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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

HEALING IN THE CHURCH

What part should healing play in the church? I believe the Bible is clear on this matter. James 5:14,15 gives specific advice.
"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven."
I don't want to deal here with how we are to pray for the sick. Different churches and denominations certainly pray for healing in different ways. But I want to deal with the theological foundations for healing in the church.

I will begin with the Power of Prayer.
There is no question that the Bible teaches the power of prayer. There are certainly more important things to pray for than physical healing. But if we pray for our needs they will include health and healing. I have terminal cancer. And I am always pleased with people who will pray for me. Several years ago I told one of my doctors I had been alive much longer than they had been willing to suggest because people were praying for me. He looked at me thoughtfully and then said, "That's right."
For many years I visited people in the hospital as a pastor. For the first twenty or so of those years I had the feeling that doctors were uncomfortable with me being there. Then something changed. Suddenly doctors started asking if I would step into intensive care units before they were admitting family members. What happened? The American Medical Journal published a study that showed a significantly higher rate of healing in patients who were being prayed for. Medical literature is replete with evidence for the effects of prayer. God has given that power to us.

However, I also need to point out the Humility of Faith.
God does not always answer prayer the way we expect. And while most of us know of dramatic examples of healing, we have also prayed for people who did not get well. I think this may be the main reason many of us are reluctant to pray formally and somewhat publicly over someone who is sick. Will I be embarrassed if God does not heal this person immediately? And there is of course the concern that the Name of God might be dishonored if I pray for healing when He has something else in mind. I am thankful that we can trust God to protect us from harmful prayers we might pray. I trust God to give me what I would have prayed for if I knew everything He sees. If I know that, surely I can trust God when He does not heal the way I want Him to heal. We can trust the outcome to God.

And we need to see healing as commensurate with the Compassion of Our Lord.
The early church saw compassion for the sick as the natural expression of faith in Christ. In his book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark points out that one of the major factors in the upstart Christian faith supplanting the dominant, pervasive, and enforced paganism in the Roman Empire was the terrible plagues that swept the country. While the pagans were casting former loved ones out into the dirt to keep from contracting the deadly disease, Christians risked their lives to minister to them. Many gladly died showing Christ's love to others. Stark quotes from letters written by the Emperor, Julian, to pagan priests, saying "Not only do the impious* Christians minister to their own sick, they minister to ours as well." A pagan had a better chance of surviving a plague if he lived near a believer.

Finally, we pray for healing to bring about the Witness of Praise.
We honor God simply by praying to Him for others, believers and unbelievers alike. And we share His glory by telling people what God has done. Healing prayer becomes a springboard for talking to people about things that are more important and enduring than physical healing. It is a fact that all physical healing is temporary. It is also important for us to know that all illness is temporary for believers. 1 Corinthians 13 says that is also true of knowledge and prophecy. And like the foolishness of preaching, God may use it powerfully to bring forth His kingdom on the earth. 



Monday, June 13, 2016

PRAY FOR MY WRITING

I seldom hesitate to ask my readers to pray for me. I need prayer in so many areas of my life. I need prayer for spiritual strength. I need you to pray for moral purity. I need prayer for my attitudes and thinking. I need you to pray for my prayer life. I seldom preach now, although I still could and would preach if God gave me opportunities. Prayer is my most important ministry. And in deed I need you to pray for my writing.
I have always worked at my writing. The first thing I wrote for publication was written my sophomore year in college. That was 1968. I have written regularly since then. But I never imagined I would come to a point where I would spend most of my days writing. God had to allow me to be afflicted with cancer before I would consider it. I had to lack the energy necessary to pastor a church before I would consider retiring. And yet He has granted me many years beyond what the doctors thought, to write and keep on writing.
In Isaiah 30:8 the Lord spoke to the prophet.
"Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may it may be an everlasting witness."
I need you to pray that I will be faithful to write. I don't know how much time God will give me. I have six more books planned, if He allows. I need you to pray that I will know what God wants me to write. Most of all I need you to pray for God to use my writing by His mighty power. Just like a sermon, the effect of writing depends upon God. Pray for Him to be glorified beyond all measure by His hand on my writing.
HOME IN THE WILDERNESS, my third and final(?) novel in The Wilderness Series has been released. https://goo.gl/pJA4jK
This Saturday, June 18, 2016, the Kindle edition of HOME IN THE WILDERNESS can be downloaded free. I am hoping some of you will read it and put a good review on Amazon. Most of all I trust you to pray.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION

Proverbs 14:34 reads,
"Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people."

I recently read a speech by Winston Churchill entitled The Defense of Freedom and Peace. It was subtitled, The Lights are Going Out. The great orator proclaimed to Americans who had not yet entered the war that it is the conflict of spiritual and moral ideas which gives free countries their strength. Especially in the light of history resistance against the domination of the Nazis should not be seen in any other way. By some estimates they put as many as 20 million people to death simply because of their race, or their weaknesses, or unwillingness to support the evil cause.

Even 70 and 80 years later we can feel good about our sacrifices to defeat that evil regime. But where are we in the world today? Where are we as a nation? Since 1973 Americans have brutally extinguished nearly 60 million innocent lives simply because we found them inconvenient.

This was not done by our government. We do not have S.S. troops pounding at our doors in the middle of the night. We did this ourselves to those who by any reckoning were the most innocent among us. Most Americans now admit that abortion is wrong. It is interesting to me that many people say they believe abortion is wrong to justify not doing anything about it. We believe abortion is wrong, so we must be free from responsibility before God, or history for that matter.  

But what can we do? I am sympathetic with those who see the crisis as overwhelming. But nothing is impossible with God. Let me suggest three essential approaches to the problem.

First come to this crisis with humility and compassion. We all share in the cultural, intellectual and moral corruption that has swallowed up our nation. This is not simply the problem of churches that did not stand against abortion. This is not simply the fault of another political party or someone else. Most of us would agree that German people who ignored the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors or were afraid to speak up no matter what it cost them, shared in the guilt.

And we who are also guilty need to seek ways of ministering to girls faced with unwanted pregnancy, and unplanned and unwanted children. Do we have means to intervene in the lives of young people who realize they have sacrificed their vision of the future on the altar of sexual freedom?

Next, address the problem with wisdom and intelligence. If we simply demonize political opponents or shout at them in protest, rather than listening to their arguments and seeking to persuade people, we will make little headway in the issue.

Finally, we must face this problem in prayer and worship. We will not turn this evil around without the mighty hand of God. We need to see this as a matter of spiritual war, crying out to God about every issue small and great. We have no greater weapon in spiritual warfare than worship that connects us with God Himself.

The culture of death is a daunting reality. But it is no greater than slavery that the enemy foisted on our fathers a few generations back. Against all social, economic, and political odds Great Britain outlawed the vile trade on her far flung shores. And eventually Americans were willing to plunge ourselves into a horrible civil war.


If your faith is not built on a powerful relationship with Almighty God you will not be able to pay whatever price is demanded of us to defeat this horrible plague.