Thursday, May 15, 2014

"I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice" - Have We Lost the Heart of Jesus?

Before I was saved, I used to be very involved in the natural health and chronic illness communities. If you want to see what I used to do, you can read all about that journey in the archived posts from 2008-2011. I used to research scientific theories, come up with new ideas and try out different treatment options. I knowingly and willingly made myself a guinea pig in hopes of finding something that would cure me and work for others who were sick with similar conditions.

Over the years, my husband and I started noticing that people would invest their personal identities and get their value from following a diet, a supplement regimen, treatment plan or even going to a specific doctor. The followers of these groups would become die-hard fans and they would defend it against any questions or claims whether legitimate or not. I will admit I fell into this trap myself and repeated many of the "truths" that were promoted in these groups without first testing them out myself.

In these communities, if a person ever had complications or problems with a diet, treatment plan etc., the people were so loyal to that specific plan that they would yell and blame the person that needed help. They would pick apart the person's eating habits, dosing schedules, lab results and look for ANYTHING they could use to blame the lack of results on the person.

Ultimately, no matter how well a person followed their plan or advice, as long as they weren't seeing results, they could never do it right and it was always determined to be the person's fault when it did not work.

When God spoke to me in July 2012 and pulled me out of the natural health communities to pursue Him for healing, I spotted the exact same error in the church too.

In this post, my focus will be mainly on the healing portion of ministry. I'm going to thoroughly discuss the effects of having misplaced our identities and personal value in healing teachings, doctrines and ministers.  I will also talk about the effect it is has had on the sick people who are on the receiving end as well. This is a long post, so here we go. :)

Doctrine Becomes A Weapon Against Those in Need

Having sound doctrine is important and we should always be studying the Word to examine our beliefs. However if our doctrine ever becomes a yoke we put on those we were once trying to help, then we are in error.

Nearly every healing ministry sets up a specific plan or some sort of guideline for the sick to follow. I understand that these were created with good intentions and were meant to give the sick a plan of action to keep people on track.

Problems arise when people go through "this plan", but they did not receive their healing. It can be a confusing time for many sick people because they believed this was what they were supposed to do.

When a person in need tries to get help or has questions about healing, the same doctrine that was once used to "help" the sick becomes a weapon used against them. Often times the sick person is told to go through the checklist again and again and again because they "could not have done it properly". Their lives are picked apart and many doctrines then go on to look for a secret sin, hidden emotional roots and anything else they can to put all blame on the sick person. It's also very popular to say that the sick person doesn't really believe or doesn't really want to be healed. Some teachers say things like, "The sick have to want to be healed. We can't do it for them". It shows that those pushing the doctrine think they are 100% right and the person in need is 100% wrong. It also shows how much we as a Church have lost our compassion for the sick and hurting and have become blinded by a doctrine or teaching put out by popular ministers.

The heavy burdens and yokes we put on those in need and looking for help are unscriptural.

Matthew 11:28-30
  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

It's not like I am talking about people who are practicing sin and are unrepentant. I'm also not talking about unbelievers or atheists who are actively against God. I'm not even talking about Cessationists who don't believe it's God's will to heal His children through the prayers of his church.

I am talking about people who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, know it's God's will to heal, come to healing meetings, buy healing books, watch YT videos on healing and are following Christian healing pages on facebook. These people are plugged in and seeking the Lord with all their heart.

And yet, when these people struggle or have a question, for some reason many in the healing movement take that as a personal attack to their own identities. Why? Well I believe it is because many have based their identities on these doctrines, ministers and teachings instead of getting their identity from Jesus and knowing His heart. We need to reevaluate 'what' or 'who' has our heart! If we are getting our value from a doctrine or a minister that we follow, then we need to recognize this and ask the Lord to help us. We should always be looking to the Lord Jesus Christ for our personal identity and value, but sometimes we falsely base our identities off of the doctrines, churches and ministers that we follow.

People outside of the church do this too with their political parties, sport teams and even colleges. This is not something that is limited to the Church, but we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Even Paul warned about identifying with a leader within the church because of the problems it caused with rivalries and factions.

1 Corinthians 1:11-13
11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 

Do We Have a Heart for the Sick?

In recent years, a teaching that has gained popularity is "knowing your identity in Christ" or "knowing who you are". This teaching is extremely important and it's a place where the church needs to grow. However, even though it is widely taught among the Charismatic and Pentecostal circles, it has had very little impact on keeping people from misplacing their identities in a ministry, church or a teacher. In fact, identity teaching has become another doctrine where many use it as a weapon against the sick and hurting, to disqualify them from being healed.

Ministers may say things like, "If you really knew who you were in Christ, then you would be healed. Sickness could not even stay in your body".

This is an example of taking a teaching and using it to attack the person in need. The repercussions from a statement like that could be devastating to a new believer. Doesn't the minister need to "know who he is in Christ" in order to pray for the sick to see them healed too?

Somehow ministers become immune to any correction and all the burden is put on the sick person.

There is a major disconnect between what is taught by ministries and what is actually practiced when presented with a person who is in need. If we actually knew the Person of Jesus Christ and understood His heart and nature and what that truly meant (outside of  repeating phrases we heard someone else say), then I truly believe our actions would look much different when a person comes to us for help.

A church that has a heart for the sick would be spending a lot more time praying specifically for healing of those who want prayer instead of writing books about why people are not healed. There would be meetings that are completely focused on praying for the sick and the sick would be encouraged to come and get prayer repeatedly. These meetings would be tailored to the sick and not to healthy. At meetings, the worship and the message would be shortened in order to be able to pray for as many people as possible. There would also be a person leading the way and praying for the sick. The sick would not be passed on to members of the audience who may or may not have any desire to pray for the sick (or may not even be saved)! Most "healing" meetings in the American Church end with the audience instructed to pray once or twice for a person near them, while the worship band packs up their gear. Somehow the two hours of singing and one hour message became more important than actual prayer. This is what passes for a "healing meeting" today.

It is wrong. It is an embarrassment.

Almost all healing meetings these days are called, "training and equipping" events where it's mostly meant for able bodied people to go for entertainment. It's simply a pep-rally. Sorry this may be harsh, but most of them are not really healing events at all for the sick and yet these are the only real healing events that take place in the church. The person dying from cancer simply needs someone to pray the prayer and to encourage them in their faith. These training and equipping events will never fulfill the needs of the sick found in the Body of Christ, so there has to be more! Where are all the people these events are supposedly training? It's like a college with thousands of graduates and students, but none of them ever apply for a real job or leave their dorm.

If we give our hearts to a method created by man, often times we become spiritually blinded too. Even in our search for "truth", we tend to look at everything through the lens of that ministry or doctrine. We tend to follow and believe whatever is put out by them without first searching the Word or asking Holy Spirit for guidance. Early on in my journey I was guilty of this too and I accepted many interpretations of scripture as truth without doing my own study. I would later find out how much people twist scripture to fit into their teachings or purposely ignore entire verses and chapters as well. In addition, when we endorse a teaching we tend to ignore the gentle questioning within our spirit and it can become potentially dangerous, leading us into deception. I believe this is why there is such an influx of psychology, new age, new thought and other metaphysics entering into the church disguised as inner healing, deliverance and prophetic ministries.

Anyone can slip into the trap of having their value and identity come from a minister or teaching. We have to constantly guard against it, recognize it and put our focus back on what Jesus did for us.

I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Looking back when I was in the natural health communities, it always started off with someone who had good intentions. I know this to be true in the church as well. We love Jesus and are simply trying to give reasons as to why a person isn't healed and we are trying to give people something they can do to be healed. Unfortunately though even in these good intentions, it becomes something that is very bad. Many go on to use the knowledge they have learned to attack the very people they were once trying to help. How many of us in the church have heard things like:
"You must have some doubts you don't want to admit to".
"You don't have sufficient belief for healing".
"Maybe there's some hidden sin in your life that you just won't let go".
"You didn't find the appropriate root that's keeping you from receiving healing".
"You must have some secret doubt about healing".
"Your negativity is keeping you sick".
"Maybe you don't really want to be healed".
"You are sick because you don't want to give up your disability check".
"You probably just want to stay sick so you don't have to work".
Taking the scriptures and knowledge one has learned and using it in this manner is not OK. If Jesus Christ is our identity, then where is His grace? Where is His love? Where is His patience? Where is His righteousness? Where is His redemption?

We should remember,
Matthew 11:28-30
  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

When we say these kinds of things to the sick, we have strayed away from understanding the heart of Jesus. We are no longer representing Jesus, but instead putting the burdens of man onto the sick. These are the kinds of traps and lifeless uses of scripture that the Pharisees used against the people of their day. Remember that Jesus said to them, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice". We are in error when we push a doctrine to the point of actually tearing people apart with the scriptures that were meant to bring us life and freedom in Christ. When we enslave and indoctrinate the sick into a method, then we lose an opportunity to connect them to Jesus. Scripture is more than just words... It's supposed to point back to the living God!

As ambassadors of Christ, we cannot be lashing out at hurt, sick people who have come to us for help. I know that sick people can be emotionally unwell, but that does not give us justification to treat them poorly.

They are bound in their sicknesses. They need to see His compassion and grace shine through us. If we cannot help them, then we always need to be pointing them to the one who can always help and that is Jesus.

If you are interested more about what "I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice" means, then I highly recommend reading this article on another blog.


Those in Need Shouldn't Have to Prove Themselves

The checklists that most ministries want the sick to do are impossible to ever fulfill or complete in a way that is satisfying or final. Many of the requirements are open ended and can always be questioned or doubted.

For instance, a person cannot prove they have removed or dealt with roots, doubts, sin, unforgiveness nor can they show a person their level of belief or faith. These are heart issues that only God truly knows, so this naturally becomes an easy point of attack for those on the outside. There is a high cost when we force the sick to prove themselves to us time after time. Many leave the faith and walk away totally away from God. In the very least, they begin to have a twisted view of God's nature and they start to feel like healing is tied to a checklist of things that need "fixed". The sick and hurting then become self-focused rather than Christ-focused.

Instead of looking for what's "wrong" in the sick and needy, we need to simply be pointing them back to Jesus Christ. The reality is we do not know why people are or are not healed. The reality is there is no secret revelation or formula to see more healings. The reality is even if a person dots every "i" and crosses every "t", it does not mean they even know God. Remember, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice". It's not about how well we can follow a checklist. It's about knowing and understanding the heart of God. Following a healing doctrine perfectly does not mean the sick will be healed. This is something that every healing minister and every person in the Church who wants to pray for the sick needs to understand. There is not something wrong with everyone who is not healed by your doctrine, your prayer, your church or your favorite minister. To think this way, it is not godly, but instead arrogant and prideful in yourself and in the ministries and doctrines you follow. Instead of trying to make ourselves look good, we need to begin surrendering these mindsets to the Lord.

We must always point back to Jesus instead of pointing people back to a man or to a teaching. Jesus is the only healer and that is who we need to point people to no matter what is going on.

It's also important to note that when someone comes down with a sickness in their lives, it does not mean they have a bad relationship with God or that they "opened a door". Even the biggest legends in healing history had major struggles in their lives. John G. Lake's first wife died while he was in ministry serving the Lord. Smith Wigglesworth was struck with several illnesses during his life. Despite a lot of prayer, he had chronic kidney stones that were never healed. He also had an appendicitis for 6 months and was on his deathbed. He was delivered of this condition, but he still endured the struggle and was not healed instantly. His daughter was also deaf and despite many prayers, she was never healed.

I find it sobering and humbling to know that even those who many put on a pedestal dealt with the same exact things that we deal with today. We don't have all the answers. We have made too many assumptions and that has cost us our compassion, humanity and love for people. We have to put our trust in God, not people of the past, not doctrines, not a minister, not a church and not a pastor. It is our faith in Jesus that will guide us through the struggles of life and the disappointment when people are not healed when we pray. We need to stop blaming the sick! 

A Dishonest Presentation Brings a Distorted View

"You are already healed!". "By His Stripes you WERE healed!".

We preach these phrases, but it's a dishonest presentation and that is why many ministries see disgruntled sick people. 

It is true that Jesus already paid the price for us to be healed. Jesus' sacrifice was perfect and we do not need Him to die again to heal us today. I don't know of anyone who is calling for such a thing. However that one time sacrifice for all does not mean we are 'already healed'.

When Jesus died, rose from the dead, sat down at the right hand of God and Holy Spirit was sent to live inside of believers, sickness on earth and in man's body did not instantly disappear. If all sickness had completely left the world after the resurrection of Jesus, then I would agree that we were "already healed". Despite what Jesus did, the earth is still under the effects of sin and people still have sickness in their bodies.

I sincerely ask people to reconsider the way in which we preach healing. The way in which Jesus proportioned healing for us was in fact "easy" for us (, but highly costly for Him). However the way in which we obtain that healing in our body is a mystery.

Please do not allow the simplicity of what Jesus did for us to cause you to lose your compassion for those struggling. Please do not allow the teachings and ideas put out by man cause you to lose your hunger and desire to see the sick set free.

When we are seeking the Lord for healing, it is not like we are trying to put together a table from IKEA.

When we buy a table from IKEA, we know when we follow Steps A through T, if we follow the directions exactly, that at the end we will have the table we purchased. This is NOT how healing works and we have done a huge disservice to think in these kind of terms.

There's a distorted view in the church of how intense the struggle can be for someone who is believing God for healing. Many sick people go it alone too and have no support there to help them along the way. They reach out to these ministries because they have no one else. As sick people go through this battle the church does very little in order to encourage them to keep hanging on.

Closing Thoughts

My husband and I have been seeking healing for over 2 years now. I have been sick for more than 14 years and my husband has been sick for about 6 years. We currently have no income and have sold off everything that we own that had value to pay to live. Everything with value is now gone and we live each month by faith. We have been through every healing method that is out there and we have gotten prayer from many different people (including very popular Facebook and YouTube ministers) and yet we have not been healed. I don't know why. I don't try to make up a reason. I don't blame anyone for the prayers not working. Despite all of that we still need healed. I can't just "let it go", "get over it" or decide in my head that healing is not important or just shrug my shoulders and move on with life. I'm not "already healed". Without the real Jesus I have no life. I will have another 40+  years of sickness, poverty and eventually homelessness and bankruptcy. No one and nothing can change that but Jesus! Hallelujah!

The reality is is that when YOU are the sick person, things change big time. It is easy to look from the outside in and judge, ridicule and shift blame. However when doctors say to you, "Sorry sir, but there is no treatment or cure for this" or "Sorry, but surgery was unsuccessful and you'll have to be in a wheelchair for life", this is when Jesus being a healer has to be more than a doctrine with catchphrases.

The church of today focuses so much on entertainment. We worship a God that we don't even know anymore. We have lost his heart and have filled that void with doctrine, ministers and church events. When you are the one who needs healing to be real, you cease caring about these things. It's child's play. It's a distraction. It's a way to feel as if you are doing something "spiritual" when you aren't. When you are in a time of desperate need, your spiritual life ceases being about entertaining church events and it entirely becomes about seeking and believing Jesus for His promises. All of the things people say to shift blame to the sick person, it changes when it's YOU in that position. No one truly understands what it is like to be in this position until you are in this position.

The problem is that there are no real healing meetings in the church anymore. We have meetings where we sing praises to God for hours and "soak in the presence", but then we won't tend the sheep that God commanded us to tend. We won't comfort the hurting or sick. What good is our meetings? What good is our events? What good are the programs? In Isaiah 1:11-17, God shows us how the things we do can become a burden to Him. In fact some of the words for worship in the Greek has little to do with music and everything to do with reverence and service to the Lord. If we are worshiping God, then our hearts should be bursting with a joy and desire to pray for the hurting, broken and sick. We should want to reach down and help them to see the Lord.

Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians when they turned the Lord's supper into a dinner party where the rich left overstuffed and the poor left hungry. This is not much different today in the meetings we have in the church. We've turned church meetings into concerts and games, where we watch the sick leave in need and hungry with no where to go! Why do we despise those who come to get prayer for healing? Why do we despise those who have nothing when we have gotten our fill? If Paul came to our church events and saw what we were doing, what would he say to us?

If we were honest we'd realize that the sick and broken have no where to go. No one wants to pray in a church environment because it's tough, risky and not entertaining. We are ok with concerts, writing books, releasing albums, long sermons and making videos, but when it's time for real ministry time, we run scared. We can't look the sick in the eye and care for them unless it's on our terms. We are ok if they sit in our worship meetings, go to our "training and equipping events', but they better be able to get healed on their own ! We don't have time for the sick in the Church because they show something deep within our selves that we are afraid to admit.

I've heard the lousy reasons why these meetings can't go on long.

You have to get home to watch a movie.
You have to go visit with your friends at Applebees.
You have to get home to prepare tomorrow's sermon.
You have to get back to the hotel to get on an early flight to do this same thing tomorrow.
You have to get home to pray to God and soak in His presence.

The church has turned its back on their sick brothers and sisters because they are too busy doing "stuff" that is more entertaining. We are addicted to entertainment whether inside or outside of the Church. We can't just sit still for a moment and look at what it is that we are doing.

Most sick people are not living at all and are barely surviving. Many live day to day and some commit suicide because they have no hope. They need a miracle and when they leave a church event, they can't just forget about it and be happy. They can't unwind by having dinner with their friends or go on a date night with their husband to forget about it. These people are grieving over the dinners and date nights they haven't had for years and the vacations they haven't been able to take. They are prisoners in their bodies and Jesus is their only hope.

The Church needs to stop being self-centered and become Christ-centered. When we attack these people or put huge burdens on them, their last hope is gone because we actually make Jesus bad news. The church has allowed wolves to come in and misrepresent the true nature of Jesus.

If you have made a doctrine or minister your identity, which caused you to embrace doctrines that were never demonstrated by Jesus, then you need to repent and make real changes to your ministry, your church and the way you pray for people. If you have taken the knowledge you've learned and used it as a weapon against the sick, you need to repent too. If you've created a "relationship" with God that is based around conferences, worship meetings and entertainment, you need to repent.

Let God guide you in this time and allow him to change you and mold you into what he wants for you. Pray that God shows you His heart and what he feels towards those who are sick and hurting. It does not matter what's popular or entertaining. What matters is knowing the heart of Jesus!

Let's make Jesus our identities, not our thoughts, doctrines, 10 step programs, worship concerts or anything else in between. Keep encouraging the sick to get prayer and encourage them to have a relationship with Jesus in their own homes. If we take that away from them, then they literally have nothing to live for and that's wrong because Jesus died for them so they may live!


Pastor Steve said...

Dana, I want to thank you for writing this. It's helpful. I'm not one who has been enamored of doctrines or particular preachers/teachers. I agree that experiencing healing in this life is something of a mystery. As I have walked beside those who are suffering I do believe, as you do, that the Lord calls us to keep the heart of Jesus for people, continue to pray with them and for them, and to keep doing the "practical" things that make their lives tolerable, and, especially, to not push them aside or reject their repeated cries for mercy simply because their lives are complicated and painful enough to spoil the "fun" of those of us who are not suffering right now. That doesn't mean (at least I don't think it does) that EVERYTHING people say as they try to "diagnose" the "whys" of illness are ALWAYS WRONG ALL THE TIME... it's just that they're not always or even most of the time right so they can't be used infallibly or perfectly. Your point about "I desire mercy and nt sacrifice" applying to this is really good. You write: "Remember, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice". It's not about how well we can follow a checklist. It's about knowing and understanding the heart of God. Following doctrine perfectly does not mean the sick will be healed. This is something that every healing minister and every person in the church who wants to pray for the sick needs to understand." That's so good. Thank you for this post and I hope to learn more from what the Lord is teaching you in your journey, and I raise my heart to the Lord right now, interceding for you and your husband, that you will experience healing today, in this life, not only in the blessed life to come, though it will certainly come then.

Eugenio Macedo said...

Dana. I wanted so much to be able to help you. I pray for you and I hope to be cured as soon as possible, because we really miss you. Your beautiful voice is very important for humanity.