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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pharisees, Phallacies and Phundies

I love the word "Fundy." I had even more "phun" with it in this title!   The term humorizes the tendency many Biblically adherent believers have of fearfully clinging to rigid rules rather than living Christ's freedom adventure. Rather than become defensive, we Jesus freaks need to examine ourselves and retain the baby (truth) while throwing out the legalistic, polluted bathwater.  

First a definition: 

"Christian Fundamentalism is a conservative movement within American Protestantism that aims to uphold traditional Christian beliefs in the face of many modernist challenges. [It] arose out of the late 19th and early 20th century conflicts with mainline Protestant churches over modernist challenges, including biblical criticism and interpretation. In response, between 1910 and 1915 conservative scholars from Princeton Theological Seminary published a series of twelve books titled The Fundamentals, which reaffirmed biblical inerrancy and attacked biblical criticism. Soon, Christian fundamentals began founding their own Bible colleges and Bible institutes to teach fundamentalist doctrines to future generations and provide structure to the movement. Christian fundamentalists teach the literal interpretation of scripture and hold to key Christian doctrines, including Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection, and salvation from our sins through the grace of God by having faith in Jesus Christ."  From: http://www.patheos.com/Library/Christian-Fundamentalism#ixzz3IE2nF8w7

The above sounds good, right? And much of it is. It became not so good, however once prominent leaders concocted doctrine from speculation . A few examples of non-biblical fundy rules: strict church attendance, tithing to local church, daily bible reading, and any number of good spiritual exercises that are elevated to law.

Outwardly enforced rules never change the inner heart: "Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence," (Colossians 2:20-23). 

I love that scripture! I believe it applies to so many life situations: the consumption of alcohol, GMO foodstuffs, prescription medicines; reading "secular" books, watching movies, hanging out with potentially corrupting people, Christian disciplines and the like. If we are truly FREE, we have our Holy Spirit indwelled hearts to navigate us through traps and snares of life ("His rod and staff comfort me," Psalm 23:4). 

The observance of outward rules has the added danger of enemy cooperation, for we play directly into Satan's hands, when we contract the disease of pride and superiority, or when we fail. Performance and failure are two sides of the same coin, because no one can endlessly practice the charade of perfection.  After a period of rules observance, we stumbled or fall, and subsequently plunge into guilt, shame and more failure, becoming people of secret darkness and sin, separated from Jesus and vulnerable to further lies of the enemy. 


I used to be a total fundy. I believed everything Christian conventional wisdom fed me.  Every biblical interpretation, every "turn or burn" scare tactic, etc. I so feared my "sin nature" that I felt it needed corralling and moral legislation to keep it caged and subdued. And while I'm sure remnants of legalistic slavery still taint me, I strain toward the light, reaching to embrace the joy and abandon that Christ's death on the cross purchased for me. I know I still sin and I'm still in need of changing from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), but it excites me to know that I start from glory (Christ's purchase) and go to greater glory! I don't go from current sewage or pig slop to glory! 

I want to separate the wheat from the chaff: biblical truth from humanism, miraculous experiences from dogmatic science worship, and Spirit-filled living from works-based drudgery.  I don't want to be a slimy Christian who participates in and absorbs pure garbage, rationalizing it all the way as "freedom," but neither do I want to be a pursed lips "saint:" one who trembles inside at every temptation, wiping my brow if I manage to escape and judging the loser who slips.

Christian Fundamentalism at it origin possessed the honorable desire to protect the truth of scripture, but it gradually slipped down the slope of pharisaical control tactics, based on the fear of "flesh," or sin nature. Romans 6:6-7 clearly sets us free from that dread: "...our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin," (Romans 6:6-7).

And while I definitely believe we need to avoid being polluted by the world (James 1:27), many fundamentalists take it too far: they vacillate between groveling as weak-willed worms and puffing out their chests in their well-kept precepts. This smacks of Pharisee-ism and warrants a close look at those Biblical party poopers. 

The reviled Pharisees were religious control freaks and among the first biblical fundamentalists. They were "members of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity," (Google Definition). Their rules were paramount, not love and compassion. Jesus, in Matthew 23:24 accused them of "straining at gnats (tiny atoms of religious importance) and swallowing camels (huge issues of the heart). Jesus verbally scourged them for outward holiness and inward depravity. Rigid Christian fundamentalism can lead us down that same road of spiritual death.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery," (Galatians 5:1).

The gospel is the bottom line. The gospel (GOOD NEWS!!) solves everything. But not the weak, escape-from-hellfire gospel. The true, God-is-madly-in-love with you gospel. The sacrificing, unrestrained Love that pursued humanity from the beginning.  He who sacrificed everything to purchase our redemption also purchased our freedom and HE has the ability to sustain us and keep us from falling (Jude 1:24)! 

So onto fallacy. The more I study the Word, the more I am convinced that many biblical ideas are NOT biblical. Take for example the whole End Times/Rapture/Tribulation/Anti Christ future theory. Not biblically supported. Invented in 1830 by John Darby. Supported by most fundamentalists.  Time to weed out Biblical interpretation fiction from fact.  So I guess I can't be fundamentally correct. I can only press on.

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus," (Phillippians 3:7-14).




Monday, June 23, 2014

A Little Dab Will do (You in)

Seventy-seven percent of people in America claim to be affiliated with the Christian faith.  I find this statistic completely at odds with the absolute flavor of paganism our nation has adopted.  I base this statement on what calls to us, what captures our attentions, what things are near and dear to our nation's collective hearts.

Our country doesn't worship Jesus or even God; we revere the god of SELF. We are people who are far more concerned with material gain, comfort, entertainment and temporal happiness. We don't want the boat of our affluent (when compared to the rest of the world) way of life rocked. We want to dabble in a hodgepodge of religion; we want to paste on the badge of Christianity, meanwhile living in selfish abandonment to the pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment.  We worship our TV programs, our weekend adventures, our food, our right to do whatever we want, our entitlement to spend our money any way we want. We, as a nation, are pseudo Christians, God-followers in name only, whenever it's convenient and doesn't disrupt our plans, step on any toes, or render us unpopular with contemporary culture.

Pseudo Christians exude sophisticated tolerance and support Godless evil: abortion (disguised as "choice," the proliferation of sanctioned gay pride,  socialism, divorce (and subsequent broken families), and whatever else currently constitutes a modern world view.  Pseudo Christians don't regard the Word of God as their plumbline-it is too archiac, ancient and legalistic; surely humanism is much more sane and intelligent.

Then are those of us who claim we believe the Word of God, but we can't be bothered to know what it even says. And even worse, a segment of us actually do know what it says, but that somehow doesn't translate into obedience; somehow giving scripture lip service is enough.  If we ignore the holy, sovereign God long enough, our hearts become callused and numb to the Truth.

This floppy "faith" boils down to direct rebellion against the Almighty.  Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, OBEY My Commands."  Denial is easier and much less demanding.  He also said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me," Matthew 16:24.  Denial of self is against our religion ("have it YOUR way," spouts Burger King).

Let's just create a man-made, palatable god, one who smiles indulgently down at us as we make choices that, after all, are our own business!  Our god-recipe produces a politically correct,  kinder and gentler god, one created in our own image, much better than the real, Holy, non-conformist God. Our new deity is tolerant, lenient, sympathetic and liable to wink at our little foibles (sins).

The trouble with this man-made God is that He is tame, under our control, and less powerful than we are, and herein lies the danger. How can we worship a god of our own shaping?  We are weak and fallible, created of flesh and bone, and we think we can come up with something better than the God of universe?  How arrogant of us!  We are the made, not the Maker.

I always chuckle at the ancient Israelites and how they actually thought the idols they fashioned with their own hands out of (REAL GOD-created) materials like rock and wood, would spring to some sort of powerful life and respond to their worship and prayers.  But we're no better. We surround ourselves with prestige, power, material stuff and the life WE choose, and wonder why we feel so empty and dissatisfied.  Jesus shunned the culturally "fulfilled" life, even to the extent of remaining single and chaste, wholeheartedly devoted to the Kingdom of God, laying down His life in death to buy our eternity. "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin," Hebrews 11:25.

Our religion, in contrast, is modeled after the satanic snake, who said to Eve in the Garden, "Did God really say?"  After all, he couldn't possibly mean the hard words contained in scripture. No god could be so narrow minded. Yet Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it," Matthew 7:13-14.  Really?  Jesus was that intolerant?  Who does He think He is, putting limits on my life?  I'm an American; I do what I want." Ok, that's fine, but don't think you can label that Christianity.

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people," (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Relationship Between Thoughts, Words and FAITH

This will probably be a hard blog to swallow. It might offend and even possibly scare those who profess Christ, but my goal is to challenge each one of us (mainly ME!) to truly understand what the Word means in Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things NOT [YET] seen."

What follows is a blog I read from a New Age woman I really respect, even though I totally disagree with her beliefs. And while her methods differ radically from mine in that she delves into the soulish "energy/true self" stuff, which I highly oppose, she does, however, hit on some valuable truths: that much, if not ALL of what we struggle with, IS spiritual ("For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12).

Rather than completely avoid anything that even smacks of Spiritism or the occult, we can rescue the baby from the bath water. Remember, Satan cannot CREATE, he can only POLLUTE what has already been created by ALMIGHTY God. God can use even secular and anti-Christ stuff to bring us truth; just as He used ravens to bring Elijah bread and meat in the desert (1 Kings 17).

I turn now to the aforementioned blog written by Melanie Tonia Evanst titled, "How To Empower Your Children and Protect Them...." [Read it, even though every Christian cell in your body revolts!]:

"What my true mission is however, in stark contrast to practical support, is the imparting of how energy works. That is why my suggestions and work is always about coming home to yourself – connecting to your true inner power and your ability to affect the world around you through tending to your own vibration. I wanted to really share that message today in regard to changing the torment we have regarding our children.

Firstly it was a story I just happened to stumble across, purportedly a real one, about a man whose son was bed-wetting. The story was about how this man was frustrated and upset each morning waking up to his son’s wet bed every morning, and how no matter what advice he took and what actions he implemented from child behavioural experts and doctors, nothing seemed to solve the problem. That was until someone told this man to change how he saw the situation. He took time out every day to visualise and deeply feel that his son was waking up with a dry bed, and how happy they both were that there had been this breakthrough. Within a few days of committing to this dedicated practice. That is exactly what started to happen and kept happening. The bed wetting stopped altogether.

This hit a very strong chord with me. Around the same time I had been watching a pile of Ester Hicks Law of Attraction DVDS. In one of the Abraham sessions a woman expressed how distressed she was about her daughter who was lost, destructive and irresponsible. What unfolded in that conversation with Abraham (channelled through Ester Hicks) was about to change my life and my parenting forever. It resonated so deeply with me that I felt it as absolute truth and knowing. The basis of that conversation was this: The focusing on the problem of how her daughter was being was simply holding that in place and manifesting more of it in the mother’s experience. Because the mother ‘saw’ and ‘felt’ her daughter as ‘lost and hopeless’, her daughter was reflecting back to her more of the mother’s emotional energy on that topic. Ester told the woman to start seeing and feeling her daughter as she ‘wanted her to be’. To let go of trying to fix, change, prescribe and control, and trust that a greater force was at play. Ester stated that the more we try to fix, control, change or alter anything from a state of angst and pain, and feeling a heightened state of what we don’t want to happen, all we do is exasperate it with our energetic offering.

So I got to work. I cleared and cleared, letting go of the agony of everything I felt connected with my son. When I had cleared out everything that ‘hurt’, I was able to anchor into this new way of feeling and seeing him. In my journal every night, I wrote about how he had incredible inner wisdom, how he was connecting to the deeper, wiser part of himself, and how he was stepping into his true light and rising up into Who He Really Is. I deeply felt that everything was in perfect and divine order and that he was not only going to find his way, he was going to thrive. I made it so real for myself that I felt it through every cell of my body. This was no small task – everything previously was screaming inside me that I had lost him forever, he could kill himself, that it was my fault because of what I had subjected him to, and I was a complete failure as a mother – but I knew how important it was to shift these feelings. Not only did my wellbeing rely on it (I was breaking down with the emotional devastation), but it was the most loving thing I could ever possibly do for him.

Three weeks later we were in contact, having lunch and hugging. He had already started to make huge changes and get his life on track. Truly, he has never looked back since. This complete turnaround occurred against all odds and literally out of nowhere. My son now five years later is amazing, creative, successful and a total inspiration to me in every sense. He is one of the most amazing people I know. He doesn’t even resemble the person he once was.  [See more at:  http://blog.melanietoniaevans.com/how-to-empower-your-children]

The point of the above (if you were able to get past trigger words like "vibration, visualize, channeled and energy") is that GOD wants us to EXERCISE the verb FAITH in our lives, through HIM and His Holy Spirit, not by soulish witchcraft.

I myself often inadvertently practice witchcraft by imagining the worst of a situation and/or person by dwelling on it and thinking forth and speaking forth my reality through spiritual laws set in place BY GOD. I forget that I'm a powerful being with God-endowed authority to speak into life things that are not or are in the process of dying or even already dead! "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit," Proverbs 18:21.

Thoughts as well as words can bring forth reality: "For as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he," Proverbs 23:7.

So we must CHOOSE to think on what is good: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things," Philippians 4:8.

We are not tiny, powerless beings who can do whatever we want in terms of thought and deed and not expect to impact the universe. We are God-created Warriors who affect the very laws of nature by our actions, words and thoughts.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned," (Matthew 12:33-37).

I love the song "Words" by Hawk Nelson:

They've made me feel like a prisoner
They've made me feel set free
They've made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king
They've lifted my heart
To places I'd never been
And they've dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear
Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your lightI
 wanna be Your voice...

It's time for us to ignite faith. Time to speak life not death, and time to be people of God who own our authority! Not people of death whose negative thoughts and words not only poison our world, but actually keep Life from springing forth.

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing," Proverbs 12:18.

"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak," Matthew 12:36

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Go be Grass

Sometimes I feel like I'm slogging through certain books in the old testament. In fact I was doing this just yesterday in 2 Chronicles, thinking to myself, "these kings are pure idiots..." when I was struck by a verse that just dug into me deeper and deeper.  It actually came out of the story of a righteous king, Hezekiah, who took major steps to return his people to holiness.  Chapter 29, verse 16 reads, "The priests went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it.  They brought out to the courtyard of the Lord's temple everything unclean that they found in the Temple of the Lord."

Our souls now (in the new covenant bought by Christ's sacrifice) are the temple of the Lord.  The HIGH priest, Jesus, has gone in and PURIFIED our souls (for those of us who have accepted his atonement), and we are made righteous through HIM!  Hallelujah!  BUT the second part of that verse requires something from us...the bringing out of the UNCLEAN ( opposite of morally uncontaminated, pure, righteous and holy.)

So what does it mean for us to "bring out everything unclean?"  "Bring OUT" struck me as infinitely significant:  it doesn't say "destroy" or "burn" or any of the equivalent, but more importantly, the stuff that defiled the temple didn't make the temple NOT the temple...the temple had dirty stuff in it, and in order to bring it into fullness, the unclean had to be removed from it-brought out into the light, so to speak.

All of us who come to Christ (and probably until we die) have areas of "uncleanness" in us...areas that erect a barrier between coming into complete intimacy with Christ AND entering into our destiny.

Case in point: I have a client I'm coaching, and no matter how many sessions we spent together, we cannot move past the main theme of her life: shame.  She is unable to believe she is worth God's love. She constantly is trying to be "better," to earn Christ's love and to be worthy of the sacrifice of his blood. No matter how much I repeat the truth: ("new creation in Christ," etc.), the fundamental problem lies in her belief system. She FEELS dirty, and no amount of truth preaching can penetrate that notion.

On a personal note, I consistently struggle with the sense that I'm not ENOUGH.  I am not spending ENOUGH time with God, I'm not reading the Word ENOUGH, I'm not helping others ENOUGH, I don't pray ENOUGH, I don't clean/exercise/watch my budget/ad infinitum ENOUGH.  After years and years of vowing to work harder, I recently found myself sidelined by a chronic illness onset. So now I scrape by, hoping to avoid absolute chaos, still struggling within, however, with the sense that I'm still not doing ENOUGH! 

So I'm bringing out that uncleanness: that area of pride that says I have to do MORE to earn His favor; to earn his love.  "Our righteousness is as filthy rags," states Isaiah 64:6.  This means our EFFORTS at righteousness, our attempts to atone for our own sin. HIS righteousness, that we appropriate at salvation however, is done deal. We don't add to it. A Billy Graham, Beth Moore, Graham Cooke, Joseph Prince, Joyce Meyers are not more holy or favored than any one of us peons.  We are equal and beloved children in HIS sight, the only sight that matters.   What we struggle with, the unclean parts of ourselves, the shame/pride, unbelief/fear, and so on, are the things we need to drag into the light. Let His light shine on those old, moldy, rotting thought structures.  As He shines His light and truth onto us, we are "changed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 13:8)," no longer slaves to belief systems that chain us to mediocrity and unworthiness.

Pastor Andy this morning in church talked about his lawn and how beautiful his grass is, and how his grass didn't have to perform for the sun...it just basks in the light of the sun, receiving nourishment, and being what it is: grass, reflecting the glory of the sun.  We too don't have to perform for Jesus. We are His beloved and we are perfect in His sight.  Go be grass. And don't forget to drag the junk out into the light of His healing presence.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Problem of Pain

I loved the book, "Chocolate and Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away" by Jennette Fulda. Not only has she chronicled her first three years of life with a ridiculously severe, stubborn and unalleviating headache, she managed to do so with humor and brutal honesty. (By the way, she also wrote "Half-Assed:  A Weight-Loss Memoir," which I also loved.  That will be a topic for another blog).  Fulda isn't a Christian, as far as I know, but her humor and wisdom in the midst of her chronic suffering bespoke of heroism to me. 

"Chocolate" hit home for me, not that I suffer nearly as much as she has from her excruciating, constant headache, but that the past six years of my life have been spent feeling pretty much chronically crappy, with the last six months or so sequeing into a more acute condition of fairly severe  joint and spinal-related pain accompanied by constant fatigue.  I'm still waiting for a definitive diagnosis, but auto-immune spinal arthritis is the most likely culprit. On a more minor but annoying note, I also have had eight months of chronic tennis elbow (though innocuous sounding, is a huge pain in the a...uh, forearm).

I am nothing if not proactive.  I exercise, attempt to keep my weight down (operative word here is "attempt"), eat a fairly healthy diet, don't smoke or do illicit drugs, avail myself of medical services, and pray regularly for healing.  But still.  I also try my best to not slap people who give me well-meaning nutritional and herbal advice.  

I have many friends and acquaintances that suffer far worse than I do, with truly life-threatening, progressive and debilitating illnesses and injuries. I feel like a wimp in comparison.  I pray regularly for their healing as well, and feel helpless frustration that they continue to experience so much pain and anguish. Whatever the cause of one's poor health, life is much harder (and FAR more expensive) with chronic pain, and even harder with those of us who totally believe the healing power of God and sit around in condemnation, wondering what we are doing wrong to forestall our healing.  

My son, a world-traveling missionary, ministers the gospel and physical healing wherever he goes.  Obviously, he has prayed for me on many occasions.  But still.  Lest I'm tempted to think I'm unhealable, I remember with great clarity the one time I was instantly, miraculously healed.  Close to 20 years ago I had strep throat, 13 times in a row, recurring every month like clockwork. Sick of antibiotics, doctor bills, feeling terrible, and facing a possible tonsillectomy (no health insurance at the time) I was at my wits' end.  One particularly frustrated day I attended a weekly women's prayer group and my good friend Linda prayed for me as part of other various stated prayer needs. She didn't touch me, didn't do anything special, just simply prayed for the Lord to heal my strep throat. I had zero faith.  Instantly a wave of incredible heat filled my body.  As I related the experience to the other ladies there, I qualified the fact that only time would tell if I really was healed. No great act of faith, that. I never had strep throat again, period.  I have witnessed other miracles as well over the 41 years of my Christianity, some healing, some other equally amazing events, all pointing to an supernatural God Who is not confined to the very laws of nature He created.

So I think the question isn't "why are we not healed?" The question is, "how can I walk in Christ's miracle-working power?" I believe the answer is relatively simple: James 1:4 PERSEVERANCE, and John 15:5 REMAINING IN HIM.

The gospel of John, chapter 5, contains the story of Jesus healing the crippled man by the pool. The Pharisees, of course, weren't impressed with the feat of this former, well-known cripple WALKING, they were incensed the restored man had the audacity to carry his mat around on the SABBATH, which somehow constituted work to their tiny minds, as did the fact Jesus exerted himself healing people.  Anyway, lest I digress into a tirade against legalism, I will get to the point: Jesus answered their accusations: "...My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working...Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it," verses 17-21.

Jesus did what He saw the FATHER doing.  Therefore to me, that means the Father does healing, and therefore, because of Jesus, we do healing.

Bethel pastor Bill Johnson said this: "'For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them' (Luke 9:56). The word 'save' in the original Greek language is the word 'sozo'. It refers specifically to the forgiveness of sin, the healing of disease, and the deliverance from torment. That is salvation. Jesus made the provision needed to save the whole person-spirit, soul and body..."

I don't think this means we dissolve into wails of "Why God?" whenever someone isn't noticeably healed, nor does it mean we sit around passively and wait for healing.  I think Joyce Meyer puts it wonderfully: "If you need to take medicine, take it. If you need to go to the doctor, go. But don't do anything without trusting God to bring healing in your life. because even when medicine can't do it, even when man can't do it, God can still heal you. He is still a miracle-working God!" Amen.

She also said: "Some of you right now are in the wilderness of your life and whether you know it or not, He's working some junk out of you that needs to come out before you're going to be ready to have what God has promised you."  I think this is true, too. The Gospel itself is super simple, but we are not super simple beings. Most of us come to the Cross cluttered with junk: unbelief, unforgiveness, shame, unworthiness, wrong thinking, etc, and a lot of our healing takes place in the revelation and grace we encounter while we're sick.  Major things happen as we wait on the Lord for healing.

Now is the place where highly astute people ask, "why do some incredible lovers of God go to their graves unhealed?"  My brilliant answer? I don't know. I have no idea, and I'm not going to make up stuff. All I can do is trust Jesus and keep praying. Trust Jesus when people die. Trust Jesus when people suffer. Trust Jesus when I prayed the 999th prayer for my best friend who's suffering. Do what I know to do, and trust God that "in all things He works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Still Munching on the Apple

        The other day I was thinking about choices, and why those of us who confess Christ continue to follow in Eve's footsteps instead of living as free people. Eve's legacy causes us to repeatedly CHOOSE sin over freedom.  We continue to reach for the apple, even though its wormy bite leads to spiritual harm and bondage. I pondered on why we continue to chew its fruit, day after day, hour after hour, after awhile not even questioning our choices, forgetting really, that we actually HAVE a choice to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles," (Hebrews 12:2).

        Why do we choose sin over freedom?  Fear.  Animal, unthinking fear lies at the root of what we continue to do: our blinding compulsion to continue Eve's legacy.  For she, our flesh mother, grasped and sank her teeth into the evilly offered fruit because without it, she feared she would remain childlike and weak.  Without it, she wouldn't KNOW things. She threw away her innocence and right standing with God, her Creator and Sustainer, because she didn't trust Him, period.

               "He was not alone. There, only a few yards away from him stood the Witch. She was just throwing away the core of an apple which she had eaten. The juice was darker than you would expect and had made a horrid stain around her mouth...And he began to see that there might be some sense in that last line [of the sign at the gate of the garden: "For those who steal...shall find their heart's desire and find despair"] about getting your heart's desire and getting despair along with it. For the Witch looked stronger and prouder than ever, and even, in a way, triumphant; but her face was deadly white, white as salt...[The witch continued], 'You have plucked fruit in the garden yonder. You have it in your pocket now. And you are going to carry it back, untasted, to the Lion; for HIM to eat, for HIM to use. You simpleton! Do you know what that fruit is? I will tell you. It is the apple of youth, the apple of life. I know, for I have tasted it; and I feel already such changes in myself that I know I shall never grow old or die. Eat it, Boy, eat it; and you and I will both live forever and be king and queen of this whole world..."  From The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis.

         Don't think we have escaped the apple, simply because we were not there in the garden with Eve. For we are daily, constantly tempted to eat of its lying flesh.  We bite the apple whenever we give in to that root of fear and choose to disobey the Lord. We are no different than our exponentially great-grandma, Eve.  We too fear that God and His destiny for us is not enough. We suspect we need more. So we go for the gusto, no matter what it costs us. We pretend we aren't sinning. We use words like"struggle" or joke affectionately about our little "slips," but truly, we taste despair, even as we search for fulfillment.

     The temptation to give into pride, anger, lust, gluttony, control, sexual addictions, status, money, power or even the frittering away kingdom time on entertainment and recreation all promise us the world and a bigger life, but make no mistake; bit by bit they erode our very souls.  Deep in our inward parts we FEAR that God isn't enough, that He won't come through for us, so we need to shore up this deficit by going after what our flesh desires.  Our fears bring on the sin of unbelief and we live as pagans and paupers, not sons and daughters of the Most High God.
   
       Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM wrote in Making Jesus Lord: "It is a rule of the Kingdom of God: Give up something good and receive something of greater value; give up your rights and receive greater privileges with God. Jacob wrestled with God, was wounded in his hip and became a Prince, a leader of a nation. But he limped for the rest of his life. Every strong man or woman of God has gone this route.The choice is yours: Remain in mediocrity and miss out on God's greater purposes for you, or walk with a limp and be a prince."

       You call me out upon the waters: the great unknown,
        where feet may fail
       And there I find You in the mystery; in oceans deep,
        my faith will stand

       Your grace abounds in deepest waters;
       Your sovereign hand will be my guide
        Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me;
         You've never failed, and You won't start now
               
        And I will call upon Your name
         And keep my eyes above the waves
        When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
         For I am Yours, and You are mine

         Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
         Let me walk upon the waters; wherever You would call me
         Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
         And my faith will be made stronger
         In the presence of my Savior
                 Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United

                                                                                                   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Sticky Subject of Healing

I struggle a chronic illness. On the one hand, I have friends telling me that if I exercise faith, Jesus will heal me.  On the other hand, Scripture does not necessarily support a life of earthly health, wealth and happiness.

We Americans (and the American church as a result) somehow believe we are entitled to a happy and prosperous life. We then use scripture to confirm our spoiled ideas, breezing over such passages as: 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4.

Or: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.

Others:

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5 

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."1 Peter 5:10

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

All this said, I want to firmly establish that I completely believe in and have experienced miraculous healing by the Lord. I have also witnessed others who were instantly healed of a physical illness. But more frequently, many are not healed. And whether that is our fault as believers or due to some concept of salvation we have not yet appropriated, the fact still remains that many, many passionate followers of Jesus have not (as yet anyway) received total healing.

Why some are healed and some not is perplexing, frustrating and even embarrassing to those whose tenant steadfastly remains: "...and He healed them all" (Matthew 12:15).  Yes, Jesus did. So what do we take from this?

As a Charismatic Christian, I believe Jesus bought salvation for ALL when He redeemed us on the cross. The word "sozo," in the Greek is defined as to "save, HEAL, and deliver." Amen! So how do I reconcile my illness with sozo?

The Gospels and books of Acts teach us that healing SHOULD be the norm for Christians. To walk in the healing power of Christ and carry it into the world is our inheritance. We are Kingdom people and we possess ALL of Christ's power, therefore we can expect these attributes as part of our salvation gifts!...But...what to do when we don't see our own or loved one's health restored?

Do we continue to proclaim we are healed when we so obviously aren't? I can't do that. It seems false and childish...magical thinking, if you will. On the other hand, Scripture teaches that "Faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). So there you are. Different folks interpret the expression of faith differently.

For me, it has come down to: I have a chronic condition. I don't know yet whether I will be healed or not. I HOPE for healing; I pray for healing. Others lay their hands on me and command healing. I proclaim Christ's SOZO redemption for myself and those I'm praying for, for their soul, spirit and flesh.  Yet...here I am, on a weird medication to hopefully diminish my chronic pain and fatigue.  "Is that faith?" many will ask. I don't know.

Last week my husband and I went to "Son of God" at the theater. During the crucifixion scene I grieved at the excruciating pain our Savior endured for us, and the thought struck me (I was in physical pain myself, but a pittance compared to what He suffered through), that nothing I have had to bear so far in this life can even touch what He experienced for us. His human life was relatively short and not given over to luxury and hedonistic pleasure. He had one purpose and He pressed on toward it. He had no romantic life, produced no children, had no home, lived in relative poverty and not once did He stray from His Father's will. How much then can we endure our cross and live like Jesus?

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, nd so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11.