Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Healing and Discipleship

I am currently in Canada for two weeks of training by Ellel Ministries Canada West on Healing and Discipleship. It has been an encouraging, humbling and stretching time. Ellel Ministries has an approach to discipleship that is wonderfully close to what I am discovering to be true. They very much believe that healing (in every sense of the word) is essential to discipleship. However, since I am not finished with my time up here, I will wait until my next post to write any more reflections on my time here. For the rest of my blog, I share a few thoughts from a paper I wrote about healing and discipleship for last year's House2House conference. As always, I welcome your comments.

First, ponder this verse for a moment: Luke 6:40 (my paraphrase) “A disciple is not above his/her teacher, but everyone who has been restored and mended so as to be fully prepared will be like his teacher.”

I recently heard Randy Clark describe his grandfather’s conversion as one in which his grandfather was miraculously and instantly set free from addiction to alcohol, abusing his family and marital unfaithfulness. Yet recently I have prayed for several young and not-so-young pastors to be set free from demonic strongholds of rage, lust, etc. Why didn’t grandpa need deliverance and inner healing whereas these other leaders did? Perhaps grandpa did need more work and we just don’t know about it, or perhaps the Gospel was more accurately presented and/or there was more power. (see 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5). But whatever the reason, the fact is that today many believers seem unable to live the Christian life with power and fruitfulness without going through inner healing and deliverance.

Now consider this thought to ponder from a leading Baptist pastor from Argentina.
It is impossible to move ahead in our separation from evil without inner healing. Why? Because sin is nothing more than accumulated frustration that we try to resolve in ways contrary to the will of God. For example, a woman who has not had a good relationship with her father—a relationship which should have taught her that she is loved and valued—may seek affirmation in numerous sexual relationships with different men. Such a woman is seeking for the father she never had. Similarly, the man who was raised in extreme poverty may seek to resolve that sense of destitution and thereby develop an extremely ambitious and greedy personality…. A daughter of God who from childhood felt as if she never measured up to her sister may become the instigator of constant confrontations and divisions in her local church. These are just a few illustrations of the ways in which sin is unresolved frustrations seeking to satisfy itself in the wrong ways.

All these situations come to our attention as sins, such as fornication, unrestrained ambition, greed, lack of submission, or a spirit of division. What we often end up doing is implementing disciplinary measures for those who fall into these sins. We read the appropriate biblical demands. We give them counsel to not fall into the same sin again. We warn them about the risks they are running. We pray for them. And we apply some kind of punitive ecclesiastical measure to them. We do all this to show them the demands of holiness and to help them live out the demands. Yet we are only working with the manifestation of the problem.

The result of this kind of approach is that the people continue to fall into the same sin all over again. Even in the best of cases, though they will stop committing those sins, they will end up seeking to resolve their frustration through other sinful means. We have worked with the consequences of the problem—the sin—but we have not addressed the causes. We are asking for purity from people without healing their wounds. To demand holiness without healing is to push people into guilt and frustration. Therefore, it is necessary to have those encounters with the healing power of the Lord in order to live in holiness. The result is that these basic needs or wants in our personality are resolved by means of the healing grace of God and never again through sinful means.

Confession of sin, an indispensable element for sanctification, is not that moment in which we finally change God's mind and convince him to forgive us. Rather it is the moment in which our minds are changed so that we clearly see our need and accept God's forgiveness. That is healing. St. Augustine said that we must hate the sin and love the sinner. Holiness is not only hating the sin, but also loving the sinner in me. I need to love me enough to seek to heal my past in such a way that I will stop repeating the same mistakes and stop hurting myself. The great men of God were great saints when they saw themselves as great sinners who needed healing. The test of knowing how holy I am in my life is not how close I feel to God according to my conduct, but rather how aware I am of my need for him.
Quoted from "Inner Healing to Live in Freedom," in Power, Holiness and Evangelism, compiled by Randy Clark, article by Dr. Carlos Mraida, co-pastor of Central Baptist Church, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The expulsion of demons was a normal part of the extension of the Kingdom of God.
• Jesus (many, many passages!)
• His disciples (Matthew 10:1, Luke 9:1-2)
• Other (All!) believers (Luke 10:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Philip in Samaria, see Acts 8:4-8)

It’s feasible that because the early church made deliverance a part of the proclamation of the Gospel, deliverance after conversion wasn’t usually needed. See, however, Acts 5:3 (Satan had filled the heart of Ananias), Acts 8:22-23 (Simon’s heart was full of bitterness and captive to sin).
And the following scriptures are all addressed to believers!

Ephesians 4:26-27 Giving the devil a foothold—written to believers! And “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil. (NLT)

Ephesians 4:31-32 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

After the NT period, the early Church often made deliverance part of the pre-baptism preparation of new converts, and there are reports that demons would often leave as the persons were being baptized!

Inner Healing, too? Yes! See Isaiah 61:1-3—one of the things mentioned is healing the brokenhearted.

The point of all this, of course, is that making disciples needs to include a level of healing that the Church in all its forms tends to neglect. But that is changing, I think.

More next time.

Stay lost in His love,

Tom, the least of Abba's children

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lighting Candles Instead of Cursing the Darkness

I have an amazing friend, Michele Perry, who let's her light shine in one of the darkest places in the world: war-torn and war-weary Sudan. Michele started and oversees an orphanage and outreach center in Yei, in Southern Sudan. Check out her main web page here. Michele recently sent me the following story, and I wept and wept as I read it. It is an incredible story about a man none of us have ever heard of whose faith in Jesus and love for others gives perfect expression to the title of this blog (Michele's life does the same!). Weep with me as you read the following story and let Jesus talk to you.

John Okello, brought five children by faith and he taught me a lot this week. His story undoes me. He is one who will have crowns in heaven none of us can fathom. He doesn’t have to say word. John shines with love and compassion. What I heard floored me. This young man knew more about being light in darkness than most people I know combined. I was deeply humbled. He had light radiating from his pained appearance as he described the journey he had been on with the five children that were seated behind him in our front yard. By the time he was done, I about told the kids to move into my room with me.

Five children from four families all orphaned by recent fighting in their home area along the Kenya border with Sudan in Eastern Equatoria, Didinga by tribe and language. He had been their sunday school teacher. Their church had disintegrated because of a corrupt leader and the 20 children in their care were now destitute. It was the only church in the area, that is unreached. And we are likely adopting it too. Anyone who has this much faith and heart is someone I want to be in touch with.

He had traveled hundreds of miles over five days with five children not even related to him by faith in search of help for them. He had used all of his own resources. Jesus told him to come to Yei and he had heard of us. What could I say BUT yes? It was all I could do not to cry as I saw his heart for these children. He went to a government orphanage in Juba on the way but said even if there was space; he would not want to leave them there. They didn’t love Jesus and he wanted these children to be loved and grow up loving Him like he did.

We literally do not have space physically for even one more child in our present facility. Our staff groaned because they know me too well by now. We are taking the brother and sister, Lakoma and Naonya, to live with us and doing everything we can to help find alternative placements for the three remaining boys in the community. Lakoma and Naonya would be especially hard to place because their family was working for the northern government and their parents killed while working for the arabs. Hatred extended to all related unfortunately, even the most innocent.

In the face of poverty, violence, fear, the unknown with next to nothing but his faith, this dear man gave all he had to follow Jesus clear across a war-torn nation to find a better life for these five children. I couldn’t turn him a way… now seven year old Naonya’s bright smiling face lights my day up every time I give her a hug or smile at her and Lakoma’s gentle ways with the little children here remind me of our Papa’s gentleness with us. Our mamas and children have grown so much too. They all responded with great joy in welcoming a new tribe to our home- we want every tribe to be with us here loving Jesus they said. That is not common sentiment here.

This Friday I leave for Canada for 2 weeks of training with Ellel Ministries West Canada. I am glad for the opportunity, but sometimes I wonder... It's good to wonder, isn't it! Papa, search me and help me when I grow up to be like John Okello!

Grace to you,

Tom, for sure the least of Abba's children!