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Posts Tagged ‘faith healing’

Of course, we know why a lot of them followed Jesus. He was healing the sick, and at the beginning of his mission/ministry, he was healing them all. He was a sensation! Who wouldn’t follow? Don’t we do the same today? Don’t we follow the wondrous . . . the unbelievable . . . the news worthy . . . the tragedies . . . and the inexplicable?

Matthew 4:24-25
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

If Jesus was doing the same thing today that he was doing back then, he wouldn’t just have a few hundred or thousand following, he would have millions through the Internet and media. It would be a real circus.

He had only just started his ministry according to Matthew. He was making the circuit around Galilee, stopping into various synagogues along the way and teaching about the kingdom of God being near and close at hand. (It was thirty square miles.) He had headed back home to Nazareth first, got shut out of his home church and then headed to Capernaum (via Cana) where his reputation both followed and preceded him. His notoriety started heating up pretty fast.

Currently, we’re in Olympics fever from London, and I marvel as I watch the various athletes exhibit their best efforts while being followed by a slew of reporters and cameramen. There are remote cameras following them above the water as well as along the track. There are satellite cameras and there are long lenses poking out from every corner. Every movement, every tear, every laugh or smile, is caught on camera. Every win, whether by a long shot or a hair’s breadth, is captured.

Can you imagine the cameras capturing the healings of the Christ? Who would interpret? Who would be the pundits? Who would get the first interview? What would the witnesses say? How long would the healed person be followed around by reporters, perhaps looking for a fake? Where would Jesus go to avoid the constant barrage of both the needy people as well as the rubber-neckers? Where would Jesus go to bypass the media? And who would know the truth? Would we believe what we saw on camera? Would we follow Him on Fox News or NPR? Would we snatch up People magazine to see the pictures of someone rising from the dead? Or would we pick up the Inquirer in the grocery line that exposes Jesus as a fraud?

What keeps me following Him today? Is it the scripture stories? Is it the fellow believers? Is it my circumstances, once dire, and now more stable? Is it the miraculous or the mundane? Is it the charismatic pastor or the throbbing music beat at church?

There were times in my journey when I longed to see and experience more of this Jesus/Holy Spirit, not unlike the fantastic descriptions in scripture, written and retold, and then sustained by faith and repetition through the centuries. I wanted a miracle! Each decade in the 20th century has brought various phenomena, from speaking in tongues, to falling in the spirit, to laughing in the spirit, to prophetic utterances, to spontaneous healings, to golden dust falling on the faithful. Each manifestation brought thousands into a place and time, who like the followers of Jesus, wanted to see, hear, and feel, a tangible presence of God. And although it was often fleeting, many were not disappointed. At least, not at first. But then the phenomena passed, the touched people moved on, the crowds thinned, and we looked for the next manifestation.

But who/what did we follow? The miracles or the person? Who did they follow? The miracles or the person?

And all the while. The kingdom was near and still is. The kingdom is within us; in our midst. [Luke 17:21] Here. Everything needed is right here. Right now.

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If there’s anyone out there who seeks suffering, raise your hand. That’s what I thought. The view of suffering put forth so strongly by Peter is one of the reasons “suffering” has been elevated, in some circles, to holiness. I can’t line up with this completely.

I Peter 4:1
SO, SINCE Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], . . . [Amplified]

I believe, for those who are suffering now, today, these words are a comfort. There is hope, then, in suffering, there can even be a purpose and reward, in some space/time. The people of Peter’s time were suffering deeply, whether by poverty or by persecution. Times such as those must be endured with a respect for their existence–an acceptance of what is.

There is no doubt in my mind, that a person of faith who has gone through agony of the body, has little energy for anything else. Like the “refiner’s fire,” it will remove every useless thing, every useless thought. Endurance is an energy suck. Hope is the best fuel for sustaining oneself in a flood of pain.

I understand all of this.

But the greater part of me wants to fight suffering, not my own, but that of others. I want healing for them. I want renewal and restoration. I want “manifested hope” through wholeness.

As long as I am strong and healthy, then I have a job to do on behalf of those who are not. I must have the courage of Abraham who negotiated the release of the faithful from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:33pp). I must be bold like Elijah who believed the rain would come (I Kings 18:45) and then later, believed the fire would come (II Kings 1:10), because God is faithful. I must be persistent like the parable of the widow and the judge (Luke 8:1-8).

Because I believe we are called to partner with the Christ to materialize heaven on earth, then wholeness is part of that equation. Can I bear it? Can I believe in the face of pain and sorrow, loss and despair? I must.

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People who are regularly used of God in miraculous ways do not need to talk about it. It’s the one-shot Sally’s who go on and on about the marvel. I’ve been guilty of this myself–not good.

II Corinthians 12:5-6
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

It’s not that the miracle didn’t happen. It did. And certainly, to be on the receiving end of a miracle is worth shouting about.

But I’m talking about the messenger, the hands that were laid on the sick, the prayer that was said for wholeness, or the advocate who placed the petition at the foot of the cross. This is the one who must learn and walk in humility and silence. It’s a most difficult road.

I am sure Paul was used in a vast array of miracle-working ways. Some of these incidents are shared in scripture, but I’m guessing many are not. Clearly, he was anointed by God and sent by Christ. He knew and understood the temptation to boast of such things. He saw the results of this boasting in others. It became a separation between the purity of the Spirit moving through the healer and human pride.

We are all called, as vessels of the supernatural, to bring light, healing, and wholeness to those around us. This was the plan all along. Christ within.

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” [John 14:11-12]

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Here it is: God takes the most lowly and insignificant thing/person and breaks apart the norm, the traditional, the comfort zones, and the “interpreted now.” He takes “what is not” and creates something new: from nothing–something.

I Corinthians 1:28
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, . . .

There is a wonderful show on the History channel about the Shroud of Turn called the Real Face of Jesus. I recommend it. A scientific study has been going on for the last several years and only now are these results being made public. In the end, they still have no idea HOW the image manifested on the shroud. One theory is that it was created by a tremendous release of energy or light. Not too surprising for a believer to accept, more difficult for a team of scientists. They are faced with the power of “what was not” becoming something.

Healings are the same thing: bringing into our world something that was not: healthy body parts and organs.

This is all miracle stuff and the point is? Only God can make these things happen. Here’s our job, those called as witnesses, we are simply to look and acknowledge those moments when “what is not” is replaced by “what is.”

Sometimes these are physical transformations, but they can also be spiritual and mental transformations. Ask. Confess. Wait.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” [Romans 8:11]

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This kind of faith could turn the world upside down: to truly hear and believe God’s promises. To believe that God, the creator, can speak and the impossible be made possible.

Romans 4:17b
He [Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

There are hints and glimpses throughout the New Testament that we, as human offspring to such a God, could do the same. Jesus references moving mountains through faith [Matthew 17:20] and receiving anything we ask for in faith [Matthew 21:22]. Plus, the disciples, themselves, brokered healings and miracles both while Jesus was still with them and after he resurrected. But, as time went on, the miracles became fewer and fewer.

By the time we get to our own century, there are a few people who have appeared to operate in this miraculous realm: Kathryn Kuhlman, Aimee Semple McPherson, John Wimber, John Osteen, Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, and Smith Wiggles Worth to name a few. But most of these people either died in disgrace or were exposed as charlatans. This certainly doesn’t encourage me to ask for “miracle-working” faith.

There are more meaningful (and fantastic) stories from the mission fields where no one becomes famous or well known, where no one is interviewed or tested for authenticity. And yet, the stories continue of blind people receiving sight, limbs growing where there were none, the dead coming alive, tumors disappearing, and so forth. But even here, in these mission fields, we don’t hear of mountains moving, fresh water gushing from a rock, or food growing in the desert sands.

What is lacking? Somehow, we have failed to identify and respect the source of all that power. As soon as power manifests, we humans appear to be changed by it.

One of my favorite (non-Christian) films about miracles is Resurrection with Ellen Burstyn (1980). The main character, Edna, becomes a healer inexplicably, but soon, she is feared, manipulated, tested, and shot. She survives, but chooses the life of a recluse instead of broadcasting her “talents.” There, in the desert, she continues to heal, but secretly.

We live in an age where miracles are suspect, at the least, and generally, considered impossible. Magic is only a trick. Healings are anomalies.

All believers are children of Abraham, the one who believed that his 100 year old body and is 98-year old wife would be come the “father of nations.” He had nothing but the Word of God to believe. There was nothing in his world to make him think it was possible. Was it the simplicity of their lives that gave them the ability to believe God in the face of overwhelming circumstances?

I don’t know the answer. But I do know, we’re missing out. Surely, if every believer had but a mere fraction of Abraham’s faith in God to change the world, we would see the healing of the earth. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to agree on what the healed earth should look like.

Healing miracles require unity of spirit. Instead, we’re like kids at a football game, with both sides praying for a win.

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