Healing 2

Great to hear your thoughts on healing.

I must say I was surprised by your first comment about faith. I had always thought faith was essential. I even spent considerable time in my early years searching the Bible for an out that would assure me I didn’t have to believe, and God would still heal me. That backfired slightly, because I ended up more convinced that faith was the normal way of operating, but I also increased in my faith for healing so that was worthwhile.

Thinking about your questions:

  1. Did Christ die for our sins AND so that we can have healing in this life? If it is so, then Christ’s death might be deemed ineffective because we still have sick christians.

    I think I would say that physical healing is to be seen as a by-product of reconciliation to God. In Mt 9:1-8 Jesus closely links healing & forgiveness, and the healing was evidence of the forgiveness. Before sin, there was no sickness, and every sickness (& other destructive force) can be traced back to someone’s sin somewhere. (I am not saying the link is always direct – some is a direct sowing & reaping, some is the result of another person’s wickedness affecting us, and some (for example some natural disasters) is more a general result of sin in the world breaking the God-ordained order & introducing decay etc. When the sin problem is dealt with, the door is open for healing as well.Then again, if Jesus shows us what God is like, & He went around doing good & healing all who were under the power of the devil (Acts 10:38) then it is likely that is what God wants to happen everywhere.

  2. What then is the role and practice of healing that we have now? It seems to be more hit and miss than the consistency that the Apostles had. If physical healing is a sign of power that our gospel is true (as it is used in Acts), Matthew 7:21-23 and testimonies from other religions almost serve to discount that.

    It is truly complex & hard to completely understand. Some of the principles I have learnt are:

    – Healing & miracles are used as confirmation of the message (also Gal 3:1-5)- Backslidden / ungodly Christians can also get miracles. I suspect this is because the proclamation of the message & salvation of others is sometimes a higher priority than the persons individual lifestyle (see Phil 1:15-18). Classically illustrated by the American healing evangelists who had amazing meetings even while they were severely sinning. This also suggests that some people have a gifting in this area, or have entered into a dynamic that is generally lost to the mainstream body of Christ.

    – False Christs will also perform miracles, so it is not a guaranteed seal of God’s approval. This also suggests a connection with a spiritual dynamic that can operate independent of Christ (but probably not independent of some (good/bad) spiritual authority figure.

  3. I read verses like John 14:11-12 and Acts 14:8-10 (the man had “faith to be healed” not “faith to believe”) and am perplexed (or even Luke 10:1-17). Ae we expected to be able to heal as Jesus did or as the Apostles did?I believe it is an undeniable teaching that we are supposed to demonstrate the power of the God in our lives & proclamation of the gospel. We are all supposed to desire spiritual gifts, one of which is healing.

    It also appears that while we should all pray for healing, some have greater authority in this area. The story of Dorcas in Acts 9 demonstrated a pattern of Christians calling for the apostle to get their healing. Whether the other Christians had already prayed for her is not mentioned, but the “special” believer had greater power. This is also interesting because it is not directly associated with an evangelistic event. And James instructs anyone that is sick to call for the Elders & get healed. This passage also links sickness with sin & healing with forgiveness, and encourages us ordinary people to pray & believe.

  4. What do we do with all these sick Christians?

    We must always get our beliefs from the Word first, and not from what we see around us. We live in a society that is characterised by unbelief, and we are struggling to throw off that cultural mindset in order to reach the fullness of what God has for us. The pervasive trust in riches is also a deceitful snare that blinds & hinders us. I suspect that this is why we hear about miracles in 3rd world nations & don’t see them here.And we have to realise that we will never fully attain Christlikeness until we see Him face to face.
    As well as that, there is an aspect of the sovereignty of God that can never be calculated & explained. Some people appear to meet all the criteria & not get healed, and some get healed almost by accident.

    But the important thing is whether you should be praying for the sick. On this I have no doubt. I do not doubt that you are called to (at the least) be an elder in the body, and therefore part of that group with special authority to heal the sick. I also know that you need to add unpredictable Holy Spirit fireworks to your solidly reasoned scripture. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Cor 3:6. There is a danger that we can reason ourselves out of faith & out of usefulness by wanting everything packaged nicely with logic & formula, but following Christ is a walk of faith out into the unknown & unreasonable. You and Sara have an ability to tap into the Spirit when you sing together – especially when Sara sings I can see the power to refresh & heal. You need to draw from that & find a way to connect that same dynamic to the Word. We like to minister from our strengths but in order to be anointed we need to have an element where we are out of our depth and totally dependent on God – and praying for the sick adds that. It keeps us humble and dependant because we cannot impress anyone without His help.

    More & more I am also convinced that we are like the Laodicean church. We think we are rich & successful, but we are blind, poor & naked. We are the amateurs when it comes to the things of God, and we need to put aside our fear that it might not work, & set ourselves on a lifelong journey to discover a life truly lived in the Spirit.

    I hope this is helpful – let it light a fire that never dies!

Genesis 1

Genesis 1 is the key (and perhaps only) passage in the bible dedicated explicitly to the moment of creation. Yet it doesn’t tell us much about the intricate details of how (or when and what) everything was created. Everything is spoken of in broad terms and human constructs.

Here I would like to detail what we can gather from the passage and contrast it with what we cannot.

What we can conclude from Genesis 1:

  • God was not caused or created
  • God is creator and all else is creation
  • God created everything exactly as He saw fit (purposefully, not accidentally)
  • God who is creator created everything by speaking it into creation
  • There was an order to creation
  • What was created was good
  • God created and enabled reproduction
  • God has a desire and command for man, animals and plants to procreate
  • Mankind was created in God’s image
  • God made distinct separate genders

What we cannot conclude definitively from Genesis 1:

  • The precise state of non-existance prior to all of creation’s existance
  • Exactly how God’s words created things (and meta-matter) out of nothing (this is not to say that this didn’t happen, but the workings of it)
  • The exact duration/time of creation
  • Any prescriptive instruction
  • The power of words
  • Whether the earth was created old or not
  • Whether evolution had any part to play in creation

And one more note on the act of creation: Psalms 102:25, Isaiah 42:5, 45:12 tells us there is much more to creation than we can imagine to understand. Who can understand the workings of God?

Genesis 1 sets the scene very well right from the beginning. God is the sovereign and creator God. He is central, everything else is secondary.

The great blessing

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give you every seed- bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground- everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food generic cymbalta.” It was so.
God saw all that he had made- and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:28-31

Notice a the similarities and difference in the “God said” bit (relating to blessing) between v22:

v22: God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply…
v28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…

  • The blessing here is similar to v22, where God’s blessing is directly related to fruitfulness and multiplication. In fact, the blessing here is in the context of reproduction – a blessing to reproduce. And this blessing is in the context of “Fill the earth and subdue it!” The ability to reproduce is needed for filling the earth and ruling over time/generations.
  • God has enabled (given the ability to do) what He has commanded man to do (in this instance)
  • The blessing here is different to v22 in that it was addressed to individuals “to them”. This appears in every translation. When God said to the fish and birds, it reads like a proclamation over the species but here it reads like a command to a few individuals – where the individuals have the capacity to understand the command. Man is distinct over all of creation.

The rulership of man:

  • So far, God created every living thing without mentioning it’s relationship to each other with regards to it’s purpose. Here God purposes created things in relation to one another and begins at the top: man’s purpose is to rule.
  • Although the word “subdue” has a negative connotation of conquered or put in bondage against one’s will. It is used here not to show an opposing or strained relationship but one of dominion. This is clear from the context.
  • When it comes to the rulership of man, God makes no mistake to include everything that man has authority over:
    • The “it” that comes after subdue is obviously the earth – every rock, creek, mountain, land, water, mineral/harvestable resource , etc
    • The three classes of created beings are also placed under man – every fish, bird and land creature. The animals were purposed to be subject to man. Man could harness animals for their benefit. 

The food of man and the rest of created beings:

  • The addition of the word הִנֵה (hinneh), which is often translated as “Behold”, is meant to bring to attention what God is doing in the present time. There could be several reasons why this was pointed out:
    • Because it was a gift: Notice how this part reads like a gift and not a command. God gives mankind the vegetation for food.
    • Because it establishes order in a hierarchy: Notice that there is now a hierarchical in authority – mankind, animals, vegetation with man on top and plants below. God makes clear where vegetation sits in the mix of creation and it’s purpose. This is an extension of man’s rulership.
    • Because it is a divine diet: vegetation is purposed as food for anything that had the “breath of life”. This is the diet that God commanded for all living creatures at this point: man & animals on top, vegetation below. A divine food chain. This is later changed in Genesis 9:3.

A note on the type of vegetation: only “seed bearing” plant and trees with seed in it’s fruit is for food for man and any green plant for food for anything that has life. Does that mean we can’t eat plants that propagate without seed and/or are not green? I’m thinking purple lettuce, seaweed, bamboo, etc (please excuse my ignorance if I’m wrong about some of these plants)

I don’t think this passage was prescriptive that way. The effect one gets from reading the passage is that God has given all creatures (“everything that has the breath of life”) all vegetation (“every green plant”) for food. That is the heart of the message. If we depart from this thought process, then God didn’t create the other planets, birds that swim (i.e. penguins), birds without wings (i.e. Moa) or land creatures that swim (i.e. platypus, seals and otters) because they weren’t specifically mentioned.

Another thing to note is the use of “breath of life”. God has included all animals into those with the breath of life! Here we make a distinction between creatures with an eternal spirit (God’s breath, Genesis 2:7) and creatures who simply are alive and have breath. The word breath in Genesis 2:7 is different from the word breath here.

I love how the passage ends with “And it was so.” This gives the effect that God’s blessing and commandment effected the minute it was said. The blessing on man to multiply, the rulership and hierarchy of man, the food chain of the whole world, all set in place in a split-second!

Lastly, God considered “all that he had made” and proclaimed (using the word hinneh again) “it was very good”. When it says God considered all, it truly means all. All meaning everything. Imagine what it means to perceive, understand, analyse, approve, discern the whole universe (and meta-universe) all at once. Every large thing thing like the sun, to every minute detail like nano thingamajigs. It takes mankind years of collective observation, analysing and discerning before we can understand a little something of creation yet God does so without effort. Truly, only God can. Mind blown.

The proclamation “very good” is not to be missed here. Very good is God’s ultimate stamp of approval. If there some something God was pleased with, it was all of creation. And this was the sixth day.

Day Six

God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” It was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the cattle according to their kinds, and all the creatures that creep along the ground according to their kinds. God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:24-25

What was interesting in this passage was that the structure of this passage is similar but slightly different:

  • God spoke and creation came to be exactly as He spoke
  • The land produced the animals as they did the vegetation (Genesis 1:11)
  • Each classification of animal came to being “according to their kinds”, implying a multitude of variety (Genesis 1:11, 21). We seldom dwell on the magnitude of the multitude of creation. In one sentence, God conceived and created every creature on the land – earthworms to mammoths and the millions of species in between!
  • But God didn’t bless the cattle (domestic animals), creeping things (reptiles) and wild animals (animals of the field/undomestic) to multiply as He had done previously (Genesis 1:22)
  • God observed and pronounced on them “good”

I suspect that multiplication might be somewhat implied from previous verses. At least that is the feeling one gets when reading it. The flow is so similar that it is almost assumed when reading through it casually.

Now we get to the truly interesting part of day six.

Then God said,” Let us make a humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

So many juicy bits in this passage, so little time! Lets go.

  • God speaks of himself in plural form. This verse almost stands in direct opposition to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4). But taken together, this forms the basis of our triune God (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity).
  • Mankind was made in God’s image. This is repeated in a slightly different but mostly identical way (“Image” and “likeness” are almost the same word, for emphasis perhaps?). It is not stated in this passage what the form of this image is – physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, moral (Ecclesiastes 7:29) or a combination.
  • However, we know that the reason for being made in God’s image is that they may rule – over the rest of creation. This image grants us the unique authority and ability in all creation to rule. In this authority, it is obvious that God is not relinquishing His sovereign authority to us (Ephesians 1:22).

The passage breaks out into a little bit of poetry.

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

This bit of poetry is not just an inspired expression of the writer. It is truth. The word “created” is used three times here, giving us 3 great truths:

  • God is the creator, mankind is creation. This truth should never be turned on it’s head. We should never assume the position of creator. 
  • God’s image is the template for mankind. Again, this truth should never be turned around. We should never conjure up gods or assume God in our image.
  • God created both male and female. Mankind wasn’t created gender-less (androgynous). This gender distinction is vitally important and God created and ordained.

Just a word on the last point. There are a number of implications that the distinction between “male and female” is where it is:

  • It is important. Important enough to be mentioned right at the beginning.
  • It is defining. Man has so far been defined as not the creator (1), having God’s image (2), having the responsibility to rule over creation (3) and now as male or female (4).
  • Both bear God’s image. This verse gives light to the rest of the passage because the word for mankind is “adam” and the name of the first man is Adam. This verse provides clarity to the fact that both man and women bear God’s image.

Perhaps it could also mean that both male and female exist in our God, even though God at this point is genderless. The bible uses expressions that depict God as both a man (Isaiah 54:5; 61:10; 62:5) and a woman (Isaiah 49:15; 66:13). Note however that the depiction of God as a woman is often descriptive (“I am like…”) or used as an expression of feelings or actions (“I will cry like a woman in labour”), whereas the depiction of Him as a man is direct (“I am…”). Again, this reinforces the fact that gender types are distinct. Manhood and womanhood are different. This has implication when we deal with sexual and gender issues (or preferences as they now call it).

There is more! But so little time. I’ll be back.

As I think more about the creation story, two things dawn on me:

  1. Mankind is unique in that we bear God’s image. No other of His creation is given such an honour. Not the light or darkness, not the sun, land or sea, nor any plant, fish, bird, land creature or anything else is created to have His image.
  2. I was reading this feed http://wtfevolution.tumblr.com and came across this snippet:

    From an evolutionary standpoint, reproducing is the single most important thing you can do in your time on this planet. In fact, it’s the only thing that really matters at all.

    It crossed my mind that reproduction is the most important function for anything. The ability to reproduce, each “according  to their kind” enables the continued existence of God’s creation. God gave creation the ability to persist in existing.

Mind. Blown.

The fool’s folly

A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.
Proverbs 19:3

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 (See also Psalm 33:10-11; Isaiah 14:26-27)

In my bible reading, these verses stood out to me. I am a big advocate of God’s sovereignty. I believe that everything that happens is known ad ordained by God, even calamities. They might not be His expressed will, but it still is His (permitted) will. But how often do we fall into the trap of treating God’s sovereignty like “fate”?

God will isn’t a “fixed order” of events. God’s will is whatever He determines at any point in time, and because He isn’t confined by time, it simply is whatever He wants. And that is the difficulty with determining whether a course in life was our decision or God’s permission. With salvation, we know that it is entirely God’s permission (and expressed will), but what about with everything else in life?

The proverbs tells us that men (and women) ruin their lives by their own foolish life choices yet they blame God and get angry at Him. At the same time it says that God’s plans prevail over man’s. Sometimes life choices are not easy to make, but we are still liable to bear the responsibility of our own choices. They are ours, not any one else’s. God doesn’t owe us an explanation on why He allowed our bad decisions to go ahead. Truly, it isn’t about us because His will works for His pleasure (Isaiah 46:10). The plans that He has revolve around Him, not us.

The 2 things that I’ve come to take comfort in knowing is: God is sovereign, God is good (Matthew 7:9-11; ).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

More study here: http://bible.org/seriespage/god%E2%80%99s-perfect-plan

Day Five

God said, “Let the water swarm with swarms of living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” God created the great sea creatures and every living and moving thing with which the water swarmed, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening, and there was morning, a fifth day.
Genesis 1:20-23 (NET)

It is the fifth day of creation: Now that the world was ready for living creatures, He made them.

The first thing that stands out to me in this passage is: God said, God created, God saw and God blessed. If there is any objection about the centrality of God over creation, let it be squashed here. God is the cause for creation; it all begins with God – the uncaused cause.

  • Again we see the use of cognate objects here to signify abundance (the same word play used with the vegetation in day three). “creatures” is the object and “swarm” is the verb. And again, “birds” is the object and “fly” is the verb. God didn’t make just one bird or one fish, He made a whole bunch!
  • This bunch wasn’t just all of the same kind, it tells us that sea creatures were “according to their kinds” and birds “according to its kind”. God was obviously interested in variety.
  • Now here is one strange mention of giant sea creatures. This is the first time in creation where a specific type of animal is mentioned. So what is so special about this giant sea creatures? A short search shows that this term is used on snakes (Exodus 7:9), crocodiles (Ezekiel 29:3), monster (or strong animal; Jeremiah 51:34) and a leviathan/dragon that symbolises God’s enemies (or mythological sea creature; Isaiah 27:1).
  • We need to contend with why the great sea creature had special mention. It could be that God was emphasising His creative power over both great and small, perhaps because of how people of that time thought of great sea creatures. Maybe it could have been a symbolism that God’s enemies (the serpent in Exodus and dragon in Isaiah) were created by God Himself. This squashes the notion of an eternal struggle between forces of good (represented by God) and evil (represented by the serpent/devil), and leaves us with only one ultimate sovereign in the universe – God.
  • Either way, God observed and consider it all good. Everything was created according to His plan and nothing was outside of it. Thus, there was a positive quality about what was created.
  • Here it didn’t say that God created the ability for sea creatures and birds to multiply, but we know that His speech is enough. So His Words enabled them to reproduce – like for like (just like vegetation).
  • Notice that God giving them the capacity to reproduce was considered a blessing. It was something that improved and enriched them in fruitfulness. This blessing has lasting effects and continues after the first act of creation and even after the fall. This was important to the Israelites as farmers and herders. The theme that God’s blessing is the cause of production and fruitfulness runs right through the bible.

Day five touches on God’s sovereignty over all creation, over the perceived bad (great sea creatures) and over reproduction. It tells us that reproduction and fruitfulness is God’s blessing and it is part of His lasting blessing over creation.

The run around

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:44-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
Acts 4:33

Things have been busy in my life. I’ve just started a new job as a Training Information Management Systems Officer with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and I’ve just finished 2 weeks of induction. Its been a steep learning curve and I’m learning to live day by day on the grace of God.

A friend of mine has moved in with us. She is a single soon-to-be mother who is having trouble with finances. We’ve got an extra room, and she needs a place to stay. Perfect! Thats exactly why God has blessed us with a house – so that we can bless others in need who have nothing to offer us back. We’ve been getting mixed reactions from people. While most are proud of us for helping out a friend in need, others caution us about inconveniences to us. I’ve found wisdom and encouragement in both responses.

To those who caution us about inconveniences: We’ve found that people are generally willing to help, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them. They would rather contribute money, food, clothing… anything as long as its not them she is staying with. There is always “someone else” who can house her, but when everyone says “someone else” will do it, who is that someone? Sara and I decided that we are that someone. We as a family want to be marked by generosity and an open heart.

To those who are proud of us: we’re only doing what we’re called to. That is the model that the early church exemplified. We’re really not doing anything more than that. We say “to God be the glory”, because none of what we have to offer is truly ours anyway.

I’m still sorting out my schedule with all this going on. Until then, I suspect my posts will be irregular.

Asking but not getting

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:1-3

There is something that I want and its beyond my control. I’ve been praying into it and working at it, but it hasn’t come to pass. At least not yet. Its times like these when you start questioning, “why haven’t I received what I’ve been praying for?” I know that God is all sovereign and He isn’t sadistic or bad (Luke 11:9-13). Thats when I start thinking about my motives behind asking.

We don’t often question ourselves and the motives behind our wants. Is the motive good or bad, right or wrong. James states for us what a wrong motive is: “you may spend what you get on your pleasures”. There are just so many things that we want in life and many of those bring us pleasure rather than bring God glory. Jesus was the opposite of this (John 8:29) – everything He did was for the glory of God.

Maybe its time to sit and have a genuine think: why am I asking for what I’m asking for?

Salt of the covenant

Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
Leviticus 2:13 (See also Ezekiel 43:24)

Sometimes we find the strangest things in the Bible. This particular one caught my attention, it reads “do not leave the sale of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Why would God want the Israelites to add salt to their offerings? It was to be burnt on the alter into ashes anyway. Is there some deeper symbolic or spiritual significance?

The salt to be added here is called the “salt of the covenant”. Better known as normal salt. There is nothing special about the salt, but there is something special about the covenant. There are three things about salt that tell us something of the covenant.

  • Salt is a eternal compound. It symbolises the nature of everlasting nature of salt. Salt is salt because of its chemical compounds and this can never change.  The only way that salt can change is to dilute it or mix it with other compounds/elements/things such that the whole can no longer be identified as salt. The covenant between God and Israel is to be an eternal, ever-abiding and never changing covenant. Matthew 5:13 says that we as the “salt of the earth” need to remain salty – not be diluted.
  • Salt is a preservative. This is perhaps the most primary form of food preservation. In the days before refridgeration, salt is invaluable for preventing decay and corruption. In this way, the covenant is to remain stable and steadfast through time, not decaying or corrupting. 2 Chronicles 13:5 identifies God’s covenant with David as a covenant that doesn’t change with generations.
  • Salt as a flavour. It is one of the primary tastes. It doesn’t just enhance flavour, it is a flavour on it’s own.  The covenant is certainly not distasteful. It is to be pleasing to both God and Israel. Colossians 4:6 calls our conversations to be “gracious” and tasteful.