Tag Archives: healing

Being Ananias: Ministry to those we Fear

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.  Acts 9:17-19

Have you ever wondered why exactly Ananias was necessary to Paul’s conversion experience?  Doesn’t it seem like a lot of extra (unnecessary) steps?  God could have handled this entire conversion experience so much more efficiently by just handling it Himself.  What is the point of blinding Paul until a fellow believer could come to him and play a part in helping Paul see again?  Friends, I believe we, the church, must answer these questions if we are to understand God’s expectations of us.

I have built an entire ministry around the proposition that the church is not just one alternative plan to reach this broken world, but rather is God’s only plan.  I believe this with all my heart.  Christian Unity Ministries is not about finding alternative ways to reach the communities of the world…it is about bringing health and vitality to the only vehicle God has already ordained for that work: his church. And a big part of that work involves helping churches become the people God expects us to become in order to love well, whether the objects of that love are within the church or outside the church. If we are to be God’s vehicle for reaching a lost and broken world, we must learn to minister even to those in our culture with whom we strongly disagree or fear.…

First, Do Good. Then, Speak Truth.

 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong…While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people…Acts 3:6-7, 11-12

Are you old enough to remember when it was said of the U.S. that our “national pastime” was baseball? I can remember it being said. I’m not sure I ever really believed it. Those were simpler times, to be sure. Nicer times. Less complicated. But what about today? What would you suppose is this culture’s favorite pastime? My educated guess is this: having a “take” and making it known. We are living in a culture obsessed with finding creative, persuasive, (controversial?) ways of communicating our beliefs or opinions about every single happening or news item or public personality. Racism? Here’s my take… Same sex marriage? Here’s my take… Abortion? Here’s my take… Politics? Here’s my take… Evangelicals? Here’s my take… Muslims? Here’s my take… You get the idea. It’s an obsession. All of us feel compelled to have a take and make it known. And we spend an enormous amount of our time either reading/listening to other people’s takes or coming up with our own.

In the Christian world, we usually call it “speaking the truth”. We may or may not want to be seen as going along with the crowd, so we may or may not intend to jump on the social media bandwagon of “have a take and make it known”, but we do …

Corporate Prayer as a Means of Focus

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

camera lensIf your church is anything at all like mine, there is a pretty limitless supply of human needs and desperation within a 5 mile radius of it in any direction. There are single moms struggling to make ends meet, there is poverty and homelessness, there are drug addicts and prostitutes, there are sick people and broken people…lots of reminders all around us that we live in a broken world. I wonder if all that brokenness causes you to lose sleep at night, trying to discern what needs are your church’s to meet and what ones are not?

You cannot meet them all. And even if you could, it is probably not God’s assignment for your church to meet them all. He is funny that way. Like a tornado which touches down on one house and leaves the one next to it standing, God’s assignments for us often have us meeting needs in one person (or one family or one group), without meeting the needs of scores of others all around them.

That was the disciples’ experience with Jesus in John, chapter 5 at the pool at Bethesda. A pool surrounded by a “multitude” of crippled and lame people. The disciples followed Jesus to the pool, watched him heal one man, and then watched him leave all the others behind. I don’t know about you, but that would have troubled me a great deal! …

Devastation, Destruction and the Love of God

Thursday Re-mix:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. 
Psalm 118:1

We are approaching the one-year anniversary of one of the most destructive weather weeks in our country’s history.  One year ago, tornadoes ripped through the heartland of America and one particularly devastating one gutted the town of Moore, Oklahoma, leaving us with a great deal more questions than answers about God and His ways.  After that kind of occurrence, nothing seems safe…our cities, our homes, our children.  Devastating.

tornado damageIt was against that backdrop that I found myself meditating on my church’s Re:Verse passage from that week: Psalm 118.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Awfully hard to embrace in that context, right?

When I work with congregations in the midst of conflict, there is this same difficulty…finding God and trusting His promises in the midst of devastation.  Hopeless does not really begin to describe the feeling.  Trusting God when the path is smooth is one thing, but believing He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do when our world has crumbled around us…well, that’s a different thing, isn’t it?

When your entire neighborhood is literally ripped from its foundation, leaving little evidence of ever having been there, it is hard to hear about God’s love.  When lifelong friendships are torn apart as a result of a church conflict, we struggle with notions of God’s promises to those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.  When our children are sent safely off to school and then are horribly and suddenly taken from us, the love of God can feel like a completely foreign concept.

I think it is important to note that God’s Word …

From Whom All Healing Comes

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.  Mark 14:43-46


My ministry brings me into contact with a good number of people who have felt wounded by the church.  God seems to have given me the awesome assignment of being an encourager and exhorter to those people.  I co-authored a book with Debbie Taylor Williams aimed specifically at the pain of these same dear friends: “Trusting God’s People…Again”.  It is on my mind this week, because I will be speaking from it the next two Sunday evenings at my church.

Being hurt by the church is by no means a unique experience.  The statistics of those who feel injured by the church are pretty overwhelming!  But the pain itself, the feelings of betrayal by God’s own people…those feelings are definitely unique to these circumstances.  Being hurt by the church is just not comparable to any other pain…not really.  It is a deep and lasting pain of being wounded by the very place which should be the safest place in the world for us.  The healing process, therefore, is likewise pretty profound.

The good news is this: the One administering the healing from this pain knows all about it from personal experience.  That makes a big difference!  Here is the way I describe it in the book:


Like physical pain, emotional or spiritual pain can be incapacitating.  When your leg is broken, no matter how much you want to walk on it, no matter how important walking might be to you, you simply cannot do it.  A healing process must take

Spiritual Triage and Why We Don’t Get It

Tuesday Re-mix –

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife… So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,  hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.  1 Corinthians 5:1, 4-5

Triage:  the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors  merriam-webster

“Triage” is the term for having to make quick, hard decisions (usually medical) about which wound or patient to treat first in order to do the most good.  In the spiritual warfare we call “church”, there are casualties…and none more so than when blatant and public immorality are at issue.  That is what Paul confronted in the Corinthian church, and his counsel is both passionate and harsh.  It is about spiritual triage.

If you are being honest, you will admit that you do not like this instruction from Paul one bit.  Furthermore, if you are like me, you have twisted and contorted and struggled to find some way of interpreting and teaching this passage that somehow takes the “harsh dogma” out of it and makes it more understandable…more palatable to the mainstream Christian…more “in line” with our notions of grace and mercy.  We do this in light of Jesus’ treatment of church discipline in Matthew 18 (“treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”…remember how Jesus treated the tax collectors?) and in light of Jesus’ treatment of the adulterous woman (“Then

Step 8: Owning the Damage I Have Done

Tuesday Re-mix –

Step 8: We made a list of all persons we have harmed and we are willing to make amends to them all.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I’ve been working on Step 8 this week.  I am suddenly feeling a little bit like the guy who casually tossed a cigarette butt onto the ground and burned down an entire forest and didn’t find out about it until long afterwards.  A friend of mine who knows these 12 steps much better than I do once told me that an addict can spend a lifetime on step 8 alone.  Once you start making a list of the people who have been harmed by your addiction, the floodgates open up and it can actually become pretty overwhelming.  That has been my experience as I have considered the ramifications, both known and suspected, of my obsessive self-reliance and its impact on others.

So, in order to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed, I am starting with categories rather than with names.  It doesn’t diminish the scope of the damage, but it helps me at least begin to get my brain wrapped around the depth and the breadth of the damage.  This list is only a start.  But it does get me a few steps further down the long process of considering all those I have hurt.  So, here we go…

1.  My family – How much spiritual damage have I caused each time my wife or daughters came to me needing Godly wisdom and I gave them my own wisdom instead?  Rather than prayerfully discerning the wisdom God had waiting …

“Do You Want to Get Well?”

Tuesday Re-mix –

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6

Step 6: We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

So, in our 12-step program to recover from our addiction to self-reliance, step 6 is that we are “entirely ready to have God remove” this character defect.  Well, that really is the question, isn’t it?  Are we entirely ready to give up our addiction to self-reliance?  Are we entirely ready to start opening our lives up to God and to God’s people and to start leaning into community?

When I was in college, I blew my knee out messing around in the gym.  It was my first serious injury of my life.  I waited a week or so before going to the doctor, because my addiction to self-reliance was already well-developed by then.  When I did finally go to the doctor, it was still pretty swollen.  He told me that he could not diagnose it with all that fluid on it.  He would need to aspirate it in order to check it out.  That meant he would need to stick a long needle into my knee joint and draw out the fluid.  I grabbed my things and left.  Self-reliance was looking like a pretty good option to me at that point.

Several weeks later, the swelling had all but gone and the pain had subsided pretty well too.  I decided it was healthy enough …

When Confession to God is Not Enough

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Step 5: We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I grew up feeling sorry for my Catholic friends because they had to confess their sins to a priest.  It seemed to me that such a thing would be the most awful experience in the world.  My particular faith community taught me that, when it came to confession, I did not need an intermediary…I could confess my sins straight to God.  To be honest, I liked that a lot more, because it was easier to fool myself into believing I had actually confessed to God than it would ever have been to fool a priest.  I could go and spend a few moments thinking about my various wrong-doings and thinking about God, and maybe even whisper a few words to God about it all, and then leave feeling like I had done the whole confession thing.  Problem solved.  Easy to fool myself!

But it’s not that easy when there is a human being on the other end of the confession who can ask you questions for clarification and can make you say the actual words…out loud…describing what you did and who can tell you when they think you’re not “owning” your fault.  That, to me, is a less flexible and less manipulatable process.  It is very much like the difference …

Dealing with Secret Sin…In Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Step 4: We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

It was several years ago when a back injury made me finally give up my yardwork.  That was a difficult thing for me.  I actually enjoy yardwork…in my own yard, anyway.  So it was difficult for me to let someone else do it.  It is MY yard, and I know all of its nooks and crannies and secrets, and I certainly did not want some stranger coming in and caring for my yard.  But the biggest adjustment for me in giving up that little area of self-reliance was the fact that somebody else was going to get very familiar with all of the embarrassing hidden messes in my yard…all of those corners and hidden spots which were not well-groomed and which hid some not-so-nice things.

If you have ever had someone come in and clean your house, you have felt that same feeling.  They see everything…that junk drawer in the kitchen, that cabinet which hides stuff you haven’t seen in years, and that horrible, cluttered closet.  It is embarrassing!

Thinking about Step 4 in our recovery from the addiction to self-reliance, taking an honest moral inventory of our inner-most life is revealing.  Just like that secret cluttered closet in the house and that hidden ugly corner in the yard, our lives have secret areas of …

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