Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Vision For Healing

 We have heard numerous prophecies about the church being a place of healing, a hospital for bodies and souls. We hear, but now we have to implement a walk toward that prophetic word.
For years I have heard the stories of people who spoke of how the church has hurt them, wounded them. A common joke of sorts was that the church was the only group that shot their wounded. Sad, but true in many cases. As a result, we have the jetsam and flotsam of Christian churches floating in the sea of humanity not necessarily in the world, but not in the church. Some people I know will not even talk about what happened to them and others will tell everyone of their hurt. The statistics indicate there are upwards of 10 million confessed born again believers who do not attend church. The hurt runs deep.
Some have overcome through the years, but walk cautiously with large amounts of distrust and a wild animal wariness of church and its leadership. In talking with a man this week, he spoke of how he disliked church because of cliques. Wary, distrustful.
But, when there is a move of God, many of these will be looking, once again, to find fellowship and an atmosphere of the Holy Spirit. But for them to fully engage there will be a necessary healing to take place. We must posture ourselves to provide an avenue of healing for the distraught and distrustful. It takes time. We once had a black lab that had been abused and neglected. We found him in Pennsylvania where our friend said there was this black lab the neighbors had, but neglected. He asked the neighbor if we could have the dog. The neighbor agreed and we headed home with a back lab which we named “Pepper.” Pepper did not trust us much at first. He guarded his dog dish and water with paws on both sides, keeping it directly in his possession. He had not been fed regularly and who knows how often he was given water. As the weeks went by, Pepper realized he was being fed regularly, water was always there, and there were kids that played with him and he was not tied up. He became the best frisbee football player we had. It took time to convince him it was safe and he was cared for.
The Hospital that God is calling us to be is more than a triage where we administer some short term fix. This is a call to healing that will embrace many facets and take time. Christians need their trust rebuilt through significant, long term commitment to their health. If you notice, insurance companies are now spending much more time in preventive medicine and strategies rather than the time worn attitude of dealing with it when it is a crisis only. 
Then there is the defeating “Pentecostal, Charismatic” understanding of healing which is manifested in the desire for the dramatic. Of course we want to see the instantaneous miracle, but it does not always come that way. We have produced a theology which implies or directly states that if it does not happen instantaneously that we did not have faith, the person did not have faith, or that God did not want to heal. So, we ended up in a blame game as to who was at fault.
Really, we need to change our attitude and theology. Healing is a process which man cannot duplicate. We can aid it, we can diagnose the problem, we can operate, but healing is a process of God. So, when we pray for healing, we should proceed with the idea of a process and rejoice if it happens instantaneously which, in my mind, moves it to the miracle category.
It seems John G. Lake had a grasp on that concept when he established the healing rooms where people would come and stay and be prayed for on a consistent, prescribed schedule. They had spectacular results through the years that it operated.
Our vision is to have the Healing Room available after every service where folks can be prayed for with intensity and time. In our services and ministry times we often cannot give the extended time it takes for healing and deliverance. Healing will take several prayers sometimes as progress is made. One of the approaches is to pray and if there is any movement and release of pain, the process resumes with more prayer. Sometimes it beings complete healing or a significant improvement. The prayer continues until there is no progress. Then the person is encouraged to come for prayer again next time. 
We are going to take the month of July and study healing in a morning seminar and then in August or at the latest, September, we will have our healing teams in place and will begin to regularly minister healing to those who come. Healing of the body and soul is our vision. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May, The Month of Change

May is a month of transitions for many people. May comes with all kinds of promises and hopes. High School and college graduations provide their ceremonies with pomp and circumstance. Yet, for all the mortar board tossing and high celebration, there is the tomorrow where a career has to start or a job has to be found. For high schoolers, decisions are tough; college, military, tech school, or labor force. Coming to the end of one phase of life that has consumed our attention and energy and entering another phase is exciting and disconcerting. What was familiar and comfortable is now not available. Some will encounter boot camp and leaving home. Other will experience heading to college in another town or state. Some will stay home and commute to a local college campus. Some just want to be on their own and will find a job and an apartment.
For others of another decade, it might mean the finishing of a career, retiring, and wondering what comes next. Those retiring have the opportunity to explore new avenues of their life; possibly travel, or starting a new vocation or art. May is full of change and hope. Summer is straight ahead, but no time offers more opportunity for change than May.
In our church calendar, I have learned that May is a time of conclusion. By that I mean, it is difficult to make major progress or change as a church during the summer. Oh, it can happen, but the building process kind of plateaus for the summer. 
It has proven that the transitions in family deeply effect the progress of the church. We have kids that are graduating. Will they go away? Will they stay in the area? Will they continue to attend church? Will they be involved in some way? Or, will their experience as a member of the church be so shallow that they only came because their parents made them? Historically, the church loses the 18-25 year old. They go away, sadly, because of many reasons. Some of them include moving away for military or school, some of them are the young adult phase where they want to experience the world without the restrictions of parents and/or the church culture. For some, it is a loss of faith and the acceptance of the secular view of the world. There are probably more, but that is to name a couple. Personally, the church does little to address that issue. Maybe we can.
The college-career age is the least addressed phase of Christian life. Some colleges have good campus ministries. There are some groups that really help military recruits, but the world in both of those cases is calling loudly to our youth. There are such specific needs at that age. There is the drive to be independent. There is usually the need for social interaction with the opposite sex. Male and female relationships dominate the agenda, conversation, and the time. Exploring the limits is often part of the mantra. Extreme sports, adventure, speed, adrenaline, and the party consume the consciousness of the young adult. But as Solomon said, most of it is vanity.
However, most people survive and grow and find their way. Later, many return to their faith and return to the church. Often it comes after the first child arrives, the awakening to the need of training a child in the way he should go begins to take effect. The, “I want my kid to be better than me” takes hold.
Can we avoid all that somehow? I would like to think so. It is one of those areas where there is much to be done. Can the church be comfortable with young adults looking for a mate? Could we find a place for that to happen besides a bar, a wild party, or some tawdry concert? Now there is a challenge for the church. Do we have to have a mega church to address that age? Do we need to live in a college town to think about that age? Well, in my book, not everyone goes to college or the service, but they still go through 18-25.
Just so you know, I am thinking out loud here and do not have a particular plan, but would like to. Historically, this church has lost many good young adults for various reasons. It is sad because I know there were future leaders that were lost for this work. I pray we see a return and a raising up of more young adults.
But back to my thoughts. We work hard with our children. We have a youth ministry that we pour into. They graduate and there is nothing. This is not a problem of The River alone. It is church across the nation, world. 
I feel like the question becomes, “Whom will I send and who will go for me?” I would like to see someone who has a passion for this group of good young adults and would pour themselves into it. I would really like to keep our young people connected and involved. I know the need and I would like to see it addressed so that this church does not lose its upcoming leaders.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Season

March blasted us into Spring. Trees popped with blooms and flowers came sprinting out of the ground. Heat swept across us like a late May day and we were surprised, but happy. People were out in shorts, convertible tops were laid back to allow hair to blow in the wind, lawn furniture sprouted across lawns, and smoke rose in the air as grills smoked signaled the new season of outdoor cooking.
Then came April. It reminded us that it was not summer yet and the chill sent us back inside and fireplaces blazed again on cool evenings. But the hope did not leave. The trees continued their blooming, but more slowly, and the flowers kept burgeoning with their colors, but more cautiously. 
Seasons. The transitions are interesting and sometimes violent. The clashes of warm and cold fronts produced deadly tornadoes. One day cold, next day warm, the violence left people homeless and in a few cases grieving for loved ones.
Our lives have seasons too. I always want peace. I like knowing where I am going. I like a game plan. I like order, stability, structures you can count on. But life offers seasons. I have found when God is changing the seasons of our life, it can get violent. We want to run for the storm shelter, close the door, and weather it out. Sometimes you have to face the storm and you cannot hide.
I remember one day in Cook’s Forest, PA. We had driven from Ohio to the Forest for a meeting. I was going to minister. The trip had included driving through thunderstorms and high winds. We had gotten to the other side of the front by the time we arrived; so it was coming at us again. As we stood in the yard of the home where the meeting was to be, a funnel cloud appeared and was bearing down on the property. We all stood together, stretched out our hands, and commanded it to depart and not harm the house or property. It immediately turned north and went around the property. There was no damage. We faced the storm, there was no time for running.
Through life, I have had to face some storms head on. I was recollecting the number of times I have had to face hard reality and stand. It is never easy. It is always dangerous and I have found, always painful. However, the long term of the matter brings peace and often, after some time, you see what God was doing. But almost always in the midst of the storm, I had little or no idea.
Cathy and I had the pleasure of attending a prophetic meeting a couple of weeks ago. The apostle/prophet who was ministering called us out and prophesied to us concerning our situation over the last number of months. He related some very accurate words even to the exact number of months the storm had been raging. The good thing was there was a new season breaking forth. The word was encouraging beyond our imaginations.
The new season is here. When I left the meeting, I could truly sense the breeze of the new season. I felt like the violence of the transition was giving way to the calm breezes of summer. Instead of the violent winds, it was changing to the gentle wafting of refreshing breezes. The kind of breeze that makes you happy to be alive. The kind that carries the scents of summer that renew the soul and brighten the spirit.
The new season allows growth to take place again. It offers productivity and fruitfulness. Along with the new season, the prophetic word said there would be new strategies and new friends. There would be new anointing.
One of the things this new season has brought is the joy of preaching the word. There is a fresh breath of God on the teaching and preaching. I am energized by it. I feel in this new season that I am back to my calling more fully than it has been for a while.
New seasons bring surprises. I have had questions that I have been asking God and now is the time to see how He answers them. There is an air of expectation which has been exhilarating. So, I get to watch as God puts everything together and opens new doors.
Seasons come and go. The analogy can work for many different situations, but I know that for us, it is like Spring moving to Summer. I thoroughly enjoy watching my garden bloom through the summer. There are so many varieties that each week and each month the garden takes on a new look. Life offers all these various facets for us to enjoy. The seasons, the storms, the bursting of life and color, all are a part of living. 
Rest has to be taken in knowing the Hand of God is working for us. As one said, “Fearing God is the beginning of Wisdom, and not fearing God is the beginning of the fear of everything.”