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!

To bear arms

When it came time to bear arms
Against mine enemy
The truth of my mortality
I resisted.

Bear resilience! Take up arms!
The fight already
In my mind begun
But then I saw.

Within the ugly crevice of mine foe
A truth
It’s maker, His face divine
And a dawning realization.

The face of its maker, also mine.
Then all resistance yielded
That in my humanity
The Glory of His deity- eternal.

There is no need for more.

Our treasure

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NIV)

For those battling their flesh – the sick, weary, frail and suffering, this chapter needs no introduction nor in-depth study. Read it and let it birth within you the treasure of Christ. Savour and enjoy Him.

Today, I read this over, and over, and over. To God be the glory.

Eulogy

Dennis loved God’s Word. He would spend hours wrestling with the word of God, grappling with text and context to know the Living God behind the Living Word. Through the Word, his life was brought into submission to Christ. He rooted himself so deep into the bible that every word from the book was life and sustenance to him. From this position, he expounded God’s word with authority and understanding, and with wisdom and grace. His ministry was a mere extension of his person. As a speaker, he infected hundreds with his contagious desire for more of God and brought thousands into God’s kingdom. The depth of his pastoral and pulpit ministry was only a shadow of the great height of his close friendship with God. 

He loved people with a practical and sacrificial love. All that he had, he used for the cause of Christ. He lived as if his talents, finances and possessions were never really his. His house was a haven for the outcast, the sinner and those who hated God’s church. His kitchen was filled with food, not for himself, but for others. His car was a taxi for anyone who would trust him with their life. He wasn’t rich, nor was he in lack, but he was generous. He drew people into the kingdom by loving them. He cried with those who were mourning and laughed with those who were celebrating. He walked with people at every stage of life. He was real. He was not pretentious, he was not aloof, he was not plastic, he wore no mask. He pleaded grace for his weaknesses and attributed his strengths to God. As a pastor, he led with the heart of a servant and served with the heart of a king.

The people closest to him knew that he had three priorities in life: to be a great husband, to be a great father and to be a great pastor. This he accomplished, by the grace of God, by being an exceedingly great follower of Christ.

Substitution

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
Matthew 27:56-61

Joseph of Arimathea was doing a dangerous thing and he did so boldly. According to Romans Law, only the family members of Jesus would be entitled to claim His body yet Joseph is no more than a secret disciple. If he had been denied Jesus’ body, the body would have been dumped dishonourably. Yet he boldly asked for the body, identifying himself with Jesus when no one wanted to be identified with Him; even Peter, one of  His closest disciples wanted nothing to do with Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75)! Joseph was a rich man with a reputation and most likely a member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), and he put all that on the line to be identified with a dead man.

This was his own tomb, painfully cut out of rock, prepared for his death. It was meant for him, it was purpose build for him. It was waiting all this while for Joseph, anticipating the day when death would win and his flesh would crumble and the tomb would fulfill its purpose. It now belonged to Jesus. The tomb that was built for his death is now given to Jesus. The tomb held a man’s death, but that man was not Joseph, it was Jesus.

Just as Jesus was laid in Joseph’s tomb, he lies in the tomb of all who believe in Him. The death that is waiting for us is no longer there. Death has fulfilled its purpose in Christ, and 3 days later, Christ fulfilled His purpose in conquering death. Joseph is the image of us, who boldly identify ourselves with Christ. He is the example for us to give our death over to Christ so that we can enjoy life. A life that Christ has conquered for us.

He is able, but are we willing?

Boldly put everything on the line, take the risk and ask for Jesus.

Death and His glory

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
John 11:3-5

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
John 12:23 (see also v27-28)

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify youI have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
John 17:1, 4-5

The hardest question to answer when we are faced with death is “why”. Why did he have to die? Why at this age? Why now? Why is God so cruel? Jesus gives Lazarus’ death a convincing reason – “for God’s glory”. In the same way, He gives His own death a convincing reason – for His glory.

Lazarus’ death was symbolic of Christ dead in purpose. Lazarus died that God might receive glory (John 11:4). Christ died that God would receive glory (John 17:1). Lazarus was raised again that they might believe in Him (John 11:14-15, 25-26). Christ was raised again that they might believe in Him (John 20:8, 24-25, 28-29).

We often hear that Christ died for us because of His great love for us (John 3:16). That is true. But while we shout that from the mountain top, we often forget that His primary motivation was for His own glory. In fact, He loves and saves us for His own glory (Isaiah 43:6-7, Isaiah 48:9-11) and after we are saved, we are to glory Him with everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). God’s glory is central Lazarus’ death as it is with Christ death.

So what about our death? Why do we die? The simple answer is: as a consequence of sin (Genesis 3:19). And for us, our death also glorifies God.

  • Lazarus’ (temporary) death was glorifying to God because it brought people to believe in Jesus as the resurrection and life (John 11:14-15, 25-26, 45)
  • Christ death was glorifying to God because He was obedient even to the cross (John 17:4-5)
  • Paul considered death glorifying to God because he finally gets to be with Christ; earthly things mean so little to him (Philippians 1:20)
  • Peter’s appointed death was glorifying to God because He was crucified upside down after being persecuted for the gospel (John 21:18-19)

What about our eventual death? Will it show forth God’s glory? How?


Father, death is a hard subject and there is so much that I don’t know. But I believe that death can also be glorifying to you. I don’t know how and I don’t know when death will come, but I pray that when it does, all the glory will indeed go to you.

Amen.

Lazarus

Now when Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Thus the people who had come to mourn said, “Look how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “This is the man who caused the blind man to see! Couldn’t he have done something to keep Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.)
John 11:32-38

Sometimes we imagine Jesus to be entirely task oriented and without feeling. After all, He seldom talks about the way He feels about healing people and performing miracles. When Jesus heals, He heals. Just straight down to business, heal, small conversation after, and thats all. What we don’t get directly is what He feels inside. The bible records only a handful of emotions that Jesus feels – angry and sad, the rest are often implied and not recorded by the writer.

In the death of Lazarus, Jesus’ emotions are recorded explicitly:

  1. intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed” when He saw Mary and the rest of the people weeping
  2. “intensely moved again” when He faced the tomb where Lazarus was laid

And in between, we are told that “Jesus wept”. 

What is going on with our Jesus? He, who has the power to heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, make the lame to walk and raise the dead, is at this moment overwhelmed with grief. The problem isn’t with Jesus, the problem is with our perception. We often forget that Jesus is also 100% human (as well as 100% God). He feels exactly how a human would feel. He is entitled to feel sadness and a sense of loss. With His humanity, Jesus identifies with the feelings that we are bombarded with when we deal with death. In Jesus, we see the most natural part of grief – crying. He is every bit human, just like us. He feels every bit human, just as we do.

It is important not to skip past this understanding. Jesus didn’t cry because He couldn’t anything but because He felt grief. He was saddened by a death of someone close to Him (John 11:3,5). His cry wasn’t a show of weakness, it was a response to the “great distress” He felt. Should He have not felt sad at all, since He was going to raise Lazarus up anyway? Well, that isn’t the point. The point is that Lazarus had succumbed to the plight that all men will one day suffer from. Although it says that Lazarus was ill (John 11:1) and therefore died because of the illness, that was not the source of the problem. This was the result of sin (Genesis 3:19). Jesus heart broke for those who are plagued by sin – like Lazarus.

Jesus’ heart for humanity is deep. He cried for the sin that cost us our lives. Do I have such a heart for humanity? Or even for my closest friends? And if I do, what can be more important than to save them?

Father, give me a heart that grieves for us who sin and deserve death – all of us. I am thankful that through you, death is no longer an end, but a transition. Yet I know that bereavement still happens and I thank you for grieving. I ask that your comfort will be with those who grieve for the loss of their loved ones. I thank you that you showed us that crying is ok, if its ok for an almighty God, it is ok for a grown man. I pray that with each reminder of the frailty of our life on earth, we would also be reminded of the only way to eternal life. I pray that we would be vessels for others to know you before it is too late.

Amen.

Continue reading

The Rudder

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Luke 6:45

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
James 3:3-5

The tongue has the power of life and death, 
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

These verses speak of the power of the tongue. It’s ability to articulate what is inside a person in Luke 6. It’s ability to steer the whole person in James 3. It’s ability to create life or bring death in Proverbs 18. It is a God given ability. It is an ability that originated and is demonstrated by Him. But this ability can go both ways, good or evil, and we will eat the fruit of it’s use.

This is how God uses His ability now:

The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Listen to how He chooses to use his tongue. He rejoices over us with singing, in His love, with great delight. Read also Zephaniah 3:9-13 and notice what God does with His Holy People and Chosen Nation, he “will purify the lips”, “will remove from you your arrogant boasters”, “they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths”. Then He says “Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel!” (v14) because His redemption has come. This prophesy was one of Messianic hope, which is reality now.

The tongue brings to reality what is stored inside a person – the good and evil is respectively brought to the reality of life or death. It is the reality maker. We can change our thinking and change our mind, but until it comes out from our mouths, nothing has changed at all because our reality is still the same.

I need to choose wisely how and when my tongue is used. My tongue is the agent of change. If anything is to change, it is to be articulated. I do not disregard what I feel, but I intentionally choose to articulate the direction that I want to be heading in.


Father, thank you for supernatural abilities like these. Sometimes I wish that I have some superpower without recognizing that I already have one. I ask for wisdom in how and when I speak. Lord, I thank you that you rejoice over me with singing. I thank you that when no one else takes great delight in me, you do. I want to use my tongue just like you do.

Amen.

Take up the cross

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. ”
Luke 9:23

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:27

I sense that there is a theme going on here. In Matthew 10 and Luke 14, Jesus was elaborating the need to put Him first above all other allegiance – above the people arounds, above our own family and above ourselves. In Matthew 16 and Luke 9, Jesus teaches that all of us need to face the death of our self – just as He faces his death. The context in which he says the same phrase might be different and the lesson might differ slightly, but the practice of it is the same. To be Christ’s disciple, Jesus needs to be supremely alive in us and we need to be buried deep.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

The cross sent a strong message to the public. It was used as a strong public display to dissuade people from going against the Roman Empire. Anyone carrying a cross was doomed to a slow, painful and agonizing process of death. But one thing was absolutely certain – death. If you saw someone carrying a cross, chances are by this time tomorrow, he/she would be dead. The cross was a symbol of sure death.

This is what Jesus meant when He said “take up their cross”. It is not a picture of bearing a heavy burden and suffering, it was a picture of going to one’s death. It was a picture of crucifying your life and dying to it. Only when our life is 6 feet underground can we truly raise Christ as the centrepiece in our life. This is when Christ fully defines us – when everything we are and have comes under His dominion, because we have nothing and are nothing outside of Him.

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
John 19:17

It is a tall order, but only one that He examplifies first with His own life. He says “follow me”, because He knows with full certainty where He was heading – to the cross and to life eternal. He asks for no more than He gave. He wants us to continuously carry our death as we walk toward eternal life in Him. So we carry our own cross and end up following Him. Just as Christ carried His own cross and is found eternally with God the Father.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Romans 6:5-8

When we consider His grace and love to be the single most important thing that we have received, we are driven to place Him first. More often than not, placing Him first means something in us needs to die so that He can be exalted. This sits right at the core of our Christian life. This comes hand in hand with our continuous relationship and faith in Christ. When we believe Jesus Christ to be God’s grace poured out to us and believe Him to be of absolute importance because He is God, then other things naturally fade in importance.

It isn’t a bad thing at all, it means the things that holds us bound to sin (and exploited by the law) are dead (Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:19). So we glady give up ourselves, bury us 10 feet deep if need be. We willingly take up our cross. We confidently face our own death. And when we find it hard or scary, hey, no worries.  His grace is here to cover. His love is here to take away the guilt and blame. His Spirit is here to help.

“If, then, you suffer from moral anaemia, take my advice and steer clear of Christianity. If you want to live a life of easy-going, self-indulgence, whatever you do, do not become a Christian.”
John Stott

“Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”
A.W. Tozer

No no, Christians are not prudish kill-joys trying to earn our own salvation through suffering. We have hell shaking parties – God’s way.

To live

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Philippians 1:18-26 (NIV)

“Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” – What a view of life and death! There is so much to grasp from Paul’s words. In a short passage, he models a view of life and death that offers life even in death.

Paul could afford to rejoice because he was entirely confident of his deliverance. This is because Christ was the source and reason for his deliverance. He would be delivered with “prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (v19, See also: 2 Corinthians 5:5) so that “Christ will be exalted in his body” (v20). Although he didn’t mention what deliverance means we know that he was not deluded in reality; Paul understood that the prospect of death was just as real as the chance of his release. Even in the face of this harsh reality, he stood with “confident hope” that he would have “complete boldness” (v20) for Christ to be exalted. That was how he has always lived and that is what he desires even in the face of death. He wasn’t fussed that he had to give up this mortal body. Paul’s view of his body (and perhaps time on earth) was that it was just a tool for exalting Christ. In the use and disposal of this body, what is most important is that Christ is exalted. (See also 2 Corinthians 4, “treasure in jars of clay”)

Paul then exposes something of himself, he says “I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two.” (v22-23) Not suprising, his personal choice would have been to be with Christ, “which is better by far”. He is so confident of being with Christ and the joy that will bring (See also, 2 Corinthians 5:1-3,8) that he yearns for it. He has no fear of death like most do, instead he looks forward to that day of deliverance. But his priority  and agenda was not himself, but “for the sake of” (v23,25) the church. Being sure that there is still “productive work” (v22) waiting for him, he is certain that release is coming his way. His release did not just mean life for himself, but faith and confidence for the church. Paul’s living and walking testimony of life builds such faith, joy and confidence in Christ!

Paul sums up his life well, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (v21). Christ was so all encompassing in his life that living IS Christ. Christ isn’t just the reason, Christ defined his entire life for as long as he was to stay alive. To him, Jesus was the source, the sustenance, the agenda, the goal all the way to the end of life. Paul lived the reality of Jesus as his way, truth and life (John 14:6). So much so that being in prison and facing death didn’t phase him much at all!

What a view of life and surety of life after death! What an ability to lay aside his mortal body and personal agenda for Christ our Lord! And all that in such dire circumstance!

This passage wasn’t just about sharing his view and life. It was about modelling it for the Philippians. They were facing persecuting as well (v30) and Paul was revealing his secret to facing persecution and opposition with a smile. What an example for all of us to follow!