Category Archives: Healing

Crisis: Religion or Relationship (Part 1)



Crisis (Part 1)

Fasting is tough. I am eighteen days into a 40 day fast from religion, as are many of the members of Eagle’s Wing Church where I pastor. We are driven by a desperate hunger and a passionate desire to experience a genuine relationship with God. Our desire is to know God rather than the facts or things that point us to God. We want to personally experience God and his love rather than live off the past experiences others.

Perhaps you’re wondering—why a fast from religion? Isn’t religion a good thing? Isn’t religion all about God?

Let me define religion. Religion is a system that must be practiced so that perfection can be reached. On the other hand, relationship is a heart-to-heart connection with a real person. You can’t have a relationship with a system. Relationship requires two people (not a person working a system). Jesus came to pay the price of sin so he might restore our ability to walk in communion with God—to have a personal relationship with him. Relationship is pursued,  while religion is practiced. And in this case practice will never make us perfect.

Our hearts yearn for relationship. We are born with a hunger to be loved and to give love in return. God created us that way. And he created a deep craving within all of us that can only be satisfied by a genuine relationship with him. God is relational. It is a part of his nature. Relationship starts in the heart of God.

Humanity created religion because we like systems where we can achieve things on our own. For some reason, we want to do it our way, rather than God’s way. Religion demands a pseudo perfection that is somehow achieved through rigorous practice and good works. The problem with that is we can’t rise to the measure of perfection God requires. Otherwise the death of Christ on the cross was a tragic waste.

The modern Christian church is in crisis. Most preach salvation by grace but then we turn around and try our hardest to achieve God’s favor, love, and blessings through works and activities. That’s religion, not relationship. Most believers attempt to connect with God through religion—through the system. But the only way we can make this heart-to-heart connection is through relationship.

For the next several weeks I want to share the subtle deception of religion and the satisfying depth of relationship through this blog. I encourage you to join us in a forty day fast from religion. If you will commit—God will bless you and set you free from religion’s crushing coils.

How do you start? Simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your spiritual life that is smacks or smells of religion. That may be a belief, a doctrine, a cherished idea or practice. It could be anything. As the Holy Spirit exposes those hidden things, confess them and move on. Invite the Holy Spirit to examine all your beliefs, doctrines, practices, and way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to invite him in to those things—he should be at home in all of them or that belief is not from God. That’s it!

You may be thinking there’s got to be more to it than this. What are the rules? If you need more rules than I’ve shared, you can start right there with that thought—it’s riddled with religion!

The Burn Pile

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I have a huge pile of brush ready to burn. In the Deep South we call it a brush heap, a brush pile, or a burn pile. Over the last few weeks, I have been working my way around a hay field trimming the bushes and the low hanging limbs that have been slowly encroaching on this property for several years. I’ve been cutting pine and sweet gum limbs, as well as privet bushes and piling them up to burn.

All of us should have a pile or brush heap we are working on—metaphorically speaking. Or at least we all need one because we all have junk in our lives—clutter that cries to be dumped, picked up or burned. Clutter smothers us and chokes out the life God has given us to be enjoyed. But God has given you and I the responsibility for trimming the excess, pulling the weeds, and cutting the bushes that encroach and smother our lives. We all need a burn pile, a place we can deposit all those things that have no place in our life.

Some of the materials in my burn pile are the pruning from my azaleas. These are ornamental bushes that produce beautiful flowers in the summer. But, if I don’t prune them each year they get out of hand and take over. Their beauty, if left untrimmed, can become a nuisance and an obstacle in my driveway. Likewise, there are many good things in our lives that, if given complete freedom with little or no maintenance, can get out of hand. They need a pruning every once in a while to bring them back under our control. Even a good thing, if allowed to run wild, can become a bad thing.

Much of my burn pile is composed of privet bushes. Privet bushes seem to spring up when land is not carefully maintained. The birds eat the berries, then roost in the tree limbs on the edge of the field and their droppings spread the privet bushes. These tiny seeds turn into tiny plants that are easily pulled up if you catch them early. But, if you ignore them, they produce a root system on which tiny bushes soon become large trees intertwined with one another. They grow quickly and once they get started they are hard to get rid of. These privet bushes are like the unhealthy clutter we often allow to take root in our lives. We have to be diligent in uprooting the junk because it can become a major job once it becomes a habit or an addiction.

I have promised myself that once I get this field trimmed that I will not wait another ten years to do it again. Instead, I plan to do yearly maintenance to keep the growth and the junk in check. Every person needs a check list they apply to their life on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Questions need to be asked and answered carefully. And all the junk and clutter needs to be uprooted or trimmed and the trash placed on the burn pile. Once it gets large enough—light it up and watch it burn.

One of the benefits to having a burn pile is you can always celebrate once you light it up. I plan on having a wiener roast and a couple of mouth-watering Smores on the hot coals of those pesky privet bushes once they’re gone.

Through the Eyes of a Child

Yesterday I dropped some Operation Christmas Child boxes off at Ms. Jo’s Little School Kindergarten in Gardendale. This group of preschoolers chose to make the Shoe Box Ministry a part of their Christmas giving project. I had planned to knock on the door and hand the boxes off, but Ms. Jo invited me in to meet the kids—a sort of show and tell of what her pastor does.

The boys and girls were quiet, respectful, and listened intently to what I had to say. As I finished speaking, one little boy raised his hand and asked, “What’s wrong with your arm?” I was dumbstruck not understanding what he meant. It seemed he had noticed very astutely that I had a small band aid on my left arm and was concerned about the injury it covered. photo

I replied, “Oh, it’s just a boo-boo,” hoping that would be enough of an explanation, but that was not.

“What happened?” he asked.

Now I had to think because I had forgotten all about the band aid and why I even had it on. Here I was standing in front of ten kids with silver-dollar sized eyes staring at me with concern, who had forgotten about the pastor and his job and were now transfixed on a tiny flesh-colored band aid on my forearm—alarmed at the present state of my health and welfare.

“Oh, I scratched it on a bush,” I replied.

“How?” was the next response from this anxious classroom of kids.

Ms. Jo stepped in and the conversation moved from band aids to tee-shirts, and I said my goodbyes and slipped out. But the Holy Spirit would not let the band aid question go.

Those little children were far more concerned about my tiny wound than impressed with who I was. They listened quietly to what I had to say, but looked far more intently at who I really was. To them, I was simply another person, perhaps a bit larger, but still a fellow human being. And to makes matters more interesting—the band aid signified that I was injured or hurting. It was a fluorescent, flashing billboard-sized clue to a little boy checking the real me out.

When did we stop looking—really looking—at those around us? When did we stop seeing the pain, the hurt or the wounds of those fellow pilgrims we share this planet with.

I know when it happened! It happened when we stopped looking at others through the wonder, through the innocence, or through the genuine concern of a child’s eyes. Compassion became suspicion. Concern became fear. And we stopped looking because we were afraid we might truly see the pain and thus become responsible for bringing health and healing to those who are hurting. If one can see the pain of another, turn their head and go about their life without any concern—that person is in reality no longer alive.

Unless we—that’s you and me—become like children again we will never see the pain of those around us, much less the kingdom of God. By the way, I didn’t make that one up—Jesus did!

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.)

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.)