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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bibles For China

Had a great meeting this week with some of the leadership from Bibles for China. Believe it or not, this ministry is distributing Bibles, that were legally printed in China, with the blessing of the Chinese government. There is a huge demand for Bibles amongst the rural poor in China. $5 donation and the Bibles get there to the people who want them. I am told that much of the Chinese revival is happening amongst the rural poor.

Life Saving Station

I always found this old story entertaining. I remember using it in a sermon years ago and stumbled across it in my archives today.

The Life Saving Station
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now, the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life-boat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club's decoration, and there was a symbolic life-boat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Reasons Why We Don't Experience The Miraculous

We Charismatics and Pentecostals are Weird.

Now hold on, before you start throwing things, I am one and certainly am referring to myself as much as anyone. But just culturally speaking, the accepted norms, behaviors and beliefs of many Charismatic and Pentecostal persons and churches are alien, if not very weird to many — uncomfortably weird.

Even when you are praying with them, and they start binding and loosing, speaking words over someone, tearing down strongholds, speaking in tongues, prophesying where you are not sure if they are talking to God, the devil, you or whoever etc. -- the average non-Pentecostal, let alone non-Christian gets really freaked out. And then when you arrive in a worship setting and they sing 1 song for 20-40 minutes with people waving banners, dancing awkwardly in the Spirit, with super emotional shouting preaching, people running around the building supposedly motivated by the Spirit, or people are laid out on the floor slain in the Spirit, uh .... it's weird. They see Todd Bentley, Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and Benny Hinn and those movements seem almost cartoonish.

Hear me now: I'm not saying it's not all Spirit led. TACF, Hinn and Bentley have seen thousands through their influence legitimately come to know Jesus and be healed. But I am saying that for the average non-Pentecostal it is so far outside the norm of experience that it is surreal and seemingly spooky. And when the people who are major proponents of God's miraculous powers are spooky and bizarre, it causes non-pentecostals to question the authenticity of the miracles. The baby gets thrown out with the bath water -- the baby being signs and wonders, the bathwater being the spooky culture of pentecostals.

I know of good Bible believing, born-again Christian people who didn't want any of the renewal movement in their church. It was NOT because they didn't want the Spirit but because they didn't want all the weirdness that came with the movement.

One reason we don't experience more of the miraculous is that the primary proponents within Chistendom have a huge marketing problem. Miracles are shunned because the miracle workers and their contexts are just too far outside of normal.


This is the doctrine that says that after the completion of the canon of Scripture, after we had the complete Old and New Testament, there would no longer be any need for the miraculous and divine revelation outside of what we have in the Bible.

Though I believe this doctrine is waning and soon to become extinct (see my post here), there are still a good many Christians who either believe it or are functional cessationists -- i.e. they live as if they believe it.

This relates back to my previous post about Mark 6 faith and miracles.

Jesus Could Not ... For The Bible Tells Me So

A beloved friend posted this on his status on Facebook recently:
"In 7 days I will preach a message on Acts 3, which leads to discussion of signs and wonders. I have three questions and would value any input:
1. Why do we not see more evidence of healing/miracles in the West?
2. Do you have a "verifiable story of healing and or miracles that you have witnessed.
3. If not a verifiable story you have witnessed how about from a trusted source?"
I wonder if the lack of healings and miracles seen in the West relates to the following passage in the Gospel of John. I have had plenty of conversations with believers who say that the lack of miracles in the US relates to our lack of faith and that we have put our trust in science instead of God.

We all then point to the plethora of miracles that happen in overseas communities that supposedly have more of a belief in the spiritual, supernatural realm. Since we don't have that widespread belief in the US, we don't have widespread miracles.

Mark 6:3-6 NIV

3 "Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith."
Stunning. The text says, "He could not ...".  It doesn't say he "would" not. It says he "could" not. Is that not shocking to say that the Son of God, Jesus, "could not"? It does not appear to be a translation issue here. All other translations and a normal rendering of the Greek all appear in harmony of the translation of saying "He [Jesus] could not do any miracles there, except ..."  He's the Son of God, why couldn't he? That's outrageous!

The text really is not crystal clear. One common understanding is that verse 6, "He was amazed at their lack of faith." explains why he could not. They lacked faith. They didn't believe so they didn't receive.

We know that faith is important in receiving from God. Jesus says the women who touched him in Mark 5.34, was made well because of her faith. Later in the NT, James says, "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; ..." Faith is certainly an important component of receiving from God.

Others might argue this was a pre-resurrection text and should not apply to a post-resurrection context. In John 14:12ƒ Jesus future told of a reality where his disciples would do "greater things than these" referring to the "evidence of miracles" in v.11, and that this would take place post-resurrection. I suppose that just throws gas on the fire of wondering why we don't see more miracles.

As I've reflected on this passage recently, I've wondered if Jesus' limitations in doing miracles was not entirely related to his hometown's lack of faith but related to the lack of honor. Shockingly, instead of being impressed and giving glory to God for the signs and wonders done in their midst, they mocked him and "took offense" at him. In my mind, that is much more heinous than a lack of faith. It's one thing to have doubts, but altogether different to heap lack of respect on top of that.

Perhaps we don't see more miracles in the US both because of our lack of faith but also because of our lack of honor.

Gift of Miracles

Where is the Gift of Miracles

I have been on an active search for several years now for someone with the spiritual gift of miracles and cannot find one anywhere. I think I last posted about this over 2 years ago (The Spiritual Gift of Miracles) There are some who say they know somebody who knows somebody in an overseas nation some place but I can't seem to get closer than 3 degrees of separation from someone who reportedly has the gift of miracles and no one in the US.

When I refer to the spiritual gift of miracles I am referencing I Cor 12:10. In verses 1-11 St. Paul gives a discourse on spiritual gifts, listing nine manifestations (i.e. spiritual gifts): wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. We also see lists of gifts in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.

Of particular interest to me is the catalog of gifts in 1 Cor that lists "miraculous powers" separately from other gifts that we would consider miraculous. Performing a healing is obviously a spectacular miracle. The ability to communicate divine revelation through words of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy or tongues are also pretty impressive miracles. Yet "miraculous powers" is listed separately as if it refers to something different or more than healing or revelatory related gifts.

Maybe the gift of miracles refers to someone who has both healing and multiple revelatory gifts. But maybe it refers to miracles that are similar to the kind that Jesus performed that were not healings or revelation: turning water into wine, walking on water, casting out demons (though I suppose that could be considered a healing), weather control (calming of the storm), feeding thousands with extremely limited resources, putting money in a fish's mouth, withering of a fig tree or miraculously providing large catches of fish. I suppose it could also be considered miraculous when he slipped out unharmed from an angry mob that wanted to seize him (John 10:39).

The Bible is replete with numerous other kinds of God's miracles: like parting the Red Sea or Jordan River, Elijah doing similar feeding and weather related miracles to Jesus, Jonah's deliverance from the fish, Daniel & friends surviving incineration, Moses' curses against Pharoah, the sun standing still and many others. Perhaps the spiritual gift of miracles refers to those kinds of non-healing, non-revelatory miracles.

Yet the question remains: why is the gift of miracles absent from the church, particularly in the US? Even if it was overseas in Thailand, India, Africa or some other exotic location wouldn't Nightline's Martin Brashirs or some US media person found him/her by now and outed them? I haven't seen it.

I'm trying to think of some non-healing, non-revelatory miracles I could use right now: a miraculous repair of my van, a miraculous provision of money or resources (though that one actually happens to me), a miraculous fix of some parts of my home that are in disrepair that I can't fix or afford to fix, or a miraculous wave of salvations of my friends and family.

Maybe I want miraculous powers like the "The Force" that Yoda and other Jedi's have, or stealth Ninja-like translocation powers, or magical Harry Potter like skills -- all used for kingdom purposes of preaching the gospel, protecting the weak and fatherless, or feeding the poor and hungry.

I wonder if I could be trusted with such things. I'm sure I would do some good but I'd likely be playing practical jokes on people and using the force for my own gain and protection. Having those kinds of powers would truly require having a godly heart and character.

Do you know someone with the gift of miracles? I would be so grateful if you would post a comment and give some details about their miracles, how they exercise that gift and how the church has affirmed that gift in their life. Thank you.

1 Corinthians 12 NIV

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.