Sunday, September 30, 2018

Heal Like Jesus

It was a dark night on a deserted stretch of US Highway 6 that passes through acres and acres of Illinois cornfields. Around a hard turn, we suddenly came upon a serious wreck. A single car had rolled over and was lying on its side halfway into the dry corn stalks awaiting harvest. I was ten, but the scene and the accompanying scream remains stuck in my mind to this day. A woman was crying loudly, "Help my baby!"

My father slowed our old International panel truck as we went past, but he did not stop - another car had already pulled over. Now accelerating my father shouted over the roar of the truck engine, “Let's get to a phone and call for help.”

Why does this incident stand out so clear after all these years? What was the right thing to do? Should we have stopped to help? The ten-year-old wanted to stop but was scared. Wasn't it important to call for an ambulance? What was the right thing to do? Those questions have continued to plague me for my entire life. My father was always a compassionate and caring man, willing to help anyone. Maybe he was trying to protect me from the trauma of the scene.

We are faced with this kind of choice daily. We come in contact with a homeless person, someone acting erratically, a friend in depression, someone crippled or dying and we do not know how to react. We often may turn away and avoid even eye contact, look with pity, or cross over to the other side of the street. Seldom do we walk over and interact with them on a personal level.

Our reactions often come from fear, not knowing what to do or what to say. Deep down we want to help, but don't believe we can. Being helpful is what makes us human. So, rather than face up to our impotence, we turn our back, cross over to the other side and try to forget what we just saw. It does not work. I have never been able to forget that overturned car in the cornfield and hear that shrill scream for help.

We know what Jesus would do. The Bible narratives describe Jesus touching lepers, laying hands on dead people, and eating with sinners and tax collectors.

Our personal reactions are reflected in how we do church. Today much of the church reacts like the religious people in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was robbed, beaten and left to die in the ditch. A priest and a Levite passed by ignoring the man. But a Samaritan - equivalent today maybe to a secular humanist - took care of the man and saw to his needs.

I need to point out that the church has been very good at providing aid in major disasters - as we have just witnessed in Hurricane Florence, providing resources, and rebuilding. We personally went through Katrina, and long after FEMA, the Red Cross, and the State government left, churches continued to rebuild homes and businesses.

The church works well in providing community support, but my issue with much of the church is in their unwillingness to reach down and touch individuals lying in the ditch or in the cornfield. There are some that will pray for an instant healing or deliverance but chooses not commit the time that might be required for healing. It is cleaner and easier to pass the person off to a secular professional for help - even when the roots of the issues are spiritual. It may be because of their fear of not knowing what to do, or fear of doing the wrong thing. Our litigious society has added to the problem - even trained medical personnel have become fearful of making a mistake. So, rather than make a mistake, they do nothing.

The early church did not have this problem. They just did what they had seen Jesus do - they healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Sometimes they were successful sometimes not, but the kept trying.

With the coming of the "Age of Enlightenment," the church began to over-analyze and began to suffer from paralysis of analysis. Rather than do what Jesus did, it was safer to cross over to the other side of the road, call for the ambulance, or close their eyes to the needy. What the church needs now more than ever is to reclaim the ministry of healing, "SOZO."


We are not restricting healing to only physical healing. The Greek word often translated as "healing" is SOZO, which may also be translated as “save,”  "heal," "recover," "whole," "wholly" and "wholesome."  SOZO is the word used when referring to an eschatological salvation. It basically means: "Saved out from under the devil's power and restored into the wholeness of God's order and well-being by the power of God's Spirit.” A literal interpretation is “becoming whole.”

One of the reasons our health care has become so costly is that the church no longer takes the time to minister to the whole person. They have abdicated that part of Jesus' ministry and turned it over to a secular government.

What should we do?

People still need to see trained professionals and follow their directions, but the church has a responsibility to be more active in ministry, beyond getting people to heaven when they die.

There is an apocryphal story concerning St. Francis on a visit to the Pope. He was shown through the storerooms at the Vatican containing great wealth. His guide remarked, "No longer can we say, 'silver and gold have we none.'" (referring to Acts 3:6) Francis responded, "It is too bad you cannot still say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.'"

  1. It is time that all churches provide training and resources to establish prayer ministries for healing the whole person, mind, body, soul, spirit, and relationships.

    The Good News that Jesus brought was the Kingdom of God is near. John The Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the One they were waiting for, he sent his followers to ask Jesus. Jesus told them, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." [Luke 7:22 (NIV)]
  2. Look around! There are people in your church and your neighborhood that need healing now. Set up intentional programs to help them. There is no one that will be a better evangelist and minister of healing than someone that has had a life-transforming event in their life. That is the way your ministry will grow.
  3. God will send you people who need ministry, as you develop the capability to minister to their needs.
I am interested to hear what you have to say about this post. Please provide comments below.

Bill Johnson

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

What to do when you see a leader falling?

It is difficult to hear! This week we heard of another pastor that fell due to burnout, depression, or hopelessness. Each one falls differently - some into immorality, some just disappear, and some decide to end their lives. Leading a church is difficult and risky.

Several years ago, Rita and I became overwhelmed with the number of Christian leaders that were falling. It was not just a bunch of TV evangelists with big-time ministries, it was happening around the corner in that small church down the street and It was happening in our ministry groups and even to friends.

We are not psychologists nor psychiatrists but have had experience in the subject with which we are dealing today. At the time, we had a platform - though relatively small. So we decided to use it to try to make a difference. We began to research the issues - reading, talking to counselors and interviewing some of the people involved. Armed with this data, we put together a workshop for pastors and church leaders and presented it at several conferences in Southern California and Washington State with strong participation.

Today I want to offer some of the things that were included in the workshop to equip clergy and laity to identify the signs of trouble in their leaders and what to do and what not to do to help prevent these kinds of things from occurring. It is important to point out that because of the nature of humanity we will not be able to completely eliminate the problem, but maybe we can save a few.

Burn out has become an all-embracing term that involves a number of factors. Here we want to discuss three different kinds of damage; burn out, wounding, and depression. 

Burnout - Depression - Wounding

Burn out happens only to givers. Its nature is the depletion of the giver's physical and emotional resources. Burnouts are those who have too little consciousness of their personal needs to do what is necessary to replenish themselves from the intensity of giving. Frequently a time of rest will cure burn out; the same can not be said for depression and wounding. 

Depression is often the result of one's performance orientation. For the performance oriented person, the hope of love and the ability to accept one's self always centers around the meeting of expectations. 

Wounding is an emotional condition caused by the hurtful acts of others. Anyone can experience wounding, but it is especially severe for those who are givers by nature or by profession. 

Stage One: 

Conventional wisdom focuses on preventing burn out. This may not always be the best approach. Sometimes burn out becomes a tool for the Lord to help the servant realize the need for God's strength in ministry. In Stage one we are still running under our own strength. Adrenal burnout occurs when the adrenal gland has over-produced for such a long time that it no longer functions properly. We then become stress-addicted. We actually need and create stressful situations so that the fear, the pressure and the resulting adrenaline production overcomes our fatigue.

Stage two

At stage two, stress addiction then begins to fail as a motivator. Stage Two victims then find it difficult to remember life without exhaustion. "Can't remember when I wasn't tired." Digestive disturbances are common, causing; ulcers, colitis, food allergies, diarrhea. The digestive system reacts to the stress by producing more acid and other chemicals than the system is designed to handle. Colds, aches, pains, sore throats, and headaches increase in frequency and intensity. We begin to feel as we are ministering with an empty bucket that isn't being refilled. Desperation sets in and we go to the well but there is nothing there.

We become functionally blind to the effectiveness of our ministry. We become more and more angry with those who take up our time. We begin to withdraw and even those who offer love may be treated as if they were demanding more time. 

He begins to get angry with God, in his eyes God has not been a protector. God hasn't kept His promises to him and never will. He feels that God is there for others through him but seldom for him. God has let him down. His prayer life suffers.

In stage two he can still hope, but periods of despair are common. He finds himself subject to sudden impulses to weep over silly things.

How should you minister to a "stage two:"

Mark 6:31 "Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest.

If approached at the right time and the right circumstances he can still spill his hurt and receive ministry. He doesn't usually want a solution or unasked for advice.  He just needs a safe place to dump. It may help to kidnap him and take him out for a fun time. 

Intercede in prayer, but mostly at a distance. Don't discuss his condition with others. If the Lord gives you a specific scripture or prophecy for him, give it to him in writing.  It will feed his hope.  Don't confront him face to face with it but leave it in a place that he can find it, read it and respond in private.

Stage Three

People in Stage Three are so deeply wounded that they can only be carried, not exhorted.  They need to be loved not instructed. The body of Christ is seldom able to get beyond the demand for a simplistic quick fix. We have been trained to seek and expect instantaneous miracles. "If he has enough faith;" "Give it up to the Lord,"  "Deliverance."

There are no such miracles for a third stage and he knows it and is frightened by our simplistic solutions to his desperate problem.

He feels physically sick all the time. Every meal leads to later pain. He/she suffers from paranoia and is afraid in almost every situation. Resistance to addictive behavior is impaired.  

They become open to all forms of abuse as they lose their perspective of people and begin to see them as objects rather than human beings. 

Ministry To Stage Three:

Don't be a Job's comforter. 

It may do more harm than good to tell him God loves him. He is convinced that the evidence points to the fact that God does not love him. 

Tell him that you love him. He may not believe it but it is more tangible than the love of a God he can neither see nor any longer feel. It will then be your responsibility to prove that you mean what you say by not failing him. 

Respect his fences and withdrawal. 

Don't tell him to praise God for all things. His best approach to God is an honest cry of rage. 

When you can't praise God, be honest, call Him names, He'll probably fall off the throne laughing. The best way to pray for him is from a distance.

Listen and be available.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

You Can Put Square Pegs in Square Holes

Grace was insistent, "Since you now have an 'Empty Nest' you have to fill it."

Our son Kevin had recently left to attend school in another state, and our daughter, Rhonda, was married and starting a family of her own. My wife and I looked forward to a quiet house with just the two of us, while Grace, a friend from church wanted us to take in a refugee from Ethiopia. Grace had a passionate compassion for refugees and their families. Since the end of the Viet Nam war, she had sponsored and settled many tens of refugees. Unfortunately, our passions for serving God took us in other directions. we were teachers, encouragers, and leaders.

We sincerely believe that the Lord has placed within each of us a desire to serve Him in specific ways. He has also provided the spiritual gifts for us to be successful in what we are called.

To paraphrase the apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 12: Although there are many members in the body, they do not all have the same function. Each has been given differing gifts appropriate to the call that God has on them. It is important to realize that it is the Lord that builds the church and He has placed within each body all of the gifts and callings that are required for that particular body to perform its God-given mission. Even the smallest of churches has the gifts it needs to do God's will at a particular time.

Paul continues to list seven gifts that are common in most bodies - prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and a shower of mercy.

Grace was a shower of mercy.

For many years as a pastor and church planter, one important task was to develop a functional team that would follow the Lord's direction and fulfill His call. An effective method we used was to recruit and employ members to function in their particular area of call and gifting. Teachers teaching, leaders leading, servants serving, encouragers encouraging, those with the gift of prophecy, speaking forth, givers, giving, and showers of mercy touching lives.

Begging for volunteers, and putting warm bodies in a position, just because they are available does not work. Assigning someone a leadership position, because of their secular success is not always helpful.

Early on we made those same mistakes. It wasn't until we found a method to identify a person's motivational gifting that we began to find success in our recruiting and deploying. It not only worked at the church, but we were better able to understand our family dynamics. We required our immediate family to discover their individual gifts.

One of the first things we did in a new church was to teach a series on motivational gifts from Romans 12, then allow everyone to take a gift assessment test that Rita and I had developed. People then were allowed to opt out of a task if it did not fit their gift mix but would be asked to fill positions in their specialties. Not surprisingly we had stronger ministries and fewer people burning out.

Not long ago we published a short book that includes lessons on gifts, descriptions of the characteristics of each gift and a gift assessment test. If this is something that you might be interested in, it is available free on our website Aslan Ministries The book is available in most electronic formats.

What has been your experience of using spiritual gifts to organize your church?

Monday, July 30, 2018

God of a Second Chance

You may have attempted some great thing for God and failed dismally. I know I have, and it did not feel good at all. The great Apostle St. Peter had his moments of failure. Did you ever wonder how Peter felt when he failed to walk on water? The following is my guess of what he would have written in his diary - if he kept one.

There Is Always A "Next Time"

By Simon Bar Jonah

I was becoming really sick.  The constant pitch and roll of the small boat was taking its toll. Many of the others were worse off.  Twelve of us had started out, over half were cramped up from rowing and all had blisters. Even longtime fishermen like me had become seasick. I had never seen a storm like this in these waters.  A few of my friends had collapsed on the deck too exhausted to move out of the nauseating puddles of vomit - heave offerings to the god of the sea. Sitting back on the fantail my nausea eased as I stared back at the horizon. I could still make out the glint of faraway campfires on the beach that we had left eight hours ago. At this rate, we would never make it. I began to pray. “Lord, I don’t mind saying it, I am scared! Please help us.”

The trip started well enough. It was late afternoon when we sailed into the setting sun.  We all kicked back as the sails filled as a steady off-shore breeze pushed us smoothly out to sea. We had escaped the crowds of people who kept dogging us and could now relax. I calculated in my mind that it would take us something around three hours to reach the opposite shore. Our team had split up and we would regroup later that night on the other side. The peace lasted for no more than thirty minutes, then the wind changed. It began to increase and come at us from the north on our starboard bow. We donned our jackets as the north wind cooled the evening and sprayed mist in our faces.  An hour later the wind intensified to gale force coming directly against us.  We lowered and secured the sails moments before they would have been torn, and pandemonium reigned as we broke out the oars and began to row furiously just to maintain our position. Several of the men had been hurt during the brief but intense battle with the sails. We rowed in teams of four men at a time. One hour on, two hours off. I had completed two shifts now and my body ached all over. And most discouraging of all, I could still see the flicker of campfires back on the beach we had left hours ago. We were not getting anywhere.

Now at three AM, I finished my second turn and was taking a rest back on the fantail. Looking back into the starless night, I could make out tiny glimmering lights from campfires back on shore. “We hadn’t made much progress.” I thought to myself. “How long could this last?”  Long ago we gave up on meeting our schedule, now we are only trying to keep from being blown back on shore and crashing on the rocks. “Is there any hope at all? Why did he give us this impossible task?”

Gazing back into the darkness, I catch a bit of movement off in the distance. “What is it? What is out here with us in this storm? Is it another boat? Is someone coming after us? “   
Now it’s gaining on us. Whatever it is, it isn’t having the same trouble we are having moving ahead. Old timers used to talk about sea monsters that lived hundreds of feet below the surface of the lake. They said they only came up at night when raging storms disturbed their rest. They would be so angry that they would crush anything in sight. Fear takes over as I forget all about being sick. Maybe it won’t see us in this storm. My fears are now eased as I note its course is not directed at us but on a parallel. It will pass us about a hundred yards off our starboard beam.

Now almost abreast of us, I begin to get a better view. It is eerily ghostly through the rain. It has a man-like shape rising above the waves. “Is it real? Can it be a demon? Maybe it’s an angel? It doesn’t appear to be a sea creature.  It looks like a man. Could it possibly be Him? It must be Him. But what is He doing out here? It is Him. But He is passing us by.”

“Is that You, Lord?” I shouted through the raging waves. He was right there walking on top of the waves and not sinking! Boy, would I love to be able to do that? He had told us that if we believe, we could even make the mountains jump into the sea. If it is His will and I believe, then I know I can walk out there to Him

“If that is you, Lord, call me to come!”

“Come, Peter!”

The boat, my seasickness, and the retching of the others are forgotten. All I can think of is Jesus out there, walking as if nothing extraordinary was happening. He is just taking a casual stroll in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, while the gale rages and the waves crash around Him. I know that if He called me, then He will make a way for me to do it. And He did call me; I am going to do it. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. No doubt about it. I can walk on the water as long as it is He that called. 

I’m not afraid,. I don’t look back. Jumping over the transom, I boldly step out on the water. What a rush! I don’t feel the wind blowing around my head nor the waves raging at my feet. All I can see is Jesus now only sixty yards ahead. It’s like I am flying. My feet touch the water but I don’t sink. I get further away from the safety of the boat. I have this sudden desire to turn around and yell to the others back in the boat, "Look at me."

I think about the boat and realize that even though it is pitching and rolling, there is safety in its solid deck. Out here on the water, I am in the deep unknown. A man could yell for help out here and no one would ever hear.

“How long can I keep this up? I am too far out to swim back in this storm. If I stumble I’m dead. What if that isn’t really the Lord?”

I look around and can’t see Jesus. I’m all alone out in the middle of the sea and I am beginning to sink. “Help, I am sinking. Jesus, save me!”

The next thing I know, I am waking up with the solid comfort of the ship’s deck supporting my back. As I Cautiously open my eyes, all the others are laughing at me. 

“What were you trying to do?” they jeered, “walk on water?”

I feel like a fool. What made me think I could accomplish anything so significant?  I’m just a tired fisherman and now they all think I have gone over the edge. “How will I ever live this down? I will become the laughing stock of Capernaum.”

But, as I think about it, I know it was the most exciting and exhilarating experience of my life. It was worth it. Let them laugh. I really did walk on water. I am only sorry that I was not able to complete what I had begun. I was scared, I took my eyes off the Lord. I did not fail - I merely gave up too soon.  

Still lying on the deck, I am embarrassed - not for trying something impossible - but for not trusting Jesus. If I had it to do over again, I would not fail.  My gaze went right past my laughing comrades into the smiling face of the one who had saved me. Jesus was not laughing. His smile told me that He was proud of my attempt. He mouthed the words that only I could hear.

“There will be a 'next time.' there is always a 'next time.'"

We all need to attempt something so big that it is impossible unless Jesus makes it happen.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Three Reasons You should Quit Practicing

It does not matter what game of life you want to play - artist, athlete, or entrepreneur, do not miss your destiny by procrastinating because you want to learn more. Instead of practicing, just start doing it - whatever "it" is for you.

In high-school, I was an average athlete, playing baseball and football. My coaches told me I could be better if I practiced harder. But I wasn't so sure. I hated to practice, it was boring. Once in the game, I became a dynamo.

1. Practicing is boring and lonely work. 

Practice is boring - the excitement is in playing the game. The excitement comes from competing against another person, or against an established standard. As kids, we put marks on the wall to record our height, then each time we grew another inch we were ecstatic.

For over fifty years I have been an avid golfer. While not great, I managed to stay in the top ten percent of all golfers in America. This was not a result of what most people would call practice. I did not spend hours on the driving range hitting buckets of balls - every time I did that the results were disastrous. I learned to play - and improved - by actually playing.

2. Practice can ruin your game."

Practice will ingrain your bad habits. As a high-school freshman, I was injured playing football and could not practice, but I played every game. Prior
to each game, the assistant couch wrapped my back with adhesive tape from my shoulder blades to my butt. For the rest of my life, this injury has reappeared. A chiropractor in Shreveport prescribed a regimen of fifty swings of my driver every day. Up until that point, driving the golf ball was the best part of my game. After two weeks of fifty swings a day, my ability to drive a golf ball was destroyed. After 1,400 swings, I had grooved in a severe twitch that would manifest itself at the most inappropriate times on the course.

Practice does not make perfect. It does make consistent. Sometimes consistently bad.

3. Practice keeps you from playing your game.

Practice will often keep you from actually playing the game or starting your project. Too many people avoid starting until they know they can do something, so they practice, practice, and practice but never begin. You can watch Youtube videos on how to ride a bike, you can read books about riding, go to the bike shop and sit on a bike, and you can watch your friends ride, but you will never learn to ride until you get on the bike and try not to fall. 

In the 1990's Virginia Postrel wrote a great book, The Future and Its Enemies. The author noted that there are two competing forces she called Dynamism and Stasism. The dynamists are spontaneous and go through life with wild abandon. They make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, correct them and make awesome progress. Stasists want to be in control so they establish rules to control progress. It seems that stasists are fearful of making mistakes so they attempt to eliminate errors. Progress therefore becomes stymied. Postrel uses the internet as a prime example. It was created by dynamists without controls. As a result, it grew without control and was awesomely effective, but resulted in the spread of pornography, FaceBook, E-Bay, and abuse of personal information. The stasists still want to take control.

Instead of practicing, just start doing it - whatever "it" is for you.

Today, many would be authors, artists, and entrepreneurs are spending their time practicing when they should be getting into the game. Fear of failure causes us to spend to much time practicing. As a result, we never get to play the game.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Role of Faith In Healing

The Role of Faith In Healing

(This is an excerpt from my next book, "Heal Like Jesus." - to be released this summer)

What is the role of faith in healing?

The Biblical accounts of Jesus’ healing ministry put a great deal of emphasis on faith. But faith means different things to different people. There is a lot of confusion, bad theology, and abuses in many healing ministries today. There seems to be different understandings of the word “faith,” and in the requirements for receiving healing. Many faith healers put the onus on the sick person declaring that they must have enough faith to be healed. When they are not healed they often blame the sick person for a lack of faith. There are many possible reasons why a person is not healed.

We do read throughout the Gospels of Jesus telling healed people that it was their faith that made them well and we also read where Jesus not able to accomplish miracles in some places because there was a lack of faith. Obviously, faith is important.

Looking upon the scriptural passages of Jesus healing ministry we see faith manifested by different people at different times with the same results, people were healed. In some cases, the sick person had enough faith to approach Jesus - notably the woman with the issue of blood. In other cases, friends had enough faith to take a sick or blind person to Jesus for healing. In the case of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus was the only one that had faith. Yet all of these people were healed. We see also where the lack of faith required taking a blind man out of town for prayer and removing doubters from the home in order for Jesus to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead.[Mark 5]

The Greek word translated as “faith” is “pĂ­stis,” which has the understanding of “confidence,” “certainty,” or “trust.” Other uses of the word could be “trustworthiness,” and “guarantee” or “assurance” in the sense of a pledge or oath with the two nuances of “trustworthiness” and “proof.[Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume.]”

Faith can also represent a belief system, such as a person of the Christian Faith. But we do not have any indication that right theology is a requirement for being healed.

When a paralytic was brought to Jesus on a mat [Matthew 9:2], Jesus recognized the faith of his friends who brought him. Did Jesus decide to heal this man because of their faith or was Jesus able to heal him because of their faith?

To the blind man,[Matthew 9:28-31] Jesus asked, “Do you believe I am able to [heal]?” When the blind man responded positively Jesus healed him.

When the woman with the issue of blood [Mark 5:28-34] touched Jesus robe, she was healed. Jesus told her, “your faith has made you well.”

On and on we see similar instances of Jesus healing and pronouncing that faith was responsible for their healing, but there are instances where He healed when Jesus alone believed, such as the High Priest’s servant in Luke 11:50-51.

When Jesus returned to His hometown, He was amazed at their lack of faith. He found that He could not do any miracles, but He did lay hands on a few people to heal them.[Mark 6:4-6] Jesus was always willing to heal those who came to Him with faith.

There is an important passage in Matthew’s Gospel that helps us understand the role of faith in healing. A certain Roman army commander, a centurion, came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant.[Matthew 8:8-13] He didn’t ask Jesus to go to the servant, he merely asked Jesus, “only speak a word.”

As a soldier, he understood authority. As a commander, he would speak orders and the troops would obey. He Recognized Jesus’ authority to heal and knew that whatever Jesus ordered would be accomplished because He had authority to heal.  Jesus marveled at the soldier's faith and told the crowds following Him that He had not found such great faith, not even in Israel.

So He told the Roman commander, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." The servant was healed within the hour. In essence, the centurion had the certainty that Jesus had the authority and the ability to order the healing of his servant, and it would be accomplished.

Jesus called this “great faith.” 

We do not know the relationship between the Roman leader and Jesus. He was probably not a follower of Jesus, but we do know that he understood authority, and he knew Jesus had the authority over sickness. This was faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. Did Jesus decide to heal the centurion’s servant because of the soldier’s faith or was Jesus able to heal because of the existence of that great faith?

Over many years of praying for the sick and oppressed, we have noted that Christians raised in an authoritarian system have a far better chance of receiving their healing. Does this mean there is a connection between a hierarchal system and faith? Empirical evidence points that way and it certainly worked with the centurion. Accepting the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a matter of faith. We note that Jesus honored the centurion’s faith even though his faith was based on authority rather than love. Is it possible that the Post-Modern’s rejection of authority has affected the ability of some churches to heal?

Rejecting the authority of God today is akin to the lack of faith that kept Jesus from performing miracles in Nazareth. 

Some of the leaders of the so-called “Faith movement” misuse the issue of faith. Some have taught that God must respond to our prayers because we speak them in faith.  In the “hyper-faith" doctrine, it is faith that effects changes not God. Christian author Hank Hanagraaff has openly criticized this movement and writes;[Hanegraaff, Hank, Christianity in Crisis, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1993, pp66]

"Words are containers that carry the substance of faith.  In Faith theology, if you speak words of faith, you activate the positive side of the force; if you speak words of fear, you activate the negative side of the force.  In faith vernacular, this is called 'making positive or negative confessions.'  The Faith movement would have us believe that everything that happens to us is a direct result of our words."

A scripture that is often quoted (in part) by the hyper-faith community relates a conversation between Jesus and His disciples where He tells them that if they do not have a doubt in their heart, they can speak to a mountain and it will move into the sea. [Mark 11:22-24] Then Jesus adds, “Whatever things you ask for when you pray, believe and you will have them.” They pass over verse 22 which requires a faith in God, not a faith in their words.

Faith is not a magical substance or an incantation. Faith is always a faith in a person. Faith is first of all faithfulness or loyalty. It is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians chapter 5 and listed as a gift of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12.

In some of his epistles, the Apostle Paul commended the people for their loyalty to Christ.[Romans 1:8; Ephesians 1:15; Col. 1:4]  Faith in its simplest form is unshakable and unchanging loyalty to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Faith is confident Hope[Hebrews 11:1]. Faith is betting your life there is a God. Faith is also a true belief.

The Apostle writing to the Hebrews tells us that faith requires two things; 1) Believe that God exists, and 2) believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.[Hebrews 11:6] But there has to be a significance to this belief, It must mean something, the significance of what we believe causes us to act in certain ways. Faith is not just the acceptance of beliefs. Faith must result in action. Abraham left his comfortable hometown, not knowing where He was going, to follow God’s call.  He took God absolutely at His word, When God promised, and commanded Abraham moved.

Faith is complete trust and complete surrender to Jesus Christ, acceptance of all He offers, and all that He is. It is our approach to God - in complete confidence - that all He has said and all He has done are absolutely true. The only way to a right relationship with God is to take Jesus at His word and to cast ourselves on His mercy. That means accepting His authority.

Responding to God’s love and authority is faith in action. As we look at the Honor role of God’s faithful heroes in Hebrews 11, we read: By faith, Able offered to God. By faith, Enoch was taken up. By faith, Noah prepared an ark. By faith, Abraham obeyed. By faith, Sarah conceived. By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac. By faith, they passed through the Red Sea….as though they were passing through dry land.

How much faith do we need to receive healing? 

The faith of a mustard seed while we faithfully follow the Lord.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What Are We Missing

We are coming up on the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christians church. It was the day when the Holy Spirit came upon a group of believers huddled together in an upper room in Jerusalem and transformed them into a powerful team that transformed the world. Wouldn't it be great for that kind of experience to occur today?

It had been fifty days since Jesus' resurrection and ten days since they watched Him ascend into heaven. For forty days Jesus had taught His followers and commissioned them to continue His ministry. On the day He ascended, Jesus told them to wait in the city for the "promise of the Father," the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to accomplish Christ's will for them. 

One Hundred Twenty believers waited for ten more days.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (NKJV) 

We can only imagine what that might have looked like. Several years ago I wondered why we do not see that kind of phenomena in our world today and why we have not had that great an outflowing of the Holy Spirit. Yes, there have been many revivals; John Wesley led a revival in England that led to the end of slavery, The Great Awakenings in the early days of the US (1760 and 1806); The Welsh revival that transformed an entire nation, Azusa Street, the Charismatic renewal, and several more. Even today there are pockets of revival still going on. But none like Pentecost.

While reading the biblical account of the birth of the Church, I began to wonder why we do not see this happening today. I do not believe that Pentecost was a single event that started the ball rolling and then petered out. 

There were five elements which all came together at Pentecost.
  1. They had all heard Jesus tell them to wait in Jerusalem for power.
  2. They obeyed His direction and waited for ten days.
  3. For ten days they prayed.
  4. They were all in one accord.
  5. They even took care of business while they waited. They decided upon a replacement for Judas Iscariot. 
Could we recreate these elements and see what God might do? After sharing my idea with my wife, Rita, we began to plan how this might work. Could we even find a small group of people willing to hang out together to wait on the Lord, for ten days -or more? If the one-hour church service runs a little longer we have rebellion.

A couple of weeks later while we were teaching a class on hearing God, I made a short comment about my crazy idea of spending ten days locked up in a room without any teaching or preaching - just prayer, worship, and waiting on God. Unbeknownst to us, some student in the class circulated a sign-up sheet for those who desired to join us in this crazy idea. 18 out of 22 signed up!

That was all the encouragement we needed. We began planning. First, we need a location. After contacting several retreat centers we began to realize that ten days would be cost prohibitive, so we dropped back to two and a half days to start -Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.

We proposed our idea to the Aslan Ministries, Board of Directors who quickly approved the "Break Through" event.

The results were very promising and successful. It was a time of personal renewal but lacked the outreach to the extended community.

I still wonder what would have happened if we could get a group of people together to spend the full ten days in prayer and worship and come together in one accord.

If you want a personal Pentecost, spend ten days listening to God, obeying His call, praying and worshipping Him.

Let me know what you think.