Tag Archives: healing

2017: A Year of Lament…and Deeper Healing

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excerpt from my end of the year letter…

This was a hard year in many respects: nationally (increasing natural disasters, divisive politics, senseless deaths, policies further marginalizing the poor), locally (sharp rise in homelessness and the housing crisis in LA), and as a church family (more uncertainty for our undocumented siblings, tragic deaths, marriages in crisis, and chronic illness taking out local leadership).  I’ve had to learn how to lament (about 40% of the Psalms are lament): to cry out to God in the midst of pain.  We like celebration.  We don’t like lament.  But God’s been showing me that lament is God’s invitation into a relationship so intimate that He wants us to process our pain with him, not a kind of relationship that only allows us to speak when it is in praise.

Yet, He has opened my eyes to the work He is doing nonetheless.  We’re seeing favor in our community like never before, our attendance numbers are slowly increasing, our discipleship has multiplied, but most of all God has been doing deep healing.  Our life groups have persevered through the storms.  We are working on better structures to care for the church community.  Although circumstances may not have changed drastically, many of our local folks are in a much better place with Jesus than they were a year ago.  A handful of key local leaders even preached during Sunday services for their very first time!  God, in his love, has brought many difficult issues to light.  But it’s only through this process that we can see more clearly and the work of deeper healing can take root.

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What does the Kingdom of God look like (in real life)? Part 3: It Comes With Power

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(our youth group at a winter camp in 1994)

Part 3 of 7 in an ongoing series to attempt to answer the question, from my own experience and witness, “What does the Kingdom of God look like (in real life)?.”    

#3. (of 7) It is Accompanied by Supernatural Power

The first time I, that I am aware of, encountered supernatural power was near the end of my middle school years.  One night I had a bunch of my good guy friends, that were also part of our church’s youth group, sleepover my house.  It was a good time full of jokes, farts, and late night confessions of secret crushes.  The next morning we all slowly woke up, except for one of my friends.  We thought it would be funny to pull a prank on him to wake him up by throwing him into our bathroom tub and blasting him with a shower-head of water.  

He didn’t wake up.  

Our laughter soon turned to concern.  He was breathing and he showed no signs of sickness.  We tried to open his eyes, but his pupils would pull away from view.  Then this strange low growling and groaning started from this friend of ours.  Our concern turned to fear.  Soon we started yelling at him, slapping him in the face, and threatening for him to wake up and that it wasn’t funny, whatever joke he was trying to pull on us.  Our friend started pushing us off of him.  Now our friend was not a big guy by any means, but we couldn’t restrain him.  Even my older brother got involved, and he was a big guy.  My brother sat right on top of my friends chest demanding that he wake up.  My friend, even with his hands restrained by us the best we could, was starting to buck my brother off his chest.  And the strange mutterings continued from our friends mouth.  

Chaos was upon us.  

We were desperate and in way over our heads dealing with something none of us could explain but were sure was something ominous.  One of us called our youth pastor to come to my house in this time.  Our youth pastor arrived and with a couple words of rebuke to whatever was messing with our friend, the darkness was gone and our friend woke up.  

There was no joking or “A-Ha! I got you!” statements afterward.  Only the feeling that some kind of madness had passed, beyond our understanding.  Our youth pastor spoke to us about spiritual warfare in the Kingdom of God and how to deal with it.  Soon after our youth pastor started a bible study with us, and you better believe the word of God came alive to us like never before.  

 

Fast forward about 20 years later.  God was calling me to transition out of youth ministry into becoming an associate pastor of adults at our local community church.  Right around that time it was Thanksgiving season, two days before Thanksgiving to be exact.  I was with two of our church elders, Gus and his wife Isabel, finishing preparing some thanksgiving meals we were going to give away to folks in need in our community.  Gus was also there to prepare for the sermon he was going to give the coming Sunday.  As we were finishing up, Gus was complaining about a sudden cloudiness in his head and a weird sickness.  He felt he needed to lay down.  I asked him a little more about how he was feeling, learning by this time that God is the source of supernatural power even to physically heal.  Gus shared that this fog in his head was preventing him from preparing his sermon and that he had experienced this strange feeling before when he was around demonic elements on his mission trips abroad.  

Sensing spiritual attack, I called over Isabel to pray with me for Gus.  I prayed to God first for this sick feeling to be gone and to rebuke anything that was trying to mess with Gus.  Then Isabel prayed for Gus.  We checked in with Gus.  

The sick feeling was gone.

Gus shared with me that when I rebuked it in my prayer he felt something pulling his head and then when Isabel prayed he felt it break off fully.  We gave thanks to God for the miracle we had just witnessed.  Gus was then able to prepare his sermon.     

This last story is significant because Gus experienced healing from a physical ailment as well as deliverance from spiritual oppression.  God has power over ALL.  It reminds me that the physical and the spiritual are not completely separate.  We do not fight a battle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces at play in our midst (Ephesians 6:10-12).

God’s Kingdom is not merely about talk but it come comes with power (Mark 9:1, 1 Corinthians 4:20).  

If we are people of the Kingdom of God, under submission to the King, we have authority over ALL darkness (Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:19-20) because our King, Jesus, has authority and power over ALL things (Matthew 28:18).  

Let us walk in His power, not ours, as we step forward today.   That makes ALL the difference.  

why we’re afraid to pray for healing

too often we find our prayers infrequent and frail.  when we hear that someone is ill or not well our automatic response is more “that’s too bad” rather than “let’s pray.”  if we actually do pray for healing for another person we keep it general and not too specific.  and we are sure to add on to our prayer “if it is Your (God’s) will” to get God off the hook…or ourselves.

why is that?

it may be that we’re not sure what his will is, especially when it comes to healing.  yes, there are certainly inscrutable things about the Lord’s will in specific cases.  however, there are things about God’s will that are relatively clear.  healing, surprisingly, is one of them.  again, there are instances where he may not provide healing for some reason but in general it is reasonable to think healing is his will.

  1. when Jesus inaugurates his kingdom he proclaims the gospel AND demonstrates the gospel through healing. (matthew 4:23, 9:25)
  2. when Jesus sends his disciples on their short term mission trips he sends them out, commanding them to proclaim the kingdom AND to heal (the 12 in luke 9:6, the 72 in luke 10:9)
  3. we never see an account of Jesus in which he turns people away from healing or says it is not the Father’s will
  4. Jesus instructs us to pray for “His kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.” if heaven is where God’s kingdom and will is fully established and in heaven there is no sickness or pain, then we ought to ask for healing to be unleashed here on earth.
  5. lastly, our actions betray us. when we do not see healing then we conclude it must be God’s will that we not be healed…but then we continue to pursue medical treatment.  aren’t we disobeying God then if we truly believe that?

 

it is not a matter of IF healing is God’s will, it is just a matter of WHEN.  this leads us to the second reason why I think our prayers may be so weak willed.  as americans, we’re terrified of disappointment.  we’ve twisted our theologies of prayer to protect ourselves and limit God.  we’ve found believers in other countries, especially those not cushioned with wealth, to be of tougher faith who don’t give up on God and prayer at the first sign of disappointment.  often they do not have the luxury of health care so they go after God in ways that we can learn from.

in fact, Jesus teaches us, through the story of a widow who keeps going to an unjust judge to get justice (Luke 18:1-8), that perseverance in prayer IS faith (v.8).  when full healing didn’t come to a blind man after Jesus laid hands on him, Jesus just did it again (Mark 8:22-25).  He was fine to acknowledge that healing is a process.  if Jesus had to pray twice for the same healing we could surely pray twice (or more).

just so you know that the kingdom of God isn’t just a matter of talk, i’ve experienced more breakthrough as i’ve kept asking of God in my life.  one night a couple months ago at our discipleship school, right after a teaching on healing prayer, we prayed for anyone who was feeling any physical ailment.  each person we prayed for was not healed instantaneously.  however, when we pressed in to pray a second time, without fail, people felt a significant decrease in their physical symptoms.  i took the teaching challenge to enter into any opportunity to pray for people’s physical healing for the following week.  again, when i didn’t stop with one prayer, i witnessed healing.   one sister with chronic pain in her knees went from barely being able to walk to me to joyfully walking down the stairs.

even if the answer does not come right away he may be shaping us for the better in the asking.

let us persevere with God beyond what we’re comfortable with.

 

*special thanks to chris rattay for many of his insights concerning physical healing

a testimony of two Tavos

When I first met Tavito 4 years ago he was a junior higher who had only recently started to come to church with his family.   I remember how he’d share with me about getting teased about his belief in Jesus at school and struggled to forgive others that hurt him.  Even forgiving his father, Gustavo, who although had given his life to Jesus and was changing, Gus in his former life had hurt the family a lot with his anger.

Tavito (top row left) performing with his band
Tavito (top row left) performing with his band

I’ve gotten to know Tavito through youth group over the years and in this past year have had the privilege to mentor him. Even in the past year, I’ve been so encouraged by his faithfulness and growing courage to be more open about his faith and to care for others that are left out.  He has not only grown to forgive his father Gus but this past month they even got to minister together on a mission trip to Taxco, Mexico!   While they were there Gus sent me this message: “Tavito and I prayed for a blind woman and God healed her.”

God broke forth an amazing ministry of healing down in Mexico through members of our inner city church. Gus and Tavito shared how they’d be praying for people’s physical and emotional healing for hours. With the lady that was born blind they persevered in praying for her multiple times in one sitting and her healing progressed from seeing light to seeing her mother in front of her to seeing figures in the distance.  I challenged him to share with the youth group this past Wednesday about his experience.

Whereas a couple months ago I was concerned of Tavito’s distance from the youth group, he stepped in with God’s courage and shared with his peers (a big step for high schoolers who are so self conscious to what their peers think)!  Tavito is not yet some super experienced Christian guy but he’s opening to God’s grace working through him. I know that the teens seeing God touch one of their very own peers makes them long for more of Jesus.

After the youth group meeting Tavito, Phil (one of the local youth leaders I’m mentoring), and I talked about the spiritual atmosphere of the teen group, talked about the possibility of starting up a bible club at his school this fall of his senior year, and prayed for the youth of our community.  Tavito is not only acknowledging Jesus but is letting Him lead and thinking about the others Jesus wants to touch.  It was a beautiful moment I didn’t even imagine in my dreams.

God hears our prayers.  God is always at work.  There’s a harvest of the lost, the last, and the least that God still wants to reach.

i can be pretty blind

this past month my heart has been heavy as i’ve looked out and see many of the men in our community either not stepping into life or even stepping away from life. addiction. apathy. busyness. complacency. resignation. shame.   these are just a few of the reasons why people do not choose into Jesus. me included. and it’s not always “bad” things that keep us from him and the life he offers us every day. in fact we might be giving ourselves to good things…it’s just that it keep us from seeing what is best…Jesus. i’ve been trying to pour into and pray over the men God has entrusted to me and it’s been disheartening when i don’t see response and change. ministry in the “hood” takes even longer as we must work through the brokenness of not only people (ministers included!) but the brokenness of generations of unjust systems. i’ve been thinking to myself “Jesus, didn’t you promise that if we come to you rivers of living water would flow from within us?” why don’t I see this?”

i can be pretty blind.  Jesus has been opening my eyes these days though.

gus, my brother in Jesus, shared God’s word yesterday from john 4 and from the testimony of God in his life. before Jesus, gus used to be a very angry man…he has sent people to the hospital in blackouts of rage. he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. his marriage was on the rocks. he thought he was a lost cause.  but Jesus did not. like the samaritan woman at the well, Jesus reached out to gus. first in the form of his wife, isabel, who stood by him as he overcame addictions. then a handful of years ago Jesus himself met him. then the deeper healing began. gus had deep pain in his life. one in particular was from when his daughter was born prematurely at 6 months and passed away after only a couple hours in this world. he was angry at God. in a time of prayer a few years ago Jesus revealed to gus God’s perspective: his daughter had a collapsed lung and should not have been able to live at all. God gave gus the gift to meet her and hold her for a couple hours.

gus is not a perfect man but i was reminded today (thanks lucy!) that Jesus’ living water IS flowing out of men like him. gus is a guy i just want to be around. he is a model of perseverance. he has had excruciating pain in his back from a work injury for years. yet he stands in God’s strength. as he has difficulty sleeping he mediates on scripture.  he essentially remodeled our church building. the young men of the high school football team look to him for advice. this is a man who essentially prayed that God would send him to prison and took that opportunity to share Jesus with inmates.   after he shared the word of God and his testimony, more than i have seen in months, men were drawn to the living water and stepped into Jesus by asking for prayer.

Jesus is awesome because he restores.

thank you Jesus for restoring my sight.