Looking out on the people who gathered at New Bridge Church yesterday, as I was preaching, I could not suppress my active awareness that there were close to a dozen people who stood in need of some level of physical healing or spiritual deliverance. From those present with injury and chronic pain, to those with aggressive cancer, all the way to one man who has been dropping by the property lately and is clearly demonized – all of these people (and likely more of whom I am unaware) need a miraculous touch from God. Yet I did not sense that what I was fighting yesterday morning was cancer or pain or even demons. As I shared a message on God’s power to heal and deliver people from sickness, pain and the kingdom of darkness, I sensed that the Goliath in the room was this one towering thug:
After twenty-two years of bible preaching, I have learned that the process of delivering a message is both strange and intense. The human side of it is found in study, prayer, knowing your bible text, structuring the flow of what you plan to say and remaining aware that you should try to finish in under an hour if you plan to hold the attention of the average American Christian. The supernatural side of preaching is found in the unseen activity of the Holy Spirit speaking to you as He speaks through you, and as He is simultaneously speaking to your audience. On one level your mind is fully engaged in what you are saying, but on another level, you are simultaneously receiving communication from the Holy Spirit as He dances with you, leading to step softly on this thought, spinning you swiftly through another point and then, in an instant, firing you like a laser at something He causes you to fully know in the moment. If you have not yet preached a message, this may sound odd to you. If you have preached, no further explanation is necessary. In yesterday’s message, I planned to share a passage about a man who was healed in Acts 3. The Holy Spirit seemed to desire to emphasize another issue through this same passage of scripture. Boiling in my heart was a holy war against doubt, the intellectualization of the faith, and the paltry expectation we have concerning God’s willingness to work the miraculous in our midst. Literally, as I was preaching, I sensed the Lord saying to me, “When the ogre of unbelief is slain, then all will see that I still do what I clearly did in the book of Acts. Jeff, attack the sources which foster my children’s doubts about Me. Go at it very hard, son.”
So I did.
And I will.
My challenge to the Christian is to surrender your historical theology and militantly define your Kingdom beliefs by the Bible alone. By faith, place all of what you believe today in God’s hands. Tell Him that you want the scriptures alone to frame up your beliefs. Honor Him by declaring that you want to rid yourself of any and all teaching that is not sourced in the Word – doing this will greatly please Him. Confess by faith that you posses some erroneous and unhealthy filters which currently distort your beliefs. In effect, humble yourself, go back to bible basics, and seek God to teach you all over again. Start over – I dare you. Pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) to be granted to you, and then begin to study the bible like you are opening it for the first time. As you remain intentional about no longer reading the bible through your denominational goggles, you will begin to find an organic clarity concerning God and His ways. Especially in this oft-debated area of whether or not God’s supernatural works should be regarded as normative for today, ask God to speak to YOU from His word. Expect Him to give YOU answers. Take the bible at face value, and search with all your heart to learn if there is a single passage of scripture which teaches that the supernatural, miraculous ways of God have run their course and are no longer operative today. The ramifications of what we believe about this issue are off the charts. If God has moved from emphasizing His word and also His miraculous power, to now only emphasizing His word, then I believe this shift should be clearly shown in Scripture. With all of the passages about the miraculous, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, healings, authority over demons, the Last Days outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the activity of the prophetic, and a host of other supernatural elements, we must have clear and solid ground from that same bible in order to be able to declare, “God no longer works like this. He has given us a book to study instead.” Friends, it has never been an either/or scenario. It has never been our calling to either choose or bible or choose the miraculous. The New Testament reveals that it has always been our deep need for both the authority of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. I have concluded that niether God nor His ways have changed. Therefore I am asking where the power in the Church has gone and why.
While Christians continue to debate the theological differences surrounding healing, all of us would do well to remember that God actually sees the lame man at the gate in Acts chapter three. For the Father, it is not about debating theology. God sees the leper in the street. God sees the woman with the hemorrhage of blood, and He knows her name. God sees the man traveling to Emory to get his radiation treatment this week. God sees the elderly man rehabbing an eighty-year-old hip that is cracked. God sees the woman confined to the wheelchair for the fourth motionless year in a row. God sees the third grader who has been on morphine for the third consecutive week, as she recovers in the burn unit at Doctors Hospital in Augusta Georgia. God sees the demonized man who has been prescribed a dozen psychotropic drugs from well intending physicians who continue to leave him in a helpless state of mind. God sees the sufferer, and He sees His own children trembling in the shadow of doubt and unbelief because we have been taught not to expect God to act in strong, supernatural remedy. We spend so much time debating the doctrine of healing, but the early church simply moved out in compassion-fueled faith, and helped those who had no other hope for help. Perhaps the words we waste in debate would be better spent on praying for personal power to be used by God to heal the afflicted. Our time would be solidly invested interceding for those who are sick and afflicted in their bodies. I have declared war on my own unbelief. Like a mad gardener with a spiritual spade, I’m going after the roots of every source which has trained me to second-guess the supernatural works of God. God has made me willing to mess up the garden in order to rid it of choking weeds. I am convinced that God will offer another awakening and revival to the American church. I am also convinced that it will never materialize unless and until we stop rewriting the plain teaching of Scripture to suit our denominational comfort zones. We are seemingly asking God to meet us at the low level of our anemic expectancy.
And the scary thing is that He is doing so.
He is telling me to raise my bar, and to help you to raise your own.