Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

MIRACULOUS HEALING, The SPOKEN WORD, etc

Gaius Columbus writes:
what is it about words spoken with conviction and coming from a place of experience or authority; why are such words so powerful?A friend of ours was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago.

The simple proclamation of "cancer" from an 'authority' has profoundly affected his life for the last year--grief, anxiety about the future etc. His life has been altered by an utterance, just as profoundly, as if this friend had been hit by a car or had lost his leg. These words have had as much power as the energy of a blow or a bullet. So what should happen when I utter the words, 'The Lord has healed you?" If these words come from a place of conviction and are based on an authority granted me by the King of Kings who is the ultimate and final authority, shouldn't these words have an even greater impact on my friend's life?

Why then haven't I uttered these words? Perhaps, it is because I feel that I need specific authority to heal? Yet I presume that I have been given the specific authority to declare His forgiveness. Don't we have his authority to do both?

These questions have got me pondering over the power of words. God said 'Let there be light' and there was light. Why did God have to say these words? Who was He saying it to? Wouldn't it have been enough for God to think them? Do words have power? How does God view words? Jesus commended the centurion on his faith because he appeared to understand the power of words 'just say the words and my child shall be well'. God says that His words will accomplish what they were sent out to do. Jesus certainly showed this was true. He told people they had been healed and they were healed, He cursed the tree and those words had the same effect as an axe would have had i.e. the tree withered.

Words have the power to effect change. The comedian speaks words to amuse us, the politician to move us, the teacher to teach us and the demagogue to incite us. We are told to bridle our tongues because of its awesome power. We are told that our words have the power of life and death. Our own salvation is made effective through our confession of faith--a public declaration that Jesus is Lord. So, again, what is it about spoken words?

If words are so powerful, I ask myself, how careful have I been in my utterances towards my kids? Do my words build them up or tear them down? Or for that matter how careful have I been in my words towards my wife? Do I cheer her up or make her day harder. Are there words that I should have said when I walked through the door today and words that I shouldn't have said? We are stewards of this awesome power; how faithful have we been? Don't we still have insecurities that arose from words spoken when we were teased as children and doesn't that underscore the power of words?

But I digress. I brought up the issue of words not so much to discuss the power of misspoken words but to discuss the power lost when words are left unsaid. Is there power-through-words that has been left untapped or unused? If words are a force just as real, potent, physical and powerful as our hands, feet, heat, or wind, then the failure to realize this fact could conceivably lead to the misuse or under-usage of that power. Is this the reason for the church's impotence today: have we failed to understand the power of words?

In some ways, this is related to our authority to forgive. If we feel no lack of confidence when it comes to proclaiming God forgiveness, why are we less certain when it comes to proclaiming His healing? Remember that many of the verses that authorize us to declare God's forgiveness, also authorize us to declare His healing. We see both ministries in the life of Jesus and of His apostles. What has changed? Why the lame excuses when it comes to proclaiming His healing?

Why do so many of us so readily accept the lack of supernatural healings in our lives?! Why do so many Christians today say that the dispensation of healing is over? Let me bring it home by asking you this; do you know a Christian today that you would immediately call if you were diagnosed with an incurable cancer and needed supernatural intervention? Would you have confidence that your words of healing or your brother's words for you would have the power to reverse the proclamation of some pathologist or oncologist? Whose words would be more likely to determine if you had peace or anxiety, assurance of healing or assurance of death, over the course of the next year? How confident are you in the power of the words you speak? I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue? - Gaius Columbus


Related to the questions posed above by G Columbus, I wonder why in our recent approach to the management of newly diagnosed diabetes in our brother, we have not banded up to pray for his healing and our first instincts are the medications? Is it just that we have no faith or are we just realistic? Besides what is healing? Does God's way of healing involve the use insulin with metformin under the care of Dr X so that the brother lives to be 95 with Diabetes?

A long time ago in high school in Ghana (when Robbo was still being groomed for Roman Catholic Seminary) I remember that there was a kid crippled by Polio and on one occasion, one of the Scripture Union leaders and a few other brethren took him into an isolated classroom to pray for him to walk. He never walked but at least they had enough faith to try. Are we just too skeptical or does not faith healing occur anymore like we read in the Bible?

My pastor teaches that once you go outside the initial apostolic period in the books of Acts faith healing is rare and so faith healing was only for that period. Is that so? I know that there are no guarantees of healing but do such miracles still occur? I know our mentor Uncle James died of a chronic disease we all prayed about and one of the things he would always insist on when a family member got sick was for prayer before they left for the hospital. He often described a situation where he got ill and he was anointed and prayed for by some brethren and got healed miraculously. He will also tell you how God spared his life when he and his wife were in a serious motor vehicle accident.

I distinctly remember a story about a fellow Christian in a different high school in Ghana. The story as I remember it was that as he was praying and praising God in a gospel meeting his vision got blurred while he was wearing his eyeglasses. He took them off and realized that he did not need his glasses anymore. Why do I not see these things in my own private life? Unless this is my unique experience my question is, have we just become cynical and more secular in our views or have we just become more mature?

What really is faith and healing and does God still expect us to believe him for the same miracles we read about in the Bible or are they just there to teach us some other spiritual facts? I know we have discussed healing before but what is our view point on this as we get older and start experiencing more health issues?- Gaius Texas


My brother Gaius Columbus is thinking too much again. I wish he would relax and take his vitamins regularly. But seriously, even though I agree with a lot of what you said about things said and left unsaid I believe we have to look at the whole Biblical picture on Healing and "rightly divide the Word of Truth" lest we fall into the danger of "healing" ministries today.

Regarding the effect of the spoken word. In James Chapter 2 where he tackles the subject of Faith and Deeds which is closely related to the questions you are asking, the Apostle James describes a friend who comes to you hungry and naked and you respond with a genuine spoken word "Be warmed and be fed". Of course you will be doing him no good even though you have spoken a good word. In a similar vein in Matthew 21:28-31, our Lord Jesus tells a parable about two sons, one of which when asked to go and work in the vineyard spoke a good word to his father but was disobedient. The other son spoke a wrong or a bad word but turned to be the obedient one.

It is obedience to the Word of God- doing what He has told us to do which is required, not speaking "good words" presumptuously, not sacrifice. If God has told you (specifically) that your friend will be healed, then speak the Word and he will be healed. Otherwise I think it is presumption because the New Testament does not teach that. I think your friend's anxiety is due to the reality of the disease, not to the "word" spoken to him. Because if I came to you and proclaimed "you have Takayasu's disease", you will just ignore me and get on with your life because you do not have the disease and my words mean nothing.

We have to really understand the purpose of physical healing in the Christian ministry. In my opinion the main categories are as follows

1) as a sign primarily to the unbeliever, less so the believer

2) to confirm the proclamation of God's word, and

3) to demonstrate the mercy of God.

The most important thing in every situation is wisdom and discernment otherwise we are in danger of becoming severely disillusioned and shipwrecking out faith. Indeed in these situations of personal illness and misfortune some people begin to doubt their very faith in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The reality is that until the second coming of Christ and the New Jerusalem we will continue to encounter sickness, poverty and wickedness. I know for many people what they can't understand or accept is a God who allows a natural disaster like an earthquake to kill innocent children, women and men. Strictly speaking no descendant of Adam is innocent though. By nature "we are objects or God's wrath" and it is only by his Grace that we are spared.

Regarding prayer for healing we need to develop sound Biblical doctrine and skills for dealing with specific situations. On some (I believe) rare occasion it may require a supernatural intervention and an authoritative spoken declaration "The Lord heals you". I suggest that this would apply usually in the mission field in Categories 1 and 2 above. This may occur where someone is pioneering the preaching of the gospel in a new community as a sign to unbelievers but we should also remember that in societies that are well versed in magic and sorcery, this may mean nothing to them or even send the wrong message- like with Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8 who asked to buy power from the Apostle Peter. Jesus also warns us in the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus that "if they do not believe the prophets, the will not believe even if someone is raised from the dead".

When it comes to believers I believe Category 3 above is the dominant option. Prayers by fellow believers and elders in the church, which may be coupled with the anointing of oil in the instructions given in James 5:13-2o. In the majority of cases especially when the ill person is a Christian, our pleas should be based on God's great mercy and grace. - Robbo


Thank you Robbo. You probably don't realize how helpful that was to me. I guess this issue is important to me because it relates directly to my salvation. My logic has always been that if I seldom see confirmation of faith for those promises that should be manifested visibly e.g. healing, how can I be so sure about those aspects of my faith that are invisible...e.g. salvation?

As you well know, the rarity of the miraculous in our day has spawned a number of movements within christianity that have attempted to correct this apparent anomaly. Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, Fred Price, Kenneth Copeland...etc. have all attempted to fill this void. Yesterday we were introduced to another...the Vineyard movement. As an aside, has anyone heard about this movement? We were late for the service at our regular church and so decided to visit this other church....I had no peace during the sermon and afterwards, even though nothing was said that was clearly and obviously unscriptural.

Back to what you said, Robbo; you are right in saying that my formulation of the problem of faith (stated above) is too simplistic. Your characterization of the problem appears to be the correct one and I agree with you. What we need is the whole word of God on this matter. God is in Heaven and He has done what pleases Him. There are examples in the epistles of saints who fell sick; while some were healed, some probably remained ill. Paul asked a brother to take wine for a stomach ailment. There was another brother who almost died but for the mercy of God. Paul himself has a thorn in his flesh which may have been a medical ailment.

Perhaps tangentially related to this issue is the fact Paul did not rush to cast out the demon in the girl who followed them prophesying until he was irritated by whole palaver. I know many today who would have cast out the demon at the very first opportunity to do so. Any lessons there?

For now 'we know in part', Paul says. I guess until we know in full, we should fall back on what we do know: Love God first and foremost. Love Him more than the bounty of His hand. God requires that we love Him and not the things that He can do (unlike the Israelites in the desert).......Finally, we are to love one another. My take on this issue is that like Daniel and the other Jewish princes, we are to be sure that our theology squares with the whole word of God. 'Our Lord is able to deliver us'. 'Even if the Lord chooses not to deliver us from the fire we will continue to serve Him' " We will not bow down to your idols'. Thanks my brother- G Columbus


Regarding your question, what I know about the Vineyard movement is linked to the Vineyard Airport Church in Toronto where the "Toronto Blessing' consisting mainly of "falling down and laughter in the Spirit" is reputed to have originated. I have subsequently learnt that there are many other Vineyard churches which maintain a sound Biblical doctrine, so one should not paint all of them with the Toronto brush.

There was a time not so long ago (when I lived in England) when this Toronto church was extremely popular and many Christians from the UK and indeed all over the world were making pilgrimages to Canada to experience this blessing. This even created a return for the local economy and it was even said that if you booked your stay in certain hotels part of the profits from your accommodation was given to the church as part of an arrangement with between the church and hotels) I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Actually I may be right in saying that a church that Gaius Texas used to patronize in his "adventurous" days in Adenta, a suburb of was seeing/experiencing something like the "toronto blessing" long before it was popularized in Canada and if that Adenta church had been a bit astute, there would have been a major tourism boom in Ghana by now! I was talking with Calorius recently about how a lot of the things that you guys criticized in the traditional churches especially my former Catholic church are being played out now in the modern charismatic churches now that they have come of age. Contrast pilgrimages to Lourdes to the reported site of an appearance by the Virgin Mary to pilgrimages to Canada to receive a blessing!

I know what you mean when you say something does not agree with your spirit even though you cannot put your finger on it. I have had similar experiences while sitting in certain congregations. In one instance in Ghana, I visited a church where the Pastor was calling people to the front and touching them and they were falling to the ground- what was referred to as "spiritual slaying". Suddenly I noticed he had disappeared from the front of the church and on more careful observation I realized he was now going through the congregation slaying people at random! I tell you, people were falling left, right and center. Talk about "a thousand will fall at your right side but it will not come near you"!

At this point I decided I had had enough and made my way to leave but one of the ushers actually stopped me and said I could not leave the church at that moment - no one was allowed to leave! I rolled my hand into a fist and calmly informed the usher that either he got out of my way and let me go in peace or I will slay him physically. He realized I was serious and he let me leave. I kid you not! Later on I did question whether maybe the problem was with me and I was afraid the Pastor might cast something from me in slaying me. But I think I had it right because, though this does not say anything about his overall ministry, not so long after this I learnt about dubious undertakings by this guy and maybe I made the right escape.

I have also visited congregations in England modeled after the Toronto Vineyard church and felt very uncomfortable. In one case the Pastor's sermon was almost entirely about how his ministry had been transformed since his visit to Toronto and throughout the service there were individuals in a semi-trance "laughing in the spirit" and completely oblivious to their surroundings. I think what probably started as a genuine spiritual experience became an end in itself and a distraction from the Word of God. - ROBBO


thanks for the anecdote. I laughed and laughed when I read it.....did you really threaten the usher with physical violence? Even as I write this I cannot help but laugh- my wife and kids probably think their dad is losing it, but that is a very funny story. Seriously though, thanks for your comments on this movement. I have since done a literature search on the movement and the articles I pulled up agree with what you said. Next time we will go to church early.and if we can't, we will simply sit at home and read our Bibles. - G Columbus

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

James Chapter 3 to a blogger

After several and frequent forays into the christian blogosphere since the beginning of the year I am learning a thing or two and continue to learn. One thing I have learnt is to be patient in reading and slow to post any comment. I have read some great and edifying comments and I have also seen savage verbal battles with a lot of cyber-bloodletting. Some of these battles border on the ridiculous and could be considered comedy but for the fact that we are dealing with eternal issues.

I am weaning myself off some blogs and have discovered new ones by following links. Recently I read a very timely post titled "Who watches the watchers" on a blog called Cerulean Sanctum, which is now one of the blogs I read most often.

http://ceruleansanctum.com/2006/05/who-watches-the-watchers.html

I have been wondering what the The Apostle James would have written to bloggers (and their faithful commentors and footsoldiers) if he was writing in the internet age, where anonymity often breeds boldness and carelessness. Maybe, James Chapter 3 could have come across this way as the Apostle writes to me, because I am applying this scripture primarily to myself as a guide to what I post here or elsewhere from this day forth.

"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" Not many of you should presume to be bloggers in eternal matters, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who blog will be judged more strictly.


"We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts" Likewise a finger poised on a keyboard connected to the internet can affect thought and emotion across these United States and the whole World and wreck great disaster.


"Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. The finger on the internet keyboard about to comment on a blog can do the same to a person.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison". Can a man or woman tame his fingers as he approaches the blogosphere?


"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing." With the finger on the keyboard we write to encourage and bless and with the same finger we launch cyber attacks on people we do not know.


"My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."

Here is one of my favorite hymns which speaks to us to encourage and rescue. I shall strive to keep the lower lights burning in what I say and write as I trust the Lord to take care of the lighthouse.

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,

From His lighthouse evermore,

But to us He gives keeping

Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! Some poor struggling, sinking sailor you may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled.

Loud the angry billows roar;

Eager eyes are watching, longing,

For the lights, along the shore.

..

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother,

Some poor sailor tempest tossed,

Trying now to make the harbor,

In the darkness may be lost. - Philip P. Bliss, 1871

You can listen to the tune and sing along at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/l/llowerlb.htm


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