Posted in Isaiah, Judges

A Minivan With Wings

“When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, ‘Behold, I had a dream, a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down so the tent lay flat.’ His friend replied, ‘This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon… God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.” Judges 7:13-14

Three hundred Israelites were facing an army of 135,000 Midianites (Judges 8:10) when God told Gideon to go to the enemy’s camp and hear what they were saying. The dream related in the text above encouraged Gideon and led to a mighty victory for Israel. What was it about this dream that instilled such confidence?

Think for a moment of the pressure that weighed upon these three hundred men. The army had started with 32,000, and God Himself had chosen only these three hundred to fight in the battle, a battle whose outcome would determine the future of all Israel. What if they blew it? What if they weren’t up to the high calling required of them?

Then this dream comes. A loaf of barley bread tumbling into the camp. God was going to use something very ordinary in a very haphazard way to accomplish His purpose. It wasn’t about them or their clever strategy; God was going to do something great through them, but in a way where He would get all the glory. They didn’t have to be great; they just had to be willing.

One day my wife, and I were invited to attend a Connect Group from our church and at the end of the night, the group prayed for us. While praying one of the young mom’s said God was giving her a vision of a minivan with wings. She said she didn’t know why it was a minivan, but prayed that God would give us wings like eagles to soar with Him. (Isaiah 40:31)

It was the word I needed to hear. I don’t think I can be a Cadillac or a limousine but I can be a minivan. If the plan is that God can only use super Christians then I’m disqualified, but if He can give a minivan wings, I’m all in! How about you?

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Matthew, Revelation

The Open Floodgates

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

A few years ago I was part of a region-wide worship night and we were singing, “Let it Rain.” As the congregation sang: “Open the floodgates of heaven,” the worship leader kept singing, “The floodgates of heaven are open.” She had the words wrong.

Then it hit me. She was the one who had the words right. Sometimes the songs we sing are a reflection of the theology we are currently believing and not how it really is. I am familiar with the: “Open the floodgates”, theology; let me explain.

God wants to pour out His Spirit, in this view of things, but He can’t. If the church was repentant enough, prayerful enough, worshipful enough, and desperate enough, He then would open the floodgates of heaven and there would be a revival. This is a heavy message and produces Christians who strive harder and harder only to fail again and again. I know, I’ve been that Christian.

Now let’s look at what is true. “Let it rain, let it rain; the floodgates of heaven are open, let it rain.” We still must value and ask for the rain of God’s presence because He wants to be wanted and will allow us to do church without Him if we think we don’t need Him. (See Revelation 3:15-20) But we don’t need Him to open the floodgates of heaven, He already has. Jesus’ blood opened heaven for us, the veil has been torn down. (See Matthew 27:51)

God pouring out His Spirit in and through us is not a difficult thing; it’s the normal Christian life. As His favored sons and daughters, we have easy access to all the riches of His table and can easily drink from His river of delights, if we’ll only believe. The floodgates are open, and it’s His express purpose to pour out His Spirit on all flesh that we may speak of the glory of God as those who encounter Him regularly. (Acts 2:17-19)

This describes  the type of Christians we’re increasingly becoming.  Favored children, carrying His very presence, and reflecting His glory wherever we go. What a great adventure to be on!

Posted in Leviticus, Mark

The Healing Presence

“‘If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” Mark 5:28-29

In the Old Covenant, the immediate presence of a holy God was something to be feared by sinful humanity. God warned people to not get too close and those who were called to draw near had to be very careful or they could die.

Yet in Christ, the presence of God became a healing presence. So much so that this woman disregards the ceremonial law which demanded she stay separate from all around her. (Leviticus 15:25-31) Anyone she touched became unclean according to God’s law, yet she instinctively knew that if she touched Jesus she would be healed instead of Him becoming unclean.

In the Savior, the Holy Spirit is a healing presence. In 1997 I did a workshop for our youth camp in Minnesota on the topic of the Holy Spirit. When I was finished speaking, I asked any who wanted a fresh touch of the Spirit to stand. Although I went around and touched the head of each student while praying for them, I wasn’t aware of anything special happening.

Three days later, we were in our final evening service and were giving testimonies of what God had done. A ninth grade student from Duluth pulled me into a private room off the sanctuary to tell me what happened to him. He said he was too shy to speak in front of everyone but thought someone should know.

A few years earlier he had fallen down some stairs and hurt his back, but because his mom was so poor he never asked to have a doctor look at it. He had just suffered in silence and learned to live with the pain. “I was the first person you prayed for on Monday,” he told me, “and when you touched my head something went through me that took away all my pain. I’ve tested it for three days and the pain hasn’t returned. God healed me.”

He was now crying, and so was I. He hadn’t asked for healing and I hadn’t prayed for healing. Jesus just wanted to heal him, and in a way that he would know for the rest of his life that God is real.

Posted in 1Corinthians, John

Understanding the Anointing

“He who is thirsty let him come to Me and drink…and out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

I once heard the late German evangelist, Reinhart Bonnke, tell a story that made a great impression on him when he was a boy. A barge had become stranded on the beach when the tide went out and he and his friends contemplated how impossible it would be for anyone to move it. Yet when the tide came back in, he found he could move this massive rig all by himself. He realized that the laws all change when the tide comes in.

The first crusade he led in Africa was in a city named Gaborone. He only had one pastor join him, yet Reinhart had rented a stadium. The pastor questioned this, “If my whole church came, we would only have 40 people.  Why have you rented this stadium?” The answer was, “Because God told me to.” The first night, 100 people attended, but while he was preaching the blind began to see, crippled people came off their mats, and the deaf began to hear. Reinhart said the stadium was filled the next night. The success he had in Africa since that time is one of the greatest miracles of our time. There were over 73 million recorded conversions; 58 million since the year 2000.

Jesus wants us to do more than our best for the people around us. He wants us to come and drink of Him, so that He can do His best for them. Paul said to “pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” (1Corinthians 14:1) This world needs more than our love; it needs to experience heaven’s love and in a way that they know God is alive.

Posted in 1Samuel, Luke, Mark, Revelation

Hear, and be Healed

“A great number of people from all over Judea came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all.” Luke 6:17-19

Health care is a problem today. As we age there are more pains and blockages as well as the risk of external parts and internal organs wearing down and no longer functioning as they should. The medical community can help, and they do what they can, but for many things there is only a pill to treat symptoms and no real promise of healing.

Jesus is a healer. He can and does use doctors, but sometimes He acts apart from them, like in the text above. Two things grip me in this passage – one relates to humanity; the other to Divinity.

The people came to “hear Him and be healed.” There is a great tendency in our culture to want to be healed from God without listening to God. The idea that God might want to correct me is offensive in a culture which insists that any correction is being “judgmental.” God loves us and wants us to be healed but to Him the heart, the inner person, is more important than the body. When He sees us He looks through the outward appearance to what’s really going on inside. (1Samuel 16:7) He wants to speak to us. Jesus’ last recorded words are found in the book of Revelation where seven times He repeats the same phrase: “He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.” (See Revelation 2 and 3)

The second thing about this text that amazes me is the Divine generosity. Divine power flowed from Jesus and it was “healing them all.” When Jesus is free to be who He is in our midst, healing power to restore and deliver is available to all. Oftentimes we restrict what He is able to do by our unbelief (Mark 6:5-6), or by our busy schedule which distracts us from ever stopping long enough to hear, or be healed.

Posted in 1Corinthians, Galatians

Should We Expect Miracles?

“Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you have heard?” Galatians 3:5

The early church was “filled with awe” because of the “many wonders and miraculous signs” done in their midst. (Acts 2:43) From the text above, we can see that miracles continued in the midst of the local church, even in the church at Galatia which was struggling to stay true to the gospel.

A miracle can be defined as an intervention of the immediate presence of God that changes the natural course of things in such a way that transcends human explanation. It is understandable that awe, wonder, and surprise would be the human response to this level of grace. Does God really still want to move in this way today?

If we take the Bible seriously, there’s nothing in it that suggests that somehow the Holy Spirit would stop working in these ways in the future, or would in any way change who He is and how He acts. If this is true, why don’t we see more? I’m reminded of the old song: “Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” God is moving today by His grace in ways which we need to celebrate, but I am convinced we also need to contend for more. The Bible tells us to “pursue love, and desire earnestly spiritual gifts.” (1Corinthians 14:1) Maybe we don’t see more because we haven’t earnestly desired more?

Posted in 2Corinthians, John

The Need to Drink

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39

I want to share two dreams I received in March of 2013. In the first one, I’m in a discussion group where we are talking about the things of God and a man comes up to the group with an empty cup in his hand and is excited. He says to us, “I know what the problem is – we’re like this empty cup. We’re trying to give people a drink but we’re empty so there’s nothing to refresh them. The cup itself has to drink (be poured into) before it can give anyone else a drink.”

Over a week later I had another dream around the same theme. Two women, one middle aged and one older were receiving prayer and I was watching. Suddenly I knew what God wanted to say to them so I put my hand gently on the head of one and said, “This is the word of the Lord. The enemy’s strategy has been to wear you out over a long period of time. The Lord’s strategy is now to refresh you over a long period of time; first, by teaching you how to drink, and then by causing you to become addicted to His presence.”

I then looked up and she was on the floor basking in the presence of God. I looked over at the older lady and she was beginning to fall, so I caught her and eased her to the floor where she too was enjoying God’s tangible presence.

After I woke up I realized that what had happened to those women was just a fresh drink of the Spirit. But the plan was not about one drink; it was about a lifestyle of drinking. Think about this: every other addiction binds and restricts a life, but “where the Spirit of the Lord is (and only there) there is freedom.” (2Corinthians 3:17) May the Father teach us how to drink and then cause us to be addicted to His presence.

Posted in Matthew

Healing and the Kingdom of God

“And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of sickness…And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:1; 7-8

Several years ago, while living in Montevideo, Minnesota, I had a vivid dream about Divine healing. I was in Walmart (in the dream) when I recognized a woman from our church who was walking with another woman who had one leg that was injured. The woman from our church was a brilliant light for Christ and filled with faith as to what God could do, and I knew if she saw me she would ask me to pray for her friend.

I wasn’t in the mood. So instead of going toward her I was planning a get away, so she wouldn’t see me. Too late. She saw me and immediately came toward me with a big smile on her face. “Would you pray for my friend?” she asked. After agreeing to do so, we went into a room that was right off one of the side aisles (remember, this is a dream), and I began to pray.

This is where things got interesting. I started to pray for her leg and I was filled with the love of God for this person. I could feel the anointing of God go through my hands and knew she was healed but that wasn’t what gripped me. It was God’s intimate love for people in pain. I woke up with the presence of the Lord still resting on me.

What does this dream mean? I felt like the Lord was saying two things:

  1. His end game is not the healing presence of God in our sanctuaries but in the streets. We need to encounter God at church and learn how to minister in church, but He wants us to have a much bigger vision because most of the people He wants to reach don’t currently go to church.
  2. Healing is not about His power but about His love. Jesus wants to reveal His intimate love for people by touching them in very tangible ways. His healings are not just going to make those who are healed fall in love with Him – they are going to make those who are used to bring the healing fall more in love with Him than ever before.

Let’s draw near to the King so we can learn to carry the kingdom everywhere we go!

Posted in Luke, Matthew

The New Wine

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17

God was not able to pour out His Spirit in fullness under the Old Covenant. In fact, He put a veil between His manifest glory and mankind because of their sin. If sinners got too close to His holiness, judgment would break out as it did many times when they were under the cloud of His presence in the wilderness.

God didn’t love His people any less under the Old Covenant, but His touch of blessing was limited to people’s obedience to the law. The law was the old wineskin and the wine it held was limited to a few people (kings, priests, and prophets) and was only poured out while they performed their functions.

In our text, Jesus is answering a question the Pharisees had. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples weren’t keeping the fasts they kept. Jesus announced that a change had taken place with His coming. After He was gone His disciples would fast again, He explained, but it would be for a different reason. Under the Old Covenant one fasted in hopes of receiving favor; under the new covenant a person can fast as one who already has favor.

The new wineskin is the new covenant Jesus made with the Father. He died in our place so that we can be forgiven and be adopted as the very children of God. The new wine can be abundantly poured on anyone who believes in Jesus because His shed blood removes the judgment our sin would have automatically triggered under the Old Covenant.

Jesus’ death and resurrection frees His Father to pour out the Holy Spirit and allows us to receive more of Him as often as we ask. Jesus said: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (and continue to ask) Him.” (Luke 11:13)

Own your identity as a child of God and use this favored position to ask for more of heaven’s wine. This wine is key to lasting joy and healing unlike the stuff that can only give a short buzz and is often followed by a hangover.

Posted in Mark

The Privilege of Partnership

“After me comes One who is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to stoop down and untie the strap of His sandals.” Mark 1:7

John the Baptist led a nationwide revival in Israel where his preaching prepared the way for Jesus. Yet he didn’t feel like he was doing God a favor, but only that he was immensely privileged to do anything in partnership with the One who was mightier than he was.

Shortly after we moved our family to Montevideo, MN in the mid-nineties, I received a call from a woman in the church I was the pastor of. One of her favorite missionaries was coming to visit and she was hoping I would have him speak on the Sunday morning he was in town. I said I’d pray about it, but the truth was that I was a little miffed about even being asked. I was brand new and trying to establish myself in the pulpit, so I just didn’t want to give up a Sunday morning to someone I didn’t know, even if he was an established missionary.

One night shortly after my little tantrum I had a dream. A friend of mine was holding a huge missions night at his church and I was to be the “special speaker.” It even said that on the posters they had up advertising the event. But after the meal my friend turned to me and said, “Things have changed. We’re not going to have you speak tonight.” What struck me was that he didn’t even say he was sorry, in fact, I could tell he wasn’t sorry. That scene stopped and another started.

I was in the foyer of Lake City Church (now City Church) where I was holding a small workshop at a convention. There were only fifteen people there but I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all over me. I spoke briefly and then asked if any wanted to receive Christ. Several hands went up and when I asked them to come forward they were so overcome by the power of the Spirit they fell on the floor on their way forward.

I woke up from the dream and a couple of things were very clear to me. The friend in the first scene represented the Holy Spirit and He wanted me to know that whether He uses me or not is His choice, and He doesn’t owe anyone an explanation if He decides not to use them. The second truth that filled my heart was that ministry is only special when the Holy Spirit is present. Whether there is one, fifteen, or a thousand – it’s His presence and His anointing alone that makes any opportunity meaningful and powerful. We should never care about being “special” in the eyes of people because it’s only what God thinks about us that matters.