Category Archives: Gospel

The Gift


Sitting up wide-eyed under the weight of a cotton quilt, a tussle-haired child hurriedly wipes the sleep from her eyes, drops from the bed to the cold floor and begins to navigate her way carefully and quietly down the dark hallway and into the den. Peering cautiously through the doorway, her eyes adjust to the dancing lights stationed like sentries on the small green tree in the corner. Darkness retreats with the onrushing charge of daybreak. Her searching eyes focus, like a lion about to pounce, on the prize that sits partially hidden under the evergreen boughs. A small box with a huge white bow wrapped in layers of bright red and green foil paper silently awaits her searching fingers and excited eyes. The gift she has anxiously awaited all year is finally hers to open. It’s Christmas morning!

Sitting in the darkness on the steep hillside watching their sheep, a solitary band of shepherds stare in utter amazement as the angels begin leaping across the skies like Roman candles in a holiday firework display. A fragile young wife and her frightened young husband welcome a child that refuses to wait any longer for his birth. Amid the stench of the cattle and the labor pains, the Fragrance of God makes his entrance into his creation and is gently placed in a stone feeding trough in a small, out-of-the-way town called the House of Baked Bread. No throngs or multitudes of family or well-wishers await the announcement of his birth outside this rather unusual delivery room. The Father of all good gifts has finally delivered the gift humanity has anxiously awaited throughout the centuries. It’s Christmas morning!

Kneeling beside a sick and broken addict, a young man shares a powerful story with compassion and purpose. For the first time in many years this shackled creature begins to consider what freedom is really like. Not freedom to do what he wants, but freedom to be what he was created to be. Calmly and carefully the young man shares a Scripture here and an experience there. The Holy Spirit hovers unseen, like a mother hen with her biddies, bringing forth eternal life. Through the sobs of hopelessness a confession is offered and a cry of faith is answered. A new creation is born. The gift received is new life conceived through Jesus Christ. It’s Christmas morning!

Christmas is more than a day we celebrate; Christmas is the gift we have been given. Immanuel—God with us—has given us the gift of abundant, eternal life in him. Share the gift with someone and watch God unwrap the real gift of Christmas morning.

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 10)

Healing is a central part of the Gospel of the Kingdom; it is not a peripheral issue. It was not a peripheral issue to Jesus or the early church. Therefore it should not be to us. But—it seems to be in most churches and denominations. Why? Jesus did not change (Hebrews 13:8)—but the church did.

We know Jesus healed. He revealed the character, nature, and will—the essence of who God is. He demonstrated God’s will at every turn. He commissioned and authorized not only the apostles, but all his disciples to do the works he had done and even greater ones. He also commissioned them to make disciples and train them to do all that he had trained them to do. And that is exactly what that first few generations of believers did.

Over the next three hundred years, the church turned the world upside down through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as they proclaimed and demonstrated the words of Jesus. The book of Acts is saturated with healing miracles and chronicles the first thirty years of the church. The “gifts of healings” are mention in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. Healing was an integral and normal part of the early gospel message.

The Roman government condemned and persecuted the church, but it could not argue against or get rid of the testimonies of healing that accompanied the followers of Christ. Those powerful manifestations of God’s power could not be denied. The early church fathers, such as Origen and Justin Martyr, wrote of these miracles as they defended their faith. Their writings, as well as many others, are available for anyone to read and they serve as faithful accounts of early church history. Healing miracles did not end with the death of the last apostle—they continued unabated for three to five hundred years.

Sadly, over time the church changed and was affected more by the culture surrounding it and from subtle changes from within. These changes negatively influenced the ministry of healing and over time, it was lost—in the dust of abuse, misuse, and eventually no use.

To be a Christian during those first three hundred years meant you were the real deal. There were no nominal or “Sunday” believers. Christians were persecuted, their property confiscated, and their children taken and sold as slaves. They were shunned in their communities, hunted by government and religious authorities, and killed by gladiators and wild animals in the arenas throughout the Roman Empire. A person claiming to be a follower of Christ was all in or that person was not a part of the church. The cost was too high!

Everything changed when Emperor Constantine saw a vision with a cross and was told that he would conquer in that sign. He place the cross symbol on the shields and breastplates of his soldiers and won a great victory in 312 AD. It is likely he became a patron of the church rather than a believer in Christ, and in 313 AD he signed the Edict of Milan, which legalized the church. In 381 AD, the Christian Church was declared the state church of Rome, bringing throngs of pagans into membership who had never experienced salvation. The purity and power of the church was compromised.

Another event that greatly affected healing was the fall of Rome in 476 AD. With this, the civilized world entered what is known as the Dark Ages. During this time, illiteracy became prevalent and ultimately the Bible—the Word of God—was lost to the common people. People could no longer read, and thus, they had to trust their priests (most of them could not read) to tell them was Scripture taught. This enabled a select few to interpret the Bible and disseminate its truths in ways that would maintain a rigid control of the masses and put huge profits in their pockets.

Survival became the daily toil of the common people. Life was tough and life spans were short. People began to focus on the life to come because they wanted to escape their present struggle. Heaven became the ultimate destination and health and freedom promised by Christ in the present lost its luster.

Biblical healing was quickly becoming covered in the dust of time—buried by compromise and unbelief.

(In my next blog, I will share some specific theological choices and events that helped bury the biblical ministry of healing.)

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 8)

The Jewish belief of a Messiah who would come and rule over Israel was, and still remains, a part of their eschatology. This deliverer would be a direct descendant of King David, consecrated by the Holy Spirit (the anointing oil of God), and would sit on the Davidic throne and rule God’s kingdom during the Messianic age. He would be the Anointed One, meaning he would embody the anointed ministry of prophet, priest, and king. In the ancient prophecies of the coming Messiah a clue was hidden that would clearly distinguish his identity from all the other pseudo saviors who would, in time, arise in Israel.

That defining clue in recognizing the Messiah’s identity was his ability to heal. The chief texts from which the Jewish theologians and rabbis developed this belief were found in Isaiah 35:3-5, Isaiah 29:18-19, and Isaiah 61:1. As they studied the Scriptures, it was clear that amazing level of healing he possessed would separate him from the rest. Sadly with the destruction of the nation of Israel in 586 B.C., the Jews began looking for a “son of David” who would come as a conquering king, rid them of foreign control, and re-establish their nation as a world power.

In the 1st century, John the Baptist declared in no uncertain terms that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah when he proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God. He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was anointed (baptized) as the Spirit of God descended and rested on him at his baptism. He left the Jordan and went into the wilderness “full of the Holy Spirit,” where he was tested by the devil over a period of forty days. After victoriously overcoming each temptation, Jesus (“full of the Holy Spirit”) went to his hometown and entered the synagogue and quoted the Messianic passage from Isaiah 61:1 and declared it fulfilled.

In Jesus’ day, the rabbis had divided miracles into two specific categories: (1) those that anyone who was empowered could do, and (2) the miracles only the Messiah would be capable of doing. Those that identified the Messiah were very distinct.

imagesFirst, the Messiah would heal a leper. They believed that only God could heal leprosy—an awful disease that slowly disfigured and ultimately killed the person infected with it. Leprosy was believed to be the judgment of God and rendered a person ceremonially unclean. The last Jewish person healed of leprosy in Israel prior to the coming of Jesus was Mariam in the days of Moses almost 1,500 years earlier. In Mark 1:40-42, Jesus touched a leper, healing the unclean and making him clean again. Later, he would heal ten lepers at one time.

imagesThe second Messianic healing miracle was the healing of a person demonized by a spirit of muteness, which left the person unable to speak. Exorcism was common in Israel, but for these exorcists to have success a lengthy ritual was performed that required the demon to give up its name. To cast it out they must possess the wicked spirit’s name. A mute person could not speak and thus the demon would not give up its name or leave. Jesus did not need a name. He exercised the power of God in Matthew 9:32-34 to set a mute man free. The crowd recognized the miracle and said so—“Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.” The Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed Jesus was using the power of Satan to heal. But, to add an exclamation point to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, he did it again in Matthew 12:22-23—prompting the people to begin asking, “Could this be the Son of David?”

The Pharisees responded again that he was doing it through the power of Satan. Why? Because they recognized that only the Messiah could do this, but Jesus did not fit their Messianic picture or their narrow, ritualistic theological system. They could not refute his miracles, so they attempted to smear and diminish his character in the eyes of the people. In fact, the Talmud, which is one of the central texts of Judaism and consists of commentary and explanation of the Mosaic Law, states that “Jesus was hanged on a tree for using sorcery.” Meaning, he was crucified for using demonic magic in his healing.

imagesThe third and final miraculous healing sign of the Messiah was that he would heal those who had been born blind. The apostle John records this particular miracle as one of seven signs found in his gospel that validated the deity of Jesus. John gives it a complete chapter (10). This miracle caused a major uproar and even a division among the Pharisees.

In his darkest moment, John the Baptist sent word from prison asking Jesus, “Are you the Expected One?” Jesus did not rebuke him, but rather sent this word back—“Go report to John what you have seen and heard; the blind recover sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Luke 7:22-23).

Many would say Jesus did these works to prove his identity. Yet Jesus knew who he was and those who exercised their faith recognized him as such. The primary reason he did these miracles and all the others was to demonstrate God’s heart of love and compassion for those who were suffering from the attacks of the devil and the void left by man’s practice of empty religion. He performed them to demonstrate the message not simply prove it. The message of Jesus—the gospel of the kingdom—is true with or without the miracles.

By the way, God has never seeks to prove who he is to humanity—he simply reveals it. It’s up to you and me to believe and see—not see and believe!


Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 2)

One of the keys in reclaiming biblical healing in the church is a biblical understanding of the meaning of save or salvation and it usage in the Greek language of Jesus’ day. The New Testament was initially written in Koine (meaning common) Greek. Jesus and his followers were multi-lingual, speaking Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. In the 2,000 years or so since the New Testament was written, the church has misplaced nuances of word meanings it chose to no longer use or those meanings were gradually lost during the Dark Ages.

For most believers, to save or salvation means the forgiveness or redemption of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Few Christians, regardless of their particular flavor, would argue against this meaning. And if that were all that it meant it would certainly be enough. Forgiveness of sin is the ultimate miracle of God. But I believe, based on its multiple meaning and the example of Jesus that God meant so much more.

The Greek word to save is sozo and it carried a three-fold meaning in the Jesus’ day. First it meant to redeem or forgive and in our case spiritually speaking, payment of the sin debt. Secondly, it denoted a deliverance from torment. And finally, it was used to indicate healing from disease. It is a word rich in meaning, but sadly the vast majority of the church has never embraced the last two meanings. We have often taken the revelation of God, translated it, and interpreted it through the foggy lens of later theologies rather than through the theology Jesus demonstrated. Jesus is, after all, perfect theology. If we want to know who God is or what God thinks—all we have to do is look at Jesus.

Jesus came to redeem humanity from the effects of sin, and those decimating consequences of sin effect humanity in totality—spirit, soul, and body. Jesus did not die to give us a partial salvation. No, he died to save us completely from the carnage of sin. His work on the cross was complete—in spirit, soul, and body. Now, you may struggle with that. This may not mesh with what you have been taught, but please consider what Jesus said and did.

Twenty percent of the Gospels are given to the healing and deliverance ministry of the Savior. It is fairly evident from a reading of them that Jesus healed (sozo) the sick, the diseased, the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the afflicted. And it is clear that he brought deliverance (sozo) to those who were tormented by demonic spirits. The gospel of the kingdom—the good news that the King’s domain was present (heaven touched earth in those moments)—was demonstrated through this benevolent, yet militant invasion of the kingdom of darkness. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil—of which sickness, demonization, and ultimately sin are all a part.

Therefore, the salvation Jesus bought and paid for purchased forgiveness of sin, healing of the body, and deliverance from the torment of mind and soul. It was a complete salvation, not a partial one.

Jesus said we would do the works he did and even greater ones. That can only happen when we reclaim the full meaning of his words and incorporated those actions as a part of our the ministry in the church.

Escape from the Box Life (Part 4)

Religion is a deadly and deceptive box. It promises everything but provides nothing It promises that if we know enough about God it is the same as knowing God. I believed this lie for a long, long time. Please allow me to share a personal testimony from my own experience of just how deadly religion is.

In 1998, I had just gone on staff at a large church. I was in my second year of pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree, having completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Theology at a well-respected Bible college. I was forty-two years old and had been a believer for thirty-two years. I had been saved as a child of eight in a little Methodist church near my home. I had grown up in church, baptized as a believer in a neighbor’s lake, and re-baptized when my family joined the local Baptist church (in those days if you joined from a different denomination they re-baptized you to make sure it was done correctly—that’s religion at its finest!).

I was involved in Sunday School, a youth group, mission trips, retreats, conferences, and evangelistic outreaches. We went to church every time the doors were open. Later as an adult, I sensed God’s calling and eventually at the age of thirty entered the gospel ministry. I was licensed and ordained to preach by the Baptist church.

Over time, the doors opened for me to get some theological training. I studied systematic theology, Greek, Hebrew, church history, hermeneutics, and homiletics. I read the early church fathers like Irenaeus, Athanaius, Chrysotom, and Augustine.  I studied the reformers like Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli. I dug into the writings of Wesley, Whitefield, and the sermons of Spurgeon I was constantly reading books written by conservative writers and scholars.

I had memorized verses from the Bible and read it through several times. I had outlined many of the biblical books and had a folder bulging at the seams with exegetical sermons and lesson series developed over long hours of intense Bible study. I had done countless word studies tracing biblical words and concepts back into their original languages for their meaning.  I knew all kinds of biblical facts, figures, and dates. I had a head full of knowledge.

Through my years of study, I had become an arrogant, biblical conservative with a cessationist theology. I could and would argue my prideful position and belief system at the drop of a hat. My theology could explain what God could and would do and what he could or would not do. It was a neatly package system I had developed.

I thought I knew all kind of things about God, but I realized I didn’t really know God. I was a dry as a mouthful of desert dust. I was spiritually empty—hungry and thirsty for something (really it was someone) I could not find no matter how hard I worked or how much I did. I was saturated in religion with a head full of knowledge, but an empty heart.

I knew a lot about God, but I began to wonder if I really knew God. Religion, at this point, just pushed me to do more—to be better. But I began to question everything—except my salvation because I knew at eight years of age I had experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ. So I began to cry out to God in desperation for more than I was finding in my tiny religious box.

One Sunday night as we (the pastors) were praying for the sick and for those who had needs, I heard the Holy Spirit speak in my spirit. He said very clearly, “You have a spirit of religion, but I want to give you a relationship with me. If you will surrender, I will lead you out of religion and into the freedom of relationship in the Father’s heart.” Here I was, a pastor, praying over people to be healed and I was sicker than they were.

That night I confessed it to my pastor and the staff, and one of them prayed for me. As he prayed, God opened the lid on my religious box and lifted me out and he has been leading me on a relational journey for the past fifteen years.  He set me free. He has blown my safe little theological box of religion into bits. God has shown me over and over how narrow-minded and ignorant I was about his limitless character and nature. He is constantly expanding my belief system and purging my mind and heart of the garbage, lies, misinterpretations, bad theology, lack of faith, and unbelief I was drowning it. The more I learn about God—the more I realize how little I really know.

The more of God I taste, the more of God I want. He has given me an insatiable appetite for his presence and power. I want God—nothing more and nothing less. I want all God has for me—nothing more and nothing less. God is far bigger than I ever imagined and getting bigger each day.

Religion provided me with a system to construct a tiny god of my own making, who could only do what I believed he could do. Relationship has given me an ongoing experience with the living God who loves me for who he created me to be. I no longer have to fit into a religious system—to look like that system demands—to preach and teach what that particular system deems acceptable—to act like that system dictates—to strive and strive and hope what I do or say is good enough. No, Jesus made it good enough at the cross and in faith I am walking that out.

I no longer fit in a religious box and the box does not fit me—not because I’m a rebel or a non-conformist. No, I don’t fit in the box because God did not create me for a box life.

…And neither were you!

Standing Firm (Part 2)

Many believers think of spiritual warfare as “demon busting,” somewhat like the exploits of Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in the 1984 film Ghost Busters, except for good measure you must sprinkle in a few well-placed  “in Jesus name.” Too many well-meaning followers of Christ give top billing to the demons rather than the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Sadly, the phrase “spiritual warfare” usually strikes fear and creates an atmosphere of apprehension in the life of most Christians. And—our ancient foe continues to wreak havoc in the life of both church and community.

Spiritual warfare is nothing more than obeying God. When you and I obey God, and fulfill his instructions, the kingdom of darkness is rocked by the impact of a bunker busting bomb in the heart of their camp. Obedience to God destroys all opposition against God.

We often forget the devastating power of a single prayer lifted up in a sentence or two for a kid strung out on drugs, a kind word and a smile to a mother whose baby seem out of control, a cool drink of water to a thirsty worker, a hot meal to someone who is down on their luck, a phone call to a sick friend, or a note of encouragement to an individual navigating the stormy waters of uncertainty. We have forgotten the power of reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on Holy Scripture. Satan and his demons tremble when one unashamed lover of God shares the powerful story of Jesus with a friend or stranger.

The most effective spiritual warriors concentrate on the simple things they learned when they first came to Christ. They ingest the Word, live out the Word, pray the Word, and most importantly—obey the Word. The spiritual warriors who are the most devastating to the enemy on the battlefield don’t wear tee-shirts emblazoned with “demon buster.” They don’t bind the devil from the roof tops of city skyscrapers. No—they do the simple things God has called all of us to do. They obey and God moves!

So don’t be threatened by the term “spiritual warfare.” Don’t feel inferior just because you don’t know and can’t quote the special lingo, or have holy water extracted from the exact spot in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, or hand-squeeze and specially scented olive oil from the Garden of Gethsemane. Strap on your armor (put on Jesus), trust God, depend on the Holy Spirit, stand firm, and obey—and God will decimate your enemy every time!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 1)

(This is the first in a series of articles on forgiveness and why it is so vital in the church and the life of every believer. Your comments are extremely valuable and appreciated, so please respond as we make this journey.)


A healing place for hurting people–the church.

The church was created to be a healing oasis in a desert filled with wounded, hurting, and dying people. It is my belief that your local church is located exactly where it is not by chance or by accident, but rather by God’s divine design so that he might pour out healing in your community or region. Biblical healing is holistic, meaning it should bring health to spirit, soul, and body. The atoning work of Christ on the cross provided healing for all three dimensions of our humanity.

The church is supposed to be a hospital—not a country club where only the elite are welcomed and accepted; not a social club where your looks, your clothes, your automobile, or your home are more important than who you really are; not a bunker to hide in until Jesus finally returns; and certainly, not some clandestine organization where only those who know the secret words and rituals get to participate. No—the church is supposed to be a healing place, a hospital where the broken are mended, the wounded and sick are healed, and the dying are resurrected. It was never meant to be a place where those who are hurting are ignored, sidelined, or worse—wounded even deeper.

A hospital is a healing place, not a gun range or a shooting gallery where religious hypocrites and self-righteous Pharisees use those who have been mortally wounded as target practice. The church was never intended to be a place where we shoot our wounded and then turn our backs and wait till they bleed to death. No, the body of Christ was designed to rescue them from the shark infested waters they are drowning in, clean their self-inflicted wounds and stop the hemorrhaging, provide the antidote for the poisons they have chosen to ingest or been duped into swallowing, and to open the prison doors so those who have been beaten, starved, and imprisoned can find relief, healing, and freedom.

We are the body of Christ and as his body we are called to be a place of refuge, restoration, and relationship—a healing place for hurting people. Jesus healed hurting people in spirit, soul, and body. The time has come for his body to do the same! His example should be our experience if we are to be obedient to both Christ and our calling. One out of three falls far short of the example Jesus left us.

But—becoming a healing place comes at a cost. It is neither cheap nor easy. It requires that the members who make up a local church find and receive healing in their own spirit, soul, and body. True healers have experienced the healing touch of Jesus Christ in spirit, soul, and body. You can only give what you have been given, but sadly for centuries much of the church has been dispensing powerless theory instead of God’s powerful touch. Proclamation must be illustrated by demonstration. Telling is no longer enough, we must do!

In addition, the devil wants you to believe the cost is too high. He wants you to believe that hospitals that cater to the spirit, soul, and body are not cost effective—too much investment and too little return. And he will do whatever he can to scare you away from this divine heritage God has bequeathed to his body. He is terrified of what will happen when those who were once wounded find healing and then become healers. He doesn’t fear the Bride who understands her mission, but rather the Bride who carries out her mission.

If you are not afraid of the cost, or no longer fear the condemnation of the devil, please join me over the next few weeks as God takes us on a journey and brings healing to our spirit, soul, and body with a response that will be directly proportional to our faith.