Saturday, March 14, 2015

Paul on Malta

   As I have been reading the Book of Acts recently with the special emphasis on Healing, I was amazed about Paul's experience on Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea. Paul, together with all 276 passengers, had just survived a two-week long odyssey through a storm that ended up with the ship breaking apart when it ran aground just off the island. So here is the picture: Paul, like all the other passengers, is tired, cold, wet, hungry and weak after a long fight with the forces of nature. On top of all that, he get's bitten by a poisonous snake, which leaves him quite unimpressed, though, while it certainly made an impression on the locals who expected Paul to die after the snake-bite. But what really got the locals' attention was what happened afterwards:

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 
Acts 28:7-9

   Do you see that? Paul heals one guy and then "the rest of the sick" on the entire island were healed as well! Wow! Now, as I said, Malta is a small island, today's population is about 400,000. So let's say there were just a few thousand people living on the island in Paul's days, but anyhow, every sick person among them was healed by Paul! I like verse 8, where it says that Paul "after prayer" healed the father of the official. That means he did not pray for the sick, but he healed them. All of them. Not a single sick person stayed behind, and this on an island where they had never heard of Jesus before. People were healed who could not have had any faith in the Lord, simply because they had never heard of him. Praise the Lord: Paul really walked in the fulness of his calling, according to Mark 16:17-18. It looks like Paul spent about 3 months on the island, which gave him plenty of time to preach the gospel and then to teach the young believers. But the church planting strategy that Paul used was to heal people before he told them the gospel... 
   It looks to me that we could still use this strategy today, especially among the unreached. People like Heidi Baker in Africa are doing just that. Of course, some critics say that it doesn't really help the people if they are healed physically, but remain lost in sin. That is true. But, my Bible says that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Many times I realize that most churches in the Western world are not exactly overflowing with joyful people. We do have a lot of sick people, though, and we have come up with great theological crutches to justify our sickness. It seems to be that the longer an area has been "christianized," the harder the ground for healings to take place, and - going hand-in-hand with that - the less joy there is. I am sure there was lots of joy in Malta's young churches, as there were many grateful people who had received healing. A gratefulness that expressed itself, among others, also through abundant giving to the cause of  missions, by the way (see verse 10).
   I want to dare to expect healing for myself and for others. I am encouraged to go to unreached villages in Thailand and expect God to heal the sick, whether they have heard of Jesus before or not. And, for greater joy in the churches, it might in deed be good to start with healing, rather than teaching all kinds of other things first... :) jtol (just thinking out loudly) :)

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Friday, March 13, 2015


Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. Some challenging thoughts to those of us who are claiming to do that.

Whom are we discipling? 
Jesus did not wait for people to apply at his ministry, but he approached his disciples and asked them to follow him. Likewise, we should not wait for people to choose us as their mentor, but we should choose people to follow us!

Requirements in a mentor - disciple relationship
  • Required: The mentor needs to love the person he calls to follow him!
  • Not required: The person called loving the one who calls him. 
In fact, the motive of the person called does not really matter:
  • he might be looking for financial stability and wealth (like Judas)
  • he might be looking for an increased social status (e.g. from fisherman or tax-collector to teacher religious authority)
  • he might be in it for some other personal benefit (like a "Greencard," English language, education,...)
How or why did Jesus choose the 12  apostles? 
Obviously, Jesus prayed before he made his decision. But here are a few characteristics that I found:
  • The natural gifts, talents and abilities of the disciples were not important - on the contrary: God chooses the foolish things!
  • Jesus didn't abandon the disciples when they show certain signs of progress, growth and maturity after a while
  • The only criteria that Jesus seemed to have was that he loved them!
That is good news for us, because Jesus chose us. After 3 years of having been with Jesus, the disciples did not "get" most of the things that Jesus had taught them, but Jesus didn't kick them out of the discipleship training school. How much did we not get yet that  he has been teaching us all along? And how much did the people we disciple not get yet, even though we have been trying to teach them for years?

Remember: The only thing that is required for you to make disciples is that you love them. So keep on loving them. If you haven't really started to make disciples yet, then maybe now is a good time to call somebody you love to follow you. It will mean that you allow that person to be a part of your life, because I cannot see there being a different way of making disciples. That's how the Master did it, and I don't think we have come up with another, better way than that yet.

The goal of discipleship, but not required at the beginning, is to love Jesus. After 3 years of having been with Jesus, Peter can't help but to realize that indeed he loved the one whom he followed. And it is in that very moment, that the Lord releases him to feed his sheep... Before then, Peter had been send out to preach and to heal, but only now, after he realized that he really loved the Lord, was he given the greatest task of all - to make disciples :)

Brothers and sisters in the ministry: Let us delight in this high calling!
May the peace and joy of the Lord be with you all!

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