Monday, February 15, 2010

Letter to Anna

This is a reply to a friend of ours who wrote me asking whether she should learn to live with her sickness or keep asking for healing.

Hi Anna(not her real name)
Thanks for writing me about the physical challenges you've been having. I am very sorry you are walking with these ailments. They sound extremely difficult and you carry them with grace.
The subject of prayer for healing is obviously a big and contentious one, but its absolutely vital that we wrestle with it as Christ followers. Praying for the sick with success is described as an accompanying sign of believers in the gospels, and is commanded in the book of James. Every one of us carry some disappointment when it comes to praying for the sick, but from my point of view, that does not mean that we shrink back from it altogether. I have seen God heal enough times to keep praying earnestly and expectantly, even though the success rate is not all that high.

I find the Hebrews 11 passage on the heroes of the faith very helpful when it comes to prayer.
Faith at the beginning of the chapter is defined as "believing that God exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him" v 6
At bottom line, to pray in faith for anything means believing that God hears and rewards us.
That our prayers actually make a difference to God.
Then the passage seemingly contradicts itself by saying, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive what was promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance." v 13
And again, "All these were commended for such faith, yet none of them received what was promised." v39
It's not that they did not receive any of what was promised. Sarah, for instance, became pregnant and miraculously gave birth to Isaac. But they didn't receive all that was promised in their lifetime.
The Scripture is trying to teach us a few things here. Firstly, to keep trusting God and praying earnestly. This includes healing. It is part of what Christ purchased on the cross for us. (Is 53:4-5)
Secondly, that we live between the now and the not yet, like them. The kingdom is advancing, but is not fully come.We live somewhere between redemption and consummation. That is why we see some healing, but not complete healing everywhere.
We do not give up though. Sometimes healing is immediate, other times it is gradual, through faith and patience. (Heb 6:2)
Jesus' teaching on prayer often involved 'bothering' God. The person who wanted bread bothered his neighbor until he got it, (Lk 11)and the widow who wanted justice 'bothered' the judge until she got it.(lk 18)
In prayer, Jesus encourages us to bother God in prayer, knowing he is good and just.

Of course we have to remember that God is Sovereign. He is not our servant and we cannot dictate to Him. There is a precedent in Jesus' prayer life for prayer being an act of humble submission to God's Sovereign will, in the garden of Gethsemane. "Not my will but Yours be done, Father," and of course he taught us to pray like this in Luke 11.Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' was another such example of this - 'my grace is sufficient for you'. He wanted to get out of the situation and God said that He would not take him out of it but would give Him grace for it. However, in both Jesus' and Paul's situations God had made his will very clear to them - it involved suffering and they received grace to suffer according to God's will. God is sovereign and He has the right to take us through suffering, which in some cases includes physical sickness. However, this seems to be the exception to the rule and I believe we can ask God to make that clear to us. Many reformed theologians have taught it as the rule though- that prayer is more for the person praying than it is about asking God for something in faith - and have therefore robbed people of faith-filled prayer.

So my counsel would be to keep asking God for healing, for God's glory and your good, unless he makes it otherwise clear to you. Keep asking the elders to lay hands on you in faith too. Also, pray for grace to cope with the disability until you do get healed. And pray for the possibility of the common grace of good medical cure.
Hope this is helpful

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Urban Renewal - a re - quest for the radical middle

I am fascinated by a growing trend. On the one hand there seems to be a growing interest amongst more conservative churches in the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Francis Chan's book 'The Forgotten God - our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit' is just one of many attempts to address an embarrassment over the third Person of the trinity and a humble admission that good theology is not sufficient by itself to produce good Christians. They are slowly but surely wading into the waters of the Holy Spirit's presence and leading.

On the other hand there are many pentecostal/charismatic churches who seem to have something of a hangover from their heady days of holy rolling. They are not sure that the ever-pending revival that was prophesied ever really came, or whether the heights of Holy Spirit intoxication ever really produced tangible gospel fruit. They look longingly at the many mega-churches that line the ecclesiological landscape and wonder how they managed to grow to their size and influence without so much as a single tongue and interpretation! They are discovering the delight of preaching from the biblical text and the sanity of sound theology.

So what is God up to?
Is He scizophrenic?
Or could He be working in us a holy discontentment with the limits of our own church strengths and leanings?
Could He be forming in us a humble openness to glean from the richness of what He has taught others?
I suspect that in His wisdom and patience He is drawing us back to what John Wimber called 'the quest for the radical middle;' a church devoted to both the authority of the Scriptures and the leading of the Spirit, for the sake of the Gospel and His glory. We absolutely need both.

That's what Urban Renewal is all about. A re-quest for the radical middle. June 10th -12th. Early bird registration at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

friday is for fasting

So we begin our 3rd friday of fasting and prayer together as a church
tomorrow. We are asking God for faith, fortitude and provision in the
area of finance.
We have heard of many amazing God stories already. We have had people
receive surprise checks in the mail, get jobs and receive salary
raises. We keep asking God for 100% employment, 100% of our students to
obtain sufficient study loans, and for 100% tithing in the Southlands
community.Our faith is also out for our entrepreneurs to sign new contracts.
Here is one amazing recent answer to that prayer.
"About 4 weeks ago during a sunday meeting Aubrey Burge had a
picture of a girl standing at the edge of a cliff in a horrible,
tattered, old and torn wedding dress and as she jumped off the
cliff she landed into water and came up with this bright blood red
dress that then turned to this beautiful brilliant white wedding
dress.....the lady that came up for prayer that believed that
picture was of her is Elba. She was sharing with me last Sunday her
business has COMPLETELY turned around. She is a designer. She owns
her own business and has developed her own clothing line.The
business has been struggling now for the past 3 years and has
brought in little to no money. After we prayed for her , her
business has COMPLETELY turned around! Her clothing line is totally
running out in the stores that they are in and more production is
needed. She said she has made more in the past month than she has
in the past 3 years and that top designers are now interested in
her line of clothing...God is good!"

God is an incredible Provider. We can trust Him. David said at the
end of his life. "I once was young and now I am old, but I have never
seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." Ps 37:25

We are also asking that God would stir us in the area of radical
generosity. God wants us to smash the idol of Mammon. He wants us to
keep ourselves free from the love of money, uprooting the weeds of
'the deceitfulness of riches' that choke the Word and our faith-
filled response to it.(Mark 13)
Generosity is not always out of abundance. God gave the only Son He had.
Isaac sowed in famine and reaped a hundred fold in that same year.
(Gen 26) That required a faith in God that gave rise to radical
It was in the opposite spirit of the season, where saving
would have seemed more appropriate than sowing.
The Macedonian churches' "severe trial, overwhelming joy and extreme
poverty welled up in rich generosity...they gave beyond their ability"
2 Cor 8:2

Can we similarly, out of a faith-filled love for God, and a genuine
care for others, learn to live in radical generosity?
I guess we shouldn't just be expecting a surprise check in the mail.
We should be willing to send a couple too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Who of Urban Renewal

If you bit the big apple today you'd break your teeth. Nevertheless, great to be in New York with our friends Deryck and Cathy and their church, even though its fereeezing.
Last week I tried to explain the Why of Urban Renewal. The ripeness of need for an Acts 13 moment. A chance to model healthy, sane Word and Spirit ministry for the sake of the gospel. The joy of partnership between theological prophets and Spirit-led teachers. The possibility of equipping people in this regard.
But what about the Who? (Not the band, although I can't honestly understand why The Who are playing the Superbowl half time show, other than the guys who run the show are all trying to relive their 60's nostalgia at our expense)
That said, I am particularly excited about the Who of Urban Renewal. This is no ordinary group of people.
First and foremost, they are friends who have spent themselves on serving and leading God's people in a given place for long enough to see tangible gospel fruit there. They are not globe trotting, one night wonders using Jesus as a cover up for their ego trip. They are lovers of their local church, and I love that about them.
Second, they live on three different continents. We love the color and contrast of different cultures, and anticipate a particular richness from this diversity.
Third, they spend a lot of time in airports. In other words, what God has done through them has created a demand for their time and talents. These are not novices. They are seasoned. uniquely gifted people. with something worthwhile to say.
Finally, they are all really funny. We prophetic types tend to take ourselves far too seriously, so I asked people to come who would help us laugh at ourselves. That's an added bonus.

So who are the Who?
JD and ReAnn Daniel from Adelaide, Australia lead Coastlands Church, one of the fastest growing multi-site churches in South Australia. Still in their 20's, I always say that they have jam packed two lives into their short one. They first met, married and ministered in Los Angeles, drawn together initially by their common love and gifting for worship. They moved to Australia from the US eight years ago where they are now pastoring their second church. Having written and recorded countless worship songs,as well as pioneered Thirsty Worship gatherings, they have a unique ability to lead people through preaching, worship and the prophetic with contagious passion and innovation.

Mike Pilavachi is the founder and pastor of Soul Survivor Church, Watford, outside London, which he planted in the early 1990's with friend and worship leader Matt Redman. He also leads Soul Survivor festivals, Britain's largest Christian youth festival. A self-effacing, hilarious communicator who is also a prolific writer, Mike's close connection with the Church of England has enabled him to introduce many traditional churches to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He supports Manchester United Soccer Club but we won't hold that against him.

Mike Erre is teaching pastor at Rock Harbor in Costa Mesa, California, which has grown to around 6000 in ten years. A graduate from Talbot University, Mike's theological depth is matched by his contextual savvy and compelling communication gift. With a conservative theological background, Mike has been on a journey of discovering the marriage between Word and Spirit preaching,and his journey is one well worth learning from.

Todd Proctor is lead pastor of Rock Harbor. Initially the worship pastor at this rapidly growing church, Todd's visionary gift found him playing a role that he never saw coming. His humility and innovation have enabled him to gather and lead an exceptionally strong ministry team, without feeling the need to be constantly in the spotlight. His mix of worship leading and visioneering make him a unique gift to the church.

So there's the low down for the Who of Urban Renewal.
Chris Wienand and I will be somewhere in the mix, I guess, but we are delighted to be hosting these incredible friends for the duration of the event.
Registration starts on this coming week.
You coming?