Tagged ‘Healing‘

How Should We Give?

Over the past few months, I’ve shared how the Holy Spirit led me to start a prayer gathering following my time in San Francisco with the house church movement there. Our Southwest Florida group has prayed together for nine months. Along the way, we added folks and saw others leave to form groups on their own. The Holy Spirit has worked in individual lives and collectively as a group. Each week as we gather, we see the Holy Spirit moving among us. We’ve witnessed physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. Personally, I am overwhelmed by what I see the Holy Spirit doing among us. I am more excited about this gathering than anything I have done in the past thirty years of ministry.

Recently I sensed the Holy Spirit was forming two prayer gatherings out of the one group. Several couples regularly attend another church in the area. It seemed to me that the Holy Spirit was forming one prayer gathering made up of those members attending the same church, and another gathering made up of those of us who were not connected with a local traditional church. I brought up the idea at a prayer gathering in early April. Much to my surprise, the folks in attendance that night were excited about moving to the next phase in our gathering – becoming a house church. The decision was made to move forward. Those who wanted to attend their home church were encouraged to continue gathering with those in their home church. The remaining group decided to have our first service as a house church on Easter Sunday morning.

On Easter Sunday, we gathered for a potluck breakfast, and then had a time of discussion, a time of prayer, and communion. All agreed that the Holy Spirit had brought us to this point, and we would rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us into his design. During our discussion, one of the members asked, “What do we do about our giving?” You may question this as well. Here’s my approach.

How does giving work in a house church?

There are several types of giving mentioned in the New Testament. As the New Testament church was formed, there was a spirit of generosity moving among them. “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45, ESV). Later in the book, Luke describes people selling houses and land and giving the proceeds to the leaders of the church to distribute to those who had needs. There was a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others. In this instance, folks were bringing financial resources to the church leaders to distribute as needed. This is what we commonly think of when we think of giving to the church.

Another type of giving is mentioned in John’s writing. He writes about a personal responsibility to meet the needs of those around us. This is what he says:

“If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18, ESV).

Here we see a personal responsibility in the area of giving. When the Holy Spirit brings someone into our lives and shows us a need they have, it is our personal responsibility to meet the need if we have the resources to do so. Again, there is a sense of sacrifice involved. In this instance, it is helpful to remember that we, as individuals, are the church. The Holy Spirit may bring someone with a need across your path. According to this model, if you have the ability to meet the need, then meet it. Do it in the name of Jesus! Remember, you are the church. Be the church! It is exciting when we are set free to give in this way!

In my personal life, I take this type of giving seriously. This type of giving goes far beyond giving money to the leaders of a church body to distribute. It means personally entering into the world of an individual and meeting their need. This way of giving requires I live with sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I need to know that the Holy Spirit is leading me to meet a need. Once that is clear, then I move forward. This is vital. This is why listening to the Holy Spirit is so important.

Through the years, this approach has led me to meet the needs of many individuals. At one point, I cleared out my savings account meeting other people’s needs. At another time, I cleared out my retirement account meeting needs. Meeting needs may not involve money. It may involve time, service, or other resources. On two different occasions, God led me to invite a homeless person to stay with me. This shouldn’t seem exceptional. It should feel normal if we understand what John is teaching. How many extra bedrooms do we have? In the two instances I mentioned, I did not even have an extra bedroom. I had a couch. How many couches do we have? Remember our example of the early church. There was a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others.

At this point, I imagine I am freaking out some of you. The reason this makes some uncomfortable is that we tend to view our responsibility to others through the lens of an American, instead of through the Scriptures.

The American dream is exceptionally individualistic. We are taught that if we follow our dreams, we can succeed at anything. Work hard. Make lots of money. Live comfortably. You’ve earned it! Conversely, since we live in a land of opportunity, we may subconsciously think that someone who has needs is not applying themselves. It’s their fault. They should work harder. They must have wasted time and money they had. When confronted with someone who has obvious needs, we tend to look the other way. But is this how Jesus taught us to live?

I think about the story we commonly call, “the Good Samaritan.” It is an interesting conversation between Jesus and a lawyer. Here is what Luke wrote:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37, ESV).

Loving our Neighbors as Ourselves

This manner of giving fulfills the second commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. The end of the story shows the motivation behind this type of giving. It is characterized by mercy. In the Hebrew language, the word for mercy conveys the idea of bending down to someone of lesser position to hear a petition or request. It reflects the relative position of two individuals. In the story of the Good Samaritan, one party has resources, and the other does not. The one with the resources met the need of the other, and by doing so, showed him mercy.

Jesus concludes, saying, “You go, and do likewise.” His words ring out across the centuries to those in our generation who claim to follow Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. Selflessly love others. Show mercy. Meet needs. You personally go and live like that.

At some point, our little gathering of believers will likely have a bank account set up so we can pool our money together for the leadership to distribute to meet needs. We have no building and no paid staff, so we don’t need any money for ourselves. For now, we are individually setting aside what we believe the Holy Spirit is leading us to give and looking for those divine appointments to share with others in need. It is exciting to give like this!

I am the church. You are the church. We are the church. Not a building. Not a denomination. You, me, us. We are the church. For so long, we have thought of the church as a place we go to, but that is not accurate. A church may meet together in a building, but the building is not the church. We are.

It seems to me, the original question remains. If we are the church, how should we give?


I always enjoy reading your comments. Feel free to post your thoughts below.

For more on the model of prayer used in our prayer gatherings, see the blog post here:


When God Chooses Not to Heal

This article was originally published in the May 2013 Newsletter.

In the big scheme of things, it is a relatively small thing. It is not terminal. And while important to address, in the end there are many things of greater consequence. It is high blood pressure, and about a quarter of the population struggles with it. But right now that statistic is of little comfort to me. I am frustrated that my blood pressure is high even though I have been exercising and eating well for the past 30 days. In fact, at times the pressure has gone up in spite of my diet and daily bike rides. I’ve even prayed that God would heal me in this area, believing that he could heal me if he chooses to. He answered that prayer by revealing underlying stress that I didn’t even know I had. And, as he has shown an area that needed to be addressed, I have surrendered it to him. I feel at peace and restful, confident in his control. I am content in his love and kindness. But I still have high blood pressure. At this time, he has chosen not to heal. I also know that sometimes God heals through the use of medicine and medical care, but it is a path I would rather not go down. I would rather God would just choose to heal me.

What do we do when God chooses not to heal? What do we do when the scan shows the cancer has spread? What do we do when the wayward child refuses to come home? What do we do when the search for a job goes unnoticed or the divorce becomes final? What do we do when the answer to our prayer is “no” or “not yet”?

Thankfully we have an example in Scripture of someone who prayed earnestly for God to heal and yet never received the healing he had hoped for. His name is Paul. He is one of the key figures in church history. He planted churches across the Mediterranean region, and his letters to those churches make up the bulk of the New Testament Scriptures we have today. But in spite of all of that, he still received a “no” when he prayed for physical healing in his own life. He had some issue in his life for which he prayed multiple times for healing. But instead of healing him, God said to him, “My grace is enough, it is sufficient for you. I know you want to be healed. But I want you to find that I am more than enough for you, even when I choose not to heal.”

When God chooses not to heal, I can either focus on what I lack, or I can focus on what I have. And what I have is the presence of God living within me, filling me, overwhelming me with kindness, love, and faithfulness. When I focus on that, it is certainly enough. In fact, it is more than enough. I am humbled by his kindness. I am awed by his faithfulness. I barely have words to describe the love he has poured into my life. It is these things I chose to focus on, to rest upon when other parts of my life do not make sense.

This morning I rose early, long before the sun crested the hills, and found myself contemplating the kindness of God. He has blessed my life so abundantly. I shake my head in wonder when I consider all that he has done for me. I don’t deserve such kindness and yet he pours it into my life over and over again. It is this kindness that I chose to focus on, even as I sit here with my blood pressure much higher than it should be. It is not that I am unaware of the issues affecting my life. I just chose to embrace the love and kindness of God instead of worrying about the things I cannot change.

Consider these verses:

“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).

“Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV).

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, ESV).

Once again, how we deal with the challenges of life comes down to where we are in our relationship with God. Is he enough? Is his love and grace sufficient? Can you say with Paul, that even if he chooses not to heal, his grace is enough? Is he really enough?

So often we want Jesus and a nice house, or Jesus and a nice car, or Jesus and a healthy body, or Jesus and a stable family. But God wants me to learn to be content with just Jesus. If all of those things were stripped away – the house, the car, health, and home – would I be content with just Jesus? I pray that I would.

Friend, do you know the ache of unanswered prayer? Have you cried out to God only to sense that he is saying “not yet” or “not now”? Where are you in relationship with him? Can you trust him even when you cannot feel him near? Is your relationship with Jesus enough, even when he chooses not to heal?

As you are reading these words, you may be dealing with issues in life far more severe than just high blood pressure. I genuinely hurt for you. I am not trying to be trite or to minimize the pain and agony you may be feeling at this moment. I am not suggesting that you are supposed to disregard the reality of your circumstances. I am, however, asking that you bring Christ into the midst of your circumstance. He longs to cover you like a tent spread out over you. He covers us with his grace to comfort and protect. And in that moment, in spite of our trials, we find that he is, in fact, enough.

Even when he chooses not to heal.