Different Strategy

Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”

So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them…

Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

1 Samuel 5:18-25

David had become King of Israel and the Philistines didn’t like it. So the Philistines came to the Valley of Rephaim to attack the army of Israel. David does what he had always done–inquire of the Lord. David was always checking in to see what the Lord wanted him to do.

What is so unusual and amazing about this time is that David checks in a second time. The Philistines were defeated in the first battle in the Valley of Rephaim, yet they amassed their army there a second time. They tried the attack King David and his army in the same place and in the same way.

Most of us, when faced with the same exact situation as last time, would just do what we did last time. What David did last time worked! Why not do it again? After all, the Philistines are in the same exact valley and are attacking in the same exact way. Let’s just do what we did last time and God will once again give us the victory, right?

But instead of just assuming that he knows the mind of the Lord, David decides to ask the Lord again what he should do. And to our surprise, the Lord gives a different response. God basically says, “Don’t do what you did last time. Instead, use this new battle strategy I am giving you.” So even though the situation looked identical to the last battle, God knew it would require a brand new strategy to get the victory.

This is a great model for those of us living the Christian life. While it is good to know biblical principles, if we think those principles are a substitute for interactive intimacy with the Lord, we’ll slide into the trap of living by the law. Instead, we need to continually check in with the Lord, even when current situations look identical to past situation. God can see things we can’t see.

This is why the apostle Paul encouraged the Galatians not to live by the flesh OR by the law. Both of those are ditches on either side of the road of faithfulness. He wanted them, instead, to walk in step with the Holy Spirit. Here’s how Paul said it:

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. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:13-18

In order to walk by the Spirit and live in a way that is led by the Spirit we must be in continual communication with the Spirit. Paul’s exhortation to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) isn’t about petitioning God with our requests all day long. That’s what a toddler does to their parents. No, praying continually is about interacting with God all day long. And much of that interaction needs to be listening. It needs to be us “inquiring of the Lord” and giving Him the time and space to answer.

We need to do this even when we come upon a situation that we think we can handle on our own. We need to do this even when we encounter something we’ve encountered before. It’s easy to pridefully think we know what to do without checking in with the Lord. But His ideas are much better than ours, and what He can see is much greater that what we see. Like an iceberg in the ocean, sometimes there is way more to a situation than we can possibly know.

Raising the Dead: A Conversation

Sam: Did you hear that Bethel Church is praying for the 2-year-old daughter of one of their worship leaders to be raised back to life? She died a few days ago and they are praying for the little girl to be resurrected. Can you believe that insanity?

Me: I can believe it. And I love it! I am so inspired by their faith and courage. I only wish I would be able to have the same boldness to take that kind of risk for the sake of the name of Jesus if I were in that situation.

Sam: What? Are you crazy? You actually believe we should be praying to raise the dead?

Me: In certain situations, yes. And, technically, what we’re talking about is resuscitation. Theologians usually reserve the word resurrection for what will happen at the end of all things when we get a resurrected and glorified body. To delineate this from when a person comes back to life after being dead, they use the word resuscitation. Lazarus was resuscitated. He was dead and was raised back to life in his earthly body, but he eventually died again (John 11). In common vernacular, resuscitation is what EMT people do through CPR before a person is dead. This is why some people prefer the term resurrection because it is a little clearer to the average church goer. But in theological terms, resuscitation is when a person has died, then they come back to life in their earthly bodies.

Sam: But that was like a one time thing right?

Me: Actually, no. Jesus resuscitated/resurrected Lazarus, the little 12 year old girl (Mark 5:40-42), and the young man during his own funeral in the town of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). He was following in the tradition of and improving upon the resuscitations/resurrections performed by the prophets Elijah (in 1 Kings 17:22) and Elisha (in 2 Kings 4:34-35 & 13:20-21).

Not only that, but the early church performed resuscitations/resurrections as well. Tabitha (also called Dorcus) was raised back to life by the power of God through Peter (Acts 9:36-42), and Eutychus was raised back to life by power of God through Paul (Acts 20:7-12).

Sam: But I thought that when a person dies, it was the sovereign will of God. Isn’t it just a person’s “time” when they die?

Me: I used to think that too. But with that thinking, the stories of resuscitation/resurrection in the New Testament make no sense. If it was the little girl’s “time” to die because of the sovereign will of God, why then did Jesus bring her back to life? This would seem to imply some conflict between Jesus’s actions and the will of God. Yet, we know Jesus only did the Father’s will.

Likewise, if it was just Tabitha’s “time,” if it was God’s sovereign will that she died, why did Peter pray that she be raised to life? Further, why did God then answer Peter’s prayer and bring her back to life? Or what about Eutychus? Was it God’s sovereign will that he fall out of a window and die while listening to a sermon from Paul? Is that what we are to believe? Clearly, Paul did not believe that or he wouldn’t have prayed for him to be raised back to life.

From these situations in the New Testament we learn that sometimes people die before their time and that Jesus has authority even over death.

Sam: So are you saying that sometimes people die before they are supposed to?

Me: Yep. Tabitha in Acts 9 died before her time. Eutychus in Acts 20 died before his time. Lazarus in John 11 died before his time. The young man in Nain died before his time. Jesus has authority over death, and He gives that authority to His disciples to be used for His glory.

On a number of occasions, I have cast out of a person a demonic spirit of death. The assignment of a spirit of death on a person is to bring all forms of death into that person’s life. And sometimes that demonic assignment tries to bring about an early death. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to cast out a spirit of death only to have it fight hard to stay. It’s a stubborn demon and doesn’t want to let go of the person to whom it is assigned.

I believe that sometimes people die, not because it is their “time,” but because the enemy is trying to take them out early. In the end, Jesus wins anyway because, as believers, we get to spend eternity in heaven. But the enemy is actively trying to take pieces of the Kingdom of God off the chessboard because he doesn’t want God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. After all, Jesus told us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…“(John 10:10).

Sam: Wait, wait, wait! This is nuts. Are you serious? How are we supposed to know if a person died because it was their time or because of the enemy attacking them?

Me: Great question, Sam. How did Jesus know to raise some from the dead but not all? How did Peter and Paul know to pray to raise some but not all? They didn’t pray to raise everyone who died. They only did this occasionally. How did they know?

The answer is not formulaic, though we love formulas in western Christianity. Jesus was in constant communication with the Father so that He could execute the perfect will of the Father. Peter and Paul were checking in with the Holy Spirit for discernment and guidance. And so, we must do the same. The truth is, we don’t know. When a person dies, we have to ask the Lord what to do next. But in the range of options of “what to do next,” we need to have the option of praying to raise the dead.

Sam: But why?

Me: Because Jesus commanded it. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He commanded them, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8).

Then before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you“(Matthew 28:18-20). In other words, Jesus commanded them to heal the sick, raise the dead, and drive out demons. Then, before He leaves, He tells them to teach the next generations of disciples “everything I have commanded you.” This includes healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons.

Based on the book of Acts, that is exactly what they did. We see the early church heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Just because the American church has such little faith that we struggle with these realities doesn’t mean we aren’t still commanded to do them.

Sam: Okay, okay. First, doesn’t praying to raise the dead disrupt the grieving process? Isn’t that unhealthy for grieving parents? Secondly, do we have any evidence that God is still raising the dead today?

Me: As to the first question, the parents will be grieving the loss of their child for the rest of their lives. Is it too much to ask to wait for a few days in an atmosphere of faith and hope, trusting Jesus with whatever the outcome might be? The Bethel people have buried plenty of people. They’ve done lots of funerals. They are not denying reality. They have faced the fact that the child is dead. They are not praying for healing. They are praying for resurrection, which means they are owning the reality that she is dead. But they are also trusting that God is a God of miracles, that Jesus has authority over death, and that biblically, in certain situations, the church has a mandate to pray for the dead to come back to life.

All of that said, it must be done lovingly and carefully. Just as praying for the sick must be done with love and care, so too must praying for resurrection. It should not be done for every death, and it should never be forced on any family. But when parents ask you to join them in prayer for their child to come back to life, that is not the time for speculations about God’s sovereignty. It’s a time to get on your knees next to the parents and believe in resurrection.

Sam: But what about my second question? Does it even still happen? Do we have any reason to believe God still does this?

Me: Yes, Sam, it is happening today all over the world. Story after story of resurrection are coming out of Iris Global’s ministry in Mozambique. And before we doubt these stories because they are coming from Africa, we need to check our xenophobia and cultural prejudices at the door. They know what death is. They have hospitals, doctors, and morgues. They also have seen people who had been dead for days sit straight up in the morgue. Heidi Baker and Supresa Sithole have seen resurrections in their ministry over and over again. David Hogan of Freedom Ministries has also seen resurrections in his ministry in Mexico. It’s not hypothetical. It’s happening in the global church today!

But if your skepticism or cultural prejudices are still getting the best of you, a notable resurrection happened here in the U.S. a few years ago in St. Charles, Missouri. They made a movie about it called Breakthrough. John, who was 14, was trapped under a lake for 15 minutes. Then paramedics and ER doctors tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him for 43 minutes. This is medical record. Medically, there is no coming back from this. Yet, when his mom came in and prayed for him to come back to life, he did. His heart, which had not been beating for roughly an hour, suddenly started, not because of a defibrillator but because of prayer. Roughly 48 hours later, he was awake and answering questions.

Again, Jesus has authority over death, and part of our inheritance in the Kingdom is that we get to share in that authority because we are in Christ.

Sam: But why would God bring some back and not others?

Me: Sam, the answer to that question is way above my pay grade. But I am encouraged by the true testimony of Joanne Moody (watch her full testimony on YouTube here). She was dying on an operating table after years of having debilitating chronic pain, and she felt her spirit release from her body. She floated above her body and saw what was happening around her. Then Jesus entered the room. And He told her, “I have heard your cries and I know full well your pain. You can go with Me now, or you can stay, for the prayers of the saints have given you a choice.”

In other words, so many people were praying for her that God was going to give her a choice to go back into her body or to go to be with Jesus in heaven. Everything in her wanted to go be with Jesus. She wanted to be done with the chronic pain. Yet, in her heart, she remembered her son. Her love for him took over and in her heart she knew she had to go back. Jesus read her heart and responded by saying, “It is as you wish, child.” And with that, she was sent back into her body.

So I believe that, sometimes, the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ give us a choice. I don’t know how it all works, but I believe that Joanne Moody’s testimony reveals that sometimes our prayers for resurrection give that dead person a choice as to whether they will stay with Jesus or return to their body. It is Jesus’s prerogative to give us these kinds of choices. But our prayers do matter. Our prayers do impact things in the spirit realm even when we can’t see their effect (read Daniel 10:12-14 if you struggle to believe the truth of this).

Sam: So, now are you going to pray for resurrection for everyone who dies?

Me: No. That’s not what we see in the New Testament. But I hope to be the kind of pastor who will believe that Jesus has authority even over death, and that if I am led by the Spirit to pray for someone to be raised from the dead, I will do it in obedience.

My prediction is that years from now Bethel will be seen as a church that pioneered radical faith. More and more resurrections will happen in the U.S., and people will look back in awe that Bethel was willing to believe even when most of the anemic American church was not.

Count me among those who are willing to look foolish if it means taking Jesus at His word.

Hearing God

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:8-10

As a child Samuel was dedicated to the Lord, so he served with the priests at Shiloh. Eli was his chaperone and mentor. One evening, just as Samuel was lying down to sleep, the Lord called to him. Having never heard from the Lord, Samuel didn’t know it was the Lord. He thought Eli was calling his name. Finally, after the third time, Eli realizes it is the Lord and gives Samuel instructions on how to listen.

This scenario is still common today. Many followers of Jesus have never been taught how to hear the voice of the Lord. They have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, and yet they feel as though they’ve never heard the Lord speak directly to them. The reality is, much like this situation with Samuel, the Lord has spoken over and over again but, because we didn’t know what to listen for, we didn’t know it was the Lord. We need an Eli in our life to guide us in our hearing.

The results in Samuel’s life from hearing the word of the Lord directly were profound. Notice what happened to him.

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

1 Samuel 3:19-21

None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground. Have you ever spoken and felt like your words just dropped to the ground having no impact? Like they didn’t even reach their intended audience? Samuel’s willingness to hear from the Lord changed the power and effectiveness of the words he spoke. Because he wasn’t just speaking his own words but was speaking with words laced with the word of the Lord, they carried weight and authority. Every time he spoke, his words impacted those who heard him. People began to recognized this and named him a prophet of the Lord.

Notice also that God was revealing Himself–His nature, character, and thoughts–through His word. When someone speaks, they reveal pieces of themselves through what they say and how they say it. It reveals what they care about and what they’re focused on. When Samuel heard from the Lord, he was learning a little more about God each time.

This happens with us. This is why John calls Jesus the Word of God in the Gospel of John. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of who God is and what He’s like. So as we read God’s word in scripture and as we hear God speak directly to us through the Holy Spirit, we receive little pieces of what God is like.

We can hear God speak to us in a variety of ways. He can speak directly to us through a scripture passage, a spontaneous thought, a mental image, a dream, patterns in circumstances, and through the words of trusted friends. If you’ve never heard directly from God for yourself, here is a simple practice that can help:

1. Quiet yourself. Set aside some time and space where you won’t be distracted. Play soft worship music if that helps but make sure you are alone.

2. Focus your heart and mind on Jesus. Picture yourself with Him if that helps. Pray this, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

3. Ask the Lord a direction question. Don’t start with theological questions. Ask personal/relational questions. A good one to start with is, “Father, who do you say that I am?” Or, “What is your favorite thing about me?”

4. Watch and listen for any spontaneous thoughts that come to mind or any mental pictures that appear. There might also be a feeling that rises up or a mental movie in your mind’s eye. Don’t dismiss or edit these.

5. Write down what you hear or see. Ask the Lord a follow up question to what He said. Then write down His next response. Take what you’ve written down to a trusted friend who loves Jesus and has some experience hearing from the Lord. Ask them if they think what you heard or saw was really from the Lord.

Repeat this process until you begin to get a feel for what it’s like to hear from the Lord. The more you practice hearing from Him, the better you will get at it. He wants to speak to you. He loves to talk with you.

As we saturate ourselves in hearing the word of the Lord, our own words will begin to change. Our words will start to be woven together with the word of the Lord. Our words will become less and less harsh, angry, sarcastic, and condemning. They will become more and more encouraging, loving, and kind. They will also begin to carry greater weight and authority. People will begin to sense that our words impact people.

Don’t be surprised if you begin to use less words too. People who tend to go on and on–who use way more words than necessary–are verbally revealing, through their endless chatter, their own insecurities, identity issues, and self-absorption. When we begin to hear what God thinks of us and we believe what He says about us, those insecurities and identity issues get healed. We’ll stop feeling the need to give every opinion on every issue. We’ll stop giving every detail of every story. We’ll stop preemptively explaining ourselves and defending ourselves. And our words will go from having no weight to actually leaving a lasting impression.

You Don’t Know What You Are Asking

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.

Matthew 20:20-22

Was it wrong for this mom to ask for good things for her sons? No. Was it an unreasonable request if Jesus was about to establish His earthy kingdom with a throne in Jerusalem? Nope. After all, her two sons were two of Jesus’s closest friends and companions. Was it an act of faith to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had the power to fulfill her request? Yes! It was a bold, faith-filled request, and we know God is pleased with those kinds of requests.

So, what was the problem?

The problem was that she didn’t know what she was asking.

I think that many of our prayers fall into this category, and we don’t even realize it. She didn’t realize that Jesus wasn’t yet establishing an earthly kingdom and that when His Kingdom comes “on earth as it is in heaven” it looks different than she was imagining. She didn’t realize that Jesus’s coronation would be His body nailed to a cross, a crown of thorns pressed down on His head. She didn’t realize death would precede His ascension to His throne. She didn’t realize the kind of Kingdom over which He would rule.

Garth Brooks popularized the saying, “Thank God for unanswered prayers.” And we should thank God for unanswered prayers because so many of our prayers have consequences that we can’t possibly foresee. Yet, God can foresee them. He knows that we don’t fully understand what it is that we are asking.

God can see that if we got that promotion how much traveling it would involve. He can see what it would do to our family. God can see that if He healed right now, one person would get better, but if He heals two years from now, 200 people will be impacted. God can see the weight and pressure that would come upon you if you actually got what you’ve been asking for. He can see how your heart would be crushed under the weight of responsibility. So while He’s preparing you for that thing, He loves you too much to give it to you right now.

Of course this isn’t true of all of our requests of God. But this is where trust comes into play. We aren’t going to automatically know which requests fall into the category of, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” We won’t know ahead of time, just like the mother of Zebedee’s sons didn’t know.

So we come boldly before the throne of grace with confidence and we make our requests to God (Hebrews 4:16). Then we trust God to fulfill our request or to adjust it as necessary. In humility, we need to be ready for God to tell us that we don’t really know what we’re asking and allow Him to reshape our request in line with what only He can foresee.

Are you willing to trust God even when your prayers aren’t getting answered the way you want?

God’s Will

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:12-14

We learn a couple things from Jesus’s teaching here. First, we learn about the loving heart of the Father. God will pursue people in order to restore them. Secondly, we see one of the paradoxes of the will of God. We learn that the Father “is not willing” that any of these little ones should perish. And yet, we know that not everyone is saved. Some are lost even though it is not God’s will.

Peter put it this way:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:8-9

Here we learn again that God doesn’t want anyone to perish. God wants everyone to come to repentance. Yet, we know not all will come to repentance. This is just a reality of the fallen world we live in.

From both of these passages we see both the loving heart of the Father and the fact that His will is not always done on earth. It’s why Jesus had to teach His disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven“(Matthew 6:10). We wouldn’t be instructed by Jesus to pray this if it was somehow automatic. While God’s will is always done in heaven, His will is not always done on earth. So we must pray for His will to be done on earth, and we must walk in obedience to His will so that it may be done on earth.

The freedom that God gifted His creation with has been used to resist His will, rebel against His will, and thwart His will. The freedom to authentically love God as we experience His love for us has been twisted by sin and is now used for evil. That means that many things that happen in the world and many things that happen to us are not the will of God.

Dallas Willard writes, in his book Hearing God, about the erroneous belief that some Christians adopt that states that everything that comes in life is God’s will:

If you wish to know what God would have you do, it is no help at all to be told that whatever comes is his will. For you are at that moment in the position of deciding what is to come. Does it mean that whatever you do will be God’s will? I certainly hope not. If Moses had accepted this view, there would have been no nation of Israel…

Many things that happen are not the will of God…

God’s world is an arena in which we have an indispensable role to play. The issue is not simply what God wants, but also what we want and will. When we accept whatever comes we are not receiving guidance. The fact that something happens does not indicate that it is God’s will.

Dallas Willard, Hearing God, Chapter 3

God desires an authentic relationship with us. He wants to hear from us and wants us to hear from Him. Our actions and our prayers impact the outcome of the future, as does our obedience or disobedience. It matters if you pray. It matters if you obey. It changes things. We are not just fatalistic robots.

Your life in Christ really does matter!

They Could Not Heal Him

“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith…

Matthew 17:15-20

Other manuscripts of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark have Jesus concluding this story by telling His disciples that this kind of spirit only comes out “by prayer and fasting.”

Noticed that Jesus isn’t upset that the man brought his son to Him for healing. Jesus was happy to heal. And Jesus seemed to be okay with the little faith that the boy’s father had. Jesus was not frustrated with him at all. It was His own disciples that frustrated Him.

I find it fascinating that Jesus’s frustration is that the disciples weren’t able to heal the boy themselves. Clearly, Jesus expected them to be able to do this by now. This completely flips our paradigm of prayer that we typically operate with in American Christianity.

We think our job is just to bring things to Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus expects us to be able to operate in the authority and power that He’s given us. I wonder if Jesus ever gets frustrated with us bringing Him something that He’s already give us the authority and power to deal with ourselves, including healing and deliverance.

Here are Jesus’s expectations of His own disciples: 1) the disciples should have been able to discern that this physical ailment was caused by a demonic spirit, 2) the disciples should have been operating in enough authority and faith to get it to leave, and 3) the disciplines of prayer and fasting should have been a regular part of the disciples’ life so that they were ready for a moment like this.

But the disciples seemingly failed to meet all three of these expectations. I’m sure Jesus was thinking, “What’s going to happen when I ascend back to the Father? What would happen to this boy then?”

The expectations that Jesus had for His disciples then are the same that He has for His disciples today. We’ve been given the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus expects us to be able to operate in both. We’ve been given gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us detect demonic spirits and release healing and deliverance to people around us. We’ve been given the chance to deepen our faith and our intimacy with God through prayer and fasting.

The truth is that Jesus is no longer walking the earth, so there is no Plan B. There is only Plan A. And Plan A is to see the Body of Christ, the Church, be able to operate in the gifts of the Spirit to such a degree that people with this boy’s condition get set free and healed.

We have to become the kind of conduits of deliverance, freedom, and healing that Jesus expects us to be. We need to be ready for moments like this one through our daily prayer life and regular fasting. Our faith needs to grow so that we can confidently release the Kingdom of God in any situation we face.

Until we do, Jesus’s words about His disciples back then are still true for us today, “You unbelieving and perverse generation…how long shall I put up with you?

The Amazing Father

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light… 

…a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Matthew 17:1-2, 5-8

When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John and they saw Him talking with Moses and Elijah, they were amazed–full of awe and wonder. But when the Father spoke from heaven, they were terrified. Yet, notice that Jesus, the One who knows His Father the best, says, “Don’t be afraid.”

Because of our dysfunctional relationships with our own dads, we can feel more comfortable interacting with Jesus, even Jesus in a glorified body, than the Father. I have a great relationship with my dad, but I can still remember a time in my life when I did not want to sit and listen in prayer for the Father to speak to me. I was afraid that the Father would only speak words of criticism, judgment and disappointment. For some reason, that same fear wasn’t there with Jesus. Maybe because He is always portrayed as full of mercy, grace and compassion.

Yet, if we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen the Father. If we know what Jesus is like, we know what the Father is like. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossi, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…“(Colossians 1:15). Jesus had to remind His own disciples of this truth.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

John 14:8-10

Jesus is just like the Father. If we feel comfortable praying to and interacting with Jesus but not the Father, then we don’t know who the Father really is. The grace, love and compassion of Jesus comes from the heart of the Father.

We need to be reminded that the Father is not like our earthly dad. He’s not removed and distant. He’s not angry or hot-tempered. He’s not disapproving and hard. He’s not an addict. He’s not passive and weak. He’s not irresponsible or flighty. And even for those of us who had amazing dads, the Father is even better than that!

We don’t need to be terrified of the Father. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. He is full of power and yet full of peace. He is majestic and mighty and yet full of kindness. We are free to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) knowing He will be present for us in our time of need.

What’s keeping you from spending time with the Father?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…

James 1:17

Vampire Christians

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone…

Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus Himself believed it was essential to get alone to spend time with the Father. Jesus intentionally dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples ahead of him to the other side of the lake. He then went alone up the side of a 3000 foot elevation around the Sea of Galilee and spent time praying.

Jesus wasn’t praying because He was checking some religious box. Jesus was perfect. Jesus never sinned. He wasn’t praying to show people how spiritual He was. He just wanted to be with His Father. He longed for the intimacy and nearness that only time alone with the Father can bring.

Jesus said that He only does “what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does“(John 5:19). He accomplished this by staying in constant communion with the Father through prayer. While Jesus “prayed continuously” as He walked through life, He also sought alone time with God where no one else was around. He got alone in order to listen to the Father as much as to talk to the Father.

With packed schedules, hurried and harried lives, many Christians are not spending alone time with God. I believe this has resulted in so much of the dysfunction in the lives of Christians and the Church. How can we expect to be shaped into the image of Christ if we are not spending daily alone time with Him? How can we expect to love the unlovable if we are not daily receiving love from the Father? How can we expect to forgive those who’ve hurt us if we are not daily reminded of the forgiveness we’ve received from Jesus?

I believe that many Christians look for programs in the local church to fill in for their lack of one-on-one time with the Lord. They want once-a-week worship services to build in them intimacy with God without ever spending alone time with Him. They want once-a-week bible studies to help them grow spiritually without having to dig into the word of God on their own. They want people praying for them but never spend time praying alone themselves. Then they wonder why they can’t seem to find a “good church” or a church that “fits them.”

The local church will never be able to give us what only time alone with the Lord gives us. It was never meant to. We have it backwards. Christians were meant to fuel up in their alone time with the Lord–worshiping, studying scripture, and praying–so that they could enter Christian community with something to give to others when they are there. Church was never meant to be a consumeristic place that meets all of our spiritual needs. American churches have too many vampire Christians who suck the life out of the community because they never receive from God the other six days a week in alone time with Him.

Spending daily time with the Lord is not a sign of super-spirituality. It’s one of the very basic, foundational things every Christian should be doing. It is an admission of our weakness, our daily need for God. It’s a posture of humility, knowing we can’t live the life we are called to live without spending regular time with the Father.

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit can’t wait to spend time with you every single day. They love time alone with you. It’s one of their favorite things in the world. They treasure it. They can’t wait to be with you…if only you’d set aside a little time for them.

Are you spending alone time with the Lord? Or have you become a vampire Christian?

You Do It

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. 

Matthew 14:15-18

This encounter between Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd is so important for every follower of Jesus to understand. The crowds had a legitimate need. The disciples did what we would do. They asked Jesus to do something about it. They even suggested what Jesus should do (send the crowds away so they could get food).

What do we call this today, when we go to Jesus with a request on behalf of other people? We call it prayer. Specifically, we call it petitioning prayer.

Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Yes, but we are also supposed to listen in prayer for His response. And we shouldn’t be surprised when the response Jesus gives us is, “You do it.”

Jesus tells His disciples to give the crowd something to eat, and their response is often our response. They felt inadequate. They reasoned with Jesus that they didn’t have enough to accomplish the task. They didn’t have what it takes. Don’t we do the same?

“But Jesus, that’s impossible for me to do!” “But Jesus, I don’t have enough money, talent, gifting, resources, people, help,…..etc.”

Jesus didn’t agree with His disciples. And when we give this kind of response He doesn’t agree with us either.

Jesus then says, “Bring them here to me“(Matthew 14:18).

Whatever it is that you have, bring it to Jesus. Hand it to Him. Does it feel too small, too weak, too insignificant? That’s okay. Give it to Jesus. Put it in His hands and watch what happens.

He’ll give it right back to you and say to you again, “You do it.” And as you are obedient, everything that didn’t feel like it was enough will multiply in your own hands as you give it away.

“Jesus, heal this person!” … “You do it.”

“Jesus, change this situation!” … “You do it.”

“Jesus, help those people!” … “You do it.”

“Jesus, they need freedom!” … “You do it.”

You give them something to eat. But first things first, hand it to Jesus. Put everything you have in His hands. Give it all to Him and watch what happens.

Time With Him

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 

Matthew 10:27

Imagine waking up, not drinking coffee, and skipping breakfast. Lunch rolls around and you have too much work to do so you skip that. Just as you get home from working late, your child is late to a sporting event. So you rush out the door skipping dinner. You finally get home and get all the kids to bed. How are you feeling right now? And what are the chances of you eating something healthy?

For most of us in this moment, we’re feeling tired, run-down, exhausted, irritable and possibly depressed. The likelihood that we will eat something good for us is very slim.

While most of us would try to limit days like this because of the physical toll it would take, many of us are doing this very thing daily when it comes to our spiritual lives. We are not getting up in the morning and spending time worshiping, praying and reading God’s word. We’re not spending time in silence hearing from the Lord. And we aren’t checking in with God throughout the day.

We get to the end of each day and wonder why our spirit is worn down. We wonder why God feels distant. We wonder why we are so tempted by sin, so tempted to feed our soul with destructive things rather than healthy things.

Spending time with the Lord is like stepping into sunlight. Our spirit has a solar panel for the glory of God. When we worship, when we pray, when we read scripture, heaven opens up over us, the glory of God shines on us, and angels ascend and descend upon us (Genesis 28:12; John 1:51; Luke 22:43). The batteries in our spirit and our soul get recharged. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8; Hebrews 10:22). And just like a wireless charger for our phone, our proximity to Him causes our spirit to be recharged with His Spirit.

It is in this place of proximity, this place of intimacy–this place of adoration and worship–that the Lord shares things with us. If we draw near to Him and quiet our hearts enough to listen, He will whisper things into our ears. He will tell us things. He will show us mental pictures of things. He will speak.

If we get alone with Him in the dark morning hours, we will have lots to share in the daylight hours. He will tell us things to proclaim from the rooftops.

How are you spending time alone with God?

How are you daily recharging your spirit?