Monthly Archives: June 2014

Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice of the Church (Part 2)

To reclaim something you must first believe it is has been misplaced or lost. A large number of Christians no longer believe God still speaks through people with prophetic gifts or through people who are passionately pursuing him. Therefore, the only place they believe God speaks is through Scripture. I happen to believe that God does speak primarily through Scripture, but I also believe he speaks present tense to people who are listening in other ways. I also believe if God speaks in a secondary manner apart from the Bible we should check what we hear to make sure it bears witness with his written Word. When God speaks in one of these methods it will never contradict what he has already said in Scripture.

To hear God speak we must learn to listen. One of the best ways to do this is to simply look at the ways in which God speaks. We have a record of the various ways God communicates in the Bible. Being aware of these will help us tune in to God’s wavelength and enable us to hear his voice.

When God speaks we call it revelation. He reveals who he is, what he is doing, or what he wants us to do. Revelation is God making something known that we did not know or could not know through our natural senses. Revelation comes in a host of different ways. People are different and they hear God communicate differently. Why? I don’t know, but God will communicate with you in way you can hear if you will learn to listen.

As I said before, God speaks primarily to all believers through his written Word. The Bible is God’s authoritative word to all people no matter where or when they lived. If you want to hear God speak—read the Bible. Learn the tenor of his voice sound and immerse yourself in the makeup of his will. Develop a sensitivity to the things that please him. This will help you hear him when he speaks to you through a secondary method.

Another way God spoke in the Bible is through a personal apearances. Sometimes it was in a vision or dream, but he also appeared in physical form. I believe those personal appearances in the Old Testament were made by the pre-incarnate Jesus. He did not have to appear—he could have sent angels—but he did come. If he appeared this way in the past, there is nothing in Scripture that says he can’t do it again if he wants to. Many Muslims in the Middle East are reporting visitations of Jesus, which are resulting in their turning to faith in Christ.

The Lord also sends messages by his angels. This is a common method he uses. The Greek meaning for the word angel means messenger.

God also speaks audibly. He did so throughout Scripture to individuals, groups, and even the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. He spoke to Moses, to Jesus (at his baptism, transfiguration, and before his crucifixion and others heard it), and to Paul. He has not suddenly gone silent. He can use this method if he chooses.

God can also speak audibly for your ears only. Samuel heard God speak, but Eli did not.

There is also the internal audible voice of God that you hear, not with your ear, but with your heart. Many of the prophets heard this as the word of God came to them.

Next blog we will look at some other ways God speaks.

Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice of the Church

Where has the prophetic voice of the Church gone? Why has it grown so eerily silent? Has God nothing to say?

These are important questions that must be answered. The body of Christ—the Church—was created to be a prophetic voice to world. In her divine design, she was to express his heart of encouragement, strength, and comfort. For many who are outside or even inside the Church, she has become known for all the stuff she is against rather than the things she represents. Tragically, many people view the Church as condemning and judgmental rather than loving.

Why? The answer rests in the absence of her prophetic voice. Many seem to believe that if one stands in the pulpit and delivers a sermon that word is prophetic, which means it is from God. Sadly, that is not always true. God is often blamed for things he did not say. Too often the greatest love story of history is degraded into condemning diatribes of shame, manipulation, and guilt. This is the ditch on the right side of the road. Jesus never resorted to those techniques in drawing people to himself. He expressed the heart of the Father and people flocked to him in droves.

There is also the opposite extreme of standing for nothing—that is, anything goes. Don’t ask—don’t tell. It’s the idea that what’s right for me may not be for you—so let me do my own thing. This is certainly not biblical Christianity either. Instead it is the ditch on the left side of the road. Jesus never condoned sin nor did he disobey the Mosaic Law. Love does not look the other way—it steps up and confronts, but it does so in love.

The Church is drawn to extremes. We preach grace but demand lives lived to the letter of the law. Or, we disregard the principals of the law fulfilled by grace and refuse to step up or stand up for what’s right and against what’s biblically wrong. We have no prophetic voice.

What does God have to say about things? Well, most certainly God has not stopped speaking. He is still talking to those who are listening—the problem is very few of his people are listening. In fact most have no clue he even wants to talk with them. God is looking for men and women who will listen for his present-tense voice and speak what he is saying—in the workplace, at the market, in school, in the halls of government, and in the church. God is looking for people who will prophesy—who will stand and declare what he is saying to this generation.

But to do that, we must reclaim our prophetic voice, which means we must come to the place where we can once again hear God speak clearly and be willing to speak what he has said. Our future of our culture and our world hang in the balance.

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 13)

Based on the previous twelve articles, we now have a biblical foundation from which to reclaim biblical healing—the same type of healing Jesus practiced and passed on to his disciples. But the gathering of information without the implementation of that knowledge being put into practice is useless. We have to practice what we learn to bring about change in the body of Christ.

How do we do that?

First, I challenge you to examine the truth. Is what you’ve read in these blogs what the Bible teaches? Is this what Jesus did? Did he authorize and empower his followers to do what he did? Get your Bible out and study the passages for yourself. Compare what has been written and what Scripture teaches. If they do not agree—disregard what I’ve said. But don’t disregard it because it questions what you’ve been taught in the past or because you have unanswered questions. Toss it only if goes against the biblical record. Examine it for yourself!

Secondly, if it is true—embrace the truth. Don’t be afraid of it or hold it at arm’s length. When you embrace something you wrap your arms around it and pull it deep into your heart. It becomes a part of your belief system and what you believe you act upon. As you embrace truth it becomes a part of who you are—far more than a belief.

If you examine and embrace the truth, the third step is a natural progression—you will experience that truth. To experience truth means you must appropriate the faith you have in what God says he will do and believe it will (not may or might) happen in Jesus’ name. If you embrace biblical healing you will pray for it because you have faith in God—the kind of faith that believes it is the will of God to heal. Experience is nothing more than stepping out in faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Once you experience it—you are hooked. It becomes real.

If you are willing to experience the truth then you will experiment with the truth. By that, I mean you will listen to the voice of God and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. What if nothing happens? What will you do? Most people throw their hands up and chalk the failure up to the sovereignty of God—it must be his will. Our question should be why God? How do I pray or minister in such a way that you will is not hindered? What is the source of this sickness or torment? What is the root and how do we get at it? How do I bring your healing power fully to bear on this issue? When one way doesn’t work, we don’t quit—we find another way to pray. We keep asking, seeking, and knocking until the will of God is brought to bear on the issue. We experiment. We keep trying until victory comes.

The final step comes out of this experimentation—you must express the truth. We have to transport this truth outside the safe and secure walls of our churches and take is to the world. God did not authorize and empower his body with the anointing, authority, and gifts of healings to create a circus event inside the church building. He did it so his people would take his presence and power into the darkness and bring light and deliverance to those who are in bondage. God has called us to search out the aisles of the grocery store and Wal-Mart, to set triage care centers at the gas station and the work place. He has called us to take the truth to the places where people are. We are to go—that is Christ’s mandate.

To reclaim biblical healing requires we must do all five of these things—not three or four—but all five. Only then will we walk in the manifest presence and power of the living Lord. And only then will we reclaim what has been lost.

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 12)

q10700606In our last blog we looked at three separate moments in church history that helped diminish the ministry of healing. I use the word “helped” because it was not a single event, but rather a series of events, teachings, and personalities that when combined swept away the clear instructions of Jesus and left us with a host of faithless theologies and unbelieving believers. Culture, theology, and politics in the church produced a reversal in beliefs and behavior.

Over time, all these things affected the Church’s teaching on spiritual gifts. It moved from a supernatural understanding to one based on natural aspects. Around 600 AD, Pope Gregory the Great issued a new list of spiritual gifts which consisted of wisdom, science, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear (imagine that—a spiritual gift of fear…huh? What about 2 Timothy 1:7 or 1 John 4:18?). Apparently Pope Gregory the Great thought the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and other places were incomplete. He choose not to include the gifts of healings, miracles, prophecy, word of knowledge and word of wisdom in his new and improved list. What the Pope decreed the priests taught and the people believed. Most of them could not read anyway so they had no way of checking what the Bible really said.

Another change took place with a division between the clergy and the laity. The priesthood of every believer was replaced with a priesthood of only the clergy that excluded the common people. And with this false division, a belief arose that soon became the practice of the church—only the bishop could exercise spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts did not cease, but regular Christians became fearful of exercising them. Ordinary Christians who gave prophetic words or employed works of healing or did miraculous things were labeled as heretics or witches. They were persecuted and put to death by drowning or burned at the stake. It became unhealthy, even deadly to use the very gifts Jesus had given his church to demonstrate the presence of the kingdom of God.

The interpretational methods of the Bible by the church also contributed to the loss of healing as a viable ministry. The corporate church began to use the miracles, healings, and resurrection that Jesus performed as proof texts to prove the deity of Christ. We tend to forget that although Jesus was one hundred percent God, he was also one hundred percent man. And during the 3 ½ years of his ministry everything he did—he did as man fully dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit and fully obedient to the Father. Otherwise you and I cannot do what Jesus said we could and would do according to John 14:12.  Biblically speaking, these things were secondary proofs, but not primary proofs. Jesus healed because God is good and it was a demonstration of the gospel of the kingdom.

Add to this that the church did not distinguish or understand the true meaning of suffering. Jesus and Paul talked about Christian suffering, but they were talking about  a persecution for following Christ, not sickness or infirmity. The church mistakenly defined suffering as anything that afflicted you—sickness, diseases, infirmity, poverty, pestilence, etc.—and declared it to be the cross you were to bear and glorify Jesus. In other words, when you are sick it is your cross to bear making you more Christ-like. Sadly, that belief still lives and breathes today in many churches. Many believers will talk about how God allowed, sent, or gave them this sickness or that disease so they could become better Christians. (By the way—that is why God the Father sent his Son to die on the cross. If something else could make you better, the Father wasted the Son.)

The Protestant Reformation recovered the Bible and salvation by grace through faith, but most of the other things that were lost, including healing, were not recovered. In fact, the Protestant Church of today thinks much like the Church of Martin Luther’s day, or the Church of the Dark Ages, or even the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day.

We have invented all kinds of theologies to explain why God no longer does what he once did and then drape them in the trappings of biblical sounding excuses. Many churches and denominations believe the gifts of healing, as well as the other gifts, disappeared with the death of the last apostle or the canonization of the Scriptures. This is a powerless gospel and is not transforming the culture we live in. These excuses are nothing more than unbelief and a refusal to embrace the dynamic Jesus the Gospels declare. We have become guilty of the very thing that led to the crucifixion of Jesus—his wondrous works threaten our little religious kingdoms and he does not look or act like we think he should.

Biblical healing has been lost because we refuse to contend for it. Instead, we are willing to accept a series of flimsy excuses that attempts to explain why God won’t, don’t, or can’t. God has not changed—but over the centuries the Church has.

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 11)

Time often causes our memory to fade. And over time, the memory of the church began to fade when it came to ministry of healing. There were several theological events that changed the way the church viewed healing. Gradually she moved away from the mindset and pattern of Jesus and the early church. None of these theologians were heretics—they were human. They were seeking God, defending their faith, and pushing systems of belief with new ideas. Often their disciples took their teaching too far.

Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo and a champion against the heresies of his day. He was a proponent of the sovereignty of God—at the expense of man’s responsibility. Prior to him, the church had held a “warfare worldview”—meaning the forces of evil were at war against Christ and his church. This warfare caused sickness, bondage, and death and could only be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Augustine’s pursuit of God’s sovereignty moved the church over time into a “blueprint worldview”—an understanding that everything in life happens due to the predetermined will of God. His disciples pushed this idea to new heights.

Augustine was skeptical of healing for most of his ministry, but in the later years of his life he experienced one which changed his view. Sadly this change of heart came long after his writings were dispersed throughout the church. Over the next few centuries the church stopped believing that sickness was from the devil and started believing that God brought sickness for personal sanctification. In other words, sickness comes from God and suffering makes us more like Jesus.

Around 400 AD, Jerome translated the Old and New Testament from their original languages into Latin. The Vulgate (his translation) became the most important and only recognized translation of the Bible for a thousand years. His translation of sozo in James 5:14-15 from Greek to Latin became “saved” rather than “healed.” Over time, the church stopped using these verses to pray for the physically ill and started using them to pray and anoint people who were dying. It eventually became the foundational verse for the Last Rites or Extreme Unction, a Roman Catholic sacrament given to one who was dying and not expected to recover.

For centuries, the philosophical view of the church was similar to that of Aristotle. Although a pagan, he had taught that there is both a spiritual realm and a physical realm (which is very similar to the biblical view). The physical realm mirrored the spiritual, yet both were real. His disciple Plato believed only in the physical. If it could not be reasoned or tested, it did not exist. Thomas Aquinas burst on the scene in the middle ages as a church scholar and thinker. His writings pushed the church to a place where reason was emphasized more than revelation. The value of what could be tested and seen became more important than the miraculous. The age of reason pushed this even farther with the belief that miracles no longer happened, or if they did, the ones doing them must be far more holy than the average Christian. In other words,  miracles were rare and those who performed them were super-saints.

The sovereignty of God is biblical, but our choices carry responsibility. Reason is important, but the supernatural is also just as real. Sozo does mean “saved”, but it also means “delivered” and “healed.” But these events and their meaning when separated by time, ignorance, and unbelief helped bury healing and over time—beliefs changed.

 

(Next week we will look at several other things that took place in church history that hastened this change of belief.)