Feeding the 5,000

On Sunday I got to preach from one of my favorite passages – Luke 9:10-17, the miraculous multiplication of bread. I’m still living in that story and I wanted to share some additional thoughts with you. This will be hodgepodge collection of nuggets rather than a formal post – hopefully you can follow along. 🙂

Jesus doesn’t despise weakness.

  • The prelude to this story is that Jesus has spent the last several months raising up a second tier of leadership while the Twelve have been away. He has been preaching and teaching, modeling and investing. He has been the sole minister while his team is away. On top of that, just as the Apostles return, Jesus gets word that his cousin, John (the Baptizer), has just been beheaded by Herod. Jesus and John were undoubtedly close – John was the only person (other than Mary) who really knew who Jesus was. What is more, a couple chapters back, in Luke 7, Jesus basically told John that he wasn’t coming to rescue him, that John would die in prison. Tired, grieving and looking forward to reconnecting with his friends, Jesus decides to slip away for some R&R.
  • The crowd, however, gets wind of Jesus’s intentions and quite literally runs around the lake to meet him. As Jesus and his disciples get to their destination, Jesus, tired and grieving, looks over the bow of the ship and sees a huge crowd pressed up against the shore – 10,000 people with their emotional vacuums pointed straight at him.
  • How does Jesus respond? His heart doesn’t sink, he doesn’t curse them in his heart or despise their neediness. Instead, the Bible says that he looked on them with compassion, like sheep without a shepherd. It says that he graciously welcomed them, taught them and healed them.
  • I love how compassionate Jesus is. I love that he can see beneath the surface, to what is really going on. These people were desperate for hope, they were aching to hear words of Life about Our Father. Jesus didn’t hold their sin, their neediness or their selfishness against them. Instead, he gave and taught and healed. He cared for them the way he wished they would have cared for him. Absolutely beautiful.

Bread from Heaven is far superior

  • I’m fascinated that, at some point in time, this entire crowd decided that it was better and more important to listen to Jesus than to go get dinner or find a room for the night. As long as Jesus was willing to speak, they were willing to listen. How good does a sermon need to be for people to be willing to override their legitimate human needs and choose something superior? I don’t know, I lose people about 10 minutes in.
  • What Jesus had to offer brought thousands upon thousands of people into the middle of nowhere. There was no shelter, there were no provisions, yet they came out in droves. Why doesn’t the world do that anymore? We have the same message, the same mission and the same Spirit… don’t we?

The Insignificant and Unworthy were the Seed of a miracle

  • In the original texts, only the men were counted. Women and children were considered insignificant, second class, less than. Yet it was a little boy, not the Apostles, who had something to offer. The Apostles, for all their spiritual power and ministry knowhow, hadn’t thought to bring anything to eat. But a young boy (more likely his mother) had. The boy was willing to give what he had, regardless of how small it was and that is what fed the multitude.
  • No matter how unworthy you feel or how insignificant you are in the eyes of the world, you are a miracle waiting to happen. What you have to give is valuable and, in the hands of Jesus, just might change the world.
  • The disciples really biffed it in Luke’s telling of the story. We know from John’s Gospel that the boy was the one with the food, but in Luke, the Apostles try to make it seem like they were the ones who had thought to bring some extra. It is an age old human tendency – we often try to make ourselves look better by taking credit for someone else’s idea. I think our challenge as followers of Jesus is to receive from “the least of these” in a way that broadly honors their contribution.

Expectancy is Key

  • When Jesus ordered the crowd to sit in groups of fifties, there had been no miracle. There was no mountain of food, no catering table. But the crowd obeyed. Even though they didn’t see the food, they acted with expectancy on a promise. The Master had said to sit and get ready for a meal. They didn’t know where the food was coming from, but they trusted it would show up.
  • I wonder how many miracles are waiting for the People of God to act on a promise? What would it look like for us to take Jesus at his word – to actually believe him?

Hoarding would have killed the miracle

  • When Jesus took the bread and blessed it, bread didn’t fall from Heaven like manna in the wilderness. It wasn’t as though thousands of loaves suddenly appeared for the Apostles to distribute. No. Instead, Jesus ripped apart a loaf and gave a chunk to Peter and said, “Go feed that group of fifty over there.” He gave another to Andrew and James and John and all the disciples, each with the same message.
  • When Peter got to his first group, I imagine his instructions to the first guy were, “Tear off some and pass it on down the line.” I think this is HUGE!!!! If they guy had looked around and said, “This is all there is, I’m keeping it” the miracle would have died. The miracle happened because each person shared what they had. They took a chunk and then passed it on.. and kept passing when it came around again. No one hoarded it. Instead, they shared freely.
  • But what if someone had hoarded it? Not only would the miracle have ceased to progress, but they would have still been hungry. The bread multiplied in the giving, not in the eating. Assuming each group of 50 got roughly half a loaf, that would not have been enough to fill one person up. Selfishness and greed would have resulted in no miracle and an unsatisfying meal for one person.
  • Think about the spiritual implication of this. Are you regularly sharing your faith, the life of Christ within you, the Bread from Heaven that made you a new creation? If not, then I’m assuming you’re not seeing miracles on a regular basis and that you are spiritually hungry. I’m guessing that hunger looks like:
  1. you’re dissatisfied with your current church because the music sucks, the preaching is lousy or the fellowship is superficial and you think some other place will “feed you”,
  2. you feel disillusioned because it seems like the Gospel isn’t quite as good as people claim it is,
  3. you feel like God doesn’t hear your prayers,
  4. you’ve compromised yourself morally because sinning seems like more fun and God loves you anyway,
  5. reading the Bible seems dull and irrelevant to your life
  • If any of those symptoms fits you, it is likely you’re fault – not your church’s fault, not your pastor’s fault and not God’s fault. You are hoarding what you’ve been commanded to share. The Dead Sea is dead because water flows into it but can’t flow out of it; therefore, it stagnates. Clear up the blockage, start sharing, start being life-giving to those around you and you’ll be surprised how quickly things turn around. The best part about things being your fault is that you have the power to change them. 🙂
  • Also, at the end of the story, once everyone has eaten their fill, the disciples collect the leftovers – twelve baskets full. They ended with more than they started with. Selah.

This story is the Gospel in miniature

  • I’m fairly certain that this story is the absolute apex of the Gospel narrative. Why? Because it is told in every Gospel and within a page or two after it is told (in Luke it is immediately after), Jesus talks to his disciples about his coming sacrifice for the very first time. It is almost as those the Apostles needed the object lesson in order to understand what Jesus was really about – he is the bread from Heaven, broken for the needs of the world. Jesus may have done “cooler” things, like walking on water, but nothing demonstrated his mission better.
  • Think about it this way: a son offers up everything he has so that it can be broken to satisfy the needs of many. That sure sounds like a Gospel presentation to me.
  • Jesus was broken so that we could be put back together. The Father rejected Jesus so that he would never have to reject us. God said “No.” to Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane so he could say “Yes!” to us at Calvary. One man, blessed and broken, is what was needed for a new creation.

I’ll end this post with some notes I didn’t get to share yesterday. These are the promises I see contained in this passage for us as individuals and as a community. I know some of them may be redundant, but I trust you’ll bear with me. Thanks for reading friends.

Promises

  • The Promise to the Giver – What you have, no matter how small it appears, is enough in the hands of God. These stories abound in the Bible. It is a recurring theme in Scripture that if you will offer what little you have in service to God it will be enough to satisfy the needs of the day. And as long as you keep doing it, God’s provision will go on indefinitely. Most of the time, however, you will never appear “full.” The widow’s jar of flour was never overflowing, but every time she reached into the jar there was always enough for one more day’s worth of bread.
  • The Promise to the Receiver – Did you notice that the crowds sat down in anticipation of a meal before Jesus had broken the bread. There was no catering table being set up, there was no physical evidence that food was coming. But the crowd had an instruction from the Master, “Sit down in groups of fifty and get ready to eat.” So they did. They may have grumbled. They may have looked around and been confused. They may have said, “Well, it sure doesn’t make sense to me, but OK.” Who knows what they were thinking at the time. And remember, this isn’t a small group of people, this would be like the city of Waverly getting together in some farmer’s field and expecting a meal. The promise to the receiver is simple – do what he says and you’ll get what he promised. We don’t have to understand. We don’t even have to agree. We just have to obey. Simple acts of obedience are profoundly freeing when we approach them with an expectant heart.
  • The Promise to the Hungry – You can’t buy enough to satisfy your hunger. No amount of food, no amount of drink, no amount of sex, no amount of entertainment, no amount of stuff, no amount of anything will ever be enough to satisfy your spiritual hunger. Nothing except Jesus. Life will always feel shallow and pointless until you submit your life to Jesus. This passage is a major turning point. Shortly after this passage appears in each of the Gospels, Jesus begins to talk to his disciples about his betrayal and crucifixion. The symbolism is clear, the bread is Jesus’s body. The bread was broken to satisfy their physical hunger, but that satisfaction was short lived. Jesus’s body was broken to satisfy the wrath of God and to open for us the way to Everlasting Life, and that is eternal. Life finds meaning and purpose in Jesus. Suffering and pain find purpose in Jesus. He is the Master at taking the broken and making it beautiful.
  • The Promise to the Broken, the Abused and the Insignificant – You are a miracle waiting to happen. It wasn’t the Apostles who were so thoughtful and wise so as to bring along some extra food. It was a child. It might have been the lunch his mother packed for him, it might have been something he thought of himself, either way, it was all he had and he gave it freely. He gave it freely even when the disciples tried to take credit for it. Without that little bit of generosity this miracle would have never happened. The promise to all of you who feel hurt, wounded, insignificant, unwanted, unloved, broken, abused or otherwise unworthy is that you have something to offer and that something is valuable. What you have to give might never become a miracle recorded in a book or blog, but it will change the world. Furthermore, God sees you. He sees you as you are and he sees you as you will one day be. If you can learn to see yourself the way God sees you, you won’t want to be anybody else. Your story isn’t over. God isn’t finished with you yet.
  • The Promise to the Community – The Gospel is for everyone. Jesus didn’t just miraculously feed himself, his disciples or a select group of followers. He saw the needs of the group. He saw that everyone needed something to eat and he commissioned his disciples to be the ones to meet those needs in a systematic and sacrificial way. Church, if we believe what the Bible says, then we have what the world needs. We have the Bread of Life, the Living Water, we have every spiritual blessing, all power and all authority. We have everything we need to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Said a little differently and specifically, we have the capacity to make Waverly an outpost of the Kingdom of God on the earth. There don’t have to be hungry people in Waverly. There don’t have to be poor people in Waverly. There don’t have to be sick people in Waverly. There certainly don’t have to be people destined for Hell in Waverly. The answers to all of those problems are locked up in the Church – in us! If that sounds extreme, hard to believe, even a little “out there” then I submit that maybe our God is a little too small and our Devil a little too big. For real guys, if what the Bible says is true, then we have the Spirit of the Living God inside of us and we are promised that every time the Kingdom of Heaven collides with the kingdom of this world our side will win. Why are we not running into everything!? The promise to our community is transformation. It is the promise that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, within our reach, if we will only stretch out our hands and lay hold of it.
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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!

Pain Will Not Define Us

We’re 22 hours into our 24 hour prayer watch for Bev. I’m sitting at church listening to Rend Collective Experiment’s “The Art of Celebration.” One phrase in particular stuck out to me in the first song – “pain will not define us”.

Pain will not define us. No matter what happens to Beverly, pain will not discolor our view of life or of God. Pain is not the final word.

We are a people of joy, a people of prayer. We are a people with Resurrection Fire burning in our hearts. We are the Light standing in defiance to the darkness of despair. We are more than conquerors through the Risen Son of God. We will not bow to the inferior power of death.

“Take heart, I have overcome the world,” Jesus says. “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Though we mourn at death, we don’t mourn as those who have no hope. Death is never the end for the people of God. Death is our final rebirth into the Kingdom.

I am still believing for a miracle for Bev. And I’ll continue to believe and hope and fight and pray until The Lord tells me otherwise.

I’m thankful for you, church. I’m thankful that all through the night the Saints were praying. I’m thankful that we are a people of prayer, a people that contend for those we love, a people that believe God still works miracles. Well done friends.

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.