God speaks; God heals - part 3

About three or four weeks ago, I had my last [to date - I trust there will be more!] experience in moving in a word of knowledge.

It was in one of our Sunday-morning meetings again. I got a similar stirring as the previous two times - and this time I recognised it for what it was! So I was pretty confident that I had heard from God. What I sensed was that someone had a pain in their throat and down the sides of their neck. I could almost feel the pain, and it felt like when you have a sore throat and swollen glands.

While I was waiting for an opportune moment to share the word, I looked around the room. I couldn't help but wonder who it was. I saw some of the ladies with scarves round their necks, and someone else blowing into a hanky. Maybe it was one of these that the Lord wanted to heal. I also wondered why God would chose to heal a virus that is usually short-lived anyway - but I figured that it was to show us that he wanted us to live in perfect health and that nothing is too big or small for him.

The opportunity came, as it did the previous times, when the preacher had finished his message and there was a time of ministry. I went forward and shared that there was someone with a pain in their throat and sides of their neck, and even though it was caused by a virus that would go away in due course, God wanted to heal them now to demonstrate his abundant goodness and grace.

I waited at the front, during the whole ministry time. [Prayed for someone else then went back to waiting for the person to come forward.] The ministry time ended; the meeting concluded, but still no one came. Now I wasn't phased by this - I was still confident I had heard God, and I knew that people can be reluctant to come forward, especially if they are visitors, when everyone is watching. So I stayed my ground, and hung around at the front.

Sure enough, as soon as people started getting out of their chairs and milling around, a young girl, one of the visiting students that morning, made a path straight towards me. She explained that it wasn't caused by a virus, but she had the same pain in her throat and sides of her neck that I had described, but caused by strain. I prayed for her, and asked if the pain had gone. She said, "Yes, it's better."

Now this may not seem like a dramatic healing. And I don't have any follow up information like with the other two cases to confirm that a lasting healing took place, but I'm confident that God did a work. And again, what really struck me, is that he did it. I messed up! I confused and muddled up what God had told me with what I deduced must be the case as a result. I got the bit about the virus completely wrong... yet God still moved. Despite my failings and my mistakes, he still spoke and he still healed. Thank you, Jesus. He is so full of grace.

Some people are of the opinion that to move in the Holy Spirit you have to be 100% right 100% of the time. Some may be of the opinion that this makes me a false prophet who should have been dragged out of the room and stoned for daring to speak presumptuous words on behalf of the Lord. Some may see this as further evidence that modern day manifestations are not up to the apostolic standard in the New Testament.

But do you know what? When I read the New Testament, I've noticed something: the apostles got it wrong all the time! In fact the apostle who seemed to make the most mistakes (Peter) also seemed to be the one who was most used by God in the supernatural. What it shows to me is this: God is bigger than our mistakes! If you want to step out in the Holy Spirit you have to be prepared to make mistakes and to look foolish. God is not concerned with our reputation but with his. The gifts of the Spirit are there to make him look good not us. They are there to prove what a gracious heavenly father we have, not to demonstrate how accurately we can hear God.

I made a decision some time ago, that I would rather get it wrong and look foolish than to miss an opportunity to see God move in power. What this event showed me is that, in the abundant grace of God, getting it wrong an seeing God move are not incompatible!


God speaks; God heals - part 2

A few months after the events of my previous post, and a few months ago, I took another baby-step in the gift of the word of knowledge.

It was in another Sunday-morning meeting. During the time of worship I got an impression that someone had a pain in their back. You would have thought after the previous incident I would have had more faith to move in this gift and more confidence in recognising it - but I have to confess, I struggled again. I thought back pain has got to be one of the most common complaints. It's likely someone in the room has some kind of back pain just by statistics! People will think I'm just making it up... maybe I am making it up.

Then I felt a pain in my back, right at the base of the spine. Not general back pain, but a very specific and localised pain. I still struggled: on the one hand maybe this was God telling me the specifics of the person's pain, but on the other hand maybe I just thought someone else had back-pain when really it was just my own pain. I wasn't sure enough to step out during the time of worship, so again I did nothing.

Then the preacher began his message. He spoke about how you have to take risks if you want to step out in the supernatural, and he finished with the story of Peter and John and the beggar who was healed. The exact same scriptures that had convinced me to step out in the word of knowledge the fist time! [God is so gracious!] I must be better at hearing God though the preached word, because I finally got the message!

So after the preacher finished, I stood up and shared that there was someone in the room with a back pain at the base of their spine, and that I believed God wanted to heal them. I waited around at the front of the meeting, but no one came forward. But afterwards, as I made my way to the back of the hall to get a much-needed coffee I saw one of the visitors trying to catch my eye. I walked over to him and discovered that he was the father of one of the students attending our congregation. He told me that he thought he might be the one I was talking about as he had a back pain in exactly the place I had described.

I prayed for him. I can't remember what I prayed, but I remember I wasn't too impressed with myself. I thought, come on Chris, you can pray better than that! I was just about to offer to pray for him again, when he arched his back, rotated his arms and said, "I think... yes... the pain is gone!" I was taken aback! [Keri recently shared on the importance of having faith during a miracle, not just before - that men can give away thier lack of faith by how they respond when God actually does what they asked of him! I think this was one of those moments!]

This happened just before the students left for their summer holiday. This student and his father were from the Netherlands. He returned about three months later, and told me that his father had been trying to get hold of my email address. Apparently he used to suffer a lot with that back pain, but for the past three months he had been completely free of pain!

Thank you, Jesus! God is so good.

Again, I could have so easily missed this opportunity. Again, it showed me that it had nothing to do with me. It wasn't my faith that healed him - the way I reacted showed I had very little! Jesus healed this man out of the abundance of his grace and by his mighty power. The gifts of the Spirit are just that - gifts - we don't earn them, we don't deserve them, they don't communicate how spiritual the one who uses them is - they are unmerited expressions of the grace of God poured out on his church. We just need to learn to use them!


God speaks; God heals

I want to write this post to give Jesus thanks and honour for his faithfulness and goodness. He still speaks and he still heals. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The things we read about him doing in the gospels are the same things he longs to do today through his people if they will obey the promptings of his Spirit.

Recently I have taken my first few baby-steps in the word of knowledge. This is a gift of the Spirit where God reveals a piece of information (knowledge) about a person or situation. Good examples of this gift would be where Jesus says to Nathaniel that he saw him under the tree, or when he tells the Samarian woman about her marital history. In both cases a little piece of knowledge has a dramatic impact.

Now, I had tried to move in this gift before. I remember a prayer meeting where I got a strong impression that the name "Tom" was significant. I shared it, but as far as I'm aware, to this day, there was no significance. No one had a friend or colleague called Tom; no one met a Tom; no Tom turned up to our meetings; nothing. I guess I got it wrong!

So you can imagine my reluctance when during a Sunday-morning meeting I got the same kind of impression about someone who had pain in their joints. I thought, I've had this kind of impression before and it was wrong, so it's likely to be wrong again. So I did nothing. However as the meeting went on, the preacher was talking about how God wanted to heal. He spoke about Peter and John who had no money to offer, but had something better to give, and Jesus brought a complete healing to the beggar through their obedience. At this point I felt a nudge in my spirit; I had forgotten my cheque book that morning, so had not been able to give my normal offering - so silver or gold I did not have, but I did have something, and as unsure about it as I was, I knew I needed to share it.

So sure enough, the preacher gave a call forward for those who were sick to be prayed for, and I knew that was the moment. As soon as I stepped forward to bring the word I felt a confidence that I had not felt before. [Isn't that often the way? I believe the hardest part of moving in a gift of the Spirit is the decision to get out of your chair!] What's more, I got more information. It was a pain the the elbows and wrists and the person who had it had had it for a long time and just got used to it. I believed that God wanted to confirm the word of the preacher by bringing a complete healing.

So I shared this word and joined the preacher and some others in praying for those who came forward. As I came to one man, a visitor that Sunday, I asked him what I could pray for. He said that since I had shared his joints felt like they were on fire, and that he had had a long standing condition in his elbows and wrists that gave him a low level of pain that he had just got used to. I was astonished and thrilled! I prayed for him, and straight away he said that the symptoms had cleared. This man has a manual job, so he said the real test would be when he went back to work. He came back again the next Sunday, and his first words to me were: "I'm healed!"

Thank you, Jesus! It was all of him and nothing of me. He used me despite my doubts and reluctance and brought relief from suffering to one of his precious children.

I have two other examples that I want to give thanks for, but I'll share them in separate posts.


The Truth about the Codex Sinaiticus

The BBC have published today an article about an ancient manuscript of the Bible that is shortly to be digitised and put online. Rather than focusing on the importance of a complete New Testament (all twenty-seven books plus two early Christain writings) or the significance of the Septuagint portion (the translation of the Old Testament Hebrew into Greek) the BBC decided to lead with this headline....

The rival to the Bible

The author of this article has obviously read too much Dan Brown, as he takes innocent details and misrepresents them, weaving them together into a conspiracy theory against the accuracy of the Bible and thus the validity of Christianity. The difference is Dan Brown was an author of fiction, and this is a news article on the BBC website! The ignorance of church history and doctrine in the article is shocking.

Here are some of the errors:

1)It shows there have been thousands of alterations to today's bible.
This not true. There are thousands of variations to the Codex Vaticanus, but this is not the same thing! Check the Wikipedia article. Although there are around three thousand alterations compared to the Codex Vaticanus, most of these are due to transliterations of Hebrew names into Greek. The others are variations that are common to other Alexandrian manuscripts. The Bible translators do not rely on just one manuscript but compare all these variations, and where they cannot be reconciled there is a footnote to explain the differences.

The only two unique variations not found in other manuscripts are:

Mt 13:54 and coming to his hometown [patrida]... -> and coming to Antipatris [antipatrida]

Act 8:5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria -> Philip went down to the city of Caesarea

These are obviously scribal errors, and even if they were not they hardly represent a shocking alternative to Christian doctrine!

[Update 13/10/08 - For more accurate details of the differences between the manuscripts, please refer to james snapp, jr.'s comments in the comments section]

This manuscript has been available to biblical translators and scholars for over a century, so the idea that it suddenly reveals a rival text is ridiculous! On the contrary, the significance of this codex is the the fact that there is such an early and complete version of the Bible text with relatively little variation to our modern Bibles in terms of its content.

2) This version has no references to the resurrection
Not true! No idea what gave him this idea. The last section of Mark is missing (as it is in some other early manuscripts), but the resurrection is mentioned in all the Gospels, the book of Acts and the epistles. Plus the extra Christian writing that are included along with the new testament books... also mention the resurrection! This is just blatant poor factual research, and / or jumping to conclusions.

[Update 13/10/08 - For more accurate details of the missing sections, please refer to james snapp, jr.'s comments in the comments section]

3) This version of the Bible contains anti-Semitic writings
The text he is referring to is the Epistle of Barnabas, and along with the Shepherd of Hermas were two early Christian writings that frequently accompanied the scriptures in the early centuries. There is nothing new or shocking here - they were considered useful for teaching by the early fathers but there was never really much controversy over the decision that they did not carry the inspiration of the canonical books.

As for it being anti-Semitic, this is really clutching at straws/(headlines?). But why don't you read it online and decide for yourself.

Epistle of Barnabas

4) The evidence of scribal errors undermines the Christian belief in the infallibility of scripture
This is just an ignorance of Christian theology. Differences between ancient manuscripts are nothing new, and hardly represent a shock revelation. Indeed, ironically, they are needed to establish the accuracy of an ancient text. By comparing texts it is possible to see where these errors came in. The more copies, and the closer the oldest copy is to the original the more confidence can be placed on the contents of the original text.

For example for the account of Julius Caesar (the Gallic wars) there are 10 ancient manuscripts in existence the oldest of which was written 1,000 years after the original. From these historians can make correlations and have sufficient confidence in the manuscripts of Julius Caesar's life.

Compare this to the New Testament: there are 24,000 ancient manuscripts available the oldest dating from 130AD, only 30 years after the original document was written. This makes copping errors extremely easy to spot making the Bible the most accurate ancient document bar none.

The infallibility of scripture refers to the original manuscripts not some magical ability of anyone who picks up a pen to make a copy. I could make a mistake copying out a formula from a physics text book, but this would in no way invalidate the theories of Newton or Einstein!

In fact, the only thing this article has cast any doubt on is the credibility of BBC journalism!


Persecution in Orissa

The most sobering moment of the recent World Watch conference was the account of the persecution that is going on in the Indian state of Orissa at this moment. Although it has barely been reported in the western media, Christians are having their houses burned and are being attacked by unrestrained mobs. Thousands have been forced to flee and are living in the forests.

We heard harrowing accounts from the ground of pastors being pulled from their houses, and then being beaten to death, sometimes while their helpless wives and children looked on. There were twenty-five such accounts of pastors and church leaders who had been killed in this way.

India is a country where the gospel is spreading and accelerating at an unprecedented rate, accompanied by signs and wonders and miracles that could come straight from the book of Acts. This backlash of evil against our brothers in Orissa is something that we must stand against. They need our prayers.

Reuters UK: India authorities impose curfew, Christians attacked