Unnatural Wind

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 

Matthew 14:32

Jesus had just multiplied the fish and the loaves and then sent his disciples ahead of him on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stayed behind and spent time with the Father. Then, in the middle of the night, Jesus walks out to them on the water. The wind was already blowing hard by the time Jesus walks out to them.

Once they realize it is Jesus, Peter tells Jesus to invite him out on the water, and Jesus does. Peter walks to him on the water for a few steps but then, seeing the wind, gets afraid. Jesus equates this fear with a lack of faith and escorts Peter back to the boat.

What I had never noticed before is that as soon as Peter and Jesus get in the boat, the wind dies down. If this was a natural storm, the wind wouldn’t just die down as soon as they step into the boat. We can’t know for sure, but this leads me to believe that the wind Peter was so afraid of was not natural. I believe it is possible that the wind was intentionally stirred up by the enemy in order to prevent the emergence of a boat full of faith-filled water-walkers.

I believe the enemy stirred up the wind to attack Peter’s faith (and anyone else who would dare step out in faith). I believe God allowed the wind as a test of Peter’s faith. The enemy was rooting against Peter, not wanting him to even attempt getting out of the boat. The Lord was rooting for Peter, wanting him to overcome his fear by faith.

This wouldn’t be the first time an unnatural wind came against Jesus and the disciples. A short time ago, Jesus was sleeping in the boat when a storm hits. The disciples freak out in fear. Jesus wakes up and speaks to the wind the same way he had previously only spoken to demons. Notice the similarity between how Jesus casts the demon out of the man in the synagogue and how Jesus commands the storm to be quiet.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” After throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, the unclean spirit came out of him.

Mark 1:25-26

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Mark 4:39

The language used in both the deliverance and the calming of the storm is the same. Jesus rebukes both the demon and the wind. Jesus’s command is the same word, “Quiet!” I believe it’s possible that this indicates, when Jesus calms the storm, He was not just rebuking the wind but the demonic force behind the wind. He was commanding the enemy to stop using natural forces in ways that they shouldn’t be used.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that sometimes the storm is just a natural storm that we have to learn to navigate. But sometimes the storm is a targeted attack of the enemy meant to destroy your faith and keep you in the boat. Sometimes the enemy sends things at you that are meant to cause fear and keep you hunkered down. The last thing the enemy wants you to do is get out of the boat. And if you do get out of the boat, he doesn’t want you spending any time out there walking on water with Jesus.

The enemy will also sometimes reduce the wind as soon as you retreat to the boat. He wants you to feel safe and secure in that boat so that you never step out in faith again. We have to remember that when Jesus rebukes the wind, He’s enforcing the peace of the Kingdom. However, when the enemy reduces the wind, he’s just messing with your heart and mind. He’s trying to bring a false comfort, a false peace to lure you into passivity.

Don’t believe it. Jesus alone is the calmer of the storms.

So where do you need to get back out of the boat? Don’t let the fear from last time prevent you from stepping out again this time.

Parables

This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’ [Isaiah 6:9-10]

Matthew 13:13-15

Doubt and unbelief are never an intellectual issue. Some of the most intelligent people on the planet, even some of the most well-respected scientists, have been followers of Jesus (for modern examples see John Polkinghorne and Francis Collins). Jesus makes clear, right after he tells the Parable of the Sower, that lack of understanding and lack of belief happen in the heart.

Notice the progression mentioned in Jesus’s quote from Isaiah. First, the heart becomes calloused. While the heart is not yet completely hardened, it is on its way. Usually this happens not because of an intellectual question about God but because of a wound of the heart. Someone hurts us or God doesn’t meet an expectation we had. A person stops trusting God because they had the wrong definition of trust in the first place.

Too often our hearts become calloused because we think trust is built by “someone doing what I expect they will do.” Meaning, to build trust we want a person to be predictable. We want the person to do what we would have done in particular situations. In other words, the more you are like me, the more you respond the way I would have responded, the more I trust you. This faulty understanding of trust means that any time another person does something I can’t anticipate, mistrust starts to grow.

You can see how destructive this understanding of trust would be to our relationship with God. When we expect Him to be just like us, and then He isn’t, we begin to lose trust in Him. When He doesn’t respond in a predictable way, a way that we wanted Him to, we begin to live in mistrust. God is completely perfect and good. He is worthy of absolute trust. But we’ve already started with the wrong understanding of trust.

Healthy trust is built on someone consistently telling us the truth not on someone being and acting predictably like us. God is wholly other than us. He will act in ways that surprise us and maybe even confuse us. But this is no reason not to trust God. Jesus is the Truth. He cannot be other than truthful with us. He is worthy of our trust.

Our wound of the heart, our mistrust, then leads to the next progression. We stop hearing. This is a more passive reality. Hearing God (and people for that matter) depends on listening and trust. When we have a wound in our heart, we stop trusting and we stop listening. Hearing God’s voice gets more and more difficult. Weeds of doubt and confusion start forming in our hearts. We are not actively plugging our ears, but hearing gets difficult until we repent of our distrust and get healing for the wound in our heart.

Eventually, after struggling to hear from God for a while, we shift into rebellion. That’s the next step in this progression of doubt and unbelief. While our struggle to hear was not intentional, the next step is intentional. We close our eyes. Closing our eyes is something we actively do. It’s not just that we struggle to see, it’s that we are now actively closing our eyes to the truth of God. We resist. We reject. We live in cynicism and skepticism. We choose unbelief. We close our eyes and proclaim that the room is dark.

This whole progression started with the heart, not the head. This is why Jesus spoke in parables. Parables aren’t meant to confuse the mind; they are meant to expose the condition of the heart. Those who have soft hearts, open hearts, are willing to trust the Lord. They will receive the seed of Kingdom truth planted in them. They will either understand the parable or it will lead to a curiosity that invites them into exploration. Lack of understanding for a person with a softened heart is an invitation into deeper intimacy as curiosity leads them to seek the Lord even more.

Calloused hearts, hardened hearts, will not understand the parables. Instead, they will likely be offended by them. It will not provoke curiosity but suspicion, mocking, and accusation. Lack of understanding for a person with a hard heart becomes mounting evidence that they were right to doubt. Lack of understanding exacerbates mistrust in the Lord. Cynicism abounds.

Jesus spoke in parables because they expose what is underneath our intellectual prowess and our religious actions. They expose the condition of our heart.

Children of God

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering sin order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:14-17

Every person in the world is loved by God. Every human being is created in God’s image. Because of this, some people think this means that every person is a child of God. We’ve heard people say, “We are all God’s children.” Yet, that isn’t what we read over and over again in scripture.

Every person is invited into the family of God, but not everyone has accepted that invitation. Scripture is clear. We aren’t children of God from birth. We become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. When we receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Those who are led by the Spirit are children of God.

So while everyone is loved by God, not every person is a child of God. It takes faith in Jesus to be adopted into the family of God. Paul said it this way to the Galatians:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:26-29

There are some key phrases in that passage. “In Christ Jesus” we are children of God “through faith.” And, “if you belong to Christ” then you are an heir in the family of God. These are important qualifiers. We must belong to Christ, through faith, in order to be considered a child of God. John says something similar in his Gospel:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 1:12-13

According to John’s Gospel, the right to become children of God is a special right. It is not automatic. It is something we become. And the ones who have been given the right to become children of God, born of God, are the ones “who did receive him” and “believed in his hame,” that is, Jesus. The message is clear. We must receive Jesus into our life and believe in Him in order to become children of God.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

1 John 3:1-2

Notice that there is a separation between “the world” and the “children of God.” The world has a hard time with children of God because it had a hard time with Jesus. This distinction would make no sense if everyone in the world was automatically a child of God. Yes, everyone is loved by God. Yes, everyone has been created in God’s image. But no, not everyone is a child of God, not until they give their life to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit.

The old platitude that “we are all God’s children” may sound nice, but it’s just not true. All are invited into the family of God, but not all have accepted the invitation. We are not automatically children of God. We become children, adopted into the family, through faith in Jesus. Through that faith in His name we receive the Holy Spirit, who is our sign and seal that we are in the family of God.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…

Ephesians 1:13-14

Maturity in Christ

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food…

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

Hebrews 5:12; 6:1-3 (New Living Translation)

At some point in the Christian life, one must move past the basic teachings of the faith in order to mature. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there are meatier lessons for us to learn if we could only move past the foundations of the faith. So much of the church in America is still stuck on the basics and this has stagnated its spiritual maturity.

So why haven’t we moved on to the deeper things of God?

I think it is because we’ve lost trust in God’s revelation, His word. Instead, we have made our reason and experience our primary authority. Our rational understanding can only take us so far. We can only “make sense” of so much, then we reach our limit. The only way to go deeper is to trust that what God has revealed in His word is wiser than human wisdom. Trusting God’s revelation takes us further into the mind of Christ than simply trusting our own understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is one way to think about the four main sources of truth we use as we process our faith. Scripture is the first and primary authority for faith and practice. Picture a pyramid with scripture at the very top point. Experience, Reason, and Tradition are the other three (the three points at the bottom of the pyramid). These three are used by God to help us bring greater understanding, but they never supersede God’s revelation in scripture. God’s wisdom is different and better than human wisdom.

When people get stuck on the basics of the faith, they start arguing about silly theological minutia. Because they haven’t moved on to maturity in their relationship with the Lord, they participate in a kind of imitation of maturity, a counterfeit maturity, by arguing about things that don’t matter. Paul warned Timothy about this. He said, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). Paul warned Titus of the same thing only with stronger language.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

Titus 3:9-10

It’s one thing to raise questions because you are curious and want to learn. This kind of person has a posture of teachability. But there is another kind of posture that is obstinate. This person raises questions not because they want to learn but because they want to raise doubts, look smart, and feel important. If too much of this is in a church community, the church is never allowed to move beyond the basics and into the deeper things of God. Like the writer of Hebrews says, by this time, a person with this much theological knowledge should be a teacher and, instead, their lack of spiritual maturity still has them drinking milk.

Spiritual maturity isn’t about the acquisition of knowledge but about intimacy with the Lord the application of revelation. It’s less about how much one has “figured out” and more about how much one has surrendered their mind, will, and emotions to the Lord. It’s less about theology and more about trust. And trust will take you much further than your reason and understanding. Reason can only take us so far, then we must trust God’s revelation of Himself to us. And the embrace of revelation comes from intimate time with the Lord, time in prayer, time reading God’s word, time listening to the promptings of the Spirit, and obedience to God’s direction.

Hopeful

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

There are many hopeful things happening right now in our society. COVID numbers are dropping rapidly. Vaccinations are up and are changing the landscape of this pandemic. Schools are re-opening (even if only in a hybrid model). These are all good things and are reasons to be hopeful.

Yet, we need to remember that our ultimate hope is in the Lord. Our hope is not grounded in politics. Our hope is not grounded in a vaccine. Our hope is not dependent on restrictions being lifted or not lifted. We do not live with a conditional hope that changes on the whims of our society. We, as followers of Christ, have an unconditional hope. We have an unyielding hope that is rooted and grounded in the person and nature of Jesus Christ.

As we trust in the God of hope, He is able to fill us with all joy and peace regardless of our circumstances. When this happens, we overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the power of the Spirit to access this kind of unconditional hope. It all comes down to trusting the God of hope. Our trust is directly proportional to our hope. No matter what circumstances surround us, if we can trust the Lord, then–through the Holy Spirit–we can overflow with hope. The psalmist said it well in Psalm 33:

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
    and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:16-22

Notice again the link between trusting the Lord and having hope. People wrongly assume that their lack of hope has to do with their bleak outlook or poor circumstances. Yet, it has more to do with their ability to trust the Lord when they don’t understand. Trust is the bedrock of hope, and hope is the soil where faith grows. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Yes, our circumstances are looking more hopeful, and this is great news! But if you want lasting, enduring, unconditional hope, you will only find it by trusting your life to Jesus Christ. Trusting Him is the foundation of real hope!

Familiar God

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:1-6

A prophet is not without honor except in his own town. We tend not to appreciate things and people with whom we have become familiar. Jesus saw tremendous faith in all kinds of people as He traveled from town to town. Yet, when He got to His own hometown, people there could only see Him as the carpenter, Mary’s son. They couldn’t get past what they were familiar with. They weren’t able to honor who He really was. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

This is a good warning for us, that we can get too familiar–too comfortable–with our friends and loved ones that we know the best. We can start to think we already know what they are about, and we can dismiss them because of it. Rather than continuing to learn from them and continuing to be curious, we can allow our familiarity to breed contempt.

This can happen with good friends, parents, siblings, spouses, and neighbors. I’ve seen it happen a lot in ministry. I’ve seen pastors forget to honor and appreciate their congregation because they were too familiar with them. I’ve seen congregations forget to honor and appreciate their pastor because they grew too comfortable and complacent.

The most troubling thing about Mark 6 is the warning that this is possible to do with God Himself. We can become so familiar with God that we think we already know. We’ve read the Bible. We’ve attended church for years. We’ve heard it all…or so we think. We can become so familiar with God that we stop pursuing Him. We stop learning new things about Him. We stop journeying deeper into our intimacy with Jesus. We stop believing there is more of God to experience than what we are experiencing right now. When this happens, our faith begins to dwindle.

Bobby Connor, a prophetic minister, said it best, “We are too familiar with the God we hardly know.” Let that sink in. God is unfathomable and incomprehensible in His vastness. What we do know about Him we only know because He decided to reveal it to us through scripture, through Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. We hardly know this God we have become so familiar with. There is SO. MUCH. MORE!

The apostle Paul tried to articulate this truth when he wrote this to the church in Rome:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?” [Isaiah 40:13]
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?” [Job 41:11]
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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.

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.

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.

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.