Carrying God’s Presence

Imagine God calls you into something through a prophetic word. You have a special assignment from Jesus. This assignment is so unexpected that the Lord actually uses supernatural divine revelation to bring it about. God tells someone else ahead of time what will happen and that person then tells you. And then, God’s prophetic word through this person comes about. It actually happens! As unexpected and unlikely as it seems, God brings about the word spoken over your life!

Now imagine that the divine calling that came through this prophetic word is that you will carry the very Presence of God on you and release it to other people. You will be the conduit through which people will experience a tangible encounter with Jesus. Other people will have an encounter with God because of the tangible Presence of God resting on you. This is your calling! Can you imagine?

Have you ever experienced something like this?

How special would you feel if this was you? How uniquely chosen would you feel? How honored would you feel? How humbled would you be? How overwhelmed at the enormity of this responsibility?

Yet, I am reminded that there is someone who had this exact thing happen to them in the Gospels. It was a donkey.

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

Luke 19:29-35

Jesus spoke a prophetic word to His disciples about what they would find. He called this donkey out ahead of time through a word. And what was the divine calling? It would be to carry the very Presence of God into Jerusalem so that the people of Jerusalem could have an encounter with their Savior.

We who have been called out by a prophetic word, we who bear the heavy responsibility and incredible honor of being a conduit of God’s power and Presence, need to remember that we are very much like that donkey.

We are special and unique and loved and called. We are honored and humbled and surprised that God would use us. Yet, our main task is simply that of the donkey. We simply carry the Presence of God to others. He does all the rest. We can’t save, or heal, or deliver, or empower, or comfort. But Jesus does all of that and more. Our job is to carry His Presence, follow His lead as He pulls on the reins, and do what He asks us to do. Then we watch as Jesus does the miraculous all around us.

A minister named Dr. Randy Clark operates in an astounding measure of God’s power. I love his prayer. Let it be ours!

“God! Let your eye fall on me, for I want to be totally yielded. I want to be that person through whom you can show yourself strong. I want to be the coin in your pocket for you to spend any way you want. I want your glory to rest on me. I want to be the donkey that you ride on. I just want to be yielded, God, and I want to believe that I can be the person that you clothe yourself with. I want to believe, God, that I can be mightily used in your kingdom. God, in my heart I am saying to you, please, look upon me and let your grace fall upon me because I want to reveal your glory. Show yourself strong through my life.” 

Dr. Randy Clark, Spend and Be Spent

Proximity Healing

As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Mark 6:54-56

A guy in my church came down for prayer after our service was over on Sunday. He wanted prayer for his foot that had been bothering him for some time. When we prayed, he immediately started to feel heat all over his body to the point where he started sweating. The Presence of God was on him in an intensified way. As I continued to pray for his foot, the pain left. The prayer time took no more than 5 minutes. Jesus healed his foot right there.

But why ask someone else for prayer? Why go to someone who has seen people physically healed before and ask them to pray for your physical ailment? Can’t we just pray on our own? Doesn’t God just heal whomever He wants whenever He wants? Why would the book of James recommend that we go to particular people for prayer?

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. 

James 5:14-15

In the time of Jesus, people traveled long distances carrying their loved one on a mat just to get them near Jesus. Proximity mattered. They wanted Jesus to touch them or for them to touch the edge of Jesus’s cloak. Either way, power seemed to be coming from Jesus that was bringing physical healing to people. Jesus was a touchpoint, a conduit, of God’s power. So they traveled to get near Jesus wherever He was. The Gospel of Luke says it this way:

…a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:17-19

But couldn’t God just heal all those people in their own homes? Couldn’t God just heal them in their own synagogues? If God really wanted them to be healed, couldn’t God just answer their prayers for healing right where they were? Why would God have them travel to Jesus to get healed?

The answer is, “Yes.” God could have healed each of these people right in their own homes and in their own synagogues. He could have sovereignly healed them right where they were. But He didn’t. Just like He could have healed my friend in my church who came forward for prayer. God could have answered His prayer for healing right in his own bedroom. But God didn’t. God chose, instead, to use me as a touchpoint of His grace, a conduit of His power, in order to heal. This is something that is a regular pattern for God.

When God flows through us, through the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to someone else, we are functioning like a spring of water. Sovereign healings are like rain. Someone in ancient times could wait and say, “If God really wanted me to have water, He would send rain.” And there is some truth in that. But understanding the ways of God is really important. Another way God provides water is having people travel to a spring, or to a well, to collect water. People shouldn’t just wait on rain; they must travel to that spring if they want water.

Waiting on rain isn’t always always an act of faith. Often it is an act of misunderstanding the different ways that God provides water for us. The same is true of healing. Waiting for a sovereign healing is sometimes an act of faith. But often, it is simply a misunderstanding of the different ways that God provides healing for us. Sometimes we must travel to a source of healing, a place or person where God is regularly pouring out His healing through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28).

So we should always pray for our own healing and ask God to bring healing. But sometimes we must go to the wellsprings of healing. This means seeking prayer from those within our church who operate in gifts of healing. It also might mean traveling to people and ministries who specialize in gifts of healing and miracles.

In Jesus’s day, people could have stubbornly stayed home and reasoned with themselves, “If God wanted to heal me, He would do it wherever He wanted and whenever He wanted.” But this is a misapplication of the truth of God’s sovereignty. Those who traveled to Jesus got healed. Those who saw the power of God pouring out of Jesus, and understood that proximity mattered, picked up their friend on a mat and did whatever they could to get them in front of Jesus. They understood that sometimes God sends rain to us and other times we must go to the wellspring for water.

We need to be ready in faith to travel, to go to where God is pouring out His healing power. We need to be able to identify healthy springs and go to them. We need to have enough wisdom to discern the difference between the charlatans and the real servants of God. Going to someone who has gifts of healing still does not guarantee our healing, but it acknowledges one of the primary ways God brings His healing into this world.

COVID-19 and The Gospel

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-20

The gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit were always meant to spread like a virus, not unlike COVID-19. One person can “infect” a whole group of people. Yet, what are the preventative measures that stop the spread? Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and inoculation.

Masks = when people hide their face, when they are afraid to be transparent about their life

Hand sanitizer = when people refuse to get their hands dirty, when they want their Christianity tidy and neat and don’t want the mess that comes with the Holy Spirit and a servant-life of following Jesus

Social distancing = lack of connection, lack of community, relational distance

Inoculation = vaccines work by exposing the immune system to part of the virus without being exposed to the whole thing. People get inoculated from the gospel and the Holy Spirit when they get a partial exposure but don’t experience the whole thing. This leads them to believe they have experienced the whole thing, and they are not impressed when it is offered again. They’ve built up a hardness of heart, an immunity.

By far the strongest preventive measure against a virus is a vaccine. Likewise, the strongest preventive measure the enemy can enact against the gospel and the filling of the Holy Spirit is partial exposure without full exposure.

I see this with the gospel when people say, “Oh yeah, I grew up in church.” What they often mean is, “I already know all about Jesus and the church and I don’t want any part of it.” But of course, that isn’t true. They were exposed only partially to the Kingdom and all that comes with following Jesus. If they knew the whole thing, they’d want all of it.

I also see this with the filling of the Spirit, mostly from those who have some experience (usually bad experience) with the charismatic tradition. People saw a charismatic televangelist or went to a charismatic. church for a time in their life and had horrible experiences with that. They now believe they are an expert on the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. They reject so much of the Spirit’s work in the world because “they already know.” But if they really knew the fullness of the Spirit, they would be running around telling everyone about it. They’ve become inoculated with just enough exposure to leave a bad taste in their mouth but not enough exposure to see what all the fuss is about.

This is why it is vital for churches and Christians to be “all in.” When we give people a partial exposure to the gospel or a partial exposure to the gifts of the Spirit, we run the risk of eventual inoculation. We must be all in ourselves, sold out for Christ, and invite people to an uncompromised experience of the Kingdom and the Spirit.

Baptism of Jesus

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:4-8

John the Baptist baptized people in water for repentance. But where did he get the concept of being baptized with or in the Holy Spirit by Jesus? Because of church history and tradition, we usually reserve that phrase, “baptism in the Spirit”, for charismatic or Pentecostal churches. So where did John get this idea from?

John the Baptist was the final and greatest prophet of the Old Testament/old covenant (Matthew 11:11). So this idea of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit must have been a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John was simply proclaiming what was expected of the coming Messiah. And there are a number of prophetic passages that expected the Messiah to have the Holy Spirit upon him and for the Spirit to be poured out in abundance in the new Messianic age. This was in contrast to the Spirit being selectively given to certain kings and prophets as was the case is the Old Testament. Here’s a few of those passages:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Isaiah 61:1

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth…
    
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance

Joel 2:28-32

We know that Peter quoted this Joel 2 passages when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2. The disciples saw that moment as the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophetic promises. Jesus was baptizing, immersing, flooding them with the Holy Spirit just as others had been baptized by John in water.

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 and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is when we are filled and flooded with the Spirit. There is a tipping point of Jesus being invited to take over every part of a person’s life. Like a dam breaking and a flood carving new terrain in the landscape, the will breaks in surrender to the Lord and the Spirit pours out, carving new terrain, new freedom, new gifts, new power, new intimacy in the life of a believer.

The prophets of old had long expected this kind of outpouring of the Spirit. We get the incredible blessing of being a part of this Messianic age where all of this is possible under the new covenant. The Old Testament prophets and king longed to see what we see and experience what we now have access to in the Spirit.

Then he (Jesus) turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Luke 10:23-24

Roadblocks

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Mark 8:27-30

A local YoungLife leader took some of his guys out on a camping trip. After some time talking about life, the young men were asked this question, “What is the biggest roadblock that is holding you back from truly saying ‘Yes’ to a relationship with Jesus?

What a fascinating question. There are so many things that can be roadblocks to surrendering our life to Jesus. Most people who take this question seriously understand that saying “Yes” to Jesus is more than just believing that He died for our sins so that we can be forgiven. They get that following Jesus with our whole life is deciding to surrender to His way rather than our own way. It is inviting the Holy Spirit to come and live inside of us so that He can begin to transform us from the inside out.

Some common roadblocks are things like a faulty view of God, thinking that we must clean up our act before surrendering to Jesus. But this is obviously backward. We surrender to Jesus because we admit that in our own strength we can’t clean up our act.

Doubt and unbelief can be a roadblock. Bad experiences with Christians or the church can cause offense, bitterness, or resentment to strangle our heart and these three emotional toxins can become roadblocks. Many times our favorite sins keep us from Jesus. We’re afraid He’s going to ask us to surrender those to Him and we just don’t want to. Or maybe we just don’t know who Jesus is. Many in Jesus’s own day were confused about His true identity.

But, if we adjust this question a little, it can also apply to people who have been Christians for most of their life.

What is the biggest roadblock that is holding you back from truly surrendering every part of your life to Jesus?

I can tell you that in my own life, I have hit different moments where I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that I had been holding different parts of my life back from Jesus. Ultimately, the roadblock for me was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Pridefully, I thought I knew all about the Kingdom of God, Jesus, the Bible and the gospel.

This kind of pride is especially prevalent in my fellow seminarians who have advanced degrees in theology and have gone into full-time ministry. This is especially true of my more “progressive” friends. Their alignment with current cultural attitudes has bolstered their confidence in their own “rightness.” I remember the feeling.

However, God encountered me in a profound way that I wasn’t expecting. He showed me different parts of the Kingdom that I knew nothing about. But before He would show me, I had to surrender. I had to 1) trust in the Lord with all my heart and 2) lean not on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Many people with advanced degrees in theology want to do the first but aren’t willing to do the second. I had to confess that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

In other words, the further you go with God, the less you can take with you. And pride about your own understanding is one of those things you can’t take with you. I had to admit, “There is more and I had no idea.” I had to pray, “Lord, forgive me, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” I had to re-enter a kind of Holy Spirit discipleship training with the Lord and this after a decade of pastoral ministry.

So, it is a worthy question to ask yourself. “What is the biggest roadblock that is holding you back from truly surrendering every part of your life to Jesus?

You might know immediately. If not, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it. Just be ready for an answer that you may not have expected and that you may not like.

Words of Knowledge for Healing

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

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

Mark 10:46-52

Sometimes on a Sunday morning before church, I’ll ask God if He wants me to focus on praying for anything in particular in the church service that morning. Sometimes I don’t hear anything. Sometimes I sense that He wants me to invite people to give their lives to Jesus or pray for people dealing with emotional needs. Other times I will hear a particular physical ailment to pray for.

I want to be obedient to do whatever it is He asked me to do. People tend to be fine with me praying for salvation or for emotional healing. Yet, when I pray for physical healing, that can sometimes cause some discomfort in the room.

The reason I pray for healing like this is multifaceted. I’ll admit that I don’t always hear the Lord correctly. My gifts have a lot of room to grow, and I am still a work in progress. But here is why I try:

1) The Lord has given me spiritual gifts that I want to faithfully steward. This requires their use. I want others to discover their gifts and put them to good use as well.

2) I want to take risks of obedience that don’t always make rational sense. I want to model obedience over rationalism and skepticism.

3) I believe it is loving to pray for healing. Those who desperately desire to be physically healed tend to love healing prayer. Those who live with the privilege of a healthy body sometimes don’t.

4) The Sunday morning worship service is my workplace. Praying this way is me stepping out in faith at work. I want people in our church to do the same. I want them to sit at their work desk, ask the Holy Spirit who and what they should pray for that day, and then obey…even if it doesn’t make sense…even if it is a little awkward.

5) I want to see people get miraculously healed in our midst. I’ve seen it happen a lot at our church. I want to continue to see it happen more and more. The only way for it to continue is for us to continue to step out in faith and ask for it.

6) I want to normalize the supernatural side of the Kingdom of God. I believe this is what following Jesus was always meant to be. This is what Christianity looks like in the rest of the world. The church in the West is lagging behind. Healings, signs & wonders, casting out demons, words of knowledge, prophesy, prophetic dreams, encounters with the Holy Spirit…I want all of it to become “normal Christianity” for my whole church just as it has become normal Christianity for me and some others. This is what following Jesus looked like in the Gospels and the book of Acts. This is what normal Christianity currently looks like in the Southern Hemisphere of the world and in the East.

A “word of knowledge” is a supernatural download of information from the Lord to our mind from the Holy Spirit. It’s often about another person. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Many followers of Jesus have gotten little bits of information about people from the Spirit and didn’t know that’s what was happening. Maybe they didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit or that it was a gift meant for the church. A word of knowledge for healing is a supernatural download of information about someone else’s physical illness as an indicator that God wants to heal it.

I was asked by a friend if standing up and giving a word of knowledge and then praying for healing was ever in the Bible. It’s a question that is rooted in legitimate skepticism about the charismatic tradition and the abuses of televangelists in the past.

There are a few things that came to mind when this question was asked. First, you can’t read more than two paragraphs of the Gospels without Jesus healing someone, performing a miracle, or casting out a demon. Healing was a regular, daily part of Jesus ministry and the ministry of the disciples.

Secondly, one must believe that Jesus used supernatural gifts of the Spirit to do His supernatural ministry in order to find an example of Jesus using “words of knowledge.” Some Christians believe Jesus just used His divinity to do all of His miracles. But if one holds this view, then we could never expect to find any example of Jesus using any of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

I do believe Jesus used the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in order to set an example to His disciples and to us. If He simply used His divinity, we could never follow His example (something we’re asked to do repeatedly). And I do believe that, in many of these scenarios of healing, Jesus used what we would call a “word of knowledge” to determine the source and identity of the illness. We see this specifically with the crippled woman in the synagogue in Luke 13:10-17 and the demonized boy after the Transfiguration in Mark 9:14-29. In both cases Jesus supernaturally diagnoses the source of the physical ailment and the solution. These were words of knowledge for healing (maybe with a little “discerning the spirits” mixed in, another gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12).

I also believe there were lots of instances with Jesus that resemble what we do when we give words of knowledge for healing in a church service. For instance, when the demon in the man at the synagogue in Capernaum starting yelling at Jesus, He immediately cast the demon out of the man in front of the whole congregation (Mark 1:21-34; Luke 4:31-37). We likely wouldn’t be that bold in our church. We’d likely drag the person off to the prayer room and do deliverance there. In other words, in so many ways, we are much more tame with the supernatural than Jesus ever was.

We know that Jesus dropped a bunch of words of knowledge on the woman at the well, and these words of knowledge actually exposed her sin (John 4:1-42). We would rightly hesitate to be so bold as that! Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate at all. The woman’s own testimony was, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did!” Again, we are much more tame with the supernatural than Jesus ever was.

But the scenario that most resembles doing words of knowledge for healing in a church service is the interaction between Jesus, the disciples, and blind Bartimaeus. Here is the sequence from Mark 10:

  1. Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus for healing.
  2. Jesus sent a message to Bartimaeus through His disciples indicating that Jesus wanted to heal him.
  3. The disciples delivered the personal message to Bartimaeus in the midst of a large crowd of people.
  4. Bartimaeus identifies his need for healing, his desire for healing, and his faith for Jesus healing him.
  5. Jesus heals Bartimaeus through the conduit of Bartimaeus’s own faith.

That same chain of events is what happens when a person gives a word of knowledge for healing in a church service. Jesus is sending a message through a disciple that indicates what Jesus wants to do. That person/disciple must be obedient and say what they heard. The person needing healing then responds in faith, acknowledging their need and believing that Jesus wants to heal them in that moment. Their faith becomes a possible conduit through which Jesus heals them.

I’ve personally seen this happen a number of times in a number of different worship services. And once you’ve seen it once, you believe it can happen again and again. But it requires obedience and faith, both on the part of the “disciple delivering Jesus’s message” and on the part of the “Bartimaeus” in the room.

Even after all of these biblical examples, I understand the skepticism that still may exist. There have been abuses with this kind of healing ministry in the past in certain streams of the church. It makes sense that people would be wary of the improper use of words of knowledge for healing. Someone may read all of the above and respond with something like, “Yeah, but we aren’t Jesus. His ministry was different.” I get it. But to this objection I would offer Jesus’ own words.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

John 14:12

I am fine with the critique that argues that there are better ways to pray for healing in a church service than doing words of knowledge for healing. Maybe so. If so, let’s discover what those are. But I believe not praying for healing is just not an option for churches moving forward. The churches around the world that are growing are the ones who are fully embracing the gifts of the Spirit. Our post-Christian culture is resembling the rest of the world more and more. And so, I believe we must resemble the faithful global church more and more.

Consider the possibility that you have already been getting words of knowledge and just didn’t know what they were. Maybe you don’t use that terminology, or maybe you didn’t know it was a gift of the Spirit. Yet, many of you reading this right now have experienced the Lord give you a small nugget of information about someone through the Holy Spirit that you couldn’t have possibly known otherwise. Consider how God may want to use that gift in your life to love others. Could seeing others get healed be a part of that?

One Thing I Do Know

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:24-25

Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, and put in on the blind man’s eyes. Then Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man went and washed and came home seeing. People were astonished. The man’s neighbors couldn’t believe it. His own parents couldn’t believe it. But the Pharisees had the hardest time believing it.

The man told the Pharisees his testimony about Jesus but they were sure Jesus was not from God. So they asked the parents to confirm the story. Still in unbelief, they asked the man to explain his healing again.

What I love about the man’s second response is that he confesses his own lack of theological acumen. He is not a scribe. He is not a scholar. He can’t break down Torah law like a professor. All he knows is his testimony. He was blind and now he can see. And this is the heart of every follower of Jesus.

This is also why I love praying for people and leaning into the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. You can find me most Wednesday mornings praying for someone in an extended prayer session of two to three hours. My prayer partner and I do a lot of listening to the Holy Spirit during these prayer sessions. We try to follow His lead. We engage in the gifts of discerning the spirits, healing, prophecy, impartation and the like. We see the power of God move as we pray. It is truly an amazing and humbling experience.

But the best part is yet to come. The best part is the testimony emails that we get a few days later. When the Presence of God comes in power, people are changed. People are set free from demonic oppression. People are healed in their soul. People are healed in their bodies. People reconnect with the love of the Father and are forever changed.

If you want to read some of these awesome testimonies, we’ve collected some of them here. We received a recent testimony from a person we prayed for. They had felt anger and bitterness in their chest for a long time. This person wrote to tell us that on their drive home from work two days after our prayer session they realized that feeling was gone. God had lifted it off their chest and it wasn’t there anymore. Instead, the Lord had filled them with peace. Upon realizing this, the person broke down and wept tears of joy for the first time in their life. They described this experience as “wild.”

This is why we do what we do. This is why gifts of the Spirit are so vital to the Church and shouldn’t be abandoned just because we’ve seen them used poorly in the past. They are tools that were given to the Church to bring life-change.

What people often need is not a theological explanation of Jesus. They need an encounter with Him. They need to feel His Presence and be changed by it. They may walk away not having all their theology worked out, but their testimony will be the same as the blind man who was healed. “Whether Jesus is _________ or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was hurting and broken but now I‘m healed!

The Gospel of Triangulation

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Matthew 26:50-54

This wasn’t the first time that Peter tried to rescue Jesus from the cross. The first time was with words instead of a sword. Jesus asked the disciples who people said that He was. Then Jesus asked them who they thought He was, and Peter correctly stated, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” But when Jesus then went on to explain that He must suffer and be killed in Jerusalem, Peter said, “Never Lord…This shall never happen to you!” Famously, Jesus responds to Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:13-23).

We can find ourselves making the same mistake as Peter, especially when we seek to help others. Jesus wasn’t just rejecting the temptation to abandon His mission for the sake of personal comfort. There is a human pattern that Jesus was rejecting. Jesus was refusing to be painted as the victim.

The unhealthy pattern that Jesus rejected (which often emerges in human relational dynamics) is called triangulation. This is where one person or group plays the victim, another person or group plays the bad guy, and the final piece of the triangle is the person or group playing the rescuer. We see this unhealthy pattern everywhere. We see it happen in marriages, in families, in organizations involved in social justice, and in politics.

Here’s how it works. Each player plays their role and uses that role to control one of the other players. The victim acts helpless and manipulates and guilts the rescuer into saving them from the bad guy. So the victim controls the rescuer. Indignant, the rescuer sets about to save the victim by controlling the bad guy. The bad guy, of course, is controlling the victim. You see this pattern all the time in human relationships.

Here’s what’s interesting. Not only is the victim controlling the rescuer, but the victim is also depending on the bad guy for their identity. Likewise, the bad guy is depending on the rescuer for their identity and the rescuer is depending on the victim for their identity. So everyone involved in the triangulation has unhealthy, codependent connections with the other players in this psychological game.

For instance, politicians make their party the victims, the other party the bad guys, and make themselves the rescuers. Social justice warriors make “those people” the bad guys, the group they want to rescue the victims, and themselves the rescuers. In unhealthy marriages, usually a pattern emerges where one person is the bad guy and another person is the perpetual victim. All they need now is a rescuer to sweep in and complete the triangulation. Once we are aware of this toxic pattern, we start to see it everywhere.

But Jesus rejected triangulation even when Peter kept offering it. Peter kept trying to paint Jesus as the victim, the chief priests and elders as the bad guys, and himself as the rescuer. It’s funny now to think of Peter trying to frame himself as Jesus’s rescuer. But this was part of satan’s temptation, both of Peter and of Jesus. This is partly why Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” Jesus could hear in Peter’s words the enemy’s offer of triangulation.

Jesus was not the victim. He could have called on His Father to send twelve legions of angels. Jesus, speaking about His own life, said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord“(John 10:18). Jesus was not a victim.

Likewise, Peter was definitely not Jesus’s rescuer. And hanging from the cross, Jesus would say of the bad guys, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus rejected triangulation all the way around.

This may be hard for some to believe, but Jesus also did not intend to recreate a new triangulation where He is the rescuer, we are the victims, and sin or satan is the bad guy. This unhealthy pattern requires that everyone stay in their role and no one gets healthy. If Jesus came simply to be our rescuer, we would have to remain the victims or the bad guys. Some churches preach a gospel that sounds very similar to this. But Jesus came to do so much more than that!

A real hero is not someone who rescues but someone who empowers!

Jesus didn’t just want to rescue us from sin and death (which He did), He also rose from the grave to give us new life. He empowered us to have victory over sin and death in our new life with Him. This is why we were given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We were empowered to live victorious rather than as perpetual victims or perpetual bad guys.

This means we must take responsibility for our life, our decisions, and the consequences of our decisions. We must take responsibility for our sin, the boundaries that we set, and the health of our relationships. Before we make someone else a bad guy, we must forgive them, just as we have been forgiven, and release grace to them. Forgiveness keeps us from falling into the trap of triangulation.

When we seek to help people, we need to be mindful not to view ourselves as the rescuer. When we slip into the rescuer role, we inevitably force someone else to be either the bad guy or the victim. While our intensions are good, we are unwittingly perpetuating a toxic pattern.

Instead, imitating Jesus, we need to help people by empowering them, not rescuing them. Rescuing people communicates that they are incapable of being anything other than a victim of their own life. Instead, empowering people tells them that they are fully capable of solving their own problems and being responsible for their own life.

Have you fallen into the trap of triangulation? Jesus rejected this toxic pattern and it’s time we do the same.

Not ashamed

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…

Romans 1:14-17

Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. He was not ashamed of being a follower of Jesus. He was not ashamed of telling people about Jesus and about salvation. He was honored to get to be adopted into the family of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He was honored to have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in him. Talking about the gospel was as natural to Paul as talking about his shoes or his elbow.

When we talk about Jesus to those who do not believe, we don’t need to be timid about it. Talking to others about Jesus is like talking to your kids about sex. If you are ashamed and awkward and embarrassed about it then you nonverbally communicate that this topic is shameful, awkward, and embarrassing. But if you talk about it as it truly is – a good gift, normal, natural, a blessing – then your nonverbals will communicate the same.

To Timothy, Paul’s protege, Paul wrote this at the end of his life:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 

2 Timothy 1:7-9

We’ve been given a Spirit of power. We’ve been given the gospel which is the power of God for all who believe. We’ve been given a Spirit of love. So we don’t need to be embarrassed or timid or ashamed of the testimony about Jesus. Even if we get ridiculed for it, we can endure such a small bit of suffering by the power of God. After all, we have been saved, rescued, restored, redeemed and made a new creation in Christ. We’ve been called to a holy life, not because we were worthy, but because of God’s own purpose and grace.

Who are we to remain silent about such a gift?

Faithfulness Rewarded

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:22-23

In the Parable of the Talents, the man who was given two bags of gold and gained two more was given the same response by the master as the man who was given five bags of gold and gained five more. The master’s response was based on faithfulness. The question for the master was not how much they had been given but what they did with what they were given. They were faithful servants who had been faithful with what they had been given, so the master rewarded them for it.

The other day our oldest son was asking about the difference between GT/Advanced classes, honors classes, and standard classes. My wife was a high school teacher for years before teaching at the college level, so she launched into descriptions of how they might be different.

One thing we both made clear to him was that when colleges look at a student’s grades, an A in an honors class is better than a C or D in a GT class. Likewise, an A in a standard class is better than a C in an honors class. We were trying to make the same point that the Parable of the Talents makes: Faithfulness receives a greater reward than giftedness. And the more we are gifted, the greater the responsibility is to be faithful.

This applies to so many things in our life. God wants us to be faithful with what we have whether it is a lot or a little. This is true for money, relationships, spiritual gifts, opportunities, etc. And, often, the more we have, the more difficult it is to be faithful with it. We all say we want more money, but God will be looking for faithfulness if we get more money. Faithfulness with a lot of money can be more demanding than faithfulness with a little, just like getting an A in a GT class can be more demanding than getting an A in a standard class. Jesus said it this way:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

This is why James warns about being a teacher. The greater the giftedness, the greater the responsibility it is to be faithful with that giftedness.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 

James 3:1

And this doesn’t just apply to the responsibility and gift of teaching God’s word. It applies to other gifts of the Spirit as well. Whatever gifts and anointings we ask God for, we need to remember that He’s looking for faithfulness not giftedness. We may want to be more gifted than we are right now, but we will also be held accountable for being faithful with the gifts we are given. The more gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to us, the more anointings placed on our life, the more that will be required of us in order to be faithful.

This truth should sober us when we look at people who are incredibly gifted. It is great to admire them, but we need to admire them for the right reasons. Rather than just being enamored with the level of their giftedness, we should look instead at their character and be in awe of how they have stewarded these great gifts. We should be impressed with their faithfulness, knowing how difficult it would be to be faithful with that level of giftedness.

If we’re not faithful with the gifts that we already have, what makes us think we’ll be faithful with more? If we’re not faithful with the money we already have, what makes us think we’ll be faithful with more? If we’re not faithful with the opportunities and responsibilities we already have, what makes us think we’ll be faithful with more?

God is a Good Father so he loves for us to ask for more. But He also doesn’t want to crush us with the “more” that we’re asking for. As we ask for more, let’s also ask for the capacity to be faithful with it. As we ask for more money, let’s also ask for more wisdom in how to faithfully manage it. As we ask for more gifts, let’s also ask for a strengthening of our character so that we can be faithful.