Holy-Light-Love

In ministry I often stress to people God’s love for them. Many Christians may know about God’s love cognitively but have never experienced the tangible love of the Father pouring down on them. It’s life-changing! It is so easy to forget not only that God loves us but that “God is love“(1 John 4:8).

Yet, God is not just love. Progressive Christians often stress “God is love” in a way that defines love as “permissiveness,” especially when it comes to sexual sin. For some reason, the progressive wing of the Church wants to hold a hard line on sin when it comes to economics and social justice yet advocates a kind of free-for-all when it comes to human sexuality. I heard one progressive writer say it like this, that when it comes to the LGBTQ issues, they are going to err on the side of love because God is love. Bu what is he really saying? He’s saying, when it comes to LGBTQ issues, he wants to err on the side of permissiveness because that is how he defines love. And God is love. This kind of thinking has led to all kinds of deception.

God is love, but He’s not “permissive” love (if we can even call that love), and He’s not only love. Before we read the phrase “God is love” in 1 John 4:8, we read “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” in 1 John 1:5. And before we even get to 1 John 1, we read in 1 Peter 1:15-16 that God is holy. Not only is God holy but, because of His holiness, we are called to holiness. Here’s what it says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

God’s love is never in conflict with God’s light and holiness, just as the Father is never in conflict with the Son and the Spirit. We worship a trinitarian God. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We understand that when people start to stress that God is Father but not Son or Spirit, they wander into heresy. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. The Holy Spirit is God the Spirit. While it is a mystery as to how they are “three-in-one,” the tension of this truth must be held. This same thing is true for God being Love, Light, and Holy.

While the Father, Son, and Spirit each express all three of these realities (love, light, holiness), it does seem like each person of the Godhead has adopted one as their specialty. The Father is all about love. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  

Jesus, the Son, is all about Light. The Gospel of John speaks of Jesus as Light a few different times. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it“(John 1:4-5). “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world“(John 1:9).

The Holy Spirit, God the Spirit, is our source of holiness. His name even starts with “holy.” The apostle Paul clearly contrasts the difference between living by the flesh and living by the Spirit. The Spirit is the One that fosters in us a holy life as we keep in step with the Spirit.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:16-19, 22-23

God’s love is never divorced from His light and holiness. The most loving thing God can do is to invite us out of the darkness and into His Light. The most loving thing God can do is call us to be like Him, be holy as He is holy. God is Love, yes. And, God is Light. And God is Holy. All three of these must be held together or our understanding of God (and love) gets warped.

End of the Pandemic

I had a dream last night that I was boarding a plane with my family and no one in the airport or boarding the plane had a mask on. It was such a weird feeling yet so freeing. I’m not claiming this dream was prophetic, but it was encouraging. In fact, you don’t need to be prophetic to see that this pandemic is coming to an end. Many news outlets aren’t talking about it yet because they don’t want to give people false hope. But if you look at the numbers, it is clear.

I want to encourage you today! The COVID numbers right now in my state (Maryland) are back to where they were at the beginning of June 2020. You remember June, right? We had been trapped inside all spring but in June all the COVID numbers started dropping. Things started opening back up. We all came out of our hibernation. Not only were the numbers good in June, but they kept getting better into July. That is where all the numbers are trending right now, and it’s only the end of February. That’s really good news!

The positivity rate in Maryland is now below 3.5% and trending downward. Vaccinations are up and continue to grow. Think of it this way, if the numbers in March 2021 look like June 2020, then we can assume April this year will match July of 2020. And if our numbers are that low in April, imagine how good May will be. Imagine how low these numbers will be as we start the summer!

Students in Baltimore County Schools are starting hybrid learning in March and April. They are reintroducing the kids in phases, some at the beginning of March, some at the end, and some at the beginning of April. Hybrid means that two days a week some students will be in schools learning in person. Just the psychological boost this will create for children and parents alike will be massive. Kids will be allowed to be kids again, at least in part.

All of this paints the same picture. The end of the pandemic is upon us. It may take a few months to fully arrive, but the beginning of the end is here. More and more people will continue to be vaccinated, especially our most vulnerable populations. COVID will be reduced to what we always wanted it to be, a common virus that we occasionally experience like the flu. This is cause for massive celebration! Be encouraged friend. Get your hopes up!

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:1-5

Pauline

I went in to pray for Katie as I do most Fridays. Nevin, her husband, told me that there was a new aid there today. The plan was to warn her that I was there to pray and that she could join if she wanted. God had different plans for us that day.

Katie is a young wife and mother of two young kids. In 2016 she experienced a traumatic brain injury because of mistakes made by doctors in the ER. They told us she’d never come out of the coma and that she’d be a vegetable the rest of her life. So we prayed. She eventually came out of the coma. She eventually became responsive. They told us she’d never get off of the trach. So we prayed. She now breathes on her own. They told us she’d always need to be in a care facility. So we prayed. She returned to her home in September 2020. She still doesn’t have control over most of her body or her speech. She still can’t eat food. She still needs a lot of care. So we keep praying that God would continue to heal her. (I invite you to pray with us for her complete healing.)

I visit Katie on Fridays to pray with her and for her. Robin, her mom, is usually there with me along with Katie’s 6-year-old daughter. But this time it was just me and Katie’s aid. So far, all of Katie’s aids have been French-speaking west African women who speak with a thick accent. They have all been Christians and all have joined in quietly in the background as we pray for Katie. This day was Pauline’s first time being Katie’s aid.

I introduced myself and asked if she wanted to pray with me. She said that she did and she was emphatic about it. I figured she would pray in the background as the other aids did. I was wrong. As I began praying for Katie, Pauline stood to her feet and raised up her arms. At first she mostly just agreed with what I was praying but I could sense that something was different. Pauline prayed with tremendous faith. The power of God filled the room as she and I prayed together.

Then, as I got toward the end of my prayers, Pauline began to get louder. She stepped over to Katie’s bed, kneeled down, placed her hands on the bed and began to intercede. And I mean REALLY intercede. She wasn’t launching “wishful thinking” kinda prayers. She was dropping bombs in the Spirit. She was praying for Katie, who she had never met before and doesn’t know, with a fervor that was palpable. She was on her knees crying out to the Lord for Katie’s healing. She was praying with power, with boldness, and with faith and trust. It was clear she has spent a LOT of time on her knees. The only thing I could do was kneel down with her.

As she and I prayed back and forth for the next few minutes, it was incredible. She was a true prayer warrior and she was going to battle for Katie–a stranger but a sister in Christ. When we finished and got up off the ground, I gave her a hug. She started the morning an unknown African woman from Cameroon and I an unknown white man from America. But by the end, we experienced the “unity of the Spirit”(Ephesians 4:3). She was family. I was her brother and she was my sister. There is nothing more unifying than the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that bonds people together who are so very different than the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the beauty of the Church!

I asked her about herself and she mentioned that her ministry was intercession. She was a member of a global prayer chain connecting French-speaking Christians from America, Canada, Europe, and west Africa. She also said that, originally, she wasn’t going to accept the job of being Katie’s aid because she lives an hour away. But now she understood why she was there. She was there to pray for Katie. Before I left she promised to put Katie on the international prayer chain. So, now people from all the world are praying for a miracle for Katie. God is good!

During our prayer time together, the Lord showed me something about myself and Pauline. In the world’s system of privilege, I–a white American man–am at the top, and she–an French-speaking African women–is near the bottom. Even in the religious system of the Church, I am a pastor who ministers publicly and she is a medical aid worker who works behind-the-scenes. But God’s Kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom.

It was clear from our prayer time, and from the years she has spent on her knees, that she was the one with special access to the throne room of God. She, not I, had the VIP All-Access pass into the Presence of God that morning. Her faith was so much more powerful than mine, her “privilege” in the Kingdom so much greater than mine. It was an honor for me to pray with her. I was in school and she was the instructor. It’s yet another reminder that “favor” in the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with one’s race, sex, or socio-economic status. It has nothing to do with whether you are a pastor on staff at a church or a medical aid worker. It has everything to do with surrender. It has everything to do with faith.

I hope to pray with Pauline again.

Spectrum of Influence

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:10-12

Scripture is clear that we are attacked by the enemy in various ways and at various levels. But not all demonic activity is the same. What I’ve noticed over the years is that there is a spectrum of demonic activity and influence in a people’s lives. Scripture speaks to this as well. Moving from light to heavy influence, there is the spectrum:

Temptation: this is when we are invited to believe a lie or to do something we know is wrong. The demonic spirit is outside of you whispering invitations and lies to your thoughts and emotions. If we were to use a preposition (which is difficult because we’re talking about things in the spirit realm) it would be “around.” The demonic spirit is circling around you. The image here is flies that are buzzing around your head that you have to swat away. Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it“(1 Corinthians 10:12-14).

Harassment: this when the enemy seems to target one area of our life and launch continual temptations or attacks on that one area. The feeling is that we’re being hounded by temptation. If we were to use a preposition it would be “upon.” The enemy’s attacks are “landing” as it were. The image here is gnats that swarm around your face and get into your eyes. Harassment happens because we have started to believe the lies and may have given in some to the temptation. Scripture says, “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

Attachment: this is when we have given in to temptation and harassment and certain demonic spirits have found a foothold in our life. The feeling is that the demonic spirit is always there cranking what should be a level 3 temptation up to a level 8. If we were to use a preposition it would be “on” or “onto.” The demonic spirit is holding onto you and not letting go. The image here is a vulture who has landed on your back and has its talons dug in.

This is usually the point at which deliverance ministry starts to become necessary. At this point we often need the help of others to get free because we’ve given the enemy access to our life. Scripture says, “do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27), and for good reason. When a demonic spirit gets attached, it starts to wreak havoc in a person’s life. When demons that have been attached leave a person, they often just lift off of them. There usually aren’t a lot of fireworks. The person is usually just left feeling a sense of peace and rest.

Oppression/Stronghold: this is when we have consistently given the enemy access to our life through chronic sin or chronic affirmation of lies, and so the demonic spirits move in. Jesus describes our life like a house (Matthew 12:44). Oppression is when a demonic spirit (or spirits) enter our house and set up camp in at least one room of the house. They don’t own the house, but they occupy one room, one part of our life. If we were to use a preposition it would be “in” or “into.” The spirit is inside, trespassing on a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and needs to be kicked out in Jesus’s name.

At this point we often see demons who have been given so much territory and authority in a person’s life that they are able to take over a person’s body, facial expressions, eyes, and voice when they feel threatened. Demons will stay hidden as long as possible (that is their best defense) until they are confronted with the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit operating through a person. When they realize they are threatened and exposed, they will sometimes try to puff up and take control of the person they occupy. Deliverance ministry is essential for this. Deliverance ministers function as police officers kicking out the trespasser and revoking its right to be there, all in the name of the King. We see Jesus cast out a number of demonic spirits that fit this category.

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

Luke 4:33-35

When demons who have entered a person get kicked out, they often try to create a scene (as we see in Luke 4:35). They can sometimes leave violently as they fight to stay in the person. This can look like dry heaving, vomiting, coughing, shaking, flailing, screeching, or yelling. Their goal in leaving this way to create fear and embarrassment in the person, so we try to limit this reaction as much as possible in Jesus’s name. Interestingly, if the person is on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, we have seen them leave with a yawn (instead of a violent cough or dry heaving).

Heavily Oppressed: this is the same as being oppressed but, in this case, multiple demonic spirits have taken over multiple rooms in a person’s life. If they are a believer in Jesus, we called this heavy oppression. If they do not have the Holy Spirit in them, this would be “possession.” Jesus warned about this possibility in Matthew 12.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. 

Matthew 12:43-45

And we see the reality of this condition with the Gerasene man who was heavily demonized. He “lived in the tombs” and, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones“(Mark 5:3-5). He told Jesus, “My name is Legion,…for we are many” (Mark 5:9).

I have seen this reality firsthand. But in our culture, people who are heavily demonized look normal. They don’t live in caves with chains. They simply need the power of the Holy Spirit and the delegated authority of the name of Jesus to help set them free. They need someone willing to fight for them and love them enough to go to battle against the tormentors in their life. They are beloved children of God who just want to be free.

At the lighter end of this spectrum, mostly what we need to be free is an encounter with truth. But as the influence of the enemy increases in a person’s life, we not only need a truth encounter but a power encounter. Conduits of the power and authority of Jesus must come and kick out the trespassers. Both kinds of encounter (truth and power) are necessary for us to experience freedom. And most of all, we need love. We need to know that no matter how far the enemy has dug into our life, we are still loved and cherished by our Heavenly Father. And our Father wants us to be set free even more than we do!

Unforgivable

I have found that there are consistently two kinds of people that many Christians either don’t want to forgive or struggle to forgive. It might not be who you think.

We have a prayer ministry at our church, so I have prayed for a number of people. We offer extended, scheduled prayer sessions where we pray through really complex issues. During these sessions we always start with forgiveness. Forgiving those who have failed us and hurt us is the most important step in experiencing spiritual freedom and inner healing. And I have seen people pray and forgive people who have done horrendous things to them. Watching God empower people with His grace to forgive others is so incredible!

I have seen people forgive their abusers, their violent ex-lovers, their neglectful parents, and their selfish friends. I have seen people forgive all manner of harm, both physical and emotional. Especially when the Presence of God fills the room, I have seen people forgive in a moment what might seem impossible to forgive in a lifetime. Yet, there are two moments of forgiveness that tend to be particularly difficult for Christians.

Forgiving Oneself:
There are often moments when I or my prayer partner senses that there is a need for the person to forgive themselves. This kind of person usually does a wonderful job forgiving others. Yet, they carry the weight of shame and guilt around their neck like a heavy yoke. Even after they receive God’s forgiveness, the yoke still seems to be there. It isn’t until they stop condemning themselves that their yoke lightens. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). I have seen people who just forgave a number of people without a tear in their eye completely break down and weep as they try to forgive themselves.

We often have to remind this person that they don’t have to be the Holy Spirit. They don’t have to try to enforce conviction in their own lives. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, and He’s really good at it. The Holy Spirit brings conviction without shame and condemnation. When we try to do it, we easily fall pray to perpetual shame and guilt.

Maybe it’s time you forgave yourself. Maybe it’s time you stop judging yourself so harshly. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, clothed in righteousness, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Take some time to forgive yourself. Pray out loud something like this, “In Jesus’s name, I choose to forgive myself for ___________.”

Forgiving the Church (or Church Leadership)
I was at a large conference and I was serving on the ministry team there. We were the ones praying for people during the conference. I was there a day early with the rest of the team for some training. In a group of nearly 50 people, I was one of only 4 or 5 pastors in the room. In one of the sessions, I could sense that many of these amazing men and women–people who were incredibly gifted–had been ignored or silenced by their church leadership. This was especially true of the women in the room and those with prophetic gifts.

I asked our leader for permission to say something to the group. I stood in the center of the room with everyone encircled around me and I asked them for forgiveness on behalf of all the pastors who hurt them. A few other pastors joined me in the middle and we knelt before the whole room. After I was done repenting and asking for forgiveness, a few of the people who had been hurt declared forgiveness out loud to us pastors. It was an incredible moment! Something unlocked. I received some testimonies later where people said that they never again interacted with their church leadership the same. Their willingness to forgive shifted something.

So many people will forgive anyone and everything but the Church. They walk around daily with resentment and bitterness toward the Church and toward church leadership. These same people who can forgive horrendous abuse sometimes can’t seem to forgive smaller offenses they have experienced in church. Their bitterness and resentment start to paint the church in awful ways. They grow distant from God because they refuse to forgive the church for making mistakes. For these folks, everyone else is allowed to make mistakes, but not the Church and definitely not church leadership. They think they are holding the church accountable, but really they are just holding on to unforgiveness. And it ends up imprisoning the person in a cage of resentments and offenses.

Maybe you need to forgive the Church in general for decisions it has made. Or maybe you need to forgive particular people in the church who have offended you or harmed you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. It just means you’re acknowledging that you are not their judge and jury. God alone is the Just Judge and you are surrendering everything to Him. You are giving up your right to bring revenge and punishment, and you are laying down your bitterness and resentment. Unforgiveness is so toxic. Forgiveness is when we choose to bless those who have hurt us instead of cursing them. The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers“(Galatians 6:10). If there is anyone we should get good at forgiving, it is the “family of believers.”

Who do you need to forgive? Don’t let unforgiveness toward the Church imprison your life with Christ. Don’t allow the enemy to bury you under a pile of anger and resentment. Forgiveness is your way out if you’re willing to take it.

Fire of the Lord

Nearly everyone who has sat around a campfire has experienced the mesmerizing nature of fire. Something about it not only draws our attention but keeps our attention. Our bodies are drawn to the heat. Our eyes are drawn to the light and the colors. But it seems like there is more going on. It seems as if our very souls are drawn to it. We can’t explain it but there is a peace that comes over us as we gaze at the fire. There is a wonder to it all even though we’ve seen it a hundred times. So much more than just the chemical reaction of combustion, fire seems to have a life to it.

When God’s Presence invades our material world, He often shows up as fire. This started in the Old Testament:
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light“(Exodus 13:21). “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire” (Exodus 19:18). “On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire“(Numbers 9:15-16).

This continued in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit was sent to followers of Jesus:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…”(Acts 2:1-4).

When John encountered the risen Jesus, John described Him as surrounded by light and fire with eyes blazing with fire: “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters“(Revelation 1:12-15).

So maybe it is not that God is like fire. Maybe we have it backwards. Could it be that fire is like God? Could it be that what captivates us so much about fire is that a part of us knows it is like our Creator? The light, the colors, the heat, they are a shadow of what we’ll experience when we stand before God in the fullness of His Presence.

Sometimes when I pray for people and the Holy Spirit comes in power, I get really hot. I start sweating because the heat gets so intense. Other times, the person I am praying for gets hot. They start sweating. They testify to feeling heat either all over their body or in the one area that we are praying for. Maybe we experience the heat because the fire of the Spirit is present and our bodies are responding to it. The temperature in the room hasn’t changed. But there is a fire in the spirit realm and our bodies can sense it.

The fire of the Lord is so much more than just a metaphor. It is real. It is tangible. It can be experienced and felt. Every fire gives off light and heat. The Presence of the Lord does the same. And it is more captivating than any campfire we’ll ever experience.

Your Faith Has Healed You

There is so much misunderstanding around the connection between faith and healing. What really confuses people is when Jesus tells the person who got healed that their faith has healed them. There are three main incidents of this in the Gospel accounts.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 5:34

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:52

Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:19

The first one is with the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She touches the edge of Jesus’s robe and is healed. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” The second one is blind Bartimaeus. After calling out to Jesus, Bartimaeus is invited over to Him. Jesus heals him and says, “your faith has healed you.”

The third incident is with 10 lepers that approach Jesus for healing. They travel together as a leper colony and together ask Jesus to heal them. He sends them away to show themselves to the priests, and “as they went” they were completely healed from leprosy. Even though all of them were physically healed, only one returns to give thanks. He is a Samaritan. Jesus tells this one that his faith has made him well. The word used here in the Greek is sozo meaning saved, healed, and delivered. More than just physically healed, this man who returned is healed at a deeper level, at the level of his soul, because of his faith.

What our western mindsets do with these accounts is to reverse the logic. We wrongly assume that if their faith healed them, then if someone isn’t healed it is because of a lack of faith on the part of the person seeking healing. This misunderstanding has been perpetuated in some corners of the charismatic tradition and has led to some really toxic practices in the church. But we must take these incidents together with other healings we see Jesus perform.

In the Gospel of Mark we see Jesus heal a man with leprosy who isn’t sure Jesus is willing to heal him. The man prefaced his request for healing with, “If you are willing…” (Mark 1:40-41). In the same Gospel we see a father bring his son to Jesus asking for healing and deliverance. This father prefaced his request with “…if you can do anything…” (Mark 9:22-24). This dad isn’t even sure Jesus is able to do anything. Neither one of these guys show tremendous faith, and yet Jesus still heals.

We also see a couple times where Jesus heals someone not because of the faith of the person needing healing but because of the faith of a friend or family member. When Jesus heals the paralyzed man on the mat who is lowered through the roof, it is because Jesus sees “their faith,” meaning the faith of the friends lowering their friend through the roof (Luke 5:20). When Jesus heals and delivers the daughter of the Canaanite woman, he acknowledges the mother’s faith, not the daughter’s (Matthew 15:28). When the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant who is paralyzed and suffering, Jesus did so based on the centurion’s faith, not the servant’s (Matthew 8:10).

What we learn from these accounts is that faith, among other things, is a conduit of healing power. Yet, while it seems that faith has to be somewhere in the equation, it doesn’t have to be found in the person asking for healing. In cases where people have little or no faith, Jesus himself has plenty of faith to act as the conduit of healing. In other cases, the friend or family member provide more than enough faith to be a conduit for healing.

So, let’s return to the times Jesus said, “your faith has healed you.” What is Jesus really saying? I believe Jesus is giving a word of encouragement to the person who is seeking the healing. I believe Jesus is saying something like this, “When you came to ask for healing, I didn’t have to use any of my own faith as a conduit for healing. And it didn’t require any faith from your friends or family. When you came, you came with so much faith that your own faith was enough to be a conduit of your own healing!” Taken this way, we can see that Jesus’s words are mean to empower. (Imagine how empowering those words would be to a person who lived in a religious culture that assumed their physical ailment was a result of a lack of faithfulness on their part–see Luke 13:1-5.)

Let me conclude by stating clearly that faith is not the only variable impacting whether someone experiences healing. There are lots of variables, some of them mysterious and others unknowable. But what we learn from scripture is that of all the variables that are involved in healing, faith is one of them. Not the only one, but one nonetheless. And while it needs to be present, it doesn’t have to be present in the person needing healing. It can be present in the person praying. It can be present in a family member or friend. It just needs to be in the room somewhere and that’s all God needs to use it as a conduit for healing.

Powerless

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will be awful and will go from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13). He also described these people in this way, “having a form of godliness but denying its power”(2 Timothy 3:5).

Does this not describe much of the Church, especially in America? Powerless. We often look like those big beautiful Texas homes that were hit hard by the winter storm recently. Looking good on the outside…frozen and cold on the inside with either no water or contaminated water flowing internally.

We must operate in the power of the Holy Spirit or we’ll never be able to live this Christian life we are called to. We can’t do it on our own strength. Power is not optional! It’s an absolute essential! We need His power to love our enemy, forgive those who hurt us, and serve the outsider. We need His power to release healing, deliverance, and miracles. We can’t do it in our own strength.

We were never meant to be a powerless Church. And the global church–especially in places like Brazil, China, Pakistan, Mozambique–seems to understand this truth better than we do. Though they are often persecuted, they operate in tremendous power.

Forgive Again

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

Colossians 3:13

Sometimes we need to forgive more than once. One act of forgiveness may cover a small offense but a deep hurt will likely require more. Forgiveness can be both an act and a process. We forgive the initial act that cut us so deeply. Then we must continue in the process of forgiveness as we deal with the consequences of that initial act. This requires ongoing forgiveness.

The enemy loves to try to sneak resentment back into our hearts even after we feel like we’ve forgiven. First, he’ll try to get us to believe that we haven’t actually forgiven the initial offense. This is a lie. This is intended to bring shame and condemnation. It is very likely that you have, actually, forgiven. But now it is not about the initial act anymore. It is now about forgiving the fall out from that hurt. This requires an ongoing attitude and posture of forgiveness.

Next, the enemy will try to convince you that because you have forgiven, you don’t need to forgive again. This is a half-truth. Yes, you have forgiven. That much is true. But you must continue in forgiveness. And sometimes this requires praying out loud, again, a declaration that you forgive that person. Yes, you’ve already done that, but you are doing it again so that the little residual resentments have no place to plant their deceptive seeds of bitterness.

Paul tells the Colossians to “forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Did the Lord forgive once and for all at the cross? Yes! Yet, does He continue to forgive each time we confess our sins? Yes! Both are necessary.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Our initial act of forgiveness is like tilling the garden soil, breaking up the ground of our hearts, so that the Lord can plant things that will bear the good fruit of the Spirit. Our ongoing process of forgiving is like weeding the garden. It is what will prevent any resentment from contaminating our heart and bearing the fruit of bitterness and coldness.

Invitation: There is More

Throughout our journey with Jesus, He will set up forks in the road with a sign posted that says, “There is more!” We will have to decide to turn down the road to “more” or not. “There is more” is not an accusation but an invitation. When Jesus says, “There is more,” He’s not saying, “You are less.” Unfortunately, this is what some people hear. No, this is an invitation to experience a new province of His Kingdom that we haven’t seen before.

In seminary, I came upon a “There is More” fork in the road with a smaller sign underneath that read, “Life Together.” It was an invitation into deep community with two brothers in Christ. I could have walked away, but I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

After 6 years of pastoral ministry, I came upon a “There is More” fork in the road with a smaller sign underneath that read, “Social Justice: Human trafficking.” It was invitation to help start an organization that would help reach children who were burning in God’s heart–children who were being trafficked. I could have walked away, but I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

After 10 years of pastoral ministry, I came upon a “There is More” fork in the road with a smaller sign underneath that read, “Supernatural Kingdom.” It was an invitation to receive and engage in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I could have walked away, but I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

One of the cries of God’s heart is, “There is More!” There is more to His Kingdom. There is more of His Kingdom that we haven’t seen yet. Are you willing to embrace the “more?” Are you willing to say, “Yes?” Are you willing to pursue God for the “more” that He has for you? In the end, the “more” isn’t just about us. It is about those who will be impacted through us because we said “yes” to the “more.”