Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Unity, Diversity, and the Mixing Bowl

God’s heart soars with satisfaction when unity arises out of diversity. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that God loves diversity because it reflects his infinite complexities and his amazing attributes. He did not create a uniform planet filled with identical flora, fauna, or folks. No, he loosed unimaginable diversity in myriads of ways at every level in every aspect of creation. God’s creativity is beyond imagination, off the charts, and anything but cookie cutter.

How do I know? Simply look around. Take yourself as an example. You are unlike anyone else on this planet—past, present, or future. You are unique because God is unique and he made you in his image and his likeness. He is not looking for you to think like someone else, act like someone else, or look like someone else. He made you so you would be you! God loves the differences that each of us bring to the table—the richness of our differing makeups, backgrounds, and talents.

Yet nothing excites him more than when unity rules our diversity. This is not a political thing, a religious thing, a racial thing, or even a “love” thing. This is a Holy Spirit thing! You see, only the Holy Spirit can create unity through diversity and he does it by taking our differences and blending them smoothly into one body (a.k.a. the church—that’s the community made up of people not the building in which they meet).

The Spirit’s method is similar to making a cake with a mixer. As a child, I helped my mom make cakes by operating the mixer for her. I confess my motive was a little less than noble and thoroughly selfish—I secretly coveted the opportunity to lick the cake batter off the blades once the batter was complete.

The mixer is designed to blend different ingredients into one mix. The individual and diverse flavors of the flour, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, milk, and the other ingredients are not lost when blended together. Instead, together they produce an enhanced flavor.

But for this to happen, you need one missing element—a bowl. Without the bowl, the ingredients are spun out and away from one another in every direction. The centrifugal forces of the mixer blades throw out, but the bowl captures the blended components and maintains the unity of the diversity of whatever batter you choose to make. The mixing bowl is the key to the success of the blending process.

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Likewise, God uses the mixer blades of life’s circumstances to force our differences through the mixer. He is intent on building a better batter—one that is diverse, yet unified. A body made up of differing parts that functions as a whole, instead of independently and individually. And he uses the Holy Spirit as the bowl to capture our individualism, our differences, our gifts, and our talents together until we become unified through the blending. In reality—the Holy Spirit is the unifier.

The devil wants the blender to magnify our differences and then separate us based on those differences, but the Holy Spirit desires to blend our differences—to unite our diversity into one compelling force.

Unity is not uniformity. And uniformity never celebrates our diversity.

Yet God does. He celebrates diversity’s sweet batter in unity’s mixing bowl.

The Hawk of Heaven and the Bush Hog

imagesBush hogging helps me clear my head (no—that’s not hunting wild hogs in the bush). It’s a farm implement one hooks to a tractor and mows the grass, weeds, or bushes that have gotten a bit out of hand. This week I climbed aboard my Ford 2600 tractor, set the height I wanted to cut, engaged the power take off, and off I went. For the next several hours it was just me, the tractor, and the field I was cutting. I had plenty of time to chill out and think even though the temperature was hovering close to one hundred degrees.

God often speaks to me during times like this from his creation. As I was grinding the imagesweeds into mulch, a rather large field mouse was forced out of his liar in the weeds and headed for a safer place. I didn’t think much about it until I made a round and headed back. Then out of nowhere I saw a reddish copper blur descending at breakneck speed toward the ground where the field mouse had fled. It was a rather large red-tailed hawk. In a blink of the eye, the hawk and his field mouse filet were headed for a private meal in a dining room in one of the pine trees that surround the field. It all happened in a matter of a few seconds.

imagesLater that afternoon, I flushed another large rodent out of his cozy condo in the underbrush and the very same thing happened—table for one and a free range mouse steak served rare off the grill in Chez Pine Tree. This hawk was racking up and waiting for me to set him up with the prime cuts.

As I pondered my contribution to the decimation of the of the field mouse population, I began to hear God’s unmistakable voice in my spirit. I had been witnessing far more than a lesson in nature’s food chain; I had been witnessing a picture with tremendous spiritual meaning. Let me show you what I mean.

Every person is like a garden or a field that must be tended or maintained very carefully. If we neglect that care—if we are inattentive to God—if we are careless and allow sin to take root—spiritual weeds start to grow. And if left untended for very long a fruitful garden or field can soon become overrun and turned into an overgrown jungle.

Weeds attract vermin like rats and field mice and allow them the cover to feed and breed without too much fear in the natural. Spiritual weeds also attract vermin of the demonic nature, and that undergrowth allows them to hide and carry out their work undetected. A little neglect, spiritually speaking, can quickly produce bondage in many different areas without a person even knowing it.

The only thing that gets rid of these spiritual weeds is confession and repentance—a high powered bush hog guided by you or me. Confession and repentance is our responsibility. Every so often, all us need to climb up on the tractor of prayer and unleash the bush hog on the weeds that have taken root in our own garden spot. (Stay out of your neighbor’s field—that’s his responsibility alone.)

“What about the hawk?” you might be thinking. “Where does he fit in all this?”

Oh, he’s there. Whenever we confess and repent, the enemy has no place to hide—no ground from which he can launch his attacks. He has to run, and when he does, the Hawk of heaven—the Holy Spirit—attacks with his talons bared and the enemy is no more. Gone in the blink of an eye.

What about your garden or field? Is it neatly manicured and mowed, or filled with underbrush and weeds? The Hawk of heaven is there—there high above your field…waiting. Why not crank the tractor and put the bush hog in gear?

Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice of the Church (Part 5)

When you find the essence of something you find what it’s made of. Essence is its core—its heart and soul—its spirit—the life blood of what makes it tick. Without essence all you have is a façade.

God’s people were created to be a prophetic people. That is our essence in Christ. We are to hear what God is speaking and then speak it to the world in which we live. Being prophetic is not something we do, rather it is the essence of our being—it is our nature.

Well…if that’s the case what should a prophetic church composed of prophetic people look like?

First, a prophetic church reveals God’s heart. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Jesus came to reveal the heart of God, and in doing so, he demonstrated the infinite love of God. Our job has not changed.

Does your relationship with God stir up your own passions? Does it cause others to stop and wish that they had that kind of relationship with God? If it doesn’t—something is wrong. It is impossible to lead others into a place we ourselves have never been.

Secondly, a prophetic church fulfills biblical prophecy. Every Christians is the living fulfillment of biblical prophecy (or at least we are supposed to be) spoken thousands of years ago. Our existence, in spite of the devil’s attempt to exterminate us, is God’s promise fulfilled—his word vindicated. We are both living testimony and a prophetic voice crying out.

A prophetic church also provides a biblical standard from the Scriptures. We are the guardians of God’s word and our instructions are to pass it on to the next generation. Our job is to bring it alive as we teach, preach, and instruct. The Bible is not a Sunday school series of lessons or a curriculum for study. The New Testament epistles were written as letters to real people with real problems in real places. If we read them that way, it is easier to connect and understand the conflicts they faced. We are no different from them and the times we live in are eerily similar. We are connected and we must learn to appreciate that important connection as we preserve and accurately proclaim the Word of God.

Finally, a prophetic church moves when the presence of God (the cloud of his Spirit) moves. We are not a monument or a museum to the past activities of God. We are his body right now in the present. We must discern what God is doing…now! The message of his word never changes, but our methods and ministries must. Otherwise we will not reach the next generation.

The Spirit of God uses different means and methods to communicate the infallible message of God. We must join him in doing that. What worked ten or twenty years ago will not work now. The culture we must reach speaks a new language and employs different technology. Also, what works in one area of the country may not work in your area. Just because one church is successful with a methodology in their area does not automatically mean it will work in ours. We must tune into what the Spirit of God wants to do through us in our own community.

We must move out of the past and into the future with God. We carry the lessons of our history, wisdom, experience, and maturity with us, but we must trust the Holy Spirit to lead us or we will fail. God has moved, but most of the church is stuck in the ruts of the past where God once rested. Ruts are nothing more than graves with the ends kicked out. A prophetic church leaves no ruts because they are constantly moving in concert with the Spirit.

(In the next blog we will consider the final four components of a prophetic church.)

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 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 6)

If the words that have been wasted on debating what the will of God is and is not were collected and stored, the warehouse space needed would force all of us off this planet. This is especially true in the area of healing. Is it God will? If it’s God’s will? What is God’s will? The answer to those questions and a thousand more just like them is…Jesus! Jesus is perfect theology. If you want to see what God looks like or thinks like in high definition—3-D—just look at Jesus. Jesus is, was, and will forever be the invisible God made visible.

If you want to know what God is interested in—take a long hard look at Jesus. An honest and unprejudiced reading of the first chapters of the Gospel of Mark, believed by many scholars to be the earliest account of Jesus life and ministry, show that the message of the kingdom was demonstrated and proclaimed through his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus preached the present reality of the kingdom of God—accessible to all and literal present among the people he encountered. He taught his followers how to relate their lives to God and the kingdom. And—he healed, bringing physical, emotional, and mental health to those sick in body and mind due to physical affliction or demonization.

Twenty percent of the four Gospels (727 verses out of 3,779) record the healings of Jesus and the discussions and controversies they spawned. Healing must be very important to God the Father if the Holy Spirit dedicated one-fifth of his space about the life and ministry of the incarnate Son of God and recorded his healing ministry in those gospels. There are no wasted words in Scripture! The Holy Spirit was not chasing rabbit trails—he had a divine purpose. Healing was a central ministry of Jesus, and if Jesus did it, then perhaps we should pay far more attention to it, and…just maybe, be doing it ourselves as his body.

There are 41 distinct instances where physical, emotional, or mental healings were recorded in the four Gospels (72 accounts in all including duplications). These by no means represent every person Jesus healed because Scripture tells us Jesus sometimes healed “all” who came to him—meaning large crowds and even whole towns. Healing was a major part of his ministry.

What can we learn from this? Several things arise, and these truths are essential seeds that must take root and bear fruit in our belief system if we are to fulfill the promise of Jesus—that we would do what he did and even greater things (John 14:12).

First, Jesus believed that God “is healing”—present tense—right now! He demonstrated that reality every time he encountered a sick person. He believed he had been anointed with power and authority to bring the kingdom of God—the domain of the King—from heaven to earth. He did not believe “God could heal if he wanted to.” Jesus did not have to pray and see “if it was God’s will to heal.” He acted! He knew it was God’s will because healing is a part of God’s nature. Healing is who God is (God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites as Jehovah Rapha—I Am that I Am Healer). Who God is reveals God’s will. He has not changed.

Secondly, Jesus believed sickness, affliction, paralysis, and infirmity were from the devil. They were not sent by God. This belief was evident in his words and actions. The religious system of his day taught all sickness was the result of sin in a person’s life, the life of his parents, or ancestors. It was God’s judgment. In other words, sickness comes from God. Healing could come only if one repented, confessed that sin to a priest, and offered the appropriate sacrifice.  The ministry of Jesus was in direct opposition to their traditions, interpretations, and religious systems—but not the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled that law and perfectly obeyed it.

Jesus never made repentance a requirement for physical healing. He simply healed people. In his mind and by his actions, healing and forgiveness were synonymous. Remember, sozo (Greek for “save or salvation”) means forgiveness of sin, deliverance from torment, and physical healing. If sickness did not come from God, then it must have come through the devil. There is no sickness in heaven. There is no disease in the throne room of God. Jesus was demonstrating God’s will. Heaven was touching earth.

Peter proclaimed to Cornelius’ house that Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). Jesus stated in John 10:10 that the thief takes life, but that he gives life. Sickness and disease take life, they do not give life. Jesus did not act or believe that sickness was the will of God. Instead he gave life each time he healed a person. If sickness is the will of God, then God the Father and God the Son were fighting one another and this is simply not possible. If it was not the will of God in Jesus’ day—it is not the will of God today!

Finally, Jesus did not heal every sick person who was alive in his day. But, he healed every person who came to him for healing. There are no exceptions! His healings were not dependent on faith either. He healed those who had great faith and others who had little or no faith. He healed organic diseases where structure or tissue was damaged. He healed functional disorders where organs or parts of the body were not operating properly.  He healed the demonized who were afflicted in mind, body, and soul. He healed them all, and rejected none who came to him.

Tell me—what has change? Has God changed or have we changed? Far too many people believe sickness is either God’s judgment or a tool God uses so that through suffering we might become better Christians. Who should we believe—the empty theologies of men or the inerrant, inspired, and infallible Word of God as demonstrated and proclaimed by Jesus?