Healing – Part Two

What Makes a Person Truly Healed?

Those familiar with New Testament Greek know the words we translate in English as “saved” or “healed” are based on the same root ‘sozo’.  Yet, we know that being healed and being saved are not the same thing.  Though it has stunned me, I have seen people healed of terminal cancer, terminal heart problems, and survivors of impossible car accidents, who walked away from the faith.  If you met them today, you would never know they had believed. Physical healing does not guarantee salvation.  People can be healed but not “made whole”.  There are people who do not cling to Jesus and so their healing will ultimately fail. The same cannot be said of those who are cling to Him no matter what comes.  Everyone who has placed their hope in the Lord can say with certainty,  “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God”.  (Job 19:26) On my tombstone I want these words inscribed, “From this place, I shall rise” because I am certain that  in a very short time I will enjoy all the benefits of total healing as I walk the New Earth and speak with my God. Complete physical healing was paid for in the atonement and is the absolute, unshakable destiny of all who believe.

Affirming that truth does not diminish the importance of praying for the sick.

If Jesus Healed Everyone, Why Can’t We?

Jesus did not, in fact, heal everyone but it is a fact that everyone for whom He prayed for physical healing, was healed.  As my husband has wisely observed, “Unlike us, Jesus always knew the Father’s exact purpose and perfect will and acted accordingly.”  Jesus’ miracles demonstrated His Divine nature.  Jesus rarely healed the same way twice. He spoke. He spat. He made mud.  He healed in crowds.  He healed people alone.  He laid hands on them or He didn’t show up at all and just gave an order.  If we learn anything from the healings of Jesus in regards to our own ministry it is that healing is not related to methodology.  If Jesus did nothing of Himself but did only that which He saw His Father doing, we should approach healing prayer with a sense of holy dependency.

If Jesus did not heal everyone, it should not surprise us that we do not either. God has gifted individuals within His body with a special gift to heal (I Cor. 12:9) and told us when we are sick to call the elders for prayer (James 5:14).  When burdened for someone we love we have every right to “pray about everything” (Phil 4:6) and in praying for their healing  we do so secure in the knowledge that the answer does not depend on us, but on One Worthy to Open the Scrolls. I have a perfect God with perfect vision, perfect timing and a perfect nature.  The answer as I perceive it might not be the final answer at all.  The purpose of healing is never physical healing in and of itself. God’s great desire is that “all men might be saved”. (I Tim 2:4)  God wants everlasting ‘sozo’ for everyone He created.

Healing and Wholeness

So where does that leave us?  I come back to my favorite “wholeness” story in scripture: Jacob.

In praying about my paralysis the Lord gave me an answer many years ago using the story of Jacob.  Jacob was a robust man the night he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord. He was so strong, he wrestled till dawn.  Then the Angel of the Lord touched his hip and put it out of joint. For those who have never had a hip go out, I am told it is agonizing.  In spite of his pain Jacob, hung on and refused to let go until he received a blessing. In his “disabled” state he got what he asked for:  his name was changed to Israel and he realized that he had seen the Lord Himself.   Jacob had a big night. It just cost him his hip and he limped for the rest of his life.  ( Gen 32:31-32)

Which version of Jacob was “most whole”?  Was the non-limping, pre-theophany Jacob “whole” because he didn’t limp or was the observably disabled man who was given the name Israel a man more whole than he’d been when his hip was in place?  Jacob met God face to face and left with a mark of physical dependency.  His “observable brokenness” was the visible reminder of the most amazing night of his life.  God valued Jacob’s long run wholeness over his ability to walk without pain. He was “healed” with a limp.

Exodus 4:11 and Healing Ministry

Most people have not heard sermons on Exodus 4:11. “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Ex. 4:11)

As surely as people are born with brown eyes, or long legs, the Lord creates some born blind or deaf or mute for His own purpose. They are not “sick”.  They were created as they are.  Even those of us that have become disabled may pray for deliverance and receive the answer,  “My grace is sufficient for you”.   Paul prayed three times, got an answer and moved on.  Not everyone is intended to be “delivered or physically healed” of what we might think is a “disability”.

How does that impact healing ministry? As stressful as it might be, we need to be discerning.

Ask anyone who has an observable disability and they will tell you how difficult it is to respond to an altar call.  It doesn’t matter what the message is on, if you move forward, people tend to swarm you and pray for physical healing.  That can be very distracting from the work the Spirit of God would do in your heart. I know I am not alone in staying in my seat so I can actually concentrate in prayer. Something is not quite right when disabled people have to expend a lot of energy keeping other people comfortable with their disability.

Last night a young man shared how he has been called out from the platform, an unpleasant experience I have also had.  One night  I was responding to an altar call to intercede for the lost, when the speaker interrupted my prayer and challenged me to “throw away that cane”. Not wanting to make a scene I motioned to speak to him privately and told him the Lord had answered me on that and I tried to return to prayer. Unfortunately,  he persisted so publicly that I had to leave the service because the focus on lost souls was being totally overshadowed. At first I just sat in my car and cried in frustration but a moment later, I caught myself laughing a bit realizing that a man wearing contact lenses was challenging my faith. Apparently it had not crossed his mind that if he applied his theology to himself, then he should have pulled his contacts out of eyes and tossed them to the floor, claiming 20/20 vision was “his birthright”.

“We walk by faith and not by sight” even in healing ministry.  “Sozo” is God’s heart for His people, and His desire is that they might be forever saved and healed.  If we pray for the things He loves, we cannot go wrong.

vanaria.org

Advertisements

Healing – Part One

Healing is Biblical. It is not a Formula

The first time I laid my hands on a person with a tumor it was so large it could be felt in the arm of the woman for whom I was praying. I had been a Christian for about three months. The pastor told me to lay hands on Michelle and I did as I was told and as we prayed it shrunk. I could feel it shrink in my hands. She was supposed to get her arm amputated that morning but she was healed and I felt it. She went to the hospital that morning and they marveled.  For the next eight years, during which our church was in a state of revival no one died of any prolonged illness but everyone was healed. One close friend was healed of metastatic ovarian cancer and later attended what was then known as Zion Bible Institute. The only man who died was a well beloved deacon who dropped dead two days after Christmas and shocked all of us. We just never got a chance to pray over Don.

So, in 1988, I went off to the mission field believing that healing was the norm. Our first week among the Kobon-people presented enough challenges to blow my theology out of the water. One woman hemorrhaged to death in my husband’s arms. Over the next four years we prayed for everyone. I’m not sure but at the time I thought they all died. I reached the point of saying, “Dear Lord, they are so sick maybe I better not touch ‘em”.

I had prayed full of faith and people died. That was not in my theology.

In the years that followed I struggled a lot with the issue of faith and healing and began to notice things I had not noticed before in scripture. Personally, I am partially paralyzed below my waist and am very much a “walking miracle”. In praying about my own situation the Lord reminded me of Jacob who wrestled with God and thanks to the Lord’s touch,  limped for the rest of his life. How many people would have dragged that poor man down for total healing to every altar call were he in a healing service?

I began to see that on some days Jesus healed everyone of everything. On other days Jesus didn’t heal everyone. He just picked someone and healed one person and the rest, well, He loved them but they were as sick before as after. (See John 5 for selective healing). For the first 30 years of His life there is no record he healed anyone and His own earthly father died in that time. How had Jesus prayed then?

I thought of the Apostle Paul who first evangelized the Galatians because he got sick in their area (Gal. 4:13) and of Elisha who was suffering from the illness that ended his life when he prophesied to Jehoash (II Kings 13:14) There are countless other instances of illness healed and illness not healed in the scripture. There simply is no formula.

What Do We Learn?

The good news is if you pray for some people and they are healed and you pray for others and they are not, you are having a very biblical experience. Welcome to the real world where God does things you do not expect. Keep praying, because that is what we are commanded to do.  If you are currently a “walking miracle machine” you’ve been saved a fairly short period of time. Be sensitive to the Spirit.  Eventually you see healing evangelists who have a real gift but continue to try and work beyond what the Lord has enabled them and finish a meeting with as many spiritual casualties as healings.

Secondly, scripture records highlights. Extraordinary moments between God and man. It is condensed information. If I wrote the highlights of my life in a hundred page volume it would sound like I lived from one amazing moment of glory to the next, with slight breaks for terrifying incidents which we survived only for more amazing things to come. Ask anyone who knows me well and they can tell you I’m fairly boring on a good day. “Non-episodes” are not recorded so we tend to think the highlights were the norm when they were, in fact, the highlights.

Thirdly, when I was once asking God, “Why?” regarding His timing and response to prayer, He replied back with a question of His own. “You want to worship a God whose character is infinite, limitless and eternal, all-knowing and unseen. Do do you really expect Him to answer all your prayer in accordance with your character which is finite, fallible and trapped in time?” Good question to which the answer is, “No, I do not.”

God is in the business of furthering His kingdom and healing is part of the plan. It is never an end in and of itself but there are many more questions we face.

Tomorrow: what makes a person truly healed?
www.vanaria.org

When No One Shows Up

A youth pastor asked me this question recently so I want to encourage those of you who have poured a lot of time into an event and had only one or two people show up, that what looks like a flop to you, might look very different from an eternal perspective.

Several years ago my best friend and her husband decided to run an Alpha course in their neighborhood. They asked neighbors, cooked, prepared, and several neighbors promised to come.  On the first night exactly one woman showed up. With four of us present, only one of whom was a guest, my friends asked me, “What do we do now?” I suggested we carry on like it was the most normal thing in the world to have just four of us.

After four weeks of meeting, the woman told us she could no longer continue to come but wanted to know if she could purchase the DVDs. We were willing to give them to her in the hopes at least one person would be reached. She said she’d rather buy them because, “I’m Sikh and I share this with the community but there are too man of them to invite to your house”.  Somewhat stunned we asked her to clarify and she thought she would show them to her community center since it would have been presumptuos to bring several dozen people to the house.  Our “one” person “flop” was not what we thought.

In reality,  welll over 100 people were being exposed on a weekly basis to the content of Alpha because our faithful friends treated one person just as it she’d been a dozen. All the time they were unaware their faithfulness to one was multiplied a hunred fold or more. How totally human to see with our eyes and how totally like God to see a whole lot of people we could not.

Will there be nights when you are alone?  Perhaps.  If so, you have demonstrated to the heavenlies that you will be faithful to your God even if no one one else shows up. Will there be nights when one or two show?  Yes. Treat them like they are the most important people in the world. Don’t be ashamed of having a “flop”.  Perhaps what looked like a “flop” to you was the Lord proving to the unseen accusers that you will not give up, you will stay faithful, and you will trust God for results.

When no one shows up carry on like they had and remember the audience of One is the only audience that matters.  God is not big on wasting stuff, so don’t you worry. He’s got something in the works.  I am not a fan of Woody Allen but in this regard he was right.  He said the harest part of life was showing up.  Sometimes in ministry the hardest part is showing up and trusting that God has shown up as well.  All is well.

Processing That Summer Ministry Experience

This post is dedicated to those of you who think you already have, or still are processing your summer ministry experience. You will generally fall into one of these two categories:

  1. “Everything was amazing. It changed my life forever”. This reaction is normally spoken by those who got on airplanes and went to new and exotic places. Some worked very hard building things for two weeks, sweating profusely and being exposed in real life to sights, sounds, faces and souls that are a lot more heart-tugging up front and in person than they are on a video.  For those who took those trips I applaud you for going and remind you to please remember the following:  you took a two week trip.  You did not commit a lifetime to the foreign field, don’t really know what it is like, and all Americans are not spoiled hypocrites.  You are in the initial stages of processing an experience unlike any you had before so give it time to gain perspective. Be nice to your classmates and fellow church members when you get home. For those who spent an “entire summer” in (name that country) you are not experts on any place you lived in for just a couple of months.  You were probably caught tourist sights, had some ministry experiences, and got just enough exposure to fall in love with someplace.
  1. “It was a total waste of time and all I know is I never want to do that with my life. I might even crawl through glass before I spend another week in a cabin with 7th graders”. This reactions is typical of people who spent the summer doing things within the realm of their skill set, faithfully serving in settings with fairly predictable outcomes.  Nothing was spectacular except the level of aggravation pre-teens can arouse in an adult and the work got to be rather repetitious  “I never want to do that” can be said of many jobs.  I once spent a summer making shoe tongues (really, 40 hours a week, stamping out leather shoe tongues) and I can honestly say the high point was sharing the gospel with people at lunch.  The job itself was mind-numbing. Years later I learned that five people converted as a result lunch time conversations but at the time I thought God had me in the factory so I would have greater insight if I needed to write an essay on the hardships of working conditions around the time of the Industrial Revolution.

To those in group “a”, the dust will settle and while the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, you were entrusted with a great experience and now need to ask the Lord how to best use it for His glory. Other people are not called to live up to your experience, but you are, so if the Lord gave you that opportunity, He gave it to you to use wisely for His Name’s sake. Whether it is pray for the people with a certain need, support work in such a place, or return there yourself, treasure the experience. It will not be wasted.

To those in group b, you have had the tough and real experience of faithfully doing things that need to be done and are not personally thrilling. Good.  It’s part of growing up and growing up means learning there is a lot of value in things you do not enjoy.  As you get some distance you will see more of the bright spots, remember the kid at camp who dogged you and will one day pray he or she can find you again and thank you for what you have done to help them.  For those camp counselors and youth pastors you met who looked tired and burned out, the summer is a lot of work for camp leaders and youth pastors and they were tired. Cut them some slack and buy them a smoothie. They are not less genuine or less passionate. They might just be tired. But they are faithfully serving an age group that is notoriously time consuming, self-centered and thankless.  It is an interesting reality that if a group of 50 people banded together to save a life it would make national news.  Yet that scene is repeated over and over again in camps and VBS and summer programs across this nation, when college students, and youth workers spend themselves and the eternal lives of dozens are saved and as it was not observably dramatic the miracle of what occurred goes unnoticed. The fact remains that 80% of those who come to Christ do so before the age of 18, so before anyone bashes a youth pastor, show some respect. Those of you doing those jobs no one wants to do, are actually the “top harvesters” in the kingdom.

Fall is coming. Perhaps you graduated and are now beginning to really transition. Perhaps you are returning to school. If you graduated and don’t know what to do next, take a peek at my last blog. If you are going back to school, embrace what you learned this summer and keep growing and you will find that you eventually have a healthy perspective. The great part about having a fantastic experience is you realize this is not about you but something so much bigger.

The great part about having an uninspiring experience is you will understand it was not a waste because the experience wasn’t about you. You did those skits, sang those songs, and got covered in mud for some kid for whom that was the greatest week of his or her life. Life is not about you and your ride on an elephant or the camp staff who showed the same maturity as the campers.  It’s bigger than that and you all did the part you were given for these short weeks. Now be thankful: You all had a great summer.

What To Do When You Graduate

OK, the philosophical stuff is fine but what do we really do when we graduate?

First, all college graduates have the same problems transitioning to the work world. For everyone who said, “I have a useless degree from Bible College” please be reminded you are actually trained for a vocation. My first degree was in sociology and I was trained for nothing. You can actually apply for a job with your degree and it is remarkable how few look at the job postings on their own school’s website.  The postings are there.  Everyone has a time of transition and secular students do not get a free pass.

Our nephew attended a prestigious business school and graduated the year the economy crashed. He ended up as an elite firefighter and the joke on the fire line was, “What was your major?” Responses ranged from Engineering to Law.  A bachelor’s degree is always an asset and you do not need a second one to gain additional skills to tide you over while you transition. I went back to a community college and took some courses in accounting to improve our income situation and I landed a great job at a big company, while never wavering from our call to missions.  So be thankful for your degree.

You didn’t go to Bible College to get rich in the short term but because you are a longer-range investor. You have vision. You won’t settle for things that moth, dust and rust can ruin.  Since you have vision, use it. To transition, you will have to do some crazy wild things that are totally off the charts. You’ll actually have to do them for the rest of your life so start practicing.

Radical Step One: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up”. Take a ministry position, even if it is not full time, or not paid, in addition to whatever else you need to do to meet your adult financial obligations. You have to start someplace and that place is usually lower than you hoped.

Your first job, unless daddy and mommy can arrange it for you, will be less than your dream job. (And if daddy and mommy can give you a great job right off the bat and do, they have zero judgement) No one in any field starts at the top. It’s counter-culture to our kingdom mentality where we imitate the Great Servant. As for your friends going off as missionary associates fairly soon after graduation, think twice before you get jealous. Firs they fund raise, which is a real job. Then they face that obstacle called “language learning” . Having recently started on Arabic I am sure that many unreached people are still unreached because learning their languages is like rocket science. You do not get to learn a language by inoculation. You actually have to work at it.

So, all you Jesus-loving servants out there: it’s OK to work in a church part time doing youth work, children’s work, or serving in some capacity that is not your full time dream job. You might not find little kids or youth are your passion but if you serve the Lord, He promised to raise you up. Take a job even if it is not “your thing”. It’s “His thing” and you claim you are all about Jesus so act like it. You might not think the soul of the 5, or 15 year old is quite the same as if you were speaking to the teeming masses but if you save someone from a nightmare life or an eternity of hopeless, it’s really OK if you had to dress up in that inane VBS costume. Worse things can happen. Ask a Christian in Iraq.

Radical Step Two: Trust God. The most terrifying issues for graduates are their loves lives and dealing with your debts. Most people are in debt when they graduate. I applaud every parent who has jumped hoops to enable their children to more quickly get to work by sacrificing so they are not in a ball and chain relationship with the government. However, debt is a reality for most people. Last week I met with a couple in ministry where something like 70% of his take home pay was set to go to loans. We spent a day working together and when all was said and done he got an adjustment where he now pays 1/3 of what he did before. Your payments are negotiable.

Your love life is not as negotiable but keep in mind: marriage is something you cannot “walk back”. We women are “made to complete” someone so we tend to get more anxious about this. Guys are normally still figuring out if their future wife is the right one long after the girl has feels sure. This means you are like 99.9% of other people on the planet. Guys often have to figure out their work then their love life. You can certainly think of exceptions but as a general rule of thumb, just get moving and trust God for the right person but don’t hang out waiting for things in the wrong order.

Radical Step Three: Keep your vision. Remember when your heart broke for victims of human trafficking? Or when you thought of people in places so isolated no one in this day and age had the guts, or gumption to walk into where they are and try to live among them? The vision might tarry but at the appointed time, it will come to pass. Don’t let debt, doubt, or circumstance cloud your vision. Don’t let your broken heart for the hurting be dulled by a wide screen TV at home. Nothing great happens overnight but it is during that waiting period when your endurance and vision is truly tested. Sadly a great many people compromise their way out of their destiny because they lack the patience to wait and keep their eye on the ball. Don’t invest in the world or the things of the world. The Love of the Father is not in them.

Lastly: Don’t forget who you are. No one is to look down on you for being young. You are a royal nation and a holy priesthood and every day you get up there are good works prepared beforehand in Christ Jesus for you to walk in them. Go find yours today and every day and you will soon discover that you did not get a useless degree. You were blessed with a foundation for the work to which God has called you. And for practical advice: develop a good sense of humor. There’s a lot of enjoyment on the journey.

vanaria.org