I was watching Pat Robertson today when he and his wife began praying for healings for people they ‘felt led’ to pray for. They went on to pray for a busted knee, a crushed face, a person coughing up blood. Does anyone know where this kind of prophetic-type praying came from? I would be interesated to hear your thoughts on this. Try not to be too negative about it – talking about Robertson’s other issues. I am concerned about the whole televangelist idea of believing God for healings that can’t be confirmed.

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This post has 11 Comments

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  1. Matthew,
    When you say prophetic prayer, do you mean they prayed and then pronounced that God has healed them as in Benny Hinn style? On the other hand, if they were led to pray and they did but left it up to God’s will, then that’s all good b/c we should bring our petitions to Him, along with thanksgiving, adoration, etc.

  2. Matthew,
    I tend to think it’s just the voices in their head… but John MacArthur has provided a much more substantive critique & review in his book called “Charismatic Chaos”. I highly recommend it. It’s probably one of the most comical (he tells the story of a documented account of a chicken being raised from the dead) yet informative books for such a particular issue.
    Ultimately, and I think MacArthur argues this, it boils down to issues of authority. How do you know what you know? “Well, God told me.” Hmm. What chapter? What verse? Sola Scriptura is almost completely abandoned in many charismatic and pentecostal type ministries from what I can tell. . .
    One other point MacArthur makes that I think is important is that basically anything goes in ‘charismania’. No truth claim is to be questioned. Their governing authority and source for truth often times are the voices in their heads. (God told me this or that or told me to tell you whatever).. This road always leads to a big mess. . . your thoughts?

  3. Joshua,
    You are absolutely wrong b/c God told me so. How about that for argument:o) Seriously, you are right b/c the Bible provides guiding principles for us to live. Otherwise, I can say to a brother that God has told me that he should give me all his money in his bank account or tell a sister that God has told me that she’s to marry me. This would be good if they confirm the message but not so otherwise b/c it leads to mass confusion.

    The sad part about the faith healing is that it gives false hope to the sick and when they are not healed, they think they are not favored by God. We know from the book of Job that God does allow us to suffer so that we may see his glory in the midst of suffering and persecution and that our faith will be strengthened.

  4. I don’t know, but the other day, I woke up with a busted knee, a smashed face (i don’t even know) and a my pillow was all bloody. then I turned pat on (uh). I got all willy-like when he started shouting and feeling led, but nothing happened. I sent my money in anyway. that was the right thing to do, right? money, money, money.
    but seriously folks.
    televangelists have a place in the kingdom, but very few of the very few I’m aware of actually preach the good news about Jesus, as opposed to, say, the good news about “hook-me-up-with-some-sweet-stuff!!”

    Mr. Robertson got some props from World Mag recently. He’s probably a wonderful Christian man. But there is instability built in to this view of holy spirit-laser gun prayer, and many televangelists simply use it as unverifiable fakery to extort money from people who really do need Jesus, but end up getting a prayer towel or some other rot.
    all that to say: no comment.

    [wire-man: lots of posts for a 4 fingered typist! i’m impressed]

  5. Robertson is Pentecostal. The Pentecostals were some of the first Christians to use mass media, first with radio and then with television. I’m no expert on things, but I bet Kathryn Kuhlman was one of the first to heal over the radio.

    Although she died in 1976, Kuhlman has an official website: http://kathrynkuhlmanfoundation.org/

    You can also listen to some of her messages. She sounds creepy to me. Listen to it late alone at night with the lights off to get really scared.
    http://kathrynkuhlmanfoundation.org/realaudio/infilling-of-holyspirit.html

  6. That’s pretty funny David.

    Well you guys probably know I’m a cessationist from my earlier comments here and that I am suspicious to the point of mocking the slightest bit of mumbo jumbo but allow me to tell you about something similar I experienced.

    I was on a summer home mission team and we served in several different churches. Prayer had always been a struggle for me and I felt like I didn’t know what to say besides asking for some of the usual stuff (bless the food or for someone to get well). I really disliked praying in front of other people.

    I think someone asked me to pray with/for them. I would never turn anyone away but I thought why are you asking me, just because I am in this ministry this person thinks I am spiritual enough to pray with someone, I’m probably the last person they should ask. I said ok and then I ended up praying for them for a long time.

    This happened several times and it seemed strange that I should just think of things to pray for someone I didn’t know. I even asked the pastor if this was something that is possible.

    Some key points are that it was not in front of a bunch of people but almost always one on one and it I don’t think it made me look special. I think God does prompt us to pray for people. It seems like that is glorifying Pat Robertson rather than edifying the church. Sometimes it’s really hard to know what is what.

  7. David, I’d rather be a four-fingered ring bearer, but typist will do.

    As for the posts on charismata, I do want to post some more on the gifts. To let you all know I hold to continuationism of the gifts. That is, I believe that tongues, prophecy, the whole bit do continue…I am in the minority in the Reformed camp on this one. But until I see otherwise I will bear the brunt of the criticism.

    I do not believe in a second baptism by the Hole Spirit, nor do I currently speak in tongues. I earnestly desire to prophesy (1 Cor 14.1) and want to understand what the practice of the gifts looks like in the church. iconoclasm, I would suggest that your experience in intimate prayer with a friend is an example of prophecy.

    I have a friend who has argued against Grudem’s argument for the continuation of prophecy. I agree, Grudem’s argument on Agabus and Eph 2.20 are not the strongest, and probably would be strengthened by dropping the arguments altogether. I would like to hear some comments on Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 13.8-13. When will we see face to face? I believe it is at Christ’s return…so until then we will see the gifts manifest in the Body.

    Thoughts??

  8. I have to side with continuation of the gifts. After seeing the gifts in action, it’s difficult to deny it. They are definitely supernatural and I wouldn’t even begin to imagine that they are from Satan, so it must be God :)

  9. Sorry to diappoint you but Pat Robertson is a BAPTIST. Yes, licensed and ordained.

    God can do what He wants when He wants and through whom He wants. He don’t have to ask me if it is acceptable or not.

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Abiding in Christ?

How do you abide in someone you can’t see or touch or audibly listen to? When Jesus told his disciples to abide in him, was it merely for them or is it something we are called to emulate?

To the first question, Jesus most certainly expected his disciples to abide in him despite not being able to touch him and hear him and see him. After all, John 15 (where the speech comes from) is right before his crucifixion. Too often our faith is wedded to too much wooden-ness in understanding. We veer toward, “Yes, but…” Like Thomas who would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’ side, so also our faith is not expansive enough. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe–which leads to the second question.

Jesus prayed not only for his disciples in the Garden, but for all those who would hear the Good News from his disciples testimony. When he responded to Thomas that those who have not seen and yet believe are makarios (“blessed”), he had you and me in mind. What we see unfold in Scripture after the Resurrection is the kind of effulgent life he wants us to live…and abiding life.

So how do we abide?

I would suggest three ways.

Keeping His Word

Throughout John’s Gospel and his epistles, Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commands. Like a father who loves his child, like an older brother looking out for his younger brother, Jesus tells us how to navigate God’s world. Do we trust him enough to actually follow his steps?

This explicit teaching is what is called the Revealed Will of God. While God is constantly working in his world for his own purposes, part of that working is his condescension to tell us how to understand his world. That is, unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East, Yahweh determined to tell his people how to live. His Law is gracious and kind to reveal his ways to us.

All the Law hangs on Jesus’ admonition to love God and people.

Throughout the New Testament we see what it looks like to abide in Christ when we hear the Apostles telling people to put others before their own whims and preferences. We see this worked out as the Spirit comes at Pentecost and the Church extends to the uttermost parts of the world.

Led By the Spirit

It is no accident that John 16’s (continued) discourse on the preferment of the Spirit’s coming follows on the heels of Jesus’ command to abide in him. While the Law is gracious and good, we botch it up with our self-seeking and short-sightedness. We need the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth.

As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, there are three witnesses: water, blood, and Spirit. The first two speak to the doctrinal clarity and objective reality of who Jesus is. The third is the subjective application of these truths into the life of the believer.

Unfortunately the Spirit is equated with emotionalism and awkward and outlandish activity by those claiming to be Spirit-led. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, indeed. While the Spirit blows where he will, and does things outside our meager understanding, this does not necessarily mean that his working in incomprehensible or outlandish or alien (more on this in the third point).

What are some ways we can be led by the Spirit?

Well, he inspired the text of Scripture and has clearly spoken there. Go there.

In Ephesians 5.18, we are told to be filled with the Spirit. How? The participles that follow this command tell us how: Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Spirit is guiding and directing God’s people. Go there.

It would be good to reflect on each of these four participles and consider how you might be filled with the Spirit in ever-increasing measure. Are you speaking God’s songs over people? Are you singing to soothe the angst in your own heart? Are you grateful? Are you putting others’ needs before your own–considering them more significant than yourself?

Being Attune to God’s Working

One of my charges as a pastor is to help us see God’s continual work in the world. It is easy to wax on about God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence but to deny his power and that this means right here right now. He is not all these characteristics merely in heaven. While you may say, “Obviously!” In fact, many of us affirm these aspects of God yet we live life as though he is not at work in the mundane stuff of life. We talk about him and his superintendent work int he world…but we fail to see his work in my making coffee or standing in line or talking to a stranger.

The shift in our lives happens when we see him always at work. Always. In the mundane. In the suffering and pain. In the exciting. That is God working and shaping you.

Every conversation. Every. Conversation. Is opportunity to hear God speak to you. For him to shape you. Every appointment is a “divine appointment.” He graciously guides our footsteps. The person in the checkout line needs to hear of God’s grace. Your co-worker needs to know that God loves him. The annoying neighbor needs to see God’s mercy. Your family needs to experience peace in your words and actions. These are all God’s ever-present work. His beckoning us to abide in his word and his world.

Redeeming the Serpent

 

 

Israel found itself in the wilderness complaining against God for his ways of redeeming them. For the mundane activities he had them take part in (i.e., walking around in circles).

Side note: If you and I were led in the wilderness for 40 years we would be murmuring as well. We get in a tizzy when we have to do anything mundane for more than an hour typically.

So Israel complains and God sends serpents to bite them in judgment (see Numbers 21 for the full account). This act of judgment reminds us of the serpent in the Garden who is ever present with us. He tempts us to murmur and blame others rather than confessing and growing and trusting. These serpents become a vivid reminder of what each of our little speakings of our minds are really saying. That is, when we speak out against a circumstance or a person, we are setting ourselves up as the arbiter of right and wrong. Of truth. We are the ones to whom others ought to ask for permission.

But the act of healing did not come by taking a potion or jumping in a river or screaming out loud, “I’m sorry” followed by self-flagellation. The act of redemption came in the simple form of looking. Looking. Not reaching out. Not even crying out. Merely looking away from the self and to Another. There is no strength required. A mere acknowledgment of something outside of ourselves that needs to redeem.

What is fascinating further about this act of redemption is the object to which Israel was to look. They were to look to…a serpent. The Act of Rebellion against their Maker that started in the Garden is turned on its head. The Serpent is powerless to hold sway the delights of rebellion. He becomes the tool in God’s hands of redemption.

God doesn’t just say, “Stay away from serpents.” He doesn’t rid the earth of what would be deemed evil. Surely, the Adversary is not redeemer. That is not what we see in the text! Rather, we see that those things connected with and that can easily be lumped in with the hopeless, in this case a serpent, God redeems this seemingly hopeless object. He doesn’t merely get rid of the evil, he redeems the evil.

This is scandalous and you might find yourself saying, “Matt, you go too far!”

Do I? I venture to say that you have not entirely grasped who you are. You were an object of wrath. You were children of the Adversary. You delighted in your own desires and your universe orbited around your wants. God, being rich in mercy, took you out of that darkness. He didn’t merely remove you from the filth. He transferred you into the kingdom of his Beloved Son. The One he loved from before the foundation of the world. He not only transferred you into that kingdom. He has given you all the privileges of that kingdom. He has made you a son and daughter!

God is not in the business of just getting rid of his adversaries, but to those who will merely look to the Son who was also lifted up, he will give you the inheritance of his Beloved Son. No more to be destroyed. No more to be reviled and written off as hopeless. He gives you all that he has and all that he is.

How the Gospel Integrates

This past Sunday I preached from John 3.14-21. In an effort to help us hear with fresh ears, I offered my own translation from the Greek. Of note in the translation, instead of “perish” as is typically used for the word apollumi in the Greek, I opted for “destroy.” The lexical range for the word can also include “to undo” as in “untie.” What a strange word or concept to consider that to be destroyed is to be untied or undone. What is John (and Greek!) getting at?

As we consider the biblical storyline of Creation>Fall>Redemption>Consummation, the idea of being untied is a beautiful picture of what happened at the Fall. That is, when our first parents fell to the temptation of the Serpent they were untied, unglued as it were. They were broken down from the integrated selves God had made them as.

So many times we can understand the death we experience from the Fall as puntiliwr in nature. That is, as in that moment in the Fall death happened. What we see as the biblical storyline unfolds is that the concept of “death” is one of living under the reign of death. That is, the moment we close our eyes for the last time is merely culmination of living under the tyranny of death. Prior to that moment, we are being undone, untied, thread by precious thread.

I believe this coheres with our own experience. Consider the moment by moment decisions you and I make. Each one of those decisions could potentially be one more thread pulled out of our already threadbare sweater. Sin entices. We get hooked. Sin unravels us. After a life of this, we become naked and unashamed–where there should have been a covering and shame for the rebellion we relish. At the end of such a life, we come to the final thread being snapped.

The Gospel, however, is about the work of integrating us. Of bringing us into wholeness. Whereas we continue to live under the reign of death, we are merely tenants and not inheritors of such death. We have been given the life of Christ and are being knit back together into the integrated self that God had intended from the beginning. And so, the Gospel saved us, saves us, and will save us from the frayed existence of those who do not believe on the Son. Those who refuse to come to the Tailor to receive their garments of praise, will continue to wear the ashes. Those who do not submit to the rectifying work of the Author and Finisher of our lives, will find that they are undone. They are ultimately destroyed.

In this way, the Gospel of Jesus a moment of transference into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. And it then acts as the agent of reifying the imago Dei that was unraveled. What a beautiful picture of how God works in our lives moment by moment! When confronted with a juicy morsel of sin, by the power of the Spirit to say “No” to ungodliness and our own rule, another thread is tighter in our fabric. Each moment when the promises of slavery seem enticing, instead of being undone and destroyed, we are made into wholly, integrated image bearers.