Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Faith-healing or Healing Faith?

     "I am trusting God to heal me," is a common declaration many good Christian people make when faced with an illness or disease.
     They take a stand on faith.  They trust God will see their faith and heal them.  Done.
     In going deeper into this, I find they are trusting Him to heal them miraculously, right now, no muss, no fuss.  It appears that the faith they have mustered combined with their spoken declaration is what will unlock God's healing power.   So, they stand and wait.
     Is that Biblical?  First, let's take a quick survey on how Jesus healed people while He was here.  His methods of healing are instructive.
     In John 4:46-54, Jesus is at Cana in Galilee, and is approached by a "royal official" whose sick son is in Capernaum.  He wants Jesus to come with him but Jesus does not.  Instead, He tells the man his son is healed.  The man leaves, believing what Jesus had said.  The son is found to be well, and the man realizes the healing took place when Jesus spoke the words.
     So, healing can take place at a distance.  The key here is Jesus did not have to present with the afflicted person.
     In Matthew 9, we witness several healings:  First, Jesus not only heals the man of his paralysis, but also his sins.  So, healing is just not physical, but has a spiritual component as well.  Jesus determined that this man was afflicted in both body and soul, and He choose to heal both.  The man and his friends, while trusting in Jesus, did not see the man's deepest need, and focused only on the physical.  But Jesus saw more. 
     Next, we see a woman reaching out and teaching Jesus' cloak.  She knew in her heart that a mere touch would heal her.  Jesus turned and affirmed her faith.  So, healing can be a mere touch from Jesus.  Words are not always needed.
     Then we hear of two blind men calling out to Him.  He then asks if they believe He can heal them.  They say, "Yes, Lord" and He does.  So, sometimes He first poses a question, to search the person's heart.  The fact they said "Lord" shows their willingness to believe in Him.
     Then a possessed man is brought before Jesus.  The evil that has made this man unable to speak is driven out with the most powerful words possible.  So, sometimes illness has an evilly destructive aspect to it and that has to be dealt with as well. 
     Jesus heals a blind man in John 9:1-11.  Jesus mixes mud and spit and rubs the mixture into the man's eyes.  He then tells the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.  The man does so, and can see.  So, sometimes Jesus uses very earthly means to achieve heavenly goals.
     What is my point?  There is no single formula that Jesus used while here on earth to impart a healing.  The common denominator is the person had to have a measure of faith when facing Jesus. Having faith is essential, to be sure, because we are acting on the trust we have placed in the Savior and Who He says He is.  But Jesus responded differently because the settings where different: Some healings took place while He was among the crowds outdoors; sometimes it was in a synagogue with a smaller group; sometimes it was in a quiet room.
     But always, Jesus took compassion on the afflicted one as well as the ones who knew the patient. 
     But the method of healing was of His choosing.
     So, the person's faith did not dictate how He would heal; only that He would heal.
     Today, Jesus has a wide variety of ways to heal us. 
     When I am trusting Him to heal me, I stand on faith.  Yes, that is my part.  You see that in all of the healings where the person was in their right mind and could focus on Jesus.
      But I have to trust His method.  I have to wait on Him to find out what that method is.  I can't just stand on a formula or ritual and away I go. 
     Jesus is about our relationship and wanting me to come to know Him more deeply as a result of this encounter with my morality. He sees me in eternal terms; I see me in temporal terms.  He wants me to shift my view from me to Him.  That is why Jesus interacted with those He healed:  He wanted to establish a relationship with them before the healing.  Once the healing is over, He did not want to see the newly established relationship go likewise.  The healed person would celebrate the here and now, and lose sight of the there and eternal. 
     Today, we are faced with more choices for our health than the first century people could even imagine.  So, let's take a moment to see how this all fits in with healing and faith. 
      I fear that the reason many people are so angry at the medical profession is that they expect miraculous results.  They wouldn't use the word "miraculous," to be sure; the word they would use is "complete" or "quick" if not "instant." They go to the doctor long after they sense something is wrong; by the time they reach out, the illness is advanced and the doctor's hands are tied by the illness' progression. 
     Why do people wait?  I think the main reason is fear:  fear that the diagnosis will not be an easy one; that what they don't know won't hurt them; that they really aren't in control and that they will have to rely on others to help them.  The advanced condition and the doctor's limited response then justifies the person's anger that doctors don't know what they are doing.  
     Doctors for many people are the ultimate authority figure; they don't like people over them, so they view the doctor more as an enemy than an ally.
     People have experienced poor or inept care at the hands of doctors and so they feel justified in condemning the whole profession. 
     Worse still, they will go to the doctor, and then not follow the doctor's instructions.  They do not take the prescription; they do not control their diet and increase exercise; they do not stop smoking; they do not go to follow-up appointments to see how they are progressing.  They do not comply and they do not get better.  They then assume that the doctor is ignorant and that the Internet is more competent to diagnose and treat their condition. 
     In other words, people go to the doctor assuming a quick and relatively easy fix:  the secular equivalent to a miraculous healing. 
     They do relatively little but go to the doctor and expect the doctor to do all the heavy lifting of healing.
     People do the same thing with faith healing.
     They do relatively little but stand on faith and expect Jesus to always do an instantaneous miraculous cure.   When the healing doesn't come as expected or their condition grows worse, they think they need to just muster up more faith and wave it in Jesus' face. 
      May I propose a better way?  Jesus wants a relationship with us, pure and simple.  "Be still and know that I am God" is one of my favorite verses.  Why?  I have to be still--no running around and trying to fix it myself and then expect Jesus to rubber-stamp what I have done.  I have to know Him:  I must sit at His feet, drinking deeply from the water of the Word and listening for His voice.  Relationships take time and I must invest my time in Him, and not in everything else but Him.  Then I will know that He is God--not me, not the doctor, not anyone or anything in this earthly realm.  His powerful love and wisdom will be mine.
     Now, armed with His wisdom and coupled with my faith, I ask Him, "How do we proceed, precious Lord, with this health challenge?" 
     Now I wait for His response.  Remember:  I must trust Him and the method of His choosing.  
     If it's to go to a doctor, then I pray for the right one to go to.
     If it's to take a recommended medication, then I pray for peace in taking it and for positive results.
     If it's a lifestyle change, then I do what I must do.
     If it's a miraculous instantaneous healing, then I am grateful.  I will, like the healed leper, go to the priest (the doctor in my era) and seek a confirmation of His healing.  I will ascribe it to Him and let that doctor know that. 
     I am guided by His voice, to choose His method and act faithfully on what is revealed to me. I will not let fear of the unknown isolate me, while I call my stance, "faith."  Faith is not a whitewash over fear.  Fear leads to inaction; faith is rubber to the holy road:  I actively seek Him. 
     Let me share a story in closing.  When I first met my husband, he suffered from a terrible ulcer.  He took medicine for relief, and yet he was never really pain-free.  At a Bible study he started attending (where he met me) the pastor asked him if he would like to be healed.  My husband had just started going back to church and had recently reunited with the Lord.  He is very intellectual and scientific in his thinking, so you can just imagine his response to the pastor's question.  But, he was tired from the pain.  So, we all stood up and placed hands on him.  The next day, he went to his already scheduled doctor's appointment, and lo and behold, no ulcer.  It was truly a miraculous healing.
     Thirty-five years later, as I shared in a earlier blog, Clayton was involved with a series of medical emergencies.  A painful attack of a kidney stone lead him to dash to the ER.  After all the tests they ran on him, the doctor commented that his heart sounded strange.   A follow-up appointment reveal a aortic heart valve that needed replacing. 
     One year after that surgery, he had a heart-attack.  The whole time the Lord was speaking to me as we dashed to the ER:  where to go, not to panic, all was in His hands.  He was whisked to the operating table and during the course of that surgery, he suffered a stroke.   Eight weeks later, my husband came home.
     The whole time in the hospital, we were impressed with the level of care he received, all the way from the CNA's to the doctors.  Clayton cried several times, so touched by the loving care he received.  Clayton also grew immensely in a spiritual way while dependent on God's love in a very trying situation.
     Spiritual healing.  Physical healing.  It's all important to Him.
      So, it's a Person, not a procedure.  It's a Relationship, not a ritual.  Jesus healed my husband both instantaneously and over time.  But, His love shone through in both, and that is the greatest miracle of all.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


     Societal change is a funny thing.  It is truly like the frog in the pot.  If suddenly the government legalized murder, we, as dutiful frogs, would jump out of that pot and protest.  But if one year we can abort babies coming out of the womb, and a decade or two later we can authorize a physician to assist an ailing elderly patient to end his or her life, and because these changes only affect a small segment of our population, we sit in the pot.
     If you had told people in the 1970's that we will end up with 57 million aborted fetuses in the decades to come, they would have said, "Oh, you're just using scare tactics."  If you had told people that counselors at Planned Parenthood someday would advise underage pregnant girls with older boyfriends to get an abortion, rather than report the fathers to the state under child abuse allegations, they would have said, "No way.  Abortion is for consenting adults who are not ready for children, or for adult women to have the right to choose."
     Now, people look at where we are in all of this, and say, "How did we get to this?"
     It's been a slow-societal boil.
     Many other pots are currently on the stove, but in this Christmas season, I would like to focus on one in particular.  While it is not as morally reprehensible as the devaluing of life on either end of the bell curve, i.e. the newborn and the elderly, it indicates another shift and one that I find disturbing. 
     I have lived long enough to see this beautiful holiday be transformed from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays," "Season's Greetings," and "The spirit of Christmas."  But, it's been a long time coming as we have sat in this particular pot.  Look on the outside of the pot and it says, "The Secular Christmas Takeover."
     I grew up in a little suburb of Santa Barbara, California, in the 1960's.  I loved Christmas time.  We hung a plastic Santa sign on the front door, decorated a tree and waited for Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought.  I read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and figured that Santa only talked about coming down the chimney.  He probably slipped in and out through our front door. (We had that sign on the front door, after all!)
     I was crushed when my older brother proudly announced that there was no Santa.  I figured that he was probably make-believe anyway, but hey, there could be a guy in a red suit flying around the world on Christmas Eve...
      What kept the message of what this holiday was really about were the Christmas carols.  I could just picture the three kings of the orient making their way to the little town of Bethlehem.  I tried to imagine the angels touching their golden harps and singing about the newborn King.  I was confused with the words "with angelic host proclaim," however.  What I heard was "with a jello host proclaim."  This was after all, the early 60's, when Jello in all its splendor dominated salads and desserts.
     We learned to sing "Silent Night" in German in elementary school.  We also learned "Oh Hanukah, Oh Hanukah" and spun dreidels.  We ate green and red Christmas cookies in class and hurried off to Christmas Break (that's what it was called--not Winter Break or Holiday Break).
     We moved to Los Angeles and on our first Christmas there, we drove up a street well-known for its light displays.  I thought it was pretty, but how it fit into Christmas and those angels was a mystery to me.
     I received a book of carols with lots of illustrations and I loved it.  Family, egg nog, going to Grandma's and opening gifts was all part of the season, but the wonder came with the music.  I fell in love with "Greensleeves" the moment I learned it in school.  I was over the moon when I discovered "What Child is This?"!    I delighted in the these haunting melodies that spoke of a distant and sacred time.  This music seem to be a kind of time travel for my young imagination.  The songs spoke of a stable, a sleeping child upon hay in a manger, a star unlike any other...It was as if I could touch the face of the Baby and hear the animals lowing when the songs were sung.
     Now?  I turn on even the local Christian station (which, sadly, is currently indistinguishable from the secular stations) and the songs are about everything and only a little about Jesus' birthday.  Walking in winter wonderlands, letting it snow, and decking the halls seem to be played over and over, interpreted by different artists from different eras.  To be fair, the Christian station plays songs that the secular stations will not play, but when I channel surf across the stations that are playing Christmas music, they all yield a common musical set list.
     The wonder seems to be hard to find.  The music talks of sleigh bells glistening, sitting by a fire, being good for Santa and rockin' around the Christmas tree.  The malls are festooned with lighted deer, colorful ornaments and lots of toys.  The card section in any given store is largely devoted to holiday themes, with a smaller (it seems with every passing year) percentage of cards depicting Jesus' birth.
     Nativity scenes on public lawns are gone.  In our little Idaho town, we still have Mary, Joseph and Baby cut-out wood figures chilling out on the lawn with an inflated Santa.  But, that is now very unusual.  When I was growing up, Christmas still was about the birth of Jesus, with all the other holiday traditions.
     Today, His birth is an after thought. 
     If you are a child now growing up in America, what would this holiday season actually mean to you?  Toys, lights, presents, family, food and fun would probably dominate your thoughts.  Jesus' birth would seem like a distant light on a hill--visible but not part of the overall atmosphere.
     My granddaughter goes to a Christian school.  She sang in a school play recently.  The play was about a man selling trees on his lot and having no interest in Christmas other than how much money he was going to make.  Through the efforts of some sweet and devoted children, he comes to accept the Lord into his heart.  The children sang songs that told of Jesus, His desire for us to follow Him and how much He loves us.
     Wow.  It touched my heart so much to hear of children singing of the wonder of Who He is.
     But what about children outside in that bigger, post-Christian America?  If children only have the culture to learn from, this Holiday Season is very far removed from that manger and that little Baby.  Sadly, the message that the angels sang is no longer heard.  Do children out there hear that Jesus was born to save us and He invites us to gather around Him? 
     I stood on the front lines watching the Christmas Takeover when my children were in school.  In the 1980's (20 years isn't a long time, is it?) my daughter was in kindergarten.  I would help out in the classroom and I especially loved it when a woman came in to play the piano and lead the children in singing.  I shared with her teacher the Hanukah song I had learned many years ago, and she was excited to have the children learn it.  During one session, one of my daughter's little friends asked the music leader if they could sing, "Away in a Manger."  The woman turned from the piano and said in a voice that could have stopped time, "That's illegal."  I was boiling inside, not only from the tone of her voice but the look on the little girl's face.
     Later I was told that our city had an ordinance that any songs referring to anything religious during this Holiday Time could not be sung in a public school classroom.  It was then I learned that the Wonder was being slowly being replaced with Ordinances.
     I loved A Charlie Brown Christmas  as a child.  But even that had to be updated, so as to not offend people with that stirring speech Linus makes taken from the very words of Matthew.
     In fact, as my kids were growing up, we didn't have a Christmas tree for many years.  We would set up a nativity scene, and on Christmas morning, we placed the Baby in the manger--He was, after all, the greatest Gift we could ever receive.
     Having lived a half-century, and seen how the Christmas Takeover has gone, I wonder what Christmas will be like 10, 20, 30 years from now.
     But when I think of my granddaughter singing about her Savior, I still have hope that Christ will be honored in the years to come.



Thursday, December 3, 2015

A.W. Tozer's Perspective

     I have come across Mr. A. W. Tozer's salient observation about the nature of the world we live in.  He was a pastor and teacher, who lived from 1897-1963.  His words ring so true today as we look about us.
     Truth is truth and God is always willing to pour into the hearts of His servants what needs to be taught and said.  The only criterion is that the servant be willing.
     This except is taken from This World:  Battleground or Playground?   I am, in my walk in the Lord, trying to grasp the spiritual battle aspect of what the Word teaches.  Tozer's words hit me between the eyes:

     "Going back no further than the times of the founding and early development of our country, we are able to see the wide gulf between our modern attitudes and those of our fathers. In the early days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. By their very nature, these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Man, our fathers held, had to choose sides – he could not be neutral. For him it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if he choose to come out on God's side, he could expect open war with God's enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. Men looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them.
     "Sermons and songs in those days often had a martial quality about them, or perhaps a trace of homesickness. The Christian soldier thought of home and rest and reunion, and his voice grew plaintive as he sang of battle ended and victory won. But whether he was charging into enemy guns or dreaming of war's end and the Father's welcome home, he never forgot what kind of world he lived in – it was a battleground, and many were wounded and slain.
     "That view is unquestionably scriptural. Allowing for the figures and metaphors with which the Scriptures abound, it is still a solid Bible doctrine that tremendous spiritual forces are present in the world. Man, because of his spiritual nature, is caught in the middle. The evil powers are bent upon destroying him, while Christ is present to save him through the power of the gospel. To obtain deliverance he must come out on God's side in faith and obedience. That in brief is what our fathers thought, and that, we believe, is what the Bible teaches.
     "How different today. The fact remains the same, but the interpretation has changed completely. Men think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land; we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, but we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. his, we believe, is a fair summary of the religious philosophy of modern man, openly professed by millions and tacitly held by many more millions who live out that philosophy without having given it verbal expression.
     "This changed attitude toward the world has had and is having its effect upon Christians, even gospel Christians who profess the faith of the Bible. By a curious juggling of the figures, they manage to add up the column wrong and yet claim to have the right answer. It sounds fantastic, but it is true.
The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians. They might hedge around the question if they were asked bluntly to declare their position, but their conduct gives them away. They are facing both ways, enjoying Christ and the world, gleefully telling everyone that accepting Jesus does not require them to give up their fun – Christianity is just the jolliest thing imaginable. The "worship" growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.
     "This whole thing has grown to be so serious that it is now the bound duty of all Christians to reexamine their spiritual philosophy in the light of the Bible. Having discovered the scriptural way, they must follow it, even if to do so, they must separate themselves from much that they had accepted as real, but which now in the light of truth is seen to be false.
     "A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have a right view of the world in which we live and of our relationship to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it."

     Ponder that.   Jesus is our Truth.  His truth sets us free.  But far too often, we choose bondage.  And Satan is more than happy to offer us chains. 
     Perhaps the greatest bondage we choose is our unwillingness to see evil for what it is and to see God for Who He is.  Our blindness is the most regrettable when we are standing at the Grand Canyon called, "Modern America":  We miss the dangers as well as the beauty. 
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