Silent Sabbath

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23:50-56

Friday, before the sun set, Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’s body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a new tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other women watched the burial, mourned, and planned to return after the sabbath to cover the body in spices and perfumes.

Imagine the looks of silent shock around the shabbat dinner Friday night. Imagine the silence of Saturday.

It was meant to be a day of rest, but I imagine it was a day of restlessness for the followers of Jesus. Their rabbi, their Messiah, their King, their hope for freedom from Roman occupation was dead. One of their closest friends, Judas, had turned Jesus over to the Jewish leaders and then committed suicide. One of the leaders of their band of brothers, Peter, had just denied even knowing Jesus in the moment when Jesus needed him most. Everyone else seemed to scatter except the women and the beloved disciple John.

What just happened?

Everything happened so fast. Have you ever had one of those moments of confusion and disillusionment that seemed to move faster than your thoughts and feelings could process? When things finally slow down, as they did that sabbath, everything comes rushing back. Flashes of scenes play through your mind.

Jesus in the Gethsemane agonizing in prayer.

The soldiers marching toward them with torches.

Jesus getting struck on the face.

The mock trial.

The early morning pronouncement of Pilate that left them in shock.

The beaten and bloodied image of Jesus stumbling up to Golgotha.

His eyes.

What was on his head?

The clank of metal on metal met with screams of pain.

Our Savior hanging there.

The smell of blood and death.

The lifeless body.

The dark tomb.

All the images flashing in their minds on repeat. Then the questions. How could this happen? Why would God let this happen? This can’t be God’s plan. Why didn’t God stop this? What do we do now? How can I go back to my old life? Will the Romans come for us next? The Jewish leaders know us. Are they going to hunt us down? What about my kids? What are we going to do?

Silence.

They couldn’t have known that while they were feeling defeated, Jesus was defeating death.
All they knew was silence.

Sometimes God does His best work in the quiet of disillusionment…

…if we would only hold on until morning.

Not Like The Rest

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Saturday.

Jesus is why we don’t grieve like everyone else. The apostle Paul admits that we will grieve. We should grieve. Grieving is a healthy process of dealing with loss. Not to grieve would simple push the pain down and cause problems deep in our heart that would leak out in the future.

Jesus died. He experienced death. He’s been there. That Saturday after His crucifixion was the Sabbath. It was the Jewish day of rest. And for the disciples a day of deep grieving (Luke 24:17).

We have to grieve, but we don’t have to grieve like the rest of humanity. Our grief is infused with hope. It’s infused with life. Because Jesus died and rose again, death has transitioned from a dead end to a blinking yellow light. Death used to be a “The End” slide at the end of a movie, but now it’s simply the Netflix countdown between episodes as we move from this life into the next.

This hope we have is because of Jesus and only because of Jesus. Death doesn’t have the final word over us because death didn’t have the final word over Him. And if we find ourselves in Him, we live the same victory He lived.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

A Day-dream

I want to tell you of a dream I had. Forgive me if some parts seem fantastical. That is the way of dreams.

The dream started with me and my friend Cam landing in Sacramento on our trip out to Bethel Church in Redding, California. We rented a large sedan to make the two hour drive north from the Sacramento airport to Redding. But they didn’t have any sedans when we got to the rental counter. Instead, they asked if it was okay if they gave us a small SUV. It turned out to be a red, Dodge Journey. We were on a journey, now in a Journey. We couldn’t help but laugh at our new chariot of fire.

The next day Cam and I went to the Healing Rooms at Bethel. The reason we were there in the first place was because of a dream Cam had months ago. In Cam’s dream Bill Johnson, the senior leader at Bethel Church, showed Cam around a town he had never seen before and then dropped him off in front of a building that was surrounded by piney, snow-dusted mountains. He vividly remembered the picture of the mountains from his dream. We felt that this dream was the Lord saying that Cam needed to go receive prayer at the Bethel Healing Rooms. When we pulled up to park at the church, we couldn’t believe our eyes. There they were, the mountains, just as Cam had seen them in his dream. Tears welled up in his eyes as the Lord confirmed the dream and God’s desire for us to be there.

We sat in a waiting area as Cam filled out a paper indicating his need for prayer. The flow for the day would be waiting area (5 minutes), informational classroom (10 minutes), worship sanctuary soaking in God’s Presence (until Cam’s number was called), then healing room (where they prayed in teams of 3 or 4 for each person needed prayer). God wasn’t interested in waiting for the healing room. One girl who hadn’t had any feeling in her foot for 12 years was healed in the waiting area.

As we walked from the waiting area to the classroom, I could feel the air get thick. You know how humid air seems thicker than dry air? That was how it felt to walk down the hallway, but it wasn’t a change in humidity; it was a change in the spiritual atmosphere. In the informational classroom they gave a quick overview of the process and a quick teaching on Jesus and His desire to heal. I started to shake uncontrollably. The Presence of God was already moving and my body was reacting to it. No one was even praying yet.

Then we left the classroom and walked over to the sanctuary. As I walked through the doors into the sanctuary it felt like someone jabbed a finger in my right side. It was another reaction to the Presence of God. I almost fell over. A worship band was singing in a kind of continual worship. Some people sat quietly, peacefully, yet others were dancing around. I saw some people weeping and others laying down. Everyone was encountering God in different ways.

After a while, Cam’s group number was put up on the projection screens so we walked to the healing room. I had to pee. By the time I got back from the restroom, a group of people were praying for Cam. Nothing much happened for him but others in the room were being touched. For one lady, her scoliosis was healed right there in front of us. We all celebrated.

The morning ended with a quick debrief in the informational classroom and a short visit to the Bethel prayer chapel. Cam was fighting disappointment. So we engaged in the well-known cure-all for disappointment, worship and pizza.

What seemed like a random selection from Google maps ended up being a divine appointment. We picked the pizza place with 4.5 stars on Google, Westside Pizza. As we ordered we smelled pizza in the air and heard Bethel worship music blaring in the back. We asked about it and found out that the owners went to Bethel Church. The worship that was happening in the car on the way to the restaurant continued inside the restaurant. The pizza was really good too.

Bellies and hearts full, we took in the sights of Redding. There aren’t many. We walked around the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and across the Sundial Bridge. There is an amazing view of the Sacramento River with the snow-dusted Shasta mountains in the distance. Then we drove up to Whiskeytown Lake. The lake is surrounded by the awesome beauty of the Shasta mountains and the devastating remains of the Carr fire. The juxtaposition was heart-breaking.

Whiskeytown is almost half-way between Redding and Weaverville. Weaverville is where the movement known as Bethel started before Bethel. Bill Johnson was the pastor of a church in Weaverville called Mountain Chapel (also where Kris Vallotton was a leader) for 18 years before ever coming to Bethel Church. So Cam and I decided to check it out for ourselves.

Weaverville is a very small town tucked away in the mountains. Mountain Chapel is a small church, about the size of the one I grew up in. Cam and I walked around the property praying. We were looking at a mustard seed, the very definition of insignificance, a Bethlehem of sorts. How could something so powerful, something that is now impacting Christians around the world, be born out of this? Only God.

Our prayer? Do it again, God. Do it in us. Two roadrunners sprinted across our path just as we finished our prayer. It was God’s amen. Let it be so!

The drive back to Redding winds through mountains blanketed by pine trees. Cam and I talked of beginnings, John Wimber, and what we’re called to be in this next generation of the Church. I’m driving.

As we round a bend, Cam presses his left forearm firmly against my right arm as if to say without words, “Did you see that…did you see that…” I turned to him and asked what was going on.

He tells me that as we came around that bend in the road, he saw a huge angel standing on the side of the road taller than the pine trees. The angel was bending at his side as he looked around the corner for us, like a child playing hide-and-go-seek who just can’t wait any longer. The angel looked right at us as we drove toward him. He was giant, blond and was holding a huge pocket watch in his hand. The clock part of the watch was dangling down at the end of a long, golden chain and the angel was holding the top of the chain. The hands of the clock were tick-tick-ticking. Cam could barely take it all in before the angel disappeared and the prophetic pocket watch with him.

“What could it mean?” we wondered. It seemed as if the Lord was highlighting His timing of things and this giant angel was a time-keeper. The rest of the drive to Redding we marveled at God’s goodness.

This dream continued with me giving a prophetic word to the hostess of a restaurant that night and, later, casting black, demonic butterfly wings off of a person. But it’s all too much to record here. You know how dreams can be. Fantastical.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 11:15)