation off mid sentance. Rather than reading on to the Day of Judgement, Jesus stops, indicating that his ministry was an extension of the Year of Jubilee.

Jubilee in the Old Testament is a glorious idea, though there is no indication it was ever actually practiced. The idea of Jubilee is this — after 7 sets of 7 years, the Jewish people would call a Jubilee. This meant that all debts were forgiven, all work was put on hold, all slaves were set free and all territory was given back to its rightful owners.

In Jewish law certain families had territorial claims for eternity. Their land belonged to them and their family as an inheritance forever. However, in hard times, it was possible for the family to sell the land for a certain price and it was under the custody of the buyer until the next Jubilee, whereupon the land would be restored to its rightful owner so that the next generation would have the means of providing for themselves and elevating their circumstances.

Pentecost was a Jewish holiday that occurred 50 days after Passover. It celebrates the Israelites being freed from slavery and entering into covenant with God. After the Israelites were established in the Promised Land, Pentecost also became a festival that indicated the harvest was in full swing. It was a day of celebration, rest and remembrance for the Israelites.

In the New Testament, God does a tremendous re-writing of spiritual history. Whereas 3,000 people died on Pentecost in the old covenant, 3,000 people are saved in the new. The blood of the Passover Lamb set the church free from God’s judgment (God’s wrath would now pass over them rendering them unpunishable) and God established a new covenant — a covenant of life, grace and reconciliation and sealed the deal by pouring out His Holy Spirit. This outpouring signaled the start of a new epoch in Church history — “the Great and Glorious Day of The Lord.”

We are living in the Last Days, but not the last of the Last Days. We are living in the Great and Glorious Day preparing for the Great and Terrible Day which will be followed by Judgement Day (this is a totally different teaching that I won’t develop here). In the Day in which we are living, everyone who calls upon the Name of The Lord (Jesus) will be saved — the sign of this great truth is that the Holy Spirit should be in and upon every beleiver.

I the books of Acts, we see the disciples continuing the ministry of Jesus, even building upon it and doing things Jesus never did. They continued it because the disciples were able to heal all who came to them — and this wasn’t limited to the Apostles. Stephen the Deacon as well as Phillip the Evangelist also operated in signs and wonders. The disciples built upon this spiritual inheritance and found their sphere of influence increased, the manifest grace of God literally dripped off of them. The story’s I am referencing are Peter’s shadow healing people as he walked down the street (Acts 5) and Paul’s dirty handkerchiefs being used to heal the sick (Acts 19).

Church history indicates that signs and wonders were commonplace in Christianity up until the time of the Roman emperor Constantine (306 AD) and then curtailed abruptly at the time of emperor Theodosius (379 AD). Why the correlation with those two events? Constantine made Christianity a legal religion within the Roman Empire (previously it was illegal and there was great persecution of Christians) and Theodosius took things one step further and made Christianity the ONLY legal religion in the Roman Empire, resulting in a dramatic change of events where Christians were now the ones persecuting people.

All that to say this: I believe the Church sold its inheritance as God’s designated authority on the earth for temporal authority in the form of human government. We exchanged the Kingdom of God for the kingdom of man because we thought we could establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth in its entirety before Jesus’s return. Christianity was never meant to be a ruling religion naturally speaking, we aren’t equipped for it.

Take two of Jesus’s commands to the Church as found in the Sermon on the Mount/Plain — turn the other cheek (Matt. 5) and give to everyone who asks of you (Luke 6). It is hard to have a national guard or sustainable economy as a government with those two commands. I am all for discipling nations and transforming culture, but we have to use the strategy Jesus gave us (salt, light, leaven).

I believe the Western Church sold its inheritance (spiritual territory) to the world and has continued to do so ever since. There are seasons where our inheritance has been restored, but we’ve never kept hold of it long enough to build it back to where was.

I believe that is changing.

I believe that people are starting to get desperate within the Church. They are reading the Scriptures and thinking ‘This was never supposed to stop!’ They are passionate about fulfilling Jesus’s prayer “May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” They are willing to fight for, retain and build upon the spiritual inheritance of the Church.

And here is the correlation I see between Pentecost and Jubilee. Just as Jesus was a living extension of the year of Jubilee, so is the Church. We enter into the ministry of Jesus to set captives free, reconcile them with their Heavenly Father and restore them to their proper place as sons and daughters. But that lifestyle and ministry of Jubilee can only be accomplished if “the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me.”

Pentecost made Jubilee accessible to the world in the first century and Pentecost will make Jubilee accessible to the world in the twenty-first century. As we pull out from worldly ways of doing things, embrace our subversive and apocalyptic assignment as yeast and take back our identity as the children of God we will find our inheritance being restored. God wants to confirm the Gospel with signs and wonders again. He wants us to dwell in the land He has assigned to us. He says it is righteous to build on what we’ve received and leave a greater inheritance for our children. And we start by being faithful in small things. We prove we can manage dimes and we’ll get dollars.

It is an exciting time to be the Church! I think God is preparing us to ride a great wave of revival — a time where hundreds of thousands are saved, we see more healings in a day than we did in a decade and Western Culture is radically impacted by the Gospel of the Coming King. I’m thankful that God chose us to live in such a time as this.

Thanks for reading friends.

When People Aren’t Healed

As our community continues to come to terms with Beverly’s death, there are inevitable questions that arise around the topics of sickness, healing and death. This post is my attempt to steer our culture and community into dealing with these questions vulnerably, honestly and scripturally. By no means are my answers the final say on the matter – they simply represent what I believe to be true about God’s character and the topic of healing at this present time. For the purpose of clearly communicating to our community, I will address Beverly by name. If you are reading this and aren’t a part of our congregation, please insert the name of your loved one.

Was it God’s will that Beverly should die?

No, I don’t believe so. There are many issues surrounding death that we don’t understand, but here are what the Scriptures say:

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” Psalm 139:16.

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him,” Hebrews 9:27-28.

The Scriptures say that our days are ordained, written out before time began. The Scriptures say that every person is appointed to die once in their life. The Scriptures do not say that a certain sickness or disease is your appointed end.

2 Kings 20 tells the story of King Hezekiah who became ill and was at the point of death. A prophet (!) of The Lord came and told him to get his house in order because he was soon going to die. Hezekiah wept bitterly and prayed, asking God for more time. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and extended his life another 15 years.

Was this illness Hezekiah’s appointed end? Apparently not, even though a prophet of The Lord prophesied that it was — oops! Same with Lazarus in John 11. Lazarus’s sickness didn’t end in death (permanently), he apparently had more life to live to God’s glory.

Does God know when we are going to die? Yes, absolutely. But He doesn’t cause it and we don’t know if a certain illness is someone’s appointed end — not even super prophetic people! So we contend in prayer for healing, asking God to extend life to our loved ones and heal them from every disease.

We prayed so long and so hard for Beverly – we even fasted! Didn’t God hear us?

Yes, God hears our prayers (1 Kings 8:28; 2 Kings 20:5; Psalm 66:19; Acts 10:31) and I believe they were particularly pleasing to Him. You see, praying in faith for someone’s healing is a declaration of faith in God’s character — that He is Good, gracious, kind and merciful. Praying for healing means we believe God is a healer, redeemer and savior. It means we believe He is more powerful than sin, sickness, disease or even death itself.

Fasting and prayer is not a formula. God isn’t a vending machine where we put in a certain quantity of time praying or fasting and out pops a healing. Formulas and recipes would be magic, reducing God to some impersonal force to be manipulated through our efforts. God is a Person who works through relationship and mystery. I don’t know how healing works, but I believe it is God’s desire to see His people come to Him in their distress because they believe He can help.

Additionally, God isn’t holding out on us. It isn’t as though He is holding healing or Holy Spirit up in Heaven and stingily dispensing Grace to those who grovel most effectively. I believe God wants people to be healed more than we do. I believe He is a lavish Lover who love to give exceedingly extravagant gifts to those He loves (which is everyone).

So, if God wanted to see Beverly healed even more than we did, why wasn’t she healed?

I don’t know.

I don’t know, I don’t think anyone does, but I’m not going to say stupid things or create false doctrines to try and bridge the gap between my expectation and my experience. God has enough “roses in His garden”, enough “angels in the choir”, He didn’t need to take someone we love for that purpose. I know we try to take comfort in those kinds of statements, but they betray a twisted understanding of God’s character, please don’t use them with those grieving the loss of a loved one.

Jesus healed everyone who came to him. So did the apostles in the book of Acts, except for Paul, who was a slacker. (Kidding, just checking if you’re still paying attention.) I believe Jesus lived an intentionally average life in the Spirit, just par for the course; he expected us to surpass him in every way — number of miracles, quality of miracles, number of people able to perform miracles, etc. Obviously, we aren’t there, we lost something along the way — is anyone else outraged by that? I know I am.

Back to the point, we can’t create false doctrines out of our experiences that misrepresent the heart of God. Jesus healed all who came to him. He never taught the Disciples a theology of unanswered prayer; that challenges me! [begin rant] I can’t bring the Word of God down to my experience, I have to press into the lifestyle it says I should have. How much are we willing to fight for? The enemy has taken territory that rightfully belongs to the children of God and it is time to take it back! Healing, miracles, signs and wonders – these are our birthright and we’ve been content to trade it away for the soup of a middle class lifestyle! [/end rant]

The truth is, Beverly is healed. Beverly is in glory, exactly where she wants to be. She is no longer struggling with sickness or pain. There is only a resurrected body and eternal reward in her future. Her faith has become sight and that is an amazing Reality.

Could we have done more?

This is a losing question, there is no fruit at the end of this road. The truth is, we could always do more, but no one was intentionally slacking because they wished Beverly ill. We acted as best with could with the understanding we had.

And the Gospel isn’t about how hard we work anyway. It is about living by faith, acting in accordance with the heart of God and being obedient to what He asks us to do. The Gospel is the Good News of God’s actions on our behalf, not the other way around. Don’t torture yourself rehearing what you could have said or done differently. It won’t produce anything worth while. You did good church, you did good.

Tips for caring for those who have lost someone dear

1) Don’t say stupid things. 🙂 Sometimes it is best to not say anything at all. Nothing you can say is going to make it feel better, but a compassionate presence is always welcome.

2) Listen. Grief brings up all sorts of memories, be there to listen.

3) Take thoughtful initiative. “Call me if you need anything” is a platitude that is never acted upon. They aren’t thinking of what they need and people hate to be a burden, so think for them. Lawns need to be mowed, dishes need to be washed, laundry needs to get folded. Politely, lovingly and firmly insert yourself into their business.

4) Be sensitive to their needs. Losing a loved one is overwhelming. Not only are people struggling with the emotions of loss, they are making tons of decisions and talking with outrageous amounts of people. They might not want to answer another “How ya doin'” question. They might not want company. They might just want some quiet and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

5) Use technology to help you remember. Everyone else goes back to normal after the funeral and the family is left with the difficult task of creating a new normal. It is human nature to forget the things that don’t directly impact your life, but remember anyway. Put a reminder in your phone to give the family a call or to invite them over for game night. Send them a card on some random Tuesday just to let them know you’re thinking of them.

There isn’t a “right” or “perfect” way to care for someone in their loss, so don’t worry about it. Concern yourself with loving them well, praying for them and being thoughtful on their behalf. Trust that they will be able to communicate with you when they need something other than what you are offering.

Love, but don’t smother. Care, but don’t pity.

Thanks for reading this beast of a post. I hope this helps answer some questions and gives you some concrete actions steps to care for those in mourning. If you have any additional questions, comments or viewpoints, please comment below or shoot me an email at vineyardcommunitychurch319@gmail.com

Thanks again for reading!

A Sacrifice of Praise

Losing someone you love and admire 12 hours before you preach an Easter sermon isn’t an experience I’d wish on anyone, but it has produced some profound revelations for me.

The main revelation is that in the midst of grief and suffering and pain, God is still worthy to be praised. No circumstance, no matter how devastating, changes the Good News of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension. Death died on Friday – Jesus lives on.

“Precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of his saints… I will offer a sacrifice of praise,” says David in Psalm 116. A sacrifice is a sacrifice because it costs you something. Choosing joyful worship in the midst of grief is a costly sacrifice. Confessing God’s Goodness when everything in life seems contrary to that requires faith. The enemy wants to crush our spirits – he can’t stand the Light of Life and Hope in the human soul; so we weather his storm and shine all the brighter for the darkness.

I’m reminded that we live in the unshakable Kingdom of God. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken in our lives, so that everything that is not of God will fall away. What remains standing when the dust settles is a priceless treasure – a Kingdom, full of faith, hope and love, inhabited by saints who love their Lover more than life itself. The world isn’t worthy of such beauty.

I’m so proud of how we’ve handled Beverly’s sickness and death. I’m glad we fasted, prayed and believed for her healing. I’m glad we arranged meals and help for the family. And I’m amazed that we were able to worship together this morning with arms lifted high. Well done church.

The Kingdom Now: Pursuing What Is Available

I have a burning desire to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Far more than a rote phrase in the Disciple’s Prayer, this pursuit has become my passion – the thing I am willing to suffer most for in order to see it accomplished. I have a singular desire to see the Kingdom of God collide with and overcome the kingdom of this world and see Holy Spirit set wrong things right, especially in the areas of sickness, disease and death.

I will never stand before God and have to apologize for the way I am living my life. I will never stand before the Judgement Seat and say “I’m sorry God, I thought you were more loving. I thought you wanted to heal more people. I thought the Cross accomplished more…” No! God is the most overwhelmingly loving, caring and generous person I know. He wants to see people saved, healed and delivered far more than I do.

I’ve seen some amazing things in my life. A girl saved from the brink of death, a rotator cuff miraculously healed and a friend healed of Lyme’s disease. I’ve also had some major disappointments – a friend who didn’t rise from the dead despite me praying for him for six hours, other friends with chronic pain who haven’t been healed despite months of prayer and, most recently, a beautiful woman who wasn’t healed of blindness.

It is that last disappointment that prompted this post.

My wife and I host a college ministry on Thursday nights and it is a beautiful time of loving one another, worshipping and sharing what Father is teaching us. Since the start of the year, a young woman, let’s call her M, has been attending with friends. M is slowly losing her sight, to the point that now school work is almost impossible for her and she is going to have to receive some training for how to operate certain technologies usually reserved for the blind.

I was sharing last night about some of the things Father has been teaching me, especially my passion for healing and what I believe Jesus accomplished on the cross. I noticed M silently crying on the couch so, after I was done and we had started singing, I went to be with her.

We ended up talking for a long time after the majority of the group had left. She told me about her life, how losing her sight had affected her and her parents and the various ways she was trying to cope. At one point I heard her say, “I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t need my eyes to see the beauty around me” and that stuck in my heart like a knife. This woman has growing debt because her insurance won’t cover her treatments, she is in serious chronic pain, she feels increasingly lonely and isolated, she probably wont be able to finish school and now is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t really need her eyes.

My heart broke for her. I knew that the compassion I had for her suffering was only a small fraction of what Father felt for her, but she still wasn’t healed when I laid my hands on her and prayed.

I once heard Randy Clark give a message called “The Agony of Defeat” and it is the price he pays for the healing ministry. People come from around the world to get prayer from “the man of God” and sometimes nothing happens. I understand that agony a little differently now than I did when I first heard that message.

It is painful, embarrassing and humiliating to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and not see fruit. It is a sincerely painful experience to believe with all your heart that God can heal, WANTS to heal, and still nothing happens. I feel like a fake, a huckster, some charlatan peddling snake oil as the cure for what ails you. Many times it makes me want to give up. It seems like the reasonable thing would be to give up preaching and believing in the supernatural to simply focus on what is humanly possible. But a friend gave me a beautiful definition of reason recently. He said that reason is “the leveraging of facts to prove an inferior reality.”

Facts devoid of God’s power, desire and intent are an inferior reality. The Superior Reality is the way we see God acting in the ministry of Jesus, what we call the Kingdom of God. I can never bring the Bible down to my level of experience when I preach and teach – it must always remain the standard that my life conforms to. God isn’t on trial, I am – we are. What will we do with what has been entrusted to us? What will we fight for? How fiercely will we pursue what is available to us?

Those questions keep me awake at night. They keep a fire burning hot within me to see what is possible. I really do believe that God exists, that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him and that He is a God who heals. I’m willing to stake everything on those beliefs.

I willing to pursue this on my own, but I’d much rather do so with a group of people who share this same passion. So, if any of you are reading this, please drop me a line, either an email or a comment. Perhaps we can figure out how to meet and pray and encourage one another in this pursuit.

As always, thank you for reading.

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