But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
This is a really hard post to write.
But I realize that I'm not the only thief in town, and that maybe some good will come out of writing this. The truth is that about a year ago, while in prayer, God showed me a number of people I had wronged. In some cases, I had flat out stolen from a few people.
An old employer, the boyfriend of a friends roommate in college, a neighbor, a random person in school.
In most of my past I would have justified it our sugar coated that fact in some way. I would have told you that I was wronged and this was taking restitution. Or that I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing. Or that I didn't actually take it, that it was a friend who did it and I was just there.
Well, God laid it on me heavy, and I started to squirm right there in prayer.
"Oh God, what can I do?"
It was clear right away what I had to do, I had to confess and ask forgiveness. And I had to pay for what I had done.
I listed the people God had brought to mind on a post-it note. I hid the note, it was such a shameful piece of paper. I didn't have the money to cough up so I did nothing. It stewed in my conscious. Eventually, I relented, there would never be a good time, I would pay the cost no matter what.
I had to research to find the people I had offended, the victims. It wasn't easy, but once I did, I prayed again, "Lord, let their hearts be tender to receive my sincere apology. Please." I offered to repay whatever was due, let me know the cost. I wrote to a couple on the list, then I anxiously awaited for days. What would happen?
As it turns out, so far, nothing. I literally have not received a single response. One person seems just about impossible to track down short of hiring an investigator. I have resolved that I cannot become stalkerish over something that happened 10 and 20 years ago. And if I get a response or anything else I can act on, any claim of restitution, I will gladly pay it as much as is required, because even though its hard its what I was called to do.
The God of the Bible calls us to repent of our sins. Zacchaeus-like repentance doesn't mean just saying I'm sorry to God. Or even to your mentor. It means making every effort to pay for the wrongs you have made, and to set up systems to ensure you never do it again.
In my case, I had long ago abandoned the lifestyle that led to these actions and just addressing them head-on again after all this time gave a sense of healing. Though, I do hold out hope that I will be able to pay out to each person that which is due, because I know God works in repentance.
Maybe like me you've wondered why you don't hear about or even see people getting healed. Jesus did it, so did his disciples, so what's going on these days that's preventing it from happening around us?
I'm here to report that people are still being healed, and I know this because I am one of them!
I was surveying the room while sipping a gin and tonic at the 2013 New Canaan Society Washington Weekend. I was looking for a familiar face when a young Naval Academy Cadet stepped up to say hello. We got to talking and soon an older man walked up to say hello to the cadet. Then another cadet joined our little circle of four.
After the cadet and the older man exchanged greetings, the man looked at me and introduced himself as a healing pastor. To this I jokingly replied, "really, that's interesting, any chance God told you to heal my neck?"
The man with the cane looked at my inquisitively, and he asked me if there was something in my life that was a pain to me, maybe a soured relationship. At the time, I had been struggling to see eye to eye with a someone and so I mentioned that, feeling slightly foolish that I had made a joke.
He asked if we could pray together, right there. Sure, I said, so the man, who was now known to me as Reverand Nigel Mumford, put his hand on my shoulder and told the cadets to do the same and he began to pray.
While he prayed, he asked me a few questions, specifically about an area of sin in my life, and he asked me if I realized it was forgiven. I said yes, and he asked me to really believe that and repeat it with him. I did.
Then he asked me if I had taken a train into town, and if I was struggling with lust. I said that didn't resonate with me. He concluded his prayers, asking for healing. When he was finished, as we stood around, one of the cadets had a sheepish look on his face, and he piped up that he had taken a train to the conference, and that on the way he was talking to a woman on the train, and he had been tempted to leave to meet up with her.
While this cadet talked I quietly rolled my head around to see if there was any chance my neck was healed. For several years it was such a constant low pain that I just became used to it. And whenever I rolled my head in circles as my ear touched my right shoulder there was a crunching popping sound at the same spot where I felt a deep strain. I'd had it worked on by massage therapists, tried chiropractors, bought and hung on an inversion table, and more--nothing worked.
I couldn't believe it at first, by my head rolled smooth as if it was on a new set of ball bearings. I snuck off and made my way into the next room to grab a seat for dinner, rolling my head the whole way. Could it be possible? But how?
All dinner long I kept trying my neck out, in quiet disbelief. Smooth as could be. Still, like many miracles in the early days of my walk with God, I didn't see it right away as a miracle. I realize that sounds dumb to write, but I was just skeptical. And, in fact, a day or two later, the crunching came back ever so slightly. At that point, I thought that maybe I just needed to believe in God more, and I prayed and fasted to tell God that I really did believe. And the problem went away, and it has stayed away ever since.
Once it sunk in that I'd been healed, it changed me and the way I read Scripture, the way I pray, the way I believe in God. Stories of healing were received by me not with skepticism but rather an internal praise to God that it was likely true and even if it wasn't I know He is healing people all the time.
Like all things in God's Kingdom, there are no formulas, so we will never be able to go out and heal people en masse, not until Christ returns that is. But we do have the option to believe and to listen to God for promptings about how and who to heal. That alone has since led me to many other encounters with healing, which is just an incredible way to live life.
By the way, I later looked up Reverand Nigel Mumford, and sent him a note to thank him for what he did with my neck. You can follow him and his work online here: By His Wounds Ministry.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stoneand give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-27
I was traveling on the East Coast, and I took a bite into a Chik-fil-A sandwich. They aren't so prevelant in San Jose yet. I posted a picture of said sandwich, to which a reply was soon posted that I was supporting a hate group.
When I read the message, I had an immediate sense that a serious division was being dropped between myself and this dear brother. I prayed right away. I was in a good place at that time, in the Word, feeling full of peace and love. And so I called this brother, no answer. I left a message. There was nothing to hide, even though I simply like Chik-fil-A's chicken sandwiches, I am full aware of the positions both for and against their Christian stance.
Days go by, no return call. I call again. Still nothing. The weight of division growing wider caused me distress. I decided to pray and fast over it. I enlisted others to pray with me over it. One night, while praying with a friend, the friend pointed out that it was not be who had division in my heart, but rather this brother who did. So we shifted our prayer for the brothers heart, that God would work in it and soften it toward me.
Within 48 hours, I received a call from this brother. It was on Mother's Day, I will never forget it. As I received it, I looked up to the sky through the trees and at the son, and I said that you Jesus. On the phone, this brother said to me that he wants to talk to me when the time is right, but more importantly that he loves me, and that he knows I am a good guy. He was reminded of this because he ran into a guy while playing softball who, after putting "two and two together" realized he knows me, and who then gave this brother of mine unsolicited words about how I am a good guy. These words were received and they rekindled a love for me, and that is why he was calling.
As I heard this story over the phone, tears came to my eyes. I just kept saying in my thoughts, "praise you God, praise you!" To see a prayer work so clearly, so dramatically, so fast, it is amazing to behold! Only God can change hearts like this, without any human interaction between us in the meantime. Where the Enemy (Satan) seeks to divide and destroy, God is all powerful for redeem.
To top it off, this brother of mine concluded by saying that it was too long since he'd seen me, and that he would book a flight for a visit within a week, which he soon did. This was an amazing turn of events, and I was delighted. Though, mixed with my delight was a growing concern around this conversation I would have with this brother. I knew that he had a firm belief that Chik-fil-A and their Christian stance, specifically in favor of the traditional family, was wrong. And I know he knows that I share the same Christian values, so what would become of our conversation?
Upon his visit a few weeks later, we had a delightful time. There was no early confrontation, and through much prayer and fasting before his arrival, I felt well prepared to talk about anything, especially Jesus! We took a day trip to Sonoma to visit wine country. A great day, but as we left, my dear brother did not stop imbibing on wine. In fact, he opened a bottle in the backseat of the car, and against protests, kept drinking. Soon he was becoming confrontational, angry even. He began to come at me "swinging" for my beliefs.
The situation became very uncomfortable. I did not want to even speak or rationalize with someone who was drunk. And yet, the tirade had to stop. I raised my voice, "Let me tell you why you are here," I said. I reminded him how a month or so ago he would not return my calls, how he was angry at me because of my post about Chik-fil-A. He said he remembered this. I told him how it distressed me so that I prayed and fasted for several weeks. He was silent. Then I recalled how he ran into someone, quite randomly, who exclaimed my character so that he had a change of heart, and called me, which led him to take the trip to visit. I said, "Can't you see, God loves you, he brought you here!" As I said these words, my dear brother broke down in tears, he accepted the love of God in that moment, I believe, and he even repeated the words, "God does love me, he does." It was a tender moment, we both cried.
I wish I could tell you that the division was eliminated entirely on that night, it was not. After all, drunkenness and shame were still present. The next day, there was a sheepish sense and my brother wanted to avoid me, I think. However, there was no reason for it--that would just be allowing victory to the enemy. And so I sat next to him, put my arm around him, I told him I love him, that we can always talk and even when we do not agree, we will still love each other in words and in action. He apologized for his behavior, and I immediately forgave him. I said we must forget about it, and was determined to move on and have a fun day, after all, it was my birthday!
In conclusion, what I learned most about this trial is that God heard my prayer and fasting brought a brother to me, He changed a heart, put someone in my brothers path to remind him. I also learned that in this case, that far more than words or a carefully constructed argument, it was my life itself that likely spoke to my brother. It was how my wife made such a big deal over my birthday with thoughtful gifts and homemade recipes. It was how we visited an early morning prayer group and the guys were so welcoming. It was how we played golf and a friend stopped to pray before we tee'd off and my pals were fighting over who could pay for lunch. It is the authentic overwhelming love of Jesus, expressed in relationships and community, that draws someone to God.