Monthly Archives: June 2013

Why Won't It Work For Me?

I believe in healing, but I’m sitting here in a wheelchair.

There was a time in my life when I was totally unsure about healing. I knew that some got healed, but I also knew that most went without. I put all the responsibility on God. If He wanted me healed, I’d be healed. If He, for some reason, wanted me sick, I’d be sick. Then along came “The Faith Message”. My wife and I were skeptical at first, but we could clearly see how biblical it was. So we bought in…I mean we jumped in with both feet! And we experienced results. Our financial situation improved as we accepted God’s truth about finances. The entire beginning of Believers Fellowship Center, the church we founded and pastor, was a faith venture, with one miraculous manifestation after another.

Now here we are over 30 years later, and the manifestation of healing seems as far away as ever. When faced with this type of dilemma Christians generally choose one of two paths. Most choose to blame the message. They feel that they “dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s,” and yet it didn’t work. Their feelings are usually so strong that they leave the group or church they’ve been in and go somewhere where a different message is preached. They feel better being told, “God is no longer in the healing business,” or, “God wants you to be broke and poor.” The main problem here is all that biblical truth that must be ignored.

Path #2 is different. This is for those of us who just hate to quit. So, we continue doing what we’ve been doing. We have restructured our lives around the message and we ain’t changin’ for nobody! After a while we lose a lot of our original enthusiasm, but we’re not quitters! The problem here is that we’re still not enjoying a manifestation of the promises. The old adage comes back to bite us: it’s idiotic to think that you can keep doing what you’ve always done and get different results.

Well, if these paths are wrong, what path is right?

Quitting can’t be the answer. God didn’t quit on us. We have scriptural reminders like: “In due season you’ll reap if you don’t faint” and “We aren’t of those who draw back but we go on to the saving of the soul.”

But continuing to do the same thing, over and over, with no lasting results can’t be right either. Proverbs wisely reminds us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. The apostle Paul, among others, reminds us that fleshly works not only have no value but are incapable of producing anything good.

How about instead of quitting or robotically going through the motions we move to adjusting. The truth is still the truth! God’s will is extremely clear in the Word. Health, prosperity, peace, hope, confidence, loving relationships, etc, etc. – these are the will and promise of God for every child of His. If we’re not experiencing His will, WE need to make some adjustments! Neither quitting on God nor trying to change Him will work. The problem isn’t with God, it’s with us.

As I sit here writing this article I am more excited about my healing than I’ve been in a long time. Why? Because I’ve been making adjustments. Where? In my heart. I’ve discovered that much of what I thought was heart faith was really only head faith. I’m learning to get my spiritual mind, will and emotions flowing together so that I can send away the old sickness, poverty mentality and put on the mind of Christ.

One of the basic requirements to move forward is an attitude of humility. Be humble enough to admit you don’t know it all. Be willing to admit that you have attitudes that need to change. Stop thinking that you’re right and God is wrong. Be excited about how wonderful your life is when you’re truly one spirit with the Lord.

The scope of all this is huge. It will require much Bible reading, meditation and application. I’m digging into truth and learning to experience the promises first hand. My faith level and hope level are expanding. Confidence developed from the Bible is an awesome thing.

So, don’t be sluggish, be enthusiastic. God loves you sooooooo much. You are already qualified to receive every promise. Don’t lose hope. The best is yet to come!

Handling Criticism part 1

At our church we’ve been focusing a lot of our attention on relationships. The reason for this is that we believe our job description as Christians is to “makes disciples” [See Matthew 28:19]. The most productive way of making disciples or followers of Jesus is by way of relationships. Few people, if any, will allow you to try to persuade them to become Christians outside of having an ongoing, friendly relationship with them.

Relationships are like bridges. They come in all kinds of sizes and strengths. The bigger and stronger the bridge, the more you can drive over it. When a relationship (bridge) is being built with a new acquaintance, it must be built big enough and strong enough so that it can handle the “traffic” of discussions about spiritual things. In other words, I may be able to talk about trivial things like the weather with a person I hardly know. But if I want to ask a question like, “Do you believe in life after death?” I can’t expect much of an open dialog with someone I just met. It does happen once in a blue moon, but most of the time this new acquaintance is repelled and thinking, “Who are you to be asking me something like that?!?”

This brings me to my subject – criticism. Good, strong relationships can handle criticism. Can yours?

Some quotes might help us get started. I checked the world-wide web and, sure enough, there’s a lot of info out there. Here are some famous people quoted:

“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” Abraham Lincoln

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Winston Churchill

“If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” Alice Miller

 Not surprisingly the Bible also has much to say about criticism. Here’s a small sample:

Proverbs 15:31, 32 [NLB] – “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. 32 If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”

Matthew 7:1-5 [NLB] – “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. 2 For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. 3 And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

The first thing that became clear to me from scripture was that, while constructive criticism can be a good thing, judgment is not. I did a little word study here. To judge is used of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others. The word “criticism” is not used in the New Testament. I think the concept is covered in the word “convict” or “conviction”. It is used in John 16:8 as a ministry of the Holy Spirit, so it must be something good. Many times it’s translated “rebuke”. It is defined as to bring to the light, to expose, correct; to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation.

Here’s an example of constructive criticism from a biblical perspective:

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. 25 They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” II Timothy 2:23-26 [NLB]

I see a difference in attitude in constructive criticism over judgment. In this scripture God’s servant is patient and kind, not quarrelsome or argumentative. His words of correction are given only for the purpose of helping this poor soul caught in a devilish trap, not for any self promotion or such.

Here’s another passage that gives insight into helpful criticism:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.” Galatians 6:1-3 [NLB]

Notice again that the motive is to aid this person caught in sin. There’s no room here for pride or kicking a wounded soul while they’re down. This is exposing the problem, in love, and extending a helping hand of escape.

If criticism can be this loving and powerful – and it can – we’re going to need to take a closer look at it. We need to know what to receive and what to reject. Plus we’ll need to understand how to give criticism in a way that it can be received.

So, follow along with me if you’re able and we’ll dissect this important truth.

Are You Sluggish?

Heb. 5:11 [NLB] – “There is so much more we would like to say about this. But you don’t seem to listen, so it’s hard to make you understand.” [NKJV] – “of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”

Heb. 6:11, 12 [NLB] – “Our great desire is that you will keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and patience.”

[NKJV] – “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

[LB] – “become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent.”

If you know me, you know that words are important to me. When the Holy Spirit thrust me into “full-time ministry” thirty-two years ago, I didn’t have a lot working for me. I’m certainly not very handsome or charismatic. I had some Bible training and opportunities to serve under other ministries, but I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar. I wasn’t well known or popular. I had no backing from prominent ministers. What I did have was a message. The basis of that message was the integrity of the Word of God. God’s Word could be counted on. Trusting God is the same as trusting His Word. I adhered to the adage, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”

Therefore most of my study time over the years has been in “word studies”. I’ve been taught that the Bible is good, even in a surface reading. But if you want the good stuff, the stuff that will turn lives around, you have to dig deep! Great reference books, like Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Vine’s Greek/English Dictionary make it possible for even someone like me to dig down to the roots of the words of The Word and find the gold.

In studying through Hebrews 5 & 6, I discovered that the same Greek word is used in each chapter, although it is translated differently. Heb. 5:11 has the phrase “dull of hearing”. Hebrews 6:12 contains the phrase, “don’t become sluggish”. I discovered that “dull” and “sluggish” are a translation of the same Greek word NOTHROS. As you can see from the different translations, it can be defined by words like bored, indifferent, hard of hearing, lazy, etc.

The dictionary defines “sluggish” as indisposed to action or exertion; lazy; indolent; not functioning with full vigor; slow to act or respond; slow or slow-moving. None of these are qualities that should adorn Christian character. Being sluggish won’t help us accomplish our assignment: as we go through the world around us, we’re to make disciples to our Lord Jesus Christ.

The writer of Hebrews links his reader’s sluggishness first to their unwillingness to listen. They’re not receiving needed information because they’re not hearing what God is saying.

“What is God saying?” you ask. Before & above anything else, God is speaking His Word– the Bible! Everything begins there. Yes, God speaks in other ways, but anything you think you’ve heard from God can only be verified by laying it out against the Bible. In other words, if something you think you’ve heard from God doesn’t line up to the principles of the Bible, it’s not from God.

In chapter 6 the author identifies a lack of diligence as a cause of sluggishness. Think about it– you can’t be diligent and sluggish at the same time! In Romans, Paul also promoted diligence. One modern translation renders it as “enthusiasm”. The Kingdom of God can certainly use a lot more enthusiasm from us.

The author also strongly suggests that imitating the faith and patience of others can arrest the sluggishness out of our lives. Abraham received Isaac through faith and patience. Faith & patience are not sluggish. If we are truly operating by faith we’ve become persuaded that God’s Word is true and we’re about making adjustments to keep our thoughts, words and actions aligned to it everyday. Patient Christians operate in consistency.

So, don’t become sluggish! Fight against it. If you’re already there, shake it off and come out, in the Name of Jesus! Make sure you are hearing God’s Word. [Romans 10:17] Shake off lethargy and dullness. Be diligent; be enthusiastic. Get in faith and build yourself up from there. Be patient. Be steady and consistent. This kind of life pleases God and is much better for you.