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Posts Tagged ‘healing’


It has been awhile since we’ve read a book together, aside from the Bible. We didn’t read Wonder together, but all of us except the youngest read it in a short period of time.

Apparently they all want to see the movie and wanted to read the book first. I wondered, why? Books are typically better than movies adapted from them.

A number of schools are having their students read the book. Perhaps that will help kids from having the traumatic memories that made this a difficult book for me to read.

I read it while flying cross country. It is a quick read. But it was an emotional read for me because it tapped into a number of old wounds.

Wonder is about a number of things. The central character is Auggie, a young boy who has a confluence of genetic disorders rendering his face deformed, even after 20+ surgeries. It tells this story from a variety of perspectives as many of the main characters get to tell their side of the story. Each section has a different narrator. Except the parents. You never see their side of things.

As the parent of a child with “special needs” who has had 10 surgeries so far, I can identify with some of what they experience. His issues were not all consuming like Auggie’s. But you certainly feel protective. As my son continues with speech therapy, I am aware that many kids may not understand him right away and his circle of friends is very small. And he has a protective big sister, like Auggie.

After years of being homeschooled, Auggie goes to “real” school at a smaller prep school near the family’s home (this will make home schooling parents like myself sigh- since she seems to express an common prejudice). The book is about this year of transition for Auggie, his sister who started high school, and the people in their lives.

The story reminds us that those who seem to have it all together often don’t. Those whose life seems to be a mess often do have it pretty together.

Auggie and Via’s parents aren’t perfect. There are some arguments with kids, and each other. In some ways they have been consumed by Auggie’s needs. But they are kind people. Other kids who come into contact with them find this family a healing environment. You don’t have to be a perfect family to be a welcoming family. Many of these children had problems at home and needed that healing environment.

The story is about the challenges of relationships among children. The betrayals, pressure to be popular, power plays and more. Some children flourished thru the difficulties (even after initial failure), while others crashed and burned. It is about how prejudices can control us so that we miss out on great people. Even worse, so that we can harm well-meaning people.

It can make you think about the people who pulled away from you. Maybe something was going on that had nothing to do with you. You hurt. But there are things in people’s lives that drive decisions of which we know nothing. It can help the parents of kids with medical issues to remember there is more to life than medical issues. My son isn’t his medical issues. They affect him, and his relationships, but he is so full of life. It is what his eyes hinted at when others only saw his cleft lip. It invites us into the wonder.

In some ways this seems to be a “God-haunted” novel. There are quotes from the Chronicles of Narnia. But there is also a quote by Confucious. It is a book filled with longing, but not really pointing outside ourselves to the key to kindness, love and hope. Similar to the principal’s speech it settles for “political correctness”, or so it seems.

I recommend the novel, just not on a cross-country flight, especially if you have experienced many of these hard times in middle school.

This trailer indicates that the movie took some liberties with the book. They changed some timelines and conflated events. But we’ll see it soon.

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Not what James had in mind

Last week was one of those weeks.  Pastors have them periodically, and this week looks to be another one.  You get a few long, involved phone calls, some meetings during the day and other responsibilities and you don’t have the time to  chase down every aspect of your sermon.  You rely on your previous knowledge.  Some times it comes back to haunt you, but thankfully that isn’t often.

This weekend I was talking about healing.  It is dangerous to build a theology on one text, but some people have used James 5 to build a theology of healing that is spiritually abusive.  They treat it as a guarantee of healing if you pray with faith you’ll be healed.  If you aren’t healed, it is because you don’t have enough faith.  Yes, that is spiritually abusive.

I pointed out some aspects of Paul’s ministry.  Paul himself was not healed of his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12).  In 2 Timothy 4 we read that Paul left Trophimus behind in Miletus because he was ill.  Paul did not heal him.  Based on the fact that Paul was an Apostle, I assumed that he often healed the sick.  I neglected to verify, but I had great confidence in this.

This would be one of those mornings that someone would ask if this was true.  We both agreed to double check.  Remember, your pastors are people too, and ideas will pop into their heads while the preach.  Sometimes this is the overflow of their personal and professional study.  Sometimes it is just plain mistaken.  Thankfully this was not one of those times.

3So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Acts 14

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The Cessationist-Continuationist debate is not one I enter into often.  You can find far too many straw man arguments.  And personal attacks.  Cooler heads rarely prevail. It is not really a position you can “proof-text” and it polarizes people.

People often have a hard time distinguishing the ordinary from extraordinary.  This distinction is made in the Westminster Confession of Faith with regard to means God uses to bring someone to saving faith (XIV, 1).  For instance, should the ordinary means of hearing the gospel not be available, God may use extraordinary means to convert a person.  Those cases are rare, and are not to be expected by us.

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The aftermath of disappointment is very interesting.  I’ve found my default mode to be fear, rather than faith.  I’m trying to “feed faith”.  Not a blind faith, but one that is grounded in who God is.  Real faith returns to the Cross to see that God loves me and is for me.  So, I’m prayerfully reading Ephesians.  It says a lot about God and me:

  • He chose me in Christ, before creation, to be holy and blameless.
  • He has freely given me grace in Jesus whom He loves.
  • He adopted me, in Christ, because this brought Him great joy.
  • I have been redeemed, forgiven of my sins, through the sacrifical substitutionary death of Jesus.
  • God works out everything according to His plan to accomplish His purposes.
  • I have received the promised Holy Spirit to seal/mark me as “Property of Jesus” and a downpayment on the fulness of my salvation.
  • God’s power, by which He resurrected and exalted Jesus, is at work in all who believe.
  • Jesus has been exalted above all powers and authorities including search committees, personnel managers, Presidents, Congressman and Senators.
  • I was dead in sins & transgressions, followed the ways of the Evil One, gratified the cravings of my sinful nature, and was a child of wrath.
  • God, who is RICH in MERCY, had a great love for me though I was dead in my sins.
  • God made me alive with Messiah, saving me by grace.
  • I have been crafted by God in Messiah Jesus to do the good works He planned ahead of time.
  • I was separate from Messiah, a foreigner to God’s people, and without hope but have been brought near to God and God’s people by the saving death of Jesus.
  • I now belong to God’s people, and God’s household and the living temple that Jesus continues to build.

I’ve had plenty of time on my hands, and been pondering decisions past.  When I think of what a blockhead I was, I am more amazed at His love and care.  I made many dumb decisions.  I believe in providence.  As a result, I think God willed some of my blockhead decisions to reveal who I am and how stubborn (prideful, envious, greedy etc) I really am.  They were discipline- giving me over to my sin that I might repent of those heart attitudes He revealed in me. 

I’m not sure what this current round of disappointment is all about since I’m more passive in this process.  I didn’t make decisions so much as having to live with decisions others have made.  But it still exposes the dispositions of my heart.

I wonder if there is a book in there- God’s steadfast love in the midst of my foolhardiness.  I’m thinking a Blue Like Jazz sort of thing- truth thru story-telling.

I’ve also taken Dan Allender’s The Healing Path off the shelf.  Last time I read it was during a particularly painful time in life. 

“(This journey) will harden us if we attempt to do an end run around the desert, valley, or craggy peak where God compels us to walk.  It will soften, break, mold, and heal us if we choose to take the sorrow and suffering by the hand and walk by faith into the damage of our past, the struggles of our present, and our fears of the future.”

“Healing in this life is not the resolution of our past; it is the use of our past to draw us into deeper relationship with God and his purposes for our lives.”

I need to get back to on-line job applications and learning to not lean on my own understanding.

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Bert dropped me a line about some events in our county that  are apparently making some big news around the country.  I was clueless, but I’m not anymore.  The coverage is interesting.

I’ve driven by the Ignited Church, and wondered what it was like.  I didn’t know it was pastored by Stephen Strader, son of Karl Strader the former pastor of Carpenter’s Home Church.  A few years ago, Carpenter’s Home Church was the site of Rodney Howard-Browne’s “holy laughter”.  You could watch that on TV, it was interesting but hardly edifying since the Word of God was not preached, just subjective experience run amuck.

The younger Strader scheduled Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley for a 5-day revival beginning April 2nd.  The terminology has shifted from revival as a sovereign work of God to an event you can schedule and expect/demand that God show up.  And they are claiming He has shown up in powerful ways as Bentley preached “intimacy with God” and extended his stay into May. 

For those involved, this is an obvious no-brainer: God is there.  For those within that theological tradition, the assumption is that God is involved.  It certainly sounds spectacular, and what Christian doesn’t want God to do great things?  But are great things happening?  Here’s what we know:

“Lord, remove the tumor,” Bentley shouted as he delivered a quick, open-handed blow to Borgelt’s midsection. Borgelt fell backward, eased down by the evangelist’s young staff members. A few moments later, after other healings unfolded above him, Borgelt stood.

“It still hurts,” he told Bentley. Not as much, he added.

Back on the arena floor, Borgelt seemed dazed. “I do sense that it’s better. But it’s still there.”

Will he go ahead with the surgery, scheduled today?

“I’m just going to wait and see what the Lord’s going to do.”

Hearing loss. Arthritis. Cysts. One wheelchair-bound woman walked with the help of two of Bentley’s staffers and then took a few steps alone.

Jesus’ miracles were undeniable, clear and everyone in the community knew they really had happened.  The guy born blind saw!  People crippled for years walked away boldly, not just a step or two.  What we read about here is hardly compelling evidence to people like me.  But to people who watch it on Christian TV it apparently is.  They are flocking to Lakeland just as they previously flocked to Brownsville and Toronto to experience miracles- supposedly hundreds of them.  But this “notable miracle” (as Brentley calls them) doesn’t seem notable.  No reports from doctors.  Just claims of …. well … something.  But they are not deterred!

The focus of the services has been on faith healings conducted by Bentley and his associates and Strader. A steady stream of people at the twice-daily services have presented themselves to ask Bentley and others to pray for relief from physical and mental ailments, ranging from cancer and deafness to diabetes and paralysis. Bentley and Strader say that hundreds have been miraculously healed.

“We opened a special room where people can bring the sick early so they don’t have to stand out in the heat. We’ve had people line up as early as 2 p.m. for the evening services,” Strader said. “Last night we had an incredible rush of miracles over cell phones.”

This is one problem as well.  Jesus is not the focus- healing is.  Our culture, our human nature, prefers the spectacular to the mundane.  A guy living out his faith at home and work … not interesting.  Healings, substantiated or not, draw big crowds.  I suspect God is more concerned with the former.  Then the reality that you can’t substantiate a miracle over a cell phone.  Why spread what could be a false report and potentially dishonor God?  Before announcing miracles, substantiate them.  We’ll wait.  We’ll praise God.

“It’s electric. It’s tangible,” said Bentley. “That’s what people are coming for and also the notable miracles.”

“It’s like the day of Pentecost,” said Brenda Copeland, of Lakeland, who has attended the events with her children and grandchildren. “We’re living in perilous times,” she said, and God “has told little Lakeland to throw its weight around.”

Tuesday’s meeting brought visitors from across the United States. Strader and one of Bentley’s assistants have begun holding 10 a.m. morning services at Ignited. More than 85 percent of the crowd at one meeting indicated they were from out of town.

There have been so many people the church’s facility could not hold them.  So off a larger sister church (pastored by Strader’s brother-in-law), the Lakeland Center and then to Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers (perhaps this may miraculously turn around their season).  4-7,00 people are showing up, and the security measures necessary are alleged to be putting a strain on the church.  Supposedly no one is making  money on this.  In revivals found in the Bible, people’s giving increases greatly as they are freed from greed.  If I were healed, I’d be grateful enough to dump in much of what I’d save in doctor bills.  But that is just me.

The services often go on for several hours, with worshippers engaging in ecstatic singing, laughing and shouting and frequently collapsing under what leaders say is the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Some of Bentley’s teachings are considered controversial in Pentecostal circles, such as his claim of being visited by angels. Asked whether Bentley’s theology was a concern, Simmons paused and said, “I think what we’re all about is seeing families put back together and people come to know Jesus. At the revival, I’m seeing people come to know Jesus, and I’m OK with that.”

One little mention of people coming to faith.  Is it to have their sins wiped away?  I don’t know, but there seems little to no mention of that message characterizing the preaching of God’s Word.  I don’t see the biblical pattern of revival here.  I don’t see the historical pattern of revival here (just do a search on this blog for revival and read to your heart’s content).  I believe God can and does send revival.  This just doesn’t seem like one of those times.  But may one come.

To read on this further consider these books:

Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff

On Revival by Jonathan Edwards

Revival by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards by R.C. Sproul and Archie Parish including a modernized version of Edwards’ Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.

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