Friday, January 27, 2012

2. The Victims of Sin

You can hear this chapter as it was preached over three Sundays by clicking on this link:
Sermons for Chapter 2. The Victims of Sin. THREE PARTS.

Note that what is below and what was preached are not the same! The same material is covered, but the sermon and the text expand upon it differently. In the book which will come from all of this, both of these contents will be combined. For now, the reading and listening experience will vary!

The world today is filled with victims. This includes both those who are genuinely victims of oppression, physical, mental and emotional violence, injury, disease and more, and also – to be blunt – those who live in a perpetual state of ìpoor me,î either stuck or reveling in a daily role of victimhood, presuming others are there to meet their every need.
Healing is available for all of these conditions, and this book will reveal Who does it and how you can be a part of it. Letís begin with some foundational insights.
The Problem
Sin and the redemption of the sinner are the focus of much of the churchís theology as well as the fuel of its striving to save the world. The church uses both fear of judgment and invitation to a better life to help individuals turn from their lives of sin to Jesus as the way of salvation. While this is an essential part of the Good News of Jesus Christ, it is not all of it.
Sin is not victimless, but the church often seems devoted primarily to the redemption of sinners and only secondarily to the victims of sin. Yet the gospel is also for the victims of sin, and it promises redemption and healing for them.
Romans 5:9 is usually translated like this: ìHaving now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.î The New Living Translation says, ìHe will certainly save us from Godís judgment.î Explanations of this verse usually emphasize how we are under Godís judgment because of our sin and how we can be acquitted because Jesus, who was innocent, took our place. In our theology, we assert that God is justifiably angry toward us but that we escape His wrath because of Jesus.
It would be truer to the original text, however, to say that Godís wrath[1] is against evil. We are subject to His wrath because as sinners we are participants in evil, immersed in evil, literally ìdevoted to sin, evil (a`martwlo,j, hamartolos).î Romans 5:8 declares,
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners [still devoted to evil], Christ died for us.
This verse illuminates what the gospel is about. God is angry about evil but loves us so much that Christ died for us even while we were still devoted to evil.
Why is God angry about evil?
This is a foundational question. Is it because it interferes with His authority? Because Satan is competition for Him? If so, God is petty and insecure and, thus, not God. Rather, He is angry about evil because of the harm it does, because of the relationships it destroys, and because of the suffering it causes—in short, because it has victims.
There is no victimless sin. For every sinner and sin there is always a victim. Sometimes the victims of sin are the sinners themselves; more often the victims are others. But there are always victims, and Jesus died for them too. His heart clearly was for the marginalized, the outcast, the prisoners, the blind and the wounded. He even told us that when we served them, we served Him:
Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.[2]
The world and the church are filled with sinners, but they are also full of sinís victims. And just as Jesus desired to heal both sinners and sinned against while He walked on earth, He wants us, as His body, to serve and heal them in the world today. He loved and touched and healed them, and He commanded us to do the same. ìHeal!î is both the command Jesus gave to those He healed, and the command He gave His followers when He sent them into the world. It is the command He gives us, you and me.
The Good News is for both the redemption of sinners (all of us) and the healing of the sinned against (also all of us). Without both of these, the gospel is incomplete.
Sin wounds – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. That is why God hates it and why He loves to heal its victims. And just as there are great sinners (that is, those whose devotion to evil has many victims), so are there great victims (that is, those who have been crippled by the sin done to them). The church must be willing to see and offer the Good News to both, yet it often ignores or condemns the victims while it attends to and redeems the victimizers. Healing prayer is focused on healing victims from the effects of sin. This must apply to all, and most certainly it must include those most profoundly wounded.
Few of the terms used in this book require explicit definition. Those whose meanings may be unique or uncommon include:
    Healing Prayer—prayer that explicitly seeks and relies upon the supernatural intervention of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit for the healing of victims of sin in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of their lives.
   Han—a Korean word introduced by Andrew Park as a category referring to the sinned against, their state of oppression and victimization, and the consequences of sin for them, whether caused by an individual or an institution.[3]
   Peculiar—a term used colloquially to describe people who are social misfits, often as a result of their woundedness as victims of sin (Han), but which ironically (and irenically) in older English usage means ìa hidden treasure.î
Heal! rests on the biblical revelation that God is willing to heal. ìThe God Who healsî is even one of His names in the Old Testament.
Healing has occurred throughout the history of the church, even though at times it is has faded among those who disbelieved, failed to ask, or injected misunderstandings and theological error into their understanding of God. This book relies upon Godís numerous promises in Scripture to heal, His healing initiatives throughout history, and the belief that healing can be taught and ìcaught.î Since healing can be demonstrated, experienced, and learned by others, the effectiveness and the success of the teaching can also be seen.
Just as sinners need forgiveness, sinís victims need healing.
Healing, as construed in this book, is confined to repair and recovery from wounding. It is distinguished from forgiveness and redemption from sin, which are used here to refer to sinners who victimize. Broader definitions of these terms might allow them to cover both kinds of needs—of sinner and sinned against—but they are used narrowly here for the sake of clarity.
Jesus sent His disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, into the entire world to share the Good News and to heal and minister much as He did.
Some victims of sin have overcome their wounding; others can seem quite ìnormalî and not attract attention. But other victims often have physical or social affects that single them out for ostracism or belittling. Our culture (including the church) looks at many of them as ìpeculiar,î and many in the church at large are made uneasy by their presence and behavior, which may be in the form of self-destructiveness, drug or alcohol misuse, weight gain or loss, anger, withdrawal, sexual confusion, helplessness, or other disability. Sometimes they dress oddly, do not bathe, or act in other ways outside social norms.
So wounded are they that often they would agree they are properly the object of the scorn they experience, and it is common for them to see themselves as unworthy of respect or love, whether from other people or from God. At times the wounding causes them to invent a new persona in an attempt to escape the pain and disguise the one who was in harmís way. In some cases this even appears to result in multiple persona (called ìpartsî or ìaltersî) in a single person, who presents to the world the one that seems appropriate in the face of a specific need or threat.[4] Many of the wounded become wounders themselves, even sinning in the same way they have been sinned against.
Of course, some victims of sin can appear quite ìnormal,î though the simple reality is that those who seek out healing are often among the most needy. They manage to develop or maintain a normal affect and so appear without obvious wounds. But the sin of which they are victims still intrudes into their present lives and disables them, leaving them broken and incomplete, just in less obvious ways—some hidden and some delayed in time, to burst forth later in life.
Clearly, training in healing must acknowledge a vast range of needs in those being prayed for, and this training teaches those who pray for healing to be sensitive to these realities, to avoid judging on appearances, and to withhold the kind of disdain common in our culture and in our churches. Nevertheless, the practical essentials of healing can be taught regardless of the specific need or the depth of the wounding.
Understanding how to willingly seek Godís intervention, how to give up control to the Holy Spirit, and how not to interfere or misdirect are the basics of healing, and they are independent of the degree of need. They are not just for the profoundly wounded or their wounds, though these are important. Teaching about the badly victimized is an element of the overall training, but it is not its sole focus.† Understanding deep need equips those who pray to respond more broadly to all needs, but the basics remain the same across the spectrum.
The effects and affects described here are common consequences of sin and as such are open to healing through prayer.[5] Jesus charged His disciples to heal the sick, and we are the inheritors of this charge. Just as Jesus trained His disciples by ìuse and practiceî (one of the root meanings of disciple in Greek), those who have learned healing prayer teach it by doing, by explaining what is being done, and by inviting those being discipled to do it as well.
When trained ministers (that is, disciples) pray, the Holy Spirit responds willingly with healing. Even in large group demonstrations, it is not uncommon to see the Holy Spirit touch and heal people profoundly throughout the room, even though the prayer is apparently focused on just the person in front. When invited, the Spirit ìblows where it wishesî (John 3:8), which is often well beyond the expectations of even the trainers. It is eloquent testimony to Godís willingness to heal.
Jesus explained this willingness in this way:
For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him![6]
In teaching believers to exercise this gift of healing, it must be made clear that this promise of Jesus is not a spiritual abstraction, but a real event with a real effect in the real physical world.
In some cases, the coming of the Holy Spirit produces physical healing. In others, it frees people in the present from the destructive intrusion of the past into their minds, emotions, and spirit. That is, instead of being disabled by the wounding and damage of the past, they are released from its power and begin new chapters in their lives, free from the bondage that was their constant reality. In time, they often become the most compassionate and willing to pray for the healing of others.
The Holy Spirit directs and empowers this change through healing prayer—prayer that directly seeks the Spiritís intervention in peopleís lives for the healing of the effects of the sins committed against them by others and by themselves, as well as for their ongoing sanctification. Thus, the basic assumptions of training in healing prayer are:
      Sinís victims need healing.
      Healing is repair and recovery from wounding, not forgiveness from sin.
      Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus empowered His followers to be healers.
With this foundation laid, the hypothesis of this book can be asserted clearly and with confidence: By the power of the Holy Spirit, victims of sin can be healed, and believers in the body of Christ can be trained to be the agents of this healing.
Of course, the victims of sin are not just the badly wounded, nor are most of the elements of healing prayer specific to the needs of the most wounded. The foundational aspects of healing prayer are broadly applicable.
All of us, including those badly sinned against, are sinners, and the ministry of healing does not seek to minimize or ignore this. In fact, healing the damage of sin done to us sometimes begins with our receiving forgiveness for the damage of sin we ourselves have caused. But often this is not true, and healing for the victims of sin has specific characteristics, dimensions, and requirements that are often unknown or ignored by the church. Perhaps this is why the profoundly wounded are more likely to seek out opportunities for healing prayer and attend teaching on the subject than those who are less obviously wounded.
In healing prayer, the Holy Spirit is invited to work in the prayer ministers and in the victim, both to lead to forgiveness of others and to the healing of the damage done to the victim. This prayer is appropriate for anyone, since all are sinned against, just as all are sinners, but it brings particular satisfaction and joy when those who have been badly hurt are healed. As the healing unfolds, even the people once regarded as peculiar by an often cruel culture and church are revealed to be Godís ìpeculiarî people in the sense intended by the King James Bible, which uses peculiar to translate the Hebrew word meaning treasure, jewel, or valued property:
Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar[7] people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.[8]
There are a significant number of healing ministries in the church at large today, ranging from charlatanry to genuine, caring, and effective efforts, but even in the best of these, there is little other than healing. That sounds odd to say – since healing is wonderful! – but the secret of Godís gifts to us is that they are then be used to bless others. Those who are healed should learn to do healing prayer themselves! Perhaps combining the best lessons from these healings with insights from Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit can produce a resource that will benefit the individuals being trained and allow them to take the training home to impact the world at large.
This is of particular importance to the church in its understanding and care of ìpeculiarî people. Not all who seek healing prayer have so profound and apparent a wounding as these. While some people come for healing prayer much as they would visit the family doctor for a minor illness, the ministry of healing prayer would be a failure if it served only such needs. It is in its ability to serve those more seriously wounded that the church gains true understanding about the depths of Godís love and His willingness to heal.
Because many in the church have not even thought about the badly sinned against, much less learned how to love and heal them, these people quickly realize that they do not fit and are not understood, and they therefore feel pain while in church and quickly flee. This is both an acknowledgment of how the church has failed to be Christís body and a challenge to it to grow in Christlikeness.
I have delighted in how powerfully the Holy Spirit moves when invited, and how touched people are who have witnessed His power, experienced His infilling, or been healed by Him. The ministry of healing is very focused on how these transformational experiences have the power to draw unbelievers to Jesus Christ and believers into a deeper healing and sanctifying relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.
Healing is always a sovereign move of God, not something that can be packaged or manufactured. Yet there are areas where training is important:
      In correcting misunderstandings about the nature of healing
      In identifying things that can act as barriers and distractions
      In finding methods to focus participants and lead to greater effectiveness in prayer
Some churches put little emphasis on the Holy Spirit, and some ìcessationistsî believe that the miraculous healing work of the Holy Spirit ceased after the apostolic age. While the principles of healing prayer are broadly applicable, some additional teaching and caution may be required in introducing this teaching in such venues.

[1] ovrgh, orge
[2] Matthew 25:40
[3] Andrew Sung Park, The Wounded Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1993).
[4]James G. Friesen, Uncovering the Mystery of MPD [Multiple Personality Disorder] (San Bernadino, Calif.: Hereís Life Publishers, 1991), 41–67.
[5] The teaching also values the contribution of professional therapy and medicine (including psychiatry) and explicitly teaches those who pray must avoid amateur attempts at these professions.
[6] Luke 11:10–13
[7] ------ cegullah, Hebrew for treasure, jewel, valued property.
[8] Deuteronomy 14:2 kjv

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1. The God Who Knows, Speaks

This is a book on healing – how God does it and how you can be a conduit for it. This may sound silly to some, frightening to others, but it is normal in Scripture, and even the least “worthy” of us can be healed – and used by God for the healing of others.

You might think, “That’s all well and good, and perhaps God really is willing to heal me, or heal others through me, but I just don’t know enough about Him or His ways to really be effective. Isn’t that what ministers, or evangelists, or saints are for?”

The short answer is, “No. That’s what you are for.”

Let’s look at the Scriptures to begin to understand God’s heart, and His leading for you, as the nature of healing begins to be revealed.

We’ll start with the first part of Psalm 139, a song written by King David; the last part (not printed here) is valuable as well, as David rails against the enemies of God, and also asks that his own heart be searched. But for our initial purposes we will look at the first eighteen verses:

The God Who knows me
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.[1] Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts,God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.[2]
This is such an extraordinary Psalm that I hardly know where to begin. It contains deep wisdom and understanding of who God is, and what He knows, and how intimately He knows us, cares for us, and guides us. He knows everything about us – every thought, every need, every fear. He should be as precious to us as we are to Him, and though we sleep and are unaware of Him, when we awake He is still right there. In fact, “…the one who watches over you will not slumber.”[3]

He never leaves. He watches all night long until you awake.

I suppose this should be obvious, but so many of us today – even Christians! – act as if God created the world and left it on its own. At the most we think He visited a few times in the past, and MAYBE comes occasionally into our lives or the lives of others. 

But we are functional “Deists.” We act like He doesn’t know our needs and really doesn’t much care. We don’t think of Him as being intimate with us, like a loving husband, never leaving our sides, looking lovingly at us all night long. Yet such an intimate, caring and jealous God is what Scripture reveals.

The God who speaks

Aside from people whose disabilities prevent it, can you imagine a marriage in which the husband and wife do not speak (all kidding aside!)? Rather, those marriages that are most healthy are intimate not just in physical closeness, but in words whispered in love, in plans made together, in warnings given in times of danger, in instruction where it is needed.

The Apostle Paul, writing to Christian believers, reminded them of how different the real God is from the idols they once worshipped:
Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.[4]
We will come back to this passage again later in the book. For now, notice this key insight: the idols they once worshipped were speechless. Paul intends the obvious implication: GOD SPEAKS TO US. 

This may happen in a thousand different ways, from actual audible words, to Scripture, dreams, visions, angels, convictions of the heart, worship, prayer, and especially through other believers, led by the Spirit of God to speak to us from God’s heart. 

This is why Paul says, “…no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” Paul is speaking of the quality and content of believers when their speech is from God – speaking by the Spirit of God – as God speaks to us through them.

One of God’s prophets, Elijah, was fleeing from Jezebel, who had vowed to kill him:
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.
But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. 
Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
But the LORD said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”[5]
Who does Scripture say God speaks to? Here's a partial list. I got tired after about an hour of finding and listing names. God speaks to Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Hagar, to Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Balaam, Deborah, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Ahijah, Jeroboam, Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Gad, Shemaiah, Zechariah, Huldah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter, John, Saul/Paul, Ananias…

This list shows us something crucial: We often think of prayer as us speaking to God, but it is not a one-way channel. It is a conversation, if we will open ourselves to listen to Him. Here's a key example of this willingness, and the desire on God's part for us to listen to Him:
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” 
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 
Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” 
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” 
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”[6]
As we begin to explore Scripture, and try to discover the heart of Jesus for healing in us, and through us, this willingness to listen to God will be a foundation, and a touchstone, for all that we learn to do. 

Say it now: "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."

[1] Interestingly, the English word “man” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning the thinker sprung from the earth, and the Hebrew word “Adam” means made from earth. See Genesis 2:7.

[2] Psalm 139:1-18 NIV

[3] Psalm 121:3b

[4] 1 Corinthians 12:1-2

[5] 1 Kings 19:3-13

[6] 1 Samuel 3:1-10