My Spanking from Romans

By means of preface, this post is for me and for those of you who have read and agreed with my general premise in these last two posts. 

Morning Devotions

As I sat down to read this morning, I felt like I should go to Romans. At first I resisted, thinking I had spent too much time blogging and needed some better perspective. The urge persisted, so I grabbed my coffee and sat in my favorite chair.

I opened to Romans 1 and, as you might expect, felt a mixture of peace/vindication. “OK, I’m really not crazy. This really is clear.” Then I got to Romans 2:1-8, emphasis mine:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things (the things referenced in Romans 1:18-32) is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgement on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” 

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of his wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

That was a Holy Spirit gut punch this morning. I’d like to share with you some of my processing.

First, the words of Jesus to the men wanting to stone the adulteress woman, “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.” The only person qualified to pass judgment on sexual immorality is the one who is not sexually immoral. Now Paul just declared that sexual immorality is sin deserving of punishment, so I don’t think stating those truths and telling people what God says about something is passing judgment. “Passing judgment” is, I believe, when we take upon ourselves the duty and desire to punish people for their sin.

We are currently living in what Jesus called “the favorable year of the Lord,” the time when “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and when Jesus says to sinners “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  So, as those called to carry on the message and ministry of Jesus, we are called to acknowledge that people are sinners AND declare to them the Gospel, the path to forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Whether they choose to “go and sin no more” is ultimately up to them – our job is to declare to people what God says about sin, try to help them see their need for a Savior, declare to them the Good News of Jesus and help them mature as disciples if that is the route they choose to take. We warn but we do not punish.

Jesus and Paul also acknowledged that this extended season of God’s favor would end and that there would be “the great and terrible Day of the Lord,” “the Day of vengence of our God,” “the Day when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” This Day is a short season where we see things as they truly are – sin is punished and righteousness rewarded. We aren’t there yet and when we do get there, it will be God doing the judging, not us.

Where I get to eat a large slice of humble pie is when Paul talks to the Romans about condemning sin while doing the same things they condemn. I’ve never had sex with another guy, but I have been addicted to porn. And while that addiction has largely been defeated, it still resurfaces from time to time. The point is, there is still a large portion of my heart that has yet to submit to Jesus. I am not a finished project, netiher are you, and neither are the other people in our lives. Recognizing this, and being open about my own failing, helps me to walk a little softer and speak a little gentler. 

What I don’t want is what Paul calls “a stubborn and unrepentant heart” that stores up judgment for itself. I never want to be so caught up in my own self-righteousness that I think I’m the only one who is right and everyone else is wrong. I want to be constantly realigning my heart to the Truth of God’s word. I don’t just want to read the Word, I want the Word to read me, like it did this morning.

Who is the better friend? 

As I was processing these things and debating wether or not to change or retract anything I’ve said these last few days, I felt like Holy Spirit gave me a picture/parable and it helped settle things for me.

Imagine someone comes to you holding out a pill and says “Take this, exercise your freedom, live a little – it will feel great.”

And then another person, overhearing this, turns and says to you, “You can do whatever you want, but just so you know, everything I’ve read says that, if you swallow that pill, there is at least a 50% chance it will kill you.”

I’m not perfect. I have flaws and failings that I try to be very open about. But I don’t think that disqualifies me from sharing with them what I believe to be the truth. 

Interacting with Different Worldviews

As I continue to watch and listen to people discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling, it appears that there are at least two fundamentally different worldviews at work. One group believes the LGTBQ community is a healthy expression of human sexuality and another group does not. Not surprisingly, those two different starting places lead to different conclusions. As I continue to talk with people and try to understand how they get to their own conclusions I have the feeling we are talking past one another – using the same words but in different ways. So today’s post is mostly for me. I’m trying to articulate what I hear each side saying. I want to represent each side accurately, but I know I can’t. Because I’m not in the group that believes LGBTQ expression is what God intended I cannot really portray their thoughts as accurately or with the level of passion they obviously have. So, I appeal to any readers out there who do share that opinion to correct or expand on anything I say here. 

What I think I hear you saying…

What I think I hear the LGTBQ community saying (along with those straight people who share their worldview) is that they are not broken and don’t need fixing. They believe their lifestyle/orientation/expression, willingly chosen or genetically predeterminded, is healthy, valid and viable. And, as human beings, they expect to be treated as such. As citizens of the United States they expect to receive the rights, benefits and privileges afforded by the Constitution. (I don’t disagree with these last two statements by the way.)

What I think I hear the LGBTQ Christian community saying is that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross secured for all people the eternal love of God. I think I hear the LGBTQ Christian community defining love as complete and total acceptance – as in “God already loves me just the way I am. I don’t need to change in order to get God to love me, because God already accepts me completely.” Additionally, the LGBTQ community does not see LGBTQ reltionships as sexual immorality because these relationships are committed, consentual and long term. They understand the sexual purity laws on the Bible (especially the Old Testament) to be particular to that culture and mindset, a product of that era’s understanding of the way the world worked. And since, for instance, these same people thought the sun revolved around the earth, there is a reasonable justification for believing that the Biblical writers may have gotten this issue wrong as well. What God was really against, what sexual immorality is really about, is the abusive power dynamics between men and women propagated by a patriarchal system.

It seems to me that the LGBTQ Christian community emphasizes Jesus’s aceptance of the outsider, his desire to break down every dividing wall, his grace secured by his sacrifice and his commandments to love. As I understand it, for the LGBTQ Christian community, being a Christian is primarily about loving people. And, as stated above, that means accepting and celebrating people as they are without feeling the need to change them.

The other word I hear the LGBTQ Christian community use a lot is grace. I have not yet been able to solidify what I think they are saying when they use that word – this is where I could really use some help from those of you in this camp. When I get a better definition I will replace this paragraph with your words. 

Here is what I think you are saying: 

  • “You need to have grace for that person” sounds to me like “If you don’t agree with them, keep it to yourself because there is always the chance you could be wrong. Give them the benefit of the doubt.”
  • “God is a God of Grace” sounds to me like “God primarily cares about how I treat other people. My personal, private lifestyle is largely inconsequential long as I am pursuing justice in society and extending unconditional acceptance (love) to others.”

Again, this is how these things sound to me when I hear them, this is what I think you are saying – I can obviously be mistaken. I hope that was a fair articulation of this particular worldview.

Where I am coming from

I’m going to intentionally limit this section to my own understanding and beliefs, I’m not  going to try and speak for a group. Also, for the sake of brevity and not coming off like a total Bible thumping prick, I’m not going to include specific Bible verses in this post. If you would like to know the verses that have led me to a particular conclusion, please ask.

My understanding of the world goes something like this: I believe we live in a fallen and broken world. I believe that when Adam and Eve chose to align with the serpent and rebel against God, sin entered the human race and corrupted us, even to the level of our DNA. The world we see with our eyes is not the world God intended to make, but we were not abandoned as a hopeless cause – rather, when God saw that humanity was corrupted, that every inclination of our heart was only evil, even from birth, he chose to set in motion a plan of redemption and salvation, a plan that would recreate the human race, a plan that would bring us out of darkness and death and into eternal light and life.

In order to fully accomplish the salvation of the human race, God had to fully condemn and destroy Sin – that quality in the human heart that inclines us to actively rebel against God and pursue our own desires in direct opposition to God’s commands. In essence, Sin is the desire to rule over our own kingdom, to do what is right in our own eyes, and to not submit to God. In order to show us how far we had fallen, what life was supposed to be like and how we should navigate life in this Sin-full world, God gave the Law. The Law’s first intent was to get us to realize how far we had strayed from God’s original intentions, how far we had fallen short, and how much we were in need of a savior. The Law’s second, and more profound, purpose was to reveal to us the character of the God we serve and what life in his Kingdom is like. But the Law’s second purpose was hidden from our sight until the Savior came and opened our eyes to the Truth by accurately representing God’s character.

God had to condemn and destroy Sin or else humanity would self-destruct and life on earth would be a perpetual hell of selfishness, violence and slavery. So, while God desired to destroy Sin, he wanted to save those enslaved to it. The only way this could be accomplished was if a perfect, undefiled, Sin-less person voluntarily offered themselves as a sacrificial substitute – for only someone in complete submission to God and blameless before the Law could present themselves to God as a second Adam, a new father for the human race. Because no human being was found who could fulfill the Law’s righteous decrees, God sent Himself – Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity – to earth to become a human being. Not only did Jesus show us what God was like, he showed us what WE were supposed to be like, and when he offered himself as the Lamb of God to take away the Sin of the world, when he offered hmself as the second Adam, he bore the sins of the first Adam, and all his descendents, to the grave. In Jesus, God was able to fully condemn Sin and punish it the way it deserved. The wrath Jesus bore, the atonement he made on our behalf, allowed us to be reconciled to God – even more, it allowed us to be reborn as children of God, re-created in his image.

So when I think of love, I think of a God who suffered in our place so that he could remove our rebellious tendencies and transform us into his character and likeness. For me, love is transforrmative. We are not changed so THAT God can love us, we are changed BECAUSE he loves us. God certainly accepted us where we were on our journey, but he didn’t want us to stay there. And knowing that even after our rebirth we would still find it difficult to live the life he calls us to, God gave us the gift of grace, the Holy Spirit, the divine empowerment to do what we could not do before – to live in harmony and peace with God and one another in obedience to his commands.

I believe that LGBTQ is one way Sin manifests in a fallen creation and the manifestation only concerns me because I believe it reveals that  Sin is still present in someone’s life. 

And the truth is, Sin is still very much present in my life. I am not, in any way, trying to imply that I stand apart from or above the LGBTQ community – I stand with them as a Sinner in need of a Savior. Indeed, I am painfully aware of my own shortcomings and insufficiencies and I commiserate with Paul in Romans 7 when he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I don’t do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” 

For me it all comes down to heart posture. Regardless of how Sin manifests in your life, do you “agree that [God’s] law is good” and are you fighting again Sin? Are you living the tortured existance Paul describes here, wanting to do what is good and right and pleasing in God’s eyes and yet failing to do so? Does the presence of continued Sin in your life disturb you and grieve you, so much so that you would call yourself wretched as Paul does? Or, are you indifferent? Do you say that God’s law is not good and not worth following? Do you say “God loves me regardless of what I do” and in doing so dismiss the sacrifice of Jesus and how much it cost God to love you in that way?

I hate the fact that I Sin. I hate that there is this creature living inside of me that takes over and speaks words of hate and anger and does things I’m ashamed of. And I’m distressed that it seems to happen all the more as I desire to draw close to God. I know that I am loved and accepted, I know that I can come with confidence before the Throne – I also know that my sins grieve the One I love and that I am on a constant journey of refinement where everything that is not of God and not of me is slowly being stripped away. 

In closing I will reiterate that these are my beliefs and my understanding of things. I will also acknowledge that many people I love, trust and respect look at the same Bible as I do and see things completely differently. I admit that I can’t understand how they arrive at their conclusions when my own views seem so compelling and comprehensive, but I am also aware that loving relationships are built on our choice to respect and honor one another and not on our agreement on certain issues.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you.

Ben

Sexuality, Salvation and the Supreme Court

 In the days following the United States’s Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, my Facebook feed blew up with images of friends putting rainbows over their profile pictures and still more friends posting articles as to why this decision was good or bad based on what the Bible says. Comments on these articles were varied and wide ranging, but I noticed one question come up repeatedly, voiced by Christian and non-Christian, straight and queer – “Why is this such a big deal [to Christians]?” Here is my answer to that question.

Why This Is Such a Big Deal

For me, gay unions and the legal benefits they provide (tax, insurance, HIPPA) aren’t an issue – it seems like those things should have been taken care of long ago. What is a big deal to me are the spiritual ramifications of our nation endorsing such unions – as individuals (which I’ll talk about here) and as a nation (which I won’t discuss here). For me, this is such a big deal because it is a salvation issue. I hope you’ll stick with me for another minute to hear me out.

Condemnation or Salvation

“And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death,’ Revelation 21:6-8

“Blessed are those who wash their robes,[a] so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood,” Revelation 22:14-15 [a] alt. translation “do his commandments.”

 The first quote is God speaking, the second is Jesus. The same Jesus who said to the woman caught in adultery “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” is the one who also says the sexually immoral shall forever remain outside of the Kingdom of God, “outside” apparently referring the Lake of Fire mentioned previously. Both of these texts are exhortations to the Church about how to live in light of Judgement Day, they are passages that declare to us who is welcome in the Kingdom of God for eternity and who is not. With such high stakes, I don’t know if we can afford to get this wrong.

Reading through the Scriptures, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that homosexuality is part of the broad category the Bible calls “sexual immorality.” Therefore, I can’t come to any other conclusion than that people actively pursuing a homosexual lifestyle are in danger of being consigned to the Lake of Fire. It sickens me to think that people I know and love might be consigning themselves to Hell because our culture champions and celebrates something God outrightly condemns. I’m even more uneasy because, as a Teacher of God’s Word and as a Pastor of His People, I am held responsible for the things I say, write and teach (or don’t) and the effect they have on the people under my care. The most terrifying thing I can imagine is standing before God and having to explain to him why I taught people to ignore his commands and live contrary to his word or why I didn’t speak out and that my silence was misunderstood as approval. For those reasons, I feel compelled to explain and defend what I believe the Bible says concerning this.

Transformation is the Fruit of Salvation

I am absolutely unconvinced by any argument that says someone can accept Jesus as their King and continue to live as they please. That is not what I see in the Scriptures. What I see is that we are called to give up everything for the privilege of knowing Jesus and entering into his Kingdom. What I see is that we are called to die to ourselves and put to death our fleshly passions as the Holy Spirit enables us so that we may be ever increasingly transformed into the likeness and character of Jesus. What I see is that faith unaccompanied by works and a transformed life is not really faith at all and will not save you. What I see is that it costs something to follow Jesus.

I don’t want to see anyone condemned to Hell. I am also aware that by teaching that homosexuality is a sin there is a possibility I am making life painfully difficult for those who love God and want to follow him and also feel attraction to the same sex. So I’d like to speak directly to anyone in that camp who might happen to read this.

To the Christians struggling with same sex attraction: I know our culture is calling to you, “Throw off those religious shackles and be who you really are. Be free. Be a hero.” The truth is, you already are a hero. You are amazing. If you are struggling with your sexuality it is because you know the truth of God’s word in your heart and you are fighting to align your life with it. You are fighting a good fight. I can only imagine the pain, difficulty and confusion you must feel – and I imagine it is very great indeed. I know it is tempting to give in or give up, but please don’t, it just isn’t worth it. Please consider that this life is fleeting, temporary and quickly over – but that eternity lasts forever. I realize that it seems like I am asking you to endure a life of struggle, hardship and loneliness, but I’m not. You can do this. You can overcome. You have what it takes to stand before God and receive a victor’s crown. I want to help you and encourage you if I can, please email me or comment below.

To any queer person still reading this: I don’t hate you. I’m not disgusted by you nor do I feel superior to you. You may not believe this, but I love you and I would rather tell you what I believe to be true about salvation and have you be angry with me than say nothing at all. I really do believe that actively pursing a homosexual lifestyle will result in a tortured eternity and I don’t want that for you. I am not against you getting married because I want you to be lonely or suffer. I am against you getting married because I believe it gives you an unfounded sense of legitimacy and acceptance which will cause you far more grief and anguish in the long term than you can possibly imagine. There is only one Supreme Court and it isn’t in the United States and the Judge seated on that bench delivered his verdict long ago. I realize you likely disagree with my beliefs, but please hear my genuine affection for you and desire for your wellbeing. I am trying to do what I believe any decent human being should do – warn others of danger.  I realize this was an extremely superficial overview of the Bible and what it says concerning sin and salvation and I’d be open to continuing this conversation with you if you’d like. You can comment below or find my email on the “About” page.

There is obviously much more that needs to be said on this, but that will have to wait for another time. Even if you disagree with my beliefs on God or the Bible, I hope you can at least understand why this is an issue for large portions of the Christian community. Sure, some people are bigoted and judgmental and riddled with fear, but most of us are sincerely concerned for the wellbeing of the LGTBQ community. We may not always articulate things well and we understand how our representation of love might well come across as hate to you, but it isn’t – we are simply trying to do what we believe is right.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this.

Ben

Good Soil

Last week, Bill taught on the parable of the Good Soil out of Luke 8. I thought it was good enough to revisit this week. Here are my notes from yesterday, including 7 disciplines for keeping your heart soft and receptive towards Jesus.

Preparing My Heart to be Good Soil

Being receptive to God’s Word and bearing fruit are our top priorities as followers of Jesus. We want to be good soil. We do not want to be hard or calloused to God’s word, nor do we want to let the things of this world (anxiety, the love of money) choke out the life of Christ in us.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” John 15:8

Fruit is:

  • A transformed life that manifests the character attributes of Jesus described in Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
  • Making disciples by proclaiming and demonstrating the Good News of Jesus’s death, resurrection and soon coming Kingdom.
  • Loving God as our top priority and loving others with the same sort of sacrificial love with which Jesus loved us.
  • Cleaning up your messes and Keeping Your Love On

Unless we deliberately choose to cultivate our hearts as good soil, we will default to oneof the other three types Jesus described in the parable:

(1) We will ignore God’s Word because we are hard hearted towards God and/or have no hunger for him.

(2) We will initially respond to the Gospel with joy, but only because we think it is a quick road to health and/or wealth. When persecution and hardship arise, our motivation to follow God quickly diminishes.

(3) We really want to follow God, but we keep getting distracted. Our family, our career, the love of money or other anxieties keep us from being as fully devoted to Jesus as we need to be in order to mature. 

Fighting our natural tendency towards apathy and lethargy requires discipline – which is where the word disciple comes from. The following disciplines have an amazingly disproportionate return for the time they require:

Seven Disciplines for Cultivating Good Soil

(1) Personal Private Worship – Worship God in your home (or office) on your own time, by yourself, being as expressive/creative as necessary. Worshipping together as a community is great, but it won’t have the same transformative effect. Do whatever works for you, but do it with the intent of worshipping God and connecting with him.

(2) Prayer – Pray the Lord’s Prayer or any of the Psalms in your own words. Using that as a template, expand or contract your prayers accordingly. Remember, Jesus taught us to pray in the plural – so prayer isn’t just about you; it is also about your family, congregation, city, state and nation. Pray through a list of the people you love. Journal your prayers. Prayer is primarily about finding out what God thinks about something and then agreeing with it. Prayer is secondarily about expressing your feelings and needs and finding God in the midst of them. 

(3) Bible Study – How healthy do you think you would be if you only ate one meal every week? That is how your soul feels if your only time spent in God’s Word is on Sunday morning. The Bible’s primary intent is to reveal the nature of God. Read it with the hope of finding out more of who he is, not as a “To Do” list. 

(4) Fast – Our culture has an unhealthy obsession with food – health food and junk food alike. Your life is about more than food, what you eat or what you don’t. A regular practice of fasting helps free you from the stranglehold food has on many of us. Not eating for a day won’t kill you. Seek medical advice if you are on significant medications or are diabetic. Fasting once a week is a good place to start.

(5) Tithe – The love of money is deceitful and it can quickly become your master. We exert our authority over money by refusing to define our self-worth by our net-worth. We put that intention into action by giving money away and making it serve other people. There really is something special about tithing, giving 10% of your income back to God. Lesser amounts don’t do it. The tithe is supremely effective at freeing us from the love of money. You don’t tithe for God or the Church, you tithe for you. 

(6) Small Group – Most of us are way too busy – our most important commodity is our time. But do the things we are “so busy” with really matter? Often, our schedules are filled up with voluntary commitments and obligations, not vital projects necessary for our survival. Getting together with other believers, people who will likely become dear friends, reminds us that we are a community – a family – and that other things can wait. If your goal is to be good soil, you will need the strength, encouragement and refreshment that being with other Christians brings. 

(7) Rest – Take one day off each week and only do the things you love to do. Sleep in, relax, recreate. This has a way of uncluttering your life and helping you to determine what is really important in life. 

One Way to Put it All Together

Because tithing has been, and continues to be, such a huge part of my life (and because I like round numbers), here are the goals I shoot for:

  • A tenth of my day (2 hours 24 minutes) in worship, prayer and Bible study (I get up at 4am most days of the week to make this happen)
  • A tenth of my week (16.8 hours or roughly one day of being awake) resting, relaxing, recreating or otherwise spending time with my family.
  • A tenth of my month spent with other Christians doing life together (1-2 nights each week)
  • A tenth of my year in fasting (the first 3 days of each month, Lent or some other combination)
  • A tenth of my income to the congregation and another tenth to missions (the missions portion is because Dani and I want to. It isn’t required, it is just fun. :D)

Again, these are my goals. I think they are achievable by almost everyone, but you ultimately need to work out your own goals for yourself.

This plan is intended to war against the common idols of our culture: self-indulgance, the love of money, pride, busyness and self-sufficiency. 

The Heart Behind it All

All of this will just be legalistic nonsense if it isn’t done from the proper heart posture. We don’t embrace these postures hoping to be good soil so that we can earn Father’s approval – we already have it. We embrace this rigorous approach to discipleship because we want to be a home for Holy Spirit and we want to give the life of Jesus inside of us the best possible chance of growing and maturing and, thereby, transforming us and making us new. It all boils down to love – we love God and want to be more like him. We want to bear fruit and share the Good News. Please be careful about picking and choosing from this list, it is about as distilled as it can get. If we are serious about being open and receptive to God’s Word in our lives, we will need a comprehensive plan to war against our default tendency towards apathy, lethargy and distraction. 

Thanks for reading friends. 

Learning to Heal, Healong Our View of God: God is Both Willing and Able

The Powerful Prick or the Impotent Benevolent?

 One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Luke 5:12-14, the story of the leper who comes to Jesus and says, “If you were only willing, you could completely heal me.” To this Jesus responds, “Of course I’m willing, be healed!” ‘Of course I’m willing,’ says Jesus, ‘why would you doubt otherwise?’

 The leper in this story typifies the beliefs of many Western theists (be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian) – they believe God is capable of healing them, they just don’t believe he wants to. Some doubt God’s willingness because of the lies we’ve already covered: they think God is punishing them for past sin or they think God is teaching them a lesson. Some doubt God’s willingness out of a poorly developed understanding of God’s present Kingdom – they push healing to a future age, not to be apprehended now. Still others entertain doubts about God’s character, they doubt he is as Good as the Bible portrays him to be. Whatever the reason, within the family of God there is widespread doubt about God’s willingness to intervene in a tangible way in the life of an ordinary person.

 Outside the family of God, particularly among atheists and Eastern religions/philosophies, the doubts are much different. For many of these people, they believe that IF God existed, then he would certainly be willing to heal because it is the good, right and compassionate thing for a deity to do. They just don’t believe God exists and is, therefore, incapable of healing. So here is the spread: Western religions tend to believe in “the Powerful Prick” (able, but not willing to heal) and Eastern philosophies tend to believe in “the Impotent Benevolent” (extremely willing, but ultimately unable to heal). 

 Fortunately, God’s ability to work in our lives isn’t totally dependent upon our beliefs. Unfortunately, our beliefs often throw up a smokescreen so that we can’t perceive God’s work in our lives even when it is present. Since I am writing for a primarily Christian audience, I’ll spend the bulk of my time tackling the issue of God’s willingness, but I’ll first address the idea of God’s power.

God is Able

 I find it fascinating that among non-religious people, even among atheists, there is an understanding that, if God were to exist, he should be able to heal. Across time and culture, humanity has always associated divine presence with healing. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, in many cultures, demonstrating the power of the God of the Gospel is the primary means of evangelism. This is also true among the non-religious in the West. Demonstrating God’s ability to heal also demonstrates God’s existence and validates the exclusive truth claims of the Bible. I can’t say for certain, but this seems to be the main reason why healing happens so readily when evangelizing non-Christians. God works with us to proclaim and demonstrate the Good News of the Resurrected and Returning King, Jesus. 

 Therefore, when ministering to a non-Christian, their belief in God and his power (or lack thereof) is largely irrelevant. As the one authorized by God to operate in his power and authority, your willingness to obey overrides their unbelief and gives God all the opportunity he needs to reveal himself. Can God heal? Absolutely. He does it often. Just yesterday he healed two people of back pain in our morning service. You could also Google “Randy Clark,” “Todd White” or “Robby Dawkins” and you’ll have hours upon hours of testimony as to what God has done, and is doing, in the earth.

 I don’t believe we experience a lack of healing in Christian and non-Christian communities because of a lack of power. I believe we experience a lack of healing because of our wrong beliefs. Our distorted theology leads to distorted practice. Let’s examine some of those distortions before we move on…

Common Distortions of God’s Character

 I heard Randy Clark once say, “whenever we beg God to heal someone, we are subtly implying that we have more mercy and compassion for that person than God does.” I think that is a perfect summary of the way we approach God for healing. When we step back and look at the words we use when we pray for people or minister healing, they are quite revealing of our beliefs and attitudes towards God.

 “God, if it be your will, please heal…” This phrasing is tricky because it sounds biblical and humble, but think about the implications of this prayer. First, it implies that it may not be God’s will to heal someone of their sickness. Where is that in the Bible? Jesus always healed everyone who came to him. He even commissioned his disciples to go out and find people to heal (Matthew 9) to affirm their proclamation of the Gospel.

 Secondly, if the person is not healed, then that clearly implies that God wants them to be sick. That isn’t a huge deal if it is a migraine, but it is a big deal if it is a little kid with cancer. Seriously, it isn’t God’s will to heal kids with leukemia or epilepsy or lyme’s? Or the advancement of God’s Kingdom requires little children to die of disease? Or God is trying to teach both the child and his/her parents a lesson by keeping this child deathly ill? Of course those things aren’t true, but that is what we tell people when we pray “if it be your will” prayers. It is always God’s will to heal, just as it is God’s will for all people to be saved. Sadly, God’s will is not always perfectly enacted here on the earth. 

 Thirdly, “if it be thy will” prayers undermine the Word of God. They are unbiblical, “having a form of godliness but denying it’s power.” Look at the following Scriptures:

* Luke 9:2 – “He [Jesus] sent them [the Twelve] out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

* Luke 10:9 – (to the Seventy-Two) “Heal the sick… and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.”

* Mark 16:15-18 – “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation… and these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons… they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.”

* Matthew 28:18-20 – “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (As seen above, Jesus commanded the disciples to heal).”
 I think those passages make it abundantly clear that God desires to heal. More importantly, those passages make it clear that God desires to work through us to minister that healing. There is no question about God will or desire, there is only the question of our obedience. Will we obey Jesus and do what he has commanded us to do, or not? 

 Another common distortion is the notion of “God’s timing” as in, when someone isn’t healed,Well, it must not be time for that.” When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John in Mark 9, a man brought his son to the remaining nine disciples so they could heal the boy of demonically inspired epilepsy. They couldn’t, but when Jesus returned, he could. Afterwards, the nine disciples came to him to ask, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus replied, “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.”

 Notice that the disciples came to Jesus for an answer. Notice too, that there was an answer, there was a cure for their impotence. What the disciples did NOT do was create a theology to excuse away their lack of power. They didn’t say, “It must not have been God’s timing,” or “He just didn’t have enough faith,” or “God doesn’t heal on Tuesdays.” No, they came to Jesus to find an answer because it is inexcusable for a child to remain in torment. If Jesus could drive out the demon then the disciples needed to be able to do it too, for a servant who is fully trained is like his master. 

 Bogus theology that excuses our impotence allows the Enemy to savage the children of this world. Child abuse is illegal in the Kingdom of God and if we do not stand against it we are complicit in it. Theology is not meant to make us comfortable and justify our substandard discipleship. We are not called to be comfortable and feel good, we are called to be like Jesus. The Bible establishes the baseline of what it means to be like Jesus – it is the standard we strive to attain. Rather, it is the standard we should expect to experience as those saved by grace through faith and reborn as the children of God through the Holy Spirit. 

 There is always an answer for why people aren’t healed. It might not be something we can do anything about, but there is an answer. Unanswered prayers, unhealed people, are meant to provoke us to greater levels of devotion, they are meant to aggravate, irritate and drive us to our knees in prayer and fasting. It is not OK for anyone to die of disease, but we have come to accept it as “the circle of life.” But just because a lot of Christians believe it doesn’t make it true.

God is Willing AND Able

 Acts 10 describes Jesus as someone anointed by God to do good, primarily by healing those oppressed by the Devil. 1 John 3 tells us that the reason Jesus came was to destroy the work of the devil, primarily sin, but also sickness and death. The prophets of the Old Testament also looked forward to the Messiah as the one who would heal, redeem and restore. Yes, God is willing to heal – so much so that he sent his Son to do it and to teach others to do it. 

 Luke does the Church an immeasurable favor by tracing for us the expansion of Jesus’s “show and tell” ministry. Luke first shows Jesus proclaiming and demonstrating as a single person. Then Jesus commissions the Twelve (Luke 9), then the Seventy-Two (Luke 10), the One Hundred Twenty (Acts 1:8, 2:4), the the Church (Acts 2:42 and also Matthew 28). From one man to hundreds to thousands, Jesus systematically trained and deployed an ever increasing number of people equipped and empowered to do the work of ministry with the intention that it would be stewarded into an increased measure, that future disciples would do “greater things than I,” (John 14:12). 

 Somewhere along the line, the Church dropped the baton. God’s willingness to heal hasn’t changed, but the Church’s willingness to minister that healing has. We now think it is presumptuous to minister healing, that we are standing in the place of God. Others go so far as to say that this ministry of healing by the Spirit is demonic in origin. How far we haven’t come. These issues were encountered by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 12. There will always be those who resist God’s desire to heal or who are afraid of it, but God calls us, commands us, to heal in any case. We are called to re-present the Truth of God’s character to the world and that requires us to truly know him. God is willing to heal. God is able to heal. God has entrusted his Church with all of the authority and power we need to heal every disease. The question really is, what are we doing with it?  

Learning to Heal, Healing Our View of God: God is Good

 Up to this point, I have been attempting to root out lies we believe about God by showing how they stem from and support and unbiblical view of God’s character. Now that we’ve cleared and the ground and tilled the soil, I’d like to plant some seeds of thought that will not only heal our view of God, but provoke us to greater levels of devotion and maturity as followers of God. There are three main ideas I will present: (1) that God is Good, (2) that God has both the power and desire to heal, and (3) that God desires to work through us to heal. Finally, this section will end with a challenging call from the Apostle James entitled “Faith without works is dead.”

Defining “Good”

 I find myself increasingly drawn to talking about the Goodness of God. I intentionally capitalize “Good” and “Goodness” to differentiate it from our typical usage. In standard parlance, “good” is inferior to “great” which is in turn inferior to numerous other words: “awesome,” “wonderful,” “marvelous.” Biblically speaking, “Good” is the ultimate expression of God’s character. It is all encompassing, never to be surpassed. It is nearly synonymous with “holy.” God’s Goodness is not achievable by mere human beings. It is a word intended to be reserved for special purposes and special lines of thought. 

 Also, I capitalize “Good” and “Goodness” to remind us that those are terms God defines, not us. There is a philosophical tendency in the human race to try and define God by our own line of thinking, rather than deferring to divine revelation. The most famous example of this is when people object to the idea of Hell – “How could a good God send people to Hell and condemn them to suffering and torment for all eternity?” I have a long answer to that question, but my short answer is, “Because God is the one who determines what is good and bad, right and wrong, not you.” That answer is not personally satisfying to me, but it works for some people. After this series is finished I will post “The Good News About Hell.”

 God himself defines Goodness and, for that reason, we must have an authoritative view of the Bible. If God can never shock us, never contradict our understanding of things, never outrage us and never do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves, then we are worshipping an idol, not YHWH. Unless we embrace an authoritative view of Scripture that we are beholden to, we end up with a Stepford god, a robotic projection of ourselves with whom we can never have a personal relationship because such a god because isn’t real. In fact, we find that we are just worshipping ourselves. 

 God is Good, in all of his majesty and mystery. His Goodness is far beyond anything we can comprehend or imagine. He is far more kind, loving, just, patient, gentle, compassionate, caring and tender than we have words for or capacity to receive. The famous passage of God’s thoughts being higher than our thoughts and his ways higher than our ways is about his Goodness, expressed through mercy, grace, forgiveness and generosity. It is a great passage to study. You’ll find it in Isaiah 55.

 There is no downside with God. He is so fantastically Good that everything he asks us to do carries with it abundant blessing in multitudes of ways. Because God simply overflows with Goodness, we find ourselves blessed and rewarded for the simplest acts of obedience. We might find that uncomfortable, but it is something we must ultimately submit to if we are going to please God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that, in order to please God, we must believe he exists AND that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him. Living for eternal and temporal rewards is a sign of maturity in God’s Kingdom because it means you are living out of a conviction of God’s Goodness. 

God is for us

 God even works Good for us through terrible circumstances. I love the passage in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” God did not make the Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery – that was their choice. But God did work through their choice to bring about his ultimate desire, the preservation of the Messianic seed in Judah and, therefore, the salvation of the human race. And because God is Good, there were tremendous additional benefits: the prospering of Joseph, the reuniting of Joseph’s family and the healing of those relationships, saving the entire nation of Egypt. Just because God worked through the circumstances of Joseph’s life doesn’t mean he caused them. It was the brother’s desire to harm Joseph, but God overruled their plan and enacted one of his own, which ended up rescuing and redeeming Joseph’s brothers as well. We see this same theme in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” What the Enemy intended for evil, God will work for Good, but it is still the Enemy’s intent to steal, kill and destroy – we can’t lay that at God’s feet, especially with sickness and disease.

The Good News of God’s Goodness

 It has been my experience that God’s Goodness is often news to people; they’ve never heard that message before. Most people look at God like an abusive boyfriend – there are times of sweetness and tenderness, but you never know when it is going to end and he will be angry and violent, even cruel. I can’t blame them. I cringe every time I see a prominent Christian spokesperson declaring a natural disaster to be “God’s judgment” on a city or place. These people clearly have no idea what they are talking about – they take God’s judgment way too lightly. If God had judged the city it would be cinders and ash, no one would have survived. But every time we say things that that, we further warp the world’s view of God. Calling these natural disasters “acts of God” belittles both his mercy towards sinners and his wrath towards sin. God is not sitting grumpily up in Heaven with a wooden spoon waiting for humanity to mess up so he can whap us on the butt. God isn’t grumpy at all and he laid the wood on Jesus so he wouldn’t have to lay it on you.

 God is in a good mood. He loves you, he likes you, he even delights in you. God wants you to grow, change and be transformed into the person he created you to be. Right now, chances are excellent that you are being held back from fully expressing the facet of his character he created you to bear because of sin, sickness or a faulty view of his character. Healing our view of God heals us in turn. As we get greater clarity about who he is, we get greater clarity about who we are. 

 There is no “bait and switch” with God. He is completely true to himself. What you see is what you get. Truthfully, you’ll get a lot more than what you see, and it is all Good. We will never know God entirely, but we can know him truly. That starts with Jesus.

God in the flesh

 Jesus is God incarnate. Everything you need to know about God’s character is manifest in Jesus. We sometimes think God the Father and God the Son play a version of “Good Cop, Bad Cop” where God the Father is the angry, distant, scary one and God the Son is the kind, loving and gentle one. That is completely untrue. Jesus is the direct representation of the Father. Whenever you see Jesus moved with compassion, it is because Father was moved first. Wherever you see Jesus standing up in someone’s defense it is because Father first declared them innocent. Because Jesus had a relationship with God enhanced and facilitated by Holy Spirit, there was no lag time between Father’s feelings and Jesus’s actions or God’s thoughts and Jesus’s words. They were and are One – divine interpenetration allowing them to work as a single unit. That is God’s desire for you by the way.
 Everything God asks us to do is for our benefit. Every command carries blessing that may not be immediately apparent. Again, there is no downside with God, no bait and switch and no waiting for the other shoe to drop. If God asks you to quit your job and move to Africa, it is because he wants what is best for you. In some way you can’t comprehend, that job is stealing from you your destiny. That isn’t to say live will be easy – there might be sincere struggle as you follow God’s leading – but you won’t regret it when you stand before him on Judgement Day. Belief in God’s Goodness allows us to trust him completely, even when we don’t understand. In order to live with peace that surpasses understanding we often have to give up our desire to understand before we act. 

 There is far more to say on this topic than I have space for. My intent with this post is simply to plant the seed of God’s Goodness in your heart so that you can meditate upon it. If ever you find yourself hesitant to obey God or embracing pain, sickness and disease, it is likely that you are believing a lie about who God is and what he wants for you. I highly encourage you to process that with him and/or with someone you trust. Our beliefs about God are the most important things in this world, for they govern every other aspect of our lives. If you have specific questions, I’d love to try and process them with you. You can email me at vineyardcommunitychurch319@gmail.com or post in the “Comments” section below.

As always, thanks for reading friends.

Learning to Heal, Demonic Stronghold Three: “This is all there is and science explains everything.”

 I don’t think anyone reading this would disagree with the statement that people living in Westernized countries today have a dramatically different view of the world than the people living in the Levant who wrote the Old and New Testaments. Disagreement will likely arise, however, from my assertion that the Biblical worldview more accurately portrays the intricacies of the human condition than the Western worldview, especially in matters pertaining to religion and social policy. One of the major tasks facing pastors today is the need to transform the worldview of their congregations so that they more closely align with the heart of God in spiritual, social, governmental and economic matters. It is a slow and tedious process, made all the more difficult because of the lack of consensus on what God actually thinks about those things and how they should be worked out in the world. My thoughts on that subject are outside the scope of this series, so I will confine my comments to the spiritual portion things. I realize this is a superficial distinction and that our lives are interconnected and defy easy parsing, but I will try. 

The Darkening

 A major shift in human thinking occurred three to four hundred years ago. French Rationalism combined with English Empiricism and German Idealism and the result of that amalgamation was an intentional severing of society from traditional thinking and values in favor of scientific humanism. The thinkers of that time felt that humanity had finally climbed out of the dark night of religious superstition and entered the new dawn of rationalism. These thinkers were absolutely convinced that humans now possessed the means to explain everything, that mysteries previously attributed to deities and spirits would soon be revealed as nothing more than the coalescing of certain natural laws and principles. The world was merely a giant mechanism of cause and effect, a closed loop system, that humanity could exploit as we discovered its rules. Therefore, currying the favor of gods was no longer necessary, human ingenuity and compliance to the laws of nature would improve our lives far more and far faster. Religion was thought to be cute and antiquated, something that would soon slough off as humanity took the place of the gods themselves as rulers of the world.

 Attempting to stand in the prophetic tradition of the Bible, I refer to this period of history as “the Darkening,” in contrast to how it is often referred to by historians as “the Enlightenment.” We acknowledge this prophetic tradition of seeing things from God’s perspective every time we talk about the events of Genesis 3 as “the Fall.” In God’s eyes, humanity fell from a place of glory, authority and perfection when they rebelled against him by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to a place of slavery in Satan’s pseudo-kingdom. No longer were they allowed to live in the Garden and walk with God in the cool of the day, enjoying his fellowship and provision. Now they had to go out into the world and work the ground. They had to provide for themselves, protect themselves and make their own way in the world.

 Now, think about those events from a Western, scientific, historical mindset. Humanity was freed from an impoverished existence as hunter/gatherers with the advent of agriculture. Working the ground allowed humanity to build cities and create divisions of labor. Cities, made possible by agriculture, inspired language, culture, art, government, economics – it was the advent of civilization, not a curse! Humanity had just entered a glorious period of technological innovation and refinement. We could now build cities that reached to the heavens, nothing would be impossible for us.

 Looking at history from God’s perspective, the Enlightenment was simply a continuation of humanity’s plunge into darkness. The revealed and accumulated wisdom of humanity from millennia past was set aside because of misplaced trust in man’s ability to see so clearly and think so rationally. We rejected notions of God, Satan, angels, demons, heaven and hell because they seemed silly. They were, after all, invisible and, therefore, immeasurable. Because they were not observable and testable through scientific method, they were dismissed as illusions and fantasy. Humanity intentionally forgot that the things that aren’t seen are more real than the things that are. We rejected the notion that this world will soon pass away to be replaced by the eternal and immutable Kingdom of God. What a tragic time for humanity.

 I can’t see the Darkening as anything other than a result of the Fall. Satan whispered the same lie to the men and women of the 17th century as he did to Adam and Eve, “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” Human nature has not changed in thousands of years, we still fall for the same twisted logic. 

A Clarification

 This is not to say that the Darkening didn’t produce some wonderful things, it did. God works for our good in all things and this is no exception. The advances in hard science, technology and medicine in the last four hundred years are astounding and I am appreciative of them. I am not advocating for a return to ignorance as a means of reclaiming a biblical worldview – spirituality and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. I am, however, saying that a Western scientific mindset is incapable of explaining the vast majority of human life and experience and should, therefore, be viewed skeptically when applied to spirituality, psychology, social policy, government and economics – basically anything that has to do with people. The scientific method is woefully inadequate at explaining the complexities of human beings (and spiritual beings for that matter). 

Getting to the heart of the matter

 Simply put, all we see is not all there is. Not even close. We reject the validity of angels and demons because they seem silly and the vast majority of sane people have never seen one. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Because of our worldview, we are culturally blind to the presence and influence of angels and demons in our midst, much as ancient cultures were colorblind to the color of the sky and sea. (For a fascinating study of perception, research when the color “blue” was discovered, by who and for what reason.) But this isn’t true in other cultures of the world. Many other countries operate with a worldview much closer to the biblical one in terms of how they see spiritual forces interacting with natural ones. Christians living and ministering in these areas frequently encounter demons, see miracles and evangelize in power. In fact, spiritual power is a primary component in evangelism. In societies plagued by demons, principalities and powers, a Christian missionary’s ability to demonstrate the superior power of Jesus is an essential ingredient in Gospel presentation. After all, if Jesus isn’t more powerful than the “gods” the witch doctors serve, why would they change? Because the Gospel is more reasonable? 

 Profound yet impotent theology is a sham. The Apostle Paul, questioning the validity of the “super apostles” leading the Corinthian church astray said, “The Lord willing, I will come to you soon, and then I will find out not only how these people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” Power is essential to validate the exclusive claims of the Gospel.

 The only way for us to be able to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel is for us to change our mindset and worldview to be more in alignment with what the Bible says is true about spiritual realities and the human condition. We really are sinners in need of salvation and grace. There really are demons who oppress people and afflict them with many different kinds of disease. The Risen Christ really is more powerful than sin, sickness, demons and death put together. That same King yearns to work through his people, advancing his Kingdom and setting his beloved friends free from the oppressive rule of Satan. 

The Cost

 Aligning ourselves with the truths of the Bible comes at significant personal cost. Your friends and family will likely think you’ve gone off the deep end if you suggest a demon may be the source of their affliction. You might be considered simple, even foolish, for believing believing in God, especially in his power and willingness to heal. You will likely be spoken against for proclaiming the need for repentance to the people of your community. Here is the question you need to settle: is it worth it?

 Is Jesus the pearl of great price in your life, the thing you would give up everything for? Is it worth bearing the reproach of your friends in order to faithfully obey everything he commands you to do in Scripture? Are you willing to put in the work of transforming your mindset and worldview to come into alignment with the truth of God’s word? 

 The process of maturing as a follower of Christ requires us to lay aside the pattern of this world and its presuppositions. It requires us to live with faith that God exists, that he is Good, that he is all powerful and that he will reward those who diligently and persistently seek to obey him. It requires us to risk our reputation, possibly our financial security. It requires us to bear with long-suffering grace the accusations of those we love who call us “close-minded,” “arrogant,” “elitist” and “exclusive” because of our insistence that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Ultimately, following Jesus means that we have to live in a Superior Reality, the Really Real world, the world that transcends and interpenetrates our own. Our senses are no longer our highest authority, God’s word revealed in Jesus is. It is a high price to pay, but it is worth it.

Thanks for reading friends.

Learning to Heal, Demonic Stronghold Two: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith.”

 There is not a direct connection between faith and healing. There isn’t even a strong positive correlation. We like to believe that more faith correlates to more healing (either received or given through ministry) because it is simple and, for that reasonn, attractive. Faith is certainly one means by which healing happens, but it is a small tributary to the river of healing – compassion, power and, especially, authority are the primary driving forces of healing in the New Testament.

Examples of Healing and the Presence of Faith

 The examples of healing coming through faith are some of the most well known in the Bible. The healing of the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7), the healing of the woman with the flow of blood and the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8). There is also the story of the paralyzed man whose friends dug through the roof to lower him on a mat to be before Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, that is, the faith of the friends, Jesus healed the man (Luke 5). It seems like everywhere you look in the Gospels, people are being healed through faith in Jesus. But what about people who are healed without faith being present?

 Examples of Healing and the Absence of Faith

 One of the most misquoted Scriptures I encounter when I talk with people about healing is Mark 6:4-6. Generally, people quote it like this, “Jesus said to [the people he grew up with in his home town], ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there… He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Seems pretty cut and dried, right? No miracles directly attributed to a lack of faith.

 Bogus theology flourishes when people don’t reference check the Scriptures people use. What did I intentionally omit in the ellipses? Here is the full version of verse five, my emphasis added. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” In Nazareth, a town absolutely devoid of faith, Jesus still healed people. As many as could have been healed if they had been prompted by faith to receive it? No. But this proves that healing can, and often does, happen in the absence of faith.

 There is also the example of Jesus raising the widow’s son in Luke 7. Unlike when Jesus admonished Jairus to believe in him, there is no mention of faith in that passage. Jesus simply intervenes out of compassion for a woman who had lost everything and could only look forward to a desperate and impoverished future.

 I’ve heard numerous stories of people being used by God to heal when they had absolutely no faith for it. My own experience also lines up with that. Sometimes rote, unemotional and faithless prayers produce astounding results. Sometimes they don’t.

 While I think it is desirable to have faith in God for healing, it certainly isn’t required on anyone’s part. There are other means whereby God can and does work in a person’s life. I really want to hammer this point because there are a number of pastors and ministries out there who buy into the idea that if you have enough faith, if you believe hard enough and want it badly enough, then God will give you what you ask for. This is pastoral and spiritual abuse of the highest order and it needs to stop.

“Name It and Claim It Baby!”

 I hear the origins of what we now call the “name it and claim it” camp are quite biblical and quite profound. What I am speaking against is its modern permutation we often see coupled with Prosperity Gospel preaching.

 The idea of “name it and claim it” is that we can lay hold of the promises of God and, sheer through effort of belief, pull those promises into our lives in an immediate and tangible way. I love the heart behind this approach. I love people taking an aggressive stand on the word of God, trusting God to do what he says he will do and not giving up. But because of the heavy emphasis on faith, and the total disregard of the Scriptures that talk about healing in the absence of faith and spiritual warfare, I find this approach to be ultimately unhelpful. What happens when people aren’t healed?

 A few minutes searching the internet will likely uncover hundreds of stories of people who “believed God for healing” and whose loved ones died anyway. What are these people to do? Inevitably, the pastor, congregation and even the people themselves blame the lack of healing on a lack of faith. What an impossible burden to bear and what an awful representation of God! It is pastorally inexcusable to blame a person for not having enough faith for their loved one to be healed. No one should suffer that kind of guilt, but what I really want to examine is how this view distorts the image of God.

Idol, Impersonal Force, or Something Else Entirely?

 Baal worship is alive and well in West. Baal, if you remember, was one of the Canaanite gods the Israelites were drawn to and, in my usage, loosely represents the entirety of Middle Eastern pantheistic religion. One of the predominate features of Baal worship was the need for human sacrifice to appease the bloodthirsty demon so that life could continue normally. Baal was not favorably disposed to his followers, but supernatural help could be secured if enough of the right sacrifices were offered. 

 We often interact with God the way the Levantines interacted with their idols. We don’t believe God is favorably disposed towards us, we think we need to purchase his favor through prayer, fasting, giving money or making vows. How many people have prayed, “God, if you will only heal ______, I’ll… serve you forever, give up smoking, move to Africa, etc.” We think that God doesn’t like us, that he is uninterested in and unmoved by our pain. We think we need to bait him to action by offering him something we know he wants but we don’t really want to give. We think this has to be a zero sum transaction, his action for our suffering. This is not the God of the Bible.

 First of all, you can’t offer God anything he doesn’t already rightfully possess, so the whole idea of offering him a sacrifice is silly, especially if you are a Christian. You are not your own, you were bought with the blood of Jesus. God owns you – to protest to the contrary is to acknowledge that you weren’t really saved to begin with. 

 Secondly, God is not distant from, disgusted with, or uninterested in your problems. He likes you. God has called you his friend (John 15:15). He isn’t “up there” in heaven too busy to notice you until you make a ruckus, he is with you in the thick of your mess. He wants to comfort you, counsel you and be there for you. When you pray, you don’t have to try to get his attention, you already have it

 You don’t have to bargain with God and there is no way to manipulate him into doing what you want. One way to think of Baalism is as witchcraft, finding the right sequence of words and sacrifices needed to produce a specific result, almost like a vending machine. Baalism, witchcraft, seeks to control God by putting his power under our control to serve our own ends. Good luck with that. 

 God works through mystery, not magic. God heals something one way, then another. We can’t formulate practices based on what Jesus or the Apostles did, because it was different every time. Spitting in the dirt and applying mud to someone’s eyes worked once, but there is no guarantee it will work again. You will just make them dirty if you think the mud was a magic recipe for success. God is the one in control and he does whatever he pleases. We don’t control him, but we are allowed to partner with him. Just like Jesus, we too can learn to hear his voice and be sensitive to his Spirit. Then we can do and say what we see him doing and saying.

A Note on the Complexities of Healing

 You do not need to beg God for healing, or try to convince him to help you. It is already his will to work through you to bring healing. Not only that, but God wants to see that person healed far more than you do. Why, then, aren’t more people healed?

 The answer to that question can be summed up in three words: I don’t know. If that is unsatisfying to you, here is the longer answer that says exactly the same thing.

The Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom

 John Wimber popularized what G.E. Ladd first articulated as the “now and not yet” of the Kingdom of God. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I liken it to a seed being planted or the tide coming in. Both are growing, swelling, but they have not yet fully matured, it isn’t high tide yet. The “now and not yet” speaks to the idea that in many tangible ways, the Kingdom of Heaven is here right now, at hand, and that those are just foretastes of what is to come, for the Kingdom is not yet here in its fullness.

 As it applies to healing, the “not and not yet” of the Kingdom means that sometimes we do see people healed. The powers of the Age to Come have broken into our present reality and we get a glimpse of what the New Heaven and New Earth will be like. It also means that there are times where people aren’t healed, and those are terrible and painful reminders that we live in a corrupted world still largely influenced by Satan, sin, demons and death. But the pain of those losses points us to the hope we have in Jesus. One day he will return and those enemies of human kind will once and forever be defeated, never to return – what a glorious day that will be.

 A modern example of the now and not yet can be found in World War 2. When the Allies stormed the beach at Normandy it spelled the end of Nazi occupation and rule. It was the decisive turning point of the war, but there were still eleven months of ever increasing bloodshed before the Allied armies march into Berlin.

 Jesus’s death and resurrection was the decisive victory over Satan that forever altered the course of history. Satan and his allies are now on the defensive, fighting a losing battle against the forcefully advancing Kingdom of God through the ministry of the Church. That doesn’t mean Satan and his demons aren’t still dangerous and don’t exert influence. Just as the Nazis killed more prisoners in concentration camps in those final months than in the previous years, Satan too knows his time is short and he is trying to do as much damage as he can before he meets his Maker. But I believe we, the Church, have a huge say in what he does or does not get away with. We have been given the keys of the Kingdom, power and authority to bind or loose spiritual realities – we just don’t know how to use them. I will offer you some tools in the last section of this series to help you get into the fight. As long as we stay ignorant and unequipped the enemy will cause untold destruction. But if we will learn how to properly cooperate with Holy Spirit to release his power and authority in the earth, then Satan’s pseudo-kingdom will fall faster than lightening from heaven. 

 We are in a war and while we know we will have the final victory, there are a number of skirmishes and battles that hang in the balance. Those battles and skirmishes are the healings we pray for. Any number of factors play into the final outcome. The strength of the enemy, the authority of the Believer and their ability to partner with Holy Spirit, their devotional life and many other things make a clear answer to the question “Why isn’t everyone healed all the time” nearly impossible to give. It is possible that a number of different answers could be correct. What I know for sure is that we will win more battles if we fight than if we don’t and that, one Day, this war will end with the Lamb of God victorious. Until then I cling to Jesus’s words, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Our enemy is hiding behind his gates, keeping captive family and friends and those we love. I think it is past time for us to smash those gates to bits and plunder his house

Ben

Learning to Heal, Demonic Stronghold Number One: God Made Me Sick

Stronghold Manifest

 I once ministered to a woman suffering from chronic pain. As she shared her story, it became apparent that she had lived a fairly promiscuous life in her late teens and twenties and ended up having an abortion. The procedure didn’t go as planned and she ended up with some internal scarring that made intimacy with her husband difficult, if not impossible, and also left her with bouts of severe pain. This faithful woman had lived for years embracing her pain, believing it was God’s desire for her to suffer in this way as punishment for her sin. How happy I was to share with her the Good News of Jesus Christ!

 At the start of his ministry, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 as his ministry mission statement: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…” Jesus came to free both captives and prisoners. Captives are those who have been sinned against. They are in prison because of someone else’s actions against them. Prisoners, on the other hand, are in prison because of their own choices. The just verdict over their lives is that they need to pay for their crimes. But Jesus came to free them both. 

Moralism versus Christianity

 Christians have a fantastic ability to apply the Gospel to everyone but themselves. It is so easy to speak words of grace and forgiveness over others and so hard to receive those same words for ourselves. And that really makes us Moralists, not Christians. 

 Moralists know they have sinned, fallen short and deserve to be punished. They know their rebellious behavior has incurred a debt they are obligated to repay. These truths are abundantly clear to them, so they willingly embrace the negative consequences of their behavior (pain, sickness, broken relationships) as their means of repaying their debt. Ken Blue calls this behavior “sanctification through sickness,” trying to get right with God by swallowing whatever hardships may come without complaint and accepting them as “the will of the Lord.” 

 That sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? It just warms the cockles of our Puritanical, works-righteousness, pseudo-Gospel loving hearts. Yuck.

 Moralists have only apprehended one piece of the Truth. They remind me of the disciples Paul finds in Ephesus in Acts 19. These disciples had bought into John the Baptizer’s ministry of repentance, good works and the hope of a future Messiah, but they didn’t know about Jesus and what his life, death and resurrection had secured for them. They had not received the Spirit and, therefore, could not be transformed. They were trying so hard to be good little boys and girls, and it was killing them. They had to submit to the fact that Jesus did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves. He was the one who was perfectly obedient. He was the one who took up their sicknesses and infirmities and carried them in his body to the cross.

 Moralists do not have wrong knowledge, but they do have wrong experience. What catapults us from Moralistic works righteousness (God accepts me because of what I’ve done) into Christian imputed righteousness (God accepts me because of what Jesus did) is an experience of saving grace. Somehow, in some way we can’t describe, Holy Spirit makes real to us the sacrifice of Jesus. The Gospel drops from our minds into our hearts and we are reborn. 

 Becoming a Christian is a fairly straightforward procedure – submit to Jesus as your King, your ultimate authority, and trust that his substitutionary atonement (his sacrifice on your behalf) is enough to save you on the Day of Judgement. The outworking of that decision is fairly complex however. 

 Being a Christian means that I give up my blasphemous need to be punished in order to “make it up to God.” Jesus has already paid it all, every last cent. To accept as God’s will any additional suffering in the form of sickness is to imply that Jesus’s sacrifice was inadequate and that you, oh holy one, need to do what Christ could not. The arrogance that underlies this kind of thinking is astounding and we rarely realize we embrace it until we bring it into God’s light and truth. Lies sound so convincing in our minds, but when we speak them out they lose their power and we see how pathetic they really are. 

The Difference Between Sickness and Suffering

 Before we continue on, I’d like to clarify a major point. There is a huge difference in the New Testament between sickness and suffering. The two are not interchangeable in Greek as they are in English.

 “Suffering” in the New Testament always implies persecution. Jesus promises us that we will suffer persecution on account of his name and our obedience to him. It is part of the package. 

 “Sickness,” on the other hand, is the word “evil,” the kind of thing we ask God to protect us from in the Lord’s Prayer. Sickness in the New Testament is never seen as a positive thing. Jesus healed every person who came to him. He even sought out people to heal. Never once did Jesus say, “I’m not going to heal you because Father is teaching you something through this.” No! Father taught them about his true nature by healing them, not making them sick to begin with.

 The differences between sickness and suffering in the New Testament is profound. Suffering (persecution) is never desirable, but it is acknowledged to have profound beneficial effects on us. Suffering purifies our hearts and motives, it makes us increasingly reliant on God’s saving power as our own resources and strength are drained away, it makes our conformation to Christ’s character far more rapid and far reaching than we could possibly imagine. So while suffering is sometimes presented positively, sickness never is. 

 When we look at Jesus’s theology, we never see him ascribing pain, sickness or demonization to God. Jesus came to reveal what God is really like – a Good Father who cares about the smallest details of our lives. The Jews of Jesus’s day had a very Moralistic mindset – they assumed sickness and disability were God’s judgement on sin, not a tragic result of living in Satan’s pseudo-kingdom. That is why, when the Disciples encountered a man born blind in John 9 they asked Jesus, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'” This man’s blindness was not indicative of God’s judgement, his healing was. God sat in judgement on that man’s disability and declared it to be illegal in his Kingdom because it did not represent the truth of his rule and reign. Blindness was a result of the Rebellion (Genesis 3). When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and obey Satan, not only did they hand over their power and authority to the Devil, they allowed sin to enter the human race, and it corrupted us entirely, even at the level of our DNA. Therefore, every birth defect and disease is a product of sin – not the sin of the child or its biological parents, but the byproduct of living in a sin infested world. I believe God wants to work through the Church to do what Jesus did in John 9 – to heal those born diseased and deformed so that they might more fully express the facet of the image of God they bear.

The Truth About God

 God is a Good Father. He is compassionate and kind, slow to anger and abounding in love. He is generous, lavishly so, and delights in giving good gifts to his children. To imply that God makes us sick in order to teach us a lesson is revolting. Jesus, talking about the superiority of the Heavenly Father says in Matthew 7, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask of him!”

 No earthly father would choose to inflict his daughter with cancer in order to curb her selfish tendencies or teach her to share. And even if one did, that would only prove his moral corruption, not his closeness to God. Parents, broken and imperfect as we are, never want to see our children suffer. Why do we believe God is different?

 Part of the answer to that question is historical, part of it is demonic.
The Origins of “Sanctification Through Sickness”

 Up until Constantine made Christianity an official religion within the Roman Empire in 313 A.D. Christians were persecuted. After the Edict of Milan, Christianity enjoyed a respite from tyranny. Many Christians in the era believed that the Millennial Kingdom of God had come, that “the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our God,” Revelation 11:15. Thus, Christianity and Roman culture and government began to merge until, in 380 A.D. under Emperor Theodosius, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Now, being Christian and being Roman were the same thing and being a good citizen was synonymous with being a good Christian – a line of thought that continues on today in the remnants of Christendom. 

 Naturally, there were some who objected to this merging of Church and State. These became the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Fleeing the corruption and moral decline of the Christian State, these zealous monastics moved en masse to the desert. Free from the sufferings of religious persecution, the Desert Fathers and Mothers found ways to persecute themselves. They observed extreme forms of asceticism whose practices owed more to Stoic philosophy than Biblical orthodoxy. This influence of Greek philosophy (spirit = good and body = evil) caused the Desert Fathers and Mothers to embrace material poverty and bodily sickness as means of purifying their souls. Anything they could do to “mortify their flesh” was seen as a good thing, a way to salvation and acceptance by God. Because of these monastic’s intense zeal and indisputable holiness, this way of seeing ourselves (spirit and body divided and at war) became the standard view lasting all the way through the Reformation. Only within the last four hundred years have we reclaimed a view of the body that is true to God’s word. We will return to this theme at a later time.

 So, part of the reason we believe God inflicts sickness on his children for their benefit is due to the historical influence of Stoic philosophy on Christian theology. Another factor is the influence of demons and the lies they tell, which go all but undetected through our minds because we have embraced a worldview that says demons don’t exist.

 Satan, the Accuser, the Adversary, the Father of Lies, is at war with God for the hearts, souls and worship of men. His chosen battleground is our minds.

 Look back at Genesis 3. Satan does not force Eve to eat the fruit. Instead, he strikes at her fear and appeals to her greed. “God isn’t really good,” says the Serpent, “He is holding out on you. He knows that if you eat the fruit then you will be like him. Don’t you want to be like God? Don’t you want to be the one in charge, knowing all things?” Satan lies and tempts, it is what he is best at. And history has shown that he is tremendously successful at getting the sons and daughters of God to believe his lies by first getting them to doubt God’s character, especially his Goodness. Satan has perfected and refined his attacks over time, even distorting Scripture to get us to buy into his lies, just like he tried to do with Jesus. We often forget that Satan knows the Bible far better than we do. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth. 

Scriptural Distortions

 Probably the most common Scriptural distortion I see Christians by into is the “thorn in the flesh” Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.” 

 The distortion goes like this: Paul was becoming conceited, therefore God, in his mercy, inflicted Paul with some sort of disease to keep him humble. This was to preserve Paul’s soul and was to be received as a gift.

 There are a couple of problems here. First of all, the phrase “thorn in the flesh” (or its rough approximation in Hebrew) appears several times in the Bible (Numbers 33:55, Joshua 23:13, and Ezekiel 28:24) and it always refers to people. “Thorn in the flesh” was an idiomatic ways of expressing persecution and interpersonal conflict, not sickness. It would be equivalent to the English phrase, “pain in my neck.” Now, you could have literal pain in your neck, but most likely when you use that phrase you are talking about someone you have a difficult time interacting with, someone who elicits a visceral negative response from you when you see them.  

 Secondly, Paul acknowledges that it was “Satan’s messenger,” not God’s. That is convincing for Paul’s case, but what about the Old Testament stories of Job and King Saul? Both are troubling stories, yet I am unconvinced of their importance in the New Covenant. The reason is found in the idea of progressive revelation.

The Progressive Revelation of the Bible 

The Bible is a magnificent picture of progressive revelation. A Holy God, totally beyond human comprehension, wants to be known, wants to have relationship with us. The Bible is the written account of his interactions with humanity. We can only know for certain what he tells us about himself or what we experience him to be like. When we start extrapolating beyond those boundaries we run into trouble.

 Job is the oldest book in the Bible and his story predates Abraham. He lived in the time before God’s covenant with Abraham but after God’s covenant with Noah. His story is representative of the Patriarchs and the revelation knowledge they had.

 In this period of redemptive history, not much was known about God. He had not yet revealed his Name, nor had he revealed his plans to create a people for himself through Abraham. God was known to have created the earth and man and to have destroyed the earth and man. He was known as a God who hated wickedness and wicked people, preserving only the righteous.

 Job’s story was almost certainly part of Semitic oral tradition until an Israelite wrote it down. Job doesn’t use the covenant Name of God except when the narrator is setting up the story, but the narrator uses God’s Name frequently. Interestingly, it is this later narrator who received the revelation that it was Satan afflicting Job, not God himself, though God ultimately allowed it. This means that Job knew nothing of Satan and his pseudo-kingdom when he went through his ordeal. So when Job says, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, may the name of the LORD be praised,” he is operating from his current base of knowledge – that God was the only one capable of orchestrating such a disaster. 

 Digging still further into the story of Job, it becomes apparent that the story’s purpose is to show us that the Patriarch’s knowledge of God was incomplete and insufficient. Job and each of his friends carried a common understanding that God blessed the righteous abundantly and cursed the wicked terribly. It isn’t until calamity falls upon Job that he begins to question this understanding. Job is the turning point of the Wisdom Literature. It lets us know that there is more going on than meets the eye. Sometimes the righteous suffer terribly while the wicked prosper, which goes against everything the Patriarchs believed. The driving force behind the book of Job is the question “Why?”

It is true that Job himself lays both his good fortune and his disaster at the feet of God, but the narrator, the one recording this story for the benefit of God’s people, does not. The narrator introduces us to The Adversary, Satan, a figure who will play an increasingly important role in human history and who already shows his disdain for those blessed by God. Satan is pictured as an angel, subservient to God (which remains true), but who is testing the limits of his authority. 

 This does bring up a point about God’s Sovereignty and free will. Is God ultimately responsible for the death of Job’s children because he put them under Satan’s power? That is a meaty question for sure.

 The U.S. Constitution protects and empowers the rights and liberties of U.S. citizens. When one of those citizens uses their liberty poorly, do we prosecute the Constitution or the citizen? One could argue that the Constitution is what made their crime possible, but we all know that the responsibility for that crime lies with the individual. They were also free to not make that choice.

 The same holds true with the story of Job. Yes, God allowed Satan to exercise his free will, power and authority over Job’s family, but Satan didn’t have to kill them. Satan’s premise was that if God removed his high level of protection from Job’s life and family, then Job would curse God to his face. Satan could have afflicted Job’s family with terrible diseases to accomplish this effect but, as we see in the New Testament, Satan’s primary goal is to “steal, kill and destroy.” Satan did all but the last with Job. Satan couldn’t bring about Job’s ultimate destruction because Job refused to agree with Satan and curse God. So no, God was not responsible for Satan’s actions, free will is free will. But did God know what would happen? Undoubtedly, but punishment can only come after the crime.

Progressive Revelation of Spiritual Realities

 Fast forward to 1 Samuel 16 and we see a much more developed understanding of the spiritual complexities of the world. The Jews are now aware of evil spirits and their ability to influence human beings, however they still attribute the cause of these spirits’s attacks to God, as they have not yet received revelation of Satan’s pseudo-kingdom. They are, however, right on the cusp of receiving revelation about the Messiah, God’s perfect king. They think they have found it in David, but they will soon understand that the King they so desperately crave is still yet to come.

I believe it is sufficient to say that the Jews had a growing understanding of spiritual realities that continues to develop and expand throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. They have learned that evil spirits exist and that they have some measure of authority to drive them out. In time, they will learn about the significant territorial influence these demons posses (through Daniel) and their knowledge will culminate with the revelation of spiritual dynamics in the New Testament. The New Testament writers make it abundantly clear that Satan is “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), that he has his own pseudo-kingdom (Luke 11:18), and that he is at war with the Saints of God (Revelation 12:17). We must always remember that the New Testament understanding of Scripture interprets and illuminates the Old. 

 The progressive revelation of God in Scripture is a precious thing and we cannot allow undisciplined scholarship to cloud our vision of God and who he has revealed himself to be. The truest revelation of God’s character in the Bible is seen in Jesus himself. God is the one who has compassion and longs to heal. God is the one who reconciles all people to himself through the forgiveness of sins and resurrection of the dead. God is the one who is constantly at work, destroying the work of the Devil and establishing his own Kingdom on the earth. 

 God is the One who has come to set wrong things right, to preach Good News, to heal, redeem, restore and set free. God is the One who loves us, who likes us, who delights in us. God is the One who longs to see us crush Satan underneath our feet as we walk in partnership with Him.  

 God did not make you sick in order to teach you a lesson – He is far too Good for that, not to mention more creative. If you are sick it is because you are suffering the repercussions of the Fall, but God’s Kingdom has come and his will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. It is God’s will – even his desire! – to heal you, for in his Kingdom “there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain,” (Revelation 21:4). Does that mean you will be always be miraculously healed whenever someone prays for you? Sadly, it does not. Not yet at least. We will cover the reasons why in the next entry. For now, I will simply say that the Kingdom of God is not yet here in its fullness but it is here in part. Many times God does heal when we stand on his authority and minister to the sick, so I always encourage people to pursue healing. 

 Going back to Paul’s thorn… Paul did not passively accept his thorn, whoever or whatever it was, as the will of God. He actively fought against it for a long time before the Lord made it clear to him that he was to stop. I encourage you to take up Paul’s example and to never accept sickness or disease as God’s will for your life. It isn’t. So keep fighting, keep asking, keep knocking. Jesus taught us that prayer is a battle and that persistence wins the day. Keep going for it my friends.

 Next time we will look at some skewed ways the truths presented in this post have been taught. We will examine the “name it and claim it” camp as well as the idea of Triumphalism. I hope you enjoyed this post. See you next time.

Ben

Learning to Heal: Introduction

Hi friends,

I’m excited to share with you a little more information about the project I’ll be working on this June. I’ll be doing a series of posts on what I believe to be a foundational practice of Christianity – healing the sick through the power of the Holy Spirit. I see healing the sick in the same category as I see prayer, evangelism, hospitality and works of justice (charity, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc) – practices Jesus commanded everyone to do, not “the religious elite”. We may not be “gifted” or “talented” in these areas, we may not even feel “called”, and I don’t think that matters. These are the stepping stones of Christian discipleship and maturity, meaning that they benefit and mature US far more than they do the person on the receiving end. Just as everyone needs to go through the school of prayer in order to grow in the knowledge of God and deepen their relationship with him, so too do we need to go through the school of healing. We need to learn how to partner with God to release his Kingdom to those around us in a tangible way. We learn much from these lessons, far more than we expect or imagine.

I am not an expert healer. I don’t see more than a third of the people I minister to healed, far less than that among Chistians. It has been my experience that Christians are the hardest people to minister to and see healed, mostly because they think God wants them to be sick. I think that is a severly twisted view of God’s character and almost totally at odds with what the Bible says about him. For that reason, this series will be divided into three main sections: (1) demolishing demonic strongholds in our theology, (2) articulating the truth about the Goodness of God and (3) offering you some practical ways to partner with God to bring about the healing of the whole person.

I am indebted to John Wimber, Alexander Venter and Ken Blue for their masterful treatment of this subject in their books (listed below). This series is my attempt to synthesize and integrate their insights and best practices into a readily digestible and actionable whole. It is my desire to see the healing ministry of Jesus once again restored to its proper place as an “elementary teaching” in the Church (see Hebrews 6:1-2). Holy Spirit is the Gift who makes every other gift possible. Since every Believer has the Spirit, every Believer has the potential to be used by God to heal and so advance his Kingdom. Learning to heal is desirable for growing in maturity and faith and it is also a biblical command. Large sections of the Church have ignored the ministry of healing for understandable and justifiable reasons, it has historically been divisive, difficult to pastor and prone to abuse, but humanity didn’t give up using fire because a few people got burned and a few forests were destroyed. There are ways to cooperate with God and not fall prone to those errors, we see those examples modeled in Scripture. 

Before I close, I’d like to mention that healing is not the most important or central issue in the Christian life. I want to state that up front because I will be making some bold statements and strong assertions in this series with the expressed intent of provoking an emotional reaction and making you think things through. How you live out the ministry of healing is not the most important thing in your life, but what you think about God is. We are all called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and that is impossible to do if we have wrong beliefs about who he really is and harbor emotional resentment towards him because of those beliefs. For me, learning to heal is about learning who God really is as well as learning to present the Gospel in its purest and most unadulterated form – letting God speak for himself directly to an individual through an experience of his love.

These posts will be long, so be forewarned, but my hope is that you will find them helpful. It is also my hope that you will be inspired to join me on this journey and that we can encourage each other in our pursuit of God. Tomorrow we will look at what I believe to be the most insidious lie most Christians believe – “God made me sick to teach me a lesson.” See you back here tomorrow.

Ben
P.S. Here are some books I have found most helpful:

“Power Healing” by John Wimber

“Power Evangelism” by John Wimber

“MC150: Signs, Wonder and Church Growth” by John Wimber (A course John taught at Fuller Seminary)

“Doing Healing: How to minister the Kingdom in the power of the Spirit” by Alexander Venter

“Authority to Heal” by Ken Blue

“When Heaven Invades Earth” by Bill Johnson