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Natural Disasters and God’s Will 02: The Source of Destruction

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Image result for earthquake"

In our last post, we looked at the fact that the God of the whole Bible is a good God and not a destroyer and that Jesus is the true image of God.  The truth is that:

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. (Luke 9.54-56, NKJV)

Now if the Son of Man did not come to destroy men, and the Father is just like the Son, then it is clear that the Father does not come to destroy men.  The Father is not the destroyer.  Now I know that often in the Old Testament it looks like destruction and disasters are being ascribed to God, but we know that this cannot be so because we understand that the Father is just like Christ.

When Jesus’ disciples asked to burn down a village, they thought they were being like God, but they misunderstood God, because Jesus – the image of the Father – showed them that He and the Father are not like that.  He stated that the desire to destroy others is a different spirit from the spirit of Christ.  The Father is not a different spirit to Christ,the Father has no desire to destroy people.

Jesus was not saying here in Luke 9 that He had a different plan from His Father – well God tried being harsh in the Old Testament, now we are going to try and be nice – no, Jesus only did what He saw the Father do.  Jesus never saw the Father destroy people, not in the Scripture and not in their relationship (John 5.19).

If the Father did the sort of destructive behaviour that some people claim He is, then Jesus would have said “Hey James and hey John, what a great idea, let’s torch the place”, but He didn’t – He got right on top of His disciples and said “I am not here to destroy”.  We need to realize this – God is not the destroyer.

One of the most powerful Scriptures in the Bible emphasises this so strongly:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. – John 3.16-17. KJV.

Now the perishing here is the same Greek word as destroy in Luke 9.56 (apollumi).  The Father wants to stop the world, and stop every human, from being destroyed.  That is why He sent Jesus.   So where does destruction come from?  Well, keep reading John 3:

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. – John 3.18-19 KJV

The world is already heading towards destruction – that is the simple fact of the matter.  The world was already on the road to hell and so were you.  Jesus was sent by the Father to save it from self-destruction.  If God was the destroyer, then God sent Jesus to save the world from God.  That is nonsense.  So if it looks like God is destroying in the Old Testament, we will have to dig deeper because we can see that God is not the destroyer.

The condemnation and destruction in the world are because it has rejected Jesus, men keep hold of sin, refuse to turn to the one redeemer there is, and they are destroying themselves by their selfish actions.  In 2 Peter 2.1 Peter says that false prophets and false teachers “bring upon themselves swift destruction”.  God is not even destroying false prophets, they are destroying themselves.  Hosea 13.9 says “O Israel, you have destroyed yourself”.  There is destruction in the world, there are disasters in the world – not because God is a big destroyer, but because the world denies God and rejects God and He is the only one who can stop us destroying ourselves!

God does not destroy us – He delivers us from our destructions (Psalm 107.20).  It is not because of God that people are destroyed, it’s because they choose sin.  Men choose to sun and choose to bring all sorts of destruction upon themselves.  God sends His Word to heal us, not to harm us.  Even in the midst of our selfish self-destruction, God sends His Word to save us and help us.

Hosea 4.6 tells us people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because they rejected knowledge.  So, that’s not God destroying them there either.  People are ignorant of God and selfish and that behaviour is destroying people.  Now Hosea 4.6 gives us a big clue to how God deals with that kind of selfish behaviour, continuing with “I will also reject you, that you shall not be my priest… I will forget your children”.  Now, that is not God being vindictive, harsh, or judgmental.  Not at all, it is just God showing love and grace – God does all He can to show us love and kindness and redeem us, but if we walk away from Him, He will never force us to come back, He will never make us turn to Him, He will never force us into His arms.  That is not love, that is coercion.  God does all He can to rescue the sinful humans, but when we reject Him, He has to step back from us.

If God forced His will on us, God would be the worst dictator the world ever knew.  But God gives us the freedom to choose, the freedom to sin, the freedom to reject Him.  Love cannot be something that is forced, and the blessings that flow from love cannot be forced on someone.  If you want to remain ignorant of God and His goodness, God will let you!

But The Bible Says God Destroyed This Person Or That Person

So, we now having built our foundation have to deal with the fact that there are definitely more than one Scripture in the Old Testament that at face-value ascribes destruction to God.  But when we interpret the Word properly, we will see what this means.  Let’s start with a familiar Scripture in Ezekiel first:

30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.

31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 22.30-31, KJV)

Now what the passage says is that no-one stood in the gap to stop God destroying the land, so He destroyed it with wrath.  It is interesting to think that if you take these verses at face-value that God needs someone to stop Him destroying the land – He must find a person in the world to stop Him?  If God does not want to destroy the land and God is the destroyer, why not just not destroy it?   Maybe the answer is not what it first appears.

If we understand that in Hebrew what looks like causative language in English is very often what we would cause permissive language, then we can understand this Scripture and similar ones better.  God is letting the destruction happen, because people choose darkness, but God is not causing the destruction, God is not the destroyer, God is love.  God is just like Jesus.

How exactly was the destruction coming in the days of Ezekiel?  To find out, just go back one chapter and read Eze. 21.31: “I will pour out my wrath upon thee, and I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath… and deliver you into the hand of brutish men and skilful to destroy”.  God is not destroying – the brutish men are destroying, because the people of God chose the brutish men over God!

When you turn your back on God and push Him out of your life, then He is not there to protect and deliver you from the brutish elements of this world.  God is not the destroyer, and you need to realize it.

Isaiah 34.2 backs this up by telling us that people who the Lord destroys are delivered over to other armies to be slaughtered.  The Lord was not the destroyer, but the people rejected God and there was therefore no protection from the armies.  The word “deliver” comes from the Hebrew word “nathan” which means to permit.  God permitted it, because He loves us so much He will never force Himself on us, but He is not the destroyer.  When we turn our back on God and reject Him, God withdraws His grace and lets the sinner walk into their own selfish behaviour and the consequences of it.  God did not harden Pharoah’s heart – He allowed it to be hardened.  If we are obstinate before God He will allow us to walk wherever we want into whatever we want.

God permitting a nation to be invaded by another nation is what the Scriptures are referring to and talking about when God “destroys” a nation.  In the Hebrew language, it looks like it is saying “God destroys a nation”, but the truth is that God is not destroying anything, He is allowing it to take place by not forcing His protection and love onto an individual or community that is clearly rejecting His love and Him.

This is why in Ezekiel God was looking for a man to legally invite Him into the earth and stop the destruction.  His will is not destruction, He doesn’t want destruction, He is not the destroyer.  He is looking for someone to pray and turn to Him so He can show love that is genuine love and not coercion and save people.  If no one stands in the gap, then God has no choice but to allow it – He must permit what we permit (Matt. 18.18-20).

This is so important we grasp this, and Eze. 22.31 actually says “their own way have I recompensed upon their heads”.  People went their own way, and recompense here is the same Hebrew word “nathan” – God is allowing – not bringing – destruction. Satan is the destroyer.

Satan is the Destroyer

Satan is real and he is a destroyer.  Satan does not work for God, because God does not destroy, and satan does.  There is no developed information on satan in the Old Testament, he is only mentioned six times, and most of them are in Job.  So, we sometimes do not realize his role in a destruction.   But he is the same satan in the Old as he is in the New: the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  He came to destroy Job.  Why?  He was annoyed how much praise Job gave God, and was envious and jealous.

God removed His protection because Job was pushing God away, through fear.  Satan attacked Job, not God.  Satan destroyed Job’s family and businesses and health, not God.

But Job did not know that – Job had never read Job, Job had never read John 10.10, he did not have a Bible.  So Job assumed God gave and God took away, but it is just not true.  Every good gift is from God, and His giving is without repentance – so therefore, He does not give and take away.  He gives and does not take away.    When satan destroys Job with a natural disaster, Job calls it the fire of God.  People still make the same mistake today, and ascribe the work of God to satan!  Satan destroyed Job’s property, but the people called it the fire of God.  Even today, if you get insurance they talk about natural disasters as acts of God.  No they are acts of satan!  God is still being blamed for things He did not do.

Now while there is no excuse for a born-again Christian who has a Bible for blaming God for destruction, but let us not be too hard on the people of Job’s day who knew nothing of satan.  God says that satan moved Him to destroy Job without cause (Job 2.3) but God’s only part to play was to not protect Job and allowed satan to destroy.  The NLT realizes this and translates Job 2.3 as “I allowed you to go against him”, and labels satan as the destroyer.  This is how we need to interpret every time we see God labelled as the destroyer in Scripture – in the Old Testament and in the book of Revelation.

In the book of Revelation, we find out the four creatures are holding back the wind.  They are actively working for God in holding back destruction (Revelation 7.1-3).  They are holding back the winds of destruction and stopping them from blowing.  The angel tells them not to hurt the earth until God’s servants are sealed.  How would these angels hurt the earth?  Not by getting in there and destroying – but by releasing their restraint of destruction and allowing the wind to do the destruction it would have always done had they not been there.

God does not engage in destruction, He is not the destroyer.  When we read Biblical langauge attributing destruction to God, we need to utilize this principle and understand what is actually happening: God is being ascribed actions that He has only stood back and let happen due to his respect and love for humans and His refusal to force His way into them.  In further posts, I will show how this is true throughout Scripture.  Every disaster ascribed to God is actually caused by the evil duo sin and satan, and it is unrepentant sin that drives out God from situations that leads to satan and death rushing in to destroy.  God is not the destroyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Disasters and God’s Will 01: Three Fundamental Truths

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Image result for hurricane"

Last Sunday when preaching I mentioned that God did not flood the earth, and that God is not a destroyer.  I would have assumed that such simple truths that God is love and God is good would not be controversial, but they are.  So we need to examine these things in the light of Scripture and find out what the Bible actually says rather than what we assume it says.

So to build a foundation, I want to ensure that you are aware of three fundamental truths that everyone needs to be aware of when it comes to interpreting the Word of God.

  1. The Father is Exactly Like Jesus
  2. The Old Testament writings were about Jesus
  3. Therefore, God is not a destroyer

The Father is Exactly Like Jesus

Jesus told us very clearly that if you have seen Him you have seen the Father (John 14.8-9), so we can be very definite that if you want to know what God is really like – we look at Jesus.   If you have ever taught someone the Scripture you know what it is like to teach something and then someone says something that shows that they just do not get it.  Well, you are in good company.  Jesus said if you have seen Him you can see the Father, and Philip asked “Show us the Father”.  Jesus realized that people did not see God the same way they saw Him, and it is still the same way today.

Some people think Jesus is kind and loving, and the Father is harsh and destructive, ready to show wrath and judgment any day now.  These ideas come because we do not understand what the Old Testament is really about.  Jesus came to show a Father who was just like Him.  If Jesus is gentle, the Father is gentle.  If Jesus is kind, the Father is kind.  If Jesus is merciful, the Father is merciful.  If Jesus heals, the Father heals.  If Jesus forgives all sins, the Father forgives all sins.

The Father is not a wrathful vengeful God that Jesus came to rescue us from! No way!  The Father sent Jesus because of how much love the Father has for us (John 3.16) because the Father is kind, compassionate, loving.  The Father would have died for us just as much as Jesus would have.

If the Father had come to earth as a man instead of Jesus, the gospels would not have been different!  Jesus did nothing that teh Father did not do, in fact the Father was healing, was delivering, was prospering people through Jesus.  Every act of compassion Jesus did, the Father was working through Him (John 14.10-11).

If you see Jesus, you will know that the Father is good, loving, healing, protecting, kind, against satan, against evil, against sickness, against hurting people.  Jesus and the Father are one (John 10.30-32).

Jesus healed the sick, Jesus cast out devils, Jesus fed the hungry, Jesus gave money to the poor, Jesus forgave sins, Jesus died for us so we could go to heaven.  In John 10, Jesus says that His good works “show the Father”.  That is the natuer of God.  Jesus and the Father are one.  God does good works and God undoes the evil of the devil.

Satan is the killer and the destroyer.  God is not the killer and not the destroyer (John 10.10).  The Father only came to bring us good, to bring us life, to help us, to bless us. The devil only comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Satan’s biggest steal as the thief is he stole from us the simple trust we had in the goodness of God by blaming God for His destructive works.  Jesus never killed, He saved.  Jesus never sent a demon, He cast them out.  Jesus never sent a natural disaster, He rebuked them!  And that is what the Father looks like.

That the Father is revealed by Jesus – Jesus is the Word – the message of the Father to us, He is the revealer of the Father, and this truth is fundamental to Scripture.  Satan is the evil one who makes peopel sick and murders people and brings death and destruction. God gives up His own life to rescue us.  Satan sifts us, but Jesus prays for us!  The Father gives us the Word, the devil tries to steal it.  Can you see how different they are?  The devil is the cause of evil in the world, not God.  Do not confuse the two.

The Old Testament is About Jesus

If you ask the average Christian what the Old Testament is about, you will hear a lot of answers about geneaologies, Moses, the law, and so on.  Those things are all in the Old Testament, but they are not what it is about.  The Old Testament is about Jesus.

When Jesus rose again, He had to explain this to His disciples:

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24.25-27)

When the disciples realized the Old Testament was all about Jesus, about His death, His burial, His resurrection, the stopped being discouraged and started to get on fire – their hearts started to burn.  When you realize that the Old Testament does not present a destructive, evil God, your heart will catch fire with love for Him too!

When you realize the Old Testament is all abou Jesus, and that Jesus is the key to interpreting the Old Testament, and understanding the Father.  We are not supposed to neglect the Old Testament, we are supposed to read it realizing it is about Jesus.

Satan is the god of this world, and according to 2 Cor. 4.4, he has blinded people’s minds.  One of the most blinding thoughts is the idea that God is a harsh judge, rather than a kind Father.  In fact 2 Cor. 4.4 says that people’s minds are blinded by satan so that they do not see the gospel of Christ “who is the image of God”.  That is the issue – Jesus is the image of God.  The CSV says that Christ “shows us what God is like”.  That is how we need to find out what God is like – by looking to Jesus.

When God was giving His Word to the prophets, satan was trying to distort it to stop people realizing God was like Jesus. Jesus is the good news, and the Father is just like Him – so the Father is good news.

Adam lost eternity in his spirit when he fell, and he stopped automatically understanding God, and the first thing he did as a fallen man is hide from God.  Satan uses our fallen spirit and its built-in fear of God to distort our image of God and twist our understanding of God into a scary monster, a destroyer, a world-flooder, a cancer-giver, a hater, a wrathful vengeful deity.  But the truth is that God is, and always will be, just like Jesus.  The Son of Man came to give us an understanding of God (1 John 5.18-20).  Satan is the wicked one, and the evil one, God is true and pure and good.  God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (John 1.5).

Jesus had to come and show us the Father because there is so much misinformation about God in the world, so much that even today in the church people believe!  Light is good and God is light and God is good and the devil is darkness and evil.  It is that simple.

God is Not a Destroyer

Jesus never hurt anyone.  He healed people.  He delivered people.  But He never hurt anyone. He is good, and the Father is just like Him.  The Father does not hurt people.  The Father does not destroy people.  The Father is love, is good, is Christ-like!

Satan steals, kills and destroys (John 10.10) and Satan makes people sick and satan causes natural disasters and satan has conned most of the human race, and – so sadly – most Christians – into thinking that God does those things.  Jesus came to the planet to set the record straight.  Jesus came to show men that God just is not like that.  God does not kill, God does not send devils, God does not destroy, God does not send natural disasters.

If natural disasters are the will of God, why are they not in heaven?  Why did Jesus rebuke storms rather than start them?  The will of God is so explicit in Scripture – God wants no one to perish (2 Peter 3.9).  So, someone perishing, in a flood, in a fire, in an earthquake is not God.  God is not in the earthquake, He never was and never will be.  Satan is the wicked one.

When you grasp this, you start to realize that God never does anything to inflict misery.  God is the one who came to set us free from misery.  God blesses, God does not curse.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which in heaven give good things to them that ask Him.  Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets (Matt. 7.11-12).

Do you see here that Jesus connects the law and the prophets to God being a good Father who only gives good gifts. That is the picture of the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, we find out that:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights (James 1.17)

When you take an evil thing – cancer, poverty, a flood, an earthquake, whatever – and rationalize that God did it to make it reach a higher good, that this evil is a “blessing in disguise”, you are contradicting Scripture, you are doing the opposite of Jesus.  Jesus says that His Father will not treat His children worse than a human father!

Using the character of the Father as an example, Jesus tells us that this is how we should behave – like the Father.  That, says Jesus, is the foundation of the teaching of the Law and the Prophets.  All ideas about God that make Him appear to be bringing evil are not the teaching of the Law and the Prophets – they are just a twisted understanding of it.

This is another reason why we have to reject the teaching of God as capricious and doing evil – because God is love and tells us to follow His example of love.  If we followed some teachers ideas about God and what love is, to be loving we would have to be putting cancer on people, making them have accidents, and placing them in tempting situations!

We know that if we did those things to humans we would not be loving, we would be evil.  It is not love to kill someone’s child and leave a mum and dad without a child, so you could have an extra flower in your garden, or allow a teenage girl to be raped so she can have a great ministry to other rape victims, or throw a two-year old girl a mile with a hurricane to teach people about how great we are.  If we did those things, we would be locked up.  We know this is not love, but I have heard people say these things about God!  That God would do things that He then would not want us to do – that sane people would never want to do, that sane people should never believe a loving God would ever do.

This is why Jesus showed us the Father – so we could see a real picture of Father God.  God is not harming people.  He wants to bless us and set us free from satan.  He will not even give us a stone instead of giving us bread, and He certainly will not give us snakes or scorpions.  Jesus never failed to heal someone, never failed to help someone, never put disease on someone, never caused a natural disaster.  Ever!  He does not do evil, He does good.  And the Father is the same.  When you pray, you can believe and rest in peace that God will only do good.  Reject the devil and stand against satan, and submit to God and His goodness.

We have to realize deeply that there is not a contradiction between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament.  We just have failed to see what God is like in the Old Testament.  It is the same God, the problem is not contradiction, it is faulty interpretation.  God did not change, He never changes.  We have just misunderstood some Scriptures in the Old Testament, and one of the main missions of the Lord is to show us what the Father was really like and to dispel these false ideas of God.

Every time Jesus healed, every time He rebuked a storm, loved and forgave He was showing us the true picture of His Father.

So when we study the Word, especially the Old Testament, we have to interpret it all in the light of Jesus being the image of the Father.  If you think a Bible verse said God lied to someone, God deceived someone, God killed someone, God made someone sick, God destroyed someone, you have to press pause and think “Is this what Jesus would do?  Is this the Father that Jesus came to reveal to us?”

If the answer is no, it’s not what Jesus would do, it is not Christ-like behaviour, then you have made a mistake with your interpretation.  We will in the next few posts get into some specific examples and give you some keys to interpreting the Old Testament.  God is not destructive.

The Will of the King

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The Queen has just allowed Harry to step down from some of his royal expectations. She has also made it clear that’s not her perfect will and purpose. The Queen is a lot wiser than Harry, and has a lot more life experience and more experience in royalty. Doing what she suggested would bring a much better life for her grandchild.

We are children of the King, which brings immense privilege, but also immense responsibility.

Some of you have been stepping down from your royal expectations, you want the best bits of being a child of God, but you really want to your thing, not the King’s thing. He has a great plan for you, that will bring you into His best, His greatest. Always be careful when God allows something while expressing out loud it’s not His first choice. Honour dictates you press pause and listen to God, go behind the public face, worship Him as Father, trust His wisdom. His experience. His judgement, and find out what really would please Him, what would really be the sweet spot He has for you. It will take time, take faith, take sacrifice, take labour, but it will be worth it like nothing else in life is worth it.

Healing Leaves 03: We Must Do What We Can’t

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Image result for the man with the withered hand"

Faith is how we please God and faith is how we receive from God and faith is how we do what God wants.  We need to believe that Jesus Christ is real, is on our side, and that He loves us.  We need to believe in His work on the cross.  In fact, to believe in Jesus Christ, according to Scripture, is our work.  That is the work Jesus has for all of us.  As you believe, the main work, the key work, then you start to – energized and motivated by that faith – do all the other works of a believer.

It is inevitable when you believe that you do the works of a believer as faith without works is dead.  Living faith works, living faith does things, living faith moves.  You can always see living faith as it is always moving and always producing.  The work of God is that you believe (John 6.29), and this is something that we need to make clear to people – faith is work, not play.  It can be very hard work to believe in Jesus sometimes.

If there was ever a man who should have just expected to have children easily, it was Isaac.  His father had raised him with stories about his supernatural birth, and the covenant of God that was his covenant too – children like sand, children like stars.  But that was not the immediate manifestation in his life – no he had to pray and entreat the Lord for his wife (Genesis 25.21), who was barren for decades, before Esau and Jacob were conceived and born.  The blessing on its own was not enough – Isaac had to believe it in a way that produced prayer, words, movement, life.  You need to have living faith!

Faith turns promises into facts.  But you have to work the work of faith, you have to meditate on the Word, speak the Word, speak to the mountain, deal with unbelief, you have to pray and belief. A lot of Christians just pray, and do not belief, that’s like trying to run a marathon with one leg lifted in the air, just hopping and hopping and hopping and praying.  It will not work.  You must believe in Jesus Christ, that He will do what He has promised.  You must eagerly expect God’s will to manifest in your life in a way that changes what you say and do.  That is the work of faith that we all need to do.

Isaac had to do it to walk in the blessing of Abraham and so do you.  Let’s look at a man in the New Covenant who had to add some faith to his walk:

On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 11 At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him. (Luke 6.6-11, NLT)

This man grabbed hold of his healing even though his hand was deformed!  We need to not just pray but grab hold of our healing by faith, by expectation, by hope, by believing.

I love this story so much because there is absolutely no environment for healing here.  It is great when there are other believers around, people who create a corporate expectation for healing.  But it is not necessary!   In this room, filled with the enemies of Jesus, filled with people wild with rage, filled with people watching closely with cynicism in their hearts, in this room Jesus healed this man!

In this scene the scribes and Pharisees are doing the work of their real father and master, the devil.  So how did Jesus get this man to exercise faith?  Through working!  Faith has works.  Jesus told the man to get up and stand in front of everyone.  Jesus accepted the challenge that faith can work in the midst of doubt, in the midst of hatred, in the midst of rage, in the midst of cynicism.  I have done miracles in the worst environments, so has Jesus, and so can you!

Then Jesus gives the man a faith-challenge: hold out your hand.  That is not something this man can do.  Faith is not doing what you can, faith is doing what you cannot.  I have never just done what I can, I have been doing what I cannot – with money and energy I don’t have, but God has always come through when I stepped out.  You need to learn to step forward and do the impossible.  Jesus asked this man to do something he could not do – it was a faith-challenge.

Everyone of us gets faith challenges from Jesus – He tells all of us to do impossible things.  The first impossible thing He told you was “You must be born again”.  What a Lord and Saviour – He tells us “you must be born again”, when we cannot be born again.  We can’t be born again but we must be born again. So we have to believe in His work and work at believing on Him, then we receive the new birth that we could never achieve.

It is the same mechanics in healing.  This man could not hold out his hand, his arm was deformed.  But, Jesus told him to hold out his hand.  So he had to believe in the words of Jesus, believe in the work of Jesus, and do what he could not do.

It is remarkable how Jesus loves to give us impossible instructions, and this is equally true in the area of healing.  Not just healing – He tells us to “Be holy” (1 Peter 1.16) and we can’t – not without believing in His work.  You can’t do it, but He commands it so we must!

So Jesus makes a faith-challenge for this man – do what you cannot do.  And he obeys Jesus and did it.  He rose to the challenge, accepted the challenge and beat the challenge.  Just like you can when the word of Jesus comes to you – you are healed by His stripes – so stretch out your hand, stand on your feet, eat that dinner, go for that run, get up and go to work, get out of bed.  Whatever you cannot do, you must do!   That is the faith-challenge.

Jesus said hold out your hand.  He couldn’t do that, but he did do that, and his hand was restored.  How did he do the impossible – the word of God is to believe on Him who God has sent (John 6.29).  He believed God and did the impossible and received his healing.  Do you know this man’s name?  No, and nor do I, but he received his healing with ease when he decided to believe God and do the impossible, and you can too.  You are no different from this guy, not at all.

With God all things are possible, and to him who believes all things are possible – so when you believe you move into the realm where God moves and God heals and God transforms.  It’s the realm of omnipotence.

Today, think about impossible things, think about doing them, build an internal image of success – which is hope, then add some faith and substance to that hope by stretching out your hand and watching your miracle happen.

 

 

Healing Leaves 02: The Woman with No Covenant

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Every born-again Christian is in covenant with God to the point where we call the books of the Bible written to us as the New Covenant.  We have promises of healing.  Now sometimes, we are standing on that covenant, and it becomes hard to keep standing – we get weary of doing good, weary of trusting for our healing, weary of fighting circumstances, and so we need a fresh revelation of God’s love and grace.

Today, I am going to give you that revelation by looking at how Jesus deals with a woman who has no covenant, is not born again, is not righteous, has no right standing with God.  Let’s read it together:

21 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. (Matthew 15.21-28, NLT)

I love the Bible.  I love the riches of wisdom in every single book, it’s like a treasure chest just full of the most beautiful and purest and rarest gems, every time you dip into it you find the most amazing things.  This woman has no covenant with God.  No deal with God at all.

A woman, not from God’s chosen people, but from Canaan.  She was an alien from the Commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the covenants of promise, without Christ, without hope and without God in the world (see Ephesians 2.12).

She was part of one of the most evil nations in the world.  The paganism in Canaan was evil, one of the worst nations and religions in all of history.  Everything was against her – there was no reason to show her favour, she has never read her Bible, never been to church, never done anything for God, but somehow she heard of the Lord and His healing power.  Maybe it was a neighbour in the street, maybe a family member had been to a meeting, but someone told her about this man from Galilee who was healing sick children.  Maybe she heard a story about a pale, sickly baby, brought by a desperate mother and Jesus lovingly touched the baby and the fever left and the baby’s colour returns and the baby smiled.  Then Jesus started to play with the baby.  This woman found out that Jesus absolutely loves children.

Maybe she asked if Jesus said anything, maybe someone told her that He told the crowds that day that anyone could come to Him, anyone who labours and is heavy laden, and that He would give them rest (Matthew 11.28).  Maybe she asked her friend or neighbour “did he say come to me ALL JEWS”, and they answered “No, he definitely said all”.  However it happened, she decided in her heart to go and find Jesus.  If Jesus said to come, then all would be well.

But she gets to Jesus and all she gets is silence.  He just won’t speak to her, not even one word.  That must be frustrating – that isn’t the Jesus she heard about, that is not what she expected Jesus to be like.  It looks like Jesus is closing the door on her – He tells her that He is not sent to her, but His mission is to the Jews.

That attitude can frustrate some, but it is borne out of pure love.  Jesus was trying to encourage her to take her first baby steps.  His language to many would appear harsh, unloving, language that might make her return home, he calls her a dog.  Now for a lot of us in the West, dogs are pets, we love dogs.  We still see the insult in calling someone a dog, but we do not realize how strong the insult is.  In the middle East, dogs were the symbol of everything unclean, everything hated, and Jesus was helping this woman see she was far from God.

Her path to healing is far more difficult than yours but she did not give up, when Jesus was silent, she did not give up when Jesus appeared to be insulting her.  I have seen many give up on their healing journey if Jesus did not manifest everything instantly, or in a day, or week, or month.  Everything had to be in the moment, or they quit.  Or if they hear in a sermon they need to change, they need to start believing, they need to quit seeing their healing in the future and see it as a done deal, that they need faith – they are offended at the strong, harsh, mean language and walk away.  But this woman had Jesus Himself call her a dog, but she would not quit.  She was looking for the real gold here and she knew it was in Jesus, so she never got offended, never got upset, and never walked off in the huff.  Jesus saw she was pure – and so He pushed her to see what the reality of her false religion had led her to.

She didn’t respond to Jesus’ words with an arrogant, argumentative pride, but with a beautiful humilty.  I have tried to teach Christians, God’s children, the steps they need to take to accept their healing from Christ, the changes they need to make in their imagination, in their speaking, in their acting, to receive the healing, and I have had Christians puffed up in pride, yelling at me, telling me God made them sick, telling me they are hopeless cases, telling me about all the spiritual warfare they know they must do.  All that deception and foolishness is stopping them receiving.  I tell people sometimes there’s a reason they are in my prayer line and a reason I am not in theirs, I am healed, and they are not.  I have a track record of ministering healing, they need it still.  But they will not listen because the message sounds harsh, sounds wrong to them, doesn’t sound like the Jesus they expected, they storm off, they get annoyed, they write rude emails.  But this woman was called a dog by Jesus Himself, and she stays sweet.  Now because she accepted the truth with humility, the grace of God would now exalt her to a high place.  If we accept the truth with humility, the grace of God will exalt us to high places, places of victory, places of glory, places of healing and health.

She met the test with such grace.  Jesus Christ calls her a dog, a woman without covenant, a woman with no hope, a woman with no hope for healing, and she says “that’s true, Lord”.  She agrees that Jesus speaks truth, and she agrees with Jesus’ words no matter how much they offend her personally.

If you want to walk in divine healing, you have to be prepared to hear things that offend your flesh.  You have to be able to accept you are sick because your thinking has been sick, that you have been thinking in doubt and unbelief, that you have not been aggressive enough to claim what is yours in faith.  If that causes you to walk off, you will miss out, but if you humbly say “truth, Lord”, you are moving yourself to the place where your healing will manifest and quickly.

She responds in the most glorious faith – I might be a dog, healing might be bread for the children, but even a good father makes sure the dog gets fed!  Jesus, I am a dog, but you are too good to deny me a crumb of healing for my child.  And that is the truth, Jesus could not and will not deny a crumb of healing even to a dog, Jesus reaches out in response to her humility and faith, and heals her child.  She gets her crumb!

Jesus says “Your request is granted”.  That’s the truth, that’s glorious, and all of that for a dog.  Now, you are not a dog.  If you are born again, you will never hear Jesus call you a dog, you are a child, you are part of the family.  Healing is your bread.  Healing is your portion, healing is for you.

Now, you should easily be able to be like this woman and tell Jesus “Healing is my bread”, you should easily be able to hear Him correct your thinking and lead you to that bread so you can receive your healing today.  For some of you, just saying “Healing is my bread” is enough to bring you to a place of faith and you can receive your healing right now.

If a woman with no covenant can reach the place where her request is granted, where her daughter was instantly healed, then you being a child of God, with God, with hope, with a healing covenant, a new creation, a healed creature of the Living God, someone who is one spirit with Christ, someone who is alive to God, somene who is in the New Covenant, can easily reach the place where your request is granted, where your daughter, your son, your mum, your dad, your cousin, your friend, your pastor is instantly healed.

Today, have great faith like this woman had great faith – whatever Jesus says to you through whoever He says it through, respond with a humble “You are right, that’s right Lord, yes Lord”.  And watch your miracle happen.  The woman with no righteousness was healed, you are the righteousness of God – so start to believe that, and start to accept that.

 

 

Healing Leaves 01: Healing in the Church

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One of the promises that God gave me in 2012 was that the leaves of the Tree of Life would bring healing to the nations (you can find this promise in Revelation 22.2), and when God showed this to me, He was talking about several things, not least of which was the healing of racial divides, and a major part of the ministry of Tree of Life Church is building a house of prayer and worship for all the nations.  But in addition to that role, healing also means physical healings.  In 2019 we have seen tumours disappear, people get out of wheelchairs and walk again, deaf ears open, blind eyes open, frozen limbs start to move, torn muscles repaired, people healed of all kinds of diseases.  And I believe that in the roaring Twenty Twenties that we are walking into, Tree of Life Church – every Tree of Life Church is going to seen major miraculous verifiable miracles.  That is actually our portion as Christians.  Healings and miracles are the children’s bread and we are the children of God.

So, I will do some posts on healing in 2020, to inspire faith, to challenge traditions and to equip you to receive your healing and to minister healing to others.  I will try and say somethings in ways you might not have heard before to help you grasp the truths of healings and renew your mind so you can experience total life transformation in the area of healing.

We need to never, ever forget that healing is the children’s bread, and that healing played a vital, very important role in the growth and life of the early church.  You can prove that throughout the book of Acts, and the first few centuries of church history.

While heading to a prayer meeting, Peter and John meet a man who has never walked in his life – that’s a hopeless case.  That’s the kind of person modern medicine has given up on.  Undaunted by this, they obey Jesus’ instructions to the church and minister healing to him.  They were not alone – just like you are never alone – because the resurrected Lord was with them – just like He is with you right now.  And that man jumped to his feet, started jumping around, started praising God and followed them to the prayer meeting.

Acts 3.9 tells us all the people saw him.  Acts 3.11 then tells us that people ran to the apostles!  If we want people to gather to us and hear us teach, we need to obey Jesus and heal some people.  It opens the door all the time!

And although Peter and John got some criticism, some negativity and some hatred for that, the church grew and people were transferred from death to life:

And though persecution arose, many believed, and the number of the men were about five thousand (Acts 4.4)

People in the 21st century, just like people in the 1st century still want to see Jesus work (John 12.21).  They want to see Jesus changing lives, they want to see Jesus healing bodies, they want to see Jesus coming the clouds in glory!  When they see Jesus, people are drawn to Jesus.

I want these posts over the next few weeks and months to reveal Jesus the Healer to people, to help you see Him as the Lord Your Healer, as the one who takes sickness away from the midst of you.  That is my passion and my prayer!

Losing Your Anointing – Really?

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One of the charismatic traditions that have sprung up in the last few decades is the idea that we can, through our behaviour and actions, lose our anointing.  There are teachers telling us we can lose our anointing, Christian magazine articles telling us how to guard our anointing, prophets prophesying people will lose their anointing if they do this or that.

Now, to examine if this is true, we need to carefully define what the anointing is, when it is received, and how it is received.  We then need to look at – from the New Covenant – whether that anointing can be lost.  We need to be Biblical about this, not getting our ideas from pop theology, from anecdotes about people who “lost their anointing”, and we need to look at the origin of this idea and its implications.

What Do You Mean By Anointing?

The Greek word for anointing is chrio, which literally means to cover with or rub with oil.  The oil was a symbol of appointing someone to an office, such as anointing a king or priest in the Old Testament.  So when we discuss anointing we mean the office someone stands in, that is what it means.  A person is anointed for a task – to be a king, to be a prophet, to build the tabernacle.

Now the way some charismatics use the word anointing you would think it means a magic potion.  It is not, it is simply an easy way of saying the office someone stands in.  So if we say someone is anointed to be an evangelist we would mean that this person has the calling, equipment and power to do the work of an evangelist.  As a pastor, I am anointed as a pastor, meaning God has called me to be a pastor, and God has given me supernatural giftings to be a pastor.

We know Jesus was happy to describe Himself as anointed in Luke 4.18-19, anointed to preach good news.  In other words, God the Father called Jesus to preach and equipped Him with the power to preach.  Later on in Acts, Luke tells us that Jesus was anointed to preach and heal the sick (Acts 10.38).

1 John 2.20 tells us that every single Christian is anointed by Jesus.  We have been anointed by God, and 2 Cor. 1.21 and 22 says the same.  So it is a misnomer and a wrong emphasis to keep talking about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as anointed – it is true they are called and gifted by Christ, but the deeper truth that the New Testament wants us to know is that every single Christian has an anointing.  Every born again believer has a calling from God to do certain good works (see Ephesians 2.10 for confirmation of this) and every Christian is gifted by God to do those works.  That thought should be exceptionally comforting.

(Just as an aside, if every Christian is anointed, the verse “Touch Not God’s Anointed”, so often used to allow some ministers say and do whatever they like without anyone commenting in any way also applies to the people in the church.  Preachers, when you are preaching and standing before a congregation please remember they are all anointed, and be careful not to touch the Lord’s Anointed when you preach!)

When and Where and Why Are People Anointed?

So, every believer is anointed at the moment of conversion.  As soon as they are born again, Jesus gives them an office in His kingdom to do certain good works which He has prepared for us.  That is the most important anointing, the universal believer’s anointing.

You could also call the baptism in the Holy Spirit an anointing, it is definitely the power of God, it is definitely an office, to be a witness, and the power to be that witness.

In addition, some people are anointed, called and equipped by God to do one of the fivefold ministries.  You could also call the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit as anointings that come on us and then leave when we have operated in the gift.

So in that sense, you can lose an anointing – it comes on you to give a prophecy, for example, and when you have delivered the word, the anointing leaves.  That is how the gifts of the Holy Spirit work, they are temporary anointings for a task.

The believers’ anointing that we get when born again, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the anointing that the fivefold ministry get is on you and never leaves.  The anointing does not leave you because it is a gift from Jesus Christ.

Can You Lose Your Anointing?

Really, if you define the anointing as the task God has given you to do, and the power to complete that task, answering this question when you realize the heart of God is easy.

If we define the three anointing that are on a person’s life as the one that comes with being born again, the one that comes with the Holy Spirit, and the one that comes with a fivefold ministry, then we can look at each in turn and see if losing an anointing is possible.

  1. The Believer’s Anointing (1 John 2.20)

1 John 2.27 tells us clearly that the anointing we have received from Jesus abides in us.  The Greek word for abides is meno, and is translated as abide, remain or continues in the Bible.  It literally means “to not depart”, “to always be present”, “to keep continually”, “to endure”, “to never change or become different”.  So it is fairly easy to realize that this anointing, our tasks as believers, the good works that God has called us to do, never changes, and we cannot lose the power and equipment and calling from God to do those tasks.  So this anointing cannot be lost.

2. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

We also know from Jesus that the Holy Spirit will never leave us or forsake us (John 14.6, also see Hebrews 13.5).  So as we know that the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from His power and life, then it is easy to realize that the calling to be a witness and the power to be a witness that we receive when we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we cannot ever lose that calling or the power to fulfill it.  We might through our behaviour make ourselves bad witness of God’s goodness and power, but we never lose the Holy Spirit, we never lose our calling to be witnesses and we never lose the power of the Holy Spirit.  So this anointing cannot be lost.

3. The Fivefold Ministry Calling

When God calls someone to be one of the fivefold ministry, their anointing, their calling and equipment is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.  Now we know that when God calls someone to a particular ministry, He always gives us the calling and power to fulfill that calling. So someone called to be a pastor, say, has the calling and the power to fulfill that calling.  Now the question is can that pastor lose that calling and power?  Can a person Jesus calls to be a pastor, be uncalled and suddenly not a pastor.  And the answer Scripturally is no.

Now, we need to think this through.  We know that Judas lost his place and needed to be replaced, but that did not happen until after he was dead.  I will say that everyone’s calling ends at death.  You only get one shot to impact one generation!  But before you die, can you lose that equipment, that power, that calling.  I believe the answer is a very clear no, based on five facts:

  • The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11.29).  This means that when God gives someone a gift there are no takebacks, none at all.  God is a good giver and there is no shadow of turning with Him.  I know some people dismiss this verse as the context of Romans 11 is Israel, but the immediate context of Paul telling us about the good news, and how God chooses people.  When God chooses someone and calls them to an office, that call never leaves their life – no matter what they do or how they behave.
  • This is backed up by Galatians 6.1 which says that if someoen is caught in a trespass they should be restored.  The word “restored” means to bring back to the original place.  If a pastor, for example, is caught in a trespass, spiritual people should be thinkimg about and praying about and planning to restore that pastor back to the place of pastoring.
  • There is also a consistency with God.  If the anointing – our task as believers – that comes with the new birth, and the anointing of power that comes with the Holy Spirit baptism will never leave us and cannot be lost, then if God is consistent the anointing of a fivefold ministry can never be lost.
  • We are under the New Covenant, which is a covenant of grace, not law.  In the Old Testament, God could leave people, because they did not keep the law and did not behave themselves.  But in the New Covenant, we have an abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit, who is the source of all anointing, and He never leaves us and never forsakes us.  If God never leaves us, and the Holy Spirit never leaves us, then His calling and His power to fulfill the calling never leave us.  Some preachers actually say you cannot lose the Holy Spirit but you can lose His power – that is just crazy, how can the Holy Spirit show up without power?  Where will He leave His power?  What a foolish notion!
  • 2 Cor. 1.21 tells us that we are anointed by God, after firstly telling us that we are established and then telling us we are sealed.  When God calls us that calling is sealed, it cannot be changed.

Why Is This Important?

The idea that we can lose our anointing comes from three major things, and all of them must be corrected for us to grow as Christians.

  1. It Comes from a Failure to Rightly Divide the Word of God.  People are still living under the guilt, condemnation, and law-driven Obsolete Covenant, rather than enjoying the grace and greater glory of the Better Covenant.  The idea that you can lose your anointing comes from the Old Testament, but we are not under the Old.  You cannot preach on Samson for example, and apply that lose of the Spirit to those of us who are born again, Spirit-filled, anointed, sealed, and not under the condemnation of the law.
  2. It Comes From a Failure to Realize Our Security and New Identity in Christ – I am in Christ, and my anointing, my calling, my power, all flows from and comes from that “in Him” relationship.  That relationship is utterly permanent and not based on our behaviour.  You cannot lose Christ, He will never leave you, you cannot lose being in Him – so you cannot lose your anointing.  The more people realize their identity in Christ, and that their security comes from His work on the cross, not our works in our lives, the more we will stop saying such foolish things as it will cost us our anointing.
  3. There is a misunderstanding that the anointing is not the power of God but rather a feeling we have when certain ministers are ministering.  If they make us feel good, then we describe them as anointed.  We – being carnal – mistake the anointing of God for musical instruments, for smoke machines, for hype, for a particular cadence of speaking, for having a keyboard player hit the chords after every sentence.  None of that is the anointing.  Obviously those things can be lost, they can change, the feelings and moods we have can easily change, but the Word of God does not change.  We need to choose to listen to preachers who preach the Word of God, not the ones that make us feel hyped up.

What About When A Leader Sins?

One of the things that can happen and has happened before is that a prominent leader might fall into gross sin.  Ministers who have stolen money or committed adultery might be an example of this.  Have they lost their anointing?  No, they have not – based on everything that we have said above.  And our ministry in the body of Christ should be to restore them back to their place.  But that does not mean we should let people just keep going without repentance, because their sin might not cost them their anointing, but it will bring a very negative harvest to their life, it will darken their heart, it will cost them their credibility.  All those things will be painfully obvious to a leader who sinned, and it is not helpful to them at this stage to also say they have lost their calling and their divine equipment.  Not only that, a lot of these ministers that did sin big kept going for a while, and they made the assumption if they kept their anointing God was approving their behaviour.  No, the anointing, the calling, the power of God, salvation – it is all by grace.  None of us are good enough and sin does not cost you your anointing – be glad because you have sinned at some point, and God still anoints you!  You shouldn’t sin, but there are other reasons not to do that, not to protect and guard your anointing.

We are not helping the body of Christ by using the fear of losing their anointing as a reason to live for Jesus.  Love for Jesus is why we should live for Jesus, nothing else.  And He is lovely!  Which is why when He anoints, that anointing abides.

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