He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion

C.S. Lewis describes Aslan in those terms to Lucy in one of his Narnia chronicles, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The concept of a three personal God is very precious to me.  I love the idea that He is not depending on us before He works miracles, not even on our faith.

Of course, without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 6:11).  Anyone that comes to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that seek Him.

But when it comes to doing miracles, God isn’t limited by our faith.  He is quite capable of doing His own thing.

John wrote his gospel after the others.  And one of the things he does in his gospel account is write about miracles that have nothing to do with anyone’s faith except that of Jesus Himself.

  • In Chapter 5 he heals a man that was 38 years beside a pool waiting to try and get in when it was stirred up.  All he asks is whether he wants to be healed or not.  To this the man replies in a manner that shows that he only believed that the stirred up pool could save him, not Jesus.  Nevertheless Jesus heals him.  Later the same man betrays Him to the Pharisees.
  • In Chapter 6 Jesus feeds the five thousand when the only response of anyone present to his command to feed the people  was “What are these among so many?”.
  • In Chapter 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  We know Lazarus was incapable at the time of exercising faith(!).  But Martha who was capable showed significant unbelief despite earlier promising statements.  There is no sign anyone else had any faith that He would do this. (Go and read it).

There are times when people do exercise faith in John’s gospel.  In these cases Jesus says a very specific word, the person concerned obeys and the miracle occurs:

  • In Chapter 4 the royal official sees his son healed after doing what he was told.  But it was probable that Jesus healed his son before that anyway.
  • In Chapter 9 he heals a man born blind after he does what Jesus says.  Here is an example of a man hearing the Word of God in a specific way, being obedient to what he heard and then seeing – literally – the miracle occur.

If you want to see miracles the key is to be where Jesus is (John 12:26) which means definite and continuing obedience to what He says.  Now all I need to do is put this into practice a bit more myself!

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Part 2)

I was sharing my last blog with my family the other night and my eldest daughter (14) challenged me to sum it up in one sentence.  So here goes:

Faith comes by hearing Jesus Christ speaking by the Holy Spirit the Word of God into your heart and mind and not just by seeing words on a page or hearing them from someone else.

So here are a few first hand examples:

I know a man (as Paul might have said in 2 Cor 12:2) who was in a middle eastern country some years ago living in a rented accommodation with his wife.  The landlady lived on the top floor of the same apartment with her brother and sister. When the man went up to pay his rent for the first time he was asked about why he and his wife were there.  So he explained that they were there primarily to help Christians in the country.  At her sister’s prompting the landlady then asked if the man could pray for her since she had a continuous head ache/ migraine that she could not get rid of by any medicine or doctors.  So the man prayed and God showed him clearly the reason she had the headache.  She had the headache because there was someone who had done something in the past to her that she had never forgiven him for (a word of knowledge 1 Cor. 12:8).  After the man had got up the courage to say this to the landlady, her sister immediately piped up and said, “Yes, you know so-and-so that did such-and-such to you 13 years ago!”  So the landlady prayed forgiveness for the person and was healed of her headache.  A few weeks later she was still thanking God for the healing and telling others.  That could have been the start of a series of healings except that the man through whom the healing had come said to the first of the cousins that came with sick children that they could pray themselves, they didn’t need him to pray for them.  However the problem was that these people didn’t know how to hear God speak to them.  He often wondered what would have happened if the selfishness and false humility hadn’t kicked in just then, over 25 years ago now.

The above is an example of where the word of God in response to a prayer was “yes”.  Not long after that we were involved in another situation where the answer to many prayers that looked for the answer “please heal” was “no”.

In the mission organisation we were involved in, one of the wives of a missionary in North Africa was seriously ill.  The leaders of the movement and many others started praying and fasting for her.  At that time the idea that “if you have enough faith you can see her healed” was prevalent among them.  So they tried to work up the faith, quoting the usual Scriptures and speaking forth healing in Jesus name as many do.  Thankfully there were others who were also trying to find out what God wanted.  After a few weeks, there was no sign of the woman improving, she was in fact getting worse.  Everyone then met at a leader’s meeting to seek the Lord further and we were invited along to wash the dishes and generally serve the leaders (something we were delighted to do since we would also be able to attend the prayer times which, with that group, were always powerful and exciting).  The Lord’s presence was palpable and we all knew He was with us.  One of the main leaders then got up and explained how he and his wife had believed for weeks that Ann* was going to be healed but that still it hadn’t happened.  He now thought that actually God wanted them to let her go (he heard the Word of God).  After waiting on the Lord we then all felt as if her spirit had gone to be with the Lord.  We later found out that she had indeed passed on at about the same time.

*Not her real name.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Part 1)

A couple of blogs back I wrote about the conflation there is in our terminology when referring to the Word of God.  Jesus Christ is the Spirit behind the words, the Power in them and the Way, the Truth and the Life of them.  The words on the pages of the Bible without His presence in them are like a dead body – instead of giving life they produce death (John 6:63, 2 Cor. 3:6).

So we have to hear His Spirit speaking to us when we read His words.  And when we do what wonders can follow!

“For nothing is impossible with God” – Luke 1:37

“All things are possible to those who believe.” – Mark 9:23

“Everything that you ask, believing, you will receive.” – Matthew 21:22

“Is there anything too hard for God?” – Genesis 18:14

“If you ask anything in My name, I will give it to you.” – John 14:14

are just a few of the things that He says to us.

But what about something specific?  Is it possible to hear about that?  Well I believe it is and that it is essential we do hear specifically.

When David was going to fight against the Philistines, he clearly heard the tactics he was to use straight from the mouth of God (2 Sam 5:17-25):

17 Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?”

And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim. 21 And they left their images there, and David and his men carried them away.

22 Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. 24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 25 And David did so, as the Lord commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.

On two occasions he heard Him and the tactics were different in both cases (he went directly against them the first time and circled around them the second – v. 19, 23,24).

David was an example of someone depending on God on a daily basis and not just someone using a past method that succeeded to do something very similar again the same way.  Had David done the same thing twice, without waiting on God the second time, the results would have no doubt been different.  The first time He heard God, the second time he would have been presumptuous.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  He is not limited to using the same formula time and again.  There is no relationship with God involved in taking a phrase like “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) and using it again and again like a mantra.  I’ve seen people do this and I don’t know of any situation where it achieved the results that they were expecting.  Unless someone hears Jesus say that word specifically in relation to a specific situation then no faith will come, just a kind of stubborn, desperate act of the will and flesh.

There is a school of doctrine that emerges in various places in the Christian churches from time to time. It says something along the line of “If you have enough faith then you can always see someone healed.”  I’d ask the question “Faith in what?”  If it is faith in a sentence plucked from the Scripture, even those I’ve quoted above, then I would ask “Did you hear the Holy Spirit say that to you about this situation or did you just take the words without the power in them?”  The truth is that if you have enough faith you will see someone healed or raised from the dead or whatever.  But faith only comes through hearing the Word of God.  We have to hear Him speak the words to us not just read them and think we can apply them like some kind of lotion.

However, I am still learning, there is much to learn about this area.  If I experienced more miracles of healing on a level that a disciple of Jesus should experience according to the gospels, I could speak with more authority.  I could be wrong.

For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

Galatians 6:3-5

In my next blog we’ll explore this topic further with some real life examples.

Biblical Rejoicing

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials”

James 1:2

Biblical rejoicing has nothing to do with being happy or experiencing pleasure and everything to do with faith.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,”

1 Peter 1:6-8

We rejoice because we believe.  Our rejoicing in trial proves our faith.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;

Matthew 5:11-12  (a beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount)

As an example of rejoicing in adversity consider this testimony of a brother of two of the Egyptian martyrs beheaded by ISIS in Libya a few weeks back.

I had a bit of a sore leg today and I was trying out the rejoicing from within that the Holy Spirit seems to always be doing in me, if I’d but listen.  Seemed to work.  I had this curious sense of experiencing the pain and considering it a joy though not enjoying the experience in any sensual way:

Not only that, but 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

Rejoice always!

Finally my brethren rejoice!

The Word of God

I don’t know about you but I’ve been a long time around Christians and I’ve often found that the Word of God is used without distinction between the bible and Jesus Christ.  “In the beginning was the Word” according to John’s Gospel which confounds the two even further.

So what exactly is the Word of God?  Jesus Christ or the bible? Or some combination of both?

Why do biblical Christians emphasize the absolute authority of the Word of God?  And why do most biblical Christian churches say the bible is inspired, inerrant and infallible in its original writing?  It is only a book after all, or is it?

I was travelling down to one of our church’s connect groups last night.  I’d been asked to lead/ facilitate it.  And getting this clear in my mind was troubling me.  So then the Lord showed me a illustration which I think everyone at the meeting found helpful and which I share here because it may bless you the reader of this blog also.

Every born again believer alive on this earth is an eternal spirit, a soul being saved and a body that will be saved, i.e. replaced by an eternal one (see my previous blog on the Spirit, Soul and Body).

The Holy Spirit does not yet have a body to inhabit for eternity though the Bride, the Church is being made ready for that purpose.  So how does the Word of God (we are talking about a Triune God here) express Himself in this world?  Well, there are a few answers to that but one of them is most certainly the Bible.

So what is the Bible?  Like us it is a body.  This body is made up of the printed text, the written words, the versions of written words, the translation, the paper and the binding.  Each version of the bible represents a different type of body.  But crucially, the Bible is, like our bodies, a vessel containing the Spirit of God.

How important is this body?  Well without it there would be a lack in God’s ability to be the Word of God to us.  There would be one type of vessel less to carry His Word to us.  And there is an objectivity, inerrancy and authority that a book can bring that no human can on their own.  With the Man Jesus now seated in heaven, what better way for Him to make his Spirit known than through a book?

But let’s not get too hung up over the vessel.  Humans come in various types of vessels, male, female, African, Caucasian, Chinese, etc.  But when you or I are talking to them, the vessel is secondary as long as we can understand what they are saying.  What is important about every human is the spirit that inhabits them and how that has impacted their expression of themselves, their soul.  Similarly when I am reading a version of the Bible what I am listening out for is the Spirit of God’s Word, Jesus Christ and how that has impacted the words I am reading.  Sometimes I may know another language and that helps give another view but ultimately all I really want to know is the Word of God. And He is never wrong, nor does He ever let us down and everything He says is inspired.

So whether it is the King James Version, loved by so many, or The Message, I am not too hung up about that body that carries the Word of God.  But I am passionate about hearing what He has to say.

Is not fighting over versions something like racism or sexism?  Well it can be I think.  Lets not get too hung up about words (2 Tim. 2:14).