This has been quite a season with lots to think about and reflect upon. I remember some time ago sitting in a sermon class studying the bible, Luke 5 to be precise, and my teacher is someone who holds the bible in very high regard. In fact, he is constantly going on about it and know far more about the bible than I ever will.
The bible, I have noticed, is a collection of writings in which a host of extraordinary things happen: the creation of the world, the parting of the sea, the real presence of the glory of the Lord dwelling in a cloud and then in the Temple and then God himself comes and walk among us as Jesus and does all sorts of things and says we will do greater things than these. The kingdom has come, in him, he proclaims and we too are to do the things of the kingdom. What on earth does that mean in practice and what will it look like?
As we read Luke 5 together in our class, verse 17 jumped out at me as being very very interesting. It reads, 'And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.' Three times I asked for anyone to explain this-it seemed amazing and worthy of some exploration. What is this power? How did he have it? Can we have it too? Move on I was implicitly told, this is a story about salvation not healing-any 'sound' commentary will tell you that. But what about vs 17, I again asked. There seemed to be immense reluctance to explore this exciting prospect of the power of the Lord being available to us to heal the sick. It seems, on occasions, that some have decided which bits of the bible we do do and which we don't. I was and am left somewhat puzzled.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I have witnessed a few things recently that have challenged me to the core. One was a man called Bill from California who has a ministry of miracles. Yes, he calls it a ministry of miracles and the supernatural. Despite having what might be called a less than orthodox understanding of biblical doctrine he proclaimed and displayed the works of the Kingdom before my eyes. The deaf heard, one woman's leg grew back an inch and a half, and another woman was seemingly completely healed of MS and was no longer in a wheel chair. Of course, this made me enthusiastic to understand and share and I have been telling of God's wonders ever since, but it has left me with a few questions( Apologies to those who think I have been even more mad in recent days than I am normally).
Here are a few things Bill said:
Desperation is what moves heaven
It is up to us
You know you are renewed when the impossible seems logical
We have the power to duplicate the miracle mansion
My job is to persuade him to come and fix things
You don't keep a job very long if you ask your boss to do a job he has asked you to do
The kingdom is released through declaration
Christianity must be recognised for its passion
Live from presence
I am as obliged to live in power as I am in character
Truth is multi-dimensional in nature
When a Christian walks into a situation the odds and potential change.
Inferior covenants (the old) are not meant to bring superior blessings than born again believers
We have reduces doctrines to doctrines and not experiences
I owe people an encounter with God, it should not be me they meet but Jesus
The authentic gospel desreves to be manifested. We pray for people because we want to get what he paid for.
Your destiny is in the area of your greatest loss
In law you are commanded to perform but in grace you are empowered to perform.
We have been trained not to believe God
Joy is the hallmark of the believer
Well, there are a few statements for the theologians to chew on. Over coffee, someone commented that he had an 'over-realised eschatology' in believing that heaven could be done on earth as we so often pray. Someone else interjected that when we have witnessed over 5000 miracles in our church perhaps then we can have a pop. This completely new paradigm of spiritual expectation and reality sent me running to my faithful friend Eugene with the stuff that confused me. He'll be able to help me on miracles. I run to Eugene because when you depart from the Word, as it seemed at times occured, and leap headlong into Wonder you need a guide to discern and process things. This is what Peterson says:
"Don't be impressed by signs; don't go looking for signs. The miraculous is no proof of truth or reality.....It would be odd if we did not at least occasionally catch a glimpse of this "beyond" our backyards and remark on it-a sign, a sign of God's presence or work where we had not expected to see or hear it and in circumstances in which we cannot account for it. But such signs are not for advertising or entertainment'
Of course, I long to see Luke 4 outworked in the church as I hope we all do, but it is the 'how this happens' that is my dilemma. Clearly, some have a super-anointing (at times I was left feeling that the power comes through some form of gnostic encounter but this was not unpacked through teaching) but us ordinary folk are in danger of being left faithless and helpless in the face of all the miracles that happen in Redding California but are not experienced in Milton Keynes. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for it and as I prayed for a boy in a wheelchair on the train from Newcastle over the weekend, with his dear mother looking on, and I mustered as much faith as I could generate and was hopeful that he may bound along the platform at Carlisle. But it was not to be. At least not this time. What I learnt was people who are not Christians don't mind a bit of prayer if you offer it and arguably have more faith that a God who rose from the dead may indeed cure their son. So I must not be deterred. But when God answers my prayer, as I am hopeful he will one day, I must remember Eugene's warning that it is never an entertainment and is simply a signal and pointer to the blood of the Saviour. The healer himself. When a miracle happens it is character that I will need before I would let myself anywhere near a conference. Sure Bill had character, but I am not sure I am yet refined enough by the fire for the Lord to entrust to me a global miracle ministry. In the meantime, I'll leave the conferences to the professionals.....
Two other thoughts. If you ever wondered what a revived Church looks like then get yourself up to 'Renewal' in Solihull. They have 700 to their Tuesday meeting and are the most genuinely joy-filled, faith-filled bunch I have encountered in a long time. A sight to behold and worth the trip.
My reflections will continue and apologies to any who have encountered my over-bearing questioning and story-telling of late. Forgive me.