Friday, September 14, 2018

God Still Heals. Do You Need Healing?

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell how the Son of God lived on this earth for 33 years. 

  • In his last three years on earth, Jesus preached and taught the people of Israel. 

    • One of the most prominent features of His teaching was the way He consistently performed miraculous healings.

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38 (NLT) 

  • This is how the Apostle Peter summarised the healing ministry of Jesus. 

    • He makes no distinction between exorcisms and healing physical sickness. 

      • Jesus saw demon possession, deafness, blindness and physical sickness as manifestations of evil.

When John the Baptist was in prison, he was tempted to despair of his faith. He sent his disciples to Jesus, seeking reassurance.

Mt 11:4-5 (ESV)  And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 

  • the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

Clearly Jesus also saw Healing as a central feature of His ministry.

  • When Jesus appointed His Apostles, the first thing He did was to give them authority to heal.

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. Mt 10:1 (ESV) 

If we look at church history and examine the practices of many churches in the Western World, we see only some churches emphasise healings and miracles.

  • Many other churches consider this unbalanced and yet they read the same Bible that shows Jesus was a healing evangelist. 
  • For Jesus and the early church, healing the sick was an essential part of the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

Where did the Western church go wrong? 

Why have we strayed from the ways of Jesus so clearly presented in the New Testament?

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the Europe, most people were poor and illiterate. 

  • Faith the Word of God was replaced with faith in religious traditions including prayers to saints and bathing with holy water. Healing and miracles became associated with very unbiblical practices.

When Luther and Calvin restored the Bible as the only source of spiritual authority, they rejected the papacy. They also condemned faith in miracles obtained by prayers to saints or touching sacred objects. This was idolatry.

  • However they made the mistake of rejecting all healing miracles. 

    Calvin taught that the miraculous ministry of Jesus and the Apostles were not a model to imitate.  

    • He taught they did miracles to prove that Jesus was the Son of God and to confirm the truth of the Gospel of salvation. 

      Once the church and the gospel were established, they considered miracles were no longer necessary but were counterfeit miracles associated with Roman Catholic idolatry. 

Once the miraculous element was banished from much of Western Christianity, faith in scientific materialism was blended with biblical belief. 

  • Faith in human reason began to supplement and then replace faith in the Word of God.

This is why many Christians in Britain, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand find it difficult to receive divine healing or to exercise faith for miracles. 

Our whole culture has been corrupted by systematic unbelief in God’s supernatural power.

  • Faith is a personal matter but it is also corporate. Faith is contagious but unbelief is also contagious. 

Conservative Protestant tradition and academic theology  have made unbelief respectable in in Europe and North America.

  • The result has been a catastrophic decline of faith amongst professing Christians and the abandonment of Christianity by the majority of Europeans.

But God has not changed and the Bible has not changed.

God loves you. 

He knows you are broken and wounded in many ways. We all are. 

  • We all emotional issues that cause us pain and prevent us from being all we could be. 

  • We all get sick from time to time and many of us have bodily functions that don’t operate as they should.

God wants to heal you, to change you life, to set you free of the painful limitations that stop you fulfilling your potential.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Time for Courage

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) 

Many times in the Bible, God says to His people: “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid.”

  • In some texts, God is telling His people their fears are imaginary, that there is nothing to be afraid of at all.

In Matthew 14, the disciples were in a boat in rough weather. When they saw Jesus walking on the water, they thought He was a ghost.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." Mt 14:27 (NKJV) 

When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he reassured her.

Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Lk 1:30 (NKJV) 

God’s people have nothing to fear from supernatural manifestations of heavenly glory.

On the other hand, there are situations where we have real reasons to be afraid but God calls us not to be afraid anyway.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Mt 10:28 (NKJV) 

Here Jesus is saying Do Not Fear even though you face savage persecution and possible martyrdom. It is a call to courage and faith in God’s salvation. 
  • It is also a warning to remember God’s punishment for cowardice.

God Is Love

As we read the Bible, we see again and again, that there are two essential aspects to the love of God. 

These are comfort and challenge.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  

Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Mt 4:18-19 (NKJV)

What a blessing, to be invited to live full time with Jesus and to be given the power to get men and women saved, to rescue them from damnation! 

  • But what a challenge to leave the security of a successful family fishing business and to live by faith in God’s daily provision!

I have a friend who was once a committed Muslim in Saudi Arabia. 

  • Muslims have no assurance of salvation. They live in the hope that they might be good enough to escape hell fire. 

When George came to know Jesus, he had the comfort of knowing the God who really loved him as His dear son. 

Some Muslims desire such a personal relationship with God but their sacred writings offer no hope for such a fulfilment.

  • But it was a challenge to be rejected and persecuted in his own country. It was a challenge to flee to Australia as a refugee.

God called him to study for a doctorate at an Australian university where there are a lot of Arab Muslim students. Not one of them escapes Georges personally targeted preaching of Jesus.

Once George spoke to an Arab Muslim missionary on campus, one of many militant Muslim missionaries sent around the world financed by oil rich Arabs.

“Why do you preach Islam?” asked my friend.
“Because I want to go to heaven,” replied the Muslim missionary.
“That is very selfish!” said George. “I know I have a home in heaven. I preach Jesus because I want OTHER PEOPLE to go to heaven.”

We have the comfort of knowing God has prepared a home for us in heaven.

We have the challenge or reaching others with the Good News of God’s kindness.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The God of Impossible Miracles

Are you in an impossible jam? Is there no way out?

Many years ago I was a 20-year-old student travelling alone in Europe. 

Shortly before my flight back to Australia, I was enjoying a walk about Rome. It was mid-afternoon when I put my hand in my jacket pocket. 

No passport! No plane ticket! My flight was the next day!

I must not panic. I retraced my steps. 

I enquired here and there, in a shop, at a kiosk. Then I went back to the cashier where I had changed some money that morning. 

The cashier immediately gave me my passport, my plane ticket and my vaccination certificate.

God watches over us, even when we are completely stupid. I was not even a Christian yet but if you are a believer, God knew you before you were born.  

But there are much more serious problems when we need God to do the impossible.

I know a woman who was saved from certain death in her car. 

Another car ran a red light. There was no way to avoid a fatal collision but instead of crashing into her, the other car passed right through her like a scene in a science fiction movie. 

All the woman experienced was a searing heat but no impact. 

Perhaps you are reading this and grieving. It is no comfort to read of miraculous rescues when your loved one has died. It is too late for miracles.

Be assured there is another world. Heaven is real. 

I know a faithful Christian woman who prayed for her family. She had a favourite nephew who was a rebellious teenager. 

One day this believing woman was sick in bed. She had a very dark dream about a gloomy cave. She saw and felt the shadow of death. In her dream she heard a voice which urged her to pray because someone in her family was in danger of death. 

She cried out to God and prayed until she felt at peace again. Later that day she heard that her much loved nephew had died in a freak car accident.

God hears our prayers. 

So many young and old people experience supernatural encounters with God in the last moments of their life on earth. Many meet Jesus, the Son of God who died for them on the cross. 

Jesus hears the heart cry of lost ones as they die. Many turn to Him at the last.

You must never give up. Love believes all things, never stops hoping. God is at work.

It may be that your faith has been weak. Your prayers have been hindered by doubt. When we pray weak prayers from a sincere heart, God can whisper to a strong believer to pray for your loved ones. He does these things.

I once knew a nurse who told me of a very old woman who was dying in hospital. She was very lonely because she couldn’t speak English, but she knew German. Since I am fluent in German, I asked permission to visit her and I was allowed to read to her from the German bible. 

I read her bible passages about heaven, about faith in Jesus, about the free gift of forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

I was allowed to see her a few times, and she always listened intently.

The last time I visited, she seemed to be seeing things that I could not see. I thought she was just demented but perhaps she saw angels.

Then I read the words of Jesus.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 

and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26 

“Do you believe this?” I repeated.

“Yes, I do believe!” she answered with a firm clear voice.

My next visit was to her burial.  People were weeping. They didn’t know she was in heaven but I knew.

If your situation seems hopeless, it may not be the end.

‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’ Jer 33:3 (NET1) 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rejected Christians. Judge them or help them?

There are so many lost sheep and Jesus wants to restore them.

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. 

Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 

And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders. Luke 15:4-5 (NIV) 

This parable is ignored in practice by many but when it is taught, it is used to encourage evangelism. This is not wrong but it misses an important point. 

Jesus was talking to Jews, who were God’s chosen people but many had become spiritually lost.

When we apply this text to evangelism, we must not overlook the lost sheep, the children of Christians, the church members who have left and not come back, the Christians who have been bullied and escaped into the wilderness. 

The wonderful pastor of our church died last year. 

He loved his church people and he was passionate about evangelism but he also had a big heart for lapsed, neglected or isolated believers in no man’s land. There are so many!

So often pastors preach against the church leavers and unattached Christians. This helps nobody.

Some time ago my wife and I kept chickens in the back yard. 

We saw how hens bully their sisters but when we adopted a chicken of a different breed, we saw how brutal and racist chickens can be. 

The odd hen out had feathers on her head instead of a red comb. 

She was tormented and driven away. 

She hid behind bushes or stood lonely at the other end of the yard. Her life was a misery. When I fed the chickens, I put some grain behind a bush, so she could eat in isolation.

Jesus is like that. Pastors tell us to come to church to be fed but Jesus also feeds the outcasts through Christian books, the Internet and Christian TV.

Certainly some Christian loners are over sensitive deserters but many are victims of abuse and bullying, bullied in Christian families and churches.

  • A teenage girl in church becomes pregnant. The gossip and condemnation is savage and it is the girl who is blamed.

  • A young man is a smoker when he is converted and his zealous evangelistic church tolerates his habit for a few months but before a year is out, he is ex-communicated for his sinful habit.

  • A woman shows great dedication and gifting in bible teaching to children and women but she is condemned to second class ministry status because she is a woman. 

Traditional legalists are good at quoting three or four proof texts, just like Jehovah’s Witnesses, but how many women have had their hearts broken like this?

  • There are churches which teach that the husband is the boss and the woman must always obey. This often encourages brutal oppression, soul destroying psychological control and even escalating violence. 
  • When an abused woman complains to pastors in authoritarian churches, she is often not believed, not taken seriously or told to suffer for Jesus because divorce is a terrible sin.

There are Christians whose lives are torn apart by Pastors who claim to be God’s representatives who cannot be questioned. This happens in Catholic churches but also some Pentecostal and strict Fundamentalist churches. 

I know Christians who have suffered this and been more helped in psychiatric clinics than in the churches where they were mistreated.

  • Some suffering Christians are not destroyed by direct bullying but are simply abandoned and ignored. A man leaves his wife and disappears. His wife becomes depressed and disturbed and no longer goes to church. The church forgets her.

Persecution of non conforming Christians also happens in respectable traditional churches. 

  • A Lutheran minister in Germany preached that Islam and Buddhism were incompatible with the Bible. He was the target of a witch hunt because he dared to preach Bible truth instead of political correctness. 

Bullying happens everywhere, in the workplace, in schools, in Mosques and football clubs. 

But it is so terrible when people are torn to pieces by bullying in Christian families and sadly in some churches.

What can you and I do to seek out and help broken sheep?

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

God is with you in your Trouble

This life can be hard. 

You and I did not ask to be born. You could not choose where or when you would grow up. 

Did your parents separate when you were young? You felt abandoned and insecure. In your child’s mind, you thought it was your fault, but it was not.

Was your home a battle ground when your parents were fighting? 
It was not your fault.

People often cry out for God but feel He is far away.

"Where was God when I was bullied and beaten up?"

God looked down and saw our suffering and He felt our pain. 

He wanted to help, and He had a plan. We humans have made a mess of this planet but we did not take God by surprise. 

Before the creation of the world, God saw everything that would happen and all the bad choices we would make. He knew how tough it would be and He decided to go ahead and create the world. 

4  Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. 

5  His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to! Ephesians 1:4-5 (TLB) 

When you trust in Jesus Christ to give you a new life, He forgives all the wrong you have done, all the pain you have brought on other people and He gives you a new start in life.

Does God take away all your troubles and give you a life without problems? 

Sometimes we wish it was like this but it is not. But God is with you in all your troubles

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) 

These words were written by the Apostle Paul. He knew what he was talking about.

2 Corinthians 11:24-27 (TLB) 
24  Five different times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes. 

25  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and the whole next day. 

26  I have travelled many weary miles and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers and from robbers and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the hands of the Gentiles. I have faced grave dangers from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not. 

27  I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 

Jesus never promised us a life free of suffering but He promised to be with us forever and to save us from all our troubles.

Every time Paul was beaten and broken, God healed him, raised him up and gave him the strength to go on. 

If you love and serve Jesus, He will do the same for you.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 

and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26 (NIV) 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

An Atheist Discovers the Other Side

Simon was 54, a successful American professor with no need for God, a confident atheist. 

He was in his hotel room in London preparing for his flight back home when he was troubled by a stomach ache. Nothing unusual. 

But the stomach ache quickly became agony and he was rushed to hospital for an emergency operation.

Then his world began to crumble. A young doctor told him no surgeons were available until next morning. 

He was so happy with his wonderful career and his loving wife sitting by his bed but how could his atheism help him now?

He thought of his Christian childhood. He had abandoned his faith and become wise but what if it was all true? What if there really was a heaven and a hell? What would happen to him now?

He felt that his time had come. He lovingly said goodbye to his dear wife of thirty years, closed his eyes and fell unconscious.

But that was not the end after all. 

He was outside his body next to his wife. This didn’t make sense to his rational mind at all. He had no more pain. He see and hear and think clearly but no one could see or hear him.

Then the voices called him to another place. He saw people in uniforms and he thought they were medical staff calling him. 

When he followed them, he found himself in a dark unknown space. The men and women in uniform became evil beings, tormenting him ceaselessly.

He was helpless. 

In despair he cried out to the God of his childhood faith. Even though he still doubted, he had no other escape. 

Every time he shouted “God” the evil spirits retreated in dismay. 

Finally he lay alone, wounded and in pain, though not the pain from his sick body.

He was no more the strong atheist, no longer the proud intellectual. 

He saw his selfish character and he was ashamed of the way he had lived only for himself and treated other people so badly.

Then he saw himself in a vision, a boy singing happily in church.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

The vision faded and he began calling out to Jesus to save him. He was still full of doubt but who else could save him?

He began so see a light, which came closer and became brighter until he was engulfed by the loving presence of Jesus. 

God never forgets the love and trust of his children. Jesus is the good shepherd to goes out to rescue his lost sheep who have wandered away.

Simon’s parents took him to church. No doubt his mother prayed for him and God did not forget her prayers. 

Never stop praying and believing for your lost children, you brothers and sisters or your parents.

I prayed for my parents for many years before they believed in old age as death was knocking on their door.

Simon saw three angels who had been guarding him all though his life. Simon had left God but God had not abandoned him.

Simon longed to stay with Jesus and the angels but Jesus lovingly sent him back to his beloved wife and children. 

God had plans for Simon’s new life on this planet, a different life, a life of faith and fulfilment, loving God and helping other people.

When Simon opened his eyes, a surgeon was massaging his heart. 

When you have a real encounter with the Son of God, you can never be the same again.

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:40 (NIV) 

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29 (NIV) 

You can encounter Jesus even if you don’t see Him. It is a choice. 

Will you cry out to Jesus as Simon did? Jesus will not let you down.

This blog post is a summary of a chapter in a book by Gabriel Toscani, which I read in German. If anyone can find an English edition. Please let me know.

Toscani, Gabriel. Und dann war Licht: 35 Menschen, die alle klinisch tot waren, erzählen, was sie "auf der anderen Seite" gesehen und erlebt haben. Einige waren im Paradies, andere in der Hölle.  Kindle Edition. 

“And then there was Light: 35 people who were all clinically dead, tell us what they saw  and experienced “on the other side.” Some were in Paradise and others in Hell.”

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What is truth?

Once I was discussing the Bible at a big city train station in Germany when a young spiritual idealist wanted to join the discussion.

To him, it was pointless to discuss Bible teachings, to distinguish between truth and error. 

He Enthusiastically proclaimed that all religions were different ways of understanding the one spiritual reality. All religions were ways of finding God.

He was stunned and confused by my answer. 

If all religions are ways to the same God, why does not one single one of the great religions teach this idea? 

The founders of each of the main religions claimed to teach the one and only true path to God or to spiritual reality.

He didn’t have an answer. 

A confused mixture of half understood spiritual teachings has become popular in Europe since about the time of the French Revolution over 200 years ago. 

The majority of people in the First World now are little interested in deep spiritual teachings. They ignore religion or they dabble in this religion and flirt with that spiritual experience. 

I once met a brilliant young man who graduated from university with a degree in Comparative Religion. Getting a job was a problem. Who wants a comparative priest?

If you say you believe in everything, perhaps you don’t believe in anything. 

Real faith requires commitment. In Western society commitment is a big problem. So many people want to just do their thing and keep their options open.

There are two religions in the spotlight around the world today, Islam and Christianity.

Some say they are more or less the same and we should just chill out and get on with harmonious living.

What do they believe?

By reciting in Arabic the Shahada, a person is considered to be converted to Islam. 

“Confession of faith, the first pillar of Islam, without which all the other pillars are of no value. This formula is to be repeated: 
"Ashhadu an la ilaha illa 'llah; ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasulu 'llah" :

 "I witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." Taken from Muhammad 47:19 and al-Fath 48:29.”

‘Isa did not die on a cross

Christians and Jews have corrupted their scriptures. (Âl 'Imran 3:74-77, 113) Although Christians believe ‘Isa died on a cross, and Jews claim they killed him, in reality he was not killed or crucified, and those who said he was crucified lied (An-Nisa’ 4:157).

 ‘Isa did not die, but ascended to Allah. (An-Nisa’ 4:158)

On the day of Resurrection ‘Isa himself will be a witness against Jews and Christians for believing in his death. (An-Nisa’ 4:159)

Christian beliefs

Christians are commanded not to believe that ‘Isa is the son of God: ‘It is far removed from his transcendent majesty that he should have a son’. (An-Nisa’ 4:171; Al-Furqan 25:2) 

‘Isa was simply a created human being, and a slave of Allah. (An-Nisa’ 4:172; Âl 'Imran 3:59)

What did Jesus say in the Bible?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV) 

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:6-7 (NIV) 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 (NIV)