A Must Read Post – Blaming God for Cancer

I ran across a blog last week that I wanted to share with you all. It is a blog by Ryan Woods who is a minister and church planter in Vancouver, Washington. He has terminal cancer and is sharing his thoughts along the way. Ryan is a young guy who has a lot to share from his unique perspective. I have found it helpful in dealing with some of life’s tougher questions. His most recent post is called Blaming God for Cancer and it is profoundly helpful and insightful. He is honest. He asks the right questions. He is humble. He shares things we all will need to hear at some point in time either from the standpoint of personal suffering or suffering of loved ones. So have a read when you get a chance…

Blaming God for Cancer

Ryan is speaking at the Exponential Conference in Orlando this week. You can read more about Ryan here and about the Exponential Church Planting conference here.

Last, pray for Ryan and his family when you are done with this post.


God Does the Healing

My father-in-law who is a chiropractor pointed out that all the medical professions do is line things up for the body to work properly and heal. They don’t actually do the healing. God designed us in such a fantastic way to be able to heal our bodies. He knit us together so perfectly (Psalm 139:13-14). Doctors take credit for much and rightfully so but in the end it is God who does the actual healing. Doctors didn’t design our bodies. Doctors don’t make chemical reactions react the way they do in just the right sequence to bring healing. God does. When Jesus healed people he actually healed. He did more than just line the body up to heal itself…that can takes days, months and even longer. When he healed people he instantly made them whole and well again. He had the power and authority to do that because of his divinity.

As I pointed this out to Jim today he made the point that this is also true spiritually speaking. Evangelism is an effort to line things up so that God can work the way He works. We don’t do the saving. We don’t do the healing. We just allow ourselves to be used to put things in an advantageous position for God to do those things himself. It is important for us to realize that evangelism and bringing spiritual healing to people doesn’t solely depend on us getting it all perfect and having just the right words to say. All we can do is position ourselves and others in the most advantageous position as possible and then realize that the other 99% of healing is wholly dependent upon God.

Should We Pray for the Hands of Doctors? Praying Too Small

I always thought the prayer, “Lord, please be with the hands of the doctors…” was a strange prayer. We are asking for God to intervene without having to ask Him to do it all himself. It’s like saying, “God if you have time could you help this person?” We are asking for the doctors to be an intermediary of God’s power. If we think God can work through the doctors wouldn’t it also make sense to think He could also just do it without the doctors as well? Do we pray as if we are imposing on God? Or do we approach the throne of grace with confidence? Are we praying too small?

One of our church members is a cardiologist. He mentioned Wednesday night that he never prays that God will help him do a good job. He said that he can do a beautiful, perfect job and the patient not survive the operation. His hands did all they could do but it didn’t help the patient. Other times the job might not be done ideally and the patient survives. His prayer before such an operation is for the well being of the patient and for God to give them health, not for his skill. My father in law is a chiropractor and he made the point a few months ago that he doesn’t heal anything. He aligns things so that the body can heal itself. It is only by God’s grace that he gave us bodies that are able to do that. Surgeons can do their best and chiropractors can give their best shot but ultimately God is the one who has to make the difference.

Do we pray too small?

When Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down from the mountain after the transfigurations they found a crowd had gathered and the nine were arguing with the teachers of the law. The center of the dispute was a child who had an evil spirit. The disciples had been trying to cast it out but they had not succeeded. The man brings his son before Jesus. The boy falls at his feet and goes into convulsions. You would expect Jesus to immediately heal him but instead he asks the father, “How long has he been like this?” The man tentatively requests healing for his son. He uses the word “If” – “Jesus, if you can heal him…” Jesus points to the need for faith. In one of the most honest moments in scripture the boy’s father replies, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” Jesus commands the spirit out of the boy. The spirit obeys. Jesus later tells his disciples they couldn’t do it because they had not been praying as they should. What should those disciples have prayed for, “God be with my hands so I can touch this person and cast out this demon.” No. They should have prayed, “God, remove the demon from this child.” They either hadn’t been praying at all or had been praying for the wrong things. Maybe they were praying too small.

How can we challenge ourselves to pray prayers that are big enough? How can our prayers reflect a recognition that God has time to hear our prayers, that he cares about our concerns, and that he is powerful enough to take care of it?

Gospel of Mark – A Day in the Life of Jesus (Mark 1:21-34)

The number of people change following Jesus’ call of his disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Prior to this point it was Jesus going here and there, Jesus being baptized, Jesus walking by the Sea. In Mark 1:21, “They went to Capernaum.” It was the Sabbath. Probably being in his early 30s Jesus had authority to teach in the synagogue. What did he teach? We don’t know but in the best possibility is found from his previous preaching, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

Jesus was there to usher in the kingdom of God. The powers that be would reject that message. The religious leaders of their day and the keepers of the religious and political status quo would not want their power challenged. The same is true with the spiritual forces that were at work among the people, holding people hostage by demonic power. Confronted by Jesus teachings in that Capernaum synagogue, an evil spirit inside a man present began to shout, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!

The spirit calls out Jesus name, probably in an effort to gain some advantage over him. Another interesting thing is the evil spirit refers to “us”? Does the man have more than one demon? In other places people have more than one demon. It is impossible to say but it may be that this spirit is referring to all the other evil spirits out there working to cripple people and be a road block to repentance and to the inbreaking kingdom of God, which Jesus was preaching. Synagogue rules said a disrupter in the synagogue was to be cast out of the synagogue. Jesus doesn’t cast the man from the synagogue. He casts the demon from the man. Not only did Jesus teach with authority. He also showed his authority over the spiritual realm. “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” (1:25-26). For the second time the people there were amazed over the fact that Jesus teaches something new and teaches it with authority, even authority to drive out demons. Jesus didn’t have to talk about what this or that Rabbi said. He spoke on behalf of God. He didn’t have to go into long discourses on who interpreted this or that verse in certain ways. He taught with authority because he came from God and ultimately was in fact God.

So what happened the rest of the day? Jesus and his disciples go to Simon and Andrew’s house. They find Simon’s mother sick with a fever.  Jesus heals her and she begins waiting on them. When evening came the Sabbath was over. That allowed people who had heard the news of what Jesus was doing (1:28) to travel greater distances because the Sabbath restrictions on travel would be lifted after evening. Drove of people come to Jesus. In fact, the whole town of Capernaum gathered there and Jesus healed all kinds of diseases and drove out many demons.

All this points to the fact that something new was happening. The kingdom of God was near and that meant things would never be the same again. Change is a funny thing. We live in a culture of change. Those who have power fear change. Those who seek power relish change. Jesus was bringing change. The sick and demon possessed were certainly appreciative of it. Those who realized they were sinners certainly appreciated it. But those who were the powers of their day feared it and that fear ultimately drove them to nail this radical change agent and usher of the kingdom of God to a cross.

The question for us then is this, “What ideas, presuppositions, behaviors, and attitudes would keep us from recognizing who Jesus is if he came today?” What in our lives would make us want to resist it? What positions and powers that we possess would insist that we not let go and give in to the new thing God is doing in our midst?

No Longer Ordinary – John 5

In John 5 we have the story of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. Like we saw in John 4, Jesus does not always do things that fall in line with our expectations. Before we get to that let’s have a look at the conversation with the lame man. It starts with a condition, paralysis that leads to a question, “Do you want to get well?” I think that parallels our relationship with Jesus quite well. The one who has the power to heal comes to us in all of our weakness and asks us the same question. If we respond through faith in the affirmative, he will come and make us whole as well.

Like this lame man, when the initial invitation comes from Christ for spiritual renewal, we probably will not completely understand the offer – we may equate it with things other than Christ. The words of Christ break ground in a life that has formed its opinions by what the contemporary culture has said in the past – try dipping in this pool or that, try to get in first or last, go here or there…these words of Christ give a seed of hope to a life that has heard all of the empty promises before. Faith starts to take shape as this new message competes with all of the old. As the conversation unfolds it becomes clear that healing is not found in pools or by magical or angel empowered water, it comes only through the Son of God. The next thing you know the legs have feeling again and the 38 year perspective of seeing things from three feet off the ground expands as he takes to his feet for the first time in decades and sees the Christ eye-to-eye.
The Jews had a real problem with Jesus healing on the Sabbath. It all boils down to an authority issue. Since they believed Jesus was not the Son of God then he certainly didn’t have any right to work on the Sabbath. The Jews acknowledged that some work was done on the Sabbath, one out of seven circumcisions would have been performed on the Sabbath, but that was an exception because God required that it be done (that is probably part of what Jesus was referencing in 5:17 – “my Father is at work to this very day.”). For Jesus to legitimately do work on the Sabbath was to put himself on level with God. That is precisely what he was doing. The Jews didn’t message the message behind the actions and that is why they wanted to kill him. He could have waited until Sunday or Monday or come a day early and done it on a Friday but he didn’t. He had a point to make – God is not constrained by our presupposition of what he can and cannot do. Neither is Christ, as God in the flesh bound by them. If they were we would have authority over them and they would have to fall in line with our opinions, rules, and regulations. Thank goodness they don’t!

Jesus goes on to talk about life that comes through belief in him and a resurrection that is in store for those who have faith in the Christ. We are reminded that believing in Jesus is not “ho-hum,” “run of the mill,” or “ordinary.” Many of us have believed since our youth that is seems quite ordinary to believe in Jesus. In reality it goes counter to all the messages that the world has to send our way. It is a light in the darkness, truth amongst lies, life in the midst of death. Church is plagued with people who have fallen into “status quo” Christianity, people who believe the message of Christ is quite ordinary. Tell me, when was the last time you saw God die for someone? Is that happening every couple of weeks to make it seem quite ordinary? I sure don’t think so. Let’s live mindful of the fact that the message we have for the world isn’t and never has been ordinary. No, it is extraordinary.