A Temple

I don’t think it is coincidence that there were three main parts to the Temple and there are three main parts to a person. The Temple had 1) the outer courts, 2) the Holy Place and 3) the Most Holy Place. Each person has 1) a body, 2) a soul and 3) a spirit. In the outer court of the Temple, blood and water brought cleansing. When Jesus gave his body on the cross, blood and water flowed from His body cleansing us from all sin.

In the Holy Place were the lampstands for light, the Bread of Presence, and the altar of incense. Our soul is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. And the Most Holy Place was the dwelling place of the Lord. Our spirit becomes unified with the Holy Spirit as we give our life to Jesus and the Spirit comes to dwell in us (1 Corinthians 6:17). We become Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was torn in two. The point was not only that we now had access to the Presence of God but that the Presence of God wanted to bust out. The Holy Spirit wants to do the same. He doesn’t want to just dwell with your spirit, he wants you to be “filled with the Spirit”(Ephesians 5:18.) Meaning, he wants to completely saturate your soul and body.

He wants to renew your mind so that it brings light. He wants to see your will surrendered to the will of God so that it can become food/bread for your soul. Jesus said his food was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). The Spirit wants to completely invade your emotions so that the cry of your heart aligns with God’s. Then he wants to show up in your body, purifying it with His Presence, so that it becomes an instrument of righteousness (Romans 6:13).

The Holy Spirit wants to do to your whole person what God did to Solomon’s Temple when it was dedicated. “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped”(2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

The Point of It All

God wanted to be with His people, but they remained at a distance (Exodus 20:18-21). So God had the people create the tabernacle and the Levitical system so He could safely be present with them and they with Him. This became a permanent arrangement with the building of the Temple. The Temple became the place where heaven and earth overlapped, the center of the Venn diagram between two worlds.

When the old Temple and the old covenant was destroyed, God established a new covenant and a new Temple, Jesus himself. Jesus was the Word of God that had come to “tabernacle” among us (John 1:14). Jesus told the people that if “this Temple” was destroyed, he would raise it again in three days (John 2:19). And He did.

Though Jesus was “God with us,” He didn’t stop there. He didn’t just become a new Temple, a new place where heaven and earth overlapped. God’s next move was extraordinary! After ascending to heaven, Jesus sent His Spirit and made us the new Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). When we surrender our life to Jesus, the Spirit comes to dwell inside us and we become the new center of the Venn diagram between two worlds. We are where heaven and earth overlap! You, follower of Jesus, are where the Kingdom of God breaks into this world!

And this brings fulfillment to humanity’s original purpose. The reason God commanded that no graven images be made (Exodus 20:4) was because He had already made humanity “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). So we were perfectly designed to be Temples of the Living God. We just needed cleansed and made new, which Jesus did on the cross and in His resurrection. And all of this simply because God wanted to be with us, His people.

And He’s still not done. At the end of Revelation, we read about the conclusion of all of history. Here’s how the story ends, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”(Revelation 21:3). This was the point of it all!

Uncertainty & Unbelief

In the church today, especially progressive wings of the church, it is all too popular to conflate uncertainty with unbelief. It all gets muddled under the word “doubt.” Christians these days like to say things like, “It’s okay to doubt. It’s normal and natural.” But do they mean, “It is okay to be uncertain?” Or do they mean, “It is okay to live in unbelief?”

Uncertainty is a normal and natural part of a life of faith. Unbelief, however, is a toxic poison to the life of faith. So what kind of “doubt” are we talking about? The Bible is really clear about the toxicity of unbelief.

In Luke 1, when Zechariah didn’t believe the word of God spoken by the angel Gabriel (who appeared to him in the Temple), Gabriel didn’t say, “It’s okay…doubt (meaning unbelief) is a normal part of the Christian life. I’ll celebrate your deconstruction process and give you space to find your truth.” Can you imagine?

Nope.

Gabriel was stern with Zechariah and said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words…”(Luke 1:19-20).

Unbelief is so toxic that Gabriel would rather silence Zechariah than have him spread his unbelief through his spoken words.

Christmas Movies

Missy and I are finding ourselves weary of the “lessons” of so many Christmas movies. Many movies have at least one kid filled with questions and doubts about Santa who is then told to “just believe.” But the child at home watching this movie learns to “believe” just in time to discover their belief in Santa to be false.

What’s the message here? It doesn’t matter if your belief is true, just believe in something? Belief in something is the virtue, not truth? This message is toxic to real faith.

Or what about the movies that have some greedy character that is all about the presents they get at Christmas. Then the lesson at the end of the movie is that Christmas isn’t about the gifts but about….wait for it….family and loved ones. Really? But what about the kids who have a dysfunctional family? How are they supposed to watch that movie?

The truth is that Christmas is about the gift of Jesus, not a generic sense of family. And no matter our family situation, Jesus loves us and is God with us, Immanuel. That’s the good news!

Or what about the movies that tell kids that if they are good enough, they will get lots of presents from Santa. So the kids whose parents went through a rough year this year–who lost their jobs or their business or their health–what are they supposed to think when only a few gifts are around the tree? Is the lesson that they weren’t good enough?

We are spreading the lie of performance mentality with all of this, or worse, the lie of works righteousness. Performance mentality says that if you perform well (in life, in school, at home) then everything will work out. And if you don’t perform well, it won’t. So if things are bad, push harder to perform better. Works righteousness is similar. It says that if you do everything correctly, you will be in right standing with God and He will bless you. Both of these are lies. We live by grace through faith and not by our performance or our works.

I know these are just silly movies, but the messages in so many of these movies are horrendous. Missy and I are having a harder and harder time sitting through them without getting a little nauseous. Sometimes I just want to be a Grinch. I want to turn off the delightful little Christmas movie midway through and tell my kids, “Don’t believe anything you just saw. It’s crap. It’s not true.” And maybe one day soon I will.

Hunting on the Frontier (Part 2)

Another lesson I learned from hunting was how different it is to shoot a rifle compared to a shotgun. These are two different kinds of shooting for two different kinds of targets.

When you shoot a rifle, you are aiming at a large animal (or target) hundreds of yards away. You are looking through a scope that will get off target with the slightest movement. Even your breathing will mess up your shot. So, with a rifle, the goal is to calm everything down. Even pulling too quickly on the trigger will mess up the shot. It must be squeezed carefully.

I didn’t realize how much my heart would race right before I pulled the trigger (and this was when I was aiming at a paper target). I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep the crosshairs of the scope directly on the bullseye. First, your scope must be calibrated accurately. And, in order for an accurate shot, you have to intensionally exhale slowly and calm your heart rate. The extent to which you are able to achieve a kind of calm and peace is the extent to which your shot will be on target.

The spiritual applications here are obvious and many. When we live in panic, fear, and anxiety, it is nearly impossible to live “on target” in the Christian life. The peace of Christ is what helps us see clearly what we’re aiming at. Our internal world greatly impacts our external world.

And if we are believing lies about ourself, the world, or God Himself, we need a recalibration of truth from His word. We can be “at peace” all we want, but if the scope of our understanding is skewed, every shot will be a little off. We see this in abundance in our culture. Many are claiming to have found “inner peace” but their life is still off target. They need a recalibration of truth.

Then there is the shotgun!

I found that shooting a shotgun was completely the opposite experience from a rifle. Shotguns are often used for bird hunting–for closer, smaller targets that are moving quickly. Whereas with a rifle the shooter has to be still and has to wait for the deer to be still, with a shotgun everything is moving–the target and the shooter.

We spent an afternoon shooting clay pigeons with various shotguns. At first I tried to use the sights on the shotgun to aim at the clay discs flying through the air. That didn’t work. I was trying to apply lessons learned on the rifle to the shotgun. But when I tried to use the sights, I probably missed 9 out of 10 shots. I knew I had to switch up my technique if I was going to hit anything.

Instead of “aiming” I started to just “feel” the shot. I stopped using the sights and, instead, kept my eyes on the clay disc. This allowed me to move the barrel of the gun with the movement of the disc. I started to get a feel for how the disc was moving and where it was going. When I shot this way, I probably hit 8 out of 10 shots. It also helps that shotgun shells shoot a spread of BBs instead of a single bullet. They give up distance and power for a larger spread downrange.

Again, more lessons learned. While rifle shooting felt more like obedience to the clear directives in Scripture–a clear bullseye in a controlled environment, shooting a shotgun felt more like the obedience that comes from following the prompting of the Spirit–on the fly and in the moment.

The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” and “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 & 25). There is a certain intuition, a certain feel, to following the Spirit at times. It is relational. There is movement to it. It can be a moving target, so obedience requires motion. It’s often less about an exact bullseye way off in the distance and more about sensing the movement of something flying through the air.

In hunting, both the rifle and the shotgun are necessary. Both have different purposes and uses. This is true for the Christian life as well. We need to enter a place of peace and calm and be able to live out the clear directives of Scripture. We also need to be able to follow the spontaneous promptings of the Spirit. We need a disciplined life that consistently keeps the life of Jesus in our crosshairs. We also don’t avoid sin by striving to keep the law but by keeping in step with the Spirit. Both are necessary elements in our life with Christ. Both are what is needed in order to stay on target.

Who We’re Becoming

“All of us experience ‘dysphoria’ between who we are and who God created us to be. The answer to resolving this dysphoria cannot be found by looking within yourself or to others for approval; it can only be found by uniting yourself to Christ.”

Becket Cook (author of A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption)

Becket Cook had a radical conversion to Christ. You can read more of his own story here. I’ll give you just a little bit of it in his own words. Cook writes:

With a highly successful career as a production designer in the fashion world, I lived as a fully engaged gay man in Hollywood. I had many boyfriends over the years; attended Pride Parades in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York; and marched in innumerable rallies for gay-marriage equality. My identity as a gay man was immutable, or so I thought.

But in 2009 I experienced something extraordinary: I had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ while attending an evangelical church in Hollywood for the first time (I was invited by a stranger I met at a coffee shop the week before). I walked into the church a gay atheist and walked out two hours later a born-again Christian, in love with Jesus. I was stunned by this reversal. Since then, I no longer identify as gay but rather choose to be celibate because I believe God’s plan and purpose—revealed in the Bible—is authoritative, true, and good. 

Surrendering my sexuality hasn’t been easy. I still struggle with vestiges of same-sex attraction, but denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus is an honor. Any struggles I experience pale in comparison to the joy of a personal relationship with the one who created me and gives my life meaning. My identity is no longer in my sexuality; it’s in Jesus. 

Becket Cook from “Why Hollywood Praises Elliot Page (and Blacklists Me)”

What struck me about Cook’s life-story was how we can all relate to it. We all experience a gap between who we were created to be and who we are now. As followers of Christ, we all feel that gap at various times in various ways. The answer is not to “look within yourself” to find the answer to this gap but to look to Christ and find our identity in Him. The answer is not to look to others for approval or, worse, to demand that others approve. The answer is to surrender yet again to Jesus.

I have found that growth in the Christian life feels like two of yourselves running around a track. The version of yourself out in front is who you were created to be in Christ. The one behind is who you are today in your daily actions. There are moments where your present self seems to catch up to who you were created to be. That gap gets smaller and smaller. And just as you think you are about to catch yourself on the straightaway, Jesus has you round the turn. When you look up from the turn you realize the gap is now even larger than it was before. What just happened?

This moment feels like failure, but it is actually a step of growth. You’ve entered a new chapter. You’ve turned a page. You are now mature enough to handle Jesus showing you another layer that needs to mature. He couldn’t show it to you all at once. If He showed you the full distance between both versions of yourself, it would be crushing. Instead, He lets us grow in one area and in one season. He lets us approach who we were created to be. Then, as the gap shrinks, He reveals a new layer, a new chapter of growth that must happen for us to become who we were meant to be.

If we aren’t aware of the nature of this process, we might get discouraged. We might throw our hands up and abandon our pursuit of who we were created to be in Christ. We might stop running our race, sit down, and start to “look within” to find ourselves. This, unfortunately, is when the enemy pounces on us with deception and confusion. This is when people get all tangled up in false identities, thinking they are something they are not.

It is a truly humbling experience to grow and grow and grow only to have God reveal an area that is still immature, still unchanged by the character of Christ. But even in the humbling, the Holy Spirit is transforming us from the inside out. We will one day catch ourselves on that track. But it won’t be until we are perfectly glorified in eternity. Until then, our job is to keep running the race marked out for us. Every time the gap that was closing suddenly widens, we need not be discouraged. We need, instead, to see it as a new chapter, a new invitation to become all that God has intended us to be.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14

Hunting on the Frontier

I went with my oldest son out to west Texas on a hunting trip. It was our first. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate my son’s graduation from elementary school and entrance into the preteen years. It was a coming-of-age trip. While there, we had a morning hunt and an evening hunt each day. We awoke at 5:45am to get to the deer stands before first light. In the evenings we were at the stands before sundown. This means for four days we saw every sunrise and every sunset on the west Texas horizon. It was amazing.

One lesson I learned from this experience was that frontier living is different than living in the comforts of home. What might feel “extreme” back home is a necessity out there. For instance, all the hunting gear seems unnecessary when you are purchasing it back home. But when you are sitting in 27 degree weather for two hours, in the dark, before the sun rises, you discover the true purpose of all that gear.

One might think, “Why do we need boots and hunting pants? Won’t shoes and normal pants be sufficient?” And the answer is, “No.” But you don’t realize it until you’re hiking through west Texas terrain full of spikes, thorns, and cactus. It’s not a walk in the woods out there. On the frontier, everything is trying to sting you, stick you, or bite you. Boots and hunting pants protect you from constantly being stuck.

And who really needs a sidearm when you have a rifle? It seems like overkill produced by gun-happy NRA advocates. It seems excessive back home. But it’s not out there. There are mountain lions and black bear that roam the same area as the deer. When you are hiking through the dark to and from a deer stand, it’s difficult to have a rifle ready if you were to be attacked. A sidearm protects you from these predators. On our trip we saw a momma black bear and her cub getting into one of the corn feeders. We had to go chase it off and shoot guns in the air to scare it. The danger from these animals is real out there and the need for a sidearm is equally real.

Likewise, cruising around the Target parking lot does not exactly demand 4-wheel drive vehicles. But out on the frontier, 4-wheel drive vehicles are the only ones that will make it over the rocky mountain roads. On the way to the hunting lease, one goes from highway (70 mph), to gravel roads made of caliche (25 mph), to rocky trails (5 mph). Having a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not an attempt to flaunt ego, it is an absolute necessity for getting anywhere.

I saw this pattern over and over again. What seems excessive back in the comfort of suburban life was needed for survival in the terrain of the frontier of west Texas. And it got me thinking about how this is true in the Christian faith. If you dare to live on the frontier of faith, entering the untamed wilds of the kingdom of darkness in order to bring about the Kingdom of God, you will do things, say things, and live in a way that seem extreme to those satisfied to stay in their comfort zone of faith. If you want to plunder the kingdom of darkness, one must be willing to live in the borderlands, the badlands, where extreme faith, radical power, and pioneering risk-taking are not the exception but the rule. What seems like extreme faith is really just faith on the frontier. What seems like extreme obedience is really just obedience on the frontier. They are what is necessary to live, survive, and thrive.

No One Righteous

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:22-24

Self-righteousness in any part of our life is a lack of perspective. It’s a lack of vision for what is reality. It’s the inability to see from God’s perspective. Regardless of where we think we are in regard to personal sin, all of us are stained by corporate sin. Each of us are participants in sin we can’t even see. We are daily in need of God’s grace and mercy. We’ve all fallen short.

Think of it this way. We all throw away trash every day and yet the plastics in that trash are hurting our planet. We don’t see the piles of trash that gather on the earth. We don’t see the mountains of trash floating in the sea. We don’t think of it as sin because we try to recycle. But we can’t get away from it.

Or the clothes that we wear. Many items of clothes that we own came out of sweatshops in other countries where human rights were ignored and working conditions are terrible. Our purchase of that item helped to perpetuate that situation. We don’t think of it as corporate sin. We aren’t meaning to hurt anyone. But there is a system in place that we can’t avoid.

I ran into this reality when I helped to start a nonprofit that fights human trafficking. We started with the mindset that “those guys” were the bad guys. Then, the more you learn, you realize that it is a tangled web that many of us are involved in. If you’ve ever looked at pornography on the internet, you’ve put money in the pockets of human traffickers. And many trafficking victims come out of the foster care system. Suddenly the problem goes beyond a few bad guys out there and to the reality of a broken system that has stained nearly all of our hands.

Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the weeds growing up together (Matthew 13:24-30). This is the truth of corporate sin in our world. The bad grows up along with the good. Nuclear science has brought us cancer treatments and X-rays that have helped hundreds of thousands of people. It has also brought us the atomic bomb and nuclear power plant leaks. Running a car on a battery hopes to reduce fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions. However, mining for the lithium and other minerals it takes to build such a battery rapes the land. And charging the battery often means connecting it to a electrical grid supplied by a coal burning power plant. The wheat and weeds grow up together.

So when it comes to corporate sin, we do the best we can to make change in the world. But self-righteousness has to go. For instance, we can’t get self-righteous about not using a straw in our coffee. Although it may help the environment, the bean that made the coffee often comes from a farm that uses harsh chemicals and has poor working conditions. We can fight abortion, as we should. But we can’t get self-righteous about it because our kids may have gotten protected with a vaccine that used aborted fetal cells for its production. All of our hands are stained with corporate sin. This is what Paul was saying to the Romans when he wrote this:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”

Romans 3:10-12

This is why any form of self-righeousness is foolishness. We are all contaminated by sin even before we mention any personal sin. So far I’ve only address corporate sin. Imagine what God sees. He sees a world stained by sin in every direction. What is he looking for? He’s looking for people who have humbled themselves. He’s looking for lifestyles of repentance. He’s looking for people who have come to an awareness that they are involved in sin that they don’t even know about. God is looking past our actions and looking at our heart. This is the point that Jesus was trying to drive home in the Sermon on the Mount.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 

Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 38-39

So while we do attempt to live righteously, we do pursue holiness, we do so not from a place of self-righteousness but from a place of complete dependence on the grace and mercy of God. We do so completely aware that we have stained hands and contaminated lives that daily engage in systems of this world that are broken.

Self-righteousness can be found both on the Right and the Left of the political spectrum. Both political parties are rife with it. Humility must be the hallmark of the people of God even while the world around us rages on with arrogance, self-importance, and self-righteous indignation. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. And the systems of the world that we participate in are unapologetically and unavoidably involved in corporate sin. We are all stained by sin, yet, as followers of Jesus, we are also saved by grace. With this reality in mind, let’s keep a humble heart and a continual posture of repentance.

The Laws of the Kingdom

…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

All throughout the created world we see laws at work that counteract each other. One law of nature seems to be greater than other laws. For instance, the law of centrifugal force should mean that the rotation of the earth flings us all out into space. Centrifugal force is that feeling of being pushed to the outside anytime you spin around something. It’s that feeling of sliding to the far side of the car when it’s going around a turn.

But the reason we don’t fly out into space is because of the law of gravity. The force of gravity is stronger than the centrifugal force. Another way of saying this is that the law of gravity is above or greater than the law of centrifugal force. It doesn’t make the lesser law less true. It just means the greater law takes precedence. Both laws are true but the greater law wins out.

(Fun fact: the centrifugal force is greatest on the earth at the equator. So gravity is counteracted the most at the equator. Meaning, you are a little lighter at the equator–by about 10 oz or so–than you are at the poles of the earth.)

We see this same principle at work in the judicial system. There are many laws on the books. But in the courtroom the judge often has to decide between two competing laws. This is especially true with the Supreme Court. Both laws are true. Both laws are there for a reason. But often one law takes precedence over another law in a particular case. For instance, a federal law will take precedence over a state law if they are in conflict with each other.

These examples are simply reflections of what is true in God’s Kingdom. In the spirit realm, there are laws at work. And some laws supersede other laws. Romans 8 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death. Both laws are true, but one is greater than the other. It is true that sin leads to death. It is true that because of our sin we deserve spiritual death. But a new law was introduced in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus. And having been given the Spirit, we are now set free from the law of sin and death. There is a greater law at work.

Paul describes a hierarchy of Kingdom laws in Galatians 5. The law of freedom stands over the law of the Spirit of life. Yet, the law of the Spirit of life stands over law of sin and death. Paul warns the Galatians to use their freedom to submit to the Spirit rather than to sin. And if we use our freedom to submit to the Spirit, we will walk in the Spirit and the will keep us from sin.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

Galatians 5:1, 13, 16

The reason I am pointing out that some laws in God’s Kingdom supersede and take precedent over other laws is to highlight an important truth about healing. This is something the Lord has shown me over the last few weeks. If we want to operate in healing gifts and if we want to pray and see people healed, we need to remember this truth.

What the Lord showed me was that, because the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death, people can be healed of disease. We might call this the law of healing. But He also showed me that the law of freedom (or what we would call free will) is greater than the law of healing in God’s Kingdom.

Let’s break this down.

First, the law of healing is the general principle that God wants people to be healed in their bodies. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the will of God on earth. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. He was God in the flesh. Every single person who came to Jesus and asked for healing got healed. Jesus never turned someone away in the Gospels and said, “You need to be sick so the Father can teach you a lesson.” No. Scripture says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).

The life of the Spirit in Jesus was transmitted to those who had illness. Disease is a product of sin and death in the world. The law of the Spirit of life overcame the law of sin and death. It is clear from the life of Jesus that God’s will is to heal disease and sickness.

The obvious question becomes, “Why then isn’t everyone healed?” The same kind of question could be asked about why then isn’t everyone saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 states very plainly that God our Savior, “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone saved. But not all are saved. Why? Free will. The law of freedom gives people a choice to trust in Jesus or not.

So how does the law of freedom sometimes supersede or have precedence over the law of healing?

One example is a testimony from a woman named Joanne Moody. She wanted to be healed and believed in healing and got lots of prayer for healing but for years was not healed of her chronic pain. It wasn’t until a man spiritually discerned that she had made agreements with certain demonic spirits (spirits of death, spirits of suicide, etc) that anything changed. When the man discerned the truth and led Joanne to break those agreements (with her own free will) only then did prayer for healing actually heal her body. She was completely and totally healed. [See her testimony here.]

She had made agreements with the enemy that were blocking her healing. She was free to make those agreements because of the law of freedom (free will). Only when she renounced those agreements and had those demonic spirits cast out of her did her healing come. In other words, her free will had to cooperate with what God was doing in order for the law of healing to take center stage.

Another part of Joanne Moody’s testimony is that she almost died on an operating table. When this happened, her spirit floated above her body and the Lord came into the room. He gave her a choice to go home and be with the Lord or to go back into her body. She admits that she wanted to go be with the Lord, but she choose, for her son’s sake, to go back into her body riddled with pain.

Think about that scenario for a second. All these people were praying for her not to die. All these people were praying for her to come back and be healed. God wanted her to be healed. Yet, ultimately, God gave her a choice. The law of freedom took precedence over the law of healing. Had she freely chosen to go home to be with the Lord, she would not have been healed. She would have died right there on the operating table.

We see this with Jesus and the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). They cried out for physical healing. Jesus then gave them a command to go show themselves to the priests. They had the freedom as to whether they were going to obey. If they didn’t go, they wouldn’t be healed. If they did go, they would be healed. The law of freedom takes precedence over the law of healing.

They all decided to go, and “as they went” they were all healed. Before they even got to the priests, Jesus healed them. So now all of them were physically healed from leprosy but only one came back to thank Jesus, and he was apparently a “Samaritan.”

Jesus responded to the gratitude in the man’s heart (his free will choice to return and give thanks) by granting the man even more healing. Jesus said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” That word in the Greek translated as “made you well” is the word for saved (sozo). The man was already physically healed; Jesus then healed him at a much deeper level. The other nine men who were also physically healed made their own free will choice not to return and give thanks, and they did not receive the deeper healing.

What’s the point?

The point is that the law of freedom sometimes takes precedence over the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Does God want to heal? Yes! Emphatically, yes! This is what we see over and over again in the life of Jesus. Yet, it seems, there is a greater law that is often at work. God does want to heal but more than that He wants us to have our God given freedom of will. Without freedom there is no love. In order for love to be real it must be free. The law of love is dependent on the law of freedom. And so often, in order to see healing, we must freely cooperate with what God is doing and saying.

This is not to say that this is the only reason people are not healed. Don’t hear me say that. There are lots of variables involved with someone getting healed and many of those variables are a mystery. What I am saying is that one of the variables is the reality that the law of freedom supersedes the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Our freedom is one of God’s top priorities and we must use that freedom to cooperate with Him. Learning to cooperating with God in healing is part of the journey of the Christian life.

We must explore this truth more. I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg. How does our freedom and our free choices interact with healing? How can we engage the law of freedom in such a way that it enacts the law of healing? There is much more that we have to learn about this truth.

Contemplative Silence or Spiritual Deafness

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voiceHe calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 

John 10:1-5

I spent years thinking I was engaging in the contemplative silence of God, as if to spend time with God was mainly about embracing His silence and learning to be silent myself. But I was mistaking my spiritual deafness for God’s silence. Many Christians, especially progressive Christians trying to embrace contemplative Christianity, are making this same mistake. God likes to talk. Jesus’s own nickname is Word of God. God is not perpetually silent. How many times does Genesis 1 say, “And God said…”? God is speaking all the time. Most of the time, we just haven’t learned how to hear Him (or haven’t taken the time to).

Silence with God is like arguments between spouses. When I hear married couples say, “We never fight!” I get worried. Never fighting is awesome if you are an older couple who has spent decades learning how to communicate. However, for younger couples “never fighting” is too often an indication that one or both spouses are avoiding things for the sake of a false peace.

I have the same feeling when I hear Christians say things like, “God’s primary language is silence.” If you have spent decades hearing His voice, learning to listen and obey, and have learned to enjoy His Presence so much that both you and God can just sit in silence with each other, wonderful! That’s beautiful. But that’s not most American Christians.

Most Christians are never addressing their spiritual deafness because they are mistaking it for God’s silence. God wants to speak, and if our spiritual ears are open, we will hear Him. His sheep know His voice and listen to His voice.

An 80-year-old couple sitting in silence at a restaurant speaks to how they know each other so well. A newlywed couple sitting in silence at a restaurant often signals a breakdown in healthy communication. Not all silence is golden.

I have found God to be most silent when He has already spoken. He is silent because He’s already told me what I need to know and now it is time for me to trust and rest and follow His lead. Too many Christians believe that God is mostly silent and only speaks occasionally. I used to believe the same thing. But I was spiritually deaf, not understanding all the ways that God speaks through the Holy Spirit. My spiritual ears were clogged with doubt, unbelief, and skepticism.

Too many Christians have managed to take a spiritual problem (the inability to hear God) and have spun it into a spiritual attribute (“I embrace the silence of God”). It reminds me of the husband who, when asked about his marriage, says it’s going great only to look over at his wife and see her eyes rolling. She knows their problems are deep and many. He’s the kind of guy who will boast about never fighting with his wife only to experience a divorce a few short years later.

If God is silent, do not assume you are a master of contemplation enjoying the quiet presence of God. Assume, instead, that you are spiritually deaf and have a long way to go in learning to hear God’s voice. Cry out for an opening of your ears. Surrender the false belief that God doesn’t speak to you. Only after we learn to hear the Holy Spirit regularly can we then learn to enjoy God’s silence in a way that is healthy.