Saturday, July 27, 2013

Healing Delayed

     One of the biggest challenges for anyone who ministers Jesus' healing to people centers around the question of delayed healing. As far as we can tell from Scripture, Jesus never turned anyone away unhealed or told them they had to wait until later. We also know that Acts 10:38 tells us that He healed "all who were oppressed by the devil." But we also know that only Jesus saw everyone healed every time they came to Him for healing. So we have before us both the goal and also the challenge of "healing delayed." 
     I am certainly no expert on healing, and I don't plan on writing very much today, but for those who, like me, wrestle with this question, I offer a few rather random thoughts.
     First, I think we sometimes forget that, although Jesus healed everyone who came to Him at the time they came, many had been waiting for a long time for their healing. The woman with the issue of blood had waited 12 long years, the man at the pool of Bethesda had waited 38 years, the blind man mentioned in John 9 had waited all his life! What does this mean for us? Perhaps only that we shouldn't be surprised if healing is delayed while we learn how to get ourselves or the persons we are praying for "all the way to Jesus." Just a thought.
      I wonder if another reason that physical healing may be delayed sometimes is because of God’s desire to work in the heart/the inside and not just “fix the outside.” Is He really healing us completely if He heals a broken leg but not the trauma that came with it? Is He really doing us a favor if He heals our disease but leaves bitterness in our heart? Jesus, of course, was able to discern how to lay hold of total healing for everyone because of His perfect intimacy with the Father, but we are still growing in this, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised if I miss the internal things God wants to do. On the other hand, if I realize up front that God is more interested on the inside than the outside, I will learn to listen more carefully for those things that relate to the more important "heart issues." Just a thought. 
     Now along these lines (inside as well as outside), we know, of course, that bitterness/unforgiveness may hinder healing, but I have found that it’s often necessary for Jesus to heal the person’s broken heart and release them from trauma before s/he is able to begin to forgive the perpetrator(s). And since forgiveness is often a journey and process, especially where repeated harm was/is present, beginning to forgive is all that is required for the healing to manifest. What if we chose, then, when working with people who are clearly bound by bitterness, to begin with asking Jesus to heal their broken heart instead of just telling them "you need to forgive!"? I have seen this very thing unlock many people to freedom both from bitterness and disease many times. Try it, I think you will like it!
     I also wonder if we underestimate the power of testimony. Faith of some sort, from at least someone involved in the healing is always required where healing is involved. Sometimes that faith needs to reside in the one being prayed for, sometimes it needs to reside in the person doing the praying, sometimes it needs to be "in the room," i.e., in the people who are present, and sometimes a combination of these. We see in Mark 6:5-6, too, that it's possible for "corporate unbelief" to hinder what God wants to do. But the power of testimony, properly exercised can address all of these areas, and it's perhaps especially important for churches that believe in healing but are seeing a only few people getting healed. Most Pentecostal or Charismatic believers believe that God heals people. Where they stumble is with believing that He wants to heal them personally! (Mark 1:40 ff.). And if we have a roomful of people like that, how are we different from the people of Nazareth in Jesus’ day? But when people begin to testify to their own healing, the power of testimony begins to increase faith in the room (that is, in the people in the room). And I think it does this in at least three ways: it reminds everyone of God’s power and loving willingness to heal, it reveals to everyone present the abundance of healing that is available right now AND it causes people in the room who need healing to begin to think, “If He did it for her/him, He will do it for me!” Maybe that's why that most of the great healing evangelists of the past often began with testimonies and then kept the flow of testimonies going as healings took place. Just a thought. But I wonder what it would like if we increased the power of testimony in every situation (Maybe we should even try it in marketplace ministry to individuals: tell some contemporary healing stories in addition to stories and other truth from the Bible before we pray for that person in Walmart!).
     What do you think? Just thinking "out loud," sort of....

Pressing in and on, remembering many wonderful stories of healing,

Tom, one of Abba's still learning children

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Messy Business!

     I have once again been triggered to write something based upon a book I am currently reading. I am slowly working through a wonderful book by Alan Fadling entitled, An Unhurried Life. My appreciation for the book went up a great deal the other night as I read through chapter 2, "An Unhurried Apprentice" and read the reminders to me that "making disciples" of Jesus is a slow (cannot-be-hurried) and often messy process. I remember thinking as I read these reminders, "No wonder so many Christian 'leaders' settle for trying to disciple crowds! It's much neater and cleaner and costs so much less!"
     So today, I reflect for a moment or two on the messy but wonderfully fruitful art of developing apprentices of Jesus. But first, if you want to catch more of the weight of what I write here you will need to look at three earlier entries I have written about "crowds." You can find these articles here, here and here
     How really do we "make disciples"? Alan Fadling describes it quite well, I think in the following paragraph: "The practices of solitude, silence and listening to God started to slow me down and enabled me to focus my attention more and more on coming to Jesus and following him rather than talking about Jesus and slaving away for him. In that context and over time, ministry became a matter of simply inviting students to join me in this journey. We were learning to follow Jesus together. The focus was less and less on our activities for him and more on our attentiveness to him, on walking with him, and on working with him."   (page 23).
     Sounds beautiful, right? And it is! But Alan goes on to say what many of us who have undergone the shift from gathering a crowd to discipling the few have experienced--it's messy business! "We were learning together how to follow him—and it was one of the hardest years of my life and ministry. In many ways, my previous focus on planning more events and giving more talks was easier. Staying busy seemed easier than becoming unhurried, at least at the time. And it was a lot less messy." (pp. 23-24)
     And this "business" is not only messy, it requires patience. Living life one-on-one or few-on-few to the point of transformation is a much slower and less "spectacular" process. It's easier to notice and increase in the size of a crowd, of course, that it is to see the slow transformation of a life and/or family, especially when that transformation is often 3 steps forward, two steps back for a while!
     But we cannot, of course, choose the lesser path of settling for trying to "disciple" a crowd (which cannot be done!). Consider the following rather sobering observations by Mr. Fadling: "When I think about the crowds that followed Jesus, I realize that they came to Jesus not to listen to his teaching or to know him better. They came for what they wanted from him. They didn’t come interested in what he wanted for them, and this reality sparked conflict between Jesus and the crowds. Crowds tend to be self-interested. Crowds come and go. Crowds are fickle and unpredictable. What collects a crowd one day may well disperse it the next. Crowds that love us today may hate us tomorrow. Yet we can quickly gather a crowd when we attract them on the basis of what they want—or at least what they think they want." (page 27) and: "The crowd traveled with Jesus, but they weren’t following him." (page 29)
     So here we are, face to face once again with the inescapable truth that the commission left with those who would be leaders in His Kingdom are called to the very messy, often difficult "business" of pouring out lives out, living life together with, learning in community with, a few others who are willing to take the longer, harder road. Will you join me and many others in doing so? It's already happening, of course, as Jesus awakens His Bride, but sensed a need to issue the call again. It's not a call to that which is easy, but rather that which is enabled and empowered--there's a big difference. It's a call to long lasting joy rather than instant happiness. It's a call to humility and transparency and dependency upon not only God but upon those we lead. And It's a call to reconsider how you spend your time and effort, especially if you are a "leader" in God's Kingdom. I conclude with one more quote: "Helping others learn to walk with Jesus and not stop at just believing things about him requires intentionality and focused effort. We never find time to do this patient work. We must make time. Unhurried time." (pages 36-37)

Taking the slower, longer road,

Tom, one of Abba's children