Thoughts on Communion: Healing

Many of us have, at some distinct point in the past, known a time when we realised that Jesus died on the Cross for us personally. For me it was a life changing experience.

We usually associate that experience, if we have had it, with a sense of relief that comes from forgiveness of sins. We are also created in such a way that the Holy Spirit’s conviction of God’s love for us in our hearts causes us, in turn, to fall in love with Him. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Every time we break bread and share the cup we remember these things.

The realisation that it is of grace is very important. We didn’t do anything to deserve Jesus dying for us. In fact we were His enemies before He met with us (Romans 5:8). For it is by grace -undeserved favour – that we have been saved through faith and that faith is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

In these days of the corona virus it is good to remember another thing about the work of Jesus on the Cross: He can also freely heal our bodies by the same principles that He can forgive our sins. We don’t deserve it, of course, but healing is also freely available through the same grace which He lavishes on us (Ephesians 1:6-8). In the same way as Jesus offers forgiveness of sins to all who believe, He also offers physical healing. They go hand in hand. Here are some verses which back this up:

Isaiah 53:4-5

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

Psalm 103:3

Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,

Romans 8:11

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

One of the first miracles recorded in detail in Mark’s gospel is that of the paralytic whose sins Jesus forgave first:

Mark 2:1-12

2 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The trouble with saying someone’s sins are forgiven is that there is not usually any immediate obvious sign to any observer that anything has changed. In that sense, it is easy to say to anyone – who can prove that the sins are not forgiven?

However when you say to someone “Arise and walk” and they are paralysed and couldn’t normally do that, then you immediately run the risk of being put to shame. Normally, there are few things more of a deterrence to a man doing something that being put to shame in front of everyone. It is made even worse if you are also seen to be disproving the power of Jesus.

Of course Jesus has no such problem. So if we stay close to Him and hear His promptings about when to pray and when to claim someone’s healing we can be on surer ground. Jesus didn’t actually heal everyone that was sick all the time (see John 5:1-9 esp. v.3), sometimes He has better plans for them, though we struggle to believe that.

In the Letter of James we can also see the connection between believing prayer and healing:

James 5:13-18

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

In this passage we are encouraged to pray for one another in the context of confessing our sins to each other (v.16). Elders are expected to have the “prayer of faith” which will save the sick and the Lord will raise the sick person up (v. 15). Elijah was like us, James says, and he prayed effective prayers that we can too.

I hope that the above will encourage you to believe that Jesus wants you to be well during this time. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If we stay close to the Word of God and hear those living words as from the Holy Spirit we can see ourselves and those we love healed more often.

But always remember God may have a better plan for that person. None of us know another person the way God does. We need to trust Him when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we would like as well as when He does.

If we ask anything according to His will then He hears us and grants what we ask (1 John 5:14-15). So if our prayers are not answered the way we want it then the problem is with our will not His. We haven’t heard Him correctly or, perhaps, we don’t want to hear the answer He is giving about what He wants. Prayer should always be about hearing first and praying accordingly afterwards. Once you have heard God’s answer then you will believe since faith comes from hearing the (living – ῥήματος) word of God (Romans 10:17).

Dream – Lessons in Creativity from the Creator

God is very creative. When He puts together a group of people in a church and does things through them, the result can look very different from the constituent parts.

faithfulwon

Knock, knock, knock!  I had heard that sharp sound before in middle of the night, and it had woken me up before, on at least two occasions.  The last two times I initially thought it was someone knocking on the door downstairs but then realised it had just been a dream, turned over and went back to sleep.  But a bit like the young Samuel in the bible, this third time I realised that this was actually God trying to get my attention.

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20).

So I went to open the door and there Jesus was, all white and shining and making the inside of my head house look positively disgraceful.  I stood awkwardly at the door, saying that…

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Grace

God has done wonderful things for us as a family over the last many years. One of them was to give us the names of our children from the time of conception. Our youngest was given the names Bethany Grace Joy and Grace is the one that she uses everyday.

It is Grace’s birthday today.

Grace lives in the consciousness of the fact that she doesn’t deserve all the good things she gets. Her face lit up this morning when Ruth, her sister, showered presents on her. Thankfulness was written all over her as it often is.

When we were travelling to her school together we explored what Grace means. Grace is God’s master plan for His children. Here is how it works:

  1. Give people a whole pile of things (health, wealth, comfort, good companions and friends, a loving family, spiritual comfort and hope for the future, purpose, peace with God, an understanding that the God who created the Universe loves them enough to die for them, etc.)
  2. Make the giving of these things unconditional
  3. Use the created attributes of human beings to produce a response of joy, prayer for others and thankfulness in the recipients of all these blessings (see 1 Thess. 5:16-18).

It turns out that the mechanism that mediates this wondrous virtuous cycle to us is trust or faith. And that also is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

If you want that gift just ask. You must be born from above to receive it (John 3:8) but that also is given to us by Grace.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!

Loving the Greek…..

I wrote this back in 2012. I thought it good enough to reblog.

faithfulwon

The New Testament was originally written in Greek since that was the “English” or “lingua Franca” of the the first century.  So I thought it would be a good idea to learn the NT or Koine Greek some years ago.  I must admit though that the vast range of English translations we have seem to capture most of the nuances of the Greek word meanings as far as I can tell.  But I am no expert.

There are a few things that the NT Greek does bring out:

1.  The simplicity of the language John uses compared with Paul.  It is really very easy to read John’s gospel and letters in the Greek especially in comparison to Paul’s.  It is a real and compelling miracle to see the depth of meaning and the deep subjects that John is able to explore with so few words.   I really don’t know…

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All things you ask believing

There are several statements that Jesus makes about asking in faith:

“And all things, whatever you ask in prayer believing you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22 see also Matthew 7:7-11, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:9-13, John 14:13, 15:7,16b)

The emphasis in these statements of Jesus is asking the Father in faith knowing who He is. Nothing is impossible for God. We want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – he will always answer our prayers if it is His will.

Jesus illustrates how this works by His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39, 42). There was absolutely no question that Jesus could receive all the faith required to ask and receive. However, even He didn’t receive what He asked for from His Father – that this cup be taken away from Him. Jesus gives the answer to why this was the case: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39) and “Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42).

God works all things according to the counsel or purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11). It becomes important then to find out what that is when we are asking God for something. One of the surest ways we know we are praying according to His will is that we will receive the faith to see it happen when we do. We will “know” as John puts it in 1 John 5:14,15 (cf. Heb. 11:1). If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

I have come across many situations both in my own life and in the life of others where prayers are not answered with a yes. Too often our prayers are us telling God what we want rather than listening first to hear what He wants (Eccl. 5:1).

You can rest assured that only His will will be done. Our aim is to find that out and fulfill Jesus wonderful prayer “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matt. 6:10).

If we come to God with our will only in prayer without listening to what He wants we will only see random, sporadic answers to prayer – sometimes we will be in line with what God wants, often we won’t.

We may know the Scriptures concerning healing for instance (Psalm 103: 3b, Isaiah 53:5) and so know the general desire of God to heal but, as Jesus showed when He was at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9) not every sick person is healed. Similarly, it is God’s desire that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), however we know from Jesus statement about Judas (the son of perdition John 17:12) that not everyone is saved.

I believe we should be seeing more healing and at least some resurrections from the dead. Likewise God wants to save this country and every person in it. It is up to us all to start that conversation with God about individuals we know and find His answers.

Team Hope CSA 2020: Transnistria

This post is the first in a series related to the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020. In this time of physical contact restrictions the appeal has had to move online for this year which leads to some unique challenges. The needs have never been greater in the recipient countries so please #TeamUpForTeamHope and contribute generously to the appeal this year.

Vanya sat on the end of the bed looking subdued. A crowd of mainly strangers were piling into the bedroom he shared with his mother and 3 siblings, one of whom was only a few months old.

Despite the understandable fear of such an intrusion none of them were going to turn away these strangers for they had been welcomed in with some members of the local church. Team Hope have been working with Yuri and the Church of Christ Saviour for nearly 15 years. This year they shipped 17,000 shoe boxes to Transnistria, each one a welcome passport into the heart of a child.

Vanya opened his box and began to loosen up a little. He gave a wow when he saw a picture from the child in Ireland that had put the box together. The best present though was the sunglasses. He put them on and was slow to take them off. He looked cool. And he smiled.

I had heard something of his story before we entered the hovel he called home. His father was an abusive alcoholic who had caused his mother to miscarry. My heart went out to any son of such a man even before I went in.

After handing him the shoe-box I dropped to the floor beside him. I so wanted him to know that the picture his dad had given him of what God was like was so false. But what could I do in such a short time? I prayed and played with him a bit, looked into his eyes and encouraged him with unintelligible words.

There was a nod as we were about to leave as if he had understood something.

I hope he will continue to understand that God his Father loves Him into eternity. There is much hope that he will: Team Hope’s partners in Transnistria are exceptional people. They have a fervent love that carries them throughout the country bringing hope and love wherever they go. Despite their own poverty they are overflowing with joy and abundant giving.

I went out into the car and took a while to process my emotions. And yes I wept.

Being Reasonable

The following is taken from C.S. Lewis’ essay called “Why I am not a pacifist” written in 1940 and found now in a book called “Compelling Reason” published by Harper Collins in 1996.

“….. Reason – by which I do not mean some separate faculty but ……, the whole man judging, …… about truth and falsehood.

Now any concrete train of reasoning involves three elements:

Firstly, there is the reception of facts to reason about. These facts are received either from our own senses, or from the report of other minds; that is, either experience or authority supplies us with our material. But each man’s experience is so limited that the second source is the more usual; of every hundred facts upon which to reason, ninety-nine depend on authority.

Secondly, there is the direct, simple act of the mind perceiving self-evident truth, as when we see that if A and B both equal C, then they equal each other. This act I call intuition.

Thirdly, there is an art or skill of arranging the facts so as to yield a series of such intuitions which linked together produce a proof of the truth or falsehood of the proposition we are considering. Thus in a geometrical proof each step is seen by intuition, and to fail to see it is to be not a bad geometrician but an idiot. The skill comes in arranging the material into a series of intuitable ‘steps’. Failure to do this does not mean idiocy, but only lack of ingenuity or invention. Failure to follow it need not mean idiocy, but either inattention or defect of memory which forbids us to hold all the intuitions together.

Now all correction of errors in reasoning is really correction of the first or the third element. The second, the intuitional element, cannot be corrected if it is wrong, nor supplied if it is lacking. You can give the man new facts. You can invent a simpler proof, that is, a simple concatenation of intuitable truths. But when you come to an absolute inability to see any one of the self-evident steps out of which the proof is built, then you can do nothing. No doubt this absolute inability is much rarer than we suppose. Every teacher knows that people are constantly protesting that they ‘can’t see’ some self-evident inference, but the supposed inability is usually a refusal to see, resulting either from some passion which wants not to see the truth in question or else from sloth which does not want to think at all. But when the inability is real, argument is at an end. You cannot produce rational intuition by argument, because argument depends upon rational intuition. Proof rests upon the unprovable which has to be just ‘seen’. Hence faulty intuition is incorrigible. It does not follow that it cannot be trained by practice in attention and in the mortification of disturbing passions, or corrupted by the opposite habits. But it is not amenable to correction by argument.

Before leaving the subject of Reason, I must point out that authority not only combines with experience to produce the raw material, the ‘facts’, but also has to be frequently used instead of reasoning itself as a method of getting conclusions. For example, few of us have followed the reasoning on which even 10 per cent of the truths we believe are based. We accept them on authority from the experts and are wise to do so, for though we are thereby sometimes deceived, yet we should have to live like savages if we did not.”

It is worth reading the whole article and, indeed, all of C.S. Lewis’ essays and writings are worth reading. From the above we can see that – according to C.S. Lewis – every judgement about truth and falsehood depends on three elements: Facts, intuition and reasoning. C.S. Lewis goes onto argue that intuition is in-built and has to be learnt from childhood and cannot be argued against. It is the framework from which you start. For me that intuition is the Word of God. I start with believing what God has said in His Word and assess every fact and line of reasoning from that base.

The reason I wanted to highlight and reproduce the passage from C.S. Lewis is because of something that seems self-evident to me and I think many others: There is a crisis occurring in many people’s minds when it comes to all three of the elements: Facts, intuition and reasoning. The Internet is awash with “Facts” on everything. People’s intuition is not normally based nowadays on the Scriptures and many people cannot or will not reason.

One example is the moon landing that happened 50 years ago yesterday. I was 9 years old at the time and remember it well. There were thousands of people directly involved in engineering and building the rockets over 10 years. 13 massive Saturn V rockets took off from Cape Canaveral. The blast was so enormous that you had to stay at least 3.5 miles from the launchpad to be safe. 1 million people turned up to see the Apollo 11 launch alone. Over 100 million people watched the live pictures from the moon and saw and heard the astronauts talking and putting up the flag, etc. More recently a satellite called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been sending back pictures of the places where the different moon missions landed. Despite all this evidence and facts, many people still believe that the moon landing was a faked Hollywood story.

Of course such scepticism is not unusual and considering the amount of falsehoods people have believed over the centuries en masse, it is wise to be sceptical. My first problem with unreasonable scepticism though is that it has its origin in a lie told by someone:

A false witness shall perish,
But the man who hears him will speak endlessly.

Proverbs 21:28 (NKJV)

If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Matthew 18:6 (NIV)

According to C.S. Lewis in the passage above, there are two main things that cause people to believe a lie about something: 1. they want to because of some passion or other; 2. they are too lazy to give the matter enough attention. In the second case people lazily accept the statements they read or hear without questioning the source, verifiability or motives behind the propagator of the statements.

But he also points out that probably fewer than 10% of the facts we believe have been reasoned out. Normally we just accept them on authority. Hence the joke that people make about “Well, if it is written on the Internet then it must be true.” The Internet becomes the authority usually for those who are not paying attention to why someone has said something. The initial lie, e.g. the flat earth hoax, gets picked up by thousands as truth. It is no wonder that the Scripture says:

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
19 is the man who deceives his neighbor
    and says, “I am only joking!”

Proverbs 26:18-19 (ESV)

Many people make the mistake of thinking they can deceive people and think that is harmless.

One of the complaints many people have about the Scripture is that God seems devoid of humour. If, by this, we mean that God doesn’t play tricks on people then, yes, He is devoid of that kind of humour. Practical jokes are not in His repertoire of ways of dealing with humans.

They shouldn’t be in ours either.

Communion

Few Christian doctrines have caused as much trouble and confusion down the centuries as has the doctrine of communion. On the one side you have those who take a very literal interpretation of the words of Jesus when He said: “This is My body” and on the other you have those that take an allegorical sense of those same words.

As is always the case with any Christian controversy, a true understanding can only come about by combining an understanding given by the Holy Spirit to the words of the inspired Bible. It is that combination of the Spirit and the written word that leads us to the Word of God or Christ Himself in whom dwells all the riches of knowledge and understanding (see Colossians).

If we are ignorant of either one of these – either the Holy Spirit or the Bible – things can get quite confusing. Take as an example Proverbs 9: 1-6 and compare it with the same chapter verses 13-18. In the first section Wisdom calls out to the “Simple” and those “without understanding” and in the second section a foolish woman (Folly) does the same. Both have houses and both offer food and drink. Wisdom offers bread and wine and Folly offers bread and water. Wisdoms food and drink is her own. Folly’s is stolen from somewhere else.

We know from Proverbs 8 that Wisdom is personified by Jesus. It is His own body and blood He offers us – not something stolen from someone else. He paid a high price to give us the spiritual food we so badly desire.

However Folly gives us far more insipid fare. Proverbs 20:17 tells us that her food will turn to gravel in our mouths. Those who try to be satisfied with anything other than the body and blood of Jesus will be disappointed.

But have you seen what I did there? Here is a spiritual truth revealed through physical simple elements. The reality is not in the bread and wine or the water for that matter. The reality is in what they represent.