Healing in the Scripture

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." ~ Isaiah 53:5

    "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them." ~ Matthew 4:23-24


    "Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give." ~ Matthew 10:1-8


    "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." ~ Matthew 9:35


    "He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” ~ Mark 5:34


    "One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” ~ Luke 5:17-24


    "And a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God." ~ Luke 13:11-13



    "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." ~ Acts 4:30-31


    "There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up." ~ Acts 9:33-34


    "You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached - how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." ~ Acts 10:37-38


    "As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” ~ Luke 12:17-19


    "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” ~ John 9:5-11


    "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." ~ Mark 1:29-34


    "While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened." ~ Luke 8:49-56

Healing and Forgiveness

Check out one of the amazing testimonies from our healing meeting last month from Zora,

When my husband Allen Singer shared the email with me from Phil Tiews announcing that Brother John of the Cross, would be speaking at St. Luke's. I told my husband I was interested in hearing this speaker. I love learning and thought I was going to attend a biblical lecture on healing. I had no idea that the Word of God had regular healing meetings, and I was not expecting what I experienced that evening. When Brother John started his talk, I realized we were not going to delve into a scripture study on healing. What I was hearing were testimonials from Brother John of his experience praying for healing for many, and sharing a few supporting bible verses. As he shared testimony after testimony of those that were healed, I felt a spiritual excitement. I felt like his stories were a glimpse of something broader the LORD is starting to do worldwide. Perhaps the LORD had me come so I could hear an answer to a Hebrew prayer I pray with my Messianic Jewish brothers & sisters every Saturday in our Synagogue. It's the Aaronic blessing: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace". I close my eyes during that blessing, and after each section the congregation responds: "May such be your will". With my eyes closed while hearing & responding to the Aaronic blessing, I always picture the globe of the earth, and ask God to pour His spirit abundantly upon Israel and have His spirit overflow abundantly among all the nations of this earth he created. I end with "LORD, we need a revival like we've never seen before." Back to the healing meeting, I no longer was disappointed that I wasn't attending a bible lecture on healing. That disappointment was replaced with blessings that God's spirit is being poured out upon our nation, and I started praying that His spirit would pour upon those in need of healing here at this gathering. As the meeting moved to people being invited to come forward for healing, I asked my husband if he thought I should go and request prayer for symptoms lingering from a concussion I had as a result of a car accident. He encouraged me to go forward for healing, reminding me that at the beginning of the meeting there was a word of knowledge given that there was someone here as a result of a car accident. It was out of my comfort zone but, as I stood in line I focused on praying for others needing prayer. Then there I was before Brother John and Peter Williamson, asking me what they could prayer for me. I told them in Oct of 2017 my car was rear-ended & almost flipped over. I had a severe concussion and for over a year now have been depressed & irritable and that was not my personality. Doctors said this is common when brain neurons get exposed to such traumatic brain injury. I told Brother John & Peter that by God's grace I keep apologizing to my husband for being irritable, but that this depression & irritability is really wearing me out. Brother John asked if I had forgiven the person that rear-ended me. I quickly responded "not face to face, but yes I have forgiven her".  As Brother John & Peter laid their hands on me and began to pray, by God's grace, I started feeling a conviction of guilt, and realized that I did not forgive the girl that caused the car accident, my concussion, and the depression & irritability that has haunted me for over a year now. I interrupted their prayers and told them that God had revealed to me that I have not forgiven her. I then prayed: "LORD, forgive me for not forgiving her. I do now forgive her, and ask that you help her with all the help she needs".  Brother John & Peter then continued to pray, and praise be to God, a heaviness was lifted from me, and I felt a joy and a lightness that I knew was from the hand of our LORD. I praised and thanked Yeshua (Jesus) and his servants Brother John & Peter. I wanted to wait a week before I shared this testimony with the Word of God community. This past year I became all too familiar with what each day would bring - spiritually fighting depression & irritability to no end. This past week I awoke each morning and walked cautiously each day ready for my fight, only to find I've been smiling with overflowing joy that the LORD has returned me to my personality before the accident. I'm back to the normal human level of irritability, no depression, no surprising unexplained bouts of crying. The LORD has healed me, and blessed me with days of joy. Glory be to His Holy name! Here I am LORD, use me.

Be the Light—Pine Hills Girls’ Camp 2018

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It was finally Sunday at Pine Hills Girls’ Camp and our staff had prepared for months to welcome 192 campers. This year, I was privileged to be a part of that staff. As I was putting on my camp t-shirt that morning, marked with our theme of Be The Light, I thought, “This seems pretty self-explanatory. Maybe the talks won’t apply to me this year. They’re probably geared more towards the girls.” Woah, was I wrong. The call to be God’s Light in the world is for every person, at every age and every stage of life!

That Sunday afternoon as 192 girls arrived (every bunk in every cabin was filled), our Senior Service Team (SST) and the Service Team (ST) welcomed them to camp and helped get their luggage to their cabins. Those two hours were some of the craziest and fastest to go by in my life. I wondered how this could ever get old. I felt completely in my element and full of joy and energy. However, after the initial excitement of camp (what you have looked forward to all year) dies down, and the fatigue of mid-week hits, the real work begins, authentic love is tested, and the living God becomes present.

Work at camp is a beautiful thing. You realize that you’ve never loved working so hard, so much! You’re exhausted, but you feel like you’re in the perfect place. Our work at camp is a prayer. We submit ourselves to Jesus and He is there in each setup and clean up, in every workshop, small group time, team building exercise, and every walk to and from the cabin as we begin and end our day. At camp. we wake up each morning and very simply decide that we want Him with us. We accept His invitation and make Him present in everything. What a wonderful life for the camp week. The challenge begins when we get home--surrounded by many people who do not make that choice in their lives. As we say at camp: we can’t be in the bubble forever; we need to go out and live this reality.

We all memorized our theme verse this year: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (and that’s from John...8:12). The staff spoke to us about Who “the Light” is and how we can let Him shine in us and bring it to others. We heard about the very real struggles to love ourselves, and how God’s light within us reveals to us who we really are and that we are so abundantly loved.

The second half of the week was my favorite because Rachel and Debbie Herbeck, and many wonderful women passionately spoke about how to live in the Light. Rachel told us that even if our eyes are dull and our hearts are clouded, He is always there right in front, leading the way. Debbie concluded that when we walk in darkness (and we all will), we must live as though we are walking in the Light. Debbie and Rachel challenged us to: “SPEAK God’s powerful name into the darkness because when you speak Jesus’ name, the darkness has to flee.”

As the week progressed, it was so beautiful to watch these truths take hold in the campers (and staff). A mantra for the SST when we were experiencing spiritual attack or darkness was: “He has already won.” We would make fun of the lies. They simply didn’t belong to us; we didn’t want them.

One of the best nights was after the prayer party on Wednesday. My team and I had a small group time with our leaders. We sat there talking about the things we had experienced and a few of us shared a common theme. My friend Meghan spoke up and said, “The Devil has really been trying to crush my joy. He’s trying to tell me that the goodness I’m feeling right now is a lie.” Another girl spoke up, and another, and I was also prompted to say some words as I had been receiving similar lies. Satan was saying things to us like, maybe Jesus isn’t real. Maybe this is all a hoax and we’ve been fooled. I was frustrated that the Devil would try and get close to my team and my friends. But I was brought to the realization that we had done the right thing. We brought these lies into the light. We prayed against them, claimed the victory over them, and moved on. Because the fact is, lies don’t deserve airtime.

Throughout the rest of the week, we took this practice into our small group. We brought things up that were loading us down and we would fight the battle together. I realized then that being the Light is a whole lot harder than I thought. It’s not a “camp thing”, but my whole life must be dedicated to this action.

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Pine Hills Camp can never be summed up in a few paragraphs or in a week. PHC is something that lives in our hearts not only as great memories, but it is the catalyst for strong, life-long friendships, the foundation of support and the training ground for our relationship with Jesus. Every young woman who came this year left exhausted yet refreshed, fully emptied yet full to overflowing. Even the YMCA Staff was impacted by the strength of our joy and the Light within us. As we head back to school, we are all going to receive Jesus more fully into our hearts and keep trying to Be the Light. We know that with Christ and one another, we can fight and win the battle!


Judah Thomason is beginning her senior year of high school. She is a former PHC camper and is a leader in the Be Love Revolution. She loves Jesus, soccer, her family, preaching the Truth and helping others know God’s love.

Hanging On...

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Recently I found this dead branch hanging from the locust tree in my backyard.  It had been dead for a long time as it had lichen growing on it, but it had finally gotten pruned by the wind and fallen from high in the tree.  However, before it could hit ground it was caught by a lower branch and there it hung.

As I looked at it I wondered what dead things there might be in my life that the Spirit had started to prune but which where still hung up or I was still clinging to so that the process was not complete and I still carried them around with me.  Some candidates came to mind … and maybe you have some in your life, too.

  •   Clinging to a past self when I had…(hair, muscles, a figure, energy, dark hair, fill in the blank)
  • The way things used to be
  • Doing things MY way
  • My comfort, peace, carefully structured life
  • What is the Spirit saying to you?

Jesus tells us:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:1-2

The Father has identified those dead branches in our lives and by the action of his Spirit he is pruning them, not to harm us but so that we can more fully receive and live the life of Jesus and so bear fruit.  As those dead branches get shaken loose by the Spirit, let’s not cling to them or allow them to get hung up in our lives.  Let them fall away so that we can fully give ourselves to the new growth which bears fruit. 

Martha Balmer - Goodness and Mercy 

Joan K. O'Connell begins a new series of commuity profiles with this entry on Martha Balmer

Who is the woman in the worship group with the shoulder-length silver hair? The one who is sometimes up in the balcony at the church, working the media computer?

That is Martha Balmer, who has spoken to us competently about extending grace, forgiveness and blessing to others.  She feels loved by God's forgiveness and grace.  In witnessing an exchange of grace or forgiveness between people, she recognizes the Lover of her Soul.


I made Martha's acquaintance when she was playing organ for an early morning chapel service at the Ann Arbor First United Methodist church in the late 1970's. I have come to know her through a weekly 7am Friday morning Bible study we call "Dawntreaders."    This group, always open to newcomers, is attended regularly by Barb & Phil Tiews, Pat & Joan O'Connell, Martha Balmer, Jade Ho when she was in Ann Arbor and more recently, Bill Johnson, Yomiko Hishiki and Emily Airhart.  Many others have come and gone through the years, visiting for a season.  The hour-long get-together includes unrehearsed reading and discussion of a chapter of the Bible, followed by focused prayer for needs spoken in confidentiality around the table. 

Something consistent about Martha is her interest in multiple approaches to a theme or topic.  She knows the freedom of Truth.  She's the one who brings different translations of the Bible, and promises to look things up in her "interlinear, " or to ask her Messianic Jewish friends for clarification of OT festivals and practices. She's the one who attends two different churches where one has split, and whose marriage reflects a firm commitment to ecumenism.

She lives in Ann Arbor; is married to Jim Balmer. They have three daughters and a son and five grandchildren.  For each of these people, she cares deeply.

What drew her to Christianity and to the church as a child was a longing for Goodness.  Reading stories of early Christians, she was struck by the self-sacrificing love of men and women who would die for God rather than hurt another person.  Early, she acquired a pacifist's heart, attuning to the practices of Quakers, Anabaptists and conscientious objectors.  She recommends The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, a biography of a pre-Revolution Quaker abolitionist.

Martha thinks philosophically, and has become more self-reflective as one outgrowth of studying to become a Spiritual Director.  For her, Truth, Goodness and Beauty are words that encapsulate the aspects of God, and she believes that individuals are often primarily oriented toward one or another of these three aspects.  In her desire for Goodness, she recognizes that she also very much values Truth. She seeks to know the Truth: what really is.  She wants to move from self-justification, teasing out what is false and true about her own "goodness." Her recognition of God's Beauty is "late-coming:" a more recent gift that has brought a new level of joy to her life.

Some of her current areas of growth are to be able to be wrong; to be willing to be not trusted because people misunderstand her; to care less about what people think of her; to be free from a fear of death; to hold lightly what she thinks; to live with ambiguity.  She recognizes that her tendency to need to know is based in fear.  [God is in charge.]  And fearlessness is something that God is inviting her into.

She says her connection to God through prayer has "evolved" to include silence.  Her reading and reflection can encourage her to seek to incorporate some practices of another, such as John Woolman's waiting for a purity of love before taking action against the sins he saw around him.  Surely these are fruits of a steady, faithful pursuit of God through prayer, fellowship, practicing repentance and forgiveness, and meditation on His Word.

Meanwhile, stretching her writer’s wings, Martha self-published a 43-page chapbook this year entitled Braving the Dark or The Great American Solar Eclipse and Me, dedicated to Clara, her youngest daughter and traveling companion on this adventure. 

How would she want to be remembered?  Martha hopes people will have sensed God’s Goodness through her life.

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Born and raised in Rochester, MI when it was a small town.

Members of the Methodist church in town.

2 younger sibs:  Sister; Bro- all 2 years apart.

Attended UM School of Music (BMA 1978).Came to Ann Arbor in 1974 "searching for Christian community" aka, "like-minded Jesus freaks."

Her mom stayed home with kids until the youngest was in 5th grade; Martha in 9th. Bookkeeper. Now 90, she lives in an Assisted Living group home in Rochester Hills.

Her dad was a boy during the Depression. Worked his way through college. Enlisted in Army Air Corps, WWII. Married 1949:  he was 31; mom 22. Built the house Martha grew up in by hand.  An Art teacher, then Asst Principal in a middle school. In the 1990's he wrote a book about his WWII military experiences as a transport pilot, edited by Martha, with computer assistance from a cousin. Died in 2016, almost 98 years old.

A parting prayer


If this were your last day on earth, what would you pray for your friends?

John records what Jesus said as he prayed for his friends at the last supper. It is almost as if Jesus is reminding God the father about the essence of his mission trip to earth and how Jesus has been pursuing and will continue to accomplish it.

He begins by recapping how he came to seek and find the people whose hearts God had prepared to hear and respond in faith to the good news about God’s eager plan not to hold our sin against us but to forgive our sin, joyfully welcoming us into his Kingdom: his family.

John 17:6 (from the NIV) reads

“I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world.7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.... 

After this Jesus prays (vs. 9-12) protection over all his disciples in his coming absence. Then he reveals one answer to the question of why he came to earth, mentioning two “next steps” in his continuing mission plan.

·         Why does he say that he came? That we all might have His Joy!

·         Jesus shared the Father’s words. Now he sends us to share the Father & the Son’s words.

·         These words (embraced and put into practice) are part of what sanctifies us…. But then

Jesus says a curious thing. “For them, I sanctify myself, that they may be truly sanctified.” What “truly” sanctifies us? His upcoming death on the cross would provide the only path for our complete sanctification before the throne of grace and judgment.

 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.14 I have given them your word.... .... 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Father, as I encounter others today I pray for ears to hear, and courage to speak the words you give me for them. Words of kindness, hope, truth, trust, compassion, reconciliation, and new life.

- Pat O'Connell

Why should we expect healing at our prayer meeting this Sunday? - Peter Williamson

A short answer suffices: Because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!” (Heb 13:8).

We know that during his earthly life Jesus was famous for healing the sick and casting out demons and that he authorized his disciples to do the same (Matt 10:1). 

We know that after his resurrection he promised, “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues…;  they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:17-18).

This morning I read the story in Acts 3 of the lame beggar who was healed at the temple gate.  He asked for money and Peter answered: “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" (Acts 3:6)  

Peter had healing to give, and as Jesus’ disciples, we do too!

Peter explained: "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?... By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing” (Acts 3:12, 16).

We know through Scripture (James 5:14-16) and our experience that healing continues to come through Jesus’ name, whether miraculously or gradually through medical means.

So let us come this Sunday with expectant faith and bring our friends and neighbors who need healing.  “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever!”

If you can serve on a prayer team, please let Jeane Larson know (jeane.larson@att.net). If you would be able to drive someone to the Jesus Our Healer prayer meeting, please let Billy Kangas know (billy.kangas@gmail.com).  Thanks!

Your brother,

Finding God's mission for your life


I once heard the story of a young fish who lived just off the coast of Virginia. He was hatched there and had spent all of his life eating and splashing in the waves. He lived his life like an ordinary fish, but he had a strange longing in his heart. He wanted excitement. He wanted adventure. He wanted something more than a life spent eating and swimming.

One day a boat from the port nearby floated past where he was swimming and the young fish swam over to investigate. As he drew near he overheard the passengers onboard the boat begin to share about the great adventures they had heard of sailing the high seas. They told tales of great battles, shipwrecks, whale hunts and pirates. The young fish listened attentively. In each of these stories the men spoke of something called “the ocean” which was where these magnificent adventures took place. The fish was very curious about what this “ocean” might be. It seemed the ocean was a place that was full of surprises and adventure. The ocean was a place where he felt he must be able to find meaning for his life. He needed to find the great ocean.

The next day the young fish swam to the front of his school and asked the wisest old fish if he knew where he could find the ocean. The wise fish smiled and asked the fish why. The young fish explained that he had heard tell of the great adventures that could be had there. He told the old fish the stories he had heard of battle and treasure and glory. He insisted if he could just find the ocean that he would be able to live a life of meaning himself. The old fish leaned in and told the young fish that he would happily help him, but warned the journey would not be easy. The little fish assured the older that he was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead of him. The older fish then whispered, “the ocean is all around you, you’ve swam it it’s waters all your life; if it’s a life of meaning that you are seeking; you need to open your eyes to the possibilities that lay in the waves that meet you each day.”

I’d like to suggest that to often the Christian life reflects a similar story. Many Christians are inspired by the stories of faith that they have heard but seem unaware that the story is continuing all around them. They believe that God has done great things and they long to be a part of it. They wonder what God could do with them if they would just move into a far off mission field, or join a monastery or become a priest. The reality, however, is that God’s kingdom is all around us. We believe that Jesus reigns over the whole universe. There is no home, neighborhood, city, workplace or community that God is not seeking to draw to himself. The kingdom of God is indeed all around us, and we are called to open our eyes to the opportunities to join Jesus every day.

Answering God's Call


I have recently been recording some theology lectures for my Parish, St. Francis of Assisi, in Ann Arbor. They asked me if I would do one on prayer a couple weeks ago. I was happy to do so. Prayer is such an essential part of our life with God, and yet it is too often misunderstood. As I was reading and reflecting on what the scriptures and the saints have said about prayer I was struck by a simple lesson. Our prayer is always a response to what God is already doing. 

God is the first mover.
God is the first to show up.
God gives us the first gift.
God speaks the first word.
God is the first to offer His embrace.
God is the first one present.
God offers the call to prayer.
God is the first to know the need.

Our community is celebrating 50 years of responding to God this year. I've been so blessed as we have reflected on our history together about how much people have reflected and prayed about what God is doing as we look to the future. I've decided to create a tool to help us remember to continue to lift up the Word of God Community in prayer. It's included below. I am printing off a copy to keep at my home chapel. Feel free to save it, print it and share it. I hope it will help us remember to listen to what God is saying and respond in faith to Him in every area of our life!

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Would you mind if I prayed for you?

'I just called to say, 'I love you'.'

'I just called to say, 'I love you'.'

Barb and I celebrated our 45th anniversary last month in the small North Dakota town of Williston on our way to Glacier National Park.  After dinner we walked around downtown, all 2 blocks of it, and found an Italian restaurant were we sat outside and ordered some gelato.  The young host, James, came and chatted with us and when we told him it was our anniversary he organized the staff to come out and serenade us!  Later we engaged James in some more conversation and found out a bit about his background, his love of family, and his goal to visit all the national parks. 

As the conversation, and our gelato, was drawing to an end, we said, ‘One of the things that we like to do together is to pray, would you mind if we took just a minute and prayed for you?’  James said he would like that.  After asking what we could pray for we briefly thanked God for the kindness the young man had shown and asked Jesus to bless him and let him experience God as he pursued his life goal.  He thanked us and we parted telling him about how beautiful Michigan is!

Barb and I have been trying to put into effect ‘5 Practices’, recommended in the book Joining Jesus on his mission, by Greg Finke.  These are things that we can do every day to start to engage with what Jesus is doing to draw people to himself:

  • Look for the Kingdom

  • Listen to Jesus

  • Talk with people

  • Do good

  • Pray with people

That is a pretty simple list, and it isn’t really hard to do.  It requires a bit of intentionality on our part but it is actually quite fun and definitely tunes our antennae more to what Jesus is doing in the folks around us. 

Our conversation with James in Williston did not lead to a presentation of the Gospel and praying with him to give his life to Jesus, which would have been very cool if it had!  We were not in a position to do follow-up with him and don’t know what God might do with that brief interaction.  However I am sure of a few things he did experience:

  • Christians being kind and showing an interest in him

  • Testimony that God is near and cares about the concerns of our hearts

  • An example of how to talk to Jesus in prayer, simply and directly

And I believe Jesus was hearing and answering our prayer!

Evangelism and discipleship are very interconnected and I have recently heard a really helpful definition of discipleship which is helping me: Moving from unbelief to belief in the Gospel in every area of life.  As we engage in the ‘5 Practices’ we are offering opportunities to hear and experience things about Jesus and his good news which can help people move from unbelief along the path to belief.  Not too hard for us.  Really good for them.

Interestingly, the song the restaurant staff sang was Stevie Wonder’s “I just called to say I love you”.  Jesus is calling to say he loves folks – and using us as his telephone!

God: A craftsman of love


It was Thursday a couple weeks ago. We were out in the Garden at Cultivate for harvest.  We do this a couple times a week. We invite community members to come out and help us pick the ripe plants that we then donate to local food pantries. Sometimes I just look around the shop and see who I can recruit.  This time I invited a couple kids who were on their iPads waiting for their dad to finish a meeting. I asked them if they wanted to learn how tomatoes were picked. They were more than interested and their dad agreed to let them participate.

The harvest was good an this particular day.

  • We had tomatoes
  • We had cucumbers
  • We had beans
  • We had zucchini
  • We filled several bins

The kids loved it.

The thing we love is that we can harvest food at it’s best. The harvest was ripe - so we went to hope - located on the south side of Ypsilanti where there is a lack of fresh food and food security  I love going to Hope because you get to see the people you are giving your food to. There’s a dignity in the presentation. They have little farmstand in the lobby. It's well lit and inviting. Often times, if you sit back, you can see the broad smiles on people’s faces as they find that perfect tomato. People seem to come alive. Katie, our garden coordinator talks about how much she loves to bring in the odd foods because she gets the opportunity to teach people about produce (i.e. garlic scapes).

It's amazing how much food our little corner of the earth is able to produce with just a little bit of care. The whole earth is really a gift of God. God gives good things and God gives them generously! 

So often this neighborhood is forgotten. Many don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The limited food that is available is too often the scraps. They are people who live in the cracks and margins we too often ignore. Mary, the food coordinator, came up to us and said how much she appreciated our harvest deliveries. She often tells me that she sees our pictures online and hopes that that food is coming her way. But on this specific occasion, she told us that many people admire our produce and comment on how lovely it is and how great that it is going to the people that can least afford it. 

Part of being a follower of Jesus is learning the nature of God's generosity. I am personally very inspired by the story of the wedding of Cana. The fact that the wine Jesus offered was a superb vintage touches me. God doesn't just meet our needs, he does so as a craftsman who cares about excellence. We can follow his example. How we give can be done as a craft. We can offer what is best. I am proud that this is what happens in this garden. We have grown a beautiful space that is the envy of the community in many ways, but then we give it away. I am so humbled by the ways that God cares for us with the earth and everything in it. One way to worship our God is to join him in his work of giving good things.

Roots & Fruits


Isaiah had a message for King Hezekiah when it looked like Jerusalem and all of Judah with it was going to be extinguished by the Assyrians:

This will be the sign for you, O Hezekiah:

This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.  

2 Kings 19:29-31

Hezekiah had every right to be afraid and discouraged.  Only a remnant of Judah as left in Jerusalem.  The obstacles they faced where humanly insurmountable.  And they were being offered an apparently reasonable way out, surrender and get moved to a different land as good as their own. 

But God had a different solution.  Trust in him.  Wait patiently.  Step out again when the time is right.  And you will bear fruit.  It will be the LORD God Almighty’s doing.  Easy for Isaiah to say.  Hard for Hezekiah and the people with him to do!

We have recently completed a community consultation where we concluded that the LORD God Almighty is directing us to ‘return to our roots’, to continue to pursue the mission and call he has given us with renewed intentionality.  Easy to say, hard to do!  In fact, we are not able to do it.  Looking at our size, our age, our situations, it humanly possible.  We need the ‘zeal of the Lord Almighty to accomplish this’.

We are not the nation of Israel under the leadership of Hezekiah and the threat of Assyria, but I believe Isaiah’s word still speak to us today.  We have gone through a time of ‘eating what grows by itself’ and ‘what springs from that’, living off the Lord’s gracious provision in the past.  As for Judah, there comes a time for action.  Now is a time for stepping out in faith ‘to sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit’  -- acting in faith to plant/invest what we have been given and look to the Lord to cause it to bear fruit. 

Isaiah describes this process as ‘take root below’ -- sink our roots into the Lord, the giver of life --, and to bear fruit above – be channels of his life going forth to others.  This the promise that Jesus speaks of in John 7:37-38

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “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.”

As we ‘return to our roots’, the Lord is calling us to let those roots drink thirstily from his water of life so that streams of his living water can flow from us bearing fruit for others. 

Look out! Pursuing the call to serve.

We have been talking a lot lately about living a three-dimensional gospel. What this means is that we have a Christian life that is:

  1. Upward focused (We are passionate in our relationship with God)
  2. Inward focused (We are radical in our commitment to one another as a community)
  3. Outward focused (purposeful in joining God in word and deed to a world in need)

One of the biggest challenges of living as a Christian Community is keeping the outward focus strong. We can pursue a relationship with God and build our commitment to one another all within the confines of a Church building. However the process of joining God in his mission requires us to leave the comfort of the Church for the messiness of the mission-field.

There are many ways we can serve outwardly. It can be as simple as taking time to get to know your neighbors or as dramatic as selling all you have and moving to a nation in another hemisphere. God invites all of us to listen to His voice and respond to His personal call to share his love to our neighbors both near and far. One of the key ways God calls us is to open our eyes and lives to serve the people around us. Jesus Himself promises us that he can be found among those in need (Matthew 25:31-46). Helping to serve our neighbors is one of best ways we can give honor and draw glory to God (Matthew 5:16). Serving others is also an essential part in preaching the Gospel. As Jesus sent his disciples out he commanded them not only to teach people about him, but to seek out the sick and the needy (Matthew 10:8). James even reminds us that the religion that is pure and holy before God is not only that which takes our own need for a savior seriously but also that which cares for the most vulnerable (James 1:27). 

Discerning God's voice in our lives can sometimes be difficult, but when it comes to serving outward it doesn't need to be complicated. Look at everything God has given you and then look for opportunities to share it with those in need. John the baptist lays it out simply for us in Luke 3:11, "anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

May we live with open hands and open lives ready for God to use us!

Along the way discipleship

Matthew 28:18-20 is the famous ‘Great Commission’ passage:

And Jesus came and said to them “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

This commission is not ‘great’ as though there are other, lesser ones.  I think this is it!  It is ‘great’ because it is the only one and it means joining with Jesus in his commission.  We get to do what Jesus did, and actually is still doing! 

So what does it mean?  Libraries have been written on this, but the Lord has been emphasizing a couple of aspects to me recently that I have found very helpful and encouraging.  I hope you will, too!

Along the way

‘Go…make disciples’.  It is easy for this to sound like a direction to drop everything we are doing, join a mission society and move to foreign places – go, get out of here.  That ‘go’ word isn’t really a onetime action.  It would be better translated ‘going’.  So the commission is ‘going…make disciples’, or ‘as you go…make disciples’, or maybe ‘along the way…make disciples’. 

The point is that this is a continuous activity.  We don’t have to leave where we are.  Rather, as we go through our life we should proceed with an eye toward making disciples; be making disciples continuously, intentionally, in everything we are doing. 

This takes the pressure off the fear of having to go to Outer Mongolia and at the same time it opens up all of life to the ‘great’ commission.  We all get to do it, all the time – along the way.

Make disciples

This understanding of go/going/along the way leads to a re-examination of what Jesus meant by ‘make disciples’.  In modern Christianity we equate this with leading people to a commitment to Christ, or training them in the Bible or theology.  It is something done by evangelists or teachers or pastors, often in classes or book studies. 

Jesus defined it for the disciples as ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’, which included the way of disciple making itself.  Jesus lived life with the disciples.  Sometimes he taught formally, often he used the circumstance of the moment to prompt instruction.  They observed him and he observed them and they talked about it.  They lived life together and in the process Jesus intentionally passed on his life to them. 

A helpful description of this sort of discipleship is ‘helping people move from unbelief to belief in every area of life in the light of the Gospel’.  This involves the head (understanding), the heart (believing/accepting), and the hands (actually doing!).  It is a cumulative, really, life-long process.  And it is one that every believer with the life of Christ in them can participate in. 

We can all be helping those around us on this journey from unbelief to belief – along the way!

A New Kind of Family

Family is the most basic expression of God's kingdom in this world. It is a community of love which reflects the community of Love that God Himself is in Trinity. At it's best Family is the hearth of worship which feeds the fire for God within the hearts of it's members; it is the open door which offers hospitality new life and new relationships; it is a living proclamation of the Gospel to the world that it goes out to serve. Family can be made up in many ways. Of course there is the nuclear form; with parents and their children. There is also the more extended version which includes grand-parents, cousins, aunts and uncles. The biblical version of family, although it values these formations, offers a more radical vision.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12: 46-50)

Jesus taught that the fundamental kinship that he built was not based on the relationship that individuals had to him through his earthly mother, but rather the relationship that they had to him through his heavenly Father.  Jesus promoted a affinity of mission over that of kith and kin. As followers of Jesus this too becomes our modus operandi. We are to be people who are actively seeking to join the mission of the Holy Spirit in our own family lives. This functions in two mandates Christian families are called to follow:

  1. We are called to be active in equipping members of our family and community to live as disciples of Jesus Christ
  2. We are instructed to invite in those who God sends us into our families to join their life to the life of God in us.

The first mandate means we need to be intentionally building our families with an outward focus. Following Jesus rarely results in comfortable lethargy. Jesus calls the community into a passionate relationship with God and a radical mission to care for one's neighbors and the world. Family life in the Kingdom of God is missionary in character. It is seeking always to invite those who God sends into it. As Christians we need to take serious stock of the patterns and habits we have formed and ask for God's direction as we make decisions about new commitments in the future. Consider periodically writing out a typical week's activities with as much detail as possible. Pray over that list and ask the question, "what would you have me do here God, and who you would have me do it with?" 

The second mandate means that we are always attentive for opportunities to serve and share our life and faith as we go about our lives. Our stance should be invitational. We are always offering an invitation to those we encounter to encounter love. Sometimes it can just be seeing the person in front of you and hearing where they are serving in some small way. At other times God may be leading you to develop a friendship, or even invite them into the family that God has. As the Lord brings forth new Children of faith he will recruit families to adopt these new members of his family into their own life together. A great resource that many use to help them in their discernment of who these people are is outlined here

Taking these two mandates seriously can completely transform how your family functions without necessarily adding anything new to the calendar. Life on mission with God isn't about adding mission to your life but making your life a mission. 

(Photo by delfi de la Rua)

The “Has-es” and the “Has-nots” by Patrick O'Connell

In Matthew 13:10 Jesus is alone with his disciples after proclaiming to the crowds the famous "Parable of the Sower." The disciples ask him,

Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

I don't know about you, but the first time I read this I was offended. I mean, Jesus’ reply just didn't fit with my understanding of his character. Where is the love in simply dividing the population into those who have been given special knowledge and those who have not? Doesn’t this smack of stoic fatalism? Is there no hope for change?

Then, in verse 15 he says, “For this people's heart has become calloused.”

So what does "calloused hearts" have to do with speaking in parables? Is Jesus choosing to speak in parables because he knows that if he speaks directly about kingdom realities to certain people he would prematurely expose the condition of their hearts?  Would speaking more directly possibly stir up anger, creating more, not less resistance to understanding the ways and the truths of the Kingdom? Perhaps by using parables he’s making space for a variety of responses: those with calloused, unbelieving hearts might dismiss his story as mere nonsense, they might derive a partial understanding of his wisdom, or they might leave pondering his words until the spirit of God reveals truth … eventually leading to repentance and new life.

Often in my relationships I do not exhibit such patience and foresight. I love to talk with those, who like me, appreciate and enjoy searching scripture to mine the multiple gems and wise perspectives that it contains. However, if I run into somebody who doesn't share my appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the word of God, fearing disapproval, I quickly change the subject. Whereas Jesus, despising the shame, lovingly continued to share about the Kingdom, asking his father for a catchy story to illustrate truths.   

So in the end, Jesus is concerned about the "has-nots”. I believe our Father is graciously inviting us to share in the joy of creating heart softening stories. If we followers of Jesus commit ourselves to look for those God-orchestrated opportunities to talk with our friends/ neighbors/ family/ coworkers, asking him to help us find parable-like personal stories about how we experience new life, then God might just use these to reveal to them one or more of the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven.

Advent: Praying for a Sword Day! By Phil Tiews

… the king sprang suddenly erect.  Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had heard a mortal man achieve before:

Arise, arise Riders of Théoden! 

Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!

Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,

A sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!

Ride now, ride now!  Ride to Gondor!

 Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away.  Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it.  After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them… For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them.

This passage from J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy might seem out of place as we approach Christmas, but over the years it has come back powerfully to me as I pray during Advent.  In Advent we are asking for the King to come, and the Bible makes it very clear that when He comes a second time it will be very different than His first coming:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.                                                                          
Rev 19:11-16

Sounds a lot like the ride of Théoden!  That day will be ‘a sword day, a red day’ and the King of Kings will sweep His enemies before Him.  He will establish His Kingdom and there will be none to oppose Him.  I think this is why we love stories of rescuers arriving in the nick of time to set people free from the attack of evil.  It touches on the Great Story which God has put deep in our hearts, the Hope of the coming of the King to put all things right.

However, as we wait, King Jesus has taught to pray ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven’.  That ‘sword day’ will not come fully and finally until Jesus returns, but right now, every day in small and large ways, incrementally, that day is to be pressed out in the world around us.  We are to ask for, expect, and participate in His Kingdom, His rule, His rescue to break in.  We are not to hunker underground and await His coming, but to pray and be part of His Kingdom coming daily until the day He comes to finish the job.

As I have prayed and thought on this, I realize that for me to live and believe this way, His Kingdom is going to have to come more in my life, too!  I have enemies of fear, of slavery to approval, of unbelief that need to be swept away for me to be a partner is seeing the Lord’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.   Freeing me to witness boldly, to pray for healing, to work for reconciliation, to address wrongdoing.  So this Advent I am praying for the Rider on the White Horse to sweep through my life and rout these enemies so that I can be part of the pressing out of His rule and will now – until the final ‘sword day’.



As those in Christ, we talk about being baptized in the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, and the language makes it sound like the life of the Spirit is coming from outside. But a better understanding is that God has placed his own Spirit within us and we are now filled from the inside, like a well filled from the boundless supply in the aquifer.

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