Tag Archives: forgiveness

The Hawk of Heaven and the Bush Hog

imagesBush hogging helps me clear my head (no—that’s not hunting wild hogs in the bush). It’s a farm implement one hooks to a tractor and mows the grass, weeds, or bushes that have gotten a bit out of hand. This week I climbed aboard my Ford 2600 tractor, set the height I wanted to cut, engaged the power take off, and off I went. For the next several hours it was just me, the tractor, and the field I was cutting. I had plenty of time to chill out and think even though the temperature was hovering close to one hundred degrees.

God often speaks to me during times like this from his creation. As I was grinding the imagesweeds into mulch, a rather large field mouse was forced out of his liar in the weeds and headed for a safer place. I didn’t think much about it until I made a round and headed back. Then out of nowhere I saw a reddish copper blur descending at breakneck speed toward the ground where the field mouse had fled. It was a rather large red-tailed hawk. In a blink of the eye, the hawk and his field mouse filet were headed for a private meal in a dining room in one of the pine trees that surround the field. It all happened in a matter of a few seconds.

imagesLater that afternoon, I flushed another large rodent out of his cozy condo in the underbrush and the very same thing happened—table for one and a free range mouse steak served rare off the grill in Chez Pine Tree. This hawk was racking up and waiting for me to set him up with the prime cuts.

As I pondered my contribution to the decimation of the of the field mouse population, I began to hear God’s unmistakable voice in my spirit. I had been witnessing far more than a lesson in nature’s food chain; I had been witnessing a picture with tremendous spiritual meaning. Let me show you what I mean.

Every person is like a garden or a field that must be tended or maintained very carefully. If we neglect that care—if we are inattentive to God—if we are careless and allow sin to take root—spiritual weeds start to grow. And if left untended for very long a fruitful garden or field can soon become overrun and turned into an overgrown jungle.

Weeds attract vermin like rats and field mice and allow them the cover to feed and breed without too much fear in the natural. Spiritual weeds also attract vermin of the demonic nature, and that undergrowth allows them to hide and carry out their work undetected. A little neglect, spiritually speaking, can quickly produce bondage in many different areas without a person even knowing it.

The only thing that gets rid of these spiritual weeds is confession and repentance—a high powered bush hog guided by you or me. Confession and repentance is our responsibility. Every so often, all us need to climb up on the tractor of prayer and unleash the bush hog on the weeds that have taken root in our own garden spot. (Stay out of your neighbor’s field—that’s his responsibility alone.)

“What about the hawk?” you might be thinking. “Where does he fit in all this?”

Oh, he’s there. Whenever we confess and repent, the enemy has no place to hide—no ground from which he can launch his attacks. He has to run, and when he does, the Hawk of heaven—the Holy Spirit—attacks with his talons bared and the enemy is no more. Gone in the blink of an eye.

What about your garden or field? Is it neatly manicured and mowed, or filled with underbrush and weeds? The Hawk of heaven is there—there high above your field…waiting. Why not crank the tractor and put the bush hog in gear?

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 6)

If the words that have been wasted on debating what the will of God is and is not were collected and stored, the warehouse space needed would force all of us off this planet. This is especially true in the area of healing. Is it God will? If it’s God’s will? What is God’s will? The answer to those questions and a thousand more just like them is…Jesus! Jesus is perfect theology. If you want to see what God looks like or thinks like in high definition—3-D—just look at Jesus. Jesus is, was, and will forever be the invisible God made visible.

If you want to know what God is interested in—take a long hard look at Jesus. An honest and unprejudiced reading of the first chapters of the Gospel of Mark, believed by many scholars to be the earliest account of Jesus life and ministry, show that the message of the kingdom was demonstrated and proclaimed through his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus preached the present reality of the kingdom of God—accessible to all and literal present among the people he encountered. He taught his followers how to relate their lives to God and the kingdom. And—he healed, bringing physical, emotional, and mental health to those sick in body and mind due to physical affliction or demonization.

Twenty percent of the four Gospels (727 verses out of 3,779) record the healings of Jesus and the discussions and controversies they spawned. Healing must be very important to God the Father if the Holy Spirit dedicated one-fifth of his space about the life and ministry of the incarnate Son of God and recorded his healing ministry in those gospels. There are no wasted words in Scripture! The Holy Spirit was not chasing rabbit trails—he had a divine purpose. Healing was a central ministry of Jesus, and if Jesus did it, then perhaps we should pay far more attention to it, and…just maybe, be doing it ourselves as his body.

There are 41 distinct instances where physical, emotional, or mental healings were recorded in the four Gospels (72 accounts in all including duplications). These by no means represent every person Jesus healed because Scripture tells us Jesus sometimes healed “all” who came to him—meaning large crowds and even whole towns. Healing was a major part of his ministry.

What can we learn from this? Several things arise, and these truths are essential seeds that must take root and bear fruit in our belief system if we are to fulfill the promise of Jesus—that we would do what he did and even greater things (John 14:12).

First, Jesus believed that God “is healing”—present tense—right now! He demonstrated that reality every time he encountered a sick person. He believed he had been anointed with power and authority to bring the kingdom of God—the domain of the King—from heaven to earth. He did not believe “God could heal if he wanted to.” Jesus did not have to pray and see “if it was God’s will to heal.” He acted! He knew it was God’s will because healing is a part of God’s nature. Healing is who God is (God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites as Jehovah Rapha—I Am that I Am Healer). Who God is reveals God’s will. He has not changed.

Secondly, Jesus believed sickness, affliction, paralysis, and infirmity were from the devil. They were not sent by God. This belief was evident in his words and actions. The religious system of his day taught all sickness was the result of sin in a person’s life, the life of his parents, or ancestors. It was God’s judgment. In other words, sickness comes from God. Healing could come only if one repented, confessed that sin to a priest, and offered the appropriate sacrifice.  The ministry of Jesus was in direct opposition to their traditions, interpretations, and religious systems—but not the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled that law and perfectly obeyed it.

Jesus never made repentance a requirement for physical healing. He simply healed people. In his mind and by his actions, healing and forgiveness were synonymous. Remember, sozo (Greek for “save or salvation”) means forgiveness of sin, deliverance from torment, and physical healing. If sickness did not come from God, then it must have come through the devil. There is no sickness in heaven. There is no disease in the throne room of God. Jesus was demonstrating God’s will. Heaven was touching earth.

Peter proclaimed to Cornelius’ house that Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). Jesus stated in John 10:10 that the thief takes life, but that he gives life. Sickness and disease take life, they do not give life. Jesus did not act or believe that sickness was the will of God. Instead he gave life each time he healed a person. If sickness is the will of God, then God the Father and God the Son were fighting one another and this is simply not possible. If it was not the will of God in Jesus’ day—it is not the will of God today!

Finally, Jesus did not heal every sick person who was alive in his day. But, he healed every person who came to him for healing. There are no exceptions! His healings were not dependent on faith either. He healed those who had great faith and others who had little or no faith. He healed organic diseases where structure or tissue was damaged. He healed functional disorders where organs or parts of the body were not operating properly.  He healed the demonized who were afflicted in mind, body, and soul. He healed them all, and rejected none who came to him.

Tell me—what has change? Has God changed or have we changed? Far too many people believe sickness is either God’s judgment or a tool God uses so that through suffering we might become better Christians. Who should we believe—the empty theologies of men or the inerrant, inspired, and infallible Word of God as demonstrated and proclaimed by Jesus?

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 4)


Foundations are extremely important. The strength of the foundation determines the scope of the building project, whether it is a building, a ministry, a life, or a theological belief. As followers of Jesus, we must recognize that the foundation of the New Testament is laid in the Old Testament. The people of the O.T. looked forward through the Mosaic Law and its sacrificial system toward the coming of the Messiah. But we, as N.T. believers, must interpret that Law and sacrificial system through what Jesus (the Messiah) did. In other words, without Jesus Christ, much of the O.T. makes little sense to us.

The Old Testament is a progressive revelation of who God is and what God desires. Over time he revealed his character, his attributes, and his holiness—the essence of who he is. This culminates when the invisible God became flesh, giving us a fuller revelation of who he is in Jesus Christ. If you want to know who God is, how he acts, and what is important to him—look at Jesus. He is the invisible God made visible.

We often forget when we read the O.T. that God was calling a people to be singularly his out of a sea of paganism where idolatrous worship was filled with all types of sexual perversion and human sacrifice. Every nation, tribe, village and even individual families had their deities they worshipped. The world was filled with false deities—demons and wicked spirits who caused calamity and were believe to be the source of ill-fortune, sickness, disease, and death. This is the atmosphere out of which God calls a people to worship him alone—a holy people. We often fail to interpret O.T. passages through this lens and when we do, we end up with a religion filled with countless rules, rituals, and regulations rather than a relationship meant to be experienced through grace. In other words, we attempt to enjoy the benefits of grace through the labor of the law, which is impossible.

What does this have to do with healing you might be wondering? Everything! To understand the heart of God we need a proper foundation to build a biblical theology of healing. There is little revelation of an afterlife in the O.T. Sheol (the Pit) was a shadowy place where the dead, both the righteous and the wicked, resided until the resurrection. Therefore, most people believed the reward or punishment for the kind of life one lived was received, not in the afterlife, but right now. God was seen as the giver of all good things, as well as the dispenser of misfortune and pain, which included sickness and pain. In other words, one reaped what one sowed…now! The Law was crystal clear about what they could expect if they obeyed, and what would happen if they disobeyed. People began to believe that health and wealth were rewards of God, while sickness, poverty, and misfortune were divine punishments. People came to believe that all sickness was the result of sin. As the O.T. developed, the rabbis taught that healing could only come after one’s sin was forgiven. The sinner must appear before the priest and repent. No repentance—no healing! This strand of belief still permeates the church today.

Yet God revealed himself to his people as Jehovah Rapha (literally—I Am That I Am Healer). God’s name reveals who he is—his essence—not just what he does. God is saying, “I am healing. Healing is who I am!” Remember, the O.T. is a progressive revelation of God’s identity and his will.

In the next blog, we will look at two seemingly different strands of thought on healing that appear to be diametrically opposed. In reality, they are not opposed when we look back at the O.T. through the lens of Jesus and find his interpretation. Jesus did not ignore the old covenant, he fulfilled it. Then he established a new one, but the foundation for the new one is foreshadowed through the former one.

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 2)

One of the keys in reclaiming biblical healing in the church is a biblical understanding of the meaning of save or salvation and it usage in the Greek language of Jesus’ day. The New Testament was initially written in Koine (meaning common) Greek. Jesus and his followers were multi-lingual, speaking Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. In the 2,000 years or so since the New Testament was written, the church has misplaced nuances of word meanings it chose to no longer use or those meanings were gradually lost during the Dark Ages.

For most believers, to save or salvation means the forgiveness or redemption of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Few Christians, regardless of their particular flavor, would argue against this meaning. And if that were all that it meant it would certainly be enough. Forgiveness of sin is the ultimate miracle of God. But I believe, based on its multiple meaning and the example of Jesus that God meant so much more.

The Greek word to save is sozo and it carried a three-fold meaning in the Jesus’ day. First it meant to redeem or forgive and in our case spiritually speaking, payment of the sin debt. Secondly, it denoted a deliverance from torment. And finally, it was used to indicate healing from disease. It is a word rich in meaning, but sadly the vast majority of the church has never embraced the last two meanings. We have often taken the revelation of God, translated it, and interpreted it through the foggy lens of later theologies rather than through the theology Jesus demonstrated. Jesus is, after all, perfect theology. If we want to know who God is or what God thinks—all we have to do is look at Jesus.

Jesus came to redeem humanity from the effects of sin, and those decimating consequences of sin effect humanity in totality—spirit, soul, and body. Jesus did not die to give us a partial salvation. No, he died to save us completely from the carnage of sin. His work on the cross was complete—in spirit, soul, and body. Now, you may struggle with that. This may not mesh with what you have been taught, but please consider what Jesus said and did.

Twenty percent of the Gospels are given to the healing and deliverance ministry of the Savior. It is fairly evident from a reading of them that Jesus healed (sozo) the sick, the diseased, the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the afflicted. And it is clear that he brought deliverance (sozo) to those who were tormented by demonic spirits. The gospel of the kingdom—the good news that the King’s domain was present (heaven touched earth in those moments)—was demonstrated through this benevolent, yet militant invasion of the kingdom of darkness. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil—of which sickness, demonization, and ultimately sin are all a part.

Therefore, the salvation Jesus bought and paid for purchased forgiveness of sin, healing of the body, and deliverance from the torment of mind and soul. It was a complete salvation, not a partial one.

Jesus said we would do the works he did and even greater ones. That can only happen when we reclaim the full meaning of his words and incorporated those actions as a part of our the ministry in the church.

Wordless Worship


I am a wordsmith by birth and by calling.  As a child, I was a talker. My grandmother once remarked, as I burst through the door at a family reunion and unashamedly introduced myself, that I would one day become a preacher. Now as a pastor and a writer, words are my essential building blocks in the construction of concepts, ideas, stories, illustrations, and the unfolding of deep biblical truths that must be communicated.

But there are moments when I don’t have words, or for that matter need words. This happens most frequently for me during worship. Often I am speechless when I consider the wonder of God and his grace. No matter how skillful I might be in using descriptive adjectives or action verbs—I find no adequate words to describe his glory. In his presence I stand speechless—dumb and mute—unable to speak or convey the depth of my love for my God.

It is in those intimate moments of frustrated inability that my spirit must find some form of release that requires no words. Tears fill my eyes, chills clamor up my spine, my hands lift with palms upraised, or my feet begin to dance. Inability gives way to capabilities that are often hidden and closely guarded—yet available if I choose to release and use them.

My all-time favorite picture of worship and the one I often retreat into and emulate in my dreams is found in Luke 7:36-50. It is the story of the woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears and the precious ointment of an alabaster vial. There is a great deal going on in that story, but in my visits all I can see is “go-for-broke” worship, yet not one word is spoken.

There is emotion. This is a once broken woman who has been restored through the grace of Jesus Christ. She has received worth and value through his ministry and now has a future. She cannot hold back the tears, though it seems they pour out in silence from a heart overflowing with joy. She does not hold back the emotions, yet without words she worships. True worship is filled with genuine emotions.

There is boldness. Once she realizes her tears are falling on her Lord’s feet, she steps out of the shadows from against the wall and quietly kneels while unpinning her long hair and using it to wipe his feet. She is exposed now—she has stepped from the safety of the crowd and courageously released the love of her heart without regard for what other might think or say. She is unashamed in her devotion and confident in her pursuit. True worship is always bold in its expression and sometime brash in the eyes of those who witness it.

There is surrender. This woman prostrated herself on the floor and gave the intimate gift of a kiss to the feet of her Savior. Not just once—but over and over and over. Her gratitude poured out like an uncontainable stream driven out of its banks by an unstoppable rain storm. Her position and her actions are the immutable signs of submission. True worship is characterized by total surrender.

And ultimately there is a cost. Sincere worship always carries an expensive price tag. It is never cheap—or if it is it ceases to be worship and becomes an empty religious ritual. This woman shattered her nest egg. She cashed in her retirement account—her only means of financial security—when she broke the seal on her alabaster jar of perfume and dumped the precious contents on Jesus’ feet. Her most precious possession was poured out as an offering of worship and thanksgiving—a sacrifice of faith. True worship always comes with a cost most are unwilling to pay.

This is what wordless worship looks like, yet its voice speak loud and clear!

Escape from the Box Life (Part 7)

This is what freedom looks like!

Perhaps a definition might help all of us as we seek to break the bonds of the boxes that bind us in bondage. Darkness is the absence of light and light is the absence of darkness. If darkness reigns in any area of our life—in some deep corner of that box—light has not yet penetrated it. And if light is shining into a box the darkness cannot overcome that light and must flee. This is simple truth—the kind of truth that liberates the prisoner from the cell.

Liberation begins with a settled understanding that what has transpired in our life—our failures, our wounds, the transgressions of others, abuse, or misuse—are things that have happened to us or were perpetrated on us, not who we are. They are not our identity. As such, they cannot determine what we become because they are not a part of the eternal inheritance God has given us through his grace…unless we refuse to give them to God.

That’s where the light and darkness issue arises. All of us are dragging baggage around. God has a deep, loving desire to take the baggage off our back and heal all of it, but he will not wrestle us for it. He will not force you to open your suitcase up or jump on your back, ride you to the ground, and rip that bulging knapsack off your shoulders.  But, if you will stop running from the past and crack open the latches, God will shine his light into those dark places. That light will point to those things you must release and give to him. Rest assured, he will never force his hand into that place and take something you are unwilling to release.

He may point to that box of abuse, or negative words, or loss, or failure, or sin, or abuse and say, “Give me that box—yes that one—and I will take it and heal the wound it has inflicted. I will give you liberty and release from it.” But you must put your hand inside your own soul and take hold of it. You must offer it up to God.

We are so afraid God will dump our bags out and hold up our most embarrassing memories or wounds and embarrass us before all creation. He won’t! Grace-filled restoration and healing guided by a loving heart is his motive. The fear you feel right now did not come from him.

Even as you read this, God is working. He is shining the brilliant light of his endless love onto your baggage. He is gently asking you to give him whatever has hurt, or wounded, or limited, or contained, or destroyed, or confined you. He wants you to give him all that has kept you from enjoying the endless delights of a shame-free, guilt-free, and condemnation free relationship with him. Why? Because he loves you!

Perhaps God has stopped you dead in your fleeing tracks at this very moment. You have a choice to make. Life is a journey and the journey is tough enough without dragging tons of unnecessary baggage around with you everywhere you go. Will you give up those boxes and receive the healing God so desperately wants you to walk it? Or will you run some more hoping somehow, someway you can eventually outrun the pain, the sorrow, and the loneliness?

Escape from the Box Life (Part 6)


The damaged baggage of the soul

What does emotional or soul baggage look like? Certainly it bears no resemblance to the flashy alligator bags or supple calfskin suitcases that are the crowns of luxury in travel shops. No, these boxes are hidden deep in the cracks and crevices of our wounded souls. We keep them hidden in the back of the closet fearful that once opened our deepest secrets and wounds will be exposed for all to see.  These unhealed wounds lock us in a box of bondage that translates into a happy face on the outside and a hopeless person trapped on the inside.

Perhaps you have been told that you’re worthless by parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, pastors, and other who were in authority over you. Perhaps you’ve been called stupid, dumb, ugly, fat, loser, too slow, too tall, two thin, or too whatever. Words have wounded your heart and those wounds are as raw today as they were the day they were inflicted. Listen closely—those words were a lie. You are a prisoner right now because you have believed the lie and locked it away in your heart. Expose the lie and embrace the truth.

Perhaps you’ve been hurt and rejected by someone you loved and who supposedly once loved you. You’ve been abandoned and your heart is shattered in a million pieces like shards of glass from a broken mirror. Perhaps you’ve gathered up every little piece and carefully stored them in a box and hid it what you considered a safe place. Yet the pain won’t go away. You’ve tried medication but all it does is make you numb and lifeless. You feel unloved and unlovable, and you are keeping God and everyone else at arm’s length because you’re afraid of rejection. You are drowning in unworthiness, unable to find the love you so desperately long for. Fear has paralyzed you. Listen closely—pour out the broken pieces of your heart before the Lord. He loved you so much he sent his Son to die for you. Allow him to mend your broken heart with his tender love.

Perhaps you are filled with shame. Perhaps you were abused or used by someone who was nothing more than a predator. The enemy has lied to you and convinced you that you are “less than—damaged goods.” Perhaps you have believed his lie that you deserved exactly what you got. That shame has filled you and you are so afraid someone might see the filth you feel you are covered in. Shame, humiliation, and embarrassment are your constant companions. Listen closely—God says you belong to him. You are not what happened to you. That abuse or misuse by a predator does not define who you are—it is not your identity. God says you are the apple of his eye and he has drawn you to himself with lovingkindness. Allow him to restore your heart and your emotions.

Perhaps you’ve made some mistakes. We all have. Perhaps it was a bad decision that led to a behavior or action you can’t undo or redo. You’ve racked your brain raw trying to figure out how you could have been so stupid. You’re ashamed and filled with condemnation, so you’ve pushed it down in a little box and taped the lid tight so no one will ever find out. Like a broken record all you can hear is God can’t forgive this.  Listen closely—take that event, that lapse of judgment, that stupid decision, that hidden sin out of the box and present it to God. Come into agreement with God that it is whatever it is. Forgiveness will come. He will not hold it back. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

These are the things that line the baggage boxes of most believers. They will ferment and eat away the linings of our soul unless we offer them up to God. Darkness thrives in darkness, but it flees when exposed to light. Perhaps the time has come to turn on the light.