This week while reading in Mark I came across the story of the boy with an unclean spirit that the disciples could not cast out while Jesus was in the mountains praying (Mark 9:14-29). What really leaped out at me was the response of the Father after Jesus says- “All things are possible for one who believes”:
“I believe; help my unbelief!”
It was like trumpets were sounding and God was obviously trying to get my attention. Then the thought clearly came to me that this should be one of the key scriptures that I remember and repeat during my prayers this coming year.
I do believe everything in the bible and I have experienced and participated in numerous healings and miracles in my life but they are still the exceptions rather than the rule. When I pray for someone and they receive healing I am still surprised. Thankful but pleasantly surprised. Sort of like the folks praying for Peter to be released from prison and then when he actually knocked on the door they were shocked.
I also believe that I am not alone; that this is where the American church is right now at the close of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. We believe in the miracles of the Bible and all of the healings that Jesus performed. Most of us believe that God can still do those things today but we call them ‘supernatural’ and view them as exceptions in the ‘normal’ life of the American Christian and the church. There are even some of our brothers and sisters who believe that God stopped doing that stuff once the Bible was completed.
That’s why I believe that we should be praying this year for the entire America church (every faithful part of it) and pray for a new awakening, a new sovereign work of God, a new reformation of the church, and revival:
“We believe; help our unbelief!”
I do believe that it is already here and coming to a church near you. We just need help to dial up our faith and receive.
I ran across one of my favorite John Wimber quotes reading this article about his daughter-in-law Christy. I personally heard John tell this story on a number of occasions when I attended Vineyard CF Anaheim while Wimber was the head pastor:
“A professional musician who played the Las Vegas circuit for 5 years, John later signed with the Righteous Brothers. When John was gripped by God in 1963, he was a “beer-guzzling, drug abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible Study.”
He soon became a voracious Bible reader and after weeks of reading about life changing miracles in the Bible and attending boring church services, John asked a lay leader:”
“When do we get to do the stuff? You know, the stuff here in the Bible; the stuff Jesus did, like healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the blind – stuff like that?”
He was told that they didn’t do that anymore – only what they did in their weekly services. John replied, “You mean I gave up drugs for that?”
Response: “Doin’ the stuff” became the marching orders at the beginning of the Vineyard movement.
Another famous Wimber quote: “Everyone gets to play”–which meant that all the members participated in “doin’ the stuff” not just the pastors and preachers. Those two quotes became part of the guiding foundation of the Vineyard Movement in the early years.
This is an incredible story. Yasmin became a Christian after she had a vision of Jesus during the difficult birth of her son. She tried to keep her faith a secret from her family, since she was afraid of how they would react. Later, when they did find out that she was a Christian, the persecution followed.
According to Yasmin, she was harassed on the street, and disowned by her family. Her husband hired thugs to beat her up and planned on having her killed. She finally moved out to another part of the country with her children in secrecy. Her husband tracked her down and tried to take the children, objecting to them being raised by a Christian. Here are some excerpts of her experience:
“He continually intimidated and harassed me and hired someone to beat me in the street. Wherever we went there would always be a car following us and watching us.”
“Everyone in the local Muslim community knew I was a Christian and didn’t want to know me. People would cross the street rather than greet me and often spat in my face. They tried to pressure me to leave town. But I had already been chased out of one town so I was determined not to let them intimidate me.”
“One of the most difficult things about becoming a Christian from a Muslim background is losing your family. There are such tight family networks in our communities. If someone becomes a Christian then they are considered to bring shame on the whole family and the only response is to cut them out of the family.”
Response: I hear of and read that more and more Muslims are converting to Christianity through Visions and direct experiences with Jesus. This is becoming common, particularly in Muslim countries that outlaw conversions and missionaries.
What is really incredible about this story, and the surprising and stunning punch line is this—Yasmin lives in the UK!
We really do need to remember to pray for Yasmin and her children. Also, for all the others like her who have converted and face persecution and even death for the sake of their faith in Jesus.
A surprising study shows that half of the Southern Baptist senior pastors actually believe in the gift of tongues. On the downside the study also shows that recent Southern Baptist seminary graduates are (55%) far more cessationist in their views.
The study also found that 66% of non-SBC Protestant senior pastors believe in the gift while only 33% said they didn’t.
There is a far greater openness to the gift of tongues than what I believed was even possible; particularly among the Southern Baptists which have usually been characterized as being in the ‘cessationist’ camp.
If a similar poll was taken in 1906, I wonder how it would have compared to this one. I believe that it would have shown that opinions and practices have changed drastically in 100 years since Azusa Street. The gift of tongues is no longer an oddity practiced by poor and ignorant folks living on the other side of the tracks and worshiping in a barn.
I just finished reading an incredible article that I received from Christianity Today. It actual made my day and my night also! It is an anonymous testimony from a professor of theology which is obviously not Pentecostal or Charismatic. In fact he says:
I’m a middle-aged professor of theology at a well-known Christian university. I’ve written award-winning books. My name is on Christianity Today’s masthead. For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear.
A year after hearing God’s voice, I still can’t talk or even think about my conversation with God without being overcome with emotion. That’s one reason I know it was real; I’m not a person who shows emotion easily. Plus, I’m a skeptic about things supernatural. Not that I don’t believe they can happen; I just doubt most miracle stories except the ones in the Bible. I’ve even been known to criticize publicly what I consider to be overly experiential forms of Christianity. I suppose that makes this story especially ironic.
Here’s the link and the title: “My Conversation with God“. It is well worth the five minutes or so it takes to read it. warning: Kleenex might be needed. I had to hunt some up half way into it. Read my comments following:
Comments: Stuff like this happens every day in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles. However, when the Spiritual gifts start breaking out in the life of an regular Evangelical -admittedly non-Charismatic- theology professor who continues to be self-conscious about it, can real Revival be that far behind? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Actually I am doing both right now.
I really believe that the Lord is going to be moving in new and unique ways among all Christians, particularly among leaders and Pastors. Watch for healing and Spiritual gifts to informally break out in churches and places where they have never been recognized before. This is like a small first wave. Look for more to come later.
“We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain,â€ comments Principal Investigator Andrew Newberg, MD, Associate Professor of Radiology, Psychiatry, and Religious Studies, and Director for the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, at Penn. Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak. Our brain imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues.”
Newberg went on to explain, “These findings could be interpreted as the subject’s sense of self being taken over by something else. We, scientifically, assume it’s being taken over by another part of the brain, but we couldn’t see, in this imaging study, where this took place. We believe this is the first scientific imaging study evaluating changes in cerebral activity — looking at what actually happens to the brain — when someone is speaking in tongues. This study also showed a number of other changes in the brain, including those areas involved in emotions and establishing our sense of self.”
Well it least I found it interesting. It doesn’t really affect our Biblical or Spiritual understanding of the gift of Tongues.