In 2020 the church will have to rebuild families in an unprecedented manner. We will have to specialize in deeper mentoring, inner healing and deliverance ministries for men who have been captured by the allure of pornography, promiscuity and, in some cases, prostitution. The open struggles of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Larry Craig and others show us the emerging need of this for the future generation of men.
Just as natural technologies evolve every few years, so our spiritual technologies for ministry must evolve to keep pace with cultural challenges. We must place greater emphasis on Christian courtship and youth discipleship. In 2020 I believe the average age for Christian marriages will actually decline.
Parents, pastors and young people must better understand the wholesome expression of sexuality in the context of marriage. In a nutshell, the church will rebuild broken men and women while launching younger, stronger couples to create a new culture of marriage within the church. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but the things of the kingdom will endure forever (see Heb. 12:27).
Harry Jackson is senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD.
The church is about to experience a paradigm shift in preparation for life in 2020. I believe the season for larger and larger houses of worship is coming to an end, as is the Field of Dreams ministry strategy that says if we build it, they will come. The idea that bigger is better, especially as it relates to bigger buildings, may be an approach to ministry that is about to transition into history.
Today’s technological advances present options for doing ministry unknown in times past that can revolutionize life in the kingdom here on earth. What most of us in megachurches see on Sunday mornings—thousands of worshippers gathering in one location—is not a New Testament model. As the New Testament church grew, the mass gatherings with the Temple as the focal point of worship were replaced by smaller gatherings like the church in Aquila and Priscilla’s house. Certainly this shift was precipitated by the unique non-Jewish cultures of these young fledgling congregations, but I think there is a more universal principle being implied: In order to impact a city or culture, it may be more effective to shift from the church gathered in one large location to multiple smaller settings scattered throughout the community and connected by the prevailing technology of the day. If we were to corner some of my big-building, megaministry colleagues when the cameras aren’t rolling and the reporters aren’t taking notes, many would admit that if they had it to do again, they would not build as big. I don’t think we were out of the will of God; it may just be that we were par in a season whose time may be coming to an end. We shall see.
We love to hear sermons and speeches about change. We love seminars that encourage us to change. We even enjoy traveling different paths in order to change our scenery. The problem is that we don't like to change.
A Canadian neurosurgeon discovered some amazing truths concerning the human mind's reaction to change. He found that when a person is required to change a fundamental belief or opinion, the brain experiences a series of nervous sensations similar to enduring torture. Our minds simply do not enjoy major changes.
Sydney Harris was an American journalist. He was also a drama critic, lecturer and teacher. Harris once said, "Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we want is for things to remain the same but get better."
It is not surprising that things do not remain the same. Many times situations may actually get better. Prepare for change. Although your mind may react as if you are being tortured, you are not. You are merely in the midst of change—for the better!
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strategy is now clear.
After the worst week in U.S.-Israel relations in 35 years, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington Monday and gave a powerful and effective speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) gala dinner at the Washington Convention Center, warning the world to stop Iran - or Israel will - and respectfully but directly challenging the Obama administration on Jerusalem and the peace process.
Netanyahu received scores of standing ovations from the 7,800 guests in attendance, the biggest event in the history of AIPAC. More than half of the members of the U.S. House and Senate were there, as were ambassadors from more than 50 countries and many top Israeli officials, including defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. The longest and most sustained came when the prime minister firmly resisted the policy of President Obama, who seeks to divide Jerusalem and stop Israel from building "settlements" in East Jerusalem.
Two people have been overlooked in the middle of the Tiger Woods scandal. The consequences of his actions upon their lives will only be seen years down the road. Of course, I am referring to his children.
Family breakdown is not limited to celebrities or the rich and famous. I know this all too well.
Although Valentine's Day is meant to celebrate love, it can bring bittersweet memories and pain.
For kids, Valentine's Day is a time to exchange funny cards and eat boxes of chocolate. For adults, it's often much more than just a time to send flowers and buy heart jewelry, chocolates and cards—it's a time to rededicate your love to one special person. But when you're a widow or widower, or have lost your love due to an unfortunate life circumstance, Cupid's arrow can pierce your heart in a very different way. What was once a holiday of "warm fuzzies" can turn into a sorrowful day to overcome.
It's true that Valentine's Day holds significance for most couples, but it was particularly special for my husband Gordon and me. After losing my father in February, the whole season had become fraught with painful memories. Then a young man with a lot of heart came into my life, and it just so happened that Valentine's Day was right after our first date. When I got home from work, Gordon had left a bouquet of pink carnations on my front porch. So, it became a yearly ritual for us to use Valentine's Day as the anniversary of our first date together.
Have you ever wondered why pornography seems to hypnotize the male brain, or why it can override all logic, sometimes to the point of ruining a guy's life? William Struthers has the answers. A neuroscientist and professor at Wheaton College, Struthers has researched what goes on in the mind of a man when he looks at pornography. His findings are enlightening. Our conversation with him hit on a variety of topics, such as why porn seems to be worse for Christians than non-Christians and how single men can find hope. Don't miss this interview from New Man E-magazine.
New Man: What goes on in a man's brain when he's looking at pornography?
Struthers: I think even before you answer that question you have to know a little bit about how a man's brain is built. Obviously it starts developing in the womb. The critical part in making a masculine brain is testosterone. It causes the brain to develop along a certain pathway. That's what makes little boys different from little girls. You'll notice that a baby boy likes to look at things, but a baby girl likes to look at faces more.
The next big chemical changes take place during puberty, when the brain becomes cued in to sexual maturity. Every brain has certain parts that are more masculine or feminine. What you find during this time is that the masculine parts of the brain are really triggered by visual stimuli. This goes back even to the example of babies—the boys are more interested in looking at things. This visual preference shows up very clearly with pornography.
In tests, when men are placed in brain scanning devices and look at stills of naked women or video of couples engaged in intercourse, the visual parts of a man's brain light up more than a woman's. The example I use in the book is that, to a man, pornography is like a high definition television. For whatever reason, it tends to draw in men reflexively and maintain hold over them. Just like when you're looking at TVs in Best Buy, the HDTV is going to grab your attention more than the standard definition. To a woman's brain, it's all standard definition. So pornography lends itself to a man's brain.
Another critical thing for a man's brain when looking at pornography is that many men will use pornography to masturbate. Once again, when you look at what goes on in the brain around an orgasm, it is the parts of the brain that are involved in reinforcement. They are the same parts that activate when a person eats or drinks or takes addictive drugs.
So when you start pairing the visual image of pornography, which men see incredibly well and are almost hypnotized by, and if you combine that with the reinforcement of masturbating or acting out sexually, you're laying down a powerful neurological habit where the orgasm reinforces the response to pornography.
Within our larger Christian worldview, the purpose of the brain reinforcing the response to an orgasm is to bind a man to his wife. This response ties you to whatever is sanctioned with it. In the context of marriage between a husband and a wife, this binding is a good thing. If, however, this sexual response is bound to something else, like a pornographic image, you are bound to it and you develop an attachment to it. This is a neurological process as much as a spiritual one.
New Man: Does this process only happen when looking at extreme pornographic images—such as naked pictures or video—or does it apply to anything we are sexually drawn to?
Struthers: A lot of that is culturally defined. All men are drawn to look for nudity and the female form, but how much depends on the culture you grow up in. If you are in a conservative culture where the female form is taboo, a little female skin may get you sexually aroused. If you are in a culture where there is a lot of sexual imagery, you may need even more than a naked body in order to elicit a sexual response. To continue the metaphor, if you've been watching HDTV for a while, you want a bigger screen. You've gotten used to it.
In our culture, which is hypersexual, many men will need to escalate their pornography usage. Some men will develop fetishes and go to specific Web sites or look at particular types of women. They are training their brains to only respond to that one thing. Other men will view multiple Web sites with multiple different models and types of pornography, training themselves to only be aroused by lots of women doing lots of different things. Then, when they go to their one wife whose appearance doesn't change and generally keeps to the same sexual script, it doesn't arouse the man anymore.
New Man: That's fascinating. Why does it seem sometimes like Christian men can have a greater struggle with pornography than non-Christians?
Struthers: If you don't see sexually acting out as a spiritual matter, then you don't have the same issues as a Christian, who sees it as sin or a moral failing. Christians will have emotions like guilt and shame related to their pornographic use, and that can make it worse. They feel a self-loathing because of their issue, and they try to soothe that loathing by acting out sexually. That momentary orgasm response of relief and pleasure gets rid of the shame for a moment. It's a cycle that gets worse over time, even more so for men of faith.
Another important thing to understand is that viewing pornography and sexually acting out is not just done because it causes pleasure. It can be done as a way of relieving stress, dealing with depression, or done just out of a compulsion. Some men see it as a reward. They've been good all week and they deserve it.
Some men are narcissists. Actually, that's a personality type that attracts a lot of pastors. We have to be careful when dealing with pastors in recovery because sometimes they'll talk too openly about it so that they can be admired, but they will draw others unnecessarily into the issue.
The point is that you wouldn't treat a heroin addict the same way you would someone who is depressed or someone who has a compulsive disorder. So when we rightly understand the particular reason why men are viewing pornography, we have a better chance of helping them. Rather than just saying, "It's an addiction," we have to find the reason why men are acting out and develop behavioral patterns to deal with the issue.
New Man: Is there hope for men who are stuck in this habit to rewire their brains?
Struthers: Just as you are creating neurological habits out of your sexual immorality, so too can you also create neurological habits out of sexual purity. The same rules that govern how you got to this point can also be used to get you out.
Imagine that you were addicted to purity and compassion. You would feel the same lack of freedom to control yourself, but you wouldn't be able to stop yourself from doing good things. That process of being neurologically unable to fall prey to temptation is called sanctification. As I make small decisions, they have long-lasting neurological consequences for me. That can be good or bad.
The other important part is having a right understanding of what our sexuality is for. It is not primarily about reproducing. If that were the case, every man should get married, no man should have sex with his wife after menopause, and there would be no place for single men and women.
Also, you hear all kinds of crazy things about men being wired to spread our seed [or our] being biologically promiscuous and women being more selective. That's just rubbish. When you look at the statistics, women are just as promiscuous as men. It's just that men tend to over-report their experiences and women tend to under-report them.
The other thing is, it's not just about pleasure. If that were the case, men should just sit around masturbating all day. Neither reproducing nor pleasure is the primary purpose for sexuality.
The primary nature of our sexuality is tied to the fact that we are made in the relational nature of the image of God and that sex is about knowing and being known. It is about speaking goodness into someone else and having them speak goodness to you. That takes place in a unique way in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, and it models God's exclusive love for His people or Jesus' exclusive love for His church.
But we also need to move away from understanding sexuality as solely between mates. Sexuality affects every relationship we have. I can be a father figure to many young men on my college campus, but I'm a father to my son in a different way. I'm a son to my parents, but I can be a spiritual son to older men and women. I can be a spiritual brother to women who aren't my wife, but I have a unique relationship with my wife that is exclusive. All these relationships are affected by our sexuality. It's about intimacy that is being made into a relational image of God.
New Man: Single guys have a unique situation. Any advice for them?
Struthers: In our culture, and this is exacerbated in the church, single men feel trapped because they don't have an outlet for their sexuality. This is because they only see their sexuality as genital. When they can see their sexuality in a relational context, like I was talking about a minute ago, then they can be freed up of feeling the weight of having a sexual outlet. They need to understand that sexuality isn't just about pleasure and that they can channel that energy into their relationships and service. Combine that with the fact that the sexual drive will die down with age, and there's hope for them.
That's also important for the rest of the church. When we understand they can be ministers for good in a way that a married man can't be, then we give them greater esteem and a higher place in the church. Just because married is the norm, it doesn't mean it is the ideal. The church doesn't value chastity as a lifelong decision anymore, it only sees it as a holding pattern until marriage. That's not biblical. The church desperately needs the service that single men can give. Without it, the church cannot become what it is supposed to be.
Concerned Americans have been shaken by sobering images from ubiquitous news footage of rubble and rescue in Haiti after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked the tiny poor Caribbean nation earlier this month, prompting many to ask, "Where is God and why would He allow such extensive suffering?"
Whether it is an earthquake or some other adversity that turns our lives upside down, Christians grapple with trying to reconcile God's sovereignty and His role in human suffering, including our own personal afflictions. I believe there are important truths about God and suffering that we need to keep in mind.
In the aftermath of what the Red Cross, United Nations and other agencies now consider the greatest tragedy in the history of our Western Hemisphere—the massive 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti—the reaction by leaders and the common man were predictable.
The immediate response to this incomparable human tragedy by governments, world relief agencies and religious organizations is the only bright spot in this dark episode of human drama. An event like this “natural” disaster could happen anywhere at anytime and reduces us all to simply being human. Tragedies like this graphically remind us of the fragility of our existence on this unstable planet we call Earth.
I was in New York City years ago shopping with my sister, when a young man stopped me on the sidewalk and asked me for a handout. He was wearing designer everything, so I didn't give him a dime. In this case, it was easy for me to ignore a poor person. After all, this man wasn't poor—he was a con!
People who try to take advantage of our kindness have approached many of us. Street peddlers or drug addicts who trick people out of money so they can buy drugs or liquor make it difficult for the truly destitute who are forced to live on the streets.
Since we don't want to decide who's really poor and who isn't, we tend to look the other way. It's easier to just ignore them.
Rewind this story 2,000 years and something sounds familiar.
There was an expectant mom who arrived in an unfamiliar city and was told there were no motel rooms or boarding houses available. Though she was about to have a baby, she and her husband were homeless.
Nobody recognized her need, so she was forced to give birth in a barn. Her baby's name was Jesus. He became poor so we could have the priceless gift of eternal life (see 2 Cor. 8:9).
Do you recognize the poor around you? This holiday season many of us will shop until we drop and on the way out the door, we'll probably throw some loose change into the Salvation Army kettle to help others. Or possibly some of us will volunteer to feed the hungry during a church outreach.
But helping the poor needs to become more of a priority for all who follow Jesus. So much of His ministry was directed to the poor. Why, then, do so few churches in the U.S. support ministries that meet the physical needs of underprivileged people?
God's Word instructs us to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, care for orphans and widows, and give clothes to those who don't have any. So when we don't make room for these people in our hearts, we are doing what the innkeeper did to Mary and Joseph when they sought a room in Bethlehem. We are turning Jesus away—again.
When you see someone truly in need, allow Jesus to break your heart, so you can feel what He feels for the woman who has to live in a cardboard box, the many who must sleep on bench or the child who rarely eats a healthful meal.
This Christmas—and all through the year—let's make room in our hearts for the poor.
As Thanksgiving approaches once again, I am reminded of so many people who are learning to be thankful despite their suffering. However I want to encourage them to go one better — I believe we can even learn to be thankful for suffering.
It is a common response to question God's goodness when we endure hardships — whether physical limitations, illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, you name it.
Soon after I graduated from college I gave my life to the Lord. Even though I grew up in a godly home, I treated salvation like a game of Russian roulette. I played around because I figured I had time on my side. Was I ever deceived!
I know today what made me drop to my knees, repent of my sins and ask Jesus into my life: prayer. My mother spent untold hours in prayer crying out to God, "Lord, save my children." She knew back then what I know now: Prayer changes things.
In the last several years I have witnessed at least two astounding miracles where Christian ministries have experienced a literal rebirth.
The first is a doctrinal miracle. The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934, reexamined its doctrines and practices after Armstrong's death in 1986. This led to a complete theological reformation to Christian orthodoxy in the 1990s. Today, no longer viewed as a cult, the denomination has changed its name to Grace Communion International and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In my research for Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey, I spent time with a shepherd in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado and vintner in California. With each person, I opened up the scripture and asked, “How do you read this passage—not as a theologian—but in light of what you do every day?”
The journey was chock-full of spiritual insights, but one of my favorite stops was my time with Lynne, a shepherdess, who took care of a flock of a few dozen sheep in the fields near her home in Oregon. Not only did we feed and water the sheep together, but we just spent time among the flock sitting in the field, watching the sheep and talking.
During our time together, I was struck by just how much a sheep knows its shepherd. One of the most amazing times I had with the shepherdess, Lynne, was the very first time she introduced me to her flock. I followed her up a muddy path to the upper field where the sheep were grazing.
She whispered to me, “When they hear my voice, they’ll come running.”
Then simply by saying the words, “Sheep, sheep, sheep,” she called her flock. Every last sheep in the field bolted toward her.
That moment was powerful for me. John 10 describes the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice as a metaphor for us knowing God’s voice. Yet it isn’t just a metaphor—it’s the way sheep really behave. Standing in the field with Lynne and watching the sheep run toward her made that verse come alive in a whole new way. I recognized that just as a sheep is created to know its shepherd, we are created to know God and live in relationship with Him.
During my research on sheep, I discovered a remarkable story from Gary Burge, a professor at Wheaton College, that illustrates the close relationship of shepherds and their flocks. He describes how Israeli soldiers visited a poor village outside of Bethlehem after a Palestinian uprising and demanded that the people pay the taxes they owed. They refused.
The officer in charge gathered up all the animals of the village—primarily sheep and goats—and placed them into a huge pen. A poor woman approached the officer in charge and begged him to release her animals. Because the poor woman’s husband had been imprisoned, her sheep were literally all she had.
The officer laughed at her request. How could she possibly find her dozen sheep in a pen of more than 1,000 animals?
The woman challenged the officer. If she could find her animals, could she keep them?
Intrigued, the soldier agreed.
The woman then invited her 10-year-old son to stand before the pen. He pulled out a flute and began to play a simple tune. As he walked through the fenced-in area, a dozen sheep gathered behind him, following him all the way home.
The officer and soldiers were impressed. They broke into applause, shut the gate and then announced that no one else could use the trick to get their sheep back.
Why did the sheep follow the boy? Because they knew he was their shepherd. And they knew he was a good shepherd. They were not only familiar with his voice, they knew the very tunes he played on his flute—songs he had played in the fields many times before.
That portrait of a sheep knowing its shepherd so well gives me hope that I, too, can know God intimately. For me, spending time with a loving shepherd was a powerful portrait of God’s love for each of us—a love that is tangible, practical and unending. From this perspective, some of the seemingly opposite attributes of God, such as discipline and grace, began to make sense.
Over the course of our time together, I watched a shepherd who truly loved her sheep—it was so evident in the way she spoke to and about them. Whether feeding her animals by hand, changing their bandages, administering medicine or keeping a watchful eye, her love was constantly on display. I also watched when Lynne had to reprimand or punish a sheep by placing it in time out. Even those moments were founded in love and caring for her flock.
The entire time, Lynne wanted what was best for the flock and the individual sheep. She was for them. For me, it was a tangible reminder of just how much God is for us, individually and as His flock.
You are successful to the degree that you empower others! Too often, in today's world, success is defined by the size of your organization, the amount of money you accumulate or how influential your name is. Although each of these things may be found in a successful person's portfolio, they are not true indicators of real success. Success as a leader is measured by the degree that you empower others.
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is the title of atheist Richard Dawkin’s latest book which released in the United States on Sept. 22. Coincidentally, that is the same release day as bestselling author Ray Comfort’s new book, Nothing Created Everything: the scientific impossibility of atheistic evolution.
Comfort said, “I am amazed that the two publications came out on the same day. We sure didn't plan it that way, but I must say that professor Dawkins has appropriately named his book this time. Evolution is the supreme circus. There’s nothing else like it on earth. Dawkins is the main act, and he is able to do his incredible high-wire act without the safety net of science. It really is amazing to watch from the sidelines of common sense and basic reason. All evolution has, is bumps on whale bones and bacterial mutations, and yet he dazzles the awestruck crowd. There is no evidence for species to species transitional forms in the fossil record or in creation. That’s what was missing in Darwin’s day, and it’s still missing today, something that doesn’t seem to bother the professor in the slightest. He sure has nerves of steel.”
Comfort said that his new book exposes the embarrassment of what is widely believed among evolutionists—the nothing created everything. “When they are confronted with that, they almost always backslide into agnosticism” the author and television co-host added. “This is because nothing cannot create anything. It is a scientific impossibility. To believe that is an embarrassment. Yet it’s what the learned professor believes."
Dawkins said in his book The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, "The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing--is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.”
Comfort said that he doesn’t dislike the professor. “I not only offered him $20,000 to debate me (which he turned down), but I used his special condemnation of me on the cover of Nothing Created Everything, and even dedicated the book to him.” This November, Ray Comfort plans to give away 100,000 copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (with a special Introduction) at 100 of the country’s leading universities. This is to mark the 150th celebration of publication of the book. Details at www.livingwaters.com.
You can't turn on the TV, listen to radio or read a newspaper without confronting some information about the raging debate on health care. Surveys continue to show that Americans are not well-informed on the issue and are struggling to figure out who is telling the truth about existing needs, the financial implications of the policies under consideration, and how they will personally be affected.
Because so much of the debate relates to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, Americans are playing this one a bit more cautiously than usual. Most adults define themselves as living a middle-class life, and believe their levels of comfort are a direct result of their own hard work and diligence. As politicians plead their case regarding health care provisions, citizens are conflicted, vacillating between a hard-line stance that expects others to work as hard as they have to get good health care and showing some compassion toward those who are less fortunate.
Views of Poverty Our surveys underscore the fact that about three-quarters of all adults believe poverty is one of the most serious issues facing the nation. Even more significantly, most Americans also contend that when it comes to alleviating poverty, that's mainly the government's responsibility. Two-thirds of adults look to the government to solve issues related to poverty - including health care deficiencies. Just one out of every five adults believes that solving poverty is an individual duty, and a mere one out of 25 people assigns that task to non-profit organizations, and another one in 25 assigns it to churches.
As we assess how individuals deal with poverty on a personal level, we find that Americans do get involved, but in a kind of arms-length manner. For instance, the most common responses are for people to give money, food, and clothing to someone else to get the job done. In contrast, the most personal responses are the least common. Relatively few Americans talk directly with the needy, tutor them, build homes for them, visit them, befriend them, or engage in other types of personal activities to address the issue.
One might say, then, that we mean well but we're too busy, too disinterested, or feel too inadequate to actually address poverty personally, head-on. Given that mind set, it's no wonder that the current health care debate centers not on what every American can personally do to help alleviate human suffering, but on how we can get the government to provide a more efficient alternative that will neither break the bank nor hinder our lifestyle.
In essence, what Americans seem to want is increased government services, more efficient delivery of services, no increase in taxes, and no personal involvement in the process. In a nutshell, our argument is: it's not my fault and it's not my job, so let the paid professionals deal with it.
Jesus the Healer Given the fact that devout Christians mirror these attitudes, it raises the question of what a Christian's obligation to the poor is in the matter of health care. Should Christians feel comfortable accepting the "let the government handle it" philosophy?
If a Christian were to turn to the Bible for guidance in these matters, a simple read through the gospel according to Luke would provide some answers. Luke, the author of the third gospel account in the New Testament, was a physician and would have been especially sensitive to how Jesus dealt with people's medical needs.
In fact, Luke's narrative contains 26 different passages describing how Jesus responded to people's physical and medical needs. The book shows that Jesus healed hundreds of people. But it also gives us some consistent patterns from Jesus' ministry to the poor and suffering people He encountered that we might use as principles to guide our personal responses to today's health care challenges.
There were at least seven noteworthy perspectives that underlie Jesus' health care strategy.
Jesus healed people because He believed that good health matters. People with serious medical challenges lack hope - and people without hope have no reason to keep living. Since life is a precious gift from God, and He wants people to enjoy and celebrate life, as well as the God who gave it to them, restoring health was a viable means to an end. Whenever He had the opportunity to do so, He healed people and sent them on their way.
Jesus invested Himself in their healing because He loved and cared for people. In Luke 7:13 we read that "His heart overflowed with compassion" for those people. He did not heal them because it showed His power or grabbed attention as much as He healed them because He felt their pain and knew their desolation. Healing was a practical demonstration that God was not wrathful but graceful.
Jesus healed everyone who presented a medical need because He saw no reason to screen some out as unqualified. Whether He knew them or not, He helped them. Whether they supported Him or not, He helped them. Whether they were adherents of His faith or not, He helped them. He did not set up conditions and hoops in order for people to qualify. He just healed them because He could.
Jesus healed every kind of illness He encountered. No malady was too simple (such as a fever) or too complex (including paralysis, leprosy, and demonization). He even took on the impossible - death - and raised people from the dead on three separate occasions!
Jesus pursued them because He saw Himself as a servant. A servant does what he can to address the needs of those being served, whether the needy one comes to the servant or the servant must go to the needy. Jesus did not get caught up in the ego games of who should pursue who; when He saw a need He went out of His way to address it.
Jesus allowed them to disrupt His schedule because He realized that people's pain and suffering was their top focus in life. Because the main value in His life was giving love, things like remaining on schedule, following His pre-determined agenda, maintaining orderliness and predictability all took a back seat to the chance to affect other people's lives with genuine love.
Jesus expected His closest followers to heal others. The needs of the people were substantial and providing a healing touch grabbed people's attention so they could see Him for who He was and what His message to them was. Consequently, Jesus included healing in the marching orders He gave to not only the 12 apostles, but to another group of 72 disciples that He had been mentoring in the ways of grace. (Luke 9:1; 10: 1, 9, 17)
Jesus Health Care Strategy In short, Jesus Christ showed us that anyone who follows Him is expected to address the most pressing needs of others. You can describe Jesus' health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. Whoever needed to be healed received His healing touch. Whatever affliction they suffered from, He addressed it. Whenever the opportunity to heal arose, He seized it. Wherever they happened to be, He took care of it.
Contrast the Jesus model with the preferred American model. The latter might be described as deciding to throw some money at the problem - but not too much - so that somebody else can do what needs to be done, for those who qualify, in a manner that does not inconvenience us. The former approach was the whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever strategy.
It's quite a contrast, isn't it?
The Underlying Foundation Don't overlook the fact that Jesus called on His followers to personally attend to the health care needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Not only did Jesus model healing for His followers, but He supported such outreach with ample philosophical underpinnings. You see Him teaching His followers before, during and after instances of healing. We are familiar with the principles, but perhaps not their application to health needs.
Do to others what you would like them to do to you (Luke 7:31). Jesus asked His followers to see themselves in the people who yearned for a healing touch and to respond accordingly. Although He was mocked and opposed for His efforts to heal, such opposition never stopped Him from treating others as we would want to be treated.
Produce results (or, in biblical language, bear fruit) (Luke 6:43-45). These days, we might think of His teaching as admonishing His followers to not pass the buck. He reminded them they had been given gifts and resources so that they could affect reality. He warned them against simply discussing solutions and instructed them to conceive and implement solutions.
Do whatever it takes to love God and all people with your heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 4:8, 6:27-36). Jesus used love as a verb, not an adjective. He exhorted His followers to prove their love by doing compassionate things for those in need. Jesus showed them what was important by focusing on the act of giving, rather than receiving. Often, those whom He healed did not thank Him, and He was never paid for his medical care - but He healed them regardless, because it enabled Him to love those who lacked hope.
Always try to do the will of God (Luke 12:29-31). Your life is not about what you want; to be a follower of Jesus your desires should match God's. The way we demonstrate that we understand this principle is by allowing God to change your heart, and by following His plan.
A Personal Challenge So, if Jesus went to such lengths to put feet on His health care strategy, what is yours? He did not seem inclined to wait for the government to provide for the poor. His strategy called for people to help people, through the power and ability that He entrusted to His followers. One must wonder if the American preference for government programs is the best solution to the existing needs - and if a nation where 83 percent of adults label themselves "Christian" can blend that religious connection with a desire for state-based solutions.
Government clearly has a role in people's lives; the Bible supports its existence and circumscribed functions. It is unfortunate that when God's people, collectively known as the Church, fail to exhibit the compassion and service that He has called us to provide, we are comfortable with the government acting as a national safety net. In a society that has become increasingly self-centered and self-indulgent, we simply expand our reliance upon the government to provide solutions and services that are the responsibility of Christ followers. Some Christians have heeded the call, as evidenced by the medical clinics, pregnancy centers and even hospitals across the nation that were initiated and funded by small numbers of dedicated believers who grasped this responsibility. Imagine what an impact the Church would have on society if it truly reflected the model Jesus gave us of how to care for one another!
As we think about the elements embedded in the national debate, perhaps each of us should be asking ourselves a few simple questions. What kinds of people within your realm of influence need health care assistance - and how do you respond? How do you figure out who to help - and who to serve them in partnership with? How do you decide when and how often to invest yourself in helping poor people who have health needs? What limitations do you place on the kind of health care assistance you offer to the needy? What gifts, talents, and resources can you be more aggressive at applying to the health care needs of the poor?
I don't know what God is asking or preparing you to do in relation to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. All I know is that we have been told to imitate Christ, and His health care strategy is whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever.
It is critical that the church in America understands the times and what needs to be done now. The natural things speak of the invisible. Natural happenings on the earth are revealing something that is going on in the spiritual realm. There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Islamic boldness being manifested. Several happenings are converging this week. First of all, our President has recently proclaimed, honored, encouraged the Muslim holy days of prayer and fasting called Ramadan. He was very silent on the National Day of Prayer but very vocal on the support of Ramadan. Interestingly at the same time a major Christian leader of the Emergent Church called for forty days of fasting and prayer in the same Ramadan period with the goal that the church will better understand our Muslim friends. We are all for understanding but we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.
Cause for Concern
At the same time, on the 25th of September, Muslims are calling for a Muslim Day of Prayer in Washington D.C. They are calling for 50,000 Muslims to gather and pray on the D.C. Mall. This is the exact word of one of the Sheikhs who is leading this historic gathering, “Muslims should march on the White House. We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into a Muslim house.” These are not empty words. They speak of a dark spiritual intent and a coming day of great trouble to America.
A Divine Moment
Now one of these events is enough to awaken us to this significant throbbing moment, but when they all converge it becomes a massive spiritual alarm that must be responded to by the praying Church. However, I believe in this moment of divine providence God has raised up on the stage of history a little “Esther” that if we pray and fast for her she could be a major voice to expose the dark under-belly of Islam and radiate a bright hope for a day of salvation for Muslims in America.
On Monday, Rifqa Bary, a young 17-year-old woman, will be in the headlines of U.S. news. Four years ago, while living in a very devout and radical Muslim home, Rifqa met Jesus in a powerful way as her savior. She hid her conversion, began praying secretly, and began hiding her bible from her parents. Then, on Facebook, her love for Jesus was exposed to the radical Muslim community in Ohio. Rifqa’s father demanded that she renounce Jesus or he would kill her as is commanded by the Koran. As a radiant believer in Jesus she refused to renounce her Lord and fled to Orlando where she was taken in and cared for by a Christian Church and family. Now, the father is appealing to the courts to bring her back under his custody. Major television networks have already covered her story. How must the Church of America respond in this moment for our sister who is a part of the Body of Christ?
A Major Sign
This convergence, I believe, is urgently summoning us in the midst of the rising tide of Islamic influence in America to recognize that our God is above every god and that if we return to Him with all of our hearts and call upon Him with fasting and prayer then God could use what the enemy meant for evil to bring about a great day of salvation for Muslims in America, of which Rifqa is but a major sign.
Here is The Call
First of all, we cannot be passive as a Church to let these kinds of developments go on without being challenged in the spirit. Our fight is not against Muslims, it is against principalities, powers, and forces of darkness. We are calling the Church of America at the end of Ramadan, from September 21st through 25th, to five days of concerted prayer. On Monday, we must pray that God would grant supernatural wisdom to the courts so that the testimony of Jesus would be proclaimed and that the best situation for Rifqa and her family would take place. We must pray for Rifqa to be bold in proclaiming Jesus that even thousands of Muslims would hear and be awakened to the love of Christ. She has already said that this is not about her but about many Muslims coming to Jesus. We must pray for her lawyers who are being bullied, threatened, and challenged on every side. On Friday, Sept. 25, the Muslim Day of Prayer, we are calling the Church of America to fast and pray that Muslims would be moved by the Holy Spirit, convicted by the testimony of Christ, and even be visited by Jesus in dreams. We must pray that God would restrain the spiritual powers behind Islam and grant us the great awakening that we desperately need for America.
Let us hear the call to prayer and not miss this moment,
Editor's Note: Prophetic minister Bobby Conner posted the following article on his Web site, bobbyconner.org, in June. It is a word for believers to remember and to apply not only in this season but also throughout our lives.
The Spirit of God is constantly seeking to plant new seeds of victory inside you. Why? He is enlarging your vision and increasing your capacity for faith, hope and love. God longs for you to dream big! Ephesians 3:20-21 assures us that our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (NKJV).
The Greek word translated "exceedingly" here is a marvelous word—one that should bring unspeakable joy to our hearts. It is hyper! We know what it means to be hyper—to be hyperactive, hyperacute, hyperalert, hyperexcited or hypersensitive. We know that a hyperbole is an exaggeration of the truth.
"You should stop using the criminal justice system as an analogy for your God. As you have pointed out many times, it is entirely unjust for someone else to pay the punishment for the crimes you are guilty of." --Lurker
As far as I know, you are the only one who has ever said to me that it is entirely unjust for someone else to pay for crimes of which another is guilty. I have to conclude that you made this statement rashly, and without too much thought. There is nothing at all unjust about any father stepping in and paying a speeding fine for his son. It happens all the time, and the judge has no concerns of where the payment comes from, as long as it is lawfully paid.
How would you react if you were guilty of violating civil law, and your dad loved you so much that he sold his house and spent all of his hard–earned savings to pay the massive fine, so that you could get out of prison? Would you point at your father and accuse him of some sort of crime? How perverse would that be? If you did that, you would not only be despising his incredible sacrifice, but you would also reveal something horrible about your own character.
That’s what you are doing when you accuse almighty God of being unjust. He became a man in Jesus of Nazareth to take the punishment for the sin of the world, so that we could live forever. If you or I accuse Him of being unjust, it reveals something horrible about our character. We need to humble ourselves, get on our knees and thank God for giving us life in the first place, and then for offering wicked humanity such an unspeakable gift.
Ray Comfort has sold over one million copies of The Atheist Test, debated atheists on ABC's Nightline, and has written a number of books on the subject of atheism, including his latest, Nothing Created Everything (with a special cover condemnation by Richard Dawkins). He has debated atheistic evolution on the BBC, and been a platform speaker at the 27th National Convention of American Atheists, Inc. in 2001. He also produces a syndicated weekly radio program on atheism and evolution for Moody Radio. Known as the man who is "Internationally hated by atheists," he daily blogs at "Atheist Central" to hundreds of atheists. He is a best-selling author and co-host (with actor Kirk Cameron) of an award-winning TV program. Kirk and Ray send out a free weekly email ipdate to help equip Christians to share their faith--available at livingwaters.com