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Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Is the age of miracles past? Did miracles cease after the apostolic age? I believe the answer to both these questions is an emphatic “No.” God has performed miracles throughout all of church history. God’s healing power works in every century, in every generation, and for every person who has the faith to believe for healing.
I believe Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever; if Jesus healed when He was on earth, He will heal forever. If it is true that miracles have not ceased, there should be a record of healing testimonies during the last two thousand years. Upon careful examination, it is found that healing power has never been quenched except in the lives of those who stopped believing. Let us look at some healing testimonies through the centuries.
An early church father, Polycarp (A.D. 69-155) sat at the feet of John the Apostle and listened to his stories about Jesus. In a letter to the church of Philippi, he exhorts the elders of the church to pray for the sick. Why would he tell them to pray for the sick if healing had ceased?
Clement (A.D. ?-95), a pastor of the church in Rome, wrote detailed instructions for ministers who visit the sick. He said, “Let them, therefore, with fasting and prayer, make their intercessions, and not with the well arranged and fitly ordered words of learning, but as men who have received the gift of healing confidently, to the glory of God.”
Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) was an influential writer, philosopher, and evangelist during the second century who was eventually beheaded by the Roman government for his beliefs. He emphasized that Christians “have healed and do heal.”
Irenaeus (A.D.125-200) wrote a series of books combating false doctrine in the early church. He explained Christians “still heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up.”
Tertullian (A.D. 160-240) ministered in North Africa. He recounts the healing testimonies of both distinguished men and common people who were cured.
Healing was an important part of the church for the first two hundred years, but then a problem arose. Origen (A.D. 185-284) noticed that miracles were becoming less frequent. He mentions the abundance of miracles and supernatural events in the days of the Christ and the early Apostles, then he remarks “but since that time these signs have diminished.” Interestingly enough, he pinpoints the reason miracles became infrequent when he says there were no healings because of a lack of holiness among the believers.
When Constantine made Christianity the state religion in 313, many joined the church for the sake of political advantages. This changed the focus of Christianity from being a movement which met in homes, to a structured movement that emphasized liturgy and the leadership of bishops. Only sacraments administered by ordained ministers were considered a source of grace. This caused the gifts of the Spirit in ordinary Christians to dry up. As a result, healings and miracles became less frequent in the hands of politically appointed priests and bishops.
Later a new movement arose called monasticism. These were groups of men who became monks in order to devote their lives to prayer. They lived simple, austere lives in order to focus on seeking God. Although some monks decided the amount of suffering one endured was a sign of one’s devotion to God, other monks earned a reputation for powerful prayers and miraculous healings.
For example, Anthony (A.D. 251-356) who is credited with starting the monastic movement, often prayed for the sick and delivered the demon oppressed. Athanasius (A.D. 295-373) writes of one occasion when many sick people gathered outside Anthony’s cave seeking prayer. When Anthony came out, “through him the Lord healed the bodily ailments of many present, and cleansed others from evil spirits.”
Jerome (A.D. 347-420) writes about another monk, Hilarion (A.D. 305-385) who discovered a paralyzed man who was lying near his home. Then, “weeping much and stretching out his hand to the prostrate man he said, 'I bid you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, arise and walk.' The words were still on the lips of the speaker when, with miraculous speed, the limbs were strengthened and the man arose and stood firm.”
Ambrose (A.D. 340-397), a bishop of Milan, healed a blind man and wrote “as the Father gives the gift of healings, so too does the Son give.”
One of the most influential writers and thinkers in Christianity was Augustine (A.D. 354-430). In the early years of his ministry, he dismisses the supernatural from church experience. He makes a point “that the witness of the Holy Spirit’s presence is no longer given by miracles, but by the love of God in one’s heart for the Church.” However, later on in life he changed his mind and wrote about many supernatural events he experienced.
In his classic work, The City of God, one chapter is titled “Concerning Miracles Which Were Wrought in Order That the World Might Believe in Christ and Which Cease Not to be Wrought now That the World Does Believe.” Augustine says, “For even now, miracles are wrought in the name of Christ.” Then, Augustine lists a few of the miracles he has personally experienced including: “healings from blindness, cancer, gout, hemorrhoids, demon possession, and even the raising of the dead.”
Unfortunately, Augustine’s early opinions concerning the cessation of miracles strongly influenced successive generations of scholars. Even though he wrote about miracles in his later years, his early writings are largely responsible for the belief that miracles ceased.
In spite of the spread of this belief, miracles continued in the lives of many believers. Benedict (A.D. 480-547) once prayed for a dead monk who had been crushed by a falling wall at a monastery construction site. The body was laid in his room and Benedict prayed earnestly for an hour. At the end of this time, the monk was raised from the dead and returned to work on the wall.
There are many fantastic stories of healings told about the years A.D. 500-1000. Most of these stories were used to prove the sainthood of worthy individuals. Many sick people traveled to the tombs of saints, or to shrines to seek healing. Churches often collected relics which were said to hold healing power. These relics included the bones of saints, pieces of the true cross, various shrouds, the head of John the Baptist, the tunics of saints, or other holy pieces of history which served as a point of contact for those believing for a miracle.
New leaders arose who started the “traveling friar” movement. These men took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Just like Jesus’ disciples, they traveled and preached without taking any extra money or clothing with them. Many miracles were reported in their ministries.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) healed the lame, the mute, the blind, and many others who came to him seeking a cure. One boy who had been deaf and mute from birth, began to speak after Bernard prayed for him. The crowds who witnessed the miracle cheered when the saint set the boy up on a bench so he could speak to them.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a woman who flowed in the miraculous. When people came to her for prayer, she used different methods of healing as the Spirit led her. “Sometimes the medium used was a prayer, sometimes a simple word of command, sometimes water which, as in one case, healed paralysis of the tongue.” It was said that “scarcely a sick person came to her without being healed.”
Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was an influential force in Christianity who founded the Franciscan order of priests. The preaching of Francis was accompanied with signs and wonders. One time when he was preaching in Narni, he prayed for a man who was completely paralyzed. After Francis made the sign of the cross over his head, the man jumped up and began to walk.
Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225-1274) once visited the Vatican. The pope proudly showed the saint all the treasures of the Church: the gold, the silver, the beautiful paintings, and the works of art. The pope turned to Aquinas and proudly said, “No longer can the Church say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” Aquinas sadly looked up and replied, “And no longer can she say, ‘Rise up and walk.'” He knew the focus of the church had changed from heavenly power to worldly wealth.
Aquinas was a man of great prayer. He has often been called a genius because of his knowledge, learning, and skill as a writer. Yet he also experienced many miracles in his ministry. One pope declared that Aquinas wrought as many miracles as there are articles in his famous book Summa Theologica
Vincent of Farrier (1350-1419) was healed from an illness after seeing a vision of Christ and started his ministry as a result of his personal experience with the healing power of God. When he was preaching in the Netherlands, he prayed for the sick at a set hour each day because there were so many people seeking miracles.
During the Reformation, a new emphasis was placed on the importance of God’s Word and on the faith necessary for salvation. The reformers preached a message which emphasized that healing of the soul is more important than healing of the body. But even Martin Luther (1483-1546) did occasionally pray for the healing of the sick. One time Luther’s good friend, Philip Melancthon, became seriously sick. Luther prayed earnestly for him and confessed all the healing promises from Scripture. Then, he took Melancthon by the hand and said, “Be of good courage, Philip, you shall not die.” The man was healed and quickly became healthy again.
John Hus (1373-1415) was a leader of the Moravians who ignited one of the greatest missionary movements in history because of his dedication to prayer. One of the Moravian histories says, “It is...proved, both by facts and by Scripture, that there may always be [gifts of miracles and healings] where there is faith and that they will never be entirely detached from it."
George Fox (1624-91), a Quaker, kept a record of over one hundred miracles. One of the stories from his journal is about the healing of John Banks. The man had terrible pain in his right arm and hand. He sought a cure from doctors but none of them could help. Fox laid his hands on him, and a couple of hours later, the arm was completely restored.
John Wesley (1703-91) who started the Methodist movement was a dynamite preacher who brought salvation to England. Wesley testified to having been healed supernaturally several times. On one occasion, he was stricken with sickness on a Friday and by Sunday, he was barely able to lift his head from the pillow. He relates, “I was obliged to lie down most part of the day, being easy only in that posture. In the evening, beside the pain in my back and head, and the fever which still continued upon me, just as I began to pray I was seized with such a cough that I could hardly speak. At the same time came strongly to my mind, 'These signs shall follow them that believe.' I called on Jesus aloud to increase my faith and to confirm the word of His grace. While I was speaking, my pain vanished away, the fever left me, my bodily strength returned, and for many weeks I felt neither weakness or pain. Unto thee O Lord, do I give thanks.”
A powerless church is not what God intended. Jesus gave the original disciples the power to heal and this power has never been taken away from the church. It has been ignored, ridiculed, and doubted; but the power to heal has existed in every generation for those who will believe.
* For more detailed information on the history of healing, I encourage you to read the book by my friend, Dr. Eddie Hyatt, 2,000 Years of Charismatic Christianity
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The main belief of Charismatics is that God is still active and moving in the world today. This is the opposite of the cessationist view that miracles ended when the Apostles died. Here is a list of twenty-six distinctive Charismatics beliefs organized under five main headings. These teachings have brought enormous growth to the body of Christ around the world over the past thirty years.
1. Infilling of the Holy Spirit as a subsequent experience to salvation. “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NKJV).
Speaking in Tongues / Glossolalia “I wish you all spoke with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:5 NKJV)
Interpretation of Tongues “…unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1 Corinthians 14:5 NKJV).
Holy Spirit Guidance “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13 NKJV).
2. Signs and Wonders “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:16-18 NKJV).
Healing “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” (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV).
Miracles “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NKJV).
Faith “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).
3. God Speaks to people today “Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place” (1 Samuel 3:9 NKJV).
Prophecy “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1 NKJV).
Words of wisdom “For the LORD gives wisdom…” (Proverbs 2:6 NKJV).
Words of knowledge “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:8 NKJV).
Visions & Dreams “Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17 NKJV).
4. Power in the Spiritual Realm “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matthew 10:1 NKJV).
Discerning of spirits “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NKJV).
Casting out demons “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Luke 10:17 NKJV).
Binding and loosing spiritual powers “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18 NKJV).
Agreement in Prayer “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19 NKJV).
Power over Satan “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house” (Mark 3:27 NKJV).
Angels “And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him” (Mark 1:13 NKJV).
5. Blessing “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 NKJV).
Prosperity “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).
Seed Faith “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 NKJV).
Positive Confession “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21 NKJV).
Anointing “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him” (1 John 2:27 NKJV).
Being slain in the Spirit “Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6 NKJV).
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
2. You must discover your assignment. What are you passionate about? What injustice do you get angry about? Joyce Meyer says, “What you can’t stand is a hint to what you are called to fix.” If you had the money and time to do anything you wanted to help people, what would you do?
3. Your assignment will be confirmed by your interests and passions. Are you good at singing? Your assignment may involve music. Can you fix a car? You might be called to be a car mechanic. Are you articulate? Perhaps you are called to preach. Once someone prophesied that I would sing on a music CD. I knew it was a lie because I do not have a good singing voice. I have always been interested in evangelism. When I was a teenager, I read the books of great evangelists. I would pass a soccer field and start dreaming of ways to fill the field with people who need Jesus. My passion revealed my assignment.
4. Your assignment will be revealed by your diligence. You will never discover your assignment sitting in a rocking chair. You may not know what your assignment is right now, but if you will start moving diligently in the direction of your dominate focus your divine assignment will be revealed. Initially, I did not know I was called to be a writer. But, my larger assignment to be an evangelist created the need for me to also be a writer.
4. Your assignment will be something that no one else can accomplish. Look at your thumb. No one else on the planet had your fingerprint. You are unique and special. God has given you abilities that are not duplicated in any other person on earth. If you do not complete your assignment, it will never be done in the way that only you can do it.
5. Your assignment is bigger than you can accomplish alone. You need other people. You need God to be involved in your assignment. With God’s help you can do something bigger than is possible with your own strength.
6. Your assignment will take your whole life to accomplish. Your life purpose is bigger than a few months or years. It may take you a lifetime to prepare to accomplish your assignment. After you die, the fruit of your assignment will continue.
7. There are a variety of ways for you to accomplish your assignment. The nature of your calling comes from God, but the way you fulfill your assignment comes from your creativity. My assignment is to be an evangelist, within this calling there are a variety of ways of accomplishing my assignment. I could be a street evangelist, a crusade evangelist, an Internet evangelist, or a television evangelist. Each of these options would be a fulfillment of God’s call on my life. My assignment comes from God, but the method I use to fulfill that assignment comes from me. The nature of my calling comes from God, the scope of my calling is revealed by my willingness to be used.
8. Your assignment is attached to a particular place, people, or problem. You are not called to fix every problem in the world. You are called to fix a specific problem that no one else can fix. Stay in your assignment and don’t try to minister to everyone. Paul was not assigned to John Mark. A trash collector cannot collect trash in both Seattle and Miami, he has to choose a geographical location to fulfill his assignment.
9. By embracing your assignment, you are saying no to distractions. Know who you are and what you are called to do. I am called to be an evangelist. When I embrace my assignment, it forces me to decline many invitations that are good but have nothing to do with my calling. The more clearly your assignment is defined, the easier it will be to make important decisions. On Facebook, some people make comments that I disagree with but I do not say anything. Why? Because trying to set them straight is not my assignment.
10. When you are in your assignment, you will be sought out by people who need your specific assignment. People will appreciate you for who you are instead of for who they wish you were. I don’t get mad at my dentist because he does not cut my hair. You will be rewarded for the problems that you solve.