The Great “Who Is”

Sundays come and go. We sing to the Nameless “You”. We sing of being ravished by love, wanting to shout it out, jump, freedom (x7), and other nice things that happen to us. We don’t sing using the Name of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor of the Son of God who shed His blood to ransom us back, nor the Holy Spirit who indwells us. We do not sing of the sin from which we are blood-washed, the joy of salvation by the grace of God Incarnate. Often I think we should just rename it “we-ship” since we focus on our feelings, thoughts, reactions and how well it is going for us. Today, a pastor friend expressed her feelings after a morning of service saying, “I was singing like Jesus is my boyfriend”.

I laughed but with a heavy heart. Neither of us were raised with any Bible knowledge but as the Bible says, through the “foolishness of preaching” and the proclamation of Christ in song, we were changed. I’m a 10 years + older than my friend and hymns were not our chosen genre (think Crosby, Stills and Nash for me and she’s so young I don’t know) but as much as we joked about tunes in 9/8 time, we sensed God’s Spirit’s present when the church sang about Jesus, the Lord Almighty, the Maker of the Universe, the Son of God Incarnate who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire. Yes, music has modernized and we are glad for it. But we did not need to stop singing truth. Our God has a Name and His Name still makes my heart soar. We actually can sing “This I Believe” and we should.

NEWSFLASH: WE ARE NOT UNITARIANS

Unitarians have no name for God. They are lovely people who believe that it is possible but not mandatory that there exists a Nameless Great Gender Neutral Someone/thing/force who can’t really be known except as we/you/me/they/he/she/ze/e* perceives said Being. Unitarian optimists hope, in the wishful sense, that when someone dies they go to a better place. Unitarian pessimists just let people live on forever in their hearts. There is no assurance of anything since nothing can be known. They normally meet in very nice landmark churches with rainbow flags out front. They are not more welcoming than we are, but the one thing they firmly believe is that should A Great Who-Is exist then He/She/It welcomes you to that house of faith (or doubt) depending on your faith or faithless orientation.

Their music is as pallid as their belief: God has no name.

Our God Has a Name

Our God has a Name. We should sing it. We should proclaim it. We should shout it from the roof tops. We live in a post-Christian era when people simply cannot be expected to guess their way into the gospel. They don’t need to guess if we spend our services proclaiming Jesus Christ the Son of God. We are called to ascribe worth to Him. It is not a 45 minute sing-a-long led by a coach who tells us how to act like we are blessed. We don’t need to pretend if God is really there. We need to sing the truth and proclaim it clearly and with the joy that truth still resonates within my heart 40 years after I first heard it.

As my friend shared, she spoke of a teen, for whom time on earth would seem quite limited. He came to church for hope. When she asked him the subject of the songs, he replied that he presumed the songs were about God but had no clear idea they were about Jesus. Forty-five minutes of what might have been joyous song-filled proclamation of Christ, gave way to “singing like it was to a boyfriend” and this young man still had no clear hope.

Young People Change This

Each of us is called to reach our generation and train the next. I can’t sing or write like I am 20-something. Someone 20-something can and must create music that sings the unashamed, unabashed truth that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. If He is not lifted up we and all who hear us will be bored to numbness. Don’t blame your pastor or worship leader. Fix it. Write songs worthy of the Son of God. Stop rolling the dice with visitors. Stop rolling the dice outside the church with other people’s souls. We are saved by One who deserves that we sing with beauty and power and promise. When a lost person meets you he or she should not leave without hope. May we always be ready to share the only name given among men by which we might be saved: The Name of Jesus.

*ze/e are new alternatives that a famous university is providing so students can choose their own pronouns

(Yes, I will pick up on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit tomorrow. I just had to get this out of my system).

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

“The 42%- Part 2: We Know We Believe

Consider:

“There is no other name given to mankind by which they might be saved”.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”..

“No man putting his hand to the plow and turning back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

“You were bought with a price and are not your own”.

“Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth for you are dead and your lives are hid with Christ in God”.

“They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…….. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.”

Beautiful encouraging words! We believe:

All those words are true.  We believe, we are people for whom the greatest ransom in history was paid. We believe we are inheriting a glorious incorruptible kingdom. We know, for just a fraction of eternity, our eternal, perfect, forever-lives are hidden with Christ in God and we know we have just a small window of time called ‘life’ to share this great salvation with others.

We believe the response to redemption is self-evident. Compelled by powerful love that pursued us to salvation, we are incapable of ignoring the plight of billions trapped in isolation and hopelessness.  We know the uselessness of investing our lives in that which is eternally insignificant.  We believe Jesus is returning and we know this visible world is nothing more than a blink of the eye.  We believe and see with glorious anticipation that incredible city whose builder and maker is God.  We know that we have been tasked with loving others as sacrificially as we have been loved so we long to put our hands to the plow and stay on task.  We know no better expression of gratitude to our Savior, than to accept His invitation to discipleship and we rejoice in the privilege of being called.

In my heart I am troubled by something I don’t know:

In light of what we believe,  why are 42% unreached?

We know we believe, don’t we?
www.vanaria.org

The 42% – Part One: Delusion

Who are the “42%”.

Forty-two percent of the people on this planet have not heard the Name of Jesus. That means they have no reason to hope and no chance to be sure of eternal life. Given that most of them live in very harsh conditions they face a reasonably miserable temporal existence with no hope of ever-lasting life. It simply can never get better.

Relieving the plight of the 42% would be easy if we understood the word “go” is a verb which requires movement. People feel called to “raise awareness” and wear rubber arm bands which alleviates guilt and makes the wearer feel satisfied. The plight of the lost remains unchanged. Why?

Why the Lost Remain Lost

The plight of the 42% has many causes. One cause is the convenience of self-delusion.

When I was a new Christian, I heard preachers say that with “radio and TV beaming the gospel to the ends of the earth, the great commission has been fulfilled”. In 1988 I moved to the ends of the earth and life looked nothing at all like it sounded when the televangelist spoke. One night I saw an older woman silhouetted against the setting sun. She held 40 pounds of food and firewood on her head and turned to walk another hour home. It struck me that it made no difference to her that she was surrounded by unseen radio waves. They were beaming words of hope she desperately needed to hear, in a language she did not understand, to a radio she did not own. Those who believed the gospel had gone to the ends of the earth desired to reach the four corners of the globe from the comfort of home. The people who inhabit the four corners of the earth require a messenger with flesh and blood to come and be with them and speak a language they can understand. They need the gospel presented to them, the same way it was presented to us. The Son of God had to leave His throne in heaven to live among humans and speak our language and share His life with ours. Any message can be sent by radio. The gospel message can only be lived out in person. To believe the 42% who have not heard can be reached without the same leaving and living and sacrifice that was required of the Son of God, is nothing more than self-delusion.

Technology Marginalizes Those in Need

With the explosion of technology has come the false impression that the world is a “global village”. If you had enough to eat today, have secure housing, indoor plumbing, and constant power, you are not living in the same village as 42% of the world’s population.  It is a great inconvenience to us that most of the 42% live in inconvenient places. They are off the grid, live simply and their lives focus on survival. Travel is difficult. Supplies are short. Sacrifice is required. One of the reasons the 42% are unreached is it requires sacrifice to reach them. We cannot rely solely on the methods we would most readily like to employ. There is no technology available that makes them easier to reach with the gospel. The gospel is a relational message and it requires physical presence among those who need to hear. Technology is a tool but it must travel with real people to dark places if it is to bring light. This is a message that must travel with a human messenger or it is not the gospel. The gospel is the story of Love Incarnate. It still requires flesh and blood to bring the message. There is no shortcut. There is a only a lack of courage and self-sacrifice to live a life without shortcuts.

Technology is part of the age in which we live. God will bless and use it as He has the tools of every other age if it is used in keeping with the pattern and commandment He gave us. The commandment He gave us was, “Go”.

Pack your computer, your camera and your phone. Bring a paperback copy of scripture for those nights by camp fires. Pack up your knowledge, faith and love. Love cannot be broadcast. It must be lived out side by side with those for whom He died. He did it for us. Do they deserve less?