We can’t substitute praying for obeying

I am putting together some teaching notes on revival for a conference I am speaking at towards the end of April and stumbled across this gut-punch from A.W. Tozer:

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late — and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.”

As someone who spent several years regularly praying for revival each week, that statement carries a lot of “Ouch!” However, it is absolutely true and one of the draw backs I see with an overly spiritualized understanding of revival. We can’t substitute praying for obeying – no matter how fervently we pray, if we don’t actually do the stuff we’re praying about, nothing will ever change. 

Wether it is getting into better shape, making more money or starting a revival – prayer only takes us so far before tangible actions must take palce in order to realize those desires. Human beings are made to work, work is spiritual. More precise: work is the means whereby spiritual desires become physical realities. Human beings unite the spiritual and the physical – our very nature is to pull the unseen/intangible spirit world into the world perceived by our senses. That may sound rather esoteric, but take your house as an example. That house first began as a dream inside a builder’s mind. The architect put it onto paper, but it was still intangible as of yet – no one could live in it. Then a series of people took that blueprint and made it a reality – something of substance that has measurable impact on the world. No matter what we are called to do, this is the essence of who we are.

Prayer tills the soil and work plants the seed, but it is still God who makes it grow. Sowing seed into untilled soil might produce a small crop, but much will go to waste. However, having perfectly tilled soil with nothing planted is foolish and unproductive because nothing will grow. Because God sovereignly refuses to violate our free will, we have to give him something to work with – in this case, our willing and obedient hearts. Prayer, the type of intercession that births revival, is certainly strenuous, but it is not the kind of work I’m talking about here. The kind of work I am talking about is taking the risks of the Kingdom: praying for the sick, proclaiming the Good News, feeding the hungry with food and Truth. 

I know that I have been guilty all too often of wanting to substitute praying for obeying – for actually doing the stuff that Jesus commands me to do. Praying is safe, it is fun, it feels productive. And it is productive, but it will never produce a harvest on its own. Jesus said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.” Prayer mobilizes workers, it does not replace them. Conversely, obeying is work – hard work. It is inconvenient, it requires me to risk, to fail. Obedience requires me to be on point, to be in constant communion with God for the sake of others and not consumed with my own little life. Obedience is sacrifice. 

I am so thankful that Holy Spirit led me to Tozer’s quote – I needed a Reality check. I’m not in this thing called “following Jesus” to lead a safe, comfortable life. I’m in this because God revealed himself to me and called me to serve him and this is what service looks like. If God calls me, us, to do hard things, then so be it – we are more than conquerors through Christ. 

Blessing to you my friends!

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The Fathering Spirit of Elijah

As far as we know, John the Baptizer performed no miracles. That fascinates me because he was supposed to operate in “the spirit and power of Elijah,” Luke 1. Elijah doesn’t get much air time in the Scriptures, just a few chapters really, but those few chapters are overflowing with the miraculous: withholding rain, the flour and oil that never ran out, raising the widow’s son, the confrontation with the prophets of Baal, supernatural sustenance by the brook, encountering the manifest presence of God and so on. All of that points to the power of Elijah’s ministry, but one event points to his spirit – raising up a young man to take his place.

The spirit of Elijah is the Fathering Spirit – the desire to see our sons and daughters surpass us. The spirit of Elijah is wanting our children to inherit a double portion, for our ceiling to become their floor. It is the desire to see our children equipped for every good work, spared from our mistakes and secure in their identities. Fascinating that just before God reveals Himself as Father to Israel He raised up a messenger to go before Him to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the [disobedient] children to the wisdom of their [righteous] fathers,” Luke 1. First the physical restoration of fatherhood, then the spiritual revelation of God the Father.

Every leader must carry the spirit of Elijah. Leadership is based on call, sacrifice and service and not on gifting, knowledge or even maturity. If leadership were based on the later, then everyone who is more highly gifted, more highly educated or more mature becomes a threat to our leadership and we will cut them off. That is anti-Christ. Jesus, our head and leader, serves as our platform. He says, “you will do even greater things than me.” Presumably, this is because his leadership accelerates our progress.

Every leader is a father or mother. That means that their desire must be to see the people under their leadership surpass them. A church doesn’t thrive when it can’t function without its leader. A church is thriving when everyone honors the leadership for how they have invested, served and sacrificed so that the “kids” can go places the parents never dreamed of.

The spirit of Elijah is the desire to father/mother, mentor, disciple and grow those under our care. It is a prerequisite for a manifestation and move of God.

Parenting, mentoring, discipleship, small groups – these are not small things. They are the tangible precursors to what God is doing in the Spirit. If we want to live to see the days of revival fire then we must take seriously our call to raise up a generation that can steward and grow what we have worked for.

(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.

Insurance or Inheritance?

Is the Gospel insurance or inheritance?

That was a rhetorical question posed to me recently at a men’s retreat. I’d heard the question before, but it struck me in a new way.

Is the Gospel insurance or inheritance?

If the Gospel is insurance, the benefits pay out when I die. I “pay” my monthly premiums by going to Sunday morning service, having a daily quiet time, tithing and so on so that, when I die, I get to go to Heaven.

But, if the Gospel is an inheritance, then I receive the benefits when someone else dies. That is a profound truth. It is the difference between play-acting (hypocritical) religion and actually being the people of God.

When we treat the Gospel as insurance we tie ourselves to a religious system of “dos” and “don’ts”. It is a Gospel devoid of Grace because we are still trying to be “good enough” to get into Heaven. The result is hypocrisy, playing at being the people of God, but without any interior life change and without any power to actually set people free. All because we are living to get into Heaven when we die.

However, when we realize that the Gospel is an inheritance, everything changes.

When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are reborn through our baptism as the children of God. And if we are sons then we are also heirs. Inheritance is freely receiving what rightfully belongs to someone else. This means that everything that rightly belongs to Jesus (intimate communion with Father, power and authority to establish the Kingdom of God, righteousness, peace and joy, etc. etc.) is now accessible to us.

Inheritance is Good News. Inheritance is Grace. Inheritance means I’m dying to get Heaven into my life.

The reality that the Kingdom of God is breaking in all around us is Good News. And because the Gospel is an inheritance, all the sons and daughters of God (those who have surrendered their lives to God and have been reborn through the waters of baptism) get to play a part in seeing that Kingdom come and God’s will be done on the earth. We get to enter into the family business of setting people free, binding up broken hearts, healing the sick and making demons homeless. That, to me, is far better than some ethereal promise of “heaven” when I die. I don’t want to die and go to heaven – I want to live and see Heaven come to earth.

The Kingdom Now: Pursuing What is Available, Part 2

Worship this morning was really wonderful. God has been visiting us in a really sweet way these past couple of weeks. It isn’t flashy or glamorous, but I feel like our hearts are being recalibrated by the simple truth “God loves me.”

Anyhow, during the question and answer time, a metaphor of pursuing what is available came to me and I wanted to flesh it out a little more here.

After the Rebellion and before the Cross, humanity was separated from God by the Great Wall of Sin. Longer than we could imagine, higher than we could climb and covered with razor wire that would cut to ribbons anyone who tried to climb up on their own, the Great Wall of Sin kept us confined to the kingdom of darkness. We couldn’t save ourselves, we were trapped.

Then came Jesus with the powder-keg of Grace that was the Cross. Jesus’s death and resurrection blew a gaping hole in the wall, making a way for us to come into the Kingdom of God and find our identity as sons and daughters of God.

With that freedom now available to us, wouldn’t it be silly to simply stand at the wall and admire the hole?

I’m eternally grateful for the Cross and all that it accomplished. Without Jesus paying my debt, dying in my place, I would be condemned to a life of darkness and slavery to sin. But the Cross is just a doorway into the Kingdom, a bridge, a hole, whatever metaphor you want to use – it isn’t the whole of the Christian life.

Continuing with our analogy, wouldn’t it be silly to stand just inside or outside the prison and simply admire the hole that Jesus’s sacrifice made? Wouldn’t it make more sense to journey into the Kingdom, seeking out the King who loved us so much so as to send His Son to die for us in order to make a Way for us to come to Him?

I think all of us have to go through a stage on our journey with Jesus where we admire the hole He made through the Cross. We have to weep and mourn. We have to understand that we couldn’t ever do it on our own. We have to realize that our sin, our very nature, was to be rebellious and separated from God and without our Baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we would be doomed. But I think it is a mistake to stay there.

I think Jesus died to set us free so that we could explore, examine and own the Kingdom of God. He wants us to enter into that Promised Land. He wants us to find our inheritance and sons and daughters of the King. He wants us to know and be known by the Lover of Our Souls.

I think NOT pursuing what is available is a tragic mistake. I think it dishonors the sacrifice Jesus made to set us free.

And here is where the analogy breaks down – we can both “explore” and “stay at the hole”. We can discover the Kingdom of God and call people out of darkness in the same hour. In fact, I’d argue that the more we explore, the deeper we go into the Kingdom, the more people will be drawn to find freedom through Jesus and do the same.

So, those are some additional thoughts on this topic. I appreciate you all reading. Have a great one!

I am not paper trained

Every once and awhile I pretend I can fiddle. I break out my instrument and instructional manual and terrorize the neighbors. I was reading up on fiddling the other day and came across a funny insight. Fiddlers have a term for violinists who switch from sheet music to trying to play by ear. They call them “paper trained.”

“Paper trained” violinists never seem to make good fiddlers. They are afraid to make messes, afraid to experiment, afraid of wrong notes. Old time fiddlers couldn’t care less. You hear a tune you like and squeak and squawk until you bang it out as good or better than the original. Old time fiddlers valued spirit and passion, creativity and experimentation. The fiddle is a true pioneer instrument.

I am not a paper trained pastor. I have no seminary degrees, just a burning love for Jesus. I squeak and I squawk. I make messes in the House. I know what the Gospel is supposed to sound like, but no composed sheet music sounds like it.

I have questions. Questions about the Gospel, questions about salvation and questions about the Christian life. I have so many questions that I often feel disqualified to be a pastor. I feel like we should have someone leading who has more answers.

Then I remember that God isn’t a static body of information to be mastered, but a living, moving, breathing Person. And that makes me feel better. If God were a subject to be comprehended, a professor with professional mastery would be the best person to lead. But if God is a Person to be loved, sought out, adored, wooed and wedded, then a lovesick and relentless hunter is what you need.

I’d like to say I am a seeker, but that word carries a foul taste for me with the “seeker sensative” movement. I prefer hunter. I know my quarry – I’ve studied His movements, I know His ways, I’m sensitive to His moods – it is only a matter of time before He is found. And, when I find Him, I think I will be surprised because I think I will find that He is the one who has actually been stalking me.

I can’t wait to be caught by that Lion. What a glorious day that will be. But for now the hunt is on. I carry in my heart the melody of the Gospel of the Kingdom and I will continue to squeak and squawk until it comes out on earth the way I hear it in Heaven.

And it is good to know that my Lion, my Lover, isn’t paper trained either.

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.

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.

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