thoughts on fasting…

While reading the letter on fasting that correlated with my reading of Judges today, the thought occurred to me that in many places, the church walks similarly to the nation of Israel, where “there is no king and every one did what was right in their own eyes. Even the leaders, the Judges, with the exception of Deborah, did largely what they saw fit.  


We have lost, by and large, the working of healing and the miraculous.  And, like the letter posted days ago, we accept that this is the norm existence for our lives as children of God, who Himself said that we “would do greater things that these.”


Not in merely demonstrating what is currently in operating, such as delivering a prophecy, or speaking in tongues, but consistently laying hands on the sick and seeing them consistently healed.  The church of this day does not seem to want for teachers, pastors, and evangelists, but it lacks seriously in those who are willing to make the sacrifices to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and consecrate themselves for the full work to which Christ has called us.  I say all this as a teacher.  


Such a willingness to accept a miracle-free, healing-free, supernatural-free existence as the best God has for His children, who should be walking in realms that bring the Jews to envy (Romans 11) is not just disturbing.  It is downright alarming.


Moreover, I believe there is a correlation, starting with me, between our lack of the supernatural and our lack of persistence and willingness to settle for less than God does have for us. 


Repentance has been grabbing me greatly, and it does as I write this.  Repentance from lack of persistence, lack of faith, idolatry (in my case, of food, Facebook, and intellectualism), and lack of intimacy with God.  


First a qualification on something I just said.  To stop our pursuit of intellectualism, fellow and aspiring doctors of the church, does not mean we stop thinking deeply about the Scriptures and deeply about the things of God, and stop interacting with fellow experts in our given fields.  Rather, it means we stop pursuing and using our ABILITY to do deep thinking as a badge of honor or respectability; a barrier of protection; or bulwark behind which we may hide and then launch our arrows of criticism at those who fail to do the same, whether because they lack gifting or the ability to do so. In other words, it’s not gifted intellect that is the issue. Rather it is the EFFICACIOUS WORTH we assign to that intellect, and the way, manner, and attitude in which we wield that intellect.  When we fail to wield that intellect with humility and in an irenic matter, as Bruce Metzger did, and as Gordon Fee does, to cite two examples of humility in world-class scholarship, we become easy tools for the enemy to hang whole sectors of the church out to dry: sectors which God may very well be using to accomplish his purpose. 


Put another way, swords can be very useful in battle, but they can also damage the owner, if improperly handled.  I have seen in the last several months, examples of denunciation of false prophets turn into downright mean, hypercritical, and vindictive railings.  The denunciation of false prophets is one thing, but it is not central to our ministry.  Acts 2:42-46, Matthew 28:18-20, and Mark 16:14-20 ARE central to our mission, however. And I see far more denunciation of false prophets occurring in the church than I see people working to be used to heal the sick. 




Elucidation on the things of which we in the church need to repent
1. God wants a children who will persist and contend for His kingdom against the spiritual wickedness of the kingdom of the Evil One. 


2. In order for God to show the fullness of His goodness and greatness, which includes his ability, desire, and will to heal at all times, He must have a people who exercise faith, and believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently–persistently–seek Him.  In the last several months I have struggled with believing Him, and if you count my experiences with being spiritual abuse, that would also include believing He wanted me to be completely healed of my own abuse at the hands of ministers.  I know He wants to heal me, and I believe He wants to do that right now.  But there must be a diligence in seeking His face. 


Another qualification here.  Accusing the sick person of a lack of faith, gets the minister nowhere.  The faith that is necessary for healing can have any source.  God will use faith of anyone to accomplish the healing, whether it is the person receiving prayer, the person administering prayer, or the people agreeing in prayer for the healing. A lack of faith in one person does not typically hinder God’s choice to heal, but a pervasive lack of faith, or rather, unbelief,  in all persons involved in the prayer can negatively impact what God does in that situation.


3. Dealing with idolatry is a big one.  Forgive me for the following stream of consiousness. In my case, social networking, food, anger, lust, and pride in my own intellect, have been gods to one extent or another.  Not necessarily in that order.  Idolatry is so central to this cause because it does two things.  One, it robs us of intimacy with God, of deepening our relationship with God.  Two, in robbing us of our intimacy with God, it brings us to a place where we develop a deepening and deeper relationship with things we use as substitutes for the vital relationship.  Those things become our God.  We forget what is meant by the concept that “man does not live by bread along, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.”  He wants us to know what it means to treat His word with the same value that we treat the next breath we take, specifically those breaths we take that could be our last. 


4. Dealing with idolatry of things, or as Dave Ramsey says, “stuffitis”, is a primary roadblock to our intimacy.  Closeness to God means distance from the world.  It also means our perspective of the things of the world with which we interact (food, money, sexual intimacy, our intellect, etc) changes drastically, and we begin to see them as tools.  The more deeply we go in our relationship with God, the less the things of this world have a hold on us, and as a result, the greater the Lord can pour out His blessings onto us.  We can indeed handle greater worldly and spiritual wealth because they are not our priorities.  We don’t need a government to nanny our individual lives. More on this later. 



“I have noticed that we experience God’s power in the areas that we have relationship with Him. If we know Him as healer and relate to Him as our healer, we will tend to see Him heal. If we know Him as a warrior, our enemy goes from being a serious threat to just being occasionally annoying. We do not know how to partner with Him in walking in power in many areas. We also do not know how to partner with Him to get answers to prayer in many areas. I believe this is really not a result of a lack of techniques, but rather it is a result of not knowing Him.

We need to admit that we can’t get ourselves to know Him in this way. We have a problem and we have no ability to fix it. We also have been content to stay where we are for a rather long time which puts us in a very deep rut. 

We need God to break us out of this rut. “
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4 responses to this post.

  1. I have two thoughts on this, though mind they are coming from more of an outside perspective.

    On healing and miracles and people being open to the supernatural…well, the world is a different place than it was when Acts was written. People have, I think, simultaneously more of a tolerance for “miracles” (in the form of constantly changing technology) and more skepticism of such (due to the sheer number of things said technology can do). They are used to seeing miracles and they are used to dismissing them as miracles.

    Given that general mindset (and short of turning back the clock, which is rarely a good idea, I really don't see this changing), I think we should expect miracles to look a little different as well. Perhaps the church needs to be careful not to pigeonhole what “healing”, “cleansing”, and “raising the dead” are *supposed* to look like. I'd agree that healing should be an integral part of life in the church…but it needn't dazzle us. We're dazzled by this and that newfangled somethingorother every day of our lives. God doesn't need to compete with the fruits of our cleverness to win people, and neither does his church.

    Second thought: I think the biggest mistake American Christianity is making today is not that they aren't standing firm enough against whatever manifestation of fallenness they've chosen to demonize that week…but rather that the church feels the need to stand AGAINST anything at all. Healing should be *towards* wholeness, not *from* sickness. Raising should be *towards* life, not *from* death. It's not about what you're against. It's about what you're for.

    “1. God wants a children who will persist and contend for His kingdom against the spiritual wickedness of the kingdom of the Evil One.”

    No. No. God wants a children who will persist and contend for His kingdom FOR healing, and wholeness, and spiritual goodness, FOR the sake of every child of God. The world is sick of hearing about the things that the Christian Church is against. You wanna win the world? Don't turn the church's mission into some epic D&D campaign against “the forces of darkness”, because that is going to epically miss the point. Jesus spent far more time talking about what people needed to BE rather than about what his people needed to OPPOSE. Don't rail against the darkness…be light. Don't fight against unsaltiness…be salt. Don't pit yourself against imperfection…be perfect. Don't ask who your neighbor is…be the neighbor. Stand against the world and it will destroy you. Run away from the world and it will find you. Stand for God, and you can eat with prostitutes. In the world but not of it. It's all about what you're FOR.

    Reply

  2. “1. God wants a children who will persist and contend for His kingdom against the spiritual wickedness of the kingdom of the Evil One.”

    Thanks for your thoughts, Ashley. I realize you have probably seen the church portray it as some epic D&D campaign against the forces of darkness. For that, I truly apologize. Having both played D&D and done spiritual warfare, I can see that sentiment and have experienced churches where they do that. I seriously apologize for that. This, however, is not the case with me.

    From a simple reading of the text, one's relationship with Christ, quite readily flows into warfare. From our being salt our very nature existing as salt, the unsaltiness is confronted, like it or not. From dwelling with the Light and in the Light of Christ, with whom our life is hidden in God, the forces of darkness are confronted, and rightfully so. Even as Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, and if we are in Christ, and our war is not against flesh and blood, and we are to put on armor, then supernatch… This is part of the outflow. We are with the prostitutes, but also against the kingdom of darkness. Our life and existence is continually binary. Call it what you will, but this bears out in too many places to ignore. It's not just a choice to do one or the other. It's a choice to be the ONE, salt, light, perfect, and neighbor. And by nature of being those things, and our connection with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that will bring us into conflict with the darkness. The light by its very nature is a threat to the darkness.

    Maybe you misunderstood what I was saying?

    For the world, a whole different mindset. For perhaps a later post.

    It says nothing about standing against the world or running away from the world. None of those sentiments were in place in the text anywhere.

    Reply

  3. For the most part, I think I understand what you're saying. The running away from the world comment was triggered specifically by the phrase “closeness to God means distance from the world”. Now, I know from talking to many Christians, like you and my husband, that you aren't talking about literally holing up and forming your own little isolated community, safe from worldly corruption. It's more of a matter of priorities, of deciding what's really important and what's not, and that seemed to be the main thrust of this post.

    However, a minority of Christians do interpret “distance” to mean exactly what I described above: literally walling oneself out of the world. And unfortunately, as these tend to be the most vocal and outspoken in their condemnation of, well, just about everything…it is these Christians that nonbelievers (particularly Pagans, atheists, gays, and other “threatening” groups) are most exposed to. When they hear Christians talking about “distancing themselves from the world”, this is what they think of. It's become a dog-whistle for a holier-than-thou attitude. But as you said, those sentiments were not in the original text at all. I guess what I'm trying to do is not to claim you are saying these things, but rather to point out what an outsider might be bringing to the table, as it were.

    I'm not really concerned about figuring out who has hurt whom, or who is to blame for which misunderstandings. The isolationist Christians in question are mistaken in their theology, and the non-believers who react with anger and insults are mistaken to think all Christians are this way. My question is: what can be done to heal these misunderstandings?

    That was the point of my saying the church could make a point to be FOR things rather than against things. Concentrate on being a light rather than worrying about being against the darkness. As you said, if you are light, you are inherently against the dark. One can BE both…it's a matter of where one's focus is. Being a light for its own sake, rather than being light for the sake of keeping the darkness at bay. I think the former is the more powerful position, because then what you are trying to be is no longer dependent on its opposite. People love God for His own sake, not because it pisses off the devil. And I think outsiders are more likely to respond to a vision of a God who is *for* good things, rather than *against* bad things. (Both may be true, but the focus is important).

    Reply

  4. You know what would actually piss the devil off more? People that love God for His own sake, as an end in itself. Hah! The thought of that makes me chuckle…

    Reply

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